New rules incompatible with the AI-driven supply chain systems that support our modern life will cause an industrial splutter. Lorry parks at the border are merely a symptom of systemic dysfunction. Expect price rises and goods shortages. Strawberries and salads may fall off the menu. Prompt action could alleviate the situation, but ignoring it will result in long term damage, writes Monica Horten (LSE).
When the UK finally quits the Single Market on 1 January, rule changes will come into effect for businesses. With or without a ‘deal’, new trade barriers will be erected. Customs declarations will be needed for goods going in or out of the country, traders will have to demonstrate compliance with standards and ‘rules of origin’, and depending on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, a tariff payment will be required. The latest UK -EU discussions about ‘cabotage’ – rules for pick up and drop off in the EU27 – underscore how deep the changes will run. In all likelihood, it will lead to uncertainties of supply, price hikes and potentially shortages, the like of which we are not used to and which will not marry well with our modern way of life.
This is not just about a few lorry drivers who will have to sit in a queue at the border, but thousands of vehicles stacked up near access roads to ports around the country, potentially carrying perishable goods like fresh seafood and live animals. What we are talking about is a structural change being imposed on the industry, with massive implications that will run through our entire economy. The visible symptom will be the lorry parks defacing the Kent countryside, but the hidden effect will be a complex industrial dislocation that will affect consumer prices for food, clothing and household goods. The government has been warned by multiple trade associations of the issues that need to be addressed to keep business running on an even keel. Ministers ongoing refusal to address them points to a deep-rooted failure inside the government.
If the Covid-19 emergency has taught us anything about the UK economy, it’s who the key workers are. Not bankers, not restaurateurs and pub keepers, no, it’s the couriers, the crop pickers, the shop workers, the warehouse shelf stackers and packers. They kept our deliveries going despite the emergency lockdown restrictions and they did so in the face of a significant disruption to the food supply chain and shifts in the patterns of demand. Following the initial panic, supermarket shelves re-filled, and goods ordered online turned up without delay. It is significant, however, that there were price increases especially for fresh produce that is imported.
We cannot assume that the same continuation of supply will occur when we leave the Single Market on 1 January. This relates to the underlying dislocation that is set to happen. Let’s examine why.
What these workers all have in common is that they are all part of a vast industrial system that is the essence of 21st-century business. It is a system of inter-linked hubs and spokes of varying intensity, stretching over borders, land and oceans around the world. We commonly refer to it as logistics, but this seems to under-rate what is actually happening. These are the 21st-century industries that keep our modern life going.
They operate supply chains that synch together the factories, growers, farmers, processing plants, warehouses and stores so that we can eat and look after our families. They make it possible to get fresh salad and strawberries all year round. Thanks to them, consumers can pop to the shops whenever they run out of something at home. Product is never unavailable or in short supply. Likewise, shops and restaurants can keep their inventories low, in the knowledge that an order can be placed and delivered next day – or even same day.
The couriers and their lorries are the poster-boys, but it would be wrong to assume that they are a standalone function. The whole system integrates tightly with manufacturing, processing plants, warehouses, component or ingredient suppliers, and shipping – this is the so-called supply chain. An example of a supply chain for the food processing industry – is here. It illustrates how, in order to get from raw ingredients to the packaged product, our food goes through farmers, food processors, wholesalers, retailers and ultimately to the consumer.
Keeping the system flowing, pumping the lifeblood of our economy, are the freight transport operators. They include road haulage firms, the so-called cold chain transporters (who carry temperature-controlled goods) and the shipping companies.
Technology is integral to the whole process, with systems managing inventories, demand prediction, deliveries, support services and product planning up and down the supply chain (See for example KPMG Supply Chain Big Data Series Part 1 2018 pp7-8). This digital support infrastructure is critical. Transaction data, barcodes, product availability, operating logs – the data that is the stuff of modern business may be shared around an international sales and distribution network. Many companies will use cloud services, beneficial where goods cross borders every day or where factories in different countries co-ordinate design and production. There is a shift towards advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, for example, building optimised flow routes and volumes according to weather forecasts (according to this report by McKinsey – see p33). It’s an area that is predicted to grow significantly between now and 2024.
