At Least We Aren’t Alone…

In the United States, we apparently are divided into two completely different species: the know-nothing cult that is today’s GOP, and the people who live and worry in what has been called “the reality-based community.”

As depressing as it is dealing with the alternate reality inhabited by Trump and his defenders, we need to recognize that we aren’t the only once-dominant nation busily crapping in our own mess kit. (Sorry, but that seemed the most apt description.)

Britain has Brexit. And Boris Johnson. (Although I’ll note that the UK also has 21 Conservative lawmakers who were willing to put the interests of their country above their party. Thus far, that’s 21 more than we have.)

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian reported on the likely consequences of a “hard Brexit”–the path they are being taken down by Boris Johnson.

No-deal Brexit has never loomed larger than in the current moment. Boris Johnson has said that Britain will leave the European Union on 31 October. His entire political strategy is based on the credibility of his threat to follow through, regardless of whether he has come to an agreement with the remaining 27 members. As a result, the need to understand what no deal may mean in practice has become increasingly urgent.

At the UK in a Changing Europe, we have tried to address this: our report on it is out on Wednesday. We don’t have any inside information. We’re not privy to material that others do not have. But we do have a team of scholars who have spent their careers studying the relationship between the UK and the EU, and so are well placed to consider the potential implications if the UK were to leave in this manner.

What does that increasingly likely no-deal Brexit look like?

No deal means a cliff edge; the full panoply of checks and tariffs will be imposed on our exports to the EU, and cross-border trade in services will face new restrictions.

So trade with the EU will become more difficult and more costly, with those costs being potentially catastrophic for smaller companies that do not have the margins to absorb them.

After noting the probable disruption to trade and freedom of movement, the article highlighted issues that have received less attention:

One little discussed consequence of no deal is that the UK will immediately lose access to EU databases and other forms of cooperation including the European arrest warrant, the Schengen information system and Europol. This will hinder policing and security operations in a world where data is key to solving crime. Nor is it inconceivable, say, that we will witness a rise in organised criminal activity, as gangs seek to profit from this disruption.

And then, there are the problems that have been foreseen, but not solved:

But perhaps the biggest and most dangerous unknown is what happens on the island of Ireland. The UK government has said it will not apply checks and tariffs at the Irish border – a stance which is at odds with its commitments under, inter alia, WTO rules. The EU, however, has made it clear it intends to apply the rules, though whether all checks will be imposed from day one is less obvious. Both sides are likely to blame the other, with unforeseeable political and economic consequences.

Over the longer term, the economy will adjust. But there will be a significant cost. Our earlier research, which analysed the effects of trading with the EU on WTO terms, found that after 10 years this would reduce the UK’s per-capita income by between 3.5% and 8.7%; other credible analyses come to much the same conclusion.

With or without a hard Brexit, the decision to leave the EU will weaken the UK in multiple ways. With or without Impeachment or a “blue wave” in 2020, the U.S. will need a generation–at least–to recover from the systemic damage inflicted by a mentally-ill ignoramus monumentally unfit for the office he holds. If we recover.

The UK and the US are both in a world of hurt because significant percentages of citizens in both countries voted their racism. In England, a vote for Brexit was an anti-immigrant vote; in the U.S., a vote for Trump rewarded his abandonment of dog-whistles in favor of full-throated, unembarrassed bigotry.

As a result, there’s you-know-what in the mess kit.


  1. Re: Brexit – It’s a pure catch 22 for the liberals. As they ague about Brexit, the conservatives get to make hay about the evils of liberalism stopping the peoples will. They get to make promises about what a wonderful world it would be, if only they had unchecked power. Those darn liberals standing in the way of progress. Liberals don’t want people to be hurt, so they work to add safety nets into Brexit. When it happens, conservatives get to make hay again – “Oh, if only there had been NO back stop. THEN everything would be perfect. Darn liberals ruined everything/” Conservatives have dropped the liberals in a fairly brilliant no-win situation. Let people get hurt, which the liberals are loath to do, or fix the problem and get blamed when life is anything less than 100 percent perfect.

    It’s hard to win against sociopaths.

  2. “Britain has Brexit. And Boris Johnson. (Although I’ll note that the UK also has 21 Conservative lawmakers who were willing to put the interests of their country above their party. Thus far, that’s 21 more than we have.)”

    And the Brits jumped Johnson’s ass within DAYS of his swearing in; it has taken us more than 2 1/2 YEARS to act. Brexit appears to be a “cover-all” issue; vital enough that Johnson may be forced out next week, Trump has “deconstructed” our entire government from within while alienating our allies of many decades and sucking up to our enemies publicly and behind closed doors and on secret computer programs. There appears to be more transparency in Parliament than in our own government; they seem to “let it all hang out” and deal with it in a timely manner.

    “As depressing as it is dealing with the alternate reality inhabited by Trump and his defenders, we need to recognize that we aren’t the only once-dominant nation busily crapping in our own mess kit. (Sorry, but that seemed the most apt description.)”

    It took 28 months of digging to rid this government of Nixon, however inappropriately it was dealt with,; it has taken 2 1/2 YEARS for this country to begin to act on what began by Trump on January 20, 2017.

    Vote in the 2019 November local elections; here in Indianapolis, Mayoral candidate Republican Senator Merritt has been sitting in the state Senate for more than 25 years giving him a strong hold on Republicans at state level. We do NOT need him taking over the city of Indianapolis; this is but one reason why this years local elections are vital before we move on to the 2020 national elections. Never lose sight of the fact that it is the states which control the Electoral College and it was the Electoral College which appointed Trump president.

