Monday, 9 January 2017

Happy New Year

I've had a welcome break from Brexit blogging of just over two weeks now.  It was welcome for me but probably also welcome for the tireless masochists who frequent this corner of the internet for endless bad news delivered through the medium of pop video punning and poorly conceived plays. I've barely read a headline or a blog post or even a tweet about Brexit since just before Christmas. Although this means I'm behind in the news somewhat, a break from the impending Brexit mud-bath has done me a world of good.  My Euro batteries are definitely recharged and I'm raring to go for a fun-filled year of political incompetence, rank stupidity and bland sloganeering

What's been happening while I've been away? Surprisingly, quite a lot has happened in the last two weeks. I'm not going to recap the news because anyone reading this will be further ahead than I am but it appears that the lack of plan or goal is reaching fever pitch.  We've seen endless news reports in the aftermath of the resignation of Ivan Rogers and his leaked notice letter.  It's abundantly clear now that the UK Government has no plan but also no goal.   In about 11 weeks time the Prime Minister will deliver a letter to the European Council of Ministers stating that the UK will leave the EU.  She is under no obligation to set out her objectives at that time so don't expect to see any because they still won't exist. The UK is hell-bent on leaving the EU, no matter the sorry state of preparation or how irrational it may be. The simple truth is that the UK Government only has to get it together to write one simple letter containing about 20 polite but formal words, a reference to Article 50, and a signature. This will happen. The only things that could ever stop this happening would be events even more terrifying than Brexit such as a zombie plague or alien attack. Even David Allen Green seems to have finally understood that the UK Government does not particularly care about process or rationality or preparedness or objective advice. Brexit means Brexit and we're definitely going to get Brexit in whatever form is imposed upon the UK in the next 2.25 years.  Nothing will stop Theresa May delivering that letter:  Parliament won't stop it, the Civil Service can't stop it, the Scottish Government will try but will fail to stop it, the Irish Peace Process will barely even trouble it, the City of London will act too late to delay it, and Gibraltar doesn't even register as an opposing factor.

Nah, just cross that busy road and have a fun adventure.
 What else has been happening?  There seems to be further momentum for reports about a transitional deal.  This is even something I clumsily mentioned some months back when pointing out that 2 years is a short time to undo 40 years of legislative union.  The problem with a transitional deal is that it not in the power of the UK Government to make it happen.  I'm not Noam Chomsky but I would guess a statistical analysis of mentions of a transitional deal would be heavily skewed towards the UK press. Why? Well, the UK badly needs a transitional deal, while the EU can decide at its own leisure not only whether or not to give us one but also the form that will take.  The EU, of course, will delay and delay and delay until there comes a point where UK business decisions need to be made in order to safeguard their European trade.  After everyone affected has relocated to Paris and Berlin and Dublin, a transitional deal will magically appear.  It's not clear to me that the UK will accept a transitional deal, anyway, because it will involve a 2020 General Election with the UK still beholden to the European Court of Justice and the four freedoms of the European Union. Perhaps the public mood will have altered by then in the face of impending legislative calamity.  We can only hope but I'm not overly optimistic about the UK electorate.

I'm sorry to be starting 2017 with such a depressing and pessimistic post.  Put simply, a madness has taken root at the heart of the UK Government.  Instead of leadership based on reason and calculation, we have self-congratulatory inexperts driven by dogma spewing meaningless slogans to the tabloid press at every opportunity.  It really seems like a fever has gripped every politician caught up in the Brexit maelstrom because the Labour Party are simply no better.  To be honest, they might even be worse.  What about the Scottish dimension?  Can that bring some good news?  Well, on the one hand, the First Minister seems to have a goal and a plan and she is able to communicate that fairly clearly.  On the other hand, nobody with influence on Brexit is actually listening to what she says, especially not the Prime Minister.  Indyref2 is now a certainty.  Is that good news?  I don't know for sure but it's certainly something to cling on to because it is the only way out of the doom and gloom that surrounds every utterance of the word "Brexit". 

Over and out,



  1. I do hope the SG and the EU27 haqve a plan for when the WM team storms out of the negotiations in a strop.

    Some of the crazy coot Brexiters have already touted this idea.

    1. Glad to learn I've not yet reached the maximum level of pessimism possible on Brexit. Still room for growth there in 2017!

