Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Brexiteers are in for a disappointment

A lot of people can't tell where I stand at the moment because I seem to direct most of my ire at Brexiteers. I've been asking myself a number of questions to that end just recently. On balance I think that Brexit is pretty horrendous. The only thing more dumb than Brexit was ever getting ourselves in this mess to begin with. Because of a completely unchecked parliament we have ended up with a system of governance that nobody especially wanted, very few understand and one that was always destined to fail.

It's one thing to establish a common market of rules but it's another thing entirely to create and overarching central authority that exists only for the purposes of accumulating more power. Eventually people will start asking questions and they will want rid of it no matter the cost. You don't have to be Oliver Cromwell to work that out.

Moreover, the structure of the EU is one that was never going to result in prompt or even workable policies. Good governance is governance that can respond to change. That is not something the EU has ever been able to do. Even minor modifications to is disastrous fishing policy took several years to hammer out. As to its response to the migration crisis, well, I need not elaborate.

The problem with Brexit is that the EU has obscured much of what has been happening in world affairs over the last three decades. The EU is only one cog in an elaborate machine. The inherent genius of the EU was to convince EU citizens that it was the whole of the machine. That is why Brexiteers are in for a bit of a shock when we leave the EU and find that we are still bound by thousands of tiny strands, much like Switzerland.

Most people have a very stunted idea of what national sovereignty is. They believe it to be the right to do exactly as we please with no reference to the rest of the world. The only notable examples of nations who act in this way a Belarus and North Korea. Everyone else is engaged in trade where common agreements necessarily require a sacrifice of some sovereignty in the common good.

Were we to have absolute sovereignty and total control we would never get anything useful done as politics would be bogged down in technical minutia while losing out on the advantages of commonality. It is for this reason that few nations on earth make all their own laws and the ones that do are not very pleasant places. Even the USA makes major concessions to international standards and regulations and will continue to do so. Most of it is below Trump's radar because it's not controversial. Who honestly wants a vote on aubergine marketing standards? There are some things we have to let industry sort out among themselves that don't really require any public intervention.

That is why we have a number of global multilateral regulatory forums. Many of them have a far more profound effect on the technical regulations that shape our society and yet nobody really bats an eyelid. The problem with the EU was that few believed it had honest intentions and was not content to merely regulate trade. Which is entirely correct.

Now that we are leaving the EU though, the game is about to change. Rather than being free of rules we are bound by slightly different ones and probably more of them. Most of the Brexiteer narratives are about to become unstuck. Trading with the rest of the world is not about to become any easier or more profitable and trade with Europe isn't going to be as free as it was. Economically there are few positives to Brexit for the foreseeable future. It will re-balance the economy but in ways few could anticipate. Most of the positives will be serendipitous and at the expense of something else.

We do not as yet know what Brexit will look like but member states will have their own red lines and we won't necessarily have the free hand to become a new Singapore or a tax haven of some type. All we do know is that a large contingent of EU law will remain virtually untouched and is unlikely to ever diverge. That is why Brexit is not the catastrophe some think it is, and is only likely to be a catastrophe if we are stupid enough to make it so. Which is entirely possible.

As to the democratic question, many of the legacy issues will stay with us. In fact the legacy issues will eventually point to the reality that divergence is neither necessary or desirable and we will probably be knocking on the EU's door to restore certain rights in exchange for certain concessions - most likely immigration. We will go full circle - as indeed has Switzerland. We won't have a free hand in deregulating and parliament will still be as remote as Brussels ever was.

In fact, the main benefit to all this is that Brexit is a political refresher course in the realities of trade and international politics. It is something we have neglected for so long that we are no longer in the habit. Our efforts on the global stage have largely been for show; turning up to the right jamborees to sign a red book. A pale shadow of internationalism.

We will find that those silver bullets are in short supply and there isn't a world full of compensatory deals waiting in the wings. None that are of much use anyway. It will take some time for it to sink in that May's bungled Brexit is a busted flush. That's when real questions will be asked and that is when things will get interesting. We'll have to come up with a plan B for Britain. From there begins the renewal that we voted for. What shape it will take is anyone's guess. We'll get to the right place, but there are a few wrong turns to make before we get there. Brexiteers are not going to get what they bargained for.

No comments:

Post a Comment