9 Lessons in Brexit by Ivan Rogers
Despite being one of the ‘hot-topics’ of British politics at the moment, and reading a number of books about it during 2019 – I am yet to properly address Brexit on this blog. I guess this is in part because I always tried to maintain hope that it wouldn’t happen. Somehow there would be a second referendum, a revoking of Article 50, anything to stop us leaving the European Union. Post the 2019 general election it now seems inevitable that come the 31st of January our relationship with the EU will change irrevocably.
I still find the whole ordeal utterly bewildering. I am lucky enough to have studied a module of European Law as part of my undergraduate degree, and therefore have a better understanding than some of the intricacies of the European project. I couldn’t (and still can’t) wrap my head around the arguments about sovereignty and ‘taking back control’. So, as per my standard, I turned to books to try and fully understand just what had caused the whole country to get riled up.
9 Lessons in Brexit is a short book by Ivan Rogers, based on a series of university lectures. Ivan Rogers is …
“a former British civil servant. He was Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair from 2003 to 2006, and served David Cameron as Prime Minister’s Adviser for Europe and Global Issues from 2012 to 2013. In November of that year he was appointed Britain’s Permanent Representative to the EU, where he was the UK’s most senior negotiator with other Member Sates and the European Institutions until he resigned in January 2017”
Standing at just 94 pages long, 9 Lessons in Brexit is the definition of a short book. It is easily accessible, and well written. As with other books that are based on written word, there is limited acknowledgement of sources or additional suggested reading. However, there can be no doubting of Rogers’ credentials or expertise.
The 9 lessons are …
“Brexit means Brexit” – “leaving the EU is genuinely a major regime change, with massive political, legal, economic, and social consequences”
“Other people have sovereignty too. And they too may choose to ‘take back control’ of things you would rather they didn’t”
“Brexit is a process not an event”
“It is not possible or democratic to argue (as hard Brexiteers do) that only one Brexit destination is true, legitimate and representatives of the revealed ‘Will of the People’”
“If WTO terms or existing EU preferential deals are not good enough for the UK in major ‘third country’ markets, they can’t be good enough for trade with our largest market”
“The huge problem for the UK with either reversion to WTO terms or with a standard free trade deal with the EU is in services”
“Beware all supposed deals bearing ‘pluses’”
“You cannot and should not want to, conduct such a huge negotiation as untransparently as the UK has”
“Real honesty with the public is the best – the only – policy if we are to get to the other side of Brexit with a healthy democracy, a reasonably unified country and a strong economy”
Each of these lessons is elaborated on further in the book, in accessible language, and non-patronising tone. This feels like essential reading, for EVERYONE, but especially our MPs, MEPs, and civil servants. 9 Lessons in Brexit is well articulated, clear, and concise.
There can be no-doubt that there has been a significant amount of misinformation regarding Brexit. Even within the mainstream media, messaging has often been mixed at best, convoluted often, and straight-up incorrect at worst. Having a book so clearly lay out different aspects of Brexit and potential implications is so useful. Moreover, this doesn’t feel like some policy professional’s super-duper high-level manifesto; it feels as though it has been written for ordinary folk – people like me!
Published in 2019 it is a sign of just how much politics has been in flux recently; Rogers consistently refers to Theresa May as the Prime Minister throughout. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that invalidates any of the lessons. In fact, I feel they should be considered a warning to our new government. Especially lesson 9. If we are to start to heal our wounds, and come together as a country we need honesty and transparency.
As January 31st looms ever closer I hope our government (and the right-wing press) take heed of lesson 3 – “Brexit is a process not an event”. Just as one phase of negotiations finish, another will start…
Over the next week or so I will be reviewing other Brexit based books that have helped me get a better understanding of this whole process, including: Brexit What the Hell Happens Now? and Brexit Without the Bullshit.
9 Lessons in Brexit in Facts:
Author: Ivan Rogers
First Published Date: 2019
Publishing House: Short Books