A “Burma Brexit” – why Remainers should allow the Brexit mandate to be discharged

 

8th October 2018

We are now only a few months away from 29th March 2019, which is when by automatic operation of law the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

(There are ways that this date may get delayed, and it is even still possible Brexit could get cancelled altogether.  But a delay or cancellation currently looks unlikely.)

This imminent departure is the legal truth around which politics is now revolving, or should be revolving.  It is the starting point of any understanding of the UK’s current predicament: “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it.”

This exit of the UK from the EU has been a legal fact since 29th March 2017 when the Article 50 notification was served on the European Council.  The notification was valid.  There is no serious doubt about that.  The Supreme Court insisted on primary legislation, Parliament passed the primary legislation enabling the Prime Minister to make a notification, a notification was drafted, and the Prime Minister signed it.

A legal timer started its countdown.

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The legal fact of the UK’s departure on 29th March 2019 is perhaps the only fact about Brexit about which one can be sure (though that fact can change).  Everything else is uncertain.

Looking at British politics, however, one can get a sense that this fact is not properly appreciated.

There is, for example, what can be (no doubt unfairly) called the Brexit referendum re-enactment party, a bit like the Sealed Knot battle re-enactment enthusiasts but without the period costumes.

The intention of these campaigners is to discredit the result of the 2016 referendum, so that the perceived “mandate” is extinguished.

They have some good points: the Leave campaigns breached the law, false promises were made on the sides of buses and many other places, and people were misled into voting Leave when, had they known what was at stake, they would (or should) have voted Remain.

And yet:

– the 2016 referendum followed a 2015 manifesto commitment by the party which won that general election;

– the 2016 referendum had as its legal basis a dedicated statute passed by Parliament and its question was approved by the Electoral Commission;

– the European issue has dominated UK politics since at least the late 1980s and has caused (partly or fully) a sequence of political crises and problems and so it was an issue which needed to be resolved one way or the other;

– there was a lengthy campaign where the government used a considerable amount of public money in its campaign for Remain;

– the dangers of a Leave vote were pointed out in the campaign (even if dismissed as “Project Fear”): and

– the vote was still for Leave on a heavy turn-out.

The glaring question is not how Leave won the referendum but why Remain lost.

The referendum vote was, of course, not binding.  It was advisory (a point which I made at the FT before the vote took place).  It would need parliamentary approval.  The vote was not enough.

And so there was – correctly – litigation to force the government to obtain parliamentary approval.

But when this parliamentary approval was obtained, this still was not enough for many opponents of Brexit.

The 2016 referendum result had to be discredited by other means.

*

Another feature of current Brexit politics is the blame game.  This is popular among Leavers.

The blame mongers fear that the Brexit the UK is about to experience will not be pleasant.

This is not their Brexit.

But just as some Remainers want to pretend that the referendum result never really happened, these Leavers want to pretend that a successful Brexit was viable.

Any Brexit, especially one done at speed and without preparation or thought, was not going to go well.

And so either it would have to a Brexit existing in name only or it would be a catastrophic hard Brexit, with no continuity at all.

There was never enough time, or (frankly) inclination, for there to be any other outcome.

The ones to blame are those who supported the Prime Minister’s premature Article 50 notification: the MPs  who voted it through and the pundits who clapped and cheered.  They all should have known better.  Those are the guilty men and women, to allude to a once famous book about a policy failure.

Once that notification was made then nothing good or worthwhile was likely to come out of Brexit.

(And that is why I once thought no government would be mad enough to send the notification.  I was wrong.)

*

So we have a mandate which cannot be ignored and an approach to Brexit which cannot go well.

The UK has got itself into a bit of a problem.

The irresistible force of political legitimacy and the immoveable object of policy reality.

What if anything can and should be done?

*

There are Remainers who will fight the UK’s departure to the very last day.  In a way, they are to be commended, and they may still prevail.

But there is an alternative approach.

There is no obvious way to rid the UK of the referendum mandate, other than allowing it to be discharged.

Even a further referendum (the result of which nobody can be certain) would not be enough, especially if there is a lower turnout.  And there is probably not enough time now for the primary legislation required for a new referendum before March.

One could hope that Parliament could assert itself, and go against the referendum result, but Parliament had its chance to “take back control” with the Article 50 legislation, and Parliament blew it.

(This is not to say that the 2016 referendum result is absolutely binding.  No electorate can bind another, and a referendum result is either democratic or irreversible, but not both.  But I cannot see any way the 2016 referendum can now be reversed in practice.)

On 29th March 2019 the mandate will be discharged.  The result of the 2016 referendum will be honoured.  The UK will be out of the EU.

*

And then what?

What follows Brexit may be longer-lasting than the UK’s membership of the EEC/EU.  The UK’s membership will have been 46 years, the next arrangement may be even more durable.

At the moment, however, few people are putting any practical thought in to what follows Brexit.

We have instead the referendum re-enactment players and the blame gamers.

In terms of substance, rather than form, any future arrangement can keep the UK in the EU’s customs area, and can allow the UK to (in effect) be part of the single market.  And as the mandate will have been discharged the referendum result will not (or should not) have any further purchase.

On this basis, it would seem sensible to encourage the UK to enter the withdrawal agreement on offer – the so called “transition period” is in reality a continuity provision.

And after 29th March 2019, the aim would be to convert the transition period into a permanent association agreement.

I sometimes call this a “Burma Brexit” after the British Army’s dignified retreat in World War II which was skilfully converted into a impressive victory.

Many Leave politicians  will not be able to counter this, as it requires a grasp of detail which few have shown, and in any case their mandate will have been discharged.

So rather than hoping for (and revelling in) disasters and setbacks, a wiser approach of those who value the UK’s ongoing relationship with the EU is to support the government’s attempts to get a withdrawal agreement in place.

A “no deal” Brexit will make a close association agreement far less likely, as the best basis for such an agreement will be the so-called “transition” terms themselves.

Of course, events may overtake this.  Brexit could still be delayed or cancelled.

But on the basis of things as they are now, we should be encouraged by the title of the book by the architect of the Burma campaign: Defeat into Victory.

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129 thoughts on “A “Burma Brexit” – why Remainers should allow the Brexit mandate to be discharged”

  1. “the European issue has dominated UK politics since at least the late 1980s and has caused (partly or fully) a sequence of political crises and problems”

    It has been a chronic annoyance to the Conservative party since the 1980s, particularly when they have a narrow majority.

    Has it dominated UK politics? No. UK politics has been dominated by public service provision. Then taxation, then perhaps wars. What’s certain is that, until the referendum made it so, Europe was only a dominant issue in the internecine world of right wing politicians and funders, and only so because enough decamped from the Tories to UKIP to threaten the party.

    1. I agree with this in part, but the rise of UKIP this decade was both startling, changed the terms of political debate and affected both of the big two (not least labour putting out “control immigration” mugs and Ed Milliband having immigration rhetoric literally carved into a metaphorical tomb stone). There may be a view that Brexit has at least lanced this boil. Personally I think the consequences of Brexit will empower the far right because they will be able to blame the privation to follow on a betrayal by the “liberal elite” and the EU.

  2. Completely agree. Both a hard brexit and a second referendum would be disastrous – the former wrecks the economy (an outcome some brexit ultras on both sides of the house would actually relish, imo) and latter would be much more vicious and even more divisive than EUref1.

    1. Absolutely agree that a second referendum would be vicious and divisive, but at least that would be a one-off event. On the other hand, just how vicious and divisive is a hard Brexit going to be?

      For example, what happens when Nissan shuts up shop following a hard Brexit: who will the affected communities blame (particularly as nobody likes admitting to making a mistake)?

      Suspect we end up with economy being wrecked PLUS vicious and divisive situation in the UK.

      Don’t think a second referendum will happen though.

  3. a fair assessment. My worry is that in discharging the mandate, those who favour continued disassociation will be emboldened, not satisfied. And once we are out, its very hard to see how we get back in. I think the re-enactors have a point on this.

  4. I (reluctantly) agree with the points you make here, but I think you neglect the political and social toxicity of the referendum and its aftermath. While the mandate will have been discharged by the UK leaving the EU next year, and a close association agreement makes good practical sense for both parties, the promise that this process would bring an end to the crises and problems of the last few decades has been broken.

    Neither the benefits of remaining (for remainers) nor the possibilities opened up by leaving (for leavers) will be achieved. If a transition agreement is to be durable it requires building bridges between the two sides domestically, but they seem more polarised now than before.

    A pragmatic compromise that could have brought people together two years ago will now likely be seen as a betrayal by two polarised groups, both of which are larger and angrier than they were before. I fear this may not end well.

    1. You’re right. Which is where both Cameron and May failed to show leadership or vision after the referendum result. That is the real tragedy. A compromise and long-term solution was necessary, not surrender or hardening of hearts.

  5. Perhaps these military analogues play into the mistaken British exceptionalism. But it might be useful to consider the orthogonal progress that could be made by those who invent a new future whilst tackling the immediate crisis. Alan Turing (who founded computing technology and stored programs, whilst cracking codes) would be a good model for that or even Beveridge. Perhaps the biggest handicap Brexit has imposed on British politics and culture is that it has stalled progress on the bigger issues which we can all see looming

    1. The thing about Slim was that he was not a show off or a boaster, like many of his British contemporary military commanders. He did not think Britain would win by being Britain, but by patient and methodical work based on a realistic grasp of the problems.

      1. So, we should expect a Burma Brexit would look more like this then?

        “Actually, it would have been wiser to take the whole of the Chindits out then; they had shot their bolt. So, too, for that matter had the Marauders, who a little later packed in completely. Both forces, Chindits and Marauders, had been subjected to intense strain, both had unwisely been promised that their ordeal would be short, and both were asked to do more than was possible.”

        (And that’s the pragmatic, organised, victorious part of the story.)

