More Brexit Grim Tidings: WTO Warns Ireland to Prepare for Crash-Out; Deutsche Moves Half of Euro Clearing Ops to Germany; Food Freakout

I had hope to write a bigger picture Brexit piece today, but administrative duties got in the way. However, the latest Brexit stories will hopefully provide readers with more grist for conversation in the meantime.

I got 2/3 of the way through this post and found I was outdone by this tweet, which is both brutal and great fun. I hope you’ll all be sports and listen to the video and carry on with the rest of the piece.

On the one hand, some reality is starting to penetrate the fog of shoddy Brexit reporting and official ignorance and obfuscation. On the other, even when the media starts taking a more jaundiced look at Brexit, so much disinformation is in the zeitgeist that it’s hard to know how better takes will be interpreted.

Nevertheless, the Irish media, as many readers have pointed out, has run rings around Fleet Street and today’s story from RTE (hat tip Nick A) is yet another proof. The former WTO chief Pascal Lamy warned Ireland to get ready for a crash-out:

Ireland should “prepare for the worst” and may need emergency aid from the European Union if there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, the former director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has warned

Lamy also put paid to UK soft border fantasies:

“If it was a benefit then, exiting the internal market has a cost. So there is no way there will be no cost, no way there won’t be a border. If you exit the internal market you have to have a border.”

Asked if there are any borders anywhere in the world where there is no physical infrastructure, he replied: “No. The most open systems of trade which exist are either in South Africa, where there is the South African Customs Union since the early 20th century, and there is a border. And if you look at for instance Norway-Sweden, there is a border.

“So the notion that there would be no border is pie in the sky,” he added.

Colonel Smithers gave us an update last week from an insiders’ conference that was sponsored by City types where the patter seemed a bit too cheery. From his comment last week:

Exactly a fortnight ago, Nicolas Veron, and some EU27 diplomats, addressed a City audience over lunch. Veron, but also the diplomats, thought that the UK can’t afford a hard Brexit and will settle for Norway or Norway Plus. It’s just a matter of when and can be as late as the return from the Christmas holidays. They thought that this was always going to be the case, especially now that May has managed to divide the Brexiteers. It was interesting to hear that although Barnier was negotiating with the UK, the real action was felt to be in the Tory Party and will remain so

Recall that City lobbyists have continued to push “regulatory convergence,” aka the EU agreeing to set up a whole new regulatory and supervisory framework just to keep financiers in London fat and happy. So a large swathe of the City seems to be very much behind the curve, which is consistent with pound not having been repriced to reflect rising and now high crash-out risk.

I made skeptical noises about the EEA option, and Richard Kline gave a more detailed takedown. Note that I agree that the odds are high that “sensible people” may be able to drum up public support for a Norway style option by the mid-late fall, when it is a non-starter. It’s thus an important part of why the UK’s options are far more constrained than all the press and pundit blather would have you believe. From Richard Kline:

One should note the ‘plus’ in Norway Plus; it’s simply a synonym for Bespoke Minus.

Simply the fact that semi-informed/semi-random suits in the City think the EEA is a door in a blank wall indicates how little they understand what the European Economic Area actually is, who its members are, and how they function. The relationship of the very small states in this accord and the EU is HIGHLY symbiotic. The EEA states adopt absolutely everything that the EU decides; they can’t even opt out like some EU Member States. They never rock the boat. They never raise exceptions, other than those already negotiated prior to membership. They are highly aligned with European institutions. They have no say; they toe the line. The ECJ decides if they have done so. The EEA States cannot remotely afford to have a crew of self-dealing boat rocking malcontents outnumbering them 10-to-1 climb on board because that would completely ruin their own deal. The EEA has already politely said that they are not available in marriage.

I get that Home Labour and Soft Brexit types have, for years, harbored a longing to go back to EEA status where they could boss others and threaten to ‘make trouble’ if the EU won’t concede the cherry pies the longers think they merit. But the reality is that the UK is a bad fit for the remaining membership of the EEA and are constitutionally incapable of accepting the role of the Member States of that organization. The attitude seems to be that no negotiation with the existing States is even necessary; just a wink and a not from Bruxelles, the Brits throw their wallet on the EEA table, and say “We’re buying now that we’ve joined your shabby little shop, must spruce up the place.” What could be more arrogant than that, the semi-assumption that the existing states don’t even really have a vote.

Britain has sabotaged every international alternative to the EU it has ever created or joined. Britain created the EEA and its predecessor—only to bolt it for a better deal of full EU membership. The EU may have had to put up with Britain as black sheep relations, but its simply self-defeating for the EEA states to take in the wastrel. It’s not happening on ultra-short notice, and the odds that it would happen at all even with a realistic timeframe are extremely small.

This is just delusion-lite in Britain. It is the path that, on the surface, ‘makes the most sense,’ and so insiders have, with a simulacra of realism, handicapped it as the most likely outcome. Until you look at the mechanics. Then, it’s the liberal equivalent in coveralls of Theresa May’s dumpy Brexit in bunting. And yes, I agree with the presenters that I expect an eleventh hour UK ‘offer’ to accept a Norway Plus status, that is a realistic call. And I expect the EU to decline—and the EEA to take to their collective heels.

Now to the latest bit of bad news for the City, that Deustche will move half its Euro-clearing staff to Germany. Recall that the ECB and France had tried to force the clearing of Euro derivatives to take place on the Continent. The UK took the matter to the ECJ and won because the ECJ ruled that the EU could not discriminate against a member state. As we said, that meant you could expect EU regulators to push to get their way.

Now there is a technical question of what exactly has to be in the EU, in terms of people, systems, and account domicile, for clearing to be considered to take place in the EU. Nevertheless, some readers had argued it would be too difficult or too risky to force banks to make the required moves. Apparently Deutsche doesn’t think so. From the Financial Times:

Deutsche Bank has moved almost half its euro clearing activities from London to Frankfurt, in the latest sign of European cities winning financial business from the UK ahead of Brexit.

The move has provided a significant boost to Deutsche Börse’s ambition to steal business from LCH after Britain leaves the EU next March — six months ago, Deutsche Bank’s euro clearing operation was almost entirely done in London.

The clearing of euro-denominated interest rate derivatives has become a key Brexit battleground for regulators, banks and exchanges. In the past, London’s LCH was the undisputed leader for clearing euro-denominated interest rate swaps, processing up to €1tn of notional deals per day. 

Germany’s largest lender does not disclose its clearing volumes but it is one of the five largest clearers of interest derivatives….

While only a few hundred jobs are directly linked to derivatives clearing, Mr [Hubertus] Väth [CEO of marketing group Frankfurt Main Finance] said the indirect effects would be substantial, adding that Frankfurt had lost most of its trading rooms to London over the past three decades: “This was the best chance to bring them back.”

London Stock Exchange Group, which owns LCH, has warned that as many as 100,000 jobs could leave the City if London loses its status as the euro clearing hub. 

Finally, the press has picked up and run with concerns about the risk of food shortages and disruption in the event of a crash-out. Ian Dunt has an excellent, detailed treatment. A new report, Feeding Britain: Food Security after Brexit by the Food Research Collaboration, was just released, and has not been accessible due to server overload. So we’ll turn to the writeup by the City University of London and perhaps generous readers who do manage to get to the document later can add juicy tidbits in comments:

According to the report, the Government recognises the serious consequences that may ensue because it is making contingency plans to suspend food regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Co-author Professor Tim Lang, of City, University of London, said: “One could argue that this is sensible emergency planning but it is also risky. Consumers would rightly wonder who was guaranteeing the safety and quality of the imported food they were buying. Criminals would be alerted to opportunities for food fraud. And the move would send negative signals to the EU, at a delicate time in Brexit negotiations. It could make the UK’s third country status more problematic for exports.”…

The authors welcome the fact that the Chequers statement of 6th July and subsequent White Paper recognise the importance of agri-food to Brexit. But they argue the documents have major weaknesses.

