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Some self-reflections on Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jun 21st, 2017 at 06:04:01 PM EST

Sometimes you have to examine your motives for writing stridently on a particular topic: what is it that provokes you to turn to print? I have now written over 400 articles for the European Tribune, and 40 of them have been on Brexit in the last year alone.

On the one hand, it is hardly surprising that a European community blog should focus on a topic like Brexit, and ever since I was made an editor I have felt a responsibility to try to keep the front page ticking over on at least some of the core issues effecting Europe.

But there have been many other reasons why I think Brexit is one of the seminal issues of our time and why I am so militantly opposed to it and everything which gave it birth.

I feel I owe you an explanation.

Firstly, it is not because I think the European Union is some sort of Utopia which only an apostate could want to leave. It has many flaws and a rational case could be made for any member state that might want to leave. Much of my previous writing has been on those many limitations, and particularly on the structural flaws in the Euro, the policy response to the financial crash, the treatment of Greece, and the growing inequalities within the EU as a whole.

Neither am I some sort of closet anti-British Irish Nationalist or Republican for whom Britain's misfortune is Ireland's opportunity. I consider the rapprochement which has taken place between Britain and Ireland in the wake of the Peace process to be one of the great political achievements of recent times.

No, my objections are very much specific to Brexit, to those who have campaigned for it and to those whose interests it is designed to serve. And most of all to their blind indifference to all those who may be harmed in direct or indirect consequence.

Please let me explain.

Brexit started out as a fringe English nationalist movement on the far right of the British political spectrum. There is nothing wrong with English nationalism per se, and many modern nation states have nationalist movements of one sort or another. Indeed, it can be argued that they were essential to the formation of nation states in the first place. Whether real or manufactured, every state needs at least some elements of a common identity if social cohesion and political consensus is to be achieved.

No, it is the basis on which social cohesion is often built that can be problematic: using markers of race, religion, language, culture, social class, sexuality, and dubious assertions of shared values, history and interests to paper over the cracks of the very real conflicts that exist in all societies. It has often seemed to me that those societies with the greatest unresolved conflicts which often resort to the most extreme measures to try to maintain discipline and solidarity.

The United Kingdom is a classic case in point. Undefeated in war, it hasn't shared in the relatively recent defeats and revolutions it's European counterparts have often endured. Thus basically the same ruling class has been in power for many centuries. As a result, class distinctions are more prevalent than in most other European countries leading to an ongoing class war within civil society. Historically those tensions have been dealt with by sending many working class men off to war, and using various external bogeymen to enforce a sort of strained social solidarity at home.

The EU became that bogeyman par excellence over the past four decades, blamed for every unpopular act of government even when those acts were agreed and often initiated or led by the UK government. The classic case is the over-rapid expansion of the EU in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, an expansion strongly urged by the UK. And now the UK blames the EU for excessive immigration from those self-same countries... In a recent example, the Express even sought to blame EU regulations for the Grenfell disaster when the cladding used is already illegal in other EU member states.

The Brexit Leave vote was above all a protest at many years of Tory led austerity government policies skilfully misdirected against immigrants and the EU. Now Boris' clever little ruse has backfired horrendously and the Government will have to find other external bogeymen in an attempt to maintain political "stability" at home. The class basis of Tory rule is threatened and we are in for several years of howling complaints that the EU is being unreasonable in the negotiations and wants to "punish" Britain.

Little matter that it is now the responsibility of the EU27 leaders to act in the best interests of the EU27, rather than those of the UK, especially when those interests conflict. And conflict they will. The EU27 cannot expect to be taken seriously as a world power if it still relies on the UK for a large part of their currency transactions, settlement procedures, legal disputes resolution, financial services, aerospace industries, armaments production, and a plethora of other activities which form part of the essential infrastructure of a world leading economy and polity.

And we must not forget that the Brexiteers had larger aims than just the UK leaving the EU. Their objective was nothing less than the break-up of the EU as a whole seeing it as a threat to their dreams of the UK still being a major player on the world stage. It was back to the old foreign policy of divide and conquer for them when they realised they couldn't conquer the EU as a whole. Even their clever ruse of promoting the premature expansion of the EU to include states who never met any rational convergence criteria has failed, so far, to terminally incapacitate the EU, although it has caused extreme difficulties.

My parents lived through the horror of the Second World War, and their parents, before them, lived through the First. The avoidance of violence to settle conflicts is thus part of my very DNA, and that of many of my generation besides. Whatever failings we might identify in the EU pale into insignificance when compared to its primary achievement: the maintenance of relative peace in Europe. Anybody or anything which threatens that inspires in me a very visceral response: the Brexiteers must be defeated, and their project must be seen to fail. Bigly.

The EU has also had a very beneficial effect in ameliorating the conflict in Northern Ireland by enabling the Republic of Ireland to treat, on near equal terms, with the UK, and by reducing the distinctions between the British and Irish identities within N. Ireland as part of "an ever deeper Union" and through the emergence of a distinct European citizenship.

The DUP were always extremely reluctant to engage in the Peace Process and now have seized on Brexit as their opportunity to turn the tables on their Nationalist (and pro-European) rivals and once again proclaim N. Ireland as an exclusively British state, putting greater distance between N. Ireland and the Republic and reducing the encroachment of secular liberal social values they associate with the EU. Little matter that they could ignite the Troubles all over again. This is a war, and they want to win it. This makes them natural allies of the Conservative and Unionist Party which is busy fighting its class war in Britain.

So my opposition to Brexit, and to Brexiteers and all they represent has nothing to do with a starry eyed idealism about the EU, or some kind of republican anti-British sentiment. It is all about wanting to support international institutions which can reduce the risks of war and promote alternate means of conflict resolution. It is all about trying to defeat a form of politics which depends on raising false external bogeymen in order to promote a bogus solidarity at home. It is all about defeating ruling classes who no longer even pretend to govern in the best interests of all.

The Tory press can shriek all they want but their game is up. They have failed to export their peculiar form of class war to the EU as a whole. Brexit is, in many ways, a partial admission of defeat by them. Not only do they no longer rule an empire, but they failed to rule the EU. And when the reality of Brexit hits home, they will most probably also fail to rule the UK. Scotland will probably secede and Northern Ireland will reach an uncomfortable accommodation with the Republic. The Brexiteers may even eventually lose their grip on little England.

Revolutions tend to be messy affairs, and I have no wish to see England destroyed in the process. Hopefully, its institutions will survive intact enough to enable a peaceful transition. The Tories won't have the City and much of Industry as allies any more; English agriculture will be devastated and you can't run much of an economy on fox hunting and cricket. The English ruling class have outlived their usefulness, too bad they will be taking much of a once great country down with them.

Hopefully the EU will survive intact. An independent Scotland will join and a more united Ireland can be built - in time. Much needed reforms can be introduced once the influence of English ruling class marketista ideology is reduced. The focus can move on to more positive things such as a reform of the Euro and the development of a fiscal union. It may be too late to save Greece but the focus of political energy can move towards people who actually want to be part of the EU and make it work. There are huge challenges in integrating Eastern European member states but we would do well to remember that Ireland was a poor, undeveloped, socially conservative and religiously oppressed backwater when it joined just 45 years ago.

The EU is built for the long haul. It will survive Brexit and Trump and its own incompetents if we are prepared to fight for it.

Excellent Frank ... much appreciated for your insight and determination. You know my perspective on the outcome of Britain's exit is contraire to your vision, but I am so tired of the AngloSaxon drive to undermine labor rights, pursue wealth inequality by any means and most of all the old men's club to wage war for the sake of corporate capitalism. In particular doing the bidding of the House of Saud in the Middle East from Lebanon into Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen.

The unforgivable corruption of the Saudi arms deal with Prince Bandar as recipient of a fortune. Saving BAE.

Posted earlier @BooMan:

Queen's Speech Is All About Brexit Talks

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 at 06:49:43 AM EST
A diary on your contrary vision for Brexit would always be very welcome!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 at 08:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A scaled-down Queen's Speech - The Economist

There will be no fewer than eight Brexit bills: a "Great Repeal Bill", which will incorporate existing EU legislation into British law so that it can be retained or rejected in the future, and seven other bills dealing with issues ranging from immigration to the establishment of new regulatory agencies.

But the rest of the legislative agenda will be thin gruel. The government included some unobjectionable measures, such as taking stronger action against domestic abuse and cracking down on fraudulent "whiplash" claims. It ventured a bit of more controversial stuff, but it left out much of the guts of the Conservative manifesto. The government will now "consult" on how to pay for social care. There was no mention of bringing back grammar schools, scrapping the winter fuel allowance, removing the triple lock on pensions, scrapping free school lunches, removing the ban on foxhunting, or entertaining Donald Trump, the American president, to a state visit.

This peculiar speech was shaped by two brutal realities. The first is that Brexit will take up almost all this parliament's energies. Passing even the most vaguely worded legislation through both houses will be a nightmare. Giving precise meaning to that legislation will open up deep divisions over Brexit across the political spectrum, but particularly on the right.

The second is that Mrs May does not have a majority in either house. The government will be able to get its legislative agenda through the Commons only with the support of the ten Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland.

