Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Brexit: taking the power back


All too often people tell me that much of what is wrong with the UK is nothing to do with the EU. These are the same who tend to argue that EU membership has little impact on our daily lives hence there is no good reason to leave. I wholly resent that.

The subtext of this argument is that is that we should only be concerned with conventional domestic politics and completely disregard the EU because its influence is not overt. We plebs should confine our concerns to the mundane politics of schools and hospitals.

Except of course the bulk of EU governance is that which is largely invisible to us. This is anything from directives on water and energy to workers rights, all of which have a profound impact on labour market fluidity, utility bills and council tax.

In this the EU may not tell us what to do directly, but it can define the parameters a policy must fall within. It narrows the scope of what can be done, therefore places limits on local authorities and obliges them to prioritise things that would otherwise be lower down the agenda. A good deal of local authority and national agency activity is implementing policy according to targets and quotas rather than any particular practical or urgent objective.

Very often it is difficult to tell where UK policy ends and EU directive begins. This then begs the question as to whether UK authorities are working in the service of the public or working to implement EU ideals or harebrained regulatory objectives. That raises further questions as to whose  interests are served since very often regulatory agendas at the EU level can be captured by corporates and NGOs alike. To whom are they accountable?

Over the course of the last three years we have seen a number of self-important "fact checkers" attempting to debunk myths about the EU, very often struggling to tell what is a Whitehall initiative and what is genuinely from the EU. There are then times when it is an EU directive or regulation which is simply badly implemented. Conflicting objectives or just run of the mill incompetence.

Very often the EU is unfairly scapegoated but then there are other times where the EU can blame member states for what is essentially bad EU policy that was never going to work. The blame game works both ways. Half the time it is impossible to tell who is accountable for what.

Then there are times when we find we are seeking integration and standardisation at great expense for its own sake. On the continental mainland there might well be advantages to standardising approaches to infrastructure, but the UK in more ways than one is an exception by way of being an island and one where transboundary travel is less frequent and for most through a single entry point.

It is this overall confusion that allows ministers to shirk accountability. Policies that lie beyond our control mean that some issues are never adequately addressed and we are forced to take expensive remedial action to deal with the consequences of ill-thought out policies. The hidden cost of EU membership. The EU might not be directly to blame but it can be a causal influence to a degree that few fully comprehend.

Though leaving the EU will never simplify complex systems of governance, we will at least know who is to blame, and there will be no excuses to evade urgent remedy. Nor will ministers have to jet off to Brussels to persuade twenty seven other members that we ought to be allowed to modify our approach to landfill sites or inshore fishing. The public are rightly tired of being fobbed off with excuses and tired of being told things are not directly in our control.

This dynamic has its more obvious examples. Onshore wind turbines are unpopular with a large part of the public and though there is no EU instruction to build them, the obligation to source from renewable energy, combined with the practicality of other means, dictates that we get wind turbines whether we want them or not. We despoil treasured wilderness simply because there is no other cost effective means of meeting an arbitrary target.

That is one of the more visible symptoms of being in the EU that the public understands, but it runs much deeper than that with the EU having influence on technical governance to a massive degree. This is why leavers are suspicious of the EU because we simply don't know to what extent ideological measures are pushing up the cost of living.

More to the point, with parameters on things like energy being dictated by Brussels our decision making is hobbled therefore so is our democracy. While we are working to EU directives politics is unable to function as it should. Immediate practical needs and demands form the public are secondary to EU objectives.

We are told that leaving the EU still means we would adopt a good deal of EU law, but in the round this is mainly concerned with product directives and issues pertaining to trade. It is a sacrifice of direct sovereignty but largely in the greater good. Brexit is about removing EU influence from those areas such as utilities which are largely none of its business. Brexit removes a whole layer of unwelcome and unaccountable government.

For the most part the EU has no direct power over the UK in terms of being an executive, but it does shape the decisions taken in our name and increasingly robs the public of their power to influence policy. Though I don't wake up worrying about the Large Combustion Plant Directive or the Water Framework Directive, I do worry about the CCJ threat on the doormat over my water bill - and I do wonder why year on year I pay more for energy.

You can argue that the EU is not responsible but if I ask you to prove it, the moment you try you'll run into a barrage EU regulatory frameworks and directives. You'll then have to outline why it is in our interests for this level of authority to lie in the hands of Brussels and not local authorities.

Ultimately if we want to stop the rot we first need to shorten and clarify the chain of accountability. We must then restore the means to unilaterally repeal bad and obsolete law and delete those measures which exist only for the purposes of political integration. Eliminate the roadblocks and you eliminate the excuses.

The balance between trade and sovereignty is a fine line to walk and the trade-offs will continue to plague policymakers. There will always be debate about where the line should be drawn. What we can say, though, is that continued membership of the EU will gradually result in ever more competences being transferred to the EU to the point where they are beyond the influence of those we consciously elect.

The way remainers talk you would think that democracy and sovereignty were entirely meaningless and inconsequential concepts. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we are not able to usefully shape the rules by which we live on a national and local level then the agenda is being steered by others who do not value our lives, landscapes and habitats as we do. Things we value are merely assets and liabilities on a Brussels ledger.

Brexit is not a nationalist ideology at work. It is simply a recognition that people who live and work here are the best judges of who should govern and how, and that nominally efficient technocracy will never value those things that make us unique, nor will it respect those things that transcend GDP growth in importance.

We are told that we leavers are not rational in placing politics ahead of economics. This is another view I resent. Ultimately humans are not rational. And that's a great thing because humans at their most rational are barbarians. It is cold rationality that said it was cheaper to send fresh slaves to the gulags than sacks of food. The things we value very often are not rational and based entirely on sentimentality. And thank god for that. What a sterile place this would be otherwise.

Remainers think they are owed a cold and rational data driven reason for wanting to leave the EU. They are owed nothing of the kind. We stand on the principle that if power does not reside in the hands of people (and their politics) then we do not have democracy. Those who think it dispensable for the temporary certainty of the status quo are foolish - because the noose of invisible government will slowly strangle the vitality from our politics and demolish any semblance of accountability. For that we will pay.

I am far from alone in voting for Brexit despite the costs that come with it. We are simply correcting the mistakes of several administrations who traded away power that was not theirs to give away. There was always going to be a price for that - but that is what we eurosceptics have always warned about. Now that Brexit is upon us, it is incumbent on us all to make sure we don't pay a higher price than we have to in order to retake that which is ours. It may come at a high cost but in the end democracy is priceless. It is not for sale at any price.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Brexit: stupidity squared



There is now a wealth of material on the WTO option, or as we now call it "no deal Brexit". Most of it is crap because it understates the risks or uses non-committal language about the consequences. You won't find any of that here.

As you can see from the number of retweets on John Redwood's latest verbal incontinence, the view that we can waltz out of the EU without a deal is quite a popular one. We have gone to some considerable lengths to spell out in detail why this is a non-viable approach but recent comments on my Facebook (from those I considered to be switched on close friends) demonstrate that I have been wasting my breath.

It is commonly said that the UK can trade with the EU without a trade deal because the USA and China trade without having a deal, and even though you can take a screenshot from the EU treaties database which clearly demonstrates this not to be the case, it doesn't make a dent, as so ably demonstrated by our esteemed friend Oliver Norgrove.


There is just no way to drill it into people that without a deal from the EU we are so very totally, unequivocally fucked. Moreover the position is utterly absurd. Professor Steve Peers this evening notes that Brexiteers boast that leaving the EU means we are free to negotiate free trade deals - but if we don't need a trade deal with our nearest and largest partner then, by their logic, we do not need any at all.

Meanwhile we could spell out in detail the wider consequences (to the letter of the law) and a Brexit-o-mong will simply grunt "project fear". Stupidity of this magnitude cannot be corrected so I won't even try. I'm now at the point where I see a no deal Brexit as all but inevitable so all that's left to do is take names so we can hunt them down and cut their balls off when it actually happens. Particularly the oxygen thief editors who give this nonsense houseroom. Going to work on Fraser Nelson with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch is now on my bucket list.

But then it is a little unfair to focus entirely on Brexiteers since the retardation of the Brexit debate has been helped along by just about every self-proclaimed expert who has bleated the words "but Norway has to pay and still adopts all the rules". That's the remainer variant of "The USA trades without a deal". Each side has their own tiresome canards and neither side is interested in the actual truth.

