Current Affairs Politics

Brexit And The UK’s Coming Winter Of Discontent

While I’ve been guilty of it myself, in recent weeks I’ve become increasingly wary of some of the hyperbole being used to describe the United Kingdom’s likely no-deal withdrawal from the European Union and the probable repercussions that will follow it. Though the term “car crash exit” makes for a punchy metaphor it dramatises what is probably going to be more of a “slow-motion” car crash as a post-Brexit UK gradually heads into a period of sustained socio-economic recession and government-imposed austerity.

Brexit Britain will not be a Mad Max-style wasteland of boarded-up Pound Shops nor will it be a mercantile metropolis off the coast of Europe. Instead it’s likely to be a sort of Thatcherite theme-park, a country administered by free market zealots while in the grip of a prolonged Winter of Discontent with government cuts, rising unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and social discontent. This will be worsened by poor diplomatic relations with its nearest neighbours, which could see the European Union putting the “squeeze” on British businesses both locally and globally to protect the interests of its own member states and their individual and EU-level trade agreements or plans.

However, short of a breakup of the United Kingdom itself, with Scotland finally voting for independence (which remains an unlikely proposition despite some polling outliers), I cannot see the UK descending into civil war-style anarchy. Certainly there will be unrest and trouble of one kind or another but street confrontations, protests and even rioting does not make for internecine conflict. And in these cases the proximate cause for the violence will be the economic isolationism and decline that comes with Brexit rather than the supposed casus belli of Brexit itself.

Of course, the anti-Brexit camp in Britain and elsewhere is not the only one guilty on the hyperbole charge, but its guilt pales in comparison with that of the pro-Brexit movement where much of the language almost encourages that which it supposedly warns against. Take the newspaper and magazine columnist Dan Hodges writing in the Daily Mail who seems to have successfully completed his journalistic journey to the farther right of British politics:

This morning Britain stands on the brink of a second civil war. The Kamikaze Remainers are heading for the barricades – quite literally – in an attempt to prevent the usurpation of democracy. Bridges are to be seized. Streets occupied. The Prime Minister’s ‘declaration of war will be met with an iron fist,’ announced Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.

And, once again, the Kamikaze Remainers are allowing self-righteous outrage to blind them to reality. Despite the hysterical talk of a hard-Brexit ‘coup’, Mr Johnson hasn’t prorogued Parliament in order to force through a No Deal Brexit. He has prorogued Parliament precisely so he can drive through a deal and avoid a No Deal Brexit.

Who is really acting like the dictator this morning? The person who is attempting to force Parliament to act in concert with the wishes of the people who elected them? Or those who are again attempting to impose a never-ending parliamentary veto over the wishes of the voters?

So this week they will begin their own act of insurrection. The fact that Mr Johnson is specifically attempting to avoid the very No Deal Brexit they profess to oppose is irrelevant. They will take to the streets. They will occupy bridges. They will give the British people a taste of that iron Remainer fist.

A coup is indeed under way. But it is not being mounted by the Prime Minister.

Hysterical, in every sense of the word.

Meanwhile, and forgive me for linking to the YouTube channel of the laughably-named New Culture Forum, a neo-right Brexiteer think tank in the UK, here is the studiously old fashioned conservative commentator Peter Hitchens with a particularly pessimistic assessment of Britain’s future. Or lack thereof. Enjoy!

19 comments on “Brexit And The UK’s Coming Winter Of Discontent

  1. Well, I think catastrophic consequences for The UK are well within in the realm of possibility. During the crapsack Thatcher era they DID still have the EU to prop them up, which is one problem I see with the comparison.

    The Operation Yellowhammer docs have in fact, supported the idea that severe food shortages, implosion of the NHS, and shutdown of much of transportation are all well within the realm of possibility. And given the way the British wrote up government documents like “Protect and Survive” in the 1980’s (Ay ya ya!!! When “Threads” meandered its way across the pond, it had me frightened for nearly two years.)? Unless their extreme culture of “stiff upper lip” has changed radically, I wouldn’t tend to write that off as hysteria. Given the level of British dependence on imports-a complex issue that has gone on for a while, I find it all the more plausible.

