Thursday, December 06, 2018

Thoughts from Hoylake, England: 6.12.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here. Garish but informative.

Matters English
  • I'm rather unhappy about being in a (non-religious) country where every single ad on TV is aimed at making you celebrate a religious festival by spending more money than you have. Or bet money that you'll probably need to borrow from a 'same-day' lender at some outrageous interest rate.
  • I'm even more unhappy that (Spanish owned) O2 has not provided a mobile phone service since early this morning. But at least I have wifi in my mother's flat, so can post this.
Spain
Brexit
  • Brexit latest news: The EU is prepared to offer May lifeline by extending Article 50. Well, there's a huge surprise.
  • And then, of course, the EU Court of Justice will confirm on Tuesday - the day before the British parliament decides whether or not the deal on the table is acceptable - that the UK is free to withdraw its application to leave. What a coincidence.
  • See the excellent article below on where the UK now is or isn't. Extracts: Which camp is most useless, most amateurish, most delusional? Is it the Brexiteers, with their romanticised vision of Westminster democracy, or the Remainers who believe that the greatest vote in British history can be willed away? Is it those who thought that Brexit would be straightforward, because unlike in France, Ireland or the Netherlands, which held and ignored European referenda, Britain’s institutions and democracy were superior? Or those who believe that stopping Brexit will be easy, that Parliament can return to its old, discredited ways, defying its bosses, the voters, with no consequences? Both sides have been terrifyingly naïve. Brexiteers thought they understood the rules: you win the referendum, the government leaves the EU. They didn’t realize the game was rigged. But as their moment of glory nears, Remainers have fallen into an equally lethal trap. They too are proving naïve, and have failed to comprehend the unstoppable, revolutionary forces they have unleashed. Just as there is no button one could press to leave the EU, there is no magic wand that can undo Brexit. The vote on 23 June 2016 cannot be un-run; the fact that the UK public has never wanted to join a European state cannot be imagined away. . . . Brexiteers spent two and half years miscalculating. Now it’s the Remainers’ turn. They don’t have a plan to stop Brexit, merely one to delay it. This will radicalise the Brexiteers, who will end their pathetic retreat and finally fight back. If you are tired of Brexit, I have bad news: this is a saga with no ending.
  • I continue to believe the EU will come to regret its undoubted success at bringing the UK to this point. 
  • Meanwhile . . . Especially for Brits resident in Spain.
France
  • So M Macron is backpedalling on tax hikes, increasing the chances France will continue to breach the fundamental EU law that deficits should not exceed 3% of GDP. So, will it ever be punished for this? Don't be silly.
Spanish
© [David] Colin Davies

THE ARTICLE

Remainers think they can cancel Brexit, but it can only be delayed: Allistair Heath

The looming MPs’ coup against Article 50 will unleash unstoppable political realignment

Which camp is most useless, most amateurish, most delusional? Is it the Brexiteers, with their romanticised vision of Westminster democracy, or the Remainers who believe that the greatest vote in British history can be willed away? Is it those who thought that Brexit would be straightforward, because unlike in France, Ireland or the Netherlands, which held and ignored European referenda, Britain’s institutions and democracy were superior?

Or those who believe that stopping Brexit will be easy, that Parliament can return to its old, discredited ways, defying its bosses, the voters, with no consequences?

Both sides have been terrifyingly naïve. Brexiteers thought they understood the rules: you win the referendum, the government leaves the EU. They didn’t realize the game was rigged.

The anthropological rituals and language of democracy still exist, and have even been extended in recent years, but they are now largely a charade to camouflage a massive power grab by the bureaucracy.

At some point 10 or 20 years ago, perhaps during the heyday of the New Labour Quangocracy, the British establishment underwent a profound shift. It now sees itself as above the rest, as a cadre of uber-meritocratic technocrat or lawyer-kings who, for the general good, need to take all the real decisions and to socially engineer the country. They are not the public’s servants; they serve a greater purpose.

In this new and utterly outrageous constitutional arrangement, voters are granted a modicum of autonomy: they can choose between shades of grey, but aren’t allowed to opt for red or blue. The machine is broken: there is no lever called Brexit to pull – or at least that is what the “Brexit is undeliverable” crowd believes.

