Thursday 1 March 2018

Brexit is Brexit: Contradiction is Contradiction

I have alway been partial to the principle in formal logic known as RAA - reductio ad absurdum - or; from a contradiction, anything follows.  (I can still use RAA to prove there is no highest prime number, and - just about - that the set of real numbers is uncountable.)

Now: there seems to be just a tiny contradiction in whatever it is that Theresa May thinks she has 'agreed' with the EU.  But - hey, tiny is enough!  And through this contradiction threatens to pour the Irish Sea.

We don't need to fall back into triumphal 'Richard North' mode here, wearing a smug grin and shouting HaHa, You Cretins, HaHa!  In many circumstances, yer average Eurocrat would not be in the least dismayed: he has tried-and-tested ways around these things.  Kicking the can down the road; creative ambiguity; out-and-out fudge; even agreeing things in writing that are infeasible ... Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass doesn't trouble them, with her silly worries about believing impossible things.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Unfortunately, however, for the usual smooth running of European matters, the EU is in an unusually non-creative mood just now.  They have foolishly felt obliged to write everything down in their best 14pt Sans Serif, causing even the irredeemably unimaginative Mrs May to notice what she's done.  Now Major and Blair before her both agreed to things they didn't understand; but they had the political will to tell the House of Commons to knuckle down and get on with it.  May, of course, has none.  So the contradiction is all set to bring the House down.  I imagine many Irishmen on both sides of the (- dare we say it -) Border will be working themselves into apoplexy as I write.

Other things being equal (which they rarely are, see "creative ambiguity" above) this is the end of the cosy transitional arrangement.  It might look as though the contradiction is just in need of a home: Mrs May hopes to pass the parcel to the EU (OK, you build a hard border if you want one), and vice versa.   But RAA doesn't work like that:  a contradiction will pop up just anywhere.

Anyhow, today I met some German friends.  They tell me Germany is quite keen on a couple of years of transition, in order to give themselves more time to unpick lots of complex arrangements currently in place.  They cite Corbyn's latest pronouncement - against Corbyn himself.  That convoluted story of his about Minis: 
"... many businesses have supply chains and production processes, interwoven throughout Europe. Take the UK car industry, which supports 169,000 manufacturing jobs, 52,000 of which are here in the West Midlands. If we look at the example of one of Britain’s most iconic brands in this sector, the Mini, we begin to see how reliant our automotive industry is on a frictionless, interwoven supply chain. A mini will cross the Channel three times in a 2,000-mile journey before the finished car rolls off the production line. Starting in Oxford it will be shipped to France to be fitted for key components before being brought back to BMW’s Hams Hall plant in Warwickshire where it is drilled and milled into shape. Once this process is complete the mini will be sent to Munich to be fitted with its engine, before ending its journey back at the mini plant in Oxford for final assembly. If that car is to be sold on the continent then many of its components will have crossed the Channel four times."
The German response is: do you imagine this situation will last any longer than it takes us to make alternative arrangements?  Only an immediate 'Hard Remain' will stop us pulling the plug

So - it's either WTO and Hard Borders all round; or, Mrs May gives up the ghost; or, the EU goes back into creative-fudge mode.  Anybody's guess.  But RAA and the laws of logic are not mocked.




Sebastian Weetabix said...

FWIW Corbyn’s comments about Minis crossing the channel 3 times are just balls anyway. Components get shipped around, the car itself doesn’t. And cars are most certainly not drilled & milled into shape.

Anyhoo... take specialty chemicals, where I’m pleased to slog away for my modest stipend. Let’s say I want to use an acrylic resin. It so happens, for my purposes, the one I want is made by Arakawa in Japan. I’m going to use it because for complex technical reasons I won’t bore normal people with, nothing else works. Whether we’re in or out of the EU is neither here nor there, they have what I need, we’re willing buyers & sellers, so we do business. The rest is just paperwork. The same applies to the products I make. We sell lots in Germany. When we leave the EU they will still buy from me because my stuff is patent protected & they need it. In or out only affects the customs procedures & paperwork we need.

Politicians & bureaucrats think they are required for trade. They are not, not really. They are usually an impediment to the arrangements of willing buyers and sellers.

In my view there is a simple thing to be said to Brussels right now. We go to WTO, no divorce payment, no transition. Simple reciprocity will govern us in all things - if you have a better offer than WTO give us a call, otherwise we are done talking.

K said...

The thing about customs is that all the paperwork is automated now. Also because the EU wants to collect statistics about trade across the single market there's actually just as much paperwork inside the single market as out - but it doesn't really matter because the software can autogenerate it all regardless of the destination.

So the problem really comes down to physical customs inspection and non-trade barriers like safety.

Physical inspection = how are they going to delay UK freight without causing queues and delaying stuff from all round the world?

Safety = if the UK's standards can't be accepted after 40 years inside the EU then how can the standards from newer members like Romania be accepted? Plus the EU system is all paperwork based so to get certified you just need to find the country selling the cheapest paperwork and by the EU's own rules it must be accepted.

Electro-Kevin said...

I first read that as "from a contraction, anything follows." and must admit that I'm shitting myself so am inclined to agree.

I don't think very many people voted Brexit without trepidation.

Sorry to lower the tone in my usual style, especially in view of the two excellent comments above.

Anonymous said...

"Politicians & bureaucrats think they are required for trade. They are not, not really. They are usually an impediment to the arrangements of willing buyers and sellers."

They are certainly not needed for most of the things they stick their oar into.

However, in most countries the government provides the roads, railways and airports that are needed for trade. These are facilities for which competition doesn't make sense. So they have to be managed by bureaucrats, overseen by politicians (who are theoretically overseen by the voters).

Don Cox

andrew said...

Politicians do tend to trot out the line
'a deal will be reached as we buy so many nice German cars and they wont want to break that market'

One answer is indeed to move those nicely paying jobs to Poland etc,
so they wont such a need to access the affluent UK car buyers.

Not least as there wont be that many left and they will be replaced by the Poles in due course.

But never fear, I am sure those 169,000 will get other jobs in call centres or working in Toys R Us or Maplins.

Just like when the mines shut.

Except this time they will also go after the service industry (well, they said they would and so would I) and if they give the banks enough stick - or carrot, the ones that are foreign owned will decamp over time - i.e. all of them.

All they have to do is fix it so it is not legal to pass some types of confidential data outside the EU without a treaty in place.
Treaties that may take the UK just a couple of years, but with that bureaucratic monolith that is the EU, easily over 10 years.

TheFatBigot said...

Reductio ad absurdum means reduced to the absurd, it has nothing to do with contradictions. There is a bit of a hint in the words themselves - reductio and reduce share a lot of letters in the same order as do absurdum and absurd.

K said...

@TheFatBigot the original Greek means "reduction to the impossible" and the examples given by Aristotle were based on contradictions.

TheFatBigot said...

Mr Andrew is, at least in part, correct. If the time ever comes that the UK loses its lucrative businesses and they transfer to Poland then, of course, the position will not be what it is today. But that has always been the position.

Where he is wrong is in saying "All they have to do is fix it so it is not legal to pass some types of confidential data outside the EU without a treaty in place.". There are already treaties in place preventing such a law. Even if there were not, good luck to the German car manufacturers who would be prevented from passing their own confidential specifications to those who need that information in order to service cars in other countries.

Mr Andrew's argument is, indeed, an illustration of reductio ad absurdum.

TheFatBigot said...

Mr K, the earliest analyses know so far are from our Grecian friends but reductio ad absurdum is a bit of ancient Iti, which I translated correctly. Examples given by anyone of any nationality result in contradictions, that's where the absurdity lies and it is that absurdity that makes it impossible for the argument to be correct.

