Globalism and the incoherence of Tory Brexit

by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2021

I recently finished reading Quinn Slobodian’s excellent Globalists, which, for those who don’t know, is an intellectual history of neoliberalism focused on the “Geneva school”. As with all good history, the book did not contain quite what I expected it to. I expected to read of the European Union as a kind of realization of Hayek’s ideas from the 1930s aimed at putting economics (and private property) beyond democratic control, a reading that gives some support to “Lexity” narratives about the EU. But the picture that emerges from Slobodian’s story is much more complex than that. In fact, the Common Market emerges as a messy compromise between German neoliberals who did want a rules-based order putting economics beyond politics and French agricultural protectionism and neocolonialism. This results in a split within the neoliberal camp between those who see EU’s regional governance as a partial step towards the legal insulation of economics from the folly of economic nationalism and those who see the EU as economic nationalism writ large, with the latter camp putting their faith in international protections for markets, competition and capital embedded in the WTO.

Reading Slobodian within the newly-Brexited UK, I also had some more local concerns surface to mind. Consistent with my expectation that the story would be a simple one of the EU as a Hayekian project, my initial thought was to see the Brexit promoted by the ERG-inflected Tory party as a thorough repudiation of a central part of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, namely, the European Single Market. And, to a large degree, that remains right. But the EU which the Tories have ended up repudiating, at least in their own minds, is not the “German” EU of fair competition but the “French” one of Jacques Delors, the Social Chapter, and protection for labour and environmental standards from behind a common set of tarrif walls. Talk of buccaneering global Britain, popular on the pseudo-libertarian fringes of the Tory right is in tune with the “purer” neoliberals who wanted the world economy encased globally by the WTO with local producers exposed to the test of competition and forced to do more for less or die.

The trouble is, that Brexit has also aimed at achieving “sovereignty” for the UK, and also of responding to the democratic voice of the sovereign people. Now the cynic in me wants to point out that given the way the UK constitution works, a lot of this involves just putting the institutionally advantaged Tory party in command, somewhat insulated from what people might actually want. But Brexit makes it harder to appeal to the constraints imposed by Brussels as an unavoidable fact of life and the new, formerly Labour, seats that have given Boris Johnson a majority, contain voters that expect his government to be active in “levelling up”, in improving their lives and protecting them from the very changes that international competition might require. (And on the left, the commitment to economic nationalism is even more explicit, with figures like Len McCluskey wanting a more dirigiste economic policy.) In other words the Tory coalition has opted for an outcome where it can no longer pursue the European version of somewhat-laissez-faire and don’t-blame-us-someone-else-made-the-rules but faces a choice between aggressive deregulation to compete in world markets and satisfying its economic nationalist base. Either way, it doesn’t end well, but pending the disintegration of this incoherent alliance, it will have to be maintained in the face of economic disappointment by an intensification of the culture wars aimed at the nation’s internal and external enemies.

{ 56 comments }

1

Neville Morley 01.21.21 at 11:28 am

Which then raises questions about whether the anti-Europe movement was always confused and contradictory, defined in terms of what it opposed, or whether it has become so as a result of the coalition-building and subterfuge necessary to achieve its ends – and whether the confusion and contradiction is solely within the movement, or at least partly also within the heads of its members. Someone like Hannan appears to hold both these positions at once, or at least alternately – but one of those could be purely tactical..?

2

Chris Armstrong 01.21.21 at 11:36 am

Yes, the question of who the Tories will blame when our economic future goes wrong is an important one. My suspicion is that the answer will still be ‘the EU’ for quite some time, though. Not because they’re still making the rules that are restraining us from buccaneering, but because they’re not playing fair, treating us as equals, etc in our current, looser interactions. Johnson’s deal was typical Johnsonism – it just deferred all the fights, leaving them for the next leader to deal with.

3

Chris Armstrong 01.21.21 at 11:42 am

Here’s a story from this morning – “the UK is refusing to give João Vale de Almeida [the EU’s ambassador to the UK] the full diplomatic status that is granted to other ambassadors”. This despite every other country in the world doing so. Our flimsy rationale? ‘The government does not want “to set a precedent by treating an international body in the same way as a nation state”.’ This nonsense suggests the Tories are warming up for a serious a silly fights or sham-fights with the EU.

4

Matt 01.21.21 at 12:12 pm

This is very interesting, Chris. It’s probably not all that important to the story told, but can you say a few words about why it’s a “Geneva school” that is singled out? I don’t think I’ve heard that term used before, and google mostly just sends me to blurbs about the book. (I’d never associated Hayek et al. with Geneva before, but maybe that’s just wrong on my part.)

5

Chris Bertram 01.21.21 at 12:57 pm

@Matt, the distinctive idea of the Geneva School seems to be their advocacy of a global economic constitution to encase the world market in legal protections, so ordoliberalism globalized would be one simple way of putting it. And Slobodian focuses on many of the key thinkers who were either based in Geneva at some point (Röpke, von Mises) or passed through (Hayek). But the figures discussed in the book don’t necessarily agree on everything and, indeed, Hayek and Röpke fell out with one another.

6

Matt 01.21.21 at 1:16 pm

Thanks, Chris – I guess the “Geneva” bit is a sort of organizer more than substance. That’s fine, but good to know.

7

Martin 01.21.21 at 1:28 pm

Often, different sides of the British debate disagree at least in part because they all misunderstand the EU in different ways. But in this case the two (?) sides of the debate agree on how they misunderstand the EU, they just disagree about whether the characteristics that they mistakenly think the EU possesses are a positive or a negative. It seems to me that very little can be gained from getting involved in such a debate. Nothing very useful can come from a conversation premised on the assumption that the purpose of the EU is to put anything beyond democratic control.

8

RobinM 01.21.21 at 6:23 pm

Relevant?

