Ham-Handed Theresa May “Hard Brexit” Stance Roils UK Pols, Not Just EU

It’s always a bit fraught to comment on the internal politics of a foreign country, so I hope reader will regard this post as being as much a forcing device as an attempt to gauge the state of play.

One of the things that has been apparent about the posture of Tory party both before and after the Brexit vote is that its decision-making has been driven entirely by short-term political considerations. The very fact that major Conservative players in the Brexit negotiations and the related policy-making keep saying things that are utter nonsense about how the process will work, and kpt acting as if the EU will yield on central issues like the terms of access to the single market, when they been consistently told “no.” This is a frightful disply of unseriousess when the future of the nation is at stake.

And the failure to plot even one step ahead was on display at the famed Birmingham Conservative party conference at which May committed herself to an end of March deadline for triggering Article 50 and taking a firm stance on cutting immigration, which is tantamount to a “hard Brexit”. If you’ve been following the Brexit machinations at all, one of those very consisent messages from EU leaders, from Merkel on down, has been that to have access to the single market, the UK must accept the “four freedoms”. One of those is freedom of movement, meaning immigration.

May’s move toward restrictions on immigration, and with it trade, triggered a swoon in the pound and much consternation among members of the City, since that meant they would lose their passporting rights, necessitating the relocation of some important operations and personnel.

May has succeeded in uniting a large swathe of the country, both Leave and Remain backers against her, including many with her own party, with her hardline anti-immigrant posture. It’s a confusing wild lurch in Tory politics, throwing big business, London, social liberalism, elites, liberal Brexiteers under the bus and courting UKIP voters, the provinces, little Englanders and the English working class, or whatever is left of it these days. Richard Smith called the Birmingham meeting “the most toxic Tory conference evah.”

In fact, immigration was a clear second priority among Leave voters. From Lord Ashcroft polls, based on a survey of 12,000 voters:

Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” Just over one in eight (13%) said remaining would mean having no choice “about how the EU expanded its membership or its powers in the years ahead.” Only just over one in twenty (6%) said their main reason was that “when it comes to trade and the economy, the UK would benefit more from being outside the EU than from being part of it.”

Yet the Government, without skipping a beat, launched xenophobic talk and actions. From InFacts:

Theresa May didn’t have to become prime minister. She took the job because she was ambitious. This involved a Faustian pact with the Tory hardliners to get into Downing Street – deliver Brexit even though she herself campaigned for Remain, albeit in a lukewarm manner. Nobody should feel sympathy as her government flails around, damaging our country in the process.

Nobody should feel sympathy when the Foreign Office gets into a spat with the London School of Economics over whether it said it would only take Brexit advice from UK passport holders. The Foreign Office later claimed it was a misunderstanding and that it would “continue to take advice from the best and brightest minds, regardless of nationality”.

Was there really a misunderstanding? The government’s anti-foreigner rhetoric means it is hard to give it the benefit of the doubt. This, after all, was the week when cabinet ministers – who like May had backed Remain – promised the Conservative Party to make the NHS “self sufficient” in doctors, cut the number of foreign students and crack down on migrants more generally.

There was even the suggestion that companies should be forced to say how many foreigners work for them – a name and shame policy designed to flush out organisations that aren’t doing enough to recruit Brits. Where’s the shame in employing talented hard-working foreigners? In this case, too, the governm

As a result of May’s miscalculation, MPs are now working across party lines to force a Parliamentary vote on Brexit. As one American observer said as soon as he heard of May’s hardline stance, “With a 12 seat majority in Parliament, this is an unstable situation.” From the Guardian over the weekend:

Theresa May is under massive cross-party pressure to grant MPs a vote on any decision to leave or limit UK involvement in the European single market, amid growing outrage at the prospect that parliament could be bypassed over the biggest economic decision in decades.

Tory MPs joined forces with former leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Greens to insist that parliament have a say and a vote, pointing out that, while the British people had backed leaving the EU, they had not chosen to leave the biggest trading market in the western world.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband held discussions with pro-EU Tory MPs on Saturday, and was said to be considering tabling an urgent question in the Commons, demanding that May appear before parliament to explain its future role in Brexit decisions, when MPs return on Monday.

The SNP and pro-EU Tory MPs Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry were also considering tabling questions, while former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, now the party’s Brexit spokesman, said it would be appalling if detailed terms of Brexit, including the UK’s future relations with the single market, were not voted on by MPs.

