Thursday, 8 September 2016

Brexit is a shambles and the political class are floundering

The political class have had ten weeks to come up with some kind of plan to deal with the vote for Brexit, but the woeful state of the drivel most of them have come up with so far has actually left us with the situation where the confusion over what Brexit is actually going to mean for the British economy is actually growing rather than diminishing!

No plan

The Brexiteers who goaded 37% of the public into voting for Brexit clearly had no plan whatever about what to do if they got their way. Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson made that absolutely clear by the way they immediately scarpered after the event.

This total lack of anything even remotely resembling a plan of action that the political class could be held to in the result of a Brexit vote was the main objection of anyone who considered the subject with any degree of seriousness. Had the pro-Brexit camp actually presented their plan we could have considered it on its merits. The fact that they just had a random jumble of slogans, utopian fantasies and false promises instead of an actual strategy for what comes next meant there really was nothing serious to consider.

Even worse than the Brexiteers having no plan for Brexit was the fact that David Cameron's government had no contingency plan whatever in case their gamble with the entire future of the UK economy backfired. Cameron's choice to risk the future of the country for a bit of short-term party political advantage at the 2015 General Election was bad enough, but having no plan in case it backfired and then just resigning and washing his hands of the whole mess he created was truly abysmal stuff, even judged against his own utterly woeful track record as Prime Minister.

Making it up as they go along 

David Davis' long-awaited Brexit speech was truly abysmal stuff. Flanked by the other merry Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, Davis' wasted fifteen minutes with a hopeless display of unfocused waffling. In the process he managed to clarify very little other that the fact that even after ten weeks these charlatans have got no coherent strategy for removing the UK from the European Union.

One of the only concrete Brexit policies that Davies actually bothered to detail in his rambling speech was the plan to retain of the EU's system of landowner subsidies, under which wealthy landowners are showered with taxpayers' cash simply for owning vast tracts of land, with no obligation to actually cultivate anything whatever in return for their handouts.

In guaranteeing the continuance of these farcical landowner handouts, Davies made it absolutely clear that the Tories are determined to keep one of the very worst and most iniquitous elements of EU membership simply because it benefits the land monopolist class who bankroll the Tory party (and make up a significant proportion of their MPs too).

The next day Davis had to be slapped down by the Prime Minister's office because his prognosis that the UK retaining membership of the single market would be "very improbable" is not government policy.

It's clear that one hand doesn't even know what the other hand is doing. An extraordinary mess!

Davis may have been speaking above his station when he publicly poo-pooed the idea of the UK staying in the single market, but what the actual government policy is remains entirely unclear, which brings us to Theresa May.

Theresa May

It seemed unlikely that anyone could put on a less reassuring performance than David Davis (who guaranteed that taxpayer funded handouts to his landowner Tory mates but had not a single word of reassurance for vital sectors of the economy like manufacturing, retail, science, education, energy, transport or health) but Theresa May managed to trump him the next day with an utterly vapid performance at Prime Minister's Questions.

After trying to score points against Jeremy Corbyn by giving a massive and unprecedented boost of free publicity to an extremely distasteful hard-right Twitter ranter by name-checking him on the public record, she then repeatedly and egregiously evaded a perfectly clear, sensible and simple question from the SNP's Angus Robertson, about whether Theresa May wants the UK to stay in the European Single Market or leave.

All Theresa May could come up with was a load of flustered and patronising waffle while the Tory benches tried to save her embarrassment by trying to drown out Robertson's questions with their now customary barrages of hooting, jeering, braying and assorted animal noises.

It's absolutely inconceivable that Theresa May will be able to keep on stalling 
for years on end about whether the UK is going to seek to retain membership of the single market with vacuous platitudes like "Brexit means Brexit", but that's all she's been doing for 10 weeks already, so maybe endless stalling is actually her plan? Who knows?

It's hardly a rabidly left-wing Trotskyite position to say that vital sectors of the UK economy like manufacturing, retail and services will suffer if this uncertainty continues. If the UK government is not going to seek membership of the single market, UK businesses need to know about it, and they need to know about it soon so they can come up with business plans to try to mitigate the economic fallout.

The "Norwegian option" or "Hard Brexit"

Assuming that the stalling is one day going to come to an end and that Brexit is eventually going to go ahead, a lot of people think that "the Norwegian option" is the best of a bad situation. 

The problem is that single market access comes with certain stipulations, including the free movement of labour within the single market zone. It's inconceivable that the EU would allow the UK to keep access to the single market without us agreeing to the free movement of labour (because it would clearly incentivise a chaotic disintegration of the EU as other states quit in the hope of their own cherry-picked sweetheart deals).