From Quinn Slobodian and Dieter Plehwe, “Introduction,” in Dieter Plehwe, Quinn Slobodian, and Philip Morowski, eds., “Nine Lives of Neoliberalism” (Verso, 2020)

“This book’s method can help explain some of the apparent contradictions of the present. Many observers felt that neoliberalism lost its latest life with the victory of Brexit and Trump in 2016. Political diagnoses have pitched an ascendant populism against a degenerate neoliberalism reaping the effects of the inequality and democratic disempowerment it had sown. Yet a closer look at the standard-bearers of the right throws this dichotomy into question. We find that many neoliberals are more than willing to find a middle ground between their own principles and those of an exclusionary culturalist, and even racist, right.”

“The far-right strain of neoliberalism deploys a similarly dispassionate calculus of human lives. The national community is not privileged for its transcendent value (in the Herderian sense of the Volk) but because of the utility of cultural homogeneity for stability and the accumulated cognitive capital of the population in industrialized nations. Combining critiques of foreigners and the welfare state with calls for closed borders and private property rights has become standard fare for right-wing neoliberals in the new millennium.”

9

Kevin 01.21.21 at 7:18 pm

I am not pro-Brexit, but when it comes to the value of national sovereignty, shouldn’t we at least look to the single most important public policy effort in the world right now: getting the population vaccinated so life can return to normal?

The UK is vaccinating 5 times as fast as the EU, and more than twice as fast as any EU country. Some of the difference is explicitly due to the EU’s procurement procedure. We have also seen that, since Brexit, the EU has failed to halt in any way the democratic backsliding of countries like Poland and Hungary, and was unable to prevent the border-shutting, medicine-hoarding nonsense that occurred in March and April at the most terrifying time of the pandemic.

I still think Brexit is a mistake in the long-run, but has there been any news at all in the last year that would make a British citizen think, yeah, we should send power over more state functions to Brussels? Let’s at least be honest with each other here.

10

Gorgonzola Petrovna 01.21.21 at 8:35 pm

“But the EU which the Tories have ended up repudiating, at least in their own minds, is not the “German” EU of fair competition but the “French” one of Jacques Delors, the Social Chapter, and protection for labour and environmental standards from behind a common set of tarrif walls.”

Protection for labour sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately I just can’t see it somehow.

What I see is Eastern European workers migrating westward and inflicting downward pressure on wages there, while their home states are importing quasi-legal labor from Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia. The latter labor force is not protected at all, often working in sweat-shop conditions, often 60-70 hours/week, under the threat of being terminated (and immediately kicked out of the country) at any moment, with no advance notice whatsoever.

11

Zamfir 01.21.21 at 8:40 pm

Martin, even if you disagree with Slobodian, you can’t dismiss him as a superficial observer who makes obvious mistakes. He might be somewhat overselling the importance of his subjects, but they really existed, they did roughly believe what he says they did, they did have real influence, including on the EU and it’s predecessors (and the UK and the US).

Even apart from the specifics of Slobodian’s book, the whole world has influential people who want to put economics beyond democratic control. Why would the EU be different?

12

hix 01.21.21 at 9:12 pm

We know the voting record of British MEPs and it was distinctively hardcore neoliberal across all parties. It seems to me rather unlikely there was a significant part of the British pro Brexit elite that was genuinely concerned with EU-democracy deficit debates.

The UKIP MEPs were beyond any logic anyway. I will never forget the day I decided to listen to the entire debate of an EU parliament committee. Towards the end, the audience consisted of one person – myself. The lack of an audience did not stop the UKIP member from making up the most ridiculous conspiracy theories during the debate. He seemed to do it just for sport, to annoy his colleagues.

13

notGoodenough 01.21.21 at 9:43 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 10

“Protection for labour sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately I just can’t see it somehow.”

Prior to Brexit, UK workers had a number of protections (hard won in negotiations and enshrined in the EU) which, according to the FT, are currently under assessment for revision (including a 48-hour limit on the working week, rules on rest breaks, and the inclusion of overtime pay in holiday pay calculations) and may be amended by the government [1]. Cynic that I am, I suspect that businesses are not advocating this because they are deeply concerned for their workforce’s wellbeing, but rather because by making people work longer hours they can improve their profits at the worker’s expense. I could be wrong, of course, but my experience would suggest otherwise.

If such “reform” does happen (and my suspicions are proven correct), then that would be an example of worker protections derived from the EU which the UK labour will no longer have. We have to see what happens, of course, but let’s just say I am not overflowing with optimism.

As I noted on a previous thread:

[…]“while I am by no means unsympathetic to the criticisms of the EU (and indeed have many of my own)”[…]”The cold hard truth is that unless and until there is an actual movement to take over the means of production (to use such unfashionable language), people will be dependent on capitalism and capitalist’s investments – and given the low levels of class resistance in the UK, the benefits of the EU have previously represented a critical defence for worker living standards.”

I will admit that I didn’t anticipate quite the speed and vigour with which the attempts would be made – live and learn, I suppose.

”What I see is Eastern European workers migrating westward and inflicting downward pressure on wages there”[…]

On a previous thread, it has been contended that that is not in fact the case [2]. I don’t presume to know enough to offer thoughtful commentary, but this would seem to not be a universally accepted truth – I offer this purely for your consideration, should you be interested.

[1] “UK workers’ rights at risk in plans to rip up EU labour market rules”, Financial Times, January 2021.

[2] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/01/04/after-the-pandemic-lets-not-keep-families-separated-by-borders/#comment-807569

14

blavag 01.21.21 at 11:31 pm

Here’s an interesting French take on Brexit and who backed it:

https://agenceglobal.com/2021/01/10/marlene-benquet-and-theo-bourgeron-uk-brexiteers-libertarian-goal/

The financiers who backed Brexit
https://mondediplo.com/2021/01/10uk-podcast

15

J-D 01.22.21 at 1:46 am

I am not pro-Brexit, but when it comes to the value of national sovereignty, shouldn’t we at least look to the single most important public policy effort in the world right now: getting the population vaccinated so life can return to normal?

The UK is vaccinating 5 times as fast as the EU, and more than twice as fast as any EU country. Some of the difference is explicitly due to the EU’s procurement procedure. We have also seen that, since Brexit, the EU has failed to halt in any way the democratic backsliding of countries like Poland and Hungary, and was unable to prevent the border-shutting, medicine-hoarding nonsense that occurred in March and April at the most terrifying time of the pandemic.

I still think Brexit is a mistake in the long-run, but has there been any news at all in the last year that would make a British citizen think, yeah, we should send power over more state functions to Brussels? Let’s at least be honest with each other here.

The issue of ‘democratic deficit’ is a serious one. I would like my country to be more democratically governed than it is, and I sympathise with people in other countries who feel that way about their own countries. If people in the UK said ‘Our priority should not be closer integration with the EU, our priority should be democratisation’, I wouldn’t disagree. I am in favour of pointing out the faults of the EU, not against doing so.

However, although it’s true that the EU has undemocratic features, it’s also true that the UK system has its own undemocratic features, and they won’t be mitigated or reduced by leaving the EU. For anybody whose priority is democratisation, Brexit is a gross misdirection of effort.

16

Gorgonzola Petrovna 01.22.21 at 10:12 am

@notGoodenough
Both of your claims are, in my opinion, contrary to empirical observations and common sense. The second relies on studies. Studies are often commissioned (and paid for) precisely to justify and promote controversial policies.

And the first claim… So, the EU establishes rules, okay. My daughter is currently employed by a construction company in northern England. Most laborers, she says, are Romanians. They are better workers than the natives, they move faster, she says. Now, the following are my own baseless conjectures, my personal opinion: those Romanians, coming from a low (3-4 times lower) income country, are highly motivated. They aren’t likely to complain when official EU labor rules are violated. Ursula von der Leyen is not sending undercover monitors to clock their working hours. Conclusion: the EU rules are an empty feel-good formality.
And now on the conceptual level: EU bureaucrats aren’t concerned for workforce’s wellbeing any more than British business. Only the workers themselves are. You say: “the low levels of class resistance in the UK”. But I’ll say: under the EU-imposed conditions they are powerless.

17

notGoodenough 01.22.21 at 11:54 am

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 16

“Both of your claims are, in my opinion, contrary to empirical observations and common sense.”

I make two main claims:

1) that the FT reports the government is considering abolishing some worker protections. This is demonstrably true, because the FT has reported that.

2) That the assertion immigration will lower wages is not universally accepted. That is demonstrably true, because I have indicated where people do not accept it.

So, you are factually wrong.

”The second relies on studies. Studies are often commissioned (and paid for) precisely to justify and promote controversial policies.”

I gave you a link to Fergus’s discussion, which includes a link to an blog citing many peer reviewed papers and books written by people who are experts in the field. As I say, I’m not an expert, but it would seem unwise to dismiss a large body of evidence (based on peer reviewed work by people trained in the area) in favour of personal speculation (which is, so far, all you have presented). If you believe those papers are flawed, you should present your own peer reviewed research and demonstrate it by showing where the flaws are – otherwise all you are doing is attempting to poison the well (behaviour which, quite frankly, makes me disinclined to believe you are an honest interlocutor).

“Now, the following are my own baseless conjectures”

So you are complaining that my claims are not empirical based on…baseless conjecture? Well, good of you to admit it, I suppose, but I am unsure why I should take that seriously.

Personally, I have seen these rules be enforced. In my workplace, our arrival and leaving times are logged. If we work over a certain number of hours, our company gets fined. A friend works in Germany – there it is even more serious, and the IT department literally lock your computer so you cannot work over the number of hours. In both cases, our HR departments advise us not to work unpaid overtime at home, and strongly discourage us from doing so (likely because of the trouble they will get into if it is discovered).

You can (as you appear to be doing) argue these rules are insufficiently enforced – but that would be more down to poor implementation by the national government.

“Conclusion: the EU rules are an empty feel-good formality.”

There are rules against murder. If Alice murders Bob, and no-one reports it because no-one likes Bob, does that make laws against murder an empty feel-good formality?

Indeed, we can go even more general – laws exist, but sometimes laws are not enforced (and sometimes, even when laws are enforced it is done so imperfectly). Does that mean laws are empty feel-good formalities?

As I previously noted, I know of at least a few situations where these are enforced. Your claim, therefore, seems rather poorly substantiated.

”And now on the conceptual level: EU bureaucrats aren’t concerned for workforce’s wellbeing any more than British business.”

Quite possibly, which is why I noted that the protections had been hard won.

”You say: “the low levels of class resistance in the UK”.”

I do say that. Given the developments within my lifetime (decreased powers of unions, zero hour contracts, etc. etc.) I don’t think it is an unreasonable statement. Of course, if you wish to argue the contrary you are free to make the case.

“But I’ll say: under the EU-imposed conditions they are powerless.”

You can say that, but it would be nice if you provided an argument or any evidence supporting that position. What EU-imposed condition(s) completely removed all power from UK workers? Do you also believe that all European workers are powerless?

TL;DR: It is amusing that someone accusing me of making claims contrary to empirical evidence and common sense themselves provides no evidence and little in the way of arguments. I am always open to being convinced of someone’s position if they provide sufficient evidence and sound and valid arguments. You…have not done that.

18

Gorgonzola Petrovna 01.22.21 at 1:21 pm

“I gave you a link to Fergus’s discussion, which includes a link to an blog citing many peer reviewed papers and books written by people who are experts in the field.”

Right. As Kozma Prutkov said: if the sign on elephant’s cage says “buffalo”, do not trust your own eyes.

Btw, you know what else was peer-reviewed? “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at the Dog Park”. Also, “Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use”.

19

nastywoman 01.22.21 at 1:44 pm

”In other words the Tory coalition has opted for an outcome where it can no longer pursue the European version of somewhat-laissez-faire and don’t-blame-us-someone-else-made-the-rules but faces a choice between aggressive deregulation to compete in world markets and satisfying its economic nationalist base”.

but I have to say they (sadly) made quite some… ”points” by vaccinating faster than the rest of Europe – and now (WE) Europe – just have to show them – that the ”laissez – fare” of aggressive deregulation – in the first place is the real disastrous mistake.

20

hix 01.22.21 at 2:30 pm

“A friend works in Germany – there it is even more serious, and the IT department literally lock your computer so you cannot work over the number of hours.”

You got a lucky friend. Excessive overtime in breach of the laws, often unpaid is still quite common here. The cynic in me would also suggest that blocking the computer is more of an indication that there are/used to be serious workplace culture issues that made such radical measures necessary in the first place.

My (sure not representative either) anecdotal opposite example would be a friend who works in machine engineering IT – a sort of double whammy regarding toxic work hour culture. She worked for two companies that simply switched from official paid excessive hours to pressuring staff into off the books unpaid excessive hours after legal scrutiny arrived.

(compared to the wild west nations with hardly any protections, or at least hardly any enforcement e.g. the situation sure is better even at those companies)

21

notGoodenough 01.22.21 at 4:45 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 18

So basically you are now arguing that peer reviewed research based on data, available for anyone to read and critique, is far inferior to your guesswork dependent on baseless conjecture.

If you actually understood anything about research, you’d know that what it offers are models of the world based on evidence, the confidence in which is proportional to the evidence. The data is laid out so that anyone can read it and – if they wish – offer criticisms. Where problems are identified, it is incorporated so that more accurate models are then constructed.

If you said “I think this paper is flawed because they ignore some important factors which I will now detail”, then you’d have a good argument. Instead, you are unable to point to any issues with the work – you just say you don’t trust it.

Congratulations – you are a conspiracy theorist who has just acknowledged they have zero interest in examining data or offering any substantiation of their positions, and as such you are not worth engaging with.

22

notGoodenough 01.22.21 at 5:04 pm

hix @ 20

Overtime and excessive hours are certainly present in many EU countries – but my position is not “the EU has rules and these are sufficient and well enforced”, but rather “the EU has rules which offer some degree of worker protection, and after leaving the EU the UK appears to be in the process of rolling these back so there is even less worker protection”.

As I said in my original comment “the benefits of the EU have previously represented a critical defence for worker living standards”. Given the alternative the UK seems to be chasing is becoming one of those “wild west nations with hardly any protections, or at least hardly any enforcement”, my position is that if this comes to pass than it is reasonable to presume that the EU rules did indeed offer some worker protection.

I think we are in agreement – or at least not sufficient disagreement to warrant splitting hairs over.

23

nastywoman 01.22.21 at 8:50 pm

and at @
”EU bureaucrats aren’t concerned for workforce’s wellbeing any more than British business. Only the workers themselves are”.

And as a EU worker I have found out that ”EU bureaucrats are much more concerned for workforce’s wellbeing than British business – as ”the heroes” of British business aren’t anymore ”workers” who built or manufacture something. It’s ”bankers” – and everything which is related to manufacturing money -(including the hairdressers who cater to the bankers wives) – while most of the EU bureaucrats (still) – are aware that they owe their… jobs – to the jobs of the workers who manufacture ”Made in the EU”.

As the EU bureaucrat who lives next door to US – each time he leaves for Strassburg and catches me working on a piece of furniture -(or a ”film”) – tells me ”without the German worker there would be no wealth in Germany”.

And so – his ”hero” is ”the European Worker” – and thusly he is far more concerned for workforce’s wellbeing than British Banking -(and Service) business.

24

John Quiggin 01.22.21 at 11:48 pm

AFAICT, the balance of political views in Britain (or England, which is what Brexit is about) isn’t much different from that in the EU. But Tory buccaneers and Lexiteers share the belief that, once out of the EU, their views will prevail.

Much the same with the political coalition that supported the Iraq war. Some thought postwar Iraq would be a beacon of democracy, others a permanent US base, others a source of oil plunder, others an ally for Israel and still others a pile of rubble illustrating the folly of opposing American might. All thought their own vision would prevail.

25

Tm 01.23.21 at 9:28 am

Kevin 9: Explain us again how the EU is responsible for the efficiency of the health authorities in the member states. Re vaccine procurement, the production capacity is limited and neither the EU nor anybody else has the magic power to procure more doses than can be produced. We have always known that it would take time until enough doses are available. The rest is a matter of organization and that is up to the state governments whether EU member or not.

26

Alex SL 01.23.21 at 10:56 am

I am amazed how many Brexiters seem to think that “UK is vaccinating faster than EU members” is a meaningful counter-argument to everything from “there is no coherent vision for the UK’s trading strategy” to “the fishing industry is collapsing”. Mostly this seems to be a Twitter phenomenon, but even here!

I am even more amazed whenever I read or listen to ‘Lexiters’ who seriously believe(d) (be it now or four years ago) that once out of the EU the UK would become more socialist, as opposed to becoming more rapaciously capitalist. Their misjudgement of the relative disposition of political power and plausible voting intentions at this moment in British history is staggering.

27

nastywoman 01.23.21 at 11:58 am

@
”I am even more amazed whenever I read or listen to ‘Lexiters’ who seriously believe(d) (be it now or four years ago) that once out of the EU the UK would become more socialist, as opposed to becoming more rapaciously capitalist. Their misjudgement of the relative disposition of political power and plausible voting intentions at this moment in British history is staggering”.

