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Weekend reading: Screw it, let’s not do it

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Good reads from around the Web.

The national disaster that is Brexit keeps delivering. This week’s barrel-scraper was outrage at a High Court ruling that Parliament must be allowed a vote before the UK can start to leave the EU.

Remember: The high-minded veneer grafted onto the murky motivation for Brexit was we must ‘take back control’ from Europe and follow our own laws.

Yet when a British court says what the British law is, the judges are called “enemies of the people” by the Daily Mail.


The Mail has been on the wrong side of history for 100 years, so no great surprise there.1

But the rest of the right-wing press also panted with fury at British law being ruled upon by British judges.

And this being Brexit, there was further nastiness.

The MailOnline was outraged at the ruling from an “openly gay” judge in repeated references it has since removed (after a backlash).

Meanwhile The Sun highlighted how some of those who brought the case to court were foreign-born.

Not that Brexit has anything to do with intolerance and xenophobia, you understand.

Let’s get elitist on their ass

I’ve had enough of this nonsense, and of arguing with Leave voters. Nine out of ten of the vocal ones online are angry and incoherent. Their vitriolic response to the High Court ruling puts me in a counter-revolutionary mood.

Can we not call the whole thing off, and leave these people to go back to shouting at cyclists?

We’re often told Brexit was a kick out against the globe-trotting London elite who run the country for their benefit.

If that’s true, then isn’t it time we pressed the Elite Mode cheat button?

Of course some Leave voters will be upset if we cancel Brexit:

  • Sovereignty-minded Leavers – By far the most respectable Brexiteers, they would be legitimately aggrieved by us wriggling out of Brexit. The hypocritical response to the High Court ruling does curb my sympathy, however.
  • Provincial protest voters – Would be angry, but I believe they’ve shot themselves in the foot with their protest vote. Brexit won’t help them.
  • Grumpy old men – Barry Blimp will be angry whatever we do. No Brexit will go far enough for him, he’d need a time machine for that. Calling off Brexit will give him something to moan about forever, besides climate change and women doing the football commentary.
  • Free-trade zealots – The vision of a Singapore-styled Britain as a privateer on the global seas of capital is sunk if we stay in the EU. But few voters want it, anyway.
  • Anti-immigration voters – Unlike some, I don’t call all these people automatically racist. Britain isn’t the biggest country in the world, there are pressures on our housing and services, and transnational migration isn’t going away. However on balance I don’t think pulling up the drawbridge unilaterally via Brexit is the best solution. Perhaps we could leverage our not leaving into a rethink on 100%-free movement?
  • Racists – Brexit won’t be enough for them.
  • Numpties – Maybe we could send them their old-fashioned blue British passports and just pretend we’d done a Brexit?
  • Pensioners – The statistics show the older you are, the more likely you voted to Leave. Drag the exit out for long enough and this problem goes away. Clever young people can then return to thinking about where in a continent of 500 million people they might want to find the love of their lives, make their home and their livelihood, and all the rest of an inheritance that’s being thrown away by Brexit.

I had a dream

Sadly, I think we will almost certainly enact some sort of Brexit. A few politicians will make principled resignations, but most blow with the wind. Populism is in the air, and even many Remain voters who were as dismayed as me about the referendum result would be aghast at it being blatantly disregarded.

Well, respect. I guess that’s the price you pay for being more reasonable than your opponents.

Just maybe though, the High Court decision could be the start of throwing enough grit into the wheels that we can trundle towards a softly softly Brexit, as opposed to the hard exit the government seems hellbent on accelerating into.

The markets appear slightly more optimistic. UK-focused shares such as banks and housebuilders soared after the High Court ruling, as rumours of their demise suddenly seemed premature. The pound rallied a tad too. There are even calls for an early General Election. (One it’s unlikely an anti-Brexit coalition would win, unfortunately, especially with Labour in such a shambles.)

I was totally wrong about the immediate impact of Brexit on the economy. Uncertainty is almost always bad news, but so far that hasn’t held (perhaps because we were doing even better than I thought before the vote, despite, you know, being “shackled” to Europe… And of course there has been the short-term boost from the Brexit-weakened pound).

But I’ve not changed my medium to long-term view that any hard Brexit would be a bad outcome for most.2 As for the social downsides, they’re escalating.

The Brexit train has left the station, but we don’t have to drive it off a cliff.

Mob handed

Were I to allow them the opportunity (I’m pretty busy this weekend, so won’t) I’d get plenty of vitriol from certain Leave voters for this post.

This despite Monevator being a personal blog, and my commentary being far milder than the rhetoric I’ve cited from national newspapers selling millions and claiming objectivity.

Of course, I’d expect a rebuttal to any suggestion we might simply note and move on from the Referendum result. That would be fair enough. It’s the frothing and foaming that isn’t.

From The Guardian:

Former ministers warned that the febrile tone of media coverage […] risked poisoning public debate.

Dominic Grieve, the Conservative former attorney general, said reading hostile coverage in the Mail and the Daily Telegraph “started to make one think that one was living in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe … I think there’s a danger of a sort of mob psyche developing – and mature democracies should take sensible steps to avoid that”.

Labour also raised concerns about the absence of a ministerial response to the media coverage.

Lord Falconer, who was lord chancellor under Labour between 2003 and 2007, said faith in the “independence and quality” of the judiciary was being undermined “by this Brexit-inspired media vitriol” in an article written for the Guardian.

Those who are quick to laud the will of ‘the people’ and wave the populist flag should at least be acquainted with the Reign of Terror, Gaius Marius and the fall of the Roman Republic, Yellow Journalism, and, well, the obvious.

And who knows, maybe the next President of the United States.

I’m turning off comments this weekend. Have a great weekend. 🙂

From the blogs

Making good use of the things that we find.

Passive investing

Active investing

  • Investors must be contrarians to outperform the market – 25iq
  • When do you give up on a stock? – Oddball Stocks
  • Deep value businesses in the FTSE 100 – The Value Perspective
  • Money is still flowing out of equities and into bonds – The Reformed Broker
  • The Mutual Fund Observer [US newsletter, but interesting]MFO

Other articles

Product of the week: The Guardian reckons Tesco’s current account is a no-brainer now Santander has halved the rate on its 123 account. Tesco pays 3% on balances up to £3,000, you can open two accounts per person, and there is no need to set up direct debits in or out.

Mainstream media money

Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber of that site.3

Passive investing

  • Bill Miller [wrongly] blames closet indexing for passive shift  – Bloomberg
  • Fund manager Bill Ackman called out closet indexing 20 years ago – Yahoo

Active investing

  • Bond yields have been rising. What does it mean? – Bloomberg
  • The inflation trade is back on in the US – Bloomberg
  • Where can stock pickers find sanctuary from inflation? – Interactive Investor

A word from a broker

Other stuff worth reading

Note: The Telegraph has now put much of its content behind a premium paywall, and the Google search trick doesn’t get around it. So far fewer Telegraph links for the foreseeable, unfortunately.

  • The Motley Fool is closing its UK discussion boards – Motley Fool
  • More on new build leaseholders facing ludicrous ground rent bills – Guardian
  • Abolish these 20 taxes and help the poor, claims the IEA – City A.M.
  • P2P platform Funding Circle saves savers from themselves [Search result]FT
  • Merryn: Tax crackdown shows nobody defends the wealthy [Search result]FT
  • New green energy ISA targets 6% a year, but the 20-year term is huge – Guardian
  • Homes for sale in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty – Guardian
  • Should you set up a limited company to house your buy-to-lets? – ThisIsMoney
  • Five-year house price predictions from Savills – ThisIsMoney and Guardian
  • Your company gives you shares? Great! Sell them – Barrons
  • Let’s get back on point with feminism, says contrarian voice – Vox

Book of the week: To celebrate a decade blogging, US investment manager and thinker Meb Faber has made all his e-books free for a week. I was pleased to see the gesture has jumped across the channel to the UK, and by my reckoning you’ve still got a couple of days to get download them from Amazon. (Note: Obviously it’s only the Kindle versions that are free. Check the price before ordering!)

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every week!

  1. Incidentally, I’ve had multiple emails over the years from people telling me to stop deriding The Guardian. Don’t worry, it’ll be their turn again soon. []
  2. The downside of the weak pound will be hitting us soon, for starters. It being cheaper to fly to Canada to buy a Mac could be just the beginning. []
  3. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []