Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Brexit displacement activity


Being it the Labour conference we are hearing noises about a "people's vote". The legacy remain campaign has successfully set the agenda. Being that the party is not in power, hopelessly weak and is nowhere near power, it cannot be said to be an achievement.

There isn't going to be a second referendum. To have one we would have to put Article 50 talks on hold which is not going to happen. Parliament would have to compel it and Brussels would have to agree to it.

But what would this referendum even be? Would it be a referendum on Chequers versus no deal or Chequers versus Remain? If it's the former then it's a pretty stupid idea because it would be a low turn out and there is a serious danger no deal would win. It it's the latter then it doesn't pass the Electoral Commission fairness test in that leavers would be railroaded into having to support something many do not see as honouring the referendum. Or so goes the narrative.

The only fair and coherent question we could put to the public is really just a re-run of the first referendum which seems somewhat pointless and victory is by no means assured for Remain. As an enterprise, a second referendum was always a bankrupt idea and if by now remain is still unable to provide a coherent framework as to how and when it would be accomplished then it is simply not an issue worth talking about.

If anything we are only having this debate as a matter of displacement activity since neither party is capable of coming up with a coherent Brexit policy and nothing that isn't contradicted by the close of business each day. This is why I am absolutely convinced that, unless the EU has a fudge in mind to kick the can down the road, we are drifting toward accidental Brexit.

What we are not seeing is any attempt to divine a course in reference to what Brussels is likely to accept. Labour is attempting to triangulate a position that will wrongfoot the Tories while also trying to appease the traditional voter base as well as the metropolitan remainer middle class. What Brussels thinks doesn't come into it.

As impossible as that task is the Tories fare no better with the IEA having launched "Plan A Plus", billed as an alternative to Chequers. We only need look at James Delingpole writing for Breitbart to see how they're weaving the narrative. "Chequers means Corbyn" we are told.

He describes how a Corbyn administration means the slaughter of every first born and the seven plagues, concluding that "until this morning, it seemed distinctly possible that the unthinkable might well come to pass. "What changed?" asks Delingpole. "The release of the Institute of Economic Affairs‘ (IEA) alternative Brexit plan – and its welcome by leading parliamentary Brexiteers, is what. You can tell it’s a game changer because all the usual Remainer suspects are pouring scorn on it".

And that there is about the level. Bovine. He hasn't read it, wouldn't know if it had merit, but so long as it triggers remainers then it can do no wrong. Then, according to Delingpole, it is further merited by way of who supports it... Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

What matters, says Delingpole, "is not so much what it says – you can read it here – as for the principles which underpin it and for the opportunities it offers the Conservative party to revitalise itself on lines which accord with the way the majority of people in Britain think".

That's funny actually, because what I thought mattered was having a plan that could adequately satisfy a number of Brexit objectives while also being acceptable to the EU. Whichever virtues it might signal are, at best, a secondary consideration. As it happens the plan comes nowhere close to satisfying its purpose. The plan is the usual collage of already dismantled nostrums and it shares many of the same fundamental flaws as the Chequers plan. 

But then Plan A Plus is not designed as a serious proposal. It is little more than a political device to wrong-foot Theresa May and to shore up the flagging credibility of the ERG who have done nothing more than snipe without having a plan of their own. Because Breitbart and BrexitCentral readers are gullible and intellectually subnormal they will obligingly pitch in to reinforce the IEA narrative. 

It is interesting, however, to see that there is absolutely zero organic uptake on the #PlanAPlus hashtag. It's a coordinated Toryboy circle jerk campaign for their deadbeat think tank and nobody outside of the bubble is paying it much attention. The reputation of the IEA is already tainted and unless you belong to a particular narrow sect on the Tory party, its author, Shanker Singham, is widely regarded as a fraud.

Being that the ERG and the IEA are not without resources and support they have made an impressive media footprint with this plan, and we can expect ERG MPs to keep battering Theresa May with it, but it can only ever serve as a political device because it sure as hell can't be used as a Brexit plan

None of this, though, is engaging with the task at hand. There is a negotiation underway and the clock is ticking. Our politics is unable to cope with the idea that there might be a third party in this equation. Brussels will not feature in their estimations until they're looking for someone to blame. We will see no discussion of acute issues until it's too late.

Despite all the noise there is actually very little to say about the Brexit process right now. All that matters is the destination - which right now looks like a crash and burn Brexit simply because our politics does not have the coherence for it to go any other way. Our entire political apparatus is indulging itself in their own respective fantasies, each talking past each other while managing to contribute nothing at all of any value. Plus ca change.

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