Satyajit Das: What If Anything Does Brexit Really Signify?

By Satyajit Das, a former banker and author whose latest book is ‘A Banquet of Consequences’ (published in North America as ‘Age of Stagnation’ to avoid confusion as a cookbook)

The Brexit debate has made unprecedented demands on vocabulary, adjectives and hyperbole. The word ‘historical’ is exhausted.

The only fact is that a majority of those who voted have elected for Great Britain to leave the European Union. All else is conjecture.

Few political analysts, super-forecasters, pollsters, betting shops and financial markets anticipated the result. Undaunted, the same people are now outlining the consequences and likely outcomes. Although close reading indicates that the trite consensus is ‘uncertainty’. Familiarity with four words – “I do not know”- is sadly lacking.

Perhaps the most interesting commentary after the vote was the gallows humour of trader: “Brexit could be followed by Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia and Byegium. Looks like only Remania will stay”.

When they sit down to provide the final verdict on 23 June 2016, future historians will ponder several issues.

First, the fact that the referendum was called will cause bafflement. Conservative leader David Cameron pledged to hold the referendum to placate anti-EU sections of his own party and out-flank a perceived challenge from the U.K. Independence Party. Given his frequent mention of the risks of Brexit, the wisdom of calling the referendum in the first place remains puzzling.

David Cameron, who did much to make the Tories electable and won a famous victory, has gone, leaving behind a divided Conservative party. The Labour Party too are damaged and may acquire a new leader. Its support of the Remain campaign put it at odds with its core constituencies. The episode has left behind a divided country, which will prove difficult to unite or even hold together.

Second, the unedifying debate will merit careful analysis. The tone was shrill, lacking civility. The shooting of one MP was a symptom of the febrile atmosphere created.

The participation of respected analysts, commentators and supposedly non-political public officials brought them no credit. Facts were water boarded to support partisan positions. A future of economic damnation outside the EU and a revival of Empire without it are equally illusory. A debate about immigration policy is not automatically racist in nature.

Foreign plenipotentiaries, including the US President, weighed in with advice on how the British should vote. One European government took out newspaper ads seeking to influence the vote. There will be speculation on the effects of these unprecedented interventions on the result.

Third, the surprise at the result among those who voted to remain will be scrutinised. The wilful ignorance of the affluent, educated and cosmopolitan on how divided and polarised British society has become is striking. The voting patterns mirrored divisions along the lines of class, economic standing, education, age, residence and ethnicity.

The debate was always between economics and sovereignty (in the guise of immigration and border control). Exaggerated claims of economic losses, based on macro-economic models which have failed repeatedly over recent years, to engender fear were rejected. Interestingly, some UK regions reliant on exports to the EU voted strongly to leave.

For the disenfranchised, the fruits of growth, investment and international trade remain unattainable. Threats, perceived or real, to jobs and uncertainty about nationality are powerful. The inconvenience of the Non-EU line at immigration, freedom of movement or ability to own a holiday retreat does not concern those who do not have those opportunities. As one voter told the Guardian with stunning simplicity: “If you’ve got money, you vote in … if you haven’t got money, you vote out”.

Fourth, the significance of the ultimate decision on core beliefs will be eagerly studied.

The failure of the economic arguments to sway the vote may spell the end of economic rationalism which began with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. It may be that the vote against the EU was in part a protest vote against the long term changes in economic structure of the UK economy which has destroyed many working and middle class lives.

Insofar as the decision represents a retreat to economic nationalism and closed borders, it may highlight the diminishing appeal of globalisation. Free movement of goods and services, lowering of trade barriers and cheaper foreign labour has not benefitted everybody. Conservative American politician Pat Buchanan’s observation in Pittsburgh Post Gazette on 3 January 1994 remains uncomfortably accurate: “…it is blue collar Americans whose jobs are lost when trade barriers fall, working class kids who bleed and die in Mogadishu…the best and brightest tend to escape the worst consequences of the policies they promote…This may explain …why national surveys show repeatedly that the best and wealthiest Americans are the staunchest internationalists on both security and economic issues…”

Increasing scepticism about experts and expert advice may also be one effect. The views of the governor of the Bank of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury were disregarded equally.

In a pivotal moment in the campaign, challenged to name a single expert who thought that Brexit would economically benefit Britain, Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s defiant response was that: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.” Attacked for being anti-intellectual, Mr. Gove’s position highlighted the fact that over-reaching and arrogant experts, especially on economic matters, have been often incorrect, sometime disastrously.

