Remainers Have A Cunning Plan To Thwart Brexit

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Brexiteers will never see it coming

As anguished “British Europeans” come to terms with the triggering of Article 50 (and, no doubt, their delicate selves) this week, Oxford University professor of European Studies Timothy Garton Ash has come up with a cunning plan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and stop Brexit in its tracks.

Our intrepid plotter plans to cosy up to Brexiteers – no more metropolitan lefty winger-wagging from he! – in order to gain their confidence, and then craftily turn them against Brexit through gentle persuasion rather than the haughty contempt which has been the prevalent attitude of most Remainers thus far. Yes, the new plan is for Remainers to be like secret agents working deep behind enemy lines in Theresa May’s dystopian Brexitland, dodging the lynchings and summary executions (which will naturally be a daily occurence) in order to sow doubt among the population and keep alive the flame of “liberal” fidelity to the EU.

Unfortunately, by writing it all down in a column for the Guardian, Garton Ash rather gives the game away, warning everyone in advance of his plan:

This week opened Act III of a five-act drama called Brexit. The play will take at least five years, more likely 10, and only Act V will reveal whether it is a tragedy, a farce, or some very British theatre of muddling-through. The many millions of us in Britain who identify ourselves as Europeans must not give up now, as if the show were over. It’s not, and we’re not just the audience. We are actors in this play and our main task is to persuade our fellow actors.

Yeah yeah, we get it, you’re so European, I feel like I’m in Venice just reading your words.

In order to get there, we British Europeans have to work out ways of reaching some of those Brexit voters, recognising that they are in no mood to be lectured by metropolitan liberals. We need to penetrate the echo chambers of populism with plain facts and good British common sense.

Instead of going on about “stopping Brexit”, which allows us to be quite effectively pilloried as whingeing remoaners, we should state the new goal positively.

Of course I still want Britain to remain a member of the EU, just as a Brexiteer would still have wanted Britain to leave it if the referendum had gone the other way – and we should never say never. But as I wrote just after the referendum, our strategic goal should be “to keep as much as possible of our disunited kingdom as fully engaged as possible in the affairs of our continent”.

Theresa May talks of a “deep and special partnership” with the EU: let’s make that very deep and very special. And who knows what opportunities the next years might bring? We are only at the opening of Act III, and there is still much to play for.

So no more actively talking about seeking to thwart Brexit, and lots more silent manoeuvrings to thwart Brexit behind people’s backs instead? Pretending to sincerely engage with Brexiteers and speak to their concerns and aspirations after having spent years furiously denouncing them as low-information, xenophobic reactionaries who were tricked by an Evil Bus into voting against their own evident self-interest? What could possibly go wrong?

HEY! SEE THIS HOUSE? THIS ONE OVER HERE, THE ONE THAT’S CLEARLY OCCUPIED, WITH A CAR PARKED IN THE DRIVEWAY? THE ONE WITH THE OWNER STICKING HIS HEAD OUT THE WINDOW TO SEE WHO’S SHOUTING IN THE STREET? I’M GOING TO ROB HIS HOUSE IN A MINUTE! I’M GOING TO RING THE DOORBELL AND PRETEND TO BE A SALESMAN, AND WHEN I’M INSIDE I’M GOING TO ASK FOR A CUP OF TEA AND THEN STEAL ALL OF THE VALUABLES WHEN HE ISN’T LOOKING. THAT’S MY SUPER-STEALTHY CUNNING PLAN. DID YOU HEAR ME? OKAY, HERE I GO!

Ding dong.

 

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On Article 50 Day

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A genuine opportunity for democratic renewal – if we can keep it

Many believed – either through arrogance or hopelessness – that this day would never come.

Article 50 Day: the day that the British government triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally signalled to the European Union our decision to secede from that dysfunctional, anachronistic and profoundly anti-democratic political union, conceived more than a century ago and constructed in a post-war age now almost completely alien to us.

Of the many pictures which may come to represent “Brexit Day” in historical memory, the two images which struck me are the photograph of Theresa May signing the Article 50 notification letter in Downing Street last night, and the television footage of the British official (Ambassador Sir Tim Barrow) in Brussels, striding into the European Council building to deliver the note to president Donald Tusk.

