A bit of a rough start….

April didn’t start too well – I was struck down with the a spring virus that whilst not particularly life threatening made me feel off it for almost two weeks.  It wasn’t helped by the continued Brexit nonsense.  Finally this week I’ve started to feel my old self again so I’ve been out and about seeing what I could see.  These are some of the results.

I’m not sure if this is true but I think my photographic style is changing but as any good statistician will tell you ‘…never make decisions on small data sets…’ (or something like that.)  Time will tell.

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Well that was a waste of time….

Matt Chorley – Red Box Newsletter 11th April 2019

Well that was a waste of time.   We had a referendum in 2016 which indicated Britain wanted to Leave the European Union (EU).  The Conservative government decided to make Brexit their policy and proceeded to show themselves to be totally useless.  As if to underline their incompetence they threw away a workable majority having just started the article 50 process.  The Government then managed to come to an agreement with the EU on the terms of leaving and then the Conservative party collapsed into such bitter infighting that they seemed in capable of seeing the wood for the trees – they certainly weren’t going to support their own Prime Minister.  Instead of celebrating the exit from the EU on the 29th March 2019 the pure blood Brexiteers have only managed to get Britain stuck in the EU for the next six months which is looking very much like permanent.

Of course the cry will rise of betrayal by the House of Commons but one of the main themes of the leave campaign was to allow Parliament to take back control so you can’t really have it both ways when the House of Commons expresses its views – this is what they wanted.  Even Dominic Cummings thinks that what the European Research Group (ERG) has done is help the cause of remain.  I think the most ludicrous thing I continue to hear is that we should restart the exit negotiations for no clear reason other than some people think that the EU will give us a better deal.  They won’t and now they don’t really have to as we are stuck in a zombie holding pattern.   We may well have a General Election – unlikely but it could happen – which will be about Brexit and only Brexit and guess what all it will most likely do is harden views on all sides and not deliver a majority for any one party.

So after almost three years we are really back at square one:  There is no majority to leave without a deal; there is no majority supporting the withdrawal agreement and we don’t know if there is a majority in the country to remain in the EU.   I don’t think that this is a national crises but a national humiliation.   I wonder what Mark Francois‘ father would think of that?

In Charles Dickens’ Bleak House the central plot element is an unending court case called Jarndyce and Jarndyce that consumes all the money of the estate of Jarndyce whilst getting absolutely nowhere…it does sound awfully familiar don’t you think to fate of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland during this Brexit nonsense.   In years to come I’m sure we’ll all look back on this and laugh – that is assuming we have found some sort of solution  by then.  I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Polishing Balls…

I hope this makes sense but as I’ve got a cold so my thinking isn’t as clear as it should be (I’ll let you decide whether my thinking as ever been that clear!)   So we are at start of yet another Brexit/European Union (EU) summit.  If nothing is decided then Britain will leave the EU on Friday night.  As this is an outcome that neither the British government nor the EU wants then it reasonable to assume that it may well not happen (note the caution as it would be wrong to assume anything when it comes to Brexit.)  This doesn’t mean that there will not be a whole lot of histrionics at the summit but the real question that the EU has to address is are they willing to throw the Republic of Ireland under a bus?   If you believe the answer is yes then there is a possibility of a no deal on Friday – if not then ignore the good cop/bad cop nonsense and accept that the will be an extension of whatever length.   I personally think that there will be a year long extension perhaps even two.   This would stop Brexit from dominating the EU agenda in the way that it does now and be relegated to a side issue.  It will also allow time for the repeal article 50/second referendum campaign to start to really get into gear.  This is where the forthcoming European elections start to become really important.

Unlike UK wide elections (the devolved governments have a different system) the European elections are proportional in nature.  This means that the final result will better represent the overall voting rather than the winner takes all  first past the post system of all other national votes in the UK.   It also is the one vote in the electoral cycle that is all about the EU and given the charged nature of British politics at the moment the EU elections, (which have always been viewed as a bit of a joke) will suddenly be treated far more seriously than before.

What this means is that this is closest thing to a second referendum as the only question will be about Remain or Leave and so we’ll finally be able to gauge the real breakdown of the remain/leave split – well sort of.   If openly remain parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the newly formed Change UK run on a remain platform then it will be reasonably easy to see what support there is in the country as a whole for remain.   The complication in all this is Labour.  Whilst the membership is overwhelmingly pro EU many of the areas they represent are not and so what they would run on would be interesting.  I suspect it will be a pro(ish) EU platform.

