How to Democratise Brexit and Take Back Control of our Future: An Appeal to Jeremy Corbyn

Yves here. I anticipate our Brexit regulars will read this post and weep. Some Remainers and perhaps some others with not strongly held views are starting to wake up to what a train wreck Brexit could be, and that the risk of a crash out is real. So what is their remedy? Ask the EU for an extension of the March 29, 2019 deadline. I kid you not.

By Andrea Pisauro, who is researching on decision-making at the University of Glasgow. He is an enthusiastic activist of Another Europe is Possible and a loyal member of the Labour Party. You can follow him at @andreapisauro. Originally published at

A paradox of our time: EU elections in Britain could trigger a genuine debate about Brexit, healing some of the divisions that the referendum has created.

One year ago, the government of Theresa May notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union. As a European citizen living in this country it was a sad time. As a person who believes in democracy, triggering article 50 had to be the necessary consequence of the outcome of the referendum.

Since then, the clock has been ticking. Article 50 requires that in one year’s time, that is before March 29, 2019, the UK government must sign a deal with the EU about their future relationship, or roll out of it without.

Despite May’s reassurances that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, it is clear that the inability to reach a deal would be a catastrophe for most of us. From one day to the next, almost 3 million EU citizens in the UK and more than 1 million UK citizens in the EU will effectively become ‘outlaws’. About £554 billion in trade between the UK and the EU would suddenly be subject to customs and levies under WTO rules. All EU grants supporting UK institutions and other EU-funded activities would be suspended. Most worryingly, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would come into force, endangering the Good Friday agreement which put an end to 40 years of Troubles.

In her Lancaster speech in January 2017, May considered such a scenario, suggesting that she would feel “free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model” in what Jeremy Corbyn has rightly described as a “bargain basement tax haven on the shores of Europe”. Everyone needs to face up to the outcome of a Tory-led no-deal Brexit: a bonfire of rights, where working conditions and living standards would be traded for tax exemptions to “attract the world’s best companies and biggest investors”, as May put it.

In the same Lancaster speech, Theresa May outlined a plan where Britain is set to quit both the single market and the custom union, pulling the UK out of any form of common jurisdiction with the other 27 EU nations. What will come then is not clear. In her Florence speech, May called for a “creative solution” for a “comprehensive and ambitious” economic partnership. But the time for such a “creative solution” is running out. It took the government six months to agree on the divorce settlements, and another three months to agree the terms of the transition period (in short: most things stay as they are until December 2020). All of which would be useless without some agreement on the terms of the future relationship according to the EU negotiating principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

When and if such an agreement is signed, it would require proper scrutiny by the EU Parliament and importantly, also by the UK one. This is because Labour first traded a parliamentary vote on the deal before deciding to vote in favour of triggering article 50 and then defeated the Government with an amendment to secure this “meaningful” vote. This parliamentary process requires time, and in order to be completed before the deadline of 29 March 2019, it implies starting it by latest October.

While May tried to detail some aspects of this comprehensive deal in her Mansion House speech earlier this month, there are no signs the EU is willing to commit to a sector by sector agreement, whose inherent complexity makes it impossible to strike in less than a few years. Moreover, no solution for Northern Ireland has been provided by the government, which has effectively agreed with the EU to allow custom checks across the Irish sea as a last resort given the lack of alternatives. Should they fail to materialise in these 6 months, the vote on the Brexit deal would become a choice between breaking apart the common market of the Irish island or that of the United Kingdom, with enormous political implications in both cases.

Brexit shadow secretary Keir Starmer has intelligently put forward six key tests to decide Labour’s vote on the deal. In the absence  of a significant policy shift of the Government, those tests are bound to fail, and Labour would hopefully be joined by enough Tory rebels to bring down the deal. What would happen then is impossible to predict, but surely negotiations with the EU should resume to avoid a cliff-edge before the deadline.

Labour’s ingenious proposal to negotiate a new custom union with the EU could be a sensible solution, both for Northern Ireland and to limit friction on trade. However, there is simply no way it can be negotiated in the six months that would follow a vote against whatever Brexit deal May might strike. Disentangling the custom union from the single market is an extremely complex task which requires careful reflection on both sides, and patience doesn’t run high in Brussels, after what appears to be a never-ending indecisiveness from the British side. Besides, Labour could only come to negotiate a deal after getting into government through a general election, which would steal a few more months from the total. There simply isn’t enough time to change May’s Brexit course.

