Brexit Stalls: Talks Deadlocked, Repeal Bill Postponed; Beginning of the End of No Deal Denialism?

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Progress toward the fantasy of an orderly Brexit came to a dead halt yesterday. Even though it was no surprise to anyone paying attention, the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier pronounced the talks to be in a “state of deadlock” over the critical issue of the so-called exit bill. That means, as was widely anticipated, that the EU will not approve letting the UK start to address trade-related issues (included in “the future relationship”) next month, with the next window for possible approval after the December session.

It can’t be said often enough that even if the negotiations had gone swimmingly, there is no way for the UK to have an orderly Brexit. There are simply too many things that have to be addressed and even a very competent, deeply staffed government would find it well nigh impossible to execute. It would take a war-level mobilization of resources and nothing remotely like that is happening.

But even allowing for the fact that bad outcomes are a given, there are still degrees of downside. And the UK is now on a path to having the worst case be far and away the most likely result.

Even though Barnier and the UK’s David Davis tried to put the best face possible on this sorry situation, the fact is that virtually no progress was made in the August round of negotiations, and the September sessions appeared to manage the difficult feat of accomplishing even less. An overview from the Financial Times:

Officials familiar with the talks said there had been some minor technical advances but no progress had been made on more substantial issues.

By far the most substantial progress in talks over recent months has been made on the post-Brexit rights of around 3m EU citizens in the UK and 1m British nationals in Europe.

This week’s discussions, however, made no dent on the biggest outstanding issues, including the role of European courts, the family rights of EU nationals, some benefits issues and the administrative processes that will be used…

A possible deal over the “free movement” rights also did not gel this round.

Similarly, the intra-Tory cage match shows no sign of letting up. Hard core Brexiters demanded that May abandon the talks, as if that would accomplish anything. Pressure from business interests may eventually give the moderates the upper hand, but it seems unlikely to resolve the impasse any time soon.1 From the Independent:

In London, former Conservative Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said there was a growing “sense of panic” among business leaders as the talks flirted with failure.

“Employers are putting in place contingency arrangements and they will have to start pressing go sooner or later,” she told The Independent.

She again criticised Boris Johnson’s recent setting out of Brexit red lines, saying: “Any mixed messages about our commitment to what was said by the Prime Minister in Florence can only be unhelpful in the negotiations.”

It was striking that the Independent felt the need to devote most of its article on the negotiation impasse to describing how unified European position was, including describing how some hoped-for support for the UK, like from Germany’s Manfred Weber, failed to come through.

And Labour is politely saying “no deal” would be a Very Bad Thing. From the BBC:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I think it’s quite shocking. We’re now 15 months on since the referendum and the government seems to have reached deadlock at every stage.”

He said “falling out” of the EU without a trade deal would threaten “a lot of jobs all across Britain”.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Brexit is coming unraveled on yet another front. The Great Repeal Bill has been postponed due to the considerable opposition to giving the Government a blank check to rewrite laws, in the form of relying on so-called Henry VIII powers. The justification for such sweeping authority is that a massive number of laws needed to be rewritten, and pretty much all of it was purported to be mere scriveners’ work. The Members of Parliament have identified plenty of cases where they find it necessary to limit the Government’s power. From the Financial Times:

The bill had been expected to return to the floor of the House of Commons next week for the start of eight days of detailed scrutiny, but that timetable has slipped as the prime minister’s team try to head off multiple rebellions.

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, said on Thursday that “some 300 amendments and 54 new clauses have been proposed” by MPs who had “concerns about the bill”…

“The Tories’ repeal bill is simply not fit for purpose,” said the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer. “It would give huge and unaccountable power to ministers and puts vital rights and protections at risk.”

And the rebels have the votes. From the Guardian:

Labour said it had identified more than a dozen of the 300 amendments that already have the backing of seven or more Tory MPs, theoretically enough to defeat the government.

In the meantime, the fact that it is becoming undeniable that a disorderly Brexit is a real possibility is finally leading to the topic being given some consideration. But as we saw from the napkin-doodle quality of the two papers on trade released by the Government this week, the little thinking that has started is still distressingly superficial.

