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The Last Few Days Of May

79 years ago, almost to the day, through the last few days of May and into June, a British Expeditionary Force, what was left of it anyway, were trapped on the French coast at Dunkirk, facing bombardment, capture or death. It looked like the end of “our Island story” as Germans closed in on our trapped and defeated armies. Then the Panzers stopped. They’d outrun their supply-lines, so the Luftwaffe took over. But sand dunes are pretty good defence against aerial bombardment. Thanks to the miracle of Dunkirk, the Army, broken and without its kit, was saved. The Battle of France was over, the battle of Britain was about to begin.

Dunkirk is, of course Nigel Farage’s favourite film because he thinks it’s about plucky little Britain standing alone against all those grotty foreigners on the continent. But he misses details. In the opening sequence, the British soldier running through the suburbs of the town, encounters French forces. What were they doing? Fighting the heroic, forlorn and hopeless rearguard action which allowed the British (and a lot of others) to escape. Those french boys fought bravely so that our boys could get home. The film is about the most catastrophic defeat the British Army has experienced in its entire history. “The Miracle of Dunkirk” was a captivating lie. A brilliant piece of propaganda. But because the defeat of the Army, and of the country wasn’t total, we fought on. Although many brexiters are keen students of military history, they often learn the wrong lessons because they pay attention to the people doing the shouting and killing, and not to those doing the planning and logistics.

Those of us who don’t want to leave the EU fought on after the catastrophic, humiliating defeat of 2016. Which brings us to dogged, diligent, dull Theresa May. She has the heroism of Hugh Dowding, who refused to sacrifice any more planes to the defence of France. Which was controversial at the time but with hindsight, probably saved Britain. He too was shuffled off after his victory, in his case to the Ministry of Aircraft Production after the Battle of Britain, and was bitter about it for the rest of his life.

It’s hard to see what Theresa May can realistically achieve by sticking around. Her majority, like her authority is non-existent. Her legacy lies in tatters. But equally, it’s hard to see what replacing her with another Tory, especially one of the Faragist tendency, will achieve. The problems besetting the government will still be there for the next Prime Minister. There will not be a parliamentary majority for any way forward on Brexit, or indeed on anything else. The way to resolve this is through a general election. However thanks to the Fixed term parliament act (a big part of this current malaise, thanks Liberal Democrats…), that requires a vote of no confidence, and that requires that Labour vote for it. Which many of them won’t, not while they’re led by Jeremy Corbyn whom many Labour MPs regard as unfit for office.

There’s a chance this hopeless parliament drags on and on having the same old arguments about Brexit as the rest of the country, with the EU wearily extending and extending until 5th May 2022.

Theresa May will limp on for a while longer yet. But whatever Mrs May’s personal merits, she has run out of road to kick the can down and the Tory party is restless. For those of us who’ve thought that politics today couldn’t get any more farcical, the 1922 Committee has already voted on whether the rules should change to allow Conservative MPs another vote of confidence in their leader, but kept the votes sealed. Sad to say, but I think Gordon Brown Day, when Theresa May takes over from the “clunking fist” as the 35th longest serving prime minister, is the likely target for the Tory machine. Even if they can’t agree on the way forward, Tories can agree to let a powerless prime minister limp on up her own via Dolarosa, in order to spite a former Labour prime minister. By such trivialities are we now being governed.

Clearly someone will have to act as caretaker Prime Minister during the Tory leadership squabble. That could be Mrs May, or it could be someone like Philip Hammond, which would be great because I have him as Next Prime Minister at 50-1. I think Boris will struggle to get to the final two. He’s just not trusted enough by the parliamentary party so I think laying the favourite is a good bet. (Stop sniggering at the back). But if he did get the top job, defections would likely take his majority to below zero. So I think someone from the broad mass of the Tory party – someone who voted remain, but supported the Government loyally will be the final choice. Sajid Javid has long had my money on him, as has Rory Stewart, who also has the advantage of not actually running yet. Tory leadership elections are famously hard to predict.

So what of Mrs May on the eve of her departure from the stage?

I think history will be kinder to her than was the news. Much kinder. When she was selected as Tory leader, I thought she, compared to the alternatives, represented the best hope for liberalism. And she was. She held the line against the onslaught of populist forces. She tried to deliver a Brexit, consistent with the sour, bigoted and miserable mood of the campaign, but failed because of the inherent contradictions within any possible route to leaving the EU. I think Brexit is now nearly over. May was too decent, too reasonable and too diligent to take us out without a deal. Perhaps another Tory leader will waste another couple of years trying to smash an agreement through. Perhaps he or she will be denied a deal, and try to crash the UK out without a deal. But parliament, this one anyway, will not let them.

Mrs May defeat in trying to deliver a reasonable brexit was an honest one, and right now, at the moment of her defeat, she’s probably won. Diligent planning and international co-operation win wars, not bigoted rhetoric and beery farts. That is why we’re still in the EU. Mrs May’s plan was a plan to actually leave the EU and seek our fortune outside, and if we do leave her deal, or something very like it will be the result. But that’s not what Brexiters wanted. Not really. They wanted the war, but without any of the logistics and planning. They wanted revolution. Brexiters gave the order, but without the resources to carry it out. It is the remainers who correctly judged the lesson of Dunkirk. You haven’t lost until the enemy has won.

I can’t see how we actually can leave now. The momentum has gone. Brexiters have no plan and no ideas beyond shouting “democracy” at people who disagree, as if one close, flawed poll three years ago somehow outweighs the fact the Brexiters failed completely and the country can’t really be bothered any more. There simply isn’t the appetite for “Blood, sweat, toil and tears” necessary to leave the EU because, and I really get bored of pointing this out to Brexiters, the EU isn’t Nazi Germany.

A Second Referendum is the Front Runner in a Close Race

Whatever the Brexiters say, we aren’t leaving the EU on the 29th March. There will be an extension of Article 50. The question is whether this is a short technical delay to pass necessary legislation, or a longer one that takes us beyond the European Parliament elections on 23rd May.

You may have thought Theresa May’s deal is dead. I did. But a hand has just burst through the sod by the headstone, so it still needs a stake through the heart. Or maybe a cricket bat to the brain-stem, depending on whether you think the deal is a vampire, zombie, or a monster assembled from corpses. The Prime Minister may yet get the bloody thing passed, in which case, fair play to the old girl. I’ve long admired her resilience. There are a number of ways she might achieve what would be an astonishing feat of necromancy.