    2. ah. “British exceptionalism”, “English exceptionalism”

      How come the decision of a minority of the population of the British Isles who decided to break away and form their own country nearly 100 years ago isn’t an example of “Irish exceptionalism”. How come a desire to rule oneself without a larger body making your rules is a valid one if you are Irish but not a valid one if you are English?

      And surely the fact that there are any nations at all on the European continent rather than just one big mass is an example of multiple Exceptionalisms?

      1. Well Ireland was invaded for starters. It’s language, legal sytem and religion suppressed.

        Secondly, the UK is independent of the EU but interdependent. It has a democratic say in the EU and a veto. Ireland’s say in the UK was non existent. It had no veto and the vast majority of people had no franchise. British law was openly and strategically focused on destroying the native population to benefit Britain and the ruling class.

        1. I don’t think you could say Ireland’s say in the Uk was non existent given Dan O’Connell , CS Parnell, J Redmond et al.

          1. Local MPs all. So not really Ireland’s say. As kingdom or nation Ireland had none of the characteristics of the UK in Europe. No national veto, no national parliament, no executive level national representation based on a democratic vote, no armed forces or foreign office.

        2. So, you’ve come up with reasons why your rights exceed mine and why your nationalism is a good and reasonable nationalism but my nationalism is a bad and unreasonable nationalism because you have decide I have all the rights I need. Thanks, but I’ll pass on this.

          1. That’s how nationalism works. What’s the old saying again “One man’s freedom fighter…”.

      2. The primary rallying point for Brexit was a rose tinted view of Empire-era Britain; the primary rallying point of Irish nationalism was the result of the British insisting on selling Irish cash crops once the potato blight hit.

        Tell me again about this Irish excetionalism :)

        1. There were, I believe, a few other things that happened between 1849 and 1921, nor was the famine itself the rallying point of the Easter Rising (it was not mentioned in the declaration of the ‘Provisional Government’, though the sectarian divide was obliquely referenced as well as the “gallant allies in Europe” – presumably the Germans).

          1. If you don’t think realising the government of your jurisdiction will hang you out to dry will drive any independence movement in the future, then I don’t know what to say to you. Regardless of what happened subsequently, there is still no sense of exceptionalism driving Irish independence, just a sense of wanting out.

            In the case of England, the motivation, as far as I can see, is a wish to return to some rose-tinted view of England that never really existed. Hatred for EU seems to come from a xenophobic nature. Can anyone point to anything the EU did that’s remotely equivalent to what the British government did during the famine that would engender the current obsession with “independence from a trading bloc”.

    3. The main lesson of the Burma Campaign with respect to Brexit should be this:

      It took the enormous combined and coordinated contribution of Indian, Chinese, and American blood, sweat, and tears to rescue the British administrative class from their monumental ineptitude, and even at that it was a close-run thing.

      “Suez Brexit” is the far more likely outcome in a situation where Britain is unable to rely on the support, goodwill and forbearance of larger world powers.

  6. That moment when you realise the person who phoned you from BT OpenReach to correct a broadband issue of which you you were blissfully unaware, is actually perpetrating a fraud that may well steal your files and empty your bank account. You believed their assurances and gave permission to access your computer. Is it best to keep a stiff upper lip and let events unfold or should you take steps to reverse your flawed decision?
    Whatever the facts are about the referendum, few will dispute that the electorate was misinformed and failed to understand the full ramifications for the UK. There is an increasing amount of evidence that significant manipulation of social media by external forces impacted heavily on the Leave side and that the electoral process was impacted.
    This, aside from the failure of any group to describe a viable form of Brexit that would deliver any positive benefits to the UK, should be enough to ensure that the issue returns to the electorate to reconfirm their mandate. If Brexit is the correct decision then it will win the arguement in the light of day rather than the dead of night and I will, sadly, accept it. If not, then I will continue to rail against it.

    1. I agree with a lot of this, but it seems to me that, now, we have had the discussion we should have had prior to the first referendum, but the polls are very nearly unchanged. So I tend to think that a second referendum will add divisiveness to an already polarized population – a terrible situation. The main insidious influences are still there: our tabloid and oligarch press, who do not have the interests of the people at heart. Also: the Labour Party conference opened the door to this possibility (flew the kite), but I’m unaware that it has helped then more than a single pip in the polls.
      The people of the UK seem actually to want this, perhaps encouraged by some of the poor behaviour of some EU politicians.
      What to do?

    2. That moment when the European Commission releases a report that says the UK population will increase by 25% to over 80 million in little more than a generation.

      That moment when the EU inflicts punishment conditions on one part of its citizens and condemns their nation to poverty without end, at the behest of some other apparently more important EU citizens.

      That moment when the European Parliament gets even more powers to determine even more of our laws.

      Real things, real cases, not cases that aren’t relevant applied beyond their meaning or significance.

      1. If the EU is the best choice that there is, what do we have to say about the current state of Italy, Spain, Portugal and, most of all, Greece? Greece has 40% youth unemployment, and is an EU country. The rules of the EU discriminate against poorer countries outside of its realm, and makes trade more difficult and bureaucratic for them through its protectionism. Conversely, Britain actually does pretty well out of EU membership, but we can’t pretend that the EU is simply a benevolent enterprise; it mainly benefits the central European states. As far as Brexit outcomes go, I would primarily like to see protection for human, civil and workers rights upheld after we leave, and for meaningful trade negotiation to be opened up with countries outside of the EU. I also don’t personally have a problem with FoM, and would advocate a Norway style model of Brexit.

        1. Apparently UK unemployment levels are slightly skewed by they supposedly remaining in education, training or apprenticeships until 18. And the fact that the UK govt don’t accurately report gig economy jobs.

    3. We should have a referendum on whether people want a second referendum. This would give people the opportunity to decide if it’s a good idea before we go ahead with it.

      [In another life – perhaps a saner, more democratic life – we would have had a referendum on the principle of whether we wanted to be in the EU, or whether we might prefer parliament to explore alternative arrangements, and then come back to us with an assessment of our options, to then be voted on as a guide to what we would like to achieve in negotiations – followed by a referendum on whether we were happy with the result of those negotiations.]

  7. As a Remain voter I’d be quite happy to see a compromise that means we leave the EU but stay in the Customs Union and Single Market. This solves the Irish border problem – though as Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell has pointed out it’s really a British border in Ireland. It will also solve the Freedom of Movement issue which was always my greatest concern. Not for me but for young people whose freedoms and futures would be greatly curtailed by loss of the freedom to live, love, work and raise a family in any one of the 27+ countries that operate in the Single Market.

    So I’m a “moderate” remainer if you like. Happy to see compromise. However, our Prime Minister promised an end to Freedom of Movement – finally she said. As if this was A Good Thing. And she got a very big cheer for it at the Tory Party conference last week.

    But without remaining the Single Market and Customs Union there will have to be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and the Irish people don’t want this.

    I can’t see how they get square this circle.

    1. I agree we need to leave but CU+SM only solves the trade aspects of the Irish border. The new reality would be no NI and IRE both in EU: that is still an unhelpful material change for Irish identifying that could well lead to a Border poll and reunification in 5-10 years

  8. While the uncodified UK Constitution may leave the ‘rule of law’ to float upon the tides of Party/Parliamentary Politics, until June the 24th 2016 it did not float-free. There were anchors, fore and aft; the best judgement of our Representatives, and their duty to do that which is best for most.

    That the vote in Parliament on February 1st 2017 made an avowed Tory Party policy a common policy, with cross-Party agreement; this, as you say, did not make that policy in any sense ‘permanent’.
    What, I wonder, is to stop Parliament (MPs at any rate) from voting down the Government’s deal; declare the experiment over, and calling for a vote to reaffirm the UK’s full membership of the EU?

    1. MPs simply don’t have the guts to do this, they are not prepared to put the national interest above their careers. They might be prepared to use the vehicle of a PV in order to absolve themselves of any responsibility once we are almost over the cliff edge in March ’19.

  9. Sorry, I respectfully disagree. I think you put far too little weight on the way the referendum was won, business (sugar) interference, probable Russian interference, mainstream media (Mail, Express, Telegraph) lies, BBC dereliction of duty in the name of balance, I order to obtain a tainted and highly-damaging result. I am a European citizen and having that taken away from myself and my children on the premise of a tainted, advisory referendum, run entirely to quell in-fighting in the Tory party will never be acceptable to me

    1. I completely agree. I think DAG underestimates the anger felt by those who know that they and their children have been swindled by a bunch of mountebanks. “Coming together” would mean that Remainers would have to accept having been mugged. If you were held up at knifepoint on the street and robbed, would you just accept that and “move on”?
      In Derbyshire, where I live, people voted to Leave, despite the warnings from employers like Toyota and Rolls Royce. I work in the rail engineering field and Brexit is going to trash that industry.
      We’re now seeing the first consequences of this folly, as Toyota announce a (temporary?) shut-down, and now I think that those who voted for this need to face up to what they’ve done, not be helped out by those who didn’t vote for it.

      1. I think there would be anger on either side. But if you want discussions about anger then I fear this is not the right blog for you.

        This blog is for analysis not therapy.

        1. Fair comment but I don’t see how you can separate out the feelings from the analysis. This is not some academic exercise but our and our children’s future

    2. Totally agree. Too much focus on trade that will always find a way and too little on the fundamental freedom to choose where to live and work for us and our children. The EU is about people’s rights not just trade agreements. My 13 year-old daughter will lose her rights from birth because of sheer ignorance of the electorate.

  10. “Many Leave politicians will not be able to counter this, as it requires a grasp of detail which few have shown”

    This issue of detail keeps cropping up, mainly in Remainers accusing Leavers of lacking detail. It is highly significant.

    The Remain/Leave split is in many ways a left brain/right brain split, or alternatively a plan vs evolution split.

    Left brainers want to control everything and panic when something is outside their control. Right brainers believe that creativity and opportunity generate progress, and planning stifles it.

