Broken Brexit: fragmented, fractious and farcical


By Russell Bruce

Tim Harford in the Financial Times has written an interesting article comparing Brexit to the building of the Sydney Opera House, a project that stretched from an expected 5 years to an eventual 15 years for final completion. Starting with an optimistic budget of A$7m – don’t frighten the natives with a touch of financial realism – and ending with a 1400% increase at A$102m.

Building an Opera House is a walk in the park compared to the complexity of Brexit. The Australians made the same mistake as Dewar on the cost of building the Scottish Parliament. If you want a world-class building for a world-class institution then you show that ambition from the start and you appoint competent people to manage the project from start to finish. Perhaps one reason the Scottish Parliament did not really begin to build a serious reputation until the SNP came to power.

Devolution about doing things differently

The Labour/ Lib Dem coalition did deliver a few very worthwhile initiatives to start a process to a higher level of ambition as devolution was intended to bring about the ability to doing things differently. For parties that believe in the power of independence, both the SNP and the Greens will always want to move a bit faster. The problem with unionism is it is opportunity limited and constrained by a belief that Westminster is the ultimate pinnacle of competence and superiority in government.

That Brexit has not yet fully shattered that delusion is remarkable. Scotland has been consistently clear that it is pro European and outward looking, seeing opportunities obtained with future potential gain amplified through achieving member state status.

Managing megaprojects

Harford usefully points to the work of a Danish Professor at Oxford, Bent Flyvbjerg, an expert on managing megaprojects. Brexit is a megaproject bar none, and nothing has ensued that has any resemblance to Flyvbjerg’s essential rules for megaprojects. The six core rules are so simple they can be used to plan any project efficiently.

Flyvberg stresses preparation. Avoid bias, by being over optimistic. Use an experienced team. Make sure key decision makers are aligned to objectives and processes. Break the project down in logical stages into manageable bites. Set up an early warning system to identify problems early.

Unprepared with no planning

Nobody prepared for Brexit. Cameron thought he would win the referendum for Remain. Exit Cameron. Enter the ill prepared May. Still no planning. It would all be so easy a deal would be worked out with the EU in a twinkling and it would be the fastest on record. The one mandarin with real inside experience of the EU, Sir Ivan Roger, resigned almost immediately, euphemism for being kicked out. He was perceived as the spoiler of a ‘Beautiful Brexit’, so long hoped for by some but never actually thought through in its full implications.

Germany would still want to sell their cars to us. No thought given to the UK car plants, dependent on the EU market for the bulk of their output. It was all so easy. No need to break Brexit down into manageable chunks. The British were Prosecco and not Antipasto, quipped bus conductor Boris in jovial fashion. There is nothing jovial about trade deals unless you get to an end result with minimum disruption to the economy and maximum advantage for the future.

Spotting problems ahead. Why bother there would not be any!

Finally the big one, alignment of key decision makers. PM May is aligned to the last group that shouted in cabinet or from the backbenches. Coordination and cohesion in government policy, planning and delivery is the first requirement of governance. All posted missing in inaction.

Brexit is broken because it was all based on a series of myths that England could return to a past that no longer exists. Article 50 was moved with no planning other than not to be in the EU when Britain’s Crown Dependencies and tax haven overseas territories would become subject to transparency days after 29th March 2019.

As the New European reported: “…just as the Brexit deadline looms, all EU member states will have to apply the Anti Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD). It’s an EU law designed to tackle businesses shirking their tax-paying responsibilities.”

The right wing attitude to taxes

Tories and the hard Brexiteers are keen on lowering taxes, but even better, they calculate, are overseas schemes that enable companies and very wealthy individuals to pay even less tax through using UK overseas tax havens.

What was that about taking back control? Not for the likes of us. The hidden agenda is the stark reality, our interests are not on the table, nor even that of most high earners on the additional 45% tax rate. This is about the mega wealthy, the 1%. If the real amount of tax was collected instead of disappearing into tax haven complex schemes we might all pay less tax and certainly be able to fund public services properly.

An army of tax planners and specialist company legal firms make a lot of money out of devising, planning and administrating these schemes. Their expertise does not come cheap. A couple of hundred thousand would not be worthwhile. This is about millions and billions, keeping it secret and away from prying eyes, investigative journalists and the taxman.

Empire 2 anybody?

Instead of encouraging the electorate to see the world as it is, we are fed a diet of bent bananas, how important it is to send the Royal Navy into the Chinese waters instead of properly patrolling the North Atlantic. The civil service joke about Empire 2 is hilarious because they know it is political and economic nonsense shrouded in a futile pretence the UK is still a global power. Just feed the people ‘Global Britain’ nonsense and they will swallow the intended misdirection.

Meanwhile May’s minsters are looking for ships to charter to bring in food stockpiles as Brexit Britain faces starvation and supermarkets empty shelves.

No doubt some have bought the dream that Britain could again become an exporting nation. Those mysterious trade deals would provide jobs and the UK could flourish on the world stage. It is a pipe dream and as Britain loses access not just to European markets through Brexit, but to global connections where the EU is a big player with a global voice and reach.

Air miles Fox

Liam Fox who has clocked the air miles in search of Britain’s elusive new trading partners has had to own up to defeat. Long he argued that the EU trade schedules the UK is part of whilst still a member could just be cut and pasted as a fast route to the UK’s own World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules

Answer came NO.

Angus McNeil MP, Chair of the International Trade Committee said: “When he gave evidence to my committee in July, Dr Fox assured me that this was all going fine. But his plan is now in tatters after the UK’s proposed [cut and paste] WTO goods schedules faced formal objections from some 20 countries, including the US, China, Australia and New Zealand.”

Aren’t those the countries Dr Fox was certain would be queuing up to sign up to a trade deal? Clearly these countries want better terms than they have with the EU.

Germany trades with the world and does megaprojects

Make no mistake Brexit is a decades long project with little chance of delivering Brexit utopia. Germany is the third largest export economy in the world. It has achieved this whilst being a fully signed member of the European project. When it comes to megaprojects Germany knows just how long these can take to deliver. Almost thirty years after the fall of the Berlin wall, Germany is still slowly bringing its eastern states up to the prosperity of the west.

It has been a massive drain on the German economy but considered a price worth paying to deliver freedom and democracy following reunification. GDP per person in the east has risen steadily but is still only 67% of that in western Germany.

Germany’s debt as a percentage of GDP rose to 81% following the 2008 financial crash but has dropped steadily to 64.1% in 2017. In the same period UK debt as a percentage of GDP has risen from 35.4% in 2008 to 85.3% in 2017. The size of the annual deficit may have fallen, and Tories are keen to labour this point, but if the economy grows by less than the cost of the annual deficit the level of national debt as a percentage of GDP just keeps rising.

Broken Brexit and the 1%

Leaving the EU will impact on economic growth, even the most determined of Brexiteers acknowledge this whilst insisting the wonders of Brexit will be worth it in the end. Brexit is not about prosperity for the 99%. It is about cutting costs, dismantling the welfare state, reducing regulation, particularly for the financial sector, and you remember what that led to just 10 years ago.

It is about protecting and growing the wealth of the 1%, with no interference in Britain’s chain of offshore and overseas tax havens. That is what the global Britain project stands for.

Independence: a passport to continuity and growth

Despite opposition parties constant carping the Scottish education system continues to deliver. It may not be absolutely perfect but we have a population that understood the implications of Brexit. Scottish education always has had an emphasis on training us to think so many fewer bought the Brexit agenda, swallowed whole by so many in England. England seems thirled to a lost past.

Scotland voted 62% to remain and is now looking to a future it can make in its own ambitious image, engaging with our European neighbours. That is exciting, energizing and will give Scotland a place in a changing world where its views and ambitions are no longer ignored.

GDP Per capita selected countries

Change is inevitable, yet Scotland is now looking towards Independence to deliver more certainty, continuity and progress than is possible by remaining in a Union with a fragmented, fractious and farcical government

Three different European examples provide evidence of what is possible with Independence. At the turn of the nineteenth century Iceland, Norway and Ireland were the poorest nations in Europe now they top the league table with the largest GDP per person at purchasing power parity in position 2, 3, and 4 after Luxemburg.