Friday, 13 January 2017

Sounding like a remainer

I notice a lot of my recent posts are being picked up and praised by remainers. I'm getting retweets from CEOs, lawyers, professors and opposition MPs. People with whom I never expected to have common ground. So much so that the Brexiters are starting to say I sound like a remainer. But it turns out there are more reasonable people than there are demented zealots.

There is in fact plenty of common ground. There are die hard remainers and pig headed leavers and neither is going to find agreement with the other, or indeed the majority of reasonable people who accept that Brexit is happening whether they like it or not.

Reasonable remainers have the same aspirations I do. If Brexit is to happen then I want to see an orderly Brexit at a pace where our systems can keep up and we don't end up paying a high price for a bungled process. As much as I want to see a competent Brexit we must also have a fair Brexit. People have built their lives and their business on the basis of what they assumed were certainties. We have pulled the rug from under them and to an extent we have an obligation to them.

In this I have many visceral criticisms of leavers - as indeed I always have. What sticks in the craw for me is the many leavers who have been preaching for years that the EU is more than just a trade bloc - and is eating away at the fabric of our nation and undermining our sovereignty. It's a sentiment I agree with and I am glad we are leaving before it reaches a point of no return - but if this is the message you campaigned on then you cannot reasonably believe that 44 years of political, economic and social integration is undone at the stroke of a pen. The two positions are irreconcilable.

The dogmatic insistence that everything will be fine and the EU will roll over for us is to ignore the blistering complexity of the many mature systems that make up the EU and ensure the continuity of trade. As much as the EU is a political bloc it is also a government which has assumed responsibilities over multiple areas of technical policy which cannot be replaced by vague aspirations.

It also stands to reason that if we are dispensing with EU rules and consequently EU systems then we must have replacement systems and policies. To say that we can replace the EU with just a generic free trade deal is like ripping computers out air traffic control towers and giving controllers cups and string. As much as Brexit must be meticulously planned it must also be project managed. In this, in the absence of an official opposition in the commons it falls on all of us to demand clarity from our government and the space to be able to consider the options.

That said, I am deeply upset by the latest campaign by remainers to force the hand of government through the courts because all that is doing is increasing the perception that powerful vested interests are undermining Brexit and consequently it hardens resolve against a measured and sensible Brexit. It's counter productive - and taking the fate of the nation out of politics and into the courts is offensive. On all sides we are faced with obstinacy and ignorance in equal measure.

But that to me really hammers home the need for Brexit. Through the hubris of previous governments we have been taken further into an elaborate system of governance without direct consent - where the establishment was determined not to listen to the very valid concerns of citizens. Now that the process is in reverse exactly the same dynamic applies.

Over the last twenty years or so we have had a succession of electorally mandated dictatorships. The government is setting on a course of action and all of us are absolutely powerless to shape it. If we the people do not have power then by definition we are not a democracy.

In this respect I think that most of us can agree that there is insufficient accountability in the system, and looking at the dismal ineptitude of MPs we can say with certainty that the mechanism for holding government to account does not work. If you accept that then you must also accept that on that basis it impossible to have a democratic relationship with the EU which is every bit as remote, inept and directionless.

In this, Brexit does not fix anything but it has exposed just how far our politicians have abdicated their responsibilities. MPs who just seven months ago were telling us that our prosperity and safety depends on EU membership can not now, when challenged, define any of the components, systems or institutions. We have had a system of government in place which our elected representatives do not pay attention to, do not understand and, shamefully, don't care enough about to find out. The system has been on autopilot.

There are those who think this scenario is preferable and that the moment you introduce politicians to the process everything starts to go wrong. I have some sympathy with that view - but in terms of how it affects ordinary citizens, the results are there for all to see. Decisions of extraordinary magnitude are taken my the EU, often wiping out jobs at the stroke of a pen in pursuit of a greater good while increasing social exclusion and widening the gulf between the rulers and the ruled.

While Brexit does not give us a blank slate it gives us multiple opportunities to pause and reflect and where necessary change course. Consequently the process of Brexit should be to give ourselves to the tools to reshape our economy. For the first time in a very long time, just about every area of policy is up for debate with a new generation thinking afresh. I do not see this as a bad thing. What we must do though is ensure that the zealots on either side are drummed out of the equation.

I have seen the ugly side of Brexiteers and am routinely subjected to their bile but by the same token there are equally obnoxious and oafish remainers who have nothing of value to contribute. So much so that they would side with the Brexit lunatics because they want this enterprise to fail. Just how twisted is that?

For the time being, it doesn't matter very much what you or I think. Mrs May will do as she pleases in her own time and there's not a thing we can do about it. But that's really what has to change. If we are in a position where we are resorting to the courts to adjudicate on politics then we may as well dispense with politics. That is not a society I want to live in.

Instead we must seek alternatives and ensure that the legacy of Brexit is a renewed democracy where never again are we brought to the brink of ruin because of the hubris and arrogance of politicians over which we have no control. If we want to "take back control" then we need to take back control of our own government. MPs are clearly not up to the job.

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