    If it does come to Civil War? I would envision something more like The Salvadorean Civil War of the 1980’s and to a way lesser extent The Spanish one of the 1930’s minus the fears of International Communism. It wouldn’t much resemble what happened to Yugoslavia as that involved an extreme ethnic hatred (Serb vs. Croatian is arguably the most venomous ethnic hatred in Europe) and genocide. It also wouldn’t resemble Syria where a fanatic element is a key player, nor the Soviet one with fairly organized armies and VERY defined ideologies. Comparisons to the English Civil War would be harder due to the fact it was in the 17th century, but given what’s happening I wouldn’t rule out parallels 100%

    Would it look like Mad Max? Well no. England’s basic lush rainy climate isn’t going to change!!! And according to my friends who were in El Salvador during the 1980’s as doctors you could be as little as 20-30 miles from the worst and still find people selling tropical fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, candy and more, children playing soccer in the unpaved streets, men wanting to shine shoes, and women selling things they had made. Also the best damn coffee they’d ever encountered. Which wasn’t to say that it was remotely, safe, or that the people who lived there weren’t facing some very, very serious anxiety, fear, risks of violence economic security or difficulty getting even basic medical services like vaccines or treatments for childhood illnesses- that was why they were there.

    Point is you don’t need to see every store boarded up for people to be in a very, very bad way.

    You can’t call what Johnson has done a “Coup D’etat” in the sense that their crazy Unwritten Constitution evidently allows this and The Queen has sign off on it. All the same it seems absolutely insane to shut down Parliament at a time like this.

    Even without this proroguing business the whole thing is reminding me more and more of the escalating insanity and crazy extremist factions that defined a lot of US politics in the 1840’s and 1850’s. While the shades of the late Politburo are still showing themselves in the sense that there seems an insane lack of any self-corrective element in the whole program.

    • I am not sure how many templates from history there are that can reliably inform us as to how a hard Brexit will play out. The country is divided in two, so there will be no war-time-pull-together spirit. Likely to see ever more street demonstrations if Johnson pulls off a no deal Brexit. The temptation to employ the skills honed in Northern Ireland, Iraq & Afghanistan in the UK will be too much for a Johnson govt to resist if protests follow the pattern of those in France.

      • No you’re right. There aren’t many historical examples to call upon. One thin, thin comparison I can come up with for England if the UK dissolves would be Russia when the USSR did….Of course, that has some pretty profound differences but it is way closer to the mark than Ireland’s or Scotland’s evolution to a fairly normal independent nation.

        As for the willingness of Johnson to use the military against civilian protests? I would hope not, but fear that he has a certain cavalier mentality that means i wouldn’t put him above it-also the nihilistic aspect of today’s “global epidemic of crazy”, could play into it. British history (Peterloo, Boston massacre, violence against suffragettes and labor unionists) kind of does prove that for all the English colonial racism that they never did have THAT MUCH compunction about using the same violence against English people as they did their colonials-at least given the right or wrong, constellation of circumstances.

        I certainly hope it doesn’t come down that level of violence, starvation, or another Civil War. Given some of the signs and a relative lack of good historical examples….it’s just hard to know that either way.

        You are certainly right that invoking a WWII “pull-together” spirit is bullshit. In WWII England was under threat of invasion, and The Nazi regime was about as close to evil as a political entity can get. People are NOT going to have the same mindset when the ultimate cause was poor decision making by their own leaders. Also I’ve seen some stuff that says the simple “pull together” narrative of WWII did involve a pretty short period of time compared to Brexit and it is look back on with some degree of rose colored glasses..

        • Little compunction whatsoever in treating the peasants in the same manner as the colonies. Given the millennium of invasions from the Roman to the Norman, the brutality of the subsequent millennium of monarchies, the ruling class see little difference between the two groups.

          I think we can glean insights from 1930s right wing movements and a psychoanalysis of Johnson. Every failure in his life is someone else’s fault – this is the type that resorts to escalating authoritarianism when their grip on power is challenged. If they are permitted. There were calls of this nature made by Tories during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London earlier this summer. Wilhelm Reich’s monograph The Mass Psychoanalysis of Fascism is illuminating on this area and can be found online for free.

