Why Brexit is both exciting and not exciting at all

19 September 2018

Brexit is exciting to a follower of politics: every day it seems there is something new, and one can often swing from thinking there will be a deal or no deal, or even from thinking there will be Brexit or no Brexit.

Brexit is a news event well suited to social media and rolling news.

But from a “law and policy” perspective, following the ball rather than the political players, there is less excitement, more a sense of inevitability.

The Article 50 notification was made on 29 March 2017 and so the UK will leave the EU by automatic operation of law on 29 March 2019, unless something exceptional and currently not in view happens.

The EU27 has in turn put forward a withdrawal agreement which provides them with comfort.  This will probably be agreed before March.  This agreement provides for a transition period which is, in reality, a stand-still period.  There are still aspects to be agreed but it is heading towards final form and approval.

Over at the FT today I have set out why the current Salzburg summit may not be that important in respect of Brexit: just another minor step, and one which may soon be forgotten.

Of course: this may be wrong and that politics may erupt spectacularly in such a way so as to mean Brexit will not happen, or will be delayed, or whatever.

But unless that happens in the decreasing time available, all there is to see is the grim rolling of the conveyor belt taking the UK out of the EU, despite the noise and fury of day-to-day and minute-to-minute politics.


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27 thoughts on “Why Brexit is both exciting and not exciting at all”

  1. I think Noel Edmonds should be our Brexit negotiator, he is quite used to a deal or no deal scenario!

    Despite all of the toys being thrown out of the pram by those who wish to thwart our withdrawal I cannot see anything stopping us leaving (thankfully) and my prediction that all will be smooth in the end when everybody stops swaggering will arise – and nothing much will change as we are still governed by incompetents.

    Either that or anarchy, storming Parliament would be quite amusing I suppose.

    1. Dear Rob. I’m a Brit living in the EU27. Due to Brexit, I don’t know if I’ll be allowed to remain in my home of 22 years. My income is £30k down, due to the fall in Sterling. I’ve had to lay out hundreds of euros to obtain documentation and get it translated in the hopes of obtaining my long-stay resident card. I’ve been forced to cash in my private pensions early and move them into euros, as no-one knows if the pension companies will have passporting rights – that’s lost me more thousands (I’m not sure how much yet). I’ve had to spend hours talking to accountants and officials at the prefecture, back and forth, 90km in each direction. I’ve been called a traitor for daring to live on the mainland – and a lot worse, including online death threats and rape threats from Brexiters. I’ve seen ALL of my EU national friends driven, despairing, out of Britain because the PM will not ensure their status, and British friends leaving here in droves because they can no longer weather the constant stress and uncertainty. I assure you, Remainers are not ‘throwing their toys out of the pram’ – your vote has had real, detrimental impact on real people and I am one of them.

      1. I’m sorry this has happened to you, but your treatment in France is the responsibility of the French government and no other body.

        1. I don’t know how much of what Patricia says falls under the description “your treatment in France”: but the collapse of sterling, threats of death and rape and the problems facing EU nationals in the UK are hardly the responsibility of the French government.
          People will hold very different views of where responsibility lies for various outcomes and these views will depend on one’s political views and on one’s analysis of how we got to where we are. Dipper’s response to Patricia is, shall we say, simplistic.

        2. Dear Dipper. You’re quite wrong and it would be useful if at some point, Brexiters had informed themselves of the possible consequences of their actions before casting their votes. The EU offered Brits in the EU27 full retention of existing rights in June 2017 but May refused because she wanted to downgrade the rights of EU nationals in the UK – ours will therefore be downgraded under ‘reciprocity’, depriving those who are dependent on FOM of their livelihoods, and depriving all of us of a vote in local elections in our countries of residence. It was May’s decision to place the UK outside the SM and CU, which affects banking and pensions – this is not a French governmental issue. Until Brexit I had the automatic right to remain in my country of choice, and I would retain that right if she had chosen the Norway+ option, which was the obvious compromise, given the closeness of the vote, but in choosing an extreme form of Brexit, she has knowingly chosen to throw British citizens on the mainland under a bus. All of this could have been avoided by ringfencing the rights of Brits and EU nationals at the start of negotiations.

        3. @Dipper, I would have thought online harassment/threats by Brexiters were down to, well Brexit supporters. Or am I missing something?

        1. Alison, many thanks. It is getting very worrying now. Pensioners, who are on S1 coverage for healthcare, are now being issued with health cards that expire on 31 March 2019 – since I have one friend with cancer and another with ARMD who needs regular treatments, this is a very frightening issue. We simply don’t know if they will be able to remain in the French health service and private medical insurance is far more than they can afford. What then? Are they simply expected to die or go blind? Sell their house to fund their care? It’s utterly shameful the way May has behaved towards Brits in the EU27 – she has continually refused to meet our representatives and those of The Three Million representing EU nationals in the UK. So has Raab and so did Davis. And yet we have been able to meet with Barnier and Verhofstadt several times.

          1. I agree, Patricia, re May, Davis, Raab. It is quite clear that no-one, or rather no (or almost no) politician, has attempted to understand the full ins or outs of leaving (or staying). On the other hand, the thought of Corbyn or McDonnell in talks with Barnier or Verhofstadt fills me with disbelieving horror. I don’t know what I would do if I were in the position of you and your friends (and others) and can do nothing but hope on your behalves. Are there any lobby groups/charities you can join?

      2. Dear Patricia,
        It is very unfortunate and unpleasant that you feel that you have to go through this rigmarole but it could and should have been so much easier.
        The EU have been trying to ‘punish’ us for daring to have the temerity to make a democratic choice and are using every dirty trick going in an ultimately vain effort to thwart democracy – which is possibly their ultimate long term goal.
        The UK did offer EU citizens living here the freedom to remain as long as this was reciprocated by the EU, which of course was rebuffed.
        I have lived in many European countries and beyond, I do feel that you might be overreacting and that it will all be smoothed over prior to deadline day – after all it would be against your Human Rights to be forcibly removed from you home of 22 years, as enshrined in EU Law.
        I sincerely hope that I am correct and that common sense will prevail and that we can all then get on with our lives and focus on matters of far more importance.
        Yours Sincerely,

        1. The UK’s system is a parliamentary one: individuals vote for a person to represent their interests in Parliament. Whatever the failings if our system, I don’t see why referenda should be seen as a more democratic way of doing things. I for one am opposed to them, which is why I am opposed on principle to another one. Though if I thought it might come up with a result I prefer I should probably go for it.

  2. Do you see any workable solution to the current impasse in Northern Ireland? Unless something is found (or sufficiently fudged) to square the circle, there will be no transitional period.
    It is very unclear what happens if May fails to get a deal (let’s say simply because of the Irish question). The rhetoric of “no deal is better than a bad deal” was laid to rest yesterday by Hammond in his remarks after meeting Christine Lagarde. Would the government allow a chaotic Brexit in reality? Certainly, a majority in parliament could not be found to endorse it – what happens then?
    I think that either the UK will revoke its A50 notification or May will agree to a “People’s vote”. To “Brexit” without a transition period would be tantamount to economic suicide and would actually risk significant civil unrest as the reality of shortages of food and medicines bite, ports and the south east become grid locked and the open skies close…

    1. The vote in the Referendum was never about a workable solution, the promises given were anything to suit the emotions of the audience. Notwithstanding, the result has been treated as tablets-of-stone even if no workable solution can be found. Since there was no manifesto for the choice of Brexit to be sought, the tablets-of-stone have been re-carved post decision without further advice from by us the great unwashed. The Brexit we are getting is determined by the EU agreed legal process; it seems the new relationship will not be agreed by Referendum, nor by Parliament, it will be arranged by a political fix and Parliamentary bullying. Brexit is supposed to be about ‘bringing back control’ but to who or what?

  3. with respect, Dipper, the French government have not acted to terminate a long standing agreement with the UK that protected Patricia. That was, I suspect, you.

    1. So my vote to take advantage of the freedom specifically offered in article 50 is the cause of France’s treatment of Patricia is it? No it isn’t.

      To say that France’s treatment of Patricia and her fellow Brits is dependent on my taking decisions to please France is to say that France is holding Patricia hostage and will mistreat her if I don;t hand over money and agree to their terms isn’t it?

      For the record, I would have much preferred the UK to take the initiative and make a decent settlement for existing EU citizens. But even so, that doesn’t excuse France.

