January 31, 2020

Brexit

Brexit cleared its last formal hurdle in Brussels on Thursday… The 27 EU member states that Britain will leave behind at midnight in Brussels on Friday approved the withdrawal agreement reached last October.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left focuses on the challenges awaiting Britain.

“Both the cheers and the tears seem extreme at first glance, considering how little will change on the ground on Friday. The transition agreement struck as part of Brexit means that, for the next 11 months, the U.K. will be treated as if it were still part of the EU… And while the Brexiteers champion ‘Global Britain’ as a free-market counterweight to a protectionist EU, we have yet to see a real divide on trade and geopolitics…

“This entente won’t last long, however. Both the U.K. and the EU are trying to carve out a place for themselves on a world stage that’s dominated by the U.S. and China. The Brits aspire to retreat from the world's biggest single market in favor of a soft-power, light-touch island economy — experts have imagined Singapore-on-Thames, the Canada of Europe, or ‘Belgium with nukes.’”
Lionel Laurent, Bloomberg

“The problems we have faced in trying to leave the EU stand as a testament to how right the Brexiters were all along: this isn’t a simple trading block, it is far, far, more. And disentangling the relationship has likewise proved far more complicated than many people – including most high-profile Brexiters – ever imagined… the period since the referendum has ended the careers of two prime ministers, eight cabinet ministers and over 80 MPs… We’ve learned so much about our country and its institutions since June 2016. Yet the real decisions are still to be made…

“Four years hence, as we turn our minds to the next election, politics may have repositioned itself around a more traditional left-right axis; a berated and battered civil service may have retained its core values; Scotland may have voted for independence from the UK… And, of course, a majority government may have made parliament reassuringly boring again. But beware. Boredom is a dangerous thing. The choices stemming from Brexit are arguably more significant than the choice to leave in the first place. How paradoxical if, at the moment when the real decisions are being made, our interest starts to falter.”
Anand Menon, The Guardian

“Johnson has promised he will not extend this transition period beyond 2020, giving the UK and EU less than 11 months to figure out their future partnership. This isn’t impossible to achieve, but it’s going to be very, very difficult. If the EU and UK can’t reach an agreement at the end of the year, the possibility of a no-deal looms once again. Experts say that could still be damaging and extraordinarily disruptive, especially if tariffs and increased customs checks lead to backlogs at ports, which could mean shortages in food and other goods. So although Brexit will be official on January 31, the uncertainty over it definitely won’t be over.”
Jen Kirby, Katelyn Burns, and Matthew Yglesias, Vox

“Britain must negotiate a trade deal governing future commercial relations with Europe by the end of the year — a perhaps impossible deadline — or risk expensive disruption with its largest trading partner… Europe’s recent trade deals with Canada and Japan took seven years. Still, Mr. Johnson has repeatedly ruled out extending the transition date…

“If Mr. Johnson holds firm, that raises two potential outcomes, neither conducive to expanding fortunes. Either Britain and Europe strike a narrow trade deal that governs some manufactured goods, while leaving out services — the bulk of the British economy — or Britain crashes out of the European bloc with no deal at all. Even the threat of a no-deal exit would entail costly mayhem, as companies on both sides of the English Channel stockpile goods in anticipation of customs snafus and choked ports. That is what unfolded for much of last year as the British political system lurched toward a Brexit deadline without an agreed-upon plan, bringing a no-deal scenario into stark relief.”
Peter S. Goodman, New York Times

Brexit won’t mark the end of Britain’s zero-sum politics… There was already something broken in the liberal status quo, long before Britain voted to leave the EU. Liberal societies have entrenched asymmetries of power and inequalities of wealth to a degree that citizens no longer see each other as equals. When some are rich and others are poor, when some are highly articulate and others haven’t completed GCSEs, when some have multiple houses and others are condemned to be homeless, the imperative to patiently listen to the other side is not just unrealistic: it is insulting to those who persistently lose out.”
Lea Ypi, The Guardian

From the Right

The right celebrates Brexit for returning decision-making to British voters.

The right celebrates Brexit for returning decision-making to British voters.

“First born in the 1950s at the high-water mark for faith in technocracy, the successive institutions that blossomed into today’s EU were always premised on the notion that voters couldn’t be trusted. The EU’s most powerful institution today is the bureaucratic European Commission. The elected European Parliament is barely an afterthought… Brexit has proved a profound shock to Europe’s system because it’s so unusual these days for European voters to get their way on anything important. The most obvious examples are the referendums on closer EU integration held in France and the Netherlands in 2005 and in Ireland in 2008 and 2009. When those citizens voted the ‘wrong’ way, they were either circumvented via procedural and legal chicanery or forced to vote again…

“If you’re one of the shrinking number of Germans who voted for the center-left Social Democratic Party in 2017, surprise: Your party now supports a center-right government under Angela Merkel. In Italy, a shifting coalition of also-rans has spent the past two years plotting to thwart the one politician and party that enjoys discernible plurality support, Matteo Salvini and the League. Remember Greece’s botched 2015 referendum on the EU bailout terms, which would have meant abandoning the euro? Voters rejected the bailout but got it anyway.”
Joseph C. Sternberg, Wall Street Journal

“For decades, a powerful intellectual clique has insisted that the gradual erasure of borders and the enfeeblement of national governments was the natural next course of human enlightenment. Often it was implied that some iron law of history drives this trend. The moral progress of mankind, or the exigencies of markets, somehow, demands it…

“In the 2016 campaign, the U.K.’s chancellor said that a vote for Brexit — just the vote itself — would send the United Kingdom’s economy reeling, that taxes would immediately have to be raised, and that an emergency budget would have to be passed. None of that happened… This month the International Monetary Fund, normally a staunch friend of the EU, released its economic forecasts, which put the U.K.’s growth ahead of Germany’s and the eurozone’s. It doesn’t quite sound like civilizational destruction to me.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

“Brexit has cashiered a long list of centrist politicians on the right and left who used EU membership as an excuse for their own mediocre economic performance… [It’s true that] Britain benefited from unrestricted trade with the EU and faces serious disruptions as businesses adapt to the loss of those benefits. But Brussels mandarins don’t possess a magic elixir uniquely capable of spurring economic growth. Ask unemployed French youth, stagnating German entrepreneurs or anyone in Greece.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The opportunity in front of [Boris Johnson] is pretty clear. He could speed up, perhaps double, the rate of economic growth by unleashing innovation… That means rediscovering trial and error, serendipity and swiftness — the mechanisms by which the market finds out what the consumer wants next…

“Government has to make risk-taking less economically dangerous, and that means a liberal fiscal policy and speeding up the decisions of regulators: Brussels took more than two years to decide even whether to regulate genome editing in plants, while America and China forged ahead… If the British innovation engine starts purring again, we could rediscover the joys of rapid economic growth, with more money for schools, hospitals and improving the environment. Having a global financial center, a great scientific reputation, the common law, the English language and an open trading system, Britain is as well placed as anywhere on earth to attract innovators.”
Matt Ridley, Spectator USA

“A trade deal [with the EU has] to please all [27] member states. Before the EU eventually did a trade deal with Canada, the process was temporarily halted by rejection by a regional parliament in southern Belgium. A straightforward bilateral trade deal between the US and Britain would have fewer barriers… If the US and Britain can complete a trade deal… It would vindicate critics of the EU who have long argued that while the EU is theoretically committed to free trade, it is in practice too protectionist in nature to cut deals with the largest economies.”
Ross Clark, Spectator USA

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