Since both sides have gone out of their way the berate the Norway option, belching out falsehood after falsehood, both sides have made their own bed and deserve the consequences entirely. In this Brexiteer stupidity is matched by remainer mendacity. Again I could, and did, write any number of articles carving out the important distinctions but remainers tend to be equally incurious.

The only time the media can be bothered to check in on this blog is when it suits their agenda to paint me as some sort of vindictive psychopath. This is not a charge I actually deny. At this point, having seen this carnival of incompetence developing well in advance of the referendum, I'm really starting to think that if the good Lord will not spare us by way of a giant meteorite then the WTO option is next best thing.

Certainly Redwoodists and Moggites have it coming, then on the left, anyone who had a hand in putting Corbyn where he is, passively or actively, deserves a miserable life - and there is a special place in hell reserved for the cowardly and stupid Tory "moderates" who have sat on their hands all this time. And then we have this epic bellendery...


Just look at the state of it. And look at the number of retweets. Meanwhile, I took a lot of media shit last week for this post which basically suggests that Brits have become overindulged, spoiled, whiny, ignorant twats entirely deserving of their fate, but when you have the likes of Brian Cox, Owen Jones and Abi Wilkinson elevated to sainthood, and the above is what passes for patriotism these days, you are going to have to work hard to convince me I'm wrong.

In this I might paraphrase philosopher and comedian, George Carlin. "Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from British parents and British families, British homes, British schools, British churches, British businesses and British universities, and they are elected by British citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders".

At any point could the aforementioned dickheads have retweeted one of my more technical pieces explaining the WTO option or the advantages of the Norway option, but the truth of the matter is that these people could not be less interested in detail and not in the remotest bit interested in expanding the debate.

Ultimately Brexit is an indictment on our politics, our media, our culture and those who enable them. I know it is unrealistic to expect competence and I am self-aware enough to know that there is nothing more stupid than people in groups, but by any measure, British political culture has atrophied beyond repair. If Brexit of any kind serves as a Ctrl+Alt+Del on Britain as we know it then I'm fine with it.

I do not argue that a no deal Brexit is especially desirable as some have suggested, only that it is high time the public faced the consequences of their personal negligence in what they choose to read and those they elect. Every effort was made on my part to avoid this dismal fate, but only now I am a choice target have I become a "top Brexit campaigner". That says more about them than it does me.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

March of the patriots


It is encouraging to see that some in the media are waking up to the implications of a no deal Brexit. We are also at a point where Tory Brexiteers are unable to share their wisdom on Twitter without being roundly ridiculed. There is barely any sport in it now. It feels more like mocking the afflicted.

Sadly I do not see that it will do any good. Positions are entrenched and for all that this blog and others have said, people who should know better still cling on to some deeply miscalculated opinions and nothing you or I say is going to change that.

This week's tiresome canard is that taking the threat of a walkout off the table weakens our negotiating hand. This is self-evidently ridiculous, but to those who still buy the notion that they need us more than we need them it is an entirely logical position. This level of incomprehension cannot be corrected. To do so would require one to individually explain the issues in their entirety which proves entirely fruitless since people have a habit of defaulting to factory settings however well you explain it.

This reminds me of something my dad has often said - that you don't attack the hard points. In Blitzkreig, you don't attack the Maginot line fortifications - you go around them instead. It makes no sense trying to get through to ideologues or those with no understanding. All that does is waste energy.

This is why I have an open dialogue with Dr Mike Galsworthy of Scientists for EU among other remain activists. At this point what matters is getting people up to speed and on the same page. It does not matter that we profoundly disagree on the matter of EU membership. Most can now agree in the round that the consequences of a no deal Brexit are something we would wish to avoid.

Ultimately this is no longer a remain/leave debate. This is about stopping a government doing irreparable damage to the economy and our standing in the world. In this we do not have time to explain the basics to people who are never going to grasp it. The mission is now to speak to any and all who comprehend the immediate danger in preparation of what is to come.

My view is now settled that there is not going to be a deal. People tell me I'm being too fatalistic but, thus far, this government has made every avoidable mistake and fallen into every logical trap. There is no evidence to suggest they have even the most basic grasp of what they are dealing with and there is no Westminster chatter that indicates a change of course.

I also believe that this government is not negotiating in good faith. The Florence speech was an ambush as a precursor to a walkout and Mrs May's trip to Brussels today appears to be part of the theatricals. It is a bogus last ditch attempt before concluding that an agreement is not possible.

In this we must make it quite clear that that a failure to engage, and a collapse of talks is malfeasance and incompetence to the extent that we should demand the resignation of the government and an immediate general election.

For some time now I have held the view that the only way we will see a reset to Article 50 talks is if this government falls. We cannot remain passive in this. I do not have confidence that there are sufficient numbers (or any) MPs who have enough grasp of the subject to be able to intervene effectively. Even the very best of them are lacklustre, and will miss the point. It is therefore incumbent upon the public themselves to act.

To that end all patriots leave and remain should be prepared to take to the streets. Nothing short of  a million people converging on Parliament will do. Should this government walk out of talks then that is a failure of government but also a failure of politics. Should we passively accept this then we would very well deserve whatever fate awaits us. If we are so indifferent to how we are governed that we can't put a million people on the streets of Westminster then there is little worth saving anyway.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Brexit is a political spring clean


Prior to the referendum we had a thing called certainty. Had there never been a referendum this would have carried on much the same as before. We would still be looking at the slow and inexorable rise of Ukip, but for the most part we could be sure that one mediocre government would be followed by another, knowing that the next would be marginally worse than the last.

Had things continued down that path we would have eventually seen a George Osborne government followed by a left of centre Labour; the dregs of the Blair era and its singularly talentless new blood. We could tolerate that safe in the knowledge that the political status quo would largely contain the amount of damage they can do. With so much governance now on autopilot, all any government can really do is squander vast sums on their ill-conceived fads.

Meanwhile we would continue to have that lingering debate about immigration, watching indifferently every summer as thousands drown in the Mediterranean. The left would continue in its politically correct denialism and Ukip would continue to make gains. We would still be seeing undue exposure given to the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. Politics less impressive than a sixth form debating society.

Not only do we not produce credible politicians anymore we've even forgot what credible politics even looks like. The unedifying spectacle of leader's debates on ITV at the last was enough to pray for a giant meteorite. You look at this people and wonder if they are even of this planet. Detached, condescending and shallow.

It was already clear that the party system was disintegrating and along with it, politics in general. All the while the media has totally lost it. One way or another we were careering headlong into a crisis of governance because there was nothing on the horizon that would have shocked them out of their self-indulgent complacency. The only thing keeping it alive the certainty of the status quo; Governance underpinned by the political certainty of EU membership and living standards within tolerance. Without sound fundamentals, this is fragile.

We had already reached a state of utter disaffection with politics ad it is not difficult to see why. Labour's value system is so utterly distorted that it cannot hope to ever represent the working class, meanwhile the Tories were little more than a managerialist outfit with no vision, no ideas and no momentum. It is impossible to say what would have happened but I rather expect the political stagnation would have been with us for many more years to come.

Enter Brexit. If I had to pick a single defining moment that turned the tide it would have been the unflattering spectacle of Bob Geldof giving the Thames flotilla the two fingered salute. Against a backdrop of a largely self-interested establishment looking after its own, little could more adequately summarise the attitude of our political and media class. Little wonder then that the two fingered salute was returned in kind at the ballot box.

So now we are looking at that same political establishment forced into doing that which it does not want to do while lacking the intelligence and integrity to deliver it. This is what makes it a near certainty that Brexit talks will collapse. They are just not up to it. The talent just isn't there. What's more, if parliament were functioning as it should there would by now be moves to intercept the government as it drives us closer toward the cliff edge. There is no sign of that.

As each day passes events look ever bleaker. The tone is souring, talks are in freefall and still the Labour party is absorbed by its own myopic fixations while the Tories tear themselves to pieces. Unless there is a sea change in Westminster, waking up to the imminent danger, we will leave the EU without a deal and usher in a decade of recession. I am already resigned to this. I have mentally prepared for it. The good times are over.

But then I do so in the knowledge that this has to happen. Of course nobody wants to see widespread unemployment and a disintegration of the economy but ultimately the seeds were already sown. Our politics and media is little more than a reflection of ourselves. Decadent, self-absorbed, childish and spoiled.