The effect of leaving the Single Market will be felt most strongly when goods cross over borders. At the moment, goods, and the lorries that carry them, cross borders under EU rules, with no special paperwork because we are all part of the Single Market. Product standards are harmonised and there are no customs barriers and no tariffs. That is why the trade flows can be so tightly optimised to bring us year-round salads and hook us into pan-continental manufacturing processes. The Single Market is an enabler of the industrial structure that supports modern living. It is especially so in the UK, which has no land borders and relies on a few major ports to bring in such a large percentage of its food and other supplies. Notably, 80% of food is imported into the UK, according to analyst research from HSBC. The figure takes account of raw ingredients as well as packaged products.
From 1 January, the rules will change. Lorries carrying goods for export will need permission to head from a customers post in a lorry park to the Kent Coast in order to cross to France. There’s also the cost of paperwork. A 196-page document from the government sets out what traders (the business that is actually selling the goods) and hauliers (the business that transports the goods) will have to do.
As a brief summary, traders and hauliers will need to register with the government and obtain an Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number. Drivers will need international permits for driving in the EU 27, and in some countries, they may also need a special licence. A negotiating text released last week by the EU asks for British drivers to the accord by level playing field rules including working time and use of tachographs.
Traders will need to establish commodity codes and customs values for the goods being imported to the UK. Both importers and exporters will have to make customs declarations and a safety and security declaration. Importers will have to pay the appropriate tariff and vat. From 1 January, they have 6 months to submit declarations, but from 1 July, they will have to submit as the goods enter the country. VAT will be payable on imported goods. For certain types of goods, such as live animals and plants, there will be additional checks. Guidance from the Road Haulage Association helpfully confirms that these changes will apply whether or not there is a deal with the EU.
The cost for new border infrastructure is currently estimated at £705 million. Three new government IT systems are planned in order to manage the new processes. These are the Good Vehicle Movement System (GMVS) and the Goods Movement Reference (GMR) system, and an app known as SmartFreight, that will be used by the lorry drivers. The timing of their implementation is still to be finalised as far as the current information suggests.
The government estimates that there are around 245,000 UK businesses trading exclusively with the EU. The Financial Times has estimated a cost to business of £7 billion for customs forms.
It is estimated that there will be 215 million extra customs declarations and the government’s own Impact Assessment from HMRC calculates a cost to UK businesses of 7.5 billion per year. HMRC further estimates the total administrative burden on UK-EU trade, taking into account the cost to businesses in the EU27, is around £15 billion, and it issues a reminder that these costs will impact on supply chains and will have implications for consumers. In addition, it is estimated that the tariff bill could total around £3.5 billion.
These costs, of course, do not take account of the cost of delays, nor of the lost business opportunities that could be caused by delays and additional costs. They will ultimately be passed on to consumers, who will also experience uncertainties of supply that they aren’t used to. Hence, these consumers are likely to see price increases.
For UK businesses, the prospect of this hard border means ongoing disruption. It raises a damaging perspective, according to James Selka, CEO of the Manufacturing Technology Association: “Supply chains are very integrated across the EU, thanks to the free movement of products facilitated by the single market over four decades. Any disruption caused due to non-tariff barriers caused by a bad EU trade deal will disrupt our businesses significantly at a time when we can least afford this.”
The Road Haulage Association has warned that Britain is heading for a ‘cocktail for potential disaster’. Shane Brennan, of the Cold Chain Federation, tweeted “Time to plan for disruption”. The disruption won’t just be a short term blip and it will come at a time when the economy is already suffering the effects of the Covid-19 health crisis. UK GDP has fallen by a whopping 20% and inflation has risen to 1%.
Young livestock may be put at risk if the vehicle carrying them is stuck for any length of time, and fresh seafood is also vulnerable. A government consultation document suggested that these could be prioritised. But what about other fresh food? The UK imports 47.5 % of vegetables and a massive 84% of fruit, according to LSE research, which highlights the threat to our food supply.
Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, warned the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “we potentially face a bigger challenge than the food supply chain faced in COVID… If we see the borders disrupted in January from a disorderly Brexit, we have a big problem.”
Michael Gove, the UK government Minister responsible for the EU negotiations, speaking to the Select Committee on the Future Relationship with the EU, dismissed the industry warnings as just ‘part of the general to and fro’ of lobbying.
Indeed, the lobbyists’ job is to put their position to policy-makers. However, the looming break with the Single Market exposes a disconnect between industry and government. The contrast could not be more marked between this highly inter-connected, international industry, and antediluvian machinery of government.
The new hard border is a structural change that is incompatible with modern life and is being imposed by the government on industry. Systems designed to optimise the flow of goods cannot function when businesses have to go through costly document checks and lorries are parked up for hours waiting to cross the Channel. The lorry parks will be the visible evidence of a systemic breakdown. The open question is how severe the disruption will be.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. It also appeared on the author’s blog.
The cause of any disruption will be the unwillingness of Governments to help their citizens buy and sell products in a way which they the citizens can have mutual respect for each others country. All most people want is daily trade on a mutual basis in order to live comfortably with some taxation and not to overly profit . Governments get in the way of this as they are far more into building barriers which they think will protect their future ambitions. Simple folk want simple lives not over powering governmental authority and protectionism.
Is that a comment from a brexiter who thought the world was simpler than it is?
In that case then, ‘simple folk’ should not have voted for Brexit.
Well argued! Sadly the realities of reverting to WTO standards whilst attempting to trade within an internationally connected system will have significant downsides. In common parlance it is Project Fear turning into Project Reality. As a remain voter I concede that a slim majority won the Leave vote, but really cannot fathom just why government is so intent on imposing such a spiteful version of ‘leaving the EU’ upon the UK.
“cannot fathom just why government is so intent on imposing such a spiteful version of ‘leaving the EU’ upon the UK.”
Likewise the EU.
“Likewise the EU.” But I don’t think the EU has much choice. If the UK wants to make its own trade agreements, then you have to have origin checks on the border, otherwise the EU knows that other countries will do a deal with the UK and then use the UK as a backdoor into the EU. The article says “A negotiating text released last week by the EU asks for British drivers to the accord by level playing field rules including working time and use of tachographs.”; well of course the EU has to insist on something like this, because they don’t want UK lorry drivers who’ve been driving 20 hours of the last 24 and have just arrived in Ireland or France loose on the roads. If the UK farmers have standards which are less stringent than EU farmers, then of course the EU has to protect its own farmers from unfair competition by making sure that any agricultural goods entering the EU have been produced to similar standards.
I think the original article may well be too alarmist, because I suspect with modern technology a lot of the problems can be solved. But at the same time one can’t pretend that the EU can simply promise to wave freight from the UK through and hope for the best. I suspect that the UK government knows all this and is hoping that by forcing a hard Brexit through, they will force companies and ports to find solutions. But I don’t think we can assume it will be easy.
The EU’s stance at present is that nothing can progress until we have accepted their positions on fisheries and state aid.
They want sovereignty over our fishing waters. Their position on state aid is political posturing given that in recent history the UK is one of the best European countries for constraining state aid.
The level playing field requirement is a bit of joke. I live near one of the sites of a British aerospace company. The people who work there tell me that they have to compete for UK government contracts against the French and Americans. They themselves compete for US government contracts and sometimes win. They no longer bother to compete for French government contracts because it would be a waste of time and money.
The EU talks of a level playing field but the last thing they would want (if we could afford it) is for us harmonise corporation tax north of the Irish border with that south of the border.
“They want sovereignty over our fishing waters.” Of course wanting is no crime … It seems to me some deal here ought to be possible. It is not completely unreasonable to say that if UK boats are allowed to sell into the EU on the same terms as EU boats, they should sign up to the same system.
