by Martin Odoni

On analysis of the proposal mooted by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, for a solution to the border problem in Ireland created by Brexit, I can see three possible explanations, and only three. Here they are, in order of likelihood; –

  1. Johnson is ‘tabling a Habsburg ultimatum’.
  2. Johnson is trying to get around the problem by playing word-games, proposing a solution that plainly fails the purpose, but produces an outcome that is not word-for-word the same as what must be avoided.
  3. He really is as incredibly stupid as he looks.

To explain; –

The proposal is inherently absurd. The requirement of the Good Friday Agreement is for there to be no ‘Hard Border’ between Eire and Northern Ireland, which, as is well-recorded, rather clashes with the Brexit aspiration of ‘the UK controlling its own borders’. Johnson therefore wishes to impose a temporary ‘buffer-zone’ from the start of 2021, with its boundaries approximately five miles either side from the border itself. Customs checks would be carried out at these buffer zone boundaries instead of at the border, and this arrangement would carry on until a joint Anglo-Irish council arranges a final settlement in 2025.

So in short, Johnson’s answer to the requirement for there to be no active border between Northern Ireland and Eire is for there to be two active borders between them.

Proposed Irish border-buffer zone

Boris Johnson is proposing a ‘Brexit buffer zone’ around the Irish border for four years. In effect, this will mean TWO borders in Ireland.

This proposal is one of the daftest yet, and not just because it violates the Good Friday Agreement. In the long term it will violate the Act Of Union 1800 as well, which guarantees a Customs Union between Great Britain and all British-held territories on the island of Ireland. This requirement is undermined by the fact that trading conditions in Northern Ireland will quite explicitly cease to be aligned with the rest of the UK, especially after 2025.

Setting the deadline to 2025 is a very long-winded way of saying, “Let’s just kick finding a permanent solution to the problems of the border-in-Ireland into the long grass for five years, by which time, all the people who made this mess will probably have moved on anyway”.

It is a worst-of-all-worlds proposal.

Note the arrogance of putting the ‘buffer zone’ so far into Ireland’s sovereign territory for Brexit’s sake. This is not an Irish policy, it is a British one, so if Johnson wants a buffer zone, he should put it entirely on the UK side of the border. (Even then, it would still be an awful thing to do, as it creates serious freedom-of-movement issues for those living inside it – any buffer zone would in a sense become a third Ireland. But at least it would be the British accepting the price for a needless problem the British have created.)

So reflecting on all of this, here is what I mean by the three possibilities mentioned above; –

  1. Johnson is deliberately putting forward a proposal that is designed to be rejected, so he can claim that he came up with a solution but others are not co-operating with him. (Like the preposterous demands the Austro-Hungarian Empire placed on Serbia after the assassination of the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 – hence my coining the term “Habsburg Ultimatum”.)
  2. Johnson imagines he has found a loophole in the description of the problem Brexit has created. He is thinking, “Well, they’re saying a Hard Border, which is to say one Hard Border, is unnacceptable, but they said nothing about more than one, so let’s go for two!” as though quibbling over the precise wording of the problem will be enough to make the ‘solution’ acceptable to Republican and Unionist communities alike.
  3. Johnson genuinely means this proposal as a way of reconciling Brexit with the Good Friday Agreement. Because his ‘lovable clownish buffoon’ image is not an act after all, and he really is that much of a congenital moron.

Loopholes are dirty tricks, every time. and they can get people around the letter of an agreement. But the desire to keep the Good Friday Agreement intact is no procedural quibble, trying to keep the paperwork valid merely for the sake of it. There is a purpose behind the attempts to make sure Brexit does not violate the Irish peace process – to prevent a resumption of the civil war known as ‘The Troubles’. The success or failure of that purpose is what will count. Not whether the solution just about fits the wording, but whether it is acceptable to the people whose futures will be most affected by it. To shift blame, to play word games, to mess around with loopholes, or just to behave with reckless, ignorant stupidity over the peace process is absolutely certain to harm it, when lives depend on its continued success.

This is yet another example of Johnson’s manipulative cynicism, of which we have already had too many in just the two months he has been Prime Minister. With his already relentless displays of blustering and deceit, I do not think I am being especially hyperbolic when I suggest that Boris Johnson could be the death of us all.