I was merely pointing out that reductio ad absurdum does not mean "from a contradiction anything follows", which appeared to be the translation proposed by our gracious host. .

Electro-Kevin said...

Well there is a contradiction in that Remainers say "We won't be able to cope without migrants" whilst telling us there won't be any jobs left.

Why are we still importing so many young men ?

I've always understood Andrew's point and it gives me chills. What use these jobs if the cost is the mass importation of poor people ?

The state of national a personal debt is the only measure we need look at to see how disasterous this policy is.

That's without mention that every issue, from housing to hospitals to schools to transport is in *crisis* according to the BBC.

It is not Brexit voters who are having their cake and eating it but Remainers.

They tell us that leaving the EU will lead us to poverty and yet remaining in it will not.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

@Andrew: there has never been a single market in services. The EUs internal market has been very carefully constructed to benefit German manufacturers with no reciprocity for our strong service sector.

Given trade deficit we run with the 27, if they want to cut off their nose to spite their collective face, we should face that scenario with total equanimity.

Nick Drew said...

the translation proposed by our gracious host

everybody's right!

o Mr Bigot is offering a literal translation

o I was offering how it is usually rendered in colloquial English as a simplified version of its practical meaning. By "anything follows", we mean to add "... including things that are so patently false, the starting-point can't be right - it is contradictory". In formal logic:

P -> (Q & -Q) ⊢ -P

or: if P implies both Q and not-Q (i.e. from P, an impossibility flows), then not-P (i.e., P cannot be true: it is contradictory). The impossibility of both Q and not-Q at the same time is of course the Law of the Excluded Middle, namely ⊢ (P v -P)

Let me conclude with the story of Bertrand Russell's encounter with someone who didn't understand. The dummie said, OK then if 6 equals 5, prove that Bertrand Russell is the Pope. To which Bertie replied: If 5 = 6, then 6-4 = 5-4. So 2 = 1. Russell and the Pope are two. Therefore Russell and the Pope are one!

Anonymous said...

Amusing to watch Brexit falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions. Sensible people would chuck it in the skip. Alternatively the leading Brexiteers could publish the brilliant business plan and spreadsheets they have prepared in readiness for Sunny Upland Britain. Won't happen, the hand wavers don't do Excel and there is no plan to show us.

Sadly we won't chuck Brexit in the skip, what we will do is concoct some milk & water compromise that pleases no one and achieves less than nothing. The Brexiteers will whine and whine that they didn't get a fair crack and if only.... But if only what? With no plan how can they be given any sort of go at post Brexit Britain. So milk & water it is. After this Osborne's austerity will look quite pleasant.

The snag is that the UK can only do averagely well inside the EU and will probably do less than averagely well outside. The options are not attractive either way. To deliver Sunny Uplands and a New Singapore style economy would require dramatic changes to our economy, infrastructure and social setup. Thankfully we don't yet have the dictator necessary to make that happen.

Anonymous said...

Roger, by what measure are we doing "averagely well" and how will it change post-Brexit? Where's your spreadsheet? Without that, your post is nonsense. I suspect it will still be nonsense even with it.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Roger's comment is obviously a load of tosh, since there *should* be a binary decision to make, which is 'in' (Customs union, ECJ, internal market, etc etc, complete with freedom of movement & paying in) or 'out' (not in the customs union, ECJ, internal market, etc etc, no freedom of movement, no paying in).

The difficulty arises because our imbecile prime minister cannot make this simple binary choice and seeks some mythical 3rd way, which does not exist & cannot exist. Being an incorrigible trimmer, when presented with a binary choice she seeks to find middle ground. There isn't any.

CityUnslicker said...

SW - correct, and the maths of parliament will force her to go with BINO currently.

Unless Barnier and Tusk present such a bullying position that she is able to Cry for Harry and England let's go! But that is not Mrs May.

Anonymous said...

Anon, just eyeball the world GDP/head numbers and look up and down from the UK's position. Consider for a moment what credible changes would be needed to move up (or down) significantly. Explore the reasons why those countries richer than us are richer, there are good and usually non replicable reasons. We don't have an oil field handy nor a very rich neighbour. An approximate answer to the right question is infinitely more valuable than a precise answer to the wrong question, no spreadsheet needed.

SW and Unslicker, the idea that the UK has some magical right to choose a pick-and-mix Brexit was always ludicrous. The UK parliament has not had to think for itself for the last 30 years or more. Fudge and muddle have been its only skill set. Now Brexit is forcing some clear legalistic thinking and the hand wavers cannot cope. The horrible reality of Brexit is now staring them in the face. Even a political Einstein could not make Brexit look good.

Yes, the choice is binary, do as you are told or fall off a cliff. No wonder Mrs May is wriggling like a worm on a pin. So, for those who advocate falling off a cliff or leaving like a whipped cur I say show us the plan because remarkable claims require remarkable proofs. I am for staying put, no proofs needed.

Anonymous said...

Let's take a look at GBP/capita then Roger. Personally, I think the calculation of GDP is deeply flawed, but you've chosen it, so let's use it. The UK is currently 26th, according to the IMF, better than roughly 85% of all other countries. Above the likes of France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and all of the eastern bloc EU countries. Doing nowhere near as well as Ireland though, which is 5th. It must have fantastic living standards compared to the UK and be a magnet for the world's best and brightest, especially as they're not leaving the EU - except, no, wait, it's the other way round.

Which average were you using again?

Electro-Kevin said...

"The UK parliament has not had to think for itself for the last 30 years or more. Fudge and muddle have been its only skill set."

I am in agreement, Roger.

So if we stay may we scrap the UK Parliament ? In atonement we could set a good example to the rest of the EU by being better Europeans than they are by entrusting our democracy entirely, root and branch to the EU Commission and Parliament.

Who is your MEP btw ? Which European party do they belong to and which of their policies is your favourite ?

Anyone who voted Remain should hold their MEP in the highest importance and know the workings of the EU at least as well as UK politics. I don't doubt you do btw. But the vast majority of Remainers don't. Nor do I but it's not me trying to sell it.

Anonymous said...

Have spent 3 days in Brussels. Have listened to MEPs, Embassy staff, consultants, EU staff and representatives of the legal profession. Bottom line is that the UK side is still bickering and have no plan.

It's a car crash so follow the backers of No Deal Brexit and take a position on sterling as trashing the currency is the only way this is going to work.

To put it in perspective. NI is smaller than Hampshire and if the leader of HCC was to stamp their foot would anyone pay attention. May and her team lost the plot a long time ago.

andrew said...


Brexit is not falling apart under the weight of it's contradictions, there are no contradictions, a (narrow) majority wants out and that's it.
The costs were made clear at the time.
The voters chose not to listen.
Personally I was against brexit as (I thought then) we would be a bit worse off and (crucially) it solves none of the UK's real problems.
Now it is done, the cost to democracy(*) of ignoring the vote and staying in or under the ECJ or keeping freedom of movement is too big even with all the costs implied.

This is in the conscious knowledge that if we struggle really hard we might get out just a little worse off - any fule knos now that we will be worse off at best - and possibly a lot worse off and also have a lot of blood that will need washing off the streets.

(*) Basically if Tony Blair thinks it is a good idea and it actually supports democratic institutions to keep asking until you get the right answer
then (a) it isn't and (b) the breathtaking hypocrisy of the war criminal.

Electro-Kevin said...

Andrew - We are trying to avert tyranny.

What price ?

Anonymous said...

Tyranny is where you reduce the HoC to 600 by removing backbench scrutiny.

Tyranny is where you fail to enforce Working Time Directives so that people can work themselves to death on Zero Hours contracts.

Tyranny is where you fail to produce enough housing and then remove those in need for social support especially the disabled.