“Their position on state aid is political posturing given that in recent history the UK is one of the best European countries for constraining state aid.” Recent history is not good enough. Since the disasters of the 70s UK governments have known better than to prop up failing industries and have been able to use the alibi of EU state aid rules to avoid doing so. But no-one knows what the next generation of politicians will want.
“UK governments have known better than to prop up failing industries and have been able to use the alibi of EU state aid rules to avoid doing so. But no-one knows what the next generation of politicians will want.”
So let’s be clear here. The UK could more than double its state aid and still be less than France. It could more than quadruple its state aid and still be less than Germany.
Of course these figures are pre-Covid. I am sure the EU would just love us to sign up to rules restricting state aid in the middle of the worst economic crisis for a generation.
“The UK could more than double its state aid and still be less than France. It could more than quadruple its state aid and still be less than Germany.” Maybe it will. Who knows? Not I, not you, and not Michael Barnier. Especially if the alibi of EU state aid rules is not available any longer.
Counting a government as a continuous period of rule by one party, the UK is on just its third government since 1979. I’m sure you as a statistician realise that you can conclude very little about what governments will do in the future without EU state aid rules from what three governments in the past with state aid rules have done. Why should Michael Barnier gamble the jobs of people within the EU27 on this basis?
If the UK is willing to sign a treaty committing itself to limiting state aid then well and good. If not, then “Trust us and see” is not a viable alternative.
Yeah, so on the day when France announces a stimulus package of 100 billion euro equivalent to 4% of their GDP, we should sign up to keep our state at 0.34% of our GDP?
Just to confirm that the “alibi of EU state aid rules is not available any longer” …on both sides. We are going to have to trust them; they will have to trust us.
Post Covid the EU rules on state aid have been totally swamped by events. The rules have no relevance now and they are unlikely to have any relevance for 5 or 10 years. So why are the EU flogging a dead horse? It obviously has nothing to to with economics. It is all about exerting political control.
I once felt that some people were overstating the case for leaving the EU but when you see them trying to claim sovereignty over our fishing waters and dying in a ditch over state aid rules that are totally out of date, then it suddenly becomes apparent that the EU are as malevolent and as bureaucratic as their critics suggest and we must leave whatever the price.
TJ,, you want the future relationship to be based on trust “We are going to have to trust them; they will have to trust us.”. You accuse the EU of “dying in a ditch over state aid rules” and of being “malevolent”. I think that would might be reasonable if the UK still belonged to the club, but it doesn’t. I don’t think Michael Barnier is malevolent, he just wants to drive the hardest possible bargain on behalf of the EU27. That is absolutely his job. If anyone is going to die in a ditch over it, I think it’s more likely to be the UK. (Though I hope not.)
I remember that in the Brexiteer narrative, we used to be told that the EU would back down under pressure from German car-makers and Italian wine-growers. Since this pressure failed to materialise when there was a very real danger of a no-deal crash-out last year we haven’t heard so much of that argument. But if the best Brexiteers can do now is accuse the EU of malevolence because a trade deal is being made conditional on treaty guarantees on things like state aid or fisheries policy, when the Brexiteers think the EU should trust the UK not to compete unfairly, then it sounds like the chickens have come home to roost. In the real world, trade deals are hugely complicated because they, as far as possible, make trust redundant.
I do not blame Boris Johnson for taking the UK out of the EU in January. After the 2016 referendum there was really no alternative for anyone who truly believed in democracy. But I think you’ll find virtually no-one living in the EU27 who thinks that, after that, the UK has any right to demand “trust” from the EU.
“I remember that in the Brexiteer narrative, we used to be told …”
Best keep quiet though on the Remainer narrative for employment or City trading.
The Leavers made one wrong assumption regarding the EU negotiations.
They assumed that if they won the vote the losing side wouldn’t spend the following three and a half years trying to undermine the UK negotiating position.
“I remember that in the Brexiteer narrative, we used to be told …”
Best keep quiet though on Remainer narrative for employment or City trading.
“Best keep quiet though on Remainer narrative for employment or City trading.” No, why should you? I’ve repeatedly made the point on this blog that there was dishonesty on both sides in the EU referendum, and there were no doubt numerous bogus predictions as well.
