Brexit is a zero sum neoliberal strategy

Image result for pictures of Trump and May

The capricious Donald Trump apparently told the Sun that he doesn’t like Theresa May’s Brexit plan and so it’s likely that the deal for trade between the US and UK is going to be very difficult indeed. I didn’t particularly relish the thought of unregulated US food, such as genetically modified grains, vegetables and fruit, the famous Kentucky chlorinated chicken and hormone-pumped beef filling our supermarket shelves and refrigerated sections, personally, for what it’s worth.

Apparently Trump said May ignored his advice by opting for a ‘soft Brexit strategy’.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip May, greeting President Donald Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, at Blenheim Palace on Thursday in Woodstock.

He warned her that any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a lucrative US trade deal ‘very unlikely.’

May’s proposals were finalised last Friday and quickly sparked a slew of high-profile political resignations from her Cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, over concerns that the plans would leave the UK ‘too closely’ linked to the EU. May is already dangerously close to a vote of no confidence by her party.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump said, according to the Sun.

View image on Twitter

Trump telling May that he doesn’t like the Brexit plan is completely outrageous. I’m wondering how Leave notions of ‘sovereignty” and “taking back our country” can be reconciled with Trump telling the UK government what they should and should not do.

And earlier today, the fickle US president accused the media of “fake news” following the interview in which he criticised the prime minister’s Brexit plans. 

I didn’t criticise the PM,” Trump said at a press conference at the prime minister’s official retreat in Chequers.

“Unfortunately a story was done which was generally fine but didn’t put in what I said about the PM. I said tremendous things.” (Evasion tactics)

He added: “We record when we deal with reporters… It’s called fake news.”

The Sun interview was published as Trump dined with the prime minister at formal dinner at Blenheim Palace. As images of the front page story were released on Twitter, fury spread among UK diplomats.

Backtracking on his previous comments, Trump said: “If they go in a slightly different route, I hope you’re going to be able to trade with the US.” 

“I read reports that won’t be possible but after speaking to May’s people it will absolutely be possible. The trade is a little bit tricky.”

It all sounds rather like frantic flip-flop to me.

It does bother me that the UK may be set to be totally isolated thanks to the Tories. Or even worse, Theresa May could decide to do Trump’s bidding, because she’s placed us in a desperate situation, which will leave us in an even more desperate situation.

There are rumours in the media that the government is planning on stockpiling processed food and medicines in the event of a no deal. If that’s part of our Brexit plan, then it’s a clear indication that we are truly and royally set up to be stuffed. Ministers have denied this is true. But then, don’t they always?

The food plan is one of 300 contingency measures that will be revealed in the next few weeks as part of a Brexit plan to show Brussels that “plan B” is a serious option, the Sun reported.

Downing Street told the paper that “no deal preparation work is to be stepped up”. Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis as Brexit Secretary after his resignation, will take charge of the plans. It was revealed last week that a unit had been set up in the Cabinet Office to deal with the complex issues that could arise. It is reportedly focused on plans for the border in the case of a swift change. 

The prime minister’s Brexit blueprint – finally revealed and supposedly agreed upon at Chequers – veers towards a softer Brexit than many Eurosceptics would like and this wing of her party have been quick to express their outrage.

However, the fears of a no deal Brexit, coupled with the rumours of the government stockpiling food, have inspired a surreal sense of impending doom that would wouldn’t be out of place in the event of a threat of nuclear war. As a contingency plan, it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in a post-Brexit UK future. 

Concerns about the impact of Brexit on the NHS

Other departments have also been handed budgets to put plans in place quickly. NHS England boss Simon Stevens revealed earlier this month that “extensive” plans are in place to make sure the health service keeps running in a no deal scenario, while Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said in Parliament that preparations were ‘underway.’

“Like all competent government departments, we are also working to ensure that if there is no deal we are ready for it,” she said.

“We have £17.3m extra from the Treasury to look into and ensure that we have the right Brexit scenario.”