      That's a really interesting point that you raise. Could this really happen? I suspect it won't because the UK Government have made a huge play of their negotiating skills. Even if they stay in and "lose" they can still get the Daily Express to print stuff about pesky Europeans (unelected, fascist, communist etc), how thankful we are to be leaving them behind, and how we ought to be proud that our skilled team of negotiators are "securing the best deal" for the UK. Storming out just looks amateurish and doesn't fulfil the promise of getting the best deal possible. It also doesn't solve the technical problems that really do need resolved eg how to manage the Channel Tunnel when the UK exits the European Railways Agency. I'm hoping that the civil servants involved still have some residual morale to get through this.

    2. Just realised my answer ended up with a sense of hope. I still have hope!

      If there is storming out to be done I would imagine that the subsequent trade deal will be the forum for that. A50 is more about our legal relationship with the EU and as a consequence is less directly contentious. Our new legal relationship, of course, defines the parameters of our new trading relationship. Only then will the UK realise that it has made decisions that remove us from the trading zone. Let the storming out begin.

  2. Hello again. Hope you enjoyed the festive season. I've been involved in my usual in depth public opinion research during this time (IE listening to people round at the pub, especially when they are not actually talking to me directly...)

    I continue to be astonished by the sheer ignorant complacency about exiting the EU. It tends to come in 2 broad varieties -
    1) Johnny Foreigner can't afford to alienate us wonderful Brits because they need us more than we need them,

    2)it's not really going to happen because the "establishment" won't let it... This one can come in two sub categories, complacent "I'm in the know" remainers, and zoomer conspiracy theory leavers.

    The independence supporters tend to shake their heads wearily and, for the moment, keep their counsel. We tried to convince these people in 2014, and got a hostile reception, now they are confused, angry and for now even more hostile. For the ones with some intelligence, the cognitive dissonance must hurt.

    This is an odd part of Scotland, so perhaps not representative, but I'm not yet optimistic about winning an Indyref2. When the real campaigning starts, we need to stay unified and beware of factionalism. Some people will never listen, but just maybe we can do enough.... Hey ending on a hopeful note feels good!

    1. Hello!

      You make some excellent points and I really like your categorisation about the types of complacency. Point 2 is 100% true with some bloggers about Brexit. It took David Allen Green, for example, over 6 months to finally realise that Brexit might just be more likely than unlikely. We all have to realise this is definitely going to happen just like an upcoming root canal treatment or a bill that needs paid. There just isn't enough political will to stop this.

      I'm not really involved in the independence movement (though I really should be) but at times it does come across as quite fractious. I'm sure we've all seen the twitter spats and angry posts, often about not very much in particular. It all reminds me of the end of the radical left in the 80s with the Leninist-Marxists hating the Marxist-Leninists more than the Tories. Quite depressing to watch, really. Having said that, nothing is actually happening and there is a lot of waiting around. Maybe it's natural for tensions to spill over while we wait for the main event.

      I'm also not sure that Brexit has really shifted opinion towards Yes and where it has it has probably shifted as many back to No. I'm really surprised by this but nothing has actually happened yet and won't for some months to come. Even that A50 letter signifies almost nothing in concrete terms. It is a bit of a slog, to be honest. Perhaps it's better to grab people's attention when it really matters and that probably isn't right now with not much really going on. The positive is that with all that toing and froing we now have >50% of people who have been Yessers at some point.

      In about 12 months time we will start to understand more about Brexit's form and its consequences. I'm guessing indyref2 will be announced around that time because soft brexit is not going to happen. We really have to hope that is the time to grab people's attention. A lot is going to start happening about 6 months from now (3 months to A50 then 3 months for EU to respond). In the meantime, we just need to hone our arguments.

      There is an astonishing complacency about Brexit. The press is mostly batting for point 1) so that seems most familiar. P

  3. Yeah. I like your analogy about root canal, and take it a step further. I need a second hip replacement, and although the first went ok I'm putting it off despite really needing it. That's what some people are doing with independence.
    I'm for saying now that we will have another referendum in early 2019, whether sanctioned by Westminster or not, and challenging May et al to have any alternative to offer.
    We could then lobby the EU to take a position on the outcome of the referendum, given that the UK is clearly committed to leaving
    I, and all the others, start working on it now. Firstly, by having my hip done so I can do the doorsteps and streets!
    Keep up your stuff, it helps a lot.

