Thursday, 13 October 2016
Brexit is the window of opportunity we have been waiting for
More than anything, Brexit is a revolution. For more than twenty years we have been playing a game of music chairs only the music has been stopped for ten years where those who have chairs keep hold of them and those who don't mill around on weary legs. It's no good for either.
Any settlement that outstays its welcome is one that creates inherent stresses and stagnation on a personal and a national level. Without broad changes there are few opportunities to change tack and unless forced to change, no particular incentive if you're the one sitting pretty. Such a settlement can endure but when it fails, it fails fast.
This we can see immediately from the collapse in the value of sterling. It's a corrective. One thing I do not profess to be is a financial guru - and when it comes to the markets its one of the few areas where I do pay attention to those professing some expertise. The general view I'm getting is that the pound has been artificially high for far too long creating problems with interest rates and keeping property prices artificially high.
In one simple stroke we have changed much before we have even sat down at the negotiating table. Whether this is good or bad is entirely dependent on who you are and what you own. To my mind its a lot of panic over not much.
The media bubble is convinced that Brexit will be a hard Brexit but there is no real possibility of that now. There are too many features of EU integration where we do not have replacement policies and we will need a broad and comprehensive transitional agreement until such a time as we are ready to break away. The hard Brexit that the media imagines screws both sides - which is why it won't happen. Consequently the pound will recover but not to where it was before. So that then leaves us with a not intolerable decline but one which opens up a few possibilities for financial policymakers.
The next big realisation to come is that foreign workers who come to Britain only to work for the advantageous exchange rate will likely reconsider coming to the UK sparking investment in agricultural technologies to replace low skilled labour. Immediately that takes pressure off those communities who feel overrun and in the process will ease rents where rented accommodation is in high demand. We may not even need to take measures to control freedom of movement.
As to what happens to food prices I can't really say. We can expect some prices to go up but some prices to go down now that we are to leave the customs union. I don't have a crystal ball and nor do economists. What we have done though is something more profound. We have created a massive window for change. By leaving the EU the entire political apparatus is now thinking about trade and trade policy. We have new avenues and new techniques available to us hitherto unexplored by either the UK or the EU.
None of that though really matters to the average Leave voter. What matters is that the existing settlement will cause some people to retrench and regroups their affairs while giving other an opportunity they would not have had otherwise. Change brings winners and losers. That makes me deeply suspicious of those who believe Brexit only brings pain. It's the certitude more than anything we should question. Especially from those who want to be proved right.
The society I see is one where the haves accumulate more while the have-nots remain out in the cold. According to the Tories more people than ever are in jobs but they are not good jobs and wages have stagnated. For all the talk of "neoliberalism" most of us still pay about half of what we make into government coffers one way of the other. The settlement is stale.
Culturally, economically and spiritually Britain has been in a rut for more than a decade and we have seen no radicalism from government and no hint that they even know what radicalism even is. We heard the message loud and clear. Change is not coming. The best they can muster is Corbyn and his obsession with renationalisaing railways. That's not going to fix anything.
Meanwhile, the EU is no big idea. It's not exciting, it's not going anywhere and its flagship projects are viewed with deep suspicion. The EU is not wanted nor is it liked. And since there are no big ideas on the horizon the biggest idea of them all is Brexit - and the only one on the table. I can think of no better time for a revolution. It's the only way we are going to get new ideas.
The truth of it is that the post-war settlement has run its course and outstayed its welcome. It's time for a new way of doing things for both the UK and Europe. Brexit does just that. We are not looking at a sudden death separation from the EU. We are simply redefining the relationship we have with the EU, taking powers back so that we can try things another way. It's the only way we are going to see any genuine innovation.
I don't doubt that it is a gamble - and one that may not pay off, but we will adapt to whatever comes after and the majority of us will lose little by it. It is most certainly worth a try. As it happens I think Britain will struggle to find its feet and will have difficulty overcoming the yawning competence gap that exists in government - but I see Brexit as a means to redress this and a necessary consequence of having put domestic governance into stasis for decades.
But then by that same token I am prone to negativity thus I may well be proved entirely wrong and Brexit may well be the silver bullet many think it is. I don't know - but neither do the remainers. All it takes for remainers to descend into fits of apoplexy is a short term drop in the pound and a Marmite supply shortage. Personally I am extremely interested in seeing how we will make use of new powers and excited by the prospect.
We heard much about maintaining certainty during the referendum. As it happens business is not entitled to certainty otherwise we might as well abandon general elections. In the end they will get some assurance in that we will see regulatory stability and convergence for a long time to come. What the people are owed though is a bit of hope. And that is more acute because the certainty that business prefers is more of the same anaemic growth that benefits anybody but us.
We have endured the same tiresome politics for decades and it gets worse all the time. The complete lack of parliamentary expertise on Brexit has been a real eye opener. Those who were telling us before the referendum that we need the EU to survive cannot even the the mechanism and institutions of key people. We have a supreme government which our political class takes no interest in holding to account. That is what happens when you offshore policy where it cannot be seen. Brexit brings it all back into the light of day and exposes our MPs as the halfwit wastrels they are.
On that score alone I think Brexit is worth it. It becomes more apparent by the day that we are run by conniving ignorant shits who think they know what is best for us. At least now we can categorically say that they don't. With that question out of the way perhaps we might take measures to retrieve powers from Westminster as well as Brussels. That would be really something. Imagine that. People running their own affairs without government interference. What's not to like?