The ironies of Brexit

In my previous post earlier today (I know, I should get a life) I described how authoritarian people (who value order and national power) voted for Brexit on 23 June.  This set of values is very ironic in the light of the consequences of the Brexit vote.

Brexit has directly caused a significant period of political, and criminal disorder.  We’ve lost the prime minister David Cameron, and almost all of his cabinet.  The Brexit referendum outcome has also triggered a melt-down in the main opposition party.  The spike in hate crime shows no sign of lessening, although that could be just increased awareness and reporting.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36869000

Confirmation by the new PM of the UK’s decision to leave the EU has already cost us good will, and political influence, in Europe.  Brexit will embolden an expansionist Russia, particularly if a newly enfeebled EU decides to drop sanctions against the illegal seizure of Crimea.  Presumably such sanctions are something that the smaller group of NATO nations cannot do effectively?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36629146

A period of short-term economic turmoil was expected by both Brexiteers and Remainers.  This has now happened, and the value of the pound has still not fully recovered a month later.  That will make exports cheaper, but will also push up the prices of critical imports, such as oil and food.  The price of oil will of course push up the price of everything else.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36641174

 

So much for “order”, but what about national power?  

The longer term economic impact of Brexit will not be clear for many months, or years.  Most comentators expect it to be bad.  Predictions by various bodies independent of UK government suggest that the loss of national economic power will be much worse than any  terrorist attack could have achieved without serious weapons of mass destruction.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36834977 The IMF
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36826166 The IFS

Loss of economic power leads to loss of military power.  The decades of failure of any party in government to regulate the banks properly led to the UK not having the money to commission aircraft carriers after the crash of 2008.

“The taking back of control” after Brexit is partly an illusion.  

Gain in power at Westminster is at least balanced by loss of power in Brussels.  After Brexit is complete we will no longer have a say in legislation across the EU.  We will become able to pass our own legislation on air pollution and fisheries within the UK, but those pesky fish and chunks of air will still keep moving around Europe!  We will still need international cooperation on many issues, both at EU level, and more widely.  The kind of “control” that we are taking back will end at the UK’s borders.

Before the EU referendum, we already had control of non-EU migration, and yet Theresa May allowed such immigration to the UK to continue at the same average level while she was Home Secretary, because the economy needed those migrants.  The economic benefit of inward migration will not go away, however much some Brexiteers might wish it to.  Again, “taking back control” is an illusion here as well.

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiun7eUr4rOAhXLKMAKHRzPCDkQFghAMAU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fbriefing-papers%2Fsn06077.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFv_sKfGqsF4LNhmk5zZN8J2-4ZTA

(see page 13)

We will still import large numbers of students and tourists, yet we will still have no national ID card to prevent them from overstaying and working illegally.  The amount of “control” of migration being taken back has been oversold.

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The Psychology & Sociology of Brexit

Sociology

Despite the 2:1 majority vote to remain in 1975,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_European_Communities_membership_referendum,_1975

according to 2 Sociologists  James Dennison and Noah Carl

The ultimate causes of Brexit: history, culture, and geography

“the UK has been the least well-integrated EU member state, and so the closer the EU was moving toward political union, the more likely Brexit was becoming.”

People in the UK were the least likely member state citizens to identify themselves as “European”.  They are amongst the most distrustful of the EU, and the least likely to live in other EU counties.

The UK trades less with other EU countries than most other EU members trade with each other, and has less investment to, or from, most of the other EU countries than they have with each other.

They claim that the reasons for this are:

o “Britain is the only allied European power not to have been occupied during the Second World War.”  But, unoccupied neutral European powers now inside the EU include: Spain, Portugal, and Sweden.  Of these only the Iberian pair suffer from Euroscepticism, due perhaps to the Eurozone economic problems.

o Geography – the UK is relatively isolated (checking other EU islands for myself, Cyprus comes out with similar figures, but curiously not Eire)

o The English legal tradition.  This is completely different from the Code Napoleon basis of most of the continent.  However, I must point out that Scotland has a hybrid system closer to the European ones.

o An established national church.  This would not apply to secular France, but they do not mention that other smaller EU members also have national churches.  I’m not convinced this difference from continental Europe is relevant here.

Their conclusion: “Britain is the least well-integrated EU member state” and “as the EU moved closer toward political union, the UK’s fundamentally less European character meant that Brexit was increasingly likely”.  Obviously (as the authors admit) other factors provided the immediate trigger for Brexit.

