Captured Nation

It’s been obvious from the beginning of negotiations that the ruling classes on both sides of the English Channel don’t want Britain to leave the EU, but they’ve been so incompetent they haven’t even managed to engineer a solution which works in their favour. Instead, Theresa May is reduced to simply putting her deal to the vote again and again, like a monster at the finale of a horror film which has sustained so much damage all it can do is repeat its stock phrase before finally expiring.

My prediction is the EU won’t budge on the backstop, May’s deal won’t pass on the fourth or even fifth attempt, and those in charge will simply say “Well, we’re just not gonna leave.” This is pretty much where we are already: if they were going to let Britain leave, we’d have been out last Friday. In my experience, arrogant technocrats will attempt to put a veneer of propriety on their decisions but ultimately they’re content to just do whatever is most convenient for them, principles be damned. The only reason to try to ram May’s deal through is to give the ruling classes a flimsy excuse for their actions, but it’s not going to make any difference. Britain might well end up leaving the EU this year – perhaps after a general election – but it won’t be as an end result of the farce that’s playing out now. The conclusion of that was decided an awful long time ago; what’s changed is now everyone can see that.


14 thoughts on “Captured Nation

  1. what’s changed is now nobody everyone can see that.

    That’s a tantalising closing line!

  2. My favourite movie metaphor for Britain’s relationship with the EU is the fight between Lee and O’Hara in Enter the Dragon. Lee keeps making hits, O’Hara gets nowhere. He’s on the floor, battered. He could accept an honourable defeat, but instead he reaches for a glass bottle and goes for that. Lee does the only sensible thing and kills his opponent.

    The Conservatives keep on resisting what their voters want and each time, the stakes rise. Cameron made an “iron clad” promise to deliver a referendum on Lisbon He then said “actually, we can’t”. Result? Lots of voters jumped to UKIP, causing them to fail to secure a majority in 2010. So, in 2015, Cam offers an EU referendum. He then negotiates, gets a rubbish deal and still backs remain. Loses the referendum and his job. May comes along, produces another crap deal. Her MPs don’t back her. The Conservative membership start getting angry with MPs who won’t do what most of them want, which is to leave the EU. You now have tweets from MPs talking about backing Grieve despite his local party wanting to deselect him. You have George Osborne talking about throwing out that local party.

    There seems to be not a moment’s thought about “what happens next?” in any of this. You can ride roughshod over democracy in the short term, but in the medium term, it’s going to bite you in the arse. Throwing out the Beaconsfield association will see an emptying of the Conservative associations. The Conservative party will wipe out their ground army. Apart from people switching to UKIP or Brexit Party, they won’t have the people to get the vote out.

  3. There seems to be not a moment’s thought about “what happens next?” in any of this.

    There never is. One of the main purposes of holding principles is it makes the future somewhat more predictable in terms of the sort of problems you’ll be facing, meaning you can prepare. The sort of people we’re talking about believe they’re clever enough to manage things on the fly, and we’re back to that hubris I was talking about before.

  4. I think the UK will leave the European Union, but will stay in Customs Union and Single Market. Which is probably the best compromise that can be achieved, the UK remaining closely tied to it’s largest and closest trading partner, whilst no longer being involved in closer political integration.

  5. @MJW, prediction is difficult, especially about the future. Who knows what that band of lackwits will think of. I wonder if Ladbrokes is even accepting bets.

  6. MJW
    Your cure is worse than the disease. Customs Union plus Single Market, with no means of influencing either. This would tie us even closer to Europe and prevent the development of trade with the rest of the world. Customs and single market are policed by the ECJ, so we’d be subject to that too,
    Under the EU constitution any member of the customs union must be a member of the EU. So after a period of the anomaly we would be forced to rejoin the EU as a “tidying up” exercise.

  7. Seems remarkably apposite that the current week commences with All Fools Day. Question is, who the fools are. Them or us?

  8. @ zut alors!
    I’m pretty sure the EU would accept the UK in an ongoing customs union. The whole ‘trade with the rest of the world’ wheeze is just a weak vehicle for sovereignty arguments; the UK’s relationship with EU fits much better with trade theory than Brexiteer fantasies relying on 1) people being unable to differentiate between relative and absolute growth and 2) the fact small, immature things often demonstrate very high growth relative to large, mature things, those large things having decades or even centuries of compound growth advantage. When Mogg says people might not see economic benefits of hard Brexit for 50 years he’s not joking, there’s a huge gap between our current EU trade arrangements and anything we can cobble together doing deals with small economies in far flung places. Part of the gap may be filled by becoming a US rule taker, but that’s relying on convincing people who think having to share rule making with the EU is a terrible thing(although we probably shouldn’t expect logical consistency on such an emotive topic)!

