THE BREXIT FILES:
A CHRONICLE OF DESPAIR
It’s polling day in the UK. The EU Referendum will be decided. I have been posting about this since early May on Facebook and have gathered all of my posts here as a historical record of one person’s despair at the most cynical, stupid piece of politics in my six decades on earth. Think of them as a message in a bottle and if these words find their way to you please share them with others.
#EUreferendum pt. 1 Apparently there are a lot of EU referendum rallies going on around the country. A couple of my colleagues are all for Brexit: suggest they attend a pro-Brexit rally, look at who they are making common cause with, and ask if there is something wrong in my reasoning that I am on the same side of the fence as these Kipper/LittleEnglander/anti-immigrant/everythingindailylifeIabhor people
#EUreferendum pt 2: There is a democratic deficit in some aspects of EU’s construction, although most of it is inbuilt to accommodate the democratic mandates of individual member states. So not so terribly undemocratic … but still a deficit.
But let’s compare that democratic deficit to the one in Westminster. A year ago the Tories got 36.7% of the vote, owing to the vagaries of the British system, this turned into a 12 vote commons majority. In and of itself those two numbers define democratic deficit infinitely greater than anything out of EU. Cameron & Osborne have used this anomaly to accelerate their dismantling of the NHS (just one example). No single action of Brussels has had as disruptive an effect on British life as what the Tories are doing to the NHS. If Brexit campaigners are really concerned about overweening power they should be working on British electoral/constitutional reform before worrrying about EU. But you know, I know and even they know: this is about keeping Wogs out and consolidating the stranglehold southern Tories have on British politics and society.
#EUreferendum pt. 3 Boris the Pimp Johnson leads Leave campaign. Brussels is constantly overreaching itself in an undemocratic fashion, makes rules as it goes along, he claims. As Mayor of London how many building development projects did he “call in” after councils had rejected planning permission? How many did he greenlight so that the skyline of London looks like a psychotic off his meds nightmare? Did Boris override local democratically elected representatives when he gave the greenlight to those projects? You bet. Brussels has done nothing comparable to effect London life.
Want to fight the democratic deficit? Don’t go off shore. A new constitutional settlement begins at home.
#EUreferendum pt. 4: It is time to remember the origins of this fiasco of a referendum. In 2013, with the Conservative Party in revolt over a range of issues related to the coalition plus the traditional ones related to Britain’s EU membership, the same issues that ruined John Major’s premiership and did for St. Margaret Hilda, Cameron said that should he win an outright majority in 2015 there would be a referendum. It was doubtless seen in Downing Street as an easy promise, not a hostage to fortune, because no one expected to win a majority in 2015 (no Tory expected to win one until 21:58 on May 7 2015 when the exit polls began to circulate). In 2015 when the negotiations began, the EU was grappling with the fallout from 90 days of hell: the resurgence of the Greek crisis and the unimaginable metastasizing of the migration crisis on its southern borders, this increased during the summer on the eastern border as a million refugees from Syria and Iraq headed through Greece and the Balkans to Europe.
Against this background, of genuine crisis, Cameron set out to renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership. He created a problem for his partners out of his own act of domestic political expediency (or should I say, idiocy) — and he received the short shrift he deserved.
So we have the referendum.
Brexiteers have their cake and eat it by mocking David Cameron for his failed “negotiations” and being outraged at German arrogance towards Britain in not giving the PM the pitiful amount he demanded. But they know that the situation was akin to going over to a neighbour who you think owes you five quid from a restaurant bill you split the other week when you went out for Sunday lunch with your families. Why you didn’t bring it up at the time is anyone’s guess but perhaps your spouse has been badgering you to get that five quid back.
Arriving at your neighbour’s house you see it is on fire and his children are screaming that their cat is still inside and the fire brigade are battering down the doors and it looks like the house will be a write-off. would you choose that moment to say, “See here, Nigel, you owe me five pounds from that lunch bill last Sunday?”
You wouldn’t. But Cameron did.
If you were a real leader you wouldn’t have been railroaded by the likes of Rees-Mogg the 2nd into calling the damned thing in the first place. But Cameron did.
#EUReferendum pt. 5a I think Brexit campaigners are in panic mode already. They’ve gone full Hitler more than a month before the vote. I always knew that Hitler would enter into it but I figured that would be something for mid-June, when it would still be rippling in undecided voters consciousness as they walk into the polling booth. But by unloading that nonsense now, Rationality will have time to assert itself over Fear.
#EUreferendum pt 5b: SOVEREIGNTY!!!!!!!!! that’s the Brexiteers unchallenged battle cry. But every EU crisis is caused by RESPECT for sovereignty. That’s why “Europe” cannot deal with Syrian refugee crisis and Russian invasion of Ukraine today and was unable to deal comprehensively with the disintegration of Yugoslavia 25 years ago. It cannot stop the neo-Fascist turn of Hungary and now Poland. Member states do not give up their rights to make individual foreign policy and their citizens are free to send Jobbik representatives to Strasbourg.
#EUreferendum pt. 6a: Remain campaign is sooo bad. Osborne touting an 18% drop in house prices if Brexit wins. Doesn’t he know how many people are priced out of the housing market & that a near 1/5 fall in prices is what many have been waiting for? People trying to get on the housing ladder will all be voting leave now.
#EUReferendum pt. 6b The madness of the Brexit press is manifest on frontpage of @telegraph Where the latest poll, showing 55% favour remain with the bulk of those coming from the Telegraph’s own elderly demographic, is juxtaposed with another bucket of excrement being dumped on Cameron. Don’t the editors realise that by going full batshit crazy they actually are herding their own readers towards vote remain?
#EUreferendum pt. 7 “Sovereignty” is the word on everybody’s lips and of course it means what the speaker wants it to mean and what the listener thinks it means and they are frequently not the same thing. Sovereignty is a term that can be used for good purposes or bad. “Sovereignty — a term that muddled people’s right to decide for themselves and the right of despots to decide for their people — was the first and last word in international relations.” Bernard Henri-Levy in today’s Sunday NYT Book Review describing how the Nazis responded to international criticism as they consolidated power by taking away Jewish civil rights. We are a sovereign nation, Goebbels would say, and have a right to take care of our problems in our own way.
I don’t mean to imply that Brexiteers are Goebbels’ clones but I do challenge their definition of “sovereignty.”
#EUreferendum pt. 10 America’s top political commentator, Charles Pierce, asked me, Is EU “federal” like the newly independent American 13 colonies under the Articles of Confederation (precursor to Constitution). I answered: No, It is quite a unique kind of arrangement — the EU is not federal in the way the American empire is not an empire. Euro federalism has an economic and historic raison d’etre but not a political one. However the continent’s destiny is political federalism. It will have to be come a “more perfect union” if it is to survive. Whether the Brits want to be part of that federal union is unlikely. A two-tier system has been evolving since Maastricht and it would evolve more quickly and clearly if Tory eurosceptics would shut the fuck up, let the UK enjoy its privileged status as one of the Big Three but not on the Federal path and let the continent get on with things.
#EUreferendum pt 11. So immigration has taken centre stage and hacks are busy tut-tutting over Nigel’s saloon bar racism and Go/Bo’s statistical inflation (yes, 75 million Turks are coming our way by the year 2030!)
But I wish the hacks would ask some concrete questions:
Will Poles, folk from the Baltics, and other former eastern bloc countries have to leave if we Brexit? Will they be able to bring spouses from home or other family members over at some point in the future? Are there transition arrangements in place after a vote for Brexit, for example, an offer of British citizenship? Is there a time period for grandfathering a person towards either citizenship or leave to remain? If they have to leave what form of compensation will they be given for relocation and for the value of businesses they have started?
And if all the surge from the Eastern Bloc over the last decade are going to be allowed to stay, how will that change the insane pressure on school places and the NHS in the very particular areas where they have settled?
#EUreferendum pt. 12a .FT notes 2.2 million workers from EU currently in UK, 6% of workforce. You reckon their contribution to local UK economy can be replaced overnight? 2 years? End of decade?
#EUreferendum pt. 12b: When was the last time this Island made the world hold its breath? Isn’t it Great to live in Britain when markets and the world economy and the tangential fate of nations depends on what we happy few do at the ballot box on Thursday. Are you feeling your power as the leading cizitens of the world, winners of first prize in the lottery of life?
#Eureferendum pt. 13 If Brexit wins … what can the UK citizenry vote on next? How about bringing back hanging? THat’s another step backwards the voters would love to take. Prime Minister Johnson, we demand our rights!!
#EUReferendum pt. 15 This is so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said but Martin Wolf says it so elegantly in today’s FT: “The very fact that the UK is able to hold this referendum demonstrates that it remains sovereign.”
#EUReferendum pt. 16: ON my citizenship test was a question: Do you acknowledge that graduates of Oxford & Cambridge are infinitely smarter than the rest of us. It was a True/False question and as an experienced test taker I realized the expected answer would be true — and that’s what I answered, and today I am a proud citizen of the UK. But I really don’t think that. Oxbridge grads in political life are swottishly well-educated but they aren’t necessarily smart. They rule us and keep coming up with the wrong answers to the exam questions set by real life. Enoch Powell (double-starred first in Latin and Greek) looking at the world in the late 60’s and made the rivers of blood speech. 50 years on is your local stream running red? The man might be able to quote Aristophanes in the original but he can only be described as a moral and intellectual imbecile. Boris Johnson, another Greek reader … say no more. And last night, in an interview on C4 News, Michael Gove, near as dammit said he hoped that Brexit would lead to the disintegration of the EU … how fucking stupid do you have to be? And let us not forget Vernon Bogdanor’s “most apt pupil,” David Cameron, who called the referendum in the first place. How smart a move was that … what next? Why not do away with parliament and just give every household a division bell and let people vote on every aspect of government. Cut out the middlemen. Budget? Bomb the fuck out of Assad? Let the people decide direct. (Actually if that happened I might have to reassess old Enoch. “The motion before you is to remove all people who are not native born of this island to caucasian parents.” You think those against that idea could muster the votes to win?)