4. The World of Posturing

9 10 2016

Brexit Blog 4:  The World of Posturing

Posturing: Dictionary Defn: Bravado, Bluster, Pretension, adopting a bold posture or stand

One of the difficulties, it seems to me, is the stance that the many groups with vested interests in Brexit take, or to be more precise, the motives or reasons they have for taking those stances. When listening to, and then responding to, the various outpourings from these groups I would suggest that we need to bear in mind their motivations before getting all hot under the collar about what they are saying. There are five particular groups that come to my attention in this respect:

  1. The EU – preliminary to negotiating

From all of the reporting that has gone on at least for the last year, I would suggest that a number of parties on the continent are as much in a place of fear and trembling that I have previously suggested some of our Remain people are in. At least two of the leading countries of the EU have serious financial problems and in the run up to the referendum I watched a number of experts (unfortunately before I was recording such comments, so you’ll have to take my word for it) using such words as ‘potential bankruptcy on the horizon. There may be more than those two. There are at least two leading EU nations who are facing a major crisis with an aging population with inadequate future pension funding. There may be more than two. The EU has problems of its own and time may reveal those problems are terminal. Wait and see.

But the next biggest problem the EU has, and it’s equally big as our own, is how to go about and negotiate our departure. Views on how to go about this for the benefit of both sides (anything less will produce stalemate) are many and varied.

Mathias Döpfner, German chief executive of Axel Springer, the publishing house, recently said “I very simply think that in the long run continental Europe may suffer more from Brexit than England itself,” he said. “We should not take this whole Brexit decision as a way to blame the Brits. We should take it like a wake-up call for Europe to refresh its political approach. I count on the pragmatism and the free-market orientation of the British people and they will find ways to attract foreign investment and be an important business hub.” (The Times 27th Sept 2016)

Every time Angela Merkel or some other EU leader launches off about Brexit negatively, remember they are setting out the table for negotiations, and you always start from the hard or high end of bargaining. If you read the report that said, “Angela Merkel won thunderous applause from hundreds of German business leaders yesterday as she warned that Britain could not retain full access to the EU’s single market unless it allowed free movement of people,” (The Times 7th Oct 2016) remember she is setting the table for negotiations and that one aspect may not run with everyone. The truth may well be that actually German car makers want to be more open to us and us to them, than their present chancellor ‘appears’. Again, watch this space.

  1. Labour (including labour-sympathizing newspapers)

Recent rumour has it that Tony Blair is talking about coming back into the fold to make a bid for the Labour leadership. I suspect there would be many who would forgive him Iraq if there was a saviour on the horizon who might have a chance of pulling Labour back from its apparently extreme left wing tendencies at the present time. Is David Milliband too entrenched in the USA to ever think of coming back?

Whatever the realities of the Labour party’s anguishes, one thing is sure: it makes life easier for the Government to just get on with the business of working out Brexit without too many distractions from the Opposition. But remember whenever you hear rumblings about Brexit from the Labour fold, bear in mind they are the Opposition (just) and Brexit is always a good target to throw things at – but that’s what Oppositions do, don’t forget.

But my heading also includes labour-sympathizing newspapers. Let’s steer away from potential law suits and simply say, you know who we mean. If you are looking for unbiased, objective reporting and comments, this is not where you should be looking and if you do read them, remember their bias.

  1. The General Media

In some parts of the media there is this thing which is supposed to be healthy but on one side can appear boring and on the other, if you only spot one side, very biased. It is called balance. Watch the BBC interviewing people in the street over any particular ‘hot’ issue, and you will probably find equal numbers on both sides being picked up by the reporter.

The Times also appears particularly good at this. On one day a ‘comment’ article appears slating the PM’s approach and then the next day there is another writer saying how well she is doing. It can be a confusing world and it can be negative if you miss the ‘positive day’. Be careful.

But all newspapers live by creating interest and sometimes replace ‘interest’ with ‘controversy’. Watch for apparently terrible headlines and then think about the reality of what they are saying. Consider for example the headline from various papers: “Brexit negotiations may cost £65m.” The implication is how terrible this is. It is in fact quoting a Report called ‘Planning for Brexit: Silence Is Not A Strategy’ from the ‘respected’ Institute for Government and one paper includes the line, “The new Prime Minister is also criticised for her “silence” on her position and for not beginning exit negotiations.”  Perhaps someone in that think-tank needs to think a bit more about what happens when you line up for important negotiations;  you don’t rush, you take your time and don’t let foolhardy or less experienced negotiators influence you. This is a new day and none of us – on both sides of the English Channel – have trod this ground before. Yes, it will take a time to settle and that includes within the workings of the Government and the Civil Service. Give them a chance!

  1. Remain Enthusiasts

I have already touched on the ‘sour grapes’ mentality but it is there without a doubt, those who say, “I told you so,” the moment the pound goes the wrong way, as well as those who take any opportunity to remind us that they said it was a bad thing to leave. These doom-sayers are still around and they will no doubt pop up regularly on the roller-coaster it is suggested we are on. I think in the last war they were called fifth columnists

  1. ‘Experts’ who spoke contrary to Leave

Allied to the Remain Enthusiasts are the ‘experts’ who said, “It is wrong” and who are now nursing their wounds because we the great ignorant British people ignored their counsel.  In the light of what I have reported under heading 3 above, you do sometimes wonder if people simply say or write things because they have a job reputation to build, an ego to appease, or simply be seen to be doing ‘something’.

We live in a world where image and ego often rule and, yes, it may be right, what that report quoted above said. Perhaps there have been ‘turf wars’ over who does what, as they struggle to find out what they are supposed to be doing.  Perhaps individual ministers do yet need to learn to say nothing until they’ve all agreed it, but as I’ve said, it is early days and a number of these people have never trod this ground before. Let’s have some grace to give them space to learn the ropes, because the odds are that neither you nor me would want their jobs with the hours they put in and the pressure they are under to perform.