Carol Thornton is a Green Party councillor in North Lincolnshire. Way back in 2005 she came on one of my training courses in Hull. Our paths haven’t really crossed since but we’re Facebook ‘friends’ and occasionally comment on each other’s postings. Earlier this month Carol called one of my postings about Boris ‘Liar’ Johnson and some of the more dreadful economic consequences of a ‘hard Brexit’ “more overtly political than your usual. Whatever happened to the Spiral?”
It was a good challenge that really took me aback. I pointed out that my last 4 Integrated SocioPsychology Blog posts had been concerned with the EU referendum and the development of Brexit. However, I conceded: “I struggle to be dispassionate and objective on the EU issue because Brexit is going to be such a social and economic disaster and #traitormay is just ploughing on regardless. It’s hard to be dispassionate and objective when you feel personally and immediately threatened by something. And I feel personally and immediately threatened by Brexit. I envision living out my old age in poverty because of what these moronic zealots are doing to our country. I am VERY ANGRY!!”
When you feel “personally and immediately threatened”, the emotional reactions in the limbic system tend to override the more rational thinking associated with the frontal cortex. Put simply, the amgydala becomes sensitised and stimulates the hypothalamus to initiate the whole flight-or-flight stress reaction. Objectivity goes out of the window the more the threat is perceived to be dangerous, the more it is perceived to be personal. Thus, I can coolly counsel couples having relationship difficulties but I easily become irrational and shouty in a row with Caroline – my bad temper exacerbated by me being medium on the temperamental dimension of Psychoticism. (From my studies in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I’ve schooled myself to walk away until my amygdala has calmed down!)
So, yes, I do feel “personally and immediately” threatened by Theresa May’s approach to Brexit and become “VERY ANGRY” if I let myself think about it.
Just how bad will it be economically?
It is, of course, at this stage impossible to predict just what sort of Brexit will take place – ‘hard’, ‘soft’ or some other option somewhere in between. It may even be that Brexit doesn’t actually take place. As widely reported – eg: the Daily Telegraph’s Steven Swinford – there is now a large cross-party group of MPs working furiously to force the Government to submit its terms for Brexit to parliamentary scrutiny. The group is led by luminaries such as ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, ex-Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer. #traitormay, as I now term her (for reasons I shall explain later), seems determined not to allow this, at least in any meaningful way. As discussed in Is Theresa May going to bring about a Constitutional Crisis, her likelihood of winning a vote on hard Brexit-type terms are very low indeed – which is why she favours bypassing Parliament through the use of royal prerogative.
But, if Brexit does happen – particularly the ‘hard Brexit’ #traitormay was championing at the Conservative Party Conference – then the effects are likely to be dire at best and more likely absolutely calamitous. In the 2 graphics below Matt Kelly of The New European has outlined some of the effects of Brexit so far, along with some of the more horrendous probabilities resulting from a hard Brexit.
I’m no economist to explain these dire predictions but The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley offers a basic outline of how the UK’s economic prospects are tied up with the fate of sterling: ‘”Take back control” served the Outers well as a referendum campaign slogan. It was probably their most effective persuader. It was also a highly misleading guide to what would happen in a world in which a government does not have unalloyed sovereignty over its currency. A pound is only worth as much as the world is prepared to pay for it. If the world starts to believe that Britain’s economic prospects have darkened and that the country has become a less attractive destination for foreign investment, then the world will be less inclined to hold pounds. If the world starts to think that Britain is becoming less politically stable, a more unpredictable place to do business and a more risky country to lend to, then the world will be even less enthusiastic about owning pounds.
The slumping value of sterling tells us that this is exactly what the world now thinks. Markets are reacting to a government that is on a trajectory towards a ‘hard’ Brexit that will be incompatible with remaining within the single market….”
The pound slumping even further yesterday is widely reported – eg: The Independent’s Zlata Rodionova – to be a reaction to reports of dissension in the Cabinet, with hardline Brexiteers putting pressure on chancellor Philip Hammond to abandon the Single Market. This indicates just how sensitive the markets have become about the UK’s Brexit strategy. Meanwhile BBC News (2016f) is reporting inflation jumped to a 2-year high of 1% in September.