Theresa May’s plan ‘A’ relies on the European Research Group of 60-120 MPs, the core of the foaming-at-the-mouth hard brexit nut-baggery to vote for her deal, a deal they previously described as “vasselage”. They aren’t going to get a time-limit on the backstop, and the best they can hope for is some form of intent written into an appendix that the “backstop” isn’t meant to be permanent. A climb-down by them on such a feeble codicil will be utterly humiliating, and I suspect many will abstain rather than abase themselves. Many of this group will follow what the Democratic Unionist Party do. Even if these loonies do vote for it, May’s Majority is, following defections, just one. There will need to be Labour rebels to push the deal in its current or slightly amended form over the line, even if all the Tory brexiters fall into line. Are there enough Labour rebels to counteract the Tory ones? No-one knows, but possibly.

Labour’s wishlist of the softest-of-soft Brexits will not be seriously entertained, so they are effectively on their final fall back position: backing May’s deal, subject to a referendum: Deal, or Remain. Jeremy Corbyn is too busy burning synagogues and glad-handing terrorists to pay much attention to Brexit, but he’s finally been dragged kicking and screaming to back a “people’s vote”. Nevertheless, there is Theresa May’s plan ‘B’. There could very easily be a parliamentary majority for the deal subject to a second referendum. The Independent Group of MPs (TIGgers) will mostly vote for this option. Labour MPs would mostly vote for it, but there are a significant number who don’t want a referendum, who may abstain or vote against. The SNP want a second vote (and not just on Brexit…), as do Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats (remember them?). Sinn Fein will abstain. Jared O’Mara will stop masturbating, pause his game of Fortnite and get his mum to drive him to S̶c̶h̶o̶o̶l̶ Parliament to vote for the referendum.

What the majority of Tory Party MPs will do I don’t know. Many will vote for the deal, subject to a people’s vote, and it’s even possible this Deal or No Brexit referendum becomes the Government position. Between squeaking over the line and offering the refererndum, this deal passing, somehow, is the most likely outcome.

The idea a second, legally binding referendum is “undemocratic” is just absurd, but that won’t stop the Brexiters grunting this nonsense ’till they’re blue in the face. It asks the people, who now know what a dreadful shit-show brexit is, whether they still want to go ahead with it. It looks like it’ll be 52:48 for remain, for the lolz. Many Brexiters will boycott the vote. I don’t think they really want to win any more.

The current score in EU referendums is 1:1 with ‘leave’ ahead on the away goals rule. I’m quite looking forward to the decider.

Here’s what I think the current probabilities are:

  • Leaving with May’s deal before the European elections: 30%
  • Referendum & leaving with May’s deal 25%
  • Referendum & remain 35%
  • No deal 10%

One way or another, Brexit in some form is the most likely outcome. And we’re more likely than not to have a referendum at this stage. Feel free to argue about these probabilities. What have I missed?

What are the Brexiters up to?

There are some British politicians who’re comfortable with the UK leaving the EU without a deal. This is an outcome that most people who know about international trade suggest would cause quite considerable disruption, but according to the UK government, we would have “sufficient calories” to survive. So that’s OK then. It’s not going to cause a famine. The international trade secretary, Dr. Liam Fox goes further suggesting a no deal Brexit would not be “Dunkirk”. So not as bad as the complete destruction of the British and allied French armies as a fighting force for the next two years. Again, I can’t wait. Brexit has an image problem. Even its cheerleaders are no longer talking about the “opportunities” leading to “sunlit uplands”, and everyone’s talking about the looming catastrophe with the resigned fatalism of a Londoner sitting in the tube during the Blitz.

May’s deal, painstakingly negotiated over the last 2 years delivers a UK out of the political structures of the EU eventually, but without a catastrophic break in the country’s trading relationships with its nearest and most important trading partners. Nor, crucially does it expect anyone, now or in the future, to have to man a customs post on the border in South Armagh.

May’s is not a perfect deal, and I imagine a politician with more charm, who didn’t put an end to “free movement” front and centre of her strategy could have got a better deal from Brussels. But I doubt even then, it would look all that much different. This is what brexit looks like, and it stinks as much as everyone who can spell said it would.

Now, were I minded to deliver Brexit, I would take what’s on offer, because outside the EU, parliament can subsequently move the UK into the EU structures where necessary; on Science or Security co-operation, at the same time cutting our sails differently on, for example trade. May’s deal does ultimately deliver the “freedom” the Brexiters crave from the diktats of the EU commission. We can, in time, deliver the regulatory divergence that is apparently so crucial (and yet, so vaguely so) to the Brexiters. And what has also become clear in the last few months is that the alternative to May’s careful compromise isn’t a glorious “clean break” Brexiters claim to want, but remaining in the EU.

Parliamentary brexiters, the people who’ve banged on about nothing else for 30 years, are tomorrow going to vote against the only chance they will ever have to leave the EU.

But I don’t think a reasonable Brexit is what the parliamentary Brexiters are, or ever were after. They wanted chaos, because it fits their self-image as revolutionaries. It’s like someone turning up at a war, expecting bayonet charges, but discovering what it mostly involves is weary trudging hither and thither with an enormous rucksack, while under constant artillery fire. More mud, more fear, more fatigue, much less (if any) glory. Brexiters in parliament never wanted to win, because then they would then have to deliver, a task from which they have habitually fled. But because no man is “Sir Robin” in his own story, they will construct a self-image of a glorious last charge. We are watching a film directed by Daniel Hannan’s ego starring Jacob Rees-Mogg, as the leader of a band of aging but doughty freedom fighters in their final campaign against the mighty forces of the evil EUSSR. The parliamentary Brexit cause is the last charge of stupid old gits who’ve watched Wild Geese too many times.

“Whatever happens”, they reason, “at least we tried”.

But they didn’t. Not really.

These old fools will try to sell you a ‘stab in the back‘ myth next. I’ve seen this film before too, and I don’t like the ending.

The European Union as a Sewer.

The Brexiters ran with the slogan “take back control”. It’s brilliant, utterly unfalsifiable, and optimistic. It appeals to a sense that ‘the people’ have had their independence taken away from them by faceless institutions, of which Brussels is the most distant, and the most distrusted. It’s also a carefully curated lie. Of what are we taking back control?

But the Brexiters are also right. The people have indeed had their freedoms taken away. The movement that eventually delivered Brexit, got off the ground with the smoking ban, which became law 2006. People had their freedom to enjoy a cigarette with their pint removed, and as a result of the accelerated pub closures this legislation brought about, the freedom to enjoy a pint in a pub at all was lost to many. I understand these people. Until 2016, many of them were my friends. Without the wet-led pub, many communities lost an important social venue. It wasn’t the EU that did this to them. It was Westminster, of course. But having been sensitised to intrusive public health measures, the daily news contains stories about sugar taxes, fat shaming and compulsory exercise reinforce the message that “the elites” despise the working class and want to remove or tax any remaining pleasures. That none of these public health measures have really come into law doesn’t change the mood music. They’re being discussed in the news, daily and the direction of travel is clear. If you enjoy it, it will be banned.

