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Absurd Brexit (Part 2)

Helmut Sorge | Posted : February 07, 2019

If you haven't read Part 1, click here.

Stand By For the Maintenance of Public Order

Michael Ryan, chairman of the Independent Film and TV Alliance considers Brexit “a major blow to the UK film and TV industry,” since European funds, between 2007 and 2015 nearly 145 million dollars, will not be available anymore. The Sadler’s Wells Theatre, a major classical dance house in London, received, over the past five years, about 550 000 dollars from Brussels, money used for collaborative projects that involve cross European relations, deplored Alistair Spalding, the artistic director—no more ! On January 25, the EU Medicines Agency, since 1995 in the capital, lowered the 28 EU flags, transferring its 900 employers to the Netherlands. The government has already identified several sites around the country that could be used for storage of huge amounts of food. In case of a no deal, which would mean the UK crashing out of the Union, citizens may be asked to change their eating habits to avoid food shortages. Tens of thousands of soldiers are to be called on standby to maintain public order.

As early as 2017, Deutsche Bank began processing business for non-UK customers through its booking center in Frankfurt instead of London (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019). As explained by Bartz et al, “The focus now is on withdrawing staff from London and distributing them among other localities in Europe… Without certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which would no longer have supervisory authority over Britain (following a no deal Brexit), no British-made parts could be installed in European jets” (Spiegel, 2019).

A dramatic situation for Airbus—all wings used by the company are made in the UK. Low cost airlines like Ryan Air are in danger of losing routing rights, meaning they would need to rearrange their flight destinations, the Brexit revolution possibly touching tourist centers like Marrakech. Bartz et al, in their publication “German Economy Prepares for No-Deal Brexit,” explain that “Air traffic in the EU is a particularly sensitive problem, given that the only airlines for whom there will be total freedom are those that are majority owned and controlled by investors inside the EU… Consequences for Airlines like Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus, Ryan Air and Easy Jet could be disastrous given the size of British holdings in those companies. They would lose all route rights from and within the EU.”

As a precaution, Easy Jet, whose Chairman and company founder is a Cypriot citizen, has taken the step of setting up a subsidiary in Vienna, while Ryan Air is considering ways of reducing the influence British shareholders have over the company (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019).

Nevertheless, “the European Commission is eager to prevent planes from being grounded and is considering granting companies their old route rights between Britain and continental Europe until a new aviation treaty can be concluded, at the latest, until March 2020” (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019).  

Still, these companies would not be allowed to operate flights from point to point within the EU, from Paris to Berlin, for example, or Bergamo to Budapest (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019).

Costly Production

Some industries, like car manufacturers, are facing unbelievable challenges--as a dramatic example serves BMW, the German, Munich-based company. As Bart et al point out in their Spiegel article: “The Bavarians operate four plants in Britain. More than 20,000 ultra-compacts of the cult brand Mini are built in Cowley, near Oxford, each year. Each Mini is composed of 3,000 parts, most of which are delivered by semi–truck from continental Europe.”

“If only one or two important parts fail to get through”, warns BMW Works Council Chairman Manfred Schoch, “we would no longer be able to continue with production” (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019). 

Indeed, “BMW production is designed in such a way, that gears, steering wheels or indicator lights are delivered directly to the assembly line shortly before they are needed… BMW has rented space on both sides of the English Channel to store the most important components. If trucks get delayed or stuck at the border, the plan is for planes to supply the factories by air, a costly solution” (Bartz et al, Spiegel, 2019). 

If problems with punctual deliveries can’t be solved BMW may relocate its production, most probably to the Netherlands, where the Mini convertible and a Mini subcompact are already produced (Ibid).

Return to Medieval Times

Populism, the fear of the future, global menace, threatening migrants, loss of culture, out of step with the digital reality, competition for jobs with robots, government agencies replaced by artificial intelligence, a lack of integration, a sense of isolation, the disappearance of a known world, the familiar one crumbling or disappearing altogether, moving the citizens towards the unknown like Ocean waves pulling pristine beaches into a monstrous black hole. 

