Should someone leak those Brexit reports?

by Maria on October 29, 2017

Writing isn’t cathartic, though reading can sometimes be. Last week’s post about my disillusionment with the UK, a country wracked by its own wilful austerity and now taking out its pain on its immigrants, was taken to heart by many among the three million other EU citizens living here. I’m glad about that, because many of them felt that few people are expressing their sense of loss and anger. But I am especially struck by one comment; “Yes, but what about the duty of hope?”

The “duty of hope” is a phrase used by some involved in the Northern Ireland peace process to actively remind each other that at many (realistically, almost any) points along the way, it’s all looked disastrous, but that if they’d indulged in the perfectly rational feeling of hopelessness, they would never have gotten anywhere. Life goes on. It has to. So what’s next?

Anyone who has access to some or all of the UK government’s reports analysing the likely effects of Brexit on UK industry should consider doing what they can to get them into the public domain. The reports were commissioned by the government and contain materially important information the UK needs to help it decide what to do next. There is a massive public interest in learning what they say.

The government’s argument is that the information will weaken its negotiating position. I believe that argument is moot. The government’s negotiating position could hardly get any weaker. It has been weakened by the too-early triggering of Article 50, the calling of a disastrous general election, and by putting power over the process into the hands of parochially ignorant and ineffective ministers. If the government cared about the strength of its position, it would have developed a stronger one, and handled it better, tactically. Secondly, if the UK position is, to the few who know the worst, so fatally weakened by this information, then that information is too important for the country to remain ignorant of.

There are efforts already to get the information into the public domain. Freedom of Information requests have been made and denied. Questions have been put in Parliament. A petition by MPs has been submitted. All have been repelled. An attempt to force a judicial review of the compelled secrecy of the documents is ongoing. Occasionally, there are calls for whistle-blowing.

Would leaking the reports be justified? I believe so:

Because the fact of the documents being so strenuously kept secret indicates their content is explosive, that there will be deep and lasting harm to British industry. If this is true, it exposes not just Conservative wishful thinking or denial, but also the fact that the Labour party’s “jobs first Brexit” is a dangerous myth. If there is documented information that analyses how Brexit will harm industry, and which industries will suffer most, then that information needs to be leaked because neither political party has a disinterested position. Parliament is both unwilling and unable to hold government to account.

(I am not disinterested, either. I believe the reports will be harmful to the Brexit cause, but also that the catastrophic nature of the potential harm means this is bigger than Britain’s politics. It is about its economic survival.)

Because the content of the reports is essential to the public’s ability to make an objective decision about whether to continue Brexit. The UK needs a fact-based debate about a decision that will determine its UK’s future, before it’s too late.

Because there is sound historic precedent for public-spirited individuals to leak information that shows those in a position to understand an issue being sold to the public as a potential victory themselves believe it is a disaster. E.g. the Pentagon Papers.

Because publishing the reports would force the Prime Minister and her cabinet to actually read them. It is astonishing that this argument has to be made, but there it is. Being superficially briefed on the acceptable points is not sufficient. The cabinet needs to understand and defend the losses it expects the country to bear, and the opposition needs to hold it to account.

Because hiding the information means, just as with government policies on benefits and asylum-seekers, that those who suffer will do so quietly and largely off-stage, with people who should and do know better being given deniability. Because if/when the shit hits the fan, no one will get to say they didn’t know.

Because most people who support Brexit still seem to believe that they will enjoy all its symbolic benefits but suffer few if any negative consequences. This comfortable lie is supported by the information vacuum and hand-waving by ministers. People will suffer, and they deserve to be able to make a real choice about that.

There are lots more reasons. But if you are thinking of leaking, should you do it? Think hard. Only a very few who could, possibly should.

There may be legal consequences and perhaps criminal prosecution. (There may even be legal consequences for discussing it like this. I hope not.) They will certainly lose their job if discovered. They may become unemployable. It’s one thing to enjoy being a cause celebre, or have the quiet satisfaction of bringing about change, quite another to figure out what to put on LinkedIn and how to describe the lack of a reference when you’ve just blown up your career.

Whistle-blowers generally have their lives wrecked. This is pretty much universal. If you are a whistle-blower, you can say goodbye to several years of your life, and perhaps never fully recover your peace of mind and faith in mankind. There is a phenomenal amount of comfortable cowardice going round, and it’s horrible to be on the wrong end of it. I’ve known and met several whistleblowers, been related to one, and even been one, of a sort. When I did something a bit like this, my thought process was as follows:

I am the only person I know who can do this because I do not rely on the organisation for my income. I understand the issue and have the necessary information and background to authoritatively make the case that needs to be made. My household can manage on the income of my spouse, if I become unemployable. I have deep and rich relationships outside this environment and am prepared to be shunned by people inside it that I care about, and not blame them. Much. And also, because it would be dishonest not to say this too, I remember feeling the winds were changing. Sooner or later someone was going to do something. I wanted it to be me.

All this, and all I did was to make one two-minute speech. Not work assiduously against institutional vindictiveness and inertia, like Eniola Aluko. Not put documents out into the world that could be life-changingly bad for the person that does it.

So don’t do it if you can’t survive financially without the job (the vast majority of people, obviously). Don’t do it if your mental health is wobbly and you don’t have a rich and loving hinterland. Don’t do it if you can’t get away geographically or at least mentally from the mess, afterwards. Don’t do it unless you think being a hero to some for a couple of news cycles outweighs a lifetime of being called a “disgruntled employee” at best, and a traitor at worst. Don’t do it if you can’t master basic cybersecurity and how PGP keys work.

Probably, don’t do it. Or at least wait and see if this judicial review request pans out.

{ 111 comments }

1

Mario 10.29.17 at 11:17 pm

The government’s argument is that the information will weaken its negotiating position. I believe that argument is moot.

Suppose it wasn’t. Would you mind? What if after a leak it turned out that, yes, the leak was disastrous for Britain. Would you feel good or would you feel bad, or none of the above?

2

Peter T 10.29.17 at 11:28 pm

This struck a chord:

“Because publishing the reports would force the Prime Minister and her cabinet to actually read them.”

A report showing that a hard Brexit would have major adverse impacts on British farmers was met with this official response:

“Outside the EU and free from the bureaucracy of the Common Agricultural Policy, our farmers will be able to focus on growing, selling and exporting more fantastic produce.”

How do you force people to face reality other than, as Orwell remarked, on a battlefield?

3

derrida derider 10.30.17 at 12:29 am

Asking for people to whistleblow this is asking them to volunteer for a long stretch in prison. These are classified documents, the Official Secrets Act 1915 (note the year) is draconian, and the government is likely to be extremely vengeful.

Though the government does have a point about their negotiating position. Precisely BECAUSE it is weak is why the national interest is in preventing the weakness being confirmed and spelled out to Brussels in detail until after any deal is done. Of course they don’t want it spelled out to UK voters either before or after the deal, but the desire to keep it away from Brussels for a while is legitimate.

4

Cian 10.30.17 at 2:19 am

While I agree that these reports should be released, I’m skeptical that it would have much of an effect. British industry are already screaming about it and have been for ages. It has had very little effect. Most people don’t pay attention to the business/economics news because it’s boring/incomprehensible. The person leaking this stuff would probably destroy their career and life for naught.

Indeed it’s hard to imagine how things could be worse for the pro-Brexit faction than they are currently. The negotiations have been humiliation piled upon humiliation. Many officials have been quite open about how Britain is woefully underprepared. Big/international business are now openly discussing moving their business operations to Europe. Every claim made for Brexit has been exposed as fantasy. The Tories as a party have imploded. And none of it has changed anything.

Brexit has never been about dry, rational, arguments. Is emotional – and that goes just as much for the pro-Europe people. Facts and logic aren’t going to sway people. Maybe they should, but they won’t.

“If this is true, it exposes not just Conservative wishful thinking or denial, but also the fact that the Labour party’s “jobs first Brexit” is a dangerous myth.”

Here’s the thing. Support in the UK for another referrendum is very low. It’s what, 40%? Maybe lower. Polling suggests that fewer people would vote to remain today than did in the referendum. Nothing I’ve seen from the anti-Brexit people has faced up to this inconvenient reality, or proposed a serious Labour strategy that could successfully oppose Brexit.

The only strategy that has any chance of working is to somehow capitalize on the inevitable failure of negotiations.

5

Neville Morley 10.30.17 at 6:14 am

Re “weakening the government’s hand in negotiations”: do we really imagine that the EU 27 don’t have their own studies of the likely impact, albeit on Europe generally rather than just the UK? So it’s not a question of whether or not British weakness is revealed, it’s whether or not the government goes into negotiations with some indication that they acknowledge reality, or persists in what everyone else sees as wilful, self-destructive delusion. Unless they are going for the Varoufakis “I’m a crazy person with a bomb, so give us what we want or we all go together” tactic, and we know how well that worked…

6

John Quiggin 10.30.17 at 6:25 am

My impression is that the catastrophic consequences of a literal “no deal” (end of air travel to and from UK, drastic reductions in food imports and exports etc) are beginning to sink in.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/19/brexit-what-does-no-deal-mean-and-how-bad-could-it-get
So, “no deal” really means “an emergency deal to manage the worst consequences, and then hoping for the best”

That process will take a while. After that, it will take a while longer to realise that a negotiating strategy which involves using “no deal” as a threat point while relying on an emergency deal with the partners you’ve just flipped off is not exactly bargaining from a position of strength.

Once “no deal” is properly off the table, any kind of hard Brexit is going to involve very bad terms, so people will have to start looking either at a soft Brexit (single market, free or nearly-free movement and so on) or at attempting to reverse the whole process. If things get this far, it’s hard to see the government surviving.

7

Thomas Lumley 10.30.17 at 6:42 am

@Maria: a bit off-topic, but I would really like to quote bits of this in the medical ethics section of my clinical trials course for statisticians.

8

nastywoman 10.30.17 at 7:16 am

As ”some or all of the UK government’s reports analysing the likely effects of Brexit on UK industry” are probably as dependable or realistic as a lot of the delusional predictions before the Brexit – a release of current -(still delusional?) reports – probably would lead to another contradicting and chaotic cacophony while the poor whistleblower(s) would be crushed senselessly?

And what might be much more effective in coming to a Full Stop Brexit – and the hope for reversal – if all of the investment banks and bankers would release their plans -(which are all written already) to what extent they will desert Small Britain and (mainly) move to Frankfurt.
AND in their tow – how much a country like Germany would profit – Again!!!-
-(After the sale of the nearly entire car industry to Germany)
Such ”Plans” might get all these ”Patriotic Conservatives” at least think (again harder?) about their plans to self-destruct?

And if you find some of the (German Bankers) – who are already preparing the moves to Frankfurt – and some Frankfurt Landlords who express their ”giddiness” about welcoming in the future all these ”rich London Bankers” to their new home im Heimatland – that might do – at least (part) of the trick?

9

Maria 10.30.17 at 7:47 am

You’re most welcome to Thomas. AFAIK we publish under a creative commons licence, so it’s all fair game, with the usual ethical stuff around selective quotations.

10

J-D 10.30.17 at 8:58 am

derrida derider

Asking for people to whistleblow this is asking them to volunteer for a long stretch in prison. These are classified documents, the Official Secrets Act 1915 (note the year) is draconian, and the government is likely to be extremely vengeful.

I should like to know what you’re looking at. I’m looking at legislation.gov.uk, where I find an Official Secrets Act 1911, an Official Secrets Act 1920, an Official Secrets Act 1939, and an Official Secrets Act 1989, but none for 1915.

