Brexit or Bust!


One minor point - I heard a NI policeman on radio 4 yesterday saying that the Loyalist paramilitaries were now almost entirely occupied with black market activities and their main interest was in making money. But he did also point out that those activities could change back again if the situation deteriorates.


Been a lot of chat here and elsewhere about Hard/Soft borders between North and Republic of Ireland. Maybe a few clarifications.

I think what most people mean by a “hard” border is there being physical infrastructure at the border. Hopefully we can agree on that definition. I’m not aware of anyone in the mainstream of politics wanting a Hard border. It is the declared position of even the DUP that they don’t want a hard border.

After the Brexit Leave vote the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny instigated a bilateral (UK, Ireland) initiative to look at the border issues. My understanding, gleaned from a number of different sources, was that they had concluded that the border could be managed without the need for infrastructure. Needed further work but was eminently possible. Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach at the time of the GFA) was on radio 4 also stating this as his view.

When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach he ended the bilateral talks, disbanded the department set up in Dublin to support these talks and passed that matter on to the EU. Various theories for this action abound, not least his need to counter Sinn Fein in local politics.

So is there need for border infrastructure in the event of even a No-Deal/WTO exit. According to the WTO, No. They had a delegation in Ireland last December to explain how this would work.

In light of that then why do we have a backstop?

  • Suits the EU to leverage UK into a Customs Union post Brexit?
  • Suits the EU to punish UK by annexing Northern Ireland?
  • Suits T May as she’s a Remainer at heart and wants to stay in a Customs Union?

I’m sure there are many more possibilities you can think of and I suspect it will be a long time (if ever) before we know the full truth of the matter. Currently my money would be on (3)!

And of the backstop itself, is it a reasonable “insurance Policy” or an inescapable trap? There are four main conditions that must be satisfied to exit the backstop, summarised below.

Any replacement for the backstop must:

  • Ensure that there is no hard border in Ireland. Assuming that we are agreed that this means no border infrastructure then with the WTO in the dock this should be a reasonably straightforward legal hurdle.
  • Recognise the Special situation in Ireland. What does that mean legally? If you cannot define it legally then it’s rather difficult to prove that you’ve satisfied it.
  • Support all aspects of the GFA. At face value this may seem legally straightforward however the GFA itself is in places somewhat ambiguous. Again, as with (2) would be a legal goldmine for the lawyers involved. (And that’s before we even consider that the backstop as currently proposed breaches the principle of consent set out in the GFA).
  • Maintain conditions for the continued operation of all North/South cooperation . Given that the frameworks of North/South cooperation were enacted at a time when both countries were in the EU there is probably no way to achieve this other than by remaining in the Customs Union and the Single Market. There’s no reason why these frameworks could not be tweaked for a post Brexit relationship but that is not what the (legally binding) withdrawal agreement requires.

There’s a lot of talk about the need to avoid a Hard Border (point one above) when defending the need for a backstop but I’ve never heard the EU or Ireland or Cabinet politicians mention any of these other conditions.

In a recent post there’s reference to the possibility of smuggling going on in a post Brexit environment. Of course there will be those who choose to break the law as there already is. But the idea that this is countered by a man/woman in a trench coat and peaked cap, standing in the road at the border waving a torch is so 1950s (In my view like much of the thinking in the EC). The reality is that the law breakers, the smugglers, the diesel launderers etc are not caught by random stops at the border, but rather by HMRC in their accountant’s offices. This is how it’s already done. Spot the accounting anomalies, spot the money laundering and then where required do a targeted, intelligence led, on premise raid. Several key terrorists have been jailed for tax offences rather that their other nefarious activities (echos of Al Capone).




And the latest news to surface is this. We know that there’s a backlog of legislation that must be passed for The Deal to be implemented, and it’s too close now for any / all of it to pass with proper scrutiny. A key bill is the WAIB - The Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill, which provides for 4 things: the £39b payment, protection of citizens’ right, continuing supremacy of EU law during the transition, and continuing to be subject to EU Court of Justice.

