Brexit: May’s March to Nowhere

Even though Theresa May appears to be playing a remarkably high-stakes game of chicken with Brexit, most readers know all too well that her gamble to get her deal or her fantasy of a revised version approved are far more likely to precipitate a crash-out than any other outcome.

This weekend has produced yet another round of mind-boggling developments in the form of dueling op-eds. In the Telegraph, May gave a rousing rendition of how she was still going to deliver a Glorious Brexit, and by March 29 on top of that…and no one believes her. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, issued a reply of sorts via an op ed in The Times, which politely pointed out that it was Brexit that upset the delicate balance achieved through the Good Friday Agreement, that the backstop was a hard-negotiated solution to the thorny problem of how to achieve a Brexit while preserving peace between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and, no, the Withdrawal Agreement would not be renegotiated.

Even with the plot overview, one is left wondering how May can possibly think this will work out. Some snippets from her Telegraph article:

And when we said no one believes her, that includes Telegraph readers who are presumably Tory voters. Clive sent along this sample:

Even here, there’s plenty of Brexit delusion on display, that the UK had negotiating leverage.

May has neverhteless taken the remarkably cheeky step of not scheduling her report to Parliament on her clearly silly effort to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement until February 13….when Donald Tusk’s spokesperson tweeted it was a non-starter seven minutes after the vote. How is she managing to chew up that much time? By creating a Tory busywork committee to draw new, better unicorns, From the Independent, Brexit: Theresa May accused of ‘wasting valuable time’ as she launches group to find Irish backstop alternatives:

Theresa May has been accused of “wasting valuable time” in the countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU as she announced plans to establish a Commons group probing alternative plans for the Irish border post-Brexit.

Despite the prime minister’s hopes of reopening the withdrawal agreement already being dashed by EU leaders with just 53 days to go until Brexit, the new committee made up of senior Tory MPs will meet for the first time on Monday….

Theresa May has been accused of “wasting valuable time” in the countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU as she announced plans to establish a Commons group probing alternative plans for the Irish border post-Brexit.

Despite the prime minister’s hopes of reopening the withdrawal agreement already being dashed by EU leaders with just 53 days to go until Brexit, the new committee made up of senior Tory MPs will meet for the first time on Monday.

If nothing else, May is doing everything in her power to block consideration of revoking Article 50 or even a delay, despite ministers like Andrea Leadsom clearing their throats and saying the UK might need a wee delay to pass all the required legislation. If you didn’t see this tweetstorm that Lambert featured yesterday in Links, please click through and read it in its entirety:

This is a critical issue that like so many aspects of Brexit, heretofore appears to have been ignored.

First the Withdrawal Agreement Implementation bill is another hurdle to pass to get May’s Brexit done, and hence another point of failure. The more hurdles an initiative has to surmount in order to succeed, the greater the potential for failure. In addition, as Paul Daly points out, it’s debatable whether the provisions on citizen’s right are constitutional. In other words, the Withdrawal Agreement Implementation bill gives the Ultras two more chance to jam the controls and precipitate a crash-out…and that’s generously assuming Parliament passes May’s Withdrawal Act because it can’t find another way to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Now we do have some efforts to steer the UK out of its nosedive. Nichola Sturgeon is expected to say that the UK isn’t remotely prepared for Brexit. But Sturgeon is pushing her own unicorn, that of a second referendum. It was already too late at the “never got off the ground” Parliament revolt of January 29. Similarly, Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, expressed his fond hope for an “exit from Brexit,” meaning an Article 50 revocation, but acknowledged the odds were “extraordinarily low.”

But Robert Peston’s update, based on conversations with May’s ministers, shows the continued fixation with internal politics:

Here is what members of the cabinet said to me when I pointed them towards a statement made in the Sunday Telegraph by the prime minister that she is “determined to deliver Brexit and determined to deliver on time – on March 29 2019”.

“Farcical” said one. “Total delusion” said another. “Verifiably untrue” said a third.

It’s not that they doubt Theresa May is working to take the UK out of the EU. It’s just they cannot see how it is remotely possible that departure can be achieved in the less than eight week remaining before the official leaving day….

Far worse for most of them is that they are guessing at her real strategy, since they don’t believe her official line – that she believes the EU will move far enough, or at all, on the widely loathed backstop to secure a majority for a Brexit deal from the votes of Tory MPs and Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MPs…

Some ministers are crossing their fingers that the next time parliament is allowed a vote on backbenchers’ Brexit-related amendments, on 14 February, at least one enterprising centreground Tory will table a call for a customs-union destination for the UK. “That would flush out whether the PM will ever opt for the only practical compromise” said one minister.

Were May to relent and go with a customs-union-based Brexit, the resignation of the secretary of state for international trade, Liam Fox, would not be far behind, of course, since he would no longer be able to negotiate free trade deals under customs-union rules.

But that would be trivial collateral damage, compared with the mass cabinet resignations were Theresa May to abandon all hope of a deal and instead make it official policy to go for a no-deal Brexit….

And what a significant number of ministers tell me is that there will be mass government walkouts on or before 14 February – to take advantage of that next available date to vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit – unless before then the PM publicly announces an intention to negotiate with the EU a postponement of Brexit day of at least three months.

Yves here. Maybe I’ve seen May soldier on in the face of repeated defeats that I’m becoming complacent as it is clear that a real crisis is on the verge of finally happening. May has survived waves of ministerial resignations before. I’m skeptical that even “mass” resignations would deter her if she could manage to find replacements in a few days. May does not appear likely to go until a vote of no confidence forces her out. Even if some Tories defect, would the more alert Labour Party members recognize that it would take maneuvering that might not be viable to prevent a crash-out?

May appears to think that her big leverage point is the fear of a crash out. But the EU is not moved, the Ultras keenly desire it, and Tory party members prefer it to no Brexit or May’s deal. As we’ve indicated, it’s not clear the EU will give an extension if the UK plans merely to thrash around some more. And there does not appear to be enough Parliamentary backing for a second referendum, even if the EU would go along, let alone an Article 50 revocation.

So a blow up mid February now looks to be in store. But whether even a major eruption can change the trajectory May has set in motion remains to be seen.

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  1. vlade

    From the other sid of the aisle, Labour is losing voters. Which, in the face of the current Tory party and government, is really a task.

    A poll for Observer run last weeked had Labour trailing 7%(!) behind Tories, the most since 2017 elections. It looks like both remain and leave voters are tired of Labour’s “constructive ambiguity”.

    Yet, Corbyn still persists in calling for GE, which would solve little.

    1. larry

      Robert Harris, in a Times interview on 7 July of last year, compared Corbyn to Cato, noted for his stubborness and integrity. And we all know what happened to the Roman Empire in the end. Harris thinks there are notable parallels between Brexit and the final 25 years of the Roman Empire. Personally, I am getting tired of Corbyn’s intransigence and, possibly misplaced, integrity. Has he ever mentally left the 1970s?

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Larry.

        At some Brexit discussions last year, it was interesting to hear the Brexiteer economists and commentators (and Brits of Irish parentage), Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons, refer to the analyses of Peter Shore and other Labour anti-EU politicians, all from the 1970s and 1980s. I have a lot of sympathy with that left wing critique, but the UK is not in the position that it was a generation ago.

        The impression that I got from the pair is that their citation of the socialist case for Brexit was to make it palatable to certain voters. Neither is a socialist. One wonders if Corbyn and his advisers have been taken in by this.

        One of Corbyn’s supporters seems to be losing faith, as per

        Further to delusion, colleagues and I were briefed about our EU27 employer’s Brexit preparations this morning. The lawyer / project manager reckons only a limited number of front office staff have to move, already happening, and just EEA clients have to move. He thought the City would “survive as it does now and, as John Cryan explained, nothing will change for another two decades as London is the most cosmopolitan city in the world and has an unrivalled pool of talent”, plus there would be an extension to A50 late this month and a soft Brexit agreed. No one queried how the lawyer could be so sure of a deal to avoid a crash out and asked if our jobs were safe. I dialled in on a bad line as my train was late. Afterwards, I spoke to my manager, an EU27 national, and pointed out what ECB regulators had said about shifting all forms of support to the EU over time, a unilateral transition. She agreed, but thought it was better to keep quiet and not scare any one.

