We don't need to talk about Brexit (apparently)

October 30, 2019


It’s October 2019, more than 3 years after the EU referendum and the UK still hasn’t managed to sort out the mess it’s got itself into.  I’ve been on yet another possibly futile Anti-Brexit March (see photo).  Understandably, almost everyone is sick of the whole thing – and there are many calls to just “get it over with”, no matter how it’s resolved.  But I’m going to do a blog post about it anyway.  

Why?  Because it matters how Brexit is resolved.  Unlike electing a government for a 5 year term, where you can always throw them out at the next election, Brexit will permanently change the UK’s relationship with its nearest neighbours.  So yes, I’m afraid we do need to talk about it.  And there’s a reason why supporters of the proposed deal are adopting the “let’s just get it done” (and let’s not talk about it) mantra;  it’s because they don’t want people to notice the massive gulf between what was promised in the referendum and what is now in prospect.  

Promises, promises

Here’s one of those promises:



How does that stand up now?  Well, the deal now on the table merely offers a free trade agreement, similar to Canada’s;  this falls well short of the level of access you get from being in the Single Market, so it’s hard to see how it could be described as “better” than the current position in economic terms.  It will, however, make the UK a genuinely fascinating case study for economics textbooks about what happens when you re-erect trade barriers that you had previously dismantled. 

This is all a far cry from what was promised in the referendum, where people were given the clear impression that leaving would be a carefully considered process, with cross-party involvement – not one which would make them guinea pigs in some ill thought-out economic experiment:



Vote Leave also said:  "Given the importance of securing a good deal in the national interest and the cross-party nature of the Leave campaign, we believe the Government should invite figures from other parties, business, the law and civil society to join the negotiating team."  

Nothing could be further from the reality of how Brexit has been handled.  Article 50 was triggered before even the outline of a deal had been agreed with the EU.  Vote Leave did not have a viable plan for how to leave the EU (politically, as pointed out here, that was a clever decision – but it’s been a disaster for the country).  Nor has there been any genuine attempt to build cross party support for how we should leave the EU.  On the contrary, both the main parties have put their own narrow political interests ahead of the national interest.  And government has been extraordinarily secretive about Brexit matters, rarely publishing policy papers or carrying out formal public consultations and frequently refusing to share key information with Parliament (giving the lie to Vote Leave’s mantra that Brexit would allow UK citizens to have more of a say and “take back control”). 

An inevitable car crash?

Was all this unavoidable?  I don’t think so.  Some Leavers had given careful thought to the difficulties of leaving the EU and had come up with a workable plan – but sadly, hardcore eurosceptics had somehow convinced themselves that it would all be dead easy and there would be no losers in the process, so who needs detailed plans?  Working cross-party would have been difficult but would surely have been better than the entrenched polarisation which we now face, after 3 years of bitter recriminations.  It could have been assisted by a citizens assembly-type process, like the one that the Republic of Ireland used for its controversial referendum on abortion.  Interestingly, academics who ran one after the referendum found that it indicated support for a Brexit at the softer end of the spectrum (i.e not the type of Brexit we are looking at based on the current deal).

The need for informed consent

If the Brexit process had been conducted more in line with the promises made by Vote Leave during the referendum, I could have lived with it – even though my strong preference would be to stay in the EU.  But as things stand, I don’t see how there is informed consent to what is now being proposed – because it is miles away from what people were promised.

No doubt those in power will be hoping that they can shift the focus away from Brexit onto other issues and that, by the time the effects of the deal are felt, people will have forgotten those promises.  But Brexit is a major change which will inevitably absorb an awful lot of government time and energy;  people who yearn for it to be “over” and to “move on” are going to be disappointed.   It is not somehow going to disappear from the news – it will continue to dominate UK politics for years to come, leaving limited bandwidth to address other issues.

And when people who voted Leave discover what it actually means, I suspect many are also going to feel deceived.  Their faith in “the system” has already been badly shaken by the financial crisis.  How will they react when they discover that the reality of Brexit is a long way from the land of milk and honey that was originally promised?

I don’t relish the prospect of a second referendum, as the first one has amply demonstrated just how imperfect a mechanism such votes are – and just how divisive they can be.  Media coverage of the issues was awful (see this post) and I have little confidence that it has improved since.  But given where we are, I struggle to see another way to be able to say that an attempt was made to obtain informed consent.  

A general election isn't the answer

Instead we are now facing a general election. The trouble with that is that other issues will be in play besides Brexit (e.g. the “qualities” of party leaders, other aspects of domestic policy etc) – in fact, I would not be surprised if there is a concerted attempt to move the debate off Brexit because people are so fed up with it.  But because of all that, it will not provide the debate we really need on how far the proposed deal is actually in line with what people were promised when they first voted to leave the EU. 

