Monday, 23 July 2018

The sad death of Brendan O'Neill

If you want a masterclass in state-of-the-art stupidity you could do no worse than the latest dribble from Brendan O'Neill in the Spectator. This is not the work of an intelligent individual. It's someone who's giving up thinking for the duration and is content to follow the flock.

For one who regularly coins the term "chattering classes" and you could not find a more conventional, boring, predictable take on Brexit - having taken zero time out to attempt to understand the issues. Every consequence of Brexit is project fear, it's all the EU's fault and every job is expendable.

Course, you'd have to be a well pampered, unencumbered (dare I say middle class?) hack to casually brush aside decent paying manufacturing and tech jobs. People in the real world, though, have a lot riding on the outcome and will have taken the time to understand why their jobs may be threatened.

As it happens, should we crash out without a deal, the UK becomes a third country with no formal relations with the EU. As the EU Notices to Stakeholders point out, on Brexit day the UK has no special status within the Union and certifications and authorisations for all manner of products and services are rescinded.

This means my former Airbus colleagues will go into work as normal to design repair solutions for in service aircraft only to find their work is not authorised and is uninsurable. Since many are self-employed contractors there will literally be no work for them to do. Similarly if aircraft lack the necessary permissions and market participation rights they will not fly.

What escapes O'Neill is that we were in a treaty system. We decided to leave it - and now we want to mitigate some of the consequences of that choice - as is entirely reasonable. We want to have alternative arrangements in place before we actually leave. Now that we are leaving the PM has, to a point, understood that regulatory cooperation is required for the continuity of trade.

In this the UK feels entitled to concessions and waivers to EU and international law. The PM has effectively demanded that the EU unilaterally breaks its own rules for the sole benefit of the UK. What are they supposed to say to that? This is a legal system in which the UK played a considerable role in designing, and now the rules are inconvenient, we are demanding, as an ex-member, that the rules should be changed. Arrogance only a Tory is capable of. 

As to the "threat" that there could be civil unrest, I rather imagine that, if through no fault of my own, my job stopped existing and was unable to pay my mortgage or support offspring, I would be somewhat irritated. 

Moreover, if indeed airlines are grounded, causing a shockwave to the secondary and tertiary sectors who depend on Heathrow operating at full capacity, all those people on decent shift pay will suddenly find themselves on involuntary sabbatical. They won't be pleased to say the least. Angry even. Indeed, were I a Shropshire farmer operating on already narrow profit margins I would be looking to cut off Owen Paterson's balls. 

After a few weeks of that credit card payments are missed, mortgage payments defaulted, and direct debits bounce all over the shop. One assumes that Brendan O'Neill has never had any adult responsibilities thus cannot conceptualise what it's like to lose a job your family depends on.

O'Neill goes on to describe those of us concerned with supply chains as akin with "those crazy survivalists in the US whose cupboards are stuffed with tins of beans and soup for the coming war with the government". "Britain’s anti-Brexit middle classes are wondering out loud if they should stockpile medicine and water".

Again this is an insight into O'Neill's lack of adult responsibilities. My sister, for example, is quite concerned that there should be a stockpile of insulin for her diabetic son. As we are leaving the European Medicines Agency, having made insufficient preparations to run our medicines regulator as an independent entity, there is a good chance product approvals will run into similar problems thus cannot be sold legally even in the UK. 

Of course, common sense will prevail, eventually and we will sort something out - even if it's a temporary agreement with the the EU, but acute diabetes attacks can't wait a fortnight until trade negotiators can sort something out. Given how shambolic everything else has been, would you take the reassurances of this government?

Nor is it unreasonable to stockpile food. We saw during the fuel protests in 2005 how rapidly shelves were cleared of pretty much everything thanks to panic buying - and with fuel rationed, it was some time before stocks were replenished. That's probably not going to cause much of an upset to a south London resident, because London always gets what London wants. It is, however, something of a problem for rural communities who face lengthy drives into the nearest town.

It is entirely conceivable that, when all produce is subject to standard third country controls, lorries will back up and be out of commission - and pretty soon you have a backlog of manual customs declarations because the software can't cope with the new customs regime. It isn't designed for it.

Meanwhile questions remain over diesel and gas supplies and access to the electricity interconnectors - so unless the government has a hell of a plan B there is no absolute guarantee that we can keep the lights on. The chance of outages may be remote, but it has been known to happen. A mishap at sea in 2008 damaged an interconnector which saw spot prices skyrocket. It only takes something small to throw the whole system. 

This is certainly not the handwringing of grief stricken europhiles. You know who it is who thinks about these things? The lorry drivers, the cooks, energy buyers, pilots, customs officials, doctors, hospital managers, parents, small business owners and yes, corporate bosses. Everyday people who produce things. Adults... ie not people like Brendan O'Neill. 

And who does O'Neill blame for this? Not the the Tories. Not the Tories who triggered Article 50 without having held a consultation or having agreed a coherent negotiating position. Not the Brexiteer Tories who steadfastly refused to have a plan or even acknowledge these issues must be addressed. Not the Tories who have whinged about EU membership for all of my adult life who in the end haven't the first idea how the system works. Not the Tories whose supreme arrogance holds that the EU's frontier controls should not apply to them after exit. No, it's all the EU's fault.

It's the EU's fault for not driving a horse and cart through its own system of rules. It's the EU's fault for not breaching WTO principles. It's the EU's fault for not granting the UK the sole authority to decide the lowest bar of European market entry

In the mind of a simpleton airspace is something that just sorts itself out. Customs formalities can be eliminated by just signing a waiver. Certifications and authorisations? Who needs them? What on earth could the problem be? Why are all these highly qualified officials making such a fuss? Bloody jobsworths! 

This is the asinine kippery which has dominated the debate for more than three years, believing that though the EU has taken over the technical governance of just about every sector, unpicking forty years of systems integration is all undone at the stroke of a pen. Who needs fancy book learnin'?

Still, when you're a man-child like Brendan O'Neill who will never be responsible for anything of consequence, it's all so easily dismissed. The livelihoods of millions are just a pawn in an internet culture war which most of the working class is only dimly aware of. The politics of the chattering classes is about to shit on their lawn. 

The EU is not making this difficult. They've been up front from the beginning. Even as an ardent critic of the EU I can admit to that. They have made their red lines and principles known and have set out the choices. We can have frictionless trade but there are obligations. If we want fewer obligations then we can expect fewer rights. They've even given the UK the time and the space to devise a legally workable alternative. Instead the UK has dithered, bickered and refused to engage in the reality of our predicament. 

When we should have had an open and frank discussion we have seen mendacious propaganda attempting to polarise the debate, whipping up hysteria at the very suggestion of practical concessions. There was a time when it was common for eurosceptics to speak with misty eyes about rejoining Efta. Now the narrative has shifted to the point where anything that isn't a total demolition of EU relations is somehow a betrayal of Brexit. O'Neill is an accessory to this deception.

It's been interesting to watch a man who was once a thought leader become the most conventional and conformist voice of all. A man who doesn't deviate from the Tory establishment script, refuses to investigate or enquire, displaying no innate curiosity, having learned precisely nothing about the functioning of the EU amidst three years of intensive debate. It all bypassed him completely.

These are pathetic sheep bleating about something they haven't the wit to understand. Thus, they all huddle together making much the same noises, unable to express anything approaching intelligent sentiments. O'Neill here has suffered a death from the neck up. He has chosen to disengage his brain at a pivotal point in modern British history, choosing instead to engage only on the most superficial level and details be damned. It marks the death of a once promising thinker. Rest In Peace, Brendan. 

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