Last week was bad enough, but this is agonising. Either Theresa May is bluffing and wasting two billion pounds we can ill afford to waste, or she isn’t and we’re utterly screwed. Either MPs cave and accept her deal and we’re screwed, or they don’t and she isn’t bluffing and we’re utterly screwed. Or they don’t and she caves† and revokes Article 50 on 29 March 2019‡ and we’re saved, except not, because so much damage will already have been done and half the population who still believe in unicorns will feel they wuz robbed. For at least the next month we’ll feel the impact of preparations for No Deal, and depending what happens in Parliament in the week of 14 January could see full-blown panic after it.
†Quite likely, given her track record of U-turns. ‡Quite unlikely, given how hard she opposed the legal case about revocation and how doggedly she’s pursuing her anti-immigration/anti-immigrant agenda.
If we do get a People’s Vote, surely we need to respect the Will of the People as expressed in the 2011 referendum: the UK doesn’t want preferential voting, because numbers are hard and it’s all too complicated. The True British Way would be for a three-way contest between Remain, Deal and No Deal decided by first-past-the-post.
I’m joking, of course. (I’m not.) That would be clearly be undemocratic, unlike the way we elect our MPs. (I’m joking.) The fact that Remain would easily win over a divided Leave vote is neither here nor there. (It’s very much the bitterly ironic point.)
Britain told itself in 2011 that electoral systems don’t matter and that referendums don’t change anything, and look where that’s got us. If we’d gone into the 2015 elections under AV, Ed Miliband would be three years into his first term as prime minister, and we would never even have heard of Brexit.
Last night we took the kids along to the University of Edinburgh’s carol service in the recently restored McEwan Hall, the first time I’d been to one at the university, and the first time I’d been up in the gods there (I’ve processed on stage a few times for graduations). The service was great, with a particularly moving rendition of “O Holy Night”. A welcome opportunity to forget about Brexit—and to take photographs of the ceiling.
Leavers are still (still!) banging on about Project Fear, but they’ve had their own Project Fear running ever since May triggered Article 50: that it was irrevocable, it’s too late to back out now, and even if somehow we could persuade the EU27 to let us revoke it that would mean losing the rebate, having to join Schengen, and whatever else.
An exhaustive analysis of the [Vote Leave] campaign’s digital strategy concludes it reached “tens of millions of people” in its last crucial days, after its spending limit had been breached—enough to change the outcome.
I’m a non-EU migrant to the UK, so know how stressful it is to deal with the Home Office even when your case is uncomplicated, but it staggers me to think how much additional stress has been added for migrants by the fee increases since we arrived.
May suggested that, if MPs vote down her Brexit deal, she will activate full planning for a no deal Brexit. This came in response to questions from the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who repeatedly asked May to rule out a no deal Brexit. May would not give that assurance. Instead she said:
“If the House votes down that deal at that point, then there will be some steps that will be necessary. Obviously we have been doing no deal planning as a government ... the timetable is such that actually some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to no deal if the parliament were to vote down the deal on December 11.”
Does this mean martial law, prime minister? Please let it mean martial law, ooooooo, can’t wait. Tanks rollin’ down the ’igh street, it’ll be lovely. Lovely-jubbly martial law, that’s wot I voted for, that’s wot those Brexit buses promised us. 350 million quid a week to spend on our proper British army, none of yer EU army here, just our fine British lads marchin’ down the ’igh street, touslin’ our British nippers’ ’air, ’anding out tins of beans and iodine tablets to purify our drinkin’ water. Delicious.
I can see why a British populist would name himself after First World War soldiers known for going over the top, but not so much the UK’s biggest-selling brand of squash. He’s less concentrated fruit, more concentrated bull. Tommy Bovril.
Hey, Brexiters: Spam and other tinned goods are still widely available. It’s still possible to make homemade wholemeal bread and mock apricot tarts out of carrots. You can even dig a hole in your back yard, put a tin roof over it and go and sleep in it, and pretend the traffic noises are Home Guard armoured cars driving past. You can live out your own personal “Very Well, Alone” fantasy without dragging the rest of us into it.
My post to Metafilter about the People’s Vote March and the latest Brexit developments has spawned a vibrant thread (and was even featured in the Best Of sidebar, quite an honour). Here it is, with some of my subsequent comments in edited form.
I made it down to London in time for the People’s Vote March on Saturday, and was proud to have been there. It may be ignored by the government and mocked by Leavers on social media, but when we’re all scrabbling around for our last tin of beans next year, those of us who were there can at least take some solace from having tried.
I took a ton of photos, and will put up a gallery of them here in the next few days. But first up, here’s a compilation of the short videos I took, as posted to YouTube.
A breathtaking opinion piece at ConservativeHome advocates “preparing for what’s best called a No Deal deal now—to kick in from next March, rather than the spring of 2020”. They’re getting themselves psychologically prepared (if not actually, y’know, prepared) for something that was supposedly unthinkable a year ago. The comments thread shows the Brexiter strategy of Remainer-blaming in full flight. It’s an intriguing thread, because you can also see in it plenty of Conservative panic.
Some commenters there still cling to the idea that this is all a masterly game of double-bluff: “Those of us who ‘bang on’ about no deal do not necessarily want no deal; we just want a good deal, which can only be obtained if we threaten no deal.”
We’ll end up with no deal because they’re speeding down the motorway playing chicken with an oncoming brick wall labelled 29 March 2019. The EU doesn’t have to cower before such “threats”: it’s resigning itself to our departure and preparing for the worst, which will hurt our neighbours (except, unfortunately, our closest neighbour) far less than it hurts us.
I’m getting up early next Saturday to catch the train down to London for the March for a People’s Vote, with my UK/EU-born son. We need to shout louder than Johnson, Davis, Rees-Mogg, Farage and all the prominent Brexiters. Time is running out.
I wish we had politicians to honestly say we need to encourage a hell of a lot more working age immigrants to come to the UK, but it’s still normal to want border controls. It’s the scapegoating of immigrants which is shit.
We aren’t in Schengen; we have and always have had border controls. We need to stop calling immigration restrictions “border controls”. And if we need “a hell of a lot more working age immigrants” then why do we need immigration restrictions?
If democracy is about anything, it’s about ensuring that political outcomes are a fair reflection of people’s views. Many elements of the British system of government stray from that ideal: first-past-the-post voting distorts the representativeness of parliament, for example. But if anything ought to reflect the people’s views in a fair and undistorted way, it’s a national referendum about the constitutional future of the country.
I’ve done pretty well this year with my new year’s resolution of not listening to the Today programme on Radio 4, to avoid raising my blood pressure by hearing John Humphrys and Nick Robinson pander to Brexiters, but made the mistake this morning of switching it on. Sure enough, Iain Duncan Smith was talking about how terrible it is that the EU forced the UK to negotiate in this linear fashion, rather than being able to discuss trade in parallel with everything else, and all I could think about was David Davis’s “row of the summer” over the negotiating timetable which lasted all of a day. At every point, Brexiters want some magical negotiation process where everything goes perfectly for them and their irreconcilable aims are all met, rather than accepting that the reality of the situation is nothing like that.
One small (not so small) detail of the Brexitshambles is its impact on UK involvement in the €10bn Galileo project, from which the UK is set to be excluded by virtue of becoming a third country. The UK government has said that if the EU doesn’t let us use their satellites then we want our money back—12% of the cost—and will develop a satellite system of our own, so there. (For 12% of the cost of Galileo? They could call it Poundlandsat.)
The departure of Amber Rudd as home secretary has increased the pressure on the government to wind back the hostile environment, although without much hope of success, given that its architect remains prime minister. Less debated is that the hostile environment is essential to the success of Brexit on the government’s current terms, so is unlikely to be touched unless Brexit is abandoned.
I was busy over the weekend, so didn’t get the chance to repost this here until today: a post I made to Metafilter on Friday on the news story of the week, which for too many people is the story of the last five years.
Carole Cadwalladr’s latest exposés of Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave campaign funding have finally propelled the data hacking that compromised the EU referendum and US presidential election into global headlines. The timing could hardly have been better for my course on Digital Education in Global Context, which had been looking at social networks the week before the Wylie story broke, and at ethics and surveillance the week it happened.
It’s been another extraordinary few weeks for Britain and Brexit, with a chemical attack on British soil, revelations about data breaches, and a transition agreement that does nothing except hide inherent contraditions and postpone difficult decisions until after we’ve left the EU and lost all bargaining power or any way back from this mess.
The Commons Brexit committee has just published the official internal Brexit Impact study leaked to BuzzFeed last month, and it clears up a question I’d been debating with someone on Twitter the previous day. It started when MEP Seb Dance tweeted the list of Brexit impacts on regional growth of -2% to -11% and compared them with “Worst UK fall in 2008 crash: -2%”.
One commenter said, “You’ve confused a % reduction in growth with a fall in gdp. These are not the same.”
What #StopBrexit needs is more home-made campaign graphics. Here’s my attempt to get to the heart of the matter. (Why should Leavers monopolise the red, white and blue, and lions, or any other symbol of Britain for that matter?)
It’s already almost a week since Boris Johnson’s supposed valentine to Remainers, and the debate has moved on (most recently, to David Davis’s invocation of post-apocalyptic Australia), but one part of Johnson’s speech hasn’t attracted as much critical attention as it might have. Perhaps it was such a high-pitched dog-whistle that it escaped most British commentators’ hearing. But to Australian-British ears, it was a clanging bell:
But we also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers—and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.
“Look, the jury found you guilty and your execution is set for March 2019. You need to stop complaining that it was a mistrial, stop pointing out new evidence that has emerged since, stop lobbying the governor for a pardon, and get behind the original decision. Otherwise I question your commitment to justice.”
My kids have been learning some Scots poems at school for Burns Night over the past week—Burns’s “To a Mouse” for my older son, and “Twa-Leggit Mice” by the late Edinburgh poet J. K. Annand for my younger daughter. Cue a week of her asking for a snack by exclaiming, “Jings! I get fair hungert.”
I amused them both by reading out the Annand poem in my broadest Aussie accent. (It’s more honest than trying it in faux-Ewan McGregor.) Which reminds me that Burns Night on 25 January aligns with the morning of Australia Day on 26 January back in Oz, thanks to the time difference. Jings, I could go a snag.