Feeding Britain: Food Security after Brexit says that the Government makes a fundamental mistake in proposing close alignment with the EU only for farming and manufacturing, but not for retail or food service.

The authors say this injects a fault-line into the UK food system between production and service sectors, yet food service is by far the largest source of employment in the entire UK food chain and delivers more gross value added (29 per cent) than the other sectors (agriculture 7 per cent, wholesaling 11 per cent, manufacturing 26 per cent, retailing 27 per cent).

The report says that the Government also appears to be ambiguous on the question of migrant workers and how essential they are to the current working of the UK food system.

The Guardian also published a pointed story over the weekend, Brexit provides the perfect ingredients for a national food crisis. And Richard North fulminates that the angst over food is overdone, that the Government needs only to do a few sensible things to sort the matter out…and then volunteers that this Government is probably incapable of that.

So all the Brexit gloomerdom looks to be very well founded, yet there is still a large contingent of very noisy Brexit boosters who either insist the critics are worrywarts or take the tack of agreeing the downside is cataclysmic and therefore won’t happen….even though the Government is doing squat to prevent those outcomes.

And this passes for leadership in the UK.

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  1. Clive

    I was in a (different) London black cab on Saturday. The driver was of exactly the same mind! Said the same thing (with a few more f-words, if that seems possible).

    Strong and stable government? (this was the Conservative party election slogan, if you can believe it).

    Clive: (in my best Estuary English) “you’re ‘avin’ a f’in larf, aren’t-c’ha mate?”

    Now, for food security, it probably has got a little overwrought because while the U.K. is only 60% self sufficient across all food types, it is 76% across domestically-producible food types. So, for example, the possibility of getting a good banana or orange crop here in the U.K. is, well, slim. So there will always have to be imported goods for some food types. They might not be, however, deemed “essential” foodstuffs. The full data set for what comes from where is here.

    But the sheer, stunning incompetence of the U.K. government in letting this legitimate concern and rightfully rising sense of panic and chaos even take hold in the first place is astonishing — and I am by now fairly difficult to astonish.

    The government could either be allaying most of the worst concerns or else define clearly where the risks are, to what food groups, transported via what modality (or modalities) into which ports and susceptible to spoilage through what process (e.g. “lack of support for refrigerated containers when subjected to long dwell times”) — and offset by what potential countermeasures. We’d then be able to, all of us, assess how viable — or not — all of that sounded to us.

    And the government could also tell us what they considered the residual risks to be, should the countermeasures fail (for example, invoking WTO dispute resolution — which is not a magic bullet (short version: any commercial litigation is risky because you might not get the ruling you expect, no matter how good your case might sound theoretically)).

    They have the data. The government certainly has the manpower to do the analysis and reporting. There is, as the post above makes abundantly clear, an electorate demanding to read this and understand it. But no. It simply lets a situation get completely out of control.

    My assessment of why this (words fail me here, but I will settle for “abysmal”) situation has been allowed to unfold is that there is inevitably going to be some bad news. Prices, for sure, will increase and there will be some and perhaps a noticeable amount of long-term availability issues. Some short-term availability problems may be very severe across several hundred SKUs. The government could report exactly what and where. If we had the facts, or a fair set of estimates, everyone could make a reasoned decision, as a population, about what to do for the best. Some could stick to “a price worth paying”. Some would say “no way are we prepared to tolerate this”. We would, to coin a phrase, be in possession of the evidence or analysis and take control of what we expect the government to then do next.

    But no. We’re to be treated like children and have the U.K. government attempts at mollycoddling us instead with ridiculous palliative nonsense like “we will take steps to ensure there’s no disruption”.

    All of which, finally, makes a mockery of the hard-fought raison d’être for all the Brexit anguish in the first place: to, supposedly, hand back control to the people. But the people are, self evidently, not to be trusted to be given control of anything. Lest, I imagine, we say sod that, it’s too much bother, if you can’t do it properly you’re not doing it at all.

    1. vlade

      As you say in your last para.

      TBH, I had expected the UK govt to make a hash of it, which was my prime reason to vote Remain as the lesser evil. But even in my worst expectations (and I do tend to run much more on the pessimistic side than usual) I did not expect this level of incompetence.

      I had moreover expected that level of incompetence to be tapered by the business complaints and/or actively leaving the UK, which is is not happening yet on nearly the scale I expected by now (given the incompetence).

      Not to mention I expected the media (at least some) to do at least trivial job on the government incompetence, as shooting fish in a barrel should be something even fairly incompetent journalists should be able to do. But as far as I can see, most of the UK newspapers could now now consolidated into one, and called Pravda (with Guardian being renamed to Trud) and no-one would notice.

      So it’s not just the government that takes the blame now, it’s the leadership across the board.

      1. ChrisPacific

        The thing that most astonishes me about it is that now, after almost three quarters of the available time has elapsed, it appears that nobody in government has any idea what Brexit actually is. What’s more, most of them don’t even know that they don’t know. They genuinely seem to think that a firm hand on the wheel and a steely gaze toward the horizon is all that’s required.

    2. skippy

      Wellie Clive…. when did Ideologues give a rats [family blog] about any of that stuff, when pushing their utopian agenda. I mean whats a little creative destruction with attendant power vacuum only to be filled by the strong authoritarian high priests of the ideology.

      Sorry I think I just had a Dr. Strangelove moment of my own…..

        1. skippy

          I think the aspect is Dr. Strangelove – is – the ideologue as an economist, talking to all the various members in the War Room and how that plays out.

      1. Larry Motuz

        Yes. It seems that some have decided to become ‘rich’ in a poor country. This can only be done by abandoning the principles and institutions that prevent, restrain, or fully correct their $$$-domination and political power.

    3. jabbawocky

      I wouldn’t know a precise figure, but we are talking March, classic hunger gap territory. In April, the UK produces close to zero fresh produce. A few sprouting broccoli, some early glasshouse tomatoes and strawberries. There will be some manky looking potatoes and onions in storage if we’re lucky. Most comes from Spain and the Netherlands via road, and some from Africa by air. We can fly in extras from the US, but at high cost and with the potential to bancrupt suppliers with just in time contracts to supermarkets including big penalties.

      1. Clive

        You have to get into the weeds on this question, unfortunately, to make accurate statements. And it is a niche / specialism. Generalisations are okay, but soon break down when you want to model specific outcomes.

        Which is a trying to be nice way of saying, you can easily end up talking bollocks. You can’t avoid a tabular breakdown of what product, of what type (raw+fresh / processed / highly processed), with what storage requirements, transported how, through where, to get correctly identified impact analysis. Only by then aggregating this across all SKUs at the retail level can you then come up with a big-picture view.

        For example, let’s take chicken.

        This can be moved in the form of livestock and that has the most onerous transport requirements, subject to a maximum ambient temperature (which also needs open air environments and not therefore amenable to mechanical temperature control), travel time restrictions and veterinary inspections and certification. It is highly vulnerable to supply chain fragility (a day or two).

        It can be raw meat or lightly processed and fresh chilled. This has a maximum ambient temperature of +4 and a minimum of 0 (in degrees centigrade, I’ll stick to metric here, sorry US readers, for brevity) and has “medium temperature refrigeration” transport requirements. It has a limited product life and needs road haulage to meet time-constrained shipping arrangements. (for a more detailed overview of refrigeration definitions, which are derived from the evaporator off-coil temperatures, see the table in under “Same unit but both for medium and low temperature”, best I could find quickly and reasonably understandable to the layperson, there’s probably better on the internet if one wishes to look for it — but the important thing to note is that some transport and storage refrigeration is capable of being switched between high and low temperature refrigeration tasks, some is fixed to one or the other, so you need to understand how easy it is to change refrigerated transport or storage capacity to move between handling fresh to frozen food). It is somewhat vulnerable to supply chain fragility (c. 10 days), the limitations being determined by power (electric or diesel supply) availability to the container cooling unit.

