Brexit – from blustering and blithering to outright gibbering

Greg Sheridan seemed to have shut up for a few days after another specacular failure to get anything at all right about Brexit.

Previously he thought a “no deal” Brexit and “no Brexit” were equally likely. Then he just said only one thing was certain, Brexit “has a long way to run”.

Yesterday (Wednesday 2019-04-03) he returned to the fray. Now he thinks “there is a real prospect of a general election”.

She (the Prime Minister) hopes these threats (of a general election) will get her thrice -rejected deal over the line, on the fourth or fifth try.

He got that out just in time to be proved wrong the very next day.

In the same issue of The Australian, Janet Albrechtsen at least had the sense to not make stupid predictions. She doesn’t mention that her side has lost, but does tacitly indicate awareness of the real situation by fantasizing about the past instead of the present or future:

May’s other infernal error was not preparing the ground from the start for a no-deal Brexit. Given almost three-quarters of MPs voted to remain, May should have anticipated mayhem in Westminster. By banking on a no-deal Brexit she could better have forced agreement from remoaners….

May offered no explanations … of how a no-deal Brexit can, in the longer term, deliver a thriving UK, untethered from European bureaucracy and rules, trading independently like a Singapore of the north.

Albrechtsen is vastly more intelligent and perceptive than Greg Sheridan (to damn her with faint praise). But even if she believes that “untethered” stuff herself, she ought to understand that May, like most of the British establishment, does not share her views. Why does she imagine that the UK Prime Minister, who was one of the three-quarters of MPs who voted to remain, would try a “forced agreement” from three-quarters against the view she shares with them rather than carefully and systematically isolating the one-quarter whose policy she opposed (who unfortunately comprise about half of her own party)?

Nearly two years ago, after the last UK general election I wrote the first article in this series:

Even the Economist is blithering that May’s campaign for a hard Brexit has been rejected but there are no grounds to reverse the referendum result.

My recollection is that May opposed Brexit and was given the job of recovering from Cameron’s blunder. She was forced to abandon the pretence that Britain could become the only member of the single market that did not comply with free movement of labor. There never was an option for “soft Brexit” nor any preparations for a “hard Brexit”.

So I assume there will now have to be a second referendum to cancel Brexit. The only reason I think this might be worth mentioning is that none of the articles I have read agree.

I documented subsequent twists and turns heading inexorably towards this outcome in detail under the same category heading here:

Nearly two years later, some journalists have started to notice what has certainly been blindingly obvious for weeks and months, if not for more than a year.

Even CNN now mentions:

Senior figures in both main parties raised the prospect of a second referendum to obtain the British public’s backing for any deal — and to offer the choice of remaining in the EU.

In fact this item basically gets it right:

“The Brexit dream might be fading”

I had “Brexit Danger Fading” last year:

Different perspective and less certain, but CNN is now reaching roughly the same conclusion nearly 6 months later.

But of course another item at CNN just blithers:

Accusations of incompetence are levied at her by the hour.
However, it is just about possible to see that the prime minister may finally get her own way on Brexit — with a few tweaks. Ironically, this could be happening in the same manner she won the contest to become prime minister nearly three years ago — due to all other contenders falling by the wayside.

Firstly, lawmakers fighting for a soft Brexit deal lost a crucial vote yesterday. The motion to allow a third opportunity to hold indicative votes on alternatives to May’s Brexit deal was defeated by just one vote.
The original vote was a tie, and as a result the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, had the casting vote and went with the government. Lawmakers had already had two chances to back alternative options and could not reach a majority on anything. That route is now closed off, making May’s deal more likely.

[Actually it had become pointless since May had agreed to present options to Parliament and abide by the outcome.]

Secondly, the prime minister has embarked on a new strategy of seeking consensus with the opposition Labour party, through talks with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, which could lead to her normally rebellious Brexiteer MPs (members of Parliament) coming round to her deal….
From May’s point of view, she can use these talks to pursue a double-game: Show soft Brexit and remain-supporting lawmakers that she wants to build a more moderate consensus, but also scare Brexiteers into backing her original deal out of fear of something “worse.” Those two ministerial resignations were triggered by that Brexiteer anger.

[Ignores the fact that lots of Tory Remainers who voted for the deal when they could rely on Brexiteers to block it would join them and Labour to vote against their party whip if that became necessary. A dozen did so recently on the vote that was almost tied even though it wasn’t necessary. The Brexiteer anger is about knowing that they have lost.]

Thirdly, a no deal is becoming increasingly unlikely — meaning, again, May’s deal emerges as a stronger possibility.

[She already convinced Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson that they would never get “no deal”. That still left 58 votes short despite them humiliating themselves. Only some journalists have actually believed “no deal” was still possible since then (though others may still pretend).]

Mentions referendum only as something opposed by both May and Corbyn. Doesn’t mention that May has no other options left and that Corbyn would lose his seat as well as his leadership if he allowed a Brexit agreeement without a referendum since his party and constituency are overwhelmingly for a “Final Say” vote.

Some useful background on Corbyn’s position is in this New Statesmen article although expressed as congratulations to him for his wise choice in accepting having been defeated by Labour Remain supporters.

The Guardian, is also hopeful that there is now a “slim chance” for a referendum. (Presumably their campaign for it was in the same spirit of utter hopelessness as with climate change or “Not In Our Name” rather than intending to win).

The BBC maintains its more traditional “wobbly lower lip” focus on “sticking points” blithering about various reasons why an agreement would be unlikely with no mention of a referendum:

The latest developments include the government and opposition agreeing to work for an extension that will require UK participation in EU elections and passage of a (basically pointless) Bill requiring the government to seek that extension from the EU.