I wonder. I haven't done the tally, but how large is the hard Brexit faction within the Tories? Is it small enough to be compensated by votes from the DUP, if May actually gets the backing of the DUP? Or will any rebel Tory be relentlessly pressed to get in line?

by Bjinse on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 at 06:59:34 PM EST
Once a deal is done, the Tories can rely on the 10 votes of the DUP, but this only gives them a majority of 6 or 7 in the Commons, and is of little help in the Lords. The larger problem is that there are many different visions of Brexit, and none of them command a Commons majority if the opposition votes against. Hard line Brexiteers will vote against any "soft" Brexit, and remaining remainers may oppose a hard Brexit. The DUP's demands are are contradictory - they want a hard Brexit and a soft or seamless border - so all parties are in turmoil over this.

I expect the Brexit negotiations to go down to the wire to the very end of the A50 period, with May (or her successor) using the fear of a "cliff fall" no deal Brexit to whip doubters into line. But some of her hard line Brexiteers are so mad they might actually relish that outcome in preference to a "fudged deal" designed to appease the majority. So there may never be a majority for any particular kind of deal.

We would then be into a scenario of the UK asking the EU for an extension of the two year deadline in order to try to arrive at a final deal. The problem then becomes that any extension requires EU27 unanimity, and some Members might be heartily sick of the whole fiasco by then and just want to send the UK on her way.  Unless a deal is very imminent, therefore, some member state with a grudge might refuse an extension. Enter Gibraltar, stage left, or Cyprus bases, or Romania displeased at how its emigrants are being treated.

I can see the whole process slipping out of May's grasp and into total chaos.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 at 07:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard line Brexiteers will vote against any "soft" Brexit, and remaining remainers may oppose a hard Brexit.

Sounds like an ad for penile dysfunction.

Field day for flaccid Freudians.  

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 04:41:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can see the whole process slipping out of May's grasp and into total chaos.

May didn't have the process in her grasp before the election and she sure doesn't have it now.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 09:17:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you run out of wily all you have left is monumental stupidity.

As comedy duo, Boris and Teresa make a fine pair.
A marriage made in hell between a poor man's Trump and Cruella de Ville.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 04:45:02 AM EST
William Dalrymple writes in the Scotsman about how ignorance about the history of the British Empire helps to feed delusions of a post-Brexit boom in trade with India and other former colonies:
Yet much of the story of the Empire is still absent from our history curriculum. This means that most people who go through the current education system are wholly ill-equipped to judge either the good or the bad in what we Scots did to the rest of the world. This matters. Over and again, we see our diplomats, businessmen and politicians wrong-footed as they constantly underestimate the degree to which we are distrusted across the breadth of the globe, and in a few places actively disliked. Because of the wrong-headedly positive spin we tend to put on our Imperial past, we often misjudge how others see us, and habitually overplay our hand.
by Gag Halfrunt on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 12:12:58 PM EST
Kind of sums it up.  I can see India treating the UK like some sort of colony in a delicious/cruel reversal of history - depending on your take...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 12:27:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't this the same as way the US treats the UK?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 02:40:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh no no no no

The UK and the US have a "special relationship" which means the UK is the US's favourite partner in all things... Just look at how USians looove Hugh Grant, Downton Abbey and the Queen...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 03:37:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look at the British icons Tata have bought up (Jaguar, Land-Rover, Tetley), you could say that's already happening.

But William Dalrymple has said elsewhere that Indian companies are mostly interested in the UK as a convenient English-speaking base for breaking into EU markets, so their enthusiasm for investing in Britain will diminish considerably if we have a hard Brexit.

by Gag Halfrunt on Fri Jun 23rd, 2017 at 06:55:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Land Rover (steel, petro distillates, ISV), Jaguar (steel, ISV, petro distillates, Tetley (black teas, grows like cocoa in Belgium, ibn told!)

Argue instead that Indian companies are recovering owner-operating rights in these raw materials. Further, they are exploiting so-called antitrust enforcement ironically embodied by "free trade" institutions erected by the US after WWII destruction of Europe's choke on the global south.

Ask GOOG, who are India's main suppliers of those materials? Where does UK fit now, bottom or top of the chain?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat Jun 24th, 2017 at 09:10:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Car manufacturers are consumers of steel, not producers.

Anyway, if you want to talk about India and steel, what about Tata Steel?

by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Jun 25th, 2017 at 08:00:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Car manufactures are consumers of (parenthetical short list of raw materials, intermediate goods).

Why, yes. That's what I noted.

Corporations of first world countries have been extracting --stripping-- raw materials and intermediate goods such as steel, iron, crude oi, petroleum, petro distillates, SUGAR CANE, COCOA, BANANAS (an other delicate, tropical fruits for garnish and loaded in gelatin terrines), RUBBER, TEAS, COTTON, SILK, LABOR, goddam GOLD and FOREIGN LAND for several centuries. Let's round up to 10.

"Our Oil" in Their Ground

Corporations of first world countries --empires-- produce "finished" goods such as automobiles and retail consumers to waste them. Children of the world, crawling down the supply chain as in the former British India, know this branch of it as "adding value" to the wilderness. They was some "added value," too. The developed world is in a panic to hold on to

Vertical or Horizontal Monopoly?

