On Wednesday, March 29th, Britain will once more officially begin to chart its own course as a sovereign nation. 288 Days after the famous Brexit referendum vote, Sir Tim Barrow, the British Representative to the EU, will hand a letter from the Prime Minister, Mrs May to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. The contents will notify the 27 members of the EU that Britain is commencing its exit process outlined in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The formal declaration of Britain’s intention to leave the EU, will commence a divorce process that will last two years. On the eve of this momentous event, how should the landscape for Britain and its impending negotiations with the EU be viewed?
Sentiment within Britain and its national energy
After an exceptionally charged referendum and its surprise outcome, it is a credit to Britain’s national character that with only a few exceptions like George Osborne, the majority of the population have accepted the outcome and that divisions have begun to mend. Indeed, against the expectations of the remaining camp, both in the UK and in the EU, Britain has gone through its democratic process and maintained its course to trigger Article 50, enacting the will of the people. This process has at times been torturous for Mrs May, but it has ultimately reinforced the nation’s respect and understanding for the importance of an independent legal system. Additionally, the importance of the role of the House of Lords in its balancing relationship with the elected body of the House of Commons should not be underestimated. In effect, Britain’s institutions of government have been tried, tested and reinforced by this outcome. In terms of the sentiment across the nation, the positive sense of self-belief has been a surprise to those that wished to remain. However, they forget that the vote to leave derived from an innate sense of self-belief and national confidence that has now been allowed to be manifested. This underlying sentiment will continue despite any severe economic downturn in the next couple of years and this resilience will serve the nation well and provide the energy to chart an independent path in the years ahead. Indeed, this new found sense of the national identity of Britain can be clearly seen in its measured and defiant response to the repugnant suicide attack on the Houses of Parliament and the innocent people walking over the bridge. Looking forward in the future, such attacks will only continue the process of polarisation of Britain's national identity. The enduring image of the medical response teams trying to save the life of the attacker that had caused such mayhem, was the most powerful signal of the core values that Britain stands for as a nation. Indeed, what better response could there be to counter such extremism but a combination of strength, humanity and resilience? As we have discussed before, the national energy of Britain is high (see "Breaking the Code of History") and we should expect to see this driving force urge Britain forward through some inevitably challenging time, when its European cousins falter.
The state of the EU
Meanwhile, the Internal pressures within the EU have been building to breaking point. Forcing the EU leaders to focus on keeping the EU together rather than punishing Britain’s exit and looking forward to the impending elections in France and Germany, two of the core founding nations within the EU will ultimately set the course of the region. Whilst we were able to predict the outcome of Brexit and the arrival of Trump with a very high degree of certainty, the French presidential election is slightly more complicated to predict. That being said and whilst it is not certain that Le Pen will become the next French President, we believe that the chances are significantly higher than generally accepted at somewhere around 75%. But even if Germany and France vote to remain within the EU, the building pressures of deflation, a banking crisis and an almost inevitable debt crisis mean that the next two years during which the diverse negotiations take place will be tumultuous. The very chance that the EU breaks up before the negotiations are concluded, will place Britain in a potentially very strong position. Indeed, with the arrival of Trump and his sympathy for Britain and disdain for the EU, Britain’s negotiating position should be viewed as a strong one from the outset. An advantage that the tough Mrs May will not have missed and will use to reduce the cost of the divorce settlement.
As discussed numerous times in our Murrinations, the Brexit vote was nothing short of a regional civil war and as such in similar circumstances post the war’s end, only a dictatorial style of leadership will be strong enough to meld the two opposing sides together and heal the wounds of war (even if it is metaphoric in this case). Thus, Mrs May and her dictatorial style of leadership, with a self-confessed dismissal of empathy, are ideally suited to this moment in time. The clearest example of this style was the ruthlessness with which she quite rightly blocked Hammond’s budget policy of penalising the self-employed people. This policy is but the tip of the spear of HMRC’s policy that has stealthily brought in the highly destructive legislation for 2020 of quarterly tax returns for the self-employed. To date, May should be applauded for bringing the triggering of Article 50 within the timeframe she originally stated, a success that has strengthened her Brexit credentials. However, her weakness is that she lacks the real vision to outline, shape and guide the nation's future. In her own words, she says that "she doesn't read much history and tries not to picture how things will be in advance." Now to my mind from the perspective of BTCH, this is a terrible weakness shown by a national leader placing May in the footsteps of Blair and Cameron.
Meanwhile, all is not lost as the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson has been brought into the fold and is serving his apprenticeship in statesmanship that will make him the one and only heir apparent to Mrs May. Indeed, his style of shared vision and boldness is ideally suited to follow the dictatorial style of Mrs May once her work is done in the next two years. However, whilst the leadership is very solid, the problem of bringing in more capable politicians to the cabinet has yet to be solved and needs a major rethink for the years ahead.
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