Richard Smith forwarded an article that, while at a high level of abstraction, still gave a feel for the chaos that a disorderly or even its close cousin, a “hard” Brexit, would entail. From Richard North at EUReferendum:

…commercial access both to EU/EEA airspace and to third countries for UK registered airlines ceases to apply the moment we leave the EU unless replacement agreements are in place – something which is not going to happen if we leave without an exit deal. The thing the media and most others get wrong, however, is that British airlines will not be “banned” as such. Essentially, all but a tiny number of commercial flights are undertaken in controlled airspace, which no aircraft can enter without filing a flight plan. And without a destination or overflying rights, flight plans cannot be filed. Thus, UK commercial aircraft will not even be able to take off.

This is but one example of the potential harm occasioned by leaving the EU without a formal agreement. We have pointed out many more, from the damaging effects on Formula 1 to horse racingand even the hazardous area equipment market….

What is remarkable though is the seeming determination of the legacy media to downplay the effects of a “no deal” exit. This, from the BBC is a classic example, purporting – with the arrogance typical of the state broadcaster – to give us a “reality check”, telling us what “no deal” would look like.

As weak as ditch-water, all it will commit to is a worst case scenario “that could mean that planes would be grounded temporarily, and drugs could not be imported”. But no sooner is that thought lodged, then we are encouraged to bask in the “hope … that common sense would prevail”. Some kind of interim arrangements would be made to keep things moving, the BBC declares: “It would be in the interests of neither the UK nor the EU for chaos to ensue”.

This reflects my observation yesterday, where the implications of a “no deal” exit are so catastrophic that people simply cannot deal with them. They skirt round the potential consequences and either pretend they will not happen or that a last-minute solution will be found.

This must-read post goes on to discuss a report by the European Fresh Produce Association (Freshfel) on impact on new customs procedures on UK imports of fruit and vegetables, the majority of which are imported. The report used Spain as a case study. The first paragraph is from the Freshfel document, the second from North:

The port of Dover as well as the port of Rotterdam and the Eurostar-connection starting from Calais are very critical bottlenecks of EU-UK fruit and vegetable trade. Dover and other channel harbours is a very narrow transit port with a lack of parking and storage facilities. With newly introduced border controls, including identity check, consignment check and customs clearance, as well as potential backlogs, the sector is strongly worried on the potential delays and waiting times, which could be harmful to the quality of the product.

With no confidence that electronic systems can be introduced in time, or fully integrated, the sector is concerned at the potential explosion of paperwork. Each container from Spain at Dover might need up to 20 different phytosanitary certificates given the mixed consignments, as well as certification of origins for each of the product. And, bearing in mind that there are no inspection facilities at Dover, this could present an impenetrable barrier.

And bear in mind these consequences apply if a deal is reached!

In comments on a recent post, a reader linked to an August article in the Financial Times that pointed out that leaving the EU didn’t necessarily mean that it was leaving the EEA, and argued that “staying in the EEA is not a simple or necessarily attractive option for those who want a softer form of Brexit, but that it may be the only practical option the UK has if Brexit is to be done with rapidity.”

The wee problem is that staying in the EEA does not even remotely approach a remedy. As Richard North pointed out, the devastating impact on air travel occurs unless a replacement pact is in place. Simon Nixon explained the limits of the EEA as a solution to Brexit problems:

But could the EEA be a short-term solution to the U.K.’s Brexit challenges, operating as a transitional arrangement while the long-term relationship is negotiated? This seems far-fetched too. The EEA doesn’t pertain to the EU customs union, all EU free-trade agreements and agriculture, so it could only be a partial solution and would mean striking many other deals…. And the EU has been clear that any transitional deal must come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice—precluding one under the European Free Trade Agreement court that oversees the EEA.

Brexit now looks like a car with all its wheels missing. Even with the application of a great deal of force, it is not going to move forward at anything approaching a reasonable pace, let alone the speed required to prevent disastrous outcomes for British citizens.

1 I confess to being at a loss to understand how Philip Hammond’s ploy of refusing to budget for the costs of managing a disorderly Brexit is either helpful to the moderate Brexit camp or responsible. The only explanation I can come up with comes from this classic scene:

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  1. vlade

    And, for those who don’t know Peter North was a vocal Leave campaigner, so can’t be really labeled a Remoaner.