The maximum term of imprisonment for unlawful disclosure under the Official Secrets Act 1989 is two years. (The sentence actually imposed on Sarah Tisdall, convicted for a breach in 1983 of the Act of 1911 — the relevant section was repealed and replaced by the Act of 1989 — was six months. Clive Ponting was more famously acquitted in 1985, despite the best efforts of the judge, who told the jury that the public interest was whatever the government said it was, but commentators suggest it would be harder to run a similar defence under the Act of 1989.)

11

Mario 10.30.17 at 9:33 am

Honest question here: why wouldn’t you, Maria, or JQ, want the negotiations with the EU to be successful for britain? I can understand why the EU wants to destroy anyone who dares to want to get out. But why would you want that?

I say that because because you all seem so curiously happy with Brexit staring to amount to the destruction of the UK.

Neville,

Unless they are going for the Varoufakis “I’m a crazy person with a bomb, so give us what we want or we all go together” tactic, and we know how well that worked…

There is a very specific reason that that did not work in the Varoufakis case. This only works if you are ready to actually do that, and the Tsipras government wasn’t.

12

John Quiggin 10.30.17 at 10:03 am

@11 Among the plausibly feasible possibilities, the most successful outcome for Britain would be a revocation of Article 50 and a return to the status quo ante. The second most successful would be something like the Norway option, changing not very much, except that Britain would be formally outside the EU.

The least successful deal would be a hard Brexit with the EU acting in its rational self-interest, and making the best offer consistent with that. That would leave Britain quite a bit poorer and (as Maria has pointed out) nastier.

Finally, it’s a fact that a “no deal” Brexit would amount to the destruction of the UK, and facing facts is a good idea. The idea that threatening “no deal” will lead the EU to accept a hard Brexit on terms that make them worse off then before, which is the central conceit of the Brexiters, is the way in which this disaster might be realised. If you don’t like that prospect, you should be hoping for the impending disaster to be recognised as soon as possible.

13

nastywoman 10.30.17 at 10:10 am

@11
”I can understand why the EU wants to destroy anyone who dares to want to get out.”

I can’t – as it is doubtful ”that the EU wants to to destroy anyone who dares to want to get out” – only somebody who don’t understand that in the Europe everybody sits in the same boat would want to ”destroy” anybody who wants to get out – and that type of thinking goes for the twisted question: Why wouldn’t you want the negotiations with the EU to be successful for britain?

BE-cause if the negotiations for Britain will be ”successful for britain” – they will be ”unsuccessful for britain” BE-cause britain would be out of the EU?

It’s like if I would have added to my suggestion to make nationalistic Brexiters jealous about Germany – that by also -(after manufacturing) – self-destructing Banking in the UK – Renting an apartment in London finally would become affordable again…

14

kidneystones 10.30.17 at 10:10 am

Actually, for me writing can be very cathartic.

I’m not sure how quickly people want the post-referendum discussion to become a great deal more rancorous, but leaking the documents seems to me an excellent way to make just about everyone much more unhappy with both the process and the result.

I’m not seeing the upside.

15

nastywoman 10.30.17 at 10:26 am

AND so the greatest ”Hope” might be – that ”Britain” finds out as fast as possible – that ”Brexit” as an idea of ”actually” exiting from the EU or Europe NEVER EVER will work –
as it NEVER can work if a country already sits as much in the same boat as the rest of Europe – as the UK does with !!!! three million very, VERY important Europeans working for the economy of the UK IN the UK!

-and so the hope is – that the ”F… Morons will finally give UP a real ”Brexit” – very quickly!! -(or just pretending to do one – or have done one – without doing anything which in reality would throw them out of the EU boat) – BE-fore Great Britain has become such a small Britain that it’s not even worth to visit London anymore…

16

J-D 10.30.17 at 10:45 am

Mario
Whether your question is honest or not, I don’t think its presupposition is tenable. There’s nothing in what Maria has written that suggests she’s happy about the prospect of disastrous results for the UK. On the contrary, everything she’s written suggests that she’s appalled by the prospect of disastrous results for the UK. Where are you getting the idea that she’s happy about any of this? She writes here about her disillusionment, and a sense of anger and loss; she wrote in her previous post (linked here) about sorrow and fear, about hurt, about going through the motions emotionally. None of that seems like happiness to me; which part of it seems like happiness to you?

17

Doug 10.30.17 at 11:14 am

11, 12: I don’t see any way to un-invoke Article 50. I mean, I suppose it could be done with the unanimous consent of the 27 remaining governments and the European Parliament, but that would take an enormous amount of goodwill on the part of every single European government, as well as the Parliament. What’s the May government been doing to build up this huge reservoir of goodwill? Exactly.

Not least because the UK’s previous position within the EU was extremely privileged. The privileges had been negotiated and agreed upon, fair enough, but the list of loopholes, derogations, opt-outs and rebates was long and just kept getting longer. Revoking Article 50 would require every single European government plus the Parliament to effectively agree to these privileges again. This strikes me as unlikely in the extreme.

Mario, “No deal” is not the EU wanting to destroy the UK. It is the consequence of not reaching an agreement within the time frame set out in Article 50, a clock that the UK government itself started, and whose consequences it was perfectly aware of.

18

novakant 10.30.17 at 11:29 am

Funny how otherwise intelligent people are buying into the whole story about “getting the best possible deal” and the super-secret information that cannot be revealed as if Dumb Davies some sort of James Bond of diplomacy who could con seasoned EU negotiators with unlimited resources and decades of experience into accepting something that would weaken the EU even though the UK has absolutely nothing to bargain with at all and the EU is basically just being polite in seeing through this tragic farce with some semblance of decorum.

The UK is like an alcoholic in dire need of intervention and my fear is it won’t see the light until it has hit rock bottom which might take another year or ten …

19

PeteW 10.30.17 at 12:50 pm

@1 + 11
How could releasing these reports weaken the UK’s negotiating position?

This is a game of poker in which everyone’s cards are already visible. The EU is well aware of the harm a hard Brexit poses to the UK economy. It’s not exactly secret.

What the reports might well shatter, however, is the lie Brexiters foisted on the British public: that all will be fine, indeed better, once the UK departs.

Those who oppose the release of the reports do not do so in the UK interest but for their own ends. That’s the truth of it.

20

PeteW 10.30.17 at 12:53 pm

@14

You’ve explained the upside in your own post: “leaking the documents seems to me an excellent way to make just about everyone much more unhappy with both the process and the result.”

And therefore more likely to want the referendum result reversed, no?

21

kidneystones 10.30.17 at 1:53 pm

One approach might be if we can just convince everyone that Brexit is a bad idea.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5029897/Students-fear-marked-support-Brexit.html

I encourage my students to write in favor of unpopular ideas. That may place me in the minority. Extra points for well-researched work.

22

casmilus 10.30.17 at 2:27 pm

There are plenty of pro-Brexit people who think a national calamity is just the tonic Britain needs. Try Pete North for example:

http://peterjnorth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/i-dont-like-this-brexit-but-i-will-live.html

“Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other. “

23

casmilus 10.30.17 at 2:31 pm

“Honest question here: why wouldn’t you, Maria, or JQ, want the negotiations with the EU to be successful for britain?”

I do want them to be successful. I also recognise that the main problem is the idiocy and wishful thinking on this side of the channel. Any move towards something workable and non-catastrophic brings out the walking braindead screaming “Project Fear! Betrayal! Not real Brexit!”.

24

casmilus 10.30.17 at 2:36 pm

@6

“Once “no deal” is properly off the table, any kind of hard Brexit is going to involve very bad terms, so people will have to start looking either at a soft Brexit (single market, free or nearly-free movement and so on) or at attempting to reverse the whole process. If things get this far, it’s hard to see the government surviving.”

Trouble is, May has wasted so much time already it’s going to be hard to change course and get something ready.

All these people who moan about “weakening our hand in negotiations” – do you think DPRK is stronger for having no internal dissent whatsoever?

25

Dipper 10.30.17 at 2:51 pm

Would these reports be from the same people who told us that not joining the Euro would consign the UK to the slow lane besides a surging ahead Euro-zone? Or from the people who told us we would definitely have a recession if we voted to Leave? Or perhaps from the Treasury itself, the people who cannot predict inflation even though their job is to control inflation and they own the lever-that-controls-inflation? Or perhaps from the people who predicted there would be very little immigration from Eastern Europe as a consequence of opening up our borders?

The UK needs a fact-based debate. But these reports don’t have facts, just the opinions of people who have been consistently wrong about the outcomes of every major economic decision I can remember, the opinions of a group of technocrats who unsurprisingly think that the best thing for the UK would be to remain members of a political union that is largely run by technocrats like themselves.

Remember – the more experience people had of politicians’ promises and economists predictions, the more likely they were to vote Leave.

26

Cian 10.30.17 at 3:31 pm

Honest question here: why wouldn’t you, Maria, or JQ, want the negotiations with the EU to be successful for britain?

At this point in the negotiations it is pretty clear that the UK has no negotiating leverage with Europe and the EU know this. Even if they did it’s unlikely that the chaotic and incompetent negotiating team could make use of it.

EU negotiations currently aren’t driven by British economic interests (have you read the financial press – British industry from insurance to car manufacturers are terrified) – they’re driven by the tabloids and the loonier part of the Conservative party. Who are delusional about what is possible – and who are immune to contrary facts.

There will be nothing in those documents that the EU doesn’t already know. In fact I doubt there will be anything that a careful reader of the FT doesn’t already know. Their only significance is that they prove beyond any possible doubt that the British government know this is going to be a disaster.

I’m personally skeptical that leaking them would have any political effect – but they could only have a positive impact on negotiations. Because it might force the UK to actually take them seriously – something they are not currently doing.

27

Sebastian H 10.30.17 at 4:02 pm

I’m very pro whistleblower, and I’m aware that there is no perfect case, so please understand that I’m working from a frame of broad agreement. Whistleblowing is almost always horrible for the whistleblower. It can be good for the country to deal with the things revealed (see Snowden and Manning) but it is almost always horrible for the whistleblower (see Snowden and especially Manning). Both of those cases involved things that were illegal (the NSA spying and the Afghanistan bombings) and not well known (especially the NSA spying). This is really neither illegal nor unknown so I’d have more trouble encouraging people to risk it.

28

RichT 10.30.17 at 4:09 pm

(Hello – I’m new…)

kidneystones: “I’m not seeing the upside.”

Well for one thing, it seems pretty uncontroversial that the truth should be known, in principle.

Beyond that, the idea of a government deliberately suppressing information because it reflects badly on that government’s policy does not seem very healthy.

The presumed excuse – that the government is pursuing said policy (perhaps against its better judgement) in order to meet the democratic imperative of the referendum result – seems weak in itself, and especially as a justification for suppressing these reports. That the mandate of the referendum is either overwhelming or immutable is not a given. If the knowledge in these reports had been available before the referendum, the outcome might have been different – and it might still be possible, if the information becomes available, for people to change their minds. If, when in full possession of the facts, people do not change their minds, then at least they will have made an informed decision.

The excuse that the reports must be suppressed in order to avoid weakening Britain’s negotiating position makes little sense. The EU27 are quite capable of making the same judgement as we all have – namely that if the reports were good news for Brexiteers, they would have been published. The very fact of their suppression is evidence of Britain’s weak negotiating position.

