Brexit crumbles

Malcolm Potter-Brown

Auksford arms: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"

Auksford, 2018

Copyright: Malcolm Potter-Brown, 2018

Notwithstanding the provisions listed in Copyright and Concessions
during the course of the Brexit negotiations anyone may quote this article,
in full or in part, in support of the campaign for a people's vote
or in support of remaining in the EU.

    It was Boris Johnson, speaking of the current stage of the Brexit negotiations, who said, “I think what is happening now is alas not what people were promised in 2016”.
    For once Boris the Liar has told the truth, though probably unintentionally.  What he and his fellow Brexiteers promised the British people in 2016 was a golden age of prosperity.  We would save £350,000,000 per week by no longer contributing to the EU, and the rest of the world would be queuing up to make trade deals with us on our own terms.  It was a total fantasy and the Remain side, originally too confident of victory to make much effort, could only reply with incompetently vague forebodings of disaster, which it was only too easy for the Brexiteers to characterise as Project Fear.
    Since then much that was never mentioned, and in some cases never even thought of, has come to light.
    As I pointed out in the first of these essays on Brexit, our net contribution to the EU is not £350 million per week, but, after rebates and grants are taken into consideration, only £136 million, which is far outweighed by the additional prosperity of belonging to a major trading block with 47% of UK exports going to the EU and only 7% of EU exports coming here.
    I have also previously pointed out that English was well on the way to becoming the dominant language in Europe, and that London would have been the financial capital.  After Brexit the financial capital will be Frankfurt, which will result not only in increasing German financial dominance of the EU, but also in massive loss of income to the UK.
    As time has passed it has become ever more apparent that the EU is not simply going to roll over and give us everything we want in the negotiations and allow us to cherry-pick those parts of the free-trade agreement that are advantageous to us and reject everything we don’t like.  That that might happen is again part of the fantasy of the Brexiteers, who seem to live in a fairy-tale cloud-cuckoo land.
    The disadvantage to British academic life rapidly became obvious, and it is no coincidence that universities tended to vote remain.  Not only will it be much harder to recruit and retain the best academics from Europe, but co-operative research projects will be jeopardised. Collaboration in major scientific and technological research projects will be ended.  Twenty-nine Nobel Laureates have written to the Prime Minister to point this out, among them the Director of the Francis Crick Institute, the world leader in biomedical research.  It will lose EU funding, and though the Government has promised short-term funding to cover the loss, major research projects cannot be undertaken if there is no guarantee that money will be available to carry them through.  78% of the Crick’s European researchers will leave, 51% of the total staff.  Brexit is causing chaos.  Together Britain and Europe are in the forefront of development.  Europe may have the resources to maintain a prominent position.  Britain, alone, will not.
    The NHS will be badly affected.  It is not only at consultant level that the effects will be felt.  In the hospitals run by Oxford University Hospitals trust, for example, 61% of nursing staff come from Europe, there is a high staff turnover, and the inability to recruit replacements will have a deleterious effect on patient care.  In addition hospitals all over the country rely on East Europeans for cleaning and ancillary services.  Shortages of drugs may mean that it will be necessary for pharmacists to be given the authority to substitute different medicines without reference to the prescribing doctors as GP surgeries would not be able to cope with the volume of substitutions necessary if there is a hard Brexit.
    Industry will be disrupted as supply chains are broken.  The motor industry, for example, which relies on transferring components between one factory and another just as they are needed, will find supplies interrupted by customs barriers, leading either to the construction of massive warehouses at great expense or the temporary layoff of workers and the introduction of short-time working, leading inevitably to falling profits and the possible closures of British factories.
    This disruption affects not only major industries but permeates the whole of our commercial life, as can be seen in the case of a florist who does not know whether her business can survive Brexit and is currently unable to quote for weddings taking place in 2019 because she cannot be sure of supplies from the Netherlands.
    The Government, despite its reassuring words, is afraid of the disruption.  The M20 to Dover is to be turned into a giant lorry-park, and preparations are being made to charter ships to bring imports to other ports to avoid shortages caused by the delays, even though Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has not, as he admits, fully understood the importance of the Dover route.  The Dover-Calais route is by far the most important for goods vehicles with 1,905,000 units passing through in 2016, with Dover-Dunkirk in second place, with 690,000 units.  Next comes Holyhead-Dublin with 299,000 units.  As the Shadow Brexit Secretary said, “How are we meant to trust this government to deliver a good deal for this country when we have a Brexit Secretary who doesn’t even understand the very basics of Brexit?”
