Sheep tumbling off a cliff


May I admit that I’ve given up on understanding Brexit? It sounds like stupid people stampeding after a stupid idea, with an ineffectual opposition making pointless motions in a parliamentary dance. I don’t get it. I’m lost.

The government has been defeated by MPs on propositions that they themselves backed two weeks ago. The whole edifice of blather and nonsense is coming tumbling down.

It’s commonly accepted that there’s no majority in the Commons for any given response to Brexit. But today it went a step further. It was inadequacy squared. It is clear now that there is not even a majority for the imaginary things MPs had only recently given a majority to. The whole British political system is imploding in on itself.

It might seem like reasonless chaos, but there is a moral message to what is happening here. You cannot govern on the basis of gibberish. You cannot make gurgled yearnings the basis for your negotiating posture. Because the lack of meaning in those original propositions means that they do not work as functional foundations of policy.

This is what the farce looks like when it’s untangled. May was defeated on her Brexit deal last month. It did not win the support of the opposition parties or her own MPs. They were concerned about the backstop, which would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I’m not picking on Great Britain — it’s the same thing happening here in the US. In our case, it’s an incompetent madman who has become the chief executive, with the conservative party backing everything he does because it keeps them in power.

So we’ve got two great countries paralyzed by idiocy, at the same time. WTF? And where’s the revolution?

Comments

  1. ajbjasus says

    A revolution?. I’m not sure I’d trust anyone to be in charge of that.

    It’s far from having any teeth, but the most refreshing dose of common sense (if not the only bit) I’ve heard recently came from Chuka Umunna on Today today.

  2. Dunc says

    Oh, that was last week… Now we’ve got a pointless schism in the Opposition, just to put the cherry on the cake.

  3. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    The Russian espionage and disinformation campaigns in the US and the UK will go down as having the biggest bang for the buck in intelligence history. Brexit and Trump have done more damage than anything the Soviets ever managed.

  4. says

    What can one say? The previous Prime Minister foolishly committed himself to holding a referendum to try to solve some problems internal to his political party. Because the referendum was “non-binding”, it seems to have been passed by Parliament, as none of them thought it would even be close, let along a win for Leave. Add in dodgy campaigning, and a populace who have read too many daft anti-European stories in the popular press, and we end up in the current mess.

  5. davidc1 says

    “Well ,i voted to remain ,so don’t blame me “.I think that would look great on a Tshirt ,
    That might be the only things we produce in years to come .
    Someone posted a comment on the Independent’s comment page about people who will lose their
    jobs if Nissan leave ,they have no regrets and think it will be worth it .

  6. jerthebarbarian says

    And where’s the revolution?

    This is what the revolution looks like. The conservatives have staged a successful revolt against modernity.

    Aided by outside forces of course, but then looking historically it’s rare to find a revolution that wasn’t assisted by the enemies of the state being revolted against either overtly or covertly. Enemies love to see infighting and civil war.

  7. chrislawson says

    The common factor is that both countries have Murdoch as the dominant news source. Here in Australia things are not quite as bad, but most of the stupidest, self-destructive, or morally vile actions by politicians are facilitated by the Murdoch news machine. (Case in point: this week, Murdoch’s national newspaper published illegally leaked security agency concerns on immigration law changes and misrepresented them in order to prop up a conservative government that has otherwise been in crisis.)

  8. Dunc says

    Kip T.W. @14:

    I’m confused. What does “non-binding” mean? It clearly isn’t what it sounds like.

    It means that the referendum was not legally binding on the government. They could have chosen to ignore the result.

  9. call me mark says

    Kip T.W.: “Non-binding” in this context means that Parliament was not legally bound to follow the result of the referendum.

  10. says

    Dunc:

    Thanks.

    That’s what it sounded like to me. It’s like these people agreed to pretend they had a chain around their neck, and now they’re forced to pretend that the chain is dragging them all off of a cliff, so they’re obediently shuffling toward that precipice, cursing the imaginary chain that’s forcing them to do this awful thing.

    I still don’t get it, but on a different level than before.

  11. Jazzlet says

    Kip;
    That’s exactly what’s happening. Both parties are split on the issue, there are a lot of MP’s with marginal constituencies whose electorate voted firmly for Leave. There are a lot of people saying “The People have Spoken” as if the people never change their minds when we know there were a lot of people who voted Leave to give the Tories a bloody nose and who are horriffied we are actually leaving, not to get into how little reality there was in the Leave campaigns positions.

    I think chrislawson is right an awful lot of this can be laid at the door of the Murdoch press who have spent decades sayng that everything wrong with the UK was down to the EU quite regardless of where the responsibility really lay. Ultimately the Murdoch press is pro business and pro multi nationals above all else, the EU is a big enough power block to put serious crimps in the power of multinationals, as is the USA, and both are so convulsed with paroxysms about crap that they are ignoring the real problems that need attention.

