Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The real saboteurs

From start to finish the leave camp has been a carnival of incompetence. It starts with Nigel Farage debasing Ukip to the point where the Electoral Commission couldn't seriously award the leave campaign designation to such a dysfunctional pack of amateurs. The campaign from there was appropriated for the ends of the Tory Brexiteers, who in the final analysis have nothing of value to say for themselves.

The voice of Leave has become a sect within the Tory party along with an inbred pack of London sock puppets and easily fooled peripheral clans. One such clan being Spiked Online, who on the day after the referendum turned out with their "Invoke Article 50 now" placards. These are people who haven't thought about Brexit at all. And that seems to be in keeping with the overall trend. 

Were you to ask anyone connected with delivering Brexit what the biggest mistake made thus far is and they will tell you it was invoking Article 50 without any clue of what we wanted or how to achieve it. To do that would have meant understanding the constraints and trade-offs and the practical limitations of sovereignty. We could very well go all out for regulatory sovereignty but without coordinating with the EU so as to agree a level of equivalence then no work produced in the UK can circulate within the market. This is true of anything from airline parts to insurance products. 

These are all real world concerns detailed in the EU's Notices to Stakeholders which all point to the need for a negotiated settlement. That means having to choose from a number of options all of which must be assessed on their respective merits. But no, in the binary little world of Spiked Online, anything that isn't a total termination of all formal relations with the EU is considered a betrayal. Much in keeping with the Tory right. They fell for their shtick hook, line, sinker and copy of Angling Times. Subsequently their Brexit coverage was juvenile and embarrassing.

When we started The Leave Alliance we set up a cell of blogger activists. We put out an appeal to all the leave inclined writers we knew and not one of the Spiked clan bothered to take up the charge. They then worked against us by calling an EEA Efta Brexit "BRINO" and gave houseroom to anyone from the CPS to the IEA in calling for the WTO option. Not at any point have these people accepted that Brexit might actually be a little bit more complicated than they believe it is.

Then, whenever we see a leave spokesperson in the media, it's either one of the quarterwit Tufton Street teenagers (Low Fact Chloe) or one of the Spiked clan such as Claire Fox or Ella Whelan, who routinely claim to speak of everyone who voted to leave while demanding the most destructive mode of Brexit imaginable. Their arrogance is breathtaking. 

But being that their sect has its roots on the left, they aligned their loyalties with Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey, both of whom can spout boilerplate Brexit rhetoric but fall to pieces on the details. Stuart has a passable grounding in the democratic principles of Brexit but when grappling with the mechanics of Brexit, she's about at thick as Hoey. Being that they have zero collective understanding of trade and the function of regulation they turn to leave's intellectual base which is largely a pack of Adam Smithite Toryboys who think Brexit is a free trade revolution. Throughout it is a gormless groupthink.

Shortly after the referendum I remember speaking at an event somewhere in Brixton, arranged by one of the Spiked offshoot campaigns whereupon I tried to communicate the complexities of leaving, explaining how the EU has evolved in much the same way as a Jumbo Jet - where though it looks superficially the same on the outside as the original, to the engineers who build and maintain them, they are completely different beasts. With lawyerly affectation I was told "we don't want to talk about planes". I might as well have been explaining nuclear physics to a hamster. 

Probably the easiest thing in the world to do is make a passable case for leaving the EU. Many of its denizens will admit to what they call a democratic deficit and UK diplomatic staff will concede privately that there is a gulf of accountability, regulations can be badly drafted and unnecessary and subject to the protectionist instincts of member states. Deciphering a path out of the EU, though, is a wholly different affair that requires the application of intellect not found anywhere in the London Leave bubble.

Here we find we have certain objectives and obligations, many of which are contradictory and conflict with the basic demands of Brexit. We were always going to have to swallow a few bitter pills along the way. Instead, though, the leave camps have utterly refused to engage in the details, instead telling their respect supporters that the complexity is an exaggeration and a conspiracy of the remain elites. It's pathetic. 

