Friday, 5 May 2017

Brexiter (il)logic and where it could lead us

One of the most dangerous things about Brexiters is the constant re-invention of their claims. So each time one claim is falsified, it is used as ‘evidence’ that they were right after all. Equally, they use completely contradictory claims to ‘prove’ that they are right.

There are numerous examples of this. Sometimes, although now decreasingly, they say that the EU is bound to give the UK a good deal because we are (or were, before the referendum) the world’s fifth largest economy. But at the same time they criticise the EU for not having trade deals with the world’s largest economies. Sometimes they say that a deal can be done quickly. But at the same time they criticise the EU for being slow and lumbering in decision making. Sometimes they accuse the EU of riding roughshod over nation states. But when the Wallonian regional parliament seemed to be scuppering the EU-Canada trade deal they said this proved that the EU couldn’t act decisively.

Or take another set of issues. Prior to the referendum, whenever the situation of British people living in the EU was raised, they blithely said that nothing would change; now that the situation of those people is in doubt they say it proves the EU is heartless. On freedom of movement of British people generally they said that leaving the EU would make no difference as people had moved to other countries long before the EU existed. So freedom of movement rules don’t matter. Except that when talking about immigration, those same rules mean we can’t control our borders.

The overall paradigm is, first, a series of claims about how easy and/or beneficial Brexit will be, so we should leave. Then as the claims meet reality they are not abandoned, but used to claim that the EU is punishing Britain, so we should leave. Intellectually, this is completely moribund. No amount of evidence or rational argument can touch it. In fact, I think that one reason why the Remain campaign failed in the referendum was that it tried to counter the Brexiters’ claims in that way, and did not have any kind of emotionally or rhetorically powerful narrative of its own. And that, in turn, was because even most remain campaigners approached the EU in purely transactional terms, and had done for many years.

That is neither here nor there now: the referendum was lost. What is very much still relevant is that the same hermetically-sealed, evidence-proof and argument-proof logic now drives government policy. And it drives it in one direction only: towards a more and more calamitous form of Brexit. Each time reality demolishes one of their claims (the most ubiquitous, perhaps, and the most absurd, certainly, being that German car makers would ensure a good deal in double quick time) the Brexiters do not acknowledge that they were wrong, but move on to a harder position. So, first, we can somehow be in the single market but with no strings attached. That’s proved wrong. So it will be a trade deal. Now that that is looking increasingly difficult they move to saying that no deal would be perfectly fine. And, in any case, it’s all the EU’s fault and ‘just goes to prove’ that we are right to leave.

There’s no way out of this kind of thinking. It is completely circular and unfalsifiable. There is no imaginable event that could shake it. Suppose the UK gets a great deal? It proves we were right to leave! Suppose we don’t? It proves we were right to leave! The same cannot be said of remainers’ logic. No doubt we are all prone to confirmation bias in the evidence we notice and put value on. But it is very easy to imagine an event that could shake remainers’ logic. If there were, indeed, a great deal for the UK – one that was as good as or even better than being in the EU - then that would be it. Remain would be completely discredited.

So once you buy into Brexiter logic, there’s no going back and there’s also only one way of going forward. Harder and harder. Nothing can be said, nothing can happen that will make a difference. And that Brexiter logic has now – so far as can be seen, although it is still just possible this will change – captured government right up to and including Theresa May.

That is incredibly dangerous because it is beginning to look as if the government is prepared to walk out of the EU with no deal; and even that it might be prepared to renege on its existing commitments. If that happened, it would make Britain virtually a pariah state, untrusted by other countries and unable to make agreements with them in the future. Even more dangerous, any ‘no deal’ scenario would be likely to provoke a nationalist frenzy in which internal ‘fifth columnists’ would be identified and hunted down as traitors. Who can doubt that we have a press prepared to endorse that? We can already see this possibility in some of the rhetoric of Brexiters, and it is inherent in, precisely, a logic that is impervious to reason. In those circumstances, opposition can, indeed, only be understood as sabotage.

