For Brexit is not our Trump

I don’t really want to have a go at Will Hutton in particular, but his is the most recent article I’ve seen to make the same mistake as many UK commenters I have seen. After much celebrating of Biden’s inauguration and a look forward to what this means for the US and the rest of the world, he attempts to draw parallels between Trump and Brexit, claiming:

Instead of the opposition conniving in the belief that the best that can be done is to improve the terms of the “deal” over many years ahead, the political task is to assemble a similarly broad coalition to Biden’s and oppose Brexit in the same terms.

There are two problems with this assertion. There first is the obvious one, that he is not comparing like for like. Electing a government is not the same as signing — or abandoning — an international treaty. Elections are regular occurrences, treaties… not so much.

Personally, I think Brexit is a stupid idea, implemented stupidly by a very stupid government. But it has happened. All the opposition in the world won’t change the fact that Britain left the EU in January 2020 and the transition period came to an end on December 31st and normal trade rules now apply to the UK’s dealings with the EU.

Secondly, and more significantly, is the parochial attitude of much of the British press on display here. What would successfully opposing Brexit look like at this stage? It’s all well and good convincing a majority of the electorate that Brexit is a bad idea, but then what? I presume the UK would want to re-apply to join the EU.

And after having spent four years wasting their time dealing with a belligerently incompetent UK government, does anyone really think that the EU governments will respond with anything other than hollow laughter?

Brexit is done but the trade agreement is an ongoing negotiation. The best Britain can hope for now is for the country to agree to align itself with the single market with the aim of rejoining it and the customs union at some point in the not too distant future.

There is no point in trying to flog a dead horse. If you really want to rejoin the EU, your best bet is to move to Scotland.

Quote of the day: After the meltdown, the climbdown

Trump’s attack on Congress was an attack on America and all who hold its values dear. It was a desperate bid to cling to power by a weak, ignorant and selfish demagogue who has shown himself an enemy of democracy, a friend to tyrants and unfit to be president. When he belatedly realised, amid near-universal condemnation, that he had crossed a line, he caved and cravenly disowned his own supporters.

From The Observer view on Donald Trump’s assault on US democracy.

Also worth a read is John Scalzi’s post, But What If We Didn’t, which looks at the way that the Republican party’s deliberate and consistent abuse of the country’s constitution has led directly to the rise of Trump and the events of last week.

Much has been said about what happens next but, for me, I don’t think the US will be able to seriously describe itself as a functioning democracy until the Republican party finally collapses. Once that happens, the Democratic party would be able to split into the centre-right and centre-left parties it clearly want’s to be, rather than the uneasy coalition of the sane that it currently is.

But let’s not pretend that these authoritarian impulses are a particularly American thing. In Britain, Johnson, Gove and the rest of the Conservative party have spent the past four years fawning over Trump. They are trying to back away now, but it shouldn’t be forgotten just how much they embraced Trump and what he stood for.

Elsewhere, there’s Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Andrzej Duda in Poland and others.

Democracy only works when those in power are willing to embrace democratic norms. This is something we should never forget.

Brexit Hell

What was Brexit like? America’s declaration of independence? A man leaving a golf club but demanding to still be allowed into the bar? Over the years, I went through a few analogies, but the one that persisted was of a married man who has for years enjoyed casually flirting with a work colleague. One evening he makes his traditional half-hearted pass, and instead of rolling her eyes, she replies: “Go on, then”. A month later, he’s living out of his car and negotiating through lawyers to see his children one weekend a month, and he can’t really tell you how it happened.

Robert Hutton looks back at the unrelenting mess of Brexit and notes just how stupid the whole thing has been.

And so it remains, with the UK government managing to come up with a toxic combination of compounded stupidity, wilful ignorance and stubborn refusal to face reality. After the (stupid) referendum, the Tories rushed into Brexit without having the faintest idea of what they wanted to achieve or how to achieve it. Or anything.

So here we are, approaching the finally final (we mean it this time) deadline for a trade agreement there is still very little likelihood of anything being agreed, and probably less that any agreement being ratified.

Britain has gone from being part of the largest free trade zone in the world to having a free trade zone smaller than the UK. And for what? To be as independent as North Korea?

Was it really worth it?

Grifter’s gonna grift

David Allen Green makes a good point about the rationality of Trump’s refusal to concede that he has lost the election.

Of course, any decent person would have conceded in order to allow the incoming administration to start preparing for power and Trump’s refusal to do so is both dangerous and deeply undemocratic.

Trump, of course, is not a decent person and right now he has a thing — power — and sees no advantage in giving it up. Why would he? We all know that he’s only in it for himself and he has nothing to gain from stepping aside and everything to lose.

Trump’s going to milk the White House for as long as he can get away with it.

Quote of the day: The sore loser, and the malign loser

Trump is a sore loser. But the GOP is a malign loser. We can and should blame Trump for not conceding this election and starting the transition process to the Biden administration. But even more, we should blame and condemn the GOP for supporting and encouraging a position that endangers the county, internally and around the world. It knows better, and simply doesn’t care.

John Scalzi largely sums up my own view on the US election result.

It is, of course, unquestionably good that Joe Biden won this election but, given what we have seen of Trump over the past four years — and what we knew about him back in 2016 — this was unbelievably close. In a sane world, Trump should never had won the Republican nomination, he should not have beaten Clinton and he should have been utterly wiped out electorally this time around.

Biden’s win represents (hopefully) the start of a return to sanity for US politics, but the country still has a long way to go.

Brexiter Brexits before Brexit

With the UK becoming the first European country to exceed 50,000 Coronavirus deaths, all attention is focused on the fact that Dominic Cummings has resigned.

He’s intending to be gone by Christmas, which means that none of the Vote Leave campaigners will be left in government by the time that Brexit really starts to bite.

After being instrumental securing the Brexit vote, Cummings then spent years worming his way into the government machine to ensure that his particular vision of Brexit is the one that would be inflicted on the country. Who’d have thought that such a man would want to quit just as Britain enters the sunlit uplands that he’s been orchestrating for so long?

It’s almost as if he’s finally realised just how destructive a path he’s set the country on and has decided to quit before he has to deal with any of the consequences.

Bye, Dominic. Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.