Bloomberg listed a raft of British political leaders objecting to a hard Brexit on Sunday political shows. For instance:

Keir Starmer, Labour’s spokesman for Brexit, said on Sunday that it could be a “disaster” if lawmakers weren’t able to have a say on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU.

“The terms on which we are going to negotiate absolutely have to be put to a vote in the House, because if we can’t get the opening terms right, we’ll never get the right result,” he said on the “Andrew Marr Show” on the BBC. “Nobody, whether they voted to leave or remain, voted for the government to take an ax to the economy, and the prime minister’s stance on the single market is making it nigh on impossible to have access to the single market, and that is a huge risk to the economy, jobs and working people.”

Former Conservative Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, in an interview on Sky News on Sunday, also called for parliament to have a vote on Brexit negotiations, saying it would be “extraordinary” for that not to happen.

And Bloomberg indicates the rifts go even further:

Splits have also emerged in May’s administration. A government minister speaking on condition of anonymity condemned a proposal to force companies to list foreign workers, proposed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday, as illegal and discriminatory and said it would have to be abandoned because it wouldn’t pass a vote in parliament.

The only way May’s bone-headed move makes any political sense is if she’s executing a clever scheme to back away from Brexit by putting forward the ugliest version possible, generating a public rebellion. If that turns out to be the case, and she’s also managed to keep her scheme well under wraps, this will have been adeptly played indeed. But the UK’s Brexit politics have been a massive cock-up, and there’s not much reason to see this as a sudden improvement from a bad new normal.

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  1. Foppe

    It’s fascinating to see how willing Tories are to openly take these positions (because they enjoy power? because they simply, truly don’t care about other people’s rights?).

    1. paul

      The latter, they never have and they are hardly likely to start now.
      Treeza, whose fitness for leadership has never been in question in the media industry, seems to prefer chaos arising rather than actually addressing any problem whatsoever.
      I wonder if this is the situation that that our war criminal ex prime minister sees as the opportunity to make his arthurian return to front line politics?

      1. Colonel Smithers

        There will be one difference between Blair then and Blair now. He no longer enjoys the support of the Murdoch family.

    2. Patrick

      I think this is common among most career politicians. “Yes I have these ideas and ideals, but if I am to implement them, first I must stay in power. So I’ll compromise now, and follow my ideals later.”

      They end up compromising for power till retirement. If they’re lucky, they’ll try to slip in a tiny bit of good behavior at the end to assuage their consciences. (Obama is a great example, who is finally getting a tiny bit tough on finance in the 8th year of his presidency)

  2. Anonymous

    A few thoughts.

    May’s hardening of stance came shortly after she met Rupert Murdoch. A coincidence? May be not.

    It was also shortly after Johnson gave public support to a pressure group working to put pressure on the government to go for hard brexit, a clear breach of ministerial protocol for which he was not reprimanded. Perhaps May, having already issued several reprimands, felt she could not keep reprimanding the Brexiteers without being seen to be weak.

    i think immigration may have played a more crucial role in the referendum result than the Ashcroft data suggest. Certainly the tabloids thought so, running front pages day after day in the week before the vote on the themes ‘now is your chance to stop the migrants’, ‘here is your chance to kick the migrants out’ etc. Nasty stuff, imo. Recent opinion polls do seem to suggest a majority of UK voters (c.60%) now support action to restrict immigration.

    The UK balance of payments defict has been substantially financed in recent years by foreigners buying UK residential properties which they have left unoccupied (bolt holes?). So perhaps they are now going to be told that they cannot come here?

    There was a suggestion in the UK press that the government has decided that it will take too long to prepare for negotiations so they are going to start them inadequately prepared.

    As a UK resident I feel I am aboard a train which is out of control.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you. I agree, especially your last sentence, and have begun making contact with recruiters overseas.

      1. vlade

        you and tons of others high skilled people (both with and w/o UK passport). I guess this is what “open for business” means..

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Being in my mid-40s and having worked in financial services since university, I would like to do something different. If that can’t be the case, may be a spell abroad would help. I have been thinking about it for a good year or two before the referendum. French is my second language. English is my third. My French ancestry goes too far back for citizenship.

    2. Nunya

      I believe more of the vote is attributable to anti-immigration than any poll will show, principally because those taking the poll may not wish to appear to be racist (as they have been labelled by the Remainers) for wanting to have border control.

