Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why Leaving the EU is the Ethical Choice for People and Planet

As we near what is probably the most important vote any of us will ever cast in our lives the rhetoric on both sides of the debate over whether the UK should remain a part of the EU has been cranked up to 11. A debate that should have been about so much more has become a schism between two rival branches of the Conservative Party. Each side goes on television daily to spit out venomous insults and apocalyptic warnings while their backers in the media cheer and jeer these poor blabbering idiots. Go online and it's even worse, with keyboard warriors screaming insults at one another with all the decorum of two rival troupes of caged chimpanzees fighting over a bucket of EU mandated straight bananas.

Welcome to debating in 2016! 

Any sane person, who has so far managed to avoid being dragged into the melee, might decide to quietly make up their own mind and keep their decision as a secret to be shared only with the ballot paper and the pencil. While this might be a sound tactic from a personal point of view it doesn’t do anything to add to the quality of the debate that we are supposedly having. One of the major irritations of all this is its intense focus on factoids and irrelevant details. People might not have an opinion on – say – the way in which unelected technocrats were installed as leaders in Greece and Italy, but they sure as hell have an opinion on the comparatively paltry amount the UK gives to the EU every month and what it gets back in return.

This relentless focus on the little stuff doesn’t say much about our own leaders’ opinion of our intelligence levels. Perhaps it might be wiser to pause and think about the wider principles involved in this important matter of national sovereignty. How, for instance, does the larger system of the EU function? 

To get a little peace and quiet in which to think we’ll need to lock away the blabbermouths for a few minutes. Imagine, if you will, a large Monty Pythonesque hand descending from the sky and picking up all the noisy rabble and dropping them unceremoniously in a large sound-proofed box. There goes David Cameron, picked up by his necktie and dropped in the box. Boris Johnson is next, winched unceremoniously by his big toe and similarly chucked in, as is Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and all the other noisy politicians. But the hand doesn’t stop there. It scoops up great crowds of people angrily shouting “racist!”, “idiot!”, “liberal Islington elitist media whore!” and all sorts of other rude insults. Into the box they all go, squashed down together so the lid can be shut. We don’t know how they’ll all get on inside that box but at least it’ll quiet for a few moments on the outside.

Phew! The sound of silence.

Right, now let’s think about the EU. What is it? Well, it’s a collection of countries in a shared geographical area that have all agreed to be governed under a similar set of rules in order that it will be of benefit to them all. The objective in this case is increased political stability, steady economic growth and a shared European identity. Fair enough, right? Does this mean it’s all good, as many claim? No – of course not! By definition there will be good aspects and bad aspects in any system of governance of this size, although me mustn’t forget that the concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are entirely subjective.

["Hmm. Well, I avoided being put in that box, but if he thinks he can change my mind he's very much mistaken. I hope this isn't going to take long.]

What's that? I can hear some of you talking at the back. I'll take questions afterwards in the comment box below.

Okay, in the interests of disclosure you might have noticed from the headline - Why Leaving the EU is the Ethical Choice for People and Planet – that I am have an opinion on the matter. Good! I don’t claim to be neutral – anyone who does is smoking their shorts. On an important matter like this we must all individually construct our own model of realities, examine our own prejudices and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to ourselves and others. If you disagree with me that’s good too! To agree with every aspect of everything you read on the internet is not a good indicator of mental fortitude. I know a lot of people are sceptical but don’t worry – I’ll respect your opinion just so long as you respect mine.

Right where were we? Oh yes, the wonders of Europe.

So far so good – who could possibly object to a vision of a united Europe? Not I, for one. It’s impossible not to love Europe. Far more than just a medium-sized geographical peninsula tacked onto the western edge of the Eurasian landmass, the countries of Europe have it all. Here are some of the things that make Europe great: food, art, history, culture, geography, sport, philosophy, music, architecture, amazing food, language, the people, poetry, literature, delicious regional food, snow covered mountains and fascinating cities (did I mention the food?). You can drive, as I did once, from the frozen blue of the Baltic and keep on going south until you hit beaches lined with palm trees where the air is filled with the scent of orange blossom and the sound of cicadas. I fell in love with Europe whilst Interrailing when I was 17 years old. It all seemed impossibly romantic compared to life back in grey old Blighty, and in subsequent years I have found myself living in three different countries in mainland Europe, and running small independent national newspapers in two of them. I speak three European languages tolerably well, am married to a Dane, have relatives in Italy and think that Scandinavian noire beats all the other noirs hands down. It’s probably fair to say that nobody could accuse me of being anti-European.


(I can sense some of you tightening your sceptical fingers on the trigger.)

[“Here it comes – he’s about to reveal himself as a closet xenophobe!” ]

But the EU is not Europe.

[“Hold your fire. Just let him finish.”]

At one point in time the EU – or the EEC as it was called back in the day – might have aligned with whatever values of Europe it was supposed to reflect. Those days are long gone. Instead we have a bloated imperial project that has run out of steam and is feeding off its own internal organs to stave off collapse. To understand why we’ll need to turn to the dismal science of economics. I can hear some of you groaning but I promise you it won’t be too painful.

[“What does he know about economics? He’s just as full of it as all the rest!”]

I studied economics at university in London. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but at least it taught me a thing or two about how the modern capitalist world functions. I was sent to work at the H.M. Treasury on my student placement year (yes that Treasury), where I worked in the economic forecasting department. Norman Lamont was the chancellor at the time and I left there the Friday before Black Wednesday. It was during this time that I got my first lesson about the EU. My undergraduate dissertation was entitled The Prospects of Achieving Full Monetary Union in the EU (it was a real page turner). I got loads of books out from the library at the Treasury and read them in an attempt to understand the issues. But the more I read the less I understood. Eventually, flummoxed, I decided to go with common sense. It would be impossible, I decided, to get all those vastly different countries to dance to the same economic tune. How could economic diktats dreamed up in Brussels be relevant to both a fisherman in Greece and a desk jockey sitting in, say, Edinburgh? Surely you could not have one country that produces a sizeable chunk of the world’s car fleet (Germany) on an equal footing with one that produces mostly olive oil and oranges (Spain, at the time).

My tutor, when I showed him, shook his head slowly. “You will have to change your conclusions,” he told me. “I cannot possibly pass you unless you argue that full integration is not just possible, but inevitable.”

And so I went away, confused, and simply copied sections from books, even though I didn’t believe in what I was writing. My paper sailed through the marking process and was even awarded honours. I had had my first lesson in how EU integration is to be considered: inevitable.

Since that time, which was 1992, I’ve followed the workings of the EU with a half-interested eye. I was pleased when the Euro currency was introduced, simply because it made it easier to travel and because I liked the look of the notes and coins. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.

