I started my Brexit Diary on Facebook in September 2016. I renamed it my Remainer’s Diary when Sarah Olney defeated a prominent Brexit supporter in the Richmond Park by-election and gave me hope. I am re-homing it here. I plan it to be a record of the biggest folly my country has committed during my lifetime.
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 550: in Brussels, European Council leader Donald Tusk told reporters that he would be recommending to the leaders of the EU27 that they endorse the transition agreement (or kicking the can down the road agreement).
The text of the latest draft includes this: “The European Council calls for intensified efforts on the remaining withdrawal issues as well as issues related to the territorial application of the Withdrawal Agreement, notably as regards Gibraltar, and reiterates that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Spain retains a veto over Gibraltar. And I hardly need mention the Irish border.
One senior EU official said the UK had “done zilch on border controls”.
In Holyrood, the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill was approved by MSPs by 95 votes to 32. The 32 were almost all Conservatives. This Bill sets up a constitutional conflict with Westminster over devolved powers. The Welsh Assembly has passed similar legislation.
Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations, commented: “The Scottish Government continues to repeatedly express its ‘regret’ at the UK leaving the EU and to state that the best option would be to stay. But there is no strategy to back this up: how does the Scottish Government think this might happen and what is its role in pushing for a halt to Brexit?”
In London a stunt involving rabble-rouser Farage throwing dead fish into the Thames went wrong when the boat was refused permission to dock at Embankment Pier. Apparently the organisers had forgotten to apply for a licence from TFL. As a result Rees-Mogg could not embark and the stunt took place without him. Farage was reported to the authorities for fly-tipping. Imagine what the country would be like if these jokers were actually in charge.
More disquiet over Cambridge Analytica. The American angle is that it was using psychological profiles of 50 million Facebook users to help Donald Trump’s election campaign. The British one currently is that it had links with the Brexit campaign Leave.EU via Aggregate IQ, the company which received a large sum supposedly from Darren Grimes, of whom I have written before, back in 2016.
I delivered leaflets about local issues. Local government matters too; just not on such a scale as Brexit.
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 549: the Government was defeated twice in the House of Lords over Euratom. The Lords voted by 265 to 194 to insist the UK should not withdraw from the treaty until a replacement deal is in place. I suspect that the 194 are either under duress or insane.
A friend is unhappy. He has learned that his dog is ill. Unhappiness at this bad news is added to the pain of being designated a foreigner after years of living in the UK as an equal citizen. He is a sensitive soul. He speaks for millions who are being put through undeserved worry and unhappiness, and all for what?
The nastiness that is on show and sweeping this country is a serious disease. I think it was a contagion spread by the Leave campaigns. I will not use the word evil, but those campaigns were amoral and malign. In particular they set communities against each other. Envy and resentment were their tools.
In a cafe I like to go to I often overhear another regular customer talking loudly about foreigners, asking why did they let all these Poles in, and so on. (Such rudeness! Especially as one of the staff members in the cafe is Polish.) This individual raises his voice when I am there, presumably to annoy me because I glared at him when he talked thus before. The irony is that he is clearly not a native English speaker. He must think that the immigrant minority he belongs to somehow has more right to be here than Polish people. Well, that could change quite quickly. Once we are further down the road of Us and Them, it could.
Channel 4’s revelations about Cambridge Analytica are rocking the world and making Facebook’s share price tumble. Hats off to Carole Cadwalladr. Those of us who have been battling the poison on social media since before the last European elections, as I have, and following the unfolding tale of how big data mining was becoming a political tool, are not so very surprised. The official line is still that there is no evidence that this affected the referendum result. Of course it bloody did.
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 548: I spent much of my day striving to cope with the inadequate infrastructure for electric vehicles. Fossil fuel powered drivers take for granted that every few miles there will be a petrol station open and willing to sell them a tankful of their preferred fuel. It took decades to develop. We are nowhere near there with electric yet, but we quickly must be.
The EU has been at the forefront of investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as is recorded by the labels on Electric Highway chargers which probably hardly anyone notices.