The reality is that experts no longer relate to ordinary people. Policy orthodoxy, such as free trade, de-industrialisation and, in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, austerity and unconventional monetary policy, have not benefitted large parts of the population. Ordinary people’s appetite for sacrifice in return for unquantified future benefits promised by experts has waned. The gravitational pull of aspiration, central to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s brand of conservatism, has faded as trickle-down economics has betrayed many people.

Fifth, the obsession with financial market effects in the aftermath of the decision will confound posterity. Markets complacently assumed that Britain would remain an EU member and backed it with other people’s money. There is no guarantee that their highly changeable views are reliable. Ascribing a 45% to Britain leaving in a result which was always binary is curious. Panic from the masters of the universe at the slightest sign of uncertainty does not support their claims for perspicacity, superiority and understanding of risk.

The immediate effects on currencies and interest rates were significant. But it will take time to see whether there are major casualties as a result of the usual highly leveraged bets or what the longer term effects are. The real economy and political effects will take time to emerge and is highly dependent on events not yet known.

The decision to downgrade the UK’s credit rating to a still very strong ‘AA’ was curious. The UK’s ability to meet its obligations have not changed. It was never part of the single currency and has the ability to create Pounds Sterling to meet its obligations. With rates near zero, the effect of any change in rating is likely to be minimal.

Sixth, history will have to decide whether the vote was simply a mutiny on H.M.A.S Britannia or an influential one on the shape of the modern world, the structure of society and values which resonates and leading to change in other countries. If the latter proves correct, then the event will prove truly significant.

The Leave campaign may have won the vote but there is confusion about the UK’s redefined relationship with the EU. Maintaining UK’s continued special access to European markets would require accepting many policies rejected by a majority of those who voted. The decision by Boris Johnson, an Etonian like David Cameron and of similar background and leanings, to back the Leave vote showed ruthless calculation and accurate political sensitivities. His position reflected his aspirations for leadership not solidarity with the Leave voters or fundamental policy shifts. In an editorial after the vote, Mr. Johnson seized with post Brexit Bre-gret or Bre-morse suggested that wholesale changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU were now unnecessary.

The prospects of meaningful reform within the EU also seems remote. European Council President Donald Tusk, speaking for a number of Eastern European nation, admitted that the EU’s utopian visions are not shared by ordinary people. But other leaders, especially in the EU Commission, do not recognise the problem. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier promised that “we won’t let anyone take Europe from us.” The unfortunate malapropism (about the “us”; whether it was the EU or Germany) highlighted a central, unresolved problem.

The EU is circling the wagons, painting Britain as a reluctant European and seeks to punish her to dissuade other nations from similar actions. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s tart summary reflects this view: “It’s not an amicable divorce, but it never really was a close love affair anyway”.

The intellectual response is framed by cognitive dissonance. Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, saw it as “Russian roulette for republics”. He complained that the simple majority system of those who voted (36% of eligible voters voted for leaving) was an absurdly low bar. Professor Rogoff argued that such a significant decision should not be made without appropriate checks and balance. In an editorial price for the Business Insider, American opinion-ist Josh Barro termed the decision “a tantrum”. British voters had made “a bad choice”. It was an “error of direct democracy”. Such important decisions should not be decided by voters but left to “informed” elected officials.

In essence, for those who believe they are born to rule, Brexit signals the need to limit democracy to ensure that important decisions are left to self-certified experts. European Parliament President Martin Schultz was refreshingly clear: “It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate”.

History may well record that little changed as a result of Brexit after the long tortured process of negotiation of the terms of withdrawal and arrangements regarding trade and other matters with the EU. Those in charge and their attendant retinues continued, as British blogger John Ward wrote in 2015, to ignore the individual, State sovereignty, debt mountains, currency realities, poverty, its responsibilities and every legal and constitutional restraint on their power.

If the deep seated economic and social divisions within Britain or other societies cannot be dealt with peacefully and through existing processes, the risk is that it will unleash the furies of nationalism and isolationism in unknown ways and with unpredictable results.

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  1. Ignacio

    Nice piece! The brits, particularly the brits that feel the pinch of neoliberal globalization, have shaken the tree. This is by itself a memorable outcome of the referendum. One thing that is clear after the referendum is that the resolution, for better or for worse, will be 100% political. Technocrats and experts are now in despair.

    In the UK, both Tories and Labour, now divided, must find their heroic figures that are able to lead the path to a reasonable outcome. In the EU we should get rid of the technocrats in despair (Junker etc.). I would prefer Merkel, Holland and other Prime Ministers in the european side of the table. Technocrats verboten! We need figures whose position is compromised with the people in elections.

    1. Carla

      “We need figures whose position is compromised with the people in elections.”

      Is this another way of saying, “We need more democracy, not less” ?

      1. Ignacio

        Not exactly, but yes. It is important that negotiators on both sides of the table are similarly accountable for their acts.

  2. Ignacio

    Oh, I forgot to comment that Brexit had, in my opinion, an inmediate effect in spanish elections. Participation in Spain has been relatively low, but it seems more conservatives with fresh brexit fear decided to vote.

  3. ahimsa

    Pedantry alert:

    The Brexit debate has made unprecedented demands on vocabulary, adjectives and hyperbole. The word ‘historical’ is exhausted.

    Um, a tad soon to be consigning Brexit to the annals of history – shouldn’t the word be ‘historic’.

  4. IsabelPS

    28 paragraphs to say nothing.

    Just as clueless as the voters, the ones that proposed the vote, the ones that won, the ones that lost.

    1. m-ga

      I really liked the article. One of the better pieces I’ve seen on Brexit.

      It doesn’t cover everything, but I don’t think that doing so was the author’s intent.

          1. Steve H.

            Southern for sure, Not Cockney. Alas I am uneducated enough to distinguish, being across the pond, but I’d say more Oxford than Cambridge, if either. Upwardly mobile but forced to irony. Capable of high archaic ‘mouse, meece’ but tossed from the party after an incident at the punchbowl.

            Of course, I could be entirely wrong. Not being intentionally condescending. Stepmum from Rotherham, went there once, liked my people but the decor could be described as ‘smudge.’ Seen it in the news lately, they say it’s worse than it was but it looks about the same to me.

            And I find the outcome of the vote to be tremendously inspirational. Most particularly for killing the TT* trade pacts.

            1. windsock

              Not far off. Estuarine (so Southern), but not nearly as posh as Oxford or Cambridge – de-industrialised prolespeak. Lots of glottal stops. Too old to be upwardly mobile – horizontal, but with a definite downward momentum (all that austerity, innit).

      1. IsabelPS

        Windsock, if you are answering to my comment maybe I should explain myself better: I believe we, humans, take ourselves way too seriously, that we believe we can steer our course, decide the future through our options. We discard randomness, unintended consequences, that’s not for us.

        Every now and than things happen that make us understand (?) how wrong we are. I think that is one of those occasions. (And yes, in a way I’m glad this happened in the land of the Magna Carta rather than in a banana republic like the one I come from).

        1. windsock

          Fair enough. I did feel the original comment implied a certain lack of regard for the concerns of those who voted on either side but I agree entirely that, in many ways, the result is irrelevant in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” sort of way. This particular outcome does have the effect of throwing all the cards in the air.

  5. Clive

    Only an anecdote, but hopefully of some limited insight.

    Yesterday we had a family trip to a strip mall. One of the stores we visited was a big retailer which has recently entered administration (a bit like Chapter 11). The talk we had was of seeing if there were any bargains. There was a café in the store so we stopped there. It was on queuing duty and when it got time to place my order and pay, I got talking to the woman manning the till. I asked if she’d got any information on what was happening, whether she’d got a job, that sort of thing. She looked really fed up and very much dispirited as you’d expect. She told me she didn’t know if she was going to be called into work tomorrow, it was a case of they’d phone her if she was going to come in that day. Or not. It was, confronted by something so outside our nice, comfortable upper middle class bubble, deeply unsettling. But enough of my crappy handwringing I thought, what about her? Her family? And the millions just like her.

    I gave her a £10, thanked her for all her kindness in the few year’s we’d sort-of got to know her while visiting the store on-and-off, and told her to take care of herself. I thought she was going to cry. What, I wondered, have we sunk to?

    I got back to our table and relayed this to my party.

    My mother in law, who isn’t a bad person by any means but you can find a description of her worldview in Das’s piece above said “£10? That’s a bit extravagant isn’t it?” This is a woman with £250,000 in free cash and £750,000 in other assets. Pretty much the next subject to come up in conversation was how “outrageous” the premium for private healthcare had become and whether the newly increased £140 a month payment was “affordable” (it’d skyrocketed as the policy holder went over the 65 year-old threshold), set in a context of well, yes, but the NHS is so dreadful and you can’t rely on it now etc. etc. etc.

    Words, not for the first time in recent days, failed me.

    1. James Levy

      Too many people without any possibility of being hurt by all this are cheering a bit too loudly from the sidelines for my taste. I think there is potential for significant improvement for Britain if it follows through on the Brexit. That said, I’m worried about that lady and a couple of million like her in the interim, and if it will all work out better in the end just because it might. This is a classic case of not yea or nay, but time will tell.

      1. James Levy

        Clive, pardon me: I didn’t mean you or anyone else in the UK. Brain is foggy this morning. Has bee for a few days and posting is therefore down. I meant outsiders like Americans who have very strong pro and con opinions without any personal material stake in the results.

        1. Clive

          No, you’re fine and have actually brought up a tangential but so important point in that we’re all now subject to — I’ll re-use it because it’s the best description — an overly dynamic situation. We’re only comments on Yves’ blog so if our words don’t come out quite right, we can correct and clarify.

          I’ve just been watching the European Parliament and let’s just say that an awful lot of people are saying things they might regret later. The children are playing with matches. That’s bad enough but some aspects of the EU are open cans of gasoline. I just wish they all were as measured and considerate as you are. Fat chance.

          1. vidimi

            i saw farage’s speech yesterday. or at least as much of it as i could stand.

            nothing worse than a sore winner.

        2. DownTheRiver

          You’d be surprised how much of a stake some of us Americans have. The problem with a society that is global no matter much you vote not to be is that what you do affects others. I’d love for American fingers to be out of everyone else’s pies, but hell, I’ve heard plenty of UK opinions about the US without feeling like they didn’t have a “right” to comment.

    2. Deep Thought

      Yup. This very much chimes with my experiences of middle/upper-middle class people. I am firmly in that bubble too. I was once told by a university friend that I was “too left wing” when I said I thought people should pay their taxes and not use avoidance schemes.

  6. Quentin

    No matter how much I read about Brexit I fail to shake my impression that no one knows what their talking about, either before or after the referendum. It’s as if the whole exercise is a virtual experience in mass delusion. Something like the savage war on Iraq, to mention a flagrant example. But that might just be a personal shortcoming. No one even seems to know what the term Brexit means/meant or what it is/was supposed to lead to. The greatest shock, of course, is that before the vote little attempt was made to define and analyze the playing field. Everything was so cut and dry: in or out. At least now the vote has got everyone feverishly explaining and mercilessly pontificating on the new situation, with the same degree of pre-referendum obfuscation. As it turns out, the UK is now neither in nor out. How droll, you might say. Anyway we can now throw the buzzword Brexit away because it hardly suits what’s in the pipeline from the UK and the EU. Maybe BRIN/BROUT would fill this need. Well not droll, fuck-up or, more accurately, cock-up would be better. That doesn’t help either. ‘The UK and the EU in Wonderland’.

  7. IsabelPS

    Ambrose profound thoughts on twitter:

    “As I always argued, Brexit is Mutual Assured Destruction if UK leaders and EU leaders mishandle it”


    1. Disturbed Voter

      But … but creative destruction is the life blood of capitalism, particularly if you are good at lapping up the green blood like Bain Capital! Utilitarianism … we may destroy the livelihoods of a million, but lower the monthly rental for a billion, by a dollar each.

      Having an ox to gore, isn’t just nationality, but class. The upper and middle classes think they are safe, because they can always throw more lower class under the bus.

        1. Jim A.

          A WAR

          There set out slowly, for a Different World,
          At four, on winter mornings, different legs …
          You can’t break eggs without making an omelette
          –That’s what they tell the eggs.
          -Randal Jarrell.

  8. Skippy

    Merkel is speaking at the moment – “Free access to the single market to whichever country accepts the 4 freedoms of people, goods, services and capital”.

    Disheveled Marsupial…. and there you have the core scripture…

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Unfortunately there is no free lunch. Those freedoms require the surrender to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Same thing in the US … our bureaucrats are the “permanent government” in the Executive Branch. Elect who you wish, but nothing changes in the “permanent government”.

      Britain would be more likely to stay, except for the incompetent leadership from Berlin. Berlin steering toward the iceberg, has a way of alarming the passengers.

      1. Skippy

        I would be less concerned about bureaucrats than I would ideological apparatchiks….

