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Le Figaro: Phillip Blond on post-Brexit Britain

21st October 2016

The below is an English translation of an article which appeared in Le Figaro – France’s oldest national daily

 

 Q: Four months after the EU referendum, the “Apocalypse” announced by most of the proponents of “Remain” did not happen. What are the first consequences of this political earthquake?

Since the widely predicted economic storm did not initially materialize, those who argued Britain should go were jubilant. Whereas those who argued for remain felt they had lost a key element of their argument to stay in the EU. It now appears as though those who argued for remain (48% of those who voted) have simply surrendered and now Brexit looks inevitable. However, this complete surrender of the remain vote need not have happened; crucial to the complete political victory of the Brexiters was that immediately after the vote EU leaders like Martin Schultz and Jean-Claude Juncker behaved so stupidly and so aggressively to the UK, as did the French President who could not conceal his own personal anti-British venom that the remainers felt they could no longer continue the battle for the EU in the UK. This appalling lack of judgement and diplomacy by Europe’s statesmen made Europe appear implacably and unreasonably hostile to Britain and indicated to remainers that there was to be no further movement or give from Europe on the issue of free movement that would encourage the remainers to continue campaigning to stay. So the remain camp concluded that the only patriotic option was to unify with those who wished to leave and make a success of Brexit. If Europe had been more open, and kept the British campaign to remain alive, I believe in time with a new offer the British would have changed their minds. And a new offer on migration to the UK is perfectly possible, after all there were provisions which both Germany and France activated on the accession of Eastern European states which gave a 7 year moratorium on movement of labour. Plus, the so-called four pillars of the EU are hardly rock solid, both Germany and France have progressively vetoed any real free movement in capital or services. So Britain’s wish to have restrictions on free movement considering the scale of EU migration to the UK seems to be to be perfectly reasonable, and could in principle be applied to any other EU nation that has become such a long term attractor of European labour.

Despite appearances all is not yet lost, I suspect that Brexit will be hugely damaging economically for both the UK and the EU. At the moment Britain has not yet left and the fall in the pound (while welcome on many levels) is but an early indicator. I think foreign direct investment will fall and jobs (especially in the areas that voted to leave) will go. By the same token Brexit will prove very damaging to the long term financial stability of the EU and it may tip the disastrous Euro experiment into full meltdown. If Europe can pull back from the brink and make an offer on migration, I suspect Theresa May’s government, seeing the coming economic damage, may well put it to the vote, either in another referendum or more likely in a snap general election where the PM decides to argue to stay in the EU on the basis of the new offer on migration.

Sadly, Europe currently lacks the politicians who can think like this, and in the absence of innovation from Europe, Britain will I fear Brexit. The first consequences of this are – in a time of great danger with Europe threatened from the East by Russia and the South by militant Islam – that Europe loses its most important military power and its soon to be most populous nation and in time its largest economy. It’s a tragedy.

Q: However, there is a debate between those who advocate for a soft Brexit vs. hard Brexit. What are the differences between these two options? Is the control of immigration a key issue?

Given Europe’s hard line that participation in the free market requires free movement there really is no soft Brexit unless Europe grants free market participation and lets the UK control free movement which on current form I doubt. The trouble is that whilst Europe understands the perils of external migration and what importing hostile minorities might mean, for the working classes in the UK they experienced internal EU migration as directly threatening their jobs and their economic security. Given the enormous labour inflows of European workers into the UK this should not really surprise us. Britain has functioned as the European employer of last resort as the Euro and German austerity have destroyed the labour markets for so many young Europeans. But for working class Britons this has meant a direct threat to their jobs and livelihoods, which is why low skilled low educated people voted so heavily to leave the EU. If you want evidence of this – try to get served by a Briton in London, its virtually impossible. All the waiting staff are charming, degree level educated Europeans, no wonder the white working class thought there was no working future for them in such a Europe. Even working in a restaurant is something they are culturally and educationally denied.

So yes migration is or was the key issue and this is reflected from the top to the bottom of British society. Britain has never been a racial nation – we have always been civic paying little or no regard to skin colour or ethnicity. But Britain is a very strong civic nation and it was the fear that we were letting in those who would break this civic compact that I think tipped the balance to taking back control.

