This is no time to go wobbly, EEA edition

There is a depressing amount of wishful thinking going on in the UK right now: for a recent example see here. When Iceland’s banking system collapsed, that was a real emergency requiring capital controls: the sort of eventuality envisaged by the now-famous Article 112 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area. It isn’t at all clear to me that the rest of the EEA will view the argument that “there are too many of your lot in our country, so let us keep them out” in the same light. There is also a big difference between triggering an emergency clause in a contract, when an emergency arises which was unexpected when the agreement was signed, and saying from day one that you want to opt out of a key part of an agreement. And the have-your-cake-and-eat-it brigade also fail to mention that, in addition to Article 112, there is Article 114, which states that

If a safeguard measure taken by a Contracting Party creates an imbalance between the rights and obligations under this Agreement, any other Contracting Party may towards that Contracting Party take such proportionate rebalancing measures as are strictly necessary to remedy the imbalance. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of the EEA.

It seems to me that England cannot afford wishful thinking right now, and that those who wish her well need to be crystal clear about the choice it faces, so that there is no mis-understanding on the English side.

I recently published an article on the subject, aimed above all at former Remainers, here. That was a heavily-edited-for-newspapers version of something I originally wrote for this site. Since I use this blog in part as a reminder to myself of what I have written, I reproduce the original blog post below the fold, links and all.

An astonishing dereliction of responsibility

One of the most depressing features of the post-referendum political landscape in Britain is the way in which former Remainers have gone AWOL. Worse still, many seem to have accepted the fundamental premise of the anti-EU campaign, namely that there are too many Europeans in Britain. (Whether you believe this to be true on economic or social grounds, or simply as a matter of political fact, is irrelevant really, since the practical implications are the same.) And so you see a variety of commentators now engaging in hopelessly wishful thinking: perhaps the UK will only lose a little market access if it imposes immigration restrictions on the EU; perhaps the EU will itself abandon free mobility in an attempt to keep the UK in; perhaps a special deal will be made to protect the British university sector;  perhaps the UK will be given the same treatment as Liechtenstein, a town with a population of less than 40,000; and so on.

Dream on.

If even former Remainers accept that Britain needs to keep fellow Europeans out, then the reality is that Britain – or, at least, England and Wales – is headed for “hard” Brexit,  not just out of the EU but out of the Single Market.  And while I don’t believe that England and Wales will collapse as a result, this is going to have all sorts of costs, some quite personal,  and some quite painful, for many people and institutions in those countries.

Below is a chart showing numbers of EU immigrants (defined as people born in another EU state) in each EU member state, as a share of the local population (source, Table 4). As you can see, the UK is indeed at the upper end of the distribution, but it is by no means the country with the greatest number of EU immigrants per capita.  Indeed, the figure is twice as high in Ireland.

Source: European Commission

The Irish comparison is, I believe, a revealing one.  We also have a housing shortage, and indeed housing has been scarce in Dublin for a long time. Our public services are lousy –  much worse than in Britain, with its NHS.  While we are clearly not British, we are surely closer to them culturally than other Europeans.    And, as we saw in the 2008 referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, there is a potential anti-immigrant vote in the poorer parts of Dublin, among precisely the same sorts of people who are anti-immigrant and anti-globalization elsewhere.

So why have we not developed a toxic anti-European-immigrant political discourse, as they have done in Britain? The question seems especially relevant since Ireland was treated shamefully by European institutions at the time of the banking crisis.

Part of the answer is surely the media. We have nothing like the jingoistic and mendacious  gutter press that they have across the water.  And part of the answer is surely political leadership. Nothing would have been easier than for Sinn Féin, Ireland’s nationalist protest party, to do a UKIP and adopt a anti-immigrant position; and yet they chose not to. Those of us who remember the Troubles and were not on Sinn Féin’s side may find it difficult to credit them with anything, but on this issue they deserve enormous praise.

Economics obviously drives a lot of anti-globalization sentiment, and anti-immigrant sentiment specifically. I have spent a good deal of my career making that point in various ways.   But other things matter too (which is why God invented multivariate regressions!). And the truth is that the reason that many English people seem to be so obsessed with the presence of their fellow Europeans has a lot to do with some of the very worst aspects of English society.

There is another way.