Advertisements

by Martin Odoni

‘Every silly bastard’

“The trouble with democracy… is every silly bastard gets a vote.”
Rimmer, Red Dwarf: Backwards, by Rob Grant, publ. 1996.

I tire of hearing many a relentless chorus of unthinking protest from Brexit supporters.

What part of ‘we’re leaving’ don’t you get?!?!?

We won! You lost! Get over it, Remoaners!

We want control of our borders back!

We want to make our own laws!

We hate Europeans because we’re racists and xenophobes!” (NOTE: This is not one they really say, but in a lot of cases, that is only because they have no wish to admit it.)

The one I am most fed up of hearing at the moment is that, “If we stop Brexit, it will destroy the credibility of British democracy.” I have heard many euroskeptics on both the right and the left raising this objection.

Protecting a credibility already destroyed

Are these people serious? They think stopping Brexit will destroy the credibility of British democracy? Have they simply not been paying attention for the last three years and more? Everything about attempting to carry out the Brexit process has destroyed the credibility of British democracy!

Most particularly, it has highlighted all of the flaws and weaknesses in a direct democratic process of consultation, and has all-but-guaranteed that no future Government will ever use such a process again. (Or at the very least it will give a powerful pretext to any future Government that wishes to avoid resorting to it.)

Just look at the Referendum in June 2016. Has there ever been a more disastrously bad advert for the notion of Government by the people? Look at the undercurrents of nastiness, hyper-aggression, racism and divisiveness it dragged to the surface of British society. See the grotesque right-wing populism it has validated. Within days, in various parts of the country, people born outside the UK, or even just people of colour, were being targeted by right wingers demanding that immigrants should immediately leave the country. It is hard to imagine any clearer example of being a chaotic, un-free society than one where people are chased out of it on the basis of their birthplace or their skin colour, and yet that is what right-wing Brexiteers have done in the name of ‘democracy’.

But more than that, the Referendum reached a plainly incorrect decision, as can be measured by all the political developments have gone wrong subsequently. More telling though is the reasons that are routinely given for leaving. Again, this is true from Leavers on both right and left. From the right, the above-mentioned demands to control our borders and make our own laws betray a complete ignorance of the relationship between the European Union and its constituent countries; the UK has control of both its own borders – it is not a member of the Schengen Area – and its laws – no law passed in Brussels has any force in the UK without ratification from the Parliament at Westminster, and no law passed in Westminster has to originate in Brussels.

There is no ‘Lexit’ on the horizon

But there are also questionable arguments from Brexiteers on the left. A popular claim is that European Union laws prevent its member nations from having state-run industries. This is not strictly true though. EU rules forbid monopolies, which admittedly makes it more difficult to nationalise industries. but, while it could be argued that some industries are natural monopolies, there are ways, even with, say, a rail network, to have private firms competing with a public firm. For instance, many cities have more than one railway line directly running between two destinations. (Take my own local line, Manchester-to-Liverpool, which has one line travelling via Newton-le-Willows and St. Helens, and a more southern line going via Warrington.) It would be perfectly possible to allocate primary routes to a nationalised service, and all the secondary routes to private firms, giving adequate numbers of privatised lines to meet the needs of EU competition laws.

Left-wing Brexiteers (‘Lexiteers’) also campaigned very much on the grounds of wanting to release the UK from the shackles of EU neoliberalism. There is considerable merit in that argument, as the peoples of Greece and Spain, among others, can attest. But the Lexiteers seem to believe with unshakable certainty that leaving the EU on any basis will make a more socialist future likelier, and promoted the idea keenly during the Referendum campaign. In reality, as matters stand there is no prospect of a ‘Lexit’. Left wing politics and economics are never going to happen so long as the Tories are running the withdrawal process, and it seems alarmingly naive that many Lexiteers imagine otherwise. Should a Labour Government be elected before departure – at least with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister – we can start talking about a ‘Lexit’ then, and genuine benefits for ordinary Britons might even follow, at least in the mid-to-long term. But in spite of what a chaotic horlicks both Theresa May and Boris Johnson have made of the last couple of years, Labour have not yet been able to force a new General Election. Until they do, and win it, Lexiteers really should be hoping that Brexit continues to be delayed. If the Tories are allowed to carry out the departure, they will do it in such a way as to make it even more difficult to implement left-leaning policies.