So what of  the leave side?  The Conservatives are going to be saddled with being the Brexit party whether they like it or not.  How they would campaign is impossible to say as the party is so split it is hard to see what they platform would be at all.  On top of this they will be seen as the governing party that has made such a pig’s breakfast of the whole thing and so are likely to get a kicking because of that. Where the disgruntled leave vote goes beyond the Conservatives is another question entirely.  UKIP would be the obvious choice but whether they are in any fit state to put up candidates is another question.  Nigel Farage might try to get on the ballot but it is far from clear whether this will be allowed.   There might be some other fringe right wing groups but there is no real sign of anything organsied and frankly it is too late for anything to come together.   Contrary to many of the doomsayers there is no populist alternatives in Britain compared to say the AfD in Germany or the League in Italy.

You will note that the one part of the United Kingdom that I haven’t mentioned is Northern Ireland.  Just how any European Elections is used to give the DUP a good kicking is a fascinating question.  However, as they appear to have a No Surrender attitude it is unlikely to change their approach.  Perhaps the most interesting thing could be alignment of the SDLP and Fianna Fáil and how that works against Sinn Fein.

More than most elections turnout will be vitally important.  At the moment it a reasonable bet that the remain voters are the more motivated to vote – huge march in London the other week and the 6m signatures to the revoke article 50 petition are clear indicators of that (Although it is reasonable to assume that they probably represented the same group of people.)  If there is a large turn out and there is generally a pro remain cast to the results then this really would ramp the pressure onto parliament. (Again an awful lot of Ifs.)

Whatever the outcome of this election, should they be held,  it probably is a big roadblock for any Conservative rump/Labour deal at the moment as many Labour MPs will see the opportunity I have outlined above.  If that is the case then why would they want to help the Conservatives out of a Brexit mess of their own making?  Should these fail and we do hold the elections then the one thing is sure – the result won’t make things any easier.

Of course the irony of all this is that much of this is the hard Brexiteers making, aided and abetted by Theresa May.  If they hadn’t been so determined to leave without a deal, which many of them weren’t during the referendum, then we could already have left the EU on the 29th March 2019.  It won’t have been pretty but it would have given them most of what they had always dreamed of.  Instead they are marching the country into a very uncertain future which could well result in Britain remaining within the EU.   Now that really does take a special kind of political talent which the European Research Group seem to have in abundance.

That is it I’m off to curl up with a mug of Lemsip, bing watch Game of Thrones to prepare  for the next and final season which when it is aired on the early hours of Monday morning we may or may not be still members of the European Union.

Winter is here or is it?

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Brexit Britain…the Book


I’ve brought all the images together from the previous months Brexit Britain project.   If you are interested then why not take a look at the preview by clicking here.

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Death of a Nation….

So this is it…the crack of doom.   No more a great nation.  No more a rich and influential place to do business.   No More.  No More. No More.

All of this is nonsense.   Britain has endured over three hundred years and England for a further nine hundred years before that.   In short we have been through much worse than what is unfolding at Westminster at the moment.  We will survive.

I guess the thing that is really annoying me is the sight of so much, how can one put this? Vote Leave bus lying from all sides.   People who are supposed to lead don’t but for reasons that have nothing to do the nation but rather their own narrow political advantage.   Theresa May seems to place Conservative  party unity over anything else;  Jeremy Corbyn  seems to be under the delusion that any General Election would benefit Labour so that is all he is interested in;  The European Union seems to think that isolating Britain from their perfect union is somehow going to benefit them.

None of these things are true:  The Conservative party is busted – literally dying in front of us;   If there is one thing that will unite the country more than utter disgust at what is passing for political leadership is the antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn – it is not beyond the bounds of reason that he might lose seats rather than gain them if any General Election were to be called and as for the European Union well where to start?   They have a currency that doesn’t work, that is unless you are German; a federalist centre that doesn’t appear to understand that the world beyond Brussels doesn’t see the EU as a shining city on the hill but rather, well I think you can add your own metaphor here and an ever increasing migration crisis that is pulling apart the conceits at the heart of the EU.

