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Brexit Bulletin: Ssssh, it’s so quiet…..
A hard or no Brexit looks ever more likely; a second vote looms, or not – is this the calm before the storm

 

‘See me silently quietly creep, I am too amped to sleep’ 1

 

There has been an eerie silence this week, perhaps because of the bank holiday, or is it the quiet before the storm?

But, let’s start with some doom and gloom. Brexit stockpiling and consumer spending spurred the British economy in the first quarter, but a disappointing March suggests that a slowdown may already be well under way.

Growth accelerated to 0.5% from 0.2% in the final three months of 2018, the Office for National Statistics said; however, while factories posted another strong month in March, construction and the dominant services sector both shrank.

a disappointing March suggests that a slowdown may already be well under way

GDP overall fell 0.1% from February; furthermore, business surveys for April were subdued and the Bank of England expects overall growth to slow to just 0.2% in the second quarter, leaving officials under no pressure to raise interest rates.

Returning to Brexit itself, hopes that the government and Labour could reach a compromise are fast receding, with the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, saying he did not trust the prime minister.

However, even if, by some strange quirk of fate, we had we reached an agreement it may not have been definitive. Hard-right Tories, such as former leader Iain Duncan Smith, will not accept compromise, saying that Theresa May must resign or be forced out, while at least 60 Labour MPs have told Corbyn they won’t back a customs pact without a people’s vote.

Plus ça change, [plus c’est la même chose] (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

And so, we now have the mutual blame game, though agreement was never remotely plausible. Now with the PM finally running out of a road does she dare to go for a confirmatory vote? There is absolutely nothing else left.

Many of her parliamentary’ colleagues’ are openly calling for her head; the backbench 1922 Committee are demanding her ‘roadmap’ to a rapid departure ‘in the very near future’, with no backsliding on the customs union.

does she dare to go for a confirmatory vote? There is absolutely nothing else left

One member of the committee said of the prime minister’s departure: ‘We want certainty for an orderly and timely exit with or without a deal – and the can cannot be kicked down the road until October.’

Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee, criticised Conservative rebels who have refused to back the prime minister’s deal and accused them of unfairly ‘laying the blame all on her shoulders’. He suggested some of the 34 Conservative MPs who refused to vote for a deal might be better off defecting to another party.

‘If you just feel that the Conservative party is no longer your natural home, you have to think are there other places that you would feel happier in politics,’ he said.

‘Three of my colleagues left to join Change UK, we are seeing other parties emerge, it might well be the case that some of my colleagues feel that some of those parties better reflect their political views.’

 

‘Too late to beg you or cancel it, Though I know it must be the killing time, Unwillingly mine’ 2

 

Is this the final admission that Conservatives are so fundamentally split that divorce is the only option? Perhaps the longed-for alternative will appear for disaffected, disenfranchised voters like myself?

the can cannot be kicked down the road until October

Ultimately, the cross-party talks have failed because the hard right of the Tory party is ideologically opposed to Labour’s Brexit proposals. The primary issues being the protections for workers and the environment that we have through our EU membership and the inability to agree individual trade deals such as the one the United States has with Canada and Mexico.

One that destroyed family farming in Mexico, undermining its entire economy – and put downward pressure on wages in all three countries.

Once again everything seems to polarise between Labour and the hard right of the Tory party and their new playmates in the Brexit Party, who held a press conference this week.

Interestingly their leader, Nigel Farage, seems to have adopted a harder line to Brexit now. Three years ago he implied that a Norway style, a so-called soft-Brexit, would satisfy him; Norway was rich, happy and successful, he said. What would be wrong with that?

Now he wants no-deal – or a WTO Brexit, as he calls it. Other points include:

  • The Brexit party should be allowed to help negotiate Brexit if it won the European elections
  • A vote for the Brexit party is a clear vote for a WTO Brexit, no ifs, no buts.
  • Some major Tory donors were considering giving money to his new party.
  • He claimed his party would win millions of votes at a general election if Westminster failed to deliver a hard Brexit
  • He said the Brexit party was today starting to recruit general election candidates.

Disappointingly there is little to poke fun at here. It simply shows that the Brexit Party are aligned with the hard-right Tories; vote for them if you must, but have you eyes wide open and understand the implications.

One point that we can agree on is their ambitions to break open the Westminster two-party political system and that first past the post block new parties from breaking through the two-party system.

vote for them if you must, but have you eyes wide open and understand the implications

It’s high-time the old system was updated and new parties give the chance to have a meaningful voice.

My views on the EU election and Brexit have not changed – the right must not prevail, and voters must understand what the agenda is.

The Brexit Party, already leading in the opinion polls, are seeking to frame these elections as a second referendum, to remind everyone that we decided to leave the EU in 2016, and that people are fed up of waiting. For some Conservatives this is pushing against and open door endorsing their belief that the party has simply failed to listen to a straightforward instruction.

A strong performance by his party will enable him to present the results as the ‘confirmatory vote’ that Remainers have been pressing for, and that a second referendum is no longer required.

Meanwhile, the pro-Remain parties have not formed an alliance of any sort, meaning that parties opposed to Brexit could cannibalise each others’ votes doing Farage’s work for him. This isn’t a second referendum; we are simply selecting our representatives to sit as MEPs for the next five years.

We must not fall for their message, voters must unite against them.

 

‘How can you say, I go about things the wrong way?’ 3

 

Another treat for lyric spotters this week with a triple that admittedly flummoxed me, despite the second two tracks being considered favourites – listening without hearing, who’s have thunk it?!

1 first off the rank are NYC punk legends – and arch Ramoners (!) – the, er, Ramones with ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Front’; not the easiest lyric and impossible to fathom on a live version.

For the next two tracks, we dive headlong into some 80’s classics – next up 2 and one of their bigger commercial successes is ‘The Killing Moon’ from Echo and the Bunnymen, followed by an absolute classic 3 ‘How Soon is Now’ from the Smiths – that distinctive sound is an absolute ear worm, but the lyrics passed me by. 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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