Saturday, 21 July 2018

Britain is about to get a kick in the complacency


Attempting to raise the alarm over no deal Brexit with a view to preventing it is pointless. One quote on Facebook this evening is pretty typical of the attitude I frequently encounter. "Most Brexit issues is something that could be resolved in a day with a bottle of tippex, a biro and and a photocopier". Similarly we see warnings described as akin with millennium bug hysteria. The Tory spin machine is in full effect and is gambling on everything being alright on the night.

For an ordinary voter it's easy to see why there might be such disbelief. That which is governed by the EU pertains mainly to invisible government. Those systems and functions you would never know are there until they go wrong. Our inter-dependency with EU systems is something which has been engineered over decades behind the scenes with no real media attention.

When it comes down to it, this stuff is not all that interesting. The public don't really expect to play a part in such things and is only really interesting from a professional perspective. Nobody really cares how power stations work or who owns them just so long as the lights stay on. Few know about gas pipelines and sub-sea cabling and interconnectors and virtually nobody is interested in aviation treaties and airspace management.

Moreover, single market systems have been established for so long that few ever remember things being all that different. For as long as I've been alive we've had all mod cons and fully stocked supermarkets. Nobody ever really stops to ask why or how. Similarly medicines and pharmaceuticals approvals are seldom ever in the news unless there is a major breakdown or a corruption scandal.

Should we drop out of the EU without a deal, becoming a third country overnight, a lot of this will simply stop working - or continue working but only half as well. There is actually a bizarre irony here. We eurosceptics have been warning for decades that we risk becoming so far enmeshed with the EU that we have no control - yet they seem to think we can unplug overnight and everything will be fine. Then there's the hypocrisy of the remainers who have claimed in all this time that we never lost our sovereignty but they are the ones now warning of the dangers should we leave without a deal.

As much as the public is about to get a shock, the apparatus of industry and government is likely to be surprised too. We've heard various testimonies from industry bosses, many believing things will be manageable. Even civil servants have expressed undue confidence.

As to exactly what will happen, nobody is quite sure. Senior voices within the EU have doubled down on their commitment to having no border in Northern Ireland which means there will have to be unilateral waivers - but legally this is not sustainable and any measures will be temporary.

We may see a patchwork of agreements standing readily if only to minimise the impact on the EU and to avoid civil emergencies. The stoppages may won't happen overnight as many expect. It will take some time for direction to filter down to front line services and customs offices. That's when the fun starts as we find we have neither the systems nor the software to manage - leaving exporters with invalid paperwork and customs officials unable to issue new documentation.

If there has been any kind of contingency planning then it is possible that we won't see tailbacks on the motorways which Brexiters will claim as a victory, but this will be a result of lorries not even setting off from warehouses. Whether or not the airports are hit by Brexit overnight remains to be seen. It can't not have an impact.

Whatever turmoil there is will be as much to do with not knowing what the new legal circumstances are. This is something very easy to get wrong and the flow of information from the government is not likely to improve. All we have to go on is the EU's own notices to stakeholders. We are looking at a mass failure of government communication - not least because they have no idea.

It really goes one of two ways. Either it's an overnight calamity which gets progressively worse or it's a slow motion implosion over many weeks and months. Job losses will be the trailing indicator so it will be a while before we start seeing the fullest of the fallout.

How long it takes to salvage anything of it really depends on what happens politically. The EU will not be forthcoming with any rescue deal until the matter of payments, citizens rights and Northern Ireland are resolved. Things may be so dire that whichever administration is in power will immediately sign up to the presently rejected backstop for Northern Ireland. The rest is anyone's guess.

Here we may see attempts to leverage the NI backstop as a whole UK solution, this time with pressure from EU member states, but again much will depend on the politics of the situation and how the EU leverages our predicament. It will not be generous and France will likely be happy to stick the knife in and twist it if it means cannibalising UK market share.

Much is going to depend on who is in power after we crash out. If May is still Prime Minister on exit day she will have no choice but to resign. We are then in uncharted waters as the Tories fight like rats in a sack. Whoever wins will inherit a poisoned chalice and will be faced with continued post-exit talks with the EU from a much weaker position. We can expect an early general election.

From there politics takes over. Rune-reading is largely futile when so much is in flux but I think it is safe to say that we approaching the death of the Conservative Party and there will be a bloodbath. Those Tories who joined Labour for £3 just to vote for Corbyn will get their comeuppance. For the first time in a long time Tories will be punished for their supreme arrogance.

But then everyone is going to get something of what they deserve. The Remainers who lied through their teeth about the Norway option will live to regret their lies. The Tories who were too meek to speak up and went along with the ERG herd will have to account for themselves. So too will media personalities on the right who blithely told us none of this could happen. Moreover this will be punishment for those individuals who side with their own tribes come what may.

There is now a crushing sense of inevitability to all this. It will open the door to years of political turbulence that will trash politics as we know it. And that is no bad thing. Politically Britain is fragmented several ways and nothing on the ballot paper is deserving of a vote. We need a clear out. We won't see economic revival until we see a return to political coherence.

This, I believe is the primary purpose of Brexit. I do not share in the Brexiter sunlit uplands narrative nor do I believe Brexit holds "exciting opportunities" for the economy. Far from it. More than likely it will be an accelerant to may of the underlying trends we've been seeing for the last few years - pruning many of the zombie industries.

We've seen a hollowing out of the high street with cherished and prestigious brands going under, all the while we see our towns dying, libraries, police stations, pubs, shops, bingo halls and banks vanishing. We see half-baked state funded initiatives to revive the high street but there is something more fundamental going on that our existing politics cannot fix. Our current political settlement is concerned only with propping up a decaying status quo - delaying the inevitable and storing up problems for later.

We are approaching a new age and a new industrial revolution with the traditional models of work collapsing, along with modes of saving like private pensions. Automation and internet have opened up a new world that we don't quite know how to live in or finance. All our politics ever could do is hold the line and prop up the old order.

It's easy to see why people don't care much about the prospect of losing crown jewels like Airbus when increasingly they are multinational companies with no loyalty to their host nation and no longer hiring locally. Many such companies are sustained with subsidy and government contracts as part of a vast job creation scheme to keep the middle classes sufficiently mollified. That model is already living on borrowed time as European industries are now facing real competition - not least from China.

For those nostalgic for years gone by, Brexit is unlikely to be a corrective. The working class culture many pine for is probably gone for good along with the jobs that sustained it. The days of mass employers are coming to an end and somehow we have to make the new paradigm work. This is why we are seeing socialist ideas returning to the fore along with universal basic income. This is all to be decided in the coming months and years. These are questions even the EU will have to grapple with.

Cuts to public service in recent years have proven unpopular, and ordinary people lament the loss of their communities, and the remainers answer has always been to try to stop Brexit and instead invest in the regions. The problem being that as much as the trends are irreversible, the current settlement is primarily the cause of it. While there is no turning back the clock, we cannot go on like this.

Over the course of the last two years I have explored on this blog a number of social factors contributing to Brexit, and my observation informed by growing up in the north of England, supplemented by commentary from Paul Embrey there is something to be said for the human need for community, identity, tradition and family, all of which are attacked by the transience of modernity and the turnover of people - which explain the demands for controlled immigration. This, though, is another global trend.

Governments all over the world are trying to reconcile the demands placed upon government, not least health and social care, and immigration has been their sticking plaster. That too must come to an end. Much of the burden we place on the state is because of a middle class reluctance to spend their own money (tied up in assets) on their own care. The NHS is a vast middle class subsidy locking in high property prices and gradually freezing the young out of ownership.

This is where Brexit, of any flavour, is going to force unpopular decisions in respect of care costs and the NHS as a whole. Mrs May might well have lost her majority over the so-called dementia tax, but it's coming all the same along with a raft of other measures that will enrage the middle classes and the left (which is increasingly the same thing).

