Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Remain denial and Labour’s heartlands

When I suggested after the vote a possible way that Brexit might be avoided, I was conscious that I might simply be in denial. I have subsequently been encouraged by others suggesting similar things - first Jolyon Maugham, then Nick Pearce and Gideon Rachman in the FT - but of course they may also be in denial. If you ask a Conservative or Labour politician right now they will say that the referendum result must be respected: to do otherwise appears to disrespect voters. Equally European politicians want to make it clear as quickly as possible that there will be no extra concessions to avoid encouraging other exit movements.

That is why delaying Article 50 for at least a month or two is so important. It allows the immediate passion of the vote to die down, and its immediate economic consequences to sink in. Hopefully that will also discourage other EU countries from going down the same route. By September it will also become obvious to people in the UK that as part of bargaining with the EU it might be a good idea to keep delaying implementing Article 50, and this may also encourage European governments to think about concessions. Maybe.

I don’t think Boris Johnson would have any problems going down that path, once he was elected leader. (In the meantime he will continue to imagine we can have the impossible, because it allows him to get the votes of MPs in his party who are hardline Leavers.) But what about Labour - assuming it still exists of course. Will it worry about losing its ‘heartlands’, and so be tempted to insist that the referendum means free movement is no longer an option?

I think this would be a disastrous political error. Whatever they might propose in the form of controlling EU immigration, they will be outdone by UKIP. That part of the heartlands that really dislikes foreigners are lost to Labour and will not return. (Of course many Conservative voters share similar views.) But if Labour appear to block free movement (and therefore continued EU membership) they will lose a large section of the electorate who voted to Remain. (Remember most Labour voters did vote Remain.) If Labour rejects free movement in any substantive sense, and therefore denies the possibility of remaining, many of these voters will go to the LibDems or elsewhere.

The best Labour can hope for, when it comes to the heartlands, is to capture the many voters who dislike immigration not for itself, but because of what they believe it creates: more competition for public services, and worse working conditions. (For the majority of Leavers immigration is a fear rather than a direct experience.) Labour can target those voters in two ways: by promising more money for public services across the board, but also by proposing a substantial and very visible scheme by which money follows people.

This is also a critical point for anyone aspiring to be Labour leader. Labour heartlands are now the cosmopolitan cities like London, Manchester and Bristol. They see the personal benefits of migration and being part of the EU. They have no problem with, and many happily embrace, policies that divert more resources to public services and the lower paid. But they are highly mobile in the political as well as the geographical sense. If a Labour leader tries to appeal to both this group and voters that want above all else to control EU migration by leaving the EU, then they will fail. 


  1. I coin LUKIP for UKIP-lite Labour proponents.

    I'm in a top twenty Leave region (who knew over thirty percent here were civilised?) which has been Tory-held since 2010.

    I watched a woman at the Post Office last Friday being told about the drop in pound as she went to exchange money for her holiday. She was all puzzlement as she drifted circuitously the couple of metres away from the desk to the kiosk, thinking about whether she should wait or buy today. The Post Office woman looked at her with sympathy but couldn't find any words of advice, asking her again whether she'd wait or not.

    She bought some in the end, and I wondered if she voted Remain, Leave, or had abstained but I didn't enquire, merely thinking that she would be the first of many who will find this in the peak holiday season if the pound remains as low.

    1. Wait to you see the reaction of rowdy overweight bald Englishman holiday-makers with Union Jack t-shirts at Spanish and Greek immigration counters where Latvians, Romanians, Poles and Slovaks will breeze through EU passport controls, while they wait in the non-EU passport holder queues in frustration.

    2. I'm afraid I've already coined Loo-kip. Which is better.

      A possible way forward (and I use the word 'forward' loosely here) is that the Parliamentary Labour Party force a leadership election and nominate a Brexit supporter - thus attracting thousands of new, keen, Brexit supporting members dissafected by Ukip's lack of parliamentary representation - possibly enough to topple Corbyn. And thus bringing about said Loo-kip party.

      Though it's not obvious the PLP would be entirely pleased with the result.

  2. At a general election the following will become apparent:

    Tories can only promise Free Movement within the EEA, so EU light (cost and no say)

    UKIP can dream on about further restricting immigration, without any proper plan other than not entering the EEA

    Labour should by then try to overturn referendum:

    go back to EU, so that you get influence, and become a sovereign country - rather than have many rules dictated to by Brussels who will set agenda for many rules and regulations within EEA area

    Labour could set out a policy by which employers of immigrants are asked to provide part of the cost of housing for these immigrants through a tax into a "new housing fund" which will actually build houses where they are needed. That could be set as a National Insurance surcharge for the employer when employing non-UK nationals.

    I see the #TakeBackControl slogan exposed as the nonsense it is by the time the next Gen Election comes along. SO people will vote against Tory and UKIP who duped them (as there will not be money for NHS or lower migration)

    More people will realise that and hopefully vote for a Labour party which makes the beneficiaries of immigrant labour pay for the costs it brings.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. If they grasp the nettle, Labour can face down UKIP in these heavy Leave constituencies with properly costed and achievable commitments to services and social housing.

    UKIP have never had a coherent spectrum of policies - I doubt they can take the referendum momentum and translate it into electoral success (especially when Brexit Bust is now palpable).

    1. We should demand that having won the referendum Farage and the Tory leavers make good some of the promises they made, such as an extra £350m a week for the NHS, which they are already retreating from. I agree we need to cost these and should look for sources such as tax avoidance which the Leave leaders would prefer not to touch.

  4. One of your better posts. Just one quibble, it is important not to confuse anti-globalisation and anti-elitism feelings outside London with dislike of Europe, Europeans and foreigners. This only plays to the narrative of the far right. For sure there are a hard-core element for whom that is true, but I think there is growing awareness that this result was not for many people who voted leave about Europe - it was just an opportunity to be heard and voice overall dissatisfaction with the political class and a feeling that globalisation has not worked for them or their communities.


    1. Simon, one of your many even better posts.

  5. There may be an opportunity for the Labour Party to step forward and make a real contribution to the country, and to Europe as a whole:

    • Regrexit may mean that invoking Article 50 is in fact undemocratic; so
    • there may be an opportunity for the Labour Party to step forward with a powerful, distinctive proposal.

    Regrexit may mean that invoking Article 50 is in fact undemocratic

    Overturning the will of the people would be undemocratic – notwithstanding the fact that 3.7 million people have now signed the petition asking for a re-run. Over 17 million people voted to leave. The key problem is that we do not know how many of that 17 million are suffering from Regrexit. If more than 1.27 million people are now experiencing Regrexit and would be prepared to vote on it, that means that the will of the people – though not yet expressed or measured – is now actually to remain. The democratic course would then not be to proceed with exit.

    Clearly, holding another referendum would be an extraordinary decision and one without precedent – a far stronger argument than any which has now been put forward would be needed to justify it and to show that it was not an undemocratic step. Such an argument might be made, however, if a well-designed and large-scale poll had been conducted asking a representative sample of the population two simple questions in relation to the EU referendum:

    • if you were voting today, how would you vote? (remain, leave, don't know)
    • is that different from how you voted on June 23rd? (yes, no)

    If the results showed that Regrexit was a major phenomenon which, when extrapolated to the population as a whole, would be likely to represent significantly more than 1.27 million people moving their vote to remain, then there would be a strong argument that the population had changed its mind.

    In general, with major decisions, such as the purchase of financial products where mis-selling may occur, consumers are given a cooling-off period in which to reassess their decision. Leaving the European Union is at least as big a decision as most of these, and yet there is no provision for cooling-off. If we knew for sure that Regrexit was a major phenomenon, there would be a good argument for the cooling-off period.

