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Old 06-10-2019, 03:20 AM
Sandwich is offline
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Suffolk
Posts: 444
So, we all agree that in our opinions, it would be best if Britain remained in the EU. We can all articulately criticise all the arguments which leavers make and show them to be lacking. It's nice that opinion polls are apparently running at 55% to 60% remain. A second referendum with 60%+ remain would be decisive and would largely put the problem to bed with us all living happily after. However, we should note that the opinion polls overstated the remain vote before the 2016 referendum, that turnout could be decisive, and that enthusiasm will be decisive. Also, we should not assume that because it is all rational and sensible to have a referendum and vote decisively to remain, that that will therefore happen.

"Acceptability" is not relevant.

Firstly, I think there is now a material chance that Britain will shortly exit the EU chaotically, with no agreed deal. This would likely be disastrous. The new and surprising thing is that this could happen with the Tories emerging as the heroes and all the blame falling on the opposition parties, the EU, and the Tory rebels.

Secondly, against received wisdom, I set out a relatively straightforward mechanism for a new Conservative leader to achieve a revised withdrawal agreement and take us out of the EU smoothly. I noted that once we are safely into a long transitional period, then all options remain open for the long term. That wouldn't be a bad place to be. There may be other paths to a managed exit, not just my suggestion, but it is important to recognise that this could happen. Again, the Conservatives have the initiative and seem in a reasonably good place to be.

Thirdly, we have reached a consensus that a very soft Brexit is pointless and demonstrably worse than the status quo ante. Nevertheless, some people seem to be in denial about this. For example, it remains the Labour Party's official policy, despite their being no obvious way to reach it except through Mrs May's repeatedly rejected draft withdrawal agreement. Some remainer commentators seem to be confused on this issue, seemingly arguing for a soft Brexit as a means to somehow not exiting at all. This includes, but is not limited to, dreams that Parliament will somehow prevent a chaotic no deal exit without finding an alternative outcome. Equally, picking holes in other people's analysis of what might happen next, without offering a credible alternative outcome, while seeming to imply that therefore remain must win. The opposition to Brexit, whether the official opposition in Parliament, other parties, or the commentariat, seem to be losing their way, again with the initiative and benefit passing to the Tories.

Fourthly, clearly it is theoretically possible that there could be a second referendum which decisively rejects Brexit. That would be lovely. I believe that the window of opportunity for that to happen is closing rapidly and may indeed have already closed. Again, some people seem to think that this is a likely outcome, which seems unjustifiably optimistic given the current positions of the Conservative Party, the Brexit Party, the Labour Party, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, and the British electorate. The Europeans, in particular, are not going to ride to our rescue on a silver horse, to save us from ourselves.

Fifthly, I note that any form of Brexit, chaotic, hard or soft, need not be the end of the matter. In particular, any managed Brexit (that is, one with a long transitional period where for most practical purposes it is as if we are still in the EU) could easily be unwound. Tantalisingly, once we are officially out then re-entry would jeopardise the current favourable terms which the UK enjoys in the EU. Personally, that would be my preferred outcome. I am the hardest of hard remainers, and would be delighted if in a few years the UK is a full member of the EU, with no opt-outs from the Schengen agreement, the euro, and social legislation. Personally, I even want the UK to lose its rebate, but that is on condition that the EU's funding is reorganised so that all the rich member states contribute fairly to material fiscal transfers to all the poorer member states. We are all strongest together, and doomed to failure if we stand alone.

The potentially surprising thing, is that this currently seems like a reasonably good position for the Tories, and a bad position for the opposition, despite how it is all presented in the press and discussed online. Perhaps that is why there is so much competition for the Tory leadership? It is easy to mock politicians, but most of them are smarted than average, and all of them are much more political than the average person, obviously, and perhaps they do see through the fog of politics more clearly than the rest of us?

(today's special is brie and pancetta on ciabatta)