Until recently, this would have seemed an entirely unimaginable scenario, but so too would that which we are in. It’s less than a year ago that many Brexiters were advocating single market membership, and it’s only a few months since a no deal exit was unthinkable whereas now it is being openly championed by many leading Brexiters. In the meantime, despite their victory, they seem to be as angry as ever they were, and that anger is directed at remainers – partly for lacking the true faith but also, I suspect, from a deep but unacknowledged fear that they have made a terrible mistake. As they push harder and harder towards a mirage, with worse and worse consequences, they will get angrier and angrier with those of us who remind them of the insanity of what they are doing.

Unless something very unexpected happens in the forthcoming election, Theresa May will be in a commanding position. It may be, as I’ve argued before but feel less confident of now, that she uses it to rein in the Brexit ultras. At the least, it must be hoped that she resists the intolerance of dissent that their logic takes us to. If not, the infamous referendum claims about the dangers of Turkey will come true, albeit in reverse: Britain will follow down the path that Erdogan is taking that country.

33 comments:

  1. Remainer logic? How about peace in Europe, environmental protection, human rights, food standards, collaboration and friendship, worker rights prosperity and jobs, and yes, freedom of movement? It seems more of a British thing to see the EU in terms of what we put in (in money terms) and what we get out (money terms), rather than particularly Leave or Remain thinking. But the EU goes much deeper than this. And in Britain we are going to be losing all that.

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  2. I suspect the only way there could be an amelioration in the way Brexiteers think, is if there is some sort of direct personal consequence. Basically, they need to feel Brexit in their pocket before they reevaluate whether is was the right decision.

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  3. Interesting analysis. I have been struck recently by the thought that the majority of the voting public do not read blogs like this, or even a half-decent newspaper like the Guardian, and are easily gulled by Mrs May's vacuous mantras and transparent electioneering tactics. (I hate to patronize my countrymen, but I don't know how else to put it.) They would no doubt claim, quite rightly, that they are entitled to their opinion - but, as you describe, it arises from a state of victimhood that is impervious to reason. With no effective opposition to vote for, one feels utterly helpless too resist it. This must be how decent people in Germany felt in the 1920s and 30s watching Hitler's rise to power. I suppose those who could just left the country. I know a few who have done that here recently.

    I keep trying to convince myself "it can't happen here". No one really foresaw that May would turn into the monster she seems to be becoming. (Ironically, I'm sure we would have done better with bumbling Boris Johnson as PM; I think he might have kept us in the SM.) Let's hope it is all electioneering and that she returns to sanity once she has her new majority. If not, then I agree we should all be very worried.

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    1. Consider this question could you possibly be wrong? How much research have you carried out on the other side. The Guardian is the just the opposite of the Daily Express - they both have an agenda as does the whole mainstream media. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, as humans we can't help but look for patterns in all things which is why people become so entrenched.

      Mainstream media is finished because the advent of the internet and smartphones means we have all become reporters of the truth - as we see it. People can see the bias and are asking why we need so many tiers of government. Look at all the religions of the world which people blindly follow - all of them in some way twisted. In everyday life you and I and everyone else will in someway manipulate others to get what we want - the people that run the world are the same as you and I.

      The EU plans are long term, to be carried out by stealth, we will never get out this is just a blip. In case you're wondering I voted leave.

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    2. The fact that you believe that everyone manipulates others to get what they want makes me feel only pity for you.

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    3. And how does feeling pity for me make you feel? Good? I happen to have an opinion on this and probably other things that is different to you.

      I believe we have just two drivers in life avoiding pain and gaining pleasure - sometimes we will put ourselves through pain because we feel the pleasure will be greater and vice versa. Whatever your situation if you stop and ask yourself the right questions eventually it will boil down to one or the other pain or pleasure.

      Brexit for me is like this - there is a possibility that I may be worse of financially for some time, people think I'm racist, ill informed etc - pain. But I think my children will be better off if they have more of a say in who controls their future. I give the globalists/bankers a bloody nose - pleasure - far outweighs the pain. I may be just postponing the inevitable but you have to stand up for what you think is right.

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    4. What if the bloody nose is for the ordinary people of this country who will lose their livelihoods? Are you prepared to accept resposibility forthe negative effects of Brexit? You now own repercussions so what would have to happen for you to say you were wrong?

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    5. Negative effects, what ifs - what are you so scared of?. The 2008 crash has been kicked into the long grass no doubt when the $600 trillion dollar and growing derivatives market eventually implodes the banks - you will blame brexit. I'd have said I was wrong if George Osbourne did his emergency budget - but then I thought everyone had been terrified into voting remain! Don't worry it'll be fudged the UK won't get out - then wait till you see how much the UK will have to pay to help bail out the EU.

