Boris’ Brexit Deal: Brexiteers must be rational

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For the first time, a rational Brexiteer would be gambling by refusing to accept a deal.

Brexiteers should think very carefully before opposing Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal.

As with the previous deal, I read it first and am commenting second – unlike Jeremy Corbyn, who clairvoyantly managed to discern precisely why he was opposed to it and comment 26 minutes before it had been published.

Opposing Theresa May’s deal was relatively straightforward. May’s Deal was in many areas indistinguishable from Remain; the true BRINO option. Boris Johnson’s deal does not differ by much from May’s, but those differences are crucial.

When opposing May’s deal, we had nothing to lose. A rational Brexiteer, offered the direct choice between May’s deal and Remain, might well be ambivalent. In such vein, many said that if faced with a sham-referendum putting the two against each other, they might just as well boycott it.

But a rational Brexiteer could not be ambivalent between Boris Johnson’s deal and Remain (we’ll come to No Deal later). The concept of a ‘level playing field’ is bad, but not so bad as the regulatory alignment called for in the previous Political Declaration. The landing zone for future trade relations with the EU might well be a non-regression clause: bad, but not so bad as to hamstring relations with third countries. Non-regression does not force the UK to remain in equivalence with future EU legislation: divergence over time is not only possible, but inevitable.

Gone also is the backstop, removing the trap whereby the UK could be caught in the transition purgatory indefinitely. The new Political Declaration requires merely that the UK ‘consider’ co-operation in various areas. The language on fisheries and defence is concerning, but only mildly so: it does not prohibit the UK controlling our own waters, nor a negotiation position where we offer to sell modest access to the EU. The UK may buy into EU defence programmes, but it is not obliged to do so.

The UK will, clearly, leave the Single Market and Customs Union. EU courts will have very little future say over the UK.

The rational Brexiteer must conclude that Boris Johnson’s deal is a significant improvement upon Remain.

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That doesn’t make it a good deal of course: aside from the obvious 34 billion problems with it, the UK is tied into state aid and public procurement provisions and there are huge areas where we’ll be unable to deregulate. It’s still a bad deal.

A rational Brexiteer might well have a somewhat dichotomous view of No Deal: undoubtedly problematic in the short term, yet permitting maximum flexibility in the long.

There are problems with a No Deal Brexit. Brexiteers can reasonably and rationally hold different views on whether they prefer Boris Johnson’s deal to No Deal.

In some ways, that’s beside the point. By opposing May’s deal, Brexiteers had nothing to risk. Opposition to Boris Johnson’s deal, however, comes at a price. There is a significant loss of utility in the event that rejection of Boris Johnson’s deal leads to either Remain, or further delay leading back to Boris Johnson’s deal (for example if Boris Johnson’s deal were pitted against Remain in a referendum, and won).

For the first time, a rational Brexiteer would be gambling by refusing to accept a deal. When doing so, they must consider the likelihood of each outcome against the respective payoffs. It’s a simple enough equation in mathematics, or we could be back to the not unfamiliar topic of Game Theory.

Should they gamble, and lose, history will not be kind to them. They will be forever known as the Brexiteers who scuppered Brexit. Brexiteer MPs considering gambling by voting against a deal will be playing a high-stakes game, and there is no guarantee that they will win. They can spin the wheel if they want, but they’d better be pretty certain that it’s not stacked against them.

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