Ignorance drives the policy

Both right-wing Brexiteers and Lexiteers are therefore not particularly well-informed on the realities of this subject, and yet they were among the most active proponents of leaving the EU. When confronted on immensely difficult issues Brexit creates, which are proving impossible to resolve, such as the border in Ireland, it is noticeable that Brexiteers on either end of the spectrum always talk around the questions, and never have any positive suggestions to offer. The standard response from Lexiteers is to change the subject back to generalities about the evils of EU capitalism. These arguments, to repeat, are accurate more often than not, but irrelevant. Meanwhile right-wing Brexiteers usually just sneer impatiently and keep saying they are not interested and just want the Government to get on with Brexit. Neither of these responses are of any use or will speed up departure, because the Brexiteers’ wishes, whether they like it or not, are not the only ones that have to be respected and addressed.

When uninformed people with no plan are driving the narrative of a public vote, that vote is bound to be distorted and corrupted by it, and will thus lead to the kinds of comical havoc we have witnessed, and that has startled the world, over the last three years. And that same havoc will always be a powerful propaganda weapon for those who oppose democracy. “See what happens when we let the public try to govern directly! Years of chaos and gridlock! We should get rid of democratic processes.”

To be clear, I am certainly not arguing for a scale-back of Britain’s creaking old democratic institutions. On the contrary, I want them modernised and much-enhanced, with stronger safeguards and closure of a lot of loopholes. But there are reasons why we have a representative democracy and not a direct one. While there is a lot to despise about actual ‘career politicians’, legislators who do the work professionally can devote their entire work-time to studying policies and their implications, to iron out flaws and loopholes in them, and to identify any dangers therein. The man-in-the-street may or may not have the ability to do that too, but if he has another full-time job, it is very difficult for him to find the time to do it, or even to search for the information needed. This is why it was unwise to put the question of leaving the EU to the public, at least when the question was put in such a simplistic, binary “Leave or Remain” form. Way, way too many people being asked about it simply did not have enough information, for the simple reason that there was so much of it, and they would not have had the time to find it all, read it all, or digest it all. That last one is particularly awkward, as much of the information would be written in complex legal language that most people find incomprehensible. Referendum voters were therefore unaware of the enormous implications, and equally-enormous complications, of the withdrawal process, or the very clear need for a thoroughly well-worked-out plan for carrying it out. (The absence of which was my main reason for voting Remain.)

‘Prorogation’

Now, this week has taken this credibility-destruction of democracy by Brexit to new and terrifying levels. On Wednesday, the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, formally requested that the Queen suspend – or ‘prorogue’ (to use the silly ancient language of the British state) – Parliament for five weeks between mid-September and late-October. The Queen acquiesced. This will almost certainly leave too little time for Parliament to put through any legislation to delay Brexit again before the current departure date of 31st October. The move is widely, and I am sure correctly, seen as a very cynical way for Johnson to force through Brexit on that date, even without a withdrawal agreeement with the EU. It even goes beyond the loathsome tactics employed by Theresa May before him.

Many Brexiteers have come out unashamedly in favour of this move, complaining that Parliament has been “trying to reverse the result of the Referendum”, which they claim is a “refusal to accept democracy”. This is not really true, as there has been no attempt within Parliament to reverse the activation of Article 50, which is the only way to accomplish it, but more importantly, the complaint about refusing to accept democracy has been shown this week to be disingenuous. I am not the first to point this out, nor I suspect will I be the last, but what we effectively have is this; –

A Prime Minister, voted for by well under 100,000 people, with no majority in the House of Commons, and with no popular mandate at all, has asked an unelected Head of State to suspend the country’s only National forum for the People’s elected representatives, in order to force through a policy that causes a Constitutional change that no one has voted for.