Centuries ago, drawbridges were pulled around castles whenever the enemies were threatening to invade--the UK has returned to medieval times, entangled in the misconception that in the digital age, isolation is splendid, the base for a national, yet global, economy, allowing the resurrection of a once great power, the resuscitation of traditions, and cultural values, which have faded into the storage room of romanticism and illusions.

I just think they’ve made such historical mistake and they have created a problem for all of us,” declared Margot Wallstroem, the Swedish Foreign Minister, who served at the European Commission from 1999 through 2010. “Our political project, the European Union, will suffer from this immensely and that has to be fully understood. This is because of bad political leadership since a very long time in the UK.” 

The Swedish critic observed the British attitude during the decade she worked in the EU: “Nobody defended their (UKs) membership. I cannot forgive them for this,” said the Social Democratic Foreign Minister. 

Royal Descent into the Trivial World of Politics

The Queen, God bless her, her flowered hats and color full dresses, was even willing to verbally decent into the trivial world of politics by daring to suggest publicly to her parliamentarians to search for common ground: “Of course, every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities. As we look for new answers in the modern age, [but] I, for one, prefer the tried and tested recipes like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.”

The good old monarch, still driving a car on her estates, now and then even trotting out for a horse ride. Honestly, the marketing of the charming Queen and her assistance in her eternal “Love Britain” campaign--with Meghan and Harry, Kate and William (and soon, half a dozen grandchildren all prepared to rule and be admired)-- even by folks subsisting in misery, are more joyful to follow then politicians battling for power, career and ministerial jobs. More joyful than watching documentaries on the unemployed, the poor, forgotten in their soul-less social housing units, which did hardly change since George Orwell described the miserable existence of the working class in his classic The Road to Wigan Pier, bleak living conditions among the poor in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the industrial north of England. His book was published more than eight decades ago; the realities did not change for many, those Londoners existing in the poor neighborhoods for example. The down and out in Hackney, Islington, or the Tower Hamlets, do not know that houses are for sale, in Mayfair, for a cool 30 or 40 million pounds…Each. They live in the “upstairs, downstairs” world, a class society trashed already by Karl Marx, of whose philosophies the Labour Party has borrowed some elements, which seem out of time and, also, contemporary.

Did the forgotten masses vote to remain in Europe, or get the hell out of it? Did they vote at all? Or what would change for them, one way or the other? 59.9 percent of the London vote was to remain in the U.E., but 1.5 million citizens were trusting the promises that the greatness of the British soul and power would return once the country would get rid of the “frogs” and the “krauts,” those shady characters telling them how to produce their foamless, chilled or warm, beer or where to catch the fish. They need to provide for the culinary highlight of British cuisine, fish and chips, served in an old newspaper. No debate yet, no decision, what to do about those coaches in the football world on march 29? Or those lads carrying foreign passports? Juergen Klopp, for example, the German manager of Liverpool, or his Spanish colleague Pep Guardiola, or his Chelsea competitor, Italian Maurizio Sarri? Yes, the stable, pragmatic United Kingdom of old, lamented a Reuters news agency correspondent, “is no more. Politics has become febrile and unpredictable.” 

The Brexit propaganda machine distorted figures, lied, exaggerated, just as Donald Trump did to win his election. Their followers, often not informed, but scared of the future… Scared for the loss of their identity, their jobs replaced by robots or migrants followed frustrations and fear, worried that people of color would move into the social housing unit next door, or that their children would sit on a bench in school next to a girl whose mother was wearing a scarf around her head. A Muslim. Sure. Possibly one of her relatives had sworn an oath to support the Islamic State in Bournemouth or Blackpool. No question: God bless the Queen was now polluted… Simple and simplistic. 

The World Limited to School Days in Eaton and Rugby

Who needs to know about dramatic decline, or the changes of a national spirit? Stop discussing these colonialists, active since they began in 1607 to conquer America (in Jamestown, Virginia) and almost never failed to plunder gold, silk, diamonds in their colonies (about 80 nations from India to Australia, Egypt, Canada, Kenya and Iraq) to benefit the Empire, “which by 1913 held sway over 421 million people, 23 percent of the world’s population at that time”(Maddison 2001, p. 97); by 1920, the Empire covered 13,700,000 sq miles; 24 percent of the earth’s total land area (Taagepera, 1997 International Studies Quarterly). 

