Brexit Bulletin: It’s all black and white…
‘If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street
‘Less you want to draw the heat’ 1
I appreciate that many will regard this column as churlish for not leading with the Tsar’s breakthrough deal, but racism and nationalism have become part and parcel of Brexit, and this week’s disgraceful scenes in Bulgaria highlight exactly why we should all be concerned.
The behaviour of some Bulgarian fans has already been well documented, therefore I will not comment further, instead I will quote a Bulgarian journalist; ‘Every country’s national team is an institution but on Monday night our national team was destroyed. With the way England reacted to the racial abuse they wanted to make a statement – they wanted to stand up against racism and they did it.’
Or, more distressingly, as Gareth Southgate commented on his own conversations with England’s black players: ‘Sadly, because of their experiences in our own country, they are hardened to racism. I don’t know what that says about our society but that’s the reality.’
Unfortunately, it is the reality, in 2018, 33 right-wing extremists were held under anti-terror laws in the UK, a figure that has been rising over the last 4-years.
And Brexit has fuelled that fire, making the unacceptable acceptable, for example this quote; Britain must ‘maintain sovereign physical control of its borders’ and all that is stopping us taking back control are the lies of ‘the political and liberal media elite’.
‘Then it was unacceptable, today it sounds like government policy!’
Sounds like the Brexit party, perhaps? Or maybe the Tories? Actually, it is taken from the British National Party 2005 manifesto. Then it was unacceptable, today it sounds like government policy!
Whist Boris might claim to be a ‘liberal Conservative’, the voters he needs, and the only voters he is likely to get, are anything but. For many of the people who voted for Brexit it was charged with opposition to multiculturalism, feminism that’s gone too far, immigration, and anyone obstructing them were part of an elite plot.
The xenophobia that Britain suffers from is captured in the behaviour and attitudes displayed by a minority of our own football fans, sadly another never-ending story. Whilst their behaviour is offensive too many it has become glossed over.
England players don’t walk off the pitch at the first rendition of Ten German Bombers, management doesn’t threaten to abandon a fixture when English fans trash a European town centre in their name.
Perhaps some forms of xenophobia and abusive behaviour are better than others? ‘There is almost no kind of outrage,’ George Orwell wrote in his Notes on Nationalism, ‘which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.’
‘We ruled the world we killed and robbed
The fucking lot but we don’t feel bad
It was done beneath the flag of democracy’ 2
Brexit has almost made this acceptable; Brexit Party rallies start with the sound of air-raid sirens and are full of comments such as the ‘Brexit war’ can never end. Last week, when Farage blamed Angela Merkel for their waning hopes of a deal, their intent was clear, they were appealing directly to existing British prejudices.
This was encapsulated in the later-rescinded Tweet from Arron Banks and Leave.EU: ‘We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut.’ Sounds strangely like last Friday night in Prague when English fans carried out their latest rampage.
But, from last weeks seeming impossibility of a deal, to this week when the Tsar has arrived back from talks clutching an agreement. However, I have to say it feels rather like Chamberlain returning from Munich declaring ‘peace in our time’.
At this point there seems little point speculating on whether the terms are good, bad, or indifferent, too little is in the public domain. What seems to be widely accepted is that he has returned with a watered-down version of Theresa Mays deal, with concessions seemingly coming from our side of the negotiating table.
‘We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut.’
If so, the question is, can the Tsar navigate this, or anything, through Parliament? He has no majority and would rely on labour defectors to agree a deal, which is unlikely to be forthcoming unless they defy the party whip. Given that we have a minority government, the Tsar needs ‘outside’ help.
There is the DUP, however they already gone on record as saying they cannot support the proposal.
The Labour leadership has already decried it as ‘worse’ than Mrs Mays deal, and are planning to reject it in favour of another referendum.
And, lastly there are the 22 tory rebels who were sacked or resigned from the party. It’s anyone’s guess what they will do; I would expect some to be supportive of the deal itself, but will they want to vote with the government?
Nothing is ever black and white with Brexit.
Even though the proposed deal appears to be an undercooked version of Mrs May’s deal, one that was was rejected three times by the Commons, the government appears confident of steering it through.
Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed earlier this week that some ‘big changes’ have happened since May failed to get her deal with the EU through parliament, including a shift in the mood towards getting Brexit done and Brussels agreeing to reopen the withdrawal agreement.
Well, let’s consider what has changed:
- The Tsar has taken a slim majority and turned it into a minority of C.-40, by alienating members of his own party
- Labour has woken-up and become ardent supporters of a second referendum
- The Benn Act ‘forces’ the Tsar to ask for an extension if the House cannot agree on the proposal
- The Benn Act ‘stops’ any attempt at No Deal
- And the government was found to have acted unconstitutionally in proroguing Parliament
Strangely I can agree with Jacob, yes, definitely big changes: but, in my opinion this deal and the Tsar’s apparent climb-down in negotiations smells bad, it looks like desperate measures to say they have delivered a Brexit, even if it turns out to be worse than the one rejected 3-times in the last year!
Negotiation or simple capitulation? From No Deal to Any Deal?
‘ it looks like desperate measures to say they have delivered a Brexit’
I find it hard to believe that with this proposal the Tsar believes for one moment he can carry-it through the House. It feels like something that will be used to say to the electorate, ‘I promised a deal and got you one, once again you and I have thwarted by Parliament’.
This might help the Tsar save face when he must request the dreaded extension. Also, given all the time devoted to getting the deal together, might the EU might refuse an extension?
Would that then effectively see us kicked-out with No Deal?
In my view the Tsar might now be in a win/win situation. If Parliament approves his deal, he has delivered Brexit, if they vote it down, he can blame them. Even if it is rejected, the EU might effectively kick us out by refusing to countenance anymore time wasting.
Nothing, it would seem, is ever black and white with Brexit.
‘an encore of blame for Remain MPs and judges, the obstinate and unreliable French and Germans, and Ireland getting too big for its boots’
Either way expect lots of sentimental rhetoric; a country destined to stand apart from Europe, our finest hour (another?), with an encore of blame for Remain MPs and judges, the obstinate and unreliable French and Germans, and Ireland getting too big for its boots.
Timing is perfect Brexiters to dust off their John Bull costumes and proclaim their vision of Britain free of shackles, harking back to the days of empire, and a loud obsession with Britain’s role in the second world war, or their imagined version of it.
However, life must continue, sooner or later there will be a general election. And, was this week’s Queens Speech a dress rehearsal for the Conservative manifesto?
If so, we should listen to the Institute for Fiscal Studies who commented that the Tsar’s proposed spending plans match those in Labour’s last manifesto, the very one’s that were roundly condemned by May as unaffordable. Does this then give credibility to Labour plans, or he is guilty of his own financial mismanagement?
Irrespective of this, the plans are no more than Elastoplast over the cuts to public services over the last 10-yrs. The Tsar’s ‘sacred’ NHS, schools and police will continue to be stretched painfully thin, and there seems no end in sight for the 2,000 food banks serving those who lost working tax credits, e.g.:
- Next year the NHS gets a slight breather: not the 40 new hospitals emblazoned across his favourable press, but just six, the repairs problem acute in mental and community health units.
- The 10,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses missing due to George Osborne’s early cuts in training places will not be replaced
- Analysts say 83% of schools will still be worse off in 2020 than in 2015, with £245 less for each primary pupil, and £304 for secondary pupils.
The smoking gun is Brexit; The Tsar can only win if he has pulled off Brexit, and even then, it depends on which version.
Should we leave, both the customs union and single market Treasury receipts will shrink, pushing the economy into recession with the double-whammy of a Trump imposed trade war slowdown.
Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies says, that the three years of lost productivity on top of this decade of stagnant living standards has made us £55bn poorer.
Austerity doesn’t look likely to end quickly.
I, I wanna war, between the rich and the poor
I wanna fight and know what I’m fighting for
In a class war 3
OK lyric spotters – a week of optimism and/or devastation; we are apparently on the verge of a deal, or not – and the lyrics this week take us to hitherto unscaled peaks of anger and frustration.
Hats off to Philip, I love this challenge, but once again he’s nutmegged me – not in the sense that I’ve just lost another £18.6m – but on the basis that I couldn’t lay a glove on this week’s tracks.
However, unusually, in acknowledgement of the fiendish nature of this week’s challenge, he has declared triple points on tracks 1 and 3 – so 14 points up for grabs, and to be claimed in the usual way.
So 1 is not an artist you would normally associate with his column, but have you ever encountered a better protest song than Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’? – all the more poignant for being based on a true story.
I’d never for a moment consider myself capable of improving on the author’s description – ‘the greatest protest song ever written because it based on a true story and hits very hard. Makes Rotten/Lydon and Strummer look like kids!’
Next 2 is a track that may be familiar, but one that escaped me – The Jam with ‘Little Boy Soldiers’ and a really thought-provoking video.
Last, but incapable of being considered in any way least, is an absolute barnstormer – again, with commentary from the author – ‘boy were these bands angry’; angry they were, and soak up D.O.A. and ‘Class War’. And then take a look around; enjoy!
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s
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