By Brian Robinson,
Most people seem to be in agreement that Brexit has turned into an awful mess. A stalemate has ensued amongst politicians where there appears to be no consensus for movement in any direction. As for the people, the ones the politicians should be representing, well, we’re really fed up. We’re fed up with hearing the word Brexit, and if anything, it represents the stagnation party and I don’t recall voting for that. Ask your average man or woman in the street and you will hear the same. But am I surprised? Well, frankly, no.
No matter what the endeavour you embark on, you have to start out on the right foot. If you do not, then things are almost certain to run amok. For example, the referendum question was far too simplistic. If you feel a relationship has gone wrong, then the question you should ask is: what do you dislike about the relationship: and which bits do you wish to retain? That seems the sensible way to frame things. Instead we asked do you want stay on board or jump ship? We didn’t ask what do we need to change in order for the ship to sail on. The referendum question then, in my opinion, was far too blunt; was never likely to reflect true opinion; and was never likely to lead to a good outcome.
We then compounded the problem as far as the negotiations were concerned. We did this by allowing Europe to set out the terms that followed. We were forced to talk about money before a single word could be uttered about the nature of the new relationship. Surely, in any breakup, everything should be on the table for discussion right from the outset. If one party insists some things are not up for discussion, then it is difficult not to see that as a form of blackmail. Why talk about money when you haven’t decided who is going to have the kids. In effect, we agreed to pay a huge amount of alimony regardless of who has the kids. And perhaps more to the point, this was a childless marriage in the first place. There were no kids. This was supposed to be a partnership that came together for mutual benefits: not for mutual liabilities.
And besides, what sort of club is it that you have to pay when you leave? In a marriage, breakup assets are shared equally, house car, chattels etc. When the AA was sold off for example, every member received a cash payout. We didn’t have to all agree to cover the costs of the pensions for all the retired AA workers. It seems then, that either we have no assets in Europe, or they have all been dismissed from any discussion. Our investment in Europe over the decades has accrued no net value? Of course, Europe will say we have made financial commitments and we should stick by these. But why? Why can’t our commitments be withdrawn as we leave? If we go, we take our commitments with us. Surely, that should have been part of the argument we should have been putting forward to encourage Europe to offer us better terms. Instead, we simply encouraged them to punish us for wanting to leave.
Personally, I was not in favour of leaving Europe even though the question was pitched ridiculously simplistically. It seems madness to turn our backs on a trading relationship which places us in such a strong position. I never saw much mileage in the idea of a go-it-alone trade strategy. That might have made sense a hundred and fifty years ago, but not now. However, there are lots of other things I would like to change about our ties with Europe. But on the other hand, I also have to recognise that many good things have stemmed from our ties with our friends across the channel.
So, where do we go from here? Well, in theory, we should have another referendum. Give us five boxes to tick for the pros and five boxes to tick for the cons. Let us tick those boxes and then go to Europe with a firm mandate. A mandate that is not up for negotiation. But a mandate which reflects the true feelings and wishes of the country.
But let’s not forget, Europe is our friend. We fought hand in hand together and our forefathers sacrificed their lives to protect us in the fight against fascism. We were brothers in war and we should be brothers in peace. Brotherhoods, friendships and trading relationships can be simple and straightforward things. It is only the politicians who are unwilling to compromise that makes everything so complicated.