    To me, it seems that we’re seeing the human nature in play again. Before, I could never really see who Europe could have more or less sleepwalked into WW1, or in US how the Southern states could have really think that US under Lincoln would just fold etc. Now I get it a bit more. I’m not happy about it, but I am starting to get it.

    We (humans) are just so flawed, that any attempt to make us as rational beings is just a confirmation of our irrationality. As RAH said – we’re not rational, we’re rationalising.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      On Peter North, who is Richard North’s son, I had thought to somehow work this tortured article into todays’ post.

      He acknowledges some (but not all) of the costs of Brexit, says it will lead to a ten year recession, but then says it will be good for England, will increase cohesion and spur more creativity. Shades of Hoover’s Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon at the start of the Great Depression:

      Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.

      As someone in comments summed up North the Younger’s post:

      So, basically: you’re going to lose your job, lose your pension, spend all your savings on just staying alive, and die destitute… but you’re happy, because you’ll be dying destitute outside of the EU, not alive and employed inside the EU.

      You cannot make this stuff up.

      1. vlade

        Yes, I saw that one. The problem is that he (Peter N) would be likely not affected much. And as they say, a depression that hits neighbor is a recession (at worst), a recession that hit me is a depression (at best).

      2. paul

        This strange belief in salvation through suffering has been a factor in uk politics all my adult life, these moral freeloaders are more than happy to take ‘difficult decisions’ decisions for others.

        The penultimate declaration of this was gideon’s austerity policy where the private sector would bloom if an axe was taken to the (useful parts of the) public sector.

        The cleansing fire of a no deal is just the latest iteration, equivalent to the DWP contractors telling the disabled to buck up and stand on their own two feet.

        Things ‘will have to get worse before they get better’ is the stupidest,most ahistorical, causal conception possible, yet it still plays well enough here.

        1. vlade

          I find it especially fascinating how “working harder” equals leading more moral life.

          It reminds me of some time waaaay back (I can’t remeber now when exactly, or whether it was England or France, actually possibly Russia 19th century now that I think of it), where the attituted of the rich was “You know, the peasants work hard and are really moral, they are sooo lucky. Poor us sods who have to be rich, evil and immoral, but I guess somoene has to do it” And they even meant it…

    2. ottovbvs

      Europe didn’t sleep walk into WW 1. A complete myth although one that continues to be peddled by some historians.

  2. vlade

    And yes, it’s a must read. I liked (amongst many things, bolding mine):
    “Such a stupid statement should be ripped apart by even a half-sentient media commentator but, as the idiocy is trotted out, one after the other they sit there nodding gormlessly as if the jabbering idiot was actually talking sense. And therein lies the core of the problem. Unless or until the political classes and their media handmaidens come to terms with the devastating consequences of a “no deal” Brexit, they will continue to treat such stupidity as a rational alternative to a negotiated settlement. “

  3. Anonymous2

    Yes. And now the ultras are calling for Hammond to be sacked. I doubt May does that as she could not sack Johnson last week. Hammond on the back benches could do her a lot of damage I suspect as he probably knows a lot that the government is currently hiding.

    A banana monarchy.

    1. begob

      Hammond now reported as blowing dog whistle very, very hard:

      “The enemy, the opponents are out there, they’re on the other side of the negotiating table. Those are the people we have to negotiate with, negotiate hard to get the very best deal for Britain.”

  4. Meher Baba

    Peter North ‘ Spur more creativity’ Hows that Pete? Bit like shutting the public library service? People write their own books instead? Maybe you mean learning how to make a fire with rocks and tinder

    love the BBC line ‘ common sense will prevail’ !! hows that for magical thinking!! thats about as British a line as it gets! a stiff upper lip will make it work

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      ‘Spur more creativity’

      God how I’ve always hated that phrase. But, I’m a software guy who had to deal with all the SEI CMM madness where management was always wondering why you couldn’t make a hard and fast schedule to build someone you’ve never built before. “Oh, and I’ve allocated 6 hours on November 12 for a F***ING MIRACLE”. Speaking truth to power gets you fired. Sigh.

