Brexit: Ten Years On (2026)

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It has now been a full decade since Britain voted 53 to 47 to leave the European Union.

Opinion polls now indicate that over 75% now regard this as a bad decision with many of the architects of Brexit such as the former Prime Minister Lord Cameron expressing regret at the move. It is unlikely Cameron’s seven undistinguished years in Downing Street will be remembered for much else. Like Thatcher before him, his premiership both began and ended with severe economic recession.

The pound began dropping before the celebrations had even ended. Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne were able to briefly use the cover of the mounting economic crisis to cling to power into the new year. He was assisted in this by the ructions in the Labour Party with Labour MPs using the excuse of the referendum defeat as an excuse to blame and overthrow their leader Jeremy Corbyn.

By 2017, unemployment was over two million (it has never been as low since) and both the facts that the country had a huge deficit and the Tories had a tiny majority suddenly became hugely relevant. As under John Major, the economy suffered both severe recession and Tory civil war. The Queen expressed concern. Cameron fell. For all his sub-Churchillian rhetoric, his gaffe-prone successor Boris Johnson proved no more able to cope with the slump than Cameron had. Nor could Chancellor Michael Gove.

Ten years on, unemployment is again back to 1980s levels, permanently over three million. Immigration has increased dramatically, the illusion that we could control our own borders on our own dramatically exposed as a pipe dream. UKIP, against expectation, remains strong although less strong than the resurgent pro-European  Liberal Democrats.  Any democratic gains achieved by Brexit seem to have passed most people by, unnoticed.

The newspapers, fierce cheerleaders for Brexit at the time now condemn it as an “historic mistake”.

The Prime Minister, encouraged by the support of former US president Hillary Clinton, is thought to be contemplating a new bid to apply for EU membership as soon as soon as the coronation is over.

It is not known if this will be successful.

 

 

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15 reasons why Brexit sucks

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1: Nobody on either side seems to have a clue what will happen if we leave the EU. I don’t know about you, but before making any big decisions e.g. buying a car or moving house,  I prefer to know what the consequences will be. If not, I don’t know I don’t do it.

2: Nearly everyone on both sides seems to be expecting the economy to take a serious hit if we leave. “Man up! We sometimes have recessions anyway,” seems to be the Brexit camp’s attitude. Is this patriotic? Forcing an unnecessary recession on the UK? No, thank you!

3: Many Brexit people complain about all the unfair laws imposed on us by Brussels. Ask them to name which ones they mean: they can never think of any.

4: If the EU is so awful, how come we’re the fifth largest economy in the world?

5: Wanting to leave the EU is not necessarily racist at all, far from it. And yet everyone who is racist does happen to want to leave. Which frankly puts me off a bit.

6: Michael Gove says leaving would free up millions of pounds to spend on the NHS. a) This isn’t true and b) he would never dream of spending it on that anyway.

7: There will still be a global migrant crisis. How would us leaving the EU help?

8: If the Brexit camp has a case, why are they frequently so dishonest? Remember that supposedly apocalyptic speech in which Cameron warned of a world war if we left? (Daily Mail: “Now Cameron warns Brexit would lead to war and genocide: PM’s extraordinary intervention”) That’s what the Brexit camp claimed he said anyway. In reality, he said nothing of the sort. In truth, it was actually quite dull. http://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2016/05/camerons-speech-on-brexit-full-text.html

9: I hate the word “Brexit”. It just sounds awful. Surely I’m not the only one? If you support Brexit don’t be surprised if there is soon a Brecession and your house gets Brepossessed.

10: All our allies around the world (not just those in the EU) want us to stay. Why? Are they secretly evil and plotting our downfall? Or is it just possible they have some inkling of what’s best for both us and the world? Putin wants us to leave.

11: Leaving would be very hard to reverse. But if we don’t leave now, we can always leave at any point in the future without even having another referendum.

12: Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, George Galloway, Rupert Murdoch, the Daily Telegraph, Mail, Express and Nigel Farage all want us to leave.

13: The anti-EU battle bus has a totally bogus figure on its side about how much the EU supposedly costs us. Everyone knows it’s a lie, the Office of Statistics have asked them to take it off as its nonsense yet they refuse to remove it. If they have any sort of genuine argument, why be so dishonest about this point?

14: Travelling to or through Europe will become less easy and more expensive if we leave the EU.

15: European unity has preserved the peace and seen the UK grow stronger and more patriotic. Shutting ourselves off and ignoring the rest of the world is hardly an obvious way to maintain our power and influence. Ignore the Brexiters. Voting Remain is the most patriotic thing you can do.

The Tories: A poem

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We’re the Tories; hear us sing!

Blame Labour for everything.

The last thing we’d do is confess,

That we’re to blame for this whole mess!

Ten years past, our chief complaint,

Was that the markets faced constraint,

We’d have made the markets stronger,

The recession harsher, deeper, longer.

Never mind the crash elsewhere,

It’s easier to blame Brown and Blair.

Our public services are now a mess,

We’re iffy about the NHS,

Shall we “reorganise” it again? Well, we may,

But we won’t say a thing about that before May,

The press is safe from real reform,

While Rupert’s Sun keeps us all warm,

“Vote Tory” stories every day and

Silly pictures of Ed Miliband.

Frankly, we’ll do what it takes to win,

Even invite old UKIP in,

We’ll attack the scroungers, play the race card,

Kick the weakest good and hard,

Our leader Cameron’s liberal underneath,

A bit like Major or Ted Heath,

But like them he’s weak, you’ll see what we mean,

He’ll even sacrifice the European dream.