  3. vlade

    I find the whole immigration Tory stance fascinating.

    May was Home Secretary, in charge of immigration for what, last 6 years? You can argue that she couldn’t do much about EU migration (in fact, there are ways to make the beaurocracy so hard people just give up. Germans are good at this..), but the non-EU migraiton is about as large as the EU one. The net migration IIRC is about 300-400k, which May says will bring down to tens of thousands. She promised this on non-EU migration before, and failed. If you add the EU migration into the mix, this would mean that basically it would become impossible to get into the UK at all – UK would have about the same net migraiton as New Zealand, country ten times smaller (although much friendlier to migrants).

    At the same time, there’s considerably more attacks on “people with funny accents” – Poles, Czechs etc., and while gov’t has the rhethorics of “this is wrong”, it does preciously little. Except having more speaches on those evil immigrants. Some of which lived in the UK for decades, when the run from communist regimes. This is not helping UK gov’t to score any brownie points with Visegrad and Baltics (or almost 1/3rd of the remaining EU membership, and enough to block any UK/EU agreement).

    It looks to me like May is playing her own internal political game, ignoring any international repercussions. The only three countries I can think of that can really afford doing that are US, China and Russia.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its remarkably short sighted of her to be riling up anti-immigration rhetoric. The UK will desperately need friends and allies in its negotiations and its obvious historic allies within the EU have been Poland and other eastern European countries which have seen the UK as a counterweight to German influence. But the thinly veiled anti-eastern European rabble rousing might go down well in conference but it seems to be infuriating the Poles in particular. A serious government would be doing everything it could at the moment to cultivate allies in the EU.

      I’m beginning to suspect that May is trying to play a double game. Go hard on Brexit and see if circumstances (e.g. a major financial crisis in the Eurozone) helps her negotiate something favourable. If that happens, she can claim credit for leading the UK out in reasonably good order. But if it all goes pear-shaped, she has all the hardline Brexiters in key positions of government to take the fall – she can then fall on her past history as a ‘soft’ Remainer to row back and use some parliamentary manoeuvres to reverse course on Article 50 – and thereby claim credit for being a pragmatist doing the best for the country.

      1. vlade

        That’s about the only rational explanation one can see, although given how much anti-immigrant rethorics is hers alone, I find it unlikely… There’s an easy “row back” on A50 – the treaty says “decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements
        Which, given that UK doesn’t have written constitution, can be interpreted very broadly. Lawyers could spend decades on this, easy ;).

        1. PlutoniumKun

          That’s what surprises me a little about May. There is plenty of scope for her to go for a soft constitutional fudge if she wanted to. That’s certainly what a Cameron or Cameron-like leader would have done. She doesn’t seem a gambler type, but she gives every indication of having taken a big leap in pushing for a hard Brexit – most likely calculating that by putting so many high profile Brexiters in a position of power she can transfer blame if the necessity for a humiliating U-turn is needed.

  4. Nigel Lawson

    Not sure I buy the popular “Poor Theresa, prisoner of the evil Brexiters” theory. She was a hugely illiberal Home Secretary, backing the “tens of thousands” migration target and introducing lots of nasty measures like the illegal deportations of students and the notorious “Go home” slogan vans. The conference stuff was exactly in line with her previous words and actions.

    Not convinced that officially ending free movement is more than an initial bargaining position either. Her goal might be to reduce immigration numbers by encouraging a climate of hatred and violence towards immigrants. Then she can officially,theoretically abide by the EU principle of free movement, while still being anti-immigrant enough to keep her voters happy.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Without saying it as directly as you have, that’s what the poll I cited says. Brexiters aren’t as fixated on immigration as her posture would lead you to believe.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Yves. I work in the City, for the firm which had perhaps too much passion to perform last decade and wonder if I know Clive from a previous life (the only way to find is for you to visit London and organise a meeting), and reckon that a good half of outers I know voted on migration grounds (and this goes back years). At the risk of sounding a snob, for which I apologise profusely, I got the impression that City workers from working class backgrounds were more likely to vote out than peers from more middle class backgrounds (“barrow boys” in City English). None has thought of the consequences and is bothered by the loss of (single) market access.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Further to immigration, an anecdote for you. I am Catholic and attend mass locally regularly, usually an English service on Saturday evening or, for whatever reason, a Polish service on Sunday morning. There have been Polish and Italian services in the town since the war, but not in my local church. It’s interesting to see the difference between Saturday English and Sunday Polish services. Saturday attendees tend to be older (often of Irish origin, but with some migrants from further afield like my parents and me). Sunday attendees tend to be younger (often families) and, by the look of the cars, much more prosperous. In the last couple of years, the cars have become bigger and newer. There is the odd parish fete where parishioners, a very diverse community (as with the clergy) are encouraged to bring and share something from home. The Polish (with the odd Czech and Slovak) parishioners rarely, if ever, attend. That is not a criticism, BTW. I wonder if resentment has been building. The area voted 52% out.

