Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Abroad and Home

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  • Rich Lock,

    "Is it as bad as it seems from this far away?"

    Yeah, it really is. I have only realised at quite an advanced stage in life that the metaphor 'jaw-dropping' is actually taken from a literal physical effect that can happen when spectacular what-the-fuckery occurs. It is currently happening to me nearly every day when I read the news.

    There is still no real progress in the talks (including the extremely contentious Irish border question) despite the fact that Article 50 was triggered back in March, and the clock is relentlessly ticking down towards a hard deadline.

    The long predicted domino-toppling has started, with both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority announcing in the last day or two that they are leaving (it is fully expected that large elements of the pharma industry will follow suite).

    In response to the huge amounts of economic and fiscal uncertainty, the chancellor here has just delivered a long-anticipated 'make-or-break' budget where the main intended talking point is.....(drumroll)... the raising of the threshold on stamp duty for first time house buyers. This is a move that the Office for Budget Responsibility, more or less before the words were out of his mouth, pointed out would only have the effect of raising house prices and therefore completely negating the intended effect. Bravo, Mr Hammond. Insert slow handclap gif here.

    Following the budget announcement yesterday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies today announced that the budget indicates that the UK is 'in danger of losing two decades of earnings growth' (that is, wages will flatline for another two decades). This is on top of the previous nine years of flatlined austerity wages.

    Talk to any leaver and you generally get one or more of three standard reactions: 'taking back control' (although when pressed they can't actually really define what that means, or how in a day-to-day sense life will be better); it's going to be great (although when pressed they're never able to tell you why. This reaction generally comes from rightist libertarians and techbros), and; 'your grandchildren will thank you' (the thinking here seems to be that a two-generational war of independence is a worthwhile price to pay to shrug off the yoke of tyranny in the name of the as-yet unborn sons and daughters of England).

    And speaking of NIMBYs - those who voted for it and who are just now realising it might effect them, don't.... quite appear ready to deal with the consequences of their actions.

    Grimsby, a town that makes it's living from fishing and fish processing, and which voted 70/30 for leave, has petioned to be made a free port or free town or some such, having belatedly realised that if it sent all it's fleet to sea, every single day of the year, and they came back loaded to capacity evey time, it still wouldn't be enough to keep it's main industry (the land-based processing) running at more than a small fraction of it's capacity. The shortfall is of course currently made up by processing EU catch, which is then shipped back to the continent tariff-free, making processing here economical and straightforward for EU members. This...might not be the case after March 2019.

    There has also been wailing from the usual/expected cake-and-eat-it leaver quarters that several cities that were bidding to be EU Capitals of Culture 2023 (Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry) will no longer be eligible. You know, because we won't actally be in the EU any more (but, but, we're leaving the EU, not Europe! I don't understand!)

    The whole thing is just.....fuck.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich Lock,

    The whole thing is just…..fuck.

    Oh, man.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22293 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I see that Jeremy Corbyn has spotted there's a problem:

    Where has Corbyn been? On a journey, say those close by. A lifetime of instinctive “capitalist club” Euroscepticism has been shed. Passionate distress over Brexit from his young supporters and his trade union allies has brought him round. Besides, the facts have changed. His vague, abstract distaste for the EU has given way to facing the hard reality of what Brexit means: inflicting most harm on those he cares about most. If only those on the opposite benches were on the same reality-check journey.

    It seems rather a shame he didn't have his journey when it might have mattered.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22293 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It seems rather a shame he didn't have his journey when it might have mattered.

    What has been forgotten, now that the battle lines have hardened into absolutism on both sides, is that there are plenty of very good reasons to think the EU is not a shining beacon of absolute purity, around whose feet the huddled masses can find comfort in a sort of Euro version of that other statue on Liberty Island the other side of the pond (this, crudely speaking, is the current mindset of most remainers, kiln-baked into an article of faith - that there is a beacon shining from a tower in Brussels, that we must turn to in our darkest hour).

    I recently finished reading leading lefty youth firebrand Owen Jones's 'The Establishment' (2014), who was and is a high-profile remainer. It was rather striking, reading this in 2017, that he spends most of chapter 8 outlining the ways in which the EU is undemocratic and hugely economically neoliberal - for example, privatisation of the UK rail system just before the 1997 election was generally seen as a last vicious and money-grabbing gasp on the part of a tory government that knew it was doomed. The inefficiency and costs of the privatised network have been a running sore ever since, and polls have shown that renationalisation would be an extremely popular move. He points out that renationalisation would contravene EU directive 91/440.

    There was also the not-insignificant Greece debacle, which unfolded very shortly prior to the UK referendum, where it is generally accepted that the EU gave Greece a good kicking, economically speaking.

    At the time, most remainers weren't really voting 'remain' with any passion - they were looking at the guys on the other side and defining themselves in opposition (Farage is worse than Cameron, so I guess now that you've forced me to decide, I'll go and stand with these guys. But no touching, and I'm holding my breath.)

    And most Labour heartland seats outside London also voted leave, usually by fairly wide margins.

    So yeah, he hasn't been great so far, but I'm not sure anyone else would be any good at unravelling this Gordian knot either.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The government and a large number of people in the UK are delusional.

    All 27 EU states need to approve any deal, transitional or otherwise. They won't do anything against their real or imagined interests (Irish border, status of Gibraltar, French aircraft manufacturers, German and Czech car manufacturers, etc).

    Britain's interactions with continental Europe depend on a range of agreements dating back to 1945 and before, almost all of which have been subsumed by the EU and require an agreement to reinstate/continue. These range from simple taxes, through importing regulated goods like car and aircraft parts, through simple things like flying or driving to the continent.

    The most likely situation is a cliff edge exit. As of 29 March 2019, all freight leaving the UK will be unpacked and examined. Taxes (maybe 30%, or 60% if the EU decided to recoup the UKs debts through import tariffs) will need to be paid. Anything safety critical or requiring approval (car parts to food) will simply be refused.

    As a result, much of the UK's industry and distribution sector will simply shut down. Unemployment will increase, probably to the point where the government will be no longer able to pay benefits.

    Assuming the UK still gets to vote, then it's likely that a government will be elected with a mandate to fix the problem at any price. I'd see the resulting treaty as being based on re-acceptance of the full EU acquis. Maybe the UK will have a status somewhere between Greece and Bosnia, with European supervision of and veto over their government's actions.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5543 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Toynbee is a Blairite apologist who rode point in the spiteful "liberal" media's assault on Corbyn for daring to challenge their cosy New Labour club. If you believe she has any insights into Corbyn's inner circle and his thinking on anything then I've got some magic beans for sale you might be interested in.

    Her article consists of nothing more than Corbyn re-stating the position he has always held on Europe. In any case, Labour is as hopelessly split on Europe as the Tories. The main UK political institutions are paralyzed on Brexit. Neither wants to suffer the fate of the pro-Europe Social Democrats, and be reduced to a political irrelevance. Neither of the two main political institutions have either the moral authority or political ability to reverse the outcome of the referendum. Brexit is now the default position.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2153 posts Report Reply

  • Asinius,

    The most likely situation is a cliff edge exit. As of 29 March 2019, all freight leaving the UK will be unpacked and examined. Taxes (maybe 30%, or 60% if the EU decided to recoup the UKs debts through import tariffs) will need to be paid.

    Are the Dutch, French, Belgians and Germans employing huge numbers of additional customs inspectors to do this? Unless there are signs of that, as of 29 March 2019, exports from the UK will be treated just like exports from every other non-EU member state (although they may get examined on a slightly more frequent rate than other countries). If the EU decides to impose punitive tariffs on the UK they'll be taken to the WTO, lose and be forced to remove them or the UK will be able to retaliate.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2009 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The EU is a huge chunk of the world economy. It's an even bigger chunk of the bit (e.g. not Trump's US) that care about the WTO. If the WTO rules trouble them, then in realpolitik terms, they get to change the rules.

    And the EU has, as a minimum, agreements of some sort on mutual recognition of standards, through shipping of freight and the like with most non-EU states (including all its neighbours). But not the UK.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5543 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Brexit won because the UK is in the middle of a gigantic identity crisis and as part of that a majority in deep England decided they just wanted out of Europe. They want their country back – whatever that means – and as right or wrong or as delusional as you might think that sentiment to be.

    The problem with the E.U. is it ran out of friends in high places in the UK. It has become a remote neoliberal organisation largely run by Eurocrats. At the top it is about as democratic as FIFA or the IOC and it’s high priests like Jean-Claude Juncker behave in the same manner. Over time, the E.U. alienated too many key political institutions in the U.K. to guarantee the ongoing longevity of the political consensus required to be sure of remaining in the E.U.

    In my view Angela Merkel, a dogmatic right wing believer in austerity unaccountably beloved by liberals everywhere, will not be judged kindly by history. Her unbending economic conservatism and her globalist neoliberal views on migration has exposed EU consensus decision making as a charade. The shots are unequivocally called in Berlin. She set in motion events that led to not just Brexit but an ongoing and wider unravelling of the European project.

    IMHO, the path to Brexit started ten years ago when Merkel insisted on humiliating and crushing the Greeks. A large section of the Oxbridge British elite are still liberally educated and they carry a big soft spot for the Greeks. They started attacking the E.U. over it’s behaviour towards Greece in liberal organs and the “serious” press. That in turn legitimised wider attacks on the European project in general in the British press. The high handed German actions against the Greeks alarmed and inflamed nationalists and leftists alike and badly weakened intellectual support for the EU across the UK and the continent.

    The out-of-fashion UK left had long been uncomfortable with the E.U’s economic orthodoxy and authoritarianism whilst the nationalists and Tory drys hated being bossed around by EU technocrats. Not enough attention was being paid by pro-EU urban liberals (who were far too busy scoffing at UKIP and Corbyn anyway) to the impact immigration was having on nativist views in England. Not enough attention was being paid to English self-perception in the context of their history, their geography and how that interplays with their relationship to Europe. Not enough attention was paid to how brittle English nationalism can be. With the Tories and Labour paralyzed with internal division the only public supporters of the E.U. were the widely loathed Labour Blairites and the hopeless Social Democrats. Their mouthpieces in the media laughed at Farage and poured scorn on Corbyn and they were confident Britain would stay in the E.U. They have turned out to be a total busted flush and the politics of the 1990s has been swept away by the Corbynistas and the Brexiteers. The bureaucrats (supported by the managerial classes) are still fighting tooth and nail to stay in Europe but as I said, Neither of the two main political institutions currently have either the moral authority or political ability (or inclination) to reverse the outcome of the referendum.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2153 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Asinius,

    While pragmatism may mean that the whole of Kent doesn't actually get turned into a lorry park with traffic backing up the M20 all the way to London, there are multiple other issues that are nowhere near being resolved.

    For example, the open skies agreement will lapse when the UK crashes out, making it illegal for commercial aircraft to fly to and from the UK and mainland Europe. They will be grounded.

    Apparently, airlines are refusing to sell tickets past the deadline, because at present, no-one knows how this will be resolved (if at all).

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    the path to Brexit started ten years ago

    No, far earlier than that. The notorious 'bendy banana' stories first appeared in 1994, for example, and the Murdoch press's antipathy was well established by that point. I personally remember a TV ad for The Sun which ran around the same time (maybe a little earlier - late '80's, perhaps) which contained the song line: "they'll standardise your sausage, to meet the regulations", over footage of a cleaver hacking the end off a sausage which had a british flag stuck in it (gosh, I wonder what point they could possibly have been trying to make?).

    The leavers have been laying the groundwork for this for 25+ years - UKIP was founded in 1991.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Unemployment will increase, probably to the point where the government will be no longer able to pay benefits.

    My 'best case' thinking at the moment is that we'll get a return to something like the '80's - mass unemployment, sporadic inner city unrest, etc.

    However, I suspect a more realistic outcome is that we'll get that, but turned up to 11, plus the return of 'The Troubles'.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    I've been watching the Brexit fiasco from the inside, as a contributor to a UK photography blog. One of the posters there suggested that the anti Europe sentiment whipped up by the gutter press, was done to preserve the influence of the press owners . They can lean on Whitehall, but they have no power in Brussels.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 442 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Rich Lock,

    No, far earlier than that. The notorious ‘bendy banana’ stories first appeared in 1994, for example, and the Murdoch press’s antipathy was well established by that point.

    Oh yeah, that a bigger proportion of the British public than was ever suspected were susceptible to anti-EU propaganda from the crackpot right has always been the case. My view is that the GFC, Greece and the nakedly cruel use of power by Germany gave currency to anti-EU sentiment and alarmed not just the UK elites.

    TBH, given the philhellenism of many upper class Brits and given it was Germany doing the bullying you couldn't have got a more unfortunate set of emotional triggers for the English.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2153 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Will England lose its marbles?

    A large section of the Oxbridge British elite are still liberally educated and they carry a big soft spot for the Greeks.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7565 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Rich Lock,

    My belief is that it will be similar (if obviously different in nature) to the 73/74 coal dispute. That ended with a Labour government being elected with a mandate to settle - not because the electorate particularly favoured Labour or the miners cause, but due to a desire to restore normalcy.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5543 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Attachment

    According to the Political Compass, there are 3 major types of Brexiteers (the same goes for Trumpniks, with my additions in boldface):

    Like The Political Compass itself, the EU comprises a social dimension and an economic dimension.
    ...

    D. Those rejecting the EU's prevailing economics but accepting, at least to some extent, the social dimension (many Labour supporters and Rust Belt Democrats)

    E. Those rejecting both (quintessentially UKIP and the Steve Bannon/Richard Spencer wing of the GOP)

    F. Those comfortable with many of the EU's economic provisions, if only they could easily exit the Social Chapter (Conservative and the Paul Ryan/Rand Paul/Steve Mnuchin wing of the GOP)

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5341 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/23/uk-no-earnings-growth-budget-brexit-productivity-ifs?

    UK faces two decades of no earnings growth and more austerity, says IFS
    Thinktank’s budget analysis says forecasts for lower productivity, earnings and growth until 2022 were ‘pretty grim reading’

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7565 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    I love how you're attributing such a level of analytical thought to the UK electors, who've mostly been through an education system that equips them to ask and answer deep questions such as "would you like fries with that".

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5543 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Greece came up on the campaign trail all the time by Leavers and the Brexiteers. Still does - to this day I get lectured about youth unemployment in Greece by earnest middle aged or retired men who are fanatical Brexit supporters. So I agree with Tom that it was and is a big issue for the campaign either way. My answer is always the same - I care more about dealing with UK issues I can resolve - like youth employment here. Or help provide a welcoming place for Greeks who want to move to UK for work, whether temporarily or for the long term.

    However I disagree about Greece for other reasons. It seems accepted by all outside of Greece and probably a lot of Greeks would agree, that the successive governments were the authors of their own misfortune regarding spending, tax taking, good governance and record keeping. Any international bailout would have had to deal with these issues as a core part of the settlement. Otherwise it is an implicit endorsement of the bad behaviour that in part led to the crash. Could have the EU dealt with it better? Certainly. Could have the successive Greek governments dealt with the crash and then negotiations better? Certainly. What bearing did this have on the political position of the large, prosperous G7 member state of the UK & NI, home of one of the world's premier financial centres? Little to none. Our problems were not Greece's problems and they still are not, excepting any solidarity we owe them as fellow EU members and neighbours in trouble.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1013 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    "Take back control" sounds such a powerful slogan,
    until you realise that the MPs telling you that's the goal
    are the ones hoping they will be taking control,
    and you see what a bunch of cockwombles they are.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1765 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to linger,

    Much like "Make America Great Again"

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2818 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    For those who want an update, the British Prime Minister Teresa May has just had her legs kicked out from under her by the DUP, a bunch of swivel-eyed religious loons who would rather cut out their own tongues than think the word 'compromise'. These are the same nutcases she bribed with a £1billion bung to prop up her minority government after she managed to lose a working majority by calling a snap election and then spectacularly stuffing it up.

    Specifically, she came back from negotiations with the EU a couple of days ago with some sort of progress (literally the first progress in 17 months since the referendum), only to have them blow a fuse and essentially veto what was a done deal between the UK and the EU, because it would have meant, crudely speaking, keeping Northern Ireland in the EU in all but name and effectively shifting the Republic of Ireland/UK border into the middle of the Irish Sea.

    The leader of this fringe group, who, it cannot be emphasised enough, are utterly and rabidly fucking nuts (they firmly believe the earth is less than six thousand years old, and are essentially the front group for a loyalist terror organisation), is now publicly and pointedly humiliating the Prime Minister by refusing to take her calls. Let that sink in for a second.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2708 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich Lock,

    and we worry about Winston ..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19428 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Rich Lock,

    For those who want an update, the British Prime Minister Teresa May has just had her legs kicked out from under her by the DUP, a bunch of swivel-eyed religious loons who would rather cut out their own tongues than think the word 'compromise'.

    Theresa May could well become this century's Anthony Eden.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5341 posts Report Reply

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