Brexit – a cursory overview: why it’s a debacle, and why the People’s Vote campaign is equally misconceived.
Why Brexit is a bad idea
Brexit is a futile exercise, at best; and an extremely bad idea, at worst. If it could be prevented democratically, with public consent, then I would agree that it should be.
It will also bork the City of London’s banks – which, rightly or wrongly, Britain’s economy depends upon to a high extent.
Unfortunately, the upshot of all this is that a large number of people are liable to suffer job-losses, or wage-reductions; and a stark decline in overall living standards will follow.
There’s no need to take my word for this, however. Instead, feel free to read the article published in The Sun by the Leave-campaigner, Patrick Minford. In which he was almost honest enough to acknowledge the reality.
The aim of people like Minford is to turn Britain into the equivalent of a 3rd World Country. Not in terms of its gross domestic product – but in respect of corporate profiteering, and low wages; along with minimal taxes and social protections .
Why it has become a debacle
The ambition of Brexit-campaigners now, is to withdraw Britain from the European Union – and turn it into a highly exploitative society.
What the foremost among them wanted before the referendum, however, was to transform the entire EU into this type of entity – which would allow US-UK corporations to destroy the Single Market’s integrity, and monopolise it.
This was tacitly acknowledged by the forerunner to Vote Leave, Business For Britain – in a thousand-page lobbying pamphlet.
You don’t need to read all of this, thankfully; because its authors helpfully summarised their case – and unwittingly demonstrated how false they were being in the process.
As they complained:
“Our current terms of EU membership are unacceptable and are holding Britain back. Renegotiation offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure meaningful Treaty changes that will exempt Britain from political union and return us to a trading relationship”.
“Should we fail to secure such Treaty change, leaving an unreformed EU offers the prospect of greater influence and prosperity”.
Note the reference to an “unreformed EU”.
Nonetheless, if it was true that leaving the EU would reap so many benefits, then why not advocate it in the first place?
More to the point, if Brexit was set to be as wonderful as these people claim, why did the Conservative government not simply enact it – without conducting a referendum beforehand?
In reality, the aim of Business For Britain – and similar groups – was to use the referendum to manipulate Europe into providing the UK with a flexible trading arrangement; which would allow British businesses to curtail the EU’s financial, environmental, and employment regulations.
They also wanted the City of London’s financial sector to be deregulated – following the safeguards imposed upon it by the EU, in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis. The one which had been brought about by deregulation.
In addition, Brexit-advocates hoped that a new arrangement with the EU would see British banks and corporations receive the freedom to exploit overseas markets – particularly in poorer countries.
Moreover, a core aim was to eliminate what Business For Britain refer to throughout their report as “non-tariff barriers” to EU trade – such as food safety standards. Like prohibitions on chlorinated poultry, the use of growth hormones in cattle farming; and genetically-modified produce.
Had this agenda proceeded, it would have transformed the European Union into a deregulated free-trade zone – which is the objective that many of the groups engaged in this lobbying effort ultimately had in mind.
It is unlikely to happen now, however – because the referendum result rebounded on these people; and has left Britain in an extremely weak bargaining position.
That is presumably why the Conservative government’s recourse is hard Brexit – which limits the scope of these plans to Britain.
Only it backfired on the Conservatives – and deprived them of a governing majority. As the self-same journalists then began to pretend they had expected with confidence, all along; while bemoaning a lack of self-criticism among others.
Accordingly, the Tories cannot now dictate the terms of Brexit to Parliament; let alone the European Union. Instead, they require consent from people whose aims are in conflict with their own. This is why the situation has turned into a fiasco.
Can Brexit be stopped by Parliament?
The only way Brexit seems to be preventable is if Theresa May puts her plans to a vote in the House of Commons, and they are voted down.
May consequently leaves office, and the Tories implode. There is a general election – Labour take office: and call a halt to withdrawal. They negotiate a new trading arrangement between the UK-EU – and put it to the electorate, in the form of a ratification referendum.
It is then either ratified; or Britain remains in the EU/regains membership – depending on the date of a vote.
However, there are potential obstacles:
1) May’s defeat requires a rebellion from Tory MPs – the ones who never rebel.