Beside which, the EU27 will presumably have carried out their own analysis and will have their own informed view of Britain’s position – so not publishing the reports keeps the British people in the dark, without withholding any useful information from the EU27.

It’s likely that the reports are being suppressed in order to avoid party political difficulties for the Government – either from the Brexit wing crying foul at the reports’ biased conclusions, or the Remain wing crying foul at the continued pursuit of a demonstrably bad policy. Conservative party political (mis)management got us into this mess in the first place, so it’s not surprising, but is depressing, to see it is still paramount.

29

Andre Mayer 10.30.17 at 4:12 pm

A better (or at any rate more local) precedent than the Pentagon Papers might be C.T. Marvin’s leak of the Anglo-Russian treaty in 1878.

30

Jerry Vinokurov 10.30.17 at 5:36 pm

There are lots more reasons. But if you are thinking of leaking, should you do it? Think hard. Only a very few who could, possibly should.

I think the conclusion stated here might follow from the premise that the leaker would be identifiable. But what if the leak could be made anonymous? To me, it seems like in fact doing so anonymously would be quite good.

31

F 10.30.17 at 6:14 pm

I must admit the biggest surprise in recent British politics was that its portrayal in the movie “In The Loop” looks less like a scathing satire, and more like it pulled too many punches.

32

MisterMr 10.30.17 at 7:02 pm

Personally, I don’t think that the UK could really roll back brexit, even if it wanted.

From the point of view of the EU, it would mean to keep a nation whose population is largely pissed off by the EU, an that would just wait for the right moment to brexit again, when it was possible to do it from a position of strenght.

Why would the EU want that?

33

Layman 10.30.17 at 8:20 pm

Doug: “I don’t see any way to un-invoke Article 50. I mean, I suppose it could be done with the unanimous consent of the 27 remaining governments and the European Parliament, but that would take an enormous amount of goodwill on the part of every single European government, as well as the Parliament.”

Is the EU better off if the UK stays rather than a messy exit? If so, why wouldn’t they be happy to pretend Article 50 notice never happened?

Dipper: “Would these reports be from the same people who told us that not joining the Euro would consign the UK to the slow lane besides a surging ahead Euro-zone? etc…”

I don’t really take this as a good-faith argument – the past suggests it isn’t one – but in the spirit of discussion: If experts are always wrong, to whom should people turn for information on complex matters?

And this: “Remember – the more experience people had of politicians’ promises and economists predictions, the more likely they were to vote Leave.”

What is the source of this extraordinary claim?

34

casmilus 10.30.17 at 8:42 pm

“Would these reports be from the same people who told us that not joining the Euro would consign the UK to the slow lane besides a surging ahead Euro-zone?”

No.

“Or from the people who told us we would definitely have a recession if we voted to Leave?”

Who said that? Did they say it would have happened by now? We know your sort expect everything to be done in 5 minutes, but calm down.

“Or perhaps from the Treasury itself, the people who cannot predict inflation even though their job is to control inflation and they own the lever-that-controls-inflation? Or perhaps from the people who predicted there would be very little immigration from Eastern Europe as a consequence of opening up our borders?”

Oh dear, you should have stopped.

“The UK needs a fact-based debate.”

You wouldn’t enjoy it. For starters, all those Leave shibboleths about “WTO Rules” and all the other crap would go straight in the bin. And we can identify the people who said all of them, in the campaign and subsequently. They’re still at it.

35

Dipper 10.30.17 at 8:50 pm

@ Layman. the source of the “extraordinary claim” is the well known fact that older people (i.e. people with more experience of the EU, politicans, and economists) were more likely to vote Leave. I trust that extraordinary fact is not news.

“If experts are always wrong, to whom should people turn for information on complex matters?”. Their own experience of measuring their own judgement against what they were being told and what happened. No-one is unbiased. Everyone has an angle. All professionals and spokespeople are not giving you the unvarnished unbiased truth but giving you an opinion which in some way benefits the person or organisation giving you the opinion. The job of the ordinary punter is to work out how and how much they are being lied to, and hence what the actual truth is likely to be.

36

Mario 10.30.17 at 8:57 pm

One thing that I would be really interested in is the actual reason for triggering Article 50. Britain never seemed to me a place where the public opinion had so much weight – especially not when it went contrary to the interests of the banking sector and deep state. The day after the vote I was willing to bet real money that the whole thing would be buried as unpractical, as after all the vote wasn’t even legally binding. So – what happened? Why wasn’t the moneyed elite successful in stopping Brexit? That’s something that bothers me, because I feel that a piece of the picture is missing.

37

nastywoman 10.30.17 at 10:31 pm

@36
”Why wasn’t the moneyed elite successful in stopping Brexit?”

It is very difficult to stop morons with money – especially if the morons are members of what you call ‘the moneyed elite’ – and pretend not to be.
-(like this ”American” whose name I have forgotten…?)

38

Mercurius Londiniensis 10.30.17 at 11:05 pm

Ad Mario (36):

The question you raise is an interesting one, which will greatly exercise future historians of the impending Brexit debacle. I think that *part* of the answer is this. The vehicle whereby the moneyed elite has traditionally exercised its political influence is the Conservative party. However, the moneyed elite had paid insufficient attention to the way local constituency Tory parties had been taken over by officers and members who took leaving the EU to be far more important than advancing the elite’s interests, or even maintaining the economic stability of the country. Those officers and members put into Parliament a number of Tory MPs who shared their view. In the confused political situation after the referendum, these MPs were able to exercise a disproportionate influence, largely beside they were the only players who had a really clear conception of what they wanted to happen.

This partial answer focuses on the contingencies of local political alignments. There must also be some deeper, more structural, factors in play. It would be interesting to know what these might be.

39

Michael 10.30.17 at 11:52 pm

To @38:
Another part of the answer I witnessed in the run-up to the referendum. Local (ex)working class people here (and elsewhere) were deluged on Facebook by news such as: ’70 million Turks will join the EU and then flood into Britain’. There was a greatly increased rush of phony or selectively mis-reported cases of EU immigrant criminality as well, and the careful lies of the Brexiteers were reported there as fresh discoveries. This was topped, via Facebook, with the news that you should take a pen with you to mark the ballot, because if you used pencil they would change it. All this was the result of very careful targeting by well funded (Aaron Banks? Other funders via Northern Irish political parties?) Facebook and social media manipulators, and that targeting amounted to an end run around the standard techniques of party politics.

It’s hard not to lay this part of the historians’ eventual case at the door of destructive extremist sources such as Breitbart news and fellow travelers.

40

kidneystones 10.31.17 at 12:18 am

@14 Pete W “And therefore more likely to…?” Therefore, is doing an awful lot of work.

Which leads to…

@28 Rich T (welcome!) “the truth should be known, in principle.” In principle affords you a great deal of wiggle room.

I’ll reply to both comments. Pete W writes that the upside is that a great many people will become much more unhappy, and ‘therefore’ much more amenable to persuasion. RichT refers to the contents of the reports as ‘truth.’ Both positions are very much open to question, RichT first.

The fact is the documents exist. The contents of the reports contain data and predictions, we assume, based on that data. The contents cannot be classified as truth except under a certain Krugmanesque set of metrics that allowed Krugman to make a prediction both BT and AT that the US stock market would tank in November 2016 and never recover. In Krugman land, his prediction continues to stand as ‘truth.’ And the fact that many people can read Krugman’s ironclad claims and measure the utility of such claims for themselves, confirms that this form Krugman truth is a kind of economic prediction produced for political outcomes and ‘therefore’ highly suspect.

That said, I don’t doubt that the compilers of the secret documents have done their best to produce an assessment and set of predictions that is as accurate as possible. Nate Silver did the same exactly one year ago and discovered that there was a 98 percent chance that Hillary would be elected president. Few here questioned Silver’s data or metrics. Many here invested varying degrees of faith (yes, that is the word) in the data predicting Remain would defeat Leave.

The stink of political corruption and data-muddling on both sides of the Atlantic makes ‘therefore’ assertions of the kind explicitly stated by Pete W., and implicitly and explicitly by others, seem highly suspect. Indeed, one of the best facts that comes out of the referendum vote is that Britain still knows how to do fair and free elections, claims of BBC and other bias notwithstanding.

Overturning, or attempting to reverse, a fairly-conducted referendum by making everyone angrier and more suspicious of political institutions seems a very unsound and dangerous path toward any desired outcome. The referendum, in my view, has to be allowed to play out whatever the short-term costs. We can reasonably and fairly question the accuracy of any economic prediction, hidden or not. Releasing secret documents in an emotionally-charged atmosphere might well drive some (a few/many?) to demand a do-over. Predicting the reactions of those other unhappier people is a far greater challenge.

What can’t possibly happen often does.

41

Sebastian H 10.31.17 at 2:25 am

“Nate Silver did the same exactly one year ago and discovered that there was a 98 percent chance that Hillary would be elected president. “

This is false. His final prediction was a 71% chance of a Clinton election. Considering what it actually took to win, I would say that giving trump about a 1/4 chance of winning looks right even now.

42

kidneystones 10.31.17 at 4:05 am

41 Thank you for the correction.
Please explain how this is not a difference without a distinction. My point is the best neutral evidence turned out to be spectacularly wrong and the NYT overall prediction on election night was, in fact, 98 percent. The data sets and metrics selected by those who predicted a Clinton victory were clearly flawed. I’ve no wish to rehash the 2016 election, and I’m frankly not about to entertain any argument that basically all the predictions were basically sound.

I’m just now (again) watching the 2016 election coverage to learn more about how experts make determinations that turn out to be wrong. Enthusiasm is difficult to measure, but not impossible.

During the run-up to the referendum I made the case that failed Labour policies, failed Lib Dem policies, and cynical Conservative policies on a variety of issues (Scottish independence, and relations with the EU not least) made an EU referendum necessary and the result highly likely. The majority, I contend, continue to want borders, the ability to determine residency and citizenship, a near monopoly on the right to craft laws, and the ability to shape and define social norms. Will Brexit provide that, and economic growth?

That’s very much a live issue.

Frankly, your assertion that my comment is ‘false’ is fair, but seems very much a gotcha offering that adds little substantive to the discussion, other than to illustrate a form of discourse that misses the forest for the trees, and incidentally? fails to persuade.

43

kidneystones 10.31.17 at 4:10 am

And to clarify – I was and remain a remain supporter.

Thank you for the thoughtful and heartfelt OP, Maria. That’s it for me.

44

J-D 10.31.17 at 4:30 am

Doug

I don’t see any way to un-invoke Article 50. I mean, I suppose it could be done with the unanimous consent of the 27 remaining governments and the European Parliament, but that would take an enormous amount of goodwill on the part of every single European government, as well as the Parliament.

Apparently there are legal arguments on both sides. Some people think there is good case for a legal power to revoke a notification under Article 50 and to do it unilaterally. They even initiated court proceedings designed to get a ruling on the point from the European Court of Justice. The case was abandoned, so there isn’t going to be a definitive ruling, but that does leave open the theoretical possibility of a successful unilateral revocation. To me it seems that there’s probably not such a legal power, but I’m not an expert and don’t have anything strong to base my judgement on, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there definitely is such a power. Given that the court case was dropped, we won’t find out definitely what the legal position is unless the UK does try to revoke the notification, which seems to me very unlikely although still possible. There’s information about the abandoned court proceedings here:
https://goodlawproject.org/dublin-case-update-3/

45

J-D 10.31.17 at 5:09 am

Dipper
The statement that

these reports don’t have facts, just the opinions of people who have been consistently wrong about the outcomes of every major economic decision I can remember, the opinions of a group of technocrats who unsurprisingly think that the best thing for the UK would be to remain members of a political union that is largely run by technocrats like themselves

is a fabrication, so why do you repeat it?