        It can be raw meat and frozen. This has low temperature refrigeration needs (-18 to – 20 centigrade) and has a practically indefinite product life (2 years). It is usually transported by ship but can be road-transported. Shipping by sea is largely impervious to supply chain fragility — the ships, assuming they have reasonably good onboard fuel-oil supplies, can remain at sea or in port indefinitely.

        It can be highly processed from raw (dried or freeze dried, canned or other methods of preservation). These have no particular storage needs (usually up to 30 or 40 degrees centigrade ambient or more). It can use any transportation modality. It is immune to supply chain fragility.

        It can, moreover, be incorporated into a product such as a TV dinner (now largely renamed as “ready meals”). These can be fresh chilled or frozen. The transportation and storage needs for these products are the same as raw meat (they are usually either frozen or fresh chilled) but for fresh chilled, other ingredients may shorten product shelf life especially if they contain raw egg or other dairy (obviously the shelf life has to be given as the worse-case for the most susceptible ingredient).

        So, that’s just for chicken.

        The UK government should as a matter of priority publish sensitivity analysis for all key food types showing how it has considered which food type, imported from where, going into which port, transported how, in what form (livestock (if applicable), fresh chilled, frozen, lightly or highly processed) and what, if any vulnerability to supply chain interruptions it has planned for and mitigated.

        Otherwise, with the Silly Season well upon us, it will get embroiled (no pun intended) in a ceaseless cacophony of bad headlines and understandable popular disquiet. If it doesn’t do so, any government which can’t show how it is protecting one of the three essential demands of a population (to have energy, food and national security) is not a government at all. It’s an audition for the Comedy Store.

        1. Ape

          Logistics is what wins or loses wars.

          What message does the complete incompetence of anglosphere neoliberals at high pressure logistics send?

          For example would the US be ideologically inhibited from proper logistics in the case of a national emergency despite the existence of professional with military supply line competence?

        2. ChrisPacific

          Exactly. This should all have been done starting from day one following Article 50 (and a similar thing for all other sectors). Know your enemy. Without a clear picture of everything that might go wrong and everything that needs to happen to make it all work, the government has been flying blind all this time, which is why the vast majority of effort has gone into fantasy scenarios with no bearing on reality.

          Officially I think the reason for not doing this was not to tip off the EU to potential UK weakness or some such blather. Unofficially I think it was a lot of work and they decided they couldn’t be arsed.

        3. Mattski

          This is the best sort of overview of the complexities that one could hope to have. But–as a response to Jabberwocky’s speculation–it invites another layer of analysis. Because the panic, low level or outright, is going to be fueled by speculation of precisely this not entirely unreasonable kind. If the government had worked to allay such fears it would only have sparked them.

          Having ballsed it up completely, the question becomes: what should the government do now? Or. . . what would be prudent from a political standpoint? Four or five years from now, the media MAY look back and say that the turmoil wasn’t quite so bad as expected. But in the short run shortages are going to get lots of attention. . . and May and the Tories will be dinged mercilessly.

          Perhaps if Labor just hangs on a bit they can do a reasonable mopping-up and work it to advantage? In my view that would involve Victory Gardens and a massive basic needs re-orientation of the workforce, an initiative that would tie new industry and jobs–and growing–to combating warming, and carefully publicly calibrated trips on bended knee to key overseas producers. . .

          I’d be curious to what degree those of you who are economists see rising food prices stimulating local production. After all, climate change is said to be giving Britain a wine industry.

      2. Jon Cloke

        When Leavies were trying to paint the rosiest picture back in the referendum days, they were all “of course the British government will step in and replace all the subsidies farmers currently receive under the CAP” on the ‘Steiner will take care of it’ principle of the Fuhrer in his bunker.

        It seems unlikely that, even if the current mob of Glbert-and-Sulllivan patriots had the money to hand, they have the foggiest idea of how to actually do this, given we lack the administrative capacity; the current average framing subsidy is £3,000 annually per farm (I remember reading) and it therefore seems to me that, in the event of a crash-out, the first thing we can expect on Brexit, on pretty much any terms, is a mass-cull of surviving small/medium farms as they go bankrupt.

        As food prices go through the ceiling, though, in the medium-term the agri-estates start coining it and everything, but everything gets put under the plough because food growing makes a lot of money – bye-bye environment! Bye-bye set-aside! Hello massive over-use of pesticides and fertlizers!

        Then, big agri-corps set up international food chain links that avoid the EU; food prices are still high but domestic producers can’t compete with transnational agribusinesses..

        Can I get a hallelujiah?

        1. Oregoncharles

          Sounds like the US.

          I was told Britain, or at least England, is already very intensively farmed, to the point that wildflowers are scarce (in contrast with France, but from an Englishman). Are you actually talking about a large change?

          That’s about $4000, isn’t it? Yearly? On most farms, that’s chicken feed – literally. And what’s the total for the country? Britain is currency sovereign – and though most governments deny MMT, they use it when they need to. Like for military spending.

          I’d say the real issue is management, which plainly is lacking. So forecasts of chaos are highly plausible, but not, on your numbers, mass bankruptcies.

          As far as real food shortages, it would also help to know how much is on hand, in warehouses and such, at any given time. Most people have enough food in the house to last at least a week, given water and electricity. Now would be a good time to stock up on non-perishables, including fuel – for the government, as well as for individuals.

        2. Mactireblog

          I would say that is an underestimate of EU subsidies for the agricultural sector. Sheep farmers receive an average EU subsidy of £50,000, yet average only £21,000 in profit annually. While there are multiple environmental reasons why this sector should be reduced/restructured, the absence of subsidies will result in a social impact greater than when the mines closed in the 1980s.

        3. PlutoniumKun

          There are loads of statistics here. Figure 2 indicates that UK farms get an average of around 200 euro per hectare of land, although there will of course be a huge variation depending on the type of agriculture and circumstances. UK farms tend to be either very big and profitable (lowland tillage or dairy), or small and fragmented in the uplands, and hence almost entirely dependent on direct and indirect subsidies so ‘averages’ can be deceptive. Ironically, it is the small upland farmers who overwhelmingly voted for Brexit.

      3. Petter

        Root vegetables – rutabagas. Rabbits.
        Some months ago, I can’t remember exactly when, I suggested maybe consider appointing a Minister of Food like they had in WWII. Elsie Widdowson, that ring a bell with anyone?
        I remember as a child (born in 1945), when we were thrilled that the banana boat had docked and there were bananas in the store for about a week, or was it a day? And when the orange boat arrived, yesss!
        Pineapples? No, no pineapples.

    4. Ignacio

      From my point of view the tories are 100% to be blamed in this abysmal situation. Modern parties aren’t democratic institutions. The leadership decides policies and the rest of the party follows them. If the tories look divided in this issue it is because the leadership decided it was in their interest to look divided. If they are treating britons as children it is because they decided to do so. They never wanted a rational discussion on what kind of brexit should be offered and they have knowingly following a roadmap to no-deal brexit. My opinion is they have succesfully concealed the public to follow their yet to be diclosed agenda. They have followed a course that will let them blame the EU, blame the Irish or even blame the citizens that voted Brexit without knowing the implications. Conservatives are skillfull at playing the blaming game.
      Their agenda was always yo arrive at the eleventh hour with some kind of program that would otherwise be unacceptabe.

      1. Geoffrey

        The above post comes closest in this stream to expressing the point of view I want to express: that democracy legitimises decisions made elsewhere, seldom makes those decisions.
        John Dewey said: ‘Politics is the shadow big business casts on society’.
        UK (Conservative) author and editor Max Hastings has said of Brexit: ‘The double breasted (suit brigade stirred the (British nationalist) pot’ and got the vote result they wanted.
        On the July podcast of the Corporate Europe Observatory there is an observation that some in the City (of London) want free of EU rules so that they can continue to make their own rules to enable their wild speculations.
        And here’s a line from a later post in this stream: (from : vlade; July 30, 2018 at 7:06 am)
        “How to make enemies and ruin your countr (to a greater benefit of a select few) in a few easy steps”.
        Who are “the select few”?
        It seems to me Anglo-American speculative banking and German industrial banking models are ultimately inimical. German-inspired EU financial regulation will gradually limit ever further the room for manouvre of the City. David Cameron’s pre-Brexit negotiations with EU demonstrated how little the UK can in future influence the direction of development of EU (never a happy marriage of values between UK & EU in any case). Something like 80%(?) of UK GDP is services, the preponderance of that must be banking and insurance. The City held onto its role as leading international financial trading centre after leading financial centre moved to NY after WW2. I suggest some in the City are anticipating a major shake up in the world’s capitalist order in the next few decades. It seems even the US is willing to undermine and disgard some of the post-war institutions it built, guided and benefited most from, like WTO – that indicats the level of global change ahead. And some, like Lord David Owen, former leader of the UK Liberal Democrat party, see major headaches ahead in Europe too (as does Joseph Steiglitz in his book “The Euro”). With the rise of a multi-polar political and economic order, some proven centre for financial trading should have good future – we are unlikely to have a world government in finance for a long time ahead, Some influential corner of The City, I suggest, anticipates this (and along with their fellow travellers in certain parts of corporate USA who are behind Trump’s economic nationalism), is taking a bet that that the course of action they are taking will be best for them. Then they hand the problem over to the politicians to sort out the details!
        Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the problems, In any case they are betting that they will be mostly other peoples problems, their fellow citizens who will lose their NHS, most social protections, and proper national regulation of everything will tend towards the lowest international standards.
        But then that’s ‘Capitalism’! A system of government that elevates individual greed to the role of primary driver of social change, and suggests that if everyone followers blindly their own interest ‘all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds’!
        The above is merely attempt to rationalise Brexit, away from democracy, and not allow it to be blamed on the motivations of the disenfranchised classes who’ve lost out in globalisation, a handy ‘deflective’ for the cohort who actually want Brexit for their own interests. (Indeed the figures analysed in a British Journal Of Sociology article a few months ago were not congruent with narrative that the poorer and older white lower classes as having carried the day, but placed the significant vote higher up the socio-economic scale).

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Thanks for that – I think its quite clear that a corner (at least) of the broader financial establishment planned for Brexit – the question is always what they envisaged getting out of it (apart from an immediate bit of disaster capitalism cashing in). Your explanation is as good as any I’ve seen. Although I suspect, as you alude, that they may well have not anticipated just how disruptive it would be and it could well blow up in their collective faces.

    5. Dave

      “Now, for food security, it probably has got a little overwrought because while the U.K. is only 60% self sufficient across all food types, it is 76% across domestically-producible food types. So, for example, the possibility of getting a good banana or orange crop here in the U.K. is, well, slim. So there will always have to be imported goods for some food types. They might not be, however, deemed “essential” foodstuffs.”

      Annoyingly for the Government (and anyone who lives here), having the hottest summer for a generation has come at a rather bad time.

      The drought means that grain yields are down 40%, with root vegetables expected to be similar. Apparently (for this is admittedly third-hand information), that will likely result in a near three-fold increase in prices for things like potatoes and sugar beet later in the year, so while historically we tend to produce the essentials this year isn’t the best one to put that theory to the test.

      I also wonder whether a spike in prices later in the year might also help pump a bit more oxygen into the “food panic” fire.

    6. Richard Kline

      Polls out today (see them over at Politico) double underline in red the video of the post. 78% think May’s a failed dingbat; 10% think that she’s ‘doing well.’ I would take the latter figure as the baseline support for a crashout once that is clearly the course her government is on, willing or not. I.e., there is NO support for crashout. A bit over half of responders favor ‘a new referendum with some real choices,’ with some 40% opposed to another referendum. Conclusion, regardless of the possibility an actual referendum: if one was held, Leave would fail in present circumstances. This trajectory of sentiment will only worsen over the next eight months.

      I will say again that I do not expect that Theresa May will be in office on B-Day, and the pressure within Britain for ‘something, anything’ other than crashout will be intense by then. How that plays we can all handicap our own ways. The yappings of Lease-Bogg, BoJo, and their pack will be less audible from inside the black maria of the reality police by then, with a full bore panic on in the UK matched to a Great Silence from the Continent.

    7. Lambert Strether

      Clive, the last time we heard “failed state” was in November 2016, and the talk died down; bad governance, eve really bad governance, isn’t failed state territory.

      Just spitballing here, but May and Company seem to, as it were, reversed the controls on statecraft. Is there a potential for the Government to come apart in a very bad way? Is it likely that the Powers That Be, on either side of the Atlantic, would believe this? What measures do you think they would take?

      1. Clive

        The fact that we can seriously consider this as a question says a lot, just there.

        So much depends on how much of the civil service retained layer is a) in situ, b) is up to the job and c) is empowered to make and execute decisions.

        On the negative side, the scorched earth outsourcing, downsizing and crapification of the civil service has wrought ruination and a significant degrading of capabilities — most obviously in infrastructure (where ka-ching private contractors combine with government incompetence to render the country unable to procure and deliver any significant infrastructure enhancements or even maintenance without huge fraud and waste; here is a worked example for those wishing to research further). Military planning and procurement is the same — the infamous aircraft carriers without aircraft is another case-study. Defence maladministration is, though, I suppose man-bites-dog territory. But still, it all helps point to holed-below-the-waterline governmental ineptitude.

        Set against that, when the real power of officialdom clicks its fingers, order can be restored fairly promptly. I’m reminded of how when the then Governor of the Bank of England raised an eyebrow at the antics of the organised crime racket masquerading as a bank at Barclays, the CEO was toast the next day. And to return to Brexit, the Ultras are being driven insane by how Olly Robbins, the civil servant who is essentially the U.K.’s Barnier equivalent is now effectively running the show. But while the Ultras froth at the mouth via their fellow travelers in the popular press, it is Robbins who is the adult in the room now and apparently edging the U.K. government’s position back towards something like sanity. The question remains how close he can come to pulling it off. Thus far, he’s managed to stop the Ultras from the worst of their crackpot schemes but hasn’t (yet?) seen them off completely.

        I suppose, trying to draw these two diverse sets of observational evidence together, I’m minded that there are two varieties of nation state. One is the (what I’ll label as) the Western Consensus — which isn’t a geographically defined block because it includes Australia, Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for example — but is of course centred on the US, the U.K. and includes Canada, Mexico and other tamed and corralled Central American countries. These are the countries which know which side their bread is buttered, know what the game is and know not only how to play it but the consequences of not playing the game.

        Then you have the “foes” — The DPRK, Iran, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba (sort-of, now) and needless to say Russia. Everyone knows what happens to them. So the failed states are the ones who try to overtly thumb their noses at the US, although of course Russia (and China) are big enough and smart enough to not come off too badly. That doesn’t, though, stop the Western Consensus from keeping trying.

        Historically, the EU was a fully paid-up member of the Western Consensus (or its member states were). Everything ticked along and everyone knew where they stood. But then the EU started to flex its muscles a bit — once it developed muscles to flex.

        How much, then, will the US support the U.K. in any meaningful tearing itself away from the EU? I’d say quite a lot. The EU is sending fairly clear messages to the US that the days of Uncle Sam saying “jump”and the EU responding with “how high?” are coming to an end. Does the US try to counter that with a push to get the U.K. completely out of the EU’s sphere of influence? If so, the U.K. will need some support in doing that because a hard or worse (“No Deal”) Brexit will have consequences for the U.K. that will need US assistance to mollify. Or does the US acquiesce to the emerging geopolitical dominance of the EU in Europe and, in effect, cut the U.K. loose because there’s no mileage in the US trying to keep its toehold in Europe via the U.K. as a proxy state?

        Like I say, I don’t think the US is willing to do the latter so the U.K. will have the US covering its back, assuming there is a No Deal Brexit. Conversely, if somehow we do end up with a soft-ish Brexit (which I’d say has a less than 20% chance of coming to fruition), we’ll be on the US’s treat with suspicion list, along with the rest of the EU27.

        Litmus tests will be things like US granting of aviation certifications to the U.K., roughing up of EU27 banks under New York state banking licenses for US dollar clearing operations on (forgive the wording) trumped-up misdemeanours and more trade tariff scare tactics against EU27 flagship industries. I wouldn’t rule out an orchestrated flouncing out of the EU27 single market by a totemic US business (Google withdrawing licences for Android in the EU27 if they lose the appeal against the recent Competition Commission ruling on unbundling search from the O/S is on my watchlist, for example).

        The geopolitical tectonic plates are shifting. So for us in the U.K. I suspect we’ll see some earthquakes before this is all played out.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Your comment is worthy of an article in its own right.

          For what its worth, I think some parts of the UK ‘system’ still work very well and would keep working in even the very worst crisis – the BoE as you mention, and the NHS. Other parts I think have been so degraded by outsourcing that they literally would have no idea what to do if they can’t hire someone to do it. And if they can’t, then it won’t be done. I think, as the Grenfell fire showed – some parts of the public/private interface are so twisted and distorted even insiders can’t fully understand how they work. Systems like that have a habit of disintegrating with shocking speed.

          As for the geopolitics – for what its worth, I doubt the US will rescue the UK from Brexit folly. Under Trump I think the mercantilist instinct is in full flow – Trumps instinct, and that of his administration, will be to see Brexit as a divide and rule opportunity. Any aid would be of the Lend-lease variety, and we know how that ended long term for the UK.

          1. Anonymous2

            The US will have an interesting decision to make it. Does it side with the UK and risk pushing the EU towards China? Or decide to try to buddy up with the EU and cut the UK loose? Or seek to be more even-handed and nuanced? Or just be outright destructive?

          2. Clive

            Oh, yes, with knobs on. Any US “help” will have a big price tag attached — and not just monetary.

            And I wish I had a better tale to tell. But “why can’t we all just be friends and get along?” has a poor track record where the UK is concerned. We pick up annoyed neighbours like a dog picks up fleas. Then we have no choice but to fall back on the only lot who we’ve ever looked up to, rather than down upon.

            Now, if the EU had been a bit nicer then things might be very different. I’d need to rely on other member state’s citizens to confirm my suspicion that, for them, they’ve just about had it up to here with the UK’s complaining, nothing they ever do is right and we’re not putting up with it any more.

            All of which would also (I’m not doing very well in the cheeriness stakes here, am I) make me sincerely doubt that any A50 revocation / EEA papering over the cracks or even soft Brexits would actually fix anything. Sure, like that get-away-from-it-all trip to Bali, you might come back and try to make a fresh start for a while. But sooner or later, the UK would start leaving the toilet seat up again.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              It might seem stretching things, but I would compare the situation the UK is in to the one Catalonia has found itself in.

              In theory, the Catalans should have lots of friends in other minority regions in Spain, and similar sized and ideologically sympathetic ‘nations’ in Europe. But in practice they found that their self righteousness repelled other non-Castillan Spaniards, and non Spanish countries decided to pragmatically go with head rather than heart and stuck with the existing big player – Madrid. So they found themselves simultaneously empathised with while being diplomatically entirely isolated.

    8. Richard Kline

      The intrinsic problem which Britain will face regarding food supply in the event of crash out is not the ‘food’ term but the ‘supply’ term. That is, there will be sufficient food and the funds to purchase it, but the supply chains are due for a systemic failure over a duration of months. ALL such supply is now done in a just-in-time basis, while after crash out Britain will default to a full-time+stoppage-time functioning of the supply chain. The UK’s arrangements in moving food internationally are leveraged on its status as an EU Member State. Britain will not have separate agreements in place with most supplier countries. This will add an enormous amount of delay and negotiation just to do deals until bilateral agreements are brought on line. It will remain logistically possible to move just as much food but from the regulatory standpoint even if Britain were to wave import inspection an exporting nation might worry about, for instance, legally binding mechanisms for getting paid and determining liability. These are nontrivial issues. More to the point, they are absolutely sand in the crankcase for just-in-time, impediments individually small but collectively just gritty enough to seize up normal commerce.

      Trucks sitting in Dover is a misperception: containers sitting in Canada and Brazil is more like it. The result can be extreme disruptions in the movement of products. A ship that doesn’t move in one place means another ship has to be lined up to take away what it would have. A truck stuck in inspection is one that doesn’t show up to haul a container to a small city depot or retailer the following day. The negative ripple effects can be large—and there is no fall back system for just-in-time so everything in the supply system will have to be put on a different footing. We are looking at bankruptcies in delivery firms; and who takes their place, then? Cost typically jumps enormously in such situations: who is going to be absorbing that? When one has a system which has to work with near perfect efficiency to work at all being impacted by major inefficiency, it is more likely to work not at all than to work less well.

      When turning to the issue of current Tory incompetence, I must say that remarks such as Dominc Raab opining as he did just the other day that *harrumph* food supply is not the responsibility of the government but will have to be seen to by private industry (at their own planning and expense, but he didn’t get that far) make me fall over flat due to the lack of oxygen in the vicinity or remarks of such utter vacuity. That said, I don’t want to lean too heavily on the ‘incompetence’ evaluation of Tory Leave governance on this. I think that what we are seeing is more the consequence of denial. Leave is a position at odds with the reality of economic interdependence in First World nation-states and the poor prospects for Britain as a sovereign piglet in a world of large tigers. Tory Leave in particular has attached itself to ‘gives’ from the EU that were never attainable, simply denying that what will make Tory Leave happy and powerful does not exist in this realpolitickal world.

      The functional result of denial is that large chunks of reality, like what the end of just-in-time means for supply, is simply hidden in one’s own mind by a huge splash of cognitive Whiteout. If one thought about the disruption and relative impoverishment that crashout Leave entails one just wouldn’t to it—so such a thought must be naughted aborning, in a spectacular doublethink denial modality. The Tory Leavers seeming not to have thought about issue after issue is simply the evidence of their mental denial of those issues so that they could believe what they wanted to believe—and sell it for personal gain to the fat part of the bell curve in the electorate. A fat 40% of the public in the UK has sewn up their ears and eyes for the same reason, to buy the sham because it made them feel proud to pin that ribbon on their pectoral. 10% see the ruin—and love it, or will take it to kick the foreigners out and the liberal elites down. 50% want to stay, but haven’t troubled themselves too hard thinking about crashout since that outcome seems so absurd as to be impossible. We are approaching the event horizon of the Absurdly Possible which can assuredly suck the livelihood out of a generation in Britain if the plug isn’t pulled on the Doomsday Machine before Tory Leave rides B-Moment right over the chalk cliffs.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Brilliantly expressed, thanks Richard.

        I think you identify yet another key problem for Brexit – the nature of supply chains is that the crisis in food will not start on 29 March 2019. It will start much earlier, as companies try to protect themselves by minimising their exposure – primarily I suspect by making sure perishable goods will not be in transit (or for that matter, purchased in advance) well before that date. People don’t think about it much, but you just need to look closely at the sheer variety of products in a modern supermarket chill cabinet to see the implications.

        I recall years ago seeing the analysis of the number of trips needed to put one pot of fruit yoghurt on a supermarket shelf. I can’t recall the details, but it can involve multiple vehicles crossing many borders, often more than once (to give one simple example, many UK derived dairy products get at least one trip to Ireland or the Netherlands for processing before returning to the UK and ending up in a pizza or a babies bottle).

        I have absolutely no idea how the major companies will deal with this problem, and I suspect they don’t either.

  2. Clive

    Apologies, my hackles on this are so raised that I’ll have to break this into two comments.

    Adding: Brexit was also intended to be about improving the U.K. trading environment. But trade, stating the obvious, is a two-party event. Trade relationships are best for all parties if they are long-term. Short-term one-off trading carries a high transaction cost because of the overhead of setting up arrangements with the customer. So, summarising, you want the supplier to be happy with the customer and the customer to be happy with the supplier. Once a trading relationship is soured, it is difficult to impossible to rectify.

    For the key agricultural sector, it is totally inexcusable and dimwittedness to a scale which beggars believing that the U.K. is not only happy to implement by omission but actively have a screw you policy to the Republic of Ireland. As the data sheet I linked to in my above comment shows, cross border and NI / other U.K. intra-Union agribusiness is a huge proportion of both farming and food business income and also U.K. food security.

    I won’t even go into the not exactly without history relationship between NI and the Republic — security and societal cohesion is obviously not a given there and needs nurturing, not disruption.

    The arrogance of the U.K. government is such that it doesn’t even seem to get how arrogant it appears to other — absolutely essential — trading partners. I can’t even get my head around how to convey how this undermines the U.K. and its long term interests. The best I can do to try to explain the fracturing of things which can’t merely be cobbled back together again in a hurry is to quote from that old sage Angela Channing in Falcon Crest who, upon discovering that a business partner had attempted to renege on a deal said, when the rather foolhardy miscreant attempted to wheedle their way back into her good books “what I don’t understand is how people think they can defy me, and then just walk back in and pick up exactly where they left off”.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Your first two paragraphs say everything that needs to be explained – slowly and carefully – to the London goverment, and the media. Its astonishing how many people in positions of responsibility don’t seem to realise the basic fact that all trade relations are by definition bilateral. No one country can ever dictate terms, except in the most short term and if there is a huge power imbalance.

      And yes, from the Irish perspective, the British government attitude has been astonishing. My worst fear when the Brexit vote came out was that the Tories would focus on Ireland as a ‘weak link’ in Europe and endulge in a mixture of bribes and threats to ensure that the Irish would veto any EU moves that would threaten the cross-border food trade. That trade is utterly vital to UK food security as even the most casual glance at the trade flows would show. Its not just the raw figures – its the fact that a very significant proportion of UK dairy and meat is actually processed in the Republic, so it will end up rotting if the border is shut down. The Irish government then and now is by instinct Anglophile and with a strong inferiority complex when it comes to London (whatever they say in public). Varadkar and his closest allies weren’t nicknamed the ‘Tory boys’ as they rose through the ranks for no good reason. They should have been a pushover.

      But on the contrary, the sheer stupidity and arrogance of the British government has pushed the entire Irish establishment into the position of taking a very hard line over the Border issue. The Irish government and wider establishment has unambiguously decided that the future is with Brussels and that the damage to the economy from Brexit is unavoidable. In doing this, the Irish government has effectively fireproofed itself from threats from London (the Brexiteers seem unable to comprehend that once economic damage has been accepted as inevitable, it is no longer useable in negotiations). It should also be noted of course, that the Irish government, for all sorts of historical reasons, has a disproportionate amount of influence in the US Congress and Senate and has the ability to make life very difficult for London if they decide to throw the Good Friday Agreement in the dustbin.

      You could say much the same for other Anglophile countries in Europe. The goodwill of many Eastern European countries was thrown away by the blatent scapegoating of East European workers in the UK. The Spanish were riled up by Gibraltar. And the ever pragmatic Danes and Dutch were never given a reason to fight for the British cause within Europe.

      1. vlade

        How to make enemies and ruin your countr (to a greater benefit of a select few) in a few easy steps.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        Your last paragraph is not wrong, but Veron and EU27 diplomats thought that the opportunity / goodwill for the UK to get such countries on side was and is overstated.

      3. blennylips

        > That trade is utterly vital to UK food security

        No mention that the UK seems to be turning into a monsoon driven climate: An unprecedented two-month drought the hottest temperatures on record the UK now has the wettest day ever and it’s going to get worse

        Trade partners can be negotiated with. Monsoons not so much.

        Paul Beckwith (bless his tortured soul*) explains: Arctic Monsoons: A New Climate Nightmare

        What exactly is the monsoon?

        *saved by his cats in his two most recent vids

  3. Quentin

    Isn’t the UK government’s tactic just to make an actual Brexit so unpalatable and impractical to everyone involved that the EU will eventually make major concessions to avoid taking the fall for the whole disaster? The UK doesn’t seem to recognise that lots of Europeans—as the Brits love to call them in distinction to themselves—are sick to death of them: just go away and let us get on without your constant meddling and whining. Just the irritating, discriminating sense of exclusivity—exceptionalism of the Anglo-American world—in the British use of European says it all. Oddly I still assume that Brexit will not happen. Maybe I’m naive. As I far as I can see the British are masters of pulling rabbit out of the hat at the very last moment to their own advantage. You know, perfidious….and al that stuff.

    1. Clive

      Well, that is a possibility you can’t rule out.

      Another possibility is that the U.K. government is between a rock and a hard place. Say nothing and you have London’s black cab drivers waving tins of Spam at you and laughing because otherwise you’d be crying. Give out all the details needed to avert mass panic and you enable the holders of, or those with an option on, scarce resources to leverage their advantage through pricing. It’s called “capitalism” for a reason. Put it this way, if I was mercenary-minded (well, more mercenary-minded than I’ve already been forced to become) I’d be buying up every cold store and every refrigerated trailer I could get my hands on. Come March next year, I think I’ll have a, ah-hem, steady stream of customers. Same goes for U.K. growers fruit and vegetable production futures options. Same goes double for U.K. deep sea port (non Ro-Ro) operators and owners. They are really rather pro-Brexit for reasons which I’m sure I can figure out, given a bit of time (about 5 seconds).

      In other news, by some bizarre and strange co-incidence, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has suddenly decided that food retailing, wholesaling and distribution is a business that he’d really like to be in…

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Clive.

        Also, prominent Brexiteers like James Dyson (all over England), the Bamford family (around their Oxfordshire / Chipping Norton Set estates) and, in Scotland, economist Tim Congdon have been buying farmland. They are keen to maintain agricultural subsidies.

        1. Clive

          Age-old investment advice:

          “Buy land — they don’t make it anymore.”

          Yes, especially when other land is now just that little bit harder to get at.

      2. Ape

        And what would I do if I were a strategic competitor ? If disruption were in my interest?

        Maybe questions best not asked.

    2. fajensen

      Isn’t the UK government’s tactic just to make an actual Brexit so unpalatable and impractical to everyone involved that the EU will eventually make major concessions to avoid taking the fall for the whole disaster?

      That would seem to be the case, except they probably miscalculated. Within Europe, there is a huge overhang of under-performing-, mis-, mal- and straight-up fraudulent- investments that eventually will need to be dealt with.

      After the initial concerns abut the UK leaving, it has been realised that the situation actually is that “someone” comes along and were so kind as to provide the perfect one-off cataclysmic event with a known best-before date glued on it so that one can “get the paperwork aligned”. An event one that “no-one could possible have imagined”, which therefore will provide the perfect organisational excuse for just about any failure, and any kind of political-driven bailout, of the failing entities.

      I.O.W’s many Europeans of Importance are – even purely for business reasons – becoming quite enthusiastic about the opportunities emerging from a chaotic Brexit!

      I think the world it realigning, the UK and the US are going away on their separate paths while the rest of the world is saying: “Best of Luck & Good Riddance”.

  4. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Further to what City lobbyists have been doing, the trade bodies and Corporation of London have been told to get real since the summer of 2016, but have not changed their tune, just the form and order of words and letter head. Veron, the Commission, Member State diplomats and EU counterparts have told them, but to no avail. I wonder if this has to do with the change of personnel at UK trade bodies (and official bodies) from mid-decade onwards. Most of the people I worked with drifted off once big projects like Basel III, recovery and resolution, MiFID II etc. were completed at EU level and left for Member State implementation.

    Also, there’s a lot of jockeying for post-Brexit position, vide Andrew Bailey pushing the same line as the City lobbyists, even though he has advisers who were Commission, Central Bank of Ireland and FSA / FCA officials. His utterances are driven by the governorship of the Bank of England. Bailey drifted in the betting when his sponsor Osborne was fired, but has bounced back to favouritism.

    You are right to highlight the “cheery” note, but the view from Brussels is that a week or so is a long time in politics and negotiations. Veron et al are not due back in London until the autumn. Other contacts are enjoying vacation.

  5. David

    Sadly, you can only accuse someone of incompetence if they are actually trying to do something and failing, or at least realise that it has to be done and are doing nothing.
    For this government, since 2016, the priorities have been:
    1. Surf the Brexit tide to stay in power.
    2. Keep the Tory Party from falling apart.
    3. That’s it.
    This is a government so obsessed with its own survival, and a Party so full of people calculating how to profit from different Brexit scenarios, that the real world, and especially our alleged negotiating partners, are only important inasmuch as they are ammunition for Tory Party internal struggles. They are arrogant, but in the calculus of power, what other states think doesn’t really matter, because they have no votes in the places where it matters. So the discussion goes:
    Transport expert: Planes may stop flying after Brexit.
    Tory politician: Um, now how could I use that to my advantage?

    It’s a government living in dreamland, the ultimate product of post-modern politics where everything can be spun and everything is a matter of perception. I think we are going to see the equivalent of a collective nervous breakdown in the coming months as reality intrudes, but unfortunately that could be at the very last minute, or even after. I now believe that the sooner the inevitable political crisis comes the better, and we can move from the stage of fake negotiations to the stage of trying to avert catastrophe.

    Also worth mentioning is that nobody under about 75 in Britain has the least recollection of food rationing, or even just the non-availability of certain goods in the shops. The last time we had anything remotely similar was in the early 1970s, a lifetime ago in an entirely different society. No government I can foresee will have any idea how to manage shortages and supply chain interruptions or their political implications. And what about a population which for forty years has been brought up to believe that it’s a human right to be able to buy anything you want, at any time, if you have the money? Given what people are prepared to do to get bargains at sale time, the possibilities are gruesome indeed.

    1. Colonel Smither

      Thank you, David.

      Further to how the Tories turn, in your example the grounding of planes, to their advantage, a friend and Tory activist, former head of UK government affairs at the bankers’ trade body (where we worked) and now head of such matters at the country’s leading grocer, reckons that a soft Brexit could now be sold to the Tory faithful and pragmatic leavers as wrong footing Labour and, for the opening day of the Labour conference in September, a big rally against Labour anti-Semitism has been organised. That could scare Remainers, moderates etc. from Labour. He reckons the likes of Gove and Raab, now downgraded in the cabinet, would accept this strategy. The Tories are looking beyond Brexit, including how to fight IndyRef 2 in Scotland.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        I forgot to add that the smearing of Labour / Corbyn as anti-Semitic is also being marketed to Remainers and Soft Brexiteers as a means, fair or foul, of getting Brexiteers like Corbyn and MacDonnell out and getting someone more to their liking, may be Keir Starmer, in.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers


          That one is news to me about the AS matter being aligned to the Remain camp, so will give it some consideration. On the Bailey issue at the BoE, I have a plan to upset that little plan, but its very much contingent on Corbyn and McDonnell remaining in place. Actually, as far as the rank and file are concerned nothing can touch Corbyn, not even the often discussed breakaway Centrist Party, which will sink like the Titanic – drop me a note on LinkedIn to discuss, should interest you, and indeed Yves.

      2. Mirdif

        I’m not so sure that it matters whether brexiters are in the cabinet or not. The country at large has not really moved in terms of leave or remain in the two years since the referendum. This is the root cause of the paralysis of both the Tories and Labour. Had that referendum been a general election the winning party would have won 400+ seats.

        This is why May is terrified of not delivering Brexit up to and including a crash out. Failing to deliver Brexit and I include Brexino (EFTA/EEA) in that has the potential for a massive reawakening of UKIP. It has already started with that nonsense Chequers white paper.

        It’s also why Corbyn is ambiguous or quiet to shore up support in his heartlands which predominantly voted for Brexit.

        The Tories can deliver a crash out and blame May and replace her with some new face who can repudiate the policy but they would be voted out for a long time should they fail to deliver.

        FWIW, I think the time for Sajid Javid to get the top spot has passed. I think May is in it for the long haul probably for the next 2-3 years at least if she survives next March when I expect the pressure to really build. She is reliant on an event or events which she can use to back away from the cliff edge but I don’t expect any events to be forthcoming. People are dismissing everything as “project fear” or saying “they” will not let it happen.

        Time to get off this ride or buckle up tight. My guess is there’s time enough until February because lots of people buy in to the 59th minute of the 11th hour nonsense.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          EU officials and EU27 diplomats reckon May will last until the next elections, but not lead the Tories into the campaign.

          It’s premature to write off your kinsman. The above still rate his chances. I have 40 – 1 on him.

          BTW Rees-Mogg has no more dirt on Javid than my colleagues in London, Hong Kong and Mumbai who recall Javid.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        Just as more proof of the idiocy of the current Tory lot, the supposed upgrade to Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary:

        Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s new foreign secretary, has made an awkward debut in China when he sought to curry favour with his hosts by mentioning his Chinese wife, but accidentally referred to her as “Japanese”.

        That would be oafish even by Trump standards. How the great Tory Foreign Secretaries of the past, from Palmerston to Carrington must be spinning in their graves at the sight of what has followed them.

        1. Nick Alcock

          Having listened to it, I don’t think this was oafishness: he’d been talking about the Japanese in the previous sentence, and rowed back within a few seconds. It seems like a simple speech production error to me. He seems to be even unluckier in that area now than when he was Hulture Secretary (which was, admittedly, not *his* speech production error).

          1. Mirdif

            Similar to Midair Bacon when he said “Red Sea” and then quickly corrected himself to “Irish Sea”. I think concentrating on this small speech mistakes which we all make from time to time is a little facile.

            However, it probably indicates the very high level of pressure they are under at the moment. David David seemed to age by about 10 years in the two years he was in post.

    1. ambrit

      “Hi, I’m Maggie. I will teach you how to behave. Good boy.” (With apologies to Mr ‘T’.)
      Could Britain reach a Marie Antoinette moment soon?

  6. Quanka

    Britain as the canary in the coal mine. Things are equally bad in the U.S. with regards to our leaders, we just have sufficient distraction and lack a hard deadline to force the incompetence to the surface. Thank you for the comments, Clive.

