Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Brexit: a world of uncertainty

With four days left to serve of my Twitter jail time thanks to the ghoulish remain mob, some have suggested that I take a time out from the whole affair. This I have done largely because it coincided with a visit from an old friend from up north. Yesterday we found ourselves thoroughly lost in the Brecon Beacons only to wind our way down the hill to Hay on Wye.

There we found a bookshop - a former cinema, in which from the million or so books in the shop, the first book I happened upon, possibly because of its distinctive and familiar spine, was The Neophiliacs by a certain Christopher Booker. As bizarre a coincidence as that is (given his writing connection with North Senior), the quote written on the back is even more timely:
It is becoming more and more obvious that it is not starvation not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is mankind's greatest danger, because he has no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating in their effect that the greatest natural catastrophes. 
Prior to noticing that quote by CG Jung, I had been outlining to my friend why the EU is a totalitarian entity. At the heart of the EU lies a value system; one that pretends to stand for Western liberalism and democracy but one which in truth embodies all of the "psychic epidemics" of our age (not least climate change) and in time, no doubt, will incorporate some of the emerging ones - not least the twisted ideology of transgender rights.

The modus operandi of the EU is to use economic blackmail to advance its own value system. We have seen this with various attempts to sanction the Visegrad nations and at the core of the Brexit dilemma, the EU ultimatum is that we must open our borders to the EU if we wish to enjoy the same economic relations as members. It is a coercive power.

The dysfunction, however, which is indeed the cause of the so-called populist revolt, is that the value system is increasingly alien to the peoples of Europe, and as political elites through Western Europe become more estranged form their own electorates, it is set only to get worse. Therein lies the death of the EU.

The clue was not from the Booker tome, rather from two other books purchased in Hay on Wye. I now have a small but growing collection of books on global governance and globalisation. They are all much of a muchness and though they chart the universe of international organisations they all massively underestimate the EU's role in underpinning what is commonly termed as the global rules based order.

As we have discussed previously, from all this talk of the UK becoming a rule taker, the same can be said of the EU as increasingly it takes its technical cues from international specialised agencies. These bodies, though, lack the supranational authority of the EU and indeed its coercive power in trade - whereby the EU applies conditionality to its free trade agreements. The global system needs the EU - especially when under strain from the United States.

Here you have to look at the image the EU projects. I think it akin with a television projector made up of a red, a blue and a green light which projects the picture on to the wall. Ultimately the values projected is an amalgam of the value system of France, Germany and the UK. Brexit switches one of those bulbs off. Now we find the picture projected is essentially the same, but takes on a wholly different tint.

Ever since the 2016 vote we have seen the EU putting a brave face on the whole thing. They are keen to signal at every turn that Brexit is not a show stopper and that the show will go on to become bigger and brighter and more unified than ever. We have seen more overt calls for federalism - not least as Macron is ever keen to promote his "good European" credentials.

But as it turns out, Macron is near universally hated and has of late been exposed as the empty vessel he always was. France is not a country at ease with itself and is expressing its view in that so very French way that sees the streets lined with burnt out Citroens. The real crisis for le grand projet, though, has yet to arrive.

Essentially Mrs Merkel is Germany's Tony Blair. Like the UK, Germany has experienced a long period of political certainty under a progressive liberal regime - but all good things - and indeed all bad things, must come to an end. And that end is in sight. In the near future Mrs Merkel joins the alumni of ex-European leaders of the old order - one which does not understand the direction of travel in Western politics.

The crisis of competence we here in the UK has only really come to the fore because Brexit has proven to be too complex and hugely divisive. But Brexit of itself has not caused the incompetence, rather it has a shone a torch on it. There is every reason to believe the German polity would fall apart under the same stresses. Meanwhile, nationally, many of the stresses that led to Brexit exist also in Germany. It is only a matter of time until those frustrations come to the fore.

Shortly after the UK referendum, the cartoon pictured here began circulating on Twitter. It is true than many leavers predicted that Brexit would lead to a domino effect. In light of the renewed expressions of solidarity from within the EU machine, many remainers hold the cartoon to be wholly accurate and a humiliation for the eurosceptics. They may have spoken too soon.

