Skip to main content

The feedback loop from a Brexit vote will come back to haunt us

Two things really worry me about the EU referendum.

The first is the incoherent messages emanating from ‘remain’ supporters because of Labour’s determination to separate itself from the mainstream campaign fronted by David Cameron and George Osborne.  
Following the vote on Scottish independence, there has been an impression that any connection with the Tories is an electoral liability for Labour. South of the border, I very much doubt this is the case, even in the context of the recent string of PR disasters for the government.

Nevertheless, Corbyn insists on putting his own spin on the issues.

He proclaimed last week a ‘socialist’ argument for the EU, which seemed only designed to shore up the support of people on the far left who have yet to embrace their leader’s remarkable and Damascene conversion after 35 years of anti-European rhetoric. The Conservatives focus on the financial cost of quitting the trading bloc, while Labour talks of some imaginary world in which the EU transforms itself into a workers’ paradise.
My second concern is over the engagement of younger people. The polling evidence is that they may be less likely to vote, despite being broadly more pro-European than their parents and grandparents. As someone who teaches and trains a great many people who early in their professional careers, I can confirm that this nightmare scenario is borne out anecdotally. Chatting to people who were born in the early 90s, I sense only a vague awareness of the issues and a general sense of apathy.

It may be that the campaign will come to life in the coming weeks, but at the moment, I feel it is far more an obsession of the media elite than it is a preoccupation of ordinary people on the ground. How many posters are in windows and how many conversations are happening in pubs, gyms, supermarkets and around the kitchen table?

At this point, I don’t think we can discount the possibility of a narrow win for the Brexiters, particularly if the turnout doesn’t head far north of 50%. So it’s time to start preparing for the consequences – not just for the UK, but also for the EU as a whole.
One of the weirder aspects of the debate, whether we’re listening to ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’, is the belief that the June 23rd referendum is really just a matter for us.

It’s not.
If the UK voted to quit, the seismic shock to the wider union would clearly be at the upper end of the political Richter scale.

First and foremost, it would reignite the debate over the future of the Eurozone. If it’s possible for a major nation state to leave the EU as a whole, why should any country feel obliged to remain a part of the struggling (albeit moderately stabilised) single currency? The danger would move from the so-called ‘peripheral’ countries of Portugal, Ireland and Greece, which managed to hang on to Euro membership by the skin of their teeth, to major powers such as France, Italy and Germany, where there has been increasing disillusionment with the European project.
We may end up with a domino effect, as anti-EU factions of both left and right continue to gain ground across Europe. And while the initial clashes might be over the membership and operation of the single currency, it would all too quickly spill over into a discussion of EU membership as a whole.

The UK would be diminished internationally by a choice to exit the EU (particularly in the eyes of the world’s biggest economic powers, the USA and China), but the EU would itself be diminished by losing the UK. The world’s fifth largest economy abandoning the trading bloc is a monumental blow, no matter how good any subsequent bilateral deals.
So where might this leave us by, say, 2020?

The Eurozone is still precarious and any attempt by members to extricate themselves would almost certainly signal huge market shocks and the collapse of the currency. The recession that followed any disintegration would impact not just the members of the Euro, but also all the EU’s trading partners.  
Meanwhile, an increasingly incoherent and dysfunctional EU would find it harder to deal with the cross-border issues of terrorism, migration, climate change and financial regulation.

There’s a feedback loop here, which will become largely uncontrollable. The UK quits the EU with a view to being notionally in control of its own destiny. But in the process, it may hasten the demise of the EU itself. When that happens, we’ll find that we’ve set in motion a chain of events which will prove exactly how interlocked we are with our neighbours. Trying to forge new bilateral trading relations with countries mired in recession and grappling with nationalism and internal conflict will not be easy. Particularly when our own foolhardiness has played no small part in provoking the situation in which they find themselves.




Popular posts from this blog

I was sad when I quit Labour a year ago. Now, I feel a sense of relief.

What motivates decent people to stay as members of the Labour Party?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering intensely over the past year, which I’ve spent in self-imposed exile. I resigned the moment Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as leader after the contest with Owen Smith.
When I quit, it was with a very heavy heart.
As far back as the late 1980s, I’d served as Labour General Secretary of the London NUS. By the early 90s, I was chairing Frank Dobson’s constituency party in inner London. On two occasions, I stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate.
If you make that kind of commitment, you assume it’s a relationship that will last for life. And even though I hadn’t been an activist in recent years, it never occurred to me that I’d be forced to rip up my party card. 
Today, as Labour’s 2017 conference looms, I wonder how anyone with a moderate viewpoint can kid themselves the party is even worth rescuing.
One group of centre-ground survivors falls into the category of the bloody minded. Like …

What if the whole Corbyn project is based on a lie?

If there’s one thing that scares the Corbyn movement more than anything else, it’s the emergence of a new centre-ground party.
Supporters know very well that once it arrives, the alleged ‘popularity’ of Labour’s far-left leadership would be badly exposed – in just the same way that Michael Foot’s good poll ratings disintegrated with the emergence of the SDP in the early 1980s.
When people are given a choice, many will opt for moderation.
When they lack choice – a particularly stark problem in the UK’s indefensible first-past-the-post electoral system – they tend to polarise to left and right.
For supporters of today’s Labour leadership, it’s therefore critically important to dismiss the centre ground as something which no one wants any more. As a failed ‘neo-liberal’ project, which has no relevance to 2018.
But consider the facts.
A recent BMG Research poll for The Independent found that millions of voters currently find themselves without a political home.
Many feel that the main parties …

Why Momentum's victory in Haringey leaves Corbyn exposed

If you want to see what a Corbyn government might look like, keep an eye on Haringey. The north London borough is set to be taken over by the hard-left Momentum faction, after moderate Labour councillors were deselected in a bitter dispute over housing.
The respected and long-standing council leader, Claire Kober, has said that she won’t be contesting her seat again in May – probably forfeiting her own place on the council to another representative of the Corbyn fan club. She’s also effectively pulled the plug on her £2bn housing initiative – known as the Haringey Development Vehicle or HDV – by saying that the incoming administration can make the final decision on whether it proceeds.
Part of the pressure on Kober came from the extraordinary decision of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee to weigh in on the issue. Thankfully, their intervention provoked a backlash from outraged councillors right around the country. Whatever they thought of the specific model for housing pr…