Brexit and tribalism

27th November 2017

This is a tweet in response to yesterday’s post here at Jack of Kent.

The post yesterday was critical of a tweet heavily RTd by influential Leavers.

The post also warned Remainers that the UK will leave the EU by automatic operation of law on 29 March 2019, unless something exceptional happens – and that re-fighting the 2016 referendum would not directly lead to Brexit being revoked.

But @RemainerAction saw this as “crossing to the other side”.


In fact, I was never on the Remain “side” to begin with, at least not in principle.

I have no objection to Brexit in principle – my blogging is usually about the problems about how it is (not) being done in practice and the madness of the Article 50 process.

(That said, I admire the Single Market and the “four freedoms”.)

The reason I have so far focused on Leave daftness and lack of realism is because it is evident in (indeed, demonstrated by) news events every day.

But Leave do not have a monopoly in their lack of realism.

Some Remainers seem to think that the Article 50 process, once triggered, can be ended lightly.

Just a matter of politics; just a quick fix; just some tinkering; it will all be alright in the end.

And there is some force to this: if the politics of Brexit change, then the legal process can be ended (or paused).

If a lever is pulled then the conveyor belt to the big industrial jagged saw will jolt and then halt.

But the politics takes place in a framework of hard law: and the hard law is that, under the EU treaty, the UK departs the EU on 29 March 2019 (unless something exceptional happens).

The politics of Brexit are subject to that deep legal truth.

But some Remainers are as blinkered as the hardest hard-Brexit Leavers.

Every challenge to Brexit must be cheered, however ludicrous.


Partisanship on Brexit is not just a feature of Leave supporters.

Brexit will not be easy; but reversing Brexit, since the Article 50 notification has been sent, will also not now be easy.

There is an old famous observation that the first battles of each war are lost when generals re-fight the battles of the war before.

The battle to reverse Brexit may also be lost because Remainers (and others opposed to the government’s policy on Brexit) are re-fighting the referendum.

Brexit can only be stopped (if at all) if:

(a) the UK government formally asks the European Council that the Article 50 notification be revoked; and

(b) the European Council accepts this revocation (or, if the revocation is not accepted, the revocation is upheld by the European Court of Justice).

Unless a political or legal action leads directly to this outcome then it will not make the difference.  Brexit will still go ahead.

And pointing this out is not to “cross to the other side”.

It is instead to be looking ahead.


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Comments are pre-moderated and will not be published unless they are polite or interesting/informative (and preferably both).  

20 thoughts on “Brexit and tribalism”

  1. I think Brexit reversal would be very possible if the political will (probably lead by public opinion) is strong enough and it would need to be very strong!
    One thing though, if we did reverse Brexit, the recriminations would go on for years.

  2. I’m a fan of your work, David, but I’m a bit confused by your position on Art 50. As a matter of PIL from Lotus, Art 50 notification must he revokable because it is not specifically forbidden. Why are you arguing that tgere is no legal route to stopping it?

  3. “Unless a political or legal action leads directly to this outcome then it will not make the difference.” Isn’t this just what Jolyon Maugham’s latest attempt is about? A legal challenge to Brexit. Also, I’m fairly sure all parties would drop it like a hot brick if they thought they’d lose votes by it. At the moment, however, although polling shows the decision would probably be 48/52 instead of 52/48, it’s too close to risk.

  4. To pick up an argument made by a previous commentator, if we don’t reverse Brexit – on the basis of the damage already done to the UK economy – the recriminations will go on for 20 years.
    And unless the Brexiteer’s economic thesis proves to be correct, it is quite possible that the UK will ultimately apply to re-enter the EU, albeit on less preferential terms than now, because the Brexit experiment has failed, the UK economy has been severely damaged, and the UK is forced to recover its lost markets to do anything about it. In short, the May recklessly triggered Article 50 without performing any cost / benefit analysis of that course of action. Davis said that he would have the cost / benefit analysis “by the end of 2017”. Currently, there is little sign of that analysis being made public – probably because the NPV is deeply unfavourable.

  5. There is these days a curious confusion between explaining the facts, in this case the juridical facts, and the opinion of a person. If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger.

    Thank you for your clear explanation.
    Fog in the Channel Great Britain is closed. Greetings from the Continent. HansB.

  6. I voted remain & everything that’s happened since has supported my conviction that secession from the EU will be a disaster. I read Jack of Kent because he provides dispassionate analyses of the legal position with respect to reversing the process. It shouldn’t have to be said that the fact that these tend to deepen my gloom is no argument against the analyses.

    1. I voted Leave and everything that has happened since has supported my conviction that remaining in the EU would have been a disaster.

      1. The EU has stuck to its basic principles, which Davis & co agreed, we have to pay our commitments?
        The UK is floundering, the main brexiphiles, Hannan, Redwood, etc are making panicked wild statements.
        All I can say to your comment is “what is convincing you?”

      2. Everything? Do positions have to be so polarized?

        Surely the most convinced Leave supporter can conceded that some events since the referendum are troubling (the impossibility of the £350m claim, for example; or the idea that anyone can have their cake and eat it (if they do, they are eating someone else’s cake); or that the Irish border is just a detail).

        Similarly, Remainers can see the force in, for example, wanting to “take back control” and exercise sovereignty in the UK without ECJ oversight, or to restrict immigration, or to stop sending cash to Europe.

        What would it take for either of you to change your minds?

  7. I think your analysis makes complete sense. Any remainer who thinks otherwise is deluded in the same way most brexiters are deluded. We need a new government that has won an election based on a major policy to remain in the EU. Only then is there a chance to stop this madness. Judging by the comments on channel 4 news last week by people in Wigan this will not happen. Unfortunately ignorance, in the sense of not knowing, will kill any chance of remaining in the EU. Just as it delivered the brexit vote.

  8. I always assumed you voted to Leave but were fairly pragmatic about the outcome. Any chance of remaining will only happen when an arch Leaver (Gove, Johnson, Fox et al) takes a deep breath and says we’re better off staying in. Anything (anyone) else would not be believed.

  9. I like your blogs. Emails. They help to get me to understand what is really happening so when I listen to news I know better. The emails teach me. I am very grateful to receive such important well written emails explaining everything in a language I understand. Thank you. In response to email received 27 nov 2017

    I think you deserve praise.

  10. “Has carried out” is the present perfect tense, not the past tense. The present perfect is used to express something that started in the past and still has relevance in the present (e.g. “I have eaten ice-cream”: I have had that experience during my lifetime, and may do so again; cf “I ate oysters once”: I did it once, didn’t enjoy it, and won’t do so again.

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