    It is not only the queuing of goods that will affect efficiency.  The National Audit Office has warned that any company that trades with, imports from or exports to Europe will have to fill in customs declaration, even if their goods are tariff-free, leading to additional inconvenience and expense.
    Security is also affected.  The police and security services will no longer have access to Europol records and the military will be excluded from use of the European satellite services, to which Britain has been a contributor.
    No-one appears to have realised the problems that would arise on the Irish border if the customs union is abandoned.  Britain cannot accept that a part of the UK should be part of the EU customs union and split from the rest of the country with a customs barrier through the Irish Sea.  The EU cannot accept that Northern Ireland could have open borders with both the UK and the EU if Britain is outside the EU customs union because it would mean surrendering control of its borders.  If there is a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic it is more than likely that Sinn Fein IRA would use its existence as an excuse to restart the Troubles.  After all Sinn Fein MPs elected to Westminster seats always refuse to take them, and the party has brought about the suspension of the power-sharing assembly at Stormont, probably to force the British Government to reintroduce direct rule from Westminster so that a “splinter-group” can have an excuse undertake terrorist activities.
    What of the rest of the world?  Are they queuing up to do business with us?  Will the United States give us trade agreements on whatever terms we propose?
    Have the Brexiteers forgotten the repeated promises of Donald Trump: “America first!”?  Can’t they see from his actions that this President is a man who believes in trade wars because he believes America will always win, a man who is even prepared to take on a super-power economy like China?  Have they forgotten how American firms have taken over British companies, made promises to keep them going, then closed them?  Have they forgotten how rationing became worse after the war as America, which had already profited forced Britain to repay its aid?  Do they not know how the USA schemed and plotted to undermine the British Empire and replace it with its own imperial influence?  Do they want American chickens washed with chemicals, American meat laced with antibiotics, American food prepared to lower standards than those we have been used to as members of the EU?  Do they not know about the contaminated blood scandal when the USA exported to the UK blood taken from prisoners and drug addicts, resulting in the infection of British citizens with hepatitis and other diseases?  Do they want the “Special Relationship” to become entirely what America wants it to be, with Britain as a satellite or colony, to be exploited as a dumping ground for unwanted produce and used as a cat’s-paw to assist in American aggression?
    The Brexiteers will point to India and Pakistan.  They will trade with us, won’t they?  Yes, of course they will, but their governments have already made it clear that this will be only on condition that all Indian and Pakistani citizens will have the right to free access to the UK without visas.  So instead of offering open borders to about 452,000,000 people, most of whom would prefer to stay in their own prosperous countries, while others are prepared to come over for short-term work and intend to return home, we would allow the uncontrolled immigration of 1,342,512,706 Indians, 200,813,818 Pakistanis and 166,368,149 people from Bangladesh.  The Brexiteers promised to take back control of immigration, instead they would appear to be prepared to replace freedom of access for 452 million with freedom of access for 1,710 million.
    Hardly what was promised, especially when you consider that the Europeans to whom the xenophobes so greatly object share the same Graeco-Roman-Judaeo-Christian-Renaissance-Enlightenment-democratic culture as the British, while those from other parts of the world come from a very different background, often shockingly different, as for example in the acceptance of so-called “honour-killings” in which a young woman can be murdered by her father or brothers for daring to marry a man of her choice rather than one imposed on her by her family, or the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian who was attacked by a gang of Muslim women who claimed that a Christian who drank from the same well as Muslims polluted it and attacked her Christianity.   When she tried to defend her religion she was charged with blasphemy against the Prophet, and condemned to death.  She was in prison on death row for nine years, including eight in solitary confinement before the Supreme Court overturned her conviction, but even now it will not be safe for her to stay in a country where there is such irrational hatred that a prominent politician who spoke in her defence was murdered, and where violent extremist mobs have rioted and forced the government to prevent her leaving Pakistan while they attempt to overthrow the verdict of the Supreme Court and have her put to death.