  3. The way Sheila describes from our more liberal view towards the opposition party is how they see us from their more conservative view. It seems we are split 40/40 with the independent at 20 the deciding vote if reasonably distributed in the Electoral College. Portends to be a 2020 Perfect Storm. Power up boys and girls, we’re chained to the helm.

  4. Norris,

    If only that were true, this would be a much simpler equation. Unfortunately we are first split nearly 50/50 by those who vote and those who don’t. The 50% who do are then split once again, with about half on the right and half on the left. There are a few that vote for others, but they generally fall into one or the other category.

    Our biggest problem is the half that don’t vote. Indications are (issue based polling) they lean more to the left than the right. If they are waiting for the perfect candidate, they need to get over it. Perfection is beyond human capacity, especially in a politician.

  5. if the british did a better job at the whole eu information,and why they bennifit,the torries would have had a harder time convincing,but like u.s. news media,and blind minds,they voted on something they let the bigotry fuzz out the reality. many a small buisness will take the fall,border customs issues will become a hemroid,to shipping. mass media won here. murdock knows the news is his for the taking,and we still see nothing. bojos crapping on the parliment,and no so honest with the queen,got him questioned,and like trump,throws a temper tantrum,how dare you,the supreme court set him back to square one..bojo is using his office like trump, and this is a carry over from our own trash being hung out for the world to see. again,a take over by money and influence,and political gain… a recent item,
    200 + groups denounce un, wef agrement that entrenches corprate intrests driving global,social and eviromental crisis…

  6. Why do so-called conservatives seem so eager to self-destruct? Is this yet another chapter in disaster economics where it takes major upheavals to allow the nefarious money grabbers to grab more, destroy more and hurt more people?

    Is our ancient sense of tribalism (read: racism) still so overwhelming that our intellect isn’t capable of overcoming it? Was it our tribalism and hoarding what allowed us to survive as a species and become this collection of raving idiots?

    There has been some ecological science that says that the Earth is really only capable of holding 3 billion humans. Now we are nearing 8 billion, the most populous mammalian species on the planet. And, as Sheila suggests, we are fucking it up….by the numbers.

  7. I have become persuaded racism and anti-immigration prejudice spring from the same instinctual depravity. “American Immigration: A Century of Racism” Sarah Churchwell in NY Review 9/26/19

  8. Russia and China are smiling over the U.K.’s self-destructive behavior. The anti-immigrant vote (hard right) is playing right into Russia’s hopes and desires for the region.

    It would make more economic sense to quit our senseless wars in the Middle East region (causation) than it would be to disrupt the E.U. (effect).

    But as Vernon’s questions suggest, when we let the hard-right control anything, it leads to self-destruction. Boris Johnson is just another Trump operating from the Fascist right. His hard Brexit will be disastrous for its citizens and businesses.

    As Plato said, “If voters become apathetic, we will be led by our inferiors.”

    We even have a word for it…Kakistocracy — a government by the least suitable citizens.

    What could their ignorance possibly do to their countries?

    We’ll soon find out in the U.K., and we point out the federal government disaster in the U.S. almost daily. Vladimir Putin must be cracking up over the self-inflicted wounds of the Western powers.

  9. I heard recently a new word – “Rebelism” it referred to the the defeated Confederacy and it’s immediate aftermath in the South. “Rebelism” acknowledged the military defeat of the Confederacy and slavery but – it was the unwillingness to accept moral defeat. One way or another through Jim Crow the South refused to accept it’s military and moral defeat as one in the same.

    What is interesting to me is the willful ignorance of voters concerning Brexit or electing President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence. These voters wanted change, however they failed to understand the total ramifications of what they were voting for. A change requires a plan or a path, neither the voters voting for Brexit or electing Agent Orange and Pastor Pence could visualize the end result except – let’s wreck what we do not like. It was political Vandalism – destroy, without the slightest clue of what happens afterward.

    As a good of example as any was the constant unrelenting efforts to destroy the ACA by the Republicans. The Republican Base cheered these efforts on. The GOP had and still have no plan for Health Care.

  10. Peggy,

    The largest numbers of those who do not vote are minorities and young people.

    Regarding the former…likely many are frightened and/or challenged overt and covert voter suppression (not to mention vicious gerrymandering). I often also wonder if Black voters overestimated what the election of Obama might mean for them…

    As for young people, they suffer horribly from a lack of civic education and our culture of celebrity. They have no idea what hard work real governing is (especially in these divided times) and many are encouraged by the social media world they live in to care more about their “brand” and having fun – they have already given up on democracy.

  11. Lester, it is hard to believe you wrote, “young people, they suffer horribly from a lack of civic education and our culture of celebrity”. You have characterized young people as mindless social media zombies.

    Perhaps you missed it- 6 million people protested this past week concerning climate. 600, 000 in Montreal alone, the pictures and videos I have seen show young people in the crowds world wide, including the USA.

    March for Our Lives, against gun violence was a student led demonstration and protest – coast to coast. What did the adults in power do – nothing of any substance.

  12. Monotonous – WADR – I neither missed them nor the 10M of them who did not vote in 2016 and the ~4M who wasted their 2016 votes on 3rd/4th parties.

    Marching is quick and easy and “fun and exciting” – voting is none of these.

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