”trump”
(the Worlds Word for: Utmost STUPID)
made them think it…

28

CasparC 01.23.21 at 1:40 pm

@AlexSL Brexit was about making the UK government accountable for what happens in the UK. The government concluded that handing over responsibility to the EU for vaccine provision was a mistake and pursued its own strategy. The UK government acting in the interests of UK citizens is a massive Brexit win and vindication of it

Fishing is still being worked out. But the demonstrations outside Parliament were also a win for Brexit as for the first time in 40 years the government is accountable for fishing policy. The UK agreed to give up fishing quota in return for access to EU markets. If access to those markets is denied for whatever reason I would expect the UK government to restrict access to UK waters.

29

Chris Bertram 01.23.21 at 2:06 pm

@CasparC “If access to those markets is denied for whatever reason I would expect the UK government to restrict access to UK waters.”

Access isn’t being denied though. Access is being delayed by the application of a set of conditions that the UK also agreed to as part of the FTA. The EU was open to easier conditions but on terms that Johnson and Frost weren’t willing to accept because “sovereignty”. Unfortunately, delay, for fish, results in an inedible product.

30

CasparC 01.23.21 at 3:05 pm

@Chris Bertram. Trade Deals are the basis for two nations to cooperate, not ways of one side tricking another. So my view is simple. No access to EU markets for whatever reason, no access to UK waters. Just not interested in blame games

31

nastywoman 01.23.21 at 10:14 pm

@28
”Just not interested in blame games”

ME TOO –
but don’t you think it was pretty stupid – making Brexit about making the UK government accountable for what happens in the UK?
As now the UK government can’t blame the EU for completely ignoring the Virus in the first place -(especially since the EU didn’t) – and the point that –
NOW –
“UK is vaccinating faster than EU members” is NOT a meaningful counter-argument that finally the UK -(or should we say Bojo?) – will be judged for NOT following the EU in the first place – and instead somebody like ”trump”.
(the Worlds Word for: Deadly STUPID)

32

CHETAN R MURTHY 01.24.21 at 12:38 am

Ever more hilarity by the day, and all both predictable and predicted: https://s-delivery26.mxdcontent.net/v/a4994d5c9521124febf342b7b63888eb.mp4?s=gH_1pif9jTElxDZRPzYaqA&e=1611469965&_t=1611451343

Referring to discussions with a senior DIT adviser on trade, Moss said: “This guy talked complete sense. What I said to him was, have I got another choice [other than to set up a company abroad]? He confirmed that he couldn’t see another way. He told me that what I was thinking of doing was the right thing, that he could see no other option. He did not see this as a teething problem. He said he had to be careful what he said, but he was very clear.”

Moss said it was now clear that Brexit was not about winning back control from the EU but investing in it to survive.

Contra CasparC, this isn’t “tricking”. The EU never signed up for “zero non-tariff barriers” — quite to the contrary. That your boy BoJo told you that the EU had signed up to that, when every EU voice was saying “na ga ha pen”, that “Brexit is Brexit” [you stupid Little Englanders] and that “you can’t leave the Single Market and expect to have the same access as before” is just delicious.

33

J-D 01.24.21 at 1:03 am

Brexit was about making the UK government accountable for what happens in the UK.

The UK government has become no more accountable as a result of Brexit than it was before.

The government concluded that handing over responsibility to the EU for vaccine provision was a mistake and pursued its own strategy. The UK government acting in the interests of UK citizens is a massive Brexit win and vindication of it

People, groups, and organisations make both good and bad decisions (I certainly do). The EU has made many decisions, some good and some bad (I am sure). UK governments have also made many decisions, and I am sure there were some good and some bad before the UK entered the EU, some good and some bad while the UK was a member of the EU, and some good and some bad since the UK left the EU. It is possible (I don’t have enough information to be sure) that in the particular case you cite the EU made a bad decision while the UK government made a good one, but this one particular example is insufficient to demonstrate your more general conclusion.

Fishing is still being worked out. But the demonstrations outside Parliament were also a win for Brexit as for the first time in 40 years the government is accountable for fishing policy.

Are demonstrations outside Parliament a form of accountability? People were able to demonstrate (outside Parliament and elsewhere) before Brexit just as much as they are able to do post-Brexit.

Trade Deals are the basis for two nations to cooperate, not ways of one side tricking another.

If I agree to conditions and you then apply those conditions to which I have agreed, where’s the trickery?

34

Alex SL 01.24.21 at 5:22 am

CasparC,

The point is that “faster vaccinations” is quite simply not an argument that has anything to say on e.g. “more difficult access to the UK’s largest export market”. It is a red herring. It is as if you complained that I cut your arm off and I replied, but look, I volunteered to the working bee at the childcare centre. You’d still have reason to complain.

But even taking your point the way you presumably intended it, as both being entries on a large ledger listing the benefits and downsides of Brexit, you would be looking at minus column that is running over several pages already and growing by the hour, ranging from suffering fish industry to suffering arts sector to suffering supply chains, and a plus column that says “we started vaccinating a bit more quickly, although we seem to have trouble with the second dose” and something about being able to trade Swiss shares, I believe?

(Cf. Yorkshire Bylines’ “Davis Downsides Dossier”, which as of writing this lists 4 benefits and 55 downsides. One can argue the exact numbers, but the big picture is clear. For example they don’t list the vaccinations, but in turn I wouldn’t count the Gibraltar entry under benefits, because that is damage control rather than benefit.)

Trade Deals are the basis for two nations to cooperate, not ways of one side tricking another. So my view is simple. No access to EU markets for whatever reason, no access to UK waters.

First, UK fish have access to EU markets, but from a position of a third country, which means paperwork and checks that are an unavoidable consequence of not aligning with the rules of the market. Isn’t that what your government wanted?

Second, you seem to be among those who still vastly misjudge the balance of power in these negotiations. This isn’t two nations having made a deal with one of the two “tricking” the other, this is one nation negotiating access to a common market of 27 other sovereign nations.

