The people have spoken: the case for reversing Brexit

Reverse Brexit

We rightly cherish the notion of liberal democracy, it’s the least worst system of government, but it isn’t perfect. In its purist form, direct democracy, government is hardly necessary at all, using technology familiar to any internet user, every issue deemed of interest to voters could be placed before them in a poll. But the dangers of this system are all too apparent; decisions would always favour the lowest common denominator so in most developed countries where democracy is established it has evolved in the form of representative democracy, where the electorate are offered a choice of candidates who will represent them in parliament and vote on their behalf.

As the voter is invariably given a choice of voting for the political party to which the candidate is aligned these candidates when elected won’t reflect the all the views of all the people who elected them and the more extreme opinions will be leavened. Those elected to parliament will have a variety of views, even within each party so these checks and balances are intended to protect us from the tyranny of the mob.

Occasionally democratic governments seek the opinion of the electorate for a single issue by means of a referendum. Even democratic governments rarely if ever use a referendum in order to genuinely seek the views of the electorate; rather they do so to justify a political action that they intend to take in which case they need to be pretty certain of winning it. But referenda inevitably throw up another problem and that is regardless of the question some voters will use it to protest about issues unrelated to it.

The referendum to leave the EU was a classic case of a reckless government that used it to subdue the Eurosceptic wing of the conservative party and that totally misjudged the mood of the electorate who after 10 years of austerity and stagnant wage growth, took the opportunity to give a bloody nose to the government who supported Remain by voting to Leave.

In the intervening year the government (now with a slender majority after the GE) has sought the impossible, to “have our cake and eat it”. Despite warnings from the EU and most independent political and economic opinion saying this was an unrealistic fantasy the government persists and they do so for one reason, “the will of the people” as demonstrated by the referendum cannot be flouted and supporters of Brexit claim a democratic mandate.

But can we reverse the referendum decision and still stay true to our liberal democratic credentials? Yes we can for three reasons:

1 If David Cameron had offered referendum on the return of Capital Punishment and a majority voted to hang criminals should we honour that as well? The answer should be No; even if the decision was achieved by a majority hanging is so fundamentally at odds with our liberal democratic values that it should be rejected. So there is an ethical precedent to reject a referendum result.

2 In the run up to the Brexit referendum an extreme anti EU sentiment was stirred up by the EU hating press that for the last 40 years has waged war on our membership of the EU. Of course a free press is fundamental to a liberal democracy but in this campaign aided by unscrupulous politicians, they published lies and encouraged xenophobia and this travesty of the truth was exemplified by the now infamous “£350 per week for the NHS” on the side of the red bus that swayed many voters despite in being totally untrue. So there is precedent for challenging a result that was obtained by fraudulent means.

3 Legally the Brexit Referendum was “advisory” so the government is under no obligation to abide by the result although clearly they feel obliged to do so for political reasons. So there is a legal precedent for rejecting the result.

Fear of offending liberal democratic values should not be an obstacle for rejecting Brexit, so politicians and especially business leaders and organisations should nail their colours to the mast before more damage is done.

You didn’t see this interview with Theresa May because it never happened!

Theresa May interview

Interviewer: Your stated aim is to get a great Brexit deal for Britain and yet you say no deal would be better than a bad deal. Just about every reputable economist says that no deal would be an economic disaster so why do you keep repeating it?

Theresa May: When we are negotiating with EU they must know that we are willing to walk away or we will not get the best deal.

Interviewer: But that’s ridiculous, the EU knows that you will never walk away with no deal and commit the UK to economic suicide so they discount that claim.

Theresa May: We can walk away and trade under WTO rules, that’s better than a bad deal.

Interviewer: That is not what the majority of experts think but you have never told us what a bad deal is.

Theresa May: A bad deal is one that does not respect the referendum result.

Interviewer: But the referendum question did not include terms only whether we stay or leave so there is no way of knowing what terms would satisfy the electorate.

Theresa May: They told us to leave the EU and that’s what we will do

Interviewer: So you can’t tell me what no deal or a bad deal actually mean! Let me put it to you that a bad deal would be one where the UK has to compromise and accept the four freedoms: the movement of goods, services, capital and persons in order to trade with the EU single market along with the authority of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to adjudicate trade disputes.