        1. vlade

          The anglo-saxon (both protestand and catholic) congregation social mores are miles away from most of CEE congregation social interaction. It’s much more formal, and much more “distant” (although there are exceptions). Reasons for that would probably add up to a book (and probably did).

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you. I usually go to mass when overseas and like to observe the differences. I was in Chantilly at the end of May and was invited to drinks and nibbles after mass when parishioners were celebrating first communion. I have not seen that elsewhere.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          This reminds me of the comment my mother (Irish) made when she first went to Mass in an English catholic church (as opposed to a church in an area with a big Irish or Polish population). When walking out she said ‘they’re not real catholics are they?’ When I asked what she meant she said ‘oh, they seem to be awfully serious about it’.

        3. Nunya

          Don’t ever judge prosperity by car ownership, it may just reflect the owner’s relative comfort with debt financing.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Begob. In my neck of the woods, the Vale of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, the local council recently tipped off the high end estate agents, now appearing in the area as Londoners and foreign investors move out, to find Asian investors when a golf course of three dozen acres was put on the market by the three partners. Two wanted out. The third, for some reason, could not buy them out. Without planning permission, the property is worth about £2m, but £30m with permission, which will come soon. A Chinese investor has bought the property and plans a hotel and gated community (in part to cater for Chinese students in London and the Home Counties). The area is near London, Oxford and Shakespeare Country. One can get to Calais by car in under 3 hours, motorway and train all the way.

  5. fajensen

    The very fact that major Conservative players in the Brexit negotiations and the related policy-making keep saying things that are utter nonsense about how the process will work,

    Having worked in the UK for 10 years in the 1990’s and still working with British people today, this is not a total surprise. It is quite normal for a British person to do the first read of briefings and background material *at* the meeting / conference and then make up their opinion on it more or less on-the-fly.

    Sometimes they don’t even bother, they might already have a ready-made opinion on any matter discussed (and what “the matter” is and what “discussed” should mean) and therefore facts and data are basically just wasting time. Time that could be spent much more productively imposing their position on all the others.

    It’s always been a great source of frustration for the British that this approach doesn’t really work in the rest of Europe.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you. One thing about the recent controversy over foreigners advising HM Government is that so many advisers / people on Brexit working groups in the City are foreign or the children of immigrants. I am friends with / former colleagues of some. All have a parent or grandparent from abroad. I no longer work on such matters, but am the child of immigrants. My British ancestors left Aberdeenshire and Lancashire in the early 19th century.

  6. linda amick

    Recently I read an article by Thierry Meyssan on his website indicating that the UK might be anticipating shifts in geopolitical power holders with China rising and the US fading. The UK would like to get in early to become one of the Financier/Banker entities that manage monies after the shift.
    Interesting that it plays into the odd decisions and events recently related to May and a hard Brexit.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you. I worked on RMB clearing a few years ago and recall City and Treasury types discussing that.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Osborne did nothing to discourage such musings. Cameron was more cautious and wondered what Uncle Sam would say.

  7. Colonel Smithers

    I caught up with a friend / former colleague last week. He is a solicitor (a type of lawyer if you are not in British Isles) at one of the “Magic Circle” firms (the big five law firms) and reported a big increase in transactions being booked at Euro-zone affiliates, so the firms can earn Euros, since June. That has led to the centre of power / gravity shifting to continental affiliates. I left the blue eagle on 23 June and began at the firm with a passion to perform on 27. Over the spring, two dozen legal staff were let go from wholesale banking at the nest.

    1. vlade

      Passion to perform.. hehehe Passion to perform dives? Quite a few blue eagle people there though, from what I saw..

      But, on your original point – when I was saying that the support services (legal, accounting, consulting) will move where the clients are, lots of people poohpoed me few months back. They don’t seem to understand that a large chunk of this is going to the lunch/dinner/drinks etc. with the clients, both to keep (yourself) in the picture and to keep in the (larger) picture. That can’t be done in London.