In particular, if the root problem is a lack of services per capita, one obvious solution is to focus on the numerator, as well as the denominator. But tackling xenophobia and making the positive case for Europe – free mobility and all – has also got to be part of the solution. Which is why the way in which former Remainers have been retreating into their shells is so disheartening.  The English voted  to leave the EU, but we don’t know how they would vote if they were asked to choose between the two options now available to their country: membership of the EEA, and an exit from the Single Market to be followed by a series of trade agreements.

There is still a huge amount to play for. To refuse to make the case for EEA membership, free mobility and all, when you had previously been in favour of remaining in the EU, strikes me as an  astonishing dereliction of responsibility.




44 replies on “This is no time to go wobbly, EEA edition”

The trade-off suggested by the Observer represents, as you say, an exercise in wishful thinking at this stage. However, depending on how the internal political debate in the UK develops, it has a considerable logic not so much because of the issue of free movement but because of the fact that the EEA does not include agriculture (or fisheries, but this is not a major problem), the one area where the UK is most at odds with the rest of the EU in terms of economic interests. The UK proponents of Brexit have long argued that exiting the CAP would lower the UK budget contribution and consumer costs and are correct on both counts. (Thatcher negotiated a rebate which dealt with the first issue but not the second).

Were this to be the outcome, it would create a very difficult situation for Ireland,for obvious reasons, both in relation to the control of free movement and agriculture.

France and Germany would be on different sides of the basic argument of realpolitik i.e. where broader industrial interests would prevail.

As to why the Remain side has quit the field, Brendan Donnelly of the Federal Trust provides a plausible explanation.

“The transformation of the House of Commons almost overnight from a gathering of democratic representatives overwhelmingly favourable to British membership of the European Union to one regarding itself as absolutely mandated to destroy this membership by a small majority in a dishonestly fought plebiscite is not the least bizarre aspect of the political turmoil unleashed by the vote on 23rd June.”

On the trade-off, he has this to say.

“It can however already be seen that any such rational agreement, minimizing as it would uncertainty and disruption, is unlikely to be acceptable to great swathes of the governing Conservative Party, still less to those supporters of UKIP for whom restrictions on European immigration were at the core of their desire to leave the European Union. Mrs. May will inevitably have to tread carefully in her negotiations with the rest of the European Union and the upshot of her attempts to square a number of circles is wholly unpredictable.”

Bill Cash has already shot it down.


I just came across one of your peaches which takes on a new light following the unfortunate Brexit vote

August 19th, 2013 at 10:31 am DOCM
“When it is allowed to work by those involved, the Brussels institutional “status quo” has shown itself to be effective. The equivalent of the Washington “gridlock” does not exist.”

The one thing that goes with economic chais is political incoherence.

I didn’t realise England was now separate from the rest of the UK.

Many commentators and politicians want things “made crystal clear to [the UK]” but at the end of the day it is a matter of choice for the constituent states of the EU.
if there had been more flexibility in the first place, especially on the question raised in the guardian article linked to then in my view there would have been no realistic chance of a vote to leave the EU.

Sometimes things break because they are too rigid.

@Kevin O’Rourke

British nationalism has always been hostile to the idea of a European Union in a way that Irish nationalism and Scottish nationalism have not. People living in N. Ireland, who see British nationalism in action every day, understand this more clearly. Enoch Powell and his supporters were fighting tooth-and-nail against membership of the EU long before there was any immigration from other EU countries. The reason for the hostility is that pooling sovereignty with other European countries detracts from British nationalism’s view of Britain as a great global power. Immigration and public services are red herrings. These apply as much in nationalist areas of N. Ireland and Scotland, yet they voted to remain. The reason Derry voted to remain and Derby voted to leave had nothing to do with different economic conditions and everything to do with the different nationalisms they adhere to.

Ireland should stop obsessing about the effects of Brexit on the British economy and focus more on the opportunities Brexit has presented for Ireland, both politically and economically. There is now a great opportunity to detach N. Ireland from the fiction that its part of Britain. The Irish government should be focusing on that. On the economic front, the Irish government should now be working flat out to attract as much FDI to Ireland, that in the absence of Brexit would have gone to Britain. The EU leaders should also be made aware that their primary duty is to protect the interests of the 27 countries remaining in the EU and of the 2 countries (or 1 country and 1 part-country) within the U. Kingdom that voted to remain.


