Britain After Brexit: Welcome to the Vulture Restaurant

Yves here. We pointed out some time ago that the idea that the UK would get a favorable trade deal with the US post-Brexit, and particularly post a crash-out, was bonkers, so it’s good to have official confirmation, even if it comes from the likes of Larry Summers. The US typically dictates terms in bi-lateral trade deals, allowing at most only a bit of face-saving terms-tweaking at the margin. The power imbalance will be even more pronounced in trade negotiation in the wake of Brexit because the UK will be desperate to cinch a deal quickly, and the urgency will give the US even more leverage.

More quotes from the Summers interview on BBC Radio 4, courtesy Al Jazeera:

“I’m not sure what Britain wants from the United States that it can plausibly imagine the United States will give.”

“If Britain thinks that the American financial regulators – who have great difficulty coming together on anything – are going to come together to give greater permissions and less regulation of UK firms, I would call that belief close to delusional.”

Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal found a whimsical Brexit angle today, although it could just as easily have been spun as gallows humor: Tired of Waiting for Brexit, Britons Munch Through Nutella Stockpiles (any Northern Ireland readers may take umbrage at “Britons”):

Britain’s Brexit preppers have been stockpiling for months. Now their revolution is eating itself.

Fed up with waiting for the U.K. to leave the European Union and mindful of product expiration dates, stockpilers are using up foodstuffs they had squirreled away in case of a blunt exit leaves them cut off from imported treats, or spikes the price of necessities, like toilet paper and tea.

The chance of a no-deal divorce hasn’t diminished and may only have been postponed until Oct. 31, but some preppers can’t resist breaking into their stashes.

Elizabeth Priest, 29, found it easy to eat into her stockpile because she had socked away delectable items such as Nutella and mozzarella from Italy, lactose-free milk from Denmark and an awful lot of tea—not, say, Spam.

“Because we bought nice things, we weren’t facing down this nasty stockpile of tinned ham,” says the writer from Hastings on Britain’s southern coast. She brewed the last of her 200 stockpiled tea bags on June 29, three months to the day after Britain was meant to leave the EU.

Returning to the theme of this post, it’s not clear what could be strip mined from the UK. Unlike Russia post the collapse of the USSR, there aren’t natural resources that to be bought on the cheap and sold in world markets. North Sea oil is largely played out. UK manufacturing capacity will become much less valuable due to post-Brexit non-tariff trade barriers. Sadly, the big wealth opportunities may lie in moves like acquiring real estate and squeeing already not-well-housed working people with higher rents, and dismantling the NHS.

By Adam Ramsay, the co-editor of openDemocracyUK and also works with Bright Green. Before, he was a full-time campaigner with People & Planet. You can follow him at @adamramsay. Originally published at openDemocracy

“Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate … it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.” So warned former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers on Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme this morning, as new foreign secretary Dominic Raab jets off on a tour of North America to investigate potential trade deals.

“Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions,” said Summers, a senior figure in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. “You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”

Summers is of course right. But he makes a key mistake. He assumes that Raab, Johnson and the new cabinet care about defending the interests and autonomy of most people in the UK. He seems to be under the impression that Brexit was about taking back control.

In reality, the brand of Brexit promoted by Tory hardliners has long been about pulling Britain under the shadow of American capital. Not as a 51st state, with votes and constitutional rights, but as an outhouse for US business, a sort of colder, paler version of Puerto Rico.

We will be forced to accept US-style deregulation, with its poor standards for workers and consumers. We will have our assets stripped clean off the bone. Even before Brexit, we are fast becoming a pawn in the Pentagon’s global games.

We won’t become Americans, though. We’ll have no say in the standards that will govern our new Atlantic common market. Nor will we be permitted to help decide who stands in the planet’s biggest pulpit. Nor will we have much significant say in our own foreign policy. The UK has chosen to shift from participating in one power block to sitting on the outer edges of another.

Victory of the Lobbyists

If that wasn’t clear before (though it was), the events surrounding the arrival of Boris Johnson in Downing Street have confirmed it.

During the leadership election there was, of course, the failure to defend Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the US. Then there is the ongoing confrontation with Iran, in which Britain’s post-empire is being enlisted in the schemes of US neoconservatives. There is the revelation that a new US pro-Brexit campaign group has launched, and Steve Bannon’s insistence on ‘Today’ that Boris Johnson should deliver a “no deal, hard out”.

Over the past three years, we’ve seen Britain’s lobbying industry and think-tanks auction their access to our politicians off to US corporations and oligarchs – from the firm which ran Johnson’s leadership campaign bragging in Washington about its ability to shape Brexit for US business, to the Institute for Economic Affairs offering to broker meetings between senior ministers and US companies wishing to get their piece of the Brexit pie.

