Brexit is populist – and farewell 2018!

December 21, 2018 0 By Michel Santi

2018 wasn’t a vintage year. In fact, I’d be more tempted to call it a year of gloom and doom.

Trade wars, stalling stock markets, extreme oil price volatility, geopolitical tensions, con games in the Middle East, and serious questions about Macron’s presidency that had brought some much hope are only a few examples of what will be for me a year to hastily forget. I’d be lying if I told you I think 2019 will be better since my prognosis is even worse. We are entering, in my opinion, a period of pronounced uncertainty and instability, politically, socially, economically and financially speaking.

With differences that all have negative impacts – terrible and desperate impacts: 

Current growth is lower than it was in 2007 when the subprime crisis hit.

Public debt is higher, including in the US.

China is slowing down at a dangerous rate.

Interest rates are still close to zero, or give no room to manoeuvre for central banks, contrary to 2007 when rates were still at “normal” levels.

The United States of America is governed by Donald Trump.

Angela Merkel is in a state of unprecedented weakness, and the European Union is therefore adrift.

If global stock markets remain at these levels – or even lower – they will be on a cliff edge, still hurting the real economy as we know them to do.

…and I could go on, but I don’t want to sound like a broken record.

The following analysis – the last of the year – on Brexit’s becoming a farce is, I think, indicative of an era that “stinks” (my apologies for such a term).

I nevertheless wish you a serene-as-possible festive period, and recommend (as something for a change) reading «Fauteuil 37», my very last book about my membership of the French Academy, prefaced by the illustrious Edgar Morin.

Brexit is populist

Europe’s great catastrophes have all had the same feeling of national superiority. In fact, Europe has taken pleasure – these last few centuries and decades – in self-destructing, basically every time under the morbid impulse of a pseudo patriotic superiority that’s convinced nationalists that their country is bigger, better, stronger, and purer than their neighbours’. In this light, Brexit isn’t so much the result of a misguided power play (David Cameron), of a distrust of mass immigration, or of austerity-induced economic stagnation,  as it is of a phenomenon that’s well known and too well established: nationalism.

The Leavers, or Brexiteers, are really just nostalgic for a time when Great Britain was still “great” and the balance of world powers was still well distinguished, often in their favour. The British are not, however, the only people in Europe wanting to take their destiny back into their own hands. In this respect, the populists’ decisive breakthroughs in a number of countries in Europe have been via direct demands for self-government by the peoples, demands that brought on the First World War, the end of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and Hitler thanks to Germany’s economic collapse.

Brexit, Britain’s latest national outburst, is turning out to be ruinous, as much as national socialism or fascism could be. It is however always the same mistakes being made, for decades now, because no nation can ever stay proudly alone and isolated. At the peak of its splendour, England itself had to find some allies to defeat Napoleon, and the Kaiser. It was by forging alliances and signing agreements and treaties that we can put our ideas forward, and make our economies prosper. Britain feels like it’s lost control of its destiny and its identity has been diluted – the fruits of globalisation – and this feeling is now shared by other Western nations…though Brexit is still more dangerous than Donald Trump.

A worrying combination of populism and nationalism, seasoned with a bit of despair and loss of confidence, Brexit is thus definitively the last incarnation of Europe’s demons. It might well be – for the UK – the equivalent of a major military defeat. Brexit might be the English Waterloo, and it’s our entire continent that will suffer the consequences. Just like the First World War, that relegated Europe and made the US the almighty power it is today.

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