For another post about brexit, I actually wanted to start with yesterday’s events of the publishing of the very long overdue Chilcott inquiry. For those praising the outcome, allow me to be extremely critical of the time and expense taken to publish a report that confirmed what many people thought years ago. That said though, I don’t subscribe to the view that the report justifies a view that Tony Blair is a War Criminal. I do subscribe to a view that he has a lot to answer for and very likely has a lot on his conscience. Ultimately, the Iraq War was a huge mistake. Not necessarily in the decision to go to war at some point (as Chilcott acknowledges) – Saddam Hussein was a horrific facist dictator who treated his people incredibly poorly. The failure wasn’t a throwaway comment at the beginning of a memo.
The failure was to fail to involve the wider cabinet and ministers in decision making. The failure was to fail to take into account the views of the Generals. The failure was the decision to go to war based on flimsy evidence of weapons of mass destruction, without allowing for the UN sponsored regime of inspections to work. The failure was the belief in serial lies and half truths from people who should have known better. The failure was the complete lack of any planning for what happened next. All of these were things that have been obvious for some time, so I’m still astounded it took this long. Enoch Powell said “all political careers end in failure” and I’m inclined to think that is how Blair should be remembered – in a category of abject failure next to Anthony Eden.
In many ways, it feels like the country has learned nothing in the interim apart from a general distrust of government and experts that played into the hands of the Leave Campaign. Lies from the leave campaign were challenged, but the general public could not believe the expert opinions put in front of them. That said, much like the Iraq War, I can see a bad decision without a public inquiry. David Cameron will ultimately be seen as a reactive tactician, not a strategist. It was unnecessary to call the referendum and in the fullness of time people will see it as one of the poorest decisions in British political history.
At the weekend I joined tens of thousands of others who protested against brexit in central London. What I was struck by is the coalition of the angry the protest brought together. That coalition included young liberals, radical left wingers, office workers, professionals, teachers/doctors/other public sector workers, and concerned grandparents. There is real anger, which admirably didn’t translate to anything other than annoyance at the government and a lot of pig jokes when the march passed Downing Street. The most palpable thing is the anger felt by the body of people, rather a lot of whom are floating voters in FPTP, towards brexit, the leave campaign and the Conservative party. People feel betrayed and a perception of competence has been extinguished more throughly than black Wednesday ever could.
This week we’ve seen the effects of brexit more clearly. GBPUSD has continued to decline to historic lows in a damning verdict on the UK from the largest and deepest market in the world. It’s become clear the service sector and merger activity have ground to a halt. UK commercial property funds have been closing to withdrawals at a precipitous rate. At the same time, the Bank of England has warned that the dark clouds predicted prior to the referendum in the event of a leave vote have begun to materialise.
Of course if you are a leave voter or campaigner, you see all of this as talking down the economy and there being a terrible conspiracy that’s resulted in many of the things the leave campaign said were lies coming true. The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have said as much. I guess all I can say to that is the markets don’t lie in the final analysis. Bad things are happening in the economy because brexit is neither economically rational, nor is it a plan in of itself. Talking “positive” will not solve anything when the “negative” is rooted in fact. Boris Johnson and others can blame the government for having no brexit plans as much as they like, but it me it seems like the planning should be done by those promising the brave new world. Particularly when the concept, brexit, has very little basis in fact or reason. I feel sorry for those who voted leave. They thought they were voting for a genuine proposition, but they were sold a pup. They might as well have voted for the moon to be made of green cheese.
I should probably take this moment to correct a few more of the leave lies. Clearly we are into the territory where people have begun to realise that objectively jobs and economic growth will be affected by the referendum result, even if it is reversed quickly. We are poised for a “Brecession”. Some of the biggest leave lies were on display again this week and many related to a skewed impression of what the remain campaign had actually said:
- The remain campaign said a leave vote would cause world war 3: what was actually said was that the EU was the economic bedrock on which 70 years of peace had been created. Unrestrained economic competition was at the root of many wars. The original point is fair.
- The remain campaign said the US wouldn’t give the UK a trade deal: Some on the leave side claimed this was untrue because some US legislators indicated the opposite this week. However, a spokesman for the administration confirmed the UK was at the back of the queue shortly afterwards.
- The remain campaign lied about the benefits of the EU too: after all, what was the source for the proposition that for every pound paid in to the EU the UK got ten pounds back? Those notorious liars, the CBI…
- At least the prospect of evil TTIP is more remote now: except that all of the things people on the left hate about TTIP are likely to resurface as part of any bilateral trade agreement that the UK reaches with the US – the EU will likely reject TTIP now as its only real cheerleader was the UK government. Well done us…
- We won’t have to put up with the mass youth unemployment seen in Greece and other southern European states subject to bailouts: this is so misguided it is untrue. The problems of Greece and others stemmed from borderline criminal economic management from their respective governments followed by misguided euro membership, none of which has anything to do with the UK. However, we are likely to see high youth unemployment as a result of the self imposed Brecession.
- People in the rest of the EU are clamouring to leave too: except a poll yesterday found support for the EU at record levels, no doubt influenced by the car crash that is Brexit.
Bregret? I know those leavers with tinfoil hats will ignore this, but it’s obviously something materialising in the consciousness of the wider public. An Opinium poll earlier this week noted that 7% of leave voters regret their votes. A poll in Wales yesterday found a majority would support remain if the poll were held again. Dominic Grieve MP, a former attorney general, noted: “It is of course possible that it will become apparent with the passage of time that public opinion has shifted on the matter. If so, a second referendum may be justified.”
It’s great that the majority seem to be realising that they were lied to on an industrial scale by the leave campaign, who are intellectually bankrupt. It’s a pity that we’ve had to get to a place where a recession is inevitable to get to that conclusion.