Five days on….a growing mess

It is hard to know where to start. So much has been said and written after the #Brexit vote on Thursday.

Britain is floundering. There is no leadership. The Conservative Party is in stasis waiting for a new leader and PM. The Labour party is imploding; as it should after a non-existant effort to support the party position on remaining in the EU.

The referendum has brought out the worst in racist/offensive abuse in much of the country – it was always there – but somehow people feel empowered by the vote.

Typical observations are these: “We’re a dustbin – a dustbin for foreign people” or “the english people in this country are suffering because of the open-door policy.”

Random acts of abuse are being reported regularly; this is not how Britain is supposed to be.

There is no Leaderhip. Cameron has announced his resignation. Yet he plans to stay on as PM until October. He is a lame duck.

But who can replace him. Logically the governing party needs to be led by someone from the leave the EU camp.

But Leave has gone missing. Johnson went to play cricket at the weekend. No one listens to Gove; though his wife wonderfully suggested that the Leave group would use lots of experts – the very people that Gove said we neither needed or should pay attention to!

But the majority of the Tory party did not want Brexit. And the majority are unlikely to support Boris Johnson as party leader and Prime Minister.

This leaves the very real possibility of a Tory PM that does not support Brexit.

The Sunday Times said the home secretary Theresa May was expected to enter the leadership contest in the coming days – as the anyone but Boris candidate.

May supported the “Remain” campaign but took a much, much lower profile than Cameron and Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne.

The Labour party is imploding – but at least my old school chum, Barry Gardiner, has at long last got a shadow cabinet seat!


The Leave campaign promises are already being reneged upon.

We are not going to see a fall in immigration levels – Conservative MEP Dan Hannan has already said that people expecting immigration to come down will be “disappointed”.

We are not going to have an extra £100 million a week for the NHS – Nigel Farage has already told reporters that the Leave campaign should not have claimed that.

We are not going to be able to stay in the single market – unless we allow free movement of Labour. And we are not going to be able to take advantage of the free-trade zone without contributing a single penny to it. Sort of obvious!


We are not going to save £350m a week. The Leave claim that the UK gives £350m a week to the EU has been thoroughly debunked. But it was still emblazoned on their battle bus right up until the end. We might cancel the salaries of the English football team and re-use those in some beneficial way!

We are unlikely to remain a world leader in research and development

UK investment in science and universities has dried up since the recession, whereas the EU gave us £7bn in science funding alone between 2007 – 2013.

We’re also going to face new barriers to collaboration with European universities and research centres.

7. We aren’t going to save £2bn on energy bills. We import much of our energy needs. Because the pound has fallen, inflation will go up, which means imports and thus our domestic energy bills will cost more.

And that is just the beginning. What was supposed to be a constructive national conversation about our membership of a free-trade area morphed into a bitter national feud about immigration, its benefits and costs.

Three million EU citizens who have made their homes here have, overnight, had their futures thrown into doubt.

It is not much of a reassurance to be told that nothing changes for now. Once Article 50 is invoked their futures/their families become part of a bartering process that they have no control over.

Meanwhile the 1.3 million Britons who live in the EU face similarly uncertain times. Ethnic tensions, new and old, appear to be increasing. The rise of Nationalism; the inexorable return of the right. In fairness it is not just a British issue.

Now, in fairness, it is not all doom and gloom. The country will go on; it will still trade. But anyone who thought that the country could prosper after Leave has not factored in the next two years of uncertainty and the lack of political talent that can create a framework for success. The markets, together with foreign investors, hate uncertainty.


Cameron’s final hurrah – a theory

Here is a nice sheep to calm everyone down!

From the Guardian’s comments section: how Cameron gave Boris Johnson a poisoned chalice.

Just a theory but the commment went viral on social media over the weekend.

“If Boris Johnson looked downbeat yesterday, that is because he realises that he has lost.

Perhaps many Brexiters do not realise it yet, but they have actually lost, and it is all down to one man: David Cameron.

With one fell swoop yesterday at 9:15 am, Cameron effectively annulled the referendum result, and simultaneously destroyed the political careers of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and leading Brexiters who cost him so much anguish, not to mention his premiership.


Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.

And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten … the list grew and grew.

The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.

The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?

Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?

Boris Johnson knew this yesterday, when he emerged subdued from his home and was even more subdued at the press conference. He has been out-maneouvered and check-mated.

If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over – Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession … broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished. Boris Johnson knows all of this. When he acts like the dumb blond it is just that: an act.

The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice.

When Boris Johnson said there was no need to trigger Article 50 straight away, what he really meant to say was “never”. When Michael Gove went on and on about “informal negotiations” … why? why not the formal ones straight away? … he also meant not triggering the formal departure. They both know what a formal demarche would mean: an irreversible step that neither of them is prepared to take.

All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.”

A British Tragedy?

There is a risk of regarding this as yet another fear story from another entitled member of the Tory establishment.

But I remain a Patten admirer. One of the more thoughtful, fair-minded and populist conservatives – so his thoughts on Brexit are worth a read.

Chris Patten for Project Syndicate

“Thursday night is said to have been momentous for those who campaigned to leave the European Union and turn Britain’s back on the twenty-first century. On that, at least, I can agree. As Cicero wrote: “O wretched and unhappy was that day.”

The decision to leave the EU will dominate British national life for the next decade, if not longer. One can argue about the precise scale of the economic shock – short- and long-term – but it is difficult to imagine any circumstances in which the United Kingdom does not become poorer and less significant in the world. Many of those who were encouraged to vote allegedly for their “independence” will find that, far from gaining freedom, they have lost their job.

So, why did it happen?

First, a referendum reduces complexity to absurd simplicity. The tangle of international cooperation and shared sovereignty represented by Britain’s membership of the EU was traduced into a series of mendacious claims and promises. The British people were told there would be no economic price to pay for leaving, and no losses for all those sectors of its society that have benefited from Europe. Voters were promised an advantageous trade deal with Europe (Britain’s biggest market), lower immigration, and more money for the National Health Service and other cherished public goods and services. Above all, Britain, it was said, would regain its “mojo,” the creative vitality needed to take the world by storm.

One of the horrors that lie ahead will be the growing disappointment of “Leave” supporters as all of these lies are exposed. The voters were told that they would “get their country back.” I do not believe they will like what it turns out to be.