The remainers have tapped into the notion that the ultras mainly want Brexit so they can demolish the NHS - which might well be true - and another reason why the left have attempted to turn the NHS into a national religion. It is key to holding the status quo together. On that score, I'm very much ambivalent. I'm not exactly thrilled at the idea of it falling into the hands of Rees-Mogg's vulture capitalists but all the same the NHS gravy train has to end.

The fact is that our government will do all it can to avoid the difficult questions. Just look how the Tories caved in on the Dementia tax and have recently pledged to firehose yet more cash at the NHS. They are held hostage to a vocal opposition to any kind of NHS reform which doesn't actually represent majority sentiment.

We are, therefore, never going to restore any kind of social and economic justice unless we take a wrecking ball to our politics and rebuild it. If they can't make the tough choices then we have to force the issue - and this time they can't borrow and spend their way through it.

Earlier in the week I detailed a broader dysfunction at the heart of politics and it was unrealistic of me to every expect our politicians to be competent enough to manage a thing like Brexit. We have lost touch with the art of governance and statecraft and that skillset has been absent for a very long time. One might ask how things function as well as they do in its absence but it only takes a thing like Grenfell to demonstrate the systemic failures not only of regulation but the response to the disaster - which was open season for fraudsters who shouldn't even be in the country.

It would seem that for the last decade at least, probably longer, the EU has been propping up a system decaying from the inside out. Brexit has finally exposed it. Without that crutch we find our politics is no longer fit for purpose and is likely to bring us to a disastrous withdrawal made a magnitude worse by a failure to understand they systems and processes and a total failure to plan. The rot is far worse than I ever imagined.

For that reason, knowing what I know now, it wouldn't change my vote at all. Britain has a long road to travel and things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get any better. But with things being as they are, a collapse of governance was a future certainty. If it wasn't Brexit it would be something else. It may be that we are past the point of no return and that what's broken is not fixable. I don't know. What I do know is that without a kick in the complacency, re-engaging the public in the politics they have neglected, the destination is the same anyway.

The Brexit Taliban are dead men walking


The most idiotic thing about the Brexit ultras is that their game is not going to work. For sure they can crash us out of the EU but they won't be in power long enough to bring about their Singapore on Thames nonsense.

The first thing that happens after crashing out is the EU cooks up a string of emergency time limited agreements just to avoid hassle on its own borders and to avoid actual civil emergencies. It will then simply wait til the UK is begging for any kind of deal.

That then is going to come with a raft of terms and conditions worse than anything we could be negotiating right now with ECJ supervision over a whole raft of EU law. The point being that no deal cannot stay no deal.

Having smacked the aerospace, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing sectors hard, there will be no safe Tory seats in the country. The middle classes will be fuming along with a seriously disgruntled working class who find their hours cut.

The narrative as it stands is that if the Tories don't deliver a hard Brexit then the headbangers will defect to Ukip, but this is assuming Ukip is even organised enough to field candidates. They'll just assume someone else will do it for them.

It's true that headbangers will be pissed off if May delivers a softer Brexit, but a lot of remainers will vote to prop up the Tories just to keep Corbyn out. That won't apply if we have a no deal Brexit. The Tories will be finished.

At that point the threat of Corbyn will be somewhat moot in that he will likely not enjoy an outright majority and will have to form a government with the Lib Dems. Moreover we will be too piss broke to do anything Corbyn wants to do.

It will take a Tory party split for them to ever be considered electable again - but by the time they take power again we will have signed up in full to some or other EU agreement, and they won't get to piss around with tariffs. By then the free trade fad will be over.

All the ultras are really doing is smashing the country against the rocks for no gain, destroying the Conservative party and handing power to a dysfunctional coalition for a decade or more that will be more socialist than anything we've seen since 1948.

If the plan was to bring about a global free trading Britain then they've chosen a pretty foolish strategy that will more than likely have the opposite effect. Britain will become more insular and more protectionist and we will see cackhanded attempts to nationalise things.

Politically I think we've crossed the event horizon, and they are going to have to learn first hand why free trade delusions are obsolete - and that will be a costly lesson we will all pay for - but afterwards the cause of free market liberalism will be dead in the water.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Groundhog day squared...


I've now written this same tract a thousand times and I will keep writing it until it sinks in. Central to the crunch in Brexit talks is that the ultras think the EU is over-egging the NI border situation and have unjustly rejected their ideas because of a political agenda to annex NI for Ireland. Which is bollocks...

It's really quite simple. The EU has controls on its outer frontiers because it has a system of rules to keep certain things out be they counterfeit airline spares of adulterated foods. It's a system, it's *their* system, and the want to keep it intact.

The UK has decided that it does not want to be inside of this system. If we didn't share a land border with the EU then that wouldn't be much of a problem. But we do. And it's a big problem...

If the UK diverges and does as Rees-Mogg suggests and dismantles regulations and standards designed to protect the integrity of the EU market, then there is a back door for those wishing to evade EU controls.

It means that goods arriving anywhere into the UK can pass freely into the EU customs territory without inspection and evading duties and tariffs. If the EU allows this then in effect it allows the UK to unilaterally set the lowest bar of market entry.

So ask yourselves why they would allow that? Who would grant authority to a foreign power to decide who and what can come in? (apart from our MPs circa 1973-2016). Nobody, that's who.

So there is really only one way around this. The UK, having decided to leave, is the one asking the EU not to police its outer frontier. It will agree to this provided the UK can provide a guarantee that its own standards and controls will not be circumvented.

Having failed to grasp the mechanics of how the system works we've had various iterations of the same proposal based on the same repackaged flawed thinking based on technology and customs surveillance. This doesn't work.

What seems to have escaped just about everybody on all sides is that the major component of frictionless trade is regulatory harmonisation. It is that which eliminates inspections. Enter London Tory think tankery....

Here we have a class of upper middle class know-nothings who have never had a real job, don't know how the system works and do not know how to conduct fact finding research. They only time they get it right is when they steal the work of others.

Being arrogant Tories and ideologues they assume they already know everything, can't be told anything and won't even be told by Brussels (or even fellow Brexiters) that they have got it wrong.

Between them they have got it into their heads that we can have mutual recognition of standards and that is sufficient to carry on as normal - failing to note that the EU does not do mutual recognition of standards where there are already harmonised rules.

More to the point, what matters is not recognition of standards but recognition of conformity assessment. In other words without full adoption of the rules, inside the EU's supervisory system, frictionless trade simply is not possible.

And if that is true for Northern Ireland it is also true for Calais. This though has not sunk in. The options are limited. Either it's a special status for Northern Ireland or a whole UK solution - both of which require full single market harmonisation.

Politically neither is welcomed by the UK government. May is right that no PM could ever sign an agreement leaving NI as part of the EU customs territory. So that leaves her with only one option. The single market.

Being that the Westminster bubble is utterly cloth eared and unable to heed loud and clear messages from Brussels they have sought to concoct a cherrypicked version of the single market for goods, which the EU has said it will not allow - countless times.

Here the Toryboy think tank idiots make it worse by insisting the EU can and should break its own rules and if we wait long enough the EU will cave in. It won't. It values its system integrity more than it values UK trade. Especially when it can cannibalise UK market share.

Being that the EU is the superpower with its own regulatory gravity in this equation, it does not have to make any concessions to the UK. We have decided to leave and it is for us to choose from the modes available the model for future trade.

We've had several months to get to grips with the issues and come up with a proposal, but each time they produce amateurish garbage to the point where their understanding is actually regressing. There is, therefore, a vanishingly small chance of a deal.

We are, therefore, in the last chance saloon. May either has to concede to single market membership - or walk away. Since the ultras have a head full of "fwee twade" radicalism, they will not allow her to concede. They will push us over the cliff.

Only a radical change of government can now change course. Mrs May has boxed herself in on all sides and cannot carry off an EEA Brexit without the support of the opposite benches in the House of Stupid - and even they cannot be trusted to get it right. We've had it, basically.

Endgame.


I cannot contain my loathing of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and John Redwood et al. They are wreckers and liars manipulating the stupid and the easily led.

When you've been in a political and economic union for forty years things get a bit complicated. There is layer upon layer of complexity and no one person understands it all and never will. It's massive and anyone claiming to understand it fully is lying or overconfident.

For instance, the aviation sector covers everything from landing slots to safety certification where often it is difficult to tell what is an EU competence and where the line of delineation is between the EU and the nation state.

The same is true of energy and utilities. Legal systems are interwoven and embody all manner of standards where it is never immediately obvious where they come from - and this is an issue where even the Commission can't keep track of it.

A lot of technical governance is eminently sensible and when it is expert led regulation for a specific purpose then it makes sense to pool research and experiences to produce it. Then there's trade governance which again makes a lot of sense.

There are then measures which are either vanity projects - entirely politically motivated, or directives designed to weaken national control on things like energy markets and force interdependency. This is supranationalist ideology at work.

Here the great difficulty is telling them all apart. What do we want to keep and what do we want to junk? And obviously, if we are junking certain bits of it the EU will have its own view as to what it is prepared to entertain.

And when you have established regulatory systems of labyrinthine complexity, it is not so easy to unpick them, and not actually valuable to do so. Changing them from being integrated systems to standalone regulatory regimes is no easy feat.

Everybody and their dog has an opinion on how it can be done but usually they're speaking in terms of trade in goods which says nothing of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, maritime surveillance. It would take years of study for any one person just to understand the fishing regime.

And then in blunders the Brexit clown car with Johnson's aspirational guff, bypassing the details entirely while snakes like JRM and Redwood offer their simplistic nostrums - plucked out of the air while possessing zero subject knowledge.

All the while JRM offers us his "insight" on why we can trade on WTO terms alone - wilfully avoiding the issue of non tariff barriers and the multitude of other areas beyond trade in goods. He's not thick so we can put it down to mendacity.

So here we are at a crucial point in history - upon which our wealth, prosperity and international standing turns - and we have a band of liars making things up, denying reality and throwing tantrums every time someone attempts to address the reality.

Of itself that is objectively disgusting. They lie without remorse, they fabricate, they deflect and they evade. There is no dialogue. Only propaganda. And worst of all, they think it's funny. They pretend details don't matter.

Rees-Mogg is a skilled political operator. He knows exactly how to manipulate the weak-minded which is why he has a loyal following of intellectually subnormal kippers. He's leveraging that to visit an economic calamity on us.

Meanwhile the oafish Johnson doesn't even have an agenda for the country. His sole concern is his personal ambition and in pursuit of that, any lie will do. He knows his persona still cons plenty of ordinary people.

Meanwhile they have their stooges in the Tory apparatus to do their dirty work for them, not least the TPA and Low Fact Chloe, along with the unbelievably dishonest BrexitCentral and the IEA. It's pure propaganda.

So far as they are concerned, forty years of technical integration can be undone at the stroke of a pen, and who cares who gets hurt or how it damages relationships with our allies? Not least those we trade with via the EU.

These are men without principle, without decency, without honour. They are the saboteurs and wreckers. They don't care about Brexit. Brexit to them is just a window of opportunity for their dogmatic "free trade" ideas - all of which are bullshit.

Certain laws and Blogger terms and conditions prevent me from saying in full what I think of these men - and what should be done to them, but if there is a hell, they are surely going there. Where else would evil go?

It now looks like no deal is unavoidable. Mrs May has gone as far as she can go, politically, with the White Paper. Yet this cannot be accepted by the EU. Thus, when the EU rejects it - which they must do - this opens the way for a "no deal" walk-out

The only thing is that Brussels must be aware of this. They will be calculating the odds and working out their own game plan. They'll say "we're nearly there", right up to the time the shutters come down, calling right up to the very last minute for more UK proposals.

Thus, we will get a time expiry without any dramatic rejection and UK walk-out. The EU then unilaterally implements time-limited mitigating measures which keep the show on the road more or less. These will be hailed as "concessions" by the UK and treated as a victory.

But they will be a trap. Unilaterally given, they can be unilaterally withdrawn - with staged removal as the EU/MS get their systems in place. Progressively, we find the walls closing in, a slow-motion train wreck rather than a big-bang.

The UK will then have to come, cap in hand, to Brussels, asking for a deal, which will be set entirely on the EU's terms. We will be royally shafted. That's when the screaming will start and politics starts to fall apart.

Meanwhile, the Ultras have over-reached themselves. They have set themselves up for a fall, claiming that "no deal" is benign. When the shit hits the fan, they will need to go into hiding. Even their local associations will want blood.

They'll try the meme that its "punishment" from the EU, but the EU is already onto that one. It won't stick. The key will be when the media turns against them and the politicians start panicking. At that point the Tory right is finished.

They are already on thin ice, with their support waning and in so doing they are eroding support for Brexit. There is still a way to go before the final whistle and plenty time yet to expose their game and shout it from the rooftops.

We may not be able to stop them and they will hold Mrs May hostage right to the end, if indeed they do not remove her. But that will be their final miscalculation. After that they are done.

So as much as we need to prepare for no deal - which is inevitable, we must mount up the pressure to join Efta as soon as the shit hits the fan - by which time many will have dropped their objection to it out of necessity and there'll be nothing to stop the next government.

This is why you, dear reader must be primed and get to grips with the EEA Efta arguments. Brexit can still be salvaged after the fact. A "no deal" will destroy the "ultras" and in a crisis scenario that follows, people will be disposed to listen to a reasoned solution.

I do not see that there is any way to stop them for the moment, so we are all passengers of events for the time being, but we can ensure that they are punished for what they are about to do to us and that they do not get away with it.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

The Brexit problem


Why have Brexit talks gone all to hell? The problem starts with Westminster. Problematic are the ideologues who push false narratives for their own deceitful ends. That will always be a feature of politics and this blog among others have documented it at length in respect of Brexit. But why, when they are in the minority are they not kept at bay? Why is parliament not asserting itself?

There are several problems here. Firstly we have some pretty low calibre MPs. Very few have understood the issues and most are incapable. that though can be forgiven to an extent in that it is not possible to be an expert in all things. This is why we have a committee system.

What we have seen there though is a procession of chancers, media whores, think tank wonks and bosses, none of whom have been able to shed any real light on how things work or what is happening. I've watched countless hours of trade committee meetings and though there are some experts capable of reciting the Janet and John basics, it is still only a recital which, without direction, is little more than a collection of factoids for MPs to play with.

We now have a handful of MPs who are dimly aware of how trade works but are still asking all the wrong questions of the wrong people and experts tend to be technicians who haven't thought about the situation in the round. To make use of information you must have some direction and some sort of vision but technocrats have no real skin in the game. Either way they will enjoy an insulated career in Whitehall.

But it wouldn't even matter if that system was working. From the beginning I've been told that more would listen to me if only I were nmot so abrasive. But there are plenty of others in the game who have behave in an exemplary fashion who find themselves equally excluded and unable to influence proceedings.

Essentially MPs are just lobby fodder and most back-benchers are total unknowns with virtually zero public profile and have every intention of keeping that it that way. Why rock the boat? Closer to government though there are factions at work - divisions between the senior ranks of the civil service, the treasury and Number Ten. Unless you have their ear, you're not even in the game.

And that's part of the problem. To have the ear of ministers you have to be in London and dripping with prestige. This is why various long established think tanks with central London addresses are able to pollute the debate with their ignorance. At one time think tanks may have been the home of experts and thinkers but now they mainly serve as career vessels for politicos keen to climb the greasy pole and make a tidy sum in the process.

Not only do they not listen to others, believing they know it all, they are keen to safeguard their monopoly on influence, making sure that the attention of ministers never wanders. This is how bubbles are formed.

What makes it worse is that these people do not trade in knowledge. Information is orally transmitted over Twitter or in briefings and there are few in the system who will take the time to learn for themselves how things work. This is why with careful probing it is easy to see who is faking it.

That though is not happening because our media lacks the curiosity and expertise to probe and challenge wonks and politicians. Tune into Sunday morning TV and Andrew Marr or Nick Robinson are only interested in the Westminster theatricals and have no real subject knowledge. Consequently the likes of the Taxpayer's Alliance and the IEA can field witless girlies (of both sexes) on demand to fill airtime with total drivel.