        Disheveled Marsupial…. rumor control has it that not everyone in the EU is besotted by the old colony either…

    2. Starveling

      Not that it matters, but with a list like that I’d have voted Leave as an Englishman (were I English) any and every day of the week. That sounds suspiciously to me like a list of elite longings- the total smashing of any remaining resolve, resilience, and solidarity in the lower orders.

      I’d rather nuke my own economy than put up with this globalization nonsense. As an American if I could vote on the alphabet soup trade deals I’d abolish them in a heartbeat even if it brought the Son of 2008.

    3. Norb

      Having been a member of the working class all my life, I have no experience to answer this question- Is it possible to be the owner of a business and not be a selfish SOB, hell bent on always growing and conquering the world? It seems we need a fundamental rethinking of how we provide goods and services. Constant competition will not end well.

        1. Ulysses

          It is difficult, yet not impossible. Jeff Furman would probably hate to be singled out, but I think his career shows that one can succeed in business and still maintain a social conscience.

      1. mparry

        It is if you keep the business private and closely held. Once you take it public, at least in the U.S., you’re pretty much toast. Wealthy toast, but that thing about gaining the whole world and losing your soul thereby becomes strikingly relevant.

      2. TimOfEngland

        Yes, it’s possible but you have to stay small. My father did it succesfully ending up with a small retirement pot after 24 years. I did it unsuccesfully ending up with a small bank overdraft after 13 years – so not a total failure – I lived quite well. When asked what I do I say “I’m an entrepreneur” The usual reponse is “why aren’t you rich?” and I answer that “I didn’t say I was very good at it and now know that I’m too nice and too fair to be a succesful capitalist”

        1. Carla

          I’m glad you’re too nice and too fair.

          I knew the late chairman of a major U.S. manufacturing corp — this was back in the 80s, and he was probably in his 70’s then. Lovely man. His father, an engineer, had founded the company. The son, also an engineer, had probably taken it public, although I’m not sure of that. Anyway, it was the son I knew. He told me he dreamed solutions to the engineering problems he encountered at work, so he always kept a pad by his bed to write down his dreams. He also exclaimed one time: “Did you see the movie “Ghandi”? I think if you’re going to be a leader, that’s the kind of leader to be!” He and his wife still lived in the very nice 1950s ranch house they had built in the small town where they both grew up. The corp. is still headquartered in a nearby small town. One time I ran into his wife at a concert. She was wearing a striking purple wool coat and I complimented her on it. Her face lit up, and she said “Oh, do you really like it? It’s so important to have a winter coat that you really like, because you know, you only have ONE winter coat… Oh — well, at least, I only have one winter coat.” An extraordinary couple.

          1. Norb

            Carla-Its stories like this that both bring on despair and hope. Despair at how far social values have been distorted by the greedy and hope in the form of confirmation that fairness and goodness still reside in many people.

            We don’t need all this pain and suffering in the world and in many respects the energy needed to bring it about are quite low. Love ,justice, and mercy.

      3. John Rose

        The latest Michael Moore film titled “where to invade next” or something like that, shows a the family owners of an Italian company explaining the advantages of good relations with their employees over making more money. “What would we do with it?” one of them said

    4. polecat

      “the 4 freedoms of people, goods, services and capital……..”

      ……there’s a word for those 4 freedoms……………………they’re called ‘cogs’……

  9. Harry

    I think we had a referendum on neo-liberalism dressed up as a referendum on one small aspect of neo liberalism. It turns out that neo liberalism is not popular. But it never claimed to be – it only ever claimed to be “right”. So back in your box you filthy plebs before you do more damage.

    1. tongorad

      It turns out that neo liberalism is not popular. But it never claimed to be – it only ever claimed to be “right”.

      An important distinction. Neoliberalism is the reality principle, the political correctness that we all must acquiesce to. Markets uber alles

    1. Skippy

      Did the ‘Great Interregnum’ ever really end… after the natural economy displacement by the monetary economy – Raubritter…

      Disheveled Marsupial …. even the good old USA had a bout until they blew themselves up and FDR sorted the lawlessness…. back to square one it seems…

      1. Whine Country

        FDR – a Democrat socialist and the most popular president in our history (elected FOUR times!).
        Won’t make that mistake again…no way.

        1. JustAnObserver

          … and, most important of all, an (upper) class traitor – money quote “I relish their hatred”. It seems to me that only someone of that ilk will be able to break the back of the neolib/neocon hegemony. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be anyone of that caliber available or even on the horizon.

          Unless a certain D. Trump Esq. decides to go that way …

  10. Watt4Bob

    You can ignore some of the people all of the time, you can ignore all the people some of the time,
    but you cannot ignore all the people all of the time.

