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This began life as a Facebook comment to a post from a friend who felt that:

“the police’s handling of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations (not to mention the 2011 riots) provide a pretty good answer to anyone who says ‘Brexit has to happen or there’ll be riots’

If the police can handle a large-scale, relatively co-ordinated series of mass actions by people of all ages, I reckon they can take a few Septuagenarians called Gary getting pissed, draping themselves in a union flag and smashing up a WHSmiths in Doncaster”

I can’t speak for other Leavers who had their own reasons for voting as such and thus their own feelings on the matter, but I can say that watching this ongoing story, I can have sensible, considered, intellectual thoughts about democracy and sovereignty, but also increasingly emotional reactions to the constant efforts of Remainers to undermine every step any government takes to get us to leave and declaring ultimate victory after every meaningless but time-consuming setback.

How did that “vital work of Parliament holding the government accountable” work out? Did *anything* useful or interesting related to Brexit happen as a result of Prorogation being overturned by a politicised ruling from the Supreme Court and Labour’s spiteful refusal to adjourn the House for the Conservative Party Conference? Anything at all to justify the apocalyptic rhetoric about the end of all democracy if Boris Johnson was allowed to go ahead with it? How ’bout that Article 50 Supreme Court that was going to change everything, took months, and was legislated away in an afternoon?

After three years of this I’ve gone from thinking “Gosh, I guess in the event of a second referendum between Remain or No Deal, I’d have to vote remain, ugh” to “Burn literally everything and every national institution down, unite Ireland and ban the Labour Party if that’s what it takes, yeah, that’s fine, where’s my blue passport, mate, bollocks to Remain”. MPs with mixed constituencies are aware of this rising level of feeling far more than people who hang out with people of like mind, hence their responses to each twist and turn are far more complicated than people who do not need to keep their finger on the political temperature. People deride them for wanting to keep their jobs and never think about the significance of what it means to keep your job when you’re an elected official who needs to win a majority vote of a population in a FPTP system.

I’ve never marched for Brexit. I’ve never demonstrated against People’s Vote, I’ve never written to my MP about it or even signed a petition. But I was one of the five million who voted Brexit Party in June to be super clear about what I think of ditherers, and I’m one of the unknown but I believe is in the hundreds of thousands of instinctively left-wing voters who has absolutely no intention of voting Labour at the next election because I think they’re a bunch of untrustworthy losers who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. Remainers are super vocal and point to their own political activity as a sign that they are winning the argument but at the end of the day, the government has consistently affirmed that we’re leaving and made febrile efforts to do so, so why would Leavers do anything other than watch suspiciously? We show up in the stats every time it matters and Remainers are thrown into frantic rhetorical gymnastics to explain how, actually, if you just include everyone who never voted (and do not matter), or combine all of the votes of everyone who voted for a party that stands for things that aren’t Brexit (36% of SNP voters voted Leave, but you didn’t know that, did you?), actually, everyone has repented of their sin and we should just revoke Article 50 and forget about it, no majority for no deal shutupshutupshutup.

I cannot begin to convey how politically incompetent you reveal yourself to be if you have ever posted, retweeted, or liked any version of this image.

I cannot begin to convey how politically incompetent you reveal yourself to be if you have ever posted, retweeted, or liked any version of this image. Source: The Independent

I will tell you how I felt when I read the headlines that Boris Johnson had secured a deal his party could support – I felt gratitude. It’s all nonsense – the deal hasn’t passed, the DUP don’t like it, they still haven’t resolved the border, there’s no guarantee it’s going to get through the House and the over-arching objective is to achieve a trade deal that is going to get caught up in years of wrangling between business and labour groups just like TTIP did. Many, many references were made to the Canada trade deal in the ensuing debate, but everyone also forgets that CETA took seven years to negotiate not just because of the complexity of negotiations but because its provisions were highly politically controversial.  I’m not looking forward to that fight.

But nonetheless I felt *relieved*, like the torturer had taken his foot off the rack and a flood of warm fuzzy feelings washed over me. I want to leave the European Union for many, many reasons I’ve expressed before. Boris Johnson has brought us meaningfully closer to that goal more than Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have ever done. I felt like he had got it done despite all the best efforts of Guardian columnists and PV activists to stop him, and I had a train of thought where I actually considered voting Tory at the next election, out of gratitude, before reminding myself that the Tories are in fact Tories and that is not acceptable. The only good Tory is a suppository.