Why? Because these images more than any other represent the astonishing triumph of democracy over the near-unanimous will of the political establishment.

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Sir Tim Barrow - Article 50 letter - Brexit- European Union - Britain

Theresa May did not want to sign the Article 50 letter. During the referendum she campaigned, albeit half-heartedly and often nearly invisibly, for Britain to remain in the European Union before accepting the inevitable and promising to implement Brexit as she manoeuvred for the Tory leadership.

And the British civil service, foreign office and diplomatic corps, represented here by Tim Barrow, our Permanent Representative to the EU, certainly did not want to deliver the letter, so accustomed are they to thinking and operating only within the narrow tramlines of those competencies not surrendered to Brussels..

The generations of politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats who currently run Britain were raised on a narrative of national decline and inevitable dependence on the Brussels political union as the only means of amplifying our fading voice in world affairs. Their formative years were spent during the Winter of Discontent and marked by one post-war national humiliation after another. The tremendous post-1970s (Thatcherite) revival has failed to disabuse them of the utterly false, poisonous notion that Britain is a small and insignificant country, no longer capable of governing herself in the manner of other independent countries such as Canada or Australia, let alone as the fifth largest economy and major cultural, commercial, diplomatic and military power that we truly are.

By huge margins, these people were deeply wedded to Britain’s inevitable future as a European Union member state, and consider Brexit a huge mistake bordering on a tragic act of national self-harm. And yet Theresa May signed the letter, Tim Barrow delivered it, Article 50 was duly triggered and the process of Britain’s secession from the European Union was put into motion.

Why is this something to be celebrated? Because at a time when there is every reason for cynicism and doubt, it shows that at a fundamental level, the British people are indeed still in charge of their own destiny.

Theresa May did not want to sign the letter and Tim Barrow did not want to deliver it, but they did so because they retain a sufficient fear of (if not respect for) the public that they dared not abuse their power by overriding the results of a public referendum. Note that there is no such reticence about subverting democracy in the diminished union we are now leaving – unfavourable referendum results in member states (relating to EU treaties or the ill-fated constitution) have consistently been treated as unfortunate but minor setbacks and then sidestepped by the Brussels machinery, its leaders safe in the knowledge that they are so insulated from democratic accountability that they will suffer no consequences for their actions.

In Britain, however, there remained just enough fear of the people for our leaders to be forced to do the right thing, against their will. That’s not to say that they will get Brexit right, not by a long stretch – right up until Referendum Day, many Brexiteers were too busy hating the EU to identify the future relationship they wanted to have with it, while bitter Remainers did much to poison public and media opinion against the kind of transitional EEA deal which would have caused the least economic disruption. But given a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union our leaders are now doing so, however clumsily and against their will. This is as it should be.

Brendan O’Neill also gets it:

What we’re witnessing in Britain today, with Theresa May triggering Article 50, is something radical: the political class is going against its own judgement under the duress of the demos. The polite, peaceful duress of the demos, it should be pointed out.

We know that 73 per cent of MPs want to stay in the EU. We know many in the House of Lords are horrified by Brexit and were keen to hold it up. We know 70 per cent of business leaders wanted Britain to remain, and that some of them launched costly legal battles to try to stymie the Brexit momentum. And yet in the end, all of them, every one, has had to roll over and give in to the masses: to the builders, nurses, teachers, mums, old blokes, unemployed people and others who effectively said to the political class: ‘You’re wrong. We should leave’. To the people surprised that such a state of affairs can exist, that the political set can be made to do something it doesn’t want to by the mass of society, including even uneducated people: what did you think democracy meant? This is what it means.

Yes, this is what democracy means. To do anything else – to override or subvert the referendum decision for Brexit – would mean the triumph of technocracy  and well-meaning dictatorship over democracy.