Theresa May: The people have spoken we will not accept freedom of movement, we must have control of immigration and cannot accept the right of the ECJ to supersede our own law.

Interviewer: Ok but you would agree that in any trade deal there must be an institution like the ECJ in order to adjudicate disputes.

Theresa May: The WTO has a dispute procedure using the Appellate Body.

Interviewer: That may be ok in bilateral disputes but the EU has 27 other member states that all accept the ECJ as final dispute arbiter, do you seriously think that they will accept a different arrangement just for the UK?

Theresa May: This will be part of the negotiating process.

Interviewer: Let’s move on; the Foreign Secretary has claimed the UK can have its cake and eat it, meaning that the Brexit deal will give us everything that we are asking for, including access to the single market. This is pure fantasy, you know as well as I do that the EU will not allow the UK to benefit from terms as good as those we currently enjoy. The myth that because Germany sells lots of BMW’s to us that we have the stronger hand is just that a myth.

Theresa May: This will be open to negotiation.

Interviewer: We’ll see. Your negotiator David Davis boasted recently he had a hundred pages of detailed notes in preparation for the talks, I thought this must be a mistake or even a joke as the EU have already prepared tens of thousands of pages, It is clear that the UK is catastrophically ill prepared for what will be the most difficult set of negotiations that this country has EVER faced.

Theresa May: No that isn’t correct civil servants are working on our detailed positions.

Interviewer: Let me change tack; you were a reamainer, now you are arguing for the most extreme form of brexit, how can anyone trust you? Your integrity is under question, you stated that an election would be a distraction, your have made numerous U-Turns even reversing a policy explicitly stated in your manifesto that there would be no cap on the dementia tax, this is not the policy of a strong and stable leader, it’s weak and wobbly.

Theresa May: There was no U-Turn on adult social care; we always expected to put it out to consultation.

Interviewer: Of course it was a U-Turn to say otherwise insults the intelligence of the electorate. You have avoided the leader’s debate, your rallies have been in front of tiny crowds and yet you have made this campaign all about you and your leadership. We can’t trust you; we can’t rely on you to provide leadership. We see a brexit team that are clearly not up to the job and as the negative effects of brexit become more and more apparent and lies of the leave campaign have been exposed, those who promoted it, with the exception of UKIP have become ominously silent.

Mrs. May deep down you know brexit is a mistake, so don’t let the narrow majority that voted for it drive you to compound the mistake. Stand up and acknowledge that the result was due to lies from the leave campaign plus the relentless anti EU rhetoric from much of the press that has so unfairly denigrated the EU for the last 40 years.

If you win the General Election, as seems likely, think again, be brave, be the leader who saves this country from a catastrophe, ignore the siren calls from the old men in your own party who have banged the anti EU drum for a generation, think of the young who by a large margin support the ideals of the EU. Use this opportunity to persuade the EU to undertake the reforms that will improve it. In this dangerous world we need it more than ever.

Imagine this…

Image this

US President Donald Trump quickly enacts his (anti) NATO policy that no longer offers the guarantee of a US response if another NATO member is attacked.

Putin still smarting from Russia’s expulsion from the Olympics is anxious to assert its power and influence and invades eastern Ukraine, this time without the pretence that no Russian military are involved and quickly moves west to encircle Kiev claiming it is necessary in order to protect all Russian speaking Ukrainians.

Already at the point of ejecting Turkey because it is no longer a democracy NATO is crippled by indecision and cannot agree any response.

President Trump unilaterally imposes tariffs on many imported products and raw materials effectively ending the post war era of free trade. He also threatens China that the USA may default on its huge debt. This causes another worldwide economic shock with the collapse of major financial institutions that cannot be baled out this time.

Quantitative Easing is no longer and option and the only other weapon available to central banks, negative interest rates, in the US, EU, UK and elsewhere has no effect on the contraction of the economies but causes corporations and individual to halt all but essential spending adding to the cycle of decline.

Having been drastically reduced in Southern Europe already State pensions are slashed in northern Europe and in the UK the Pension Protection Fund cannot cope with the number of companies that can’t meet their pension liabilities leaving many who have paid into company funds with the complete loss of their pensions.

Europe is plunged into even deeper economic turmoil as the fundamental flaws in the Euro are fully exposed. Right wing parties make huge electoral advances and in Germany the spectre of Nazism looms once again as democratic forces seem unable to hold the line. Migrants welcomed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel are attacked and many killed.

