There are a lot of angry people online complaining that people wanting to stay in the EU are anti-democratic. We hate democracy, allegedly. We’re terrible people, we’re spoilt youths, we’re fascists, we’re traitors, we’re nazis, blah blah blah. Some of the commentary is more measured than others, but it’s all very angry and it all comes down to hating democracy.

Well, hang on, there’s something very wrong here.

I could expend many words explaining that democracy is a process, not a one-off event. I could argue that literally less than 1% of the population (a 600,000 vote swing) making a decision for the other 99% is not an obviously democratic proposition. I could predict that by the time Article 50 is invoked enough pro-EU 16-17 year olds will be old enough to vote and enough anti-EU 85+ year olds will be dead that the June 2016 result will be obsolete. I could put forward my opinion that the EU actually improves democracy in the UK by limiting the power of our exceptionally unrepresentative parliament. I could point out our prime minister hasn’t even been elected, and is leading a government nobody voted for, which seems to be hinting it’s going to do an about-turn on the economic policy people did vote for, and yet here people are accepting this while whinging about democracy.

I have lots of options, but my simplest one is as follows:

If you think the referendum was an upstanding example of democracy in action, answer this: Did you vote to stay in or leave the single market?

Single market membership impacts your daily life far more than membership of the EU, and as a result of the leave vote, the PM will eventually have to decide whether or not we’ll stay. So which option did you vote for? That’s right – you don’t even know.

Some people will say they voted to leave the single market and the PM must respect the full implication of the result and implement a total European exit regardless of the consequences. Other people will say they voted to leave the EU because they wanted to ditch the bureaucracy while believing we would retain single market membership so our economy would continue to function as normal, so the PM has no mandate to remove us from the single market. Other people who voted to leave don’t even know what the single market is.

The course of action chosen by the public was almost completely unspecified, which means that the mandate the PM now has is a mandate to do whatever she wants. This is the precise opposite of what democracy is supposed to be, and would be correctly referred to as a bit of a stitch up.

It is simply unbelievable to me that anybody could spend five minutes thinking about it and honestly regard the referendum as a respectable piece of democracy. The ‘anti-democracy’ noise is coming from people who are just perpetually angry for no real reason other than they can’t control their emotions. And that’s fine, you can be angry all you like, but that sort of anger comes at the cost of not being able to make good decisions because it interferes with the rational evaluation of a situation.

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Today the Daily Mail (I won’t link to it) is reporting on the reduced growth forecasts by the IMF, and quotes Douglas Carswell calling the IMF ‘clowns’. DM thinks that the forecasts are a cause for celebration because they’re not as bad as they could be.

The IMF’s current forecasts are based in part on the fact the markets seemed relatively unperturbed the prospect of brexit. But brexit is poorly-defined and predictions based upon it should be treated with caution.

There are three options: 1. No brexit, 2. Soft brexit (leave EU, stay in EEA), 3. Hard brexit (leave EU and EEA, go it fully alone). Only #3 is a dangerous scenario economically, and there’s almost certainly no mandate for it, but it might happen anyway because our woefully open ended referendum question might be taken to be synonymous with leaving the EEA, even though it very literally was not.

Nobody knows the probabilities of any of the different brexit possibilities (not that that’s a meaningful question), but instinctively you’d probably go with something like this: no brexit: 30%, soft brexit: 50%, hard brexit: 20%. Under my model, investors would be pricing in an 80% chance of no disruption to their businesses. This means that it’s mostly business as usual for the moment, but if hard brexit starts looking more likely, there’ll be a potentially big correction on the way.

Regardless, only an extraordinarily stupid person could perceive a significant reduction in growth as good news. For young people it’s very bad news as it damages their retirement prospects. Between the 2008 crash and a hard brexit, a lot of people in their late 20s and early 30s are yet to earn against the backdrop of high economic growth, and are unlikely to do so in the next 5-10 years. This means many people will spend a third of their expected working life seeing little real growth on their retirement savings.

So overall: yes, sorry, brexit is still a really stupid decision.

By the way, Douglas Carswell is not your friend unless you’re very rich. He’s a free market liberal (or libertarian in American terminology). He has extreme ideas like removing working benefits because he believes that they suppress wages. This sounds superficially sensible, but if it were true then the same mechanism would increase wages if income tax rates were increased and reduce wages if income tax was cut. And I don’t think anyone’s first reaction to higher income tax is “that’s ok, my employer will make up the difference”. It is fitting that he represents one of the most deprived constituencies in the UK, because if his ideas were implemented, a lot more areas would look like Jaywick.

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Heat Resistance

Despite it suddenly jumping from 22 to 32°C, I don’t really feel that bad. People at work spent most of the day complaining and a few years ago I would have agreed with them, but I seem much more resilient to it now.

I’m pretty sure that it’s because I’ve been doing a lot of 1h runs during which my body feels far hotter than it does sat down at 32° C.

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Reasons to be optimistic

It’s interesting that Theresa May has got rid of George Osborne. She’s brought on a new chancellor who seems to be stoutly rejecting the austerity that defined Osborne’s tenure.

Now, what politicians say and what they do are very often different things, so we’ll see how the austerity or lack thereof really plays out, but Osborne’s proud austerity has been the defining feature of the modern Conservative party. To now start backtracking on that is huge.

There’s an analysis hiding in here that austerity and its effects are probably the single biggest justifiable driver of the brexit vote, and Theresa May recognises and feels motivated to act upon this. A lot of people who don’t normally vote felt sufficiently disillusioned by the modern political climate that they attended a polling station to give the establishment a black eye. For the average member of the working or not-so-working class, leaving the EU won’t solve any problems. But removing George Osborne just might.

I feel reasonably optimistic at the moment that Theresa May is smarter than the average brexiter and realises there’s bigger issues at home.

If she’s serious about improving the economy for poorer people, she’ll end up in a conflict with the more enthusiastic brexiters who think that leaving is worth the economic hit. David Davis, minister for brexit, has been making noises implying he wants to leave at any cost. But it’s not his choice, and Theresa May’s messages on the subject seem much more cautious.

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I am pessimistic about the ‘minister for Brexit’, David Davis’s competence when it comes to being able to forge a credible exit strategy.

He believes in Schrodinger’s United Kingdom: i.e. that the UK is simultaneously so powerful and important that the EU will fall over itself to offer us brilliant trade deals without asking for freedom of movement, while we are also so weak that we’ve spent years being downtrodden and ignored by our EU overlords. He believes that we, as a non-EU nation, could maintain trade deals with EU nations on a country by country basis because it’s “in their interests to be cooperative”, while also believing that as an EU nation, the EU prevented us from forming trade deals with non-EU nations.

He won’t be able to come up with a good exit strategy because he’s an intellectually dishonest politician trying to achieve something more concrete than winning votes. Voters might be swayed by dishonesty, reality not so much.

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Interesting times

David Davis is being made “minister for brexit” (imagine having to put that on your CV), and Boris is being made foreign secretary.

This implies either:
1. Theresa May is really serious about brexit by giving big brexiters top foreign policy jobs
2. Theresa May isn’t at all serious about brexit and is being quick to give brexiters enough rope to hang themselves so she can back out of it

Boris as foreign secretary is a strange choice, as she specifically rubbished his ability to negotiate with foreign powers during her leadership campaign launch speech.

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Come what May

Problem: The EU is undemocratic and I don’t like immigrants.
Solution: Let’s have a new Prime Minister that nobody voted for and whose Home Office policies ensured the highest rate of immigration this country has ever seen.



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