Theresa May’s One Chance For Redemption: Sacrificing Her Leadership For A Sane Brexit

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Theresa May will never be remembered as a great prime minister because she is timid, calculating and lacks any positive vision for the country. But she can still redeem her failed premiership by sacrificing it in order to achieve a sane Brexit

The fate of Brexit hangs in the balance, primarily because two equal and opposing forces are selfishly attempting to hijack Britain’s negotiating stance for their own purposes.

One one hand there are the Brexit Ultras (or the Brexit Taliban, to use the less charitable but evocative phrase) who insist, like religious fundamentalists, that theirs is the One True Brexit, the only route to heaven, while all other interpretations are dangerous heresy. These people – your Steve Bakers, John Redwoods, Jacob Rees-Moggs and Suella Fernandeses – do not see Brexit as meaning departure from the political entity known as the European Union. To them, Brexit means severing virtually all ties and treaties with the EU while retaining nearly all of the current perks, while making up for any economic shortfall by effortlessly completing a series of swashbuckling free trade deals with countries often far less important to the UK economy than our nearest neighbours.

But on the other hand, there are forces who are arguing passionately for a “soft Brexit” with strong and enduring ties to the Single Market, not because they believe in Brexit or have accepted it, but because they see this as the first step to reversing the result of the EU referendum and keeping Britain in the European Union (generally by means of a second referendum, which they believe – erroneously, I think – that they could win). These people are not to be trusted. During the referendum campaign they could be found loudly insisting that any change in Britain’s relationship with the EU would result in political isolation and economic Armageddon, yet now they claim (somewhat more plausibly) that it is only separation from the Single Market which will cause harm. Their old argument was therefore a lie, a fig leaf to justify their determination for Britain to remain part of European political union at any cost.

And sandwiched between these two fanatical, opposing forces, are the saner Brexiteers – such as those connected to the Leave Alliance – who have been arguing all along that Brexit is not a sudden event but a process of unpicking 40 years of political and regulatory integration, and that the best way to achieve our political ends without causing undue economic damage is by means of a transition that involves rejoining EFTA and trading with EU member states on the terms of the EFTA-EEA agreement.

At the moment, however, Theresa May’s inability to exert control over her own party means that the government’s negotiating stance is effectively held hostage by the Brexit Ultras, who see the slightest moderation on trade as a “betrayal” of Brexit, despite laws relating to the EEA accounting for just 20 percent of the total EU acquis. Despite having languished in the political wilderness for decades, getting 80 percent of what they want on the back of a tight referendum result is somehow not good enough for the Brexit Taliban – and their selfish greed for the full 100 percent needlessly imperils the whole endeavour, and our economy with it.

But it need not be like this. As Stephen Bush points out in the New Statesman, there is no shortage of MPs willing to work with Theresa May to achieve a softer, saner Brexit (at least for a transitional period) if only she was willing to work in a bipartisan way rather than remaining a hostage to her own backbenchers.

Bush writes:

As Parliament has ratified Article 50, passed May’s Queen Speech and thus lost control of its ability to directly influence the government’s negotiations, when the final Brexit deal comes before the House of Commons, the option they will be voting on will be “Theresa May’s Brexit deal or no deal”. As I’ve written on several occasions, no deal is a great deal worse than a bad deal. No deal means, at best, exit on World Trade Organisation terms, no deal to allow British airplanes to fly to the European Union or the United States, chaos at borders and an immediate and hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

This all has one massive upside for May: while there are many Conservative MPs who don’t accept this to be true, the opposition parties all know it to be the case. May will always be able to count on enough MPs from the parties of the centre and left being unwilling to make their own constituents’ lives drastically worse.

But the snag remains:

But that would require her to pursue a Brexit deal that wasn’t focused on keeping her government on the road –  one that saw getting the best deal as more important than preventing May being removed by her own backbenchers. The difficulty is that Theresa May displayed precious little desire to pick a fight with her own party before she threw away their first parliamentary majority in 23 years and she has even less of one now.

This is one of those times when a presidential-style system of government would actually aid Britain enormously. With a separately-elected head of government, more autonomous and less beholden to the rank and file of their political party, it would be easier to forge a winning coalition in Parliament to pass a more sensible, measured Brexit bill. Unfortunately, with the British parliamentary system, any attempt by Theresa May to make overtures to pragmatists across the political aisle would immediately put her premiership in grave peril. A leadership challenge would all but certainly be triggered immediately, and it would then be a race against time to pass the bill before the self-destructive forces at work within the Tory Party concluded their ghastly business and replaced May with a One True Brexit fanatic.

But at this point, there is precious little to lose – not for the country, anyway (though Tories with medium-term hopes for future political careers may feel somewhat differently). And there is precious little for principled conservatives to lose either, given that Theresa May’s government has given every indication from Day 1 that it intends to fight a rearguard retreating battle against encroaching statism rather than take it on with a bold, alternative vision.

The prime minister and her Conservative Party have had all summer to dwell on the reasons for their disastrous election campaign and their their growing unpopularity among people with their original hair colour, and to come up with at least a sketched outline of a new approach. And what was the best scheme they managed to cook up between themselves in all that time? A puny, derisory pitch to reduce interest rates on student loan debt, in the risible hope that doing so might win the affections of young voters currently seduced by Jeremy Corbyn.

The ambition has gone from this Conservative government, together with any semblance of intellectual rigour in their policymaking. Rather five years of Jeremy Corbyn, constrained by his own centrist MPs and a Tory party in opposition, than any more of this decay and damage to our reputation. At least the government’s approach to Brexit might be somewhat more pragmatic if led by people who do not expect the European Union to freely offer all of the benefits of the Single Market for none of the costs or commitments. And then, when Corbyn’s Labour Party have proven themselves to be a shambles in every other respect, the Conservative Party might bounce back into government under the direction of a leader more worthy of respect.

What great development are Theresa May’s supporters hanging on for? What great new policies or achievements do they imagine her accomplishing with her puny non-majority in the time before she is inevitably toppled by one of her Cabinet members? There is nothing. So better to bring the suffering to a close and stop deferring the inevitable.

If the prime minister were better advised, she might also see the advantages of this option. Theresa May is a weakened leader, barely in control of her directionless party which itself is unpopular with voters after seven wasted years in government. At present, her premiership is set to come to an ignominious close with no significant accomplishments to her name. But this need not be so.

In a final act of defiance – and as an extravagant and substantial gesture to help bring the country together after the EU referendum and its fallout – Theresa May should stand up to her backbenchers and to the Brexit Taliban, and work with willing MPs from the opposite benches to ensure that a more considered Brexit Bill is passed by Parliament. This need not and should not be a formal arrangement with the Leader of the Opposition, who will have his own motives. Jeremy Corbyn’s support remains shallow within the Parliamentary Labour Party, and willing supporters could be found by going round the Labour whips.

At present, the very future of Brexit is being imperilled by zealots who foolishly insist that forty years of political and economic integration with the EU be unpicked in the space of just two years. These people need to be sidelined, and if the price of doing so is the end of an otherwise hopeless premiership and the provoking of a long-overdue existential crisis within the Tory party then it is a price very much worth paying.

There is nothing else that Theresa May can do which would impact so positively on her legacy at this point. The prime minister should consider her options.

 

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Hysterical Remainers Are Inadvertently Making ‘Hard Brexit’ More Likely

Sam White has a great piece in Country Squire Magazine, in which he warns that the juvenile behaviour of bitter and hysterical Remainers is doing more than anything else to imperil the prospects of a smooth and orderly Brexit.

White writes:

One of the false charges levelled at Leave voters is that Brexit is an act of self-harm. That whatever reasons a person might have for voting to escape from the European Union, the amount of damage caused will always outweigh the benefits.

But from where I stand, the only masochistic inclinations come from hardcore Remainers themselves, as they attempt to hinder or halt a clean, well executed departure.

As they snipe and circle in a constant, bad tempered performance, drawing attention to their own discontent like hormonal adolescents, it becomes clear that they’ll try every trick at their disposal to oppose democracy.

An already impatient Leave camp is being made twitchy by the Remain contingent’s obstructive posturing, but can the Europhiles do any real damage?

The most vocal Remainers are so entrenched and irrational that they’ve actually shifted general opinion toward the very thing they’ve spent the past few months ardently demonising: a hard Brexit.

