Wanted by HMG: Someone to make sense of Brexit

17th May 2021

Some things are almost beyond parody.

The government of the United Kingdom, almost five years after the Brexit referendum, wants help on identifying post-Brexit opportunities. 

The natural response to this is, of course, to laugh like a drain – and to then despair.

But it also worth reflecting on.

One of the strengths (if that is the correct word) of the Leave campaign was that it was primal in its message – and what is primal is usually inexact, if not vague.

And with such primal force, Leave won and the Remainers lost.

Brexit was forced through.

But for every strength there is a weakness.

And at this point of the process, those who have forced Brexit through will say, in effect: ‘what now?’

Those who were opposed to Brexit will scoff and hope that such an implicit admission discredits the cause of Brexit.

But what has power because of a lack of detail will usually not falter because of a lack of detail.

There was never any particularised plan for Brexit: it was instead a political roar of anguish and defiance and (for many) misdirection.

David Frost could go even further and say freely and expressly: we want outside input in identifying opportunities because we do not have a clue what to do next.

Those who supported Brexit would either shrug or nod at the sentiment.

And as a wise person once said: there are no problems, only opportunities – it is just that some opportunities are insoluble.


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30 thoughts on “Wanted by HMG: Someone to make sense of Brexit”

  1. We have been here before in the shape of the Thatcher era’s Enterprise and Deregulation Unit.

    Staffed by some of the brightest and the best from within and without of Whitehall, it disappointed, because it was staffed by the brightest and the best not ideologues.

    As a fellow ex civil servant on Twitter observed, “Exdel. I was in it in the 80s shadowing Defra and DoE at the time. The problem with it was that most deregulation opportunities were either dangerous, not wanted by businesses, or fail to create savings when you do the cost benefit analysis. So deregulation fails usually”.

    I replied, “And that was why you disappointed. And I wasn’t being sarcastic. I met with EDU staff on one or two occasions as an SFTD official at EDG when the EDU was housed in Caxton.”

    “Ok. Deregulation usually creates risk. And vulnerabilities. Most businesses and most voters are cautious. Which is sensible. Look at Grenfell. Deregulation, lack of oversight, testing, scrutiny = deaths of voters and huge new costs”.

    “Quite true. I did a mini review of commercial waste disposal at council tips. There were no grounds for changing the legislation to make it free for businesses to use the tips like domestic users, especially given the potentially hazardous nature of some business waste.”

    A contribution from a third party, one of the many dealing with the reality of Brexit in 2021, “It doesnt work in Industry when trying to export, the gold standard in my industry is CE marking and without it you cannot export to the EU. It opens no opportunities because in engineering standards should go up, not down, in which case it doesnt improve trading by dropping”.

  2. Thank you Mr Green for bringing this to the surface.

    It is difficult, even very difficult not to feel savage with anger at what the lying shyster and his accomplices in misprision have done to us, of whom Lord – Lord ???? nay Baron, Baron??? Frost of Allenton for heaven’s sake is right at the forefront. The incompetent, bullying, braying donkey is a Baron? Day by day more bad news is creeping out, as it must. Not on the BBC of course, as news management is all. God rot them all.

    At some stage someone to lead us out of this pit of lies and mismanagement will appear, but what a waste of time to get there.

    1. Seconded. But the dust hasn’t had a chance to settle yet, so we are not even half way to getting shot of them. I am out and sadly will not be back.

  3. I understand that Ethan Hunt is between Mission Impossible gigs – maybe he could help?

    It’s just a shame that “we” were so tired of all the experts that warned, back in the day, that there was no such thing as a post-Brexit opportunity.

    I believe we’re still tired of them (I haven’t been told not to be, at any rate) so obviously HMG can’t hire anyone who might actually understand this stuff…

    Lord Frost himself is perfectly placed, I see:


  4. And there was me thinking that the government had a thoroughly researched masterplan for securing all these promised benefits, and that I was just too stupid to be able to imagine what it was.

  5. It’s extraordinary that Lord Frost hopes the EU will not retaliate if the UK breaks an agreement it freely entered into (but thought it could ignore). The UK declined all EU offers to extend the transition arrangements but now find it needs just such an extension after all.

    Then he goes on to blame the EU for undermining the Good Friday Agreement when all along the risk to the GFA was being created by the UK’s badly thought out actions over Brexit. The UK decided it must leave the customs union, the EU didn’t demand we leave.

    We are back to the UK expecting to be treated as a member of the EU for trade purposes without actually being one. And while requesting this the UK is acting as the injured party.

    1. We are back to the UK expecting to be treated as a member of the EU for trade purposes without actually being one. And while requesting this the UK is acting as the injured party.

      Playing to “The Base”, who continue to lap it up. As I’ve pointed out before, they feel they’ve been given permission by recent populist governments here and over the ocean, to revel in – to be proud of – their ignorance.

      As long as the noises from UKG allow them to continue blaming Johnny Foreigner for their own failings and inadequacies, they’re happy, and that’s precisely what Frost et al are doing.

      Win-win for them, lose-lose for the rest of us…

  6. Indeed. But ultimately, that is why Johnson and the Brexit cabal will fail. He is the suitor who promises you anything to get you into bed, then you discover he is married, broke and crap at it!

    Brexit offers nothing (since, economically, the UK could always trade with the rest of the world on WTO terms, if there wasn’t a much more advantageous EU deal on tap), the “friction” is still coming into focus. The loss of influence, the loss of being “in the EU club” will become clearer with time. None of the supporters of Brexit can point to any substantive gains that compensate for what we have lost and people do not like to be played for suckers. Apparently, the Daily Mail was lamenting that people can no longer retire to Spain! Johnson and his troupe of clowns will dance off sooner or later, leaving somebody else to try to put things back together again. Labour is going to need to gather its courage together and tell it like it is (just not yet…).

    1. I am not so sure. There is a strong streak of übermensch in the country. Couple that to an education system that despite the best efforts of teachers, is hampered by that same ideology (see noise over ‘decolonising the curriculum’, which translates as ‘teach history as it is, warts and all’) running through generations. So perhaps the country will decline, and become the Argentina of Europe, bemoaning its fate, but unable to understand the root cause of its predicament.

    2. Assuming such things become possible in post-COVID times, not only can UK subjects no longer retire to Spain, we mostly can’t even stay there or indeed anywhere else in the Schengen area for more than 90 days in any six month period. Thank you, Brexiteers.

  7. Where is scrutiny in this appointment? Is the post a Special Advisor? A Civil Servant? Another status? Which Code, if any, governs their role?

    And to whom are they accountable and who can scrutinize their work.

    In all these areas the Johnson Administration is weak, vague and urgent to avoid due process and democratic scrutiny.

  8. When I saw the above tweet this afternoon I was reminded of an acquaintance who stood as a Green Party candidate in the 1990s. She found herself at a hustings with, among others, a candidate for the Natural Law Party (Remember them? If you don’t, they were an offshoot of the Transcendental Meditation movement founded by the yogi who was a guru to the Beatles.) No matter what question the candidates were asked, the Natural Law Party man replied, to increasing public mirth, “Oh, we’re going to get our experts to look into it and make recommendations.”

    Never thought I’d hear the same patter from UK Govt.

  9. I posed this question scores of times prior to the EU Referendum and immediately after the result was declared.

    “Can you point to any objective, measurable, positive outcomes that we will all immediately benefit from as a direct result of the decision to leave the European Union?”

    I’m still waiting for a cogent response that doesn’t include the puerile phrase, ‘taking control of our money, laws and borders’.

  10. How they lied, huffed and puffed feeding and creating the ‘will of the people’ which knew exactly what they were voting for. Or so they were told anyway.