We tend to forget, because it has not been this way within living memory for many citizens, but in a democracy the leaders are supposed to fear and respect the people and their judgment, not the other way around. As government relentlessly expanded and the bureaucratic state encroached ever more on our lives, we have unfortunately come to fear the government far more than government leaders fear the public – but not so with Brexit. Government ministers know that to defy the Brexit vote and seek to remain in the EU against the wishes of the people would visit such anarchy and destruction upon the country that they daren’t seriously even consider it (save inconsequential politicians such as Tim Farron). And so no matter how much they dislike it, today they implement our instructions.

Of course, Brexit is just one issue. In many other arenas of public life, officials have absolutely no qualms about defying public opinion and treating voters as polling units to be managed or placated rather than autonomous, thinking and engaged citizens to be feared and respected. We must take care not to merely repatriate powers from Brussels back into the arms of a power-hungry, over-centralised Westminster government that will fail to act in the interest of the UK’s diverse home nations and regions, and which carelessly surrendered its own powers to Brussels without democratic consent in the first place. Now, more than ever, we must hold our politicians and civil servants to account.

Brexit is the start of an opportunity for real democratic and constitutional reform, not an outcome in itself. Secession from the European Union makes the rejuvenation of our democracy possible, but by no means inevitable.

When queried by a stranger as to the outcome of the constitutional convention he was leaving, American founding father Benjamin Franklin famously replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it”.

Today, as Theresa May’s government (for all its many flaws) triggers Article 50 and serves notice on the European Union, we seek to reclaim our national self-determination and renew our democracy – if we can keep it. If we can rise to the occasion and collectively seize the great opportunity which now stands before us.

 

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Brexit, Public Protest And The Judiciary

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No, criticising legal rulings is not fascism

Right now the internet is bubbling with a lot of nonsense about the role of the British judiciary as relates to Brexit, and though I have my head full of US election news ahead of tomorrow night’s Semi-Partisan live blog, there are a couple of pieces of egregious stupidity which need slapping down.

Today, of course, Nigel Farage made headlines by announcing his intention to lead a march of 100,000 people on the Supreme Court in an effort to demonstrate the public’s supposed strength of feeling about ramming Brexit through without any Parliamentary scrutiny.

From the Telegraph:

Nigel Farage is planning to lead a 100,000-strong march to the Supreme Court to coincide with the start of the Government’s attempt to stop peers and MPs delaying Brexit.

The march, organised by the anti-European Union campaign Leave.EU, will end with a rally in Parliament Square within sight of the court building where judges will be hearing the appeal.

The campaign group is planning to “crowd fund” £100,000 from its supporters to pay for barristers to represent Leave supporters in the court action.

This will mean that the anti-EU supporters will have their own barristers in the legal action, who can challenge claims made by Remain supporters and even the Government.

[..] A spokesman for the organisers said that Mr Farage and Leave.EU millionaire backers Arron Banks and Richard Tice had “secured support from thousands of Leave voters” for the march and legal action.

The march will most likely take place on December 5, which is expected to be the first day of the hearing. The Supreme Court has cleared four days for the hearing which will be streamed live on the internet.

As this blog recently laid out, I am fairly relaxed about the High Court case and the coming appeal to the Supreme Court. If David Cameron’s utterly useless government had a) planned the referendum properly, and b) considered the possibility of Leave winning then all of this might have been spelled out clearly at the time of the referendum, as it should have been.

That being said, MPs are aware of the hellfire which would rightly rain down on them if they seriously attempted to subvert the referendum result; if they now want to give their cosmetic blessing to a high-level instruction to the government to invoke Article 50 then they are welcome to go ahead.

Of course, some people inevitably then take it too far. UKIP leadership candidate Suzanne Evans quickly took to the airwaves making incoherent comments about the need to exercise “democratic controls” (whatever that means) over the judiciary.

From the BBC:

Ms Evans told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were likely to be “protests and demonstrations”, but added that these would be peaceful.

She added: “I have a concern that Article 50 is not intended to facilitate nation states leaving the European Union. I think it’s there to frustrate them.”

Ms Evans said she thought the legal process could “water down Brexit”.

She added: “I think it’s amusing that the very same people who say it’s all about parliamentary sovereignty have, for the last 48 years, been trying to undermine parliamentary sovereignty”.

Ms Evans said: “I think there’s a debate to be had about whether or not judges are subject to some kind of democratic control.”

She did not want to undermine “their judicial independence”, but added: “I suppose that in this case, we have had a situation where we have judges committed to stay in the European Union…

“I’m questioning the legitimacy of this particular case. We know that the legal profession threw a collective hissy fit when we voted to leave.”

This is just incoherent garbage. “Democratic controls” could mean anything from moving towards a system where many judges are elected (as in many American states) toward some kind of constitutional fix to prevent judges from ruling to delay or impede the government from carrying out the instructions from this or any future referenda.

At no point does Suzanne Evans articulate what kind of controls she has in mind, which naturally plays into the hands of tremulous Remainers who are lightning-quick to portray any intemperate or ill-considered language from Brexiteers as a sign of the oncoming fascist apocalypse wrought by Brexit.

From the Huffington Post:

Her comments were branded “irresponsible”. by Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer. “Some of us have worked in countries where judges do as governments tell them and we know that is highly corrosive of the rule of law and democracy,” he told Today.

Starmer said the High Court had simply “upheld the rule of law” by deciding the prime minister did not have the power to trigger Article 50 without a parliamentary vote. “It’s a slippery slope,” he said of Evans’ comments. “Principle is really important here. The rule of law really matters. It underpins this country.”

However Evans said she had not been talking about judges being subject to elections, but instead “pre-appointment and confirmation hearings” and “scrutiny by select committees”.

Typically, hysterical and bitter Remoaners like Coke Zero Conservative Anna Soubry led the way with her cries of “fascism!”:

However, many pro-EU commentators, in their sudden high-minded support for the independence of the judiciary, seem to be suggesting that any form of protest directed at judges or the courts is absolutely unacceptable and fascistic, whatever the reason.

LBC’s notoriously and stridently europhile presenter James O’Brien ripped into the protest, essentially declaring that it is wrong to protest legal decisions and rulings:

Today James gave his reaction to the march and it’s safe to say he wasn’t impressed: “We’re post-truth now…what’s Mr Farage doing? Having a little march to the Supreme Court to complain about British judges enacting British laws in British courts.

“Truly we are down the rabbit hole!”

James continued: “He says to remind people what they voted for. I appreciate your core support is a little bit flaky pal, but I don’t think anyone’s forgotten what they voted for.

“It’s quite incredible. Yet we’re all still standing alongside, going: ‘Oh, I wonder why this is happening.’

“I’m not wondering why this is happening. I know why this is happening. Same reason it’s happened throughout history. You take angry people who feel like they’re not getting a fair deal, give them a false target for their fury and just sit back and watch the whole place burn down.”

Presumably O’Brien feels similarly sickened when crowds of people assemble in front of the United States Supreme Court to protest in favour of socially progressive outcomes, like striking down the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA). Except we all know that O’Brien would have no problem with such protests. Demonstrating about legal cases is abhorrent and intimidating when Nasty Brexiteers do it, with their thuggish and populist ways, but absolutely fine when the people march under a rainbow flag or advocate for a progressive cause.

But some of the most thin-skinned people of all are those within the legal profession, who apparently feel under assault by Brexiteers and parts of the media in the wake of the High Court decision.

From the Guardian:

The justice secretary, Liz Truss, is embroiled in an extraordinary row with the country’s barristers, after she was accused by the Bar Council of not fulfilling her role as “the conscience of the government”.

Truss has failed to condemn vitriolic attacks on the three judges who last week ruled that parliament must be given a vote before Britain triggers article 50, launching the Brexit process.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, the chairman of the Bar, the representative body for barristers in England and Wales, told the Observer that the cabinet minister had a duty to uphold the rule of law. “[Her job] is sometimes called the conscience of the government and one would expect her to speak out on something like this,” she said.

The high court ruling on Thursday, which the government has said it will appeal, unleashed a torrent of personal abuse directed at the judiciary, with one prominent cabinet member claiming the judges’ decision was “unacceptable”.

