Category: Brexit

There is a Brexit deal the country can live with, but the government cannot

Simon Wren-Lewis:

Finally there are two interesting asides from this basic argument worth making. I talked to a very well known BBC presenter last week who was convinced that Brexit was nothing to do with the BBC. They are wrong on the economic costs, because the BBC did not regularly say that the overwhelming view of academic and business economists was that Brexit would do economic harm. Too often they assumed that this was self evident because all the major institutions (OECD, IMF etc) said this, but the ‘anti elite’ theme of Leave was designed to counter that, and giving equal time to both sides without any context (and of course constant newspaper propaganda) allowed Leavers to believe they would be better off.
But my criticism of the BBC is not just about the economic costs. One of the Leave messages that was attractive to many people was being able to do trade deals with other countries. I do not remember constant reminders from journalists saying that this was incompatible with membership of the SM, and so we had to choose between frictionless trade with the EU or doing these new deals. This statement is not controversial but a simple fact. It is also a fact that anything short of a CU and SM for goods will require a hard Irish border. This was the kind of basic information that the public craved for, and the BBC did not give it because their priority was not to upset either side. It is academic how important this all was to the final vote: the fundamental point is the BBC departed from its mandate to educate and inform at just the point the public needed and wanted it most..

John Humphrys and Brexit (again)


John Humphrys’ first question to Kier Starmer was wouldn’t the patriotic thing be for Labour to support Theresa May on Brexit. Patriotic?? What’s patriotism got to do with any of this? #r4today

2:14:01 in on BBC Radio Four Today 15 October 2018.


John Humphrys at his scintillating best on #r4today

Humphrys: “You haven’t mentioned a People’s Vote in this interview so far”
Starmer: “You haven’t asked me about it”
Humphrys: “Well I am now”
Starmer: “What’s the question?”

2:21:25 in on BBC Radio Four Today 15 October 2018.

Theresa May announces Festival of Great Britain and NI plan


The government has announced plans for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to take place in January 2022.

Downing Street described the nationwide festival as a “unique event” that echoes the 1851 Great Exhibition and will take place 70 years after the 1951 Festival of Britain.

“Just as millions of Britons celebrated their nation’s great achievements in 1951, we want to showcase what makes our country great today,” said Mrs May.

I think this is the single dumbest, most partisan idea I’ve ever heard.

A Guardian roundup of the suggested attractions include: games of pin the blame on a remainer, workshops on cooking chlorinated chicken and buying unregulated medicine on eBay, and the presence of an innovative jam pagoda.

GAVIN ESLER: Why I’ve changed my mind on Brexit

Gavin Esler in The New European:

What is the purpose of truth and facts and news in a world of disinformation, where lying at the top has become normalised? The slippery concept of ‘balance’ needs to be rethought. Serious politicians and real experts cannot be ‘balanced’ by obscure talking heads whose main qualification is a university degree in blarney.

Take, for instance, the ubiquitous antipodean, an Australian called Chloe Westley. She was formerly with Vote Leave and is now a rising star in the so-called TaxPayers’ Alliance. Spokesmen and women from obscure pressure groups maybe occasionally worthwhile guests on television and radio, but Westley is now a regular fixture.

The clear message is that what she has to say must somehow be important and authoritative. But is it? Curiously for someone who knows everything there is to know about the golden post-Brexit future for 65 million of us, Westley claims not to know key details about who actually funds her salary.

When challenged on Radio 4 by the impressive Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston about corporate and big business donations, the otherwise omniscient Westley was unable to confirm if, say, her opposition to a sugar tax is encouraged by funding from the sugar lobby or other big financial interests.

Private organisations are entitled to keep their funding secret. But when the TPA spokeswoman repeatedly comes into your home and mine on the public airwaves, their source of funding is a vital public interest matter. Organisations in our Disinformation Age need to come clean, or not be invited to come on television and radio programmes except very occasionally. ‘Come Clean Or Don’t Come On’ is a good principle for other supposedly ‘independent’ think tanks too, including the pro-Brexit Institute of Economic Affairs.

The IEA was recently exposed in a sting operation offering access for wealthy US potential donors to right-wing British politicians. Every dog should have a chance to howl. But since those who howl repeatedly on television are rewarded by broadcasters with a veneer of credibility, they need to come clean to deserve it.

So what can we do to minimise the damage?

First, continue to expose the Brexit fantasies, accurately and fairly assessing whether any of them are ever likely to work. Second, compare the promises of the Brexit Bunch with what they actually do with their own lives and finances. Third, we need to follow the money – the Leave campaign money, the money behind the curiously-funded Leave-supporting “think tanks”, and other organisations. And fourth, we need to keep an eye on those speculators for whom a chaotic few months until the Brexcrement hits the fan could prove remarkably profitable.

One hopes that if Esler, a senior ex-BBC journalist, is speaking out in public there is at least a debate within the BBC.

What are they after?

William Davies in the London Review of Books:

For all his idiosyncrasies, Johnson typifies something about contemporary conservatism, which might best be understood biographically. The cultural forces shaping the new conservatism resolve in a particular stereotype: men born between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s, with some constellation of expat backgrounds, famous fathers and first careers in the media. All four things apply to Johnson, but a Venn diagram of these various characteristics would also include Michael Gove, Douglas Carswell, Daniel Hannan and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The result of these disparate characteristics is a comfortable familiarity with the myths and rituals of the British state, but a blasé indifference to the impact of policy. As Ian Jack pointed out in these pages last year (15 June 2017), the expat perspective seems to play an important role in the psychology of Brexit. Hannan and Carswell both had expatriate childhoods. Astute observers, such as the writer Gary Younge, have argued that Brexit rests more on an imperial imaginary than on a national one. But as much as anything the expat is in a position to see ‘Great Britain’ from a perspective other than that of government. Such things as statistics, macroeconomics and policy itself fade into insignificance compared to the way the nation is seen from afar, alongside its historical rivals. Ignore ‘official Treasury forecasts’ and focus on the atlas instead.

In contrast to the populist message of Ukip, which is all about British blood, British soil and how the elites have betrayed them, Tory Brexitism can have a strange flippancy about it. In some cases, you wonder if they really mean it or if it’s just another attention-seeking strategy. Like Johnson, Rees-Mogg was treated as a joke until suddenly he was being discussed as a potential Conservative leader. Then there are their allies who write in the Spectator and specialise in exploring the sliver of political space between irony and bigotry. Among them is Toby Young, who originally found fame as the butt of his own joke with his memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2001). The game is a quest for attention, and humorous transgression is the key skill in winning it. Another name for it is ‘trolling’.

Armchair psychoanalysts can muse on what responsibility the high-profile fathers of these men have for cultivating their sons’ delinquency and need for attention. It is surely a safer psychological force confined to op-ed pages than unleashed on politics, especially where historic constitutional reform is at stake. But the boundary separating the conservative press from the Conservative Party has in any case been slowly dissolving, with the Times (Gove’s former employer, which currently boasts two Conservative peers, Lords Finkelstein and Ridley, on its comment team) occupying a particularly porous position on the border between the two. In January, Young came within a Twitter-storm of being appointed to the new Office for Students, which will regulate universities in England and Wales. The reality is that in addition to the ideological and cultural forces behind Brexit, it is also happening thanks to the recklessness of individuals who see public life as an opportunity to show off. This is the more fundamental sense in which Westminster is being permeated by Trumpism.

Immigration will not dramatically fall after Brexit, says Amber Rudd

The Guardian:

There will be no dramatic fall in immigration as soon as Britain leaves the EU, the home secretary has suggested, as she announced the government would consult businesses over plans for an immigration system over the summer.

In comments that appeared to back the Brexit secretary, David Davis, when he said the door would not “suddenly shut”, Amber Rudd said the government was “against cliff edges” when it came to reducing immigration.

I thought cutting immigration and “taking back control” were the two key Brexit objectives.