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Brexit Bulletin: Is there light at the end of the tunnel, will the train be delayed – or even cancelled?

Brexit Bulletin: Is there light at the end of the tunnel, will the train be delayed – or even cancelled?

‘Rendez-vous auf den Champs Elysees, Verlass Paris am Morgen mit dem TEE’1

 

Our Leader lost yet another vote in parliament, this has become so common-place that it barely merits a mention.

But, undeterred she soldiers on and will return to Brussels still seeking to renegotiate the Irish backstop. Some MPs fear that the backstop – the insurance policy to prevent the return of customs checks on the Irish border – will see the UK bound to EU customs rules in the long-term.

at least those bastards [in London] will finally know what it feels like to be us.

A government motion called for MPs to back its existing strategy, including seeking changes to the backstop, but ERG members believed voting for it would also see them endorsing calls to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

But what is the point in this futility? Why are we persisting in trying to renegotiate what the EU has repeatedly rejected? Determination is admirable trait, but this is beyond stupid, we have 6-weeks before the train crashes through the buffers of a No-deal Brexit

What can these Europeans think of us, well…

  1. Ireland

‘You know, we’d almost forgotten how good it felt to stick it to the Brits.’ The speaker shrugged and grinned. ‘Old habits.’

‘Brexit has damaged so many ways of doing business,’ says Eunan O’Halpin, a history professor at Trinity College Dublin. ‘There is a sense that with the British unless it’s written down, you can’t trust anything they say.’

  1. Netherlands

‘It’s a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment,’ says Michiel van Hulten, a former MEP. ‘On one level it’s entertaining, great spectacle. A pantomime you can’t stop watching. As you know, we love British comedy. Except this isn’t Monty Python, it’s your politicians.’

But mainly, a country they once felt they knew has become a mystery. When parliament sent Theresa May back to Brussels to renegotiate, the Dutch paper Trouw described it thus: ‘It’s a bit like the crew of the Titanic deciding, by majority vote, that the iceberg really must get out of the way.’

  1. Spain

‘I think most people see it as chaos – and that’s very strange in a country whose people have such a strong reputation for being disciplined and well-organised,’ says García Aller, a journalist with the online newspaper El Independiente.

  1. France

‘Did electors really vote Brexit to allow the haughty aristocrat Jacob Rees-Mogg or the demagogue Boris Johnson to challenge Theresa May … or for Jeremy Corbyn to get into Downing Street without saying what he will do about Brexit?’

  1. Czech Republic

‘The infantilisation of politics, to say ‘if it’s not my way, it won’t be any other way’, reminds me of Czech politics. We ascribe it to the fact that Czech democracy is so young, and recovering from communism. To see an established democracy like Britain descending into this chaos and irrationality is really disheartening. It’s a very comprehensive defeat for British politics.’

  1. Germany

Germans are resigned and frustrated by British misperceptions, from Boris Johnson’s claims that a ‘German-led’ EU is pursuing a Hitlerian superstate to the notion that Berlin would force the EU to submit to the UK’s Brexit demands in order to save the German car industry. They are also immune to the British tabloids’ assertions that Germany is morally indebted to Britain for the defeat of Hitler, and so should throw Theresa May a lifeline.

Mercifully, Italy wasn’t quoted so my summers holidays are safe…

However, what of the much-vaunted pick-up to our exports that leaving the EU is meant to deliver?

Well, its not going to well….so far, we only have agreements covering only £16bn of the near-£117bn of British trade with the countries involved, representing only 7 of the 69 countries that the UK currently trades with under preferential EU free trade agreements, which will end after Brexit.

Canada, Japan, South Korea and Turkey alone accounted for goods exports worth £25bn in 2017 and imports of merchandise worth £28.6bn, with the UK currently able to access these markets on preferential terms as part of membership of the EU. Sources have said that there is unlikely to be sufficient progress before the March 29th Brexit deadline.

Most of the deals secured so far are worth relatively little to Britain, highlights include:

  • the Faroe Isles, with exports of goods and services worth £6m and imports worth £230m;
  • Chile, with exports worth £571m and imports worth £718m; and
  • the Seychelles, worth a total of £123m

And there is the Falkland Islands’ whose government has sounded the alarm over leaving the EU single market, warning that the territory would take a ‘catastrophic’ economic hit if it faces new tariffs and quotas as a result of Brexit.

