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Why they’ll never understand Brexit Too many experts are unable to escape their own political prejudices

Gavin Esler at a Change UK event before the party swept to power in Britain. Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Gavin Esler at a Change UK event before the party swept to power in Britain. Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images


April 12, 2021   7 mins

Brexit has now passed the landmark 100 days and is done, at least politically. An exit deal and a pandemic have sunk its salience for voters, and neither Boris Johnson nor Keir Starmer see any merit in reminding them about it. But that doesn’t mean the publishers have stopped; far from it. Brexit is an Important issue which means that Important thinkers must write Important books about it.

So while Brexit may be done, only the dead have seen the end of Brexit books, which include Britain Alone by Philip Stephens, This Sovereign Isle by Robert Tombs and Gavin Esler’s How Britain Ends . None of them is terrible but all are sadly limited, and those limits say something interesting about Brexit and how its huge weight presses down on people who think about it too much, leaving some to buckle.

Stephens’s book is both the most accomplished and least interesting. As a long-standing columnist (and previously political editor) at the Financial Times, Stephens has extensive access to some of the key participants in Britain’s exit from the EU, and the subsequent search for an idea of what it should mean for UK foreign policy. He uses that access to good effect, painting a coherent picture of the thinking and feelings of those actors: the amateurism and arrogance of David Cameron is nicely captured, as is the bemusement of German officials who can’t quite believe that a British PM seriously believes he can charm Angela Merkel into overturning decades of German European policy for him.

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Of the three books at hand, I suspect only Stephens’s will register with future historians of Brexit, because it encapsulates so neatly the views and voices of the foreign policy elites whose world was shattered by the 2016 referendum result. But for those of us alive and interested in Brexit today, the book is almost useless, since it’s all been said before. No one who regularly reads the FT or Economist will learn anything new from Stephens’s account of the FCO’s despair and European diplomats’ horror at the victory of the Brexiteers.

They certainly won’t learn anything about how that victory came about. Stephens makes no visible effort to understand the reasons the Brexiteers wanted to leave, or why 17.4 million voters backed them. Sometimes, he cannot hide his contempt. When Cameron’s somewhat accidental rejection of an EU eurozone bailout treaty in 2011 is received by Conservative MPs and voters as a triumph, this response is dismissed as “pathetic” without any attempt at analysis.  Likewise, Leavers are “elderly voters looking to reclaim the past” and the “left behind”; Remainers are “affluent and well-educated” and ensure that at least the “great cities” vote against Brexit.

A better book would wonder why, say, 1.5 million Londoners (40%) voted Leave, or why a similar proportion of voters aged 25-34 did so. But all Stephens can offer is that Boris Johnson is a good liar and Vote Leave successfully exploited voters’s grievances. Given that this book is published almost five years after the vote, during which time a lot of good research has been done into the motivations of Leavers and the Brexit campaign, it’s more than a little disappointing to see a leading political journalist show so little interest in the fundamentals of the biggest political event of his lifetime.

Here, Robert Tombs’s book beats Stephens handsomely, even though it’s half the length and based almost entirely on secondary sources. Tombs, emeritus professor of French history at Cambridge, is a rare thing, a Brexit-voting academic. By his account, he was largely pushed to this position by irritation at fellow guests at Cambridge dinners and their unthinking support for EU membership. If that sounds shallow, the results are actually quite positive.

Because Tombs is not implacably committed to his “side”, he is sometimes able to catch glimpses of it in proper perspective. He notes that Leavers’s economic claims about the effects of Brexit were often as “extravagantly” overstated as those of Remain’s “Project Fear.” He doesn’t buy the narrative that the Brexit vote was some sort of grumbling revolt by a marginalised majority; he can see the many things that most Leavers and Remainers had in common, at least before the vote, and predicts, persuasively, that cultural divides between the two will not be long-lasting.

Nor does he attempt to argue that Brexit was somehow an inevitable result of Britain’s historical relationship with “Europe”, even if he does sometimes lapse into trite exceptionalism. (Apparently Britain is unique in Europe in its ties to the world beyond the continent and its bigger sense of “abroad” than others. This might surprise the former colonial trading powers such as the French, Dutch and Portuguese.)

Such triteness is surprising from a serious scholar, but This Sovereign Isle isn’t so much scholarship as the cheery musings of a man with time and scope to read a bit about something that interests him. The breezy tone is often welcome, though. Tombs confides that he is happily married to a committed Remainer, which might explain why he makes a decent attempt to understand the motivations of Remain voters, and does not assume they acted out of bad faith or stupidity, or because they’d been lied to.

Sadly, Tombs falls off the wagon of sober analysis when it comes to the years after the referendum. With unconvincing haste, he constructs a novel interpretation of the sovereign power of the referendum result that means no one and no institution has any role in determining how Brexit should be “done”. Pretty much everyone who attempted to have a say on that question, or who argued that Parliament might express a view, is dismissed as a wicked schemer plotting to thwart the will of the people. While that might well be true of at least some of the People’s Vote crew, Tombs is reaching too far when he tries to frame the Supreme Court and Parliament as illegitimate institutions with no standing in the vast process of Brexit.

The best and worst of the three books is Esler’s. Best because it at least asks some big questions about Brexit and Britain’s future that haven’t had enough attention even among the billions of words spilled since the referendum. Worst because it shares the same lack of perspective as the other two, but adds shoddy research and a fixation on trivial ephemera.

How Britain Ends is subtitled “English Nationalism and the Rebirth of the Four Nations”. Esler’s thesis is that the Brexit vote was essentially an expression of emergent Englishness as a political force. He thinks this is a bad thing, and one that will in due course force the Scots to flee the Union, Northern Ireland to accept Irish unification and the Welsh to… actually I’m not sure, and neither is Esler, who doesn’t devote much time to the Principality.

He certainly doesn’t try to explain how his central thesis (Brexit as English thuggery) fits with a Welsh majority for Brexit. Nor does he have any words for the 1 million Scots who voted to Leave, but then 38% of that country subscribing to a project of English jingoism is hard to square with Esler’s portrait of Scotland as pro-European nation where simply everyone is horrified by the prospect of leaving.

Well, everyone Esler talks to, anyway. Far, far too many of the assertions in this book are based on conversations Esler has had with “a friend” of one sort or another, all of whom coincidentally share his conviction that Brexit is bad, the Union is doomed and Englishness is nasty and harmful. As for those who think Englishness isn’t all bad, they’re clearly weirdos and racists. We know this because Esler remembers a row with a London taxi driver who insists that the English are an ethnically exclusive group to which foreigners cannot be admitted. I used to work on a newspaper foreign desk, and know that any decent correspondent would die of shame rather than resort to the cliché of quoting a taxi-driver in copy. Esler, once a celebrated foreign reporter, is apparently beyond such embarrassment, proudly telling us how he had the last word in his dialogue with his driver.

This isn’t even the most embarrassing moment in the book. That’s probably a pointless story of Esler visiting a bar in Washington DC and hearing US Marines singing a Bruce Springsteen song without knowing — as Esler does — what the lyrics really meant. The idiots.

That taxi journey is about as close as Esler gets to trying to understand the people and the ideas that are supposedly the centrepiece of his book. Many of his observations about Englishness and the English are cribbed from Kate Fox’s Watching the English (published in 2004) and Jeremy Paxman’s The English (1998). Still, at least those are actual books. The most maddening thing about How Britain Ends is Esler’s constant references to Twitter. Barely a page goes by without him basing some claim or observation about the fate of nations on a few characters sprayed onto a screen by someone noisy but unimportant.

This isn’t just the stylistic grumbling of an old-fashioned reviewer. Esler’s regard for tweets as a primary source of evidence shows how social media can be the ruin of good journalists and journalism. If he’d spent less time staring at Twitter and more time trying to talk to people about the Englishness to which he imputes so much, he’d have written a much better book.

There are other flaws too, some sloppy (Norman Lamont, born in Shetland and educated in Edinburgh, is not “English”) and some disingenuous. Esler claims that “an attempt was made” to have Church of England church bells ring to celebrate Brexit, something he offers as proof that the UK is run by ignorant English Leavers uncaring of propriety or the other UK nations. He doesn’t say that the “attempt” amounted to one tweet by the Brexit self-publicist Arron Banks, and as such was taken seriously by no one except #FBPE types on Twitter.

All this is deeply frustrating, because Esler’s book is founded on some good ideas and useful inquiries. The relationship between Englishness and Britishness in a UK outside the EU really should be carefully considered, and better reflected in constitutional arrangements, as Esler suggests. He’s very good on Ireland too, and absolutely right to note the Conservative Party’s shocking indifference to the fate of Northern Ireland in the Brexit process and beyond. He’s also right to link that abandonment of Unionism to the growing lack of interest in (and understanding of) other parts of the UK among voters in each of its member-countries. Few English voters care much about keeping Northern Ireland in the UK; Scotland’s political discourse feels more and more distant from “British” debates in London.

If Stephens’s book is the only one of these three that is likely to be read in ten years’s time, Esler’s is the one that focuses most closely on the issues that will still be relevant then, and quite likely more relevant than they are now. Sadly, he too cannot achieve enough distance or perspective to offer truly useful thoughts on those issues.

The common theme of these books is that Brexit is simply too big a thing for an author today to put into that broader historical perspective. So authors who try, even very smart and accomplished authors such as these, end up falling back on their own prior convictions, using Brexit analysis as an exercise in confirmation bias. As befits a proper historian, Tombs comes closest of the three to admitting the limitations of writing the history of something that is still in motion. “Brexit is undoubtedly a gamble on the democratic nation state, its viability and its future,” he concedes. And while he thinks that gamble will pay off, he doesn’t claim total certainty. Stephens and Esler, by contrast, are more sure that Britain will slide into decline and nationalist division.

