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Some Brexit dynamics while across the Channel Europe is in denial

It is Wednesday and I am going to stick to my decision to ‘not publish a blog post’ on Wednesdays unless there is some new data (such as the quarterly release of the Australian National Accounts). I want to use this time to attend to other writing obligations. But a few snippets won’t hurt, will they? The first, looks at some extraordinary denial from the European Union bosses. The second, looks at evidence that the Brexit environment is already providing positive dynamics for British workers in low-wage areas of the labour market. And that is being presented by the Remainers as something negative! We move into 2019, just as we left 2018!

Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale

My 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale – was named to reflect the reality of the European Union.

No better demonstration of the validity of that title and the arguments presented need be produced than to refer everyone to the New Year’s Eve Tweet from the European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who was ‘celebrating’ 20 years of the common currency.

Here is the Tweet:

Try to work out whether:

(a) He was drunk.

(b) He lives in a parallel universe.

(c) He was trying to inject humour into the disaster of the euro.

(d) All of the above.

And then you get the Portuguese Minister of Finance and president of the Eurogroup (yes a ‘Socialist’ and we know that term no longer means anything much) saying (Source):

The single currency has been one of the biggest European success stories: there can be no doubt about its importance and impact over the first two decades of its history … The euro and the close economic cooperation that it entails has evolved over time, overcoming challenges in its way.

If the euro is “one of the biggest European success stories” then the rest of history and development must be dire, to say the least.

These sort of statements attempt to revise history and cover up the damage to ordinary citizens of one of the biggest scams in European history.

Here are two graphs.

The G7 is the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, Italy, France.

The ‘Advanced economies’ are:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao SAR, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan Province of China, United Kingdom, and United States.

The ‘Other advanced nations (excluding G7 and euro area)’ are:
Composed of 16 countries: Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Macao SAR, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan Province of China.

The next graph shows real GDP growth for these aggregates (and the European Union) between 1999-2018 and 2008-2018.

Knowing the composition of the aggregates allows one to do some deduction and conclude that the Eurozone Member States have peformed poorly since inception and particularly so since 2008, when the first real test of the monetary unoin came.

The G7 is clearly dragged down by the Eurozone members (France, Germany, and Italy, and they with the exception of Italy, they were among the strongest performers within the Eurozone.

The next graph shows the employment growth performance.

I could offer more evidence (and have previously), but this is enough.

And, remember, that it is only because the ECB consistently breaks the law (by funding fiscal deficits) that the Eurozone is still intact.

Brexit dynamics

There was an extraordinary article in Bloomberg a couple of weeks ago (December 22, 2018) – Cornwall Pub-Hand Shortage Shows the Future of Work After Brexit – which was trying to spin a line that the Brexit decision was creating labour problems for employers in the tourist areas of Cornwall.

The article began by stating:

Cornwall, the southwest peninsula of Britain, is struggling to find enough bartenders to serve the millions who flock to the rocky coastline every year.

Any prospect of recruiting cheap labor from the continent has dried up after the region voted along with the rest of the country to leave the European Union. More significantly, pubs and hotels are coping with an ageing, dwindling workforce that often doesn’t have the right skills.

This gets to the heart of the productivity problem in the U.K., which is dogged with some of weakest growth in output per hour worked among Group-of-Seven nations.

All negative by the sound of it.

A typical Remain-type hype that Britain will cease to exist because it will not be able to harness any labour skills.

Not a mention of the word ‘austerity’ and the its impact on the sustained period of poor economic growth and the flow-on effects to productivity-enhancing investment and training.

No, apparently productivity growth in Britain is lagging behind because the decision to exit the European Union has deprived industry of “cheap labor from the continent”.

You just can’t make this sort of stuff up.

Whether the decision by the British people to exit the European Union is actually behind the ‘shortage’ of labour in Cornwall is one thing.

And that proposition is not sustained by the article with anything but anecdotal evidence.

But the article does ‘spill the beans’, even if that is not its intention.

We read that in relation to the behaviour of employers in the region:

What is expected of us is increasing … staff want more training and bigger career goals …

And as a result, employers are being forced to invest in staff development, skills training, and better workplaces.

The article says that efforts are now in train to give workers:

… a broader view of the industry as an investment, a way to retain them at the end of their training.

The organisation of workplaces is evolving (“moved to a three-month ahead rota in its kitchens — something that raises eyebrows among small business owners used to operating on a week-to-week basis”) and workers will be able to take advantage of the fact that vacancies “hit a record high in the three months through October as unemployment held at the lowest since the 1970s” to get better pay and conditions and redistribute some of the profits back to those who do the work.

