Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
What can one say about Brexit? With less than a month to go, the uncomfortable truth is nothing is certain. The usual tropes - a failing political class, the denigration of democracy and the ‘end-of-days’ scenarios - sound tired. Each thrashed to death in the media by talking-heads and pundits with an agenda. I’ve no unique insights, only a deep sense of disgust.
In the convulsions of recent weeks, the two main political parties exposed their internal fault lines. Neither can claim the high-ground in any sense of the word, although Mrs May earns a degree of respect for her tenacity. She's hemmed in by Brexiteers, led by the cartoonish Jacob Rees Mogg, and cuts a lonely figure. And still, all things considered, she's shown considerable strength, albeit robotic responses, and earns my respect for her courage.
I have an unsubstantiated feeling that she and elements in the civil service wanted the negotiations to fail from the outset. If that’s true, she’s put the whole country through a traumatic plot worthy of machiavellian acclaim.
Having said that, the EU held all the cards from the outset except for the possible adverse economic consequences could harm them. Yet, the zealots in Brussels appear willing to pay that price to defend their stronghold. For them the European project is the ‘sunlit uplands’ and if Britain wants to leave then so-what.
It’s interesting to observe that the recent resignations from the Tory Party produced messages of regret. On the other hand, Labour unleashed a torrent of bile and vitriol on their departees. ‘Traitor to the movement’ and other pronouncements affirm the view that Marxist loons grip Labour.
It appears Labour is more likely to falter as this mess plays out. The radicals of Momentum have completed their long march to seize control of the party apparatus. In the process, they’ve continued their systematic attack on rationality with a nasty illiberal mindset. Anti-semitism is one symptom of the degraded Labour Party. There is more. In recent weeks Labour removed a candidate for Worcester after she claimed the Manchester Arena bombing was a ‘false-flag’ operation.
There are signs that the Corbyn project is failing. Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the party, is openly challenging Corbyn. At the same time, Corbyn has lost 150,000 party members and some £6 million in subscriptions. His failure to enunciate any meaningful strategy on Brexit isn't going unnoticed.
Corbyn faces a ruling Tory Party that is at war with itself. But, he appears incapable of making any headway nor formulating strategy beyond trite statements. The fact that he kept his ex-girlfriend on the front bench despite her evident failings speaks volumes. It's remarkable that a departing Labour MP stated "Corbyn is a threat to national security".
So the signs are all there of political mayhem as the country heads towards the Brexit cliff. But what’s wrong with this picture. Well, the unemployment rate is at the lowest since 1975. For women, it’s the lowest since records began. And don’t argue that it’s all ‘zero hours’ contracts because only 2.6 per cent were employed on such terms.
Yes, Honda is closing a plant while Nissan declined to expand its operations in the Northeast. But that appears linked to the restructuring of the car industry instead of Brexit. Granted, Brexit doesn’t help, but you can’t lay all the blame there.
With all the dire warnings you’d think by now that sterling would have collapsed as the banks' meltdown. With less than a month to go the money men would have acted by now or am I missing something. It hasn’t happened. Businesses face uncertainty. Nonetheless, most appear to have shrugged off the doom and gloom sentiments to get on with it.
Some predicted an economic apocalypse by now. The data points to slowing growth, but growth is still there. Plus, business investment has eased, but that's not unexpected with the uncertainty of Brexit - see graphs below. Significantly, none of the disaster scenarios has proved correct.
Britain remains the world's fifth largest economy. That confers a degree of momentum that will carry forward to provide resilience in challenging times.Likewise, EU membership never predicated Britain’s place in the world. As a NATO member and with a seat on the UN Security Council, Britain remains a world player even after Brexit.
Meanwhile, in Parliament, like the crew of the Titanic, MPs are busy rearranging the deck chairs. Amendments and counter-proposals batted back and forward go nowhere. The bottom line is that Brussels won’t give any concessions, so either it’s ‘no-deal’ or delay. Take your pick.
Either way, it seems to me that after midnight on 31 March, the sun will come up, and life will go on.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.