Why just today Kai Rysdall (VOA/NPR "Marketplace") revived the threat China's "monopoly" in production and marketing of "rare earth" minerals poses to, you guessed it! Western "advanced" defense.har technologies, game consoles, and cellphones. Which is kinda counter-intuitive since that whole cheap steel, coal, and TEU "monopoly" turned a glut not so long ago.

Whatever led you to assume that I believe car manufactures produce steel?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Jun 27th, 2017 at 02:28:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You wish.
But GBP and EUR (finally), not INR, is the foundation of the crazy IMF imperial basket of country "credit" (SDR). And crazy IMF will assure that over the next decade RMB supplants JPY. Why is that, Frank? I'd like to credit IRP (USD) value of BBC syndicated TV since Dr. Who G0, but that would be kinda queer, now wouldn't it?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Jun 24th, 2017 at 08:48:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

...William Dalrymple on early history of Europeans in India; Europeans and their Indian mistresses; critique of Dalrymple; lost opportunities of intercultural dialogue; elements of exoticism in cultural exchanges

LISTEN,IF YOU DARE P > R-C Lectures 1-20
One of the more humorous lectures contains Prof. Lal's exegesis of British "ethnic cleansing." Another reveals the Moghuls' greatest error, handing tax collection to the BEI Co. Heroic stuff and bother! Font of the Tory legacy! Nadir of German hegemony!

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Jun 24th, 2017 at 08:33:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are you public intellectuals "fighting" for anyway?

o, right. Independent Scotland and "soft" borders between Irish colonies. Because Lisbon's "four freedoms" for EU states is a sham ... that Madame May wears like a bonnet.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat Jun 24th, 2017 at 09:24:26 PM EST
If you can appreciate the kind of journalism Selay Kouassi pursues, perhaps you can also appreciate the latest work he was part of:

How aid helps the rich get richer - ZAM Chronicle

Donor- funded development programmes in five extremely poor regions -of which two post-conflict- in Africa have benefited mainly the rich. An African Investigative Publishing Collective team that went on the ground in north Uganda (post Joseph Kony), Kinshasa in the DRC, Kibera township in Nairobi, western Ivory Coast and north west Cameroon, found that the aid projects had all been captured by the elites, whilst the poor were no better off, and sometimes actually poorer than before.


According to the address on a Cameroonian commercial business website, the Joe Conner Water Company that built the now dilapidated pieces of road for the World Bank resides at Nkwen street in Bamenda. But Nkwen street is very long, and there is no house or plot number. A listed email address doesn't respond and neither does the phone number, which we ring for days. The company Bright GP that officially had built the water wells, is equally untraceable.

We try one more large World Bank and western donor-funded project:  Lifidep, purported to help farmers with cattle breeding since 2014. But Pius Mbipe, Lifidep's coordinator, is not inclined to communicate any Lifidep results so far. "We don't give information on the phone," he says. Can we then have an email address? "No. Sorry," is the last we hear before Mbipe disconnects.

"The farmers had some training," says editor Ful Joy of the monthly magazine `Farmer's Voice.' "But it's always those who manage the projects that benefit more." Asked what happens to the money poured into the region by donors generally, he says it "disappears in the hands of people who have big farms. They end up presenting more competition for small farmers."

According to the Cameroon Bureau of Statistics, people in North West in 2014 were poorer than they had been in 2001.

by Bjinse on Sun Jun 25th, 2017 at 08:29:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jun 27th, 2017 at 02:51:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to reinforce my point about Brexiteers having a larger agenda to destroy the EU: h/t Luis de Sousa

The Independent | Brexit: Minister appointed to negotiate Britain's withdrawal wants European Union 'wholly torn down'

The newest member of Theresa May's Brexit negotiating team has been filmed calling for the destruction of the European Union, The Independent can reveal.

In a speech to a right-wing think tank, minister Steve Baker said the EU should be "wholly torn down", before branding it an "obstacle" to world peace and "incompatible" with a free society.

Tory MPs warned Mr Baker's appointment could now risk the UK's ability to secure good Brexit terms, while Labour said it was "extraordinary" and raised a major question about the Prime Minister's judgement.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 5th, 2017 at 11:19:45 PM EST
I'm not sure that his desire actually means anything. He may well be of the extreme anti tendency but all somebody who displays contempt will achieve is a worse deal than can otherwise be negotiated.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Jul 7th, 2017 at 06:49:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose the larger point I am trying to make is that, from an EU perspective, it is imperative that the Brexiteers get a very bad deal, if any, if only to defeat nationalist forces that are present throughout Europe as well.  By appointing someone like Baker, May underscores the point that these negotiations are about preserving the EU, as much as they are about securing a mutually advantageous deal for both sides.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 7th, 2017 at 08:49:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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