Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Strange times

Ian Dunt is getting increasingly despairing, and he's right. He stresses the need to keep fighting.
If there is any hope it is with those who are still prepared to speak the things which are in front of their eyes. People who are still prepared to say that losing tariff-free access to our biggest market is not wise, that putting investment at threat is to handicap our own prospects. People who will point out that a two year timetable to unravel four decades of law and create a substantial trade deal is not realistic. People who believe that by having open borders and an open society, Britain is stronger and more beautiful and more successful. People who believe that sabotaging Ireland and pushing away Scotland is not how one keeps the Union together. People who recognise that a 52% vote on a vague question is not a mandate for the most radical possible interpretation of a referendum result. 
The next few years will see uncertainty and British isolationism start to cause demonstrable harm to the economy. Those who recognise the insanity of our current path must keep making that point and avoid the deterministic piety of those who demand we ‘get over it’. It’s by making the case for reason, liberalism and internationalism that we can best influence the debate when the repercussions of our current foolishness become impossible for even the Brexiters to ignore.
At the moment all I hear is silence.

In his latest piece, Dunt is, at least partially, right again. The Tories have become UKIP.
The policy is clear. Theresa May confirmed on Sunday that she would pursue a hard Brexit and pull Britain out the single market. What even 12 months ago would have been considered economically insane is now a cosy consensus. Her policy actually goes further than that which Nigel Farage's allies once held in the past.
That a narrow majority in the referendum, delivered by a minority of the electorate, can be taken as a mandate for pursuing what in itself was the minority position in the leave camp shows the democratic deficiency in the use of referendums. As this article makes clear, it isn't a problem confined to the UK.

I can add little more to previous posts. The referendum has delivered a comprehensive victory for the right who are wasting no time in consolidating their power in the absence of any coherent opposition. Beyond Brexit, the Tories' grab for the economic centre ground is an attempt at realignment around nationalist conservatism. Economically, it's closer to Heath than Thatcher, and is a long way from UKIP. But it's also allied with insular nationalism and social conservatism, which the Tory left have always rejected. It has strong appeal, though nemesis always lurks as the reward for hubris, and there are three factors in the Brexit drama lurking offstage waiting to play their part; constitutional, economic, and generational.

Scotland is determined to remain in the EU and voted to do so. In Northern Ireland, the leave vote effectively abrogated the Good Friday Agreement. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. The Agreement had been overwhelmingly approved in referendums held both sides of the border. English voters alone have put it at risk. The contradictions are obvious.

Though the outcome is uncertain, there are huge risks to inward investment and exports, in both goods and services, if we leave the single market. The process of Brexit itself promises to be phenomenally expensive. There is little doubt that we will become poorer as a nation. What effect will that have?

Finally, the young voted overwhelmingly to remain. They are the future. In the longer term, will they fall into line with the new dispensation? It is possible. But it is also possible that a new political generation will reject national conservatism, and that it will merely be a brief interregnum for troubled times. That is also where hope lies.


Steve said...

Perhaps the legislators should not have been so stupid as to make four decades worth of tangled legislative mess given they knew any country could leave at any time. Yet more EU incompetence I suppose. Anyway, your support for our bureaucratic internationalism over the popular vote clearly shows that you are no longer on the side of anything that might be termed leftist.

roybaintonwrites said...

Such comments prove, Peter, that there is no middle ground for dialogue with the leavers. The age of reasoned, polite and democratic debate is long gone. Any notion of trying to discuss this momentous event from a practical, common sense standpoint will only be met with Ukip type simplicity, laced with a good dose of hatred. We now have a nation split down the middle, two camps, one enemy facing the other, and there is no going back. I see today Miliband and others are challenging the idea that Article 50 can be triggered using the Royal Prerogative. It's a facile argument. This government will ride over any such attempt at intervention. So the sooner we're out, the sooner we can feel the full effect of becoming a nation which exports ... jam. Still never mind, there's always that £350 million per week going into the NHS, and you and I will no longer be encumbered with being 'Citizens of Europe'. They're all bloody foreigners, anyway.

The Plump said...

Roy, I don't think that there is ever dialogue with zealots. Zealous leavers are found on both the hard right and the hard left for different reasons. It's not a large group. EU enthusiasts are the same, but also relatively small in number. For most people, the EU was not an issue of huge salience. Membership was either taken for granted or used as an excuse for a good grumble. And this is the trouble with referendums. They provide a snapshot of opinions on one specific date, but they do not measure the strength of that opinion. Zealots have recruited the indifferent to their cause, though I doubt whether they will prove to be the most loyal of infantry. Referendums are lousy devices for democracy. They are also polarising, but the strength of opinion one way or the other will only become apparent when the reality of the consequences become clear. May has turned on the fan and the excrement is creeping nearer. Then we will see what happens. And if the economic consequences are dire, then I think we all know who will suffer most.