Brexit Was Always Going to be the Hard Way


Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website

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44 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    Brexit is and has always been a stupid idea. Farage and Johnson stoked xenophobic fears and told everyone that they could get a great deal.

    Also no one thought about the Irish border. But then again, no one ever thinks about the irish border unless they cannot help doing so.Report

  2. Avatar InMD says:

    When I look at our situation versus the Brits all I can think of is that quote from Braveheart:

    The Lord tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re fucked.Report

  3. Avatar J_A says:

    Brexit is a perfect example of the conflict between particular and general interests. A true tragedy of the commons.

    Every (political)actor in this saga is acting rationally, all enhancing or protecting their relative position against each other. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, everyone, the hard Brexiters, the opposing Remainers, Labour, the pro independence SNP, the DUP, the EU, they are all getting a Brexit dividend by being “the one that opposed this catastrophe up to the end”.

    The only losers are Theresa May herself, and the British peopleReport

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    This could have been solved if any faction in the UK preferred solving it to gaining advantage from the chaos.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Impossible I think given that the referendum itself was a cynical stunt by Cameron.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

        It was an idealistic stunt!

        The problem was, once again, The People.Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Jaybird says:

          They need to re-elect a new people.Report

          • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Aaron David says:

            Two peoples enter, one people leaves. (I think is were this is headed.)Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to JoeSal says:

              If it happens I don’t see how there isn’t another referendum on Scottish independence and probably a new push for political unification of Ireland.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to InMD says:

                All week every time the SNP’s leader in Parliament spoke, at some point he included the sentence, “Scotland will be an independent member of the European Union.”Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to InMD says:

                @Michael Cain

                And that’s going to be the reality in a decade’s time if I had to guess. An independent Scotland and Ireland in the EU with England stuck trying to get by on memories and being a tax haven with the Welsh stuck along for the ride.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to InMD says:

                This is a frequent warning if Brexit goes forward – after it was a taunt when Cameron had the audacity to get re-elected – but I haven’t seen a whole lot to back it up with polling.

                The last IndyRef relied a lot on oil revenues that presently look more sketchy. And also, the EU has said that membership would not be automatic for an independent Scotland.

                I’m intrigued by the possibility of a united Ireland, but haven’t been following that as closely.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to InMD says:

                @will truman

                I suspect the ‘membership wouldn’t be automatic’ thing is a ploy to try to keep the UK in as a whole. I don’t see how they can let in places like Romania and Bulgaria and then turn around and deny Scotland.

                For Ireland I think the long term survival of the settlement depends on facts on the ground. If they can find a way for it to be business as usual I doubt much happens. If on the other hand people are going through customs after 20 years of not… well I have to think there would be consequences.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to InMD says:

                I would think they’d get in, but it’s a decision of politics and not fairness, and it (evidently) requires the approval of everybody. EU countries get really nervous about breakaway countries. Spain in particular isn’t going to want things to be easy for a breakaway Scotland. Italy, too, and those are the two I know about. I think a lot of people over there are worried about chain reaction.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to InMD says:

                I can see there being a behind the scenes case for not wanting to reward break aways from member states. I can also see a behind the scenes case for making life as miserable as possible for former member states that leave the EU.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

            Eh I think it was exploiting ignorance of how this would actually play out. There are legitimate grievances with the EU. I wouldn’t want to be part of something like it but then I have the luxury of being in a large, powerful country rather than an increasingly small one in a globalized world. If I lived in a small, rich country with a negative birth rate and waning influence I might see the trade off in sovereignty as worth the benefits of being in a big bloc. The fact that the EU and its member states consistently neglect democratic legitimacy doesn’t mean there isn’t a real argument for it, regardless of where you come down on that question.

            Cameron did this to appease Tory back benchers and sure up his own power base safe in the knowledge Leave could never possibly win. The fact that it did doesn’t mean that the hucksters who sold it as a panacea were somehow right on the merits. In fact I’d say they did all they could to ensure the hoi polloi whose backs they supposedly had didn’t really understand the consequences of the choice.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David in reply to InMD says:

              You would have to point me to some hard data that showing this had been played fast and loose by team leave to get me to agree on that.* The central factor was that the EU was assumed to make everyone’s life better, and it didn’t. The fact that Cameron didn’t know this about his nation speaks volumes about the current political makeup. Like a good lawyer, never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

              *Granted, ignorance plays in everyone’s political decisions, due mainly to voting for a better life and not extra work. And no one really sells the hard work as a good thing.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

                I would say google the debate. Read pretty much anything Boris Johnson said. They pushed the idea that the relationship would overnight turn into Norway or Switzerland where the UK would retain access to the common market (i.e. the big benefit of membership) but take back a number of immigration controls. They said nothing would change at the Irish border. They had the whole thing about 350 million pounds saved for NHS. They said they’d have new separate trade deals with other countries, none of which seem to he materializing. It was pie in the sky stuff and the list goes on.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Aaron David says:

                Here is a very good list of untruths sold by Remainers about what would happen if Brexit took place:
                That is much better than a faint hand wave towards Google to get my answers. And so, we can see the abject BS spread by the Remain side.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Aaron David says:

                Three points.

