Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Brexit Review

There is the unmistakable whiff of death coming from the direction of Theresa May’s government. It is, by all accounts, teetering on the brink of collapse under the weight of repeated scandal. If it’s not sexual misconduct in the defence department, it’s a renegade minister trying to divert aid to the Israeli army. But the big issue, as always, is Brexit. Talking of which – the negotiations also have the whiff of death upon them. We are fast arriving at the promised cliff edge.

The hardline Brexiters, who hijacked policy in the wake of the EU referendum, are now attempting to complete the job and take over Number 10 itself. Will it be Boris the Buffoon to take the helm? Or will it be Jacob Rees “16th Century” Mogg? Or could a figure from the EU friendly side of the party rise up to the top job? There’s also the distict possibility that a revolt could lead to another snap election in the new year. But could anyone do a worse job than May? She has had an awful year and a half, getting almost everything of any consequence completely wrong.

Which had me thinking. I’ve written a book’s worth of opinion on Brexit. How much did I actually get right? Or wrong, for that matter. I had a look back at some of my posts in the run up to the vote, and a few written shortly after. It was an interesting exercise. And I’ve gathered a few of my predictions up to be graded. I’m lucky. Unlike poor old Soon To Be Ex Prime Minister May, I get to grade myself.

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?
This referendum is really about Cameron appeasing a wildly divided Conservative party, which has on several occasions in the last 30 years pretty much self imploded over the debate regarding our place in (or out of) Europe….at least in the short term, the referendum is likely to create a more divided Conservative party. And if the last thirty years has shown us anything, this will be the case in the medium and long terms too. In other words, the true purpose of the referendum may well turn out to have been a pointless exercise.
Ok. This perhaps was predictable. I think so, anyway. And yet it remains true, and more obvious than ever, that the referendum was simply a by-product of a long running Conservative Party civil war. And someone there (ahem…David Cameron) foolishly thought that the referendum would settle matters once and for all. He was wrong. I was right. I’ll give myself 9/10 on this point.
The Scottish referendum permitted 16 year olds to vote. That won’t be the case this time, with the usual minimum voting age of 18 in force. Cameron has missed a trick. If he really wants to stay in Europe, he should have lowered the voting age. The younger the voter, the higher the Remain percentage is.
I did do the maths after the results came through. And whilst the vote would have been tighter still with an extra million 16 and 17 year olds, it would not have changed the outcome. So I was wrong. Nil points for me. But. There is always a but. Perhaps I had just got ahead of myself. Since the June 16 vote, 370,000 of the Leave campaigns core pensioner voters have died. And 525,000 potential remainers have reached the age of 18. The result if ran today, and all other things being equal, is an almost neck and neck 17,040,000 versus 16,665,000. Now factor in the million or so under 18s. I’ll give myself a special ‘prophesy’ bonus of 6/10 here.
There is this assumption that, should we leave the EU, we will be able to negotiate the same trade agreements that essentially exist with us in the EU. This is a nuts assumption. If we leave, a lot of EU nations are going to be pissed. And it only takes one of them to say ‘non’.
Along with the quickly abandoned promise of an extra £350 million a week for the NHS, a fabulous trade deal was a key tenet of the Leave campaign. The German car makers will see to it, they said. It was guaranteed. No problem at all. One of the most ardent campaigners for Brexit laughed at how this would ‘be the easiest trade deal in history’. More recently this has changed to, ‘Nobody ever said this would be easy’. There’s still time, but it’s going pretty terribly so far. I score 10 out of 10 here.
A lot of people are angry about how many foreign folk are in the country. They are angry at how hospital services are put under extra pressure….If we all returned immigrants to their place of origin, the U.K. will likely be worse off. And our hospitals will have fewer staff and more patients. Go figure.
The figures are in. The numbers of nurses coming to work in the NHS from the EU has plummeted. The number of EU nurses leaving the NHS has rocketed. An already strained service is being severely tested by the self inflicted idiocy of Brexit. Can I give myself a second 10 out of 10? Why I do believe I can. So I do.