It was a tricky rather alarming operation getting from a fast charger I had intended to use, which was faulty and not working, to the nearest publicly available charger, which was not fast. (There was a charger only 200 metres away from the faulty one, but it was reserved for members of a tennis club. So much for private sector provision.) But I made it. Phew. Then I spent an unscheduled hour in a cafe in Asda while my car was hooked up to a charger in the car park. The coffee was nice.
The way to deal with this mentally is not to mind the wait. It is like the old days when people who could afford not to walk travelled by horseback or by coach and had to stop at an inn to rest or change the horses. You had a meal, and if you were a character in a novel you met a fascinating stranger. Good plots require their characters to meet.
Anyway it was all highly topical because Green Alliance brought out a new paper calling for the ban on sales of new hydrocarbon-fuelled cars to be brought forward from 2040, which our Government feebly decided, to 2030. One huge advantage of this would be to reduce the lethal cocktail of gases and particulates that are shortening lives in our towns and cities. Another would be to reduce drastically the amount of fossil fuels we import. This would be good for many reasons, including national security. The biggest reason is helping to save the world’s life forms from mass extinctions caused by catastrophic global warming, if we haven’t messed up irretrievably already.
In other news, much fanfare as a deal was announced for a “transition” period after Brexit day, 29th March 2019. I am underwhelmed. Apparently the British negotiators insist on calling it an “implementation” period. But as Reuters put it, right now there is nothing to transition to, or implement. “The 21-month stretch in which Britain will effectively pay to stay in the EU’s single market and customs union is better described as an extension.” And they have no solution to the Irish border problem.
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 547: another mini-winter. I got very cold delivering leaflets. Meanwhile Theresa May was experiencing a distraction from Brexit bad news as chatterers continued to be preoccupied with Russia’s suspected poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury by means of a nerve toxin.
Vladimir Putin was re-elected President in another sham election from which his most popular opponent had been excluded. Meanwhile the Open Britain group collated extracts from speeches and comments by Theresa May and members of her cabinet where they had said the UK was better able to counter Russia as an EU member than on its own.
A row took place over the report by the majority of MPs on the Brexit select committee that the UK should seek an extension to the Article 50 timetable. Its chairman Hilary Benn pointed out: “There are seven months to go until the Article 50 negotiations are due to end. There’s a whole host of issues that haven’t yet been addressed.”
Cue for outpourings of rage from the pro-Brexit camp. They think it should be simple and painless because that is what they were told. But it was lies. They just don’t get it.
The New York Times reported an interview with a Brexit-supporting Brit in a Calais hospital for knee surgery. The paper explained: “To cope, the NHS has been quietly outsourcing some surgeries to three hospitals in France for the last year or so. It is a little-known partnership, because the NHS is not eager to advertise the measures it is being forced to take.” The paper added that Britain has about 340 available beds per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with a EU average of 515, according to Eurostat. Despite this the patient remained a fervent Brexit fan though he didn’t want his surgeon to know until after the surgery.
Eddie Woo, the maths head teacher and YouTube video star from Cherrybrook Technology High School in Australia who was a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize awarded in Dubai, attributed Brexit and the Trump presidency to inability to understand data and statistics, which he said has become a major social problem. He said: “We’ve just had major election results that stem directly from mathematical illiteracy, because people don’t have the mathematical wherewithal to understand the statistics they’re being fed. They look at them and say, ‘Well OK, sure, I don’t know any better.’ The fact that climate change denial can survive has a direct causal relationship with mathematical illiteracy.”
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 546: I got up early, drove through unexpected snow to a meeting, drove home. Tiring. But worth it because gradually we are mobilising. This is the hard part, to turn the dismay and frustration we feel into resolve and coherent action. This is not just about averting economic harm or loss, though it is about that too. It is about defending the kind of world we want to live in.
Local elections are ahead, and they matter as well. Mark Pack told Buzzfeed why he believes these local elections are so important to the Lib Dems – and to Brexit. “In the battle over Brexit, the more successful the Lib Dems are seen as being, the easier it will be for the Lib Dems to coalesce anti-Brexit forces around the party – and the more public opinion is likely to shift to ‘maybe there’s a chance this isn’t going to happen’.”