      Bankers and co will not stay in London just because of London nightlife – especially every time May or one of her ministers opens their mouth, they take 5% paycut in non GBP currency.

      I do not claim UK should keep their financial institutions (and I keep repeating – it’s not just banks, it’s also asset managers, insurers and all the industries servicing them) at all costs. But you can’t drop them and rebalance overnight, that’s a recipe for disaster.

  8. CBB Parselle

    As someone who still likes to cut his toast into ‘soldiers,’ it is comforting to hear Brexit analyzed as one does a boiled egg into hard, medium or soft. We are clearly heading for a hard Brexit for no better reason than our fearless leader wants to be seen as tough and effective. She commenced her reign with an advertising slogan “Brexit means Brexit,” even though she had campaigned as a Remainer, though so weakly as to infuriate the former PM. Who can possibly doubt that Theresa May would have with equal tautological firmness proclaimed “Remain means Remain” had that suited her ambition. Thus it is obvious that the firmness of her pronouncements directly contrasts with the weakness of her principles.

  9. Pelham

    Re immigration: Isn’t May following the will of the Brexit voters? Regardless of what one thinks about the merits of immigration, shouldn’t the will of the people (if this, indeed, is the majority’s intention) be respected?

    1. paul

      I’m not sure you can resolve ‘the will of the people’ in a binary poll. People voted yes and no for all sorts of reasons.
      Being able to say no to your government is a rare luxury in well managed democracies.
      Having used the EU as a lightning rod for practically as long as we have been members, its hardly surprising that many hold a poor opinion of it. Cameron,ever the lazy and ruthless aristocrat, shared the establishment view that the voters would balk at change, as they had done in previous referenda (Though not the 79 Scottish referendum….). The result was as unwelcome as it was unexpected.
      They would willingly disregard the decision if they could, but they have painted themselves into a corner and are left waiting for some sort of solution to manifest itself. Le pen as president perhaps?
      They could be waiting a while.

      1. witters

        “I’m not sure you can resolve ‘the will of the people’ in a binary poll.”

        There it is, the end of democracy rolled up into ‘democracy’.

      2. CBB Parselle

        “Will of the people” is a myth (or assumption) that we use to make action possible in a democracy. This was not only a binary vote but extremely vague. Not only vague, but the result was in no sense a mandate at 52:48. This routinely justifies a change of government, but a close vote requires the winning party to move circumspectly in Parliament. (The US is different because of its chaotic divided system of government, which acts as an automatic brake.) So Brexit at a minimum needs lots of debate, in and out of Parliament, but our new PM wants to be a tough guy and “deliver” on Brexit apparently with no input from others or respect for the very large Remain vote. However, I think the Tories are living in a dream, a dream in which the Europeans will not act vigorously in their own interests, even though of course this government is currently reveling in its own ruthlessness.

  10. Sound of the Suburbs

    Globalisation has created winners and losers in the West.

    At the same time we removed the old mechanisms to redistribute the benefits.

    Strong progressive taxation to provide free or subsidised services for those the bottom.

    Margaret Thatcher was the first to jump on the Milton Freidman bandwagon voluntarily.

    Inequality immediately started to rise.

    Let’s just ignore it as long as we possibly can, we are getting rich.

    We are having a bit of a downturn due to the long term effects of the financial crisis; let’s impose austerity to make inequality more pronounced.

    UKIP, the far right and far left in Europe, Trump and Sander in the US, then Brexit.


    The UK was the first in and first out of globalisation and the new ideology.
    Logical I suppose.

    When the old mechanisms to redistribute the benefits were removed, inequality rose to 1920s levels.

    The 1920s – A time before the mechanisms to redistribute the benefits had been put in place.

    0/10 for the technocrat elite.
    Please try harder.

  11. Sound of the Suburbs

    We have to consider the incompetence of UK leaders in dealing with the effects of a rising population.

    They have been talking about the housing crisis for at least a decade and done nothing.

    Then there are the over-stretched health and education services.

    If we halt all immigration for about a century this will give our slothful leaders time to cater for the current population.

    Then we will have to limit immigration to an amount our leaders can deal with, about five a year judging from past performance.