    There may be an opportunity for the Labour Party

    A (new?) leader could:

    • commission a poll as above;
    • if the results show that Regrexit is a large enough phenomenon, call for a second referendum on the basis of mis-selling; and
    • campaign strongly with two new messages:

    1. there was serious mis-selling during the original campaign, e.g. the £350 million a week to be spent on the NHS, the ability to preserve access to the EU for trade of products and services without permitting immigration, the idea that exit could take place without turmoil;
    2. those who voted exit nevertheless had a point – as the Bank of England working paper 574 pointed out, immigration does have a cost in terms of domestic wages, particularly at the unskilled end of the spectrum – and that domestic policy needs to reflect not only the fact that immigration is good for the economy but also the fact that it has casualties. We must grow the pie, but we must also take steps to share it out fairly.

    1. 3.7m people signed a petition -does this include the thousands from the Vatican, North Korea etc etc-

  6. As a very saddened Remain voter, I agree with your analysis completely. A lot of Remain voters actively want freedom of movement; if Labour compromise on that I think they will lose many voters to the Green party.

  7. One thing former Australian PM John Howard which had a contentious immigration debate in the 2000s said was that people "do not mind high immigration, what they do not like is uncontrolled immigration." Under Howard, immigration actually went on to increase dramatically.

    This interview was how UK Labour and Remain lost their traditional heartlands over the issue of immigration:

  8. 'Labour can target those voters in two ways: by promising more money for public services across the board'

    Hello Simon. I'm a regular reader of your blog but still something of an economics ninny. Could you elaborate on how you would recommend funding more public services? An increase in taxes or something different or a combination?

  9. Respectfully Simon I have to disagree with you on this one. I don't think Labour has a chance unless it has a policy on free movement of Labour. This could be some form of emergency brake or time specified residency qualification in addition to the extra resources (an immigration dividend) given to areas that have experienced high inward migration. However unless Labour has something it can't win back its base who will increasingly shift to UKIP.

    At the end of the day you can lecture this people about the economic benefits of migration or tell about the lump of labour fallacy but it doesn't cut through. Huge swathes of the country feel alienated and insecure. They now have to compete for the few awful jobs available with often highly educated Eastern Europeans. There is wage compression at the bottom and tradespeople resent being undercut by foreign workers. If you were a tradesman getting paid £12-15 per hour would you be resentful if tradespersons came over from EU countries and offered to do your job for 30-40% less than the going rate - partly because they were living in shared housing with minimal overheads.

    If you don't go and spend time talking to these left behind people who I have had to do regularly as part of my research you cannot understand how visceral the issue of migration is. It's a lightening rod which puts up all manner of discontent. Of course there are huge misconceptions fanned by the media and lots of misunderstandings about the impact of migration- plus a fair dollop of outright racism- but just saying to people 'there's no need to worry migration is good for you' is electoral suicide.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. "Free movement of labour brings benefits at an economy-wide level (particularly as an inherent part of a EU/EEA package of movement of goods, services and capital)"

      No it doesn't. If it does, show me proof.

    3. I could point to the mound of reports that virtually every economic body in existence produced prior to the referendum showing that the UK would have a lower post-Brexit GDP but instead I’ll make two points.

      1) It’s actually much more difficult to separate out the impact of migration than some studies I have seen suggest. This is because it is not an independent variable that can be adjusted without simultaneously also adjusting other variables. That is the point of my reference to “an inherent part of an EU/EEA package”. Johnson’s claim that he could negotiate a deal that gave the UK access to EU markets while restricting free movement was not credible. Weariness with this kind of bluster now that the Leave vote is won is probably why he has failed to gain enough backing to stand for the Conservative leadership. The UK may be strong enough to negotiate its own bilateral deal with the EU27 that would permit more control over labour movement than EEA but that will come at the price of trade-offs with economic costs.

