Brexit April Fool’s day joke could be nearly over

I haven’t been following closely enough but my previous comments on Brexit since June 2017 seem to have held up reasonably well:

https://c21stleft.com/category/brexit/

Latest development is that the Tory party no confidence vote to remove Prime Minister May and replace her with nobody in particular has of course imploded. I didn’t predict that because I didn’t predict there would be such a vote. The reason the minimum required 50 letters to trigger a vote were not submitted long ago, despite far more Tory MPs than that having no confidence in May was that if she won, no further attempt could be made for another 12 months. This is intended to ensure such votes are called only when there is a clear replacement available with majority support (in which case the party leader would usually resign anyway). It was intended to avoid the recent shambles in both parties in Australia. Since May was appointed as a stop gap after Cameron blundered into the Brexit referendum and there is no plausible replacement I had no reason to expect that the 50 letters would suddenly appear.

Since she won by about a two thirds majority it is either yet another example of sheer irrationality and tactical ineptitude making the situation too unpredictable for analysis, or else some clever tactical maneuver that was intended to create the current situation. Given that the European Court of Justice had just announced that Britain does not need EU consent to end Brexit it could be certainty on that point has increased resolve among Tories who want to get it over with so they signed some of the 50 letters.

The level of understanding of these issues in “The Australian” is indicated by a report from Ticky Fullarton:

“Yesterday came news that the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain could delay Brexit beyond March 29. Were Johnson or any other alternative to take over they will need such a delay.” (p29 Tuesday 2018-12-11)

This of course is nonsense. The announcement was that Britain can unilaterally cancel its withdrawal notice under Article 50. It cannot unilaterally change the 2 year delay specified by Article 50 that was triggered by Britain’s unilateral notice. The impact is to reinforce that it is either the ridiculous deal offered, a “no-deal” crash from Brexit or “no Brexit” and it is entirely up to Britain to make its choice. This did not help Johnson or anybody else wanting to have their cake and eat it.

Ok anybody could make a mistake about the implications of news that is only a day old. But the same nonsense was repeated the next day, so nobody noticed.

Anyway, the current situation looks to me like this:

1. May cannot be replaced as Tory party leader until long after the current March 29 deadline. Johnson et al are now visibly irrelevant.

2. No deal that the EU could accept can be accepted by the current UK Parliament. There is no reason to expect the underlying reasons for that would change after a general election.

3. Nobody with any real influence wants the UK to have just crashed out with no serious preparations on April Fool’s day. This will now be admitted by everybody except those with no influence. Most support for Brexit was in fact based on the assumption that the UK could have its cake and eat it. Only a small fringe really want a well prepared Brexit with no deal. Pretence at preparations will cease and the bluff will no longer be available as a “negotiating tactic” so further pretence that the UK has anything to negotiate with will become pointless, which need not prevent such negotiations being vigorously pursued and solemnly debated, but does mean the negotiations won’t get anywhere.

4. The EU has no reason not to graciously allow a postponement of the deadline while the UK sorts itself out and both sides stop wasting resources on preparations for “no deal”. The whole point of most of the maneuvering has been to reduce the damage from hysteria whipped up by lying Brexiteers screaming “betrayal” to distract attention from the sheer absurdity of what they mendaciously promised and a majority of voters temporarily fell for. Refusing a postponement would only help the hysterics.

5. The EU also has no reason to let the farce of the past two years go on until after the next scheduled fixed term UK election 5 May 2022 or while people still governing the UK are threatening to crash out without paying their bills and with no deal. So the postponement will either have to result in:

5.1. A vote for an early election by a two thirds majority of the House. This would require a large number of Tories to support a vote for losing their seats earlier than they currently hope. There is no obvious reason why they would do this given that the outcome of such an election could not fundamentally alter the current situation.

5.2. A no confidence vote in the House that results in Corbyn forming a minority government. Possible if a much smaller number of Northern Ireland DUP and other Tories simply abstrain so that the Labour party gets stuck with the mess while the Tories sort themselves out. They would prefer a minority Corbyn government to the risk of a majority Corbyn government. Whether heading a majority government formed by election or a minority government, Corbyn could either put up a pretense of attempting to negotiate some other form of Brexit in Name Only – BRINO or “put it to the people” by holding another referendum.

