The affable wit of Bouncing Boris has worked its charm, and we now have a Conservative government with a strong mandate to get Britain out of the European Union, and soon.
Or do we?
Johnson’s deal-so-far is still a weak, booby-trappd version of May’s “surrender document”, with EU vetoes on all manner of things Britain is “allowed” to do after leaving. Electing him into power without the safety net of a handful of Brexit MPs was a major gamble for Britain. There seems to be an unspoken belief across the country that Johnson is going for a No Deal WTO exit or something close and is pulling a fast one on the loathsome European Commission, but we are taking this on faith.
Intelligent purists like Rees-Mogg and Farage seem suspiciously quiet and happy. Johnson has already passed a law fixing a new automatic date for exit this January end.
He has said he’ll not seek regulatory alignment (code for obeying EU rules and locking ourselves into their dumb trade and policy structure forever). He has mused (perhaps insincerely?) about letting ounces, feet, and gallons once more flourish across the land of Albion. There is even curious gossip that Macron and Johnson have privately agreed to go ahead, ignoring German reluctance, with some kind of friendly version of No Deal. If this is true this would be because Teacher’s Pet continues to grapple with irate, brick-lobbing farm-workers across France and can ill afford a big market for French cheeses, wines etc suddenly closing down over the Channel. The “yellow-jacket” protestors are determined and angry, on occasion burning EU flags.
Sightings of French royalist flags being waved at yellow-jacket demonstrations are sporadic, and might be nothing more than whimsical gestures by local eccentrics. On the other hand, the chaos is being heavily censored and downplayed by state TV channels, including our own loyally leftist, ‘euroconform’ BBC, and a year is a long time for protests to persist. Anti-government demonstrations in France are starting to look like a violent mirror image of the Britain’s working classes’ three years’ stubborn resistance to the “People’s Vote” London-led rearguard action against Brexit.
If Emmanuel Macron is genuinely finding the protests heavy going, some kind of sensible backroom compromise with Bouncing Boris might be happening. The rumours might have substance, but it’s worrying to note that we still don’t know. Were No Deal to go ahead, erasing all legal links to the Euroblob, a huge cheer would go up across most of England, and the resulting tetchiness in Greater London and Scotland would be a joy to watch.
There is no chance of Scottish independence – they rejected it already, many Scots are heartily sick of Nicola Sturgeon, and the EU cannot afford to admit a new net-beneficiary member. They cannot match the subsidies Scots currently get from Westminster. There are additional reasons why Scots independence isn’t going to happen. Spain’s veto on any Scottish application to the EU, the Shetlands Movement’s long-term threat to secede from Edinburgh, and ex-SNP-leader Alex Salmond’s fast-approaching court hearing for alleged inappropriate advances on members of the fairer sex spring to mind.
Ulster’s situation is similar. The Republic of Ireland cannot afford to absorb a million Unionists, and cannot match the subsidies they currently get from London. Northern Ireland is not going to leave the UK trade region, and Brussels isn’t going to outspend London. However much it suits the vindictive pettiness of Remain campaigners, this isn’t going to happen either.
Slimy as they are, the EU negotiators and their many friends inside the UK apparatus have not been sly enough to stay quiet on the topic of No Deal. They have insisted it will devastate Britain beyond repair so insistently that only the most gullible Britons have failed to get the message.
If Brussels insists on a weekly basis for three years that a No Deal exit will leave Britain a smoking pile of rubble, that by now tells anyone with a working brain that Brussels fears a No Deal exit more than anything else. If one side in talks continually tells you they are saving you from disaster, that tells you it will be a disaster for them, and will give you powerful leverage over them.
When Bank of England forecasters issued a warning that a No Deal Brexit could be worse than the 2008 credit crunch, the handful of real economists left in Britain’s burnt-out higher-education sector almost fell off their chairs laughing. A worst-case forecast of a “possible” 8% drop in GDP should we Britons do that terrible thing kindly Brussels is trying to warn us against is hilarious. What does damage economies is joining the euro – witness Italy’s astonishing zero GDP growth over the 15 years from 2000 to 2015.
To put the Bank of England’s “worst-case” forecasts after a No Deal exit into context, consider the massive horrific war still raging in Syria in which armies and air forces roam half the country bombing towns into dust, setting up rival terror states like Da’esh, while massacring tens of thousands of civilians. This devastating war cut the country’s GDP by 26% in 2012, 26% again in 2013, then by just under 15% in 2014, and then by just over 6% in 2015 (estimates, central bank of Syria). GDP fell again in 2016, by 4%, and then in 2017 it rose by 1.9%. That’s right, Bank of England forecasters straight facedly claimed Britain’s GDP after a No Deal Brexit might fall by twice as much as Syria in the fifth year of one of the most horrible wars on earth today.
This kind of nonsense is why during the post-referendum propaganda struggle, B-of-E governor Mark Carney looked so much like a man angling for a cushy sinecure inside the European Central Bank. Then, possibly unhappy with the response, he began carefully mulling aloud whether a No Deal exit “might not be so bad after all”. It seems the muted threat to spill the beans was duly noted, the hint was taken, and he’s now been offered a senior post at a UN agency. Perhaps this is for his loyal work trying to sabotage Brexit – perhaps it’s just a coincidence.
What we have to ask is whether the pro-EU fifth column inside Britain’s civil service is still trying to undermine Brexit (the answer must be yes) and whether Johnson’s leadership is strong enough to resist them (we have to hope). Pitifully large numbers of people are unaware that countries don’t need “trade deals” to trade. The US and the EU still have no signed deal, but they do plenty of trade.
Only if this government executes No Deal, can Britain be free of the EU’s tentacles. Once outside the Euroblob, Britain can negotiate appropriate arrangements at our leisure.
But we’ve seen their style by now. Any deal EU officials prefer to No Deal is no good.
Syrian GDP data https://tradingeconomics.com/syria/gdp-growth-annual
Mark Griffith is a financial trader whose weblog http://www.otherlanguages.org follows news on artificial intelligence, economics, and other subjects. He is researching a book on how AI will change the way people live.