The UK will remain an attractive investment destination after Brexit because global trade turmoil has become the “new normal” for companies, according to the head of India’s Tata, one of Britain’s largest private sector employers.
UK will remain a trade destination because it’s a rich country, with a stable political and judiciary system. As several countries.
Don’t forget that it offers lax tax laws. Jersey, Man, Carribean havens… With very low oversight. So a rich man’s paradise. See some of your richest names who are not brit fiscal residents but Man resident, Carribean residents.
Is that a new version of the ‘want my cake and eat it’ from TeeJay?
The UK has chosen to leave an established framework of relationships between sovereign nations. As a sovereign nation the UK wants some stuff but doesnt like it when others want other things.
The UK is a tax-avoidance haven, through overseas ‘territories’ which have extremely lax financial rules. Plus the tory party has benefitted immensely from money from Russian oligarchs – who want a return on their money. Corruption is the main UK industry.
Everything described here was a problem, to which a solution was found. Why can’t that happen again?
`really? Some detail on these ‘solutions’ please.
Well the comment was laced with irony; why throw away good solutions? But there will be new solutions of sorts. I don’t say anybody’s going to like them.
I didn’t see anything about rail freight.
This is a tale of woe, to come, to beat the previous such dire prognostications by a mile. We know that inter-national trade, logistics and manufacturing globally has come a long way since the nascent EEC, the baby EU, was but a glint in the eye of the BeNeLux and the planners working on the coal and steel union to-be. However, that means the capacity for adjustment is equally way ahead of the old days.
The import figures show how much export and import is economically superfluous. The UK, or even just England and Wales, have enough room to grow their own, for instance. Fortuitously, with global warming in the offing, we’re nearly there, although the doubling of the record for snowfall on Greenland in July might slow the global warming effect somewhat, growing conditions in the UK should improve considerably.
The costs mentioned in relation to Brexit are peanuts compared to what is spent on patently uneconomic schemes which are heavily subsidised, if not entire funded, by the state, and which are known to be never to be profitable without taxpayers footing the bill of lading during the expected lifetime of such schemes. Another word for such schemes is scams. High speed rail in England is one of them. Then there is nuclear energy. Dismantling and every risk, be it financial, environmental or otherwise, is sheeted home to the taxpayers, which, it should be noted, overall, the transnational corporates are not, if we take into account the overt and covert subsidies they require whilst operating in the UK.
As some activities are discontinued due to changing circumstances, others can be created by a government not tied to the apron strings of the EU Commission and its Brussels apparatchiks. Again, fortuitously, border control will be intensified. That will create a lot of homegrown jobs, with the moneys earned, on which taxes will definitely be paid to the Exchequer, to be spent within the UK. A win-win for the UK, and if only the UK government would stop indulging the effort of the EU negotiators to play hardball, the EU Commission would come to its senses and be cooperative and move on from the loss of Brexit and the contribution of 10 billion euro per annum, a loss for which they, the EU Commissioners themselves are fully to blame by having given David Cameron the run-around.
Overall, the author here pulls out nearly all stops on the organ of academic modelling. True, national economies are so much more complex and fine-tuned than in years of yore, but the expertise and management skills are also very much more sophisticated. On top of that, we have, thanks to the WHO, the world health organisation, changing the parameters by which a communicable disease is declared an epidemic and an overreaction by international institutions and national governments, in concert all, a situation of such financial and economic ramifications as to ease the possible difficulties pertaining to the UK becoming, once more, an independent national union of a state, England, and the mendicant statelet hangers-on, to ease, I emphasise, these difficulties as mentioned in the above thesis into insignificance.
Then there is the issue of global high finance and the big reset which badly need to be taken seriously by academics, especially those with expertise in matters of high finance and economics, and the way these two interact and are in harmony or disharmony. My own model predicts better pay and conditions for the lowly people at the coal face of economic functioning. The couriers and lorry drivers should come out of it better. The extra paperwork can be handled by clerks until fully automated. Much essential production will be insourced, rather than outsourced to Chinese and Indian workers, who really ought to start producing more for themselves. We all know countries in Asia, and many countries besides, could do with a raising of living standards. All up. Brexit will be a boon for good old common sense and bring back into focus the original meaning of the word ‘economy’.
