Friday, March 29, 2019

Brexit Betrayal: Time to get out the Umbrellas?

“Only a revolution can save us now,” said UK independence maven Nigel Farage this morning. Indeed – it’s starting to look that way.

Today, March 29th 2019, was supposed to have been the day that the UK left the EU. ‘Brexit Day’ was a date pencilled into many a diary and wall calendar – the date the UK would either experience the joyous state of elation that comes with full independence – or the day that Armageddon finally kicked off – a depending on your point of view.

Instead, all we have is a heap of broken promises, a mass of frustrated and aggrieved voters and a dispiriting display of parliamentary shenanigans that would put a chimps’ tea party to shame.

So, what next? Well, apart from an undignified political free-for-all and a raft of new ‘meaningful’ (meaningless?) votes, as well as an endless series of parliamentary amendments (assuming the Remain-voting Speaker John Bercow deigns to allow them to be debated) – it seems like it will be a continuation of business as usual, with the political class doing everything in its power to ensure the status quo is not threatened in any way.

How will this go down with the electorate? More specifically, how will it go down with those who voted for Brexit and now feel a deep sense of betrayal? If nothing else, Brexit has shone a light on the way power works in this country and revealed to a great many people the limits of the democratic system. How, many people ask, can such a seemingly simple thing as leaving a trading bloc have morphed into something so contentious and difficult?

One thing is for sure: anger and dissatisfaction is mounting as the disconnect between voters and their representatives in Parliament becomes clear.

I’m thinking of France’s Yellow Vests and wondering if the same thing could happen here in Britain. The Yellow Vests, by and large, are a grassroots movement of regular working people who have an acute awareness that they are being thrown under l’autobus by the elite strata of society which has done so well out of globalised capitalism. Just like people who supported Brexit, the Yellow Vests have been on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse by the national media, in the case based in Paris. They are routinely called troublemakers and ‘right wing activists’ and are looked down upon by the folks who, just over two centuries ago, would no doubt wonder why this noisy rabble couldn’t just eat some cake and quieten down.

But the Yellow Vests have been very successful in their protests against President Macron and all that he represents. By refusing to back down, and being willing to have their fingers blown off by police grenades, their heads caved in by riot batons and their eyes blown out of their sockets by rubber bullets, they’ve proved that they are a different breed from the internet clicktivists that governments everywhere are so fond of precisely because they are so easy to ignore. The Yellow Vests have even forced their petulant president to bring in the army with orders to use live rounds on their own citizens, at a stroke reducing him to the status of a tin pot dictator.

And the bright fluorescent yellow vests worn by the French protestors are entirely appropriate. They are cheap, highly visible and all motorists must own one by law. In fact, it is one of the burgeoning laws foisted upon the French public that has made them feel they are suffering from death by a thousand cuts. What’s more, the vests are a blank canvas for writing slogans upon, and you can’t be arrested for wearing one. They might be armless but they’re far from harmless.
Is there a British equivalent symbol of protest?

Why, of course there is – the humble umbrella. Consider its properties as a symbolic motif for the building sense of frustration with the political class.

· It’s portable and utilitarian
· It’s inclusive – you can buy one for £1
· The very term ‘umbrella’ symbolises a unity of disparate causes, bound together under one overarching principle
· You can’t be arrested for carrying one
· It has defensive some properties if you find yourself under attack
· It’s a blank canvas on which to display your individual message or cause – you can even pimp it with technology such as webcams, or strap it to a drone and make it fly
· It’s an ironic statement, given that the umbrella is perhaps most associated with images of civil servants, City bankers and other members of the London elite classes who govern and otherwise set the rules the bottom 90% of the populace must live by
· More people are likely to turn up to protests if it is raining

Of course, it’s not an entirely new concept to protest using an umbrella – a movement in Hong Kong used it in 2014 to object to China’s lack of democratic reforms.

So any British Umbrella Movement would need to distinguish itself.

Perhaps that’s what they could be called – the British Umbrella Movement – or B.U.M. – the bottom 90% of society.

I expect to see plenty of BUMers on the streets if this political impasse persists any longer.


  1. Well, having followed you on this blog for a long time, I'm dismayed to see you become fake news (which is a polite term for a purveyor of untruths; some might say 'liar'). John Bercow MP is the properly elected Member of Parliament for Buckingham. As a properly elected Mwmber of Parliament, he has been properly elected, according to the riules of the House of Commons, to the post of Speaker. His decisions as Speaker may be unpopular in some quarters, but no-one is saying that they are iligitemate under the rules of order.

    So while I really enjoy reading your blog: in this post you are spreading untruths, and you should correct yourself.

