Saturday, 13 April 2019

Brexiters for Remain

They say that battles are won or lost before they even begin. On June 22nd, 2016 I predicted on this blog that we would lose the referendum. Prior to the big day this blog charted a dismal campaign over many months where the leave campaign made every possible error. In the end we didn't win it. Remain lost it. That, though, was no real cause to celebrate. A day later I wrote on this blog "They will use every means at their disposal to keep us on the EU leash".
They will try as Cameron did, to present a new deal which they say is out of the EU but not actually out of the EU. And once again they will use every mechanism of state to commend it to us. They are not going to go without a fight.

So while you may celebrate the referendum victory, we are not out of the danger zone yet. All we have done is establish a beachhead. We have not yet taken the power back and there is a long road to travel before we have. That is why those who campaigned to leave the EU must keep up the pressure. We must demand of them that Brexit does actually mean Brexit and that we will not tolerate any funny business.
That much I was right about. We may have won the battle but we have not yet won the war. But then the reason we are here is very much down to the mistakes made in the early days - running a campaign based on lies on a foundation of intellectual sand, and without anything resembling a workable plan. Had the leave campaign come up with a prospectus to take us beyond the referendum, they would have greater credibility in calling any deviation from the prospectus a betrayal.

But then that was not the game of the Tory Brexit brigade. By keeping it vague they could use bait and switch tactics and shift the goalposts along the way so now they are saying virtually any deal is somehow a betrayal of the One True Brexit, which is, you guessed it... no deal. Having decided to play double or quits, the ERG have been every bit as instrumental in delaying Brexit as the remainers, putting the whole enterprise at risk.

But now I find myself in the most bizarre position of all. Having been a prolific campaigner for Flexcit centring on an EEA Efta approach, I was repeatedly told that Flexcit is not Brexit, and that the EEA was BRINO. The consequence of chucking out an option like that meant that the government would be free to devise its own vision of Brexit - where each of the red lines has gradually crumbled as we crash into the rocks of reality. 

So now it is down to three possible options. No deal, May's deal or no Brexit. I am of the view that if we crash out without a deal it won't take very long for the penny to drop that we cannot function as a third country with no formal agreement with the EU and in order to reopen talks we will need to accept whatever conditions demanded by Brussels meaning that our exports take a shellacking only to end up with a deal similar or worse than Theresa May's.

The Brexit blob, though see things differently. Being that they have written off any no deal warnings as "project fear", we are only one political act away from leaving without a deal and sailing off into the free trade sunset. There is not a lot I can do to dissuade them of this, and were I resigned to it I would just put my feet up and let them learn the hard way. Except, of course, this affects me and I am not giving up without a fight.

But then of those Ultras who are coming round to this uncomfortable reality, they now tell me they would rather remain than accept May's deal on account of it having too many ties to Brussels and no unilateral means of exit. So the plan The Leave Alliance put forward (which was a softer Brexit than May's Brexit) wasn't good enough for them (even though it would have us out by now) - and now when the going gets tough, they're the ones resigning themselves to staying in the EU. 

This is one of those "turns to camera" moments for me. I can scarcely believe the stupidity and futility of it all. Nobody wants to leave the EU more than me and now I'm the one being "betrayed" by the very people who have stamped their feet and whinged for the last three years.

Then we get the Julia Dunning-Krugers of this world telling us that May's deal is not Brexit at all and that Brexit has been completely betrayed. According to her #Standup4Brexit following, anything resembling a customs union is not leaving the EU, despite the fact that the deal is not actually a customs union, is transient in nature and with formal ambitions to replace it in the event of its activation.

All May's deal does is put nominal restrictions on which tariffs we can tinker with which we need to keep roughly where they are for the next ten years or so anyway just for the purposes of rolling over third party agreements. It is but a sliver of the EU machinery and May's deal, suboptimal though it may be, definitely is Brexit and starts the long process rolling. 

At work here is a refusal to understand that Brexit is a process rather than an event and that a no ties, no deal scenario is not only optimal but also not sustainable. This simply does not bear any resemblance to the reality of modern trade. You can then perhaps understand why I am in no rush to support a Brexit party when they have converged on this deeply flawed idea that will result in a worse outcome than May's deal or very possibly lead to not leaving at all.

We are, therefore, in a position where the debate is now almost completely polarised between two equally flawed positions, both of which lead to a decade or more of political and economic turmoil and instability. Remaining is not without its risks. Those of us who do want to see a managed departure without hammering our exports and destroying our international relations seem to be in the extreme minority. I might even be the last person alive who is actually serious about leaving the EU. The way the Brexit blob are acting, you could be forgiven for thinking this was all just one giant practical joke. 

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