There’s going to be a whole load of voters who have no such ideological brake on their inclinations. These are the people that are all to play for in this election. These are the voters who are quite possibly going to see Oliver Letwin stop this deal being passed, and Brexit delayed further, who are going to respond to that by marching down to the polls to give Boris Johnson the majority he needs to Get Brexit Done. Public services will continue to suffer as a result, and will continue to do so until this massive political gordian knot is resolved and people are able to vote without one’s position on Brexit permeating everything. But on Brexit, we now face a real choice at the next election.

I was berated by some Labour activists for mocking Labour, which I was, but underneath it is a sincere point. If you don’t really care about Brexit, you can vote Labour. They don’t really care either. But everyone else does, which is why Labour were hammered into third place at the European election and lost half of their MEPs. Labour are banking on Corbyn’s messaging about social justice and housing policy focussing minds when the endlessly trailed election is finally here and we have to decide what’s important, and who should be in charge of it. I’m skeptical of this strategy. I can honestly say that I have never had so many of my friends say that they do not know who they are going to vote for, usually with a grimace. I don’t know who to vote for. People who are clear that they want to vote for Brexit, however, are going to have a very clear choice, and man, are they going to be annoyed if they don’t get it.

So, if we end up with a government that doesn’t commit to leaving, or holds a second referendum that is narrowly lost to remain? I’m probably not going to join a riot, but there are essentially no circumstances in which I would, because that is not something I do. But I’m definitely going to be quietly hurling money and resources at the very next organisation that promises to pick up the fight, which is what I do. I’m not letting this go.

(I joined Open Britain the day after the referendum in 2016 because they claimed their goal was to keep Britain in the single market, which I supported. They explicitly said that you didn’t have to want to reverse the result to support that goal, and I’m now stuck on a mailing list that sends me endless People’s Vote Remainer propaganda, so I won’t be making the mistake of believing any of those people again.)

In such circumstances, I would imagine that for people whose response to volatile political situations is to get out on the streets and smash stuff up, that’s what they are going to do. It’s not going to be organised, and it’s not going to have middle class police liaison officers and people dressed as trees handing themselves into police stations because they banner dropped Big Ben, it’s going to be incoherent rage frustrated by the betrayal of the political class expressing itself in civil unrest and that’s happening in multiple countries literally right now, and the police are not responding by kettling papier mache octopodes. Spot the odd one out.

Chilean protests against rise in subway ticket prices 19th October.

Chilean protesters against rise in subway ticket prices burn down a ticket office, October 2019.

Hong Kong riot police trying to control protesters against a law proposed by the government permitting China to extradite criminal fugitives, October 2019.

Metropolitan Police confiscate an octopus at Extinction Rebellion protests against national environmental policy, October 2019.

Riots in Lebanon against proposed tax increases, including on WhatsApp calls, October 2019.

Confrontations between riot police and demonstrators following the jailing of Catalan separatist leaders for organising an independence referendum, October 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit has to happen, or there will be riots.

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Two years of arguing and negotiating but mainly blustering in the papers later, the meaningful vote in Parliament to approve the Withdrawal Agreement is on Tuesday. No-one thinks that Government is going to win. What happens next, is a complete unknown.

Do I regret my vote? Some Bregret in there somewhere? Just a little bit?

Not yet.

Yeah, our Government is incompetent, and yes, their fannying about has diminished us politically, but I didn’t vote for this government. I voted to leave. Theresa May is committed to taking us out the EU, Jeremy Corbyn is committed to taking us out the EU, the main threat is a second referendum and it’s currently legally impossible to hold one before we leave the EU. And we’re three months away from leaving. Winning here.

I don’t believe we’re going to crash out with no deal. It’s definitely getting scarier but it’s still not actually a certain outcome. If we actually believe that corporate interests dominate this country, and the left generally do, business doesn’t want that to happen, so it won’t. I don’t want to underestimate Theresa May because I’ve predicted her resignation at least four times already and she’s still there despite losing a general election, half her Cabinet and near constant humiliation for the last two years, but we’re three months away from the end now and Parliament are getting serious about asserting themselves.