    1. Not an untruth - more a simple error. Bercow is appointed to the role of Speaker, but the fact is that he isn't neutral and is avowedly anti-Brexit. Given that he decides which amendments get to be voted upon his neutrality is questioned by a lot of people when it comes to such an important issue.

      I don't necessarily have a problem with this, but it certainly gives the impression to many that the process as a whole is skewed in an unfair manner.

      It's interesting that you immediately called my error 'fake news' rather than just pointing out I'd made an error (now changed). But, anyhow, thanks for pointing it out.

    2. Bercow might be an elected MP and appointed to Speaker but appointed by whom? - the old school network in the House of Commons that operates amongst our ruling class and is not accountable to us the electorate.Bercow is a bully,a masogynist (recent complaints and investigations show this) as well as being Remain and therefore is not impartial. Clearly, he is revelling in his new found very questionable power to do everything he can to stop Brexit. To use a 1604 precedent to try to stop another vote shows his contempt for us and his egotistical mania.Shame it isn't 1604, as l'd love to see his head on a spike outside Westminster for his treachery to the British people. As for fake news, Bogatyr, you are obviously another whining Remainer and talking total sh##e.

  2. Replies
    1. My favoured plan would be to send them back to Germany/Prussia and turn all their vast land holdings into organic gardens.

  3. Hi Jason

    Thanks for attempting to summarise what's going on. It's not easy given all the disinfo that's flying around.

    I'm a longtime lurker but given the first comment felt it worth throwing this into the ring

    Don't agree with everything in the article but "Schrodinger's Brexit" seems to be a plausible explanation as to what's going on here.

    All the best.

    1. Hi Cal - welcome! Haha - yes I saw that Scrodinger's Brexit' article. What made me laugh the most was the picture, as well as the fact that whoever did the caption underneath got Theresa May and Angela Merkel mixed up - perhaps a freudian slip?

      And, yes, the assertion about the deep state trying to unseat Trump being cooked up in Britain has an uneasy ring of truth about it.

      There's a lot of mud being flung up in the air by the Brexit bombshell. One unsaid thing that is undoubtedly making planners nervous is that the Pound would likely take a big hit once it was untied from the apron strings of the EU. Steve Keen suggests a 20% drop - and for a country that abandoned its manufacturing industry and relies on imports of oil and gas on the assumption it could live off the services economy forever, this could represent quite a blow.

  4. Hi Jason,

    With regards to the statistics that you displayed in your essay, I note the considerable disparity between the will of the electorate and the positions taken by your members of Parliament. It is quite striking really. It is often forgotten that your population stumps the cash for their pay and benefits, but if the members of parliament are not representing the will of the electorate, then whose will are they representing? I'd follow the money, as it will lead you to the trough at which they may be feeding. If anything they're probably nervous about not being able to meet the mortgages, private school fees and car leases that they’ve committed to, so I'd have to suggest that there is an element of self interest. If you are poor, you don’t have those things to worry about because you are hustling for a living.

    The funny thing is, you'll get to Brexit and find that not much really happens. Of course it is also a monumental shift in power between the larger urban folks and the rural hinterland.

    Also, beware the heavy emotional content of the media in regards to this event.

    Etyere - You should always remember that this is a public forum and it is an unwise thing to publish such comments. Anyway, I believe that recently the Queen politely instructed your politicians to pull their heads in and get on with the job. Good advice.



    1. Hi Chris. There's certainly a disparity going on between the rulers and the ruled. Of course, people will argue that democracy was never supposed to be representative and that 'mob rule' shouldn't be allowed to hold sway etc. None of that matters, IMO, when there's a sense of deep grievance and people feel they are being conned again and again. Something's gotta give.

      As for the MPs - yeah, maybe. I'm sure that some of them are on the make, although there are some decent ones amongst the scoundrels. Funnily enough, many of the more wealthy Tory MPs do very nicely indeed from EU land subsidies, so there's a massive incentive for them to try and scupper Brexit. At the same time, most of the 'middle ground' are firmly of the neoliberal mindset and see nothing wrong at all about crony capitalism, centralised power and corporate dominance - and they may well imagine a rosy future for themselves working for the EU once their UK political careers grind to a halt.

      I'm keen to see if JMG's predictions about Brexit play out i.e. acrimonious departure followed by a year or so of political chaos and then an economic boom (in the real economy rather than the GDP obsessed one) lasting a few years ... before we go back to the decline curve again.

      In the meantime I'm just keeping calm and planting tomatoes.