If you did rule the world, not even a century ago, a world power and industrial giant, Rolls Royce comes to mind or the transatlantic ocean liner “Queen Elizabeth.” And ever since joining the Common Market, London was obliged to share power in Brussels, later even with nations like Malta and Cyprus, which were British colonies, used in glorious years as military or naval bases for British troops. For some nationalistic MPs, this represented a rather a psychological burden, particularly for those whose world view is limited to school days in Rugby or Eaton and Oxford or Cambridge universities, some fox hunting and practicing village cricket, and the forgotten English country side, glorified by Agatha Christie (murder exempted), stalking red deer in the Lake district or shooting pheasants. 

Cynicism Suffocated British Wit

The UK was, and is, a cool place… It is the place where fashion was created (especially if you remember – or were around in - the 60s and early 70s?). Who can forget Twiggy and David Bailey, David Hockney, Cecil Beaton, Jean Shrimpton, and the contemporary “Biba” cosmetic folly in art deco, located on Kensington High Street, visited by one million customers weekly? 

London erupted, tasted freedom more extreme than Parisians ever did in modern times wtih the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, or Annabelle’s night club, “Tramp” on Jermyn Street, Elton John, MGB, Morgan and Triumph sport cars, splendid tailors on Savile Row, pubs on Kings Road, glorified horse racing in Ascot, where the size of hats reflect the owners egos. Britain invented golf in Scotland (St Andrews, anno 1552), created boxing rules and structures to rowing in its modern form. Wimbledon is presenting the glory of tennis. Polo, the preferred sport of the Royal class, was imported from Asia, adapted to unending playing fields on the island. Britain is glory, and history, invention and nostalgia, and sentimentality for the past long lost. With time, cynicism suffocated British wit, the folly and eccentricity. The BBC adjusted to “news light,” some daily’s are lost in exaggerations. Confidence began to fade, terrorism caused insecurity and fear, the refugee crisis turned migration into a subject of political rage, in Italy, Germany and -- in Britain, the tolerant nation, civilized, practiced in queuing, standing in line and never cutting into the established order. Again, the Brexiteers, some driven by their own careers, a dream to move into Downing 10, were distorting facts, blaming the EU for social depression, for unemployment and the collapse of the National Health Service (NHS). Now they have to deliver. But which cards are there to play? No Royal flash for certain.

A Political Mandate for Her Deal

The “Norway option” (Britain remains within the single market, even after leaving the EU), General elections, a new attempt by a replacement for Mrs. May? A hard Brexit, which economists believe will lead to a 40 percent reduction in Britain’s trade with Europe? Or the demand to extend the article 50 for two months or three, trying for another solution prior to the European elections in the summer... Another referendum with possibly another close result? Uncertainty will hobble UK business investment and depress consumer spending in 2019, stunting long-term growth even if Britain manages to avoid a disorderly Brexit, according to a poll of more than 80 leading economists (Strauss & Jackson, Financial Times, 2019). 

As Strauss and Jackson report, “Many of the economists said forecasting for 2019 was impossible given the ‘comprehensive’ and ‘chronic’ uncertainty that had become a ‘way of life’ in the UK, especially when likely Brexit outcomes were binary: either no deal or no Brexit” (Financial Times, 2019).  

Given the political shambles…the outlook is anything from lackluster to catastrophic, but who knows,” said Diane Coyle, professor of public policy at Cambridge. Nina Skero, head of macroeconomics at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, judged whatever its long-term effects, “in 2019 Brexit will be either bad or awful for the UK economy.”

To escape the deadlock, Mrs. May could hold an early general election in order to get a political mandate for her deal. Just one minor problem: she does not have the power just to call an election. But, just as in 2017, she could ask MPs to vote for an early election under the “Fixed-term Parliaments Act” because elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022 and Mrs. May already announced she would not be a candidate. Two thirds of the MPs would need to support the move for an earlier election—the earliest date for the vote could be 25 days later. The Prime Minister would choose the date. Or she can have tea with the Queen… And resign. If the monarch wants to be kind, she should abstain from wearing her blue hat with the yellow dots. Theresa May has suffered enough.

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