    Planners believe that only plans will deliver progress, so progress needs lots of careful planning to deliver it. Evolutionists believe that progress comes through evolution, and by definition you cannot predict what evolution will deliver. Experience shows that evolution, both in nature and businesses, delivers outcomes no-one could possibly have imagined before they happened.

    So the constant demand for more plans is about Left brainers insisting that right-brainers get left-brainers’ approval for anything they do. It is not about the use, completeness, or relevance of any plans.

    Consider the march of technology and games, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Does anyone think there was ever a plan, anywhere, that said “we will create an open platform device that allows others to develop applications for it. People will buy our device because of the applications they can use on it. One of these applications will be a game with a hedgehog.”? No. but someone somewhere did take a leap of faith that an open platform would allow creativity and evolution which would deliver success.

    The EU is an entirely Left-brain exercise. Nothing happens unless the Left-brainers permit it. All the Left-brainers love it because it hands out jobs galore to them controlling Right-brainers. all the Right-brainers hate it because they are in a cage of pointless and destructive Left-brain control.

    The track record of Left-brainers to predict the future is dreadful. They always predict that any deviation from their carefully crafted plans will be a disaster. They have to do this as any other response makes them look pointless. Inevitably the outcome is not what they predicted. And then they say “no-one could have foreseen this”. And they are right, of course, because the point about evolution is no-one can foresee it. But they are still wrong, because progress comes from things you cannot foresee, not things you can.

    1. “Experience shows that evolution, both in nature and businesses, delivers outcomes no-one could possibly have imagined before they happened.”

      “Experience” also shows that certain species disappeared into cul-de-sacs off the evolutionary highway.

        1. … the anarchy of the computer games world, where people keep inventing stuff that other people like.

          this is just a classic left-brainer argument. To a right-brainer, it just makes no sense.

          1. The whole left/right brain thing is pseudo-scientific bullshit as any qualified evolutionary scientist will tell you. It’s appealing cod-psychology that acts as an emotional prop for those who can’t think creatively AND those who can’t plan effectively.

            Sometimes creativity has its place – such as being creative about where you go on holiday – but sometimes you then need some plans.

            Don’t believe me?

            Next time you go on holiday, don’t plan it – just get up one morning (any morning – don’t tell anyone) – drive to the airport and book yourself on the first available flight to ANYWHERE. Don’t worry about getting home – don’t worry about taking luggage – don’t even think about how long you are going away or what to do with your car, house, pets while you are gone – just go – and let evolution show you the way. Bon voyage.

          2. @ Huw Sayer

            Evolution is definitely a thing, as is creativity. All sorts of things are evolutionary. the natural world, competitive markets, and even the law in the UK, where judges interpret principles in ways that reflect changing attitudes and times.

            Left-brain right-brain is a convenient metaphor for different attitudes and approaches.

            If you want to kill a project, a surefire way is to overplan. Simply demand more and more plans until everyone has given up or gone, or the moment of opportunity has passed.

            In my experience, people who keep demanding more and more plans are people who don’t understand what is going on, are out of their depth, and react to that by effectively killing the initiative so their ignorance and limitations are not exposed.

    2. It can easily be seen that most progress a modern society comes from small improvements over many ears, the growth in microelectronics, the improvement of cars, batteries, housing, food supply and treatment of medical conditions come mainly from small improvements someone thought would be beneficial. Even in drug development ‘surprising’ results only occur as a by-product of effort being put into developing a completely different treatment, not because for example someone with no job knowledge wrote a new song. Historically since early farming his progress was also based in small improvement to crops weapons of war, organisation of societies etc.

      Evolution is indeed predictable, if the climate changes plants using existing traits to adapt by improvement. They are what genetic engineers use to make improvement of crop yield. If those traits do not exist, extinction reduces their competition to others.

      While I accept that Remainders use accepted forecasting methods which often produce sensible results short term and more varying results longer term, Brexiters have never forecast anything other than ‘Sunny Upland’ and ‘we would not notice any different until we get there’, ‘no problems exist on the way so nothing to fear’, so one could claim their forecasts are always wrong, life is never like that.

    3. Hmm. It seems you regard left and right brained people and institutions as wholly separate. If that were the case you might be onto something.
      However, last time checked I had two parts to my brain, battling happily for supremacy. As in individuals so in marriages, teams, enterprises and countries. It’s two forces all the way up.
      As for the EU it’s role is to figure out what needs regulating for its member’s joint benefit and how much. It doesn’t need to be a vital creative force splattering a canvas with paint, pickling a shark or whatever. In helping prevent the chaos that ensues from too little order it also helps, a bit, to provide the environment for creativity to flourish.
      I fear Jack is correct that we must now leave to understand what we had spent 40-odd years building. It’s a shame because in maybe 10 more years the cohort who fondly remembered, falsely in my view, the pre 1975 Britain would be out of the picture as an electoral force. Rather like Dunkirk then, it’s been a close run thing.

    4. Reading your comment, I was reminded of seeing a very entertaining production of Candide at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago.

      In particular, I was reminded of Dr Pangloss, who – if he was around today – would no doubt agree with your every word and be looking forward to the sunlit uplands of Brexit while having a little chuckle at the Remainers getting themselves in a tizzy over nothing.

  11. I am unpersuaded.

    If it were possible to leave the EU and then (should the political will be there) rejoin on the same terms, then this would make sense. Any damage caused by Brexit would be short-lived and could (hopefully) be reversed. But I consider it distinctly unlikely that the EU would allow the UK to rejoin on the same terms, with the same opt-outs and benefits. We get a good deal now, and are unlikely to receive it on re-entry, particularly if it is obvious that we are struggling after leaving and need to rejoin. It is reasonably foreseeable that, even if Brexit is unsuccessful, the British people will reject rejoining an EU that requires Eurozone membership, for example.

    On the basis of the above, and if you believe that leaving the EU will cause harm, then it is imperative to avoid leaving. And there may well be sufficient political will to join around that perspective.

    If Parliament decides that leaving would be harmful and that we should reconsider, then all it has to do before the March deadline is (1) resolve to hold a further referendum, (2) amend or repeal the Withdrawal Act and (3) either obtain an extension to the Article 50 period from the EU to allow for a further referendum, or (if the EU will not agree an extension and it is legally effective to do so) unilaterally withdraw the A50 notification. Or (should the will be there) simply resolve to stay in the EU and agree the same with the EU (or, again, withdraw the notification)

    I submit that there is adequate time for Parliament to take these steps. I also submit that this approach is realistically more likely to be successful than leaving the EU, and then applying to rejoin it on terms acceptable to the British people.

    I therefore submit that it would be folly to abandon efforts to prevent Brexit in the hope of some unlikely beneficial future outcome. You try to prevent it now, because it is advantageous to do so. You deal with the consequences of not being able to do so if you need to.

  12. Don’t agree.

    A 2ndRef can change in validity and acceptability if both main parties not just allowed/facilitated it but also actually explained why it is legitimate & democratic. This cld be in their interests.

    The number of caveats in your piece just go to show how this is possible.
    Furthermore, you don’t examine how the govnt or brexiters will react to the discharge of this dubious mandate (double down?) or what the chances are of the UK having the consensus to re-apply in the next, say, 30 years? Slight, I think.
    Stop it now is best option

  13. Will the mandate ever be truly discharged? I can imagine emotionally charged interpretations of the “will of the people” dominating post-Brexit policy direction for years and years to come. This makes me concerned that the irrational and haphazard governance of the last 2 years will continue throughout the most technically complex and important part of Brexit – working out where we end up and getting there.

    The UK doesn’t have the escape velocity to substantively exit the EU’s orbit during the 21 month standstill arrangement but at the same time the “will of the people” forbids any recognition of that and the timescales that might really be involved.

    There’s another crisis looming in December 2020 when we either enter another fudged continuity or fall off the cliff. It’s no way to run a country.

    1. Good question.

      On the face of it, given the wording of the referendum question, yes that mandate will be discharged. And that will be a better position to argue from, in my view, than just denying the mandate outright.

      1. The “mandate” may be discharged, but the Brexiters aren’t going to go away, and their mission creep version of Brexit won’t be satisfied by a half-in/half-out association agreement.

        With respect I think you’re letting your own “ambivalence” towards the EU blind you to the sheer irrational hatred felt towards it by the Tory Brexiters.

  14. I agree with a lot of this and I know you have for a long time said the big question is what happens after Brexit and not before, which everyone continues to ignore. But associate membership is unlikely as remain at this stage. I would argue the next big campaign is to rejoin.

    1. What happens after brexit depends entirely on what kind of brexit we have. The softest of soft brexits, or no deal, and there is precious little available in-between, as I’ve said before.

      And what kind of brexit we have depends on what happens before.

  15. Guilty Men by CATO (1940), https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B006R6Z0YM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    Guilty Men: Brexit Edition by Cato The Younger (2017): https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072R1NYDY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

    Your analysis is correct as an exercise in normal democratic law-making in ‘normal’ times. But what does one do when the normal norms of decent behaviour are trampled on and manipulated by elements of one side with influence or power over a long period for self-serving, or even evil, ends? Vide the rise of Nazism. Not only were decades of Euromyths, propagated by an irresponsible press, never corrected by politicians, but the latter never mentioned the primary purpose of the EEC and its successor organisations, the preservation of peace. We appear to be returning to a geopolitical situation akin to the 1930s. Entrenched positions within nations risk civil unrest and civil war. Ask the Spanish, if not the Irish. Does a 2 1/4-year old ‘mandate’ secured by a means novel to our Constitution by nature and (selfishly) Party-political by choice really prevail in the circumstances of today? Arise Parliament and do your job.

  16. I think this has been the political reality since we held a referendum on a facile question that cannot be delivered in a meaningful way. There is no ‘hard exit’ to be achieved in a matter of months from a political and economic union that has been built over decades no matter how much any individual or indeed government might wish it. However the way the government have managed the subsequent time has limited choices even further. Up until last week I expected an extension to Article 50 – a Brexit other than in name only needs that time. I suspect the UK government has lost even that option now, and the withdrawal agreement will, as DAG says, be some kind of ongoing set of arrangements that could last for 20 years or more. I wonder what government could have achieved in the past 3 years if it had not been paralysed by this question.