2) May might accede to the EU’s demands – and prompt an actual rebellion from the Tory-Right; but gain support from the numerous crooked Labour MPs, whose sole concern is the profiteering of big business/city banks.
As noted, these material interests have been placed in jeopardy by Brexit – which is likely to be the reason why it garners so much opposition from MPs; whereas austerity didn’t. Because that only affects people who are poor.
By contrast, Brexit will cost some very wealthy people a lot of money: people who are used to getting their way, because British politics is appallingly corrupt.
I will come back to the issue of corruption later – with the help of a special guest; because it underscores all of this.
The People’s Vote is an astroturfing campaign – with a discouraging precedent
Outside of Parliament, attempts at preventing Brexit currently centre on The People’s Vote – which is part of an astroturfing campaign; currently pressing the case for a second in-out vote, under the guise of a ratification referendum.
Note the similar press releases from:
See also an otherwise unedifying eulogy on these efforts from the Guardian; which made no effort to examine the interests these organisations actually serve.
The European Movement is probably the most indicative group among these. Its core concern would seem to be the City of London’s interests, as indicated in its written submission to Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee in 2012.
Its chair is Stephen Dorrell – a former Tory MP, implicated in private healthcare conflicts of interest.
The Chair of this network’s Grassroots Coordinating Group is Chuka Umunna MP – who has received donations from several business owners, and bankers; who wished to fund his various complaints about Brexit.
It is easy to see why people would pay him so much money for these efforts. Umunna had previously declared that Britain must leave the Single Market, or else disaster beckoned; before declaring that Britain must remain in the Single Market, or else disaster beckons. Covering both bases, there.
You may think this campaign is fair enough – or at least, that the end justifies the means. Fine.
But it is the same type of lobbying effort which led to the EU referendum of 2016, in the first place.
In fact, several of the key figures at its forefront had previously called for a referendum on EU membership. Due to a variety of reasons, their politics are ultimately what led to Brexit.
The discouraging precedent
One of these is Peter Mandelson – who agitated for an EU referendum, back in 2012; using the Guardian’s pages to promote an opinion poll, conducted at his behest by Populus. Which turned out to be completely wrong.
Nonetheless, in March 2017, Mandelson complained that Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer supposedly wouldn’t oppose Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
Then in June 2017, he opined that Labour “moderates” should support Theresa May’s plans for Brexit.
And in 2018 – he began calling for another referendum.
Suffice to say, there is no integrity to his position. So what is his actual concern?
Mandelson believed that a referendum would help transform the EU into a more profitable (that is, exploitative) market for UK-US businesses and banks – which is exactly what the worst Brexiters thought; only it backfired on him, as it did on them.
So he’s now demanding a do-over – rather than resigning in disgrace, for the umpteenth time.
Caroline Lucas is not much different, unfortunately, despite her political sympathies contradicting those of Mandelson.
Well before then, however, in 2011 – Lucas was calling for a referendum on EU membership.
She had supported the Peoples’ Pledge campaign – another astroturfing effort, lobbying specifically for a “binding” EU referendum, during this period.
Lucas repeated her call for a referendum, in 2013.
Deplored its outcome in November 2016.
Then demanded a second referendum, in a fairly snide fashion, during the general election of 2017.
It is notable that in September 2016, Lucas warned that:
“When we talk about a second referendum, it is important to be clear about whether we are talking about simply rerunning the old referendum, which I am sure no one is suggesting – that would absolutely undermine democracy – or about a referendum on the terms of any new deal”.
In March 2018, however, Lucas was openly calling for a second referendum to reverse the first one.
She is not alone. Peter Tatchell is another high-profile People’s Vote advocate, involved with the Green Party.
In 2018, he joined the protest march in London, demanding “a PEOPLE’s VOTE on final Brexit deal”.
Yet back in 2015, Tatchell had stated that “I support a referendum. The people should be able to have a democratic vote on staying in or coming out.”
Well, they did have this vote. As with Lucas, Tatchell seemingly believed that an in-out EU referendum would lead to a fundamental Green reform of the EU – somehow; and when the result was announced, he began demanding another vote.
“If you want Britain to make up its collective mind about staying in the EU, rather than remaining Europe’s fence-sitting mugwump, vote Conservative”.
