No Deal Nonsense

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There’s a lot of huffing and puffing going on at the moment about how the Government is ‘actively pursuing a No Deal Brexit’, as if Boris and his team have no other plan in mind.

Even this morning in the paper Ruth Davison (apparently no fan of Boris), was saying how she couldn’t remember anyone in the referendum debate saying they wanted to actively crash out (that fabulous phrase) with No Deal, and she didn’t think the Government should pursue a No Deal Brexit.

Yet, at no point has any of the current or previous leadership said that No Deal was their preferred choice. In fact, the only reason No Deal is even an option is because, a) it’s the legal default under Article 50 if no deal is arranged in the specific time, b) the Government voted in Article 50 by a large majority knowing this to be the case, and c) then continued to repeatedly reject Theresa May’s deal. Who are the ones actively pursuing No Deal?

For what it’s worth, here’s how I think it way play out (based on Martin Howe QC’s article in the latest Spectator):

1) No Deal preparations will go through the the roof, which we’re already starting to see in the activities of Sajid Javid, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, and (presumably) Dominic Cummings with the huge planned No Deal media blitz.

2) This will have a two-fold effect, first it will enrage both Remainers politicians and the media, helpfully keeping No Deal front and centre in people’s minds and, secondly, put the fear of Jeebubs up the EU, who, in their current financial state (particularly in Germany), simply cannot afford No Deal. Mrs von der Layen is already offering an extension.

3) Meanwhile, the UK Government will work on their own free-trade deal in secret (along with other FTAs with America etc. Not so secretly). This new agreement, based on GATT, will include a tariff-free interim agreement to get us over 31st October and out of the Union. The Government will present to the EU ‘at a time of their choosing’ (to borrow a phrase). This will allow both the EU, specifically Messrs. Barnier, Junker et al, plus the Irish Government a way of backing down from the precipitous and unstable ledge they have stepped up on to, as well as unify those divided by the current deal, which I’m fairly sure is regarded as dead in the water by the present administration. The first step in doing this would be to settle the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK Expats in the EU. The first thing Boris did in his Thursday was to guarantee the rights of EU Citizens (and I agree, it should have been done three years ago), so we’re already off to a good start there…

4) We will leave on (if not before) the 31st October and everyone will be happy and think Boris is the best thing since pay-as-you-go bikes.

Red Teams at the Ready

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Quite a few people over the past three years have admitted to me that the only reason they voted remain in the referendum was that they felt that those in Westminster and Whitehall were too useless to actually be able to carry a leave vote out.

I always felt this was a slightly pessimistic view of life in SW1, but after reading Dominic Cummings’ latest magnum opus of a blog post, you have to wonder if they didn’t have a point.

Dominic’s post is in equal measure inspiring, irritating and downright jaw-dropping (and for varying reasons, as well). His essential argument is that the Civil Service is so far behind the curve in terms of the latest ideas in analysis and prediction, and that the cabinet are so woefully under informed, that they might as well just plunge billions of pounds straight down the plughole and go home.

He goes into enormous, but very interesting detail, about the latest movements in data modelling and analysis and how it can be used well to drive the country forward with top-class decision making. It’s long (his argument for being so open and giving the ‘competition’ too much information is that they wouldn’t possibly read a 10,000 word blog post to find out anyway), but it’s worth a read if you are at all interested in just how poor the government processes are, and how good they could be if anyone there could be bothered.

What’s most fascinating, I find, is that ultimately what Dominic is advocating is looking for ways to map parts, if not all, of the extended order in unique an interesting ways. It would probably be meaningless to try to create a wholistic view of everything, even the summary would be incomprehensibly complex, but if we could focus on certain areas that are still vast (economics, climate change etc.) and try to tame those in a sensible way, we could make some amazing advances.

I’m still not entirely convinced this isn’t a fools errand, but it’s certainly fascinating, and it’s not like we don’t have the computational power to start breaking into these things and making them comprehensible enough to base decisions on. It’s an area that I will be looking into quite closely in the next few weeks and months. Funnily enough, I might know a fair few people who could help Dominic out, but more on that later.