Winner of the New Statesman SPERI Prize in Political Economy 2016

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Brexit is another Iraq

In March 2003, 149 MPs voted against the Iraq war. They comprised the then much bigger Liberal Democrat party, the then much smaller SNP, 84 Labour MPs, Plaid and the SDLP, and the odd Conservative. Those voting against triggering Article 50 comprised the LibDems, the SNP, 47 Labour MPs, Plaid, the SDLP, one Green and a single Conservative. Is the similarity between these votes just a coincidence? I want to suggest not.

Let us begin by making an obvious point. You may think Iraq is different because so many lives were lost in the chaos after the war. But how many lives will be brought to a premature end because Brexit means we will have to live with an NHS in permanent crisis? Many people have not realised what a disaster Brexit could turn out to be. With a hard Brexit the CEP estimates an eventual cost of almost 10% of GDP each year. [1] That is huge: much bigger than the loss in real incomes already experienced as a result of the Brexit induced sterling depreciation. That alone could mean a 10% cut in money available for the NHS, if the share of NHS spending in GDP remained constant. But it is worse than that. If immigration falls, as the OBR expects it to, and because immigration improves the public finances, the cut in NHS spending could be a lot greater than 10%. Of course it may turn out to be not quite as bad as that, but we need to ask what exactly is the point of taking such a huge risk, just as people now ask what was the point of the Iraq war?

Iraq involved the US and the UK, whereas Brexit is just a UK affair. But think of the following mapping. The Neocons who pushed for the war are like the Brexiteers. May is George Bush, and Corbyn is Blair. Whereas Blair felt he had to go along with Bush, he also must have felt that getting rid of Saddam would be no bad thing. Whereas Corbyn and many MPs feel they have to follow the referendum result, Corbyn may also think that leaving the EU is no bad thing.

Does the referendum not make the two events distinct? The first point to make is that a clear majority of UK popular opinion (and US opinion) supported the war. Everyone of Murdoch’s papers around the world strongly supported it. However a minority of people were passionate in their desire for the war not to happen, with many taking part in the largest demonstration the UK had ever seen.

More importantly, the referendum was advisory, whatever politicians may have said. After an election the opposition does not feel obliged to start voting for all the government’s policies that they used to oppose? The idea that the Brexiteers, if they had narrowly lost, would have said ‘fair enough, we will keep quiet for 30 years’ is laughable. Most people voting Leave expect to be no worse off as a result, and would not have voted Leave if they thought otherwise. In these circumstances, the idea that the 52% majority will remain the ‘will of the people’ for very long is ridiculous.

The most important similarity between Iraq and Brexit is that both were huge decisions that were politically driven and which went against the available evidence. Hans Blix, who had been in Iraq looking for chemical weapons, thought it was a huge mistake. Chicot confirmed that the UK chose to invade Iraq “before peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted. Military action was “not a last resort”. The British knew that there were no serious plans for post-war reconstruction and reconciliation, but we joined Bush’s war nevertheless. It was not just a disaster, it was also a widely predicted disaster. Brexit is an almost universally predicted disaster among experts. For both Blair and Corbyn, their own misguided political views overrode expert opinion.

Just as Iraq destroyed Blair’s support among Labour party members, Brexit is likely to do the same to Corbyn. I expect the process will continue steadily over time, as bad Brexit news is greeted by Labour ministers not with a confident and resounding I told you so, but rather with feeble claims that May is enacting the wrong kind of Brexit. As the popular tide turns on Brexit, just as it did on Iraq (a majority of people now think they were always against the war), the opportunity Labour has missed by supporting Brexit will become clear. One difference is that Blair had enough popularity in the country to win a general election after Iraq, but the support of Labour Party members is pretty well all the political capital Corbyn has.

Thus the only interesting question is when Corbyn will go, and what the manner of his departure will be. I surprised a few people by saying in an earlier post that he needed to stay on for a while if we were to have any chance of stopping Brexit. My reasoning is as follows. The longer he stays, the greater will be the opportunity for the LibDems to achieve some eye catching victories like Richmond. (In the May council elections, for example.) Only then will it become clear to MPs from all parties that a Brexit backlash is the real threat, not UKIP winning in Labour heartlands. At present they and political commentators are in a Westminster bubble which is strongly influenced by the pro-Brexit press. That bubble needs to be pricked by events. If Labour switch leader and start opposing Brexit too soon, any Conservative losses could be put down to countless factors. It is vital that that a significant number of MPs begin to fear that a Brexit backlash will lose them their seat. Once (and if) that change in perception comes about, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

[1] This estimate is produced by a team led by one of our top applied economists, John Van Reenen, who has just moved to MIT.