Voting Conservative in 2015 is what brought the initial EU referendum into being; and thereby led to Brexit.
Even if the current position of these individuals was not absurd, their campaigning against Brexit was evidently ineffectual during the first referendum.
I don’t see that their present efforts are any better. If anything, they’re worse.
The only Brexit-supporters who could plausibly have been won over since 2016 are left-wing Leavers; who dislike the EU for mostly valid reasons – but clearly have no reason to sympathize with Tory plans for Brexit.
Even if voting to leave the EU was ultimately as ill-thought through as can be, no substantive effort has been made by the foremost opponents of Brexit to convince them of this, properly.
Instead, they have done the opposite: pushing obnoxious and discredited personalities like Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, or Nick Clegg forward – and either whinging pompously, reeling off reams of snotty and divisive derision, or indulging in their stock trade of manipulative and empty rhetoric.
All of which seems destined to alienate the people whose support needs gaining.
An example here would be Gina Miller – an investment banker; who had been at the forefront of a campaign to ensure the government did not bypass Parliament, when enacting Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty: the initial formal stage of Brexit.
Suffice to say, she – and they – would need to secure votes from right or left, to make any headway. Insulting both sets of people, while purposely ignoring one half of the electorate – all in the name of forging unity – does not seem a viable route to success.
John Stolliday is comparable. He was a member of Labour’s Compliance Unit, when it was leaking material to various right-wing media outlets – in order to damage Labour’s prospects during the local elections of 2016.
This was intended to be the pretext for the Labour right launching their ill-fated coup. Except that their campaign failed to work – which is not an encouraging precedent.
Stolliday flounced out of Labour in March 2018, to take a job with the People’s Vote group. Note his reference about having “strong links to UK political journalists”.
Stolliday’s valedictory leak to a UK political journalist complained that Labour are not opposing Brexit.
However, he also moaned that Labour Party members need to be ignored in favour of the wider public – the same wider public which mostly voted for Brexit; while the majority of Labour Party members opposed it.
This contrasts neatly with a fellow Labour Centrist’s equally incoherent rationale for demanding a People’s Vote.
Tom Watson made his case in favour of another referendum, on the basis that Labour must listen to its members on Brexit – but it must also ignore them, when it comes to selecting Parliamentary candidates.
Either the viewpoints of members matter, or they do not. It cannot reasonably be had both ways.
Moreover, suggesting that party members’ views have import on a complex issue of international consequence, but do not matter in the mundane confines of choosing who represents them in Parliament, is beyond silly.
It’s not just the fact that these interventions are counterproductive which has a bearing, however – the reasons why they continue to flounder are no less significant.
The arguments these people make against Brexit have no persuasive power, because they are as false and self-serving as the arguments their counterparts – and peers – make in favour of leaving the EU.
Neither set of people are willing to be honest about what they really care about here – namely, money. Presumably because they know few would sympathise with them on that score.
Its lineage is not salubrious – the company’s work revolves almost entirely around the profiteering of international businesses; and since September 2016, British farming. Both of which are set to be damaged by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Tony Blair is much the same. He objects to Brexit, and demands a second referendum – yet his missives on the subject are invariably big on bombast; and less than forthcoming about his actual concerns.
I wonder what matters more to Blair – the symbolism of the Channel Tunnel; or his own material interests.
Another former Prime Minister, John Major, is no different – writing in the Guardian, he boasted about being a disinterested opponent of Brexit. As with Blair, however, Major has a vested interest in the financial industry.
This goes some way towards explaining why these peoples’ objections to Brexit have proven unconvincing – because they are unwilling to be upfront about their actual motives; which do not differ substantively from those of Brexiters involved in the financial sector.
However, it is noteworthy that Major suggests the public will not forgive being left poorer by the government, as a result of leaving the EU.
Yet austerity is a consequence of the Conservative/Lib Dem government’s policies – ones which Cable was a party to, between 2010-15. In fact, he actively encouraged them.
“a plausible plan to eliminate the structural deficit is critical. The emphasis for fiscal consolidation must fall on controlling public spending, not higher taxes”.
This would mean a “painful and difficult” process, resulting in “real cuts” to many areas of public expenditure – such as “health, welfare, defence and education”. That is, austerity.
