« Origins of Corbynphobia | Main | The theatre of politics »

August 29, 2019


steve lindsey

I congratulate you; your posts move effortlessly from inspired conjecture to staggering arrogance.

While at first it appears ironical, I think you're correct in not allowing your own bias prevent you from holding forth. After all the alternative would either be no post or one tedious in the extreme. Play up! play up! and play the game!


The problem is the EU. Increasingly it presents only one option; full Federalism. There is no pragmatic middle ground response to that; you either accept that and remain, or you don't and leave.

Tripe Merchant

You make the point that a compromise position, soft Brexit, is popular and note that the media has a structural interest in polarisation (and one that has become more pronounced due to technical change). But surely this suggests that fanaticism is actually more marginal than it appears?


FoM for EU27 workers comes to an end on 31 October, according to Pritti Patel. That's 65,000 NHS workers.[*]

So it seems extraordinary how many older (60+) Leavers are fanatically cheering on "No-deal".

Perhaps they think there are warehouses of British medics ready to be unwrapped.

[*] House of Commons Library, NHS staff from overseas: statistics, July 2019


It’s Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt and Theresa May who destroyed the possibility of a calm Brexit middle ground.

At the start of the negotiations, Barnier said: “I’ll have done my job if, in the end, the deal is so tough on the British that they would prefer to stay in the EU”. He also admitted on film that the Irish backstop was used mainly as a "tactical and strategic means to apply permanent pressure on the UK”. When the May government finally gave in to Barnier’s terms, two members of Verhofstadt’s team were filmed saying, “We finally turned them into a colony - that was our plan from the first moment”.

Every good negotiator has to have a sense of what the opposite side can reasonably be expected to accept, but instead Barnier and Verhofstadt chose to go full Clemenceau 1918. Varoufakis was right when he said the Barnier/May deal is one “a nation signs only after having been defeated at war”.



Regarding Marx, you must know someone’s going to quote this:

“But, in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favour of free trade.”

I don’t know whether it’s “fanatical”, but it is arguing “the worse the better”, isn’t it?


@ georgesdelatour.

Do you ever wonder why if it is obvious to you, its obvious to people like me, and its obvious to just about everyone you know, how come it isn't blindingly obvious to so many so called intelligent people too? What mental contortions are they doing to avoid addressing the actual observed and stated behaviour of the EU?

dilbert dogbert

Please forgive this stupid American but I have a question. What happens if parliament refuses suspension? That would bring things to a head quickly.

dilbert dogbert

Found the name: Rump Parliament
Who gets their head cut off this time?

dilbert dogbert

Just read the fT and have another question: What happens if parliament votes no confidence and Johnson refuses to step down?



It is pretty baffling.

The thing I really can’t stand is the attempt to portray all opposition to the EU purely as a pawn of the Forbes global billionaire class - as if Tony Benn never existed. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley all donated six-figure sums to the Remain campaign, for chrissakes.

I have one theory. Hans Magnus Enzensberger is Germany’s greatest living poet, and he wrote a book back in 2011 called “Brussels, the Gentle Monster: or the Disenfranchisement of Europe”. It’s a very subtle book, so my brief commentary on it is going to be pretty crass. But here goes.

Enzensberger thinks that the political class across Europe are increasingly repelled by and terrified of their own domestic populations. They’re not pushing for EU integration because they believe passionately in Jean Monnet’s dream of a United States of Europe; they’d find really enthusiastic “Ode To Joy” Euro-patriotism just as unattractive as American 4th-of-July patriotism. No. What they really want is to create a kind of post-democratic managerialism; so that, even if the unwashed masses take control of the government in one country, they’ll discover they’re subject to the legal control of the ECJ, the economic control of the ECB, the political oversight of the Commission, and so on. It’s a kind of paternalism, driven by their loathing of the idea they might have to actually debate or negotiate with their own rebarbative citizenry.

I don’t like to psychologise those I disagree with. There’s already been too much of that in the Brexit debate. So Remainers on this post, please note: Enzensberger is certainly not claiming that the ordinary citizen who supports the EU necessarily shares in this feeling. He’s only talking about those in, or close to, actual governance.


Given that we will be leaving the EU at the end of Oct, from a long term remainer perspective, surely a no deal (as chaotic as possible) brexit is preferable, to a well organised and successful exit.

I think it is essential to the future remainer narrative that it is easy to portray the event as a failure. Johnson proroguing parliament to achieve it is just the icing on the cake, from this perspective.

