Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


Comedy Central’s answer to the Vote Leave Brexit bus

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

The worry for leavers is if this meme catches on

A key part in Leave’s narrow victory at the referendum was its success in portraying negative comments about leaving the EU as “Project Fear”. That was two and a quarter years ago and now the Brexit date of March 29 2019 is not that far off.

Nobody appears to know what is going to happen and many are fearful of uncertainty. The political situation at Westminster, how the EU might respond and the worries about jobs might just be the right context for the Comedy Central piece to resonate.

Describing and powerful illustrating Brexit as being like the Titanic could touch some raw nerves. It will certainly annoy the hardliners like Jacob Rees-Mogg.

These days, of course, you don’t have to rely so much on the mainstream media. Social media will get this a lot of views.

Will it make a difference? Maybe. Maybe not.

I still think that TMay’s BINO will be what happens but who knows.

Mike Smithson


The end of an era. Sir Paul Dacre is said to have edited his last Daily Mail

Monday, August 13th, 2018

We can expect fewer powerful pro-Brexit front pages like these?

The biggest political development over the weekend, I’d suggest, was the report in the Observer about the replacement of Paul Dacre as Daily Mail editor with the Geordie Gregg, of the Mail on Sunday, who has taken a totally different view of the referendum outcome.

Gregg will start in September a couple of months earlier than planned and it is hard to see, given his views, him carrying on with Dacre’s strident approach epitomised in a whole series of striking front pages. UK Press Gazette is reporting that “Dacre is understood to have edited his last Daily Mail

The Mail is enormously powerful both because it has the second largest UK circulation and by some margin the busiest online presence. There’s little doubt that it has a big influence on public opinion. The Observer report noted:

“The incoming editor of the Daily Mail has indicated that he will only gradually tone down the strident pro-Brexit agenda espoused by his predecessor when he takes the helm at the powerful rightwing tabloid at the beginning of next month.

Geordie Gregg has told staff not to expect an immediate change in political coverage when he takes the reins from Dacre who spent 26 years in charge, for fear of alienating readers and because the wider political situation is so uncertain. Instead the focus will be on ensuring that the country achieves the least damaging form of Brexit and developing a more nuanced editorial line by next spring, a shift in emphasis that will be welcomed in Downing Street, where Theresa May is battling to control a revolt from the right of her party.

The planned Greig approach of achieving the least damaging form of Brexit appears to chime with that which is being followed by TMay.

The changeover could also impact on whether there’s a CON leadership challenge and the position of the Etonian hard line Brexiter duo of Moggsy and BoJo. It is hard to see them getting the backing from Greig that you’d expect Dacre to have given?

This, of course, comes at a key time in the Brexit negotiations and in the run-up to the party conferences.

Mike Smithson


This poll just about sums Brexit up – 60% don’t care what happens over Brexit they just want it to be over

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

This is good news for TMay

I’m starting to like some of the original output from DeltaPoll – the new pollster established a few months ago with Martin Boon, ex-ICM and Jo Twyman ex-YouGov at the helm.

In this question which came out during the week I think they’ve touched the mood of the nation. This seems to have gone on for so long and people are just bored.

Notice in the splits that Remainers are less likely to take this view but then that is understandable.

It is against this background, I’d suggest, that TMay’s Chequers strategy might eventually resonate. Her plan is essentially BINO, Brexit in Name Only, and is designed to honour the referendum result while causing as little damage as possible to the economy.

A lot now could depend on Labour and how influential Corbyn remains within the party. His strong pro-Brexit stance is very much out of line with his party supporters but he has held to it until now. The party conference, however, could be interesting with a big move going on to get backing for another referendum.

The antisemitism row has clearly weakened him and whether he can continue to stick with his policy on that and hold firm on his Brexit approach is very much a moot point.

Mike Smithson


Those whom the Gods wish to destroy. What happens next now that Britain has gone mad

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

So now we know.  A majority of Leavers are stark staring bonkers.  The signs had always been there: the swivel-eyed attacks on the judiciary as enemies of the people for giving judgment in a case, on the governor of the Bank of England for doing his job, on the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having regard to fiscal prudence, calling Remain supporters saboteurs and traitors and exulting in the Prime Minister’s condemnation of citizens of nowhere.  The most recent hate figure is the Electoral Commission for having the temerity to investigate electoral offences committed by Vote Leave.

There had even been polling that should have given us a clue.  A year ago YouGov recorded that 61% of Leave voters thought that significant damage to the British economy would be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the EU.  A plurality thought that Brexit causing you or members of your family to lose their job to be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the EU.  This was largely taken as an expression of intensity of feeling: the polling was taken seriously but not literally.

Just this last week we have had a poll showing that 58% of Leave voters rated Britain leaving the EU as more important than maintaining peace in Northern Ireland.  This rose to 63% among Conservative Leavers. 

