Friday 31 May 2024

Quietly, an election is being held on Brexitism

In last week’s post, I suggested that we would not hear much about Brexit from the two main parties during the campaign, and so far that has been true. As such, there’s not much more that can be said about their silence, although it shouldn’t be forgotten just how remarkable it is. Apart from anything else, the fact that the Tories are not making much of what was their flagship policy in the last election is perhaps the most damning tacit admission of Brexit’s failure there has been.

However, the word ‘tacit’ is a pointer to the fact that viewing this election solely through the prism of the overt silence about Brexit, infuriating as it may be, is to miss much that is of importance. In particular, for all this overt silence, even in this first week we have seen that there is a covert, but real, discussion underway about, if not Brexit itself, then Brexitism.

Stability is Change

At the most general level, that is evident in Labour’s repeated attacks on ‘Tory chaos’ and their slogan that ‘stability is change’. It was mocked by David Frost last week for its ‘Orwellian’ resonances, but he probably did so because he understands all too well what it implies. For it is a reality that the post-2015 Tory governments have been characterized by instability and, in that sense, that a change is needed to create stability. And that instability is absolutely inseparable from Brexit. The churn of five Prime Ministers since the referendum and, with that, endless changes in ministerial office and of policy direction simply wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Boris Johnson might have become PM had Brexit not happened and, had he done so, would probably have ended up resigning amidst scandal, as he did. However, his actual path to office was built on Brexit, and his manner of governing, including during the pandemic, grew out of Brexit. Similarly, it was Brexit which caused the wholesale departure of so many non-Brexiter Tory MPs in 2019, and which led to Cabinet posts being conditional on fealty to Brexit rather than competence (Frost’s own otherwise inexplicable elevation being a good example).

As for Liz Truss, her election to the party leadership was predicated on her out-Brexiting the Brexiters, whilst her rapid downfall showed the consequences of doing so. As I recorded at the time, the mini-budget which precipitated that downfall was, in content and execution, the apotheosis of Brexit, whilst her cultism and fanaticism were the embodiment of Brexitism. Rishi Sunak was supposedly the competent and technocratic alternative to both Johnson and Truss, and sometimes, especially as regards the Windsor Framework, he lived up to that. But in other ways he oscillated between technocracy and populism, and in the end it became clear that this wasn’t just weakness or indecision but, as I put it in a recent post, that “his plasticity is not the shiny cover for some deeper core of belief or purpose, it is just all there is to him”.

That has become even more obvious since, but the fact is that, even if it had a far more substantial and adroit politician at the helm, the current Tory Party is unleadable, and it was made so by Brexit. Again to quote myself (I do so only because, having assembled this Brexit record, I might as well use it), during the leadership election which Truss ended up winning:

“When this strange summer ends, it will not herald the end of the period of political instability any more than the events and crises of the summer are peculiar to the season. This isn’t a holiday that has gone horribly wrong, it’s the latest instalment of a reality there is no taking a break from. That political instability began with the 2016 referendum. Having a new Prime Minister is not going to finish, but is a part of, this post-2016 story. I don’t mean that there were no political problems before, but that since then there has been a particular sort of instability and for particular reasons.”

Decoding the campaign

So when Labour presents the last government as one of instability and chaos, that codes, and no doubt many voters decode it to mean, a critique of what Brexit has done to the Tory Party and to the country. A ‘vote for change’ is, at least to that extent, a vote against those particular consequences of Brexit. It is also what lies behind this week’s endorsement of Labour by 120 business leaders, using the same language of a change from instability and inconsistency.

This reflects not just the damage that Brexit has done to businesses but the way that Brexitism has seen the Tories embrace anti-business stances far removed from their erstwhile status as ‘the party of business’, just as they have forfeited their supposed reputation for supposed economic competence. This in turn has enabled Rachel Reeves to say that Labour is now the “natural party of business” and, notably, she conjoined that with the policy of seeking a closer relationship with the EU. For, limited as that policy may be, it is way beyond what the Tories could deliver given the ferocious opposition to such a rapprochement from the Brexit Ultras.