One year on, we need to refresh our minds. Why is the most ancient democracy on earth deploying an enormous amount of resources running round the clock to deliver a seemingly impossible task? Why March 29, 2019? Theresa May is the only person equipped to answer this question, but there is one puzzling explanation which is worth considering. On May 2019 all European citizens will vote to elect the new European Parliament, and if Brexit isn’t “accomplished” before that date, UK citizens should also be allowed to vote in that election. What they would vote for is a matter of opinion but one could easily imagine that a EU election in Britain might trigger a national discussion about the complex implications of the referendum result.

It’s easy then to see one reason why May chose that particular date. May’s decision to trigger article 50 on March 2017 didn’t reflect the clarity of her Brexit strategy (which isn’t clear to anyone one year later). But It might well reflect her determination to prevent any EU election happening in Britain. It is easy to imagine her motive. The referendum campaign was a time of bitter divisions across the country, divisions which have hardly begun to heal two years on. The country was effectively split in two along generational, geographical, economic and national lines.

Could the EU elections be any different, and what would be the use of electing MEPs from a state which has chosen to leave the EU? While it’s difficult to answer these questions, there are at least three good reasons for believing that an EU election could heal some of the divisions that the referendum has created.

First, it would be a discussion involving clear proposals and not vague ideological alternatives such as Remain or Leave, one in which nothing was to change and the other in which nobody knew what exactly was to change. Lists of candidates put forward for such an election would need to be explicit about which specific aspect of the relationship with the EU should be retained or abandoned.

Second, there is no upper limit to the number of lists of candidates that could be put forward in a EU election. Contrary to a referendum which has just two options, people could express their voting preference for those who advocate for a no-deal Brexit, or choose between those who prefer a hard or a soft Brexit (for instance retaining a custom union with the EU or not), or no Brexit at all, for that matter.

Interestingly, it’s not just political parties that could have lists of candidates standing: independent citizens could organise themselves to collect signatures to offer their own vision for Brexit. In fact, political parties could take the chance to skip a turn and let the people self-organise to determine their future relationship with Europe. Whichever government is in charge would get a much clearer picture of the much debated ‘will of the people’ regarding Brexit, effectively democratizing the whole process.

Third, an EU election would also allow UK citizens to participate in a continental campaign about the future of the European Union, where, together with the other 500 million people, they could choose the Parliament which would vote for the next European Commission. Even if Britain is set to leave the EU, it makes sense that it should be allowed to participate in choices that will shape its future during the time it takes to understand how to leave it.

What to do then? The most sensible Brexit strategy anyone can put forward at this point is asking the European Council to extend the article 50 negotiation window and allow EU elections to happen in Britain too. If the European Council were to agree, as is allowed under the treaty, this would not only grant more time to come up with a sensible solution for the complex decisions linked to the Brexit process, it would also be a refreshing opportunity to democratise Brexit and collectively take back control of our future.

There is only one person in Britain with the sense and the power to make such a call. Brexit is what we make of it, Jezza, but we gotta ask for enough time to figure it out!

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49 comments

  1. ChrisPacific

    Dear Lord. He wants the UK to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 so that the UK can remain in the EU for long enough to elect parliamentary representatives for the institution that they are about to leave? And this pointless exercise is intended to bring clarity and consensus on the public position on Brexit within the UK? How exactly, given that the general election did nothing of the sort?

    This is like asking my neighbor to subdivide their land because my imaginary friend needs the space.

    Reply
    1. David May

      It’s such a crazy article isn’t it? It reminds me of the wacky stuff my friends and I would concoct after smoking skunk. Elaborate alternative realities constructed out of gossamer wisps of fairy dust and unicorn farts.

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      It all comes back to the hope for a BINO. The problem is, engineering a BINO could in many ways be even more complicated than a hard Brexit. Innumerable fudges and compromises would have to be made and the UK would be in a perpetually unstable situation, dependent on the goodwill of all EU27 and the ECJ not to rock the boat at any time.

      Reply
    3. MisterMr

      “He wants the UK to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 so that the UK can remain in the EU for long enough to elect parliamentary representatives for the institution that they are about to leave?”

      The extension would be in place of the “vassal state” period the UK is currently getting from the EU, so it would be the same thing but with less drawbacks (I think the EU would refuse precisely for this reason, but I think it would be worth a try).

