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Weekend reading: Something In the Way

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What caught my eye this week.

Families respond to tragedy and upheaval in different ways.

Histrionics. Denial. A chance to air old grievances. An opportunity for a clean break with the past.

In my family we’re tactically jovial but strategically gloomy. We’ll laugh on the way to the hospital – and invariably with the patient. But we’ll gameplay the worst on the drive home or on WhatsApp.

Among my clan of brooding pessimists, I’ve inherited the file marked Worst Case Scenarios from my father.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as personally content with his life as my dad seemed to be.

But boy, could he strategize like a 1950s Cold Warrior gaming out nuclear Armageddon.

When he passed it fell to me to be my family’s wartime consigliere – if not its walking, talking memento mori.

Whether it’s packing a raincoat for a summer holiday, doubling down on life assurance, or accelerating a long haul visit to a sickening relative, I’m always ready to make the case for the downside.

I could therefore relate to Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey this week when he followed his upper-cut of a 0.5% interest rate rise – itself the largest for 27 years – with an economic forecast that amounted to a kick in the balls.

Britain is to enter recession in autumn, we were warned, and it’s going to last more than a year.

Oh, and despite that hiking of interest rates, inflation will still hit 13% anyway.

As someone who is genetically wired to expect the worst and be surprised by the best, I take this as little more than a ruffle in the hair from my dad at the backdoor with a gentle “stay safe”.

But it seems to have thrown the country at large into convulsions.

The Man Who Sold the World

If I linked to all the different takes in response to Andrew Bailey’s portents, this article would resemble an old-school link farm and Monevator would go into Google’s naughty box.

But fire up your search browser and sniff around and you’ll find:

  • Those who think Bailey is being wantonly pessimistic, scaring us for no good reason.
  • Many who think he’s anyway making it worse by raising rates.
  • Others (including some of the above) who still think he should have raised rates earlier.
  • People – including politicians – who superstitiously believe what you say comes true and so damn him for his gloom.
  • Left-wing activists who believe we should continue spending money like its 2020 to keep us out of the imminent downturn.
  • Right-wing activists – and a Tory leadership candidate – who believe we should cut taxes and let inflation rip to keep us out of the imminent downturn.

And that’s just a taster of the range of the contradictory responses.

I doubt Bailey entered Bank of England governing to become Mr Popular. But like this he’s cast himself as the macro-economic equivalent of reality TV’s Naughty Nick.

Everyone can now boo when he appears on the screen. If we didn’t have the Lionesses to bring us a rare moment of national unity, at least we’d have the Bank of England, eh?

All Apologies

I am more sympathetic than most to Bailey’s plight.

The Bank of England has no good choices. It’s tasked with solving a problem that’s mostly not of its making and that anyway it hasn’t got a great solution to.

Many people seem to have forgotten we’ve just lived through a pandemic that saw vast chunks of the economy switched off, untold billions borrowed on the never-never, money sent to millions of workers to pay them to stay at home ordering goods off Amazon – and that as recently as this spring the world’s workshop, China, was back in idle mode.

I warned in our debates at the time that it was fanciful to imagine you could turn off our finely-tuned just-in-time economic system without, at least, seeing the machine splutter and judder when you switched it back on.

Yet I was equally surprised by how well the economy shape-shifted to (ongoing) working from home – and also by the success of those expensive furlough schemes in entirely warding off skyrocketing unemployment.

Take a moment to add all this up. Billions of workers and millions of factories randomly turning on and off for weeks on end. Immense fiscal transfers. Formerly obscure economic sectors – from baking sourdough to gambling on tech stocks – blossoming in lockdown, then wilting on reopening. The millions who never lost their jobs competing with everyone else for a suddenly limited supply of goods and then later a resurgent demand for services. All this over just two years.

You could even add in some black market mystery. I suspect there’s an untold story of extra economic activity outside of the tax system during the pandemic that may not have quite abated, and that is still distorting the numbers.

And people are surprised we’re not back to a 1990s Goldilocks economy?

Drain You

Then of course there’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The surge in a broad swathe of commodity prices that followed Putin’s Hail Mary Risk play has eased. But energy remains a crisis.

That’s especially true in Europe – including the UK – which has been rudely woken up from a daydream of conflicting energy policies. You know, gorging on fossil fuels bought from an autocrat who has admitted he wants to redraw your borders even while you close down nuclear reactors – and all the while fretting about climate change. That sort of thing.

To cap it all, I’ve long expected a tougher time ahead for Britain, thanks to our self-inflicted Brexit.

I was already using the dreaded word ‘stagflation’ in June 2021 when higher inflation seemed a certainty. However I wasn’t confident then about a recession.

But early this year the Russian invasion – and the start of quantitative tightening – put the boot in.

The Bank of England is pinning the blame squarely on soaring energy bills. With the cap on bills expected to hit £3,500 in October, who can blame them?

All the money that goes into heating and lighting our homes can’t be spent elsewhere in the economy. A slowdown is inevitable.

The Bank has nothing to gain from wading into politics. But of course our politics makes it worse.

Lithium

Counterfactual scenarios can be fanciful alternate realities that tell you more about their author than the real-world.

Mine are obviously no different.

But such scenarios are also a safe-space for imagining how things could be different. They provide a lens to seeing where you’ve possibly gone wrong. And perhaps what you might do about it.

As an open economy with an aging population, the UK was never going to escape a ravaging from the Covid pandemic. But our politics over the past six years has made our plight worse.

The sheer cost of the upheaval and distraction of Brexit is impossible to calculate. The slump in inward investment and the de-rating of our equity market is less controversial.

Most countries face post-pandemic staffing problems. But ours are worse, given we switched off the potential free movement of millions overnight. The friction and cost at our borders is also now beyond doubt.

Some readers will groan at me bringing all this up again. Get used to it. I understand it’s hard even for the ambivalent not to be bored, but these consequences are not magically going away.

They will incrementally make our economy weaker. They will cause us more pain, by curbing our freedom of action.

Dumb

Indeed it’s interesting to compare today with the years following the financial crisis.

Despite being whacked as hard as anyone due to our enormous financial sector, the UK – and especially London – prospered, relatively-speaking, in the post-crash years.

Talent and money flowed in, for good and ill.

At worse, we saw dark money from dubious Russians bidding up the price of Mayfair properties.

But at best we saw hundreds of thousands of bright people leave the slower-growing and crisis-stricken economies of Europe to seek their fortunes here.

I watched an entire sector – Fintech – basically built on the brains of bright newcomers to the UK.

But there is much less chance of us creating a new Revolut or Transferwise this time around, given Britain’s plunging attractions to overseas talent:

Source: Financial Times

I suppose this was one of the aims of our leaving the EU. Job done I guess.

But when your country is less appealing to talent than Saudi Arabia you know you’ve got a fight on.

Meanwhile the candidates for our next un-elected Prime Minister continue to simply whistle to their hardcore voters as if none of this was happening.

The Tory party membership is an electorate who thinks Dunning-Kruger is a dodgy German wine. I don’t say the loons on the far-left of the Labour party would be any better, but the fact is right now it’s a brotherhood of Blimps who will determine our political response over the next few years.

Curb your enthusiasm accordingly.

Territorial Pissings

Before one of the dwindling band of Brexit ultras pipes up, I’m definitely not blaming our general economic situation on their glorious project.

Yes we’ve hobbled ourselves with a self-inflicted knee-capping. But these troubles are global.

Some countries are doing better than others – although nobody’s politics reflects that.

The various factions of the US chattering classes for example are continuing to tear themselves to shreds. But I’d rather have its economic problems than ours.

The US is self-sufficient for energy (and much else) for starters. But also, its equally unpredictable economic recovery seems to me more like a car checking its speed after coming too fast off the freeway than a vehicle running off the road.

Yes, the US just saw two quarters of negative economic growth. But it also just added another 500,000 jobs to its workforce, which is now larger than before Covid.

With recessions like that, who needs a boom?

I jest, a bit. We’ve been doing well for jobs, too. Also just like the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve faces the same difficulty of raising interest rates to tackle inflation caused by utterly indifferent factors – supply chains, war, the hangover from Covid support – and again in the face of widespread hostility.

So while I fancy its chances better than ours, the US definitely has challenges. And unlike ours, its response will continue to reverberate around the world, especially via interest rates.

Particularly infuriating are the popular US commentators who condemned the Fed for talking about rate rises earlier – who said they’d prefer to see inflation run hot, and more QE if needed, and an end to boom-and-bust – who now chastise the same Fed for being too late!

Peak central banker was definitely 20 years ago.

Negative Creep

For my part I don’t have any great answers. I mostly have more questions.

To stick with the gloomy theme, for example, where are – or rather aren’t – all the people who died during the pandemic in the economic discussion?

We lost a quarter of a million souls to Covid in the UK. The US more than a million. But you rarely (ever?) hear anyone factoring in their loss into their economic deliberations.

Perhaps now the emotional intensity has died down, there is an acceptance that Covid’s victims were not those whose loss would cause the most upheaval in pure economic terms. (I got hate email for saying so early in the pandemic).

Even more controversially, perhaps the excess deaths from Covid weren’t so excessive on a two-year view? (Very probably not).

Then there’s the question of how we reshape our economies after the huge changes wrought by working from home for years, and an avowed desire for de-globalization.