NB: Before anyone comments to dispute this, no, it was certainly not what anyone voted for. Brexiteers, again disingenuously, have tried to claim for the last few months that ‘No Deal’ was the only form that a Leave vote in the Referendum would mean. But Vote Leave quite explicitly campaigned on the assumption that a deal would be negotiated before departure began; –

Vote Leave campaigned for a Soft Brexit

The Vote Leave campaign explicitly argued for Brexit on the grounds of a new deal. They did not specify whether it was a withdrawal agreement or a new trade arrangement, but as they were promising it would be negotiated before activating Article 50, it is entirely proper to assume that both would be incorporated in one package.

Vote Leave may not have been the only campaign in favour of Brexit, but the fact that it is not a definitive policy only serves to underline that ‘No Deal’ is not the only reasonable or ‘default’ interpretation of the Referendum question.

In other words, the unelected are trying to bypass the elected to force an unendorsed policy into law, and Brexiteers are genuinely acclaiming this move in the name of ‘democracy’.

Prorogation summarised

Prorogation is NEVER democratic.

Protecting democracy requires protecting Parliament, not suspending it

This is actually a far bigger and more fundamental issue than Brexit itself. Recalling Theresa May’s sordid machinations in trying to activate Article 50 without Pariament’s approval early in 2017; the Constitution has stated firmly and explicitly for over a century that any amendments to it must be approved by Parliament before they can take effect. (This is the very sovereignty that Brexiteers have insisted they want to ‘restore’ to Westminster, a sovereignty it never lost.) To allow a Prime Minister to make changes to the Constitution without endorsement from the People’s Representatives would be enormously dangerous. For the Constitution is also what places limitations on the Prime Minister’s power. If the Prime Minister is allowed to make Constitutional changes without requiring anyone’s permission, then he/she will be able to remove those limitations at will. He/she would effectively be allowed to do absolutely anything by decree. It would be the single largest step towards a dictatorship.

Proroguing Parliament

Democracy seems to mean “Anything Brexiteers want”.

And the form Brexit takes will also make significant changes to that Constitution. Let us suppose that the UK is allowed to ‘crash out’ with No Deal, and Parliament is deprived of a chance to intervene by the Prime Minister suspending it without its approval. The country will have taken a small but crucial step towards accepting that the Prime Minister has powers as absolute as the occasional Lord Protectors of England’s unhappy past. The only real way now of stopping this is for there to be a successful Parliamentary Motion of No Confidence in the Government before the prorogation takes effect. Brexiteers will almost certainly oppose such a Motion, but that is foolish. They seem not to realise that their own rights are at stake, and that they are fighting on the side of those who wish to take them away.

Too many people have forgotten what Parliament is there for. Its first duty has always been to protect the rights and liberties of the people from the tyranny of unaccountable power. In fairness to the public, that forgotten legacy is partly the fault of MPs themselves, especially the aforementioned ‘career politicians’ who are generally only really interested in ‘job-for-life’ self-enrichment. There have always been sadly too many of them. But that duty is still very genuine, because the truth is, there really is no other institution in the British state that serves that purpose. The relish displayed by Brexiteers at seeing Parliament suspended in this manner is naive and myopic. They are assuming that a Referendum, which is non-binding in law and is only ever called on an ad hoc basis rather than on a compulsory one, is somehow more important to ‘democracy’ than the legal structures that define it.

The Conservative Party leadership are now openly discussing summary deselection of any Tory MPs who rebel against No Deal, without any consultation of the party membership or local constituents. Deselection by that approach is just rank authoritarianism, and stands in horrifying contrast to Labour’s planned reselection process by unswervingly democratic means.

Not democratic principle, but emotional blackmail

The dismantling of the UK’s post-war social democratic institutions in Margaret Thatcher’s time was the start of a long, slow process of de-democratising the country. The more that state industries and structures that were sold off and privatised, the fewer authorities and services there were that were democratically accountable to the public, and the more there were that were answerable to consumers instead. This in effect upped the amounts of power that were allocated according to money; the more money you had, the more you could buy, and the more the nation’s services would therefore answer to you. Since the 1980s, plutocracy has advanced, and democracy has retreated. The latest ‘castration’, as it were, of Parliament, prising it away from its Constitutional authority, is a logical onset of that same process, even if it is not consciously devised as part of it. It is a blow against the rights of British citizens, and yet Brexiteers are cheering it as a triumph for democracy.