      I think that your reaction is an example of choosing symbols above substance, something that IMO is very common in Brexit.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Your criticism of the opening comment is based on a faulty reading of the post.

        The post author is calling for the Brexit date to be pushed back. He wants time to negotiate a different “future relationship” which per Article 50, is to be set forth in the exit deal, the one to be submitted for approval in October. The UK insisted on that point and the EU agreed. The only way to get more time is to delay the exit.

        And there is absolutely no way the EU would let the UK vote in EU elections other than if it were still a member of the EU.

        The EU already rejected the UK’s request for a slightly longer transition period. The UK wanted a full two years from the Brexit date. The EU had said the max was to the end of 2020 for EU budget cycle reasons. The EU stuck with its previously stated position.

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        1. MisterMr

          I don’t understand your point.

          From article 50:

          “3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

          so article 50 says that the two years period can be extended, which would be better from the UK’s point of view than what they got now in pratical terms, although it would look as a setback in symbolic terms. It would also be very “off the shelf”.

          I agree that the EU probably would nix it (why give away an advantage you already have?) but I think from the point of view of the UK it would be still worth a try. Brexiters’ heads would explode, though, so they won’t even try.

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          1. Clive

            “Can be extended” is only giving a theoretical possibility but it does not solve the practicalities. Not least is the budget — the EU isn’t like some pay-as-you-go phone contract. It has a 5-year fixed duration. So any extension, even if the Council did agree, would require the UK to sign up for the full 5 years, most likely.

            And politically the hard Brexit’ers are already foaming at the mouth over 2 years’ rights for EU citizens, loss of control over fisheries, the £20bn budget contribution and continued ECJ jurisdiction. Hard to see a 7-year transition getting any kind of broad political support even in the UK, let alone the EU27.

            Reply
            1. MisterMr

              I’m not sure why you think it should be 5 year, it could be 2 additional year instead of (not in addition to) the “transition period”.

              Basically I don’t understand why Britons prefer “transition period” to “extension”, when the transition is basically the same thing of the extension with some added disadvantages – or are there some advantages in the “transition period” that I don’t see?

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              1. Yves Smith Post author

                You need to stop commenting until you have done your homework. This is not a chat board. One of our written rules is:

                You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

                There is a yawning chasm of difference between an an extension of Article 50, which the UK will never never never be granted (I am prepared to wager my entire net worth on that) and a longer transition period, which the EU has already told the UK it will not get. I am not about to spoon readers on topics I have covered repeatedly and at length in posts. It’s an insult not only to me but the rest of the highly informed people who comment here on Brexit.

                The only think the EU would grant is a revocation of Article 50. They’d do that up to the very last minute. They’d love to see the UK have to grovel and admit it was all a really really bad idea. But politically, that would take another referendum in the UK and that is na ga happen.

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            2. ambrit

              This is WW2.3. WW2.2 was the Marshall Plan where America rebuilt Europe (read Germany) as a bulwark against ‘godless Communism’ and left England to ‘muddle through’ mainly on its’ own. As far as America was concerned, England really was Airstrip One for its’ Hegemonic Forces. The lesson to be derived from this most recent irruption of ‘Lovespeech’ is that we have always been at war with Eurasia.
              Is no one in the political arena thinking hard about why so many people in England voted for Brexit? Something basic about national identity is stirring in the collective unconscious of England certainly. Spain shows signs of a similar self disintegrative movement. Yugoslavias’ breakup was fairly easy to comprehend. Next, the Walloons rise up against their Flemish oppressors. This could get ugly quickly.

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              1. Clive

                In some ways, it’s a whole lot easier to paint Brexit’ers as a load of racist, ignorant and stupid people who either didn’t know what they were doing (and, to be fair, that’s not a completely false view of some Brexit supporters so you have enough who are willing to act as fodder to that cliche) or just did not care than to have to grapple with the much knottier problems of what to do about sections of society who have suffered a detriment as a result of EU membership or the betrayal of the EU ideal by the EU itself in its current incarnation.