  17. This is a monumental mistake that must be laid squarely where it belongs, at the feet of David Cameron and the Conservative Party. Notwithstanding the criminality of the Leave campaign, the false promises and the spectre of Russian involvement, the Brexit process must be stopped by all legal means for the national interest and the well-being of British people.

    Your analysis ommits the fact that the most likely outcome is a “no deal” Brexit since May is unlikely to be able to marshal her own MPs in sufficient number to get any “deal” through parliament (let alone opposition MPs). It seems improbable that an acceptable solution to the Irish question will be found and, absent of that, we will have no transitional period which will catastrophically exacerbate Brexit itself. Such an outcome will plunge the country into an economic crisis and could realistically lead to medicines and certain foodstuffs being in short supply. It would lead to the seizing-up of UK ports (and surrounding road system) and freight handling airports within days and probably ground much of UK aviation for weeks.

    To suggest that this should simply be allowed to “play out” by remainers may be an acceptable academic legal scenario, but its practical implications make it utterly unacceptable. Parliament is sovereign and must act in the national interest and abandon Brexit, or, if it lacks the testicular fortitude, it must pass it back to the electorate in a “People’s Vote” which allows between remaining in the EU, or Brexiting on the presented terms. Such a vote is not a repeat of the original referendum, but an endorsement or a rejection of its outcome – this is quite different.

    Never forget that at high tide, Leave only had the support of 37% of the electorate and British citizens living abroad were disenfranchised. It is not and never was “the will of the people” and there was never an agreed course for it (even amongst Brexiters).

  18. If the assertion is that Remainers should allow the mandate to be discharged *irrespective of the nature and severity of any adverse consequences*, then I must respectfully disagree.

    Had there been a sign that the mandate was going to be discharged in a sensible way, then many more Remainers would have acquiesced.

    Even so, vocal opposition to Government policy is a healthy and vital part of a functioning democracy. Such opposition is not to be discouraged.

    1. That is not the assertion my post makes. Instead, I say this:

      “On this basis, it would seem sensible to encourage the UK to enter the withdrawal agreement on offer – the so called “transition period” is in reality a continuity provision.”

      Life is too short to attack and defend assertions which are not being made. Let’s stick to the ones which are being made.

      1. Ok. Less hyperbole this time.

        As you state, nothing good or worthwhile is likely to come of Brexit. As far as I can tell, nothing in your post suggests that taking the withdrawal agreement on offer changes that position.

        The withdrawal agreement on offer isn’t itself a good outcome. in particular, the continuity you refer to involves us giving up democratic representation over the EU laws that we have to follow during transition.

        Despite the referendum question, the mandate has been interpreted to include the future relationship as an integral part of it. The hard brexiters will continue to make their case after March 2019 that the mandate is only discharged by Canada +++, WTO or whatever else they cook up next. And our media will continue to allow them to make that argument largely unchallenged and, in some cases, with encouragement.

        So on the basis that (as you state), this approach to Brexit “cannot go well” and the better future outcomes in terms of damage limitation are not guaranteed, it’s difficult to agree with the proposition that the correct thing to do is to provide no opposition to it.

      2. What if Parliament fails to support any of the “deals”, including “no deal”?

        I can’t see the Govt calling a GE in any circumstances.

        So what then? Do we crash out without a deal even if Parliament voted against no deal?

        1. Yes, that is exactly what happens. When UK Govt sent the Article 50 letter, it started a process by which UK leaves EU with no deal on 29 March next year.

          This can be altered, but it is the default position, and cannot be changed solely by a UK parliamentary vote.

  19. The part I most disagree with is this:

    “Many Leave politicians will not be able to counter this, as it requires a grasp of detail which few have shown, and in any case their mandate will have been discharged.”

    The ardent Brexiters will continue to “counter”, without any requirement for detail. Anything that goes wrong during a transition period will be blamed on Brexit not being done in the “corrct” manner, according to the “will of the people”.

    I forget the author of this comment, but the Tory Eurosceptics can never, ever be appeased. They are a protest movement to their core, and their victory will not change this.

  20. The process was begun by a minister of the Crown under no legal obligation. Ministers of the Crown cannot generally bring about changes in fundamental rights. The “automatic operation” of EU law and the “constitutional requirements” of the UK seem to come into conflict. The automatic exit date certainly seems problematic.

  21. ‘Discharging the mandate’ may be tempting but it
    -No more draws a line under Brexit than revoking Art 50 does
    -Further strengthens hard Brexiters’ power
    -Brushes electoral manipulation under the carpet
    -Absorbs ££ and effort needed to solve underlying problems that led to the vote

  22. Yes – agreed. Not optimal but we are where we are.

    “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
    “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

    Let’s take the best we can from the WA+T+PD (on FR) – then turn Transition into that FR. Effectively (if not in name) an EFTA/EEA style AA but with CU to protect GFA and manufacturing jobs.

    [If anyone needs the TLAs deciphering, please refer to twitter.]

    @HuwSayer

    1. One of the nice things about comments on posts, as opposed to tweets, is that you have the space to avoid three letter acronyms. It is a pity you used them here, as it will narrow not widen the debate for others.

      1. You are right – sorry (being slightly too facetious – one of those mornings) – I stand corrected:
        1) WA – withdrawal agreement – this is the ‘Deal’ we are currently negotiating – it covers the manner of our leaving – money, citizens rights and borders, notably Ireland and Gibraltar (legally binding treaty to be signed by 29 March 2019 – needs approval of EU commission and parliament as well as UK parliament).
        2) T – transition arrangement (only available if we agree to withdrawal agreement) – a state of being out of the EU while asking the world to pretend we are still in (for the sake of all the free trade deals we have with the world by virtue of being in the EU).
        3) PD – political declaration – an appendix to but not part of the the Withdrawal Agreement YTreaty – so not legally binding but may well be ‘politically’ binding depending on the level of detail – sets out the ‘framework’ for our desired future relationship (FR) – but does not fix the details, which will be negotiated only once we have left on 29 March 2019 – and become a ‘third’ country).
        4) FR – future relationship with the EU once we have left – many people are under the impression this is the ‘Deal’ that we are currently negotiating – it is not. We are only (in part) negotiating the ‘framework’ of the FR (Article 50 says the EU needs to ‘take account’ of that framework in agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement but doesn’t stipulate how detailed that framework should or needs to be).
        5) EFTA/EEA – European Free Trade Area (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein) and European Economic Area which effectively extends the European ‘single market’ [internal market] to three of the four EFTA countries (Switzerland has about 10 complex bilateral agreements with the EU because it declined to join the EEA but still wanted most of the benefits). The UK is in the EEA by virtue of being in the EU – when we leave the EU some argue we won’t have ‘technically’ left the EEA but the rules of the EEA mean you have to be under one of two governance pillars: either the EU court or the EFTA court. So we would have to apply to join EFTA if we wanted to benefit from the EEA or try to negotiate the same arrangements as Switzerland (people have views on the likelihood of this happening – they are not favourable).
        6) AA – association agreement – this is something that was proposed for the UK long before we joined the then European Community. The EU uses AAs normally when countries are trying to move towards membership and need to start harmonising rules and regulations but are not yet ready for full membership (Ukraine is a recent example, Turkey and Albania also). They are not normally used for a country that is leaving the EU in order to move further away (‘diverge’ on rules and regulations as many Brexit Ultras want). Former MEP Andrew Duff has written extensively on this – and thinks it is doable so long as we effectively agree not to continue diverging (on most things) once we have left (there might be some flexibility round the edges). AAs tend to deal with goods – less so with services – this might be a problem for the UK as around 80% of our economy is based on services.
        7) CU – customs union – (it’s complicated) – essentially it means the EU has a single external border for customs with the rest of the world. Any tariffs on goods from the rest of the world are only paid once when they cross this border (no matter which EU country they enter) – after that they can move freely within the CU (across EU ‘internal’ borders) without further checks – this (in part) makes the single market possible). Note: EFTA is outside the EU CU despite 3 of the 4 EFTA countries being in the EEA. This gives them freedom to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries but means there are some border controls between say Norway and Sweden – or Switzerland and France. If the UK leaves the EU and leaves the Customs Union (as well as the ‘Single Market’) we will need a border between us and the Republic of Ireland. Where that border lies and how it is operated brings us to the final point.
        8) GFA – the Good Friday Agreement – that introduced an element of power sharing between the UK government and the Republic of Ireland that has helped keep the peace in Northern Ireland for the last twenty years. It is very complicated. Some dismiss it as irrelevant (personally I think they are nuts). The GFA was signed on the’tacit’ understanding that since both countries were in the EU there was no need for any border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Although EU membership wasn’t a requirement of the GFA it is doubtful it would have worked (as constituted) without such membership. Leaving the EU and (in particular) leaving the Single Market and Customs Union means there will likely have to be a border somewhere between the UK and the Republic of Ireland – the question is where and how it works.

        @HuwSayer

  23. A lot of excellent points here. But, ultimately, I disagree with the conclusion. The ‘transition period’ looks, in policy terms, like a continuity provision; but it comes with a huge loss of say in the rules which will continue to bind us (i.e. vassal state status). I don’t think that is a sustainable outcome for the UK in the long term. There will be constant pleas, on the one side, for greater divergence from the unwelcome rules, and on the other, for greater voice in relation to the making of the rules. If transition cannot be a stable end-state, and if Brexit will continue to be contested… why not make a more decisive choice now?
    My argument is that the referendum mandate was exhausted by the (yes, premature) triggering of Article 50. It is possible now for Parliament to decide that there is no ‘good’ Brexit outcome (at least until max fac tech arrives on the scene), and seek to revoke the notification. Those who think otherwise have not made any sort of case for the benefits that Brexit will supposedly bring. They have had plenty of time. And they have singularly failed. Why continue to indulge them?

