Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

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Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:41 am

In 2015, Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, made a promise he didn't think he'd have to keep to hold a referendum on Brexit that he didn't think he'd lose. Boris Johnson decided to back the side he didn't believe in because he didn't think it would win.

After promising he wouldn't resign if he lost the referendum vote, David Cameron lost the vote and resigned, and Michael Gove, who said he wouldn't run for the premiership, did run for it, and Boris, who'd said he would run, said he wouldn't, while Theresa May, who'd both campaigned and voted against Brexit, ran for the job of making Brexit happen, and won.

She then called the election she said she wouldn't call, and lost the majority David Cameron hadn't expected to win in the first place. She triggered Article 50 when we didn't need to, and said we would talk about trade at the same time as the EU divorce deal, while the EU said they wouldn't — so we didn't.

People thought she wouldn't get the divorce settled, but she did — but only by agreeing to separate arrangements for Northern Ireland after promising the Ulster Unionists she wouldn't. Then the Cabinet agreed to a deal — though it hadn't been agreed — and David Davis, who was the Brexit Secretary but had never gone to Brussels, said it wasn't what people had voted for (even though nobody really knew what that was), and that he couldn't support what he had just supported, and left.

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who hadn't left, then wished that he had, and did — but it was a bit late for that to make any difference.

Dominic Raab became the new Brexit secretary. People thought Theresa May wouldn't get a withdrawal agreement negotiated, but once she had, they wished that she hadn't, because hardly anybody liked it, whether they wanted to leave or not.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a rebellious Conservative MP who has never enjoyed the confidence of Theresa May, kept threatening a vote of "no confidence" in Theresa, but didn't immediately follow through because not enough people were confident that enough people would lack confidence in her for him to be able to call a no-confidence vote with any confidence.

Dominic Raab said he hadn't really been Brexit Secretary either, disagreed with everything he'd just negotiated, and resigned, and somebody else took the job he'd just left... but it probably isn't worth remembering who they are, as they're not really doing the job either, because a civil servant, Olly Robbins, is doing it for them, and someone else will probably soon be doing it anyway.

Then Theresa said she would call a vote on her deal, and didn't. She said she wouldn't release some legal advice about whether Britain could withdraw its application to withdraw from the European Union, but MPs forced her to release it anyway by voting that she and her ministers were in contempt of Parliament — a feeling that is largely mutual. She said she would get some deal concessions from the EU, but didn't. After being uninvited from a Leaders Dinner, she got very cross that Jean-Claude Juncker was calling her nebulous when actually he hadn't — though probably he should have done.

Eventually, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others did call a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, which she won by promising to leave so that she could stay. But then he said she had really lost it and should go, at the same time saying that people who voted Leave knew what they were voting for — which they couldn't possibly have done, because we still don't know — and both he and Theresa said that we should leave the "vote to Leave" vote alone, but they disagreed on whether we should have no confidence in the no-confidence vote, which she had lost by much more.

Meanwhile, the Council of the EU and the European Commission had said the UK could only retract its Article 50 notice if all the other countries in the EU agreed, but in early December 2018 the ECJ (European Court of Justice) said we didn't need their permission to decide not to leave if we wanted to stay.

In November, Theresa May set a date in December for the parliamentary vote on her deal, which nobody expected to pass, while pretending that no-deal — which nobody wants, including her — was still possible, although by December we knew we could just say that we're not leaving. Then she said, for the two thousandth time, that we can't have a second referendum, because having a democratic vote would actually be undemocratic, as the public has already made up its mind that it wants to leave — so even though (even now) nobody knows how we would leave, or what it would mean if we did, the public can't be allowed to officially change their minds, now that it's clear that nobody knows anything about what's about to happen (or not happen).

In the meantime, the Opposition party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is hiding from the members of his Labour Party and refusing to lead a call for a second referendum despite being ordered to do so by his party's followers at their Autumn Conference. This is because he actually doesn't like the EU, even though he pretends he does, which means he won't agree to anything at all, nor take responsibility for agreeing with anything the Government ever does.

Some people keep talking about a "managed no-deal", which is not a deal, but is not no-deal either. This not-deal/not no-deal would be so catastrophic that Chris Grayling, the Transport Minister, rushed though a favoured bid for emergency-level ferry services across the Channel that was awarded to a company which has no ferries, so that they could operate a ferry service from Ramsgate, a small disused seaport that needed dredging before it could be used, and which has no docks and no staff. The same minister then ordered 89 lorries to go round and round a set of roundabouts at a disused airfield, in order to prove that the congestion from no-deal would be as bad or as good as whatever his 89-vehicle simulation exercise showed about how Britain will cope with the current 10,000+ daily lorry movements after Brexit Day strikes, which is only ten weeks away (or may already have passed, depending on when you read this). Mostly what it showed was that Britain's politicians excel in going round in circles.