From a European point of view
We don’t mind losing the UK contribution. It will be harder and so what?
Brexiteers are so proud to announce to EU that UK can countenance the absence of links with EU. Many Europeans feel the same: reading for years that we are totally helpless without UK generates some feeling of challenge.
We don’t forget the UK’s contribution to history, but you’re not alone. Every European country contributed to history.
UK decided to have a loose relationship with EU That’s a sovereign choice to be respected. Our sovereign choice is to go on with a different set of rules. I don’t feel obliged to accept UK’s choices. I don’t feel obliged to grant access to a previous partner which don’t want to follow our rules in our territory. I’m ready to follow your rules in your country, not in mine. You want to have free access based on your rules, No. To trade between our two territories we will need common rules. You have your red lines, we have our own.
I know it will be more expensive but your politicians decided to sell something nutty to UK. That’s their problem not mine.
Fisheries, don’t ever forget that UK’s quotas are attributed by HMG. They sovereignly decided to sell these UK quotas to foreign entities, their choice. Never has HMG decided to sell those quotas to small UK’s fisheries. So do not whinge.
CAP, HMG decided to prioritize big landowners. It’s UK’s choice. No EU rule obliged UK to make such a choice.
You don’t want to have your hauliers following our rules but you want our business? Dreamers.
You don’t want to follow our pharmatical procedures but you want to sell your drugs here? I don’t buy it.
You don’t want to be subject to some ECJ rules but going on with our data? You’re one of the European where privacy is a dream.
I sincerely like the English culture but I’m proud to be a foreigner leaving in a different country.
A heartfelt goodbye, or is it farewell? There ought to have been no drama, but that’s politics. The British view, btw, is also a European perspective. We are all Europeans now, still, as ever were. Any difficulty due to the UK voting out is blown out of proportion by politics. It’s a learning experience for the electorates. The people in charge have been playing it up and have been and are still performing a pantomime. The EU Commission and the UK government and Westminster at large have been testing the resolve of the people who voted Leave and, by the same token, finding out to what degree democracy and the British (English) Constitution, not excluding Common Law, can be got rid of.
As for leaving in another country, we are all always coming and going, arriving and leaving, that is the natural way to be. Where do you think I live? I know I too want to leave, but due to a state of undeclared war associated and coordinated with what will most likely be admitted by the authorities in the West as an act or acts of bio-warfare by certain sovereign geopolitical actors, on their own or others’ behalf, I, much like the UK, can check out but not leave freely without hindrance and penalties.
Insofar as the British establishment has wished to move on with Brexit, very belatedly, most of its difficulties stem from its own insistence on playing games, jockeying for advantages and punishing the people for voting the wrong way. In that regard, the UK Establishment is part of the EU oligarchy which has been busy, the last fifty years, roughly, though planning much longer, to turn Europe into a colony controlled and run by a neo-feudal cabal. Then, there is sheer political and bureaucratic incompetence. Though most of the difficulties with Brexit are certain to be contrived and exaggerated for political, that is, partisan financial/commercial purposes, one needs to remember that the UK political establishment has not had to make its own decisions in many areas of natural competence pertaining to the normal run of the mill government business for about forty years. The few politicians and bureaucrats who still have this competency are likely to have no influence in affairs unless they are part of the show stymying the political process in the UK for EU, globalist and remainder UK political purposes.
Dear Jacob Jonker,
To your personal enjoyment & enlightenment, this is the full transcription of Chris Kendall’s last post at his personal blog «http://ottocr.at», from 7 June, 2020:
Many people in Britain thought the referendum win for Leave was the moment we left the EU. The deed was done, we were out. Many people in Britain think we’re still in the EU, until the moment transition ends. I have no doubt that some people will think we’re still in the EU even if transition ends without an agreement to take its place (‘no deal’ 2.0). This is what happens when you reduce an unbelievably complex relationship to a binary ‘in or out’ question.
