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It’s not about Brexit – it’s about the post-Brexit vision

post-Brexit-Vision

“Those who seek to disembarrass a country of its entanglements should be very slow and wary. It should not be a matter of tearing up roots but of slowly training a plant to grow in a different direction.”

John Maynard Keynes, 1933

In our latest Globalisation Outlook:

  • While much of the talk is about the Brexit process, the more important issue for the UK is – what happens after Brexit?
  • There are two diametrically opposed view of post-Brexit Britain
  • The Right offers the view of a buccaneering, low tax, low regulation Britain open to unrestricted global trade (though their claims that that is what they desire were somewhat undermined by their outrage at the contract for new passports being awarded to a French company)
  • The Left offers the view of a more statist Britain going the route of nationalization and government subsidies
  • Both these views represent outdated ideological positions no longer fit for the 21st century
  • Neither the Brexit Party nor the various Remain parties have offered a compelling vision of a post-Brexit Britain
  • While the Brexit Party will likely get away with that (for now) by focusing on emotive abstractions such as ‘democracy’, ‘independence’, etc, it is more difficult for the Remain parties who are offering a status quo at a time when many are looking for radical change
  • The Labour Party’s insistence on a permanent customs union and some regulatory alignment make perfect political sense in that, irrespective of whether they would have achieved much in practical terms, they drive a stake through the heart of the Conservative party. Which is why the PM could not agree to them and talks have been abandoned.
  • The hopes of a buccaneering global Britain are somewhat turning to ashes with the failure to have any significant trade deals ready to go
  • There is no evidence to suggest that being in the EU has been the factor holding back Britain’s international trade opportunities. Being out of the block will, on balance, most likely further disadvantage the UK in international trade.
  • With the dream of Europe as a federal super-state rapidly fading, now may be the best time for Britain to stay and push its view of a flexible Europe of nation states – a notion now gaining currency everywhere.

Comments

  1. Stephen Gwynne says

    Sustainability, sufficiency and resilience work through balance, not growth. This is epitomised by the life death relationship that underpins all life. The UK since the Lisbon Treaty has steadily gone out of balance and Brexit is the result.

    National governments can only function if they have adequate autonomy to keep social, economic, cultural and ecological environments in balance. In the modern age, we expect the required balance to be partly determined though democratic processes.
    The failure of the EU Treaties is that they do not provide national governments the required autonomy to create sustainability, sufficiency and resilience within national systems. The only alternative is a highly centralised technocratic federalised system which would need very high level of democratic consensus since national citizens will literally handing over their means of survival to a remote political body.

    The EU has demonstrably failed in this respect. One it does not have the required level of democratic consensus (and forced conformity is not a substitute) and two it does not provide the necessary levels of national subsidiarity whilst the required level of democratic consensus is being achieved. In other words, it is running before it can walk.

    To reform back to the necessary level of national subsidiarity would undoubtedly mean dismantling the euro. This was applied far too soon and should have been one of the final stages rather than one of the first. The chances of this happening now is virtually zero and so within the next decade or so, unfortunately we are going to see the EU collapse.

    National sufficiency should be the primary objective of any political system with liberalism being the vehicle by which to create it and sustain it. This can only begin at the national level, not at the supranational level, so the priority of a Post Brexit Britain should be to bring the country back in balance through national sustainability, national sufficiency and national resilience.

    • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

      Thanks Stephen. I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement around here that the euro was a mistake and represents running before one can walk.

      The issue is that whatever one reverses, one can never get back to the situation before the event. Britain after Brexit can never be the same as Britain before the EU. So the issue is the future vision of a past-Brexit Britain given that the EU will still be there (at least for the moment) as will the euro as will our 40 years of integration.

      None of that can be wished away.

      • Stephen Gwynne says

        Agreed but neither can the fact that continued membership will continue to put the UK out of balance. The UK’s priority as exemplified by Brexit (yes it is still currently the most important issue) is to bring the UK back into balance. Remaining does not facilitate that priority. Arguably May’s Deal does but then continued EU integration is embedded in her deal and why it is being rejected.

        As far as I am concerned the required roll back need to remove the governance structures of the EU and remake the European System as multinational rather than supranational. Multinational institutions are the means by which European countries come together and cooperate on the basis of their required autonomy to democratically manage their sustainability, sufficiency and resilience. As pointed out EU membership does not enable that.

        As such, we need to remain outside of the EU and any new agreement needs to enable the UK to have the required autonomy to manage flows of people, capital, goods and services. I argue this because people need to start taking responsibility for their own sustainability, sufficiency and resilience before that can be realised at the national level. Having democratic control directly enables this process as a result of democratic debate. That is why democracy is so important. It isn’t an empty abstraction as many hardline europhiles want us to believe, it is the vehicle by which to inculcate individual, community and national responsibility regarding our sustainability, sufficiency and resilience.

