A Certain Economy with the Truth: Why Brexit Will Fail, part 1

It is a true maxim that cheats never prosper. Boris Johnson and the Tory Party have lied and cheated, and in the short term it has won them the keys to 10 Downing Street. It may even win them an election. But in the long term it spells ruin for all of us. Here’s why.

Brexit is toxic to even steady growth in the economy.

Economic growth rests on three things: optimism, stability and trust.

People need optimism to believe that they will get something back from the work or cash that they put into any investment.

People need stability in order to predict whether what they put in over time will pay back the cost, in hours or money, of putting in the effort.

And they need to trust that what they are told about the situation is true, that the rules are not going to be changed arbitrarily on them, and that they are on a fair playing field, that some other people are not going to suddenly be given the profits that they have worked for.

Brexit is not an optimistic ideology. It is made of nostalgia and fear of change. A desire to turn the clock back to a time that never was is not the dynamism that you need to create opportunity for the new.

Boris Johnson himself may have optimism in spades (or may not; often, when challenged, he appears to be faking it), but no one at all trusts him. Twice in the election debates he has raised the idea of trust in his government and twice audiences have literally laughed in his face.

Brexit is built out of lies. From that bloody bus; via the disingenuous all-Brexits-to-all-people approach that short-term winning was more important than telling people true what they intended; through the use of “othering” minorities, blaming migration, breeding hate-crimes but also dividing the country; and up to lying to the Queen and refusing to publish the report into Russian interference.

That consistent lack of trust, that attitude of looking backwards not to the future fundamentally undermines our economy.

We need politicians to start telling the truth, no matter how painful.

We need the media to drop the partisan bullshit (and that goes as much for the Guardian as the Telegraph, but above all the BBC) and report the truth. Stop saying “the other side is lying”; only report what politicians say if it is true.

And we the public need to stop voting for cake-and-eat-it politics. Because the more we reward the cheats and liars, the more it will cost us in the long run.

None of that is going to happen in GE 2019. And the outcome will be either bad or worse.

But change is coming.

To be continued…

[In Part 2: The indecision at the heart of Brexit that makes Johnson the real “Prime Ditherer”]

* Richard Flowers has been a Party member for 20 years. He’s campaigned in many an election, stood as a local councillor, and Parliamentary candidate, was Chair of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats, and in 2020 was Liberal Democrat candidate for the Greater London Assembly constituency of City and East. He is currently English Party Treasurer. Thanks to Liberal Democrats in government, he is married to his husband Alex Wilcock. He also helps Millennium Elephant to write his Very Fluffy Diary.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Cheats may not prosper in the long run but in the short term they do and that will cost everyone a deal of hurt, including those that voted for them.

  • Barry Lofty 27th Nov '19 - 5:52pm

    These liars and cheats have been getting away with it for far too long, if the present polls are correct and Johnson and his cronies are elected with a majority, it will be a really sad day for this country but one that the electorate , I feel, will very quickly regret. But then again are all these polls genuinely neutral???
    I haven’t got too many disappointments left in me.

  • Richard, I think your rhetoric is a tad extreme.

    Brexit is about making our own laws. Let me keep it very simple and pause there. rather than list the many other reasons for leaving the EU. Being able to make our own laws is sufficient reason to leave on its own.

  • Arnold Kiel 27th Nov '19 - 9:29pm


    if only any Brexiter had ever spelt a single law he/she would like to abolish/enact after Brexit that cannot be done today. There was nothing. How about you?

  • I would like to restore our laws on aviation, shipping, road transport, railways, employment, medication, surgical implants, electrical equipment, food safety, implants, product labeling, insurance, product safety, environmental, flood prevention and waste management just for starters.

    You can add control of borders and trade as well.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Nov '19 - 10:23pm

    Peter 27th Nov ’19 – 10:15pm
    “I would like to restore our laws on …”

    In what ways have any of those laws become worse since or as a result of joining the EU?