      2) Barriers reduce flexibility which carries costs, particularly in a world in which resources, including labour and skills, are not evenly distributed. If all EU migrants disappeared overnight, then major gaps would appear in both private companies and public services that could not be immediately filled. In a global market managing any resource within just a single national market is expensive. I have personal experience of the difficulties a company had when visa requirements for non-EU nationals were tightened. If movement of labour becomes too difficult some companies will move abroad. Indeed, in all the discussion of migration, we seem to have forgotten that far more well paid UK jobs have been lost through offshoring and trade competition. It isn’t migrants who are threatening Port Talbot steelworks.

      The point of my comment was to acknowledge that the economy-wide benefits are not evenly spread and that some groups of workers lose out.

    4. If you exclude unskilled migrants, net benefit of each migrant goes up. You can get import more high skilled migrants from the world.

    5. "Barriers reduce flexibility which carries costs, particularly in a world in which resources, including labour and skills, are not evenly distributed."

      The key issue is regulatory harmonisation, and I doubt they are going to raise barriers there with integrated supply chains across Europe.

      "that will come at the price of trade-offs with economic costs."

      Nobody cares about taxes/tariffs. You can take import taxes and subsidise your exports which effectively eliminates them. Voltage harmonisation however does kill trade.

      "I have personal experience of the difficulties a company had when visa requirements for non-EU nationals were tightened. If movement of labour becomes too difficult some companies will move abroad."

      The companies should move to where the workers are, not the other way around.

    6. The comment “companies should move to where the workers are, not the other way round” betrays a lack of understanding of how modern companies work. A company operating in international markets employs a workforce from many countries working together, plus sub-contractors, suppliers and interactions with customers, regulators and others. Even with modern communications, restrictions on movement inhibit these relationships and reduce productivity. Any such company trying to keep its operations to a single country would shrivel and die.

  10. Excellent analysis. One query: how many heartland votes has Labour literally lost? There have always been lots of people with a 'Labour' profile who have never voted Labour. Indeed working-class Conservatism used to be a big thing: that it ceased to be so at about the same time that the party elected its first working-class leader in the form of John Major is a bit strange, but there you go. Anyway it's back, now under the UKIP label. This is Farage's great achievement, but it's not clear to me how many Labour voters he's converted at the same time. There's anecdotal evidence, e.g. John Harris's fine articles in the Guardian, that the number may be substantial, but has any good statistical work been done?

  11. "what about Labour"

    It clearly needs to change leader immediately if it it to pursue any Remain strategy (Or IMO more plausibly support the EEA option).

    You should say that publicly, and criticise the current leadership accordingly.

    1. I see Piketty and Blanchflower have now done just that and quit.

      We await with interest your doing the same.

    2. The EEA option is utterly terrible. It is a meaningless neoliberal construct. It means no end to mass immigration.

      Trade works without trade deals. they are not that necessary and are a 'nice to have.'

  12. Your comment on the dilemma for a Labour leader trying to appeal to both those opposed to immigration and in favor of leaving the EU and those who want to remain seems entirely correct to me. Now, what do you think Corbyn's views are on this dilemma?

  13. Dear Simon,
    Its good to be optimistic but it is the hard left who (on the liberal left spectrum) are most committed to "moving on" from the referendum, why? For at least some of the people in Parliament square last night actually want the worst (heightening the contradiction to bring about the revolution as false consciousness is shattered and the brutal oppressive capitalist fascist state finally becomes forced to become plain, thereby triggering the revolution ). Since many of these people are in London, highly articulate, impressively committed and will staff the phone banks, Corbyn is secure or it will take the destruction of Labour as a party to get rid of him. The end, over throw of the capitalist system justifies the means. Whether you think its likely for people who do, like any sort of end of days cult, this is the most exciting promising event in years, it does have real possibilities for chaos; total disarray in bourgeoisie opposition, government, civil society (me and you etc) , street protests, class strife.
    There is a party that is publicly committed to getting back into the EU. If that's your biggest priority join and influence them. Its pretty clear the main aim of exiters is stopping immigration, its pretty clear that the EU will not allow a free trade in services agreement without it. BoJo pulled in his horns after even hinting that he might not stop immigrants, so desperate is he to be Prime Minister there will be no new election. Its the corporal who represents a significant chunk of this country now. The hard left know it and are going to use him as a recruiting sergeant, the soft tory liberal soft left who are a big part of this country will be so busy squabling over trivial differences that they fail to defend their values. Most democracies and systems fail for this reason, I dont see us being any different.

