Crashing into Reality

I’ve spent the better part of the last two years writing a book on Brexit. It’s been an interesting, and often maddening experience. Much like the US, the UK has seen far more than its fair share of politicians playing fast and loose with the truth in recent years. Yes, they have long, if not always, had challenges keeping their stories fully-aligned with the truth, but the stuff we’ve been witnessing seems to be something of a different sort from what we were long used to.

What do I mean by that? Politicians could probably always be counted on to twist things a bit — okay, maybe more than a bit. But now it seems that an ever greater portion of politicians are comfortable leaving truth by the side of the road. This has coincided with what seems an increasing lack of concern for the people they supposedly serve. It seems that maybe having no qualms with shoveling BS has become a job requirement.

Brexit, lies, train wreck

It seems that the lies constantly twist to suit the current circumstances. “I didn’t promise that. I promised this.” “We would have delivered that as promised, but our opposition/the weather/the dog ate my homework….” It’s an endless parade of lies. Many call them out for the lies, but they keep contorting their way out of the mess.

This is where Brexit makes things interesting. Whereas most political promises are open-ended, Brexit has a deadline, and it’s approaching fast. On March 29, 2019, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. The country’s leaders have been negotiating with EU negotiators since March 2017. Those negotiations were planned to be wrapped up in October of this year. That would give the EU and UK parliaments time to debate and ratify any negotiated deals. That outcome is looking highly unlikely.

A Bad Example

The lies told by Brexiteers appear to be running headlong towards reality. They may still wriggle their way out by negotiating a highly unfavorable deal for the UK, and then attempting to pass it off as something else. Or they may buy time for further negotiations. But failing something like that, the UK will fall out of the EU in March and into WTO trading rules. (The governor of the Bank of England just announced that it might be as bad for the UK economy as the Great Recession.)

In response to that, a former British Member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, offered up a solid example of the sort of twisted claims that I’m referring to herein. He posted the tweet below, in which he made light of the BoE governor’s warning by suggesting the lower home values would somehow help those who currently couldn’t afford them in a “sky is falling” economic scenario. He responded to the many jibes he took by stating, “I was arguing long before 2016 that house prices were artificially high and due for a correction. You can agree or disagree, obviously. What is odd, though, is how many people suddenly change their tune simply because the word ‘Brexit’ has been added.” That claim seemed to be made in the expectation that we’d lose sight of the big picture challenges inherent to a serious economic downturn, and that he could somehow twist the debate by making the problem one in which people were reacting to a single word, rather than the meaning of the statement as a whole.

Time to Come Clean?

Given the circumstances, I thought we’d see Tory leaders begin to twist their words back towards the truth. (Hannan is not one of those leaders. He’s just a bit player who offered up a timely, convenient example. I’m referring to people like Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and their lot.) So far, I’ve been wrong on my prediction. Faced with an onrushing reckoning with reality, they appear to be doubling-down. It seems they’re gambling on the hope that they’ll somehow wriggle out of this. And they’ve got far more information that I do, so maybe they know something that I don’t about a forthcoming get out of jail free card. Or maybe they’re looking to get one of their peers to fall on the grenade (probably thanks to a nudge). But I don’t see how they can dump the mess on an individual this late in the going, given the scale of the mess they’ve collectively made.

At this point, I don’t think they’ll be able to come up with a real deal in time to meet the deadline, and that the Tories will pay dearly (and rightfully so) in the next election. I further see this leading to the sort of sea change that will stay with the British electorate for many years. Sadly, if that’s the outcome, Britons will pay a great price while those who made the mess will likely do just fine.

Assuming they don’t reach a deal, the interesting thing to watch for as the March 29 dealine approaches is the ways in which these politicians deal with their date with destiny. Will a moment of truth come where they face reality and come clean? Or will they continue to spin yarns in trying to hold on to the false narrative they’ve created? If it’s the latter, I suspect reality will catch up sooner or later, and that the longer they play that game, the worse it will affect the people they’re meant to be helping.

Brexit, lies, train wreck

Originally published at Chris Oestereich.