  12. Dunc says

    Kip T.W: Well, a lot of the Tory party are very definitely pro-Brexit, as are a lot of the electorate, and the government only has a razor-thin majority. If they were to decide to ignore the referendum result then the government would fall in about 20 seconds flat, and a lot of them would face a very tough time in the resulting election. (Remember that while the overall result was 52% to 48% in favour of Leave, the results in many individual constituencies were much more clear cut.)

    There’s also a fair argument to be made that an MP elected to represent a constituency which voted Leave has a duty to represent that position.

  13. petesh says

    Via my brother, who lives in Belfast and does not know who wrote this, a definition of Brexit:

    The undefined being negotiated  by the unprepared in order to get the unspecified for the uninformed.

  14. says

    The issue of the hard border on Ireland didn’t even occur to me until I watched the John Oliver piece. I feel like remain should have a huge deal about that. On that basis alone remain was the better option. It is telling that most areas in N. Ireland were in favor of remain especially the border areas.

  15. Brain Hertz says

    The issue of the hard border on Ireland didn’t even occur to me until I watched the John Oliver piece. I feel like remain should have a huge deal about that. On that basis alone remain was the better option. It is telling that most areas in N. Ireland were in favor of remain especially the border areas.

    John Major and Tony Blair (ie former Prime Ministers from opposing parties) made a major joint speech about exactly this issue before the referendum. The idea that this would be a problem was promptly rubbished by Brexiteers like Boris Johnson who labelled it as being part of “Project Fear”, a maddening piece of rhetoric which bundled all contrary opinions into one big bucket so that it could be safely ignored.

  16. Snarki, child of Loki says

    Re: Brexit and Northern Ireland.

    The dilemma, assuming that Brexit occurs:
    Either
    (a) hard border between Republic of Ireland and NI, and no border between NI and the rest of the UK, or
    (b) no hard border between Republic of Ireland and NI, and a hard border between NI and the rest of the UK.

    My scheme, which is mine:
    (a) NO border between ROI and NI for catholics, but a hard border for protestants
    (b) NO border between NI and UK for protestants, but a hard border for catholics.

    So the UK can still get stuff from the EU, but it will require cooperation between protestants and catholics in NI. Not clear if there are any atheists in NI, but I’d go with a “no borders at all for atheists” addendum.

  17. Rich Woods says

    @Mike Smith #22:

    On that basis alone remain was the better option.

    A month or so before the referendum I watched a 20 minute talk given by a Professor of European Law from the University of Liverpool. His point was that the bottom line was that Brexit would be doomed to failure because there was no way that the stated aims of the Leave campaigners could be reconciled with the Good Friday Agreement. If the UK wanted to avoid a hard border in Ireland — something we are treaty-bound to do — then none of the four freedoms (of movement, goods, services and money) could be dropped, and the EU could not make the UK a special exception to those founding principles without bringing the entire Union down. Without an exception the UK would lose any say over how those principles were further developed and become a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker, which would be unacceptable to those trumpeting sovereignty over all else.

    But then, as Michael Gove famously snapped when challenged, “The British people have had enough of experts!”

    So here we are. Fucked, with no sign of even a last-minute compromise in sight. I’m stockpiling food. I don’t want to think what the Provos are stockpiling.

  18. efogoto says

    @24 Snarki. No addendum needed for atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, &c. They’d not be stopped at the Protestant border as they aren’t of that faith, and for the same reason would not be stopped at the Catholic border. Well done, sir!

  19. Brain Hertz says

    The dilemma, assuming that Brexit occurs:
    Either
    (a) hard border between Republic of Ireland and NI, and no border between NI and the rest of the UK, or
    (b) no hard border between Republic of Ireland and NI, and a hard border between NI and the rest of the UK.

    But this is easily resolved by adding an option (c) called “alternative arrangements”. You don’t have to say what that is, just that it is a third option which you command into existence. Then all that remains is for Theresa be sent to Brussels to tell very confused EU negotiators to replace the backstop with said unspecified “alternative arrangements”.

    I still can’t believe that actually happened.

  20. Gregory Greenwood says

    May I admit that I’ve given up on understanding Brexit? It sounds like stupid people stampeding after a stupid idea, with an ineffectual opposition making pointless motions in a parliamentary dance

    As a Brit, your description seems to cover the situation pretty well to me. The idea of Brexit was self mutilating idiocy, further compounded by an old story of factional infighting within the Conservative party that is currently in power. At the same time, internal party politics within the Labour opposition has made sure that the looming catastrophe of Brexit probably can’t be averted.

    Essentially, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both care far more about maintaining their own positions within their respective parties – and in May’s case staying in power while Corbyn’s seeks to achieve it – then they do about the actual interests and economic viability of the country. In their own ways, each of them is riding Britain off a cliff in pursuit of their own vain glory. The two party, first past the post electoral system also ensures that no alternative to these two horrendously dysfunctional parties is able to garner any meaningful political momentum, leaving no improvement to this mess even on the horizon.