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    6. Theresa May herself pointed out the dangers of leaving without a deal. I am worried about the economic effects of Brexit. If you are not and you think it will be great then you say i told you so in the future. But you also have to own the consequences if it goes wrong. So far all we've seen is Brexiters trying to shift the blame onto remainers and the EU and I expect this to continue. But as Chris said they are the establishment now. So if there bad economic affects will you admit you were wrong?

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    7. What are the economic effects of Brexit?? Why do you think I would be so petty to say I told you so if things boom!

      According to David Cameron 9 out of 10 economists agree Britain would be worse off economically outside the EU.

      What they didn't tell you was out of the 3,800 they asked, there were just 639 responses — that’s 17% of all the people who were asked. Therefore the message from economists is no one can predict what or when things will happen.

      Do I have to take responsibility for bad economic effects if you decide they are a result of Brexit? There has been a currency war going on for years which could collapse the Euro - it may have happened either way. What are you looking for or hoping to gain?

      No one is right or wrong, you really need to get past this. Everyone wins and everyone loses sometimes - democracy is not perfect but its the best system we have. life will go on one way or the other - think critically for yourself and don't fall into the trap of divide and rule distraction - it's all politics is. Live your life and "enjoy the ride"

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    8. If no one is right or wrong why are you here arguing about it? Why use evidence or reason if none of it matters?

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    9. I was directed here by another site - I read the blog and comments and felt like answering one - is there something wrong with me giving an opinion?

      Why am I arguing? Because common sense and reason at some point must prevail. What happens if there is another referendum and the result goes the opposite way - will people that voted Brexit do the same as some Remainers are now doing? Does this continue eternally expending more useless energy so that all we do is have referendums?

      In my opinion ultimately none of it matters - the use of evidence is to try and help people see there are two sides of the story out there and a lot worse going on in the world than Brexit. Don't you think we should try and get along and stop looking for divisions.

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  4. So annoying, one can't edit the odd typo. And if you delete and re-post, it leaves a blank comment!

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  5. "Remainer logic? How about peace in Europe, environmental protection, human rights, food standards, collaboration and friendship, worker rights prosperity and jobs, and yes, freedom of movement? It seems more of a British thing to see the EU in terms of what we put in (in money terms) and what we get out (money terms), rather than particularly Leave or Remain thinking. But the EU goes much deeper than this. And in Britain we are going to be losing all that."

    Do you seriously think there will be no environmental protection or workers' rights in Britain when we leave the EU?

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    1. "Do you seriously think there will be no environmental protection or workers' rights in Britain when we leave the EU?"

      Do you trust an unfettered right wing cabal to protect the rights of mere workers over their profits when we become the sweatshop of Europe?

      Come out of your fantasy land before you live to regret the consequences.

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    2. All Brexiters shall be issued with a *free unicorn upon entering the *Sunny Brexit Uplands.

      *Terms and conditions apply. The terms are not available but trust that they exist. They have not been published at this time due to those horrid traitorous Remainers who insist on poking holes in the holy Brexit demagoguery. Demanding detail is henceforth a traitorous act and shall be treated accordingly.

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  6. And speaking of B Johnson, he seems to have gone into "purdah" for the duration. I heard somewhere that he's been suppressed so as not to steal May's limelight and dilute her message. If only he'd shown that degree of loyalty and self-sacrifice to Cameron.

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    1. Let's face it, he's probably going to get the chop... When TM wins she won't want to drop David Davis as he's point man on Brexit. But Boris has irritated EU foreign leaders and achieved absolutely nothing. Retiring the buffoon would be a strong signal to the EU that we're getting serious. Here's hoping anyway!

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  7. Well I'm glad its going to be Theresa May negotiating with the EU rather than just about anyone on here. The EU are not a reasonable organisation. they understand only total domination. If they responded well to people being reasonable then David Cameron would have got a decent deal out of them, but instead he just got humiliated.

    The EU are busy laying down the terms of our exit. However, Article 50 states that the terms shall be settled by negotiation, so they are not abiding by the terms of their own constitution. It is this selective dirsregard for the rules, e.g. Germany not applying a Free Market in Services, France intervening to stop free movement of capital, that made people like me think that we had no future in the EU.