In The Observer Toby Helm & Patrick Maguire sum it up: Brexit “means rising prices, more expensive holidays and higher inflation”.
Cleverly, the New European graphics use a photo of the Leave campaign’s battle bus (below) to bring out the ironic difference between what voters were promised in the referendum and what they are actually getting and going to get. Oh…and to add to the irony, it’s now being confirmed by the likes of The Guardian’s Denis Campbell that there definitely will be no new money for the NHS. Apparently #traitormay and chancellor Hammond have told NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens to make £22BN savings to make up the organisation’s deficit. (Within days of the referendum, leading Leavers like Iain Duncan Smith were widely reported – eg: Sam Coates in The Times – to be backtracking on that £50M all going to the NHS. This and some other broken promises of the Leave campaign are considered in So the Turkeys did vote for Christmas?!?)
So, not only is there a real risk of my meagre savings being wiped out by the collapse of sterling and the value of my pension trashed by rising inflation; but, when I or those I love are ill or in an accident, there’s every likelihood the NHS, crippled by lack of funds in face of ever-increasing demands on its services, will be slow to provide treatment or may not even be able to provide treatment at all.
In The Guardian Jonathan Freedland sums up the economic situation, taking into consideration the relatively good performance of some industrial sectors… “Next time a leaver cheerily tells you that Brexit has had no economic impact, you don’t have to just roll your eyes and remind them we’re still in the EU. You can tell them that we’ve endured an involuntary currency devaluation to the tune of at least 13%. That helps some exporters, but it’s also made Britons poorer.”
So I’ve got good reason to feel “personally and immediately” threatened by #traitormay’s approach to Brexit. In sociopsychological terms, it’s my BEIGE survival and PURPLE safety vMEMES which are activated by the multitude of threats May’s approach to Brexit is creating. My BLUE has previously made me a good citizen. I’ve no criminal record. I pay my taxes. I think carefully about politics and I vote in elections for what I believe to be my own interests in the context of my country’s interests. And what happens…? The liars, the deceivers and the neo-racists win. (The Electoral Reform Society’s report on the 23 June referendum talked of “glaring democratic deficiencies”, with the Society’s Katie Ghose telling The Guardian’s Rajeev Syal: “This report shows without a shadow of a doubt just how dire the EU referendum debate really was.”) So my BLUE has been betrayed by self-serving liars like Johnson and Nigel Farage. No wonder my RED is ranting!
Just how bad will it be socially and politically?
Brexit and #traitormay’s approach to it are undermining the civil fabric of our society.
As Matt Kelly points out, there was a substantial rise in reported racist and religious abuse in the month following the referendum.
And that was before the near-outright xenophobia on display at the Tory Conference a week or so back. Freedland wrote of it: “This week the government signalled to foreign-born doctors and students that they are no longer wanted here, as well as warning diverse, global companies they will be named and shamed for the crime of drawing on a wide, international pool of talent.” The Observer was even more blunt in its editorial comment on some of the Brexit-derived policies proposed by ministers at the conference: “They carry a gross whiff of xenophobia. They convey an inescapable undertone of racism and intolerance. And they are a testament to what looks increasingly like an accelerating retreat from Britain’s liberal, inclusive and open-minded tradition and a return to the narrow, delusional world of Little England.”
Mhairi Black, the Scottish Nationalist MP, was outrightly scathing: “The Conservative Party’s mask as ‘a party of the common people’ has slipped to reveal the xenophobic, often racist, nationalist, ugly face beneath. The very fact that they now openly share the same values and policies as Ukip says it all.The Conservative Party’s conference has unleashed ugly and downright scary rhetoric that I was brought up to believe was to be left in the past. I am not exaggerating when I say that the policies being brought forward are reminiscent of early 1930s Nazi Germany.”
We won’t know for months just how much of a spike in hate crime there has been in the month following the Tory Conference…but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not significant.