After not putting her deal to the vote before Christmas after all, Theresa May said she was getting legal assurances of some kind from the EU, but didn't ... and in any case, everyone said very loud and clear that they disliked her deal more than any other deal that no-one had even proposed, and which no-one would ever be able to agree on anyway.

And of course, as everyone expected, she lost the vote on her deal. In fact, she lost by so much that Parliament has no record of anyone in modern times losing a vote by anything as much as she did, which means that no-one could possibly expect her not to resign. But she didn't resign, because she'd just won the no-confidence vote by 52% to 48% — exactly the same ratio of votes that the Brexit vote won by — which followed on from the vote she'd just lost by a record margin... and anyway, no-one who hasn't entered or exited the Brexit circus ring is liked by enough people to do her job — or crazy enough to even want to do it — and so she stays in charge of leaving.

Despite losing the vote on her deal so badly, Theresa repeated everything she had stated before even more strongly than before, but also said she would now reach out to the opposition parties, though without changing her position or talking to Jeremy Corbyn, until she changed her mind (unlike the public, which isn't officially allowed to change its mind about anything to do with Brexit), and invited him to talk at Number 10. But Corbyn declined to attend anyway because he wants her no-deal off the table, which she refuses to agree to because "Brexit means Brexit"... whatever that means.

She then called an urgent national address from her lectern at Number 10 at 10 pm, and urgently failed to say anything whatsoever.

Thank goodness for strong and stable government, or else where would we end up?
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On 21 January, Theresa May presented a new version of the deal that MPs had rejected with a record margin of 36%. The new deal is exactly the same as the old deal. However, this is fine, because trying to force through the original deal after it was defeated by 36 percentage points is clearly an entirely different matter from redoing the Brexit referendum to try to resolve the mess created by its winning margin of just 4%.

(Updated 21 January 2019)
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Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by tony h » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:11 am

Erik I enjoyed that.

PS Just for the record, I haven't changed my mind. I had always been in favour of a Common Market but not the encroaching political unification. I voted to leave with no expectation of a deal with the EU - after all no British Prime Minister has successfully negotiated with the EU since Margret Thatcher and, even then, no one quite knew how she managed it. I hold that view more strongly now.
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I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by BonnieL » Thu Jan 17, 2019 6:29 pm

British politics have become as crazy as American. My condolences.
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Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jan 17, 2019 7:32 pm

An article in The Independent's online edition highlights a poem by Elise Wouters which pays homage to 50 Shades of Grey.

The article says:
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Belgian writer, poet and visual artist Elise Wouters has turned her pen to the most tumultuous political situation of our times, and she's done it with panache.

Posting the poem to Twitter, she wrote:

I had fun writing a poem about #Brexit...

Give me a hard Brexit
I want a Brussels on its knees Brexit
Keen on a fifty shades of please Brexit
A lock me up, Boris, and throw away the keys Brexit

They say tensions are mounting
I’m up for the pound taking a pounding
No longer Europe’s little tease Brexit

Maybe we should see other nations
Quite like the sound of some Atlantic flirtations
Only need the odd Spanish vacation
I’m ready for my next exotic squeeze Brexit

I’ll tighten my borders, my own needs come first
The fruits of your cheap labour no longer quench my thirst
My article 50 lies spread-eagled on the table
I swear, after this break-up, I’ll be strong and stable

I’ll subsidise with little white lies
Rule Britannia with bedroom eyes
I’ll have my cake and eat yours too
As long as you know there’s no jumping this queue

So darling, auf wiedersehen, gracias, merci,
Our free trade was first rate
But I’m sure there’s plenty more fish in the sea

But then, it’s 4 AM, I’m staring at old texts
I’m missing your French kisses; I’m wondering what is next
The only thing I know is that I can’t quite call it quits
Hey Europe babe, miss you, let’s be friends with benefits


indy100 caught up with Wouters, who said the naughty, double-meaning-laden poetry was the perfect medium through which to tackle "the sadomasochist tendencies of the Leave campaigners."

