Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Thursday 16 June 2016

Brexit despair

Among everyone and everything I read at the moment there is a mixture of disbelief and despair over the now distinct possibility that the UK will vote for Brexit. Obviously that is partly because I tend to read other economists, and as Chris Giles notes economists are virtually united in believing Brexit will be bad for the economy. (If you cannot access the FT, read Paul Johnson.) But it is also because there is a clear educational divide in support for Brexit, and I suspect most of what I read comes from one side of that divide. The only other event that I can imagine causing an equal degree of unanimous disbelief and despair would be if Trump looked like becoming President.

There is disbelief because it makes no sense. Of course there is a minority who hate the idea of sharing sovereignty, and another minority that really hate immigrants. But these two groups combined would not be enough to win a referendum. Instead we have a much larger group that are concerned about immigration, but their concern appears to be not worth very much to them. This was something I noted some time ago, but it seems to be a robust result: in a recent ComRes poll 68% say they would not be happy to lose any income to secure less immigration (perhaps because they believe less immigration will raise their income).

It makes no sense because economists are as sure as they ever are that people will on average be worse off with Brexit. But a large section of the population have either not got the memo or have ignored it. This will be an important point when it comes to what happens after Brexit: for many Brexit will have been a vote to control immigration, but only because a lot of those same people think that immigration can be controlled without making them worse off. In other words it will not be a clear mandate for voting against a Norway/Switzerland option, because anything else will make people worse off (as most MPs know).

There is despair because economists and others who think Brexit will make people worse off have no way of getting their message across to those that really need that information. I know Gove has said he is fed up with experts, but I’m not convinced most people are (for reasons given here and reiterated here). But writing articles in the Guardian or letters to the Times will not get through to those we need to hear the message (see final chart here). It is why I wrote this. For academic economists I think it is part of a general problem that the media are losing interest in what we think, which is why I wrote this for the Royal Economic Society newsletter.

Whether we do or do not leave the EU, I hope one result of this referendum will be that otherwise sensible people will stop saying that our tabloid press is not that much of a problem. It might not be if our broadcast media were brave enough to report facts, but instead it is obsessed with balance, as well as being heavily influenced by what some tabloids say. How else can you account for 58% of people thinking that Turkey is likely to join the EU within ten years, which in reality is close to a zero probability event. Democracy can become dangerous when a few people have so much control over the means of information.


  1. So tell us what the consequences of Brexit will be.
    How much of our trade with Europe will end after 23rd June?
    How much will unemployment rise?
    By how little trade will trade with non-EU countries increase?
    How high will inflation be?
    What will interest rates be?
    What are the consequences of this?

    1. There are quite a few studies out there from reputable people, and they all say we will be worse off after Brexit. We could be a little worse off, or a lot worse off. Just because we do not know which is not a reason for ignoring this work.

    2. Maybe people are not as stupid as you think. Maybe they know the experts don't know. What are these studies assuming? That there will be no deal with the EU? Is that the main problem do you think? Perhaps people think that ultimately the deals, even if you got everything you want, are marginal in their importance. EU external tariffs have come right down. If it comes down to trade for example, it will depend on whether you sell things people want to buy. That will depend on things like productivity. If countries sell what people want they will do well in or out of the EU. But I think it is more than that. It seems many people feel they are willing to risk less economic growth for less population growth. Perhaps they feel that that is important for their future standard of living. I don't know how it is in Oxford, but in the south east people are constantly complaining about new buildling - especially of new apartment blocs, traffic and other congestion and the disappearance of small shops, pubs and other such places important for community but unable to pay the increasingly high land rents. Regulations have also been eased to assist this building leading to the disappearance of precious green space- people aren't happy.

    3. Since you classify yourself as an expert, maybe you could show us the consequences of an 'ín' vote, and the consequences of an 'out' vote.
      Nothing too tricky: just the first 12 months.

  2. The public were lied to over the Lisbon treaty and Maastricht. If Eurocrats and national governments are willing to blatantly lie over fundamental treaty reform then is little wonder that their Turkey claims are not believed! Especially as it is official government policy to speed up the accession of Turkey!

    1. Exactly the opposite is true. You would think that people would have learnt not to trust politicians and tabloids. But because of the media they do not have access to experts who would tell you there is no chance that Turkey will be in the EU in 10 years time.

  3. To be honest, do you really think that if you had a column in the Sun you would be able to change the views of the Brexit camp?

    This Brexit vote is a protest vote - mainly against immigration. That "immigration is good for GDP" argument is pretty pointless to people who have no prospects of sharing in the wealth it creates, when at the same time insufficient scarce resources (housing/schools/NHS) have to be shared with new immigrants.

    There are loads of Brexit voters whose only propects are getting jobs in nursing homes or in some awful Sports Direct warehouse at £7.20 an hour. Where they have to compete against immigrants who will sit in their own national cliques at break time, speaking a language you do not understand. English employees will be the minority, in your own country, in your work-place.

    A job in a factory run entirely by Polish people in the UK will be beyond them, as they do not speak Polish. So will be the ability to ever get enough money to put a deposit down on a house. The council house waiting list is massive. Most manufacturing jobs, which used to pay well, have been eliminated by successive Tory governments only interested in the property-owning rentier classes.

    Now 3.2 million people are likely to only earn the minimum wage by 2020, so please, Simon, write an dummy column to appeal to these voters. How is voting for Remain good for them?

    Good luck!

    1. Brexit = lower wages. As Simon cites, a great many people would be unwilling to vote leave if they understood this.

      I would very much like to see Simon write an article in The Sun, but they've nailed their Vote Leave colours to the mast.

    2. Brexit does not mean lower wages.

      If there was zero immigration from tomorrow, the labour market would tighten substantially, leading to higher wages, and lower profits. The net effect could be a loss of GDP, but workers could still be better off.

      Instinctively low wage earner understand this.

      The problem of course is that voting for the propagandists and fantasists of Gove/Johnson/Farage and Brexit will not lead to a fall of immigration, despite the fact that they then have taken "back control".

    3. The argument that reducing immigration would increase wages considers the labour market only from the supply side but we also need to think about demand. It’s not just that spending by immigrants directly raises demand or that many businesses would struggle without migrant labour but also that openness to migration cannot be separated from openness in other markets.

      This is very clear in the context of Brexit. An EU27 would never accept a trade deal with the UK that would permit UK businesses free access to EU markets for goods or services while closing the UK labour market to EU nationals. Some countries might tolerate that but others would not and could veto any such deal. Hence any post-Brexit closure of the UK labour market to EU workers would also restrict access by UK businesses to EU markets, with impacts on investment and sales that would reduce labour demand, pushing down wages.

      The problem of low wages would be better tackled by labour market reform to reduce abuses and protect workers, plus anti-austerity policies to increase demand, both of which would increase the bargaining power of workers.

    4. Immigrants send as much of their money back to their home country as they can (Source: For many of them, that's the point of coming to the UK as an immigrant: earn as much as you can for a few years, save up, then go back to your home country with a nice chunk of cash and take advantage of the lower cost of living. This is a very sensible approach: a lot of british workers have done the same in the past (e.g. as German gastarbeiters) and I would do the same if I weren't already living in one of the richest countries in the world.

      The "wages will go down if we leave" argument won't work on people who are already on the minimum wage.

