13th March 2021
The best blogger about Brexit is Chris Grey and his weekly blog is a valuable resource in understanding Brexit as it has gone along.
In particular, the blog correctly emphasises that at each step there were choices made and not made – that things could have gone differently – and how (usually) the bad decisions ended up being made.
As the tricks of mind of hindsight and evasion begin to have their effects on the collective memory, Grey’s blog will be a crucial reminder of how things were at the time.
His post this week, however, is a detailed – and brutal and delightful – critique of a recent column by the new Brexit cabinet minister David Frost – and it is not only a critique but also a warning.
The warning is that the current government is – out of the various options available – choosing one which is especially damaging for the United Kingdom.
But the option being chosen is – in the minds of the Brexiter ministers – validated by the experience (so far) of ‘getting Brexit done’.
Of course, for the reasons that Grey sets out, the Brexiter ministers have drawn the wrong lessons from this formative experience.
Part of this is down to personalities – in particular the personalities of Frost and prime minister Boris Johnson.
And politics often does come down just to personalities.
There is a risk that a preoccupation on personalities means that the lack of alternative policies being promoted is overlooked.
For although the Frost-Johnson approach is, as Grey avers, ‘a sorry mixture of blather, nonsense, disingenuity and dishonesty’ – it also has another quality.
It is the only post-Brexit policy in town.
The Labour opposition has no post-Brexit policy – and is (no doubt for strategic and tactical reasons) opting not to put forward an alternative policy.
Those who are former remainers and are seeking the United Kingdom to (re)join the European Union do not have a post-Brexit policy as such – unless simply not wanting to be outside the European Union can be a policy.
And the moderate and practical Conservatives who might have advocated a more constructive post-Brexit policy were largely purged from the house of commons at the last general election.
So there is a vacuum where an alternative, constructive post-Brexit policy should be.
In contrast to this void, Frost-Johnson not only have a policy but also maintain that the policy is validated by the experience so far of Brexit – and so it has a certain superficial plausibility.
And until and unless there is another post-Brexit policy in town – which accepts the brute political fact of Brexit but seeks to go in another direction – then the Frost-Johnson approach will face no challenge other than from reality.
Such an alternative, constructive policy is perfectly possible – as Grey’s blog and other commentary shows, there are choices available.
But unless the politics of this post-Brexit period change radically, the Frost-Johnson approach has the political town to itself – and it is very good at misdirection and evasion when things go wrong.
Although commentators can point this out in real-time that will make no difference unless opposition politicians also act in real-time to put forward other post-Brexit policies.
And – yes, the Frost-Johnson post-Brexit approach can and should be blamed for many things, but it cannot be blamed for a lack of policy and political alternatives.
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