You could just as well try to go to your local supermarket and argue that they should allow you to pay half price for the vegetables and meat you need and threaten them with shopping elsewhere if they don’t. They will rather prefer losing this single customer than going bankrupt when all customers start demanding the same rebate. And their presumably exasperated answer can be taken as representative of what the UK has heard and will continue to hear from the EU when asking for special treatment over other third countries.

35

CasparC 01.24.21 at 7:13 pm

As the Brexit Trade deal beds in its odd how many people are saying ‘there are no Brexit benefits as we told you’ and when it is pointed out we are getting a Brexit benefit through the UK vaccination policy which is literally saving hundreds of lives, people pop up saying this is nothing to do with Brexit when it clearly is a direct consequence.

Re arguments that the UK government always had sovereignty and accountability, well who is responsible for the vaccination policy in the Republic of Ireland? Is it the Irish government? Can they unilaterally approve the Astra Zeneca vaccine?

I’m not that bothered about the arguments round access to the EU personally. All trade is a mutual benefit. If the EU doesn’t want UK fish then fine. If they don’t want UK bands touring that’s their right. I’m sure I’d miss all those fantastic European bands not touring here if I could think of any.

36

Tm 01.25.21 at 8:59 am

The WaPo (sic!) has an unsurprising analysis of the difficulties of France’s health system under the strain of the pandemic. Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with the EU. The argument that everything bad that happens in an EU member state must be the fault of the EU is just silly.

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/01/who-could-have-known-what-neoliberalism-would-do-to-a-quality-health-system

But even worse is the idea that the Covid vaccination campaign is a nationalist dick measuring contest. The supply of vaccine is limited so if some players grab more of it, others will get less. That the EU tries to avoid this dynamic is commendable. We will only be safe when everybody has enough vaccine.

37

CHETAN R MURTHY 01.25.21 at 2:49 pm

CasparC @ 35: “If the EU doesn’t want UK fish then fine”

Man, this guy’s a riot! It’s like he doesn’t read the news in his own country. Or he’d know that British fishermen are taking the two-day trip over to the Continent to land their catches in EU ports, rather than in British ports, b/c the prices have crashed in British ports. I mean, doesn’t he know that most of this fish is caught for export ?

Just hilarious! I guess you’ll learn to be eating a much more fishy, fishy, fishy diet, CasparC!

38

CasparC 01.25.21 at 6:25 pm

Chetan R Murphy.

In every commercial transaction there is a buyer and a seller and the transaction benefits both parties. When Red tape prevents UK fish being sold in the EU it is not just a UK business not getting paid it is a EU customer not getting the fish they would like. Why that is a win for the EU is not clear to me.

Chetan why is it so important to you that English people should be punished? Why do you have such ill will? Lots of Indians are doing really well in the UK at the moment, comfortably outperforming the native population. Indian origin politicians and journalists are very prominent as well as in all the professions and it is not an issue anywhere. Whatever is eating you, just get over it and move on.

39

J-D 01.25.21 at 10:47 pm

Re arguments that the UK government always had sovereignty and accountability, well who is responsible for the vaccination policy in the Republic of Ireland?

‘Sovereign’ doesn’t mean ‘completely unaffected by international agreements’. Sovereign nations are affected in varying ways by international agreements. ‘Accountable’ also doesn’t mean ‘completely unaffected by international agreements’. Ireland is sovereign in the same way the United Kingdom is sovereign, and Irish governments are accountable in the same sorts of ways that UK governments are accountable (and unaccountable in the same sorts of ways that UK governments are unaccountable).

40

CHETAN R MURTHY 01.26.21 at 12:41 am

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/24/bill-for-boris-johnson-brexit-is-coming-punishingly-steep

Andrew Rawnsley nails Brexiters to their hypocrisy and gaslighting. And their lies.
Pull-quote (it goes on and on with defeat in detail, a thing of great delight):
You would have to possess a heart of stone not to weep with laughter at some of those who are now suddenly complaining about Brexit. It is a bit late for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, those lusty sponsors of the great experiment with the UK’s prosperity, to be wailing that they have been betrayed. I smiled to see that Roger Daltrey, the Leave-supporting lead singer of the Who, has joined the chorus of rock stars furious that the post-Brexit visa rules will ruin their prospects of touring across the Channel. Mr Daltrey will have to sing Won’t Get Fooled Again to himself before moving on to Boris the Spider and I Can’t Explain.

It is particularly rending for the soul to witness the rightwing press discovering that the cause they so noisily championed is not the nirvana that they sold to their readers. They were cheering when Boris Johnson flourished the Brexit deal that he concluded on Christmas Eve and proclaimed: “This is a cakeist treaty.” The UK would be having the sweet stuff and eating it by gaining lots of shiny new benefits from being outside the EU while still enjoying the historical advantages of frictionless trade with its closest neighbours.

All those acquainted with Mr Johnson and his casual relationship with the truth will have taken that with a juggernaut of salt. Consider the prime minister’s specialist subject of cake. Anyone trying to take a fresh cream cake across the Channel now does so at the risk of having it impounded at customs because it is a dairy product. A Dutch TV report, which has since gone viral, shows border officials confiscating sandwiches from motorists arriving in the Netherlands from the UK. One driver agrees to surrender the meat in his sandwich, but pleads to be allowed to hang on to the bread. The frontier guard responds: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to the Brexit, sir.”

41

CHETAN R MURTHY 01.26.21 at 12:49 am

Needless to say, I only included the first bits, and it’s worth reading the whole thing. B/c while it starts out pretty funny, it gets pretty dour as Rawnsley surveys the state of things, which is pretty damn dire.

Looking at this from America, it sure looks like what Leavers were really saying is “The wogs start at Calais; damn ’em all, we’ll build a wall!” And it seems to be working about as well as one might imagine.

42

nastywoman 01.26.21 at 10:15 am

and furthermore –
if the EU would have been as nationalistic as our Brexiters – the Germans would have had the vaccine FIRST and the Brexiters would have waited for it.