  14. West Minster not only has to deal with EU-27, but also with the UK and with Gibraltar and Brussels has to deal with 28 member-states. There are several scenarios conceivable. Of course, everybody ought to respect the Brexit-vote, and (therefore) nobody can guarantee that the course of history may take a turn nobody foresees. Preparing several scenarios simultaneously is not silly; it were irresponsible not to do it. Emotionally it may be hard to see a monster coming out of the board-room, but I do not expect a beauty.

  15. Tried to explain to some African friends the move to prevent the referendum result being implemented by those that lost. They couldn't believe that could happen in Britain. They are more used to these things in their own continent to their regret.

  16. My recommendation to the EU, cut a deal with Britain, say you will give a temporary emergency brake to free movement in exchange for a bigger quota of British refugee intake. This could save face for all.

    Cameron's failure to get a deal from Germany is another example how intransigence and inflexibility in the EU could ultimately lead to its downfall. We see it also in the Eurozone and its austerity policy, there is something very inflexible about the German leadership.

  17. This is a message from a English girl to one of her friends in order to thank him for his support on Facebook.
    I would like the read some commentary from Simon Wren-Lewis. I will post the same message in the Paul Krugman Blog.
    "[...]. It's dreadful here in London right now. Many people who voted Leave now pretend on social media that they were for Remain. Every 5 minutes, friends and friends of friends post the never ending corporate propaganda... They cannot see they are being played by the media, which perpetuates ever more ridiculous lies. I have never seen such anger and hate. I am shocked to see that most of it comes from the intellectual classes and my dearest friends.
    I've been called racist, stupid, uneducated, and selfish. I've had to remove my posts, because I couldn't bear to read the things that people I thought were my friends were saying about me.
    And this brings me to the reason for my message: I just wanted to say thank you, to someone I met almost a year ago today, and don't really know at all for being the only person to say something supportive on my Facebook wall about my decision to Leave."

    If you believe it is a doctored message, I tell you that I don't believe, but I can't be sure 100%, of course - I'm not the recipient of this message. In any case, such behavior can be seen in Italy also in the press, by so-called "journalists". So, even in the very unlikely case it's doctored, it's very likely, not only on UK. And moreover this behavior is what is to be expected from persons who aren't able to accept the results of a vote, no matter how unpleasant it could be.
    Just to say, in Italy we have a word, coming from our history, to call such kind of persons: it is "Balilla". Google it to know what does it mean. So for me, as an Italian, it is important to know who is a Balilla and who is not.
    I'm waiting from a commentary.

  18. Agreed.

    I really think the end game here is delaying triggering article 50 until the economic conditions deteriorate to the point that 'extenuating circumstances' mean we must put it on hold.

  19. I agree entirely with your analysis. The bigger issue now is whether Labour is going to fragment and provide any meaningful input during discussions before Article 50 is invoked (if it is at all).

    The Labour fragmentation also makes it more difficult to consider an electoral pact with LD and SNP and Greens, along the lines suggested by Paul Mason.

    What a mess.

  20. I think the Anyone But Corbyn majority of the Labour party is in complete denial about their own electoral prospects if there is an election within the next 12 months. They've lost Scotland and there's no sign of a comeback. They were on the losing side of the EU referendum debate. The voters won't trust them on the issue of immigration, even if they talk the tough talk, because the Conservatives/UKIP will bring up their past record in government. They will alienate a lot of their base if they do successfully manage to oust Corbyn and swing to the right. I don't see how the maths adds up to Labour winning the next general election outright. At best, they might be able to scramble a rainbow coalition, and Corbyn would perhaps be better placed to negotiate such an arrangement given that the SNP & Plaid Cymru share his anti-austerity agenda.

