Richard North, 31/10/2016  
 


While the media has been blathering about a "hard Brexit", all the while absolutely convinced that Mrs May was taking that path, we have maintained consistently that it was never going to happen.

This much was evident from Mrs May's first conference speech, and we said so at the time. But despite repeating it, confidently asserting that it ain't gonna to happen, the boys and girls in the media all knew better – and different. To them a "hard Brexit" was a done deal and nothing else was going to get a look in.

Now, following the Nissan announcement, they are having to eat their words, along with the Tory Boy think tanks that have been stuffing themselves with Bamford gold in exchange for telling us what a bad deal the Single Market is.

And yesterday it got even worse for them, with business minister Greg Clark telling the idiot Andrew Marr (transcript here) that the Government's negotiating objective would be "to ensure that we have continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa without tariffs and without bureaucratic impediments".

The "demeanour of the UK Government" he added, "will be to reach a deal on access to the EU market, due to the extent to which UK industry supply chains are integrated with Europe". The aim, he said, "will be to avoid a breakdown in these talks, or a hard Brexit", then telling Marr: "We haven't made decisions yet … in terms of what we want to achieve".

Helpfully, Clark has confirmed that Nissan cannot be directly compensated if the UK fails to meet its negotiating objectives of no tariff barriers, as this would breach WTO rules. Thus, if it wasn't already clear to those with brains enough to read the runes correctly, Greg has made it abundantly clear that the EEA represents the direction of travel.

This is now so obvious that even the Guardian understands that a "hard Brexit" is a non-starter. Moreover, the egregious Wolfgang Münchau has acknowledged that "the EEA is the best of the remaining options".

This, however, is way beyond Andrew Marr who, during his interview with Greg Clark decided that, because Clark was "talking about a customs-free deal", this ruled out a "Norway-style economic deal" as conflicting with the commitment to take back control over migration.

There we have the received wisdom of the media, which has convinced itself that there can be no concessions on freedom of movement if we go for the EEA option. That's as far as it goes. The media machine has made its decision, indulging in its "media-think", its very own form of group think.

Imbued with this enhanced form of self-delusion, Marr thinks we do have another option. "We'd have to have what is called a customs union as Turkey and other countries have", he tells Clark, suggesting that this was "where we're heading".

Interestingly, Clark didn't bite, leading Marr to speculate that, if we get some deal, "something like a customs union", there would still be a gap in the service sector, "which is still the majority of our economy". Unable to reconcile this with the kind of deal that he thinks has been offered to Nissan, he ventures that: "alongside any customs union deal you would need some kind of deal to help the financial services industry".

What Marr has missed, of course, it Clark's reference to "bureaucratic impediments". It wasn't just – or even – tariffs that Nissan was worried about, but the non-tariff barriers that could interfere with their integrated supply chain.

But, like so many of his breed, Marr is completely deaf to this. Obsessed with tariffs and unable to see beyond them, his slender grasp of the issues simply does not allow him to reach the same conclusion that is now so obvious to Münchau and has been to us for three years.

That leaves the media to do what it does best: spreading confusion and misinformation. Having fixed in its collective brain that the "Norway option" is off limits, it is struggling to make the "Customs union" fit into the narrative.

Yet, if one was to ask any one of these hapless beings precisely what they understood by this term, they would most likely have trouble defining it. Even Lord Mandelson's henchman seems confused on the issue. 

But at least his master has got the story straight, emphasising that we "must keep the single market". "We are leaving the European Union because there is a mandate to do so", says Mandelson. "The terms on which we leave, however, have no clear mandate. For the sake of our economy and future growth, we should stick to the Prime Minister's original prescription and do everything we can in the first instance to find the best terms on which to continue being in the single market".

Nevertheless, the Muppets are completely unrepentant. They are so busy telling us how terrible the Single Market is that they haven't yet grasped the point that, good or bad, withdrawal has to be carefully managed. We are not arguing about whether we should leave, but how and when, and what should replace it.

It is ironic, therefore, that William Keegan in the Guardian is articulating a sentiment that would not be out of place on this blog, declaring that "people in high places have been shocked by the ignorance of the leading Brexiters".

Fortunately, those "leading Brexiteers" are not in the driving seat, any more than is the media. It was not, after all, David Davis with but Greg Clark, the business secretary, who has cut through the media-think and fried Andrew Marr's brain. There is no hope for Marr, but at least the Government seems to be taking us in the right direction.






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