It is now unmistakable that, despite right-wing Brexiteers’ pompous rants about “the will of the people”, their desire to drive home Brexit has little to do with democratic principle. They never show remotely this passion, or even interest, when any other Manifesto policy is shelved or delayed, and they will accept any cost, even destroying the foundations of what democracy the UK has, to accomplish this one policy, suggesting they have an infantile tunnel vision. The foaming-mouthed demands for Brexit’s enforcement are about a selfish, ill-informed wish to leave the EU for its own sake, and the cries of, “You don’t believe in democracy” are an ugly attempt to silence honest opposition with emotional blackmail.

by Martin Odoni

NB: This is an excerpt from another article published by The Prole Star.

A number of delayed inevitables finally happened this week. With Theresa May at last forced to declare publicly which policy to pursue over ‘Brexit‘, her house-of-cards is teetering. The Democratic Unionist Party, predictably furious to learn that the Prime Minister’s ‘backstop’ plan involved treating Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK, effectively establishing a kind of border in the Irish Sea, have in all-but-words dissolved the alliance agreed after the General Election. A number of May’s own MPs are now in open revolt over Britain not having independent power to end the backstop summarily, with the rumour circulating – perhaps wrongly – that the magic forty-eight letters of no-confidence have already been received by the 1922 Committee, automatically triggering a leadership ballot. Business leaders have expressed unhappiness with the Brexit plan. Opinion polls suggest the Tories have haemorrhaged between 3 and 6 points in around a week due to hardline Brexiteers across the country feeling betrayed by the suggestion that Britain may stay in a Customs Union with the European Union; they appear to be flocking back to UKIP. A ‘Coalition-of-chaos’?

A coalition of conservative chaos

Everything May said Corbyn would be, May has been.

In short, the Government has hit the buffers this week.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

by Martin Odoni

Remember this?

17629959_214644189018641_6414535529056839565_n

Click here for a reminder.

The first action the Conservatives took in the spring of 2017 after activating Article-50 was to threaten war against Spain. This diplomatic masterstroke to precipitate negotiations with neighbouring countries, as the UK prepares to withdraw from the European Union, has rather set the tone subsequently. The Tories have blundered, fumbled, thrashed around, struggled even to come up with a starting framework for creating a new trading agreement, and repeatedly and predictably then tried to blame the repeated logjams on the EU. So much of the eighteen-months-plus since activation of Article-50 has been wasted, and now, alas, we are at the proverbial ‘crunch-point’. Although our official leaving date is 31st March, the effective deadline for completing the broad strokes of negotiations really is this month; the final six months or thereabouts are about fine-tuning the (very, very many) inner details of a new trading arrangement with the EU. We need to get the overall structure of the deal sorted out right now, and I am sure I do not need to tell you that we are clearly not at that point. Workable settlements for the Irish and Gibraltar border problems still have not been found, and negotiations over a new actual trade deal between the UK and the EU have therefore barely got off the ground.

The likelihood is that at some stage over the next six months, the British Government is going to have to ask for an extension to its withdrawal period. I know foam-at-the-mouth Brexiteer fanatics will play merry hell over such a move, insisting it is a cover for cancelling Brexit altogether, but the reality is that we are not going to be ready at the end of March. If we proceed as we are now, the UK will have two options, and both are bad; –

Either the UK crashes out of the EU altogether, and then has to experience the grinding, expensive, bureaucratic frustrations of trading with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms, while having a hard border in Ireland by default, which could trigger a war. Or the UK accepts a bad, under-cooked deal, with an awful lot of kinks and confused minutiae, from the start of April 2019.

The UK really needs to seek an extension, probably at least eight months, before it will be in a position to swallow Brexit without suffering a serious economic ‘choke’. And this, sadly, is where I fear that the UK’s ‘gunboat-diplomacy’ approach to Gibraltar at the outset may come back and bite the Government hard.

If the UK asks for an extension, it can be done, but it needs unanimous approval from the other countries in the EU. Unanimous. As in, agreement by all of them.

Therefore including… Spain.