    There's been no evidence as of yet that Corbyn would lead to the sort of electoral wipeout that has been predicted by some members of his own party if given a fair shout. He might not be a winner, but there probably isn't one in the PLP as things stand.

  21. I am a complete outsider without much idea about the merits of Remain. I recall reading on this blog and elsewhere that Brexit could result in a 2-5% drop in GDP which is a big number which is largely attributed to the increased trade between the UK and the EU over the last two or so decades. Yet, I am puzzled by a few things in this ongoing debate between Brexit and Remain.

    First, I am puzzled by the policy pessimism that I see here as well as other liberal media. Not for one second am I saying that the Brexiteers had any idea of what was at stake economically. Neither am I suggesting that Brexiteers have any idea of how to fix the issues arising due to Brexit. However, I am astonished that no one from the economist community has come up with policy suggestions to mitigate the ill-effects of Brexit - labor reform, policies for increased trade with the rest of the world, policies to drive greater investment in UK, etc.

    The second issue I am puzzled about is that the UK has generally been a net debtor to the rest of the world given its persistent current account deficit. It seems to me that the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU. British consumers are keeping the folks in the rest of EU employed. So why is this bad only for Britain. I always thought trade was a two-way traffic and pain for Britain has to result in pain for the rest of EU too.

    Any thoughts on this would be helpful to a lay-person like me that is also, frankly, a rank outsider with shallow awareness of all the issues.



  22. Why are you so convinced Johnson will become Tory leader ? There are roughly 180-200 Remain Tory MPs, who are unlikely to be kindly disposed towards him. As for the grass roots, you may have spotted in the "i" on Monday a piece noting that a major Tory donor now considers both Gove and Johnson unfit for office as a result of their conduct during referendum. Isn't it likely that "friends of the Prime Minister" will be vigorously briefing against Johnson in the coming weeks?

    One other point - why do people seem convinced that a Johnson administration would be more right-wing than Cameron / Osborne ? Do we have any evidence that Johnson has any fixed views about macroeconomics, welfare, education, housing, foreign policy etc .etc. ?

  23. I'm struggling with all of this. I don't see how a points-based immigration policy can be cast as more xenophobic than a system that favours Europeans. If we are happy with say net migration of say 300000 people a year, then the consequence of those being via a points based system is very different than if they were via free movement. A points based system could ensure that genuine sharing of expertise could be facilitated around the world. Free movement can result in the toxic situation of many jobs descending into pay and conditions where "British people won't do them". We then have the dysfunctional situation where we depend on a constant flow of exploited new migrants. Japan seems to ensure that every job in Japan is a decent one that is given the respect that all workers deserve (please correct me if I'm wrong).

    1. If there is one thing learned from this election it is that its over for a government that is seen as losing control of the country's borders. We have seen that this even trumps the economy as an issue. It has been learned elsewhere (eg. Australia) before, and now it has been learned in Britain. In what I admit almost looks paranoid it is perceived like not being able to lock your own front door.

      It is a sad day for Britain and Europe that we have left the EU. But this is a consequence of the political elite not taking an issue which was going to explode at some point seriously. The complacency started with eastern accession and relying on econometric models that said there would be no movement. It would not have taken much effort to go to the new members and find out what the intentions of their populations actually were. This action, apart from the dreaded result, has unnecessarily put immigration at the top of the political danger and has soured relations between populations, native and migrants within the country and created all sorts of toxic divisions. It is true that migrants are being unfairly blamed for problems, but that is not the point. Immigration on this scale, and perceptions that the government does not have control over the country's borders was going to be explosive at some point.

      Some have said we should have a second referendum - unlikely in any case - but still worth a fight. Without the issue of free movement resolved however, there is no guarantee at all it would succeed.

      On Japan, I am not convinced about what you have said. They have a 'fleeter' problem. This is not unlike zero hour contracts, although perhaps, yes these jobs are made slightly less menial than in the UK.

  24. Why doesn't Corbyn fight against us leaving the EU? I heard his House of Commons comments this week in which he rightly pointed out Vote Leave had lied and that people were suffering under austerity and should blame the government rather than the EU. He must know Brexit will heap more hardship on the UK.

    I'm not a Labour member or Corybnite but find his comments measured and principled. I would happily vote for him in a snap General Election provided he pledged not to invoke Article 50.

    And why exactly do Labour MPs think he is so unelectable?

    1. I suspect some of the Labour MP's concern over Corbyn is that the politics he espouses is a bit alien to them - it's not politics as usual - so it's not really that they doubt he can lead them to an election win, so much as they're not confident about being in power.

  25. I would certainly agree on the need to delay things for as long as possible, and not merely for tactical reasons.

    I run major projects for large financial institutions, and I can absolutely assure you that getting something significant over the line in less than two years counts as a real triumph, and it doesn't often happen.

    A project that involves undoing a 45 year legacy of EU membership truly makes the mind reel, and the prospect of ending up in two years with anything other than a gigantic dog's breakfast is zero or something less than that. Just laughable even to consider it.

    Even with a clear understanding of what you are aiming to achieve, firm and clear direction from the top, adequate staffing and resourcing, and goodwill and absolute cooperation from all stakeholders, it would surely take at least a year or so even to do a preliminary scoping. From that point, once you've got buy-in and complete commitment from everybody....well goodness only knows, as it's never been done! A five year timeline to a Euro-exit? Well maybe.....but very probably a good deal longer....

    So if anyone asked for my advice :), the first thing I would suggest is to try to manage expectations on both sides of the table right back to something that's at least vaguely achievable.

    Of course, this is the very last thing that the 27 remaining states would want, but, as far as I can see, the legal position is quite clear; the UK electorate has expressed a preference to leave the EU, and the job of the UK government now is to consider whether and how best to put that into effect. At present the UK remains a full member of the EU, with all attendant rights and obligations, and shouldn't be in any hurry at all to throw that card on to the table, as it's about the only one you've got.

    So for time being, David Cameron would be well advised to say as little as possible about anything at all between now, and the point at which the UK once again has a functioning government, and everyone has a much better idea of what's actually just happened.

  26. What stage of grief are you in? Still denial? Clearly the Five Presidents of Brussels are in the anger stage. They're small men, and it shows. Merkel moved to a higher level quickly and demonstrated outstanding "statesmanship". Hopefully 2-3 months will provide the 5 Presidents as well as UK's thought leaders like you enough time to get over the shock of Brexit.

    "The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief."

  27. It seems clear to me that we, the great UK public, have made a big mistake, and that it is only a matter of time before this is generally recognised. If by then we have triggered the Article 50 withdrawal process the status quo ante will not be an option. Apart from anything else, we can kiss goodbye to the EU budget rebate.

  28. If the labour party isn't rooted with the broadest swathe of the blue collar vote it is finished as a party of government. Cherrypicking the Didsbury's and the Islingtons assumes a complete lib Dem meltdown and forgoes the bankable seats that have always been the solid foundation of Labour's political power.

    It was Labour's surrender to fashionable politics of mere virtue signalling that lost it Scotland. Scottish inner city supporters defected to the SNP which embodied a more socially conservative but still economically progressive agenda.

    Now we have an attempted counterrevolution by the Islington classes (that still dominate the labour benches) against the leader, the party membership and the labour voter. This is the end of the Blair Mandelson triangulation era. This petulant upper middle class revolt has no real support, it cannot succeed.

    The EU as a tier of UK government is over. If immigration is to be rescued then it must be controllable - this does not mean halted but it does mean that the voters have to be persuaded of the benefits of a policy before it is imposed. Its how democracies do it.

    Surrendering the labour heartlands to UKIP so to maintain loyalty to the EU king over the water is political madness....