    We should just walk out. It is the only thing the EU understands. Then perhaps we might get a sensible negotiation.

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    1. I’m sorry but this is nonsense. The UK had the most advantageous deal imaginable – exempt from Euro, Schengen and much else, and an agreement whereby every single year our budget contribution was the lowest of any country as a %age of GDP. As for the current situation, the EU have laid down their negotiating guidelines. You may not like them, but they were well-trailed before and after the Referendum and follow inexorably form our decision – ours, not theirs – to leave.

      Your idea (and you are by no means the only person saying it) of simply walking out is insane. It would cause catastrophic damage not just to our economy but to many other things, from air travel to nuclear waste disposal, and would render the UK a virtual pariah state, untrusted by the entire world. Having decided, against every warning of the consequences, to leave, to now say as those consequences start coming true that you want to respond by digging the country even deeper into a hole shows the depths of insanity we are sinking into.

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    2. Ahh that old chestnut - none of these advantages would have been kept - the plan is Federalism have you not noticed what we've given away over the years without our consent - Gordon Brown Lisbon treaty ring any bells. Eventually we would lose the pound - even Heseltine admitted in a radio interview "at some point we will have to join the Euro". Dont lose control of your currency big no no. GDP what a wonderful measure of a country's productivity, we became the 5th largest economy because of drugs and prostitution - how did they work that one out certainly shifted our payments up. But then Tony Bliar did a great job giving away our rebate for nothing in return - what a negotiator. Cost us 10 Billion - who is he supporting now?? Oh the EU!

      If the EU is so good they should fast track us out on the best terms possible confident in the knowledge when they go on to such greater glory that we are begging to come back in. Cameron tried and failed with the EU, to continue in the same pattern expecting a different result is stupidity.

      As for being a Pariah I think we would be held up a great example of democracy, more than can be said of Greece or Italy firmly under the EU financial jackboot. As for being untrusted what about Junker here is a man who admits he lies and says the more serious the situation the more importnat to lie. He say all serious debate should be done in private - how long was he leader in Luxembourg, he's never had a proper job how could the EU "democratic system" elect a president no one in the EU wanted.

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    3. Prof - Anonymous says pretty much what I think and by extension millions of others.

      I'd just add a couple of things. If our budget contribution is so negligible how come the financial settlement is #1 on the EU's list of things to discuss? how come in the negotiations they didn't offer to pay this themselves? It can't be both negligible for the UK and non-negligible for the other side. Secondly, the UK is not looking to walk out of any mutually beneficial arrangement such as nuclear waste or air travel. If we are unable to participate in these things because the EU insists they will only co-operate if we pay them tens of billions of euros, accept free movement of their peoples into the UK, and that their court has jurisdiction over ours then that pretty much makes the case for leaving. And as for us being a pariah state, how would being an independent state actively seeking co-operation with other states make us a pariah? are Canada, Australia, Iceland, pariah states?

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    4. Prof - Anonymous says pretty much what I think and by extension millions of others.

      A: No doubt – but it is a mishmash of half-truths, lies and illogic.

      I'd just add a couple of things. If our budget contribution is so negligible how come the financial settlement is #1 on the EU's list of things to discuss? how come in the negotiations they didn't offer to pay this themselves? It can't be both negligible for the UK and non-negligible for the other side.

      A: I didn’t say it was negligible. I said it was the lowest as a percentage of GDP of any member state

      Secondly, the UK is not looking to walk out of any mutually beneficial arrangement such as nuclear waste or air travel. If we are unable to participate in these things because the EU insists they will only co-operate if we pay them tens of billions of euros, accept free movement of their peoples into the UK, and that their court has jurisdiction over ours then that pretty much makes the case for leaving.

      A: But you said you wanted us to “just walk out”. Now you say you want mutually beneficial agreements. That means negotiating. You need to get real.

      And as for us being a pariah state, how would being an independent state actively seeking co-operation with other states make us a pariah? are Canada, Australia, Iceland, pariah states?

      A: What is it with Brexiters? You always twist things. My comment about being a pariah state was what would happen if we walk away reneging on our existing commitments, as you were suggesting. Canada etc have done no such thing. Again, you need to get real.