The UK proponents of Brexit have long argued that exiting the CAP would lower the UK budget contribution and consumer costs and are correct on both counts.

They are misinformed about consumer costs. I’m in Iceland. A pizza and side salad last night cost me £27 (about 32 euros). A bar of KitKat today cost me £2.20 (about 2.50 euros). Norway and Switzerland are also very expensive.

“The reason for the hostility is that pooling sovereignty with other European countries detracts from British nationalism’s view of Britain as a great global power.”

I agree wholeheartedly with you on that point. The only problem lies in defining exactly who represents “British nationalism”. Suffice it to say that they, whoever they are, won the referendum and that is sufficient definition.

What food prices in Iceland, Norway or Switzerland have to with the issue under discussion, however, escapes me. That is not where British nationalism intends to go (insofar as it has any idea as to where). It is aiming, as per Bill Cash, for a status equivalent to that of the US and/or Japan. In my own view, that is its ONLY logical destination.

It is not, in my view, the right one, as events in the coming months will, hopefully, demonstrate to a wider, largely English, electorate.

People, and in particular the French, who wish to get on with the triggering of Article 50 must not have heard Theresa May’s speech outside Downing Street.

““Because not everybody knows this but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party and that word unionist is very important to me. It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but it means something else that is just as important. It means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom but between all of our citizens – every one of us – whoever we are and wherever we’re from.”

Having nailed her Great Britain colours to the mast, who believes that this Prime Minister will break the union with Scotland, for the uncertain and unknown pathways outside of the union, in particular as some European countries, and most European institutions, are determined to make those pathways as thorny as possible. A long approach suits Theresa May and Great Britain, and if the EU elite had any sense, it should them as well.

In any case to continue the argument that Remain just lost, may not be the most fruitful approach right now, and in putting the Brexiteers out front in the ‘negotiations’, May has challenged them to a task they are unlikely to be able to accomplish with any great success, allowing all parties time for reflection.

On the question of the media involvement, perfidious Albion was always a great excuse and diversion, used by Irish politicians to cover up their own failures. The perfidious West is a great excuse and diversion used by Middle East kleptocrats to direct the anger of their populations anywhere except where it should be directed. The conservatives, aided by the press, laid the blame for the negative outcome of their own very deliberate destructive policies on Europe, and largely succeeded in the eyes of the electorate

On the question of xenophobia being greater in the UK than in Ireland, this is true, but one of the big reasons fro xenophobia in the UK, was the provision of social housing to immigrants. In Ireland, we have no social houses for immigrants, emigrants, or natives, as we refused to build any for a long number of years, believing banks were more worthy of support.
But I did personally witness some xenophobia, in the small country town in which I make a living, on the allocation of social housing to an immigrant back in 2007, when there was social housing to be had, and the local population were somewhat unimpressed with the location. So xenophobia, other-phobia etc, is latent in every society, and were it not for the Irish tendency to emigrate, we would have had xenophobia in buck loads here as well.

PS Good article by Ashoka Mody in today’s Sunday Business Post.

In it, he is more sanguine about the consequences of Brexit, and argues that another Brexit vote in five years time would be likely to lead to a larger Leave vote.
He is, on the other hand, a lot less sanguine about the frictional forces within the euro area, and in particular the problems of the Italian economy and its banks.

I’m glad Kevin o rourke has made this point, as I’ve made it often and loudly and been driven out of my favourite haunts for noting the irish people should bow down and thank God for Sinn Fein for channelling all that frustration and anger in (relatively)positive directions. Now I can just show this post to people who are reluctant to take my random set of opinions for much.
However, I’d add that white/non white demographics are also importantly. Ireland is a less racially (if by race we mean colour) diverse country than the UK, and this matters to the reaction (to a degree, though one often overstated)

The EEA safeguard clause can be invoked unilaterally, including on social grounds. Any restrictions on free movement could be limited to certain low paid jobs (for instance). Who cares what UKIP (with one MP) or Bill Cash and fellow headbangers think? As the large majority of MPs supported Remain they may well be willing to support the EEA with use of the safeguard clause.

I used to be of exactly the same opinion; until a majority in the UK, to my astonishment, I must admit, voted for Brexit.

