A simple choice

The Tory party ERG learns nothing. It listens not at all, and it doesn’t understand the difference between engaging and navel gazing. All its proposals for leaving the EU basically boil down to descriptions of unicorns. However today, lost amongst the wall to wall coverage of the D-Day commemorations – that’s Donald Day in case you were wondering – the ERG published its carefully thought out and extensively researched paper on leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal. Well, I say carefully thought out and extensively researched. What I mean is that they asked Mark We Won the War You Know Francois, Iain Duncan-Smith, and Jacob Rees Mogg. Together they’ve come up with something that represents a radical and innovative breakthrough on thinking about Brexit. It is still a description of a unicorn, but the cunning bit is that now it is in a different font.

Brexit papers are very like that other product of a fervent leaver, Dyson air dryers, except they’ll work out a lot more expensive and blow a lot more hot air. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s last foray into publishing was when he brought out his book about great Victorians, a tome which was described by one reviewer as trite, tedious, and muddle-headed. The ERG’s Brexit paper is very much in the same vein. Called “A Clean Managed Brexit”, the paper even manages to lie in its title. There is no such thing as a clean Brexit. It’s always going to be messy. And there is no such thing as a managed no deal except in the sense that you can call plummeting off a cliff onto the rocks below a managed descent because you’re aiming for a big rock shaped like a pillow.

A no deal Brexit would rapidly be followed by panicked negotiations to get some deals in place as quickly as possible in order to forestall the chaos, only the UK will be negotiating from a position of abject weakness. It won’t be so much negotiating as pleading. The ERG’s paper refuses to acknowledge that reality. Because we won the war you know. D-Day. That’ll show them. Essentially what this plan boils down to is that the UK will generously concede to consider an utter capitulation by the EU, and if the EU doesn’t play ball, then the UK will embrace a no-deal Brexit because vassal state, or something. It’s basically a threat that the UK will shoot itself in the head because then the EU will get splattered with the blood. That’ll teach them.

David Henig, who’s the director of the UK Trade Policy Project and co-founder of the UK Trade Forum, called the paper a “total refusal to face up to the real world.” Meanwhile Steve Peers, who is a professor of EU, Human Rights, and Trade Law at Essex University, said that it was full of false and misleading statements, and added that it showed utter contempt for both the 3 million EU citizens resident in the UK and UK citizens resident in EU states. Even the Telegraph newspaper, which isn’t exactly a bastion of pro-remain sentiment, called it “ludicrous”. At least the paper managed one thing of note however. It earned even worse reviews than Jacob’s last book.

The ERG’s new paper has a daring and radical new solution to the question of the Irish border. OK. No it doesn’t. That bit is wishful thinking. But then the real proposals contained in the paper for dealing with the Irish border are equally wishful thinking. There’s going to be an invisible border with existing technology. Which is grand. It’s just a pity that the existing technology to achieve that doesn’t actually, you know, exist. You’d be as well saying that you’re going to organise a scientific expedition to explore the Alpha Centauri solar system and get there and back within two weeks using existing technology.

Similar objections could be raised to just about every other so-called solution proposed by this paper. All of them boil down to the UK sticking its fingers in its ears and refusing to listen. This is, to be fair, pretty much what the British government has been doing for the past three years, so there is precedent for it. However it’s not exactly got us all very far.

But the truth is that even the swivel eyed Brextremists behind this paper know that it’s a political non-starter. The EU has repeatedly stated that it is not going to reopen the exit deal, and it is not up for renegotiation. Far less is the EU about to capitulate to the UK’s every demand. Even the ERG, deep down in that dark pit of desolation that passes for their soul, realise that. But then this paper isn’t really about proposing solutions. It’s basically a glorified version of a dug peeing on a bush in order to mark its territory.