Finally, there’s the musical chairs of the workforce.

I’ve used the analogy of a machine juddering in fits and starts back into life to explain why I’m not surprised to see the economy so unsettled.

Similarly, I think of the workforce via a sporting analogy of a ‘man out of position’. People just aren’t where they would be optimally if the pandemic hadn’t happened, both geographically and skills-wise.

In some places this is obvious: think struggling NHS wards and broken airports.

But in other places much less so – until you look at, for example, programmer salaries rocketing earlier this year.

All of these factors will take time to resolve themselves.

Come As You Are

I’ve been accused by some readers of being too gloomy for the better part of a year, albeit mostly regarding the market.

I appreciate I won’t have brightened anyone’s Saturday morning with this missive, either.

However we are where we are. Fatten your emergency funds, keep investing, stay usefully employed if you can. Things will get better eventually.

Heck, if you need to then by all means look on the bright side.

Things could definitely be worse. Covid could have turned out to preferentially kill 20-somethings with children. Unemployment might have surged. Policymakers could have hesitated and withheld relief for workers, plunging us into a depression.

A bleak way to cheer up? Again I’m a wartime consigliere. Don’t come to me for faith healing.

Of course I’ve known families who approach the worst in completely the opposite way to mine.

They refuse to talk about a fatal prognosis, say, except in short bursts of stony-faced indifference with doctors. Back on the ward in visiting hours, they’re waving holiday brochures under the nose of their unfortunate – and unconscious – relative.

There’s an upside to that sort of insurmountable optimism. And miracles do happen.

How about we split the difference and settle for muddling through?

Have a great weekend – and to conclude on-brand, try not to think about how this glorious weather is causing the worst drought for a century…

(Wait, come back!)

From Monevator

CAPE ratio by country: how to find and use stock market valuation data  – Monevator

Historical UK house prices – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Personal time management for fun and profit – Monevator

News

Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Bank of England hikes rates by 0.5% to 1.75%, warns of imminent year or more recession – Sky News

UK house prices fall for the first time in 13 months says Halifax – Reuters

Eight-day strike by Felixstowe dockers expected to disrupt UK supply chain – Guardian

Economically inactive Britons with long Covid have doubled in a year says ONS – Guardian

Again, this is not the time to abandon bonds – Vanguard

Products and services

Ofgem to review energy price cap every three months – Which

Santander offering £160 bribe to switch current account, plus £70 cashback on energy bills – ThisIsMoney

Do supermarket cashback apps really save you money? – Be Clever With Your Cash

Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor

How do the Virgin Money and Natwest ‘buy now pay later’ schemes compare? – Which

Thousands of UK households cancel Netflix or Amazon Prime as the cost of living soars – Guardian

American Express offers biggest ever sign-up bonus on new Platinum credit card – ThisIsMoney

Large homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

Ways to spend money that people say brings them joy – Flow FP

What would you do if you were rich? – Darius Foroux

How buffer assets might help you navigate retirement return risks – Retirement Researcher

In praise of Wall Street – Morningstar

Is it time to sell stocks? – Fortunes & Frictions

How to make better decisions: extract from Buy This, Not ThatGet Rich Slowly

The only investing decisions that matter – Banker on FIRE

The price of admission – A Wealth of Common Sense

Getting to happy – Humble Dollar

Why have UK tech companies chosen Nasdaq? It’s not just about money [Search result]FT

Gold and TIPS yields are strongly correlated, but you shouldn’t care – MarketWatch

Equities do hedge against changing inflation expectations [PDF, nerdy]SSRN

Crypt o’ crypto

How a crypto developer faked a DeFi ecosystem – Coindesk

Latest heists shows crypto has a ‘hack me’ sign on its back – Protocol

Microstrategy shares surge as Michael Saylor moves to full-time Bitcoin role – CoinDesk

Naughty corner: Active antics

Investors grow frustrated with hedge funds after historic losses [Search result]FT

An interview with Fundsmith founder Terry Smith [Podcast]Master Investor

High-yield spreads suggest the bear market probably isn’t done yet – Verdad

Rare, fun interview with old-line value manager Richard de Lisle [Podcast] – via Apple

How Scottish Mortgage Trust values its unlisted holdings – Baillie Gifford

Someone has collated all Peter Lynch’s 1990s investment columns [PDF] – via Link

You are a better investor than you think you are – The Onveston Letter

Kindle book bargains

The Ride of a Lifetime by [long-time Disney CEO] Bob Iger – £0.99 on Kindle

Anthro-Vision: How Anthropology Can Explain Business and Life by Gillian Tett – £0.99 on Kindle

Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing by Jacob Goldstein – £1.19 on Kindle

Simple Savings Hacks for a Happy Life by Holly Smith – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

UK rivers on ‘red alert’ as water firms face calls for more hosepipe bans – Guardian

The big business of burying carbon – Wired

Is water cremation the sustainable future of processing our remains? – Smithsonian

Be yourself mini-special

The single best career decision you can make – Ryan Holiday

Reject the algorithm – Of Dollars and Data

You are always the other person – Raptitude

Improve your life with the 80/20 rule – Art of Manliness

Off our beat

Only a complacent country like the UK could give up its border privilege so easily – Guardian

Did we all believe a myth about depression? – BBC

And finally…

“There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
– John von Neumann, The Man from the Future

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{ 67 comments… add one }
  • 1 Mr Optimistic August 6, 2022, 12:07 pm

    I wish you would stop trying to cheer me up !
    Not sure about worst drought in a century though. Seem to remember they created a Minister for Drought in the 70’s, presumably 1976, and guess what, the next day it rained.
    Weather does seem to be more ‘sticky’ than it used to be, patterns just stay stuck.
    Perhaps the same with economics ? Two years ago we had intractable deflationary forces, inflation please come back ! And now……

  • 2 xxd09 August 6, 2022, 12:11 pm

    Gosh what a cheery way to end the week!
    This is just another downturn as per the human condition-and will pass in time
    It’s actually the normal state of affairs
    An investor should be prepared accordingly-my passive portfolio seems to have bottomed out and is starting to climb back slowly-bear market rally?
    Starting to make some money on my cash position
    Possibly there is too much reading of the Guardian going on here? -a perennial pessimistic paper at the moment especially with the Tories in power !
    I have time luckily being retired to be able read across the total spectrum of the Fourth Estate-from Breitbart,FoxNews,Telegraph,Times,Guardian Independent etc
    What a diverse biased bunch they are with the Truth somewhere in there to be ferreted out by the reader
    I am currently impressed by the performance of the British Empire sorry British Commonwealth Games-72 countries represented including 2 French ones!
    Packed stadiums-wonderful happy atmosphere
    Makes you proud of our country!
    Hoping to cheer you up!
    xxd09

  • 3 Betta Investor August 6, 2022, 12:17 pm

    I do wish commentators would refer to the Bell Curve and standard deviations when refering to unusual weather events.
    They happen, they are expected to happen. An average does not mean that the temperature or the rainfall is the same every year.

  • 4 BBlimp August 6, 2022, 12:25 pm

    It’s only on here that the brexiteers are dwindling 😉

    A bit like when we cam first in the European elections and gave the no dealers an 80 seat majority after years of remainers convincing themselves the bbc had it right… anyone who spends time with Leavers know we’re happy with the result.

    Next time your assessment of uk house prices comes up please check uk growth to eurozone or eu growth from this point to then… I’m willing to bet we slide in comfortably. That doesn’t tally with the single market being a driver of prosperity.

    Because it’s not.

  • 5 ZXSpectrum48k August 6, 2022, 12:43 pm

    I’m not a fan of Bailey as Governor. He has a regulatory background when we needed someone who understood inflation. I think it’s an error not to have an inflation specialist as governor since it’s their primary mandate.

    It’s not fair though to blame the central banks. Yes, they were too late raising rates but every inflation scare in the last decade has proved a mirage, so when the real thing did come along, they were likely to be late and cautious.

    The issue is really that we have to pay an economic price for COVID. We can pay that price through many channels. Currency devaluation, inflation, asset price deflation. Take your choice but the piper needs to be paid.

    Where we really went wrong was by being too slow to reopen in 2021. The reason to close down the economy was to buy time for vaccine/therapeutics. Once we had them we needed to drop the emergency measures. We really went overboard with the continued fiscal transfer from public to the private sector in 2021.

    This is one thing that really bothers me. Everyone is talking about the cost of living crisis and asking for huge wage hikes. It seems the public wants to be bailed out yet again but doesn’t mention that they made a killing in 2020/21. Private sectors savings went through the roof in 2020, asset prices exploded higher, so in aggregate, households are sitting on massive gains from COVID. The public doesn’t need another bailout. We need a nasty recession to rebalance.

  • 6 The Investor August 6, 2022, 12:45 pm

    @BBlimp — Afternoon. Well I did say “Brexit Ultras”. When even top Brexiteer Daniel Hannon is admitting we should have stayed in the Single Market, you know the faintest glimmer of reality is getting in.

    And he’s far from the only one changing their tune: https://twitter.com/Monevator/status/1554438853179621376

    Of course I expect most Leavers are still happy with the result.

    You voted for nothing good. You got it. Job done!

