Brexit is an extinction level event.

So, I’ve been arguing on a talkboard about Brexit and Labour’s response to it. It’s of a piece with things that I’ve been posting on here so I’ve pulled my posts together into something approaching a coherent whole. Some paragraphs here are pretty obviously responses to other posters who I have no right to quote, so I’ve attempted to mould my answers a bit, but you can probably still see the joins. Sorry about that.

Here’s an important thing to remember, one that has been spelled out repeatedly to us by many, many unimpeachable sources. I’m going to put it in caps, and bold, so apologies in advance:


May was incredibly, astonishingly, and unintentionally, honest when she said “Brexit means Brexit.” It is what it is, and what it is will be determined by the EU, who will dispassionately and correctly determine that every single British person needs to be worse off as a result of this.

For myself, I vote labour, I’m still a member and I was overjoyed by how well we did. There’s a tribal thing there and I’m OK with that. But moreover, if we’re going to do this astonishing act of national self-harm, then the things I care about – NHS, education, social security – the forties welfare state, basically – will be much, much better off under a labour government than any other. The moral calculus remains the same, it’s merely the context against which those calculations need to be made that changes.

My fear, and I think I’m almost certainly right, is that however much of GDP a future, post-Brexit Labour govt. devotes to the NHS, the service that can be offered will still be worse than the one currently available under the most morally bankrupt government of my lifetime.

The remaining EU27 have a clear duty to make certain that the benefits of EU membership are restricted to EU members. As I said, there’s no substantive area for negotiation – terms will be dictated. Those terms will mean that we are economically disadvantaged in trade; that our personal savings are worth less whilst our personal debts increase; that we are socially, culturally and politically isolated; that we are militarily weakened; that our diplomatic international position is weakened; that we are less able to identify and defend against terrorist threats; that our individual rights of employment, representation and fair treatment are restricted; that our freedom of travel is restricted and so many other massive, life-limiting and unnecessary wounds that we’re likely to suffer that it’s practically impossible to lay them all out.

That isn’t hyperbole, by the way. It is genuinely impossible at this stage to list all of the ways in which Brexit will screw us. New wrinkles are being discovered every single day. Michel Barnier was only part joking when he said that it could conceivably take two years just to settle the issue of animal passports.

I will only say that if you can find an example of a people becoming less xenophobic as a result of being plunged further into penury then I’ll be astonished. Brexit is going to make us meaner and harder, more viscous and less open. People will be poorer, be more likely to be unemployed, be less likely to enjoy good education and healthcare and will be told (partially truthfully) that it’s because Europe demanded 100 billion euros as the price of our “freedom”. The UK is going to be a foul place for a very long time.

Also, there’s nothing exceptional about British xenophobia – it’s mirrored across Europe. Anywhere there is a history of privately owned press there is constant low level xenophobia, combating this is, in part, what the EU is for. There are many millions of French, Belgian, German readers of their DM equivalents and they don’t like FOM either. Their elected officials say to hell with  ‘em, and they are right to. Time was ours did the same.

It isn’t that the EU is an all-encompassing force for good, or that no light shines outside of its borders. If we’d never joined, then we’d be fine. But we did, and we are inextricably linked to it in literally tens of thousands of ways.

Practically every law and social provision in the UK passed in the last 25 years has some level of EU involvement. We don’t farm, fish, make, destroy, buy or sell but that we do it in some way under an EU aegis. Things which the UK did perfectly well on its own before EU membership are now meshed in EU processes; and extricating the UK from these hundreds of treaties and organisations and accommodations will be the slow, expensive and painful work of many decades.

For example – it’s entirely possible that once we leave the EU we may find that, for a while at least, we can’t actually leave our island. Almost every flight path out of the UK crosses an EU country. There are issues to do with air traffic control, with airline licensing, safety certification, pilot licensing as well as the more obvious passport and customs issues. Nobody wants to see this happen, not the UK and not even the EU, but it might genuinely be unavoidable. It isn’t that the pilots will become unsafe overnight, or the planes suddenly become unserviced, but the agencies which licensed them and certified the services might wink out of existence at the point of Brexit. Non-EU countries can fly over EU countries, of course, they do it every day, but they’ve made arrangements to do so which we haven’t, and can’t until the point of Brexit, by which point it will be too late. This is one example, and an extreme and unlikely one, but there is no short cut to answer it, no way of making it go away by deal making and negotiation.

I believe Brexit to be an illiberal and nationalistic act entirely opposed to the principles of the British labour movement. It will, in both the long and short term, impoverish the British people in every way, and that impoverishment, as is always the case, will fall most heavily on those already suffering. That the labour party is not only not opposing it, but is actively manoeuvring towards its implementation wounds and upsets me deeply.

I’ll still vote for them.


15 thoughts on “Brexit is an extinction level event.

  1. Artie Browne

    This is nonsense. Pseudo intellectulism growing mould. Labour in your lifetime abolished a perfectly balanced grant system for students, they lied to the entire country and took our forces into a war which swallowed a decade, cost billions and killed over 400 servicemen and women. You were a child in the Thatcher years, no doubt you were privately educated and had that not been the case, would probably have ended up in a remand centre as a youth, you know why! Be very grateful for the fortunate circumstance of wealth bestowed upon you and remember that whatever those years of pot-smoking wilderness did with your mind, be thankful of the system that now has you educating our youth and future generations. It’s utterly deplorable and irrational eschewed in this drawl, the Labour Party of today will only serve to borrow immense sums of money to pay for services which won’t begin to pay dividend to anyone who votes in the next election and given the cyclical nature of their office of govt. they will increase the burden of debt to such a tragic level that the entire system will fold in. Then they will claim triumph over the tortes but hide behind those terrible failings as the mop comes out and the veil is lifted. Just as they have done in every term of the past decades. Then, as always, the conservatives have to clean up the mess left behind by a govt. of fools who aimlessly drift through their term claiming successes at the expense of the nation, not just a small percentage a middle nor upper class taxpayers (as they would have us believe) but THE ENTIRE COUNTRY suffers. How on earth, can you, of all people, tolerate “Jeremy F’ing Corbyn” the flakiest party (pains me to say it) leader since Attlee, possibly worse, at least Attlee had some semblance of aptitude! Pull yourself together man and if you get the chance, quit schooling wealthy classes, get into politics and make a difference!

    1. harrybackhouse Post author

      This is a bit baffling. I mean, thanks for taking the time to read and comment, but still, your argument doesn’t seem to hold water.

      In the first place you have me at a disadvantage; you evidently know me, pretty well I’d say, but I don’t recognise your name. If it’s a pseudonym, then fine; if it isn’t, then I apologise. It’ll probably come to me late at night, as memories tend to.

      I’m not sure to what you are responding; your comment doesn’t mention Brexit in any way, it doesn’t defend the action it self or the methods by which it is being enacted. Moreover, you attack the Labour party here despite them being no less avowedly pro-Brexit than the government. My whole point here is that Labour cannot ameliorate, should it want to, the negative effects of Brexit as it will not be in the power of any UK government to do that.

      I suppose you may be responding to the entirety of my recent posts, at least the ones about UK politics, in which case it seems a bit unreasonable for you to act as if I’m an unthinking Corbynite when I’m vocally on record about his failings. Worth pointing out, though, actually, that my first post about Jeremy Corbyn was in response to my believing he had engineered a PR stunt on a train; it later transpired that Virgin simply lied and doctored footage in an attempt to discredit Corbyn. That I instantly believed a corporation I know to be vicious and cruel over a principled if unpolished politician is something I’ve thought long about, and it doesn’t reflect well on me. Gotta go, more later.

