On Twitter: @JamesFirth and @s_r_o_c (post feed)

Got a tip? tip@sroc.eu

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The compromise option that would make everyone but UKIP happier.. And the EU would be elated

After 4 torrid days I woke up today happier about the whole Brexit situation.

The widely forecast current political and impending economic crisis in the UK was dismissed by a despicable band of most unlikely bedfellows as, if not part of Project Fear, a necessary part of the pain of decoupling from the EU.

Until this morning I had widely discounted the EEA option (as advocated by the Adam Smith Institute, amongst others) as untenable.

The Leavers wouldn't accept retaining nearly all EU law and borderless travel, because sovereignty and immigration was a key plank of their campaign.

And the EU certainly won't be budging on much during exit negotiations, I'm pretty sure of that. Why should they? EU will have a combined GDP of about 7 times the UK (with the UK outside the EU).

We become a mouse negotiating with a lion over shared grazing rights.

Parliamentarians lined up yesterday to stress they will respect the will of the people in this referendum... And that's when it struck me.

What is the will of the 51.9% who voted for Brexit? What are they expecting?

Many might be expecting new hospitals opening all over the country with a £350m-a-week boost to the NHS coffers. Reading the news of xenophobic 'out now' messages others were certainly expecting Poles, Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans to be sent home.

Only an extreme twist to the current political saga playing out in Westminster would lead to any of these expectations being met, and I'm hopeful and fairly confident the racists won't win the day here.

The mandate from the referendum is for the question asked on the paper: should we leave the EU?

And whilst some would claim taking full EEA membership is splitting hairs, others could rightly claim that a voter, having adequately researched the options, had concluded that should we leave the EU then EEA membership would be a good bet.

Others would point out that 48.1% of the population voted for full EU membership; so the mandate, whilst clear in terms of the question asked, was far from clear when it comes to how far we should distance ourselves from the EU.

No one happy

As a Remainer EEA membership would be a crying shame.  We would throw away a seat at the top table of EU politics for a delusion that the EU somehow stole our sovereignty.

This is madness. It is the language of the oppressed, yet the EU didn't enslave us as a nation. It invited us in to their club and said we could leave at any time - the door was always open.

All the talk of Independence Day is quite frankly utter bullshit.

Leavers won't be happy as the avalanche of European Law won't cease - it will be a condition of access to the EEA market. And interference of the European courts will shift from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to the EFTA Court, which to quote Wikipedia:
The EFTA Court has essentially been modeled on the template of the European Court of Justice
And UKIP won't be happy as they will have effectively funded Boris Johnson's coup against David Cameron and have little if anything to show for their efforts.

Life is a compromise

But faced with the breakup of the United Kingdom I'd bed even Eurosceptic Tories, having been dangled by the knackers over the chasm of social upheaval and economic ruin, would get in line behind such a compromise.

Above all it gives Government and Parliament an 'out'. It allows them to meet their commitment to respect the will of the people, stabilise the markets and start to calm the disquiet in parts of the UK voting strongly to Remain.

The people voted to leave the EU and we will leave the EU.

Anyone arguing this is a fudge would be met with the same response the Leavers have been dishing out to those arguing for a second referendum: You can't change the rules after the ballot'.

The ballot was clear - the mandate was to leave the European Union - which we will now almost certainly do. Because to undo the result by a Parliamentary procedure would risk bloodshed, and to go to the polls with a second referendum would be too risky.

Ever close union

And the silver lining here, for Europe, and for the UK in some respects, is that the Eurozone countries have been pushing for a closer union-within-the-union for a long time.

Some common fiscal policy would make sense for countries sharing a currency. Pooled armed forces is less contentious amongst central European countries as it is within the UK.

Ironically it has been the UK blocking such moves until now. We didn't want to be a second-tier member of the EU but we didn't want ever closer union.

I'll bet the UK out of the EU solves more problems for the European Union that they're currently letting on. Which is possibly why EU officials seem over-zealous for us to push the button.

