Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Yes, Brexit is a mess. So what?

This Tory government has next to no idea what it's doing. Brexiteers seem not to have a clue between them. They're a pretty dismal bunch. But then you do have to wonder how dumb you have to be to expect that leaving things as they are means everything sails along as normal.

It's all very well trotting out the I told you so's as Brexit descends into farce, but let's be fair here. Yes, David Davies is an arrogant quarterwit, yes Boris Johnson is an oafish slob, and yes Theresa May is out of her depth, but then what are the alternatives? Tim Farron? Jeremy Corbyn? Chuka Umunna?

To anyone with even a scintilla of intellect it is self evident that political competence is thin on the ground. The only thing even approaching sagely statesmen are the dinosaurs of previous governments who themselves were not known for competence. Certainly I'm not going to take any lectures on what is good for the country from John Major or Tony Blair.

It is not that Brexit is necessarily damaging either. A well managed departure could be more or less economically neutral. We're just going to suffer from a lack of domestic political adroitness. It is that lack of competence that ultimately makes Brexit necessary.

Our political class seems unable to grasp that there has been a seismic shift in global economics over the last decade. We escaped a global financial meltdown by the skin of our teeth and the cupboards are bare should there be another nasty surprise. Worse still, the old habits are drifting back.

Just this morning I noted Theresa May announcing that the Swansea Bay tidal barrage "is part of our plan to deliver an economy that works for everyone and will mean £1.3bn of investment and 9,000 jobs". They haven't learned anything.

We are not a country that can piss money away on eco-vanity projects any more. We stopped being that country in 2008. The politics of binge and splurge to keep the plebs in make-work jobs is dead in the water. We want the fundamentals addressed. 

As it happens I would bet on the Swansea bay barrage being the last such sticking plaster venture of its type (if it goes ahead at all). Brexit will see to that when there's no money in the kitty. Or at least I hope so. This notion that a Welsh super paddling pool is an investment is continuity Miliband. 

When people voted for Brexit, more than anything they were voting for change. The political class wasn't going to change. It hasn't even changed now. It's not going to change until they are forced to confront certain realities - that being that we are pretty much a hollowed out economy propped up by the City and we are pissing money away not to confront the issues but to mask them. 

Had we not voted to leave, we would have retained the Milibandesque economic model - and the EU would most certainly promote more of it. No doubt a big dollop of "EU funding" would have gone toward this and other such "green" energy projects. It's all in the game. Meanwhile if the UK's economic fundamentals are unsound then that goes double for most of the EU. 

Our European "elites" live in a fantasy world where the 2008 crash never happened, whereby they can keep writing cheques on our behalf, caring not a jot if they will bounce. We just don't have adults at the wheel. 

And this is why I could get more than a little bit cross with "liberal" remainers. They are infants. This so-called progressive dream world they inhabit does not seem to ever intersect with reality. They buy into the EU utopian image entirely uncritically. Greece is turning into a an internment camp for refugees. The Hungarian border is becoming a new iron curtain. The European far right makes our own look like the Women's Institute. By European standards we don't even have a far right.

Over the last couple of years things have never looked bleaker and the world is turning darker somehow. In this the EU stands crippled with indecision, passing the buck to member states in the face of crippling pressures. The EU doesn't even have a clear idea of its own destiny or direction. The stock answer of "more Europe" just means a further retreat into fantasy land.

The fact is that Britain no longer has the luxury of deferring the adult decisions. We need a pragmatic and cost effective energy policy. We very seriously need to rethink how we do healthcare. We need major land and planning reforms and we need a new approach to agriculture. In this virtually everything is bogged down by targets and EU social and environment policy. There was a time when we could afford such indulgences but that time has passed.

The ideals of 90's EU policy were built on a foundation of sand. Now that the tide is coming in, we need the realists back. As to whether that political competence still exists I do not know. We will have to rediscover it somehow. But we do have the next best thing to competence. We have wreckers.

I'm now pretty sure the Tories will make a pigs ear of Brexit. Even if I'm wrong and they do manage to pull off a workable settlement we are still up a certain creek.  But I would surmise that we have been up that creek for a while. We have travelled up the EU cul-de-sac to find we can go no further and we are out of ideas. To fix it, it is going to take something far larger and more profound than what our current political class can provide.

This now goes one of two ways. Either we confront and rid ourselves of the present political class and the system it inhabits or we surrender to it and pay the price. I am optimistic. The Tories are enjoying a firm lead at the moment - but I think it is an illusion that will melt away as soon as the effects of Brexit are known. We will then see their incompetence in the full light of day.

When that happens we will be presented with a pretty bleak choice. The Tories, or whatever else is on offer. There won't be much in it either way. We can expect the next government to be just as bad or worse and see major political strife.

Remainers would have it that Brexit sends us back to the dark days of the 70's and the winter of discontent. It very well might and in fact I rather hope it does - because that was a political reckoning that brought about a running dispute over a number of years - the result of which has defined my entire adult life. It brought about a new settlement for a new era. And that is what we need. This cycle is in terminal decay.

In that regard I have a certain respect even for the most cretinous of Brexiteers who at least recognises that it is time to start the ball rolling. There are those who mistakenly believe that Brexit leads to sunlit uplands and, for sure, that's pretty risible - but then the notion that remaining in the political stasis of EUtopia saves us from our fate is every bit as bankrupt.

When I look at anti-Brexit protesters I see petulant whining millennials and snobby middle class liberals who have never had it so good - and want to remain because they do not want the status quo to be disturbed. There is a word for that. Cowardice.

More than that, it is a a deep-seated insular selfishness that assumes that because economic tides do not affect them directly they can be denied outright - and that we can continue as we have been unabated. These are people who look at the existing political class and don't see very much wrong with it. Frankly, if you're looking at Tim Farron right now and think he's the one with answers, well, it's really you who's the inward looking thicko, isn't it?

No, the UK's problems are not solved by splurging money at the NHS. No, we're not going to revive the economy by borrowing and spending on green energy. HS2 isn't going to revive the north. Nor is another hashtag fad like the "Northern Powerhouse". No. We need hard headed adults back in charge making the decisions our present crop of politicians have been too gutless and too facile to take.

Some of us don't want to be treated like children and some of us would rather face up to reality. Remainers may whine, but politically they have had it all their own way for a generation. That's ok, we could afford them for a while. It's nice to take a break from grown up responsibilities every now and then. But times have changed and it is long past the time that kidult Britain put on the big boy pants.

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