There’s the old certainties too, which are being ripped away at a confusing pace. Gay marriage kick-started the country towards brexit by causing the surge in the UKIP vote. UKIP was flatlining around 10% throughout the early 2010s, but won the 2014 European election with 27%. Gay Marriage, which became law in 2014 caused a lot of Tory associations to lose councillors and activists to UKIP, because Gay marriage felt like an assault on the traditional way of life, to people who’d already experienced dislocation as a result of immigration. This feeling was amplified by the noisy and to most, utterly mystifying transatlantic public debate about transgenderism. UKIP abandoned any residual libertarianism and fully embraced the socially conservative, nativist populism then rising across Europe and the broader democratic world. The Tory party lost MPs to UKIP, who thought they had found the key to unlock mass support, and a party became the brexit movement. David Cameron then was panicked into offering the referendum, and the rest is history.

In this environment, where working class communities, suffering from wage compression and struggling with insecure work, low pay, poor prospects, increased housing costs, and weaker social networks were told that the EU allowed in the migrants who are competing with the natives for work in construction and manufacturing, and so they sought to ‘take back control’ of a country they no longer understood, and which they felt had abandoned them. It didn’t matter that the immigrants who most upset them didn’t come from the EU, UKIP was talking the right language to appeal to the white working class. The European migrant crisis of 2015 added a further deep cultural fear of racial and ethnic change to an already febrile atmosphere, which Farage expertly exploited, staying mostly the right side of the line of outright racism, but ‘dogwhistling’ hard over the line. They were aided in this by Russia, which (probably) bankrolled the party, and (probably) leave.EU too; and poured dank memes and targeted adverts behind the Brexit movement. They also bombed the snot out of Syria, to make more migrants.

The freedom of movement that I feel is the single best thing about the EU became its Achilles heel. What is the freedom to move to Paris to someone on the minimum wage, who has no desire or inclination to learn to speak French, and who resents his Polish neighbours, whom he blames (the number of people for whom this is a correct impression is very, very small) for his low wages and poor prospects? None of my arguments get through this wall. It cannot be breached. The harder I try, the more certain the Pub smoker is that Brexit is a well-aimed kick right in the middle class’s bollocks. It doesn’t matter that none of the things above are the fault of the EU, nor that the EU is an important part of dealing with the wave of people pouring out of the Middle East and Africa. It matters not that the UK could, if it chose to, have sought to limit migrants from the Visegrád Group, and could limit freedom of movement right now, should parliament so wish. We’re dealing with a mood. The EU became a cypher for everything confusing and problematic about the modern age.

The working class is pissed off. Old farts are pissed off. The people who didn’t pay attention in school are pissed off. And they’re pissed off with an effete, pampered, university-educated, overwhelmingly urban group of people whom they see as feckless, privileged and arrogant; who in turn see their opponents as stupid, ignorant, lazy, bigoted and just plain wrong. The two tribes of society despise each other, and we’re getting further apart. In previous centuries, someone would have raised a flag, and the two sides would slaughter each other with a viciousness reserved only for civil wars. Thankfully, I don’t think this is possible these days.

How many people see the European Union

But I don’t know how to make positive rational arguments in favour of the EU that won’t simply dash themselves against this wall of hate, ignorance and anger. I expect any appeal to a European identity will be vomited out by a sceptical British people, not least by me. I am British. “Europe” is to many people where we send our young men for an away fixture against the French and Germans (Flanders fields, Football pitches or Spanish beaches, it doesn’t matter). Nor can I make emotional arguments in favour of the EU, which is a mighty hard organisation to love. It’s like loving your bank, or the sewage system. Instead, we must take the heat out of the argument. The EU is just necessary plumbing to make European trade work, albeit a sewer with tediously grandiose rhetoric and ambitions. You don’t want to live without sewers any more do you? If you will indulge my extended metaphor, the Brexit movement is people who can’t get their head round indoor plumbing, believing stories about rats, snakes and crocodiles living just round the U-bend, ready to snap at your dangly bits. We need to remove the fear of the EU. Perhaps, if the EU can stop talking about the crocodiles – ever closer union – then the resistance to doing one’s business inside it will evaporate.

All Over Bar The Shouting?

Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked by parliament. Ironic that a European court can make the British Parliament sovereign again.

Here’s what I think will happen. May’s deal has about as much chance of passing as Elvis’s last dump. Five days of debate will not change the fact that over 100 Tory MPs, who’ve mostly thought about nothing other than leaving the EU for 30 years, have said they will vote against this “vassalage”. The DUP will likewise vote against, citing the ‘border in the Irish sea’ backstop. Labour, barring a few rebels,  will vote against. Labour will then seize the opportunity to call for a vote of confidence, which Theresa May will win, mainly because no-one wants her Job. There may or may not be an interim step of looking at the “Norway/Iceland” EEA solution, but this too will fall on the question of the Irish Border. May will then offer a second referendum. She is getting some early campaigning around the country now, rather than wasting time in Parliament. The Question: Her Deal or Remain. Brexiters will cry foul, and consider boycotting the poll to make the poll illegitimate. The videos of Both Nigel Farage and Jacob Reece-Mogg calling for a 2nd referendum will circulate. The poll will go ahead. Without Russian money, and enervated by 2 years of thinking they’d won, selling a deal they’d already rejected once will be tough. Brexiters’ only argument is “see it through” and shouting “Britain” or “Democracy” at people very loudly.

On the other side, Brexit created a strong, energetic and highly motivated pro EU movement in the UK, something that was utterly absent last time. This time, the remain camp will have more-or-less anyone with any talent in the UK, who will this time be prepared to put their heads above the parapet. Leave will, at best, have Geoffrey Boycott, Ginger Spice, and a daytime TV estate agent standing alongside Nigel Farage. The rest of UKIP will be goose-stepping around Kent with Tommy Robinson, shouting RAUS! at immigrants, which isn’t a good look.

Remain will win at a canter. (And I said that last time, I know). And if it doesn’t, then ‘the deal’ or better yet, the EEA will be fine, because the Brexiters get nothing out of it. ‘The deal’ is Brexit in Name Only (BRINO). Nothing will change. We will rejoin the club after a decent interval, as no influence over laws we’ll have to accept will be intolerable. The Brexiters have already lost.

Brexiters failed to persuade anyone who didn’t already hate the EU, that leaving presented worthwhile opportunities to be grasped. They failed to articulate a vision of what leaving the EU would achieve, and their promises of “control” to be “taken back” were absolutely rubbished by reality. Every single Brexiter, when tasked with delivering their project, about which they that had dreamed for 30 years, ended up resigning in a huff. The German car industry did not ride to the rescue. The Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, friendly and decent that they are, were not falling over themselves to do a “trade deal” with their former colonial power, seeing greater opportunities to be close to the EU’s much bigger market. Indeed some of these took issue with our schedule of tariffs and commitments on the UK regaining its seat at the WTO!