Greece bedevilled with bail out debt and the migrant crisis faces the collapse of civil society and is no longer a functioning state as marauding gangs steal and pillage at will as no public sector workers including the police, military and healthcare have received payment for months.

The EU parliament and Commission are temporarily dissolved and all national borders are reinstated. What little trade there is is hampered by long delays at custom controls. Global air travel is hugely diminished, tourism all but non-existent.

Seizing an opportunity amid the global economic turmoil Putin sends a large military presence to its enclave on the Baltic of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, thus posing a direct threat to the two NATO/EU member states. Mass demonstrations in both countries offer Russia the pretext that they are protecting their citizens from attack by NATO.

President Trump continues his refusal to back the NATO threat of a military response if Lithuania or Poland is threatened. Islamist terror attacks increase in the USA and Trump orders all Muslims to attend loyalty screening centres. Building of the much heralded wall between the USA and Mexico has made little headway and streams of illegal immigrants swarm over the border.

Despite Article 50 having been enacted UK Brexit negotiations are halted and we are left in a limbo, half in-half out. Ironically immigration has dropped to much less than the tens of thousands the Brexiteers wanted as hundreds of thousands of UK citizens who have been living abroad return home.

In China several large banks that have lent money for speculative development collapse and unemployment increases at an unprecedented pace. Street demonstrations in Hong Kong spread to mainland China causing a state of emergency to be issued.

North Korea for so long dependent on China for economic support faces mass food riots as finance is withdrawn. In order to distract from his country’s ills Kim Jong Un instigates further ballistic missile tests one of which goes astray landing on the north coast of Honshu in Japan. President Trump suddenly becomes aware of “U.S.-Japan Joint Declaration on Security” that appears to offer military support in the event of an attack on Japan. He hurriedly issues a statement confirming his administrations “America First” policy that precludes regional military intervention in East Asia.

This emboldens China to intensify its development of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea resulting in the termination of diplomatic relations with China by Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

In Syria ISIL has been defeated and the Free Syrian Army, no longer receiving US support throws in the towel. Bashar Al-Assad who has remained in power begins to consolidate his grip on the country again helped by Russia who now has several permanent air bases in the Latakia region causing alarm to many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean including Israel.

The Olympic Games in Rio that was beset with transport strikes, ticketing problems, sponsor withdrawals, cancellations of events and the impeachment and imprisonment of President Dilma Rousseff has left an economic as well as political crisis that results in a coup by the military in order to restore order.

With the further collapse of the oils price Venezuela has also been paralysed by a military coup and Cuba, a beneficiary of previous Venezuelan administrations, is in total disintegration causing many Cubans to attempt the perilous sea voyage to Florida. True to his word President Trump sends them straight back and many perish.

Instability in Europe continues but ironically (after Brexit) the UK finds itself in a less perilous position than many of its neighbours. After the prosecution of the main protagonists in the EU Referendum debate for dishonesty the Tory Party are in such disarray that they are forced into a General Election. The Labour Party having split cannot capitalise on the situation as Real Labour and Labour fight in the courts over assets and rights. The LibDems are still a tiny party and the only well organised and competent force in British politics is the SNP. Legislation is hastily drawn up that allows the Scottish and UK parliaments to work together in a government of national unity and Nicola Sturgeon becomes the Prime Minister of the UK.

The severe reduction in pharmaceutical research leads to the much feared scenario of Antibiotic resistant bacteria resulting in a tuberculosis epidemic across much of the world along with hugely increased death rates in hospitals due to untreatable MRSA infections.

Australia and New Zealand whose geographical isolation has protected them from Antibiotic resistant contagion impose a “temporary” ban on all travel in and out of their countries (except between the two). Realising that their economies will be severely impacted both enact economic policies in order to make them self sufficient at least in food production. In an attempt to maintain stability they implement a policy of nationalisation of most key industries and the introduction of a maximum wage.

All climate change targets have been abandoned as States scrabble to use any indigenous fuel they posses. The UN despite trying to unify the competing demands from member states has become totally ineffectual and the Security Council hasn’t met in months so President Trump withdraws all US funding from it and gives notice for it to quit its headquarters in New York. Some wags have speculated that it won’t be long before the TRUMP logo is seen emblazoned on the building.

