Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Brexit nontroversy

It is difficult for me to climb on the outage bandwagon with regard to the Brexit impact assessments. Supposing David Davis had released them in full they would have been one of two things. Either they would have been issue illiterate garbage dreamed up by the Legatum Institute or they would have been the sober works of a large consultancy firm working in close cooperation with the civil service.

Had they been the former, they wouldn't have lasted until lunchtime. It would have provided two or three days fodder for the chatterati and a bone for the remain-o-sphere to gnaw on for a few weeks until they worked out that it's something else that doesn't make a dent in public opinion. They would make such a meal of it, missing all the important points, adding to it their own conspiratorial histrionics to the point of absolute uselessness - embarrassing themselves in the process.

Had the assessments been something more substantial, all it would have told us is that the government is going against the best available advice in leaving the single market. We already know this. We know that if there is a substantial deviation from the EEA acquis then there will need to be firmer customs controls in Ireland or at the seaports to Ireland. We know that we would lose market participation rights in pharmaceuticals, chemicals and aviation. We know that we would be subject to standard third country controls to the detriment of UK trade.

Come to think of it, after a more than a year of intense public debate, it would struggle to tell us something we do not know. We have covered just about all of the bases. More to the point, the MPs presently expressing outrage would be no more likely to read the government's assessments any more than they are the wealth of material already in the public domain - much less understand it.

Consequently, one is not inclined to get excited. It would have achieved nothing. That David Davis has admitted detailed assessments do not even exist is not really any surprise either. I suppose one could be moved to to express disapproval that Davis has misled parliament, except that is now par for the course. It just doesn't rate that a politician is lying. There has been total transparency from the beginning. The whole thing looked like bollocks, we were expecting it to be bollocks and nobody is in the least bit surprised that it is bollocks.

The modern mode of politics has become a circus whereby the machine sets about wrong-footing the government - where if incompetence is exposed a minister is expected to fall on his sword. It's a time honoured approach, instrumental in bringing down the Major government as it found itself mired in sleaze.

The problem now is that ever since Blair, governments have learned that if they hang tight nothing actually happens. There is no consequence for failure and more often than not, failure is rewarded. The only time failure ever really concerns a government is if there is an election on the horizon and the opposition is in good form. The rest of the time they can do as they please. This is not a democracy.

Because we are hopelessly wedded to the current party system, where it is virtually unheard of for mid term shifts in party allegiances to collapse a government, we are pretty much stuck with what we've got - and the government knows it. MPs have it within their power to collapse the government and form a new unity government to make the decisions this government can't, but they just won't. They will allow the UK to drift over the cliff before they break ranks.

We are, therefore, in a bizarre position where the majority in parliament don't even want to leave the EU but will allow us to coast out on the worst possible terms simply because there wasn't the coherence to do anything else. That is a system that doesn't work. One that fails in its most basic obligations. Now we face the consequences.

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