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  June 29, 2016

Brexit and the Fate of the United Kingdom

Economist Bill Black says the arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance by the elites was a major factor in pushing people to vote to leave the EU
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William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. Black was a central figure in exposing Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis.


SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore, and welcome to this edition of the Bill Black Report. Bill’s been thinking about the Brexit vote in the UK where most people voted to leave the European Union.

On to talk about this is of course Bill Black. Bill is a Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s a white collar criminologist and former financial regulator, and author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. Thanks again for joining us Bill.

BILL BLACK: Thank you.

PERIES: So Bill, give us a sense of your thoughts about the Brexit vote and what it all means here.

BLACK: Okay, so short version on a few of the issues. I’ve written a seven-part article on this remarkable thing. Once the vote occurred, the New York Times published seven different articles in the editorial attacking this decision, and I found it remarkable that they didn’t see that all seven of these columns demonstrated the kind of arrogance and incompetence and ignorance by the elites that was a major factor in causing people to vote to leave the Euro system, the EU system.

Okay, so who voted, what does it mean and all that type of thing. First, a little bit of demographics and geography in all of this. The United Kingdom is a member of the EU, and it consists of England and Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales for these purposes. So the folks that voted heavily to exit included Wales, and included most of England outside of London. London voted heavily to stay. London, of course, is the city of London, where all the big banks are--at least the folks made a lot of money from the financial system. The rest of England is the place often impoverished by the financial system, so this is not strange.

But then, Scotland voted extremely heavily against leaving. But of course Scotland doesn’t have sovereignty in all of this. Wales is more like those English working communities, and if they voted, a majority of them voted in favor of exit. And Northern Ireland voted substantially but not as heavily as Scotland against exit as well, although in Northern Ireland there’s a split between the Protestants and the Catholics, but what else is new.

So first level politics, David Cameron, the head of the Tories or the Conservative Party in the UK had promised this vote on Brexit to fix a political problem he had with division within his own party where very substantial numbers of the members of Parliament, the MPs favored leaving the EU. So this was not done for the usual substantive reason the whole vote but as a political band-aid. So Cameron was confident that he was going to win this vote. And not only did he lose this vote, he had to resign politically or announce that he would soon resign. And next political step to fall it’s very likely that this will lead to a second referendum on Scottish independence and many things can change and it will probably be a close vote. But right now it’s likely that a majority of Scots would vote for independence and then Sinn Féin, the National Irish Catholic Party in Northern Ireland, it’s also in the Republic of Ireland, is also saying Northern Ireland should remain in the EU and that the way to do that is to join the Republic of Ireland, also known as [Iri].

So all kinds of dominoes have been set in motion. On top of that, the Labor Party whose is in a world of hurt and a leadership struggle because the leader of the Labor Party, Corbyn, is a real opponent of the Tony Blair wing of the Labor Party. Now Tony Blair consciously models himself after Bill Clinton, called this movement the New Labor Movement like the new Democrats, and they embraced much of Thatcherism in terms of economic policies as well.

So this will add to a recent election in which the conservatives who had previously been in coalition with the lib dems as they’re called because they didn’t have a majority had surprising huge success. So huge they no longer needed the lib dems in coalition because the Tories had an absolute majority in the House of Commons and so it seemed like this huge triumph for Cameron. Only months he had led the Tories to this massive success. The lib dems were almost eliminated, I think they’re 10 left in Parliament. There was an enormous success in Scotland for the Scottish National Party which eliminated, took all the seats of Scotland except for one held by Labor and one held by the Tories and the Scottish National Party tends to be quite progressive in U.S. terms.

Okay, so then Corbyn leads this insurgency, again, very much against the powers that be and the Labor Party has this surprise success. How does he have this success? Well, in substantial part because younger Brits who support Labor strongly supported Corbyn. Now Corbyn has a huge problem and Labor had a huge problem: What position should we take on Brexit? And there was no good answer. Corbyn’s personal view, which I think he’s absolutely right is that the EU overwhelmingly has been a neoliberal force that has been exceptionally hostile to the interests of Labor and therefore it’s bizarre for a Labor Party to be singing the praises of the EU. Logically, the Labor Party ought to be saying, there’s a critical need to reform the EU not in the director Cameron is pushing them and the Tories but in the opposite direction.

PERIES: And so then why did Corbyn end up supporting the effort to remain in the EU?

BLACK: He basically had no chance. First his biggest supporters, the young are the by far the demographic that most strongly opposes Brexit. Indeed, the younger folks in the United Kingdom are all over the social media and regular media saying what has gone wrong with you older people? You’re taking away our entire future. We want to be able to move freely about Europe and such we’re much bigger in diversity and such so Corbyn’s single strongest base, the young people very much wanted to stay in the EU. His shadow cabinet was always this weird compromise with forces that are much, much, much, closer to Blair than to Corbyn so they took the opportunity in saying, well you didn’t run vociferously enough against Brexit. You said that the EU needed to reform. How dare you? And so they staged a mass resignation as soon as the vote occurred.

As we’re talking, it’s not at all clear whether Corbyn will survive or not whether they’ll be in some kind of emergency referendum within Labor. But it’s very clear that an odd coalition of Corbyn’s worst opponents, the Blairites and young people, his greatest supporters, are simultaneously very upset with Corbyn. But as I said, Corbyn had nowhere logically to go on this one. It was a definite lose and looking future. If Scotland leaves, Scotland has been one of the great repositories of progressive support in the United Kingdom as I said, Labor has been already eliminated virtually and indeed in the local elections that just occurred weeks ago, Labor had further losses at the expense of the Scottish National Party. So if Scotland leaves Great Britain to rejoin the EU the conservatives will have much larger majorities, again they’re called Tories usually, they’ll have much larger majorities in what remains in the not so Great Britain, in all of these things. So the politics are hopelessly complex.

PERIES: And it has spun off for democratic crises in the country, not to mention the unity of the European Union itself. I thank you so much for joining us today Bill. Thank you.

BLACK: Thank you.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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