Over the past few years I've been studying how human's brains make decisions for them. And what have I found out? Well, I've come to the rather depressing conclusion that, even if love does conquer all in the end, it is hate which makes us sit up, take notice and go out with sharpened pichforks to actually do stuff.
I was staring around wondering how to put my new-found theory to the test, when, suddenly, along came Brexit. There it was laid out in front of me - the power of pure hate and the Harmsworth Principle directed, not at a person or group, but, ingeniously, at an institution. An institution which won't sue for defamation and about which the devotees know nothing, so of which the would-be commander-of-men can say or claim any absolute made-up crap they like.
Flushed with an inflated sense of my own ingenuity, I wrote out this plan for what I expect to happen to the UK and the EU. Now, a year on, I think it is time to make it public and see whether I really do know how brains make decisions...
THE BRITISH PEOPLE did not vote last week to leave the EU. They voted to leave an imaginary version of the EU invented by a small coterie of profit-hungry men. A bit like the day when the BBC accidentally interviewed the wrong guy called Guy.
The EU is not something external which 'we' joined forty odd years ago. It is the cumulation and assemblage of seven hundred years of European trade and interchange at least since the Treaty of Windsor in 1373. Leaving, at least without fundamental restructuring over decades, is not possible.
The continuous uneventful success of EU membership in a world of media devoted to conflict has mean that the EU rarely makes headlines, so few UK voters understand what it is or does, making easy prey for those who would manipulate them for fear of an imagined 'enemy'. They voted to leave an EU of unelected bureaucrats who cost us a fortune and force ruinous laws on long-suffering Britain. But you can't leave that, because it doesn't exist.
As Nikita Khrushchev (possibly) said, "If the people believe there’s an imaginary river out there, you don’t tell them there’s no river. You build an imaginary bridge over the imaginary river." How?
This is how I expect it to play out...
There are only three ways - by argument, by authority or by demonstration.
Argument and facts aren't going to work on Leavers. Opinions not based on facts will not be corrected by facts.
An appeal from authority by way of an honest and open admission of error would work. But all experience is that the Blonde Beasts are unencumbered by remorse. They aren't going to apologise.
So, it is going to have to be an ostensive demonstration. People will have to discover for themselves what life on a lone island is like. They will 'come round'.
It should be understood that it is generally impossible to get people to openly admit a change of opinion once entrenched. But it IS possible to provide a corrective opinion, if it is presented as completely new, not a revision, in different words.
ESTABLISHMENT OF AN EXIT COMMISSION
It will be necessary to set up an 'Exit Commission'. It should be led by the leading Brexit enthusiasts, absolutely irrespective of their competence. Indeed, as it necessarily follows that the most ardent 'exiters' must be the worst informed and laziest thinkers, they must be put in charge of their own.
PRETEND A 'REAL' BREXIT
The pretence must be absolute. All HMG parties will have to present a very vigorous 'leave' agenda. Any suggestion of compromise will be treated as betrayal by the Right and will give them an excuse to stand back from any responsibility for the consequences, it will stoke the fires of division and dissent on both sides. The Leave agenda must be promoted to the point where almost everyone actually believes it to be inevitable. It would be wise if leading Ministers refrain from promising 'Leave', but use less specific language along the lines of 'the British people have spoken' 'we expect success' 'Brexit is it' etc.
There is good evidence that simply bringing-up ideas they oppose actually strengthens false beliefs .'. discussion of the EU and the method of leaving must be kept to a minimum. Confusion and complexity will abound. The focus must always be on the intended outcome.
UKIP are an enmity party, they have no interest in leaving the EU. If UKIP were really interested in leaving the EU they'd be helping put together plans, bringing forward their economists, accountants, engineers and lawyers and working hard to help make it happen. But, they won't. They'll just carry on doing what they do - complaining. There are always people dissatisfied with their lot, and those who can offer someone to blame will always get followers. In a sense UKIP were clever to pick the EU as an enemy - pretty much none of their followers know what it is or does, so any set of lies can be told to build up the hate. But with the object of their hate gone they have nothing and will collapse - unless, of course, they discover a new set of people to hate. Jews and Muslims - watch out.
Although this plan risks becoming a self-defeating prophecy if revealed, it might be necessary to outline the broad principle to, for instance, major industrialists who might otherwise choose a self-protective route which would have severe negative impact on the economy. Highest degree of cooperation / confidentiality needed.
It is possible that press etc. may note the lack of plans for new customs facilities, extra civil servants, new research institutes and inspectors and suspect that there is no intention to Leave. It may be necessary to (vaguely) propose some such plans.
Those who have been persuaded to vote Leave have largely believed that they are voting for a protectionist, almost Juche, 'keep foreigners out' society, whereas the 'donkeys' running Brexit - UHNW's like Rotheremere, Desmond, Odey, Mercer, Hargreaves, Mellon etc. - want the exact opposite, laissez-faire libertarianism. The two are irreconcilable.
It should be remembered that for its promoters Brexit presents both a 'carrot' of potentially vast profit from forex and market instability and a 'stick' in an actual existential threat from the EU's egalitarian tendency and its closing-in on tax avoidance and corporate greed. They will not give up easily.
Nonetheless, the 'decision' was made by the voters, who vastly outnumber the donkeys, whose correction will be final and who must be offered a congenial way out.
The easily-manipulated terror of outsiders, among people with little experience, has caused the problem. Note that, irrespective of the actual level of migration, even during long periods of 0 net inward migration, about 65% of UK voters always believe there are too many immigrants. Actual immigration is well established as making no difference whatever to that opinion. Explaining the value of free movement the absolute necessity of migrant labour or altering actual immigration levels is .'. pointless, instead, it is necessary to alter the view of immigration control.