The easiest thing to do in the event of the deal being voted down and no one group having the votes to win their side is to retain membership of the EEA, which I’ve talked about for a while and which is now being promoted by Conservative backbench MP Nick Boles as a way out of the mess. There are enough votes in the House for this and always have been. Norway have always been resentful of the “Norway option” because at the moment they are the single largest member of EFTA and their influence would be immediately diluted by the entry of the UK. They could potentially veto our joining. I think they’d ultimately get leaned on, but in the event they didn’t, the people on the lower tiers who are doing the grunt work of negotiating do appear to be pretty inventive but hamstrung by May’s brittle ideology. If she goes, I imagine we’ll come up with something pretty fast that will give us more time that the Tories wasted.

If I were an MP, I think I’d vote for the deal. It’s not my preference. Some customised trade deal that we could have negotiated if we have wasted all of our political capital on non-issues like the divorce bill and reciprocal residency rights would have been better but we’re out of time for that. The Labour decision to vote down the deal because they want to force a general election is a decision driven by party politics and nothing to do with any evaluation of what is in the text.

But at the end of the day, I’m not too sure what everyone’s losing their kittens over. Theresa May has accomplished the absolutely extraordinary feat of spending two years agreeing a withdrawal agreement that basically doesn’t commit to anything. We’ve talked a lot about the backstop for Northern Ireland because the EU finally put its foot down and Theresa May blinked, but the whole reason we’re committing to the backstop is because they never managed to resolve the Irish border. We’ve literally agreed to disagree for another 21 months while we get our domestic house in order. We’re quitting all the agencies and databases that we were members of “unless otherwise agreed on a case-by-case basis” but otherwise just not touching our borders and trade issues until December 2020. We’ve agreed to pay our debts off and mutually recognise UK/EU migrants (vague on numbers so they can’t be brandished in headlines) and just kicked everything else into the long grass to deal with later. And when we get to 2020, if we haven’t agreed a comprehensive trade deal that took Canada seven years to negotiate, we can just ask to extend the implementation period, continuously, until we don’t want to do that anymore. And if we fail to do even that, we will automatically be regarded as members of a Single Customs Territory i.e. in the single market and customs union, which we can’t get out of unless both sides agree.

We have, in essence, agree to go into stasis while our body politic fights it out to elect a Government that can actually pass legislation. As a deal, this is a bad deal. We’re essentially agreeing to concertina out our withdrawal from the EU for what could be decades. There is no certainty of any kind for what is going to happen in the future. That’s fundamentally absurd to pitch as “a good deal”.

But as a solution to all British flights being ground from the 30th March because we never got round to sorting out mutual recognition of aviation licences? As a way of not having to clean up the Tories’ mess for them in just over three months? As a means of getting people to quit bleating about how the only alternative to a hard Brexit is just to not leave? Seems fine. If one simply refuses to consider the agreement “a deal” so much as a stasis pod, it starts to make more sense.

The full Withdrawal Agreement is 599 pages long. You might like to read the summaries instead. I particularly recommend this killer report from the House of Commons Brexit Select Committee in which Hilary Benn, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and all their accompanying wizards patiently explaining all of the problems they raised at the beginning of negotiations and how none of them have been resolved by this agreement. They are not happy, and they are not happy in 55 pages of pointedly polite detail that you will find a lot easier to digest than 599 pages of blahblahblah. But note, incidentally, the final line of the final paragraph:

Regardless of the procedures set out in Section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act, a range of options will remain open the the Government as to how to proceed in the event of the Withdrawal Agreement being rejected. These include bringing a motion to approve the deal, with or without further negotiation, back to the house. Only the Government is able to make this decision; it cannot be compelled by a resolution of the House to bring the approval motion back for further consideration. If the House of Commons does not approve a deal and if no agreement were made to extend the Article 50 process, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 29th March, 2019. However, there is probably no majority in Parliament for leaving with no deal and as parliament has given itself the opportunity to consider and vote on other options, these may include the extension of Article 50.