    Welcome to British politics circa 2019. Is it any surprise that the fastest growing political affiliation, especially amongst the young, in the UK is an apathetic refusal to even engage at all when your choices are like this? Who do you choose when the Conservatives embody a horrendously racist policy platform, perhaps the most egregious example of which is the so called ‘hostile environment’ immigration system, while the Labour leadership is soft on antisemitism and Corbyn’s supporting Momentum movement seems far more invested in keeping their idol in power than they are in rooting out the bigotry that infests the Labour party? Even many like myself who do vote only do so to keep the most dangerous extremists out of power, with no expectation that a government of either political colour will really do anything to actually improve the lot of the citizenry.

  21. says

    Well, the no dealer seem to be getting their way because everybody else is busy being idiots.
    They’ll line their pockets and get their wet dreams about undoing decades of labour, environmental and consumer protections.

    Though I must say my favourite (by “favourite” I mean “alternately shaking my head in disbelief and banging it on the table”) Brexit takes are:
    It’s unfair that the EU is withdrawing its agencies from the UK, just because we declared them the devil incarnate. We want nothing to do with them but will you leave that money here?
    and
    Solving the border problem is very easy, the ROI should just leave the EU and join us, their former collonial power. Because what’s a genocide or two amongst friends?

  22. robro says

    Interesting how “Russia” or “Russians” continues to be the focus for what happened in 2016 in the US and UK, completely bypassing the obvious involvement of many non-Russian players such as: Assange/Wikileaks, the Mercers, Breitbart & Bannon, Cambridge Analytica and related companies, the Koch brothers, Nigel Farage, media moguls (Murdoch, Pecker, etc), the Saudi royal family, other royal families, and many others, not to mention the cadre of Trump operatives who have already been ensnared in the mess such as Manafort, Cohen, and Stone. That’s not to say no Russians, but it’s not just Russians. There are some 2,000 billionaires in the world, many of whom want to break down the ability of governments individually and collectively to regulate their activities, investments, and business practices.

  23. says

    Robro:

    Interesting how “Russia” or “Russians” continues to be the focus for what happened in 2016 in the US and UK, completely bypassing the obvious involvement of many non-Russian players such as:

    A couple of million fucking racists who’s rather shoot their own foot than have a non-white or Eastern European person have a damn biscuit.

  24. says

    Incidentally, I found Fintan O’Toole’s Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Poitics of Pain to be very interesting. From a review:

    …He is quite right that the fantasy of Brussels as a domineering, enslaving, colonising power has insinuated itself into the darkest corners of the English imagination in the last few decades…, and it’s the contemporary English imagination which is the real subject of this book. O’Toole uncovers and dissects it with the deliberate, affectless skill of a virtuoso surgeon. The result, for me, is a wildly entertaining but uncomfortable read. In short, he has nailed us. He has nailed us to the floor with a nine-inch nail. It’s certainly not easy bein’ English these days, and O’Toole, with this pitilessly brilliant book, has just made it at least fifty shades harder.

  25. says

    Snarki @24:

    My scheme, which is mine:
    (a) NO border between ROI and NI for catholics, but a hard border for protestants
    (b) NO border between NI and UK for protestants, but a hard border for catholics.

    To quote a line from an old movie I no longer remember the title of: “But are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?”

  26. wonderpants says

    No, Brexit. makes very little sense.

    There are some valid reasons not to be too keen on the EU, like it’s democratic deficit and treatment of Greece, but Brexit is largely driven by people who feel left behind by globalism and ignored by politicians, set against a backdrop of austerity and a refugee crisis, who were persuaded by right wing newspapers and some simple slogans, not to mention possible Russian interference, to vote to leave because it would solve all their problems. Which they narrowly won by 52:48%, thus effectively splitting the country.

    The Prone Minister and various other politicians then decided to charge ahead and invoke Article 50 (notification of leaving the EU) without attempting to compromise with Remainers and while adopting a hostile tone of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal”, etc. She then followed this up by running an election that was meant to further strengthen her mandate, but made a spectacular balls up of it that cost her the majority in parliament and at the mercy of the Northern Irish DUP party and the European Research Group, both of whom want a no deal Brexit.

    So now we have a steady stream of companies and money either leaving or threatening to leave, while the liberal promises of the Brexiters have turned into promises that no one will die or starve and we’ll get through it (we survived the Blitz/WW2, etc), and the government is unable to decided between No Deal (tearing up the Irish peace agreement and loads of other treaties, which absolutely will not come back to bite us in the arse when we need to sign new treaties…) or Mays
    deal, which is less damaging but leaves us as rule takers with no say, which is exactly what the Brexiters complained about. And this is just act 1. It won’t end on March 29, far from it.

    It’s an almighty fuck up which will leave us a poorer, meaner, and less influential country, but no one in charge will consider stopping because of the backlash it would cause

  27. says

    William Brinkman @33: If Putin was half the super-villain he looked like, it would be a Putin puppet, and that would be the whole point of this mess for him.

  28. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    So help me out here. I though that democracy meant: one person, one vote. Not: “one person, one vote, one time.”