Although an independent state Belarus has very close military and economic ties with Russia and readily accedes to Putin’s request to allow it to use southern Belarus in order to support its military incursion into Ukraine. This greatly alarms NATO as it puts even greater pressure not only on Poland and Lithuania but Latvia that also has a land border with Belarus. The close proximity of Belarus with Kaliningrad creates the fear that Russia’s plan maybe to isolate the three Baltic states from the rest of the EU. Once again President Trump resists any NATO counter measures but to everyone’s astonishment he invites the Russian president to the USA saying that Putin is “my kinda guy”.

As all coalition personnel including advisers have now left Afghanistan the Taliban quickly overrun the government and resume control while in Pakistan they have forced the government into implementing full Sharia Law. Bangladesh quickly follows suit leaving India sandwiched between two hard-line Islamist states. Inter-communal violence intensifies as India tries to calm its Muslim population that has been infiltrated by extremists.

Trump and Putin meet in Camp David both seeing this as an opportunity to bolster their prestige at home and this works well for Putin who is lauded on his return home having received guarantees from Trump that Russia’s plan to increase its sphere of influence in Europe would not be resisted by the USA.

However for President Trump this was not the situation; as many had predicted he is now floundering, his woeful ignorance of geo-politics is exposed and his simplistic policies at home are unravelling as the economy nosedives, leaving those who formed the majority of his supporters much worse off with repossessions and unemployment rising. As he didn’t manage to persuade other world leaders to revoke the Iranian nuclear deal, a resurgent Syria signs a joint defence deal with Iran which poses an increased threat to Israel. The US religious right, always great supporters of Israel are pressing Trump to offer guarantees for Israel’s security which is in contradiction to Trump’s isolationist “America First” policy, leaving the Republican party wondering how on earth they came to support the Trump presidential nomination.

The future continues…

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man”

Boris as PM no thanks

Politics is always about judgement but it should also be about integrity and the EU Referendum debate has shone a harsh light on the main #Brexit protagonist Boris Johnson. In a 2013 interview Johnson said “I’d vote to stay in the single market. I’m in favour of the single market. I want us to trade freely with our European friends and partners.” What changed his mind? The last three years has seen the immigration crisis arrive in Europe (although not in the UK), and this has ignited a long smouldering resentment of immigrants amongst older, usually less well educated voters and this is the cohort that can be guaranteed to turn out at election time.

To an ambitious politician this was too good an opportunity to miss. No longer are they “friends and partners” but now apparently “the European Union is pursuing a similar goal to Hitler in trying to create a powerful superstate.”

Johnson’s lack of integrity has been further exposed by his use of totally bogus statistics in the campaign, not half truths but full blown lies (see previous post), his bumbling persona hides a gigantic ambition that would probably make him Prime Minister if we vote to leave the EU.

Many #Brexit supporters are from poorer, working class backgrounds without private medical insurance and who rely on the NHS. Johnson has told them money saved from #Brexit could be spent on the NHS however in 2003 he was an advocate of privatisation saying “if NHS services continue to be free in this way, they will continue to be abused like any free service.”

Judgement and integrity are requirements of a Prime Minister but so is competence. Can you imagine Johnson on the world stage negotiating with Putin or Clinton; they would regard him as a buffoon and then disregarded as a statesman. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” but please not this one.

Truth is the first casualty…

 

Michael gove as vicar

If the argument for #Brexit is so good why do Gove and Co. need to tell so many lies to convince us of its merits? The #Brexit camp are evangelising zealots believing their own rhetoric with each Pastor piling on one false claim after another. With virtually all the economic institutions and forecasting bodies lined up against them they keep repeating that these esteemed academic organisations are either lying or in the pay of the Establishment which is ridiculous. Add to that our global friends and partners who all advocate #VoteRemain and their response is like a child shouting “ I don’t want to hear”!

These are downright lies not half truths:

Britain sends £350m a week to Brussels.
No it doesn’t it’s £ 136m

U.K. will be liable for future Eurozone bailouts.
No we won’t.

EU could scrap Britain’s rebate.
No it can’t.

U.K. had given up its ability to veto EU treaties.
No it hasn’t.