Game’s not over yet.

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My regular bugbears about why we should leave the EU, updated for December 2018:

* The implicit assumption of political discourse in the UK is that if you’re against EU membership, then you don’t care about migrants. Wanting Britain to be about British etc. That’s absolutely true for a lot of people. But I don’t think the EU treats migrants well either. 34,000 people have died since 1993 trying to reach European shores to seek asylum and the EU’s response has been to build fences along the border of Hungary, build concentration camps in Lesbos and to deny NGO rescue ships docking rights.

All we’re doing advocating for membership of the EU is discriminating against anyone whose a non-EU citizen as if they don’t matter. Racism is endemic regardless. The whole debate over Windrush has been about whether the Windrush generation are legitimate citizens or not, with the implication that shipping out people from the place they live and work if they don’t have the right paperwork is fine. I’ve not read anyone saying “I don’t care when they got here or whether they had a British passport at some point or not, let them all stay”. This is exactly what is happening in the EU but on a grander scale, and I don’t regard European attitudes towards immigration as being any more enlightened than the UK’s. I have a Brexit-supporting Chinese friend who tells everyone banging on about EU as a net positive for immigration that his Chinese family can’t get a visa to Britain and why do Remainers want Romanians here and not Chinese people, why should he support a customs union that prioritises European solar panels and not Chinese ones? Generally he gets silence back.

* There is another side to the EU that Remainers in the UK didn’t want to hear about when they were promising me they’d support institutional reform and a side that they are ignoring now as Macron and Merkel are calling for a “real, true” European Army in addition to the troops they have stationed in five African countries right now. I just think it’s mad to advocate for military involvement in an EU Army on the basis that we can control it better. We’re one of the most powerful military nations in the world but because of our focus on cool tech and soft power instead of troops, our navy is incapable of independent military operations. Removing us from EU military cooperation as much as possible hamstrings them because they don’t have easy access to our stuff and hamstrings our ability to go to war with anyone else. This is great.

* It’s easier to change a public policy when the Parliament who implemented it is down the road and isn’t deliberately constructed by dozens of overlapping institutions that are largely unaccountable to anyone. Even if you like larger and larger transnational bodies and your answer is just to make them more democratic, multiple countries have bans on foreign funding of political parties – this is an attempt to prevent interference by other member states or actors to corrupt national politics, but it also means that if you actually wanted to start a European Party, with a single manifesto and candidates standing in elections across national borders, you basically can’t.

So we’re reliant on voting for a UK political party with a political ideology going to Europe and having to form alliances with people who have similar but different ideologies in the midst of tens of thousands of lobbyists whose clients have the financial power to sustain huge lobbying operations, and the outcomes are rarely what anyone intends when they vote Labour, or Tory, or Lib Dem. It’s just not a functional system.

—–

What will happen when the vote fails on Tuesday? I don’t know. I strongly suspect that nothing is possible in the hands of the DUP. I do not understand their position on Brexit. They campaigned to leave the single market and the customs union. They campaigned to maintain the invisible border with Ireland. These positions cannot be reconciled and yet they seem prepared to bring down a government for their failure to square these demands.

Likewise, Labour regard all Brexit discussion as a means to getting into power. I honestly do not know what will occur in the event that they do, as their entire strategy right now is focussing on triangulating their voters and anything they have to say right now tells us very little about what will happen when Jeremy Corbyn sits down with his Cabinet Secretary and is asked, “Prime Minister, what do you want to do?” I suspect Labour voters are going to be disillusioned very rapidly. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised in the event that Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister, that he might not end up presenting the very same deal to Parliament…

But in addition to the fun and games of will-they-wont-they on the main bill, there’s actually 13 amendments which cover everything from offering a second referendum, to subjecting the withdrawal agreement to the approval of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, to just slicing off the back-stop and sailing onwards. Who knows how these will interact with each other? We’ll just have to see.

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On the Conservative Party-DUP agreement

June 28, 2017

Originally posted to Facebook. re the Tory-DUP agreement: I’m just going to be really honest and say I have absolutely no idea what the politics of our country is going to look like for the next six months. The Government has literally sold out the nations and thrown a billion pounds at Northern Ireland in […]

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