Just recently I heard it said that the EU was the three major powers of Europe combining to preserve the remnants of their respective empires. I think there is some truth in that. The EU as a trade power extends Europe's dominion over Africa. The EU is the instrument through which former powers exert their imperial pretensions. The WTO being one of its instruments. We are looking at the fag end of Europe as a global power as the rest of the world catches up and realises they owe us nothing.

So we have two choices. We can opt for the continued managed decline of insular EU politics or we can have a political spring clean. We need to pull the sofa out and hoover under it. We need to empty the drawers of our clutter and wipe the cobwebs off the widow sills. That is the chaos we are about to endure. But we must.

There is the pretence on the continent that Brexit has reinvigorated the EU and we often hear Macron cited as the new saviour for European Unity. This is self delusion. European politics is in a similar state of decay and France is most certainly not politically stable. Meanwhile Germany has its own reckoning to come. I would argue that Merkel is their Blair. We are a generation in front and Germany will have to face its own political reckoning when Merkel departs.

Meanwhile, the Visegrad Four continue to drift away from the EU with the EU unable to exert much in the way of political pressure. We see the same manifested in its response to the Catalonia crisis. It does to want to be seen as intruding on the sovereign affairs of its members but at the same time, if it is to live up to its rhetoric (and enforce its own treaties) then it must, otherwise the bluff has been called.

Europe is in a state of political flux. It comes as no surprise to me that Britain is the first to call time on the post-war settlement. Our state of political dysfunction is more advanced. But only by a few years. Without the UK the EU comes a very different animal, where its denizens will call for "more Europe" at a time when members are demanding less. One way or another Europe will have to reinvent. I do not think the EU will be part of its future unless we see reform that will fundamentally change the DNA of the EU entity. All the while the UK is taking a time out to address its own political problems.

This week in have been chastened by various media pondlife for my view that Britain must leave the EU even if it does lead to a catastrophic recession. I would prefer it to be another way, but ultimately we cannot resolve the economic until we have resolved the political. Our current politics is barely maintaining the status quo and it certainly isn't delivering for the regions of the UK as is evident from the Brexit vote.

What we we need is political vision combined with a sense of urgency that is presently lacking in Westminster. Only a crisis of this magnitude can precipitate that change. It will see years of political turbulence as politics reinvents. We'll have to put up with a Corbyn government and then we'll have to put up with whatever is left of the Tory party. But by then we'll call time on both of these empty husks. Neither has a solution befitting the modern age.

I don't know what will win out. It is impossible to say. Uncertainty is the new normal. But what we can say is that a new order will emerge - forged from the turmoil we are about to endure. That is the purpose of a revolution. And that is what this is.

I am told that this wasn't necessary and that there were other ways, but I invite you re-watch the 2017 general election leader's debate. There you will find the British political ailment distilled in its purest form. Then look me in the eye and try telling me a reboot isn't necessary. Our future is not safe in their hands. It's time to press the red button before fate decides to do it for us.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Brexit Ground Zero


There is sizable contingent of switched on people on Twitter devoting their attention to the ins and outs of Brexit negotiations. They are finally getting to grips with issues readers of this blog will have known about for several months now. This is why what is exciting for them is thoroughly tedious to me.

What makes it more tedious is that I know how this ends. I do not see a scenario where a deal is successfully concluded. To get anywhere close to a solution for Northern Ireland you would need a good deal more understanding that this government is presently capable of. What makes it worse is that even with perfect clarity the politics gets in the way. Then there is the more fundamental misapprehension at work that many are still under the illusion that the future relationship comes under the aegis of Article 50.

It doesn't. The government is pushing for that to be the case and many argue that it is the case, but the rules say it isn't the case and so does the Commission - and that is not going to change. That is why there is not going to be a deal. If you approach any task with a fundamentally skewed definition of how to approach it, there is no possibility of getting it right.

To salvage these talks there would have to be a recognition of the current misapprehension followed by a change in tone and a reset. What needs to happen is for the government to recognise that two years is entirely insufficient and submit a request to extend Article 50 - with a far less absolute termination point - which might then give them the headroom to talk more about transition. That will still require that we fully turn our attention to phase one issues. I would elaborate on how this could be done but it isn't going to happen.

So what is going to happen? Politics. Bickering, obfuscation, delay, finger pointing, procrastination then ultimately a crisis, followed by a showdown in which the UK walks away. I simply do not see the raw material for it to pan out any other way. What comes after that is yet more politics, but on the other side of the Channel as they decide how it is we fall. Will it be a sudden catastrophe or one introduced over a number of months?

Ultimately we cannot expect minds to focus until they see for real what no-deal Brexit looks like. Only then will it dawn on them what many of us have been trying to tell them. What happens then is a matter for yet more politics. Put simply, I am not taking these talks remotely seriously because the government isn't either.

Ultimately there isn't enough wisdom in the government nor talent in Parliament for this to go any other way. There isn't enough opposition momentum to bring the government down and tribalism within the Tory party means there won't be a rebellion. There is no reason to expect anything other than failure because there are no indicators that anything else could happen. Britain is about to become a global authority in crisis management. Let's hope that is an exportable service. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Brexit: the media dog that didn't bark


In a recent post (now gone viral) I outlined my current position that if a no-deal Brexit is what is coming then that is what I will take. I can't stop it. Economically it is nothing short of a catastrophe but if there is a bright side, it will unlock politics and give rise to a major cultural change and economic restructuring.

Admittedly it was one of my bleaker pieces but that's what it took for Sam Kriss of Vice to notice this humble blog. In what he thinks is an oh-so-clever evisceration of me, he rather demonstrates my point.

I certainly take no pleasure in the current mess. I have spent pretty much every single day since the referendum fighting for a measured, responsible exit settlement. I have made it my sole occupation and have made every effort to warn about the danger of the Tory Brexit zealots. Knowing them as I do I am able to offer something of a unique insight.

Jointly with EUreferendum.com we have also warned especially about the Legatum Institute and it's ambitions for Brexit Britain. If anything should have gone viral, it should have been that. Where was Mr Kriss then? Evidently not titillating enough for him.

In describing Leave Alliance efforts, Kriss says "They stood for a soft Brexit from the beginning, leaving the EU but retaining Common Market membership – the "Norway option", the kind of miserable compromise that interested absolutely nobody during the referendum, and still interests nobody now it's our last best hope".

I would not go as far as saying it was of interest to nobody. Leave Alliance research has consistently been ahead of the pack and it is only now that we are in negotiations with the EU that other outfits are catching up. Much that is presently in the debating window would still be unmentioned were it not for our work. What Sam Kriss means is that it was of no interest the the media. Certainly not when it mattered.

The Leave Alliance, and indeed this blog, has had more exposure since the referendum than before, and only recently because I have become ever more hyperbolic about a no deal Brexit. Tell them what they want to hear and they will come running. For them it has novelty because I come from the leave side of the divide. It has exploitable value.

One such example of this dynamic is in the International Business Times where I am elevated from humble blogger to "Top Brexit campaigner" no less. My post from the other day even managed to catch the eye of The Guardian, which is the first legacy media link to this blog. Novelty is all they are interested in.

This is the same media that has for the duration trotted out the same received wisdom about the Norway option - that Norway adopts all the rules and has no say, and that freedom of movement is not negotiable. The media has shown precisely zero interest in the nuances of that debate and has instead given aid to the Tory zealots by repeating those mantras.

It is also telling that Kriss would refer to the single market as the"Common Market". This gives you some idea of how little interest Kriss takes in the subject. That indolence is common throughout. Coverage of the issues has been universally vacuous. Even for the likes of Owen Jones, Brexit has been an adjunct to Labour's self-indulgent navel gazing.

Instead of leading by producing its own work or looking outside of its own claustrophobic bubble, our media waits for a sound-bite from a prestigious source - effectively outsourcing their own  thinking. Consequently the media late to realise the implications of a no-deal Brexit, and by way of its own slovenliness has closed down the debate on the one viable avenue that would avoid it.

Though the Leave Alliance is "a kind of motley residue of the Brexit movement" we were the only outfit to have a serious Brexit plan - and one that still stands as the only credible work from the leave camp. Again the media went out of its way to ignore it, preferring instead to give all the air time to Farage and the Vote Leave Tory brigade. It never occurred to the media that there may have been activity outside the Westminster bubble.

