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February 13, 2019


Chris Bertram

Or Adam Smith:

"[The man of system] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chessboard. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chessboard have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chessboard of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder."

Tasker Dunham

The problem as I've always seen it is that things tend to be run by people whose powers of persuasion exceed their abilities to imagine the consequences.

steve lindsey

"He has reminded us of one of the overlooked costs of inequality – that it creates and sustains among the powerful a contempt for other people."

And they exist on both sides of this debate.


1. Article 8 of The Lisbon Treaty states "The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation."

So, in his crass way, Lord Jones is just saying we would like the EU to act in accordance with its own treaties.

2. As a voter, I didn't ask for this referendum, and am sick of those MP's who voted to have a referendum, then voted to trigger article 50, now asking what my plan is. I'd like to know what their plan was when they made those votes. My plan started on the day after the referendum heading for no deal because of the knowledge that unless we did that very clearly from day 1 we would end up here.

Ian Bertram

I think it was actually Rees-Mogg who first suggested Ireland leave the EU to solve our own self-inflicted problems.

On your wider point,I think the UK negotiators have deluded themselves by projecting their own intrumentalist attitudes to the EU onto the remaining 27. Consequently, when the EU27 hung together they had no response and nowhere to go.


@ Ian Bertram "Consequently, when the EU27 hung together they had no response and nowhere to go"

to be a stuck record on this, firstly, it is implicit in calling a referendum that both options are possible. For those who voted to hold a referendum to be crowing about the fact that the winning side cannot implement the outcome is ridiculous as the outcome is owned by everyone who voted fro the referendum. Secondly, The place where we want to go is No Deal. If No Deal is not possible, then the correct thing is not to have a referendum. And the reason we want to go tho No Deal is that is the best way to get a deal.

Seriously, all you Remainers, once we've demonstrated our powerlessness and begged to be allowed back in the EU, what happens then? How does the UK advance its own interest? Aren't we just a colony that is taxed and exploited by the core EU for their own ends? Or do you have some magic that is going to prevent that outcome?


the nudge people are also keen on moving the pawns about.


"Secondly, The place where we want to go is No Deal. If No Deal is not possible, then the correct thing is not to have a referendum. And the reason we want to go tho No Deal is that is the best way to get a deal."

Sure, Mr. Paradox is master negotiator in Opposite World.

No, seriously. If you bargain your salary, this may be a good idea because you can act as if you would let the bargain fail if your employer's offer is not acceptable. In Brexit negotiations, trying to act the madman is less credible, more risky, and no, it does not give you a deal because: 1. It still takes time to negotiate the final documents, and this just wastes time; 2. the Ireland problem does not get solved by that.


@ Achim. missing the point here.

Once the referendum was called there were three possible outcomes.1. Vote to remain, in which case we have just called our own bluff. We would have got steamrollered into a Federal Europe. 2. Vote to leave and try and negotiate a deal from within - and here we are with a rubbish deal, or 3. Leave with No Deal and negotiate am FTA from outside.

So if you cannot do 3, then best not to trigger a referendum in the first place. There are simply no good options that arise from having a referendum to Leave if in fact you cannot Leave. And the people responsible for that are all those who voted to have a referendum, and then trigger A50, in the belief that walking away was not possible. Seriously, what were these idiots playing at?

Robert Mitchell

Chris Dillow got trolled by the word "Remoaners"!


I voted remain not because I love the EU, I don't, nor do I believe in delusional fantasies about its civilizing influence, I voted remain because the EU is a protectionist organisation, and nobody leaves the mafia! The strategy of 'widening and deepening' is explicitly and deliberately designed to make it impossible to get out. The EU has hooks all the way through the political and economic systems of members. It is a vast network of political and economic clients glued together by self-interest, which is why reform simply never happens; it may be possible to force some weaker clients off the ticket, but the bigger clients will always demand their tribute.