  2. Artie Browne

    This is not a Con~Brexit thing and yes I refer to several posts. I struggle to understand your passion for the ineptitude exposed by the leading substitutes excuses for politicians that represent a once decent and honest political entity. The fact remains, we at this juncture, it is NOT a Conservative decision and they are, without doubt, far more adept at leading this country through this jungle than Labour, in its current flux, ever could be. Furthermore, why? Why on earth do you celebrate the recent election result? It’s absurd, the entire mess is totally unrepentantly absurd. We are in this state because the folk that once either avoided voting at all, or if they did, they voted Labour (the self-labelled working classes party) and in their infinite ignorance, chose the exit. There was nothing, absolutely F’ all attempt from the Labour Party to position any semblance of fight or worthy and believable opposition. If you have to voice these opinions then accept the fact that the current govt. are and wll be best suited to see this damned thing through and whilst you’re at it, accept that the reason this happened is because Labour really, really fxxxed up and lost the vote of the lower and middling classes. Also accept that this began with Blair and went downhill from there. Labour hasn’t been Labour since as long as I can remember, perhaps I’ll allow for a very brief window of hope with Brown, but even Labour managed to screw that up, again! Quit teaching Harry and do something you were destined for.

  3. Artie Browne

    And for the record, my arguments do hold water, in spite of your first paragraph stating the opposite, which of course is aimed at the readers of this blog rather than the facts. You failed to offer any justification in the subsequent paragraph. Not a good effort. I could mention your ridiculous notion about flight paths and being an island but our “island’s” history serves my case far beyond this statement, so I shan’t bother. There are other comments which I shan’t dwell upon except this, “morally bankrupt” now where the hell, in your 40+ years did you summon up such a wildly illogical label from? Please. Don’t stoop, it’s pitiful.

    1. harrybackhouse Post author

      Sorry, been meaning to come back to you for a while and I will, I promise, but I’m busy and you aren’t the only person implacably opposed to my politics and belief system that’s waiting for me. In the meanwhile, here’s the TORY CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER confirming the possibility of my “ridiculous notion about flight paths.”

  4. Artie Browne

    Yes, hard to believe coming from a newspaper that reports such nonsense that it actually no longer exists as a news ‘paper’. If you read on, you’ll also note that the phrase “theoretically possible” accompanies this report. There are thousands of ‘theoretical outcomes’, but you chose to voice one which would not only startle your readers but also highlight a stark juxtaposition of the brexit process against John Bull’s holiday flight paths. You deliberately chose this for its sensationalism, ironic given that that is very verb is partially why the readers of the aforementioned ‘newspaper’ ceased buying (into) its trash and consequently led to it’s demise.

    1. harrybackhouse Post author

      Hello Artie!

      Long time! You well? Enjoy Bonfire night? Have a good grumble about the creeping Americanisation of Halloween?

      In response to your most recent point, I’m not sure I agree that the Independent was ever synonymous with sensationalism – quite the opposite in fact. However, you are right in your substantive point that it exists solely as an online news source now – quite a few news sources are solely online, Artie, it isn’t necessarily a symbol of their untrustworthiness. At any rate, here’s the same story being reported in the Daily Express which definitely still exists in paper form.

      As to the phrase “theoretically possible” – well, yes, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? No-one really knows how this is going to turn out – for the record I used the phrase “entirely possible” in my original post. I mean, it’s still just theoretically possible that this whole debacle might see the NHS 350M quid better off, though that’s on the low end of the probability scale.

      What I can’t fathom is how you can still be defending this monumental act of national harikiri. You seem an intelligent sort of person, you’re clearly literate and articulate, haven’t you noticed that there hasn’t been a single piece of good news on this topic since the (unbelievably stupid) signing of A50? Not one single moment of anything going in the UK’s favour, nor even the hint that it might? Does none of this give you pause?

      Talk soon, I hope.

  5. Artie Browne

    Hello Harry! No none at all. Hallowe’en.

    It is interesting that you raise another, equally effusive rag to proclaim your news! The Expresss? Please, even one who hasn’t graced these shores for three or four years now, know precisely what type of reportage this really is.
    You also appear to assum that I am pro “extinction” well I’m on the fence. What I am attempting to proliferate is debate that your rather snobbish assumption is that the lowering and working classes brought about this event.
    Is it not fair to suggest that your beloved Labour Party are precisely the reason those disaffected persons, including those of age (and any class) whom were unseemingly led into the primary arena of the union in ’73?
    Whilst you eschew the confines, taxes, habitation of this country, perhaps you might consider that news, daily or otherwise is actually beyond your remit to comment upon. Besides, at this precise point in time and for the past ‘X’ number of years, the entire situation has absolutely zero impact on you whatsoever. Nor, might I add, on your claim to be an ex-Head of English at Harrow, which is akin to suggesting that a Skoda is a top of range Audi. Namesake for cash, I think is more adjunct to any overseas British embellishment of such an institution.

    Merry…, oh whatever they call it over…there!

  6. Artie Browne

    Back again, repealing the “snobbish” statement, in place of your assumption that one must be intelligent, literate and articulate to view the exist as anything other than obtuse. Not sure exactly where to aim the sights but I am certain that I’m not far off the mark, with a decent cluster Hunt would be pleased with.

  7. harrybackhouse Post author

    No, no. Not bored – busy though. It’s coursework season, you know? Sorry to have left you hanging.

    That said, I’m not that sure what it is you want from me. I mean, you refer to my “beloved” Labour party whilst, if you look at my writing here about UK politics, then three quarters of it is explicitly critical of the current incarnation and the other quarter is guarded and ambivalent. I despair of the current Labour party, to be honest, as I thought I had said fairly clearly. I think they’re floundering, incompetent, incapable of the day-to-day minutiae of opposition. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Corbyn did when campaigning with an actual manifesto, but it seems impossible that that success could be replicated. So, no – not exactly “beloved” at the moment. I’ll vote for them because there’s no-one else I could feasibly vote for and, like I said, I think their incompetence might bring less harm to the country than the active malevolence of the current Tory party, but I’m not a passionate supporter and the current waves of misogyny and antisemitism are making me look very hard at my membership dues coming out every month.

    Anyway, you do manage to needle me in ways that I could respond to but I’d look petty in the extreme doing so. Ah, screw it – it’s not like there’s anybody else reading this. If you just told me your name we could do this via email. However . . .
    – Harrow Beijing costs more to attend than Harrow London, and is arguably more selective. Certainly our exam results compared very comfortably with the UK school despite our kids being, in the main, second language speakers. Anyway, I’m not there anymore.
    – I had a Skoda! The Fabia VRS, the nippy one. I loved it, best car I’ve ever owned.
    – I was, and remain, brilliant at debating.

    Lovely to hear from you as ever (Steve?),

  8. Artie Browne

    Oh Harry, you fool! Of course it is more expensive and more selective. An institution needs to maintain its exclusivity otherwise it would fail to be appealing to the wealthiest families. Do you really not see that? You and I both know there is nothing separating the standard of teaching abroad compared to any decent comprehensive here in the UK. We also both know there is a broad network, a very well trodden path for many teachers seeking jobs abroad. Even King’s Taunton now has several money-printing machines abroad. It would be interesting to know how many bursaries are provided for families with bright children but can not afford the fees, what does a typical Labour voter feel about this elitist, selective, “I was head of English at Harrow” sort of coterie?

    1. harrybackhouse Post author

      “Oh Harry, you fool! Of course it is more expensive and more selective. An institution needs to maintain its exclusivity otherwise it would fail to be appealing to the wealthiest families. Do you really not see that?”

      Well of course I know that, the point is that the same is equally true for Harrow London, and you, frankly, are the fool if you doubt it. Anyway, I grow tired of being insulted. I have nothing to prove to you, nor anything to say, because you offer nothing of yourself; no argument, no opinion, no philosophy. My hypocrisy, such as it is, is open for all to see – yours, though I’m sure it exists, remains your own business. I’ll mind mine, now.


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