Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Cheer up remainers. The fun is just starting.

The deed is done. MEPs have now approved the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK is now to leave on Friday night. I can't say I was impressed by the boorish misanthropy of the Brexit Party but was even less impressed at the ritual singing of songs and wobbly lipped sobbing. As to the unedifying contribution from Guy Verhofstadt, it momentarily removed all doubt that leaving was the right thing to do. The European Parliament is just a soapbox for cranks and sycophants from the loser fringes.

As to the public reaction, the remainers seem to have lost it entirely. Unhinged, churlish, petulant and increasingly vile. Scratch away the progressive veneer and you reveal something quite ugly. That, though, is only to be expected. Though their identities are wrapped up in their devotion to a supreme government (which is actually quite terrifying), one can sympathise to an extent. I certainly have mixed feelings about it. 

From the beginning I've taken the view that though I want to leave the EU, I also want to be informed about the challenges ahead and have consistently cast a critical eye to the dogma of the true believers on the Brexit side. Their tactic has been to simply dismiss any warning as project fear and though remainers have been quite creative in that department, and we can't take any economic forecast seriously, there are still those Notices to Stakeholders setting out the EU's official position on how it will treat the UK as a third country. 

Though the Notices are published to spell out what a no deal Brexit means, with the UK government intent on leaving the single market and securing only a shallow FTA (if we even get that far), much of what is written in the Notices still applies. The withdrawal agreement does not make the cliff edge go away and an FTA is a poor substitute for the single market.

In respect of that, remainers can soon have a field day dismantling the claims of Brexiteer luminaries. Between Carswell, Hannan, Lillico, Paterson, Singham, Rees-Mogg, Howe, Isaby and the crooked IEA, there is enough material there to hound these people to their graves. The internet never forgets. Moreover Mr Farage is going to have to make himself scarce from "coastal communities" when the promises made to the fishing sector fail to materialise.

And if it's any comfort, to remainers, it says a lot about the failure of Farage that the best he can dredge up for his Parliament Square Brexit shindig is Julia Dunning-Kruger and a stage full of nobodies. Brexit day will be something of a damp squib. No ticker tape parade or adoring crowds. Just a pack of bemused journos, Ukip diehards and curious passers by.

Though Farage will be praised as the hero of the hour, the Brexit Party is finished and the Tories have quashed the insurgency. Farage no longer has a powerbase or an object of focus. The kiptard squad seem happy with the few bones Johnson has thrown them so the Tories will drift back to their mushy managerialism. This blog has always maintained that, had the eurosceptic movement set out a plan and a coherent set of demands for meaningful reform, they could still be holding a gun to the government's head. Instead the Tories have "taken back control".

Then, as Rafael Behr notes in the Guardian, "The price of victory on a promise to “get Brexit done” is getting it done. On Friday we cross the threshold where Brexit must breathe the same air as other political projects. It sheds the immunity of abstraction and enters the realm of evidence". In some respects Liam Fox was quite right when he said striking a trade deal would be the easiest in history. The pattern will echo that which we've already seen where the sequencing and essential substance has already been decided. By the EU. We'll see months of bickering, procrastination and delay once more - and for the same reasons; for the government to come to terms with the cul-de-sac they've taken themselves up by not having a plan.

Looking at Twitter today, Johnson is doing more of those "questions from the audience" videos (no doubt one of Low Fact Chloe's innovations). It already looks weak and cowardly, but imagine how it's going to look when the factories start closing and Johnson is still hiding from media scrutiny. Even a competent spin machine can't shield Johnson from the consequences from his lies. When exposed to that "realm of evidence", the Tories will be entering choppy waters. Their excuses won't see them as far as the next election.

This blog has always said Brexit was less about trade and more about who governs us and how. Soon we shall see "fwee twade" Brexiteers pivoting to that line when their trade agenda falls flat on its face. Again we have their musings in the pages of the Telegraph and Spectator to rub their noses in. As to that question of who governs us and how, the answer of course is "the Tories, and quite badly". There's nothing the Tories can do about that - but there is something we can do!

Of course, this is little compensation for the inevitable and largely self-inflicted economic harm (harm which could so easily have been avoided), but the consolation prize for sane leavers and remainers is the humiliation and subsequent humbling of the Tory party. With Brexit now having dragged Labour's dysfunction out into the open, the eye of scrutiny turns rightwards. For a while now I've felt that we need Brexit to upend our politics and the process won't be complete until it consumes the Tories. That alone might make it worthwhile. So cheer up remainers. The best is yet to come. 

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