The sunny uplands as earlier described is a return to Victorian values and servitude.

Like my fellow EU citizens, I'm off and you can wipe your own backsides while winging that it's all the EU's fault - even though they've long forgotten you.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

No: tyranny is when you cannot remove the government. Which is what the unelected EU commission is, since they have sole agency when it comes to proposing, amending and repealing laws and regulations. But they never do repeal one, do they? As Mr Juncker says, “there cannot be a democratic vote against the treaties”

That’s tyranny, chum.

BlokeInBrum said...

Wow, nasty and spiteful, exactly like the EU commission. It's precisely because of arseholes like you that I voted to get out. Fuck off and don't let the door hit you on the way out.
It may be a futile gesture, but I hope my vote may restore a little bit of democratic accountability to our government. The shits in parliament have contracted out the business of government to the EU while still pulling in full time pay for part time work. They have surrendered control of our borders and turned the UK into a vassal state.
No wonder the apparatchiks in parliament had a fit of the vapours when the referendum went the wrong way.
They can't pretend any more, they need to do the job they're being paid for or bugger off.
Unfortunately it just shows what a bunch of incompetents we've elected to parliament.

Electro-Kevin said...

"Personally I was against brexit as (I thought then) we would be a bit worse off and (crucially) it solves none of the UK's real problems."

True Andrew. The realy problem is cultural Marxism. The EU is a cover for it.

The People got it half right in the referendum and yes. They WILL be disappointed.

Given the opportunity it was my duty to vote out and I would do so again.

Bill Quango MP said...

Tyranny is where you fail to enforce Working Time Directives so that people can work themselves to death on Zero Hours contracts.

If they work zero hours, how can they work themselves to death?
Anyone in the UK has the right to opt out of the working time directive. I do recall in the past being told to sign it or no job. But I haven't heard of that practice since most employers of low wage earners want them to work under 12 hours a week for national insurance saving purposes. Saves the employer a fortune if 4 workers work 12 hours than one working 48.

The AVERAGE worker on zero hours works 20-30 hours a week. Very few work more than that.

Tyranny is where you fail to produce enough housing and then remove those in need for social support especially the disabled.

And why is there not enough housing? Is it the half a million people arriving, year on year, for over ten years?
Is it planning law?
Is it the problems with mortgages
Buy to Let?

What has any of that to do with 'The disabled'.

Momentum is welcome here. But please try and have a logical argument.
Emotive ones are best left on comment is free.

Electro-Kevin said...

"Like my fellow EU citizens, I'm off and you can wipe your own backsides while winging that it's all the EU's fault - even though they've long forgotten you."

Already off by the sounds of it, BQ.

I've met Brits living in Cyprus telling me that we made a really bad decision because they could no longer eat in Cypriot restaurants 5 times a week.

Why should I care about people who have quit the country, or worse, quit the country when the vote doesn't go their way ?

James Higham said...

“We don't need to fall back into triumphal 'Richard North' mode here, wearing a smug grin and shouting HaHa, You Cretins, HaHa! “

Anybody’s guess is right.

K said...

Something I don't get about North is when he talks about food safety (where he has actual experience) he clearly understands that the official rules and how they are interpreted, implemented, and abused on the ground is very different.

So why is he such a pedant about everything else? He's spent so much time amongst Eurocrats he's ended up thinking like one.

Anonymous said...

Something I don't get about North is why he hasn't been Sectioned.

Charlie said...

"Tyranny is where you fail to enforce Working Time Directives so that people can work themselves to death on Zero Hours contracts."

Notwithstanding the total logic fail of that statement, any fule kno that people on ZHCs generally work 15 hours a week, so that they don't lose their benefits.

andrew said...

The thing that is not properly discussed is that there is a disconnect between the cost of housing and and zhc.
Employers like zhc as it gives them a lot of flexibility but from the employees pov if you don't know your income how do you know you can pay the rent every month.