Category: Brexit

Brexit

Why Labour might want No Deal… and why such thoughts are dangerous

No Deal would suit Labour for the same reason as it would suit the Conservatives: with Brexit done each of the two major parties’ main rival would lose its main selling point. If No Deal turned out badly, that would suit Labour even better. They could blame the Tories for it while still scooping up its benefits. Discuss.

I could have stopped there. But in politics, where duplicitousness is common, there is an ever-present temptation to think that it is universal and that one’s opponents are only pretending to oppose. “Relax!” says a soothing voice. “We don’t need to do anything. They secretly want us to win and will open the gates before battle begins.” Everywhere I see Remain supporters claiming that Boris Johnson, Bluffer Boris, knows full well that leaving without a deal would be a disaster and will arrange at the last moment for it to be avoided. They add that he never even expected or wanted to win the referendum in the first place; did you not see his shocked face the morning after? He just wants someone else to step in and stop it so that he can blame them for betraying Brexit while still scooping up the benefits of remaining in the EU.

Long may they believe this. By “long” I mean until 31st October 2019. But I fear that my half-belief that Jeremy Corbyn secretly wants Brexit is merely another manifestation of the same comforting delusion.

Boris must win against barmy Tory Remainers…

If Parliament continues to block Brexit, Mr Johnson is right to shut it down. Just this week a ComRes survey showed 54 percent of Britons would support him proroguing Parliament to ensure we leave on October 31. If Remainer MPs win a vote of no confidence, Boris should call an election for immediately after we have left. These barmy MPs must no longer be allowed to derail our democratic process. They voted to give us the choice in 2016 and must stick by their decision. It really is the People’s PM against Parliament – and Boris must win for the sake of democracy.

Otherwise what is the point of voting ever again? Especially when a handful of deluded MPs think it’s better to entrust our nation to a Marxist dinosaur than simply extricating ourselves from a failing EU.

Tim Newark

Caroline Lucas, harbinger of political death

Me in 2006:

Communism is dead! I knew I’d find some good news if I looked hard enough. There had been a few indications before now that communism might be dead, but now I know for sure. It appears that Fidel Castro handed over Cuba to his brother while he had an op. Back when Communism was alive, they may have been gut-churningly evil mass-murdering scum, but they respected the forms. A society in which anyone could say, “Here y’are, bro, take the whole country” was exactly what they were there to extirpate.

The French Revolution finally died when Napoleon took to handing out the crowns of Europe to his relatives.

Me in 2019: Older, sadder, wiser and knowing John McDonnell is the Shadow Chancellor, I would no longer say so confidently that communism is dead. One day God will send us a silver bullet, but not yet. But Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz succeeding his brother as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in the manner of a feudal lordship was and is a sign of Communism’s senility. Karl Marx wrote that “the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” Yes, and when the the intellectual force of an idea is so visibly spent that its leading figures no longer even pretend to follow its tenets, it suggests that its material force will not last much longer.

Yesterday Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party and still its only MP, took to the pages of the Guardian to say, “I’m calling for a cabinet of women to stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit”.

We need an “emergency cabinet” – not to fight a Brexit war but to work for reconciliation. And I believe this should be a cabinet of women.

Why women? Because I believe women have shown they can bring a different perspective to crises, are able to reach out to those they disagree with and cooperate to find solutions. It was two women, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who began the Peace People movement during the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; it was two women, Christiana Figueres and Ségolène Royal, who were key to the signing of the Paris climate agreement; intractable problems have found the beginning of resolution thanks to the leadership of women.

So I have reached out to 10 women colleagues from across the political spectrum at Westminster and Holyrood – Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Independent Group for Change and independent – asking that we join together to stop the dangerous pursuit of a crash-out Brexit.

This is not an attempt to replace one coup with another. A small group of us should not be deciding on Britain’s future and that is not what lies behind my initiative. But we need to find a way forward that allows the British people to decide which course they want to take.

Her proposal did not go down well. Not a few pointed out that this terrible crisis that she claims only the leadership of women can solve had arisen under the leadership of a female Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was awash with female party leaders: besides Theresa May as PM and leader of the Conservative party, Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster, Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas herself all graced the political field at the head of their respective parties during the growth of the crisis. Like hens taking turns to incubate an egg, each of these ladies had a role in bringing the Great Hatching closer.