                I was reading the London Review of Books yesterday which had a very well written and largely accurate piece detailing — or maybe asking — what the Brexit faction of the Conservative party wants. And while there’s two or three pages devoted to what the U.K. is (or could be), what it was and what it might be where the EU is concerned, dangling right at the end of the article consigned to a single paragraph lingering like a fart in an elevator (and held in a similar sense of disdain) was the briefest of considerations of what that which we’re running away from and even betraying — the EU — actually is. The EU was treated like the beacon on hilltop (or whatever the commonly invoked metaphor is). A veritable Statue of Liberty guiding a poor and huddled mass of Europeans into the warm embrace of the Ellis Island gift shop. The lack of context and backstory was verging on the surreal.

                Maybe it was just intended to be a crowd pleaser. Both sides, Brexit and Remain have all but retreated into their respective intellectual ghettos right now.

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                1. ambrit

                  The problem of dealing with the adverse effects of the Neo-Liberal World Order on various classes of people is now nearly universal.
                  I have theorized that this reversion to smaller, regional nation state identities is tied to an aversion to the impersonal and ‘inhuman’ nature of larger political structures. Something akin to the American axiom that “all politics is local” is at work here, there and everywhere.
                  “Our local leaders will do what’s right for us because they come from amongst us” would be a fair representation of the public feeling.
                  So, we might have to significantly expand, both intellectually and physically, the definition of “ghetto.”

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                  1. a different chris

                    Or if they don’t we can march up and bang on their door. Can’t do that in the neo-liberal order, because even if they are local their “hands are tied” by things nobody voted for.

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                    1. ambrit

                      Yep. That’s the lever to use. Who, after all, will first see that torchlit, pitchfork wielding mob first?

              2. vlade

                Sorry. but you got your history wrong.

                UK got MOST money from Marshall’s plan from any countries involved – 2.7 bln USD (vs for example Germany’s 1.7 bln – France got close, but still UK got the most). The “only” problem is that the UK spent it on trying to rebuild the Empire (via maintanance of banks that supported the Sterling area), with mostly hand-waving towards any real industrial plans, and pretty much wasted all that money.

                A good summary is

                In fact, in some ways it’s not dissimilar to Brexit TBH..

                Reply
                1. ambrit

                  Thanks for the correction. Wasn’t Labour in charge then?
                  Also, how much of that ‘expenditure’ was for repayment of war debts owed to America?

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                  1. vlade

                    Yep, Labour was in charge then – still being Labour doesn’t stop stupidity. Labour wanted to fund the new social state, but AT THE SAME TIME also wanted the imperial glory – with the attendant military and financial costs (because a large part of it was the maintenance of Sterling area, which relied on the UK being the imperial banker for the dominions/commonwealth).

                    That was first bridged by a US loan of 4bln (which the UK sought), and then by the money from Marshall’s plan (although to be fair, some of the money went to pay for imports, as the UK wasn’t anywhere near self-sufficient in food or building materials). It also paid back the US loans – but remember, France had US loans too..

                    That’s very much unlike France/Germany, where majority of the money went to industry and infrastructure. Admittedly, their infra/industry suffered much more than the UK’s, but MP was a singular chance to pay for upgrading it.

                    Given the engineering quality avalable in the UK at the time (in some areas, for example jet engines), with a proper industrial strategy, UK could have been entirely different nation from what it’s now. But at the same time, it was the time when (say) coal mining was deemend important, even more important than engineering, even tough skills needed in coal mining are much less re-usable in anything else.

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          2. begob

            I think there are still fireworks to come on the Art.50 notice, probably more on the revocation issue than time extension, but I’ve had my wrist slapped on this before and must wait on events.

            Reply
          3. Yves Smith Post author

            You have not been paying attention. There is no way the EU will give the UK a break on this point. There is no domestic political support for being nice to the UK, save maybe in Poland. The European press is barely covering Brexit. The European leadership has made clear they care most about the political integrity of the EU, and see no reason to allow it to make exiting easier, since that could facilitate other departures. They’d rather have a crash-out Brexit than accommodate UK stupidity.

            On top of that, did you also manage to miss that there is absolutely zero political will in the UK for reversing Brexit? Parliament is sovereign but they won’t retreat without the cover of a new referendum. Not only are only a very few ACTIVE pols willing to broach the idea, we are too late for that to get done before the drop dead date.

            You need to spend a lot more time in our archives, or alternatively at Richard North’s site, before you comment again. Your remarks are close to being agnotology, which is a violation of our written site Policies.

            Reply
  2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

    As an outsider question, could someone comment why there are “political implications” to “breaking up the common market” with respect to the Irish border question? As noted in previous blogposts here, May has stared down the DUP and emphasized that the price of the DUP blowing up the coalition is a Corbyn government. So there should not be political costs per se.

