Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Brexit is a long overdue system reboot

I've read a lot of a stupid blogs and articles about Brexit from both sides of the divide. One characteristic of remain blogs tends to be the pathologisation of leave voters citing a populist revolt to globalisation and so on and so forth. It ain't that.

If you want to know what caused Brexit I can think of no better example than Brexit itself. We are now at a point where there is a level of sophistication in public debate that far transcends anything I've seen in Lords debates or select committee meetings. The blogs are producing some excellent stuff. There's a lot written I don't agree with and a lot of it isn't seeing the big picture but it knocks the ball right out of the park when compared to the inane gibbering of politicians and our media.

We now have an adequate idea of the scale of the task at hand, we have a decent understanding of the liabilities and there is now a wealth of useful information in the public domain. Yet, for all that, our politicians haven't grasped the basics and are hopelessly behind the curve, leading us off a cliff - with an opposition in a similar disarray, holding some deeply flawed ideas. They are not even listening.

As much as they are out of touch, they project their narrow concerns based on flawed perceptions on to the people - and that is what steers policy. Just look at David Cameron's attempt to "reform" the EU. This was never about EU migrants using the NHS. It was unbelievably patronising to think that eurosceptics would abandon a twenty year cause on the back of some marginal tinkering around the edges. To then come back with something so utterly insubstantial based on a mechanism that already exists was a further insult.

And that's really what's driven it all along. An aloof, out of touch establishment, completely unresponsive, lacking any dialogue and transmitting from upon high, telling us that our concerns are unjustified - and that it's better if we leave them to it.

But it turns out we were right. Article 50 shows that we have signed up to something deep and binding with seismic consequences - to the point where we cannot change democratic direction without an enormous amount of harm. When it came down to it, the main argument for remaining was not a principled argument for political union - just that the act of leaving would hurt.

Over the last two decades we have gradually seen Westminster turn into three ringed circus, unable to focus, distracted by trivia and caught up in sickening tribal games that we are all utterly sick of. And though you might say this is a domestic issue, the EU and our further integration is very much a symptom of it in that the same lack of scrutiny, the same lack of urgency and the same lack of care was apparent to the point where nobody is in control, the system is on autopilot, and for whatever the EU is not to blame for, it serves as a convenient scapegoat.

As much as arrogance and stupidity are the hallmark of the Brexiteers in parliament - arrogance and stupidity have largely defined the last twenty years of politics. One might even argue that the only thing stopping us going off the rails is that fact that the EU and the systems therein underpin so much of what would ordinarily be the province of Westminster.

That, unsurprisingly, is the reason given to me for reversing Brexit. It is an entirely logical and respectable point of view. We could put our hands up and admit we do not have the capacity for self-governance and perhaps it is better if the technocracy is running things. What could be improved by the involvement of these morons?

But actually, I'm not willing to put up with this any more. As a country we cannot afford it. Our polity, as much as it fails to command respect, it has no moral authority, no credibility and most of all suffers from total and utter cowardice. For a very long time now we have needed to make some serious decisions about the future sustainability of public finances - and indeed our standing in the world. The fact that we have wasted a galactic amount of money on two vanity aircraft carriers gives you an insight into our national self-image - when we are really not a superpower nor are we an especially wealthy country. The fundamentals are not sound and our entitlements are being propped up with immigration.

We are told that the NHS would not function without immigrants. We are told that we cannot afford a state pension without immigrants. I don't dispute that. But what we are actually saying here is that we are no longer willing or capable of doing those things necessary to keep a functioning first world country going - and we're leeching off a system that cannot be sustained otherwise.

We've needed to make some serious choices for a long time. We need to be phasing out the NHS. We need to make the public more reliant on their own resources for their old age. We cannot keep fire-hosing money at things that buy votes and we need urgent reform throughout. This though is not happening. We are not going to get democratic reform because those within the system have no interest in giving it to us and at the first hint of any kind of grown up policy, the government will back down if there's a protest.

There comes a point where if a government cannot take adult decisions then we have to force the issue. And this we have done with Brexit. All big spending will have to go on pause. Meddlesome government initiatives will have to be devolved or go on the back-burner and we are going to have to have a full system audit and revise a number of policies just to keep afloat.

This is ultimately a question of putting a stop to their sordid little games, forcing them to get serious and dragging the EU back into focus as something that has a profound effect on just about every single industry. We need to know what has been done in our name while the system has been on autopilot. We need to know who is really pulling the strings and who is exploiting the weaknesses. We need to know what we've got ourselves tangled up in.

For me, I'm less concerned with economic integration and globalisation - but it is something we need to engage in rather than farming it out to Brussels. Just this afternoon I was reading a paper from the US on trade dispute resolution. The author remarks "I sought to counter the complaint by some non-governmental organizations that US sovereignty and decision making authority would thereby be delegated wholesale to "faceless bureaucrats" in Geneva not accountable to the American people".

That will sound awfully familiar to anyone engaged in the Brexit debate. The people and places are interchangeable but something is happening where the traditional view of sovereignty is increasingly diluted and too much is happening off the radar. Meanwhile our politicians are completely oblivious to this. They can barely tells us what the single market is let alone tell you how it functions or how it interacts with with private authorities and global regulators - many of them operating in a shroud of anonymity which affords them the ability to act without scrutiny.

The one useful thing the Vote Leave campaign gave us was the slogan "take back control". It means many things to many people. It is not the cartoonish absolute control that many perceive it to be - and not the control remainers mockingly expect it to be. It's really a matter of bringing the decisions back into the light of day. We cannot hope to control globalisation but we can control how we respond and adapt - but not if we're not engaged in the process on a more open and public level.

Over the last couple of days there has been far reaching debate over chlorinated chicken from the USA. This raises profound questions about the future of British agriculture and the nature of the relationships we want with other countries. Unlike the TTIP debate, this is not a remote and nerdish debate for trade technocrats. This is something over which the British public alone can influence, and final responsibility lies with Westminster. We are taking control over them. That is what this is about.

When we are increasingly seeing deals concocted between giants the possibility of meaningful veto, and control over the agenda becomes ever more remote. As outlined by this blog we are seeing the emergence of a global market of rules and regulations where even the EU is just as much a passenger. There are insufficient democratic safeguards and not nearly enough genuine public engagement. You can wish it were different but that is never going to happen. British attitudes to the EU prevent it. Not least our media. People tune out of politics they feel they cannot influence or have no stake in.

They say politics is too important to leave to the politicians. Something of a truism. Countless times have I heard people say they don't do politics because that's what they pay politicians to do. But that's the problem. Our politicians have excused themselves from politics and instead play media games and tinker in things that are of no consequence. They've kicked the big decisions into the long grass and outsourced the detail to Brussels. We can't let them get away with it any more. Enough is enough. It's time to clear out the dead wood and start over.

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