Throughout this, the media has been insular and self-absorbed, failing in its most basic obligations to journalism. There are any number of experts, friend and foe on Twitter, absolutely eviscerating every move this government makes. That, though, remains confined to another largely self-referential bubble and is yet another resource the media is failing to tap. They cream off the trivia accordig to their own narrow agendas. 

So with a totally inept legislature, swamped in the quagmire of its own incomprehension, and a media incapable of bringing urgency and substance to the debate, you will have to forgive me if I still think that the whole edifice of politics is too corrupted and warped to serve us as it should. That it chooses to obsess over Farage, Hopkins and Johnson on pivotal issues such as this would suggest that any capacity for an adult dissection of the issues is collectively beyond our grasp.

But then one reminds oneself that, dire though the media may be, it is little more than a reflection of the people who consume it. That a national, supposedly serious newspaper would find house-room for Abi Wilkinson (thanks for the hits btw) would seem to confirm my view that we have indeed become a nation of overindulged children. As much as that makes a no-deal Brexit inevitable, it is not much of a stretch to say it is wholly deserved. If sweeping these people into irrelevance is the one thing a no-deal Brexit does achieve then that, at least, is one thing going for it.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Brexit is a chance to unlock politics


During the general election the Tories put forth a policy that would see care costs deducted from assets. It was very rapidly labelled a "dementia tax". A lot of people didn't understand the policy and a lot more wilfully misrepresented it. I didn't happen to think much of the policy but I do recognise why there needs to be a policy because the model current policy is based on an unsustainable ideal of post-war health universalism. That's a problem.

The public demands top quality care and they expect the state to pay for it. What they don't want to acknowledge is the spiralling costs of it nor do they acknowledge that our expectations of the state far exceed what many will ever pay in. Meanwhile everybody expects and demands that the NHS can and should provide the full range of care for free without exception.

For as long as I can remember reform of this model has been the single most unapproachable topic. Nothing else quite triggers left wing histrionics like the suggestion that a Rolls Royce healthcare is not a human right. The consequence of this is that any reforms have to be done by the back door, very gradually while the system continues to underperform.

What we actually need is for an adult government to make the tough choices. While the NHS remains a sacred cow and while the public still have a childish sense of entitlement, there is no hope of ever stopping the rot.

The consequence of of the current political malaise is that while we still nominally maintain a free health care system is is one that is widely abused, taken for granted, and one that has to ration services to the point where you can't get an appointment within a week of needing one. The simplistic criticism is that the system is underfunded and would function better if only we firehosed more cash at it. Except that this isn't the answer, it doesn't work and we cannot afford it.

The same dynamic applies to pretty much every area of public service provision. Any reform or rationalisation is met with fierce political resistance and that leads to a political stalemate. At best a government gets to push through only one set of reforms in its lifetime. Very rapidly they run out of political capital.

This has been the state of play in politics for all of my adult life and it is so entrenched and tribal that we can never move past this permanent state of dysfunction. The moment a conservative government attempts reform, all the classic tropes are trotted out about uncaring, merciless "Tooories". Playground stuff.

I for one am tired of this. The motives behind Tory welfare reform are entirely honourable and though I do not hold Iain Duncan Smith in the highest esteem on matters of Brexit, his programme of reforms was timely and necessary. The left can trot out all the sob stories but this doesn't move me. The horror tales we hear are the outliers; generally those who fall between the cracks as governments attempt to transition one complex system to another. It happens.

There are occasional cases where benefits are stopped with a devastating impact on the individual and this is sold as though Tory ministers are personally responsible and the motive entirely vindictive. The likes of Owen Jones and other Guardian bimbos have made a career pushing this line. It's cynical and exploitative.

The motive behind this misframing is to preserve in aspic a creaking socialist system that primarily benefits the powerbase of leftists - which tends to be those who work within the system rather than those who depend on it. From health to housing, we have an entire cohort who disproportionately benefit from state spending precisely because they maintain this paradigm. They massage the narrative that people are helpless deserving cases giving rise to a culture of victim politics. The greater your victim status the more state largesse is lavished upon you.

And this goes someway to explaining yesterday's post which seems to have cause something of a stir. The short version is that I do see quite a lot of potential in Brexit to reboot British politics, not least because a trashed economy would finally settle this stagnant politics of ours. It would be the final big push to wean the British off the state.

I suspect the reason the post went viral is because it's probably the first time Grauniad hacks have seen honest Brexit motives out in the open. I see Brexit as taking toys away from spoiled toddlers - and if we can't stop a hard Brexit then there is still a lot to be said for going the full monty rather than preserving the dismal status quo of retail politics. I can see how it will culturally reinvent Britain.

One of the very worst aspects of New Labour was how it bureaucratised childcare, bringing it inside a regulated sphere so that struggling families have to pay exorbitant fees just to make sure their offspring do not stick forks in power sockets. It destroyed the culture of voluntarism and community based social initiatives - making childcare possible only for those who can afford it.

In every area of life the state has sought to insert itself to the point of making people hopelessly dependent on it rather than each other. Even the upper middle class dump granny on the council as soon as she becomes inconvenient - and naturally the state pays. We are culturally conditioned to depend on the state to the point where workers in Britain put less of their wages into savings than counterparts in nearly every other country in Europe. One third of Brits are fiscally illiterate. It makes us feckless, frivolous and selfish.

We are told that EU membership safeguards our prosperity. That is another way of saying it preserves the status quo. Well, sorry to break this to you, some of us (quite a lot of us in fact) voted to break the status quo. As much as I thnk British politics has exhausted itself, I think the culture of state dependency is toxic. I look around me and I see a system that has shattered the family. We have struggling single mums while we have a rise in single male suicides. What's wrong with this picture? 

For decades now we have amassed a herd of sacred cows which are beyond question – from the NHS to Trident, from education to dentistry, all are suffering from deeply entrenched political dogmas and withering on the vine because of it. We have social provisions that are not in any way costed and are increasingly unfair to the young. Britain is spoiled rotten.

Between the EU and our entrenched establishment we are incapable of making substantial and meaningful reforms and that which we now call radical is but meagre tinkering. I hold the view that important decisions have been deferred through political cowardice and it is holding back economic and social progress. It might well be that we do have to take a step backwards to reorder our economy to make it one more befitting a globalised world.

Much of the core arms of social welfare and state provision are the last remnants of post-war socialism. We are in denial over their effectiveness and everybody wants the cuts to happen to someone else. Since we have a political establishment incapable of taking those adult decisions, I do not mind at all if Brexit forces their hand.

Once the public is forced to rethink their choices, forced to look past the state to solve their immediate problems we have a chance at cultural reinvention. David Cameron could never bring substance to his "Big Society" ideals, but I recognised what he was getting at. I've even seen it in practice among the Polish community who help each other out in ways that we don't. The state as a backstop means we don't have to interact - and that is what has killed social entrepreneurialism. 

And this is at the core of Conservative values - encouraging people to be self-reliant self-starters, organisers and volunteers. It is the knowledge that this is the essence of personal growth and the bedrock of community. 

This is what Theresa May was getting at with her Citizen's of nowhere speech. She sees what I see. Frivolous, rootless people with no commitments and no sense of obligation simply because there is no imperative to be anything else. She quite adequately describes the self-absorbed whining entitled young remainer who is all too used to being able to graze on the land without any sense civic obligation. Shallow people who buy into the empty sloganeering of the EU. 

I am no slash and burn free marketeer as this blog has made very clear. I do not share the economic radicalism of the Tory right and if they get their way then it will be an economic calamity. I will continue to oppose their reckless approach - but I will not shed a tear if Brexit drives a horse and cart through the British state and shreds the political impasse. 

Without breaking the status quo we would continue in the deadlock of retail politics, continuing to prop up the great British ponzi scheme, robbing the youth of opportunity and vitality while imported labour leaves them trailing in their wake. Brexit gives the country the kick up the backside it has needed for decades. Britain has had it too good for too long and a bit of creative destruction is exactly the right medicine.

To this end I will take the hardship and all that comes with it for a chance at a society that is better than this. One where people look to themselves, their friends and families before they think about filling in a form. 

If I see any division in Britain it is between those who believe in the potential of people and those who do not. Those who think that we are hapless serfs in need of salvation and those who think we are better if we are put to the test. Those who think all human activity has to be sanctioned, approved and monitored by the state and those who think that people can get along without it. That is what makes Brexit a battle for the soul of the country - and the right side won. I don't doubt that Britain will be poorer for Brexit, but it will be a better place to live. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

I don't like this Brexit, but I will live with it


Now that we know there isn't going to be a deal we can at least narrow down some of the possibilities of what post-Brexit Britain looks like.

In the first year or so we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won't last. Domestic agriculture won't be able to compete and we'll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.

Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.

Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that's not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.

Since a lot of freight will no longer be able to go through Calais we can expect a lot more use of the port at Hull so we may see an expansion in distribution centres in the North.

All in all we are looking at serious austerity as it will take a few years at least to rebuild our trade relations with third countries. If we go down the path of unilateral trade liberalisation then we will probably find it hard to strike new deals.

Meanwhile, since tax receipts will be way down we can expect major cuts to the forces and a number of Army redundancies. I expect to see RAF capability cut by a third. Soon enough it will become apparent that cuts to defence cannot go further so we can expect another round of cuts to council services. They will probably raise council tax to cope with it.

After years of the left bleating about austerity they are about to find out what it actually means. Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime.

Interesting though will be how rapidly people adapt to it and habits will change, thus so will the culture. I expect cheap consumables from China will stay at low prices and they manage to circumvent the taxes and import controls anyway.

What I do expect to happen is a lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. Basically it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us.

We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80's.

The London economy will also change. Initially we will see an exodus back to the regions until rental prices normalise to the new conditions. Anyone who considers themselves "Just about managing" right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

This will see a revival of local politics and national politics will become a lot more animated. I expect the Tories will be wiped out and we will have to put up with a Corbyn government for a while, but they will be tasked with making all the major cuts. We'll soon see how far their "compassion" really goes. Even if Corbs does manage to borrow, it won't go very far. It won't plug the hole.

Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. My gut instinct tells me that culturally it will be a vast improvement on the status quo. There will be more reasons to cooperate and more need to congregate. I expect to see a cultural revolution where young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than becoming tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We'll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations, probably plugging back into Euratom, Erasmus, and a large part of the single market. It will take some time to plug back into the EU aviation market. The EU will be very cautious about what it lets us back in on.

Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other.

I'm of the view that in recent years people have become increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent, inventing psychological problems for themselves in the absence of any real challenges or imperatives to grow as people. I have always primarily thought Brexit would be a reboot on British politics and culture. In a lot of ways it will bring back much of what is missing. A little austerity might very well make us less frivolous.

What I do know is that the banking crisis of 2008 set in motion a series of events whereby much of the corrective potential of it was dissipated with debt and spending, largely to preserve the political order. The disruptive potential of it was barely felt in the UK. Ever since we have stagnated and though the numbers on screen may tell a story of marginal growth, I just don't see it reflected in the world around me. I still see the regions dying out and London sucking the life and vitality out of every city, including Bristol. It reminds me that the wealth of a city is its people, not its contribution to GDP.

Ahead lies challenging times. It will not be easy. Those who expected things to improve will be disappointed. But then I have a clear conscience in this. I never made any big Brexit promises. I never said there would be sunlit uplands. I did not predict that the government would make this much of a pigs ear of it, or that we would be looking at the WTO option. I expected parliament would step in to prevent that. That it hasn't tells you a good deal about the state of modern politics.

And so with that in mind, as much as I would have had it go a different way, I think, given the opportunity to vote again I would still vote to leave. Eventually it gets to a point where any change will do. I prefer an uncertain future to the certainty I was looking at.

____

If you came here via the Guardian, read this.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Brexit: the Devil finds work


Raphael Hogarth of The Times tweets "It's amazing how immigration has completely receded from the Brexit debate, having been such a massive feature of the referendum campaign". Quite an astute observation.

One might suggest the reason for this is that the media finally has something to do. Just about every hack and wonk in the land is fixated by Brexit, following every twist and turn, diving into the details a each promoting their own take.

The media has only a certain amount of bandwidth and is usually only capable of handing one or two issues concurrently. If every there is a major terrorist incident, it will fill every page with every angle for days on end because it's easy and cheap copy. These things happen often enough that they have their own institutional routines and they know the drill. They know exactly what to do.

The rest of the time, when the news agenda isn't full they go flying kites to see what news they can provoke. The Daily Mail is especially good at this in that it will suggest that sausage rolls have been banned by a council to avoid offending Muslims, when in fact it will be a moronic decision by a head teacher and will have zero official standing. The article will say that much but that won't get in the way of a titillating headline.

Similarly it will take great pleasure in running a story on the number of schoolchildren who do not speak English as their first language. The statistic they use for the basis of an article will be a sample of London schools where unsurprisingly the majority will be of foreign origin. Here is the Telegraph doing exactly that. I didn't have to hunt to find that article and if I delve a little deeper I will find many more of its type.

So what triggers these articles? Is it actually news? No. It's just that on a slow day with nothing much to report, if there happens to be a report published by a think tank or NGO then it will have the media's full attention simply because it has nothing better to do. On any other day such a report would be completely ignored. It really all depends on how juicy the executive summary is. No hack is going to actually read it.

It is hardly surprising that in recent years the issue of immigration has been centre stage. Being it a thorny issue the main parties wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, but you could always count on Ukip to provide a headline or a pull-quote. That then gives room for policy hacks like Matthew Goodwin to promote their "left behind" narratives - and it gives the handbag-clutching left a "rise of the far right" meme to chew on.

The subject then becomes a cottage industry sustaining the politco-media bubble. Dispatches or Panorama will send a "research" team to Bradford or Burnley to find an ignorant northerner to moan about foreigners, while camera crews take poignant cut scenes of a long abandoned mill looming in the mist. It sustains the careers of journalism graduates hoping to make a name for themselves in television.

Ultimately it is the media who are primarily obsessed with immigration. It is their bread and butter. Newspapers are in the business of selling fear. In the same way that horror films are a timeless genre, newspapers like nothing more than to sow fear and prod the politicians into saying things outside of their comfort zone.

We saw in 2015 the feverish reporting of the "summer of death" in the Mediterranean. For weeks the media reported it as though it were something new when in fact it had been going on for some time and is still happening now. Since 2015 was an election year and Ukip was the media's favourite plaything, it's all we saw day in, day out. Fast forward to now and a hundred people could have died in the Mediterranean just today and it wouldn't rate as news. It might appear in a Reuters ticker somewhere but that's it.

As much as it isn't an election year, the media gets bored just the same as the public do. Even an Islamist terror attack has to be either in Paris, Berlin or on home soil for it to rate. Having used up all the platitudes and rinsed every narrative, unless there's human interest story, it slides to the bottom of the news agenda in twenty-four hours.

There is also another good reason why immigration doesn't rate right now. The media has had its pound of flesh. The story arc is over for now. There is no domestic political angle like Ukip.

Ukip is central to it as the party was largely the media's own creation. There is a Rite of Spring aspect where the sacrificial virgin dances herself to death. For the media, they've had a two-for-one out of Ukip. Ukip brought some intrigue to what would otherwise have been a distinctly tedious election between two virtually identical parties. Then they had a referendum to play with.

Arguably you might even say that immigration doesn't rate because Ukip doesn't rate. There is no story there except for those of us who like a bit of schadenfreude. The media caravan has moved on. We are back to what they love the most; Tory splits - and now a dysfunctional fag end government making a royal pig's ear of Brexit.

In fact, even Brexit doesn't seem to rate over splits in the Tory party. There is a very real danger of talks collapsing and  all the horrors that entails and yet Grant Shapps is somehow more interesting to them. Even the Labour party doesn't feature as a story.

Ultimately media follows power and power is centred in Westminster, so every single issue is viewed through the Westminster prism as to how it may or may not affect the next election. Since there is no election on the cards the only political event on their horizon is the possibility of a Tory leadership contest - and they will do everything in their power to make that happen. If immigration was a stick to beat them with then it would be in the news. But this time it isn't - so it isn't.

There is a feedback loop between the public and the media. The media talks about immigration and sets the talking point agenda and if sustained for long enough it drifts into the Overton window. But then it is just as readily forgotten by the public as they are given something else to churn over. They are every bit as fickle as the media.