Some commentators tried to explain this away as an unwillingness among Leavers to be cowed by terrorism.  Except there had already been separate polling showing that a strikingly similar 63% of English Leavers thought that even if part of the price of Brexit was Northern Ireland leaving the UK and reuniting with the rest of Ireland, that would be a price worth paying.  Similarly, 61% of English Leavers thought that even if part of the price of Brexit was Scotland leaving the UK that also would be a price worth paying. 

All the evidence points one way: the polling needs to be taken literally.  Something like a third of the population is so strongly motivated for Britain to leave the EU that any consequence up to and including the destruction of the United Kingdom and the outbreak of violence is acceptable. 

More polling would be useful.  Would the collapse of the NHS be a price worth paying?  How about the independence of London?  How about a massacre of the first born?  It would be useful to know the limits to which Leavers would prioritise Brexit.  Their hatred of the EU has so far yet to be fathomed.

The analysis that this reaction needs is less political and more psychiatric.  How can it be that a third of the population can have such crazed priorities?

You have to pity the politicians that must bargain with such a large feral segment of society (or you would if they had not played such a large part in creating it).  Some earnest commentators will tell us that the concerns of these voters must be listened to and addressed.  But voters, even a fairly large section of voters, do not automatically possess oracular wisdom.  We need to bear in mind the possibility that they have been driven doolally.  The evidence is pointing strongly that way.

All of this has betting implications.  First, if like me you believe that the ERG have somewhere between 60 and 100 MPs within their penumbra, the chances of a Conservative leadership contest in the short term are slim.  The uncrazed majority of Conservative MPs will not risk the ERG getting their man into the last two for the membership to consider because it looks highly likely that the membership are going to choose the most Leavey candidate available regardless of any other defects: omnia vincit Brexit.  Theresa May might need to suffer any number of indignities but she is the nurse whose hand will be clung to for fear of something worse.

Next, if a deal is done between Britain and the EU (and I expect it will, given this is in control of the government, which retains a tenuous and incoherent grip on sanity, and MPs, of whom only a relatively small sliver share the majority Leave obsession), that deal will command no legitimacy with either Remainers or Leavers.  There are going to be two simultaneous stab-in-the-back myths circulating simultaneously.  This ain’t going away any time soon. 

However unpalatable it might be, a third of the population makes for a tempting target market.  Nigel Farage is already sniffing around trying to work out how he can make himself relevant again.  If the Conservative party looks as though it has failed to deliver Brexit in the minds of these diehards, he stands a very good chance of doing just that.

So when that Conservative leadership contest does come, the winner will probably be someone who can present themselves as a hardline uncompromising Leaver, regardless of their other qualities.  Boris Johnson is now manifestly unfit for the top job.  He might yet get it.

All of this in turn will shore up the opposition to Brexit.  Remember, polls are now showing a clear lead for Remain over any individual form of Brexit.  With the government seeming to be in the grip of ideologically-driven obsessives, the unconverted are going to be casting around for the most effective way of opposing them.  Right now, for all its defects, that looks likely to be Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. 

None of this sounds like good news for Britain.  It isn’t.  A third of the population want to burn the house down and right now no one is manning a hose.  Who knows how much is going to survive their efforts?

Alastair Meeks


Topping, who served with the British Army in Northern Ireland during the troubles, on Ulster and Brexit

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Kenneth Allen / Bloody Sunday mural, Bogside

Why the border issue is so important to both sides

Why, when we’re busy trying to Brexit, is everyone hung up on Northern Ireland? Why should we let this small part of the UK, with a population just larger than Newcastle’s, dictate seemingly our entire Brexit settlement? Terrorism, people say. But we don’t give in to terrorists, so why does Northern Ireland and its terrorists get such special treatment?

For most people in the UK, terrorism means the odd bomb scare, suspicious package, or a thankfully rare terrorist incident. Whereas it once defined the island of Ireland.

Let’s imagine the scene: a long walk in the countryside on a beautiful summer’s day. You gaze out over the rolling hills and, amongst the trees swaying gently in the wind and the gambolling lambs, you see an army patrol dressed in camouflage kit, helmets and face paint, carrying machine guns. Is one of them pointing their gun at you? Shortly, a helicopter emerges from the distance, drops like a stone to land, and picks up the soldiers. Then, with its door gunner on alert, it rises steeply backwards, upwards and away. You continue your walk.

Or imagine you’re off to Tesco and pass fully armed soldiers either patrolling on foot, or in armoured vehicles with machine guns sticking out of the top. Perhaps they’ll stop and ask you who you are, where you’re going – questions you’d have to answer. Or they might take an hour to search your car. And all this because you know there is a threat of violence from the local communities.

How could such scenes exist in the United Kingdom? Well they did, in Northern Ireland, and that was the Troubles. Northern Ireland was at war, both with itself, and with the British Forces sent initially to protect the Catholic community in 1969. That military operation lasted 37 years and the internal conflict which brought it into being is what people fear when they talk about a return to the bad old days: complete disruption of the civic society that you and I take for granted.