The huge irony of it all is that Leavers often complained that we entered the EU on the premise that it was primarily an economic arrangement – but it had morphed over time into something that was more political, without people ever really consenting to that.  I have some sympathy with that view.  They are now in danger of repeating that failure to obtain consent when it comes to how we leave the EU, further undermining trust in politicians.

You might also be interested in:
 

My self-publishing mid-life crisis

August 17, 2019


Here's a guest post that I was asked to do for a blog run by an outfit called Imprint Digital, that specialises in short run book printing (including for self-published authors).  They've run a number of guest posts by other self-published authors, which are also worth a look.  A common theme from those posts seems to be a general disillusionment with traditional publishers (not that this should come as any great surprise...).


Continue reading...
 

Micro-reviews (July 2019)

July 21, 2019
Dreams from Before the Start of Time, Bad Blood, The Secret Barrister



Dreams from Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock

This is a thoughtful, episodic novel following the lives of several generations from 2034 to 2120, focusing on potential advances in reproductive technology – and critically, how they lead to changes in the way that people feel about their lives.  Although slow-paced, it drew me in sufficiently to keep me reading and I enjoyed it - but a little Googling around suggests t...

Continue reading...
 

User Not Found

June 3, 2019



Last week I went to see “User Not Found”, an impressive production by a small theatre company called Dante or Die, which specialises in performances designed for unusual locations.   This one was in a café next to Battersea Power Station.  It’s about what happens to our digital/social media presence after we die.  

The play opens with the main character, Terry, sitting in the café with his mobile phone and his headphones on (playing the sound of waterfalls through his favourite app).  ...

Continue reading...
 

R.I.P. Feedbooks

May 7, 2019


A rather terse email from Feedbooks confirming that - as I had suspected for a while - it is dead as a self-publishing platform.  Not very impressed that I had to contact them to ask what was going on - they didn't see fit to email any of the many hundreds of authors who have contributed to their platform, nor have they even bothered to put up a notice on their website about their decision.  And they could at least have provided an explanation.

The site had been going downhill for a few years,...
Continue reading...
 

Micro-reviews (April 2019)

April 29, 2019
Semiosis, Court Out and A Gentleman in Moscow



Semiosis by Sue Burke

The initial premise of this novel is a bit of a hoary old sci-fi cliché:  idealistic refugees from an Earth beset by environmental disaster travel to an alien planet (which they name Pax) and attempt to create a better society there, aiming to live more in harmony with their environment.  But it was very well reviewed, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Things get off to a rocky start for the colonists when Pax turns out to be...

Continue reading...
 

I'm British and I'm on a march - something must've gone badly wrong

March 24, 2019


Went on the anti-Brexit march yesterday - this is now my third since 2017, but prior to that, I'd never been on a demonstration before and didn't see myself as the kind of person who generally did that sort of thing (which is where the headline of this piece comes from - it's from a placard at one of the earlier marches).

For anyone inclined to dispute the figure of over a million demonstrators, all I can say is that there were a lot more people than previously.  On the first march I attended,...
Continue reading...
 

Micro-reviews (March 2019)

March 11, 2019
Show Them What They Won, The Book of Strange New Things, The Sparrow



Show Them What They Won by Sean Boling

Ever wondered how many people have to die before gun-enthusiasts in the States start to question whether the easy availability and widespread ownership of fire-arms in their country might be part of the problem?  Somehow though, the latest mass shooter incident always seems to get turned on its head, with the gun lobby managing to deflect blame by deploying absurd arguments about how the ...

Continue reading...
 

Micro-reviews (December 2018)

December 24, 2018
The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks against the United States, Standard Deviation and Perfidious Albion


The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks against the United States by Jeffrey Lewis

Christmas 2018 is almost upon us – and what better way to get into the festive mood than by pondering the chances of North Korea actually using its nuclear weapons?  Jeffrey Lewis is an expert on North Korea’s nuclear programme and this novel starts off in ...

Continue reading...
 

Tragedy or farce?

November 24, 2018



I recently read “Adults in the Room” by Yanis Varoufakis – the former Greek Finance Minister’s account of his experiences trying to negotiate with the EU over the Greek bailout after the financial crisis.  Based on his media profile, I had tended to view Varoufakis as a bit, well, full of himself.  And it’s certainly true that, as the computer-programmed match commentary on my son’s FIFA Xbox football game was almost guaranteed to say if you dribbled the ball around an awful lot w...

Continue reading...
 

About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Make a free website with Yola