Brexiters failed to understand Britain’s place in the world was not intrinsic to itself; our power and influence lay in being at the centre of Western, liberal, democratic and free countries, and occupying leadership positions in the UN Security Council, the G7, NATO, 5-eyes and the EU. We are the glue that binds the USA and the 5-eyes to Europe, and the hinge on which the Western Alliance turns. There is no value to the expensive “independence” snake oil that the leave campaign was selling.

We weren’t “alone” in 1940, there’s no need to be alone now.

International trade deals, of which the EU is a deep, comprehensive and unusually democratic example, always involves a “surrender of sovereignty”, but I prefer to think of it as a pooled sovereignty in return for British influence. Brexiters failed to understand the reality of trade: that geography matters and the UK needs a close relationship with the EU. Brexiters failed to see that the UK accepting the EU’s rules was inevitable, their weight sees to that, and yet denied the UK had any influence at all while we in the EU, ignoring the opt-outs, and the policies driven through by the UK. The single market, for example is a creation of Margaret Thatcher. One brief look at the US rule book (the other option on the table should we leave, Chlorinated chicken etc…), and the Brexiters quietly shut up about that particular “opportunity” soon after the election of Trump. We can write “our own rules”? No. We can’t, not if we want to trade successfully. The UK is not really big enough.

The Brexiters saw the EU as an Empire. It isn’t. It’s something different. Where NATO won the cold war, it was the EU which won the peace, successfully integrating the former soviet satellites into a liberal, western looking, democratic and peaceful free trade block.  They are not going back.  The EU doesn’t “need us more than we need them”. The EU, rather than fighting to keep a wayward province in line, shrugged and said “here are your options, pick one, and good luck”, and trusted in their rules and respect for other countries’ sovereignty. That will be noted by formerly subject peoples, both in the EU, and to the east.

The British parliament remained sovereign throughout our membership of the European Union; We can leave, any time Parliament decides. It’s just none of the options for leaving are any good, and all of them costly, exactly as predicted by the Remain campaign. We are surrendering influence over rules that will affect us. There are no benefits to leaving, no opportunities. There’s not even extra sovereignty out there.

Ultimately the Brexiters misunderstood the country, the European Union, and the world.

Brexiters failed to understand “democracy” too. Winning the vote was the start, not the end of the process, but few if any Brexiters had given a moment’s thought to what happens on the 24th June 2016. Referendums are blunt tools. A decision can either be irreversible or democratic; it cannot be both. Democracy is a process, and not an event. A referendum is most emphatically not an enabling law for twats. Ultimately, even if individuals haven’t, the electorate has indeed changed its mind since 2016. Two cohorts of younger, pro-EU voters coming in, and a couple of years of older leave voters dying will see to that. In failing to compromise at all with the EU, or remain Britain, Brexiters may well have sealed their movement’s fate. By failing to offer the reasonable options, Norway, Iceland, on which they had campaigned, preferring to go for the hardest, most headbanging Brexit they could conceive, they have betrayed their infantile dream of leaving the EU.

Once, this was the world’s most dangerous border

The Iron Curtain is now a cycle path. Tell me the world hasn’t got better thanks to the EU. What can the Brexiters credibly promise this time?

Brexit: What Next?

With at least 100 Tory rebels, the DUP, the SNP, collected others and most of Labour planning to reject ‘The Deal‘, it’s hard to see it getting through parliament on the 10th December.

What happens then?

Anyone who might know is keeping their options open. Bim Afolami, My local MP, held a town hall meeting last night to explain why he’s voting for it. Basically, he’s in favour of discharging the instruction of the people from the referendum, reinforced by manifesto commitments voted for in the last General Election by 87% of the vote, with as little damage to the UK and its economy as possible. This is a reasonable line to take, and I was impressed with his delivery. “The options are” he said “the deal, or no deal”. Put like that it’s hard to argue. If the deal passes, I will be satisfied Brexit can be delivered at acceptable cost. However, he’s wrong about the options. “No deal” is opposed by most of the Tory party, an overwhelming majority of the Labour party and most of the other opposition groups, it’s not realistically on the table, unless Parliament agrees nothing else, and behaves recklessly. Remaining in the EU, on the other hand, is back on the table, though few have admitted it publicly yet.

Brexiters make much of the need to strike “Free trade deals”, but these are worthless next to the single market. Why? The EU/EEA single market is the largest economy on earth, and it’s also the nearest to us, and we share our only land borders with it. To imagine that a deal, even with all of the USA, China, India, Australia and New Zealand could match the benefits of the single market is just delusional, as the Treasury and Bank of England made clear. Equally clear is the extent to which Brexiters deny that there are any costs at all to leaving. Any discussion at all of the myriad downsides is dismissed as “project fear”. The level of analysis, from the parliamentary European Research Group, to the local pub bore is the same: Brexiters have persuaded themselves, despite every expert on international trade, and more or less everyone who can spell in the UK telling them otherwise, there are no costs and vast opportunities on leaving the EU. Their only reasoning boils down hate of the EU, appeals to patriotism, confirmation-seeking and total dismissal of the entire subject of economics. No? Patrick Minford, the only “economist for brexit” assumes, for example, distance doesn’t matter in trade. One side of the debate is simply not amenable to reason.

Brexiters petty spite and cruelty is obvious to anyone who looks. Half a dozen people in the meeting spoke up about real, practical costs of Brexit – EU citizens who lose reciprocal rights, farmers who lose vital markets, businesses who will face higher costs throughout their supply chains, students who have lost opportunities for life-enriching travel and study. Lives are being disrupted and attenuated, and the old man sitting next to me simply shrugged. He actually laughed at the disabled woman and the Asian man who mentioned the climate of increased hate crime. The hurt they are causing is the point. By hurting those whom the brexiters blame for their deep personal inadequacy, immigrants, foreigners, people who paid attention in school, they feel better about themselves. That is where brexit is coming from. It’s a mood, not a policy.

‘No deal’ is overwhelmingly supported by people whose pensions will not be affected by the decision, but will be paid for by people whose incomes will be, for life.

