Reflections on the Brexit folly, its losers and winners

24-8-19

Dear Partners in thought,

The Brexit saga may end in a No Deal as foolishly desired by the current British PM whose only ambition was to be PM for a party that put its interests well ahead of that of its nation (like the other party’s leader to be fair). It is time to reflect upon how Britain arrived at this dire state of affairs and identify the losers and the winners of what history will doubtless see as folly. 

Referenda are usually meant to be lost even if few would have thought the Leave vote would have prevailed in June 2016. Leave prevailed as Remain was a bad name, the benefits of EU membership were poorly articulated and the “fear” factor and campaign over-played to the extent it did not register with many voters. Leave made promises in the truest populist sense that were easy solutions to complex issues combined with superior marketing skills and slogans à la NHS. Leave voters transcended party politics largely with left-wingers, many short on facts and at times education, in depressed British areas, aiming at the EU capitalist plot while others wanted to keep the job-stealing foreigners out of areas where there were no longer jobs. At the same time well-off, right winger, tories, often retired but very vocal decided it was time to get British sovereignty back (however notional it was) from those folks who could not run a pub in Bruxelles. To be sure most of them were all good people, but they wanted to exist, be heard and either stop that dreadful, inhuman globalisation process or go back to Victorian times they read about as children. 

Once the smoke clears and assuming Brexit is enacted, Britain, if it has not really felt much economic pain yet (as many Brexiters point out rightly even if recent signs are not good) will gradually feel the blow in terms of jobs shifted to mainland Europe (finance, services), a much lower level of foreign investment (quite a few foreign multinationals cancelled their investments like Toyota or BMW) and a British pound declining further, all of which will have dire consequences on the financial standing of the UK, not to mention the City of London, once a preeminent world financial centre and of course all households. As Bill Clinton’s chief campaign strategist’s James Carville  famously said once “It’s the economy, stupid”. Dreams of glory or revenge do not make up for a lower GDP and fewer jobs being created as Brexiters, once they have what they wanted, will soon realise, many of whom wondering what they did to themselves and their country. So Britain is a sure loser at all levels, not to mention that the young who did not vote much will bear the brunt of the decision of their elders who will gradually disappear in the sunset haven enjoyed a rather good life. However Europe is also the loser as it was stronger with Britain in a world of blocs. Europe’s preeminence as the leading trading bloc in the world will be seriously affected while Britain will have to deal with its largest trading partner and live with rules and regulations it will no longer participate in shaping. Brexit is a lose-lose game for both Britain and the European Union – and the Western world generally all the more as America is led by an erratic, ignorant and dangerous President. 

In fact the real winner of Brexit is Russia, which may have helped the Leave outcome and will surely benefit from it as the European bloc and the West are weakened. Macron’s decision to engage with Russia this past week to solve the Ukrainian situation is a preemptive move that says that Brexit will happen. The other winner of Brexit, albeit to a lesser and indirect degree, is China, which also has to deal with the trade war follies unleashed by President Trump who is now wondering whether America’s worst enemy is China or the Fed’s Chairman, just if we needed to assess his level of sanity. One thing is sure, to paraphrase Lenin, is that the Leave voters, regardless of whom they were and what they thought they thought in June 2016, were by and large “the useful idiots” of Vladimir Putin and to some extent, quite indirectly, China. 

Warmest regards,

Serge                 

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