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Weekend reading: There’s no silver bullet to finish off Brexit

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Warning: Brexit. My house, my opinion. Feel free to skip.

And so one of the finest dark comedies ever created has come to an end. But sadly, while we’ll see no more of Fleabag, we’ll get yet another season of Brexit Badly.

At least the schedulers are in on the joke. The new cliffhanger is set for 31 October – Halloween. Talk about comic noir.

You can’t make this stuff up. The last episode culminated with patriotic Brexiteers blaming the Queen for the dire state of Brexit. Nothing would surprise me now.

A polar bear strolling around Westminister? ERG members cooking meth in a taco truck on the South Bank?

Bring it on.

The Shining

Rising above another week of political misery, however, was one bravely recanting Leave supporter.

Peter Oborne – a former Brexit cheerleader for the Daily Mailwrote:

Brexit has paralysed the system. It has turned Britain into a laughing stock. And it is certain to make us poorer and to lead to lower incomes and lost jobs.

We Brexiteers would be wise to acknowledge all this. It’s past time we did. We need to acknowledge, too, that that we will never be forgiven if and when Brexit goes wrong. Future generations will look back at what we did and damn us.

So I argue, as a Brexiteer, that we need to take a long deep breath. We need to swallow our pride, and think again.

Maybe it means rethinking the Brexit decision altogether.

Oborne presents a laundry list as to why Brexit has failed to-date – and why it was probably a doomed project to begin with.

Obviously I agree with him, but I’d rather buy him a pint than listen to Remainers asking what took him so long. Any Leave voters coming to their senses deserve a smile not “I told you so”.

After all, Oborne’s volte-face is what Remain voters daily expect from the Leave contingent. Surely with the empty promises of the Leave leadership revealed as student political fantasy, ever more will want to call the whole thing off?

You’d think so. Yet in reality – indeed faced with reality – few seem to be changing their minds.

Perhaps that was why Oborne’s piece struck a chord. It wasn’t so much what he was saying – the case against Brexit is plain enough. It’s what the rest of the 17.4m are not saying.

Much more typical is this response I received on Twitter to one of my (doubtless tedious) anti-Brexit tweets:

Brexit would have been easy if the Commission had acted in good faith, the PM believed in ‘Leave’ and understood how to negotiate, MPs honoured manifesto commitments and the civil service and metropolitan elites weren’t determined to undermine the referendum. So much 4 democracy!

Such sentiment is rampant on social media. But you also see it in newspaper interviews and on TV.

One Brexiteer debating with Oborne even said on live TV that she thought Oborne might be a plant or that he’d been bought off.

The same woman said “not a single person has changed their mind” while standing next to this man who had clearly changed his mind.

It’s Orwellian stuff.

The Thing

Then again – rounding up to the nearest million – perhaps she’s right.

Three years in and Leavers still don’t understand the EU is an extremely powerful trading bloc, doing the business on behalf of its several hundred million citizens. They still don’t admit that as one nation against more than two dozen we don’t “hold all the cards”. They still don’t admit they had no plan.

Instead we just hear claims that a True Brexiteer would have negotiated a better outcome. This despite the fact that Brexit extremists can’t even negotiate with their own party – and caved in to vote for a deal they lamented only days before as ‘vassalage’.

These are not serious people.

There’s also no admission Brexit has already cost the UK £66bn1 in lost economic growth.

As I’ve warned before, the economic price of any Brexit will show up mostly in a lower GDP like this, for the foreseeable future – maybe decades. It’s pretty much guaranteed by the laws of economics.

Not a bang, but a wimpier UK PLC.

It won’t be something you can photograph or stick on a bus though, so they’ll blame something else. Or someone else.

The Omen

Meanwhile the prophet Farage is readying his followers for a new political push to the sunlit uplands. The man who once told his followers to ignore the “clever people” who warn that smoking is bad for you will surely find plenty of credulous takers.

How is this still possible?

There’s little point reasoning with the Barry Blimps, of course. But I don’t believe there are 17m Blimps in the UK.

There are however plenty who believed what the likes of Farage said in 2016 – statements since revealed to be mostly at best fantasies and at worst lies.

Yet instead of thinking again, the more vocal Leave supporters are doubling down and calling for a no-deal exit. It’s profoundly depressing.

I do have time – as I’ve said repeatedly – for sovereignty-first Leave voters2 who accept the economic cost of Brexit and who own the motley coalition that made up the 52% rather than denying it. Such people are rare, however.

And while I personally want to see a new Referendum informed by everything we’ve learned over the past 30 months, I used to concede a soft Brexit might be better than no Brexit, for the sake of national coherence.

But I’m less sure of that today.

Most Leavers are willfully ignoring the unfolding evidence. They will never be happy. Any deal will be a ‘betrayal’ of the impossibilities they were promised, while a disruptive no-deal will be the fault of the other side for not landing a deal.

What’s the point in indulging them – and all of us paying for it?

As for the investing consequences, it seems to me everything is still on the table. Even a no-deal Brexit – hitherto dodged, both in theory and in practice – could yet come about, though that now seems the unlikeliest outcome.

I discussed the ramifications of different Brexits in a previous post. Have a look there for more.

Have a great weekend!

From Monevator

What is a sustainable withdrawal rate for a world portfolio? – Monevator

From the archive-ator: The surprisingly savage way tax reduces your returns – Monevator


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!3

Labour considers house price inflation target for Bank of England – Guardian

OECD says the world’s Millennials are being squeezed out of the middle class – CNBC

Thinking about having a baby? Don’t forget to do the maths first [Search result]FT

‘That’s legal tender, pal’: bill aims to force shops to take Scottish notes – Guardian

US college graduates sell stake in themselves to Wall Street – Bloomberg

At least some of the 0.01% are waking up to the US wealth distribution problem – Barry Ritholz

Products and services

Reminder: Rolled-over NS&I index-linked certificates will track CPI instead of RPI from 1 May – NS&I

Freetrade app review – Quietly Saving

Eight steps to creating the perfect LinkedIn profile – ThisIsMoney

What is a ‘portfolio ISA’ wrapper and who offers them? – ThisIsMoney

NatWest offers table-topping £175 current account welcome bonus, plus 2% cashback on bills – T.I.M.

Ratesetter will pay you £100 [and me a cash bonus] if you invest £1,000 for a year – Ratesetter

How to track down the fate of an old building society account – ThisIsMoney

Selftrade’s stocks and shares ISA is now flexible [Was emailed, no web story]Selftrade

We both get a £50 credit if you invest £500 within 30 days on Seedrs via my link – Seedrs

Homes for sale that were once a pub [Gallery]Guardian

Comment and opinion

What’s your investment faith? – Morningstar

You have to live it to believe it – Morgan Housel

The secret life of an armchair trader [Search result]FT

What to do when it feels like you’ve hit the wall in your financial progress – The Simple Dollar

Sequence of returns risk and the (un)luckiest generations – A Wealth of Common Sense

My First Million: Paul Tustain, founder of BullionVault [Search result]FT

The money we don’t talk about – Of Dollars and Data

“I set myself up as a virtual assistant after I had a brain tumour”Guardian

The world’s oldest people don’t stress about (or even save much) money – Next Avenue

The definition of prosperity needs a rethink – Financial Samurai

Why Vanguard’s push into commodity futures isn’t as exciting as it seems – RCM Alternatives

Thoughts from Seth Klarman: The Oracle of Boston – Humble Dollar

Rightmove’s shares look dear,  but could yet be good value such is its quality – UK Value Investor


Civil servants stand down no-deal planning after spending £1.5bn – Politics Home

Britain already £66bn poorer due to Brexit – Metro

Brexit exposes painful disconnect between England and Britain – Bloomberg

Personal relationships and the Brexit divide – Mariella Frostrup

Daily Telegraph forced to correct false Brexit claim by Boris Johnson – Guardian

“Brexit is the will of the people who were lied to” [Video] – James O’Brien via Twitter

Through the Brexit looking glass – Simple Living in Somerset

Amazon Kindle and Spring Sale bargains

How to Have A Good Day by Caroline Webb – £0.99 on Kindle

Eat Well for Less by Jo Scarratt-Jones- £1.99 on Kindle

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens – £1.39 on Kindle

What You See is What You Get by Alan Sugar – £0.99 on Kindle

Get three months of Amazon Music for free if you sign up before 19 April – Amazon

Amazon’s Spring Sale also touting TWO free audio books with its Audible trial – Amazon

Off our beat

Mysterious infection spanning the world in climate of secrecy – New York Times

Why are walruses walking off cliffs to their deaths? – The Atlantic

Black hole – first ever image, how it was assembled with an algorithm, inevitable controversy [Video]

The hidden meanings you might have missed in FleabagThe Tab

And finally…

“The trick is not to learn to trust your gut feelings, but rather to discipline yourself to ignore them.”
– Peter Lynch, One Up On Wall Street

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday!

  1. According to S&P. []
  2. Even if I see such max-sovereignty as a hollow victory in practice, and Britain ultimately weaker post-Brexit in terms of most of the measures of power that matter in 2019. At least sovereignty is credible argument. []
  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”. []

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • 1 Norfolk April 12, 2019, 4:49 pm

    And now for the second time my unicorn order hasn’t arrived as promised, tsk tsk., bad review for that delivery company on trustpilot, maybe I could order something else from the big brexit catalogue, a magic cake perhaps.

