Brexit. What’s going on and what’s going to happen? A thread. /1
Famously, the British were not much bothered by the EU until suddenly they were. A lot of effort has since been put into analysing why one group or another voted leave. Less thought has been given to what motivated those who forced Brexit on to the agenda. /2
It’s easy to reach for some variant of Empire nostalgia or Xenophobia. That’s not what emerges, however, from @PeterKGeoghan’s excellent book (…). /3
The think tanks and pressure groups that have pushed for Brexit (and with which so many of the leading Brexiter ministers have been associated) are free market groups. They believe in a small state, low tax and, most significantly, de-regulation. /4
EU Membership is a bar to de-regulation because so many of the labour, food and product standards are agreed and enacted at EU level. /5
So, whilst, for many voters, the point of “taking back control” is both end and means (“it’s all about sovereignty”), for the free marketers, control is a means to a different end: deregulation. /6
But haven’t Brexit advocates insisted that standards will not be diluted? Yes. That’s because they have a problem: standards are popular. The small state, low tax, low regulation vision is one they can’t sell to British voters. Brexit is a popular means to an unpopular end. /7
But understanding that de-regulation is their goal begins to make sense of what is otherwise an uncomfortable whipsawing about in Govt behaviour. If our standards are always going to be at least as stringent as those in the EU, why is “level playing field” so problematic? /8
Why do we have one MP assure us we would never accept chlorinated chicken whilst another is telling us that refusing to eat it would be no more than elitist snobbery? /9
Why is the Govt so troubled by the EU’s wanting information about possible divergence from standards before listing the UK as an approved third party for food exports? /10
It helps to ask another question: If you had a popular means to an unpopular end and felt no particular compunction about concealing your motives, what would you do? /11
What you’d do is see the means through to completion as fast as you possibly could. In other words, you do whatever was necessary to get out asap. You’d also take no deal over a deal which limited your ability to de-regulate. Otherwise, what would it all have been for? /12
That begins to look like the situation we're presently in. But what comes next? Once out, opportunities open up. Free of any constraint, you set about de-regulating. There’s no reason to believe that that will be any more popular, but you can then present it as a necessity. /13
The economic harm caused by no deal becomes the rationale for doing what you always wanted to do. Increased unemployment becomes the justification for making employment more “flexible” by reconsidering employment rights. /14
Food standards have to be modified because without a deal with the EU, a deal with the US becomes all the more important, etc, etc /15
We had a foretaste last night where compliance with International Law is a standard we’re willing to abandon in the interests of supposed urgent national interest. /16
Prediction: De-regulation will be presented as the vital rope ladder out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. /end

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More from @seanjonesqc

11 Sep
I marvel at what an engine of misery Brexit has proven to be. It has:
- Threatened the Union;
- Polarised the country;
- Broken friendships and families;
- Ignited and then fed a culture war;
- Soured relationships with our allies and neighbours; /1
- Pushed @the3million into limbo and made them feel unwelcome in their homes;
- Created red tape;
- Narrowed the prospects of our children;
- Emboldened the far right;
- (Further) reduced politics to sloganizing; /2
- Threatened jobs;
- Left employment and environmental standards vulnerable;
- eroded conventions that were a check on power;
- politicised the civil service;
- attacked the judiciary; and
- eroded the Rule of Law. /3
Read 4 tweets
23 Aug
The Shipman piece in today’s Times is a dispiriting read. We do not really know what goes on in the negotiation room. What is said by negotiators to the cameras afterwards is politics for domestic consumption. /1
So, we are not information-rich, but the politics themselves are illuminating even if only feebly. For me, the most worrying aspect is the failure of the politics to evolve. /2
If you want to succeed in a negotiation you need to do your very best to understand how the “other side” are thinking. There is still no convincing evidence of that happening in the UK statements. It results in the odd asymmetries of our approach. /3
Read 15 tweets
4 Aug
A word or two about barristers who do publicly-funded criminal and family law. To get into any set of chambers these days you have to have pretty much excelled in your studies. You’ll be clever and conscientious. /1
To get through pupillage you have to be prepared to work harder than you ever have. You have to demonstrate that you will step up to take on the responsibilty for representing people who are in life-transforming amounts of trouble. /2
To establish a practice you have to work harder still. You have to be prepared to put in unpaid hours in the hope of getting paid at rates that have not increased since well before the turn of the century. /3
Read 8 tweets
17 Jul
"Let's get going" and Brexit's message drift /1
Brexit was sold on an implicit (and occasionally explicit) promise: that it was a solution to a problem. The root problem was inequality and the destitution that resulted from austerity. The pot from which social and welfare spending might be ladled was smaller and shrinking /2
Brexit was a solution because the public were sold the idea that we were exporting cash to the EU whilst importing people who wanted a share of our public spending. /3
Read 19 tweets
21 Jun
Dad, you’ve been gone a long time and we didn’t speak for decades before you passed, but I’ve been thinking about you recently /1
I’ve been sorting through old family photos and documents. Pictures of you fat and smiling in your mother’s arms in a sunny garden, the war a world away. /2
Your first communion prayer book. The proud gaze and snaggle-toothed smile of your first pictures in uniform. All the life you had before we had life. /3
Read 11 tweets
28 May
Why am I angry about how the Govt has dealt with the Cummings affair? - A short thread /1
It’s not because of Brexit. Cummings’s role in the Leave campaign did not endear him to me, but there is no sensible connection between Brexit and Lockdown and trying to suggest there is just gives half the public permission to ignore the issue. /2
It’s not that I chafe at the idea of there being one rule for him and another for the rest of us. It does him no credit to spare himself the sacrifices others have made, but that, for me, provokes a weary sigh rather than rage. /3
Read 5 tweets

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