Kicking the can’t down the road

When I was working in Nigeria I knew a French manager who was, putting it charitably, rather weak and scared of his own shadow. As is common in oil companies, especially big French ones, he’d been made a manager largely due to his age and nationality. One day he decided to give one of his Nigerian subordinates a rather useless administrative task to do. The Nigerian was also a manager, and also useless, at least when it came to his job function. Apparently he ran a few other businesses on the side and was a chief somewhere, but these involved doing more than just showing up. Have a guess where his efforts went?

Anyway, the Nigerian said he’d do this task but never bothered. There then followed a pantomime whereby every few days the Frenchman would ask the Nigerian if he’d done it, and the Nigerian would say no but he’d do it today, and then he’d not do it. This went on for over a year and it became a running joke between me and a former colleague who witnessed it. The Frenchman seemed to think there were practical reasons why the Nigerian hadn’t done this task, whereas I knew after the second or third week it would never get done. The Nigerian didn’t want to do it, and he’d worked out the Frenchman would never compel him to.

Over the years I’ve formed a phrase which I like to deploy which says if something was going to get done, it would have been done by now. There comes a point beyond which it isn’t going to get done because someone either can’t do it, or doesn’t want to do it. Yesterday one of my professors asked me what was happening with Brexit, and I said I didn’t think it was going to happen. If those in charge wanted to leave the EU everything was in place for them to do so on 29th March. Legally and politically, it was all aligned for them, but they didn’t. Why not? Because they don’t want to, so they’ve come up with one fudge after so they don’t have to. Yesterday’s agreement to extend the deadline to 31st October keeps Britain in the EU another six months, after which another fudge will be found.

A lot of Brexiteers now find themselves in the position of the Frenchman, asking someone again and again to do something they long ago decided not to. They need to accept that the phase of Brexit which began with the 2016 referendum is over. If that was the route to Britain leaving the EU, we’d be out by now. A new route will have to be found.

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31 thoughts on “Kicking the can’t down the road

  1. The French manager in your Nigeria story apparently never thought to replace the Nigerian manager or assign the task to someone else. That might, then as now, be the answer perhaps.

  2. I have similar feelings about Trump’s wall; though there does seem to be some progress there.

  3. The French manager in your Nigeria story apparently never thought to replace the Nigerian manager or assign the task to someone else.

    He’d have rather eaten a bucket of nails than do something that confrontational. The French management were scared rigid of the Nigerians. I found if you actually spoke to them and didn’t write them off as ignorant savages on Day 1, they were often all right.

  4. Brexit is going to happen because the public want it. The Frenchman didn’t really care if the thing was done. The company still paid him presumably.

    We might have crappy management to deliver it, but they’ll get fired if they don’t do the job. The longer May fights, the worse it’ll be.

  5. Brexit is going to happen because the public want it.

    It will, but not via this route it won’t. As an absolute minimum it needs a totally new government who chucks May’s WA in the bin, approaches the EU and says “We can talk or it’s No Deal. Your call.”

  6. I find it hard to disagree with you on this Tim, though I wish you were wrong. I fear Brexit will fail and the issue will simmer away, with the divisions in the UK getting worse and worse, before something unpleasant happens. Which might lead to Brexit, but maybe not.

    This post goes rather well with your previous post, about that pernicious POS Omar. I read in The Times today that the philosopher Roger Scruton has been ditched from a government advisory role because he said in an interview that Islamophobia was a bogus term used to stifle debate. A Labour MP described him as a white supremacist for expressing this thought. They’ve been trying to get him out since he was appointed and it has finally worked.

    It seems more commenters BTL agreed with the decision than opposed it. The Times readership is leftist, as is the British establishment. Aside from a few on the left of Labour and the right of the Tories, there’s not a fag paper between anyone in Parliament.

    When the Tranny Madness started in the UK and it wasn’t snuffed out or laughed off immediately, I thought this might be a sign that – not only was the UK no longer a serious nation – but that the rot has gone too far. The Brexit betrayal is confirmation.

    I am wallowing in full Peter Hitchens doom and gloom today.

  7. “It will, but not via this route it won’t. As an absolute minimum it needs a totally new government who chucks May’s WA in the bin, approaches the EU and says “We can talk or it’s No Deal. Your call.””

    Yep. That’s what I’m working towards.

  8. I think Scruton was fired mainly for speaking about George Soros, because powerful people can get you fired if you point out the fact that they are powerful.

  9. I hope I don’t come across as one of those infuriating berks who loves nothing more than saying “see, I told ya so” but actually I have been telling everyone who is willing to listen, since the day of the referendum result, that our masters will never allow it.

