Tuesday 20 March 2018

Brexit's shifting goalposts

Time for a Brexit history lesson. Us old school leavers bumped into the remain canard that "three million jobs" depend on the EU time and again over many years. So well worn were the arguments that Remain scarcely dare deploy that line during the referendum.

It was was easily countered by way of saying that those jobs depended on trade with the EU, not membership of a political union. So there was always the historic inference that we wanted the maximum trade cooperation possible.

If asked if we would support a Brexit that would necessarily result in new barriers to trade, pretty much every leaver would have said no. The inference is that we would look to safeguard those three million jobs.

To that effect every Vote Leave politician or spokesman at some point in the campaign cited Norway as a means of market participation. We know of no exceptions. Prior to the latter days of the referendum there was never any fierce opposition to Efta.

It is actually a relatively recent thing that only the hardest Brexit qualified as "The One True Brexit". It comes from a very small band of ultra "free market" Tories masquerading as liberals in the form of the IEA/TPA and all of the Tufton Street sock puppet organisations.

Though they always struggled to produce credible intellectual material they have proven adept at manipulating the debate. With their considerable influence over the Daily Telegraph editorial line, and their powerbase in the ERG, they have warped the debate.

Having sympathisers at Conservative Home, they have gradually fed in their poison, littered with jargon so as to sound plausible, but ultimately they are pushing the most extreme Brexit possible with zero regard for those three million jobs.

With the aid of their useful idiots at Spiked Online and their respective knitting circles, they have successfully steered the narrative so that even the suggestion of remaining in the EEA is akin with heresy against democracy.

Over the last few months we have witnessed a London leaver bubble evolving which relies on the ignorance and bovine conformity of those they attract to their cause. "It's no longer left vs right" they tell us earnestly. "It's democrats vs antidemocrats".

This is of course, utter bollocks. There is a growing contingent of largely voiceless leavers who see merit in an EEA solution, but we are not useful to the narrative. Meanwhile there are MPs like Stephen Kinnock who've done their homeworks and seen the strategic value in it.

For sure there are still remainers in the public domain who will do anything to sabotage Brexit and we have sympathy with the view that they are antidemocratic, but to engineer it into a binary paradigm is the most dishonest trick tory leavers have pulled to date.

The useful idiots of Spiked Online etc will back them because they have given the matter no strategic thought and still cling on to the 1970's notion that Brexit will deliver absolute and undiluted sovereignty.

Of course, we adults know that all trade agreements and every international accord is on some level the expenditure of sovereignty for economic gain. It's a trade off and it always was. Undiluted sovereignty exists nowhere in the real world.

The Leave Alliance took the view that in order to safeguard jobs and trade we would need a model that preserves single market participation but one with a firewall to end the ratchet of the EU. Our studies pointed to EEA not only as the best means but also the speediest exit.

But by way of having a stranglehold over the narrative - largely thanks to a Londoncentric media, the Brexit ayatollahs have managed to conflate the EEA with EU membership and are capitalising on the ignorance of the media.

In fact, the Tory Taliban would have got nowhere without the manifest ignorance of leading leavers - many of whom still think the WTO option is viable. Even Kate Hoey, nominally a socialist, sent copies if Liam Halligan's ultra hard Brexit book to her colleagues at Christmas.

This is the Minford model - the one that basically assumes that if we unilaterally liberalise on all trade barriers, demolishing agriculture and manufacturing and automotive sector, we can deregulate and London becomes Singapore on Thames.

But even assuming that weren't demonstrably nonsense how is it compatible with the inference that our mode of Brexit would safeguard the jobs of the working classes who depend on single market trade? Answer: it doesn't.

There is something inherently evil about any sect, party or group who would seek to reduce any political dilemma to binary outcomes and denouncing the other as a malevolent force, but that is in effect what the Tory right have done. Quite successfully.

As far as we are concerned the decision to leave is not all that controversial. The goals of the EU never enjoyed majority support and never will. We got the mandate to leave, but nowhere does it say the lunatic fringe of the Tories get to dictate everything after the fact.

The short of it is that without the EEA there most definitely will be new barriers to trade and substantially reduced market participation and there are no "bumper trade deals" that will compensate. It's time to call the Tory right out for what they are. Liars.

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