The NHS has always remained vulnerable to the vicissitudes of governments, and has been subject to constant re-organisation: currently, as the dust is just settling on the controversial Health and Social Care Bill, enacted in 2012 by the Coalition, the present government and NHS England are pressing forward with even further restructuring.

Since 2010, we have witnessed the NHS undergoing fiscal deprivation – the cuts are radical compared to any in its history. The promised ‘dividend’ to the NHS depends entirely upon the overall health of the economy following Brexit. The EU and the UK are currently negotiating and much remains very uncertain.

There are practical issues concerning access to supplies for hospitals. This isnot just a question of trade, hence, with the prospect of some impact on healthcare provision, the head of NHS England has indicated this week that the NHS was making contingency plans for a hard Brexit with consequent risks to medicines supply.

A further arising variable which exacerbates the potential vulnerability of the NHS is that of staff shortages. The lack of trained doctors in the UK has meant the NHS has needed the support of clinicians drawn from abroad – including those jurisdictions of other EU member states. The recent controversy over the lack of access to visas for highly skilled non-EU staff to work in the NHS, if replicated for EU citizens, would further impact adversely on staffing levels.

Earlier this year, the prime minister stoked fears that the NHS will be “for sale” in a trade deal with the US after Brexit, after refusing to say it will be excluded from the talks.

May was warned that a “key objective” for Washington would be gaining access to the health service, which is being opened up to more private firms.

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat leader, asked “Can she give an absolute guarantee that, in those negotiations, the NHS will be excluded from their scope?

“Can she confirm that, in her conversations with President Trump, she has made it absolutely clear to him the NHS is not for sale?”

But, in her reply, during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, May said it was too early to judge what “requirements” the US would have in those post-Brexit trade talks.

Her answer failed to mention the NHS at all, instead saying negotiations were already “starting” to try to boost trans-Atlantic trade, even before Britain leaves the EU. Her refusal to rule out opening up the NHS to US health giants is extremely worrying 

The vote for Brexit has created significant uncertainty in the UK food and agriculture sector

Many of us are hoping that there will be a free trade deal made between the UK and the EU before the March 2019 deadline, otherwise the UK will be forced to trade under the ruling of the World Trade Organisation, and as a result, food prices are likely to increase further.

The British Retail Consortium has stated that the absence of a trade deal between the UK and the European Union will see the price of imported food rise by 22%. Also worrying is the fact that there has currently been no promise that current EU food quality regulations will be maintained once we have withdrawn from the European Union.

Trade talks with America have faced a backlash of criticism and concern, as its widely known that US farming practices entails cattle fed with growth hormones, chickens washed with chlorine, beef washed with lactic acid, genetically modified crops and the practice of feeding waste meat back to animals. We all know the potential catastrophe to bovine and human health that the latter can create, as we learned when Thatcher deregulated farming practices. The current import of these food items are banned under the current EU law.

There has also been rumours that British farmers, producers and suppliers would be forced to lower their standards in order to compete with the American imports. The government in the UK, however, value deregulation. But history has shown us that health and welfare problems in the food industry start when governments deregulate and encourage companies to police themselves. Salmonella in eggs, BSE in cattle, foot and mouth and swine flu all followed cuts in animal welfare standards or inspection services.

They became national scandals under successive Tory governments in the 1980s and 1990s, and a generation of children were put off eating meat, disgusted at at the treatment of animals and the potential health dangers because of a deregulated industry, that watered down hygiene practices, food and farming standards.

This is what happens when private business is permitted by neoliberal governments to seek unrestricted profit. It comes at a cost because the profit incentive sidesteps even the most basic of human needs. 

British distaste for animal cruelty, and the serious public health scares led the Labour government to progressively raise welfare standards that are higher in the UK than in much of the rest of the EU.  But the few giant poultry groups, for example, that dominate an industry that provides nearly 50% of all the meat we eat, have always complained that the high standards puts them at a ‘competitive disadvantage’. 