Remember – the more experience people had of politicians’ promises and economists predictions, the more likely they were to vote Leave.

In general, it is not obviously the case that the judgement of older people is better than the judgement of younger people and should be preferred; more specifically, it is not obviously the case that the judgement of people who have a record of repeatedly falling victim to swindles should be preferred to the judgement of people who have only done so once or twice, or not at all.

46

Peter T 10.31.17 at 5:47 am

A lot of the discussion assumes that people will be moved by bad economic outcomes. It seems to me that the drift of politics is away from the economy as the main game, towards other ends (as it might be), nativism, nationalism (Catalonia, Scotland), race ascendancy in the US, environmentalism or whatever. It may well be that most of those who voted for Brexit would be unmoved by even a ten year recession.

47

PeteW 10.31.17 at 7:50 am

@kidneystones

You have misunderstood my point, which had nothing whatsoever to do with persuasion.

The UK government has prepared a large number of sectoral impact reports on Brexit.

It was you, not me, who suggested that learning the contents of these reports would “make just about everyone much more unhappy with both the process and the result.”

That implies you believe that the reports are strongly negative. And surely it is trivially true that people are likely to be unhappy about that, and therefore more likely to think Brexit a bad idea. Otherwise why the sad?

I was just following your logic, not mine.

You attempt to wriggle out of this by hand-waving about “corruption and data-muddling” and saying these nasty reports would manipulate our emotions, although you have no evidence whatsoever that the reports are anything other than impartial, rigorous (and probably rather dull). Well thanks for speaking on everyone’s behalf, but I’ll make up my own mind, thanks.

Admit it, you just don’t want anyone to know what they say.

I want to know.

48

PeteW 10.31.17 at 8:00 am

Bottom line, the Tories are not withholding these reports because they don’t want the EU to see them. You’d have to be a child to buy that.

They are withholding them because they don’t want the British electorate to see them.

You’re good with that?

49

J-D 10.31.17 at 8:05 am

Mario
Mercurius Londiniensis
Michael

It is important to distinguish between the questions:
‘Why did the UK government arrange the referendum on leaving the European Union?’;
‘Why did Leave get more votes than Remain in the referendum?’; and
‘Why, once the referendum results were known, did the government proceed to give formal notification of leaving the European Union?’

Those are three different questions, which require three distinct answers.

In relation to the third question, anybody who expected that the government would, following a Leave victory in the referendum, not give notice of exit, was (obviously) wrong; I would say, drastically wrong. If you were surprised by the government’s action — the action of taking steps to give effect to the outcome indicated by the referendum — that is likely to be an indicator of major imperfections in your understanding of the world.

The best way I can think of to make clear the reasons why the government acted as it did (for anybody who can’t already grasp them) is to take a step, for a moment, into Counterfactual World, where I have taken control of all the leading members of the Conservative Party with Orbital Mind Control Lasers and compelled them to announce, just after the referendum result has become known, that (despite that result) the government is not going to proceed to give effect to the outcome by taking the UK out of the EU, that instead they are going to do nothing of the sort. What Counterfactual events follow? a massive political backlash, with the participation of more junior Conservative politicians, politicians of other parties, ordinary members of the Conservative Party, prominent Leave campaigners, some prominent Remain campaigners, prominent media figures, and large sections of the general public: a backlash with two themes, one being how monstrously undemocratic it is for the government to override a public will that had never been so clearly expressed, and the other being how brazenly impudent and ludicrously pointless it was for the government to initiate the referendum, taking up so much of people’s time, money, and effort, when they were planning to disregard its outcome in any case.

Returning from Counterfactual World to reality, we bring with us the reason why the government went ahead with implementing the indicated ‘Leave’ outcome of the referendum: because, if they ever stopped even to contemplate the possibility of conducting the referendum and then disregarding its outcome, they would have had to calculate, with overwhelmingly good reason, that if they did anything like that it would be catastrophically bad for their political reputations and future careers.

The day after the vote I was willing to bet real money that the whole thing would be buried as unpractical, as after all the vote wasn’t even legally binding.

I wish you’d told me that. I’d have taken that bet without a qualm, even giving you odds, and taken your real money off you with pleasure.

50

RichT 10.31.17 at 9:19 am

@40 kidneystones (thank you!): “In Krugman land, his prediction continues to stand as ‘truth.’”

Krugman has in fact very openly stated that he was mistaken in his prediction. The fact that not every prediction (and predictions of the future are, inevitably, ticklish things) is always correct, does not (or should not) lead to the conclusion that all predictions, and all expert opinion on technical matters, is worthless, and that anyone’s opinion is as good as everyone else’s. It’s interesting, by the by, that this sort of intellectual relativism is often so warmly espoused by those who react with great outrage to moral relativism.

I used ‘truth’ as shorthand for ‘informed opinion of those who have studied the matter and have good reason to know what they are talking about’. I agree, it’s not a given that they are correct – but I think it’s better to base our judgements on argument, evidence, knowledge and all that nonsense, rather than gut feelings of who is lying least, which would seem to be all we would be left with.

I don’t think the fairly conducted referendum needs to be reversed or overturned, but I also don’t see that it follows that there should be no opportunity for second thoughts or a change of mind. It’s considered perfectly normal to reverse or overturn the results of a general election, every five years, without paroxysms of anger or unhappiness. Though I do agree that the practical difficulties in this case may be insurmountable and we may just have to lie in the bed that has been prepared for us (by whichever shadowy string-pullers are responsible).

51

TM 10.31.17 at 9:29 am

36: “Why wasn’t the moneyed elite successful in stopping Brexit?”

This is a real important question. But it’s crucial to recognize that the “elite” is not monolithic. What should worry us is that there seems to be an increasingly influential faction of the ruling class that doesn’t care about political and economic stability any more. And that is what brought us Brexit, Trump etc. They must believe that they have more to gain from sowing “disruption” (that Silicon Valley buzzword) than going about their business quietly. And that faction’s short-term recklessness borders on the suicidal, when you look at Trump. Mining some more coal and destroying some more ecosystems will be profitable to a few, but it isn’t in the long term interest even of those profiteers. Militarism is highly profitable to a few but nuclear war isn’t even in those profiteers interest. Political extremism, distrust of institutions, belief in fake news and conspiracy theories – all these are politically useful to some in the short term but they can’t be controlled in the long term and might easily turn against the sorcerer’s apprentices who let them loose. The irrationality of that faction of the ruling class is frightening and it’s among the signs that should remind us of the 1930s.

52

TM 10.31.17 at 9:39 am

Re the “spectacularly wrong” 2016 election predictions: This is complete BS. The predictions were right on the mark concerning the popular vote, which btw, have you noticed? *Hillary won* by three million. The vote margins that flipped the swing states were razor thin. And if you think a 71% prediction is disproved when the event given a 29% chance occurs, you need to dust up your statistics.

53

TM 10.31.17 at 9:53 am

J-D 49: The government (possibly a new government after an election) could have argued that the winning margin and the turnout (only 37% overall voted leave) was too small to justify such a monumental decision. Of course there would have been backlash but there was backlash anyway. Also, the government could simply have given itself more time. The quick notification at least was a surprise.

54

casmilus 10.31.17 at 10:07 am

@36

“Britain never seemed to me a place where the public opinion had so much weight – especially not when it went contrary to the interests of the banking sector and deep state. “

What matters are the views of the particular wealthy bodies who fund the main parties. These might be at variance with those of “business” in general.

55

Layman 10.31.17 at 10:42 am

@Dipper

First you wrote this: “Remember – the more experience people had of politicians’ promises and economists predictions, the more likely they were to vote Leave.”

Then you explain that with this: “…older people (i.e. people with more experience of the EU, politicans, and economists) were more likely to vote Leave.”

Do older people necessarily have more experience of the EU, politicians, and economists in any meaningful sense? I doubt it, and invite you to demonstrate it. What you’ve done here is to assert it, not demonstrate it. I’m reminded by someone recently that “no-one is unbiased”, that “everyone has an angle”, that they “are not giving you the unvarnished unbiased truth but giving you an opinion which in some way benefits” themselves, that my job is “to work out how and how much [I am] being lied to, and hence what the actual truth is likely to be.” Am I doing this right?

56

MFB 10.31.17 at 10:55 am

Leaking the Brexit reports will not stop Brexit. Assuming that the Brexit reports warn against a Brexit, as the original topic believes, this would do some damage to the Tory Party’s popularity, but since they don’t have to hold another election for five years, this won’t make much difference to anything. If the Brexit reports say that a Brexit will be just fine, then leaking the reports will make no difference (since anti-Tories will simply dismiss the content of the reports).

Incidentally, Britain survived fairly well as an autonomous country before joining the EEC. It didn’t seem to get any spectacular benefits out of joining the EEC (remember that the three-day-week and the “crisis, what crisis” abandonment of Keynesianism by Callaghan’s Labour both happened with the UK within the EEC.

I suspect that the hardest of hard Brexits will not be catastrophic for Britain. Unpleasant, probably, in the short term (and most unpleasant for the elite). I speak of economic consequences, of course; the political consequence of further empowering the right wing of the Tory Party, assuming that Labour is not able to sustain its present course or use its present course to become more electable, could be very bad indeed.

57

MisterMr 10.31.17 at 11:56 am

@kidneystones 42
“My point is the best neutral evidence turned out to be spectacularly wrong”

I have to say something about this, although it’s not really about you position:
After Trump’s election and Brexit, many people claimed that the pollsters were spectacularly wrong, but in fact the pollsters weren’t, it’s just that the way this kind of projections are interpreted by the media (and perhaps by the human brain) is wrong.

I’ll start with an example: if I roll a normal six-sided dice, I’m willing to bet that the result will not be 6, with an 83% accuracy.
My prediction is not wrong, and my chance to be right is 5/6 (circa 83%).
Still, if I roll the dice and get 6, nobody would actually be surprised: because a 17% chance of being wrong is not small.

But, if a pollster says that Clinton is going to win the elections with an 83% probability (actually the polls I did read gave smaller numbers), and then Clinton loses, everybody jumps up and says that the pollster was wrong.
Why?
In my opinion, as the human brain is not very good with numbers, both the media and people read it as “Clinton is strong 83, Trump is only strond 17” and hence expect Clinton to win with almost certainity (although, as I already said, 83% is very far from almost certainity and is in fact the same chance of not rolling a 6 in a dice).

On the whole, there is no reason to say that the polls on the eve of brexit, or of Trump’s election, were wrong, but the commentary based on those polls (and later on the “failure” of the same) was wrong, because it wundamentally misuderstood the value of the results of these polls.

58

harry b 10.31.17 at 12:41 pm

“Nate Silver did the same exactly one year ago and discovered that there was a 98 percent chance that Hillary would be elected president. “

This is false. His final prediction was a 71% chance of a Clinton election. Considering what it actually took to win, I would say that giving trump about a 1/4 chance of winning looks right even now.

Sebastian’s right about the odds Silver gave. In fact Silver stressed, over and over again, why people were being unduly optimistic; and predicted that the key states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania) would swing together, not separately. Anyone reading Silver regularly should have been ready for the outcome. That said, given the details of the result, it actually looks as if he massively overestimated Trump’s chances.

