Friday, 1 January 2016

Brexit - It's not a light switch

"As hope grows that we could actually free ourselves from the clutches of the EU, attention turns to the exit strategy. It's become apparent, some people have been looking at this much longer than others."

Much as we would love it, let's be honest, Brexit isn't going to work like this

It's unfair to suggest that we should all somehow be at the same place in this debate. We've all come from a variety of backgrounds, some of us academic and others not (and there's no shame in the latter at all), yet we've all converged on this notion of Brexit. Each of us bringing our own hopes and fears in to the debate, wanting the outcome to tick as many boxes as possible with the least amount of effort.

At the same time, those of us playing catch up have to be honest with ourselves. We can't march in and start shouting the odds, making demands that simply may not be realistic. If we receive feedback that suggest there are problems with an approach, we have to step back and be prepared to accept that we will need to at least review the scenario in light of the new evidence.

I've gone through that arc already and I'm not afraid to admit it. In fact, I'm proud of the fact that I'm prepared to be proven wrong because it's the only way to grow your understanding of any situation. Nobody is born an expert.

But it's no surprise that there's a lot of intransigence in the Brexit camp at the moment. Too many people harbouring desires that are unrealistic and rather than facing up to them, they're clustering with like minded people in order to provide a comfort blanket. It's time for these people to face the music; to put up or shut up and realise that unqualified ambitions only amount to folly out in the wider world.

The 'light switch' moment for me was realising that Brexit cannot be a light switch moment in itself.

Like many, my hopes were that the votes would be sorted in to two large Leave / Remain piles - and if the Leave pile was the heaviest, the scales would tip and then flick the Brexit switch. At which point we'd automatically repeal the European Communities Act 1972 causing all EU flags to drop, legal rights to be repatriated, freedom of movement to be ceased and a flood of tears to come from Brussels.

But the stakes are high. Much higher than I ever imagined or conceived. This is not some boolean operation in which only we effect the outcome because we're now part of a global community and we have to take that in to account. As we inch towards the vote in 2017, we'll have to face the fact the nature of the exit strategy and the associated risk will have a huge bearing on how financially viable Brexit is perceived to be. If we are seen to be vague fantasists or dreamers then panic will ensue which will play right in to the hands of the Remain camp. Support for Brexit would then vaporise from the margins that would need to be convinced if we were to win.

The voices of dissent will not just be domestic but international as people speculate whether the UK will remain a good investment or not. Right up there on the list of parameters for consideration will be Article 50 which expects withdrawal within two years of notification. Yes, with a unanimous vote from the European Council we could get it extended but that's a risk that the markets will not be happy with causing confidence to dissolve under the spotlight.

What we need here is a transitory first step in order to act as a launchpad for the future of the UK. One that recognises time-scale pressures, market concerns and the stresses that Brexit will place on administration. In addition, consider the fact that what we're looking to achieve here is not regression in to the old world (prepare to be mocked into oblivion) but evolution in to an entirely new phase in the life of this nation. And so back to my point that some people have been looking at this matter longer, harder and with a great deal more pragmatism and understanding than others.

This is where Flexcit comes in to play. It's an approach that's revered by some and feared by others. Those that fear it fall in to two camps.

1 - The Remain camp, who will naturally gag at the sight of a 'realistic' plan with genuine sensibilities. Their patter has largely been to suggest that that the Leave camp don't know what Brexit would look like. Having a plan which is detailed, measured and most of all realistic in dealing with the complexities of getting out of the EU is anathema to them.

When Remain try to rebuke Flexcit, they cite 'The Norway Option' and start spewing out the Fax Law meme (which by now would appear to have been thoroughly debunked after investigation). Their mistake is to think that Norway is a destination rather than a stepping stone or launch pad to greater things. Let them continue believing this, it will do them no good. Then consider whether they can illustrate the future under Remain. They'll struggle to give you any detail here.

2 - Those whose aims are not actually to deliver the UK in to a new globally focussed phase but want isolationism and to pull up the drawbridge. Typically, these people are motivated by shutting the door and see the Market Option transitory phase as a threat to their desires because 'Freedom of Movement' is not squashed in an instant.

It seems that many of these people have failed to read the plan, or if they have, they've failed to understand it. Case in point, a recent online discussion where I was repeatedly asked how long any EFTA/EEA phase would be in effect under Flexcit. To me, this demonstrates thinking that suggests Brexit is an endgame; that EFTA/EEA needs to be tolerated for a minimal period of time before we finally can pull up the drawbridge and stop 'dem nasty immigrunts'.

It was also suggested to me that this option was a form of 'Associate Membership' - which just goes to show how far wide of the mark people can be with their understanding, yet these people believe they're ready to publicly pass judgement on the plan and entice the undecided in to the Leave camp with a blank sheet of paper.

How can you talk on the one hand about taking a step in to the wider world, becoming a global player and projecting a forward thinking progressive vision - yet act like you want to haul anchor and float the island off in to the middle of the Atlantic? You simply cannot subscribe to this contradiction and expect to remain credible under scrutiny.

What you're left dealing with are two camps from opposing sides, neither of whom are really interested in making the UK a global player - both of whom are fighting against the evolution of the UK from shadow nation to global players at the top table. They are both anachronistic because the world is only moving one way and the tide is against them.

All along, we have to focus not just on what we want as individuals but what would be good for the country as a whole and demonstrate to the wider populous that Brexit is a safe and profitable pathway for the nation to take. That may mean sacrificing some of your desires in the short term in order to gain the long term opportunity. It took us forty+ years to get in this mess - you think it will only take two to get out? Failure to understand this means that you believe Brexit to be the end game, and not the start of a new journey. That's one hell of a mistake to make.

The Remain camp is full of the same old tired faces that were telling us the world would end if we didn't join the Euro. The EU is not a static position but also an evolving project with its own inherent risks and massive levels of change and uncertainty. There's a huge attack surface for us to exploit but to do so will require solidarity and that may require compromise and the acceptance that we're playing the long game.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put. Good analysis of the thinking in both REMAIN camp & isolationist elements of LEAVE. We are all on a learning curve, and much of our job in 2016 will be to educate (+ carry on learning !)