Brexit (by )

I think the best analysis of the possible consequences, whichever way the referendum went, was this: Martin Lewis' guide to voting in the EU referendum.

In other words, nobody really had any good arguments as to which was better - in or out. The EU has costs and benefits. The problem is, the referendum wasn't about whether Britain would be better in or out; it was about whether Britain should remain or leave, which is a slightly different point. The differences is: the cost of change also enters the equation. Given that the consequences of being in or out are unclear, the question becomes: Is it worth the costs of leaving?

Personally, I don't think so: Even though the consequences either way were unclear, I suspect that the average outcomes are probably slightly better if we'd stayed in. All the talk of immigration (we still need immigration to afford to look after our ageing population), sovereignty (the British parliament is hardly more accountable to us than the European one), and £350m a week were largely red herrings, spectres summoned to try and mislead the population; the real issues were far subtler and more pedestrian.

But that difference between the best predictions of the impacts of staying or leaving on our quality of live are small compared to the cost of change. Today's drop in the value of the pound and British shares is not a measure of the predicted economic weakness of a non-EU UK; it's a measure of the uncertainty as to how effective British business will be, and how easy it will be for multinational corporations to operate in Britain. The world cannot predict how fiscal and commercial relationships with Britain will be in five years, let alone ten or more, and those are the kinds of periods over which major investments are planned; so that investment will be directed to safer places. Maybe Britain will become a new economic powerhouse without EU regulations - or maybe it will become a dingy backwater. The world doesn't know, so it's moving its money elsewhere. Funnily enough, that reduces the chances of Britain being able to become an economic powerhouse, because we're poorer to begin with.

Another effect that's far larger than any predictions of the effects of being in or out is the effect of the referendum process. We are now in a situation where half the country is furious with the other half for having ruined their country, and possibly the world. Meanwhile, that half is furious with the first half for having nearly prevented them from saving their country, and possibly the world. This is a rather toxic and explosive situation to now be attempting to plan what's going to happen over the next five years. Many decisions will be made based on personal grudges rather than rational consideration. Meanwhile, in the populace at large, a lot of resentment is simmering; if living conditions drop in ways that are attributable to our leaving Europe, the half of the population that voted for it will be considered personally responsible for ruined lives. That could get nasty.

Another effect of the Leave result that probably dwarfs the actual cost of not being in the EU is that the result has emboldened the more right-wing figures in British politics. Folks who have traditionally acted in the interests of big business and the rich, while cynically appealing to the fears of the masses in order to get their way. I'm concerned that their influence - previously more rhetorical than actual - will grow in the political changes coming, which could have negative long-term consequences.

So, I'm sad on many levels about how this referendum turned out; but I wouldn't have been very much happier if we'd voted to remain.

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