2007 - 2022

Red Tape, Brexit, Shock and Bluff

As the Brexit ‘negotiations’ begin (or ends?) we are drawing on academic experts to try and cut through the spin and political fog to understand the issues.

Here is constitutional lawyer, Professor Michael Duggan of Liverpool University, on the Brexit process. He is the editor of  a collection of essays: “THE UK AFTER BREXIT”.

He points out to the internal and external dangers of the new politics.

“…we should pay careful attention to the gathering “anti-red tape” campaigns – being promoting by the likes of the Daily Telegraph – which seek to portray withdrawal as some “once in a lifetime opportunity” to sweep away any number of EU-derived rights and obligations.  To them, of course, “red tape” means our rights as workers and consumers, or the regulatory standards intended to protect the environment or our broader safety and security as citizens.  And don’t forget: short term promises in party manifestos to “protect workers rights” count for very little – leaving the EU is about imposing a long term, structural change in our social contract with public power.”

Richard Murphy of the UK Tax Research UK Blog said of him: “Sane voices need to be heard. Michael Dougan is a sane voice on an issue where such voices are too rarely heard.”

In the second film EU law expert, Professor Michael Dougan offers his assessment one year on from the EU referendum which resulted in a narrow majority in favour of Brexit. Prof Dougan, whose video criticising the campaign’s “dishonesty on an industrial scale” in the weeks before the vote clocked up millions of views, looks back at his predictions and suggests that those who want to see the UK leave the EU are now facing “the accountability of reality”. He says Brexiteers are in a “state of almost total denial” as “project fear becomes project reality”.

Please share.



We really need your support to develop though and we’d like to ask you to support us by donating to us here.

We’ve got big plans to launch our new site, to launch new publishing and events projects, and to extend our platform of writers – but all of this needs your support.



Bella Caledonia remains free (and ad-free) and takes me hundreds of hours a month to research, write, commission and edit. If you value what I do, please consider supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing. GoCardless to set up a small monthly donation to support independent journalism in Scotland.


Go here to subscribe for free and get each Bella article sent to your email
Go here to follow us on Twitter @bellacaledonia
Go here to follow us on Instagram
Go here to join our Facebook Group
Go here to follow us on Spotify
Go here to write for us



Comments (30)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    It wouldn’t shock me if the tories announced in 14 months time that we’re going to have to stay in he EU, as they’re a crowd of bastards, who want to ruin the economy. They then call a general election to support that stance.

    They win a landslide as Corbyn is stuck in his 1945 time warp.

  2. bringiton says:

    The Tories are more or less hanging their hat on a mega trade deal with Trump.
    Trump hates the EU because they don’t put USA first and can deal with him on at least equal terms.
    Blighty on it’s own will get whatever deal Trump decides is in USA interests and they will just have to suck it up.
    Why did the UK join the EEC in the first place when the option to kowtow to the USA was possible even then?
    Above all else,I deeply resent England’s Tories stripping me of my European citizenship to be replaced with something more akin to being a subject in a banana republic/monarchy.

  3. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Here is constitutional lawyer, Professor Michael Duggan of Liverpool University, on the Brexit process trying to cut through the spin and political fog to understand the issues.
    “leaving the EU is about imposing a long term, structural change in our social contract with public power.”
    I’m no academic expert but I know when someone is talking keech.

    1. Pogliaghi says:

      Indeed you are no academic because if you were you’d know that’s fairly simple and clear language for academia.

      1. John S Warren says:

        “structural change in our social contract with public power.” ? Enlighten me.

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      In fact, little sign of any expertise or insight whatsoever.

  4. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Articles like this one are beginning to get annoying. What is it with academics and self proclaimed intellectuals and referendum results?
    I should at this point do as academics do and refer to my comment of last month on this subject but I will instead repeat myself in the hope that by stating the obvious often enough I will eventually succeed in getting this fact into the consciousness of the stupid democracy deniers that still refuse to accept the Brexit result.
    The UK voted to Leave. The vote was a fair one. There was no pauchling going on. We are leaving the EU.

    1. Pogliaghi says:

      Scotland voted to remain. Perhaps you are one of those savants who contrives to argue that “Scotland voted for the UK to remain, not for Scotland to remain” and on the basis of that, conjures up some illusory popular legitimacy for the idea that Scotland should both go independent and leave the EU.

      By the way, the UK as a whole supports Trident, right wing Tory governments etc. (See Scottish Independence 101: the Democratic Deficit). By your crude formula the entire Scottish independence movement is “democracy denying”.

      1. John S Warren says:

        “Scottish independence movement is “democracy denying”. Yes that is exactly what I’m saying.
        My formula may be ‘crude’ but it still remains logical; Scotland voted No to independence in 2014, the UK voted to Leave EU in 2016 = Scotland leaving EU with the UK in 2019.

    2. Pogliaghi says:

      Sigh. No we are not. It can’t be done, so it won’t be done.

    3. Graeme Purves says:

      Oh dear! Richard is getting annoyed by the articles he is reading in Bella again. Can anyone think of a remedy?

      1. I was thinking of throwing out a decades worth of editorial line to suit Richards worldview?

        1. John S Warren says:

          You should be thinking exactly that. When big things happen, things change. Smart people reappraise their goals. People that are not smart don’t. They think things just carry on. The longer someone holds a particular opinion the less inclined they are to change it, unless as I say, they are smart enough to realise the consequences of big decisions.
          Bella’s editorial stance is now naïve and outdated. It is laughable to think that only a Yes vote would change things.

      2. John S Warren says:

        Don’t you get annoyed when so called ‘experts’ talk dross?
        “leaving the EU is about imposing a long term, structural change in our social contract with public power.” Do you know what that means? This is a big statement the professor is making when he starts his pronouncement, “leaving the EU is about………” and then he concludes that it is about “….. imposing a long term, structural change in our social contract with public power.” In other words, nothing anyone can understand except maybe the professor himself.
        Here is another issue I have with this statement.
        “leaving the EU is about imposing….” ‘imposing’? Impose means to force or inflict. We all know Brexit is the result of a constitutional referendum. How can leaving the EU be an imposition? This is not language I would associate with an academic study.

        And I know this is small beer but Michael Duggan is a constitutional lawyer, Professor of Liverpool University. He has been compelled to publish a collection of essays: “THE UK AFTER BREXIT”. Presumably the piece in big font above is a quote from these essays “…we should pay careful attention to the gathering “anti-red tape” campaigns – being promoting by the likes of the Daily Telegraph” He hasn’t even spell checked before publishing. If I was marking his essay it would be a fail.

        1. John S Warren says:

          The difference is Professor Dougan was appointed to his Chair by his academic peers. His qualifications are first-rate. You appointed yourself a ‘marker’; and frankly that is no great qualification to mark.

          While I do not wish to be unkind, your comments deserve no mark at all; not even for turning up.

    4. John S Warren says:

      “The UK voted to Leave. The vote was a fair one. There was no pauchling going on. We are leaving the EU”. The problem is that nobody defined precisely what “leaving” entailed; leaving the Customs Union? Not in the question. Leaving the Single Market? Not in the question. Depriving every UK ctiizen of their personal EU citizenship? Not in the question. I could add a hundred more. 48% of the population voted to remain. Only a narrow majority voted to leave, whatever they thought that entailed.

      More importantly, you appear to think that having a majority entitles the majority to absolute rule. Whatever the majority want, they are entitled to execute. They are not. This is why we have a constitution. Constitutions are not merely to provide the majority with power. That is elective dictatorship; pure and simple. We do not need more populist tyrants. We have constitutions to protect the rights of all within the state: James Madison’s great American Constitution was designed and drafted precisely to ensure that we did not have an elective dictatorship of the kind you have so trenchantly, but mal-eloquently expressed in these four short, crude, ill-judged sentences: “The UK voted to Leave. The vote was a fair one. There was no pauchling going on. We are leaving the EU.”

      I think not.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        There is no UK constitution. We dont have one. Which means, there are no rules. Therefore when a referendum is called the winner takes all. Talk now of what we did and didnt vote for, leaving the single market, or EU citizenship is, as they say, no more than moaning.
        If you want to know what we voted for last year, go back and read the words on the ballot paper.

        1. John S Warren says:

          “There is no UK constitution”. Wrong. There is no written constitution. The proof of my point above about resisting tyranny, is Gina Miller’s Supreme Court victory. The purpose of the Government is neverthless still to rule by Statutory Instrument, wholesale. This is arbitrary rule. It is an attack on our constitution, disguised as an application of it. In effect you are supporting this abuse of power.

          You began with a very bad argument, and instead of wisely adjusting your position I can only assume that simple conceit insisted that you cannot be wrong, or cannot admit it; thus you merely compound the error. Not content with dismissing an authoritative constitutional lawyer, you have now dismissed the constitution. Your vanity has overwhelmed your judgement. This debate is now ridiculous. Enough.

          1. Richard MacKinnon says:

            “There is no UK constitution”. Wrong. There is no written constitution”

            My case tests.

          2. John S Warren says:

            I do not even understand your last comment, but let that pass.

            Here is my final word in reply to your comments. You can believe what you like. You can insist that you won. You can insist that everyone falls into line. But let me make this clear: that is not how the world works. It is not how politics works. You do not represent forces strong enough to exercise absolute rule. The Conservative Party is twisting in the wind. You will be contested. You will be fought by all legitimate political means. You will be exhausted trying to hold on to what you do not have. You represent a disintegrating past, full of faded memories of past glories. The smell of decay is everywhere.

            Slowly, those opposed to Brexit – virtually half the country, and already perhaps more than half – will reform opposition and you will be fought, line by line, inch by inch; relentlessly, from the inside: to the bitter end, which – you will discover – never comes. You represent a ramshackle, principally elderly, ill-informed, insecure constituency. We have little to fear. You will not prevail. You will lose; however long it takes. The best you can achieve is to divide Britain into polarities ever further apart. You can exacerbate divisions. You can drive Scotland further towards independence, and beyond the tipping-point. You can cause much dissension in, and problems for the island of Ireland. You can certainly create a mess. You can keep us in this mess of your making, but only for a while. You cannot provide a positive future for the UK; because you do not understand the nature of the problem, or even the nature of political reality. You do not understand your opposition, or how to deal with it. You think you are going to be accommodated. You will be wrong. You will face a long resistance, because you do not understand the simple essence of this powerful word: “consent”. A large part of the UK, and much of Scotland withholds consent. The idea that you can fix that by insisting that you “won” and the “winner takes all” demonstrates only that you are weak. It doesn’t convince. It doesn’t wash. It does not win consent. For that you need to have the capacity for leadership and the wisdom to compromise; to give as well as take. You possess neither. The politics you have represented here has all the attributes of the bully; all the vices, and the weaknesses that bring them down. The future to which you aspire, therefore is behind you. The world, meanwhile is moving on.

  5. Crubag says:

    In 2017, when the shape (or shaplessness) of Brexit was becoming clearer, the majority of Scots voters voted for pro-Brexit parties… The SNP has stopped referring to EU membership, instead talking about access to the EU single market. The Lib Dems are the last ones standing with a simple pro-EU stance.

    But the cavailling at the narrowness of the referendum result I find surprising. What if it had been 52% Yes? All these complaints about lack of plans, optimistic claims, multiple and contradictory ambitions would apply to any referendum.

    1. John S Warren says:

      If the response had been “Yes”, nobody would now be unclear about whether or not that meant we would be in the Customs Union, or the Single Market. There would be no doubt or ambiguity about the future status of UK law, or the need to repeal and re-enact vast swathes of UK law. Nobody in the UK would have any doubts about the status or security of their citizenship, or their capacity to move around, or live in the EU. I could go on; endlessly. And I have not begun to cover all the complex, intractable problems that are still to be thrown-up. I do not even know what many of these intractable problems are; nobody does.

      There are referendums; and then there is the EU referendum. Here we are, over twelve months on, and still the public do not appear to understand what has happened. The comments on this thread are a good illustration of the scale of the problem. Ignorance is bliss.

      1. Crubag says:

        Yes in 2014? Scotland would have had to apply to join the EU, so rUK would have been in a similar position to the Republic of Ireland with the EU institutions deciding the border arrangements with iScotland.

        Yes now would be relatively straight forward. Negotiating new arrangements with rUK, and mirroring the UK arrangements with rEU. If there WAS interest in iScotland joining the rEU, then we would already know what those terms were, as they’d be the same as those between the Irish republic and the UK.

        1. John S Warren says:

          “Yes in 2014” does not make your case. I advocate independence because I believe that the UK has exhausted its utility, is (increasingly obviously) systemically dysfunctional, and does not actually serve the interests of the people of Scotland, or their future prospects. The Scottish Government lost the referendum in 2014 (a loss which I thought inevitable, even though I campaigned for independence) at least in part because the Scottish people were cautious (conservative with a small ‘c’) and highly sceptical of the complexities of break-up. They saw the complexities; in spite of the efforts of the Scottish Government to present as clear and worked-through proposals as possible (that – whatever the shortcomings – were far more transparent and coherent than anything produced or conceived by May’s rambling, random, chaotic Government). Nevertheless, some of these Scottish Government proposals did not convince the electorate. This is precisely the opposite result of the disastrous EU referendum.

          The scale of the complexities, and the strange nature of the alleged ‘rationality’ of Unionists, is perhaps revealed in the fact that supposedly cautious, careful, sceptical Scots who resisted independence in 2014 for supposedly “rational” reasons, included a significant number of voters who, presumably immediately abandoned all pretence to “rationality” or caution in 2016 for a slapdash, incoherent Leave campaign resorting to crude propaganda, and to embrace Brexit.

          The first requirement of the politics of our time is not conviction; but stamina.

          1. Crubag says:

            I think 2014 was lost largely because the proposition wasn’t clear on the fundamentals – fiscal and monetary policy and the needed institutions.

            And that was probably because it was led by the Scottish Government, so the famous white paper was written by civil servants with no knowledge of fiscal or monetary policy. It’s not part of their day job.

            The Leave campaign had an easier task in that respect, as these elements were already in place. Though the Remain campaign had full access to civil servants of all kinds.

          2. Richard MacKinnon says:

            I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to read your comments. You like to look at recent events that have not gone your way in the complete opposite to the conclusion drawn by others. May be depresion skews your reason. Your take on why Scotland voted No in 2014 is; we Scots are cautious, conservative people with a small ‘c’, when the truth is, we bottled it. We were just too feart to take our chance. And your take on the EU referendum result? “disasterous” “rambling, random, chaotic”. When the truth is the, poor forgotten northern English working people said, enough is enough, were taking our chance, we are out.
            I hope you can see, the huge hole in the the logic of your assessment of the results of our two referendums. Although only an acedemic exercise now you need to ask yourself why it was ok for us Scots to vote Yes in 2014 but it was not ok for the English to vote Leave in 2016. Why, in other words Scottish independence is good but UK independence bad.

  6. Richard MacKinnon says:

    The comment attributed to myself posted 16 hours ago, beginning “I do not even understand your last comment, but let that pass. ……..” was not written by me. (Strange how that can happen?)
    To whoever wrote it, the point you dont understand is this: if you dont have it writing you dont have anything. You cannot have an ‘unwritten constitution’. That term is an oxymoron, a figure of speech of which you are obviously well aquainted.

    1. John S Warren says:

      As for your observation about constitutions, sometimes it is advisable to have done some careful reading and reflective, rigorous study of a subject before writing about it; or appointing yourself an expert, or risibly, ‘the’ only expert.

      Of course you can easily by-pass my modest opinion, so I would recommend that you apply your “expertise” (sic) in a more productive milieu than glib contributions to a comments section, and write your deconstruction of constitutional law, with your forthright views; and submit for peer review a standard 8,000-10,000 word paper and send it to an authoritative technical journal – such as the ‘International Journal of Constitutional Law’ (Oxford Academic). When published, I promise to take you seriously, even if I still disagree with you. Currently I don’t take your opinion seriously, for reasons with which you must now obviously be “well acquainted”.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Will you please stop using my name to your comments. The thought that someone might read one and think I wrote it is dreadful.
        Let me get this right. You dont agree with me, that much is with out dispute. But the reason you cannot take me seriously, why you cannot enter into a discourse with me and offer a counter argument is because I am not an academic. What you are actually saying is I am too stupid to have an opinion that you will consider.
        That is arrogant and unjustified.
        You can see no wrong in the words of Professor Michael Duggan because he is an academic. When I point out that The Professor is using subjective language, badly and is incomprehesible you refuse to even contribute an explanation of what he means, when he says “leaving the EU is about imposing a long term, structural change in our social contract with public power.”
        Please stick to the argument. Stop hiding behind your insults. Tell me what you think The Professor means. Or is it that when it comes down to it The Professor’s analysis is as vacuous as an unwritten constitution?

        1. John S Warren says:

          I am not using your name. I have no control over this. You tell me what is wrong with the Bella Caledonia system; I haven’t a clue. I only ever use my own name. I have complained to the editor and I assure you I do not wish to use your name; why would I?

          If you can’t see what my argument is, given the amount of time and space I have already given; frankly I cannot help you. I consider you must be obtuse, but only you can answer that. As for Professor Douggan, he has provided perhaps 30+ minutes of video exegesis of the key issues, to explain in fairly non-technical words the deep and serious problems with the Westminster Government’s approach to Brexit.

          The sentence you have obsessively focused on is not particularly difficult, although it is virtually the only ‘academicese’ (so-to-speak) that he indulges (unnecessarily). To hang your argument on that phrase out of a formidable and forensic examination of the Brexit chaos in Westminster is risible. You are clutching at straws. Incidentally, there are academic issues and disciplines that could be challenged for certain endemic failings; but you clearly do not know which disciplines, or which issues (presumably because you do not need to do any work to find out what the problems are; you already know by magical intuition). In a typical populist reaction you are just latching on to the general distrust of “experts” and taking a gratuitous swipe at entirely the wrong target. In my opinion (and it is just my opinion), you merely look foolish.

          Here is my deconstruction of his words, for what it is worth. Douggan is pointing out that the Government’s approach will, in due time, deliver fundamental changes to all our rights and privileges that we currently enjoy in Britain (and I mean ordinary people, pensioners, ‘working-stiffs’, everybody) in ways that will directly and seriously affect their lives; and over which they will exert no control over the changes; and which will reduce ordinary people to even greater powerlessness, and squeeze out most of the rights and benefits (earned or unearned) that they currently enjoy.

          It will be some time before these effects take hold, but by then it will be too late (a long term, structural change to the public’s current established social and legally enforceable contract with Government. QED; well, roughly. Why not write to Douggan and ask him for a better explanation; that would be a much more productive use of your time, and mine. But that would reguire genuine engagement with the issues, rather than blustering in support of thoughtless prejudice.

          Douggan’s point is obvious to anyone seriously intent on understanding the issues. You are not serious about understanding anything. Perhaps you really do think you are engaging in debate, but you have fooled me, because I cannot see it. Could it be that you have something to learn? That you may need to study, to think, to reflect before forming an opinion? That you may have to examine the evidence, with care. Surely not. You obviously already know everything; what’s to find out?

          For myself, I spend most of my life thinking, reading and writing; but then, what do I know? I at least know that I may be wrong; but not about this.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.