  5. Hi Jason,

    I am sympathetic to your position, but struggling to understand the numbers in your graphic. The 'by party' breakdown roughly addes up to the total for 'Leave' 146+247~406 (I guess because someone, somewhere, probably still votes Libdem <\snark>), but the 'Remain' total is well astray (80+84<<242). Am I missing something interesting or is this a typo?



    1. I think the main thing missing is the Scottish National Party, who voted overwhelmingly to remain. There are also a few other outliers from various parties that are not included.

  6. Love the idea of BUMers, quickly to be dubbed 'les parapluies populistes' in French newspapers, perhaps. John Grey today in his Point of View slot on Radio 4 spoke about the consequences to our political system of the mishandling of the Brexit process: the overwhelming majority voting to trigger Article 50, the manifestos of both major parties in the 2017 election promising to honour the result of the referendum. More people turned out to vote in that referendum than in any recent general election. It augurs badly for the future. Enter the Umbrella Stand? Good to see you back-and planting tomatoes!

  7. Hi Jason. Here is my view for what it’s worth. Our parliament is stuffed with people who represent their own class and business interests, not the will of the people. The will of the people can change/be changed. May never intended to leave the EU and she heads up a bureaucracy that runs Britain that is terrified of the idea. The last 2.5 years has been about May following a strategy of boring, scaring and generally making the population sick of the idea of leaving the EU. I cannot see May’s deal passing before 22 May so we will have to hold EU elections. If the EU elections go ahead in Britain we will likely never leave. The EU don’t want us to leave, our parliament doesn’t want to leave. The only way to break the log jam is to have a general election but if that proves inconclusive, and I suspect it will because we are hopelessly divided, as in divide and rule, we will stay in.

    Although there will be seething resentment at this from dissed Brexit voters I can’t see anything akin to a BUM campaign happening. People are pissed off but not angry enough. There will be unforeseen consequences from an increasing disrespect for politicians and the failure of the democratic process. It will take decades to play out against a back drop of climate chaos and government inability and failure to respond. Very much in line with JMG’s description of the collapse of industrial civilisation.

    I am preparing to collapse in place, there are worse places than a small town in Lincolnshire 30 m above sea level. There is still probably at least a decade of this before it will get really bad, barring nuclear war and cosmic events. Martin Armstrong’s forecasting model makes dire predictions for 2031/2 but hopefully political change thereafter will come in time to give our grand children the best chance to adapt to the very different world changing climate will bring.

    1. Hi Phil - I totally agree with you, in terms of what's going on and how we got here. It was never May's intention to deliver a clean break from the EU, but rather to make sure than nothing much changed. It was probably a miscalculation on her part about people getting bored with it though, as I think people have just become more entrenched in their positions. The whole thing has been simmering for over two decades, so I don't think people will roll over and give up on it now.

      As for what happens next, who knows? I think that events in Europe will overtake Brexit matters, with several big shocks to the system all looking likely. These will take the form of populist revolts at the EU elections, a Eurozone recession causing bad debt to blow up, and whatever happens in France with the GJs.

      I'm not familiar with Martin Armstrong's model, do you have a link for it?

  8. Well it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I guess the depth of betrayal felt will vary round the country. Martin Armstrong is a real enigma. He is a physicist by background and is into waves and cycles. A self made trader on Wall Street from the forecasting models he has developed, he spent years in jail for contempt on trumped up charges for failing to turn over to the feds details of how his model worked. He is campaigning for Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange and is very much his own man. He has spent a great deal of his own wealth to reconstruct interest and inflation rates going back literally millennia which is the basis for his models. He is definitely worth reading but his views on climate change are now what you will like. He has posted links to a Ukrainian researcher who has developed a testable hypothesis on sunspot activity which makes predictions on short term cooling linking to reduced sunspots. The next 5 years will show how accurate these models are but in my opinion the inexorable effect of increased emissions will out sooner or is a link to one of his blog posts.

    I would be interested to hear the views of your American contributors on how Martin Armstrong is viewed there. Unfortunately he has not published any books but the film the Forecaster based on his experience has been banned all over the west, so that has to be a recommendation. Unfortunately I’ve not seen it.

    1. Ah yes, I'd heard of Martin Armstrong and have seen him mentioned from time to time on various sites, but had no idea of his background.

      I knew a man about 10 years ago who worked for Nasa as an astronomer and he had some pretty decent hypotheses about sun spots based on his own research. In fact, he went into some detail about how he thought CO2 emissions driving warming/cooling was founded on dodgy science and was quite vocal about it.

      Alas, at the time I was firmly convinced that he must be some sort of fossil fuel shill and decided not to talk to him any longer. More's the pity as I think dissenting voices like his are crucial in this age of groupthink. Like everything else, I guess we'll find out whether or not he was right.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.