Friday, November 11, 2016

Reading the tea leaves

2016 has been a year of surprises, to many.

A UK referendum for Brexit was followed by a recent  victory for Donald Trump in the US Presidential Election.

I'm not a great fan of either result, but don't find either surprising.

In the case of the EU referendum, there was a huge problem with the Remain campaign. Essentially, it failed to give people a good reason why they would want to stay in the EU. Part of this is that the EU has actually lost its way - it really doesn't stand for anything. There isn't a European ideal, a European vision, to enthuse and motivate people. Some of this is that European governments are in fact sovereign and won't relinquish control of the big issues, leaving Europe to poke at little things around the edges, a complete inversion of where responsibilities should lie.

Meanwhile, the Leave campaign was coming out with reason after reason why we should get out. The cost of membership. The unelected bureaucrats. Unfettered immigration. Lack of sovereignty. That these were lies or misleading doesn't matter - the Leave campaign kept on making the points.

So, given a general sense of underwhelming disinterest in the Remain campaign, and general dissatisfaction with the state of the EU, is it surprising that people wanting a change voted to Leave regardless of the consequences? Or that people who wanted to Remain couldn't be bothered?

(I see a similar thread in the US presidential election. People are fed up of their current lot in life, one candidate promises to change everything and the other is a safe pair of hands who's not going to rock the boat.)

I've mentioned before that the madness with Brexit is that it isn't for anything. While technically a vote to leave, it gives us no lead or direction on where we should head to. And a non-binding result at that.

It looks like the current government response is akin to burning the house down because some of the residents don't like the wallpaper, then standing on the street outside working out where we're going to live next.

Invoking Article 50 and planning to leave, without having a single clue on what we're going to do afterwards is madness. Lunacy. Stupidity.

And yet the government is actually refusing to give any details of its future plans, It's even attempting to bypass Parliament.

One cannot see this happening without thinking that the only reason they have for keeping their ideas secret is that they actually don't have a clue. This isn't keeping you cards close to your chest, the Brexit emperor is buck naked so they're making sure nobody gets a look.

What should have happened, then?

First, I believe you have to take the referendum result as meaning that there is a great deal of distrust and resentment towards the EU. You cannot simply brush off the result as a win for stupid, there are genuine issues at play here.

(I know, I'm less than enamoured with the institutions of the EU myself. I'm very much pro-europe, but I'm not convinced that the EC or the ECJ are - rather that they're self-serving to feather their own nests and expand their own petty empires, not that the mandarins in Whitehall are any different.)

Lacking a clear direction for what the alternative state should be, there should have been the immediate establishment of some sort of body, a commission or whatever, to evaluate the options, their strengths and weaknesses, and report back. Shouldn't have taken too long, many newspapers produced summaries, Part of the investigation would have to be an enumeration of the issues raised - whether it be spending, sovereignty, immigration, or petty bureaucracy - and score the effect of different paths forward against those issues. Which would have to include the fact that leaving the EU could actually make the problems we're blaming the EU even worse. For example, the level of compromise involved in a Soft Brexit could be such that it would be better not to leave in the first place.

Then the government - sorry, Parliament - would be able to have an open and honest debate about the desired outcome. Maybe even a second referendum, hopefully one this time which actually had actionable outcomes as the choices.

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