Peter Cook outlines his strategy and thoughts on the current status of Brexit.

State of the Brexit Union

It is just months away from our scheduled date of leaving the European Union.  In the two years that have elapsed since our referendum it has become apparent that:

1. There remains no plan for Brexit. All the sketchy plans for Brexit (Chequers, No Deal etc.) are inferior to the deal we currently have with the EU.

2. There remain no answers to the question “How will Brexit benefit me or the country?”  Even former UKIP leader Nigel Farage  cannot answer the question, as we discovered recently in his reply to my question, an article for The Independent and most recently in conversation  with a panel from Vote Leave and Open Britain on LBC with Iain Dale.

3. There remains confusion about what Brexit means, although it has become clearer that Brexit offers no value economically, socially, environmentally, ethically and so on. Jacob Rees-Mogg’s best estimate of 50 years Net Present Value for Brexit will see my son aged 74 by the time he is likely to “break-even”. He will be paying for Brexit for all of his adult life. It’s not a legacy I want on my tombstone. How about you?

It becomes clearer with every day that passes that Brexit is simply the pursuit of a political ideology for the few, not the many. All challenges to Brexit, be they legal, technical, social or otherwise have been ignored by our Government and the official opposition, putting their parties before the good of the country and its people.

Some say that Brexit cannot be stopped, including my own brother. They are wrong. They merely demonstrate the condition psychologists call “learned helplessness”.  This occurs when people do not believe they can or should affect the outcome of an event and / or they don’t know what to do about it to alter the course of events. In my brother’s case he tells me that, although he voted to Remain, he believes it would be undemocratic to go against the will of the people. He knows that Brexit will be bad for him and his family but believes he must keep calm and carry on. I am pretty sure that the “silent majority” was a feature of Hitler’s rise to power as well.

In fact, Brexit is very likely to end, through the chaotic combination of a number of countervailing forces. Some of these are summarised in this series of “event strings” below. Different combinations of events lead to a number of end game Brexit scenarios, some of which are a slow painful death of the Brexit beast, others more rapid in nature.

Brexit end game scenarios

In my work as a business consultant, I’ve used scenario planning as a “gaming” technique to help companies anticipate and respond to alternative futures. The approach was popularised by Shell in the 1970’s. It was a fortuitous meeting with Vince Cable, himself an ex Shell employee and fellow scenario planner, that re-ignited my enthusiasm to think about some of the more likely combinations of events that could lead to the death of the Brexit beast. Vince and I agreed that it was probably impossible to game all the possible permutations, but it was at least possible to consider the end coming, either from what I call “internal combustion”, put crudely, “heat without light”, or from a combination of “external shocks”. More likely, a combination of both. We are in disruptive times and a linear planning perspective no longer applies. Just consider how unlikely it was that Theresa May would get into bed with the DUP? Who knew that she would expect the taxpayer to fund the cost of stockpiling food, drugs and fuel as a strategy to frighten the country into submission and as a “game of chicken” with Michel Barnier?

Here is some future gazing taken from the event strings.  The one thing we know about the future is that it’s unreliable. Please indulge me with your thoughts on the next 2-3 months in terms of disruptive combinations of events that will lead to the death of the Brexit beast.

It is almost certain that the EU will reject our proposals in October, after all they have consistently been a repackaging of the cake and eat it too proposals that characterise the UK Government hubris about empire and other historical and hysterical notions of a lost paradise.  The EU’s rejection will not be an act of belligerence. Quite simply, if the EU were to give Britain a special deal, it would open the floodgates in terms of other countries asking for similar treatment. What exactly would be the point of being an EU member when you could gain similar concessions without paying the club membership fees?

I consider “No Deal Brexit” to be a low probability currently, on the basis that it would guarantee that the Conservatives would be unelectable into perpetuity. It is however an incredibly potent way of silencing resistance … if we fall for it. The effects are unimaginable with deaths related to medicine shortages likely and I won’t detail them here as they are adequately covered at the “Who Cares About Brexit?” project. Suffice to say that, considering the near hysteria that occurred when KFC ran out of chicken, there is a real possibility of civil unrest within days of a No Deal Brexit. I do not believe that the rank and file Conservative MPs are self-harmers and we must not confuse what is a bargaining tool with the nation and the EU with a serious intent to “Make Conservatives History”.

Never underestimate the importance of entropy in extinguishing a political strategy. This is the stuff on which “Yes Minister” was based. The stoic efforts of our civil service work quietly but consistently to place obstacles in the way of Brexit from the many private conversations I have had with individuals in high and low places …

I talk a lot with people on social media on both sides of the Brexit dilemma. There is dismay on both sides about the lack of progress being made. Meanwhile the rhetoric continues to say that the “Brexit Titanic” has left the harbour and it will be plain sailing ahead. I am always much more interested in what is happening in politics behind the stage than on stage. Private conversations with people who face the politicians on a daily basis via SODEM indicate that it’s not plain sailing at all. This means that further defections, resignations, revolts and so on will continue through the party conference season, further weakening the “Brexit Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” to breaking point. We already see Boris Johnson starting disruptive operations in the Conservative Party and similar movements are taking place to the left. Movements in the centre may suddenly make it a more attractive place to be …

This is the end my friends

In conclusion, I estimate that Brexit currently has a likelihood of around 50%

It is never a good idea to pursue a strategy in the face of compelling evidence that it will not deliver a better future. Most serious politicians know this. The present difficulty for Theresa May and her Government is how to stop Brexit AND remain electable. A change to the “parliamentary paralysis” that has locked Britain in a state of political entropy can come from a combination of actions. Here’s my “Five A Day”. What are yours?

1. Continue to explain the benefits of EU membership and debunking of items labelled project fear as Brexit reality.

2. Challenge misconceptions that continue to occupy the minds of leave voters, sometimes sensitively, sometimes provocatively, depending on the person / group involved.

3. Ask your MP to have courage. Point out gently or otherwise that they are unelectable if they do not stand up for the best interests of the country.

4. Talk about the state of play and the fact that Brexit can be stopped, to friends, family, colleagues, burnt out Remainers, Leavers in regret, Leavers in denial etc. to target the issue of learned helplessness.

5. Marching, getting active locally in whatever way you can. Never let a day pass without doing something to “Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”.

Peter Cook
As well as an ardent campaigner for Britain remaining in the European Union, Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Leading innovative Pharmaceutical Product Research and Development teams to bring multi-million dollar life-saving drugs safely to the market including Human Insulin and the first treatment for HIV / AIDS and Herpes. Peter is an MBA, Chartered Chemist, Chartered Marketer, FCIPD and an NLP Old Master.

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    1. shared on FB – grate read and very informative.
      Best wishes Alex Barclay

      1. Thank you so much Alex – I have a maxim of trying to get information on to one page hence the infographic. I am sure as Brexit madness continues to unfold, there will be things I’ve missed due to this self imposed constraint. atb Peter

    2. Thank you Peter. Even if 50%, it allows 50% more optimism than some people feel at present. Add the personal testimonies in ‘In Limbo: Brexit Testimonies from EU Citizens in the UK’ and ‘In Limbo Too: Brexit testimonies from UK citizens in the EU’, compiled by Elena Remigi, then take into account what Paul Drechsler, former president of the CBI, has said about European leaders, including Theresa May, who should be ashamed that they have not guaranteed the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU in the event of no deal. All round, it is perhaps beyond simply Brexit. An advisory referendum interpreted as it was is one thing, but to have achieved nothing in more than two years, to not listen to entrepreneurs, bankers and other finance people, academics, medical personnel, even farmers and fishermen joining in, now opinion polls indicating a vast change of opinion, we are living with the equivalent of a runaway train. It cannot be diverted, we know that because it has gone down the wrong route, reversed to go back on the main route to nowhere several times, so it needs to be derailed. There should be enough barriers in front of it now but somehow Theresa May is keeping it on track but going nowhere. The fact that a pile of inaccurate, totally repetitive and very shallow papers has appeared over the last week to spread gloom and doom regarding the outcome of a possible no deal, any claims to advantages get lost by the end of the first page of each, gives grounds for doubt. Yet where do people figure in all of this? They do not. Some of them put crosses on pieces of paper, that has been used to disrupt and instil fear in several million people who for the larger part had no say on what may be done with their lives. Thus said, we need to inject far more into growing your five closing points because the distress, depression and despair felt by people directly affected by Brexit needs to be part of a louder, wider and stronger narrative that does the derailing.
      I have linked this article to a number of sites of and for people affected by and fighting against Brexit.

    3. Thank you so much Brian. In terms of In Limbo, we did try to amplify this specific cause through a song titled under the same name – you can see the poignant video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppmQGIqbqI
      As far as injecting more vigour into the resistance, we are tonight starting a new project called Civil Disobedience, to inject a little more adrenaline into anti Brexit activity. An empty frame website will be populated soon via http://www.brexitrage.com/rage/civil-disobedience/
      all the best

    4. Great article which everyone should read.Thank you for this Peter.

      1. Thank you for your unswerving support Anne, under what must be impossible circumstances. Let us pray that Brexit will end soon so that we can restore the Great in Britain. Take care Peter xx

    5. Excellent. Thank you. Unfortunately, my local MP is a moral coward, who claims to be Remain but is too scared of the 67% Leave vote in the constituency.

      1. My MP is a moral coward as well – He is also a career politician with no moral compass. He does what he is told, was once Labour and now Conservative. He needs no whipping … except from me 🙂

    6. You wish to understand ‘Brexit’?
      Consider Fred West.
      His intention, in coaxing his victims to leave the outside world, was not to save them – but to control them.
      In exactly this same way – ‘Brexit’ is NOT about the EU. It is all about leaving us with no recourse but Party-Politics. By voiding the ‘agency’ of our vote. By exchanging the rule of law with Party-Political-Proclamation.
      Should ‘Brexit’ fail: We may enjoy fresh-air in the daytime, but we shall be condemned yet, to return to ‘Fred Wests” house each evening.

      1. I’m now not entirely sure whether I would rather return to Fred West’s house or Jacob Rees-Mogg’s or Iain Duncan Smith in the evening !! 🙂

    7. A good informative article. Thank you.
      I find it quite disturbing how the government uses tactics such as ‘learned helplessness’ and equally disturbed at how many people have succumbed to it.
      I’m also concerned that the government have been so vocal and focused on the subjects of trade and immigration and have stayed so conveniently quite about such things as human rights, civil rights, workers rights etc and I have to say it was the thought of what the government would do in this respect that was the main reason I voted remain.
      In my opinion we are well and truly shooting ourselves in the foot if we leave the EU. Lets hope common sense prevails before it’s too late.

    8. Hello there and thank you for taking time to comment. By chance I was at an event on Behavioural Economics last Friday and of course such approaches can also be used for good or bad. They have been used for evil by our Government to polarise and numb people into acceptance. I sense people are waking up (slowly) to such things, but there is so much to pay attention to in modern society.
      The phrase “it’s a good day to deliver bad news” has never been so true !!! 🙂
      Jeremy’s announcement plays along with one of my scenario threads and possibly averts a meltdown in his party … but he really needs to have found the word NO to use with Brexit, as I articulated in this song I wrote on the topic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej7b8tbtTz4
      All the best

    9. Thankyou Peter. I never had any doubts regarding your command of Creativity, Innovation and Change; rather, if May and her Cabinet have *not* engaged in a serious Scenario Planning exercise regarding the way 2019 might unfold, then any remaining(!) claim to competence disappears in a puff of smoke. (You mean Chequers wasn’t scenario planning for the Cabinet??)
      Anyway, on a slightly different tack…
      Why are the most ardent Brexiteers so opposed to the idea of extending the schedule? Surely the right decision is more important than a quick decision? Do they not have confidence in their arguments? Might they be concerned that more information regarding consequences might lead us to query whether this is really the future we want?
      Back in the day, nearly 52% of those that voted were happy to buy a pig in a poke without a price tag. Two years on, and the sellers are more anxious than ever to close the deal at the earliest opportunity. Does nobody else find this a bit suspicious?

    10. Hello David,
      Our leaders have a different view of creativity in terms of “gambling” and they would be well advised to take B822 !!
      As for the “quick fire sale” from the Brexiteers, several theories are available …
      1. Various leading Brexiteers have placed serious spread bets on the pound and need Brexit to happen to realise their fortunes. It is rumoured that Jacob Rees Mogg and Nigel Farage would almost be bankrupt if we don’t get a hard Brexit or No Deal
      2. Another theory is around the EU’s intention to bear down on large corporate companies for tax evasion on 30 March 2019.
      3. And of course, if the public wake up to what Brexit means, they may well change their view about the wisdom of proceeding. There are already warnings of a recession next year.
      I’m sure there are other explanations?
      all the best

    11. Dear Peter,
      Thank you – you make some very good points. I suppose thirty years in financial services has left me a tad cynical. Noting that BEPS (Basis Erosion and Profit Shifting, which makes it hard for firms to dodge taxes, and will be particularly tricky for managers of private equity funds) is being pushed especially hard by the EU and is due to come into effect in January 2019; and certainly its coincidence that 29 March turns out to be just before UK Tax Day, 5 April. I think Theory #2 has something to it, though possibly not the whole story.
      I’m thinking of the EU’s annoying habit of looking after consumer rights with things like getting rid of roaming charges, I suspect that the mantra of Taking Back Control was more about some very wealthy people being able again to get away with some dodgy deals – just like everyone was doing in the good ol’ days before the EU started to get bolshy.
      Given the killing made by Farage and a clique of his hedge fund mates on the £ on 24 June 2016, I wouldn’t bet against your Theory #1 either. And #3 of course makes sense: more time might make people wonder even more why they haven’t come up with any ideas – well not sensible ones anyway.
      But what are your thoughts about stalling on the investigations into irregularities in the Leave campaigns?. They cite “political sensitivities”. Do they mean that dragging their heels isn’t a politically sensitive thing to do? My cynical side is starting to show again..

    12. Dear Frances – TY for your detailed reply and my apologies for not getting back sooner – I’ve been flat out on events to bring one million people to London on Saturday.
      Your cynicism is matched by mine. Take Back Control of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s assets seems to be a driving force for example. Rumours abound that he stands to gain a fortune by betting the country if he achieves a hard Brexit, whilst he advises his clients not to invest in Basket Case Britain.
      On prosecutions of Leave, I am aware of significant fear in Whitehall departments from senior civil servants if they step out of line on Brexit from private conversations in bars around No 10 Downing Street. I would expect such conversations extend to the Metropolitan Police. The truth will out but I suspect they are playing a waiting game to get Brexit across the line. Never in my life did I think I’d quote Trump, but basically I say “Lock Them Up”.
      We storm the Bank of England today with music to Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain – see https://www.facebook.com/events/245588839459591/
      all the best

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