43

PeteW 01.26.21 at 1:40 pm

CasparC

You write: ‘In every commercial transaction there is a buyer and a seller and the transaction benefits both parties. When Red tape prevents UK fish being sold in the EU it is not just a UK business not getting paid it is a EU customer not getting the fish they would like. Why that is a win for the EU is not clear to me.’

The UK, not the EU, is responsible for the imposition of the ‘red tape’ you refer to. Surely you understand this? It’s not difficult.

You are right that it is not a ‘win’ for the EU, nor the UK. Brexit is a lose-lose proposition. Many of us have been aware of this from the outset. Again, it’s not difficult.

I’m probably going to regret asking, but what on earth has this to do with ‘Indians’?

44

CasparC 01.26.21 at 3:36 pm

Andrew Rawnsley and the Guardian are not impartial observers. If Brexit is a success then a large part of the UK political establishment will be about as relevant as Eastern European Communists post 1989. Hence their increasingly desperate attempts to paint Brexit as a failure.

Unfortunately for them, Brexit happening at the same time as Covid is a coincidence that undermines their position completely. The UK is doing far better with vaccination than any EU country, and the EU is digging a deeper and deeper hole for itself, now intimidating multi national pharmaceutical corporations. I’m sure the PM is scheduling in calls to the pharmaceutical majors assuring the the UK will always be welcoming to them and their operations.

JD. Your definition of Sovereignty is just Humpty Dumptyism. The UK has it, and has used it to act in its own interest. The Republic of Ireland doesn’t have it, and cannot make decisions to benefit its population because the EC has over-ruled it.

PeteW. The EU has been determined to erect fortress EU barriers round it. Hence the bureaucracy. These checks on food are required by an organisation that could not tell Horse from Beef. They have nothing to do with protecting the customer. But if the EU wants it like that, that is their business. Plenty more fish in the sea

And Indians? Chetan Murphy never missed an opportunity to call out racism in the UK. He can elucidate if he so wishes.

45

CHETAN R MURTHY 01.26.21 at 7:44 pm

CasparC: “In every commercial transaction there is a buyer and a seller and the transaction benefits both parties. When Red tape prevents UK fish being sold in the EU it is not just a UK business not getting paid it is a EU customer not getting the fish they would like. Why that is a win for the EU is not clear to me.

Chetan why is it so important to you that English people should be punished? Why do you have such ill will? Lots of Indians are doing really well in the UK at the moment”

(1) You’re a libertarian, I see. I don’t have much to say about libertarians, except this: the idea that every consumer can judge for themselves the safety, purity, quality, of the goods they purchase, while a standard libertarian trope, is bullshit. Most consumers do not have the knowledge, training, or excess cash, to set up and run the proper facilities to test all the goods they purchase. The most salient example being foods of animal origin, but it’s only one example. The idea that somehow the EU should trust that UK fishermen (or hog farmers) will adhere to EU laws regarding food safety and purity, when the EU has no legal ability to enforce those laws, is ridiculous. It assumes a level of good-faith on the part of businessmen that is wholly unjustified.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “diethylene glycol wine scandal” ? Or the”melamine milk scandal” ? The former was in the EU (the latter, in China). There are reasons for food safety regulations. And similarly for other sorts of regulations (like level playing field, labor, environmental regulations).

But I guess, as a libertarian, you think they’re all illegitimate. Sure.

(2) I’m not an “Indian”, honey. If you’ve read CT comments for any amount of time at all, you’ll be aware that I’m an American, and a proud one. Being proud of my country means I want my country to live up to her ideals, and I recognize and admit when she does not. Like my country’s treatment of people of color. But I’m not an “Indian”. And as an Indian-American, my first loyalty is to the country where I grew up (from age 4) and that continues to be my home.

Also, what you see as my “glee” in English people getting punished, is nothing of the kind. Next you’ll be telling me that when Cletus in the town of West Incest, Texas is angry and feels betrayed by Trump losing the election, that I’m gleeful at Americans losing at the ballot box. Far from it: I’m gleeful at Trumpists losing. And in the same way, I’m laughing, yes I’m laughing, at all the Leavers, with their lies and their bullshit, who inflicted this enormous act of self-harm on the British people. And let’s be clear: this can be undone, though it will take an enormous climbdown, and the UK will have to give up some of the special privileges it had before.

Bad policies don’t get reversed until their bad effects are sufficiently widespread as to provoke a real reaction. I’m glad that that’s slowly starting to happen.

46

PeteW 01.26.21 at 8:54 pm

CasparC
All countries in the world, so far as I know, have border checks, and almost all countries have tariffs on imports unless they have FTAs or similar agreements.
The UK had such an agreement, covering both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, through membership of the EU and its Single Market and Customs Union. The UK unilaterally decided to abandon it, triggering extra burdens on its businesses and extra costs for its consumers.
You appear to have no clue about this topic.
And I still don’t know what your ‘Indians’ remarks are supposed to signify.

47

CasparC 01.26.21 at 10:06 pm

PeteW thanks for the statement of the obvious. Like all Brexiteers I’m well aware that there are non tariff trade barriers. But to hear folks such as yourself speak one would think no product from outside the EU is ever sold in the EU, or American bands never tour Europe. There are efficient solutions if people are willing.

We aren’t going back into the EU. The arrogance of the institution and sneering attitude means there is absolutely no regret. We will be fine, as we are proving with the vaccine. All main political parties have dropped rejoining as a policy.

Chetan Murphy does his best ‘moi?’ routine but cannot stop himself imagining some gruesome punishments. Oops. And of course I know about food safety issues my point is the regulations have nothing to do with food safety. They are about protecting markets and political point scoring. But keep on educating me. All for free too.

48

J-D 01.26.21 at 11:15 pm

Andrew Rawnsley and the Guardian are not impartial observers.

Without an identification of impartial observers, this comment is not relevant.

JD. Your definition of Sovereignty is just Humpty Dumptyism.

