Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The last mile

One of the notable features of the debate at the moment is that each respective side does a better job of discrediting their own positions than the opposition. Remainer arrogance, snobbery, petulance and outright churlishness does them no favours at all. The mask really has slipped. But then I can say that of my own side too.

It's got to the point where I almost feel like I don't have a dog in the fight. The closer we get to Brexit day the more uniform Brexiters become in their mantras and the more stereotypically awful they become. Moreover, it tends to be rooted in self-pity and paranoia. 

The no-dealers are generally becoming more ridiculous (now claiming that the EU owes us £10bn) through to risible demands for the arrest of Olly Robbins for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Then, of course there's the usual shtick about Mrs May being the remainer quietly sabotaging Brexit, conspiring with the EU to keep us in a customs union. 

Worse still is the denial of any responsibility in all this. It's anybody else's fault but the Brexiters, all of whom resigned after effectively marginalising themselves by being intellectually underequipped and not sufficiently grounded in reality to be taken seriously. Ever since they have retreated to their own fanbases to form one of the most productive excuse factories in the business. For whatever complaints leavers may have about the deal on the table, I am totally lacking in sympathy.

At the heart of this has been typical Tory arrogance and presumption, believing we could wing it and that we could rush through it all in one go - underpinned by the crackpot theories of Patrick Minford and the snake oil of Shanker Singham. It became more important to them to win the propaganda war (which they have) than to win the actual argument. 

There was a time when the leave camp was fragmented, but with the Tories dominating the propaganda channels, it would seem the majority of ardent leavers have fallen in line with the scripture to the point where for me Brexit is almost an unsupportable proposition. We are inflicting major damage on our own economy which was entirely avoidable were it that we had a clue what we were doing. 

The difficulty we are presently experiencing in rolling over trade relationships need not have been the headache it is. The jobs we will inevitably lose in the coming months was also avoidable were we able to dispel the growing uncertainty. Everything that can be mishandled, though, has been completely and utterly mishandled because our approach was conceptually wrong from the outset. We will pay a far heavier price than we ever needed to. 

The danger of this gross negligence is that Brexit will ultimately case more problems than it solves which could lead to a future "bre-entry". This is because the leave campaign was never up front about the real purpose of Brexit. It can never live up to its economic promises because it never was an economic proposition. 

If the Brexit process has shown us anything it is that it is a great deal easier to give powers away than it is to take them back. Being that EU integration tends to happen on autopilot, generally in the background without much in the way of scrutiny, unless we put the brakes on we would one day find ourselves with few remaining exclusive competences and with key policies beyond the reach of democracy and beyond reform.

Of itself that is sufficient justification enough to leave the EU, but it is barely a remedy to anything at all - and certainly not without a clear idea what we actually wanted to achieve. The absence of such vision has left a policy vacuum which has been filled by a Tory "free trade" experiment which, if taken to its extremes, will damage the UK unimaginably. 

With remainers now realising that the game is up and there is virtually no chance of us remaining in the EU, there is little point in lavishing further attention upon them. They may well be risible but they are, for the most part, harmless. Brexiters on the other hand, are fully committed to inflicting the maximum damage possible - thus most of my ire is now directed at fellow leavers. The case for Brexit is poorly represented in the media and incompetently defended and the more we see of Nadine Dorries and Andrea Jenkyns the less appealing Brexit becomes. 

The public debate has now been colonised by the morons and the lunatics because anybody sane has tuned it out if only to preserve their sanity. Those who haven't grasped the concept of non-tariff barriers by now are never going to - not least because they don't want to, and unless one indulges in the ongoing fiction of backstop renegotiation there is simply nothing left to say on the matter until the brown stuff hits the fan.

I suppose, though, for all the mistakes that have been made, the greatest error of all was my own belief that this could ever be handled competently. Once you scrape off the presentation layer of British politics there is insufficient talent in the system to ever bring coherence to this process. I am not alone in being unable to recall a greater display of mendacity and ineptitude. For all that Brexit notionally affords us the ability to govern ourselves, one could be forgiven for doubting it is even desirable. Anyone waiting for the grown ups to be back in charge will likely be waiting a very long time. 

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