Why? 17.4m and a general election in 2020.
May has confirmed that Article 50 will be served by March 2017, lets assume she will aim for a fiscal year so end of March 2017. 2 years later it will be 2019, the year before an election – that gives her three years to deliver on the pledge of getting control of borders. And in order to win the next election, she believes delivering that pledge in unequivocal terms will give her a win in the election. And you know what I think she is right.
Europe has been posturing – no negotiations before Article 50, no special deal, not going to make it easy, appoint a hard nose to lead, no priority over other trade deals. They have even got other countries to pipe up and add their doom and gloom to Britain’s chances of trade deals. They have no interest in making it easy for Britain.
But here is the thing – without a hard Brexit, one where Britain has full control of its borders, May will provide fuel for UKIP and the far right. These are powerful forces but whose core is driven by racist, nationalistic xenophobes; ones who have put on fine suits, learnt to speak with the Queen’s English and become acceptable. They had 4m people vote for them and because of them, Cameron gambled and lost.
She knows that the only way keep them quiet and away is to give those people exactly what the Tory party think they want – border control. Whether this is true or not is another question and one for another day.
The added benefit of this is that suddenly all those Europhiles now know that the option of a soft exit, one where Britain remains part of the single market is no longer possible, an option. It is simple – when you are in a job and it is ok, then you don’t tread the boards to find another, you wait for it to come to you. But when you are unemployed, you knock on doors and get creative. Britain has to find a way of making itself relevant so that other businesses think the UK market is attractive in itself rather than being a big player in a bigger market.
And if we do not get the trade deals? We operate on WTO rules – businesses will find a way to compete because if they don’t they will go out of business. If Europe doesn’t give Britain any trade deal then we deal with them on WTO basis and for some European countries that will be really expensive – Britain does import more than it exports.
Will any of that happen? No – what will happen is that broad rules will apply:
- No tariffs between UK and Europe so that companies can freely trade as before (that is the one big thing of the common market, no import/export but that parties can agree this)
- All EU and UK citizens given the right to stay where they are whether on visas or as citizens – what is the point of moving them?
- UK continues to make a reducing contribution to the pension pot (or a carve out and one off payment) – a legacy item that will eventually disappear
- Travel – visas for all UK and EU citizens to allow freedom of travel: again why wreck the short haul flight business as I am fairly sure Europe still wants the Britain to come and have a weekend visit
The biggy is of course financial services: Paris and Frankfurt want to be the financial centres and there are unlikely to be any real concessions there. Britain will do as much as it can and post-Brexit it can – it will no longer be tied to the extensive regulations that bog the rest of Europe down – as a capital market it should get better. Apply recently announced it will build a base at the old Battersea Power Station, other big companies will be encouraged to do the same. As an English speaking country, London is a world city, and will continue to attract a lot of business outside of Europe – Asia, Americas, Africa are all English speaking and will find London attractive in itself.
And of course all the government has to do is ensure that it can replace the trade that it currently enjoys being part of the single market with other countries to maintain tax revenue and growth.
When 2020 comes around, May is hoping to present a picture that will show that Britain can stand on its own two feet, household income has gone up, homes didn’t lose value, and overall is prospering. All of delivered by the Tory government. UKIP will lose its focus, and Labour will be left sniping at the edges. Lets face it the Socialist agenda Labour have is not going to have a big effect until they get behind Corbyn and take on the Tories and the media and make sure that there is a real, viable and attractive alternative.
And of course if none of that happens – she still is able to say that she delivered that pledge of border control and that is the winning stick.