Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Eat Brexit. Shit Brexit.

I've been going to London Skeptics in the Pub events for quite a few years now but Monday evening's Brexit Part Deux with Dr Lynette Nusbacher was the first talk that could, in any way, be considered a sequel.

Dr Nusbacher had visited the Monarch last April, then before the referendum about whether or not to stay in the EU had taken place, to deliver a speech, from the perspective of an expert, about what might happen after the vote and why.

As you can read on last year's blog many of her predictions were pretty wide of the mark. She can't be blamed for that, she was far from the only one to make a bad call on it, but I did wonder if she'd at least acknowledge how inaccurate her forecasting, last April, had been.

My thoughts, following last year's talk and in the run up to the referendum, hardened towards a remain vote. It wasn't so much that I understood the intricacies of the financial implications or the legal jargonese we'd be subjected to (I'm not sure many people do, certainly David Davis and Theresa May don't appear to have a clue what they're talking about). I was more concerned with the kind of opportunists, wannabe demagogues, and flat out xenophobes who would be emboldened by a leave vote. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage etc;

Both my dad and my brother voted for Brexit and didn't particularly seem to care how much it hurt me, my friends, and even my job prospects. My dad cited the fact that he felt Theresa May had lost control of immigration. If he'd hoped to see the back of her then that backfired about as spectacularly as the PM's own disastrous decision to hold a snap election to strengthen her grip on power.

The days following the Brexit vote seemed to throw open the gates to all manner of vile racism and weak claims of patriotism by people whose claim to love England (and it was always England, never Britain or the UK) was often undermined by their inability to learn even the most basic English spelling or grammar.

Judges were called 'enemies of the people', Gina Miller received death threats, Michael Howard suggested we could go to war with Spain over Gibraltar, and common-or-garden morons seemed to think the vote had something to do with bringing back golliwogs to advertise marmalade.

Eventually, the 52% vote to leave was recast as an 'overwhelming' majority, an almost Trumpian rewriting of recent history, and entitled misogynists like Jacob Rees-Mogg rose to prominence by dint of dressing up like Lord Snooty and expounding views the Victorians would've considered a tad regressive.

So, yeah, I've not been a fan of this whole Brexit business and I think it'll probably be a disaster for the whole country but a vote's a vote, a referendum's a referendum, and we'll just have to get on with it. Not because some UKIP oiks have threatened civil disobedience if we don't but because that's how a democracy works. Democracies can also choose to have second referendums though, and if that's decided that's no more an affront to the last one than the decision to leave was an affront to the decision to join in 1973.

Dr Nusbacher seemed to have an even bleaker view of Brexit than I do. Whilst constantly stressing she was in the business of 'futures' and not predictions she nevertheless played out some 'scenarios' that looked an awful lot like predictions to the untrained eye.

Each of them shared a grimness. Each of them pretty much forecast a long, slow, painful decline for the UK over the next few years and decades. It'd be safe to say she felt the Brexit vote had fucked things up for our generation and the next but, like everything else, we'll muddle through somehow.

One scenario she called 'Detroit-on-Thames'. It looked at what happens when a city's primary business (and major supplier of both jobs and wealth) move out. In Detroit it was, famously, the fall of the automotive industry that left huge swathes of the city either abandoned or so crime ridden they were unsafe to visit. In London it's the banking industry.

She saw the banks, followed by the insurance firms, moving to Dublin to remain in the EU. Some would go to Luxembourg and elsewhere but mostly they'd be in Dublin. Simply because it'll soon be the largest English speaking city in the EU. She claimed major London based banks were already investing in Dublin and pushing up property prices there.

It's hard to feel any sympathy for bankers but, even accounting for that, I felt Dr Nusbacher placed too much emphasis on London and Surrey (where she lived), too much on JP Morgan, and too much on the price of Land Rovers. Seriously.