59

J-D 10.31.17 at 7:53 pm

TM
There is precedent for referenda with requirements stipulated in advance requiring, for validity, a minimum turnout or a minimum margin. The legislation for the Scottish devolution referendum of 1979 required a minimum of 40% of the electorate voting in favour for an affirmative result; Yes got slightly more than half of votes cast but substantially less than 40% of the electorate, and so devolution was not implemented. The legislation for the New South Wales federation referendum of 1898 required a minimum of 80,000 votes in favour for an affirmative result; Yes got more than half of votes cast but fell short of the figure of 80,000, so the Commonwealth Constitution was considered not to have been approved by New South Wales. But these were explicit stipulations in advance, not arbitrary retroactive decisions. Partly because there are precedents for this sort of advance stipulation, it would have been considered unconscionable to invent one to be invoked after the result was known. You underestimate the likely strength of the backlash. If the legislation had stipulated that the vote was only indicative, that the government would consider it but not necessarily be bound by it, they might have been able to get away with not proceeding. But that’s not what the legislation said, and the government could not have expected to get away with ignoring it.

There is a difference between ‘I expected the government to wait longer after the referendum result before giving notification of exit’ and ‘I expected the government to disregard the referendum result’. If you were expecting the government to disregard the referendum result by simply not acting to give notification of exit, it’s not absolute proof that your understanding of the situation was seriously flawed, but it’s a very strong indicator. Most people were not surprised that notification of exit went ahead; it was not difficult to predict.

60

Mario 10.31.17 at 11:16 pm

J-D,

If the legislation had stipulated that the vote was only indicative, that the government would consider it but not necessarily be bound by it, they might have been able to get away with not proceeding.

Precisely. The referendum wasn’t legally binding. Had the parliament voted against triggering Art. 50, that would have been it.

Beyond that, in this century alone, the results of three referendums on EU matters were basically ignored in Europe. One flat-out, and two by repeating the vote (albeit with additional concessions). And that doesn’t include those that were ignored de facto, like those that brought to fall the ‘constitution’ (because the legislation was mostly adopted anyway, it was just not called ‘constitution’ any more).

Also, there has been strong backlash on lots of things, recently, and it often hasn’t influenced policy much at all (e.g. immigration in Germany). Given the razor-thin result of the non-binding Brexit referendum, at least negotiation and a second referendum would have been possible. A lot of wiggling room was available but none of it was used. If you have a good explanation for that, I’d like to read it, but I’m afraid that ”there would have been backlash” is a bit too simplistic.

My suspicion is that the political elites in the UK where happy to pull the trigger as soon as they had a good excuse, because they were just thoroughly done with the EU. I would like to understand why.

61

J-D 11.01.17 at 3:19 am

Mario
I have an explanation which matches with the facts of what actually happened. You don’t. So you’re mystified in a way that I’m not. What happened is what I would have predicted, but the opposite of what you would have predicted. If we’d made that bet you mentioned, I would have won and taken your money off you. That seems like a good reason to give at least some consideration to the possibility that you have been labouring under a misapprehension.

Precisely. The referendum wasn’t legally binding. Had the parliament voted against triggering Art. 50, that would have been it.

My explanation was not that it was not legally,/i> possible to disregard the referendum outcome. It was legally possible. My explanation is that disregarding the referendum outcome would have provoked a backlash on a scale that would have destroyed the political futures of the people who made the decision to disregard; or rather, more precisely, that those people would have correctly calculated (if they ever stopped to consider the option) that such a backlash was overwhelmingly likely.

Beyond that, in this century alone, the results of three referendums on EU matters were basically ignored in Europe. One flat-out, and two by repeating the vote (albeit with additional concessions). And that doesn’t include those that were ignored de facto, like those that brought to fall the ‘constitution’ (because the legislation was mostly adopted anyway, it was just not called ‘constitution’ any more).

I’m afraid I don’t know which referenda you’re referring to. I suspect that an examination of the details would show that they are not parallel cases to the one we’re discussing, but I can’t be sure unless you identify those cases specifically.

Also, there has been strong backlash on lots of things, recently, and it often hasn’t influenced policy much at all (e.g. immigration in Germany).

Of course. Sometimes political backlashes end careers and sometimes they don’t. My explanation in this case is not just ‘There would have been a backlash’ but ‘There would have been a politically unsurvivable backlash’, and I have supported that by giving specifics of the kind of backlash to be expected. A substantial number of people in Germany are strongly displeased with current immigration policy; if I suggested only that a substantial number in the UK would have been strongly displeased with a decision to disregard the referendum result., it would not have been an adequate explanation. My prediction was more specific than that.

My suspicion is that the political elites in the UK where happy to pull the trigger as soon as they had a good excuse, because they were just thoroughly done with the EU.

The most obvious thing wrong with that explanation is that in order to make it seem plausible you have to erase David Cameron from the story and pretend he was never there. He (more than any one other person) was responsible for bringing on the referendum, but he was obviously not willing to be the person who implemented the outcome; yet he was also obviously unwilling to disregard the outcome. When I can fit the Prime Minister’s behaviour into my explanation and you cannot fit it into yours, it’s another strong indicator that your understanding of the situation is seriously flawed.

62

derrida derider 11.01.17 at 4:11 am

“But what if the leak could be made anonymous? To me, it seems like in fact doing so anonymously would be quite good.” – Jerry V @30

You haven’t handled classified material. Handling processes are generally designed not so much to physically prevent leaks as to deter them by making sure the source can be quickly identified (where identification is convenient – often of course it is not). The process for the stuff Manning leaked was the subject of appalled criticism by insiders because they were sloppy about that.

And these docs would be highly classified, and identification would be vigorously sought.

63

Orange Watch 11.01.17 at 5:58 am

MFB@56

Your prediction seems very strongly predicated on the idea that the UK’s economy is structured largely or even precisely as it was prior to its joining the EEC, and that international trade relations can and will more-or-less revert to the same state they were in at that time. Do you actually have any convincing reason we should believe that nothing relevant has changed economically in the UK or abroad in the past 44 years – which, I hesitate to mention, might possibly have seen some modest tread towards “globalization” in both industry and finance?

64

nastywoman 11.01.17 at 7:05 am

@60
”I would like to understand why.”

BE-cause there are people who want ”to burn the whole thing down” and they want it so… bad that they want to ”burn the whole thing down”.

65

nastywoman 11.01.17 at 8:40 am

and if ”to burn the whole thing down” is a bit too simplistic too – and If anybody still would like to read ”a good explanation” – the best I have read from a commenter called ”Mario” here as he mentioned ”done with the EU”.

As being totally ”done” with something or somebody seems to have become a worldwide phenomena – and it’s everywhere – I even heard it yesterday in the COOP in Kreuzlingen when a Swiss German -(who could have been an ex-immigrant from an Eastern European country) yelled at his red-haired gitlfroien -(or wife) who could have been ”Irish” -(or not at all) with a very British accent: ”I’m done with you”! And she nearly hit him with a big package of Italian Panettone -(a delicious Italian Christmas-Cake) – which reminded US on the wonderful ”Christmasses” in California an when we first noticed ”the being ”done with it” – in the so called ”So-Cal Elites” – where this neighbor of US is now ”done” with wife Nr.5 – and he never understood -(like our British Friends) – that it is ”Cheaper to Keep’er.
(the EU)!

66

PeteW 11.01.17 at 9:03 am

Dipper says: “Would these reports be from the same people who told us that not joining the Euro would consign the UK to the slow lane besides a surging ahead Euro-zone?”

The NIESR says: “It is almost certain that the relative deterioration in the UK economy and the accompanying fall in living standards over the past year are a consequence of the vote by the British people to leave the European Union. Had sterling not depreciated and the economy continued to grow at its previous rate, as would have been likely with an improving global backdrop, real household disposable income per head might have been more than 2 per cent higher than now, worth over £600 per annum to the average household.”

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/002795011724200103

67

kidneystones 11.01.17 at 9:53 am

Here’s are some statistics worth noting:
https://www.cato.org/blog/poll-71-americans-say-political-correctness-has-silenced-discussions-society-needs-have-58-have

What many here, frankly, fail to understand is that Donald Trump, Farage and company won and continue to win, in many cases the public argument.

All my students in Japan identify ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Build that Wall’ with Trump. Not one can remember a single word Hillary uttered. I use this example to teach presentation design principles. Whatever our statistical authorities might have wanted to believe, when most people hear that Hillary has a 98 percent chance of winning they read that as there’s a 98 percent chance Hillary will win and only tiny chance she’ll lose.

I strongly suggest you give some serious thought to the proposition: “it is not what I say that matters, but what you and others hear.”

People can complain that strictly speaking HRC had a much higher possibility of losing than many allowed. Corey and Holbo tried to make arguments very much along that line only for comments mob to gather and shout all unthink down. The result being that the only voices heard (with only one consistent exception) were those declaiming that Hillary couldn’t lose.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-why-our-model-is-more-bullish-than-others-on-trump/ The story of that election, at least here, was the many shrilly denouncing any utterance suggesting the outcome was in any doubt.

Remember?

68

TM 11.01.17 at 1:13 pm

J-D 59: The question is moot now, but I think it’s wrong to state that May had no other viable choice. When she became PM, she bore no responsibility for the Brexit mess and still had a large majority without need for a new election. She could have stated that it was her duty to do what was best for the country (which has the virtue of being actually true), and giving notice now without a clear understanding of the consequences was not in the country’s best interest (again, this is clearly true). Of course this stance would be risky politically but anything else was at least as risky.

She could have said something along these lines: “The Brexit vote has revealed a large degree of dissatisfaction with the status quo, which my government is committed to address, but it also shows that the nation is starkly divided on one of the most fundamental questions. My government is committed to healing the division and finding a way forward that is best for the nation. We have the duty to study the choices we have and their consequences in detail before taking momentous decisions that shouldn’t be made in haste. We are also committed to listen more closely to the concerns of the people. We will invite all citizens and stakeholders to a national consultation on the future of the nation. We are committed to facilitating dialogue and finding a common way forward instead of fighting campaigns against each other.”

This way would have required a leader of more caliber than May turned out to possess but it wasn’t impossible. Politics is not deterministic, there are always choices.

Mario 60: “Beyond that, in this century alone, the results of three referendums on EU matters were basically ignored in Europe.”

This is a tad disingenuous. Those referendum results were respected within their respective constitutional frames. But no single vote is absolute. A negative referendum result doesn’t foreclose another referendum on a similar matter (if you don’t believe it, ask the Swiss, who really have experience with direct democracy). This goes both ways of course. The anti-EU camp likes to hold up the handful of referendum successes they have won like trophies, while ignoring all the referendums they have lost. As I recently pointed out on the other thread, democratic legitimacy seems to always means “our side won”. When their side loses, suddenly the results were rigged, or are the fault of the “establishment media” (while Rupert Murdoch’s conglomerate – the most powerful propaganda imperium the world has ever seen – somehow counts as the “voice of the people”) – or simply don’t matter.

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TM 11.01.17 at 1:32 pm

62 “Donald Trump, Farage and company won and continue to win, in many cases the public argument.”

The popularity of Trump’s tax plan is at 30% – which one has to admit is a remarkable success given that this would be the most shamelessly plutocratic tax reform in history. But, our dear resident faux-contrarian, do go ahead and talk about political correctness, because that is so much more important than whether millions of low-income Americans have access to health care, whether American workers get overtime pay, whether the rich pay any taxes at all, whether coal mining debris is dumped in Appalachian streams, whether Wall Street gets regulated, whether the Iran deal is ripped up and the Middle East conflict thereby escalated a few more notches, whether our civilization will survive Climate Change, whether Trump the “non-hawkish”, the “non-Neocon” starts a nuclear war.

