Sunday, 23 October 2016

The foolishness of Brexit

The warning from the British Bankers Association that some banks are considering relocating to Europe in the new year because of Brexit, reminds us once again of the perilous state we are in.

The problem is not that politicians lie to us. The problem is that they have not the courage to tell us what we don't like to hear. The government knows Brexit will hurt millions of people in the UK, but they won't acknowledge it. They know it is set to seriously harm our economy and competitiveness in the world, but won't tell us. They can't tell us the reality because it would destabilise the markets. So we are stuck in fantasy land. 

We go on with the belief, I would say delusion, that somehow all will be ok, but it won't. Even if we take the most optimisitc scenario of Brexit from economists such as Patrick Minford we are in for a very hard knock. 

Just as in war, everyone becomes an expert. In the comfort of their armchair in front of the television it is easy enough. Suddenly people who haven't a clue will pontificate on economics as though their judgement carried the same weight as expert analysis by economists. And so the economic forecasters are dismissed as 'doom sayers'.

Of course we can look to the 'new opportunities' it might create - but opportunities for who? My prediction is that it will not be the poorest who will find any benefit or opportunity. Nor will it be middle income earners whose jobs are on the line or are relocated. A 'hard' Brexit would take us out of the single market, but what is the price of a soft exit? We don't know, but there will be a price.

There is a kind of blind stupidity to the Brexit case that runs something like 'Europe needs Britain more than we need Europe'. It sounds good and was used by Farage regularly over the years. It is meaningless twaddle - a politicians sound bite. We could rephrase it "Britain needs Europe as much as Europe needs Britain'. It is still meaningless. What isn't meaningless is that almost 50% of our trade is in the single market, and that is why a hard Brexit would be devastating to our economy.

We have no plan for Brexit, and nor can the government find any coherent consensus on what it will seek from it. Mrs May has no plan and no mandate. The reason she uses the mantra 'Brexit means Brexit' is because it doesn't. She knows that, but she hasn't the courage to tell us.

But, there is a further stupidity. Imagine someone putting a hole in the bottom of a boat. You have, say, thirty minutes to man the lifeboats and get everyone to safety. Everyone runs around frantically looking for the lifeboats, but none are to be found. That is Brexit. The captain of the ship hollers 'don't worry, think of the opportunities!'.  

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

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