This is what baffles me about the hard Brexiters, they understand perfectly the nature of the EU, but they fail to grasp the inevitable consequences for member states. If the UK was a small, net benefactor of the project we'd have a small chance of getting away with limited damage, but the UK is a large, massive net contributor and that raises the stakes hugely. Accepting the UK as a free trade partner may be mutually beneficial, but it's still a massive loss to what the EU currently gets from the EU.


I don’t recognise reality in this post. Chris seems to believe that Ollie Robbins and co went into the negotiations filled with tough-guy swagger, playing hardball, and striking out the most maximally discordant positions against their opposite numbers. In practice, they conceded early on just about every issue, pretty much from day one of the negotiations. Varafoukis (who’d prefer the U.K. to remain in the EU) has said as much.


I’m no fan of despotism, but I think Marx’s quoted view of the phenomenon is simplistic. There are factors of history and geography which predispose societies to be more or less despotic:

1) There are despots and there are despots. The original populists were the “populares” of the late Roman Republic - the Gracchi brothers. They wanted to redistribute land from the patricians to the plebs, and were murdered for their efforts. In general, if a despot stabilises and reforms your crisis-ridden country, you probably view him favourably (e.g. Ataturk, Piłsudski, maybe Putin). I don’t think Marx’s claim that all despots are uniformly motivated by distain for the common people really stands up.

2) You may be willing to tolerate a despot if the most likely alternative is an endless Hobbesian civil war of all against all. Both Saddam and Gaddafi were incredibly evil; but it’s far from certain their removal has made their countries safer or more prosperous. At least some Iraqis and Libyans would have known this, and maybe tacitly accepted despotism on that game-theory basis.

3) If you’re from an ethnic or religious minority, you may prefer rule by a despot to rule by the majority.

4) You may be willing to tolerate a despot if your country lacks easily defensible natural borders, and despotism feels like the only thing keeping you from foreign predation. Russia has constantly faced this problem. Brits and Americans used to living in relatively impregnable states often fail to understand this.

Interestingly, here’s what Mazzini said about Marx’s own role in the International Workingmen’s Association in the mid-1860s:

“[Marx is] a destructive spirit whose heart is filled with hatred rather than love of mankind… extraordinarily sly, shifty and taciturn. Marx is very jealous of his authority as leader of the Party; against his political rivals and opponents he is vindictive and implacable; he does not rest until he has beaten them down; his overriding characteristic is boundless ambition and thirst for power. Despite the communist egalitarianism which he preaches he is the absolute ruler of his party; admittedly he does everything himself but he is also the only one to give orders and he tolerates no opposition,”


Georges, what did they concede that they had any real choice about?

We trade a lot with the eu, and we owe them a fair bit of cash we could withold. But as a proportion of GDP everything is much less to the eu than us, AND we cannot afford a bad relationship whereas they can. Plus if they believe in the EU, there biggest fear is the UK making a success of leaving.


Hi D

Hard to answer because this is all after the fact. Probably the main thing would be to get professional negotiators involved. Have you heard of Chris Voss? Ideally I’d get him.

Anyway, here are some ideas, all of which I promise I thought of before we triggered Article 50:

1) Don’t trigger Article 50 till we have “heads of agreements” on future trade deals with several other countries. It’s true we can’t formally negotiate full trade deals until we’re out of the EU, but a series of heads of agreements, which could quickly be converted into full deals as soon as our EU membership lapses, would have strengthened our negotiating position.

2) Definitely don’t accept the EU’s framework for negotiation. In particular, there’s one element I always wanted the UK to put at the very top of the agenda, pretty much from the day after the referendum: the proposed EU Army. I would tell the EU that we’re frightened of their proposed Army because we’re worried the EU might one day try to use it against us. So we want a binding agreement limiting its size, scope and location.

The issue has plenty of advantages for the UK. Hardcore federalists will never willingly accept any formal restriction on the scope and scale of a future EU Army; because, even more than an EU Currency and an EU Inland Revenue, an EU Army is the ultimate symbol of European statehood. But they also hate having to debate it publicly; because even debating it destroys the aura of moral superiority the EU has tried to project by posing as a pacifist organisation. And it suggests that European integration is somehow aggressive, destabilising the existing alliances like NATO. Even UK Remainers will feel uncomfortable having to argue in favour of an EU Army every time they’re on TV; and if they’re not in favour of it, what’s the problem with the UK insisting on an EU Army “backstop”?