    I suppose it is due to the fact that Britain has been a relatively peaceful, stable and well-run country for so long that almost everyone was certain that our masters would act honourably and effect the democratic decision, albeit with heavy hearts. Nobody wanted to confront the ugly truth.

    Well, now they are starting to. This is not Britain any more. It is post-Britain now, another country. The compact we had has been torn up and replaced with nothing. Something will replace it eventually but what precisely I cannot yet say.

    Tim is correct that Round 1 is over and our masters have prevailed. But this movement is not over, it has only just begun. Brexit is our defining cleft now, not just politically but socially, culturally and even spiritually too. The old paradigms are dead. This is going to be a long-drawn out, bruising, knock-down fight that may even culminate in a civil war.

    The remainers may have all the levers of power at their disposal but we have the odds; they have to win all the time whereas we only need to win once.

  10. “it needs a totally new government who chucks May’s WA in the bin, approaches the EU and says “We can talk or it’s No Deal. Your call”

    In theory exactly right. But in practice in a parliamentary democracy otiose. Unless and until there is a Brexit majority in parliament we can never leave. And I think a second referendum would probably decide to stay too now. So, although I hate it, I reckon we’ve lost our one and only chance – FOR NOW.

    But the immigration continues unabated and the plebs are still revolting. Our establishment is still heading for a reckoning of some sort sooner or later.

  11. Think @Patrick is right.

    As an absolute minimum it needs a totally new government who chucks May’s WA in the bin, approaches the EU and says “We can talk or it’s No Deal. Your call.”

    This requires a party comfortable with No Deal winning a General Election, and having loyalty from back-benchers on the No Deal issue.

    It can’t happen in the current House of Commons. No Prime Minister could command the support of the Commons while taking such an approach. No Brexiteer Tory could manage it, nor will it be revealed Corbyn is at heart still a “Lexiteer” if he gets a shot at it. Plenty of MPs from all parties would simply resign the whip if their leader made it clear that No Deal was a likely or even desirable outcome of their policy, and the PM would be no-confidenced out of office.

    With the fragmentation of the pro-Brexit vote, the split in Brexit-supporters between hard and soft, as well as what polls report as the reduced turn-out motivation among Leavers compared to Remainers, it seems there’s no imminent prospect of a general election returning a No-Dealer as Prime Minister.

    So the immediate prospects are not rosy.

    As for the longer term, the underlying divergence in interests and desires between the UK and the core (mostly Eurozone) EU states will continue… but so will the demographic changes which sees more new British citizens who have moved here from elsewhere in the EU, and likely a continuation of the “europhilisation” of the youth (as more young people travel across, work or study in the EU, or have friends who were EU migrants). Difficult to know which way this would go to be honest.

  12. In theory exactly right. But in practice in a parliamentary democracy otiose.

    That’s why I said at a minimum. It might take an awful lot more.

  13. Difficult to know which way this would go to be honest.

    I think it’s fair to say in five year’s time there will be a very strong party whose sole raison d’etre is to give Eurosceptics a voice. It might not win a majority but it can cause serious trouble by snaffling votes from the larger parties, assuming they still exist. If there are more hung parliaments and coalitions – a real possibility – they can extract concessions over Europe. If they ever get into power, which they might, they can become as obstructive as possible as a large EU member: refusing to abide by the laws, refusing to pay the subsequent fines, etc. Be a bit more like the French, in other words, only block every piece of legislation just for fun.

  14. We are obsessed with the politics but everybody seems to be ignoring the economics. The economic mechanism designed to force political integration called the Euro. How long before more Euro bailouts are needed: Ireland, Spain, Italy etc?

    As we’re not in the Euro it’s perhaps out of sight out of mind but something has to give sooner or later.

    My real concern is being dragged into massive bailouts (which won’t work anyway). Not being in the Euro didn’t insulate us entirely from Greece.

  15. @Tim N

    First past the post electoral systems are not ideal conditions for such a party to become big enough to be an effective pain in the backside, I fear, and reaching the point where you hold the balance of power in parliament is tricky. Needs either geographic concentration or a depressingly high number of votes per seat actually gained.

  16. “Needs either geographic concentration or a depressingly high number of votes per seat actually gained.”

    Not necessarily. UKIP gained the referendum without getting a single seat in its own name. 4m votes spread across lots of marginals means you can hold the balance of power, just at an election, not in the Parliament that is formed afterwards. If The Leave Means Leave Party say ‘We will stand in this constituency because the MP is a treasonous c*nt, but we won’t stand in that one because he (or she) isn’t’ then they do have a fair degree of power over who gets to be an MP.