But if the local elections go badly there is another chance in a few years. Brexit is not like that. It is a watershed. Somewhere at the top of the Andes there is a line where a raindrop that falls on one side will end up in the Pacific Ocean, and a raindrop that falls a few inches away will end up in the Atlantic. It is the same when a skier having climbed a ridge starts a descent. Once committed there is no going back. Even if the choice is bad and one way leads to a cliff edge.
This is why it is so important to know that we are not committed yet. Until 29th March 2019 we can stop it. That is why we must mobilise.
Fittingly for St Patrick’s Day, Business Insider published an in-depth look at the Irish border problem. It quoted Dr Katy Hayward who by implication shot down the UK government’s case. “The EU is an entity based on legal certainty and upon certain principles,” she said. “It has to be very clear about the rules. Those rules have to be very clearly defined, especially at its external boundaries. They have to know what rules apply and certainly in relation to customs. That’s unambiguous.”
Not only will there be an external border of the EU across more than 300 miles of Irish fields, woods and lanes, but also there will be an external border of the EU between Calais and Dover, and likewise all around our coasts. It will be Operation Stack at ports permanently. This is a massive, massive problem that the Leave campaigners just pooh-poohed. And now they can’t deal with it.
Brexit – we knew all along it wasn’t worth it.
My #Remainer’s Diary Day 545: how does Brexit feel? Brexit induces a state of being both bored and anxious at the same time. Like waiting for an ordeal: an exam, a battle.
Chatterers chattered about the Irish border again. The EU negotiators and a Commons select committee pointed out the non-existence of a technological fix to the problem again. But with the UK Government it is like talking to someone with short term memory loss. A short time later the person repeats the same conversation because nothing you say sinks in.
A new poll by Survation found that excluding don’t knows, a clear majority of Conservative voters who voted Tory in 2017 would support a referendum on whether to accept or reject the final deal. Especially in London. The Tories worry what this means for their vote in local elections in London. There is slightly more at stake than that. As Simon Allison, chairman of Citizens for Britain, put it, the findings “surely reflect an awareness of how much the Government has already sacrificed vital London interests in trade and financial services to secure its hardline version of Brexit.”
It feels quite unreal that the party which has long claimed the attribute of being financially competent, and largely been perceived to be such by the public, at any rate relative to Labour, is behaving as it is today.
If only it were unreal. If only we could wake up from it all. But the sense of dread goes on.
“It feels like we are spiralling out of control and no one is willing to put the brakes on.” James Norton, actor, spoke for me with those words.
I read an interview by the New Statesman of Vince Cable after his conference speech in Southport. It ended with these words: “…the biggest problem we have now is the slightly fatalistic view that nothing can be done. It can be done and it will be done, believe me, because Brexit is simply wrong.”
It is simply wrong. This is what I feel and what makes us fight.
My. #Remainer’s Diary Day 544: today a man told me that homelessness was homeless people’s own fault. What, all of them? Not the ones I have met. His comment led to an argument. Even if his opinion was right, was it ok to have people dying of hypothermia in the High Street? Apparently yes, and do gooders like me are bad for the country. Or something.
In order to feel certain, he prefers not to understand. Vice versa with me. We will never see eye to eye. There is no point in arguing with him. Is there any point in talking to him at all, except on a purely practical, transactional level?
He was of course an ardent Brexit fan. No need to ask. He admired Priti Patel!
I told him the entire Cabinet should be made to spend the night in doorways.
We have mutual incomprehension on a national scale. It’s a schism.
I had supper with friends. One said that Brexit was the worst thing that had ever happened.
I found an article by Professor David Heald, Professor of Public Sector Accounting at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, who wrote: “There is not going to be any ‘Brexit dividend’ for public spending. The macroeconomic effects of Brexit on the public finances will be much larger – for example, due to sterling depreciation and GDP growth rates being lower in the medium term than they would otherwise have been. Since both factors are hard to predict clearly in advance, this is a period of massive uncertainties.”
Does Jeremy Corbyn not care? As Vince Cable said, you can’t speak up for the poor and be complicit in making them poorer.