Three years ago I wrote Brexit: The Gift That Keeps On Giving. I wasn’t trying to add anything to the debate … the older I get the more I realize I have nothing to offer. That piece was about how funny it all was to an outsider with no skin in the game. But in fact, I did have skin in the game via exports. But I had already taken the loss and internalized it. I got over my losses and saw the humor in the incompetence of the British Conservatives.
Brexit, like Kenny Powers, had a hilarious first season followed by diminishing returns with each new episode. It still has its moments but, you only keep watching because the first act was so good. That’s Brexit.
Brexit has also gone dark, like Succession. Heavy moments make you contemplate the depths of humanity. The drama and laughs continued, but with dark consequences in stark relief. Like when Kendall drives a car into the lake under the influence, killing a local. Still funny, but dark. What changed is Boris Johnson got Brexit done.
I saw this tweet in real time and couldn’t believe it didn’t get more attention. The chief adviser to the prime minister, after he resigned of course, and after Brexit is proving to be a shitshow as predicted, effectively states the plan to leave the EU single market seamlessly was to take Ireland with them. Is it funny or dark that he believed that was viable? Both.
I don’t believe this was ever a premeditated strategy, so much as him absolving himself of responsibility for the shitshow. But the fact he would even say it helps explain how the Irish question never entered public discussion of Brexit before the referendum, taking a back seat to more topical priorities like funding the National Health Service.
Before being ousted last month, Boris “BoJo” Johnson threatened to abandon the agreement if the EU doesn’t renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol. When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, an “Indian giver” was somebody who welched on an agreement. Specifically giving something in exchange and then demanding it back. It’s politically incorrect to use that term today, so we need a new one. I propose we make it a “Tory giver.” That isn’t so broad as to paint all Brits with the slang, just the ones who chose BoJo for their leader.
Britain must now deal with a new Scottish independence referendum and a rising push for United Ireland. They’ll devote significant energy to keeping the United Kingdom intact. If they don’t, Brexit will be seen as an inflection point in the long decline of British influence. I say that as a beneficiary of British influence. Unfortunately it’s undeniably on the decline, and Brexit as an unforced error was a milestone.
Many people disagree. They say Britain will be fine, Brexit won’t spell doom and the British people will be just fine. That should have been their slogan … we’ll be just fine!
The undeniable verdict is illustrated in how Europeans react.
BoJo Gives FR a BJ
Look no further than France, where the right-wing nationalists led by Marine Le Pen dropped Frexit (France leaving the EU) from their platform. “I do not want to leave the EU. That is not my objective,” Le Pen said before losing this year’s presidential election to incumbent Emmanuel Macron. She may not be friendly toward the idea of integration, but the fact that she dropped the proposition of leaving from her party platform speaks loudest.
In a way, BoJo performed a service for Macron and all the neoliberals. Before you apes go laughing, keep in mind that not all men see BJ as a submissive act. Some men get off on servicing other men. Maybe BoJo likes it.
Here are latest polls in Europe’s big four. Italy is the hotspot to watch right now, but given their EU bailout, the smart money says they’re all talk. And the Leavers would have to run the table on unknowns to win, all the while watching developments from Britain.
Here are Britons when effectively asked, was it a mistake? It’s clear Brexit wouldn’t pass again. That differential will only increase over time, as Leavers die off and the British youth wonder why continentals are surpassing them in income again.
Wait … did I just imply European incomes would surpass Britons’ “again?” Yes that’s correct. I was shocked to read in A Short History of Brexit by Kevin O’Rourke:
The United Kingdom’s economic performance was very disappointing during the Golden Age. Figure 5.1 plots the UK’s output (GDP) per capita as a percentage of output per capita in France and Germany. As can be seen, the UK had started the post-war era significantly richer than either country, but higher growth [in the EU] steadily eroded its relative economic position. By the late 1960s GDP per capita was lower than in either France or Germany. There are several reasons for this poor performance: for example, labour relations were much less consensual in Britain than on the continent, and British industry operated in a relatively uncompetitive environment. The dismal economic context was important in the 1960s in shifting British political opinion in a pro-European direction. The hope was that by eliminating trade barriers, and forcing British industry to compete with Germany in particular, productivity would eventually increase, and with it living standards.
The book was a great read for we non-British who weren’t following the most Euroskeptic country [formerly] in the EU.
People won’t disown an opinion quickly. Leavers still believe something good will come of this. And it takes a long time to distance their personal beliefs–points they’ve argued publicly in front of family, friends and poor strangers–from what are clearly poor results. In the United States, the Republican Party led the United States into the Iraq War. More than a decade later, conservative pundits today are isolationist doves. What happened while I was gone?
It takes time, but minds change. Let’s check in on Brexit polls in, say, 2030. My money says some form of “Breturn” will be more popular than Brexit.
And here’s the icing on the cake from the same book, on the 1975 referendum for Britain to join the EU Common Market, which won by a landslide two votes to one.
‘Yes [to the EU]’ posters made the point simply. On their side were ‘The Labour Government. The Conservative Party. The Liberal Party. The National Farmers Union. Australia. Canada. New Zealand’. Against were ‘The IRA. The Communist Party. The National Front. International Marxists. The Rev. Ian Paisley’.