  17. @Tim N

    A lot of Brexiteers now find themselves in the position of the Frenchman, asking someone again and again to do something they long ago decided not to. They need to accept that the phase of Brexit which began with the 2016 referendum is over. If that was the route to Britain leaving the EU, we’d be out by now. A new route will have to be found.

    I hate to say it, but you’re correct. May’s “Not Leave” surrender treaty in November made that clear.

    I’m furious, upset, demoralised, distrustful…. and would welcome a 5 November style HoC successful “boom” next time they’re all voting [or Para attack 😉 ]; otherwise a rebellion, military coup and/or civil war; perhaps.

    A new Con PM would make no difference as remain MPs select candidates for members to vote on: Hancock vs Rudd

    GE would make no difference as CCHQ has too much control over constituency candidates; Labour same.

    We’re nearing last resort where HM EIIR must act; she sacked Aus PM in 1980s – she must sack Treason “MPs won’t support my ‘deal’ ” May

  18. @Jim on April 11, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    If The Leave Means Leave Party say ‘We will stand in this constituency because the MP is a treasonous c*nt, but we won’t stand in that one because he (or she) isn’t’ then they do have a fair degree of power over who gets to be an MP.

    +1 Now we need Farage’s party, UKIP & AMW to all stand together as “Leave Means Leave Party”

  19. @Mark on April 11, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    As we’re not in the Euro it’s perhaps out of sight out of mind but something has to give sooner or later.

    Yet… all change from 2020

    4 Apr 2019 Great Britain’s surrender document – the Lisbon Treaty
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKl_uXOFseE

    03 Nov 2009 telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/6496336/Lisbon-Treaty-more-of-Britains-powers-surrendered-to-Brussels.html

  20. Patrick: “But the immigration continues unabated …”

    As Eastern European EU members have shown, a country in the EU can chose to exercise firm control over immigration. UK MPs have shown no inclination to control immigration while inside the EU. Is there any reason to expect that the same metropolitan crowd will do any different after the UK separates from the EU?

    The good thing about the Brexit debacle is that it may finally wake up a real majority of the British people to the realization that the problem was only peripherally with the EU — the real problem all along has been the dysfunctional UK political structure and the self-serving denizens of the Palace of Westminster.

    The downside of the Brexit debacle is it has shown that the modern UK is a highly fractured society with weak leadership and no Churchill or Cromwell waiting in the wings to unite a strong majority in favor of the long hard task of fundamental far-reaching change.

  21. Here’s an idea: UKIP should launch a smear campaign against, say… Cyprus (or anybody else not very exposed to Brexit risks). Just enough to piss then right off, and make it politically impossible for their leadership to approve the “favour” of a Brexit delay.

  22. As an absolute minimum it needs a totally new government who chucks May’s WA in the bin, approaches the EU and says “We can talk or it’s No Deal. Your call.”

    EU: When the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me

    Everyone does understand it’s the UK that’s asking for the extensions, right? What magical mystery formula do you expect a new government to come up that transcends Barnier’s Staircase?

    http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/BRITAIN-EU/01006039065/brexit.jpg

  23. “Yet…. all change from 2020”

    Ah yes, the Lisbon “treaty” so assiduously studied and openly debated.

    Maybe that is when the european “army” turns up. I wonder if the uniform will consist of a yellow vest.

    Or maybe Vlad will have turned their gas off by then.

    What power do they actually have to enforce and who does the enforcing? Threats applied to other countries seem to be to withhold funds or “subtly” hint that eurozone debt to the reich won’t be rolled over.

  24. Everyone does understand it’s the UK that’s asking for the extensions, right?

    Yes, hence my blog posts generally lay the blame at the feet of the British political classes not the EU. Those running the EU are self-serving knaves, but they’ve been quite rational in their Brexit dealings up to now. What angers people is that May and her ilk appear to be working on their behalf and not that of the UK.

  25. We’re nearing last resort where HM EIIR must act; she sacked Aus PM in 1980s

    You’re thinking of The Dismissal in 1975 Pcar, and HM had nothing to do with it. The Aust Governor General Sir John Kerr dissolved the deadlocked Parliament on his own authority. It’s still hotly debated whether he should have done so – I happen to think he was right, but I can understand the arguments against.

    It’s an interesting parallel though. Kerr broke the convention of non-interference by the Crown (local rep in this case), but PM Gough Whitlam had arguably already crossed that line in refusing to request the dissolving of Parliament in the face of a constitutional crisis. Basically his pig headedness forced Kerr’s hand. Hmmm, dysfunctional Parliament and a stubborn PM – where have I read about that recently?

  26. If Queenie was going to prove her continuing relevance, she would have by now….. Been and gone. Not gonna happen. Sadly.

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