Hard Brexit: Time for ‘Remoaners’ to threaten their own ‘Leave’?

Hard Brexit:  Time for ‘Remoaners’ to threaten their own ‘Leave’?

Theresa May continues where David Cameron left off.  With blind incompetence the hard-line is deepening and widening the rift between people in the UK.  It therefore seems that those wishing to retain their European citizenship have only one option – the remainers need to become leavers – and Europe needs to offer a route to enable them to take it.

It appears to be the latest and most commonly reported misunderstanding that the Brexit Referendum result demonstrates that a majority of British people want a ‘hard break’ with Europe.  For a start, the referendum message by the Leave campaign was at best ‘mixed’ and at worst ‘deceptive’ regarding the terms of the UK’s position post Brexit. Thus, to call this a valid mandate for stripping all UK citizens of their EU citizenship is to misrepresent the actual sentiments and beliefs of the UK from a mere ‘snapshot’ seen during the vote on the 23rd June 2016.  Since the referendum many Leavers have come out to clarify they voted in protest and regret the result.  Add to this the millions whose voices were not heard or represented, in a referendum that was debated like a school-ground popularity contest.  The “Remoaners”, therefore, are actually more likely to make up the majority – even more so as the economic realities (the £ hitting a 31 year low) begin to be felt.

So why are the political elite, headed by a PM who campaigned to remain in the EU, so keen to push the ‘Hard Brexit’ Line?

Firstly it is further evidence of the inability of British politicians to negotiate reasonably.  Our politicians come from a culture of ‘hard negotiating’ – the tactic has always been to go in hard and back off a little to get what you want, our own parliamentary system functions by ‘strong stances’ followed by softening before an election.  The problem is that European politicians, most of whom come from complex coalition-reliant democracies, are more used to negotiating by reason and compromise.  An uncompromising stance will do the UK no favours – especially when the EU is holding most of the cards.

Secondly, two words sum up the motives of the new UK government:  power and opportunity.  The sovereignty argument for leaving the EU was a real and valid point.  The problem is that the sovereignty will return from the EU, not into the hands of those who voted in the referendum, but into the hands of a UK PM who was not given a mandate at a General Election.  The eyes of Theresa May and her Cabinet Ministers must light up at the power and opportunity presented to them to write their own Bill of Rights, regulations, agreements and legislation within the post-Brexit vacuum – especially without any real need for representation or further mandate from the people.  The vote has already divided the electorate and continues to distract them enough with the secrecy and complexity of negotiations that are allowing the government a free-reign in reshaping whatever they want.

So, please forgive me for moaning but I feel completely detached from everything happening to my own rights and citizenship.  Especially in light of the fact that, it would seem, the referendum result fails to represent public opinion.

But if the “Remoaners” are most likely a majority, what options do they have to change the course of the UK’s chaotic voyage towards a post-Brexit storm?

Let us consider some of the ideas:

Protest – This seems pointless.  The failure of protests against tuition fees and most notably the mass protests against the Iraq War, stand as a constant reminder that waving flags and marching in the street have no impact upon the politicians in Whitehall’s Ivory Tower.  Indeed protest and counter protest over Brexit would mainly result in a stalemate or descend into greater divisions, possibly even unproductive violence.  Taking to the streets in the UK seems as effective as using a log to remove splinters.  It would take a Maidan style occupation outside Westminster, and Brits do not have the stomach nor the time for such protest.  Political activism is practically dead in the UK and the majority of the so called ‘Remoaners’ who want to do something are professionals too reliant on keeping their jobs to disappear from work and occupy swathes of London.  Furthermore, public opinion – egged on by the media – would come out against such activism, with the need to uphold the ‘democratic referendum’ echoing from every TV channel and newspaper.  Our overtly individualistic society, with no stomach for protest, would never succeed in challenging Brexit along such lines.

Petitioning – This is equally ineffective.  The number of petitions has already been staggering.  As has the number of signatures.  What impact has it had?  None.  We have a political system that only recognises public opinion and accountability through ballot box votes every five years… or, so it would seem, flawed referendums.

Leaving – This is the last resort… and it would prove the most effective.  Those able to are already seeking options to obtain second citizenship or new citizenship of EU countries.  In a way, this should be ringing alarm bells already – or at least the Division Bells at Westminster.  The majority of young voters and the majority of the most highly educated British citizens voted to remain in the EU.  It is these people who are the cornerstone and future builders of our economy.  Consequently, if a “hard Briexit” were to spark the greatest brain drain in British history, the UK economy would be shocked to its core and unable to recover for many years (particularly if immigration becomes too tightly controlled).  Indeed, there is a significant opportunity here for the EU states facing the negotiations to profit from the apparent naivety, incompetence and short-sightedness of Theresa May’s uncompromising negotiating stance.  Post Brexit Britain will be a competitor to the EU – and the EU can weaken Britain before the UK has even left Europe.

