5th June 2021
To the extent there was a positive case for Brexit, it was in the broadest terms – ‘taking back control’ and so on.
The impetus was primal – it did not matter what we were to be taking back control of, we were taking back control, and that was enough.
Remainers may scoff at this, but this was a basis on which Leave won and Remain did not – and the glaring fault of the Remain side was a lack of an equal and opposite positive case.
One problem of any general case is that it can lack in the particulars.
And it was a feature of the Leave side that they rarely specified what would actually change in substance if the United Kingdom (were/) was to leave the European Union.
A consequence of this vagueness was that once the referendum vote was made for Brexit, there was a range of possible models for the further relationship with the European Union, from hard Brexit to Brexit-in-name-only.
Another consequence was a sense of ‘what now?’ – like the dog who caught the car.
Of course: given the general case for Brexit, this did not matter – and it still does not matter.
A case not made on detail is not defeated by that lack of detail.
Yet the case for Brexit does produce some telling (and entertaining) examples.
The journalist Marcus Leroux showed one recently on Twitter.
First, the question:
I asked the same question – what burdens Brussels regulation should we ditch now we were leaving the EU – when I was covering trade for The Times. I asked John Longworth, chair of Vote Leave's business committee, what red tape should be first for the bonfire.— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) June 3, 2021
Then the answer given:
Longworth's immediate answer was the Ergonomics Directive, a set of rules as meddlesome as any to emerge from Berlaymont. Among its myriad stipulations is a rule forcing small employers to keep a ledger of the position of every piece of office equipment. (Quote from Express) pic.twitter.com/njWZOn28nh— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) June 3, 2021
That was (presumably) in 2016 – but earlier in 2021 Longworth was still citing this ergonomics directive:
So how come the government still hasn't freed British business from the deadweight loss of the Ergonomics Directive? Longworth was banging the drum about it for years – and he still is. https://t.co/CJYHeQFct0— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) June 3, 2021
(I have checked – the ergonomics directive was an example given in that 2021 Times piece.)
And here is the good (and fun) kicker:
Well, there is a simple reason the Ergonomics Directive hasn't been scrapped: it never existed.— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) June 3, 2021
There *was* a proposed ergonomics directive in 2012, but it was rejected by the European Commission on economic grounds after lobbying from member states, including the UK.
The directive never existed.
It is a ghost directive.
And yet from at least 2016 to 2021 it was cited as an example of the point of Brexit – and published as such this year in a national newspaper.
Here's a Conservative business minister taking the credit for blocking the ergonomics directive in 2013. https://t.co/p7EQ5Vzmw3— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) June 3, 2021
And here is the passage in the 2013 government report (three years before the referendum):
Cogito ergonomics sum – or not.
Of course, Remainers may gloat at such a prize example of idiocy – but it no more discredits Brexit than if it were true, because that was not why people voted and campaigned for Leave.
And the fact it has taken until 2021 for this to be exposed (at least to my knowledge) shows it was not uppermost in the minds of many following Brexit.
There is also, no doubt, ghost facts on the Remain side as well.
That said, this ghost regulation shows that it was perfectly possible for the United Kingdom to resist unwanted regulations in the European Union before 2016.
And there is the prospect that the regulatory regime the United Kingdom develops now was also possible within the European Union.
If so, this means – in a practical regulatory sense – there was no point in Brexit.
But at least we took back control, and we caught the car.
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