  5. Meher Baba

    Yves love your phrase ‘..war level mobilization of resources..’ it is such a clarifying potent image. Thats quotable and a keeper. for we can quickly conjure the massive organised machine like war efforts in England in WW2, everyone contributing everything they had. Now, thats the England we are proud of and the world admired (i’m not English nor an anglo phile BTW)

    1. begob

      Britain reveres the memory of the armada of little boats that sailed the channel to Dunkirk and brought back the soldiers of the defeated BEF. Reality: the navy commandeered the boats, used tug-boats to draw them to the beach in flotillas that were used to ferry the men to the evacuation ships, and the boats were then abandoned in the channel. A Brexit analogy in there somewhere.

  6. vlade

    Yves – a correction to your metaphor. If it was a car going nowhere, that would be great.

    Unfortunately it’s a runaway train now, going rapidly downhill where the rail terminates at an edge of a cliff.

    And, while there still remains some time for slowing it down via desperate measures, and a few are trying to dump sand into the wheels, most people on the train feel exhilarated by the speed of the ride (especially since a some of the bullies on the train are now feeling sick), and calling the sand-dumpers saboteurs.

    That is encouraged by the train driver, who knows of the cliff, but believes (because it was in a cartoon he saw as a 5 year old), that if you get enough speed, you can jump to some other side – regardless of whether it actually does exist.

  7. Terry Flynn

    I always hesitate to disagree with Plutoniumkun, given his immense knowledge and the fact he was the one person to engage with me in detail over my national BREXIT survey (asking all the right questions to challenge my assumptions etc).

    But we disagreed (mildly) over when the public would finally “see the crap hit the fan”. my view remains that it is all bread and circuses and the latter will cause the BREXIT Backlash – when people suddenly can’t have their holidays in Ibiza. That’s when the people will rebel. They will swallow the media line of perfidious continentals when things disappear from the supermarket shelves. But mess with their boozy Spanish holidays? biiiiiig issue.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks for the kind words, Terry.

      It is indeed an interesting question about when the public will wake up. I don’t follow the UK media so much now, just an occasional read through the Guardian, but when I do look I’m pretty shocked at how generally complacent it is, if not actually eager about a hard Brexit. Its noticeable that in the Guardian the commentators below the line seem far more clued in to the coming *family blog* up than its writers – possibly became people working at a professional level are beginning to see the consequences. Its people I know who work in areas like IT for retail companies and so on who can see first hand how difficult it will be to deal with this.

      A lot is tied in to the general economy. There seems a sense that businesses will only start pressing the panic button in early 2018 if there is no progress. If that is so, then there could be all sorts of consequences for the general economy – there seem plenty of indicators that the property bubble has peaked, there are fast rising debt levels, and a nervousness in the economy along with another drop in sterling could cause a pretty rapid fall into recession. If people are constantly hearing at work rumours about redundencies, that can concentrate minds. I think the big question about the economy is whether the real damage happens post-Brexit, or whether a rapid loss of confidence and financial retrenchment plunges the UK into recession in 2018, which I think is a possibility.

      But as you say, I think the holiday issue is a very big one. But that won’t really hit home until its far too late. And the media then will be busy blaming Brussels for the problems.

      One wild card I think in all this is that I’m getting the feeling that the collective British establishment (political/business/security) is slowly coming around to a concensus on one point – whatever happens, Corbyn must on no account be allowed into power. This is why I think that whatever happens to May, the government will simply not be allowed collapse, under any circumstances.

      1. Mark P.

        One wild card … the collective British establishment (political/business/security) is slowly coming around to a concensus on one point – whatever happens, Corbyn must on no account be allowed into power

        And thus this just in from the DAILY HEIL —
        Communists who MI5 monitored over fears they could destroy democracy ‘are now senior advisers to Corbyn’

        Nevertheless, controlling this may ultimately be beyond the establishment even if they put tanks in the streets, since the Tories have done so much damage and proved so dysfunctional that even long-time constituents — like forex the Norths, pere and fils — now loathe them.