Brexit is done, but what does Brexit mean? Better to take some more time on that and get it right than rush to judgement.


James Kirkup is Director of the London-based Social Market Foundation

jameskirkup

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Emre Emre
Emre Emre
3 years ago

Brexit for me was most interesting in how it clearly outlined the fault line between Liberalism and Democracy. As an avid FT reader throughout this period, I was taken aback by the fury of the modern Whigs lamenting the choice of the unworthy masses. Both the writers, article after article, and the enraged commenters (save for a few defiant ones) the reaction was clear. In the light of this, I think the ideas in Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere may be the best analysis of the underlying currents that led to Brexit, and ultimately Brexit itself.

Last edited 3 years ago by Emre Emre
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

Speaking as someone who has actually read Goodhart’s book, I completely agree. Have an upvote with my compliments.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

FT is Liberal/Left, which always amazed me, I had expected hard bitten Conservatives, but instaed it is entitled Liberals shilling for the Global Elites – which I gusee is reasonable as the Global Elites are using Liberalism to destroy the Middle Class, and thus democracy, as that leaves the wealthy and the low income masses who get paid by the benefits for their vots, new age Feudalism. FT’ You will own what you are given, and you will tolerate it.’ (The Great Reset as seen from above)

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre
Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It’s amazing that people like Esler can reach the age of 50 or 60 and still have zero understanding of the world around them or of countless of their countrymen and women. But that’s the BBC and the metropolitan ‘elites’ for you, and that’s why we switched off years ago.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Problem is, the world around them probably consists of people just like themselves. If you work at the BBC everyone you meet is probably a guardian reading labour voting “socialist” with a nice house in London, a nanny, a cleaner, a well paying job in the Media and an aversion to the union flag.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Yes, and we all know this to be a large part of the problem. This is why the BBC must be de-licensed (I threw my TV out over 20 years ago) and the universities de-funded outside of STEM.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I would much prefer to see the beeb return to what it did well rather than disappear so I wouldn’t de-fund it. As regard the universities I’d suggest just get rid of student loans (let students sort out their own loans) but give grants to those who study STEM subjects. I’d also fund those who are engaged in craft & trade training eg plumbing.

Grant Evans
Grant Evans
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

oh english nationalism raises its ugly head

Ian Barton
IB
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Grant Evans

I’ll take patriotism over “hatred of the English people” any day.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

That’s a false dichotomy if ever there was one.
There are many patriots in the UK who have no time for English (or other) nationalism, and who don’t actually hate the English people. Many of them are English.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

To hate themselves has been a known characteristic of certain English people for generations.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

The technical word is ‘Oikophobia’ or Oik for short. Rather similar to Plebian and Pleb and from the same ‘well’.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

see George Orwell, the funniest thing is ”To see English intellectuals on a moral crusade”.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

You may be confusing self-deprecation, or even self-awareness, with self-hatred.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Grant Evans

To which nationalism do you refer?

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Grant Evans

What a strange leap to make… How did anything in my post make you think of “English nationalism”?

Richard Gasson
Richard Gasson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Gavin Esler used to be a host on an obscure bbc news program called Dateline London, in which foreign correspondence, based in London, would give light to the type of copy that they would be writing for the sheets back home. I used to watch it for a laugh. The msm is international. It is deaf, blind and biased and completely lacking in self awareness. Marvellous qualities for journalist.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

That was, I assume, an immigrant nanny and another immigrant cleaner – both of whom share an attic bedroom. They will also pay cash to illegal immigrant gardeners, painters and decorators etc..

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And one of the reasons why a majority of us voted Leave.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

So the majority voted leave in protest at the BBC?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

As the BBC had operated as an EU department for many years, they were definitely considered part of the democratic deficit.
On that basis, the answer to your simplistic binary question is probably “yes”.

Paul N
PN
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

None of the leave voters I know gave the BBC as a reason. I think this obsession with the BBC and the licence fee may be a Conservative Central Office thing. It’s not that widespread outside of the echo chamber.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

It’s widespread in my house. Perhaps it is you living in the echo chamber.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

Either that, or your house may not be entirely representative of the country.
As for echo chambers, my wife and I vigorously debate many issues on which we disagree. We have both modified our positions as a result.

Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

“Either that, or your house may not be entirely representative of the country.”
 But of course yours is.
“…my wife and I vigorously debate many issues on which we disagree.”
And come to exactly the same conclusion that you started with. Who’d have thunk it.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

“And come to exactly the same conclusion that you started with. Who’d have thunk it.”

That’s literally the opposite of what I said. Perhaps that explains your confidence that the country voted leave in protest against the BBC.

J StJohn
J StJohn
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

The BBC could probably have won it for LEAVE on their own; but they didnt need to; ‘Project Fear’ did a huge amount of the heavy lifting in persuading ordinary people that all these people needed to be kicked out.

James Newman
James Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  J StJohn

Yes, never was a referendum campaign so ill-judged. Remain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with their negative campaigning.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  James Newman

I don’t think Remain snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but I certainly agree with you that their referendum campaign was lamentable.
It was all threat and fear. No-one came up with
(1) one convincing positive reason to remain in the EU. (This reason is still like one of Wackford Squeers’s eyes in Nicholas Nickleby – ‘somewhat missing’ as Dickens put it);
(2) any projection of a credible kind about what the EU would become over the years ahead; how the UK would not be engulfed and shackled (once for all) by the Brussels dictatorship via strategic wiles with regard to majority-voting &c.
What the Remain campaign did (from their point of view) positively achieve was to cow so many citizens with dreadful scenarios (e.g. 500,000 lose jobs AT ONCE, our GDP shrinks within a year by £80 billion if Leave so much as wins the vote, let alone we actually depart); that the Leave majority was much reduced from what it would have been had there not been Project Terror for 66 continuous days and nights April-June 2016.
In the event, one of the little-remarked features of that poll was the giant MORAL victory it embodied.
Harangued and threatened by nearly all the major constituted authorities in this land and some others – inc. the Treasury, the Bank of England, the OECD, the leaderships of all parties except UKIP in this country, most of academe, Big Business, all of whom made predictions hugely mistaken and stultified ever since – nevertheless enough of our nation had the courage to do the right thing and vote to leave.
A new referendum now would probably produce a very large majority for staying out of the EU.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Missing the point, he said ‘…one of the reasons…’
Coverage of Brexit on the BBC has been shown to have been very one sided, Today programme interviewees were hugely weighted toward Remain for example.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

If you switched off you missed a lot. Serves you right. Now you only get to access sources of misinformation and extremism

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Actually I get information far superior to anything the BBC will ever give me, from people like Jimmy Dore on the left to Ben Shapiro on the right, and many people in the middle such as Tim Pool and The Duran, whose geo-political coverage and information is outstanding.
I also read a wide range of serious books, from people like Varoufakis on the left to conservatives like Roger Scruton.
The BBC is to broadcasting and information what McDonalds is to nutrition.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Stuart Y
Stuart Y
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Or indeed King Herod to babysitting

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

;););)

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“The BBC is to broadcasting and information what McDonalds is to nutrition”

Sir ..you win the quote of the day prize…. with your permission I shall reusecthat many many times

William Harvey
WH
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Too much time on Twitter will do that to anyone. Its coded to reinforce one’s own bigotry and ( unknowingly or not) to sow social discord. Personally, I think it should be regulated to virtual non existence.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

I only appreciated how important it was to achieve Brexit when I saw the appalling behaviour of “the establishment”.
My Schadenfreude also continues to this day.

Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It’s schadenfreude a go, go over here. Gloat factor 10…. 11 with the Spinal Tap attachment.

James Brennan
JB
James Brennan
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

And what the “establishment” was trying to do was retain its position and standing – it did so, but at ruinous cost.

tony deakin
tony deakin
3 years ago
Reply to  James Brennan

Even though I voted Remain I can acknowledge the ”establishment” helped make border issues around Ireland more contentious through voting down settlements that would have been a much better fit when it comes to accommodating the North.
Although the FBPE contingent had a great time of it on Twitter with their ‘spiders’, we ultimately got stuck with quite a reckless Conservative cabinet through the perception that Brexit was perilously close to being abandoned.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

“So while Brexit may be done, only the dead have seen the end of Brexit books, which include Britain Alone by Philip Stephens, This Sovereign Isle by Robert Tombs and Gavin Esler’s How Britain Ends . None of them is terrible but all are sadly limited, and those limits say something interesting about Brexit and how its huge weight presses down on people who think about it too much, leaving some to buckle.”
Yes, quite. The ongoing moaning and whinging and lack of acceptance among certain groups is starting to seem sick and compulsive. I feel sorry for such people – being that bitter must eat up a lot of energy. Every minute spent saying “it’s wrong! It’s so bad! This is never going to work!” is one minute less spent thinking about how best to move forward and deal pragmatically with the new situation.

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Simon Baseley
SB
Simon Baseley
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I just ask them if they’ve had their vaccine yet.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

Haha!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baseley

There is no cure for TDS, and it seems BDS either.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

But every minute also prompts one to say; ‘where’s that cliff edge?’

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

I would be interested to know what the books and indeed, Kirkup, think about the future of the EU. The issue is not simply about the future of the UK, because the (shaky) future of the EU is what persuaded many to vote leave.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Indeed, also the MSM refused to facilitate this discussion professionally at any point.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The MSM would lack the intellect and knowledge to conduct such a discussion. Nor would they tolerate any criticism of the EU, or any suggestion that their beloved EU might fail. They are profoundly ignorant. (I write as one who has lived, worked and paid taxes in three EU countries, and who still does a lot of work for companies in the EU).

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

You make an important point (‘The MSM….are profoundly ignorant’.)
In the past mainstream journalists very much inhabited gramophone-record grooves of 2nd-hand thinking – that is why they were not novelists or entrepreneurs. But they did do research, investigated things, found out facts for themselves.
Nowadays they live entirely on a diet of what the politicians feed them and/or what their peers say in the Groupthink bubble they inhabit.
Even Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s right-hand man and fellow-vandal, who had hand-fed them propaganda for years with unlimited success, felt utter contempt for the Washington DC press corps. (Cf his interview of 5 May 2016 with the New York Times magazine.)

Brian Dorsley
0
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Indeed, journalists have become courtiers to the powerful.

Katharine Eyre
KE
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

I’m always fairly surprised at the reaction to any suggestion that the EU might be a sinking ship. It’s surely quite a natural response to think that certain situations, things, people will go on forever (see the genuine shock at Prince Philip’s death despite the obvious fact that he was, at the end of the day, a mere mortal). However, what I don’t get is the response “it’s too big to fail”. This overlooks more or less all of history, during which every empire/union which has ever existed has fallen apart. Surely the British are among the best placed to absorb that?

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Europe and UK just lockdowned themselves to oblivion. The economic destruction it caused, the job losses, which will be immediately be fallowed by Automation replacing huge numbers of jobs (WFH it seems is making AI really accelerate to white collar, as automation is killing off blue collar.)

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Is your point that the Telegraph and the Express didn’t write about how the EU is “doomed”, or that they did – but in a partisan, unprofessional or less than rigorous way?

Galeti Tavas
VS
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

ALL MSM are commies, basically, excepting a few maybe, like Fox which is Centrist, wile FT is distinctly Left.

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Yes this! At the time of the vote and after, most of my friends and colleagues voted remain. They would often focus on the uncertainty of leaving as a major issue.
I would respond if they had a good idea of where the EU would be in 5-10 years time also? Where the growing discrepancy between Southern and Northern countries, the Eurozone debts of weaker members and growing European-wide anti-EU sentiment would lead?
Remainers loved the bus over a cliff analogy – which actually works pretty well for Leaving too. The EU/Eurozone is careening towards some unknown and unpalatable conclusion. Surely it’s better we jumped off the bus before it got to the cliff, leaving us with a few bumps and scrapes.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
dandj26
dandj26
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Exactly my position, so many of my friends couldn’t see my point of view. Perhaps in a few years they will.

Robin Lambert
RL
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I fear the Eurozone will Collapse like Yugoslavia,NOT Czech &Slovak Separation? No Velvet revolution or Solution?..Eurobonds seem to depress in value daily

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

My experience too was that I was surrounded by Remain-voters, few of whom were pro-EU so much as scared of rocking the boat, and of course this was a major propaganda theme followed by Remain supporters, hence constant repetition of ‘cliff-edge’.
Like you, my reply was that I had come to suspect that the EC/EU was capable of terribly bad decisions. I winced (wince) when Leavers predict the end of the EU, because I don’t know whether it will or it won’t happen, I don’t know whether that will be good or bad, and for the EU or the UK, the point being that however much people like to portray ‘ever closer union’ as both inevitable and Good.
Likewise, the continuation of the UK as an independent union is uncertain today, and yet it has existed far longer than the EU, and England has existed as a distinct state for even longer. I know where I’ll place my bet on stability.

Last edited 3 years ago by Colin Elliott
Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Why just England? Do you not support a united kingdom?

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

I wouldn’t expect most hereabouts to have much awareness of, much less any truck with, Thomas Fazi and William Mitchell but their “Eurozone Dystopia” is as thoroughgoing a takedown of the entire premise of the Euro area as you are likely to find anywhere. Perhaps a useful reminder that intelligence is still present across the political spectrum?

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago

At a London dinner party I announced that I had voted for Brexit hoping for an interesting and educated discussion and was imediately told to “f*** off” – by allegedly educated people – who later backed this up by calling me a racist. It appears their universal resentment was because it would make travel to their pied a terre in the Med more costly and complicated.
I knew then I’d made the right decision to vote to Leave. Remaining was all about the UK paying membership £billions and having a nearly £100billion annual trade deficit merely for the convenience of those with a second home on the Med.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Boulding
Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Yes, and their foul-mouthed aggression makes a particular nonsense of their constant attempt to occupy the ‘civilised’ high ground.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

I have the honour of having been de-friended by a Fellow of All Souls, following her discovery that I had voted for Brexit because of immigration.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Praise indeed Sir!

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

The inability of these people to distinguish between a political institution (the EU) and people (Europeans) is frightening, especially because they think they are really, really intelligent and superior to us knuckle-dragging Brexit chumps (hence their continued condescension).

but we at least can see the wood for the trees.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Go on any of the Britian in Europe Facebook pages and read the moaning and whinging. And even now not one of them has any respect for the democratic process and they view all leave voters as racist etc, etc, etc.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Presumably your dinner party was in Quislington?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I coined ‘QuIslington’ so thanks for taking it up. We might yet get it accepted as standard usage!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes it is an excellent barb of yours and I endeavour to use it whenever possible. Thanks.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I like it too. It’d be interesting to know how many, say, Antifa members would understand the reference. They fancy themselves so well-informed on Fascism and National Socialism, after all.

Barbara Bone
Barbara Bone
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I grew up in Quislington & left in 1972 because we were forced out of our unheated, no running hot water or bathroom. The sole lavatory in the house was outside & shared with the other family living in the same house. Most of islington became “gentrified” ie beyond our means. Since then, when asked where I come from I always reply “I am a refugee from the PR of Islington”

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago

Not too far away

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

 by allegedly educated people

I’m in my forties and currently pursuing a doctorate. It is my experience that the higher up the academic food chain I go the more arrogant and stupid the people are.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I agree this is often the way. Too busy chasing fine detail to see the wider and often more sensible view point.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

It’s probably true of political and corporate foodchains as well, and probably says something about the skills needed to rise in hierarchical organisations.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

see SAGE,these So called ”Scientists” propel ‘Baby talk’ they need Stuffing! Lack of Data,Only Models as per St.Greta of Airmiles Vacuous epithets?..

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

I was at a party when someone asked me what I voted, to the horror of the hostess, who clearly feared bad feeling, so I answered frankly. We all then had a civilised discussion about it, during which my wife and I discovered that we had each voted differently, and it remained friendly then and thereafter. It was nowhere near Islington.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

‘It was nowhere near Islington.’
Quite. Cause and effect.

James Newman
JN
James Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Racist, xenophobe, Little Englander, poorly educated, didn’t-know-what-you-voted-for. Oh and leaving will be disaster.
So, Mr Remainer, that’s it? You have no actual argument in for staying in the EU?
As any marketing man will tell you, knocking copy has its limits.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

Enforced homogenisation will inevitably lead to a kickback from people (most of humanity bar Guardian readers) who take pride in whom they are. Bill Clinton’s famous words- it is the economy, stupid- work when the context is local. In international affairs it is culture, nationhood, history and self determination, stupid!
As another comment says, read David Goodhart to understand Brexit. Read Esler to see true lack of remainer insight.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

You’re right, but culture, nationhood, history and self determination tend to be good for the economy.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…Esler, once a celebrated foreign reporter, is apparently beyond such embarrassment, proudly telling us how he had the last word in his dialogue with his driver…”

Wow, he won a political argument with a London cab driver, and is motivated enough to boast about it in a book. He sounds nice.

Mike Boosh
MB
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

To be honest, if he could get a word in edgeways during an argument with a cabbie, he’s probably feeling pretty chuffed with himself. I agree though, he sounds like a tool.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

He obviously wasn’t trying to go anywhere outside the West End/City if he was able to get a journey in a London cab.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’d like to hear the cab driver’s side of it. His opinion is no less important than Esler’s.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

I agree completely.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Perhaps it was worth recalling what Professor Tombs wrote a few years ago:
“By the standards of humanity as a whole, England over the centuries has been among the richest, safest and best governed places on earth, as periodical influxes of people testify. Its living standards in the 14th century were higher than much of the world in the 20th… We who have lived in England since 1945 have been among the luckiest people in the existence of h**o sapiens, rich, peaceful and healthy”

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Yes, and Robert Tombs is a historian who actually knows what he is talking about. When the likes of Forsyth rubbish him they are just revealing their own blinkered ignorance.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago

Surely the reason why the Financial Times’s ‘Stephens’ – and most politicians and journalists at national level – ‘make[s] no visible effort to understand the reasons the Brexiteers wanted to leave, or why 17.4 million voters backed them’ – even now, after five years since our referendum vote – is Self-Interest.
The Ruling Caste in the western world today is a smug ‘meritocracy’ (without merit) populating all the positions of power and influence and doing ever nicelier out of their construction of a world of privilege and unaccountability for themselves.
One mode of unaccountability is provided by the Lords of Tech, the Silicon Valley billionaires who own and rule social media. If you say things on Twitter or Facebook which disagree with the orthodoxies that benefit the ruling class, either your post is removed or it is festooned with warnings about its factual claims being unreliable.
Another mode of unacountability is contemporary publishing houses. A man or woman can write a brilliant book, thoroughly researched, unimpugnable as to its findings and deductions; but if it be ‘right-wing’ (i.e. moderately conservative in tendency) it has but a slim chance of being published.
The European Union is a Nirvana of highly paid, highly placed jobs for people – politicians, bureaucrats, hangers-on – who don’t want to have to give any significant account of themselves to the publics nominally electing them. Journalists of the mainstream media are now mostly among the hangers-on and are courtiers in this newish aristocracy of which they themselves are junior partners.
The EU is a real big step towards a world wholly fashioned according to the will of Bilderberg and Davos. – Supremely cossetted elites decide everything in their favour globe-wide and then hand their decisions down to the polloi as beneficial; a populace which has no lever, no mechanism, for ever rejecting their basic ruling strategies in any ballot boxes.
If (for instance) the people of Europe don’t agree with the Paris Accords on Climate Change – either because they think them nonsense or insufficiently effective (China and India allowed to belch carbon for a decade longer) – then how do they vote them out?
All this explains why at the national level, the Political Class, the Journalist Class, the Bureaucrats have in nearly all cases spent five years bewailing the results of our 2016 Referendum, the vote for President Trump in the USA that year, and the prosperity of populist parties and movements across Europe since then, without ever asking themselves what motivated people to offer those candidates and themes their suffrages.
As so often is the case in life, don’t bother to construct an elaborate Freudian or Jungian or Adlerian motivation for this behaviour; nor seek its roots in theology or psychoanalysis. Chiefly it will suffice to
Follow the money/privilege/peer-group pressure.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Yes, at bottom it is about nothing more than money and privilege.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

This was a well-written comment, Peter. In particular:

The Ruling Caste in the western world today is a smug ‘meritocracy’ (without merit) populating all the positions of power and influence and doing ever nicelier out of their construction of a world of privilege and unaccountability for themselves.