But what might on the surface have seemed like a good idea in 2002 is now quite obviously a bad idea. Everything changed after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Up until that point, vast sums of money had been loaned to the countries of southern Europe in an effort to modernise them, thus standardising their infrastructure with northern Europe. I was living in Spain at the time and saw the relentless building programmes going on. To dare question whether it was all necessary (blasting away entire mountains to build a new motorway to nowhere? Pouring money into concrete business parks and airports that nobody needed? ) or how this money would ever be paid back was to invite ridicule. Across Greece, Portugal, Italy and France the same thing was happening: a tidal wave of credit, supplied by mainly northern European banks, covered the landscape with tarmac and concrete.  Every two bit olive and orange farmer was suddenly driving a new BMW and cities sprouted museums of modern art and Michelin restaurants like mushrooms coming up after rain You can’t stop the tide of progress, people said, it’s inevitable.

But then the financial crisis happened and everything changed overnight. When the mood switched from greed to fear, investors bailed out of the now obviously bankrupt countries they called the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), causing the yield on those countries’ government bonds (the interest rate on the IOU’s they sell to finance themselves) to skyrocket. Yield increases with risk, and all of a sudden it had become too risky to loan money to the PIIGS. Several years of crisis ensued, and the European Central Bank (ECB) was forced to step in and bail out the disaster zones with – yes – more loans. But they were not bailing out the actual countries, instead they were effectively bailing out the banks that had underwritten the bad loans in the first place.

But then it got even worse. Instead of making the banks take a hit for their own stupidity, austerity policies were imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ECB on the countries affected. Pensions and benefits were slashed, investments shelved, national assets put up for sale on eBay and democratically elected governments were removed and replaced with ‘caretaker’ administrations. Greece was hit worst of all, suffering a fall in the value of its national economy of over 30%. Many people found themselves homeless and even starving, and the suicide rate went through the roof. Youth unemployment went up over 50% - unthinkable in modern times. Whenever dissent flared up the riot police crushed it and a succession of weak governments all caved in to the demands of the so-called Troika of the IMF, the ECB and the EU.

The message was clear: don’t mess with the EU.

And the problem hasn’t gone away, even if the media doesn’t report on it much any more. Debt all across the EU is growing, and the ability of anyone to pay it back is diminishing. But why don’t the ECB just force the banks to write off their debts and be done with it? The answer to that is simple: because it will force them into insolvency. If major banks start going bust in Europe then people – lots of people – will lose their life savings, there will be an epic recession and chaos will hit the European heartland. This is not a particularly popular idea for national policymakers and yet it underlines just how fragile the entire edifice has become. And so the countries of southern Europe are left to rot in what is possibly the biggest economic crime of the century.

Greece could have been set free. If it were allowed to leave the euro it could bring back the drachma at a much lower rate of exchange. Greek imports would surge (including tourism) and the economy would be on the road to being rebalanced. But this, under the EU, is not allowed to happen. The EU cannot let Greece leave the euro because if you let Greece do it then you also open the door to Spain, Italy, France and Portugal doing the same thing. The euro currency would not survive such a mass defection, and so Greece is held bent over in a neck lock, unable to move or breathe, while its assets are plundered (if you’ll forgive the expression).

Ah, but people might say, this is all a temporary phenomenon. When growth picks up again all the boats in the harbour will rise with it. The Greeks will get down off their window ledges, move back in from the countryside where they have been scratching a living on that dusty bit of land belonging to their ‘backward’ grandparents, and collectively crack open a bottle of Ouzo to toast the end of the nightmare. The good times will roll again.

Except this isn’t possible.

Mathematicians and bankers know all about compound interest and the exponential function. Put basically, the amount of debt that countries across the developed world have now built up is unpayable Yes, even with Chinese style double digit GDP growth, there would be no way to pay back all the public, private and company debt that has built up.  And in case you hadn’t noticed there is not actually any economic growth at all in the Eurozone.

[“He’s fibbing. I read in the FT that Spain and Greece are picking up.”]

Okay, okay, so there might be a tiddly little bit, but most of it is massaged into existence (remember, I worked in the economic forecasting department of the Treasury, right?). If anyone truly believed there is economic growth in the Eurozone I would ask them to tell me what the current rate of interest is.  I’ll give you a clue: it starts with Z and rhymes with Nero.

Interest rates are the lifeblood of capitalist economies. Without a positive interest rate there is no growth. And some economies (such as Denmark) are actually offering NEGATIVE interest rates. That means you can go and take out a loan for, say, a house, and the bank will actually PAY YOU more money than you borrowed. Does that sound somewhat insane or is it just me?

Anyway, without economic growth you can’t pay back debt. Debt is a gamble on future productivity. You have to have confidence that your future income will allow your debt to be repaid. This is why my Spanish neighbours, who earned no more than a couple of thousand euros a year selling olives, no longer own those shiny new BMWs. But if you’re a country and you find you can’t pay back debt … you have to take on more debt until the mystical growth genie appears again. But what happens if the growth genie refuses to appear, no matter how hard you rub the lamp?

That is exactly what is occurring right now everywhere you care to look because (DRUMROLL) our economies are overburdened with debt and the world is running out of fossil fuels. And in terms of energy availability, there is no substitute for fossil fuels – at least not anything that would leave our overdeveloped countries in any shape or form that we would recognise as ‘modern’. I know this goes contrary to everything you’ve read and seen on Facebook, but really, it’s true.

[“You see, I told you he was crazy!”]

There is no modern economy in the world that does not rely on a steady supply of cheap fossilised sunlight in the form of oil, coal and gas to power itself.  It powers everything from electricity generation and transport, to growing food and making iPhones. Now, this is a big subject that I’ve been writing about for years and – frankly – I could go on and on about it but I’ll save the arguments for another day and merely say that when the price of oil is too high it causes recessions, and when it’s too low it causes oil companies to go out of business. The fabled ‘Goldilocks zone’ in between these two extremes equates with the time period in which we built up all of the energy-guzzling infrastructure so central to the functioning of the modern world in its current configuration. It’s theoretically possible to build millions of wind turbines and solar panels (using fossil fuels) but nobody seems interested in doing so in the timeframe that matters.

[“I don’t believe him. I saw in Good News magazine that Denmark makes 140% of its own electricity using wind. He must have an ulterior motive that he’s not revealing.”]

Sorry, no ulterior motives, just a long hard reading of a lot of material and a dose of intuition.

Thus the EU has got itself into a terrible bind, not unlike a Mexican standoff. It can’t grow its way out of trouble and neither can it allow the weaker elements to break away – it must continue to preserve the power at the centre at all costs because the power at the centre (in this case the German economy) is the growth engine that is keeping the whole thing ticking over.

