He might be about to win. Boris Johnson is, according to many sources, on the cusp of negotiating a deal which would allow the UK to finally exit the EU. It took some overnight negotiation and frantic hours as the final deadline approached, but it is just about complete.
What was needed?
It is understood that the negotiating teams have agreed in principle that there will be a customs border down the Irish Sea. A similar arrangement was rejected by Theresa May as a deal that no British prime minister could accept.The Guardian
The deal would then need to pass Parliament… a very uncertain course of action, as the arrangement would be substantively worse than the deal worked out by Theresa May which was rejected by the legislative body. This, after Johnson arranged a purge of the Conservative Party which left him with the “hard Brexit” people in leadership positions but cost him the majority.
We’ve seen this in America, recently. President Donald Trump, needing distractions and the appearance of a “win”, announced that a trade deal had finally been reached with China.
It hasn’t, of course. It’s a framework, and the details are still being worked out… details which are the true meat of any trade arrangement. The broad concepts behind such negotiations are typically crafted early in the process, which suggests that the deal’s progress has actually been bogged down. But one important fact came out about the new Chinese deal. That fact is that it’s a bad deal on its face, with material concessions granted in exchange for vague assurances.
The President wants China to resume large purchases of American agricultural products because he needs wins in farming states if he’s going to have any hope of re-election. He also wants some distractions from the impeachment investigations and his handoff of the Middle East to Russia. He also wants the stock market to remain high, as many Americans view the Dow Jones as the sole yardstick against which is measured the strength of the economy. The economy is what the Republicans are planning to run on in 2020, at least unless Ruth Bader Ginsberg succumbs to illness.
A deal with China can provide all of the required results, and Trump is desperate. Thus we see a proposition wherein China will start buying more agricultural products, while we back away from calling them out on currency manipulation and their tech theft.
Just as there was a better Brexit deal on the table months ago, there was a better China deal, too. We had a time where China was not willing to allow US companies to manufacture high-end electronics in their country without seeing the tech details first, but was demonstrating a willingness to crack down, hard, on party members who violated confidentiality and leaked blueprints to Chinese competitors.
This, in theory, was the crux of the US complaint, and would have solved many of the problems of corporate theft which plague American businesses in China. China was not, and will not, agree to allow a rival to manufacture unknown devices, potentially to include spying and military devices, in the middle of their homeland. We would not allow such blind manufacturing from China or Russia. It is a foolish demand on its face.
The better deal is gone, now; we are left instead with a tentative agreement about buying food… which would alleviate most of the pressure we’ve been placing on China and would ensure that even an agreement to monitor tech theft does not come to pass.
This is because, in any negotiation, the party which is desperate to make a deal is likely to capitulate and agree to lesser terms. It’s a basic concept, dealmaking 101.
Ultimately, the substance of any flawed deals doesn’t matter. Johnson’s Brexit deal is very unlikely to pass Parliament, which means his options for a hard Brexit will remain the same; and Trump’s still being impeached, still handing the Middle East to the Russians and is going to inflate the Dow, short-term, with the latest round of quantitative easing.
What should matter to their critics and promoters alike is that the deals are a concrete demonstration of their fundamental incompetence on what both claim is their core skill set.