If the access to cheap imported labour is being reduced then for low-wage workers in Britain that will be a good thing.

And in Cornwall “a 56.5 percent majority voted Leave”.

This sort of dynamic will start showing up all through the British economy. The balance of power will tilt just a bit towards workers after years of shifting the other way.

Wednesday Music

I was trawling through some old albums this morning and dragged out this beauty from – The Spencer Davis Group – which was quite an eclectic UK band (still going) who released music spanning pop to pulsating R&B to pure Chicago Blues.

My preference was to the latter although it was the former that made them more famous.

The song (that follows) – I’m a Man 0 was released in January 1967 and was written by keyboard player Steve Winwood (who joined the band in 1963 as a 14-year old).

Steve Winwood left in the same year it was released to form the magnificent band Traffic.

You might also try to find Chicago’s 1969 version which was a near 8 minute jam and set the model for other bands to replicate.

All young garage bands at the time wanted to play this song.

Many bands I have played in over the years produced versions of the song.

But none were as good as the original.

This was on the 1967 album, also entitled, “I’m a Man” which is probably their best (I think). By the time of the release, the Winwood brothers had left the band.

I can recommend this album highly.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 29 Comments
    1. Would that Brexit be only about economics? That Brexit would work if only there were a political party who would give up neoliberal economics is no longer an argument. Brexit is and was about too many brown people. About the wealthy and corporations and the governments they own maintaining their privilege. The people who left the UK to live in Europe. The people who left Europe to live in the UK.
      Neither Labour nor the Tories have any interest in the policies you advocate no matter how well thought out. You are correct that with German influence Merkel, Schnabel and the ECB have hurt many in the EU. Is there a greater good you see a real path to given the politics? Yes these policies have empowered the xenophobic nationalist right. I believe you are a visionary. Even people like Simon Wren-Lewis seem to be being dragged kicking and screaming in your direction. Brexit is not about economic and social liberty. And yes if Philip Hammond invests in the UK there will be areas of economic success. None of the goals of national well being are in their heads. The Tories are power mad chancers. Labour leadership are just power mad. Brexit is stupid in current formulation.

    2. unfortunately 90 % of labour members support campaigning for remain.
      Not even a ‘soft’ brexit.
      Lexit arguments are having very little traction. The right are owning brexit.

    3. Kevin Harding-you are right. I’m a Labour Party member and come up against this all the time. people still believe EU=Europe and its people and have been swayed by the fact the EU is a financialised wolf in liberals clothing. Hardly anyone has heard of Lexit which is why, as you say, the Right have taken control of it. because of this, a lot of energy is being wasted on it rather than focusing on austerity and what a currency issuer can do.

      Corbyn is clearly a Lexit person as he was a disciple of Benn. But he now has to do an awkward balancing act which means he’s getting splinters in his posterior trying to sit on too many fences.

    4. Nice chromatic chordal riff from the young Winwood. He was and is a great musician.

      He lives quite near to me in the Cotswolds, a VERY Tory part of England where quite a few ex-rock and rollers live in historic mansions. I’ve never met him, I suspect he flies around the world doing gigs.

      Median wages in many of the villages is low with some startling inequality.

    5. “This sort of dynamic will start showing up all through the British economy. The balance of power will tilt just a bit towards workers after years of shifting the other way.”

       
      No wonder that “lefty’s” of the social-democratic fashion are Brexit bashers, they have spent the last three decades to put especially the low-wage workers in their “right” place to appease the neo-liberal ideological masters.
      We can’t have this it will be bad for the 1% economy.
       
      It might even hurt the prosperous unemployment industry. But aren’t the “lefty” social-democratic much nicer than the right-wingers? Of course, the last-mentioned say that the unemployed and working poor are personal deficient like lazy and indolent while the social-democrats reject that in public but still believe it’s a case of personal deficient problem, the unemployed haven’t managed to get the right skills and education. That can be remedied by the unemployment industry.
      Of course, none of them can find the cause in macroeconomic policies.
       
      https://youtu.be/UFpaHMqz0nM

    6. I don’t do Twitter, so i don’t know how it works. But isn’t it possible to reply to Juncker’s wise cracks? I’m thinking everyone in Greece with a Twitter account should do so, for example.