Currently, it’s variously estimated that around 70% of Britain’s food supply comes from the EU, and Brexit has highlighted the fact that the age of variety and plenty that we live in is fragile and could collapse if we fail to strike up adequate trade deals. 40 % of our fresh produce – fruit and vegatables – are also imported from the EU. The potential impact of a Brexit for the food and beverage sector is huge, be it on trade, inward investment, labour and employment or policy and regulation.  

The farming sector has also benefited from direct EU payments of £2.4bn in 2015 via the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). This is all likely to change and the direction of travel is currently unknown.

Some sources say the vast majority of processed food and drinks in Britain are imported, with as much as 97 per cent arriving from the European Union.

A free flow of goods means minimal delays in transit, which is crucial for anything fresh. As the head of the British Retail Consortium warned Theresa May and Michel Barnier last week, a no-deal Brexit could mean “food rotting at ports”.

Of course, if the flipside of a no-deal Brexit is a UK-US trade deal like Nafta, as I’ve pointed out, things aren’t looking any cheerier. 

Failing to secure a free trade deal after Brexit will be “disastrous” for Britain’s £28bn processed food and drinks industry and must be avoided at all costs, a committee of MPs has warned earlier this year.

In a report, they outlined that without access to European Union markets after the end of the transition period, in December 2020, exports of processed foods such as chocolate, cheese, beef, pork and soft drinks would suffer while UK consumers would face higher prices and less choice on the supermarket shelves.

The stark warning came from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, with MPs also saying that reversion to World Trade Organisation rules after withdrawal from the bloc would have a “seismic impact” on the country’s largest manufacturing sector.

Brexit will see food prices rise and potentially lower standards, but as food sectors rely heavily on foreign labour forces, we won’t have the work force to support an intense home-grown model of food supply. We don’t have the space. And for some foods, (like avocados, pineapples, banannas, grapes, olives and olive oil, capers, rice, lentils, pasta, many spices and so on), we don’t have the climate. 

The phase of platitudes about ‘sovereignty’ and ‘the will of the people’ and other gnomic banalities is over. There has been an erosion of public confidence that May’s government knows what it is doing, since she took office. Nonetheless we will now face the consequences of our collective political decision making, regardless of how dire those consequences may well be.

Brexit has divided our nation. We have stood witness to toxic social divisions and growing racism – people who look or sound different have been told by triumphant leavers to ‘pack your bags and go back where you came from. Such events don’t bode well, and they become more ominous still when serious incidents such as the horrific murder of an MP as a perceived ‘traitor’ to the nation are also considered. 

I’m sure that the successive Conservative governments since 2010 could not have damaged and alienated the UK any more than they already have. It’s not just the country that they have trashed, this die hard bunch of charmless relics of imperialism have extended their arrogance, intractability incompetence, lack of diplomatic skill and destructively regressive mindset on a global scale, making enemies of countries that were once our allies.

Brexit means more neoliberalism: deregulation, low taxes for the wealthy, and more cuts to public services. State provision, paid for by citizens, to serve the needs of citizens, is a thing of the past. Alone, or in trade cahoots with Trump, Brexit will simply heighten the austerity, competitive individualism, building a bigger shrine to the market place, where human needs are sacrificed, dog eat dog rules, simply amplifying the worst elements of a failing neoliberal regime. 

Furthermore the Conservative government since 2010 have displayed an aggressive authoritarian turn. Without membership of an international community, founded on cooperation, with a negotiated system of safeguarding regulation, which encourages transparency and accountability by virtue of the level of sociopolitical normative sharing, scrutiny and evolving protective legal frameworks, the future of the UK may be a good deal less democratic than our present.


How might Brexit Affect Food Prices – The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

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22 thoughts on “Brexit is a zero sum neoliberal strategy

  1. “Trump telling May that he doesn’t like the Brexit plan is completely outrageous. I’m wondering how Leave notions of ‘sovereignty” and “taking back our country” can be reconciled with Trump telling the UK government what they should and should not do.”

    That strikes me as a powerful argument for Remain, since it undermines the whole logic (illogic?) behind Brexit. Never mind the increasing multitude of detailed problems the keep being brought to light. Surely it’s time to call the whole thing off. But who has the courage to take the plunge? Politicians by their nature are averse to admitting to mistakes, or simply cop out like Cameron.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes but don’t forget that those impoversihed working class communities that have felt ignored for the last thirty years and which voted for Brexit are not likely to change their minds because simply Claude from Clapham is worried about his supply of plumbers, gardeners and au pair girls. And they probably live on processed food anyway. It’s all they can afford.


  2. Brexit is all about Tories and other nasty right-wingers trying to turn the clock back. The losers will be the vast majority of people in the UK – including those who believed the lies and deceit and actually voted for the nonsense.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s simple… We tell them, they don’t tell us anything, We tell them what we’re going to do.
    If we were to stay in any in any form the the EU then we should be running it and dictating the terms not untermensh like Merkel.

    1. Not another single hapenny to be paid to the EU or indeed any foreign nation again.
    2. Immediate repatriation of the unwelcome goods and migrants refuse that have come here over the years.
    3. Prepare for war if any resistance.And if necessary use agents like novichok or similar to press the point.

    Load up the ships the millions of unwelcome migrants foreign criminals that have deluged the country over the decades. Poland retains the facilities to deal with yet won’t take them and Merkel doesn’t do a thing.

    One thing’s for sure they’re here for themselves not this country. The welfare of the rich should step aside for once. They want to stay because of the of their properties, cheap labour for their business and to blackmail the working classes who have suffered in the time the channel tunnel opened in 1992/3.


    1. Except that we are in real danger of May becoming Trump’s little lapdog because we have no other trade deals. So, hardly us ‘telling them’ what we’ll do.

      Prepare for war? Seriously?? It’s knobs like you that are the reason the world faces nuclear anhilation. But you gormlessly think it would never happen. Meanwhile, the Doomsday clock went forward at the start of this year. It stands at 2 minutes to midnight, it’s never been closer. Midnight = global thermonuclear war.

      Your fear and hatred of ‘others’ is repulsive. You want to send ordinary people away who have been British citizens for decades? Yet you bow and scrap to the Tories and elite – the real perpetrators of ordinary people’s misery. So deferential to who you think are ‘superior’, and so vile to those you look down on. Classic bullying mentality and typical right wing despotism. You value hierarchies of worth because you are so insecure and have a chip on your shoulder. Personally I’d prefer the inadequate racists and bigots to leave the UK. I value diversity and quickly become bored and scornful of bigots. Prejudice multitasks, racists are often misogynists, have issues with disabled people, their hatred tends to grow when nurtured.

      You really think the Channel Tunnel is the cause of our social problems?? Ha ha ha ha! Nah mate, that’s the Tories. And they hate the working classes, always have. They reward the wealthy and punish the poorest – and working class people like you. The money for our public services is going into private offshore bank accounts. Open your eyes. As for exploiting labour – the Tories have ALWAYS favoured high profits for the rich, low wages for ordinary people. Poor immigrants aren’t the reason for low wages, exploitative, greedy profit driven big business is, and the government who deregulates labour markets and lowers working condition standards, permits exploitation, greed and profit over human need.

      The EU gave us a proportion of our worker’s rights. The Tories refused to implement them. Blair did. The Tories have since rolled back on them. That’s why people’s wages are low and work conditions are shit.

      If you want to know why the UK is in a mess, look no further than the UK government’s policies.

      It’s the rich elite that wanted Brexit. They lobbied for it for years and years. Because a few people will profit massively from it, while the rest of us are stuffed. You’ve been conned.

      People like you bleat about the universal human rights because it applies to others, as well as you. But are the very first snowflakes to bleat when your own are taken away. And if things continue as they are, that day is coming very soon.

      You’re a disgrace.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously? And what happened to ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking our country back’? Are we to become Trump’s little lapdogs? Ha ha! You people make me laugh. The UK becomes little America. Good for dumping nuclear waste and buying shit poisonous processed food, selling of our NHS, feeding US pharma and insurance businesses, but not so good for respecting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brexit is really Brexit without the exit! Sovereignty certainly does not exist within the EU!
        If you examine David Cameron’s white Paper on a new relationship with the EU, the one he supposedly agreed with EU prior putting the nation to the vote, you will see that it does not fundamentally differ from the alleged deal Theresa May has come up with.

        How can we be a sovereign nation when we are agreeing to merge with the new EU Military Unification Plans, which include a later merger with NATO. How is the UK going to leave the EU when we cannot defend ourselves.

        This is all NWO stuff. The UK is no longer a democracy and certainly not independent.

        Neither are we governed by the rule of law. Its all the new ‘Rules Based System’ The Global rules based system.

        What are the new rules? Does anyone out there know?


    1. I seem to remember somewhere in the distant past that the UK signed up to Europe’s Four Freedoms. The model of an EU flexible workforce – based on the Norwegian model of flexicurity – required a generous system of welfare benefits in return for a flexible EU workforce.

      And how did David Cameron adjust to this agreement? Oh yes – he appointed Iain Duncan-Smith to start dismantling the welfare state. Well done everyone!

      The problem is not that the EU threatens our sovereignty, the problem is that we are collectively so dim as a nation that we believe any old rubbish that is broadcast in the mainstream media.


  4. Another thought-provoking article by Sue, although I am not sure that I entirely agree. The trouble is Sue (as I am sure that you know already) staying in the EU also means ‘neoliberalism’. Just ask the Greeks, the Portuguese and the Irish. Apple and Google made billions in untaxed profits while ordinary people paid the price.

    Remember that group of unelected officials known as the Troika (over which the EU seemed to have no control?)

    Remember the Lagarde List?

    French and German bankers gave Greece the largest loan in human history and then made them buy armaments and Olympic arenas from French and German manufacturers knowing full well that the repayments would reduce the average Greek to abject poverty.

    The photo of May and Trump in front of Blenheim Palace reminds me of the opening scene in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. I keep expecting the ghost of Brian Blessed to appear above them, doomed for a certain time to walk the earth at night, trapped in the fires of Purgatory until he has done penance for his past sins.

    I’ll get my coat…


    1. Undoubtedly the EU have imposed a free market framework. However, there have also been a measure of regulations that protect citizens from the worst ravages of neoliberalism and fierce competitive individualism – worker’s rights, for example. A human rights framework, also. My fear is that the UK government will continue to completely dismantle those protective legislative frameworks, leaving it to the mythical ‘market place’ to arbitrate which citizens live and which do not. Which citizens’ lives have value, and which do not.

      The EU, despite its many faults, was also a layer of scrutiny that, given the authoritarian nature of the UK government, we probably need at this point in our history. The alternative we now face is a bunch of dogma-led free market fundamentalists and zealots with a lot of self interest let off the restraining leash to REALLY wreak havoc on UK citizens. You think the Tories were bad this past 7 years? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

      Meanwhile, I remember that the EU acknowledged that austerity damages economies last year. I don’t have a problem with free trade on an international level. I do have a problem with neoliberal dogma intruding into public policies aimed at dismantling our post war settlement, removing our hard-earned social safety nets and safeguards for citizens.

      Now isn’t the time to leave the EU.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In fairness to the EU, they did eventually get round to investigating their own Troika.

        It is certainly true that Theresa May is refusing to guarantee the continuation of the EU Working Time Directive, but that legislation means very little anyway (in fact it was once part of my job to try and enforce it). As you say yourself:

        “the Uk government will continue to completely dismantle those protective legislative frameworks”.

        In other words, workers’ rights have already been eroded while we have been full and active members of the EU.

        In all of my time as a trade unionist, the only time that I can ever remember the EU stepping in was when the European Court of Justice effectively banned the UK government’s Workfare programme (not before time).

        However, in every other respect the Freedom of Movement of Capital takes precedence over the Freedom of Movement of Labour (or what we refer to as ‘people’).


      2. I think that once we leave, workers rights will deteriorate further. Trade Unions will become absolutely powerless, human rights will become a fond memory. Unless we have a change of government


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