There are Leave supporters who’ve consistently argued that the only real Brexit is hard Brexit, and Remain have unwittingly reinforced this view. In fact, the idea of simply repealing the 1972 European Communities Act and walking nonchalantly away as if we’ve never heard of Article 50 now has a certain nihilistic, up-yours attraction. It’s the kind of thing Sid Vicious would do if he was in charge. Not so much a hard Brexit as a brick to the face Brexit.

That might give credibility to the charges of self harm though, and it’s unlikely our politicians would have the poised recklessness to pull it off. Instead, given the space to play smart, our negotiators would do best to take that most composedly British of approaches, and play the long game.

And were we united behind Brexit, they could do that.

However, with Remain jabbering and poking in the background like irritating, spoiled children, the considered approach becomes less attractive. What Brexiteer would feel comfortable with such a cautious route now, in the knowledge that amoral Remainers would have more time to subvert the plan?

Suddenly we’re a little less Roger Moore, and a bit more like John Cleese in Clockwise—quite prepared to steal a Porsche while dressed as a monk, as we race to trigger Article 50 before the entire glorious achievement can be stolen from us.

My emphasis in bold.

Sam White is quite correct. If we are determined to look at Brexit as a purely economic matter, as Remainers often seem to do, then right now there is no bigger threat than the possibility that the pro-EU crowd’s whiny filibustering might fuel a backlash which forces the government and MPs to take a harder (or more foolhardy) line in the secession negotiations than would otherwise be the case.

Pete North has previously picked up on the same danger, with reference to Nick Clegg an the Liberal Democrats:

And that is a problem if the Lib Dems are setting themselves up as the voice of the obstructionist remainers. It pretty much makes the EEA politically toxic. The option itself is hated among the majority of leavers, not least because they have, hook, line and sinker, bought the remainer narratives about it.

That puts us all in very dangerous territory. It forces the government to double down on seeking any solution but the EEA and consequently has them fumbling around in the dark for something politically palatable when the options are few. What that likely means is further delay and an attempt to bring about some kind of bespoke agreement that is the EEA in all but name.

As White notes, there is already a tedious contingent of Brexiteers, particularly online, who insist that despite the very clear wording of the referendum question, the British people also secretly gave an instruction to leave the single market, and that anything short of full and immediate divorce is some kind of dishonourable betrayal.

Throw in the fact that dishonest Remainers who only months ago were arguing that Britain’s prosperity depends on remaining in the political union have now retreated to the fallback position of calling for continued participation in the single market, and one can understand how the narrative of an elite anti-Brexit conspiracy is gaining traction and potentially leading to a hardening of stances among some Brexiteers.

White concludes:

Something these anti-democrats can never get their heads around is patriotism. The idea that a citizenry could be willing to risk a short-term financial hit in order to secure priceless, permanent sovereignty is apparently unfathomable.

They also have difficulty reconciling national integrity with being an outward looking, internationally-minded country, but of course there is no conflict between these things. Right now it’s the EU that appears stagnant and insular, while an independent, agile Britain looks fresh and ready to do business.

Perhaps it’s this intractable refusal to consider the value of nation states—in their most inclusive and forward thinking colours—that holds the Remainers back.

It’s true – many Remainers simply do not “get” patriotism, at least according to any reasonable definition of the word. Those who style themselves as “citizens of the world” are in fact no such thing. For as long as the nation state remains the basic building block of the global community and the ultimate guarantor of our rights and freedoms, permitting Britain’s sovereignty to be undermined is highly counterproductive.

But as this blog has argued, it goes deeper than that. It is not just that Remainers see concerns about self-determination and democracy as entirely secondary to short-term economic scaremongering concerns. It is that they are actively hostile to patriotism-based arguments, or indeed any harmless expression of patriotism.

And this haughty attitude risks fuelling a backlash which, when translated into domestic political pressure, may make it much harder for Theresa May’s government to pursue the kind of Brexit deal that we should be making.

