A Christmas Cavil

To cavil is to argue or protest about unimportant details. It’s too late for that, what matters now is for Britain to find the best possible future after leaving the European Union.

Since the start of the covid pandemic Boris Johnson has tried to resist limits to people’s freedom but at the last moment has yielded to pressure from ‘experts’, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, a grudging media and others. Now he has cancelled Christmas altogether for millions of citizens with only days to go. The pressure to agree a deal with the EU just before midnight on New Year’s eve is equally intense. Will he succumb again?

1. Is a fat-reduced deal worth the trouble?

If a negotiated deal is as skinny as seems likely it is scarcely worth doing. Average tariffs on goods are pretty small but with some rather extreme exceptions on certain foods and on cars in particular. Without an agreement support for the industries worst affected would be needed. Tariffs, delays at ports and scarcities may increase consumer prices initially until new, cheaper sources from the rest of the world and new export markets are found. The EU will never regain its stronghold and massive trade imbalance with the UK.

Change frightens many but the pandemic has proven how quickly people and organisations can adapt when necessary, if permitted. Companies adapted to home working where possible, pubs installed screens and table service in no time at all, laboratories reduced vaccine research timescales by an order of magnitude and people met virtually by video call.

It is vital that the Government becomes an efficient enabler. Of course we have worries about that as well as the resistance of those determined to limit or prevent change. Leaving the EU must now become a positive endeavour, whatever regrets many clearly feel.

2. The Theory of Everything

Those who forecast doom generally fail to set their prediction against what might realistically happen had the UK remained in the Single Market and Customs Union, they assume a Big Bang for the UK and a Steady State for the EU. It’s a theory where everything that can go wrong for the UK will go wrong, whereas the EU can’t go wrong, they say.

3. I Think, therefore I am … a Europhile

Our subtitle begins with a statement by French philosopher René Descartes, probably the most famous quote in western philosophy. It used to encapsulate a crucial difference between Continental and British thought.

With the Enlightenment two camps emerged within Western philosophy, rationalism and empiricism. Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza believed that truths could be discovered just by thinking – they, the rationalists, represented Continental Europe. Meanwhile Locke, Berkeley and Hume, representing Britain, believed that truth could only be discovered through our senses, they were the empiricists. Remainers believe they are more educated than Leavers and demographic surveys suggest this is true, on average. Most academics, for example, seem to want to stay in the Union but perhaps they are simply ‘rationalists’ – have Continental attitudes permeated their minds?

We need ideas to formulate theories and make plans but we also need to check against experience and to modify our ideas, theories and plans to attain the outcomes we desire. Maybe the more educated (not necessarily more wise) are over fond of reason and neglectful of experience, why else would they overlook the bullying, sclerotic, under-achieving aspects of the EU and focus on its ideals? And, perhaps even more important, why would they refuse to contemplate the costs to the UK if the EU were to collapse with us in it.

“Nothing’s perfect” is the typical response of the educated Remainer but they think the EU will improve; the objectives look good and the plan (Ever Closer Union) seems correct to them so the outcome must follow in time. This is an outdated way of thinking, more than three centuries out of date. The EU’s failures aren’t mere blips.

Is the EU’s prospectus a fair account of what it does and are its prospects set fair to benefit its nations and citizens? We cannot trust it to do anything other than act in its own interest, that is, in the interests of those running things and not the citizens who ought to benefit.

4. Happy Christmas

Britain’s ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ is a mutant strain of the covid virus, let’s hope we can avoid a nightmare after New Year. Meanwhile:

  • We wish you a merry Brexit,
  • We wish you a merry Brexit,
  • We wish you a merry Brexit and a happy New Year.
  • Good tidings we bring,
  • To you and your kin,
  • Good tidings for Brexit and a happy New Year.
  • Oh bring us some voter power,
  • Oh bring back our legal system,
  • Oh bring us consumer freedom and a cup of good cheer.
  • We won’t stay ‘cos we don’t get them,
  • We won’t stay ‘cos we don’t get them,
  • We won’t stay ‘cos we don’t get them, so bring them back here.
  • We wish you a merry Brexit,
  • We wish you a merry Brexit,
  • We wish you a merry Brexit and freedom next year.


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