Whilst I very readily admit there are many issues around immigration and its consequences and that the tribalism of the traditional white working classes in the UK has often been suppressed via a surfeit of GREEN’s political correctness, I’ve been proud and supportive of the way British society – generally speaking – has grown and adapted to accommodate a number of ethnic minorities. However, I’m also highly aware of how easy it is to turn tribe against tribe and exploit PURPLE’s natural discrimination between those who are of-our-tribe and those who are not-of-our-tribe – see Is Racism Natural..? The Rwandan genocide, the civil wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Sunni-Shia conflicts ravaging much of the Middle East and the ‘frozen’ civil war in east of Ukraine are just some fairly recent examples where the exploitation of racism has produced horrific wide-scale ethnic violence. While I don’t think we’re anywhere near even the early years of Nazi Germany – yet! – some things said at the Tory Conference and the way they have been interpreted might just be the start of the proverbial slippery slope.
I also don’t want to see our United Kingdom break-up and I dread a return of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland…but both of these are real possibilities if #traitormay does indeed pursue the kind of Brexit she has been threatening to.
The Good Friday Agreement (1998) is, in part at least, predicated on there being an open, ‘soft’ border between the North and the South. If the UK were to leave the Single Market, the Southern Irish would be obligated to introduce restricted movement and a customs border. For the Northern Irish, not only would this go against the will of the people – 56% voted Remain – but a ‘hard’ border could undermine the Good Friday Agreement and risk a return of The Troubles. As I’ve discussed several times down the years – from First Kosovo, then Northern Ireland to Leave Gerry Adams Alone! – the tribal divides that led to so much violence and bloodshed are still there. The imposition of a hard border would give RED-driven demagogues the opportunity to exploit PURPLE’S distrust and suspicion of the ‘others’.
Already BBC News (2016d) has reported anti-Brexit demonstrations on the border – see below. All too often, in Northern Ireland’s troubled history, protests are a harbinger of real violence.
I also don’t want Scotland to leave the Union – for all the reasons I spelled out 2.5 years ago in Why Scotland and rUK need Each Other. Yet that is what #traitormay is risking. This week Nicola Sturgeon is publishing a draft independence referendum bill “for consultation” (BBC News, 2016e). It’s generally acknowledged that Sturgeon doesn’t favour another go at an independence referendum just yet – the Scottish economy is in too weak a state to support a fully independent Scotland with the desired standard of living any time soon, given the collapse of world oil prices. Rather she favours some kind of bodge-it agreement for Scotland to remain in the Single Market even if the rest of the UK is whisked out in a hard Brexit. But, if such an agreement isn’t possible and #traitormay continues to rush towards hard Brexit, Sturgeon and the Scottish Nationalists may feel they have no other choice.
Technically the Scottish Parliament has no authority to institute another referendum without the consent of Westminster…but what would #traitormay do if it went ahead? Send in the troops to seal off polling stations and collect in the ballot boxes…? Suspend the Scottish Parliament and put Sturgeon and her leading ministers under house arrest..?
For the most part I’m proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For the most part, our United Kingdom has a great history. It makes me ANGRY that #traitormay is so ready to risk both the civil fabric and the institutional structure of our kingdom.
Theresa May, traitor
In one of my more ANGRY moments a couple of weeks ago, I attempted to start one of those petitions to Government & Parliament to have Theresa May charged “with treason for deliberate damage to UK welfare”. As I expected, the petition was rejected out of hand by the Petitions Team of the UK Government & Parliament. (But thank you to the people who supported my petition so it got at least as far as the Petitions Team.)
The Oxford English Dictionary primary definition of treason is “the crime of betraying one’s country”. The Cambridge Dictionary primary definition of treason is “showing no loyalty to your country”. My charge is that Theresa May has deliberately and knowingly betrayed her country by steering the UK towards a Brexit which is most likely to result in…well, all the damage to the British economy and the British people discussed above. She has put her own ambition as prime minister above loyalty to her country. The “knowingly” here is important. May was a Remainer, how ever much a reluctant and low profile one. So she knew the arguments for and against continuing EU membership, had considered them – presumably from BLUE and ORANGE perspectives – and, how ever reluctantly, decided that staying in was the best option. She knew! So, for her to then convert into a hardline Leaver must mean she now recognises the Remain campaign – including her – got it seriously wrong. That or she has become such a Leaver in order to secure her own power by appeasing the hardline Brexiteers dominating the top echelons of the Tory Party. There is no evidence I’m aware of that May has recanted her previous Remain position. In which case, this would appear to be all about her RED vMEME securing her powerbase.
The appeasement process is reflected in her stuffing the European Union Exit and Trade Committee with hardcore Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, David Davis, Priti Patel, Chris Grayling and Andrea Leadsom . Astonishingly, given the legal complexities of leaving the EU, there is no place for attorney general Jeremy Wright…but then he is a Remainer! The Independent’s Rob Merrick highlights May’s duplicity by revealing that it wasn’t her who made public the composition of the Committee but a leak via the new website Politico.
Because she knew of the most likely traumas Brexit will inflict on the UK and still chose “deliberately and knowingly” to put her personal interests above the interests of her country – when she will benefit handsomely but her country will suffer massively – this is why I contend Theresa May is betraying her country and committing treason. Thus, the Twitter-friendly #traitormay.
Leavers like Johnson and the hapless David Davis – addressing the Commons on the benefits of Brexit at exactly the moment the pound hit its 168-year low! – seem different to May. They are more like RED/BLUE zealots who know what they have to do and will not hear any other argument. This strain of what Irving Janis (1972) termed groupthink has been clearly prevalent amongst Tory Leavers since Michael Gove told Sky News “people in this country have had enough of experts”. In other words, we won’t listen to the experts if they tell us something different than what we want to hear.
This groupthink seems to be behind the attempt to get Hammond to toe the hard Brexit line. The Guardian’s Zoe Williams notes: “…we are in the grip of the most fervent radicals, people willing to sacrifice everything – grants, investment, trade, security, standing, solidarity, legal apparatus built up by decades of painstaking cooperation…. To let in a voice like Hammond’s would mean accepting certain realities: that the risks to our future prosperity are real and present; that an economic downturn cannot be dismissed as scaremongering when it is actually in train; that we do not hold every ace, or even any ace, in the coming negotiations, and some humility may be unavoidable; that business voices, even when they say things you don’t like, are not necessarily doing so for base self-interest. These ideas cannot be permitted….”
The tragedy for the UK and its peoples is that there is no reason for this deluded madness. In his speech to the Commons on 5 September – as reported by the likes of Metro’s Toby Meyjes – Davis said the referendum result gave the Government an “overwhelming mandate” for Brexit. However, as The Observer points out in its editorial: “The vote was nothing of the sort. It is worth restating that a thumping 48%, or 16.1 million people, voted Remain while a further 28% expressed no opinion either way. That result places those actively backing Leave in a distinct minority. They should show a little humility.” Adding further to the perception that May is duplicitous, Freedland adds: “…May has had to rewrite the history of 23 June. No longer the winner in a fairly narrow vote of 52% to 48%, leave was recast in the PM’s conference speech as a mass consensus, the unambiguous stance of the great British public. All that had ever stood in their way was a liberal, monied elite, the Davos set of footloose globetrotters devoid of national allegiance, citizens of the world and therefore citizens of nowhere. Before our very eyes the 48% are being rebranded as the 1%.”
So, arguably there isn’t a majority for Brexit at all. There certainly isn’t a majority for hard Brexit – which has never been voted on. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that many people who voted Leave on the 23 June regret that choice as the recent British Election Survey poll shows below. Jim Edwards of Business Insider UK asserts that the number of ‘Bregreters’ is now greater than the margin between Leave and Remain on 23 June. If the poll sample is representative and has been extrapolated correctly, that means there is no way #traitormay can claim any kind of mandate. In fact, the British people reject Brexit!
Yet #traitormay ploughs on, willing to wreck the UK for her own ambition.
ANGRY!!! VERY ANGRY!!!