    Democracy only works when people have a chance to correct the errors they made previously–like listening to Russian-backed treason weasels.

  29. davidc1 says

    @35 Wrote” but Brexit is largely driven by people who feel left behind by globalism and ignored by politicians, ”
    Wrong it was driven by the likes of murduck ,farage jrm ,worthless bastards to a man.

  30. Dunc says

    The two party, first past the post electoral system also ensures that no alternative to these two horrendously dysfunctional parties is able to garner any meaningful political momentum, leaving no improvement to this mess even on the horizon.

    Well, except maybe in Scotland…

  31. petesh says

    The deep origins of the EU lie in efforts to prevent yet another war between France and Germany. Or indeed any other combination of European or Euro-adjacent powers. That was and is a Good Thing. Of course, it is in the interests of Russia and to a lesser extent the USA and China for Europe to fall apart. But it is not in the interests of the UK, even if it was in the short term in the interest of Boris [spit] Johnson and his allies. Can they come back from the brink? Sadly, I doubt it.

  32. says

    One group that must regularly gnash their teeth about Brexit, although they’ve done it in private so far, are Quebec separatist politicians. Brexit serves as a giant red flag to their potential supporters that any breakup with Canada will not be simple or friendly.

  33. lucifersbike says

    I used to be interested in politics. I used to believe that you could argue with one’s political opponents and possibly reach an agreement or at least learn from one another. I was prepared to believe that even politicians on the other side were doing what they thought was best for the country.
    I now realise I was completely wrong. “Stupid people stampeding after a stupid idea” is a wholly inadequate description of the tidal wave of shit that is about to hit the UK. The behaviour of the politicians who promoted this is beneath contempt; the behaviour of the alleged opposition in seeking to gain some kind of electoral advantage from this clusterfuck is as bad. Where another country’s president might intervene to knock heads together, our expensive and pointless unelected head of state is as much use as a fishnet condom.
    My only hope as someone whose work and family is already suffering from this nonsense, is that a very large meteorite will hit the Palace of Westminster at the next State Opening and vapourise the lot of them.
    For Giliel @ 29. There are even worse examples of the Brexiters’ shaky grasp on reality – I give Nadine Dorries the fragrant MP for Mid-Bedfordshire who is so mind-boggingly stupid that she has asked her colleagues to explain “customs union” and then excelled herself by complaining that the UK would have no MEPs after Brexit.
    chrislawson@13 Of course the Murdoch media empire is a malign influence and it controls far too much of the British media (the allegedly impartial BBC pays far too much attention to the Murdoch press). On the other hand the rest of the British press isn’t any better. (it’s one of the many reasons I’m glad I can read other languages, I get my news from the rest of Europe, or at least the bits that speak German, Italian and French) . On the other hand, voters are supposed to be adults capable of making an informed decision. If you’re so stupid that you believe everything printed in the Sun or the Mail, perhaps you shouldn’t be allowed to vote until you’ve passed an exam in thinking for yourself.

  34. robro says

    Giliell @ #3

    A couple of million fucking racists who’s rather shoot their own foot than have a non-white or Eastern European person have a damn biscuit.

    Yep, many tens of millions of racists, sexists, and other types of bigots who are easily fooled.

  35. dianne says

    The canonical Brexit moment for me was when I saw a clip of someone trying to burn an EU flag…and failing because of EU fire safety regulations.

  36. says

    @#27, Brain Hertz

    But this is easily resolved by adding an option (c) called “alternative arrangements”. You don’t have to say what that is, just that it is a third option which you command into existence. Then all that remains is for Theresa be sent to Brussels to tell very confused EU negotiators to replace the backstop with said unspecified “alternative arrangements”.
    I still can’t believe that actually happened.

    I can. Really easily. All my life, I’ve seen politicians here in the US hand-wave away problems with that kind of nonsensical non sequitur from politicians of both parties, and have repeatedly been told to shut up when pointing out that it has just happened again. That a leader of the Tories — a party which blatantly cannot govern and has no interest in trying, like our Republicans — would be guilty of this is not even the slightest surprise.

    @#28, Gregory Greenwood

    Essentially, both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both care far more about maintaining their own positions within their respective parties – and in May’s case staying in power while Corbyn’s seeks to achieve it – then they do about the actual interests and economic viability of the country.

    I was thinking this, but Corbyn’s failure to — either immediately before, immediately after, or at the same time as the vote of no confidence — declare that Brexit was a total disaster which could not be salvaged and Labour was henceforth going to be pushing all-out for cancellation suggests strongly that achieving power really isn’t his goal. It would have been a masterstroke; he could have forced a lot of Tories to vote Labour out of self-preservation, and frankly the pro-Leave Labour voters are, from what I’ve seen, not numerous enough anywhere to make the continuing placation of them a sensible path to power. If he were power-hungry, he’d be jumping on the opportunity to appear to be the only sane man in the room; instead, he’s saying “if you vote Labour you’ll get approximately the same policy as from the Tories, but it will be better for unspecified reasons because Labour will be doing it” and that’s what has caused Labour’s fall in recent polls. Dunno why he’s doing that — maybe he’s even standing by his principles, but if so his principles aren’t very good ones.