  7. Synoia

    The most open systems of trade which exist are either in South Africa, where there is the South African Customs Union since the early 20th century, and there is a border.

    I believe there was also a single currency in the region, the Rand. As I recall crossing these borders was trivial. I don’t even remember a border post from ZA to Lesotho. I do remember getting stuck in the mountains of Lesotho, because of poor weather, for a few days.

    The Schengen area of te EU is now similar to what I remember in Southern Africa, with some better roads.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      I recall border posts on the Maseru to Bloemfontein road in the 1990s. At the time, there had been a spate of car thefts, cattle rustling and fake Lesotho passports.

    1. Antagonist Muscles

      Last week on the Brexit post, Richard Kline and ChrisPacific compared this dire situation to the Hindenburg and its appearance on Led Zeppelin’s debut album. Now we have dismal endings from Dr. Strangelove and Richard III. Well, I am reminded of “London Calling” by The Clash. Great song, albeit apocalyptic. Considering Clive and Colonel Smither’s analysis, apocalypse seems apropos.

      The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
      Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
      Engines stop running but I have no fear
      ‘Cause London is burning and I live by the river

  8. none

    I thought the doctrine of disaster capitalism was to crash stuff whenever you can, so you can scoop up assets from the resulting fire sales. So is the Tory party just doing its job? The ruckus seems to be that the mercantile classes are going to beaten down, and not just the usual proles. But how will the English aristocracy fare from this? Maybe it’s not just idiocy.

    1. Unna

      I may be wrong but I believe it was Ambrit who was saying that, in the face of a Crash-Out scenario and in light of everything this Blog has documented about a no deal situation, that the Powers That Be in UK must be thinking of something, and must have some plan that they’re working towards, that would let them dramatically consolidate power or achieve some other important objective. They must be planning some final political solution that would be to their advantage. Ambrit suggested a government of national unity under Prince William (would Charles permit that?) because nobody can be as stupid as May and the Tories appear to be. And they appear to be so calm about everything. This all seems to be too far fetched, but who am I to discount it. Was it Lenin who said something to the effect that sometimes decades pass where nothing happens, and then weeks pass where decades happen. I personally don’t believe these people are stupid. People don’t get to capture governments and maintain power and wealth because they’re stupid. Vicious, amoral, and psychopathic, but not stupid.

      To my main point, I read this morning that Salvini of Italy is saying that the EU is swindling the UK on Brexit. Agreed that Salvivi is wrong, but I don’t see this as a technocratic statement but as a political one. He’s framing the EU as the villain and I also read that Grillo is now planning a new move against the Euro. From those who know, Question: How will Italy, Poland, Hungary etc play this? Just with rhetoric or will they ship food and goods? What about all that agricultural produce no longer going to Russia? A few ship loads here and there for political purposes and to great fanfare. If French agricultural products can’t go to UK expeditiously, how long does it take French farmers to hit the streets? And after that how long for Le Pen come out of hibernation to take advantage? Vlad ships some of his purposefully non GMO grain, you know, because he’s the kind of guy who cares about English people, Trump sends all that cheese and milk because he’s got a special relationship with May, and otherwise, he really got along well with the Queen and he knows she really does like him. Whatever. Oh, and Bannon is starting on his Grand Tour of right wing European populist parties just so happens, now. All these stalwart countries coming out to help the Brits in their hour of need while the Eurocrats drone on with no apparent mercy, a caricature of themselves, mumbling with great conviction and technical precision about treaty language. Boris out on the streets; It’s the EU that’s your oppressor!

      Are the Powers That Be using this crisis to blow up the EU?

      1. Jeff

        Perhaps, but Ukrainian farmers were found a few years ago to sell engine oil as cooking oil into Europe. French butchers were found to sell frozen horse meat (or rotten and frozen meat) as beef.
        If this kind of criminal behavior already occurs within the framework of working institutions, you can imagine what will happen when those institutions stop working. Not only VVP (please don’t say Vlad, that is somebody else) will ship non GMO grain, but others will also ship grain that cannot be sold elsewhere (infected, rotten, polluted…) to make a quick buck.

        As a reminder, back in 1986, shortly after the Tchernobyl disaster, a train-load of fresh milk from the east was halted because contaminated with too much radioactivity. So someone pulled another train of fresh uncontaminated milk, mixed the two, and sold two trains of fresh milk into the European markets – all of it legal.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      The EU Legal Service is working on an extension. No one thinks it can be rescinded.

      1. larry

        Colonel, some do think it can be rescinded in principle but that the likelihood that it ever would be is vanishingly small.

      2. Dave

        No one thinks it can be rescinded

        I wouldn’t say that’s true. There is no real argument over whether it can be rescinded, it’s whether the UK has right to do so unilaterally.

        Some people say that it can (like the guy who wrote the article), others say that it can only be done with unanimous agreement of the other 27 countries (as per the original negotiating guidelines).

        Realistically, like anything which isn’t absolutely specific, it’ll come down to CJEU if it ever arises as an issue. There’s no way that Farage or someone doesn’t try a claim that it’s irreversible as a last throw of the dice, so they would be the arbiter in the end.

        Either way, if the UK ever did try it then the EU27 would absolutely bite their hand off.

        1. Richard Kline

          My view is that 28 Ayes are necessary to halt an Article 50, but that there is enough wiggle in the treaty structures and the vagueness of the language that is could be done if all parties agreed. Britain cannot unilaterally rescind, that seems to be against the spirt and language of the Article. But there seems nothing in Article 50 that forbids 27+1 from suspending it by a direct decision. An extraordinary Council Session has very considerable powers in what it may decide because very little is forbidden it. They could simply negotiate a one-off treaty amendment saying “We all agree to this termination of the Article 50 proceeding;” cumbersome in the extreme but likely entirely viable within the greater treaty structure of the EU. If that was the case, I would anticipate a stipulation of some minimum time period, at least 10 years, more likely 20, over which the UK agrees not to hit the 50 button again. Conceivably, some of the 27 EU Member States might have to hold referendums on the issue. And yes, that is poor legal structure if true, but the treaty language is so incredibly complicated that there is A LOT of wiggle room.

          It is by no means a guarantee that 27 Ayes could be garnered out of hand. If the core states and the EC wanted Britain to stay badly enough, I think the deal would go down, though.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, I can’t see the ECJ preventing it if there was EU unanimity on it – but I’m pretty sure there would have to be unanimity. The problem is of course that there is such bad feeling now it would only need one member to say ‘yeah, fine, but remember all those exemptions the UK has? Well, we think they should lose those to pay for all the disruption caused’. And then you have problems.

            And another issue – you use the word ‘suspension’ there – I doubt very much of the EU27 would agree to a ‘suspension’ rather than a ‘termination’, due to the uncertainty. There is no way they would want a ‘half in-half out’ UK back at the negotiating table. So it would have to be a termination (or at best a very short term time limited suspension), and that may be too much of a constitutional legal problem (i.e. reversing the referendum) and humiliation even for a panicking UK.

            But we shall see.

        2. vlade

          France and Germany said more than once that the UK could stop the process anytime it wished before the B-day (as recently as last week). Presumably they are reasonably sure it’s possible..

      3. Yves Smith Post author

        No, that is not correct. Barnier and others have said the EU is prepared to let the UK out if it asks. It would take a unanimous vote of the EU27 but who would oppose it? It’s an economic win for the UK to retreat, the principle of the EU is reaffirmed, and France and Germany would whip like hell for it.

        But I don’t see how the UK asks without a second referendum to give the pols political air cover, and it’s too late.

        The EU has said it will give only a short extension, and the FT has reported the EU will give it only if it suits them and the UK is negotiating in good faith. The UK has wasted the entire time since the Brexit vote, and a few month extension will accomplish bupkis unless the UK wakes up out of its stupor.

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