Brexit, again

As we get closer to the endgame, Brexit looks more and more like a disaster area. I voted Remain, and would again, but think that the best - and squinting a bit a moderately likely - option is for MPs to vote to rescind article 50, rather than for another referendum.

Which is why the pound went down today when May postponed the vote. Her ostensible reason - to go talk to the EU and get better terms - is delusional. The EU has no interest in helping her, especially at this stage. They, like everyone else, wants her to f*ck off. There was a fair chance that today's vote would have been so disastrous that she would have been forced to f*ck off, in which case other more pleasant options come into play. All she has done is delay those better options.

The path forwards

There are many scenarios from now. Here's my most hopeful one: the vote occurs and goes badly for May. She is forced to resign, and either some vaguely sane leader takes over or perhaps with the leadership weakened the MPs reassert themselves- unlikely I know, they are spineless disorganised and useless, but I can hope. And since we can just rescind article 50, we do so.

Given the cowardice of our MPs, I think my "hopeful" scenario somewhat unlikely; which makes the next-best another referendum, with all the perils of what-should-be-the-question(s); but it would probably work.

The Brexiteers impartially consider'd

Although I voted remain, I have some sympathy for some of the Brexiteers programme: the portion that is Free Trade and freedom from over-regulation. But it has become clear that they are incompetent to achieve these aims. The "hard Brexiteer" faction is now shutting it's eyes, wishing very hard, and hoping to get a Brexit at any cost, in order to renegotiate the deal - or simply break it - when the political climate becomes more favourable to them. Or at least that's their plan, but it is hopeless (the only kind of Brexit that makes any sense and that I could support is a Hard one, and the country will never have the political courage for that). And just as Hobbes teaches us that rebellion is only permissible if you can win, so Brexiting in that manner is only permissible if you can achieve your aims; and they can't.

To be fair, the incompetence is not limited to their side: the Remainers and the Soft Brexiteers and (IMO) the EU are also incompetent; but that's rather the point: there's no-one around competent to negotiate a change of this magnitude.

Another referendum?

I'd rather not. It is slow and error prone. We run a parliamentary democracy, the referendum is advisory, the only thing preventing us from saying "it was a giant mistake, let's not do it again" is the cowardice of MPs.

Theresa May

Is rubbish. But what mystifies me is why she is so dedicated to Leave. Before the referendum she was remain, albeit weakly; she is not a person of any great principle. I can only attribute it to blind stubbornness, which rather fits her image from the Home Office. She still looks to me like a politician - and a person - of no vision, substance, or quality. Her only ability, much touted, is surviving, for which I give her no credit.

Update: 2018/12/12: Brexit in chaos as Tory MPs trigger vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
Update: 2018/12/13: Theresa May survives confidence vote of Tory MPs although "survives" only in May-land.
Update: 2019/01/15: May's shit deal is thrown out by a vast majority. At least one MP - Cambridge's Daniel Zeichner - comes out for just-revoke-A50.
Update: 2019/01/16: That fuckwit Corbyn tries a vote of no confidence and inevitably loses, thereby if anything strengthening "cockroach" May.


James Annan has been predicting Brexit-will-not-happen for a while, and now has a post up with more detail (note: I wrote this post, except for this section, before reading his). Although I think will-not-happen is quite likely, I still fear that our idiots pols could yet by blind stubbornness and cowardice end up leading us over the cliff anyway. But he's been right about a number of things so I'm cheered that he may be right about this too. He's probably right about the value of academics and journos too.


Boris Johnson is a tosser.
* Boris in the bunker.
Brits Could Have a Brexit Cake and Eat It Too - not realistic, but the direction of my thinking.
Devastating Review of Nancy MacLean’s Fictional Work “Democracy in Chains” - CH
* Just blow it all up? - by Scott Sumner, EconLib
One Year Ago Today, the FCC Killed the Internet


David B. Benson said...

Hope you told your MP in no uncertain terms.

Victor Venema said...

Just because a no-deal Brexit is not rational does not mean that it will not be the outcome. A huge mess times a small probability is still a high risk.