    As for a TV drama title, remember ‘Lost’? The plot was wildly implausible, yet a huge amount of the public stuck with it for ages trying to make sense of it, keeping the faith, not wanting to accept it was a crock of sh*t because then it’d be admitting you wasted all that time. Life imitating art, you can’t make it up.

  • 2 Faustus April 12, 2019, 6:07 pm

    Great links as always and your analysis of the national clusterfk that is Brexit is spot on.

    I think one of the most alarming and sickening aspects about this whole miserable saga has been how easy it is for authoritarianism to take hold even in a supposedly liberal state. This is partly because many (if not most people) are not rational, but tribal, and also arrogantly stubborn in the sense that, unlike Keynes, if the facts change they do not change their minds. The ancients were right to warn about how easily democracy decays into mob rule; Brexit is a living example.

    So much for sovereignty and ‘taking back control’, when judges are lambasted as ‘enemies of the people’, when MPs are abused, threatened and libelled as saboteurs, when Parliament (the closest thing we have to the ‘will of the people’) is denigrated and even the Queen denounced as a traitor this week by Brexit fanatics. We can see the direction of travel of such people, and the destination is not a pretty one.

    If nothing else, the events of the past three years are a painful lesson on the importance of having the courage to stand up and defend one’s values, even if they are unpopular; the alternative is to let the mob impose their values on you.

  • 3 The Investor April 12, 2019, 6:23 pm

    “If nothing else, the events of the past three years are a painful lesson on the importance of having the courage to stand up and defend one’s values, even if they are unpopular; the alternative is to let the mob impose their values on you.“

    This is why I discuss Brexit on the blog. I do think it’s relevant to our finances, but there’s little to actually be done about that week to week. So it’s taken us in a political direction that I’d initially aimed to avoid. It’s lost us thousands of readers, and undoubtedly annoys some of those who stick around. I wish it didn’t, I’d rather it hadn’t. But now it has I have to say my bit. As rarely as possible!

  • 4 David April 12, 2019, 6:50 pm

    I’m a long time reader and sometime commentator who thinks we should leave the EU but not throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t see how we can now go back to the trajectory we were on for ever greater political alignment, but I hope we can find a middle way that means we still take part in the economic benefits and environmental standards for example (not that the CAP has been great for that). But “workers rights”? I’m not so sure we want to run our economy the way France or Spain do.
    Anyway, there are lots of valid opinions on all sides, I’m just disappointed by the name calling and lack of respect for different points of view in the whole “debate”, which is little more than the same people shouting the same arguments louder and louder at each other.
    For me this has kind of spoilt Monevator (although I appreciate the less frequent posts about Brexit recently) and certain other blogs I used to like.
    But as you say, it’s your blog, so up to you if you want to take it in that direction. I haven’t stopped reading yet!

  • 5 Guy April 12, 2019, 6:52 pm

    @TI Even from a financial viewpoint alone, if a new government won power in the UK and then changed the economic system radically, you would have to say a lot about that as it is the mission of your site. A budget for example that reformed pensions, public transport, inheritance, education, housing policy, nationalised vital services, imagine! The societal changes resulting from that would be a shift of tectonic scale and therefore warrant reams of debate and analysis for a serious observer. (those ducking the issue may retain click numbers but will lose credibility)

    So why would you not do the same for brexit if the repercussions could be as far-reaching? You have to discuss it and anyone disputing that is being unreasonable.

  • 6 Andrew April 12, 2019, 7:22 pm

    Article 50 was always a trap, it would have been difficult for any PM but we really have not been served well by the subservient attitude of Mrs May. The remainers I think (probably) think they are doing the right thing but the main problem is the uncertainty which is only going to continue now.

    We would have been better off after the vote immediately leaving, not playing the article 50 game. All the shock will have been gotten out of the system and both sides would sincerely try to negotiate. At the moment it not a negotiation because the goal of the EU is to keep us in (not to negotiate a trade deal.)

  • 7 Faustus April 12, 2019, 7:24 pm

    @TI – from this reader’s perspective, I’d much rather digest a blog where the author speaks his/her mind than one where he/she tries to please everyone and in so doing says nothing! And I think one of the causes of our current malaise in Britain is that for too long many people of our generation have abstained from political discussion/involvement, which unfortunately has allowed the far-right (and far-left) to set the agenda.

    @David – interesting to hear your views. One response would be that we already enjoy a ‘middle way’ with our highly tailored EU membership (though admittedly that case was never properly made by Cameron & co. in 2016). The UK enjoys all the economic benefits (e.g. single market) and high standards (e.g. environmental) that come with membership, but at the same time escaped the Euro, won a huge rebate to offset much of the CAP contribution, as well as opt-outs from Schengen and a range of other policies. It is already a great deal. Crucially, all those benefits came as a result of having a seat around the table as a rule maker. Outside the room, as is now becoming all too clear, that middle way is impossible to replicate.

  • 8 Ben April 12, 2019, 7:41 pm

    Re Brexiteers not changing their mind.

    Agreed, I’ve seen so many vox pops essentially boil down to “we voted to leave, now just leave”. I just wish they’d drill down a bit, and ask what leave actually means for them.
    I’d guess that Brexit is an emotional rather than economic or practical decision (on both sides to some extent), so ‘facts’ aren’t likely to change minds.

    I don’t think no deal is a possibility any more. May went to the EU with no plan or ideas, and the debate was over how long of an extension to give her! I’d say a 2nd referendum is increasingly likely. Labour would be idiots to leave their prints on a possible deal, and it doesn’t take many moderate Tories (remember them?) to agree with them. I do wonder how local elections and European elections will change the calculus though.

  • 9 Stephen Almond April 12, 2019, 8:04 pm

    What’s really depressing is to think what might have been.
    Imagine the referendum result had been accepted. Then all sides could have worked towards a good deal for the UK leaving the EU.

    Instead, almost 3 years of foot dragging and negativity by people who wanted to remain leaves us all disgusted with the outcome.

  • 10 Faustus April 12, 2019, 8:21 pm

    @Stephen Almond

    Indeed, if only we all had jumped on our unicorns and dreamed positive thoughts we could have defied reality and had everything that the leave campaign promised!

    Of course the crisis has nothing whatsoever to do with the Brexit elites/believers who have been running the Government and political agenda for the last three years without a credible plan or a clue. Sigh.

  • 11 Ben April 12, 2019, 8:25 pm

    @Stephen Almond

    “Imagine the referendum result had been accepted”

    By whom? Parliament have been working towards Brexit for a number of years, they just fail to agree on the kind of Brexit, because that wasn’t covered in the question.

  • 12 Stephen Almond April 12, 2019, 8:28 pm

    “kind of Brexit”.

    That must be it!
    I thought we voted to leave…

  • 13 The Investor April 12, 2019, 8:34 pm

    @all — I’d be very happy indeed to see constructive comment from all sides on this topic. However I think short pointed barbs from either camp aren’t going to get us very far, however satisfying they are to write. Please be aware I will delete comments as I see fit at my mercurial whim to try to keep the conversation on-track. Thanks in advance!

  • 14 Tyro April 12, 2019, 8:48 pm

    Like you TI I have some time for the sovereignty-first Leavers, because I think they’re well-intentioned, but not very much time, because I think their understanding of the concept is simplistic. So I’d describe their position not as plausible, but as respectable. There’s a world of difference between having sovereignty de jure – on paper, in law, in principle – and having sovereignty de facto – the actual capabilities to project power and influence to your advantage. Contrast the impact on world affairs of California and Chad. Which of them has sovereignty? Nowadays, having the real power to control your own affairs comes from careful positioning (and, even better, leading positions) in networks of international interdependency. As a leading player in the EU we pooled some of our de jure sovereignty in order to gain more de facto sovereignty. Brexit will reverse that – ironically,we will end up with less actual sovereignty (the type with real bite) than we’ve got now.

  • 15 Ben April 12, 2019, 10:37 pm

    @Stephen Almond

    Yes what kind of Brexit.

    Hard Brexit or soft Brexit? No deal, common market, common market 2.0, Norway, Norway+, Canada, customs union, single market, whatever May’s deal is.

    All are Brexits, all equally legitimate. Which one should they agree on?

  • 16 Sam April 13, 2019, 7:26 am


    I don’t understand how any deal which involved Britain staying in the customs union or single market could be in any way described as a legitimate form of Brexit. Both of these options would entail Britain retaining open-door immigration, not being able to strike its own independent trade deals and also involves the ECJ still being the supreme court in a wide range of affairs.

    Given that these 3 things were some of the largest reasons why people voted to leave the EU, how can any deal which involves keeping them be described as Brexit?

  • 17 JimJim April 13, 2019, 8:13 am

    I must be mad… Strangely I quite like the idea of workers rights, freedom of expression for a unionised workforce, health and safety for all the workers of the country where I live, more equality in society because workers may be paid- relative to there employers- a more realistic wage, better health care for all, safer goods and services and a growing economy. If we erode any of this because of Brexit, the many will suffer even if the Rees-Moggs of this world are hedged against it. (France is just one place behind us in the world and Brexit may fix that… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_France ) .
    However the money is divided, I hold most of the views that @TI (got it right this week) expounds and applaud anyone who has the balls to come out with them. Well done sir!

  • 18 L April 13, 2019, 8:20 am

    Thanks for the FT article on the maths of having a baby.

    The resulting financial cost is even greater for those of us who don’t earn £50k! I calculated that the direct costs of maternity leave were £10k lost earnings. You fail to consider the 20-40% drop in earnings if/when one of you goes part time; certain childcare costs; the house move; bigger car and increased costs of holidaying (if you can afford to do so) out with term time.

    That said, 4 years in and we are still very much in the smitten parents camp, not resentful.

  • 19 Gentleman's Family Finances April 13, 2019, 8:43 am

    Funnily enough the politicians whose electorate will suffer most from Brexit – the DUP – are most in favour of it.

    Tribal insular politics beats logic sadly.

  • 20 stonge April 13, 2019, 9:26 am

    Call me a ridiculous optimist if you like, but…
    I voted remain for reasons that seem obvious to me and that I thought would be obvious to anyone. Nevertheless a (statistically insignificant) majority of those who voted in the referendum, actually voted to leave the EU – i.e. they voted for what is now called ‘Brexit’.
    It was always clear to me that Brexit is actually impossible. It can’t be done, unless we mine the channel and fill in the tunnel etc etc. However, there is a significant number of influential and wealthy people (e.g. the ERG gang, Farrage etc.) bent on pushing the UK into crashing out into a no-deal which would be very advantageous for them and disastrous for us serf classes.
    These people and their lies will never go away. They will never stop trouble-making. Until they get what they want, roughly what we’d call a ‘hard Brexit’.
    Given that the only true Brexit is a no-deal Brexit which would be beneficial only for these self-seeking rich parasites, would there be any benefits for the majority of us from a so-called soft Brexit.
    Lets say that a ‘soft’ Brexit is achieved where most of the agreements that came as being a member of the EU over the past 40 years are re-achieved and put into UK law.
    What is the major benefit of that? IMHO the major benefit is that we will no longer be a member of the EU (on paper) so then WE CAN NEVER LEAVE! Sorry to shout. At last, our relationship with Europe will be properly protected and preserved.
    As I said, call me a deluded optimist…

  • 21 Don April 13, 2019, 9:38 am

    >> Oborne presents a laundry list as to why Brexit has failed to-date

    Brexit hasn’t just “failed to date” – it’s failed completely and is dead.

    There’s only one reason that matters – parliament doesn’t want to implement it, and won’t. It was holed below the waterline from day one. It is much simpler than people think.

    And they are now just stalling until they believe public opinion has turned enough to win a second referendum to overturn it. Give it a couple more years of FUD from the press and a political trick or two…

    Go democracy!

  • 22 PendleWitch April 13, 2019, 10:03 am

    I’d already read the Morgan Housel link; although the insight is investment-based, there are wider parallels! It’s quite long, but near the end are the following comments:

    “Going out of your way to speak with people whose backgrounds are different than yours, knowing that their view of the world may look nothing like your own, though they are just as sure of their views as you are of yours, is a humbling thing.”

    “Another takeaway is remembering that people whose views and decisions look crazy to you may be less crazy than you think, because they’re being made by people whose views on risk and reward were shaped in a different world than you’ve experienced.”

  • 23 Andrew April 13, 2019, 11:09 am

    I think the problem with looking at Brexit through purely economic perspective is… That isn’t why most people voted leave. As a disclaimer, I’m a remainer and Brexit has largely followed the path I expected.

    But, if you are told by the government to vote one way, if you see the NHS struggling under pressure of demand and have the expectation that “more” people are going to come and put use it, if you see Polish workers undercutting you, if you struggle to get appointment at your doctors, if you can’t get to bench press at the gym because some Eastern European guy is pressing ahead of you…. Then the broader economic picture is just meaningless.

    I’ll finish with an anecdote. I recently went to see progress on a building development run by a friend in Manchester. Pre-brexit vote he was employing 90% polish labour. Now that’s down to maybe 20%. Wages are up over 30%. It has hit him hard, but it has benefited the local labour pool. So to understand why people voted leave, and why there is still a strong leave constituent you need to look at the broader picture. For a large number of people, the EU while providing soft, hard to see benefits, has large and visible costs.

  • 24 Guy April 13, 2019, 11:11 am

    Why this divide between the two EU-relationship options is so intractable is because it’s a totally contradictory mindset and lifestyle desire. This means that a compromise will make both sides unhappy, while one side winning leaves half the population hating every day of their lives, feeling subjugated. Good neighbours are possible between very different people who are fine with a live and let live attitude, I don’t agree with your beliefs but will accept they are important with you and wont interfere with how you live, while you return the respect similarly.

    But brexit requires one half to really lose and that is why they feel they have nothing to lose by fighting it as long as they have a pulse. Ways of thinking often take at least a generation to change, one death at a time, so a workable peace right now looks impossible. Partition for example could work, but centralisation of power has seen off meaningful devolution, so that regions are barely allowed any freedoms at local government level, let alone cities. That is unhelpful in closing off a pressure-release valve whereby you could move to an adjacent area that is run by the politics you agree with, rather than having to turn your life upside down by leaving the country for example.

  • 25 Steve April 13, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Well we keep getting told the EU is the land of milk and honey by all the media outlets at the moment, but at the same time they are refusing to publish any problems the EU has at all, the media blackout on the yellow vest movement that seems to be burning and disrupting Paris every weekend along with any other problems that don’t seem to get a mension.
    I just think the disruption that could be caused by ignoring the people could be much more costly in the end than a wto Brexit, in fact I also think a Corbyn led Labour Party in charge would be more costly that wto Brexit.
    Storm in a tea cup compared with going against the people and the disruption that could ensue.
    You will have 17.5 million people that will be looking to vote any other party than Conservative and Labour, think right wing.
    All across the EU the people are being ignored and they are turning to right wing groups.
    The next elections will be very interesting.
    The reason a lot of people voted out of the EU was because they thought they weren’t getting a good enough say in how the country was run, if that isn’t dealt with there will be repercussions.
    Every time in history that the people have been ignored for long periods of time and been kept down by the system, while a few have made out like bandits has ended in tears.
    You look how after the 2ww the UK and US along with many other countries prospered, you could say that was because the old boys network was decimated so much that more money ended up in the hands of the people rather than all going to the top of the ladder and just gets put under the mattress.
    Already the disruption is creating more money lower down the ladder which then gets spent and improves the economy.
    If the people feel down trodden and let down they are hardly going to happily buy everything in sight.
    They are more likely to use disruptive buying
    And bank runs etc.
    Also you can’t easily dismiss that the people could be right, let’s face it if we took all the advice about loosing the pound and having the Euro that would have been a huge mistake. It was only public uproar and sentiment that kept the pound.
    Either way, I don’t believe money wise it will be much different in or out of the EU, we would probably become less reliant on the EU and at this moment in time that doesn’t seem a bad idea.

  • 26 The Investor April 13, 2019, 1:17 pm

    I’ll finish with an anecdote. I recently went to see progress on a building development run by a friend in Manchester. Pre-brexit vote he was employing 90% polish labour. Now that’s down to maybe 20%. Wages are up over 30%. It has hit him hard, but it has benefited the local labour pool.

    @Andrew — Interesting comment and a striking anecdote, but at this point I think that’s all it is. I’ve not heard/read any official statistics suggesting anything like that sort of crash in EU migrant employment, nor the equivalent massive wage hike. Not to say it hasn’t happened to your friend but I’d want to see it in wide scale official figures before drawing conclusions.

    However let’s make a big leap for a moment and say that sort of impact does occur across the low-skilled end of the UK workforce. (A massive leap in my book but let’s say it does). Even ignoring all the other benefits of EU membership (frictionless trade, sharing of information, joint bodies, helping to stop WW3 etc) it’s not clear to me that even the lowest paid will actually benefit, across the whole cohort.

    For a start I think there’s plenty of evidence/stories that British born people don’t want to do many of the menial jobs EU migrants have done. The classic example is picking strawberries / daffodils / whatnot. To the extent that someone else is doing it, then “we” benefit when it gets done and we don’t have to do it, yet that doesn’t show up as an economic benefit except in lower prices.

    Which leads to the second point. The higher you go up the wealth bracket, the more I think you escape the impact of taking lower waged competition out of the economic base. (Again, presuming there was an impact. It seems obvious on the surface, but there are all kinds of cross-currents (e.g. A polish worker needs his hair cut, which boosts demand for hairdressers, etc). The pre-Referendum evidence suggested either no or very marginal net impact and only at the lowest decile, but this is a thought experiment so we’ll assume it does and low-end wages do rise).

    Wealthy people pay more proportionally on things like school fees, private medical insurance, expensive cars, holidays, luxury goods, financial services and so on. Even housing, where you might argue they’d ultimately be hit be higher labour costs, most of the housing they buy goes towards location location location, not the price of putting one brick on top of each other.

    In contrast lower-paid people would be hit directly by an increase in costs of food, vegetables, higher costs of more utilaterian housing (perhaps offset by lower demand?), NHS costs (nurses etc), council tax (having to pay more for refuse collection, road sweeping etc) — the list goes on.

    So what some lower income households gain in higher wages, many could lose in higher costs.

    If somebody wants to argue that there’s a growing regional / generational / class / technocratic divide in this country that has produced the tensions that led to a yes for Brexit, I’d agree. 🙂 I’ve been banging the drum here sporadically about wealth/income inequality for ten years. I’m the rare commentator who wants to hike inheritance tax to help level the outcomes of 21st Century capitalism / the 30-year housing boom! And while like others I’m fearful of a Corbyn government, I wouldn’t argue with some radical redistribution if it was well-targeted (rather than nonsense like mass nationalisations).