    What was promised was control of immigration, by which was meant “keep the foreigners out”, and a golden age of prosperity in which would-be trading partners across the world would kow-tow to the UK and beg to be allowed to trade with us on whatever terms we choose.  What we are likely to get is further loss of control of immigration as we desperately try to replace our European trade by attracting other partners, a general decline in economic prosperity, continuation of the decline in the value of the pound, and more expensive imports, including rises in the price of food.  This is not at all what was promised, and as the politicians seem more intent on their own squabbles than in working together for the good of the country, we need another referendum, one in which the options put to the people are (1) hard Brexit and loss of our trade with Europe, (2) soft Brexit in which we remain within the customs union but without a vote, or (3) exit from Brexit, in which we remain full members of the EU and fully able to influence its policy.
    The likely effects of a hard Brexit are not difficult to understand.  47% of our exports currently go to Europe, only 7% of exports from the other EU members come here.  At present we are members of an economic bloc with a population of 512.6 million with a gross domestic product of $19.7 trillion.  The population of the UK is 66.5 million, and its GDP is $2.9 trillion (the 2nd largest after Germany).  While the loss of its second largest economy will be damaging to the EU, the effects of leaving will be far greater on the UK, and it is obvious from these figures that the idea that the UK can impose its will on the EU, as the hard Brexiteers insist, is nothing more than a wishful fantasy.
    A soft Brexit, with the UK remaining in some form of customs union for some further period, as envisaged by Theresa May, merely postpones difficulties like the position of Northern Ireland, it does not solve them.  Furthermore, as the hard Brexiteers repeatedly point out with perfect truth, it leaves the UK in the position of having to follow EU rules without any right to vote on them.
    It is possible that some of the soft Brexiteers may have chosen this option in the hope that at some time in the future the Government may realise the advantages it has lost and seek to re-enter full membership of the EU.  This is a forlorn hope.  The EU would inevitably wish to ensure that the position of being in but not fully in would come to an end.  Fresh negotiations would lose us the rebate we enjoy and impose membership of the Schengen open-borders agreement, while our participation in the various scientific and technological projects, in which the EU is a world leader, would have to be built up again from zero – and there is always the possibility that the other members would simply refuse our application.
    We have not yet left the EU.  It remains open to the UK to rescind its application to leave and continue as a full member, able to influence the future development of Europe – the UK economy is, of course, the second largest in the EU and London is currently the main financial centre.  We would continue to enjoy the advantages of belonging to one of the biggest economic blocs in the world, with free movement of goods and component parts uninterrupted by customs barriers.  The threat of short-term working and layoffs would recede.  International companies would no longer feel obliged to move their operations to the continent, so jobs would be saved.    Medicines, threatened by interruption of supplies, would continue to be available.  British travellers in Europe would continue to receive free medical treatment with their EHIC cards, and would travel about easily as they do at present.  UK participation in CERN, the European space programme, the Airbus programme, scientific and technological research and development of all kinds, Europol and joint security operations would continue uninterrupted.  The question of the Irish border would be settled, and the possibility of Scotland making another bid for secession in order to stay in the EU would recede.
    The 2016 referendum, which was described beforehand as merely advisory but is now regarded by Government Ministers as definitive, resulted in a very narrow victory for the leave campaign.  The figures are: Leave 17,410,742, Remain 16,141,241, Abstain 12,922,659, Invalid or spoiled vote 25,359.  The gap between Leavers and Remainers was 1, 269,501 and the total number of eligible voters was 46,500,001.  Expressed as percentages of the total this comes to: Leavers 37.44%, Remainers 34.71%, Abstainers 27.79% and invalid votes 0.0005%, with the Leavers having won by a mere 2.7%  
    Analysis of voting patterns indicates that Leave voters tended to be older and less well educated than Remainers.  
    It is likely that many of those who did not bother to vote were younger people to whom the advantages of membership seemed so self-evident that they thought there was no need for them to bother to vote.  It is also clear that many of those who voted Leave were not concerned at all with EU membership, did not believe that Leave would win, but cast their votes simply to give Westminster politicians, who at that stage generally favoured remaining, a kick in the pants.
    The people of Britain had suffered several years of austerity, for which many blamed the Government, without considering that austerity was a necessary evil needed to overcome the effects of the financial crisis, which was not the fault of the UK Government or of the EU but stemmed from the sub-prime jiggery-pokery by which American banks sought to protect themselves from their own financial incompetence by selling on disguised bad debts across the world.  The rescue of the banking system, vital for the continuance of financial stability, appeared to many as the rescue of one lot of wealthy parasites by another.