"Another referendum? I'd rather not. It is slow and error prone. We run a parliamentary democracy, the referendum is advisory, the only thing preventing us from saying "it was a giant mistake, let's not do it again" is the cowardice of MPs."

That is the save option and would be legal, but it would be easier for the other half of the country to accept the outcome if there is another vote.

That is why we had a vote this weekend on who would be the next chair of the German conservatives or earlier a vote on whether the German social democrats would join the government. These were controversial decisions for both sides and having a vote pacifies the situation.

A problem could be that the people's vote should be quick enough to be sure that the UK can unilaterally rescind article 50.

William M. Connolley said...

There would certainly be a great deal of complaint, if MPs did it without a second referendum. But then there would be a great deal of complaint, if there was a ref.

But this all comes from people being sold a pup: not just over Brexit, but over what 52% means. It wasn't definite enough, and yet - by the people who won - is taken as an unshakeable expression of the people's will. This is actually part of the all-or-nothing problem with democracy, see-also the USA election result.

Andy Mitchell said...

Don't worry, my understanding is that the new strategy is for Ms May to go back to the EU and beg for a better deal.

Andy Mitchell said...

"But what mystifies me is why she is so dedicated to Leave"

Without the support of the toxic right wing of the Tory Party the government falls. I think Ms. May will do whatever keeps her in power for as long as possible: playing the Brexiter game does that. She can always pretend to herself that she is acting in the countries best interest because she is the only person standing between Boris and the premiership.

Tadaaa said...

A "no deal" is, although the default, the most unlikely imv - there are still just enough adults in room to prevent that armagammon (and they also know what it actually entails in terms of a shutdown to the UK's economy and wider functioning as a society

my best guess is the WA is "reluctantly" signed - in some ways it is now the "status quo"

I predicted earlier that I suspect the EU/Robbins have "war gamed" this and kept a few morsels back ready to throw to MP's - just enough to give them cover to vote for it - they voted for A50 after all

Tadaaa said...

the linking of free trade and regulation is interesting

harmonisation of regulations promotes free trade, that's why the brexiteers (Ownen "only a madman would leave the SM" Paterson & Daniel "no one is threatening our place in the SM" Hannan) like it so much, and early versions of the brexiteers promoted the SM in the late 80's / 90's - they just don't like all that messy oversight that is necessary (a bit like the travelling community when it comes to following rules)

indeed quite a lot of regulations that facilitate cross border trade stem from global organisations - not the EU

http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/en/ - for food


https://www.unece.org/info/ece-homepage.html (careful with these guys as the have the flat earth map as a logo!!!!!!)

which are then adopted by the dastardly EU

William M. Connolley said...

Well, you can promote FT by harmonising ever more burdensome regulations, or you can do it by removing them. If you're under the delusion that only the Angelic Bureaucrats with the Protective Regulations are all that stands between Hapless Consumers and the Evil Capitalists that would otherwise fill their food with Maggots, then you go for ever more. If you don't believe that fairy story, you might go for less.

Andy Mitchell said...

Some of those "burdensome regulations" go back to Victorian times.


"1860 Food and Drugs Act. This was the first attempt at legislation to prevent the adulteration of food. It was common to find harmful additives in staple foods: white lead in flour, ground glass in sugar, red lead in coffee for example."

Andy Mitchell said...

There's a short history of food legislation here:


PaulS said...

If you're under the delusion that only the Angelic Bureaucrats with the Protective Regulations are all that stands between Hapless Consumers and the Evil Capitalists that would otherwise fill their food with Maggots, then you go for ever more.

Are you genuinely disputing that? We have a ready-made example of just that thing happening in today's world in unregulated ingestibles - i.e. the illegal drugs market.

William M. Connolley said...

> 1860 Food and Drugs Act

People often quote this - or similar - with the spoken or unspoken rider "and of course food quality has got better since then" - but make no attempt to assess causality; as though it is obvious without proof that regulation is the sole cause of improvement. But of course it isn't.