Keeping single market access and scrapping the free movement of labour is a complete fantasy. You couldn't really get a purer political example of people wanting to have their cake and eat it. When Theresa May says she wants to scrap free movement but refuses to say that she wants to quit the single market, she's blatantly playing utopian fantasy land politics and taking anyone she expects to believe it for an idiot.

Keeping the single market and not scrapping the free movement of people from the EU into the UK would cause an apoplectic storm of protest from the huge xenophobic-Brexiter contingent. The very reason these people voted out of the EU was to get rid of the pesky foreigners. Any deal that involved keeping the free movement of labour would have them wailing and shrieking even louder than they were before, or perhaps even descending into the violent lynch mob mentality eluded to by Nigel Farage and openly promoted by the leaders of Britain First.

That just leaves "Hard Brexit" which would have severe economic consequences for huge numbers of businesses and jobs. Anyone 
rooting for Hard Brexit whilst working for a Japanese car company in Sunderland (where a majority of people actually voted for Brexit!) really doesn't know their arse from their elbow. They'd actually be rooting for the endangerment of their own jobs and livelihoods because they've swallowed some Brexit fairy tale about "taking back control"!

Jeremy Corbyn

Lot's of people see me as completely biased in favour of Jeremy Corbyn because I generally swim against the tide of savagely anti-Corbyn propaganda that is passed off as news these days, but I'm not. Nobody is beyond criticism.

Corbyn has outlined a stance that the UK should try to negotiate a settlement that keeps access to the single market but frees us from the EU obligations 
that bar the UK state from intervening to rescue our industries* and that force us to keep privatising public property and services.

These toxic hard-right economic rules are one of my biggest criticisms of the EU, so I understand why Jeremy Corbyn would want them scrapped, but the problem with this stance is that it's pretty much as unrealistic as the single market + no free labour pipe dream that Theresa May keeps pandering to. It's unrealistic because it's against the EU's own interests to allow departing nations to cherry-pick the best bit and scrap all the absolute crap that comes along with it. If they allow that, everyone would want to leave.

The only way that the UK could have stood a chance of scrapping the hard-right pro-privatisation, anti-interventionist neoliberal dogma at the core of the EU would have been to stay in and try to form a pan-European left-wing alliance demanding reform for the whole of the EU. Pleading for a spectacularly unlikely special deal just for the UK at the moment we strop out of the door is an utterly futile strategy.

A second referendum

If you think Jeremy Corbyn's policy is silly, Owen Smith's is even worse. A second referendum on whatever settlement the Tories eventually cobble together could only have negative outcomes.

Either some 37% of the public actually vote in favour of it and give the Tories an actual democratic mandate for the hard-right lunacy they're bound to come up with to please their donors (bankers, the landed gentry, corporate fat cats, tax-dodgers and private health profiteers), or the public vote against it causing years more of damaging economic chaos and uncertainty as the country descends into furious bickering about which referendum outcome is the more legitimate as we're left neither fully in, nor fully out of the EU with the clock ticking towards us being ejected anyway at the end of the two year Article 50 negotiation period.

It's telling how bad the situation is that this state of chaos and uncertainty is actually considered by some people to be the best case scenario!


The main reason I objected to a haphazard abandonment of the EU with no clear strategy for what comes next was not some misguided love of the EU**, it was an understanding of the near inevitability of such a vote resulting in a paralysing mess with a savagely right-wing bunch of Tories intent on running the show for the benefit of their financial backers.

It's really hard to say who is coming out of this the worst. David Cameron for gambling the whole future of the UK and losing; Brexiteers like Boris, Farage, Gove and IDS who were so full of false promises and utopian fantasies before the vote but clearly still have no plan ten weeks after it
the appalling Brexiter ranters who keep telling everyone who tries to discuss this mess to "shut up and get over it, you lost" as if the referendum was some kind of sodding football match; the naive opportunists who believe in Theresa May's cake of access to the single market without paying the price of it with free movement of labour; Jeremy Corbyn who now apparently thinks it's possible to ditch all of the hard-right economic dogma that comes with EU membership but keep access to the single market; Owen Smith and various others in the political establishment who are pinning their hopes on a second referendum to undo the result of the first referendum and further draw out this damaging uncertainty, or the 37% of the public who voted to dump our country into such a chaotic and unstable position under the delusion that it's even possible to "take back control" without anything even remotely resembling a plan of action for how that was to be done.

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* =  Apart from the banks of course, the EU turned a big blind eye to the £1.5 trillion in bailouts, subsidies and financial support we handed to them back when the global economy was paralysed in a huge insolvency crisis caused by their own reckless gambling.

** = I'm confident that I've written far more critiques of the EU than 99% of Brexit voters. Take this, or this, or this as examples.