  24. At one point I wondered if Brexit, with a transition/continuity arrangement, might be placed alongside the Euro on the little dusty shelf labelled “permanent discussion point: do not action”. (Like Aunty Mabel’s disgusting cake, that you can’t chuck out, but no one wants to eat.)

  25. There’s one big contradiction in this piece, to do with the “discharge” of the Brexit mandate. If this discharge should give the government and/or remainers the licence to try to turn Brexit into its most pragmatic, least damaging implementation by aiming for a “close association agreement” that resembles the transition, by the same token it gives leave supporters (and those in government, and in parliament) licence to try to turn it into the kind of Brexit they want to see. And while the mandate “should” be discharged, I doubt those supporting a hard Brexit would see it that way. The fact that leave campaigners don’t grasp the detail necessary to come up with anything viable for Brexit has not stopped them campaigning in the last 3 years, so why should it suddenly stop them after 29 March? They will continue to use the same tactics to garner support for their “vision”. If Brexit happens, it will continue to paralyse government and therefore the civil service for years to come. And with discontent likely to grow due to an economic downturn after 29 March, the blame game will continue and the divisiveness will become uglier. While I hope that a government will go for your proposed strategy to minimise the damage, it won’t be easy at all. But more importantly, now is not the time to start supporting that strategy. Now we still have to do everything we can to stop Brexit happening in the first place. Because absolutely nothing good can come of it.

  26. A worthwhile blog with helpful ideas on how to mitigate the already happening disaster that is Brexit.

    My worries are that those with the power to do anything about it do not see the problems that so many of us do. Theresa May’s politics in particular are a tremendous stumbling block. She takes politics seriously and her history has always been to try to follow through on promises made, even when their feasibility is questionable and they have been abandoned by others.

    Early on, she unilaterally put forth red lines and promises which still define what kind of Brexit that Theresa May can accept on behalf of the UK. This is exemplified in her Chequers plan.

    The problem is that it is not possible. And time is running out to agree an alternative. I believe that Theresa May cannot do what is necessary to save the UK from the economic and political disaster that Brexit will undoubtedly be.

    We need an new leader that will embrace the EEA/Efta (Norway) solution with a customs union. It would take time, but the EU would more that probably do whatever is necessary for the UK to achieve this. It will achieve the referendum result, leaving the EU and it’s political dimension with only 25% of the Aquis (common body of rights and obligations) and it would also reflect the nature of the closeness of that vote.

    Theresa May has consistently ruled out this solution, and I cannot see her doing a complete u-turn at this late date.

    1. I agree that May seems to lack the flexibility needed to make the best of this situation, but even if she was willing, with Brexit the more you look, the more the middle ground disappears into the mist.
      Most Brexit ideologues are strongly opposed to the constraints of the EEA, so it is a pointless ‘compromise’ that would fail to satisfy them.
      The justification for an EEA Brexit then boils down to being able to say to the bulk of Leave voters that the government has ‘delivered on the mandate’ while hoping they won’t notice that it not only harms the country, but also fails to meet the promises (such as more immigration control, more money for the NHS, freedom from EU regulations, cheaper food) that led them to vote for Brexit.
      ‘Remainers’ and ‘the establishment’ have been accused of arrogantly treating ordinary Leave voters as though they were stupid. Far from ‘respecting the result’, going through the motions of a soft Brexit would be arrogant and cynical and be likely to further corrode trust.

  27. Your analysis of what would constitute a rational course of action is convincing, but I note that you are not predicting that it will be followed. I fear that is wise, because both the referendum and subsequent events strongly suggest that the UK political system is incapable of engaging rationally either with the EU or domestically, on the subject of the EU.

  28. With the greatest of respect and admiration and awe, yes, but. As far as you go, this is indisputable. However, I will quibble with one sentence:
    “– the European issue has dominated UK politics since at least the late 1980s and has caused (partly or fully) a sequence of political crises and problems and so it was an issue which needed to be resolved one way or the other;”
    I don’t think that’s entirely true. It may be true for a minority of people for whom the EU verged on an obsession but for most people, the EU passed in the background, a distant ship on the far horizon of the landscape of their lives, unperturbing, the steam rising from its busy funnels, indistinct.
    Gradually, over time, the EU was transformed into a totem, a metaphor for this country’s ills and shortcomings, a scapegoat. As Daniel Kahnemann pointed out during the referendum campaign, the EU was always far too complex to be contemplated by almost everyone and the response to the question would almost certainly descend into a reaction of the subconscious.
    I oppose Brexit, motivated not by some fuzzy, irrational love of dark blue flags with stars but by a deep anger at having to waste time campaigning for something which, for all its shortcomings, appears to benefit the UK in several ways. Out of laziness, I’ll link to a thread that explains my thought process: https://twitter.com/andrewhj/status/1049203718313431040
    The conclusion is, whether we leave or not is immaterial to healing the divisions in our country that have been brought to the surface by Brexit.
    The corollary of that seems to be also that politicians will only contemplate a change of direction before 29 March 2019 if there is a significant movement in public opinion. That will only happen if the underlying grievances that have attached themselves to Brexit are acknowledged and begin to be addressed concretely. Even then, persuading people who endowed themselves with victory in the Brexit vote that (a) it wasn’t a victory and (b) it is not central to their identity, is a large task that currently seems almost insurmountable.
    Aping the man who in 2013 correctly, in my view, reflected that the UK had many problems but none had been caused by the EU and none would be solved by leaving it: the descent to hell is easy; retracing our steps and escaping to the clean air above, this is the task, this the labour: “sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
    hoc opus, hic labor est.” (Virgil, Aeneid, VI, 128-9)

    1. Agree strongly. Brexit cannot solve the causes of Brexit, in fact only exacerbates them. Difficulty is in how to allow folks to think again, with new information, new leaders to argue the case…

  29. The important thing to remember is that the Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath. We, in the form of Parliament and, ultimately, the people, are and must remain masters of the law. If the law is not serving us well, then we have the mechanism to change it. And if it is the will of the Parliament, acting for and in cognisance the people, that legislation should be revoked and Article 50 withdrawn, then that is what must happen.

  30. Interesting. One thought is that in the sentence “as the mandate will have been discharged the referendum result will not (or should not) have any further purchase” the bracketed ‘should not’ has to do a lot of heavy lifting. I would expect Brexiters to continue to argue, and to get traction with the argument, that the result remains relevant to the shape that Brexit should take as the future terms get negotiated. When they say, as they currently do, ‘this isn’t what the people voted for’ (re. for example, Chequers Proposal) the counter-argument that the vote wasn’t for any particular way of doing Brexit hasn’t prevailed with them. Similarly, to say to them in the future ‘the referendum has now been discharged and you shouldn’t base your arguments on that’ probably won’t prove compelling either.

    1. This business of what people and people didn’t vote for is a bit of a red herring alone with whether a second referendum is democratic etc etc.

      My view is that parliament is the sovereign body of the UK. That body decide by a majority of 6:1 to hold a referendum on the EU. As a leave voter, I’d prefer not to have been asked, but having asked me and then had a negotiation which was an international humiliation, I voted Leave and would do so again.

      So, parliament can do what it likes. It can hold a referendum every week if it wants. But the fact is that it decided to hold a referendum and promised it would deliver the result, hence for parliament to turn round and now say that they don’t know what we voted for when they themselves organised the vote, is ridiculous.

      Similarly, having held a referendum promising they would implement the result, to now hold a second referendum to avoid implementing the result of the first referendum which they decided to hold is bringing parliamentary democracy into disrepute and undermining their own right to rule.

      People playing games with parliamentary democracy should beware, as all of the likely alternatives are worse.

      1. I don’t see how holding a second referendum, or even just cancelling brexit is bringing parliament or democracy into disrepute.

        The government’s job is not to pander to the base instincts of half the population. We elect leaders not manservants.

        One could say to half the population that the thing they voted for will not be done because it is simply too damaging to the whole population, and if they love nationalism so much they can vote for the neo-BNP lot at UKIP in a few years time.

        Purposely, knowingly, damaging the country you lead because of a narrow margin in a single advisory vote is definitely exposing the worst in our parliamentry democracy.

      2. Parliament did not promise to deliver the result – David Cameron did so hardly valid. The legal point is that in an advisory referendum Parliament has a duty to ‘be advised’, spend time looking at the effects the result would inflict on the UK – economic and citizen’s rights – and then decide whether to go with the majority (and the size of that majority has to be taken into consideration) or decide it would be a disaster and choose not to authorize Article 50 notice.

        1. I can’t lay my hands on it right now, but the Brexit leaflet I received from ‘The Government’ clearly stated that parliament would implement the result of the referendum. Does that not count as a promise?

          1. Since when did a government have the power to decide what Parliament wants? Parliament can do what it wants, including bringing down the Government should it wish!

    2. I agree. But post 29 March those currently arguing for a 2nd Ref will have to engage with ‘what is the best Brexit’ and I think that will change the dynamic a lot.

  31. A compelling argument. I don’t see why we should continue to make heroic efforts to give leave voters the opportunity to escape from the consequences of their choice. Polling results indicate that a new vote might scrape past in the other direction, but that is not nearly sufficient to settle the matter. Buckle up or get out, this ride is starting.

    Personally, I am going to get out and observe the results from a distance (although possibly not an entirely safe distance). Brexit has made this a country that I don’t want to stay in, even though I can. I don’t really want to share a country with 52% of people who don’t value their own freedom to leave more than they value the ability to turn other people away.

  32. The immediate cost of the post Article 50 continuity approach is going to be that whatever agreement we end up in will be a worse deal for the UK than we currently have. If we decide, after a few years of rationing and most of the old people who voted Leave dying off on account of having no affordable medicines or staff to support their needs, that actually being part of a nearby and globally important trading bloc is a worthwhile endeavour, there is no way we will get back the kind of deal that we currently have with all our workarounds and opt-outs and extra veto opportunities. In either a BEANO or boomerang Brexit scenario we will end up with a deal that works less well for the UK than our current situation.

