If you are anything like the British people, you’re probably heartily sick to death of hearing about Brexit and watching it dominate the news, not just in the UK but all over the world
What was supposed to be a glorious national liberation for those wanting to leave the EU, and the easiest deal in history because the Brits were supposedly holding all the cards, is ending up with a UK feeling humiliated, divided and lost. From where I am sitting, I would describe it as a bloody mess. The next two weeks will be critical as the UK Government argues for and against, but mostly against the deal that Theresa May has negotiated for the United Kingdom.
Predictions emerged this week from work published by the UK Treasury and other Whitehall Departments, forewarning that quitting the EU under the government's plans could cut the UK's gross domestic product by between 2.5% and 3.9% compared to staying in the bloc. The Whitehall document was followed 3 days ago by the publication of an even more dramatic prediction by the Bank of England claiming that a disorderly no deal Brexit could see the UK economy shrink by nearly 8%, the price of the pound plummet, a 30% slump in house prices, unemployment nearly doubling, and inflation spiralling to 6.5%. By all accounts this is worse than the 2008 crash and is described as a crisis not seen since Suez (where the UK invaded Egypt, and were then humiliatingly forced to withdraw) and the Second World War. Sick of it or not, the Brits are worried, and rightly so.
This scary stuff reminds me of Y2K – the switch from the 20th Century to the New Millennium - when we believed that on January 1st, 2000, the world’s entire network of computers, along with the World Wide Web, would crash and burn, since no provision had been built into the systems to cope with such a major date change. It therefore followed, that with our lives and livelihoods so controlled by, and dependent on, computers, it would be the end of life as we knew it. Utilities would cease operation, shops would run out of food, all communication bar the odd carrier pigeon would fail, planes would be grounded or even worse, come crashing down, along with the Financial Markets and it would be a real-life Apocalypse Now. Some took this potential Y2K threat so seriously they converted their assets to gold and silver and stockpiled food and water. An acronym described the situation: TEOTWAWKI: The End of the World as We Know It.
It feels like this is the UK’s TEOTWAWK - let’s call it TEOTUKAWKI!
Today Teresa May is on a whirlwind tour of the UK trying to sell her deal – the deal which she says is the best deal she can get - and she is probably right on that point and the EU has said as much. The opposition party is saying it’s a botched deal and will not deliver on the Will of the British people. Mrs May says it does exactly that. There is disagreement and division all around except, I believe, that there is a common feeling (even if people don’t verbalise it) that most of the British people know that this is a bloody mess and wish they had not got into it in the first place. I do firmly believe that if given the vote again most people would decide to remain in the EU.
Presently there are three practical Brexit options. They are:
1) Accepting Teresa May’s deal - or what is called the Draft Agreement -although today, and given what we know, this looks like having a snowball’s hope in hell of getting through Parliament and will die an inevitable death along with Mrs May’s Political Career.
2) Leave with No Deal. This one will create even more negative consequences than the Draft Agreement. As one Columnist wrote “it will be bad times ahead, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable in society. The rich among us will feed like vultures on the financial chaos that ensues. Every food, health and welfare standard will get binned to obtain bad trade deals. The NHS will be sold piecemeal to American companies in order to facilitate trade deal too. It’s going to be a mess that’ll take us 20 years to recover from – if we ever do”.
And then there is this option which has my vote
3) Staying in the EU. If the UK Parliament cannot find the consensus Britain needs (and this seems likely), then surely the only sensible and right solution is to take the final Brexit decision out of the hands of stalemated Politicians, away from the backroom deals, and give it back to the people to decide. Surely, it’s time we own the stuff-up and the entire farce is given a quiet burial, Article 50 rescinded and we can go on to rebuilding our links with the EU as a fully-engaged Member.
But we have Politicians getting in the way of this and digging their heels on this one. “This is the Will of the British people and they have spoken” is May’s repeated retort when asked for a second Referendum or People’s Vote. Many believe that a second Referendum will make a mockery of the British Political system - as to have a referendum to overturn a previous credendum will make a joke of the country. But, Parliamentarian Jacob Rees-Mogg’s argument that “Democracy has spoken” cannot hold weight, because when people voted to leave, it was based on a campaign of lies and myths which sounded like a compelling reason to leave, like “easy trade deals, 350 million for the NHS” etc.
The next week is going to be fascinating to watch and terrifying to ponder because so much is at stake. But is it all feeling so dramatic because of Project Fear? Perhaps everyone will come to their senses and there will be a deal which people can sign up to, or a vote where the public can decide and then it will be like post-Y2K all over again, when it wasn’t long before it became clear that all the fears associated with the turn of the millennium, were but for naught. TIME magazine reported that actually, the day’s most historic moment, was the resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. And for us it will be the same for Theresa May when she becomes Theresa May Not.
In the same TIME issue, reporting on the folks who had been holed up in bunkers in preparation for the New Year apocalypse, a journalist found at least one family was left with 12 cans of Spam they swore to eat, “disaster or not.”
In the end the computers switched from 31.12.1999- 01.01.2000 without missing a byte and we all woke up to another sort of Spam entirely – the eponymous junk mail in our Inbox. Still, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to stockpile a few tins before March 29th, 2019 – not Uncle Sam’s spam, though. How about some British bully beef – read into that what you will.
Stuart White 30-11-2018 10:42 AM
Categories: HRMC Articles written by Managing Director, Stuart White