          Very hard to know how this is going to unfold, I’m not confident the courts will block the prorogation, or that WM will trigger a GE when they return in September. Absent either of those it’s a no deal Brexit and that shock could put them into Children of Men territory rather rapidly. Especially if the Remainers go for a general strike. The tinder is set, any spark could set it off.

          • I’m not sure most psychologists take psychoanalysis or psycho-history all that seriously these days- let alone the ideas of Wilhelm Reich.

            Can the Courts actually block the PM’s actions? I though the Courts of the UK were pretty toothless politically.

            • Linus Pauling did not forfeit his Nobel prizes because of his obsession with Vitamin C. Reich’s analysis of fascism is not invalidated by his obsession with orgones.

              To paraphrase Dobzhanksy, nothing in history makes sense except in the light of human psychology.

  2. “………much of the language almost encourages that which it supposedly warns against.”

    Yes indeed, if the respective rants are taken seriously there is a very good chance that pre-reaction formation will set in and result in far more chaos than is necessary. The UK would be well advised to live up to its crisis motto of always “staying calm as it carries on.”

  3. I think you’re right ASF, a long dismal depression rather than tanks in the streets. One real oddity is how easily it is forgotten that one of the reasons the UK went in with reasonably strong support to the EEC was a sense of it being the ‘sick man of Europe’ in the 1960s, something that persisted in the 1970s.

    • Not even to deal with the 5th column of Remoner traitors, Extinction Rebellion terrorists & Islamists who are solely to blame for any negative consequences of a no deal Brexit?

  4. I see the DUP could lose three seats in any upcoming Westminster election. According to a Lucid Talk poll East Belfast South Belfast and South Antrim are under threat from the Alliance Party.

  5. “The British government has put 3,500 troops on standby to help deal with potential disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit.With 100 days until Brexit, ministers in Theresa May’s government have ramped up preparations for the country leaving the EU without a divorce deal” December 2018, there will be riots as food shortages and drug shortages hit the poorest

  6. terence patrick hewett

    As a professional engineer I look at it in a different manner than the simply political. The EU is not the only game in town – the UK has:

    World’s largest and influential financial centre alongside NY: London cited as the 2014 Forbes’ world’s most influential city and No. 1 on the 2016 PwC Cities of Opportunity Index: Singapore coming up fast at No. 2. London comes 1st on the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index: NY 2nd: Singapore 3rd: HK is 4th – the US and Asia is where London’s competition is: not in Europe – Frankfurt is 23rd: Paris is 29th.

    No. 1 again in the 2018 Z/Yen Index for Global Financial Services: NY 2nd: HK 3rd: Singapore 4th: all of the top 18 cities are Anglospherical or Asian except Zurich which comes in at 14th – Frankfurt fell 9 places to kick in @ 19th – “despite Brexit.”

    London has topped the decade-old Japanese Mori Memorial Foundation ranking of the best major city in the world for attracting businesses every year since 2012 and topped the 2018 list of Forbes’ Best Countries for Business survey “despite Brexit.”

    World’s second largest aerospace industry: The UKs fastest growing sector deriving almost 90% of its turnover from exports with its value set to reach £5 trillion by 2035. It achieves exports of £27 billion annually with 74% of total exports sent to destinations beyond the EU: contributing over £9 billion to the UK economy and turning over £31 billion.

    Circa 2016 the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space contribution to the UK was: turnover £72 billion: exports £37 billion: value added £27 billion.

