Friday, 28 February 2020

The genuine article?

A few people have suggested to me on Twitter that I'm now sounding like a remainer. I don't care. We are out of the EU. Brexit is not at risk. Our departure is a done deal. The mode of our departure, however, is a wholly different kettle of fish where I have virtually nothing in common with your average Brexiter. I don't owe them anything and I certainly don't Johnson's yobocracy any loyalty.

It's more than six years ago now since I started thinking about trade and learning about the regulatory mechanisms of the EU. I've thought about little else in that time. That learning process has changed me. I've seen every bullshit argument in the book from both sides of the debate (having crafted some of them myself) so if I am an expert on anything at all it's knowing bullshit when I see it. I've seen enough to give any normal person the thousand yard stare. Lucky for you I'm not normal.

My motive for voting to leave remains sound. The EU is a sovereignty harvesting machine and the direction of travel is always the same no matter who you vote for. With the EU having powers over multiple strands of governance, the gulf between the governed and the governors widens all the time do a point where our ruling class are entirely alienated from the people they notionally serve. Brexit is a timely yank on the leash. I could expand on this but you can find it elsewhere on this blog if you still doubt my sincerity. There can be few Brexit bloggers more prolific than me. I have nothing to prove to you.

But for all that, voting to leave does not mean the EU stops existing. It is still a regional and global power with which we must contend, and the very nature of modern trade treaties involves a compromise of sovereignty one way or another. The best we can hope for is to repatriate the decision making so the supreme authority over what we adopt ultimately resides here in the UK.

In my estimations I have never flinched from the cold realities of Brexit. It is a downgrade in terms of trade and regional influence, and the harder the Brexit the greater the damage. This is why I would have preferred EEA Efta and then used our collective diplomatic clout to modernise and reshape the EEA agreement more to our liking. I believe that was in the realms of possibility.

For various reasons, that option is pretty much dead in the water for the time being, possibly forever, but one should never say never. In the interim, though, Britain needs a deep and comprehensive relationship with the EU because it is broadly an ally, while also being a direct regional concern. We cannot disengage politically from the EU even as a non-member, nor can we completely escape its regulatory influence even if it were in the national interest to do so. Half of our exports go to the EU and we cannot afford to casually write it off.

Being that the EU is a global regulatory superpower, and one with a magnitude more clout than the UK even after our departure, it will continue to influence our laws, our trade policy and our wider foreign policy. If we want enhanced rights to trade inside the EU market then adoption of standards and rules goes with the territory and the EU cannot and will not cede its own sovereignty over the application of those rules, so since we squandered the opportunity of rejoining Efta, a role for the ECJ was always inevitable.

As a leaver I don't like this any more than you do but it is simply a fact of life. Unlike the headcases I cannot self-deceive. There isn't an unregulated wild west of "free trade" awaiting us beyond the Atlantic or in the Pacific. Regulatory sovereignty is a pipe-dream and an obsolete notion unless you happen to be a regulatory superpower - which we aren't.

As it happens, if the intention is to move toward a CETA++ agreement then the role of the ECJ is limited to those few occasions when bilateral dispute resolution panels cannot agree. Though the ECJ is a ratchet mechanism for the EU, it is still a court that dispenses technical rulings which in most cases are beyond reasonable question. The outright phobia of the ECJ is paranoid lunacy.

The reality is that a base level FTA is not going to be sufficient and over time it will necessarily have to evolve where, due to our close proximity and the greater number of cross-border concerns, the relationship will evolve to resemble that of either Norway or Switzerland. It may take twenty years to get there but that is the eventual destination. It can be no other way - not least since the Tories won't be in power forever. In the meantime the Tories are unnecessarily inflicting a factory reset on us that will cost us greatly, all in the belief that our relationship can be confined to just a basic trade relationship.

This is all based on a fundamental misapprehension of what trade is - which is inherently complex, multidisciplinary and with multiple overlaps. What they imagine to be a basic relationship is just the elimination of tariffs - a long obsolete fixation on the Tory right, failing to note that the core element in all modern trade is now regulation. It is a reality they continually hide from, and have sought to mislead the public by polluting the debate with simplistic nostrums and outright lies.

This is where it becomes apparent that the Tories are deep in a bubble of their own, in the grip of a deeply flawed groupthink, purging all expertise and diplomatic experience as they go, replacing it with pliant toryboy think tankers with zero knowledge and zero ability save for an impressive ability to conform to narrative. Consequently we have second raters in charge of the most crucial trade negotiation of all time up against seasoned specialists who know their own systems and know our fundamental weaknesses (which we can't  even admit to ourselves lest the whole construct of lies collapses in on us).

Being that the opposition has gone AWOL and will have nothing of value to say for itself when it does finally select a new leader, and with our media essentially giving Johnson a free pass on his cronyism, corruption and galactic incompetence, I cannot defend Brexit as I once did. If there is to be no other opposition then it is something of an obligation to speak unvarnished truths about our predicament.

That doesn't make me a rejoiner. I wouldn't vote to rejoin nor would I support any effort to do so. I have a great deal of animosity toward remainer MPs who share in the responsibility for putting Johnson where he is - and for all the incompetence of this government, all the things I find deficient about the EU are still there and will not be remedied any time soon, if ever. But I did not vote for Brexit so that we could be a one party state, and certainly not a private fiefdom for Boris Johnson and his idiotic lackeys. I didn't want him to lead the leave campaign. He was foisted on us and never cared about the cause as we did.

When I look at Johnson I see a sort of Manchurian candidate. A Faustian pact. His only ambition is to occupy the post of Prime Minister for his own narcissistic reasons and he is there on licence so long as he gives the Brexit backers what they want. So long as he does that, and so long as he keeps the Kiptards happy with some token immigration controls, he is free to run the country according to the usual script.

For the money men pulling the strings, Brexit isn't about democracy or restoring sovereignty. It's a sociopathic (and ill-fated) money making agenda. They don't care what damage they do or the lasting consequences it will have for ordinary people and the future standing of our country. These people are yobs driving a horse and cart through every convention in the book. This isn't "draining the swamp". They're just restocking it with their preferred species of pondlife.

For me the Brexit process is far from over. It won't be over if or when a deal is struck. Brexit is a catalyst for change but the Johnson's Tories are not that change. They've seen off the Ukipper insurgency and absorbed it. The establishment has always had ways of neutralising threats. They are back to business as usual.

Brexit is fundamentally a question of who governs us and how. If we are simply shifting the centre of power from a corrupt kleptocracy in Brussels to one in London, ultimately serving the same class of people, then Brexit wasn't worth the bother. If all it takes to satisfy you is empty promises from Boris Johnson, and this band of hopeless inadequates is your idea of renewed democracy, then perhaps it's you who isn't a real Brexiter, not me.

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