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Dipper 11.01.17 at 2:45 pm

@ Layman “Do older people necessarily have more experience of the EU, politicians, and economists in any meaningful sense?” As opposed to an unmeaningful sense? Most people are astute observers of their own circumstances, and the older they are the longer they have had to make those observations. And “am I doing this right? yes I have an angle just as everyone else does.

Overall there is a complete disconnect in the way many Remainers and Leavers see politics. For Remainers and many in the EU the preferred political model is one of top-down technocracy. In this model the technocrats create a future and hand it down to the population. For Leavers, the future is something individuals make for themselves, and the job of governments is to support them in their efforts to create their future. So for Leavers, all these reports from technocrats are just an effort to keep power by simply saying that unless they have control then the future will be worse. For Leavers, the future is unknown – that’s the point. It is an opportunity for people to work to improve their lot in life.

Most of the reports on Leave predicted lower growth, lower currency and inflation all of which happened. However, it is arguable that the currency is lower (hence higher inflation) partly because a Remainer Governor of the BOE failed to raise rates as he should have done. All the reports predicted job losses, and the reverse happened.

Over the last ten years since the GFC nearly all economists have missed the large growth in jobs, the stagnating productivity and the falling real wages (in the UK). These are pretty major misses and give good grounds for discounting predictions these folks make about what the future in the EU holds for ordinary people. For many people, continued EU means continued immigration and continued zero productivity growth, hence continued upward pressure on housing costs and downward pressure on wages.

Companies will moan about all sorts of things – it is their job to ask things of governments. to give an example, companies are moaning about the need for more lorry drives from the EU. There is a history to this; Lorry drivers have had to spend more time and money on going on courses, and meanwhile rates for Lorry drivers have been undercut by importing drivers from Eastern Europe often on low rates and dreadful living conditions. Meanwhile the supply of domestic lorry drivers is drying up as drivers find alternative work. (note this is a couple of years old). So leaving the EU may mean an increase in driving rates. Bad news for customers, good news for workers. Which side are the readers of CT on?

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nastywoman 11.01.17 at 3:15 pm

– and really?

– some commenters here constantly write completely OFF topic about their girlfriends and my always on right EU topic comments have to wait to clear moderation?

-(and who is this Hillary anyway? – and can she cook ”Leak”?)

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nastywoman 11.01.17 at 3:18 pm

and@64
”The story of that erection, at least here, was the many shrilly denouncing any utterance suggesting the outcome was in any doubt.”

The above was ”pornographic”!!

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Cian O'Connor 11.01.17 at 3:18 pm

@kidneystones: All my students in Japan identify ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Build that Wall’ with Trump. Not one can remember a single word Hillary uttered.

Your students in Japan. Japan. You’re referencing your students in Japan for an election in the US. An election that was thought in a media system that your students do not really have access to. An election that was fought in a culture they don’t live in.

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nastywoman 11.01.17 at 3:20 pm

@moderation

– and how is a dude allowed such obscenities on this blog – in a time where we still haven’t gone rid of the Pornographer in Chief yet?

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Cian O'Connor 11.01.17 at 3:23 pm

Whatever our statistical authorities might have wanted to believe, when most people hear that Hillary has a 98 percent chance of winning they read that as there’s a 98 percent chance Hillary will win and only tiny chance she’ll lose.

Well apparently in your case when someone says the percentage 71%, you hear that as 98%. So this might just be projection on your part.

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nastywoman 11.01.17 at 3:33 pm

and to be a bit more… serious? –
Is this here some kind of ”twilight” or erection zone” where every thread ends with somebody called ”Hillary”.
-(until the next election?)

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J-D 11.01.17 at 7:12 pm

kidneystones
It is rude to burst into somebody else’s discussion to raise a different topic just because you think it’s more important or more interesting. Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with this discussion.

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Pete 11.01.17 at 8:13 pm

Update: https://twitter.com/faisalislam/status/925799891745505280

“Motion to force Government to publish the Brexit impact assessments to Dexeu Committee is passed unanimously” – this is some kind of binding motion in the commons, apparently.

Meanwhile Fallon has resigned, and I think there will be more to come.

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John Holbo 11.02.17 at 3:05 am

Sorry for slowness with moderation of this thread. Maria is off for a few days and I promised to keep an eye, then my own life got very busy last 24 hours. I’ve turned everything on but I promised Maria I would try to keep things from spiraling out of control. So don’t make me a liar!

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Sebastian H 11.02.17 at 3:35 am

“The anti-EU camp likes to hold up the handful of referendum successes they have won like trophies, while ignoring all the referendums they have lost.”

When refer to things like this it would be helpful to say which referendums you are talking about. Are there a bunch of pro-EU referendums that won that you’re thinking of? In the last 10 years? Ever?

“You’re referencing your students in Japan for an election in the US. An election that was thought in a media system that your students do not really have access to. An election that was fought in a culture they don’t live in.”

I don’t want to go too far down side trails, but it really does seem true that Hillary Clinton wasn’t very good at the political poetry side of things. I watch politics very closely, and live in the US and I can’t think of anything remotely like Obama’s “Yes We Can” or Trump’s “Make America Great Again” or Reagan’s “Morning in America” or even Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light”. Was it “I’m With Her”? Shudder.

She never got a good overarching theme going that let her rhetorically hook together her thousand different white papers.

But to try not to let it go too far afield, it reveals a weakness in the current technocratic approach to government. She might have been able to run the campaign she ran 10 years ago. But at this point there is a large chunk of the electorate that just doesn’t trust technocratic pronouncements. And they have legitimate reasons for that–for two decades everyone has been telling them that globalism would be great for the country AND for them. But it hasn’t been great for them. In fact it has been repeatedly and demonstrably not great for them. So at some point they began to suspect that those pronouncements were lies rather than mistakes.

Since we are at THAT point, I’m not convinced that leaking the Brexit reports is going to help much. They won’t be believed. Now we shouldn’t have gotten to this point. A good technocratic government would have noticed in the 1990s and early 2000s that the promises weren’t being fulfilled and would have realized that they were incubating a problem. But in the US and UK my read of what happened was that the globalism successes were in big cities (London, NY, DC, LA) which all took steps to consolidate the wealth there and keep people out (largely through housing restrictions). So for the most part the policy makers never saw the negative effects anywhere near them so they treated them like they didn’t really exist. You need to re-earn technocratic trust such that things like leaking the brexit reports could actually do some good.

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J-D 11.02.17 at 3:39 am

TM
Of course people always have choices; also, people always have reasons for the choices they make (although they aren’t always good reasons). I was giving an answer to the question ‘Why did the government not make the choice to disregard the referendum results entirely?’, and nothing in your comment makes me think there’s anything wrong with my answer. There is, I acknowledge, also this question: ‘Why did the government not announce plans that would have the effect of postponing any decision to give notice of withdrawal from the EU?’ That is a different question, and calls for a different answer: the answer I gave to the first-mentioned question is not an adequate answer to the second-mentioned question. The reason the government did not simply discard the referendum result and explicitly abandon the whole idea of leaving the EU is the one I gave, the overwhelming probability of a politically unsurvivable backlash. That’s not the reason the government didn’t try to play for time by some manoeuvre of the general kind you now suggest: if they had done that, there would have been some risk of some backlash, but the kind of backlash risk that it’s possible to survive politically. I am not as confident of the explanation on this point as I was on the previous point. Could it be that none of them were smart enough to think of it? or were they for some reason exaggeratedly fearful of even a limited backlash risk? or had they mostly come round to the position of active support for leaving the EU? or did they find the prospect of further consultation of the kind you suggest too difficult for them to handle? or did they feel they’d already done as much as they wanted to involve the general public in the process and didn’t want to encourage them to think about continuing to be politically active? or something else I haven’t thought of? or some combination? I don’t know.

I stand by what I wrote before, though, that anybody who was expecting simple rejection of the referendum result (as opposed to your more sophisticated suggestion of further consultation, or the like) must have been seriously misunderstanding the situation.

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Sebastian H 11.02.17 at 4:33 am

I just read this article by Dani Rodrik right after posting my last comment. It deals exactly with what I’m talking about.

Viewed from this perspective, our conventional agenda of globalization looks very curious. A lot of political capital is wasted on efforts that produce little net gain, while areas in which net gains could be huge remain untouched.

To see this, it helps to start with a basic principle of public finance. A government-imposed restriction on trade is like a tax — a tax on imports. And the efficiency cost of a tax rises disproportionately, with the square of the rate of the tax. A tax that is twice as large is four times as harmful to the economy in terms of efficiency; a tax that is four times as large is 16 times as harmful. What this means is that a reduction in a barrier that is high produces much larger gains than an equal reduction in a barrier that is already low.

Redistribution of income and wealth, by contrast, creates linear effects. An equal reduction produces similar effects regardless of the initial height of the barrier that is impeding trade.

Now put these two realities together. The larger the amount of redistribution that is generated by trade opening per dollar of efficiency gain, the smaller the barriers that policymakers are going after. I have called this ratio of redistribution per net gain the political cost-benefit ratio of trade liberalization. After almost seven decades of trade negotiations and agreements, most barriers to trade in industrial goods and agricultural products have come down substantially. Chipping away further at these barriers thus produces modest net gains in efficiency accompanied by disproportionately large changes in income and wealth distribution.

This might seem like a theoretical point with little practical consequence. Not so. Consider the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the U.S. economy. When the agreement went into effect in 1994, U.S. barriers to Mexican imports were already quite low. Not surprisingly, in light of the theoretical considerations above, subsequent empirical analyses have found very small efficiency gains for the United States: a sophisticated academic study by the economists Lorenzo Caliendo of Yale and Fernando Parro of Johns Hopkins uses all the bells and whistles of modern trade theory to generate an estimate of only a 0.04 percent gain in economic efficiency. You didn’t misread that: four-hundredths of one percent!

Nonetheless, Nafta shuffled a lot of income within the United States. The most careful analysis to date has been carried out by the economists Shushanik Hakobyan of Fordham and John McLaren of the University of Virginia. They found that an “important minority” of U.S. workers suffered substantial income losses. A high-school dropout in heavily Nafta-impacted locales had eight percentage points slower wage growth over 1990-2000 compared to a similar worker in a region/sector unaffected by Nafta trade. Wage growth in the most protected industries that lost their protection fell 17 percentage points relative to industries that were unprotected initially.

These are very large effects — especially when compared with the meager net benefits noted above. Of course, there were plenty of big winners as well as big losers, which explains why many corporations were in favor of the agreement. But in light of numbers such as these, it is not difficult to understand why Nafta remains so politically charged after nearly a quarter-century.

But really read the whole thing.

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kidneystones 11.02.17 at 7:36 am

The supposition that university students outside the UK, or America, know as little about the UK and America as UK and American university students know about other nations is suspect, at best.

Plenty of university students don’t know much about their own nations, but keenly follow the activities of powerful countries, and countries that export culture. If you can name a culture more closely and widely followed than that of the US, I’d be delighted to hear of it. Britain is also of immense interest to a great many.