A second reason for the disaster is the fragmentation of Britain’s two main political parties. For years, anti-European sentiment has corroded the authority of Conservative leaders. Moreover, any notion of party discipline and loyalty collapsed years ago, as the number of committed Conservative supporters dwindled. Worse is what has happened in the Labour Party, whose traditional supporters provided the impetus behind the big “Leave” votes in many working-class areas.

With Brexit, we have now seen Donald Trump-style populism come to Britain. Obviously, there is widespread hostility, submerged in a tsunami of populist bile, to anyone deemed a member of the “establishment.” Brexit campaigners like Justice Secretary Michael Gove rejected every expert as part of a self-serving conspiracy of the haves against the have-nots. So, whether it was the governor of the Bank of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the President of the United States, their advice counted for nothing. All were portrayed as representatives of another world, with no relationship to the lives of ordinary British people.

That points to a third reason for the pro-Brexit vote: growing social inequity has contributed to a revolt against a perceived metropolitan elite. Old industrial England, in cities like Sunderland and Manchester, voted against better-off London. Globalization, these voters were told, benefits only those at the top – comfortable working with the rest of the world – at the expense of everyone else.

Beyond these reasons, it doesn’t help that for years hardly anyone has vigorously defended British membership in the EU. This created a vacuum, allowing delusion and deception to blot out the benefits of European cooperation, and encouraging the view that the British had become the slaves of Brussels. Pro-Brexit voters were fed a ludicrous conception of sovereignty, leading them to choose pantomime independence over the national interest.
But moaning and rending one’s garments won’t do any good now. In grim circumstances, concerned parties must honorably try to secure what is best for the UK. One hopes the Brexiteers were at least half right, as difficult as that is to imagine. At any rate, one must make the best of the hand that has been dealt.

Still, three immediate challenges come to mind.

First, now that David Cameron has made clear that he will resign, the Conservative Party’s right wing and some of its sourer members will dominate the new government. Cameron had no choice. He could not possibly have gone to Brussels on behalf of his backstabbing colleagues to negotiate something he didn’t support. If his successor is a Brexit leader, Britain can look forward to being led by someone who has spent the last ten weeks spreading lies.

Second, the bonds that hold the UK together – particularly Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both voted to stay in Europe – will come under great strain. I hope the Brexit revolt will not lead inevitably to a vote for the breakup of the UK, but that outcome is certainly a possibility.

Third, Britain will need to begin negotiating its exit very soon. It is difficult to see how it can possibly end up with a better relationship with the EU than it has now. All Britons will have their work cut out for them to convince their friends around the world that they have not taken leave of their moderate senses.
The referendum campaign revived nationalist politics, which in the end is always about race, immigration, and conspiracies. A task we all have in the pro-Europe camp is to try to contain the forces that Brexit has unleashed, and to assert the sort of values that have in the past earned us so many friends and admirers around the world.

All of this began in the 1940s, with Winston Churchill and his vision of Europe. The way it will end can be described by one of Churchill’s more famous aphorisms: “The trouble with committing political suicide is that you live to regret it.”

In fact, many “Leave” voters may not live to regret it. But the young Britons who voted overwhelmingly to remain a part of Europe almost certainly will.”

The Guardian view on the EU referendum

The morning after the night before: this was the 24 June Guardian editorial on the EU referendum:

“The vote is in, now we must face the consequences

A prime minister is gone, but that is of nothing compared to the fallout for the economy, our union and Europe. It will all have to be grappled with, and so too will the economic neglect and the social alienation which have driven Britain to the exit door.

The British people have spoken and it is no use dismissing what they have said. But there is no use, either, in wishing away the many, profound and – in some cases – dangerous consequences of the vote to leave the European Union.

Britain’s place in the world will now have to be rethought, necessitating the most profound debate about our alliances since the Suez debacle at least. The country’s very idea of itself will have to be reimagined and deep strains on the state’s fabric – between a pro-European Scotland and Northern Ireland, and an anti-European England and Wales – will have to be addressed. If there were any doubt at that, Nicola Sturgeon’s immediate signal that she would begin preparations for a second independence referendum will have dashed them.

There will need to be negotiations with Europe, of course, in which the UK could come in for the diplomatic equivalent of a punishment beating; and yet, at the same time, there is also potential for geopolitical instability well beyond these shores as well, as a gleeful Nigel Farage lost no time in highlighting at a dawn press conference, in which he excitedly talked about the prospect of inspiring Denmark, Netherlands and other EU member states to beat an exit. It is not only separatism, but also far-right populism that could be given a fillip. Then, the most immediate problem as the sun rose over an island newly apart was a historic run on stocks and the pound. These things could – unless managed wisely – so easily translate into a new crunch on the banks, a recession or even a sudden inability to finance the nation’s current account.

With so much that is so momentous in flux, the immediate preoccupation with personnel at Westminster – who’s up, and who’s down – seems scarcely relevant, even on a day when the head of Her Majesty’s government fell on his sword. But in charting a course through the choppy waters that the country now finds itself in, leadership will be important. David Cameron – instantly, utterly and forever broken by his defeat overnight – grasped that this was no longer something that he could provide, and announced that he would be gone within a few months. He made a graceful little speech in Downing Street, which will likely enhance the instant verdict on him with the press and the public today.

No speech, however, is now going to salvage his standing in the history books, which will now surely damn him as a man who – gratuitously and recklessly – gambled everything on his referendum and lost. His original folly was compounded by his refusal to stand firm against his internal enemies on the detailed plans for the plebiscite. He was brow-beaten into giving ground on the date, notice period and purdah arrangements last year, at what should have been a moment of great strength – the immediate afterglow of an unexpected general election win. If he had held his own then, that could have made a difference in what proved to be a close race. But right from the beginning as party leader, Mr Cameron followed rather than led on Europe, until it was far too late. Now the vote is in, the overriding sense is that no one is quite in charge. Witness how Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the two generals of the leave campaign, talked this morning of “no haste” to start exit negotiations – only to be followed by Ms Sturgeon pushing for a second independence referendum. As campaigners, the leave politicians were sometimes shambolic and often contradictory; now they have been handed victory, they have unleashed forces well beyond their control.

