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Friday, 14 July 2017

Britain-in-Europe Survived as a 'Service Economy'

Yesterday, I hinted at the crucial fact that in 1948 the British people generally accepted that the country needed to rebuild its balance of payments; but their interests as consumes came to predominate over the recognised priority for productive investment in the economy. Following the collapse of neo-Keynesianism, the entry of the UK into the EEC was a vital step in the next major development. Within the cocoon of the EEC, then the EU, Britain was brought within a vast shelter that [it was hoped] could save any member country from economic catastrophe.

After Mrs Thatcher had eviscerated the economy, her successors were obliged to express admiration for her achievement in 'rebuilding' it. So, as the balance of payments worsened and the material economy continued to decay, it became imperative for the European shelter to be toughened. Mrs Thatcher herself huffed and puffed about Europe's exactions - and she gained an unprecedented rebate when other member states admitted that Britain was, indeed, being screwed under the prevailing formula - then she signed up to integrationist agreements. John Major, a hugely under-estimated figure, won a general election and proceeded to lead the country into the 'inevitable' process of political association of the EEC states with the passage of the Maastricht Treaty. A significant number of Conservative MPs, who he apparently classed as 'the Bastards', recognised that a political price was being paid for an economic shelter; and several of them did not like it. Thus they sought to oppose the surrender of ultimate sovereignty to the European Union: and though Britain went fully into the Union, there were many who resented it, in both major political parties.

Tony Blair's contempt for any history but his own, and for any political principle more profound that his convenience, led him to pack the House of Lords with donors who spared him the need to mollycoddle the trade union leaders whose predecessors has dominated the Labour Party through their control of the purse strings. His cavalier attempt to abolish the ancient office of Lord Chancellor showed how superficial he was; and the scandal of the Gulf War has rightly become the basis for an ineradicable contempt for his unconcern with truth; and apparently for the lives of British forces and Iraqui civilians. He allowed the drift towards further integration of EU institutions to continue, while considering himself a 'bridge' between the USA and the EU. Gordon Brown's brief period in office was dominated by the economic crisis, to which he and his Chancellor, Alastair Darling, responded well.

The came the Cameron-Clegg coalition. The LibDems were fanatically pro-'European', so for the five years of the coalition government the subjection of the UK to the EU was welcomed: the economic protection that it gave to the UK was recognised, and as the major financial centre to have survived well when the dust settled after the great crash of 2007-8 London was proven to be an asset to the whole of the EU. Of course, French and German bankers resented this situation; but their banks had to build up their London operations to remain globally competitive. Thus in the period 2010-15 a sub-set of the service sector, the financial services, became central to the economic offering that the EU made to the rest of the world. After five years of coalition the LibDems were adamant that they needed to stand [and to crash] as an independent party in the 2015 general election; while David Cameron [with an arrogant insouciance reminiscent of Tony Blair] promised a referendum on membership of the Union hoping, once and for all, to show that the 'Bastards' were a declining and impotent minority within the British state. Cameron was surprised to win the election, and he decided to call the referendum on the basis that a simple majority was required, with no limiting conditions. He apparently expected something over 70% of those who voted to favour continued membership of the Union. He had not foreseen that the referendum could be opened up as an avenue for the pent-up resentment of large swathes of the nation against his austerity policies, against deindustrialisation, against alien immigration, and simply against authority. The more the odious apostle of austerity, George Osborne, predicted doom and disaster, so the more people were tempted to vote against the government.

Thus came about Brexit. Cameron stood down, shocked at the consequences of his actions. The largely unknown Theresa May became the surprise premier, and she immediately grasped the wrong end of the stick on Brexit. Without comprehension of the importance of the economic cocoon, she set in train a process which - if it were continued to the end - would be calamitous. On her minsters' first presentation of major Brexit legislation - yesterday - it immediately became clear that she would not get away with it. The nation is about to descend into faction, debate and disagreement that will be reflected in both houses of parliament and in all the devolved assemblies. Things are getting interesting: and the only certainty is that Brexit as Mrs May has misconstrued it has gone into protracted death throes,

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