Theresa May’s team have been briefing the right-wing press* that they’re now working on a plan to launch a “nuclear Brexit” if the negotiations don’t go their way.
This should be deeply concerning to anyone who thinks that a chaotic Tory administered “fuck you” departure from Europe is the worst case scenario in this whole Brexit shambles.
Theresa May’s slow march towards the abyss
The probability of a “no deal” strop away from the Brexit negotiating table looks almost inevitable if Theresa May is not defeated in her opportunistic and self-serving snap election.
She’s already made the path towards a sensible negotiated settlement almost impossible with her “no deal is better than a bad deal“ rhetoric because any deal is obviously going to be a “bad deal” in comparison to the deal we had before (Single Market access, countless beneficial treaties and a huge amount of influence, but all with a rebate that meant we paid less in membership fees than Italy!).
Then a couple of weeks after calling her bizarrely-timed snap election Theresa May spouted the most paranoid and unstable nonsense that has been uttered by a British Prime Minister in my entire lifetime about a supposed deliberate EU plot against her.
This extraordinarily deranged attack on the people we’re going to have to negotiate with was yet another move to poison UK-EU relations and further damage the prospect of a sensible negotiated settlement.
In the wake of her paranoid “EU plot” temper tantrum outside 10 Downing Street, it’s now been revealed that Theresa May is actually drawing up a plan to quit the EU without meeting any of our financial obligations.
Now this may seem like a good idea if you’re one of the 30% of the British public who are delusional enough to believe that a “no deal” strop away from the negotiating table would actually be great for Britain, but even a rudimentary consideration of the economic consequences and the dire diplomatic position that would put us in should be enough to make any right-thinking person very seriously concerned about the future this country would be facing under Theresa May’s weak and unstable leadership.
Immediate economic damage
A “no deal” strop would obviously cause absolute chaos. I won’t list all of the consequences, there are too many. I’ll just run through a few of the really big ones.
Think about the estimated 6.3% – 9.5% collapse in GDP (even the best case scenario of a 6.3% collapse in GDP would be significantly worse than the recession caused by the Bankers’ crisis).
Think about what such a “nuclear Brexit” crisis would do to the state of the budget deficit and the UK’s ability to actually pay for things like pensions and the NHS.
Think about the way the introduction of customs checks would harm the UK shipping industry and how the loss of the EU Open Skies agreement would adversely affect the UK aviation industry.
Think about the massive supply chain disruption as manufactured goods are hit with tariffs every time the production process involves the import or export of parts or ingredients.
Think about 97% of UK food and drink exports being hit by export tariffs.
Think about the huge number of job losses, and whether you and your family would be safe (the worst affected areas would be areas like manufacturing, agriculture, aviation and airports, shipping and ports, import/export dependent businesses, food and drink, financial services, hotels and the leisure industry …).
Think about the very serious problems with the Irish border and the peace process.
Think about the loss of your travel rights and the terrible uncertainties that would be imposed on millions of EU migrants in the UK and UK migrants in the EU.
Think about the fact Scotland would vote for independence and refuge from this self-inflicted madness if they had any sense whatever.
The immediate economic consequences of what a “no deal” strop would be bad enough, but there would be a very much more serious long-term consequence too.
If the UK government decide to just walk away from their financial obligations, what kind of message would that send to the rest of the world?
It would obviously say that the UK is the kind of country that doesn’t respect the international agreements they sign up to, and walks away from their obligations whenever it suits them.
Now who would sign up to a trade deal with a country like that?
Just think about the difficulties suffered by Argentina after they went bankrupt. They were treated like international pariahs for years. But they tore up their obligations out of necessity during a terrible prolonged economic crisis. They really had no choice but to devalue their currency and default on their debts.
Britain on the other hand would be tearing up its obligations out of choice: Not because they needed to, but because they wanted to.
So I’ll ask again. Who would sign a trade deal with a country with a proven track record of wilfully breaking its trade deals?
Would you sign a contract with a person with a proven track record of refusing to honour the terms of the contracts they sign? No, I didn’t think so.
The idea that the UK could just walk into a club that contains the organisation that they just defrauded and all of their closest allies, and then get exactly what they want without any other nation raising objections by using their powers of veto is yet another display of the kind of magical thinking that seems to plague Brexiters.
Trade deal fantasies
Now think about the promised trade deals the Brexiteers assure us that the UK will strike with other economies.
The first thing to note is that if the UK has turned itself into an obligation-breaking international pariah, do you really think that any other country they approach for a trade deal wouldn’t take the “you need us more than we need you, so what are you going to give us” approach?
How about considering the fact that a lot of countries would probably prefer not to jeopardise their economic relations with the EU (the largest trading block on the planet) in order to sign up to a trade deal with an obligation-abandoning international pariah state.
Even if the UK does find some countries to concoct trade deals with, you know that trade deals take years to negotiate, finalise and implement don’t you? So the UK would be in the international wilderness for years even if they did find potential trade partners who are willing to overlook their contract-breaking behaviour.
You know that each trade deal takes hundreds of civil servants on either side to negotiate it don’t you? This means that the UK could only negotiate a few trade deals at a time without hiring literally thousands of new trade negotiators. Even if they did hire thousands of new negotiators, they’d obviously be inexperienced and unlikely to secure the best possible terms.