The immediate outlook for progressive and even humanitarian values in the UK is not, on the face of it, encouraging. There is no denying that, even if only on the Faragiste fringes, xenophobia had its part to play in the leave campaign. The voices that thronged on the airwaves in triumph on the first dawn of the post-Brexit future were those of the Thatcherite past: Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith and Norman Tebbit. Such figures who feel, and not without reason, that “we are the masters now” differ from Mr Cameron not only in their contempt for all endeavours European, but often also in their reactionary stance on social and other affairs. Most, but not all, of the Brexit wing of the Conservative party opposed, for example, gay marriage, the one solid progressive achievement on the home front which the outgoing prime minister could point to, as he acknowledged that his time was up. Underpinning this mostly reactionary pro-Brexit cabal in parliament is a motley crew of border-hopping, non-domiciled tycoons and ruthless press barons, a monied elite which has masked its audacious bid to grab the reins in folksy, homespun slogans.

So far, so depressing, but the liberal left – and the Labour party especially – needs to keep a cool head, pause and, above all, try and understand what the electorate has said. Only 13 months have passed since a general election, in which Ukip’s achievement was capped at 3.9 million votes. By contrast, the vote to leave the EU on Thursday was more than four times than number, at 17.4 million. There is not suddenly four times as much chauvinism as there was in 2015. Many of the people who voted leave are reasonable voters moved by reasonable anxieties – about wages, housing and, yes, the frailty of identity too.

The vehicles of progressive politics now need to pause and reflect on why they have found it so tricky even to understand all of this worry, still less to do anything useful to assuage it. One prompt for soul-searching ought to be their inability to change the tone of the conversation about immigration, which has been going wrong for a decade or more; another is a failure to reckon sufficiently early of left-behind towns and estates with an international economic order which has not treated them well. Doncaster, Wakefield and Hull – to take three northern examples – have been abandoned for decades, by London far more than by Brussels. Given the chance to show their rage at somebody, they have obliged.

Then there are the shortcomings of the European institutions themselves, the overall brand damaged both by the cruelties that the single currency has meted out on the continent’s south, the sloth in decision-making, and the opacity which made the charge of a democratic deficit, and the slogan “vote leave, take back control”, so fatefully effective. There is, then, serious intellectual work to do, as well as the urgent business of community politics. Door-knocking, street-campaigning and – above all – just listening, will be important in mending the broken connection between the electors of Britain, and the mostly pro-European representatives whom they elect. Listening will yield some uncomfortable truths, like the grim reality that the typical worker’s pay packet has not grown a jot since the banks collapsed, truths that need not only to be understood, but answered with a practical plan. It won’t be easy to do.

Painstakingly, and step-by-step, all of it will need to be done. Even before that, however, the victorious Brexiters must now start to do what they’ve managed to avoid doing throughout the campaign, and settle on one particular plan for leaving the European Union. Huge questions are left hanging by the campaign, in which the leavers have disagreed on more than they agree, including whether or not the UK will in future be a member of the single European market. The coming administration cannot duck these weighty questions any longer, and the pro-European majority in parliament is entitled to not only hold the government to account for the answers it gives, but to demand a role in determining the answers too. Even these urgent tasks may have to wait until the looming crises of financial stability and political leadership have been calmed. Britain could not be in more serious times.”

Known unknowns for a disUnited Kingdom

Brexit001 (5)
The Brexit vote raises for more questions than it answers. It also appears that the leave campaign was so sure that it would not win that it had few ideas about what to do if they did win.


Firstly it is the remaining 27 EU leaders who have to agree on Britain’s terms of exit. This is an agreement that can impact almost every aspect of modern British life, from the price of milk to the freedom to work elsewhere in Europe. While leaving the EU is Britain’s choice, the UK cannot dictate the exit terms.

How this complex divorce is negotiated and carried out would have a decisive impact on Britain’s economy and its place in the world for generations.

It could be an orderly transition or a much more unpredictable process; what is clear is that the Europeans want to proceed far more quickly that Britain – which has effectively said that it does not want to do anything until October.

There is no precedent for leaving the EU. The negotiation would not just concern divorce, the technical parting of ways and the settling of old bills. It would also have to re-engineer the world’s biggest single market, setting new terms of access and legislating to “renationalise” volumes of law rooted in the EU.

The winners here will be lawyers, consultants and accountants.

House of Commons research has estimated that EU-related law makes up at least a sixth of the UK statute book. That excludes 12,295 EU regulations with direct effect — hundreds of thousands of pages of law, on everything from bank and consumer rules to food standards, which cease to apply the moment Britain leaves.

Britain would also have to renegotiate or reconfirm a web of EU-negotiated free trade deals with dozens of countries that anchor the UK in world commerce but are not automatically inherited if it leaves.

There are  advantages – Britain can remove or remedy bad laws and can better tailor trade to UK interests. Yet as an administrative venture it is huge.

The backdrop to a British decision to leave the EU could be volatile. David Cameron, the UK prime minister, says he will stay on after a leave vote on June 23, but his senior ministers do not believe him. Drawn out divorce talks could be interrupted by elections, not just in the UK (next spring?) but also in the EU behemoths of Germany and France. Then there is the likelihood of a second independence referendum for Scotland, which may want to remain in the bloc. All the time, the EU would be coping with the biggest political upheaval since its inception.

This could be the potential undoing of 70 years of statesmanship.

To prevent the bloc from unraveling, EU countries may seek to punish Britain, so others dare not follow its exit path. The French are already hinting at this.  Whatever is publicly said the EU leaders may well be hostile. Not unreasonably. Cameron was expected to deliver the stay vote that he promised.

Pro-leave politicians argue that Britain’s rights and obligations would remain the same, as would the rule book for business. Champions of Brexit say all sides — from London to Brussels to Berlin — would have the incentive to agree a smooth transition.

They are probably right. Reality is thatt the EU needs Britain to prosper and Britain needs a prosperous EU on its doorstep.

Lawyers are divided on the ground rules for the divorce. There is a so-called “exit clause” in the EU treaties — Article 50 — but it has gaps and is unclear. Brussels insiders joke it was “designed never to be used”.

Senior EU lawyers say it sets arrangements for withdrawal, rather than a future trade relationship. That is a distinction that could matter a great deal.

Article 50 sets departing countries a two-year deadline to agree terms with a weighted majority of remaining EU states. But a comprehensive EU-UK trade deal would require unanimity and national ratification — giving parliaments a veto all the way down to the assembly for the 76,000 strong German-speaking community of Belgium.