There has been progress since, of course. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement assured Unionists that until a majority wanted otherwise, NI would remain part of the UK, while the Nationalists for their part saw a raft of cross-border bodies established. And times have changed in other ways also. Gerry Adams is in parliament now and surely no more than a handful of hot-heads want a return to the armed struggle? Isn’t it all – wasn’t it always – gangsters and criminals?

While not as intense (3,500 people died during the Troubles), there has been continuous terrorist-related activity since the GFA was signed, including murders, shootings and weapons finds.

    To think that no dissident Republican groups are or would be willing to fight for a united Ireland today is wishful thinking; to dismiss them as gangsters or criminals is to misunderstand the history of Irish Republicanism.

Army patrols in NI would routinely visit the 208 Border Crossing Points (BCPs, more than the EU has with all points East) of which 20 were official; the remainder, located in streams, fields, forests or woods, were often used to smuggle various substances – diesel, livestock (“dizzy cows” were taken back and forth over the border to collect agricultural subsidies), or, of course, weaponry and terrorists. One of the consequences of the GFA, and the reduction in violence, is that there are no more “official” BCPs; you can cross the border anywhere you want.

And it is this last issue that represents the toughest Brexit nut to crack. All mooted options, whether Chequers, any of the backstop agreements (Joint Report or Withdrawal Agreement), or any other solution, must be seen through the prism of how it affects the border.

Again, why? There are customs posts throughout the world without accompanying violence.

A hard border between the RoI and NI would inflame the Nationalists as it would create a more tangible separation between Eire and the UK, representing a setback in their quest for a united Ireland. It would also violate the spirit of the GFA, and the many pronouncements made by Theresa May. A border in the Irish Sea, meanwhile, would inflame the Unionists as it would create a de facto separate state of the island of Ireland. It has also, of course, been outlawed by the UK Parliament.

And ludicrous as it sounds, the fact that all parties have stated they don’t want one, has not prevented the border being used as a negotiating tool in the Brexit negotiations.

During the Troubles, a hard border provided a call to arms for Republican paramilitary groups. In the absence of some kind of as yet non-existent technological solution, people fear that any kind of border infrastructure created now would have the same effect. Which would in turn bring reprisals from Unionist paramilitary groups. And pretty soon you are back to the Troubles. And that is why it all matters so much.

Topping is a regular poster on PB


If the senior Tory quoted here is right TMay will be out this autumn

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

On Betfair it’s a 38% chance that she’ll be out this year

I’ll believe it when I see it. Tory MPs, surely, will only back a confidence move if they are confident their choice will succeed.

Mike Smithson


Leave voters rate leaving the EU as more important than peace in Northern Ireland

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Do they really want a return to the killings?

I must say that I find the above poll finding quite shocking. It is a reflection on just how our memories can fade and also my age.

The troubles in Northern Ireland were far and away the biggest UK domestic issue of my lifetime starting in the late 1960s and only really coming to some sort of conclusion with the Good Friday Agreement in the late 1990s. Since then a fragile peace has existed.

Anything that threatens to undermine that has to be taken seriously. Remember this did not just impact on the lives of those living in the Province but many other parts of the UK.

I like this response to Joe Twyman’s Tweet.

Mike Smithson


The Brexit day party

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Looming over the back of all the sound and fury of our day to day politics is the inexorable approach of Brexit day. The 29th of March 2019 will be the day when something happens, maybe. We will start an orderly transition to somewhere, or an abrupt and disorderly crunch into somewhere else. There will be some kind of Brexit that might happen, whether it’s hard or soft (my personal bet is on squidgy). Unless we get an extension, which we won’t, probably. We might keep going with a Mexican stand-off on a falling nuclear bomb waving cowboy hats as we go, MAD all the way down.

There are a wonderful range of countdown options to choose from, traditionalists can see we’re now under 250 days to go, while the Brexit Countdown twitter account offers hourly updates showing us approaching 5800 hours until something might will have possibly happened.

Perhaps we can dig out the Olympic clock and set it up in Parliament Square like a particularly ominous version of Countdown.

We should have the 30th as a national holiday, out of consideration for a great national hangover and for a chance to adjust to the new state of affairs, whatever it will be. Leavers can get the celebratory rounds of strictly British booze (splitting the bill in very creative ways)  meanwhile in the next room Remainers drown their sorrows and mournfully hum Ode to Joy.

Nigel Farage will be back in his familiar pint-handed pose, Arron Banks is facing questions about how he paid for the party (but the roof is missing some lead). Theresa May is still in charge of organising the Conservative’s drinks order, which to has led them all to a team-building retreat with padded rooms and all sharp objects confiscated. A few members sneaked off to call Steve Bannon and Jeremy Corbyn keeps slipping back and forth between the two rooms disappearing as soon as he’s trapped into committing to saying hello and dreaming nostalgically of the days when it was only Brexit questions he had to avoid.

(The Lib Dems unfortunately had a prior engagement elsewhere and were just as inconspicuous in their absence as in person).

Maybe it’ll all feel like a dream, or at least the gap-filled memory haze of a heavy night before. Maybe the last two years will make more sense that way. The future is certain, give us time to work it out.