Brexit is not a game of poker


29th November 2016

There are still those who nod-along with the “not showing your cards” defence of the government’s secrecy about what, if any, negotiating strategy it has for achieving Brexit.

They tweet things to those calling for transparency with comments such as “you should not play poker” or similar.

But Brexit is not poker.

The Brexit negotiation is not a game where randomised cards have been dealt, and an advantage lies with those who do not indicate how genuinely strong (or weak) their hand to other players also with a random selection of cards.

The EU players around the table know all about what cards we have.

As was said by @johnnypixels in one of the best tweets about Brexit:


19 thoughts on “Brexit is not a game of poker”

  1. The issue isn’t “showing cards”. The issue is those who wish to frustrate the popular will thing the hands of the government in negotiatons and emboldening those on the other side of the table to be as hard as possible.

    The role of the legislature is to pass judgement on the executive *after* they have exercised their duty and negotiated what they seem to be the best possible deal.

    1. What a load of tosh.

      There is no unified “will of the people” here, as much as it might suit the nutters at MigrationWatch. Some folks voted Leave because they wanted a Common Market relationship with Europe. Some even explicitly campaigned for an EEA+ arrangement, citing Switzerland and Norway as examples. Others wanted a restoration of Parliamentary Sovereignty (which was never actually lost, but hey-ho), and still others wanted to close our borders because they think there are too many Non-Whites in the country (Britain First and the EDL didn’t support Remain). Then there’s Northern Ireland and Scotland which all voted remain with a higher vote share than the overall Leave result. What does the “will of the people” mean there?

      Far from thwarting the “will of the people”, debate in Parliament is the proper procedure to ensure all voices are heard when trying to resolve the biggest Constitutional Crisis in living memory.

    2. The role of the legislature would be to legislate, would it not?
      Which includes providing, or denying, powers to individual citizens, officials, officers, ministers and the executive, in advance of their use, but never retrospectively.

      Never retrospectively.

  2. Attended a WEA sponsored lecture in the heart of “Leaping Leavers” land where the Nissans are piled as “high as an elephant’s eye”. One attendee “Leaver” gave his verdict if I had attended this lecture pre “Breuxit” I would have voted differently. Calmly, dispassionately, the expert (much reviled word!} lecturer laid out in non alarmist or fear inducing terms what Aintree like hurdles the UK faces during the next 2, 5, 10 years…We both agreed that UK Supreme Court will uphold the High Court Judgement.

    1. And more because the High Court was not asked to consider devolution. It f I were a Prime Minister wanting to stop Brexit without taking responsibility then this appeal would be a great way to go about it.

  3. Yes, indeed. The important UK and EU economic data is available download for free or for a modest price. Everyone knows what the UK cards are.

    More importantly, any deal will have to involve compromise by the UK – all deals do. May will have to compromise on either less UK control over immigration, laws or budget; or compromise on economic disruption for UK manufacturers and financial services as the UK leaves the Customs Union etc.

    One of the most important parts of negotiations happens after the deal has been agreed. May will have to persuade Parliament and the electorate to accept the compromises that the UK made in negotiations. Rejection of a deal by the UK would be catastrophic (either by Parliament or by the electorate in the 2020 election). During negotiations the EU 27 side will wonder whether the UK can deliver upon agreed compromises. That will affect what they are willing to offer.

    The May government should have decided broadly what compromise they want and should now be persuading the rest of the UK that it is the best option. That way everyone would go into the negotiations knowing that the UK can actually deliver whatever deal is agreed; and the UK electorate and Parliament would be prepared for the outcome.

    Failure by May to prepare the UK for whatever compromise she will offer in the negotiations shows an utter lack of leadership.

    1. Au contraire. As things stand, no negotiations take place until Article 50 has been invoked which starts a 2 year countdown to British exit of the EU. The government’s current position is that this notice is irrevocable, so if the EU27 grant a very poor deal or no deal at all, the UK can’t refuse it since they cannot go back to the status quo ante. Therefore, minus some iron-clad guarantees from our EU partners, the only “negotiation” from a UK perspective that makes sense is to demand that May pursues the deal we want (upfront). The nation is between a rock and a hard place. Doing what is economically imperative and what is politically demanded are, it seems to me, irreconcilible.

