Friday, 15 July 2016

Brexit negotiations will open many European Union cans of worms.


Brexit: The fragmentation of EU insensitive largeness.

By Tom Thorne

I have purposely let a couple of weeks go by before commenting on Britain leaving the European Union. The main reason for waiting is simply chaos of this kind usually generates a lot of flack. It also takes a few weeks for the dust to settle and political trends to begin to emerge. Markets and currencies go through a down cycle. The market takes a dip and the smart money buys value cheap and then allows normalcy to a reassert itself. All this masquerades as a recovery after profits have been siphoned and reinvested by the smart money experts.

The failures of those who promoted staying in the EU resign before their heads roll. And in this case it is now clear that David Cameron is already replaced by Theresa May whom I suspect is a kind of Thatcher Lite in the annals and ranks of the Conservative Party. David Cameron announced yesterday that he is leaving the PM job within 48 hours. It looks like he has been packing his stuff at 10 Downing Street for the past three weeks. He is surrendering the mess he created to Madame May. His original plan was to cling to the PMship until the fall was a pipe dream. The Conservative parliamentary group unloaded a lame duck as soon as possible.

The Labour Party is in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn its frazzled rudderless leader is denying the inevitable. Corbyn picked up the scattered Labour pieces after the 2015  general election when a throughly thrashed Labour Party and its then leader Ed Milliband became a pariah by Labour parliamentary members after a lacklustre result at the polls in 2015. Both these Labour leaders seem to be victims of internal Labour Party battles and discontent.

Madame May will now see the Queen and form a new government by playing musical chairs with the Conservative parliamentary group that enabled her to froth to the top. Surely this astute monarch will ask questions about how the EU departure will be implemented. Perhaps this is a moment to discern whether an election is needed to confirm the non binding nature of the recent referendum. At any rate a new Prime Minister has the opportunity to provide leadership on this issue that will tamp down the anxiety. Will she do it?

Apparently not. She has decided to soldier on with Brexit despite being opposed to it herself. Then she appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister. This is a fax pas of giant proportions because Johnson is loathed in Europe after supporting Brexit. Comments from Euro leaders could best be described as restrained fuming. 

And it is really time for leadership. Brexit is not a done deal because it is not binding on the Conservative government.  It is 52-48 percent split and with parts of the country like Scotland  registering a 62 percent  pro Europe vote. Internally, if Scotland's wishes to remain in Europe are thwarted by Westminster, the separation of Scotland is much more likely. Scotland gets 59 seats in the House of Commons in 2015 The Scottish National Party (SNP) took 56 of them. The other three seats went one each to Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The turnout was 71 percent in 2015. Scotland is clearly for staying in Europe after the EU referendum and their heavy return of the SNP in the 2015 general election demonstrates they are interested in preserving their independence within Britain and getting more. Brexit changes this political dynamic profoundly. If Britain leaves the EU, Scotland will want to stay. Perhaps Northern Ireland as well. Brexit is a clear recipe for fragmenting Britain. Scotland make rue staying in Europe because their tiny population won't give them the same clout they had as part of Britain. It is all a accident looking for a place to happen.

Madame May must now walk a very tight line. She would be wise to call a general election soon although 2015 seems so close that that may be hard to do. However she shows right off the bat an inclination to execute Brexit negotiations with Brussels then Scotland's parliament will act on another separation referendum. With their Westminster mandate frustrated by a Conservative Government they may declare unilateral independence or at least petition Brussels for a direct seat at any negotiations. 

The word to describe this developing situation is the fragmentation of Britain's external policies. With Scots on the separation warpath it could spell the destruction of the 1707 Act of Union and it certainly can be seen as the final gasp of the British Empire. It looks bad because a fragmented Britain loses negotiation clout.

Britain is now overcome with an advanced case of Brexit Blues where the referendum results are seen as a bad dream. When this situation is combined with the European Union saying let's get on with the process, Britain is poised to look bad in Europe and the World. This situation confirms most of British history with Europe. Britain has always thought of Europe as troublesome, Scotland always sees Europe as an alliance. They are in a weak position because this is the first time in history that Europe has a political structure to enact pain on Britain.

Is Brexit the way to go to stop immigration you don't want or irritating trade rules from Brussels imposed upon members? Perhaps David Cameron should have approached the EU with a need for significant changes to the Union but that is a bit silly when the UK has retained its currency against the Euro and has tried to maintain its status all along as a member with different rules.

All is not good in the rest of the EU. The Eurozone has created much economic dislocation in Southern Europe probably because the Euro’s value inflates the economies of Spain, Portugal, Greece and even Italy leaving giant gaps in employment and government services that are inequitable to those offered in Northern Europe,

The trend in the EU may very well be like the British referendum experience. There is talk in Holland of leaving the EU. Certainly the economic devastation in Southern Europe is a cause for considerable alarm in Brussels because it too will foment change and demands to get a bigger share of the EU pie.  Think of the pressures of all the Syrian and other refugees passing through Greece, Sicily and the rest of Italy as they try to keep a fiscal lid on their debt. Something is going to give in Southern Europe creating a situation much more negative than Brexit.

Brexit has roots that go deep into a highly bureaucratic EU that makes both poor and solvent countries wonder what are the vital benefits of membership. If countries withdraw for reasons of poverty or opportunity trade and commerce will survive. Problems of British nationals working or living in Europe will hopefully be equitably dealt with. At least one would hope that the humans get a sunset clause in their employment and where they live.

I see it all as an Information Age phenomenon. The EU has been expanding east and has grown more complex and bureaucratic until it is now perhaps unmanageable. Southern Europe is losing faith in the EU model because they remain in unemployment and poverty.  British people think they are losing control of their borders. When the public wants to make sense of this large conglomerate they fragment their part of it to try and make sense of its effects. That leads to the politics of referendums. Fragmentation also leads to what they know. National pride, history,  culture, jobs and economic wellbeing  trumps what Brussels is doing.

The same phenomenon is happening in US politics where grid lock in Congress is leading to rebellion and fragmentation of largeness and control by elites. Fragmentation enables simple ideas and propaganda to emerge and in the hands of the people in referendums and elections that makes for change and perhaps changes that no one will really like in the final analysis.

© Copyright 2016, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.