5.3. Attempts by May to negotiate another form of BRINO, again ending up with “put it to the people”.

6. It would be theoretically possible for either Corbyn or May or somebody else to negotiate something similar to EFTA membership like Norway. This would do no great damage to the UK or EU or global economy but just reduce “Great Britain” to a similar importance to Norway in EU affairs, bound by the same rules, including free movement of labor, but with no vote. It would not defuse the hysterics about “betrayal” and would leave its supporters looking foolish. The EU might not object to such a BRINO since it would remove British obstructionism slowing down the ever deeper union. But Norway might not welcome it in the EFTA. So I would say, possible but less likely than the only other alternative – “put it to the people”.

7. My guess is that there is nobody stupid enough to call another referendum until the result is quite certain. So there will be lots of carrying on until a convincing majority are committed to ending Brexit.

8. No way to tell how long that will take but I think it could soon become reasonably obvious that this is the direction and the “negotiations” will most likely end with the end of Brexit rather than any BRINO.

9. It certainly doesn’t seem to be obvious to most of the media now. Strongest confirmation for my expectation that “no deal” is no longer a significant danger and “no Brexit” is now far more likely than any BRINO comes from Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of “The Australian” with the diretly opposite view:

“Although I would trust no one’s forecasts on this – least of all my own – it would seem that the no-deal Brexit or the no Brexit at all are about equally likely.” (p12 Thursday 2018-12-13).

Greg Sheridan has excellent reasons not to trust his own forecasts as he never has a clue. But this level of self awareness is something quite new. He used to be confident as a reliable echo of whatever the US State Department wanted Australians to think. Since there are no coherent briefings coming from the US these days, “analysts” like him have been left completely floundering in “a deep miasma or newilderment and uncertainty” as he said of the stock market last Saturday (p20):

“No one in British politics — no one — knows what’s going to happen.”

“May’s crisis is just one part of a broader crisis across the Western alliance that makes the global strategic environment more fluid, more uncertain, potentially more dangerous, that at any time since at least the end of the Cold War.”

In the absence of State Department briefings all he can do is echo British media that is divided between expecting a “no-deal Brexit” and “no Brexit at all” just as the “Stubborn May Crippled by Bexit Monster” (p12) said before winning a two thirds majority confidence vote.

Brexit danger fading

Looks like danger of serious disruption of globalism from Brexit is fading.

1. Current “deal” would be BRINO (Brexit In Name Only) and has no chance of passing.

2. All but a tiny minority of rabid Brexiters agree that crashing out with no deal would be a disasterous accident and was just a negotiting bluff that did not work. This report indicates there will be sufficient votes to block legislation needed now for dealing with that possibility.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/18/labour-keir-starmer-force-amendments-block-no-deal-brexit

3. If such legislation is indeed blocked that leaves only the options of holding a referendum to drop Brexit now or forming a new government that can attempt further negotiations.

4. New Government could be formed in 3 ways. Different Conservative Prime Minister, minority Labour Prime Minister Corbyn or general election after 2 weeks with no government. EU would happily delay current March deadline to allow that to be sorted out.

5. None of those three possible outcomes could plausibly lead to either crashing out with no deal or a deal that seriously weakens EU or globalism. More likely some arrangement like Norway or Switzerlnd, or simply remaining in EU after a referendum.

6. The liars in both UK media and Australia who supported this bullshit are now focused on blaming Theresa May for not achieving the impossible so as not to admit, even to themselves, that they were advocating and promoting an absurdity. This may work. But it undermines rather than strengthens them for future attempts at disruption.

7. May has successfully put the anti-globalists in a weaker position for stirring up hostility and resentment towards other nations when this effort fails.

Brexit, US Foreign Policy and Notes on Trump 26

It is nearly 3 months since Notes 25 and starting draft with items 1 and 2 below. Gap due to both not seeing much changing and other preoccupations (which are actually an improved situation but still don’t leave much time for following this stuff). My expectations remain pretty much as they were then so I dont have much to add.