Psychology

There is an underlying variable behind the apparent statistics on what sort of people voted for Brexit, in my previous posting.  According to Eric Kaufmann (Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College):

It’s NOT the economy, stupid: Brexit as a story of personal values

the underlying variable is authoritarianism.  “For me, what really stands out about [the British Election Study 2015] is the importance of support for the death penalty [in predicting Brexit voting intention].”  It outweighs all demographic data and party loyalties.  “… 71 percent of those most in favour of the death penalty indicated in 2015 that they would vote to leave the EU.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36803544

According to Stian Westlake, Head of Research at the think tank Nesta “If you look at attitudes to questions such as, ‘Do you think criminals should be publicly whipped?’ or ‘Are you in favour of the death penalty?’ – those things are much better predictors [of Brexit voting intention], and you get over 70% accuracy,”.

As Ben Shimshon of Britain Thinks (which advises businesses and political parties on how to communicate with the public), broadly agrees with Westlake. What united Leave voters in focus groups in the run-up to the referendum, he says, was support for a whole set of “traditional” values.

“They tended to value things like order, stability and safety against things like openness, modernity and other social-liberal values that were more popular among Remain voters. Often it’s about harking back to the past – sometimes a feeling that they don’t belong to the present.”

Which previous demographic findings does this explain?  Young people are generally less authoritarian, and were thus less likely to vote for Brexit.  The same applies to people with experience of higher education, who were also much less likely to vote for Brexit.  Authoritarians may tend to be concerned about national identity, and less accepting of transnational bodies like the EU.  They may also be more prone to “aggression towards sanctioned targeted minority groups”.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authoritarian_personality#Current_reinterpretations

According to Lord Ashcroft Polls

How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why

“By large majorities, voters who saw multiculturalism, feminism, the Green movement, globalisation and immigration as forces for good voted to remain in the EU; those who saw them as a force for ill voted by even larger majorities to leave.”  These too seems consistent with underlying authoritarianism.

According to “30 years of British Social Attitudes self-reported racial prejudice data”

https://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/338779/selfreported-racial-prejudice-datafinal.pdf

there has always been much more low-level racial predjudice in the UK than I would ever have imagined.  This is apparently similar in other EU countries.

http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/146-EB2005-summary.pdf

The EU referendum was like turning over a stone.  Some very unpleasant things were revealed lurking underneath.

The state of the nation (part one)

I am sick to the ‘brack’ teeth of the Eaton Mess that is the Brexit debate. ‘Broris’ stance is pure ‘brollocks’. All he wants is his former classmate Dave’s job, he doesn’t really care whether brexit happens or not.

phsothetruestory

There is a lot of talk of ‘sovereignty’ in the E.U. debate.  Of leaving the E.U. in order to regain our sovereignty – defined by the Oxford dictionary as ‘supreme power or authority’.  It might be worth thinking for a moment as to how this supreme power may be used should we break free of the unelected Eurocrats who are said to be running our country like a puppet state.

Let’s start with democracy.  We have essentially a two party, first past the post electoral system.  In the 2015 General Election UKIP received 3.9M votes (12.7% of the share) but only one seat in the house.   We have a majority conservative government on 36.8% of the vote.  Under proportional representation (used for EU elections) UKIP would have secured 83 seats making them the third biggest party ahead of the Lib Dems and SNP.  election-2015-proportional representation  Would…

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What polices could mitigate/avoid income inequality?

In the UK the April 2010 Equality Act imposed a duty on Government Departments when drafting legislation to take into account any potential impact on inequality.  Great policy, it’s a shame that it took the Labour government so long to formulate!

 

Only month after this act was passed into law, the Labour government was replaced by the Con-Dem coalition.  That new government then scrapped the public sector equality duty component of the 2010 act, before it was intended to come into effect (in April 2011).

 

The Scottish government has stated that they plan to re-introduce this duty.

 

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/nicola-sturgeon-plans-revive-legal-duty-public-bodies-reduce-inequalities?platform=hootsuite

 

This of course is only one such possible policy measure.  The OECD outlines several possible policies:

 

http://www.oecd.org/social/in-it-together-why-less-inequality-benefits-all-9789264235120-en.htm

 

Eliminate gender inequality in employment.

Promote good quality (permanent, full time) jobs with opportunities for staff development.

Reduce labour market segmentation (by improving the ability of workers to move between different occupations, different areas and different industries).

Provide training, and re-training, throughout the working life of the workforce.

Redistributive taxation and state benefit policies.