Likewise with Labour’s insistence, much on display this week, that it will ‘put country first, party second’. That might conceivably carry the implication that Brexit was foisted on the country by Tory attempts to see off UKIP. But if that is too much of a stretch, it at least implies a critique of the ferocious infighting amongst Tory sub-groups, most of which grew out of the search for Brexit purity, have Brexit as the touchstone of faith.

Many members of these factions are actually indistinguishable in their beliefs from UKIP’s descendant, Reform UK, as shown by the ease with which Lee Anderson changed party and, just this week, by departing Tory MP Lucy Allan’s endorsement of the Reform candidate in her constituency. It is the existence and conduct of these factions which makes the Tory Party unleadable, ensuring that any leader it may have must either kow-tow to, or tip-toe around, their sensibilities, in the process rendering any regard for the ‘national interest’ secondary.

At the same time, at least part of what lies behind the now almost robotic Tory insistence that they’ve ‘got a plan’ can be read as an attempt to rebut the accusation of chaos. The way that they (and, to an extent, Labour) incant this mantra presumably means that it appeals to focus groups. To some extent perhaps it always would have done, as it’s not unreasonable for voters to expect politicians to have plans for the country. But it is now so relentlessly regurgitated that it suggests such focus groups are revealing a real desperation for a sense of national direction. As such, it can only reflect a perception, which is in fact accurate, that far from providing such direction, Brexit has set the country adrift, a perception which Sunak is at pains to nullify.

Service without a smile

All this is about ‘high-level’ or general messaging, but the covert discussion of Brexit and Brexitism is also already discernible in ‘nitty-gritty’ campaign issues. The early part of this week was dominated by the Tory proposal to, and Sunak put it in precisely these terms, “bring back national service”.

This isn’t the place to discuss what might be the merits of such a policy, if properly constituted. But what is relevant here is its connections with Brexit. One was very direct, in that the estimated £2.5 billion need to fund it is supposed to come partly from that hardy perennial of ‘cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion’, and partly by winding down the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ which was supposed to replace EU funds and to be central to the post-Brexit ‘levelling up’ strategy. What then of that commitment and that strategy?

That aside, it is a very ‘Brexity’ policy, in being designed to appeal to the kind of ‘I want my country back’ nostalgia associated with Brexit and, more pertinent to the current election, to wavering Reform voters. For all that commentators like Nick Timothy (£) have bemoaned the “hysteria” of those ignoring that the proposal isn’t for universal military conscription, Sunak’s very framing of it as ‘bringing back national service”, as if it was the restoration of the old system, shows that this was its intended resonance.

As such, it was intended to win votes (it’s possible of course, given his record, that Timothy doesn’t understand that election campaigns are intended to win votes), and the votes it is intended to win are those of the demographic that most supported Brexit. But there is a subtle distinction to be drawn between policies aimed at this demographic because of its age per se, most obviously this week’s pension pledge, and have no particular connection with Brexit, and those which are aimed at Brexity voters. The pension pledge is made to older voters because they are older, whilst things like the national service proposal are aimed at voters of potentially any age, albeit that they are more likely to be older.

In particular, just as Brexit invoked nostalgia for a world war that few voters could remember, so does ‘national service’ invoke a memory of something few voters have actually experienced whatever their age. It also invokes what for its target audience seems to be an idealization of the 1950s as a time of supposed social order and cohesion, lurking behind which is, undoubtedly, a hostility to immigration and multi-culturalism. In that sense, too, the national service policy has a Brexit resonance.

Yet this policy also shows the impossibility of trying to satisfy such voters, just as Brexit did. For, in practice, the full-on re-introduction of compulsory military service of the sort those voters hanker for is impossible, and unwanted by military leaders, and what is actually being proposed falls well short of it. It isn’t even a proposal for an immediate policy, but for a Royal Commission which might lead to it. The result was that the announcement was ridiculed by Nigel Farage, and is unlikely to influence the voters it was aimed at, whilst its presentation in terms intended to invoke old-style military conscription will further alienate younger and more liberal-minded voters.


All of this further added to the sense of a Tory campaign which, so far, seems to be inept at the most basic level. The proposal came from nowhere, with the government having, just before the election, dismissed the idea. As a result, even Conservative MPs were caught unaware, and the details of what it meant, whether it would be compulsory (and, if so, how it would be enforced), and of how it would be organized, were clearly being developed on the hoof during the media interviews that followed.

