Monday, 26 February 2018

A cacophony of noise


A speech today by Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit could be viewed as pivotal. By whom and for what reason I do not know since it is actually of zero importance. Labour has doubled down on cementing the notion that a customs union is in some way a solution to anything, offering us a mixed bag on intangibles all of which have previously been dismissed by Brussels and by the end of the week will be formally rejected. We are nowhere.

Though this should be a gift to the government, the Tories fare little better and labour under equally twisted misapprehensions. Though I have in recent months expended some considerable effort in attempting to correct the respective narratives, the national broadcaster has seen fit to misinform its audience thus ensuring there is no chance of coherence anywhere in the public domain. The BBC conflates product standard checks (the single market) with the customs union and equates the single market with immigration and nothing else.

We are, therefore, in a position where neither party knows what it wants or how to get it and continues to act in abstract to what has been said by Barnier and various other EU functionaries. Being that the clock is ticking it now looks like it will be Brussels deciding for us on the basis of our stated red lines and we will be given a deal to sign with little room for manoeuvre.

What is easily forgotten is that we have not as yet had a reckoning over the sequence of events. The government was skilfully able to gloss over the fact that a trade agreement will not be concluded in the Article 50 process and that realisation has yet to go mainstream. It would appear, though, that we are rapidly approaching the pile of tin cans kicked down the road and a battle royal is imminent.

If there is any positive development it is that there is such incoherence that the noise of the Tory right is temporarily drowned out. With an absolutely atomised debate and with no power blocs in parliament, the uncertainty is preferable to any one group having a decisive influence over events. This means that anything is possible and in the absence of an intelligible way forward the obvious may yet present itself. If I didn't believe there was some hope I would have packed in and moved on by now.

In this I am drawing on my experience as an amateur music producer. With all the tools now available, producing electronic music has never been easier, but to make the commercial grade (something I never quite managed) you have to master the production for maximum punch and volume. To do this you employ a technique called subtractive equalisation. Subtractive EQ is an equalization technique where you cut frequencies instead of boost to let specific sound or sounds to stand out better in the mix.

Typically one might take the low frequencies away from a hi-hat and boost the bass on a kick drum, thus giving the mix space to breathe. Through a time consuming process of deleting the unnecessary noise from the signal you arrive at something that sounds coherent and makes the best use of the frequency spectrum.

The same can be applied to Brexit. Right now the signal is nothing but white noise, but as Brussels removes unnecessary elements, our choices narrow whereupon our options become binary. We either accept what is given with its inevitable sacrifices or we take the default option. Gradually we are boxed in by reality.

Hitherto now, the debate has drifted in isolation of what is said on the continent, while the UK has indulged itself in arguably a necessary internal debate. Being that the debate is going nowhere, Brussels now has to put its foot down and respond officially to what is put forth. From there we delete certain assumptions and see what we are left with. It is then down to the government to choose from what is left.

Being that we can rule out "managed divergence" and a Swiss army knife variant of a customs union (all things to all men) we are left with the inescapable fact that only the EEA acquis solves the Irish border question, reducing the entire Brexit trade question to one of whether we do or do not want a hard border. When that decision is made, everything else will fall into place. Until then, all we have is incoherent noise with the EQ ticking into the red and gradually ruining the speakers.

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