  • 7 Rui N. August 6, 2022, 12:51 pm

    Smells Like Teen Spirit in here

  • 8 Mr Optimistic August 6, 2022, 1:31 pm

    The sangfroid of markets is very surprising. However I did wonder if this time it is a bit different. If a recession is expected then you would anticipate equities to fall – not least because you think everyone else will do the same and sell. But where do you put the money ? The relationship between the rate of inflation and interest rates is nowhere like what it has been in past inflationary episodes, so more future hikes can be imagined and so put bond prices at risk.
    In terms of equities, is TINA still buying the drinks ?

  • 9 MN August 6, 2022, 1:38 pm

    “…there’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “But early this year the Russian invasion…”
    Haven’t you had the subliminal messaging memo? It’s supposed to be consistently referred to as an “unprovoked” Russian invasion.

  • 10 JABA August 6, 2022, 2:02 pm

    Just finished reading Peter Zeihan’s book The Accidental Superpower. TI you’re going to have to up your game if you want to produce a truly gloomy outlook, compared to that.

    It was a fascinating read, really enjoyed it, learned a lot, and was impressed with his prediction that Russia would need to invade Ukraine by 2022, in order to have a chance to survive as a country longer term.

    It also speaks to many of the themes above. The world is de-globalising. The boomers retiring. Demographics don’t look good for most of the world. Economics is going to be turned on its head. Hello recession and labour shortage at the same time. Inflation is going to be high and around for longer, as supply chains are brought back (closer) to home.

    Throw out everything we think we know about how the world works, as a new one will emerge, if we’re lucky enough to survive to 2030.

    As an active investor already heavily allocated to US equities and USD, not sure much changes in my portfolio, if his predictions were to be accurate, but still pondering.

  • 11 NwIan August 6, 2022, 2:32 pm

    Appreciated the Nirvana theme, what’s next for these troubling times? Radiohead?

  • 12 Neverland August 6, 2022, 2:37 pm

    The disconnect between Sunak and Truss taking about when to do tax cuts and the bottom quarter of the income distribution being expected to choose between heating and eating this winter is quite surreal. It will be an interesting couple of years

  • 13 Hefty Toe August 6, 2022, 3:57 pm

    I’m not convinced you’re a pessimist/cynic! Didn’t you invest or are still invested in Tesla? That takes oodles of optimism and the ability to ignore/downplay the commentary re Tesla’s governance/accounting practices, Musk’s honesty, the heroic valuation etc.

  • 14 Griff August 6, 2022, 4:12 pm

    Seem to remember not having central heating, double glazing or even bed quilts as a kid, and we got by, I will switch the boiler of if necessary. Get rid of the green levy get fracking and fire up the coal fired powerstations. Easy peasy. As for Brexit I was on the winning team, still no regrets we shall see how it pans out.

  • 15 Warren August 6, 2022, 4:17 pm

    Here are my musings…
    So the low tax conservatives spent £324 billion protecting the elderly from Covid, why do they not subsidise energy prices for everyone, forecast is now £4,500 pa by March?
    Higher interest rates equals more money out of the economy to pay higher mortgage rates.
    As for the NHS, surely immigration requirements can be relaxed to get the 200,000 vacancies filled? Maybe they worry that this will lose them the Brexit voters!
    Surely, if the government is refusing to soften the Brexit position, why doesn’t it go all in with low corporation tax to make the UK attractive for foreign investment?

  • 16 Neverland August 6, 2022, 4:28 pm

    @Griff

    “I was on the winning team” there is no winning team, just the slow dawning that actions have consequences. Welcome to “love island” sequel “poor island”

  • 17 BBlimp August 6, 2022, 5:35 pm

    @warren Immigration has risen since 2016, not fallen. There is a big wide world outside of the Eu you know.

  • 18 Warren August 6, 2022, 6:12 pm

    If immigration has increased our new neighbours do not seem minded to join the NHS or fill roles in the social care sector wherever they have come from in the big wide world outside the EU.

  • 19 Ducknald Don August 6, 2022, 6:30 pm

    @Warren Probably because it will just make the situation worse, any extra money the government spends on supporting people will end up in the pockets of the energy companies and in more inflation.

    @Griff Our reliance on oil and gas from despotic states has caused us problems for decades and that’s before we even start to look at the costs of climate change. Hopefully this shock will be the push we need to unshackle ourselves from fossil fuels.

    On the subject of Brexit the Brexiteers have been very lucky that they have had Covid to hide behind, without that the news would have been clear. Although it is there if you care to look.

    To be fair to Daniel Hannon he was always in favour of a Norway type arrangement although I can’t see what possible benefits that offered over staying in.

  • 20 xeny August 6, 2022, 7:18 pm

    @Ducknald Don re energy pricing – bingo – the crazy prices are essentially saying there is more demand than supply, so demand has to fall. Subsidising the consumer will simply result in higher prices being needed to destroy enough demand, so they would be subsidies to energy suppliers rather in the way Help to Buy is a homebuilder subsidy.

    Cheerily I saw a blog post hinting that UK, Belgium, Norway, France etc were all anticipating relying on inflow across interconnects to cover periods of peak demand.

    Comedy will presumably ensue in the _unlikely_ event those periods should coincide. In a way the analysis reminded me of 2008 and CDOs.

  • 21 BBlimp August 6, 2022, 7:44 pm

    @Ducknold – that’s exactly what Nick Clegg has been trying to tell us ! Big tech has abandoned brexit Britain !

  • 22 Christine August 6, 2022, 10:17 pm

    This cheered me up immensely, because only you, TI, could connect two of my favourite things (personal finance and Nirvana) so seamlessly.

  • 23 JimJim August 7, 2022, 6:25 am

    A lot of the argument is dependent upon the inter-reliance of everything on the planet.
    De-globalisation – breaking inter-reliance
    Fuel shortage – highlighting inter-reliance
    Brexit – breaking inter-reliance (or control depending upon your viewpoint)
    NHS shortages – inter-reliance on skilled labour

    Besides Brexit being the worst Python sketch in history – and the least funny (What has Brexit ever done for us?) – Perhaps when we embrace this inter-reliance the world moves forwards. Provided we can govern it to move forward fairly then perhaps we can avoid conflict.
    JimJim

  • 24 gary August 7, 2022, 9:01 am

    Thanks again – great links as always

    I don’t mind you bringing up Brexit as it is obviously still an important topic for you, that still makes you annoyed / frustrated etc. So you shouldn’t feel to apologise!

    But to be honest, I tend to skip it because the decision is history and I am more interested in the future and how to adapt to a changing world.

    I am actually very optimistic for the future, and that’s probably down to my dna as per yours. I’ve worked in technical and science innovation / R&D foremost of my life, and have high confidence that technology will help mankind as it has in the past. Governments are the problem though, as always were!

    Have a good weekend.

  • 25 hosimpson August 7, 2022, 9:02 am

    A pleasurable read indeed, thank you. I do very much enjoy me some gallows humour on a Sunday morning. Now I can go hack to my copy of Why Nations Fail 😉

    “where are – or rather aren’t – all the people who died during the pandemic in the economic discussion? We lost a quarter of a million souls to Covid in the UK”

    I have a theory about that, and it has to do with the missing 500k workers. I think In addition to Brexit there’s an inheritance windfall that’s curbing the workforce. Most of those who died of COVID were old many of them in care homes. Their children, themselves no spring chucks, inherited the money that was earmarked for their parents’ old age care, and realised that, added to their existing pensions, it could finance early retirement / semi-retirement. The evidence I’m seeing is, obviously, anecdotal, but it is real.

  • 26 Bewto August 7, 2022, 9:28 am

    I love a good brexit rant myself (remainer). But let’s not forget why folks in my part of the world (midlands) voted to leave the EU – i speak to them most days in my line of work. Unrestricted migration of low skilled labour from Eastern Europe artificially keeps wages low, increasing the gap yet again between rich and poor, north and south. I’d be angry too if i were a plumber.

  • 27 The Investor August 7, 2022, 10:29 am

    Thanks for the comments all. A few quick points as I’ve had my long say above… 😉

    As we’ve discussed I don’t think being in the EU kept wages excessively low except for a small minority (out of several studies, the only research that found any impact said it slightly impacted the bottom 10% — the rest of the research found none) and certainly not plumbers. I agree the perception was a motivation, however.

    When the slow leak in GDP since post-official-Brexit has added up over 10 years to leave us, say, 10-20% poorer as a nation than we would have been, then we can do the maths again on whether those folks made the right decision even for themselves.

    Given the way the Tory leadership candidates are debating about cutting taxes, spending, and support, I think we can already see that it will be those (like me, ironically, and most of us on this website) at the other end of the spectrum who will be best placed not to be hurt by Brexit. Not the poor, whose well-being is (and will increasingly be) tied to state support. 😐

    Re: Optimism/pessimism, I am very optimistic about technology and to a lesser extent law/ethics/arts. I don’t think people change much at all though. Probably zero change.

    We are basically Romans or Greeks or Persians in jeans and Adiddas trainers. Technology / learning is what separates us culturally and through more enlightened social codes, made possible/feasible by the abundance of wealth/goods created by capitalism and to a lesser-extent social progress (e.g. more people owning property and avoiding subsidence poverty, more kinds of people (women, minorities) being able to contribute to work/growth/progress, less threat of appropriation by the strong or the state). It just takes a war, particularly a civil war, to see we’re still the same old human beings inside.

    I find it easier to be optimistic as an investor (a) because long-run statistics/history tells you that’s been the better bet (equities versus bonds) and (b) it’s easier to diversify a portfolio of shares than, say, a marriage or a nation (e.g. Remainers and Leavers having to share the same island/society, after the latter booted us out of a more diverse and larger whole with more options) and (c) I have a good feel for general probabilities, so feel the risks/downsides of a portfolio of shares is more manageable.

    But people, pfft!

    As @ZXSpectrum48K frequently reminds us here, the clustering of traits of Remainers and Leavers was very evident from the Ashcroft polling:

    https://lordashcroftpolls.com/2019/03/a-reminder-of-how-britain-voted-in-the-eu-referendum-and-why/

    As you’ll see if you scroll down, as a bloc Leavers overwhelmingly (not *all*, as I have to say every time for the offended) think multiculturism, the green movement, feminism, social liberalism, and globalization have all been forces for ill.

    In their more extreme forms, based purely on this poll, they’d like to live in nuclear families with the woman making dinner — or at least earning less money — in overwhelmingly white towns choking with factory soot and acid rain. They’d like to see reports on the news of famous gay people being outed and sent to prison.

    They apparently look at progress in these areas as an ill, which is mind-boggling to me. (Or else they take it for granted in a sort of thoughtless manner, which based on some of their comments on Monevator is at least as likely).

    I understand being fearful of more change, and I have some sympathy with the view that social change (and migratory change for that matter) was/is being pushed too far or better too fast in the past 10-20 years for society to broadly keep up.

    But to think that such stuff already in place — the progress that, as I said, is what separates us from slave-owning Romans (and more Brexit-voters would have been slaves or peasants, demographically speaking, judging by who voted for it) *has been* a force for ill is jarring to me. And it’s at least as frustrating as more hassle at the airport or more expensive goods due to trade barriers.

    You find yourself having to stop yourself thinking (and I do stop myself) that people who believe this sort of thing aren’t really fit to make important decisions in 2022.

    For their part, they see a Polish supermarket on the High Street and a gay politician saying it’d be a good thing if we curbed fossil fuel use so their petrol bill is going to go up, and they wonder what the world is coming to and who is making these decisions for them?

    It’s classically the stuff of civil war, unfortunately, as I’ve said before, which is why I have my low-probability bug-out plan.

    That’s not hysterical, it’s happened many MANY times in human history when there’s been big cultural divides emerging like this.

    The only good thing I believe that can/could have come out of Brexit would be to let some steam out of these tensions, and maybe allowed something of a reset. But then you hear Brexiteers still being angry about everything despite their ‘victory’ and David Davis claiming it was a ‘Remainers Brexit’ and such hope evaporates.

  • 28 BBlimp August 7, 2022, 11:35 am

    @TI – I’m not willing to concede your last comment, and I’m sure you exaggerated for artistic effect – but let’s say you were right, in what was does remaining or leaving the EU effect civil rights ?

    The EU has been great for workers rights, everyone knows that, because it’s basically a cartel for lazy people to slowly decline against the outside world

    But when it comes to liberalism;

    – at the time of the EU referendum six EU nations didn’t allow gays to serve in the armed forces

    – France has an active far right party which is large and growing in size, from which the president may well hail from one day

    – Italy has a far right party as part of the governing coalition

    -Spain appeared to use its police to beat protesters and then imprison political enemies of the govt during the Catalan referendums

    The EU was unsurprising silent on all the above

    -If you genuinely think membership of the EU is protecting gays in Hungary there’s not a lot of point of discussing this further

    The EU wasn’t silent on this, but helpless to do anything, as it’s a toothless tiger. It cannot even influence the states it subsidises, goodness knows how you expect it to influence Russia or China. Shopping superpower.

    I think sometimes people wrapping themselves in the eu flag bemoaning how leavers sit around watching dads army all day should just consider the above a bit more closely.

    Nick Clegg’s had the good grace to realise he was wrong about tech investment… when do remainers realise the EU doesn’t actually protect their rights. Ask Catalan politicians or gay Hungarians.

  • 29 The Investor August 7, 2022, 12:30 pm

    @bblimp — Thank for the benefit Of the doubt and you’re right, there are two issues being conflated there.

    I’m not saying being in or out the EU per se is a big determinant of U.K. civil liberties, at least not so far. (We’ll see if efforts to escape the European Court of Human Rights etc is the thin end of the wedge, let alone Rwanda processing etc.)

    I was more talking about the clustering of wants/fears as revealed by the Ashcroft poll and almost any casual interaction with the remain/leave factions as a group.

    I’m happy to give you the benefit of the doubt too. After we moved past our early sparring you seem an eminently sensible and decent bloke, albeit a bit confused about economics 😉

    I’ve always said there was a minority of such in Leave, especially the constitutionalists.*

    However like most such you do shy away from the alliance that got you your win, imho.

    *If anyone wants a pen portrait of the atmosphere at the million strong Remain March, which was a jamboree, versus the pathetic Leave ‘celebration’ of a few tens of thousands in Trafalgar Sq, roughly half of whom were seemingly football hooligans looking for a fight, just shout.

    And don’t tell me there was no need for a party for Leavers because they’d won. Everything from D-Day celebrations to a routine football team parade on a bus gives lie to that.

    There was no party because most people who voted Leave actually don’t care that much, and kicked us out for nothing.

  • 30 Seeking Fire August 7, 2022, 2:01 pm

    Godwin’s law = Brexit law 🙂

    It’s really hard to see in the current format any economic benefit from Brexit. I recommend reading William Waldegrave’s three circles into one, which outlines the various future options being (a) rejoin EU (b) hug the US (c) deregulate aggressively to be Singapore on Thames (d) become a happy mid tier country (Canada, Australia).

    The regulatory side is equally tricky – witness the latest idea of letting motorists drive an HGV without an additional license. I’m not sure, I like the idea of letting a 17 year old bomb up and down the motorway in a lorry when I’m on the road:). The problem is most people hate the regulation in place until you think about the consequences of taking it away.

    I don’t fancy the UK becoming even more of a lackey of the US and Waldegrave seems (for a remainer) curiously light on how to achieve the Canada / Auz option given they are pretty resource based economies.

    Obviously without CVID / UKR the impact would be clearer, we’d be a bit poorer each year but those who voted for constitutional reasons (I almost did and would still be on the fence if the vote was tomorrow) would say it’s worth it etc.

    The issue being with CVID / UKR the economic situation has got a lot more problematic and urgent.

    We’ve spent the last few weeks taking what steps we can to mitigate against possible electrical and gas power cuts over the winter and would recommend others do the same. It’s probably <10% probability but the impact of having no power / heating for any part of the winter is severe enough to take some action if one can. There's not much we are able to do tbh.

    Until the electorate is willing to face up to the issues the problems will continue to exacerbate and it's almost irrelevant who is in govt. At least we're not alone – plenty of other european countries in a similar position.

    It makes financial independence even more urgent / pressing…….

    Had a good friend round for dinner last night, his mother has just had an emergency spinal operation to remove crushed discs. Obviously done privately as the NHS wait list was a laughable 12-18 months. Anyone who is relying on the NHS because they don't want to save for private health care (if they can do it) is bonkers imho.

    For people at the lower end of society, life is going to continue to get harder. Put the hundreds of thousands of young people doing pointless degrees funded by student loans into that bracket too.

    But no worries, if you are reading this blog you are probably in a position to sing along with Bono and say well thank god tonight it's them instead of you…

    On more mundane matters, presumably the (bear market??) rally has confused people – I know I wasn't expecting the pleasant rise in my portfolio over the last few months. It really does show how pointless it is for most people in trying to market time – in my mind that's more critical than being passive or active (per last week) – it's time in the market that's key, not timing the market

  • 31 Boltt August 7, 2022, 2:27 pm

    @seeking fire

    I’m not very optimistic either.

    1-We don’t have enough adults paying tax
    2-The Percentile of adults who pay less in taxes than they receive in “benefits/education/NHS /£300k pension etc” much be 75%+
    3-our expectations exceeds our desire to work – how many job vacancies?
    4- concerns about stating the obvious is many areas! Why cant people take on more hours or an additional part time job (like many of us used to)
    5- we seem to be living a lifestyle most of us can’t afford and probably don’t deserve (a bug out plan may be a sensible thing)
    6- victimhood and expectations that the govt will pay for everything….

    Pretty grim stuff.

    On the plus side, returning out driving licences to pre 1997 status seems very sensible (ie 7.5 tonnes) – it’s hard to argue drivers are worse, especially since passing your test is equivalent difficulty to getting a 2:1 degree

    In 1994 I lived in the north in a council house – single glazed, no central heating, inch thick ice on the windows during winter. Perhaps Putin has a point we’ve become soft…

    Hopefully I’ll cheer up soon

    B

  • 32 trufflehunt August 7, 2022, 4:01 pm

    Actually, I’m quite partial to some German wine, Lidl’s Mosel Riesling is a particular favey of mine. It’s quite easy to sneer, but long ago, a Berni rump steak, chips, button mushrooms, and a bread roll, with a glass of Liebfraumilch… was my introduction to the effluent wine-drinking classes. And jolly enjoyable it was too. Made a change from my single person’s ( aka still living like a student ) diet of takeaway fish suppers, pie and chips, Chinese takeaways, and when absolutely forced to use the 2 ring Belling in my bedsit…. a Vesta curry.

    And rather a lot of so called ‘far left’ policies seem to be coming about, in other names, by the government with no other choice,due to the downsides of their own dogmas and ideologies.

    I’d be surprised if Colonel Blimp is the arbiter of policy over the next few years.  The prevailing scenario that seems to be dawning in general consciousness is that the government is out on its feet, eating itself with internal, and public, wrangling.
    Not long now till the next lot, whoever they may be.

  • 33 ermine August 7, 2022, 4:12 pm

    @TI

    I don’t think being in the EU kept wages excessively low except for a small minority (out of several studies, the only research that found any impact said it slightly impacted the bottom 10% — the rest of the research found none)

    Hell, I am a remainer by temperament and Ashcroft background. A lot of the issue was a lot of misery simply hiding behind ‘averages’.

    There’s enough of a smoking gun in the abstract of the seminal BofE paper on the subject

    > Our results also reveal that the biggest impact of immigration on wages is within the semi/unskilled services occupational group

    The workforce is a pyramid, with the lowest wages at the large numbers of people in bottom of the pyramid. The BofE admits that EU immigration shat on this large group of people. It didn’t affect UK wages that much in aggregate, because the top of the pyramid earns most of the money. In 2014 66% of income tax was paid by HRT and ART taxpayers, with basic rate taxpayers paying about a a third of the revenue. That’s a reasonable guide to the skew.

    I generally agree with you that in aggregate the UK will be poorer, but in semi-skilled areas people will probably not be poorer. At the very bottom end there’s probably not much difference, and this group will suffer regardless, but this semi-skilled area is getting opportunities and win out of Brexit IMO. In the 1990s I used to walk past the Construction Industry Training Board centre, now long gone. When I worked on London 2012 Olympics, in the cafeteria of what was largely a building site there were many conversations I could not understand.

    I now know people training for some of these jobs, and similar skilled and semi-skilled jobs. Compared to years ago the training system is still deeply borked – I was trained, at no cost to me, how to weld (poorly) and some machinist skills as a graduate entry electronics engineer because that company didn’t want their tyro staff designing stuff that couldn’t be made, whereas now you have to front the well over 1k cost of training, say, be be a truck driver because companies don’t pay to train semi-skilled people. But some of these semi-skilled opportunities have improved, at least at the moment, because these people aren’t contending with a wall of additional young single folk who can live cheaply and earn well, particularly from the A7.

    It always puzzled me why the economic laws of supply and demand were suddenly suspended when it came to immigration. They aren’t. At the high end immigration improves the economy because more high-value goods and services get produced. But at the low end, a lot of people pay the price. EU immigration didn’t bend aggregate UK wages that much, but it focused the misery on the bottom end, which is a lot of people.

    I still think Brexit was a terrible idea, particularly in how it has been done, and there was a lot of nasty crap on the Leave side. But some people are reaping a Brexit dividend. They probably don’t read Monevator. Part of the problem with technocracy is that it tells some people that your end of the boat is sinking for the sake of the aggregate common good, and that really hacks people off. I remember what that felt like in the early 1990s when Norman Lamont said that “Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying.” and the blighter raised interest rates to 15%. It’s not a good feeling to be unwillingly co-opted into suffering for the common good, and engenders resentment.

  • 34 Jim August 7, 2022, 4:28 pm

    I know it could be coincidence but if you look at the wages of construction workers since brexit they have soared. I know it doesn’t mean this is the sole reason but I would argue that Eastern European Labour was holding back wages of plumbers and other trades. You had multiple guys renting a house living like monks and working for half the going rate. Tbf the ones who have stayed now have wised up and seem to want the same high wages

  • 35 ZXSpectrum48k August 7, 2022, 5:21 pm

    The real issue with Brexiteers is the same issue which drives 40% of those in the US to vote for Trump. Or many French to vote Le Pen. Or Hungarians to vote for Orban.

    It comes down to a basic inconsistency. By construction 50% of people are below average. The problem is far less than 50% of people believe they are below average.

    So many go around thinking they are underpaid for their sub average work. Or that their poorly thought out, irrational or superstitious beliefs aren’t being taken seriously. That technology and progress is leaving their Luddite family behind. They then get all grumpy because the don’t feel they are receiving the relative success/relative wealth/relative standing they deserve. They want to burn the house down. They don’t care they are at the bottom and it will fall on them most heavily.

    Until recently this wasn’t a problem. The majority of us simply didn’t have time to worry about these sort of relative issues. We were all far too busy starving to death, dying of cholera or being gunned down in our millions.

    The strange thing is it’s our success that allows issues such as multiculturalism or wokeness to be treated like they are real problems. Perhaps, however, once we are starving and dying of cholera again we might just realize how trivial these issues were. Lucky us.

  • 36 Learner August 7, 2022, 5:34 pm

    Love a bit of gloom. I have enough recent misfortune in my own local life (wiped out this year, net worth zero at 45 y/o) that the macro trends don’t trouble me, although I enjoy the discourse. I feel lucky to have an optimistic brain, or at least don’t tend to get bogged down in despair.

    Really hope the UK settles down soon as I’d like to return in a few years time. Perhaps a change of government at long – 15 years! – last will help (.. keeping half an eye on the Scottish independence effort).

  • 37 Bewto August 7, 2022, 7:28 pm

    Great post as always, but I do have one complaint – no “smells like teen spirit” paragraph? Surely where you could add in some optimism to sweeten the ending?

    How about smoking rates amongst teens are the lowest ever? Or fewer teenage pregnancies? Or that we have a society at least in the uk that is probably at its most historically tolerant in terms of how young humans want to be perceived or identify as. Nothing to do with the EU I’ll grant you, but if our kids are all living to 100 then they perhaps they won’t be unhappy retiring at 70 (wait, it’s gone depressing again)….

  • 38 BBlimp August 7, 2022, 7:44 pm

    @zx… lovely view you have of your fellow man there, they should accept minimum wage because of imported labour… but where do leavers like Jacob Rees Mogg and John Redwood and Lord Woolfson and the head of JJB fit into that analysis ? There are some leavers that earn more than even you !

    @TI – confused – no, just playing chess in a country where the establishment is wedded to playing checkers

  • 39 trufflehunt August 7, 2022, 7:48 pm

    @ZxSpectrum

    “… So many go around thinking …. “.

    It’s fairly obvious from your writings on here , over a long period of time… that financially you are a long way from those struggling to get by. This time round…… assertions, prejudice, massive generalisations.

    Your expressed views about the lives of those you know little about do seem to be quite ignorant.

  • 40 ZXSpectrum48k August 7, 2022, 9:35 pm

    @trufflehunt.
    Trump voters and Brexit voters are, on average, less educated. That’s the stats. Brexit voters see immigration, multi-culturalism, globalization feminism, environmentalism, and the internet as forces for ill. That’s the stats. Not everyone but statistically this is the average. Massive generalization? Of course. That’s the nature of statistics. Don’t like it? Tough those are the numbers.

    As for my background. I’m a working class as anyone. I went to a comp school in Mossside, Manchester. No one in my family had a skilled job, precisely zero qualifications between all of them. All from northern working towns. They all voted Brexit. They all don’t have a bloody clue what they are talking about. They blame their feeling of failure on the “other” all the time. Somebody else’s fault. Never their fault.

    From my perspective Brexiteers are dangerous because they want to turn the clock back. Well that’s a past I don’t want to go back to. In that past I was considered a mentally disabled child (since I’m autistic) who needed to be put in a special school because I wasn’t good enough to be with “normal” people. So I tend to take the side of the “other” whether it be immigrants, LQBT etc because my perception is that once those Brexiteer types have got rid of them, they will probably come after me. Not every Brexit voter is a racist but pretty much every racist voted for Brexit.

    So I’m quite honest about my views. I don’t want to make friends with people who see immigration, multi-culturalism, globalization, feminism, environmentalism as bad. They are my enemy.

    @BBlimp. Are you completely naive why these people want Brexit? There is clear value in Brexit for many at the top. JRM is making a fortune out of Brexit. It also suits Redwood. I’m even making money out of Brexit since my cashflow stream is USD based and I’m focussed on EM markets.

  • 41 ZXSpectrum48k August 7, 2022, 9:49 pm

    @Bblimp. Also this issue about imported labour. UK workers even on the minimum wage still get vastly more than most workers globally. What justifies that? Are they smarter? Are they harder working? Why do they deserve more just by the accident of their birth. The UK isn’t special.

    It’s been estimated that 108 billion home sapiens have lived and died. A minimum wage worker in the UK has a lifestyle that is way better than at 107 billion them. So what the hell have the got to be so grumpy about?

  • 42 The Investor August 7, 2022, 11:20 pm

    @Ermine — You often write something like this when I talk about Brexit, I reply, and then you come back and write it again. You’ve never given any sourcing for your claims, it’s all ‘common sense’ sounding stuff that motivated much of the Leave vote.

    A Bank of England 2015 report for example found that a 10% increase in the proportion of immigrants perhaps reduced wages in the semi/unskilled sector by 2%. Academics have estimated the impact on UK service sector workers as about a 1% reduction in wages over a decade.

    Clearly these sorts of numbers are better tackled by state support, if not by training/other funding to move them out of the unskilled/semi-skilled bracket. (Which also happens naturally — e.g. temporary work for university students in Costa etc).