Under huge pressure to defend the independence of Britain’s judges, Truss – who is also lord chancellor – issued a terse statement on Saturday, observing: “The independence of the judiciary is the foundation upon which our rule of law is built and our judiciary is rightly respected the world over for its independence and impartiality.”

What more do these wobbly-lipped victims want? The High Court made a decision, and various citizens together with certain press outlets exercised their free speech rights to criticise that decision in loud and forceful terms. Did anybody attempt to physically or mentally coerce the judges who made the ruling? No. Has anybody hatched a plan to neuter the judiciary’s ability to rule in future such cases? No. So what, exactly, does the Bar Council want? Apparently they want to be exempt from criticism. And to elevate the judiciary into such an exalted position would be truly frightening and totalitarian.

If the Bar Council, assorted other members of the judiciary and a coterie of Remainers expect Liz Truss to stop the Big Bad Scary Media from uttering opinions about the validity of legal decisions or the motivations of the people who make them then they really have taken leave of their senses, as well as any conception of the role of a free press in a democracy.

All in all, many Remainers seem to be taking leave of their senses. Those people who never gave the judiciary a second thought but who are now lionising it simply because they delivered a verdict which seems to frustrate some Brexiteers need to realise that the judiciary is not always high-minded and impartial.

The BBC reports that Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice, opined that the Supreme Court should not overturn the High Court’s ruling because to do so might be *perceived* as a victory for the demonstrators:

The justice system could be undermined if a ruling that only Parliament can trigger Brexit is overturned, a former lord chief justice has said.

Lord Judge said it would be seen as a victory for pro-Brexit demonstrators should the Supreme Court reverse last week’s controversial High Court ruling.

[..] Lord Judge, who was the most senior judge in England and Wales between 2008 and 2013 and who is now a crossbench peer, told BBC Newsnight that people were entitled to protest but he was concerned about the impact the case might have on the legal system.

“People can march as much as they like,” he said.

“I don’t think it makes any difference to the judicial decision but it does make a difference to public order.

“Let’s say for the sake of argument the Supreme Court decides the High Court was wrong, it will undoubtedly be conveyed as a victory for the demonstrators.

“It won’t be but that’s what will be conveyed. And if that is conveyed, you’ve undermined the administration of justice.”

In other words, the head of the judiciary from 2008 to 2013 thinks that the Supreme Court should make a decision not based on the law, but rather on a desire to signal to unruly Brexiteers that judges cannot be pushed around. Even if there are found to be legal grounds for overturning the lower court’s decision, Lord Judge believes that the Supreme Court should allow error to go uncorrected in order to put the people in their proper place.

And yet criticising these people or displaying the slightest scepticism about their motivations and objectivity is apparently tantamount to fascism.

Give me a break.

 

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On The Article 50 Ruling

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Everybody calm down

So as was always a possibility, the High Court has ruled that the government does not have the authority to initiate Britain’s secession from the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without first winning a vote in Parliament.

From the Guardian:

Parliament alone has the power to trigger Brexit by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union, the high court has ruled.

The judgment (pdf), delivered by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, is likely to slow the pace of Britain’s departure from the EU and is a huge setback for Theresa May, who had insisted the government alone would decide when to trigger the process.

The lord chief justice said that “the most fundamental rule of the UK constitution is that parliament is sovereign”.

A government spokesman said ministers would appeal to the supreme court against the decision. The hearing will take place on 7-8 December.

The lord chief justice said: “The court does not accept the argument put forward by the government. There is nothing in the 1972 European Communities Act to support it. In the judgment of the court, the argument is contrary both to the language used by parliament in the 1972 act, and to the fundamental principles of the sovereignty of parliament and the absence of any entitlement on the part of the crown to change domestic law by the exercise of its prerogative powers.”

Unless overturned on appeal at the supreme court, the ruling threatens to plunge the government’s plans for Brexit into disarray as the process will have to be subject to full parliamentary control.

Starry-eyed, anti-democratic campaign group New Europeans are naturally delighted by this development, which they see as the first step toward overturning/ignoring the EU referendum result and ploughing on as though their hateful and spurned vision of a federal continental union had not just been summarily rejected at the ballot box.