At some point we can expect immigration to return as an issue but only as an adjunct. At some point a decision will have to be made on our future trade relationship with the EU and that will require an unpopular decision. The media will then resurrect immigration as a stick to beat the government with, ever keen to push a "betrayal" narrative. It's all good sport for the media.

That, though, is possibly why we will crash out of the EU without a deal. At some point a decision has to be made about the final sum we pay to the EU. The Telegraph and the Express will play their games and even a reasonable sum will be viewed as "caving in to Brussels". Political opportunists will use it to their advantage. This is why we have not, as yet, seen any progress in negotiations. Mrs May is kicking the can down the road.

Ultimately a no deal Brexit has become the most likely Brexit because it is the path of least resistance. As a path it does not not require any courage, no decisions have to be made and blame can always be deflected. With the help of the media, they might even get away with it. It really all depends on how keen media barons are on not having Corbyn in office. You would think, with what is at stake, that there would be some sense of urgency in sounding the alarm - but clearly cabinet splits are more newsworthy than whether we survive as a first world trading nation.

We should not be in the slightest bit surprised that immigration has dropped off the agenda. All too often the media's fixations and obsessions are a galaxy apart from the concerns of the public. The immigration debate has been an indulgence for a media that has not had anything of substance to cope with for more than a decade. The devil finds work for idle hands. I rather expect things would look very different indeed if we had a media that was interested in reporting news rather than manufacturing it.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

I'm not a moderate leaver


The funny thing about the human brain is its capacity for internal conflict. All philosophy is an attempt to reconcile equal yet opposing perspectives. That is why when people ask me whether remaining is better that a no deal Brexit I cannot bring myself to say the obvious.

If I think a no deal Brexit is such an obvious economic calamity why on earth would I not want to call a halt to it? Is there anything so bad about life under EU rule that it necessitates trashing our entire economy. Rationally speaking, obviously not.

I this I have to ask whether it's that I'm so emotionally invested in Brexit, having spent my entire adult life campaigning for it, that I'm unable to bring myself to say it. But then regular readers will know that I also posses a nihilistic streak and a penchant for creative destruction.

One thing I am absolutely convinced of, with my rational mind working unimpeded, is that the Westminster bubble is corrosive to UK politics and is on a countdown to extinction. I do not think it deserves to survive and I do not think it can be satisfactorily reformed. I also think that the EU is a symbiotic part of our political malaise. One props up the other and the EU is the linchpin on the status quo. I won't be sad to see the back of it.

All through the referendum we spoke about "the establishment" but actually we needed to be talking about establishment(s). I have written at length how groupthink dominates the centres of power and how right wing think tanks are the gatekeepers of orthodoxy. With the EU though, there exists a network of NGOs and non-profits all of which are nests of the well-to-do upwardly mobile NGOcrat who manage to sail effortlessly around the Westminster and Brussels machinery, gathering gongs and syphoning grants as they go.

The right pretty much abandoned any hope of influencing the EU simply because the EU is resilient to conservative politics and lends itself to "progressive" causes of the social-liberal consensus. There is no business for them there and being conservatives they tend to prefer the prestige of the British instruments of state. So there is a division of labour at work. Each side fishes its own waters. All I see is a single giant milking cow with thousands of sucklings.

What both establishments have in common is that their agendas require total control of the machinery and they want more power for themselves for their agendas and less power for the public. The europhiles push through their agenda without consent or consultation while the hard right are getting busy doing the same. Neither is interested in seeking a mandate. They are opportunists.

So in a lot of ways a political hand grenade like Brexit is immensely appealing. As much as it utterly shafts our NGOcracy, it will in due course sweep the Tory right to the fringes and put an end to the stranglehold. And though in recent times I have been far more critical of privatisation and neoliberalism I don't actually mind if a hard Brexit forces a complete rethink of the fabric of the British state.

But then there's the decider. The question is whether remaining is functionally better than a no deal Brexit. Yes it is, but does that change my view that we should leave the EU? No. No it doesn't. And since this is probably the only chance we will get then I'm afraid I'll have to take it. I always knew there would be a risk of a no deal Brexit, and though at the time it seemed unlikely, we are where we are.

It really comes down to one fundamental principle which is a red line for me. Britain must be an independent self-governing nation - largely because that is the only way we can adequately practice and safeguard democracy in a meaningful sense.

In that respect, I am no moderate leaver. If there was a less radical option available I would take it but if forced to choose then my instinct tells me we must leave. I am certain that it will not be good for the economy but I know it will be a very necessary democratic corrective and the beginnings of an entirely new era in politics where, for once, we have a chance at fashioning something entirely different.

This makes for an uncertain political future. God alone knows what the Tory right might try to pull off before they are wiped out, and one dare not think what Corbyn would attempt, but for once there is a very real high stakes game and real politics has been brought back from the grave. I have faith that the British public will reject both extremes in the end.

At the moment I am politically homeless. I want nothing to do with the Tory party and Labour has no redeeming features. I am certainly not alone in that. The forthcoming turbulence will hopefully re-engage those of us who want tempered good governance. If not then I rather expect we will have what we deserve.

But that is also one other facet of Brexit. It is a teachable moment for those who think we pay politicians to do our politics for us. It has been a bucket of cold water on the notion that somebody somewhere knows what they're doing and we are safe in their hands. It will certainly make us vigilant. The powers granted by the withdrawal bill will have every democrat watching this government like a hawk - and will hopefully get them in the habit of it. From that we will retake our democracy.

It is that lack of vigilance over the EU that makes me believe membership of it is untenable. The systemic obliviousness to the EU and its workings runs from the top all the way down to the man in the street. It is, therefore, intolerable that it should be our supreme government, operating out of the spotlight. Brexit at the very least puts the decision making back where we can see it - and back where our media is watching.

I am under no illusions that this is going to be a very ugly, very expensive, very messy process. It need not have been, and I did everything in my power to do this another way, but ultimately I accept the consequences of my choice. I voted to leave and would do so again. I regret the circumstances, but not my decision.

Brexit: contemplating the unthinkable


As each day passes there are fewer reasons to believe that Article 50 talks will be successfully concluded. It really does look like the government is planing on a walkout. Should that happen then we are in uncharted waters. If they do this then there is no telling how the politics unfolds but if there is a formal termination of talks then arguably the treaties cease to apply immediately.

Whether there is a period of grace, we do not know, but it will be short and as soon as member states are notified, the UK is subject to third country customs protocols and the UK has no formal external trade relations.

Do not make the mistake of thinking I am overreacting. The EU is a creature of law and it is also bound by WTO rules. It has no choice but to treat the UK as a third country - and when we have just walked away without settling accounts and making alternative provisions, it will do so with glee.

The UK walking out of the EU unilaterally is as close as you get to a hostile act without actually declaring war. It throws a lot of EU administration into chaos, forces them to take remedial action and hits all EU budgets pretty hard. And if it hurts them it will hurt us a magnitude more.

The moment the penny drops we will start to see panic buying so sanitary products and foodstuffs will rapidly disappear off the shelves. The resultant gridlock will take haulage assets out of circulation so replenishment may take several days. Think back to the fuel strike of 07.

I cannot say how long it will take for our third country trade agreements to be patched up so that means imports from the rest of the world could be sat in a container ship off Southampton waiting for permission to dock.

We can expect wholesale dumping of export stock on to the domestic market almost immediately so UK produce will temporarily collapse in price but then shortly after UK businesses start to fold and those supplies dry up and food prices go through the roof.

Expanding on this a little, though the risk is less severe, there are some circumstances where this could trigger a cascade failure where the interruption of one system affects all of them up to and including energy supply. If it is cold and we run short on diesel stocks the the rail network will be shut down. Large industrial energy users will also be told to go on lockdown. Effectively we initiate civil contingency measures so don't be surprised if you see army logistics everywhere.

My generation has been quite lucky in that we have seen relatively few disruptions to supply chains so my generation and younger find it harder to believe, but anyone older can tell you that things can degenerate pretty quickly. It only takes an equipment malfunction at an airport for flights to be delayed more than a day. This is that same disruption multiplier only on a massive scale.