We’ve seen one former Washington lobbyist – Shanker Singham – move to London and secure unprecedented access to our politicians, even writing the so-called Malthouse compromise, while lobbyists also drove the team that ensured their preferred candidate was elected prime minister.

And now that they’ve got their Johnson in place lobbyists have taken over the cabinet.

We’ve seen Trump confirm that “everything” – including the NHS – “will be on the table” in a US trade deal, before his spin-doctors reminded him that he’s not supposed to say that out loud.

“Britain Trump”

We see it in the ascent of Johnson himself – a rise which has coincided with the arrival in the UK of the sorts of institutions and culture we’re more used to watching from a safe distance across the Atlantic. On openDemocracy, we’ve revealed how Definers Public Affairs, the smear machine which destroyed Hillary Clinton, has set up shop in the UK, how a US-style super PAC is being rolled out across Europe and how Brexit is the biggest outsourcing of public policy in British history.

Johnson, who has surfed this wave, has been anointed “Britain Trump” by his US admirer. It’s a fair nickname, not because they have the same character, but because they both epitomise the elitist myths embedded in their respective national characters. Trump is the millionaire’s son who pretends to be rich because of merit, the brash bully-boy billionaire in a culture whose dream equates wealth and cruelty with merit and success.

Johnson, on the other hand, comes from the school on whose playing fields the battle of Waterloo was mythologically won. He epitomises an Anglo-British exceptionalism built on a mystical link between nation, royalty and aristocracy: a link forged in the failed revolution of the civil war and bought with imperial plunder, and which reminds the British bourgeois of an era when you didn’t need to do your homework to attain power – you got it by dint of your nation, gender, class and skin colour.

Likewise, their identikit ideologies are the same: oligarch enrichment woven round national mythologies.

Johnson pretends to be a free trader in the way that earlier British politicians claimed to support free trade whilst using their military might to force China to buy opium, commit genocide in Tasmania and smash up cotton looms in India. Trump claims to be a protectionist just as earlier US presidents used a pretence of isolationism to pretend they weren’t building an empire, at the same time preaching that the US was manifestly and justifiably destined to conquer the whole North American continent, committing genocide against Native American peoples as they did so.

Both Trump and Johnson have been contorted by the distorting lenses of their respective nationalisms, confusing many into thinking that they ooze truth or charm or talent. Strip off those red white and blue tinted goggles and you quickly see them for what they are: rich racists willing to trample anyone to secure the world for their kind.

Ultimately, they both represent the same interwoven set of interests: oligarchs, mafiosi, disaster capitalists, Gulf oil millionaires, hedge fund speculators and any other corner of the elite which has spotted that the neoliberal era is coming to an end, they have few places left to invest and their best option is to hide away as much money as they can behind the biggest walls they can build.

This is what Johnson meant when he said “fuck business” – that he and his friends no longer have anything invested in traditional industries, so are happy to see them disappear. It is why Trump is perfectly happy to fuck America’s car industry as he slashes tax for the hyper-rich.

Useful Scraps of Empire

At openDemocracy, we’ve revealed how millions of pounds were pumped into the Leave campaigns in the first place. That money came through the same British Overseas Territory and Crown Dependency secrecy areas that the billionaires of the world use to stash the cash they can no longer figure out how to get a return from – the same post-empire that the Pentagon is so keen to get a closer grip on.

For while the UK’s network of semi-colonies is useful as a money-laundry for the world’s oligarchs, we’ve seen in recent weeks how it plays a different strategic role, too – why America might see it as a valuable asset to begin to enclose under its wings.

When the British territory of Gibraltar captured an Iranian tanker, supposedly to enforce an EU embargo against oil to Syria, it did so despite the fact that Iran isn’t in the EU, and the EU doesn’t force non-members to comply with its embargoes. The Spanish have, according to The Guardian, claimed that the UK is acting under the influence of the US, and the former Swedish prime minister and senior EU figure Carl Bilt has hinted as much. It looks very much like this wasn’t so much an act of British foreign policy as one of submission to the US Department of Defense.

Britain captured Gibraltar in 1704 because of its strategically important location. To this day, one-third of the world’s oil and gas passes through its straits. Likewise, another strategically vital waterway will define this conflict: the Gulf of Oman, which connects the Strait of Hormuz to the Arabian sea. Oman isn’t formally a British territory, but it has been a de facto UK colony since the nineteenth century, with London helping to prop up the slave-owning ruling family over two centuries. As Ian Cobain has outlined, its current sultan was put in place by an MI6 coup in 1970.

The relationship remains strong. Shell owns 30% of the national oil company and Britain’s military presence is significant. According to Duncan Campbell, the journalist who originally revealed the existence of GCHQ, the Snowden leaks revealed Oman hosts a vital British intelligence base, tapping the vast number of communications cables that run under the Gulf. Last year, the UK opened a permanent naval base in the country, and in February this year, the British government announced it had signed an historic defence agreement with the sultanate, “bringing us even closer to one of our most important partners”.

