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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Why 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' is meaningless nonsense

So 'a bad deal is worse than no deal' has gotten a lot of traction with people, who see it instinctively as both an obvious statement, and a good, strong opening negotiating stance. I totally understand why, too - it certainly feels logical, even obvious - kind of a 'duh' statement - and also, it lets our counterpoints in Europe know we've not going to sit still for a punishment beating, by golly - we're prepared to walk away from a bad deal.

If that's you, please give me just a few minutes to explain why, despite that surface appeal, it's not merely nonsense, but actively counterproductive, and possibly even dangerous, to British interests.

It's nonsense for two reasons. One, it doesn't define a 'bad deal'. As such, it's an empty phrase, into which the reader pours their own meaning. Political slogans are clever like this - a good political slogan (like, say, 'Take back control', one of the great slogans of the last 25 years) evoke incredibly strong feelings and resonance, by allowing us to project our hopes and/or fears straight on to them. We take words that mean nothing devoid of context (control of what? From whom?) and project our own hopes, fears, and feelings into them. It allows people with disparate, even competing values and views, to feel like a point of view is 'on their side'. By gesturing towards substance while actually being content free, it creates an illusion of unity, whilst also allowing the party doing the sloganeering to entirely sidestep actual substantial policy commitments or positions.

In this specific case, we also need to unpack what 'no deal' means. And what that means, to be clear, is moving over to WTO tariffs for the purposes of EU trading. I can tell you now without hyperbole, that would be somewhere between an economic body blow and a total catastrophe.Typical analysis suggests a permanent downsizing of the UK economy by 10%.

So, tell me what, exactly, a bad deal looks like, next to that?

Yeah, exactly.

And that leads us to the second reason it's nonsense: that's not going to happen. It's not going to happen because it would bury us economically, and it would also hurt the EU considerably.

The EU and UK are major trading partners. The relationship is not equal, of course - UK going to WTO tariffs will merely hurt the EU, whereas it'll cripple the UK - but it'll hurt them enough for them to need to strike a deal. Also, the UK is the world's 5th largest economy, and a hit like that will have global ramifications. 'No deal' is in literally nobodies economic interests.

This is why Corbyn's position is the only sensible one. When he says 'there will be a deal' this is what he means. and he's right. Whoever wins, it's in the EU's economic interests to work something out.

And everybody knows this. May seems to think this is some kind of poker game, where bluff and bluster can play a part in negotiating. and that terrifies me, because it's at best disingenuous and at worse dangerously incompetent. Poker relies on hidden information, and there isn't any hidden info here.  They know we need a deal, and we know they need one too.

There will be a deal, and it will be better than no deal.

Everyone knows this - all parties in the UK and in Europe. There will be haggling over details, but there will be a deal.

Corbyn knows this, and he's acting like a grown up. He tells you straight - there will be a deal, and it will include protection for EU and UK nationals living abroad, an end to freedom of movement, and tariff free access to the EU market.

This is how grownups in the real world actually negotiate. Here's what we want. Let's talk about how we get it.

And here's the kicker - May wants exactly the same things. And the EU knows it.

There's no hidden information. This isn't a poker game. It's a chess game.

And only one of the candidates for PM seems to know that.

May's 'tough on Europe' stance isn't merely pointless posturing - it's actually a liability, a danger to our interests. Based on these arguments (and the strength of the Labour Brexit team vs the Tories - Keir Starmer Vs. Boris Johnson, for heaven's sake) it's very clear to me that only Labour are in a position to negotiate a Brexit that will actually deliver for the people of the UK, as opposed to our richest citizens.

Don't send a poker player to a chess match.

You deserve better.

Vote for better.

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