But as their moment of glory nears, Remainers have fallen into an equally lethal trap. They too are proving naïve, and have failed to comprehend the unstoppable, revolutionary forces they have unleashed.

Just as there is no button one could press to leave the EU, there is no magic wand that can undo Brexit. The vote on 23 June 2016 cannot be un-run; the fact that the UK public has never wanted to join a European state cannot be imagined away.

Far from making the whole affair disappear, the looming parliamentary coup against Brexit is turning the referendum into one of the defining moments of the 21st century. A toxic narrative will establish itself: Iraq, the expenses scandal, the financial crisis, and now the Brexit betrayal (not all of this sequence is fair, but that’s not the point). It will be “us versus them”.

How can this possibly end well? To those who want to permanently stop Article 50 or trap us in the customs union and single market, I ask: what is your plan? How will you handle the backlash, the rage, the demagogues, the break-up of Tories and Labour? Our culture is becoming Italian or French but this is no Europhile triumph: our representative democracy is broken. The Commons no longer represents us commoners. The grotesque scaffoldings around Big Ben are eerily symbolic of the schism between MPs and voters.

The question of how closely entangled the UK should be with the continent is one that will never be resolved, of course: as David Starkey wrote brilliantly in this newspaper last week, Henry VIII’s first Brexit also involved breaking with the European judicial order and was initially blocked by the establishment. One can’t entirely escape geography.

More prosaically, a real Brexit over the next few months would not prevent 25 per cent of the population from trying to rejoin the EU. Yet the Remainers don’t grasp that their plan to halt Brexit would be even less final. It’s too late: the Brexit genie is out of the bottle.

Seeking to put it back in will precipitate a realignment of politics – as happened after the repeal of the Corn Laws, with the death of the Liberals and the rise of Labour in the early 20th century, and in the 1980s with centre-Left third party politics. At least one major party (the Tories or a new Vote Leave-style grouping) would back Brexit. The question of leaving the EU would haunt every election. The Remainers can delay Brexit, but they can’t uninvent the idea. The Overton window has shifted forever.

All of this helps to explain two phenomena. Not all Brexiteers outside Parliament are despairing; many are still surprisingly optimistic. They used to be a small bunch of eccentrics; now they are an army, with massive public support. Imagine a second referendum – but after a general election with a decent Tory majority with a pro-Brexit PM.

Meanwhile, Brexiteer MPs will vote against Mrs May’s deal, even though the rebellion by Dominic Grieve and his comrades threatens to trigger an even softer non-Brexit if it is rejected.

There are five reasons why the Anti-May deal rebels are refusing to be cowed by the threat of no Brexit. First, the Withdrawal Treaty itself is a humiliating trap. The Attorney General’s legal advice is devastating. Second, the DUP loathes this deal more than it fears Jeremy Corbyn.

Third, even if her deal were to allow a 50 per cent chance of a semi-real Brexit in six or seven years’ time, the struggle with our broken political machinery will be too tough and the odds too poor. Fourth, an alternative Brexit remains theoretically possible: either a renegotiated version with an exit clause, or a managed No-Deal.

Last but not least, even if all of this fails as a result of Brussels overplaying its hand and a cross-party Remainer alliance, and this Brexit battle is lost, the war wouldn’t be over, which is ultimately why the Brexiteer true-believers will vote the PM’s plan down.

For them, a possible Plan C runs like this: the Tories elect a charismatic pro-Brexit leader who could beat Corbyn. The Conservatives hobble along as a temporary coalition with a semi-detached rump of Remainers until an early election when a proper majority would allow Eurosceptics to rule alone, and finally leave.

There are other scenarios, of course, and massive risks. But the point is that Brexiteers spent two and half years miscalculating. Now it’s the Remainers’ turn. They don’t have a plan to stop Brexit, merely one to delay it. This will radicalise the Brexiteers, who will end their pathetic retreat and finally fight back. If you are tired of Brexit, I have bad news: this is a saga with no ending.

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