So if you don’t care about the national health,

Care only really about yourself.

We really are the party for you!

(Though we’ve not won since 1992).

Don’t get us wrong: we love the UK,

We just wish all the people would go away.

Why I hate referenda

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Hurrah for David Cameron! He has promised an In-Out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union if he wins the next General Election.

Hurrah? Well, no. Not really. For one thing, Cameron has bad form on this. He famously made a “cast-iron” pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when he was Opposition leader back in 2007. Writing in the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper, Cameron said:

“The final reason we must have a vote is trust. Gordon Brown talks about “new” politics.  But there’s nothing “new” about breaking your promises to the British public. It’s classic Labour. And it is the cancer that is eating away at trust in politics.  Small wonder that so many people don’t believe a word politicians ever say if they break their promises so casually.  If you really want to signal you’re a break from the past, Prime Minister, do the right thing – give the people the referendum you promised.

“Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.  No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.”

Of course, this time it was Cameron who eroded the public trust. As some of you may have noticed, Mr Cameron IS now PM and er…no referendum has ever happened. Cameron broke his promise. He may well do so again.

But perhaps this would be a good thing? Referenda are bad. And here’s why:

1.       Referenda are never held for anything other than party political reasons.

David Cameron knows it is not in our national interest to leave the EU. He is doing it for two reasons: to shore up his own support and to undermine the (exaggerated) threat presented by the UKIP lunatic fringe. It has worked, but don’t think for a moment his motives on this are honourable. Likewise, the first national UK referendum which was held on Common Market membership in 1975 was intended purely to keep the Labour Party from splitting, while the 2010 one on electoral reform was held purely to keep the Lib Dem grouping in the Coalition happy.

2.       In referenda, nobody ever votes on the issues at stake.

Perhaps because we are more familiar with General Elections, voters nearly always end up voting for some party political reason. Last time, it was to piss off the unpopular Nick Clegg. In 1975, Britain voted overwhelmingly to stay in the Common Market (as it was then known) largely because a) the press were overwhelming pro-EC back then (yes, really!) b) because they were told it would be impossible for the UK to pull out anyway and c) to anger the unpopular anti-EC Labour Government. Margaret Thatcher, the new Tory leader, was then a keen supporter of the European ideal.

3.       Don’t we elect MPs to make decisions on our behalf?

If the Tories want to pull out, they should go into the next General Election saying so! Labour did this in 1983 (and subsequently suffered their biggest post-war defeat). Why bother having a referendum as well?

4.       No one knows when to call a referendum or not.

No one has a clue. There are no set rules on it. There have only ever been two national referenda in British history in 1975 and 2011. Generally, they are usually called for when the public already clearly want the change which is being proposed. In which case, why not just pass the law anyway if it’s good? If there isn’t a clear majority supporting the motion (as in the case of electoral reform), everyone whinges and says it’s a waste of time and money.

Here is a list of developments since 1945, none of which the public had a direct vote on. Some of us might feel they would like to have had the chance to vote on a few of these things:

Joining the UN.

Joining NATO.

The end of National Service.

The onset of Commonwealth immigration.

The abolition of hanging.

The legalisation of abortion.

The legalisation of homosexuality.

The closure of grammar schools/introduction of comprehensive education.

The stationing of Cruise missiles in the UK.

The reduction in trade union power.

The Single European Act/Maastricht/Amsterdam/Maastricht etc.

The abolition of fox hunting.

The decision to invade Iraq.

5.       Not every issue is easily resolvable in a simple Yes/No debate.

6.       Referenda rarely satisfy anyone.

I may well take part in the referendum “Yes” campaign assuming it ever happens. I did the same for the last one on electoral reform (which ended in heavy defeat). This isn’t hypocrisy. There is little point arguing against a referendum which is already happening.

But the 2011 referendum was not a happy experience. I can accept that most people didn’t want electoral reform and never would: the margin of defeat was heavy. But the whole affair was highly unsatisfactory for both sides. The victors hardly seemed hugely triumphant arguing that the whole exercise had been a pointless and expensive distraction. There were also lots of silly false rumours about expensive counting machines being needed if the Yes vote won (the reason why was never explained). The No team also enjoyed saying how expensive the changes would be, typically including the cost of the actual referendum in their calculations. The referendum, of course, was already happening and would cost the same regardless of the outcome.

The Scots/Welsh referenda on self government in the late Nineties were more justified although annoyed some English who wanted a say on the issue too. The EC vote in the Seventies left people dissatisfied too.

Both Clement Attlee (who I liked) and Lady Thatcher (who I didn’t) called referenda “the device of demagogues and dictators”. This is perhaps a bit strong in this case. But even if David Cameron is telling the truth this time, I’m not excited.

Why I love UKIP

Nigel Farage smilingDo you feel the main problem with the government is that it’s too wishy washy? Are you a little bit racist but not quite enough to join the BNP?  Do you have little interest in politics beyond a vague notion that leaving the European Union would somehow benefit the UK?

If so, then UKIP is the party for you!

It’s easy to mock. But it’s hard not to feel the latest UKIP “surge” would be a tad more convincing if: a) they had actually won a single parliamentary seat. Even the SDP won some by elections you know!

b) If they actually had any ideas beyond withdrawing from the EU and

c) the most likely outcome of any rise in their support was not to split the Tory vote and help Labour.

So…er, why am I even attacking them? Good point!

Hurrah for UKIP and Nigel Farage!

VOTE UKIP:  FOR A LABOUR GOVERNMENT TOMORROW!