        1. Berit

          Would this help?

          “So what can Theresa May do?
          The only way May could secure a good deal for the UK would be by diffusing the EU’s spoiling tactics, while still respecting the Burkean Brexiteers’ strongest argument, the imperative of restoring sovereignty to the House of Commons. And the only way of doing this would be to avoid all negotiations by requesting from Brussels a Norway-style, off-the-shelf arrangement for a period of, say, seven years.

          The benefits from such a request would be twofold: first, Eurocrats and Europhiles would have no basis for denying Britain such an arrangement. (Moreover, Schäuble, Merkel and sundry would be relieved that the ball is thrown into their successors’ court seven years down the track.) Second, it would make the House of Commons sovereign again by empowering it to debate and decide upon in the fullness of time, and without the stress of a ticking clock, Britain’s long-tem relationship with Europe.”

          1. Yves Smith Post author


            First, there is no such thing as “Norway style, off the shelf deal”. No deal is off the shelf save a two year standstill of all current arrangements. Any deal will have to be negotiated, which is the same problem Brexit poses. You might get rid of some details that need to be sorted, but not many. Oh, and you still need to rewrite all those UK laws that refer to the EU.

            Second, WTO rules won’t let you have an interim deal that long.

            1. Berit

              I take your terse answer to mean there is noe short cut and that “wowsers” in The Guardian are airing a “piously hypocritical/killjoy” position solving nothing of the very problematic situation created by wowsers in the Tory party.

              As a Norwegian I have to look up unknown words (wowsers) in a dictionary. Consequently I’m vastly better informed by reading the excellent NC and comments. I’ll contribute “enkens skjerv”, i e widows share Thank you!

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      MHO, it’s when they start seeing some of the following:

      1. More problems at the NHS due to doctors and nurses leaving in anticipation of Brexit, which has supposedly begun. 10% of the doctors and 5% of the nurses are EU immigrants

      2. People getting it through their heads that Brexit with no transition deal = food scarcity/price spike and a total mess with other imports, chaos not just for lots of industries but even on roads near ports due to lack of storage

      3. Pound crashing

  8. Mikerw0

    I can’t help but think what this means for NAFTA? While not as far reaching as the EU/Brexit situation, undoing NAFTA without a plan is akin to opening Pandora’s box. North American businesses and governments have operated for over 25 years assuming these are the rules of the road. Just tossing it, as Trump is indicating he will do, and assuming that things can just function or that new trade agreements and their corresponding ‘infrastructure’ will rapidly and seamlessly replace NAFTA is folly.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The US is much more of an autarky than the UK. And we aren’t dependent on Mexico and Canada for food or drugs. So the damage here would be serious to the affected industries and parts of the US, but spotty. I hate to says it but blue cities would not suffer much, for instance.

      I think the NAFTA talk is mainly bluster so I must confess I haven’t looked to see what industries would be affected beyond autos, which still has relatively high wage manufacturing jobs.

  9. Norb

    One question I have is has there been any ideas put forth from the left on how to capitalize politically on the impending disaster brought about by a hard Brexit? Maybe it is too early to be considering such ideas, but Shock Doctrine tactics seem in order for the left to make inroads into the status quo.

    If there are no forward thinking, concrete plans to protect the lives of common citizens, what is the chance that Article 50 will be extended or revoked as the negative consequences for all become unavoidable in the months to come? It is becoming painfully obvious that all sides will loose, and with the preferred EU tactic of extend and pretend in order to deal with crisis, that seems the most likely outcome.

    Allowing a reset seems the less damaging path, regardless of the wishes of the Hard/Ultras wishes. They will ultimately not be allowed to shoot themselves in the head – too much collateral damage and uncertainty.

    Following the wartime analogy, the potential disruption and economic collapse of the country would resemble an invasion by a foreign power. How can that be allowed to happen? The financial sector would be the only survivor- if only for a time.

    Political opposition that cannot realize its goals in the face of such chaos reveals itself to still carry a weak position. As a common observer, I wonder as to what natural or political disaster has to befall citizens in order to put TINA to rest. At some point politics has to move beyond theatre and empty posturing. When ones bluff is called, there has to be some lasting consequences.