    Westminster politicians are seen as a separate class from the people they allegedly represent.  They spent their time at University as activists in the Conservative Association or the Labour Club, they ensure that their names are known to existing politicians, on graduating they get jobs with political parties and move up through the network until they become candidates for Parliament.  Many of them spend their whole lives in politics and never do a real job at all, although they may be offered directorships by their well-heeled friends.  They are seen as a privileged elite, and it is not many years ago that they were embroiled in an expenses scandal in which a surprising number had misused the allowances for second homes to obtain for themselves totally illegitimate perks on a vast scale.
    The referendum offered an easy way to register disapproval. Government ministers, most of whom were not in any way guilty of the expenses swindles, were known to favour Remain, for David Cameron hoped to use the referendum to curb the Tory backwoodsmen.  If the politicians favoured remain, what better way to kick them in the teeth than to vote Leave.  Leave was unlikely to win, but a close vote might send shivers down ministerial spines.
    Well, that worked well, didn’t it?  Cameron, the acceptable face of Conservatism resigned, and Osborne, who had overseen the slow recovery from the financial crisis, was kicked out.  Instead we got as Prime Minister Theresa May, the Home Secretary who had created a climate of hostility to migrants such that the British descendants of the Windrush generation found themselves in danger of being exiled to the Caribbean.
    Out of the backwoods crawled Jacob Rees-Mogg, the caricature of a patrician politician.  David Davis became prominent as Brexit secretary. The slimy Gove’s opinions dominated the discussions, and worst of all, there was Boris the Liar who was given one of the great offices of state as Foreign Secretary.  There his carefully nurtured image as an eccentric English gentleman crumbled and he was revealed as foul-mouthed and incompetent.
    Even this, though, was not the real Boris: a ruthlessly ambitious, self-seeking schemer determined to be Prime Minister, and one who does not care what damage he inflicts on the country in achieving his ambition.  The Brexit vote has delivered the country into the hands of a gang of backwoodsmen who should have been consigned to the dustbin of history, men who consider Theresa May’s increasingly unsuccessful attempts to avoid the unmitigated disaster of a hard Brexit as ‘appeasement’, showing that they live in a kind of imaginary rose-tinted Second World War world era and long to get back to ‘our finest hour’ when Britain stood alone against the world and was completely united in patriotic purpose – as long as we forget the spivs and the war-profiteers, and the starvation, destruction and mass slaughter of the war – oh, happy days!
    Do you suppose the Labour Party will perform any better?  It is true that some of its members, like some Tories, would prefer to remain in the EU; it is also true that many of its members are concerned that a hard Brexit will adversely affect their working class voters, who are indeed likely to be much worse off; but the position of the leadership is that the party should oppose any agreement achieved by Mrs May, risking thereby a hard Brexit, in order to force a general election.
    Both main parties are concerned only with power, keeping it or getting it, not about the welfare of the people of this country.  As soon as the referendum result was announced it was clear that our beloved politicians had only one though in their minds, how this would affect their careers, and only one strategy, to find some semblance of party unity and hang on to their seats.   For the conservatives the mantra was: “Brexit means Brexit, the people have spoken”, and for Labour the aim was to bring about a general election as soon as possible.  Neither is willing to grant another referendum when more of the facts are known, despite the increasingly obvious chaos and confusion caused by Brexit, including insoluble problems like the Irish border question – and  this, despite that fact that the referendum was won by a campaign of lies and xenophobic propaganda and then only by the narrowest of majorities.
    The narrowness of that majority is perhaps surprising given the campaign of xenophobic nastiness carried out by the popular press.  Their aim, of course, was to increase circulation and profits by inventing an imaginary enemy who could be blamed for everything that went wrong and against whom we could all unite.  It is exactly the same technique that Hitler and the Nazis used to consolidate their power.  They chose the Jews, our newspaper proprietors chose the EU.  They whipped up hatred to such an extent that, after the referendum, their more loutish readers went out to beat up innocent workers merely because they came from Poland.  The editors of The Sun, The Express and the Daily Mail should all have this on their consciences, if consciences they have, and also the murder of Jo Cox, MP, for though her murderer was a deranged nutter, it was the campaign of hatred stirred up by the press that provided the climate in which he thought he could act.