We therefore have no filtration system where misnomers are broadcast to the nation and misapprehensions spread like a virus. This is essentially why so many people have the wrong end of the stick in respect of the Norway Option - not least because the argument turns on detail which is something television media routinely fails at.

All the while the media pack tends to be made up of court scribes who are only interested in who is resigning or plotting a leadership bid or who is sleeping with who. they are interested in politicians, but not policy. The consequence of this is a public incapable of engaging with politics on an adult level.

Very often I see tweets from people who should know better who like Boris Johnson not because of what he is especially but because he "triggers" the opposition. Politics has become a form of cheap entertainment where viewers pick their team and tune in for showdowns. Issues and consequences do not seem to register.

Adding to this toxic trend is the gradual attrition of newsmedia. Paywalls have turned newspapers into gated communities serving their respective tribes, with the Telegraph becoming ever more unhinged, and the Guardian only just holding its own as a credible news source. Then there's the Times - the newspaper of record, read by politicians and high society - relying on established known hacks from the days of the dead tree media. They are trusted even though there is zero basis on which to take them remotely seriously.

These are hacks who assume they know it all and have their finger on the pulse where we mere mortals could never reach. They therefore assume they do not need to listen to the rest of us and will take no correction from us. Oliver Kamm and Matthew Parris being prime examples.

As this blog has highlighted before, there is no establishment as such - but there are establishments (plural) - all of whom have created their own official narratives with appointed gatekeepers who are perpetually in transmit mode only. There is no dialogue. They see their job to transmit and ours to listen and adore.

Collectively the Westminster bubble is an alien creature with alien habits and values with its own misapprehensions, paranoias and superstitions. It is insular, inbred and estranged from the public - largely getting its impression of the public from the distorted prism of media and selective polls. It is not listening to messages from the public. It is deaf to us and it is similarly deaf to Brussels.

This is nothing at all new. this dynamic has existed all of my adult life and for a long time before. The internet has made it manifestly worse and I think the rot set in when we put television cameras in the House of Commons. This is partly responsible for the PR driven politics of the Blair/Cameron era. The politics we are all so sick of.

This spawned a number of pundit driven television programmes largely produced by media students and interns with very little adult supervision. Who actually decided that Brexit could be analysed and explained to us by Michael Portillo and Liz Kendall sitting on a sofa in Millbank?

For a long time politics has degraded into a playground for circus freaks, sociopaths and the intellectually subnormal. It is easy to see why they are near universally despised and in hindsight not at all difficult to see why the public voted for Brexit.

As it happens, with Brussels taking care of technical governance and local authorities doing a half decent job of emptying the bins and other mundane duties, we have been able to tolerate politics as entertainment, and have allowed it to spiral into the abyss. When they are not tasked with managing change and ever more functions of government run by the private sector, there is only so much damage they can do.

Brexit, however, requires a different breed of politician. We need diligent, intelligent and conscientious when what we have is lazy, feckless and stupid. We have tasked the biggest political change since the Second World War to a pack of narcissistic quarterwits. There was never any possibility of them getting it right.

This has in recent days and weeks caused many to regret their vote to leave. I am not one of them. The Leave Alliance is on record as having outlined ways in which the government could have successfully managed the process but we were always going to be drowned out by the ambitious greasy pole climbers inside the bubble. The fault is not ours.

A smooth and stable departure was always achievable on paper but various Tory decisions have taken us down a different path. My preference would be that we don't hit the rocks but if we do then it will trigger a major political crisis that will sweep them all from power and forever tarnish the names of the politicians and think tanks who brought us to this point. The Westminster bubble needs a political enema.

One way or another the British public will show great fortitude and innovation in the event of no deal and through the following decade we will patch up a new definition of normal. What we are likely to see, though, is a general political collapse, a total fragmentation of the party system and an angry public no longer willing to tolerate their ineptitude.

Earlier in the week I went to meet a French journalist to fill him in on Brexit. He was interested in the local pressures which might have sparked Brexit. I gave him the usual spiel. A mixture of nostalgia, national pride, inequality, stagnant wages, insecure jobs, globalisation, urban decay, disillusionment, and a hatred of an out of touch London politics which is deaf to public concerns about immigration among other things.

It was at that point where it hit home how the EU is only incidental to the spectrum of disaffection. The EU is not so much the cause of our problems as it is a symptom of them. The EU locks in a particular economic paradigm that serves our middle classes relatively well but increasingly those who missed the property window are increasingly frozen out of jobs and assets. Pressures on incomes, spiralling rents, dilapidated public services all add to the sense that things are getting worse and we are losing ourselves in a free for all.

For as long as the economic settlement serves our ruling class well and EU membership means they take no responsibility for their own failings, they can carry on with their noses in the trough, wagging the finger at the working class for having unrefined opinions. Little wonder then that this is now a full blown culture war. And this is why there is no reasoned debate. Facts are a useless weapon in a culture war.

The public have been deceived so very often and cheated. Not least with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. They care that the leave campaign cheated by fiddling the books at the margins but the europhile political class have done everything in their power to deny us a say in matters pertaining to EU integration and opening up the borders.

Brexit isn't really about the EU at all. The EU is a dysfunctional mess and it's far worse for those trapped in monetary union and it has spectacularly backfired on Germany. EU member states will have their own political reckonings to contend with. We have already seen that happening in Italy and Austria.

I take the view that we could have withstood the turmoil in the EU because its dysfunction doesn't affect us all that much. For sure there are sclerotic policies and directives we could do without and we could certainly do without the expense of their vanity projects but the central problem is in London, not Brussels. So why Brexit?

Well it's really quite simple. Just listen to the arguments of the remainers. Stop Brexit! They say! Let us stop this so we can focus on the problems that caused the Brexit vote! But that's the thing. They won't act on anything. They've had long enough to listen and act and they have instead indulged themselves in their collective euro-delusions.

For as long as status quo suits them nothing is going to change. If we did stop Brexit they'd be back to their insular self-serving habits in no time at all - and when it comes to the next EU treaty they'd have learned none of the lessons and taken us in deeper without consent. This is why they want a second vote. They do not want their cosy paradigm disturbed.

Ultimately, the Brexit vote was the one and only opportunity for regime change. It's either that or give up on politics completely and just accept our role as serfs grazing on the land in the service of our London superiors. That doesn't work for me and it's not the life I want for the next generation. I choose to act now. I say let's have this out. Let's expose them and throw them out.

If Brexit talks fail, and I rather expect they will, then our politics will collapse - and not before time. There is too much anger bubbling away under the surface without meaningful representation and too many acute concerns going unheeded. As much as it will be a humiliation for our politics and skewer our complacency, it will also present a number of existential questions for the EU as it grapples with the Irish border. It will show precisely how little sovereignty Ireland has in responding to the problems.

My favourite saying at the moment is if we wish things to stay the same then everything must change. I think we are at that point. Our party politics no longer works and there are no obvious contenders waiting in the wings. Parliament will not reform itself and and it will take some impetus from the outside. The public is no more going to tolerate a Corbyn government than it is this present pack of Tories. I don't know how it pans out, but we cannot carry on like this.

Still nothing.

It has been a quiet week for Brexit events. That, though, really depends on your perspective. If you're a follower of Westminster affairs then it has been busy with a higher volume of noise. That to me is not newsworthy. Whatever parliamentarians agree between themselves is largely irrelevant without reference to what the EU might have to say about it.

Yesterday we saw MPs preening on Twitter that they've secured an amendment to keep us in  the European Medicines Agency. This, of course, is only possible as EEA an member - and they might as well have voted on moon cheese quotas.

Similarly I have not invested too much effort in picking apart the Chequers proposal in that there was never any chance the EU would accept it. Various noises from Brussels have already confirmed this so we are really no further forward than we were some weeks ago.

It therefore comes back to domestic politics and the scheming on the back benches which is both unpredictable and tedious. Every moment they waste brings us closer to a calamitous no deal Brexit and there's not a lot any of us can do about that.