So what is likely to happen when the deal is rejected by parliament? Afolami said he was working with Nick Boles on the EFTA/EEA plan as the next option, and I suspect that is what the Government will try to offer next. This will require an extension of Article 50 to draft an agreement. The problem is, I can’t see many problems solved by EEA/EFTA that isn’t solved by “the deal”, and I suspect it will fail for exactly the same reasons he laid out in his opening remarks about May’s deal: it’s neither fart nor shit, satisfying neither the atavistic hate of the people who wish to leave, nor the fears of most of the people who wish to remain in the EU. Indeed thanks to the Irish border, the EEA option would include the Customs union, leaving the UK closer to the EU than Norway. The only thing we’d have done is removed ourselves from the decision-making body, to literally no benefit to anyone except the French. And we’d still have Brexiters whining about being in the EEA, for life. Nevertheless, this option, rubbish though it is, is the Brexit that is most acceptable to me.

Predictably, the People’s vote people were there in force. And like lefties at every public meeting, at any point in history, their sanctimony and verbosity didn’t help their case. Nevertheless, this is, of the likely scenarios, my preferred outcome, as there is some hope of reversing the initial referendum result. (But what question do you ask… and what if ‘leave’ wins again?) But what I really want is parliament, the overwhelming majority of whose members back remaining in the EU, to observe there is no way to leave the EU that doesn’t catastrophically wreck hundreds of thousands of lives and careers, and no way to minimise the disruption in a way that satisfies the inchoate loathing of the EU. You can vote yourself a unicorn that shits gumdrops, it doesn’t mean the Government can deliver.

Nigel Farage trying to get a refund on the Norwegian Blue Option

The referendum was advisory, the country is bitterly divided whether or not we leave or remain. Worse, it appears likely the leave campaign conspired with a hostile foreign power, breaking British electoral law by pumping dank memes and dark money, using stolen data, to win their wafer-thin mandate, and they did so with a grotesque smirk on its face. So why is the “mandate” taken so seriously? So let’s be divided, nothing but the relentless march of time can change that, but be a bit richer and remain in the EU. Eventually the mood will pass. And I expect, if the outcome is ‘no brexit’ the vast majority of Brexiters will sink into a sullen silence rather than kick off. Many I suspect will breathe a sigh of relief, in private, that they no longer have to own this feeble shit-show. They may protest, but they will be shouted down, derided, ignored and ridiculed, much like the Tory party was after 1997, and deservedly so. The Tory party will split, of course, as it should have done when “the Bastards”, Lilley, Portillo, Redwood and Howard, crippled John Major’s administration, and undermined every leader since. However, purged of the Brexiters, the Tory party will find itself electable again much quicker without the baggage of failure (does anyone seriously expect Brexit to stink of anything else?). Fear of blood on the streets, openly expressed by Brexiters, yet dismissed when raised by remainers,  is no reason to do as the quitlings demand. What did Thatcher do when confronted by people who believed political power lay at the point of production, or in the barrel of an armalite? We have defeated nativist hate and threats of violence before in the 1930s and 1980s. Brexiters are utterly unappeasable, and want nothing that can be delivered at reasonable cost. So meet them head on.

As Afolami pointed out, Parliament is sovereign, we live in a representative democracy, an MP is a representative charged with doing what is best for the country, not a delegate charged with delivering on constituents’ moods. It’s leadership the people need. Simply reject Brexit. It’s a stupid policy, utterly without upside, and vast potential costs. Parliament, and the people who kill this insanity, will be thanked, in time.

Brexit is based on a mood, not a policy. From this emptiness flows the chaos.

If you’re not following it closely, it’s easy to ask, as an American correspondent did recently, “why doesn’t the United Kingdom just leave the European Union, and get on with it?”. Well, it’s more complicated than that. The referendum vote mandated the government to get out of the EU. I don’t think the people who voted for it voted for a complete disruption of the European trading system and in doing so, make themselves much poorer. “But that’s just project fear, isn’t it?” Well, yes and no. At the time of writing, 25 months after the vote, and 16 months after the UK invoked article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, to set a 2-year withdrawal clock ticking, the British Government has finally worked out its opening negotiating position to put to the EU. The “Chequers agreement” as it is known wasn’t “the deal”, it was a deal between members of the UK government on their opening negotiating position, and which almost everyone thinks unworkable, not least the two senior Brexiters who resigned from the Government over it. Why has getting to this stage taken so long? Let’s face it, Brexit is not a policy, it’s a fantasy. It’s a mood, not something we need to do, it’s an attitude. Most people who voted for it, did so because they believed slogans deliberately constructed to allow people to project their own fantasies and frustrations onto the project to leave the European Union. From these slogans, no actual policies fall. From this emptiness, flows the chaos that is currently engulfing British politics.

 

“Take back control”? by whom, of what? Still not clear.

“Freedom”? For whom, to do what? Still not clear.

“Sovereignty”? Over what? This is meaningless when it’s at the expense of influence over trade rules we’ll end up obeying anyway.   The Jurisdiction of the European court of Justice mainly covers competition law, state aid to companies, agriculture and trade marks which is hardly something a bloke in a pub would normally care about. It is not supreme in the way the UK’s supreme court is. It is confused in the public mind with the European court of Human Rights, which isn’t an EU institution, but is what prevents the UK being beastly to terrorists, much to the chagrin of the British tabloids. We are not leaving the Council of Europe, and so the UK will remain bound by the European court of Human Rights. All the UK has done, by leaving the EU is storm out of the room in which the decisions are being made.

“Democracy”? It’s hard to see how being a member of a club of democracies, which itself is overseen by a parliament is anti-democratic. It’s true, I won’t miss voting in the European parliament elections, because I’ve always seen it as a risible little potempkin talking shop, but the idea “democracy” was improved by voting Leave, is risible. Just as no parliament can bind its successors, no electorate can either. If you think holding a second referendum on the deal “an attempt to overturn democracy”, then you don’t understand democracy, which isn’t “one man, one vote, once.” Indeed the referendum has poisoned British democracy by introducing a set of mutually exclusive demands, that cannot be met at reasonable cost for which millions will think they have voted.

“Our own trade deals”? Again, it’s hard to see any benefit of leaving the most comprehensive trade deal on earth, with the earth’s largest market, which is also the nearest to the UK, plus deals with dozens of other countries farther afield, in order to secure a trade deal with Australia. At best this is wishful thinking, but most of it is just Imperial nostalgia. The choice the UK faces between”Europe and the Deep Blue Sea” is, with respect to Churchill, a false dichotomy. Far from being “shackled to a corpse”, the EU facilitated trade with China and the Pacific rim and made the UK an attractive place to do business, a Gateway to Europe for the world. Imagining the EU is in some way “holding us back” because mature, stable economies are growing slower than vast, poor ones, is another category error.

Immigration? The largest body of immigrants to the UK come from the Indian subcontinent, none of whose countries is a member of the EU. There is no “deal” with the EU that would stop an EU citizen coming to the UK, and let’s face it, it’s not the Polish plumbers who bother the anti-immigrant crowd, is it?