    In the UK, much like in the US I think, the people are, and have been, tired of the rough ride afforded by the hand basket.

    In each case, those responsible are greedy, tone-deaf a**holes, reminiscent some how of that one loud drunk at closing time, who insists that everyone join in singing the old school song. The one to which he remembers only four words.

    Here in the US, we’ve just been offered the chance to make a thoughtful change of course, but have ended up having to choose between more beatings, or kicking over the apple cart as the Brits seem to have done.

    I won’t be the least bit surprised if American voters make the same sort of decision.

  11. Norb

    Now is the time for solidarity and compassion for those left behind- the poor- the losers. It is truly amazing how the benefactors of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the pain and suffering their policies create. The willful blindness, the rationalizations for suffering, the smug condescension emanating from a sense of superiority.

    When it finally sinks in, and the losers realize that their, and their loved ones fate in life has been determined by a rigged economic system, there will be hell to pay. That is the clash on the horizon. The elite have been exploiting past sentiments that held society together. When they can no longer rely on manipulating those sentiments, they can only exercise power by naked physical and economic force.

    The Occupy movement spontaneously found a way out of our current predicament of uncontrolled greed. You make your voice heard by occupying space- you physically start taking things back. The current leadership of the working class- the loser class- doesn’t want to talk about change in these terms of occupy and physical confrontation. They are pretenders, and one benefit of the current crisis is their fake support is drawn out into the open. The losers can clearly see who their supporters are.

    Current events are another chapter in the ongoing battles of class warfare plain and simple. In America, Trump has gained a popular following because he speaks to the suffering of the losers while, once again, the fake liberal left in this country rushes to support Clinton in order to protect their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

    The struggle for taking things back is on the horizon. The question will be, who will lead the struggling poor and how will their anger and despair be directed. We all need to reassess our place in the world and clearly see how our actions are affecting the possible outcomes for our individual futures and the future of all of life on this planet.

    The source of American power was its ability to reduce suffering and provide a vision of a better future for its citizens and the world. Lower inequality, promoting peace, and offering opportunity are the driving forces that make those ideals reality. Actions that are the exact opposite promoted by the current leadership class- in both parties.

    Coming to terms with class struggle is what needs to be addressed. Discussed openly and plainly in simple terms. When Margaret Thatcher says there is no society, only individuals and families, she is correct, form her elite position of power. But what does that mean over time and what does that sentiment bode for the future? I would say nothing good for humanity as a whole and not very much for the rest of life on this planet.

    Taking back ownership, in all its forms, is what will play out.

  12. Skippy

    China & Russia 1500 million people, Europe 700 million people, US 140 million full time employed.

    Disheveled Marsupial…. whack on land vs sea….

  13. SufferinSuccotash, Red Fool

    My favorite line.
    Panic from the masters of the universe at the slightest sign of uncertainty does not support their claims for perspicacity, superiority and understanding of risk.

  14. Katharine

    European Parliament President Martin Schultz was refreshingly clear: “It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate”.

    So they never did mean to be democratic. All that guff about respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy etc. was just bait to pull the suckers in and get them under control. It sounds as if Leave was a vote to be proud of, whatever the consequences. That’s not to underrate the difficulties, but there were difficulties ahead whichever way you chose. Putting all the politicians on notice that the crowd can and will decide its fate is a good start.

    1. Jim Haygood

      This alleged quote, posted by an Italian twitterer in Italian, was megaphoned in English by the Z site.

      As best I can determine, it’s fake.

      Das even repeats the spelling error made by the twitterer (the name is “Schulz”).

      1. Katharine

        Thanks! I took it from the article in good faith–and I’m not actually sure my opinion changes greatly even if the quote is false, but I don’t want to do Schulz an injustice.

      2. Katharine

        Thanks! I took it from the article in good faith, but I wouldn’t want to do Schulz an injustice.

      3. William C

        Plenty of lies being told all over the place.

        With a little bit of intimidation thrown in.

      4. Katharine

        Thanks! I took it from the article in good faith but would not want to do Schulz an injustice.

      5. Katharine

        Thanks! I took the quote from the article in good faith but wouldn’t want to do Schulz an injustice.

    1. RUKidding

      Props for “Keeping Up Appearances” reference. Hyacinth and Richard would’ve definitely voted to Leave. Onslow and Daisy probably wouldn’t have made it to the polls but possibly would have leaned towards Remain.