        1. larry

          Thanks, Colonel. Could it be that this lawyer knows something the rest of us don’t? How does he ‘know’ this? Glad to have your insight.

          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you, Larry.

            A week ago, I spoke to my Frankfurt counterpart. He said similar, a deal will be done at the last minute as the UK economy was too weak. I heard this two years ago from a Belgian diplomat, too. My colleague got that from talks with the German finance ministry that Monday morning. None seems able to grasp that reason is largely absent from the UK debate. The UK constitution has also bamboozled them.

            1. larry

              Oh, dear. I can understand the difficulty understanding the degree of irrationality that some members of Parliament have been exhibiting. Recent data, though, shows that the Eurozone is doing worse economically than the UK. This could change, of course.

              1. Gordon

                UK economic data is boosted by stock building ahead of Brexit. A combination of unwinding that plus collapse of confidence if Brexit goes ahead in any shape or form will soon change that.

      2. Jessica

        Cato died in 149 B.C. The Roman Empire in the West fell in 476 A.D., over 600 years later. (The Roman Empire in the East lasted until 1453, although it was a rump state from the time of the Arab Conquests in the 600s.)

        1. Frenchguy

          While “rump state” is technically an apt definition (“remnant of a once much larger state”), the Eastern Empire was very far from a pushover. As late as the 13th century, Constantinople had close to half a million inhabitants and was one of the biggest cities in the world (and was certainly unmatched in the west).

          True it never recovered Egypt and Syria but it might be a mistake to consider those a natural part of the Empire. My recollections are a bit vague and someone might correct me but I have in mind that there was quite early a schism between churches there and the Greek church. While christians were a majority in Egypt and Syria perhaps as late as the time of the crusades, they might not have been pining for a return of greek rule (better be ruled by a muslim than an heretic…).

          Anyway, I wouldn’t dismiss the Empire before 1204 ;)

          1. Dan

            …and after 1453 the sultans styled themselves ‘Caesar of Rome’ (Kayser-i Rum), so you could make an argument that the empire lasted until 1922. (It’s true in geopolitical terms, if not cultural terms, as the Ottomans contended for the same space – and suffered many of the same longue durée political challenges – as had the Romans.) It’s always strange to me that anyone cites a world-system that lasted 1000+ years as an example of failure!

            Brexit, on the other hand, looks to be much more abrupt, and I think history will see this as one of the acts in ‘fall of the British Empire’, which has been remarkably abrupt in world-historical terms. The fact that the Empire is still alive and well in many peoples’ memory (especially Tory memory) is one of the bigger impediments to a reasonable approach to Brexit IMHO. Give it a few generations and I think Europe will seem more a natural home for Britain than it does now – but I feel for my friends in Britain and Ireland who are going to have to deal with the consequences in the meantime.

        2. Gordon

          There were several Catos. Cato the Elder died in 149 B.C. but I surmise the reference was to his great grandson, Cato the Younger 95 46 B.C., remembered for being stubborn and for his long conflict with Julius Caesar. It was the Roman *Republic*, not Empire that ended shortly after his time.

          1. animalogic

            Re: Cato’s stubbornness. It’s quite open to debate as to the effect Cato’s (& his political allies such as Bibulus)intransigence had on the destruction of the Republic.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Vlade.

      One wonders if Corbyn’s latest fantasy has anything to do with A GE may be what holds the party together.

      It will be interesting if other polls show a decisive shift to the Tories. If yes, that takes some doing as you point out. Also, if the polls show a drift towards the Tories, a June election may suit May’s motley crew.

      There are Labour members in the NC community. One hopes they pipe up.

      1. Redlife2017

        I suspect the answer is that they will wait for other polls to be run. It’s either an outlier or not. Polling in the UK since 2015 has been notoriously unstable. That’s not an excuse. Just a fact. We are in one of the biggest changes in politics in this country since WWII and the loss of Empire. Both Labour and Tories might blow apart in the end. We’ll see who’s left standing at the end of this mess…

        As a bit of context, Corbyn goes to Leave constituencies quite regularly (several times a week from my understanding) and speaks with people (not Labour party hacks) quite a lot in those constituencies. He is therefore comfortable with his “threading the needle” strategy (as I call it) due to the conversations he is having. He’s not going to change his tactics at the moment from what I understand. Again, I’m not defending or complaining, just noting what I’ve heard.

        “All political power comes from the barrel of either guns, p***y, or opium pipes, and people seem to like it that way.” Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear

        1. larry

          Redlife, your Thompson quotes remind me of Tom Hanks’ character in You’ve Got Mail where the answer to every question can be found in The Godfather.

      2. Adrian Kent

        @vlade: There is no evidence of an overall movement to the Tories in the pollls – it’s just that we only ever hear mention of the ones where the Tories are benefited by the assumptions of the company and/or margin of error.

        Survation, the pollsters who used the largest samples and who were closest to calling the 2017 election correctly, routinely have Labour ahead (8% in November):

        One thing Corbyn understands (which it appears some commentors here do not) is that the UK election is won by winning constituencies and the large majority of seats he would have to win in the next GE are in heavily leave voting ones. He also understands that the potential benefits from relieved remainers is spread too thinly across the consituencies to make any difference (and that’s assuming they’re not all a figment of Remoaner imaginations anyway).

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Adrian.

          I have often seen that 8% lead poll quoted. One hopes that Labour is not taking comfort from that single exercise or Survation’s forecast in 2017, regardless of the fact that other pollsters and the people who own them have it in for Labour.

          As a horseracing fan, that would be like me basing my investment on the basis on one sparkling gallop or big run on a track.

        2. Paul O

          This feels right. I am a party member but don’t feel this gives me any special insight. As suggested, I suspect that the electoral significance of those that are leaving will be rather limited – and there was also a huge serge in support, in part likely driven by the somewhat wishful exception of a quick ‘breakthrough’ so some drop-off is understandable.

          I am not clear quite what people are expecting Corbyn or the Labour party to change its position to. Taking in mind the electoral college, it is doubtful any significant change would be of benefit at the polls (there is not enough granularity in opinion polls to have any confidence on this).

          It would be fair comment to suggest that wining an election is not the only consideration here – there may be a broader interest (but concepts of ‘national’ interest are useless – in this case at least). But then, what difference is the Labour position going to have on the outcome in any case?

          (If it comes to a vote to rescind AC50 in parliament – and personally I can see it coming to that – them I doubt Labour will whip against it – time may tell).

        3. vlade

          The poll that you show is 2017 poll. You might have noticed, we are in 2019? Average conservative lead over all polls since Sep 2018 is about 1.2 points. Average across the last couple of months is about 0.5 Tory lead, but this got somewhat higher in Jan (0.7 excluding the latest). The link you post itself shows only ONE Labour lead (on average) in the last month, one tie, and the rest are slight Tory leads.

          I understand very well that elections are won by winning constitutencies. But they are also not lost by not losing constituencies. London’s Hampstead and Kilburn is my favourite example here. It seems like anything-but-marginal Labour constituency. Yet, when it was first created and contested in 2010, it was the closest run seat in the UK, split three ways to a statistical error. This constituency can land in Tory’s lap pretty easily, if enough voters go LD – because it’s a constituency that voted heavily Remain (>76%), and on the current Labour policy can easily get LD enough votes to make it competitive for Tories.

          Yes, Labour must win the leave constituencies. But it cannot lose the remain ones either. Especially, since it looks unlikely to win many Scottish ones, which sets the bar for Labour much higher than Tories. Oh, and a vast majority of leave voters are Tory voters, or not-voting-at-all in GE voters. Good luck persuading the first ones, and the second ones, well, Labour failed to get them for generations, why assume it can do so now? It did get a number of first-time voters in 2017, but those were the young. Exactly the ones who seem not to be very happy with the current Labour course.

