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Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 24: British Prime Minister David Cameron resigns on the steps of 10 Downing Street his wife Samantha Cameron listens on June 24, 2016 in London, England. The results from the historic EU referendum has now been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to LEAVE the European Union. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

As was the case with Donald Trump clinching the GOP nomination despite the deep disbelief of the American professional class, it seems Brexit’s success blindsided UK pundits and betting houses because few in positions of power and privilege could fully wrap their heads around such a self-immolating move. The question remains: How many Brexit supporters (and Trump ones) don’t comprehend the economic ramifications of anti-immigration policies and how many do know and simply don’t care?

Clive Crook of Bloomberg View has an excellent and sober-minded Reddit AMA about Brexit and its aftermath. A few exchanges follow.


Question:

Can you please give a general outline on the history behind this referendum? Why was this referendum even held at all? I see a lot of references to “Cameron’s gamble”; why did he feel he needed to gamble?

Clive Crook:

Cameron promised a referendum partly (his critics say entirely) to stifle dissent in the Conservative Party, so that they could unify and win the last general election. It worked — except, as you notice, for one thing! He underestimated the country’s disaffection with the EU (outside London anyway) and then, I think, fought a not very good campaign to Remain, overdoing “Project Fear”. The EU could have done a lot more to help him win, by the way. They saw him as a nuisance, not as an ally. Plenty of blame to go around.


Question:

How embedded is misinformation in 21st century politics?

Clive Crook:

Deeply! For sure. But I think it’s wrong to cast the breakdowns we see all around us as nothing more than the high-information elite vs the low-information rabble. What we’re seeing in Britain, in the rest of Europe, and in the US too, is a popular revolt against the elites. This is very dangerous — but it’s intelligible and not entirely without justification. I think it’s really important to keep that in mind.


Question:

Why were the betting houses so wrong?

Clive Crook:

That’s puzzling. The polls all through showed a close race. In the past few days, Leave moved ahead according to several polls. Yet the pollsters and the betting markets discounted the data — in the pollsters’ case, their own data. Not sure why. Like most people I thought undecideds would divide disproportionately in favor of Remain — the safe choice — but that didn’t happen.


Question:

What will be the first major crisis that common people in the UK will ‘feel’?

Clive Crook:

The next few days may qualify. Extreme financial-market turbulence can be dismissed as the City’s problem for a short while — but not if the govt and bank of England have to undertake emergency measures to stem the panic. Later, the big risk is collapsing inward investment.


Question:

Will Britain realistically be able to have more control over immigration independent of the EU?

Clive Crook:

I’m sure it would have more control. But you’re right to wonder whether it would like the results. Immigration has been a big net benefit to the UK.


Question:

Is this evidence that globalism has failed? Is the psychology of “diversity” just too difficult for people too manage?

Clive Crook:

Maybe. But I don’t know if it’s diversity so much. Partly, I guess. But the key trade-offs, I think, are: (1) benefits of globalization (higher living standards in the aggregate) vs costs (displaced workers), and (2) economic integration (net benefit) vs political integration (diminished self-government). Brexit is all about (2).


Question:

What are the odds of a united Ireland, do you think? Scotland’s already gone, in my estimation. I wonder because my wife is Irish and we’re wondering what the new map will look like. It’s astounding.

Clive Crook:

I don’t know if Scotland’s as good as gone. This is a very bad result for them, but the collapse in the oil price has turned the independence math against them. By the way, though, I can’t see that Scottish independence would be such a bad thing. If I were a Scot I would probably have voted for independence — confident that relations between Scotland and England would be friendly enough to preserve most of the benefits of full union. Ireland could be a problem if feelings get inflamed — but that should be avoidable. Brexit needn’t stop free movement of UK and Irish citizens across the N Irish border. If both sides want that — and they do — I think it can be worked out.


Question:

As an American I can see the seeds of discontent among the “working class,” etc. Here, however the dialogue/agenda has turned towards thinly veiled racism. What percentage of this decision do you think is based on race, or at least xenophobia?

Clive Crook:

I think it played a part. Outright racists made Brexit their vehicle. But I don’t think 52 percent of Brits are racists. I don’t think it’s necessarily racist to worry about open borders, or to think that Britain’s policy on migration (liberal or illiberal, as the case may be) should be decided in Westminster not Brussels. Tactically, by the way, I think it was a mistake to denounce the Leave campaign as basically driven by bigotry. If you call people bigots, you’re insulting them. And insulting people is not a good way to argue them round to your point of view.


Question:

Short outline of the best case scenario going forward? If that’s too broad, could ANY conceivable good come of this?

Clive Crook:

I can imagine an outcome not that different from being a full member of the EU — a kind of associate membership. Deep economic integration but without free movement of labor and all the apparatus of EU nation-building — you know, parliament, executive and supreme court. That would have suited Britain better all along. It was never on the table. Conceivably, it now might be. Though I wouldn’t bet on it. Other countries might want that dispensation too, and it would be the end of the organizing vision of Europe that’s guided things this far.•

This article, Plenty Of Blame To Go Around, first appeared on Afflictor.com.

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