The real purpose of this paper is to define what “a proper Brexit” means for Tory leadership candidates, and particularly for Boris Johnson. This paper allows the Brexit extremists to justify their cries of betrayal when Boris or whoever takes over as leader of the Tory party attempts to put some lipstick on Theresa May’s pig of a deal. This isn’t really a proposal for progress on Brexit, it’s a species of holy writ that the Tory chosen one has to follow or be condemned as a heretic. Brexit, as it has been pointed out before, can never be delivered. It can only be betrayed. The only future that the UK offers is uncertainty, instability, and the constant cry of betrayal. You can bet that heavily remain voting Scotland will loom large in the list of traitors to the one true Brexit.

This tiny faction of Tory MPs, these zealous ideologues with a persecution complex, these fantasists who substitute nostalgia for empire for a vision, will have greater influence on our future than the Scottish Government. Scotland didn’t elect them. They represent only a tiny minority of Scottish opinion, but they have the ear of the future British Prime Minister in a way that no Scottish Government ever could. Scotland’s place within the UK is to shut up and do what it’s told by people who know little about us and who care even less.

In the space of five years we’ve gone from only a vote against independence can guarantee NHS funding, to selling the NHS off to the highest US corporate bidder. In the space of five years we’ve gone from only a no vote can guarantee Scottish democracy and protect us from political extremism, to the rise of the right wing English nationalist populism of Nigel Farage and a Tory party shaping itself in his image. In the space of five years we’ve gone from only a no vote can guarantee Scotland’s place within the EU, to demands that only a no-deal crashing out of the EU respects the result of the EU referendum.

There’s no certainty left in British politics, except for the certainty that in five years time the Brextremists will still be crying betrayal. But within five years Scotland can have saved itself, and could be an independent nation forging its own relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. We have to take the road to independence, to save ourselves, to save the NHS, to save our public services, to save our democracy.

The ERG might learn nothing, but these past few years have taught Scotland the truth about the UK. It’s not a pretty truth. We have a simple choice ahead of us.

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23 comments on “A simple choice

  1. benmadigan says:

    excellent article as usual Paul

    “There is no such thing as a clean Brexit.. .And there is no such thing as a managed no deal”
    I hope “don’t know” Scots are now starting to take those facts on board
    The rest of us realized what the truth was a long time ago

    “All of them boil down to the UK sticking its fingers in its ears and refusing to listen”.
    We’ve been there, done what had to be done, got nowhere.
    Our only options are the Wee Dug’s Independence T shirt. And a refusal to leave the EU

    “these past few years have taught Scotland the truth about the UK. It’s not a pretty truth”
    For everyone trying to convince “don’t knows” this post will be useful, I hope in counteracting UKOK brain-washing.


  2. Lizzie55 says:

    The choice might be simple, but I would like to be able to take that choice sooner rather than later. Brexit is already costing Scotland jobs and the economy is suffering.

    What can we do we are not already doing or have done to get independence moving before it’s too late.

  3. “naval gazing”

    Hello sailor?


  4. […] Wee Ginger Dug A simple choice The Tory party ERG learns nothing. It listens not at all, and it doesn’t understand […]

  5. “It’s basically a threat that the UK will shoot itself in the head because then the EU will get splattered with the blood. That’ll teach them.”


    “It’s basically a glorified version of a dug peeing on a bush in order to mark its territory.”

    Lovely stuff 🙂


  6. Del G says:

    Wrong analogy between ERG and Dyson. They both suck.

  7. Bob Lamont says:

    There are some who dislike or feel uncomfortable about the EU, but there are some who hate it with such venom they seek to splinter it for financial gain and power. Prior attempts to destroy the Euro to return USD and GBP as dominant currencies failed, even though there are fundamental flaws in the Euro, it survives.
    The stance taken by Mail/Sun/Express/etc is well documented as systematic anti-EU propaganda over decades, but despite demolition of the claptrap by a range of authoritative voices, there remains a majority of UK voters who have swallowed it wholesale, think Weimar Republic.
    This ERG tactic is indeed timed to influence the choice of next Tory leader, but it also keeps the propaganda rolling along with the “believers”.
    Whether Europe’s “Arab Spring” or a very British coup, there are some nasty forces at work here.