But that was a secondary issue. The main one was Caroline Lucas having dropped feminism. Dropped it like she never even knew it was a thing. Dropped it like a fashionista giving last year’s kitten heels to her maid. Out: women are held back from political power by false stereotypes of feminine docility! In: a woman’s gentle touch will soothe this troubled land.

Men were not made to feel part of the work of reconciliation by the idea of a government of national unity that had as its selling point that no nasty rough boys would be in it. The few women politically correct enough not to be repelled by the sexism were horrified to note that all the women invited were white. On this point, Comrade Lucas has now submitted to self-criticism. She should have known sooner, she now says, that her all-woman cabinet was insufficiently diverse.

The real reason Jeremy Corbyn wants Brexit

Andrew Lilico of the Telegraph does Jeremy Corbyn an injustice. He writes,

Jeremy Corbyn will not stop no-deal, because he believes it’s his only route to power

Given that Corbyn could have forced a pre-no deal general election by holding a confidence motion on July 25, but his not doing so has made no deal hugely more likely, why didn’t he?

Here I must interject that unlike Lilico I do not believe for a moment that Corbyn could have won a Vote of No Confidence on July 25. For Corbyn to have won a VONC, several Tories would have had to side with him. For a Conservative MP to vote out a Conservative Prime Minister literally on his first full day of office would have been too spectacular a reversal of their loyalties.

Be that as it may, Lilico then argues that,

There are two parts to the answer. First, he may have feared a ‘Boris bounce’ in the polls, if an election had been held immediately upon Boris’ appointment. Some recent polls have shown Labour on barely more than 20 per cent (sometimes lower) and post-Boris polls have the Tories up as high as 30 per cent. Forcing a general election that gave Boris a majority to implement no deal could have backfired.

But the more fundamental reason is that Corbyn really sees no deal as an opportunity, not a threat. He doesn’t actually care whether the UK remains in the EU or not, provided he is not seen as responsible for either outcome. What he cares about is the overthrow of the current economic and political system and the introduction of a True Socialist state. Brexit is intrinsically a distraction, but in practical terms an opportunity.

The best outcome, from the point of view of promoting Corbyn’s vision, is a general election held at the maximum point of disruption post-no deal. He wants an election to be held, if possible, with strikes crippling public services, food shelves empty in the shops, medicine shortages at the pharmacies, chaos in Northern Ireland, and lorries backed up at the Channel. Then he can say: Capitalism has failed; give Socialism a chance.

I do not think it’s the case that Jeremy Corbyn is a cynical Disaster Socialist, although he cannot help but be aware that if disaster ensues he will stand to benefit.

But he does want Brexit. Firstly because he has wanted to be out of the EEC/EC/EU all his political life and his conversion to Remain was half-hearted at best, false at worst. But far more important right now is that Brexit – any sort of Brexit – finally happening will, at a stroke, wipe out the biggest reason for voting Liberal Democrat. Brexit will do for Labour what it will do for the Conservatives: destroy their biggest rival’s main selling point.

Most Remainers are left wing. What’s the point of them voting Lib Dem to stop Brexit once Brexit has already happened? To shake their fists at Labour for not fighting harder? That would be a futile gesture, and expensive if their wasted vote allows the Conservatives to gain by splitting the left wing vote. True, a hard core of Remainers will gird their loins and start the long campaign to rejoin the European Union. The Liberal Democrats will become the party of Rejoin, and as such will have a secure niche in British politics for decades to come. But faced with a choice between a long and possibly fruitless campaign and the best chance socialism has had in years, most left wing Remainers will pivot back to simply being left wingers.

Is Boris bluffing?

Today’s wailing in the press is about how Boris has not made any attempt to approach the EU and that no deal is the default option. Guido has noticed, too, and cites more evidence.

Convincingly maintaining that you are prepared to walk away, even by appearing uninterested at all in the transaction, makes for good haggling. There is in fact no difference in appearance between a Boris genuinely happy with leaving without a deal, and a Boris who really wants a deal but thinks the EU will blink first. If they do, we may find that Richard Tice is right and we get a “reheated” Theresa May withdrawal agreement.

So Remainers, no need to panic: just because Boris is maintaining coercive credibility does not mean he will push the button. Leavers: keep holding your breath.

