Friday, 19 January 2018

Myths and fairy godmothers

I’m sure that the Prime Minister would have preferred that no-one asked Macron about Brexit at their press conference yesterday.  And her second preference would have been that, if asked, he would have declined to answer.  However, her fairy godmother appears to have gone AWOL for the day (well, actually, she seems to have been AWOL for some time now), and the question was not only asked, but answered in very blunt and direct terms.
Fortunately for her – albeit not for the rest of us - in the parallel universe inhabited by May and her team, this apparent answer isn’t an answer at all; it’s merely a negotiating position.  When the French president says exactly what the President of the EU Commission, the President of the EU Council, and the EU Chief Negotiator have reiterated time and again (in essence, that they too want a good deal with the UK, but they’re not going to undermine the single market to get it), what the Brexiteers actually hear is that they need us more than we need them, and of course they’re going to compromise on the single market rules, it’s just a matter of time and negotiating skill, both of which they believe – despite all the evidence to the contrary – that the UK possesses aplenty.
There is a sense in which the EU team are as deluded as the UK team in this process – the EU team actually seem to believe that spelling out mere facts clearly, explicitly and repeatedly is going to make a difference.  I’m not sure what other strategy they could reasonably be expected to follow, but depending on facts and evidence is doomed to fail when dealing with a UK leadership which remains mired in romantic historical myth.  Insofar as I see any potential benefit coming out of all of this, it is that that myth is inevitably, and at long last, going to be shattered. 


Anonymous said...

The UK does have some particular strengths, particularly so in the areas of banking, military equipment, pharmaceuticals and so on. Such strengths have often derived from our Anglo Saxon model of capitalism. As such, they are not easily replicated by our EU partners.

I think 'fudge' and 'fudge again' will be the order of the day ... something else we in the UK are particularly good at.

John Dixon said...

The belief that the 'Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism' is somehow so different from the European model of capitalism that it makes the 'anglo-saxons' able to do things which mere Europeans cannot, and therefore a special case for which the EU27 will make special exceptions, goes to the very heart of the UK's delusional view about the world in which we live. Still, as long as the fudge is as innovative as Liam Fox's jams, it may be an extra arm in enabling the UK to dominate world trade in the way that the Brexiteers fondly believe is going to happen.

Anonymous said...

You talk of doing things that 'mere Europeans cannot' and EU 'special exceptions'. I talk of market leading market force power, monopolisic positions and sheer corporate might.

The UK is still an extraordinarily important trading nation, no matter the damage resulting from BREXIT. Spend a bit of time outside of Wales and you might well be more reassured. No matter what happens we will manage to find the right path forwards.

Size does have its advantages!

John Dixon said...

This is wandering way off thread here, but:

"You talk of doing things that 'mere Europeans cannot' and EU 'special exceptions'." - actually it was you who claimed that the anglo-saxon model of capitalism was unique, not I.

"I talk of market leading market force power, monopolisic positions and sheer corporate might.". Maybe, but whether these are good things or bad things is left unaddressed by the statement. And in relation specifically to banking - one of the areas you mentioned originally - a lot of the UK's 'leading position' is based on the sort of weak regulation which leads to casino banking.

Actually, I agree with "The UK is still an extraordinarily important trading nation..." which is why cutting ourselves off from our most important trading partner (even if it turns out to be only a partial distancing, the level of access cannot be as good as it is today unless the government drops all or most of its red lines) is such a silly thing to do. And I almost agree with "No matter what happens we will manage to find the right path forwards", but I would have worded it differently. I've said on the blog many times that the UK economy can and will adapt to Brexit, because that's what economies do. Whether it will recover all the initial losses depends on a range of factors which are essentially unpredictable. I suspect not, but anybody who claims to know with any degree of certainty should be treated very warily. There is, I think, a high degree of certainty that there will be a 'hit' at the outset, which will disproportionately disbenefit the weakest and poorest in society. And it's likely to last for some time; economies can and do adapt to changed circumstance but they don't do so instantly.