And so, this is Brexit. And what has Boris done? Project Fear over. Regained sovereignty just begun. Let’s hope it’s a good one. For weak and for strong …
Okay, okay that’s about all I can stomach of the later, sappy, infantile and pseudo-communist John Lennon lyrics, even in paraphrased form. (For what it’s worth, I say that as a Beatles lover. But be honest, the whole was a lot better than the sum of its Imagine-d parts.) Still, it’s as good an intro as any into my early take on the Boris Brexit deal.
If you’re a Brexiteer, like I am and have been since well before the 2016 Brexit referendum, this Boris deal gets a score of about 4 out of 5. I would have preferred a Hard Brexit. But I don’t think Boris had the cojones for that. And in big picture terms he delivered on most of the sovereignty issues he promised he would – the over-bearing European Court of Justice, forced alignment with EU rules, paying in big wallops of money, oversight by an outright anti-democratic EU bureaucratic elite, these are all gone.
Boris did sell the fishermen down the toilet. He should have done better on that front and it’s not clear anyone will have the political will in five years to push for much more catch then, though at least everything becomes a matter of politics between sovereign entities and not a pseudo-legal, stacked-deck EU process over which the Brits had next to no control. Still, it’s galling that a huge chunk of your country’s fish catch has to be given to other countries for nothing. Plus, what Boris has given up as regards Northern Ireland is also not entirely clear and may verge on disgraceful.
On the other hand, the trade outcome is really good. Good enough that Norway wants to renegotiate its deal with the EU. And if, as seems likely, the UK starts trading more and more with the rest of the world and less and less with the EU, the politics of this will gradually swing big time Britain’s way, not to mention the comparative economic growth rates. Most importantly of all, by far, is that boatloads of real sovereignty, of British people deciding Britain’s fate, have been won back. As I said, big picture, this deal is orders of magnitude better than the woeful, faux Brexit deal Theresa May attempted. And that takes me to what is perhaps the best way to understand this Brexit outcome. What is that you ask? Well, it’s in terms of all those who’ve been hoist with their own petards (to quote a somewhat better wordsmith than Lennon).
Start with all those in the lawyerly caste who conducted a sustained campaign of lawfare against any sort of real Brexit. Think here of Gina Miller, almost all of the UK Supreme Court justices, Jolyon Maugham QC, and (to be blunt) the vast preponderance of the Remain-voting legal establishment.
Had they relented just a bit in their campaign it’s plain that Theresa May’s emasculated and basically worthless Brexit would have got through Parliament and, laughing all the way, the EU. But these people couldn’t stop themselves from trying to stop any sort of Brexit at all, however enfeebled. And so ultimately, they kept Britain in the EU till the next EU elections, which led to the Tories being decimated down to single figures. Theresa May then had to go. Boris came in. But he still had the awful Parliamentary arithmetic, which the top judges shamefully took advantage of in my view.
And that brings in the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, who’ve also been hoist with their own petards. Labour pretended – for as anyone could see that’s all it was, pure pretence – to respect the referendum result. But its entire leadership class, ironically barring perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, hated Brexit and acted to stop it. The Lib Dems were even worse. And so, they tortured the Leave Boris Tory government in Parliament and would not allow him an election. (Sidenote: defined election dates are a terrible idea in a Westminster system as no law in our system should block ready access to the voters, the real holders of sovereignty in our set-up. Politicians love locked-in election dates but they should be resisted and what happened in Britain is the case study for why.)
Then Narcissus entered stage left – because with the Lib Dems everything is stage left. They started believing their own PR and their supposed standing in the polls and unbelievably – because I thought that Labour and the Lib Dems would starve Boris into submission by refusing him an election – the Lib Dems gave the Tories the needed votes to force an election. And the rest was history.
All of them today have been hoist with their own petards, to the point that Labour’s new leader and diehard Remainer – who refused to vote for Theresa May’s emaciated Brexit – has just ordered his party to vote for Boris’s real Brexit. If you want to feel better about the world wallow in that for a day or two. And the fact that the idiot former Lib Dem leader lost her seat in the election she allowed through.
Who else? Well, I’d say the separatist government in Scotland now also falls into the ‘hoist with their own petard’ category. They have consistently opposed any sort of Brexit. But now it’s here. So, think what that does for the case for Scottish independence.
To start, it’s wholly untenable unless Scotland re-joins the EU. But to do that, all ‘rich’ newcomers will have to pay into the EU budget a lot more than whatever the pro rata chunk of Britain’s Scotland contribution was before Brexit. A lot more. And they’ll have to adopt the euro – can you imagine that? Bailing out the spendthrift and totally stuffed southern European countries for as long as one can imagine.Oh, and did I mention that over the last two decades the EU has been the slowest growing economic region in the world? That’s because a top-down bureaucracy (think of any Australian university, and I know as I work there) that shuns so much democratic accountability cannot help but over-regulate and over-centralise and stifle productivity.
So, forget the polls showing loads of Scots want independence. In any actual referendum campaign, when it becomes plain they’ll lose the pound, be forced to beg to join the EU (which Spain may even veto to protect its flank with Catalonia) and be paying in more than getting out, I predict the politics will change – just remember the polls before the Republic referendum here. With Britain in the EU, it was possible for the separatists to win. Now? I don’t think so.
So, all of them, all the diehard Remainers, have been hoist with their own petards. Happy New Year!
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