To which questions is Brexit the answer?

After our ‘democratic’ vote in favour of Brexit, I am still struggling to understand the question to which Brexit provides the answer.

I can think of two possibilities:

One is to stop freedom of movement.

That wasn’t on the ballot paper but the media speaks as if it it was.

That means goodbye to the possibility of a Brit doing even a temporary job in the EU without greatly increased bureaucratic compliance – or much more red tape, as the Brexiters call it. Yes, it comes with the possibility of keeping others out, but as we have discovered we are so bad at training our own population that we do not have enough UK produced doctors or catering staff, nurses or farm workers so as we still aren’t training the right numbers we stand to make life pretty difficult for ourselves. And views on immigration are consequently much more favourable, than when Farage, (whilst married to a German), was decrying EU immigration. Perhaps people now realise too that the UK has never – even under Home Secretary May’s ‘hostile environment’ – enforced the EU immigration regulations that were and still are available to it.  Yet with about half our immigration coming from outside the EU we have complete control over it but it is still half of all immigration.

It is as if we will end up with stopping freedom, not movement. And in large measure that restricted freedom will be our own.

The second possibility is the ability to institute capital controls, in order to reduce and eventually eliminate the influence of financial speculation on the economy.

That also wasn’t on the ballot paper and the media never mentions it. (Perhaps that is because offshore billionaires own so much of it?) But it would be, arguably at least, easier to achieve outside the EU. Yet almost everyone seems to consider global capital sloshing about between jurisdictions as a god-givenly obvious part of Capitalism (which goes to show how effective the neoliberal globalisation agenda has become in tying us tightly together so any alteration is decried as offending another country). Nonetheless, even while rising up the ranks to become the world’s second largest economy, China seems to be little disadvantaged by having capital controls though clearly it is running a hybrid capitalist system.

Ostensibly easier capital controls are Brexit’s sole advantage but both Cyprus and Iceland have instituted them before and Cyprus actually introduced them within the Eurozone! Yes, they were temporary but how long is temporary? Meanwhile Iceland is part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen agreement so in effect they are in the EU as a rule taker.

If Britain remained precedent indicates that it could introduce capital controls temporarily. I see a further comparison with the EU free movement regulations. Capital could be required to come with ‘sickness insurance’ in case it leads to greater financial instability – otherwise it will not be entitled, freely, to the benefits of landing here. Larger movements of capital could be required to be accompanied by this insurance which might be refundable less an administration fee after six or twelve months of working in the Sterling area, unless, of course, it had already departed in which case the insurance would be forfeited. Of course it would be bureaucratic, but that is rather the idea and additionally I consider that capital controls are likely to achieve more general acceptance with Britain as part of the greater EU than all alone in the world.

So even this prima facie advantage is far from obvious.

And that’s it, I honestly cannot think of any further questions to which Brexit is the answer.

Could anyone surprise me?





  1. Ivan Horrocks -

    Re your first point, Peter, and on a slight tangent, on Saturday I had to rebook flights to Vienna which will now take place a month after Brexit. As well as the rebooking fee – which I was aware of – I was also charged over £30 each ticket for what the airline representative explained to me were additional charges due to Brexit – specifically, higher airport taxes (as we’ll be flying from a country outside the EU) and to cover a nominal increase in fares for UK passengers – again because we’ll be outside the EU.

    I also had reason to speak to my travel insurer who tells me that there’ll be an additional fee to pay when we do fly next April because UK citizens will no longer be covered by the EHIC scheme.

    Add to that the fact that UK citizens will no longer be able to use the EU citizens’ passport check (unless to do so is part of any transitional deal) – with the delays that come with that, and the high probability that the £ will fall in value again come Brexit and we have a series of “costs” that will hit hundreds of thousands of travellers to EU countries next year. These might be minor things when taken with the bigger picture of major industries leaving the UK but they will be what people will notice most, initially at least. Sadly, very few people seem to appreciate these are yet another downside of Brexit and consequences that were not explained (as many weren’t) by zealots like Johnson and co (who are all wealthy enough not to have to worry about a few extra £ here and there, of course).

    1. Peter May -

      That’s very interesting. It is comforting, I suppose, that airlines think they will still be flying! But perhaps part of that £30 per ticket was their own insurance against not being able to do so?

  2. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    “China seems to be little disadvantaged by having capital controls though clearly it is running a hybrid capitalist system.”

    And the US doesn’t run a hybrid capitalist system ? They subsidise whatever they wish to, and pretend they are not doing so.

    They subsidise capitalism itself to make it work at all.

  3. Peter May -

    That’s a fair point! Perhaps I should have put ‘overtly’ before the hybrid!

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