Op-Ed: Suspending Parliament — The Last Muddle Through for the UK?

Posted Aug 29, 2019 by Paul Wallis
Boris Johnson’s highly controversial and very unpopular suspension of Parliament is looking very like The Last Muddle Through for the UK in far too many ways. The hideously mismanaged Brexit mess is making the Blitz look good.
Demonstrators rally in Whitehall  near the entrance to Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Joh...
Demonstrators rally in Whitehall, near the entrance to Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Johnson forced the suspension of parliament
The overall look is horrendous. The response to the suspension of Parliament has been very hostile both from the public and many members of Parliament. Tories have been jumping ship, too, as the date for Brexit approaches. Legal bids are also in progress to stop the suspension of Parliament, another tricky, and time-consuming, risk for Johnson.
EU leaders insist the Brexit deal agreed under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May is final
EU leaders insist the Brexit deal agreed under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May is final
Niklas HALLE'N, AFP/File
A brief synopsis:
• Johnson has taken the hard-line approach to Brexit, despite years of criticism of the whole idea. He’s now also the only one able to reposition the UK in any sort of deal.
• He’s said he won’t pay the £71 billion the European Union requires for the UK’s departure.
• He’s taken on trust support from Donald Trump, worthless as Trump’s support for anyone and anything has been since election.
• The opposition is calling for an emergency meeting of Parliament, without being very specific about what this meeting is supposed to achieve. A no-confidence vote might do something, but the UK would remain saddled with the date of Brexit and any possibility or not of further negotiations.
• Predictions of the effect of a hard Brexit are universally negative. Britain may face months of issues with food, movement of goods, basic trade, medical supplies, etc. The response to the predictions is to make plans for the deployment of troops to manage ”disruption”.
• There are multiple rumblings of dissatisfaction in Scotland and Ireland about possible major hits to their economies due to Brexit.
A very un-English situation
The UK parliament composition
The UK parliament composition
Vincent LEFAI, AFP
Historically, English major entities, individuals and corporate, didn’t descend to this level of vulgarity in managing national affairs. In the past, the backroom scenario wasn’t the synonym for a managerial obscenity it is now, at least not to this extent. It was an efficient way of managing things and usually worked without much melodrama.
In fact, putting any sort of economic initiative in the hands of Parliament was considered a waste of time. The British Empire was based on business, and almost nothing but business, regardless of its belated romantic imagery. Nobody wanted to have to talk to politicians about running it, let alone give them any sort of control over it.
The current UK management class is the successor to the not-particularly-loved very mercantile “merchant class’ of the past. The huge difference is that these people aren’t “merchants”. They don’t do actual business on just about every level of the economy. They’re not exposed to much personal risk, either, as facilitators of the imbecilities of others.
They infest political and business power structures and glue themselves on to the various cash cows through Westminster and the markets. Historically, this claque of cretins is famous for its indifference and lack of interest in any effects on the nation as a whole.
This unholy group of frankly useless sycophants and hangers-on is now the group making the decisions. The rest of Brexit in its entirety is pure public relations, waving the Union Jack and squeaking slogans like “sovereignty”.
(As a matter of pure fact, EU members have full sovereignty. Try telling Germany or France they don’t have sovereign rights to manage themselves, and you’d be laughed out of the country. It’s not even a theoretical issue within jurisdictions; The EU is a mutual economic arrangement, and that’s that.)
When Brexit was announced, some flunky, perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer, conducted an interview while sticking his head out from around a corner. It was quite obvious from his evasions that no planning had been done. At no point in the interview was the camera allowed another angle, or to approach closer than about 20 feet. As media presentation, it was revolting.
That’s been the pattern for this very un-English situation. Baseless evasive babble has replaced real information entirely. The risks are gigantic, and the rewards, so far, seem to be entirely cosmetic.
No hard numbers have been produced to show Brexit as a good option for the UK. There are no glowing testimonies to actual trade options, immigration, customs, movement of goods, or anything else, of any kind.
Beyond Boris
Johnson has got on a horse to hell, and he’s taking the UK along for the ride. He’s obviously being managed, but by god knows who or what, in his public appearances and statements. If he fails, he’s finished. If he succeeds, he’ll be facing a hostile Parliament, and a very hostile pro-EU element in Britain.
Therapeutic as Boris-bashing may be, he is hardly the major problem. Beyond his bland façade and insufferable smug image are much more important issues.
The major issue is how Britain copes with whatever hits the fan. Unlike the Luftwaffe, the issues raised by Brexit won’t simply stop. The trade situation will be horrendously complex, quite unnecessarily so. Movement of people and goods, residence in the UK and EU, you name it; the problems are truly mountainous.
External support and trade for Britain is hardly the problem. The UK will continue to do business with non-EU countries. The problem is the capacity of Britain to manage shortfalls and costs caused by the various hernias created by Brexit. Whatever sort of offsets are developed, the UK will be making up volumes of trade and profits for quite a while.
Even getting back to pre-Brexit par may be extremely difficult. If Scotland leaves the UK, additional problems, notably revenue, will emerge soon enough. If Northern Ireland leaves, and the UK is required to deal with a united, and very unimpressed, Ireland, that doesn’t make things any simpler, either.
Trade with the EU is also likely to be compromised in a way which could cause some serious issues. Europe’s view of the UK varies from the somewhat positive to the extremely negative at the best of times. Putting EU businesses in a position to dictate terms of trade to UK businesses is definitely not the best scenario. The EU businesses can say “take it or leave it”. The UK businesses can’t.
The UK is glued to the EU, inside it or outside it, in terms of volume of trade. Most of the UK’s trade is with the EU. A trade deal with the US, negotiated with the current temporary hiatus in American sanity, isn’t worth much in the long term.
The long view is what’s been missing from the start with Brexit. Lack of planning, combined with an appalling lack of talent, has created the mess. The future needs to be mapped out, not merely used as a conversation piece in between substance-less drivel about “opportunities” and meaningless pseudo-patriotic bleatings.
The Last Muddle Through could return the Tudor era borders, crash the UK, and leave England holding a debt and revenue baby with a very difficult future incoming. Let’s hope it doesn’t work out that way, but there are no signs that the Tories haven’t created an economic Battle of the Somme or a trade equivalent of Singapore for years to come.