    More widely, wages for unskilled/semi-skilled have been going down around the developed world for years, relatively speaking, for a bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with the EU or Brexit.

    As for the supply/demand thing, we’ve also gone into this before. Basically, immigrants create their own demand (they need homes, haircuts, breakfast) so they are not the same as importing an additional pallet of goods or whatnot.

    You can argue that immigration (particularly in specific localities) creates demand that overwhelms local services — indeed and ironically that was part of the Brexity pitch — and certainly for housing, and maybe on a small island like ours you can argue for a case for a cap etc (not saying I would).

    But immigration boosts demand/growth/GDP, most obviously on a national level but the national is made up of the local/individual, it’s not all going to Baronical strawberry farmers using cheap Slovakians to pick their crops (and even where it does that flows into local pubs, landlords, Tescos, etc).

  • 43 The Investor August 7, 2022, 11:27 pm

    p.s. The point is I wouldn’t say a 1% reduction in wages over 10 years is consistent with “The BofE admits that EU immigration shat on this large group of people.” Sure we’d all like our wages to be 1% higher than lower. But it’s a very modest hit, these people are consumers of the benefits of immigration too (via NHS and Wetherspoons staff, tax receipts, etc etc) and if we as a country really cared so much about them beyond whatever is already represented in our conventional politics, then we could have done a lot more constructive things for them than vote to Leave the EU, which will ultimately prove a negative for them, too, as you concede.

  • 44 Lee Briggs August 8, 2022, 7:30 am

    @ZXSpectrum48K (40)

    Similar to you living in a Northern town, I have strong personal links to Manchester (and the ZX was my favourite possession as a child) and with family/friends voting for Brexit for similar reasons.

    Totally agree with you. Brexit for many was going back to a time and place (1950s) that wasn’t really that great for the working person of that age. Just after the war with rationing still in place, 2 up 2 downs with no double glazing, showers (or baths), no central heating and a toilet at the bottom of the garden. The majority of people rented their house and the average person could not afford a car. However, silly me- there were no immigrants and it was illegal to be ‘homosexual’, it must have been heaven!

    I’m with you, once they’ve gone after the immigrants and then the gays it must be my time. So like you, I will stand with the “others” in society- before they come for me!!

    Cheers,

    Lee.

  • 45 kwaker August 8, 2022, 8:30 am

    A long time reader/lurker of this this great site and interesting discussions please keep it up.

    I’ll put my head above the parapet and get shot at as I think it will be useful to hear from someone who you might consider to have caused this problem!

    I voted for Brexit , would I vote for it again no , I didn’t even think it was the answer to anything , in fact with the rise of non-democratic powers such as China and Russia the UK going it alone in the world is a very bad idea.

    So why vote for it , a protest vote , the EU didn’t seem to want to listen to the concerns and feelings of a significant number of people in the UK , millions of them… and neither did the UK Government. I am not against immigration ( almost everyone in the UK is an immigrant it just depends how long in history you look back) but the speed and scale of the uncontrolled immigration felt to me a problem, it may not be backed up by facts and percentages other than anecdotal and what I would see in my small sample of the country that I see daily. I have friends and family from many different nationalities so I don’t consider myself a racist either. What I think I am describing is culture shock, the modern world allows vast numbers of people to move quickly and my local area changed very quickly. This may not make any sense to a lot of people but it’s how I felt and probably many others who voted for Brexit.

    When the UK opened up the borders to the Eastern europe the Government estimated 50k immigrants a year and we ended up getting 50k a week, at this point something should have been done to control the numbers as the estimates were so wrong, public services ( and people like me) were not ready for this scale of immigration no planning had taken place for this level of immigration. I don’t blame them for for trying to better their life, in fact I think the EU got this wrong , the eastern european countries should have had their economies/heathcare/education/benefits systems brought up to a similar level as western Europe ( using taxes paid by me) before allowing complete free movement of people.

    When Cameron asked for an emergency brake ( not even a permanent one ) to control the numbers of the EU said no , this then felt like EU was not listening. I foolishly thought the EU and UK government would not let the UK leave and would at somepoint compromise …..but they didn’t …so here we are with Brexit which is no good for the UK or the EU or the world for that matter as united democratic countries of the world in needed now as much as at anytime in history.

    I’ll put my tin hat on now….

  • 46 The Investor August 8, 2022, 9:48 am

    @kwaker — Thanks for the perspective, which chimes so much with what I believe to be the majority of the motivation for Brexit that I fear it will look like you’re my plant. 😉

    I’ve agreed several times on this site that the UK got immigration policy wrong, at least in hindsight, in terms of early opening/pace, but I don’t think Brexit was the answer to ‘fixing’ it. (I believe what mostly needed fixing was the cultural perspective that it was hugely bad and damaging, which was once a fringe view (e.g. Farage booed on Question Time) and was mainstream-ed as true/acceptable by Tory Brexit wing). I think in time the overall pace of immigration would have slowed naturally, in fact it had already started doing so.

    Those who wonder why this should be so might ponder why other countries in Europe aren’t ‘overrun’ with Eastern Europeans, and aren’t agitating to leave the EU accordingly. Britain’s extreme popularity was probably a moment in history due to our (foolish in retrospect, for these cultural/speed of change reasons) early opening and then by our faster recovery from the financial crisis, IMHO. (A recovery probably helped along at the margin by the same immigration).

    I think your comments are perfectly reasonable and I always admire it when someone says they feel they got something wrong. Thanks for sharing.

    Hopefully any readers who wish to engage with your thoughts will take that into account and do so constructively, even if it is a bit frustrating to read given the upheaval and loss of freedoms such thinking brought us.

  • 47 JohnG August 8, 2022, 9:57 am

    @Lee Briggs – The most ironic part of the entire Brexit shambles was the slogan “Brexit means Brexit” which could not better sum up the fact that you literally couldn’t define what it meant to the population. This also conveniently, especially combined with COVID, allows Brexits to claim “success” without having to demonstrate anything changing or own the consequences.

    I particularly enjoyed Tim Martin (Wetherspoons) claiming that his main motivation was the lack of democracy in how the EU operates, for example their not being a vote for the EU president. Yet this is someone who appears to have no issue with the British Prime Minister not being elected (the next one will be selected by ~160,000 people meaning 99.7% of the electorate have no influence), a hereditary monarch / head of state, or the unelected house of lords which the Tories are busy stuffing with yes men. I’m not sure if I’d be more concerned if he was ignorant enough to genuinely hold that position, or is just another Brexiter who hides their real reasons behind what they see as a more acceptable excuse.

  • 48 LALILULELO August 8, 2022, 11:28 am

    I think the attitude that completely baffles me is the “we won so I’m happy” mentality. The winning part is just the start, leave won so its time that something is actually done with the victory.
    What positives can you point to that leaving has given us? This is not meant to be a provocation in any way, I genuinely want to know what good has happened and a convincing argument on how it outweighs the seemingly overwhelming bad. I’m aware that I hold some pretty solid biases and I’m really trying to see the other side but I still haven’t found anything to convince me that it was a good idea.

  • 49 Jonathan B August 8, 2022, 12:24 pm

    @kwaker, your contribution is very helpful, it gives substance to something I had wondered but not seen evidence for. Johnson, Farage and friends successfully painted the frustration felt by many (non-London) parts of the UK of changes locally as due to uncaring Brussels politicians. Actually nothing has changed, the problem was and is uncaring Westminster politicians.

    I am sure there were those who were worried about immigration for other than racist reasons. But leaving the EU wasn’t the answer, I think I am right in saying that in the decades prior to 2016 there were more immigrants from the Indian sub-continent than from the EU. The UK government had “control” over those, but didn’t, or couldn’t, use it.

    As @TI says, immigration to take up employment has a positive effect on the wider economy. Losing those people will mean businesses providing services to them having to contract because of the reduction in demand, and their employees becoming vulnerable. And the EU free movement system attracted a lot of medium term workers who would spend a few years in the UK to build some capital (and learn good English) and then return to work in their original country; those workers will have contributed more through taxes than they cost in healthcare, education, benefits, etc.

  • 50 Bill G August 8, 2022, 1:35 pm

    I have to agree with Ermine, in my world the withdrawal of free-movement has coincided with a big increase in wages. Reuters has reported on this too.

    https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-sees-fastest-wage-rises-sectors-most-reliant-eu-workers-indeed-2022-02-25/

    Still not happy about Brexit but denying the negative impact on some of our population is why we are in this mess in the first place!

  • 51 The Investor August 8, 2022, 1:48 pm

    @Bill G — Thanks for that, it’s useful to finally get a data point with the anecdotals. I’d notice that’s for advertized wages, we’ll see how it pans out over the years for real wages (which will be going up anyway due to inflation, albeit as noted in your links the EU-related sectors are seeing wages growing faster).

    Of course with multiple reports of crops rotting in the fields, airports cancelling flights, hospitals unable to find cleaners, and High Street shops strapped for staff (a huge problem in the US post-Covid, too, and seemingly more to do with the pandemic) it’d (a) be weird if wages weren’t responding and (b) as I’ve said before there will be a holistic effect (e.g. lower GDP/taxes, less dynamic economy, but potentially wages 1-2% higher for the lowest decile of workers, who will nevertheless see less State support, worse healthcare and education for the kids etc due to lower tax receipts etc)

    I’m all for the lowest paid getting more money. As Jonathan B alludes, I think this is a minority interest in UK politics however, especially post Corbyn (with all his problems and likely deleterious wider economic policy).