So, to summarize so far, taking things from the top:

-       A dwindling of the availability of highly concentrated energy, coupled with an overburden of compounding debt, has put the brake on EU economic expansion
-       The weaker countries, which are more heavily mired in unpayable debt, are being systematically asset stripped and their citizens economically brutalised by bodies such as the ECB, the EU and the IMF (there’s a term for this – it’s called ‘disaster capitalism’)
-       The system is stuck in a closed loop, waiting for growth that never comes
-       The longer it is stuck in the loop, the greater the suffering of the people whose lives have been put on hold

How does the EU propose to break out of this closed loop? Well, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Mario Draghi, who is head of the ECB, has vowed to do “Whatever it takes” to get out of it. To that end he has used the ECB’s money (which is really the banks’ money, which really only exists on spreadsheets and gets endlessly recycled round and round) to buy national and company bonds and bail out distressed funds. He has embarked on an asset purchase programme, spending €1.1 trillion in quantitative easing measures. Let me put that in English: Mario Draghi is spending €1.1 trillion of money that he doesn’t have in order to prop up the banks which loaned money to vulnerable countries in a way that makes payday lender Wonga look like a paragon of fiscal prudence. And so the ECB, under the aegis of the supposedly accountable EU, has control over the entire money supply.

Oh, and if anything goes wrong, we’ll all be on the hook for that €1.1 trillion. But nothing could possibly go wrong …

At this point I’d like to introduce two quotes that quite possible speak for themselves:

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes its laws." — Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild


“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” — Herbert Stein (“Herbert Stein’s Law”)

It is perhaps worth mentioning that there are 30,000 lobbyists based in Brussels. It is these people’s (usually highly paid) jobs to spend day and night courting EU law/rule makers, treating them to champagne breakfasts and showering them with expensively produced reports that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the interests of the European people align 100% with an increased quarterly profit result for their corporation.

[“Okay, now he’s starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist. I’m off to read The Guardian, or some other place where I can get my daily fill of confirmation bias!”]

Do you want the laws of your country to be decided by corporations rather than people elected to represent you? What’s that at the back? You don’t care because that’s the way the world works in the 21st century so we may as well accept it? That our own politicians are just as corrupt so we may as well go with the ones who are culturally dissimilar to our own crooks?

Well, if that’s your attitude then we may as well all go home now.

But assuming you do care it’s not hard to recognise the pressure that’s on Eurocrats to cave into the demands of the lobbyists. The EU, after all, is the largest block of first world consumers on the planet, and there’s plenty of money to be made from us. The EU and the US are currently trying to get through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is a grand-sounding name for a corporate wheeze. Information on what it actually contains is hard to get as it has been negotiated in secret and even Euro MPs are forbidden from memorising it and telling anyone what it might contain. If this isn’t the biggest corporate stitch up in the history of the human race then I don’t know what is.

Okay, so far I have painted the EU as an undemocratic supra-national body whose initial early promise has evolved into a Frankenstein’s monster that crushes weak countries under its heel and acts as a conduit for corporate power. Let’s turn to immigration.

[“Ha – this is the bit where he reveals his true colours!”]

Immigration and open borders are good, right? People moving round in search of a better place to live where they can earn more money?

Umm, it’s not that simple. Who knows,  maybe one day we will all truly be of one nation, one language, one religion etc. – but right now there are differences between one set of people from one country and another set from somewhere else. Generally speaking, people who have lived on a particular patch of planet Earth for hundreds or thousands of years have tended to develop their own language, cultural norms, dress code and all the rest of it. For right or wrong they tend to think of this patch of land as ‘theirs’ and they’re proud of it. When someone turns up from some noticeably different culture they generally welcome him and make him feel at home. It’s human nature to do so. Even when he goes away and comes back with his entire family, a bunch of friends and half the class he once went to school with, they still tend to get along with him and relations are good. Problems only start when the host community, who regard the area as ‘theirs’ feel they are reaching the limit of their (scarce) resources and that the settler had better not keep on inviting his friends’ friends’ friends because there will not be enough to go round. This is when problems start.

[“But, but, scarcity is a myth! If the Tories hadn’t slashed budgets across the land then we’d be able to build millions of new houses and hospitals and schools and we could go on building and building and building until everyone was happy!”]

Hmm, maybe up to a point. But how will we know when to stop? What about all the infrastructure that will need to be built? Who will pay for it? We already produce only enough food for a small minority of the population – anyway, you’re distracting me.

The problems tend to be worse if the cultures of the two different groups are quite different from one another. If the host community is a poor one – and it probably will be because the richer communities are less inclined to allow outsiders to settle there (unless they are Saudi billionaires or Russian oligarchs, in which case they are welcomed with open arms)  – their resources are likely to be scarcer. In the modern industrial societies of the west, basic resources include things like jobs, hospitals, affordable housing, schools and other public goods. The settler communities compete for these scarce public resources, making some of the hosts resentful. The wealthier people in the chattering classes, who generally don’t live in the poorer areas or have to compete for resources, then tut tut and call the poor people nasty things. Yet it is they who benefit from all the positive aspects the settler people bring (nice food, cheaper labour to do the jobs they don’t want to do themselves), without suffering any of the consequences of having to compete for scarce resources.

On the other hand, the businessfolk and politicians simply can’t get enough settlers. Not only do they work for peanuts on zero hours contracts but they effectively stop anyone else from getting a pay rise. It’s a wet dream of businessmen to achieve the holy grail of infinite labour substitutability. This means they can hire and fire people at a moment’s notice, pay them next to nothing (the government picks up the tab for the low wages in the form of tax credits) and generally treat them as if they were robots while they wait for the actual robots to come along. Likewise, the government loves settlers because they boost the country’s GDP as they open bank accounts, indebt themselves and buy consumer products. Lastly, the middle classes love settlers (as long as they don’t move in next door) as they create an additional pressure on the scarce resource of housing, boosting property prices and rental income and thus allowing them to earn money without working for it.

This might explain why it’s those at the bottom of the pile, forced to compete for the basics, who tend to have the biggest beef about squeezing ever more people in. That’s not a theory, it’s a reflection of reality that the insulated middle classes refuse to acknowledge – any ‘man on the street’ will be able to explain it in similar terms.

[“There, I told you he was a fucking racist! I’m out of here.”]

So giving everyone the right to be anywhere in the trading bloc we call the EU might sound like a fine and dandy idea, but during times of economic contraction it is the poorest who suffer the most: both the uprooted, who have to leave their families and homes behind, and the host peoples from the more disadvantaged classes who have to accommodate the settlers and share their scarce resources.

Lastly, I’d suggest that the very notion of the EU is insane. Here’s a confession: in the last election I voted for the Green Party.

[“Oh yegads! A bona fide nutcase! I told you so … “]

No, I’m not a shallow Green like the leader of the Green Party who is allied with David Cameron on Europe and was last week seen on TV with him driving around in a car talking about growth. Being a proper Green means that I’m neither left wing nor right wing. I care for the ‘magical’ hidden hand of market capitalism just as little as I care for the writings of Karl Marx. To me both are indicative of a 19th century attitude towards the way we treat our planet that is equally suicidal. In case you hadn’t read the news lately you might have missed several important pieces of information that are several orders of magnitude more important than both the EU referendum and the new Top Gear series PUT TOGETHER! I speak, of course, about the rapid acceleration of global warming, the massive forest fires rampaging across the globe, the great dieoff of the coral reefs and the diminution of Arctic ice so early in the year.

