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Rejoining the EU?  March 22, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

William Keegan who I like a lot, given he writes in the mode of a traditional (that is pre-third way) social democrat of a type familiar to me from a short membership of the British Labour Party, makes a point that is both sensible but absolutely politically impossible in an article. Before he gets to that he offers this:

Now, the majority of the rightwing Tories who inflicted Brexit upon us consider themselves Thatcherites. They know that Thatcher enjoyed the huge support of her chief press officer, Bernard Ingham. Well, I have news for them: my brother Victor and I had a most interesting lunch with Bernard shortly before he died recently, at the ripe old age of 90.

Ingham himself was an unashamed Brexiter. But he, who knew Thatcher’s views as well as anyone, told us in no uncertain terms that his boss would have undoubtedly voted to remain in the European Union. She fought her – and our – corner in many an EU dispute, but she knew where our economic interests lay; and, of course, she was godmother to the single market.

Well. Perhaps. I suspect though that she would more likely have gone with the times had she survived. That said she was indeed one of the prime movers of the single market – so perhaps her inclination would have been to leave the European Union and remain within the SM/CU? Who knows, who can tell? 

Anyhow Keegan argues:

Talking of which, I should like to reiterate my wonder at the fact that Rishi Sunak, when arguing the case for the Northern Ireland deal – in which he was supported by Keir Starmer – emphasised that Northern Ireland could continue to enjoy the benefits of being part of the UK and the single market.

If that’s good for Northern Ireland, Mr Sunak and Sir Keir, what about the rest of us, who, in addition to the economic consequences of Brexit, have lost our freedom of movement within the single market we helped to set up? It is surely time that Sunak, whose Brexit position has been shown to be flawed by his own comments, demonstrated his reputation for pragmatism by owning up to the catastrophe.

All true. All irrelevant. It doesn’t seem remotely likely that a British government will lead the UK back into the EU in the next decade and likely much longer, perhaps never. I could see the UK joining EFTA, or some approximation of same, but again not for a decade at least. And I think there’s good reasons for this. From the moment the referendum result was in it was clear that – like it or not, it had and retains a democratic mandate. One can complain that it was advisory, that those who sought Leave were (at best) economical with the truth, that some on the opposing side were underpowered, that the results was finely balanced and all those points are true. But all that aside everyone had a chance to make their case, if the worst argue theirs too passionately and the… well, best isn’t the term, less worse perhaps is more applicable, were not exactly filled with energy, so be it. Thirty years of British politics led towards a referendum. There was a result and that has to be acknowledged. 

One can argue more forcefully with the aftermath. The absurdity of a Remain cohort who refused to recognise that the world had, literally changed around them. The duplicity of a Leave cohort who saw the opportunity to push for the hardest form of Brexit possible, one that has led to years of chaos on this island. So for me it would be fair to say Brexit was a mistake, and one that unfortunately British working people will be living with for many years to come, but what followed compounded and exacerbated that mistake. And arguably led to an extension of the Tory moment that arrived in 2010 and remains to this day. 

So while my sympathies are with Keegan I don’t think it’s achievable and worse it may be diversionary. Better by far to lay the ground towards the ejection of the Tories and a better relations both with individual EU states and with the EU as a whole. 

And all this before we get to the significant problems that the way in which the EU is structured needs to be addressed. 

Good point here from him:

Meanwhile we all await the ineffable Jacob Rees-Mogg’s list of the “benefits of Brexit”. Given the recent banking emergencies in the US and Switzerland, I greatly look forward to Rees-Mogg’s views on the putative benefits of a restoration of the light-touch regulation that brought us the financial crisis of 2008.


1. Blissex - March 23, 2023

«That said she was indeed one of the prime movers of the single market»

The Single Market was designed to destroy the EU: the thatcherite idea was that on the continent businesses were ballasted by good wages and high taxes to fund good social welfare, and therefore UK businesses boosted by low wages and low taxes thanks to mean social insurance would outcompete the continental businesses, causing widespread recession and unemployment, which would be blamed on the EU and the Single Market, and result in France, Italy, Spain leaving it.

The blairite idea was almost identical, with low paid eastern european workers boosting Uk businesses that would outcompete the continental businesses from countries that had delayed free immigration from eastern european members, with the same results.

Ironically instead it was the UK that left.

A relevant quote from Ivan Rogers:

«King pressed the case to open the labour market without transition on the grounds that it would help lower wage growth and inflation, address supply bottlenecks in a fast-growing pre-financial crisis economy, and help keep interest rates low […] But this was an immigration and free movement policy driven by the desire to fuel U.K. growth, and by the belief that we were stealing a march on EU competitors and further consolidating the advantages of the U.K. model over that of a sclerotic Germany, which we were all characterising still in 2004 as the decade-long sick man of Europe.»


WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2023

That’s really interesting Blissex, I hadn’t thought of that before in those terms. I can well believe that was her idea.


2. Bobd - March 23, 2023

Interestingly, it seems that the real miscalculation was that the opportunities for economic development did not lie with low wages, reduced labour rights and limited welfare benefits. The expansion of employment that happened in Ireland in the same timeline without developing into an Irexit is an interesting comparison. The missing element is probably the deskilling of the UK workforce.


Blissex - March 24, 2023

«The expansion of employment that happened in Ireland in the same timeline without developing into an Irexit is an interesting comparison.»

There is not that much difference between the UK and southern Irish cases, both are systems completely dominated by property speculation having adopted only slightly different anti-worker thatcherisms.

If the irish are so much more attached to the EU may be because of anti-english sentiment, and because Bruxelles is much further away than London. Those are also the reasons for the EU being far more popular in Scotland than in England.


3. Blissex - March 23, 2023

There are some other elements that I have read in various pieces in more or less veiled language:

* The EU and the Single Market were actually mainly “sponsored” by the big USA corporates, to allow them to dominate a single continental european market, outclassing with their much bigger scale the rather smaller “national champions” of each single EU state. The japanese corporates obviously liked the idea too. Both USA and japanese corporates have indeed benefited enormously from the Single Market, and their entry point in was before Brexit the UK.

* The more recent Conservative kipperite version of the thatcherite/blairite idea is “free ports” or “free enterprise zones”: special customs areas, staffed by very cheap 3rd world indentured immigrants, with factories run by ruthless USA/japanese corporates, would flood the EU with cheap goods, thanks to very low transport costs from the UK, and to the exit agreement that allows for 0% tariffs on goods between UK and EU, thus outcompeting native EU companies, still ballasted by silly talk about pensions, wages, worker rights, and so cause widespread unemployment and the exit from the EU of the more “socialist” southern countries (german businesses countered the UK threat with the Hartz cuts and massive offshoring to Poland, Romania, Czechia, China).

* In part the blairite/thatcherite/kipperite idea is like so many other things inspired by the USA, where the southern “right to work” (anti-union, anti-worker) states attracted a lot of outsourcing from the “rust belt” states with cheaper wages and weaker worker protections. The UK as Georgia, Germany as Ohio.


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