That makes it pretty hard to just keep on blustering and blithering about any other possibility than a referendum on the “deal”. So now we get outright gibbering.

Here’s WAPO’s gibbering:

It leaves the country in an extremely perilous situation. The government’s latest wheeze, expressed in a statement from May on Tuesday night, is to extend Article 50 again and try to bring opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn on board to see if they can find a deal that works for both Labour and the Conservatives.

But even this attempt, which shows an openness the prime minister has not exhibited before, faces the same problems: If the plan does not include a People’s Vote, Corbyn loses a chunk of his supporters, inside and outside Parliament. If it includes a soft Brexit, those People’s Vote types still won’t support it, and May loses most of her own party in the bargain. Whichever way you look at it, political puritanism makes the mathematics of a Brexit majority hard to imagine.

The country is stuck, frozen in indecision. Parliament is reenacting the end of “Reservoir Dogs.” And still the clock ticks mercilessly down. Puritanism has provided no answers whatsoever, except pain and failure. Unless MPs quickly rediscover Britain’s tradition of pragmatism, things are about to get very ugly indeed.

That spells out very precisely the mathematics of a Brexit majority, which have been obvious for a very long time. Instead of the last paragraph one would expect a simple conclusion following the second paragraph:

“Therefore the most likely outcome is a “Final Say” People’s Vote on the Withdrawal Agreement already negotiated with the EU”.

At the very least one would expect an analyst who disagrees with that rather natural conclusion to explain why not. Instead they just gibber.

Here’s The Economist with more measured gibbering, but likewise spelling out the positions that point to the obvious compromise but resolutely ignoring the implied most likely outcome without any attempt to explain why.

Here’s Nick Miller gibbering in today’s The Age, under headline ‘Unity’ Brexit bid reeks of failure:

No mention at all of the most likely outcome, even to explain why he thinks it is not worth mentioning. Instead:

Apart from anything else, the UK still has the power to unilaterally revoke Brexit if, at the last, that is seen as a better option than plunging off the cliff of a “no-deal” Brexit.

And this all may have been a cunning plan by May to focus Brexiteer minds on the alternatives, swinging them behind her original deal.

If not, all May’s announcement on Tuesday may have achieved is spreading the blame for a no-deal disaster on April 12.

Its hard to understand what is going on, but somehow the politicians who kept insisting that they must avoid participating in the European elections (next month) because it would spell out the end of Brexit bullshit, have still not admitted that is precisely what will now happen.

Officially, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are negotiating how to achieve a short extension until the birthday of St Rita, patron saint of impossible causes, which is May 22, the day before European elections so that the UK won’t have to take part. The political parties and the electoral commission are officially only making “contingency” preparations for actually holding the elections because current law says the UK will not be in the EU then as the current exit date of April 12 has not yet been changed.

But the EU already specified and has repeatedly reminded everyone that any extension beyond April 12 will require participation in the elections.

So everyone actually following the Brexit saga does know. Here’s the details:

But that doesn’t stop them from simply not mentioning it and pretending they are working towards an exit before May 22.

It ought to stop anybody else from believing the pretence. But it certainly hasn’t stopped them from gibbering.

Details of the drama requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension she has already admitted to needing are here:

If in fact the Government wished to defy both overwhelming votes and basic survival instincts by not requesting an extension the Bill would have no effect. It would simply be refused assent or more politely, not presented for assent in time. It is reasonable to assume the House of Lords will be able to adopt it in time, even if they have to stay up all night, as they are about two to one in favour of doing so. But cabinet ought to refuse assent anyway, just to remind people that responsible and accountable government requires a Parliament to confer confidence only on Ministries that it supports rather than issuing daily instructions on precisely what motions a Ministry it has no confidence in must propose in Parliament. That would also add some drama right up to the last moment this Wednesday, which is hardly sustainable by merely spouting gibberish.

The only point of the Bill is that it has provided a convenient way to avoid more embarassing displays of Parliamentary impotence with “indicative votes” instead of no confidence and a general election.

Theoretically it could also have had the effect of getting journalists to stop gibbering about the consequences of “no deal”. Its too soon to tell but I doubt they can stop. For example, instead of just explaining that the Bill is a distraction, we get expert gibberish arguing that it is also “dangerous” as it could add to the (imaginary) danger of “no deal”.

Here’s a collection of philosophers gibbering learnedly about the democratic solution to Brexit:

Only the last of them has a clue:

Silete theologi in munere alieno!” (Trans: “Silence, theologian, where you do not belong!) -Gentili (Italian humanist lawyer telling the Papists just where they get off, 1588 AD).

Of course nothing can ever be certain.

Especially when The Economist manages to make even their call for a referendum indecipherable by tacking it on at the end of some stream of consciousness gibberish:

This may be the result of alarm about the collapse of mainstream politics into a far right nationalist populist Tory party against a pseudo-left populist Labour party. A plausible description of that is here:

But it seems safe to say that when the PM and Opposition Leader agree on the obvious this will appear to the gullible as miraculous as pulling a rabbit out of a hat after first having put it there while misdirecting the audience to look the other way.

Here’s the Director of an “Institute for the Public Understanding of Politics” using exactly that expression about rabbits and hats to express his confidently and expertly helping the public understand that he does not have a clue:

Its interesting that he has essentially the same incomprehension of May’s successful tactics as Janet Albrechtson. But being on the opposite side he blames Theresa May for having gone “too hard” instead of “not hard enough”.

It takes real skill to convince all one’s opponents that they are much smarter than you are while defeating them.

One thought on “Brexit – from blustering and blithering to outright gibbering

  1. Sorry, I don’t have time to write it better, but above is a fairly detailed roundup of the situation with useful links. Perhaps OLO might be interested.


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