Let’s face it, unchecked industrialism has brought us to a point where we might not last out the century. Whatever else the EU claims to be one thing we know for sure is that it is committed to infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Think about it for a minute. All of the many problems that now confront us, the three main ones being access to energy, environmental degradation and population overshoot, are becoming more and more difficult to ignore. Most of us would rather stick our fingers in our ears and close our eyes than admit that we’ve screwed up and that there will be (are) consequences. We’ve got boatloads of refugees arriving on our doorstep fleeing drought and war – the consequences of global weirding and oil wars – and yet we pretend that we don’t have any responsibility to them. Quite the opposite, in fact. People, more and more,

Just. Want. Someone. To. Sort. It. All. Out.

We want scientists to come up ever more outlandish (and costly) ways of staving off collapse, be it genetically modified foods, ill-thought-out geoengineering projects to further mess with the climate or – as a last resort – a space rocket to get us to some other planet we haven’t yet wrecked.

This trend towards putting our faith in the hands of ever-greater powers doesn’t say much for the state of the human spirit I’m afraid to say. It seems to me an abnegation of our responsibilities to insist that someone else deals with our problems, but that’s exactly the attitude I see with supporters of the EU project. They may well talk about this or that EU project saving a wetland or rescuing a dormouse, but they don’t talk about the wholesale pillaging of the planet that the EU promotes and amplifies. I don’t believe that the solutions to our many problems will come from some Wizard of Oz type character sitting in Brussels and pulling levers. There won’t be a one-size-fits all solution to our continued shared existence, so why choose to disempower ourselves more than we already have? By getting ourselves out of it we’ll be restoring the balance of power some way in our own favour.

So next week we have the chance to throw a spanner in the works of the inevitable onward march of the EU machine. Both options will be painful and there will be plenty of hurt, but that is the corner into which we have painted ourselves. There will be unintended consequences - that is the nature of things. Here are two possible scenarios out of millions – it’s up to us to choose which one we want to bring into reality.

Remain Wins

The EU gets a vote of confidence from the UK and – emboldened – proceeds with plans for a federal one-nation Europe with much more robust and invasive policy making powers. Some kind of ‘trade’ deal is reached with the US which allows corporations to sue public bodies for lost profits, but otherwise life remains pretty much as normal in Britain – except for some noisy street protests and the huge boost for UKIP. All the while the debt continues to build up and ever more stringent austerity measures are imposed on member states. In Europe a bank or two collapses, causing others to soon follow suit. Widespread banking failures throughout the financial system ensue and the unpopular ‘bail in’ measures are enacted which see savings confiscated to prop up the remaining banks. Over the next couple of years depression-era scenes and radical violence become commonplace in once wealthy countries. Various extremist parties are voted into power on a wave of frustrated anger and the assassinations of bankers and politicians fill the newspapers. Eventually the EU collapses under the weight of its own internal discord and is dismantled with extreme prejudice by nation states. Years of dysfunction ensue but from the embers of chaos begins a new project to build a truly united Europe based on mutual respect for one another, ecological limits and social democracy, as opposed to the free market capitalism, corporatism and exploitation of the old project.

Leave Wins

The media are all aflutter with predictions of apocalypse, but most people are too busy having street parties to notice – as are many across the whole of southern Europe. The pound gets a sharp correction lower, and the price of gold skyrockets. The EU reacts furiously towards Britain but is powerless to retaliate for fear of damaging the German and French economies. Britain’s admittedly unpopular new prime minister sends trade delegations to the four corners of the world to strike trade deals with countries including Russia and China, much to America’s ire. Economic chaos reigns for a few months but people are at least happy they don’t have it as bad as they do on mainland Europe where Brexit has caused the equity markets and banking system to crash. Several other nations immediately hold their own referendums (Denmark, Holland, France and Poland) and the buzzword on everyone’s lips is ‘contagion’. The new UK government misinterprets its popularity and tries to force through some unpopular policies – including fracking in national parks – but the newly-emboldened Britons won’t stand for it, forcing a general election and electing a party on a platform of national unity. Despite a lot of bluster and bad will the EU is dismantled more or less peacefully as countries are once more allowed to follow their own monetary policy and set their own rules for trade. Nevertheless a few years of chaos and recession follow as a new system configures itself. From these shaky beginnings is begun a new project to build a truly united Europe based on mutual respect for one another, ecological limits and social democracy, as opposed to free market capitalism, corporatism and exploitation.


Okay, after that short diversion in the national debate we can now return to arguing about how much money the EU costs Britain and whether they will force us to eat straight bananas.

Open the box and let them out again.


  1. Replies
    1. Most people view it as a friendly giant. That's the problem.

  2. The new UK government misinterprets its popularity and tries to force through some unpopular policies – including fracking in national parks – but the newly-emboldened Britons won’t stand for it, forcing a general election and electing a party on a platform of national unity.

    That trips off the keyboard rather too easily. I am rather less optimistic and don't think it'll happen, even after the crowing from the likes off ******* Nigel Lawson (spit) and Boris Johnson (weep) has died down. Unfortunately it looks like we're going to find out....

    My but the "debate" has been stunningly puerile though, you're right about that.

    1. Well, I did say it was just one of many possibilities. Fact of the matter is that all bets are off from June 24th - at least in terms of who will be running what. If we vote to remain, and then burn through a whole bunch of weak governments in quick succession then we might find ourselves with an ECB appointed technocrat as a leader. Everything's possible IMO.

  3. Thanks for this well-argued post, Jason. I keep myself isolated from the US mass media (it's a presidential election year with a so-called "debate" going on here that is similar in spirit if different in details), so I was able to learn a lot about the history and economics of the EU from your post that I haven't from the US media. It's very helpful.

    I can draw some parallels between regions of the US and their relation to the US government to those you explore in your post. JMG's explored a lot of this in the past few years. Our version of these issues may very well lead to a break-up of the US well within my expected lifetime. I have similar feelings about the US as a country to those you have about Europe as a region. But as with the EU, the US government has been pumping wealth from the poorer regions and people to the richer. It's a lot harder to like the US government these days than it is the US as a country.

    1. I might have to isolate myself from mass media soon - lest I start to crack up. (Start to ...?)

      I am half-following the whole US election thing as many of my friends on social media are American and I see them arguing. IMO our 'Remain as part f the EU' lot are somewhat similar to Hillary Clinton's backers. They are fine with the whole corporate corruption thing, they claim the moral high ground and they insist that everyone who doesn't agree with them is a stupid whatever-ist.

      Yes, the wealth pump analogy is useful here. The EU is cleverer though as they splash cash around on a lot of high profile public works. The visibility of these is great PR and it makes people overlook or forgive the crookedness going on at the centre.

      I have friends who totally disagree with me over this whole EU referendum debacle. I fear I won't have many left at all unless I just shut up about it.

      (But I can't - I never knew I was a patriot until now.)

  4. PS. there's an interesting post about the referendum (or possibly referen-dumb?) from Chris Smaje (Small Farm Future).

    1. Read it. Much to agree with but I don't agree that a vote for Leave is the same as a vote for Donald Trump.

  5. How do you think the new trade deals will compare with TTIP?

    1. Well, hopefully they will be trade deals. TTIP isn't a trade deal, it's a corporate takeover of democracy.

  6. Hi Jason,

    I've never seen or heard of a straight banana. What a strange concept, I thought at first you were joking about it, but alas...

    Well, there is one benefit about living on a very large island a long way away from all of the craziness going on in the EU. When I studied European history at school, two recurring themes shone through: Wars and Exploitation through colonialism. Those themes underlie your culture and current perquisites. Is the EU any different today?

    From that perspective, I tend to view your conclusions from the Remain or Leave as a best case scenario, but then my perspective may be a bit darker than yours. The reason I draw those conclusions is that there is a real inability to feed your population from local resources, and from that point...

    You may not be aware, but I believe the UK already has economic and trading agreements in place with China in case the worst case scenario occurs.

    I totally agree with your economic analysis. The only thing that I would add is that if it was possible for orange and olive farmers to drive around in flashy BMW's before the EU, then they would have done so. The lending practices appear to me to be predatory in that northern money was loaned and it provided an income stream (which is what banks are after more than anything else) as well as a new and much expanded market for goods. Now the reason an income stream is a desired thing is because mostly those loans are apparently held as bonds by pension funds etc. The banks generally bundle and offload the loans - as it would be wise to do so. The banks generally are bailed out when they may not have found suckers willing to buy the bonds and so are left holding them themselves. Our current expectations from retirement are exceptional and historically unprecedented and it generally relies on such predatory practices. I don't expect to ever be able to retire. Incidentally for my generation, the retirement age was quietly lifted recently down here to 70. No one seemed to notice that change.

    At the risk of being labelled racist, I probably wouldn't have opened the borders, because you have provided a tool for business to drive down real wages, which benefits people higher up in the food chain, but more importantly you've allowed a core policy to be turned into an instrument of war, and your politicians seem unable or unwilling to recognise that - or even to be able to respond to it effectively. The main problem I believe is that they see economic benefits from that arrangement and so they are conflicted.

    Personally, I'd vote to leave. All large projects suffer from diminishing returns at some point in time and you are in what I view as the "hang time" between the economic failures of 2008/09, and the incredible money printing activities which have been in place ever since to prop up a system that should otherwise have taken a big and massive fall. Printing money is akin to Zimbabwe, German or Argentinian economics, and it only ever has one outcome. So far, what I see on that front is that the ever increasing supply of money is being fed into various “Asset” classes such as housing and equities. It is a genius approach really as it tends to avoid pushing inflation into day to day goods which are often imported. It also has the effect of making people who hold those asset classes feel as if they are wealthier. I tend to view the increase in price of those asset classes for what they are: Inflation. Even though we are constantly told that the price rises are otherwise. And every time they increase, we are all that much poorer and a few more people find that they are locked out of the system. It is a genius method for dealing with an ever expanding money supply, but it too has a finite end point.



    1. Hi Chris - well, the 'straight banana' thing is a bit of a cliche that's been used over and over by those critical of Brussels.

      "You may not be aware, but I believe the UK already has economic and trading agreements in place with China in case the worst case scenario occurs."

      By Jove! I've been pondering on this and I think you might be onto something. Our lords and masters over here can never be accused of being dim. Perhaps what we are seeing with this referendum is the UK trying to wriggle out of no-growth Europe, and align itself with higher growth counties (especially China). Of course, by whipping up the level of anti-European feeling they'll likely get their Brexit and it would not surprise me in the least if a trade agreement with China was announced soon after. It could even be that sly old Cameron is the fall guy in all of this.

      This would make perfect sense. Britain, having lost its empire, copied up to the US from the 1940s onwards. With the EU being a kind of borderland of the US empire it was acceptable for the UK to join in with it. Now that the EU is broken - probably beyond repair given its insane monetary policy - it is seeking to back out and find a new source of income. All of this 'debate' is just noise to make it look democratic (we don't normally have referendums).

      BTW - things have turned truly nasty this afternoon with the murder of a female MP who was gunned down in the street. People are quite shocked by it - but I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing more of that in the future.

      Diminishing returns indeed. It's unnerving watching people 'wake up' to the kind of stuff we've been discussing for years. They don't seem to be happy to be woken, and this is just the very beginning. It's a case of anger and blame games bubbling up from hidden depths. Perhaps it is time to get small and quiet.



  7. Ahem, that's not quite what Smaje is saying ...

    (Though I do think that a secret, half-formed wish of many of the leavers is that we become more "american". Despite the illusion created by the internet, we're still quite a few years behind the US on the neolib, neocon road and we do have time to turn away).

    1. Maybe I missed the nuance but there are a lot of people saying Brexit and Trump in the same breath at the moment and his headline "Lead us not into temptation: of Trump, Brexit and the wrong kind of populism" gave me the impression he was doing the same thing.

      I don't know if anyone secretly wants to be more "American" at the moment. Given the relentless headlines about gun massacres and crazies I actually think that most people would just be content with having an existence that didn't involve so much pressure.

      Out of around 100 of my peers - i.e. friends I associate with either online or in person here in the UK - I think there are only two or three who agree with my position. Contrast that with the people my wife and I work with (she is a care worker, I am a cleaner) and they are 100% in favour of leaving the EU. The difference is that the second group are literally struggling to survive on zero hours contracts, overwork, lack of labour rights etc and they are being constantly reminded by management about how easy it is for them to replace them "with Romanians" who are willing to work extremely hard (up to 100 hours a week), live six to a room and never complain. The result is demoralisation and resentment. For them the whole debate is personal and based in concrete reality, whereas or the former group it is an argument of abstractions and striking poses pretending to be in solidarity with the disadvantaged, but profiting quite nicely from the status quo.

      That said, we can only hope that the ideology of neoliberalism/neoconservatism is shown to be a fraud before it spreads to all corners of the planet.

    2. I don't know if anyone secretly wants to be more "American" at the moment.

      Sorry I should have been more specific - maybe not among many 'ordinary' people, but among many conservative politicos I think there is a feeling that leaving the UK means we'll be able to chum up closer to the US (leverage the 'special relationship' that in fact doesn't really exist). There is also, I think, a feeling among some on our right wing that what we really need to do is double down on deregulation, privatization and subsidising the rich (aka "entrepreneurs") - just like the US. This feeling is immune to any news about the actual US - when they think "US" they see in their minds eye a sort of PR montage of glittering city centres and domination of world culture. In other words, the promise of the return of empire, even if it is by proxy.

      When JMG commented that the only country which has sucessfully recovered from its loss of empire is Britain I'm not sure he's right because I'm not sure that the loss doesn't still ache deep in the psyches of a certain type of politician ...

  8. Jason, thanks for this, very informative for this yank.

    What is your opinion on what the level of corruption will be concerning the actual voting process in your country? Will you believe that in the end, the vote count represents reality?

    Over here the voting process, particularly in the "Democratic" party is in shambles and the results do not reflect the actual wishes of the voters. In other words, there is no democracy here.

    1. I don't worry about large scale corruption of the ballot. As far as I know, there are no electronic voting systems in place here, and there isn't much of a history of electoral fraud in modern times.

      But in terms of the actual level of democracy in such a system ... well, it's not exactly a shining example of democracy (in terms of voting in a national election). There's a 'winner takes it all' system, which means that the outcome is distorted. Even then, we have the unelected House of Lords, which can vote down anything decided in Parliament.

      In Britain voting is controlled at the mind-level by the media. They don't need to fiddle with the ballot boxes.

  9. Hey Jason,
    A useful analysis as ever and there's much to agree with. I personally do not think it distills down so succinctly and think we are well in to the realms of the least bad of really bad options (see George Monbiot's piece). Both options are moving towards the capitalist end-game and whatever happens, the long term outlook is bleak. I will be voting to stay and my reasoning is that europe will be more stable - for a little bit longer - even though the EU is doomed. The idea that we leave and somehow have this great flourishing of democratic accountability (take back control!) is, to my mind and politely...optimistic (childishly so). I think we would likely have a right-wing lurch on a leave vote, and I don't have confidence we'll ever recover (though I am happy to be wrong!).
    That said, if the vote is to leave then I will be happy in a bittersweet kind of way, and live with it - it's pretty inevitable anyway isn't it. Stoicism will be useful here. What IS desperately sad is the sheer guile and obfuscation on all sides - politics has sunken to new lows this last few years (and with this vote), I doubt we'll see an improvement there either. Maybe you and I should start a Cornish Post Peak Party ;) best wishes from Liskeard.

    1. Hi Matt greetings from the other end of the duchy. I totally agree that we are out of 'good' options. We've been collectively painted into a corner by our politicians and central bankers who assumed that the game could go on for ever. I did read Monbiot's piece and I quite agree with him that there are some truly disgusting 'trade' deals that some of our MPs want to sign us up to. One question I have at the back of my head is whether 'some' Tory MPs might be closet patriots. I know that there are two types of Tory, namely the 'money Tories' who care about nothing but money and capitalism (Cameron, Osborne etc), and the old-school 'small-c' conservatives who, despite their smaller numbers, do actually retain some fondness for the country and probably would not be willing to sell it to the highest bidder. Maybe it's wishful thinking - I have no idea what type Boris Johnson and friends are - the left hate him for being openly posh, but he was a popular mayor of London and he is well educated (he's a historian!) ... I just wonder what he might have up his sleeve.

      Yes -stoicism would be useful. Cornish Post Peak Party ... I'm thinking Kernow Kollapsniks.



  10. How did things get this bad? Even the sheeple know and always have that the power structure is maggoty. It was our *responsibility* not to reward and entrench maggots. They bought us -- with plastic Chinese trinkets and unlimited junk food. How they must despise us, in their citadels.

    1. How did things get this bad? Years of complacency and not caring what the people at the top were doing, I suppose.

  11. Jason

    I made my mind up about the EU around the time of the Maastricht Treaty, but was still looking forward to hearing some intellegent debate in fhe media, and particularly on the BBC ... to say I've been disappointed would be a major understatement.

    Politicians from both sides (and all parties) seem determined to demonise the other side and sketch out apocalyptic scenarios, rather than having a reasoned debate whilst conceding that there are advantages and disadvantages to both cases.

    Nothing good can come from this, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

    I shall be on holiday in Spain on the day, but have already cast my vote by post.

    It's perhaps worth noting that my wife first holidayed in Spain in the late 1960's during the Franco era, and I worked in the Czech Republic before it joined the EU, so we don't feel that EU membership is in anyway essential to having a good relationship with our European friends and neighbours.

    Polls in the local press from this end of the Channel are firmly for "Leave", whether the fact that Kent is the only part of England from which you can see continental Europe has any influence on this or not I don't know ...

    1. Sorry for missing your comment until now ... yes, I remember the Maastricht Treaty. I remember that Denmark voted against it in a referendum and they pushed ahead with it anyway. Danes are still resentful of that today (they have long memories).

      I also worked in the Czech Republic before it joined the EU! I was teaching English to young businesspeople in Prague. A whole army of American capitalists had descended to 'sort out' the economy so they could join the EU - and the natives had to be taught English so they could understand them. Happy days (beer was 5p a pint).

  12. Dear Jason

    Good article. The reason I want to get out of the EU is that it is fundamentally undemocratic. Friends tell me that they will vote remain, because if we leave, we will be ruled by the tories who are worse than the EU. I agree with them. However I will vote leave because I prefer to have a government I can kick out, than a bunch of Brussel bureaucrats I can do nothing about. You might call this the removal van test of democracy and for all its faults, democracy in this country still passes that test. Having a functioning democracy will be essential if we are to survive the next 50 to a 100 years with some kind of social stability. I am not saying it will work, because we are going to be in for a hard time what with climate change, peak oil etc, but it will give us a better chance. We have a long tradition of democracy in this country which has survived two world wars and a great depression. This is important because democracy is a culture and a way of being in the world and its the way we do things in this country and we have a better chance of surviving if we stick to our traditions.

    I agree with what you say about immigration. It is in the interest of the middle classes to have cheap builders, electricians and nannies, but what they can’t see is that this is not in the interests of the working class builders, electricians and nannies, who have their wages cut and find it difficult to get a job. The problem is, that when middle class people promote their class interest with regard to immigration they are praised as being enlightened and progressive, but when working class people express their class interest on this issue, they are condemned for being racists and bigots.

    I shouldn't really be saying this because I myself am a middle class liberal whose signed up to all the middle class ideas of, gender, race equality etc. The reason I’m worried, is that the working classes who have been affected by immigration are represented by the likes of Nigel Farage. If we don’t do something about this now, in ten years time they might be represented by someone for more nasty than Farage. I don’t like Farage, but believe me compared to the real fascists out there, he is a teddy bear. This is one reason why we need our democracy back, because it provides a safety valve in situations like this, as politicians have to take notice or risk being kicked out.

    Please note I do not think that any blame should attach to immigrants and they are just human beings trying to get on in this world and I would do the same in their situation. Any blame should attach to governments and recent arrivals in this country must have their rights respected. If we are to survive then we must treat each other with respect and dignity. I just think that we can’t keep on taking in such vast numbers into this country without very negative consequences.

    If there are any white middle class liberals out there who doubt what I am saying, then look at this you tube clip of a white middle class liberal remain man talking about multiculturalism and being shot down by a black working class brexit guy pointing out that we’ve been a multi cultural country for 70 years. Then go and read the comments and look at all the anger, vitriol and bile directed at white middle class liberals. Try to understand where they are coming from rather than just condemning. If there people are unable to get their grievances dealt with through a democratic route, they might choose other methods and that might be pretty unpleasant.