    @#30, robro:
    I note with interest that your list does not include Democrats who were so delusional that they nominated the least-popular person of national standing in their party to oppose Trump, despite the fact that that candidate was continuously shown in polls starting before the campaign to be considered untrustworthy by more than half the voters. A competent candidate would not have had the vulnerabilities that Clinton did, and Trump would not have been able to exploit the many, many boneheaded mistakes she made. The Democrats bear a lot of responsibility for Trump, because they chose somebody whose popularity was barely half of party members and essentially nil outside it.

  37. John Morales says

    Any polly worth their salt could manufacture a pretext, if they so cared;

    a comment copied from Mano’s blog

    Idea: In the interests of fairness, surely there should be a supplementary referendum exclusively for those who have become enfranchised only since the original referendum was held. After all, they’re now eligible voters, but they have not yet had their say.

    (I don’t normally recycle, but hey)

  38. raven says

    I just skimmed through this thread.
    I still don’t understand Brexit.
    Mostly, it seems because it is impossible to understand Brexit as making any sort of sense whatsoever.

    Take that as a fact on the ground.
    It’s unanswerable.

    A better question is, what will happen when the No Plan At All Brexit does occur?
    It looks now like there will be no plan and the UK will just leave the EU.
    This is at least an answerable question.
    Things will happen for sure, most likely most of them not good at all..
    So does anyone have any ideas or will the UK and the EU just make it up as they go along?

    PS My best guess is that the UK will still be doing nothing but hold parliament votes that all fail.
    So the EU will unilaterally dictate the terms of the separation and be generous since it is not in their interest at all to have a wounded UK spiralling down into an economic and social depression.

  39. Gregory Greenwood says

    Vicar @36;

    I was thinking this, but Corbyn’s failure to — either immediately before, immediately after, or at the same time as the vote of no confidence — declare that Brexit was a total disaster which could not be salvaged and Labour was henceforth going to be pushing all-out for cancellation suggests strongly that achieving power really isn’t his goal. It would have been a masterstroke; he could have forced a lot of Tories to vote Labour out of self-preservation, and frankly the pro-Leave Labour voters are, from what I’ve seen, not numerous enough anywhere to make the continuing placation of them a sensible path to power. If he were power-hungry, he’d be jumping on the opportunity to appear to be the only sane man in the room; instead, he’s saying “if you vote Labour you’ll get approximately the same policy as from the Tories, but it will be better for unspecified reasons because Labour will be doing it” and that’s what has caused Labour’s fall in recent polls. Dunno why he’s doing that — maybe he’s even standing by his principles, but if so his principles aren’t very good ones.

    I see where you are coming from, and I know Corbyn has been intellectually opposed to the EU for Left leaning reasons for years, but Labour is also split on EU membership, with swathes of its established voter demographic having voted pro-Leave in the referendum, and it seems to be the case that on that basis Corbyn has calculated that he cannot win power on a undiluted pro-EU membership ticket, so he is trying to appeal to both sides by presenting a platform of ‘soft’ Brexit reamining in the Customs Union rather than arguing for remaining in the EU in its entirety. He is also refusing to argue for a second referendum – often called the People’s Vote – despite the fact that many of his own MPs and party members are urging him to, because he feels that doing so would spend political capital he would rather use to try to force a General Election that could allow Labour, and as a result Corbyn himself, to assume power. That seems a lot like putting his own aspirations above the good of the citizenry at large to me.

  40. F.O. says

    I wonder if Corbyn is just personally anti-EU and a Brexiter at heart.
    This is a common position of the hard left, and for not entirely bad reasons, but as a hard-lefty myself I feel being anti-EU is throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

  41. F.O. says

    Anyway, my attempt at explaining Brexit:

    1) If you can blame all your problems on someone else, you can absolve yourself, you don’t have to take responsibility.
    In a lot of places, this someone else are immigrants, in the UK it was the immigrants and the EU.

    2) A lot of people were lied to. Politicians and the media didn’t do their job.
    This was orchestrated by a few interested parties:
    * Russia wants to divide and destabilise the EU and NATO
    * A lot of very rich people don’t like EU environmental and workers protections
    * A lot of local pollies saw it as a chance to gain power, consequences be damned

    3) Not unlike Trump, a lot of people desperately wanted a way to send a “fuck you” message to the establishment power, consequences for self and others be damned.

    4) There is some legitimate criticism of the EU

  42. Alt-X says

    The racists and yobbos, a large chunk of the last of the baby boomers and a whole sprinkling of spoiled – born with a silver spoon up their asses – middle aged people. All daydreaming about the return of the british empire (this is what happens when you have an education system setup to reinforce nationalism). It’s gone, it’s not coming back, get over it. None of them actually want to take responsibility, they keep egging on each other for someone else to do it. So when it all turns to sh-t, they don’t have to take the blame. It’s a race to be the last man to cross the finishing line. Madcow yo.