    Including: UK-based Reaction Engines Ltd: revolutionary Sabre engine/Skylon spaceplane. UK-based BAE Systems/Manchester University: revolutionary Magma UAV flight control system. UK-based Orbital Access Ltd: launch vehicle design/development. UK-based Effective Space Company – space drones. UK-based Griffon Hoverwork. UK-based Britten-Norman: short haul civil aircraft manufacturer and defence contractor. UK-based Orbex: small commercial orbital rockets. UK-based AERALIS: development of new generation fighter jet pilot training aircraft and flying training systems. US-based Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit: commercial spaceflight companies. US-based The Spaceship Company: dedicated to commercial production of spacecraft and systems. UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. UK-based SpaceLS: low cost launch capability for SmallSats/CubeSats. The NewSpace and CubeSats sector is expanding at a rate of 10% per annum. The UK produces a quarter of the world’s large communication satellites. It is sometimes difficult to separate the UK and US industries from each other.

    Circa 2018 Boeing and Rolls Royce plc have joined BAE Systems with an additional investment of £26.5m in Reaction Engines Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE). It lifts the total capital raised in the past three years to £100m: a significant milestone: chief executive Mark Thomas described the investment as a Whittle Moment: alluding to the inventor of the jet engine Sir Frank Whittle.

    Boeing expanded its footprint in the UK 2017: a £20 million manufacturing plant in Sheffield: a £100 million service plant in Lossiemouth: an aircraft hub at Boscombe Down and a possible further development in Wales. Circa 2018 Boeing has invested a further £40 million to expand its production line in Sheffield. The UK is Boeing’s third largest source of supply after US and Japan and spent £1.8 billion with its UK suppliers 2016. And poised, amongst others, to hoover up all the talent if Airbus withdraws from the UK market: a bit of a poser for the 25% state owned Airbus – business or punishment: requiring yet more billions of capital investment and endangering the company’s under strain delivery schedule. Will the EU really hand over one of their most lucrative markets to the US, Canada, China, Oz and Japan? The threats and political interference by Airbus circa 2018-2019 pose serious questions about the good faith, the trust, the security and the reliability of Airbus – and that of the European Space Agency.

    UK Spaceports are on track with the introduction of the Space Industry Bill: with powers to license a wide range of new commercial spaceflights, including vertically launched rockets, horizontally launched space planes, satellite operation, spaceports and related technologies. The target is to increase the UKs share of the £400bn-a-year global space economy from 6.5% to 10% by 2030. The first launch-site has been chosen for vertical take-off launch facilities in Sutherland/Scotland: to be followed by vertical/horizontal launch sites in Cornwall, Glasgow/Prestwick and Wales.

    Launch operator Skyrora has announced that it will begin its engine testing programme in 2019 at Cornwall Airport – Newquay’s rocket test facility. Skyrora’s deployment at Newquay is being supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership LEP through its Enterprise Zone Infrastructure Fund.

    Newquay’s rocket test facility is seen as a critical piece of infrastructure for Spaceport Cornwall which is to be the UK’s first operational horizontal launch spaceport by 2021.

    Lockheed Martin has invested £38 million in a new Advanced Manufacturing and Research Institute (AMRI) in North Wales circa 2018 and in Britain’s first commercial spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland.

    Lockheed Martin has been chosen to support Highlands and Islands Enterprise HIE in developing the Sutherland site: establishing vertical launch operations using proven technology. Separately the company’s Reading facility will develop an innovative system for deploying up to six small satellites to separate orbits.

    The two Lockheed Martin projects are backed by grants totalling £23.5m from the UK Space Agency. The UKSA has also awarded £5.5m to UK-based Orbex to build a rocket called Prime to deliver small satellites from Sutherland which will use a single renewable fuel, bio-propane that is said to cut carbon emissions by 90 per cent compared to hydrocarbon fuels.

    Low-cost access to space is important for the UK’s thriving space sector. New spaceport capability will complement the domestic satellite manufacturing sector: Glasgow is already building more satellites than any other European city.

    World’s second largest aero-engine manufacturer: Rolls Royce Plc had a £71.6 billion order book for 2014: a £76.4 billion order book for 2015: and a £79.8 billion order book for 2016. But China is coming up fast: it was Chinese machinery that was exported to Germany circa 2018 to produce ceramic turbine blades – not German machinery and technology to China.

    World’s second largest service provider:

    World’s top exporter for financial and professional services: with a £57 billion trade surplus circa 2018 including exports in finance, insurance, accountancy, legal services, management consultancy and business services: leading the US which has net exports of £31 billion.

