18 March 2019

Time to Revoke Article 50

The EU Referendum in 2016 was called without any proper thought about the impact of a Leave vote.  Right through the campaign, promises and predictions were made by both sides about the way it could work out.  Many statements were based on little knowledge and analysis, and some were just downright lies and exaggeration.

The Remain campaign was lukewarm, and made many dire predictions about the immediate aftermath of the vote.  They weren't intelligent enough to make some justifiable long term forecasts, so it was easy for their comments to be dismissed as 'Project Fear'.  Labour, led by the arch eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn, failed to engage properly and mobilise its support.  And it seems there may have been some very clever targeted manipulation of voters using data which hadn't been acquired entirely legally. 

In the heated atmosphere, good information was dismissed along with the bad, and we heard idiotic comments like "we've had enough of experts".  There was a great deal of hate speech aimed at an unelected elite in Brussels which apparently controls our laws.  

All kinds of future relationship with the EU and other trading partners were offered, including a customs union and free trade area.  No-one considered the issues around the Northern Irish border and the potential impact on the Good Friday Agreement. 

The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, defined her own red lines for the negotiation without consulting other parties.  These were in line with her prejudices and the wishes of the extreme Brexiteers within her party, but detached from reality.  Her approach to immigration is nuts, based on an adherence to David Cameron's soundbite commitment to the "tens of thousands".  This ignores the needs of industry, the university sector, and the National Health Service.

She opposes freedom of movement, despite the fact that other European countries have managed to restrict this to the treaty conditions of freedom of movement to work.  It's probable that her opposition is based on advice from the Home Office, which would be incapable of enforcing in the way that, for example, Belgium can.  Luddites and technophobes in her own party led her as Home Secretary to scrub the national identity card project when the Coalition came to power.  If she'd had the guts to resist them, there might have been a chance.

She destroyed her Commons majority with an ill-judged General Election in 2017.  We're now in a complete mess where her negotiated Withdrawal Agreement isn't supported by the Commons and there is talk in the air of further bribes to the DUP to pass a vote.

But even if this vote is passed, there's then the need for a permanent trading relationship and we can be sure that the unholy alliance of the European Research Group, DUP and Labour will mess up whatever treaties can be proposed.

It's clear that whatever we do now, we'll be worse off after leaving than before.  Our terms of trade, travel, access to intelligence and police co-operation, scientific data and medicines, radio isotopes for cancer treatment, GPS data, and countless other benefits that we take for granted will be affected.  We'll have to employ thousands of civil servants in the UK to cover the jobs that were done on a shared basis for 28 countries.  We'll have to pay for the lot.  By the way, unelected, with great pension arrangements, experts in the jobs they'll do. Feels like an elite to me. 

We didn't vote on the red lines that have become apparent, and we have a last chance now to stop this runaway train and think about what we really want.  We should revoke Article 50 now, and have a national debate about what is really required. The debate should take into account the realistic immigration needs of the NHS and the care sector, industry and education, and a realistic solution to the NI border issue if any such thing exists. Then the proposal to leave (if any) could be voted on in a properly constituted referendum, say in a couple of years' time, if we think that change is needed.

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