Thursday 23 September 2021

Why Brexit will benefit the hard left, not the hard right

 I regularly talk to people from all across the political spectrum. People often say that those on the ultra hard left are much the same as those on the ultra hard right. Both definately share one thing in common, the inability to see any of the shades between black and white and the belief that just about everything is a binary choice. Both saw #Brexit as a huge opportunity to advance their particular viewpoint. The question that has been interesting me is whether it is the hard left or the hard right that will reap the benefits of Brexit.

For those on the right, they saw Brexit as an opportunity to roll back regulations, to shake off the restrictions on trade placed by the EU, allowing us to move to a free trade nirvana. They also loved the idea of the UK taking control of its borders and restricting those who could live and work in the UK. Those on the left took the view that restrictions on cheap migrant labour would strengthen the position of workers, promote organised labour unions and ultimately see more state control of industry as the UK economy struggles to adapt to the shock of Brexit. 

So where are we right now? Well it seems that if we want to sell to the EU, our largest market, we need to follow their rules anyway. We just don't have any say when they are drawn up. As to the free trade nirvana, this pipe dream is slowly fading, when the reality of having to actually negotatiate dozens of highly complex trade deals with nations we have trading links with. For big trading partners such as the USA, it has become clear that they do not share the view of Boris. The USA has no interest at all in entertaining a mega trade deal. 

From todays Daily Express

This position will not change whilst Joe Biden or anyone of his viewpoint is president, which effectively means for the next three and a half years. Whilst we are likely to see small deals, the dreams of a new free trading Great Britain has all but gone up in smoke. As to taking control of the borders and stopping free movement of people. This has not exactly been a stunning success. About a million people have gone back to EU countries by some estimates. Most of them were hard working and we now have a labour shortage. We are starting to see empty shelves as a result. Supply chains developed over decades with the EU are no longer functioning properly. The right wing press are still going bonkers about refugees entering. As Boris Johnson has developed a penchant for antagonising the French, they are doing nothing to assist the UK in stemming the flow. From a hard right perspective, there is little to crow about on the Brexit front and it is likely to get worse. Of course many of them blame the pandemic, but in many ways this has softened the blow of Brexit as the economy was semi shut down when we left. It is only as we recover the real damage becomes clear. Even Nigel Farage is now admitting that the trade deal with the USA isn't happening. Farage knows damn well that any chance of this disappeared when Trump left the White House.

From the hard left perspective, the picture is altogether different. The Labour market has tightened, giving workers the whip hand. Whereas previously, wages were suppressed by cheap labour, now firms are having to pay decent wages and offer good conditions if they want to retain staff. Trades Unions are starting to organise in a way we've not seen since Margaret Thatcher came to power. It is in the interests of employers to work with Unions, as if staff become disenchanted, then they can easily find other jobs. The government is also having to take urgent action to prop up key sectors of the economy. No one seems to have noticed, but railways have by and large been renationalised, energy companies are seeking bale outs and we are having to face up to a national plan to resecure energy supplies. With each crisis, the hard left can add more fuel to the argument that the liberal capitalist economy is failing. None of us know whether we will see power cuts and food shortages this Xmas, but if we do, it will be very difficult for Boris Johnson to maintain his Teflon coating. The one thing Boris has in his favour is that the Labour Party, under Sir Keir Starmer are not really looking to push a hard left agenda. From my perspective, they look like Conservatives who've had a makeover to make them more palitable. 

As we see empty shelves, power supplies in chaos, we don't see Sir Keir on TV laying out why it's happening and what and who is to blame. Sir Keir has the rather quaint view that people in the North of England don't want to be told that the empty shelves are a very real sign that #Brexit isn't working. When Sir Keir Starmer became Labour leader, I expected his forensic debating skills as a top Barrister to soon expose Boris Johnson and his inept government for what it really is. Instead what has happened is that Boris has realised that Sir Keir never proposes a solution for anything and never takes a stand on anything. Sir Keir has been leader for a while now and no one knows what he stands for, what his solutions for the problems facing the UK are and why we should vote Labour. It is the perceived wisdom that Labour are simply standing back and hoping the Tories make such a hash of it that they can simply walk in at the next election. One thing we should all realise is that if the Tories believe Boris starts to look like he'll lose the Tories seats, they will dump him as quickly as possible. 

In many ways, it seems to me that we are lumbered with a government that is incapable of doing the job and an opposition that is incapable of holding them account for landing us in this mess. The hard left must be absolutely gutted that it got it's timing so wrong. If they can ever move away from the public perception of being a cabal of anti semites, which seems highly unlikely in the short term, they might get some traction as they would have strong Union backing and organisational support. 

The UK really has two options. One is to somehow make Brexit work. How this can be done with labour shortages, energy shortages and empty supermarket shelves is difficult for me to envisage. The other option is for is to figure out a way to rejoin the EU club without the country falling apart. I can only really see this happening when there are real life day to day impacts on ordinary voters everyday lives. It seems to me that Boris has taken a punt on President Macron losing the French election and a new incumbent being more amenable to him. This seems unlikely. 

Finally I can't finish off a bnlog about the EU without mentioning Ireland. President Biden is very keen to push his Irish connections and this means that we not only have to deal with the EU, we have to try and keep Biden onside.  Back in January, I predicted, semi jokingly,  that in October the following would happen

Elisabeth Truss flies to the USA to try and negotiate a trade deal. Joe Biden tells her that this can only be completed if the UK cedes Northern Ireland to the Republic. Truss agrees and Irish Nationalists everywhere celebrate. Truss claims that her action is only a practical recognition of what Boris had put into effect with the Brexit treaty.

To me this doesn't seem as far fetched as it did in January. In short, we are in a mess and I don't trust either the Conservatives or Labour to get us out of it, with their current crop of incompetents. I can't see the EU wanting us back in the short to medium term and I can't see us ever getting the trade deals we were promised by vote leave, the billions for the NHS or any of the other benefits that swung the country behind the pipedream. Of course Farage and his crew will blame the EU (for defending their key interests), Biden (becauase he isn't Trump), and everyone else, when it is clear where the problem lies.

Ultimately, it seems to me that the only people who really will benefit from Brexit will be the hard left, who will gain many of their objectives without coming anywhere near power. The world is a funny old place.

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