Monday 5 March 2018

Rebels without a clue

The one component missing from Brexit is an intellectual foundation. Eurosceptics once had one. There was a committee meeting in a Salisbury farmhouse twenty years ago and that's the last time we collectively gave it any thought.

At the core of it, the one thing we all agree on in the Benn/Foot angle on democracy - but there has never been agreement on an alternative vision. The old boys wanted the Commonwealth whereas some wanted to revive Efta.

A common strand has been an aversion to regulation and red tape and collectively eurosceptics have never really understood the economic utility of regulatory harmonisation. It was largely seen as a sinister integrationist device.

To a point they were right. An economic foundation was only the first step, upon which they would build their superstate. The regulatory frameworks were inferior to those of the UK - which is why so much UK law informed single market rules.

The problem we have is that we decided collectively that we hated the EU, we wanted out of it and spent the next two decades scheming on how to get us out. Through general economic dissatisfaction and discontent with immigration it built its own momentum.

To a large extent Brexit is something that sort of just happened. Now that it has, the eurosceptic aristocracy have been put on the spot. They wanted it so the government looks to them for direction. "You wanted this. Now what?"

And now that we are here all the towering figures of euroscepticism find that the cupboard is bare. We haven't updated our ideas or our understanding since the 90's and our solutions do not account for 25 years of integration and globalisation.

We are therefore in quite a pickle as we have no real world deliverable answers and of the few options available, none of them fully satisfy any of euroscepticism's core demands. The world moved on and we didn't.

So really we have won yesterday's war - only fifteen years late. All the options that would have been available to us pre-Lisbon are now impossible and the advancement of EU systems pretty much shafts the idea of leaving the EU regulatory sphere.

Meanwhile we face the double coffin lid whereupon we punch through the layers of EU political integration only to find an elaborate web of global conventions and rules which constrain the EU in much the same way.

Arguably we are moving toward a model of a global single market of rules and regulations, pointing to the obsolescence of the EU - but we are a long way off accomplishing that so we will remain heavily influenced by the EU.

And though we have always argued that the EU is a mess of protectionism - which is indeed demonstrable, being outside of those protectionist barriers puts us in a tiny European minority. That would not have been the case prior to enlargement.

Rather than accepting the reality of our predicament, the eurosceptic (Tory) aristocracy are hell bent on fighting for those yesteryear solutions with no reference to reality and will tell any lie to get it.

Being that they are London based they dominate the Television Brexit debate and the second generation latecomers (Spiked et al) who have never thought it through have hitched their wagon to the mainstream eurosceptics. They're being led up the garden path.

By and large they have done no thinking of their own, gladly repeat obsolete mantras and and prate about "free trade" without having the first idea what that actually means or the consequences of it.

The skill of the euroscpetics is that they have made the issue of the single market part of a culture war where otherwise intelligent people demand that we leave it simply because the opposition wants us to stay.

With both sides having lied about the EEA it is seen as staying partially in the EU - and thus not honouring the referendum. Lies do indeed have consequences. So here we are headed out with no satisfactory answers to any of the difficult questions.

Unless that argument can be resolved then we will leave the single market, we will see NI remain in the EU customs territory, a sea border and the end of free movement of goods with a meagre set of post-Brexit trade options.

Ultimately the Brexit debate has been dominated by dinosaurs who don't understand how trade works thus are plumping for the UK to hit the self destruct button backed by nihilists who would gladly trash the economy to stick it to the EU.

There are certainly days when I have some sympathy with this view but this ultimately decides the UK's political and economic standing for the next fifty years - thus it is a matter of urgency that the Brexit Taliban in the Tory party are defeated.

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