Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Three weeks in the UK leave me baffled as ever about Brexit. Never mind it’s consuming all the political oxygen to the detriment of everything else. Never mind that the trains don’t run, that the NHS is about to fall-over or that the military is unable to deploy. Forget about the 3% detection rate for burglaries as crime ramps up. All that falls off the radar. In the Westminster bubble, only Brexit matters.
When it comes to Brexit, the great British public divide into three camps. The Brexiteers, the Remainers and then last of all we have “I don’t give a shit”. Between the Brexiteers and the Remainers, there is no middle ground. Wading through the morass of detail that Brexit has thrown-up, pushes most into the IDGAS camp. While the country may be about to fall off a fiscal cliff, Love Island draws more attention. This piece of TV piffle illustrates the fickle nature of public sentiment.
Meanwhile, the Brexit cheerleaders cast aside any evidence that business will falter. We know that business leaders hate Brexit. It will cause them massive disruption and uncertainty. Industry hates uncertainty. It will screw their supply chains plus the ability to move staff across borders. Some are making noises about withdrawing their business investments from the UK.
Signs are already emerging of an impact. European crop pickers are staying away, leaving Norfolk farmers struggling to harvest. Brits are unwilling to do the work even as wages increase.
So Brexiteers can whine about the neoliberal thwarting of democracy. They can throw insults and demand the people's will, but it won't make a jot of difference. Airbus, BMW, Jaguar and a host of other employers are making plans to move staff and facilities out of the UK. Whether these plans take flight is another matter. It's all about sentiment.
In response, the Brexiteers claim the UK will be free to negotiate new advantageous trade deals. Although, it appears potential future partners are holding off. They want to see how Brexit plays out. Meanwhile, the UK is the slowest growing economy amongst the leading western nations. This trend has held for some time. It suggests something is going on.
Listening to the Brexiteers, you'd get the impression that they can’t accept that their ideas may have intrinsic flaws. They double-down on any criticism, digging themselves into a deeper ideological hole.
On the Remain side, a campaign is building for a referendum to ratify any deal. An estimated 100,000 marched in London calling for that right. Despite the intentions, this looks like another bite at the Brexit cherry, with an attempt to derail the whole process. It's probable that Remainers are over-confident that a second vote will swing it. By my reckoning, the majority are now bored and disengaged.
Remainers portray Britain in disarray after Brexit. Economic collapse, a run on sterling leading to widespread disorder. The Scots will then seek the opportunity to go their way, ending the Union. We then enter dangerous waters as the UK national identity unravels. Again, this is over-stating the worst case scenario for effect.
Of course, decent Remain people are not going to set fire to shops and burn barricades. It won't make any difference what you say or how righteously indignant you are. The “you are heading for a cliff, and you are going to drive us right over it” is as risible as the Brexiteers claims. Anyway, the Remainers ability to influence the outcome is limited. They have no heavy-weight political figure to rally around.
The potential landmine under Brexit lies in thousands of boardrooms across the UK and beyond. The decisions taken there may yet detonate a change. Theresa May can’t ignore those voices. In private business leaders have warned her. These warnings are spilling into the public domain with increasing frequency.
Across the Channel the negotiations are jarring. Europe is holding most of the cards and not about to give up its strong hand. Moreover, by playing hard, the EU is seeking to discourage others from spoiling their grand experiment.
I have to say I despair at the mention of Brexit. I don't see it bringing the tangible benefits that people sought. Also, I don’t foresee the "falling off the cliff” scenario playing out. A deal will emerge. It won’t be tidy or be particularly favourable, but life will go on. No doubt some businesses will opt to move out of the UK. Others will remain and prosper. New businesses will move in. It will be the preverbal “swings and roundabouts”.
For me, the most deplorable aspect of the whole Brexit saga is the shameless self-interest displayed by politicians. Boris Johnson is acting in a thoroughly unstatesmanlike manner. At any other time, he’d be out of office. Only May’s weakness prevents her acting.
On the other side of the house, Jeremy Corbyn is no better. He’s failed the leadership test with his wishy-washy statements. You'd be hard-pressed to define his actual intentions. He thinks he's smart. Unfortunately for him, people have got the measure of his antics, and most are not impressed.
Brexit will happen. Nonetheless, it won’t be the end of life as we know it nor will Britain ascend into sunlit uplands. Things will bump along. Britain will struggle, but not be overwhelmed. I wonder if all the effort and bile is worth it, when compromise so tarnishes the prize.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.