          Clinton too assumed “they have nowhere else to go”. Well, they do, as she found out.

          And, you know, it’s not about Remoaners or what have you. It’s about selling voters undeliverable unicorns, which both Tories and Labour are happy to do across the board. Labour could have been shooting both Remain and Leave unicorns, but instead if choose to offer more of the both.

          Moreover, if you’re right, then Corbyn should have gone full bore Leave. What’s there to lose after all, if “relieved remainers are spread too thinly to make any difference”? After all, he’s supposed to be principled and all, right? Not an opportunist who ignores the voice of membership to run his plans to get power no matter what, like his predecessors…

          1. vlade

            sorry, one lead in the last 12 months (and three ties, I miscounted). Statistically speaking, it’s likely Tories have a very slight lead [comment went to moderation so I could not edit]

          2. thene

            I vote in Ealing Central & Acton. In 2015 this seat was taken by Labour from the Tories by a margin of about 200 votes. It’s a very pro-remain area, and in 2017 our pro-Remain Labour MP (Rupa Huq) had a much more comfortable majority. But a good LD Remainer campaign could toss it right back to the Tories. Huq is a great constituency MP and I wouldn’t vote for anyone else myself but the risk is real.

  2. Adrian Kent

    Any Remainers must realise that the current version of the EU is just about as good as it ever is going to be.

    Following the expansion in the 2000s the route to meaningful progressive reform was essentially blocked off – the requirement of unanimity in the context of a significantly enlarged union rules it out forever.

    Some weeks ago I wrote a little piece on Medium asking whether anyone at all had proposed a roadmap to reform – one that takes into account the current electoral landscape across the EU (60%+ rightwing), the make up of the Commission, Council and Parliament, the seemingly captured ECJ and ECB etc. (something approaching what you could call the real world().

    I’ve hawked it around various prominent remainers (anyone who has used the #RemainAndReform hashtag), written to pro-Remain MPs and groups such as Another Europe Is Possible. No one has given me a adequate reply. It’s usually just been vague assertions about campaigning, which collapse as soon as I ask anything specific (timescales, who are the key Countries & Commissioners, where are our allies going to come from and how are they doing in their own member states etc).

    Yes leaving could be chaotic, but make no mistake a reformed EU is not on the table – Remaining will almost certain commit ourselves to an endless series of rearguard actions against crud like the Services Notification Directive & TISA.

    You can read my little challenge here:

    1. larry

      Bill Mitchell has the same view as you do about EU reform, that it is so unlikely as to be nonexistent. He has extensive posts about the issue on his blog, billy blog.

      1. Clive

        And this is the entire conundrum with Brexit. No matter how bad the various flavours of Leave seem and may, indeed, be, it’s difficult to, see how looking at this picture here (and then, to skew it even more, remove the U.K. from the EU27 dynamic) and the differences between the north and the south — and then think to yourself, hmm… yes, I can see how that can all just carry on as it has done before.

        And then, having identified a staring-you-in-the-face systemic issue, similarly think to yourself, oh, well, I can see not only that being fixable through a set of identifiable policy responses but, more’s to the point, those political actions actually then going on to be being taken.

        Quite the opposite. Who amongst us does not get a queasy feeling and that nagging hunch that This Will Not End Well.

        All of which is grist to the mill for Leave, the only response of Remain being some not especially well detailed aspirations of Hope and Change. Thereby keeping even lousy Leave outcomes as seeming not much worse than what’s in Box B.

        To put it another way, U.K. GDP will have to collapse by a 15% to end up as Italy is right now. And by a fifth for Spain / Portugal. My calculator alomost runs out of numbers to try to work out Greece. Conversely, will Remain really turn us into Germany?

        I’m not saying I like the whole knotty problem or having to try to grapple with it, let alone trying to pick the best option when the data sets and factual matrices we have are, being charitable, made up of slanted interpretations and shrieking entrenched mainstream media positions whose main priorities seem to be not having to consider any possibility of rethinking their world-views rather than trying to allow the population access to a fair and balanced assessment coupled with objective analysis.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Chris Grey made a critical point in this post, that the UK is trying to pretend the world works in a way it doesn’t:

          These facts, taken together, mean that alongside the general propensity of trade to be geographically skewed to close neighbours, UK services and also its most advanced manufacturing industries are very deeply embedded in the European market. It is not necessary to make or accept economic forecasts, only to understand basic institutional realities, to see that detaching a country from its regional bloc and then seeking to re-attach it on unknown, but by definition worse, terms to that same bloc, in an unknown time frame, is going to have adverse consequences for businesses and trade, and hence for employment and tax revenues…

          In short, different kinds of Brexiter share a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the contemporary economic world. The globalists don’t understand that globalization has taken the form of a series of regionalizations. There’s no realistic way of being global without also being regional. The nationalists don’t understand that nationalism has been embedded within regionalism. There’s no realistic way of being national without also being regional.

          It’s no good Brexiters saying ‘but Britain managed perfectly well before’: even if that were true, which is highly questionable, Brexit isn’t a time machine. The world that existed in 1973 has disappeared. In this sense, Brexit represents a profound strategic error for the British economy: if the most basic feature of a national (like an organizational) strategy is its fit with the realities of its environment then Brexit is certain to have a poor outcome because it is incompatible with the realities of regionalization.

          1. Susan the Other

            Very interesting points. Thanks for this Link. Chris Gray is a tiny bit Russophobic but other than that he seems to understand the situation clearly. There are two kinds of Brexiteers. The globalists want neoliberal competition and austerity for society; nationalists want trade protections and isolation. That’s a political civil war because they can’t be reconciled… except by Regionalism. I see the logic. It’s the missing intermediate step. But the EU itself, for more irony, is laboring under these same pressures and creating them at the same time. It’s conceivable that the thing that ultimately saves the EU will be cooperation with Russia (a thought Britain cannot stomach) – in a 21st C. version of Manifest Destiny. And then the final irony after all the hullabaloo about trade gets old: in the end the world can only ever function by social justice. For now reality is a bitch and even Theresa can’t trick it. Funny how both former empires – the British and the Russian – are still such adversaries.

        2. Left in Wisconsin

          The options seem to be:
          1. Paddling vigorously back upstream against a very strong current, knowing that you don’t really want to end up at any of the places you’ve passed but hoping that there was some other tributary you may have missed that will lead you to a better place. And trying to rally the rest of the crew with words of encouragement that are hardly believable. This would be negotiated Brexit.
          2. Continuing downstream, slowly, circuitously, and laboriously, doing your best to avoid rapids and waterfalls, to a place at which you are quite sure you have no desire to be. This would be Remain.
          3. Saying f*** it and going right over the falls all at once, hoping that you will somehow end up in a place you will like and without every bone in your body broken. This would be crash out.

          Is there a fourth option?

          1. Tony Wright

            There are some suggestions within investment circles e.g.Weiss, that the EU itself is destined to disintegrate in the not too distant future due to a combination of financial disaster (Italy), anti-EU populism (Italy,France,Germany,Austria), recession or worse (which is touted to become global in the not too distant.). All amplified by emotions stirred by the ongoing refugee influx.
            When cataclismic changes occur they are often quite unexpectedly sudden – the collapse of the Soviet Union/Berlin Wall in 1989 and South Africa with the end of apartheid being the most recent examples that come to mind.
            So the UK may in fact be blundering its way off a sinking ship. Don’t know about the quality of the lifeboats though, unless you have one with a home port of the Cayman Islands, or similar…..
            I.e. Option 4

            1. Anonymous2

              Well the future has yet to reveal itself. Who knows what will happen? It is worth remembering that there have been people in the UK predicting the collapse of the European project since the 19 50s. Perhaps some day they will be proved right. On the other hand perhaps not.

              1. vlade

                They will be certainly proved right at some date in the future. The question is, is that date on our horizon of events (years), or decades or hundreds of years in the future?

                The US was predicted to collapse within decades by quite few European elites in late 18th, early 19th century. Granted, it sort of tried to solve one of its massive problems by a civil war (and arguably failed), but it’s still here few hundreds of years later.

                1. Tony Wright

                  Mario “Whatever it Takes” Draghi is due to end his term as ECB President on 31 October this year. It will be interesting to see what happens when Populist Italian Government demands run up against a non-Italian replacement for Draghi.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Link whoring is against our written site Policies. This is immediate grounds for moderation or banning. We don’t make exceptions. This site is not to be used to promote your work and elevate you standing in Google.

      And the idea that EU reform had anything to do with Brexit is a canard. The Tories have been blaming the impact of austerity on the EU when they did it on their own. UK citizens poll in strong majorities in favor of EU environmental and labor protections, two things the Brexit boosters intend to scrap.

      Consider this section of a 2016 paper:

      EU exposure and immigration

      Surprisingly, and contrary to much of the political debate in the run-up to the election, we find that relatively little variation (under 50%) in the Leave vote share can be explained by measures of a local authority area’s exposure to the EU. These measures include a local authority’s trade exposure to the EU (albeit measured at a coarser spatial resolution), its receipts of EU structural funds, and importantly, the extent of immigration. We find evidence that the growth rate of immigrants from the 12 EU accession countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 is linked to the Leave vote share. This stands in contrast to migrant growth from the EU 15 countries or elsewhere in the world. It suggests that migration from predominantly Eastern European countries has had an effect on voters. However, we cannot identify the precise mechanism – whether the effect on voters is mainly economic through competition in the labour and housing markets, or rather in terms of changing social conditions. Becker and Fetzer (2016) provide a first attempt to study the causal impact of migration on the evolution of anti-EU voter preferences, which in turn correlate with support for Leave. Using a difference-in-difference setup, they find – consistent with the present paper – a relatively modest but statistically significant association between immigration from Eastern Europe and growing anti-EU sentiment proxied by support for UKIP across European Parliament elections between 1999 and 2014.

      Fiscal consolidation

      In the wake of the Global Crisis, the UK coalition government brought in wide-ranging austerity measures to reduce government spending and the fiscal deficit. At the level of local authorities, spending per person fell by 23.4% in real terms, on average, from 2009/10 until 2014/15. But the extent of total fiscal cuts varied dramatically across local authorities, ranging from 46.3% to 6.2% (Innes and Tetlow 2015). It is important to note though that fiscal cuts were mainly implemented as de-facto proportionate reductions in grants across all local authorities. This setup implies that reliance on central government grants is a proxy variable for deprivation, with the poorest local authorities being more likely to be hit by the cuts. This makes it impossible in the cross-section (and challenging in a panel) to distinguish the effects of poor fundamentals from the effects of fiscal cuts. With this caveat on the interpretation in mind, our results suggest that local authorities experiencing more fiscal cuts were more likely to vote in favour of leaving the EU. Given the nexus between fiscal cuts and local deprivation, we think that this pattern largely reflects pre-existing deprivation.

      Need I point out that the UK was a big proponent of EU expansion, meaning the addition of Eastern European members, because it wanted to dilute the influence of Germany and France?

      This is from a later and more granular analysis:

      We find that exposure to the EU in terms of immigration and trade pro- vides relatively little explanatory power for the referendum vote. Instead, we find that fundamental characteristics of the voting population were key drivers of the Vote Leave share, in particular their education profiles, their historical dependence on manufacturing employment as well as low income and high unemployment. At the much finer level of wards within cities, we find that areas with deprivation in terms of education, income and employment were more likely to vote Leave. Our results in- dicate that a higher turnout of younger voters, who were more likely to vote Remain, would not have overturned the referendum result.

      1. John

        Need I point out that the UK was a big proponent of EU expansion, meaning the addition of Eastern European members

        Indeed you do, Yves, and I’m glad you did.

        Add in the fact that “the UK” then refused, for itself and for its own account, all of those protections provided under European law against mass sudden immigration from the East. And hey presto! Mass sudden immigration from the East. Whocoodanode?

        Not sure it’s about anything to do with France and Germany, though:)

    3. vlade

      Any UK voters must realise that the current version of the UK is as good as it’s ever going to be (and it used to be better). With unwillingness to change FPTP, meaning that parties have evolved to resist any compromise, the only other potential outcome is a total collapse of the political system. People call EU “undemocratic”. What do you call a system where one eight of all voters get all of 1 MP, another gets less half the vote but 56 MPs? Or another three times the vote but 330 times more MPs? I might call it a lot of things, but definitely not “democratic”.

      So with FPTP, the gerrymandering of the current disctricts, the skewed voting (i.e. much higher vote impact) in NI, Wales and Scotland, padded Lords, expansion of number of MPs on the government payroll, captured institutions like BoE etc. etc. I’ve been asking around this NC forum for a few years, how they see the UK reformable. Coz I don’t.

      Quite a few of the domestic UK policies are very much self-inflicted. So pray tell, how will escaping those evil Europeans, with their working-hours directive, customer-rights directives, etc. etc. solve UK’s austerity for example? I did not realise there were ECB henchmen standing at the Treasury telling them they will shoot the first person who gives money away. Wait, how about the 1bln May found for DUP all of sudden? How come she’s not shot by the EC for that?

      UK should be sorting its own problems first. EU is very much a bugbear that can be brought out to assign blame for just about anything you can think of. The problems EU bring on (EU, not the EUR, a distinction that a lot of EU haters somehow ignores) pale in comparison to what the UK is capable of inflicting on itself on its own, as shown by the last decade.

      The largest German corporate scandal of the last decade was the Dieselgate. Bad, really bad. Companies lying through their teeth, gaming regulations, misleading customers. But hey, the UK has RBS that could do all that AND help to bring on world recession to boot. Take that, Jerry!

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre


        I suppose if we are going to talk banks, perhaps you should include Deutsche in your list of German corporate scandals.

        1. vlade

          DB was run from London since really 1990s till Cryan was ousted last year. It may have had nominally German board, but was really run by a succession of Anglo-Saxons, with London and NY being much more important to it than Frankfurt. Majority of the fines for its misconduct are for misconduct elsewhere than its German operations (usually NY or London).

          I’d not class it as a German corporate scandal.

          1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

            Well, if you want to fine tune it, then RBS was Shredded by a Scotsman with a largely Scottish board & is registered in Edinburgh, but of course it is British.

            I think that we all have our dirty banking underwear, & I seem to recall that he first bank in Europe to be bailed out was Depfa, but I suppose that you could if you wish, blame that on the Irish & their lax regulation, but a German going by the name of Gerhard Bruckermann was running that show.

            It’s complicated & I believe that no-one comes out of it to any large degree, as being morally superior to anyone else.

      2. Adrian Kent

        @Vlade – no arguments from me regarding the state of the UK, but it’s all about the politics of scale. We (in the UK) will have to campaign to improve our circumstances – but we will be doing so at a level/scale where the power structures are understood and the requisite organisations can be managed and most effective.

        At the EU level this is now essentially impossible.

        Lee Jones (from Queen Mary Uni in London), puts it much better that I can

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You can’t “improve your circumstances” as a small open economy in a world of regionalized trade. That is what Chris Grey discussed at length.

          And the UK was NOT acting a force for progressive reform at the EU. It was in fact a propagator of austerity ideology and practices. So your implicit claim is inaccurate. The UK did have disproportionate influence on EU policies so we don’t know impact it would have had if it had pursued a progressive agenda within the EU.

  3. Disturbed Voter

    Perhaps a fly is in the ointment of English democracy. It only took 25% of the colonial population to foment a revolution in 1776, not 51%.

    1. Summer

      There was a study posted on NC about roughly 25% of any group being an effective number to produce change. Just paraphrasing…..

    2. Joe Well

      It only took 25% of the colonial population to foment a revolution in 1776, not 51%.

      But they were geographically concentrated in New England and Philadelphia (largest city in the 13 colonies), which meant that the revolutionaries first won over public opinion in Boston, then Massachusetts, then New England, then the northern colonies, and then finally the southern colonies and that largely by appealing to the egos of Jefferson, Lee, et al in Virginia, the most populous colony.

      I think it would be much harder for Britain 2018 (or US 2018) to pull that off. What would be there Boston>Massachusetts>New England/Philadelphia? You might say Scotland, but they want to break away, not lead a revolution. And you need to have majorities in specific territories because 25% each in many different districts will be locked out by FPTP and easily crushed by security forces.

  4. Anonymous2

    Thank you Yves. Excellent as usual. Just to add that there is some talk of MPs breaking away from both Labour and the Tories. I regard this as a low probability and certainly in the sort of numbers required to make a fundamental difference. Even a small number of breakaways setting up a new party would of course complicate matters even further however.

    I don’t expect this to end well. The rancour and ill-feeling this is causing could last for decades.

  5. David

    It’s not a new point, but it bears repeating, that since the beginning of this mess May’s objective has been to find a solution which keeps as much of the Tory Party together as possible, and keeps her as Party leader. Everything else is secondary. You can say that she has tactics, but no strategy. And depressing as it may be to say so, she’s just an extreme case of the total incapacity of the British political system and its media servants to understand and take account of the European dimension. Which is why the discussion is being so widely conducted, and reported, as though it were all about who will resign, who will favour which solution, and who will win a General Election that hasn’t yet been called. I think she’s agnostic as between her fantasy of approval of the EUWA (Heroic Leader unites party and country and forces more concessions from Brussels) and a crash-out (Heroic Leader fights to bitter end against duplicitous European) as long as she gets to be the Heroic Leader. I think her brain is so overloaded with such considerations that she only thinks of the national interest occasionally, if at all. And the political system as a whole, and the attendant media feeding-frenzy, do nothing to encourage her.
    In fact, I think that history will suggest that she did have negotiating capital (since there’s no negotiation where you don’t have it at all) but she threw it all away very quickly. The EU would have preferred the UK to stay, and even now they would greatly prefer an orderly departure to a disorderly one. But instead of using that capital, May opted to threaten and try to bully the 27, who of course responded badly. That behaviour makes little sense in isolation, but a great deal of sense if you consider that May’s concern is not really with how the EU 27 react, but how her posturing plays in the media.

    1. larry

      She had similar if not quite identical personal traits when she was HS, a position where she was awful. While she wasn’t the author of the immigration rules she inherited, she took them on as her own and made the situation worse. She appears to be dong the same with Brexit. It wasn’t her idea, but she is acting as if it was. Her behavior does make sense, to a certain extent, in isolation, if one considers that it is based, to a significant extent, in personality traits that she takes with her from position to position. The factors you mention tend to reinforce what she brings to situations, such as what you call her Heroic Leader ideas, which seem to me to be really delusions.

    2. BlueMoose

      For me, David’s first sentence is the most likely explanation for what everyone else seems to consider insanity. To her and the Tory Party it doesn’t matter what happens as long as she/they remain at the wheel/in charge. Even if a considerable amount of pain and hardship are experienced by the ‘rank and file’ it won’t matter to the grifters who will always find some way to make money. More austerity for you, not so much for us grifters.

  6. paul

    Nicola Sturgeon’s quest for a 2nd referendum is quite baffling, not just on the practical grounds that the main parties will not support it, they both hate her party and have consistently denied it any involvement or even relevance to the process.

    I would say here best bet would be to call for revocation, even if hedged as lack of readiness. It would play well at home at least.

    One thing from the post I would disagree with is the importance of the tory members, they are old with little place to go and represent about 4% of party funding. They aren’t listened to much the rest of the time and they seem content with that.

    Yet another departure from government by fox should always be seen as a welcome,if lonely, development in the greater national interest.

  7. Redlife2017

    As a general comment to the piece, I don’t think the media or politicians are engaging with the fact that the EU doesn’t want a crash out, but it has its own redlines. I constantly see stupid headlines in the Independent and Guardian (Torygraph and Times are always expected to be dumb on this issue) about how if the Irish just soften their stance, then the EU will soften there’s because the EU has no dog in this fight. Uh, tail to wag the dog a bit much? I’m not sure how to explain to people in any more plain English the following: The EU needs hard boarders with countries that do not have freedom of movement with them. What exactly is the mental block with people on this?

    1. ahimsa

      Agreed. The crux of the matter is how to deal with the EU-UK land border after Brexit.

      There seems to be an obsession with the explicit framing of ‘the Irish backstop’ and not enough consideration given to the fact the ‘Irish border’ will (more importantly) become the only EU-UK land border. As the UK wants to leave both the Customs Union and Single Market, this screams hard border. Lots of nice talk about frictionless trade , the Good Friday Agreement, and not wanting a hard border doesn’t change this one iota.

      Theresa May allowed her government to be bullied by the DUP when the Joint Report was contemplating a hard UK-NI border down the Irish Sea at the end of 2017. The result was a huge fudge when the negotiations were allowed to proceed by kicking the border can issue down the road into 2018. Ironically, polls indicate that the greater UK public would have little problem with a hard wet border with NI and it would most likely have been a great boon for NI which voted to remain.

      Now a no-deal Brexit is ever more likely, as is a hard border in Ireland – the two things that a majority of politicians and public avow to not wanting! As negotiations go, you couldn’t make this up.

  8. Candy

    Theresa May and the EU are indeed playing a giant game of chicken.

    The EU’s entire negotiating strategy has been based on the belief that the referendum would result in the UK going into recession by mid 2018 at the latest and thus desperate to agree to whatever the EU proposed.

    That’s why they sequenced the negotiations the way they did, and why there were mysterious gaps where no negotiation was taking place. For example, article 50 was triggered on 29th March 2017 but the EU said it wasn’t ready to begin talks till July 2017. There was another gap in the negotiations at the start of 2018. It was all about delaying till the recession materialised.

    The only problem with that strategy is that the UK economy decided to chug along (helped by the fact that all the politicians were too preoccupied with Brexit to mess things up!).

    A stable British economy combined with falling unemployment, a narrowing budget deficit and no problems in the bond markets = a bullish population and a confident parliament.

    In Europe by contrast you start to see problems.

    Q3 2018 GDP:

    Germany: -0.2%
    Italy: -0.1%
    France: +0.3%
    Sweden: -0.2%
    UK: +0.6%

    For Q4 2018 GDP so far we have Italy on -0.2% (which makes them officially in recession) and France on 0.3%. The UK looks like it will be between 0.3% and 0.4%. Germany looks like it will be between 0.0% and -0.1%. In other words Germany is close to being in technical recession.

    The figures that come out this month are crucial.

    If the UK continues to chug along, the population will continue to be bullish (support for No Deal is rising) and Theresa May will continue to play chicken. She might even risk No Deal.

    If the European figures continue to be bad, they then have the choice of sacrificing their economies for the sake of The Project, or cutting a deal.

    The pound has actually risen against the euro since January 1st. This is not because traders believe No Deal is off the cards. It is because the European economic stats have come out consistently bad. If you think another eurozone crisis is brewing then holding sterling and gilts is actually the safety option. Especially given Brexit Britain’s unexpected resilience.

    1. Frenchguy

      With all due respect, you give way too much importance to GDP stats. First of all, Germany does not look like it will be between 0.0% and -0.1%, it looks like it will be +0.2%. Nitpicking apart, much of the slowdown in Europe is so far linked to specific sectors (auto…) and to foreign demand. Awkward yes and it might be masking a deeper problem but the fact is that no policy-makers of note have started to panic over them.

      As for UK stats, the yearly rate is 1.5%, a touch above the EZ (1.2%) but nothing fancy. And there are more and more reports that a lot of activity has been driven lately by stockpiling (see link below for example). This is only pulling forward spending and one has to be a special kind of optimist to think that investment plans are not being frozen or diverted to other countries right now.

      In short, you’re right that the only reason May (and Parliament) has been entertaining no-deal is because there has not been any catastrophic consequences so far. It’d be wrong to think that this means there has been no consequences yet.

      And it’s delusional to think that EU leaders will change their Brexit strategy depending on whether GDP growth is +0.2% or +0.3%. Finally, the pound has definitely risen because traders believe no one will risk no deal. This risk is orders of magnitude higher than what a few tenths of growth differential over a few months mean.

      “The rush to hoard raw materials, components and finished goods with less than 60 days before the Brexit deadline marked the highest level of stockpiling activity for a G7 nation since comparable records began in 2007”

    2. R H Stoll

      Part of the litle uptic in British economy may be the result of everybody – families too – stockpiling everything that may get more expensive after Brexit. People may consider acquiring household appliances and European cars before the crash because after they can’t afford them anymore. Even the building of storage facilities goes under that chapter, just for servicing the industry’s stockpiling.

      1. Candy

        Most of the business stockpiling is of imports from Europe (to hedge against delays at customs). In theory that should have boosted the European economies (though it is possible that Europeans are stockpiling imports from Britain for the same reason, so the effect nets out).

        Households are cutting back on borrowing to buy high ticket items,. The growth of unsecured credit is the lowest since 2014 and car sales are down. Because Britain normally runs a trade deficit, this cutdown in consumption of imported goods may be the cause of the eurozone malaise.

        1. Bob Anderson

          Stop lying hun. Your “British GDP” stuff is pure made up. British GDP is contracting and has been since August. Why do you believe their “numbers”.?

          1. Clive

            Ahh, the old “when in doubt, just make stuff up” approach. Usually given away by the lack of citations of independently verifiable facts from trusted sources. Which is I suppose largely because there are no facts to support the stated claims. The last GDP fall was in the aftermath of the GFC. Not, of course, that it might not fall in future. But the future isn’t here yet so you’re making a prediction rather than providing evidence. Those are two different things.

            And while I always try to listen to any point of view because that’s what learning entails and how knowledge is acquired, when someone asserts a claim on a subject that isn’t true (or else advances an argument which isn’t particularly well made out, such as I think you’re alluding to here in so far as the U.K. government is deliberately falsifying key data, which is a possibility but big claims need big proofs and “I read it somewhere and I believe it so it must be true” may be how facts work on Facebook but I have higher evidential standards, I’m afraid) you do whatever cause you’re presumably trying to help a big disservice because you create an anti-halo effect. You make it seem like dumb people support that point of view and no one likes to believe in something that demonstrably stupid people also believe in.

            Oh, and I’m not a woman so I’m certainly not personally offended by being called “hun”. Only this afternoon I was perfectly happy to be addressed as “a silly billy”, and indeed I had been. But I’m not altogether sure women appreciate it in a context of someone they don’t know and aren’t on really close terms with. You don’t want to risk being patronising, do you? So perhaps better safe than sorry in bandying it around as a handle to address a complete stranger.

      2. Bob Anderson

        Yes, the British economy isn’t growing in “real” demand. Its all inventory growth and yes, Candy you do see it in the EU as well. Part of the growth in the North is from this stocking. Q2 annualized Growth in the UK will likely be -3%………..ugly. Debt contractions in Europe. US corporate consumption is declining and likely to contract in the first quarter. The party is over.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Stop making stuff up. It is a violation of our written site Policies.

      Bloomberg has regularly been running stories on why the pound is too high, and they attribute it solely to overconfidence in a Brexit deal or (even more barmy) a second referendum leading to no Brexit. I’ve personally argued with professional investors who insist that “of course” there will be a deal and “of course” there will be a second referendum.

    4. fajensen

      Nobody cares about Numbers. Caring too much about Numbers was exactly how “Remain” managed to lose their campaign. It’s about Emotion. The Emotion is “Poor-little-put-upon Great Britain standing up to Germany and The French once again”.

      Because Great Britain is The Greatest Nation There Ever Was, and Everyone saying anything otherwise is a defeatist traitor and agent of The French, there can be no compromise and indeed no Brexit preparations made because any of that would imply a severe lack of the True Faith in The Nation that Prevails Alone Agains any Odds.

      Speaking of odds, I’d say it’s 90% probability of crash out Brexit and 10% of May’s Deal.

      It will be fun when the robots trading the markets sniff this out. So far, No Clue, Markets are up.

  9. David

    There’s another, potentially very worrying, dimension to this situation, but it requires a very short detour into history, so bear with me.

    Since 1945, the Tories have been in thrall to the Churchill myth, but not in a positive sense. Because Churchill got to write what was effectively the Official History of WW2, he was able to take up and polish the myth of himself as the saviour of the country, called to rescue it at its darkest hour, after the grandees of the Tory party had spent the 1930s drinking tea with dictators. This interpretation is no longer accepted by historians, but it was influential for a long time, and is still the dominant interpretation in popular culture. The adulation extended to Churchill was, by logical extension, a condemnation of the Tory government of Chamberlain, and so the party as a whole. The Tories have spent the last three quarters of a century trying to get out from under the sense of inherited guilt that all this has produced, and of course the way to do it is to identify new Hitlers, whom this time the Tories will lead the nation defiantly against. So long as Tory leaders, up to Heath, had played actual roles in the War, this was kept under some form of control. But with Thatcher (a schoolchild during the War) it broke down: she does genuinely seem to have tried to compare herself to Churchill (“Winston” she was fond of saying as though she had known him) and some of the stories I heard over the year of her behaviour in crises were truly frightening. She often seemed to be living in a fantasy world in which the Third Reich was still in power

    Thus May, and the endless Tory wars over Europe. I have a horrible feeling that the inner neuroses of the Tory Party have programmed May not just to seek confrontation with Europe, as her predecessors did, but actually an apocalyptic final confrontation, which will finally enable a Tory leader to play the heroic role once played by Churchill. At the level of practical politics on the other hand, rather than just neurosis, that means that May is likely to seek confrontation and chaos because she has a need to do so, and large parts of the party will follow her into the black and white film she thinks she is part of.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, David.

      Thatcher, unlike Lillibet Saxe-Coburg, declined to be a land girl or auxiliary. She preferred to work at her dodgy father’s corner shop in Grantham. And then she had the nerve to question Tony Benn’s patriotism and courage in the Commons when debating nuclear weapons, bayed and brayed on by the second hand car dealers, estate agents and other arrivistes and parvenus on the Tory benches.

      With regard to the nation rallying under Churchill, my grandfather, his brother and their cousins served in the RAF in WW2, based in East Anglia. Antoine de Saint-Exupery flew with them briefly, an essentially francophone squadron, not one one is likely to read about as John Bull fought alone and won the war single handedly. They recalled the discontent, especially from evacuees. There was one incident where the Queen Mother was heckled at some bombed out site in the east of London. This stiff upper lip and other came after the war.

      1. vlade

        Of the ten top scoring aces in the Battle of Britain, fully half were non-British. Two kiwis, one Aussie, one Pole and one Czech.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Vlade.

          One wonders how many Brits know that?

          It was also asked whether any of the aces from the continent knew cricket’s leg before wicket rule and, if not, did that disqualify them from saving George VI’s bacon.

          1. David

            All true, if under-recognised, which is why I think the Tories’ basic problem, which has sparked off their current redemptive psychodrama, is not so much with the summer of 1940, as with the years 1936-9. Chamberlain (and Daladier) were handed an impossible problem, that of containing German aspirations without provoking a disastrous war. It’s the folk memory of this period that produced the slogan of “standing up to dictators” wheeled out so many times by Tory governments; In other words, its about firmness in facing down the demands of Europeans, not fighting wars; And so we arrive at plucky little England (!) ready now to call the Germans’ bluff as we weren’t in 1938. or something. But then history never was the Tories’ strong point.

            1. Ignacio

              Just as an aside. I am enjoyng these days the series “Peaky Blinders”, well above average in interest and quality. And superb music! Mafia in the UK during interwars period.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              I know this is a late addition, but to fill out your picture on Churchill and “plucky England”: as you probably know, the survival of England was due not to the superiority of its effort, but a colossal mistake by Hitler.

              Germany was proceeding systematically to destroy the UK’s air defenses, hitting landing strips and airplanes. Then England bombed Berlin, which IIRC was actually a mistake. Hitler was furious and diverted the Luftwaffe to the strategically pointless Blitz.

              Had Germany carried on with Plan A, it would have wiped out the RAF, which would have made an invasion or simply pounding the UK into submission via bombing strategic resources, feasible.

              1. ambrit

                Heavens to Murgatroyd! The reply box hiccuped and deleted my nascent comment. The Internet is not a friendly environment for carbon based lifeforms.
                My point was that Operation Sea Lion was really hostage to the Royal Navy’s sea superiority. The English submarine force could have made the German crossing of ‘the Canal’ prohibitive, if handled wisely.
                Where Churchill comes into his own is as a counterweight to the very real threat of English defeatism.
                The “Keep Calm and Carry On” campaign paraphernalia was hidden away for decades. Out of shame, or fear of the people discovering just how close the English ‘elites’ had come to capitulation?
                As for bombing, well, that theory, Douhet et. al. was actually debunked by the marginal results of aerial bombardment up until the very end of the war.
                For Douhet:
                ‘Shock and Awe’ looks good on paper, but, as we found out in Irak after the war there, a pissed off population can be a really dangerous enemy if properly led and encouraged.
                Oh well. We’ll soon enough find out about coping with collapse.

    2. larry

      Your view of May is consistent with that of O’Toole that he paints in Heroic Failure. He has described a meeting Thatcher had with Mitterand just before the Berlin Wall fell where she took out a map showing the Nazi advances in Europe in order to try and convince him that the Germans could not be trusted. Both Thatcher and May exhibit serious pathologies (using the grammatical present). You might think this would render such a person unfit to hold high office. Too many instaces to the contrary, unfortunately.

  10. Jeremy Grimm

    As a Neil Gaiman fan I couldn’t help but read the headline for this post slightly other than it were written. Instead of “Brexit: May’s March to Nowhere” I read “”Brexit: May’s March to Neverwhere”

    1. Synapsid

      Jeremy Grimm,

      Surprise timing–I just finished reading Neverwhere a few days ago. I followed it with The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

      I’m aiming to re-read American Gods soon. Happy anticipation, that.

    2. ambrit

      My take on it wasn’t a pertinent as yours but, any appeal to Terry Pratchett bears scrutiny.
      I thought of “Brexit: May’s March to Discworld.”
      A better recent author to associate with May would be Clive Barker.

  11. Jim A.

    Perhaps she is just running out the clock so that Parliament will actually BELIEVE that the choice is her deal or crashout. The idea being that once faced with the reality of a crashout with no more time to re-negotiate, enough votes will be there to approve. That is certainly the most charitable assessment.

  12. Self Affine

    Just a question for those that understand these things (I certainly don’t)

    If in fact Great Britain crashes out with no deal , wouldn’t that automatically create a situation where a hard border with Ireland will be necessary?

    1. shtove

      He he! You fell into the first available trap. Great Britain is the island divided between England, Scotland and Wales. The UK is the state made up of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Irish call the latter the north of Ireland. The Irish unionists, however, are the only people in the UK who primarily identify as British, the rest being mostly content with national labels – English, Scots, Welsh, Cornish or Cosmopolitan.

      If the UK accepted the unique status offered for NI by the EU, the process would be fairly smooth – if only the last remaining true Brits could tone it down a bit. No way! And in this the Brits are supported by many sinister people of libertarian and/or militaristic persuasions.

      As for the necessity of a hard border, a good starting point is the Case of Norway’s Garlic Smugglers – this looks like a good point to start:

      I don’t think anyone really understands what’s going on, but we’ll all be feeling the shockwaves soon enough.

  13. ACF

    I offer these 2 cents in fully confessing my ignorance: I don’t live in the UK or Europe, haven’t traveled to either in over a decade, and nearly everything I ‘know’ about Brexit I read here on NC. So these 2 cents are not an analysis of how we got here or what steps will get us somewhere else. They’re just a comment on what seems overwhelmingly clear:

    The total dishonesty of the Brexit campaign was matched only by the total dishonesty in the way European citizenship was created and expanded to include so many countries (EU essentially doubling this century, while the integration of member states was made ever tighter).

    The context for this has been governance by an economic elite that has been happy to allow economic inequality to sharpen and financial stress/standard of living decline to grow among the masses

    The consequences of all of this dishonesty in the broader economic decline (for the masses) are:

    1) rage
    2) inability to debate or plan rationally (meaning squarely within reality)

    leading inexorably to crash out ever since the referendum passed.

    And I fear what is coming as all the chickens return to roost. What will the UK, and Europe, look like in/by 2022? The issue isn’t the crisis impact of crash out–nations come together to weather crises, by and large–it’s what happens in the new normal, as people grow increasingly aware of what that status is.

  14. rd

    The Brexit negotiations have reminded me of the classic stoner movies where the stoners are having conversations with unstoned people. In their altered state, the stoners think they are making sense whereas the unaltered people are struggling to even comprehend what the conversation is about.

  15. rd

    There was an interesting discussion about depression and anger on NPR this morning. Apparently anger is viewed as a symptom of depression in children, but not in adults according to current clinical definitions. However, a number of practitioners are wondering why because they see it exhibited frequently in their depressed patients.

    I am wondering how much growing inequality between classes and regions leads to depression and then to anger (not currently a clinical diagnosis sequence). The Brexit vote struck me as people who were give the opportunity to change something that they viewed as needing changing. They were depressed and angry enough that what it changed to was less important that what it changed from. The Trump vote and Freedom Caucus votes are probably similar to this in the US.

    Just a thought on how this all comes about. Where it goes is probably much more of a random sequence, as there are numerous potential outcomes, many of which are not good for many or most people. But many people had already decided that the status quo was not good for them, so upending the apple cart was a logical reaction for them.

    Something for the Grand Poobahs to think about as they continue squirreling things away in their pockets while they continue pontificating in glorious inclusive language.

    1. Bob Anderson

      Then why did Trump only get 46% of the vote? Maybe Trump was a typical Republican shill job not unlike 2000. You try too hard and then your analysis breaks down.

      1. c_heale

        Well Brexit was voted for the people who were angry and it seems like Trump was too. 46% of the vote is a high amount for basically a protest vote.

  16. Ape

    Hah pragmatism – no one was ever as pragmatic as Stalin.

    Pragmatism by itself is not a virtue. It depends on where you’re going.

  17. eg

    Ye gods — the more I learn about this spectacular array of cack-handed missteps the more grateful I become that my forebears fled the whole mess 200 years ago …

  18. Ignacio

    If this is some comfort for beech trees, today Brussels issued a new warning on excess debt to 6 countries.
    Never learn

  19. Brick

    Let me pay devil’s advocate here or just stray into conspiracy theory. Let me suggest that neither the UK or the EU has any real intention of securing a Brexit deal and it is all just political posturing for the everyday person (particularly Remainers and Ireland). Watching Jeremy Corbyn’s after meeting Theresa May suggested he was a lot more relaxed about outcomes than I would have suspected.

    On a wider scope we have a battle between business which wants access and consistent rules and people who want rules which represent their own community and priorities. The EU has to balance out desires across countries and communities when dealing with trade which can be particularly frustrating when those rules protect those who fail to modernize or adjust. The EU is also hampered in its attempts to create reform because it does not have the money to create proper transition plans and investment to enact reform. So it is a union of those who will not reform and those who don’t want to pay for reform.

    On a European scope we may have a small little country not too far from the UK which undermines taxation across the EU. This country treasures it access to the EU but tends to undermine the EU and play a little selfishly.

    It is conceivable in my mind that the EU might want to address those issues. If it had the opportunity to say look at that country which left and is doing OK and if only we could correct these things we could be doing a lot better. We need more transition money and more reform.

    It is also conceivable that the UK might want to leave the EU while re-joining via the back door. It is interesting that the UK has an understanding with many of the members of the CPTPP on a trade deal and if the timing was right could potential get in at the start(timing is important and Japanese companies have given up). It is also interesting that the CPTPP is also in the closing stages of a free trade deal with the EU. There would of course be a rough patch for the UK for a while probably with rationing of food and drugs. Equally a certain neighbour would suffer and maybe think a bit more about their attitude and how they pushed things too far.

    Back to reality and it is obvious that the moving parts involved mean long delays and things not working out. Let us be honest the parties involved are not really Russian game theory experts or sneaky bankers(Well Theresa is close to a banker). It does however suggest how the rose tinted glasses of politicians might work and quite honestly I am at a loss to understand what they are actually thinking.

    In terms of real business brexit planning (Not the CEO hype) then despite stockpiling we expect to have about 3 weeks stock of fast moving lines and will need to ration stocks (health care). We also expect further issues due to availability of stock due to sterling falls (High demand globally and low manufacturing capacity). Here we are expecting margin pressures and collapses in retail (including on line). Long term (10 years) we expect continued higher inflation(sterling falls) and low wage rises and austerity on steroids.We expect emigration to pick up and expect many High paid jobs in the business to go abroad due to consolidation(to the US or EU) requirements due to falling profits.Its not a cliff edge scenario, just a steady drop towards a state similar to Cuba.

  20. ChrisPacific

    Re: “I’m determined to deliver Brexit, and determined to deliver on time – on March 29, 2019.”

    I had a sudden shock of recognition when I saw those words from May. I have heard them before, many times. They are characteristic of the tunnel-visioned project manager, who has been hired to do a job and whose success is being measured on a narrow set of criteria.

    The problem with that is that projects don’t happen in a vacuum. Sometimes the situation or the business environment changes, new information comes to light, it becomes clear that the project focus was on the wrong things, or something similar. For whatever reason, you reach the point where delivering on the letter of the objectives is now exactly the wrong thing to do, and not only will it not achieve the goals it was intended for but it will create massive new problems that will haunt the organization for years or decades to come. In other words, it will be a disaster.

    Good project managers have the ability to step back, look at the big picture, and say to their sponsor “look, I know you’re measuring my success by outcome X but it’s becoming obvious that X is going to be a disaster, so perhaps we should step back and rethink the success criteria?” If you have a tunnel-visioned project manager, this option will not even cross their mind. They were hired to do a job and they’re going to do it. The project is all that exists for them, and the wider context, if they are aware of it at all, is someone else’s problem. Success is delivering on time, on budget, and to the required specification. Nothing else matters. If it ends up being a disaster for the business and creating generations worth of problems, so what? It’s not your fault. You were hired to do a job, and you did it, to the exact specs required and within the given operating parameters. You have performed brilliantly, and if the end result isn’t what was expected, well, the sponsors should have been more careful what they asked for. The end.

    If there is an overall business sponsor keeping an eye on things at a level of detail sufficient to recognize the problems and take responsibility for correcting course, then they can offset this. But too often project managers are left more or less alone to get on with it, with weak to nonexistent supervision. Either nobody considers the possibility that the context might change to the point where the project outcome becomes undesirable, or they assume that the PM will bring it up proactively if it occurs.

    May, of course, has nobody above her to apply course corrections. She is supposed to be the adult in the room. If she has tunnel-visioned project manager syndrome – and she is definitely showing many of the symptoms – then it does not bode well for the UK.

    1. Ape

      Yes. Local minimization. Playing the game by the rules rather than recognizing that you’ve entered a negative sum game – and that you are one of the game makers.

      That latter is key, the vast number of very important people who delusionally believe that they’re not the rule makers but just rule takers.

      It’s trying to win at risk by holding Australia.

    2. Michael Green

      But this is the whole point of Tory thinking – a corollary of Public bad, Private good. Rather than try to look at a public benefitin the whole, divide it into a series of tunnel vision projects.

    3. c_heale

      I think this a brilliant piece of analysis. I think there’s another aspect to this. May appears to be a person who cannot admit she is wrong. She can lie (and has done so frequently, to get to her objective), but she cannot admit she has made a mistake. Maybe this is some kind of narcissism. And not “delivering” Brexit would mean she has made some kind of mistake.

      1. larry

        I think you are both right. I don’t know whether she has a narcissistic personality disorder or some other personality disorder, but she lies, has tunnel vision, and can’t admit she has made an error. There should be a name for this.

  21. FFA

    Some may remember that two years ago Nissan had public doubts about Brexit. The Business Secretary wrote a letter to molify them but would not tell the rest of us what he had promised on our behalf. The letter’s now been published: Letter from Greg Clark to Carlos Ghosn (pdf)
    He offered tens of millions in direct aid if Nissan built two new car models (Qashqai and X-Trail) in Sunderland, promises on infrastructure and warm words on Brexit and competitiveness. Nissan have now decided to walk away from the offered aid and build the X-Trail in Japan, although there are likely reasons other than Brexit for that.

    The BBC has a linked article which includes this from the business editor: “International Trade secretary Dr Liam Fox has been confident that we can replicate this and simply tippex out “EU” on the front page of nearly 40 free trade agreements and replace it with “UK”. It’s not that simple.” The real reasons Nissan pulled its investment This is not news to readers here, but it’s reached the point that the BBC is willing to mildly contradict Liam Fox sometimes.

    Apologies if this is a repeat, I lost a previous post somewhere.

  22. Andrew Thomas

    I really think that the EU wants an agreement, and that the negotiations are over. May got as much as Cameron, Corbyn, or, for that matter, Churchill could have gotten. If there is a crash out, and that certainly appears likely, the NI/Republic of Ireland border is going to mean something it has not meant since the GFA. It seems to me that the onus of making that border secure from the standpoint of smuggling is going to fall, unfairly, on the Republic. Are any preparations underway? Has any analysis been done to determine what kinds of goods might come across the NI border for transshipment elsewhere in the EU? Or brought into the Republic from the EU for the purpose of moving them to NI and, perhaps, then to Great Britain? The point being that perhaps the transport costs of all of that finagling would give the people creating the “new” border some guidance on what might be necessary, and what might be overkill? I have absolutely no idea what the answers to these questions are, or even if I have made incorrect assumptions in framing them. What is going to happen on that border-in-name-only if the U.K. crashes out on Mar.29?

    1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      I imagine that the Irish government might well be concerned that in the event of a crash in Sterling, there would be a large increase in Southerners crossing the border for less expensive retail therapy. The border itself is a 330 miles long twisting snake & lies adjacent to counties Louth, Monaghan, Leitrim & Donegal. Retailers in cities & towns such as Newry, Armagh, Enniskillen & Derry would I imagine be very happy to welcome them.

      It is all horribly interesting, as is chaos.

      1. DaveH

        Someone will undoubtedly tell me why it’s not viable, but in the lack of a ratified Withdrawal Agreement, if I were the Commission I’d be proposing something along the lines of:

        a) any goods coming from the UK (including from Northern Ireland to rest of Ireland) are subject to the Common External Tariff and full customs / standards / quotas / rules of origin compliance and evidence from the day we leave. Obviously, as it’ll happen via automatic operation of law unless something comes along to stop it.

        b) any tariffs due are paid and demonstration of regulatory conformity is shown, but rather than being checked at the border the onus is placed on the importer to ensure that the goods being brought into Union territory meet the relevant customs / regulatory requirements.

        c) spot checks on those businesses to ensure that the new regime is adhered to. Big fines for those who can’t demonstrate compliance.

        Basically, solve the problem* by making it administratively impossible to import from the UK into the EU via Ireland.

        *Well, that particular problem. As it’ll still cause chaos and huge financial hardship on the whole island (not to mention risking an increase in tensions regardless), but then – what else can they do when having to deal with such a ridiculous negotiating partner?

  23. Knute Rife

    She doesn’t think it will work. She’s hoping Labour does something stupid like forcing and election and winning it so its not-ready-for-prime-time government takes the heat for the fallout.

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