The Brexit fallacy

When not being distracted by articles such as this, I am working on a piece for iScot Magazine about memes. One of the observations I make is that, just as genes don’t necessarily comply with human ideas of good design, so memes need not conform to human notions of truthfulness. What makes a meme successful has nothing to with whether it satisfies criteria of accuracy or veracity. It may be true, But that is purely incidental. Memes are successful, they propagate in a culture, to the extent that they find a niche.

You’ll have to buy the magazine if you want more. For the moment, it is sufficient to recognise that, for all they are now firmly embedded in political discourse, the soft/hard Brexit meme has little or nothing to do with reality.

There’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation with memes. The distinction between cause and effect is, at best, elusive. And may well be meaningless. But, with all the usual caveats about the dangers of abstraction and over-simplification, let’s run with the idea that one of the was are used is as a diversion or distraction. To the extent that memes can be contrived to shape and direct discourse, they may be used to shape it in a way that suits particular interests; or take it on a course away from an uncomfortable reality.

Governments like to create the impression they are in control. At least until things go wrong in ways that can’t be concealed or disguised. At which point, they would have us accept that they are the victims of forces beyond any reasonable control. There is a general rule that governments take full credit for anything that can be spun as a success, and absolutely no responsibility for anything that cannot be presented as other than failure.

The British government wants us to believe that they are in control of the Brexit process. They want us to believe that there are options. They want us to believe that they have real bargaining power. They want us to believe that they are negotiating in order to secure the best deal. This is, if not complete fantasy, certainly close enough as to make no practical difference.

The British government has no meaningful control over the Brexit process. The process is all but entirely in the hands of the EU institutions and member nations.

The British government has no options. There is almost nothing that it can choose to do, or not do.

The British government has nothing to bargain with. There is nothing it can offer the EU which counts in any significant way against the imperative of maintaining the integrity of the union.

There is no good outcome for the British government to secure. The terms of the UK’s relationship with the EU must be measurably, tangibly worse as an ex-member than as a member. And the UK already had, by any reasonable criteria, the best deal of any member state, what with all the opt-outs and concessions and rebates and the like. The outcome has to be bad. How bad is not in any way a matter for the British government to decide. It has absolutely no say.

The ‘soft/hard’ Brexit meme is being seized upon for the purpose of casting a veil of deceit over this reality. It gives the impression of there being something to negotiate. Something to fight for. A prize to be won by a ‘strong and stable government’. Alternatively, it is an entitlement denied by ‘Johnny Foreigner’. Or the fair due of the ‘British people’ rendered unobtainable by ‘interference’ from political opponents.

It would be gratifying to think people wouldn’t be taken in by this massive deception. But I hold out no hope whatever. Memes don’t have to be true. They just have to be what people want to believe.

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5 thoughts on “The Brexit fallacy

  1. william boyd

    The status accorded to EU nationals by the Tories will, in my mind, determine from the outset whether the deal will be bad or really bad: punishment or vindictive punishment will be the order of the day and it will set in train how Scotland deals with r UK nationals post indy.

  2. bringiton

    The best deal for the UK is to remain within the EU.
    All that they are going to do is try to fool people into believing that having control over EU immigration is a price worth paying.
    We will pay for the follies of unscrupulous politicians (the ones currently in charge) who used immigration as a means to leverage their political fortunes.

  3. Abulhaq

    Exactly…the hardness or softness of ‘Brexit’ ie quitting the EU club of which BritState was never actually a fully engaged member eg single currency, will not be in the gift of the Westminster negotiators to decide. Brussels will confect the terms and they will not do the quitter ‘favours’ that do not suit the interests of the EU and its members.
    Yet another manifestation of that conceit, that ur-meme, British exceptionalism.

  4. Simon

    Excellent! One criticism though if you don’t mind.
    British Government, should that not be ‘british government’ 😀

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