Sinn Féin joins the Great Disruption

With a title like that, how could I resist posting this article by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times to this site?

Mr O’Toole is very much opposed to what he calls “The Great Disruption”, but he can see that it is happening. Speaking as one who sees the Disruption, or the Realignment, or whatever you want to call it (though I am not a fan of Mr O’Toole’s other term, “The Rapture”) as a hopeful development with attendant risks, rather than as a new Pandora’s box from which will be unleashed all manner of disasters with hope as a weak afterthought, it is incumbent on me to look all the harder at those parts of the Great Realignment that I would prefer not to realign.

Mr O’Toole writes,

Welcome to the Rapture. Like religious cults waiting for the end of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven, political Utopians are waiting for the Great Disruption of a no-deal Brexit. But it is a sign of our weird times that there are three groups anticipating the Apocalypse, and each of them has a very different vision of the Utopia that lies beyond it. Those groups are the hard-right revolutionaries around Boris Johnson; the far-left revolutionaries around Jeremy Corbyn and, we can now say with some certainty, Sinn Féin. They do not want the same things, but if a no-deal Brexit happens it will be because their actions and inaction have coincided to bring it about.

The first – and at the moment by far the most decisive – group of Great Disruptors consists of the disaster capitalists fronted by Johnson. Their Utopia is Singapore. They believe, as Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and other Tory young Turks wrote in Britannia Unchained in 2012, that the British have grown lazy and useless, their buccaneering spirit sapped by a culture of dependency. They see no-deal as the Big Bang that will blow the welfare state, environmental standards and labour protections to smithereens. Out of this chaos will come a new Global Britain of very low taxes for the rich, unregulated hyper-capitalism and boundless “free” markets.

The second group is the high command of the Labour Party around Jeremy Corbyn. Their Utopia is Socialism in One Country. They believe that a no-deal Brexit will free Britain from the wishy-washy social market capitalism of the EU and thus ultimately from capitalism itself. They have their roots in the socialist distaste for the European project that was, it is easy to forget, once the mainstream of British Euroscepticism. In that mentality, the EU was seen as a last, desperate attempt to shore up a dying capitalist system. Thus, on the far side of a no-deal Brexit, lies the workers’ paradise that is the inevitable outcome of history.

The third group of Great Disruptors is Sinn Féin. Their Utopia is, of course, a United Ireland. They ostensibly oppose a no-deal Brexit, and indeed Brexit itself. But beneath this opposition lies the belief that the worse Brexit is, the quicker we will have a Border poll and the more likely it is that Protestants in Northern Ireland will swim for the green lifeboat to avoid going down with the British ship. Alongside the disaster capitalism of Johnson’s faction and the disaster socialism of Corbyn’s, there is this disaster nationalism. It does not deny that no-deal would be awful – it welcomes this awfulness as the Great Disruption that completes the Irish national revolution.

This is why Sinn Féin reacted with such extreme and immediate hostility to my suggestion that it could stop a no-deal Brexit by destroying Boris Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons. I wrote very respectfully of the party’s mandate for abstentionism and tried to find a way to honour it while activating the power of the seven seats it holds at Westminster.

Four ways Boris could fail, and in most of them Brexit fails with him

Professor Matthew Goodwin is the author of National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, which I have read and found good. As an academic he maintains an attitude of detachment but it is clear to me that he wants Brexit, partly from fear that if the referendum result is thwarted the result will be a resurgence of the nativist Right, who will have been shown to be correct in their claim that democracy is a sham.

Goodwin believes the most likely thing to happen in the next few months is that Boris Johnson will succeed in delivering Brexit and will win an election on the strength of having done that. In this article, “Boris Wins Big … Right?”, he details four scenarios that end very differently. I approve of that type of thinking.

One lesson of the past decade, as I usually point out in my talks, is that we should always challenge Groupthink. It’s not that I find the above implausible, because I don’t. If things do not change then Boris has a pretty good chance of winning a majority, albeit one that in my view will be much less spectacular than Twitter would have you believe. But it could also go very wrong and we should recognise that conventional wisdom has a dismal record. Long-time subscribers of this bulletin know that it is only by challenging Groupthink that we saw 2016 Leave victory coming. So where could it go wrong for Boris? Here are four things his team need to think about.