For example, for the new British PM Theresa May, immigration is indeed the issue, she developed a deep distrust of mass migrant flows, firstly on the security issue, as Home Secretary she was on the front line defending the UK against terrorist threats. And the mass importation of cultures hostile to Western values and the structural dangers of this I suspect made her think migration was perhaps the key security threat to Britain. Given mass EU sponsored multiculturalism and the denial of a values affinity approach to immigration, Europe itself draws in those hostile to its foundations. And with the weakness of EU borders and Merkel’s unilateral refugee admission, EU and non EU migration threats merged, not I suspect just in the PM’s mind but in the majority of Britons that voted to leave the EU.

Q: Is “cultural insecurity” a reality in Britain, as it is in France with the rise of Islam?

France is perhaps the most divided European nation, French secularism has been wholly incapable of engaging with and integrating its Muslim population. This failure to re-think the basis of the French compact has meant that standard and stupid analysis of social fractures is still prominent. Even after all the dreadful massacres and killings in France you still have the French State insisting that Islamic radicalism is down to economic inequality which is an ideological fiction wholly without any evidential basis, the trouble is that this blinds France to the issues it must confront.

Britain by contrast is not in the state of incipient civil war that France is, in part this is because Britain’s mixed constitution allows difference to be expressed and welcomed into the British social compact whereas France insists that everybody must be the same which allows no place for hybridity or the development of integrated identities. This I believe is because of France’s inheritance of Rousseau, there is a general will thesis which tries to ensure that all difference is suppressed in the name of a generic identity. In short France’s political identity is too brittle to incorporate others whereas Britain’s allows expansion of its civic compact. But far too much of modern Islam is dangerous, because much of the modern Islamic mainstream has rejected its mystical or mediated elements and is therefore committed ineluctably to a form of absolutism which paradoxically is exactly what French secularism is – hence you have a conflict of the absolutes. In Britain we (thanks to the monarchy) deny any absolutism to politics. In the end though both Britain, France and Europe must rediscover its Greek, Jewish and Christian heritage – all of which thought through the absolute and created intermediate thinking that believe we knew but could never completely know the absolute. This is the task of all that believe in the West.

Q: The new government has announced an ease on the cuts decided by George Osborne and seems more preoccupied by growth: Theresa May even resurrected the once unfashionable concept of industrial strategy, which has been killed by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago. Should we see in the new Tory economic doctrine a break with the Thatcher era?

Yes (excluding Trump’s possible victory in the US) this is perhaps the most decisive break with neo-liberalism in the West and it’s been delivered by a mainstream party of the right. For far too long Conservatism has been captured by liberalism, it has followed liberal dictates that self-interest is in the general interest, and the economic and social policies that follow such as globalization and mass migration serve everybody.  It is clear however that working class people (and increasingly the middle classes) in the Western world have not benefited from globalization, as the world bank economist Branko Milanovic showed in his famous ‘elephant graph’ of 2012, since 1988 – 2008 the Western working classes and lower elements of the middle classes have not seen any real terms wages rises and indeed their incomes have stagnated for a generation, it’s the poor of the developing world and the very very rich of the West who have massively benefited from the liberal settlement. In short economic liberalism only lifts the yachts and the canoes – it does little to cater to the ordinary little boats of the Western working and middle classes. Indeed, coupled with mass migration and the license that social liberalism gives to it – not only are people hit economically but also socially and culturally.  Traditional centuries long identities are repudiated and ignored, and sectarian communities are imported and set up with little or no effort at integration.

So it is a great relief to see a Conservative party draw a line of distinction between neo-liberal policies of both left and right and to try to set up a conservative offer that seeks to create an inclusive and mutually self and other enhancing capitalism and the social and cultural bonds that such a system needs in order to function and reciprocate. Part of this will be an intelligent place based industrial strategy, part will be tackling corporate behavior especially over taxes and finally of course tacking the new platform and internet monopolies that we seem incapable to recognising let alone breaking up. Culturally we need to recognize (and the British PM does) that liberal cosmopolitanism is utterly empty and self-serving, we have to develop a civic and integrationist approach that ignores issues like race but that demands instead an agreement with our foundational Western values.

Q: The working class vote was decisive in the victory of “Leave”. Will the Conservative Party break with the City as consequence, in order to promote more social justice?

Yes the working classes have been abandoned since the ascension of Mrs Thatcher, even then before Thatcherism the working classes were not well served by their advocates on the left who in the 1960’s began, through social liberalism, to take apart stable working class communities and attack the extended and the nuclear family – as patriarchal and outmoded. The great hope of and for May’s new government is that it will deal with the bottom 60% who work hard, play by all the rules but can’t even hold onto what little economic security they have, let alone make any genuine progress. In part it was post Thatcher that the identification of the interests of the workers become entwined with those of that financial elite that has so poisoned modern Anglo-Saxon conservatism; what Tories failed to recognize that what was in the interest of the elite was in the interest of only the elite.

The City is a massive British financial asset but it does not really serve Britain as well as it might, it has no patriotic capital, no interest except in the centralization and arbitrage of money, and it has no wish or incentive in decentralizing capital to invest in the regions and British cities outside of London. So a break with that model of the City would be most welcome and will I think occur.

Q: Is this a victory for Red Toryism?

To be honest I think we are witnessing the second coming of Red Toryism and I hope it’s victory. David Cameron was ultimately too conventional a figure to deliver radical transformation, he remained a liberal and so was wedded to the existing order. Cameron had an intuitive sense as to what was needed, but he was unable to develop a set of concepts and actions to deliver it. Theresa May however does I think understand the issue, she has for the first time drawn a line under both economic and social liberalism, pointing out where and how both of these ideologies have harmed the interests of ordinary people. Red Toryism was I think right about the future politics that we need in the West, firstly it argued for social conservation. In a time of deep insecurity people’s identities and cultures need protection and and fostering, and part of this does mean the need to limit unprecedented levels of migration, some of which is deeply hostile to European values. Secondly, Red Toryism argued for massive economic re-enfranchisement. Red Toryism recognised that globalisation was hollowing out working class lives and that especially on the right we needed to talk about how to re-endow ordinary people with assets and wealth. I think social conservation and economic enfranchisement is the only political offer that can now win a majority and protect us against the extremists.

Q: Sadiq Khan, the new mayor of London, is positioning as an alternative to Jeremy Corbyn and could be the future face of the Labour Party. Do you think the British left is willing to play the multicultural card against the Conservative party?

The London based British left will certainly play the multiculturalism card against the Conservatives in London and there it is likely to succeed. But outside of London multiculturalism will be a huge negative for the left and will lose it elections. What he left needs to do is become patriotic very quicky and deeply rethink its offer to waged people, who are now very skeptical that the state can deliver equity or equality. The left basically needs a new answer to modern capitalism that isn’t welfare or taxation. There is little sign anywhere in the world of it making this intellectual leap, so in the short term it is hard to see a Labour comeback and in the long term, in the complete absence of intellectual renewal on the left it is equally hard to see a Labour come back.

Q: In the aftermath of the EU referendum, you said in Le FigaroVox: “this Brexit vote was the greatest vote against globalisation that we have yet witnessed in the western world”. Beyond the case of Great Britain, has the Brexit vote ushered in a new era of “de-globalization”?

Undoubtedly yes, globalization has turned parts of the first world into parts of the third world, and the Western world has no idea how to turn them back again. We know from the OECD that for developed economies internal divergence in national economies between poorer and richer areas is now greater than the divergence between national economies. This means new political demands will arise and a new politics will come about to address them – and after all is that not now what we are seeing. From Trump in the US, to UKIP and Brexit in the UK to the FN in France, to the Five Star movement in Italy to AfD in Germany etc.

If the West is not to collapse and it is to be equal to the task and the crisis that confront it, we probably have to have divergent poloitical and economic strategies in the same nation, we probably need developmental economics for those parts of our countries that have productivity on an East German level – with 20 to maybe 30 years of protectionist policies and in those areas like London – these need entirely different global strategies. Are we capable of this? Unless we get new ideologies I doubt it. But if we get global adoption of post-liberal Red Tory ideas and policies then the West has a chance.

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Reference(s)

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