March 20th, 2017

Countdown to Brexit

A two-year process starts a little more than a week from now:

Britain will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union on March 29, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors.

Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the exact start date on Monday morning.

“We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation,” Brexit Secretary David Davis said. “The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the U.K. and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the U.K. and our friends and allies in the European Union.”

Some personal divorces take a lot longer than that to iron out.

Whatever the specific subject or program that’s in place, political divorces are not easy. We in the US don’t belong to the EU, but we face a not-completely-dissimilar situation in the attempt to dismantle Obamacare.

The process of undoing would seem to be easy—after all, knocking a building down is simpler and quicker than erecting one. It’s the decisions about what will replace that building that are hard. Whether it be Brexit or Obamacare or any number of other systems (as opposed to buildings) people may want to do away with, the clock can’t simply be turned back to a previous time. Old institutions surrounding and supporting the structure have been dismantled, too. New expectations and dependencies have been created (health care as a right, for example). And the press that is against the dismantling is careful to keep stoking fears of what will happen without that thing that’s being torn down.

Those who favored the programs in the first places and fought to get them adopted were well aware of such phenomena. They knew that inertia, dependence, and time’s arrow all tend to combine to keep programs and policy structures in place once adopted:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

That quote from the Rubaiyat is certainly true. Time cannot run backwards, and we can’t undo any event. But we can undo a program, and the electorate has spoken in both the case of Brexit and of Obamacare: they want Britain out of the EU and they want Obamacare gone. I agree with both decisions. But now the big question is what will replace each, how long it will take to implement it, and whether the replacement will be meet with favor or disfavor.

[NOTE: And yes, I’m well aware that some conservatives want government out of the health care policy business (the business formerly known as health insurance) totally. Not gonna happen.]

5 Responses to “Countdown to Brexit”

  1. Frog Says:

    Real neat, the GOP AND Dems seizure of the American health care sector under the false flag of health insurance.
    As George Wallace once said, there’s not a dime’s difference between them.
    I know, I know, the GOP proposals are “better”, but they will be watered down by the Ryans to make them acceptable to the Schumers.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    Or they will be strengthened in order to get the GOP’s conservative wing on board.

  3. Dave Says:

    Pre-existing conditions were covered by corporate insurance, the only people with pre-existing conditions who had a problem purchasing coverage were those self-appointed individuals who were buy coverage individually, that is when insurance companies can pick and choose whom they accept and how much they charge them. All the government needed to do to help everyone who wants insurance to buy insurance without being charged an outrageous rate for whatever reasons is just to setup ways for individuals to join together to purchase coverage with group rates, that’s it.

  4. Cornflour Says:

    I haven’t been keeping score on the small issues, but I sure was wrong on two big ones: Trump’s election and Brexit. It makes me think I have no idea what people want anymore.

    Anyway, just to keep myself honest, here’s the dumb comment I wrote about nine months ago:

    “I’m only minimally informed about British parliamentary politics, but from this distance, I can’t believe that Parliament will ever vote to leave the EU. I hope I’m wrong about all this.

    Too many members of Parliament benefit too much from Britain’s EU membership. They’ll probably keep calling for repeated referendums on an EU exit. Eventually, they’ll get the “no” vote that they want. This could go on for years.

    As the years pass, more and more immigrants will acquire voting rights, and they’ll support Parliament’s desire to surrender sovereignty to the EU.

    I think we’ll end up seeing the Brexit vote as the last gasp of the English, many of whom will end up migrating to Canada, Australia, or the United States. I don’t have the citation at hand, but I’ve read that this has already started.”

  5. London Trader Says:

    Cornflour: While I understand the cynicism behind your comment from nine months ago I think that it was probably colored by your closer relationship with US politics where I think such a view might be appropriate. I was confident that parliament wouldn’t initially overturn the referendum result. British politics just don’t work that way.

    However I’m not sure what will happen once a deal has been negotiated. The good news is that the next election is scheduled for after the end of the two years.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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