Mark Blyth regards Brexit and the 2016 US election as part of the same phenomenon, one that reaches far beyond national borders. https://www.gq.com/story/mark-blyth-economics-interview In both events, high percentages of voters learned to distrust partisan bubbleheads and partisan ‘experts’ recruited by opposing sides. One of my clearest memories of the run-up to Brexit is of a Question Time audience complaining that nobody, including the press, seemed willing to provide unbiased information.

I suspect that Leave supporters will largely be dismayed at any leak, while some may regret their decision. Some Remain supporters clearly hope that a leak may make it easier to force a second referendum on the British public, with the extra irony being that some now insisting on the need for a second referendum are precisely the same people who denyied the need for the first.

Finally, the contexts for Brexit must be local and international, and at the very least include all of Europe. Can anyone imagine the SNP trying to ignore their own referendum on independence? That and the UK election has to factor into discussion of Brexit. Following a crushing defeat, Labour abandoned their absurd opposition to the referendum and stopped (for a bit) being the party of Tory lite. Some Remain supporters and some vocal Hillary supporters believe that a losing a democratically run referendum, or election, isn’t really a loss if they happen to be the losers.

Finally, I certainly don’t wish to be rude, and sincerely apologize to any who have taken offense.

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TM 11.02.17 at 9:40 am

Referendums and democratic consent in the EU, US, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK

Sebastian H 80: If in doubt, there is probably a list on wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendums_related_to_the_European_Union

The list is really interesting and I encourage you to study it closely. There have really been quite a number of referendums held, although many EU member countries simply don’t do national referendums so there are no data points from these. Most results have turned out pro EU. A caveat is in order: It isn’t always a question of pro-EU or no-EU. Many EU supporters didn’t see the point of that weird constitutional thing in 2005. The French and Netherlands votes clearly weren’t a repudiation of the EU, just of that particular proposal. Just like in any national referendum (where such are held), when a government proposal is voted down, nobody usually claims that that country’s whole political order is called into question.

Let me offer some other comparisons. Very few constitutions in history have been ratified by popular vote. The US constitution was considered ratified after nine of thirteen member states had ratified it, without a single popular vote being held. Rhode Island refused to ratify 12 times and finally agreed to ratify only after the federal Congress had threatened very serious punitive measures.

The German federal constitution of 1949 was ratified by member parliaments against the opposition of Bavaria. Bavaria was overruled and nobody since has seriously questioned the legitimacy of that ratification.

The Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 (the founding document of the Swiss Confederation) was ratified essentially by the liberal victors of a brief civil war. Popular votes were held in most states with 8 of 25 states voting No (the result ranged from 3% to close to 100%). The revised constitution of 1874 again was rejected by ten states, and the revised constitution of 1999 by 12 of 26 states (http://www.hls-dhs-dss.ch/textes/d/D9811.php). Yet nobody questions the legitimacy of the result! (The requirement is a majority of states plus a majority of the popular vote).

Now consider the much more stringent requirements demanded of the EU: almost any nontrivial change requires unanimous consent of all 28 member states! By such standards, hardly any federal country would ever have succeeded in ratifying anything. It is near impossible to get everybody on board in a diverse polity. Yet it is considered entirely unremarkable that fundamental decisions taken in the US, Germany, Switzerland, or the UK are far from unanimous; it happens all the time that large minorities and many member states are overruled and rarely does this result in questioning the outcome.

My point is not to complain about the rules of EU governance. The rules are what they are and need to be observed and if a half-baked constitutional project can be derailed by a popular vote in one or two member states, then so be it. My point is to get it over with the whining and the hypocritical complaint about the so-called “democratic deficit”. The EU requires a much higher degree of democratic consent than most of the member states. And especially the UK has no case to complain about: A country where a government representing barely more than a third of the population voters can enact sweeping constitutional change with absolutely no consideration for the wishes of the non-English union members. And it is really precious when it is precisely English nationalists, who couldn’t care less about the democratic rights of the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, who clamor the loudest about the EU not being democratic enough if the EU “bureaucrats” refuse to entertain every whim and special demand coming their way.

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TM 11.02.17 at 9:44 am

J-D 81: “I stand by what I wrote before”

And I’m not trying to dissuade you. I’m simply offering a different perspective.

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nastywoman 11.02.17 at 10:53 am

@82
Yes – NAFTA and Brexit are pretty good examples for the complete misunderstanding of ”Trade” or ”Globalization” by US and UK.

While it is pretty well known in Europe – that NAFTA was a very successful effort by US Agribusiness to open a YUUGE market for it’s subsidized beef and corn –
US commentator like to completely ignore all of the (unintended?) consequences from this ”great deal” for US farmers and ranchers.
BUT it was – ”successfully” ruining Mexicos agricultural base” -(with 1/3 of all Mexicans employed in this ”field”) – and then the devilish irony that greedy US Companies outsourced manufacturing more and more – and then – Haha! – employed the unemployed Mexican field workers for manufacturing abroad.

So – besides the fact – that it was the decisions of US Companies – which did the main damage and NOT the fail of ”Trade” Per Se – companies from other countries – which had to deal with similar ”Trade Deals” – didn’t outsource in such a greedy way as US – and instead created even additional jobs in order to ”Produce at home” and thusly profited from the same ”Trade regulations” immensely.

Which could bring us to the always ignored -(or totally forgotten?) ”other side of the Pre-Brexit Deal”. The membership in the EU made it possible that hundred thousands of very rich (tax-fleeing) Europeans came to the British Isle in order to -(attention irony!) spend their dough there in order to ”stimulate” the British economy immensely and when in the shadow of the Richies some ”poorer Europeans” followed – a lot of our British friends suddenly thought.
Hmmm?

We don’t want these ”poor masses” -(even if we need their service) let’s be a ”Trump” and only allow money coming into the country.

And this explanation of events could be completely ”fictional” or NOT.
Whatever y’all prefer!

Like we US seem to have this tendency

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kidneystones 11.02.17 at 11:33 am

Kidney, I’m deleting this comment. It wasn’t offensive but you have certainly wandered off point.

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Layman 11.02.17 at 12:09 pm

Dipper: “Most people are astute observers of their own circumstances, and the older they are the longer they have had to make those observations.”

Yes, you’re still making this assertion. Do you have any evidence with which to support it? And, if you do, is there any reason to believe that ‘most’ older people have studiously observed the machinations of the EU, politicians, and economists? Rather than only studiously observing football or the latest soap? That’s the question I’m asking.

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Mario 11.02.17 at 1:13 pm

TM,

When their side loses, suddenly the results were rigged, or are the fault of the “establishment media”

The other side has great explanations, too: fake news, Russian trolls, … :-)

I don’t want to continue on the issue of whether there were ways of stopping Brexit after the vote. Just for the record, I never expected UK’s gov to say “we won’t do Brexit anyway, neener neener”, or something like that. Maybe I didn’t state it clearly enough, but obviously some significant degree of fudging and maneuvering would have been necessary to stop Brexit after the vote. What I’m saying is that I’m still wondering why little of that happened. I like the explanation of Mercurius Londiniensis best so far.

But… while this discussion was going on, I remembered that when Cameron resigned, he left the stage singing, oblivious to the fact that his mic was still live (that’s probably not relevant, but it was interesting nonetheless). I remember reading articles in Germany wondering aloud if Cameron was being extra brash in pre-vote negotiations so he could return home with nothing. And I remember at least one article in The Guardian despairing over the lukewarm anti-Brexit campaing being run by Corbyn, wondering if he was dragging his feet. But maybe I just dreamed all of this, or it does not mean anything at all.

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Cian O'Connor 11.02.17 at 5:54 pm

And I remember at least one article in The Guardian despairing over the lukewarm anti-Brexit campaing being run by Corbyn, wondering if he was dragging his feet. But maybe I just dreamed all of this, or it does not mean anything at all.

Ah well, that’s the Guardian for you. Whatever Corbyn’s personal views might have been – he didn’t run the anti-brexit campaign, but he worked his arse off campaigning on behalf of it.

The terribleness of the anti-Brexit campaign speaks more I think to the exhausted state of post Blair liberal politics.

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Cian O'Connor 11.02.17 at 6:01 pm

Dipper: “Most people are astute observers of their own circumstances, and the older they are the longer they have had to make those observations.”

Most people who voted for Brexit had their views shaped by 30+ years worth of lies by the right wing press. At this point I think it’s fairly well established that most people voting (on both sides) had only the vaguest sense of what the EU actually does and where its powers lay.

I suspect the strongest reasons were anti-immigrant feeling (just generally – this had as much to do with Pakistani immigrants from the 70s), a vague sense of Little Englander sentiment and possibly a general loathing/distrust of city folks.

People voting against Brexit were probably voting for cosmopolitanism, a general loathing of tabloid culture/little Englander feeling and having European immigrant friends.

Basically the vote should never have happened. In a better world Cameron would be living in hiding at this point.

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Dipper 11.02.17 at 8:26 pm

@ Layman Do you have any evidence .. well I have the evidence of talking to people who are happy to discuss their reasons for voting, but I feel you are asking for more. What kind of evidence did you have in mind? How would you prove that people have adequate reasons for their views given that in politics all evidence is subjective?

Whilst it is tempting to conclude that people who agree with you are clearly intelligent and compassionate individuals but people who disagree with you are just idiots, I feel this is a dangerous road to go down. Informing people who disagree with you that they are gullible fools hasn’t been shown to be a winning political strategy particularly as it is not possible to demonstrate that it isn’t you who has been the gullible fool. Surely best to start from the view that people vote in their own interests and work from there?

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Layman 11.02.17 at 9:04 pm

Dipper: “…but I feel you are asking for more.”

I am. In the last thread, you claimed that people were motivated by the desire for ‘democratic accountability’ when your underlying data point was about sovereignty. You said you saw that motivation in ‘most polls’ and then provided only one poll result. In this thread, you said that there was a significant correlation between people’s experience of politicians, economists, and the EU and their views on Brexit, when what you meant was that there was a correlation between their age and their views on Brexit.

I’m asking why you keep doing that – mischaracterizing the data. ‘Old’ is surely more clear and accurate than ‘experienced with the EU, politicians, and economists’. If you are talking about only one poll, one doesn’t usually refer to that as ‘most polls’. If people are concerned about sovereignty, one doesn’t usually communicate that by saying they’re concerned about democratic accountability. It’s a problem, isn’t it?

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Dipper 11.02.17 at 9:35 pm

@ Cian O’Connor. Well I agree with you that the referendum should not have happened. Cameron took a crowded room and made everyone get to one side or the other. The referendum made our relationship with Europe into a binary all-in or all-out affair. Nevertheless parliament in their wisdom voted 6:1 to hold the referendum.

I think it unwise to start going beyond what people said in polls or out of their own mouths in saying people voted for this reason or that reason. I could say that Remainers had their views formed by years of propaganda from the pro-EU London media as well as the EU itself. And I know plenty of people with European immigrant friends who voted to Leave.

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novakant 11.02.17 at 9:49 pm

The thing is, Dipper: Brexit is in nobody’s interest – unless you are a tax avoiding crypto-fascist expat billionaire maybe. There is no way that Brexit will beneficial to the UK economy, none.

So yes, people voting for Brexit are either idiots or vile human beings.

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Layman 11.02.17 at 9:55 pm

Dipper: “I think it unwise to start going beyond what people said in polls or out of their own mouths in saying people voted for this reason or that reason.”

This is an entirely new position for you. You’ve been going beyond what people say in polls all along, imputing reasons to them they have not themselves voiced.