Of course, the reality is that Brexit is both a straightforward binary issue – a point in time, a moment before which we were ‘in’ and after which we are ‘out’ – and a complex and elongated process – that began even before the referendum took place, and will not ever really end, for reasons I’m about to go into. This binary reality, if you like, is unpalatable to the simplists who brought us Brexit, which is why they inevitably cornered themselves into arguing for a ‘no deal’ Brexit (both v 1.0 and v 2.0). Their logic (if you can call it that) requires a clean break from the European Union. But not even the absence of an agreement on the future relationship will bring them this, so their dream is by definition unachievable. Although this won’t stop them hurting us all in their vain attempt to achieve it.
Yes, Brexit is binary. It happened on 31 January 2020 at 11pm London time. Before that, the UK was a member state of the European Union. Since then, it is not. Brexit has happened. Brexit got done.
But Brexit is a process. Negotiating then ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement was like pulling teeth, but it was only the first bit of the process, and not the hard bit. We’re currently in the hard bit, which is settling into the future relationship. Part of that is actively negotiating an agreement on the future relationship (or not). But most of it is about settling into the new dynamic and seeing where we end up: they blew it up, now they need to wait to see where the pieces settle. The architects of Brexit do not want to think about this second part, and they don’t want you to think about this second part. Their myth is built upon the notion that the UK can be the master of its own destiny and determine what its future relationship with its neighbours will be – often without reference to those neighbours’ own realities and objectives. So no, Brexit is not done. Brexit is still happening, and will keep happening for a while yet (probably the rest of my life, and I’m in my early 50s).
The two versions of Brexit – binary event, and complex process – do not exist in isolation. Both are true at the same time. They influence each other. The former could not happen until we had reached a certain point in the latter. The latter is fundamentally altered by the former. The process is transformed by the fact that the UK is no longer an EU member state and so falls outside the EU’s decision-making structures. We transitioned from a process where the EU was negotiating its own divorce, the amputation of one of its limbs (an unprecedented and hugely political process), to one where the EU is negotiating an agreement with a neighbouring non-EU member (for which there are many precedents, at least for the EU, and which for the EU is political, yes, of course, but also very technical).
For the UK, the binary simplism of its exceptionalist populists keeps colliding with the complex realities of geopolitics and economics. Always, the former is forced to defer to the latter. Ultimately, the UK will have to choose a reality in which to exist. Where the choice exists, the UK will probably keep choosing the one that fits more closely with its fantasy for as long as the fantasists remain in charge. So they will opt for a looser relationship with the EU. But there will be some kind of relationship, with or without an agreement. The UK sits deep within the EU’s gravity well. The dark side of the moon can look out at the rest of the solar system and ignore the Earth’s existence, but it isn’t going anywhere.
I will now commit the crime of simplism myself (because finding a place for China in this analogy would send us off down an astronomical tangent) and argue that international trade is currently a binary star system, where every country in the world is a satellite of one of the two stellar giants of this system, the United States and the European Union. Some orbit one; some orbit the other; most orbit both; and both orbit each other (indeed, they are the only ones big enough to exert any meaningful pull over the other). Some in the UK think we can fly off into interstellar space and become the centre of our own system, or at least that we can break free to become a third primary in the existing system. We can’t, of course, because we’re simply not that big any more. Most realistic people will understand that we have to orbit either the EU or the US. But even if we choose the US, that doesn’t free us from the gravitational pull of the EU. We are where we are.
Which brings us back to the binary nature of Brexit. The complex celestial mechanics of international trade will carry us eventually to a new stable orbit, wherever that might be, but it won’t be where we began, which is within the decision-making structures of one of the two giants. Since we ceased to be an EU member state, we cease to take part in its decision making, even though we will continue to be influenced by its decisions. And we are never going to be part of the US decision making system. And so if Brexit means anything, if we can take Brexit as both an event and a process and boil it down to its fundamental essence, its ones and zeroes, it has to be this: giving up control.»