U.K. can’t stop the EU’s budget going up.
Yes we can we have a veto.

Britain will be forced into an EU army.
No it doesn’t, it would require our agreement.

Freedom of movement allows criminals to enter Britain.
No it doesn’t. EU law allows Britain to refuse entry to people “on grounds of public policy, public security or public health”.

The #VoteRemain side has also been economical with the truth but to nothing like the same extent. The fact that #Brexit will be a leap in the dark is incontestable, for all its flaws we are in the EU so we know how it works so there isn’t anything like the same degree of uncertainty and risk if we stay in.

The only fact that #Brexit can muster and it is a very significant one is that outside the EU we will be able to deny EU nationals from entering the UK. To their discredit the #VoteRemain campaign will not acknowledge this fact. However if we impose restrictions it seems reasonable to assume that the EU will do the same and who will fill the vacancies in the building and agricultural sectors?

Bizarrely immigration is an issue even in areas like the north east where there are few immigrants, however immigration has changed the character of many towns and cities and myths abound about benefit tourism and queue jumping. This increase in people from abroad has happened over many decades and we the electorate have never been asked if we wanted it that is why people are angry and willing to risk all voting #Brexit.

The Brexiteers also rely on a nostalgic vision of Britain as it was in their history books, with the Great put back in but the world has moved on and this sentimental attachment to the past will hold Britain back if they get there way.

#VoteRemain, not with religious certainty or even much enthusiasm but because the alternative is a naive pipe dream.

How healthy is our democracy?

Is democracy working?

With much of the EU debate about it’s democratic deficit how healthy is UK democracy? Turnout even in UK general elections has decreased, from 84% in 1950 to 66% in 2015 and in elections to the European Parliament has plateaued at around a paltry 35%. Voting is of greater importance to those aged 55 plus, who in the 2015 general election averaged about 77%, than the 18-34 age group that averaged less than 50%.

These baby boomers (55 plus) have generally faired very well, building up considerable personal wealth with equity in their homes and often retiring on generous, final salary, pensions. Contrast this with the 18-34 year olds most of whom find it impossible to buy a home, many saddled with student loan debts that their parent’s generation avoided. This inter-generational unfairness has as yet failed to motivate the young into taking action and that includes voting. But who can blame their indifference as there is no party that is actively supporting their cause? Political parties formulate policy according to where the votes are so it is no surprise that many are skewed in the favour of older voters, like the triple lock on pensions. It is also a curious irony that this cohort, that has benefited most economically from EU membership, is also the group most likely to support #Brexit.

A healthy democracy is dependent on the majority of citizens being engaged in the political process but an increasing distrust of the political class and their unwillingness to address issues that are of concern to ordinary people has led to cynicism and alienation, that is particularly evident in the EU referendum debate; supporters on both sides but particularly those who want to leave the EU have insulted the electorate with ludicrously exaggerated claims and erroneous statistics leaving the electorate to fall back on preconceived opinions and prejudice rather than evaluating unbiased evidence.

The passions aroused by our membership of the EU have always been based more on sentiment than reality. The #Brexit camp make great play of the democratic deficit in the EU while happily ignoring the fact that we have an unelected House of Lords stuffed full of political appointees, not to mention Bishops and the remaining hereditary peers and of course a hereditary monarchy. They rely, as did the Scottish Nationalists in their referendum, on a mix of romantic nostalgia and archaic nationalism.

Although the emergence of UKIP clearly indicates that there has been a concern about immigration particularly in blue collar areas, the referendum was called not so much to satisfy a national demand but to resolve the long running conflict within the Conservative party and was therefore a grossly irresponsible decision by David Cameron since it might quite likely result in our #Brexit. Either way it is unlikely to heal the Tory strife, rather it is likely to amplify it.

The Labour party under Corbyn has been a disaster; the ability for anyone (from Trotskyites to Tories) to vote in the Labour leadership election after a donation of just £3.00 was not so much an exercise in democracy as either an incompetent decision by the then Labour leadership or a cynical attempt at drag the Labour party to the unelectable socialist fringe.

So we are left with a referendum that hangs in the balance but with around 6 million people still not registered to vote. Perhaps #Brexit will win, by gaining the majority of votes, that’s democracy but to have done so without most voters really understanding the issues, perhaps not a healthy democracy.