For those with long memories, this might start sounding familiar: the 45-minute claim intended to frighten the British into accepting the 2003 Iraq war was based on the claim that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction could be ready to deploy not against London, but against the British Overseas Territories in Cyprus.

If the Pentagon is to keep a firm grip on the world, Britain’s post-imperial web of semi-colonies will be vital fingerholds, and Brexit offers the US a unique opportunity to expand its control over the UK and its overseas assets.

The Great British Asset Striptease

This wasn’t inevitable. In theory, Brexit could genuinely have been about ‘taking back control’ for the British people. It would be possible to turn the UK into a new Cuba, for instance, substituting home-grown products for international imports. Not a suggestion that would please the millions of Leave voters who opted to quit the EU essentially because they wanted to become another Japan instead: wealthier than the UK, industrialised, with less income inequality, richly forested and deeply racist.

But these are not the options before us.

Instead, Brexit means plonking the corpse of post-imperial Britain in a vulture restaurant for US asset strippers, and pretending not to notice that China perches nearby, ready to pluck at whatever it fancies too.

The Great British Asset Striptease isn’t new, of course. For decades, the country has mostly stayed afloat in the world by auctioning off the plunder we accumulated through centuries of empire. As Joe Guinan and Thomas Hanna point out, the Treasury has calculated that Britain sold off 40 per cent of all assets privatised across the OECD between 1980 and 1996.

But as the new foreign secretary heads off on his ‘everything must go’ tour of North America, the people of the UK are going to have to fight hard to stop him selling the whole country to Trump and his friends. Just as thousands mobilised against the EU-US trade deal known as TTIP, we’re going to have to stand together and fight against any UK/US trade deal. We’re going to have to fight to protect our public services and our workers’ rights and our ecosystems from the new plunderers of the planet. Because Britain doesn’t have any power in its negotiations with Trump. And we have a government that will be delighted to turn the country into an offshore theme park for American, Saudi and Chinese billionaires.

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71 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    Yves, just a small correction in the first line – I assume your second ‘UK’ should be ‘USA’ (although as the article points out, the distinction is increasingly meaningless)

    Reply
  2. vlade

    Be careful what you wish for should be the message here – as Irish loby in the US is very strong, and I understand quite proud of the GFA and its part in it.

    Of course, if Johnson delivered unification of Ireland, it may be an entirely different song. I little doubt he’d be very willing to go there once he’d have a majority that didn’t rely on DUP. There are no votes for him in NI, directly or indirectly (and only troubles).

    I still believe it likely that by the end of the next decade, the UK will be “Kingdom of England and Wales (maybe)”. Finally, all those who could not make a discinction between Britons and English will be ok.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, Pelosi said as much last month on her visit to Britain and Ireland. I was surprised at how unambiguous she was. The UK will simply not get any type of trade deal agreed unless the backstop or something similar is in place. The Clintons invested heavily in their role in the GFA and will not want to see one of their few genuine achievements lost. The Irish lobby is much weaker now in Washington than in the past, but it still has significant influence in unlikely corners.

      As you say, the DUP are aware that they are in a very precarious situation with Johnson. He has precisely zero interest in Northern Ireland and the Union and I suspect that elements of his support always mean ‘England’ when they say ‘Britain’ or the ‘UK’. Polls suggest that lots of Brexiters wouldn’t lose a moments sleep if it meant losing NI and Scotland.

      The DUP are absolutely trapped right now, they can’t abandon the Tories, but they know that they will almost certainly lose their leverage in an election, and they are under a lot of pressure from Alliance in NI. Even worse for them, direct rule looks inevitable, which means they face the horror of gay marriage (legal sodomy!) and abortion in their heartlands. Their miscalculation over this could hit them right in their core support. They have horribly miscalculated and their supporters are beginning to notice this.

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      1. ChrisPacific

        Yes, I read a piece recently in the US media claiming that there is strong support for Ireland in Congress from both parties, and if the UK ignores the GFA then they can kiss any possible trade deal or preferential treatment from the US goodbye. Whatever their agreement with the Trump administration might be, Congress will never let it through.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      Brian Walker in Slugger O’Toole has a good article on this (quoting Robert Preston and others), although even Preston seems to get the election timetable issue wrong.

      The truth is that the ultras have outsmarted everyone else – they’ve been utterly focused on achieving Brexit on their terms, and they don’t care what damage they do in achieving it. The opposition has been pathetic.

      The most appalling thing I find in all this is that this Brexit is a pure far right liberal/libertarian project, and its been enabled by some left wingers. Pretty much the definition of useful idiots. If they think the EU is a neoliberal project, then they are going to get one hell of a horrible shock when they find out what neoliberalism red in tooth and claw really means.

