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9 things that will happen on No Deal Brexit Day

You can fly to Dublin, Dublin, or Dublin. 

No deal, according to Theresa May at one point in the far distant past, was better than a bad deal on Brexit. Now a report from the influential academic group UK in a Changing Europe has examined what no deal might actually look like. 

The writers of the report denied they wished to suggest leaving the EU with no deal would be catastrophic, but instead “set about the task with an open mind”. Here is what they found a no deal Brexit would mean:

1. It will go against public wisdom

Just after the election, Survation reported that as many as two-thirds of Brits believed that leaving the EU without “a mutually agreed deal” would be bad for Britain, while just 26 per cent reckoned it would be good for the country. Other polls show similar scepticism about leaving with no deal.

2. There will be legal chaos

Article 50 states the treaties will cease to apply at the end of the two year negotiating period. According to the report: “This will lead to legal chaos.” 

For example, while treaties are still in place, UK exporters pay no tariffs when transporting goods to Europe. After B-Day, there will be a duty to be paid. But who pays it? And if the buyer and seller enter a dispute, what court resolves it? 

3. Trading with the EU would default to WTO rules

World Trade Organisation rules would apply. British exporters to the EU would be subject to the same customs checks, tariffs and regulatory barriers that are currently in place with the US. In practical terms, this means lorry queues at border points like Dover and Calais. 

4. A border would reappear on the island of Ireland

Because of these customs checks and tariffs, the report expects a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland in the absence of a Brexit deal. This would disrupt farming in particular. 

5. Food prices will rise

While a plummeting pound may affect prices in the short term (as it’s already doing), the report expects food to get pricier in the longer term because of the extra tariffs. Where the UK relies on buying from abroad, like fruits and vegetables, pork and beef, “prices may rise significantly”. 

6. It’s fishing galore

If no deal is reached, boats from other EU member state will lose their automatic legal right to go fish in UK waters. So British fishermen could catch more fish. But here’s the catch. When it came to selling that fish, they would face tariffs on sales to their largest export market – the EU.

7. The only destination is Dublin

The report expects that if no deal was struck, the right to operate services from one airport to another would vanish and the only reliable airline routes would be from the UK to the airline’s home country. In other words, you could fly Ryanair to Dublin, but not to Barcelona, Milan or Paris. 

8. We’re going un-nuclear

Without being a member of Euratom, the body that oversees nuclear energy, the UK will lose access to safety procedures and systems for operating nuclear power plants. The plants would have to shut, and the UK would have to find new sources of energy soon, or it’s lights out. 

9. EU’re in limbo

Without any agreement, EU citizens in the UK would be in a form of legal and political limbo – not illegal, but with their status at best anomalous. Those without documentation would struggle the most. Meanwhile, UK nationals elsewhere in the EU would find themselves at the mercy of individual nation states.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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Can a “Momentum moment” revive the fortunes of Germany’s SPD?

Support for the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has sunk into third place, behind the far right Alternative for Germany.

Germany has crossed a line: for the first time in the history of the federal republic, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has sunk into third place, polling just 15.5 per cent – half a point behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The poll was published on the day the SPD membership received their postal ballots on whether to enter another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and inflamed debate further.

For the grassroots coalition opposed to the so-called GroKo (Große Koalition) the poll is proof that the SPD needs a fundamental change of political direction. Within the two grand coalitions of recent years, the SPD has completely lost its political profile. The beneficiary each time has been the far right. Yet another GroKo seems likely to usher in the end of the SPD as a Volkspartei (people’s party). Taking its place would be the AfD, a deeply disturbing prospect.

For the SPD leadership, the results are proof that the party must enter a grand coalition. Failure to do so would likely mean new elections (though this is disputed, as a minority government is also a possibility) and an SPD wipeout. The SPD’s biggest problem, they argue, is not a bad political programme, but a failure to sell the SPD’s achievements to the public.

But is it? The richest 45 Germans now own as much as the bottom 50 per cent. According to French economist Thomas Piketty, German income inequality has now sunk to levels last seen in 1913. Perhaps most shockingly, the nominally left-wing SPD has been in government for 16 of the last 20 years. Whatever it has been doing in office, it hasn’t been nearly enough. And there’s nothing in the present coalition agreement that will change that. Indeed, throughout Europe, mainstream left parties such as the SPD have stuck to their economically centrist programmes and are facing electoral meltdown as a result.

The growing popular anger at the status quo is being channeled almost exclusively into the AfD, which presents itself as the alternative to the political mainstream. Rather than blame the massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, however, the AfD points the finger at the weakest in society: immigrants and refugees.

So how can the SPD turn things around by the next federal election in 2021? 

The party leadership has promised a complete programme of political renewal, as it does after every disappointing result. But even if this promise were kept this time, how credible is political renewal within a government that stands for more of the same? The SPD would be given the finance ministry, but would be wedded to an austerity policy of no new public debt, and no increased tax rises on the rich. 

SPD members are repeatedly exhorted to separate questions of programmatic renewal from the debate about who leads the party. But these questions are fundamentally linked. The SPD’s problem is not its failure to make left-wing promises, but the failure of its leaders to actually keep them, once in office.

The clear counter-example for genuine political renewal and credibility is, of course, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. In spite of all dire warnings that a left-wing programme was a sure-fire vote-loser, Labour’s massively expanded membership – and later electorate – responded with an unprecedented and unforeseen enthusiasm. 

A radical democratic change on the lines of Labour would save the SPD party from oblivion, and save Germany from an ascendent AfD. But it would come at the cost of the careers of the SPD leadership. Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, they are fighting it tooth and nail.

Having promised an “especially fair” debate, the conflict over the GroKo has suddenly surged to become Germany’s Momentum moment - and the SPD leadership is doing everything it can to quash the debate. Party communications and so-called “dialogue events” pump out a pro-GroKo line. The ballots sent out this week came accompanied by an authoritative three-page letter on why members should vote for the grand coalition.

Whether such desperate measures have worked or not will be revealed when the voting result is announced on 4 March 2018. Online, sentiment is overwhelmingly against the GroKo. But many SPD members (average age is 60) are not online, and are thought to be more conservative.

Whatever the outcome, the debate isn’t going away. If members can decide on a grand coalition, why not on the leadership itself? A direct election for the leadership would democratically reconnect the SPD with its grassroots.

Unless the growth in inequality is turned around, a fundamental reboot of the SPD is ultimately inevitable. Another grand coalition, however, will postpone this process even further. And what will be left of the SPD by then?

Steve Hudson is a Momentum activist and a member of both Labour and the SPD. He lives in Germany, where he chairs the NoGroKo eV campaign group.