Now I am not saying that the Spanish Government will definitely be vindictive over the threatening noises made by Michaels Fallon et Howard last year. Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, is arguably more grown up than the average Tory, and may well choose to be magnanimous. He is an experienced economist moreover, and will know that a deal between the EU and Britain will be in his own country’s interests – especially after years of pointless damage caused to Spain by toxic Austerity. But at the same time, Sánchez might also see an opportunity to ‘strong-arm’ the UK over Gibraltar, knowing as he will that the pressure-of-the-clock is heavier on the British than it is on the rest of the EU.”You want an extension? Okay, give us such-and-such over Gibraltar and I shan’t veto it.” And if the British protest at such opportunism, he can simply shrug and say, “Well, you guys started it!” And he would not be altogether off-his-head to say it.

The stupidity of Conservative rhetoric over the last two years has been a constant nagging worry for anybody following Brexit’s progress. Now the Tories may be in danger of reaping what they sowed. For certain, the Tories deserve no better than to be thrown around in the gales of someone else’s anger. But given the way many in this country have behaved over Brexit over the last three years – some Remainers as well as many Leavers – it is hard to argue that the UK more widely deserves any better either.

by Martin Odoni

My earnest hope for today is that the people of the Irish Republic vote to repeal the confounded ‘8th Amendment‘ of their nation’s constitution. It is an oppressive, paternalistic clause that deprives women of the most fundamentally feminine part of their own autonomy – control of their own reproductive abilities. The passing of the Amendment in 1983 was one of the most obsolete, regressive moves of the Irish Government in the modern era, as it places a powerful legal barrier in the path of any Irish woman seeking to abort a pregnancy, no matter the reason why she needs one.

Repeal the 8th Amendment

The Irish Constitution was amended in 1983 to provide an extra legislative barrier preventing abortion.

Now, I need to make clear that I am not a ‘fan’ of abortion, and I will always hope that a woman would only resort to one in dire circumstances. But I am a ‘fan’ of human rights, and I also recognise that, as a man, I will never be in a position truly to understand the emotional impact of being pregnant and having to face such a choice. I cannot accept that any male should have a decisive say on this issue at all, because in the end, it is not about what happens to his body.

Around the world, older generation males, especially of a religious/conservative disposition, seem to think otherwise, and assume women should always do whatever the men decide is best for them. Refreshingly, modern generation males seem to take a less arrogant stance. This includes, according to some media reports, many younger generation men in Ireland itself. According to feedback received by some pro-choice campaigners, many young Irish men have gone as far as to say they will not vote in the Referendum, saying that they want to leave the matter to women to decide.

Now, this wish to concede to the informed perspective is perfectly sound and creditable up to a point, but unfortunately,  it gets matters in the wrong order. The men can only take that step back after abortion is legal, not before. The Referendum is not a consultation on whether a specific woman should have an abortion. It is asking the very question as to whether women should be allowed to make this decision when the circumstances arise. The current position default in Ireland is ‘no, they should not be allowed’. As things stand, the matter is not left to women, so if an Irish man does not vote for repealing the 8th Amendment, he is not leaving the matter to women to decide.

Therefore, if men of Ireland wish to let women decide these matters – as they should – then they must get out today and vote in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment. Women will probably not be able to provide enough votes on their own.

Come on, men of Ireland, help to make this happen. Do not complacently imagine that you can let it happen for itself. When ordinary people assume that, nothing changes for the better.

by Martin Odoni

As I have stated before, I have never been crazy about the European Union. So when the opportunity was presented to vote for the UK to withdraw from it back in 2016, I did give it genuine consideration. Only once it became clear to me that there was no plan among the ‘Brexiteers’ for carrying out what was bound to be a very complicated process did I opt to vote for ‘Remain’. I could see that, even allowing for the uglier features of the EU (if you do not know what they are, just ask the Greeks), the UK would be tying itself in unnecessary knots that it had no idea how to untangle if it went ahead, and to no accurately-defined benefit. We were better off staying in than committing to a leap-into-the-dark.

In short, I did not vote with my heart, I voted with my head.

Therefore, it would be a considerable exaggeration to assume I am a devoted, hardcore, fanatical ‘Remainer’ who is so enraptured by the site of the ring of gold stars on a blue background that it blinds me to the patches of darkness behind it.

EU heart-flag - not really me

I don’t quite regard the EU with this kind of affection, but I know we’re better off inside it than outside it.