    1. I have friends who like to send me long screeds about how democratic the EU is - implying that I'm just being stupid. I tell them to hop on a flight to Athens and make the same speech in a public square of their choice and see whether people agree with them.

    2. Along the same lines - despite the dreadful murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox yesterday by a madman, the EU debate seems to be getting more meaningful in these last few days. This is the most incisive comment I have read so far on the whole EU referendum. Faced with a likelihood that Britain will vote to leave the EU next Thursday some people simply cannot understand it. Why? - they ask. I think this comment (copy and pasted from below the linked article - which is also worth a read) explains it pretty well.

      "Voters do not want unrestricted immigration, unrestricted corporate power, supranational institutions filled with unelected bureaucrats, overruling elected governments, foreign wars, privatisation, offshoring of jobs, corporate sovereignty via so called "free trade deals", austerity, excessive social liberalism, and excessive finance corporatism, whilst being subject to scaremongering, criticism and smears for daring to question it.
      Ex Goldman Sachs spivs descend in private jets now working for some supranational institution or other, and tell citizens in already desperate countries, they must accept mass redundancies, liberalisation of their labour markets, privatisation of all of their state assets to foreign investors, the use of their tax money to fund bombing brown children abroad (despite being skint), and mass immigration, and if they complain they are "communists" or "racists".
      The voters backed Labour under Blair and got foreign wars and more corporatism. They got the same from Cameron and Clegg. People are sick to death of the same bunch of multinationals setting the agenda, no matter who is in power.
      No wonder people have had enough. Until the elites in power stop taking all the wealth for themselves, whilst lecturing them on diversity and austerity, like they are silly children, Trump, Five Star Movement, UKIP, Sanders, Corbyn, The Eurosceptic Dutch Socialist Party, the Portuguese Left Bloc, Law and Justice, the French NF and whatnot will be the result. Brexit is just another symptom of this same justifiable rage.
      You only have to look at EU Trade Commissioner Cecila Malmstrom to see this level of contempt for ordinary citizens, when voters of all political persuasions throughout the EU, rail against the unpopular TTIP deal. Over here there has been opposition from everyone from the TUSC, to Corbyn, Burnham and McDonnell, the RMT and ASLEF, Unite, The Greens, Lib Dems such as Charles Kennedy, large swathes of UKIP, Tories such as Peter Lilley and Zac Goldsmith, the BNP, Plaid, many SNP members and so on.
      Cecilia Malmström’s boast that she ‘does not take her mandate from the European people’ was added to this week when she told the EU Business Summit in Brussels that she has no intention of submitting TTIP or CETA to public approval. She has also stated that ‘local opposition is a menace to multilateral agreements, and that ‘We can’t have local referendums on all trade agreements if we want to be serious. If we do that, we can close the shop.’
      That sums up the arrogance of those in power. The working class have had enough of being "collateral damage" in globalisation."


    3. And - yes indeed - no blame should be attached to immigrants. I myself know several Romanians who are perfectly nice people. Their aim is to work non-stop for three or four years and then use the money to return to their home country and buy a house. The value of the pound compared to their currency makes all this possible and I would absolutely do the same in their shoes. I feel sorry that they are exploited by so badly over here, but at least they have escape plans and are aiming for a better future.

  13. Jason,
    Very much enjoyed the post, it even prompted me to try and articulate my own position. As a fellow doomer/collapsenik, you brought me closer to taking Brexit seriously than anyone else has so far. Although, in the end, I seem to have opted for a position nearer to Monbiot's, that remain 'is the worst choice - apart from the alternative.'

    You can find my own response here:

    1. I'm not a Doomer, I'm a Civilisation Dysfunction Analyst ;-)

  14. Gobsmacked this morning. Didn't believe this result was possible, but then I live in Leicestershire and as the football proved, anything can happen!

    I didn't comment before, though totally sharing your sentiments, because I really wasn't feeling hopeful.

    Too many politicians discounted the common sense of the people - and no, the people who voted to leave are not all racists! I voted for democracy and because of how the EU have treated the Greek people.

    Anyway.....just spotted this quote on the BBC from Petro Poroshenko in response to the UK vote. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36614643)

    Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine

    "It's a pity, but we will have to mind our own business. I believe that regardless of the result of the referendum, Britain will stay in a united Europe to defend common European values.

    "I think that today the most urgent challenge the European Union is facing is finding a way to the hearts and minds of Eurosceptics in order not to leave a single chance to opponents of the European integration project and their generous sponsors. I do hope that the sanctions again Russia as an aggressor state will be extended."

    Interesting that he thinks we will remain despite voting out. I have to agree that there is a strong possibility that we won't be allowed to leave and every trick in the book will try to keep us in.

    More interesting is " the European integration project and their generous sponsors", not an acknowledgement you see from the other world leaders. Not only mentioning the generous sponsors influencing the EU, but is he openly saying that they need to find better ways of brainwashing us 'Eurosceptics'? I am so glad we voted out!

    I also think Cameron resigning so soon is tactical. The markets would bounce back quickly but this adds a further element of uncertainty. I definitely think that Cameron and Osbourne couldn't stay after all the things they have said though. Just over-the-moon that the majority didn't listen to their pack of lies.

    1. I too voted because I'm in favour of democracy - I don't have a racist/xenophobic bone in my body! Heck, my own family are European immigrants. But it's become a zombie straw man argument of the sore losers ... you can argue against them but they return time and again to the theme that this must all be about xenophobia. Maybe for some it is, but for the majority it's about taking back some degree of control from the political classes. The most cogent analysis of the Brexit situation has come from foreign journalists. I particularly concur with John Pilger.

      My faith in the common sense of a (slim) majority of people has been restored. It was this faith that led me to move back to Britain in the first place. There's only so much BS we will take.

  15. BREXIT!!! This Canuck is ecstatic. It's the blatant, corporate totalitarianism taking over the world that terrified me, the self-righteous, sanctimonious 'left' -- and populations' acquiescence, for whatever reasons. Though that acquiescence is largely through the complicity of the world's press. Here in Canada the only reported mood is grim and the only reactions that have got radio time that I've heard are disappointment and 'xenophobia'-clucking. CBC is openly partial, not a 'news' source at all. The image of Bob Geldorf jeering at fishermen is the iconic image for me of this divide. I prayed -- I literally prayed to God, gods, and every spirit of the wind and woods everywhere for this outcome. Cheers, Jason! CHEERS!!! Inshallah, eh! (From Tech-sullen.)

    1. I spent the evening before the vote in the presence of local fishermen. They were jubilant at the idea they might see an end to the quotas that have literally killed off their community and livelihood.

  16. Well it was close to what I predicted to some friends yesterday (51%L/49%R), but not what I hoped for and no consolation. I would say interesting times ahead (in the Chinese proverb sense), but that was always going to be true of the next few decades. I just hope the long, or perhaps rather rapid, descent/emergency doesn't take the predictable route of far right nationalism/fascism and turbo-charged neoliberalism. Time to get more more active, I suspect.

    1. Yes, it was a close vote, and I'm still in a state of shock that Leave actually won it. Clearly pollsters are now useless as issues become more complex and voting patterns change. I voted Leave and am surprised most by the angry backlash from many Remainers. It doesn't really reflect well on the country as a whole.

      Stepping back from the bun fight and surveying the wider scene it does look as though our downward descent is accelerating. I regard this referendum like an exceptionally low tide that has suddenly exposed the all the things that are usually covered by the sea. Difficult times ahead, but transformation was never supposed to be easy.

    2. I couldn't vote Leave because I just didn't think the Leave campaign had any kind of vision for Britain that I shared. I also think there are massive issues like climate change that need more international cooperation not less.

      Having said that, it was some of the Remain publicity that made me closest to thinking about voting Leave. Ad hominem arguments, saying "Steven Hawking backs remain", well yes, but we're not voting on General Relativity. Thank God we don't vote on gravity otherwise the atmosphere would probably be escaping into space and the Earth's core exploding right now.
      The Remain campaigned trotted out the IMF, the G20 and the World Bank as 'experts' but actually if the reader thinks they are part of the problem that is neoliberal capitalism, then their leaflet is arguing against the Remain argument.

      It may be best for Britain to have an economic shock now, rather than something more extreme further down the line like in your Seat of Mars blog series. Whether Brexit actually happens or not, that much is inevitable now.

    3. Well, the primary reason I voted for remain was because of the things I didn't want Britain to be able to easily extricate itself from; namely, a variety of environmental laws, human rights agreements, working time and labor laws etc. The economic problems were pretty much going to hit at sometime/somewhere, and the fact that economists, business leaders, IMF/World Bank etc, etc. were calling for remain was the major cause of the doubts that I had. I was voting for Business As Usual and that was a very disturbing sensation.

      Unfortunately, dependent on how the party political chaos plays out over the next few weeks/years, we have a situation where we are going to have to fight even harder to protect humans, nonhumans and the environment within Britain (and beyond). Plenty of dystopian scenarios will need to be resisted (ever more precarious neoliberal working arrangements, a toxic and fracked landscape to match the toxic political landscape, rampant racism and social scapegoating). But this may be the impetus for a renewal of grass roots politics and activism. At minimum it has been a wake up call for many with regard to what matters to them, and, as you note, it may have momentarily exposed many things that were hidden.

    4. I've heard many people say similar things and I don't have a problem with it. I only voted Leave on the basis of the concepts of democracy and sovereignty. We'll have plenty of chaos out of it, but there would have been chaos anyway. I still don't know about fracking - it's a very expensive procedure and oil prices mean it'll incur a huge loss (at present). They might try it in a few places and just kill anyone who tries to interfere.

      Which reminds me, I must finish my novel Seat of Mars, before it actually starts happening ...

    5. @MawKernewek - if I'd paid any notice to the Leave campaign I might have decided the same as you! I have an almost physical aversion to seeing or hearing either David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove etc. My family will tell you that if they come on the TV when I'm in the room I can be heard to yelp and scrabble around for the remote control - or else run out of the room.

      One thing I couldn't escape was the relentless torrent of patronising memes posted on social media that basically boiled down to "All these clever/rich/cool people are voting Remain and if you don't do the same you are a sad loser".

      Or maybe I'm just a sad loser ...

    6. I wouldn't worry about fracking companies going around killing protestors, because if the rule of law had broken down to the extent that would be likely, I would expect the demand side of the economy would have collapsed such that fracking wouldn't be worth it.

  17. I am continually struck by how the exact same scenarios are playing out in England as in the US and even Australia. The scenarios are a little different but the same agendas, the same emotional reactions, the same tactics - especially use of the media, etc.

    1. Yes, maybe that's the magic of globalisation. The gameplay seems to be to leverage complexity as the pie shrinks, bamboozling the 'common man' with experts and narrowly framed arguments and TV entertainment to create a mind prison. Politics becomes identity politics and social justice crusades as the sleight of hand trick transfers wealth upwards and if anyone steps out of line then they are labelled as 'whateverist' and nocked back down. Quite clever really, but unsustainable in the long term.

  18. This is a good read from Illargi at The Automatic Earth.


    Here's a comment that was left underneath it that is almost as good as the article:

    The most disgusting thing about the Brexit vote is how quickly and easily ‘progressive liberals’ and ‘the left’ have jumped into bed with the elite greedy capitalists to attack the people who voted to leave. The elite controlled media have deliberately focused on the racists who supported Leave and the questionable claims and promises of the Leave campaigners, neatly stopping any discussion of the underlying issues, especially the arbitrary, undemocratic, bureaucratic nature of the EU and the equally lying promises of the Remain campaign. The self describe ‘left’ easily fell for it since it is a faction mostly made up of social opportunists hungry for power (Labour in Britain, NDP in Canada, Labour in Australia, Democrats in the USA) or intellectual windbags debating theory. The most progressive of these might volunteer in a soup kitchen (or its equivalent) to prove their socialist credentials, but attending to the real emergency needs of those already at the bottom insulates them from the frustrating work of learning about the needs and fears of the working class who scuffle about for a living on the unstable slag heap of global capitalism. The question for ‘the left’ is how to reach all of these and lead them in the direction of progressive, inclusive action and not abandon them and push more of them towards the neo-nazis and exploiters like Trump. One would think that ‘revolutionaries’ would welcome any action that would weaken the capitalist serving EU and want to lead the fight. But it seems it’s easier to jump on the bandwagon of attacking the symptom and not the cause.

    This is exactly what I have experienced over the last few days. Hysteria rules. I have been sent abusive messages, trolled online and called names as if we are back in the schoolyard. Friends and family are now suddenly enemies. A relative said I had no right to exist. You try and explain your position but they just plug their ears and shout 'bigot' at you. I am bowing out of the two minutes' hate and leaving all social media. It's difficult to state the disappointment I feel towards middle class 'liberal' Britain right now. They are acting like mindless imbeciles.

    You will find me in the garden instead.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Oh, and BTW I did an hour-long Brexit special at the Collapse Cafe the other evening with Monsta and RE.


  21. Jason,

    I just found this post. It is the most succinct and intelligent discussion of the Brexit question I've found. Over in the US, the MSM is useless, and reading the BBC, the Guardian, and other UK sites is unfortunately about the same. I'm grateful for finding this, and the comments discussion after the vote.

    Reading the NYT comments on Bernie's op-ed today doesn't give me a lot of hope about American "liberalism". Glad we have little internet campfires to meet likeminded folk.

    Derek in Seattle

    1. Thanks Derek. I'm finding that the best commentary on Brexit is coming from outside the UK at the moment.

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