The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Brexit Page 1 of 2

The UK Continues Its Decline

From the Guardian:

The number of UK children in food poverty has nearly doubled in the last year to almost 4 million, new data shows, ramping up pressure on ministers to expand the provision of free school meals to struggling families.

According to the Food Foundation thinktank, one in five (22%) of households reported skipping meals, going hungry or not eating for a whole day in January, up from 12% at the equivalent point in 2022.

Regular readers will know I’ve written about this often. The UK appears to be in decline to third world status. While the EU is neoliberal, it was better than what UK neoliberals wanted to do by leaving it. The UK has spent the time since Thatcher deliberately de-industrializing, leaving it with little more than the financial industry and a few hi-tech spars remaining. Leaving the EU makes the “City” less valuable: being inside the EU was useful, and now it’s outside.

On top of this, financialization cannibalizes real industry, since financial profits are higher and the highest profits come from taking public goods and privatizing them. This has been done to everything substantial owned by the UK government in 79, when Thatcher took power, from railroads to water and electricity, leaving on the National Health Service. That’s the last big chunk of profits, and then they’re done.

At that point, what does Britain have to offer to the rest of the world other than a corrupt financial center? Little, and that financial center can’t, won’t and doesn’t want to support most of the population, since even if they could, that would defeat the point: the people who run it don’t want to share, they want to be rich.

The Russia mess has also made this worse. There was a lot of Russian money in the UK, and freezing or taking it means no more will come in and it also makes everyone who’s in a non US ally country wary of using London to store money, whether in banks, securities or properties. After all, they could be next.

Brexit done right could have been the start of rebuilding the UK, but that would have required reigning in the City and engaging in industrial policy to provide industries capable of employing Britons, supply domestic British needs rather than importing, and also able to export.

As it is, Britain is done. The political fallout will probably include, within a decade or so, the loss of Northern Ireland and Scotland. At which point the United Kingdom (Scotland and England unified) will be no more, and England will stand alone again.

The Sun does set, it seems.

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The Destruction of the United Kingdom

Jeremy Corbyn, the UK’s Last Hope

The more I look at the UK the more I become convinced it’s done. We tend to forget that United Kingdom is the union of Scotland and England and I don’t see a reasonable scenario where Scotland doesn’t leave the UK. The UK will almost certainly also lose Northern Ireland, which post-Brexit does not make sense in the UK (and the EU is FAR more powerful than the UK and wants Ireland re-united). Give it a couple decades and I wouldn’t be surprised if England (they won’t be the UK then) loses control of Wales.

This has been a long time coming. England has been de-industrializing since the late 19th century. After the war they didn’t renew their physical plant and wound up in such bad shape in the 70s they had to go to the IMF for help. They joined the EU to get help, so that the IMF wouldn’t completely immiserate them (which is what it does to countries.)

The EU did bail them out, that’s just a fact, but then came neo-liberalism. Remember that it first took formal power in Britain, with Thatcher, in 79. Oh President Carter in the US had a lot of neoliberal policies, but he wasn’t formally with them. Thatcher was.

Thatcher deliberately accelerated de-industrialization. The decision was made that Britain couldn’t compete, and more importantly, shouldn’t even try: neoliberalism said to open borders, not engage in industrial policy and so on. The policies needed to rejuvenate Britain’s industrial plant and become involved with the next great techological leap (which Britain still had the ability to do, to be clear, it still had good computer companies, for example, and auto firms and so on), were thus ideologically forbidden.

So what happened instead is that Britain completely financialized: everything poured into “the City”, the financial capital and money was made primarily from financial games. The people who lost their jobs were not compensated and did not find good jobs to replace them. The social state was liquidated in wave after wave, starting with Thatcher bribing people by selling them council homes for less that they were worth.

As usual, some people won from this, at least for a generation or two, but the real wealth production of the UK was absolutely shattered (financial games do not count.)

Then came Brexit. It’s worth noting two things about the EU: it is an evil neoliberal institution AND it was less evil than a big chunk of the British establishment: it was stopping them from doing even more evil things (aka. even more immiseration of the population and even more lowering of regulations and privatizing of the state).

The people who had lost their good jobs and been plunged into multi-generation shit-lives blamed the EU. Remain pointed out that the EU was actually keeping those people’s heads above water, but it was also true that the policies required to un-immiserate them were essentially forbidden by EU rules. No matter, it wasn’t decided on that: it was decided on the UK having been in the EU for the entire period when their lives had gotten worse. Maybe the EU was not the villain, but their lives still sucked ass. “The EU makes sure your miserable lives aren’t even more fucking miserable, peasants” was not the winning argument many Remain types seemed to think it was.

