A View from the Boundary


The great thing about watching sports, like cricket, is that from the boundary spectators can see the whole panoply of the game develop before their eyes, whereas the players in the middle can only see a limited perspective, just the bowler, or just the batsman, for example. So it is with politics and our problem with leaving the European Union.

We, the great unwashed, are on the boundary seeing the whole picture on our televisions, social media pages, and newspapers whereas the players (or politicians) have their vision limited by party loyalties, constituency considerations and their own innate beliefs.

We live our lives by principles and each has his own. In my case these are (in this area):

  • Democracy means accepting the decision of the majority, however well or ill informed,

  • Leaving the European Union means:

  1. No free movement of people,

  2. Allowing Britain to have an independent trade policy,

  3. No acceptance of foreign (EU) law.

These principles are often referred to as Theresa May’s Red Lines.

To my mind the big stumbling block is the “back stop”. This is an insurance policy. If the UK and the EU cannot reach an agreement, then Northern Ireland, but not the rest of the UK, will remain within the European Union’s regulatory and customs arrangements indefinitely.  It will thus prevent the emergence of a hard land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland as this would contravene the “Good Friday” agreement. It relates only to the land border between the UK and Ireland, but would mean a division between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Somehow the EU and the UK need to agree a better form of words. ‘Indefinitely’ is the culprit.

Politicians here and in Europe need to find a way around this back stop as we get on with the job of exiting the EU. One way or another, we leave on March 29th, with a deal or with, in its absence, no deal. If no deal happens, 24 June 2016, or Black Friday, as it is known as in Europe, will pale into insignificance. Will Friday 29 March become known as Apocalypse Friday when the land border issue is put straight on the table? Which side would blink first and start to build a hard border?

Are there any parallels to the seismic shift that is about to occur? Of course, there must be many littered throughout history.

In 1215, the barons broke away from the Absolute Rule of the king and forced, via the Magna Carta, the creation of the new power, the first Parliament. It seems well regarded today.

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg and thus created a breakaway Church order of the Protestant Churches. It seems to be going pretty well today.

In 1773, the Boston Tea Party occurred. It was a political and mercantile protest about taxation and representation and the Americans decided to split from the “Old Country”, the United Kingdom. They seem to be doing OK today.

In 1991, the Soviet Union broke up. Russia became the largest of the twelve newly independent republics from Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan. It subsequently negotiated bilateral trade agreements with each of the former integrated partners. With the European Union, it had a Trade and Cooperation Agreement. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the European Council decided in March 1992 to replace the Trade and Cooperation Agreement by Partnership and Cooperation Agreements with each of the twelve successor states of the former Soviet Union. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement occurred after a first round of negotiations took place in February 1993 in Brussels and a second on November 1993. ‘Substantial progress’ was made in the second round of negotiations, with agreement being reached on a number of issues. That’s the way of negotiating with big beasts and that’s what the Britain now faces. But it is not insurmountable. What we must avoid, however, is the fate of the Russian currency. In December 1991, it stood at 0.22 roubles per dollar within three years it stood at over 3000 roubles per dollar. Pensions and savings were destroyed.

Where do I stand on today’s issues?

  1. Second Referendum – No, it would make a mockery of the 128 days of intensive argument back in 2106 and would forever tarnish a nation which has upheld democratic principles for 800 years.

  2. General Election – Irrelevant, it might get Labour into power but it will not change the BREXIT problem.

‘Leave means leave’ is widely quoted, and despite the fact I voted remain, this simple statement says it all. Now let’s get on with sorting out a deal.


4 thoughts on “A View from the Boundary”

  1. Very well written post, insightful and well-informed. I cannot help but object to your historical parallels, however. In my mind, all these examples were forward-thinking and progressive. The actions of English barons against King John was about attempting to democratise power somewhat to ensure it wasn’t in the hands of one man, Martin Luther was fighting back against the corrupt and greedy Catholic Church, the Boston Tea Party was about fighting imperialism and gaining freedom, and the end of the Soviet Union saw the dismissal of communism and the embrace of capitalism. In my view, all of these things are progressive and forward-thinking, whereas Brexit is the exact opposite, its regressive, it is Britain struggling to accept its identity and returning to the age of isolationism. We should stay in the EU and fight back against its bureaucracy, not run away, create a trading union that allows its members to have full sovereignty. That would be a far more noble aim.

    1. Altough as a fervent European I voted Remain, the Leave arguments were strong as well. At the end of the day, we voted to leave in our biggest ever vote. Pretty impressive and hard to ignore.

    1. Hi Coral,
      You are right about it being confusing! Yes, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the 2016 EU Referendum by a majority of 56% to 44%. However, the UK, as a whole, voted by a narrow margin (52% to 48%) to leave the EU. Nothern Ireland only accounts for 2.9% of the total UK population.

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