All of this, I have been arguing for years. Because the arguments for Brexit are based in moods, not facts, they raise as many questions as they answer, and such is the dislocation the referendum has caused in UK politics, The Netherlands has more comprehensive planning for a no-deal Brexit than does the UK. I suspect in practice, this means leaving the EU without a deal is mostly off the table. However Brexiters are trying to cut the Gordian knot, by going full-on for the hardest, most catastrophic break they can engineer. This explains the ‘red lines’ Theresa May offered the brexiters straight after the referendum when she took over from David Cameron. Out of the Single Market, out of the Customs Union, no Jurisdiction of the EU courts, no free movement, no payments to the EU budget, no border in the Irish sea. These red lines effectively make doing a deal with the EU, which regards the four freedoms of the single market indivisible, impossible. They are also mutually exclusive. You see, Brexit is a fantasy, and in chasing it, Brexiters have insisted on wrecking clauses in legislation designed to tie the Governments hands to positions the EU will find unacceptable.

This ‘No-Deal’ plan at least settles it, Brexiters argue. We must leave, and we can deal with the consequences when they arrive. However leaving the EU is a policy which should require decades of carefully unpicking the legal and constitutional ties built up over half a century. Brexit, however has already caused a sharp slowdown in investment. A no-deal scenario would see the UK wave goodbye to much of its automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and high tech industries. The social and economic consequences could be severe. It isn’t hyperbole to suggest a hard, no-deal brexit will lead to shortages of food and medicines as a result of severe disruption to modern ‘just in time’ supply chains: Great Britain hasn’t been able to feed its population since the 17th century, and is dependent upon trade to feed the nation, every day. Hence the recent headlines about stockpiling food and medicines, and hence the public mood, perhaps, barely perceptibly, beginning to change.

So the Government has to do a deal of some sort.

It is the Irish border which remains the biggest obstacle to a deal. Brexit cuts across a number of previous agreements the UK made with the Republic of Ireland, an EU state that many brexiters are surprised hasn’t been thrown under the bus by the EU yet. The problem is that if the UK leaves the Customs union, in order to forge its own deals elsewhere, then it must check goods on its borders. However, part of the settlement to ‘The Troubles’, decades of violence not quite reaching the level of a civil war over the status of the province as Irish or British, was that there should be no obvious border infrastructure between the two bits of Ireland. The all citizens of the island of Ireland can choose more or less at will, which passport they use. The border barely exists on the ground. It can be crossed, and the only sign that you’ve moved from one sovereign country to another is that Ireland displays speed limits in kilometers per hour, not miles. That would change if the UK leaves the Customs union, as border posts or fences would be needed on the 208 crossing places on the border to check goods and people. Farmers would need to maintain two flocks of sheep, and other nonsenses as a result of the border being reimposed. There are solutions that would avoid a hard border in Ireland. You could leave Northern Ireland in the Customs union,  but that would require a ‘border in the Irish sea’ effectively splitting the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Many Brexiters don’t care, they’re effectively English nationalists, and aren’t bothered by the question of Scottish independence either. If I’m losing American readers with the intricacies of the United Kingdom’s constitutional settlement, I apologise, but the EU was until 2016 part of the glue that held the four nations of the UK together. Brexit threatens not just Northern Ireland’s status, but that of Scotland too. That is a question for another post, but Theresa May’s government is dependent upon the Democratic Unionist party for her majority in parliament. The DUP is a kind of Orange Ulster Tea Party which is, to put it lightly, not in favour of a United Ireland. A ‘Border in the Irish sea’ between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would be an anathema to most of the Conservative Party, as well as the DUP. There are other solutions being suggested from complex tariff collection arrangements, to turning a blind eye, but they’re all nonsense too.

You can’t just rip up a constitutional settlement,break up a great country and risk restarting a war to satisfy a grumpy national mood.

Ultimately, the problem stems from the paucity of research. There was no workable plan, despite the Tory Brexiters having obsessed over the EU for 30 years. They never considered what happens the day after the Referendum, as most of the Tory brexiters are frankly a bit dim. The obvious solution, as most Brexiters who thought at all about it in any detail agree, is “the Norway option” or similar. This means rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is supposed to be a halfway house to joining the EU, but in which Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein have resided for decades. This solves all the short term problems of Brexit, but leaves the UK a rule-taker without much influence. It doesn’t offer any of the “upsides” (which are mainly fantasy, but that’s by-the-by…) of leaving the EU, and simply removes the UK’s voice in the councils of European Union. The UK, unable to influence the laws it will have to obey, will probably suffer in the long run. So too will the EU, freed from the UK’s generally sane brake on the European Union’s wilder flights of integrationist fancy. Brexiters hate the Norway option describing it as vassalage, as do Remainers to whom it’s a distant second best to full membership. It cannot therefore be a sustainable solution, but for the fact Norway which faces exactly the same arguments, seems quite happy there.

Brexiters will cry “Betrayal”, but I can’t help thinking the EFTA or something very close to it will suddenly become a serious organisation rather than a mere EU antechamber, once the UK, the fifth  largest economy on earth, joins it. It is towards this option Theresa May is moving the Brexiters, away from ‘no deal’, slice by slice, abandoned red line by abandoned red line, as the clock ticks away. How far can the Tory party be walked down this road? Far enough and quick enough for a deal to satisfy the Irish Border question? The ‘Norway option’ means Brexit will continue to be the defining question of British politics for a decade and solves nothing from the point of view of politicians, even as the public whose lives will not be disrupted, will be fine with it. I’ve been clear, this is an outcome I’ve been drawn to all along (from 2015) but now isn’t the time.

The final option is to delay (perhaps permanently somehow) the whole Brexit process, but this would probably cause the collapse of the Government, leading to elections and/or a second referendum. The EU has indicated that were the UK to seek such a constitutional solution, an extension to Article 50 would be granted. I’ve tried to sum this up in a paragraph or two, but the complexity of this outcome would render any attempt gobbledegook. This is full-on constitutional crisis territory, and it’s getting more likely by the day. How could this happen? Well, all it takes is for 326 members of parliament to say so, and the overwhelming majority of the 650 MPs know remaining in the EU to be the best outcome for the country. However, most feel for now they must discharge the instructions of the people and leave the EU somehow. I do not know what these people will do if and when public opinion changes, and anyone who claims to is lying.

So what’s going to happen?