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 6 – Stay In The EU Or Kittens Will Die

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Hysterical Remainiacs are now warning that Brexit will endanger the lives of the nation’s pets and farm animals

For the past four months, the British people have been subjected to some ridiculously childish hissy fits and the incessant catastrophisation of Brexit by self-regarding EU apologists in the media. But this latest tantrum by Ian Dunt, editor of politics.co.uk, is on another level.

Ian Dunt already has great form in portraying the slightest move to limit the growth of the state or safeguard national sovereignty as being part of a plot by the Evil Tor-ees to kill the poor and chuck out every last foreigner, but his increasingly bitter and alarmist Brexit coverage is starting to make him look particularly ridiculous. Because Dunt is now claiming that among the many other evils of Brexit, spurning the EU and demanding self-government will also put “people and animals at risk”.

Yes. Going ahead with Brexit means that kittens will die.

Dunt explains:

Look at any part of British society and you’ll see the damage Brexit is doing.

Take veterinary services. Yesterday afternoon, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) wrote a letter to the prime minister. These are not radical organisations. They never really put out political statements of this sort. They stay in the background, concerning themselves mostly with relatively dry questions of policy detail. But they’ve been forced to issue a warning that Brexit – and Theresa May’s descent into anti-foreigner rhetoric – are putting people and animals at risk.

“Anti-foreigner”? Really? One can argue endlessly about the economic merits of Theresa May’s seeming determination to reduce net migration, but I challenge Ian Dunt to produce one example where the prime minister has actively sought to whip up anti-foreigner feeling in the population.

Wanting controls on immigration is not an extremist or unpalatable political viewpoint – many countries in the world (like Australia and the United States) don’t automatically accept anybody from their region or continent who wants to live and work. And at some point the British Left are going to have to take their collective finger off the nuclear button and stop screeching “racism” at anybody who dares to suggest that government should have control of who is allowed to come and settle in the country.

Regardless, Dunt continues:

Around half the veterinary surgeons registering to practise in the UK each year are from overseas – mostly the EU. Europeans are particularly prevalent in public health roles like the Government Veterinary Services. In the meat hygiene sector, some estimates put the number of veterinary surgeons who graduate overseas at 95%. And these people – the people who look after our pets, who check our food – are feeling increasingly uncomfortable in this country.

And this supposedly matters because:

The veterinary profession doesn’t just look after pets. It monitors and controls the spread of disease and assures the quality of the food we eat. If it goes into decline, the animals we love and share our homes with are in more danger. But there is also a very significant public health risk to go alongside the emotional one.

[..] while anti-immigrant newspapers and politicians whinged, immigrants were there: Treating your cat. Picking your fruit. Treating your condition. They are crucial to the running of this country and unless we start recognising that, it’ll be this country which suffers the consequences of their absence.

[..] The policy implications of Brexit are even more serious. In the future, the two organisations warn, “changes to the mutual recognition system or immigration restrictions could have a profound impact upon the veterinary workforce”. That means Britain may face a shortage of vets as it loses half its annual intake. It means a potentially catastrophic impact on TB testing and meat hygiene. It means abattoirs may be unable to export their products because the UK veterinary requirements are not recognised by European authorities.

So in other words, wanting to leave a deeply unpopular and dysfunctional continental supranational government is so terrible that it will kill our pets, causing us immense emotional harm, and also ensure that agricultural and food safety standards immediately fall off a cliff, leading to the immediate return of BSE and foot and mouth disease. Our democracy is hostage to the presumed fortunes of our household pets.

See? We warned you! Why didn’t you listen! Now Fluffy the Kitten is going to die, and it’s all your fault, you ignorant, hateful, xenophobic Brexiteer!

Will these histrionics from bitter, intellectually bankrupt Remainers never end?

The one valid point in this screaming tantrum of an article is that changes to (or severance of) the mutual recognition agreements governing veterinary standards or food safety – much of the latter of which actually falls under the purview of Codex Alimentarius – could cause real disruptions to trade. Too much of the political debate over Brexit has focused on buccaneering assumptions by government ministers and journalists that the avoidance of tariffs is the sole issue, when this is not at all true. The potential erection of non-tariff trade barriers by failing to extend mutual recognition of standards would have immensely more impact on British industry in terms of cost and complexity of doing business, and it is this which politicians need to wrap their heads around.

Dunt (inadvertently) raises an important issue here, and a timely warning. But his incessant, hysterical scaremongering (and pretence that there are no solutions or workarounds to the practical issue he flags) overshadows his argument. This is the polar opposite of constructive criticism – it is the kind of sulky fault-picking more worthy of a toddler than a grown man with a political website.

And yet I am coming to suspect that this is how it will always be. Never expecting victory in the EU referendum, I naturally didn’t devote much time to thinking about what it would actually feel like to be on the winning side, to finally overturn the 40-year pro-EU consensus. Now I’m starting to get an idea. And it is not pleasant.

Brexiteers had better get used to endless “won’t somebody please think of the kittens?!” caterwauling from aggrieved pro-Europeans, because it will probably last the rest of our lives. Even if Brexit ushers in the kind of democratic renewal that some of us hoped for – and even if we achieve secession from the EU on the most favourable terms possible – they will still criticise us and act as though we have ushered in an unprecedented calamity. And in the absence of counterfactuals, who can disprove Ian Dunt when in five years he whines that we would be enjoying hover cars and 200 year lifespans if only we had done the sensible thing, listened to him and voted to remain in the EU?

Brexiteers should settle in for the long haul. Yesterday it was Marmite, today it’s kittens and tomorrow it will be something else. And why? All because Ian Dunt and other pro-European can’t just bring themselves to say “I hate patriotism, I’m ashamed of my country, I feel more European than British and more than anything I hate the 52 percent of my fellow citizens for  defying my will and causing me not to get my own way for once in my life”?

Maybe therapy would help some of the Remainiacs-in-denial towards a necessary moment of catharsis. One can only hope so. Their endless hysterics and catastrophisation of Brexit makes them look far more stupid than it makes Brexit seem reckless.

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 5 – Britain Stronger In Europe Tacitly Admit They Were Lying The Whole Time

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While advocating a “soft Brexit” as their fallback position, Remainers contradict themselves and expose the tawdry lies they told during the EU referendum

Even Open Britain, the shrivelled husk of Will Straw’s failed Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe, has now effectively admitted that leaving the European Union need not be intrinsically economically harmful – thus undermining the central pillar of their case for staying in the EU.

The harsh light which Remainers are now knowingly shining on their prior scaremongering and lies is quite hilarious. By drawing a distinction between “hard” and “soft” Brexit and campaigning fervently for continued membership of the EEA, campaigners are effectively admitting that their many economic apocalypse warnings applied only to leaving the single market, and not the EU’s political union.

From an Open Britain campaign email sent to supporters yesterday:

Open Britain is campaigning for Britain to stay in the Single Market, which brings increased investment, trade, jobs and growth.

It seems the public agree. A new poll we commissioned has found that 59% of voters want the UK to stay in the Single Market, so there is no mandate for a destructive Brexit.

Now, MPs from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are calling for a debate in Parliament. They are urging the Government to publish its plan for the forthcoming EU negotiations and to allow Parliament to approve it. A huge majority – 73% of people – support this.

Our future partnership with the EU should be not decided in secret but determined by democratic debate.

There is “no mandate for a destructive Brexit,” we are told. Well, that’s funny. Because not long ago, every Remainer in town – most certainly including Britain Stronger in Europe – was screeching about the automatic ruin which would befall Britain if we voted to leave the EU, regardless of how the Brexit process played out or whatever our eventual new trading and political relationship with the EU happened to be. For months we were told by sanctimonious Remainers that “destructive Brexit” was the only kind of Brexit available – yet now they acknowledge a benign version of Brexit and encourage us to adopt it.

Fast-forward four months and suddenly the story changes. Now, apparently, we need to fight tooth and nail to preserve our membership of and unimpeded access to the single market, because this is the lynchpin on which Britain’s economy rests. In other words, their entire economic scaremongering case was a giant lie.

Oh sure, they’ll come back and claim that most Brexiteers supposedly want a “hard Brexit” and that the major Leave campaigns envisioned Britain leaving the single market, which is why they felt justified in equating the European Union with the single market in their own campaign rhetoric. But this is the mealy-mouthed defence of someone who has been caught in a blatant lie. Remainers were desperate to bury the awkward fact that the EU and single market are not one and the same thing, and the fact that they did all they could to fudge the distinction (heck, they suggested that leaving the EU meant severing ourselves from the continent of Europe) shows that they were more obsessed with economic scaremongering than truth. It is Remainers, not Brexiteers, who dwell in a land of post-factual politics.