        The radical centre between national autonomy and European multinationalism is not yet determinable because we are so out of alignment with national sustainability. Bringing ourselves back into balance will enable us to more clearly determine the radical centre between national autonomy and EU multinationalism. From that radical centre we can then make the democratic decision of how to proceed.

        • Joe Zammit-Lucia says

          Stephen, ‘democracy’ may not be an abstraction but it is ‘an essentially contested concept’. In other words its meaning in practice has always been and will always remain contested. There is no such thing as ‘this is exactly what democracy means in practice’ – and there will never be.

          We may all have our own views on what are the best ways of making the essential trade-offs. But nobody is ever going to convince me that they, and they alone, know exactly what the proper and only definition is of ‘democracy’ in practice. In my opinion, anybody who believes that has more in common with the authoritarian who bends ‘democracy’ to his or her will than with anyone who truly believes in democracy the essential character of which is endless debate and discussion.

          I take your points about your own particular views of democracy. They are valid, in my view. But they are not the only valid viewpoints and any true democrat will acknowledge that.

          That is my beef with people like Farage who try to appropriate ‘democracy’ as being interpretable only in their own way. It is dishonest, opportunist, and anything but democratic.

          That’s not to say that it’s not effective. But I have little respect for it.

  2. Stephen Gwynne says

    Personally I don’t see Brexit as a contestation of what democracy means, I see Brexit as a contestation of the extent to which national policy should be determined through democratic rule. Under the EU Treaties, national democratic rule over economic policy is limited and in the main is delegated to the EU Treaties under the overview of the EU Commission and the European Court of Justice. The lack of democratic rule over all aspects of economic policy has ramifications in relation to the social, cultural and ecological dimensions of British sustainability, sufficiency and resilience.

    The EU referendum was a democratic exercise which allowed British citizens to leave or remain in the EU Treaties following Cameron’s attempts to negotiate subtle derogations. The democratic decision to leave the EU Treaties was the outcome which was honoured by Parliament activating article 50.

    In that time, a general election was called in order to renew the democratic mandate, with particular attention on giving the main political parties a mandate to negotiate a withdrawal deal and a framework for future relations with the EU. Of course, the LibDems and the Greens democratically chose to not honour the referendum result and instead pursued a democratic mandate to revoke article 50.

    In the course of negotiations between The Tory leadership and the EU, it became apparent that the intention was to create an EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration that continued to lock the UK into the EU Treaties via another Treaty and thereby continue to limit the scope of democratic rule over the national economy.

    This arrangement was democratically rejected by Parliament by Leavers who wanted more national democratic control and Remainers who wanted more (democratic) control through EU institutions.

    The fact that Leavers were no longer adequately represented in Parliament led to the emergence of the Brexit Party who astutely saw that the main democratic deficit lay in the decisions by Parliament to reject the option of leaving the EU under WTO rules and lay in the decision by the Tory leadership to reject a FTA. Both of which broadened the scope of national democratic rule over the national economy.

    Within the framework of national democracy, it is perfectly reasonable for new political parties to emerge in order to represent the views and perspectives of citizens. To say it is authoritarian within the context of a democratic framework is simply to say that new parties shouldn’t be allowed to emerge and that citizens shouldn’t be represented if they hold certain views and perspectives. This is clearly an authoritarian point of view, not a democratic point of view.

    You might not agree with the political strategy of the Brexit Party as did millions disagreed with the political strategy of #ProjectFear which saw millions upon millions smeared as racist bigots for simply wanting more democratic control over national economic policy and more democratic control over national borders in order that an out of balance UK system can be rectified in order to create more sustainability and sufficiency within UK national systems.

    Clearly if the Brexit Party political strategy is authoritarian then so was and is the political strategy of #ProjectFear in all its many guises. As such, the narratives of democracy, betrayal and national redemption are specifically designed to counter the authoritarian narratives of #ProjectFear.

    I personally don’t see any disengenious about regaining more national democratic control over the UK economy, the UK ecology, UK laws, UK borders and the UK way of life. This, as you say, is part and parcel of the endless debate and discussion that a democratic system makes possible, as any true democrat would undoubtedly agree.

    The Brexit Party is more than Nigel Farage. It is the sum total of its membership and as a political democratic force is the sum total of its membership and supporter base, just like any other political party.

    The question is not whether people see this democratic surge as legitimate, since of course it is, it is a question of whether people will acknowledge the full spectrum of representative democracy as the national body politic.

    In this respect, does democracy means taking account of all views and perspectives when trying to create a democratic consensus, or does democracy only mean taking account of our own like minded views whilst actively seeking to exclude all others.

    In other words, do we want an Inclusive democracy or an Exclusive democracy in the UK.

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