I've kicked these thoughts around with trade and law boffins and they don't seem to disagree. There is a seriously high risk of this. The only people saying otherwise are Toryboy twerps none of whom have any track record in trade or treaty law. As much as these people do not think a train-wreck is possible, behind closed doors, they secretly don't care either way. They are fanatics. It could happen a month from now or a year from now. While we have an unstable and dysfunctional government, I put the chances of failure at about 75%.

Make no mistake, people. Because we are a member of the EU all of our trade deals are between the EU and third countries. We have no formal trade agreements with any countries. If the Tories pull the plug at the wall then the UK simply is not a recognised trading entity. There may be some fudges and workarounds and loopholes but I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on it. The EU will enforce its own rules and Britain will experience the consequences.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Moggists are opening the door to Corbyn's Venezuela fantasy



John McDonnell is filmed here and, to my surprise, some of his words carry some considerable weight.
"Parliamentary democracy doesn't work for us, elections aren't working for us. We'll go into this next election, and yes we'll seek to campaign, we'll seek to get people in parliament, who may seek to represent us, but what's happening in elected dictatorships. So we have to actually recognise we've got to bring democracy back into the community and that means democracy of the streets. So when it comes to coordinated industrial action we need coordinated street action as well. And that means as we did a few weeks ago, if we have to close off Parliament Square with thousands of people turning up, closing of Westminster Bridge, getting out into the streets in the form of direct action - and demonstrate there is more to democracy than just a vote every five years. Democracy is about taking control of your own community. And means industrial action combined with direct action. We used to call it insurrection, now we're polite and say it's direct action. Let's get back to calling it what it is. It's insurrection".
While the word insurrection causes the right to gasp in horror, I actually admire the man's frankness. Street level expressions of people power on a massive scale is the truest manifestation of democracy there is, as has been demonstrated in Catalonia.

When you look at the Catalan demonstrations next to the feeble "March for Europe" we can see that British protests are little more than social gatherings. Britain as a rule does not do continental style mass protest. Perhaps the "stop the war" march was the closest we have seen but that was not a constitutional issue.

One does, however, question whether McDonnell is living in the real world. He speaks of mobilising and occupying the streets but I can't help thinking that he thinks this is 1930 and the unions can instruct the dockworkers and ship builders to down tools and bring the country to a grinding halt. It fits with the delusion that Britain is an impoverished huddled mass poised to overthrow their oppressors.

That though is not a fringe perception on the left. It underpinned Ed Miliband's entire election campaign and for a log time now Labour has had a paternalist bent, assuming that the British public are awaiting rescue from their left wing saviours. The inconvenient truth for Labour is that in recent years, notwithstanding "austerity" Britain has done ok and the plebs are not poised to overthrow the imperium.

But this might very well explain why Labour is silent on Brexit. They seem entirely happy to let the Tories make a pig's ear of it so they can sweep to power and rip away at the establishment.

It's not a bad strategy either. The Tories have convinced themselves that the WTO option is viable and they have their heart set on a no deal Brexit. To their minds it means a buccaneering free trade Britain, when in fact it means permanent austerity and potentially a collapse of every complex governance system. If that happens it won't take very long for the Tories to be swept from power and a mandate will be handed to Corbyn to do as he pleases.

And when the UK is functionally broke, with no trade deals, there isn't a justification for Trident. I expect our QE carriers will be sold off to the lowest bidder too. Worst case scenario, we end up a Venezuela style mess. Best case scenario with become a disorganised, corrupt basketcase like Italy. It will be a rough ride either way.

But the the elephant in the room here is that McDonnell is not wrong. Parliamentary democracy doesn't work for us, elections aren't working for us. We get people in parliament "who may seek to represent us, but what's happening in elected dictatorships".

Part of the reason we are leaving the EU is because at every turn the government has shafted us without ever seeking consent. Had freedom of movement been put before the electorate they would have said no. So thy weren't asked. Every major increment in EU integration has been a connivance.

Now that we are leaving the EU we can see for ourselves just how dysfunctional parliament is. Parliament has utterly failed to rise to the challenges of Brexit and the executive has a free hand in doing whatever it pleases. Walking out of the EU without a deal was a fringe idea. No responsible, studied, diligent person would ever consider it - yet what is there to stop them?

We also see how many Tory MPs are on the payroll of private interests pushing us toward this very outcome. We've seen dome clucking from Anna Soubry about it but ultimately she has fallen in behind the leader who is taking us over the cliff. Tory moderates are all but silent. They won't put up much of a fight. They will do as Tories do and follow the leader.

And that is ultimately at the heart of this. Our political system rewards conformity and punishes diligence. Idea becomes identity, identity becomes groupthink, groupthink becomes prophecy, prophecy becomes destiny. The party system is a huge part of the problem.

To become an MP you need to join a party. Independent candidates do not fare well since politics is played out through the media - and sadly, people vote for brands and leaders rather than voting on issues. To join a party means conforming to the party scriptures, to bury one's own personal ideas and instead suspend one's own critical faculties to push the tribal narrative. That is why we are where we are.

It takes a certain sort of mediocre person to do that. A particular kind of narcissistic, ambitious type with few scruples and generally without the intellect to see why this system is a huge part of the problem. As bad as that is, we have a system that puts them all in one room to decide the fate of the nation. Being it a metropolitan London culture, subject to its own traditions, behaviour patterns and groupthinks, it exists in a parallel universe. How can this possibly be representative or even wise?

For as long as this system exists we will forever have a ruling class whose value system is entirely alien to the rest of the country. Not for nothing do we call it the Westminster Bubble. And in this bubble we have these same ambitious nobodies seeking as much exposure as possible, constantly courting the eye of bubble dwelling reporters, seldom ever taking a break to absorb and understand the issues, largely taking their brief from that same ill-informed media or badly researched party literature. Deliberative it is not. More often it is tribal and completely bovine.

Meanwhile, we have so many ministries and committees that there is always scope for an ambitious MP to find a step up the greasy pole. Promotions are offered in exchange for conformity meaning MPs will often quell their personal misgivings in the belief they can use their position of influence to the greater good. It never pans out like that though. The system has ways of muzzling dissent. Consequently we have old timer MPs who came to do good but stayed to do well - where few leave office poorer than they went in.

What we laughingly call British democracy is a sordid den of wastrels and thieves in Westminster. Democracy it is not. And this is what ultimately brings us to Brexit. The EU is what underpins the status quo; a creaking, decaying establishment that is entirely unfit for purpose and desperately in need of renewal.

My view is that evolution better than revolution which is why I favoured a softer Brexit. That would have been the smart move if the Tories had a sense of self-preservation. Instead, they have decided to commit suicide and trash everything. Were it not for the real world harm this will cause for ordinary people I would not be in a hurry to stop them.

But then if honest, I've always been conflicted on this. I have never been under any illusions about Brexit and I do see the potential for great harm - but I have always thought that the Westminster system was too sick to survive and doesn't deserve to. I thought my opinion of the Westminster bubble could not sink any lower. Brexit has proved me wrong on that. The irony now being that the Brexit the brexiteers are unwittingly pushing for is more in line with my political ends than theirs.

The Moggists are pushing for a hard Brexit for a revival of a Thatcherite Conservative Britain. I have no idea what it will be but I am certain it won't be that, and the Tory Brexiters are not going to like it. At this point, since it is not within our power to stop them, I am somewhat sanguine about it.

One way or another we were going to have to put up with a Corbyn government. I think that destiny was sealed when we saw guffawing Toryboys joining Labour for £3 so they could vote for Corbyn. I'm not superstitious at all but one observes that hubris of that nature is often rewarded by karma. And oh boy would they have it coming.

What follows, however, is the undiscovered country. A blank slate for democracy. The only certainty is uncertainty. And that, ultimately, is what I did vote for - because the crushing certainty of an ever diminishing band of Cameron-Blair replicants bickering over the last dregs of power inside a European superstate probably is a worse than a no deal Brexit - and the collapse we seek to avoid could only be inevitable on their watch anyway. If this way means the eradication of the Tory party and the Westminster bubble then it can't be all bad.

The Brexit event horizon has been crossed


As ever the media will do what it does. They will talk about Mrs May's speech. I do not think, though, that it matters. A more thorough appraisal would be a task best befitting another time. 2015 perhaps. For this was a speech of that time. The time before Brexit. The status quo that no longer exists.

