I’m more than happy for people to look into the queues at Dover and find out if it’s caused by Brexit and the stamping of passports, or staffing issues on the French side, or a combination of the two. However, the idea that a queue is any part of the factual matrix that informs a debate on whether we join a Political Union is absurd bordering on comical. It’s a transitory arrangement in any case. EES will be rolled out to “replace the current system of manual stamping of passports, which is time consuming”, says the EU. EES will have teething problems and the great and the good will be wheeled out to explain why system glitches mean we need to join a Political Union. Not unlike a 3 day shortage of tomatoes meant we needed to join a Political Union.
Rejoiners (for want of a better all-encompassing term) know people don’t want to join a Political Union. It’s necessary to talk about the “consequences” of not being in the Political Union. If we just discuss the Political Union neutrally, couched solely in terms of “How do you wish to be Governed and by whom?” with no practical or economic consequences either way, there would never be a majority in favour of joining the European Union.
And this is the paradox the Rejoiners need to face up to. The European Union will not want the UK to rejoin with a 52% to 48% referendum which can be overturned, again, on the next democratic whim of the UK. If we rejoined the EU today, tomorrow we begin the campaign to leave. The EU will, surely, want to know that our mind is made up - a solid, stable decision reflecting a UK which is ready to embrace the European Union for what it actually is.
It’s what needs to happen, but it isn’t what the Rejoiners are even trying to achieve. The modus operandi of every popular Rejoin account I have seen is to convince people that they have no choice but to be in a Political Union, whether they actually want to be governed that way or not. This is will do nothing to bring an end to the conversation. This debate will only be over when one side of the argument has won both fundamental questions.
For Brexiteers, we need people, genuinely, to tolerate inconveniences of not being in the EU, transitory or otherwise.
For Rejoiners, they need people to, genuinely, tolerate legislative supremacy over indeterminate competence to be outside of the UK.
This is why Brexit is still the most stable decision. I can point to technological advancement, like EES, which will change the way we enter and leave the EU. It’s not beyond the wit of man for the EES to be developed further, such that the initial finger-printing or retina scan or whatever it is they want to do can be done well before anyone arrives at a border crossing.
Just 2 of the top 15 tomato producing countries are in the EU. We can produce more ourselves – I can think of no good reason Belgium produces 3 times as many tomatoes as we do. Customs processes can become more automated. We can absolutely improve our supply chains to eradicate supply vulnerabilities of tomatoes, and pretty much anything else.
How we travel, how we process customs procedures, will be almost unrecognisable in 2040 compared to today.
There’s nothing you can do with technology to improve the fact that legislative supremacy resides outside the UK. It would be every bit as outside the UK in 2040, 2060 and 2080. People need to either embrace it, or there can never be a stable majority in favour of EU membership.
It’s not just legislative supremacy, of course. I’m not going to pretend the CPTPP is, prima facie, massively exciting from an economic or trade point of view, although the economies within it, and potentially within it, will almost certainly see great economic progress over the coming decades. Both the idea that the CPTPP is economically transformative for the UK and the suggestion that it is something worrying, requiring a referendum are both just different flavours of dishonesty. But just the fact that the UK will have a membership veto within an important, yet still nascent, trading bloc is, by itself, a significant political coup. There will be more trade deals done, with new partners and improvements on the deals we have with existing partners. Our trade profile will change, and that change will be driven by UK politicians. Would we be happy to move back to a situation where we were not, as a country, permitted to do any of this? Would we again tolerate a situation where the CPTPP wanted the UK to join it, and the UK wanted to join them, but we gave another organisation the authority to tell the UK we could not?
So let’s talk about the queues at Dover and people needing pizza deliveries. But let’s also talk about the consequence of Political Union, and the lack of legislative and trade autonomy.