I put the chances of a catastrophic ‘no deal’ at 10%. There are only 60 or so MPs in the so-called European research group (they didn’t actually do any research…) who favour this insane outcome. But it could happen by accident, as the law as it currently stands, if nothing else is agreed, leads to no-deal by the natural action of Law. Theresa May’s deal, whatever it eventually is, will probably be a dispiriting fudge, BINO (Brexit in Name Only). However a deal of just this miserable sort remains the most likely outcome, probably around 55%. Which leaves the liklihood of a collapse of the Government, an extension to article 50, and a second referendum, an outcome now firmly in the overton window, at about 35%. All of this is a long winded way to say “I don’t know what’s going to happen”. But I have several ideas as to what might, and the most likely scenario is that Theresa May secures a deal very similar to Norway’s with some fig-leaf measures and linguistic fudges. I just can’t see the point, to be honest. I still don’t understand how this is supposed to improve anyone’s life. Which is why we shouldn’t do it at all. That 1/3rd chance of remain is rising as the idiocy of leaving the EU becomes apparent.

Cleverly isn’t clever. “No Deal” isn’t an Option.

Braintree’s local Conservative association appears in the dictionary of nominative determinism under “counterexample”. Their last MP was Brooks “underpants” Newmark, and their current one is James Cleverly. Maybe they thought they could live up to their Brainy name by choosing a candidate with ‘Clever’ in his…

Alas….

Brexit negotiations aren’t like buying a house, where the status quo is ‘everyone stays in their current house and keeps looking for another house’, it’s more like divorce where the ‘no deal scenario’ is arriving home to find your key not working, your clothes in a pile in the yard; your former partner getting the kids, the house and the record collection. And you’re paying maintenance. And none of your joint friends will speak to you again, so you have to go have dinner with that guy from the pub who for some reason isn’t allowed near the school.

But they seem to believe this ‘no-deal’ sophistry, the brexiters. It’s fallacious on so many levels. And it says more about the Brexiters than about Brexit.

WTO rules aren’t a default trading arrangement. They’re what exists between countries who trade only infrequently. There are some 759 treaties governing trade that will need to be rewritten. “Easy” say the Brexiters “Just carry on as before”. Would were it that simple: most of these involve the European Court of Justice as arbiter…. I assume that will be ok?

“Well never mind” say the Brexiters, “we’ll just declare unilateral free trade”. Apart from being a childish fantasy like most simplistic utopian wibble, it isn’t remotely going to happen. The mood of Brexit, far from being in an open and buccaneering spirit, is rather sour and protectionist; more Mary Whitehouse than Sir Francis Drake. Do you think popular pressure will be to raise or lower tariffs on foreign goods? The free trade for brexit argument is what happens when you look for evidence as a drunk looks for a lamp-post. More for support than illumination.

The welfare benefits of the unilateral free trade option exist in theory, but not in fact. Much like Patrick Minford‘s credibility.

Ultimately, Cleverly’s tweet is evidence of the Brexiters’ habit of policy-based evidence-making. There is no trade advantage to “our own trade deals” except that it’s something we’ll have to do when we’ve left the EU. When you spend your life really believing the EU is a plot to subvert the UK and blame Brussels for the British weather, then the ends justify the means. “Our own trade deals” sounds like sense to people in the pub who don’t know very much, much like “take back control”. Of what? Because the most likely scenario is we’ve lost influence over rules we’ll have to abide by anyway. What about “Freedom”? For whom, to do what? Because I can think of dozens of real freedoms I’m losing. Of course even Immigration was press-ganged into service of Brexit – the immigrants the bigots really care about don’t come from the EU, do they?

One wonders who or what Brexiters will blame when they no longer have the Brussels boogeyman. “Remoaners” probably. It’s all rather pathetic. Brexit: Still a catastrophe. Still waiting for any positives at all to come from it.

The Boomers’ Love of the Motor Car has Enslaved Us All. Autonomous Vehicles could free us.

The Automobile, as with all innovation is first conceived as a replacement for an existing technology. The Horseless Carriage. And at first, it did: the Motor car was the transport of the kind of people who had carriages and staff to drive them.

Then aristocratic youngsters got their hands on their parents’ cars and started to drive themselves. The Car became the aspirational badge of success.

By the 1960s anyone with a middle-class job could have a car. And by the 1980s cars were in the price range of more-or-less everyone.

The Baby-boomers dug up the 1930s cycleways as they built an environment around the motor car. Town centres were demolished, and rebuilt with inner ring-roads during the 60s and 70s. The bicycle was despised as a poor-man’s transport, or the toy of eccentrics, and so not really considered as an option. Nor were pedestrians, who were relegated to dank subterranean holes of rain-soaked concrete filled with ranting, smack-addled derelicts, begging for small change in puddles of cheap lager piss. Walking to the town centre from residential districts became unpleasant. Cycling was effectively banned. Real people who had to do things, drove cars.

Unfortunately, driving into a town or city centre was little better, however many urban expressways were built. Too many people wanted to take too many cars into too little space. So businesses moved out of the centre, to the urban edge, next to vast, windswept car-parks. The result is urban sprawl as suburbs without amenities forced people to travel beyond human distances. As car ownership expanded, the buses disappeared through lack of use, and kids lost their freedom. Town centres decayed through lack of use. Cycling became a terrifying ordeal of close-passes by tons of angry metal and walking to anything simply took too long.

The Boomers mostly do not go anywhere except by car, and cannot conceive of it being any other way, despite the fact they may have visited Copenhagen or Amsterdam. There are sufficient cars even there for these cities to not cause the Boomers cognitive dissonance.

The result of the world the boomers built is a world which will be utterly miserable for them as they decay into senescence. The boomers’ kids live a long way from them. As do their friends. There is no local shop. Once their eyesight goes and their kids take their car keys away, they will be marooned, day after day as the clock ticks away on their lives, trapped in their homes by the very world they built.

LOL @ the Boomers.

The Netherlands was going the same way in the 1970s, but thanks to a spate of children being killed by motor cars, they decided to change course and design all urban spaces around people, not cars. The result is residential neighbourhoods still have shops even coffin-dodgers can walk to, and thanks to a lifetime of practice, cloggy pensioners can do this:

It’s hard to imagine a british octogenarian mixing it with the lorries on a bicycle on the way to see his grandkids. Thankfully for the Netherlanders’ baby-boomers, unlike the UK’s, built a world that isn’t oppressively hostile to the elderly, something they are enjoying today.

The absurd british fear of the cyclist is something of a stockholm syndrome. Because it is fear. Deep-seated fear of someone who rejects all their society’s assumptions. Fear that their car, and their precious parking space will become worthless. Fear of the freedom, of the lack of regulation, and resentment of someone who is free* of the frustrations of traffic.

Hence the belief that cyclists are scofflaws, who pose a danger to pedestrians. Cyclists do pose a danger to pedestrians. But it is dwarfed by that involving cars. There were no deaths caused by cyclists in the UK between the collision between Kim Briggs and Charlie Alliston, and his conviction and imprisonment for wanton and furious cycling. Of course, had Kim Briggs stepped back into the path of a car doing 12-18 mph, and died, it wouldn’t have made local news, and there wouldn’t have been an arrest, let alone a conviction. There were dozens of incidents where a car killed a person in those 18 months, and the drivers mostly went unpunished; these are near-daily events. Cyclist hurting pedestrians happen in the UK at a perfect frequency: scarce enough to be remarkable, but frequent enough for recall. Availability heuristics reinforce a belief that cyclists are inherently reckless and dangerous.

