Wednesday, 2 January 2019

An even more interesting New Year


I hesitate to wish readers a ‘Happy’ New Year, because if Brexit actually happens, it is not going to be at all happy. But I have a sneaking feeling (or is it just hopeless optimism?) that the UK will not in fact leave the EU on 29 March. 2019 might, just might, be the year in which Brexit gets buried once and for all. There’s certainly going to be a lot of political excitement in the next three months, and I suspect the Brexit debate will go on and on, long after that.

It is now clear that all government departments have effectively put most other work on the back burner, and have been ordered by 10, Downing Street to concentrate exclusively on Brexit for the next few months. In the meantime, however, MHCLG will still have to make an amendment order to the GPDO in time to make Class P (residential conversion from B8) in Part 3 of the Second Schedule permanent before the present time limit for that Class of PD runs out.

Apart from that, the major priority will no doubt be to conduct an urgent audit of paper clips and teaspoons throughout the Ministry, and to stock up with teabags and sugar in good time before D-Day (Disaster-Day). There is also the minor consideration of having to deal with all the planning issues that arise from the construction of massive lorry parks, new port facilities, massively expanded warehouse accommodation and other infrastructure required in order to prepare for a No-Deal Brexit – hardly any of which will in fact be ready in time. In practice, the threat of a No-deal ‘car crash’ Brexit lacks any credibility, and nobody (apart from a few head-bangers on the far right of the Tory Party) takes it at all seriously. It is simply a rather hopeless ploy on the part of the Prime Minister to try to scare back-benchers into voting for her botched ‘deal’ when (or if) it comes back to the Commons this month. A much more likely scenario, after the inevitable rejection of the draft withdrawal agreement by MPs, is the revocation of our Article 50 notification, in order to stop the clock, and so avoid a disastrous high jump from Beachy Head on 29 March.

[In the meantime, there has been some loose talk of ‘postponing’ Article 50. This (as opposed to outright revocation of the Article 50 letter) would require the agreement of the EU, and there are already indications that they would only be prepared to allow an extension of time if it were required in order to hold a Referendum or a General Election. A bid simply to gain two or three months for further political in-fighting is not going to be agreed by the EU, and will not in any event solve the political impasse in the Commons.]

So whatever else might happen on the planning front this year will, I fear, depend on how the Brexit process plays out. In the meantime, those who are thoroughly fed up with the whole subject will simply have to grit their teeth, and wait for it to blow over. At least by the end of March we should have some idea of where we might then be heading.

© MARTIN H GOODALL

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