It has come to my attention that this take may not seem intuitively obvious to everyone. Well gather round and let me explain my uncannily prescient logic honed through years of staring into the mists that surround the column.
Naysayers, many and occasionally distinguished, point at the government’s antipathy towards Europe, exemplified by its performative expressions of sovereignty, supported by the Labrador-like loyalty of the right wing press, combined with Labour’s apparent lack of interest.
And all of this is true and well observed. It is also true that Europe bashing has provided a rich seam of political capital (indeed it has made the careers of the PM et al) which, like a dog tantalized by the juicy marrow bone of divisive rhetoric, may prove difficult to resist.
And yet. Let us cast aside the fripperies so beloved of the shysters, the tricks of misdirection, sound and light employed by phony magicians, the cheap thrills of bad television, and political speeches in general, and focus in the actual substance of the situation.
Brexit has not exactly been a great success so far. Its achievements include enraging fisherfolk, upsetting musicians, emptying lorries, the retail sector up in arms, chemical businesses aghast, SMEs in despair, and ACCIDENTALLY destroying the entire shellfish export sector.
Not to mention the most tangible price of Brexit. Brexit mean a border in the Irish Sea. A border, via the Northern Irish Protocol, an arrangement which was wilfully and indeed happily achieved by the government without the consent of all the main groups in NI.
To no one’s surprise the NIP is proving problematic. Some of this can be categorised euphemistically as ‘teething problems’. But the reality of the situation, combined with the government’s thirst for the hardest negotiated Brexit, is NI will in various ways be different to rUK.
Brexit enthusiasts have been reduced to sending upset letters and calling for the renegotiation of the protocol (not going to happen in any substantive way). As for the trade situation, Brexit afficionados debate not whether trade with the EU has been impaired but by how much.
So far, so sub optimal. But let us contrast the dismal Brexit situation to the dire pandemic. Things are looking up! After various awful errors the government has got one thing very right. Like a rose growing from the toxic waste, the vaccination program has been a huge success.
The end is in sight (or at least an end to the period of crisis) and there should quite rightly be pats on backs (one hopes on the right backs). Finally the government can start to look forward. To build back better.

But there is one gigantic fly in that soothing balm - Brexit.
Where everything will get worse. Grace periods and other mitigants will run out. The NI Protocol will continue to attract the ire of its opponents. Trade impairment with the EU will cause economic scarring. Financial services equivalence is highly unlikely and GDPR...brace brace!
Cynics might think the government doesn’t care. But imagine this. The terrible headlines. A glorious recovery impeded by Brexit woes. All of this, a gift to Scottish independence. The gov keeps trying to move on but both its feet are stuck in the mud of its own construction.
And easy to fix, in part. Ofc, we’re not signing up to the CU and SM. The protocol is here to stay. Financial equivalence is here to stay. But. Negotiating some easements is not beyond the wit of government. A mobility chapter. An SPS agreement (perhaps time limited). Etc etc.
The logic for closer alignment is not only obvious it is compelling in the only way that matters - political self interest. I think you can detect sniffs of this all over the place: in the 10 Downing Street personnel makeover, in M Gove’s more pragmatic tone re the Protocol.
This government’s only talent is politics. And it has more than shown its capacity to act decisively and ruthlessly when sufficiently motivated: the agreement of the NI Protocol; the sacrifice of the fisherfolk; the political defenestration of Dominic Cummings.
Expect not the unexpected but the politically unexpected whose fundamental logic is compelling if over a slightly longer timeframe.

Just as water flows downhill, ducks quack and apples fall, the future inclines to closer alignment.

* stamps staff on the ground *


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More from @Sime0nStylites

13 Feb
Typically excellent piece from @dsquareddigest The exponential insight is especially neat. Think of it a little like you can’t export oysters to the EU (because you simply aren’t allowed to), tomorrow you don’t have a fish exporting business (to the EU).
The extremely small minority of people who known anything about this who think that Brexit will be good for the City make a number of arguments which I shall address in turn...
1. They need us more than we need them. This is a variant of the German carmakers argument. And we know how that went...Business will follow the profit opportunity and if that has moved then so will the business...
Read 13 tweets
11 Feb
Everyone seems to be going a bit nutty about the Amsterdam share trading news. Is it news? Most definitely. But is it unexpected. Most definitely not.
Let’s start with what if means. Put really simply, in the absence of passporting (now an impossible dream) and most likely equivalence (looks increasingly dicey) the majority of EU related wholesale banking activity in the City will migrate to the EU.
Some of this will happen quickly. Some will happen slowly. The Amsterdam news is a good example. The physical activity has shifted but this probably doesn’t mean much in terms of jobs. Indeed, much of the shifting so far has been trading activity (and ‘money’) vs jobs.
Read 8 tweets
9 Feb
Curious that people didn’t seem to realise that a thin deal or no deal meant that the EU would have huge leverage over U.K. fisherfolk / carmakers / bankers et al doing business with the EU (the other side of the coin from the German carmakers argument).
The only remedies to this situation are...
1. Let the affected business wither away to be hopefully replaced by business with other parts of the world.
Read 8 tweets
7 Feb
And now for something completely different.

Seagulls I Image
Seagulls II Image
(Felt like trying to do something joyous)
Read 4 tweets
7 Feb
1. The pandemic will end but there will be no reversion to political ‘normalcy’. The after effects of the pandemic, combined with Brexit, will shape U.K. politics in the 2020s and 2030s.

2. Everyone wants the world to go back to normal. This is a profound and powerful desire. I think you see it in headlines about summer holidays and pubs reopening. I also think you see it in the stability of the government’s poling.
3. Just, please, make everything better. Just make it all go away. Can’t we just go back to how we were? Before all of this. Go back to the happier maskless past. These are entirely understandable sentiments.
Read 21 tweets
6 Feb
My guess is that if someone invented a time machine to go back to an alternate 2015 where everything would be the same apart from no Brexit and no Covid - a world where people just got on with their lives - pretty much everyone would want to go.
I wonder how this translates into politics. I think people just want call and stability. No more fighting. No more anxiety. No always having to worry about the next huge event.
Whoever makes the last four or five years go away wins. And Brexit is a large part of that. Does government really want to be fighting away at the best election re the NIP or shellfish or the hundreds of other issues that will emerge. I sincerely doubt it.
Read 4 tweets

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