Moments ago this cautiously triumphant missive from New Europeans pinged into my inbox:

This only adds to the political challenges for those of us who are determined to stop Brexit come what may.

If Theresa May decides to call an early election as a result of the legal challenges, we will find ourselves with a new parliament elected with a huge Conservative majority and a parliamentary mandate to deliver Brexit.

In this scenario, there will be no chance of a second referendum on the deal. Britain will be out of the EU in no time and there will be no way back. The best we could do would be to secure safeguards for EU citizens already here and Brits in Europe through our campaigning in Brussels.

On the other hand, if Theresa May is able to start the negotiations and bring the deal back to the current parliament, it is plausible that she will not be able to carry a majority for her Brexit deal, particularly if it is a hard Brexit deal (as seems likely), the cost of which will be truly “titanic”.

Failure to secure a parliamentary majority on a Brexit deal will mean a new election and provides the opportunity for a second referendum on whatever deal she negotiates. That would not be a referendum like the last one on the question “Do you like migrants?”. It will be a referendum on the cost of Brexit and I predict that the public will vote over-whelmingly to stay.

There is a huge job to do if we are serious about stopping Brexit. One of the key arguments in the legal challenge must continue to be the focus of our campaigning. It is not acceptable for the government to remove the individual rights of citizens by way of a referendum.

The rights that EU citizens – and all British citizens are currently EU citizens- will lose on Brexit mean that from a legal, moral and political point of view Brexit should not be allowed to go ahead.

From a moral point of view? When will these preening, sanctimonious euro-moralists get over themselves?

Meanwhile, Pete North takes the news in his stride:

The government will appeal. I’m pretty relaxed about it to be honest. The vast majority of Tories will fall in behind May and Article 50 will pass even if it scrapes a majority. There is no question of it not being invoked. The main sticking point will be a parliamentary demand that Mrs May pursue membership of the single market which she is in all likelihood planning on doing anyway. Why they are bothering I don’t know since Mrs May can make no guarantees. If they do manage to block it by some obscure means then they are basically signing their own death warrants and I think they know this. No MP would ever be safe in public again. From an anti-establishment perspective either suits me fine. If they want to spit on Brexit then they are basically declaring open war on the public. That’s a battle they lose every time.

I’m inclined to agree. Any Remainer celebrations are premature in the extreme. Even assuming the government loses its appeal to the Supreme Court (and unlike some angry Brexiteers I do not claim to be enough of a British legal scholar to know whether or not the case deserved to win on its merits), Parliament would almost certainly not stand in the way of the referendum result, no matter the posturing of some pro-EU MPs.

I don’t really remember the Poll Tax riots toward the tail end of Thatcher’s government. I mean, I remember seeing stories about it on the news, but since I was only eight years old the political ramifications of what I was seeing rather eluded me. But despite my hazy memory, I think it is safe to say were MPs (and it would have to include many Labour MPs representing constituencies which voted to leave the EU) to vote against giving the government authority to invoke Article 50, the resulting conflagration would make the Poll Tax riots look like a summer picnic on Hampstead Heath.

Never mind the constitutional ramifications, and the bizarre state of limbo into which Britain would fall, caught between an instruction from the people to secede from the EU and the petulant demand of MPs to remain. That is nothing compared to the wave of fire and fury and civil disorder that would (rightly) be unleashed upon Parliament, the political class and those MPs responsible.

Now, in our benighted age it is true that we suffer a number of MPs of less than exceptional intelligence and ability. But even the slowest of the crop are capable of grasping that when push comes to shove, they do not want their final act on Earth to be telling the British people, including many of their own constituents, to go to hell – that we should pipe down, forget about independence from the EU and meekly listen to the instruction of our superiors.

Let the legal process unfold as it may. If putting the ball back in Parliament’s court  gives Remainers who now suddenly fetishise British parliamentary sovereignty (after having been happy to watch it relentlessly undermined through our years of EU membership) a furtive thrill, or helps to shore up their denial, then so be it.