The issue has real potential to drive a wedge between the Franco-German axis and the Visegrad countries. Would the Poles really want the EU to break up NATO, so they have to say goodbye to the Americans and the Brits, and rely on Germans to defend them against Putin?

3) Regarding the EU Budget payments: the EU uses money to buy federalist compliance, and the withdrawal of UK money will make it harder to keep the lower orders in line. I would initially play hardball with the money, but with this compromise offer up my sleeve: we’ll agree to pay even more than the EU thinks it can get out of us on one condition; we won’t pay the money directly to Brussels, but into a British-run fund specifically targetting the poorer countries in the EU.

The whole point is to keep projecting the same narrative again and again: the UK is offering things East Europeans want, and Barnier is the one telling East Europeans they can’t have those things.

This is just a start.



Thoughtful stuff about Marx.

I shall limit myself to your post about the future EU army. First, I am not so sure the fear is that it would be used against us as such. We and the French have big sticks. But that the process is (1)already underway and (2) the poltical/military consequences crudely of: 'logistics and linking'.

From public sources, for example, you can see the best Danish brigades are already linked to German. Best Dutch brigades are linked to German (and they even lease their MBTs from the Germans too). French Airmobile and German linked.A new Polish brigade linked to a German one already, I seem to recall. Better informed folks may add more to this list.

The EU politics I take from this possible Nato 'handover' to EU is that the country/institution that has the actual 'Political' control of the Airlift and Logistics train will effectively decide what future EU military activity is. This will be a source of great political trouble at a time of a future military crisis.

The unstated issue about our Nato membership,I always thought, was that while we may have signed an agreement to rush to the aid of any member country attacked; whether we actually would, is a wholey different matter.

You post seems timely to me. I notice neither side of the Brexit debate is much interested in this question.It is one thing to say your country has signed up to a EU Union by 'Legal Treaty' and so your country cannot withdraw: it is quite another to say the EU are throwing your nation's military into say, Ukraine and you cannot now say no!
Rules is Rules!

Or, to put it another way. You can imagine an EU, Political/Strategic French General at the moment of crisis: 'Sure, fly the British troops in - shall we say, the next ten minutes - tell the British PM about it in an hour'.


Mike, you are babbling incoherently. Why on earth would you be afraid of the fantasy EU army if you are not afraid of the very real French and German armies?



'babbling incoherently'. Sure. Excellent spot.

But why then encourage me to answer a good question next sentence?


I attended a talk by Stefaan Derynk (one of Barnier's assistants) at Chatham House in December 2017. He gave a clear exposition of the EU's thinking behind its negotiating stance and the thinking behind it. The key point was that the EU institutions (and especially the Single Market) were rules-based institutions that the UK had helped to build - so it was assumed that the UK knew the rules and was quite content with the rules when it helped to create them - and the other EU member states were very reluctant to rewrite those rules as this would be a complicated task. The German car-makers were certainly not pressing for the EU to rewrite the rules of the SM because the UK had changed its mind about them.

From the questions afterwards I got the impression that about half the people there understood what he was saying and about half didn't relate to it at all. The latter just didn't understand anything of his position or pretended not to understand it. They appear to have said so often that the UK has had EU rules imposed on it that they don't relate at all to anyone pointing out that the UK agreed to those rules (and in fact wrote many of them) and that those rules were decided after a lot of negotiation - nobody else is keen on changing them.

Chris Grey is right to say that Brexiteers paid almost no attention to the interests of the EU in negotiations. Why they pay so little attention to the possible interests of the other party is difficult to establish though "they are bullshitters" will do as an explanation for the time being. Brexit is a hobby-horse that they have ridden without thinking through the consequences and the press has never challenged them on it.

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