    5. Many workers earn above the minimum wage and are at risk. Cars and aerospace are examples where workers can still earn decent wages but where having reduced access to European markets would lead to falls in both exports and investment with negative impacts on jobs and wages. We can't write off such sectors.

    6. "The argument that reducing immigration would increase wages considers the labour market only from the supply side but we also need to think about demand. It’s not just that spending by immigrants directly raises demand or that many businesses would struggle without migrant labour but also that openness to migration cannot be separated from openness in other markets. "

      Lyn it is pretty much agreed by everyone that immigration has not raised GNP per capita, the per capita point very important. (It has raised economic growth but not in excess of population growth.) But there is a strong case to be made that it has had strong distributive effects - that have impacted adversely on the lower income end.

    7. The big increase in UK inequality occurred in the 1980s when immigration was low (see ONS Gini coefficients). Blame Thatcher not migrants.

  4. You misunderstand the tabloid press. It basically reflects what its readership believes. In fact it is a good gage of its readerships opinion. The broadsheets (and the BBC whose online service exceeds the readership of all the tabloids put together) reflect the views of the elite and middle classes. And of course they disagree, just as low income groups and the elite disagree.

    Both actually do more to reinforce their readerships views than actually inform them.

    The answer is to better understand the predicament of the lower income groups - by engaging with them. The tabloids are just a symptom.

    1. And the fact that the causes they promote happen to be those of their owners is just a coincidence?

    2. It is well-known that Murdoch backs a winner whoever that is - Blair or Thatcher. He follows the money.

    3. Doesn't the business community largely favour Remain? Are the interests of newspaper owners substantially different from the interests of other capitalists? I fear that Anonymous has a point. That the media are unduly influenced by the tabloid media is, as you indicate, a shocking disgrace.

    4. The Times, which shares an owner, so far as I understand, with The Sun, appears to have come out for remain. I realise that the Times is not usually considered a tabloid but still, in order to maintain the theory that the Sun espouses the position that it does because that is the position favoured by its owners, we would need a theory explaining why another paper with the same owners espouses a different position.

    5. Formal endorsement is not important - see my new post

  5. So Brexit will be enacted because some ill-informed people don't know what is good for them. The "on average" is telling because the acedemic work by people like Portes is weak on the distributional effects of large scale immigration and it depends crucially on presumptions on the counter factuals. For example in a low immigration scenario it is likely that chronic skill shortages would have led to improvements in training and encouragement of labour mobility in disadvantaged areas. There are many other ways that some sections of the community have been disadvantaged which are ignored by academic economists who tend to look at averages and gross income.

    I am not sure these same people will benefit from a Johnson administration however and I think many people don't distinguish between EU and non-EU migrants.

  6. "Of course there is a minority who hate the idea of sharing sovereignty"

    I think there is an overwhelming majority who believe that the House of Commons should have primacy and that an elected body with a mandate must be able to carry that mandate out. This is something that most people feel is fundamentally important: hence the appeal of phrases such as "take back control"

    1. The EU has little to no say in key policy areas that people care about (e.g. health, defence, education, housing). I suspect many voting to leave on the grounds of wanting UK sovereignty 'back' are unaware of this.

  7. As you probably know, the BoE recently published a detailed analysis (SWP 574) of the impact of immigration on wages and concluded "We find that the immigrant to native ratio has a small negative impact on average British wages. ... Our results also reveal that the biggest impact of immigration on wages is within the semi/unskilled services occupational group."

    In other words, while economists may be correct that immigration is good for the economy as a whole, it is not necessarily good for the people who live in that economy.

    Specifically, if, as the Bank of England shows the pain will be mainly felt by those people least able to bear it, and the gain will accrue to those least in need of it, then there are real questions about the wisdom of pro-immigration policies.

    While I do not disagree with you about the impact of tabloid journalism, I feel that the supposed experts, by skating over or ignoring the distributional aspects of their policy choices, are asking to be ignored by those who suffer and are leaving the field open to demagogues. If we do see Trump become president, it will be partly because of a failure by the elites to address these distributional questions.

    1. The distribution of income is not fixed, but is partly determined by governments. So suppose we leave and average incomes go down, but say some benefit from reduced EU migration. Do you think it will stay like that? Lower average incomes will mean less taxes, and at some stage the resulting deficit will be met with cuts that will hit exactly the groups that might have seen some gain. Is it really likely that under Johnson and Gove the distribution of income will become more equal in favour of the low paid?

    2. I think the point is Simon that we have had growing inequality for a long time, and at the very least large scale migration of cheap unskilled labour is insult to injury. Governments have not adjusted taxation to compensate the losers. But anyway given the huge influx of such labour and continued large potential supply I am not sure of the extent national governmets can even greatly influence this situation through welfare or taxation measures. The only way to deal with the problem is have more of a closed and regulated labour market such as Germany.

    3. Simon, I share your opinion – but of course it is only an opinion – about the impact of being governed by Johnson or Gove. That is not really the point at issue, however. The point is that to talk about the benefits of immigration without – in the same breath – talking about policies to compensate the losers is at best naïve, and at worst disingenuous.

      The reason that we even have to contemplate Trump as President or Johnson as PM is that in both the US and the UK there have been losers from policies which are 'good for the economy'; that these losers have not been compensated; and that as a result they have lost faith in mainstream politicians and policymakers. This opens up a space for people like Trump or Johnson to channel the anger of the dispossessed even though, as you say, either of those would be highly likely to impose policies even more damaging to the losers.

      If we want to formulate policy which is good for the economy, we should explicitly (and in the same breath) explore the distributional consequences of that policy and the policy-package should be designed so that it is good for all the people living in that economy. We should not simply grow the pie on the assumption – demonstrably false in the US for the last 35 years – that this means that everybody's slice will increase.

  8. There is a bigger danger here: it is as certain as it is possible to be that there will be economic pain and that people will get hurt. Then there will be a sense of betrayal and even more anger than there is now. That is what has me most worried.

  9. There is a surge of justifiable public disgust and anger that is being misdirected at the EU (and being disingenuously misdirected by leading Brexiteers). Richard Murphy
    sums it up well:
    "It is an expression of deep anger; at being left behind economically; of having the wealth divide rubbed in faces; of being left feeling powerless; of having little hope of changing anything."

    The referendum is giving a lot of voters who feel like this to give those in positions of power and influence and who they perceive have done them down a good electoral kicking. For these voters the issue of in or out of the EU has become almost irrelevant.

    And as for economists with a public profile they, like governments, can lose their credibility with a public that tends to focus on significant events. Labour's recourse to support from the IMF in 1976 destroyed any faith a significant proportion of voters might have had in its economic competence for almost two decades. The Tories blew theirs in Sep. 1992 and it's taken them more than two decades to recover it to any extent. In the perception of most of the public who rarely take notice of the minutiae of economic policy the credibility of economists was blown when the Queen asked with regard to the great financial recession: "Why did nobody see it coming?".

    In addition, the majority of professional economists were constrained, compromised or conflicted to some extent or other. And it was very easy for those exercising power and influence to ignore or pillory those who weren't.

    Rightly or wrongly many voters perceive that most economists have been suborned by those exercising power and influence - and they are correct in many, many cases. So it is not surprising that many voters ignore them when they (the voters) can't be sure most economists are playing a particular tune because they're being paid to pipe it or because they have to pipe it.