So Britain left the EU, and now what is happening is that the population is being even further immiserated. Austerity upon austerity upon austerity. Every pound which can be hoovered further up the chain is being sent up. The ruling class is solidifying its position over a de-industrialized country. It is better to be rich and powerful over a bunch of beggars, than to give any power or money to the hoi polloi.

The route out was offered: elect Corbyn, a 60s style liberal, and do a left wing Brexit. Then engage in actual industrial policy and bring back an economy which actually produces things and services (other than financial games) that both it and the rest of the world needs.

But Corbyn wanted to help reduce poverty, to give more money and power to the poors and the middle class. He wanted to gut the City (which has to be done, because a financial center like that actually harms the rest of the economy outside of it), and to let people into the power-franchise who didn’t go to OxBridge.

He was a direct threat to the elites. They would rather be in charge of a collapsing country returning to poverty than be less powerful in a more prosperous nation returning to true health, though most of them are too ideologically bound to even understand that was what was on offer: all they could see is Corbyn was a threat.

So they took him out, lying about him almost 80% of the time, and enough British voters were fooled.

And now the UK’s days are numbered. The only way to keep Scotland in would have been to make it a good place to be again: to reverse the decline and be seen to be reversing the decline.

The EU sucks, but it’s better than a Britain run by people like Boris Johnson, and the Scots can see that, and soon enough the Irish and Welsh will too.

And so the sun which was never to set, will set on Great Britain.

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The European Union


Both inside and outside Europe, the left is highly divided on the topic of the European Union, with a large current being firmly against it for reasons that are actually quite understandable, from multiple perspectives (not just economic). The recent history, especially the Syriza episode in Greece, does not help the reputation of the EU from a left-wing perspective, and there is a temptation to see anything that damages the EU as being good for the people of Europe.  Jeremy Corbyn’s somewhat incoherent position towards the EU can therefore be dismissed by some as the result of a circumstance impossible for him, whereby a good chunk of Labour voters were supportive of EU membership while a principled leftist like Corbyn would have to, in their inner selves at least, be against it.  The EU’s association with neoliberal economic policy has led some, including a large percentage of this blog’s own commentariat, to view Brexit as just another stick with which to beat the neoliberal dog, so to speak, and to take at best a neutral view of who and how the stick is wielded.

It is absolutely correct to say that EU institutions have developed in such a way as to embed neoliberal attitudes and policies deeply within them. The institutions of European integration were largely built at the very same time as the neoliberal consensus’ apparent accession to the Mandate of Heaven.  (Providence does not hand out these mandates on the basis of evident goodness or wisdom.)  Starting from the late 2000s, it became obvious that neoliberalism was losing the Mandate, and no clear claimant has as yet emerged, a worrying sign.

The dilemma for those who want a more just and sustainable human future is extent to which the active dismantlement of the EU is necessary or warranted.  There is a left-wing position that is a kind of short-term nihilism which celebrates the destruction of institutions as a necessary step in creating the opportunities for beneficial change.  This position should certainly be taken seriously and becomes increasingly relevant as neoliberal institutions continue to operate in “zombie” mode, deprived of the providential imprimatur.

The ideal case is that the dismantlement of the EU would lead to a condition that was more beneficial, i.e., replacement from the ground up with, if not with a single institution, then with a collection of polities that are better empowered to serve the needs of their citizens.  The prospects for this can only be understood in terms of the forces that created the European Union (and its predecessor organizations) in the first place.  Europe as viewed from a Martian height consists of extremely unstable, contentious nation-states with badly drawn borders (as it is impossible in Europe, the birthplace of the nation-state, to draw the borders well).  A handful of these nation-states took advantage of a specific set of historical circumstances to become great colonial-imperial powers, but partly due to their own internal contradictions and external developments eventually lost their own heavenly mandates.  Present-day Europe, ex-EU, is a checkerboard of small states and middling industrial powers which had to reinvent themselves in the latter half of the 20th century.

A cursory, common-sense examination of Europe’s present-day geographic situation indicates that the checkerboard (or chessboard) analogy is more than apt.  European countries sit on geographically strategic (if resource-poor, relatively speaking) real estate between the current hegemonic military powers and become easy prey for the very colonial tactics Europe itself perfected.  The post-WWII architects of European convergence, themselves functionaries of states skilled in colonial tactics, were absolutely correct to surmise that Europe required a super-state level of organization that was at least partly independent of other power blocs in order to prevent being further carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. The Middle East’s current, long-standing troubles illustrate clearly what can happen in that case.

The adolescence of European institutions during the neoliberal moment presents the central dilemma, because it itself is now a major threat to a protective European unity.  The question is: what is the optimal and most feasible way to lever out zombie neoliberalism without putting European countries at risk of “integration” into the pathologies already evident in the current hegemons?  The question is not an abstract one: one of Brexit’s consequences is that the UK likely will adopt an even harsher internal economic stance with integration into the weaker, less consumer- and worker-friendly economic regulation of the USA.