There is a strange belief among UK politicians that the EU is some sort of government, as if Britain were the Parish Council and if it could only throw off the County Council then everything would be lovely in the village. But the EU isn't a government. The EU is a negotiating group where the countries of Europe meet together to decide the things they have to decide on together. And they do that by making rules. Rules which they are very strict indeed about sticking to.
So, the people appointed by the European Parliament and Council to deal with a UK cannot 'negotiate' in the sense of "oh, we'll do this, if you do that". All they can do is reiterate the rules. Rules which the UK knows all about, because the UK made them. To change the rules requires the agreement of every EU country, which is why European agreements often take so long, and why even the most vehement 'leaver' can't find any fault with them.
So, if an autarkic UK wants different rules, it'll have to answer the question; "what's in it for Slovakia?"
During the 'debate' phase, the following will become apparent:
- 1. No real negotiation is possible. In any case the UK cannot put forward any meaningful proposals as it has no advantage of substance to offer. The Ministers likely to be involved in exit negotiations will lack skills, they will, by definition, be people who do not understand what the EU is or how trade works. I'll repeat; the EU is not a government, nor a sovereign body nor a body corporate - it is a body of agreed rules, which will not and cannot be changed to accommodate just one errant nation. Decisions will be made, ultimately, by the EU Parliament. Ministers will be unable to publicly promise anything as they are likely to look foolish when their demands fail. It is vastly too complex.
- 2. By absenting itself from European decision making, the UK loses influence over the laws which will govern its trade, not only with the Mainland, but substantially worldwide and will have no choice but to acquiesce to a European Parliament to which it has not shown goodwill.
- 3. For Free Trade, the EU will require the UK give up its independent control of migration. The EEA/Liechtenstein option requires completely open borders and acquiescence to EU rules, it is opposed to both the 'Juche' & 'Libertarian' demands.
- 4. The cost of Brexit in human and financial terms, is vast and will begin to hit pockets. There may be a quick response caused by £ falling, but the worst effects will take some time to be apparent to ordinary voters
A change in 'Animal Spirits' will occur. 2½ years? Mid-2019? It will have to be a matter for the judgment of the PM when to initiate a corrective referendum. I would suggest that when public opinion reaches about 70:30 pro-EU would suffice. To wait for 90:10 would take three or four years and could, by then, have caused considerable damage.
THE CORRECTIVE REFERENDUM
Bringing about the correction will need great care. It would help if it were to appear to be
1: (reluctantly) forced on the UK, possibly by a motion of the EU Parliament, or, more likely, because alteration to nature of the Irish border per the the 1998 Agreement or the CTA would (s19A of the Irish Constitution) require a referendum in Ireland. It would seem odd to UK if RoI had a vote on UK/EU, but UK didn't.
2: Not a re-run of the referendum, but a proper, entirely separate, vote on the next step.
3: Without any option to return to the status of the UK pre-referendum. Though it might present a 'new dispensation'.
THE COMMON TRAVEL AGREEMENT
It has been commonly, and falsely, assumed, even by enthusiasts for the EU that membership means that the UK has no control of its borders. This is not the case. The borders of the UK and RoI are jointly preserved, separately from the Mainland, through the Common Travel Agreement CTA).
A revised and formalised CTA, preferably ratified by the EU Parliament, can be made central to presenting 'a completely new dispensation in Europe' where the UK is 'with' the EU but 'now' has - at last! - complete control of its own borders. This is likely to satisfy most Leave voters.
Voters will be told that there is NO option to remain in the EU on present terms, and that the options - put in full on the ballot paper - are along the lines of:
- British Have-it-All Option: UK to be with the the EU for social, commercial and educational purposes, BUT now with absolute UK veto over all EU security matters and a full part in all EU lawmaking. UK entirely separate from mainland free-travel area, a new Anglo-Irish Travel Treaty gives the UK and Ireland independent control of their borders.
- Lichtenstein Option: UK not part of the EU, but will accept all existing and all future EU law, but with no veto and no say in the making of them. There will be free trade and full cooperation. The UK will join the Schengen Area - unrestricted free movement.
- Juche Option: UK to adopt all EU laws into UK law with the option to change them later. The UK government will control all trade, there will be absolute border controls, import and export duties. Government permission will be required to enter, leave or remain in the UK. Hard RoI border
Options (2) and (3) are not attractive. Although option (1) will appear to the less informed voter to be the demanded self-control, the more informed voter will note that it is 'remain' in every detail, apart from a (long overdue anyway) revised and formalised CTA.
It is extremely unlikely that any 'Leave' enthusiast will observe that the 'new' dispensation is precisely the same one we had all along, because pointing that out is admitting that they had lied.
Option (1) will win, allowing even the most ardent leavers to claim:
- Look how clever we are! We've finally left the EU of free-and-open borders and got back complete control of our borders. But we've still got all the advantages of the EU.
- "That's what we wanted all along. I haven't changed my opinion. This has always been what we needed.. a new deal for Britain … this was the only way to do it".
- "There - we've solved it! We can pretend to stay in the EU to keep the silly 'remainers' quiet, but we're out really, with control of our own borders at last"
The happy result of all this could be be the end of any idea of British Exceptionalism and the destruction of the silly right as a political force.
The phrase 'Empire on which the sun never sets' was first coined of the Spanish Empire. Countries of Europe, from Greece to Portugal, Germany, Macedonia, France and Italy have each had their day in the sun when they believed they ruled the world. One by one they've discovered that they don't, and have settled back to a sounder, simpler and more honest life. Britain, at last, can join them.
Look what happens if you describe precisely what existing membership of the EU means, but do so in 'new deal', nationalistic, terms...