January 2024: Some personal remarks

The remarks here were originally intended to be part of a post on 16 January 2024 about the need for honesty, fairness and accuracy in discussing and evaluating Brexit, but the post became ridiculously long so I cut them. In any case, they probably aren’t of interest to most readers but, for those to whom they might be, I’ve placed them on this standalone page.

I’ve now been writing this blog for over seven years, and it has attracted an unexpectedly large readership which it has mainly retained even though Brexit is no longer as high on the news agenda as it was. I hope it won’t sound too self-aggrandizing if I write about myself, which I rarely do, but it is relevant to the question of how to evaluate Brexit honestly, and also to various comments which have recently been made to and about me on social media.

To the extent that I have any credibility at all as a Brexit commentator, I think it’s partly bound up with being, and being seen to be, honest and fair in what I write. Of course, it’s obvious I am not ‘neutral’ about Brexit, and I’ve explicitly said that myself, from the very first post (I’ve also discussed the difference between being an ‘academic' and being ‘impartial’). I think it is unequivocally a disaster, but that is a view based on evidence and rational argument rather than simply being a matter of faith. To the best of my ability, I don’t distort evidence or twist logic to fit my views. That therefore includes striving for accuracy about what are and are not effects of Brexit.

I suspect that may also be why I get relatively little push-back from high-profile Brexiters. It’s not that they are unaware of my existence, as many of them follow me on Twitter, including several who have been criticized, sometimes harshly and by name, on this blog - several times, in some cases. Perhaps they just think my efforts are too trivial to bother with (though, in that case, why follow me at all?), but I think it may also be because I’m careful to avoid false or exaggerated claims.

Probably the highest-profile occasion when I did get attacked was when a series of articles (really, several versions of the same article) in the Express prompted many offensive posts in the comments sections beneath them, as well as multiple abusive and threatening emails sent to me directly. But because I could demonstrate that articles had misreported what I had written, I was able to secure a correction and apology published on each of them.

In fact, to the extent that I get criticism – other than from pseudonymous X-Twitter nonentities of the ‘truebrit87463’ type – it is increasingly from people who are as deeply opposed to Brexit as I am. I’ve experienced that most vitriolically from those who, falsely, claim that freeports are ‘Charter Cities’ (in fact, or in the making), and to a lesser extent from those who, falsely, claim that ‘Not for Sale in the EU’ labels are a mark of inferior quality produce.

I’ve also sometimes had people get angry with me for not accepting totalizing explanations of Brexit, such as that it was ‘all about’ a plan to deregulate, or ‘all about’ avoiding EU offshore tax directives, or ‘all about’ imperial nostalgia, or ‘all about’ racism (the variety of these explanations is itself an illustration that at least some of them must be false), as well as for occasions when, indeed, I show that some things blamed on Brexit are not really caused by it (e.g. the 2022 P&O sackings). I also sometimes get criticized by people who don’t like me pointing out that ‘it was only an advisory referendum’ or ‘only 37% of the population voted for Brexit’ are, at best, superannuated arguments and, at worse, asinine. Similarly, criticism sometimes comes from people who think that I’m too pessimistic about the prospects of re-joining the EU or the single market, or too stringent about what the conditions and timescales are for those things to happen, or that I am too forgiving of Labour’s timidity in these matters.

I do actually understand the reasons why some anti-Brexiters criticize me for those things. They quite reasonably feel highly mistrustful of what Brexiters intend, recoil from the horrible idea that something so absurd could have happened without a ‘plan’ of some sort behind it – even if a malign plan – and would desperately like the decision to leave to be discredited and restitution made as quickly and easily as possible. The problem is that this can lead to its own dishonesty, or at least self-delusion, albeit one founded on genuine concerns and good intentions.

That may not even be such a bad thing, in that it may motivate campaigners to keep plugging away, even in the face of the odds stacked against them. But, for me at least, it isn’t the way to go, especially given that my aim with this blog is to analyse Brexit rather than to campaign against it (although I also think that effective campaigning benefits from accurate and realistic analysis).

Needless to say, I may, and sometimes do, get things wrong, both factually (and, where that is pointed out to me, I correct it) and in terms of arguments. Indeed, in the case of arguments, there is always scope for doing so, since, otherwise, they would not be arguments. However, I do try to make my arguments logical, and to set out the counter-arguments fairly, rather than simply spouting opinions.

At all events, I would like to think that most people who read this blog recognize that I write honestly and in good faith, even when they disagree, and that is one of the reasons they go on reading. So, in that sense, being ‘fair-minded’, and striving for accuracy, isn’t self-righteous priggishness but the self-interested precondition of retaining a sizeable readership (which I value for itself, even though I don’t charge for access, as many blogs or ‘newsletters’ now do). However, if those two things ever come into conflict, then I have and will always prioritize honesty over popularity.


  1. Hear, hear and very well said. Rewarding as confirmation bias may be, it doesn't expand thought or promote intellectual rigour. Honesty in political discussions? Now, there's an idea.

  2. Well said, Chris. This is why I read you. The aim to be honest and accurate in debate is a noble one.

  3. Well said, Chris. Honesty and accuracy in debate are noble aspirations.

  4. Thank you Chris. This precisely why I read every blog and wait impatiently for the next.

  5. Hi Chris, I’m from the Netherlands and reading your blog from the beginning. Would’nt I have the feeling that you are not writing impartially I wouldn’t do that. What puzzles me a lot about the UK’s politics is that so many people kept on supporting the Torry’s while they were so evidently dishonest and making policies which were clearly against the interst of the main of their voters. Do you have expainations?

    1. Thanks. That question is beyond me, I'm afraid, but I suppose one answer is that the way people define their own interests may have many facets which are not obvious to, or understandable by, others.

  6. 1/ thank you for trying to be as honest as possible. It makes reading your posts valuable.
    2/ thanks for regularly making me think, and learn. Aspects which are valuable outside of brexit and it's discussions and consequences.
    3/ Although i hope for the UK to rejoin sooner rather than later, i agree with your analysis on when it would be possible. It makes no sense for EU to agree to allow UK back in when there is no widely shared political agreement for this within the UK. Reaching this will take time, and probably some re-creation of the Tory party.

  7. Thanks for your weekly blog on this complex subject. I could only wish that the ardent Brexiters (and for that matter: Nexiteers, I’m afraid) are as honest and accurate as you are. Best wishes (and please keep on writing) from the Netherlands, Fred Janssens

  8. Thanks for your weekly blog. And thanks for this (and your honesty for years). I can’t be the only one who reads unfailingly ever week because I trust you and your blog so highly.

  9. I find your analysis extremely insightful, particularly the way in which you frequently point out inherent contradictions in pro-Brexit arguments. I have been an avid reader, not quite from the beginning but starting in 2017, to help me make sense of what I perceived as the ludicrousness playing out in front of my eyes in politics. I always await each instalment eagerly and will continue to do so.

  10. It is often difficult to see the wood from the trees.So your careful attempts to analyse developments are really valuable particularly when on occasions deliberate misconceptions are being peddled in some quarters.