Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Brexit - a responsibility we cannot shrink from

Three years ago I thought I had a solid grasp of the EU as a whole, and a working knowledge of EU law making. That though was insufficient. It's only when you look at the systems and how they really interrelate do you really get a full picture of EU integration.

During the referendum you may well remember that running dispute of what percentage of law was made by the EU. I argued that such a metric was worthless since a domestic bill is far smaller in scope than the implementation of a directive which requires adopting EU law or making laws to an EU specification. As much as it is impossible to tell, a single figure doesn't really tell you anything - nor does it take into account that UK law gives recognition to EU institutions and authorities.

In fact, the one thing that has sunk in on all sides, save for the very dimmest of Brexit zombies, is that Brexit is complex. Remainers are rubbing this in with glee. But this rather underscores the leave position that the UK as a member of the EU is not an independent nation, is bound in what it can do and that real tangible power has been surrendered.

While you can say that in all this time parliament has remained sovereign, parliament has been all to keen to ensure that its own powers remain constrained and over the decades have signed away more powers without any meaningful public consultation.

In that regard, while I lament the Brexit shambles currently under way I must remind myself that had Britain voted to remain we would see a continued trend toward "ever closer union". And though those words to the uninitiated sound fluffy the real world consequence is "ever more integration". That means more power only ever flowing out of the hands of the people and beyond the reaches of democracy. Meaningful change is beyond our reach.

In this estimation we had already reached the point of no return. There is no untangling ourselves from this mess without doing considerable harm to our economy. That is why the means of departure is as significant as the choice to leave.

What we now find is that the system is so complex that our politicians, having had very little input in its creation, have only a very shallow understanding of it and there are few experts in the field who truly comprehend the nature of the beast. Expert testimony in front of select committees has been misleading and often flat wrong.

Between the collective ignorance of parliament and the wilful malice of hard Brexiteers the government now has a gloriously skewed impression of what lies ahead. Today Theresa May asserted that "As far as this Government is concerned we believe it is possible within the two-year timeframe to get the agreement not just for our withdrawal from the EU but also the trade arrangement that will ensure we have a strong, strategic partnership with the EU in the future”. Delusional is something of an understatement.

In the most basic terms we have an entire political order that has abandoned in entirety the real business of governing. Everything from trade to agriculture has been outsourced. This is why our MPs are the very least able to "take back control". Before you can take control of anything you have to understand it - and that's not happening.

Part of the reason is that MPs have been so used to indulging in trivia that parliament has become a hollow shell and a platform for moral showboating. It is why every self-respecting adult in the land despises Westminster and its inhabitants - up to and including our media whose understanding of the issues is in a similarly parlous state.

Therein lies the true cost of our membership of the EU. Political and moral atrophy. Westminster has become a shabby and devalued talking shop unable to focus and ill-equipped to tackle change of this magnitude. The damage cannot be measured in pounds or euros but it should be abundantly clear by now that we cannot go on like this - with parliament reduced to snivelling party hacks and narcissistic prostitutes.

Now that the provisional question of Brexit has been resolved we now face a steep learning curve in order to rebuild domestic institutional expertise. In this we must prune away the wastrels of Westminster and rediscover adult politics. That is not going to happen overnight. Sadly, there is a price to pay for our political indolence and it will be the ordinary voter who pays for their hubris.

If it is not yet apparent to you that Westminster is no longer capable of serving us just wait to see what kind of Brexit this parliament will deliver. We have already seen the feeble attempts at what they call scrutiny. More than likely the Brexit that Theresa May delivers will be all the proof you need that it's time for a clearout.

In this I do not accept that this is an argument for remaining in the EU because that lets the vermin off the hook, to continue playing their infantile and destructive games while Brussels does as it pleases - unwatched by either MPs or journalists. Politics depends on participation. For too long it has been engineered out of the process and in so doing it has turned us into passengers in our own affairs. Unless we the people take back control from the politicians then we sleepwalk into oblivion.

2016 saw the end of an era in Western politics. There are too many stresses and too many threats for the status quo to survive. Institutions and constructs developed for the postwar era no longer serve us in this age of globalisation, internet and unprecedented migration.

The power vested in these institutions has been abused and squandered and in the end have proved incapable of adapting or responding. That is why we need reform and that is why I voted to leave knowing there would be a price to pay.

The EU serves only as a comfort blanket for those still in denial over the need for change. I can even see why. The blissful indifference of political disengagement absolves us of our obligations as citizens. Free to do as we please within our shrinking and gilded cage. Sooner or later though, reality bites. The real world is closing in. Brexit will make us better equipped to handle it when it does. It is a responsibility we cannot shrink from and there is a lot of work to do.

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