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    5. Prof the reason we should walk out is because the EU is not negotiating in good faith. As stated above Article 50 states there should be a negotiation. The EU determining the rules of our departure and simply presenting it to us as a fait accompli is not negotiating. We should refuse to accept that as a way forward.

      "Hard Brexit" is not a choice of the UK it is the choice currently being given to us by the EU. Accepting those terms means never having choice or influence again, so we have to refuse to negotiate on those terms.

      Pretty much everyone gets this. Certainly everyone I speak to seems to understand it, and all those ex-Labour voters now saying they are going to "vote for Theresa" understand it. Paying our bar-bill and settling genuine outstanding debts is something everyone will understand and accept, but being done over to the tune of €100 billion is a complete non-starter, so my guess is anything under about €20 billion will be accepted with a bit of complaining but no real anger.

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    6. We chose to leave, and everything that now happens flows from this. Leave kept saying they wanted to take control – this is what it looks like. The EU is stating its negotiating position based on its own interests, not determining the rules of departure. What happens now is a matter of the relative power positions. Whatever the outcome is, it will be bad for the UK, because leaving the EU is a bad policy. The only issue now is just how bad. We can choose to make a bad outcome into a disastrous one by walking away as you and some others suggest. Our choice.

      Hard Brexit, in the meaning of leaving the single market and customs union, is primarily the choice of the UK government in the way it chose to interpret the referendum result. Our choice.

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  8. We can debate the logic - fact check me Chris show me where I've lied above or given a half truth?

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    1. I really don’t know where to start. In brief – that the plan is federalism, that joining the Euro is inevitable and the implication that the EU massaged the GDP figures to increase the UK budgetary contribution are all lies. The rest is just a mish-mash of decontextualized nonsense. But, sorry, I’m not going to rehash the whole EU membership debate with you.

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    2. That's your answer Chris! to just say there all lies and the rest is nonsense? Its quite clear that you don't do any research. You are as bad as those small percentage of racist people who voted Brexit.

      Of course you won't debate the EU membership because you know you can't win, we were taken in illegally by Ted Heath - where was the Gina Miller equivalent back then.

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    3. Yes, that's my answer. Everything you write is indeed lies or nonsense. Including your latest absurdity about the illegality of joining. As for debating, there is really no point in going over the referendum campaign again, however much you want to.

      Anyway, relax - you've won, remember? So just enjoy it. Why should you need me to agree with you that is was a good idea?

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    4. Prof. It isn't true the the plan for federalism is lies. It might not be an agreed position, but it exists. There are differences of opinion in Europe, but the commission is clearly federalist. Juncker and Verhofstadt have been very clear about this. I posted somewhere else about the federalist threat and got the reply that Juncker and Verhofstadt weren't important, and then the negotiations kick off and there Juncker is, front and central. So there we have it. A man with a plan for a federal Europe, and he's doing the negotiations.

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    5. I don't need you to agree with me - but if you believe all that I've said is lies back it up! Refute each of my points with evidence there's not that many - you have a whole blog here of anti brexit one sided arguments.

      Lies and corruption are at the heart of the EU yet you level that at me - I don't care if you agree with me. I stupidly care about trying to get to a long since lost value, the truth. How about some honesty? I can see this is just clickbait.

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    6. @Dipper: Paranoid nonsense. Anyway, it’s irrelevant. We’re leaving – the issue now is what happens next.

      @Anonymous: Sorry, but I’m not going to put up with this silly nonsense. You spout lies, then demand that someone prove to you that they are lies. But there is no evidence that can shake your lies because (as per the post) you are stuck in a hermetically sealed world where every piece of evidence is re-interpreted to ‘prove’ you were right all along. And it is very clear that you care desperately about getting my agreement – that’s why you keep posting, and every time you do so you confirm your desperate need for my approval. Well, tough, you won’t get it. Everyone who knows anything about it knows that Brexit is a national disaster, and people like you who voted for it are responsible for that disaster. Which is exactly why you keep pestering me to reassure you that you were right – because you are terrified about what you have done and because you are terrified of taking responsibility for it.

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  9. Prof. here's some more paranoid nonsense.

    http://time.com/4637352/guy-verhofstadt-theresa-may-brexit-europe/

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