When it sinks home that membership of the EEA would put the UK on the same institutional footing as Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein i.e. turning up a few times a year to be heard by the representative of whatever country happens to be presiding over the EU, at the end of a council meeting, most of the rest of the ministerial attendance having gone home, the option may seem not to be worth the candle (especially on the part of those with experience of being stuck, even for days on end, in traffic jams on the way to Dover!).

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament said today:

“A deal with these conditions would be unthinkable. It would allow the UK to expand its already very favourable position: keeping the best parts and ridding itself of the obligations that come with it. EU Governments would be mad to agree to such a deal and I can tell you: the European Parliament will never agree to a deal that ‘de facto’ ends the free movement of people for a decade,while giving away an extra rebate in exchange for all the advantages of the internal market.

What would stop other countries from asking the same exceptional status? Do we really want eurosceptics elsewhere in Europe to invoke the British example of ‘having their cake and eating it’? Everyone can see that this position is irresponsible because it’s not sustainable in the long run.

The only new relationship between Britain and the European Union can be one in which the UK has an associated status with less obligations but equally less rights. And if this is not feasible, the fall back position will be an ordinary trade agreement between Britain and the UK.”

The UK politicians care what UKIP think because they are worried about voters who do or might vote UKIP. If they were not worried there would never have been a refferendum in the first place, as all 3 main parties had an official policy of staying in the EU.

“The reason for the hostility is that pooling sovereignty with other European countries detracts from British nationalism’s view of Britain as a great global power. ”

This is an Irish Nationalist fantasy of what they would like the British to be like. Ordinary British people, including the majority or those enthusiastic to leave the EU, would more or less laugh at the idea that they view Britain as “a great global power”.

It might be more accurate to say that those at the top who engineered Brexit (the outcome of decades of scheming) take this view or, rather, that they view Britain as a once great power and wish to restore that status.

As to those that supported them, “taking back control”, the main slogan used, might best sum up their view.

To quote Mark Rutte, the Dutch PM in the European Parliament on 5 July; “That country now has collapsed — politically, economically, monetarily and constitutionally”. Directing his remarks to British members of the 28-nation EU assembly, he added: “You will have years of work ahead of you to get out of this mess.”

That is the best summary that I have seen.

The average man in the street would not see it that way but the editorials of the press that they are fed on a regular basis do. One of the reasons Liverpool voted remain while other areas in the North voted leave may be to the fact lots of the local population have boycotted the SUN for decades after Hillsbourgh, Scotland and N Ireland also have a different media enviroment.

There are some in England who wish for the return of the glory days of Imperial past and even though they know it is never coming back are frustrated to be treated as equals with other powers. Some of them then feed a media narritive which does over time impact on ordinary people who otherwise would not really care.

@ Grumpy: “This is an Irish Nationalist fantasy of what they would like the British to be like. Ordinary British people, including the majority or those enthusiastic to leave the EU, would more or less laugh at the idea that they view Britain as “a great global power”.”

Maybe ordinary British people would laugh, but this is precisely the perspective advanced by Boris in his post-referendum piece in the Telegraph (26/6/16):

“I believe that millions of people who voted Leave were also inspired by the belief that Britain is a great country, and that outside the job-destroying coils of EU bureaucracy we can survive and thrive as never before. I think that they are right in their analysis, and right in their choice….

We should be incredibly proud and positive about the UK, and what it can now achieve….

Britain is and always will be a great European power, offering top-table opinions and giving leadership on everything from foreign policy to defence to counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing….

There is every cause for optimism; a Britain rebooted, reset, renewed and able to engage with the whole world.”

If May sticks to her pledge to delay a general election to 2020, the typical Remain Tory MP with a Brexit-majority supporting local Conservative association, is unlikely to create trouble in the interval. Meanwhile, the Labour Party may not be a credible opposition and could be engaged in a slow-motion suicide with the best talents on the back benches and the street activists of a resurgent Corbyn engaged in a civil war at local level, seeking to deselect dissident MPs.

Tory austerity in cutting public services helped the Leave campaign as this analysis from the Economist shows:

MANY of those who voted to stay in the European Union in Britain’s recent referendum play up the lack of contact between Leavers and migrants. Although immigration featured heavily in the campaign, areas with the highest levels of immigration—notably London—were often among those most likely to vote to Remain. To mint-tea-sipping metropolitans, it seems absurd that people who live in areas with comparatively low numbers of Poles or Romanians should have been so keen to put a stop to migration.