  43. Dunc says

    I wonder if Corbyn is just personally anti-EU and a Brexiter at heart.

    He hasn’t exactly made a secret of it… He opposed joining the EEC in 1975, opposed the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, opposed the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, and supported a referendum on withdrawal in 2011.

  44. KG says

    I’ve been commenting on the Brexit black comedy on the “Political Madness” threads for the last several months, so I won’t repeat myself (or other people) here, but try to add a few salient points not covered above.
    1) The claim that the Brexit vote was “anti-establishment” has some, but not much, truth to it. If it had been, one would have expected supporters of parties outside the government to vote that way, but other than UKIP voters, they didn’t: clear majorities of Labour, LibDEm and SNP voters, and overwhelming majorities of Green voters, voted Remain. A clear majority of Tory voters, voted Leave. The most prominent leaders of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, are from highly privileged backgrounds.
    2) Similarly, the claim that the vote was a protest by the non-Metropolitan parts of the UK founders on the majorities for Remain in Scotland (62% -every region of Scotland had a Remain majority) and northern Ireland (56%), and in the Welsh-speaking parts of Wales.
    3) There was a tendency for poorer voters and working class voters to vote Leave more than richer ones and middle-to-upper class ones, but at least equally, for older and less educated voters to vote Leave. Much of the above information is from exit polls, the regional information is from the actual vote.
    4) BAME* (Black And Minority Ethnic) people overwhelmingly voted Remain.
    5) Leave voters tended to be anti-immigration (immigration, or to be frank, racism and xenophobia, was the main driver of the Leave campaign), anti-multicultural, anti-feminist, anti-LGBTQ-rights, anti-environmentalist.
    6) Brexit is still not a done deal. A case before the European Court of Justice, brought by a group of Scottish MPs, MEPs and MSPs from the SNP, Labour and Scottish Green parties, established that the UK can unilaterally revoke its invocation of Article 50 at any time up to when it legally leaves the EU (extending the negotiation period, OTOH, requires the unanimous agreement of the 27 other EU states). The court added that revoking Article 50 cannot be done as a negotiating tactic – it must mean the state concerned has decided not to leave, which might have bizarre consequences (see below). It’s possible that as the deadline of 29th March approaches, if Parliament has failed to agree on a deal the EU can accept, so the choices are a no-deal Brexit or delaying/cancelling Brexit, delay will be chosen. It’s then, in my view, quite possible at least one of the 27 will refuse to agree. That would reduce the options to no-deal Brexit or cancellation. If cancellation is chosen, I can forsee Brexiteers going to the ECJ to argue that the cancellation was in fact a negotiating tactic and so shouldn’t be allowed! But one of their main whinges is that ECJ decisions are an infringement on UK sovereignty.
    7) It’s interesting in the light of The Vicar’s #46 that those closest to his frequently repeated views that one should never vote for the lesser evil, and indeed, the supposed “lesser evil” usually isn’t, are almost always Lexiteers – leftist Brexiteers, who point to the serious flaws of the EU, and ignore or dismiss the millions of people who will be most seriously and immediately affected by Brexit, particularly a no-deal Brexit: migrants and the poor.
    *The term “POC” is hardly used in the UK

  45. KG says

    One group that must regularly gnash their teeth about Brexit, although they’ve done it in private so far, are Quebec separatist politicians. Brexit serves as a giant red flag to their potential supporters that any breakup with Canada will not be simple or friendly. – timgueguen@41

    This of course has a parallel in the UK itself: Scottish independence. Immediately after the Brexit vote, there was a feeling among pro-independence campaigners that it made independence much more likely – because Scotland voted clearly Remain (62%) and was being dragged out of the EU against its will. I (I campaigned for independence in 2014) quickly realised this was not so. In the shorter term, Brexit was going to completely dominate UK politics for some years. In the longer term, if the process went badly (as I expected, and as has been the case), the effect would be as you describe for Quebec. Moreover, if there end up being significant trade barriers between the UK and EU, and especially a hard border in Ireland, the economic barriers to independence will be much higher. The Scottish Government, which is run by the SNP (whose raison d’être is to gain independence) has repeatedly hinted that a new independence campaign is on the way, but has failed to actually launch it.

    The deep origins of the EU lie in efforts to prevent yet another war between France and Germany. Or indeed any other combination of European or Euro-adjacent powers. That was and is a Good Thing. Of course, it is in the interests of Russia and to a lesser extent the USA and China for Europe to fall apart. But it is not in the interests of the UK – petesh@40

    QFT (at least for Russia – for the USA and China the case is less clear, because the EU can be seen as a counterweight to Russia). But also, geopolitical logic will push a UK outside the EU into active hostility to the EU, and alliance with Russia. It’s been a central theme of British foreign policy for centuries (and even arguably of English foreign policy before that) to prevent continental western Europe being dominated by a single power. Only being part of that (potential) power for the past few decades has changed that.