      It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

      1. Take the Fork

        (from the links thread, and a little heavier):

        Has anyone bothered to head up to Barnsley to find out how – or if – Billy Casper’s grandchildren voted?

      2. fosforos

        Richard would have voted to stay if he were sure that the ballot was REALLY secret. Onslow and Daisy would have had much more sense than to vote at all.

  15. Katharine

    Thanks, Jim Haygood! I took the quote from the article in good faith but wouldn’t want to do Schulz an injustice. (I tried to post this as a reply to you but failed, hence the misplacement.)

  16. Katharine

    Thanks, Jim Haygood! I took the quotation from the article in good faith but wouldn’t want to do Schulz an injustice.

  17. Paul Hodgson

    A limp comment I know, but I think this is the most sensible thing I have read about the implications and ramifications of the Brexit vote. And I particularly like the well-directed and well-deserved lampooning of the masters of the universe. They haven’t the foggiest, have they?

    This is my first comment on NC for at least two years but I thought the article was so level-headed and thoughtful as to justify my saying something. Thanks Mr Das and thanks to Yves and Lambert for devoting so much of your lives to keeping NC going.

    Paul Hodgson

  18. fosforos

    I’m still waiting for somebody to explain why Corbyn so stupidly solidarized with Cameron behind “Remain, which, as Das so precisely states, put “The Labour Party at odds with its core constituencies,” when it was always clear that the only real choice was to call for abstention, refusal to vote for the demagogic nonsense of either Tory gang.

  19. HilBor

    Satyajit – well said.

    Recent news has presented the long term economic impact of Brexit with a certainty that does not exist. While UK citizens voted for what they believe to be in their best interests (unfortunately for troubling reasons in some cases), the actual long term economic impact of Brexit is unknowable. I for one hope this results in positive changes for both the UK and Europe now that voting is done.

    Historically political institutions and industries have focused on the many benefits of ‘consolidation’ as a way of removing inefficiencies from shared control of a system. The idea was a benevolent organization with control of all the levers could work for the benefit of most players. Unfortunately, we are now seeing this control used to benefit small groups at the expense of all others. I suspect this is the instinctive and underlying theme behind Brexit votes – a move away from consolidated power. What will be the aggregate economic impact to all players as a result of Brexit – who knows. What will the division of money and power be post Brexit – more distributed from those with authority to make decisions in a consolidated system.

  20. Larry Kummer

    “When they sit down to provide the final verdict on 23 June 2016, future historians will ponder several issues.”

    I’ll bet that Satyajit Das is wrong on all 6 of these questions.

    “First, the fact that the referendum was called will cause bafflement.”
    Too minor to concern historians.

    “Second, the unedifying debate will merit careful analysis. The tone was shrill, lacking civility.”
    Too commonplace to concern historians.

    “Third, the surprise at the result among those who voted to remain will be scrutinised.”
    Too trivial to be remembered, let alone discussed.

    “Fourth, the significance of the ultimate decision on core beliefs will be eagerly studied.”
    Like the many previous referenda about the EU (many considered Earth-shaking at the time), this might become too trivial as an influence on people’s core beliefs.

    “Fifth, the obsession with financial market effects in the aftermath of the decision will confound posterity.”
    Only if they remember these market movements, which I doubt. The claims that these are 10 or 20 sigma events are bizarre (just the many many previous events declared so improbably that they would have occurred only once in Earth’s geological history).

    “Sixth, history will have to decide whether the vote was simply a mutiny on H.M.A.S Britannia or an influential one on the shape of the modern world”
    That will be obvious to future historians.

  21. steelhead23

    The reality is that experts no longer relate to ordinary people. Policy orthodoxy, such as free trade, de-industrialisation and, in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, austerity and unconventional monetary policy, have not benefitted large parts of the population. Ordinary people’s appetite for sacrifice in return for unquantified future benefits promised by experts has waned. The gravitational pull of aspiration, central to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s brand of conservatism, has faded as trickle-down economics has betrayed many people

    It is high time technocrats and economists get a bit of comeuppance. They haven’t got a clue. They seek to grow productivity, with no concern for the distribution of revenue. They recommend austerity in order to bring debt payments in line with productivity, even if doing so hurts the majority of citizens. I think of Greece – has the impoverishment of the Greeks helped the average German? I doubt it. Their banks may be a tad healthier, but the banks don’t make or sell Volkswagens. It certainly has not helped the Greeks.