    The lies of Brexit being laid bare reminds me of the deforestation of a Rainforest by Loggers on a pay per felled tree rate.

    Johnson’s Government and it’s wealthy backers knew all along there were no benefits for ordinary people. It was and is a rich person’s dream. Now someone, betting it’s another Tory Donor, will probably take millions from the Taxpayer to find something positive about Brexit to minimise any fallout from it.

  11. Alas, this is not a new cry.
    Chair of the ERG, Mark Francois, called last year for advice as to how the U.K. could seize opportunities post-Brexit, encouraging the Civil Service to offer recommendations. Around that time, Messrs Johnson and Sunak were endeavouring to rebuild bridges with the business they had allegedly previously suggested should be blithely disregarded. Their hope too was to identify commercial opportunities.

    Fortunately for Mr Francois, his ERG and parliamentary colleague Ian Duncan-Smith claimed to have numerous ideas.

    It would appear that dialogue within the Conservative and Unionist Party has – as with so many things – failed to result in implementable policy.

    1. parliamentary colleague Ian Duncan-Smith claimed to have numerous ideas.

      Hah! He used to be my Secretary of State, and I can say with absolute confidence that an original thought would die of sheer loneliness, in his head.

  12. 1. Take off in aircraft with negligible fuel.
    2. Look around for ‘opportunities’.

    Sadly, and somehow predictably, works just as well if you jump out of the aircraft with no parachute because another person persuaded you to.

  13. I had to rewind Frost’s rambling nonsense in front of the parliamentary committee as I couldn’t quite believe anyone would have the gall to openly propose outsourcing his failure in an effort to further obscure the Big Lie.

    Already the facade is beginning to crumble as witnessed in the internal govt wrangles over a trade deal with Australia and I expect some astute turf accountants have books open on when Johnson’s cabinet descends into open warfare & which heads will roll first.

    The ideology of brexit was always flawed & the only question now is how much we can limit the damage, most especially in NI. Given the talents in this populist govt & their corrosive legislative plans, I’m not hopeful this will turn around anytime soon.

  14. I was compelled to attend a management consultant’s bullshit session at work and he did indeed say “there are no problems, only opportunities “. From the back of the room came a sotto voce comment “Houston, we have an opportunity “.

  15. You say that ‘ There was never any particularised plan for Brexit: it was instead a political roar of anguish and defiance and (for many) misdirection’, but, if no PLAN, there WAS a manifesto (courtesy of VoteLeave, official campaign managers), and Brexiters claimed, ad nauseam, that they ‘knew what they voted for’.
    The extra £18bn/year promised for the NHS may have been thrown into confusion by COVID-19, but the ‘Take back control of our borders’ is unequivocal – we have only one border with the EU (in Ireland) and already had control of all other points of entry (at least in theory). A vote for Brexit was a vote for border control in Ireland, and a breach of the GFA. No wonder there was no plan.

  16. Unlike Jacob Rees-Mogg, I for one will not hang around 50 years for the benefits, nor will anyone else.
    Playing a long game may sound sensible to Starmer but sooner or later there will be a consensus and the name of the game surely is to be ahead of it.

  17. I am irresistibly reminded of Roger McGough’s poem:

    “I wanna be the leader
    I wanna be the leader
    Can I be the leader?
    Can I? I can?
    Promise? Promise?
    Yippee I’m the leader
    I’m the leader

    OK what shall we do?”

  18. I am not so sure. There is a plan. It is to concentrate all the levers of power & wealth in the hands of a small and supportive clique. Patrick Minford advocated free trade and the “phasing out of manufacturing anf farming like steel and coal”. It is starting. Land will progressively end up in the hands of a small number of wealthy land owners who will be paid for not farming it. Promising technologies of the future in the fields such as genome editing, patents in life sciences, and biotech will be concentrated and locked up generating immense wealth.
    Trade is not an objective per se. They know it will bring very small economic benefits. It is an instrument to remodel the UK.

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