Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Westminster is tone deaf on Brexit

Now that May's withdrawal agreement is on the rocks we now see politicians digging deep for whatever nostrums they can cook up to try and resolve the dilemma. It is a shallow process of triangulation that seems to have forgotten what Brexit is about. That is the problem with outsourcing a people's revolution to the incumbent establishment. It doesn't know why it is doing what it is doing so we can't expect it to understand the impetus behind it. To understand that, you have to go right back to basics. 

Once upon a time there was a political party called Ukip. It's still limping on in the background seething about Muslims. Before it became the Tommy Robinson fan club, though, it stood for something. A larger ideal than keeping out foreigners. The clue is in the name. The United Kingdom Independence Party.

Its founders and its dedicated army of activists believed that Britain should not become enmeshed in the machinery of the EU lest it would mute Britain's voice and castrate our democracy. This is as much to do with how Britain sees itself.

We are told by the likes of Fintan O'Toole that we never really got over winning the war and we mourn the British empire. They can say what they like. For us leavers it's simply a matter of wanting to speak for ourselves. Self-determination is one of the higher principles of international law enshrined in the charter of the United Nations. At one time in history we viewed this sacrosanct, yet in the postmodern age, ideals of sovereignty and self-determination are viewed as archaic and quaint.

In respect of that, Labour's call for a permanent customs union is in open defiance of the principles of Brexit. It is an instrument of accountancy but one which hinders the UK's ability to develop its own free standing relationships with the rest of the world.

Viewed solely through the prism of accountancy it is a fairly sensible call to make. If our only concern is GDP then the evidence stacks up against Brexit and suggests that if we are to do it then a customs union is probably in our favour.

This, though, is not a matter of accountancy. It's about accountability. There is no question in my mind that the UK will struggle to match the trade deals we already have via the EU. It is very possible some of them can be configured to suit the UK better but the net effect of Brexit is likely to mean less favourable terms overall.

The Tory Brexiters believe that Brexit ushers in a new dawn of free trade, unleashing Britain's global prowess on the high seas of commerce. To a large extent it's Thatcherite nostalgia remembering that the UK had its fingers in many pies internationally. Any chronicle of late twentieth century Britain is peppered with it favour international scandal, be it the ill-fated Westland 31, Pergau Dam, Iraqi super gun and Mark Thatcher's colourful career. Britain was a player.

The true nature of trade in this century, though, is far less exciting. It's a process of interminably dull meetings in Geneva on anything from radio bandwidths to BSE controls. It would have to work hard to be duller than it is. Gone are the days of signing dodgy contracts on the deck of a media moguls yacht.

What should concern us about the Tories, though is their eagerness to open the floodgates to international competition potentially without reciprocality. It's ironic that they should wail about the spectre of a customs union that would leave us without defences when they themselves favour unilateral trade defence disarmament. If your main concern is stopping the Tories from doing any such thing then I suppose a customs union makes a lot of sense.

This is essentially why the Europhiles want to remain in the EU. They don't like raw democracy and they are only too happy to ensure that the UK government is constrained. This is essentially what the EU was designed to do. It's a feature, not a bug. But what that means is that the laws we live by started life deep in the bowels of the Commission and never appeared on any political manifesto.

In this, it's actually the Tory Brexiters who have betrayed Brexit. They have appropriated it for their own ends when ultimately the reason we are leaving the EU is because we are continually subject to radical change without ever having been consulted - be it Lisbon or freedom of movement. Government is simply something that is done to us. For the Tories then to hijack Brexit in pursuit of their radical free trade agenda, is yet another example of how the sovereignty of the people is undermined.

If we recall the referendum, the basic premise of Vote Leave was "take back control". That would imply that the UK should be in charge of its own trade relationships in that a nation that does not decide who and what comes into the country and on what terms is not really a nation at all. It's province.

This goes toward demonstrating the point that so much as EU membership is a wholly unsatisfactory position to be in, Brexit without more radical democratic reform is not much of an improvement. Unrestrained elected Tory globalists are every bit as bad as unrestrained unelected EU globalists.

For me Brexit couldn't be less about trade. Trade is important but when trade is increasingly about global governance, it is a matter of the domestic democratic defences we have against unwelcome change and the further privatisation of governance. As an EU member, and under the current regime, all human considerations are subordinate to trade flows and GDP. There is a cultish devotion to growth and rule by spreadsheet.

Routinely we are told that we did not vote to be poorer. Whether we did or did not is neither here nor there. We voted to take back control, to have more of a say the ultimate destination ought to be a people's veto on any radical political proposals. If then the consequences of that is that we are poorer then so be it. Materially the UK has never been better off, but the Brexit vote would seem to indicate that voters put a premium on democracy.

Just lately we have seen proposals coming from somewhere on the left for a "people's assembly". It's bound to have originated from a London think tank, because only the bubble could produce such a bland an unambitious proposal. The notion that a super focus group tacked on to our ailing and decrepit Westminster system is a figleaf of reform rather than meaningful structural changes to the distribution of power.

Much has been said of parliamentary sovereignty over the course of Brexit, but recent events show that very occasionally Parliament does wield its own power. In this instance to ensure that we do not take powers back from Brussels and to ensure we do not take back control. The sovereignty of parliament, therefore, is used to subordinate the sovereignty of the people, because parliament, and the wider establishment is still the servant of the Brussels machine and the neoliberal globalist agenda. (Parklife!)

Being that this Tory government, and in fact the Labour party, (and parliament as a whole) is no longer driven by principle, the Brexit process has become little more than an exercise in management. That is ultimately the toxic consequence of EU membership. This is how it has changed the culture of government. It is no longer servant of the people.

The damage is done by Brexit is really only the consequence of correcting that which successive parliaments have conspired to do to the people without their consent. Even now the legacy remain campaign does not speak for the grand European vision. It simply doesn't want to suffer the consequences of this undertaking. To a large extent, nobody else does either. I could certainly do without it. I simply view it has necessary and something we can no longer postpone.

The Brexit process, therefore, should fix on the principles and objectives. That was the rationale behind Flexcit in that we took the view that what was done to us has to be carefully unpicked over a longer process, mindful that it was the inadequacies of the Westminster system that allowed them to do this to us in the first place, which is why we integrated The Harrogate Agenda into our Brexit plan.

Navigating the Brexit process is an unenviable task for any government. Many of the dilemmas are inherently irreconcilable and in most cases something has to give. The higher principles must be observed but they cannot be absolute in a world that turns on binding agreements and technical integration. We therefore have to prioritise according to what ultimately matters to people.

In respect of that, we must have control over our external relationships and our immigration. Our labour laws and social rights must be the property of the peoples themselves and not enshrined by agreement with a foreign entity. This is primarily a question of British people reasserting their right to govern their country, re-establishing the idea that this land is our home and not just a scrap of land we graze from to be opened up to the world and to any incomer.

It is the established norms derived from self-rule that makes Britain what it is. That is why we are a safer, better country to live in than most. It's why we don't have armed police and it's why women are free to go where they please and dress how they please. This is something we have evolved over centuries through our faith, through our literature and through our culture. It means something and cannot be casually cast aside on the altar of globalisation. Moreover, it is ours, and parliament has given away powers that were not theirs to give away. Brexit is our reminder to them that they serve us. The message doesn't seem to be sinking in. 

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