Meanwhile, various voices in the Tory sphere have suddenly discovered the EEA option as a "safe harbour" with some suggesting we could use the EEA for a short spell - failing to note that it would take three to four years just to finalise such an arrangement. As usual there lacks the coherence to come up with any strategy worth its name - so again, there is nothing at all new to report.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Thank you.

Over the last few posts I have appealed for donations as I've let one or two things slide while concentrating on Brexit matters. One does not like to ask but every now and then circumstances demand it.

Now that I have, I've been touched and humbled by the response. It's nice to know the work of this blog is valued especially when it doesn't always feel that way. I have sent a number of individual thank you notes - though gmail's threading system means I may have missed one or two. If I missed you please accept my apologies.

We are now at a point where events have taken on a life of their own and even those with more influence than this humble blogger are just as much a passenger of events. It is now largely out of our hands. I will, however, continue to record and analyse events as a matter of record. We are rapidly approaching crunch time and things are about to get interesting. Finally.

Please accept my thanks and gratitude for your continued readership and support.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Brexit: the longest drop...


While our politicians scurry around for clues as to how to avoid the Brexit cliff edge it seems there is a bigger one on the horizon. Even if by some miracle we avoid the economic cliff edge, there is a political cliff edge approaching and there's nothing we can do about it.

As it happens even the softest of Brexits is still going to have a serious impact.and our politicians are simply not equipped to handle it. This current generation of politicians has never had to respond to a serious crisis and the last two years has done little to prepare them.

What's more troubling is that things can only get worse. As much as I'm betting we will leave the EU without a deal I think the Tories are certain to lose the next election leaving us with a hopelessly inept Labour party at the helm. That election though will be a landslide victory for the Meh party - the millions of voters who stay at home having nothing at all to vote for.

Certainly there is no possibility of me voting Tory now. My local MP being Jack Lopresti - an ultra Brexiter who casually brushes off concerns in respect of Airbus - the main employer in his constituency. Meanwhile there are rumblings that Ukip may get back in the game.

Unlike previous elections though, the disaffection will have no obvious vehicle. For all that the continuity remainers have demonstrated an impressive ability to mobilise a mob, there is no obvious political home for them and there are plenty of conservatives who no longer recognise their own party.

By then there will be brushfires all over the place with only limited means to put them out. Whatever agenda Corbyn may have in mind, we will be too busy and too broke for him to push through any transformative agenda. It won't take long for the wheels to fall off that particular bus. If it isn't already apparent that we lack the political talent to navigate the turmoil of the coming years then it soon will be.

It won't take very long for political infighting to spread in every direction with nobody capable of mobilising a coherent political force. Bizarrely only the SNP looks like an organised force. It would be a supreme irony if they ended up forming part of the next government.

The problem central to this is that ever since Blair and the emergence of presentation politics, successive parties have sought power for its own sake with no real agenda for government. They announce their intentions to tinker with policy or splurge on a pet project - usually a white elephant, but none have had a grand design or a vision much less any idea of how to implement one.

What we find when they do take power office is that they are little more than administrators responding to various upsets but largely doing nothing beyond rolling over the agenda of the previous government. Cameron's government was only really an exercise in accountancy, pruning the worst excesses of the Labour era but essentially the same set of PR obsessed social democrats.

The only thing in town that passes for a vision is Corbyn's resurrection of socialism which is little more than a delusion. Corbyn imagines that Brits are a huddled oppressed mass ready to rise up and seize the means of production, itching to renationalise railways. A non-solution to no problem we have.

We will soon see this pummelled by the onslaught of reality as problems arise of a complexity far beyond their ken. We are going to see incompetence we never imagined possible while the breadth and magnitude of problems consumes them. Meanwhile the public will be lose all patience, not only with politicians, but also the media. Omnishambles will be the new normal.

Here you may ask what has happened to us that we have lost our ability to govern. It should be obvious. These are pretty much the same people who were in government in 1997 onward. They have always been this useless. They just haven't been tasked with changed because inside the EU change doesn't happen. Processes and policies evolve - managed by technocrats deep inside the Commission and kept far away from politicians until they needs a rubber stamp.

It's actually a long time since politicians were entrusted to actually run anything. So long that we no longer have that institutional knowledge and we are not in the habit of self-governance. It's an art we shall have to re-learn.

Thankfully, much of the economy is not dependent on competent government. There are examples around the world where decades pass without a functioning government but life plods on somehow. Here we will see local government taking up some of the slack while Westminster implodes. That will be one of the more tangible benefits of Brexit.

Here is where I do not accept the finger wagging arguments of remainers who insist we leavers have brought chaos to the country. We were always going to have to go through this process. We were always going to have to wake up to the rot. We were always going to have to fight off the ideological fringes and rebuild our politics. This implosion was already an inevitability.

What Brexit gives us is the tools we need to rebuild. As we try to restore the functioning of government we can change what we need to change without asking Brussels for permission. We will have to revisit long established policies and rethink them. We will have to re-engage civil society to guide it. We will have to consult and organise. Once again policy will have to be research driven.

It is through this process we will see who is up to the task and who isn't. The Diane Abbotts of this world will be swept aside in favour of anyone with a command of the issues. Our tolerance for incompetence will evaporate.

And there's the thing, see. We are all part of the problem here. We are the ones who tolerated mediocrity. We are the ones who let politics go on autopilot. We are the ones who decided politics wasn't important enough to engage with on a serious level. We are the ones who treat it as tribal entertainment.

Here I paraphrase philosopher and comedian, George Carlin. "Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from British parents and British families, British homes, British schools, British churches, British businesses and British universities, and they are elected by British citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders".

It would seem, therefore, that if we want to fix politics then we have to fix ourselves. The EU wasn't the cause of our problems. It was a symptom of it. If you give politicians the opportunity to offload their obligations and responsibilities while maintaining the status and income then they will grasp it with both hands. What you're left with is a venal, empty, vain shell surrounded by social climbers and parasites.

When I look at modern Britain I see a nation of infants and pampered adolescents. Especially so when I watch interviews with remainer protesters. Just look at pro-EU campaigner Femi Oluwole who exemplifies everything loathsome about the remain movement. Self-absorbed, superficial, shallow and preening. "Ask not what I can do for my country - ask what my supranational government can do for me". The same can be said of the little girl with the dog who produces crayon scrawl love letters to the EU while dressed as Wonder Woman.

This extends deeper into the left where we see a Guardianista brat pack led by Owen Jones. Staggeringly ignorant, possessing no subject knowledge, no real life experience, obnoxious and whiny. The type who would turn the other cheek to Pakistani rape gangs for the good of diversity. Censorious zealots ever keen to shut down debate.

Not for nothing has Brexit evolved into a culture war. Politics cannot withstand these creatures. The London metropolitan consensus does not work for the whole of the UK nor are the regions willing to tolerate its depravity. This is a generation who have never been told no, have never known austerity or hardship and feel entitled enough to suggest votes should be erased if they don't like the result. It's not just Brexit. They actually turn out to protest a general election result.

Of course these specimens are not representative of the whole country, but these are the wastrels our media lavishes attention upon, who then become influencers inside the bubble. I've seen this cycle time and again. The media is as much a part of the problem. These same cretins are running the media. The children have taken over. Brexit as much as anything gives us real problems to worry about where the startling inadequacy of our media will become apparent to all.

The point for me is that until this malaise is addressed there is no possibility of returning to good governance nor is there an obvious path to recovering our international standing and national morale. Our future prosperity depends not on trade deals and beancounting. It depends on restoring credibility and gravitas to our politics, putting the adults back in control and forcing the tough choices.

In or out of the EU the future was not rosy. We have accumulated too many systemic problems where, like Brexit, the critical decisions are routinely kicked into the long grass for political expediency. Habitually we firehose money at the NHS, while taxes spiral upward, all the while government is delivering less while our financial security is eroded.

Meanwhile look at the warning signals. Ukip may have evaporated and now there is not presently a vehicle for that disaffection it links arms with the Free Tommy brigade. Animus against Muslims is growing, for quite understandable reasons but with a risk that ordinary Muslims will become collateral damage. With a hamstrung state paralysed by political correctness and more concerned with managing media and slapping down dissent than addressing the problems, we are sliding into an abyss.

We have been indoctrinated with the idea of tolerance which is generally no bad thing but tolerance is an interesting word. You tolerate things with a view to them improving eventually. Improvement though is not happening. In many respects things are regressing. And if tolerance of immigration means an invitation to the intolerable on top of what we already have then politics can only turn nasty.

For a very long time now I've been living in anticipation of a political collapse. It has influenced a number of my life choices where I have prized mobility over assets. I've always known things could not continue in this way. Brexit to me was the one and only chance to arrest the decline. Yes, it disturbs our relatively easy living, yes it comes at a great cost, and we will all pay a price for it, but we will pay a greater price should we shrink from this responsibility.

Ultimately we are here because our politicians have shed so many of their obligations and handed away so many vital powers. It is they who have wrapped up all of our external relations in one treaty system. It is they who have put all the eggs on one basket and they have introduced this vulnerability into the system. Giving up control was always a national security threat and it was always going to cost a great deal to repair their mistake.



_____

Additional: This blog and associated Twitter threads are funded entirely by donations. If you feel inclined, now would be a very good time. Thank you.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Just so long as we leave...


As eureferendum.com notes, the government's white paper on Brexit is a sleight of hand. In ruling out the Northern Ireland backstop in favour of a goods only single market agreement they have sought to leverage the backstop position as a whole UK solution. At various points along the way I've seen this ruled out - if not indirectly, then ruled out by way of a restatement of principles. No cherry picking.

With closer examination of the details we see the proposal is little more than the same old conceptual errors repackaged. It actually doesn't warrant a forensic debunking because the EU has no choice but to decline it. What we need to see is the EU putting its foot down and making an offer of its own because nothing else will focus minds. It has to be an ultimatum.

I do not think, though, that the EU will do this. The chatter from Brussels would indicate that there is little hope of a coherent proposal from the UK and as it happens there is also a view that the EU doesn't know what it wants either. I actually think the EU has been quite accommodating and is willing to entertain anything which is legally compatible and in line with their principles but that limits the options for the UK.

My error in all of this was the belief that Mrs May would be boxed in by reality and the arguments for the EEA would eventually become overwhelming and obvious. But then as some rightly note, one can go native and be so absorbed in the detail that one forgets the politics.

Though Vote Leave Ltd had no plan, the repetition of the control mantras - borders, money, laws and trade is an established fact on the battlefield and it will not yield to a pragmatic solution even if it is in the national interest.

This is partly to do with the effectiveness of Brexiter propaganda which has been so successful in shifting the goalposts to define concessions of any kind as a betrayal of Brexit. It wouldn't even matter if the white paper was workable. They control the narrative and will accept no outcome other than no deal.

My thinking at this time is that a deal is unlikely. Events have taken on a life of their own. The ultra Brexiteers have their economic agenda but the ground troops don't care either way. All that matters to them is that the progressives lose. This is culture war in full effect.

And you know what? When it comes down to it, I'm with them. I would every much like to see a negotiated Brexit and the orderly departure I have campaigned for all this time, but actually the culture question is possibly more urgent than the economic question.

Looking at it in the round there was never any real possibility that it wouldn't be a poisoned chalice. Trust in politics has collapsed, made manifestly worse by the meddling of Gina Miller and the House of Lords, with the ever present suspicion that even Theresa May is a remainer. All the while we see the Stalinesque pronouncements of Andrew Adonis and antidemocratic goblins like AC Grayling - and how much they hold ordinary people in contempt. It is easy to see why the public would want to destroy everything they value.

The point though, is that functioning politics should be able to withstand these divisions. There should be some sense of overarching commonality, but with the main parties having long since degenerated into retail politics, selling out their beliefs, leaving empty corporate husks for political parties - so easily captured by their extremes, it tells us that politics as we know it cannot be salvaged.

Consequently, any Brexit solution that in any way provides cover for the status quo may well lock in the rot and disaffection to the point where things get worse. This is just one of those situations where things have to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. There are too may issues Brexit has become a proxy for, be it Pakistani rape gangs or the dysfunction of our courts. Brexit is not an administrative process. It's a war.

If fact, it says much that many of the recognisable figures form the continuity remain campaign were spotted at the anti-Trump demonstration. A generic left wing protest for hobbyist and professional protesters. More than anything it is an expression of middle class privilege - not least when it gets ample television coverage when the Football Lads Alliance marches do not.

A while ago, a post from this blog went viral having been picked up by a Guardian hack. One post got more hits in a week than the rest of the blog combined. It was irritating for me because it was by far from my best writing, probably under the influence of Blossom Hill in one of my lows, where I described a dystopian Brexit hinting at one of themes of this blog; that the UK has become infantilised and spoiled and could use a hefty dose of reality. There is nothing like and anti-POTUS demonstration to reinforce that view.

I am, therefore, in the most unusual position of not caring especially how we leave just so long as we do. British political culture needs an enema and if we can't have the EEA Efta solution then a collective experience to demonstrate just how far we have fallen would be long overdue medicine.

Up to press the Tories are kept alive and in the game by a fear of Corbyn. That has proven to be a most potent weapon - and pretty convincing argument for sticking with the Tories come what may. But there is a sense afoot among those who think like me that the Tories are so far departed from what actual conservatism is, driven by hyperglobalist free-marketeers, that Corbyn is actually conservative defence who will hold the line until we have adapted to the worst of Brexit.

Certainly so far as I am concerned, the effects of a no deal Brexit are about as bad as anything Corbyn could do in normal circumstances - so in for a penny, in for a pound. Corbynophobia is not sufficient reason to vote Tory when they are held hostage by the Tory right.

What lies ahead is bitter and personal recrimination, and we can expect the remainers to declare all out war. Anyone who thought Brexit would resolve the European question was mistaken. This is a fight to the death. A battle for the soul of Britain.


____

Changing the subject for a moment, though, this blog has been running for the better part of three years along with daily Twitter activity. Some of it is funded by the Leave Alliance but the rest comes from donations. I should ask more often than I do but I hate asking. I've been able to scrape by but having been entirely devoted to this cause, learning as I go with the hope of informing the debate, I've accumulated a small pile of unattended bills - and have received a letter from the council threatening imprisonment if I do not address my council tax arrears. As it happens I am not all that keen on the idea. Please donate if you can. 

Friday, 13 July 2018

Too much drift...


So we've had the white paper on the future relationship and yet again Number Ten has failed to grasp the basics. It's a repackaged version of the Florence speech and their understanding has not advanced since then.

It attempts to create a single market lite for goods while disregarding all that has been said by Brussels, afford itself the ability to align where it pleases and diverge on a whim without any of the obligations that come with an enhanced trade agreement.

The fundamental flaw in their understanding stems from the assumption the EU is playing hardball over cherry picking but will fold in the final hour. This is not going to happen. No cherry picking means no cherry picking.

The future agreement is going to have to be compatible with both EU law and WTO law. Certain conventions must be observed lest the EU be granting preferences it would have to give to others - which it doesn't want to do - and I don't blame them.

The UK may enjoy certain diplomatic recognition as a close partner but in legal terms it will be treated no differently to any other third country. That is the fundamental principle of the WTO system. We can't just pluck mechanisms out of the air to circumvent the rules.

Designing a solution to this problem is more akin with software engineering than trade negotiations. We are developing an API to a third party software system. That's what the single market is. Software with OEM hardware.

And like software engineering you can create workarounds and fudges but you can't defy the fundamentals of the system, and functions still return either a one or a zero. Either it works or it does not. To build something that works you have to understand the rules of the system.

The prime directive in this instance is that any API for the UK must safeguard the integrity of the system. It will not make a security back door in the firewall especially when the UK is seeking to diverge, inviting others to use that back door.

Moreover the EU already has an extensive API for the single market. The EEA. It comes with rights and obligations but it is a system and it is available to the UK. Since the UK has snubbed it, an FTA is the only thing in the cupboard that respects UK red lines.

That means in legal terms the UK becomes a third country and will enjoy no exception not already granted to third countries. If we want/need more than that the the EEA is the only game in town. That isn't going to change.

My feeling is that the EU is allowing too much drift in these negotiations. It should by now have concluded that the UK government does not have a grasp of the issues and the longer it drags on the worse they get. And that's dangerous.

Obviously a no deal Brexit is going to hurt the UK more than it hurts them but they are not immune from the effects either and no deal will have serious ramifications for Ireland in terms of trade and politics. It will also damage the EUs ability to operate.

The short of it being that the EU needs a deal almost as much as we do - not least because there is a political fallout if it fails. Letting the UK drift off point chasing after its own solipsistic delusions means the fallout will be greater when the EU is forced to say no.

Up to press they have given the UK all the space it needs to negotiate a domestic proposal but dropping only hints and steering suggestions all of which have been ignored. The "no cherry picking" slogans have fallen on deaf ears.

Meanwhile we're getting mixed messages with the EU parliament at odds with Barnier, suggesting an association agreement can go further than in scope. There is a lack of message discipline which only encourages UK delusions.

I take the view that the EU needs to put its foot down and lock it down to the two options - FTA or EEA. It's ultimatum time. If it doesn't then the UK will only beef up its undeliverable fiction persuading itself it is softening its own lines.

That then reinforces their perception of "EU intransigence" when yet again the EU refuses what seems, to the uninitiated, a reasonable proposition. Some may then reasonably conclude that the EU doesn't want a deal and will take is as a cue to walk out.

The bottom line is that if the UK government has not by now grasped the basics then it is never going to. Our politics is too dysfunctional, woefully under-informed and complacent. We have run out of time and we can afford no more of this pratting about.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Nothing new


On the matter of the Chequers Plan, this is where we're let down by our media the most. They indulge in the betrayal narrative because it suits their court scribe approach to politics rather than offering serious analysis. Even a basic knowledge of EU trade tells you this plan won't fly.

Yesterday I sat and listened attentively to Liam Fox speaking to the International Trade Committee. My impression of Fox is a man who has mastered the terminology of trade having a vague conceptual grasp of what it means, but has no concept of trade as a system and is especially naive about how these mechanisms interrelate and the ramifications of each deal on the next.

Fox criticises the increase in G20 non tariff barriers. This being the man who insists we leave the single market resulting in masses of NTBs with our nearest and largest single trading partner. Go figure. Then on the Chequers plan I can say with absolute certainty that it has a zero percent chance of being accepted by Brussels.

The common rulebook proposed simply does not exist - so it would need to be a bespoke set of rules based on complex rules which don't work independently of the regulatory system they were designed for. Moreover the single market is not a rule book. It is a system.

But our government seems to think it can define the bare minimum set of rules, disregarding everything it doesn't want oblivious to the fact that the single market is an integrated system to preserve standards integrity. It does not do such deals with those who mix and match.

It also presupposes than that goods can be usefully broken out of the single market stack, while also allowing us the ability to diverge for the sake of third party deals. This is a variation of the Legatum nonsense which Brussels already rules out.

And this is without even going into the proposed mechanism for dealing with the customs union aspect - which is so completely issue illiterate it's not even worth mentioning. Nobody on either side of the debate thinks it is practical or grounded in reality.

Meanwhile we have Mr Mogg attempting to scupper an NI solution (pictured above) - which to be fair is an abysmal proposal - but it is the one and only legally compatible option. The EU did not propose it for shits and giggles. They simply followed the logic of the system.

So we are wasting an enormous amount of time and political capital, not to mention column inches, churning over total fabrications and delusions, while whittling down the options to just two. No deal or EEA - the latter being the only proposal that could ever have worked.

Myself and the Leave Alliance have been saying this since long before the referendum yet for all the collective efforts of the think tanks and industry associations they have totally failed to grasp the issues, producing total garbage. They can do that because they have prestige.

What we needed was a media capable of understanding the issues and ripping apart not only the politicians but also the self-appointed experts and wonks. But instead we have a pack of court eunuchs lacking any intellectual curiosity or journalistic vitality.

Perhaps now the football is over our media will grudgingly return to matter of importance but for all the value they add they may as well not bother. They will drift from one trivial confrontation to the next learning nothing as they go. This has to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Groundhog Day (again)


I'm starting to think the chances of a deal are closer to zero. There isn't enough coherence between the media, politicians, parties and policy wonks. they are all too easily distracted by trivia and Westminster sideshows.

The facts are that the EU has turned down any cake and eat it proposal on regulation and divergence and I find it is wise to take them at their word when they say no cherrypicking.

Loosely, the proposal from May is to leverage the NI solution into a while UK solution - which the EU has already declined. If anyone in government or close to it was paying attention they would have told May that the proposal is a stillborn.

Instead we get both the media and politicians talking about it as though it were a realistic proposal and one with a reasonable chance of progressing. That;s what happens inside a bubble. Events take on a life of their own.

The media runs with it because it is in their comfort zone of biff bam politics and leadership skulduggery which it finds more entertaining than actually reporting the facts. That then becomes a cottage industry.

Far worse than they though, are the trade wonks and industry reps who know full well this will fail but for their own self-gratification devote columns and PDFs to pointless analysis - then proposing their own equally useless solutions.

This would be variations on a customs union or a different twist on regulatory adoption - none of which adequately addresses the issues - while totally ignoring the one and only solution that answers the exam question.

That being that we need a whole UK solution that preserves the border status quo in Ireland and causes minimal disruption to trade. The only correct answer is the EEA. Anything else is intellectual masturbation.

If these people had any sense of urgency - and indeed any sense of belonging, they would drop the no skin in the game neutrality performance and categorically state what we know to be true. But they don't.

The reason for this is because they are parasitic social climbers with their eye on a job in Brussels and want to be seen to be refereeing the proceedings rather than being active in securing the right solution. Our wonks are primarily remainers and loyal only to themselves.

This in some respects validates Mrs May's view of metropolitan citizens of nowhere and further validates the public view that experts should be mistrusted. Not least since many of them still can't grasp the basics.

There are plenty of WTO literate people presenting themselves as authorities on trade - but the EU is a different animal made up of distinct systems and they tend to be ignorant of regulatory systems and especially the nuances of the EEA.

There is, therefore, a cacophony of noise, none of which is valuable - made worse by the fact that it has institutional prestige which means our moronic MPs will give amateurish nonsense all the exposure it craves.

Being that the media has no institutional memory it fails to clock that we have already been through the mill on all of these issues at least a dozen times and all they're doing now is perpetuating ignorance and erasing any progress we might have made.

We are, therefore, no closer to a solution, there is no narrative coherence, the misapprehensions have badly tainted perceptions, and in the background the Ultras are moving to block any solution that isn't a no deal Brexit.

Ultimately this has to go right up to the wire - all the way to a crisis point where the EU will have to set out an ultimatum and Mrs May will have to choose from either a wet border or the EEA. She could move to extend but that only means more unproductive bickering.

What she chooses, or whether she chooses at all is really anyone's guess. To avoid a crunch it would take some seismic and extraordinary moves by MPs to form a unity government but the tribal rot is too deep set so I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

In the end it does not matter whether parliament rubber stamps the Chequers proposal. For whatever pressure member states may place on the EU, the fundamental principles are not up for negotiation and though the EU can flex the rules it will not break them.

There seems to be an unreal expectation that the EU will fold at the last minute but that really is self-delusion. In all likelihood the EU has concluded that no viable proposal is coming and will simply wind down the clock and use the time to prepare for no deal. That, as they say, is that.


_____

Additional: This blog and associated Twitter threads are funded entirely by donations. If you feel inclined, now would be a very good time. Thank you.

Brexit: It's always been about democracy


Our disaffection with the EU is to do with a rogue establishment acting without consultation or consent, masking their true intentions. A parasitic band of incompetents who can't stop themselves shedding responsibility for governing.