My own position is that the only way to resolve the deadlock is by the boring, difficult work of building cross-border, cross-polity popular solidarity both inside and outside the current EU.  It is the only way to enshrine the benefits of European integration with the necessary reform of the EU’s economic management.  Anything else — and admittedly, “anything else” is the most likely prospect — risks that those who live in Europe jump from the frying pan into the fire, following a mirage of dead-end cultural-nationalist idylls and emotional appeals to a clean, safe world that never really existed.

UK Supreme Court Rules Prorogue Illegal

Queen Elizabeth II

News out of England continues to be important. The Supreme Court said that Johnson’s advice was “unlawful, void, and of no effect.”


This is a fantastically good thing. The use of proroguing to avoid oversight by Parliament is a great evil. Some years back it was used in Canada to avoid a vote of no-confidence that Prime Minister Harper knew he would lose.

I do think that the Queen, and the Queen’s representatives, need to be more willing to say, “No.” It was obvious what Johnson was doing.

As for Brexit, I want to point out something simple, that has been lost in the furor: It’s going to be settled by an election. Johnson has gotten rid of the anti-Brexit MPs. Even if he obeys the law and extends the leave period, there will then be an election. Who wins will determine what happens.

This is AS IT SHOULD BE. It is right to put this to an election. I prefer Corbyn’s position of negotiating a Brexit then putting it as a referendum, but an election fought over the issue is precisely what should happen in a democracy.

You either believe that legitimacy comes from the people, or you don’t.

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The Democratic Ethics of Brexit

The bottom line here is that there was a referendum, and “leave” won.

All my life, I have eaten election and referendum results I hated. I have done so because of democratic legitimacy: The people, even if I or anyone else think they are wrong, are the source of legitimate rule.

There was a referendum. Leave won. Brexit should, thus, be the policy of the government.

At the same time, like any policy, the idea is to do it right, and both May’s plan and Hard Brexit will be very bad for Britain.

When people voted, they voted to Leave without really knowing what it would mean.

So we have a situation where the parties policies are:

The Tory policy is to leave no matter what, even if it’s against the law, against parliament, and will be disastrous.

Lib-Dem’s policy is “Fuck the referendum, we should just stay.”

Labour’s policy is to negotiate a deal to leave, then put it to a referendum.

I don’t think Labour’s stance (which was re-affirmed today by the membership) is the best politics. But it is the path which maintains democratic legitimacy, the primacy of parliament, and tries to make sure that, if Brexit, happens it is not disastrous.

It is, to my mind, the actual right policy in ethical terms. Both the referendum and the parliament have legitimacy, and that legitimacy should be respected.

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Boris Johnson Prorogues Parliament

Queen Elizabeth II

I wrote and published a piece about this briefly, and I realized I was wrong, so I took it down.

Johnson has prorogued (suspended) Parliament from about the 11th of September. It’s clearly a maneuver intended to make Brexit more likely, and shady as hell.

Under the Westminster tradition, Parliament is supreme. Not the Prime Minister.

Some years ago in Canada, Prime Minister Harper prorogued to avoid a vote of no confidence (which would have toppled the government and triggered an election). That was clearly against the unwritten rules of the Westminster tradition. When the Queen’s representative, the Governor General allowed it, she failed her duty.

I originally thought the Queen had done the same thing, and if she had, I’d want her–and the royal family–gone. They have a duty, they need to do it.

But, as Parliament will be in session for long enough to allow a vote of no-confidence (if MPs want to do one), I find this act, while clearly shady and abusive, just barely on the right side, and I can understand why the Queen let it happen.

If Parliament doesn’t want this to happen, they have plenty of time to make sure it doesn’t. If they don’t prevent it, this means they aren’t willing to topple the Conservative government. That is on them, they know the consequences.

This is back in the hands of Parliament, where it should be.

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Deaths of Despair Soar in the UK

But hey, who can imagine why so many Britons were so angry at the status quo that they decided to chance Brexit?

Yes, yes, the EU is mostly not to blame for the misery of Britons. (The EU is still evil, as shown by their treatment of Greece, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Mostly it’s the Conservatives (though Labour, before Corbyn, often voted for Conservative austerity bills).

But when people are hurting, they turn against the current order. People in this much agony are rational like animals caught in traps. If they have to chew off their leg to escape, so be it.

The British have only one real chance, right now, to end the pain. Ending austerity is far more important than Brexit, far more to blame for Britain’s woes, and the only person who will end it is Corbyn.