  4. It’s nonsense. The first step in any negotiation is for both sides to say what they want. They usually ask for more than they eventually get. They only reason for not saying what you want is that you don’t know what you want. In reality what we want is to forget the whole thing.

  5. It’s quite simple: I have a proposal for those who think the government should keep their cards close to their chest. I will buy a house for you.

    Simple. Deal is, I won’t tell you where it will be, what type of house, what sort of condition, or even the price: in advance.

    You’ve just got to pay for it and live in it. Fair deal?

    1. That’s a good analogy, but you might perhaps add: and if after you’ve paid for it you realise that you don’t like living in it, you can only move if you sell it back to me on my terms.

  6. The Brexit vote is not ‘the voice of the people’ or any other anodyne bilge.
    1. Complex questions cannot be answered with a yes/no.
    2. Referenda are not democratic because they don’t provide for debate and amendment and for details.
    3. In a country made up of four nations, major decisions (constitutional changes) cannot be made without, at least, the support of a majority of the components.
    In a federation with an explicit written constitutional document such as Canada and Australia, the amending formula (hard won in the case of Canada) requires not just countrywide support but more than a majority of the states/provinces.
    4. Much of the constitution of the UK is unwritten, those unwritten conventions evolved over time. As the flag itself shows, the notion of the four nations is over two centuries old (as to the inclusion of Ireland), I would argue that convention requires a majority in a majority of the nations of the UK.
    5. Think of an absurd case. Remain wins tiny majorities in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, but leave wins a massive majority in Scotland. Does anybody seriously think a government would pull the plug?

    1. That is a really thoughtful response, one of the nest I have read so far. I now live in Canada and am very aware that no Federal Legislation is possible without a majority of the Provinces and Territories agreeing. So good for you, a simple referendum isn’t a fair and democratic way to proceed. The UK might be so much smaller than Canada but still has a great range of social and cultural diversity.

  7. It was unforgivable for May to have agreed to notify by March next year, when our civil service are so overwhelmed and we are still at an initial scoping phase. A50 – in reality 14 months negotiating time (minus summer hols etc) – to run 20 + parallel negotiations, to seek consent for a deal with EU27 (FR, DE, NL leaders cld change in that time), the European Parliament (just before European elections), House of Commons, Lords,will be brutal. Given the quality of the ministers in charge (does Boris want May to fail?), Liam Fox (who apparently wont see lobbyists unless they speak positively about Brexit) is almost impossible. Let alone the domestic legal challenges, Scotland, Northern Ireland. All set against the background of a disintegrating EU (do we really want the EU to disintegrate?).
    Its time for Theresa May to be honest with the British people and with her own party. If this negotiation goes ahead, with no transition (and yes – a transition will come at a price), there is every chance of a collapse in talks. For once she must put country before party and face down the nationalists in her midst. Boris should be sent on a world tour – preferably on a boat with no phone. We should seek agreement for a phased withdrawal – if necessary a 10 year extension to Art 50 and/or aim for an association agreement, similar to the EU-Ukraine agreement, plus a parallel security and defence treaty. A minority in the Tory party might get very angry, but for once May should do what Cameron never wanted to do – put country ahead of the Tory party. Will she? Probably not. In which case – let’s just hope this appeal goes to the ECJ for a year and/or the Lords intervene to buy us more time.

  8. Why does England not leave the United Kingdom? By this move you avoid a tremendous lot of problems. The Scottish and de (North) Irish are happy, the English are happy because they wanted a Brexit; maybe the Welsh are less happy, but who has ever cared about the Welsh? Fences on the border with the Irish republic are not necessary. Gibraltar and othe colonies of the United Kingdom remain colonies of the United Kingdom. Only for the English things change. Maybe there is a chance the English football team will beat FC Barcelona. So an article 50 procedure is not necessary.

  9. The issue is the lack of understanding of economics of Brexiters such as Redwood. So what if we buy more from EU than they buy from us? The 44% of our GDP which is trade with Europe is a pretty big chunk!

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