Monday, 27 May 2019

Back to business


There seems to be some dispute over who "won" the euro-elections. You can cut the results any which way so they say what you want them to say. The only statistic that matters is the pitifully low turnout. An election and a parliament with zero legitimacy.

We could go into some depths trying to extrapolate some kind of trend but at the end of the day it's all guesswork. This is why we have referendums to settle this kind of thing and we've already had one with twice the turnout. All we can say for sure is about half the country still wants to leave the EU and the other half wants to remain.

What that tells you is that neither side has a viable or sustainable proposition for the UK to build on. Remaining is an unsatisfactory answer with political consequences of its own and a no deal Brexit is far from the end of the process where in all likelihood we end up grovelling to Brussels from a far weaker position to end up with a deal equal or worse than the one presently on the table.

Were it that we had a functioning parliament there would be a realisation of this and we would see a renewed push for a negotiated outcome. But then the politicians won't have learned anything at all and will construct their own tribal narratives based on the results and the arithmetic won't substantially change.

Much is now going to depend on who the Tories appoint as their next leader, and whether there is a final push at securing an agreement. I won't waste your time with my speculation save to say the prognosis is not good. The offerings thus far give us little hope. It's a choice between the deluded, the mendacious, the profoundly ignorant and the irrelevant. And it's not even our choice to make. We are spectators.

Until such a time as we do have a new PM, we are once again marking time with no new developments to reflect on and as each day passes the euro-elections will fade in significance (for all that they were significant to begin with). The Farage party will crow and the media will trot out all of the tiresome recycled narratives but Farage has no more power over the events than he did yesterday. 

If the euro-elections have served any function at all then it is to prick the egos of the Change UK brigade and remind parliament that leave sentiment has not gone anywhere but there still remains for parliament all of the dilemmas they've been ducking for months. 

Insofar as what can be done, I'm using my own limited influence to continually restate that no deal is a path to nowhere and can lead only to a major national humiliation when the flimsy free trade theories of the Brexiters fall apart. A new Tory leader may have a walkout in mind but none of us have to take it lying down. 

The conventional wisdom is that unless the Tories reform as a hard Brexit party they face electoral oblivion, but in the real world, with the UK facing standard third country controls, new impediments to trade and exclusion from a number of services market, the Tories will have to carry the can for a major jobs blow that cannot be swept under the carpet. A negotiated exit may infuriate the Tory grassroots, but it may be the only thing that stands between them and extinction. No floating voter will ever forgive the Tories for a total wipeout Brexit. Perhaps that thought might focus the minds of moderate backbenchers.

Ultimately parliament is where the real business happens now. Farage and his entourage of replacement lackeys are little more than noisemakers. They can be safely ignored. Their polling wasn't an advance on the last go around and their impact in a general election, after a bout of infighting no doubt, will be similarly unimpressive. They have shown us that for them this is not about a viable or successful Brexit outcome. This is now a puerile culture war against the likes of Soubry and Umunna, and winning in polls is more important than actually achieving anything. It should be treated as the empty sideshow it is.

Whether or not the withdrawal process gets a new lease of life is the only question that should now concern us. If it can't be the withdrawal agreement on the table then something has to give and we should look to a far longer extension until the UK has a consensus on how to proceed. Avoiding a no deal Brexit is the paramount concern. Nothing good can come from it. 

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