  29. Sadly Corbyn is currently being castigated for taking the only view of any leader during the referendum ( or at least this the trumped up charge of those who have sought to depose him from day 1).

    I think that specifying arbitrary targets in immigration is ridiculous and bound to fail. Supporting a successful Europe will eventually balance immigration without destroying our economy in the meantime.

    I totally agree that targeted funding for those areas with the greatest challenges is the only chance that Labour has (assuming it survives).

  30. The Brexit decision is made, yes it is stupid, but it is made. Live with it.

  31. A point raised by Jeremy Corbyn in an early response to the vote was the need for transparency in the negotiations with EU over new arrangements. This has been largely ignored but is of critical importance in restoring trust among those who voted Leave from a lack of trust in establishment elites.

  32. "That part of the heartlands that really dislikes foreigners are lost to Labour and will not return."

    This line is awful btw. You really think there's 17 million racists in this country and it's all about disliking foreigners?

    I like dogs, but wouldn't want to live in a house with 50 dogs. There would be immense competition for space, food, attention and you're just begging for conflict.

    A small post-industrial town may be able to cope with a small amount of immigration, but they've decided that they've now had too much. Too many translators causing delays in hospitals, too many new school places needed, too much for social services to cope with.

    All of this comes at a time when the post-industrial north is taking the brunt of cuts to local authority funding. The peasants have lashed out in anger because it was the only way to get the political class to pay attention to the problems, not because they hate foreigners.

  33. I wonder to how many Leave voters the proponents of delay and parliamentry manoeuvers while waiting till Brexiters "come to their senses" have actually spoken at length. I am a retired academic and voted for Remain, but because of my religious affiliation I speak to people with a range of opinions on the EU. The Leavers are as vehement in their desire to leave as those shocked by the result are in their desire to remain.

    My own guess is that trying to avoid ways of seriously working on leaving the EU, or of leaving but keeping complete freedom of movement, would simply lead to a massive increase in support for UKIP. Despite my preference for Remain, that seems to me the least desirable option.

  34. You are certainly right that we need to spend more on services, especially where migration adds pressure, although that doesn't adequately grapple with the problem of areas that have low migration but still consider it a major problem. Here we have to grapple with the growing gap between hub cities, such as London, Manchester, Cardiff, which in their core areas have both visible migrants and apparent prosperity. This adds to a sense of marginalisation in peripheral and provincial areas.

    You also miss the labour market issue. Migration into a poorly regulated labour market brings tensions that better regulation and protection would reduce.

  35. Awful post. Those regions you mentioned are not Labour's "Vote" and will never be. UKIP is just another neo-lib organization that is scared shitless in leaving the EEC. Call their bluff and show them what "ethnic socialism" really is. UKIP will be back in London asking for the bankers vote again.

  36. Dear professor Simon Wren-Lewis, if may i your problem is not too much wishful thinking but being too Britanocentric, exactly as those your country man who voted leave. All your analysis is about what's good for Britain and what is correct way to get out from this mess for the British. Nothing about what's the best for Europe as whole in the situation the British referendum created. To my opinion EU should use all the necessary steps to save itself by doing exactly the opposite what you suggest. Without any consideration to if article 50 was put in process or not, British Representatives should be excluded from the EU institutions and EU should do all the legislative steps to integrat the remaining 27 states. The British participation in the EU was always subject to..... Britain was always the major obstacle to more integration in the EU, and it became the leader of anti Europe within the EU. Now with their referendum they lost their legitimacy to interfere into the EU integration process, and the other leave voices became orphans, marginalized, and will shut down. I hope France and Germany will have the necessary instinct to be tough to Britain not to let it gain any advantages from their stupidity. As i wrote in my previous comments, most probably British economy will be marginalized as it was in the sixties and seventies before the French let them enter the EU. The British have to understand, that while Britain can survive behind the Chanel as a separate state, the French and Germans do not have any more this option without to raise animosity between themselves.


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