They’ve made a huge mistake...

...by making Arrested Development online only.

Unlike most people blogging about Arrested Development, I won’t be offering any opinions as to whether the show’s fourth season managed to live up to the astronomical expectations built up by fans after its previous incarnation was cancelled seven years ago.

That’s because it’s currently only viewable (legally at least) on Netflix, and I really don’t fancy watching it on a tiny laptop, with lines of dialogue served like amuse-bouche in between marathon bouts of buffering.

So as not to cast aspersions on Netflix’s service, I’ll admit it’s the same across the board: my wife bought the new Batman on Tesco’s Blinkbox service last night, but after it took us three minutes to slog through the Warner Brothers logo, we gave up and resolved to postpone watching Citizen Bane until we next saw the DVD on sale.

Yes, I am unfortunate in that, for whatever reason, the electric string that carries internet TV into my house does so at a painfully slow rate (although I’ll blame Virgin Media anyway). But my options still remain limited, and streaming-only launches such as Arrested Development’s leave me lukewarm as a consequence.  

It is not just me and a tiny minority of electrically-challenged cavemen that feel slighted, either. Just look at the grumble-tsunami generated recently at the suggestion that Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One console would require a constant internet connection even to play single player games.

For those living in new premises and waiting out the epochs mandated by providers before broadband services can be activated, those living in areas with poor provision, and even those who (dare I say it) just don’t much like doing things on computers, it’s frustrating indeed when companies decide we are ready to move our entire lifestyles online.

Of course, the argument in the case of Arrested Development is slightly redundant in that, even were it being broadcast conventionally, I would have to arrange access to an American network to view it.

Nevertheless, it does strike me as unusual that, with all the fourth season’s episodes being released onto Netflix simultaneously anyway, there is no concurrent DVD release. Well, not that unusual – there are clear branding and competitive advantages to Netflix being the only place people can go for their hit of Gob, Buster and the rest.

But even so, if Netflix had made a plastic circle available with the series on it, they would have my money by now. It’s the same argument that gets trotted out every time the Death of Print discussion takes place – people like to possess objects.

Whenever I am implored by the producers of a piece of media to “own it on digital”, an internal pedant seethes; I would not own a house if it was passed to me, brick by brick, by a surly foreman in between long slurps of tea. Nor can I own a TV show when it is delivered via sporadic squirts of electrons. Extend my metaphor and prove me wrong by all means; I’ll still be a lost customer for Netflix.

Photograph: Getty Images

By day, Fred Crawley is editor of Credit Today and Insolvency Today. By night, he reviews graphic novels for the New Statesman.

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Hopes of an anti-Brexit party are illusory, but Remainers have a new plan to stay in the EU

Stopping Brexit may prove an impossible task. Remainers are looking to the "Article 49 strategy": reapplying for EU membership. 

The Remain campaign lost in the country, but it won by a landslide in parliament. On 23 June 2016, more than two-thirds of MPs voted for EU membership. Ever since the referendum, the possibility that parliament could thwart withdrawal, or at least soften it, has loomed.

Theresa May called an early general election in the hope of securing a majority large enough to neutralise revanchist Remainers. When she was denied a mandate, many proclaimed that “hard Brexit” had been defeated. Yet two months after the Conservatives’ electoral humbling, it appears, as May once remarked, that “nothing has changed”. The government remains committed not merely to leaving the EU but to leaving the single market and the customs union. Even a promise to mimic the arrangements of the customs union during a transition period is consistent with May’s pre-election Lancaster House speech.

EU supporters once drew consolation from the disunity of their opponents. While Leavers have united around several defining aims, however, the Remainers are split. Those who campaigned reluctantly for EU membership, such as May and Jeremy Corbyn, have become de facto Brexiteers. Others are demanding a “soft Brexit” – defined as continued single market membership – or at least a soft transition.

Still more propose a second referendum, perhaps championed by a new centrist party (“the Democrats” is the name suggested by James Chapman, an energetic former aide to George Osborne and the Brexit Secretary, David Davis). Others predict that an economic cataclysm will force the government to rethink.

Faced with this increasingly bewildering menu of options, the average voter still chooses Brexit as their main course. Though Leave’s referendum victory was narrow (52-48), its support base has since widened. Polling has consistently shown that around two-thirds of voters believe that the UK has a duty to leave the EU, regardless of their original preference.

A majority of Remain supporters, as a recent London School of Economics study confirmed, favour greater controls over EU immigration. The opposition of a significant number of Labour and Tory MPs to “soft Brexit” largely rests on this.

Remainers usually retort – as the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, put it – “No one voted to become poorer.” Polls show that, as well as immigration control, voters want to retain the economic benefits of EU membership. The problem is not merely that some politicians wish to have their cake and eat it, but that most of the public does, too.

For Remainers, the imperative now is to avoid an economic catastrophe. This begins by preventing a “cliff-edge” Brexit, under which the UK crashes out on 29 March 2019 without a deal. Though the Leave vote did not trigger a swift recession, a reversion to World Trade Organisation trading terms almost certainly would. Although David Davis publicly maintains that a new EU trade deal could swiftly be agreed, he is said to have privately forecast a time span of five years (the 2016 EU-Canada agreement took seven). A transition period of three years – concluded in time for the 2022 general election – would leave the UK with two further years in the wilderness without a deal.

A coalition of Labour MPs who dislike free movement and those who dislike free markets has prevented the party endorsing “soft Brexit”. Yet the Remainers in the party, backed by 80 per cent of grass-roots members, are encouraged by a recent shift in the leadership’s position. Although Corbyn, a Bennite Eurosceptic, vowed that the UK would leave the single market, the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, have refused to rule out continued membership.

A group of Remainers from all parties met in the Labour MP Chuka Umunna’s office before recess, and they are hopeful that parliament will force the government to commit to a meaningful transition period, including single market membership. But they have no intention of dissolving tribal loyalties and uniting under one banner. A year after George Osborne first pitched the idea of a new party to Labour MPs, it has gained little traction. “All it would do is weaken Labour,” the former cabinet minister Andrew Adonis, a past Social Democratic Party member, told me. “The only way we can defeat hard Brexit is to have a strong Labour Party.”

In this febrile era, few Remainers dismiss the possibility of a second referendum. Yet most are wary of running ahead of public opinion. “It would simply be too risky,” a senior Labour MP told me, citing one definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Thoughtful Remainers, however, are discussing an alternative strategy. Rather than staging a premature referendum in 2018-19, they advocate waiting until the UK has concluded a trade deal with the EU. At this point, voters would be offered a choice between the new agreement and re-entry under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. By the mid-2020s, Remainers calculate, the risks of Brexit will be clearer and the original referendum will be history. The proviso is that the EU would have to allow the UK re-entry on its existing membership terms, rather than the standard ones (ending its opt-outs from the euro and the border-free Schengen Area). Some MPs suggest agreeing a ten-year “grace period” in which Britain can achieve this deal – a formidable challenge, but not an impossible one.

First, though, the Remainers must secure a soft transition. If the UK rips itself from the EU’s institutions in 2019, there will be no life raft back to safe territory. The initial aim is one of damage limitation. But like the Leavers before them, the wise Remainers are playing a long game.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear