By Thomas L. Friedman
April 2, 2019
A protester shouting from a lamppost on Friday outside the Houses of Parliament in London.CreditCreditHannah Mckay/Reuters
LONDON — Politico reported the other day that the French European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, had named her cat “Brexit.” Loiseau told the Journal du Dimanche that she chose the name because “he wakes me up every morning meowing to death because he wants to go out, and then when I open the door he stays in the middle, undecided, and then gives me evil looks when I put him out.”
If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have come to London right now, because there is political farce everywhere. In truth, though, it’s not very funny. It’s actually tragic. What we’re seeing is a country that’s determined to commit economic suicide but can’t even agree on how to kill itself. It is an epic failure of political leadership.
I say bring back the monarchy. Where have you gone, Queen Elizabeth II, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Seriously, the United Kingdom, the world’s fifth-largest economy — a country whose elites created modern parliamentary democracy, modern banking and finance, the Industrial Revolution and the whole concept of globalization — seems dead-set on quitting the European Union, the world’s largest market for the free movement of goods, capital, services and labor, without a well-conceived plan, or maybe without any plan at all.
By Peter S. Goodman
April 1, 2019
LONDON — In the political realm, no one knows how Brexit’s long-running theater of the absurd will end. But for much of the business world, Britain’s departure from the European Union has effectively happened.
Nearly three years of uncertainty since the June 2016 referendum has forced companies to plan for the worst — the prospect that Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal governing future relations. The twisting road to Brexit has already slowed economic growth, discouraged investment and damaged the reputation of the nation as a haven for commerce.
Global banks and other financial services companies are steadily shifting thousands of jobs and more than $1 trillion in assets to European cities to ensure that they are able to serve customers across the English Channel regardless of the rules that national regulators impose after Brexit.
Japanese automakers have scrapped plans to expand in Britain, in part because Brexit undermines the country’s virtues as a hub for European trade.
I have tried repeadedly to figure out the Brexit movement, I why the Brits didn’t just undo the terrible decision. Here is an op-ed that sheds light, on a complicate subject. His piece ends:
“I believe now that a subliminal empire does persist in the dreaming of a large number of Britons, hinted at in a longing for the return of guilt-free racial categorization, in the idea that my country can be both globally open and privileged in an international trading system where it can somehow turn the rules to its advantage, in the idea of a safe white core protected from the dark hordes beyond by a mighty armed force.
How could this dreaming have survived so long after the fall of the actual empire? One answer may lie in the matchless political skills of Margaret Thatcher. She achieved the extraordinary feat of turning into political orthodoxy a plainly contradictory credo, that nationalism and borderless capitalism could easily coexist. The reality of the new Britain has been a shrunken welfare state, a country ruthlessly exposed to global free-market competition. The blindness of Thatcherism’s supporters has been to accept it as the patriotic solution to the globalism it enabled.
This idea, which begins to make sense only if your country happens to control a global empire, came from someone whose childhood dream was to be an official in the Indian Civil Service. It has been orthodoxy for four decades, not just in her own party but for a time, at least, in the main opposition. The bizarre and already disproved notion that the global free market might work as an avatar of Britain’s imperial power lies at the heart of the die-hard Brexit psyche. Propagating it was Mrs. Thatcher’s personal success, and that success, as we can now see, was her great failure.”
Here is a comment I found useful:
It is important to understand what drove Brexit When the EU was enlarged to include Poland (wages 1/4 of France), Bulgaria (even lower) , Romania (yet lower) factories closed in high wage EU countries (UK, France) and moved East. A famous case study is that of the Whirlpool factory in Amiens , (labour cost Euro 35/hr) moving to Poland (Euro 7.80/hr) that nearly derailed the campaign of Mr. Macron. That is, wages moved to the EU average. That is they fell (in real term) in high wage countries and rose in low wage countries. Welcome in Poland (that however turned less democratic) and it was not welcome by the working population in Western Europe. Concurrently, under the EU policy of free movement, Polish plumbers willing to work for less , moved to London, putting British plumbers out of work. This was welcome by the British elite, that now could their plumbing in their Victorian Townhouse repaired cheaper and promptly, but not by British plumbers. Eventually, the lower middle class revolted (as we see in France with the gillets jaunes, and in the US with Trump voters) But the fault lies not with the lower middle class. The fault lies with the educated elite that should have foreseen the political consequences and installed a system of transfer payments from the elites (winners) to workers that lost good jobs) That a) would have helped UK workers and farmers, and b) would have lessened the increasing inequality that, lies at the bottom of all
David Lindsay: I’ve struggled to understand Brexit since it occurred about two years ago. Its like another chapter in Barbara Tuckman’s “The March of Folly.” Why would Britain do something so against it’s real, long-term interest.
This op-ed by Pakaj Mishra actually explains Brexit better than previous attempts, and is the best thing I’ve read on the subject. The chumocrats are at it again!
By Pankaj Mishra
Mr. Mishra is the author, most recently, of “Age of Anger: A History of the Present.”
Jan. 17, 2019, 580 c
Earl and Countess Mountbatten, behind naval and military members of the governor-general’s staff, walk down the steps of Government House in New Delhi, India, June 21, 1948.CreditCreditAssociated Press
“Describing Britain’s calamitous exit from its Indian empire in 1947, the novelist Paul Scott wrote that in India the British “came to the end of themselves as they were” — that is, to the end of their exalted idea about themselves. Scott was among those shocked by how hastily and ruthlessly the British, who had ruled India for more than a century, condemned it to fragmentation and anarchy; how Louis Mountbatten, accurately described by the right-wing historian Andrew Roberts as a “mendacious, intellectually limited hustler,” came to preside, as the last British viceroy of India, over the destiny of some 400 million people.
Britain’s rupture with the European Union is proving to be another act of moral dereliction by the country’s rulers. The Brexiteers, pursuing a fantasy of imperial-era strength and self-sufficiency, have repeatedly revealed their hubris, mulishness and ineptitude over the past two years. Though originally a “Remainer,” Prime Minister Theresa May has matched their arrogant obduracy, imposing a patently unworkable timetable of two years on Brexit and laying down red lines that undermined negotiations with Brussels and doomed her deal to resoundingly bipartisan rejection this week in Parliament.
Such a pattern of egotistic and destructive behavior by the British elite flabbergasts many people today. But it was already manifest seven decades ago during Britain’s rash exit from India.”
By Roger Cohen
Jan. 15, 2019, 651
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.
Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock
“A democracy that cannot change its mind is not a democracy. The people may do that when presented with the whole picture after seeing only a partial or distorted one.
It has taken more than 30 months to shift from “Fantasy Brexit” to “Reality Brexit.” The difference, after vitriolic debate that has consumed British politics virtually to the exclusion of all else, is stark.
The first was Britain’s 2016 vote, fueled by lies, to leave the European Union, trumpets blaring. The second, after a crash course in the facts of what membership brings for Britain, came Tuesday in the form of the crushing defeat by a 432-to-202 parliamentary vote of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for British withdrawal on March 29.
This, of course, was not a vote to remain in the European Union after all. It reflected anger across ideological lines that united Conservative lawmakers who want a complete British break from Europe and representatives of other parties who want to remain in the 28-nation union. Above all, it reflected complete disarray, the incapacity of May or anyone to come up with an acceptable compromise deal to accomplish something so inherently undesirable as to defy prettification.”
I want to remind folks, that investigators have reported that Russian trolls and bots and Cambridge Analytica, owned by the right wing billionaire Robert Mercer, were both part of the campaign to destablize Britain with Brexit. It has worked brilliantly. I understand why it was in Putin’s interest. It is not clear to me what Robert Mercer wanted and why.
Why Is a Compromise So Elusive?
The Achilles’ heel of a Brexit deal is the border between Ireland, a member of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. For years, this border was militarized because of sectarian violence that left more than 3,500 people dead. But with the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, free trade was allowed.
This was possible because Ireland and the United Kingdom were members of the European Union. But when Britain voted to leave, the Irish border again became an issue. Reintroducing customs controls would pose many problems.
Mrs. May’s draft agreement proposes keeping Northern Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom, in a European customs union until a trade plan that does not require checks at Ireland’s border is ready — so perhaps indefinitely. But this means Britain would also still be subject to some of the bloc’s trading rules and regulations.
In short, while paying a $50 billion divorce bill, Britain would remain bound by many European Union rules without any say in the making of them. This infuriates the hard-line Brexit crowd, who say it would leave Britain as a “vassal state.”
For those of us who still want to see a vibrant, unified Europe, our best hope for the moment is the faint chance for a second referendum on Brexit. If Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan on how to leave does not find approval in Westminster, the question of whether to leave with no deal at all could be put to the British people: Look, is this really what you want?
It is a remote possibility, yet it offers Ms. Merkel her own second chance — an opportunity to do everything she can to show British voters that the European Union is worth keeping. She could begin by endorsing limits — even slight ones — on the free internal movement of labor. Done right, it would send a signal that Brussels and Berlin are listening to voters, while doing minimal harm to Europe’s labor markets.
This would not hurt the principle of free movement as such. It would also be a move that the Germans themselves might find attractive, given that a new batch of countries — this time in the western Balkans — are lining up for membership. Whatever her answer, the choice is pretty clear for the European Union: reform, or face the next revolt.
Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a contributing opinion writer.
These days I’m writing a lot about trade policy. I know there are more crucial topics, like Alan Dershowitz. Maybe a few other things? But getting and spending go on; and to be honest, in a way I’m doing trade issues as a form of therapy and/or escapism, focusing on stuff I know as a break from the grim political news.
Anyway, as Britain’s self-inflicted Brexit crisis (self-inflicted with some help from Putin, it seems) comes to a head, it seems to me worth trying to explain some aspects of the economics involved that should be obvious – surely are obvious to many British economists – but aren’t, apparently, as obvious either to Brexiteers or to the general public.
These aspects explain why Theresa May is trying to do a soft Brexit or even, as some say, BINO – Brexit In Name Only; and why the favored alternative of Brexiteers, trade agreements with the United States and perhaps others to replace the EU, won’t fly.
Now, many of the arguments for Brexit were lies pure and simple. But their claims about trade, both before and after the vote, may arguably be seen as misunderstandings rather than sheer dishonesty.
“LONDON — More than 150,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts posted tens of thousands of messages in English urging Britain to leave the European Union in the days before last year’s referendum on the issue, a team of researchers disclosed on Wednesday.
More than 400 of the accounts that Twitter has already identified to congressional investigators as tools of the Kremlin, other researchers said, also posted divisive messages about Britain’s decision on withdrawing from the bloc, or Brexit, both before and after the vote.
Most of the messages sought to inflame fears about Muslims and immigrants to help drive the vote, suggesting parallels to the strategy that Russian propagandists employed in the United States in the 2016 election to try to intensify the polarization of the electorate.
The separate findings amount to the strongest evidence yet of a Russian attempt to use social media to manipulate British politics in the same way the Kremlin has done in the United States, France and elsewhere.”