If you’re British, and you vote against Labour/Corbyn in any riding where Labour can win, no matter what happens around Brexit, you are voting for increased misery (and for policies like taking away wheelchairs from cripples).

What people just don’t seem able to understand is that “more of the same” doesn’t offer any hope for people for whom “more of the same” is so unbearable, they may wind up deciding that killing themselves is better than being alive.

If your life sucks, and you have no hope for the future, you need change, and you’ll take a chance on almost any change.


But British elites demonize Corbyn (lying about him at least three-quarters of the time). Eventually, this is going to turn actually nasty, and, well, guillotine.jpg if they aren’t lucky.

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What May’s Brexit Deal Tells Us About the EU and Britain’s Future

So, May has a Brexit deal. It’s a terrible deal, which makes the UK subject to many EU laws, and which doesn’t allow Britain to withdraw from the deal if the EU doesn’t want it to.

This has caused ministerial resignations, and Corbyn has come out against it.

But the interesting part is what the EU and May have negotiated. This clause, for example:

Corbyn’s policies include straight up re-nationalization of the railways, regulation of housing prices, and the government outright building vast numbers of flats, among many other similar policies.

In other words, Corbyn’s policies interfere with liberal market rules. They are, actually, forbidden by the EU–but on occasion exceptions are made.

Of course, retaining privileged access to the EU market was going to require some rule taking, but May has chosen to take more rules that are “no socialism” and less rules that are “treat your people decently.”

What May has done is negotiate a deal which ties Corbyn’s hands: He can’t implement his policies if he becomes Prime Minister, and he can’t leave the deal. (Well, in theory, and perhaps in practice.)

Of course, Britain can still leave the deal: Parliament is supreme, and one parliament cannot tie the hands of another parliament. Nonetheless, leaving the deal would be damaging to Britain’s relationship with the EU, to put it mildly.

These sorts of efforts to tie future government’s hands so that are forced to preserve neoliberal policies are common. The now-dead Canadian Chinese trade deal had a clause which required a 20-year withdrawal notice, for example. The Canadian-EU free trade deal forbids the Canadian government from many of the same sorts of policies that May rejected as well.

This is the great problem with the neoliberal world order: It is set up to force countries into a specific sort of economy, and to punish them if they resist or refuse. That would be somewhat okay–but only somewhat–if neoliberal economics worked, but they don’t.

What neoliberal economics does, instead, is impoverish large minorities, even pluralities, in the countries which adopt its policies. Those pluralities then become demagogue bait. (Hello, Trump!)

Meanwhile Macron has proposed an EU military, and Germany’s Merkel has said she supports the idea.

EU elites are absolutely convinced their way is best, and that anyone who is against it is wrong. They are not primarily concerned with democracy (the EU is run primarily by un-elected bureaucrats), and do not consider democratic legitimacy as primary. If people vote for the “wrong” thing, EU elites feel they have the right to override that. They have overseen what amount to coups in both Greece and Italy in the past ten years.

The funny thing is that orthodox neoliberal economic theory admits there will be losers to neoliberal policies and states that they must be compensated. The problem is that this has never been done, and indeed, with accelerating austerity, they’ve done just the opposite: At the same time as a plurality is impoverished, the social supports have been kicked out from under them.

Macron has been particularly pointed in this, gutting labor rights in the name of “labor market flexibility.”

Neoliberalism, in other words, creates the conditions of its own failure. It is failing around the world: In the US, (Trump does not believe in the multilateral, neoliberal order), in Europe, and so on.

Even in countries that “support” the EU, there are substantial minorities, pushing into plurality status, which don’t support neoliberalism.

So Europe needs an army. Because Eurocrats know best, and since neoliberalism isn’t working for enough people that things like Brexit happen; that Italy is ignoring rules, that the East is boiling over with right-wing xenophobia, well, force is going to be needed. A European military, with French nukes, is the core of a great power military. And soon countries won’t be able to leave.

That, at any rate, is where things are headed. We’ll see if the EU cracks up first.

In the meantime, May’s Brexit deal really is worse than no deal, and in no way should be passed. In fact, if I’m Corbyn, and it’s been passed, if I became PM, I’d get rid of it. Because it either goes or he’ll have to substantially break all of his most important electoral promises.

The EU is loathsome. I won’t say it’s done no good, but it’s now doing more harm than good (indeed it has been for at least a decade). As with the US, because the EU is misusing its power, it needs to lose it. That process will be ugly, as a lot of those who are rising to challenge it are right-wing assholes (because the left has abandoned sovereignty).

You simply can’t fail pluralities of your population and stay stable without being a police state and holding yourself together with brutal force.

Those are the EU’s two most likely futures: brutal police state or crackup.

Pity, but that’s what EUcrats, with their insistence on neoliberal rules and hatred of democracy have made damn near inevitable.

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