We must stand firm till we get the deal we want, because they want us out as much as we want a good trading package.

Which is why I'm now confident we'll get an acceptable deal to join the EEA. Nothing too fancy, just enough to make everyone (bar the racists)... Happier.

And, as this ever-closer union becomes a reality for those left in the EU, even the UKIPpers may start to look on the bright side.


Monday, 27 June 2016

Labour's struggle with Corbyn's mandate is a reminder of the limits on any democratic process

Jeremy Corbyn was elected with a massive mandate in a full vote of Labour members last year.

Yet Labour members last Autumn could only pass a qualified verdict on who should lead their party - qualified because Corbyn was only one of four names on the ballot paper.

They voted for who they believed to be the best option on the paper.

Furthermore a vote is based on the facts known at the time. Yet it's not until someone takes up the reigns that we find out how well they can drive; that we find out the full facts about their ability to lead.

If it should transpire, as seems to be the case, that Corbyn is not functioning well as a leader then this new information is a material change in circumstances that may warrant a further leadership election.

The claim that to oust Jeremy would be an undemocratic move by Labour MPs is blinkered, especially if new candidates not on the paper last August step forwards.

Extending this to the situation regarding a possible second EU referendum, there is no basis to claim any material change since last Thursday.

The electorate was warned about most of what we're seeing now as the fallout continues, and the fact a majority of voters chose to dismiss these warnings is a simple failure of the Remain team to articulate how deeply the EU relationship is woven into our economy, our society and the stability of the union of the United Kingdom.

Remain ran a weak campaign, and lost.

However...  Should Team Brexit now struggle to implement what they promised - a prosperous UK outside the EU - then that surely is a valid democratic reason to return to the population with a second referendum.

It's not a "best of three"; this scenario, where the Leave team fail to deliver on their promises, would represent a failure of leadership.

It would also represent a material change in outlook for the country because, by then, it wouldn't be Project Fear saying this can't be done; it would be their own campaign team admitting that some of the promises made were not actually achievable.

Whilst consequences of Brexit were easy for some to foresee it was a highly subjective assessment that 51.9% of the country didn't share at the time.

Quite simply the consequences were impossible to forecast with accuracy, but once they are firmly established it would be entirely democratic at this point to go back to the people and ask them, "are you sure this is what you want?"


Saturday, 25 June 2016

Finding the way forwards will mean understanding why we're here

Well, what can I say. I wasn't 100% supportive of the EU but that doesn't mean I wasn't anything other than 100% behind our membership and 0% behind Brexit, and nothing has changed in my thinking.

A rational analysis of the alternatives clearly showed, and still does show, the EU is our best option forwards. Not a half-baked "Norway Model" or anything else but full membership.

I see the choice is between 2 imperfect alternatives but that doesn't mean I'm in any way less upset about the result. I think we've set ourselves on a ridiculous path to economic hardship and social upheaval and I'm both devastated and deeply worried about our country's future.

I fear the wounds opened by the first referendum will be hard to close with a second, a petition for which must surely reach 3-6 million signatures by the start of the week... I signed it anyway - and I don't want these to be famous last words - but it can't hurt to try.

The fundamental mistake of Cameron and Osborne was to polarise opinion around a problem rather than a solution - particularly at a time when there are a lot of people in the country who don't feel particularly well off, people who feel their social mobility level is positively in reverse.

Amongst this large dissatisfied underbelly those unwilling to pin the blame on any passing immigrant are nevertheless willing to believe vastly inflated sums of money we'd "save" from leaving the EU would be spent on fixing their and their country's problems.

When people who currently have very little are offered a choice to remain as your are or try something different they are going to vote for change.

Yet, having said all this, maybe a second referendum now we're all facing the abyss is actually the way forwards.

Few amongst the electorate can see into the future with enough clarity to realise many of the claims of Project Fear were well founded. Many wanted to push the button out of frustration, to see what would happen.

The shock of the last 36 hours represents a material change in the outlook and things are clearer now for many I'm sure.

If a second referendum managed to pull above 60% of the population behind Remain it might just be enough to close the box, but to get there I'm convinced there'll need to be something material on offer for the large number of people trapped in a society where the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer and social mobility has been taken back five decades.

And that would mean politicians in the UK and the EU waking up to something they have until now been reluctant to acknowledge.

As a little glimmer, one thing is different this time.

The powerful corporate institutions of the country who have the ear of Government and Parliament are overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership.

The City of London is facing a second shockwave now questions have been raised about its privileged access to European markets for financial services have been raised and a corporate merger between the London Stock Exchange and its German counterpart has been thrown into doubt by the upcoming Brexit.

Oh, and the UK has had its credit rating cut.

If the Government and Parliament get it in time, and the EU is willing, they might just find an 11th hour deal that will bring the country back behind Remain with a second referendum.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

FWIW a final plea, vote to stay..

We face a simple choice tomorrow. A choice between restoring some certainty in the financial markets and in our global position as the 5th largest economy, or putting all this in jeopardy to enter a period of several year's worth of uncertainty on the whim of a ragtag band lead largely by right wing self-interested small-minded deceivers who have somehow managed to convince millions of ordinary people that their agenda will make them better off DESPITE our current position that is culturally and financially richer than so many countries worldwide.

Vote and vote wisely, my friends.


PS if you're a liberal, leftist or centrist and still think it's worth voting to leave, this is my thinking.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Lexit.. WTF were you thinking?

As many who knows me will attest, this post comes from someone who has seriously flirted with voting Leave; and so the title of this post, the somewhat aggressive question, is aimed squarely at myself.

I'm desperately keen to see EU reform, to see tighter limits on its overreach and more focus in its aims.

But this desperation is the source of my pain. It has woven a tight logical knot within my mind.

A vote to remain endorses the status quo, but I'm not happy with the status quo; I don't want to give the EU a vote of confidence.

In fact I'd go further in saying I will entertain the idea that Britain could do better outside the EU, but there are nevertheless some obstacles to be navigated on that path..

But I digress. Suffice to say I've read and agree with several centrist, liberal and leftist cases for Brexit, but there is no box marked:
□ Brexit, but I'm not fearful of migrants or maintaining close ties with my neighbours and I don't want the children of French, Polish, Spanish and Lithuanian parents in my son's class facing the fear of repatriation in 2 year's time 
We have a binary choice, leading to the seemingly never-ending question in my mind: which of the two options is the least-worst option?

That is until I started to examine what this referendum actually is.

Because in everything but the question itself this referendum isn't a simple choice between stay or go.

The referendum has no legal standing and, as such, it is a test of public opinion.

Parliament and Government have made assurances they will respect the will of the people, so my point above may seem like an irrelevant trivial detail.

However this one miscroscopic technicality gives rise to a line of thinking that unloops my circular reasoning. The result of the referendum isn't itself an outcome; it forms a mandate for the winning camp to implement the vision they have outlined during their campaign.

It is therefore a choice between the 2 visions outlined during the campaign and the only campaign agenda I can possibly endorse is that of Remain.

Voting for a liberal case for leaving the EU means putting my cross in the same box as UKIP, BNP and Britain First supporters. It means inadvertently supporting a campaign lead by people I don't agree with fought on an isolationist agenda bordering on outright racism propped up on a bed of triumphant patriotism.

I tried to lift myself above the gutter of the campaign - I mean, it's not as if either camp has refrained from barging the line between spin and outright lie.

But the only rational way to vote in this divisive split is along tribal lines - because the tribe that wins will use the outcome as a mandate to implement the vision they fought on.

And so the vote this Thursday is not the right shoe with which to kick the EU up the backside and destabilise what we have achieved in the UK and in Europe out of fear of where it will eventually lead us.

I am heartened by one thing alone from the last few weeks: after this bruising contest no British politician is under any illusion that Europe is without problems.

In some sense the British people have already spoken.