    To my mind the value of Referendum 2: Electric Boogaloo is that it gives us a chance to retain the benefits of the last forty years of work on the part of our diplomatic and trade negotiators should we decide to Remain. And if the vote goes to Leave once again, at least we can call the final deal a Boogaloo Brexit – a name I feel that the entire country could finally unite behind.

  33. The overwhelming majority of those polled want a vote on the final terms. I think implicit in that shift of opinion is that such a vote should include and option to remain.

    Because of the dubious nature of the referendum campaign that led to Brexit there will forever be a strong sentiment that it lacked legitimacy. I don’t think now with all that has been said and written about the impact of Brexit that when the final terms are known that there is the same risk of the outcome seemingly treated as devalued.

    I do not think that the outcome of the last referendum will ever be accepted as legitimate whilst these clouds of suspicion linger over the means with which that result was achieved.

    I cannot see how any Brexit supporter professing to believe in democracy or the ‘will of the people’ could object to a final say by the people on the terms.

    I also disagree fundamentaly with 2 Brexit shibboleths. A ‘people’s vote’ is not a re-run of the first referendum. I concede the outcome might be reversed defacto because Brexit is deemed to cost too high a price. But that is not a repeat vote it is an informed vote based upon more widely known facts and known terms of any proposed deal.
    The second Brexit myth is that this will
    lead to a third vote etc. Not so in my view. Whereas I accept no vote can ever be finally binding, in reality, for a generation, no one could with any credibility demand another vote once a fully informed decision has been reached on the known terms and it’s now known implications. Most remainers are sensible enough to accept then that the ‘game is over’. With sadness and regret but with realism that the argument has been fought legitimately and lost.

    The point I am making is that one way or another a people’s vote is absolutely needed to legitimatise the outcome of this whole process. None could say by then that the issues have not all be thoroughly ‘thrashed out’. It would be ‘game over’ for partisans on both sides of the debate. I for one would completely accept the legitimacy of a vote on the terms. If it went the wrong way for me that is too bad. But I will never accept the result of the last referendum based upon the lies distortions and corruption of the process involved. I suspect that there are many who would also find that hard to swallow.

    I am a democrat through and through. But we keep hearing from Brexiteers about the threat of thuggery or disruption caused by a refusal to accept the last vote among those who support Brexit.

    I suspect that remainers would not by inclination or temperament be likely to react in those ways at all. But it would be a dangerous thing for politicians to assume that there would not be long lasting and damaging implications for us to be dragged out of the EU without a final say. To take our quiet acquiesce for granted would be a serious mistake for any political party. That might have far reaching if unknown consequences for the shape of politics for the future. The anger and disaffection felt by remainers denied a final say may be not be expressed through violence but socially and politically it would be deeply divisive and damaging to social cohesion. A people’s vote is needed to resolve this problem and it’s outcome I believe would be far more acceptable to all democrats on both sides of the argument. To deny this is the dangerous course.

    1. To drag us out of the EU with so many people having such grave doubts could indeed have serious political consequences. And despite what one or two respondents have said, the polls show a very marked swing in the direction of Remain. The question is will she drag us out kicking and screaming? Can she manage to pull it off, politically? I do hope the answer is “No” to both these questions!

  34. Once the backstop and transition are agreed it’s going to be impossible to coax the EU into moving even an inch from there, and it will become a limbo soft Brexit status quo. This I agree with.

    The fact that we are “playing chicken” with the nation is what is difficult to swallow.

  35. First of all: another WW2 analogy? What is it with the discussion of Brexit that so many reach for this period? Liam Fox has his spitfire, May is invoking the Home Front, UKIP bang on about Dunkirk…
    How about reflecting the actual pattern of the UK engagement with Europe since 1945- see Michael Charlton’s excellent book ‘The Price of Victory.’
    Anyone with an understanding of such history is struck by the similarities in the arguments raised from the 1950s to the 2016 referendum; the same allusions to British history (Gaitskell’s ‘A thousand years of history’); the ‘Germans will want to sell us cars’ (Benn in 1975); sovereignty and supremacy of British law (discussed by MacMillan’s Lord Chancellor) etc etc.
    It’s a very old, repetitive debate that was re-hashed in 2016 but in a very poisonous process.
    Which brings me to the first point: the weak mandate of the referendum. DAG omits questions on the threshold, the votes of nations objecting (e.g. Scotland), and the permitted electorate. Mozambicans living in Britain could vote but not millions of Britain’s living abroad- is that fair?; is a simple majority sufficient for a constitutional change of this magnitude? how binding can the result be on a nation that voted the other way?
    Similarly, you overplay the turnout (about standard for a GE in the 90s and way below Indyref) and the margin 52:48 was considerably lower than 1975 67:33. So 2016 feels considerably less ‘mandating’ than 1975.
    Secondly, the conducting of the referendum, in a modern social media world is raising massive questions of legitimacy. As more information is revealed– currently before the Canadian parliament– about the corruption of the Leave operation- one should be extremely careful about how much trust to put in the outcome. I trust voters, but I have little trust in the leaders or the process of the 2016 vote and for this reason alone I think there are grounds for folks to have the option of thinking again.
    Third, a peoples’ vote should not be seen as settling the debate on Europe but as one of many necessary actions to address the causes of Brexit– and the decay of our democracy. No one can deny the grievances behind the vote; nor should one assume another vote magics them away.

    For what it’s worth, retiring to a form of EEA + Customs Union is probably the second best upon which most could agree, whilst the UK sorts out its internal (non EU created) issues of democratic imbalance, inequality and educational dysfuntion.

    1. Agreed. Legitimacy of the result will continue to be an issue until it has been honestly resolved. A People’s vote based on a far better understanding of the facts would provide government with a genuine mandate to act. It should detail the offer against remaining and, if carried it will silence the remain lobby. If it fails and for those who ask ‘How many more referenda?’ I have absolutely no objection to the question of in/out appearing on every General Election ballot for the next 50 years. We would all remain better informed about the EU and what it means to the UK whilst ensuring that neither party to the treaty becomes complacent about our membership.

  36. As we can see on both sides of the Atlantic, the mantra of the ascendant politicians is now ‘Lying Works’. In this case it works to give them power and to enable them to reposition the UK with deregulation, even lower taxes, more dependence on the USA and less social justice. The constant abuse of the EU, run by this gang over the decades, was compounded in 2015 by the weakness of the Cameron government in the face of longstanding referendum demands combined with a smug belief that Remain would win. Awful.

    Now however, we have had a couple of years of giving the leavers a chance to demonstrate that all will be well and they have failed. It seems that the Government and the EU are working towards a Withdrawal agreement with a transition. That indeed then adjusts the target for those of us who want to minimise the damage of this act. But remember that Mrs May, although to some extent she lost control over parliament in her last election, she did push the next one beyond the transition period into the world of real Brexit where no sane politician would want to be in charge of the economy. So your objective, of making Brexit be like transition is a good one, and is roughly Norway plus CU. Still a rule taker. But out.

    Look at Burma now, by the way. Is that really a victory?

  37. A thought-provoking piece. I think you’re right that Brexit will happen next March – probably under a very fudged ‘long transition’/Chequers/CETA approch. I doubt that the arrangement will be clear or permanent though. I think we can expect a lot more brinksmanship and change for a good time to come.
    Part of me has considered whether it would be better to support a ‘reasonable’ Brexit than oppose.
    However, whilst I don’t particularly expect a second vote to happen before next March, I feel that I have to campaign for a People’s Vote. This is because 1) it’s closest to my considered opinion of the right course, and my conscience, 2) Whatever course is chosen, it’s helpful that the level of support for remaining in the EU is clear, and it’s not possible to say the remain voters were indifferent.

  38. Mr Green made me think – always a good thing.

    One of the most striking features of Brexit debates in the domestic political arena is how frequently one hears politicians describing ‘their’ desires, and how rare it is for a politician to speak about constituents’ interests.

    It has become – as Mr Green neatly describes – a political imperative for the Tories, who may self-destruct if Brexit does not proceed.

    On this view Brexit is for the good of a particular Party rather than for the good of the country as a whole.

    Such a narrow political imperative ought to be resisted for precisely this reason – it is morally indefensible that people will lose their livelihoods to sustain political dogma.

    With hindsight, the justification for a super-majority is quite compelling.

    The practical answer isn’t to go through with Brexit, but to have another look at it via another tedious, but now thoroughly essential, referendum.

  39. Yes, it’s hard to see how Brexit could be halted at this late stage. But as you point out, the only other real options are BINO or No-Deal, with nothing in-between, however much some leavers continue to delude themselves.

    All that remains to be seen is how long May can continue to make her promises before people realise they are mutually exclusive, and we find out which way we are going. I wait with bated breath for the wave function to collapse. Is the cat alive or dead? Obviously a no-deal brexit would break the (statutory) promise of Ireland’s open border straight away.

    But the fact that neither BINO nor no-deal were, in any way, supported by a majority only serves to highlight the farcical idiocy of the binary referendum. The reason brexit was always bound to be a failure. Not because the referendum was advisory or because of illegal campaigns or because of lies on buses. But because now we will most likely end up with a compromise BINO brexit nobody wants, or a no-deal brexit only supported by a minority of hard-liners. All in the name of democracy!

    I think Alex Dennis is right to fear this may not end well. And sadly I think it may not end quickly either. The fallout from brexit is likely to continue for a long time.

  40. I am persuaded that an EEA outcome is probably more deliverable and that it may be prudent to argue for this to limit the risk of No Deal.

    I am less convinced that it provides a more harmonious path and diffuses the will of the people argument. If there is another referendum and the people decide to remain, the new mandate supersedes the old one. If we have a soft Brexit, we’ll have years of griping that everything would have been better if only we’d had a better Brexit. It may also look like a stepping stone rather than an end destination, so we probably won’t be able to move on. As others have pointed out, there is also no clear path back in under current (favourable) terms.