Extending talks beyond two years also requires unanimity.e completed in two years, others are much less sure.


As for trade and customs this has not been thought through. Will we erect customs and border posts on the Irish border? It is a choice with potentially serious implications for Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.

The closer that Britain remains to the EU the more the EU would expect Britain to abide by the four basic principles of the single market: the free flow of people, capital, services and goods. But immigration was probably the biggest issue for most leave voters.

Even after a trade deal, a long transition may follow. Senior EU and British officials expect a divorce could take a decade in total. Few expect the negotiations to be calm, or untroubled.


It is all so much more complicated than putting an “x” on a ballot paper – and I am not sure that those who voted leave are in the mind to be patient.

Referendum night on twitter

From 10pm on the 23rd June until 6.30pm the next morning I was glued to the BBC’s coverage of the EU referendum count.

Twitter was lively as well – and here unedited are my contributions through the night in reverse chronological order.brexit-800x500

London as the new Luxembourg! With a border at the M25! Trump could build the wall!…
Tom Calverley @tcalverley
A petition for an independent London already has more than 50,000 signatures…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
The FT on “What a British divorce from the EU would look like.” It is not pretty.…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Leave asap says EU. “Top EU leader: we want Britain out as soon as possible”…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Self explanatory #EUref

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
I love watching democracy at work…though sometimes it can feel deeply flawed. Time to move on…..

Robert Scott retweeted Kristian Ulrichsen @Dr_Ulrichsen
David Cameron will go down alongside Anthony Eden and Neville Chamberlain as prime ministers who made disastrous political miscalculations.

Robert Scott retweeted JAMES MARTIN @JamesMAviation
#BREAKINGNEWS | Nicola Sturgeon confirms that #IndyRef2 is now very much likely and the legislative process for the same will commence.

Robert Scott retweeted Stanley Pignal @spignal
David Cameron “leaves office in ignominy” – scathing, brutally accurate take from my colleague @JeremyCliffe.…

Robert Scott retweeted Iyad El-Baghdadi @iyad_elbaghdadi
“Post-factual democracy”.…
Felicity Hayes-McCoy @fhayesmccoy
Comment from an FT reader nails it. #BrexitVote

Robert Scott retweeted Tom Clark @guardian_clark
And so the great revolt of the people of England prepares the way for the smooth transition of power from one Etonian to the next

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@Tigerjet7 Easyjet and Ryanair will likely be most affected…as they have bases across the EU. Easyjet shares were down 15% this morning.

Robert Scott retweeted Rafael Behr @rafaelbehr
Already it is extraordinary to look back at how little the campaign really discussed the practical reality of Britain leaving the EU ..

Robert Scott retweeted Matt @Vanalli

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
It is a strange day when I cannot welcome David Cameron’s resignation. Rats and sinking ships come to mind.

Robert Scott retweeted
Comment from my Hong Kong colleague. @David_Cameron has just done what the Brits always do. They make a big mess and then they leave…

Robert Scott retweeted @TIME
Read David Cameron’s resignation speech in full

Robert Scott retweeted Paul Mason @paulmasonnews
In a single interactive map the Guardian tells the whole story of Brexit. Spend time here:… (1/2)

Robert Scott retweeted Steve @SteveInCM
Nigel Farage’s victory speech was a triumph of poor taste and ugliness | Zoe Williams | Opinion | The Guardian…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Farage does not speak for the official leave campaign but he is being allowed to act as though he won this referendum. Loathsome. #EUref

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Enough – it has been a marathon. Goodnight/good morning. Wake me when sanity once again prevails. #EUref

Robert Scott retweeted farnazfassihi’s avatar
Farnaz Fassihi @farnazfassihi
#Brexit case example of how a politician gambled country & continent’s fate to settle party politics. #DavidCameron

Robert Scott retweeted Farnaz Fassihi @farnazfassihi
Anti-establishment goes global.British voters defy leaders,foreign allies,experts & political establishment. #Brexit

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
This assumes you had some sleep! “We have woken up in a different country”

Robert Scott retweeted Tom Raines @TomHRaines
Remember, everyone, that under Art 50, European Parliament must approve UK withdrawal deal. Below, a Merkel ally.…
Manfred Weber @ManfredWeber
Exit negotiations should be concluded within 2 years at max. There cannot be any special treatment. Leave means leave. #Brexit 4/4

Robert Scott retweeted Oly Duff @olyduff
Damning from Gus O’Donnell: The Prime Minister remains in office but whether he’s in power is another question

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@ascoulson I might hibernate for a few months. Fascinating to watch what happens – but maybe better from a distance!

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
This map tells a story!…
Wings Scotlandsson @WingsScotland
It’s almost all over.

Robert Scott retweeted Wings Scotlandsson @WingsScotland
It’s almost all over.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@ascoulson Correct. And the EU itself must now be under threat . Though this might just prompt the reforms that it needs!

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@gerald_d That I agree with – other than it hurts my pension! There are many challenges ahead.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@gerald_d U have more faith than me. Not sure Cameron’s position is tenable. But who else can lead a torn apart government. @OisinDubai

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@ascoulson Step down rather than step up. He cannot lead a negotiation that he does not believe in, or lead a country he has torn apart.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Damn I am tired – have to stay up to hear what Cameron says – then breakfast and then sleep!

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
David Cameron, the tribe has spoken. It is time for you to leave, And take Mr Osborne with you.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Cameron has to resign if Britain votes for Brexit – No 10 has to commit to and lead the Brexit negotiations. Cameron cannot do that.

Robert Scott retweeted Kevin Maguire @Kevin_Maguire
Very bad taste of Nigel Farage to claim victory “without a single bullet being fired” after the campaign shooting of Jo Cox

Robert Scott retweeted Paul Sinclair @paulbsinclair
Nigel Farage first politician to claim defeat, a draw, defeat and now claim victory all in one night.

Robert Scott retweeted David J. Lynch @davidjlynch
Pound now at 30-yr low against the dollar. #Brexit

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@Supermarketweet Probably should have stayed in Spain and extended your stag week 🙂 ps – happy you survived !

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@gerald_d Indeed 🙁 – and bad news for my pension!

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Nigel Farage claiming victory is an ugly sight….thoroughly unpleasant individual.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
The pound is now down 8% at $1.36, its biggest ever one-day move (it swung by 7% in 2008). Asian traders had assumed “remain.”