Of the two remaining lights projecting on the wall, with Macron's anaemic progressivism already n the wane, and with the imminent departure of Merkel, the projected picture will begin to blur to the point of incoherence. Of itself that spells choppy waters ahead for the EU likely to be exacerbated by another Euro crisis on the horizon. Internal friction in Italy is also one to watch.

Though Brexit may not lead to the departure of other core member states, the sentiment behind Brexit is still manifesting on the continent and though the political organisations because the new wave of "populism" may be floundering, the resentment and anger is every bit as acute. That domino effect, despite the fluorescent signals from the EU, is very much underway. How and when it manifests is really the only question.

The surge of federalist messages from the EU could just as easily be viewed as the swansong. Consent is on the wane and further federalism engineered by aloof political elites whose own legitimacy in question simply cannot withstand the weight of the ballot. CG Jung may well be right that man has no "adequate protection" against psychic epidemics but if ever their were one, it is national democracy, which appears to be coming back with a vengeance.

This is where we see the establishment on the defensive. This they are calling populism because it is an attack on the value system of the EU and the political elites. To describe such movements in politics as populism serves to demonise popular public sentiment as somehow reactionary and regressive. In their eyes democracy is only democracy if the vote produces outcomes they approve of. Anything else they see as a sinister resurgence of the nationalism and the "far right" - which is now anyone with even remotely conservative views. It is an attempt to delegitimise democracy itself.

In this they are right to worry. To panic even. The stakes are far higher than that of the survival of the EU. It brings into question the global order of the last seventy years. Much is said of the EU's ability to export regulatory standards, but in so doing it is the agent of the United Nations system (including the WTO) and vanguard of the Sustainable Development Goal agenda. This is leverage, which is either because regulations just make good sense or because they are exchanged for market access (formally in an FTA).

As long as EU retains a prosperous (ie attractive) domestic market it retains this leverage but as centre of economic gravity shifts from the Atlantic to east and south - and as emerging economies shun the conditionality of EU trade, the risk is that the attraction diminishes. This is a near certainty as Europe faces an era of prolonged economic stagnation and declining purchasing power. This can only be exacerbated by a worsening of political uncertainty. 

Perversely, it is Europe's elites who will contribute most to this uncertainty. As the threats become more acute they become more paranoid, more censorious, more paternalistic and more condescending. In every way they become more authoritarian. Soon we are expected to hear whether the UK an unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification. If the decision is that it can, then there will be heightened pressure for the government to do so.

In many ways Brexit is a democratic correction to a succession of admissions acting without consent in respect to the European project. Abiding by the 2016 vote is probably the only way to quell the growing resentment of the political class and bring about the necessary and long overdue democratic reforms. Should MPs cave into their authoritarian instincts and force the revocation of Article 50 then we are in uncharted waters.

As much as there is no return to the 2016 status quo, a revocation of Article 50 will more than likely be the final straw for a patient public who have waited for so long to be heard. Patience is a finite resource. Here it is not in the British character to take to the streets as the French do, and traditionally the British conservative instinct does not do marches and protests. That is the domain of the left - and the ordinary voters lack the Soros funded buses to get everyone to London. British rebellions are far quieter in their nature - but every bit as searing. 

Many have remarked how easily even stable country can descend into madness and we cannot rule the possibility of it happening here. The Corydon riots and the fuel protests of recent history give us some indication as to how fragile public order can be. If the public are robbed of their vote and the twenty year long campaign to leave the EU rendered inert by a political class who second guess them, there is certain to be a price. 

Somehow an explosion of rage seems unlikely and un-British. The petulant and largely orchestrated thuggery in the wake of the Grenfell fire is again the domain of the left. When the British silent majority are enraged they vote - and when they do they will vote for those most offensive to the establishment whether they subscribe to their views or not. In the meantime, our politicians and the London remain elites would be well advised to double up on home security. The Jo Cox slaying shows us that it takes only one to cross the line.

At the heart of this is a culture war between the public and the elites - whose values are increasingly alien and whose actions and outputs are informed by those "psychic epidemics". This makes Brexit a flashpoint in history where the next moves will decide the shape of the relationship between the people and their government. It is conceivable that the establishment could, for a time, get away with betraying the 2016 verdict but in so doing they sow the seeds for a political firestorm from which they will not survive. Our patience is not eternal. 

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