Friday, 23 November 2018

The end is not in sight

24th June 2016 should have been a day of celebration for me. I predicted that we would lose but awoke to the news we had won by a narrow margin. It wasn't much cause for celebration though because I knew there would be a long fight ahead of us and I knew we would be fighting a battle on two fronts. We would have to fight off the Brextremists while keeping the remainers at bay.

Through force of argument and persistence the EEA Efta option has more support than ever but it's still too little and probably too late. We've been outgunned by the weight of ultra Brexit propaganda which has been unquestioningly soaked up by leave activists.

I am angry about this. Seething in fact. It is now apparent to anyone with inquisitive mind that the Tory Brexiters are intellectually barren. Having totally dominated the Brexit narrative they have tainted the whole cause. The average voter could justifiably conclude that the Brexiters are a pack of idiots and dinosaurs lacking a clue between them. If by some sequence of events we end up staying in the EU the consolation prize will be taking some small pleasure in their defeat.

For me though, with Efta off the table, any outcome looks pretty miserable. No deal is not something to be welcomed. Leaving without a deal would simply be an admission of our political failure. A consequence of the collapse of political competence in the UK. The ultra Brexiters will welcome it initially and hail it as a great victory but I won't.

That is not to say that I won't take some pleasure from it. The remainers will hate it and my inner nihilist will enjoy the whole shebang sliding into the sea, and then I get to enjoy reality driving a horse and cart through all of the ERG's half baked theories. It will destroy the Tory right and take down the rest of the party with them. I will raise a glass to that.

The real lose-lose is if May signs this infernal deal. Nobody wins from that. Moreover it resolves nothing. The boil is not lanced and we are back to square one. Remainers will hate it, leavers will hate it and it locks in the political stagnation. I predicted that any deal that wasn't EEA based would be bad but even at my most pessimistic I never imagined May would come back with such an abortion of a deal.

The sad part is that Theresa May could very easily dump it were there a consensus on what to do instead. Those trashing May would have a stronger position if they had a viable and deliverable alternative in mind. The ERG cretins don't and the Labour is still in total disarray and still struggling with the basics. The only glimmer of support for the EEA option has come from Stephen Kinnock who has performed admirably but it was only ever going to get traction if adopted by a leaver.

We have seen some attempt to revive the option by Nick Boles who actually made it worse for us by presenting it as a temporary option which was ruled our by Norway. That has done considerable damage. Ever since then the commentariat are spinning the line that there are now no other options, airbrushing Efta out of the picture - all the while Theresa May has raised the spectre of remaining should her deal be rejected.

Were one at all conspiratorial one might say that this was always the plan - to come up with a deal so foul that even Brexiters would think remaining is preferable. It hasn't worked. I have been one of the most vocal opponents of leaving without a deal but I'm now taking the view that we might as well bite the bullet. Aside from Efta I don't think there is an option without grave consequences.

Should we remain I imagine politics becoming more toxic than ever. The establishment will write the history of the Brexit saga and I know exactly the tone it will take. We'll see a condescending LSE piece saying "The Brexiter's romantic notions of sovereignty and free trade were never deliverable and the public were deceived by charlatans and chancers who in the end couldn't deliver the goods". They will find a way to make it sound fifty times more smarmy, and the collective establishment gloat will deepen the hatred of them. It won't be long before MPs start getting credible death threats.

All this, though, is going over old ground. I've expanded on all of this in previous essays. It all boils down to one strategic failure on the part of leavers. Fundamentally Brexit is complex. Knowing what you want is one thing but knowing how to get it is another. This is something leavers cannot seem to muster.

This is where we needed to out-expert the experts. It shouldn't be that difficult since remain experts are generally lazy, made more so by the lack of challenging argument from the leave side. They have their own fair share of bullshitters. Instead of commanding expertise though we've seen a torrent of drivel from the London Brexit camp and most of it is either outlandishly ridiculous or just flat out lying - denying that there even is a cliff edge. It's sickening.

More nauseating is the procession of quarterwit youngsters representing the leave case on the television; telegenic morons parroting Tufton Street talking points fronting for a pack of cobwebbed Tory inbreds. The national debate is polluted by their ignorance and the media, itself lacking any expertise, fails to challenge them every single time. Deeply contemptible.

With each day that passes, the victory of 2016 feels more like a pyrrhic victory. I always sensed it would be. Between a mendacious and self-serving London Brexit bubble, a cynical and shallow establishment and a media so indescribably awful there was never a hope of cutting through the noise. The whole debate has been a circus viewed entirely through a media lens and quite deliberately polarised. The media is as much a part of the problem as our politics.

Though history is written by the victors, it's difficult to say who will be the victors in this fight. The victors only get to write the history when all is said and done. What we can say with certainty is that this is nowhere near over and whatever the outcome of this spell in British politics, it is only the end of the beginning. There is no new settlement until the poison is cleared out of the system. On the basis of what we have seen thus far, that won't be soon. Brexit may certainly have been a catalyst moment, but it brings no resolution.

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