ANDREW NEIL: No Deal would be a nail in the coffin of Western democracy and celebrated by Russia and China

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The background music emanating from the Brexit talks just got happier. Hopefully the tune will continue to be upbeat for the next few days to strike a deal.

Because No Deal will not only have serious negative consequences for Great Britain and the European Union. It would be a setback for the West and democracies around the world.

The 21st century was supposed to be the ultimate triumph of democracy. On the contrary, its first two decades were marked by the rise of authoritarianism.

From Beijing to Moscow via Ankara, Riyadh and other major capitals of the world, we have seen the rise of the strong man and the retreat of democratic progress.

Because No Deal will not only have serious negative consequences for Great Britain and the European Union. It would be a setback for the West and democracies everywhere (file photo)

Failure

Even established democracies have not been immune to the cult of the autocrat, as all of Donald Trump’s America, Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Narendra Modi’s India illustrate.

The inability of Western economies to rebound strongly from the 2008 crisis (and rising inequalities exacerbated by slow growth) prompted authoritarians around the world to argue that free markets are no longer the best engine of economic growth. and prosperity.

The West’s inability to bring the Covid pandemic under control (in stark contrast to the success of many Asian countries) has further emboldened authoritarian regimes.

Great Britain and the EU share the most fundamental values: liberal democracy, free market economy, the rule of law, with equality for all before the law.

They have so many common interests: joint defenses against authoritarian aggression, cooperation in security and intelligence against the omnipresent terrorist threat, support for free trade between nations to boost prosperity across the world, a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

If two entities which share so much good in the world and are largely united in hostility to what is bad, cannot agree their post-Brexit arrangements in harmony and with mutual respect, then do not doubt – the authoritarians all over the world will rejoice.

They will see it as another nail in the coffin of Western democracy. They will be more confident than ever that the 21st century is theirs.

The 21st century was supposed to be the ultimate triumph of democracy.  On the contrary, its first two decades were marked by the rise of authoritarianism ()

The 21st century was supposed to be the ultimate triumph of democracy. On the contrary, its first two decades were marked by the rise of authoritarianism ()

So the penalty for failing Brexit negotiations is much higher than the cost of British lamb fares or the inconvenience of long queues at Dover.

Those who are mired in the details of these talks should lift their heads just for a moment and appreciate the enormous price of failure, which could shatter us all for years to come.

It would be particularly ridiculous not to come to a deal now when around 98% of the Brexit deal has already been settled. Allowing the remaining 2% to get in the way would be a monumental failure of policy, as would the appeasement of democracies to Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the Anglo-French invasion of Suez in 1956. on a fake prospectus.

Of course, the remaining 2% is important. It still is. But if, as seems likely, the EU is now ready to drop its insistence on a ‘ratchet clause’ – whereby Brussels could unilaterally impose large-scale tariffs and / or quotas on UK exports to the EU if she feels that Britain is failing to comply with EU rules and regulations – then there is a deal to be made.

If, as is possible, Britain deviates from EU standards over the years (not to lower standards but to different standards), then Brussels might have reason to complain. As long as this is done through independent arbitration and the sanctions are limited in scope (to the area where the divergence has occurred), Britain should be able to live with it.

Yes, Brexit should mean greater British sovereignty. But sovereignty is not free. It can have consequences. If the exercise of our right to diverge results in an adverse reaction from the EU, then we will have to weigh that in the balance. We could always decide to go our own way if we thought it was to our overall advantage.

However, one thing is crystal clear now: if the choice is between the certainty of generalized tariffs on January 1 (no deal) and the possibility of limited tariffs in certain sectors in the years to come (deal), then the latter would surely be Well. Old-fashioned British pragmatism in action.

What seems important to our economy now may not be important in the future. So why not suck it and see?

If these so-called “level playing field” problems can be resolved in this way, it will leave fish.

President Emmanuel Macron has upped the ante on this matter. He’s terrified that French fishermen will become the new yellow vests (yellow vests), dumping tons of cod on the Champs-Elysees and setting off a new round of street protests, with a presidential election in less than 18 months and the largest threat to him. the populist right.

But if Britain is ready to accept less than ideal conditions of competition, the EU in general – and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular – should be ready to lean on President Macron.

Sabotage

Additional compensation for French fishermen and a higher French share of EU fishing quotas after Brexit (sorry Ireland, you’ll lose – but no deal would be the worst for you) should do the trick. If fishing quotas are allowed to sabotage a deal, Presidents Xi and Putin will conclude that we have lost ground.

They will see it as another nail in the coffin of Western democracy.  So the penalty for failing Brexit negotiations is far greater than the cost of British lamb tariffs or the inconvenience of long lines in Dover (pictured on December 11)

They will see it as another nail in the coffin of Western democracy. So the penalty for failing Brexit negotiations is much higher than the cost of British lamb tariffs or the inconvenience of long queues in Dover (pictured on December 11)

True Brexiteer believers will hate a deal like this. It will be a meager deal – not so much the Canada + they promised, more Canada Dry. But Brexiteers assured us during and after the referendum that a free trade deal with Brussels would be the simplest and most ambitious in history. Thus, their credibility in negotiating agreements is not high.

There will be many in the heart of the EU who will also be unhappy with the likely deal (if there is one). But the talks were soured from the start by the desire of the Brussels elite to punish Britain for having the temerity to leave the EU – and to make it so obnoxious that no other EU member would follow.

The EU’s position has always been illogical. He believed that Brexit was an act of untold self-harm on Britain’s part. Yet he also wanted to confine a post-Brexit Britain so that it couldn’t go too far on its own. It was never explained why a country that they said was moving towards record status had to be so hampered.

Precipice

I suspect the real fear in Brussels has always been that Britain will succeed with Brexit. It remains to be seen. What matters now is that a deal is struck and politicians on both sides of the Channel then focus on the future, which is not necessarily bright.

The euro zone will probably be the last major region in the world to recover economically from the pandemic. The euro is soaring, prices European exports out of foreign markets, the European Central Bank is running out of firepower to further stimulate the European economy and core inflation is heading towards zero – which adds to a continent on a deflationary Japanese precipice, with stagnation as far as the eye can see.

Great Britain should not be satisfied with it. We need a vibrant euro area to prosper. And our politicians have their own job to do. They need to tell us what exactly Britain is going to do after Brexit with its newly restored sovereignty.

What’s the strategy to put the country at the forefront of artificial intelligence, pharmacy, robotics, digitization and 5G – all of which could explode in a Britain that is no longer held back by overly cautious EU regulation.

British politicians have remained silent on what they plan to do with Brexit. After January 1, there will be no more excuse for further silence.

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