“Brexit Cannot Be A Success” – Why A Deal Between Britain and the EU Probably Won’t Happen

News and Politics

If you haven’t heard by now, Jean-Claude Junker, the President of the European Commission, had dinner at Downing Street with May and her chief negotiators last week – and then leaked the details to the German press. Essentially, it’s a culmination of what we already largely knew: The UK is unwilling to pay any substantial ‘divorce settlement’ and the European Union does not want Brexit to be a success. Shocker!

Clearly, this was already obvious to anyone who understands the people involved and the interests they happen to represent. “Brexit cannot be a success,” as Junker himself said, because such an outcome is contradictory to the EU’s long-term goal of, well, continuing to exist. One shouldn’t require much explanation as to why the union simply cannot allow a member state to exit on terms which are even relatively equal to those that it enjoyed inside. Britain will either leave on a deal which involves considerable financial compensation to the block or without a deal at all. Moderate Brexiteers, those that delusionally hoped for both sides to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, will come out in droves to explain why that simply isn’t fair but, well, what on Earth did you expect? The only outcome which benefits the European Union is the one in which the European Union doesn’t suffer an existential crisis, and where Britain gets hammered as a warning to other potential defectors. Tad mean? Sure. Kind of resembles a Mafiosi protection racket? Uh huh. Welcome to the real world sunshine.

Now, if Britain happened to be lead by individuals willing to compromise, then a deal could still potentially be struck. A bad deal, sure, but still better than no deal at all. Still better than us crashing out of the European Union and the Single Market with no transitional period and then having to conduct business with our single largest trading partner on WTO terms. Unfortunately, I’m quite sure that’s exactly the direction we’re heading in because Theresa May has decided to fill her top team with hardcore Brexiteers to whom the prospect of Britain completely severing ties with the EU isn’t even all that frightening. A “Clean” or a “Hard” Brexit is precisely what David Davis (The Secretary of State for Leaving The European Union) and Liam Fox (The Secretary of State for International Trade) have campaigned on for years. Their children are unlikely to be affected by cuts to state schools or rising food prices, and their taxpayer-funded second homes in SW1 will ensure that the ever rising cost of rent will similarly be an issue that only the plebs will have to concern themselves with.

So no, I don’t think there will be much resembling a deal at the end of the, absurdly short, two-year negotiation period, or at least the chances of us reaching one are more or less whatever odds you assign to Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minster on the 9th of June.

I wouldn’t expect Theresa May and the Conservatives to suffer too much politically from such an outcome, or at least not for a long while. A narrative is already being set by the right-wing tabloid press which continues to exert an ungodly influence over British politics. If, or when, the negotiations fail, two camps will be entirely at blame. One will be the unreasonable men in Brussels, of course, who refused to ignore their own political interests in order to ensure that Britain is punished. The second recipient of blame will be far more frightening. It will be the “Saboteurs,” the “Remoaner” fifth column which did nothing but “talk Britain down,” and the foreigners who keep stealing all the jobs that nobody else wants. And a considerable part of the population will continue to drink the kool-aid because they couldn’t possibly have been wrong and because confirmation bias continues to be a powerful force. After a while, as the economic consequences begin to hit home and the opposition gets its house in order, opinion will shift, but only then.

***

Okay, so as I was in the middle of writing this, Theresa May decided to step outside of number 10 and give a rather extraordinary speech. Not only, she said, had “The European Commission’s negotiating stance hardened” but that “Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials.” Furthermore, she claimed that “All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June.”

There are two things to be said about that statement. Firstly, it’s brilliant electioneering. May has practically implied that a vote for any party other than the Conservatives is a vote for Brussels and Jean-Claude Junker. A vote for the Conservatives, therefore, is a vote to tell that sleazeball and his cronies where to shove it. A vote against continental meddling in our affairs.

Secondly, however, the claim that European politicians and officials are actively seeking to influence the result of June’s election is both absurd and simultaneously dangerous. To make such dramatic accusations against the very people on who’s ‘goodwill’ Britain’s long-term future depends is an outright act of national self-harm. Theresa May will get her majority all right. It will probably be very big. However, as did Cameron when he called the Referendum in the first place, she is trashing her nation’s future for the relatively short term benefit of the Conservative Party. Whoever wrote that speech should be given a bloody medal; before being sent straight down to hell.

 

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Trump Will Get Whatever He Wants From Britain – We Have Given Up Control

News and Politics

“I hold with respect to alliances, that England is a Power sufficiently strong, sufficiently powerful, to steer her own course, and not to tie herself as an unnecessary appendage to the policy of any other Government. I hold that the real policy of England—apart from questions which involve her own particular interests, political or commercial—is to be the champion of justice and right; pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks that justice is, and wherever she thinks that wrong has been done. Sir, in pursuing that course, and in pursuing the more limited direction of our own particular interests, my conviction is, that as long as England keeps herself in the right—as long as she wishes to permit no injustice—as long as she wishes to countenance no wrong—as long as she labours at legislative interests of her own—and as long as she sympathises with right and justice, she never will find herself altogether alone. She is sure to find some other State, of sufficient power, influence, and weight, to support and aid her in the course she may think fit to pursue. Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” – Henry Temple, British Foreign Secretary, 1st March 1848

The reaction of most British commentators to the fact that Theresa May will become the first world leader to meet with Donald Trump after his inauguration has been one of either horror or delight. To some, it was effectively an endorsement of the rhetoric and policies exhibited and advocated by Trump, and which May has previously condemned. To others, it served as a reminder that, as Britain prepares to leave the EU, it might find in Trump a desperately needed ally. They’re both wrong.

First the obvious. No trade deal with the United States, no matter how good its terms might be, will alone make up for the loss of single market membership. This isn’t my opposition to Brexit speaking, it’s simply an economic reality. Not only is Europe a larger market than America, but it is a market with which we do substantially more business. Just over 53% of UK exports go to Europe, just over 22% to Asia and just over 16% to North America [1]. These are simply the numbers, and I’m sure they speak for themselves.

Secondly the less so obvious. On the surface, it might appear that Donald Trump is a natural ally of a post-Brexit Britain. Not only did he support its decision to leave the European Union, calling it “a great thing”, but the new leader of the free world also happens to be surrounded by people who have a history of supporting individual nation state democracy, and therefore by extension opposing the EU. In his first interview with a British newspaper after the election, Trump said that he wants a UK-US trade deal ready as soon as possible, directly contradicting Obama’s “back of the queue” approach. However, aside from the aforementioned fact that a good trade deal alone will not solve all our problems, what exactly this deal will include is still very much an open question.

Trump said he wanted a quick deal, not one that overtly benefits Britain. Obviously, whatever happens, it will certainly be spun as such a deal for the sake of May and the Conservative Party, but the devil will remain in the details. Donald Trump is a man quite familiar with striking deals, in fact, he happened to write a book about it, and more crucially he knows how to screw people over in the process. As any capable dealmaker will without a doubt be aware, the best possible time to strike an advantageous deal is when your adversary is at their most desperate, and be under no illusion – Theresa May is very, very, desperate right now.

One of the great ironies of Brexit is that rather than “taking back control”, we have chosen to relinquish what little control we did have. The terms of our post-Brexit relationship with the European Union will be determined not by us, but by its remaining 27 member states: from France to Hungary, to a tiny province in Southern Belguim. If you think I’m exaggerating, one such province by the name of Wallonia managed to individually veto an entire trade deal between the EU and Canada because it deemed it to be detrimental to its interests. At the time, leading Brexiteers used the situation as an example of the EUs horrifying inefficiency. However, aside from the fact that it was evidence of precisely the kind of sovereignty that they claimed the EU denied its members, the inefficiency we voted to escape might very well be what kills us. This is only part of the reason why May’s hope of striking an exit deal within two years is delusional and dangerous fantasy.

While Britain’s future relationship with Europe will be determined by Europe, it’s future relationship with the United States will similarly be determined by the United States. Just like Britain at the very high of its power, the United States of America has no friends, nor does it have any enemies. The United States has interests, and it is those interests that are eternal just as they are perpetual. Trump, or at least the people representing Trump, know that while Theresa May will rather accept no deal than a bad deal when it comes to the EU, she will certainly have to accept any deal with regards to the United States. A failure to do so will be a PR disaster of epic proportions. Britain is an open shop for Donald Trump’s America. Whatever he wants he should know he can get, whether it be lower tariffs or better access for American pharmaceutical companies to the British National Health Service. The “special relationship” is largely a con, in the sense that it is designed to always benefit the United States. Truman wanted to stop the USSR and develop trading relationships, so he gave the war-torn nations of Europe billions of dollars to rebuild. Bush wanted Blair’s political support for his war in Iraq. As for what Trump wants, we’ll find out very soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit vs Trotskyist Trump

News and Politics

Here Cometh Twenty Seventeen

2016 was the worst year ever! – Was a certain hyperbolic statement a variation on which you’ve probably heard/read somewhere over the past few months. Seems a bit odd really. I mean, let’s be honest here, anyone who says that is probably only doing so because they ended up on the wrong side of Trump and Brexit, and it’s hard to see how 2017 will fare much better in that case. That is, this year Trump will actually get to be President and the Brexit process will actually begin.

Anyway, even if one is so utterly horrified by the prospect of an orange manchild becoming the leader of the free world and by Britain leaving the European Union, I’m still not convinced that that, plus a number of high profile celebrity deaths that will inevitably continue happening in 2017, makes 2016 the worst year in human existence. It seems a bit of a pointless and arbitrary exercise, but surely if we had to pick something then one might be inclined to consider 1939 (when we entered into World War 2) or perhaps 1347 (when about half of Europe started dying from the bubonic plague). Obviously, such nonsense is merely the by-product of an increasingly interconnected world living in the age of outrage.

Brexit Means Brexit 

Speaking of Brexit, why is everyone still so confused about the single market? We’re leaving. End of story. In a world where politics still trumps economics, Theresa May has made it her mission to reduce immigration “to acceptable levels” – whatever that means. By refusing to exclude students from the annual migration quota, she’s already shown that reducing numbers is more important to her than potential economic benefit, and unless the EU is prepared to give Britain a “best of both worlds” deal (hint hint: it’s not), then remaining in the single market while rejecting freedom of movement is completely impossible.

Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? The Remain campaign had been saying for months that single market membership is incompatible with greater immigration controls, and Theresa May’s stupid “Brexit means Brexit” slogan should have left everyone without a doubt that a “Hard Brexit” is precisely what we’re heading for. If May actually supported single market membership at the cost of freedom of movement, guess what, she would have said so by now. She’s the Prime Minister of Great Britain, not a former Hobbit trying to beat Bilbo at a game of riddles in a dark tunnel under a mountain.

Corbyn 2.0

Meanwhile, the embattled leadership of the British Labour Party has decided that the best way to improve its terrible approval ratings must be to reinvent Jeremy Corbyn as some kind of Trotskyist Trump: An anti-establishment firebrand with a strategy consisting of slagging off the hostile media and appealing to an apparent surge in populist sentiment.

A few problems with that. One: I’m not terribly convinced that the best electoral strategy consists of mimicking a man who lost by nearly three million votes. Two: what demographic is Corbyn’s team actually trying to target here? You might be forgiven for assuming its working class Brexit voters, but that’s rather hopeless as long as Corbyn remains dedicated to the free movement of people (which is still seemingly the case).

Otherwise, a left-populist approach is almost certain to further alienate those defecting to the Conservatives and Lib Dems, a group which (contrary to what some seem to believe) is much bigger than those leaving Labour for UKIP. Trump managed to win the electoral college by taking traditional Democratic voters in the Rust Belt. What is Labour’s equivalent to this? They can’t take the UKIP vote while supporting freedom of movement and neither can they make any inroads into the Tory/Lib Dem vote while acting like a left-wing Donald Trump. About that…

Just like with Agent Orange across the pond, the idea is seemingly to “let Corbyn be Corbyn”, and if today’s supposed re-branding exercise is anything to go by, that apparently translates to “forget whatever you were meant to do and say something incredibly stupid in order to derail the entire media operation”. In a series of morning interviews, he floated the idea of a maximum wage cap. Why? God only knows. According to Labour sources, it was never on the agenda, and Corbyn couldn’t come up with any details when inevitably pressed upon the subject.

Therefore, something that isn’t even official Labour Party policy (although, frankly, nothing these days seems to be) essentially dominated the news agenda, as opposed to the things Corbyn was actually told by his handlers to discuss. By the time of his big speech later in the day, the idea was partially discarded in favour of merely capping excessive pay to government contractors, while previous suggestions that Labour might abandon its stance on freedom of movement were also contradicted. Great message discipline guys. Just fucking brilliant.

Honestly, I’m still a bit baffled thinking about what the whole point of all this was? It was meant to be a re-branding exercise, but Corbyn didn’t change his policy on practically anything. Not on freedom of movement, not on the single market. Meanwhile, media attention was taken away from the current crisis in the NHS, which happened to dominate newspaper headlines this morning. If you haven’t heard by now, people are dying on trollies in British hospitals… In a National Health Service which the Labour Party created, and at a time when Health is one of the only issues with which it still leads in the polls.

Presented with such an opportunity, the Labour leadership should be talking about nothing but health. Every minute of every hour they should be thinking, “Ok, how can we keep screwing the Tories on the NHS”, but no, apparently making contradictory statements on immigration and a moronic maximum wage policy is far more important.

“British Law is Supreme in Britain… As Long as I Agree With It”

News and Politics

Given the inevitable rise in automation, you might have heard that many jobs are currently at risk. For instance, why should McDonalds have to pay their staff the minimum wage when they could just as easily be replaced with iPads, or, why should trucking companies keep employing drivers when those drivers can be replaced with artificial intelligence that never gets drunk or feels the urge to use a phone while cruising around the M25. However, considering the current political situation on both sides of the Atlantic, I think there’s a different occupation that’s even more at risk: Satirist. 

No seriously, satire is nothing without irony, and while not all the facts have yet been discovered, it would seem that Irony has been taken out into the yard, shot, doused in petrol, put on a little wooden raft, ignited and set sailing down the Thames in a bizarre 21st century recreation of old Norse funeral customs.

Just consider for a moment the incredible intellectual meltdown of some prominent leave campaigners after the High Court ruled that it is, after all, up to Parliament to trigger Article 50. For years these Brexiteers, these firebrand defenders of British independence, have argued that the only law that should matter in Britain is British law. British law passed by British lawmakers. They have argued that we need to “Take Back Control” and make our own Parliament sovereign again. And furthermore, they have argued that the only courts with the power interpret our laws and constitution should be courts based in Britain, not Strasbourg.

So, sit back and enjoy this brilliant spectacle as our Brexiteer friends furiously slam a decision by a British High Court to give ultimate power and sovereignty to the British Parliament, as a result of longstanding British law. The charred remains of Irony are currently being lowered into its casket.

So what does this all mean for the Brexit process? Well, it means that “Brexit means Brexit” is no longer good enough. It means that Theresa May and her inner circle of cabinet ministers and unelected bureaucrats cannot continue to act in a secretive, dictatorial manner, while completely ignoring Britain’s elected representatives. It means that Brexit will still most likely happen, but the process by which it will come about will now have to be properly scrutinized, as a decision of this magnitude rightly should.

Theresa May now has three options:

  1. Attempt to appeal the High Court verdict and (if successful) continue on her previous course.
  2. Take the matter to a vote in the current Parliament (good luck with that).
  3. Call an early general election, with Brexit now in the Conservative manifesto, and hence establish the clear majority needed to trigger Article 50.

Should be fun.