Tony Blair actively lobbied for them, as well; writing a particularly hypocritical piece for a fitting outlet. If you wish to evade the paywall, much of the content – such as it is – can be read on the Guardian’s site.
There is a broader significance to this facet, however – which illustrates why these particular opponents of Brexit have proven so ineffectual.
What led to the Brexit vote?
Although the Brexit-supporting demographic is multifaceted, according to Ipsos Mori:
“the Leave vote was primarily driven by nativist (i.e. putting the native born population first) and anti-immigration views, such as believing that immigrants take away jobs from real Britons, and a feeling that one is a stranger in one’s own country”.
While these anxieties have no basis in reality, and clearly revolve around prejudice; anti-migrant sentiment was underscored by people believing – more justifiably – that Britain’s economic system disadvantages them.
Now, who might be responsible for creating that circumstance?
Moreover, why do many British people believe they are being unfairly treated in favour of migrant workers?
It is a mystery.
Immigration is what Blair, Major, David Cameron – and plenty of their ilk – have long blamed for the economic problems their governments generated; or which their politics failed to solve – such as job shortages, low wages, and housing costs.
How have these people responded to the first one’s outcome? Did they say that members of the public are wrong to blame migrants and the EU for the declining living standards caused by UK governments?
Or have they continued as before? Namely, blaming immigration from the EU, for peoples’ problems in life.
What this amounts to is promoting the same notion that was exploited by Vote Leave campaigners during the referendum – which ultimately led to Brexit; while paradoxically demanding a continuation of EU membership.
Why is Labour’s position on Brexit so incoherent?
Perhaps the most indicative figure of incompetence here is Tom Watson – another People’s Vote advocate.
How does that sentiment do anything other than undermine his own case against Brexit?
It is also noteworthy that during the referendum campaign, the Guardian chose to describe the utterances of Watson – along with Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper – as “Labour leaders, in a sign of desperation on the issue, changed their policy on free movement”.
Suffice to say, the actual leader of the Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn – had expressed his continued support for free movement. Notably, the BBC’s write-up of this was headlined “Jeremy Corbyn says EU free movement means no immigration limit”; despite it merely being a statement of fact.
While they cited no-one in support of Corbyn’s position – they took pains to quote a number of his detractors.
“What absence of mind to emphasise support for free migration on the eve of a poll where Labour was haemorrhaging support for precisely those metropolitan views”.
Needless to say, the case for remaining in the EU required support for “free migration”, as Toynbee put it.
As it stands now, however, Labour are officially committed to ending freedom of movement – as indicated on page 28 of their 2017 manifesto. Except that they’re not, in reality; as it would betoken hard Brexit – which they have refused to countenance.
Something clearly has to give, at some point.
While it would be fair to say that Labour’s position on this issue, at present, is nonsensical and disingenuous; it is not difficult to work out why its ambiguity came into being.
On 26th June 2016 Labour Shadow Ministers resigned en masse, citing the Brexit vote as their pretext – except that it wasn’t really true.
They had announced their intentions to the Telegraph in advance, on 13th June; expecting the referendum to result in a vote for remaining in the EU – and that Corbyn would resign. Thereby demonstrating the full array of their prescience.
Moreover, in another announcement to the Telegraph – made the day before their resignations – Labour MPs attested that Corbyn’s commitment to free-movement was the reason for their coup.
Regardless of which, following a second leadership contest, Corbyn was tasked with reassembling a shadow cabinet; only for several of the recently-appointed personnel to take umbrage at his continued defence of immigration.
It seems fair to conclude that the prospect of yet more damaging turmoil swayed Corbyn into a change of stance over the following months – particularly as he expected the Conservatives to call a “snap general election”, imminently.
The primary obstacle, therefore, to Labour having a coherent policy on Brexit is the refusal of its MPs to accept free movement.
Just to increase the confusion, in 2018 the Shadow Minister for Business, Rebecca Long-Bailey, had stated that ending freedom of movement was “non negotiable”. Yet in 2017, she suggested that Labour were willing to accept it.
So why has that attitude not been properly targeted by the People’s Vote – or any similar campaign – with a view to changing it?
At least one plausible reason might be the number of Labour-affiliated advocates of a People’s Vote, who have themselves called for an end to freedom of movement. Be it MPs like Owen Smith – demanding a second referendum, and calling for an end to free-movement.