For example, Germany is already an attractive prospect for UK students who are saddled with crippling student debts – offering places to Briatain’s youngest and brightest youth with a dual promise of no student debt and an EU passport would both strengthen the German and EU economy for the future, whilst simultaneously twisting the Brexit knife.  And why stop at students?  The Euro-phones of the UK, even if we only count the flawed “48%” who voted in the referendum, represent a sizeable number of people currently feeling abandoned and humiliated by their own countryfolk, not to mention skeptical and unsure of their own economic future.  Academics, doctors, engineers, technical specialists, even entrepreneurs and business executives could be easily tempted across the channel with the prospect of more employment security, stability and the freedoms that come from being an EU citizen.

Therefore, if those who wish to overturn a course that is stripping them of a citizenship many of them were born with – the option of leaving appears to be the last and only choice.

“Remoaners United”

Taking the idea of “Remainers becoming UK Leavers” as the best course of action, the ‘remoaners’ first need to come out of hiding.  To emerge from the bolt holes we have all scurried into to lick our wounds, and cower in fear that we might face the same vilification as those bearing the brunt of increased xenophobic slander.  We should emerge from the shadows, not to protest – and not to “moan”.  We should emerge not to challenge the skewed interpretations of the referendum – indeed let us accept it.  With head held high, the ‘Remainers’ should simply say: “If that’s the way you all feel… good luck.  I’m off to continue being European”.  As Theresa May continues to makes pointless, insensitive speeches that continue to worsen the chances of an amicable break with the EU, the so called “Remoaners” should unite to start our own negotiations for retaining all the benefits of European Citizenship – a citizenship that, for me, I consider to be my birthright.  An en-masse lobby of British citizens threatening to Exit-Britain for Europe, signalling the loss of many key members of the UK economy, society, education and academic systems would at the least require the negotiations for a ‘Hard Brexit’ to be reconsidered, at best it would force an entire rethink of Brexit.  And if nothing changes, well at least we can have an escape route when the rats take the helm and steer a course for the nearest rocks.

If one tenth of the so-called “48%” were to actually leave the UK, the entire hard-line on immigration would be unworkable and the UK would sit in the economic doldrums unable to chart a course for future growth.  I call on those who feel robbed of their rights, and those who sit on the continent fearful of a future without Britain, to find a route to allow the pro-European Brits to move to Europe after Brexit and continue to work together.  If the so-called “52%” want to call the Remainers for ‘moaning’ then the time for reasoning has passed and the need for a new ‘British Exit’ should be seen as the only option for those wishing to keep hold of an EU citizenship they were born with.

Brexit means…?

Brexit means Brexit… but does that just mean an opportunity for continuing hegemony?

As the new Prime Minister gathers her ministers and aides around her to discuss the ‘vision’ of a Britain outside Europe, little is still clear about what that vision is.  The apparent lack of information is no accident.  Neither is it a conspiracy.  It is both a tactical necessity, to ensure a strong bargaining position, and at the same time a cautious approach to get ‘the best deal’.

But ‘the best deal’ for who?

It would appear that the slowly emerging clues as to Theresa May’s direction for Brexit point to there being winners and losers – and that both will exist on either side of the Remain / Leave divide.  The public, and the media, continue to think in terms of pro-Remain / pro-Leave groups.  Yet this is a serious mistake.  The Prime Minister has successfully pulled together politicians and interested parties together from both camps, to the rallying cry of “Brexit means Brexit”.  The rallying cry has been more than just empty rhetoric or a sound-bite.  As the dust settled over the summer, all those with significant connection to No.10 who stood to be affected by Brexit  came to realise that Britain will leave the EU – the only question is, in what way and with what deals.  Thus the situation that is beginning to unfold is now one of self-interest by the ruling hegemony in order to further empower their own positions – financially and/or politically.  In brief: a good deal needs to be a good deal for the government’s own political career.

“Brexit means… opportunity”

The revelations from Nick Clegg of the cold-hearted nature with which Cameron and Osborne’s government engineered policy, by putting their own political interests ahead of any common good, (‘benefiting those who vote for us; alienating those that don’t’) is an indication of how we can expect May’s government to behave.  For No.10, Brexit is an opportunity to make tough changes on border controls whilst soundbiting May’s new “shuffle-left” in rhetoric, as she continues to develop a Toryism that wears a “we’re for the working-man” mask.   At the same time, the opportunity is there for No.11 and their close buddies in the City of London to potentially manoeuvre the economic practices of the UK outside Europe and emulate financial tax-havens such as Singapore.  In short, if the UK is forced to leave the single-market in order to tighten control on borders – then signs suggest May is probably willing to do this.  The political gains from tighter border controls, securing future electoral victory by appealing to large swathes of floating voters, is a no brainer to a politician whose  main objective is to win the next election.  And economically speaking?  Many businesses and the financial sector at large worry about the economic impact of being left out of the EU and losing their ‘trader-passports’ with the single-market.  Be under no illusions.  No.10 and No.11 will both fight to retain these.  However, it is likely at this very moment that the behind-the-scenes meetings at Chequers are already contemplating how they could engineer something of a Singaporean Financial Revolution that would be attractive to the City of London.  Economically, Brexit could significantly damage the UK – but it is looking like there will be significant damage limitations put in place for those who matter to the overall financial sector.

So is Brexit looking positive or not?

For Theresa May, major corporations and those who continue to make good use of offshore financial services – yes.  But all those who used Brexit as an opportunity to vent their frustrations at an unaccountable elite who were enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else – no.  The opportunities being taken by the current government appear to be the ones that will give good headlines on immigration, thus strengthening their own position with a significant proportion of the electorate, and opportunities to tie Britain’s economic structure even closer into a system of financial hocus-pocus.  The failure of the British Government to do anything after the revelations of the Panama Papers, and their overt brushing-under-the-carpet of any proposals to close tax havens in British Overseas Territories, whilst ignoring media revelations calling into question legislation on Trust funds, shows their hand clearly.  They are entirely unwilling to upset their friends by changing the system – regardless of what Brexit means.  Ironically, at the same time that May is offering dinner meetings for donations to her Party (see here) for anyone who has enough money (cash for access all over again) the EU, that ‘undemocratic’ institution that we were told is the bed-fellow of big business, is demanding Apple pay back £11bn of tax to Ireland.  I find it hard to believe that May’s ‘Independent’ UK, who would not even discuss the notion of legal changes to trust funds or closing their own tax havens, has any interests in becoming tough on large corporations. Quite the reverse.  If the UK must leave the single-market, then the financial elite will press for lower and lower corporate tax in order to attract more financial traffic through the city of London.  So?  The problem with this is that the money would not find itself into the Treasury for public investments – heads the rich win, tails the poor lose.

For those that Brexit was a vote about immigration, then May looks ready to hand them a partial vindication in the form of tougher border controls.  The question is, at what cost to the way our economy is to develop outside of the EU?  For those that Brexit was a vote of protest, then they could well have shot themselves in the foot.  We, the people, have had no say in the changes to our government post-Brexit and they have been given an excuse (should they choose) to be able to effectively change at will their mandate from last year’s general election.  The opportunity  Brexit has given to the Government to rewrite a Bill of Rights in ‘their own image’, as well as the future plans to gerrymander MP constituencies,  mean we’ve all but handed an unelected Government the right to reshape our constitution and the social contract before any new election occurs.  What is more, you may argue, we’ve handed May’s government the 2020 election victory before it’s even being thought of.  For many, therefore, a protest vote against political elitism, plutocratic hegemony and lack of representation has achieved nothing but strengthen the system being protested against in the first place.

A change of words would be a start

A change of words would be a start

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 23.56.59

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 23.58.55 is full of using labels or pronouncements contrary to all truth, in order to mask the reality. Labels can be powerful. “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” as Winston Churchill famously stated. Giving concepts a particular label, morphs the perception of it in the minds of an observing crowd. Never has this been more self-evident than in the media and the politics of today. Words are chosen carefully – even when they appear so ridiculous or brash as those frequently spouted by America’s ‘would-be-hero’ Donald Trump. It is not by accident he slings more muck in the direction of Hilary Clinton than a tractor pulled, organic faecal dispenser. It is a calculated tactic of psychology, and it is proven to work. ‘Throw enough excrement and some of it will stick,’ has become the mantra of all Western campaign managers and politicians these days – including that of Brexit, with the deliberately misleading ‘lie’ about £350million a week being saved.

