Brexiteers and the story of the would-be time-traveller

2nd August 2016

There is a story about a child that wants to travel back in time.

The child goes to one adult – a silly adult – and tells them about wanting to travel back in time.

The silly adult tells the child: you cannot, this is not possible.

The child then goes to another adult – a wise adult – and tells them about wanting to travel back in time.

The wise adult tells the child: have a go, and see what happens.


There are some Brixiteers who think Brexit is easy.

To take two prominent examples , here is Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin:

“Leaving the EU is in principle straightforward; much easier, in fact, than joining since it is not necessary to change domestic laws and regulations. All the laws and regulations that apply by virtue of Britain’s membership can remain perfectly aligned with those of the rest of the EU until they may be changed at a later date. This is how the UK gave independence to the countries of the British empire.”

And here is another Conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg:

Leaving the European Union is unquestionably a big decision but it is not a particularly complex one. Article 50 is easy, the royal prerogative is clear and the law is stable. Additionally the political will also seems to be present to make it happen and to work.

Please read the pieces in full, if you can, so you can be sure they are not being misrepresented.

My view, for what it is worth, is that Brexit will not be easy.

But if the proponents of an easy Brexit are right, then the view that Brexit is hard will be disproved soon enough.

So there is no point arguing about it.

Like the wise adult of the story, perhaps one should just say to the proponents of an easy Brexit: have a go, and see what happens.


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5 thoughts on “Brexiteers and the story of the would-be time-traveller”

  1. Impossible to tell if you’re misrepresenting the two people you quote, as both pieces are, like your piece, hidden behind a paywall.
    My view, for what it’s worth, is that Brexit (if it happens, which I doubt) will be very difficult but not undo-able. Your previous comments along the lines of ‘nearly all politicians are clueless’ are not persuasive in this context, and I’m pleased that you appear to have rowed back a little on this.

    To say something is easy can have different contextual meanings. A chess champion might describe a certain match as easy for example, but that doesn’t mean to say that the path to victory was intrinsically and objectively easy. His losing opponent will have a different perspective. The EU and UK will both expect to be able to claim ‘success’ at the end of any Brexit negotiations, but how easy these ‘successes’ were to achieve will be a matter of perspective.

  2. Hello David. If you decide not to post my earlier response, I would be grateful if you could email me to briefly explain why? This will help me to construct future contributions that don’t fall foul of what you deem to be acceptable. Thanks (-;

  3. Perhaps Brexit could be easy to implement, if you don’t care too much about the consequences – if you just want a quick and hard break from the EU, without worrying about our relationship with EU states or third countries afterwards. That would eliminate the need to negotiate new trade agreements etc. And the UK could continue to apply EU rules until we got around to changing them (without, obviously, recourse to EU institutions such as the ECJ – by contrast, many of the UK’s newly independent colonies retained appeals to the Privy Council).

    Things get a lot harder if you want to avoid the shock of a sudden EU exit, and negotiate some sort of long-term deal on trade, extradition, intelligence and police co-operation, academic funding, aviation, and a myriad of other things.

    Either way, we need the government to set out a negotiating position on Brexit – more than the meaningless platitude that “Brexit means Brexit” – sooner rather than later to reduce uncertainty.

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