    World’s second largest outsourcing market: Large-scale outsourcing of public sector services has made the UK public sector the biggest outsourcing market outside the US.

    World’s third largest aviation market: Behind the US and China: with connections to over 370 international destinations: we are the largest by far in Europe.

    World’s second largest defence exporter: 2nd in 2014: dropped to 3rd behind France 2015: back at 2nd 2016 (ref. The Manufacturer 2014: ref. Gov.uk 2015: ref. Gov.uk 2016)

    World’s second largest sports industry behind the US: an industry worth £23.8 billion and one of the fastest expanding sectors in the UK employing 450,000 people: 10,000 students graduate in sports science annually and the number is rising: many are from overseas and they will enter a world-wide market in sport. The Olympics/Paralympics are the shop window of the industry and it is a reflection of the strength of this industry that we did so well at London and Rio. Sport now ranks among the top 15 mainstream sectors in the economy.

    World’s second largest arts industry behind the US: commonly called the Creative Industries it is worth £10 million an hour – every hour – every day of 365 days of the year: worth £84.1 billion per year to the UK economy: projected to be worth £100 billion by 2019: it grew by 8.9 per cent in 2014 and it employs 3.04 million people. The value of services exported by the UK creative industries rose by 10.9 per cent to total £19.8bn in 2014 – 9 per cent of all UK service exports: circa 2017 the value of goods and services exported by the creative industries rose to a massive £46bn. In many respects it is difficult to separate the UK industry from the US/Oz/Éire/Kiwi/Canuck/South African/Indian/Anglosphere creative industries. Think Lord of the Rings: think Harry Potter: think Shakespeare: think Sherlock Holmes: think Jane Austen: think Top Gear: think Charles Dickens: think Terry Pratchett: think Agatha Christie – big names – big turnover – big cultural clout: although the world has yet to appreciate the joys of The League of Gentlemen.

    World’s fifth largest defence budget: first in Europe alongside France. At least one Trident submarine is always on patrol as a continuous at-sea deterrent, armed with up to 16 Trident missiles and around 48 nuclear warheads. Expect an expansion of defence after Brexit.

    BAE Systems are the world’s third largest defence contractor: behind US Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

    World’s fifth largest electronics industry: The UK has 40% of Europe’s semiconductor design houses.

    World’s second largest art market: 2nd behind the US: it accounts for 62% of Europe’s art market – will become even bigger when the EU works of art tariff is dropped.

    World’s largest exporter of books: book, journal, audio and electronic – fiction, non-fiction, academic and educational – circa 2017 sales of £5.7 billion up 5% from 2016. Exports rose by 8% to £3.4 billion. 64% go to non-EU countries.

    UK Tech industry is the leader in Europe: attracting £28bn in technology investment since 2011, compared with £11bn in France and £9.3bn in Germany circa 2017. The U.K. claims 18 of the 25 places in the 2017 Forbes list of top European tech investors: of the other seven remaining members of the Forbes list, five are based in Switzerland and Israel: and the EU was awarded – 2.

    The Anglosphere has majority control of world mining: Dominated by the UK, US, Canada, Oz, NZ and South Africa: and you cannot separate this world with a scalpel.

    World’s third largest global hub for innovation and development in Life Sciences: Worth £64 billion per year including medical devices, biomedical and pharmaceuticals employing 482,000 circa 2016

    World’s fifth largest economy by GDP: Ref: IMF data 2016. And we are relentlessly closing in on Germany for 4th spot. In 2013 we were $1 trillion in behind Germany in terms of GDP: we are now $700 billion behind circa 2016. Using UN data we are only $500 billion behind Germany circa 2016. Currents estimates are that we overtake Germany in terms of GDP sometime around 2030 if we strengthen high value manufacturing, industry and science.Fear of this was one of the drivers for Angela Merkel’s unilateral one million plus “Willkommen” invitation.

    Ranked fourth in the world 2011 (first in Europe) in the World Banks’ Ease of Doing Business Index: by 2016 the UK had dropped to sixth position (second in Europe after Denmark.) World’s fifth on the Forbes magazine “Best for Business” list 2016 – after Brexit expect fireworks.