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J-D 11.03.17 at 12:14 am

kidneystones

Finally, I certainly don’t wish to be rude, and sincerely apologize to any who have taken offense.

It destroys any value of your apology when you so promptly repeat the offence.

The title of the post is not ‘Should someone leak those Brexit reports and also, kidneystones, would you like to drag out your hobbyhorse?’, and there is a reason why that is not the title.

If you have a genuine desire not to derail other people’s conversations so rudely, I have a simple suggestion to begin with: never introduce any reference to Hillary Clinton into a discussion unless somebody else has referred to her first.

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nastywoman 11.03.17 at 3:41 am

@97
”something much more significant is taking place…”

Let US guess – It has something to do with your girlfriend?
And I don’t know how often it has to be said. Your girlfriend has nothing – Nada! – to do with ”Brexit” or the question if ”someone should leak those Brexit reports”?

BE-cause the ”Brexit” happened in Britain – that’s a country which is very, very far from where you supposedly? live.
And it’s true – Britain is an Island too – but the restrictions living on an Island are no excuse for constantly writing about your girlfriend!!

Capisce??!

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nastywoman 11.03.17 at 4:02 am

And once – a very long time ago – I had to write a Master Thesis about ”The Language of the Internet” and it was not a very good one – but it (already) included the ”theory” -(or provocation?) – that every ”poster-commenter-writer-mumbler on teh Intertubes” actually only ”one shtick” and it was based on the ”Auswertung” of the comments on a blog where the Blog-Poster was so ”disappointed” in his boyfriend ”Obama” – that in some of his blog posts he used the word ”Obama” over thirty-two times -(that was his record) and he later became some kind of a ”guardian of all whistleblowers” – or not? as his ”other sthick” was also – to kind of making a ”business-model” by having whistleblowers blowing their whistle – and him writing about it – tons of times – without ever having to deal with the consequences the poor whistleblowers endured who followed his advice NOT to post anonymously – and that was – a little bit like this guy -(or ist es ein Mädchen?) who constantly ”geht uns auf den Sack hier” – posting about his -(or her) girlfriend!

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J-D 11.03.17 at 5:19 am

Dipper
I don’t know whether there actually are any people who think that technocrats create a future that everybody else will live in, but any people who do think that are mistaken.

On the other hand, any people who think that each of us individually creates an individual future to live in is also mistaken.

We will all live in the same future, and we all have a share in the shaping of that future, although not necessarily equal shares.

More to the point, from a practical point of view, anybody who thinks that the opinions of better informed people count for everything and the opinions of less well informed people count for nothing is mistaken; but so, too, is anybody who thinks that the opinions of better informed people count for no more than the opinions of less well informed people. It is common for experts to get things wrong, but it is even more common for non-experts to get things wrong.

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TM 11.03.17 at 8:10 am

Same for 97. I can ignore the trolling but not everybody does, and more to the point, I really dislike the idea of the fascists taking advantage of our liberal tolerance just to show us what fools we are. And you know what, they are right, we really are fools if we think freedom of speech means to roll out the red carpet for the fascists and granting them access to our own distribution channels so they can spread their fascist lies as far and wide as possible. We are historically illiterate liberal fools and we will pay dearly for our stupidity.

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Guano 11.03.17 at 9:52 am

“The government’s argument is that the information will weaken its negotiating position. I believe that argument is moot. The government’s negotiating position could hardly get any weaker. It has been weakened by the too-early triggering of Article 50, the calling of a disastrous general election, and by putting power over the process into the hands of parochially ignorant and ineffective ministers. If the government cared about the strength of its position, it would have developed a stronger one, and handled it better, tactically. Secondly, if the UK position is, to the few who know the worst, so fatally weakened by this information, then that information is too important for the country to remain ignorant of.”

Exactly.

I would add that there is a complete lack of clarity of what the UK Government thinks it is doing in these negotiations. It is presumably trying to achieve a good trade deal with the EU and has said that “No deal is better than a bad deal” but there is no definition of what a good deal is and what a bad deal is. Perhaps Dipper, or someone else who understands Leavers or the UK Government’s position, could tell us:-

– what is the definition of a Good Deal?
– what is the definition of a Bad Deal?
– where is the dividing line between a Good Deal and a Bad Deal?
– what is the Deal that it is hoped that the EU will offer the UK? (ignoring, for the moment, the fact that the UK has to come up with some ideas about the Irish border, EU citizens and a formula for settling of accounts with the EU)
– in the days when it was expected that German car-makers would pressurise the EU to make an offer of a Deal, what was the kind of Deal that was expected?

103

TM 11.03.17 at 12:41 pm

102 “Same for 97.” Dear moderator, by deleting the comment on which this comment followed up, you have rendered it unintelligible. Thank you.

I was pointing out that both 87 and 97 are completely off-topic spam, as were 67 and 83. Thank you for allowing right wing extremist fake news spam to take over our discussion forums. We are all submitting to moderation and many of us have had unpleasant experiences with comments withheld without a comprehensible reason but still we are expected to quietly suffer the fascist abuse of our discussion forums like saints who hold the other cheek. Tolerance for the enemies of tolerance, liberalism for those who wish to destroy it. That’s why our side keeps losing.

104

steven t johnson 11.03.17 at 1:47 pm

TM@84 writes “The US constitution was considered ratified after nine of thirteen member states had ratified it, without a single popular vote being held. Rhode Island refused to ratify 12 times and finally agreed to ratify only after the federal Congress had threatened very serious punitive measures.”

Not at all sure that a correction on this particular example substantively refutes the point TM was trying to make, but the constitutional convention prescribed that the people ratify the constitution, not the states, in the form of ratifying conventions, rather than the existent state legislatures (much less the Continental Congress.) Dates of those conventions are available here: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/overview/

The ratification by nine states was the bar for the dissolution of the government established by the Articles of Confederation, setting up a new government that extinguished the sovereignty the member states of the new federal government had previously enjoyed. However no state that refused ratification was ever deemed to be a part of the United States without a popular ratifying convention.

I’m not sure what threats TM is referring to. But Rhode Island could not reasonably expect the new United States to give a foreign nation like Rhode Island, as it was after the US began, but prior to Rhode Island joining the US, special privileges as demanded by Rhode Island. For example, collecting customs duties on Rhode Island commerce with the US would be the expected thing, not a threat as such, I think.

The constitutionalists were indeed committed to class rule, but they were also committed to democracy. (I would say bourgeois democracy, but that’s me.) If at this point, after standards have been elevated by surreptitiously smuggling in ideas from social democracy, there are issues of coherence raised for the resulting philosophy. And assuming current ideas when interpreting past events can be very tricky.

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nastywoman 11.03.17 at 1:54 pm

@103
”– what is the definition of a Good Deal?
– what is the definition of a Bad Deal?
– where is the dividing line between a Good Deal and a Bad Deal?”

– perhaps if WE only would have told our British friends IF they vote for Brexit – they will have to go back to the uneatable Pub-food the had BE-fore all these ”Foreigners” cam and taught them cooking?

106

Layman 11.03.17 at 5:38 pm

kidneystones: “The Democratic candidate for president of the United States colluded with key Democrats at the highest level to deny American voters the right to a fair election in 2016. Has this ever occurred before?”

Only in every single election by either party that occurred before 1969, when the binding primary system was adopted. Even since then, many states employ ‘winner-take-all’ delegate apportionment, which of course means that many voters votes are essentially ignored. Maybe you shouldn’t comment on stuff you don’t know anything about?

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John Holbo 11.03.17 at 11:21 pm

Sorry, I really haven’t been able to devote enough attention to this thread but I would appreciate it if Kidneystones would try to stay on topic. Thank you.

108

J-D 11.04.17 at 1:27 am

TM

102 “Same for 97.” Dear moderator, by deleting the comment on which this comment followed up, you have rendered it unintelligible. Thank you.

I don’t know what happens if you use a HTML tag with a link to a comment and it subsequently gets deleted; however, if you do that, the link won’t be affected by later deletions of other comments, which does happen if you use the identifying numbers (which change when comments are deleted)l

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John Holbo 11.04.17 at 2:46 am

J-D, TM is going to be grumpy and blame me for any and all unintelligibility problems he may suffer, and that’s just the CT way! But it is really true that Kidney has basically been using our comment box as his personal blog. Not that there’s anything wrong with blogs! But not all our readers want to read Kidney’s blog. I hope that Kidney starts a blog called ‘this is going to be my last post’. I hope he posts every day. More power to him.

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Dipper 11.04.17 at 8:47 am

An update from Brexit central:

The supply of low-wage workers from Europe has more or less dried up and is going into reverse. There are three reasons for the reversal: the pound is lower so people are getting paid less; in the ten years some people have been here the home countries have significantly improved so there are more opportunities and a better life style at home; there is concern about the future for non-UK residents and whether they will be allowed to stay. For a number of reasons the government should get on and confirm the status of EU citizens in the UK , and it is a mark against May that she is holding out on not doing this.

In response rates are going up for suitably qualified tradesmen back to where they were about ten years ago. This despite having been repeatedly told by experts that widespread immigration was not pushing down wages. So much for economists.

There is still a problem getting UK workers into casual work as the 16 hour cap makes casual work with variable hours not worth the hassle particularly when the benefits system is punitive on people coming in and out of benefit. Universal Credit needs to get rolled out to stop the above limitations from preventing people getting into the workplace, but the roll out is looking like a car crash. The reform was to make work pay, not a means of screwing money out of the poor. A competent and confident Conservative government would understand the critical importance of Universal Credit to its plans and take the appropriate action to make it a success.

Solving the housing shortage is happening in two ways locally; massive house-building projects including a new town on green-belt land, and a little-publicised change in attitude in planning allows redesignation of premises from commercial to residential to be easy to do, so many of the office blocks and administrative buildings in our local large town will become blocks of flats. Inevitably the necessary infrastructure is severely lagging the housing, but apparently one of the blockages has been cleared – the local sewerage works has had its capacity increased.

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J-D 11.04.17 at 10:58 am

Dipper

Whilst it is tempting to conclude that people who agree with you are clearly intelligent and compassionate individuals but people who disagree with you are just idiots, I feel this is a dangerous road to go down. Informing people who disagree with you that they are gullible fools hasn’t been shown to be a winning political strategy particularly as it is not possible to demonstrate that it isn’t you who has been the gullible fool. Surely best to start from the view that people vote in their own interests and work from there?

Personally, I know for a fact that over the course of my own life I have made some sensible decisions and some stupid ones; and I’m confident that much the same is true of most people. Working on the assumption that people are being sensible all the time would itself not be sensible. More specifically, I know that sometimes people are fooled, duped, or gulled; I know it’s happened to me, and there are plenty of stories of other people being likewise victimised — after all, if there were no dupes and gulls, there would be no swindlers or fraudsters; but there are, aren’t there?

I agree with you absolutely that people who have been duped or gulled may well resent being told that they are dupes or gulls; there are plenty of stories about that, too, about the victims of fraudsters insisting there was no fraud, that it was an absolutely genuine and legitimate business deal which just unfortunately ran into a snag through nobody’s fault. I don’t recommend reacting to every situation you encounter where you think people have been deceived by telling them that they have been deceived. But I absolutely do think you should recognise that sometimes people are deceived and that’s something to be taken into account in relevant circumstances. For example, in this context, although I am sure that not all Leave voters were deceived, it seems fairly likely that some of them were, and I can’t see any reason not to discuss that possibility here. Equally, the possibility that some Remain voters were deceived is a legitimate topic for discussion here.

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