Friday, 14 July 2017

The Repeal Bill: Five Causes For Concern

Britannia lacks leadership, cartoon by Wendy Cockcroft for On t'Internet
I've been following the Brexit story because I am an economic migrant living in the UK. For months our government has dithered but yesterday they released the Repeal Bill. Let's take a look at it.

I live where the rubber hits the road; whatever happens I'll be directly impacted by it so I'm hoping for the softest one possible. Now that the bill has been released it seems that basically it's an executive power-grab in Brexit clothing. These are five of the things I worry about:

  • Our government's ideological considerations trump everything else
  • Theresa May's authoritarianism
  • The impact on our economy
  • The horrifying naivete of Brexiters
  • We're not prepared

Ideology V practical consideration

Every time I get into an argument over politics it's with people who are so blinkered by their worldview it just doesn't occur to them that the world is bigger than the tiny corner they've painted themselves into. If that were not true I wouldn't have been presented with a choice of no unemployment V zero hours + foodbanks by one foolish fellow.
Is it me or are all the most fervent Brexiters of the neoliberal/Libertarian persuasion? If that's the case it explains a lot; dismantling EU institutions are removing EU laws would mean the Tories could finally complete the implementation of their unwritten policies: to completely gut and shut down the welfare state. Make no mistake; right-wingers have no social conscience and they don't care at all. This is why they want rid of the Human Rights Act.


Given that their ideological considerations trump everything else it's not surprising that they want free rein in everything, unfettered by our meddling Parliament. Erm, no. Take a look at the text:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day.

What, this charter? What's the problem with it? Wouldn't have anything to do with protecting the rights of the Roma people, would it? The right to family life, to freedom of expression, to not be sent back to a country in which one might be tortured or mistreated... Actually, this is a bone of contention:

Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.

There we go; control of our borders. Except we're not doing much in the way of exercising control over our borders, are we? Anyone who honestly believed that Brexit was all about reasserting UK sovereignty would also believe we'd have armed guards marching up and down our borders, and a well-funded coastguard patrolling our waters. Right... something something more for less... you get the idea. There's more:

“exit day” means such day as a Minister of the Crown may by regulations appoint

Buried beneath that benign-sounding phrase is this:
You can't just rock up to an EU country in your jumbo jet and expect them to let you land. That's not how it works. While it's true that ministers need a free hand to act to avoid getting bogged down in partisan squabbles giving them wide-ranging powers, sunset clause or not, is a bad idea when all I've seen so far is a government more intent on acting in its own interests than in ours.

The economy

Ask a Brexiter about the economy and he will tell you it's ticking along nicely. 300 new (subsidised) engineering jobs in Newport, record foreign direct investment, and Australia's PM Turnbull has promised us a deal on Exit day (if we tack on to the one he's offering the EU). Okay, but banks are leaving and setting up elsewhere. Airlines are following. You know how Britain is supposed to be a global financial centre? Brexit kicks that into a cocked hat. On top of this, we have to pay the exit bill after all, whistling not included. The UK's economic story is a mixed bag: on one hand the weak pound is tempting tourists and investors in but on the other hand wages are flatlining and prices are rising. And I've been told my pay rise is being postponed till September.


The rabid idiots who run around bashing and name-calling on behalf of Brexit have little in the way of a coherent argument. In this HuffPo puff piece, Richard Tice proclaims:

Foreign direct investment continues apace, with global tech firms like Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook committing to significant expansion in the UK. Softbank acquired our tech success, Arm Holdings, for over £20billion and are investing in further expansion. The City is increasingly seen as a tech hub as well as a financial services centre. Smart investment banks and financiers are easily working out how to secure the best of both worlds, to succeed even without passporting. - Thanks To Brexit, We Can Celebrate A Year Of Economic Success, by Richard Tice for Huffington Post

Ooh! It's unicorns and rainbows all the way, then, eh? But there's a snake in his boot, or something:

Yet a desperate band of powerful Remoaners around Westminster and the broadcast media have ignored these successes. They relish the errors of the general election campaign that has given them a whiff of hope that they can wreak their revenge on the will of the people. They ignore the fact that over 80% of the electorate voted for party manifestos that confirmed we are leaving the EU, including the single market and the customs union as per the current rules.

The toads! What is wrong with them? Can't they see all that sweet, sweet success unfolding all around them? And what's all this about revenge?

It is up to us to continually sell the positives of why Brexit is good for the country. 

Okay, but don't ignore the legitimate grievances we bring up. It makes you look naive. Result: I find it hard to take you seriously.

There may well be a pause of confidence by businesses to invest and by consumers to spend. We must interpret and explain this as the inevitable consequence after a long period of steady growth. Markets cannot go up for ever, without such a pause for breath.

Wait, what? Methought it was kittens and rainbows and sunbeams from Heaven, kind of thing. What are you doing to me, man? Why interpret pause of confidence as the result of steady growth? Does not compute. When people pause in their confidence it's not because of steady growth but because they're tightening their belts to live within their means. This means that the only "growth" has been in the wealth of the upper crust. We don't see much of that.

Confidence will be critical now to ensure we still win the greatest debate in our lifetimes. The glass is always half full never half empty. Banish any doubts, and don’t be complacent. Lets all play our part to ensure the Brexit future is bright and sunny.

So basically we're to trust him and hope it all works out for the best? I'm not that flippin' stupid. If someone brings up an objection to me over something I'm keen on I'll examine it carefully and debunk it — or not. If I can't kick a hole in it I have to accept it. And I've kicked loads of holes in Brexit already.

We're not prepared

We've had over a year to get our act together since the referendum but we're no better prepared for it now than we were then. To handwave our concerns away with "But the will o' the people!" is disingenuous, to say the least. This is down to the ideological considerations I mentioned earlier. Since actually learning about the laws and institutions that make up the EU might cause them to come across information that contradicts their worldview, they don't bother with all that. This is why it's so easy for me to pull them apart — they're so damn ignorant I'm the only one who knows anything in our conversations. Oh, to meet an educated Brexiter! But I haven't.

They'll talk about trade, etc., but in the vaguest terms. Ask one about Euratom, it should be good for a laugh.

The Repeal Bill is the inevitable result of the referendum but surely to goodness there are better ways of extricating ourselves from the EU than by launching a naked power grab and kicking over established laws and institutions. In the name of small government, though, that is what is happening.

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