  • Barry-
    Leavers are not likely to quickly regret Brexit, I fear. Very few have changed their minds despite the considerable damage the vote has already caused – we are already poorer domestically and downgraded internationally, but they are largely unrepentent. Why? It is not just that people don’t like admitting they were wrong. It is because the right wing media spew out such huge torrents of lies and propaganda every day, that even the most reasonable and rational people have become effectively brainwashed by it.
    It is very difficult to see any route back into the EU as the resistance from the press Barons would so be ferocious as to make it impractical, as Ian Begg of the LSE pointed out some time ago. So I cannot see any solution at present to what the party’s position would be if Johnson wins. Any ideas?

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Nov '19 - 5:13am


    specific, please.

    I assume you are aware that any EU-imports will continue to comply with EU law, unless UK consumers are willing to pay for the additional complexity-cost of having their UK-only variant. Likewise, UK manufacturers must make 2 variants, if they wish to export. Finally, only EU-compliant components can enter EU exports, and British industry enjoying dual legislation will have to maintain separate supply-chains and produce certifiable paper-trails. British industry is not interested.

    Your “own laws” better have massive consumer benefits UK industry has so far failed to detect. Specific, please.

  • What Frankie said

  • I want to remain because I like the protections the EU gives individuals and the ease of moving to 27 other countries, however I do disagree that it will necessarily be an economic disaster. As long as reforms are made to make the country (State) light and lean and free trade is properly embraced, then the UK may do very well out of it, especially in an age when tech and the web makes business much more flexible.

    Labour has a solid 30 percent of the populace behind it who want nothing to do with free markets and unfettered capitalism, and many of these people will either need to step up to the new world of Brexit Britain or suffer quite heavily. LibDem’s missed the chance to get on the side of the people with radical tax reforms, moving some of the burden from individuals to companies (the Conservative’s weak point) whilst Labour has borrowed their main selling point, a People’s Vote, albeit with a pointless Brexit against remain.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Nov '19 - 8:51am

    Large opinion polls are more accurate then small ones. The poll in The Times today shows the Tories getting an overall majority. BBC2 Newsnight shows a different method was used, bottom up. ITV Peston Show ‘Screenie’ shows the balance between Tories who voted Remain and who also fear Corbyn. If they think that this poll is right and Boris Johnson will get an overall majority they may become more willing to vote for Remain candidates such as Lib Dems, SNP. PC or Green.

  • Peter Martin 28th Nov '19 - 9:12am

    @ Neil Hickman,

    You’re missing the point. No-one said that all EU laws were bad. In Ireland, 100 years ago, the movement for independence wasn’t based on a desire to scrap all bad UK laws and replace them with good Irish ones.

    I personally support the EU law that we don’t move our clocks backwards and forwards. But I don’t agree that it should be an EU decision. Even the Australian states can decide for themselves how to set the time. South Australia and the Northern Territories have decided on a half hour increment. Its just another example of how “Nanny EU” knows best.

    In any case it’s all rather late to have this discussion. Boris looks set to win a majority. We’ll be leaving the EU on 31st Jan. We’ll then see for ourselves just how things will pan out. So Bye Bye Nanny!

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Nov '19 - 9:15am

    I believe leave-, just like Trump-voters, do not expect a specific outcome. Deep down they know that globalisation will not be reversed, and that no politician can do much about its effects: competitive product- and labour-markets that drive down prices and wages and increase the circulation of goods and people. At the same time, powerless states can do less and less to counterbalance these developments. That’s why the Labour manifesto hardly gets any traction. They perceive themselves as losers in this game. After all positive promises of leaving have collapsed under the weight of their falsehood, the main motive for leaving has become the perception that those they perceive to be winners of globalisation will also lose. After all, “the elites” don’t want Brexit, so it must be bad for them.

    The profound sentiment “let’s show the elites how it feels to lose” also drives them towards politicians who express and amplify their rage, if nothing else. If they break further rules of the hitherto winning elites, like telling the truth or being loyal, the better. That is why Johnson and Trump rather gain than lose support if they lie.

    Gove was right but overly cautious: people not only have had enough of experts, they have had enough of the (unpleasant) truth.

    In consequence, a second referendum makes little sense. The destructive idiocy of the losers cannot be overcome with arguments, quite the contrary. Only representative democracy and parliamentary sovereignty can lead out of the populist Brexit-trap. And no-one knows for how long.

  • When we enter into any trade agreement this involves a limitation of our ability to make our own laws in some way. In the EU we have a democratic element that is lacking in other situations. In the EU the U.K. has had enormous power. One reason is of course that English is the most widely used language by far in the EU. The main one though is that the EU is a group of sovereign countries, when we have accepted EU regulations this has been the end result of a process in which we as a country have been fully involved. The fact that the government of the U.K. is dysfunctional, and the processes are never made clear is the responsibility of the government in London.
    So we have control, We will throw it away when we keep our membership but give up democratic control as will happen when we leave.

  • Peter Martin 28th Nov '19 - 9:40am

    “At the same time, powerless states can do less and less to counterbalance these developments.”

    We hear this argument all the time. Almost as it’s a given. But, not so fast! Nation States can set laws. Corporations cannot. Nation States have armies, police, tax collectors etc. Corporations do not. Nation States have their own currencies. (Unless they have been silly enough to give that power away). Corporations do not. Nation States can put criminals in jail….

    Prof Bill Mitchell and Thomas Fazi make the argument at greater length in their book: Reclaiming the State.


  • I see the pro EU camp are still tied to the idea of historical determinism and claiming that they are the future, whilst the counter argument represents the past. It’s always been an iffy concept , especially when voters are taken into account. I also note that the Remain campaign is squabbling amongst itself and pulling in different directions as the myth that they all want the same thing collapses. Highly, ironic.
    What I think will happen after the election is “the blame game” with all parties involved yelling and shouting at each other, whilst claiming that people that didn’t vote are endorsing them. I also expect those who said Labour were really a Brexit Party to reverse this judgement and say well really that was also a remain vote, too. What I don’t expect is any consideration of the possibility that Pan Europeanism is not actually that popular in Britain or that they wasted three years pointlessly dragging things out.

  • @Peter Martin – I personally support the EU law that we don’t move our clocks backwards and forwards. But I don’t agree that it should be an EU decision.
    Peter, once again it is clear you’re not getting how “the EU” works. That clock law is being discussed in the EU forums, the UK ‘s government’s representatives are participating in those forums. Once an agreement has been reached, it will be issued as an EU law.

    I think the real problem of “EU law” is that Westminster, for reasons best known to itself does not want (UK) public discussion of the policies it is promoting in EU forums. Given how much time May and Johnson have wasted trying to prevent Parliament actually seeing and discussing their Brexit plans, and before them the games governments played over EU treaties, plus the extensive use of statutory Instruments, it would seem that this desire to not let the people know what is going on is an institutional malaise. Don’t see Brexit being a solution to this one.

  • A great many EU laws are very sensible and we should retain them after leaving. Some, e.g. aviation are less stringent than the ones we were forced to give up. When medical implants were unfit for purpose we were prevented by law from testing them because this was a “competence” allocated to the French.

    The point is that we are a large country and should be in control of the legislation that our citizens are obliged to obey. We should be able to change our laws if they are not appropriate in some way.

    I can give many examples having monitored the issue for decades but the crux of the matter is a simple principle, we should be in control of our own laws.

  • Barry Lofty 28th Nov '19 - 2:29pm

    John: I have to concede that you are probably right the leavers would not admit they were wrong even if the evidence for remaining was staring them in face. For all the arguments above about laws, trade and movement of people nobody has mentioned, I believe, the question of national security and peace in world, I can look back at two devastating wars that decimated Europe, please don’t think that it cannot happen again?

  • David Evans 28th Nov '19 - 2:55pm

    Peter, you say “we should be in control of our own laws” because you have identified some laws which are worse under the EU. However, you haven’t said whether you have found any laws that are better under the EU or whether there are other non-legal advantages (e.g. economic benefits) or disadvantages under the EU.

    Unless you have done this as well you can’t come to a reasonable and fully informed assessment as to whether ‘on balance’ we are better in the EU or not.

    Could you let us know if you have identified these legal benefits or non-legal advantages and disadvantages, and if so could you post them?


  • David Evans 28th Nov '19 - 3:13pm

    Slight clarification to the above –


    You have stated that “A great many EU laws are very sensible” and that “we should retain them after leaving,” but haven’t identified any specifically.

    I should have said “However, you haven’t said what specific laws you have found that are better under the EU or whether there are other non-legal advantages (e.g. economic benefits) or disadvantages under the EU.”

