Brexit D-Day

Brexit Day is upon us. Having written so much about Brexit since 2016, I’m not sure what to say, since the symbolic importance of the departure date obscures that this juncture is still the start of a process with many twists and turns still to come.

Moreover, as much as my status as an outsider helped in looking at the negotiations in a clinical matter, it seems inappropriate to say much about an event that has such great significance to the many parties with direct stakes in what comes next.

I feel sad because I have many friends and readers in the UK. While some may do well individually as a result of Brexit, the UK as a whole will become poorer and I worry with Tory ideologues at the helm, more mean-spirited. If Chris Grey is correct, my mood is in line with that of most Brits:

Certainly there is no evidence of a general upsurge of joy, and no mood of national confidence or renewal. The more widespread sense seems to be, at best, one of exhaustion coupled with uncertainty about what has been done and what is to come. For many already realise that today marks only a stage in a very long, painful and uncertain process.

But of course that stage is of fundamental, historic significance because Britain, definitively, leaves the EU with no possibility of revoking that decision. Hence as many, if not more, are mourning as celebrating, and some will even be in despair.

Crucially, there is clear, sustained polling evidencethat more people think that it was wrong to vote to leave the EU than think it was right. The current figures, from 26 January 2020, are 47% to 40%. Even more,56%, think Brexit will be economically damagingcompared with just 21% who think it will be beneficial. Two of the four constituent countries of the UK voted against Brexit, and the parliament/assemblies of three of them have rejected the legislation enacting it.

And, yet, today it will happen.

As an Irish Timeseditorial put it yesterday, “no state in the modern era has committed such a senseless act of self-harm”.

As we stressed from the outset, it might have been possible for the UK to come out of Brexit at only a moderate cost, with a more equitable division of winners and losers, had its proponents understood the magnitude of the task and put in motion a war-level mobilization.

Instead, the nation has suffered from poor leadership thanks to the erosion of the UK’s once vaunted civil service and the rise of soft and overt corruption across the Anglosphere. Times of crisis is when the caliber of the ruling classes matters. The slow-moving crisis of extricating the UK from the EU and trying to enter into replacement arrangements will test the current crop and find them sorely wanting.

There will be decades of studies and books pouring over how the UK decided to hike out and how the supposedly substantial Remain camp was unable to turn its sentiment into an effective rearguard action after the referendum. Was the rupture predestined thanks to Thatcher’s decision to not fully commit to the EU project? How significant was EU expansion to Eastern Europe, a project avidly backed by the UK to dilute the influence of Germany and France, which resulted in 500,000 Polish immigrants to the UK the year after Poland joined (versus a UK forecast of only 50,000)? How much was due to EU failings, like the baked in austerity bias of its fiscal rules, its bank-friendly, citizen-impoverishing post-crisis responses, its failure to move toward more Federal spending? How much was more happenstance, like Cameron deciding to gamble on the referendum, the Remain side running an appalling campaign, and the Fixed Term Parliament Act keeping Theresa May in office well past her sell-by date?

European leaders are making measure statements of regret:

Needless to say, Brexiteers are triumphal:

Skeptics continue to pipe up:

Other tooth-gnashing:

And of course, gallows humor:

Have a drink this evening regardless, if you are the tippling sort…even if it’s laudanum. I’ll toast all of you on the other side of the pond.

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132 comments

  1. jochen

    Possible typo:

    Fixed Term Parliament Act keeping Thatcher in office well past her sell-by date?

    That should be Theresa May, shouldn’t it?

    Reply
    1. mael colium

      Yes I agree completely. The break from neoliberal central is not without challenges, but to remain in that undemocratic cesspool would have continued to drag on the sovereign rights of the UK. What a lot of people won’t come to terms with is that the EU has gone far beyond it’s original plan and morphed into an austerity ridden corporatized model which benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle classes. The Gilet Jaunes movement is only one of many groups railing against the negative effects of the EU which has been reflected in the deplorable treatment by Brussels to the PIGS, particularly Greece. The whole shebang really had only three major economies and with the UK out, the Europhiles will have to reset their thinking. Germany now exports more to the US and China that it does within the EU and the French people are solidly pushing back against the draconian EU rules, so the structure of the EU is much weaker than many realise. I wouldn’t worry too much about the UK, it’s the EU that have a mess on their hands,

      Reply
      1. curious euro

        It’s not Brussels that is neoliberal central in Europe. That is undoubtedly London since 1979, when Thatcher rose to power.
        Austerity: another british invention.
        Corporatized: another

        In all kinds of financializations, neoliberal agenda, etc. the UK is and was and probably will be years ahead of the oafs on the continent.

        As for the rest: truly delusional as written already.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          Do you not read a single word the EU’s governance structures utters?

          von der Leyen spelled it out unequivocally.

          To achieve a more growth-friendly fiscal stance in the euro area, the
          Commission will also make full use of the flexibility allowed within the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). In this respect, during his hearing before the committees for Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and for Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis stated that the Commission will work on the basis of the report of the European Fiscal Board, which sets out some ideas on simplification of the rules of the SGP. A ‘limited golden rule’ will be taken as a basis for the Commission’s considerations.

          That’s it. That’s the sum total of the “reforms” undertaken in response to a stagnation (or slump, if you’re Italy or Greece) that never seems to end. Long-term balanced budgets. And this is the UK’s doing how? The UK has left, had no role in appointing the President of the Commission and would not have had any input into the Commission’s priorities thru’ to 2024. No “Golden Rule” for the UK, that was the price Johnson had to pay to get Brexit palatable. It’s, by comparison with the EU, a case of spend, spend, spend. Especially so if you look at the OECD forecasts.

          What datasets are you using, please, to support your assertions? I want to take a good look at them, because I’ve a theory that there’s some kind of space/time wormhole opened up in your part of the internet, and they are coming to us from an alternate reality.

          Reply
          1. curious euro

            I didn’t write in any word that the EU isn’t neoliberal. Of course they are!
            But the poison didn’t come from the EU or its countries.They are simply followers there, not leaders. Compared to the continent, the UK is much much farther along the road.

            And if you think Johnson will actually spend, spend, spend in a meaningful way and consistently. Actually spend in infrastructure, your beloved NHS or anything, then I hear NY is selling bridges to bolster their budgets. You seem the guy to actually buy one.

            Even someone like you should know by now that what Johnson claims, says,shouts is something very different than what he does. He certainly hasn’t died in a ditch yet. For example he might save a few of the recent PPP and gov services corporations from bankruptcy since he simply must or the lights in places go out. That will certainly cost a ton of money increasing the debt, it’s definitely “spending” of a sort. However that will equally not benefit anyone but his plutocrat buddies back from Eton or wherever he went.

            But I guess for the likes of you that is “ending austerity”.

            Reply
            1. Clive

              I ought to have a rubber stamp made out to the effect that it is unconvincing to keep trotting out the hoary old chestnut of how the EU is there as a bulwark against — and a protector from — the harms that Member States which may have fallen from The Shining Path might inflict on their peoples, but then when the EU patently fails to do that (and on some readings is actually the agent doing the harm) to say, oh, yes, it’s terrible, but what can the EU do against the Member States? It’s powerless to act.

              One thing or the other. But not both.

              I repeat: It was the EU which subject the UK to Excessive Deficit Enforcement procedures in 2010. It did not discharge the UK from a demand to redress the deficit spending until 2015 i.e. austerity. If you want to take this all the way back to Adam and Eve to establish where original sin was, fine. But this is merely a diversionary tactic from looking at how the EU is — and intends to continue to be —right now.

              Reply
      2. AMatthey

        You seem like a parody account, but I’m not sure… The ultimate act of neoliberalism (breaking away from a supranational yet democratic regulatory body in order to engage in a race-to-the-bottom on steroids) is somehow celebrated as anti-neoliberal… That’s a lot of confusion.

        Reply
  2. Redlife2017

    I think I am a weirdo then. I can’t get worked up about this. People have made their choices (twice!) and we will have to live with them. I have no understanding of some people’s feeling of being connected to Europe, so it’s hard for me to work up more than a shrug. I’ve lived in the UK for almost 20 years and feel British (with an American Midwestern accent). I have always noticed and felt how Britain is foreign to Europe the whole time I have lived here. We’ll be poorer and things will be crap. We’ll just have to figure it out.

    So, I guess, let’s just get on with it. Close your eyes and think of England

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      I think Scottish (and many Welsh) people would take issue with saying that ‘Britain is foreign to Europe’. They would say that only applies to England. The Scots are very proud of their historic links to Europe.

      Reply
    2. justmespeakingpersonally

      We’ll be poorer and things will be crap. We’ll just have to figure it out.

      Reminds me of The Blitz which, per my understanding, strongly united the English, at least.

      And really, since the production problem has long been solved, it’ll not be absolute poverty, will it? Or even much relative poverty increase domestically?

      Reply
    3. Carolinian

      foreign to Europe

      Latest Diana Johnstone agrees with you.

      De Gaulle warned from the start that Great Britain didn’t belong in a unified Europe, geographically, economically or above all psychologically.

      The remark has become famous: in 1944, on the eve of the Normandy invasion, in a quarrelsome exchange, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly told De Gaulle that if Britain had to choose, it would always go for “the open sea” rather than the European continent.

      more

      https://consortiumnews.com/2020/01/30/uk-came-went-leaving-europe-in-a-mess/

      Reply
    4. Pelham

      I lived in Brussels through most of the 1980s and even there, in that supreme EU capital, I never encountered one European who had anything nice to say about the union. That said, I’ll grant that the UK is likely to suffer, perhaps enormously, in a variety of material ways from Brexit. And maybe that will tip the balance toward universal regret over the decision.

      But it matters greatly that the EU is such a profoundly anti-democratic setup, with next to no accountability. From my perspective as an American, the ever-expanding EU project appeared to be motivated principally by transnational elites focused on attaining something like the degree of secrecy, freedom of self-interested action and flagrantly legal corruption that so characterizes Washington.

      Reply
      1. @ape

        What precisely does that mean?

        I’d suggest that the constitutional issue is that the executive dominates the parliament. The EU has a collective cabinet that dominates law making and is not recallable by parliament. But given that the executive has limited powers (no army, little direct regulatory power and so on) and is collectively composed of elected heads of states, there’s a bit of constitutional limitation.

        But in comparison to other powers at the same scale? The US has a unitary executive that dominates the parliament, the parliament itself is fractured and rendered weak by the first-past the post system, and the controls by the constituent states was rendered moot by the civil war and the rise of a national army with the 20th century.

        France likewise has an anti-democratic constitutional order by virtue of the power of it’s executive.

        And let’s not speak of Russia and China, where the executive basically chooses the parliament.

        So on the one hand, it is sensible to say that the EU has significant democratic deficits compared to working parliamentary democracies. On the other, it’s a bit meaningless if not put into context of other continental scale powers.

        Which gives me the feeling that such statements aren’t analytically useful, but are primarily ideological signalling.

        Reply
    5. TimmyB

      How any country’s people could look at how the EU destroyed Greece and decide to remain in the EU is a complete mystery. The EU needs dramatic reform which isn’t going to happen. Leaving is best for everyone.

      Reply
      1. curious euro

        The first and pretty much only ones to blame for that are the greek voters.
        Greece had a referendum where they famously said “No!” to austerity and Brussels, and of course especially Germany.
        Immediately the week afterwards, their government in form of Tsipras, said “Yes!” to every hardship, every bit of austerity, etc. The leftists inside of Syriza left the party. That was about all

        The Greeks then didn’t protest, didn’t siege the parliament, throw eggs on Tsipras or whatever. Instead, they voted him into a 2nd term only ~9 weeks later. The ones who left Syriza over the betrayal didn’t even make it into parliament: not enough votes.

        The Greeks wanted austerity and destruction since they basically had more trust into the EU than their own politicians.

        Reply
  3. Fazal Majid

    It’s English middle-class mean-spiritedness that led to unnecessarily prolonged austerity and the Conservatives’ victory, not the other way around.

    Reply
    1. anonymous

      No. The correlation between education and income levels is clear, as is that cohort’s clear preference for Remain. Perhaps you meant to say segments within the middle-class, like rural or elderly, but those cohorts voted for brexit in the lower and upper classes as well.

      Reply
    2. Frank

      And to cloud things even more here’s a link to some explanation of LEXIT.

      https://monthlyreview.org/2019/10/01/navigating-the-brexit-strait/

      “Costas Lapavitsas’s The Left Case Against the EU (Polity, 2019) is recognized as the leading work advocating Lexit, the left-wing case for Brexit, and for nations leaving the European Union more generally. In light of current Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to exit the European Union by October 31, even if it means a no-deal Brexit, the role of the left takes on growing importance. Moreover, this raises issues of the European Union generally, including the dominance of neoliberalism within it and the question of German hegemony. Given the importance of these issues, we are publishing two assessments of Lapavitsas’s book followed by his extensive response.

      “Socialist Internationalism Against the European Union” by Neil Davidson.
      “Navigating the Brexit Strait” by Andy Storey.
      “Learning from Brexit” by Costas Lapavitsas.”

      Reply
      1. Basil Pesto

        fwiw, Bill Mitchell has also been consistently flying the Lexit flag, with what can possibly be crudely summarised as “she’ll be right, mate” attitude regarding the putative consequences.

        Reply
  4. Peter

    I like this more critical post regarding the actual status of democracy within the EU, the mistakes that have been made by trying to integrate such diverse nations with the loss of some sovereignty by the members, and the wisdom of the advice by DeGaulle that was neglected soon after his death and the chance that the Brexit gives to the rest of the EU:

    As Great Britain returns to the uncertainties of the open sea, it leaves behind a European Union that is bureaucratically governed to serve the interests of financial capital. Member States, such as Macron’s France, are governed according to EU decrees against the will of their people. British membership contributed to this denial of democracy, but paradoxically, the British people themselves are the first to reject it and demand a return to full national sovereignty.

    Even the ardent fans of European Unity increasingly insist that they want “a different Europe,” recognizing that the project has failed to produce the wonders that were promised. But changing this particular Europe would require unanimity between the 27 remaining, and increasingly quarrelsome, member states.

    That is why the idea is growing that it may be time to give up this failed European union and start all over, seeking political understanding issue by issue between sovereign democracies rather than a nonfunctional economic unity as decreed by transnational capitalist bureaucracy.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2020/01/30/uk-came-went-leaving-europe-in-a-mess/?fbclid=IwAR2qr6YTgaTjCsKA35E2tU9WI2qIZnkcpR2Wd_vD71YuFwyvgxwJjDgY_k8

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The idea that the EU is more dominated by financial capital than the UK, whose banking sector remains a staggering >450% of GDP, comparable to its level pre crisis, is really quite an astonishing take.

      Please tell me how the preferred model of the hard Brexit faction now in charge, that of a “Singapore on the Thames,” of the UK as the ultimate tax haven/financial center for the global elite and financial buccaneers, isn’t a big win for the banking industry you claim you think needed to be reined in. The UK is explicit about letting them run wild as a business model. How is this worse than the status quo in the EU?

      Plus please tell me how the EU is responsible for the UK’s austerity. The Tories implemented it happily on their own and were very adept at scapegoating the EU for the bad outcomes in the UK’s Rust Belt.

      Please also explain how Brexit would rein in predatory capitalists, when one of the big objectives of Brexit proponents is to scrap EU labor and environmental protections, when those are both very popular with UK voters.

      The EU will take a hit from Brexit, but the UK will suffer far more, particularly with the leadership it has in place. And that suffering will fall disproportionately on lower income people. Yet you are a fan of that?

      Reply
      1. Peter

        First off – I am quite loath to spend my time to answer you since you seem in the habit to not publish responses you seem not to like.

        Secondly – I am actually not concerened what happens to Great Britain – I simply do not give a toss about the Limeys – as a Kraut.
        I am concerned about how Brexit (and I always was astonished and incredulous that the EU ever wanted to include the UK, the reasons not do do so DeGaulle explained) now effects the EU sans UK and if it can reform to become less centralized.
        The way Greece was dealt with was the point for me to evaluate my previous pro EU stance and clearly saw the overpowering influence of a neo liberal German agenda supported by France – a pernicious and to Greece destructive power.

        Reply
        1. skippy

          You seem to neglect the rather abomination that was Greek economics, let alone the antics of those that represented the aftermath for the unwashed.

          And would suggest one consider Greek elite neoliberalism in the run up, like watching chickens cut their own head off over some emotional state.

          Reply
          1. Clive

            This has always been the objection. An endless evasion and switcheroo between the rules imposed by the Commission and the residual competencies of Member States

            The EU pops up brandishing its tough and rigid fiscal policies https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/stability-and-growth-pact_en (“policy response to correct excessive deficits”) but then does a Houdini-like disappearing act when any mention is made as to the distress they may cause. It’s then all the Member State(s) fault(s) that they can’t manage to comply with the rules properly, or shouldn’t have accepted them in the first place if they didn’t like them, or some such reasoning.

            Of course, it’s probably all the UK’s fault this Treaty-compelled deficit terrorism is now embedded (funnily enough, anything that has cause the EU to swerve away from being the living embodiment of the progressive ideal is always the UK’s fault, although I did think that all the other Member States had “a say” in these things, but I must have got the wrong end of the stick on that…)

            So the EU can now, promptly, move to row back on all this “hard money” nonsense. I can look across the Channel and see a Commission eager to bring forward such policy changes and the remaining Member States rushing to roll it all back now it is free of those pesky UK fiscal hawks. I’m sure they can’t wait to get started on that.

            Oh, wait a minute…

            Reply
            1. PlutoniumKun

              Largarde seems to be pushing for using ECB financing for investments –

              From the FT:

              But the “green QE” idea is catching on at the European Commission as it develops its Green Deal to cut carbon emissions. Thierry Breton, the EU’s new single market and industry commissioner, said this week that to unlock the €1tn of financing needed for the Green Deal countries may issue long-term debt that could be bought by the ECB via its QE programme.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                “could be”.

                And I’ve not seen anything by way of Treaty changes to remove or even reform the Growth and Stability pact. The notion that Macron and Merkel would go for it seems fanciful. Salvini, of all people, being the deplorable populist nationalist that he is, tried. The Commission, of course, was having none of it.

                It it looks like a duck, etc.

                Reply
              2. Clive

                Adding, Largarde will have Germany to contend with, if she thinks she’s going to get an easy ride on that one.

                And I’ve heard nary a mention of Largarde’s trial balloon this year. Another one where everyone has “a say”, but some voices are lounder than others. In fact, some voices can apparently drown out everyone.

                Reply
                1. PlutoniumKun

                  The FT article is from 23 January 2020.

                  And Germany is likely to have a new government soon, one much more open to an ECB Green Deal, which is presumably why Lagarde, an acute reader of political trends, is floating this now.

                  Reply
                  1. Clive

                    Commissioner Thierry Breton tried to revive the ECB bond purchases (or, more crucially, potentially issuing ECB bonds). I’ve not heard Largarde mention it after Schäuble poured cold water on the idea. In fact, Schäuble has doubled down recently, criticising ECB bond purchases and the low level of the euro.

                    And von der Leyen specifcially wrapped the Green Deal idea in the Growth and Stability pack’s contraints, in her priorities as President of the European Commission.

                    And as the FT noted:

                    “Yet Ms Lagarde is likely to nudge the ECB…”

                    “nudge…” okay, that’s tough talk, bet Schäuble is quaking in his boots; back to the quote:

                    This [direct bond issuance by the ECB] would be unacceptable to some members of the governing council, such as Jens Weidmann, head of Germany’s Bundesbank

                    It’s a red line for Germany. ECB purchases of sovereign debt and other ABS, fine. That’s your basic Growth and Stability pact intact. ECB acting as a quasi-sovereign issuer, try getting that past Germany.

                    Reply
                  2. curious euro

                    New government? In Germany?
                    Headed by whom? There might be new heads, but certainly no new policies. New policies would be scary.

                    The way it looks now, we will get an unprecedented government by 3 and a half parties next time in 2021, simply cause the big parties are doing so abysmally They need to pool all their votes to manage a slim majority.

                    Yes, Merkel will be gone, but her policies certainly will stay. It’s not that Merkel ever was a great political leader who had distinct policies she managed to push through. Politically, Merkel is and was a non-entity. It’s only in personal powerplays where she excels: killing off competitors.

                    Which is another big problem for her party and maybe Germany as a whole: there is no one left to lead the party or the country. One contender from the past, who thankfully no one really likes. He might be the one candidate with even the conservatives could lose against social democrats or even greens: Friedrich Merz, who works for BlackRock. I leave you to decide what kind of politician he probably is.

                    Reply
            2. Peter

              I can look across the Channel and see a Commission eager to bring forward such policy changes and the remaining Member States rushing to roll it all back now it is free of those pesky UK fiscal hawks. I’m sure they can’t wait to get started on that.

              I do not blame the UK for stifling any reform, as you pointed it is the leadership of all the other Nations involved, and especially the strong ones and the axis of evil germany and France.
              I see Brexit as a wake up call to challenge the present state of the “Democratic deficit” that gives the commission almost all power with the parliament just a rubber stamping body not even able to forward proposals.
              for changes.

              If that wake up call is not heeded then right wing movements like in Italy, France, Germany will gain more support in their typical anti EU stance.
              The warning signal should have been the utter lack of support for the migrant management – and it wasn’t (except in the beginning for a few month in Germany, but that changed quickly) instead Merkel without any mandate and consultation flung the door open. Here are some results from 2018 Pew which shows still support for the EU in general, but less so on how the EU governing bodies deal with citizens concerns and some specific issues regarding economy and migration:
              https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/03/19/europeans-credit-eu-with-promoting-peace-and-prosperity-but-say-brussels-is-out-of-touch-with-its-citizens/

              Reply
            3. Mirdif

              Yawn. Trite Clive-splaining as usual. The country is a vassal state – bound to implement but no influence over EU law – until at least 1 January next year and you voted for it and no amount of finger pointing changes that. As you will find out over the next decade the country will be bound even more tightly to the EU regardless the whining and screaming from Johnson and co. London will continue the neo-liberal economic project and now has the perfect excuses for it.

              You have variously explained you wanted to give the the increasingly neo-liberal EU a slap. That is the level of your intelligence where you live in the most neo-liberal country in Europe and yet elsewhere needs the slap. On other occasions of course you made the sovereignty argument to back your view – I call this the “I hate foreigners and want to send in a gunboat” argument – because that about sums up the view of they who overwhelmingly make this argument and yet there is now less sovereignty due to the transition period. Strangely some days ago you were having a go at that lunatic North because his plan is not really Brexit. So what pray is this?

              When push comes to shove, overwhelmingly the majority of Brexit voters are fans of that moron Johnson and they go for the simplistic soundbites – primarily “they need us more than we need them”. Clive here is a prime example of this. Loads of words to say not very much and what he does say is nonsense.

              FWIW, there won’t be a no trade deal situation later this year. Johnson will buckle under when the time comes either in June or later this year when he signs up to keep things like no passport checks and chucks financial services under the bus. Whatever it takes to delay the immediate effects being felt in terms of holidays and other matters but nobody likes the “bankers” so he can safely screw them – something he’s seemingly very good at – although maybe not the safely bit.

              We’re about to see the assymetry of power at a time where the EU is begininng only to act like a state. Most likely the UK is the perfect practicing ground before trying to deal with more difficult issues like the Eastern Med crisis or Libya because there is not much chance of the situation turning “hot” if things get too difficult. Meanwhile, London in between dealing predominantly with Brexit will have to deal with an increasingly belligerent Scotland.

              Enjoy! I’m saddened only that we didn’t get a chaotic crash out for stupid people need to be taught ferocious lessons. I’ve yet to meet a Brexit voter that was not beyond stupid and motivated by jingoistic BS at the very least. But I guess pointing fingers cancels all of that.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                And that, my darlings, is a case-study in why Remain lost.

                After three-and-a-half years of having to listen to it, or material not dissimilar to it, how anyone thought the conclusion could have ever been anything else is more than I can fathom.

                Reply
                1. Mirdif

                  I didn’t vote and do not vote because below median intelligence fools like you are not prevented from doing so. Thank you for proving quite succinctly my point about your stupidty. Anti-Leave is not the same as Pro-remain.

                  Reality is you are no more than a jingoistic “send in the gunboats against johnny foreigner and bring back the empire” fool and no amount of denying this changes anything.

                  Reply
                    1. FKorning

                      Perhaps that should be refined to “Not a fan of an easily gameable anglo-saxon FPTP pretense of representation”.

              2. FKorning

                It’s probably hors-propos to berate someone’s intelligence, but it’s totally a-propos to discuss lack of emptahy and poor moral compass. To those like Clive who would cheerlead and champion a cause that will destroy other people’s lives. Take a good long look.

                Reply
              3. Maff

                “Yawn. Trite Clive-splaining as usual”

                Thats ridiculous.

                You are very lucky to have someone of Clive’s evident expertise, erudition and, may I say, humour “tutoring” you on this site for free. You might even learn something.

                Reply
            4. skippy

              Still can’t understand the gripe about EU monetary views when the UK pulled the austerity trigger at the first whiff of GFC, not to mention as Smithers notes – the looting was baked in decades ago with bloodlines and education networks.

              Pretty much everything in the run up to Brexit was self inflicted to enrich elites [same transfer of wealth as the US] and now that the chickens are coming home its time to deploy the sovereignty confuse a cat team – reading passages from ‘Road to Serfdom’ with zeal.

              Best bit is the remain camp is – post facto – too blame for it all, not engaging enough focus group marketing PR propaganda filled with ideological trigger points to sway the befuddled. I think you would remember the link I proffered you on the UK MSM antics, yes dodgy[$$$$$] journalism works [see US and Sanders], so I guess its all about the disenfranchised ignorance and the EU Sovereignty stealing Totalitarianism – what day is it again?

              I’m with YS on this for the same reasons as Greece – barging power and the skills of the negotiators w/ a side of local elite ass saving – at the cost of lower classes. The EU did not force the Greek elites to cram down the local lower classes whilst sorting out its economics.

              If anything I would suspect more privatization and increased looting, all whilst demolishing any public service for the common good. Sold under the PR of fighting the good fight and efficiency in being competitive globally.

              All of which might just actually move the EU to a more China – Russia trade block. That would be an epic own goal IMO.

              Reply
              1. Clive

                The EU mandates through Treaty tight criteria on Member States’ deficit reduction plans. Deficit spending is considered “anti competitive”.

                The Commission threatened to put the UK on the naughty step http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/mobile/business/8569418.stm if it persisted. Just like it does with Italy.

                I really don’t know how much more evidence I have to provide to show that the EU is inherently austarian. I sometimes wonder why the blinkers and why it’s supposedly so difficult to understand. The Commission goes to great lengths to provide copious and comprehensive documentation of the facts and explanations of how the EU works with regards to Member States’ fiscal budgets.

                The UK doesn’t have an opt-out for these. What do you propose we should do? (a moot point now, of course, or it will be at 23:00 GMT).

                Reply
                1. curious euro

                  EU rules are made to be broken basically. Sure the EU has some very important treaty with seal and everything.

                  However, if there is a crisis where the EU politicians or even a local politician thinks it’s better to spend, watch how worthless it all is. He will spend.
                  The spender might even get sued in some euro court, but if it averted the crisis it is highly unlikely that there will be any repercussions. It might even repeal that treaty.

                  Also those naughty lists: every country has them. The EU, after some years of ignoring, will first threaten, then will actually start to sue which will take another few years typically. It rarely if ever matters. Spain I think was overspending lots the last few years under Rajoy. No one cared, still don’t. I kinda doubt the UK has less clout in Brussels than Spain. Or maybe the Westminster mandarins are stupider than the Madrid ones in making up good excuses.

                  Reply
                  1. Clive

                    Oh, that’s good: a Rules-Based International Order. Where everyone just says, stuff this, rules are for losers, let’s simply ignore anything we don’t like.

                    What, if that is the answer, is the point in having all those rules in the first place? Why don’t we just all embrace our inner Somali pirate?

                    The EU as a third-world failed state. Who knew?

                    No wonder Leave’ers despaired, if this is the kind of Remain logic they had to contend with.

                    But, looking on the bright side, it will make a “rejoin” campaign a lot easier to sell. Meeting resistance to some awkward little EU Directives which voters aren’t sure about? Simple! Say we’ll just ignore it.

                    Reply
                    1. curious euro

                      That is no different than what the UK internally has. Rules are always broken, they have no constitution explicitly cause they can break rules better me thinks.
                      Last rule broken afaik was when Johnson lied to the Queen and no one cared, least of all the Queen.
                      Or US: Hillarys famous server. If any normal NSA peon has done this, it would be at least obstruction of justice for the deletions. As it was, FBI found many classified documents which were not allowed, period. No one cared about either. Same with the emoluments of Trump Yves talks about. Or the whole Clinton Foundation on the other side of the aisle: both a pure pay for play. Or the Democrats primary process and Sanders.

                      It’s the same in UN: rules broken constantly (Syria, Libya, etc). Still, no one cares.

                      I could probably go on endlessly. You could probably cite stuff from your tiny home town hamlet like this like everyone else can reading this. Doesn’t matter.

                      But all these times: rules that are (sometimes?) broken are infinitely better than a no-rule wild west at all.

                      If you can’t comprehend this, then you are utterly new to this world or already out of it.

              2. skippy

                As I said, I understand the EU monetary policy as I have watched it evolve of its history. Furthermore the influences that drove the agency behind it, still that does not support the argument that the UK currant problem set is completely self inflicted and was a key factor in pushing the EU in the direction stated above.

                Lest we forget the US and UK were the early promoters of neoliberalism, used its past bargaining power to infiltrate international institutions. Seems both now are throwing their toys out of the pay pen because they don’t have the dominate bargaining power of those days.

                So now both are engaged in Nationalistic memes for the unwashed, whilst the elites seek to consolidate control over the lower classes, so they can loot the last drop before AGW changes the tune for the chair end game.

                All that said I don’t think either is doing a smashing job of things, yet, if forced to pick, I would take the EU over the UK for past digressions and a slew of environmental and social reasons.

                I don’t do romanticism Clive.

                Reply
                1. Clive

                  Me neither.

                  I linked to a report from a reputable media outlet detailing how the EU insisted the UK reduce its deficit spending. This was the EU taking the action against the UK.

                  I also showed how, if a Member State, like Italy, fails to comply, the EU takes legally binding enforcement action against the errant Member State.

                  I then asked where the evidence is that if the EU was “caused” by the UK to adopt austerity policies, now that the UK has left the EU, the EU is even making tentative plans to rescind this policy or lighten it up a little.

                  All you have provided as rebuttals is, in effect, a “yeah, but I still think the EU is better than the UK in this regard” opinion.

                  You might not do romanticism, but you do do opinionating, unsubstantiated by any verifiable facts or analysis of sources of information. There’s nothing wrong with opinionating in a debate, of course. It can be very interesting. But it isn’t enough in the face of a factual matrix which appears to show to the contrary.

                  What you’re advancing is the debating equivalent of when a man walks into the bedroom and finds his wife in bed with someone else and she says “I know what this looks like, but it isn’t what you think it is”. Perhaps the wife is very convincing in person. In a rhetorical setting, though, it’s the facts which need to be addressed, not the subjective impressions.

                  Reply
                  1. skippy

                    The UK was instrumental in driving those ideological agendas since day one – with zealotry. Now that its on the burnt end of the stick its time to wobble on about the outcome when it makes the UK a lesser member.

                    The pertinent question I ask you good Sir is how all this effects your life’s expectations, considering the potential blow back too your good self and how that might inform your views.

                    I am stead fast in your concise information about how Greece was a schlimazel for very specific reasons, albeit I respectfully disagree with your present perspective when the shoe is on the other foot – for reasons I should not have to articulate here on NC.

                    To be honest I think the UK is about to understand what its like to be a pacific island nation surrounded by investors with short term views.

                    Its not what I would think is right, just the culmination of a whole cornucopia of events since it went full neoliberal in the expectation it would always retain its previous rank.

                    Hell of a thing …

                    Reply
                    1. Clive

                      A constant refrain is how each EU Member State has “a say” in decisions.

                      If the UK alone was proffering austerity to be, as it is, baked into the EU’s policy pillars, then what did the other Member States have to “say” on the matter? Clearly, since the policy was adopted, the majority agreed with it.

                      But now the UK can set its own policy for fiscal budget, what does the evidence show it is intending to do? Increase deficit spending and its debt/GDP ratio, that’s what. Now that the EU doesn’t have the UK, apparently, telling it what to do, by some mysterious veto/enforcement, what is it intending to do? Continue with deficit hawkery, that’s what (note that in the video, despite growth slowing or at best struggling to exceed 1%, government debt\GDP is still supposed to fall; help me). What else can the EU Member States do, bound as they are by the terms of the Growth and Stability pact?

                      I mean, does this look like the appropriate fiscal response for a country which is contracting in terms of economic output and has protests on the street? And what the Hell is this all about? Is it a country suffering from rampant inflation or something? Because that’s what it is suggestive of, in terms of fiscal policy. Unless, of course, something else is going on in the minds of the government (and maybe even the population)… And they say the UK is demonstrating self-harm. Words fail me.

                      So, considering the projections, it seems that staying in the EU, and being as you are Treaty-bound to fiscal “discipline” and reduction in debt/GDP ratios, lest you be branded as having an “excessive” deficit, leaving the EU is the logical thing to do. Assuming one believes, as I do, that an obsession with deficits systematically crushes a country and its population.

                    2. skippy

                      Please note the historical content and desist with the self inflicted consequences.

                      The UK like many others sold it self off, now that the market deems actions contrary to its historical expectations* is not an argument that is enforceable to those pre dated to those expectations.

                      Again no one force the UK to do anything, not unlike the US stampeding to China during the wild west days and then spat the dummy when the local economy goes poof.

                      Once England lost its domination of the seas in extracting rents from abroad it was always going to to end up as Spain in the day. The US post WWII took over the job with an eye to the UK due to the cold war. Now its all inverted totalitarianism, due to lack of being able to afflict that paradigm externally.

                      But hay we have this bush fire thingy and the expectations of the swing of the environmental potential offered by the increase in energy in the system.

                      Through our Hillsong in chief will guide us to a glorious future.

          2. Peter

            I question why such idioties like forcing austerity measures – cutting severely public employment, cutting pension payments etc. – on an already bad economy could help to better anything? Can you explain how driving an economy further into the ground actually could work and cite an example if that ever worked?

            Reply
          3. lyman alpha blob

            I hope you aren’t suggesting that the Greeks deserved to have their country ruined due to the behavior of their their elites and their collusion with foreign bankers. .

            What penalties did Goldman Sachs have to pay for [family blog]ing the Greeks eight ways to Κυριακή? And if you’re referring to Syriza, let’s not forget that prior to Syriza winning the election, the Greeks had a referendum overturned by the Troika or whatever the EU PTB called themselves and then had a pro-bank technocrat installed to help them get their minds right. And that’s called democracy in the EU?!?!

            The Brits may have traded one group of rapacious bankers for another with Brexit, but after watching the example made of the Greeks, I can at least understand why so many Brits wanted out. And maybe they’ll be able to deal with their own bankers themselves when they inevitably begin to overreach, which has probably already started.

            Reply
            1. larry

              The UK was not in the Euro, hence the analogy with Greece does not strictly apply. You are right about the seeming worship of the bankers.

              Reply
            2. robert dudek

              The Greek fiasco represents the absolute nadir of the EU – but there have also been good things about it, such as increased freedom of movement and a promotion of a slightly less parochial and more pan European identity among many of the young.

              Reply
            3. curious euro

              Its the greeks themselves who ruined their country. First by electing PASOK and ND for decades. Those are however old tales which don’t help.

              However, in the crisis, the made a referendum. Then Tsipras went and overturned it. Not the Troika did, Tsipras did. Troika didn’t govern Greece, it was not their responsibility. It was Tsipras’. And he failed, he screwed up, he is a miserable failure. One week after the referendum.

              That can happen. Leaders aren’t always leaders but maybe cowards. Or Schäuble took him aside and told him he knew where his kids go to school. Schäuble is that kind of a guy.

              However, after Tsipras caved unconditionally, the Greeks reelected him 8 weeks later. The leftists in Syriza who didn’t agree with austerity, afaik didn’t even make it back into parliament. A few years later, the voters voted in NeaDemokratia back in, one of the 2 parties that put them into this mess and who are totally neoliberal and austerity driven for the people but not the elites like all current conservatives

              Either Greece is a democracy and then the voters need to accept their responsibility what they did for decades and before and after the referendum or they are children and then it’s probably better that Brussels governs them if they are incapable and need a firm hand to give them all the social benefits they so crave.

              Reply
          4. Seamus Padraig

            But that’s just a perfect example of how the EU rolls: co-opting national elites, so that they turn against ‘their’ own peoples. Greece is an unusually stark example of that, but in a larger sense, it’s true of almost all EU countries to some extent or another.

            There is no such thing as a “Greek elite neoliberalism” that exists in isolation, because Greece is not sovereign. There is instead a European elite neoliberalism, which is strangling most of the continent. Let’s not forget about the other PIGS, after all. And even in the ‘good’ countries, like France and Germany, economic growth has been virtually non-existent for years, while median incomes have been stagnant and declining for just as long. Or is all that the fault of the Greeks, too?

            Reply
        2. vlade

          Yes, the greek people were dealt with harshly. But I’d really like you to try and explain to German voters that austerity is not the way to go – when the German government was loath to invest and spend for years, and it was at least partially because the voters didn’t want it to borrow money.

          (That said, I found it fascinating that Merkel shown more compassion to Syrian refugees than to Greeks. Maybe she felt that for Greeks it was their own fault, for Syrians it wasn’t. Who knows).

          English are not the only ones with weird behaviours. I never understood the fascination of Germans with strong DM, when strong DM meant unemployment, and the likelyhood of DM being undervalued when joining EU was arguably the saving grace for Germany’s export for quite some time..

          Reply
          1. Peter

            But I’d really like you to try and explain to German voters that austerity is not the way to go

            I guess German voters think that incurring debt is worse than stifling an economy. When I grew up in West Germany incurring a mortgage for a house got you into financial bondage almost into the second Generation. One reason why private homeownership was at such low levels (not necessarily a bad thing).

            The concept to avoid any debt – personal and public – as much as possible was inculcated in my generation (Boomer).

            And the strong DM was a result of the after WW2 still strong remembrance of the Inflation after WW1 and the loss of value of the Reichsmark when forcibly exchanged in the “Waehrungsreform” of 1948.

            Merkel was not alone in her punitive approach to Greece, she was supported by quite a large percentage of Germans who felt – reading the comments in the Spiegel at the time – that Greece should have been dealt with even more harshly.

            Reply
          2. ape

            The Syrians was Merkel’s personal failing — she was gung-ho about Iraq which lead fairly directly to the refugee crisis. And I suspect that she’s smart enough to see that.

            Reply
      2. John A

        A financial adviser interviewed this morning on the BBC radio flagship morning news and politics programme Today, said that British banks will no longer be constrained by EU rules on bankers’ bonuses. Says it all.

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      3. phichibe

        To second Yves’ thoughts here, I think that there has been a collective amnesia over the role that the City of London and its support network of legal and accounting firms played in the run-up to the financial crisis in 2008. It is notable that AIG Financial Services was located in the UK precisely because of its lax regulation. Likewise, the pernicious role played by the law firm that wrote the “Repo 105” legal opinion that allowed countless financial firms to hide dodgy assets on their balance sheets at 10Q time.

        Ironically, the Bank of England and its governors received many kudos for their post-crisis assessments of the costs of the crisis (Mervyn King and Mark Carney both got knighthoods) but as far as I can tell few if any regulatory reforms were enacted by Cameron’s Treasury after the dust settled. In any case, with BoJo’s aspiration to effect “Singapore on the Thames” we will see what few reforms were enacted gutted, and the entire bloody country turned into a macro version of the dodgy banking system of the Channel Islands.

        I hope Europe follows through on its threats to blackball UK FIRE companies. And in response to other posters, yes the neo-liberal religion first infected London and then spread to Brussels, much against the will of the French at the time led by Mitterand, a Socialist. The Germans were only to willing to sign on since Neoliberalism, per Mark Blyth, was merely code for the revenge of the asset owners and lenders, which capital-rich Germany has been since the 50s, against the inflationary depreciation that they experience in the late 60s and throughout the 70s. Neoliberalism, in other words, was the revenge of the Rentier class, and it first was promulgated by Maggie Thatcher, aided and abetted by think tankers funded by the likes of (lord) Keith Josephs. Get your history right before lecturing us on the evils of the Neoliberal cabal in Brussels.

        Last note: I believe the odds of a financial crisis like 2008 in any given years are about 15% but over a decade nearly 100%. Like earthquakes, they may be deferred but they will not be denied. We’re overdue for a repeat of the 2008 calamity but this time with Trump and his crew of 4th-raters in the White House and BoJo and his equivalents. When the dust settles from the next crisis, the only ones who will prosper will be the lawyers and the undertakers, the two performing analogous tasks wrt bankruptcies and deaths of despair.

        To quote from one of my favorite British bands, Hawkwind,”Thank you Dr. Strangelove for going doo-lally, leavings us the heritage of Damnation Alley”. (I think I am sage in claiming the prize for being the first NC commenter to quote Hawkwind.)

        Reply
        1. Clive

          It’s no use going back to the 1980’s in a “he started it”, “no, she started it” way, to point the finger of blame for neoliberalism’s creation but then completely ignore the truism that today’s actors are responsible for their actions in the here and now..

          When I was about 12, in the early 1980’s, I forged a note from my mum to get out of cross country running in gym class. That has absolutely no bearing on my beliefs and conduct today. I didn’t become a forger, for example.

          Conversely, if in the 1980’s I’d been an absolute angel, but now I’ve fallen in with the wrong crowd and taken to a life of infamy, my being good boy Back In The Day is irrelevant, as is the assertion that it was those lowlife sorts I’d taken to hanging around with who “led me astray”. Try that on in court of law and see how far it gets you. Or in the court of public opinion.

          Reply
          1. curious euro

            Your 12 year old forger has a bearing if he hasn’t ever stopped forging since and still forges, but now banknotes instead of gym class. All because he found out what great things one can achieve with a little forgery at 12.

            That however is what the UK has done and is still doing. And it’s why it has still bearing on their belief today, especially when one wants to do a “Singapore on the Thames”. If we had instead a rainbow unicorn labour government that made the NHS to the best system in the world again, then and only then it would be a bad argument.

            With the UK (and most other EU countries) there is a very very clear line from Thatcher, Major, Blair, Cameron, Johnson now. And the actual policy over this time never ever changed. Only difference is that in the other countries it started to go downhill slightly later: they are followers, not leaders.

            Reply
    2. Polar Socialist

      changing this particular Europe would require unanimity between the 27 remaining

      and

      seeking political understanding issue by issue between sovereign democracies

      are basically the same thing. But apparently one is bad and the other is good?

      Is this a case of “bipartisan” UK not really understanding how politics work in EU? And that “seeking understanding” across Europe is actually easier within a common framework (EU) than without one.

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, that part shows how clearly Lexiters have no idea what they are actually arguing for. You either have formal structures for agreeing issues between neighbours, or you have bilaterl agreements without structures. In the latter case, the party with the biggest guns (literally and metaphorically) drives the deal.

        The fantasy of the Brexiters is that they have bigger guns so can drive a better deal than they could in a multinational structure. They are about to find out the hard way that this isn’t true.

        Reply
    3. vlade

      How very English, blaming the EU for domestic UK sins, while spewing nonsense (“governed according to EU decrees against the will of their people.. “)

      Johnson still has about 11 months worth of that, but then, it will be a wee bit harder (not that the tabloids won’t try). He’s already running into problems trying to balance the US and China in the 5G debacle.

      I, for one, won’t have drink today, being ill with flu, but I may well have a drink on 31 Dec 2020, with “Welcome to the real world, Boris!” toast.

      Reply
      1. curious euro

        Grog is good for flu, right? :)
        Also, various flu remedies have alcohol I think.

        PS: you call grog a “rum toddy” I believe.

        Reply
    4. PlutoniumKun

      That is why the idea is growing that it may be time to give up this failed European union and start all over, seeking political understanding issue by issue between sovereign democracies rather than a nonfunctional economic unity as decreed by transnational capitalist bureaucracy.

      Essentially this means ‘Lets forget cross-national structures with in-built checks and balances and lets construct a Europe based on bilateral agreements in which the bigger countries dictate terms’. Because that’s the reality of what she is proposing.

      Reply
    1. paul

      Why bother? The SNP has absolutely no interest in independence, as underlined by Nicola Sturgeon’s momentously deflating speech this morning.

      That we lost 118 devolved powers today to westminster did not get a mention.

      The mood among Yes supporters is a gloomy as the day after the second referendum in 2014.

      Reply
  5. Basil Pesto

    possible outlook for the optimists: https://youtu.be/j8VMkUs85Dg

    I’ll be in Scotland, Wales and England in July/August, for the first time in a while. I’ll be interested to see how things are on the ground, if indeed i can discern any meaningful superficial differences

    Reply
  6. Livius Drusus

    The British Labour Party and center-left/left needs to own much of the blame for Brexit. Like the center-left/left in the rest of the West, they seriously failed to understand the mood of their own national working class constituency and this created an opening for the populist right.

    One of the biggest mistakes that even the economic left (like Corbyn/Bernie) makes is that they underestimate the power of emotional appeals to nationhood and other non-economic concepts. They think that it is enough to just have a “good platform” with a lot of economic goodies for working people.

    But the current populist revolt is only partially about economics. Another element is the demand for power and dignity on the part of working people. This often shows up as an appeal to patriotism or national values. Right-wing populists are very adept at appealing to these emotional elements in the public to win elections.

    I am not saying that the left needs to become chauvinistic but it needs to respect the dignity demands of working people and this means not always giving into whatever woke Twitter and the activist base demands. For example, critiquing globalization should not automatically be seen as a form of racism.

    Reply
  7. Fíréan

    It is what it is, the period of the withdrawal agreement, and we move on from here.

    In some countries we have received letters, in English, from out host government’ s departments of Immigration and Naturalization , explaining our position during the transition period. Very helpful and agreeable.

    Here is the first part of a series, in pdf format, explaining in brief the Withdrawal Agreement.

    https://britishineurope.org/2020/01/21/the-withdrawal-agreement/

    Direct link to the pdf file at lower section of above linked website page .

    For many of us , if not the most, nationals in a host country nothing changes tomorrow and for the duration of the Transition period, as is decreed in the WA .
    Would not have been so easy and clear had we arrived at this point with a no-deal situation. Articles explain better I .

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    Well it is done. Brexit is now a reality after all these years. And the man at the helm, of all possible people, is Boris Johnson. Boris goddamn Johnson. The only thing good about that is that at least it was not Nigel Farage as Prime Minister who left the European Parliament in a display of crassness. The European Parliament, for their own part, sang Auld Lang Syne at the final session but I will offer my own song here-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJKMji2688M

    Reply
  9. David

    Stepping back a bit, there seem to me at least three things going on here simultaneously. As we’ve discussed before, the 2016 vote was primarily a rude gesture at the metropolitan elites, with the majority itself probably traceable to the tone-deaf and arrogant Remain campaign. For many people who voted Leave at the time, the vote was it, they’d made their point and it was now up to those superior types in Westminster to do what they’d been told to do. So today isn’t particularly a day for rejoicing; they’ve moved on to other things. To the extent that there’s any popular feeling at all it’s one of relief that it’s over, mixed with residual anger against elites that tried to undermine the referendum result. Those for whom leaving Europe was a cause, and this is a victory, were always a very small minority.
    Second is the impact on the UK – not economic, which has been endlessly discussed and is at bottom unknowable – but political. There’s the small matter of the terrifying decline of the British political and administrative system revealed by Brexit, which is not going to suddenly get better, and which may not last long anyway in its present form. But there’s another and subtler point: for the first time in living memory the Establishment has not got what it wanted. It’s been defeated on a major, major issue, one of the few on which it was broadly united. I don’t know when the last time something like this happened – the 1945 election perhaps? But, irrespective of all the arguments that Johnson is a paid-up member of the Establishment etc. etc. it remains true that this is a defeat on a subject where it was thought that public opinion would be forever quiescent.
    Third is the impact on Europe. The French media this morning has been full of pontifications from Brussels, and von der Leyen saying that Monday would be a “new page in our history.” She and others have been making ritual noises about reconnecting with citizens, making them love Europe and so forth, but the reality is that the EU, in its current configuration, is un-reformable, and the European elites don’t have the remotest intention of reforming it anyway. Brexit is only the beginning of this story, and like all of these themes it’s hard to know where it will end.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      I’ve been reading through the various blog posts and twittering in the piece above. The one by Chris Grey is most memorable, albeit not for the reason that it is anything especially good.

      It is memorable because it does convey, unwittingly I think, the profound sense of Establishment (I wish there was a better term to use, but I don’t think it is employed incorrectly here) shock, bewilderment and, yes, grief, at Brexit. It’s worth reading the whole thing because, having considered Grey’s reaction — which is fairly dramatic — it does seem that something much more profound is at work than just the loss of a political point.

      Grey communicates such a sense of righteousness, certainty and clairvoyant-level knowledge of destiny — all now sadly thwarted — which I can’t think of a parallel of anywhere. It’s like he’s lost a limb or similar.

      That so much of a person’s identity could be subsumed in and consumed by what, even to its biggest fans, is a flawed institution says to me that an unhealthy level of overidentifiction was at work in many spartan Remain’ers. If so, this was a borderline psychological disease process and needed to be examined and, yes, refuted.

      To put it another way, I voted Leave. If Remain had won the referendum, I might have thought an incorrect conclusion had been reached and lamented the implications. For a day or so. Then, I would have shrugged and figured that if that’s what people think, and more think like they do than I do, that’s the way it goes.

      No way would I three-and-a-half years on be writing 1,000 word whinges like he felt compelled to do, bemoaning he and other self-appointed arbiters of a nation’s fate had failed — not that that failure was in any way attributed to them, their arguments or their abilities to communicate their arguments effectively — to get what they wanted.

      Once in a while, say every 30 years or so, the UK goes through one of its periodic bruising-yet-cathartic “Who rules?” phases. For Grey and even more so those in a similar fashion to him who took even more direct action to try to reverse Brexit, the conclusion “And it’s not you” seems to have come as — and is still — a shock. Similarly, for the US, the same medicine was administered to the Beltway in the form of a prescription of a course of Donald Trump. Again, as with spartan Remain’ers like Grey and, US readers may need to correct and inform me better here, I suspect with the Democrat’s instinctive reaction to Trump may be showing, further and stronger doses might well yet be needed.

      Reply
      1. Jokerstein

        (Disclosure – I am an Expat Brit, with no intention of ever returning, but I have continued to follow the Brexit saga with interest).

        I agree whole heartedly with what Clive says, and I find this section by Grey remarkably odd:

        Crucially, there is clear, sustained polling evidencethat more people think that it was wrong to vote to leave the EU than think it was right. The current figures, from 26 January 2020, are 47% to 40%. Even more,56%, think Brexit will be economically damagingcompared with just 21% who think it will be beneficial. Two of the four constituent countries of the UK voted against Brexit, and the parliament/assemblies of three of them have rejected the legislation enacting it.

        If the country as a whole is now anti-Brexit, they had their chance in December’s GE to at least delay, if not scupper entirely the program. Instead, they handed an immense majority to the person committed to Brexit, and also gave a good shoeing to the party whose leader they felt, IMHO, was not trustworthy, and who had no deep commitments.

        The way the many-headed were treated in the last few decades was shameful, even more so since the Brexit referendum. At that point the mask came off, and despite all the shenanigans they attempted, the populace put its foot down, and told them to go *bleep* themselves. Good!

        Reply
        1. Anonymous 2

          Well that is first past the post for you.

          If you categorise Labour, Libdem, PC , Green and SNP as ‘Remain’ and the Tories, UKIP and Brexit party as ‘Leave’ , then the former got about 53% and the latter 46%. Whether one can do such a simple read across is of course very debatable as doubtless some Remain people voted Tory and some Leave people voted Labour. But, perhaps not coincidentally, it does tally quite well with recent opinion polls.

          Do remember that Thatcher never got more than 43% of the vote but got large majorities because the vote on the ‘Left’ was split. Much of the history of the UK over the last 40 years can be explained by the superior ability of the Right to concentrate its vote in one party. Until Labour and the Libdems agree to work together little is likely to change.

          Reply
      2. turtle

        To be fair, keeping the status quo even when things are not great (i.e., “remain”) is generally a lot less psychologically unsettling than adopting radical changes (i.e., “leave”), particularly if the person making the evaluation has not reached a certain threshold of suffering under that status quo which would trigger them to act.

        This is a normal human psychological process, and is what prevents a lot of people from adopting changes even when they would be beneficial (see the fears about switching to Medicare for All in the US, for instance). And this is even when there is plenty of evidence that there would be a lot more advantages than disadvantages to making the change. At what threshold of pain does a person with a tooth problem decide to go to the dentist for a root canal?

        Now imagine someone who has not reached that threshold of suffering under the status quo who sees a change being made to the system that has few, uncertain advantages but many disadvantages, both certain and uncertain.

        It doesn’t surprise me that the writer is reacting so much more emotionally than you would have if the result had gone the other direction. You would have kept the status quo, while they feel that they are being cast into some terrible, unknown future. And fear of the unknown (especially when there are scary shadows lurking around) is a very real thing.

        Reply
        1. David

          I suspect age is a factor here. I don’t know how old Grey is, but he’d have to be over 60 to have any memory at all of what the UK was like before joining the EC. Fear of change, in my view, was the biggest single reason why people voted Remain. For those of us getting older it was possible to recall a time before Heath took us in. Correct as that decision was in 1972, the fact is that life in those days was objectively better than it has been for some time now (if you consider no extremes of wealth and poverty, employment, public services and so forth important) and the decline in those things has been contemporaneous with membership of the EC and the EU even if there is no strict cause and effect relationship.
          In effect, then, Remain was a conservative movement, frightened of change, and deeply invested in the status quo. It’s 48 years since Heath took us into Europe, which is about two generations: a classic time for new norms to be established, and for a new class to arise which draws its identity and its legitimacy from a particular order. You can compare it, with due allowances for political differences, to the 40 years or so of Communist rule in eastern Europe, the years of Franco in Spain, or the decades of apartheid in South Africa. Each created a new class of winners – as did the EU – who fought hard to retain their privileges, and who longed for some time for the good old days.

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          1. Bert Schlitz

            When that fails, maybe self-suicide is next. Neo-liberals basically used the last debt crisis(which labour got caught up in) situation for short term political gain. Capitalism is not coming back. The 19th century investment phase ended in 1907 and began the consumption phase that was the 20th century sign wave. Now its taking ginormous amounts of debt to keep capitalism going. Growth is slowing because real profit and real wages can’t grow fast enough together anymore without a large debt liquidation that will make the 19th century Chinese civil war which killed 60 million people look quaint.

            Most of the so called “brexitters” in the Tory party don’t want any nation states left, international slave states run by the capital owner is what they want. Con the weak minded has no ends. Its part of the problem. If they are too weak to understand…………..

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          2. Synoia

            I suspect age is a factor here. I don’t know how old Grey is, but he’d have to be over 60 to have any memory at all of what the UK was like before joining the EC.

            Grim. Unpleasant. Expensive. Cold. Wet. Low Pay. I was so well paid I could not afford heat. /s.

            I was better off as a student than in the workforce. And my employer, NW Bank, worse “management” than the Construction foremen I had during my Uni years.

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        2. Anonymous 2

          ‘ (especially when there are scary shadows lurking around) ‘

          Indeed. I think the UK will now move considerably further to the right and the PTB will seek to drive stakes into the ground to make it virtually impossible for the Left to get back into power in any meaningful way ever again.

          Murdoch and his allies do not play nice but they do play for keeps. Dark days indeed

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      3. Frank Little

        There are lots of parallels, especially looking at who got what they wanted out of the result and who did not. That said, the nature of the question posed to the electorate in each case does merit some discussion when trying to figure out what the results signal about who rules a country.

        Brexit was an unprecedented referendum while Trump was elected through a normal (if disgustingly long) American presidential election. This changes how individual people approached their votes and, more importantly, whether they voted at all. It seems that lots of people lament the decision to hold the referendum, but as and American who didn’t follow it at all before the election I remember thinking it was kind of cool that Brits would be able to vote directly on the issue. In fact, even when states do pass referendums they’re usually ignored or undercut by the governor or legislature. Campaigns breed all sorts of false promises and I know that was the case with Brexit too, but that’s my memory.

        Just checking Google, turnout in the Brexit referendum was something like 72%, which is about 17 points higher than the turnout in the 2016 election. If American voters could have sent an equivalent middle finger to the ruling class without having to actually give the powers of the executive branch to Donald Trump I suspect the turnout would have been higher.

        Plenty of voters supported him because his campaign and personality pissed off Beltway types, who deserve far worse than Trump’s bad manners. But plenty of others, faced with the choice of two very distasteful options, just didn’t vote because another election would come eventually and it’s all just a dumb expensive reality show anyway.

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        1. Seamus Padraig

          If American voters could have sent an equivalent middle finger to the ruling class without having to actually give the powers of the executive branch to Donald Trump I suspect the turnout would have been higher.

          Good point. For a lot of ‘deplorables’ in the US, the 2016 election was more like a referendum on trade, immigration and foreign policy than than a normal presidential election. The Democrats and the media, afraid of giving those issues a fair hearing, simply tried to represent the election as a referendum on Trump the man, and they lost. Love him or hate him, Trump was willing to raise those issues, unlike pretty much everyone else in the race, whether Democrat or Republican.

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    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said, David.

      Anonymous 2, David, Harry and I frequently comment on, to use David’s phrase, the “terrifying decline of the British political and administrative system revealed by Brexit”. Having a mum and friends still working in the system, I hear about it regularly.

      It would be interesting to hear commentators from other countries about their systems. Perhaps, this is for another post.

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      1. Ignacio

        Your question is interesting. Spain has different dynamics compared with the UK in part because is more recent democracy and many institutions are relatively new. In some cases they function now better than when these were created. In other instances this don’t hold. For example health care, wich has been 1) underfunded under conservative governments (plus this stupid austerity) and 2) transferred to regional administrations though I don’t get why health care would be better managed by 15 admins rather than one.

        I can talk about one institution that has been working quite well: Red Eléctrica Española -the manager of the electric grid.

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      2. PlutoniumKun

        It is indeed an interesting question – I don’t think any country has seen its institutions rot as dramatically as the UK.

        Here in Ireland there was a disturbing drop in quality during the economic boom days – the reason was quite simple – public jobs were historically once much prized, so they could attract the best, but during the boom those jobs became a fall-back for those who couldn’t make a fortune elsewhere. There were anecdotes of young civil servants quitting to work on building sites because they could earn twice the money that way (certainly, the best civil servants were cherry-picked by banks).

        But austerity, ironically, reversed that process. Its a very hard thing to measure, but given the success of the Irish government to get its way during the Brexit process it strongly suggests that there is still a high quality structure in place. It should be said though that privatisation and contracting out has done some damage in other areas, although nowhere near as badly as in the UK.

        A while back I was talking to a public sector architect in Ireland who was pointing out that an Irish public body restored the Irish parliament building for approximately 2% of the cost the UK is spending on the restoration of the House of Parliament – and the Irish building is, while much smaller, an older and more architecturally sensitive building (its actually the original model for the White House). The restoration was primarily done in-house.

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    3. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      Well put David & what worries me most is how divided the country is which I believe will be very hard to heal, particularly as i suspect that hard core Remainers will be screaming ” I told you so ” at any bump in what will likely be a very rocky road.

      As for the EU I do think it is prone to shocks & if for example coronavirus turned into something truly nasty, perhaps causing havoc in the ME & North Africa, I wonder what consequences that would have for the free movement of people & EU states ability to close their own borders. Hopefully the problem will never arise but I personally don’t have much confidence in a large complicated structure like the EU handling such a scenario very well – but then again I don’t have much confidence in how any of the current Western crop of leaders would handle it either.

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    4. Fellow Minnesotan

      A special and sincere thanks to David, PK, vlade, Clive, Col Smithers, and others for providing such amazing value-add to the already-best-site-in-the-business the past couple years! I wish it were a different, (much) more positive topic that had engaged all of us here, but your contributions were always a highlight of my morning news reading.

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  10. .Tom

    Bojo delayed despite his insistence he would not (“dead in a ditch”). And he surprised us with that NI plan. So he’s able to be flexible when the deadlines loom and stark realities are inescapable. Hence Dec 31 2020 is roughly as hard a deadline for the end of a transition period as other deadlines, like 29 March 2019, have proved to be.

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  11. Titus

    As an Irish Timeseditorial put it yesterday, “no state in the modern era has committed such a senseless act of self-harm”. That begs a question as to whether in the time of climate change and globalism that assertion makes any sense. But – as to self harm, nah, we elected trump and hands down we win the award for “self harm”.

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    1. KnotRP

      Chemo treatment is self-harm, aimed at cancer. It only seems odd if your particular tint of glasses obscures the cancer such that you manage to equate risky treatment as tantamount to suicide. Nothing is ever that simple. Whenever one finds oneself not understanding the situation, one should examine one’s assumptions. Befuddlement is in the brain of the beholder.

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  12. Brooklin Bridge

    From afar, no matter what benefits there are in the political and economic structure of the EU, austerity and the loss of sovereignty to deal with it seem likely to remain a festering issue, regardless of or exacerbated by the departure of Britain, that citizens of member states have to contend with, not to mention issues of ambiguity regarding whether or not the process is sufficiently democratic.

    Without some resolution of that (and roasting Grease to a self consuming crisp was traumatic to many – for and against – irrespective of understanding or bias) it seems inevitable that the EU remains fragile.

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  13. Bert Schlitz

    Brexit is irrelevant. Capital markets remain in place. There is nothing new or different other than how it flows. The biggest nothing in near term history.

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  14. RBHoughton

    It was entirely appropriate for you and NC to report on Brexit throughout the tedious years. The entire commentariat in UK all had its own agenda – getting anything reliable was impossible. It was Yves at NC and Clive, the Colonel and one or two others who put out the important facts that others overlooked. Its might be NC’s most egregious sin since 9/11. We should all stand behind style and integrity and give whatever support is necessary to this site until the media recovers its sense of duty and academies cease issuing certificates of competency to unqualified hacks. OK, I’ll take a pill.

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    1. skippy

      The “Rub” is UK is doing a Greece of its own accord E.g. it was never forced upon it. All of which has more to do with its rather strange notion of international power based on a defunct past. Then has the Chutzpah to fat finger the EU whilst simultaneously bending over to the US.

      Its a strange dialectal battle between fundamentalist Neoliberalism and its latter day cousin Ordoliberalism, yet, both still ascribe to the Barter theory Say law construct of Sovereign currency.

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    1. New Wafer Army

      Well, here we are. Dear British readers, what does it feel like waking up in a newly independent, free country? Will poetry akin to that of Yeats after Ireland’s war of Independence be written? Will a dynamo like that of the freshly free American colonies spin up? Will a process of decolonization like the African and Indian (sub)-continents be undertaken? Oh, what a magical time, perhaps best captured by Wordsworth:

      ““Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
      But to be young was very heaven.””

      Oh look, there goes a flying unicorn farting rainbows out of its arse.

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      1. ChrisPacific

        Nothing much will change in the short term due to the transition agreement, so the ship of state will sail on for a while. The only change is that Boris has scuttled the lifeboats. Fortunately he has no intention of running into any icebergs, so they won’t be needed.

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      2. notabanktoadie

        T’would be nice if the young could have hope. Is there anything better for the older generation to live for?

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  15. notabanktoadie

    Now might be a good time for Britain to experiment with a radical fiat and credit creation system – an ethical one.

    I truly believe the Brits might be up to it – having (as Churchill quipped about the US) tried everything else.

    As for the US, I reckon we have yet to taste socialism adequately so this is a good opportunity for the Brits to show US (and the ROTW) up and regain some stature as a world leader.

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