    I’m also not clear why May just doesn’t call another election to ratify the agreement, in effect. Keep calling elections until the British public is exhausted and she can ram through whatever is desired, making the point that the DUP driving the bus or a Corbyn government is an option too terrible to contemplate.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t think its correct to say she has stared down the DUP – its still just shadowboxing as she hasn’t confronted them yet with the reality of an Irish Sea border.

      She still needs them for normal parliamentary business (not that much of that is going on). If she was competent, then she would be working on wider deals to allow for a complete rejection of the coalition deal with the DUP, but its nowhere near that situation yet. Its complicated by the reality that if the DUP marched out, they might take sympathetic Tories with them.

      Another election is out of the question really – apart from the difficulty – supposedly governments have to run for the full five years (although as with the last election she managed to worm out of that). The Tories are terrified of letting Corbyn in, while I don’t think Labour are particularly keen on taking power right now either. So it would be a complete crap shoot. If by ‘election’ you mean another referendum, I don’t think there is either the appetite for that (most likely the vote would be for Brexit again), and it would be very difficult to come up with a satisfactory wording.

      Whichever way you look at it, May is stuck with muddling through. Things might change after the May local elections – a disastrous Tory performance (or an unexpectedly good one) might change the calculations. After that is the summer break where no work gets done. So it all comes down to the crunch next autumn when a deal will have to be completed with the EU and it will have to get through Parliament.

      Reply
  3. windsock

    I’m guessing, from the author’s name, the language in which he writes on his Facebook page, and his stated home city of Rome, that Mr Pisauro may be Italian. It may also be that, although he is a loyal member of the Labour Party, his view is coloured by the experiences of, and views from, Italy.

    These are unrealistic in a UK context, where faith in the European Parliament is non-existant, not least because our most prominent EU Parliamentarian is Nigel Farage, whose behaviours there and no-shows at committees (while milking the institution of thousands of euros to fund UKIP), brought it into thorough dis-repute.

    I am saying this as an attempt to understand why the whole article is so “meh”, not to attack the author personally.

    Reply
  4. The Rev Kev

    I see that the author is researching decision-making at the University of Glasgow. Lucky bugger! What a time to be alive with what for him would amount to a target-rich environment of study.

    Now that we are at T-Minus 52 weeks until Brexit, the stories will start to come thick and fast on how Brexit is unfolding. It is with disbelief that I see how it is being handled by the UK government but to be honest, if it was my government doing it, it would be likely making a dog’s breakfast of it as well. Still, you are talking about the future of 65 million people here and not just the several hundred thousand elite. Norman ancestry will not save them when push comes to shove.

    With Brexit, I am reminded of that scene from the film “Titanic” where it is headed for the iceberg () but not the way that you might think. In the film, as soon as the iceberg is sighted, the ship is thrown hard a-starboard with the wheel thrown till it was hard over, the engines are halted and put into full reverse, the dampeners on the boilers are all shut and emergency preparations are made.

    If Brexit were like “Titanic”, after the iceberg was sighted, the captain and crew would squabble who was in charge and what should be done, the higher ranked officers would be maneuvering to get positions on the White Star board, panicked passengers would be lowering some of the life-boats to sail over and board the iceberg itself and in the end the captain would be asking for an extension from the iceberg for their collision so no, Brexit is not like the Titanic. It is much worse.

    Reply
    1. begob

      Or like the Spanish Armada cutting its anchor cables before the fire ships off Calais. The admiral had to hang mutineers to maintain discipline, but they were wrecked on the coast of Ireland anyway.

      Reply
  5. Marlin

    The author assumes, that people have time for such kind of self-organisation, that actually usually the parties should facilitate in a manner, that takes into acount the fact, that people have other things to do than gouverning. People have jobs (or search for one), children, elderly relatives needing care. There was already a parliamentary election in less than the ususal time and an exhausting brexit referendum. According to polls even many people, who believe brexit is a mistake just want to be done with it. Look how the SNP did for suggesting another referendum on Scottish independence. The suggestion comes essentially down to a very undemocratic rule of activists.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      And it assumes everyone is similarly politically engaged. As a litmus test, I just ran this idea past my own bellwether of Middle England thinking my mother-in-law (it was a useful alternative from clothes shopping with her on a holiday weekend and a distraction from the increasing temptation to knaw my own leg off lest I have to face another hour of it).