    1. That is not what the polls suggest, with academic economists being trusted by more than almost any other group. If we had had the media exposure that politicians have had ...

    2. That depends on who you ask

      Another interesting observation from that article

      "It's also interesting that there were no women or ethnic minorities on YouGov's list of fifteen public figures with potentially influential opinions on the EU debate - perhaps a sign that it has become another topic dominated by the distrusted white male elite."

    3. No it does not - look at the data in that article. Even Leave supporters trust academic economists more than almost anyone else. They just do not trust anyone very much!

  10. Economists may be overlooking distributional effects. Increased housing costs is an increase in GDP, but a reduction in personal income if I'm paying rent, rather than owning. Likewise an increase in Health and Education spend is an increase in GDP, but a reduction in my personal income if it doesn't match per capita; and my share of the benefits of access to other accumulated national capital assets eg transport infrastructure is similarly reduced if these do not increase to match immigration.


  11. The immigration depresses wages is how the low paid see it,they can’t see that wages are not formed from well uneducated people using poor maths as the real reason,they just feel and indoctrinated,with the more people wanting jobs depresses pay!
    They don’t even see that the best way to stop immigration is the pay a fair price to other nations for their work and goods that enriches them and encourages them to build up their own countries!
    There told that a fair price is paid and corruption holds back those countries! (only a minor partial truth)
    Economist have failed to get across how economics works, that the methods being used are corrupt voodoo,quack quack maths and logic,they teach flat earth economics to those who rise to power and can’t understand why economies don’t work but more importantly that it doesn’t and shouldn’t be this way!that allows such misnomers to prevail,(& most ordinary people don’t understand they’re alternatives)this isn’t just economist fault though those who benefit from this system own the press and most other things they get the public to pay to line their pockets whilst impoverishing and endangering Humanity as a whole!

    Economically Britext will raise taxes,we will need bigger trade delegations more of them and still need to meet the standards needed to access such markets,we will have to open more embassies were we now share or pay more to do so!without necessarily having the cooperation of local influence of others parties in those regions that we have not kept up because cooperation is cheaper!
    Having said that and realising that without actually explaining even the little evidence i’ve put forward,am very very seriously thinking to vote OUT!
    Why,because flat earth economics doesn’t offer humanity anything!it stagnated and is in danger of collapsing once again,we are heading for war,probably with Russia,China and some undecided who are under the yoke but don’t benefit from it at all!
    So do we allow the continued buildup of military action,(EU army etc)the total disregard to the UN and head of to a war that threatens the existence of humanity to save a economic system that is downright dangerous to humanity,or do we try and collapse it inward under its own fallacy & gravitational weight .
    Both are serious for humanity!both will create great suffering but this is the cost of humanity never growing up!never striving for the good of humanity but to indulge in each generation own gluttoning of falsehoods,maybe humanity doesn’t deserve any better than a protectionist nuclear world war,but logic says that the EU disintegrating is actually the best way to stop one!(a uncontrolled buffer zone(although very dangerous one)) But either way economics has to change ! after all history proves this is the forces of a false market at work.

    Unless economics can free itself from the quack quacks and establish at least something resembling something realistic, humanity is doomed to become extinct for to continue repeating its mistakes is insane!

  12. Talking of loss of sovereignty rather than loss of democracy can be self-deceiving, it's not some 19th century jingoistic totem that people are worried about, so much as the loss of democratic self-determination. Releasing government from accountability to electorates will not end well.

  13. Simon I think most of the people who are voting Brexit, do not care about loss of income, their protest goes much deeper than that and covers a much wider political spectrum. When I voted YES in the Scottish referendum I did so knowing that the economic case was poor and that there was a good chance that the economy would suffer in the short term. However to me it was a price worth paying to be free of Westminster and the City of London's malign effects on the British economy. So imagine my bemusement when the SNP who want independence from Westminster are determined to jump back into bed with EU, with whom we are even more marginalised.
    So I have already postal voted for Brexit , in full knowledge that we might or will suffer economically in the short term, but T.T.I.P. and it's enshrining of corporatism over democracy sealed it for me. For others it's a disquiet over an unasked for multiculturalism , for others it's the loss of jobs to lower cost EU countries or lower cost Eastern European workers , for others it's the feeling of powerlessness over their own lives , caused by globalisation , being ignored by London and the sacrifice of industrial production to the Financialization of the economy. This is a very broad church of unhappy people.
    Most people now realize that wages have been pretty stagnant since 2008 while people like Mr Green get ever richer by cheating the system, the jobs are poorer paying with less security and more employer abuse. Most people are smart enough to have figured out that democracy serves their interests better than the psychopaths who make up the 1% and the EU which is seen to be serving the interests of the global corporations ahead of it's citizens .
    So what started out as a short term ill conceived political ploy by Cameron has opened the famous box of Miss Pandora and all sorts of unhappiness are flowing out which might even result in the resignation of Mr Cameron if he loses, but what ever happens as with the Scottish referendum things are never going to be the same after 23rd June. There could be upwards of 45%+ of the population who are unhappy with the way their world is being run and have had a chance finally to express this and they will not go away.
    I have a feeling that this also could be the demise finally of the two main UK political parties as both are seen to be irrelevant to the 21st century and to me have done a lousy job over the last 40 years.

    1. On loss of income the polls suggest otherwise. And if Brexit win, wish you well with corporatism and financialisation under Johnson and Gove.

    2. «to me have done a lousy job over the last 40 years»

      Perhaps to you, but to most southern property owning voters they have been 35-40 splendid years, for which they worship M Thatcher.

      «And if Brexit win, wish you well with corporatism and financialisation under Johnson and Gove.»

      Our blogger is as usual very optimistic :-).

      An amusing "coincidence" is that the fight against the EU, depicted as elitist, corporatist, neoliberal, enabler of too much immigration, insular is being led by those political figures who are the champions of elitism, corporatism, neoliberalism, unlimited immigration, insularity.

      It is amazing that Brexit is supported mostly by the victims of neoliberalism, as a protest against its effects in them, and it is presented by its proponents as a popular demand for harder neoliberalism against the soft cryptosocialism of the EU.

    3. Labour support for Remain is not motivated by a demand for harder neoliberalism.

  14. Can we just be absolutely clear. There is no such thing as a "British economy" for which things might be better or worse, abstracted from the lives of Britons. If fifty million racist, homophobic, non-British and high-earning software engineers came to live in the UK would there be a Britain? Would the "British economy" do really well? The trouble with economists is that they've ignored the political theorists, and now it's blowing up in their faces. You've had decades to take a step back and recognise that there are questions which economists can answer, and many questions they self-evidently can't answer. It's a pity Gilbert Ryle's dead. He could have walked across the quad and explained what a category error is. A nation cannot be governed in opposition to its primary sense of right and wrong - Mill. To attempt the impossible is inherently corrupting - Oakeshott. Diversity makes extensive welfare all-but impossible - Goodhart. Economists need to disabuse themselves of the belief that they uniquely have a handle on life and aren't stupid - Ross.

    1. All I'm asking is that the people who think we will be better of under Brexit get to hear from economists who think otherwise, and on that we do know what we are talking about.

    2. All I've seen is that 9 out of 10 of "the experts" tell us that Brexit will be bad for the economy. What I hear much less of is exactly why.


    4. Anonymous17 June 2016 at 01:28. I think you have just proved my point. Its not as if the information is not out there.

  15. The PM, most of the Cabinet, the Labour party, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Bank of England, the City, academia, BBC, arts and entertainment, major manufacturers are all strongly for Remain.

    Remain should be walking away with this election, a 60-40 win at least.

    People aren't responding to threats. I think that means they think they have nothing left to lose. They realise it will be bad, but then, the economy has been bad for normal people for 8 years and they don't care anymore.

    The last few weeks the remain campaign has basically boiled down to a bunch of rich politicians, bankers and CEOs whining that their bonuses will be slashed this year, their great jobs could go to the European mainland, and the value of their London houses will plummet.


  16. Is it really a surprise to find Johnson and Gove leading the official out campaign, both men having made or still making their money from the media?

    Did Cameron really think that these two would choose his position over their probable future earnings in the press even if they fail in the referendum?

  17. MMT is right again as Simon flaps around in shallow water again.

    Clueless to the alternatives of the austerity driven growth and stability pacts.

    Monetarists are dead Simon. You have had nearly 50 years to prove your dream.No matter how hard you tried you failed again and again and again.

    Bill Mitchell has more brains in his little finger than you will ever have.

    1. I must say the calibre of argument I get in comments from MMT people on this blog can sometimes be astounding.

    2. Stupid comment Anonymous. I do not know what MMT is but you are certainly not doing it any favours.

    3. Original anon - perhaps you should read this

    4. Here's what first Anon is missing. This has no bearing on any debate over Monetarism or any monetary debate as Britain is not on the euro.

      As for Monetarists, you have to give Milton Friedman credit at least for seeing that the euro system would never work.

      The British should be grateful they're not in the euro. There is no good reason to leave the EU.

      It may well prove to be the end of Britain as such-as the Scots will probably demand independence if the UK does Brexit

  18. "It makes no sense because economists are as sure as they ever are that people will on average be worse off with Brexit."

    It's not about the money.
    And anyway, economists have a lousy record on prediction...

  19. I’ve just heard of the attack on Jo Cox MP, apparently by a white man shouting ‘Britain First’. My thoughts go to her and her family.

    I’m shocked but, if I’m honest, not that surprised given what I have heard and encountered in recent weeks. The weakness of the Leave case has left the leaders of its dominant current to stir up hatred on migration, the only issue on which they might win. This is the result, and it won’t be the last. I warned at a meeting last week that I expected a Leave vote to be followed by a surge in racially motivated attacks. Those defending migrants will also be at risk, and the hate generated in this campaign will leave a bitter residue even if we choose to Remain.

    The press have certainly made matters worse, including by the marginalisation of Labour views. Jeremy Corbyn leads a party with 221 MPs but for some reason the BBC gives more time to the views of Nigel Farage leading a party with just 1.

    A serious issue with the Leave option is that it creates a space into which anyone can project their own utopian or dystopian imaginings, often radically conflicting with others. If Leave supporters had to vote for what they want, not just for what they are against, their campaign would shatter into multiple fragments. If Leave wins, most of its supporters will be quickly and brutally disillusioned, as its vague promises are either unachievable or contradictory. Where do they go then? Jo will not be the last victim.

    1. It is wise to mind your step, and yet I feel so much that Britain did not deserve this. I am sorry in several dimensions, and this is one.

  20. Is there a point when words become to volatile? I think today the UK may have reached that point.

  21. Britain is the third most unequal democracy after the USA and Portugal and, not surprisingly, Conservative newspapers are much more popular in the UK than Labour ones. 16 million people read a (printed) Tory newspaper every day, compared to the 4.6 million who read a Labour one.
    New Labour attempted to balance the right-wing bias of the political ideas that circulate in the UK by introducing "citizenship" lesson into schools---which were later abolished by Michael Gove. Nevertheless, vast numbers of people still pay little attention to politics: their main concern is their own and their immediate family's well-being. Many have a complete blind-spot to those less fortunate than themselves.
    So, a newspaper owner asks himself, how do you get people like this interested in politics? Even better, how do you capitalise on their "every man for himself" attitude and get them to vote Conservative?
Although some newspapers often talk about our responsibility to the disadvantaged of the world---even the Daily Mirror's breezy style includes articles inviting compassion towards the underprivileged of the world---it's all a bit unsettling to readers living a comfortable life.
 in the same way that people tend to avoid charity collectors in the street, the right-wing press rarely carries stories that would take the "every man for himself" people out of their comfort zone. They do have readers though who nevertheless feel slightly ashamed about being uncharitable.
    That's why it's necessary for the right-wing press to create the impression that all foreign aid is wasted, there is massive benefit cheating and all refugees are trying it on. After all the world is a big place and you can always find waste and cheating somewhere. There's certainly enough to produce one tabloid story per week.

    The right-wing press and its allies never admit to this power they have of influencing the electorate---that would give the game away---so critics are always accused of "patronising people who are quite capable of making up their own mind". 

    They didn't think like that during World War 2 though when millions of British service personnel were given lectures/debates on current affairs by institutions like the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. All the soldiers wanted to know about was how soon after the war would free secondary schooling, a social security system and a national health service be introduced. Wartime Conservative MP's howled down the House of Commons with their complaints about the content of the debates. 

  22. Have you considered that the main way economists communicate with the public is through the media, and the public greatly distrusts the media?

    If the news reports that economists are nearly united in agreement that Brexit is a bad idea, I can see some people reading that as "If the news keeps saying it's bad, it must actually be good."

  23. I think one of the ways in which economists have undersold the remain case is by focusing on trade rather than the balance of payments. Ordinary people could understand that we have run a current account deficit for more than 30 years and paid for it by selling assets to foreigners - car companies, utility companies, chocolate companies, office blocks, houses, flats, government and private debt, etc., etc. Much of the 200 billion a year of inward foreign investment on which we rely to pay for our food and stuff from China is predicated on Britain being a stable country with a stable currency and membership of the EU. After a Brexit we will not be like that. If we lose 240 billion a year from a combination of higher outflows, lower inflows and a decline in the 50 billion a year surplus we earn from regulated financial services, we will need to reduce our imports by 4,000 pounds per head per year. The government number, explained in terms many ordinary people can understand, and not scare tactics. When you try and figure out policy options to cut the 4000 a year, you cannot avoid being scary - which is why it would have been better to focus on how the problem arises. A devaluation is inevitable, but only a little help as demand for imports is relatively inelastic. That devaluation will only be held to a manageable level - say 10% a year for five years - by significantly higher interest rates. Misery for mortgage holders and private renters. The WTO will limit the tariffs we can impose to say 10%. So VAT on goods (which we mostly import) could have to rise to 50% - (misery for everyone). If the Treasury is not too bust, that could be compensated by a reduction in VAT on services (which we mostly don't import) to 10% (joy for gourmets and hotel guests). Probably still not enough, unless we raise income and council tax sufficiently to stop HMG borrowing from abroad.(More misery for everyone). You get the idea. The economic case can be made understandable to a great deal more people if we start with the balance of payments.

    1. «a current account deficit for more than 30 years»

      Currently zooming ahead at -7% of GDP -- Spain itself reached -10% only at the top of their bubble, and had to swing back to +2% in a few years...

      «and paid for it by selling assets to foreigners -»

      A long term policy, "private keynesianism", which translates to a variant of asset stripping. One of the great achievements of neoliberalism is having persuaded the middle classes of anglo-american culture countries to asset strip themselves willingly, nay, enthusiastically. An USA conservative described it as:

      «Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn’t conservatism; it’s a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.»

      In the UK it is driven by the personal career aims of politicians: as long as the asset stripping goes on G Osborne has a chance to be prime minister, if it stalls B Johnson is prime minister, if it stops J Corbyn is prime minister.

      «car companies, utility companies, chocolate companies, office blocks, houses, flats, government and private debt, etc.,»

      IIRC the biggest and most dangerous is private debt. But you have forgotten the #1 asset sale of the past 30 years: Scottish oil. The UK was a net oil exporter between 1982 and 2007. Net exports turned to net imports more or less in the month in which T Blair handed over the prime ministership to G Brown. Amusing that T Blair had written in 1987:

      «The fact that we have failed to use oil to build a productive and modern industry for the future is something historians will deplore.»

      This graph tells the story:

      «predicated on Britain being a stable country with a stable currency and membership of the EU. After a Brexit we will not be like that.»

      This seems to me to be wild optimism because that 7% and the level of private debt are equally unsustainable whether there is Brexit or not; the difference is that Brexit will precipitate the situation sooner than later, and it will m make it happen faster, which is admittedly a significant extra burden.

      «reduce our imports by 4,000 pounds per head per year. [ ... ] A devaluation is inevitable, but only a little help as demand for imports is relatively inelastic.»

      Demand for imports fueled by asset stripping can be *very* elastic, even if not to the exchange level, then to pauperization, if a government squashes the incomes and consumption of most workers, for example by opening immigration wide to very poor countries as will happen after Brexit. The spanish example:

    2. I don’t understand Blissex's claim that Brexit will open the door to immigration from very poor countries, any more than I did that in a comment on an earlier post that people wanted Brexit so that they could get cheaper servants from outside the EU. Whatever the economics of this, it completely misjudges the politics.

      The hostility to migrants that the referendum has exposed often has little to do with the EU. Canvassing, people have justified Leave to me by “too many Africans” or “Pakistani families taking houses” but I’ve never heard anyone object to the 300,000+ French people living in the UK. The hostility to poor immigrants, from inside or outside the EU, is fuelled by the competition enforced by neoliberalism and austerity for jobs, housing, schools, etc. Having pledged to reduce net migration by leaving the EU, the leaders of the Leave campaign would not be able to ‘open the doors’ to those from outside.

      As Polly Toynbee has noted, the referendum is no longer about the merits of EU membership but has become a plebiscite on immigration. Anyone claiming progressive views and intending to vote Leave needs to think hard about that.

    3. «I don’t understand Blissex's claim that Brexit will open the door to immigration from very poor countries, any more than I did that in a comment on an earlier post that people wanted Brexit so that they could get cheaper servants from outside the EU. Whatever the economics of this, it completely misjudges the politics.»

      The politics are very simple: the politicians that most against the EU and lead the Brexit field are strongly in favour of cheaper help, of globalization, of "competitiveness". It is the extreme right that had demanded the referendum and leading the "Leave" campaign.

      They are going to take a Brexit vote as an anti-socialist mandate, as pro-globalization mandate, as a demand for harder neoliberalism against the soft socialdemocracy of the EU. Those voters (and they are a minority) who are against "immigration" will be completely swindled.

      There will be a "decent interval" of perhaps 6-12 months, but the point-based system will be adopted for everybody, and then it will be "tuned" to prioritize the cheapest workers from the lower pay countries. The current governments have managed to exempt from taxes indian IT contractors that come to work to the UK:
      «The UK worker takes home £29,000 from his £40,000 salary and £15,390 is paid in tax while the cost to the employer of the salary plus their NI contribution is £44,390. However, if the same employer hires an ICT worker, the take home pay of the employee is £38,210, the total tax paid is only £1105 and the cost to the company is only £40,000.»

      Of course the business hiring the contractors and the contractors are going to split the tax saving, it won't go all or even in major part to the contractor.

      «The hostility to migrants that the referendum has exposed often has little to do with the EU.»

      Indeed, but even migration is really not a big deal. Only the lower working class is really competing day-by-day against the Polish and Romanians, and they are irrelevant in Westminster elections.

      What the rest of the UK voters, in particular the "conservatory building classes" object to as to immigrations is that the Poles and Romanians are not behaving like properly deferential servants, they presume to consider themselves equal citizens of the EU, and they show their foreign faces in public. Every lady of the micromanor would just love to have a senegalese or burmese "help" paid 2 pounds per hour and living in her shed or in some ghetto from which they never get out. The model is the lifestyles of the expats in Dubai and South Africa.

    4. «people wanted Brexit so that they could get cheaper servants from outside the EU»

      Those «people» would be of course "tory" voters, the "conservatory building classes". As to their attitude to migration, a topical comment:
      «Right now I have to wait 6 weeks before I can get a local builder to be bothered to turn up to do our extension. We live in an area which does not have any EU immigrants or any immigrants in any significant number. [ ... ]even the builders up here in the north complain about 'foreigners' taking their jobs!!! Then you have to point out that there aren't any local Polish workmen and that we would very much appreciate a few Polish builders. [ ... ] Even at what our local plumber charges (£50 an emergency call out) I am struggling to find the money to pay him. I for one would LOVE to have the choice of being able to hire a hard working conscientious Polish builder to be able to fill the gap in the local market!!! People voting for Brexit are essentially saying that they want to be able to charge me MORE money to get my already over priced extension done?!!!»

      The "conservatory building classes" badly want cheaper help, they just want that help to have no rights and stay out of sight, on very restrictive "guest worker" visas, with passport confiscated on arrival, not those ridiculous "rights" that the EU treaties give the polish and romanians.

      «Having pledged to reduce net migration by leaving the EU, the leaders of the Leave campaign would not be able to ‘open the doors’ to those from outside.»

      Such pledges are worth nothing. The people making them have always wanted massive low cost "invisible" immigration, like most of their voters, and they are against the EU restricting immigration mainly to EU nationals. There are even some arguments that making immigration easier for EU nationals (but not from other parts of the UK) than from the third world is racist.

      As our blogger said, «if Brexit win, wish you well with corporatism and financialisation under Johnson and Gove».

      PS The critical distinction between referendum and parliamentary elections is that the referendum is not FPTP; so the voters of the working class actually matter. Their votes "against immigration from the EU" might well give a mandate to the far right whose electoral base is the middle and upper classes that benefit from cheaper, non-voting, working class immigrants, and the working class is (nearly) electorally irrelevant for Westminster.

    5. You haven’t grasped what the referendum has unleashed. When it comes to working class votes this has now polarised into a dispute over a future that is open to the world and one which wants to seal it out. Progressive internationalists wishing to Leave have been completely marginalised.

      I don’t dispute that there are powerful interests who want access to the cheapest labour they can obtain, from anywhere. That’s not just the “conservatory building classes”, it’s also big business. But that’s not the dividing line today. It’s also certainly true that working class voters for Leave would not get what they expect from Brexit, which we must point out.

      The argument that “easier immigration for EU nationals is racist” is just sophistry at the moment. The Farage wing of the Leave campaign is setting the tone and wants to limit all migration, not just from the EU. In working class communities, nobody is arguing “let’s leave the EU so that we can be more open to the world”, whatever they might think in the stockbroker belt.

      It will indeed be very damaging economically and socially to implement the pledges on migration that have been made and the Johnson/Gove wing will want to row back on those. But a Leave victory will set in motion powerful nationalist forces and if Leave leaders try to ignore those, the currents will flow into yet more dangerous paths.

  24. I just wanted to say thank you for your long lasting effort to study in depth and inform lucidly with intellectual honesty on important economic issues which impact us all in to some degree. This is a great service to society as a whole and more sensible policies based on insight of simlar quality would have made the World, especially the EU and the UK in the last decade a better place. It sounds romantic but there is a strong rational case for it, as you and others clearly showed.

    As the implications of bad and good economic policies are so big is hugely important to do what one can to push the facts and figures out. Of course this ability is dependent to some extent on what others, like the media, are doing. All in all it sounds simple but it is hard hard work to get the science out.


  25. I may have interpreted your piece far from what you really mean, but here is how I see things. Tabloid press is a problem for the majority of the countries I would say, and yes, it does determine the political outcome (see Brazil recently). But it can just do this because of a material base upon which it feeds. In this historical moment, this material base is a mix containing i) an economic recession that makes several segments of the society unsatisfied, ii) deep-rooted issues that have never been tackled properly, such as immigration here and corruption in Brazil, iii) the support of conservative segments of the society (and by this I mean well-educated people and ordinary/working class people) that were in fact never happy with way things were going, iv) and [maybe] the lack of [good] information for the majority taking part in the poll process. The latter is only one aspect of a bigger picture, which in fact has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Yes maybe large sections of the population have either not got the economists’ memo or have ignored it, but this is not the key issue. Exactly because of this mix, the ‘enlightenment of the commoners’ means absolutely nothing, and it would hardly change anything - - their opinion/choice has been made up long time ago…gradually and probably based on events that go far back in history, for example, the continue dismantlement of the NHS system (and that’s why the tabloid media is so successful). The referendum is just an opportunity that some of sections of population have to express long-established views – and maybe that’s why the ones who actually got the memo have decided to ignore it.
    Actually, this is an illusion that somehow keeps going across history…. the idea that once people are well-informed or even well-educated, political decisions would somehow be wiser. I think it is a naive view. Whatever we mean by ‘better’ political decision will always be relative…especially in the case when economics forecasting can give scenarios that support or undermine both sides of the debate. Look at some of well-informed and well-educated segments voting for Brexit, for example. Can you actually say they haven’t got the memo? The same is valid for the middle-class supporting the recent political events in Brazil. They have indeed got the memo and yet… Overall, people, no matter their background, choose to use and relay on the information and knowledge that confirm their long-standing views. Last minute enlightenment talks may be able to pick up two or three undecided, but for EITHER side of the poll. I’m really not sure how knowledge and better information versus tabloid press can quite capture or say much on the complexity of this referendum (and I won’t even go down to the road of how much can we really trust an economist…).

  26. It is unbelievably naive to think that the MSM simply follows the opinions of readers rather than shaping them. For example, the Daily Express did not report the Orlando massacre on its front page or even pages 2,3 and 4. In other words it chooses to make news rather than report it.

    Murdoch was once asked why he does not support the EU. He honestly responded that when he walks into Brussels he is ignored but when he walks into No. 10 they do what he wants them to.

    The undue influence of a largely foreign-owned multinational press with strongly vested self-interest is extremely dangerous.

  27. Krugman's quick estimate is a 2% deviation from trend GDP on Brexit. The magnitude of this suggests comparison with other UK errors, such as those of its central bank, or of its austerity promoters. It may be that Brexit is a small problem compared to the others.

    Presumably a popular referendum on austerity or central bank inaction would have a more favorable result for UK economists?

    1. When most economists talk about austerity or CB errors, they think these errors are short lived - lasting a few years at most. The cost of Brexit applies year after year, as Paul says. So even if its only 2%, it far outweighs these other errors.

    2. Well, you did say "most". But let us stipulate we have some 10% deviation here in the USA that so far has lasted ten years, and it wasn't a break with semi-confederation that caused it.

      So most economists may want to revisit that view, especially if their models assume some kind of magic return to trend after X years.

      Thanks for letting me know that's where the profession center is.

  28. What I haven't heard talked about as much is the idea that Brexit could lead to a break up or contraction of Britain itself, politically.

    Scotland quite possibly will leave if there is Brexit.

    So those who worry about British sovereignty ought to think about that.

    1. I have always believed that the secondary impacts of Brexit could be worse than Brexit itself. We could have new problems in Ulster. Awful politicians would be empowered.

      With regards to Scottish independence, leaving the UK would be even more economic suicide than Brexit is when oil revenues are low. But depending on how things turn out, it may not be the worst plan around. Allan Massie, a Scottish writer who wanted Scotland to remain part of the UK during the 2014 referendum, said he would switch his allegiance in the event of Brexit. Strange days...

    2. I think independence for Scotland would (unfortunately) become really complex after Brexit. On the face of it, and with low oil prices, independence looks like a bad idea. But there may be the political will within the EU to provide compensation in some form. Lots of interesting issues. I hope we never get to discuss them.

    3. «independence for Scotland would (unfortunately) become really complex after Brexit.»

      It could happen well before Brexit. On the 23rd there is only a consultative referendum. Then even if the UK government immediately asks for EU exit, it takes 2 years for the process to happen, during which the UK is still technically a member, including Scotland.

      «there may be the political will within the EU to provide compensation in some form.»

      I guess that for many reasons, historical and practical, Scotland could become a new member really quickly. A new Ireland.

  29. I think the problem you have is that your post is the sort of patronising view that alienates a good many these days who have had to suffer the consequences of de-industrialisation, globalisation, casualisation, mass immogration, automation et al and just see things getting worse.

    There is an emotional response as Lyn Eynon says above but that doesn't mean that it is not legitimate and has no substance. Amongst other things the EU has created the monstrosity that is the Euro and has, arguably, sacrificed the lives of many young people in Spain, Italy and Greece on the altar of Utopian delusion and any entity that can do that has, in the minds of many, a fairly slender claim to legitimacy, let alone to efficiency.

    I will vote for Brexit despite the fact that I agree that we will be economically worse off in the short term but because I believe that, over the long term, we are better out than in.I believe the problems in the EU will get worse not better and it will eventually break up anyway due to its many dysfunctionalities.

    1. Of course the emotional response is legitimate and has substance. But blaming the EU for domestic policymaking failures is misguided. And while you maybe happy to bear an economic loss post-Brexit, others are not.

      To be clear, I'm not knocking your decision. I'm just saying many will vote to leave because they believe they would be better off when most economists think they would be worse off, even in the long run. It's about making an informed choice.

      And remember that the EU and the Eurozone are not one and the same. We both agree that the latter has been a calamity, but Britain has explicit guarantees that it will not be forced to join the Euro and will not foot the bill for Eurozone bailouts. People should factor that in when deciding whether to vote in or out.


    2. I think the comment re the EZ is fantasy.

      If it succeeds, which I think unlikely because it requires political union to do so and this will never happen, then we would have to join the EZ sooner or later and the opt out is irrelevant.

      If it fails, which I think is far more likely, then it will bring down the EU with it and there will be nothing to remain in.