I offered no definition. Is it possible that you are hallucinating? If you are, then your contributions are unlikely to be of value until you stop hallucinating. In any case, if you have in mind a definition of ‘sovereignty’ under which it’s something that the UK has but Ireland doesn’t, you have successfully concealed it.

49

lurker 01.27.21 at 6:42 am

‘And I still don’t know what your ‘Indians’ remarks are supposed to signify.’ (PeterW, 46)
I think he means that since Priti Patel is Home Secretary there is no racism.

50

hix 01.27.21 at 6:43 am

Hey no worries, you got the bigger … am vaccine now, so everything is going to be alright:
https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&country=GBR~EuropeanUnion&region=Europe&deathsMetric=true&interval=smoothed&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=total_cases&pickerSort=desc
But then, there is also this:
https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?zoomToSelection=true&country=GBR~EuropeanUnion~KOR~JPN~AUS&region=Europe&deathsMetric=true&interval=smoothed&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&pickerMetric=total_cases&pickerSort=desc

At this point on has to wonder if the UK still needs a vaccine. Not that many uninfected lefts. What we should have done Eu member or not, is go for suppression in a coordinated all European (yes that does include the UK) effort in March.

51

PeteW 01.27.21 at 9:30 am

CasparC

“thanks for the statement of the obvious. Like all Brexiteers I’m well aware that there are non tariff trade barriers.”

Good. Maybe we are getting somewhere.

“But to hear folks such as yourself speak one would think no product from outside the EU is ever sold in the EU, or American bands never tour Europe. There are efficient solutions if people are willing.”

Ah, maybe not.
Who are ‘folks such as yourself’? You don’t know anything about me.
The rest of your assertion is a strawman of your own invention. Of course outside products are sold in the EU, and American bands tour. But they have to satisfy the conditions for entry, as they do everywhere in the world. You have no right to free, unrestrained entry, either for your goods or yourself. Anywhere.
Once again, this is not difficult.

‘We aren’t going back into the EU.’

You cannot possibly know this.

‘We will be fine, as we are proving with the vaccine.’

Highest death rate in the entire world. Fine.

‘All main political parties have dropped rejoining as a policy.’

For now.

‘And of course I know about food safety issues my point is the regulations have nothing to do with food safety.’

Nothing? Seriously?

‘But keep on educating me.’

Sadly it’s not working.

52

J-D 01.27.21 at 9:43 am

We aren’t going back into the EU. The arrogance of the institution and sneering attitude means there is absolutely no regret. We will be fine, as we are proving with the vaccine. All main political parties have dropped rejoining as a policy.

‘There is absolutely no regret’ is flagrantly false. It is very easy to discover that there are many people in the UK who, like yourself, have no regrets about the UK leaving the EU; it is equally easy to discover that there are also many who regret it profoundly. To deny the existence of either is silly.

53

Tm 01.27.21 at 12:17 pm

PeteW 51: Little correction, current statistics put the UK fourth, after San Maroino, Belgium and Slovenia. Of course, your and hix’ point stands even so.

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality
You need to scroll a bit down.

Each person getting vaccinated, no matter the country, is a bit of good news. A dear friend in the UK just got her first vaccine shot. Her second shot was scheduled after three months, against the guidance of Pfizer and most health bodies. I hope this will work out fine but it seems a bit of a gamble.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-24/u-k-defends-vaccine-dosing-delays-as-approach-gains-traction

54

Chris Bertram 01.27.21 at 12:34 pm

Things in the UK are pretty bad, but I doubt that it is in fact true that the UK has the highest death rate in the world. If we look at excess deaths during the period of the pandemic, the UK (last time I looked at these at the FT) was +18%, whereas Peru was +89%.

55

PeteW 01.27.21 at 1:42 pm

56

notGoodenough 01.27.21 at 1:46 pm

As Tm notes (having beaten me to the punch), the UK has extended the interval between vaccination doses past that recommended by the supplier (I believe in order to smooth the rollout). While this may make sense logistically (in terms of ensuring people receive the doses), it is not clear yet whether or not this will be the correct approach in terms of vaccine effectiveness.

For example, the original trial for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was a relatively well-designed, prospective randomised controlled trial with blinded endpoint assessment [1]. It offered a good sample size, reporting on 37,706 individuals at 152 sites in six countries who received vaccine or placebo and had median follow-up of 2 months. The overall results showed an efficacy of 95% reduction in covid-19 cases at least seven days after the second dose, which was delivered to a scheduled 21-day interval between the 1st and 2nd dose.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation´s (JCVI) advice and the CMO’s decision to delay the second dose to between 4-12 weeks is – to the best of my knowledge – not based on data from the trial, but instead an assumption of what would have happened if the second dose hadn’t been given at 21 days. While this by no means a bad way to construct a hypothesis, without sound testing it is unknown what the effect of the altered dosing regime will be.

To be clear, I understand that there are logistical issues and that “ideal approaches” are not always possible (my intention in this post is not to offer blame). But it is important to remember that this “delaying” approach is the one the UK is taking – and while I sincerely hope that this will prove to work out well in the end, to the best of my knowledge it is not yet substantiated by data.

Given that this ultimately means the UK´s vaccination strategy is not based on the currently available research, celebration would seem to be somewhat premature. And, of course, it is also worth noting that countries within the EU have been able to decide for themselves dosing intervals – so Northern Ireland (despite the assertion) would be able to pursue a similar strategy should they wish to do so.

It is, therefore, not clear why the UK´s strategy of “spacing out the dosing” should be considered either a triumph (as we cannot say with confidence that it will be as effective an approach) or a demonstration of the benefits of Brexit (as, to the best of my understanding, the same approach could have been pursued regardless).

In short, Caspar C would seem to be celebrating a little prematurely.

[1] Polak FP, Thomas SJ, Kitchin N et al Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine NEJM 2020 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2034577

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