But that is not the full picture. Consider the percentage-change in migrant numbers, rather than the total headcount, and the opposite pattern emerges. Where foreign-born populations increased by more than 200% between 2001 and 2014, a Leave vote followed in 94% of cases. The proportion of migrants may be relatively low in Leave strongholds such as Boston, in Lincolnshire (where 15.4% of the population are foreign-born). But it has grown precipitously in a short period of time (by 479%, in Boston’s case). High levels of immigration don’t seem to bother Britons; high rates of change do.

Both Norway and Iceland have access to the single market through their membership of the European Economic Area (EEA). But they are required to comply with all the EU’s single-market regulations without having any input on changes; to pay into the EU budget (Norway pays about 90% of the UK’s net payment per head) and to accept free movement of EU migrants.

While Switzerland is not a member of the EEA, it has bilateral agreements, which give it access for goods but not most services. It has to comply with most single-market rules, contribute to the budget and accept free movement of people. The Swiss have been warned that, if they try to implement a 2014 referendum demand for limits on the latter, their trade agreement with the EU will lapse.

Before the eurocrats get around to dealing with Brexit, the Swiss are struggling to get agreement from the EU on a compromise on referendum that limits migration after a 50.3% win. Feb 9 2017 is the deadline for implementation of the referendum vote. Foreigners account for 27% of the population compared with 13% in Germany, UK and US.

About 300,000 workers cross Swiss borders from France, Germany and Italy every day.

Apart from the issue of free movement of people, there is a “guillotine clause” that could result in cancelling six other bilateral agreements, including on air transport, road, rail and agriculture.

“I don’t see any possibility for the EU to give anything to Switzerland,” said René Schwok, a professor at the University of Geneva and author of books on Swiss-EU relations, according to Reuters.

The referendum has already resulted in Switzerland being dumped from Europe’s “Erasmus” university exchange programme.

In late June following the Brexit result, Johann Schneider-Ammann, the Swiss president, told the Sonntags Zeitung newspaper in an interview that Switzerland should instead of overall limits, the Swiss would propose to set limits only to protect at-risk sectors in specific regions:

“Let’s imagine that in (the Italian-speaking canton) Ticino an above-average number of immigrant taxi drivers is recorded while at the same time many taxi drivers are unemployed.”

Low ambition or realism?

In 2014, the United States was the country with the single largest share of UK exports of goods and services, but seven of the UK’s main trading partners are from within the EU (Germany, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg (combined), Italy and Spain).

Germany has a big trade surplus with the UK but France has a deficit. Ireland has a deficit with the UK and it would be bigger if Google and Facebook’s UK sales were booked there and not in Ireland.

Germany has an incentive to cut a deal with the UK but getting agreement from all the other 26 EU countries will be a challenge.
Ireland is fifth biggest trading partner; China is 8th; Italy 9th and Spain 10th.

The Office for National Statistics says that the UK is an important part of the EU supply chain, as a relatively high proportion of its exports of goods are components manufactured in the UK for onward assembly elsewhere in the EU — like Ireland, the UK has a high dependence on foreign-owned firms and they account for the majority of business R&D.

For example, Airbus aircraft wings are manufactured in the UK for export and onward assembly in other parts of Europe.

The UK tends to export more components, fuels, food and beverages, and basic materials to the EU than non-EU countries, but export more finished goods and services to non-EU countries than to the EU.

@Kevin O’Rourke

Just like the political establishment, you’ve proven yourself to be completely out of touch in suggesting that Brexit was underpinned by “xenophobia.”

When the wages and living standards of low skilled workers have fallen, partly caused by a mass influx of low skilled labour from the EU, is it morally right to denounce these people as “xenophobes” for voting Leave?

Your own university has published a paper concluding that “immigration has a small impact on average wages of existing workers but more significant effects along the wage distribution: low-wage workers lose while medium and high-paid workers gain.”

I’d encourage you to visit a working man’s club in Sunderland and explain to them the benefits of free movement of workers.

So, JCP, given a choice between a rigorous, structured and dispassionate analysis or a chat over a pint, you for the pint? Is this confined to just economics, or would it extend to say, medical or engineering advice?