    7. Check this out, Bill: the Seaborne Freight absurdity, supposed to solve a Dover-Calais problem.

      The Seabortne Freight fiasco suggests certain interpretations. The company is only two years old, has no ships, and has never run a ferry service let alone one in the busiest corridor in the world. The so-called agreement is also peculiar. Money has been agreed in the absence of a tendering process. Moreover, one of the ships they claimed they could use is under contract to Spain. Eh? In additon, the money allocated and the number of transports doesn’t compute — the funding is insufficient. This suggests either incompetence or a scam or both. Which bad case scenario problem is this supposed to solve?

      As for the vote, interpretation of the results isn’t straightforward. According to the Indy, the vote breaks down like this: Leave, just under 17.5m; Remain, 16m; Didn’t vote, 13m; Not eligible to vote, 18m. Some of those ineligible at the time of the referendum are eligible now.

    8. It’s vitally important that people like Bill, who know what they’re talking about, persist in putting Brexit into a context that reveals its potential to improve the quality of life and enhance the dignity of the average person in the UK. What seems to be missing in the whole Brexit process is a ringing declaration of independence, similar to that which launched the American Revolution–a clear, succinct, and powerful statement concerning liberty, sovereignty, and the role of government. The Preamble to America’s DOI, although yet to be fully embodied, is among the noblest expressions of Enlightenment values; i.e., that all human beings are created equal as a matter of moral principle; that each human being has inherent rights to live, to be free, and to pursue happiness; that government is created by human beings precisely to ensure that fundamental equality and the exercise of those inherent rights; and that when a particular government fails to do so, the people may alter or abolish it and create a new government that performs the functions for which it exists. To treat Britain’s necessary and historic severance of ties with the EU as primarily an economic matter, as some sort of large-scale business transaction, is to trivialize it. What’s needed now is another soaring and unifying declaration of independence, not from the former British Empire but from the current Neoliberal one in EU form. So I ask, is there a new Jefferson waiting in the wings?

    9. Even among the EU apparatchiks, Juncker is known to be an intellectually bankrupt corruption machine. He is only in his position because Merkel wanted him. I’ve never taken anything he’s said seriously, except his personal comment about May. Which he quickly backtracked on when accosted by her in person.

    10. Simon Cohen – I too live in the Cotswolds and read this blog daily. I voted Remain but as a result of this blog and Costas Lapavitsas book and a heap of other reading I’ve slowly drifted over to Leave. I also read Richard Murphy’s blog – taxresearch.org.uk – and his comments towards Brexit make me feel as though I am a halfwit. Murphy thinks that the EU is reformable but doesn’t say how. I’ve stopped posting on his blog because he tends to abusive comments to anyone he disagrees with. Worrying times.

    11. Dear Larry (at 2019/01/03 at 1:57 am)

      As for the vote, interpretation of the results isn’t straightforward. According to the Indy, the vote breaks down like this: Leave, just under 17.5m; Remain, 16m; Didn’t vote, 13m; Not eligible to vote, 18m. Some of those ineligible at the time of the referendum are eligible now.

      Sorry, the vote was pretty straightforward in the context of British electoral culture.

      The Leave over Remain gap of eligible voters who chose to vote was more than 1.5 million. Clear cut.

      As for every election, the day after the election new voters become eligible (because of age, for example). We don’t have continuously rolling real-time elections for government or anything because eligibility windows change.

      The Leave result was overwhelming irrespective of the reasons that might have driven it.

      best wishes
      bill

    12. Bill, I wouldn’t call around 2% overwheming. It might be impressive, but that is as far as I would go. I did not mention eligibility as a reason to redo the referendum. I was simply trying to place the comment of eligibility in some sort of context. I left out those who have died in the meantime, which also alters the number of eligible voters. Any argument for another referendum would have to be based on other grounds.

    13. I agree with Heim that Bill is a visionary. I suppose when you understand the numbers, have great general knowledge, an ability to seperate the wheat from the chaff and a heart anchored in the right place, the direction to proceed becomes clear. Very few have these attributes, or know the right path to take even when the answer is delivered on a plate.

      Yes, hard Brexit is the correct decision given the current response by the amoral EU oligarchy.

      Thanks Bill and other contributors and may we all have a better 2019.

    14. Thanks Bill. What a voice Sandy Denny had, she would be one of my favorite folk singers/writers, up there with Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell.

    15. Matthew Arnold, we have to be using different methods. My original is not quite correct, however. If one compares the Leave and Remain results directly, the difference is 4.5%, which is more impressive than my original.

      But should one ignore the no shows? Ordinarily, we might think so. But many I have spoken to who didn’t vote told me that they didn’t vote because they didn’t know what they were voting for and that, had they known, they would have voted. This is not an argument for another referendum, but for a more complex calculation, which might lower the difference presently found in the result.

    16. Dear Larry (at 2019/01/03 at 6:58 pm)

      If people now claim they didn’t know what they were voting for and so didn’t vote then perhaps they should never be allowed to vote! (-:

      The question you will recall was hardly ambiguous.

      It read:

      Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

      Seems pretty straightforward to me what the people were being asked.

      And the 1.5 odd million more Yes votes (Leave) were in the context of a massive campaign by the establishment – economic institutions, academics, private bankers etc to claim the sky would fall in immediately a Yes vote was carried.

      So to try to cast doubt on the democratic intent of the people now with all these alleged ‘complexities’ is rather weak.

      The voters who cared to turn out and take a stand either way in a simple binary choice question overwhelmingly voted to leave.

      There are no nuances in that.

      It would be a sickening denial of democracy for progressives to now endorse another vote – or another one or another one – until they get the Remain outcome by attrition.

      best wishes
      bill

    17. Bill, I am not certain another vote would be a good thing, so I am not arguing for one. When these people who told me that they didn’t understand the issue, I think they meant (some of them told me) that they did not know what was involved and did not feel that it was adequately explained to them.

      Although the percentage difference is impressive, I still would not characterize the difference as being overwhelming. I would characterize ‘overwhelming’ as ‘highly resistant to be overturned in another vote in the near future’. An impressive difference would be rather unlikely to be overturned. I realize that this is a small difference, but sometimes small differences matter.

      No one in the UK is arguing for votes ad infinitum. Not even Blair or Campbell.

    18. Larry and Bill,

      I too have heard many comments that people did not know what they were voting for; the overriding impression (and is not statistically based) I gain is that the issue of choosing “in” or “out” was too simplistic, there was far more to it than that, and inadequately explained.

      Many people put the issue on the back-burner until the very day of the vote, and then responded with a gut-like preference based on things like immigrants, the effect of a conflict-free post-war period of existence , the need for regional solidarity in the face of international turmoil – and a US president that does not exemplify the Atlantic Alliance; something so profound in many middle-aged and older people.

      I am not one of those advocating a second referendum (I am swayed by Bill’s currency sovereignty argument) but I would be interested in a poll that asked people down here at street level how they would have originally voted if they knew then what they know now.

    19. I should of course have referred to the “next” US president as having antipathy towards the Atlantic Alliance – inaccuracy over dates put my remark out of context.(Gogs Jan 4th 4.35)

      Bill’s blogs are invariably immersed in very accurate interpretations and statistics, so even minor errors of language or interpretation seem glaring indiscretions.

      Which brings me to Bill’s remark ” If people now claim they didn’t know what they were voting for and so didn’t vote then perhaps they should never be allowed to vote! (-: “. I presume the symbol is supposed to imply some facetiousness.

      But as regards the referendum instance I am inclined to sympathise with all those who gave up, having made an attempt to fathom out what it was all about, and sought to disentangle hyperbole from fact amid the inflammatory arguments of Leavers and Remainers.

      When politicians themselves cannot even determine precisely what differentiates the issues between their own party members it is expecting a lot of ordinary voters to do it for them – as for the argument that each country should have its own sovereign currency and the EU disbanded on democratic grounds alone hardly saw the light of day among voters’ discussion points.

      So, by all means let’s get on with Brexit, and we’ll muddle through to some kind of accommodation with the rest of Europe, just like you would expect that British lot to do. And that would be aided by a level of practical leadership that has so far been lacking.

      At the end of that adjustment period we will still be a trading nation in an increasingly global, consumer-driven world, where competition, for all its destructive tendencies, will determine economic levels of success and we will strive to improve the welfare of our people as a form of contradiction of Capitalistic commands over resources.

    20. Gogs, you are right; Bill was being facetious. A number of people apparently fail to distinguish between the EU and the Euro, so think that leaving the Euro means leaving the EU. This seems to go for some Eurocrats as well, as they say that dismantling the Euro will lead to disintegration of the EU, almost as though night follows day. No argument is provided for this.

      Re your last paragraph, you are being rather optimistic. I am not.

    21. Yes the vote was to leave the EU.But there was no vote on the terms of future trading
      relationships .It is not an unreasonable democratic compromise for a deeply divided electorate
      for the uk to remain in a customs union, whether it is a good idea to tie future governments
      to no doubt ‘neo liberal’ terms and conditions is another matter.
      What certainly is democratic is that it is parliaments’ job to agree to the terms of brexit
      and there is no democratic parliamentary agreement on those terms which
      is why some kind of new referendum is increasingly likely.
      Corbyn no doubt now wants to leave the EU in order to free a potential radical governments
      programme from EU neo liberal censure BUT it is not only his status quo hungry
      parliamentary colleagues who are against him on this but according to one poll
      90% of labour membership. The mass momentum supporting membership who
      joined the labour party to support Corbyn and his radical policies!
      Democracy is multi faceted. 52 % supported brexit .66 % of labour held seats voted leave.
      66% of labour voters voted remain .90% of labour mp’s and members still support remain.
      Remember one Bennite tradition which Corbyn still embraces is internal democratisation
      of the Labour Party for both leadership and policy.This democracy would firmly back
      Labour fighting for a referendum to reverse the first one.
      It is complicated and context is everything.Perhaps it is the cognitive dissonance of
      ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ which grounds the failure for LEXIT arguments
      to gain any traction with the vast majority of those who identify as left.
      Remember also the context of the referendum.A shameless opportunistic appeal
      from Cameron for UKIP inclined voters( including the racist voters that had previously
      voted BNP)
      For Bill the context is about reclaiming the state for public purpose an economic
      paradigm shift away from the neo liberal models which arose post Reagan and Thatcher
      and has found a home in trade deals the world over including the Eu’s single market
      and its’ disastrous shared austerity biased currency.
      For most of the left in the Uk it is about opposing the far right.

    22. Kevin, the amount of time to have another referendum is swiftly running out. 21 weeks is the shortest time needed apparently, according to the Institute for Government. It is unlikely that the EU will postpost the exit date past the beginning of July. This is quickly becoming a non-event.

    23. larry .the eu have said they will postpone for a referendum not for renegotiation.
      They still want to keep the show on the road.

    24. I agree, Kevin, that they have said this. But will they extend beyond the beginning of July? They have elections and, as a referendum does not have a determinate outcome, it could interfere with the EU election cycle. If the UK is leaving, they don’t want the hassle of UK members being involved in the election process. The 21 week window seems to already extend beyond the beginning of July. In fact, from the 5th of January to the 1st of July, there are only 5 months, 3 weeks, and 5 days, which is only about 15/16 weeks. On this calculation, the time for another referendum has run out, unless the UK revokes the article. I can’t see this happening.

    25. Apologies, Kevin, I inaccurately summarized. The Murder One drama from the nineties is on my mind. It is not 15 weeks, but 23/24. Which means that time has almost run out. I don’t think there is time to arrange such a referendum, campaign, and then count the votes.

    26. Kevin,

      “For Bill the context is about reclaiming the state for public purpose an economic
      paradigm shift away from the neo liberal models”.

      This is a revolution that suggests the re-assertion of labour power through the might of the trade unions. But that dominance, if it comes, is also representative of an ideological defeat of “undeserved wealth” and its apparent leverage over the political formulation of economic policy.

      It represents the goal of MMT in many eyes – effectively putting capitalism in its place.

      Yet, the businessmen that I meet, and just about every other mortal I come across worry about much more mundane things; how the hell do I ensure this business survives, how the hell do I meet my mortgage commitments and maintain my standard of living.

      There might be be reference to the bastards not paying us enough, but that’s more likely to be in the context of the brutish world out there, rather than about capitalists trying to shrink me into economic misery.

      Workers cannot tell you what GFC stands for, never mind when it was, nor do they care about its lingering after-effects. But they certainly think all these immigrants are having a negative effect on British life.

      They see political goons, exemplified by a Brexit farce that has reduced ministerial statements to twaddle and a world of political leadership that spooks anyone’s common sense. They believe that economic forces are destroying jobs (and China is the favourite culprit), and that its various manifestations are also capable of destroying town-centres; oh, and we haven’t started on the welfare state.

      They have not yet though, convinced themselves that the rigours of competition are seen as a Capitalistic hell that should be replaced with fiscal flexibility and a Marxist form of nirvana. They are addicted to budget responsibility and watching the pennies, but they might be tempted by a new form of narcotic, with the right kind of leadership.

      I guess someone on the right might rise to that occasion for a transparent debate that also puts Brexit in a saner context.

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