                1. I was able to cite falsehoods without googling it, not sure how that’s a weak hand wave. If it is I’d say your list is weaker sauce. Like, did whether ‘Cameron would stay on as prime minister’ really have anything to do with the substantive issue? If you really need me to google a list of lies I can and we can do battle of the links. I just dont think it makes for interesting conversation.

                2. Note that article is from 2017. No there hasn’t been trouble at the Irish border (yet) nor have the most dire economic predictions come to pass (yet). But it all seems kind of silly to gloat about that when the UK is still in the EU. Of course the real damage hasn’t happened, and it still won’t until they actually leave.

                3. I am not a Remain apologist. The fact that this went down the way it did is evidence of the failure of Britain’s political class. The mainline political elite bear enormous responsibility for spending a generation failing to own the downsides of EU membership but making a case for why it was nevertheless the best policy. In that respect their very much like American politicians who have done the same thing with trade and globalization here. They own that.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:


                The mainline political elite bear enormous responsibility for spending a generation failing to own the downsides of EU membership but making a case for why it was nevertheless the best policy. In that respect their very much like American politicians who have done the same thing with trade and globalization here. They own that.

                This is a fantastic analogy.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Aaron David says:

                Well, I can’t find a link to a transcript of the said debate, so I don’t know exactly what line you are saying is a lie. But I did show the lies of team remain, so…

                ” They pushed the idea that the relationship would overnight turn into Norway or Switzerland where the UK would retain access to the common market” So, what did they say, exactly. Otherwise, we can’t know if it was a lie, a hope, and allegory or what. Re: the Irish border, nothing has to happen. From what I have read its the EU wanting it to be tough that is the (sad) issue. But, again, I have no idea what was said and when, so I am not sure.

                We can both point to a huge number of un and half-truths spoken by both sides and agree with some, defend others and what-have-you because that is what we are doing right now. Much of the belief in this, either side, really comes down to if you think you are an Anywhere person, or a Somewhere person.

                Global liberalism, or whatever it is being called these days, is taking body blows all over the western world; Brexit, Yellow Vests, Trump, etc. Why? Because the number of people whom that wasn’t working for has reached a tipping point.

                As you said, nobody was arguing that the EU was hard but good. People wanted to leave because it was hard, hard on people who love being English and not part of the conglomerate.

                Everything I have seen, read or heard leads me, with all my politics and priors, to believe that getting out of the EU is the best option for England, no matter most difficulties.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

                How would remaining in the EU prevent British people from being British?Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Probably the same way leaving our southern border open prevents white Texans from being Texans . . . or some such drivel.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to InMD says:

              The grievance against the EU seem to be that we have to let mainly White European immigrants in and that but for the EU onion we could be a revolutionary socialist state rather than a market-oriented welfare state.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Aaron David says:

            They need to not put decisions this big up to a referendum with a 50% threshold. As you know, that’s what California ballot initiatives do with the state Constitution, and it leads to much nonsense.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          It was an idealistic stunt!

          It was a stunt sold on lies.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          No, idealism would have either been standing foursquare against Brexit and letting the electoral chips fall where they may, or acceding to the wishes of the increasing number Tories (and for that matter non-Torries) and designing and implementing an actual plan to leave the EU… and again letting the chips fall where they may electorally.

          He didn’t want to make a decision for fear of being blamed for the decision.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yet majority rules is a terrible way to elect a president.Report

    • Avatar J_A in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      The problem with “solving it” is that no flavor of Brexit is, in the long term, better than No Brexit. So no matter the outcome, the public will hate it, and will make whoever pushed it through the end line pay dearly in the ballot box.

      So there’s no way anyone will piss-off their own base to support somebody else’s base preferred outcome, knowing that two years from know both base groups will hate the result.

      The only reasonable action is to oppose everything so that “it’s not my fault, I went down fighting against”, and you get eight different pluralities voting down every single option, from No Deal to no No Brexit.