The culmination of this intellectual vacuum is a galvanised and highly motivated remain movement. Leavers wailed "betrayal" at every turn, closing down the options in favour of an extreme "clean break" and instead of neutralising remain opposition by offering a credible and stable exit plan, they've frightened the horses with their ignorance.

I always assumed that the absence of a coherent intellectual basis for Brexit and the absence of a plan with deliverable objectives would be enough to lose us the referendum. In the end remain lost it because their campaign was a magnitude worse. I was right, though, to predict failure - because this sorry enterprise will hit the rocks one way or another.

There is a reason Theresa May has ignored every proposal from the Tory backbenches and that's largely because they've produced nothing in all this time that could be considered deliverable or even acceptable to the EU. We've seen snake oil from Shanker Singham and the IEA, through to Boris Johnson's completely fictitious "Super Canada". No-one knows what that means because it doesn't exist and has not been defined anywhere.

Meanwhile, the London Leave blob, with near total dominance over the narrative, with their own functionaries ever available to appear on TV, and having a number of propaganda vessels of their own to command, have weaved a web of lies and disinformation with a view to bringing about a no deal Brexit. 

My own view is that no deal only has merit in terms of how it will impact domestic politics but by every other measure it is to be avoided at all costs. It is tempting to say that no deal would be no worse than May's deal (and I have) albeit for different reasons - but if we do leave without a deal, eventually we will go grovelling back to Brussels for the restoration of some trade functionality. The first demand from Brussels will be to settle the financial obligations, sort out citizens rights and plug the legal hole left in Northern Ireland. It won't look much different to the monstrosity on offer now, only it comes with a smack to the nose economically. 

The upshot of that is that unless the UK pivots to Efta there is no scenario where we do not end up in a vassal state deal for the long term - or even permanently. Worse case scenario is that Brexit is cancelled to stave off a no deal Brexit. 

But, of course, unless there is some kind of miracle it looks like Efta EEA as an option is is dead in the water. The Leave blob has already seen to that by poisoning it in the minds of their readers, all the while the Nick Boles clan have made it toxic to leavers by tacking on a customs union. Should the government see sense and pivot to Efta, the leavers will wail like babies and kill it.

Remainers never really needed to sabotage Brexit because we were always perfectly capable of doing that ourselves. The legacy remain camp have put on a good show but if anything has driven voters into their arms it is the way in which the intellectual basis as understood by the Leave blob has crumbled leaving them with nothing but bluster and high fantasy. 

This is not to say that Theresa May has not added her own ignorance and incompetence to the existing mountain, largely obsessing over ending freedom of movement over all other concerns, but with a gun to her head and a campaign that wrongly conflated freedom of movement with open borders, it is difficult to see what else she could have done unless leavers gave her an escape route. This whole saga has been a civil war among the many factions within the Westminster bubble and more to do with electoral triangulation than delivering a viable exit from the EU.

With so many variables now in flux it is impossible to say which way this goes, but if we leave it is likely we will end up in a perpetual Brexit limbo with no escape. The leave blob will wail and play the victim and never once will they acknowledge their own role in driving us to this miserable outcome. Brexit has been held hostage to the know-nothing and proud of it brigade. Having had their entertainment out of it they will then drift off on to something else.

The Brexit enterprise now stands on a foundation of intellectual sand and crumbles under the weight of its own contradictions. The Brexiteers demanded the impossible based on spurious theories. They have thrown tantrums at every turn, all the while Ukip (set up to get us out of the EU) lost interest some time ago, preferring instead to grunt about Muslims full time. The sick irony being that we are lumbered with a lousy deal to end freedom of movement when most of them never cared all that much about it.

The worst part of all this is that the rank and file Brexiters will never understand how badly cheated they have been - not by remainers or the establishment but by their own heroes. They will lavish the London leave blob with praise and adulation failing to recognise their role in sabotaging Brexit. We probably will leave the EU, but thanks to the Brexiteers and their witless disciples it will accomplish little and cost a great deal. My contempt for them is total. 

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