Aristotle And The Titanic: “Mayday, Theresa!!”


There are 3 different kinds of “Brexits”, and 3 ways you can spell “Brussels”

Now that she knows where the bathrooms are in number 10 (I’m assuming that there is more than one), it’s down to business for Theresa May. She really got us going with her stirring speech and, with only a few weeks to go until the dreaded day when she sends THE LETTER to Brussels, our adrenaline is really mounting.
I can already give Theresa some advice for free: on the envelope containing the letter activating Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty she can write Brussels in 3 different ways (does she know that?):

– BRUSSELS                      – BRUSSEL                          – BRUXELLES
Now, it’s getting complicated already and we haven’t even started yet. You can see what you can learn when you’ve been living in continental Europe as long as I have. Well, who am I to give advice to Theresa May, the PM of the UK? I’m just a poor expat who was really out of touch with how half the people in the UK were, in fact, fed-up with the UK. If I’m honest, I’m only half an expat, my other half belonging to the country of smelly cheeses and cheap plonk.

Finally, Theresa May has explained to us in no uncertain terms her 12 objectives for Brexit negotiations. Now we know that, of the 3 possible Brexits (no Brexit, soft Brexit and hard Brexit), it is the hard Brexit that is going to prevail.

I was very upset over the vote on 23rd June, but now that I’ve overcome my deep sorrow, and having accepted the inevitable departure of the UK from the EU, let’s have a logical appraisal of what Theresa May is setting out to do. I’m going to read her speech in full from the comfort of my home, here in the Netherlands, through the sepia luminosity of my IPad. But I’m not alone. I’m in the company of one of the greatest philosophers this world has ever seen: Aristotle.

Now, it so happens that Aristotle was a great one for logic which, he thought, could accurately reflect reality. Thought, language, and reality are isomorphic. This means that thought and language, if properly used, can give us a sound view on the reality of things.  Aristotle is just the man we need to guide us through this whole Brexit saga. We need to remain calm, think logically, and object.

So “Totters”, it’s over to you…



Using Aristotle’s Logic on Theresa May’s Brexit Speech


A little over six months ago, the British people voted for change. They voted to shape a brighter future for our country. They voted to leave the European Union and embrace the world.

1. Article 50:

Well, Theresa, I don’t know which referendum you took part in, but I get the distinct feeling that THIS is what they voted for:


1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.


So, in fact, the UK voters only voted to leave the EU, and NOTHING else. The question of “a brighter future and embracing the world” didn’t appear on the ballot paper.  Not very logical, Theresa, but we’ll have to do our best with that.


2. Global Britain

I want us to be a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.

Well, Theresa, let’s have a look a some figures. Here’s a pdf map of the world which shows the current status of EU trade  (2017):


It seems to me that EU trade is pretty global. Let’s think about this, using Aristotle’s syllogism: 

  1. the EU trade is global 
  2. the UK is member of the EU 
  3. Therefore, the UK trade is global

You see, Theresa, you don’t have to look further than the EU to “go global”.


3. Free Trade Agreements and Immigration 

Theresa May will be the first foreign leader to officially visit Donald Trump. A new and “fast track” free trade agreement between the UK and the USA will be high on the agenda. This would be the first of many “free trade agreements” that the UK wants to negotiate.

And President Elect Trump has said Britain is not “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the United States, the world’s biggest economy, but front of the line.”

President Trump has his own views on what trade agreements should look like:

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

It reminds me of the time when my brother gave me an album of the Adventures of Tintin for Christmas and also told me that we should keep it with the rest of the collection which happened to be in HIS bedroom. Well, it’s the thought that counts.

It is also apparent that other countries outside the EU are not prepared to consider broad trade agreements with the UK without some kind of softening of the UK’s future immigration policies.

We would want to see greater access for Australian business people working in the UK and that’s often been a part of free-trade negotiations – it hasn’t always been by the way, but it’s often been part of our free-trade negotiations. – Alexander Downer, Australian high commissioner in London

It seems to me that we have 2 sets of contradictions here: (i) free trade vs economic isolationism, and (ii) free trade vs. migratory isolationism. Donald Trump has already promised the American people that any trade agreement that does not coincide with the national interest will not be signed.  Concerning immigration, whilst countries outside the EU may not be as strict as those within, it is already apparent that the UK government will have to make concessions over immigration. 

It is reasonable to suppose that future trade agreements may/may not occur with/without a substantial softening of the UK stance on immigration. All possibilities remain open. This situation raises the problem of “future contingencies”, first discussed by Aristotle.

…if one man affirms that an event of a given character will take place and another denies it, it is plain that the statement of the one will correspond with reality and that of the other will not. For the predicate cannot both belong and not belong to the subject at one and the same time with regard to the future. – Aristotle, On Interpretation

Aristotle uses the example of a battle that will or will not be fought tomorrow. Past propositions concerning the battle  are necessarily true or false. But what if I say today that there will be no battle tomorrow, and someone else says the opposite? Which of the 2 propositions is true? It is impossible to ascertain the truth of statements about events and states of affairs that will freely happen in the future, unless you believe that all actions are predetermined.

Both deliberation and action are causative with regard to the future, and that, to speak more generally, in those things which are not continuously actual there is potentiality in either direction. Such things may either be or not be; events also therefore may either take place or not take place. – Aristotle, On Interpretation


All in all then, Theresa May has no justification whatsoever in saying that the UK voted for a “brighter future”, because we just do not know what this future will be. The UK voted to activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and nothing else. The rest is in the hands of Theresa May, Donald Trump et al. Not forgetting the Gods of course.