    The collateral damage brought about by Neoliberal policy is becoming too great.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I have a feeling that Corbyn may well be seriously considering the once in a century opportunity for a left wing shock doctrine approach. Its something I’ve regularly read in the various strands of strong left in the UK and elsewhere that a genuine left wing Labour government could only enact real change in a crisis. Its deep within Labour’s genes that the post war Labour government was able to put in place very radical change such as setting up the NHS because of the general chaos and uncertainty in the immediate post war period.

      I think this is a topic for another time, but as I posted above, the UK political/security/business establishment sees Corbyn as a very real, deep threat. In ‘ordinary’ times, they would probably be confident they could hamstring a genuine left wing Labour government so that change could only be done at the margins. But if Corbyn sees an opportunity in a hard Brexit (I’m pretty sure he does), then the establishment sees the threat. So I think the possibility of some very, very ugly things happening if a Corbyn government was voted into power in the middle of a hard Brexit crisis is very high.

      1. Strategist

        I also hesitate to disagree with PlutoniumKun, but here goes.

        if Corbyn sees an opportunity in a hard Brexit (I’m pretty sure he does),

        I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I think it’s a mistake to think that Corbyn and the Corbynistas are a completely unreconstructed early 1970s left revolutionaries. There are literally only handfuls of those people still around. The new Corbynistas are fine, they are sane, they are moderate social democrats in the Bernie mould.

        Look, it’s absolutely fine to be deeply sceptical about the EU and all that. The ECB are a bunch of bastards and their economic policy has been insane. The Germans have utterly screwed the Greeks and all of southern Europe. Yanis Varoufakis has kindly not only written the book that shows you just how f***ed up the EU is, but also launched the movement to address the problem: DiEM25.

        Some of the Corbyn left imagine that Brexit offers opportunities but the vast majority know that the UK’s economy is too weak and is concentrated in all the wrong sectors for us to even dream of making a successful go of it outside of the EU’s umbrella.

        1. David

          Perhaps there are two different things here. For the whole of my lifetime, an important part of the Tory claim to be the natural party of government was their proclaimed “competence”, which in practice largely meant lower rates of personal income tax and employer-friendly policies. Labour was forced to imitate many of these policies in order to be “serious” and “electable”. I think that reputation has been destroyed forever. (Arguably it was already destroyed by 1997 but T Blair failed to realise it or did not want to do so). “Vote for us, we got you into this mess” is a hard slogan to sell at the next election. The one thing that will be absolutely clear is that the chaos that looks like resulting can and will be blamed on the Tories from start to finish. Even the sturdiest Brexiter will be saying “OK, but we didn’t vote for this.”
          So all Corbyn has to do is wait and he will have the biggest electoral opportunity for the best part of a hundred years. What he does with it, though, is another question. There will, of course, be the usual forces trying to stop a Labour government from doing anything worthwhile, but they themselves, I suspect, will be badly discredited as well. Which brings us to the 1945 comparison :Labour won that election handily because it expressed the postwar consensus much better than the Conservatives (who ran a lazy and incompetent campaign anyway, witness Churchill’s “Gestapo” speech. There are already signs that Corbyn is reflecting the public mood quite accurately, and support for his policies can only increase, it seems to me, with increasing chaos. For that reason, the establishment may well decide it’s prudent to keep its head down, as indeed it did in 1945. Whatever, happens, therefore, we are not likely to be back in the 1960s or 1970s, when Labour governments with wafer-thin majorities struggled to implement their policies.

          1. Mark P.

            Corbyn is reflecting the public mood quite accurately, and support for his policies can only increase, it seems to me, with increasing chaos.


          2. PlutoniumKun

            I wish I could be that optimistic, but I think the pattern we’ve seen in Europe over the past few years is that difficult and uncertain times actually drives people to the right, not the left, conservativism, not radicalism. Hard austerity in Spain led to the PP in power, not Podemos, it led to FG in Ireland, not any left wing party, it led to Macron vs. Le Pen in France. It led to the election of a series of ultra conservative parties in Poland and Hungary.