In short, it was a fiasco, which reinforced Labour’s high-level message that Conservatism and chaos are now conjoined, and undermined Sunak’s message of his ability to deliver a plan. In this, it was also consistent with what post-Brexit governance has been like under the Tories: performative announcements with no substance and no coherence. In this particular case, since the Tories don’t anticipate winning, there isn’t even an expectation that the policy ever will be implemented. Perhaps this is why Sunak presented it in the most lacklustre, almost defeated, manner imaginable.

At all events, this episode seems to show that, post-Brexit, the public appetite for such ‘Brexity’ initiatives is quite limited, and that they are liable to incite ridicule or cynicism even from those they are ostensibly aimed at, as the distinctly mixed reaction of Mail readers shows. Even The Conservative Woman, the go-to site for reactionary comment, was scathing in its assessment, albeit that some of the reasoning was even more bizarre than the proposal itself (and the comments below are a veritable feast of derangement). In less reactionary circles, it was simply seen at best as under-developed and at worst as ludicrous.

It is almost certain that there will be similar episodes in the campaign, in the form of various kinds of ‘anti-woke’ policy proposals from Sunak. Another of this week’s topics, the proposed crackdown on “rip-off degrees”, inevitably described by the media as “mickey mouse degrees”, had at least the tang of this. Perhaps the most extreme, and by no means unlikely, possibility is that the Tories will unveil a proposal to leave the ECHR. It obviously remains to be seen what proposals emerge and how they play with voters, and that will tell us much about support for Brexitism. That matters, because central to Brexitism is the idea that the referendum provided not just a majority for leaving the EU, but betokened that there was a ‘silent majority’ for the full gamut of populist Conservatism.

Gove off

There’s another quiet defeat being inflicted on Brexit and Brexitism, exemplified by Michael Gove’s announcement that he will not stand at the election, joining the voluntary exodus of, especially, Tory MPs. Many of them, including Gove, were pro-Brexit and it is worth recalling how Brexiters told us that the great thing about their project was that it would mean that, if the people did not approve of what those making the rules governing them had done, they could vote them out. Of course, some retirements are bound to happen at elections, especially of older MPs. But it is striking that this flood of departing Brexiters are not giving voters the opportunity to express their judgement, still less to hold them accountable for Brexit.

That applies especially to Gove, who at 56 is hardly at the end of his working life, and yet is abandoning a political career during which his support for Brexit was a major feature. For Gove was not just any pro-Brexit MP. He was a co-convenor of Vote Leave, chaired its campaign committee, and played a prominent role in the campaign itself. Most of the comment on his political retirement was valedictory, if not sycophantic, but two pieces, one by John Harris in the Guardian and the other by Ian Dunt on his Striking 13 Substack provided more critical, but also more nuanced, assessments.

Both pointed to the way that Gove’s apparently reasonable manner belied his role in creating a Conservatism that has become ever more extreme and immoral. He was always on hand to give a respectable gloss to the disgraceful, and to defend the indefensible. That was certainly his role in Brexit, and made him in some ways the most dangerous of its leading advocates. Personally, I have always found his oleaginous, faux-polite, faux-intellectual manner grating and unconvincing; his strained urbanity signaling, quite as much as concealing, a spiteful, faintly peculiar, and possibly slightly disturbed personality. However, there is no doubt that, to many, that manner carried the weight of authority, and he repeatedly used that during the referendum campaign.

Although his role in that is now often remembered for his infamous dismissal of experts, I think his greater significance, and greater sin, was to give the impression that he, himself, was possessed of great expertise. Thus, for particular example, with unshakeable self-assurance he pronounced that: “There is a free trade zone stretching from Iceland to Turkey that all European nations have access to, regardless of whether they are in or out of the euro or EU. After we vote to leave we will stay in this zone.” 

It was a line calculated to imply what he and other hard Brexiters subsequently denied, that Brexit did not mean leaving the single market (for what else could the mention of Iceland mean?) and did not preclude having a customs union with the EU (for what else could the mention of Turkey mean?), and as such was an effective foil to many of the remain campaign’s economic warnings. And whereas even those who admired Boris Johnson recognized he was not exactly on top of the details, Gove, the politician who supposedly could master the minutiae of every brief, with his pompous but crisply certain manner, could surely be assumed to know what he was talking about.

This isn’t a minor example of Gove’s Brexit mendacity. The persistent smudging of hard and soft Brexit was a central part of what enabled Vote Leave to win. And the subsequent dismissal of soft Brexit as a betrayal of Brexit was a central reason why, after the referendum, Brexit was not undertaken in a form that might, just about, have been acceptable to a broad swathe of leave and remain voters, and which would certainly have been far less damaging than the Brexit which was actually enacted. Gove played no small part in all of that. As he slinks off the political scene, his place in history as one of the most despicable of the ‘guilty men’ of Brexit is assured.

The coming verdict on Brexitism?

There are many reasons why it would be preferable to have an open and honest discussion of what Brexit has done, and what to do about Brexit. But the fact that it is not happening in that way, at least as yet, does not mean it is not happening at all. As I put in last week’s post, Brexit is lurking in the shadows of this election and, in a way, that is where it belongs. In other words, the way in which Brexit, in the literal sense of leaving the EU, has morphed into a more diffuse Brexitism means that this election can be seen as a judgement on Brexitism even without there being much focus on Brexit itself.

That probably only applies to England, and perhaps to a degree in Wales. The dynamic of the election in Scotland is completely different, being much more about the SNP's problems, and especially the SNP-Labour battle, than about the Tories or Brexitism. Northern Ireland is different again, with Brexit and its consequences likely to play a more overt role in some respects, especially for the unionist parties, but Brexitism and the issues discussed in this post are probably less relevant.

In terms of those issues, a huge defeat for the Tories in England would constitute a clear rejection of Brexitism, depending also on how Reform fare (and there’s already just a hint that Farage may once again do a deal with the Tories, though Sunak has dismissed it). That wouldn’t be the death of Brexitism – because its proponents will inevitably conclude that it happened because their policies were not sufficiently embraced or genuinely advocated – but it would be a significant set-back to it. That would be good in and of itself, and might be the prelude to even better things.


Please note that there will be no post next week.


  1. Assessment of Give spot on.

  2. Excellent analysis. The implication is that the only way back to reality for the Tories is to disavow Brexit. Since that is unlikely for the foreseeable future they should mercifully be out of power for a long time to come.

  3. Thank you for another excellent dissection of the issues and personnel.

    Your mention of 'churn' in paragraph three raises an interesting point. Has anyone done a quantitative analysis of how many incumbents of great offices of state; secretaries of state; ministers; and PPSs each PM has appointed in total, and the respective mean (&/or median) tenure for each?

    Given that previous incumbents have averred that it takes weeks/months to get on top of department briefs, and over a year (or 18 months) to begin to effect any change, given the complexity involved, this would give a clear indication of how so little could have been achieved, even with world class politicians in the roles (which I think it fair to say has not been the case, in general).

    This could be set against the same metrics for administrations that *did* achieve a lot (eg Thatcher & Blair), as objective comparators

    1. Thanks, Kit. The IfG have done quite a bit of work over the years on this and there was a good report in the FT in November 2023 which uses the IfG data but presents it in somewhat the way you propose (though not down to the level of PPSs, and only back to 1997). Unfortunately this interface doesn't allow hyperlinkks but the URL is:

    2. As someone who works in the built environment, I can tell you a core reason why the UK's performance in areas like housing, quality of public space, urban planning, building control, etc, remains such a mess is the constant merry-go-round in Ministers. There have been 16 Housing Ministers since 2010, with an average tenure of c11 months; and 6 Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, with all bar one having been absolutely dreadful - and the one that was vaguely OK was only in the post for a year!

    3. Here's an archive link to a non-paywalled copy of the FT article:

  4. Brian Withington31 May 2024 at 10:59

    Excellent analysis as ever. I recall that Piers Morgan was once quoted making a brazen admission about deliberately courting the billionaire class who were expanding their control of the media. For me Gove resonates at the same frequency, his infamous “journalistic” early interview of Trump (with the ominous Murdoch presence lurking in the background) being a notable example. The man simply oozes insincerity amongst the extraordinary conceit.

