Brexit – Where Can I Start and Where Will It End?

This is one of those sorts of posts where it is just cathartic to write. I don’t have any viable solutions, I think I understand the problems and I am certain that I am not alone in the feeling of abandonment of the people by their elected representatives.

I didn’t want to leave the EU, I still think it is a very poor idea with nothing but an overall negative effect on many parts of the UK. Not just financially, but if a vote is re-run then societal as well. The effect on society seems to be entirely overlooked, and because it is not as easily quantifiable in economic terms it falls into the, ‘something that can safely be ignored because there are no good soundbites to be had from it’ sort of issue. It is a sociological sort of issue and those sorts of issues are not the stock in trade of our elected representatives.

I voted leave but would not characterise myself anymore as a Remainer. There are several points that really trouble me and make me feel unable to support a second referendum.

The first is that, regardless of party, the vast majority of our elected representatives appear to have treated the entire process as a means for them to further a mix their own and their party’s political agenda. Whether it was the early leadership challenges in the Tory party, the LibDem stance of standing on the sidelines repeating versions of ‘I told you so, it’ll never work, we always had a better idea’ to Corbyn and Labour ignoring it all in the first instance and lately playing brinkmanship so the old school socialist revolutionaries can realise their misplaced belief that the subsequent turmoil will upset people so much they’ll have a revolution.

The second remark is a development of the previous observation. If there was one time in the history of the post-war United Kingdom that really necessitated a coming together across party and ideological boundaries to make the best of a bad thing, Brexit is it. The vote was to leave the EU and however much I feel that this was the wrong outcome I respect the decision. On that basis I had a rather naive expectation that the political establishment also appreciated the seriousness of the decision and – like the EU did – have a negotiation strategy and a team to implement it. Instead, all we heard was a bunch of blowhards posturing and making further false claims. Much of the Leavers behaviour seemed rooted in the, ‘Britain is so bloody brilliant that all those whingeing Johnny Foreigners will come to their collective senses and form an orderly queue to beg us to make deals with them’ mindset. It seems to be seeping into their collective consciousness that this isn’t the case. With 60 odd days to go. No one is overtly admitting this but there is a great deal of manoeuvring and double-speak in an attempt to back away from all the bombastic remarks. The Remainers have also behaved extraordinarily poorly on the most part. Two examples from Twitter – not my sole data source I assure you – are the Labour MP David Lammy and the Lib Dem MP Tom Brake. They are very vocal and repetitive with their sole contribution seeming to be around trying to stir the pot and cause upset. Never have either of them said what they are doing that is constructive. Agitating for a so-called People’s Vote/second referendum whilst doing nothing else is not a respectful way to treat their constituents who stand to be affected.

Thought of the social divisions that stand to occur if a second referendum were to be held seem to be being avoided. The feelings on both sides of the debate are running pretty high already, so imagine if one side (it was near enough 50/50) felt they were being ignored? There are valid arguments on both sides and there is a lot of value in being mature enough to admit error and change ones mind. That makes perfect sense. However, the structure that was used to conduct the referendum is what it is, it wasn’t illegal. The allegations of misconduct on both sides are there. No one likes losing. Especially if it seemed so obvious to so many that leaving the EU was, overall, detrimental. Martin Lewis recently called the referendum a black and white vote on a rainbow of issues. The big issue is in just how poorly the vote was structured, because no one took the idea of losing seriously. In and Out was the only option on the ballot paper but in reality those that voted did so for a variety of reasons. Some were based on complete falsehoods, others on very legitimate concerns. Few people voted for exactly the same reasons. 

What is overlooked by the bulk of the Remain camp is that where by and large their choice to remain was closer to black and white, the Leave voters articulated many more reasons for their choice. They won the referendum and to re-run the vote until we achieve the ‘correct’ answer is akin to replaying a Test Match until the team that was stronger on paper triumphed and that is definitely not a Britisher’s idea of fair play.

A core factor that does unite remain voters is the sense of identity as British. The idea that this once proud nation of which they are part of is anything less than wholly in control of its own fate is an anathema to many. To see the power of identity in politics, one only need look across the Atlantic and see that the victory of Trump was driven by his ability to strike the right identity note (You are American, You are being ignored by the ‘Elites’ and You are no longer great. I, Donald Trump, will Make America Great Again – MAGA – and by extension I will make You great again). Our referendum was pitched by the Leave side as all about ‘Taking Back Control’, which was the masterstroke of the Leave contingent. It was a simple but powerful message that Leave voters could identify with.  People appreciate simple messages and most do not want to be mired in the complexity of politics. A Yes/No choice is great as far as they are concerned.

The so-called ‘Elites’, the ruling classes who govern the country were painted as having ceded an unacceptable degree of control to the European Project. It isn’t important whether this was accurate. It stuck with people and made the choice a simple one, especially for the older voters. Here, at last, was probably their final chance to grab back control for Great Britain. And no matter how much the liberal elite squeaked a vote to leave was the right thing to do.

If the referendum is re-run in any form there will be a great big chunk of the population that will be very unhappy. The Elites will be ignoring their heartfelt desires to take back control. This time this contingent will have lost control not only to the Europeans but to their own citizens. I’m not sure how well they’ll take that.

 

 

 

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When Britain Lost a Leg

It is gone now and never coming back.

To be crystal clear: the UK is in an appalling state of disarray as a result of Brexit. The entire circumstances surrounding the run up to the vote, the vote itself, the result ,and the turmoil and pain that it has created are bad, and the more I think about it and the more manoeuvring I see from both sides the more I am pained. However, it has and is happening.

The Brexit result is akin to losing one’s leg in a terrible accident. An accident so bad that the limb is destroyed. There is no hope of ever getting the leg back. Ever. There is a time and a place to forensically unpick  the reasons for the accident. However, no amount of protest or analysis nor recognition of the terrible circumstances that led to the loss of the leg will ever get the leg back. The UK is a political amputee.

Our country is puzzlingly stuck at the point of pre-Brexit, where arguing about the circumstances leading up to the result could actually change anything. Those fights were fought, court cases lodged and lost, votes in parliament and the Lords fought over and eventually lost. Article 50 was enacted. We are leaving the EU.

The Remainer camp are obsessed with the minutiae, the unfairness, the damaging effects that will undoubtedly occur and all the other reasons why Brexit should not have happened. In the meantime, the Leavers are grinning, crossing their arms and sticking with permutations of, “You lost. Get over it.” They don’t need to explain why, justify the result or even come up with a plan for the process when faced with the style of opposition presented by the Remainers. The Remain obsession with the past plays right into their hands.

The complete lack of political realism, seemingly driven by a complete refusal to acknowledge political realities in the hope that if something is wished for hard enough it may become true, is exacerbating the damage as we tumble unchecked towards the exit date. Each camp is as guilty as the other with regards to the past. It is like watching two bald men fighting over a comb.

The leg is gone. There are only two options now. The first is  is tantamount to wishing the leg back, which is wishful thinking. The second is to engage fully with our new one-legged reality. In these terms it means attending to the wound and engaging with the physiotherapy.

If there were fewer egos, on both sides, that needed salving I daresay we could manage a better outcome. Finger pointing and engaging in endless permutations of “he said she said” achieves nothing. It is little wonder that the rest of the EU and many other countries are looking at the UK with a mixture of bewilderment and exasperation.

If all the brainpower and effort that was devoted to picking over the legitimacy of  the amputation were to be redirected towards making us the best one-legged country in the world, we could become a top-notch one-legged ass kicker. Instead, we seem to be collectively determined to make us the hobbling cripple of Europe.