This describes LinkedIn to a tee.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

I read that as “describes Lineker to a tee”

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Peter makes a valid point:

“The EU is a real big step towards a world wholly fashioned according to the will of Bilderberg and Davos. – Supremely cossetted elites decide everything in their favour”

But I’d find it more persuasive in the context of Brexit if the rest of the world order, dominated by the US, were not exactly the same – or worse. The Trans Pacific Partnership, and the CPTPP (without the US government, but led by the same multinational interests) is not notably less protective of the interests of the elites than the EU – quite the contrary. At least in the EU there is a countervailing strand – however weak – of democracy, human rights, and protective standards for workers’ rights and safety.
As the UK applies to join CPTPP, we may be out of the frying pan and into the fire, in terms of control by elites.

Last edited 3 years ago by Paul N
tony deakin
tony deakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

As so often is the case in life, don’t bother to construct an elaborate Freudian or Jungian or Adlerian motivation for this behaviour; nor seek its roots in theology or psychoanalysis.
I would love to hear though some kind of Jungian analysis regarding the corporate world’s embrace of woke politics – the collective (shadow un-?) conscious guiding an elite towards divisive measures in order to protect its interests/status, perhaps?

A Spetzari
AS
A Spetzari
3 years ago

…the amateurism and arrogance of David Cameron is nicely captured, as is the bemusement of German officials who can’t quite believe that a British PM seriously believes he can charm Angela Merkel into overturning decades of German European policy for him.

Yes it is known that Cameron was/is arrogant, and everyone is quick to point that out – but what of the German arrogance here? Agree with Cameron or not, their blind refusal to bend enabled one of the EU’s most important nations to leave, and has now threatened the unity of the EU.

Apparently Britain is unique in Europe in its ties to the world beyond the continent and its bigger sense of “abroad” than others. This might surprise the former colonial trading powers such as the French, Dutch and Portuguese.

Perhaps he overstates it in the book, but I’m inclined to agree with Tombs here. It’s not that other European countries don’t have an international outlook (France does especially, but mainly focussed on her overseas territories and former colonies, of which all are much weaker than France). It’s that the UK is much more wedded culturally and even socially to countries outside of Europe (US, Can, Aus, NZ of course). Anecdotally, it has always baffled my European friends how we (the British) use “Europe” and “European” to describe people from the continent, as an ‘other’ – “But you are European are you not?” is a common response.
So yes I would say Britain is “exceptional” in this regards, in the literal sense. We don’t generally have the same feeling of being European as those on the continent.

David J
DJ
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

As an old newspaper headline declared: “Fog in Channel. Continent cut off.”
And quite right too!

Adrian Smith
AS
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

The only time I consider myself European is during the Ryder Cup and only then because most of the players are British playing against insufferable Yanks.
The other former colonial powers still have influence in their former colonies, but do not have anything like the Commonwealth. I look forward to our relationships with the Commonwealth strengthening now we are free from the shackles of the EU.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Yes I neglected the Commonwealth in my comment. The millions of Anglo-Commonwealth Britons are a testament to that.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

You should be warned that increasingly the majority of the populations of the Commonwealth nations don’t give a stuff about the UK.

Colin Elliott
CE
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I agree with you. I’m not aware that there are warm relations between Portugal and the Netherlands and their former colonies, and nor between France and its colonies, although that is a more diverse situation. I think Tombs was thinking that not only do we have mature relationships with Australia, Canada and New Zealand, including family ties, but that even with major countries now more remote such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there are also innumerable family ties. Bear this in mind, and look at a map.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Yes I missed that point! I only found out fairly recently how large a minority in the UK are from India. Also that Indian nationals on visas are able to vote in the General Election. If Corbyn had also known this he might have not bad mouthed India over Kashmir in the run up to the last GE…
But point being even in our law we have inbuilt close ties with India and Commonwealth that even EU citizens never enjoyed.

David J
David J
3 years ago

The effortless smug superiority of arch-remainers like Anthony Grayling and Philip Pullman was (and still is) enough to make anyone grind their teeth.
Bright but dim, as can be said for so many academics.

Richard Gasson
Richard Gasson
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Bright but dim, as can be said for so many academics.
I have met a few academics like that. Very, very intelligent, clever people but almost incapable of tieing their own shoelaces

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Gasson

Yes, extreme intelligence guarantees no immunity to jaw-dropping stupidity.

Robin Banks
Robin Banks
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Yes, I am of the opinion that intellegence is the ability to absorb knowledge and draw conclusions from it. There are many people with that capability who are too lazy to do it.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Though as they still seem to live here nothing awful must have happened- just as lots of ‘celebs’ in America promised to move to Canada if Trump got in-noone seems to have gone. Some people with access to a public voice just seem to use it to try to make others feel anxious.

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

I used to enjoy Kate Atkinson andJonathan Coe’s novels but their last ones respectively were trite drivel, pantomime stuff – oooh look, the baddy voted Brexit, boooo hiss.

pathetic. I have lost any respect I used to have for them as novelists and won’t be bothering to reas or re-read any of their works. I suspect it’s the case for quite a few of our “elites” (in their mind). Which is fine – plenty of better classic novels to get through and I won’t be paying to be insulted.

Pierre Pendre
PP
Pierre Pendre
3 years ago

People who identified with EU and were committed to remaining are not going to change. They will attribute British crises waiting unknown in the future to Brexit for as long as the EU survives.
“Building Europe” is the policy of EU governments though they do not all agree how high the building should go. Over time, sight is lost of the value of a policy which develops a life of its own that ceases to be questioned.
When the policy doesn’t meet expectations, you apply bandaid rather than reconsider whether it’s right. As the 1950s French politician Guy Mollet said: “It is not because our policy is bad that we are going to change it.”
The Attlean settlement of 1945 became the policy of both Conservative and Labour governments until it failed beyond saving in the 1970s. Only then could Thatcher introduce a new policy. There are people today who still say that the Callaghan government was already doing things which could have saved the Attlean settlement. You never willingly give up a policy that is tied to your personal credibility.
The EU is the policy of the transnational political elites of which the Remainers are part. People like AC Grayling who told Guy Verhofstadt to squeeze the UK’s Brexit negotiators until they cried for mercy. Even Verhofstadt, than whom there is no more dedicated Europhile, looked askance at that level of willingness to do down a man’s own country.
The fact is that Britain in Europe was never to the liking of the British people. The voted for Brexit as soon as the opportunity offered itself and they are not alone. Distrust of the EU is much more widespread among EU electorates than we are told.
Even Macron said he would never allow a Frexit referendum because he feared the French would vote against it. But maybe if they don’t get the chance, they’ll take it anyway. The EU is not written in Diderot’s book.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Pendre

Great comment.

Brexit happened when it did because I think that the UK electorate were finally given an opportunity that, ‘elephant in the room stylee’, they were so obviously being denied, lest there was a chance they might make the ‘wrong’ choice, which of course they subsequently did.

I suspect that had referenda been allowed earlier, say when Maastricht was signed by Major or when mooted by Blair around the time of the Lisbon Treaty, the chances of a majority leave vote ever happening would have been next to zero, not least because the general level of understanding in the UK about the EU and its ratcheting political aims at these times was so low.

Both these watershed moments in the European Project’s progression surely warranted specific democratic reference but none was forthcoming, either out of arrogance or fear or both, but if I were a betting man I strongly suspect that had either been allowed to have taken place the UK would still be in the EU today ironically.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

I’m not so sure. I have read that had the 1975 Referendum been held a year or two later the result would have been exactly reversed. People took against the EEC or EU as it became remarkably quickly. The bullying of Remain and its many, many lies almost worked, and had that dimwit in Berlin given Cameron something he could have sold he would have won.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

We shall never know, but I take your point.

What’s fascinating about that Cameron/Merkel exchange is how illustrative it is of where the power of the EU ultimately lies, for all the rosy rhetoric.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Pendre

Pew Research, one of the two opinion pollsters I really respect, did a survey of French opinion about the EU at the time of our referendum in 2016.
61% of French people said they were fed up of the EU.
I doubt if this figure has shrunk since then.
A Briton I know travelled for a weekend break, with a party of friends, to a beer festival in Bremen in N. Germany, the October of 2016; and there met with a group of young Germans (who of course spoke excellent English!).
One of them, named Reinhardt, took my friend aside and murmured to him in admiration, ‘You British have b-lls’.
Actually it is a most salient theme.
A majority of French, Dutch and German people ought by now to have elected parliaments with outright majorities committed to unravelling their membership of the EU (AND the euro, howsoever fraught and difficult THAT may be).