    Oil and gas producer has generated £330 billion in tax revenue over 50 years. 98% of production comes from offshore fields and the Dorset onshore field of Wytch Farm: other smaller oil wells are spread across England. There is shale potential under Lancashire & Yorkshire but only a few wells have so far been drilled circa 2018.

    The world’s most productive and innovative university system alongside the US: but Asia is coming up fast. China is now becoming very innovative.

    The most trusted legal system in the world: A legal system that gives commercial enterprises protection against government: it is no accident that China has chosen London to be the first centre outside Asia in which investors will be able to clear and settle Chinese Renminbi trades. And it is no accident that India’s first offshore rupee-denominated bond was listed on the London Stock Exchange: issued by India’s largest bank HDFC: Chairman Deepak Parekh praised London’s “wide range of financial instruments” and “unshakable trust from international investors.” Unlike the EU the UK does not attack commercial competitors using the legal system: the EU attacks companies like Intel, Google/Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Chrysler, Fox, Facebook, Starbucks, Apple, Sony et al by using antitrust charges to further the interests of Eurozone technology companies.

    Circa 2016 – in terms of shareholder protection the UK is 4th in the world behind Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore: France is 29th: Germany is 49th. In terms of creditor protection: Germany is 28th: France is 79th. No other EU country can match the UK on Rule of Law: the UK is 3rd in the world for property rights protection: 2nd in the world for Investment Freedom: 3rd in the world for Financial Freedom. As The Wall Street Journal’s Jon Sindreu has noted: “most international financial contracts are written in English law.”

    The World Ranking of Judicial Independence cites: UK 6th – Rwanda is 23rd, Germany 24th, France 28th, Saudi Arabia 30th, India 53rd, Spain 58th and Italy 65th.

    The EU is like Volkswagen writ large: when they can’t hack it – they crook. That is why after Brexit there will be minimal movement by financial services to the continent. Because everyone knows that the corrupt and protectionist EU is as bent as a nine-bob note.

    What counts in finance are law, skills, technology, networks, heritage and people: London has all of those and most other European cities don’t. The result – the City will carry on much as before.

    • It will all depend on how responsibly the Brexit situation is handled.
      https://finance.yahoo.com/news/great-brexit-insurance-migration-shifts-040000188.html

      • And yet the overwhelming consensus of economists, not politicians – and that is economists globally as well as locally to the UK or more broadly in Europe, is that the UK is about to take a massive hit from Brexit, whether under the terms of the WA or a no-deal Brexit. And pressed for time here but there’s so many areas one could take issue with your statement above – just to take one element at random that I’ve a passing familiarity with – your point about Rolls Royce aero-engines. The UK doesn’t exist in isolation, those engines have to be sold to people, the costs of same are a key factor, membership of the single market and CU being a positive, all of which gave the UK a near unique position in the overall context. And so one reads that:

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/rollsroyce-moves-design-approval-for-engines-from-derby-to-germany-a8679821.html

        “Engine maker Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is pressing ahead with plans to shift design approval for large aero engines from Derby to Germany amid Brexit worries.

        The group said it was in talks with the European Safety Aviation Agency over the move, which comes as part of Brexit contingency planning that has also seen it begin stockpiling parts in preparation.”

        And:

        “It revealed last month it was already stockpiling ahead of Brexit, while boss Warren East has said he believes “any deal is better than no deal”.”

  7. Whatever happens, Northern Ireland is going to have…difficulties.
    The UK-wide backstop with a time limit might be acceptable, but what happens when time runs out? An indefinite time limit has already been rejected – after all, if you’ve got to follow all the EU’s standards, why not stay in and influence them?
    An Irish Sea customs border means that NI stays in the EU, but neither NI nor the whole UK has any say in the regulations imposed on it. Is that border going to be any harder, effectively, than a land border in Ireland, anyway? Aside from the effect on trade between both NI and the RoI with Great Britain, the UK is going to drastically reduce farm subsidies – who is going to subsidise NI’s farmers?

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