  5. The description of Gove is spot on.

    One perhaps minor point on the scrapping of Rip Off degrees. What would a reduction of £900 million do to already struggling University finances?

    Are 13% of degrees that poor anyway?

    1. In the interests of frivolity, it might be a good idea to scrap Oxford University's PPE course given that it produced Cameron, The Blonde Toddler, Liz the Lettuce and Nutsak!

  6. Succinct, excoriating, clear-eyed and witty as ever: exactly the penetrating insight and honesty we need to counter the 'veritable feast of derangement' (what a line!) we're currently being force-fed and have been ever since 2016. Thank you, Prof Grey.

  7. If the Tories are not swept away, leaving the ECHR will become their strong suit. Especially with an electoral system where 30% of racist and xenophobic voters are impossible to ignore. As a European, I find this worrying.

    1. Yeah, this seems more pertinent than ever (although I don't think the percentage is quite as high as 30%, but maybe I'm just a wild optimist.) The key is more in how other parties choose to treat them; my impression is that across Europe whenever 'mainstream' parties have chosen to try to, ahem, borrow xenophobic policies, in order to try and capture that bloc, those voters have decided that they'd rather back the genuine xenophobic parties instead, making the whole situation worse rather than better.
      (It's certainly possible that "Reform" (or "the Brexit Party" or "UKIP") are benefiting from this here too.)

  8. To his eternal stupidity, complacent Cameron did not build in a 60% requirement to win and did not allow 16 and 17 year olds the chance to have a say in their future. He also revealed his cowardice in not voiding the result given the closeness, the lies and the Russian interference. How about the fact that the referendum was advisory?
    So because of these massive errors we have reaped the whirlwind.
    The relative silence of the Labour party remains deafening, not to say perplexing.

    1. It's far worse than that. There could be no supermajority requirement because it was a purely advisory vote. You can't set a threshold for advice. Nevertheless Cameron fraudulently presented it as binding and his ego persuaded him that his skills of persuasion were such that the ruse would never be rumbled.


    2. To the writer of the comment beginning: "To his eternal stupidity...."
      Well said.

    3. ''The relative silence of the Labour party remains deafening, not to say perplexing.''

      Sir Keir Starmer is, by his own admission, also guilty of presenting the advisory 2016 Referendum as if it was binding. In Parliament on 2017 January 31st he said

      ''When I was imploring people up and down the country to vote in the referendum and to vote to remain, I told them that their vote really mattered and that a decision was going to be made. I was not inviting them to express a view''

      and, not wanting to appear undemocratic, he undemocratically supported allowing the then Prime Minister to decide whether the UK should leave the EU.

  9. Another tour de force Chris. Great stuff!

  10. It could be that in a few years time Brexit will come to be regarded with the same horror and disbelief as Post Office and infected blood scandals.

    1. Good point indeed, but rather "SHOULD be" rather than "could be"

    2. It should be now. All the evidence is there, hiding in plain sight - with Brexit’s proponents all polishing their ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘it had nothing to do with me’ excuses for the public inquiry

  11. I'm in one of the new constituencies and I'm pretty sure neither the existing MP or prospective Tory candidate would answer the sort of questions I have about Brexit honestly. As a designer and design engineer getting products through CE certification and other type approval bodies is just part of hte job and clients expected trans EU approval to allow export. Obviously the non tarriff barrier of having to do that in an EU country is a great help!.
    In the past I have worked in France, casual stuff, apple and grape harvesting, there was never a thought of not being able to back in the late 1970s' early eighties. Much harder now. Also as a designer travelled for design business in the EU and EEA countries.

    The public are beginning to notice this kind of stuff and friction at the borders. The Govian 'Free trade from Iceland to Turkey' stuff stuck in my mind at the time - complete rubbish unless in the EEA. Also the way he assured some lady on TV that she would still be able to buy a house in France just as before Brexit. The extra cost of stuff, medecine shortages, empty shelves in supermarkets are not an accident but a permanent feature of Brexit. A Brexit campaigned for and negotiated by hardly a single MP in the forthcoming House of Commons.

