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Brexit Brinksmanship: The Cliff-edge On Which Everyone is Banking


Analysis > Brexit Brinksmanship: The Cliff-edge On Which Everyone is Banking


In the torrid atmosphere of the UK leaving the EU, there is a calamitous game of brinksmanship going on, where the clock is running down towards the 29th March crash date where, without a negotiated deal with the EU, the UK will leave the union on World Trade Organization terms. Treaties, laws and other agreements will suddenly no longer be valid. Imports and exports that were freely traded will suddenly have to pass through under-manned customs. And, if you believe it, the UK will be thrust back into the dark ages with food and medicine shortages, riots and martial law.

The most bizarre thing about all this is that most political groups in the UK seem to be happy to ride up to the cliff edge, confident that their requirements will magically be met.

  • Hard Brexit: The hard Brexiters are, in some ways, the most honest as they actually want to go over the cliff without an agreement. They think it will be 'alright on the night' and that we'll cope just fine. They see the predictions of chaos simply as political fear-mongering. We survived the blitz and subsequent terrorism. We came through the 2008 financial crisis. So we'll manage Brexit. And we'll stick it to those annoying Europeans. No more kowtowing to Brussels. No multi-billion pound 'divorce bill'. We're British! We can rule the waves again.
  • Improved deal: Then there are those who do want a deal, but just not the one that Theresa May has negotiated. At the moment, the EU are rebuffing all attempts at renegotiation, including the question of the Irish backstop that many either do not understand or think of it as a trivial distraction. The idea here is that the EU will be hurt just as much as the UK by a hard Brexit, so we just need to hold our nerve and they will give in when they realize that they are up against our British steel and the terrifying prospects for them, as well as us.
  • General Election: A variant on renegotiation comes from the opposition Labour party where, strangely, their leader is pro-Brexit while most of his party are not. The hope here has been that, amid the chaos, they could bring down the government, force a General Election, take over and press reset on the past two and half years of negotiation to rebuild an agreement that is something like the half-in, half-out arrangement that Norway has.
  • Current deal: Prime Minister Theresa May and the minority who support her are counting on Parliament swinging behind their already-negotiated deal when faced at the last minute with the choice of this or the chaos of the hard Brexit.
  • Second referendum: Meanwhile, those who oppose Brexit and want to remain in the EU are also hoping to take advantage of the general horror at the thought of a hard Brexit to force a second referendum, which they believe will lead to a vote to remain in the EU. The British people now know a lot more about the cost of Brexit, including economic chaos and loss of jobs (some of which have already gone), and would, the remainers believe, would vote in large numbers to remain.

It is a strange paradox, where so many groups are all counting on the same event to lead to so many different outcomes. It is perhaps a mark of the ideology involved, where belief is outweighing reality and everyone thinks that, if they just keep trying, they will get what they want in the end.

The psychological trap that they all are falling into is overconfidence. I want something. I believe I will get it. So I believe in my ability to get it. And I believe that external events will happen to help this. In the birth of Brexit it happened to PM David Cameron too. He was pro-Europe and believed Brexit would be easily defeated in a referendum. On 23rd June, 2016, he was probably the most surprised person in the country (so much so that he quit to enjoy an easier life).

The saddest part of all this is that no matter what the outcome is, the reputation of the UK in the world will be permanently tarnished. The UK was basking in a post-colonial glow, still enjoying influence beyond its tiny size. People thought the British as civilized, the epitome of polite society, a model to which great countries should aspire. And yet it is those who pretend to high society who are embroiled in these dangerous, damaging Brexit plots who are creating victims of the British people and battering the British brand. No wonder the world watches with despair.

See also

Brexit, Broken Majorities and Consequent Chaos, The Emotionally of Brexit and the Desperation to Appear Rational


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