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How the referendum was won

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Quora Answer : What are your thoughts on the UKs Brexit deal?

Oct 19, 2019

I think it's a smoke-screen.

Basically it doesn't commit the UK government to negotiating anything more than a WTO trade deal at the end of the transition period.

So ... if you were worried about No Deal because chaos. It addresses that. You get an orderly No Deal. Which, to be fair, No Dealers were promising would be possible anyway. So .. fair play to them ... what they said was possible turns out to be possible.

But it's still a WTO or "whatever unicorns we can bag" deal at the end of the negotiations. And if you were worried that unicorns don't exist and that WTO conditions are terrible, then that's all this deal is giving to you. (Update : see comments, maybe Canada rather than WTO)

The price is a sea-border with NI. I've always thought that jettisoning NI, and a sea border was the most sensible way for hard Brexiters to get what they seemed to passionate about. And now Boris has managed to convince most of the ERG of that simple truth.

And sold out the DUP in the process. I'm not shedding tears for the DUP. I think a sea border is a reasonable "solution". I expect a lot of people to vote with their feet and move to Northern Ireland now. Where else can you be sure of your food safety?

BUT ...

I hope parliament votes this down. And in particular, Labour MPs don't get suckered into supporting it. It's effectively WTO (or Canada) terms with Boris free to trash workers' rights and environmental safety within England, Scotland and Wales.

THAT is why so many hard Brexiteers have done a mysterious U-turn and now support it.

Quora Answer : What are the fundamental ideals of Brexit?

Jun 5, 2019

Ultimately, I think a lot of people just feel that the modern, globalized world is spiralling out of their control.

It's a big world. And for the British, back when "we had an empire", that world felt like a big exciting toy we could explore and extract value from however we liked.

Then, in the 20th century, we lost that sense.

But we still were a nation who had won a war against a great and terrible foe : Germany. And, to an extent, been crucial helping America defeat another great and terrible foe : Russia.

We were still with the movers and shakers at the top table. We still mattered.

But in the 21st century, it all got so confusing. We tried to help America defeat a third terrible foe : Muslim terrorists. But instead of winning, America's invasion of Iraq turned out to be a moral quagmire. And the Muslim terrorists didn't seem to go away. Instead they evolved into the scarier ISIS and kept coming back. Running us down and blowing us up in our own country. Partly, it seemed, because we had let so many of them come and live with us.

Our leaders preached free trade, and how it would make us rich. But instead, we felt poorer than ever. Free trade just seemed to mean all the factories closed down and we imported everything from China. While the only jobs available were in Amazon distribution centres and on zero hour contracts.

That couldn't be right, could it? Free trade, and economic prudence, (and a bit of austerity to keep government spending from spiralling out of control) must be good for us. And make us better off. ALL the political class said the same thing.

So what was going wrong? Why wasn't all the free trade and austerity and our natural propensity towards greatness working out for us? Why were we feeling so much poorer and that our standing in the world was so diminished? What was blocking the magic?

So then a bunch of people come along and say "the UK is in decline because we've shackled ourselves to a failing Europe. The EU don't let us do our own trade deals. The scary Muslims are among us because the EU doesn't let us control our own borders. Our political class is so decadent that they claim we can't thrive without the help of the Germans. The GERMAN'S for fuck's sake!

What we must do is extricate ourselves from this enervating entanglement. And be free to make our own rules, control our own borders, make our own decisions. Then our natural greatness will reassert itself and we'll bestride the world anew"

So, yeah. Those are the "ideals" of Brexit.

Quora Answer : Has anyone stopped to realise that Boris's actions have significantly strengthened the UK's position for any last minute deals with the EU?

Aug 29, 2019

Lots of people harp on about this.

But the truth is, the people who say this never actually stop to think about things from the EU perspective.

The UK's idea of a good deal is that it wants an open border between NI and Ireland, while being allowed to set its own regulations on its side of the border, to make its own trade deals with third parties and accept their standards.

