Category Archives: EU / Brexit

Brexit done

Well, Brexit is sort of done. It could have been worse, and Boris has maybe just enough positive headline points in the agreement to avoid shredding by die-hard Brexiteers. What it all means is yet unclear, and maybe Grumpy will have comments to make in the coming weeks.

One element which did some to his mind was the issues of borders. Grumpy has opined before on the predictions of remainers and the ‘duty free’ rip-off companies regarding border issues. (see ). UK tourists (and it is hoped reciprocally inbound European tourists) will have to queue up for more passport inspection or stamping, and will be restricted to the amount of time that can be spent in Europe in a 90 day period, albeit this will affect in reality only a tiny percentage of Brits.

Grumpy hunted through his box marked ‘junk for disposal’ and came up with an old passport. It reminded him that in earlier times one had to queue up to get passport stamps for entry into Spain, for example, but he does not recall this being much of a hassle or a deterrent against getting a spot of sun. As an ex relatively frequent traveller to the USA he was also reminded that his old B1B visa allowed relatively pain free access to the US.

So, he mused, over the years which were the best and worst border crossings in his long travels ? Setting aside Washington Dulles (which Grumpy feels exists only as a textbook example of how not to build an international airport) first prize for consistent border hassle must have been getting the Eurostar on Friday evenings at Gare du Nord in Paris in the early days of the service, especially when “une greve” between RATP (metro and buses) and SNCF (main line) was in progress. This was French officialdom and surliness at its simply magnificent worst, unsurpassed even by US border officers at airports.

However, the simplest and quickest entry events anywhere over the years were (maybe surprisingly) by a huge margin in Hong Kong (no queues, no man behind a desk, entry with fingerprint).

As an anecdote, Grumpy discovered by accident that in Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle airport there was a simple and essentially undetectable mechanism for getting in and out of France (if one had no checked baggage) without ever needing to bother with the border. Ironically, for those trips, France would have won the simplest entry prize. He has no idea whether the flaw still exists at the airport. Without giving anything away, it is based on the existence of shared toilets on the entry level between domestic and international arrivals, it was less obvious than it sounds, and was discovered by taking a wrong turning then getting on the wrong rubber moving walkway which are part of that larbyrinthine edifice.

Hutton dogma

Journalist Will Hutton has a distinguished career, but in common with many journalists, communication with others is unidirectional. They write, they speak, they opine, and occasionally they debate. What they seemingly don’t have a lot experience with is negotiating.

Hutton was pontificating on the various interchanges with the EU in relation to final pattern of Brexit (a misnomer – we have left the EU and it’s over). He was highly critical of some form of agreement which approached anything like ‘no deal’, and lambasted David Frost and others for not concluding an agreement.

But no deal means, no deal. There are two parties and one of those parties cannot unilaterally effect a ‘deal’. No deal simply that means they can’t find common ground within their negotiating parameters. If all frameworks proposed violate the bottom lines of one or both parties, there can be no agreement.

Hutton, and most remainers don’t understand this simple business truth. You can always “agree” by capitulation. So If the EU said “you can have just 1% of fish from British waters or no deal – our final position” . Where is the negotiation? It’s not a failure of the negotiators if there is no agreement because the parties cannot agree within their solution constraints. Hutton would of course say “take it” ? The only logical outcome of Hutton’s approach – no deal is not acceptable – is that we accept whatever the EU decide if we want a deal. Negotiating principle 101 is broken – the determination to walk away from the table if real (as opposed to ‘ploy’) red lines are breached by some proposed agreement. Every negotiator needs a “walk away” scenario.

Whatever is decided with the EU now will have a generational effect on the UK. Do we in essence cede sovereignty to to the EU or not ? Do we have the some responsibilities of sovereign government delegated to France or Germany? Should disputes be resolved by a foreign court in which we have no participation? these are the stark choices for the UK.

The whole essence of negotiation is to have a bottom line – an “or else”. David Frost knows that if there no overlapping set of positions it’s their deal or no deal. NO businessman or government would or should accept that, and neither should UK Limited.