thenextwave

Breaking up with Brexit

Posted in politics by thenextwavefutures on 2 September, 2017

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There are at least five reasons why Brexit is too complex to deliver. The most likely outcome is a transition period that continues until the political demographics have changed.

The news that Labour has resolved its policy on Brexit is welcome for short-term, medium-term, and long-term reasons. It is also smart politics, because it is becoming increasingly clear that Brexit is too complex to deliver. Richard Murphy made this suggestion on his blog recently. And when I say, “too complex to deliver”, I don’t mean “too complex to deliver in a two year window plus a transition period”. I mean too complex because Britain has become institutionally and economically interlocked with the rest of the European Union. It can check out but it can’t leave.

The first reason is that the relationship between Britain and the EU is fantastically intricate. Just after Article 50 was triggered Buzzfeed published a memorable list of the 30-odd things that Britain had to do resolve Brexit, and it was immediately clear, reading the list, that all of them were complicated and that the government didn’t have a clue what to do about well over half of them. Since then, these issues have kept on getting more complex. Euratom, for example: it’s both essential to Britain’s nuclear power industry, and it requires accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

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The EU referendum and the England problem

Posted in politics, Uncategorized by thenextwavefutures on 22 June, 2016

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The left case for Brexit, or so called Lexit, has been well articulated during the referendum by Tariq Ali, John Hilary, and others. Paul Mason made it in one column, then rowed back again in another. A number of notable Greens have been leavers: Rupert Read, who changed his mind, and Jenny Jones, who made her case in the Guardian.

In the most recent edition of New Left Review, Susan Watkins summarised this case succinctly:

[A] vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986… A Leave vote… would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty… But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot.

And God knows, it’s hard to hold progressive views and not have one of Polly Toynbee’s famous clothes pegs over your nose as you approach the EU. [Update: Or to vote Remain through gritted teeth.] Peter Mair’s argument that the EU has the form of a democratic organisation but none of the substance is hard to argue with. The Lisbon Treaty, with all of the shenanigans involved, shifted the centre of gravity of the EU sharply towards neoliberalism and away from the social market; Germany’s imposition of ordoliberalism on the Eurozone and the brutal bullying of Greece was plain ugly.

The notion that the EU “needs to be taught a lesson”, put to me last week in a bar in France by a woman who said she’d vote Leave if she was British, has an obvious attraction.

But there’s something deeper going on, and that’s why I think that progressives have to vote Remain despite the EU’s evident problems.

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Fighting over democracy

Posted in finance, politics by thenextwavefutures on 20 July, 2015
Dionysos_pediment_Parthenon_BM

Reclining Dionysos, from Parthenon east pediment,
ca. 5th century BCE
Published under a Creative Commons licence, CC BY 2.5

Post-crisis politics aren’t about right or left. They’re about the core versus the periphery

One of the problems of political science, and social science generally, is that it is hard to prove a hypothesis. A sceptic can always say that there were particular circumstances that affected the outcome. We only get to play our history once.

But the recent events in Brussels in which the ‘Institutions’ settled with Greece have, without any doubt, vindicated the work of the late political scientist Peter Mair. His book Ruling The Void, assembled after his sudden death by his lifelong friend and colleague Francis Mulhern, argued that we were watching a long secular decline in party political engagement, and secondly that our political institutions were being shaped so that they had the appearance of being democratic, but none of the structure. His critical case was the European Union; it looked as if had the right institutions in place, but it was not designed to permit opposition or the expression of representative democracy.

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‘Freedom’, ‘choice’, and zombie capitalism

Posted in economics, history, politics by thenextwavefutures on 12 April, 2013

thatcher-headlines-after-deathThe best joke I heard after Thatcher’s death was announced went like this:

Mrs Thatcher’s only been in Hell for 30 minutes, and already she’s closed three of the furnaces and another three are on strike.

It wasn’t on Twitter, or on a political blog, but on the listserv of some football fans – fans, as it happens, of a club in a former mining area in the north of England. As Hugo Young said in his posthumously published piece on her (he died in 2003) in Tuesday’s Guardian, “Thatcher was a naturally, perhaps incurably, divisive figure.”

For my part, I think you need only one chart to understand her influence on Britain, which shows the step-change in inequality during her time in power. I’ve published this here before, when I blogged on the 30th anniversary of her first election victory:

uk-inequality-1960-2005002

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