That's more or less the equivalent of the English football team turning up at the World Cup and telling FIFA "we want to compete but we've brought our own referee and we want the right to unilaterally redefine the off-side rule during the game."

Clearly FIFA can't possibly let England participate in the World Cup under those conditions. And clearly the EU can't possibly let Britain into a free-trade zone with the rest of the EU without it being held to EU standards.


Even if England threatens FIFA by saying "look how popular we are. How many fans and viewers we bring to the World Cup. You'll lose all that without us. We're serious.". The World Cup just doesn't work as a "competition" with everyone demanding to set their own special rules. And the EU doesn't work as a free-trade zone with everyone demanding to set their own standards.

If you need this spelled out for you, FIFA can't let England have its own referee because it can't trust that England's referee won't enable it to cheat. After all, if England wasn't going to cheat, why wouldn't it just accept the FIFA ref?

And the EU can't trust the UK to police its own standards for a similar reasons. If the UK wasn't planning or tempted to undermine EU standards why wouldn't it just accept them?

So ... the UK is strengthening its hand to negotiate WHAT exactly? Something that's an existential threat to the EU? Well, it doesn't matter how strong the UK's hand is, the EU is going to have to say no to that one.

Quora Answer : Why is the Irish backstop so popular?

Oct 1, 2019

It's not at all popular.

Pretty much everyone hates it.

The only issue is that it's a reflection of reality.

The reality is that the UK "wants" / or is "obliged" to / "signed up for" two contradictory things. One is to leave the EU and put a border between itself and the EU. (Which is what leaving entails). And the other is to NOT have a border because we signed up to the Good Friday Agreement peace treaty to say that we wouldn't have one.

The question is how to resolve those incompatible requirements.

You can't actually have both at the same time, so there's only really one third possibility. You put off making the decision until "something turns up". Eg. a technical fix or some change in political weather.

Both the UK under May and the Ireland / the EU were happy with "putting it off until something turns up".

The problem was what would happen during the waiting period. And how you recognise when something HAS turned up.

Ireland (and the EU, who are backing up Ireland in these negotiations) thinks that the GFA is more important than UK's independence. While hardcore Leavers think that the UK's independence is more important than the GFA.

So Ireland / EU want to leave the border open and not have, at least NI, leave the single market until the something has turned up. And until they accept that the something is a real thing.

While the hardcore Leavers, in as much as they had a coherent position, wanted the UK to be able unilaterally decide when that something had turned up.

It's really an impossible situation at this point. And both sides' points-of-view make sense. Clearly if the UK can decide that "this technology is sufficient" without the Irish having an input or a veto, then the UK can just declare that tomorrow, and renege on the GFA. If Ireland has a permanent veto, then it might never allow the UK to leave the backstop (and therefore the single market)

The real problem behind that is the breakdown in trust and good-will between the UK and the EU.

This is almost entirely the fault of the Leave extremists. And people like Boris Johnson who used Leave extremism for his own political ambition. Leave extremists and opportunists like Boris have spent so long telling themselves and their supporters that the EU is in bad faith and an evil oppressor, that neither they nor their supporters are willing to make the concessions necessary to get a resolution to the problem.

However ...

I think that, to an extent, the EU and Irish are also, now, so pissed off that they are unwilling to give Johnson's UK any leeway. And are probably playing harder ball than they really need to on this.

If both sides were genuinely well intentioned and primarily focused on solving THIS problem and not the wider politics or issues, then I think there would be more creative solutions available.

And various layers of compromise / fudge / extra checks and balances could get us closer to a solution.

Two examples :

  • a backstop with explicit expiry / review dates. In 2, 4 or 10 years time, where there would be a formal requirement to review and renegotiate the backstop, in light of whatever trade deal the UK and EU actually ended up with.

    Leavers are right that It is especially problematic to try to resolve the backstop without knowing what the future EU / UK relation will be. In this very politically charged and polarized atmosphere.

    Having a time-limited backstop, with an explicit review that kicks in in 4 years would serve 99% of the purposes of the backstop, but also give a definitive commitment to the UK that it couldn't be an indefinite thing against the UK's will. And by the time it needs to be re-negotiated, the UK / EU relationship would be clearer which would make it easier.
  • a joint body, run by both the UK and the EU, whose job is to actually control the border, and check the goods passing through. This wouldn't eliminate the symbolism of border posts. But having both British and Irish staff manning the posts, working together in one place, with their dual responsibilities to both the Irish and British governments, might reduce some of the problems and scope for one side to believe that the other is "cheating". Perhaps a revived IRA would like to shoot at a British border guard. But what if they simply couldn't tell, from the uniform, whether someone was a British or Irish guard?

I don't know if these are good or workable ideas.

What I do know is that if there's to be any way forward that isn't a total disaster we have to be willing to look for compromises and creative new solutions. Not just demand that one side is right and should win.

Quora Answer : If we have to swallow the terrible May-EU deal to end the squabbling, what is to stop us ripping up the EU deal once we have other trade arrangements and reunite Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK?

Mar 27, 2019

It's worth re-emphasizing what Simon Kinahan said. There's no need to reunite Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK after May's deal, because May's deal doesn't separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Ask yourself how your understanding got so muddled that you assumed that it did. Are you, perhaps, listening to the wrong people? People who are deliberately feeding you disinformation?

As to the wider question. What's to stop us ripping up the deals that we signed up for? Well, our reputation as honest brokers. The UK is an international trading nation. That's its lifeblood. It takes two to trade. We can't enforce trade on others at gunpoint. (At least not since the 19th century).

And so if we do rip up our deals and treaties with other countries, those deals will be ripped up for us too. If we think we can treat other countries with arbitrary disrespect, they will treat us with equally arbitrary disrespect. Or shun us.

And if we think that because we treat France and Germany badly, and renege on our promises to them, this will somehow make Australia and South Korea more enthusiastic to get close to us, then we are fooling ourselves.

Quora Answer : Is it true that workers in the UK will have less rights after they leave the EU? Is this one of the negatives of leaving the EU?

Nov 20, 2019

Most likely.

The rights haven't disappeared yet.

But the aspiration of the Johnson government is to make the economy more "efficient".

Which is basically Tory code for taking workers' rights away.

There are OTHER ways of making workers more efficient. For example, you could invest in manufacturing where automation improves productivity faster than it does in casual services.

But that's not the way Tories think. Tories think that "inefficiency" comes from "regulation". And so by removing regulation from employment (ie. cutting rights) they will make UK workers work harder for less money and so be "more productive"

Quora Answer : Why is Britain having to pay to leave the European Union?

Sep 9, 2017

The same reason you have to pay when you leave the restaurant, even if you change your mind and decide to leave after the first course.

When you order food you are implicitly committing to pay for everything you ask for.

Britain agreed to pay into certain schemes for a certain time. It's chosen to leave early but those commitments remain.

See Also :

Quora Answer : Are you happy with the newly agreed Brexit trade deal for the UK?

Dec 25

I'm relieved we got one. Because crashing over the cliff edge would be a disaster.

But I think it's classic Boris Johnson, putting off the hard decisions and kicking the can down the road while claiming the credit for making everything good now.

So, fishing gets another 5 years transition period and then we get to negotiate how to divide quotas again. Every year.

Think of it, we can have an annual argument with, and national hate on, Europe from here on out.

Meanwhile as far as a level playing field is concerned, the EU doesn't get an automatic penalty against us if we don't follow its upgrades to standards. But if there's concern on either side, one party can appeal to a neutral arbitration and THEN can threaten penalties and we can argue again.

In other words Boris did get "cake and eat it". Not for the country but for himself. He gets to boast that he "got Brexit done" while simultaneously leaving all the hard problems open so he can continue to use cheap English nationalism and fights with EU bureaucrats to fuel his political career.