Without this bill we either leave with no deal, or extend A50. Given that this bill directly contradicts the UK constitution and would v likely be voted down either in Parliament or the HoL, it’s not going to pass into law by Mar 29th. And that’s just this one bill, there are five others that also need to go through.

Just exactly WTF are we being led into? As a now former Tory voter [lifelong, never moved even during the New Lab steamroller] I’m sickened at May’s intransigence on forcing us down the path of leaving with no deal. I always thought the govt’s job was to act in the interests of the country, not to blindly lead us into this disaster. But hey, we’ll have control, when we go round begging other countries to do deals with us that wo’t match what the EU agreements achieved, and we find out that it’s not 1956 now and the way the world has evolved makes being part of a major trading co-operative the most sensible option. And we’re having to leave because vox pops on the streets of Stoke etc tell us that the the hard of understanding just want to get on with it, so get on with it we must rather than taking a step back and admitting that leaving is actually a ridiculous idea.

What’s the thread called? Brexit or Bust? Seems to be both sides of the same coin.


@Willy. Whichever way you describe it, the border issue is an attempt to accommodate diametrically opposing positions. This was being flagged up at the start of the referendum campaign and 3 years on there’s no still no consensus, because it’s not possible to satisfy the two opposing sets of requirements and keep all three sides happy - RoI + EU, NI, UK govt.

Surely at some point sense will prevail and the UK govt will rescind A50 on the basis that just leaving doesn’t implement the referendum to leave, not without serious long term damage to the economy (it’s already started with numerous organisations decamping and shifting jobs + investment), and because when everything is considered in the round - not just various people’s pet item on the agenda - leaving becomes a ridiculous proposition. It already is to a lot of the population.


Just now. Tusk rules out ANY renegotiation of the deal.

We’re going to blunder out, and the reality will hit pretty quickly. Jeez.


Tusk has said there is a “special place in hell" for "those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it safely”,
I find that deeply offensive & makes me wonder what these people are playing at.
To stone wall ANY further discussions or fine tuning of the ‘Back Stop’ issue is simply ensuring a hard border in Ireland.


He has a point.

Cameron expected another coalition with the LDs and expected them to block it, then went ahead with it anyway glibly assuming he’d win. As soon as it was announced he’d lost, he legged it.

May strolls in with Brexit Means Brexit, oversees a catastrophic election result and then kowtows to everyone in her desperation to lead us into oblivion all the while avoiding any logical or sensible discussion on the way forward relying instead on the Chequers Plan that was widely reviled at launch in July 2017 and could never work, let alone satisfy all sides. And instead of taking note of the impending catastrophe and making alternate plans, she’s led us down this dead-end where the only offer on the table is the s41t sandwich of no deal, or the other s41t sandwich of her deal.

Contempt doesn’t begin to describe what I think of TM.


Yes I fully agree he has a point, but diplomatic langage norms seem to have passed him by (not for the first time I will add)
All this has done is aggravate & polarise, it will push the more rational brexiteers into the google eyed loons group. Like I said, get ready for a no deal exit & a hard border.
I’m wondering what Varadkar’s reaction is, surely he is not that insensitive to the fall out from Tusk’s remark.


It was a pure academic question, he did not say that there is a special place in hell for Brexiteers, but he was wondering how it looks like.

BBC misquotes, apparently they cannot understand English.


I listened to & watched the Tusk press conference, its not a misquote.
OK it was a press conference, not an official statement, but he said what he said.


This is what he said:
‘by the way i have been wondering what a special place in hell looks like for those who promoted brexit without even a sketch a plan of how to carry it safely’.

This is what BBC - the governments dependent vehicle - quotes in the header: ‘Donald Tusk: Special place in hell for Brexiteers without a plan’.

It was about time for such a quote. We had thousands of insults from the UK government, daily.

IMO, Tusk was very mild.

It is a typical English reaction to pick on such a thing to divert from the own problems.


There’s also a shed-load of legislation waiting in the wings, dozens and dozens of Statutory Instruments, that will need to be passed in the event of no-deal. It’s very hard to see how Parliament will now have time to pass all that legislation before the 29th March, even if it were inclined to give it all an easy passage.


Certainly not diplomatic language but I must say the more I’ve seen of Tusk, the more I warm to his plain-speaking style. I think he comes across well in the BBC’s two episodes Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil. He is similarly frank about the behaviour of the Greek government in respect of the Euro crisis.

And, of course, he is absolutely right about the absence of planning.


At least we can agree

  • Certainly not diplomatic language
  • And, of course, he is absolutely right about the absence of planning


Donald Tusk’s comment … as reported:

  • rather than such colouful language, perhaps he should have merely repeated the joke that was doing the rounds in the summer of 2016: Whilst it appears the Remainers have no plan B … more worryingly, the Leavers have no Plan A.

And I’ve just heard Ms. Andrea Leadsom criticise DT on the World at One news programme, saying he should apologise. But she should know all about that … wasn’t she the lady who claimed TM should not be Tory leader because she’s never had children?

Anyone who objects to DT’s words should think about them: he was talking only of those Leavers who had no sensible plans for implementing Brexit … and surely there are no such politicians et al.


Is there any truth in the story that JRM & Boris were seen in Harrods this afternoon buying asbestos suitcases?


Agreed, @MDS - it is an exemplary series, well worth three hours of anyone’s time. It is also commendably even-handed, even if some important players - Cameron, Merkel, May - are absent.

I kind of agree that Tusk comes over reasonably well but the programme, and the fact that he is its “star” so to speak, does reveal a gaping hole at the heart of the EU, which is the fact that there is no creative thinking there whatsoever. It was glaringly obvious that none of these people (and yes, before someone moans, I include the UK government here) have any ideas whatsoever to deal with the various crises facing the world, Europe in particular, other than to resort to dogmatism, rules drawn up half a century ago and various pieties about peace and unity.

I was also deeply shocked by the Eurozone crisis episode, and the treatment of Greece. It was around then (2011/12) that I personally started to turn against the EU. Not because I’m a xenophobe or a Tory or a little Englander, but because I despise overweening organisations like the EU.

OK, everyone knows that the Greeks spent more than they had, their institutions were riddled with nepotism and corruption and the country should never have been allowed to join the Eurozone (which was a mess, even then) but the country’s treatment at the hands of the EU machine was truly stomach-churning.

Forced privatisations (including, at one point - I kid you not - a proposal to sell off the Parthenon), the funds from which would not be re-invested in Greece to help its economy but would be going straight to the creditors. After some hard negotiations, Tspiras managed to persuade the EU bullies that 25% should be reinvested back in the Greek economy. The EU also imposed a programme of austerity upon the unfortunate Greeks (Brussels and the ECB loves austerity as much as our own Tories do). All this was rejected comprehensively by the Greek people, but the EU martinets carried on regardless. Call that democracy? I call it supra-national corporatism. Of the most foul and egregious sort.

Greece is a small country, not so important in the grand scheme of geopolitics, but the EU’s treatment and humiliation of the country to which Europe owes so much was shameful. Essentially the the neoliberal cabal in Bruxelles, much to the joy of Goldman Sachs and the rest, planned to asset-strip the country.

I really cannot see why so many people cheer for this organisation, but I expect the Remainiac Ultras will continue to clap like performing seals. Go ahead, you cheer if you want to, but I will not be joining in.


I voted to remain - as such, I’m not offended.

Some voted to leave and, obviously, had a good idea of how this would look. They should not be offended. (They might like to come forward and actually point out their route through this briar patch).

Some voted to leave without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it safely - they can feel offended if they are also prepared to self-identify with this characterisation.

It’s difficult to see how their image in the mirror can be an object of much pride.


I too voted to remain. However if this is an underlying example of how the EU executive think, I will be considering changing my vote should their be a 2nd referendum.


If there’s a second referendum and we decide to Remain, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Tusk and more so Junckers are drafting the first versions of their “welcome back” speeches.