            The difference I see with post WWII and post Brexit, is that in the former Britain was wounded but victorious. People were optimistic, they wanted a newer, better world. Post Brexit, people will be desperate to cling on to what they have.

            1. David

              OK, but Le Pen lost crushingly, and the conventional Right is in pieces. With a slight tweak to the electoral arithmetic in round one, the second round would have been Mélenchon vs. Le Pen, and he would have won. What we’re seeing in France (and I can’t speak for elsewhere) is a revival of the non-Socialist Party Left, rather than of the Right. And I think we should distinguish between the tendency of the Right (or parts of it) to pick up votes in times of stress, and the actual election of Right-wing governments. In particular, stress tends to lead to a demand for change, which is what I think will sink the Tories. We tend to forget that the vote for parties of the Left outside government can increase in times of stress as well: in the November 1932 elections in Germany, the Nazis received 33% of the vote, but this was less than the combined SPD/KPD vote, and the Communists had their best-ever result, winning 17% of the vote and a hundred seats.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                I don’t dispute that hard times create an opportunity for the left. But what I see repeatedly in Europe are genuine left wing parties surging to around a third of the electorate and then peaking as fear gets the better of people. In France, the traditional parties of centre right and centre left collapsed, but what replaced them? An opportunist old style centrist. Melanchon may have done well, but he didn’t win. In Ireland and Spain which parties came to power after complete collapse? The most establishment parties, PP in Spain and FG in Ireland (both benefiting from not having been in power at the wrong time). We’ve just seen this weekend Austria turn decisively right.

                The UK is somewhat unique because of its awful electoral system, which prevents any real third party from emerging. And one good thing the Brexit vote resulted in is the destruction of UKIP as a viable party. So even a moderately bad Brexit could result in an electorate sweeping the Tories out of government in disgust, with the Labour party the only viable alternative. But i would never underestimate the ability of the establishment to engineer something to stop this, as they did in France by miraculously producing a clean, fresh face like Macron.

                1. David

                  Not to beat the point to death, but I think that if even half of what we expect about the British situation in 2019 turns out to be correct, then we are in a situation of political crisis never before seen in modern British history, and recent examples may not help us very much. In addition, I agree that under normal circumstances, orthodox right-wing parties often do well in times of uncertainty, especially when they come from opposition, as in the examples you give. So the question is whether, in a situation of total crisis where all bets are off, people will turn, out of fear, to the party that created the chaos, or whether the Labour Party might be perceived as different enough to capitalize on the situation, as non-mainstream non-neoliberal parties are already starting to do. In times of genuine political chaos and blockage, after all, it tends to be parties from outside the mainstream that benefit, so long as they are well organised and the electoral system gives them a chance. (if it doesn’t, then you might get something really nasty). But I don’t see any political forces on the Right in Britain capable of playing that role, whereas it’s just possible the Labour Party could.
                  Incidentally, it’s important not to get Macron out of context. The weirdness of the French system meant that Le Pen would win the first round, but was highly likely to lose the second. There was thus a triangular race to come second, even by half a point, which Macron won because Bayrou stepped down in his favour (which I think he now regrets) and there was quite a lot of tactical voting to make sure that Fillon did not come second. The wisdom at the time was that Macron’s core constituency was no more than about 12-15% of the electorate, and since only half the electorate voted, I would beware of drawing too many conclusions. Macron’s core electorate is a soft as chocolate fudge anyway: that of Le Pen and Mélenchon is a lot tougher.

                2. Norb

                  Fear and gullibility can never be underestimated, and the establishment uses these human pressure points to repeatedly achieve their ends.

                  If you come from a belief that human beings should be controlled and manipulated, then fear, ignorance, and mislaid trust are great tools to achieve your ends. At its most cynical expression, a sucker is born every minute.

                  An abundant natural environment allows for such nonsense. Corrupt and incompetent government also further the cause. Humanity can stumble along mindlessly wasting pretty much everything in sight. But that strategy will be less useful as resources become more scarce.