This is macro-economics or political economy – and Brexit is very much toward the political end of that. Ronan Lyons passed on a very funny characterisation of macro-economics, from one of his counterparts at a decent British university, as “a branch of literature”. Lets not pretend it is a discipline deserving of the sort of respect afforded to engineering or medicine.

The failure of ‘elites’ to connect with, or to retain a connection to, the thinking and attitudes of the regulars at the likes of working men’s clubs in Sunderland is the reason they are loosing influence, and why a lot of ‘experts’ were caught out with Brexit.


Post the Brexit vote of 61% for Leave, some Sunderland fishermen were understandably hoping that they would be free of EU restrictions but overfishing is a problem that extends beyond EU waters and their lot is unlikely to change.

The FT spoke to a Steven who is one of the almost 7,000 Nissan workers in Sunderland and he had voted for Remain:

Steven said workers were already worried, noting that the constant fight to win new models against fierce competition from other Nissan/Renault alliance sites left the workers living under a “dark cloud” of possible job losses should the site not keep beating the opposition.

“We have had that threat of redundancies hanging over us for years,” he said. “We have that threat all the time; it’s just been another threat.”

Speaking to Nissan employees is difficult: the company declined to allow access to the plant, and most workers drive in and out of the complex.

The UK’s biggest single car making site, the plant produces one in three UK-made cars and last year exported 55 per cent of its 476,589 vehicles to the EU — about 250,000 cars.

We will never know which way its Sunderland employees — or the 20,000 other people in its north-east supply chain — voted. But according to Steven, the workers around him were outspoken in their desire for Brexit.

We know from the US that some white Republican voters in elections in recent decades voted against their economic interests for a party that focused on cutting taxes for its donor class, maybe because of racism and cultural issues such as guns, immigration and homophobia and now a four-time bankrupt who has benefited from a rigged system claims to be their “voice.”

The employment rate in the UK is at the highest since at least 1971 (date of current data series) and while there has been a rise in self-employment, the economically active rate in employment including men is the highest in 25 years.

I’m not suggesting that there is Utopia or that earnings are surging but still the backdrop was not the similar dystopian backdrop that Trump tried to create for America last week.

A quick point on Sinn Fein: they are Republicans, not Nationalists – there is a world of difference.

bazza – you’re absconding with the urine -yes? SF are National Socialists: native, unadorned Irish fascists (complete with multiple sets of sheep’s clothing each dyed a politically appropriate shade of Green ). Or am I missing something here?

Genuine Irish Republicans are very thin on the political ground. The Irish electorate are too ‘conservative’ to support Republicanism. Good try though.

Genuine Irish Republicans recognise that These Islands are in the throes of a complex adaptive systems form of dynamic emergence; and this is set within the complex morass of present globlized financial system dictatorship in the EZ; set within the odious neoliberal world order. Genuine Republicanism remains open …

‘In a significant intervention, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin wanted to see a real republic on the island of Ireland. He said his party would consider alternative forms of governance, in the short run.

“We’d prefer a unitary state but can we look at other methods? Yes, absolutely,” he said.

On the differing attitudes to immigration in the UK and Ireland, Martina Byrne’s work (recently given top billing on BBC R4 Thinking Allowed) is fascinating — bottom line, among the Irish chattering classes, opinions on immigration are driven by self-perception as a class and also class-related views of migrants compared to native non-employed.

As for Remain not yet embracing EEA, it will need time for them to credibly embrace EEA as they told the Leavers during the debate that leaving only to get EEA was irrational. Also, they’ll need a political vehicle to pursue EEA, and right now there isn’t one (lack of credible opposition, fixed term parliament act).

Brexit is deep into Bourdieu territory

“The imposition of form which keeps the lay person at a respectful distance protects the text from ‘trivialisation’, by reserving it for an internal reading, in both senses; that of a reading confined within the limits of the text itself, and concomitantly, that of a reading reserved for a closed group of professional readers who accept as self-evident an ‘internalist’ definition of reading”

the FT and the Economist could not stop the vote. Most of the memes of the financial elites now are nonsense with the Squid unable to generate even a 10% RoE.

Bourdieu noted that ‘the dominant retain their position by constantly changing their stance’

But Brexit is dance too far for them . So too is deflation.

The City is at serious risk. Even if May gets a brake on migration and single market access the UK will not have a seat at the table.

I wonder if the Bourdieu translation comes from Google Translate!

On a positive note, since 1945 there has never been as along a period of peace between significant powers in Europe since at least the age of Charlemagne (c.742-814).

James J. Sheehan, an American historian, wrote in his book ‘Where have all the soldiers gone?’ that between the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the French Revolution in 1789, the European powers had fought forty-eight wars. Between 1815 and 1914, there were only five wars in Europe, between two great powers — all of them were limited in time and space and only one of them involved more than two major states. From the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to 1914, Europe was in a fragile peace and then, the first of two cataclysmic wars broke out across the Continent.

“The great powers of our time,” Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, told a Russian diplomat in 1879, “are like travellers unknown to each other, whom chance has brought together in a carriage. They watch each other and when one of them puts his hand into his pocket, his neighbour gets ready his own revolver, in order to be able to fire the first shot.”

History isn’t bunk!

On Kevin’s original post, I hestitate to comment. I never thought Brexit could win, nor did I think through how it might impact the Ireland/UK trade relationship…so it’s apparent I don’t know much.

However, one of the main reasons for caution on the side of the remainers before pushing for EEA membership is possibly that they need the problems of EU exit to become more visible before they can effectively push for a less attractive version of being in the EU (which is what EEA membership really is). To push hard now has the potential to cause an increased jingoistic backlash within the Tories and by the gutter press. Let some dust settle – another month or two – then push. Hopefully to a more receptive nation.

And, on another topic that we’ve been discussing here, I have spoken to bankers who had looked at Dublin’s potential as a destination for London activities in the case of Brexit and had already concluded that nothing big could be moved here because there was no prospect of there being acceptable housing. Office space, maybe. Housing….no hope..


“Housing….no hope.. ”

You sure about this? I see lots and lots of For Sale signs attached to perimeter walls and fences of substantial piles in the leafier sub-urban locations of S and N Dublin. Appears there may to be a shortage in the supply of purchasers. Funny that.

So, the FT are reporting that Liam Fox is pressing May to leave the customs union. As a negotiating tactic. This would mean that anything crossing the border would have to have customs clearance. Somehow this is meant to put pressure on the EU. No, I dont follow it either
A further issue is on the GFA – it REQUIRES NI to be within the EU, in effect. And that is a international treaty. If BREXIT founders it will be on the “dreary steeples”

Very interesting thought on the GFA. But isn’t the EU angle in the GFA text a little weak? Could the Irish government object because – for instance – of sentences like how the two countries would like …

“to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union; ”

Probably like most people on here, I know less than a little about such treaties.


Here is the main text.
2. The British Government will complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with direct access to the courts, and
remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly
legislation on grounds of inconsistency
Seems pretty crystal clear to me
the LSE blog thus (
“It is not by chance that in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which has done much to reduce these tensions in recent years, so much emphasis is laid on the membership of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in the European Union. Nationalist sentiment in Ireland since 1973 has seen the sharing of British and Irish national sovereignty within the Union as an important softening of the bipolar choice between British and Irish dominion in Northern Ireland. A DUP-inspired option for the UK to leave the Union will be seen by many nationalists as a reconstruction of political and even physical barriers between the north and south of Ireland, which the Good Friday agreement was designed to reduce.”
The DUP have never liked the GFA recall. This is a good opportunity to scrap it.
The Telegraph note (via
“The Good Friday agreement was predicated on both Ireland and the United Kingdom being members of the European Union and the devolution settlement created a number of cross border institutions to facilitate political interaction in areas of common concern, both north and south. In the event of a Brexit such cross-border institutions would find it somewhat more difficult to work across the border and the sustainability of other existing EU programmes would need to be revisited.”

theres lot more. In contrast the Scottish situation is much simpler. They are going to be in or out of the UK. It will be clean and clear in either case.

Hi Brian,

I’d read through the text (not with a fine toothcomb mind you, but read). There are a couple of mentions of the EU, and the aspiration for increasing closeness within the EU is clear, but it doesn’t seem to add up to anything like a treaty block on the UK leaving the EU. The practical problems – with a potential closed border – are huge and the constitutional issues for the UK itself similarly huge, but the GFA treaty doesn’t seem to cause a real problem.

