Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Determined to know nothing

By now most of you have given up reading anything in the press about Brexit. And that's a good thing. You won't find anything of substance there. What you will see though is most of the media using Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform as their expert de jour. This is a man who repeatedly asserts that the Norway Option means that we cannot have controls of Freedom of Movement which means Britain will be forced into a Canada style agreement with no agreement on services and the financial sector.

The technical term for this is lying. There are safeguard measures on freedom of movement in the EEA agreement and EEA freedom of movement is actually a different animal to that of the EU. Grant knows this but continues to lie about it - most recently in the Guardian today.

So we must ask why someone who was so determined Britain should stay in the EU is now seeking to close down all debate about the one option that would see Britain retain single market access and have some control over immigration? I can only speculate.

I rather suspect that the remainer effort seeks to present our options as so limited, involving massive sacrifice for little gain that there will be some kind of intervention to stall Brexit and somehow prevent it.

Meanwhile, on the leave side, we have the likes of John Redwood and Peter Lilley also determined to ignore the possibilities of the EEA option simply because it doesn't fit with their childish fantasies about free trade. As much as these people know little if anything about trade they seemingly don't want to either.

And so it seems to be that the Norway Option is a path favoured by nobody and it has become an article of faith in the media that an EEA agreement would be a "betrayal" of those who voted for Brexit and now we are faced with a narrow debate about the remaining options - none of which can be accomplished in two years and would largely be detrimental to Britain.

There are a number of complications for which there are solutions but none in the media are remotely interested in solutions. If there are solutions then there is nothing to fill column inches with and nothing to gasp in horror at. There have been countless "Brexit dilemma" articles from all sides, and there will be more to come - insisting that single market membership means full freedom of movement.

Brexit problematising has become a cottage industry which is now increasingly protectionist. The narrative falls down if they acknowledge the existence of solutions. Moreover, the continued existence of these talking points keeps them all busy. They exist, notionally, to tell us what is happening. But there is nothing newsworthy in reporting that nothing is happening.

All we do know is that there has been a cabinet meeting in which the government has reaffirmed its commitment to see Brexit through - but there is still no agreement on what Brexit means or how it is to be achieved. There is no agreement on direction and no agreement on what is possible. That is nothing we did not know - but it seems that Charles Grant and the media in general is determined to keep it that way. There is no milage in bringing clarity. Where is the entertainment in that?

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