This is why all the demands of the motoring lobby are to impose all the same frustrations endured by motorists, entirely unnecessarily, onto cyclists. Licensing, testing, taxing and compulsory insurance. Compulsory high visibility clothing, helmets and demands to follow the same, unnecessary and counterproductive rules.

These frustrations do not occur to citizens of Northern Europe, where cycling is natural, comfortable and universal. It’s not the weather: the Netherlands is every bit as dank, windy and wet as the UK. It’s not hills: Germany and Scandinavia are not any less hilly than the UK. It’s that the pedestrian, bicycle and motorcar are considered as different, but equal in the design of roads and urban spaces. Road engineers design out the conflicts and frustrations to both cyclists and motorists by keeping the two parties apart where possible. The netherlands isn’t anti-car, but it is pro-cyclist. I’ve driven in Sweden. It’s far, far more pleasant than doing so in the UK. Why? Because anyone who wants to cycle their journey, can. As a result, there’s less congestion, and parking is easy. Cycling and driving in Northern Europe is, of course vastly more pleasant than it is in the UK. It isn’t a zero-sum game.

Thankfully, there’s a solution: driverless cars, as you can tell by the name, are conceived as a replacement for the car, except you can read a book while being driven by a robot chauffeur, exactly analogous to the attitude of the early car owners to their horseless carriages. But they will not be a pari-passu replacement. People won’t have their driverless car sitting outside their houses, the passenger footwell full of empty twix wrappers, because autonomous vehicles will, at least initially, be very expensive. Instead of spending 95% of their time stationary, they will be collectively owned. Smartphone technology will allow people to summon a taxi appropriate to any journey from a pool of vehicles. Uber treats its drivers so dismissively because they are openly planning for the day they can dismiss all their drivers. Because people hiring such a vehicle will pay the full, rather than the marginal cost, at the time of the journey, of each journey, the incentive to not call the taxi, and walk or cycle will be greater. Because the cost of such a journey will be lower because you’re not paying a driver, there may be more such journeys. Fewer incompetent drivers will reduce both the subjective and objective risk of cycling. Time becomes less important, as people can work or read or relax, so commutes may become longer. How these competing pressures resolve themselves will be fascinating to watch.

Autonomous technology could therefore result in the car becoming the servant of humanity, rather than its master. Transport should be about facilitating people coming together, allowing people to move at the human scale, where possible, not privileging one form of transport over all the others, as now. The driverless car could allow the bicycle, the car and the pedestrian to get on, as multiple clubs in a golf-bag full of ways to get about, as they do rather well in the Netherlands, rather than competing angrily as they do here.

In the meantime, let’s just build some cycle roads and safe urban infrastructure for people on foot, and on bicycles. Everyone will benefit. Especially the boomers whose mistakes have caused us all so much misery.

*Almost all cyclists in the UK also own a car. It’s just we choose to not use it sometimes.

The EU Deserves what’s coming.

One of the main reasons to oppose brexit is that the UK doesn’t benefit from being “out” should the EU collapse. A disorderly break-up of the EU would damage the UK, independently of our status in or out. (any comment saying “it’s better to bail early” will be deleted as a failure of comprehension read the post, please, it’s that argument I’m dealing with). Indeed preventing a disorderly collapse should be the UK’s priority. And when we were in, a disorderly collapse was unlikely. The UK kept the lid on Brussels insanity. Not only has Brexit given free rein to some of the very worst people in the UK, it also removes a brake on the insane Federasts  of Brussels.

Far from Remainers “talking the UK down”, Brexiters have been doing so for decades – talking down the UK’s influence in the EU to the extent we’re actually thinking of walking out of the UK’s proudest creation: the single market. It is now a shibboleth that the UK has “no influence in the EU”, whereas the UK drove the single market, kept half the continent out of the poisonous grip of the Euro and pioneered enlargement to the east following the end of the cold war. The UK drove Russian sanctions to this day. The UK was one of the Big three and on many issues, more influential than France. The UK largely writes EU financial regulation for example (as is meet and proper).

But the EU over-reached. Voters, especially in the UK resented the EU’s usurpation of the trappings of National sovereignty far more than the reality of “the laws made in Brussels” which was really just code for an underlying vision they (and I) don’t like. And what is true of the UK is true of France and the Netherlands and everywhere else. Remainers like to mock the Be.Leaver’s joy over the anticipated return of the blue passport. I however have long resented the words “European Union” above (ABOVE!) the crown on the front. It’s like the bureaucrats are trying to rub the British People’s nose in it. It’s a symbol of something burning in the EU’s core, which the average voter neither desires, nor trusts.

The ridiculous and unnecessary potemkin parliament with its farcical shuttle from Brussels to Strasbourg focusses the voters minds on the EU, without giving them any outlet to do anything about it. The EU looms much larger than it ought as a result of the charade of Euro elections. Democracy without a demos is pointless – what commonality do Socialist members from spain and the UK have?:

The EU was flawed, Thanks to the UK some of its worst excesses – the Euro for example were limited to countries that really wanted it. And now without a powerful country holding the reins and steering away from “ever closer union” the Brake that was put on at Maastrict and beyond will be removed. The EU will integrate itself to death, there will be chaos when the voters of Europe can take the tin-eared arrogance of Brussels no more. There was no need for all those millions of lives to be attenuated during that process. While leave voters will say “I told you so”, a better analogy would be jumping out of a moving car suffering broken bones and extensive skin abrasions, but saying “it would have been worse” because the lunatic who grabbed the wheel when you bailed steered it directly into a tree.

Spending 1% of GDP to write trade and some business law could much more easily be done intragovernmentally, with a humble and small central bureaucracy. There is no need for “Presidents” and parliaments which lead to grandiose visions; visions which slam painfully, like the Euro, into the unyielding wall of reality. Unobtrusively aligning business regulation and deepening economic integration is necessary. A parliament, a flag, an anthem and a head of “state” are not. The EU has paid the price for this arrogant and pompous grandiosity.

Both the EU and UK are and will be significantly worse off as a result of Brexit. And now, just as Brexit is a bad idea that will be tested, so too will European integration. Both Brussels panjandrums and the brexiters fed off each others’ fantasies. Both needed to believe integration was happening, even if it wasn’t. Ultimately, the costs will become apparent to the UK pretty rapidly. The EU will suffer much more slowly. It’s almost like co-operation is a non-zero-sum game, or something.