What Now With Brexit?
In an article in the Daily Telegraph of7/12/20,entitled ‘Leavers have won, but can our politicians lead us to prosperity?’: and sub-titled ‘Britain will soon be free of the EU, but if Brexit is to be a success we must rethink the way we run things’, Nick Timothy observes that ‘as the year ends, the last vestiges of Britain’s membership of the European Union end with it’; that ‘deal or no deal, the Brexit transition will soon be over, and Britain will be fully outside the EU, its institutions and laws’; that ‘anxious Leavers, disbelieving that Brexit really means Brexit, need only look to leading Remainers to understand that their victory is complete’; that those who spent the last four and a half years fighting to overturn the referendum, or make Britain a prisoner to European law, are fighting like ferrets in a sack’; that ‘as the Brexit negotiations reach their final stages, Rory Stewart is lambasting former allies for failing to vote for a customs union, while Anna Soubry lashes back’; that ‘already forgotten MEPs tweet furiously, mocking the very notion of sovereignty and attacking what they still erroneously call a “Hard Brexit”’; that ‘as they do so, the mask slips’; that ‘Matthew Paris has admitted that Remainers harbour “guilty half-thoughts of economic disaster and a gratifying opportunity for chorusing “we told you so”’; and that ‘despite spending years denying they were trying to stop Brexit itself, Peter Mandelson has casually confessed that Remainers were “trying to reverse the referendum decision rather than to achieve the least damaging form of Brexit”’.
Nick Timothy goes on to observe that ‘the lies and hypocrisies are not limited to Britain of course’; that ‘throughout Theresa May’s premiership, Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, said that Britain’s so-called red lines meant it could have only a Canada-style trade deal, only to renege when Boris Johnson said Canada was what he wanted’; that ‘France has insisted it wants a Brexit deal, but not if it loses certain fishing rights and so is willing to bring about no deal, in which it would lose all fishing rights’; that ‘the European Union itself has spent several years arrogantly asserting that Britain would suffer great economic pain if it left the single market and customs union’; that ‘it has also fought hard to the very end to limit the extent to which Britain can diverge from its regulations because it fears that outside the EU we will gain a competitive advantage’; and that ‘as Angela Merkel once said, “with the departure of Great Britain, a potential competitor will emerge for us”’; He then concludes that ‘indeed we must depart’; that ‘much of the logic behind Brexit for many Leavers was about democracy and sovereignty, a belief that EU membership was fundamentally incompatible with parliamentary democracy and national self-determination’; but that ‘of course leaving the EU radically changes our economic reality’; that we are leaving a self-regulatory superpower which governs a market of almost 450 million people and is a powerful trading negotiator’; that ‘if we go on with our existing economic model, but with more friction in our trade with the Continent, the Remainers will be right: we will end up slightly poorer than had we stayed in after all’; and that ‘Brexit means we (will) need to do things differently’. I have italicised “a belief” as used above, for I would have used “the knowledge”. (c.f. my concluding paragraph).
However, Nick Timothy does go on to ask, ‘do we have a political culture mature enough to live up to this monumentally important mission?’ He answers that ‘we need our political leaders and the state itself to become more competent, strategic, long-term, and focussed on the issues that will make Britain more prosperous, resilient, globally relevant and secure in the years ahead’; that ‘in leaving the EU, we are swapping scale for agility, and uniformity for innovation’; but he also asks’ ‘how can we turn these principles into reality?’ He thus goes on to suggest that ‘one way is to become a first-mover and world leader in the regulation of new and high-growth industries’; that ‘while the EU tends to move slowly on questions of regulation, and its decisions often reflect the interest of established firms, Britain can be faster out of the blocks’; that ‘on artificial intelligence, automated vehicles, life sciences’ and many other sectors of the future, Britain can develop a new and more agile model of regulation and attract investment and a global expertise by getting ahead of cumbersome competitors, like the EU, and reluctant regulators, like the United States’. Further to this line of hopeful expectation, he adds that ‘another example is that of international trade policy’; that much is made of the EU’s size when it negotiates trade deals with third counties’; but that ‘the flip side for member states is that their specific needs come far down the priority list, or just as bad, that the interests of other member states are difficult or not possible to agree with certain markets’; that Britain’s newly independent trade policy can mean deals are tailored to our own economic priorities’; and that ‘a confident Britain can breathe new life into a struggling international trading system’.
He goes on to assert that ‘on industrial strategy and regional growth, Brexit offers other opportunities’; that ‘freedom from EU regulations will allow for innovative new policies like free ports – an idea close to the heart of Rishi Sunak – more effective procurement policies and more interventionist consumer policies and industrial strategies’; that ‘the replacement of EU structural fund payments which are difficult to coordinate across different communities, hard to access, and too bureaucratic, is another opportunity’ that ‘if the Government gets its successor scheme right, and works with the devolved governments, metro mayors and local councils, it could direct billions of pounds into better regional development, creating jobs and increasing pay beyond the South East’; that there are, of course, many other changes from infrastructure investment to technical education and training that can and should be made’; that ‘the mission for ministers is to completely re-imagine the way we run our economy’; but that ‘with a chaotic model of partial devolution, a still over-centralised state, a Civil Service more determined to protect its privileges than to professionalise itself, a House of Commons too often resembling a council chamber or student debating hall, and a House of Lords stuffed full of cronies, we will need to reform the state just as we reform the economy’; and that ‘herein lies our national challenge’; that ‘ get Brexit done might have been the slogan, but the truth is that Brexit is only about to begin’; that ‘the test of success will be in the years and decades to come’; that ‘if we want to succeed, it is time to get serious’; that ‘with independence comes responsibility’; and that ‘the infantilism of our politics must end’.
My writing the above transcription of Nick Timothy’s article gave me enormous satisfaction. I could not have produced such a comprehensive summary of what is wrong and needs to be corrected. However, I say that as with all other such commentators, he does not specify how these corrections are to be achieved; other than by implying that substitution of successful policies for the currently unsuccessful versions is difficult because politics itself, since time immemorial, has never been anything other than political; but I also say that politics has never been more than the implementation of a series of one or other belief-consensual policies arrived at by the debate of opinion/counter-opinion which themselves are merely beliefs/counter-beliefs respectively supported by partially selected facts/ counter-facts, evidence/counter-evidence and/or news/false news, no set of which is ever debate-terminating conclusive knowledge; that this why I undertook the task of definitively differentiating the knowledge/belief dichotomy, and with it those of truth/falsehood, wisdom/folly, right/wrong and good/bad; and why, after the referendum result had been announced, I proposed to my then MP (now in the House of Lords) that Brexit would provide an opportunity to replace beliefs which don’t work in reality with knowledge which would thus work; that belief-alone had taken us in; and that leaving would be futile, if belief-consensual policies continued after we left. In reply he sent me a paper he had recently presented to All Souls, Oxford, in which he claimed that ‘replacing the EU with WTO would be a dawdle’, but he didn’t respond to my proposal that knowledge should replace belief in all future policy-making or to hold fire until the missing knowledge had been acquired; and that given this deficient response, I have created this website to acquire the support of the voting public for this long overdue replacement in all future party-specific political policy-making, wherever and whenever the appropriate knowledge is available and otherwise to wait until such knowledge is acquired. 9/12/20.