"After the referendum vote, I noticed that a lot of the rhetoric surrounding Brexit was loaded with potential double meanings, so I started playing around with the language. May’s ‘strong and stable’ sounded like a mate in the middle of a messy break-up proudly declaring that they’re absolutely fine, while you know they’re kidding themselves and were just sobbing in the bathroom a minute ago.

This format of this erotic / ironic flirtation felt like the perfect approach for me to tackle Brexit. The sadomasochist tendencies of Leave campaigners provided a great source of inspiration as well."


Along with the 3.5 million Europeans form the continent in the UK, Wouters hadn’t been allowed to vote in the EU referendum, yet she’s had to apply to stay in a place with no guaranteed rights that’s been her home for over 10 years.

How did that make her feel?

“There’s definitely an increased level of uncertainty about the future,” she told indy100. “We’re in a strange limbo. When I first moved here for university aged 17, I never thought I’d one day be questioning if, or trying to prove why, I still belong in this country I call home.”

I took freedom of movement for granted - an amazing way to broaden your horizon; to study, live, love, travel. The idea of a country willingly giving this up and thereby making their world smaller again never really crossed my mind until the idea of a referendum came up. That’s probably the one feature I’ve missed most in this debate... Amidst all the negativity, I wish that the conversation around the actual benefits of being part of the European Union had been louder.

Although I can sympathise with sections of Leave voters who, at the time, were frustrated at feeling left behind by the government, I am also very aware of the increasing xenophobia.

I’m lucky enough to live in London, which for the most part feels incredibly welcoming and diverse, but I realise this isn’t the case everywhere."


Many other social media users were impressed by her initiative.

[There follow some tweets which the technology of this forum can't accommodate]

Wouters said her poem is an act of defiance - a way of "sticking two fingers up at Brexit."

"As I couldn’t take part in the referendum vote, I felt disenfranchised, and compelled to share my experience from the sidelines in a different way... poetry as punk. The irony of not having a voice in the vote, yet already being affected most by its outcome, hasn’t been lost on any of the EU27 nationals in the UK, nor on the Brits living on the continent.

At the same time, I also didn’t want to portray myself as a victim - I have a degree, a job and a house (as well as a native country with a high quality of life to return to, in case it all kicks off.) Looking at Britain’s levels of homelessness, increasing poverty and unemployment, I worry about the impact of Brexit on vulnerable people who are already struggling massively."


Part of the reason the poem gained such traction online is because it's hilarious. Such a serious topic - the future of the country. Why make it funny?

"In times of turmoil, I think it’s important that artists can challenge, empower, inspire and advocate through what they create. Art has the power to offer a little slice of love, compassion, dissent or much-needed escapism, especially during societal upheaval.

Poetry and humour are amazing tools for doing that. I also feel that a tongue-in-cheek attitude allows you to get away with so much more as well."


Finally, the poem was filmed in a greasy spoon cafe in London because, she said, it "feels like an inherently democratic place with a community in the UK."

"To me, a greasy spoon, much like a great pub, feels like an inherently democratic place within a community in the UK. It’s one of those rare places where people of all walks of life will sit shoulder to shoulder - enjoy their cuppa & share a moment with whoever’s next to them, whilst waiting for their full English.

At the same time, this London caff
(the Shepherdess by Old Street) also provided an interesting mix of British nostalgia, Danish bacon & countless different languages being spoken in one space. Sometimes, the poetry writes itself."
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Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Jan 21, 2019 11:43 pm

Erik, could I please have permission to share your excellent treatise with some friends, political and otherwise?
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Jan 22, 2019 12:05 am

Of course. :)
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Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:01 am

Thank you Erik.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Shelley » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:50 pm

Oh my god, Erik. I thought we had it bad, but . . . well, we still have it very bad.
Your coverage is excellent, although I'll have to read it a few more times to get all the nuance.
And like Bob, I plan to invite people with Brexit questions to look at your post. Many thanks for the summary!
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Re: Brexit explained: A layperson's guide

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:43 pm

Thanks, Shelley.

The situation would be laughable, except for the fact that it isn't.

But no doubt we will get used to living in a perpetual constitutional crisis, just as you are having to do over there. What's another 2.5 years (or whatever) of uncertainty, misinformation and muddle? At least there's only another 2 years of Trump to go — unless, of course, it turns out to be 6 years, in which case America may end up getting screwed even more than Britain.

PS — I'm still a dual national of both countries, which means I get to enjoy double the laughs. Yay me! :roll:
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