The hard road to a Brexit trade deal is still far off

The hard road to a Brexit trade deal is still far off

Over the past three years the whole Brexit fiasco has been a total circus, but the circus has undoubtedly become even more bizarre over the past week.

Former prime minister Theresa May presented two withdrawal agreements to the UK parliament which were roundly defeated and decried as the worst thing that could ever befall the UK.

Then the current leader, Boris Johnson, came back with a deal that is incredibly complicated to understand and one would have to seriously question if it could ever really be got to work.

Arguably it is a worse deal than those presented by Ms May, yet Mr Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and many others are hailing it as a fantastic deal for the UK.

One could not make it up.

Politics in the UK does not have a semblance of principle or integrity, but I guess the voting controversy in the Dáil would suggest that one should not throw stones in a glass house.

How the thinking public could have any belief in the political system here or in the UK is difficult to comprehend.

Meanwhile, back in Westminster the Boris deal was approved by parliament earlier this week.

But the proposal to push through the necessary legislation over a three-day period was roundly defeated.

Now it is impossible to see how it can be pushed through parliament in a timeframe that would possibly allow the UK to exit the EU on October 31.

The issue about Boris and the ditch then becomes relevant.

The big question now is what Mr Johnson will do next, assuming he does not pursue “the ditch” option.

The EU will extend the exit date to January 31, with the proviso that if the necessary legislation is pushed through parliament in the interim, the UK would then be free to leave.

It is more akin to a “flextension” than an extension.

However, what must worry Mr Johnson and his dark lord, is that as the necessary legislation winds its way through the parliamentary process, the various amendments that would inevitably be made could radically alter the nature of his Withdrawal Agreement.

The DUP and its cronies would clearly have a lot to say during the process.

The other real option for Mr Johnson is to try to force a general election.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, this would necessitate the approval of two-thirds of the parliament.

This might just be possible, as the Lib Dems, the Tories and the DUP would in the main be likely to support such a suggestion.

For the Labour Party, it would probably be difficult to resist it at that stage.

In the event of the necessary majority being achieved, Mr Johnson would likely fight the election as a champion of the people who wants to force parliament to accede to the will of the people and deliver the Brexit that the majority of those who voted actually want.

He would argue that he is the only one that is serious about delivering Brexit and he would obviously point to the fact that he succeeded in agreeing a deal with the EU that parliament has approved, while others failed.

Based on opinion polls, and one has to caution that polling in the UK does not have a great track record in recent years, he could well come back with the majority necessary to pass the legislation and get the UK out of the EU by the end of January.

Then the UK and the EU would have a transition period to the end of 2020, during which time normal trading relations would apply.

On the morning following the actual exit, the long, difficult and laborious process of negotiating a future trade agreement could commence.

That certainly could not be achieved by the end of 2020, but the transition period could be pushed out a further two years.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that the EU-Canada trade deal took seven years to negotiate, and the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations commenced back in 1999.

Perhaps the foregoing analysis is way too logical and naively optimistic because as we should have learned since 2016, expecting the unexpected seems to be the safest approach to adopt.

It does appear that the risk of a no-deal Brexit has lessened, but there are still a lot of influential people in the Tory Party that would desire nothing nicer than such an outcome.

It is still all to play for.

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