By Peter Isackson
Worse or worser: Britain has to choose how it’s going to choose again. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary explains.
There were some solid arguments in favor of British voters choosing to leave the European Union in 2016, but future economic prosperity apparently wasn’t one of them.
The Guardian sums up the sad news: “The UK would be significantly worse off under all possible Brexit scenarios in 15 years’ time, according to a benchmark economic analysis produced by a range of government departments including the Treasury.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The opposite of better off, which is what people increasingly think the UK would have been if it hadn’t first voted Leave and then insisted for two and a half years on continuing to plan its departure without calling the initial referendum into question
Prime Minister Theresa May finds herself pitching, not for the kind of deal that will produce the best result, but for the one that will be the most likely to limit the pain felt by UK citizens, whoever they may be, whether they voted for Leave or Remain or didn’t bother to vote on that fateful day. Chancellor Philip Hammond stated the case clearly: “The economy will be slightly smaller in the prime minister’s preferred version.” In other words, Parliament now has to decide whether it prefers a slightly or vastly smaller economy. Sales of E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 book, Small is Beautiful, are forecast to be booming in the United Kingdom in the coming months.
In a situation similar to that of US President Donald Trump, who, confronted with forecasts concerning the cost of climate change, countered “I don’t believe it,” David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who has backed Leave since the beginning, pointed out that, “Treasury forecasts in the past have almost never been right and have more often been dramatically wrong.” Any statistician could inform him that according to the margin of error, the result may indeed be better, but it may also be worse.
Prime Minister May herself was embarrassed and instead of saying people would be less worse off with her Brexit deal, she used a simple comparison with all the other worse solutions, allowing her to claim the country would be “better off with this deal” and insisting that it’s either her deal or no deal. To which Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, with impeccable logic worthy of Lewis Carroll, replied, “It’s not hard to be the best deal if it’s the only deal. By definition, it’s also the worst deal.”
Future history books will point to three significant years in the first quarter of the 21st century, all presenting some form of cataclysm: 2001, 2008 and 2016. In 2001, we saw 9/11 and the launch of the never-ending war on terror. In 2008, a financial earthquake took place to rival 1929. And 2016 saw the reign of confusion in Europe with Brexit and in the US with the unexpected triumph of Donald Trump.
Could 2019 be the fourth significant year, in which we see the explosive and unforeseen outcome of both of the 2016 events: President Trump crippled by Democrats and the blowback on his various follies and Brexit turning into something no one wanted or predicted, including a second referendum?
We know something significant is happening when The Independent can report, “To his credit, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, was reasonably honest with people in a series of interviews this morning.” Honesty has not been a hallmark of the Brexit debate over the past three years. Now that a stalemate seems the only logical outcome in Parliament and the only other alternative would be a snap election, the idea of a second referendum is gaining traction.
In recent weeks, most commentators had assumed that the debate would focus on the choice between May’s soft Brexit and hard Brexit. Thanks to the depressing news about all the outcomes and the knowledge of the psychodrama that surrounded the last referendum, it appears more likely that the choice this time will be between May’s negotiated Brexit and canceling all the festivities and fireworks planned around the anticipated divorce by renewing the UK’s marriage vows with Europe. Which leaves everyone on the continent (and in Ireland) wondering what the re-wedding holds in store for a newly unified Europe.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
This article has been written by Peter Isackson, chief visionary officer of Fair Observer Training Academy.
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