It’s obvious to all but a small minority of hardcore Brexiteers that Brexit is going badly. The UK has made lots of concessions, whereas the only concession the EU has made is over the length of time the ECJ can protect EU citizens’ rights in the UK for. Discussions about trade haven’t started yet, and won’t start until March at the earliest. The Irish border issue has been fudged; the government has yet to demonstrate how Britain can leave the Single Market and Customs Union while not having a hard border. It has become obvious there will be close regulatory alignment between the EU and the UK after Brexit, defeating the notion of ‘taking back control.’ Meanwhile, the UK’s economy has gone from the fastest growing of the major developed countries to the slowest. Inflation has increased, driving down living standards. This is in the context of a high-performing global economy and relatively strong growth in the Eurozone contrary to the Brexiteers’ predictions.
The fact is, the UK cannot make a true success of the Article 50 process, which is designed by the EU to favour it above any country that decides to leave. The UK has a severely short period of time in which to negotiate a good deal; it will probably make more concessions due to time pressure. To make matters worse, the Conservative Party and the country are divided as to what they want out of Brexit, if it should even be happening at all. The EU are united as to what they want- Brexit did even feature in a lengthy debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schultz in the most recent German election. There was no need for it to feature, both of them agreed.
The solution is to cancel the Article 50 process and apply for EEA membership, otherwise known as the Norway model. This has the advantage of respecting the referendum result, while not getting an unfavourable deal that hurts the economy. If the UK economy crashes as a result of a bad deal or no deal at all, it is the Brexiteers who will be blamed, and we may end up back inside the EU but without the financial rebate. In contrast, EEA membership would be alright- much of the damage from a soft Brexit has already happened in the form of lower growth and a devalued pound. More importantly, it would buy the country the time it needs to find out what it wants and then negotiate it. If we wanted to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, we could negotiate a free trade deal better than the one negotiated under Article 50, since there would be no time limit. If we wanted to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, we would simply stick with the status quo rather than be ravaged by the uncertainty facing the country right now. And crucially, if Britain decided it wanted to stay in the EU after all, it could rejoin far more easily.
The problem is that the Conservative Party won’t do this, because Conservative Brexiteers see the EEA as equivalent to EU membership, and so won’t consider it, even as a temporary measure. They think being outside the EU will make Britain better off, regardless of the unlikelihood of a good deal. To me, that view is absolutely deranged. The Conservative Brexiteers are consumed by delusional paranoia, accusing anyone wanting parliamentary sovereignty over the Brexit process or a softer Brexit of treachery, betrayal and disloyalty. However, their views may come back to haunt them. If Britain gets a bad deal or no deal at all, and the economy tanks, the Conservatives will probably lose the next election. The most right wing people in the country will have been responsible for veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. I’m very critical of a lot of what Corbyn believes, but I can’t deny the hilarious irony of that situation.