Meantime, on the two points, isn’t the ECHR related to the Council of Europe, not the EU? I haven’t heard any suggestion that the UK Is trying to leave either of those. And the difficulties for the cross border institutions you mention would similarly seem to be a wrinkle, rather than any kind on catch on which Brexit could be blocked.

But the more constitutional dreary steeples that can arise to slow exit, the better.


I am in Reykjavik. Yesterday I went for the day to Greenland (Kulusuk), I know absolutely nothing about constitutional law and even less about the history of Greenland. But, our tour guide assured us that (a) Greenland is part of Denmark and was even more a part of Denmark before 2009 (b) has not been in the EU since 1985. The store at the ‘airport’ would only take Danish Kroner and all prices were marked in Danish Kroner. Can someone who knows about these things explain how that works and why the same couldn’t be applied to N. Ireland? Incidentally, my short holiday had a surcharge of £323.46 added to the price since I booked and paid for it in May – all due to the collapse in sterling. I’m thinking of sending the bill to Boris Johnson. Multiply this by about 30 million for all U. Kingdom residents holidaying abroad in the next year and I can see Boris’s popularity nosediving.

On the issue of immigration, this has gone completely loopy. Brexit will mainly affect immigration of peaceful hard-working people from eastern European countries. It does nothing to reduce immigration from outside the EU. Quite the reverse. Cutting off the flow from eastern European countries will result in increased immigration from North Africa, the Middle-East and the Indian subcontinent to compensate. So, we can expect incidents in Britain similar to the one in Normandy today as a result of Brexit. How many priests have been beheaded by immigrant Poles in the past few years?

It is useful to establish the distinction between freedom to travel without physical checks (Schengen) and freedom of movement, which relates to the permanent rights of citizens of the EU (one of the “four freedoms”)..

Brexit presents, indeed, a very knotty problem. As Ireland and the UK are not in Schengen, once Brexit has taken place, the Border will become an external border of the EU. However, it happens that both Great Britain and Ireland are islands (entirely surrounded by water). The checks that are currently taking place at both ports and air-ports can continue unless the rest of the EU wishes to deny both geography and common sense.

The real problem arises in the context of (freedom of movement (i.e. something that CANNOT be denied by Ireland if the country is to continue as a member of the EU) and its implications for the border, especially if the UK goes commando and leaves both the Internal Market and the Customs Union.

It would appear, even on a cursory examination, that the problem is only solvable, short of the introduction of a hard border, by introducing physical checks between the two islands.

Depending on the nature of the agreement reached on the ultimate relationship between the EU27 and the UK, problems will exist with regard to free movement of goods, including, for example, live animals in the event of the EEA solution, which does not cover agriculture, being adopted.

On the status of Irish citizens in the UK, there are no compelling reasons, it seems to me, why this should change.

“It would appear, even on a cursory examination, that the problem is only solvable, short of the introduction of a hard border, by introducing physical checks between the two islands.”

Well spotted! The political science theory of Realism (the state must be safeguarded at every cost) applies to, well – soverign states. But the EU is not a soverign state. Its an … … Interesting.

Tusk, as President of the European Council, jumped the gun by nominating an obscure Belgian as negotiator. Juncker has now done likewise.

No matter. The die is now cast. As a matter of practicality, only the Commission has the necessary mastery of the technical detail.

However, the relevant reference in Article 59 TEU is to Article 218.3 TFEU. The procedure set ou in this article was really tailored to allow for the distinction between so-called first (economic) and second (common foreign and security policy) to be catered for when negotiating third country agreements, the first being clearly a Commission prerogative, the second, being inter-governmental, rather a matter for the Council. The choice of negotiator should, logically, lie with where the weight of negotiation lies, which is clearly with the Commission.

Not least of the ironies associated with Brexit is the fact that the UK has been largely instrumental in ensuring that the second pillar never amounted to much. This may not be the case post-Brexit. Another headache for Ireland.

It is, however, reassuring to see the institutional resilience of the EU demonstrated once more.

The reference should be to Article 50 TEU. I should add that Juncker wins, of course, because Barnier is anything but obscure.

I wonder if the options paper from HM Treasury considers the scenario of Britain leaving the customs union but Northern Ireland stays inside it?

One of the car companies is looking at plant shutdowns to counter losses related to Brexit currency swings. We’ll see how binding a once off vote was.

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