Wednesday , December 19 2018
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Je ne Bregret rien

Summary:
Am I missing something, or are there very few or no prominent Brexiteers changing their minds about the benefits of Brexit? I find it extraordinary that there are not more. Opinion polls have shifted somewhat against.  But politicians and commentators have doubled down.  This in the face of very marked changes in the likely costs and benefits of leaving.  The chance of no deal at all in March 2019 has risen greatly;  also I’d conjecture that the chance of Brexit In Name Only, either in the form of a very close tie to the EU, or prolonged ‘transition’ has risen.  The inability of the warring factions in the Tory Party to confront the trade-offs that face the UK, and the crystallisation of the Irish border as a stumbling block, have both reduced the chances of a free trade agreement

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Am I missing something, or are there very few or no prominent Brexiteers changing their minds about the benefits of Brexit?

I find it extraordinary that there are not more.

Opinion polls have shifted somewhat against.  But politicians and commentators have doubled down.  This in the face of very marked changes in the likely costs and benefits of leaving.  The chance of no deal at all in March 2019 has risen greatly;  also I’d conjecture that the chance of Brexit In Name Only, either in the form of a very close tie to the EU, or prolonged ‘transition’ has risen.  The inability of the warring factions in the Tory Party to confront the trade-offs that face the UK, and the crystallisation of the Irish border as a stumbling block, have both reduced the chances of a free trade agreement that would separate us materially from the UK.

A rational calculus of the cost and benefits of Brexit has surely shifted in favour of Remain.  Brexit in Name Only grants only symbolic political freedom, and considerably reduces the say we have over the market we stay hitched to.  No deal might be a catastrophe and is surely to be avoided at all costs.  An increase in the probability of these two things surely lowers the benefits of Brexit.  Unless you place an extremely high weight on Brexit as an abstract end in itself, therefore, you must surely change your mind.

To repurpose a much used analogy.  Imagine that Remain had won, but 2 years down the road it became clear that the EU was going to force us to join the Euro, or leave the EU.  This would surely cause former Remainers, for whom the ultimatum would be a surprise, to rethink.  The probability of Euro membership and all its disadvantages has risen;  the benefits of leaving the EU therefore increase.  The analogous cacophony to the Brexiteers, who formally dismissed the chance of a no deal exit as Project Fear, but now try to normalise it, would be a line up of Remainers explaining the political benefits of the Federal project that Euro membership would include us in, waving away concerns about the lack of monetary independence with assurances that it would all be fine.  And unresponsive to calls for another referendum given that Euro membership was at the time dismissed as a highly unlikely prospect.

Perhaps this Bregret is happening, only privately.  Public Bregret would constitute too much of a loss of face.  Or perhaps Bregret is judged too unproductive in the tribal warfare for political influence in the future.  Bregretters would be bottom of the pile for political influence amongst always-true-Remainers, and traitors in the eyes of the continuity-Brexit tribe.

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Tony Yates
Economist. Consulting, lecturing, a book. Ex Prof at Bham, Ex BoE staffer. Macro, policy, monetary econ, occasional nonsense.

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