Robert Scott retweeted zerohedge @zerohedge
Sheffield has gone Leave by a margin of 6,000 votes. Quite the shock.
Was supposed to be a Remain city

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@boozychef Riveting tv viewing – 3.20am – reckon I have to stay up until 6am…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Watford – leave by 0.54%. Majority just 252. Closest result so far. (I think!).

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Assuming leave prevails the first thing the government should do is move the (very out of touch) UK government to Manchester (or Newcastle).

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Blackpool votes for Leave. Illuminating!…
BBC Referendum @BBCReferendum
Blackpool votes to Leave. Full results: #EURef

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@LordJackTaylor The betting folks have their money on Leave now….big change since the Sunderland result!

Robert Scott retweeted Laura Kuenssberg @bbclaurak
Senior labour figure tells me ‘this has gone, Leave to win’ – Don’t jump up and down with joy or in despair, it’s early and it’s one source

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
This is rapidly turning into London (and Scotland) versus the Rest. #EUref

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Just a note – the remain campaign has been awful – fear factor rather than emphasising why Britains should remain in the EU.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Traveling around Scotland last week there was no sign of campaigning – by either side. Turnout low as a result.…
Jamie Ross @JamieRoss7
The turnout in Glasgow was a low 56.2%. More bad news for Remain.

Robert Scott retweeted Jamie Ross @JamieRoss7
The turnout in Glasgow was a low 56.2%. More bad news for Remain.

Robert Scott retweeted John Walton @thatjohn
Look, we mocked this BBC Polling Index, but it’s actually pretty helpful. Swindon was expected to be Leavier than Sunderland but wasn’t.

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
@misskimpyongya1 Expecting mass relocation from Britain to Pyongyang hoping to find solace by meeting your attractive cabin crew!

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
If Britain votes to leave the EU at least there is an incentive to move to Pyongyang!…
Air Koryo stewardess @misskimpyongya1

rascottdotcom’s avatar
Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
“We’ll acknowledge the Wembley goal” – The Germans are having far more fun than the Brits in this #EUref –…

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Newcastle – Leave did better then expected. Sunderland – Leave wins big.

It is going to be a long night. #EUref

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
Clever! It is going to be a long night!…
Peter Smith @Redpeter99
Gibraltar announces before Sunderland. A rock beats a hard place.

Robert Scott retweeted Andrew S. Crines @AndrewCrines
Grayling describes it as a lively campaign. No, no, no. It was a vile, nasty, poisonous, disgusting campaign. Not lively. NASTY. #EURef

Robert Scott @rascottdotcom
I cannot vote…but if you can vote today you really should. #EUreferendum

Waking up to a different country


From this morning’s edition of The Guardian

We have woken up in a different country. The Britain that existed until 23 June 2016 will not exist any more.

For those who ran the leave campaign – and for the clear majority who voted to leave the European Union – that is a cause for celebration. This, they insist, will be remembered as our “independence day”. From now, they say, Britain will be a proud, self-governing nation unshackled by the edicts of Brussels.

But for the 48% who voted the other way, and for most of the watching world, Britain is changed in a way that makes the heart sink rather than soar.

For one thing, there is now a genuine question over the shape of this kingdom. Scotland (like London) voted to remain inside the European Union. Every one of its political parties (bar the UK Independence Party) urged a remain vote. Yet now Scotland is set to be dragged out of the EU, against its collective will.

The demand will be loud and instant for Scotland to assure its own destiny by breaking free of the UK. This is precisely the kind of “material change” that the Scottish National party always said would be enough to warrant a second referendum to follow the one held in 2014. And this time, surely, there will be a majority for independence. So a first legacy of 23 June could well be the imminent break-up of the UK.

The implications will be profound for Northern Ireland too. The return of a “hard border” between north and south imperils a peace which was hard-won and too often taken for granted. Note this morning’s warning from Sinn Fein that the British government has “forfeited any mandate to represent the economic and political interests of people in Northern Ireland.”

Of course, the divisions don’t end there. England is exposed as a land divided: London, along with the cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol stood apart from the rest of England and Wales in wanting to stay in. There is a yawning class divide, pitting city against town and, more profoundly, those who feel they have something to lose against those who feel they do not. What determined the outcome as much as anything else was the fact that the latter group, many concentrated in what used to be called Labour heartlands, defied the party’s call and voted out. This is a deep rift that will haunt the politics of the coming era. Labour’s prospects will stand or fall on how they navigate it – and they are not the only ones.

The economy of this new, Brexiting land will be different too. The instant reaction of the markets and the plunging of the pound sterling seemed to confirm the predictions of those who were accused during the campaign of scaremongering. The talk is of an immediate battering. True, that talk comes from “experts” – that group who, like all those in authority, seem to have been rejected so emphatically by 52% of the electorate. But events may soon prove that the expert predictions of a lurch into recession were not exaggerated. Governments and markets around the world reacted to the leave vote with horror.

And this offers a warning of a deep change for Britain, a shift in how we are seen by the rest of the world. For decades, we were regarded as a great place to invest in, to move to or just to visit because we were the English-speaking gateway to the 27 nations of the European Union. We had a kind of best-of-both-worlds status, close to the US, close to the European continent.

That physical geography has not changed, but the psychological geography has. Suddenly it will make much less sense to headquarter a big international firm in London, or for a Japanese car-maker to locate a factory – one that aims to sell into Europe – in the north-east of England. Why do it, if you could be in Germany instead? Why come to post-Brexit Britain, where there could soon be the hassle of visas and tariffs and all the rest? Why bother?

The risk is that Britain becomes a kind of offshore oddity, quirky but irrelevant – shut out of the action of its neighbouring continent. That shift will be felt first by the City of London: perhaps few will shed any tears for them, even if financial services are – or used to be – one of this country’s biggest employers. But eventually that new view of Britain could percolate through, affecting our creative industries, our tourism and eventually our place in the world.

All of this will take some time. Who knows, perhaps the worst effects can be avoided altogether. But we should not be under any illusions. This is not the country it was yesterday. That place has gone forever.

“a dim and stifling place that anyone with imagination would want to escape”

EU-referendum-ballot-paper-638210 (1)

New York Times – from Great Britain to Little England (16 June 2016). The New York Times rings all the right alarm bells on why Brexit would be so bad for Britain.