      Her reaction? “That’s a load of time wasting”. Which, for her and similarly insulated from much of any significant impacts people like her, that to them is exactly what it is.

      The author made a well-argued set of points. But as with many of us who are politics addicts, they forgot the ho-hum factor entirely. If we do end up with a Mordor-on-Sea set of outcomes, there may well be more enthusiasm for radical responses. Trying to convince popular option to get more involved and act less as passive observers now, though, that’s a hard sell.

      Reply
      1. Lee

        My ignorance regarding Brexit is vast, so I will not offer an opinion on that subject. But i must wholeheartedly sympathize with your violent aversion to clothes shopping. My wardrobe consists largely of sturdy if unfashionable articles, many of which are older than my adult children. ; )

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      2. The Rev Kev

        Maybe it is a case of people thinking that they can ‘muddle through’ Brexit. I guess that after all these years people have forgotten why Britain joined the original EEC in the first place-

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  6. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    On the topic of Corbyn, today’s FT suggests, without quoting any polls, that May is / the Tories are enjoying a bounce, ideal for the early May local elections.

    #Jobdone, perhaps a new category of links alongside #Killmenow. The false flag in Salisbury and Israeli coordinated smears on Labour are working.

    All May needs now is a march on Moscow over the summer, so she can call a khaki election next spring.

    One wonders what the Labour Party members who contribute to this blog make of it all?

    Reply
        1. larry

          Colonel, could not agree more. And, by the way, Sugar has deleted his tweet and rejected it. Looks like someone got to him? I wonder whether McDonnell’s request had any effect.

          Reply
    1. Clive

      I just bumped into my mother-in-law’s friend and ended up stuck having a cup of tea and a rather over-priced slice of cake (I fear this day may never actually end, but I must be brave and not give up hope). Despite a standing order to not cause trouble and talk about “controversial” subjects, I thought I was okay to talk politics as the aforementioned friend is also a Labour Party supporter like me (she lived for nearly 20 years in Oman, very pro-Palistine and anti-Isreal, rabbitied on for 10 minutes about Gaza).

      I asked about this idea and her views on Brexit generally. I kid you not, she said that May had in her opinion been dealt a difficult hand and was making the best of a bad lot. Thought that May was doing a better job of it that Corbyn would do. All-in-all, she gave May what I could best describe as a sympathy vote. Added that May seemed like a “sensible person” (her exact words) who “had to just get on with it”. My mother-in-law’s friend voted Remain and is usually, I was advised later, was very versiferous on the matter (Brexit being a huge mistake).

      I was about to get really going on a good argument, but the topic of conversation was shifted, heavily-handedly, onto what to do when you have a cat who’s scared of a vacuum cleaner. When that didn’t do the trick, I was summarily dispatched to get another pot of tea.

      The point of all of which (there is one, please be patient, I am getting to it) is that on the subject of Brexit, it is from what I can tell, politics in the Twilight Zone. Inconsistencies, irrationalities, flip-flopping on normal party aligences, people like May’s hopeless incompetence being seen as not her fault — anything, seemingly, goes for the voters…

      Reply
      1. begob

        I’ve seen that topic shift. Was expecting an interesting Brexit chat over Xmas with a top bod banker in London, but he just said the EU was only 15% of their turnover so they’d manage the hit, and his wife announced May was doing a great job – all said so authoritatively and briefly that the Christmas pudding spontaneously burst into flames. My SIL works in IT recruitment in London too, and she told me yesterday the talent is moving to banking in NY/Frankfurt, and salaries in London will have to rise if they want to retain/attract.

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      2. larry

        Clive, I have to do the same with my partner’s step-mo. I also love your phrase, Politics in the Twilight Zone — do not turn off your set; there is nothing wrong with the transmission; we control the vertical; we control the horizontal; [for the next so many years,] we will control all you see and hear; &c.

        I have to say that I loved the Twilight Zone much more than I care for this drama.

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        1. Duke De Guise

          Not to be pedantic, but your line, (“We control the vertical. We control the horizontal”) is from “The Outer Limits,” not “The Twilight Zone.”

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      3. Yves Smith Post author

        Haha, you ways of acting out when family is driving your nuts are more adult than mine! It probably is the result of having to hold your tongue a lot in your day job.

