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A letter from Japan September 8, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There’s something very telling about the letter from the Japanese government to the UK government about Brexit. And what it is is this. That the framing of Brexit in the UK by the pro-Brexit forces that were dominant, Vote Leave, UKIP etc, was one which was structured in such a way as to reify British aspirations over all else and to downplay, dismiss or ignore those of others. Indeed one could argue that it was notable how the rest of the world (though importantly the rest of the world beyond the EU) as simply a tabula rasa upon which could be projected literally anything at all. The Commonwealth? A vast trade opportunity. Subsections of same, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, likewise. The US, despite Obama’s clear warnings, similarly.

And yet, here come the Japanese who are explicit in pointing out that the involvement of their corporations in the British economy is largely, if not entirely, predicated upon UK membership of the EU. What is startling, in a way, is how this latter detail, and hardly a small one, was so completely ignored by so many. But then it’s rather less heady to argue that a inward investment from outside the EU is dependent upon retention of membership of that very EU and that the British economy itself needs to a considerable degree said investment than flighty rhetoric about control and sovereignty and so forth.

Even better to suggest that the rest of the world effectively owes Britain a living, that in the event of Brexit the Japanese and whoever will be champing at the bit to make deals with a newly liberated UK.

That the reality is rather more mundane, rather less impressive, is yet another indication of the UK’s reduced status in the world. That the UK itself was in no small part responsible for the tilt to the right by the EU (always inevitable one may well think, but perhaps not at such an accelerated pace had the UK been more emollient) is simply a small irony.

So the Japanese make clear that they too have interests. That the world isn’t a place where British interests, whatever they may be in this post-referendum context and that as noted in the article is still unclear, will be simply acquiesced to. That others have autonomy and the ability to make their own decisions.

That all this is blindingly obvious to many of us is perhaps testament to the fact we live, or have lived, in a fairly small somewhat peripheral state. That we have an instinctive understanding that we are subject to the vagaries of the global economy, and to some degree to the whims of larger states. But that instinctive understanding seems to be less clearly held by many in the UK.

One has to suspect that that understanding is going to be much more widely shared there soon enough. Watching Theresa May at the G20 summit this weekend it struck me that here was a Tory mugged by economic reality, and the calm dispassionate critique of the US and Japan and the EU itself, that all the posturing on the world stage by the UK in the past was, in a sense buoyed up by the relative stability of its EU membership. It could pretend to be, in that unlovely phrase, ‘punching above its weight’ – all the foreign adventurism was of a piece with this – but in this new reality what does it have to offer? One has to wonder if May thinks achieving her office worth it now that the dust is beginning to clear and the true nature of the UKs soon to be reduced situation is brought home to its population. Notable, very very notable, was the divergence between her and David Davis, the latter still articulating the happy clappy Trump-like rhetoric…

Brexit isn’t about making the best of a bad job. It is about seizing the huge and exciting opportunities that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be new freedoms, new opportunities, new horizons for this great country.

Whereas hers was a sombre message:

Now I’m not going to pretend it will be plain sailing. There’ll be some difficult times ahead.

Well exactly.

Comments»

1. James Gate - September 8, 2016

When the result of the Brexit vote came out there was wall-to-wall coverage on Japanese news and media. This went on for days.

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Gewerkschaftler - September 9, 2016

That’s interesting – why the particular interest?

Because the EU is a major trading partner, or something closer to home in Japanese politics?

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James Gate - September 9, 2016

Not having a word of Japanese (but sitting with people who did – hence how I saw all the coverage) it seemed to be similar to the reaction eveywhere else in the world – how could the UK people be so stupid? – rather than any local concern. But I could be wrong.

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WorldbyStorm - September 9, 2016

It is an amazing event. A sort of rupture driven not by class or other economic based ideology (at least not fundamentally, or not with economic self-interest front and centre – and I say that as someone critical of the EU btw) but by something else again. I’m trying to think of analogies. Is it as if the majority of Catholics in Spain converted to being Cathars across forty years? Something sort of out of left field like that?

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FergusD - September 11, 2016

But I think big capital (mostly Remain) was complacent and expected to win, similar to the Scottish Indy ref.

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2. ejh - September 8, 2016

That’s really interesting. Why do you think that happened?

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WorldbyStorm - September 8, 2016

+1

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3. sonofstan - September 9, 2016

“The Commonwealth? A vast trade opportunity. Subsections of same, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, likewise.”

I remember reading somewhere during the campaign that UK trade with the entire commonwealth – about 1bn people – was worth less than its trade with Ireland. Not sure if it’s true….

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Jim Monaghan - September 9, 2016

I think they might allow us to be honorary members of the new White Commonwealth.

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