It was Queen Elizabeth’s official 90th birthday celebration last Sunday, and tables for 10,000 guests were set along the Mall in central London. Steadily the rain fell, dripping out of the tubas of the bands and softening the sandwiches, but Her Majesty’s subjects munched on with stoic British spirit, standing up to cheer as she passed.

In her fuchsia coat and matching hat, she waved and grinned as if nothing had changed and never would. But next week, a very great change may come.

On Thursday, Britons will vote in a referendum on whether their country should stay in the European Union or leave it. If a majority opts for “Brexit,” a long earthquake begins. It will topple the old facade of Britishness. It will disrupt, perhaps mortally, the foundations of European unity. The sense of a fateful moment suddenly peaked on Thursday, when, the police say, a young Labour member of Parliament named Jo Cox was shot to death in her West Yorkshire district by a man who is said to have shouted, “Put Britain first!” and to have been involved in the white-supremacist National Alliance in the United States.

All campaigning was suspended for a day of appalled mourning, amid fears that widespread anxiety about European immigration was being inflamed into violent racialism. Ms. Cox was a rising star, admired in and outside Parliament for her selfless energy on behalf of refugees and the poor. Her friends hope her death may cool referendum passions, reminding sullen voters that “not all politicians are in it for themselves.”

Royal ceremonies offer a brief, reassuring illusion of continuity, but at the back of many minds on the Mall was this thought: Could we be saying goodbye not just to this beloved old lady, but to a certain idea of nationhood? An outward-looking, world-involved Great Britain may soon shrink into a Little England.

As the queen’s guests finished their tea in sight of the familiar gray mass of Buckingham Palace, opinion polls showed the Brexit vote surging. The early lead for the Remain campaign has melted away. In less than a week, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland could be tearing up its European treaties and backing into Atlantic isolation.

The slogan “Take back control!” has been showing up everywhere in the last two weeks. It’s about sovereignty: the idea that unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, not the Westminster Parliament, make the laws of England. Above all, it means taking control of the country’s frontiers. This would break decisively with a sacred principle of the European Union: the free movement of people, which, for more than 20 years under the Schengen Agreement, has allowed Europeans to travel among member states without passport checks, and live and work in those countries with no visa requirements.

With fateful timing, the latest official figures for net migration to Britain, published at the end of May, showed the second-highest annual number on record, 333,000 in 2015; European Union nations accounted for more than half of that figure. This was far higher than government targets, and played directly into the Leave campaign’s refrain about “uncontrolled immigration.”

Is it a baseless panic? Many European countries tolerate far higher levels of immigration. Scotland, with a new community of some 55,000 Poles, actively encourages it. In England, support for Brexit and for the xenophobic U.K. Independence Party is often in inverse proportion to the scale of the problem: The fewer immigrants there are in a town, the louder the outcry against foreigners. In contrast, polling in inner London, where about four out of 10 inhabitants are now foreign-born, shows a clear preference for staying in Europe. By chance, Ms. Cox’s killing fell on the same day that UKIP unveiled a poster titled “Breaking Point?” It shows a mass of black and brown refugees pouring toward a frontier. With grief still raw, there has been widespread revulsion at the poster, now reported to the police on grounds of “incitement to racial hatred.”

The English, normally skeptical about politics, have grown gullible. Both sides pelt the voters with forecasts of doom should the other side win. None are reliable, and the Leave figures have been especially deceitful. Remainers predict an economic armageddon of lost growth, a devalued pound and withered City of London. The Leavers’ Conservative leaders, assuming the mantle of a government in waiting, promise that “their” Britain could cover all the lost European subsidies and grants to farmers, poor regions, universities and schools. Evidence that they could find these additional billions is scant.

But there are deeper motives here than anxiety about the exchange rate or banks in London decamping to Frankfurt. Behind Brexit stalks the ghost of imperial exception, the feeling that Great Britain can never be just another nation to be outvoted by France or Slovakia. There’s still a providential feeling about Shakespeare’s “sceptred isle” as “this fortress built by Nature.” Or as an old Royal Marines veteran said to me, “God dug the bloody Channel for us, so why do we keep trying to fill it in?”

But in a Britain after Brexit, there will be internal border issues to worry about. London politicians look nervously north toward Scotland. Home to less than 10 percent of Britain’s population, Scotland has enjoyed a high degree of self-government since 1999. The pro-independence Scottish National Party dominates the country’s politics, consolidating its grip after losing a close-fought independence referendum in 2014.

Most Scots insist that they want to stay in the European Union. So what happens if a British majority says Leave and Scotland is dragged out of Europe against its will?

Many nationalists will demand an immediate new independence referendum. But Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s shrewd and popular first minister, will want to wait until polls show a settled majority of Scottish voters in favor of leaving the British state. It’s Ms. Sturgeon’s gamble that an economic downturn following Brexit, combined with the loss of European Union guarantees for workers’ rights and European subsidies for Scotland’s farmers and infrastructure projects, will deliver that support soon enough.

If Ms. Sturgeon’s strategy works out, Brexit could hasten the breakup of Britain. The constitutional fallout extends to Northern Ireland. A Leave vote would turn the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic into a guarded frontier with Europe, since Ireland would remain a member in the union. This would undermine a major provision of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that ended three decades of the Troubles.

Her Britannic Majesty would then be left with a simmering Ulster, the potential for resurgent nationalism in Wales, and a dominant population of 54 million English people. There is a logic to that, for Brexit is overwhelmingly an English, not a British, idea.

English nationalism, though inchoate, is spreading. For older generations, it was cloaked in British patriotism. But now, having watched the Scots and the Welsh win their own parliaments, England — with no less than 84 percent of Britain’s population — feels aggrieved and unrepresented. And so the English have gone in search of their own identity politics, finding common cause with the general impatience with old political elites that is flaming up all over Europe.

For now, their angry sense of powerlessness is aimed at the European Union. But the truth is that it’s from bloated, privileged London, not Brussels, that the English need to take back control. The Brexit campaign orators, themselves members of that metropolitan elite, have carefully diverted English fury into empty foreigner-baiting. In France this month, English soccer hooligans’ chant was “We’re all voting Out!” as they beat up fans from other nations.


A rump Britain that quits the European Union would not be the same country back in its old familiar place. It would be a new, strange country in an unfamiliar place.

