Unspoken words illustrated by actions, almost always speak more loudly than the words which accompany them. The approach which has been taken by Theresa May’s Government towards Brexit is certainly no different.
Management of expectation should be fluent practice for the politicians who have reached the heights of having a seat at the top table in the land. So it would be reasonable to conclude that the jumping off point for the Brexit Negotiations provides us with an accurate picture of the priorities of the Government for delivering our exit process.
It is of no great surprise that many people are concerned, given that Brexit looks like an unholy mess. One which is playing into the hands of ardent Remainers such as Vince Cable, given that the whole approach to the process has been in many ways portrayed as being about doing the minimum necessary to qualify the UK as no longer being an EU Member.
The current approach could more accurately be framed as over-promising with the quiet or unintended expectation that they will ‘be given no choice’ but to under deliver. The alternative would be the more robust and arguably honest approach of being clear from the start with us all by stating that we are now going to be completely out of European Union Membership once the Article 50 Notice Period is complete, and that anything we gain in our interests thereafter will be a benefit.
What could then accurately be called an under-promise leading to what anyone who sees our true relationship with our European Partners will know will be a significant lessening of expectations in terms of what the Government will then assuredly over-deliver.
While more than a year may now have passed since the EU Referendum with Negotiations in Brussels now appearing to be underway, it is far from too late to adopt this approach.
Yes, giving this level of clarity to the overall message would draw criticism from Remainers who continue to be convinced that they can influence the Negotiation Process to a degree where Brexit would occur in name only. But it would also provide a distinct level of certainty within what for us all will remain a fluid situation for a long time to come, where stepping off now with the worst case scenario providing a basis for our negotiating position going forward being a far more productive place to begin.
To continue managing the public perception of the Brexit process in the way that it is, the Government appears to be either attempting to be all things to all people – which even when well intended is unlikely to work; or is playing the rather dangerous game of planning for the UK to remain technically tied to Membership of the European Union via a relationship which the majority of British people do not want.
Yes, there are very big interests with equally big voices making very loud predictions of doom and gloom, openly threatening to leave the UK if their needs aren’t prioritised.
A perfectly sensible question in response would be to ask them why they are here anyway if the European Market is that much more important than our own.
The reality however, is that these self-serving overtures are really nothing more than a plea to a political class to keep everything which works profitably for those interests basically the very same.
These businesses have had influence and power over Government for a very long time due to the role that money is seen to play in just about everything. Yet in terms of Brexit, Money has now come into direct conflict with democracy and the will of the People. Nobody should be in any doubt about the interests which will benefit most if the UK should in any way now Remain.
The message is clear. Things can never be the same as they were before 23rd June 2016. Obstructive as these other interests may be, they also deserve to receive a clear message from the Government about the direction of travel, so that they can work with their own worst case scenarios. Scenarios which you can be assured will prove to be a lot better when we have formally left the EU, than they would willingly have us all suppose now.
The damage being done daily with the current lacklustre approach in terms of the relationship between Westminster all British People – who have an evolving distrust of the establishment, has the potential to be far reaching, particularly if the Negotiation Process should ultimately result in an avoidable fudge.
Whilst no British voter has knowingly endorsed the process of ‘ever closer union’ which successive British Governments undertook to create an increasingly closer and subservient political union with the EU, it would be utterly foolish for political strategists to believe that they can somehow delay or prevent the distinct and clinical reversal of that unsanctioned action, when the democratic instruction given by the Referendum Vote was very clear.
Of course, any ardent Remainer reading these words can and will pick holes in an argument like this by using their own view of Brexit and the Referendum itself to justify alternative reasoning. Democracy does after all only work for some when they are getting the results that they themselves want.
As a supporter of leaving the European Union from a time long before it ever became politically fashionable to be so, I can nonetheless say that I did not feel comfortable with the polarity delivered by the Referendum Campaign. Yet it has become ridiculous that a follow-up debate about ‘what Brexit will look like’ should then have been allowed to develop by the establishment and then framed as an optional change which can come in a choice of shades, wrapped up as either a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit.
Accepting that we are leaving – as most Political Parties now at least indicate that they do, would sound much more sincere, convincing and less like they were paying mere lip service to this inevitable change if all were to adopt a more definite tone such as ‘out means out’, rather than ‘Brexit means Brexit’. One which not only makes clear but endorses the otherwise universally held understanding that you cannot remain attached and at the same time be genuinely separate or no longer a part of something – as the British Electorate have commanded that we must now be.
In my last blog, I discussed the reality and impact of ideas or ideologies in politics rather than management according to all the facts. Brexit has regrettably come to fall under the same umbrella of ideas. It should be clear that our perspective of the process and creation of policy right at this moment in time and how things will actually work when we arrive at March 2019 will not then be the same as now or at any point thereafter.
The only certainty is that we are leaving and that is why it would be far more productive to talk in terms of the relationship that the UK then aims to have with the EU as being an aspiration, instead of a fixed relationship that we the or they in some way have the power to guarantee.
Acceptance that all sides of UK Politics have something to bring to this debate is essential and must replace the virtue signalling and disingenuous assumption of moral authority adopted by some, who fail to understand the expectations of everyone with views and feelings from outside their own bubbles. Especially so, as they refuse to work with those who do or have an alternative view to their own.
Just as if we were destined to travel to the top of a hill, it would be generally accepted as inevitable that there would be a climb involved in getting there. There may of course be different routes, choices of gradients or even helicopter rides to assist us to ascend. But one way or the other, we know that we will have to have reached the top of the hill itself before we ourselves know and everyone else will fully accept that we have got there.
In terms of our exit from European Union, complete UK Sovereignty is the top of that hill.
Regaining the power for our Westminster Parliament to determine all rules, laws and the obligations under which we live and operate as a Nation must be the red line above which nothing is acceptable in terms of influence from any other European Nation, combination thereof or indeed any foreign power.
To allow this key component of honouring its obligation the British Electorate to appear in some way negotiable – depending upon whether we can secure ‘agreement’ over certain things such as access to the Free Market, the need for a ‘Customs Union’ or the method under which we ‘can’ allow people to move across our Borders – The Government has perhaps unwittingly embarked upon a game of high stakes chess with the sanctity of the democratic relationship between it and the People.
To the Government, to the Opposition and to the other Political Parties with seats in Westminster beyond, it is the agenda of the British people which must be prioritised, first and foremost before any of their own, or indeed the very specific and self-serving interests which all too often support and therefore have influence over them.
All the Government really needs to do is change, make clear and evangelise the core message to one which reflects ‘out means out’ and then the support and understanding of how we can all work with and benefit from Brexit will soon begin to appear.
Whilst the siren calls of public figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury may suggest that the devil is in the detail, the real challenge for those across Government is to now genuinely commit to the journey. They will then find that the seemingly impossible level of technicalities to consider as part of the Brexit process will be much simpler to decide – even within the significant volumes that they will come.