  • nvelope2003 28th Nov '19 - 3:59pm

    Barry Lofty: I mentioned the issue of national security and peace several times and the only person who commented on it said war would not happen again, despite all the evidence to the contrary ! The European Movement was brought about to stop the endless wars which afflicted Europe and we have not had one in the West since 1945.

  • Peter Martin 28th Nov '19 - 4:31pm

    @ Barry Lofty

    “…….even if the evidence for remaining was staring them in face.”

    Just what kind of evidence could this possibly be?

    It wouldn’t be at all difficult to prepare a compelling case that Canada should be a part of the USA. Canadians would probably end up being better off in $ terms. But if anyone were to say to the average Canadian that the evidence for doing that was “staring him in the face”, they would get pretty short shrift.

    It’s not all about dollars and cents. Or euros and eurocents.

  • David, I think you miss the point. Listing good , bad or indifferent EU laws is interesting but pointless. If we are outside the EU we can keep, modify or scrap laws, if we are in the EU we cannot, unless everyone else agrees.

    We discussed all of this years ago but failed to reach agreement then. Hopefully the matter will be decided very soon, but I don’t anticipate a sudden rush to change everything.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Nov '19 - 5:00pm


    I see the pro EU camp are still tied to the idea of historical determinism and claiming that they are the future, whilst the counter argument represents the past.

    Yup, and many people voted Leave because they are unhappy about the way our country has become more unequal, with the rich getting richer, the poor poorer, and control moving from democracy and ordinary people to shady billionaires.

    And all we as a party nationally have done is support those people by just dismissing them and saying we aren’t interested in their support, and not bothering to explain to them why Leave won’t give them what they think it will. As our leaders have said, leaving the EU will “turn the clock back”, and that’s just what many want. Maybe a bit of a nostalgic golden memory, but given how our country has become so much more unequal, and stressful for ordinary people, I don’t think we should just dismiss those who think that way.

    By pushing the idea that this coming election is about Brexit and nothing else, we have supported Brexit. We’ve just pushed those who wanted it further, and let them become obsessed with it, as if is the answer to all their concerns, and we as comfortable elite types oppose it because we don’t want to return to a more equal society.

    So, that’s what’s happening – millions of people who are unhappy with what the Conservative have done to our country are voting Conservative because they think the Conservatives are the leading opponents to the Conservatives, and that we are now the Conservatives.

    Is there really no way we can do something to reverse that way of thinking? Is it such an obvious truthful thing that it is impossible to suggest it makes no sense? Well, we seem nationally to be acting like that.

  • Bless Peter

    “But, not so fast! Nation States can set laws. Corporations cannot. Nation States have armies, police, tax collectors etc. Corporations do not. Nation States have their own currencies. (Unless they have been silly enough to give that power away). Corporations do not. Nation States can put criminals in jail….” I’m afraid reality says otherwise

    A Hedge Fund Has Physically Taken Control Of A Ship Belonging To Argentina’s Navy


    South African authorities impounded an Airbus 220-300 aircraft leased by Tanzania’s national flag carrier following a court application by a retired farmer owed compensation by the Tanzanian government, the farmer’s lawyer said.


    Vulture funds eyeing Venezuela hope to score big wins from crisis

    The vultures are circling around Venezuela: Hedge funds in Venezuela are looking to mimic what their peers did in Argentina in 2001 by suing the borderline insolvent government to repay its debt, Colby Smith writes for the Financial Times. Paul Singer’s Elliott Management laid down the template for gunboat debt collection when it managed to reap USD 2.4 bn from the Argentinian government 15 years after it had defaulted. The FT says funds are now divided over whether suing the Venezuelan government has any legal basis, but all agree the timing is not quite right considering the food and humanitarian crises the country is facing.

    Predatory funds can still do good though. Elliott Management’s squeezing of the Argentinian government resulted in Italian pensioners getting paid, Wall Streeter-turned-academic at American University Arturo Porzecanski, points out. Italian bondholders received a USD 1.35 bn payment from the Argentinian government in 2016, thanks to Singer’s pressure. Odette Lienau, a professor of law at Cornell University and Yale, also makes the argument that vulture funds are in a way holding government accountable for financial shortcomings or corruption. Whether these are good reasons for profiting off economic crises, we’ll let you decide.


    Reality hey Peter gets you every time.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    I disagree. I don’t think Brexit happened because people were upset with the Tories. I think it’s because people are more tribal and less unhappy with the nation state than is often assumed. They don’t want to be part of a European community, don’t see the need for a supranational political body and the only reason it didn’t happen earlier is because they weren’t asked. The thing about internationalists is they assume everyone is as embarrassed and unhappy about nationalistic politics as they are. They’re not. There was no popular mandate for signing Maastricht or for deeper integration, that was a decision made by ambitious political munchkins who wanted to be part of a big project. Britain didn’t sign up to the EU a bunch of politicians did. It’s like the elders in ancient tribes arranging marriages to form political unions without bothering to consult the people they’re forcing these unions on whether or not that is what they want. That is why Brexit happened. Little to do with austerity or anything else. It was just people saying, well actually we don’t want to be in your union. Also If you look at the vote what you really find is that the resentment of Britain is mostly a Remain thing, hence the independence parties, greens and so on tend to be in favour of the EU.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Nov '19 - 1:29pm


    People are unhappy with the way our country has gone since the 1970s. To a large extent this is due to Tory economic policies, but the Tories have managed to get them to think it’s all due to membership of the EU.

    Of course there are a variety of reasons why people voted Leave, but many have stated quite clearly something which in reality means they are unhappy with what the Tories have done to our country. This is clear when one looks and see Leave voting highest in poor and working class people.

    Does the EU really control us and govern us? No, I don’t think so. I’ve asked Brexit people campaigning on my high street (we’ve had a lot of them where I live) to explain what the control the EU has over us is, and they have been unable to give an answer. I don’t think the agreements we have as part of the EU amount to our nation state ending and real control going to the supranational political body.

    I don’t think freedom of movement in the EU amounts to control of government, nor does the trade agreement. What part of the trade agreement would you say amounts to an unacceptable loss of control in our country and the EU running us? If it really is the EU controlling us, how come we have moved since the 1970s from being one of the most economically equal countries in Europe to one of the most unequal? Surely if the equality change was down to the EU, we’d see all the EU countries similarly changing.

    I feel there are a significant number of people who voted Leave for vague reasons, without really knowing what the EU does. I have felt throughout that what is needed is a proper explanation of what it does. This wouldn’t have persuaded everyone who voted Leave to change, but I think it would have persuaded enough. Instead, the way the LibDem leadership has just dismissed everyone who voted Leave, yes, they have acted in the way you say is wrong, and that has just damaged us and increased the support for Leave.

  • Matthew
    I think you’re wrong. I think mostly people went into ballot boxes and took the opportunity to say I’m British, I’m not European and ticked the leave box accordingly. I think a lot liberal mined people are so alienated by the concept of nationalistic political leanings they refuse to even consider possibility that it might not actually be an abnormality. I think that union jack flags during football matches tells you more about why a lot of working class people voted leave than anger at austerity. In Scotland it was mostly unionist who voted to leave the EU, same in Northern Ireland, same and the same in Wales.

  • Peter Martin 1st Dec '19 - 9:13am

    @ Glenn,

    “….mostly people went into ballot boxes and took the opportunity to say I’m British, I’m not European and ticked the leave box accordingly.”

    Yes, this is an important point which is often overlooked.

    I’d go slightly further. Neither do most Remainers consider themselves European. At least not enough to want to be full members of the EU to the same extent as France and Germany. Remainer opinion, generally, is that the EU is fine providing we don’t have too much EU and is a political price worth paying for the economic benefits it is claimed to bring.

    Is it much different elsewhere in the EU? The Germans don’t want to be considered European because that means they’ll have to pay everyone’s bills. The French want to stay French as defence against German hegemony. Everyone has very mixed feelings about the ‘political project’ , to say the least.

  • Peter Martin 2nd Dec '19 - 11:39pm

    @ Frankie

    I hadn’t noticed the point you were making previously.

    Firstly both the Argentinean ship and Tanzanian aircraft were released shortly afterwards. Secondly, these examples aren’t of a wealthy individial or corporation acting directly against a nation state. They were using the power of another state to try to secure their objective. That of course is quite possible.

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