Measured by that yardstick it was an adequate speech if not inspiring. There were clues that Mrs May still has a glimmer of conservative instinct. I do not think my fellow blogger Sam Hooper will be as forgiving but I have learned to lower my expectations and lower them again. It is too much to expect a speech befitting the age of Brexit from one who has come from the order that was so narrowly rejected last year.

Overall the feeling seems to be one of sympathy. Mrs May is held hostage to her circumstances - pinned to the wall by her treacherous and incompetent court. This was not how she ever imagined it would play out. One imagines that the only reason she does not resign is out of fear of what another would do in her place. Perhaps then she should enjoy some praise for her sense of duty to the people.

At least, that would be the case were she not unwittingly leading us down the same path. Isolated from reality, imprisoned by her unconscious incomprehension, she has fallen into the trap of living the reality painted for her by her lieutenants. If you want to know what that looks like, one needs to look away from the main hall and instead look to the fringes. Here in this nest of vipers do we see the true face of the Party. 

A madness stalks the Conservative Party. One that has convinced itself that Britain can walk away from the European Union without consequence and that we are prepared for such an eventuality - so much so that they are willing this series of events to unfold. 

So deeply entrenched is this belief that it has taken on a life of its own. It spreads through the party like a virus. Eventually, with so many believing it, it becomes a sacred prophecy. It then has a serious personal cost to those in the party who dare say that the Emperor has no clothes. And so it takes root, coiling around the throat of country, and now, short of a miracle, there is no escape. Now we wait for the runaway train to hit the buffers.

It would do no good to raise the alarm. It has already been sounded. It fell on deaf ears. There is nothing quite so impenetrable as a political groupthink. Gaining the favour of the court is all that matters and a little thing like reality must never be allowed to intrude. Not even the assassin's bullet can stop this now. You would have to eliminate a long line men to pull this back from the brink. The sacred prophecy has hit critical mass and has become destiny. 

These people are in the grip of something very sinister. It's not at all healthy. There is no rationality there, so you cannot deal with this by reasoned argument. Every means has be tried. The arsenal is now bare. The demon is unleashed. 

Over the last few days I have been revisiting some of my thoughts as to what will happen when the balloon goes up. There is no precedent for what is about to unfold. Day by day we ebb closer to events of historic magnitude where we will see the hubris of our leaders repaid in full. There will be some small satisfaction in watching these men and their ideas fall. But it will be fleeting as they take us all down with them.  

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Why the Conservative Party deserves to die


If there is one perception I have of the Thatcher era then it is of a Conservative Party with aspiration at the centre of its thinking. Driving that was also a moral imperative - the belief that work was the fastest way out of poverty and self-reliance was a virtue in itself.

One would expect a Conservative government to be pro-enterprise but there was also something about Mrs Thatcher's values that made her version of conservatism the definitive one. There was something more than just the slash and burn free market instinct. There was still an underlying obligation to observe that, as citizens, we are custodians of a particularly British order where enterprise sits comfortably alongside the institutions of state.

I don't see that in the modern Conservative Party. For the most part I see the dregs of Thatcherism and the second generation Toryboys wedded to extreme free market dogma - which is no respecter of anything. If it isn't nailed down they will flog it and if they can't flog it they will demolish it.

It is this corrosive trend that is ultimately shredding the social contract. One such example, as BuzzFeed notes, is legal aid reform which made it harder than ever to get free access to a lawyer for those who cannot afford one. The result is that in courts around the country, growing numbers of people with no legal experience are fighting alone to hold onto everything from their homes and possessions to their right to stay in the UK or even keep custody of their children.

Increasingly citizens are finding themselves fighting off claims made by what are now wholly private authorities acting on behalf of the state. Long time readers will know I've had my own run-ins with the corporate state, fighting criminal bailiffs acting in respect of council tax.

This was quite an education. One always assumes that, as a generally law abiding citizen, you will have some recourse to justice, but what I found was a conveyor belt court system which is not in the slightest bit interested in upholding the law, nor are the police moved to investigate complaints. This is, incidentally, why I was never moved by remainer arguments about EU rights. Justice is for those who can afford it.

If there was anything that underpinned my belief in British exceptionalism it was that our society was underpinned by a timeless tradition of fair play and justice, having the best courts and the fairest law of all. I expect that was probably naive but I never imagined that the system was as debased as it is.

What I remember from that debacle was how isolating it was, knowing that when the system has you in its sights you are completely without recourse in the face of a cold, bureaucratic and indifferent - system - capable of taking everything you have. Ever since then I simply don't answer the door to anyone unless by prior appointment. I do not live in fear of burglars. I do, however, live in fear of the state and what it will do, entirely unchecked even by its own rules.

Mrs Thatcher was best known for her programme of mass privatisation. Certainly the privatisation of telecoms was the biggest success and I can still argue that privatising utilities was probably the right way to go. Ever since then, however, every other public service has been carved up and flogged off, or re-engineered for the convenience of the state rather than the public.

In some instances, it has vastly improved matters. Passports and driving licence application processes have been transformed, partly in thanks to the internet, but elsewhere the trend is toward ever more scare public services, of diminishing quality, where the needs of the service user come last.

There is a postcode lottery on GP services, dentistry is shambolic throughout and increasingly charges are creeping in all over the shop. Now, if this were consistent with Conservative free market dogma, we should at least be seeing some sort of corresponding tax cuts. And of course there have been tax cuts, but not for the likes of your or I.

It is, therefore, not surprising that a hard left Labour party is gradually gaining traction. Labour speaks to that British instinct that though we are pro-commerce and enterprise, some things are sacred. We do demand a base level of service provision and we don't want it run by Serco or G4S.

Meanwhile, though Labour have entirely the wrong solutions to pay and conditions at the bottom end of the job market, they do have a point about exploitation, job insecurity and the removal of basic guarantees. As much as it is already difficult to get a mortgage and save, you can't get a mortgage if even skilled workers are working on contract for an hourly rate.

Since Thatcher we have seen the commodification of labour, failing to understand that humans do have hopes and aspirations and need certain guarantees to progress. Now everything is geared for business to be able to account for every last cent and whittle down rights for the worker. It adds to the stress of life working from week to week knowing you can be terminated without warning or redundancy pay. Meanwhile we look at the pay culture of councils and we are still seeing six figure payouts for CEOs.

Now you can argue that a lot of this was set in motion by the Blair government, and indeed it was, but this trend has not been slowed or reversed in the seven years the Tories have been in power. Much of it is happening under the radar and it comes as no surprise that Tory MPs are on the payroll of  private interests.

In fact, the Tory approach to Brexit tells us everything we need to know about modern conservatism. We know that Labour has been hijacked by its Momentum fringe, but less is said about how the Tories have been captured by the free market zealots. They are salivating at the thought of unilateral trade liberalisation without a second thought for the jobs that will inevitably be destroyed.

Brexit has been their holy grail for decades now, not out of any genuine concern for democracy, rather as a tool to finish off a long standing ultra-capitalist agenda. It wouldn't be so bad if any of their ideas were intellectually sound, but they exist in a pocket of unreality where the last thirty years of global regulatory integration never happened.

It is not surprising that the youth vote is deserting the Tories. The Tories are locked into cultish devotion to an economic theory while having scant regard for any of the real world pressures that young people face. The housing issue being the long standing elephant in the room.

Ultimately this iteration of the Conservative Party is one that has no interest in policy or governance because ideology is their only master. There is no statecraft instinct in the Tory party. It is a party of unbridled greed, corruption and intellectual poverty.

I have no love of the left or any regard for the leftist politics of Corbyn, but left unchecked, the current trajectory will be irreversible. We will end up with a colder, more hostile country, where everyone is on the make, nothing is done out of neighbourliness and everything has a price. A vulture capitalist state where the only protection a man has from the privatised thugs banging on the door is a baseball bat. From there, the rule of law disintegrates.

For all that we are told that Labour are economic extremists, we are actually governed by economic extremists at the other end of the spectrum - and they are poised to impose their ideal upon us. It doesn't even look like we can stop them. And so if every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we cannot then be surprised if the next election puts Mr Corbyn in Number Ten.

At one time not so long ago I would have bee repulsed by the very idea. But then I imagine a Britain, led by Boris Johnson, where free market zealots are busy dismantling everything of value - destroying what is left of the British social fabric. Could Corbyn be any worse? I don't know. What I do know is that the line has to be drawn here. This far and no further.