Or GMB union – which wants an end to free movement, and a second referendum. And which also supported Owen Smith’s bid to become leader of the Labour Party – clearly impressed by the full 29 inches of electoral credibility, he had to offer.
Among Labour Party politicians to date, seemingly only five MPs and five Labour members of the European Parliament have pressed the case for their party to change its stance into supporting freedom of movement. Even then, one of them is David Lammy.
Lammy was previously involved with the campaign group, Blue Labour – which actively stoked anti-migrant sentiment, in the years leading up to the referendum. As did Lammy himself, when it suited; only to change his tune, now it no longer does .
Independent experts are more convincing than journalists or politicians with their objections to Brexit – but their arguments have fallen equally flat.
It would seem they still believe that outlining the factual demerits of leaving the EU, in a dispassionate and tentative manner, will somehow win-over the people who ignored their warnings during the referendum.
What they’re saying is true – but they are up against tabloid newspapers, which have willfully mislead millions of people daily, for years.
This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of misinformation, and corrupt practices; of which Brexit is merely one upshot. It cannot be countered simply by pointing to inconsistencies in anyone’s output.
Why? Why is such an obvious problem, seemingly so irresolvable?
Because this situation is the fundamental basis of UK politics. As ably explained by our special guest – People’s Vote campaigner, and Labour MP, Mike Gapes; using a carefully-crafted metaphor:
If “milk” is money, and “cows from the south” are the herd of independent minds known as political journalists – while “the factory” is Parliament – then “whisky” will be the free lunches which MPs like Gapes are treated to, by an array of lobbyists; in return for lucrative policies.
Perhaps an example will illustrate how, and why, actual expertise has proven ineffective when attempting to counter the self-serving falsehoods generated by lobbyists.
Open Europe purport that no-deal Brexit would “not be ideal and would bring some material costs. However, it would be a relatively mild negative economic event”.
Portes and Menon, however, found fault with various aspects of Open Europe’s projections; not least of all the fact that they bear no relation to any scenario which is likely to materialise.
Yet the two authors conclude “we don’t blame Open Europe for not attempting to model the economic impacts”of no-deal Brexit.
They then gently suggest that “more care should have been taken” by Open Europe “in specifying what this report is about”; because hard Brexit will “be far, far more disruptive and damaging than the Open Europe report implies”.
Perhaps they should be more willing to blame Open Europe for publishing a misleading report.
Open Europe is not an impartial source of information. Instead, it is one of many right-wing lobbying outfits, peddling misinformation about the EU, in order to serve the material interests of its donors. Albeit without a great deal of competence.
In fact, the author of the latter article – Raoul Ruparel – was appointed as a special advisor to the former Brexit minister, David Davis; in October 2016. Presumably in order to help make this vision a reality – despite knowing full-well the economic damage it would cause.
If the aim of experts like Portes and Menon is to convince people not to place unquestioning trust in the prescriptions of Open Europe, would it not be salient to point all of this out?
As it is, a number of researchers continue to take Open Europe’s publications at face value – even when it serves to undermine public understanding of Brexit; which seems to be a fairly self-defeating practice, all told.
One incident illustrates how all of this duplicity and feebleness functioned during the referendum campaign itself: Michael Gove’s famous dismissal of experts; on the grounds that the British people had simply had enough of them.
Gove had feigned concern for the well-being of people on low incomes; and was blaming the EU for a decline in UK living standards – which, in reality, had been a consequence of the 2008 Financial Crisis; and Conservative government policies since 2010.
Ones which Gove had been a party to.
During the interview, this was eventually pointed out to him by the journalist Faisal Islam – which left Gove in a weak position: and seemingly a bit lost for his pre-scripted words.
So why was that rebuttal not made by the foremost Stronger In campaigners, during the referendum campaign?
The issue of living standards had been central to their campaign, after all. Why then was the falsity of Gove’s position not refuted properly by Stronger In campaigners?
Perhaps because they were the people directly responsible for austerity.
The only person who could have obviated the false claims being made by Gove – or his peers – was David Cameron: through admitting that the privations suffered by people in recent years were a consequence of his government’s policies: not the EU, or migrants.
