As in many other technical subjects, the Brexit debate uses common words but with specialist meanings and this can be confusing for non-specialists; there are three parts plus a summary.
This is the first edition of The Brexicon, published in July 2018 and lightly edited here. (See the Summary and Brexicon Parts 2 & 3, linked below)
As in many other technical subjects, the Brexit debate uses common words but with specialist meanings and this can be confusing for non-specialists. For example, most people think ‘gutter’ has to do with drainage but a printer thinks of it as the extra margin space that will stop the binding from obscuring the text. In this post we hope to clarify what Brexit protagonists really mean when they use this hidden jargon.
Expert – a person who knows a great deal about very little.
During the Referendum campaign Michael Gove remarked “We’ve had enough of experts.” He was pilloried by Remainers who suggested he was advocating that Britain blunders blindly into a bad Brexit. He was right to dismiss people loaded with facts and little judgement about broad issues; he was also proven right, in retrospect, that the experts who forecast only doom could not see the brighter aspects, and their forecasts turned out to be mostly incorrect. The experts’ defence is that they will be proved right in the longer term, which is cheating. We now have experts like Ollie Robbins clearly deciding government policy on the basis of trying to avoid awkward problems rather than seeking new opportunities.
Business – a CEO, senior manager or spokesperson of a large corporation or lobby who knows better than the rest of us what is good for big business.
Boris Johnson was reported to have said recently, “F*** business” in a frustrated response to interventions from BMW and Airbus. Some refer to Boris as a fool, which may be true in the Shakespearean sense but is an arrogant dismissal by those who disagree with his views (usually argued more carefully than on this occasion). It’s absurd to suggest that Boris doesn’t care about jobs or trade, he just thinks lobbying by those already in the best seats is given too much credibility by the media. We even get left-wingers sneering at Boris, saying that business knows best when it suits their purpose (of displacing the ‘Tories’) yet convinced that they know far better than business at all other times.
Negotiation – a longer form of the everyday word ‘negation’ where one side (UK) makes a proposal and the other (EU) says “No” (or probably “Non!)”.
To be fair, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier has said , “We don’t want to negotiate” so he won’t, which shows he’s not a hypocrite. On second thoughts, he is not shy of employing hypocrisy when he wants to employ an even longer variant of ‘No’; for example when he said , ”There is no place [for financial services]. There is not a single trade agreement that is open to financial services. It doesn’t exist”.
In 2014 for a different trade negotiation under the heading, “Why we need to include financial service regulation in TTIP” he wrote: “Joined-up markets need joined-up regulation and supervision. The EU and the US agree on the overall objectives of sound and resilient banks and financial markets. But we have and will keep different regulatory procedures and frameworks.” … “We need to do more to make these regulatory systems work together. Identify differences and eliminate them where possible, or at least mitigate any detrimental consequences they may have. It would be nothing short of a disaster if our agreements on broad principles are undermined by the detailed rules and their implementation being just too different. This is why we want to include regulatory cooperation on financial services in the TTIP.” He concluded: “Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve. We will of course never agree on everything and neither jurisdiction should be able to force the other to follow its rules. But we can try harder and we could do better.”
Forcing the other (UK) to follow its (EU) rules is of course precisely what he intends.
Unity – when everyone agrees with what Germany says.
Before presenting her Brexit fudge to her Cabinet at Chequers on 6 June 2018 the Prime Minister first flew to Berlin to reveal it to the German Chancellor. She clearly hoped that if she could tell her colleagues that Germany agreed then the EU would follow and the Cabinet should also unite behind the compromise. It is outrageous that this should happen when Parliament’s sovereignty is a key issue – the Cabinet is answerable to the UK Parliament but the German Chancellor is not.
Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) was agreed by the Treaty of Maastricht but there are still some areas where national vetoes can be used, as the Italians recently threatened at the last summit meeting over migration. Yet most effective vetoes appear to be Germany’s. Despite being the largest budget contributors and seemingly in charge of the ECB we don’t fully understand why the Germans are quite so overwhelmingly powerful. However, their hegemony is being challenged increasingly, by Austria, Italy and the Visegrad countries especially.
Populist – a person or political party that opposes EU supra-nationalism and is therefore xenophobic and probably also racist or fascist.
The EU establishment labels as populist any person or group that rejects its supra-nationalist agenda rather than as those seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people. Of course some are unsavoury but does that apply to Italy’s Five Star or Britain’s relatively innocuous UKIP? The following definition is from Wikipedia:
“Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite. Critics of populism have described it as a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by solidifying and mobilizing the animosity of the ‘commoner’ or ‘the people’ against ‘privileged elites’ and the ‘establishment’. Populists can fall anywhere on the traditional left–right political spectrum of politics.
Political parties and politicians often use the terms ‘populist’ and ‘populism’ as pejoratives against their opponents. Such a view sees populism as demagogy, merely appearing to empathize with the public through rhetoric or unrealistic proposals in order to increase appeal across the political spectrum.”
Freedom – the mandatory acceptance of migration of people, capital, goods and services between nations.
In his State of the Union speech in 1941 Franklin Roosevelt proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy. They were: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. We might add the freedom to choose and dismiss our leaders in case they try to take these fundamental freedoms from us. Some citizens worry that the EU’s Four Freedoms may conflict with Roosevelt’s if they undermine their wages, conditions, employment or the provision of state services. Also the EU’s Four Freedoms  do not extend to people “everywhere in the world” and are therefore sometimes more helpful to big business than to consumers.
 The Famous Four
The Brexit Lexicon (Summary)
The Brexit Lexicon (Part 2)
The Brexit Lexicon (Part 3)