We are persistently told that "we" have a veto - but by "we" he means the government - which as he illustrates, not only does our government not veto things WE don't want - it presses for further integration and expansion.

The decision to throw open our borders was not one openly debated. It just happened to us and it was too late to stop before we realised what was going on. And that is typical of most EU measures.

There lacks the early warning system, totally inadequate means of public scrutiny, and no real means for civil society to shape decisions - unless of course you're a lefty NGO who agrees with the EU agenda. Then once something is done it cannot be undone.

Time and again we find that competences have been handed over - or appropriated by the ECJ without public involvement and we learn the transfer of power is only ever away from the people. Argue if you will that the dysfunction is that of the UK's own democracy, and few are likely to disagree - but the EU as it has evolved is a symptom of the dysfunction in our own democracy and that of EU member states.

All too often policy is the groupthink of disconnected political elites carried away by their vanity, signing up to binding obligations and target driven policy that we all end up paying for in our utility bills - often made worse by lamentable national implementation.

And then we are told we should remain and reform - but our elites do not want to reform the EU. They like it as it is. It facilitates their vanity. They would never even ask for fundamental reform as indeed the supposedly Eurosceptic Cameron demonstrated.

You tell us that the EU is always reforming. For sure it tinkers with policies - taking anywhere up to ten years to repair its harmful policies, but that isn't reform of the entity we know as the EU. It does not change the nature of the beast.

The only way to fundamentally reform the EU is with a treaty and no treaty is ever going to return powers to the member states. It operates to the doctrine of a beneficial crisis where the answer to problems it caused is always "more Europe".

We might be able to secure the occasional opt out - and we can even control the speed - but never the destination. Being that the UK public has never shared that vision and is at odds with its elites, the only logical course of action is to leave it.

In the end the last two years have proved us leavers right. So much integration has gone on that so very few people understand what has been done to us or even how, or what all the systems are even for. We have little collective idea of who is responsible for what.

What makes it all the more amusing is even the EU's official feeds sometime confuse the single market with the customs union. How can a government that doesn't even understand itself ever be accountable?

And then when we look at the whole system, we cannot say where the nation state ends and the Eu begins because there is no line of delineation. The EU is a government and our own administration is a regional function of it. Merged beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

Then we throw globalisation into the mix and it is equally difficult to tell what is an EU initiative and what is the result of global conventions and standards. How then can we hope to have responsive and transparent government?

For all that this benign technocracy has its many advantages it has killed politics stone dead - where the politics we have is a detached and remote abstract - a proxy for meaningful politics. Consequently the decision-making is in the hands of technicians, not voters.

That is not to say that modern governance can be made simple or that we do not need experts - but we do need to see it in the light of day and ultimately the wisdom of the public should hold the ultimate veto over our rulers.

If we the people do not have that ultimate sovereignty not then you do not have a democracy. No amount of elaborate voting rituals and ceremonies will ever make a foreign technocratic monster a true democracy.

National democracy may be flawed, and the arcane rituals of the commons are seemingly opaque, but we at least know who should be held accountable. The moment powers are given to Brussels they can just as easily be outsourced to the emerging global technocracy.

As much as this is a question of what the EU is - which nobody seems to know, it is a question of the direction of travel. What we see is a European political elite that will do what it likes, when it likes, and in the end will ignore public sentiment.

We unwashed plebs may not understand your machine or appreciate the technical brilliance of it, but it's no sin not to want to. People just want their government where they can see it and the ability to get rid of it when they need to. The EU can never accommodate that wish.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

EEA is smart Brexit, not soft Brexit


The Leave Alliance is the only campaign to have produced a workable comprehensive plan. Our recommendation is to leave via the EEA. This is not because we are soft brexiteers.

We took the view that a vision without a plan is just a pipe dream. In beginning the analysis we first had to ask if the vision was achievable and relevant. That's where we first hit problems. The classic eurosceptic free trade mantra hasn't kept up with the times.

This is largely because free trade does not exist and has not existed for some time. A free trade deal is not free trade. It is regulated trade - and we find that in the era of globalisation the driver of intergovernmental trade talks is regulatory harmonisation.

Being that we have, unlike other countries, spent three decades in a harmonised ecosystem, a lot of our trade has evolved to suit that system. So in departing from that system we must offer a viable alternative. That's where things get messy.

This is because of the emergence of global standards and regulations which we discovered have enormous influence on what we'd always assumed were just Brussels regulation. This changes the game entirely. It limits the potential and the economic utility of deregulation.

That then certainly leaves a number of Tory Brexiter ideas out in the cold. We could leave the single market and diverge but this is at a point in history when all of the countries we have eyes on are converging on the global standard with a view to trading with the EU.

We then looked at the constraints of the Brexit process where Article 50 puts time constraints on us. Looking at the extent of EU integration there was never any possibility this could all be done in a hurry. From there we took the view that Brexit is a process, not an event.

It became clear that forty years of technical, legal, social, political and economic integration could not be unravelled overnight - and in a great many instances, undesirable to do so. So how do we separate the good from the bad?

We then had to do something that Tory Brexiters have not. We thought about what the EU point of view might be and the red lines it would likely hold us to. It became clear that an FTA would be entirely inadequate as either a destination or a means to manage the process.

We therefore needed a framework. A transition. Given the preparations we would need to make, it would have to be a longer term transition. We are still of the view that Mrs May's "vassal state" transition is not long enough.

So it became clear that we needed a departure lounge that avoided any cliff edges. Being that the EEA is an available framework covering all the relevant subject areas, it presents itself as the obvious way to manage it.

But then we enter the extensive discussions about the respective limitations of the EEA. Certainly it is suboptimal, but preferable to the alternatives. As a longer term destination though, the UK would probably find such a solution to be too restrictive for our size.

But then there are plenty of avenues available to us after we resolve the immediate issue of leaving. We could either look to negotiate a new relationship and declare our Efta membership temporary or throw our resources at developing Efta.

Since the referendum our understanding has evolved and we have come to appreciate the EEA agreement for what it is. An adaptive framework with country specific protocols. We can use the system to evolve the relationship.

By adding our weight to Efta - a respected entity in its own right, with members able to forge their own trade deals as well as having an enhanced preferential relationship with the EU, we can improve the EEA and re-balance the power equation.

We also took the pragmatic view that if we took the step into the EEA there would be no real incentive for the EU to start a new process and a new comprehensive framework for the sole benefit of the UK. Why bother when we can adapt what we have?

In doing so we would be leaving without a vassal state transition which could end up lasting a decade or more, and we would accomplish the first job of leaving the political union while minimising the economic damage.

In respect of that, this would honour the eurosceptic view that we want the best available trade with the EU, just not ever closer union and the final destination of the EU. Given the kind of technical integration which is mutually beneficial, it makes sense to keep the EEA.

But this then raises the vexed question of freedom of movement. Our view has always been that leaving the EU is the primary goal and immigration is a secondary issue and we deal with the issues in that order. Take the win and then address the FoM issue.

Here we find that under Article 112 of the EEA agreement there is a mechanism available to us and a precedent which would begin a political process to adapt freedom of movement. So would this be sufficient?

Obviously this does not appease the hard liners - but what we find is that we need a full spectrum policy of varying measures because modern immigration control is not done at the borders. We need an entirely new policy on immigration.

At this point we would be better looking to negotiate with our Efta allies for an EEA wide reform of FoM, where combined with voices from inside the EU, we could be kicking at an open door. The point is, though, that we were never going to resolve all of the issues all at once and it will take continual pressure to keep the Brexit momentum going. What concerns us most is securing the first step - leaving the EU safely.

By taking a harder line we risk either being in a perpetual state of transition only to move to a threadbare FTA, sacrificing substantial trade for ineffectual immigration controls which don't really address what people are really worried about.

We do not, therefore, see EEA as "soft Brexit". Rather we see it as the most efficient, clean, smart Brexit, taking into account the polticial obligation we have to Northern Ireland and the desire to remain open to trade with the EU. It works and it beats the alternatives.