1. Full transcript of entire ABC interview of Comey (more than the 1 hour broadcast)
http://abcnews.go.com/Site/transcript-james-comeys-interview-abc-news-chief-anchor/story?id=54488723

About 50 pages (157pp in .pdf file but only one third of each page was actual transcript).

Not sure what to make of it or whether it was worth reading but would certainly be better than watching full hour on video.

Comey’s book (zero day release):

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=6B99F8765B2D92429B292650AB911216

2. From Rassmussen April 12 to 15 survey of likely voters:

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2018/few_praise_comey_s_tenure_at_fbi_more_want_him_prosecuted

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters believe a special prosecutor should be named to investigate whether senior FBI officials handled the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Trump in a legal and unbiased fashion. Comey was head of the FBI during much of this time.

Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters believe Comey should be prosecuted for leaking information to the media at the time he was director of the FBI. That’s up from 41% last June following Comey’s admission under oath to a U.S. Senate committee that he leaked memos of his private meetings with Trump as FBI director to The New York Times through a friend.

Just 34% disagree and say Comey should not be prosecuted, down 13 points from 47% in the previous survey. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Republicans – and 50% of all voters – believe senior federal law enforcement officials at the FBI and Justice Department broke the law in an effort to prevent Trump from winning the presidency in 2016.

Most Republicans (55%) believe the FBI is more likely than Russia to have meddled in the 2016 election.

Book and TV interview will no doubt reassure the voters that Comey is a model of integrity and not a slimeball at all. If not, rinse and repeat.

3. Still have masses of open windows but no time to post about them. No big shift in media or polls. Some increased disapproval from separating immigrant families. This was reversed MUCH quicker than previous blunders like Scaramouchi, and Flynn appointments. Not fully recovered yet but still indicates unlikely to implode from inability to change course.

Perhaps one item worth mentioning is this follow up to Notes 25 discussion of liberals falling for delusional fantasies about Trump v Sessions.

http://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/395776-memos-detail-fbis-hurry-the-f-up-pressure-to-probe-trump-campaign

Only a straw in the wind but I said very early after Trump’s election win that somebody should be imprisoned for the coup mongering from his opponents in the “intelligence community”.

4. Korea outcome was pretty much as predicted ( by Scott “Dilbert” Adams as well as me). Syria and Middle East policy still unclear to me.

5. Trade protectionism appears to be happening earlier and harder than I expected. But I cannot follow closely enough to tell how much of the appearance is also real. Certainly it will as expected be a very live issue in both mid-terms and 2020 and one that will split Democrats while consolidating GOP as Trump’s party with previously dominant GOP globalists as ineffective internal opposition. External business opposition has started to mobilize but they have left it very late and still show little sign of being able to get their act together before there is real damage.

6. Brexit and Italy confirm possibility of real damage. Brexit is currently falling to bits with expected most likely outcomes being:

6.1 Most likely outcome is a second referendum to stay in provided EU holds firm on no offering no concessions to UK not already provided to Norway (ie free movement required for customs union) and die hards dont succeed in mobilizing resentment.

6.2 Meaningless exit to same situation as Norway which does far less damage. Even less likely now.

But the levels of incoherence on display still leave open third possibility with real damage that sets things back a few years.

6.3 Continued blundering around till deadlines expire with no agreement.

Given what is going on in USA, Italy, Poland and Hungary and the unanimous inaction over Syria one should not understimate the levels of sheer irrationality. (Which makes it especially hard for me to get my bearings as I generally analyse with greater expectations of rational malevolence and less attention to irrational possibilities).

7. I still expect Democrat majority in House from 2019 with resulting paralysis, focus on impeachment, Democrat splits, media escalation from merely frenzied to outright insurrectionary irrelevance and increased deficits all working to Trump’s advantage for 2020. Economy too unpredictable for two year forecasts though I would expect a crash to become more predictable during any second term even though economy is also too unpredictable for 6 year forecasts.

