Wednesday 22 June 2016

Brexit: winners and losers

All big decisions result in myriad consequences. Some of them positive and some of them negative. Only the most hopelessly naive of Brexit supporters could possibly believe that a vote to leave the EU is going to result in only positive outcomes for all as Britain turns immediately into the land of milk and honey for all and the Tory government suddenly begin fixing the NHS that they've spent the last six years vandalising, caring about the steel industry and clamping down on tax-dodging.

Everyone bar the insanely optimistic or pessimistic is capable of recognising that the result of Brexit won't be unrelentingly positive, or unrelentingly negative, but that some sectors of society will benefit enormously, some will will suffer dire consequences, and others will land somewhere in the middle.

In this article I'm going to look at how Brexit might work out for various individuals, organisations and sectors of society.

The Winners

The hard-right fringe of the Tory party

Tory Brexiters like Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, John Redwood and Iain Duncan Smith would clearly benefit enormously from Brexit. If the UK public vote to Remain quite a few of them can kiss goodbye to their political careers. Why on earth would any future Tory party leader allow desperate backstabbers like Iain Duncan Smith (who conducted one of the most appallingly insincere staged resignations in history) Boris Johnson (who outright accused David Cameron of extreme corruption) and Michael Gove (who even set about comparing pro-remain economists to Nazi scientists)?

Should Brexit win the day these people will clearly all be vying for position at the top table, eager to collect the spoils as they set about carving up pretty much the entire UK legal system for the benefit of their wealthy donors, drawing up pro-corporate trade deals that make TTIP look like a walk in the park, gleefully imposing even more of their socially and economically destructive austerity dogma and restructuring the UK in line with their fanatically right-wing zealotry.

Wealthy landowners

Landowners get huge subsidies from the EU. These subsidies used to be paid in line with what farmers actually produced, but these days wealthy landowners get huge handouts whether they produce anything or not. Boris Johnson has made it absolutely clear that the Tories wouldn't just replicate EU landowner subsidies, they're actually going to consider increasing the level of handouts to the people in Britain who are lucky enough to own large tracts of land. The idea that the Tories would actually cut these lavish handouts at this time of so-called austerity is not even worth contemplating. Farmers and wealthy landowners are just about the most loyal Tory demographic of all.

The EU

If the UK quits the EU it's likely to cause a massive economic storm within the Eurozone, but after the dust settles there could be some strong benefits for the EU. One obvious one is that the European parliament will be cleared out of lazy grandstanding UKIP politicians and hard-right Tories. Another is that the EU can get on with promoting progressive legislation without being fought tooth and nail every step of the way by the Tories.

Remember how the Tories tried to scupper the European Working Time Directive in the 1990s? Remember how George Osborne was the only finance minister in the whole of Europe to oppose legislation to prevent bankers paying themselves more than 200% of their salary in bonuses? Remember how the Tories shot down the EU plan to stop the European steel market getting crushed under an enormous landslide of artificially cheap Chinese steel?

The EU certainly isn't going to turn into a bed of roses overnight, but without the malign influence of the Tory party they might just be able to achieve some more positive changes.

European businesses

Another way in which Europe is likely to benefit from Brexit is a shift of businesses from the UK to countries that remain in the single market. The idea that this wouldn't happen is fantasy land stuff. Countless major businesses have clearly stated that access to the single market is one of the big attractions of doing business in the UK. It wouldn't be surprising to see various financial sector institutions shifting their headquarters to places within the single market (like Frankfurt for example), and manufacturers relocating their production facilities to keep themselves in the single market.

The extreme-right

Just imagine the gloating from extreme-right hatemongering groups like Britain First if they get their way and Britain pulls up the drawbridge on the rest of Europe. They'd no doubt see it as a remarkable victory and a vindication of their petty. xenophobic fearmongering tactics.

Could go either way


It's interesting to see that the vast bulk of the financial sector have come out strongly against Brexit, because one of the first things the Tory government would be likely to do is reverse the EU 200% cap on bankers' bonuses that they opposed so vehemently. It looks like a lot of these "banksters" are going against their own personal self-interest to back Remain, which seems more than a bit weird.

One of the main reasons that so many financial institutions are so strongly in favour of Remain is that all of the financial projections paint a pretty ugly picture if the British public vote for Brexit. When asked to name a single study that showed that Britain would be better off after Brexit, or even just the same, the "Lexit" Labour MP Kate Hoey floundered embarrassingly. A post Brexit economic meltdown isn't a certainty, but if the economic projections are so unanimously negative that they have bankers arguing against their own personal financial interests, they must be pretty damned bleak.

Of course some financial sector players would benefit enormously from Brexit. Any financial sector institution worth their salt will have hedged their investments so that their post-Brexit losses are mitigated, but the financial sector players who have actually gambled on Brexit could make an absolute killing.

Another way that financial sector players could make a post-Brexit killing is through hoovering up companies that get into financial difficulties and asset stripping them, just like RBS did after the 2007-08 financial sector insolvency crisis.

Non-exporting businesses

There are an awful lot of businesses in the UK that don't export goods to the single market, so they could conceivably benefit if the Tories set about tearing down the regulatory standards set by the EU for selling produce in the single market. Whether this lowering of standards would be enough to fully compensate these businesses for the losses incurred during the widely predicted post-Brexit economic slump is another matter.

Nigel Farage

Things could go two different ways for Nigel Farage. He could be welcomed into back into the Tory party along with his UKIP brethren by the grateful right-wing fringe of the Tory party, possibly with a seat in the unelected House of Lords as a reward for all of his campaigning against the ... erm ... undemocratic EU.

Either that or he could be left out in the cold to see his power and influence gradually fading away without a parliamentary seat and without his anti-EU hobby horse to ride.

Jeremy Corbyn

We all know what the immediate reaction to Brexit would be from the mainstream press and the Labour Party Blairites: Blame Jeremy Corbyn.

The press would hammer him for not having fought a savage and vindictive tooth and nail battle to keep the UK in the European Union. The Blairites will decry his tactic of trying to talk about the issues calmly, honestly and realistically, rather than joining in with Cameron and Osborne's blatant fearmongering.

But despite this negative reaction from the press and the right-wing faction of the Labour Party, a lot of people will remember that Jeremy Corbyn was actually one of the minority of politicians who tried to conduct himself properly in the debate. Whether that's a politically naive stance to take or not, you have to salute his integrity for at least trying to talk about things honestly.

The Losers

The disabled and the working poor

Both factions of the Tory party have promised even more ideological austerity after Brexit. George Osborne has sworn to enact a "punishment budget" in retaliation if the public vote to quit the EU, and Iain Duncan Smith has said that years more austerity would be "a price worth paying" for Brexit (which is easy for wealthy Tory MPs who were handed their plush country estates by their in-laws to say, because they're not the ones who pay the price of austerity).

The people who pay the price of Tory austerity are people like the working poor, who get their wages repressed and their Tax Credits slashed, and the disabled who see their benefits slashed in order to fund a bunch of lavish tax breaks for corporations and the super rich.

David Cameron

David Cameron will always be remembered as the Prime Minister who recklessly gambled the future of the UK economy in order to gain a bit of short-term political advantage at the 2015 general Election, and lost.

University students from England
The way that the European Union works is that if a citizen of a member state is entitled to something, then any other citizen from within the EU is entitled to it too. This has meant that large numbers of university students from England have been able to avoid the Tory "aspiration tax" on university students from poor and ordinary backgrounds by choosing to study at universities elsewhere in the EU, where tuition fees are very much cheaper (a few hundred Euros per year) or where they don't exist at all.

This route into affordable higher education for students from poor and ordinary backgrounds would be cut off completely if the UK bails out of the EU.

British Expats

What to do about the 2 million or so British expats living elsewhere in the EU will be an important negotiating point in the renegotiation settlement with the EU. Should the UK government try to begin slinging EU citizens out of the UK, or denying them access to stuff like the health service or the social security system, tit-for-tat reactions from other EU states would be inevitable.

Even if these tit-for-tat measures don't materialise, an awful lot of British expats would suffer years of worry and insecurity due to the uncertainty over their status in their adoptive countries as the UK renegotiates its relationship with the EU.


As the UK dips into the widely predicted post-Brexit economic crisis, and the Tories set about dragging the UK even further to the right and penalising the disabled and the working poor with more ideological austerity, an awful lot of people on the left will begin asking how on earth some left-wing people actually voted for all that to come about.

Lofty left-wing ideological objections to the structure of the EU are fine, but if they inspire you to take action that results in the empowerment of the most hard-right government in living memory to stamp down even harder on the throats of the most vulnerable in society, you've got to ask if that's a price worth paying, or whether it might have been better to wait for a more opportune moment to express your discontent at the EU.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


No comments: