Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Brexit Chaos, You Couldn't Make It Up

Up to just an hour before calling off the Brexit vote in parliament, the government were insisting that the vote would go ahead, sending out Michael Gove, around the radio studios to sell that line. Then they called it off, saying that it would have been voted down heavily. No shit, Sherlock. We all knew that for the last fortnight, so how come May only came to that realisation, now? For the last week or so, the media themselves have been asking why May was pressing ahead, when it was obvious that it would be lost by a big majority, and would thereby even threaten May's position, and possibly that of the government itself. She must have something up her sleeve, they concluded, a Plan B, to implement when the vote is lost. But, no, that was to give her too much credit of intellect. 

In fact, it's clear what Plan B was all along. The Tory media had been promoting it for some time. It was that they hoped for a repeat of what happened with the TARP vote in the US Congress in 2008. When Congress voted down Bush's TARP programme to bail out US banks and corporations, with taxpayer's money, the US Stock Markets crashed, as speculators realised that their reckless gambling might result in them losing their shirts, which is something they had not had to worry about for the previous thirty years, as the US Federal Reserve had always previously stepped in to goose the market, whenever share prices had fallen. But, the speculators need not have worried. The US government, like the UK government, has been committed to defending the paper wealth of speculators for the last thirty years, even at the expense of the real economy. If the capitalist state needs to print money to buy up bonds, and shares, and even, in the US, property, so as to keep the hyper inflated prices of those assets still hyper-inflated, it has repeatedly shown itself prepared to do so, and thereby to divert potential money-capital away from investment in real production into speculation in financial assets. If that state had to crater the real economy, by measures of austerity, so as to restrain growth, keep the pressure on interest rates down, and provide government money for bailing out the speculators, it has been more than willing to do so. 

Congress was quickly recalled, and voted through the TARP to bail out the big US speculators. That was May's Plan B. It was that, MP's would vote for her proposals, because although everyone hated them, it was the only way of stopping chaos, and of thereby stopping UK financial markets from selling off. So, the creation of an atmosphere of chaos is, in fact, a fundamental part of May's strategy. The trouble is that it hasn't worked, and it hasn't worked for fairly obvious reasons. Firstly, financial markets only sell off when something they hadn't anticipated occurs. Everyone knew that May's deal had no chance of passing, and so, in market parlance, that information was already discounted in the price of UK assets. If those prices were going to sell off, they would have done so, long before it came to the vote that was originally planned for today. They didn't. 

They didn't because, market speculators also know that no British government is going to push through a No Deal Brexit. May won't do it, even Bojo or Rees-Mogg won't do it, for all their hype. Bojo's strategy had been set out long before. It was that, if Britain proposed a hard Brexit, and voted it through in a referendum, the EU is so desperate to keep us in, that they would capitulate, and offer Britain further concessions, prompting a second referendum, in which they would propose staying in on these new terms. It was, of course, nonsense, and the reality of the last two years has shown it to be nonsense, though the Brextremists continue to push this line that the failure has all been down to the failure of May to actually push forward the threat of No Deal. 

May, won't do it, because she knows that a No Deal would result in immediate chaos and catastrophe. A lot of hype is being made of possible social unrest if Brexit is scrapped. Its nonsense. Where nearly a million people marched a couple of weeks ago in support of a second referendum, the Brextremists, last weekend, were only able to muster a few thousand protesters, mostly made up of former BNP'ers, and EDL'ers, now drawn in behind Tommy Robinson, as they take over UKIP. In fact, they were outnumbered just by those who mobilised against them. The reality is that Brexit was voted through by a large number of elderly, middle-class, Tory and UKIP voters. They are not the kind of social force that either has a lot of organised industrial muscle, or is likely to be taking to the streets, with their zimmer frames, to protest against the scrapping of Brexit. Les Miserables, they are not. And, in so far as the the Brexit vote was pushed through by the additional votes of today's equivalent of the French underclass of the Revolution, nor are they the kind of social force likely to be effective. They comprise all of that atomised mass that generally grumbles away, and responds by acts of individualism, but which is generally marked by its separation from political activity, even the minimal activity of voting in elections every few years. 

But, if May were to push through a No Deal Brexit, the immediate chaos would be such that their would be social unrest, as the police themselves have said, and have been planning for, and the government has also been considering with proposals to bring the army on to the streets, as shops run out of supplies, medical supplies disappear, planes are grounded, and British ports, and surrounding roads become snarled for dozens of miles. It would lead to the government being brought down, and possibly an introduction of martial law, at least until a new, possibly National Government, was brought in, which would almost certainly, have to plead with the EU to allow an emergency Bri-entry. May will not go down in history for such a situation. Bad enough that she has gone down in history as leading the first government to be convicted of contempt of parliament. Such a situation would destroy the Tory party probably for ever. They simply won't do it. It is not a viable threat. 

The speculators know that, which is why the markets have not been selling off. Yesterday, the FTSE even rose, after it was announced that the vote had been cancelled. The Pound fell, but not that significantly. It fell only because in recent months it has been rising, on the basis that either Brexit might be scrapped, or that some BRINO would be pushed through. It is still higher today than it was after its falls in 2016.  That would have come about more quickly had May put her deal to parliament and it had been voted down. The Pound fell, because postponing the vote, means that the move to the next stage, of a General Election, or a People's Vote, has also been postponed. The speculators also know that Mogg and Co. represent only a minority of Tory MP's, and an even smaller proportion of MP's in total. Its possible if May is forced out, however, that a Brextremist could be elected as Tory leader. It only requires that they get into the last two, at which point the vote goes to the party membership, which is predominantly right-wing and Brextremist. 

But, even if a Brextremist Tory MP, became PM, besides the fact that this would prompt a lot of demands for a General Election, the fact remains that they could not push through a No Deal Brexit. They might, however, resist the democratic will of parliament, and push for time to run out, so that Britain left the EU on March 29th 2019, which is why they were insistent on having that date stamped on the EU Withdrawal Act. But, no such No Deal would happen then either. If such a Brextremist PM were in place, and it became clear that they intended to just allow Britain to crash out in March, then the markets really would crash. The Pound would fall 30%, the stock and bond markets would crash, sending interest rates soaring, and thereby crashing the property market, to the great chagrin of all those elderly Tory Brexit voters fixated on their house prices, as regularly presented to them by the Daily Express, and the government would then come under intense pressure to change course, or step down. In fact, it illustrates just what nonsense all the talk about taking back control really is, because real control does not rest in parliament to begin with. 

May's strategy, all along, has been to simply waste time, so as to push the decision to the last minute, in the belief that, parliament would then have to vote for whatever was presented, so as to avoid chaos. That remains her strategy. Proceeding with the farce of the vote to the last minute, and then pulling it, now pointlessly going to Europe to try to get further concessions, thereby putting off the vote until next year, when there will then be only just over two months to exit, creating a climate of chaos is all part of May's strategy. 

If we had a decent, principled Labour leadership, it would already have been calling this chaotic, contemptuous government to account, and would have been building a mass movement in the country to stop Brexit, and to bring down the government. Its up to Labour's rank and file to create such a leadership. 

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