For foreigners, it would be less easygoing, more suspicious and more bureaucratic for work and travel. For its own citizens, it would become a less regulated, more unequal society. For the young, as European color drained away, it could come to seem a dim and stifling place that anyone with imagination would want to escape.

A Leave victory in the referendum is expected to topple Prime Minister David Cameron, and replace him with a radically right-wing Conservative team, which the impetuous former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is eager to lead. The new government would immediately have to face the problems of disengaging from Europe, and possibly from Scotland. Negotiating new treaties with European trading partners would take many years. And Germany is warning that Britain will no longer have access to the European Union’s single market.

That would knock the bottom out of the Leave campaign’s central promise: that Britain could have its cake and eat it, too — retaining full access to 500 million European customers while clamping controls on immigration from the union. Cynics predict that Britain will spend five years trying to get out, and the next five trying to get back in.

Then come the constitutional nightmares. Most lawmakers in Britain’s Parliament are pro-Europe. Can they be forced to vote for legislation to leave the union? What happens if the government loses an election and a pro-European administration — say, a Labour-led coalition — takes power?

And who is supreme here, anyway? The British people, who will have expressed their will in a binding referendum? Or Parliament, which by convention is sovereign and cannot be overruled? In a kingdom with no written constitution, nobody knows the answer.

It is certain that Brexit would do gross damage to both Europe and America. For the United States, it would mean the failure of many years of diplomacy. Britain would become at once less useful as an ally and less predictable. Washington would turn increasingly from London to Berlin.

For Europe, Britain’s departure would be like a first brick pulled from a flimsy wall. The union is already fragile. Its mismanagement of the eurozone debt crisis after the 2008 crash was followed by its mismanagement of the refugee crisis. No wonder a recent Pew Research Center poll showed plummeting approval ratings for the union in key European countries.

British withdrawal isn’t likely to be followed instantly by that of other member states. But nationalist governments like those in Poland and Hungary, and others besides, will be encouraged to defy European rules from trade regulations to human rights, until the whole structure disintegrates. Disputes once soothed by multinational bargaining in Strasbourg or Brussels may grow toxic.

And Europe, though often vexed by London’s halfheartedness, will miss the sheer negotiating skill of British diplomacy: its genius for avoiding confrontations and inventing compromises. As more countries strike mutinous attitudes, those skills have never been more needed.

“For 70 years, my Foreign Service has been Britain’s rear guard,” a British ambassador told me. “We have prevented its orderly retreat from world greatness turning into a rout.” But Brexit now seems to propose a final retreat across the English Channel to the white cliffs of Dover.

Isolation brings out the worst in Britain. And it never works. In the 1930s, a complacent Britain refused to help Spain fight fascism, appeased Hitler and Mussolini, and for too long turned away refugees fleeing persecution. As Czechoslovakia cried out for help, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain dismissed “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.” Will a British leader soon speak again about faraway Europe in the same tones?

When Britain did admit that it belonged to Europe, after all, it was at the 11th hour. In 1940, isolation ended in a fight for survival, and complacency gave way to five years of grim determination. During those war years, the Continent was devastated and its nation-states discredited.

Thanks to that harsh experience, the British after the war recognized their share of responsibility by supporting the vision of a united Europe. Must Britain learn that painful, costly lesson all over again?

The New York Times calls for Britains to shun the hatemakers

A New York Times oped calls for Britains to shun the hatemongers, and vote to remain in the European Union.

It may be that Ms Cox’s awful killing is enough to bring out enough don’t know voters onto the remain side to make a significant difference. But how sad it is that her death may swing the campaign; and it may do so by as much as 5% of the vote.

So here is the New York Times exercising a voice of reason:

“In politics, as in life, there is the question of the company you keep.

Reasonable people, some friends of mine, make reasonable arguments for Britain to leave the European Union. They say it lacks transparency. They say a union containing an inner club of nations with a common currency, but outliers without it, constitutes a set-up that defrauds voters because it is intellectually dishonest. The euro nations require a political union that is ever closer for the euro to be sustainable. Other nations, like Britain, do not want that.

They argue that the E.U. is undemocratic, run by unaccountable bureaucrats, and that Britain can somehow reinvent itself, overcome geography, and defy several authoritative predictions of economic disaster — most recently from the International Monetary Fund — by linking with fast-growing parts of the emergent world after it turns its back on a stagnant Europe.

I am prepared to lend half an ear to such notions, even if they are paltry quibbles when set against the wonder of a borderless Europe at peace, access to a market of half-a-billion people, decades of growing prosperity since Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973, and the British capacity to count in the world as a leader within a united Europe rather than become an insular minnow adrift in the English Channel.

The European Union has been through a tough decade. It has been beset by the structural flaws of the euro and a weak response to the financial meltdown of 2008. It has faced the ongoing difficulties of absorbing former Communist bloc nations and the challenge of mass immigration. It needs reinvigoration — of a kind Britain could lead.

But none of this is what the British referendum has been about. It has been about jingoistic bigotry of the “take-Britain-back” variety; anti-European rants dished up by the Daily Mail (often on the basis of claims so flimsy they would make Donald Trump blush); the vileness of the U.K. Independence Party whose latest poster screams “Breaking Point” next to a crowd of dark-skinned refugees; the outrageous diatribes of the former London mayor, Boris Johnson, who has compared the union’s designs to Hitler’s; the dim anger of a Little England troubled by globalization and choosing to focus that ire on Brussels (of all places) and on the desperate survivors of the Syrian civil war (of all people).

In other words, it has been about poison. That poison led — not directly but still — to the murder last week of Jo Cox, a representative of the opposition Labour Party, and a mother of two, by a man shouting “Britain First!”

Cox, a rising political star, had campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union. She had declared in her maiden speech to Parliament that the Yorkshire towns and villages she represented had been “deeply enhanced by immigration, be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir.” What struck her, she said, was that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” In her last article for the Yorkshire Post this month she had written: “Please don’t fall for the spin prior to June 23 that the only way to deal with concerns about immigration is by voting to leave.”

The suspect charged with her murder, Thomas Mair, gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” in his first court appearance. Prosecutors said he had also shouted “Keep Britain independent” as he attacked Cox. Pamphlets about extreme rightist and white supremacist organizations were found at his house.

Yes, in politics there is also the question of the company you keep.

Those who have called for Britain to quit the E.U. have been prepared to get into bed with the likes of xenophobic fanatics like Mair. They have countenanced the fabrication of gross slurs about Europe and foreigners to further a campaign to lead Britain out of its neighborhood (and the greatest political invention of the second half of the 20th century) into some fantasyland of bygone glory.

This is not the Britain I know. This is not the Britain that accepted my South African Jewish immigrant parents and allowed them to prosper. This is not the Britain whose own union — of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has been an exercise in successful mingling. This is not the Britain whose capital, London, is perhaps the world’s greatest city because of the openness that has made it the home to every tongue.

“Jo, get up,” pleaded Cox’s assistant, Fazila Aswat, as the politician lay dying. “No, my pain is too much,” Cox replied, her last words.

Come on, Britain! For Cox, for her two children, for Fazila Aswat, for the proud British history of openness, get up! Get up, shun the hatemongers, and vote to remain in the European Union.

The Economist – our vote goes to remain

Very relevant commentary from The Economist

“The peevishness of the campaigning has obscured the importance of what is at stake. A vote to quit the European Union on June 23rd, which polls say is a growing possibility, would do grave and lasting harm to the politics and economy of Britain. The loss of one of the EU’s biggest members would gouge a deep wound in the rest of Europe. And, with the likes of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen fuelling economic nationalism and xenophobia, it would mark a defeat for the liberal order that has underpinned the West’s prosperity.

That, clearly, is not the argument of the voices calling to leave. As with Eurosceptics across the EU, their story is about liberation and history. Quitting the sclerotic, undemocratic EU, the Brexiteers say, would set Britain free to reclaim its sovereign destiny as an outward-looking power. Many of these people claim the mantle of liberalism—the creed that this newspaper has long championed. They sign up to the argument that free trade leads to prosperity. They make the right noises about small government and red tape. They say that their rejection of unlimited EU migration stems not from xenophobia so much as a desire to pick people with the most to offer.

The liberal Leavers are peddling an illusion. On contact with the reality of Brexit, their plans will fall apart. If Britain leaves the EU, it is likely to end up poorer, less open and less innovative. Far from reclaiming its global outlook, it will become less influential and more parochial. And without Britain, all of Europe would be worse off.

Start with the economy. Even those voting Leave accept that there will be short-term damage (see article). More important, Britain is unlikely to thrive in the longer run either. Almost half of its exports go to Europe. Access to the single market is vital for the City and to attract foreign direct investment. Yet to maintain that access, Britain will have to observe EU regulations, contribute to the budget and accept the free movement of people—the very things that Leave says it must avoid. To pretend otherwise is to mislead.

Those who advocate leaving make much of the chance to trade more easily with the rest of the world. That, too, is uncertain. Europe has dozens of trade pacts that Britain would need to replace. It would be a smaller, weaker negotiating partner. The timetable would not be under its control, and the slow, grinding history of trade liberalisation shows that mercantilists tend to have the upper hand.

Nor is unshackling Britain from the EU likely to release a spate of liberal reforms at home. As the campaign has run its course, the Brexit side has stoked voters’ prejudices and pandered to a Little England mentality (see article). Despite Leave’s free-market rhetoric, when a loss-making steelworks at Port Talbot in Wales was in danger of closing, Brexiteers clamoured for state aid and tariff protection that even the supposedly protectionist EU would never allow.

The pandering has been still more shameless over immigration. Leave has warned that millions of Turks are about to invade Britain, which is blatantly false. It has blamed strains on public services like health care and education on immigration, when immigrants, who are net contributors to the exchequer, help Britain foot the bill. It suggests that Britain cannot keep out murderers, rapists and terrorists when, in fact, it can.

Britons like to think of themselves as bracingly free-market. They are quick to blame their woes on red tape from Brussels. In reality, though, they are as addicted to regulation as anyone else. Many of the biggest obstacles to growth—too few new houses, poor infrastructure and a skills gap—stem from British-made regulations. In six years of government, the Tories have failed to dismantle them. Leaving the EU would not make it any easier.

All this should lead to victory for Remain. Indeed, economists, businesspeople and statesmen from around the world have queued up to warn Britain that leaving would be a mistake (though Mr Trump is a fan). Yet in the post-truth politics that is rocking Western democracies, illusions are more alluring than authority.

Thus the Leave campaign scorns the almost universally gloomy economic forecasts of Britain’s prospects outside the EU as the work of “experts” (as if knowledge was a hindrance to understanding). And it dismisses the Remain camp for representing the elite (as if Boris Johnson, its figurehead and an Oxford-educated old Etonian, personified the common man).

The most corrosive of these illusions is that the EU is run by unaccountable bureaucrats who trample on Britain’s sovereignty as they plot a superstate. As our essay explains, the EU is too often seen through the prism of a short period of intense integration in the 1980s—which laid down plans for, among other things, the single market and the euro. In reality, Brussels is dominated by governments who guard their power jealously. Making them more accountable is an argument about democracy, not sovereignty. The answer is not to storm out but to stay and work to create the Europe that Britain wants.

Some Britons despair of their country’s ability to affect what happens in Brussels. Yet Britain has played a decisive role in Europe—ask the French, who spent the 1960s keeping it out of the club. Competition policy, the single market and enlargement to the east were all championed by Britain, and are profoundly in its interests. So long as Britain does not run away and hide, it has every reason to think that it will continue to have a powerful influence, even over the vexed subject of immigration.

True, David Cameron, the prime minister, failed to win deep reform of Britain’s relations with the EU before the referendum. But he put himself in a weak position by asking for help at the last minute, when governments were at loggerheads over the single currency and refugees.

Some Britons see this as a reason to get out, before the doomed edifice comes tumbling down. Yet the idea that quitting would spare Britain is the greatest illusion of all. Even if Britain can leave the EU it cannot leave Europe. The lesson going back centuries is that, because Britain is affected by what happens in Europe, it needs influence there. If Germany is too powerful, Britain should work with France to counterbalance it. If France wants the EU to be less liberal, Britain should work with the Dutch and the Nordics to stop it. If the EU is prospering, Britain needs to share in the good times. If the EU is failing, it has an interest in seeing the pieces land in the right place.

Over the years this newspaper has found much to criticise in the EU. It is an imperfect, at times maddening club. But it is far better than the alternative. We believe that leaving would be a terrible error. It would weaken Europe and it would impoverish and diminish Britain. Our vote goes to Remain.”

More background in the New York Times