    • PortJim says:

      Couldn’t agree more. We have been fed a constant diet of lies by “our” press, since Ted Heath took the UK in. The press is massively culpable. The fact is that they do not have the interests of the nation (however you define that) at heart. They represent only the narrow interests of their mostly foreign proprietors.
      I am not in favour of press censorship, but in a independent Scotland we need to find some way of ensuring that information fed to the public as news is more reliable. Perhaps ensuring that only Scottish residents can own media, ensuring that corrections to reckless mis/disinformation are truly given the same prominence as the original stories, and ending the farce of self regulation are things to consider.

      • Bob Lamont says:

        There was always a lingering negativity in the Press over the Common Market, despite the UK being infamously “The sick man of Europe”, De Gaulle knew what trouble may follow…
        Yet that was a subtler tone to that taken by the 3 leading tabloids from the 2000s when it became progressively driven by anti-EU rhetoric and bluntly propaganda. As I was not in the UK, the divergence of the UK reporting from their European counterparts on precisely the same stories was starkly different, and to my eyes this was becoming a propaganda war. This ultimately bumped UKIP, frightened the Tories, hence Brexit.
        But is is their alarming parallels with Nigel Mirage’s stance of victimisation which jars, implying a collusion among the rich to utilise the electorate to further their financial advantage, there is no patriotism with these people only money and power.
        Restricted ownership, regulation or penalisation will not stop propaganda or fake news, but you do need at least one solid trustworthy outlet to set a benchmark to judge the rest. That was the cornerstone of the BBC other than in time of war, we all need a new standard free from external influence, impossible under the current arrangements, even the National appears suspect on occasion..

        • Welsh Sion says:

          You mustn’t forget either Boris Johnson’s role as Brussels correspondent for the Times and Telegraph at that time and his infamous stories about ‘bendy bananas’ and such like. The constant drip, drip, drip of anti-European (Economic) Community (as it was then) and the playing to little Englander prejudices has a long history.

          And did you know? Blighty won the War, too.

          • Bob Lamont says:

            Oh I hadn’t forgotten that bar-steward and his straight bananas, or foisted “whiff whaff” to the complete bemusement of tennis players worldwide. The man is a con-artist and liar, and there is a special place in hell for his kind… PM is vacant, if he gets in, no change… 😉

  8. Macart says:

    Basically 2014 was about the continuation of a lie so far as those behind Better Together were concerned. One really, truly, mahoosive fib.

    To the soft no vote of that year?

    It didn’t take much to make people look the other way… did it. If you are fortunate enough to get that second chance? We could use your help to put things to rights around here.

    Worth a thought.

  9. Alasdair Sutherland says:

    An interesting article. But you left out the begging letter that May’s successor will send to Trump offering America’s Heath industry asset strippers anything they want, if he will announce it as a great deal for both sides.

  10. wm says:

    Another first class post Paul, for the last three years I have been asking myself who benefits from Brexit, the answer is the very few million who want to make London a tax avoiding market. Looking for benefits for the rest of us, I ask myself under, WTO rules who will get the best trading deals with the rest of world markets,the EU with 500m of a population or UK with 60m. Supermarket and Corner shop comes to my mind, am I wrong?.

  11. mogabee says:

    Just imagining the realisation with so many whenever BRexit occurs and their lives don’t improve, or, as is expected, will get much, much worse.

    Not a pretty thought and I have NO wish to be still attached politically to rUK at that point…

  12. gus1940 says:

    Is it not time that those who have been convinced to support Brexit should be asked to answer the following question:-

    Since The UK joined the EEC in 1973 how has membership of it and its successor The EU been detrimental to your life if at all?

    If they cannot provide sensible answers they should be asked the follow-up question?

    In that case why the hell do you want to,leave the EU and what benefit do you see in doing so?

  13. m biyd says:

    Watching the D Day commemorations this morning on the BBC. Paul was right we won the war. We might not see eye to eye with the Russians at the moment but i think we are doing history a disservice to write out the Russian effort. On 22nd June 1944 the Russians launched Operation Bagration and destroyed Army Group Centre at a cost of 500,000 troops to the Germans. Normandy cost the Germans 4000 dead.

  14. Charles McGregor says:

    Still haven’t found out who drew this but it says it all.

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