Saturday, June 18, 2016

Brexit: the Colossal Blunder

Brexit is a bad idea whose time seems to have come. The question begging is why? After all, as Ryan Cooper says, Britain seems to have the best of both worlds. They are in the EU but nowhere near the EZ.

They get the geopolitical and trade benefits of EU membership without the euro straitjacket.

"On the face of it, the "Brexit" vote is an odd development. The U.K. has an unusual status within the European Union, with most of the advantages of EU membership and few of the disadvantages. In particular, Britons get visa-free movement throughout the EU and privileged access to European markets, but are not trapped in the economic murder-suicide pact that is the eurozone."

Brexit will be something of a murder-suicide pact for Britain, as it will likely be the beginning of the end of Britain.

So where did this bad idea come from? Well, if you go into history it's always been a fringe idea in the UK.

Britain has always been somewhat ambivalent about its place in Europe. After WWII there was a choice of whether the British wanted to be European, or part of a Trans Atlantic Anglo alliance with the US and other English speaking countries.

Trouble was, the US was never that into that idea. It urged the UK to have a good time with its European playmates.

Now, Brexit is totally associated with the Tories-though not David Cameron's Administration. But in 70s it was Labour who was for Brexit

"In the case of Brexit, it was Norman Lamont, the former chancellor of the exchequer, who dragged the idea back from the snowy wastes. Since the1975 referendum on Common Market membership – in which British voters opted to stay in by 67% to 33% – the notion that Britain might be better off outside the European Community had lost traction, apart from on the political fringes. Yes, withdrawal remained official Labour policy for much of the 1980s; but this was one of many reasons why the party was still unelectable."

"So Lamont’s decision to grant the idea mainstream credibility was a significant moment – more so even than it seemed at the time. Most of the memoirs and histories cite his speech at a fringe meeting at the 1994 Conservative conference in Bournemouth, in which he railed against the tide of EU integration: “One day it may mean contemplating withdrawal. It has recently been said that the option of leaving the Community was ‘unthinkable’. I believe this attitude is rather simplistic.”

But, I do think that Ryan Cooper is right: the total incompetence of the Eurozone gave the Brexiters the basis to attack the EU's credibility. It's ironic, really, as the euro debacle is not Britain's problem.

But it hurt the EU's credibility and has enable them to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There really is no good reason for Brexit and plenty of good reasons to stay-economic, geopolitical. and the threat of Scotland leaving, primarily.

But the dysfunctional mess of the euro system has given a credible case for a bad idea.

For more on why Brexit is such a poor idea, see this NY Times piece.

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