As every schoolchild knows, quantum entanglement is the theory that the same particle can be in two different parts of the universe at the same time.
A similar analogy can be applied to the government’s Brexit White Paper released on 12 July. While an uneasy truce has broken out in the Tory party over the last few days, the fundamental problems with the White Paper will surface again in the autumn.
As Michel Barnier has said repeatedly, only the combination of the European Union’s single market and the customs union removes UK-EU borders. Outside of the customs union there need to be procedures and customs controls. And outside of the single market you necessarily have controls to check compliance with export standards. In short, the integrity of the single market, the customs union and the EU legal order is inviolable.
Nevertheless WTO rules – which all countries also have to obey – mandate “seamless” borders and non-discrimination in standards which should avoid the border “frictions” that occur with UK-EU trade once the UK becomes a third country, much as it does with EU trade with other non-EU countries.
Yet the White Paper believes that the UK – to achieve frictionless trade outside both the SM and CU – needs to stick to a common rulebook with Brussels on goods and agricultural produce; and at the same time that the UK will still be able to implement trade deals with the rest of the world that this rulebook in effect forbids.
In short, the Brexit White Paper believes in quantum entanglement with the UK being both inside and outside the SM/CU rulebook at the same time. Yet within hours of the White Paper’s release, it became clear that this will be rejected by both the EU and our main trading partners.
On the one hand, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator, made it clear that the EU could not accept the White Paper’s proposal for a Facilitated Customs Arrangement where the UK would collect the EU’s tariff for goods intended for EU consumption before reimbursing Brussels: “There will be no space for outsourcing the EU‘s customs competences”.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump warned that if the UK tried to maintain such close ties with EU, it would make a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely:
“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, then their trade deal with the US will probably not be made”.
It is very hard to believe that the UK government did not understand that these would be the inevitable reactions of both the EU and the US, unless their quanta have become seriously entangled. The government must know that the EU will take the White Paper as just a starting point and demand such changes that in effect keep the UK in the SM and CU in all but name.
But because we will be outside the EU, we will not have a vote on future changes to the EU’s rules and regulations and will still have to abide by the decisions of the European Court of Justice.
To give just one illustration. The White Paper would allow multinational businesses to lobby Brussels for new regulations and new tariffs that would unambiguously harm UK businesses or make UK consumers worse off. Yet, the UK parliament would not be able to veto these. The government must equally be aware that it will be impossible to negotiate free trade deals if we have already agreed to accept all the EU’s rules and regulations.
The White Paper is so full of absurdities that neither Leavers nor Remainers could possibly accept it. Remainers immediately called it the “worst of both worlds”. So can we make sense of this? We can if we look through Lewis Carroll’s eyes.
The White Paper has clearly been drafted by pro-Remain civil servants using the Mad Hatter strategy of putting forward proposals that are completely barking – leaving the EU, while still having to obey all EU laws, but without a vote or veto; claiming this is the only way of having “frictionless trade” when WTO rules mandate this very thing; then claiming it is the only way of avoiding a hard border in Ireland when the UK, Ireland and the EU have already said that they will not impose a hard border; and finally maintaining the notional freedom to negotiate trade deals with other countries, but on terms that no other country could possibly accept.
The clear purpose of this strategy is for the population to begin thinking that, if this is what Brexit means, we’d be better off remaining in the EU.
In short, the White Paper is not intended to be the final stage of a transition to a “softer Brexit”, but rather the first stage in the establishment’s campaign – led by the senior civil servants at No. 10 – to reverse Brexit.
One strong piece of evidence for this comes from the fact that was an “alternative” White Paper being prepared by the Department for Exiting the European Union. This was developing the “Canada plus plus plus” free trade deal, the only sensible deal consistent with the referendum result. This proposal was trashed by the No.10 civil servants which led to David Davis’s resignation. The same civil servants now want to close DexEU down.
Then add in the deliberate incompetence of the UK’s negotiating strategy. Triggering Article 50 before we were fully prepared. Agreeing, in the context of the fixed two-year time frame for the negotiations, to the sequencing of the three stages of the negotiations (divorce, withdrawal and future relationship) where the EU alone determines when each stage is finished. Agreeing to pay a £39bn divorce bill before any trade deal was in place. This is all part of the Mad Hatter’s strategy. Lord Kerr, the British civil servant who drafted Article 50, said that he deliberately chose the short two-year time frame to make it virtually impossible for any country to leave the EU. Lord Heseltine said on the day after the referendum that Brexit would never happen.
The final piece of evidence was the immediate call from strong Remain supporters for a second referendum with three options – accept the terms of the White Paper, go for a “no deal” or stay in the EU – whose only purpose would be to split the Leave vote.
So there you have it. There are only two coherent cases: being fully in the EU or fully leaving. There is no coherent half in – half out solution. If we are going to honour the original referendum result, this White Paper needs to be dropped and the “alternative” White Paper reinstated immediately. And it’s now time to say a final goodbye to all the Mad Hatters in the civil service and the establishment. Goodbye.
To read Professor David Blake’s piece for The Telegraph in full, click here.