                  Instead of conflict over resource depletion, shared cooperation seems the better, and more productive approach. Survivors will be those that work well together in mutual support. Appeals to Nationalism seem the easiest method to rally this sentiment. But in the end, goods and services must be delivered. A Nationalism based on conquest and beggar thy neighbor economic policies only works as a motivational force when the true costs of such an enterprise can be hidden form the citizenry. What happens when this becomes impossible? It is why Empires collapse. Or States fail.

                  American Imperialism and Empire have failed. A new form of planning and social structure will have to be found to replace the ideology of World Empire. It just doesn’t work. In its present form, it can’t solve any pressing world problems. Regional powers seem inevitable now.

      2. RBHoughton

        Agreed. The people have not been prepared for the downside of Brexit and Yves has listed three likely consequences above that will have them up in arms.

        If Labour plays its cards thoughtfully as expected we may well see a revival of government of the people for the people by the people – an actual democracy!

        It could be the silver lining – after leading the world down the wrong path after Napoleon we Poms now make amends with a return to sanity and civilisation.

  10. Strategist

    Some more data points that the Brits might be starting to wake up, and we may end up with a second referendum.

    But it’s no good only noticing we have a problem when the cheap flights to Ibiza are grounded, or in vlade’s metaphor, the train has parted company with the rails (& the cliff). We stop this thing before the 2 years triggered by Article 50 are up, or it is simply too late.

    A clever section of Scots pro-independence supporters have done a great job of genuinely & openly reaching out to understand the motivations of the people who voted ‘no’ in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, and for those that are open to changing their minds, what they need to do to meet their concerns. We need more of that thinking on our runaway train. For every ‘ultra’ there are at least 10 who were trying to register a protest about their current situation, and the referendum was the thing to hand.

    My view is we need a grand bargain between that section of the establishment that is pro-Remain/reverse Article 50 and the non-ultra leave voters. We will change and address the underinvestment and gross inequality in this country if you will prevent the country committing economic suicide. It’s a kind of union between the Corbyn agenda and Project Fear, and will need people on both the left and the Blairite/Cameronite “centre” to come out from entrenched positions.

    In the near term, here’s an interesting campaign to follow: 50 studies! And they won’t release any of them. We keep knocking the Brits but they do have a sense of free speech and le fairplay, it won’t do the ultras any good to try to keep these reports under wraps if the demand to see them becomes widely known.

  11. Synoia

    Read’s like an ideal Tory situation, back to the 18th Century.

    Pity about the excess population. Maybe they can be “persuaded” to move to the Continent before Brexit.

    Sarcasm intended.

  12. 3x2

    It’s the general term, at Euref, for those looking for a total crash out of The EU regardless of consequences.

  13. Knute Rife

    There’s soft Brexit, there’s hard Brexit, and then there’s the course the Tories are bent on steering, train-wreck-dumpster-fire Brexit.

    1. Trickle Down McGush-Up

      All over the Anglo-sphere, the Ultras are testing the nerves of their political brand’s financial backers. The British Conservative party in particular, must be generating a lot of buyer’s remorse. Perhaps the most benign response will be that the buyers will stand aside at the next general election. On vera!

      Pip Pip

  14. Jabawocky

    I have friends with uk export businesses and they are quite relaxed. Whether that is justified I am not clear. They point out the big difference between the legal requirement for paperwork and actual rate of checking of paperwork. Even before the single market I am told that very little checking took place at ports and people expect this to continue in line with the normal state of affairs at entry points to the single market. It seems it’s quite common for goods to enter the single market with little oversight or checking: ‘wild west’ somebody said.

    The uk’s position is that after brexit it cannot be bothered to police the uk border when it comes to goods.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      They have very short memories. I’m old enough to remember from the early 1980’s the regular long queues at customs going between Ireland and the UK (and this was one of the more frictionless borders).

      The UK of course is perfectly entitled to take a lax view of securing its borders for customs. The problem for them is that by definition, a border involves two parties, and the second party may not agree to this. When you add in the vastly greater complexity of supply chains these days (for example, parts for cars crossing borders several times for processing before getting to the final assembly plant), that approach is just not sustainable.

      The reality is that even if neighbouring countries agreed to a ‘border in name, but not in reality’ approach, any industry that perceives itself to be suffering from UK competition will go immediately to court to stop it. Its that simple.

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