    Unless you have a niche interest in a soft-Brexit outcome, remaining is almost certainly a qualitatively better option. On balance, right now, EEA looks a safer option and a more likely outcome but this is damage limitation. I don’t see any smart long game element to it. It just looks like risk management to me.

  41. Completely agree. Since all the possible outcomes are difficult for one group or another to accept a grand old temporary fudge that hardens into orthodoxy faute de mieux is the best and only option.

    Grand compromises are hardly unknown in British history. The Elizabethan Church settlement created the Church of England by somehow managing to reconcile all but the die hard RCs and Prots. In the end …..and it did take a while and a civil war…..everyone decided they could live with it. That’s what will happen to a transition agreement rendered permanent by time.

  42. My father served in Burma under Col Orde Wingate retreating from the Japanese advance. He was bombed several times and recounted how the Japanese used bouncing rubber balls impregnated with phosporous attacking Rangoon. It was an early form of Napalm…
    If the analogy of the Burma campaign is to be used then it must also be remembered that 90% plus of British (UK) troops caught malaria which put them out of action for some time. The retreat was exercised as a scorched earth policy.

    At the end of the war my father also visited a number of German factories and survived several assassination attempts mainly near Berlin despite a cessation of hostilities.

    Similar may happen with Brexit, the UK may retreat and later rejoin, but there will always be some who will never surrender to the ideology behind it. Importantly the so called transition period is badly misunderstood by many. The EU Commission notices (way better than the UK gov ones btw) show how difficult things will become for a vast swathe of industries. One small example would be as an exporter you need not only an EU agent but to transfer your EU approval if required (and it will be for many products, vehicles, electronics etc etc) to an EU test house. If you are a UK estate agent, solicitor it probably will have minimum impact (unless dealing with trans border jurisdictions), regrettably hitting the main UK export industries. I would expect the automotive, pharmaceutical, chemical, space and aerospace industries to almost completely leave. Significant damage has already happened in these sectors – European Medicine Agency loss etc etc.

    In a geopolitical sense and on defence grounds leaving the EU is also a major loss. The Galileo project alone with the military PRS side is far superior to the UK only Skynet. There is not enough bandwith for a UK only system I understand. Then there is the PESCO initiative and rationalising defence expenditure across the EU which the UK could have benefited from. Meanwhile across the Atlantic the US may or may not commit to NATO. Tough when so much military hardware we have is US, F35Bs’ for example. Note the Eurofighter 2 will have no US technology.

    My own position is that I am preparing to leave the UK having worked serving the UK manufacturing sector for over 30 years. There is no future here, and I have failed to get anything of value from my MP on intellectual property, confidentiality agreements with EU nationals, copyright etc etc. If I was under 40 I would have already left, being a lot closer to pension age makes it harder but sometimes things have to be done.

    I would expect the UK to fragment with internal politics, united Ireland, Scotland going independent and the remaining England and Wales eventually, circa 2035 rejoining the EU, much diminished and chastened.

    Right now I would defend the Peoples Vote, as it would at least secure some form of further democratic decision making to the public. The entire 2016 Referendum process has been an abject lesson in how not to do Referendum decision making in a Parliamentary democracy.

  43. You rightly highlight the lack of focus on post 29 March. Interestingly this also seems to apply to EU27. They don’t seem to have decided what they really want long term. As per Ivan Rogers’ Dublin speech. I do think it is shame EU27 didn’t offer olive branch of Efta/EEA reform to nudge UK debate in that direction. It would have saved a lot of time.

    If we had never joined EEC/EU we would have had a more balanced and evolving EEA Agreement. Even if it takes 10 years and a lot of damage that is where we will all end up metinks. Query how close that is to your Association Agreement.

    1. There is no need for an ‘olive branch’ of EFTA/EEA reform not least because EFTA is not an EU institution so they have no power to promise it.

      What EU said on day 1 is “these are the options and these are your red lines”. Everything else follows from the political choice of our elected representatives.

  44. “The UK’s membership will have been 46 years…”.

    Following all this shambles with sadness and astonishment from a safe distance (I hope), one of the things I find missing in the whole debate is accuracy.

    From all the hundreds (thousands?) of posts, twits, declarations, interviews, debates, etc., I read, listen to, DAG is the 1st who seems to be able to do a simple arithmetical calculation and arriving to the right figure: 46 years.

    Great post (not only for the above, of course)!

  45. I understand the logic of this argument and to discharge the mandate of the 2016 referendum would be the least damaging form of brexit. However those committed remainers who will continue to campaign for a referendum on the final deal agreed with the EU and proposed by the government have my support. I am one of them. There appears to be gathering momentum for a referendum that either accepts the deal on offer or to remain in the EU. The government will have discharged it’s duty to negotiate the best form of leaving that is achievable. The electorate are now better informed and can make an informed decision. Crucially those too young to vote in 2016 would be part of the final decision.

  46. The problem, for me, is that I don’t like the idea of the transition period becoming a new status quo. The fundamental issue I have there is that we remain subject to EU regulations but lose the ability to shape them. It’s the exact opposite of democracy. I suspect it’ll be very hard to go back on Brexit after March, and trying to argue in favour of an extended transition period will cause problems.

  47. I’d like to agree with this as a way forward and although I voted remain would be happy with a reasonable compromise outcome. It seems to me though that it does not deal with an issue at the core of the current conundrum: Leave promised, and a large part of the electorate ‘bought’, a Brexit that does not exist (the key features of this Brexit are well known so I won’t repeat). Politicians have made the situation worse by continuing to pretend that this Brexit does in fact exist. These voters will not be happy with a mere satisfaction of the mandate.

    This phantom Brexit has the potential to dominate our politics for a long time – with perhaps disastrous consequences. A second referendum with more of the facts and more certainty on the alternatives – whatever the outcome and however unpleasant – would at least give us a chance to weaken the hold of this illusion.

    1. Absolutely spot on. 100% correct.
      In a difficult situation, always go with the truth, not with the spin.
      Shine a light of openness and honesty, and go for a #peoplesvote.

  48. Good to see a reference to Bill Slim, one of our best military commanders of WW2.
    Let us hope our politicians see sense, and keep us in the EEA.
    Keep up the good work with your excellent blog.

  49. The ERG have committed to not allowing any form of ‘Soft Brexit’. I have no idea if they have the power to stop it – they are small, but they command a lot of voices in the public who think that they are standing up for the ‘Common Man’

    Labour want to use defeating any proposal by May as a way to force a GE, no matter how unlikely them actually succeeding is.

    SNP want to stay in the CU/SM, so won’t support any deal that doesn’t do this, it seems even if it means a Hard Brexit.

    Farage is showboating again, making the vote counters in Labour and Tories scared they will hemorrhage votes, even if the research would show otherwise.

    Pretty much everybody with knowledge is saying any form of leaving would damage the economy.

    What exactly have the Remainers got to lose? Is the social division if there is a 2nd ref more than what will be caused by Brexit? Apparently the government are already looking at the Civil Contingencies Act to maintain control if/when shops run empty.

  50. Any discussion of the UK’s future is completely null and void unless it somehow takes into account the inevitable ruptures that any WA will cause to the union of the UK. Once that is signed, the Conservative and Unionist Party will have inevitably set us on course to the end of the UK.

  51. Gosh, I do hope that the current shower of feckless skin bags we laughingly refer to as our Government decide to pay a moment’s notice to the incredible good sense herein. I wonder if that will happen..? :-(

  52. What we are seeing is brute power play politics, not constitutional or legal finessing. This is the reason why we are trapped in an Article 50 deadline with zero practical ability to decide what form Brexit will take and certainly even to think about a new settlement with 46+ years longevity.

    Therein lies the two psephological truths of Brexit:
    1) During these past 46 years EU membership, opinion polling only gave leave a lead during a ten month window beginning with the referendum result.
    2) Leave squeaked to a miniscule win with a straight yes/no. Ask instead any of these single questions:
    do you want soft Brexit?
    a hard Brexit?
    a no deal Brexit?
    None of these would command more than 30% if you asked that question in 2016 or today.

    This was the great referendum fallacy. You cannot implement leave without specifics. A particular type of Brexit has to be practically implemented and there is nowhere near a majority for any one type of Brexit in either the country or Parliament. Leave without specifics is not an option.

    Meantime, my life will be completely destroyed by a no deal Brexit. I need a remain outcome and like the Russians and Cambridge Analytica which engineered leave, I don’t mind so long as we remain.

    Remainers have far more skin in this game than leavers do.

  53. 1 – Lack of a written UK constitution meant there were no rules other than the assumption of a simple majority to govern the referendum outcome. No (other) mature country would try to implement sweeping constitution change without a supermajority of some kind, for the simple reason that “50%+1” fails both the practical “we was lied to” and “a few of us have changed our minds” tests.
    2 – Brexit will cause substantial damage to the living standards of most Britons, and weaken the nation’s standing in the international community. A large majority of MPs understand this. And yet, they have chosen not to exercise their judgement to steer the executive towards even the least damaging forms of BINO Brexit.
    3 – Serious commentators argue that the Brexit mandate “must be discharged”, further undermining the resolve of the politicians to “do the right thing” for the citizens and country.
    4 – No quarter has been given to minority by the (slim) majority of June 2016. Anyone not born in the UK is delegitimised as a “citizen of nowhere”; the rights of the 3 million European citizens in the UK have been bargained with; constituent nations of the UK which voted Remain ignored – Scotland and NI.
    An important mark of a mature democracy is how it treats its minorities. “Come together and follow me over the cliff …” is all that has been on offer from the central government on this.
    5 – There is no vision for the future of the UK. We have sold the UK, for 40+ years, as “the best entry point to Europe and the EU’s single market”. What’s the new message to the world? “Global Britain” is meaningless. What will convince foreign investors to come to the UK, in the future?