> Are you genuinely disputing that?

Yes. As for drugs, they are illegal. You need an example of something unregulated but where the state doesn't get in the way.

James Annan said...

I'm afraid it looks rather like you are setting yourself up an unfalsifiable proposition there wmc. Together with a straw man: no-one sane would say "sole cause of improvement". Wealth, technology, knowledge all undoubtedly play a big role (oh noes! I didn't prove causality there!). But if you are going to insist that legislation had no effect, well....

William M. Connolley said...

> insist that legislation had no effect

What did I say that made you think that? I can't see anything.

So all sane people agree that a variety of things have caused changes; the point at issue then is which are most important; and whether yet more regulation (which is what we're going to get) would help; and whether less regulation would harm. I think it wouldn't.

crandles said...

If cancelled: Betrayed beats delighted 24 to 23 but that seems surprisingly little and perhaps outweighed by relieved beating disappointed 13 8 and pleased beating angry 7 6.

That might suggest it is more doable by MPs without a peoples vote, however I doubt they would have the courage to do so without a referendum. Unfortunately, time seems a major problem for a referendum before March 29th.

If there was a PM/government/majority of MPs in favour of another vote, could a deal be agreed to have an extension for the time needed to have a vote and if the single transferable vote between remain, deal negotiated and hard brexit did vote for remain UK could still revoke article 50? With Europe delighted at possibility of problem going away, such a deal may be possible but I would expect some EU members to want to extract something for agreeing like end of rebate. Remainers seem to think they are likely to win such a vote and maybe this poll backs that up a little but I am not sure it is that clear. Maybe quickest way to end this chaos might be one of the best arguments for remain.

Not sure how we get to 'a PM/government/majority of MPs in favour of another vote' though. TM seems unlikely to change and replacement PM seems more likely to be more hardline brexit favouring and DUP seem unlikely to support Corbyn.

New referendum seems the obvious course of action to me. The reason for it being that our information about what a brexit would look like has changed. Surely much fewer than 24% would feel betrayed if ended by popular vote against them, than by Brexit just being cancelled by MPs? Vote seems the way to make people accept the outcome and T. May's answers that it would be devisive seems laughably wrong to me.

PaulS said...

As for drugs, they are illegal. You need an example of something unregulated but where the state doesn't get in the way.

Why would I need that? Are you suggesting the only reason cocaine gets laced with crap is because it's illegal and everything would be perfect if it were legalised without regulation?

But I do have examples.

Legalisation of marijuana in California without any effective regulation: https://abc7news.com/health/labs-warn-of-dangerous-contaminated-pot-at-dispensaries/2965470/

The largely unregulated supplement market in the US: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/hundreds-dietary-supplements-tainted-potentially-harmful-drugs

David Appell said...

Exit Brexit!

William M. Connolley said...

> https://abc7news.com/health/labs-warn-of-dangerous-contaminated-pot-at-dispensaries/2965470/

Did you read it? This starts off with "Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo", who tests his stuff, even though the regs to require testing aren't in force yet. and he thinks that's a good idea, which is hardly astonishing, because he's doing it. So he's a counter-example to your idea, not in support.

The article then continues; apparently "some experts" believe that other pot is contaminated. Who are these experts? Step forward... DeAngelo. Who has extra costs on himself, for testing, and is naturally anxious that other sellers should have the same costs imposed on them. Consumers get the choice for tested or not.

So, meh. A new industry takes a while to settle down.

> https://www.sciencenews.org/article/hundreds-dietary-supplements-tainted-potentially-harmful-drugs

"From 2007 to 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration flagged nearly 800 over-the-counter dietary supplements as tainted with potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs" - sounds pretty bad, eh? But "Most of these supplements, which are allowed to contain only dietary ingredients, included drugs such as steroids, the active ingredient in Viagra and a weight loss drug banned from the U.S. market eight years ago. The products had been marketed primarily for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle building". So, again, meh. As far as the FDA is concerned, these were contaminants. But as far as the people buying them were concerned, they were fine.

