Monday, 5 September 2016

Brexit: The Backlash Begins

Cartoon of post Brexit Britannia - leaderless and looking foolish
I predicted this at the time: Brexit isn't going to be easy due to the tangle of legal obligations we're tied up in as a result of layers of treaties with our EU partners. Now the Establishment backlash is beginning to bite so butter the popcorn, people, this is going to be fun.

Trade deals trumpeted

The British press has been crowing over how Britain will do very well, thank you very much, once it has cut ties with the EU. Trade deals with commonwealth countries have been mooted as a source of export income but there are problems with this. They're not obliged to trade with us just because they used to be our colonies.

The Commonwealth 

Despite assurances that Australia will be quick to enact a bilateral agreement with the UK, it's important to note that we'll be governed by EU trade laws until we are completely out of the EU, which means nothing can happen until at least two years after Article 50 has been invoked; you can't marry someone else until you've divorced your current spouse.

Indeed, bad memories of colonial paternalism and the problems with existing bilateral trade agreements with the West is creating a buyer's market in which, let's face it, Britain is not the buyer. Other countries, including Japan and the USA aren't all that keen on losing their Anglophile gateway to Europe, a position that could be taken over by my native Ireland if the responsible ministers play their cards right. Here's the problem, though: Ireland is heavily reliant on the UK for trade and doesn't seem to have the will to muscle in on the UK's economic turf.

Gateway, not gate-keeper

Think about it: why would any nation trade with the UK if the domestic market isn't big enough to compete with the terms they enjoy with Britain as part of the EU? The whole point of trading with the UK from a foreign country's point of view is access to the EU market via Britain. Even the Commonwealth countries can't get a big enough market share in the UK to make a bilateral trade agreement worth their while. In any case decades of colonialism (with all that entails) has resulted in economies that struggle to provide a big enough market for products aimed at a middle-income market. Neoliberalism may have resulted in some people becoming better due to offshoring but until the number of middle-income earners in the former Commonwealth countries increases we're not going to gain much in the way of export income from them; poor people can't sustain a consumer economy.

Brexit bounce-back

It's not all doom and gloom according to the Express and the Telegraph. My works inbox has featured a slew of emails inviting me to welcome new starters to the company; an expanding workforce is a sure sign of genuine growth. Basically, the service sector is absolutely booming in the UK while the EU is experiencing a slowdown due to policies based more on ideological fantasies than on reality. I've not forgotten the ERM debacle of the early 1990s. Basically, over-reliance on the EU for economic stability is unwise because you can't control both ends of the market, and that's what centralisation attempts to achieve. That said, the Economist has advised that the underlying economic trend is a slowdown to match the EU's.

I'll be keeping an eye on media trends RE: Brexit; will the right wing press still be declaring us winners this time next year? I'm not sure. Our lack of economic sovereignty locks us into the EU. We'll be in limbo until we've been freed from our obligations under our various treaties, which means we won't be able to make agreements with other nations for years after Article 50 has been invoked and economic life will go on without us, right wing cheerleaders notwithstanding.

Can we just pretend the Referendum didn't happen?

Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland wanted to remain in the EU. At the moment, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is offering to form a coalition with UK ministers who want Britain to remain in the Single Market. Divisive, much? I think that's the plan. She won't give up on Scottish independence. Indeed, she points to Scotland's desire to remain in the EU as a case for independence.

Immigration is a big issue

Meanwhile our Glorious Leader Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that Brexit could bring "difficult times." This is where the lever gets inserted into the crack. The fulcrum is immigration. It turns out you can't repeatedly scapegoat immigrants, then act all surprised when people want the problem sorting out. Don't blame the right wing for this; when the infrastructure required to successfully integrate immigrants into our societies isn't there, they not only stick out like sore thumbs, we end up competing with them for jobs and services. The market isn't taking care of it, people.

Meanwhile, in Germany...

Immigration is a hot button issue in EU countries, too. Angela Merkel is paying the price for her dewey-eyed optimism; people don't like having their ethnic landscape and culture upended when whole communities are flooded with newcomers who are simply dumped there, it's why her party is taking a hammering in the regional election exit polls. And as I've stated before, people swing right when they're ignorant and scared. I'm an immigrant myself but I understand the folly of allowing unregulated free movement — any country with a thriving economy and welfare provision becomes a magnet for the underprivileged. Result: social problems caused by tensions between established communities and the newcomers.

Memo to ministers: Either plan for the influx or slow the flow. Don't let a mess occur on your watch, then blame the people who are suffering the consequences of your actions for their attitudes. Mind you, it'd help if our policies weren't causing people to abandon their homes en masse in the first place.

Could public opinion break Brexit?

Given that the Brexit brigade sold us a lemon many people are suffering from buyer's regret and are trying to reverse what they've done. As a result, a petition calling for a second EU referendum has resulted in the prospect of a Parliamentary debate. As former PM and war criminal (depending on your point of view) Tony Blair has asked:

"Who made the rule that we have to stop the debate now?"

Well given how easily the Right, which dominates the press, was able to manipulate public opinion in favour of Brexit, I can't see them having that much of a problem walking back their positions citing the lack of preparedness on the part of the politicians who pushed it and of the civil servants responsible for implementing it. Scapegoats will of course be sent off into the political wilderness shorn of their credibility. We can't expect the media to take responsibility for their content, can we? The public is already losing faith in the process because the Brexit brigade can't seem to think their way past "Can't be dealing wiv all dem foreigners tellin' us what do to, innit?"

If Brexit means Brexit, we need to get an exit plan nailed down. If it means "Prevaricate until the Brexit brigade becomes a laughingstock and we all agree it's a bad idea," I can live with that. It's what I've expected to happen since the referendum results came in.

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