They will find the survival instinct of the British political system is much stronger than their ongoing child’s tantrum about being parted from their beloved European Union.

 

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Vote Leave’s Stupidity Echoes On, Threatening To Undermine Brexit

Thousands Of People Take Part In The March For Europe

The flimsy, amateurish lies told by Vote Leave are coming back to bite, and threaten to undermine and unnecessarily complicate Brexit

Two weeks after the astonishing vote for Brexit in the EU referendum, and the sheer amateur stupidity of the official Vote Leave campaign is still causing problems, exactly as this blog and others predicted that it would.

The Guardian reports:

In a separate development, Anthony Eskander, a criminal barrister at Church Court Chambers in London, has posted an opinion arguing that politicians supporting the Vote Leave campaign might have opened themselves up to legal action for alleged misrepresentations over claims that quitting the EU would allow an extra £350m to be spent on the NHS.

It claims politicians might have committed offences of misconduct in public office by promoting the £350m claim. The figure has been called “potentially misleading” by the independent UK Statistics Authority, for failing to take into account the UK’s rebate from the EU. Vote Leave denied during the referendum campaign that it was misleading the public.

We’ve heard this charge that politicians’ claims should be vetted by some kind of Ministry of Truth levelled by lots of people, including an audience member on last night’s Question Time. But this is the first time I have seen it translated into legalese, and even if nothing comes of it (as is likely) it further chips away at the legitimacy of the Brexit vote, further dividing the country and encouraging pro-EU supporters to dig in and calcify their positions rather than accepting the country’s verdict and coming together to make the best of Brexit.

Now, of course if they were not hung up on the false £350 million claim they would have found something else to moan about. Many prominent Remainers (and those in the general public) have shown themselves to be exceedingly sore losers in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, seizing on the slightest fault, misstep or constitutional ambiguity to claim that democracy should be suspended and the result of the referendum overturned.

But still, there was no need for the supposed grown-ups in charge of Vote Leave to make it quite so easy for them. There was no need to persist in publicly airing a patently false and comprehensively debunked (by activists on both sides including thinking Brexiteers, incidentally) claim about how much money the UK stood to save from leaving the EU.

The true figure – closer to £160 million once the UK rebate and EU disbursements back to Britain are taken into account – is still a lot of money, and would have looked just as effective plastered on the side of a bus. But no, the Boris/Gove/Cummings triumvirate decreed that £350 was the magic number, and far too many prominent Brexiteers squandered their credibility by repeating it in some form or another over the course of the campaign.

It is now becoming crystal clear that rather than accepting the result of the EU referendum, many disappointed Remainers are determined to wage a guerilla campaign of attrition against Brexit, a last-ditch rearguard effort to prevent the UK from leaving the European Union. They will use the claims of prominent Brexiteers against them (while sweeping their own dubious claims and falsehoods under the carpet, naturally), explore legal loopholes, use delaying tactics and throw every procedural obstacle they can find across our path out of the EU.

None of this is remotely surprising. All of it could have been predicted – and was predicted by this blog. But still the shining ones at Vote Leave persisted with their strategy, handing the pro-EU crowd more ammunition with every new over-hyped soundbite.

That’s why it is good that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are now no longer in the running for the Conservative Party leadership, however dubious the choice before us now is. Remainers (and their celebrity chums) talk about the unravelling of Johnson, Gove and Farage as being akin to the captain abandoning ship after steering his vessel onto the rocks. But the Brexit vote was achieved in spite, not because of, the campaigning of Vote Leave. The fact that some of their leading lights have now been snuffed out is cause for satisfaction, not concern, because it increases the chances of a mature adult taking the reins and negotiating Brexit like a grown-up.

I don’t want somebody who stubbornly persisted in broadcasting a patently, risibly false claim – like a petulant child caught in an obvious lie – to represent Britain in the coming difficult secession negotiations with the EU. I don’t want anybody leading this country whose antics during the referendum and in its immediate aftermath make Brexit any more complicated than it needs to be.

And regrettably, that rules out many of the people most closely connected with the official Leave campaign.

 

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