Thursday, 15 November 2018

It's time to walk away

On Tuesday I watched the International Trade Committee. The second session was devoted to the regional consultation process for future trade agreements. Obviously Northern Ireland was a main theme. The accepted view was that more trade happens between Northern Ireland and the British mainland than between NI and the Republic.

This falls apart slightly in that it depends entirely on what your are recording as trade and how you're measuring it, but on a hunch it rings true. The point, one made by ultra Brexiters, is that it accounts for a tiny fraction of the UK's overall trade and, rightly, they argue that it should not be beyond our imaginations to devise an accord to address it.

Northern Ireland, though, has turned out to be the EU's ace in the hole where the tail very much wags the dog. The technical fix to a very large extent binds the whole of the UK in such a way that there is a substantial loss of territorial sovereignty signing up to permanent rules in a way that no other nation ever has. It is at odds with the fundamental principles of Brexit.

Given that both sides have strongly warned against being a "rule taker" nobody, if they are intellectually consistent can argue in favour of this deal. We would be accepting the rules verbatim, the interpretation of which would be decided by the ECJ and the deal essentially amounts to a perpetual vassal state with even fewer rights and trade preferences than transition period. It is not hyperbole to say that this deal is the worst imaginable deal.

Not coincidentally, Mrs May has now alluded to the fact that if it isn't this deal then remaining is an option, as indeed have the EU. One could be forgiven for thinking it is entirely deliberate and that they have gone out of their way to engineer a deal so offensive that everyone hates it. We will now see a pincer movement between the political establishment and the media to bludgeon us into either submitting to the deal or calling the whole thing off. They are counting on the mushy middle to conclude that it simply isn't worth it.

As tinfoil hat theory it has just the right ring of duplicity to be be true. It has all the hallmarks of the typical establishment stitch up that has defined every pivotal moment in our relationship with the EU. One betrayal after another. The very reason this issue continues to fester. 

We are now at the final crossroads. The options are now clear. No deal, this deal or remaining. Remainers will say they told us so. That Brexit fails because there is no "better deal" and there is no alternative to the EU. We either accept vassalage, calamity or simply throw in the towel. The choice before us is that we either accept the deal in which case all of our political energies go into installing the EU as a colonial master or simply remain and pretend none of this ever happened.

The gambit here is that if we remain, the establishment can then take it as a mandate to carry on as normal. They will say we tried our best but the Brexiter "fantasies" couldn't be delivered, the plebs were taken in by charlatans and we have prevented a disaster. They will defy democracy and and pat themselves on the back for doing it. Those who wanted to leave who are opposed to the EU on principle will remain voiceless.

If, however, we accept the deal, we will go through a spell of adjustment and then things will settle down only we will have lost our EU trade and the ability to optimise our own third country trade relations. There will be a barrage of generally negative news whereby remainers again wag the finger and say they told us so and that we were better off in the EU. They will then start the long game to rejoin. 

Any political effort by leavers by this point will be marginalised in that the establishment will say "the isolationists are still banging on about Europe even though we have left!" even though in every material sense we will still be EU supplicants and second class citizens in our own country. 

The establishment has gamed this quite well. They think this is pretty clever. And to a point it is. That's what I would do if I was a duplicitous remainer scumbag. There's a problem though. This whole process has created a new generation of leavers. they will remember this betrayal in the same way we remember Maastricht and Lisbon. 

The message is clear. If voting made a difference they wouldn't let us do it. They will play the long game and make sure we don't get another say until the deck is stacked in their favour. It's transparent as transparent gets. The whole thing is a con and they have no intention of honouring the verdict of the people. They never did. 

If the establishment wins - ie if we remain or sign up to vassalage, those of us who have campaigned for so long to bring about a referendum and win it by legitimate means will simply conclude that voting cannot change anything. Here I must be candid. 

This won't be said on Twitter because debate is heavily policed and warnings are interpreted as threats. This isn't a threat, rather it is a concern. If they do this to us then there will be another Jo Cox style slaying. Possibly even a spate of them. That will result in an iron curtain going up between the establishment and the public. MP surgeries will have bodyguards and x-ray scans, Westminster will have to quadruple security. What we will then see is more self-righteous authoritarianism and more calls to police independent media and public debate.

The establishment may have won the long war on the matter of EU rule, but it will be a rule without legitimacy and they will start a culture war more toxic than anything we have seen before. The social contract will be shredded. The state will make an enemy of its people. We will also see a surge of populism and and it will start winning seats everywhere. They can keep us in the EU but they cannot stop us hating it and them. We'll have seen it for what it is. Control. 

Unless the UK leaves now politics gets uglier and darker than ever. I had hoped to avoid the economic turmoil by way of a negotiated and amicable departure. Both our establishment and the EU have taken that off the table (with a little help from the ultra Brexiters). So we no now left with the choice of lancing the boil and going through the process of recovery, allowing for a new political settlement to emerge, or we allow the establishment to park Brexit, patch up the status quo and limp on with the same failing economic order. Neither is attractive but at least Brexit is productive. 

Here we need to call the EU's bluff. We need to walk away. We will not submit to leash for the sake of the EU's border control. We won't put up a border. If the EU wants one then that's on them. We will not subordinate our democracy to their technocracy. Why should we compromise our territorial integrity? Why should we cave into blackmail? They had a window to reach an amicable agreement, they could have flexed were there the political will, but now they have overreached because they are blinded by their own technocratic dogma.

Our cowardly and miserable establishment doesn't understand the Brexit sentiment. They think they can fob us off with this deal because it ends freedom of movement. They think that's all it takes because they think that's all that matters to us. That, I suppose, was Farage's tactical error, using the immigration issue as a shortcut. But it's about more than that. 

It is about the fundamental sovereignty of the British people. That has to come before trade regulations, tariffs and product standards. This is about who and what we are as a country and our demand that we should not be further subsumed into the Brussels apparatus. No more castration of our politics. It is fundamentally about democracy. 

The basic test is whether the deal on the table (or indeed EU membership) allows the British public to exercise their political authority to reform economic and social policy through our own democratic institutions. It doesn't and it never will. Being that the choice is now to leave without a deal or not leaving at all, we have no choice but to throw it back in their faces. If we sign this deal we are flushing our democracy down the toilet.

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