The persistent and continuing use of outright lies is typical of the whole Brexit debate and has been high-lighted by a report of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), citing particularly the claims by Brexiteers regarding NHS funding. The ERS wants the establishment of a watchdog, such as the Electoral Commission, to oversee and intervene against blatant lies in future referendum campaigns. The ERS cited the Scottish Independence Referendum as a role-model, offering a “vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation… that left a lasting legacy of on-going public participation in politics and public life”. Small consolation.
The ERS comment is particularly timely as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has launched a program of consultations on Scottish attitudes to Brexit. This includes an on-line questionnaire as well as face-to-face meetings across the country. The questionnaire, published by the SNP, is posed as a series of open questions but there is no doubt that Ms. Sturgeon will be hoping that the result will boost the Scottish position in future negotiations with Westminster over the consequences of Brexit. The survey has already been criticised as too long and may further exacerbate a mounting tiredness in the electorate for grassroots participation: see for yourself:
Ms. Sturgeon also repeated her demand that Scottish representatives should be present during the discussions to determine the UK government’s Brexit negotiating position with the EU.
Representatives of the Cabinet, such as Brexit Secretary David Davis, keep repeating with the stubbornness of fools that they expect to achieve an agreement combining continuing free trade and the imposition of immigration limits with the EU. This combination has repeatedly been ruled out by various top EU politicians as well as Polish and Romanian prime ministers. It would also seem to contradict a statement by Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s that Polish immigrants will continue to be welcome to the UK.
Some of the British media are full of reports that the economic consequences of Brexit were vastly overrated and that the British economy is actually booming. The positive attitude of the Australian Prime Minister to a trade deal with the UK has also been given much publicity. These soundbites contrast strongly with comments by leading politicians in Japan, German and USA on the negative long-term consequences of Brexit for world trade. PRC is being more cautious but it has a big club in its hand as the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant deal is up for review by a sceptical Ms. May. Arkady Dvorkovich, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, has stated that “Brexit will make Europe a little bit weaker”, without spelling out the consequences for the UK. As this blog has previously noted, the real costs will take years, more probably decades, to become apparent.
This is all neatly summed up in an on-line comment by a reader of The Independent:
“The powers that be have spoken – the Japanese will move away their industries, we will have to wait for ages for a US trade deal, we will only get on with the Chinese if we give them access to our nuclear power industry, and the EU will only allow tariff free access if we allow free movement of labour.”