Blain’s Very Late Morning Porridge – June 23 2001: Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off
“What did Britain say to its trade partners? See EU later….”
This morning: 5 years after Brexit vote and the sun still occasionally shines. For how much longer. Don’t worry… it could be much much worse..
Apologies for a very late Morning Porridge. A potential deal in the aviation space flittered across my sights early this morning, distracting me from my thoughts on Scotland’s demise in the European Cup. The proposed deal filled me with dread as I realised the party trying to fund the transaction expects to achieve even finer terms on the deal than similar financings pre-pandemic.
I might have got a bit hasty and expressed some reservations about their pricing expectations – at which point they flounced off, telling me they could do the deal with a Chinese Bank…. who apparently understand these things better.
The reality is… for the right aircraft, property or cashflows, deals are getting done at very tight rates. Everyone wants real assets and see a recovering economy as a boon for high income generating assets – including the “right aircraft”. Sadly for many German retail investors – the right aircraft will never be an Airbus A380 Superjumbo. Sad.. they were very comfortable..
Anyway… since I am very late.. I will let my thoughts wander…
It’s 5 years since the UK voted for Brexit.
Half the UK electorate could not believe the other half was so stupid. They still don’t.. but the 52% and the 48% are all sort of talking to each other again.
Dinner parties between Brexiteers and Remoaners remain fraught affairs, but at least we now have an answer to the most difficult question of all: Name one positive financial advantage to come out of Brexit? The answer being… Duty Free! Yes, we can load up with cheap booze and ciggies when we visit the other side of Le Channel…. What a marvellous world we live in…
Back in 2016 The rest of the world reckoned we were nuts. They might be right. Why would the UK give up a leading role in an evolving trade block as the globalisation trend reached its peak? Why would the UK deliberately put all its hard-won influence within Europe at risk? Where does it leave the UK as global protectionism kicks in around the planet?
The bottom line is we did all these things… The sky has not fallen on our heads, and the sun still rises in the morning. As in most things – it hasn’t been as good as we hoped, and not nearly as bad as we feared.
I’m still not entirely sure how it all happened – but it did, and now we have to get on with it…
It’s no secret – and nothing to be proud of – the noisiest part of the core Brexit base comprised a very small number of agenda-driven demagogs and borderline English supremacy nutjobs – but they were a distinct minority of the total vote against Brussels. Yep, stout and average British Yeomen awoke from slumber, slung off their indifference and hoisted an archer’s salute* to Brussels. Suspicion of Europe has long been fed by a strong anti-European edge to Conservative politics, claiming Brussels did not have Albion’s best interests in mind.
(*The archer’s salute: during the many unpleasantnesses with France from about 1100-1600 French soldiers would chop off the fingers of captured English Bowmen. It backfired – the French learnt the hard way at Crecy, Agincourt and many other skirmishes not to challenge English and Welsh archers, who took to demonstrating their trigger fingers were intact with the two fingered V-shaped guesture.)
Was Brexit really such a surprise?
The UK’s engagement with Europe has never been particularly strong – sure we love our foreign holidays, but we were never insiders. Europe, for many, was a land of funny food, amusing accents and dubious politics. The only time we ever really took Europe seriously was commemorating sacrifice on the battlefields that dot the continent. The vote was just a few days after the 201st Anniversary of Waterloo where an Anglo-German army defeated the French. 100 years later and only the team-pairings had changed.
As a nation it takes much to rile us to action. Europe was seen as something that affected other people, it generally was not something that particularly overly-excited the electorate – until politicians stumbled on populism. That was David Cameron’s big fail – he lacked the nounce, the intelligence and the imagination to perceive how effectively the showman Boris Johnson would leverage his mild indifference to Europe into a pathway to the Premiership.
When a modern Shakespeare writes the Tragedy of David Cameron it will be Johnson’s vaulting ambition and scheming that drives the action. Of course, it helped that Cameron’s remain campaign was so imbecilic. Boris made uncountable grandiose claims, undeliverable promises and told enormous porkies, but seized the imagination of the nation… and won, eventually prizing his way into Number 10.
Me? I’d always been a Europhile… until…. Until I realised the Euro wasn’t working for most of Europe, that regulations and rules are no substitute for entrepreneurial drive. I was concerned at the increasing authoritarian tone from unelected body superior in Brussels. With deep regret I voted to leave…. Do I regret it?
And where has it brought us?
Sausage Wars? Rising tensions in Ireland? Empowering Scottish Independence? Politically, Brexit has opened a whole warehouse full of worms gnawing away at the cadaver of the United Kingdom.
It looks disasterous – but for whom? Boris is happy enough – his majority is solid, he’s aware all politicians have a limited shelf-life and he’s looking forward to making some serious money as soon as he can exit at the top… The Labour Party is toothless and dithering. If Ireland unites, then it becomes an SEP – Someone Else’s Problem. Scottish independence is not going to go away – Scotland voted to stay in Europe – and if/when it happens it will only strengthen the Conservative grip on England – assuming the party doesn’t fracture at our loss of global status.
The brutal reality is the UK will be only marginally smaller in economic and demographic terms without its Celtic fringe, but wealthier without the state transfers to sustain and keep my brethren in line.
But what about the UK’s role and influence in the world? Our new Aircraft Carrier is cruising the Med winding up the Russians – with US marines providing half the aircraft and a US destroyer along as shotgun. We remain a member of G7, but a fairly friendless one. Boris apparently doesn’t like the expression “Special Relationship” because it sounds needy… but he knows our fortunes are irrevocably tied to an increasingly disinterested and inward looking USA.
And what about the real world of trade and commerce? None of the worst imaginings and haverings of the Remoaners have come to pass – yet. British fishermen… let’s just leave that for the time being, but otherwise deals are getting done. Europe’s businesses are just as keen to sell to us as we are to them… and politicians know it. Trade deals outside Europe are rounding errors.
And, then of course, there was the pandemic where the UK has triumphed in terms of vaccine rollout. Whoop whoop whoop… Really… is that relevant? The state did what a state is supposed to do get over. That Europe didn’t is Europe’s issue. Not ours.
But now…. Now Europe has gone too far… Yesterday the Torygraph, that most reasonable and balanced journal of record for the right carried the following headline: The Crown and Poldark could by scythed from European TV Screens As EU Targets “Post-Brexit Imperialism”!
I’m going to fit out the yacht to smuggle Bridgeton, Downton, Trumpton and Chigley into the Netherlands.. they can’t resist it you know. I see a brave new future for us – the SOE will be revived to spread British Soft Power across Europe. Let’s remake Yes Minster to undermine Berlymont, release new Heavy Metal Bands to deprave German Youth, push Fish and Chips on the lumpen proletariat of France and export Gangstarap across the whole sorry continent. We shall shock them!
Extra points if you can name all the firemen!
Enough… I need a coffee…