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  3. The Rev Kev

    The latest story is that Trump wants to rename the United Kingdom as “Airstrip One” but that is just a rumour. Michael Springmann, former US diplomat, said that there won’t be any “phenomenal trade agreement” with nothing in it for the UK two months ago in a Sputnik article. It may be that when Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales see what is coming their way under a de-facto Trump regime, that they may jump ship and join the EU as they may still have that option. Scotland, from what I understand, has a better social security system but if everything is up for sale, then why would a country like Scotland want to stay with the Union. Note I said Union and not Suicide Pact. Rather than reword the whole section from that Sputnik article, I will just quote it below which hews to Larry Summers thoughts-

    “The phenomenal thing that Trump wants is essentially the British to open their economy up to American takeover. Half of Britain’s trade is with the European Union, and only 15% is with the United States”.

    The ex-diplomat said that Trump wants to eliminate non-tariff barriers that are just under 2%, such as controls on genetically modified products like wheat, grains, soybeans, and for animals.

    “I think that the idea that the British are somehow going to sell most of their goods and services to the United States in a deal with Trump is not going to happen. The Trump deal is basically one-sided – we want all barriers reduced to American goods and services being sold in Britain; and we are not really offering much in return since we have nothing to offer in return; we have extremely low tariffs on everything except pickup trucks, which are rather high for some weird reason. I don’t think the British are going to get anything out of it; and if they hope they are, it’s a pipe dream”.

    There is of course a military angle to all this that the US can use. I can see now why the UK was so insistent on building those two super carriers at the cost of the rest of their fleet. Those ship as are not really for their own use but for the US to have access to post-Brexit as a surrogate force. There is already a movement to cross-use forces so you can have a US squadron land aboard those UK carriers and commence operations from them. This is not so unlikely. The US has not got that many carriers to use but the faults that the newly commissioned USS Gerald Ford carriers has means that it is essentially non-operational. Those UK carriers can then come in handy as can the UK bases overseas as well as their extensive intelligence network. But none of this will be of any benefit to the people of the UK unfortunately.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      The problem for the Scots and NI is that only London can grant an exit poll. So potentially they find themselves in the same situation as the UK vs the EU – as the weaker side in a contentious divorce. There is no way the Tories will ever grant an IndyRef2 or a Border Poll unless it was very much in their interests. My feeling is that if the Union breaks up it will be because of English nationalism, or an electoral calculation by Johnson, its nothing to do with what the Scots or Northern Irish or Welsh do.

      As Yves says, there is little the UK produces that the US really needs. Ultimately all they can sell is land or access to public services. Given the catastrophe that occurred when the Irish public health system stupidly gave a cancer screening contract to a US company, one can only weep for what will happen to the NHS.

      Its hard to see what the US gets out of a military alliance with the UK, except for access to its physical bases around the world. The British Army was a calamity in Basra and Kandahar and had to be bailed out by the US. The British carriers are just blips next to USN fleet carriers, they are closer in size to the Marines helicopter assault vessels (except they don’t even have their aircraft yet). The British have quite literally forgotten how to build frigates and their new hunter killer subs are so slow they can’t even keep up with the carriers they are supposed to protect.

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      1. vlade

        Vote Johnson, get chlorinated chicken!

        Vote Tories, sell NHS!

        Sample of slogans I’d like to see from non-Tory parties come GE (relevant even if the UK is out of the EU by then).

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          1. vlade

            Oh, and once out, we will raise the EU budget by abou 35m/week (that’s what Johnson’s 2bln for NHS amounts to). Maybe.

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      2. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for those links, PK. They make very sad reading and you wonder just what happened with the British armed forces. I knew that there was serious trouble first with the Royal Navy when they built £1bn destroyers that broke down in the warm waters on the Persian Gulf because their engines could not handle those very same warm waters.

        https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/19509/royal-navy-will-retrofit-type-45-destroyers-to-keep-them-from-breaking-down

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      3. paul

        The problem for the Scots and NI is that only London can grant an exit poll.

        No one is absolutey sure of that, which is why no one is rushing to the charmless,and illegitimate, uk supreme court.

        Alex salmond used the S30 clause in the 1998 scotland act because he new that it was the only polite way of doing things.

        Every UK justification for Brexit makes S30 irrelevant. but we are hardly dealing with fair minded jurisprudence scholars.

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        1. Monty

          If you require permission, you’re not independent.

          I am sure many (most?) post in the UK wouldn’t care a bit if it split up. Reunify Ireland, independent Scotland and wales. Why not?

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      4. Procopius

        I’m missing something here. How does the US get profit from NHS? Privatize all the hospitals and clinics and allow US corporations to buy them?

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    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Reverend.

      The use of US personnel on the British carriers was discussed again recently due to the shortage of UK personnel.

      There have also been discussions about the use of French personnel and exercises to facilitate that. Marianne likes to keep her options open, especially after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer suggested that France give up its UN Security Council seat in favour of the EU.

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    3. Synoia

      The US already has RAF Lakenheath as a major Air Base in the UK, and some degree of association with Fylingdales the long range radar site on the Yrkshire moors.

      The US also has some of their Military Officers attend the UK’s Staff College, the training program required for future senior officers in the UK Military.

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      1. MichaelSF

        There are exchange programs. My b-i-l, a now retired USN captain (aviator), was in an exchange with the NZ air force or naval air services some years ago, and I think he may actually have worn an NZ uniform whilst filling the temporary position in their staff.

        Here’s a document discussing personnel exchanges from a USMC perspective:

        https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a504891.pdf

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  4. Lambert Strether

    Nobody doesn’t like chlorinated chicken.

    Adding, surely all this was forseeable and forseen? That the Tories would sell the NHS to the Americans, for example? And yet it did not form part of the Remainer case?

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    1. vlade

      IMO, remainers assumed it was all obvious, and forgot that emotions play much more of a role in decision making than brains for (I’d say) a majority of people [this is not to say that there are no rational/brain arguments for leave, and that at least some voters didn’t vote rationally vs. emotionally. And no, cutting off your nose to spite your face is not a rational response, and in the same way poor voting for Brexit to punish London elite, especially accompanied by electing a different sort of elite, is not a rational response either).

      Labour seems unwilling to deploy the emotional guns. LD did so with the “Bollocks to Brexit”, and it made a difference to them. Yes, I believe that many Labour people want to genuinely make life better for “the many”, and that needs a plan. But most voters are not interested in a plan. They will perk up on emotions though – which you may either use, or misuse.

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      1. Watt4Bob

        But most voters are not interested in a plan. They will perk up on emotions though – which you may either use, or misuse.

        I’ve just started reading Mind Control, written by Peter Schrag in 1978, he describes an on going effort to control behavior without violence by numerous avenues of subtle ‘influence‘, drugs, and in the end , techniques including electro-convulsive therapy.

        He also introduces the issue of collecting personal information to allow a manipulating people based on their individual interests and personality profiles, all this in 1978, long before the internet enabled this technique to be scaled-up to the world-wide level it has reached.

        I’m bringing this up because it seems to me that people used to be a bit more informed and independent-minded, but now the folks trying to influence our political direction are probably more successful than we know, leading by subtle emotional influence impossible before the rise of social media in the hands of the PTB.

        IOW, the 24 hour news cycle, and internet are much more powerful than newspapers ever were in shaping public opinion for better or worse, and considering who owns these systems, mostly worse.

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      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you and well said, Vlade.

        Buckinghamshire, so London commuter country, voted out, but is having second thoughts as more Londoners and others move in as housing is so expensive in London. Talk of market access, passporting for financial services etc. was not going to sway voters in the same way as sound bite or appeal to emotion. Elitist yahoo remainers, especially Tony Blair, who owns two country estates on the border with Oxfordshire, and the Cameroons / Chipping Norton Set across the border in Oxfordshire, repel most of the people I grew up with and live alongside.

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        1. Synoia

          A London Family’s Hackney Houses History from 1980 to now:
          1. Bought 1980 60,000 pounds
          2. Sold 1 in 1995 for 520,000 pounds
          3. Bought a house round the corner for 625,000 pounds
          4. Current house valued at 2,500,000 pounds

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    2. PlutoniumKun

      One problem of course with the Remain campaign was that it was an establishment-wide campaign, including of course Cameron and Corbyn, lukewarm though the latter was. But the nature of that alliance meant they were very strongly constrained in what they could say. Cameron could hardly say that the NHS was in danger because that would let the cat out of the bag.

      So instead the campaign so far as I could see tried to focus on the ‘positives’, which ended up just a litany of ‘oh, the EU allows everyone to travel freely and if we leave sterling might fall’, which wasn’t terribly convincing, especially from the people who were saying these things (i.e. the likes of Blair and Cameron).

      From the experience of Irish Referendum campaigns, its always very difficult to defend a status quo position when faced with single minded ruthless opposition. In the various votes in Ireland on EU treaties, the generally very pro-EU Irish public voted generally anti-EU. This was primarily because the opposition were able to focus on one or another negative ‘if we sign this, we’ll be dragged into Middle East Wars’, while the ‘pro’ EU side were left warbling about farm payments and credit transfers.

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      1. Pym of Nantucket

        There is something in your comment that really relates to scientific concepts of irreversibility and thermodynamics. I feel like entropy arguments can be used to predict a lot of things which don’t appear to make sense. The outcome we get really is just the one that relies on the fewest number of coincidences and artfully coordinated collaborations.

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      2. David

        Whilst the status quo, as you say, is more complicated to defend, it’s also politically a more attractive option for most voters in most cases. After all, a fairly small proportion of the electorate have much of a clear memory of things before 1992, let alone 1972, and under normal circumstances, an electorate would choose the known and the safe over a wild leap into the dark. It’s a tribute to the incompetence of the Remain campaign that they threw this advantage away, and that the Tories had created a status quo which so many people were desperate to get away from, irrespective of where too.

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    3. Clive

      Way too much Remain messaging has been from those who believe that Leave has defied the cozee-comfee norms of international liberalism and made the progressive Gods angry, therefore a variety of bad things will be, justly, rendered upon the land.

      While I can understand the sentiment, it results in intellectual laziness which doesn’t produce coherent arguments. Such as why the UK will end up with chlorinated chicken and why that isn’t a good thing.

      EU membership became, unfortunately, a totemic symbol of liberal goodthinking made real. Much Remain argument is centred on the restoration of the underlying ideals of liberal values which the EU is deemed to be responsible for the bestowal of, rather than nuts and bolts stuff. It goes over a lot of people’s heads.

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      1. Anonymous2

        Re chlorinated chicken, I am not sure about this but recently saw figures purporting to show a higher incidence of salmonella poisoning in the US than the UK.

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        1. Ian Perkins

          “The evidence suggests the chlorine wash itself is not harmful. But the concern is that treating meat with chlorine at the end allows poorer hygiene elsewhere in the production process.” – https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47440562

          “The salmonella risk for US consumers is heightened by a controversial loophole which means US producers could potentially allow meat containing salmonella into the human food chain. The bacteria isn’t classified as an “adulterant” in US law – in contrast to some food poisoning germs such as E coli 0157 – meaning producers have no obligation to withhold contaminated batches. In the UK stricter regulations are designed to prevent most contamination.” – https://www.theguardian.com/animals-farmed/2018/feb/21/the-controversial-law-that-allows-salmonella-into-the-human-food-chain

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  5. David

    I think this has to be seen in the context of the chaos and hysteria that will follow Brexit, and of which we have only begun to see the first signs. This, remember, is a government which at the moment exists largely on paper, may not prove in the end to have a working majority, and may fall apart on its first contact with Parliament. It is a government selected for ideology and loyalty, and looks like being even more incompetent than its predecessor, which is saying something. It is about to be confronted with the worst, and most complex and multi-faceted political crisis of modern times, and perhaps the worst peacetime crisis in British history. Its members are completely unprepared for, largely ignorant of, and incapable of dealing with, the storm which is about to break over them. Something over a hundred percent of their time, I would suggest, is going to be spent on their knees in Brussels, begging for concessions which will enable the country to survive from day to day. In a situation like this, governments are eaten away from within, and the normal business of government stops as day-to-day political survival becomes the only imperative. We have been talking for a while about the collapse of the British political system, and I think the chances of that happening are rather high between now and the end of the year. It could be worse that that, of course.
    Whatever the idiots about to rule us may believe, I doubt whether relations with the US will actually get much time devoted to them in the near future. But of course NI might invite itself to the party, which would make an already nightmarish situation worse.

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    1. PlutoniumKun

      To extend Isaiah Berlins analogy of the hedgehog and the fox, the UK is now ruled by a bunch of hedgehogs (generally dimwitted ones), who have succeeded in their first task – Brexit – because of their single minded devotion to it.

      Unfortunately, over the hill is a series of problems that would need an army of the brightest foxes available to deal with. And instead they have Johnson, Raab and Patel.

      It will though be interesting how they will ‘sell’ their inevitable begging to Europe to the public and media. No doubt it will be all the EU’s fault whatever the outcome.

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    2. Summer

      “Something over a hundred percent of their time, I would suggest, is going to be spent on their knees in Brussels, begging for concessions which will enable the country to survive from day to day.”

      What evidence do you have of Johnson and Crew’s interest in begging for the day to day survival of the “pleebs”? There are plenty of escape roots for themselves and the wealth of their Eton cohorts…

      Thatcherism on steriods is coming….

      Reply
      1. Monty

        The relative urban density of Britain vs. USA (1/5th of the total US population in an area 1/2 the size of California), makes the prospect of dangerous civil unrest much more realistic. The government wont want to push too far, too quickly, or they could lose control. That means they have to keep things working, and that will require some begging.

        Reply
  6. flora

    an aside: You write, North Sea oil is largely played out.

    Interesting to me that the big, recoverable, N.S. oil fields were discovered and intensive drilling began in 1970-78, at the same time the 1973 world oil crisis drove up the price of oil to astronomical heights. BP and other oil companies remitted billions in tax pounds to the UK govt. I wonder if all that new found money led to the rise of Thatcher and the whole neoliberal govt experiment in the UK. By 2015 the North Sea oil money had run out in the sense that the N.S. tax receipts were in negative territory for the first time ever, due in part to the collapse of global oil prices. How much did the dwindling-for-several-years of N.S. oil revenues contribute to the govt’s austerity programs? Said austerity programs leading in part to the push for Brexit in 2016?

    I know, correlation is not causation.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      U.K. oil production has remained flat since 2000-ish (around half the 1980’s peak levels), as has natural gas https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791297/Press_Notice_March_2019.pdf

      Increases in output are possible but continental shelf production is expensive and only viable in a high oil price commercial environment (oil production increased, for example, by just under 10% in more-or-less direct response to firmer prices) — the remaining oil reserves are only exploitable by more complex and thereby more costly drilling and recovery techniques.

      What will be potentially a lot more lucrative will be “unconventional” oil and gas exploration a.k.a fracking, “freed” from EU environmental “constraints”. Not exactly a plus.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’ve long suspected that money behind fracking was a significant contributor to the Brexit campaign. Fracking is almost impossible if the Water Framework Directive (written up before anyone heard of fracking) was adopted. Groundwater frack water disposal is pretty much impossible in Europe under current regulations.

        Britain (the north of England, to be precise) has little to no tight oil for fracking, but possibly some of the potentially best gas fracking geology in Europe. The shale beds near Blackpool are exceptionally deep, which means they can do multiple layers of fracking from one well-head, a major cost saving. The other potential beds are unfortunately right under the borderlands of northern Ireland.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous2

          Yes. There are said to be links between the Koch brothers and Matthew Elliott, now ensconced at the Treasury as an adviser.

          Timothy Snyder, Yale professor, recently gave a speech in which he claimed the fossil fuel industry was one of the financers of Brexit.

          Reply
          1. Colonel Smithers

            Thank you.

            Elliott’s brother in law is the former editor of City AM and now leading light at the Barclay brothers’ owned Telegraph empire, Alistair Heath. Heath was born and raised in France, but studied at Oxford and has a view of Britain quite at odds with reality. He’s similar to many Brexiteers, e.g. Daniel Hannan, children of the British diaspora seeking to restore the UK to a bygone age.

            The link between the (US) fossil fuel industry, US MIC and Brexiteers is the former head of MI6 turned Cambridge college principal, Sir Richard Dearlove.

            The Grauniad’s Carol Codwsallop does not dare expose this stuff, preferring to scream about RUSSIA.

            Reply
    2. FKorning

      Mr Thatcher was a North Sea oil man, and Mrs Thatcher launched her privatisation crusade by going after the coal industry, which powered all of the UK at the time, and which would have suicide had she not had the certainty if secured oil reserves.

      Reply
  7. Ultrapope

    “Sadly, the big wealth opportunities may lie in moves like acquiring real estate and squeeing already not-well-housed working people with higher rents, and dismantling the NHS.”

    Yep, these are definitely things the vultures here in the US have got a taste for: weak, powerless, dying…

    But if I remember correctly, something like 30% of the land in the UK is owned by the aristocracy, right? If the US is gonna make the UK its vassal, maybe we should go after all of that pork. After all, if it isn’t making dollars then it isn’t making sense…

    In all seriousness though, I do hope that, if anything, this Brexit fiasco results in the collapse of that arrogant and incestuous aristocracy that feels so entitled to the many undeserved privileges it has enjoyed over the centuries. The schadenfreude would be so much sweet, to see them bring about their own demise. But of course, it is always the less fortunate in society who will bear the costs… still, one can dream.

    Reply
  8. Oh

    “….we’ve revealed how Definers Public Affairs, the smear machine which destroyed Hillary Clinton..”. I wasn’t aware of that. I thought Hillary was fully responsible for her loss. But wait…I forgot Russia, Russia, Russia.

    With the entry of BJ, we have neocons as leaders in most countries – USA, India, Germany and France. Nowhere to go but down.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      “Nowhere to go but down.” That has been the baseline commandment of the aristocrat class to the ‘commons’ since the “invention” of civilization and the social hierarchy.

      Reply
  9. DJG

    The very definition of the Anglo-American Fantasia:

    He epitomises an Anglo-British exceptionalism built on a mystical link between nation, royalty and aristocracy: a link forged in the failed revolution of the civil war and bought with imperial plunder, and which reminds the British bourgeois of an era when you didn’t need to do your homework to attain power – you got it by dint of your nation, gender, class and skin colour.

    The English elites are malign and incompetent. The U.S. elites are malign, incompetent, and Chosen by God. What could possibly go wrong?

    Reply
    1. FKorning

      I think that’s a useful blind, like Boris’s buffoonery. They are reared in the top schools with extra tutelage. They are malign and competent, venal, and predatory.

      Reply
  10. Ignacio

    One thing to check after crash out is the stance of the EU on inner and outer, particularly UK-associated tax havens. I have the feeling that so far the UK was watering down any effort but now the EU will more easily and comprehensively instal virtual checkpoints for money laundering or simply fleeing taxes. Will be there the will to do something bold?

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think it will be very interesting to see how the dynamics of internal EU politics change without the generally negative impact of British civil servants. There is little doubt but that the UK played a major role in preventing the EU taking a stronger stance on tax havens, but its possible someone else will take on their baton (Luxembourg?). However, the comparatively hard line the EU has taken against Switzerland recently makes me a little more optimistic on that. More EU countries lose than gain from the presence of tax havens, although the same may not be said for senior politicians individual investments.

      The other issue is environmental and agricultural policy – the UK presence in Brussels was heavily influenced by Big Ag and played a big role in neutralising much environmental policy, most notably the Soils Directive.

      Reply
      1. Pym of Nantucket

        I would guess the role of spoiler falls to one or more of the members formally behind the Iron Curtain. That is where the US is most active IMO.

        Reply
      2. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        The Netherlands and Belgium have been content to hide behind the butcher’s apron, if not her skirts. The Low Countries will have to come and fight in the open now.

        With regard to Big Ag, aristocrat landowner welfare junkies are not uncommon in Germany, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. Even the Grimaldis have big farms in Provence and Champagne. In addition, French, German and Austrian farm investors are big in eastern Europe, including the Ukraine, where their malign influence continues to this day.

        A decade ago, I was part of a banking trade association delegation that met counterparts from French agriculture and German automotive. We discussed how to neutralise threats together. The discussions came to nothing, but

        It’s not just UK civil servants that have a negative impact. I recall clearly a leading member of the team managing their presidency. He enjoyed being wined and dined by the City and Wall Street and within weeks of the Danish presidency ending, joined a leading Brussels lobby firm. In the year or so preceding the Danish presidency and during the presidency, the bureaucrat had his eye on his post public service sinecure. Not that many EU27 officials and politicians are immune to the charms of big business. In fact the post Brexit dispersal of financial services around the EU27 makes it easier for Big Finance lobbyists to work as the industry is obviously less London centric then.

        Reply
      3. Mike

        I believe the US will go after this large element of capital- British banks and their offshore “reserves”, held for the elite activists who change and diversify in nanoseconds that which govenments seem to crawl after, turtle-like. An intellectual property worth … ??? I see British banks sporting US-titled monikers before long, all the better to hide black reserves used by intelligence services to upset applecarts everywhere. The joys of data processing…

        Reply
      1. RBHoughton

        Thus Harlequin extolled his horse,
        Good for field and road and course,
        One fault alone he had, its said,
        And what was that? – the horse is dead.

        Reply
  11. Ian Perkins

    “We won’t become Americans, though.”
    It may not be very relevant, but Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is already a US citizen.

    Reply
    1. vlade

      I thought he gave it up, as not to jeopardise his chances at being PM (gettingt he “bloody Yank, of course he will sell us to bloody Yanks!”)

      Reply
  12. paul

    Sadly, the big wealth opportunities may lie in moves like acquiring real estate and squeeing already not-well-housed working people with higher rents, and dismantling the NHS.

    That,long and short, is alexander johnson’s cabinet’s negotiating position.

    It is an open ended backstop for the american health heist.

    Reply
  13. Matthew Turner

    “Not a suggestion that would please the millions of Leave voters who opted to quit the EU essentially because they wanted to become another Japan instead: wealthier than the UK, industrialised, with less income inequality, richly forested and deeply racist.”

    This is unacceptable language. Am I now at liberty to make such sweeping insults of remainers?

    Reply
  14. Penny

    I am troubled by the phrase ‘sold off’ when discussing privatisation. Water, for example, was SOLD TO a set of individuals who hide behind a corporate name and whenever it is used, they get the money. Little capital investment has been made by the people who hide behind the corporate name so the quality of the water being sold deteriorates along with other environmental issues arising. I think at a minimum the names of the owners of British water (and gas and electric) should be published and the amount received by each should be published. I suspect we will find that current cabinet members such as RMogg, whose father voted to sell public water to himself, still own the water.

    Reply
    1. Ian Perkins

      Not at all sure why you prefer “privatisation” to being “sold off”. I thought they were more or less equivalent and synonymous, meaning, in my opinion, pretty much what you said. (The latter ‘in my opinion’ because RMogg et al. would no doubt babble about market efficiencies or something.)

      Reply
  15. FKorning

    Given the shocking third-world water quality degradation as reported by The Times, RMogg’s ilk are a rapacious evil.

    Reply

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