Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Whatever the price of Brexit, it's a bargain.
Nobody here wishes to downplay the significance of Brexit nor the enormity of the task ahead. Just getting key players to agree on the basics is proving to be impossible. Even now we are having tiresome debates over issues which should by now be settled. Some people are just determined not to acknowledge reality come what may. It seems that leavers are incapable of getting their ducks in a row.
What we can hope for though is that through a process of elimination we will end up at something that adequately resembles Brexit. We know that the WTO option is not going to happen and that a Canada style agreement is implausible so we are looking at something like the EEA if not actually the EEA. It's the peripherals where things get complicated where we stand to lose a lot.
The danger zone is when those marginal issues become headline issues and threaten to derail the process. Talks could stall in a way that requires us to ask for an extension and in so doing we would lose much of our slender leverage. We could discuss the finer details until the cows come home but that is not the purpose of this post.
What brings me to write this is the onslaught of self-righteous confirmation seeking by remainers. Actually, both sides are just as bad when it comes to picking up any marginal scrap of news that supports their position, but remainers are making a sustained campaign of it. The fact is that nobody really knows what the post-referendum effect is. Only in this narrow and claustrophobic debate is everything contingent on Brexit.
While Britain has been in full navel-gazing mode for the last year, there have been ongoing economic trends none of which suggest the global economy is in great shape and any growth signals have been slender at best. Putting anything down to Brexit this soon seems disingenuous. Business is not yet reacting to Brexit in any meaningful way largely because we are not slated to invoke Article 50 for some time and there are two years of negotiations before we actually leave the EU.
In this I won't go into denial mode and say that Brexit has not had an impact, it's just that I am not especially minded to find out where and how. Remainers leap on any negative metric as though this is the endgame. Cause and effect. The narrative then being that they told us this would happen. But so what if they did? I for one never denied there would be an economic shock and I suspect the worst is still to come. During the more tense negotiations we could well see market jitters and if things don't go the right way then we could take a lasting hit.
Some say I am being overly pessimistic and that the remainers will be proven wrong. I don't think so. But there is one crucial difference. I simply do not care. At least a third of Brits don't have a pension and of those who do, their pensions and investments are slight. About half the population have nothing to lose and a deep recession is barely distinguishable from the norm. Why should any of us give a solitary toss?
Now I know that is somewhat careless of me and, yes, we should care about overall economic performance but that is entirely secondary to the purpose of Brexit. If there is any absolute certainty in all of this mess is that the EU is not delivering. It stumbles from crisis to crisis and is incapable of mounting a timely and effective response to the problems as they unfold. More often than not the EU approach is to simply sweep a problem under the rug and let it fester.
What that means is that if the EU is not dealing with a problem then nobody is. We needed a reboot of trade some time ago. Since the EU has done nothing, nobody has done anything. We needed a root and branch reform of agricultural policy. And since the EU has done nothing, nobody has done anything. There are any number of problems in the labour market, many of which are caused by EU social policy that have been left to fester. So nothing has been done about that either. We have been a state of policy deadlock for a decade at least. And it shows.
The way in which it manifests is through a gradual loss of faith in our political establishment. Many have remarked that we have the worst crop of politicians in living memory who seem eternally obsessed with trivia and pile yet more debt upon us to pay for their vanity projects. We don't get social policy now. We get well meaning but largely futile gestures - not least the national living wage. Nobody on the right thinks that is a good idea yet a Conservative government has done it.
We have lived through an era of social democratic consensus which basically means a large state which increasingly consumes money we don't have to spend on things we do want to no real effect. Meanwhile a new fleet of power stations might have come in handy.
After some considerable time where general elections mean no major deviation from the consensus, what is left for us to do but remove the foundation on which all of this is built? Since governance is executed according to directive and instruction we need to remove the source of instruction and force our politicians to do what we pay them to do. Govern.
We want major labour market reform. We want policy aimed at meeting real world policy objectives instead of international targets. We want something done about wage stagnation and we want affordable housing and we want infrastructure that works. And though you might say that this is nothing to do with the EU directly, it is the paradigm that it underpins that has brought us to this.
In this we reject EU funding channelled via regional agencies and quangos. We want our money raised and spend locally and we want a real say in how it is spent and we do not want politicians imposing their flights of fantasy on us and handing us the bill. And that's really what the politicians object to - that we have taken away their favourite milk cow and the means by which they abdicate the real business of government - and the excuse they hide behind when it goes wrong.
Without Brexit we are locked into more of the same. A useless and expensive energy policy. A failing rural policy and evermore intrusive state interventions. More borrowing to sustain a state we can't afford while we pay the bosses to do nothing. More quangos, more regulation we can't refuse and more displacement activity in Westminster causing the power to flow away from councils.
All of this must be swept away or rebooted. That is what Brexit is for. Remainers complain that it will preoccupy government for a decade or more. Yes indeed it will. And that is the point. They will have to dust off the lever arch files in the back office and take a close look at how we used to administrate before we handed it all to Brussels. It will mean thinking about policy areas we have given no thought to for decades. It will mean some serious thinking about what our trade and foreign policy is and it means our politicians will have to engage in those subject areas normally delegated to anonymous officials. For so there is no escaping technocracy but some genuine oversight and scrutiny would be a first in a long time.
And will this cause uncertainty? Oh you betcha!! Again, that's the point. Certainty means more of the same where none of the fundamentals change. Except that we very much do want the fundamentals to change and we want to have a real discussion about how we are governed. The people of Sheffield and Stratford on Avon don't think everything is as settled as London evidently does. London doesn't see a reason to change. Wales and Yorkshire does. London may not see the point of all this upheaval, but the rest of the country most certainly does.
And will this cause a recession? Possibly, very probably. Will it take years? Definitely. Does it mean we will be worse off for a while? I reckon so. Will the drip of negative news swell the tickle buttons of remainer? Oh hells yes. But that's the price of Brexit. Or rather that is the price of a disconnected political elite handing over key areas of policy to a remote technocracy without our consent. That's the price you pay for entering a radical constitutional treaty without a referendum. That's the price you pay for imposing a system of government on us that nobody wanted.
For the last twenty years politicians have spoken of voter apathy. There's a good reason for that. While the EU is in control it doesn't matter who you vote for. The parameters in which the government can operate remain the same. We had successive governments where there was no noticeable difference and the direction remained the same. We had decades of politicians telling us things we didn't want are in our best interests and using their powers to subvert the public will. In almost every unpopular vote the house of commons has voted almost unanimously against the public.
They have created a political class which thinks and acts differently to the public yet they call it representative democracy. Well, guess what? That's over with now. We had our general elections and that didn't change the government. But we forced their hand and had a referendum. And that most definitely will change the government. We listened to the experts and the academics and we looked at the price tag and decided it was still worth the trouble. Yes, it's worth risking years of recession to be rid of this lot because the alternative, (their alternative) is simply more of the same.
And now that we have spoken they don't want to do as instructed. It costs too much, it's too difficult, and it will take too long they say. Except that is not their decision. It is ours. We have decided and we don't think so. And the more they protest the more convinced I am it was the right choice. Politicians that far at odds with the people they serve need to be disrupted and brought to account. They need to have their agenda overturned and they need to listen to us. And if it be the case that they have ideas other than to obey the instruction to leave the EU then they are telling us one thing. Democracy is over.
This is, though, exactly what they want. These are people who have little or no regard for the public at the best of times. If we look at the nannying and hectoring rules that come out of Westminster to the point where people are now restrained in what they can say on Twitter then we are looking at a class of people who neither like nor trust the people and are genuinely afraid of democracy.
For a time, should they succeed, they might well also succeed in fending off a recession and maintain the status quo fuelled by ever more borrowing. They might well skirt over the deep running divisions in the country and they might well paper over the cracks. It has lasted this long and I am quite sure they can spin it out for another decade or two.
But as with the EU, problems swept under the carpet do not go away. They come back to bite. And if we do not have this reckoning now, as per the instructions of the people then we will have this argument another time. And when that happens, when the social contract has been torn up by the political class there will be no trust there. There will be no patience or good will. MPs can reasonably expect to be put in the ground, the state becomes more distant and authoritarian and we all become less free. That is what happens when a government decides that the people are superfluous to decision making. And that is why just a few years of recession is a bargain to sort out their mess.
If a Brexit means recession and being less well off while we correct this historical mistake - of politicians attempting to force us into irreversible constitutional changes without our consent - then so be it. It's nothing I wasn't expecting, you didn't tell us so, and we knew what we were buying when we voted. Chances are if you have a problem with that then you very much are the problem.