Friday 4 October 2019

The collapse of British politics


From Pete North's blog today. It sounds like the sort of thing Maurice Cowling might have written.

'Over the last two decades especially, the main parties have sought to bury the EU issue refusing even to debate it. that proved easy for Labour in that it has always been a matter of little interest to them. The EU has served them well by way of handling the detailed business of statecraft so they can concentrate their attention on health and welfare. Statecraft and external affairs is a bit too grown up for them.

'....If anything has kept the eurosceptic cause alive it is the establishment europhile consensus which sought not only to take us deeper into the project but also to prevent the issue from being debated and to deny the public anything like a meaningful say. The eurosceptic voice was loud but barely represented in parliament. 

'....What we see now, therefore, is not a dispute over the direction of Brexit. Rather it is a tribal realignment. Virtually nobody in mainstream politics is thinking about a viable definition for Brexit and is only thinking as far as the next imminent general election. The EU and Brexit is only a proxy issue that decides which side of the culture wars you're on.

'It is interesting that the Tory party seems to be falling into line over Johnson's latest Brexit proposal even though on balance it's even more of a dog's dinner than May's withdrawal agreement. One suspects the issue is less to do with the actual content of the deal as the fact it was negotiated by Theresa May who is widely regarded as a closet remainer and part of the establishment old guard. Had Johnson won the leadership the first time around and produced the same deal (give or take) as May then it's probably we would already have left the EU.

'But of course the deal would have been different under those circumstances in that there would never have been the need to appease the DUP thanks to a borked election. So much of Brexit is decided not on the balance of argument but on the basis of tribal assumptions in their electoral triangulation. Anyone who's examined the issues in any seriousness has concluded that the EEA Efta option is the most pragmatic and least risky option but Labour is too afraid to confront the freedom of movement issue (even though there are workarounds) while the Tories have to pander to their ideological base who buy into the obsolete deregulation narrative.'

There is a lot of truth in what he says, but I think that had Boris become Prime Minister in 2016 and had the manliness not to permit "sequencing" (settling the divorce settlement before discussing free trade) he could have got a much better deal. Norway option without free movement, for example? Canadian deal? But that was then and this is now.


  1. 'Johnson's latest Brexit proposal... it's even more of a dog's dinner than May's withdrawal agreement'

    Not so fast:

    Steve Baker, who chairs the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiteers and voted against Theresa May's EU deal three times, said Mr Johnson's fresh plan had ditched the "worst feature" of his predecessor's proposals.

    "This is a very dramatic change of destination," Mr Baker told BBC Newsnight. "So Theresa May's deal is about a high-alignment model in a single customs territory with high regulatory alignment for the whole UK.

    "Boris Johnson's model is about special treatment for Northern Ireland and a free trade agreement as a destination, which is of course what the EU offered us.

    "So if you look at the destination and the overall pattern it's a dramatic shift."

    The supportive comments from the ERG chairman - who quit Theresa May's government in protest at her Brexit stance - comes after the DUP also rowed in behind the proposal, a move that could shore up support among Tory Brexiteers.

    DUP Leader Arlene Foster described Mr Johnson's plan as a "serious and sensible way forward" which "allows the people of Northern Ireland a role which they didn't have".

    In a further boost for Mr Johnson, Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth and Gareth Snell also said they were willing to back the proposals if they came to a Commons vote.

  2. The three features I like most about the UK proposals are:

    1. The whole UK leaves the Customs Union.
    2. Great Britain leaves the single market.
    3. Northern Ireland leaves the single market unless Stormont meets to vote to stay in.

    John Redwood

  3. The EU and Brexit is only a proxy issue that decides which side of the culture wars you're on.

    That does seem to be the case.