  9. MJW
    My beef with the EU is less about trade than sovereignty, but here goes.
    A large declining proportion of our trade is with EU, even after accounting for the effect of the Rotterdam entrepot. However, we are forced to impose tariffs which mildly impoverish our people. Just as the Great Wall of China was designed to keep people in more than barbarians out, so the Customs Union exists to milk the populace of Europe, not to promote free trade.
    An example is regulation of the importation of manioc. This is a tropical tuber not grown in Europe so there is no need for import restriction. (It is also pretty tasteless, and demand is tiny.) Trade agreements distinguish whether the root is loose in sacks, packaged in paper or plastic, flash frozen or just frozen, sliced or diced, packaged under vacuum or inert gas, cooked or semi cooked, ready prepared or skin on, sold as an ingredient or as part of a ready meal. I may have omitted some detail but you get the picture.
    All trade negotiations follow this torturous and largely unnecessary complexity. They are conducted under a mercantilist mindset which says Export Good Imports Bad, when in fact people want to buy what they want.
    I have even sat through a speech by a mainstream (not FN) extolling the virtues of autarky.This might be the sort of club you want to join but why should I be forced to pay your subs?

  10. The locked into the customs union option is infinitely worse than most people are discussing.

    If Britain DOES agree to this then:

    1) Britain is not (or no longer) a member of the EU so cannot influence any deal either with Europe or the rest of the world. Only EU members have voting rights on the matter.

    2) Britain cannot agree deals with anyone else in the rest of the world but must ask the EU to negotiate on their behalf.

    3) Britain will be forced to accept any conditions that the EU agree with non EU countries such as tariffs into/out of Britain which may be specifically tailored to Britains disadvantage. Of course, the EU is never vindictive, is it?

    4) The EU can can negotiate against British interests and assign any conditions that it likes on Britain such as forcing Britain to accept goods it does not want or need, exceptional tariffs or other rules and regulations not applicable to the rest of the EU etc. For example, the EU could say that Britain must accept 50% of all American cars imported into Europe even though they are left hand drive and therefore are virtually impossible to sell and impose a special import tariff of 100%.

    In other words, by handing ultimate power to the EU without any accountability or influence Britain will get the worst of all worlds.

  11. @Tim N

    My prediction is the EU won’t budge on the backstop

    Alex: The Fifth Column

    “For a few months now I have written about how the EU’s plan is increasingly transparent, and it is becoming possible to anticipate their every move.

    I believe we are now so close to the outcome they wargamed a year ago, that the final week is now almost completely predictable.

    For what it’s worth, here we go.

    I said back at the start of the year that the EU don’t care about the backstop – it’s a non-issue for them

    The EU is about to go full dramatic chipmunk, and capitulate on the Irish border issue.

    In reality, it was never a thing – it was a fake problem. A phantom. They never cared about the Irish border. It was only there so they could pretend to sacrifice something later.

    To make us feel like we had won, and that refusing to sign their deal now would be wholly unreasonable. Because look how reasonable THEY have been.”

    They don’t care about the Irish border, but they care about Britain remaining in the EU. They care about that A LOT.

    So this coming week, the EU will water down or remove the backstop they never cared about, and the British people will be betrayed into vassalage by their Vichy Parliament.

    That’s right – another “breakthrough” is imminent, although I suspect the EU will once again trot out the gap-toothed Belgian bumpkin Verhofstadt to pretend to find the whole affair insulting, so we remember to be properly grateful to his paymasters.

    All other options now are just scare tactics – No Brexit, No Deal, long extensions, a general election, a loss of drinking water, or pet food, or medicine – these are all just the Bad Cop act designed to get us to gratefully turn to the Good Cop.

    Namely the EU’s Withdrawal Agreement, that despite the promises made, it involves no actual withdrawal.”

  12. This jewel of a BBC interview is so typical of the way the BBC constantly scaremongers with Project Fear stories and demonizes Brexit. Tim Martin fights back brilliantly. This interview summarizes the entire Brexit debate beautifully and shows exactly how the media have corrupted the process with anti-Brexit propaganda.

    Perhaps the extreme BBC bias against Brexit is “unconscious bias” but deliberately spreading lies is most definitely not subconscious.

    I believe OFCOM is investigating the BBC but will it be too late to stop the BBC damaging Brexit?

  13. @Tim N

    My prediction is the EU won’t budge on the backstop

    Merkel has let alternatives to the backstop out of a bottle. So there’s no putting them back in.

    Frightened by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, Angela Merkel instructed Michel Barnier to consider a fall back plan to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

    Merkel has some form on this. In January, she held a lengthy phone conversation with Leo Varadkar in which she stressed her concerns on the Irish protocol. But this time she has clearly gone a step further. On Saturday, the Irish Times reported that the European Commission and the Republic of Ireland had begun discussions in this new context. The Irish government has reacted with visible nervousness and a determination to downplay such news.

    Poor old backstop! It was initially hailed by both the UK and EU governments as the only way to save the Good Friday Agreement and a soft border in Ireland. It has now decidedly lost that status.

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