Idiotic Approach

The word “idiotic” might seem to be strong.  It’s to show a complete lack of thought or common sense.  Some academics would say that we are idiotic a lot of the time because we don’t take the time to think things through[1].  Certainly, we have all had moments when we wish we’d just taken a bit more time over a decision.  To me that brings to mind the politicans prayer: Lord, give us the wisdom to utter words that are gentle and tender, for tomorrow we may have to eat them.

What I’m asserting here is that the UK Government’s approach to Brexit is idiotic.  Now; I know the reaction to that statement might be a knee-jerk one driven by commitments to support Brexit.  Let’s try to put simplistic responses aside.  Let’s try to quell prejudices and pre-conceived ideas.  Let’s stand-back and take a wider view of what’s going on.

To start, I’m going to need to make assumptions.  Clearly if you disagree with these then you may make a different case.  But there’s a fundamentals that need to be written.

A modern democratic State, of which the UK is one, and each of the 27 Members of the European Union (EU) are one too, comprises of constantly changing ambitions and attitudes that may or may not accurately reflect those of its people.  Some democratic systems are better at making that connection than others.

I assume that States are dispassionate and are driven by their own interests above other considerations[2].  That said, they can recognise common interests when they choose to do so.  Major topics, like Climate Change need an agreed common approach.

Adding to all that the famous words of Scottish poet and cleric, John Donne; “No Man is an Island”[3].  In other words, everything we do is seem by others, has the capacity to influence others and vice versa.  We are all involved in mankind.   So, that’s my basic assumptions in a few lines.

Today, the UK Government’s approach to Brexit negotiations is to play chicken.  That’s to engage in a test of nerve in which, they expect the EU to blink at the last moment.  The UK Government has made demands which are aimed at applying pressure to the EU to blink.  If either party does not swerve before the end of October deadline then both parties lose in walking away with a No Deal outcome.

This is idiotic.   Driving at high speed towards a brick wall is always stupid regardless of how good a car’s brakes might be, unless the intention is to hit the wall.

This is idiotic.  Hoping to secure a deal while talking up failure, and an attempt to blame others for that failure eats away at trust.  Deals are only done if trust is upheld.

This is idiotic.  The world is watching.  A dispassionate observer might say; if they do this to their next door friends of 40 years what on Earth might they do to us?  Reputational damage is normally best avoided.  Ego, bluster and bullish puffing up of the chest cannot cover up weak excusses.  It takes a long-time to recover damaged reputations.

This is idiotic.  There are 195 countries in the world. The combinations and permutations of different relationship is large.  If we take trade, it’s true those relationships vary greatly in terms of alignment and level of business.  However, the common interest of States is to see the rule of law upheld.

This is idiotic.  The combined GDP of the EU 27 Members States is 6-times bigger than that of the UK.  If the EU blinks at the last moment in Brexit negotiations other large parties, it has trade relations with like the US or China may look to apply the same strategy.  Clearly, it’s not in the EU’s interest to take that risk and therefore it will not do so.  Better to lose at a smaller game than lose at a bigger one.

This is nice but the argument above doesn’t come with a special British get out of jail free card.  The “play chicken” approach is not in the interests of most States.  And when it’s mostly obviously done to satisfy a domestic UK political audience it’s doubly bankrupt.

The UK Government’s approach to Brexit is idiotic.  Let’ hope we can still change it.

[1] https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/clever-people-understanding-idiotic

[2] De Gaulle (in English): “France has no friends, only interests.” (De Gaulle did not speak specifically of France, but of all nation-states, including Britain.

[3] https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/no-man-is-an-island/

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