Friday, 3 November 2017

Brexit: back to simpler times



I could not have anticipated, back in my campaigning days, the sheer level of incompetence and number of political hurdles that the Article 50 period alone would throw up. Often I wish I could go back to the winter of 2015 and spring of 2016. It was a much simpler time. My weekends were spent travelling to different parts of the country, usually by coach as I had invested in a National Express coach card, taking part in localised events with fellow Leave campaigners. I preferred to horseshoe round the south, east and west coast, with occasional trips to Oxford and Cambridge. Bristol, Great Yarmouth and Southampton were particular favourites. Events in these towns mostly took the form of public meetings, street stalls and standard canvassing action days. Now that I reflect I realise how much I miss it. 

Of course, back then (aged 19-turned 20) I knew very little at all. I had the principle in my mind: I knew that EU membership conflicted with the maintenance of nation state democracy and I knew I was against that. That point was never particularly hard to communicate; even ardent Remainers acknowledge it. What always frustrated me were repeated claims that we would reform the European Union in order to make it compatible with democracy and accountability. Ordinarily I am not somebody who argues that Britain has limited influence within the Union and thus cannot spearhead reform - the reverse has always been true. The point about democracy, though, is that the supranationalist character of the European Union prohibits substantive democratic reform. 

Talking to members of the public in organised settings, in spite of very limited knowledge, about why we should leave the EU was a real joy to me. It was my first experience of political activism since becoming interested in pursuing politics in the summer of 2015 (previously I had wanted to be a football reporter). The average person on the Bournemouth seafront or in Norwich town centre did also know next to nothing about the European Union. Many I spoke to had not yet made up their minds about which way they would vote. It is true that ignorance is bliss and I was just happy to be a part of it all. I think at some stage we all were. Here I talk only about myself and do not attempt to belittle other campaigners. 

Luckily over time the principle has hardened. I have added tremendously well, I think, to my knowledge base and, reassuringly, my euroscepticism hasn't wavered. Naturally I reflect and re-think, as any human being does. I don't want my mind to close and I appreciate the views of others, particularly those with whom I do not agree. Learning Brexit has been slow and extremely frustrating - I thank in particular both Norths, Samuel Lowe, Marta Bengoa and Steve Peers, whose work and guidance has proved especially useful. But there is still a long way to go. I told myself back in the summer that more figures on the Leave side would need to make concerted efforts to address complexity, tackling it head on. I am doing what I can with fluctuating effectiveness. 

I like to think about simpler times because I resent how forcefully I have been stripped of my optimism. This can be put down almost entirely to poor government, ever weakened by scandal after embarrassing scandal. I wish it were not the case. A part of me now thinks that Brexit progress now relies upon the establishing of a new government, which sends my mind into a tailspin of sorts seeing as I have repeatedly criticised the decision to hold June's election. Not only were we left with a result that immensely weakened Theresa May's hand, we are governed by a party which relies upon the DUP for numerical and policy support - making the Northern Ireland border issue even more difficult to solve. What is politically achievable to the situation may not be politically acceptable to the party effectively holding the Tories to ransom in the Commons. 

I am as appalled by the sexual harassment scandal as anybody and I wish it had been raised much earlier. It would certainly have saved the government a lot of panic and needless harm during the Article 50 period, exactly where it is most damaging. I say this with respect to victims. Theresa May and her cabinet now appear to be more brittle than they have ever been, and I can't help thinking that at any moment something will topple them all and we'll have ourselves another General Election. It isn't ideal, of course. I would much rather we made speedy progress on phase one issues and had instead decided to conduct appropriate planning prior to the invoking of Article 50. But it may well be the case that yet another restart is necessary in order for Brexit to be choked back into life. 

With no sense of immediacy we are intent on not seeking to extend the two-year period. I believe we should seek unanimous agreement for an extension and do not imagine the EU27 would be unnecessarily obstinate in response to such a request. I understand that doing so would spark the usual moans of kicking the can down the street, but pragmatism has to have a place in politics - even the tumultuous and turbulent politics we are currently locked into. Darker clouds have gathered, casting a depressing haze over sweeter and warmer memories campaigning along the sunny Kent coastline. 

5 comments:

  1. So you're one of the campaigners we have to thank for this mess.

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    1. As he stated at the being beginning he could not have anticipated the sheer level of incompetence... I don't think anyone did

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    2. Well anyone with any serious common sense knew that a senseless act of nationalism would not solve the issues people face in this country.

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  2. So saddled with your ignorance you campaigned based on a whim and instinct ....

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  3. I'm curious as to the justification for your original "point of principle". In what way is the EU incompatible with "nation state democracy"? How do you imagine nation states came into existence? All nations originated as amalgamations of smaller entities. Are you also campaigning for the breakup of the UK and the US, both of which are supranational unions? What about the world's largest democracy, India - a country composed of over a billion people speaking dozens of different languages? Or at the other end of the size scale, Switzerland, more properly named the Swiss Confederation, which is a federal union of fiercely independent-minded cantons?

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