    On another note Prof Grey, I notice this link to the sucess of the Unitary Patent scheme that the EU launced last year. you might like to note that this went ahead and it appears to have been useful to individuals and companies. The UK would have been in this, but Johnson reneged on the UK committment to it after the 2019 election. I understand several UK Patent agents and professionals spent many years trying to set this pane EU system up and were extremely upset to lose it. In essence it competes with the US system and make is cheaper and simpler for pan European patent holders to defend and file patents.

  12. As always, a well-thought through and thought-provoking blog.

    I'd like to pick up on the last two paragraphs. Here in Scotland, we do have a major party, the SNP, willing to talk about Brexit in its campaign, notwithstanding the possible risk of alienating its minority of Leave voters or the press. This contrasts with Labour's and the Lib Dems' approach. Here it links to the constitutional question of independence. It suits the SNP to differentiate itself from Labour and the Lib Dems as well as the Conservatives. For the SNP and many Scottish voters (albeit the saliency has reduced of late), independence is both an end in itself and a potential means to rejoin the EU. EU membership and its attendant economic benefits formed a significant part of the case to remain in the UK in 2014 and hence the UK vote to leave the EU in 2016 against a 62% Scottish vote to remain was one of the key motivations and reasoned arguments to hold a second independence referendum this soon. Moreover, the SNP can cite Brexit as well as the Westminster government as explanation (or excuse, depending on your point of view) in defending its record as a party in (Scottish) government. And it allows the SNP coherent ground to go on the offensive against a background of recent difficulties.

    My other reflection is that, looking ahead, the future of the debate on the UK's (and Scotland's) relationship with the EU could be influenced by the make-up of the opposition in the next parliament. That is, if Labour wins but the opposition is dominated by the Conservatives (especially if they remain a large parliamentary party), that may encourage a more defensive or gradualist approach from a Labour government to closer EU ties.

    However, an opposition that is either smaller, or especially one in which the Liberal Democrats and/or SNP has a strong representation (even, as seen in the occasional recent seat projection from an opinion poll, outnumbering the Conservatives), it could (dare one hope?) allow the narrative on Brexit to turn the page. That is, the opposition (and internal) pressure on the government could then be to forge significantly closer links with the EU (albeit limited by a range of factors which I know, Chris, you have explored in previous posts) as opposed to facing an opposition led by the entropic Brexitist pursuit of ever-further disunion both in Europe and within its own ranks.

    1. Yes, all good points, thanks. I'd been going to say a bit more about Scotland, somewhat on the lines of your first para, but the post was getting too long - but may return to in future posts

  13. Winston Collinge31 May 2024 at 19:51

    Excellent analysis as always. The one thing that caught my eye this week was the manifesto wish list of the British Chamber of Commerce which is the business institution closest to the Conservative Party.
    They call for; 4. Global Britain: Improve EU relations to cut costs for business The EU is the UK’s biggest market, accounting for 42% of all our exports. Leaving the EU has made it more expensive and bureaucratic to sell our goods and services across the Channel. But better trading terms are possible if the UK government and the EU reach agreement in areas of mutual benefit for business in both market.
    That's the closest admission I've seen from a near government
    body that the current Brexit policy is a failure.
    I can see a new Labour government going for a better deal (as say Northern Ireland) on the basis of shrinking inflation by reducing costs of importing & exporting.

    1. Well, I'm not sure the EU - which has rather a lot on its plate - has the appetite for any such renegotiation. Indeed, it has been argued persuasively that the Trade & Co-operation Agreement works very well for the EU in its existing form, and that no-one should be surprised at this because, after all, they wrote the deal and slid it over the table for a comprehensively outwitted Boris Johnson to sign.
      The coming scheduled review of TCA isn't - as many, Brexiters and Remainers alike, seem to think - a chance for a rewrite of the deal, it's simply a look at whether there are problems of practical implementation of the deal, and whether remedial actions are necessary if such is found. That's all it is, Maroš Šefčovič has been quite clear on that.

  14. Thank you, excellent analysis. I think it wouldn't hurt Labour's electoral strategy to often remind everyone the link between Liz Truss and Brexit, thus creating the analogy in people's minds between both shameful episodes.

  15. I made a conscious decision to leave the UK several years before Brexit because I saw the country was in an economic and social downward spiral.

