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The Ericle can offer my valued reader no great insight as to whether yesterday’s proposed Brexit Withdrawal deal is as good as the UK could get. Although I am not fundamentally against it, what I am completely clear about is that the choice that should be before decision makers, at this time, should be one between the deal that is currently on the table and a fully-expressed alternative; namely a well-constructed comprehensive Hard Brexit (“The Cliff Edge”) plan. To which – as I have argued for in a recent posting – another referendum should take place, which includes the 3rd option of Remaining. This is the real betrayal that has taken place over the last 2 years; not the deal as is currently muted. Rather the May government, either by incompetence or design, is holding a gun to the country’s head to either accept a deal that has been driven almost entirely by maintaining a status-quo for Big Business or face chaos. For chaos is indeed the alternative on offer and this is the crime that has been committed.

The above can be of no surprise to those who have been paying attention. On the surface there are 3 prime forces at work:

  • a narcissistic selfish electorate that is only concerned with its individual well-being
  • politicians who pander to this neediness and defer from responsibilities of leadership as opposed to re-election
  • greed (the Thatcher & Blair years) & austerity (Brown to present)

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However, there is an elephant in the room – the UK Civil Service. This elphant is not invisible but it is certainly Teflon-coated. No other UK institution is more immune from scrutiny and criticism. It chooses to represent itself as per Gus O’Donnell on a recent Peston on Sunday – dismissing accusations that the civil service was trying to thwart Brexit – as being imbued with ‘honesty, objectivity integrity and impartiality’; to which the former Cabinet Secretary added that the problem wasn’t with his side (the civil service) but with… Brexit!!!  Sir Humphrey could not have said it or done it any better. The Senior Civil Service (‘The Mandarins’) has long been criticised for being as much of an Oxbridge elite as are our political leaders. And like its political masters’, claims of the ‘death’ of the Old Boy network are severely exaggerated. It, therefore, shouldn’t shock anybody who is in tune with the many cosy coteries extant in the UK that like the politicos The Civil Service planning for a No Deal was tardy and incomplete. Moreover the executive & admin levels of the civil service – those chaps responsible for implementing non-functioning wasteful IT contracts & the like – are unlikely to have compensated for their seniors’ shortcomings.

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The situation we thus find ourselves in is a ‘very British’ one. As a country, we are prone to grandiose ideas but with a follow-up that is inefficient and drawn out – the 3rd Heathrow runway and High-Speed Rail come easily to mind. However, once Article 50 was triggered (a tragic political mistake) the luxury of an ever-lengthening deadline was removed from the equation and our historic inabilities have come to the fore. Perhaps it is true that we have the leaders that we deserve. But, to mix my metaphors, we have talked ourselves into a corner and we are now left in a boat with only one paddle when there should have been two.

As I write this, cabinet ministers are dropping like flies. This only brings me more to the conclusion that I reached long ago. This decision is not one that can be taken by Government fiat or by a Parliamentary vote. The situation requires another referendum that includes the Remain option – or, as is most likely, a National Election to the same effect.

What a way to run a railroad!

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