The difficulty is, an awful lot of Britons did vote in the Referendum with their hearts, without really engaging their heads enough to understand what the country would be attempting. Therefore, they voted on the basis of what they wanted, not on the basis of what is objectively for the best. They voted against what they hated, not against what is objectively harmful. Or in many cases, they voted for something they loved, not for what is objectively good for them. (Yes, I include voters on both ‘sides’ here.)

“Get over it!!!”

The phenomenon this led to almost immediately was the “Get over it, Remoaner!mantra. I noticed it and commented on it in under a week. This has been the favoured chorus of the triumphant Leave fanatics since the Referendum result was announced, and is almost certain to be sung by at least someone during any online discussion of the many protracted issues raised by Brexit.

I am often given to wonder whether large numbers of Leavers are football fans, as they seem to regard the Referendum result as ‘the end of all discussion’ a little like the final whistle is the end of a match. Their chants of “Get over it!” are barely distinguishable from those of one football team’s supporters jeering at rivals who are upset at a perceived bad refereeing decision.

Now, it is true that there are those who argue quite vociferously for the decision of the Referendum to be overturned. Given what an undiluted dog’s breakfast the Conservatives are making of the Brexit process, there is a lot to be said for that idea. But overturning is not the argument being made by many of the anti-Brexit protesters, and Leave supporters seem to have trouble distinguishing between different groups.

We do actually accept the referendum result, by and large

A great many ‘Remainers’ (if we must deal in name-tags) have, with sadness, accepted the result of the Referendum. Many, if they are like me, cannot bear the thought of going through another one, or of the tidal wave of anger that will spread through anti-EU areas around the country if the whole process is just called off. But that does not mean that the issue is closed off and that there is therefore nothing to discuss. On the contrary, as soon as the country committed to Brexit, it made it compulsory that a number of matters are discussed; they would not have mattered had the Referendum vote gone with Remain. Ireland and Gibraltar are the two most serious of these issues, and also the two most difficult to resolve. But they do not come anywhere near to being all the issues that Brexit has created.

The frustration for people like me is that every time we point out the no-win situation in Ireland, Spanish unhappiness about British sovereignty over Gibraltar, the inevitable and serious economic impact caused by leaving the biggest trading bloc on Earth, the sheer cack-handed bungling of the way the Government is handling the process and their lack of basic diplomatic skills, and all other Brexit-related obstacles that the UK is failing to hurdle, an awful lot of pro-Leavers get the wrong idea as to why we are doing it. They seem to imagine that we are moaning about a penalty being awarded against us when we think our left-back made no contact on their centre-forward before he went to ground. They seem to think we are pointing to television replays showing clear daylight between the players’ legs. And they seem to think that because they love playing the taunting game, Remainers must be trying to taunt them back and devalue their ‘victory’, or even get it overturned.

But this is not the case. This is not about taunting, or even about being competitive as such. It brings us no pleasure whatever to highlight the problems that are piling up. We are not obsessing over a past argument. We are not gloating and opportunistically saying, “Told-ya-so!” We are not demanding the Referendum result be overturned. We are simply pointing out that these problems are critically important, and they need solutions – quickly, given the deadline for Brexit negotiations is effectively October.  The country faces enormous legal and industrial turmoil if the problems are not solved in time. And solutions are a commodity Theresa May’s Government seems powerless to supply, and will also not materialise as a result of silly cries of, “Get over it!!!!” In a manner of speaking, the Referendum result is barely relevant.

This triumphalist shoutdown mentality from so many Leavers is not helpful or constructive. The problems mentioned above, and many others besides, are not going to be solved by just ignoring them, or by casually assuming that everything will just magically become better the instant the UK leaves the EU.  They will not. If the UK does not get a new deal before leaving the EU, British life will become very trying (as if it is not enough so already). That is looking ever-likelier after Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, finally ran out of patience with British non-commitment on the Irish border issue this week.

Brexit platitudes and sound-bites

When Leavers are not telling the concerned to get over it, they retreat into platitudes and sound-bites, either about being able to make our own trade deals, or controlling our borders. While there is at least a semblance of trying to engage in a discussion, these arguments are, alas, nonsense.

Firstly, we are not likely to get more trade as a result of going our own way. The EU has well over five hundred million people in it, making it an enormous market with huge ‘trading gravity’. The UK on its own has about sixty-five million people. Significant, yes, but inevitably it has far less of such a ‘gravitational pull’ in trading markets on its own, due to being only about one-eighth the size. This will immediately make it harder for us to trade with countries farther afield than Europe. Why? Well it really should be obvious. Long-distance trade, even with modern technology, is more expensive and has greater practical difficulties, than short-distance trade i.e. greater fuel costs, huge shipping distances increase the dangers of mechanical failure by either air or sea, or bad weather etc. It is therefore far easier to convince a far-off country to export to you on favourable terms if you can offer it a huge market in which to sell goods, one that guarantees profits that will clearly outweigh the risks.

Saying we ‘can’ make our own trade deals is in fact just a silly bit of spin. The UK will be compelled to make such deals, whether the country likes it or not, and they will be long, slow, complicated, arduous tasks. Given the weakness of our position outside the big trading bloc, many of the longer-distance ones will not be reached on advantageous terms. The UK will have to wait quite some time before it can get any such deals signed too, and literally decades before it has all the deals it would like. During that time, the British people will experience the comparative harshness of operating under World Trade Organisation rules, with high tariffs and heavy customs controls. Other countries will know how desperate the UK will be to escape those rules in a hurry, weakening the British negotiating hand further. The damage WTO conditions could do to the UK economy, moreover, will make it a less attractive trading partner.

Life was easier when we could leave all that to the EU.

As for controlling our borders, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, the UK has never been part of the Schengen Area, and has always decided its own customs and immigration policy. Leaving the EU will therefore have little impact on border controls or immigration levels one way or the other. While arguments about over-population are (arguably) more intelligent – at sixty-five million the UK population has grown rapidly in twenty years and is now getting a little on the high side for an island – they do not appear to be any less xenophobic when challenged for details, as the BBC‘s Nick Robinson has found. When the argument only works as a broad generality, there is clearly some form of prejudice involved.

No, not all Leave arguments are xenophobic, but most are

In any event, while some Leavers get very upset at suggestions that anti-immigration arguments are all racist and xenophobic (I am unconvinced that very many people do suggest that in fact), you would have to be crazy to assume that prejudice against foreigners has not played a big role. The below example of ‘Schrödinger’s Immigrant‘ has been doing the rounds for the last day or so on social media, and it serves as a real question mark against the whole notion of having referendums at all, if the views of someone this ignorant are considered equally valid as those of academics; –

No, I am not suggesting that all Leave voters are this foolish, or even that a particularly large minority of them are. But the fact that it is so evident that this fellow could only be a Leave voter does not say good things about its support base. Too many Leave arguments are based on rumours and delusions, even ones that flatly contradict one another.

Brexiteers do not help themselves

‘Brextremists’, as it is becoming popular to call the most fanatical Leavers, often complain about being insulted and patronised, but study the general level of debate at which they tend to engage, and it is very difficult to sympathise – just ask James O’Brien at LBC Radio. With their mechanical chorus of “Get over it!” Leavers in fact tend to be every bit as patronising, but also more aggressive in manner. They do not help themselves. More important from their perspective, perhaps, is that they also do not help the process of carrying out the policy they have inflicted on the country in the first place.

Intellectual respect is not a right, it must be earned. If Leavers want more of it, they have to try a lot harder. They need to offer fewer ill-defined generalities or platitudes, and they need to construct arguments based on facts in the real world. They need to learn that winning the argument is not an end in itself, and that taunting a counter-position is not enough on its own to de-legitimise it. The problem they have is that the evidence is so overwhelmingly on the side arguing that Brexit will hurt the UK that they cannot analyse and accept facts and remain Leavers at all. Their pride is clearly hurt by the notion that they might be wrong. So their only escape is to carry on thinking with their hearts and not their heads, and that is why they look so foolish to Remainers – at least to the ones who voted on the basis of objective facts.

It is therefore a ‘false-balance’ mistake to argue that Remainers should be ‘less patronising’. The ‘sides’ are not equal, intellectually or in demeanour.

If this sounds patronising to Leavers too, I have only one more thing to say to them.

“Get over it, Brexpostulators.”

I wonder how many of them will now be digging around in dictionaries trying to figure out what that means?