    Leaving the EU has neither stopped nor changed that spiral .Whether you negotiate closer ties with the EU or spend ten years plus making a fourth application to join this will be no panacea.

    Eu membership was always a useful scapegoat for political and social failures.

    ties with the Eu

  16. I think that "slithers" is a better word than "slinks" to describe Gove's locomotion

  17. A great post (as usual), but your description of Gove was especially en pointe! I assume that, as part of agreeing the letter of support published in The Times, Labour had behind-closed-doors conversations with those businesses that covered Brexit and agreed that, once in power, they would implement ameliorations, including partial or full reversal. Labour have already publicly committed to SPS alignment with the EU, which will negate some of the worst of the fresh produce impacts; and I think that will be the precursor to them announcing a wider 'review of Brexit' which will start to undo the worst aspects. It may lead to an EFTA-type arrangement, but given the EU is starting to consider 'associate member'-type arrangements (esp for countries like Ukraine) by the time the UK is ready this new option may be what happens rather than a full rejoin (even more so if Le Pen gains power in France, which sadly looks likely).

  18. Just as something to ponder - and I don't know if I - or people here - will be around to check the accuracy of my prediction out, but here goes. When we are at this stage of the '29 GE it will be the Tories making the case for rejoining the EU, and Gove will be front and centre extolling the virtues of a tariff-free trading zone of 500 million and the turbo charge that easy access to such a market will give UK plc. 2016? cynics will say...ahh, the past is a different country, the Govian oracle will reply.

    1. In order to rejoin both the main UK parties will have to be pro Europe and pro EU, so even if they suffer a mauling the Conservatives will still be exercising some sort of power over the country. A splinter of the right may cost them a lot of seats, but unless PR is introduced by Starmer, this will be short lived (remember the SDP ?) and they will return as a force. I presume they will eventually head for the centre ground and maybe at that point a future leader will make an example of Frost/Gove/Johnston in the same way Labour have of Corbin. That’s all a long way off though and the lurch to right may well cause them a lot of grief in the short to medium term.

  19. Terrific article, the most accurate description of Brexit I’ve seen. Summed Gove up to a tee - always reminds me of Himmler.

  20. I didn't want to be the first to wonder what Gove would have done in 1930s Germany and why, but, yes, it crossed my mind.

    Happy to see critical appreciations, especially Ian Dunt's which was particularly good. Missing for the most part has been Gove's utterly depraved attitude to Northern Ireland.

    It should never be forgotten that he wrote a 58 document titled "The Price of Peace" in which he opposed the Good Friday Agreement, calling it a "moral stain" and "a denial of our national integrity" (never mind what the British have done for Irish national integrity) as if NI was chattel. He wilfully disregarded Britain's bloodstained history and doubled down on British sovereignty when the Irish government and people opted, in the interests of peace, agreed to relinquish Ireland's claim of sovereignty (by amending the constitution in a referendum).

    He went on to characterise the agreement which had the overwhelming support of the people of the island of Ireland, North and South, as "appeasement" and akin to "gratifying the lusts of pedophiles".

    He had no difficulty with the continuation of a brutally sectarian police force (since disbanded).

    In Gove's world the Irish ought "know their place" (as his fellow minister Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg put it later).

    It's a nice irony that Gove's support for Brexit has done much to accelerate the end of Northern Ireland as a contingent part of the UK to become part of the country from which it was forcibly taken.

    In the pantheon of skin-crawlingly vile despicables who have sought to impose their will on others by being useful or amusing to powerful people (Murdoch, Trump etc) Gove stands out for his use of unctuous courtesy to conceal his own moral depravity.

  21. Parachuting a favoured candidate into Basildon and Billericay isn't going down terribly well with the local constituents, so if your theory is correct, this may turn out to be yet another ill-thought-out decision by Sunak.

  22. A good article,especially on ,Gove.The non_expert's non-expert.I think it is also worth mentioning though that right wing extreme Brexit Tory Mps have been welcomed to the Labour Party by Starmer.What does that tell us?

  23. Talking about Scotland,Brexit converted me from Lib Dems to Snp when it showed me how little influence Scotland had even after voting 62% Remain.It also showed me how right wing the dominant country England has become.Even Labour has gone out of its way to attract these right wing Brexiter voters.