    The UK, by implementing a hard Brexit, demonstrates many characteristics of a failing state: what kind of country has a leader who will implement a policy that knowingly make citizens worse off? what kind of Parliament conspires to facilitate it, rather than change it? what kind of “leading thinkers” will, on the whole, shrug their shoulders to say “we’ll muddle through somehow, and maybe learn something in the process”?

  54. No mention of EFTA? Britain was one of the founding members in 1960. EFTA has a surveillance authority and a Court. EFTA members are able to join the EEA if they choose to do so. Having a ready made Court and surveillance authority would hugely simplify some of the practical border problems come March 2019.
    While the UK is considering EFTA what about joining the Nordic Council? Arguably the UK is a Nordic country, York/Jarvik in place names as an example, and the days of our week being named for Thor, Odin, Freya etc. William I (the Conqueror) was sort of a Viking.
    I can even think of a pithy slogan to sell re-joining EFTA and joining the Nordic Council to the Leavers = “Make Britain Viking again!”

  55. Thinking about it some more, while the article is good, I can’t help but think you’re underestimating just how bad Brexit is going to be when weighing up whether or not its worth fighting for a second referendum.

    1. Concern about democratic legitimacy of a 2nd referendum? Yes, but the Brexit we’re going to get isn’t legitimate: referendum was all lies (and any truth was dismissed as Project Fear: another lie); Russian interference (and if people start pulling on that thread I have a feeling the story is only going to get worse); no mandate for the type of Brexit we get (whether hard or Norway+, not something that was deliberately voted for by a majority); being pushed through by a minority Tory government who bribed the DUP extremists for support; electorate that voted for Brexit not being the same as the one living with the reality (old voters die and young voters are then stuck with lifetime consequences of their selfish decisions)… no doubt I could go on.

    2. Concern about divisiveness? Have a feeling that divisiveness of Brexit is going to be much much worse than any second referendum as Remainers blame Brexiters for the damage done to them and their families, and Brexiters search around for scapegoats… only silver lining might be some Mussolini-style justice for Bojo & co (sounds a bit crazy I know but they live in London: not hard to pop along to Islington and slit Bojo’s throat if your child died due to lack of medicine caused by Brexit) but more likely they’ll be sitting pretty and it’ll be another Pole being killed by a mob or an “enemy of the people” Remainer MP being shot and stabbed.

    3. But there’s not enough time? I think its pretty reasonable to assume that if the UK was seen as being serious about carrying out a second referendum then the EU would be willing to extend the deadline. Also, if you’re worried about having enough time to do something, have you considered the amount that needs to be done by the public and private sector to prepare for Brexit? The UK is appallingly unprepared.

    4. But there’s too much legislation that needs to be passed? Really? Compared to what needs to be done to deliver Brexit??

    5. I feel like I could go on and on (as will anyone who’s bothered reading my little screed), but then there’s all the irreversible damage that’s going to be inflicted by Brexit: economic damage obviously, but its not hard to think of scenarios where the UK splits apart as a result of Brexit… the vast majority of this gets avoided completely by a second referendum, while even the best Brexit scenario is going to be an exercise in damage limitation.

    So while I agree with your argument that we need to argue for the least damaging Brexit possible, I disagree that this shouldn’t also mean arguing for a referendum, especially as the two arguments can be combined: “If you want a more extreme form of Brexit then you do not have a democratic mandate based on the first referendum (52:48 with promises of retaining single market access and various undeliverable lies) and therefore need to go back to the people, and if you are afraid to go back to the people you should therefore be pursuing as soft a Brexit as possible”.

    All that said, given the current crop of politicians on both sides the only thing I have confidence in is that Brexit is going to be bad for Britain… and that plenty of people will be cursing the fact that we didn’t carry out a second referendum for years to come.

  56. There will be another EU referendum at some point, but maybe not soon. The EU is not going anywhere, nor are the advantages of being an EU citizen. The internet generation is always going to be painfully aware of what they are missing out on, due to, well, the internet.

    The Brexit project was started far too late to have any longevity. The idea of a connected world is already far too ingrained in the psyches of young(ish) people such as myself.

  57. I have thought for a while that the whole thing is something like a flu- for all the talk we need to experience it before people will have anything to finally say- or perhaps develop some sort of immunity. A Norway arrangement is probably where the UK should have been all along given its historical difficulties with mainland Europe and I still suspect that is where we may end up in the future at some point- after other theories have been tested to destruction.

  58. It’s easy to conclude that leaving the EU is a serious mistake. I for one find it much more difficult, on the assumption that we are probably going to have to leave next March, to reach a view on what kind of Brexit will do least harm. All the options are very unattractive for one reason or another. I have a sneaking suspicion that the one that is worst in the short term may be the least damaging in the long term.

  59. How will Brexit be resolved?
    by D Howard

    Can you imagine 21 million heavy duty vehicles trucks and lorries a year crossing the English channel back and forth being stopped and searched? Can you imagine white people being stopped by police and asked for documents? We do not even do that to people who look foreign when one in two in the East End of London are with no UK passport or are with a forged UK passport? We live in a society of no documents where you can buy a house without showing a document (or could do that until a decade or two ago). Can you see the police questioning white people who sound foreign? some will be legal some will not, depending on when they arrived in the UK from Europe? Nobody will do anything.

    For example six years ago I had a dispute with my neighbour as they had a barking dog and we complained and they complained at us. The police came home and noticing my wife was Bulgarian and I had “an accent” (these ignorant Brits think I have an accent because I do not have a regional accent, I have a British birth certificate!) they asked us both where we were born or what was our status, we said we were both British citizens – we both are – and they took our word for it without checking any papers!

    So in essence it makes absolutely no difference what is agreed on Brexit. Tariffs or not, hard or soft Brexit. The only things that will change are: (a) the UK police and authorities will have the PREROGATIVE to expel, deport, stop, turn back somebody or something (goods); (b) while citizens behave they will remain but if they misbehave and are stopped by police for any crime then they will get deported; (c) people will not get work permits easily but if the government of the day is liberal they will issue such work permits; (d) it will get slightly more inconvenient to visit Europe or to buy property there or to work there because we will have our passports stamped or work permits agreed to on a temporary basis and vice-versa.

    1. It might be salutary to read an excerpt from Wikepedia’s entry on the Pelješac Bridge to be built under a £¼bl tender in order to bypass a mere 20km of Bosnia-Herzegovin territory: “All traffic passing through the Neum corridor has to undergo border checks on goods and persons. Therefore, people travelling from the Dubrovnik exclave to mainland Croatia must currently pass through two border checks in the space of 20 kilometres. Should Croatia join the Schengen Area in future (which it is bound to do in accordance with the conditions of its accession to the European Union), checks would be considerably more stringent and time-consuming, as the Schengen Borders Code requires checks not only when entering the Schengen area, but also when exiting it. Thus, someone travelling from Dubrovnik to mainland Croatia would undergo three distinct border checks: a Croatian (Schengen) exit check, a Bosnia-Herzegovina entry check, and a Croatian (Schengen) entry check. While Bosnia-Herzegovina’s border checks for European passport holders at tourist locations are usually quick visual checks to verify that the passport photograph matches the individual presenting the passport and that the passport has not expired, Schengen checks now involve scanning all passports (even those of citizens with a right to unrestricted EU-wide free movement) against various databases, which can take up to 30 seconds per individual. Thus, as an example, a car containing four people could be stopped for two minutes at each Schengen/Croatian border. In the summer tourist season, such a prospect would lead to unsustainable border delays and require an urgent solution, such as a bridge bypassing Neum and remaining in Croatia.”

  60. This is something which has been puzzling me – I’m not a lawyer so i don’t know the ins and outs, but anyway — suppose for the sake of argument the UK govt agreed to have NI in the CU and SM but not the rest of the UK, the so-called “border in the Irish Sea”. I am a UK citizen, and unfortunately although i do have Irish ancestry it’s too distant to get an Irish passport (I’ve looked into that). But as a UK citizen I’d be entitled to live in NI, so I’d then be living in the SM and CU, subject to their conditions, so surely I should still be able to exercise free movement by virtue of being in the SM? And even if what NI has is actually “regulatory alignment” rather than being in the SM and CU sensu strictu, doesn’t that alignment still have to allow free movement?

  61. I think I agree with a lot of the previous comments. From my perspective, I think one thing I would add is that it has long seemed to me that lot of the most extreme leavers were developing a myth of betrayal almost from the moment the referendum result was announced. I think that is where a lot of the venom of the attacks on the judiciary, civil servants, media (or, indeed the Prime Minister) and so on as traitors and enemies of the people stems from.

    As this already a sunk cost to some extent, it seems wholly improbable to me that what David Henig calls a Cryonic Brexit would do anything other than reinforce it; offered a poor outcome people are always more likely to double down on their core beliefs rather than accept there were any flaws in their own thinking. In that instance, they will believe that the establishment has maliciously stolen their Brexit from them, rather than the simple truth that the government has been flailing to convert fantastical nonsense into policy. This is especially as it is clear that if May can create a deal for the UK to ratify it will not bear any vestigial resemblance to the assorted flavours of Unicorn that voters were promised. In any such scenario, the Leavers will just get more and more like Monty Python’s Black Knight; threatening to bite people’s legs off / demanding a no deal Brexit even after they have lost all their limbs and are haemorrhaging blood.

    In short, I am not really sure it would make that much difference to be honest and accept that the referendum result was, in the words of Anna Soubry, un-deliverable,.

    Even if there were No Deal, I am not clear it would change this picture; many voters would simply blame the EU rather than concluding that they had accepted an entirely false prospectus – note the outrage of some Brexiters that initial details of the government’s no-deal planning actually made it sound like it might be a bad thing. Certainly, instead of it being the magic Gordian knot many Leavers seem to believe, any government under those conditions would be forced to agree fairly punitive terms in order to mitigate what would otherwise be a fairly devastating set of outcomes.

    Sorry. Optimism is hard to come by these days.

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