  12. a different chris

    >when I was saying that the support services (legal, accounting, consulting) will move where the clients are, l

    All due respect, vlade (seriously, I know you are just posting “on the Internet” and we’re getting what we pay for which is far from your most detailed thinking) , but here’s the issue for me: Britain is the 2nd largest economy in the EU, but everybody in the City needs to move to the continent? You are telling me both:

    a) There is no City business to do in Britain
    b) There is nobody else that does City-style business in Europe?

    This is a disaster but it will be well distributed, the whole “Britain is so screwed” focus — yup, but so is everybody else. They (all the masters of the universe) brought this on themselves so excuse my lack of sympathy.

    And I didn’t even mention the much useless churning that comes from said City types.

    Sigh. Waiting for LePen, now. Ugh.

    1. vlade

      there is not enough city business in the UK dor the size of the city as it is rigt now. Not sure what you mean by b) – but there is not enough people who know the investment business on the continent. as in there are, but London alone has tens of thousands of them, when the most of the continent is probably as much as that. say getting skilled quant developers on the continent is much harder than in London. situation is somewhat different in insurance, asset managemnet and retail/corporate banking

      1. a different chris

        Thanks for your response I was trying really hard to make sure that didn’t sound like a drive-by slam because it wasn’t but it can be so hard in these black-and-white little boxes. You understood “b” correctly thanks for the answer.

        >say getting skilled quant developers on the continent is much harder than in London

        And I suppose they are lot more footloose-and-fancy-free than us engineering types but there still seems to be a re-location problem for the Continent that may not be the flip side but certainly reduces the gap. This are no winners here.

        Finally, a question still lingers – why are all these people, from Polish plumbers to cutting-edge “quants” on that side of the pond? They didn’t skip over the rest of Europe for no reason.

  13. a different chris

    PS: I’m not looking good on my “there won’t be a Brexit” but I am not hiding from it either — PK’s post does touch on my position, but I am having a harder and harder time convincing myself that May is actually this clever:

    >But if it all goes pear-shaped, she has all the hardline Brexiters in key positions of government to take the fall – she can then fall on her past history as a ‘soft’ Remainer to row back and use some parliamentary manoeuvres to reverse course on Article 50

    1. Anonymous

      A friend of mine worked closely with Mrs M. for a couple of years many many moons ago, before she became an MP. According to him she is intelligent and competent but not an intellectual giant. She was certainly not seen as going to the top of the organisation they worked in.

  14. Perry525

    Since the 1970’s Europe has moved from a Socialist movement to a neo-liberal ideology Fraud and bribery are rampant and the direction of travel has been for the benefit of the landed 1%. Those who profit from rent, and as such have no interest the the mass of working class, or production – they do not need them to toil, to make money – they merely require them to pay rent. They have no interest in providing services or products, they avoid paying their taxes and do not care if there are educated workers, they simply import already educated people from abroad.
    The referendum gave the working classes an opportunity to rebel against the EU/Conservatives requirement that wages be depressed and workers loose their rights obtained since 1945. With the advent of more and better information via the internet, people have become more knowledgeable as to the scams and bribery played out on a day to day basis by their bought members of Parliament, the movement of income from the working poor to big business and the 1%.
    At the same time, unfortunately, they have believed the mis information spread by the Conservatives and the Conservative press, that all is the fault of the migrants – not that it is EU/Conservative policy.

  15. anonn

    I also read today that the Tories are up 43-27 on Labour, which one source said was the highest on record. I’m also not British, so take it with a grain of salt, but maybe May is smarter than the rest of them. The voters were given lectures from metropolitan 1%er types for months, and seemed to have voted for Brexit in part because the elites are crooked theives. Brexit voters aren’t cutting off their nose to spite their faces; they’re cutting off the noses of the rich London and Brussels types, to spite those rich London and Brussels types.

    If an American politician came around and told me he or she would throw 500 randomly-selected bankers off the top of the Empire State Building on Inauguration Day, I’d probably vote for that person, even if it caused a recession. My part of America has been in a recession for most of 30 years now, it’d be nice if Manhattan and DC types shared some of the pain their greed has caused.

    I remember watching the Brexit results come in on BBC America (they broadcast the main BBC feed from Blighty). One after another, the ruined Northern industrial towns chimed in with results. The journos with their posh accents could think of nothing to say. Maybe May has figured out – they’re mad as hell, and if all I can do is make sure they’re not mad at me, well, that might be enough.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Your data does not have anything to do with the party conference speech of last week. That is the poll results as of last July, right after the Brexit vote. It has nothing to do with anything May has done.