41 comments:

  1. It is worth reading Blair`s 1999 Chicago speech on his Doctrine of the International Community, where he laid out the case for intervention without UN support when necessary, he doesn't get the credit/burden for his leading interventionalist stance prior to the Bush presidency. It didn't escape Skidelsky who commented on it that summer in his "The End of National Sovereignty? Kosovo and Blair’s ‘New Doctrine of the International Community’".

    The Blair poodle analogy gets stretched too far, he was a true believer in that project only tempered by the needs of domestic politics.

    Also I am not sure what Corbyn thinks sbout Brexit, but I would not be surprised if his support for Remain is less than the lukewarm he confessed to during the campaign.

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  2. I think your analogy is somewhat misplaced. I was against the Iraq war on the basis that it had WMD because I thought it was extremely improbable. The main reasons were: the use of weapons in the Iran-Iraq war had depleted the stocks substantially; the fact that prior inspections had discovered no weapons and more recent inspections had also discovered no weapons and the UN inspector said he thought there were none. The history was there to make a considered judgement; that it was not made is a matter of politics.

    Brexit is not only an event in the future but it is one which has a large number of potential outcomes. The analysis you cite is I am sure correct but it is not only an analysis under conditions of uncertainty, it ignores what is a huge elephant in the room: it assumes the continued survival of the EU which, in my view, becomes more questionable as each month passes.

    It seems to me that the difference between the two events is more the difference between risk (the Iraq war) and uncertainty (Brexit).

    One substantial reason for this is something you will know: the Euro. Do you really think that the Euro can survive in anything like its present form? And I do not talk of a minor event such as Greece leaving but a much more serious crisis. If it does break up then so, in all probability, will the EU so where would the calculations stand in that case? To my mind the biggest risk of Brexit is that the EU itself starts to break up before we have completed the divorce and started to go our own way. I do not think this is something that we should wish for because, ironically, we would suffer as well if such a breakup should start to occur.

    I can understand why your views have a parochial bias in this question but I fear (truly fear) that the real risks lie elsewhere.

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    1. Paul Krugman predicted the break up of the Eurozone in the middle of the crisis. I said he would be proved wrong then. I think its even less likely to fold now.

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    2. Yep, the worst possible thing has already happened to the euro. It narrowly survived its inbuilt flaws (greatly magnified by egregious and hopefully unrepeatable stupidity on the part of its managers) so it is not going to break up now.

      But the EU could still break up anyway - if, say, Le Pen wins in France. This would be a full fledged disaster due to elite shortsightedness and political incompetence but disasters due to that combination are not exactly unprecedented, as the post points out.

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  3. As I floated this parallel on this blog a few days (?) after the Referendum result in connection with my MP Tony Wright opposing the Iraq War, I'll go a little further from your comparison and say that the war was always a Conservative war.

    "139 Labour MPs rebelled against the government's line and supported the amendment. 15 Tory MPs also defied their leadership by voting against the government's policy" (BBC).

    Tory MPs voting for the Iraq war included Theresa May (Maidenhead), Philip Hammond (Runneymede & Weybridge), Boris Johnson (Henley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Liam Fox (Woodspring), John Redwood (Wokingham), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), William Cash (Stone), David Cameron (Witney), George Osborne (Tatton).

    I'm really annoyed that I can't find a book or a website with the voting numbers for joining the ERM, which I think Labour voted for and then took advantage of its ensuing chaos. If you or anyone can find those numbers, the historical parallel may be a good one.

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  4. 'With a hard Brexit the CEP estimates an eventual cost of almost 10% of GDP each year. '.

    How is such an alarmist number arrived at ?

    On Trade: Uk exports are roughly 30% of GDP, and roughly half of this is with the EU. One would have to make some extremely brave assumptions to get to the conclusion that tariffs affecting 15% of GDP will cause a significant drop in GDP.

    Om Immigration: What sort of a drop in immigration would you need to assume for it have more than a 1% or 2% drop on GDP ? (If you look at GDP/capita I would question this effect even more).

    Are there other effects I am missing ?

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    1. The impact of lower trade is about a third or quarter of that. Most involves dynamic effects from lower trade. Trade bring innovation and productivity growth. That 10% allows nothing for reduced immigration.

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    2. But Simon, you of all people should know that such "dynamic effects" are highly uncertain (which is of course economese for "have no solid theoretical basis and the only numbers to put into the theory anyway are those that sound reasonable guesses to us").

      If the medium term effects are only a third or a quarter of your model predictions they will of course still be significant - but nowhere near salient enough to make the average person draw the connection between mildly disappointing growth and Brexit. Especially as there will be plenty of politicians and tame media keen to make sure they do not draw it.

      So the political backlash simply will not happen.

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  5. Only then will it become clear to MPs from all parties that a Brexit backlash is the real threat, not UKIP winning in Labour heartlands.