Their fishing industry exports almost exclusively to the EU, with 94 per cent of fishing exports by bulk heading to the single market in 2017. Fishing accounts for 41 per cent of the islands’ economy and two-thirds of the corporation tax received by its treasury.

Time to invade Argentina again………who can forget the jingoistic orgy of delight on final victory….

‘Is it worth it? A new winter coat and shoes for the wife, And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday..’2

And, to finish this week I am returning to the political and economic failures that, in my opinion, led many people to vote for Brexit.

In May 2016 Mike Carter, a Guardian journalist and the author of All Together Now? One Man’s Walk In Search of His Father and a Lost England, retraced the footsteps of the 1981 Liverpool to London march against unemployment.

8-years after the introduction of austerity by the Tories, he ‘was shocked by the level of poverty, by the sheer number of homeless people in doorways and parks, and by the high streets of boarded-up shops and pubs, full of payday loan outlets and bookies.

‘Nearly everyone I spoke to in those towns said they were going to vote for Brexit. There was a lot of talk of ‘taking back control’, and in the context of the industrial wastelands, that sentiment made a lot of sense. But the EU issue was, for a majority, a proxy for their pain.’

  • estate agents told of receiving buy-to-letters from wealthier areas, and scooping up whole rows of houses, paying cash and pricing out locals. Tenants forced into the private rented sector were now spending 52% of their income on rent, compared with 7% in 1981. Thanks to the Tories’ right-to-buy scheme, the stock of council properties had fallen from 5m in the early 80s to 1.7m, a number set to drop further.
  • In Stoke-on-Trent (which voted 69% leave), 60,000 people had been employed in the potteries industry as recently as the late 1970s, before manufacturing was largely switched to east Asia. In 2016 only 8,000 jobs were left. Stoke is a city where nearly 40% of households live on less than £16,000 a year, and 3,000 are dependent on food banks.
  • In Walsall (68% leave), the Labour leader of the council told me how Tory austerity had savaged his budget. In the future the council would be able to do not much more than adult statutory services in social care and children’s services.
  • In Nuneaton (66% leave) man reeled off the names of closed-down factories, and the amount of money spent on infrastructure projects in the south-east compared with the rest of the country (figures from the IPPR in 2014 showed that every Londoner had £5,426 spent on them annually, compared with £223 in the north-east) and told me he would be voting out in the EU referendum. But that might make the economy even more precarious, I said. He paused for a moment, narrowed his eyes. ‘If the economy goes down the toilet,’ he said, ‘at least those bastards [in London] will finally know what it feels like to be us.’
  • Northamptonshire (59% leave), where the Tory county council had recently reduced its core staff from 4,000 to 150 and become the first council in the UK to outsource to private providers every single one of its services, including child protection, reducing itself to the role of a commissioning body. It is a model that other councils are investigating. In February 2018, the council declared itself effectively bankrupt.

Successive governments have delivered a deeply divided society of haves and have-nots. People want properly funded health and education services, they want jobs with meaning, value and security.

Successive governments have delivered a deeply divided society of haves and have-nots

They want to feel that politicians are in charge, not their corporate paymasters. Brexit doesn’t deliver any of this, it is simply rabble-rousing populist politicians using the situation for their own ends.

Perhaps our political system is broken? Perhaps our political parties and their members are no-longer fit for purpose? Brexit is simply a cry for help from millions of people that governments and their policies have consigned to the scrap heap.

 

‘Now there’s nothing behind me, And I’m already a has-been, My future ain’t what it was, I think I know the words that I mean..’3

A triple treat for lyric spotters this week; and an eclectic mix – if you got three out of three you’re welcome on my pub quiz team.

1 First up we have Trans Europe Express from those strange boys Kraftwerk – immerse yourself in its full, glorious thirteen minutes.

2 Next off the rank, Shipbuilding; I can’t really hang with Robert Wyatt, but who could forget Elvis Costello’s poignant rendition accompanied by disturbing images from the Falklands conflict.

3 Then Boredom from the Buzzcocks – just because; this version from ‘Auf weidersehen’ at Markthalle in Hamburg 1981. Quite.

Enjoy! 

 

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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