Of the four factors he cites, only the first two strike me as big risks. They are:

– 1. He fails to unify Leavers
– 2. Corbynomics remains popular

In all the hullabaloo about Brexit it is easy to forget that a generation has grown up who only know of Margaret Thatcher as a kind of Bogeywoman and who know nothing of the failures of socialism that caused her to be voted in. Corbynomics is indeed popular, more popular than Corbyn himself. Never forget that the hard Left was a vital part of the coalition that won the 2016 EU referendum.

Added later: I said I admired Goodwin’s willingness to think about how he could be wrong in his predictions and how things could go contrary to his desires. In contrast Polly Toynbee seems constitutionally unable to think for very long about uncongenial matters. She writes, “Only a government of national unity can deliver us from no deal”, without once mentioning the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems are as vital to the Remain coalition as the Hard Left are to the Leave coalition; to put forward the idea of a government of national unity (headed by Margaret Beckett of all people) that does not include them is to add an intra-Remain absurdity on top of the wider absurdity of proposing a government of “national unity” to force through something bitterly opposed by half the electorate, as a commenter called “Katherine1984” pointed out.

Lest I be revealed as unable to think of uncongenial things myself, let me say that unfortunately the Remain side includes many brains more flexible than Polly’s. Dominic Grieve, for one.

Can Boris & the Tories be trusted? Yes, I know, stop laughing!

It appears that Tory leader Boris Johnson is now moving towards a reheated version of Theresa May’s terrible Withdrawal Agreement – the worst deal in history, a treaty that was accurately described by Boris as reducing the UK to a state of ‘vassalage’.

After a few short days making positive noises, the new Prime Minister is already talking about an extended period of Transition. A period when we would effectively still be in the Single Market and Customs Union, we would not be able to implement new trade deals, would still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and would not have control of our fishing waters. Under the terms of Mrs May’s agreement, we would also unnecessarily be paying £39 billion without the EU agreeing to any new trade deal.

– Richard Tice, Chairman, The Brexit Party

Herr Oettinger seems a bit confused

Herr Oettinger doesn’t have any input into what the British credit rating is. The European Union doesn’t, nor even the European Commission or the European Central Bank. Any and all of them can refuse to deal with Britain, the British Government, and of course we all desire that they do. But a credit rating is not something determined by a government in the slightest. It’s a market response.

Tim Worstall

Brexit punk!

The Guardian’s John Harris is a lefty, a Remainer, and a fine journalist. He saw Brexit coming, and, little though I agree with his political views, I think he sees a certain raw truth about our new Prime Minister in this piece:

“Boris Johnson is channelling a punk ethos to force through Brexit. It could work.”

Not a headline one sees every day. Mr Harris writes,

This is an increasingly familiar populist trick: encouraging a set of voters to relish taboo-busting as a kind of surrogate for a lost sense of economic agency and power. This version of taking back control is not to do with jobs, wages or houses, but the licence to say anything you want, whatever the consequences. Anyone who is offended is dismissed as a puritanical defender of joyless political correctness.

Punk spirit, cavalier style and wilful provocation will all inform the manner in which Johnson and his allies frame their greatest challenge of all: how on earth to deal with the very real crisis of Brexit and honour the Halloween deadline that the Tory party has so stupidly fetishised. And they look set to play a crucial role in gaining consent from those who have most to lose from crashing out of the EU. Faced with a set of impossible challenges, Johnson will present himself as the flamboyant, verbose, rule-breaking Englishman, positioned against the washed-out logicians of the EU machine, who were never going to help in the first place.

I heard they were going to get the bus out of mothballs, the bus, the £350-million-for-the-NHS battle bus that has caused such outrage, and drive it round the country all over again. Back in 2016, the only effect the suggestion that our departure from the EU would mean that we could pour yet more money into the black hole of “our NHS” had on me was to make me a fraction more likely to vote Remain. But upon hearing this news I still thought, yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah, please, dear Lord, let me be there when they take it through Cambridge city centre.

Oh God save history / God save your mad parade / Oh Lord God have mercy / All crimes are paid / Oh when there’s no future / How can there be sin / We’re the flowers / In the dustbin / We’re the poison / In your human machine

First time round, I wasn’t a fan. But it’s growing on me.