But he wouldn’t, of course. Instead he walked away from the fiasco he’d created; and left it for everybody else to resolve.
It could be suggested that Cameron’s personal authority – in so far as it ever existed – was undermined by rumours he once how’s-your-fathered a deceased pig; but I remain sceptical this had any real bearing on matters.
As noted previously, Business for Britain was a front for the Taxpayers’ Alliance – and would become Vote Leave, during the EU referendum campaign.
Rose knew what these people were really intent upon, due to his personal involvement with them – yet he said nothing.
It is equally notable that Michael Gove repeated his derision of experts after the referendum – specifically admonishing that “the economic profession failed to predict the 2008 financial crash”.
He was roundly criticised for his anti-intellectualism – as he had been on the previous instance; and before that, during 2013, when he was more overtly vulgar in his hostility towards those who disputed his claims, with expertise.
However, in the process Gove’s detractors failed to make a much more substantive point. What he had said about economists failing to predict the financial crisis was untrue – people did forewarn about it. They were ignored.
Experts had also cautioned people about a financial crisis looming, due to sub-prime mortgages; and they were ignored.
Even Liberal Democrat MPs raised concerns in Parliament, shortly before the financial crash unfolded – and it was dismissed as scaremongering, by the Labour MP, Angela Eagle. Note her use of the phrase “strong and stable”, incidentally – which has gained a certain resonance of late.
5 months later, in September 2008, the Lehman Brothers bank collapsed – and an international recession ensued.
In 2011, more dreaded experts forewarned the government about Universal Credit being badly flawed. By 2012, warnings were issued that austerity/welfare reforms would create serious problems, and lead to social crises. Both exhortations were ignored.
Home Office impact assessments made clear that the Immigration Act of 2014-15 would cause severe harm to people. You can probably guess what happened there.
A series of disasters has followed key decisions made by politicians – who undertook them either to serve their own personal advantage; or to enrich the people whose material interests they serve.
The EU referendum is merely one example of this tendency. It cannot plausibly be remedied by yet more underhand practices. What caused it surely needs to be addressed properly.
Brexit happened because British politics is corrupt. It remains 100% the fault, and responsibility, of the Conservative Party.
But it arose as a consequence of greed and opportunism – both of which traits are evident among a number of the most high-profile opponents of Brexit; who could not prevent the outcome of the EU referendum, because their politics helped create it.
People who voted to leave the EU have been called stupid by a number of commentators who oppose Brexit. That is neither helpful, nor fair. Less still is it intelligent, in its own right.
It is also a consequence of the determined efforts made by countless professional lobbyists; who receive large sums of money to distort public opinion, on behalf of commercial interests. Not unlike the ones set to profit from Brexit.
Is it surprising, therefore, that many people are as unclear on the various nuances of Brexit now, as they were two years ago?
If bewilderment still reigns, how can the public be expected to vote differently in any future referendum?
If the root causes of Brexit remain unaddressed, why would anyone change their mind about EU membership?
 For a more in-depth / long overview of who lobbied for Brexit, and what purposes they intend it to serve, please see:
Very little investigative journalism has been conducted on this issue – Open Democracy are arguably the sole media outlet which has consistently taken it seriously.
This has not stopped them publishing misleading commentaries by those involved, however.
 There is an actual problem with free-movement: it contains a loophole, which UK employers have repeatedly exploited, in order to bring foreign agency workers into Britain – and pay them less than the British minimum wage.
This is an issue which People’s Vote campaigners seem to be ignoring. Notably, GMB Union has previously campaigned against it; yet makes no mention of this – despite the fact that it would strengthen their case against Theresa May’s plans for Brexit.
There was also an article in the Guardian which quoted him accurately, but similarly faulted Corbyn – only to then make exactly the same point that he had originally done.
Unlike many current opponents of Brexit, however, Corbyn has attempted to secure continued and updated alignment with EU employment law – which is being adjusted in order to end the exploitation of agency employees.
Corbyn has not succeeded, because Theresa May bribed the DUP with £1 billion to grant her a coalition, and thereby deliver a Parliamentary majority.
 Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Stuart Rose has previously engaged in any form of sexual conduct with livestock. There is no evidence to that effect, at any rate.