As this blog recently commented:

Funny. It’s almost as though [Remainers] are suggesting that leaving the EU needn’t necessarily mean “plung[ing] the UK into a period of recession and international decline”, and that Britain’s economic and diplomatic health is actually contingent on the kind of choices that Britain makes once we are free of the supranational political union.

Claiming that a mismanaged, uncontrolled or “hard” Brexit might cause serious economic harm is a perfectly respectable position. More than that, it is basic common sense. But that isn’t the argument that Remainers were making during the EU referendum campaign. No, they were claiming that any form of Brexit would be disastrous, that Britain leaving the European Union would be economically calamitous in and of itself, regardless of how Brexit unfolded or the model of our future trading relationship with the EU.

As it happens, this blog agrees with Open Britain’s revised position. Certainly as an interim measure Britain should remain in the EEA while working toward a longer-term solution which hopefully replaces the single market with a new framework which is more democratic and not part of a protectionist, beady-eyed, euro-federalist master plan. Given that the most skilled trade negotiators in the world (in which Britain is singularly lacking, despite generous help from our Commonwealth friends) take a decade or more to thrash out comprehensive bilateral agreements it is the height of idiocy to assume that a Brexit-inspired sense of urgency and the concerns of “German car makers” will get the job done in the initial two short years set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

But why couldn’t the Remainers just be honest from the beginning, level with the British people and tell them that it is Britain’s uninterrupted EEA access, not our membership of the supranational political union, on which our economic stability depends?

The answer, of course, is that for top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.

Now that the decision to leave the EU has been made, these disingenuous people are having to regroup and come up with a new argument – that it is our future relationship with the single market, not the EU, which will have the greatest potential impact on our economy and future prosperity. And just as even a stopped clock tells the correct time twice a day, this time they happen to be correct.

Unfortunately, changing arguments mid-stream also reveals that nearly everything that the Remain campaign said prior to the EU referendum was a deliberate, filthy lie.

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 4 – Project Fear Begins To Unravel

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By arguing that the British people “didn’t vote for recession” as part of their advocacy for soft Brexit, Remainers inadvertently reveal that there is nothing intrinsically economically damaging about leaving the EU’s political union. Whoops.

With the post-EU referendum debate having moved on from the establishment’s sheer incomprehension of the result to an arbitrary and rather redundant battle over whether the British people voted for “hard” or “soft” Brexit (answer: read the bloody ballot paper), a curious chink in Remainer logic has been exposed.

Here is politics.co.uk’s Adam Bienkov, writing about the challenges facing Theresa May:

The first point to understand is that this is almost certainly the high water mark for her government. With Brexit negotiations not yet even underway, May is able to dismiss all questions about what exit from the EU will actually look like as being unpatriotic attempts to ignore the will of the British people.

As she told Corbyn repeatedly today: “Unlike the right honourable gentleman we think that we should deliver on what the people want.”

But while this approach may chime with the kind of attacks on ‘Remoaners’ we saw on the front page of today’s Daily Mail, it is a trick that can only be deployed for a limited amount of time. Yes the British people did vote to leave the EU, but they certainly did not vote to plunge the UK into a period of recession and international decline. And as the continuing collapse of sterling has shown this week, the sharks are already circling the UK economy. And pretty soon the prime minister is going to have to find a serviceable life raft.

My emphasis in bold.

Slavishly europhile politicians like Labour MP David Lammy are also now taking up the same “nobody voted for recession” refrain:

Funny. It’s almost as though Bienkov and Lammy are suggesting that leaving the EU needn’t necessarily mean “plung[ing] the UK into a period of recession and international decline”, and that Britain’s economic and diplomatic health is actually contingent on the kind of choices that Britain makes once we are free of the supranational political union.

Claiming that a mismanaged, uncontrolled or “hard” Brexit might cause serious economic harm is a perfectly respectable position. More than that, it is basic common sense. But that isn’t the argument that Remainers were making during the EU referendum campaign. No, they were claiming that any form of Brexit would be disastrous, that Britain leaving the European Union would be economically calamitous in and of itself, regardless of how Brexit unfolded or the model of our future trading relationship with the EU.