    I've been appalled by the mainstream media coverage of the Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland by-elections - or rather, by the almost total concentration on Copeland to the exclusion of Stoke-on-Trent. The logic - even from the BBC - is nakedly partisan: "Labour defeats UKIP" is good news for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, "Tories defeat Labour" is bad. So one story gets blown up out of all proportion - the BBC Friday lunchtime news described Copeland as an "ultra-safe" seat, which must have come as a surprise to Jamie Reed - and the other gets quietly memory-holed.

    The pity of it is that UKIP not winning Stoke-on-Trent Central gives us all some really valuable feedback on the state of the parties, and on who's under threat from what. In particular, it suggests that the number of votes UKIP can poach from Brexit-supporting Labour voters is limited, and the number of "Labour heartland" seats they can win is in the region of zero. As John Curtice has said, the threat for Labour comes from elsewhere - the Lib Dems not least. And much follows from that: if UKIP are always going to peak at 25% in a four-way contest, their claim to represent the 52% (or anyone else) starts to look a bit spurious. But it's probably not until the Liberal Democrats are putting Conservative seats at risk that any of this will get across.

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  6. The UK had a heavy presence in Iraq for along time, in part because people didn't acknowledge the sunk cost aspect of it. I wonder if something similar could happen with Brexit ie. Brexiteers will argue it's too late to turn back given how much will have been spent on this process.

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    1. Of that I have no doubt. Plus they'll blame the "traitors" for not blindly supporting the cause.

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    2. Absolutely. Humans show a remarkable reluctance to admit to themselves that they wee wrong.

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  7. But the space left for a LibDem resurgence is limited in a FPTP system where 70% of constituencies had a Leave majority.

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    1. The Leave vote is split 3 ways. The LDs had 50 odd seats before the last GE. That is a lot of MPs who right now should be getting very worried.

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  8. I disagree on Corbyn, and I think you're advocating a far too tactical perspective, in a schema that's just too sketchy.

    Corbyn, whatever else you can say about him, is acting on the idea that Labour has a critical deficit of credibility, especially on focusing on what matters to their constituency. I do not think the basic idea is incorrect. Thus, I think that your idea that what matters is when Corbyn leaves doesn't really take into account who will take his place and how the agenda would change. Nevermind the success of that new person!

    What matters far more than timing, is getting a person in charge people can be enthusiastic about, not the likes Angela freakin' Eagle. Early, or late, doesn't matter--party enthusiasm is what matters. A kewl person with a kewl plan (regardless of whether it's a workable one).

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  9. A key point I struggle with is that these dire assessments of the impact of Brexit are based around reasoning that would also predict that countries with larger populations would be more affluent. But that isn't how the real world is. There are affluent and impoverished countries of all sizes without even the vaguest hint of a correlation. All that seems to really matter is whether a country is governed well for the benefit of all its inhabitants. In the real world it doesn't seem to matter whether a country is the size of Iceland or of India. The EU project is basically asking the people of Europe to aggregate together into a sort of super-nation. Why do that if the facts on the ground shows that that isn't helpful?

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    1. Take a small country like Switzerland. They recently had a referendum to end immigration from the EU. They backtracked because they realised they couldn't afford it.

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    2. I don't see how that answers my question though. You're simply saying that other people think along the same lines as you. Am I mistaken in thinking that the argument about the overwhelming importance of that size of internal market ought to suggest that larger countries would clearly be more affluent?

      Since larger countries aren't more affluent, presumably there are other counter-acting influences in the other direction. Perhaps it is harder to govern larger countries. If so then Brexit is a choice based on weighing up those effects and not just moronic nihilism as you seem to be making out.

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  10. I agree that the Labour vote is a huge error. If we fail to negotiate a reasonable trade agreement, the government will come under huge pressure and Labour will be poorly placed to appeal as a credible alternative. Brexit was sold on the certainty of a trade deal, £350m week, lower migration and control of borders/laws and in two years it will be obvious that none of these will happen. We will then be only one year an election and with a decent opposition it would be a huge risk for May to take us over the cliff.

    However your argument on the NHS is ridiculous as is your comparison of May with Bush. There is a very tenuous link between GDP and life expectancy and it may even be negative. You only have to look at the extra healthcare spending in Scotland to see that outcomes may not follow the money. Your claim about lower immigration affecting the public finance is nonsense. Even the Brexiteers argue for continuing skilled migration and if, anything, some restrictions on unskilled migration will improve the public finances.

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    1. 1. On money and health http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)60102-6/abstract
      https://www.rsm.ac.uk/about-us/media-information/2017-media-releases/new-analysis-links-30000-excess-deaths-in-2015-to-cuts-in-health-and-social-care.aspx
      2. The idea that we can avoid a negative effect from cutting immigration on the public finances by choosing the right kind of immigrants is fanciful. We don't get to choose: The immigrants do. Right now we are making life so unpleasant for EU migrants that those with the best opportunities will leave. And do you really expect the government will stop immigrants that work in health care or construction and are vital for those industries.

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  11. