Saturday, 4 March 2017
Yes, Brexit IS worth the hassle
Whichever way you look at it, Brexit is going to be a bloody mess. There was a way to do it intelligently via the EEA but that window is now closed. Consequently we will lose substantial trade with the EU while sending our own governance into chaos. We don't know what sort of transitional agreement we can expect but even over the long term we are going to see law being rewritten on the hoof.
I expect markets will also go into turmoil as we struggle to make sense of what is happening. With exports badly hit we will see prices fluctuating as producers find ways to sell their surpluses on the domestic market. Some prices will crash, others will skyrocket. Meanwhile the government will be doing a lot more and we can expect to see the normal business of government shelved. I expect to see cuts and major changes in spending priorities. We will also likely see a surge in borrowing.
Even if the UK secures a free trade agreement things are not going to settle down for a while. On the whole the economy will take a hit and we can expect to see a reordering of the economy. Nobody knows what it is going to look like or who the winners and losers will be. We do not yet know what will happen with regard to medicines nor do we know if we will retain a liberal approach to EU immigration. I expect it will hit the NHS quite hard.
I think we are going to see crisis after crisis and we will be faced with the stark reality that things cannot continue as before. Hard choices will have to be made and they are likely to have deeply unpopular consequences. It is likely that we will see considerable inflation and it will be harder to make ends meet. Government may be forced to take some pretty radical measures to help take the edge off. We can only guess what that may be.
A lot of things we have taken for granted over the last twenty years are going to change. As a less affluent country, lifestyles will change and so will the highstreet. The left have moaned about austerity for years. They are about to find out what it really looks like. Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. It will change the culture and maybe we become a less throwaway society. I don't know.
What we can expect though is a resurgence of politics as unions will have a lot to say and we may very well see angry protests as sweeping reforms are made to governance. The only thing in question is just how severe all this change will be.
What I expect most of all is that several bubbles will burst. Politically and financially. A tweet I read a while back succinctly surrounded this for me. "Thatcher's political success was convincing the average bloke that a mortgage and a Mondeo on the lag from Costco makes him middle class". That bubble is about to be burst. A lot of our causal assumptions are about to be dismantled and people will have to reassess a number of their habits and choices.
In this you will find a lot of sneering remainers whining but gleefully pointing out that the worst of the effects are felt by the demographic that most uniformly voted to leave. I'm not sure leave voters will see it that way. When you live on next to nothing anyway, it's just another day.
As to how we compensate for lost trade, nobody is certain how we go about that. Nothing will happen fast and trade with the rest of the world will likely underdeliver. We will need a major pact with India I expect. That will see changes in the composition of goods on the shelves. My bet is that Brexit will bring about change the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime. The marginal effects of the financial crisis will seem as a minor blip by contrast.
A lot of people voted for Brexit in the expectation that in the longer run it would make them better off. I think it will take a decade or more just to get back to normal. There are no guarantees that we will be better off. All we can say for certain is that things will be different. This is what I voted for.
During the referendum the main theme from the remain camp is that Brexit will cause uncertainty. The inverse of that being that remaining means certainty. And what is certainty? Certainty that things stay the same, things don't change economically or politically and though we are more affluent, the privileges become more ossified and protected while everything else becomes more commercialised, sterile and policed. A gilded cage.
For me, Britain has been a living hell for the last fifteen years. Tedious to the point of tears. Old lefties like to moan about gentrification but they are partly correct. Go to Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Bradford and everywhere you go looks and feels the same. The same chain stores, the same shopping centres, the same everything everywhere. Music festivals are now sanitised beyond any concept of fun. Everything is at the behest of health and safety and the demands of the insurers. And yes, I get why that needs to be the case but when I see people queuing outside clubs to be put through security scanners I just wonder where the hell we are headed.
In fact, a lot of the corrosive and self indulgent politics we see right now is a result of western affluence. The bullshit identity politics and virtue signalling we see is a sign of a generation with nothing else better to do and no more worthy causes. Politics has become shallow and asinine. The media is in a death spiral and the BBC has lost any concept of what constitutes news.
We're in an era of beds in sheds, sky high rents, record fly tipping, the gig economy and vanishing rights at work while justice is increasingly only for those who can afford it. Remainers would point out that much of this has little to do with the EU. Some of it does, some of it doesn't, but the point is that the EU underpins the status quo and nothing else but Brexit is going to force any significant change.