8. On a lighter note there is an amusing article on Brexit from Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, in The Australian, Tuesday July 10, 2018. Sheridan is usually an utterly predictable and vacuous name dropping “Little Sir Echo” for the US foreign policy establishment. But the implosive disestablishment of that establishment has left has him an Editor who remains “Foreign” but with no identifiable foreign homeland. His complaint against the hapless British government is that they should have made plans to walk away from the EU with no deal rather than make it so obvious that the EU has no incentive to offer them anything.

But the whole referendum “victory” was based on Brexiteers promising the voters that they could have their cake and eat it. Now all they, and Sheridan, can do is express outrage at their own stupidity having become as evident to themselves as it was to others.

This is very similar to Sheridan’s echo of US foreign policy establishment worries that Asian “allies” will stop believing in US “guarantees” now that Trump has made it obvious the US cannot be relied on against anybody that has nuclear weapons that can hit the US. After 8 years of Obama what was there left to pretend with? What was there left for Brexiteers to pretend with?

What is there left for Sheridan to pretend with? He stayed loyal for half a century after Kissinger explained:

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1275842/Henry-Kissinger-To-be-an-enemy-of-America-can-be-dangerous-but-to-be-a-friend-is-fatal

Is there nobody left who can brief him on an actual current declaratory policy with some “plausible deniability”?

9. On a happier note the Thai cave rescue was an uplifting success story.

10. And the Elon Musk show arrived in time to be told to piss off and sell batteries to Australian power grids.

No soft Brexit

I haven’t been following British politics.

But after reading mainstream articles about the British election I feel just as entitled to bloviate.

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.

Opposing Brexit: the demarcation that matters

“In making these arguments we redraw the borders, from political demarcations of territory, to political demarcations between those who benefit from capitalism and have an interest in it being maintained, and the vast majority of us who do not”

– Chris Gilligan, Open Letter on Spiked‘s ‘Leave the EU’ campaign, March 2016.

 

* * * *

The following ‘open letter’, which Spiked declined to publish, is republished with permission of Marxist-Humanist Initiative. I’m not all that interested in the question of whether Spiked should or should not publish the letter – Spiked campaigns for Brexit – but I like the points made by the writer, Chris Gilligan, in disagreement with Spiked.

* * * *

 

Popular sovereignty requires vigorous debate – Chris Gilligan
I wrote this open letter as a contribution to the vigorous debate that Brendan O’Neill and Spiked claim that they want to promote. I think that O’Neill’s refusal to publish the open letter suggests that Spiked’s commitment to free speech and rigorous debate is bigger on rhetoric than it is on substance. Read O’Neill’s editorial, then read my criticism (below) and decide for yourself.

Open Letter on Spiked‘s ‘Leave the EU’ campaign

by Chris Gilligan

Dear Spiked,
I see that you are campaigning for the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU). According to an editorial by Brendan O’Neill Spiked are urging a Brexit on the grounds, (‘which trumps all of those reasons to stay, and trumps them hard’), that the EU thwarts ‘popular sovereignty, the crucial right of a people to consent to the political system they are governed by’. O’Neill tells us that we should vote to leave if we ‘think people should determine their political destinies’, if we ‘are optimistic about the future’, if we ‘prefer the adventure of uncertainty over the dull predictability of expert-delivered diktats’, and if we ‘prefer politics to be lively and unpredictable rather than paper-pushing and aloof’. All of this sounds great. But, and this is a BIG but, how is a vote to leave going to achieve any of these things? The reality is that a Brexit is not going to reinvigorate democracy in the UK.

The EU referendum has not come about because of any popular agitation. There is no popular demand for a Brexit, and no popular desire to remain in the EU. The EU referendum has come about because of machinations within the Conservative Party, fuelled in part by the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). This elite concern regarding the EU is not because of the anti-democratic nature of the EU or its disdain of ordinary people, the political elite in the UK (from all the main parties) share this disdain and have for years been busying themselves with eroding democracy in the UK. The EU is not the problem, it is symptomatic of a deeper problem, which O’Neill acknowledges when he says that ‘The EU both expresses and expands the 21st-century crisis of democracy’. Taking sides in the referendum implies that the EU is the problem, rather than a symptom.

If we take the example of migration, arguably the one issue on which there has been some popular engagement with the referendum debate, we can see that the UK has done much more than the EU to stifle debate on this issue. Spiked Deputy Editor, Tom Slater, partially acknowledges this when he says that ‘immigration policy is the sharpest expression of the anti-democratic sentiment of European elites. This is particularly keen in the UK, where New Labour’s relaxing of the borders in the 2000s reflected not only an open contempt for popular sovereignty, but a barely veiled disgust for the blob-like demos itself’. The UK, not the EU, has been at the forefront of an anti-democratic approach to immigration. The New Labour government did display open contempt for popular sovereignty. Blair, Mandelson and the other career politicians of New Labour consolidated the anti-democratic internal operation of the Labour Party and treated the electorate as passive fodder who only needed to be mobilised at election time. They continued the trajectory, begun under Margaret Thatcher, of moving ever increasing areas of public life outside of the realm of public accountability.

Slater is too one-sided when he says that New Labour relaxed the borders in the 2000s. What they did was relax immigration controls for specific kinds of immigration, principally labour migration, while they toughened them for asylum-seekers and others who were deemed ‘illegal’ or unproductive. They introduced immigration controls that operate on the basis of encouraging those who would bring an immediate monetary benefit to the UK and deterring those who were deemed to be a potential burden to the public purse. New Labour initiated the policy of ‘managed migration’, (which continued under the Con-Dem coalition and now under the current Conservative government), in an attempt to treat immigration in a technocratic manner. It was designed to depoliticise the issue of immigration, not to make it into a political issue. The Conservatives have continued this ‘managed migration’ approach, but argue that in the context of austerity the UK does not have the capacity to absorb as many labour migrants as previously.

Slater is correct when he says that ‘if we want to open the borders, we need to win the argument first’. Where, however, is the radical, progressive argument in favour of open borders? Slater doesn’t provide us with an argument. During the ‘migrant crisis’ of 2015 and 2016 members of the public signed online petitions, sent money,visited the camps in Calais, joined protests, and even offered shelter in their own homes. These are actions that involve more than simply putting an X on a ballot paper. What has Spiked had to say about these examples of popular sovereignty in action? They have been disparaged as exercises ‘in charity and public empathy, rather than a political issue about freedom of movement and human autonomy’. Protestors have been told that if they ‘want to help refugees’ they should ‘stop sobbing’. These arguments from Spiked read like barely veiled disgust for the demos, not like arguments for open borders.

Spiked is for open borders, but …. As Brendan O’Neill put it in September 2015: ‘spiked is about as open borders as you can get. But in Europe right now, there is a bigger problem than border control, and that is the cynical weakening of national borders, and of the popular sovereignty within those national borders’. This is an evasion of the difficult arguments. It is easier to rail against the bureaucrats in Brussels than make the case for open borders. It is easier to be cynical about the limitations of popular expressions of human empathy, than to engage with this empathy to make the case for a human-centred world. Spiked never engages with the difficult arguments on migration. What do we say to people who feel the harsh grind of austerity measures when they say that we can’t take in refugees because there is not enough to go around? We need to challenge this culture of limits, not by arguing for capitalist growth, but by pointing out that it is not immigrants who are responsible for austerity. We need to challenge the idea that there is not enough to go around and instead ask why the vast wealth that capitalism generates does not trickle down to the vast majority of society? In making these arguments we redraw the borders, from political demarcations of territory, to political demarcations between those who benefit from capitalism and have an interest in it being maintained, and the vast majority of us who do not.

Instead of recommending a vote to leave, it would be better to focus on the substantive issue and use the opportunity to argue for open borders, regardless of whether we are in or out of the EU. A more radical and progressive approach to the referendum would be to engage with the desire of the mass of people for a better world and repose the issue. Calling for the UK to ‘Leave’ only lends legitimacy to the elites’ pretence that the EU is the substantive issue.