    E.g. I would probably scrap tuition fees entirely for university, or at the least for STEM subjects, and look for radical measures to help young people from less wealthy backgrounds get into promising sectors where it’s difficult without parental support. (E.g. Jobs in London, media, some tech, etc). I’d spend more heavily on supporting training, skilled apprenticeships etc.

    However – hard though it might be for some to hear – I don’t see a big future in low/unskilled low-paid labour. I think it’s better to work towards having fewer of our citizens be low/unskilled labourers.

    We know the robots are coming for much of this work, as well as ongoing globalization impacts etc. I don’t think we should be directing our national policy / place in Europe to support the weakest part of our economy, for little if any net benefit, that doesn’t have much of a future. It would be a short-term win for a few with plenty of downside.

  • 27 the IG April 13, 2019, 1:39 pm

    #Any Leave voters coming to their senses deserve a smile not “I told you so”.#

    Charitable view there – I prefer requesting that they conduct the MMM self-facepunch option myself whilst repeating ‘ I must think important decisions though before voting on them’ over and over again until they end up crying on the floor.
    However, this is not, and I repeat in CAPTIALS – NOT, for having their view – everyone is entitled to that; but merely that they obv. envisaged that the present situation wasn’t going to happen. My decision to vote the way I did was based on the present clusterf**k be pretty much a guaranteed situation – although even I didn’t expect it to quite so bad.
    I mean – and ask yourself honestly – did anyone expect a bunch of power crazy and childish/self serving ****s to act in a way that benefits Britain rather than their own political agenda when it came to negotiations – and for them to be conducted in an intelligent manner ? I certainly didn’t.

  • 28 ZXSpectrum48k April 13, 2019, 1:43 pm

    I just find very hard to imagine that reducing immigration will result in any long-term rise in wages. Short-term, I can see that reducing immigration will cause an instant rise in wages due to bottlenecks caused by localized skill shortages. These always take time to be arbitraged away.

    Long-term, though, I just think higher wages is a pipedream; a fantasy that doesn’t accept the global realities. Globally aggregate supply of labour continues to outstrip aggregate demand for labour. The EM labour pool is upskilling and improvements in machine learning/AI will only exacerbate this. This is a post-scarcity era for most human labour and the price it commands will continue to drop as it is commoditized. Only when the EM labour pool becomes wealthy enough to consume the products and services that they produce can any sort of equilibrium be re-established.

    Worse, the UK has a very bifurcated economy. We have small segments of high value work but a much larger proportion of low value work. This is reflected in our productivity distribution: a bigger left tail (poor productivity) and bigger right tail (higher productivity) than vs. other G10 countries . We lack the “better than average” productivity companies. Other countries (France, Germany, the US etc) have been far more effective at exporting low value work to EM countries whilst retaining the high value work.

    One reason for this is that native UK workforce has a lower skillset vs. the G10. Our high productivity areas rely on importing skills via immigration. With this high skill immigration has come low skill immigration, and yes, that may suppress wages at the margin. Nonetheless, higher wage levels are hard to sustain for low skill work. It will simply result in that work being relocated into cheaper labour pools, automation etc.

    This is a widespread global issue and not really something that can be solved by being in or out of the EU. It’s being exacerbated in the UK by an unwillingness to invest in infrastructure/science/education, our short-termism, and inability to diversify our economy.

  • 29 Pinkney April 13, 2019, 1:57 pm

    Well there is nothing new to add regarding Brexit it’s all been repeated far too many times. I am glad the site is continuing but I think if the whole Brexit thing had been avoided it may have been better for all as it’s become a contagion across the internet personally I would vote for no more Brexit posts as being right in the end is often annoying for both sides of the argument.Live long and prosper and remember you can’t take it with you.

  • 30 FI Warrior April 13, 2019, 2:20 pm

    Possibly the one piece of investment or even life advice that stands the test of time is ‘If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is’. Or at the very least: be on heightened alert and check it out with research, yes, like facts.

    So for all the emotion aroused by politics, people’s aversion to pain can restrain them to an extent, like the Scots with their last independence referendum, baulking at the financial penalty to satisfy any yearning for freedom. With some more time then, just the uncertainty alone unravelling the economy will show those who don’t believe anything bad can happen, that it is a reality. Then the electoral math may even shift, but otherwise demographic reality will just do it more slowly.

  • 31 Investment Banker April 13, 2019, 3:30 pm

    I would like to address a couple of comments by Eugene / ZX Spectrum with a real life example.

    Eugene, you asked a question – what’s the benefit of being in the European Union. Well if you work in financial services as about 1 million people do across the UK its the single market. Personally I and my colleagues advise clients across the European Union on the basis of our regulatory approvals from the FCA that are pan european because we are in the single market. Leaving the European Union will invalidate that regulatory approval.

    Given Financial Services is 6.5% of GDP and is the area where we have the biggest trade surplus with the EU according to latest Parliamentary briefings how does someone who is in favour of brexit propose to deal with this problem? You will note you rarely hear Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees Mogg discussing this. Although you can find out that JRM has opened an office in Dublin!

    The office I work in has a large number of continental europeans and relatively few english people there. the continental europeans service their clients from london through calls and travelling. the banks are in london for a number of reasons, its a great city! but critically regulatory authority through the single market is key.

    A number of these bankers I work with will be earning say £300,000. That’s £120k income tax and £60k National Employers (by the company) Insurance. People may not like those numbers, I understand, but that’s the facts.

    I have read research which indicates the average person is paying around £6k income tax. So one banker earning that kind of money and leaving London is going to need 20 other people paying average tax. Make that 1,000 bankers leaving and that’s a lot of people. And its probably worse than that because those people don’t tend to use public services such as the NHS and Schools nor will they ever be a burden on the state as they grow older. Maybe its better as we don’t like those type of people…? Ok this is an economics example 🙂

    Which brings me to ZX Spectrum Point. As an english person, I have been constantly surprised over many years as to why there are so few british people in the office. The reality is the british graduates do not seem to screen as competitively as other graduates within the european union or people outside the european union who we allow to work here on a tier two visa. They are less skilled quantitatively and often less motivate. Oddly enough they are better at communicating with people often!

    I am sorry to say that leaving the single market will be extremely damaging for financial services and I have not heard anyone come up with an answer for this. I don’t know much about how leaving the single market will effect say Pharmaceuticals or Oil and Gas but I do know a bit about the industry I work in. Which happens to be one of our few remaining world class industries we have and in a large part pays for the public services that we benefit from.

    I am not keen on free movement of labour so no need to bucket me in the hard core remainer camp. Just a pragmatist who worries a lot about the ability of us to fund our public services and the impact Brexit will have on the poorest in society and the increasingly elderly population. Neither of which is me!

    Nor will leaving the single market particularly affect my job as I will likely be able to move to continental europe and continue working there. Its amazing how everything is conducted in english, which must really grate on some of the continental europeans!

    P.S. WTO is not the answer here as it relates to tariffs on goods whereas the single market is all about regulatory alignment. The customs union doesn’t help either as again that’s goods.

    P.P.S. It’s not all doom and gloom for financial services. If we left, I very much expect that we would manage to negotiate something called third country equivalence. This would likely mean we could continue to advise. But (a) this would mean we had zero say in setting the rules (now we have a lot of say) (b) it can be withdrawn by the EU at will. Which is not the best environment for banks to invest in London.

  • 32 Matthew April 13, 2019, 3:51 pm

    The economic damage currently attributed to brexit is actually to the uncertainty since brexit hasn’t happened yet, and this uncertainty is down to both sides digging their heels in, you wouldn’t have had that if it just went straight into no deal, then you would have genuinely brexit-responsible disruption – of course in the short term no deal would cause disruption, but in the long term we could align with much bigger markets in the US and the rest of the world, and we could eventually bring money in as a tax haven.

    But trade-motivated is a whole different species of brexiteer than immigration-motivated – if there were a shortage of low skill labour then the low skilled jobs that survive would be forced to raise wages, especially since UK workers are more likely to be on benefits and therefore it takes more incentive to get them to work, so wages would have to rise, even if it is at the expense of the economy as a whole, – being in low skilled work and voting accordingly doesn’t make it an uneducated decision, just like the poor might vote for minimum wage rises even if they’re told it’d be bad for the wider economy. Wanting immigrants out isn’t so much about race as simply a way to eliminate a rival in the jobs and housing market, they’d deport all other English if they could

    But anyway, a trade brexiteer would be satisfied by Norway, and an immigration brexiteer would be satisfied by a customs union

    I don’t think many really care about the backstop or about the union. I also don’t see how the DUP can want a hardish brexit without accepting a border or backstop

  • 33 Matthew April 13, 2019, 4:18 pm

    Just wanted to add that one reason foreign workers of all types are cheaper is that sadly many of them opt out of their pension schemes because they mistakenly believe they won’t be able to claim it when they retire back home, in that way auto-enrollment helps but isn’t a complete panacea

  • 34 MrOptimistic April 13, 2019, 4:25 pm

    I reckon London and the SE England bankrolls the rest of the UK so don’t want to see the goose shot. Can’t see what’s wrong with a customs union myself: the idea that we could separately and independently set up trade deals with the EU on one hand and the rest of the world on the other doesn’t seem practicable. Getting back to a relationship more akin to pre- maastricht sounds ok to me. If we could dump the Eurovision Song Contest then bonus. Incidentally, if Israel is part of Europe according to that, shouldn’t the Lebanon and Syria be included also? Only The White Heather Club is higher in my hate list.

  • 35 The Investor April 13, 2019, 6:28 pm

    @Eugene — “How can you doubt that millions of EU migrants doesn’t put downwards pressure on wages? More supply leads to lower prices. Why would this economic law not apply to the demand for labour.”

    I’ve been through this in long comments before, but basically (a) because migrants create demand / opportunity as well as supply (e.g. my hairdresser example above, or a UK native maybe is able to shuffle up the ladder with superior language skills / local contacts to a higher wage managing migrants etc, to give two examples) and (b) lots of studies that I trust found no impact, and just one found a very small impact.

    It’s one of those things that sounds obvious so people just believe it, without looking at the evidence.

    I don’t doubt it has an impact on housing demand in the South East though, because we weren’t building enough homes down here even before that spike. And probably on demand in hot spots for things like the NHS, though you have to offset that with migrant health workers etc. Though ironically the Brexit heartland is in the North where of course there’s much less widespread inward migration.

    @ZX Spectrum — Obviously I agree with all that. The only thing I’d add is that the payments the EU makes to less prosperous regions (e.g. in Central Europe) are designed to help accelerate the economic growth of those countries to bring them up closer to our level. So in time (a) the wage differentials are softened and (b) they have more demand for our higher end services.

    The UK was in a nice place to capitalize here, with lots of EU migrant workers especially in financial services with plenty of connections in these emerging regions able to forge connections / business as they grew wealthier. Hopefully Brexit doesn’t entirely screw up the goodwill/base we’d built out here.

  • 36 Matthew April 13, 2019, 6:51 pm

    @ti – Although immigrants do create some demand as well as supply, they supply far more labour than they demand, you’re very much getting the working age, and willing to work part of the population. Many immigrants have to rent too due to backgrounds so they work huge amounts of overtime to pay that, supplying more labour

    I think there are huge vested interests in keeping labour cheap, very persistent, I didn’t think they’d even allow article 50 to be invoked at all to be honest

  • 37 Jim McG April 13, 2019, 6:52 pm

    Not long after I read your blog, I read this, from Charles Leadbeater: “The Remain campaign was all about money and how much people would lose if Britain exited the EU. The Leave campaign was all about restoring a semblance of meaning to people’s lives despite not having much money. As a vote for something more than money – for pride, belonging, community, identity, a sense of “home” – it was a rejection of the market … The result was a reminder that people need something in their lives that feels more important than money – especially perhaps when they have little prospect of having much”. I stopped blogging about FIRE when it became obvious to me that you really needed a small fortune to consider it, and I felt a bit of a fraud in not admitting this. Although I really believe that there is much more to life than money, money, money, I found it hard discovering what that might be. But I do feel that the Remain lobby just refuse to recognise that a lot of people felt the same about Brexit – there’s more to it than bloody money, and what that is needs to be understood instead of condemned as simply stupidity, racism and bigotry.

  • 38 The Investor April 13, 2019, 7:32 pm

    @Jim McG — (Nice to see you’re still sexhealthmoneyalive by the way! 🙂 )

    I readily agree that voting Brexit was in many cases not about money. That’s because every time I talk to any Leaver, here or (vanishingly rarely, not through want of looking for them) in real life, they tell me a different reason. And some of these were not about money. (Sovereignty, immigration, ‘control’, low wages etc). Every time, another reason and I “obviously” don’t get it.

    This is all well known. There are at least half a dozen core “reasons why we voted to Leave” and they run the gamut. But as I said in my post above, Leave voters never acknowledge this. Instead they lambast us if we try to address one reason for voting Leave instead of their preferred reason. In a public forum like this, it’s Wac-a-Mole.

    If Leave wasn’t about money for lots of people then Leave shouldn’t have put £350 million on the side of a bus. Or said we would be richer with superior trade deals. Or said it would boost low wages (which people are again arguing here.)

    So again, we see little from the Leave side really acknowledging this here. And nobody seems bothered they were lied to. In that sense, people are right that you can’t appeal to cold logic / economics.

    So you admit that, and then people say you’re accusing them of being irrational. It’s impossible. 😐

  • 39 Matthew April 13, 2019, 7:46 pm

    We expect to be lied to by all sides, and I for one never believed the 350m bus claim, or even thought that that was significant in the first place, I even acknowledge many of remains claims about the impact and difficulty, but it didn’t matter as it didn’t affect my goals, its perception of how it will affect us individually, and people on different circumstances will have different motivations, same with remain – some remainers were more focussed on trade, some have particular sympathy for immigrants, some wish to travel easily, etc

    Even the uncertainty around brexit could’ve boosted wages a bit by deterring lower skilled migration… As non EU migrants who replaced them in the net migration figures have to earn more to stay

  • 40 Investment Banker April 13, 2019, 8:54 pm

    Hi Eugene,

    So, the following link suggests that 44% of financial services exports go to the EU

    If you read the article the taxation numbers are very substantial.

    With respect to Lloyds of London, it’s not my specific area but I know that firms have set up offices in Continental Europe to move people to if we leave the single market. I understand your point about Lloyds of London business being conducted for hundreds of years but that was prior to the creation of the single market. Now if you want to conduct regulatory business in the single market you need to have regulatory approval. If we leave the single market we will lose this. No doubt if someone is reading who is active in this market they can comment or disagree.

    If we leave the single market it is an exaggeration to suggest financial services will reduce to zero on day one. This is too much historic capital and know how here and the link shows we do business outside the EU. But I can tell you what the investment bank I work for is planning. We have opened another head office in continental europe, we have identified the key people who need to leave at short notice (literally a few days). they will be the vanguard and unless the UK obtains third party regulatory equivalence in key areas more people will be following them as we have to migrate across to service our clients.

    And a lot of those people who also do business outside the EU would go…as they do business with people in the EU and therefore need the regulatory approval. Plus banks centralise people for efficiency savings – hence why my bank has a main office in london currently and just a few small offices across continental Europe – it’s cheaper and always better to speak in person than email.

    Third party regulatory equivalence means we can continue to conduct business in certain areas but have no say and it can be withdrawn at short notice. How is that taking back control?

    If people genuinely want to weigh up the impact for certain industries then this is a good article for financial services to read (at least the first para!)


    With regards to your comments on the bank bailouts. To be clear that was largely a specific component of financial services – mortgage lending. But it’s a good point although let me play it back. 10 years ago, the financial crisis was an extremely serious event as you and others obviously know. Everyone commented that financial services was too large part of the economy. Since then what industries have we found to replace it…..

    Do I think financial services is too large part of the UK economy…yes. But the fact remains its a very substantial contributor to public services and if we leave the single market then we will have to plug the gap. Either (a) taxes have to rise (b) we borrow more (c) we cut services. Maybe (d) is we find another industry to replace it. If we can’t do that post the financial crisis I am highly sceptical we will do that post leaving the single market.

    Maybe the reason so few politicians on either side talk about financial services is because it remains a difficult industry politically post the financial crisis (per your comment) and there is no answers. But it’s 50x the size of the fishing industry!

    Have you heard many Brexiteers – politicians and the like discussing which industries will pick up the slack from financial services? If it’s ‘manufacturing’ it doesn’t seem to worry Germany too much who export substantially more to China than we do. We don’t make enough any more as we don’t appear to be very good at it.

    Maybe that’s because of our nations overall skill levels. The comment ZX Spectrum made about the UK importing high quality talent unfortunately rings a loud bell in the area I work.

    if anyone is still reading (lol) I don’t want people to ignore and say this guy’s a hard core remainer, I really am not. I am not a fan of freedom of movement of labour in the single market personally although that is just one component in our immigration story. I could have voted Brexit, having made cash or moved across to continental europe with my job. I just feel many people have voted brexit without understanding the economic impact. And who can blame them, who would know – I haven’t a clue on most other industries.

    I believe this is why the government refuses to take us out on a no deal brexit. I also believe many politicians who promote brexit are being unclear on the economic costs. I believe they thought the European Union would allow us single market access without signing up to the four freedoms. That has proved wrong but I don’t blame people for believing it was possible.

    And like us all, I do love my country and the people. If anyone has any answers here, I am all ears and always happy to answer questions!

  • 41 Matthew April 13, 2019, 10:04 pm

    @investmentbanker – I imagine there is a disconnect between how people think the economy will fare and their individual situation – financial services may well bring wealth in, for the richest 1%, it may create jobs – in London, and the poor don’t shoulder so much of the tax burden to care too much about the taxman’s finances (admittedly with the exception of austeritys effect on benefits)

    People knew and accepted there would be harm to parts of the economy they didn’t feel much stake in

    Like you say, politicians don’t want to cause the damage they know would come, the technocrats inside them are struggling with the democrats inside them – can we allow a democratic act of overall self harm? Or do we decide whats best for the people and try to make it look like we have a mandate for what we have already decided by redoing the vote?

  • 42 Jimmy brown April 13, 2019, 10:27 pm

    As a landlord I am experiencing first hand the uncertainties are causing.

    Pre- referendum my properties rent quickly. I am now struggling to rent a properties in London. It might be anecdotal but I think the Eastern Europeans are going back home . Pre-referendum 75% of the prospective tenants who came through the door were eastern European.