      1. Strategist

        Yves, I don’t think you’re right there. Anonn is referring to this poll taken this recent weekend showing a 43-26 17 percentage point Tory lead over Labour. Poll surge attributed to the populist/racist rhetoric at the Tory party conference last week. Who knows how clever/Machavellian/three dimensional chessian (or dumb/naive/deluded) May’s Brexit strategy is, but at some more gut level she will certainly be thinking “well, the voters seem to like it”.

        I suspect the strategy is, deliver a knockout blow to UKIP first, then attack Corbyn. And yes, I agree you are right that it is insular/deluded and doesn’t take into account the reality that the Brexit deal will suck, and can the whole economy.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The poll results are exactly where they were right after May took office.


          And why does she have to worry about polls right now? The next general election isn’t until 2020. It’s much harder to force snap elections than before, and the Tories are not about to call a vote of no confidence on themselves.

          She doesn’t need to deliver a “knockout blow” to UKIP. It has all of one seat in Parliament and depended on one big financial backer, who has withdrawn his support now that Brexit has been voted in.

  16. JustAnObserver

    Cameron used the referendum, IMHO, as a tactic to finally, he thought, put an end to the civil war that had (has) been raging in the Tory party since at least the days of wets-vs-drys in Thatcher’s 80s, and probably as far back as Suez and the end-of-empire. Being the old Etonian toff that he is he never gave a picosecond’s thought to the possibility that it would resonate mightily in those working class areas Thatcher & Crew pissed all over.

    Seems like Ms. May is trying the next, even more dangerous, level of this tactic with her “hard Brexit” brinkmanship. Or maybe its simply a return to “Fog in Channel, Continent cut off” thinking and she, with her county set roots, really doesn’t understand she’s juggling with 2 flaming torches and a gallon of petrol; Imperial gallon natch.

    1. a different chris

      I think this is one place where some light parallel can be drawn with the Trump phenomenon, although at least the Brits should have understood the “wet vs. drys” thing (not that I do).

      Anyway, I think both the Tory and Republican leadership, because they are human beings (in the worse sense of the word) just could not accept that their voters existed purely in hate of the left. They just had to assume it was like a football match, where you hate the visitors and love your side. Of course I must be loved, see how many votes I got! Like anybody could love the Romneybot let alone think he had any clue what it meant to work for a living.

      Well those voters just hated, hated the “Left” whether it was Blair or Clinton thru Obama. That didn’t mean they cared much for the right either…. and then did see what they were looking for in Trump and Brexit. Sucks to be on that wild pony for sure, but couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

      Think about this when somebody says those people are “stupid” (let alone deplorable). They may simply have a different and much darker take on things than you do.

      1. paul

        I can’t accept it either, in the UK there hasn’t been anything remotely resembling left wing politics for the last 35 odd years.
        All (both) major parties opted for the set menu, and it was the business lunch.
        Blair,Clinton, Obama and the EU might occasionally don a little democratic drag but they are all wholeheartedly right wingers.
        Currently, a fairly mild social democrat such as Jeremy Corbyn is portrayed as a despotic trotskyite, which shows you how far things have traveled.
        If you can find any shred of evidence that brexit voters were motivated by hatred of the ‘left’, I would be delighted to see it.

      2. Fiver

        Someone ought to have alerted you sooner to the fact there is a fairly large constituency which regards itself loosely as ‘left’ that find the idea the Obama, or Clinton or Blair are ‘left’ to be just silly – they are all servants of financial/corporate power and none have raised a finger for any policy blessed by the left in all their years in power.

      3. Stillworking@63

        The left or progressive hasn’t existed in politics ether in the UK or USA for at least 40 years. The concept of workers deserve a fair shake left with Reagan and Thatcher. Every US democratic presidential candidate has moved to the right.

    2. paul

      Not in my view, cameron and the prominent (ambitious) tory brexiteers would have happily spent the rest of their lives with a narrow remain result.

      Civil war in the tory party is very civil.

      The dazed,crestfallen performances of Fox and Johnson on the morning of the result paid testament to that.

      The permanent pantomime of anti europeanism and the very handy anti democratic powers of the EU that they had come to rely on were both taken from them and they have little or nothing to replace these assets.

    3. Dave D'Rave

      A suggestion from the colonies: I agree that Cameron planned to let the Brexit people have their referendum because he figured that they would lose badly and then he could wash his hands of them. The results undoubtedly came as a surprise (to him).

      I think that May is not being cute or foolish. I think that she has a serious problem, and has decided that moderate measures will not work.

      There is no way that the EU will accept a Free Trade deal with the UK which does not include lots of immigration. At the same time, any “Deal” which imports another 100,000 foreign workers per year will be regarded as a betrayal, perhaps followed by a UKIP parliament.

      May has therefore concluded that a compromise with the EU is not possible, and that managing Brexit is the only path forward.

      The immediate problem is that Parliament wants a voice in this, which is to say, they want to vote to reverse the referendum. I recommend the “Nuclear Option”: Allow Parliament to vote on non-implementation of Brexit, but make it Vote of Confidence. One way or the other, Parliament would support Brexit. . .

  17. RBHoughton

    “Its always a bit fraught ….” I am British and so far as I am concerned NC’s comments are entirely welcome. One of the great difficulties in ‘discovering’ UK economics and financials is the City’s ownership of the mass media. The main sources of reliable UK news are overseas – in France, Germany and USA, sometimes in Oz. We don’t have a Bloomberg and the FT is subscription only.

    So please do not apologize for doing the job that others neglect to do.

    agree with you that immigration is not the main cause of Brexit. What government says it will do is to repeal the Human Rights legislation and probably leave the International Criminal Court so our soldiers may not be exposed to public criticism for their acts. By winning the Generals to her side Mrs May is set to take a giant leap to the right. With the Tories, the army and the police aligned in a common purpose, you can guess where the country is heading.

  18. Fiver

    I think she sees the polls and thinks she has the support to up the ante, knowing there are major problems brewing in EU’s financial system, many of its economies, and certainly its civilian polities. I’m not so sure Germany or France or especially Italy are all that keen for any more pressure on their banks. Actually, some had expected some action on Article 50 by the end of the year, and so clarification can be the cover for an ‘extension’ which also sets the clock unofficially ticking now. So I would not be that surprised to see the EU change both tack and jaw-jaw, or at least to see if there is something that could be mutually sold all around. I do note that deadlines with binary outcomes are highly prized opportunities for financial ‘markets’ these days.

    I would not at all assume that apparent poll strength is real. After all, the exit nay-sayers so oversold their arguments re economic consequences there’s a false sense of having dodged a bullet, and more than a hint of the inflated feeling that can accompany such a stroke, as if the Brexit had already happened, and , like, no big deal. That’s all going south as the real global economy has its (now-perrenial thanks to revisions) run-up in growth tracking the (surprisingly better US GDP in the 3rd quarter (swapped out of Q2). By next March Ms May will be terribly concerned about Corbyn’s steady rise in the polls as the public can hear the cracks in the bubble.

  19. Anonymous

    @a different chris

    If you are asking why there are a significant number of migrants in the UK, the answer is that in general there are not in fact significantly more migrants in the UK than in other of the richer European countries (or the US). There has been a bit of a surge in the last two or three years but the overall level is much in line with other Western European countries. The referendum gave an opportunity for people in England to vent on the subject and they were encouraged to do so by a tabloid press which has its own political agenda driven by its owners and /or editors. And people who feel left behind are inclined to blame foreigners for their predicament. And, yes, there is some evidence, though limited, of downward pressure on the wages of the least skilled.

    Quants are a bit of a special case as the City investment banks are able to pay them very high salaries/bonuses. The Poles have come to the UK in significant numbers partly because in 2004, when Poland joined the EU, the UK was one of the first EU countries to open its borders to them. There are other historic links (Polish evacuees in WWII, including a magnificent group of Polish fighter pilots who some argue changed the course of the war). Other nationalities have gone elsewhere quite a lot (e.g. Romanians in Italy and Spain, I believe.)

  20. Patrick

    No doubt May is in a difficult and contradictory position. But expecting a vote on the terms of negotiation before negotiation even starts is incoherent. That process would never be followed in any other treaty negotiation. This feels like a backdoor attempt by parliament to stop Brexit.

    Allowing an up or down vote on the final terms *after negotiation* is consistent with precedent on trade treaty negotiation and actually strengthens the position of the negotiator. Whereas a preliminary vote tips the negotiator’s hand, making their position weaker.

    If May is going to follow through on the referendum, she is absolutely correct to prevent any parliamentary votes before triggering article 50.

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