    The Daily Telegraph was also part of this xenophobic, anti-European campaign, to such an extent that its news pages ignored the more balanced assessments in its financial pages and continued to spew out bitter bile.  One might even wonder if the editor of the Telegraph might be a Russian agent, for the person who has most to gain from the weakening of the European Union is Vladimir Putin with his unconcealed ambitions to re-establish the Soviet empire.  The possible disintegration of the United Kingdom would be a further bonus for him, for it is surely no coincidence that Alex Salmond, who tried so determinedly to split the Union, expressed admiration for Putin and is now working for a Russian television station RT, formerly Russia today.
    It was, of course, the Daily Telegraph that advised its Tory readers to take out cheap membership of the Labour Party and vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader, assuring them that this would make Labour unelectable for the foreseeable future.  Had the editor really forgotten the role of tribalism in British politics, the died-in-the-wool Tories who always vote conservative because their forefathers were conservatives ever since 1688, and the died-in-the-wool socialists who always vote Labour because Labour is the party of the working class?  The latter will vote Labour no matter who is in charge, after all they even voted for Robert Maxwell who was Labour MP for Buckingham from 1964-70, although no-one was more eager to grind the faces of the poor into the earth than that swindling conman.
    Had the editor simply forgotten that many students and other young people will automatically vote for the most left-wing candidate available, and that many of the policies Corbyn would put forward would sound attractive in themselves and would gather him votes from a generation too young even to remember the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by those he calls friends?  They know that a pop-concert in Manchester was attacked by a jihadist, but they don’t remember the many similar attacks on innocent people carried out by the IRA.  Corbyn was a supporter, even meeting them within three weeks of their attack on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the Brighton bombing in October 1984 and was involved in over 70 Sinn-Fein/IRA events during their terror campaign.  He also supported the campaign to overthrow the conviction of Arab terrorists who bombed the Israeli embassy in London, and he is a supporter of organisations like Hamas that want to wipe Israel off the map.
    So, thanks in part to the activities of the editor of the Daily Telegraph we may be faced at the next election with a choice between Boris the Liar, who doesn’t care what happens to Britain as long as he gets the top job, and Jeremy the immature student revolutionary, who would probably abolish our nuclear deterrent at a time when Putin and Trump are strengthening theirs, and hope that they, together with France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea, would all follow his example.
    There are many dubious features in the way the Brexit vote was achieved, including illegitimate overspending by Arron Banks and the misuse of personal data held by his companies to target propaganda.  It is also suspected that his campaign was financed by Russia, which, according to law, should make the referendum result null and void.
    In the meantime we are faced with Brexit.  Mrs May has assured us that Brexit means Brexit, but it is only now, in the later stages of the negotiations, that we are actually finding out just what it does mean.  How can any politician with pretensions to democratic values claim that it would be undemocratic to consult the people on the results of the Brexit negotiations?  What sort of twisted logic could possibly come to that conclusion when it is obvious that the results of leaving the EU are only now becoming apparent?
    It is the logic of politicians who care more for their own parties and their own careers than for the democracy they claim to love.  Conservatives want to hold on to power, Labour wants to achieve power.  The old gang is still in charge.
    If you want a say in what our relationship to Europe should be, and particularly if you want Britain to have the advantage of belonging to the EU, you should demand a new referendum, a referendum that takes account of the realities of the situation now that they have become apparent, and which should include the option to abandon Article 50 and stay in the Union.
    If an election comes and you want to stay in the EU, or if you want to give the old guard a good kicking, then the time has come to abandon the tribal politics that have kept the political class in power for so long, whether Conservative or Labour and no matter how incompetent.  Don’t vote Conservative because that is what your father voted.  Don’t vote Labour because you joined the Labour Club at University and have been told that Labour is the party of the people.  Kick them all out, but without jeopardising the good of the country, and vote LibDem for a change.
    If you voted Leave just to show the Westminster elite that you were tired of them, look and see how the Westminster backwoodsmen have used your vote to consolidate their power to the detriment of the UK.  Demand a referendum on the new realities that have only become apparent during the negotiations, a referendum with the option to stay in the EU and, if there is a general election, vote LibDem.  Kick out the backwoodsmen who have become the ruling elite and preserve the prosperity of the UK and your own standards of living.
    Exit from Brexit!

Notwithstanding the provisions listed in Copyright and Concessions during the course of the Brexit negotiations anyone may quote this article, in full or in part, in support of the campaign for a people's vote or in support of remaining in the EU.

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