  46. KG says

    Cross-posted from Political Madness:

    Three Tory MPs have defected to the Funny Tinge Group. That these Tories find it acceptable to join the ex-Labour MPs rather confirms that the latter are, in fact, pro-Remain Tories. (I suppose you could argue the contrary, but while the defecting Tories emphasise Brexit in their statements, the ex-Labourites mostly talked about antisemitism – but if that was really their main reason for leaving the party, they would surely shun any association with Tories.)

  47. Zmidponk says

    Brexit has been a grade-1 clusterfuck from the very beginning.

    The original referendum was proposed by then Prime Minister David Cameron as a way of shoring up his own position in the Conservative party, as he was convinced that the result would be an easy win for the ‘Remain’ side, which would weaken the euro-skeptics in his party opposing him. Possibly because of this, or for some other reason, the Remain campaign was lukewarm at best, and the Leave campaign was pretty ferocious, to the degree that it put out half-truths and outright lies (such as that leaving would give the UK £350 million a week that could, for example, fund the NHS). This meant the Leave campaign managed to paint a picture of a Brexit that, at worst, would be hugely advantageous to the UK, and would likely lead to a situation where the EU would be that desperate to stay on the UK’s good side that the UK could basically dictate Brexit terms to the EU as it saw fit. This was basically an absolutely epic pile of bullshit, which the Remain campaign almost totally failed to call them out on. Despite this rather large advantage, the Leave campaign only managed to scrape a victory by a 52-48% margin, which caused Cameron to resign.

    Theresa May then became Prime Minister thanks to an internal party election to make her leader, and a veil of secrecy got draped around Brexit. Nobody seemed to know the detail of what was even being sought from the EU, and the only answer this new PM offered to questions like ‘what does Brexit actually mean in detail?’ is ‘Brexit means Brexit’, which must be in the running for the most meaningless and pointless response to a question that has ever been uttered in the whole of history. Uncertainty reigned supreme, which caused and/or exacerbated quite a number of negative economic consequences, but this PM just ploughed on, doing her own thing, even if no-one else knew quite what that was. She then had the bright idea of holding a general election and trying to make it more or less all about Brexit, seemingly believing this would transform her narrow majority in Parliament into a much bigger one, allowing her to ram through whatever she wanted. Instead, the narrow majority disappeared entirely, and it was the worst result a sitting government can have, except for a different party actually winning – the Tories are now a minority government which is forced to cut deals with other parties to get the votes to get anything done, including Brexit. Negotiations with the EU were dragging on throughout all of this, in virtual secrecy, before Theresa May finally unveiled her grand Brexit deal – and managed to unite many disparate factions of the UK Parliament in agreeing how absolutely crap this deal was, resulting in the largest defeat for any sitting government in the entire history of the UK Parliament (they got a say thanks to an earlier vote which mandated that Parliament voted on the final deal, which Theresa May opposed). This happened despite the PM delaying this vote by a month to try to gain support for it, and trying to avoid releasing the legal advice the government received on the effect of the proposed deal, which resulted in another unprecedented vote in UK Parliamentary history – a sitting government being held in contempt of Parliament. Theresa May is now trying to renegotiate the deal that took two and a half years to work out in the five weeks remaining before Brexit kicks in, and, despite there being several alternative ways forward offered by different groups, including delaying Brexit or a second referendum allowing the public to vote on the utter shit-show that Brexit has been thus far, she and her government is continuing to insist that the only way to avoid the economic disaster that will be a ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of March is to vote for her tweaked deal, if she actually manages to get it renegotiated.

    So, with five weeks or so to go, the current situation is that there is still no real clarity on what Brexit actually means, in detail, with a major sticking point being what happens at the Irish border. For those unfamiliar, the problem is that one of the major planks of the ‘Leave’ campaign is the idea that leaving the EU will allow the UK to regain control of its borders. Being part of the EU customs union mandates that people can freely travel throughout the union and work wherever they can find employment, so this means the UK must come out of the customs union, which in turn means that there must be a hard border between the EU and UK. However, this must be somehow managed with the following three things also being true:

    1) Because Northern Ireland is part of the UK, there cannot be a hard border between Northern Ireland and mainland UK, and treating it differently than the rest of the UK would risk reigniting what was, essentially, a guerilla war between opposing paramilitary/terrorist groups.

    2) Because doing so would also risk reigniting this war, there cannot be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

    3) Because the Republic of Ireland is part of the EU, there cannot be a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU.

    It doesn’t take a genius to work out this is pretty much impossible, yet there are still plenty of MPs and members of the general public who still seem to think that the easy, extremely advantageous Brexit depicted by the Leave campaign is actually still possible, even though to think so, you would have to pretty much ignore everything that has happened over the past two and a half years or so, since the referendum result was announced.

  48. fentex says

    Re: #51,

    …my attempt at explaining Brexit:

    1) If you can blame all your problems on someone else, you can absolve yourself, you don’t have to take responsibility.