Tadaaa said...

I thought this was an interesting perspective on the difference between the EU and the US (two regulatory superpowers) in terms of how "regulation" is handled


It is a pro brexit blog by brexiter Dr North and erstwhile colleague of arch bat shit crazy all round crank/AGW denier Christopher Booker

I am an avid reader / commentator although have been banned as Tadaaa (so post with dark sunglasses an a moustache)

North pushes some nonsense about Norway/EEA (Flexcit) as a route out of the EU - he reminds me of some pushing ID because he realises the YEC position is a tricky sell

William M. Connolley said...

> http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=86671

Yes, that's a nice link; thanks.

Andy Mitchell said...

It turns out that the new British method for negotiating super trade deals - begging - does not work. Now Owen Paterson, a man whose views on Brexit are doubtless as well founded as his views on climate change, has added his name to those calling for a new PM.

Andrew said...

Ok. Let's take the example of people choosing to take pharmaceuticals such as steroids. This has obvious costs: Liver, kidney and heard disease among others. And it's practically impossible to directly attribute one instance of illness to a specific drug regimen (sounds familiar). So.. does the health provider turn away people if they *suspect* that their illness is self-inflicted, or are the costs spread (unfairly) over taxpayers/insurance premiums. And, of course, few humans believe that *they* will get ill, so rational behaviour is not helpful here.

Therefore we have to regulate as the least-bad option.

William M. Connolley said...

Your chain of logic is too long. People may damage themselves, and that might have follow-on problems, but that doesn't imply your conclusion. Because your conclusion is far too broad; it gives you leave to interfere far too much.

J C Brookes said...

Are the polling people taking polls on what the populaces position on Brexit is? If not, why not?

It seems to me a poor excuse for a democracy where a vote held with a great deal of misinformation and downright lies can't later be overturned by a much more informed populace having another say.

I'm surprised (from afar in Australia) that you don't have any protests against Brexit. That the authorities are not being challenged. Mind you, we in Australia would also not expect to sway a government, and would sit at home comfortably and moan.

Andy Mitchell said...

There have been polls taken on Brexit since the referendum. They would seem to indicate there has been sufficient shift, with enough people becoming disillusioned with Brexit, for a second referendum to reverse the original decision.

Which is one reason why the Brexiters say the will of the people can only be consulted once. And if the will of the people has changed, then **** the will of the people.

There have been some anti Brexit protests: they have been peaceful so they did not get much press coverage. I suspect that if Brexit does not go ahead, the Brexiters will protest and they will not be so pleasant.

William M. Connolley said...

I think the "will" has shifted. By less that one might have expected, given what a disaster it is looking like, but shifted enough for "remain" to win another ref, as you say; and indeed as you say that's why the leave folk are so keen not to replay it.

I kinda think that as a general principle anything that is subject to these whims ought to be subject to a threshold high enough to stop them; but it's too late to say that.

What I find odd is that the majority of MPs seem to have been bounced into the "respect the will of the people" stuff. A combination of cowardice, victim of successful PR, whatver; nothing very creditable. These people wot we pay to be our representatives aren't very good at it.

Andy Mitchell said...

The Brexiters have now come up with a new fantasy: the "managed no deal Brexit". This is a no deal Brexit with some BS attached so they can pretend it will not cause economic disaster.

James Annan said...

The large majority aren't shifted by evidence, a few decades in climate change should have taught you that William! Of course it only requires a small proportion to shift - not even that perhaps, with the demographic changes - to reverse the original decision. Though I am still concerned that a combination of "British sense of fair play" and not wanting to be on the losing side will actually motivate some to switch from remain to leave.

Silly Dreamer, not so long ago there was a march of anything up to a million people (depends who you believe) in London. The press did their best to not cover it, but they couldn't completely avoid it. I'm expecting greater protests/riots to come.

J C Brookes said...

Yes James, the trouble with "sensible" protests is that if they become angry and violent, it goes against you. Whereas if protests by racists or fascists turn ugly, thats just a sign of how passionate they are.