Richard North, 14/06/2018  

I was out most of yesterday at the coal face, discussing with the chairman, chief executive and directors of a major, public company, the impact of Brexit on their operations – some of which were not entirely unrelated to the picture shown above.

Many points came across, one of which was the profound ignorance of any practical detail of impacts. The company has received nothing official from government, from trade associations or customers, with no warnings of any nature to prepare for Brexit day. In their absence, there was no great concern that there were any serious issues which might affect the company.

There was no awareness of the availability of EU material – such as the Notices to Stakeholders. On being advised of their existence, the view was taken that these simply set out a negotiating position. They were not taken as indicative of state of the art.

With the chairman enthusiastically pro-Brexit, he offered the view that the company would ride any impacts. He firmly believed nothing serious was likely to happen – it was not in the interests of the EU to allow it; the UK government would make sure it didn't happen and, in any case, the Germans would not allow it as they wanted to trade with us.

None of those present believed the EU would (in their terms) erect any new barriers against UK goods – for the reasons specified above. Neither the chairman nor the directors had any concept of the Single Market being an entity where the barriers already existed and the UK was moving outside them.

No systematic (or any) study had been carried out within the company on potential adverse effects of Brexit. I was the first to have addressed the board on the issue. My warnings of potential problems were not believed.

I am still processing the information and, having got back late after many hours driving, I'm not really in a position to write a coherent post. Nevertheless, despite being out of touch most of the day, I am aware that the Commons rejected the Lords' amendment on the EEA.

This hardly came as a surprise. There is no great enthusiasm within the ranks of the Tories and, after Corbyn decided that Labour should abstain, there was no momentum to see the measure carried. One can quite sympathise with the frustration of the Labour MPs who defied their whip and voted for the amendment.

What is also frustrating is the loathsome slackness in the way the media report the issue – after all this time. This is the best the BBC can do:
In return for market access, the latter are obliged to make a financial contribution and accept the majority of EU laws. The free movement of people also applies in the zone as it does in the EU.
The piece also allows "critics" to say it (EEA membership) would require the UK to adhere to EU rules without having a say in them - and would not be in keeping with the spirit of the 2016 referendum result.

There is no way of dealing with this low-grade reportage. This is a state broadcaster that has given up even trying for accuracy and objectivity, and the rest of the legacy media is no better. And, if the media can't even treat the Efta/EEA option seriously, it's hardly surprising that our lacklustre politicians find it so difficult to get a handle on it.

Nevertheless, from me, this will have to suffice for the moment. I'll leave this post as an open thread and add to it through the day.

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