    I watched an interesting piece on the CCC last night on PBS. Paid just a dollar a day (1935 dollars) with most of their pay going home to mom, working like men, they all got along swimmingly. Why? I would suggest that egalitarianism increases social cohesion – but that would lead to an essay, not a comment. My banner is: Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

  22. slimshadey

    Personal good will from the side of Nigel Farage Despite urging a “grown-up” conversation between the EU and Britain, Farage continued in a similarly mocking vein throughout his monologue, at one point telling MEPs: “Virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives.” So I guess the question to many in side of Europe would be. Is Mr. Nigel Farage the voice that speaks for all of the UK and if so why is his party not part of your Government. If this showing of what Mr. Nigel Farage has said is the general attitude at how the UK wishes to conduct business, then be advised the negotiations after art. 50 will become really difficult.

  23. RBHoughton

    The credit rating downgrade was just that spontaneous wish to kick a chap when he’s down that characterises our global financial economy. The downgrade was coming anyway and had only been delayed by some dealing by the Treasury and its friends.

    For Europe, the UK’s departure will weaken NATO’s attempt to make war with Russia. It might even cause the west to become friends with South America, Africa and Asia but I’m not banking on the neocons giving up just yet as the planet’s land, sea and air is still only slightly trashed.

    I agree Rogoff’s opinion the bar for referenda is too low. It takes a 70% majority to call one in many countries and it should require a 70% participation rate to be valid.

    1. Paul Greenwood

      I think 70% should be the threshold for General elections too which mans every Government since 1992 is illegitimate. David Cameron gained 11 million votes in May 2015 on 66% turnout yet in 2016 72.2% turned out and 17.4 million voted to LEAVE.

      In Scotland 1 million voted to Leave and 1.66 million voted to Remain yet in 2014 2 million Scots voted to stay in the UK.

  24. Paul Greenwood

    Very good piece, rational and clear. You fail to correlate the Remain Vote with Public Spending per capita. London has the highest in England and 50% total infrastructure spend. Scotland has 17% higher spend than England and a 9.7% Budget Deficit. Northern Ireland is higher than Scotland with 1.8 million people and £20bn running cost with just £9bn raised in taxes locally.

    In between the North of England and Midlands suffer chronic congestion, pollution, deindustrialization, slow trains and huge influx of immigrants from Indian Subcontinent, Poland, Romania, Ukraine such that English is rarely heard in many cities and towns like Boston have huge crime and illicit stills operating.

    The EU Rebate is protected by H M Treasury by NOT spending in Northern England since EU grants have to be matched 50:50 and the EU grant reduces the Rebate such that UK Treasury is funding 100% infrastructure spend in the North. Since Poland, Romania, Bulgaria joined Northern cities lost access to EU Regional Aid Grants and only funding for activities such as providing computers to mosques or Muslim women “to retrain” are provided.

    These elites have been laying powered kegs for years just as effectively as Guy Fawkes

  25. GazzaP

    A very good article. While it does not intend to cover everything, a key point that was missed regarding voter concerns relates to increasing population numbers. The ONS projects a 500k increase in population in the UK for the next 20 years. After that it’s speculation. Unfortunately, it’s one of those issues that has been conflated with immigration, and therefore divides people, with accusations of racism or little Englander following on. Our increasing population is the result of several components, but primarily net migration (simplistically, incoming is 50% EU migrants, 50% migrants from elsewhere , minus those that emigrate), plus increasing birth rates of the current population (which includes the children of previous immigrants …. Which includes us all, doesn’t it?).

    At 500k per annum, there appears to be no discussion and no strategic plan about how we generates the resources and infrastructure required to support this level of growth. Where will we find the land, the power , the water supplies and sewage requirements, the hospitals, prisons. How many more cars does this mean, how many more roads? For example, house building has levelled off in recent years at 135k per annum, approx. These things don’t fix themselves. Note, increased house prices relate to the laws of supply and demand, and will only become more expensive as this mismatch increases, year on year.

    Unfortunately, the media in particular point to one component, such as immigration from the EU, as if that were the origin of the problem. And yet it’s only a minor part. Our country has a proud reputation of welcoming refugees in past history, but even that is now argued against… 20000 Syrian refugees maximum… Really?

    Both the Remain and Leave campaigns sought to stifle debate on such issues, as there is a failure at governmental level to address how we are planning to resource at a population level. If the penultimate paragraph proves true (that we should even question whether democracy is still a valid means of determining our future), we have much to worry about.

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