  4. This is all so painful, it’s like living through a slow-motion car crash. Soon something has to give. For the EU it must be like someone dealing with a loved relative suffering from dementia. They ramble on, demanding impossible things, they are beyond reason and everyone is saddened and tries their best to deal with the situation. Demented Britan, tragic!
    So let the whole family take control of the situation, a peoples vote with all the facts and consequences known and put to the vote, then we can do what is best for everyone and live with the outcome for better or worse.

  5. Of course Brexit is now a legal matter. The political matter was in March 2017 on order, when the final political choice has been made by the UK tot leave the EU. After this decision the rest is just a legal matter.
    Let me illustrate this with a simple example. If I am a member of a lawntennisclub, the club and I have agreed on lot of arrangemnets and during my membership there wil be a lot more. I had the opportunity to give my vision on the arrangements during my mebership. I can simply finish my membership by sending a letter or an e-mail to the secretary of the club. The club and I agree over our mutual obligations and when they are settled, I am no longer a member and I am no longer allowed to use the facilities of the club. Leaving EU is as simple as that. The EU has respected the wish from the UK to leave the EU without comment. Of course we have our opinions, but we still do believe in the right of memberstates to make stupid decisions.
    As an European I understand that finishing the membership of the EU is just a question of agreeing on the mutual obligations and then settle them. When I read about “Exit Fee” and “Divorce Bill” the UK has to pay I do not understand the attitude of the British government or the smallest majority of the British people. Are they serious about leaving the club and demanding to play on the courts of the club for free.
    If I am well informed the United Kingdom consists of three Kingdoms of whom two are against Brexit. Can anybody explain to me why the third Kingdom is so eager to follow such a ruinous – at least economically – course?

    1. The analogy with joining, and leaving, a club is a poor one. A nation is not an individual (who may or may not want to play tennis) but a whole group of individuals whose wishes and views may be entirely discordant and which may change with time.

    2. Well Hans, because as has been made abundantly clear to us on many many occasions, other nations make the rules, and we have a choice to accept them or leave. So we are leaving.

      As a fellow European, I object to a group of European nations dictating the terms of engagement on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, telling other European nations what it means to be European, how it works. But that is the history of the continent isn’t it.

      As for those other UK “kingdoms”, they are all massively reliant on money coming from England. In this union, the money that flows back is gifts, not loans. We don’t demand for it to be paid back and turn those countries into economic deserts when they cannot pay.

      The treatment of Greece is an international disgrace. Clear and blatant punishment of a nation with no means of ever escaping. Individual Greeks have escaped on masse; I am told northern Greece is devoid of working adults, just grandparents looking after children whilst the adults work in northern Europe.

      It wouldn’t have taken much for me, or many others, to vote to Remain, but when my prime minister has to ask a foreign leader for the right to control our borders and is refused, then the game is up. There will be no end to begging and being refused.

    3. The answer to your question is simple: lying works.

      If there is no consensus against lying – a bedrock, an unquestioned foundation of all politics and, absolutely, a principle that all public broadcasts labelled as ‘News’ rather than political positions will not tell a bare-faced lie – then liars will succeed in establishing a loyal base of supporters.

      And then we’re stuck with them – and, unlike the ‘fringe’ parties who are despised for being known to lie about (say) traitorous papists, or an immediate need for racial purification, or the Holocaust being a fiction – these tolerated liars will become respectable, become established as a regular part of the political scene, getting council seats, MEP’s, airtime on the news, and an increasing deference from mainstream politicians in search of their ‘swing’ voters.

      Play a long game, using the media, ‘capturing’ the editorial positions of one media outlet after another, shifting opinions ever further towards the goals of the most effective liars – or whoever pays them – and you will find yourself where Britain was, ten years ago.

      Capture the editorial board of the National Broadcaster, and have your PR genius on TV, night after night, always ready with an opinion – with a skilful lie, if we’re blunt about it – and watch everyone else in the media scramble to copy a winning formula for getting viewer numbers up.

      A flamboyant liar is a revenue goldmine for any media outlet.

      Now consider how this plays out in a politically-divided country with lots of marginal constituencies – voting districts with a thin margin of victory – where the voters who support the liar-in-chief and his agenda can decide the outcome of an election.

      How will the mainstream parties respond to that?

      Well, some of their elected representatives will be pursuing electoral success and popularity by repeating the lies – riding on the coat-tails of the extremists’ successful media campaign – and being ever such a little bit racist, and ever-so-politely ‘skeptical’ about Europe.

      And these liars-by-association are guaranteed all the media coverage a politician ever wanted if they ever say something ‘controversial’ in support of the liars’ agenda.

      Some of those elected politicians will be taking money from whoever is bankrolling the extremists.

      Over time, they will become a loud and dangerous minority in at least one major political party: not a majority, but too large a faction to expel, and eager to hold the majority to ransom with the threat of splitting the party and campaigning against the leadership in all those marginal constituencies.

      And they never go away: bit by bit, speech by speech, point by point and policy by policy, the ruling party and their governing agenda will bend to the extremists’ will.

      A strong government – that is to say, a government with a large electoral majority and strong support in the media – would kick them out.

      A weak government, and a weak political leader, would concede, and concede, and concede, dressing it up as conciliation when it is, in reality, a cowardly retreat.

      That’s Britain, five years ago.

      Eventually, the minority of extremists and their leadership can force a referendum: and they win because all other parties are weakened from within by ‘populists’ – liars by association who have come to support a dishonest agenda, wholheatedly, that is giving them media airtime and political successes – and, among honest politicians, there is an inconvenient unwillingness to lie…

      …And a near-total inability to rebut the liars with the truth, in a media environment that exists solely to pursue attention-grabbing lies as a source of profitable advertising revenue.

      Plus, of course there is the ever-present danger of a ‘Berlusconi’ of ‘Fox News’ media outlet which is firmly on the side of the extremists and, by now, supercharged in the certainty that they can lie without the slightest possibility of challenge or rebuke.

      That’s Britain, two years ago, in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.

      Fast-forward to the chaotic collapse of a political system based on a belief in consensus and some sort of honesty; and discover that the politicians who have risen to prominence in a dishonest and chaotic system are utterly incompetent at everything except lying to their core supporters, and getting media airtime.

      Hence the shambles of Britain’s incompetent and dishonest attempts at negotiating a new relationship with the EU, and the revolting spectacle of cabinet ministers positioning themselves to profit from a disastrous ‘Hard Brexit’ while their media applaud them, and the economy begins to collapse around the rest of us.

      That is where we are now, and you may well be going there – here! – to the same unpleasant destination.

      Someone, somewhere, is playing the long game in your country, too: finding the lies that disillusioned people are eager to be told, and finding media channels who will let them tell their lies effectively and profitably.

      What are you doing about that?

  6. Is Labour’s proposal to make companies give 10% of their shares to employee trusts expropriation of the shareholders? Would it be lawful under EU and ECHR law?

    If not, have we at last found something in the Labour party programme for which they would actually have to leave the EU (and Council of Europe)?

    Because as far as I know there is nothing in their manifesto that could not be done in the EU, albeit sometimes with some careful structuring or within limits (nationalisation, more state aids)

    1. Despite voting Leave, I am open to the notion that at some point we may re-enter the EU. What might persuade me is an argument that once we have re-established ourselves as a nation that can think for itself and act independently, we may be able to re-enter the EU and play a leading part in shaping a loose federation of states rather than being dragged along in the rush to a Federal super-state.

      What will never persuade me is the current defeatist panic-stricken oh my god oh my god you stupid people we are going to be punished we’re all going to die we will starve we cannot survive unless we do exactly what they say. Quite simply if we go back in on this prospectus it is the end of any notion of an independent state. We will spend the rest our lives being told what to do by Europe with no effective means of dispute, and a cohort of Remainers will forever pop up to chide us stupid people for ever thinking we could have a different view or do something different. A life of serfdom for the many and rewards from the EU for the few for doing their dirty work. Just an awful prospect.

      1. Britain has been a strong partner inside the EU – in fact, widely perceived by other nations as an arrogant bully, not a poor little victim. The EU is what Britain has helped to make it. It was Britain that pushed to open the EU to the East European states, Britain that pushed to prevent third countries having access to Galileo, Britain that pushed for the single market. Having been instrumental in creating the EU in our image, we can scarcely complain that its strict rules apply to us when we leave it. It’s arrogant in the extreme to assume that we are an equal partner rather than merely a difficult member state. And the idea of ‘serfdom’ is so laughable it’s unworthy of a response.

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