    3. Robert - please read this first

    4. Simon

      I've read the post but I think you understate the problem.

      Of course the EZ is not immutable nor is it "inevitably" dying and whilst the option to leave is there, you must agree that there is a huge political commitment to this project and it could be years and years of more problems before the towel is finally thrown in. I believe that the leaders of the EU know full well that so goes the Euro so goes the EU and in this they are right.

      You are also fully aware that many economists warned against the Euro saying that it needed political union to ensure its success. I think many in the EU knew this and were willing to use the problems of the Euro to force political union, which in my view will never succeed.

      Trying to weld together different countries with differing secular inflation tendencies without at the very least a fiscal union is bound in my view to cause problems due to the burden of adjustment falling on employment and output and lasting potentially many years. Arguably this not only requires a fiscal but a political union and, moreover, a political union which ameliorates cultural differences. Can we get this within the EU? Frankly I doubt it.

  30. I went to a talk given by a former FT journalist who said he didn't believe Brexit would happend because of the bookies odds. A former colleague in Brussels has just written this piece. I wonder what you think about this?
    Brexit: Betting markets predicts clear win for Remain camp

  31. Well it's not your job to read up on media theory, and I lack the detailed knowledge of the system in the UK, national newspapers, etc., but the "media" is not monolithic.

    (In the US this would include books by Ben Bagdikian, Michael Parenti, Chomsky, Robert McChesney, etc.)

    Like A.J. Liebling wrote (paraphrased), "the power of the press ultimately is controlled by the person who owns the printing press"

    So you have to split out journalists from owners, and journalists who are more objective vs. from those who are committed to representing a particular viewpoint regardless of "facts."

    WRT Brexit, like with how you and others wrote about the last election, the "media" was in the bag for the Conservative party, especially in terms of how it communicated about "austerity," the deficit, etc. Even if Labour had been much better at conveying its argument, it wouldn't have been given the ability to communicate it, because the owners told their employees what the story narrative would be.

    We don't have the mass media tabloids anymore like you do, which have a whole different kind of impact. Thank God we don't have a newspaper like the Daily Mail in the US...

    Relatedly, I came across a long article in the National Post of Canada defending itself against the Toronto Star which terms the National Post biased.

    Interestingly, one of the complaints which was acknowledged in the article was how the owners of the group of newspapers including the National Post (e.g., newspapers in cities like Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Hamilton, Windsor, etc.) ordered each of the newspapers to endorse Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party Premier, for reelection in 2015, regardless of "evidence," consistency with general positions on issues of the particular newspapers, etc.

    That's what you're dealing with in Great Britain. (I don't know how your TV News works.) So that element is completely different from the issue in terms of the value and relevancy of the position of academic economists, and their access to the media.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you say, as you will see if you read my latest post:

    These economists suggest immigration has put a cap or restraint on wages. But maybe they will vote remain.

  33. Most people think in terms of zero-sum interactions. To them it is obvious that if there are fewer people (no immigrants) then there will more jobs for the rest.

    1. The Luddites also thought destroying machines would lead to more jobs. It was 'common sense'. Sometimes that common sense lets us down, which is why we have economics. And what economics says really clearly is that you do not deliberately make it more difficult to trade with your neighbours.

    2. "And what economics says really clearly is that you do not deliberately make it more difficult to trade with your neighbours."

      And then there are historians who say that rapid liberalisation of trade, capital and labour flows can have very unequal and socially undesirable effects, and that without import substitution policies the US, Germany or Japan (and even Britain) would not have industrialised.

      So really you have to take neo-classical theory with a lot of caution and look at everything on a case-by-case basis - a bit like an historian.

  34. While I wouldn't dismiss the press as a significant factor.... To my mind the main issue is a failure of leadership. With the exception of the lib dems (who don't really matter) where exactly are people going to receive their wisdom from about the EU? Gordon Brown appeared to duck the signing ceremony for Lisbon to avoid publicity, Cameron claimed he was prepared to leave the EU without reform barely weeks ago (and let's face it he didn't get much), and both main parties, albeit mainly the conservatives over the last decade or so, have torn strips off it and generally blamed it for a whole host of problems since we joined. While I still expect remain to win, I don't think politicians can simply start talking more positively about EU membership for a few weeks and undo the sentiment that they helped create over decades. Most people don't read blogs by esteemed economists or political commentators - the press will, and will continue to, fill the vacuum. Given that that won't change, maybe politicians should do something radical like provide leadership on stuff they think matters - you know the old fashioned sort of leadership where the leaders make an argument to the people and win them round so that they follow rather than the more disengaged executive style we've had on matters EU related where they sign things with minimum fuss to avoid losing votes or upsetting their own eurosceptics and then wonder where their troops are. I suspect most people want (and possibly rely on) leadership to form their views - that's certainly not coming from Corbyn whose enthusiasm for the EU makes Jack Dee look like an over-excitable 4yo on a sugar rush. Thanks for the blog btw.

  35. Simon - what concerns me is the whole: 'almost all economists think this' is just not working at the moment. It seems that quite a few people have an instinctive distrust of economists. I often link to your blogs but it is so hard to get these expert sceptics to think in new ways!

    I was wondering whether other ways of explaining this might be more effective - at least with some.

    I keep coming across claims that lots of other countries are not in the EU and yet they are fine. This strikes me as very naive - but needs to be countered. From my point of view it seems to me that countries have thrived economically recently for a number of reason in past 30 years of so.

    i) Catch up - India, China and Brazil;

    ii) large populations which give countries more clout in terms of trade and have more potential for internal churn - labour market flexibility - that in many ways is similar to the freedom of movement that we have in the EU(again China and India); iii) countries very rich in natural resources and with very low population density (Australia and Canada) iv) just phenomenal natural resources on their own is sometimes enough (Arab oil states).

    Now it seems to me that the UK can't tap into any of those. And when the well-established sectors of the UK economy are considered (areas that are highly dependent on our links with Europe), do they look like areas that would quickly be able to move into other markets? As far as I can see, probably not. Especially when you consider how long it takes to build up the reputation of an entire sector: our banking sector or Germany's manufacturing reputation.

    Put simply I can't see which sectors and which new markets are ripe for massive expansion should we cut ourselves off from the EU market. I would love to see Boris have to answer the question of which areas does he think will expand quickly enough to make up for lost trade with Europe.

    Anyway - I may well be being very naive but maybe some of these arguments have more traction than the arguments that are currently being used.

    What do you think?

    1. I agree with a lot of what you say. This video from NIESR also makes some very good points:

    2. Thanks Simon - very helpful.

  36. Please explain why being part of a customs union is good for a group of Islands off the North West coast of Europe?On the monetary issue we have payed far more into the eu than we ever got out.

    1. Half of our trade is with the EU. If we make it more difficult, we will trade less, which matters for reason I explain here:

      These costs easily reverse our net contribution to the EC.

  37. There seems to be an assumption amongst many of those advocating Leave that radically reducing inward migration would not only be desirable (which I would dispute) but also that it is easily achievable just by putting an X on a ballot paper. I have yet to read or hear anyone explain exactly how such a reduction in migration (half of which is from outside the EU) would actually be achieved. This is not surprising, as the only methods involve recession and repression, but Leave supporters avoid spelling this out.

    Migration from EU countries could only be restricted under a post-Brexit deal that also restricted UK access to EU goods, services and capital markets, so reducing exports, investment, jobs and growth. With immigration restricted, many businesses and public services would suffer from a shortage of skilled workers from around the world and, with foreign students representing a substantial portion of measured migration, the higher education sector would take a serious hit with financial losses also reducing opportunities for UK students. Recession makes the UK less attractive to migrants by making life miserable for everyone.

    The costs in human suffering and liberty are even worse, not just because of broken families and stranded refugees, but also because of the repressive measures needed to implement a low migration policy. Nobody on the Leave side wants to discuss what ‘control of our borders’ actually means but we just need to look at Calais or the barbed wire fences springing up in eastern Europe. As an island we might not need a Trump-style wall but long delays, racial profiling and interrogation centres are not what I want in our ports and airports. It gets worse. If we are not to descend into North Korean autarchy, large numbers of people have to be allowed into the UK as tourists, business people or students. Are we going to tag them all so that they can be hunted down if they overstay their welcome? Will we replace community policing by dawn raids in urban centres with large ethnic populations, shattering the social fabric of our cities and boosting support for extremism? Will right-wing gangs be encouraged to terrorise migrants into leaving?

    Anyone who believes reducing migration is a progressive option should think about what it actually entails.

    1. Just asking questions I see.

      "Nobody on the Leave side wants to discuss what ‘control of our borders’ actually means"

      The "secret" is to remove access to the facilities of the nation unless you have the appropriate paperwork. If you can't get a tenancy, a job, any social services or healthcare then coming here is not going to be a pleasant experience, and you will be ejected as soon as you are discovered.

      Just like we *already do* with Chinese traffickers.

      Controlling immigration is about controlling access to resources so that those resources are available to residents.

      "With immigration restricted, many businesses and public services would suffer from a shortage of skilled workers from around the world"

      It is *just* about reduction of unskilled migrants. Those who wouldn't get a visa which is about 88% of them.

      All the studies that break out this cohort find that they stop wage rises and negatively impact residents ability to find alternative jobs.

      The actual experts at Oxford University:

      "Overall, therefore, most EU-born workers—like most workers of all origins—are not in jobs that meet the criteria for Tier 2 visas. Because EU workers are underrepresented in high-paying graduate jobs, a lower share of those who are already living in the UK are working in jobs that meet the occupation and salary thresholds described in this report, compared to the average across the UK labour market. In 2015, 19% of people born in EU countries and working as employees in the UK were in a skilled job earning more than £20,000."

      Hardly surprising. Every other civilised advanced nation on earth excludes these people from their work visa programmes for precisely that reason. They create a differential between their poor and the rest of the world.

      You have been the victim of propaganda from people who like to aggregate things to hide the bad news.

      Now this is *my opinion*, but skilled migrants should be brought in if there is a *genuine* skill shortage, but ideally we would want to train people at home.

      Net Zero Migration is the only moral policy there can be.

      Either you are bringing in unskilled people who compete with your own residents, or you are stealing skilled individuals from another country who have been trained at great cost by that country. Can we honestly say that India et al. have such a great healthcare system they have *spare* doctors and nurses?

      Only by denying the existence of countries can you justify any of the open border stuff. If you accept countries then you have a moral responsibility to the residents of the destination country and the residents of the source country as well as the betterment of the individual.

    2. I actually agree with much of what you say. I am not anti immigrant but I do believe that we should control immigration. If the government cannot control its borders then it has no control and there is no such thing as sovereignty. Then again that is what the EU is all about.

      As regards the EU all you have to do is ask yourself a simple question: are we more or less likely to be able to control immigration outside the EU than in. I believe we are but that does not mean that I believe we will have full control; what it means is that we have a 50% chance instead of a 30%.

    3. I have yet to see a satisfactory answer as to why a government pledging to get immigration into the tens of thousands allowed so many non-EU migrants into the UK. Someone should ask Gove et al why "taking back control" of EU migration will change anything when on paper we have full control of non-EU immigration but in practice are feckless?

      Btw I think the focus on immigration is overdone, but recognises concerns over immigration (rational or otherwise) will cause many to vote Leave. I would rather we Remain.

    4. I don’t understand why zero has recently become a desirable target for many people in different contexts: zero migration, zero debt, zero deficit, zero inflation, zero interest, zero growth … Is it a desire to stop the world? Britain has never been a country of zero net migration. From pre-Celtic times we have seen waves of immigration; in the 19th century there was mass emigration; outside recessions, we have again attracted people in recent decades. There’s nothing sacrosanct about zero.

      Removing access to facilities without paperwork brings its own problems. A glance at the US shows some of the difficulties, with the practicalities of life leading some states to grant illegal immigrants access to driving licences or higher education, at the same time as Obama authorises deportations. Migrants have children, sometimes born in their new country. Paperwork is being used (as in Jim Crow days) to restrict electoral registration by black people who have lived in the US for generations; in Texas a student ID doesn’t count, but a gun licence does. Implementing facility denial in the UK implies ID cards (or equivalent), or is that only for those who look or sound different? Stop and search will destroy community relations. Border control should not intrude into medicine. You describe zero net migration as the ‘only moral policy’ but want to make life miserable for migrants.

      One problem with the obsession about migration numbers is that it blinds us to policy options that would be beneficial in their own right and also reduce net migration in a constructive and humane way. You refer to the problem caused to poor countries (your example of India shows how the debate has moved far beyond the EU) losing skilled workers but these would continue to get visas under any points scheme. A better solution would be to invest in more skills ourselves (training more medical staff rather than cutting bursaries for student nurses and driving junior doctors out of the profession). In Europe, austerity is one of the biggest drivers for young people looking for work elsewhere. Minimum wages and a major programme of EU investment in infrastructure and green energy would help lift poorer countries towards the mean. Enforcing employment laws, a genuine living wage and labour market reform on areas like job protection or zero hour contracts would do far more for unskilled workers than measures targeting migrants, as would a return to sustained growth or a citizens’ income. The overall GDP gain from migration should be used to improve services in areas of stress. Issues like monetary policy, fiscal expansion and financial regulation have all been conveniently forgotten. The crash had nothing to do with bankers. Just blame migrants.

      As always, xenophobia is being used to divide the working class for the benefit of the global elite. Until we can remove that poison from our culture, we shall never unite to tackle the real issues.

    5. Lyn, because otherwise you are skill stealing. One doctor in, one out should be the goal.

      As to the other point, how can you not see anybody from the EU coming to the UK illegally won't be able to get a job, banking services, housing, education, healthcare, or benefits in the legal sectors. Hardly an attractive option with *27 other states to go to*.

    6. I completely agree with training more doctors. Indeed there's a good case for training more than we need given our strengths in this area. It's the obsession with zero I don't get.

      It's also a question of framing. More skills is a debate I want to have but framing the problem in terms of migration levels opens the door to a lot of dangerous proposals.

  38. Did you read the Flassbeck article 'much ado about nothing' saying that in the end the UK will probably replace current treaties with unilateral treaties - much like switzerland. The basic conclusion is that the UK will have less influence in negotiatiating the terms of those treatie than it currently has in multilateral treaties but that the economic consequences will otherwise be limited. I am not sure what kind of assumption th studies you cite make concerning which new treaties would come in force after a brexit?

  39. Sorry for the typos and I meant bilateral of course.


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