Saturday, 15 July 2017

Sorry folks, but Brexit needs to happen

Yesterday I picked up on Nick Boles and his complete abdication from his responsibilities as a legislator. He's not alone in that. We've got MPs clamouring for us to remain in the single market without being able to muster a functioning definition of it it, and stern warnings that we must stay in the customs union regardless of not having the slightest idea of what a customs union is. Then on the Brexit side of the argument we have Brexiteers who, for all the tea in China, are never ever going to understand how international trade works. This is Operation Enduring Clusterfuck.

As we look on, examining the issues as they arise, we find a political class completely incapable of absorbing the details. That could be forgiven in ordinary circumstances but Brexit didn't arrive out of the blue. From the moment David Cameron announced a referendum the game was afoot. They've had two years to get to grips with the issues and still they have not yet progressed past Janet and John level. What is striking though is that they don't actually want to know the details, preferring instead to play their tribal games.

Over the course of these last two years I've had remainers tell me the problem is not with the EU, rather it is our attitude to EU membership. To an extent I've always agreed with that but more so than ever now. EU membership has always been treated as an adjunct to politics both by politicians and the media. If you look at what Brussels correspondents produce, it is mostly people focussed trivia. Even the European Scrutiny Committee was treated with casual contempt, largely serving as a talking shop for hardline eurosceptics. We have not engaged in EU membership - and we were never going to.

Our membership of the EU has simmered on the back-burner for year. The last time it attracted any major attention was during the ratification of the Lisbon treaty which secured minimal scrutiny, which is part of the reason we are presently in this mess. Our politicians are simply not interested in governing and governance.

What makes Brexit necessary is the need to expose this. We have a system limping along on autopilot and we are funding a Westminster political machine which is failing to do its job. It no longer has the capability. It is tasked with too much meaning their attention spans wander, and there is absolutely no possibility of them adequately focussing on any one thing. This is what happens when all of the power gravitates to the centre.

As much as this is evident in Brexit, it is pronounced in nearly all other affairs. Take the Iraq war. All the way through our political class was focussed on the domestic politics leading up to the invasion, engaging in just about any issue other than the actual warfighting. In the same way that our politicians abdicate their responsibilities to Brussels (and pass on the subsequent blame), responsibility for the conduct of the war was passed to MoD officials and the top brass. Having lacked the inquisitiveness to find out what was happening, the war in Iraq rapidly spiralled out of control, seeing some catastrophic military defeats - yet there was no real enquiry as to what went wrong. Even today we are fighting the consequences of those failures.

Similarly with welfare reform, we see politicians ever ready to cherry pick the sob stories for their own ends but who is climbing into the details and applying proper scrutiny to a system roll-out that is faltering on every level? No one. Politicians don't do detail and our media doesn't either.

There are some days when I wonder how things function as well as they do. Course we know the answer to that. Everything bounces from crisis to crisis and to save political face is fire-hosed with money. Hinkley Point power station is now expected to cost twenty billion. We have two largely useless aircraft carriers that will suck up most of the Royal Navy's operations budget - and it has taken ten years and hundreds of millions just to get the Eurofighter to fire a Brimstone missile. It will be ready to retire before it is fully strike capable.

As to Brexit, Brexit doesn't have to be a trainwreck but it's a safe bet that it will be for the simple reason that our government no longer does anything well. It's only through a last minute injection of vast quantities of cash that we are not looking at blackouts across the national grid. This political status quo is simply not sustainable. This is down to a culmination of poor choices over the years, driven by a political class more interested in virtue signalling than taking adult decisions - spending as though the financial crash never actually happened.

Looking at it as a whole I think we were always on course for a national humiliation. If anything the Brexit vote was public disaffection reaching critical mass, forcing government to put the brakes on everything and take a long hard look at itself. That moment of reckoning is not far off.

Very often I see tweets from remainers pointing out that Brexit is taking up time and resources that could be better applied elsewhere. Perhaps that is true but the stark reality is that the time and resources would not be put to better use. We would see the same continuity politics - venal, corrupt, incompetent. I would argue that there is no better use of time and resources than a full audit of the statute book and a deep and comprehensive examination of the constitution.

As it transpires, our politics is not up to the task at hand. They have yet to comprehend the enormity of the task, which is why we have fools like Nick Boles telling us we can transition overnight into Efta to stay for only three years. The fact that anyone thinks Brexit is going to happen in two years is alarming.

I had hoped, and indeed expected, by now that we would see minds beginning to focus, where the reality of our predicament would force politicians to face the fact that we need a soft Brexit. As a working assumption, with a remain majority in parliament, this seemed like a safe bet. The fact this has not happened actually demonstrates that politics is in a far worse state than even I imagined.

So it now seems that a calamity is upon us - and we are largely powerless to prevent it. Brexit has taken on a life of its own and parliament lacks the coherence and the moral authority to intervene. We are drifting to oblivion. What that tells you is that the Westminster system is spent. Between the corrosive effect of modern media and the natural atrophy caused by EU membership, Westminster has become a playground for posers, frauds and dilettantes. It is a toxic ecosystem of its own and it is chewing away at the fabric of the nation.

So now we are faced with a choice. We can either brush this under the carpet and reverse course or we can grasp the nettle and get on with it. If we opt for the former we are only delaying the inevitable. We can go back to pretending everything is fine and hold our empty voting rituals every five years but ultimately extinction is the only destination for this political settlement. The patient is too sick to live.

I now expect Brexit will be a pigs ear the likes we have not seen for a generation or more. Some commentators have compared it to Suez. It's going to be far worse than that. There is the potential for the total collapse of our constitution and the collapse of the current economic settlement. It doesn't have to be that way but when you take a look at these Tories it seems unavoidable.

Admittedly I am not enthused by this prospect but actually I don't see any other way out. As much as anything Ukip and the SNP show us that as a country we have forgotten how to do politics. Anyone can knock up a populist manifesto and bleat to the cameras but without a coherent plan they fall flat the moment they get anywhere near power. The larger they get the more they become what they seek to replace. You can change the people in the system but the system always wins.

So what are we going to do? Are we going to live out the fag end of "representative democracy" waiting for its inevitable implosion or are we going to take matters into our own hands? We can pass the consequences to the next generation or we can choose to be the the architects of change. It's that simple. This is our one chance to fix it - assuming it can be fixed. It's time to bite the bullet.

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