Plan B
But what I would really like to hear from the Vote Leave campaign is an answer to perhaps the most important potential issue of them all. When they go to the EU after a Brexit vote with their begging cap and none of the influence that comes from being part of the EU, what happens if they turn around and say….non. What is Plan B? Because at the moment, Plan B seems to look a lot like a blank page.
Maximum lolz. Plan B, aka ‘No Deal’, is very much on the cards at the moment. This was one of the most obvious questions in the run-up to the vote. It wasn’t answered then and quite frankly they still haven’t got much of an answer now. I’m going to give myself a 9 out of 10. It seems greedy to just hand myself out too many 10s. There’ll be suggestions of bias. Or worse, a fix.

Unintended Consequences
It’s going to be a close vote. Very close. Even the bookies have narrowed the odds considerably. If the decision came down to the people I speak to on a regular basis, I rather think the vote would be to leave.
My caution was warranted. On the night of the referendum, after the YouGov poll showed a 52% to 48% win for Remain, I went to sleep. But not before posting, “I remember how I once went to sleep after Gore won the election…” Prescient. Another 10, thank you very much.
What Leave campaigners really mean, is they’d rather like to see the reintroduction of permissible racism, homophobia, sectarianism and prejudice in general. That, in a nutshell, is what the abolition of political correctness is about….But you can vote Leave on June 23rd. You can vote to legitimize people like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and others of their ilk. You can vote for racism. You have the freedom to cast your ballot in deciding the direction of the country. But your vote will be one that stifles more freedoms than it liberates.
Hate crime shot up when we voted to leave the EU. It has remained up. It’s going to continue to stay up. Because the vote changed the type of society that we live in, for the worse. It enabled the bigots of the country to come out of the woodwork, like the worms they are. And the tabloids continue to add to it, shouting down any questioning of the Brexit result or process with headlines of ‘Enemy of the People!’ I’m going to go out on a limb here and award myself an 11 out of 10.

Dear Europe, My Brexit.
As far as I’m concerned, leaving the EU is a right wing, nationalist inspired campaign that has succeeded in duping the general public.
I was right. But I missed the Russian influence. Bad me. A paltry 8 on the scoreboards this time.
So there we have it. My Brexit review is in and the ratings have been pinned on the board. The final tally reveals I scored a very creditable 73/80. The conclusion is obvious. I should be the next Prime Minister. But I think we can all agree that is not going to happen. Who will take the reins? Well, that leads me nicely to my final quote from yore….
The most likely route to a second referendum comes, in my opinion, from the Leavers themselves. Cameron has done the dirty on Boris. He’s refused to invoke Article 50 himself. Worse, he’s not going to let anyone else touch that hot potato for three months. That button to invoke Article 50 might be labelled ‘Independence’ right now. I suspect in three months time it will be flashing red and be labelled ‘Self Destruct’. That would put Boris, assuming he is PM by then, in a bit of a sticky position.
Does he have a way to wriggle himself out of this awkward hole that he’s dug himself. I do believe that he has. And, to his credit, he put the safety rope down the hole himself, just before he jumped. Prior to the start of the campaign proper, Boris proposed that a Leave vote would empower the UK with the ability to go to Brussels and get the deal that they actually wanted, before holding a second referendum. It’s the nuclear bomb of diplomacy. Take the UK and the EU to the brink of collapse, lay down demands, look them in the eyes and dare them to say no. The Irish did this with the Lisbon Treaty. And it worked. With much higher stakes this time round, would the EU blink again?
Obviously, Boris did not get swept into Number 10 when Cameron departed the scene. And yet, despite a litany of gaffes and bungles and constant backstabbing in a fairly transparent bit of jockeying for position, he remains a darling of the right and well within reach of the top job.
Boris is more than capable of dramatically switching sides at an opportune moment. You sense that he feels the destiny of a Churchill within him, in a most narcissistic manner. These are interesting times and he is, if nothing else, an interesting and unpredictable character.