Monday, 3 July 2017

Hope versus despair

First hope, courtesy of Simon Wren-Lewis:
There was a lot of indignation yesterday from committed Remainers about Corbyn sacking those who supported the Chuka Umunna amendment on the Single Market. I’m a committed Remainer, but I couldn’t see what the point of the amendment was. That is because we are almost certain to leave the EU still in the Single Market.

In March I wrote that the outline of the Brexit deal was fairly clear. Crucially, there would be a longish (many years) transitional arrangement to enable a bespoke trade deal to be negotiated. During this period we would preserve our position in the customs union and Single Market (and pay money to the EU to do so). The UK side may dress this up as something a little different, if they have the wit and energy to do so and if the EU lets them, but to all intents and purposes that means nothing changes on the trade side for some time. That conclusion didn’t require any great powers of foresight at the time, but simply followed from the length of time it takes to negotiate bespoke trade deals (see, for example, Alasdair Smith here).

My only uncertainty back in March was whether May would choose (or be forced to choose) No Deal. With the election giving more power to soft Brexit elements among the Conservatives (e.g. Hammond), I think No Deal is now very unlikely because parliament will vote it down. As a result, towards the end of 2018 we will know how much we have to pay in order to formally leave the EU, but things will otherwise stay pretty much as they are now.
So maybe some of us over-reacted. I'm willing to consider that possibility. Maybe there's some chance of a less-than-totally catastrophic outcome. But it's still the silver lining of a very, very dark cloud. Here's Frances Coppola with your daily dose of despair:
But [Leave voters] were sold a lie. Every day, the damage that Brexit will do to our complex tapestry of local and international relationships becomes more evident.

Briefly, I promoted the lie. I accepted the referendum result, and agreed to the Brexiteers' demand that everyone "pull together" to make Brexit work. But since then, I have found it increasingly hard to write. Because I sold my soul, I lost my voice. I cannot write what I do not believe.

Brexit is bad. It will always be bad. There is no version of Brexit that can ever be anything but bad. The people who overwhelmingly voted for Brexit will not suffer much, because they are old and relatively insulated: but Brexit is incredibly destructive for the young.
My emphasis.

And just to really cheer you up, here's how an economist from the University of Groningen sums up the various probable outcomes:
Conclusion. There is no option that is better for trade than Britain's current situation. There is no alternative that will grow Britain's trade, apart from trying to get a deal that essentially copies what they have with the EU right now.
Thr really scary part is that the economists based their "Global Britain" scenario on the unfeasibly optimistic assumption that the UK will somehow mange to strike trade deals with every single country in the world outside the EU. Even under this best case scenario, the UK's value added exports dropped by 6%. This was the best case scenario - the results of a soft Brexit were worse, those of a hard Brexit worse still. You can't win and you can't even break even. Here's the vid, which comes with a content warning - it includes material that some viewers may find disturbing (it scared the hell out of me):
I'm aware that the Brexit horror show is becoming something of a regular fixture on this blog, which I didn't intend it to. I'm starting to think that my ventings about Brexit really need a site of their own, so from now on, I'm either going to go to my happy place and pretend that the UK's collective nervous breakdown just isn't happening, or start a separate Brexit-themed blog* for this sort of thing. Probably in Wordpress, since I've been meaning to get to grips with it for a while.

*Update -  from now on any new Brexit-themed posts will be exiled to their own blog. Roll up for the Tragical Mystery Tour, step right this way!