It has been a pretty normal week in matters Brexit.
On Sunday on the BBC’s Marr show, Michael Gove announced he was withdrawing the UK from the London Fishing Convention that dates from 1964. What’s that got to do with Brexit you may well ask. It’s about taking back control says Gove. Oh and it is not about over-fishing, but indeed the opposite he says. With a forked tongue.
But what of the implications you are surely asking? This Convention regulates fishing between 6 and 12 nautical miles from one’s coast, and Gove is going to stop the dastardly Europeans fishing in that zone along the UK coast.
But hang on, what about British boats that might fish near someone else’s coast? Stop being so logical.
Or what might, you know, the other side in the Brexit negotiations – the EU27 – think of this idea to unilaterally try to favour ones own industry? Barnier gave that short thrift in a icy tweet.
And then the normal happened – a whole lot of sensible analysis was written about the implications of Gove’s ultimately short sighted and inflammatory announcement designed to play to the baying backbenchers and rabid tabloids – things like this long piece by Ian Dunt, that references this by academic Robin Churchill.
Then on Tuesday the focus moved to a possible Irish exit from the EU. A former Irish Ambassador to Canada no less authored a report for the “think tank” Policy Exchange arguing that the best way for Ireland to protect itself from Brexit was to itself leave the EU.
The BBC followed this hook line and sinker, neglecting the fact that he has no connection whatsoever to the Irish government currently and, indeed, even before retirement seemed to have little to do with the EU. That is before we come to Policy Exchange – a “think tank” so questionable that Who Funds You gives them an E rating (the lowest possible) for transparency. A Twitter user @aidanjmcg demolished the whole lot in a quick thread.
By now you get the idea.
You could apply the same to any given week, and any of the multitude of sub-issues within Brexit. The UK government or some Brexiteer does something foolish or short sighted or both, the UK media misses the point when it ought to know better, and a whole network of people swing into action to take it apart.
There are the lawyers (David Allen Green, Schona Jolly, Jolyon Maugham, George Peretz), the academics (Anand Menon, Kenneth Armstrong, Simon Usherwood, Viviane Gravey, Steve Peers), the journalists who do examine what’s actually happening (Ian Dunt, Jennifer Rankin, Jon Henley, half of the FT’s team, Alberto Nardelli), the economists and stats people (Frances Coppola, Jonathan Portes), the commentators (Joris Luyendijk, Rebecca Taylor, Wolfgang Blau), the politicians (Sarah Ludford, Michael Russell) and bloggers and social media nerds like me, @Nosemonkey, @Sime0nStylites, @otto_english, @metatone2, @odtorson and @SE25A. And that list is not even close to complete. And we all expend enormous amounts of time with our Brexit responses.
A few Eurosceptics try to step in to defend their side – Iain Dale with an airy confidence it will all be OK in the end, Andrew Lilico trying to lend a veil of quasi-intellectual certainty to the whole thing, and Daniel Hannan hilariously twisting anything to fit his bias in favour of Brexit, and then deleting anything that does not fit.
All that then prompts a further round of well meaning and earnest analysis, trying to deduce something meaningful or workable from their words. Until the Brexit news cycle starts off the next day and so we go around once again.
This then is our Brexit Bullshit Asymmetry Principle*: that the amount of energy necessary to refute Brexit bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. Or slightly differently in the words of Kenneth Armstrong:
The amount of human hours that are being wasted on Brexit. Just imagine what could be achieved if we used that time for something good.
— K A Armstrong (@ProfKAArmstrong) June 30, 2017
When, I wonder, can we move on from this? There is no such thing as a good Brexit or a successful Brexit. So there is a moral imperative to criticise, to undermine, to analyse what is happening here. But damn it’s using a lot of the brain capacity of a bunch of smart people to do so.
* – lightning talk on the original non-Brexit connected idea here
[UPDATE 6.7.17, 1750]
A couple of people here and here think I have not credited Alberto Brandolini (@ziobrando) adequately here. I have linked to his materials above, and have since this blog was first published. I also claim no credit whatsoever for this principle. Apologies if that was unclear.