Freesteel Blog » A letter to a Brexiteer who normally seems smarter and more knowledgeable than this

A letter to a Brexiteer who normally seems smarter and more knowledgeable than this

Friday, July 20th, 2018 at 10:54 am Written by:

To me, your justification for Brexit seems incoherent and illogical.

Your basic premise — in common with a lot of superficially thoughtful criticism — was that the EEC began as a treaty to regulate trade and harmonize regulations, and has then metamorphised into a superstate taking on powers and imposing new laws far beyond this remit. The people are not ready for this.

You gave as an example of super-state over-reaching powers, something from Intellectual Property law — your area of interest. The example was Copyright Extension, which you claimed — correctly — was not about harmonizing some regulation across Europe, but of extending it far beyond what anyone had before.

Really? This is your example?

But we’ll go with it.

Regulations have to change and move forwards with the times, and the point of European system is to make these changes in harmony across the whole of Europe at the same time.

Otherwise, your definition of “Regulatory Harmonization” implies that EU can only impose regulations onto the UK that had existed elsewhere in the EU prior to 1973.

Put into that context, it’s easy to see why the early years of the EEC would be mostly about harmonization of regulations, while the later years became more about drafting new regulations when those pre-1973 regulations grew out of date through processes we can call time passing. To expect otherwise is illogical, Captain.

But, on the subject of Intellectual Property, let’s look at the pragmatic situation. We all know where the policies of successive UK Governments on this issue lie. For sure, if we had not been part of the EU we would have experienced Copyright Extension and Software Patents good and hard since 1998, via a trade treaty with the US.

And good luck with lobbying our supposedly more democratic UK MPs to vote against Software Patents, as we did with European MEPs. They will either not understand it, or agree that it’s harmful but consider it something well worth selling out in order to get a better trade deal with the US. It’s give and take in the negotiations, you see, and we are a small country who don’t get to impose our will on an international super-power. Anyway, Software Developers already do well enough to make a living on the job market; we can trade them to protect our sheep farmers.

Ah, but there’s Taking Back Control.

My turn for an example.

After Brexit, the French police can Take Back Control over who is allowed to drive on the French highways. So if I cross the Channel by car, the French police can arrest me for not having a valid MoT on my car, the lack of which means it’s officially unsafe to drive and could kill someone. Bad idea.

Fortunately, there’s an international court called the ECJ to enforce the treaty/contract between the French and UK Governments that says my MoT certificate for my car issued by the UK Government is as good as the French paperwork.

Now, the French Government can only sign such an agreement to respect our MoT certificates if they have the assurance that our safety and inspection standards are up to scratch — both in terms of the quality of the regulations and in their enforcement.

We have to allow the French Government to potentially take the UK Government to court if they think the UK Government is not doing a good enough job of prosecuting cowboy garage operators who are issuing MoTs to unsafe cars that could then kill people on French motorways.

Otherwise, without the ability to seek redress in court, the French would just have to ban all cars with UK MoTs until the UK cleaned up its act.

However, in such a dispute, it is possible that the French are simply wrong and are being too picky about their standards, and are deliberately making safety requirements that just so happen disadvantage UK cars. So we’d like this matter to be considered in a Competent Court that values its reputation for impartiality — not just some ad-hoc tribunal made up of three dudes deep into conflicts of interest appointed by both sides that has to come up with an answer in 30 days or else.

And we’d like the decision to be worked out and enforced justly, without threats, organized disinformation in the Press, counter-measures and political grand-standing hanging over it — which is what happens when you don’t have a framework of functioning law that punishes such disruptive activities.

This story about the MoTs and car safety across borders generalizes to every other field of regulatory cooperation. Basically, if you plumb your toilet into the main sewerage system instead of to a hole in your back garden, you give up control over how many tampons you can flush down it. What was so important about having Control again?

And finally, you suggested a time-frame of five years. It could be bad and painful during the transition period, but we need to hold our nerves while we take back control, until it all works out.

This time-frame, quite frankly, is pulled out of someone’s arse. No basis on anything. Here’s one way to make a number. Trade treaties take about ten years to negotiate, so why not say ten years, plus another five to account for the fact that no one in the UK Government has negotiated one in 45 years. Does 15 years of chaos and closed borders feel worth it?

I mean, I’ve got an estimate for the time horizon for how long this takes to work out. But it’s not expressed in years; it’s the length of time it takes for enough of the Brexiteers to come to terms with the fact that their slogans of Sovereignty, Control and so-called Democracy (with an electoral system that does worse than if you picked 650 citizens for Parliament completely at random) are totally vacuous.

Maybe it takes one month. Maybe it’s fifty years. Nobody knows yet. How long can this society carry on with an unbroken layer of denial and mendacity at the top when the shit gets real?

I’ll check back with you in about year after it hits the fan. The gradient of the learning curve will suggest a more numerical estimate. By then there will be four-and-a-half out of the quoted five years remaining for things to get sane. My theory is that because it’ll actually be happening to us, and isn’t some foreign game like a war, the Friedman Unit trick of always quoting five years in the future from now won’t work.

The main consequence of taking Control is that we must take the Blame.

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