Here’s Adam Bienkov back in June, failing to draw that very distinction and blithely claiming that Brexit would automatically be damaging, no matter its ultimate shape or form:

Remain’s strongest arguments in this campaign are its warnings that Brexit would cause an economic shock that could cost jobs, increase prices and even push the UK into recession. These are warnings which have been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of economists, politicians, trade unions and international organisations.

One could chalk all of this up to normal political posturing were it not for the fact that Remainers are currently engaged in an insidious exercise to place themselves on the side of truth and reason while casting Brexiteers as bigoted and stupid enemies of truth and deniers of what should be indisputable facts.

Immediately prior to the EU referendum, Adam Bienkov fretted about “the growing disdain in the UK for the very concept of facts themselves”, as though voting for Brexit was somehow an irrational act of self harm:

But with the British public apparently so resistant to facts and the people whose job it is to deal in those facts so mistrusted, there does not seem to be overwhelming cause for optimism.

Even if Remain do somehow scrape a narrow win on Thursday, there should be little cause for joy on the left. Whatever the result next week, this referendum campaign should strike real terror into the hearts of all those on the progressive side of British politics.

If the UK does indeed vote for Brexit then it will open the door to a dark new political era. And it will do so at the same time as the left’s favourite weapons of facts, evidence and reason are less powerful than they have ever been before.

But of course this is a comforting leftist, pro-European lie. The British people did not suddenly become immune to facts. They simply cared about other, more important facts than the ones obsessed over by the Remain campaign – facts, hopes and fears which EU cheerleaders like Bienkov refused to even acknowledge.

Sudden geopolitical change inherently involves economic risk, and so Remainers gravitated toward the economic risk argument like flies to you-know-what, thinking that they could browbeat the public into voting Remain without ever having to do the thankless task of trying to make a positive case for the hated European Union. But it wasn’t enough, because even if Remainers were 100% right about the short to medium term economic risks of Brexit (and they certainly weren’t), the British people cared about other, more important facts.

The public cared about the continued self-governance of our nation and the self-determination of the British people. Even the lowest of low information voters could glance at the history of the EU, all of those furiously denied ratchets towards greater political integration, and see that much more was going on than the “friendship ‘n cooperation” tripe served by the Remain campaign.

The British people didn’t see why their country should remain part of an integrationist, 20th century euro-federalist experiment when every other advanced country in the world outside Europe manages just fine without a continental parliament, supreme court and unaccountable government. They didn’t see how a European Union made up of 28 countries could possibly fight Britain’s corner better than an elected government of the British people, by the British people and for the British people. And they were quite right to question all of these things.

But the leftists and the pro-Europeans had nothing to say to the British people about their legitimate concerns. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Tumbleweeds. They slobbered to stay in the European Union like rabid dogs, but they never gave a good reason why. Instead, they shouted louder and louder about the economic risk, wheeling out one politically compromised “expert” after another to warn us of the impending apocalypse, while pretending that arguments about democracy, sovereignty and national identity were silly, or somehow fringe concerns.

And having been so wrong about the facts which the people considered to be most important, now it also turns out that the key Remainer “fact” – that Brexit would inherently harm the economy, no matter its form – was a steaming pile of nonsense.

Adam Bienkov is free to go on making the argument that a “soft Brexit” in which the current single market access is maintained would be by far the best way to approach our secession from the EU. As it happens, this blog agrees with him – considering that Britain must rebuild atrophied political and diplomatic trade competencies from almost zero, and that the default secession period set out in Article 50 is nowhere near long enough to negotiate a comprehensive replacement, risking additional short term economic obstacles by forgoing the single market without a new framework in place seems ludicrous.

But in making a distinction between hard and soft Brexit, Bienkov is also effectively admitting that Brexit needn’t be economically harmful at all, if done the right way. And if that is now his position, as an advocate of soft Brexit, then he should do the decent thing and apologise to his readers for the thousands of words of pre-referendum doomsaying and post-referendum hysteria to fly from his keyboard.

 

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