Brexit – Its Going to be a Bumpy Ride

On return from the Christmas break I had a forlorn hope for a moment of Epiphany, but like the Bourbons, the UK political class seems to have “learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Too much Kool Aid seems to have been drunk. Too much heat and not enough light. Nearly all parties seem to be going around in circles. As Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

May seems on an endless loop, in Maybot mode, is she like Dr Strangelove as suggested by Chris Patten? The DUP are in “No Surrender” mode, with 100% predictability – what passed for sanity in the 17th cent. may not cut the mustard in the 21st. The ERG are doubling down – too lost in mists of Cloud-Cuckoo Land to ever return from English Aboriginal Dreamtime.

Most disappointing perhaps is Labour with Barry Gardiner still dissembling and not facing reality. His latest is the ludicrous UK/EU Customs Union with joint decision making, which even the ERG might not have been barking-mad enough to advocate. Is the Labour “constructive ambiguity” going to crystallise to some form of reality, or is Corbyn banking on getting his Socialist Revolutionary Utopia out of the wreckage of Brexit?

The right wing press is moving from silly season, the pantomime “Stupid Woman”-gate and hyper-inflated “Migrant Crisis in the English Channel” to doubling down on “Spirit of Dunkirk” and dismissing any concerns on the effects of a “No Deal” Brexit as “project fear”.

The BBC is as inept as ever, mistaking relativism for objectivity and giving the Brexit fantasists free reign.

As Barnier says, the clock is ticking. Will Brexit go ahead on the 29th March? Can the UK have a Harry Houdini like escape from this Brexit madness or will it be autopsy looking at the dismembered corpse of the UK?

On the brighter side there are an increasing number of MPs who are smelling the coffee and numerous blogs, podcasts and “twitter warriors” which are excellent.

Can the HoC take back control of the proccess? I have long argued that there seems to have been a bloodless right wing coup in the UK. There seems some hope that sensible people on both sides are finally getting their act together and hopefully taking the apocalyptic “No Deal” of the table.

Regarding blogs, one of the premier ones is Prof Chris Grey’s Brexit Blog. This is from the latest (2nd Jan)

The reality is that Brexit was never conceived of as a strategic project, still less a strategically desirable one. It was always a protest campaign not a plan. Now, it has really come down to just two justifications: to end freedom of movement and to honour the result of the referendum. Without even discussing, yet again, whether or not these are good political justifications for Brexit, the point to make is that whatever else they are, they are not a strategic basis for Brexit.

So if Brexit goes ahead it will mark not just a failure of economic and geo-political strategy – and, after all, such failures are common enough – but something much more unusual: the abandonment of any serious attempt to have such strategy.

There also have been a number of good books including James O’Brien’s How to be Right and Fintan O’Toole’s Heroic Failure – Brexit and the Politics of Pain. O’Toole’s theme seems to have been taken up by Ian Dunt in his Sado-unicornism: May confuses self-harm for strategy article.

The path ahead is shrouded in mist and the complexity mind-boggling. Jon Worth drafted a flow chart of outcomes and a simplified version redrawn by  Serial Mapper shown in Fig. 1.

Fig 1. Flow chart of possible outcomes.


Jon identifies four sets of outcomes: “No Deal”, “No Brexit” – either by a People’s Vote (PV) or revoking Article 50, “Brexit with a Deal” (May’s Deal) and “Brexit is Delayed.”

My own view is that the EU 27 would only agree to delay Brexit in the case of a Referendum (PV) with the binary option of “May’s Deal” and “No Brexit” on the ballot paper. Hence in reality there are only three likely options. In the current climate however anything can happen.

Assigning probabilities is still very difficult. There is no doubt that May will try to get here deal through with fanatical determination. Cancelling Brexit by revoking article 50 is the obvious answer, but maybe politically impossible. “No Deal” should be ruled off the table immediately but will still happen by default if nothing is agreed. Politically a PV (second referendum) may be the only answer, but given how appallingly the first one was run it is also a very risky option.

In summary then it will be a very bumpy ride over the next few months.


  1. Bill Hughes -

    Revoke or delay article 50 is the only sane immediate option. No deal by default is not acceptable except for the far right. PV could be a disaster with the polls so close and the Daily Mail, Sun et al would have a field day again at poisoning people’s minds with all the stuff about “taking back control” anti-immigrant rhetoric etc all over again.

      1. Jennifer (aka Jeni, Havantaclu) Parsons -

        Having read Jonathan Rowson’s article I can only agree with what he says – it’s brought me a fresh perspective on the emotions and thought patterns of Brexiters.
        But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – how do we reach out to those who are currently caught in the web of falsehoods and propaganda meted out by the media – not just newspapers, but also radio and television – not to mention social media?

      2. Sean Danaher -

        yes I was very taken by Jonathan’s article and I have been asking myself the very same questions. It is certainly worthy of further discussion in a separate post. I agree things do not look good at present.

      3. Samuel Johnson -

        An interesting read, even if I balked at the first proposition: a vote requiring a supermajority to overturn the last result.

        At least the charge of the Light Brigade wasn’t preceded by 2.5 years of debate on whether to do it.

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  3. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    Your opening line I have sympathy with. It was my own hope that the break would allow MPs to think outside the febrile atmosphere of Westminster and maybe come back with a different mindset and sense of proportion.

    As you observe – a forlorn hope.

    The other point you make is that rescinding of Article 50 is the only sensible/sane outcome from where we are now. Mere delay of implementation is just cowardice, a refusal to take the decision.

    If the solution is worse than the original problem it would be madness to pursue it. We should scrap the solution and reassess the problem.

    The case for Brexit as envisaged (the fantasy) is not deliverable and has no strategic merit whatsoever, and has not been made.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      I agree. I think May sees Brexit through her fanatical desire to end Freedom of Movement. I think this is indeed madness and will impoverish the UK. The UKGov should rescind article 50 but are worried by civil unrest. For me this is a risk worth taking but there is a possibility it will cause resentment on a level not seen in England for a century.

  4. Ian Stevenson -

    the right wing coup is spot on. The intention of Brexit leaders is to make the UK more like the USA. It has been assisted by the billionaires who own the majority of the press and money from America. Daniel Hannan’s Initiative for Free Trade has links with the Cato Institute (founded by the Koch Brothers) and the Heritage Foundation which boasts it has written two thirds of the Trump administration’s legislative program. Robert Mercer, the American billionaire is one of the people who are alleged to have put up a lot of the money for operations that staged by Cambridge Analytica. Banks broke election law but seems tp be getting away with it. The links are concealed by the media and even the BBC make little reference. John Sopel did mention it a few weeks ago but he is an exception.

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