Given all of these problems facing the EU they would not be helped by a ‘no deal’ Britain sitting in the centre of the union pulling it apart due to the gravitational pull of a large economy (still the second largest in the EU and bigger than the bottom 19 economies of the EU combined), the only truly functioning (just about)  defence and intelligence system in Europe, a permanent seat on the UN security council and the most dynamic city in the EU – London.  The first country to be destabilised of course would be the Republic of Ireland but it wouldn’t take much for other countries such as Denmark, Sweden and perhaps even the Netherlands to feel the pull of Britain.   As with all crashes it isn’t going to be pretty and both sides are going to get hurt.   So the next time you hear President Macron claiming it would be better to let Britain leave without a deal just wonder at his delusion.  It wouldn’t but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

So we are all in a right mess and for me the only answer is a second referendum with a simple question – Do you still want to leave the European Union?   If the answer is yes then we leave at the earliest opportunity perhaps no more than 3 month whether we have a withdrawal agreement or not.   It would take guts and leadership to propose this (both in very very short supply) but what is the alternative?   A General Election which is likely to be no more decisive than the last – even if Corbyn was to lead Labour to becoming the largest party in the Commons (they are very very unlikely to get a majority – I wrote about this just after the last election and my arguments then, I feel, are still valid.)  So we are back to the same problems of trying to rule with a minority government in a system that only works when the government has a majority.   However, with the decision taken away from the politicians but given back to a far more informed public than they were three years ago, then at least the way forward would be clear – stay or leave.  Is it perfect? No. Would it work? Perhaps.  I think this is the best that we can hope for at the moment.

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Brexit Britain No. 14

So this is the end of my journey recording Britain in the final month of its membership of the European Union.   I had planned a long diatribe about how all parties involved in this fiasco should hold their heads in shame but truthfully what is the point?   The Dutch lorry above continues to deliver its flowers to the flower shop on Queens Road, Leicester as if nothing has changed (at the time of writing nothing had!)

A man continues to ride his push bike across Victoria Park towards the University of Leicester’s main campus and as he does so the sun continues to shine.

Perhaps the most searching questions of the whole process are those asked by the young men who gave their lives in the fields of Flanders 100 years ago.

So in the end we’ll all die.  Some today, some tomorrow but eventually we’ll all be taken and then what?  What will future generations make of the whole sorry process?  Will they walk through our graveyards and look at the names on the headstones and ask what was all this for?  Will some try to use our memories to support whatever crackpot ideas they have or will they realise that there is far far more that unites us than divides us.   I guess in the end the dead always ask the most searching questions of us all.

Goodbye to Brexit Britain I won’t miss the project.  I have learnt a lot but if I started my journey again the one bit of advice I would give myself is this – don’t under any circumstances take that journey!

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Brexit Britain No. 13

Brexit means Brexit and we’re going’ to make a mess of it….


Another day another location in Brexit Britain.  Yesterday it was the big one – London.   Of course there are as many Londons as there are people who live in London let alone those who visit the city state.   This was my London.

As I walked around Whitehall I was struck by the number of young students there were.   There excitement seemed to blanket me and I ended up feeling a profound sense of optimism for the future.  Given everything that was happening around them and me that was some achievement.

I suspect it was a quiet day  in and around Parliament square as nothing of great import was taking place.  Yet I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was all too familiar and then it struck me the whole industry that has sprung up had the feel of an English country fair.   The man difference I could see between the remainers and leavers was that leavers were mainly old white men who appeared to be more intense. I am happy to accept that this could be  because as a remainer myself it was my personal prejudice shaping how I saw things.  I’m sure that they were all wonderful people underneath – however they all seemed to be a bit more tense than the remainers.

I have also now worked out why Brexit is taking so long to come to some form of conclusion – London is making too much money out of all the tourists! London Eye – tick; Tower of London – tick; Buckingham Palace – tick – Palace of Westminster – tick, tick, tick.  I overheard one young woman from the states on the  phone to her mom saying how she had just seen Theresa May being whisked out of Parliament.

Away from the tourists London was also full of the usual unique behaviour and styles that make it such a vibrant and exciting place to visit.  It is a place where you can go and be yourself no matter what.  Of course it is a place where  big business goes to make serious money and too many people for whatever reason fall through the cracks of society and find themselves on the on the street.

So what does this say about Brexit?   Well it seems to be something that is affecting other people.   People who don’t live in the city state but more likely the council estate.   People who have no real feeling nor affiliation for London and everything it stands for.  Even in and around Westminster Brexit had an unreal feel – more tourist attraction with plenty of walk on parts rather than something that was a serious pursuit.   The country may be in a state but that wasn’t really reflected on the streets of Camden and Westminster yesterday.

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