If you're fairly affluent and you don't really have much depth and don't really care for authenticity then modern Britain works fine. It's a paradise for thoughtless grazing on luxuries without ever having to contribute anything. Community doesn't really exist and the system is set up to ensure it stays that way. There's a corporate service provider masquerading as a local council near you, ever ready to police any social activity or voluntarism.
Personally I think the UK is in dire need of a social revolution to reinvigorate our cultural and spiritual life - and to revive community. Britain has always been a cultural pioneer. From the swinging sixties through to punk and rave, every turn of the economic wheel has produced a cultural export that keeps Britain the focus of attention and makes London the destination of choice.
As to politics, for the first time in a very long time we see a genuine and serious debate about the future and a citizenry reacquainting itself with governance. The long forgotten subject of trade is now a hot topic and people are asking serious questions about serious things.
Reinvention and revolution are necessary things for humanity. It is the source of innovation and it is the guarantor of freedom. The ratchet effect of EU integration has already made a number of policies irreversible or too costly to withdraw from. That is why Brexit is so damaging and so complex. This is what we leavers have been warning about all these years. That is why those of us who voted to leave did so in the fullest expectation that there would be a price to pay.
For us on the leave side cheap jollies to the continent and a notional liberty to live and work abroad isn't enough. Democracy is a concept worth fighting and dying for. If that be so then it is also worth the decade or so of economic and political turmoil. Yes, democracy is messy and imprecise and yes, it doesn't always go the way we want it to. Often it can make us poorer, and sometimes it can trample on our individual rights - but the thing about democracy is that we can change things. If there is one thing Brexit has demonstrated, the EU resists change and is impervious to attempts at reform.
The systems that make up the EU and the single market are based on treaties and contracts that run well into the future and never ever designed to be put to public consultation. Even if it is designed by the well intentioned in the greater good, economics cannot be the sole factor in deciding our future. Throughout the west we are seeing political systems designed to exclude public participation where the fullest extent of most people's engagement is casting a vote every now and then - for what little difference it makes.
We don't know for certain what Brexit will bring and if we want more and better democracy then we still have a long and hard road to to travel. But at least by leaving it is now a possibility. There may well be no sunlit uplands, but we have given ourselves the tools to build our country according to our own ideals and values. Where does it say that we must open up to hyper globalisation without ever having a say in it? Why should we endure bewildering and rapid change, destroying the landscapes we value - again without a say?
For all that remainers might say that the UK had a voice in the EU, that voice was the voice of our remote political class - a shallow creed of virtue signalling prostitutes who would never stop and consider the consequences of their thoughtless gesture politics. Now we are forcing them to do something they do not want to do.
Now we are carving the EU out of our statute book and forcing our politicians to engage. It may very well put us at an economic disadvantage but ultimately we are cutting the politicians off from their vanity construct that allows them to abdicate their obligations to the people who elect them. If all it costs is a lost decade of economic turmoil then I'd say it was a bargain.
Whether remainers care to admit it or not, we were at the fag end of the postwar settlement. The internet brought about a new era in globalisation where it has never more vital to retain certain controls. The political construct of the EU was never going to deviate from its own DNA and was never going to reform. It may limp on for a long time to come but most people predict a sorry end to the EU eventually. Some people expect that it will implode while many actively hope that it does.
The idea that remaining in the EU was a guarantor of future peace and prosperity is every bit as naive as the sunlit uplands painted by our more dimwitted Brexiteers. If there is one thing the EU excels at it is kicking the can down the road. But the can can only be kicked so many times.
There will be a reckoning for the political hubris of monetary union and we are only one recession away from German voters shrugging off their EU burdens. An economic reordering of a type is inevitable. Right now everything in the world economy is in flux and under stress. A correction is needed. Brexit may not make us immune to it but we can give ourselves a head start by taking some of the hit now. It may not be an ideal time. Revolutions are seldom ever convenient, but for once we are choosing the time for ourselves.
Whatever happens now, we are embarking on a long and eventful journey. One that is seemly too much hassle for those who do not wish to be disturbed. Personally, I can't wait to get started. The stultifying and suffocating status quo is coming to an end and I for one could not be more relieved. I would certainly prefer it if the Tories did not make a monumental pigs ear of it but now that I think on it, it was a little optimistic to expect they would do anything else. That, though, is only temporary. After we pick up the pieces, we are free to choose our next path. That's what makes it worth it.