The point is this: Labels matter. They are being churned out left, right and centre by politicians and experts. They always have. Our entire political structure and social strata is based on vague and misleading labels. Perhaps the biggest of all is that of ‘democracy’. Ask anyone what type of government they have in Europe, the US or the UK and invariably they will tell you it is a democracy. Then try asking them what this is. The recent response I heard to this in the UK was: ‘democracy is democracy’. This was too close to the whole Prime Ministerial nonsense doing the rounds of: “Brexit means Brexit” for me to be in any way satisfied. On pressing for more information the concept apparently boiled down to: “I have a vote… everyone has a vote every five years. We choose the government, and that’s democracy”. Who could argue? This is, indeed, our system of ‘democracy’ – a representative democracy, whereby we elect the representatives who govern on our behalf. If they screw up, we vote them out. Everyone has only one vote, so it is a level playing field.

Except it is not a level playing field. Nor is it democracy. It is labelled as democracy and there are elements of it, but even these centre only on a social contract supposedly established every five years. What is more, as is often pointed out, the UK system every five years more often than not puts a government in charge that gained the vote of a minority of the people (see how the First Past the Post system works – and the statistics for the General Election 2015). Instantly, the playing field is no longer level. If my chosen candidate loses his campaign to win the seat in my local constituency, then my vote does not count towards representation in the House of Commons. I am labelled as a citizen with a vote, but in the end my vote was counted and then essentially discarded. Well, no mind… I can stick around for five years and try again.

This is the second phase of the un-levelling the playing field being. Once the votes are counted and the Members take their seats in the House of Commons, they are (barring committing a heinous crime) sat on those seats for five years. They may hold frequent ‘surgeries’ for their constituents to vent frustrations and opinions, but they are not obliged to do anymore than lend a courteous ear. Indeed, a cynic may suggest that the ‘surgeries’ are nothing more than a PR stunt to remind people that they live in a ‘(representative) democracy’. “I can go and see, or contact, my MP whenever I need to” – of course, but will they listen if there are still 5 or 4 or 3 or even 2 years left until their (social)contract is up for evaluation? In any case, your MP is not necessarily anything to do with the government. They may be in opposition. This makes their powers and opportunities demonstrably reduced. Even if they are representing the ruling party, they may not be a minister. The government is made up of a selected handful. And they chop and change at the behest of the Prime Minister – note, not at the behest of the people they govern. It is unbelievably hard to have access to a Minister. Unless. Unless you already know them. Or. Unless you have the means to open doors. Not to buy access in the sense of a brown envelope slid surreptitiously under a newspaper – yet perhaps by a party donation… or maybe owning a leading financial business… or even owning or being in charge of a major media outlet.

Having been elected, those that represent the people are no longer answerable to the people who voted them there but to the people who will, firstly, keep them there and, secondly, those that can smooth the probability of them continuing to stay there. Add to this ideological favouritism (“if you agree with what I agree with, or with what will benefit me – I’ll listen to you”) and you have a rather unlevel field of play. The access to the people in charge is for club members only – a plutocratic club. The representatives and club members have five years to stack the voting system (gerrymandering/constitutional change) and media in their favour. The people can wait five years, and then they can try to elect another group of representatives to play as the custodians of the plutocratic members club. There is no accountability; merely a periodic plebiscite for the participants of power. No level field of opportunity to challenge, question or have access to those in power means no equal accountability.   No equal accountability means no true democracy.

So how can we level this playing field? In the end, the first thing to do is perhaps change the label. When we are asked what type of government we have, we should be educated enough, informed enough and open enough to be able to say: ‘a plutocracy’. For those who feel uncomfortable, by all means try this: “a plutocracy, but with a loosely representative democratic process every five years.

Note: Due to brevity the constitutional role of ‘checks’ upon the government such as the Opposition of the Commons, and the House of Lords have been left out. Needless to say, the House of Lords in no way undermines the interpretation of an unlevel playing field of ‘representational democracy’.

“Laws ought to be equal, good and not evidently destructive to the well-being of the people”

“Laws ought to be equal, good and not evidently destructive to the well-being of the people”

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/03/tories-plan-uk-withdrawal-european-convention-on-human-rights

To replace a European bill of rights with one made and consecrated on England’s own shores may sound appealing – but to whom shall the right and privilege of drafting, formulating and approving this new convention on Human Rights fall?  I worry that it will not be the people of England themselves but the very ones who act so ‘paternalistically’ on their behalf.  Those who would tear up a set of European rights with the justification that the Bill of Rights were not chosen by the people of our land, will themselves reject any full consultation of the very people whose interests they claim to act within.

The interests of the people need to be for the people to decide, that is their privilege – not the privilege of their ‘representatives’.