The United Kingdom’s “Brexit” Elections

Timothy Garton Ash believes that Brexit will absorb all the UK’s new government’s time, so this is the only thing voters should consider when voting. Thus, if one opposes Brexit one should vote strategically against the Tories rather than for their favourite party. There are two schools of thought on voting guidance available online. The “progressive alliance” school, including the More United website and the Guardian’s own tactical voting guide, looks for the most progressive alternative candidate to the Conservatives, constituency by constituency. The Best for Britain website, founded by Gina Miller–who shot to fame by winning the high court judgment that parliament had to vote on triggering article 50–and the In Facts site both offer detailed advice based on candidates’ positions on European issue.

Commentator Will Hutton warns that in this campaign silence reigns on the specifics of Brexit. Every day, 14,000 trucks come from and head to the European Union, and a quarter of British exports with the EU pass through one single port, Calais – £3bn a month. What would happen if border controls were to be reintroduced? There are multiple areas where the same lack of discussion of details is appalling: landing rights at EU airports, the export of drugs, euro trade and financial passports in the City, and so on. Britain is being led to an epic act of national self-harm over Brexit, and there is no debate about how to minimize it.

Nick Cohen believes whatever the results, Labour’s woes will not go away with this election, for they afflict social democrats and progressives across the west: being caught in the conflict between ideals of equality and fairness. Equality demands equal treatment of all immigrants, yet traditional Labour voters believe in fairness, not equality. It is not fair to them that millions who have not contributed to Britain should enjoy the benefits of living in Britain.

George Monbiot thinks that Corbyn, despite failing to shine while in opposition, is now a beacon of hope for those who seek  an escape from the unelected powers that govern the UK. May on the contrary will revert EU social and environmental protections instead of strengthening them and has no strong convictions. Garvan Walshe instead criticizes Corbyn for seeing terrorism as a deterministic consequence of the west’s foreign policies, and not as a political ideology which must be fought. In this he is coherent with Marxist influence over the social sciences, which, in their failed attempts to mimic the precision of the physical sciences, persist in ignoring the human factor in political violence. This failure to ascribe moral responsibility to terrorists too easily slips into justifying terrorism.

Meanwhile in the EU…

Francis Ghilès observes that pragmatism is needed in Europe and Macron should push against the ECB’s 2% inflation standard. German policy poses a major difficulty for the euro due to its commitment to hold down wage growth, which means productivity grows faster than workers’ pay. Combined with a tight fiscal policy, this has depressed German consumer demand at the expense of other countries export. Macron could seek the support of the hard money tradition of Germany to demand that leading central banks in Europe, the US and Japan abandon the 2% inflation standard, pointing out that the zero or negative rates resulting from this policy have spawned vast asset market bubbles around the globe. Instead, he could advocate a return to monetary orthodoxy in which central banks aim for stable prices over the very long run, where stable means reversion to the mean, and not permanent inflation at 2% per annum.

Janosch Delcker discusses how in Germany, Merkel and Schulz are bickering about who the best European is. The SPD is trying to send out the message that if German voters truly want the European Union to change, new faces in both Paris and Berlin will be needed. If the SPD wants to present itself as the party that’s willing to deepen European integration, it faces a challenge: most Germans are committed pro-Europeans but they are hesitant about paying out more money. Such statements however raise the question about how the SPD would act differently from Merkel. Schulz’s strategy so far has been to stress reforms he would like to make to the EU budget. In other words, it’s not about paying more for Europe, it’s about focusing on how the money is spent.

Guy Verhofstadt gives an example of such reform regarding European defence. More important than the 2% budget requirement from Nato, which most of Europe fail to reach, is how efficiently the money is spent. In per capita terms, Europe spends a little more than 40% of what America does on defence, yet we have only about 10 to 15% of its operational capacities. As Judy Dempsey of Carnegie Europe rightly points out, European countries have designs for 17 different main battle tanks, 20 different fighter planes, 29 different destroyers or frigates and 20 different torpedo systems. This is wasteful. If it spent strategically, within one defence framework and one defence market, the Union could afford one of the world’s most modern and powerful military forces.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC John Keane

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Also published on Medium.

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