        Reply
  7. David

    Counter-intuitively, perhaps, May is in any case better off in the present situation. Not only would losing another election badly finally finish her off, but governments like hers at present, without an overall majority, have to exercise tight discipline to survive. A majority of 20-30 on the other hand, would be an open invitation to rebellion by the disaffected. Since the results of UK elections, especially now, are effectively impossible to predict, she’s better off as she is. Whether that’s true for the country, of course, is a different issue. It’s interesting BTW that the author doesn’t make any mention of the EU draft agreements, which, in practice, May is basically going to have to accept.

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  8. Alex Cox

    “almost 3 million EU citizens in the UK and more than 1 million UK citizens in the EU will effectively become ‘outlaws’.”

    Ignoring the incendiary term outlaws, we are left with the interesting factoid that Britain has absorbed an additional three million residents from the EU, while only one million, more or less, have decanted to Europe.

    Since there are 27 countries in the continental EU, the strain of an additional million residents is surely less there than the addition of three million extra residents to Britain — all of whom use the NHS, are eligible to study and use other social services, and who ride the buses and the trains.

    If the reader believes that islands (like planets) have a carrying capacity, and that Britain’s is already far overstretched, doesn’t this disparity sound like a strong argument in favour of Brexit?

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    1. Grebo

      doesn’t this disparity sound like a strong argument in favour of Brexit?

      Only superficially.
      Even if those numbers are correct (there appears to be some quite divergent estimates around) the UK is so far over its inherent carrying capacity that another million or two is a drop in the bucket. The difference is made up by imports, which brexit will disrupt.
      Besides which, our capitalists love cheap labour and if they can’t get it from the EU they will get it from somewhere else, quite possibly from somewhere even less welcomed by brexiteers.
      Which gives me an idea. The UK government pays its pensioners to live in Spain, maybe it should pay its unemployed to go and live in Germany.

      Reply
  9. ambrit

    Of interest would be the rough socioeconomic classes of the two groups. I’ll guess that the million UK people who moved to Europe proper are higher ‘worth’ individuals than the three million people who moved the other way. Or is it a manifestation of the ingrained capitalist propensity for employers to prefer lower wage demanding workers at all times, irrespective of their source? Also, what part of Europe do the preponderance of those three millions come from. The poorer East is my suspicion.

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    1. Anonymous2

      There has been migration from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, not very surprisingly. The number going to the UK is not out of line proportionate to population to the number going to other affluent European countries such as Germany, Ireland, Spain.

      As to whether Britain is overcrowded, well that is matter of opinion. Some Britons think so though population density is lower than India, Bangladesh and a number of other countries. I used to have a lot of with Japanese who had been sent to work for a period in London. They were always amazed at how much space there was compared to Tokyo. It all rather depends on your perspective.

      Overall, the UK has about eight million residents born outside the UK and there are about six million Britons living elsewhere in the world. Does that seem wildly out of line to you? I cannot say it does to me.

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    2. Grebo

      I’m having trouble finding a good chart but my impression is that the East and the South are being emptied out into the North. While Spain is actually growing slightly it is only because fleeing natives are being replaced by Easterners, Africans and South Americans (and Northern wrinklies). Countries from Greece to Latvia are suffering catastrophic losses of working age people.
      The bulk of British expats are retired I would guess. Some are young professionals. I would also guess that the figures are more like a million each in France and Spain alone.

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      1. ambrit

        Thanks to all.
        I wonder if expat Britons will have to “purchase” residency visas in EU countries soon. (Purchase as in high escrow funds or property purchases.)
        Thinking a bit more about it, do fellow EUs have to ‘purchase’ residency visas for living in other EU countries?

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        1. Grebo

          Newly joined countries sometimes have restrictions for a while but apart from that people can move about freely, get work, vote, stand for parliament etc.
          If they are not paying into the local tax system they may have to fill out paperwork so their home country pays for health care, other government benefits may be an issue too.
          No visas, or in theory even passports, required. I presume there will be some reciprocal grandfathering agreement for existing expats.

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          1. ambrit

            I’m not so sure about any ‘grandfathering’ agreements. Nativism is one of the primary driving forces behind Brexit from what I can see from my vantage point several thousand miles away. If any nativist based rules are applied in England, the EU will reciprocate. Any self respecting polity would.
            Now for the hard part. How do you define “Native?”

            Reply

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