During the Brexit referendum, before the Progressive Pulse site was set up, many of my comments were on Prof Richard Murphy’s TRUK site. This was my thinking on the time-line and evolving predictions for the future.
What I Got Right.
The Referendum would result in a Leave victory.
The Referendum was a horror show, with industrial scale dishonesty but with high emotional appeal, on the Leave side. The Remain side was and dry, monochromatic and relied on “project fear”, with little positive vision or emotional appeal. The lack of knowledge was frightening. This was particularly true on Ireland, where it was clear a “Leave” victory would cause major headaches on the Irish Border. The cowardice of not putting a positive case for Freedom of Movement was unforgivable.
I felt a combination of well heeled “Little Englanders” and desperate people, who had been thrown on the scrap heap by Thatcher would carry the day.
The Independent Trade Policy was Worthless.
Pretty much all experts agree that the two most important predictors for trade volumes are proximity and size – the Gravity Model. Erecting barriers against the largest and most integrated trading block in the world on your doorstep was stupid.
In negotiation size is critically important and the idea that the UK could get better and swifter trade deals, with non EU countries seemed impossible. Indeed even rolling over existing trade deals, was likely to make the major partners e.g. Japan looking for better terms.
I had assumed that this independent trade policy was a smokescreen to draw the UK into the orbit of the US. Before Trump, there might have been some merit in this.
All indicators are that this judgement was correct, with no major trade deals signed, but we will need to wait and see about the US orbit.
The EU would be more Professional and better Prepared than the UK.
I was not surprised by the EU professionalism, but the UK has been completely amateurish. At the ministerial level, the incompetence has been extraordinary.The inability to listen to expert,s causing Sir Ivan Rogers resignation, for example, was breathtaking. The lack of serious analysis and understanding by the Brexit leaning Tories has been breathtaking.
If you believe the impossible passionately enough is not sufficient to make it come true.
The logical impossibility of May’s red lines has produced a dog’s dinner of an agreement in the WA, prioritising ending Freedom of Movement above everything else.
The UK would split into Leave and Remain Tribes which would last at least a Generation
I thought the bridge was so great between Leave and Remain that it would be nearly impossible to come together after such a horrific referendum. I was surprised by the complete lack of effort and the winner takes all attitude. There was no attempt to include remainers, Rather a you lost, suck it up, get over it. The adoption of Fascist language such as “remoaners” and “enemies of the people” incredibly disturbing
The Irish Border would be the most difficult issue.
My prediction was that there would be an ‘Irish Sea” border and the DUP would absolutely hate it. The land border couldn’t be secured at the height of the troubles with 27,000 military personnel and an estimated cost of 40-60bn per year. It was no surprise that “Ulster says NO.”
What I Got Wrong.
The Monomaniacal Focus on Freedom of Movement.
I had expected an emphasis on FoM as May was frustrated as Home Secretary in her inability to get net immigration down to the 10s of thousands. I had not expected her singular determination to place stopping FoM so much above the wellbeing of the UK.
Memories seem to be short and in the 1970s and 80s there was a considerable outflow of people from the UK to the rest of the EU. Indeed one very interesting figure I saw yesterday was that over the entire period 1973-2018 net EU migration numbers were actually negative – more people have left the UK.
The Result of the 2017 GE
I had expected the Tories to increase their majority and thought it would end up to be about 35. The hung parliament was a pleasant surprise. There was despair however at the confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP. There was no question that the Irish Border would be the most difficult issue and the DUP would fight to the bitter end against an Irish Sea Border. Eventually they would however be “thrown under a bus”.
May’s Prioritisation of the ERG and Tory Party over Country.
I had following Prof Richard’s Murphy’s analysis predicted May would be PM. I had expected far better from her.A PMs prime duty is to her Country not party. May shown no evidence that she prioritises the UK apart from empty words such as “Precious Union”. Evidence seems to show that she has alienated the Scots and a large fraction of the NI population. Her continuing prioritisation of the ERG and DUP above the more moderate pragmatic business section of her party has been a surprise.
The Stickiness of Leave and Continuing Propaganda
Given the industrial scale dishonesty of the Leave campaign, I had expected a greater swing to Remain when the fog cleared. The fog however is not clearing. The right-wing press has not helped, but the movement of the BBC from being a paragon to being a propaganda organ of the Government like the Tass news agency. It is true that there is now a considerable Remain majority. This has however more to do with electoral churn (older Leave voters dying and younger Remain voters turning 18) and non voters. There are some Leave voters who have changed their minds but far fewer than I had anticipated.
Still Don’t Know
The Likelihood of “No Deal” was 90%?
I thought that the Leave promises were so outrageously untrue and “Cakeist” that no accommodation could be reached which would satisfy the leavers. I still don’t know is this is correct. I had expected talks to break sown far earlier and never thought the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Deceleration would be agreed at Government level.
Are we Actually going to leave the EU?
I have always said if rather than when. It is extraordinary that the uncertainty still exists. The likely outcomes seem to now “no deal” or a long delay with EP elections and a confirmatory referendum on whatever deal on which the HoC can form a majority.