Friday, 24 February 2017

It's time for remainers to get with the programme

If you look on the Twitter Brexit hashtag you will see that remainers are still fighting the referendum like the last six months never happened. I don't know why they bother. The EU is rubbish. They even said so. All the way through the referendum they said "Look, we know it isn't perfect and there is a lot wrong with it but that's why we need to stay in and reform it".

Course, one of the first thing a remainer would probably note is that the biggest obstacle to EU reform is the UK. Many suspect that the only reason the UK remained in the EU was to keep it off balance and that was as good a reason to be in it as any. What we saw was that UK based multinationals were able to steer EU law to their own advantage to make the single market the playground for our own oligarchy.

The short of it is that the EU was never going to reform while we were in it and the longer we are in the EU the more it is shaped in our own image - which is the complete opposite of the values remainers claim to uphold.

I listened to the House of Lords debate the other day and I listened especially to Jenny Jones of the Green Party. Jenny is a lovely lady with a heart of gold. Stone stupid, but you have to admire the sincerity in a sea of vipers. She was droning on about protecting workers rights as granted by the EU. This is where I get off the EU bus completely. It always gets my goat that those who waffle on most about EU workers rights are those the least likely to have ever held a real job.

One of the main reasons I work in the private sector is because it doesn't get in my way. The two best jobs in my career have been firms who have pretty much dragged me in off the street, had a quick chat and then set me to work. No stupid forms to fill in, no diversity questionnaire, no hassle. I have a zero hours contract right now and I love it since it is my ambition to work as close to zero hours as possible. So long as I can meet my expenses, it works for me.

The down side of this arrangement is that if they want rid of me then they need give me no notice, and can fire me for the most spurious of reasons. It's difficult to plan any kind of life because I walk a fine line between keeping up this blog and making a living. For me though I would much rather be sifting my way through a report on technical barriers to trade than writing code for accountants.

What works for me though is not the model that most people want. Most people that I meet in business have a far better handle on things than I do. They have plans and financial commitments and all the stuff that turns me cold. What they want over and above flexibility is certainty. They're not getting it though. They're on the same contract as me.

All we have done by gold plating rights is to make the classic model of employment redundant. The actual consequence is that nobody has any rights at all and we are back to square one. Through a number of EU interventions combined with those of New Labour we have demolished a system that sort of worked and replaced it with one that doesn't work at all.

Frankly, if the one thing Brexit produces is a Tory government that is finally allowed to take a wrecking ball to workers rights then I will be delighted. As it happens, I am more than capable of securing my own equitable deals with employers but over the years the EU has usurped the unions. There has been no real need for national unions to press for workers rights when the EU is already way ahead of them. What the EU cannot do though is adequately respond to the unintended consequences of their legislation.

I have worked in the engineering economy for more than a decade now and I have seen how the gig economy is taking hold. I honestly don't think it works. There is no loyalty to employees and that is returned in kind. We see pop-up companies set up to bid for specific contracts who have no institutional knowledge and are set up in such a way as to completely escape any responsibility for failure. The ultimate consequence is that large infrastructure projects funded by the taxpayer become corporate cash cows where there is an incentive for contracted employees not to complete work on time and on budget.

The result of this is a sort of corporatist socialism whereby the state is underpinning a vast estate of notionally private firms who basically wouldn't exist otherwise. We call it a vibrant private sector but it is anything but. We have simply privatised state procurement. Meanwhile, the big boys rig the market so only they can bid for and win the big contracts. All of this is underpinned by the UK's neoliberal approach to market liberalisation which in reality just means turning over public assets to corporate parasites.

What we have seen on the continent is a resistance to such moves with Spanish port workers going on strike, and the French are always eager to stand up for themselves. Meanwhile the British just adapt no matter how hard we get shafted.

More than anything I would like to see a factory reset on the system whereby we see a renewed union movement seeking to strike an equitable balance between the needs of business and the needs of people rather than the model imposed upon us by central economic planners. In this, I am more than happy to tolerate a Tory purge of workers rights if in the end it means a grassroots pushback to restore the pre-EU equilibrium.

I now think that Brexit most certainly will be bad for the economy. I expect to see a massive drop in exports to the EU (and a smaller drop in imports), with a huge increase in the balance of payment deficit. That will precipitate a crisis in the pound, reducing its value still further. Domestic prices go up, inflation soars. We are in for a torrid time. A decade of rebalancing and reinvention. But in that lies a great many opportunities to correct the gradual drift toward UK workers being commodities.

I am uncertain about a lot of things where Brexit is concerned but actually the certainty of the continued trends of EU membership are worse. We notionally have more rights but in practice they are worthless and you can only get justice if you can afford it. Law cannot guarantee rights. Effective unions can.

Ultimately if we can restore the equilibrium between employer and employee then we restore a degree of trust to the system instead of employers working to rule. The effect of which is a renewed social contract. EU advocates might note that this is a uniquely British dynamic and that the French and Germans do not have these problems and that you cannot blame the EU. Maybe that is true, but British culture is that we follow the law to the letter and that is why we are not compatible with the EU. We are going to pay a price for Brexit, and the benefits are debatable, but by leaving we have a great many opportunities.

Change brings uncertainty. Change brings opportunity. That is why I voted for it. Remaining in the EU would have been to perpetuate current trends. Though they may have underpinned a certain degree of stability, certainty and prosperity for the already prosperous, certainty is life limited. Eventually it becomes stagnation. That is the only destination for the EU. Brexit isn't a silver bullet. It doesn't solve very much, but it is a window for change. All we have to do is embrace it.

No comments:

Post a Comment