Much as the terms 'elitist' and 'neoliberal' have become weaponised adjectives to be hurled at anyone who you disagree with, this was hewing very close to the David Cameron/George Osborne elitist, neoliberal, cosseted line of entitled thought that so enraged people they took faith in the lies and mistruths of Johnson and Farage.

I felt an attempt to understand the other side of the argument may've shone some light on the inky darkness of the scenarios she's paid to come up with. There was too much boasting of her own credentials, too much 'I'm alright, Jack', and too much repositioning her take from last year's talk. Why should I believe her now when she was so wrong last time?

On top of that Dr Nusbacher seemed to be pretty dismissive of southern European nations like Greece and Italy. The countries of the former Yugoslavia weren't even given the courtesy of being named but were simply lumped together in an amorphous and, apparently, costly and problematic mass.

Dr Nusbacher's main concern with these nations was that an economic crisis could derail the whole EU project. She felt recent events in Catalonia weren't serious enough to upset Brussels (which may be true but it probably feels pretty serious when you're being assaulted by the Spanish police for going out to vote) and, like last year, she still held some pretty uncomfortable views concerning the migrant crisis. I didn't vote to stay in the EU because I wanted Europe to become a huge fortress impenetrable to those in need. I voted to stay in the EU because I believe in inclusivity and helping people out when you can, no matter which country they happen to have been born in.

Dr Nusbacher is a Tory so it's perhaps no surprise she holds these views and that I don't see eye to eye with her. I've always voted Labour and, with a few reservations, I back Corbyn. The doctor didn't mention Labour so much as once in her speech and on this I don't blame her. One of those reservations I have about Corbyn is his non-position on Brexit and the fact that the lip service he paid to the remain camp before the referendum was so half-hearted it all but stated a tacit approval for EU withdrawal.

More importantly, unlike last year's talk, Scotland and Northern Ireland were only briefly skimmed over. Of course time was limited (and Dr Nusbacher was generous in hers) but it'd have been good to hear her thoughts on how the Irish border will be managed.

I agreed with her take on UKIP, she saw them as an irrelevance in the post-Brexit climate who can only justify their existence by constant bellyaching, and I was amused by her position on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. She saw the man many see as one of the most nefarious in UK politics as frustrated by his lack of power in the Foreign Office, where civil servants do the work and his role is little more than tokenistic, and spoiling, like many Foreign Secretaries before him, for the top job. I suppose if a ranting baby-man former game show host can become POTUS we shouldn't rule out the horrific idea of Bojo the PM.

David Davis is another one lurking around for a sniff of No.10. Our speaker felt May handed Davies and Liam Fox the Brexit gig so that they, like Johnson, could 'own' it when/if it backfires. May doesn't want the shit hitting the fan until it's filled the union jack y-fronts of Davis and Fox and until Boris is crying to have his putrid shit filled nappy changed.

It doesn't matter that much who negotiates Brexit anyway as the EU hold almost every card. The theory, which some will dismiss as just more Project Fear, is that the shit won't really hit the fan until 2019 and that by 2020 Boris's now full to bursting nappy full of excretement will be ready to explode in our faces leaving us looking like something from the top shelf of an Amsterdam porno shop. It's at that point, in this scenario, we wonder why we didn't listen to the grown-ups.

There weren't a lot of positives to take from the evening which seems appropriate as there are unlikely to be many to take from the whole Brexit experience. I don't share Dr Nusbacher's views on many things but, on Brexit, I'm inclined to agree. The whole thing looks like an ill thought out venture, we're hurtling towards a cliff edge and nobody seems to be driving, and when it all goes wrong it'll, once again, as with the banking crisis, be the least fortunate and the most marginalised who will be made the scapegoats and forced to suffer while Boris and Rees-Mogg can retreat to their massive houses, have 'nanny' wash the shit off them, and think about what wizard wheeze they can afflict us with next.

I don't think Brexit will be the fuck up Dr Lynette Nusbacher thinks it will be (her forecasting game is weak). I think it'll be a whole different fuck up but at least it'll be one we voted for, eh?

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