    We could just have put up the minimum wage by 10% and stayed in the EU with all its benefits, for example, if we really wanted to take some potential economic pain for a gain for that demographic.

    @all — Forgot to say cheers to those who spotted / enjoyed the Nirvana references. People of taste! (I’m always a little disappointed if nobody notices on a song title for subheads week 😉 )

  • 52 The Investor August 8, 2022, 1:51 pm

    p.p.s. I don’t agree we’re in this mess because I’m denying a real huge impact from EU migration (except for perhaps speed/pressure on local hotspots for services/housing, which was undeniable and regrettable). Read for instance that BOE report or the 6-7 reports produced pre-the Referendum.

    Agreed it’s a *perceived* big problem that helped lead to Brexit though.

  • 53 ermine August 8, 2022, 2:04 pm

    @ TI > You’ve never given any sourcing for your claims, it’s all ‘common sense’ sounding stuff that motivated much of the Leave vote.

    Que? I cited the selfsame seminal BofE paper you did. That’s sourcing enough, surely? This time I bothered to read the rest of it rather than just the abstract, and on p22 it says

    > the coefficients indicates that a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants working in semi/unskilled services — that is, in care homes, bars, shops, restaurants, cleaning, for example — leads to a 1.88 percent reduction in pay.

    A8 accession was 2004. 12 years of seeing a 1.8% drop in pay is gonna add up. I don’t think Brexit was a great idea, broadly along your lines, but I can understand why this sector of society might have had steam coming out of their ears after falling behind a fifth.

    @ LALILULELO > What positives can you point to that leaving has given us?

    Just for the record, I’m not in favour of Brexit. But although it is anecdotal, I personally know an electrician who can now take his pick of jobs, and a glazier who is run off his feet, doing OK thank you. These guys have benefited from Brexit. I have no idea if they voted for it.

    I have lost out of Brexit. You have lost out of Brexit. TI has lost out of Brexit. But really, not everyone is a graduate professional worker who lives in London. And until we actually try and understand what made quite so many people feel it was a good idea, we can’t take steps towards having a civilised relationship with our nearest neighbours. It doesn’t need to be rejoin, just a bit less adversarial and more co-operative.

    Denying the lived experience of quite a lot of people isn’t going to help this, IMO. People hate feeling despised, and thing like the Ultimatum Game show that where people feel they have been treated unfairly, revenge trumps objective utility.

    For the sake of clarity, I think Brexit was a bad idea. But I have gone out of my way to try and understand why a majority of people felt otherwise.

  • 54 The Investor August 8, 2022, 2:41 pm

    @ermine — Oops, sorry! This is the problem with having to moderate dozens of comments on the mobile phone, I sometimes am scrolling past too quickly looking for trolls, racists etc, and mentally file away other comments to read again later. Definitely that’s sourcing enough!

    Apologies again.

    Anyway, as I read it the 1.88% is an absolute loss in pay, not an annualized figure, right? So yes it adds up in that it’s nearly 2% less than they would have had — though note this is at the end of the 10-year period, so maybe 0.9% smoothed, as a ballpark — and hence less overall cash earned over the period, but it’s not compounding as we do compounding around here. As such I don’t think they are ‘falling behind by a fifth’. I don’t think that’s a good way to look at it / state it, especially not without counting back all the benefits (more work due to more demand / higher GDP, more tax receipts). But obviously that’s very difficult.

    But my point remains — we do not orientate our economy / politics around this lowest decile, which is often not in this sector indefinitely and which anyway we should not be concentrating our national economic posture around from an international competitiveness angle, let alone all the other benefits of Brexit.

    And again, in case that makes me sound harsh I voted for flipping Corbyn, who I really didn’t like, and have far more often voted Labour than Tory. And while neither party is going to make anyone smile at Socialist Worker HQ, I am certain in the short-run at least the economic interests of the poorer are more a driver of the policy for the former than the latter, especially the Brexit-voting right-wing of the Tory party.

    Of course I accept we are discussing *why* the Brexit vote here, not whether there was an alternative. I don’t think a 1.8% lower wage (i.e. wages were 98.2% of where they would have been absent the unusually high EU migration over the 10-period) is anything like a sufficient smoking gun, nor ‘being shat on’.

    And finally, for those who think I am too soft for a financial blogger, it might have been a motivation for at least some of these unskilled/semi-skilled to try to train upwards.

    I learned skills. So did you. Why shouldn’t they? Their competition weren’t even native English speakers, let’s remember.

    Yes it’s more complicated and yes I’m more sympathetic (see all my political notes above) but that’s in the mix too.

    Finally, re: your comments about busy plumbers etc, that is a bug not a feature of Brexit from a wider economic point of view. Work that needs doing isn’t getting done. GDP is lower. Housing stock is deteriorating faster. Etc etc.

  • 55 The Investor August 8, 2022, 2:46 pm

    p.s. I haven’t lost out on Brexit, financially speaking. I have done very well portfolio wise, I can travel abroad via both money and other Plan B options, I am crazily well educated and I work optionally.

    I’ve lost out in that the staff in the local coffee shop aren’t as good, and London is a bit culturally poorer, and growth will be lower so in theory I might be taxed higher, though in practice as we’re seeing in the leadership campaign more likely services will be cut.

    I feel much more the loss as a British citizen of what Brexit represents / what we have become. But that’s different from the financial angle.

    My financial posture is a Poundshop version of the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg. I know it blows the minds of some Leave voters, but I’m not arguing against Brexit for *financial* self-interest. (All other kinds of self-interest, sure).

  • 56 Gary August 8, 2022, 3:17 pm

    I know it blows the minds of some Leave voters, but I’m not arguing against Brexit for *financial* self-interest. (All other kinds of self-interest, sure).

    Or

    I know it blows the minds of some Remain voters, but I’m not arguing for Brexit for *financial* self-interest. (All other kinds of self-interest, sure).

    Which is why this debate for some (on both sides) will never end, but I think slowly, for good or for bad, less and less people will care about this either way.

  • 57 Harps August 8, 2022, 3:26 pm

    Ok, since it’s become a Brexit debate I’d like to highlight my personal pet peeve when discussing the Pros and Cons of Brexit: that it was the Will of The People and that I should simply accept this act of Democracy. I strongly contest this but it falls on deaf ears, sadly. Only 37% (!) of the Electorate actually voted to Leave; 35% voted to Remain; and 28% (!) didn’t vote at all (that is 13 million people, and I know this is an assumption, I suspect that the majority of those were Remainers who simply didn’t think it was going to be close at all. I certainly remember both Leavers and Remainers alike thinking very much along those lines. So, the difference in the votes was about 1.25 Million; less than a 10th of those people who abstained! That is not the Will of The People in any Universe/Metaverse, and to this day I fail to understand how Cameron et al didn’t use this stark data to declare the non-binding Referendum vote Null & Void. Of course, we should go further back in history and lambast TPTB for coming up with such a fragile declaration criterion for such a landmark, once-in-a-lifetime National decision. Pure incompetence, or something more sinister? A discussion for another day perhaps…

    Ok, got it off my chest…

  • 58 The Investor August 8, 2022, 3:36 pm

    @Gary — Fair. I added italics to make your point easier to parse, hope that’s okay.

  • 59 xxd09 August 8, 2022, 7:18 pm

    So the debate goes on-hopefully in a civilised manner
    The British (English) have never really been Europeans-our impregnable island fortress has never been invaded successfully since 1066
    Our European neighbours however have continually over run each other with concurrent great loss of life and property
    This generates a certain mindset understandably very different from the islanders(the Americans in same boat as us for the same reasons-Anglosphere so called?)
    Safety through trade then political unification is an understandable European aim to end this state of affairs
    (We have participated in many of these European wars but never has our home territory been overrun )
    Evolution of our institutions-law,freedom of travel (no ID cards),freedom of speech and a very messy first past the post democracy -have been quite different from the equivalents of our continental cousins
    I could list many other differences generated by these historical geographical facts
    We have had to participate frequently to restore the status quo in Europe at great cost in blood and treasure
    It all just makes us islanders a bit different and if our leaders take their eye off the ball as they did with the Brexit referendum then they will be forcibly reminded of the above facts
    Personally I am for shooting the Generals and not the troops
    This might be a better way forward and indeed seems to be happening in a very messy but democratic way
    xxd09

  • 60 slg August 8, 2022, 7:38 pm

    You choose to be a victim of circumstance or you don’t. I choose not to be. I find it draining. Today was awesome, I’m sure tomorrow will be even better.

    4 years ago, I sat in room of 230 employees and the people who consider themselves optimists were asked to stand up. There were 2 of us. It blew me away that I was so far away from being in the majority.

    Pessimist moaners, whichever side of the brexit fence you fall down on, I am very happy to be in the minority. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, make your choice and don’t bitch about the what ifs. If someone has to do it, I’d rather it was you than me. I honestly don’t think I could!

    Great links as per usual TI and I always appreciate your viewpoints (if only to keep my confirmation bias on it’s toes)

  • 61 Unwilling Codemonkey August 8, 2022, 7:46 pm

    Just for the record, I’m not in favour of Brexit. But although it is anecdotal, I personally know an electrician who can now take his pick of jobs, and a glazier who is run off his feet, doing OK thank you. These guys have benefited from Brexit. I have no idea if they voted for it.

    @ermine, can you clarify if they were benefitting in 2019 and earlier? I know the pandemic windfalls have driven things crazy but I bought this house in early 2020 and so don’t know how hard sourcing workman was before that.

    On pandemic windfalls, a friend is a heating engineer. He was in to 6-7 properties a day through 2020, worrying about bringing covid home and infecting his family, while most people he was visiting were lazing around on furlough. They’re now the ones spending money they saved up while he continues working and taking cheap holidays. Not happy is putting it mildly.

  • 62 JohnG August 9, 2022, 9:20 am

    @Harps – It sounds wonderful in a theoretical way as someone who was dissapointed by the result but in reality ignoring the referendum would likely have been an even larger error. The referendum was included in the manifesto that voters supported by electing enough Tory MPs, not turning up to vote can’t reasonably be considered supporting one option or the other, and majority votes are not unusual. I dread to think how bad things would have gotten if Brexit had won the vote then our elected representatives decided to ignore it. It’s worth noting that when we had a referendum on joining the EU less than 50% of registered voters voted in favour; by your logic us leaving has corrected that historic wrong…

    What I think Remainers have struggled with since the Brexit referendum is that broadly speaking their world view had been dominant for an extended period, and suddenly what are perceived as more regressive policies and values are in ascendance. However, the truth is that the issue is deeper than the referendum and our EU membership as we’re seeing with the continued fixation on driving the culture wars from right wing politicians and media.

    What Brexiters don’t seem to get is that when they say “leave won get over it” or “Remoaners are holding us back” is that I, and other people who disagree with the direction the country has taken, are not obligated to make it work for them. They happily voted for UKIP which openly worked to undermine the EU. I’m not going to cut my own nose off to spite my face, but I’m far less bothered about the success of the wider country now than before the referendum; In the same way that Brexiters were happy to see the EU struggle because they saw it as helping the leave cause, I’m comfortable seeing the UK struggle as long as it continues along this political/ideological path. If things start getting really bad my assets aren’t overly reliant on the UK and finding work abroad won’t be an issue; I’d probably have gone already (Johnson’s election as PM got damn near to breaking the camels back) if my partner didn’t want to stay near their parents.

  • 63 E&G August 9, 2022, 1:28 pm

    Brexit was clearly the victory of little England and it was the fault of politicians who should have known far better than to put the UK’s fate in the hands of people they’d shafted for generations. And to a large extent you can’t really blame them – if I was busting my hoop in a sports direct factory in the back of beyond for minimum wage, with my conditions depressed by the willingness of eastern Europeans to work for less than the work should be valued at then I don’t think I’d give much thought to the macroeconomics of it all or the poor metropolitans no longer being able to send their offspring on Erasmus schemes (in fact it would probably be another selling point). It’s now a cross the rest of us need to bear and it’s difficult to see anything but a relative decline in living standards – ageing population, shrinking labour pool, no real competitive advantage, trade more difficult with our biggest market and now stagflation. As much as you can be optimistic at a micro level and stoic about what’s to come (by quirk of birth we’re all doing pretty well) it’s hard to see an alternative for the future of this island.

  • 64 The Investor August 9, 2022, 2:06 pm

    It’s just incredibly telling to me that we’ve had another big discussion about Brexit and there’s no benefits being put up against the downsides.

    We’ve had a small sally of anecdotal evidence about plumbers earning more, which I’m skeptical of personally given that ‘plumbers earn more than doctors and fund managers’ has been a staple of the personal finance media for as long as I’ve been paying attention. Time will tell on that, but in any event as I’ve belaboured above the ‘benefit’ will be tiny on a macroeconomic perspective anyway, and could have been more efficiently achieved on a micro-economic level (e.g. just raise the minimum wage.)

    Seriously, for something so seismic you’d expect a robust debate about the pros and cons of life after Brexit.

    “Yes the NHS is stretched for staff, but look at that £350 million a week being pumped in and all the new hospitals!”

    “Okay, so the North of England is booming post-Brexit [er, somehow] but look how inward investment has fallen off a cliff!”

    “Yes we’ve got friction at the borders but look how exports to the US, India, and China have soared free of the shackles of Europe!”

    “I agree there’s been a lot of upheaval and a cost to leaving the EU, but look how regulation is being rolled back and all the great things we’re achieving without the burden of Brussels.”

    “Yes it’s more hassle to get through the customs borders or to go on your holidays, but look how crime and the pressure on services has collapsed now we’ve secured our borders!”

    But no. Not a bit of it. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

    Instead the Orwellian: “The benefit of Brexit is Brexit”.

    It’s just a statement. An article of faith.

    That’s ultimately why these discussions are so arid and futile.

    It’s like arguing with a religious person about the existence of their God versus another one. Evidence, benefits, rationality doesn’t come into it.

    As a result Brexit has indeed meant Brexit.

    But the rest of us non-believers are left wondering what on Earth the point of it was.

  • 65 ermine August 9, 2022, 3:23 pm

    @Unwilling #61

    The glazier was doing better already before 2019. I only came to know the electrician in 2019, though he does describe things being crazy before it, he tends to do small firms and business stuff, so including some compliance, not residential.

    The effect of EU immigration was more muted in the southwest compared to East Anglia where I lived before. I confess to developing a taste for Polish salami when I was in Suffolk and the Polish speciality shop in Ipswich were a cheaper place to buy some other things, I haven’t really seen that sort of thing so much here. Most of the people adapting and installing for my mother when she was in London tended to be from the EU too. So it isn’t surprising that the suckout will be felt stronger in London and around.

    1.8% lower wages doesn’t sound much, but year on year that will cumulatively make a difference to the money you can put towards a house etc etc. The converse point is the typical argument against – the estimation is that Brexit will lower aggregate UK GDP by about 4%, and year on year that will start to show more and more.

    Both can be true at the same time, and lead to divergent actions for different groups of people.

  • 66 Brian August 9, 2022, 7:23 pm

    “The British (English) have never really been Europeans-our impregnable island fortress has never been invaded successfully since 1066”

    King William led a very successful Dutch invasion in 1688 and installed himself as co-ruler. So successful that it was rebranded as a glorious revolution so the elites could keep their heads as they changed sides. British troops did died trying to stop King William but it’s the victors who write history. Also, there the small matter of Irish wars of Independence which were fought on then British sovereign territory, I believe the Irish won the last one? So at least two successful invasions.

  • 67 Seeking Fire August 9, 2022, 8:44 pm

    @64 Investor. I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a reluctant remainer.

    There are no economic benefits of Brexit that I ever thought were possible pre the vote or have occurred post the vote.

    Possibly the economic upheaval would shock us as a nation into ‘rolling our sleeves up’ -> I discounted that very quickly….as is clearly proving to be the case now. We can’t be bothered to try and grow the cake – it’s easier for people to fight over what part of the cake they can take for themselves.

    The issue for me was whether the costs outweighed the benefits – I decided they didn’t but thought about it a fair bit…

    Ignoring the awkward facts that (a) Nato membership is by definition giving up sovereignty (b) increased sovereignty isn’t much use if you’ve less power to wield it (c) large blocks seem to be holding sway globally in a multi polarity world (e.g. India, China, US, EU) and so might be good to be one of them (d) a succession of UK prime ministers from all parties have not been honest with the electorate since the 1970’s that the EEC / EU is about political union despite EU / EEC countries not being happy with that approach (e) the below is all maybe’s not definite’s

    – There’s never been a successful case of monetary union without political union. Whilst the UK isn’t part of the single currency, future EU decisions will have that as it’s priority, which could become more difficult for us

    – The EU is about a union of the people. It’s on the first couple of pages of the treaty of Rome. I was never really sure given all our differences that that was a great idea.

    – Immigration from the EU was getting out of hand. Yes it’s still gone up, we need skilled labour, more comes from ex EU etc. But it was still a problem and the UK couldn’t stop it. It now can if it wants to – there are good reasons not to…NHS shortage anyone 🙂

    – The EU wants to harmonise across countries. A minor petty example (not one in which I’d vote for Brexit!!) was the desired elimination of the clocks going back. You can be damn sure were we still in the EU, UKIP would have made hay with this one. https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/03/17/will-scrapping-daylight-savings-time-reduce-energy-consumption

    – The EU wants to harmonise…See link to a very strong desire that all countries have the same corporate tax rate. Is that a good idea? Is that part of monetary union? Would the UK really have stood for that?

    https://ifs.org.uk/publications/1881#:~:text=The%20European%20Commission's%20current%20interest,development%20is%20harmful%20for%20employment.

    Note it hasn’t happened, Ireland is kicking up a massive stink etc but the trajectory (or desired trajectory) of travel is clear.

    – Had we voted remain, we would (possibly?) no longer been able to use the bargaining chip of we’ll leave if you don’t take account of our needs. Note – you can argue we could still have held a future referendum, the threat never really worked much anyway…:)

    – Germany has used the EU to it’s own benefit to the suffering of young people across southern european countries by having a currency that is undervalued for its economic output. Not my words but Mervyn King’s. The kicker being they’ll probably never be repaid the claims they’ve built up on those countries.

    So I weighed all of that up….and voted remain!

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