Kate Melton
KM
Kate Melton
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Pendre

Grayling was born and raised in Northern Rhodesia so he is not an Englishman, maybe that explains his attitude.

James Newman
James Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Pierre Pendre

Yes, the EU regularly publishes its own surveys (“eurobarometer”) and the last one published showed more citizens distrusted rather than trusted the EU in 10 member states. And that was before the vaccine issues.

Jim Holt
Jim Holt
3 years ago

Why did more Scots want to remain? Money – pure and simple. I realised this when I saw a massive sports facility built in the middle of nowhere in Scotland with EU money. The well funded Remain campaign broke every democratic rule and trashed its own country. The vested interests of superfluous hordes of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, big business and lobbyists were brought out into the open. The crumbs thrown back here from the EU to fund some projects fooled many into thinking they were better off staying in the EU. There was no proper scrutiny of the corruption, duplicity and criminality of the EU but we leavers instinctively knew we were on the shitty end of the stick. As we travelled Europe, we saw renewal and wealth denied to our regions and one report found 6 of 10 of N Europe’s most deprived areas are in the U.K. Most of them in England. We are tolerant but the EU stretched that too far. Why did VW pay the US £11.5 billion for emissions but none here? Why have German companies got away with Thalidomide? Where has our manufacturing gone, our fish?. Why are we buying energy from France? Books are general, this is my individual history or a small part of it.

Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

“This might surprise the former colonial trading powers such as the French, Dutch and Portuguese” – none of them have anything approaching a body that our Commonwealth represents: that, I think, is the point Tombs is making. The Belgians couldn’t get out of the Congo fast enough; the same with the French in Algeria and Vietnam.
It sounds as though Esler should work for the Express: practically every online article there is a collection of random tweets!

Chris Stapleton
CS
Chris Stapleton
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Random, but sometimes relevant…. if you are lucky. They might even occasionally use the right words to describe what they are talking about.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The Belgians also didn’t get INTO the Congo fast enough to prevent their own King’s genocide of the Congolese.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Exposed off course by Sir Roger Casement and his Kodak camera.
Sadly, we had to hang him some years later.

plynamno1
plynamno1
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Imperialists departed reluctantly, very often after defeats.

Nigel H
NH
Nigel H
3 years ago

Anyone who has been in an American run company knows that the further away you are from the decision making- the worse that decision making is for you personally. It’s the same with the UK, when decision making on our behalves is done by the London metropolitan elites, we know that the ramifications for the those on Tyneside, the Clyde, the valleys etc.… is not really thought through. Out of sight – out of mind…an attitude personified by the arrogant Cameron/Osborne.
When that decision making is made by an elite in another country who always seem to want to stick one over on the British- for whatever reason, envy? – We know that it won’t end well. We have seen with the vaccine debacle what nasty little vindictive people are running the EU. Run the Brexit vote today, the result would be a completely different story…
As others have said, apparently voting not to be in an EU super state makes you a racist, an argument which makes no rational sense whatsoever. What’s racist about not wanting to be in a political grouping? Intellectual laziness bordering on foolishness…
Macron has Le Pen on his heels, Poland and Hungary are cage rattling, the Swedes are now realising what’s going wrong. Plenty of Dutch have always had their doubts, as well as the Danes…
Then there’s the slight issue of who is covering the debt for the EU/ECB
The EU is run by line managers, not project managers. Line managers want to keep the line running, gradually and very slowly evolving. No surprises for anyone, just standard issue handle turners – just the job for career politicians. This sort-of works most of the time. But when the sewage hits the wind tunnel, you need people fast on their feet, maybe unpopular but effective decisions made quickly. The world is going to change even faster than at any time in our history.  The EU are yesterday’s people. 

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel H

Very true – but you are missing a crucial point. Like it or not, Britain will have to submit to lots of decisions taken in Brussels, Washington, Beijing, …What gives you most influence – being part of the EU, or of an American multnational – or being a small competitor?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Manufacturing needs Ramping up,Why should we send ‘Vaccine ‘Materials to Belgium ,when we can make it here?…..Edward heath,arch Europhile said ‘manufacturing is for lame ducks” aka shipbuilding,cars Industry etc..

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

No disagreement there. If you can make an economic policy that lets you compete with South Korea on shipbuilding, the US on computing, China on electronics etc. you should absolutely do so. But would it not be better to do the policy shift first, and then get our of the EU later when (if) it proves that they are holding you back? One would have to say that you did not manage back in the fifties and sixties (when you had a better starting position) and that a number of other countries have tried without much success.

Peter Scott
PS
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

[1] ‘Getting out of the EU later’ would be off the cards. By that time (2025 at the latest very likely) everything will be decided by ‘majority’ vote by the heads of government, or even simply by the Commission. Click – the prison door is locked.
[2] Over the period 1950-2000 the UK did rather better, all told, economically, than the EEC/EC/EU states. The reasons why the British economy looked particularly parlous in the 1960s and ’70s were (i) no goernment had ever grasped the nettle of the abuse of Trade Union power by the Trade Union barons, who were (too many of them) in office simply for the joy of bullying everyone (especially their members), and lording it over the country with industrial blackmail.
They were negative, not forward-looking: saboteurs more often than men seeking a fine future for their industries.
Mrs Thatcher tamed them, and that piece of life-saving discipline has yet to be undertaken in dysfunctional economies like those of France, Greece, Italy….
(ii) Our population’s move out of the countryside and rural employments occurred in the 19th century. Most European states did this transfer only after 1950.
So they had a windfall surge of economic activity at a time when we did not.
This was a one-off event, not the shape of things to come.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

See Professor Alan Sked, Uk had a 7.4% rise in GDP1973- even when under shadow of miners’ Strike Heath took us in Common market illegally in January 1973, with NO referendum.. Some tories like powell ,Bell ,martenn protested as did Benn,heffer, Shore,Castle Labour..

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No …Most PMs have Not cared about Cheap Imported Labour from EU,or Africa Tory,Lib-dem position or Where things are Manufactured labour,or Green position

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Negotiators for the EU will carry more weight than negotiators for the UK alone. But if those negotiators are arguing for objectives that are not in the interests of the UK or its people, that doesn’t benefit us.
UK exceptionalism (island nation, common law, economy based on services, …) means that this pertains more often than not. It’s in our interest to have a seat at the table (which the UK would certainly have, in the way that a Denmark or Czechia might not) and argue for our own position.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Quentin Vole

You are to the EU as Denmark is to you. How certain are you of that seat?

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

We had that predicament in the second half of the 16th century. France or Spain (with her empire) could apparently have gobbled us up.
Admittedly we had a political genius for national leader in England at that period – Elizabeth I – and today we have a parliament of corrupt self-serving dunces.
Nevertheless if I were a betting man I would not count out the genius of the English people to throw up a scenario that dodges Brussels, Washington or Beijing rule.
After all, in the early part of this new century it seemed as if we were going to be concreted into the ever-developing EU for keeps; just like victims of the mafia being drowned in a lake or river.
Instead UKIP grew and bit the ankles off Tory Party support. Frantically the then PM at last gave us the referendum he had ducked and writhed and lied to avoid.
When the Political Class staged their coup d’etat with Treason May, as PM, pretending to offer us Brexit but actually serfdom satrapy in perpetuo to the EU, the Brexit Party came along and gave the Tories their worst share of the national vote in any election since 1678, when they were founded. (Labour hardly did better, with their worst result since 1910, not long after THEY were founded.) Treason got the axe, not Brexit.
When the Credit Crunch produced millions of job losses, first 3 million and eventually 5 million Britons reacted by setting up their own one- and two-person businesses, and made a success of them.
Even after all these decades of travelling, culturally, downhill at speed, there is still life in the old British dog yet!

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Within the EU corridors, British diplomats have long had a good reputation – well-prepared, pragmatic, savvy people, bringing home the bacon. One small-country bureaucrat I know will sorely miss the clever useful people from DEFRA. That is all to win back, now. I can only wish you luck, but you may yet come to say that “all your pomp of yesterday is one with Niniveh and Tyre”.

James Newman
James Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The corridors that count these days are in Geneva, where many of the UN agencies that set global standards are based.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Being a small independent speedboat is always better

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

When countries or their economies interact, they have to agree on terms – and the stronger party will be able to set most of the terms. Jersey or Denmark can be smaller and faster than the UK, but they need to adapt to their stronger partners if they want to play. Britain seems to consider itself so powerful and important that they can get other countries to deal with Britain on British terms. The EU, US, China and India might disagree, though.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Too many experts are unable to escape their own prejudices

And there you have it, in a nutshell.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

“Stephens makes no visible effort to understand the reasons the Brexiteers wanted to leave, or why 17.4 million voters backed them.”
There is a talk, available on Youtube, in which Niall Ferguson explains why voting Brexit is a bad idea. His arguments are presented in a manner that is cool, calm and persuasive. I was unmoved however, because he was answering questions that I had not asked. To his credit, he later produced a follow up talk in which (Without prompting by me!) he accepts that he had made that fundamental mistake.
Perhaps Stephens can take time off to write a follow up book, in which he explains why so many of us were unimpressed with his first.