    1. I've had a root canal performed twice on the same tooth. Luckily, that is the closest I've come so far to a surgical procedure. Best of luck with the hip replacement. If you're out on the doorsteps and streets you'll be doing far more than me. Honestly, writing a stupid blog is easy.

      Putting indyref2 off might not be the worst thing. Timing is everything, just as it was with Brexit. I guess the important thing is to be prepared. My biggest worry is that a campaign based on EU or UK is not the most exciting prospect for most voters. I just hope that when events start to unfold that it will become more important to people.

      The EU has made lost of positive noises about Scotland remaining in the EU but only as an independent nation. Meanwhile, the US might have less sway on people's opinion given that it will be coming from Donald Trump. Only 5% have to shift their opinion. It is up for grabs.

  4. The Channel Four clip was excellent.

    I listened to a radio programme the other day where they did the same sort of thing, except that interviewers voice was never hear, and none of the opinions were challenged.

    They were in Dagenham where once there was a massive car factory (Ford), and according to one contributor, it had employed 40,000 people. (I think that's unlikely, but it's possible that it supported 40,000 jobs all in all.)

    In any case, the contributor, an elderly man by the sound of his voice, informed us that now there were only 2,000 jobs (again, I have no idea whether that is correct). The loss of the 38,000 was attributed to foreigners and the EU. I felt it was more likely to have to do with the advance of robot technology, or possibly the move of the car plants to SE Asia or China, where labour is cheaper or some sort of mixture of the above.

    It seemed unlikely to me that the UK having left the EU, that Ford would suddenly be looking for 38,000 workers. I had the impression that that was what he thought.

    I wonder if push comes to shove and all or most EU workers are sent home, what these people would make of the situation. It seems that the health service is already starting to feel the effects of the "send the doctors home" speech from the idiot English Heath Minister at the Tory conference. Whoever told him that was a good idea wants sacking. The idea that doctors and other health professionals would wait around to be sacked for no reason, was preposterous. They are looking for, and in some cases have already found, suitable alternative employment elsewhere in Europe.

    The same is happening with other trades and professions, although nowhere with more disastrous results. Friends of mine in academe are already looking for alternative posts, knowing that European funding streams and European students will soon no longer be troubling our universities. And I have no doubt that the ever present "polish plumber" will also be heading off to unblock toilets elsewhere, leaving the likes of the people in the C4 clip to...erm use buckets.

    Ok.. where's that book I had on home plumbing, and that other one of home surgery... ?

    1. Automation has certainly led to the loss of many jobs. Simultaneously, it has given rise to all sorts of new jobs doing all sorts of shiny new things. The problem is that the people who lost their job through automation are unlikely to be able to take advantage of the shiny new jobs because they don't have the required training or education. There are also issues of cultural outlook and age discrimination. None of these are to do with the EU. There seem to be many Brexit voters who think they'll get their old life back from the 70s and still have ipads and cheap microwaves and massive TV screens at the same time. This isn't going to happen.

      There's a quiet tech revolution just starting called machine learning. Sometimes it's called deep neural networks. There are already hints that it will lead to the automation of almost everything from delivery drivers to medical diagnosis to legal paperwork. A week currency is going to leave only highly skilled work that requires human innovation and work so lowly paid that automation doesn't provide a saving. Leaving the EU isn't going to change that, either. Automation is here to stay.

      We used to live in a country where we brought British toilet brushes, British toasters, British bicycles made entirely of British components, British diaries made of British paper. The next time someone complains about foreign labour they should be asked where their shoes were manufactured, where their TV was made, who produced their ipad. We're all responsible for globalisation and here in the West we pretty much all benefit from it. Nostalgia for the past is ok but thinking we could go back to that way of living is a fantasy. Complaining about EU workers while buying up Chinese toasters at bargain prices is something of a paradox. I'm sure someone makes boutique British toasters out there at £200 a go.

      Losing health professionals and academics is going to be a bit of a disaster. The trouble is that this will happen so slowly it will be hard to notice until it is just too late.

      Home plumbing, ok, maybe. Home surgery, go for it!

      That C4 clip is pure gold. Brexit means anything you want it to mean. Pesonally, I only voted Brexit to bring back suet pudding at school dinners. Those EU types banned it, you know. Bendy raisins.


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