I voted leave, in a half hearted kind of way, so maybe that’s why I cannot understand why so many leavers seem to want a no deal brexit. It’s like they think that the battle ends on the 31st Oct and come 1st Nov the whole country will come together to get on with it and try to make a success of it. They won’t.

This will never be accepted by remainers and we’ll spend the next 10 years bogged down in this quagmire. I would not be surprised if gradually, bit by bit, without really noticing we end up an associate member like Switzerland – the worst of all worlds.


If Johnson refused to step down, the House of Commons would pass a resolution declaring the person who commanded the confidence of the House, e.g. Ken Clarke.

The Queen is obliged to appoint that person as PM.


"What mental contortions are they doing to avoid addressing the actual observed and stated behaviour of the EU?"

I don't think that the deranged Remainers as evidenced by our news casts over the last 24 hours are in fact deranged purely by the prospect of leaving the EU any more. Its become a more existential display of angst - Remainers are the type of people who naturally assume they they, or people like them are 'in charge' of things, and thus the broad direction of public policy is largely satisfactory to them. For the first time since Mrs Thatcher was in power they face someone who isn't 'one of them' sending the country in a direction they fundamentally disagree with. And thats the cause of the mass hysteria - 'We're the sort of people who should be in charge of things, but we're not!!!!!' Its instructive that the same visceral hatred that Mrs T inspires in some people is now on display from Remainers.

As someone who very rarely finds the broad direction of public policy to my liking, I'm very used to the likes of me not being in charge of anything. If you like low taxes, small government, have wanted Brexit for decades and dislike identity politics then for the last 30 years you've had to accept your views are not that of the majority, and deal with it. But if you're the sort whose views are the mirror of those above, then you might have come to the assumption that your views would always be the ones that prevailed. When deeply held assumptions are confounded by reality, the reaction can often be extreme.


@ Jim - yes. This 'constitutional outrage' nonsense is an example. A new PM delivering a Queen's speech is entirely normal. If he cannot command a majority then its a vonc and an election. What is not normal and is an outrage is parliament itself proposing legislation and mandating the executive.


@ Sentinale - What??

There's a vonc. Johnson loses. He has 14 days to form a government I believe. If he cannot then either someone else forms a government or else there's a GE.

There is no majority for Ken Clarke - Corbynites won't support him. There isn't a majority for Corbyn. so a GE it is.


@ georgesdelatour thanks for that - very interesting.

I don't mind speculating about the mentality of control freaks. The EU has regulated everything to complete standstill, so to no-ones surprise growth is zero, productivity is flatlining.

Managerialist pro-EU control freaks think uncertainty is a danger. But certainty is valueless, as everyone has access to that certainty. Uncertainty, innovation, and a selection process are the means of delivering improvement. All snuffed out by the EU regulators.



“It’s like they think that the battle ends on the 31st Oct and come 1st Nov the whole country will come together to get on with it and try to make a success of it. They won’t.”

That’s why Johnson has been electioneering like crazy from the moment he became Conservative leader. He realises he needs a bigger majority than just one MP, if he’s to make Brexit work at all.

The interesting question is what Labour would do after we’re out. Would they compete with the LibDems to be the “Party of Rejoin” (the party of Guardian readers, basically), or would they try a more Maurice Glasman “blue Labour” approach?


For the Nth time to the ubiquitous Dipper and Gdlt, whilst I agree that there are federalists in the EU, we are not even in the Euro (and nor should we be). Why leave what’s a rather good relationship now on the basis of your fevered speculation? We can depart any time that the EU tries to force excessive integration on us (or don’t you trust the UK population to deliver then?)

Chris Carter

How would Leavers have been accommodated by Remainers had the result been 52:48 the other way?
Would we have had a "soft" Remain?

No - it would have been full steam ahead!

Dave Timoney

@Chris Carter,

As Scarfhin pointed out, the status quo was already soft remain: not in the euro or the Schengen area, with many derogations and even a rebate on contributions.

The irony is that the remain cause in future (assuming we exit in October) will essentially be "rejoin under hard remain terms".


"There's a vonc. Johnson loses. He has 14 days to form a government I believe."

Only if the motion used the specific words required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act ("FTPA").

A non-statutory motion such as "This govermment must resign tomorrow" avoids engaging the FTPA.

If passed, the next stage is to pass a resolution naming the person who does command the confidence of the House.


@Dave Timoney: Some of us would be happy about that (me, for one) But I can understand the views of those who (to caricature them grossly as we are all prone to our little amusements!) think that unelected and unaccountable corporations which are driven solely by the bottom line are better rulers of society than flawed human beings who may think that e.g. climate change is a real thing that needs dealing with, rather than just an unfortunate side-effect of the glorious free market.
The EU is much too fluffy an institution to be the neoliberal conspiracy that it is often painted, but likewise the UK Parliament is much too hard-nosed an institution to be the instrument of a dictator either (even when Blair and Thatcher had huge majorities, they were highly constrained in what they could actually do!)
They are both somewhere in between and provide checks and balances to ensure that no individual or, worse, uncontrolled algorithm can easily take over. (Yes, I subscribe to Charlie Stross' argument that AI already essentially rules the world, it's just that it's mostly still slow and on paper.)


@ Scarfhin.

That's a fair point. My opinion was that whilst for the moment we had a soft membership, we would over time be forced into a hard relationship. It would increasingly be hard to leave, as we are seeing, so we would have no choice but to accept 'full' membership.


@Dave Timony

In the future, when historians have the perspective of distance, they may well come to see John Major as the key figure who made the rupture of 2016 inevitable.

Major’s Machiavellian scheming to force the Maastricht Treaty through Parliament in 1992 makes the Cummings/Johnson team look like naïfs. His actions are only comprehensible on the following assumptions:

1) that a large proportion of his own party were passionately opposed to the Treaty.
2) that a UK Referendum to approve the Treaty would have decisively rejected it.

Suppose the UK had rejected Maastricht in 1992. From the perspective of 2019, it’s obvious 1992 was a much better time to have our crisis than 2016. The other EEC members couldn’t have kicked us out of the club. They were the ones trying to change the rules of the club, not us. They’d have been forced to create a “variable geometry” Europe a la carte, in which the enthusiasts could go full speed ahead, but the doubters could enjoy the benefits of tariff-free trade and basically stop there.

EU true believers like Heseltine and Major would have hated it, but the rest of us would have done just fine.

By the time David Cameron tried to renegotiate the UK’s deal with the EU in 2015, the equilibrium position for the UK, acceptable to enough doubters, was clearly at some pre-Maastricht point of convergence; one we could have achieved in 1992, but not in 2015. Hence the rupture.


@georgesdelatour: spot on analysis. There is a massive majority in favour of the UK for being in an EEC-type free trade area, an equally massive majority against being in a proto-federal state. The main problem we have is that we have been led for 30 years by people who want the latter to come about regardless of the views of the electorate, and have done their best to make it happen without allowing the electorate any say in the matter - hence the signing of the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties by governments without a so much as a by your leave from the electorate. Indeed in the case of Lisbon going back on a specific manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on it.

The governing class of all political hues have done their absolute utmost to prevent the electorate having a specific say on our membership of the EU, or any of its steps forwards towards becoming some sort of federal State, and thus are responsible for the mess that we've arrived in now.


yes to Jim and georgesdelatour. Spot on both.


Farage first riled his troops with claims of UK being run by unelected, bureaucrats in Brussels. He further claimed that the Euro was failing and the EU was disintegrating with many countries soon to be joining the UK in leaving the EU. He claimed the EU plan was to have a Federalist State with an EU Army. A horde of migrants from Turkey were on our very borders. England (never the UK) had to be defended.

Leavers still believe all that and optimistically seem to think that UK will be better off outside of the EU. Exactly how seems to be reliant upon an ability of getting out of past scrapes such as Dunkirk etc.

Remainers do not believe a word of that. It was the £ which collapsed. Unity and content within the EU rose in each country. Even those nations with populist Governments baulked at ever leaving the Euro. Not one Member State is about to vote for losing its sovereignty and becoming a smaller cog in the EU. No EU Army is in sight - cooperation yes but that is about it. It is ironic that it is UK that would make a fortune equipping and training such an EU Army.

So UK has an impasse with a decision that bears no compromise - you cannot be half in or half out of the EU. We were 80% in and that was a really good place. Leavers want to be 100% out because they believe what Leavers believe regardless that none of the dire Farage predictions have come to pass.

It is the UK which is now failing and has been shown to be very undemocratic and badly governed. Leaver belief still remains strong and may be more emotional than rational but how it has come about is too late to change - it is too deeply embedded. So the phoney English Civil War II will just go on for many years into the future. Heart versus head.

One of the wise things said to resolve conflict is to ask each fanatic what would they do if they were in the EU's or Remainer/Leaver's shoes? How should the EU be organised etc? That is not being done so I think whatever the merits of holding a binary Referendum it is now too far gone to repair the damage. Damage that is far greater and lasting than any irritation with the EU ever caused.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad