Why negotiate – just do it

There is a radical proposal in political circulation now, that the 3m EU citizens living in the UK should be given UK citizenship now. Not negotiated as bargaining chips. And not left to live in wretched uncertainty while protracted negotiations with the EU27 dwell on reciprocal health care or sickness benefits or whatever.

Supporters of this approach range from the right-wing Leave sponsor Peter Hargreaves to the left-wing Remain economist, academic and politician Yanis Varoufakis.

They argue that negotiation isn’t the only way to make change happen, and that following the Brexit vote an offer of UK citizenship would be morally right. It would also be politically astute, putting the pressure on the EU27 to reciprocate against the UK’s declared position. First mover advantage, for those that like the jargon.

Or, we sit on our hands while key workers such as NHS nurses from EU27 countries continue to quit the UK in disgust and despair.

Own the disruption

Yanis Varoufakis goes further, proposing that the UK simply tells the EU27 that, after the Article 50 exit is concluded the UK will adopt the Norway option for five years. It deals with the threat of a cliff edge. It provides market certainty, and the arrangement is already legally agreed and in place. Cut and paste. Prêt à partir!

Myself, I think it will take nearer ten years to transition into fully negotiated new trade agreements, bearing in mind that the single largest agreement will have to be with the EU27. But with a working arrangement in place, the pressure is off.

Equally, there are some pretty blood curdling headlines such as £100bn on the payments due from the UK to the EU27. These are not helpful, and transitional arrangements provide some useful long grass to kick this ball into. Negotiating funds with the EU has been the Whitehall day job since the 1970s, and especially so since the structural funds started in the 1980s. Every negotiation fed into the next one, the concession in one fund matched the next day by a gain in another.

The key to sorting this out will be found when politicians find such blood curdling headlines are no longer helpful. Might the general election have something to do with this? Who knows.

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