Archive for Withdrawal Agreement

Brexit and the British Border in Ireland

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on August 31, 2019 by telescoper

The events of the past week have given me even more reason than usual to rant about Brexit, and the damage it is causing even to those who voted for it. So let me take as the subject for this one the absolute claptrap that brexiters are talking about the so-called `Backstop’ which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) negotiated between the United Kingdom and the European Union but voted down three times by the House of Commons. This part of the agreement is designed to allow the free flow of goods and people across the British* Border in Ireland by keeping the United Kingdom in the Customs Union and some parts of the Single Market if no free trade agreement is negotiated between the UK and EU that comes up with alternative ways of achieving this during the transition period allowed for in the WA (which extends at least until December 2020, but could in principle be extended further).

*Note: I consider the term `Irish Border’ to be misleading, so I use the more accurate `British Border in Ireland’.

The first thing to say – and this is blindingly obvious if you have actually read the WA – is that the backstop does not come into play at all if an alternative solution to the Border issue can be found. The fact that leading Brexiters are so exercised by the backstop therefore betrays their belief that no such alternative arrangements exist or can be put in place in the foreseeable future. If such arrangements existed the Brexiters would not be in the slightest bit bothered by the Backstop as it would be irrelevant. The fact that they are opposed to the backstop is an obvious signal that they know there is no technological or other solution consistent with the position into which the UK Government has trapped itself.

So why the constant demand from the ERG et al for the backstop to be removed? And why all the lying about its purpose?

To answer that I think you have to consider the true motivation of the Leave campaign. The purpose of Brexit was not just about the UK leaving the European Union. That was merely intended to be a step along the path to destroying the EU and so destabilizing Europe. The original theory was that Brexit would lead to a parade of other EU nations wanting to leave. That didn’t happen. Indeed the solidarity of the EU in the face of the attacks on it has been quite remarkable.

So now it is Plan B, which is based on the premise that the Achilles Heel of the EU is Ireland. By creating economic and political chaos – and possibly a return to violence, sparked by Britain’s intentional violation of the Good Friday Agreement – in Ireland they will force the EU to offer the UK favourable terms on access to the Single Market. To do so, however, would open the floodgates to other governments who might want to reap the benefits of EU membership without the responsibility that goes with it (as Britain does).

And even if this doesn’t work, Leave supporters will still have to find someone to blame when the cake-and-eat-it Brexit they promised – the `easiest trade deal in history’, `no downside only a considerable upside’, `because we hold all the cards’ Brexit – will never actually materialize. The alternative would be for the whole gang of them to admit they were lying (which we know they were). No prizes for guessing who the scapegoat will be…

The strategy of setting up Ireland as a target for economic aggression may well cause a great deal of pain in the short-term, but I hope and believe that it won’t succeed. For one thing, I don’t think the Irish economy is as vulnerable as the UK government thinks. for another, it may quickly lead to a United Ireland. That, at any rate, is far more likely than Ireland becoming a British colony again, which is what some Brexiters want.

More importantly, however, although Ireland and Britain differ substantially in size, the former will a great advantage over the latter in the world after Brexit: Ireland will still have friends, and Britain won’t.

Meaningful Betting

Posted in Biographical, mathematics, Politics with tags , , , , on January 15, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve now finished my first batch of marking (Astrophysics & Cosmology) and I now have a few days to do other things until the next (larger) set of scripts arrives from Vector Calculus and Fourier Series which takes place on Saturday.

Before going home I turned my attention to the news of tonight’s “Meaningful Vote” in the House of Common’s about whether or not to accept the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between PM Theresa May and the European Union. The Government is widely expected to lose the vote but it’s not clear by what margin. Interested to see what the betting markets think I had a look just now at the Betfair exchange and found this, on the basic question of whether the vote will pass or not:

(You might want to click on the image to make it clearer.) You can find the live odds here.

You will see that this is quite an active market – with over €700K being wagered. Odds of greater than 40 to 1 against a `yes’ vote but most of the action is on `no’. Note that quite a few punters are laying on this outcome, with odds of about 25-1 on. (The way odds are shown in the second row is that 1.04 means you with 4p for every £1 staked).

Clearly, therefore, the markets think the vote will fail. What is less clear is how many MPs will vote in favour of the Government. Here is the corresponding Betfair market:

The shortest odds are for the first option, i.e. for 199 or fewer voting with the Government, but there is activity across the whole range of possibilities. The press are talking about a defeat by 225 votes, but for what it’s worth I don’t think it will be such a large margin. I’m not going to bet on it, but I expect it to be defeated by less than 150 votes.

UPDATE: Not for the first time I was wrong. The vote was Ayes 202 Noes 432, a majority of 230 against. That means there were no abstentions.