    Now all I seem to get looking for properties are native Brits on universal credit and some on zero hour contract .

    From my experience the eastern Europeans make great tenants. They came to work and rarely destroy your place and mostly pay on time . I cannot say the same of the natives.

  • 43 Fremantle April 14, 2019, 2:27 am

    Open, Internationalist relations with our neighbours are achievable outside of the EU. Control over immigration and democratic control over rule setting is not.
    No matter the ‘I told you so’ attitude of much of the Remainer crowd, they now have to also govern for the 52% who voted Leave or find themselves with an ungovernable country

  • 44 Ben April 14, 2019, 7:11 am


    We already have democratic rule making within the EU, if we opt for a softer Brexit we become a rule taker, rather than a rule maker. I assume therefore that you would prefer a harder Brexit. But then the voting slip didn’t specify a hard Brexit, there is as much mandate for a softer Brexit, but that might allow freedom of movement, so…… 2nd referendum with an actionable question?

    I take your point about 52% voting for leave, but 48% didn’t, so either way you’d be left with an ungovernable country, and as remain are manned by knife wielding youths, and leave by doddery old men, my money would be on the police dealing with the leavers for easily.

  • 45 two shillings and sixpence April 14, 2019, 8:03 am

    I don’t think the DUP would have a problem with a hard border but would not admit this. If they can blame the EU for a hard border all the better. The key for them is to maintain the Union even at the expense of the economy. Anything that would bring Northern Ireland closer to the Republic is a negative.

  • 46 Indecisive April 14, 2019, 8:23 am

    @Sam, comment #16
    “I don’t understand how any deal which involved Britain staying in the customs union or single market could be in any way described as a legitimate form of Brexit.”

    Because the proponents of Brexit described it as such before the referendum? Well, more the customs union bit rather than the single market, as far as people understood the difference before the vote.

    Over on Twitter Steve Analyst did a good round-up recently of why “No Deal” was not what was understood as “Brexit” at the time of the vote: https://twitter.com/EmporersNewC/status/1113547733300842497

  • 47 The Investor April 14, 2019, 9:43 am

    The sad fact is we all — individually to varying extents, and as ‘factions’ — emphasize what was said and done to best suit our agenda, and tend to downplay the arguments of the other.

    E.g. Obviously I think Remain has a far stronger argument in most respects, especially truth and facts, but Leavers have a massive trump card when they say that we tend to ignore/gloss over the fact that they won the Referendum. I can see how airy talk of what’s to be done to avoid leaving at all angers people who say they already won (although I have no sympathy with the Just Do It / Brexit Means Brexit / Soft Brexit is not Brexit brigade, for reasons already articulated in this thread. If only it were that simple.)

    As time has gone on, the stupidity* of this Referendum has only grown more evident. While I loathe the man and his methods — and indeed would consider his presence on my side a strong hint I’m on the wrong one — Farage is astute in framing this as a national crisis. What we have here is a (so far mostly, thankfully) bloodless civil war.

    Like many I discovered belatedly that many countries that use Referendum to decide constitutional issues require a 60% mandate to win, and Brexit makes it clear why. The idea that 2% this way or the other on some particular day after some particular Sequence of Events represents the “overwhelming” Will Of The People is ludicrous.

    *I sometimes wonder whether I’d shake the hand of David Cameron or even Theresa May if I met them. It seems an anathema to democracy not to, yet these people have behaved with such self/party-serving recklessness they’ve endangered that very democracy. I think on balance I’d be polite to May (who I have very little time for in every respect re: Brexit) but I honestly think I’d blank Cameron. I’m sure he’d live with it, but still. You just know he expects (and has doubtless gets) slaps on the back and “bad luck chap”.

  • 48 MrOptimistic April 14, 2019, 10:10 am

    The referendum was about stopping the conservative party leaking votes to ukip. David Cameron thought it would settle the matter by showing the nation was content to stay. To what extent he considered the possibility of a leave win I don’t know, except that he immediately bailed.
    It is now ironic that Farage is back ( my wife joined on Friday, so that’s £25 gone). The problem the Conservative party faces is an existential one. Their appeal was always tilted to The Shires and the older electorate, exactly the same people who tend to vote conservative.
    Irrespective of brexit, the conservatives have a problem getting votes in London and other cities, and with the young. Brexit has made this worse but not critically so. The anger about brexit up here in the more rural areas is becoming visceral. I suspect you underestimate it. Conservative party members are sending very clear messages to that effect. Theresa May hasn’t the political nous or the intellectual ability to navigate the party out of this mess.
    Conservative MPs can’t be far off panic. To maximise their advantage Labour will insist on a second referendum ( as a matter of political advantage, not principle despite what they will say). This won’t be acceptable to the Conservatives as it’s a route to their extinction.
    May’s deal is dead owing to the Irish border. That leaves a customs union. That aligns with some of Labours red lines so in adopting it the Conservatives can claim Labour is betraying brexit if it opposes it purely on the second referendum issue. It also appeases the rural leavers, at least to some extent. Think the dissatisfied conservative voters would largely come back to the fold if the alternative was labour and a second vote.
    So my money is on a customs union.

  • 49 Ben April 14, 2019, 10:10 am

    “I sometimes wonder whether I’d shake the hand of David Cameron or even Theresa May if I met them”


    I hold no enmity towards DC, the decision to head off Ukip seems rational at least.

    I can’t say the same for TM though. Reholding ‘meaningful’ votes while Rome burns…

    I’ll leave it there before we end up back in the quagmire though.

  • 50 The Investor April 14, 2019, 10:32 am

    @MrOptimistic — I’m not sure I do underestimate the anger, to be fair. 🙂 From the week after the Referendum result I warned on this blog that Brexit would unleash furious division across the country that would run for years, and commentators told me essentially “hey, we have elections all the time, what’s the big deal, move on”. This revealed to me that many Leave voters didn’t realize the enormity of what they’d voted for. I just now described the consequent fight as a ‘bloodless civil war’. Any student of history knows civil wars are typically the worst and most dangerous kind. 🙁 Fully agree with your comments about the Conservatives though. Have you seen the polling data on the youth vote? From memory for under-25s, they get below 5% of the vote. I know from experience (family members) that older Leave voters feel personally slapped in the face when you point out the demographics are moving against Brexit with every daily funeral, but it’s grimly true, and as things stand true of the Conservative party.

    @Ben — Yes, as I say I think about it specifically because it is difficult and it reveals how toxic feelings are running about this. Perhaps I should shake his hand and tell him he was wrong, and pointedly not slap him on the back.

    @Freemantle — I deleted your one line comment, as I have done with several on this thread from people on both sides of the debate. I warned I might above. It’s not constructive, especially if it escalates into endless tit-for-tat. Go to a newspaper site if that’s what you’re after.

  • 51 Matthew April 14, 2019, 10:48 am

    @ben – we would take EU rules as much as we choose to trade with the EU, US rules as much as we choose to trade with the US, Japanese, etc, and to some extent all trading partners will have to fit with us too. We will have choice between them, in the long term the economy may restructure.

    Yes, being in the EU gave us a minority vote on things within it, and they hardly had to listen to us when we were in, ie how they fobbed David Cameron off

    @two shillings, thank you, makes more sense. I’ve read that may fears a hard border succeeding as that would give Scotland more confidence to become independent

  • 52 Matthew April 14, 2019, 10:49 am

    @ben – we would take EU rules as much as we choose to trade with the EU, US rules as much as we choose to trade with the US, Japanese, etc, and to some extent all trading partners will have to fit with us too. We will have choice between them, in the long term the economy may restructure.

    Yes, being in the EU gave us a minority vote on things within it, and they hardly had to listen to us when we were in, ie how they fobbed David Cameron off

    @two shillings, thank you, makes more sense

  • 53 Fremantle April 14, 2019, 11:01 am


    Your site, your rules. It was a genuine question though.

    Politics makes strange bedfellows and finding yourself on the same side with people that you disagree with on many issues is not a reason to abandon your principles.

    I came to my leave position through a continuation of my classical liberal belief system and assessment that democracy works more effectively in smaller body politics. Self determination has been a fundamental and previously considered legitimate motivation for political change.

    I supported Scotland’s move towards independence and would also support Welsh and Northern Irish right to question and ultimately change their path, even if I believe, as I do, that the Union they’d be leaving is beneficial to them from an economic, political, cultural and social viewpoint.

    My favoured Brexit has always been hard, max sovereignty version. I appreciate that there is no appetite in Parliament for that, and at the moment I think that the softest of softest exits will do, just to get out of the ever closer union, out of funding crazy ideas like a European army, or forcing Schengen and the Euro on all members, or chasing big internet tech out of Europe through regulation, censorship and taxation.

    I’m pro immigration, but freedom of movement undermines the democratic mandate to support it. Government cannot rebuild public confidence in immigration when it has no control of it.

  • 54 Old_eyes April 14, 2019, 11:02 am

    I quite liked the views from Seth Klarman, especially the comment “do you want to trail the market going up or going down?” That is a new thought to me on guaging your risk appetite.

    But I was puzzled by this:

    “In evaluating investments, investors should think things through much more carefully. In addition to risk and return, consider an investment’s fees, complexity, liquidity, tax treatment and the overall level of certainty or uncertainty.”

    Aren’t all the things listed part of understanding the potential reward and risk?

  • 55 MrOptimistic April 14, 2019, 11:03 am

    @TI. Cheers. Only thing I can add is that all the arguments, presentation of facts and so on, has made zero difference to the leave voters up here. Can’t vouch for downtown Bedford but in the rural areas it has only hardened attitudes along the lines of they are going to steal brexit from us and such like. ‘Facts’ are no longer listened too as it is all trickery by the London sophisticated and deep state. It will all go a bit French and get unfortunately muddled up with far right troublemakers. I have heard things I would never have expected to hear outside anarchist agiprop. Customs union or such like may square the circle and save the day. Don’t see any way of remaining and avoiding the destruction of the conservative party as a relevant force for a decade.

  • 56 Ben April 14, 2019, 11:22 am

    @Matthew Of course theoretically we have the choice to trade with these nations, in practice though we will have to trade with the US, EU etc, and it will be on their terms.

    Whereas we had outside influence in Europe. Did you notice at the emergency summit how all eyes were on Germany and France? We were in that league, we weren’t like the other 25, making up the numbers.

  • 57 The Investor April 14, 2019, 11:24 am

    @Freemantle — Well, the difference between Corbyn and his pro-Remain campaigning (such as it was) and David Cameron is the latter was the architect of this entire affair, and I think he was recklessly cavalier about the future of the country/Union (ironic for a conservative).

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t shake the hand of even Jacob Rees-Mogg or David Davis or Liam Fox. (I guess I’d have problems with Johnson for a whole variety of reasons.)

    Theresa May I feel similarly to Cameron about due to her poisonous framing of the result in the days after the result — again for personal/party reasons — but to a lesser extent (she would get a handshake) as it’s all been firefighting after DC’s initial hand grenade. The way to respond to the result was to admit an immediate national crisis, huge existential issue for UK, cross-party work from day one. It still would have been very difficult, but at least both sides would have felt respected at the start. Instead, she tried to surf the rise of populism and has (luckily, to-date at least) floundered.

    Her approach has made things worse. As I wrote in my piece, I was initially minded towards a soft Brexit as a fair result given the slim margin of win, but over time the Leave position — in sum — has looked ever less respectable to me and I’ve hardened. The same has clearly happened on the Leave side, where many more people now talk about no-deal as acceptable.

    But as I implied initially (and you’ll note I’ve almost immediately backtracked) I don’t think avoiding shaking the hand of a former prime minister who faced issues and made a stupid but legal decision represents the best of me. I more raise it for what the question/quandry reveals, and because it’s a challenge I’m trying to be alert to and confronting in my thinking. A bit fuzzy I know, but as you imply towards the end of this post (with the acceptance of a softer Brexit) I suspect we need more room for fuzziness and less dogma to unpick this.

  • 58 Ben April 14, 2019, 11:40 am


    “democracy works more effectively in smaller body politics”

    The 2nd year of the local precept increasing 40%+ without warning, or coverage by the local media would suggest theres a lower bound.

    I agree though, the nation state does seem to be a sweet spot. I’m not sure whether the EUs shortcomings are inherent or whether the complicated system was dreamt up to give the leaders of the individual states a voice, to get buy in from them.

  • 59 Steve21020 April 14, 2019, 12:10 pm

    @The Investor

    — “It’s Orwellian stuff.” —

    It is indeed. I think that one important factor rarely discussed in all this is the influence of the tabloid press over the last thirty years. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent half my life working in other European countries and thus see things from a different angle, but I’m amazed at how they’ve brainwashed so many people into believing the EU to be a ‘bad thing’. I still remember the actual day when it first hit me; reading the Daily Mail while working in France in 1988 and realising that an article critical of french working practices had absolutely not a grain of truth in it. Just as Orwell’s ‘1984’ had the obligatory viewscreen in every house spewing propaganda, so the tabloids have their pages of ‘Shock, horror, outrage’. The poor dumb creatures in his ‘Animal Farm’ were taught that ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ and started to believe it, with the pigs grinning at their clever manipulation. Maybe, after thirty years of this, the ‘animals’ may be starting to realise that not everything they were told is the truth. But as Winston Smith discovered in ‘1984’, after so many years of indoctrination, telling the truth can be quite dangerous. 😉

  • 60 Guy April 14, 2019, 1:08 pm

    The reasons brexit could now never happen is because apart from the inescapable reality of demographics shifting the electoral % needle daily, there is another powerful driving force. The extremist half of the Tory party will not compromise on the delivery of their utopian vision in the form of the purest/harshest (depending on your polarity) form of isolationism/ethnic nationalism. But this by definition splits their party between their own co-religionists as some want half a loaf in preference to no bread. While an opposition worthy of the name would win immediately by taking advantage of this chaos, labour are similarly riven by being a broad church of ideology. (a weakness of the 2-party system generating too diverse an umbrella of opinion to function)

    However, as the stalemate within the leaver camp alone continues, it works against the narrative in that the moderates figure it’s not worth it and drift to the centre, while the extremists become more angry and inflexible. In doing so they guarantee no overall movement and that convinces people that brexit is unworkable even if just because the personnel aren’t capable of executing the dream. (They will actually pick up the blame too) Because given time, the uncertainty harms the economy, so the neutrals feel the pain and they are the ignored silent third of the vote who ironically can swing everything.
    Neutrals here being defined as the third of the electorate who didn’t vote, for whatever reason, so are not immune to financial pain as they aren’t motivated by sovereignty.

  • 61 Algernond April 14, 2019, 1:52 pm

    Hi @TI.
    I think you’ve mentioned quite a few times that you can have respect for ‘sovereignty-first Leave voters’. However, there are other non- Barry Blimp reasons which are perfectly valid. There are many who see that Western civilisation is dying with the relentless onslaught from those on the left (in politics and educational establishments) who despise the West so much that they’ll align with ideologies that will show no mercy to them when all is said and done. I think Western values and culture are worth saving; otherwise what was the point of the Enlightenment and Reformation years, and the Suffragettes ..etc..? Brexit in this case is seen as a battle in the larger struggle to save Western values & culture. I am in this camp, but I’m certainly not a nationalist, and don’t spend time thinking about sovereignty.
    Of course people from my viewpoint realise that there is potential economic impact due to Brexit, but when we’re taking about the future of (civilised) civilisation itself, sacrifices have to be made.

  • 62 Ben April 14, 2019, 2:21 pm


    “Enlightenment and Reformation years, and the Suffragettes ..etc”

    All those things were at odds with prevailing western culture though.

    Those West despising Lefties live and are of the west. If they ‘win’ their values become western values. So yes while this is a battle for the heart and soul of Britain (the west), your progressive examples don’t really work.

    I would also say that western values include openness, and working together and other values embodied by the EU, so your basis for leaving the EU is a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face. Although you could say the same thing about me, based on your values.

    So either ‘western values’ aren’t universal, or they conflict in this instance, and Brexit is neither a net win or loss. Either way, it seems to negate the argument for using it as a basis for Brexit.

  • 63 Algernond April 14, 2019, 2:53 pm

    Hi @Ben,
    I’m not sure that the Enlightenment, Reformation years, and the Suffragette movement were at odds with the prevailing culture in the way that the things being pushed by the identity politics obsessed modern day left are. Progressivism ain’t what is used to be… Of course Western values include tolerance and openness, but in my book that doesn’t mean tolerating the intolerable, which many Leftists insist we must do… ’cause diversity init.
    In regards to some of the barbaric practices and customs we are told we must accept, I can sort of see the argument of some that it’s ‘their’ culture and ways, so what right have we to criticise what they do in ‘their’ countries (although, for example, the subjugation of women and gays is a powerful argument against this); but what right have the ruling liberal elites of the EU and member parliaments to change the culture of the (Western) countries they supposedly represent without at least consulting the public (e.g. Brexit sort of).
    Western values are of course not universal, but it’s quite valid to at least not want to see them regressed in Western countries, and indeed the rest of the ‘civilised’ world.

  • 64 MrOptimistic April 14, 2019, 3:09 pm

    The UK political parties arose from a class based alignment. Middle class and above, conservative. Blue collar Labour. Aspirational blue collar and upper working class, who regarded themselves as middle class much to the amusement of the true middle class ( in those days those in a ‘ professional’ occupation), tending to be conservative too. Benefit of parties is that it provides voting blocs which are effective compared to loose associations of individuals. Brexit has split the MPs along an orthogonal line so the basic alignment has failed ( whips now ineffectual). Hence the power stasis. Question is whether this brexit business is long term enough to cause a reassortment along other lines. Doubt it myself.

  • 65 Ben April 14, 2019, 3:27 pm

    “at odds with the prevailing culture in the way that the things being pushed by the identity politics obsessed modern day left are.”, “tolerating the intolerable”, “barbaric practices and customs we are told we must accept”

    I’m not really sure what things you’re referring to here, so I can’t really comment.

    “but what right have the ruling liberal elites of the EU and *member parliaments* to change the culture of the (Western) countries they supposedly represent without at least consulting the public”

    You know our Parliament is a member parliament? and they do consult via elections? and they have as much right the change European culture, as Brexiteers do, for they are also changing western culture (in a broad sense).

    I would object less, if you didn’t use the words ‘western culture’. No one in the UK can claim to be true defenders of the faith, over people in the US, France, Sweden or anywhere else. you would be on firmer footing if you claimed ‘British culture’, but the Welsh, Scots, and Northern Irish might have something to say, so you might have to settle for ‘English Culture’. But then I’m struggling to think of an example of where the EU have tried to change English culture?

