No deal, no clue

Donald Tusk. Photo: PA

Don't believe the government's bluff that it is preparing for a 'no deal' outcome to negotiations, says anti-Brexit campaigner GINA MILLER. It has no plan.

There are times in life when we just need to stop the pretence, stop the bluffing, stop the wishful thinking and face facts – when we need to speak in plain English. In terms of Brexit, that time is now. All the evidence points to Theresa May and her team having no plan, no negotiating stance, nothing beyond the rhetoric and reality of the positives of the EU in the Prime Ministers's Florence speech. The EU is hopeful. They are not working on a 'no deal' option. Now Donald Tusk says he hopes sufficient progress will be made by the crucial end of year deadline. 'We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called 'sufficient progress' will be possible by December,' he said. So where does that leave the UK? Sufficient progress relies on our Government having a plan and presenting the EU with it. So why is the Government talking about preparing for a no deal? Is this all a game of bluff, where the future of the people of the UK is being bet on who blinks first?

If the UK were indeed serious about this option, there would be much more frantic beavering away on practical planning. Just one example is the compulsory land purchase orders for port infrastructure. Government lawyers would be preparing for an Act of Parliament such as the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013. Such a Bill would have to make provisions authorising expenditure in preparation for compulsory land purchase orders to accommodate immigration offices, customs facilities, doubling up lanes for lorries, sanitary checks for perishable goods and areas for livestock inspections. Then there are the Irish border requirements – too huge to even address in the space of this article. There would be aggressive recruitment drives for the estimated 3,000 to 5,000 extra customs officers that will need recruiting and training to cope with the extra traffic and checks; procurement officials recruited to purchase a new customs computer system, contractors, bulldozers, raw materials, cement mixers – you name it, they need it. All to be in place by April 1 2019. And I haven't even touched on aviation, financial services, car-makers and big pharma companies – each one a nightmare. Just one tiny review of why the Government's 'No Deal is better than a Bad Deal' rhetoric is pure nonsense. You might ask, what about revoking Article 50? In my view, spending time and effort debating or challenging this question is a waste of precious time. If two sides can agree to end a war, so too can the two sides in the Brexit negotiations agree to end the withdrawal process, if the political will is there. The text of Article 50 says nothing about the issue of 'revocation'. So far, many influential politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble, Guy Verhofstadt have said that 'the door would remain open'. So speaking plainly, the only option that a responsible UK government should be talking about is extending the two-year period to, say, five years. This would allow the UK electorate to consider the full implications of Brexit in a more considered, informed way. It would create the time and space for creative solutions. It would ensure April 1 2019 doesn't go down in history as the United Kingdom's real April Fool's Day.

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