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Sherlock Holmes offered the solution to the current Brexit conundrum admirably when he told Dr Watson in the Beryl Coronet: “when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

At the moment the two possibilities before parliament are the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and crashing out with no deal whatsoever. The latter would be the result of the rejection of the first if no plan B, C or D appears on the political horizon.

The first possibility will be rejected by parliament because it turns what used to be imperial Britain into a colony of a Europe dominated by historic enemies France and Germany.  The United Kingdom would be indefinitely tied to the EU and yet left without any say in the rules that govern it. Its ability to strike trade deals with other countries would be severely hampered and Northern Ireland would be effectively hived off. In return, the UK would regain control of its immigration policies.

We will call this deal Option One and, using the Holmes formula, rule it out as it is impossible that parliament will approve it.  So we move to Option Two, a no deal Brexit. First the plus side: Immigration is controlled. Trade deals can be negotiated. Payments to the EU are stopped. The European courts cease to have jurisdiction in Britain. Now the negatives: The economy will shrink by up to nine percent overnight. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as foreign companies move operations to EU countries. The pound will collapse. Inflation will rise. Troubles could restart in Northern Ireland and tariff barriers would go up between Britain and its main trading partners on the continent.  MPs would, in effect, be voting to make every single one of their constituents substantially poorer.

The only members of the House of Commons likely to consider Option Two are the members of the European Research Group. They total 62 out of 650 MPs. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the House of Commons—450—voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. So Option Two can be placed firmly into the impossible box.

Having knocked out the two possibilities currently on the table we have to start looking for the improbable  Plan B, C or D.  The one that appears to be gaining ground at the moment is that the government accepts that leaving the EU was a bad idea; the referendum was a mistake; Brexit should be cancelled and we should return to the European fold with a renewed determination to bend the supranational body to the British will.  This is Option Three. It would tear both the Conservative and Labour parties apart, further exacerbate divisions within the country at large, create a constitutional crisis and destroy any remnants of faith in British political leaders as both parties have pledged to accept the results of the referendum.

But, using the Holmes formula, this improbable scenario appears at the moment to be the most likely final result. The problem is, how to persuade a large proportion of the British population that this is the case. The best way is to let them reach this conclusion on their own.  Brexiteers are convinced that a better deal is out there. It just needs tough talking British negotiators to put the Eurocrats in their proper place.  Britain needs to go back to the negotiating table, if need be with a completely different government. It needs to bang its head against the Brussels brick wall again and again and again. It needs to prove that the unpalatable and improbable Remain option is the only option.  They need to be able to say to the British public: We did our best—and then a helluva lot more.  And then maybe, just maybe, the British public will accept remaining in the EU.

Tom Arms is the editor of


5 Comments on "The Holmes Option"

  1. “Now the negatives: The economy will shrink by up to nine percent overnight”

    Overnight eh?, really?.

    The only place I have seen 9% mentioned is in the treasury forecast based on a 15 year period, so I would challenge you that that statement is blatantly untrue. In any case, “will” implies certainty which can never be the case with predictions of the future.

    On the forecast itself, it has been made by an organisation which has an awful track record in economic forecasting. They have for many years been unable to accurately forecast UK economic growth two years ahead under stable conditions. Their abysmal performance in predicting the aftermath of a leave vote is well documented and their modelling has been roundly criticised in papers published by Cambridge University no less.

    It’s a bit like the BoE paper which came up with 7% making the assumption that the UK government wouldn’t bother pursuing any new trade deals with other countries and that the EU would engage in de facto economic warfare against the country. It’s patently ridiculous. It’s like me predicting that the result of Tim Marshall attending a Leeds Utd game would be his death, under the assumption that he would drink a bottle of whisky before setting off in his car and then drive at 90mph the wrong way down the motorway, I mean seriously?.

    At the end of it all, the BoE then came to the conclusion that the best comparison it could find with no deal was New Zealand losing preferential access to the UK in 1973, I think many people would look at New Zealand and say “we can live with that”

    I actually don’t take pleasure criticising bodies like the BoE and the Treasury, I would much rather look at these institutions and see a track record of success that was useful in decision making. You know what, the economy could well go down the tubes in the event of no deal, sterling would almost certainly suffer and there would probably be a big short term shock but attempting to quantify something like that over a 15 year period is as pointless as trying to predict the weather over London on a given day in 10 years time.
    I never bother using any of the pro Brexit economic predictions for the same reason as I dismiss the anti-Brexit ones.

    The mantra that they are the “experts” used to validate their view is plain daft, it shows blind faith verging on the religious. In the 15thC, doctors were the experts in medical care, if you went to them with cholera they would give you a course of leeches, and you would die. In fact if you went to them with any ailment they would give you leeches and whether you lived or died would come down to your own constitution and luck. If you got better they got the credit, if you died then you had been beyond help. At least some of their patients got better though, if every patient had died they soon would have gone out of business. The treasury is the equivalent of the a 15thC doctor who’s patients all snuff it, yet still some people queue up at the door hopefully.

    If there is a new referendum, remain really need to drop this reliance on scare stories and find another tack if they want to win. In the first referendum a lot of negative economic predictions were made by the remain campaign, it must be assumed that they prompted some people who were on the fence to vote remain. This time, every prediction they make will be countered with, “but they said that the first time and look what happened”. It will be a blunt instrument. I’m still waiting for the positive campaign on EU membership.

    And yes that constituted use of the bilge pump.

    • Rob, May I suggest that the next time you need a medical operation that you consult your plumber– Tom Arms

      • Thanks for the advice Tom, but I won’t have any option if Brexit goes ahead. Apparently due to the shortage of doctors and organ donors, plumbers are going to be drafted in to fit boiler parts instead of vital organs and intestines will be replaced with copper piping, IT’S A FACT!. Of course with plumbers on the job the cost of operations is going to skyrocket with the cost to the NHS estimated at one trillion gazillion pounds PER MINUTE.

        Not that it’s going to matter as we will all run out of oxygen within 24 hours of a no deal brexit anyway. Who knew that 90% of our oxygen was manufactured in a chemical plant in Dusseldorf and then blown over to the UK by giant Siemens turbines?, IT’S A FACT!!.

        It’s turkey’s voting for Christmas I tell you. It’s just riles up me that hundreds of thousands of leavers have already cheated their rightful death by asphyxiation by popping off early due to old age, the bastards.

        Anyway, have a nice Christmas Tom, if you’ve been good Santa might just bring you a nice peoples vote all wrapped up in blue and gold starred paper.

  2. As Mr Johnson Snr said about us leaving with ties but with no say in how the EU is run :
    “If your’e not at the table then you are on the menu “

  3. Rob, thank you for the Christmas wishes, and the same to you and everyone else who reads the whatandthewhy. — Tom Arms

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