  • 66 Algernond April 14, 2019, 3:59 pm

    Hello @Ben – I admit I’m a bit uncomfortable using ‘Western culture’, but I’m not sure what else to use. If I go to any European country, I can very much tell the difference culturally than any (e.g.) Middle Eastern country I’ve been to (except Israel of course). Maybe ‘Relatively civilised culture’; is what I should use, by that’s a bit of a mouthful and probably overly combative.

    I can see your point about consulting via general elections, but then again population and cultural replacement have never actually been in the manifestos of any of the main political parties..

    I don’t understand why you would think battling to stop society regressing in the UK is unrelated to what’s going on in ‘the US, France, Sweden or anywhere else’ ? We are all connected and can see what’s going on in other countries. Like I said, I’m not a Nationalist, so I quite easily feel more akin with people of similar views in ‘the US, France, Sweden or anywhere else’ than with those in the UK that don’t (have similar views).
    No, I cant think of an example where ‘the EU have tried to change English culture’. I don’t like the EU because of what it is doing to European culture (of which the UK is part of).

  • 67 Vanguardfan April 14, 2019, 4:13 pm

    I’m with guy here, and I now believe that a customs union type ‘compromise’ wouldn’t work.
    Leave voters are now being told the lie that Brexit always meant ‘no deal’ – utter nonsense but now being presented as fact including on this thread.
    Nothing will satisfy the brexiteers now (I suspect that they actually want brexit to fail so they can shout betrayal – witness the ERG refusing to actually allow Brexit to happen by voting for it in Parliament)
    I now think we have to face down the hard right and fight for remain.

  • 68 TahiPanasDua April 14, 2019, 4:49 pm

    My point has been made many times so apologies for repetition but I think it’s worth it.

    We are constantly reminded that the UK population is heartily sick of Brexit in the media. Of that we are all agreed. We wish it would all somehow go away.

    However, to what extent is the average person aware that leaving is only a first small step in a massive process that will involve dozens of mind-boggling and fractious Brexit-type negotiations with other trade groups including the EU? These typically take 5 to 10 years to resolve.

    “Brexit” will run and run. Lord help us!


  • 69 ZXSpectrum48k April 14, 2019, 5:10 pm

    What I’ve never understood is why the bulk of Leavers see their interests as being aligned with the Brexit Ultras such as BoJo, JRM, Liam Fox, Farage etc. I do think a significant minority of Leavers agree with the Ayn Rand style libertarianism that these characters desire. I’m not clear that the majority of Leavers really want the welfare state to be dismantled, pensions slashed, the NHS sold to US healthcare companies and workers’ rights to be undermined through a bonfire of regulations. I don’t see how they benefit from disaster capitalism and the UK being a tax haven. Are they happy if a reduction of EU immigration is simply offset by more immigration from EM countries?

  • 70 MrOptimistic April 14, 2019, 5:56 pm

    @ZXS. If there is the alignment you think you have seen I think it’s driven by a ‘ clean break’ mentality. Why you conflate this with deconstruction of the welfare state I have no idea. I don’t know what the term is for the propagandist technique of ascribing dark characteristics to your opponent merely to attack them but there has been plenty of it during the brexit ‘ debate’. Are Belgian nuns at risk next 🙂

  • 71 Indecisive April 14, 2019, 6:13 pm

    @Algernond, comments #66, #68 & #71

    “I think Western values and culture are worth saving; otherwise what was the point of the Enlightenment and Reformation years, and the Suffragettes ..etc..?”

    I’m one of that dying breed, a Christian – a faith whose values (and dark sides of its religion) have shaped western culture, the enlightenment, and the reformation. If anyone has a claim to speak on the decline of Western values and culture, we do. If anyone has spent the last 70 years arguing over it and losing the public argument, we have.

    I bring this up not to start any religious discussion (this blog is not the place for that), but to ground why I believe they are good values. And to ask why you believe they are worth saving?

    “There are many who see that Western civilisation is dying with the relentless onslaught from those on the left (in politics and educational establishments) who despise the West so much that they’ll align with ideologies that will show no mercy to them when all is said and done.”

    That’s a bold statement, perhaps you can evidence it? Examples would be really helpful as it’s an abstract statement.

    “…in my book that doesn’t mean tolerating the intolerable, which many Leftists insist we must do… ’cause diversity init.”

    Q: who are the “leftists” you hold up, and what do they stand for? I ask as I’d consider myself to be centre-left (believing all people are created equal, in social justice, but remaining selfish enough to want to be better-off than my neighbour), but see no reflection of your “left” in what I believe.

    “In regards to some of the barbaric practices and customs we are told we must accept”

    Who is telling us? And what are the practices and customs?

    “but what right have the ruling liberal elites of the EU and member parliaments to change the culture of the (Western) countries they supposedly represent without at least consulting the public (e.g. Brexit sort of)…”

    Are they? Can you point me to examples, because apart from the sharia law stuff that cropped up a few years ago, and some sexuality & marriage definition changes, I can’t think of anything that fits with this.

    “I don’t like the EU because of what it is doing to European culture (of which the UK is part of).”

    What is the EU doing to European culture?

  • 72 The Investor April 14, 2019, 8:05 pm

    @Indecisive — Thanks for fielding that, I’m a bit out of puff now. I’ve had enough comments/emails over the past few years telling me “it’s all about whether you want the UK to be a Muslim country or not” to know that these Brexit conversations usually end in this direction eventually. 🙁

    As with so much in the Brexit canon, it doesn’t even stand up by its own ‘logic’. (As you say, I haven’t noticed any impact whatsoever of this supposed erosion of Western values — if anything the permissive society in the West has overshot its Overton Window).

    Already migration from outside of the EU is up a bit, even as EU migration is falling. Defenders of these coded ‘Western values’ would find plenty of supporters in Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Instead they’re trying to cut themselves off and rely on a moat. Bit late for that.

    It’s yet another way they’ve shot themselves in the foot. Europe as a bloc is perhaps powerful enough to come up with solutions to mass migration (leaving aside the issue of climate change, which needs an all-in sort of solution, and will otherwise be a big driver of migration) but the UK alone, not much. There will probably be no appetite for gun towers shooting boats full of refugees in the English Channel (or if there is we’ve got bigger problems) and in that sort of crisis/doomsday scenario if we’re outside of the EU little reason for the French/whoever to stop them departing.

    We are an integrated world. It’s too late / the world is too small / there’s too many people to pretend otherwise.

    Besides the fact of the matter is over the next 50 years the center of the world is going to move back towards the central belt running from North Africa through the Middle East and across Asia to China’s Eastern Seaboard. The demographics are plain, and just as importantly the leap / boost we got in the West from the enlightenment / gunpowder / South American gold / the industrial revolution / take your pick is exhausting itself. The US can maintain its place indefinitely (ironically partly due to inward migration from Latin America) but Europe is going to become old and less on the cutting-edge of everything and the UK not far from the front of that transition (again not at the front because immigrants have more kids, skewing down our demographics). We would be wise to position ourselves accordingly — both individually and as the West — for this transition, not kick at it with futile gestures of impotent rage, IMHO.

    Even this is to overlook the fact that the real drivers of change may yet be software / AI / robotics. I’ve visited many tech start-ups in London over the past few years full of bright EU workers who often founded these companies. Barry Blimp Jr of Bolton may rue his protest vote when London starts to lag on this score because it can’t attract as many bright young foreign things, he hasn’t got an unskilled job after all and he doesn’t want to pick strawberries even for a minimum wage up 10% because the Romanians went home, and his country’s GDP is 10-20% lower in 10-20 years than it might have been so taxes are lower so there’s less redistribution, strained NHS, even more stratified education opportunities etc.

    But I know, it’s not all about money. EXACTLY it is not all about money!

    Finally, for the record I do believe in Western values, and I’d even go so far as to say I think we’ve plenty to be proud of and to cherish and preserve. I equally know the likes of Farage and Tommy Robinson won’t be running my Western Values Museum. This is not to do impinge the commentators here, who I do not believe are from that school of thinking at all, they’re more from the middle, a sort of Scruton-eseque world view that has some valid points but doesn’t stand much contact with soundbites.

    However I do think there’s a spectrum, and equally that you always have to be careful you don’t kill the very thing you’re trying to preserve in trying to preserve it. Putting up borders, unilateralism, populist language about the enemies of the people and scapegoating sectors of society who in reality are pretty near the bottom of the pyramid in terms of the power they weild (as opposed to the shock they provoke in traditional garb on some High Streets, say) is not the way to go about preserving it, IMHO.

  • 73 Algernond April 14, 2019, 9:02 pm

    Indecisive – I can’t really respond to your questions any further without continuing in the direction that I know @TI doesn’t like (I have indeed tried not to mention that which must not be named).

    Indecisive, @TI,
    I do recommend ‘The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam’ by Douglas Murray as an interesting read. He does indeed cite the decline of Christianity as a contributing factor, even though he is not religious himself.

  • 74 The Investor April 14, 2019, 9:23 pm

    @all — Thanks for all the comments, and for people trying to keep within the spirit of discussion on this particular site (including that last one from @algernond). I’m going to close the comments here now everyone has had their say, as these Brexit discussions can be tough to moderate during the working week. Have a good one!