Last edited 3 years ago by Terry Needham
John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago

Ah, Gavin Esler, he has a talent for storytelling to support a position. Countless times I’ve heard him say how he grew up in a council estate in Clydebank, almost the lad from the wrong side of the tracks made good. However, it appears the period of “growing up” was limited to several months as an infant, early in his childhood his business owner father moved the family to a leafy suburb of Edinburgh. Almost all of his school education was in a highly selective private school. From private school, to university, to BBC, reads like the norm for the liberal media elite, hardly the path of a kid growing up in a council estate in West Central Scotland.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

it’s more than a little disappointing to see a leading political journalist show so little interest in the fundamentals of the biggest political event of his lifetime.
This seems to be a growing trend among political journalists, who seem far more political than journalist. These people fancy themselves as part of the elected club that they are supposed to cover, not as the club’s watchdogs.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Yes, as I mentioned in a previous post, they have become courtiers.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago

In the seventies I voted to join the EU.
On the 80’s and 90’s having experienced BBC coverage of EU debates with such intellectual giants as those which populated the EU Parliament I came to the conclusion it was there to rubber stamp the decisions of the commission and having seen its Common Fishing Policy which at best was state sanctioned resource mismanagement on a massive scale.
I worked on a number of Multi National Engineering Programes which effectively were ways for UK industry to loose its Manufacturing Base to Europe at the behest of foolish UK Politicians who saw no value in the UK retaining IPR and wished to gift it in exchange for Political kudos in the Offices of Brussels.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

Brexit is what happens when people get up and vote.
Usually, the ‘educated’ political classes discuss what they think is best and then try to sell the idea to the ‘educated’ non-political classes. If everybody agrees then there will not be a problem because the plebs won’t vote. It all goes wrong when the plebs vote.
In the coming elections in Wales and Scotland, the plebs won’t vote. So the politicians (whichever) will win again.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

If everybody agrees then there will not be a problem because the plebs won’t vote. It all goes wrong when the plebs vote.

This is the exact reason I turned against the EU. Democracy is problematic to them.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Who cares to read these books anyway, we’re out and that’s all that matters? Onwards and upwards .

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I don’t suppose anyone outside of their own families and a few sympathetic media types will buy or read them. I won’t even read them when they’re remaindered. One constantly wonders why publishers publish so many books that nobody wants to read. The irony is that all these loss making books are only made possible by the massive success of books by people like Jordan Peterson and Jeremy Clarkson, two people that people like would haughtily disdain.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It is good of people like James to read and review them so we don’t have to waste any of our time and money on them.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago

I think that there are things I’d very much like to know about the sorry events which occurred after 23/06/16, but it may take many more years before a worthwhile book comes, and meanwhile, history keeps on happening..

Last edited 3 years ago by Colin Elliott
Alan Hall
AH
Alan Hall
3 years ago

“… the amateurism and arrogance of David Cameron is nicely captured …”. For all his faults, Cameron is the only leader who had the courage to hold a referendum on an issue that was blatantly important to the people and to the sovereignty of the UK. If only the weak leaders in the EU could have the same courage (yes I mean courage).

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hall

Some EU countries held referenda on some of the treaties. When they returned the “wrong” answer they were ignored and eventually the idea of asking the people was seen as the wrong thing to do in the first place.
Cameron only promised a referendum because it was the only way to hold his party together AND he thought he would win it. Whilst he was right to resign when he lost, the way he did it and then engineered a remainer in as his replacement showed the true character of the despicable man.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

True I do believe he thought Remain was a shoe-in and therefore not politically threatening to him – but even so, the fact a referendum was called was a step many others, including Major and Blair/Brown, refused to countenance at all, so for that alone he is a hero.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Not a hero but a self interested, arrogant coward who knew he would not last long in charge of his own government if he did not do something to abdicate taking personal responsibility for resolving our problems with the EU.
The Eurocrats saw him as a very silly boy who should have seen from all the other referenda held by other member states that they don’t solve anything – you are still trapped and powerless, whichever way it goes. Hence despite his grovelling and pleading to the Frau, he got nothing but the proof the eurosceptics needed that even a big net contributor outside of the Franco-German nexus has no real influence. The hero was Boris with his get it done and not blinking on no deal. It is a shame the deal was so badly put together by May or it might have been better than no deal. If only we had a reincarnation of Maggie – she would have handbagged them into submission.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hall

Surely Cameron only promised the Referendum to see off Farage and only kept his promise because he became absolutely certain he would win it – When he realised he might lose he launched Project Fear which backfired spectacularly, Obama’s back of the ‘queue’ being the loudest individual backfire – But Project Fear gave the 100% remain establishment excellent experience to truly terrify the nation into Lockdown and Masks and virtually any equally pointless humiliation.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

What many people fail to see is that the UK, though forever characterised as the only pebble in the shoe of the European Project’s otherwise seamless journey to the sunlit uplands of European integration, was always the convenient fall guy for other like-minded circumspect member states.

The truth is it was much easier for some members to openly parade their ‘pro-European’ credentials whilst muttering under their own breaths their deep reservations about it with the far larger UK in it.

With it now gone, it’s a different story.

The Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, and others like the Netherlands didn’t need to look like the big party poopers back then but, as the recent rancorous covid bailout discussions proved, it’s put up or shut time for these somewhat more reticent, Eurosceptic wallflowers as the UK’s departure seems to have reinvigorated the Project’s visionaries.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Harris
Lydia R
LR
Lydia R
3 years ago

All of these people, however, appear to support Scots or Irish nationalism to the hilt.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

They want to trap an ‘independent’ Scotland and Ireland in their imperial web.
The nationalists for their part are struggling with might and main to become a county borough of the new big bad incompetent European Empire.
This self-evident reflection never seems to occur to them.

Martin Adams
MA
Martin Adams
3 years ago

That sounded familiar to me. It sounded like …. me!

And me!

Ailsa Roddie
Ailsa Roddie
3 years ago

Brexit seems to have been really painful to true believers in “progress” and “the end of history”. Just wait until they see what comes next!

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Ailsa Roddie

I cannot quite decide whether you are looking forward to what comes next, or not.

Ailsa Roddie
Ailsa Roddie
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I’m very much not but I accept that the tectonic-like forces of geopolitics are well beyond my control. I hope that Britain may have positioned itself well enough to weather coming storms adequately. It remains to be seen. At the same time I plan to improve my vegetable growing skills.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Ailsa Roddie

To be on the safe side, you might want to learn Italian as well.

Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago

Meanwhile the Chinese are busy buying up Greek and Italian debt under the noses of the EU. They have bought the big ports in Greece and now have a foothold.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

At least the Chinese leadership is broadly competent, which is far more than can be said for the EU’s leadership.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Lydia R
Lydia R
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

If they hadn’t forced Greece into penury, the Chinese wouldn’t have got a look in.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Lydia R

The Chinese have been playing the long game for the past 3 decades- and succeeding- because it cleverly uses the West’s own blind spots against us. Much as I hate it I have to admire it.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Gavin Essler was Typical biased BBC host of Newsnight and Doublethink helping ”Change uK” which didn’t want to Change EU just British Democracy..The BBC intake for last 35 years has been Pro-globalist,Pro-EU..Even influenced by a Secret Bank Loan in 2006 by European central Bank of £600million, not covered in Any newspaper or media why, ?BBC admitted it got ”EU funds for regional programmes” in 2006 Just didn’t say how many Euros they received… 1) The reason for Northern Ireland riots is the Shambolic sellout by Thereason May of Border in Irish Sea.The ONLY relevant border is 1922 International Treaty, 2) BBC like Judiciary &Police has been politicized since 1997 ,when they should be Neutral

Mike Boosh
MB
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

I do wonder, if Remain had won, how many of the Remainer Ultras who think of themselves as ‘rebels’ would have instead become Leaver ultras, railing against the docile voters who failed to rise up against the capitalist EU, the establishment and the MSM. There’s definitely a substantial group of Remainers who seem to object to anything the mainstream wants, regardless of what it actually is and would swap sides in a heartbeat. Given the EUs farcical handling of vaccines, you can bet they’d be blaming British voters for lacking the courage to vote Leave and blaming excess deaths on the sheep who were too stupid to vote the right way.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago

Yes, yes and yes – The abandoned remain celebrations and unopened champagne by the likes of Alistair and Sadiq so certain of their victory but left at the alter like bitter Miss Havishams – The proof of their nature in the following years of trying to overturn the peoples victory so justifies any relishing of their surprised dissatisfaction.

Boff Doff
Boff Doff
3 years ago

“Englishness” disappeared in the early 18th Century and reappeared only after we British (England section) realised the Celts thought of us as “The Hated English”
Membership of the EU (previously EC, previously EEC) allowed the other home nations to fondly imagine a new Big Brother to take over from us as the smaller nations’ protector. We wish them well.
Separately: it was Johnson, not the Conservative Party, who threw NI to the wolves.

David Boulding
DB
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Boff Doff

It was May and Remainers who threw NI to the wolves

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Boff Doff

I am Welsh, born, educated ,worked all my life here. in my younger days i had a Welsh nationalistic leaning, now i realise just how mad it would be for my economically tiny country to sever links with England.. I dont "hate" the English, my friends dont “hate” the English (well perhaps those from Surraay) … but we revel in the differences! Our current Fuhrer, Mark Dripford, is a rabid Welsh nationalist in a thin veil, who has tried his utmost to dangerously create a border. a border that even Offa understood was more symbolic than actual and more likely a Customs Border to control trade and enrich Offa than anything else!
I voted Leave but only because I believed in the ability and strength of the Union to endure, and my certainty that the people of Wales would never vote for independence, although always wary that the politicians in the Bay would continue to grow their power without daring to refer back to Welsh Voters. The majority of my countrymen would gratefully see the Wallies in the Bay caste adrift and the re- establishment of a new of a modern Welsh Office that would place economic development ahead of issues like the Welsh Language that obsess the Taffia in Cardiff. I look forward to the Welsh Government elections in May, and pray Welsh Labour gets a kick up its arse .. another red wall to come crashing down.
ps... In Wales we still cannot have beer in a pub garden... I suspect that Dripford would introduce permanent prohibition if he could ! He has even lectured us little Welsh folk not to go sneaking over Offa
s d**e for a pint and putting our fellow countrymen at risk by bringing back an English disease, even though there is no rule or law to stop us!
Apologies if I drifted off the point…

Last edited 3 years ago by hugh bennett
Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago
Reply to  Boff Doff

Have you ever wondered why the ‘Celtic’ nations thought of the ‘English’ as hated? If you cannot see all sides of this history then you are sadly a blinkered inhabitant of Britain.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Because ‘they’ nearly always won?