      The only other realistic option, lost two years ago, would have been for Theresa May to make up a Frankenstein Brexit by joining together bits and pieces from all of the groups’ preferred options. A National Unity Brexit program that involved every single party in the process, and had their sign off before triggering Article 50. Given that she had been a Remainer, many people thought she would do that.

      But that National Unity Brexit would have blown the Conservative Party into smithereens. So Theresa May, too, put Party over Country and focused on a Brexit that could keep the Tories together, and ignored all others. Even last week, when she finally met, for the first time, with all the Parliamentary Groups, it was just to tell them that she would not change her strategy, refuse to consider any alternative, and try to blackmail them by hinting she’d go full No Deal unless they supported her deal with no changesReport

  5. Avatar JoeSal says:

    Oh, there is a way to undo that Gordian knot.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I can’t help but compare Brexit to our struggles with and immigration and globalism.

    Everyone likes the cheap immigrant laborer, but hates the fact that he refuses to just disappear after his work is done.Report

  7. Avatar Aaron David says:

    It is going to end up being a hard Brexit. That sucks for Ireland, both North, and South, but so it goes.

    And this was never about xenophobia, it is and has always been about sovereignty. Xenophobia is just the simplistic answer used by an out of touch elite who cannot understand the other. If indeed Britain is its own nation, then being its own nation is the end goal. Being ruled by a bunch of fancy-pants in a far off land is the complete and utter destruction of that nationhood. For some that is an OK thing (Never Again and all that rot) but as a world, we just aren’t there yet. And trying to put the cart before the horse is just a recipe for disaster.

    One set of numbers if quite telling though: by constituency 406 leave, 242 remain. By MP 160 leave, 486 remain. They have a massive political problem. And that is a failure of democracy by the political class.Report

    • Avatar Jesse in reply to Aaron David says:

      “One set of numbers if quite telling though: by constituency 406 leave, 242 remain.”

      Always nice when people feel they can just ignore actual polling and the campaign run by the Leave people.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Aaron David says:

      And this was never about xenophobia, it is and has always been about sovereignty.

      It very well may not have been for the modal Leave voter, but the Leave campaign really muddied the waters by using xenophobia in its attempts to sell Brexit.

      That’s the problem with political advertising: everybody notices it.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

        I don’t see the xenophobia angle as particularly persuasive on why people voted Leave. If it is then it’s so wrapped up in the policy issue that I struggle to see it as a moral failing beyond specific voters. The benefit of the common market only works with, at the very least, much less restricted movement of people.

        Whether that trade off is worth it is IMO a totally fair subject for democratic debate. Even where you get some truly ugly sentiments in the mix focusing on them alone flies wide of the mark.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

          Yeah what I meant was not that it moved a lot of votes, but that it wasn’t just salient to people (especially Remainers, but not just them) solely due to anti-Brexit slander.

          The Leave movement did a lot to make it part of the conversation even if they might have obtained a similar outcome if they hadn’t.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Parliament just voted against the May deal again.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The Brexit referendum was a dumb idea. Having it as a simple, one time binding majority vote was an especially dumb idea. An issue has complicated as Brexit, especially with the very dishonest actors forwarding it, needed either a more complicated and comprehensive referendum process or Cameron to tell the Brexit forces to shove it.

    The big issue facing the Remain faction right now is that party politics is preventing them from uniting. The Conservative remainders and the Labour remainders don’t want to destroy their respective political parties. Corbyn is horrible as a remain leader because his heart is really in Brexit. Deciding to reverse course and remain has tremendous political costs for every party and individual involved.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Specifically a one-time, non-binding referendum on a thing which had not even been defined yet.

      When voted on, Leave was like “Generic Politician” — all the virtues, none of the vices. Everyone who voted Leave was free to imagine their own specific version of Leave, which kept all they wanted and discarded all they hated. Even when — perhaps especially when — they were entirely unrealistic.

      So the actual Leave deal, where if you want immigration controls on EU citizens you have to give up the Common Market, and if you want your own trade deals and tariffs you need to give up the Customs Union, is about as popular as being shot in the face.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The interesting thing about British politics is how it mirrors and differs from American politics. They have their own version of exceptionalism and there have been European skeptics in both parties since the Common Market was an idea. Potentially before.

    But Britain has also not been able to feed its own population without food imports for a century or more.Report

  11. Avatar Kolohe says:

    They could always bring back the Italians to run things, that went pretty well.Report