    Doesn’t that make this…

    * Russia wants to divide and destabilise the EU and NATO

    …blaming others for your problems?

    Here’s a few points someone made that I found interesting earlier today; both the U.S and UK’s news markets are heavily influenced by Rupert Murdochs properties.

    Billionaires don’t like governments having power to regulate them.

    Who needs bogey men from other countries when such forces exist internally?

    My point is – blaming something which is in a lot of peoples interest (just not your average folks that governments are suppossed to represent) on foreigners and theories about their nefarious schemes is a lot like buying into the idea the EU is foreigners with nefarious schemes.

  49. KG says

    My point is – blaming something which is in a lot of peoples interest (just not your average folks that governments are suppossed to represent) on foreigners and theories about their nefarious schemes is a lot like buying into the idea the EU is foreigners with nefarious schemes. – fentex@58

    And a pretty crappy one it is. The question is whether any particular group of foreigners (or non-foreigners) actually have nefarious schemes, and if so, how effective they have been.

  50. KG says

    Incidentally, fentex, as far as the UK is concerned, Rupert Murdoch is a foreigner with nefarious schemes.

  51. F.O. says

    My bad, I should not have placed Russia at the top position, it was not meant to be in order of importance.

    I’m not blaming only Russia for Brexit, but there is evidence that some entity based in Russia was involved in nudging public opinion: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/14/how-400-russia-run-fake-accounts-posted-bogus-brexit-tweets

    The Kremlin has an interest and the means, it’s not far fetched to think that there as involvement.
    To be absolutely clear, the responsibility of the choice lays on those Brits who lied and who choose to believe the lies.
    But saying that Russia had a part in it is not the same as using Russia as a scapegoat.

  52. Brain Hertz says

    Being part of the EU customs union mandates that people can freely travel throughout the union and work wherever they can find employment, so this means the UK must come out of the customs union, which in turn means that there must be a hard border between the EU and UK.

    I don’t think this part is quite correct, but my understanding may be off here. I don’t think a customs union provides free movement of people, just goods. As I understand, the various levels of integration are something like this:

    Free Trade Area: in this case, there would be an agreement on tariff-free movement of at least some (but not necessarily all) goods, but still permits the UK to negotiate its own trade deals. This is something the Reservoir Moggs think is super important for some reason, because they think that the UK would be able to negotiate better trade deals than the EU. What, exactly, about the events of the last couple of years that allows them to conclude this is completely beyond me. And importantly with this option, because goods come into the UK through a potentially different tariff regime from the EU, and would not then be eligible to transfer tariff-free into the EU, customs checks are still required at the UK-EU border.

    Customs Union: in this case, the UK agrees to implement the EU’s tariff and non-tariff barrier regime for all of its imports and exports, giving up the ability to negotiate independent trade deals, but in return gets free movement of goods across the border without customs checks. This is what all of the UK would be bound to if the “backstop” kicks in and is why the extremist Brexiters are so agitated about it. Incidentally, I think John Oliver is wrong about this one; he shows the first version of the backstop that would put only Northern Ireland in the customs union, and add a border in the Irish Sea. As I understand, this was modified at Theresa May’s insistence to keep all of the UK in the customs union in order to placate the DUP. Who are pissed off with the deal anyway. Because they’re pretty much pissed off with everything. It’s just what they do.

    Common Market: in this case, in addition to a customs union, there is free movement of people, services and capital. This isn’t part of the backstop as I understand it. I don’t think this exists anymore, having been superseded by political union with the creation of the EU.

    Political Union: for the last step, commonality of regulations and various other stuff is added. It becomes pretty much inevitable once you have the previous step that you have to do this, because otherwise differing regulations across member states allow one country to gain unfair advantages over the others.

    There’s also the Norway model, which is a hybrid of several of these. They have a free trade agreement but no customs union, plus some of the other stuff (like commonality of some, but not all, regulations).

    As I mentioned, this is just what I have understood from what I have read, and I’m not an expert; I’m happy to be corrected on anything here…

  53. Zmidponk says

    Brain Hertz:

    I don’t think this part is quite correct, but my understanding may be off here. I don’t think a customs union provides free movement of people, just goods.

    You are correct, I was getting confused between the customs union and single market. However, I am right in saying the Irish issue is about free movement of people, as well as goods. This is why, amongst other reason, hard line Brexiteers are against the ‘Irish backstop’ – it essentially says that the UK will remain tied to the EU, and have to follow many EU rules, including those about free movement of people, in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland until a mutually agreeable alternative is worked out and implemented.

  54. Brain Hertz says

    Zmidponk, yes, for sure. I don’t disagree with any of that.

    It’s still a really big mystery to me why the hardline Brexiteers feel so strongly about wanting to negotiate trade deals independently of the EU. How is it they could possibly think that the UK could negotiate better deals? One of the biggest lessons of the past 2 years is that the UK government couldn’t negotiate its way out of a wet paper bag.

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