Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

No To Left-Wing Declinism !


coThe economist Duncan Weldon has told the New Statesman's Will Dunn that 'Brexit is a "slow puncture" on the UK economy.' As former business editor of BBC's Newsnight and so presumably of the Left he received soft treatment by Dunn. Let us deflate his arguments a little.

Clearly much of our difficulty with the EU post-Brexit is intentional on their part. For many over there it is a dream of Fraternité, of Bruderschaft; for others, a power clique; for some, a deep personal investment - the Lisbon Treaty was (at least partly) Michel Barnier's baby and how dare we slap its face! Extricating ourselves from this was never going to be easy. Speaking to the German Bundestag on 21 March 2019 the AfD's Alice Weidel quoted M. Barnier (5:26) as confiding to a colleague, 'My mission will have been a success when the terms are so brutal for the British that they prefer to stay in the Union.'

Weldon omits to say that we have been leaking money in our balance of trade with 'Europe' ever since we joined. The only year (that I know of) when there was parity was 1975 and there may have been some politically convenient creative accounting in that case, since that was when PM Harold Wilson called a referendum to seal his new deal with the EEC that promised 'FOOD and MONEY and JOBS' - or perhaps threatened us with the loss of these essentials if we failed to vote correctly.

Besides, who knows what our economic fortunes might have been had we stayed out from the beginning - out of the CAP that favoured French farmers, retaining our exclusive right to fish our territorial waters, unencumbered by the Community's Lilliputian-threads regulations, free from its membership fees?

Weldon is on firmer ground when he says that our relative prosperity founded on the Industrial Revolution was bound to decline as other countries caught up on the technology. Until then we rode high: before 1914 we had not only thriving production at home but hugely profitable investments abroad - was it a fifth of US industry that we owned?

The fall did not have to be so sudden and severe; much more than Third World development, military conflict was to blame. We declared war on Germany, twice; and were busted, twice. We had such vast debt to the US that we defaulted in 1932, and in WWII we threw everything we had plus more American credit into the fight against the Nazis, giving Roosevelt the chance to destroy the British Empire. When peace came FDR's successor Truman cut off financial aid so abruptly that for the first time we had to ration bread.

War also gave us the 1973 OPEC Oil Shock, Arab revenge for assisting their opponents in the Yom Kippur conflict. Our industrial relations problems, partly caused by left-wing agitators - as in other countries - were profoundly worsened by inflation, and not merely to cope with living costs: those of a certain age may remember groups of workers striking for 'pay parity' and others, more highly skilled, striking to maintain 'pay differential.' That show is on again now, but with a much weaker cast - oh for even such assets as we had in the shabby early Seventies!

Today we are involved in an undeclared military campaign against Russia, the country with the most nuclear weapons in the world. The distinguished macroeconomist Jeffrey Sachs has just spoken in Vienna on the danger to us all of US neocons' warmongering. It may cost more than our dwindling wealth this time.

Returning to the recovery of our fortunes, Weldon thinks we should give up on industry and concentrate on our strengths - law, banking and finance, the creative arts… at this point even Dunn had to suggest that we cannot have a nation composed of lawyers and film-makers. The US is re-onshoring the factories it set up abroad; we must do the same.

We have to grow more of our own food, too, pace George Monbiot, who is now demonising farmers. For the larger our population, the more vulnerable we are to disruption in the global trade web. We have not been self-sufficient in agriculture since the Napoleonic wars; if Hitler had adopted the right, port-bombing strategy from the start he could have starved us into surrender; we closed our Strategic Food Stockpile in 1995.

Even without net immigration, our population would be growing: last year there were more live births than deaths. There is a problem of demographic imbalance but perhaps we can solve that by our habit of herding oldies into care homes and letting flu epidemics (or Covid) carry them off; or maybe something like the new Japanese euthanasia movie 'Plan 75'?

Weldon points out that our GDP per capita is declining, but fails to mention immigration: the more poor people we import, the smaller that metric will become. When the IMF suggests immigration as a help towards tackling inflation (as reported by Newsnight's latest business expert Ben Chu) I wonder if they have taken into account the long-term implications? AI is threatening even white-collar work; how can we contemplate increasing the number of hostages to fortune in the UK as the world economy continues to unravel? Acculturation issues aside, it wouldn't matter if everyone who came here was a Tory-voting WASP; it's about sustainability and resilience.

Here are three suggestions: (a) get America to stop creating refugees and driving them towards us; (b) consider at least a partial derogation from the international jurisdiction on asylum if the abuse of it threatens our security; (c) put much more stringent limits and stipulations on legal immigration, which is by far the greater category. We appreciate the implied compliment of so many people beating a path to our door, but the Welfare State is not unbreakable.

On a related matter, our system may not survive if our education system continues to churn out opinionated morons. By that last I do not mean the lower classes. The splendid educationalist Katharine Birbalsingh has approvingly retweeted this message: 'Private schools are very much focused on catering for their progressive clients (hence lowering education standards) instead of maintaining the reputation of strong educational institutions' adding 'And because private schools set the tone for the country- the rest of us follow suit unless we are contrary. Wonderful example of luxury beliefs.'

If you follow 'Miss Snuffy' as she calls herself on Bicker, you will see that perversely, many people hate her methods and success - no good deed goes unpunished, is the cynical proverb. For punished she was, after giving her epochal speech to the Conservative Party Conference in 2010, receiving a suspension from her then school.

But she persevered, putting into practice what she said was needed: discipline. She was absolutely right to observe that a culture of excuses merely disables the socially disadvantaged, and has emphatically proved that grip and grit will push children into high achievement and enormously improved life chances. Floreat Michaela! If we can have more people like 'Miss Snuffy' running the joint, it can all be turned around.

Britain could - can - be a tragedy avoided; that is what both distresses and energises. As John Cleese's headmaster says in 'Clockwise', 'It's not the despair; it's the hope.'

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