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago

Are you suggesting the English waged war on the Celtic nations then?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Yes, the historical record is clear enough is it not?
All in all, good practice, indeed a ‘warm up’ for more serious stuff with France, Spain, Germany and even India.

For Celts read losers/victims, tough but true as the Chinese would say.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
3 years ago

You do make me laugh. I find your posts very amusing. They cheer me up no end.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

Yep. Have an upvote with my compliments.

Last edited 3 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Peter Mott
PM
Peter Mott
3 years ago

Tombs is reaching too far when he tries to frame the Supreme Court and Parliament as illegitimate institutions with no standing in the vast process of Brexit.

The Supreme Court, it was approached by Gina Miller who tried to get the judges to rule on intensely controversial and purely political matters. She should not have been able to get anyway near the court. It ruled against Boris’s prorogation of Parliament which I think was a mistake beyond its jurisdiction and, hopefully, laws will be passed to prevent such interference again. Also Lady Hale was too old, she should have been retired.
Parliament “took back control” and chaos followed as the legislature attempted to perform the executive’s role. It was, to me, an object lesson in why the division of function is maintained. Again the Cameron-Clegg Fixed Term Parliament Act needs to be amended to a simple majority or simply repealed.
So the “framing” seems to me in fact an appropriate one – these institutions nearly failed because they tried to execute what was not their business.

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

Brexit isn’t over. It will be years before we know whether cutting our ties with the single market will be a disaster – with shortages pushing prices through the roof, or a success, with British producers taking up the slack and creating British jobs.
in the short term we are paying a heavy price in wasted lives to unemployment and bankruptcies. In the long term we can only hope that replacing European bureaucracy with British bureaucracy will be a good move.

Mike Boosh
MB
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Given the economic vandalism that covid / lockdown has caused, you’d be hard pressed to attribute any unemployment or bankruptcies to Brexit. Shutting down the economy for a year will eclipse any effect due to leaving the EU. Also, given the rate at which vaccinations in the UK are outstripping those in EU, we should be able to reopen earlier than if wed stayed in, so if you’re looking purely at economic terms, the impact of leaving is pretty minimal.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

There is a third alternative to ‘shortages pushing prices through the roof, or a success, with British producers taking up the slack and creating British jobs’.
It wasn’t made clear to us in 1972-75, but a major objective of the EEC/EU was to compel UK consumers and businesses to ‘buy EU’, and the change took place over decades, but a third alternative is once again to buy from the world.
As an island, trading across oceans compares better with trading overland than it does for the continent.
The main problem with which we have ended up after fierce rearguard action by our ruling classes is continuing entanglement with the EU, which it has demonstrated it will use ruthlessly, not only for its own benefit, but for our disadvantage.
Replacing EU bureaucracy with British Bureaucracy is a very good move; EU bureaucracy is the result of other countries’ interests, corporate lobbying, imposition of continental ways on common law ways, and because of sheer size. British bureaucracy can more easily and more quickly be changed in response British voters’ interests.

Jim le Messurier
Jim le Messurier
3 years ago

You were doing quite well until …‘, even if he does sometimes lapse into trite exceptionalism. (Apparently Britain is unique in Europe in its ties to the world beyond the continent and its bigger sense of “abroad” than others. This might surprise the former colonial trading powers such as the French, Dutch and Portuguese.)’
Err, no. Britain is unique in Europe in it’s ties to the world beyond the continent. It’s called the British Commonwealth. Ever heard of it?

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

Nobody really likes Davos Man, do they?

John Montgomery
John Montgomery
3 years ago

England voted for Brexit and for Boris. Then we have the so called unionist party breaking up the UK with NI still in the EU. Not that I am annoyed at this. It is a great advert for Scottish independence. Thank you England

Mark Walker
Mark Walker
2 years ago

The stark contrast between the centralising Napoleonic Code and evolving Common Law from Magna Carta derived from a Sovereign People meant that the 40 year attempt to join England & Wales to the European Project was doomed from the start. Remainers led by MSM, BBC and Liberal Elites focused on short term economics, hence missing the historical context. Maybe rational Leavers and Remainers will place Brexit in this context in a decade or two?

Peter Branagan
PB
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

Kirkup, what a smarmy, condescending article – what you’d expect from a conceited, overconfident 1st year undergrad. from some self-entitled public school.
We all wait with bated breath for his magnum opus containing his pearls of wisdom on the long term implications of Brexit.

Hopefully our reviews of Mr Kirkup’s opus when, if, it emerges will be a bit less smarmy and a bit less condescending.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

So no one understands why people decided to vote for Brexit? I can sympathise with that. If James Kirkup does understand, it would be great if he could tell us about it.

Richard Lord
RL
Richard Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I understand completely. The EU is an empire destined to fail. An unelected hierarchy with more presidents than you can shake a stick at, a neutered EU parliament, nation states unwilling to give up control and a currency that has driven countries into the ground. The inability of the EU to make decisions and organise during the pandemic is a perfect example of their structural fallibility. Regardless of the short / medium term consequences I was always going to vote leave – and would do so again in a heartbeat.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

“Regardless of the short / medium term consequences I was always going to vote leave”

Can I translate that as ‘We may be poorer, we may be weaker, but we will be *free* – and forty years from now we will see that it was the better choice’? Now that is actually a point of view that deserves respect. If Vote Leave had campaigned on that – instead of pretending that they could have their cake and eat it – it would even have been worth helping to make the best of the result. Do you think you could have won without the lies, though?

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The leave campaign was shoddy, of course. But project fear was shoddy as well. I respect the views of the folks who wanted to stay. I just wish they would respect mine.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

Well, if you can give me a realistic estimate of what you think will happen to Britain outside the EU, and why that will be a good thing, I will give you a respectful hearing. I hope you do, actually, that might lead to a civilised discussion.

Meanwile, since I have yet to hear a convincing rational argument for leaving, I think the real reason has to be emotional. Nothing wrong with that actually. I do not like the EU much either – lumbering, artificial, over-centralising, without popular legitimacy – it is just that all the realistic alternatives I can see are worse. If you think that getting shot of the EU is worth the likely price, I have no quarrel with that. I just have a profound lack of respect for people who choose not to face up to the consequences of their own decisions and take refuge in fantasy.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Terry Needham
PR
Terry Needham
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“without popular legitimacy – it is just that all the realistic alternatives I can see are worse”
You have answered your own question.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The argument for leaving as far as I am concerned is simply that the EU was from the outset a scheme to create a European state. The Euro was a political project, designed by people who knew it would be problematical and who reasoned, rightly, that the only solutions would be ‘more Europe’. The Lisbon Treaty was in all but name the constitution that some nation states had rejected. The direction of travel is clear. I wanted to remain a citizen of a nation state. None of the serious forecasters suggested that, outside the EU, we would face economic Armageddon. At least now we aren’t on the hook for a big contribution to the EU recovery fund.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

OK. I am with you that far. The superstate project is real enough, it is worth avoiding, and Britain is not going to sink into destitution by staying out.

Can we also agree about the cost? Outside the EU Britain will still depend a lot on its nearest neighbour, biggest trading partner, and most politically similar power block. The EU. By staying out (and pissing off its neighbours) Britain is likely to be poorer and less influential than it would otherwise have been. Britain will also lose its ability to influence developments in the EU, which means that integration is likely to happen faster, and the superstate is more likely to come about. If the continent does indeed coalesce into a single state (something, incidentally, that Britain has worked for centuries to avoid) you might end up as a minor nation on the periphery of a bigger power, like Canada or Mexico to the US. If you accept that scenario is at least plausible, and still think it is better than staying in and putting up with the harmonisation I can only respect your choice, even if I disagree.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Outside the EU,we Make our own trade deals, We are Still in WHO Ifor good or ill) have Our own WTO vote (Not depending on EU to stitch deals to suit France&Germany) on G7,UN and Most commonwealth Countries will welcome us back.The EU Is NOT UK biggest Trading Partner, India, USA are ..Pacific rim is important…1973-2019 44/46 years UK in Red to EU…this will improve our balance of Payments,despite SARS2 ,
See February Exports to EU

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

This line about economic assessments, which I have heard so often, demanding a checklist of the benefits of Brexit vs the downsides, is completely futile. Why should what one person considers ‘realistic answers’ be ‘realistic’ for everyone? We cannot make a mathematical proof of Brexit anymore than you can predict what will be the 72498728478241251245th fractional digit of pi until you get there, so it is down to the judgements of individuals. And in this we are all equal – we all have the vote. As in, each one of us carefully heard all the experts, and made up our minds. It’s exactly the same with the vaccine enthusiasts vs the vaccine refuseniks – lacking technical knowledge themselves, everyone is choosing to decide on placing different weights on the words of different experts. I’m assuming you are not planning to go to Germany and ask each person why they refused the AZ vaccine as many there are doing, any more than you plan to ask people across the UK why they chose to take the AZ shot, as a fair assessment of both sides of the argument would demand.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

With Brexit and vaccination the uncertainties are rather high, but it is still perfectly possible to make at least some estimate of which outcomes are more plausible and which ones are less so, and it is useful to try to narrow that down. Science – even economics – is not democratic; the earth does not become flat no matter how many people say it is. When it comes to deciding, democracy is back. If you think the upside chances of Brexit or refusing vaccination outweigh the downside risks, that is yours to choose. But if you have to distort the facts in order to justify your decision that suggests to me that there is a weakness somewhere.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

We can agree on that, I’m all for everyone making all facts including all nuances available to everyone, for them to make their own judgements. Many debates though are not concensual by nature, and require a binary decision. The question is, if you feel the side opposite you in a debate are not acting in good faith, are you then still obliged to play fair on your side?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

That is a tough question. Ideally you ought to play fair, in the interest of keeping to a debate instead of a war. But with lots of things, statues, cancel culture, feminism etc. I do feel a strong urge say “Right, you want war, I’ll give you war”

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

A couple of bits of accepted data: The population of the EU makes up about 7% of the global population. In most years the EU’s share of global GDP reduces.
A logical hypothesis: Improving trade and relations with the 93% outside the EU will more than counterbalance losses in trade and relations with the 7%.
Another logical hypothesis: By believing in ourselves and pulling together we will achieve far more than we will by being divided by pointless arguments (eg can a woman be a woman without a cervix? – who cares!) and self doubt (we can’t run our own lives and need an unelected elite to do it for us).
A belief: The people of the UK have shown in the past that they can pull together against the odds and achieve what they set out to (we can and should be proud of our past, whilst accepting some of what we did is no longer acceptable today); the people of UK today and in the future can still do the same, if they believe in themselves and stand together.

Last edited 3 years ago by Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

There are far fewer facts than people think there are. This is true in science. Newton’s laws of motion only hold true in certain circumstances. They needed to be redefined by Einstein and Hawking took them further. One day someone will find and correct the flaws in Hawking. Physics has more reliable laws and theories than Chemistry, which has more than Biology which has far more than psychology, sociology and economics, which are at best educated guess work, at worst biased and deliberately manipulated as a means to someone’s ends.
The simple fact is nobody can see the future; even the weather forecast is someones opinion based on analysis of current measurable parameters. The worst lies from the project fear campaign were the biased projections produced by the treasury into how much worse off we would be over a 10 year period. Given that projections of economic growth over 1 year need to be constantly revised as the year progresses, expecting to get a reliable comparative long term projection between scenarios that have so many uncontrollable variables is quite simply folly.
People vote (or don’t vote – 27.8% of those eligible to vote did not vote in the referendum) based on their beliefs, experience and circumstance.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Science is about probaility, not certainty. Economics may be a lot less precise than physics, but it can still deliver some probabilities worth considering.

But who cares – never mind the likely consequences of your actions, because the future is unknowable anyway. Trust your destiny, go with what you believe, and if you believe it strongly enough it will happen. Right? I can see where it would make the decision process a lot easier – but I have to say that it did not work well for Mussoiini when he tried it.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Science is about turning hypothesis into reliable, usable theory through rigorous controlled experimentation, which is subjected to peer review. If done well, it provides useful answers within confidence intervals. However many experiments cannot be replicated and many seemingly sound theories end up being discredited and ultimately disproven. Whilst there are ways to minimise bias, it can never be eliminated.
Properly conducted science gives us the best chance of understanding the real world as it really is. It is the only way, but its limitations need to be recognised. However once subjected to political interference, it is useless as it will only ever give the answers the politicians want to hear.
When it comes to predicting future outcomes from complex systems, science is little more than educated guesswork. Still potentially better than uneducated guesswork, however if you genuinely “follow the science” you are guaranteed to have missed the opportunity.
Economics is not a science at all, as there is no rigorous control. You want to know before you vote whether you will be better or worse off leaving or remaining. Life is not all about money, but let’s make the question a purely financial one. The best and most honest answers you could get is here is a figure derived by this biased group of fallible (everyone is) individuals who have used this imperfect data (it all is) and these flawed analysis techniques (they all are) to assess the potential relative position of an average family (whatever one of those is) and here are a whole range of other figures derived by other groups using other data and techniques. Would that help you decide? There would be no way to prove the relative difference 10 years on because you can’t pop over to the parallel universe where the opposite decision was made.
So as my son wisely said when he voted leave – leaving is a risk but life is about taking risks.
Life is also what you make it – you can make it better if you try or you can sit back and accept what it delivers.
In all the debate before and after, I never heard a single remainer argue credibly that we should stay because the EU is a well run, efficient institution which does a good job looking after all the people of its member states and does good in the world. It was all fear of the unknown if we left, founded on a lack of belief in the British peoples’ ability to run their own affairs in their own best interest.

Last edited 3 years ago by Adrian Smith
Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I’d say that science works a little better than that, even in uncertain situations. The basic logic is the same for physics and economics: Bayes theorem, which tells us how to incorporate new evidence. In complex systems with limited data the probabilities you get are spread over a wider range of possibilities, and the conclusions depend more on your initial assumptions. But if you consider various reasonable assumptions, you can still get some numbers for what is plausible, possible, and very unlikely. Scientists (and economists) do have a tendency to exaggerate how certain they are, to be sure. In fact the COVID saga suggests to me that scientists are *not* the best people to take decisions when things are very uncertain, even if you need them to provide the data.

As for Brexit I think it is fairly safe to say that leaving, in and of itself, will make the country as a whole poorer, in lost trade and extra administration cost, and weaker, in terms of less influence on its neighbours. By how much is hard to say precisely, but there will be a cost. There could be gains, but they are much harder to predict, since nobody can really say what they will be or how they will be achieved. Or why they could not have been achived from within the EU. As your son says it is a risk, but you can put some kind of figures on it.

The EU is certainly an ungainly beast – but at my guess it is the best you can do if you want to get 27 very different countries to cooperate. The relevant question is whether things would be better run or do more good – or even better for just Britain – if you had all 27 countries trying to get the better of each other and do each other down. Personally I doubt it, but on that point we are unlikely to agree.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Dont be obtuse,Paying Half A Trillion pounds since january 1973, Into EU coffers is Not having your Cake,or even Our Fish &eating it…

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
Richard Lord
Richard Lord
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

And remain didn’t lie? Project fear, getting Obama to chip in, the monstrous amount of public money spent by Cameron trying to convince us to vote remain. I’d like to think that a lot of people saw through and ignored the lies from both sides, as I did.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

I’d say they lied less. Brexit *is* a risk, and *will* have a cost – even if it was and is hard to say exactly how big.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Sorry, that doesn’t cut it. That’s an explanation of why you voted to leave. It doesn’t explain why 17.4 million did or why 16.1 million didn’t. It doesn’t explain why the vote was geographically split, educationally split, or demographically split.
The inability of the EU to make decisions over the pandemic is irrelevant to the question as it wasn’t a factor in the referendum.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

The vote was split in every direction because no one was measuring ‘independent-minded people’ against ‘genteel groupthinkers’. Next question.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

Absolutely wonderful – shame I can only give one upvote

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

Powerful comment.

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

“educationally split”
The vote was never “educationally split”. That’s a lie. This is because older people didn’t go to university to study basket weaving etc. Every man and his dog has a useless degree now. That doesn’t make them “educated”.
Young people – the Remainer demographic – are always more idealistic and it takes a few years of actual experience of paying taxes and seeing those taxes wasted before they wake up to reality to see what the EU is….
We’ve had a glimpse of reality of what the EU is in the last few months. Von der Leyen excelling at ruining the EU’s credibility just as in the past she presided over the German military and left German defenceless, infantry armed literally with broomsticks.
The announcement of a border in Ireland but neglecting even to consult the Irish… Delicious!
Then there’s those raids on a British/Sweidish company with threats of stealing the IP.
It’s all just as we guessed that the EU is a nascent anti-democratic and dictatorial socialist state like the USSR in the making.
Thanks heavens we’re out

Last Jacobin
LJ
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

The percentage of people with a degree voting Remain was over 70% for all age groups. Both Age and Education appear to be a factor – when you look at both together.
Interesting look at the numbers here: https://anthonybmasters.medium.com/age-education-and-the-eu-referendum-ca7525be173d
Other interesting observations are that Leave vote was stronger among those with authoritarian social values, defined as ‘libertarians’ desire individuality and diversity, and ‘authoritarians’ prize order and tradition.’
It’s only one analysis but I don’t think the issue is as simple as it seems.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

When I voted I went to my allocated polling station, had my name crossed off the list so they knew I had voted bur not which way. Which way I voted was indicated by a cross in a box. There was no additional form where I confirmed my age, sex, colour or the fact that I have 2 masters degrees.
My son, who has a foundation degree, voted leave too and only knew one of his contemporaries from his course who voted remain. He said he knew leaving was a risk, but life is about taking risks.
My in laws, neither of whom have degrees voted one each way. Both hold traditional WASP type views, which would have them labelled as racist by the wokarati, with the one who voted remain the more outspoken in those views.
There are some meaningful correlations between constituencies and how they voted in past elections and then in the 2019 election. Beyond that all the rest is speculation built on surveys of dubious quality, biased by the outcome they want to achieve. Ie let’s prove leave voters were old, thick and racist. Sorry it is BS and only the sore losers want to cling to it.

Last edited 3 years ago by Adrian Smith
hugh bennett
hugh bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

well said

Toby Josh
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

It was well said, but he must be pretty thick if he had to do his Masters twice.