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Brexit Bulletin: Optimism, melancholia and nausea

Brexit Bulletin: Optimism, melancholia and nausea

‘Though the world Is my oyster, It’s only a shell Full of memories’1
Let’s start with optimism; the weather has got warmer, and spring will soon be sprung upon us, a time that always fills me with a sense of great positivity, and anticipation.

Earlier this week I found myself, late afternoon, walking through Mayfair, where I came across a café with seats outside reminiscent of the Via Veneto in Rome. Slipping into character I took a seat, and ordered an Aperol Spritz, one of Venice’s great gifts to civilisation and, reassuringly, not-served in Wetherspoons.

Next was people watching; Europeans swathed in cashmere, a sense of warmness came over me, thinking back to holidays in the early-70s in Italy, and a reassuring sense that London, and England had gained so much since those grey days.

a reassuring sense that London, and England had gained so much since those grey days

The era of Edward Heath, the donkey jacket, the Austin Allegro, lurid wallpaper, silly hairstyles, men warming their hands around braziers, and picket-line confrontations often showing strikers wearing suits and ties. Who can forget the policemen standing protectively around Margaret Thatcher as she walked into Downing Street in May 1979, with their ridiculous moustaches and sideburns?

It really is best forgotten.

This was the moment that melancholia set-in, the realisation that on March 29th we are scheduled to leave the EU. Now, putting aside my visions of utopia in Mayfair it isn’t only London that has benefitted from the EU, immigration, and free movement of goods.

Many parts of the UK have changed beyond recognition, mainly for the better, why then do we wish to become revisionists?

Is it the desire to wallow in the self-pity that summed-up yesteryear?

And now to nausea, a double-dose; on Wednesday evening there was a party-political broadcast by the Conservatives, really more a one-person show by our Leader trumpeting their/her plans, or more likely delusions, for the NHS, no doubt enhanced by all that cash we won’t be giving the EU.

Cutting aside the hollow promises and assurances it was the delivery; a mix of the patronising tones used by teachers addressing 4-yr olds, and the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang;

“Here we are children, come and get your lollipops, lollipops, come along my little ones. They’re all free today, cherry pie, cream puffs, ice cream, treacle tart.”

I was instantly overtaken by waves of nausea. The cure; never trust politicians bearing gifts!

And, just as I was beginning to feel better, today the BBC published this; A Cambridge economics professor has challenged Brexiteer Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to a ‘naked debate’. Dr Victoria Bateman campaigns against Brexit naked, saying it will leave the UK economy “exposed”. Hopefully, it will be on the radio…

a mix of the patronising tones used by teachers addressing 4-yr olds, and the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

And, so to Brexit; our Leader has been spending time in Northern Ireland, learning what we already knew; the back-stop must go, open-borders for open-trade. Our Leader is talking with the EU, and specifically her Irish counterpart to renegotiate the deal she championed, and the deal she has been told is not open for discussion.

Honestly, is there a point to all this? Or, is it just for the air miles? I know Vivienne Westwood designed t-shirts saying, “Be reasonable, demand the impossible”; Ma’am, it was gimmick not a challenge.

Which of course leads us to No Deal, and how bad could it be?

Well, a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said the blow to the economy from a disorderly departure from the EU could be softened by contingency plans being put in place by the government and by Brussels.

Ministers could also reduce the impact with tax cuts and additional public spending, further limiting the damage. They forecast that economic growth would come close to zero in the first two years after a no-deal Brexit, but we would avoid recession.

Be reasonable, demand the impossible”; Ma’am, it was gimmick not a challenge

The report comes after the Bank of England warned that Britain could plunge straight into a recession worse than the one that immediately followed the financial crisis 10 years ago, a scenario which has been used by the Leader as a warning to MPs to vote for her EU withdrawal agreement to avoid inflicting significant damage on the economy.

Although a recession would be avoided under the no-deal scenario put forward by the NIESR

  • GDP growth over the long run would remain below the level forecast we secure a deal
  • If a deal could be agreed, they expect growth of about 1.5% this year.

However, in the event of a no-deal scenario, the NIESR analysis said that additional support could be put in place by ministers and the Bank of England to curb the short-term impact to the economy.

  • Interest rates could be held steady at the current level of 0.75%, and
  • Direct support to household income, including income tax cuts and higher benefits payments.

All good so far, 2-fingers to Europe, no divorce bill and no recession.
Well, sort of; they calculate that support of this nature could add up to £60bn to government borrowing by 2023-24, and that inflation could accelerate, eroding real wages and acting as a brake on the economy in future.

In short, we may not have a recession, but we will owe more and be worse off. Sounds familiar, yes, it’s post-2008 Mark II, and David Cameron’s, “we are all this together” austerity

But pride of place this week must go to government officials for proving once again that we aren’t all borne equal, we are all the “poor bloody infantry”, there to be shot at. Specifically, officials have been dusting off cold war emergency plans so that they can relocate the royal family should there be riots in London as a result of as a disruptive departure from the EU.

What on earth are they expecting? Sans-culottes (1) roaming the streets with a guillotine ready to behead the first nobleperson they see. Surely, given the rapidly approaching onset of Armageddon, sorry a no-deal Brexit, there are most important issues?

Alternatively, we could provide transport for the mob with Prince Philip as the driver.

Aside from rampaging mobs storming Buck House in a rerun of 1792 and the storming of the Tuileries Palace, the government has started to recruit civilians to work in an emergency command and control centre being set up to make sure Britain runs smoothly in the aftermath of a potential no-deal Brexit.

Briefing notes issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to recruitment agencies state the EU Exit Emergencies Centre (EUXE) could stay open “potentially for two years”.

The chief executive of the civil service, John Manzoni, has already said it is looking to second 5,000 civil servants, with volunteers sought in non-Brexit departments including the Department for Education and the Department for International Development, and is widening the net to recruit external contractors to help with what appears to be a military-style “Gold command”, which will operate out of offices close to Westminster.

Oh dear, spring is back in its box, the Aperol is drunk, waves of melancholy are sweeping over me….

“I’m gonna watch the blue birds fly over my shoulder, I’m gonna watch them pass me by, Maybe when I’m older, What do you think I’d see, If I could walk away from me.”2

Note 1: Sans-culottes, the French for without knee breeches, was aa term loosely applied to the lower classes in France during the French Revolution. The name was derived from the fact that these people wore long trousers instead of the knee breeches worn by the upper classes.

OK lyric lovers – a couple of toughies this week, but boy are they poignant tunes, and once you’ve give them a listen, you’ll be going back.

1 Is an absolute masterpiece, and just how relevant is it still, all these years on? Nobody should have the right to be that cool – immerse yourself in  Roxy Music and the haunting ‘Song for Europe’. Then weep silently into your  Aperol Spritz as you realise the track turns 45 this year; merde.

2 If you thought that was tough, the second is going to exercise the old grey matter; well worth the effort though, as Velvet Underground’s ‘Candy Says’ is a belter. Lou was a little past his peak when this version was recorded, but the bonus is the fabulous voice of Antony. That’s before he was Antony Hegarty with the Antony and the Johnsons, and before she became Anohni; keep up at the back.

 

 

 

 

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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