After this, if you still persist in trolling the LSE Blog, I will enclose the official Dutch Report on the rise of the North Sea water level and the Great Drowning of The Netherlands around the 2030’s…
The long read. Interesting, but it doesn’t negate the points I have made.
In this world, even in the West, even now, there are many people at the receiving end of abuse relationships. In many ways are these victims caught in a multifaceted bind which invariably grew over a period of time by one person trusting the other, and by the other cleverly taking advantage. It’s a learning experience, a coming-of-age out of innocence for people who undergo some kind of existential initiation. Many of these victims never get out alive in the sense they have a life after they escape somehow.
On the net, in the mainstream media and on officiated blogsites, you will find exposure of these practices censored in favour of the victimisation du jour which is whipped up for political purposes very akin to the abusers’ purposes in personal relationships. The victims who worm their way out of abusive personal circumstances and move on rarely analyse themselves and their situation. I did, as I had the leisure and the inclination and the interest in matters psychological. I lost the best part of my working life, for a start. That’s how I had plenty of time for study. I put in my tuppence worth for democracy’s sake, not for the might of a majority vote to lord it over victims of abuse, or for people who have done all the lying to get to a position where they can in close concert with a very well-organised group of powermongers abuse the trust they have demanded and their positions in society do demand due to the centuries of emancipatory struggles to give individuals civic rights as citizens of the nation-state they acquired by birth. At the moment, there is a binary issue in the West, as well as globally in the longer run. Some people are happy within groupthink and will put up, like the proverbial frogs being slowly boiled up, with anything to feel they belong in a crowd. Then there is the other in this Ur-duality ruling the human psyche, basically the opposites of cooperative hard-wired genetic programming in tensions, as ever, with competing urges. The other is people like myself who have got wiser, and, of course, the long history of people struggling knowingly or half-knowing against abuse of power given them in trust. There is no solution to that duality except wisdom, which the mainstream and their mind manipulators and abusers of trust will not allow to grow between correspondents. You have to grow your own on your own, mostly. Certainly in the public domain, it is a dumbing down all the way. People who have been through the BS and fought their way out of it cannot have the wool pulled over their eyes again. They have an intuitive BS detector. So, good luck with your struggle to support Remain and the growing tyranny in the world. Watch it doesn’t blow up, or watch it blow up some day, if you follow, for instance, the yellow vest movement in France.
I’ll definitely send you the official Report on the rise of the North Sea water level (written in English) by a State commissioned group of engineering and climate academic scientists from The Netherlands.
You see, the North Sea does’nt care about much your country being a fiscal heaven: it will submerge all the same your beautiful cities and tilled fields in the next few decades…
The curious conclusion of that report is the urgent counsel given to the Dutch Government to negociate with the other 26 EU countries the resettlement of aproximately two thirds of the total Dutch population.
I imagine that you, along with your family and friends, could well be “relocated” in the sunny countries of Southern Europe, because without EU financing you Dutch will all become herrings… red herrings…
See you soon here at Portugal,
You ought to check with Syp Wynia to see what the Dutch politicians and their pseudo-scientists are up to. However, as to sea levels in the future, if you utter prophesy on the basis what the Dutch government wants people to believe, or what the Dutch government wants to offer as an excuse for certain pre-meditated policies, you are skating on thin ice. I have nothing to say about future sea levels. I have known for fifty-five years about sinking land and for forty years about sea levels two or three hundred metres higher than today. I have seen the beaches that high, in Australia. On the basis of sea levels rising up to date, from information proper scientists have gathered, sea levels will rise a few millimeters in the next twenty years, but anything can happen in the future, including the long-foretold end of time.
Very interesting article. Thank you sir for sharing with us
Both the EU and Brexit are political projects that serve desires among certain parts of the respective populations. Apparently, these projects cannot be integrated well with each other.
It might be best to accept this, incur the economic cost and work longrun towards a new base for an EU-English relationdship in the future.
Did you leave that pingback? The org behind it is UK in Europe, which I suppose, is remain-speak for UK in an increasingly federated EU.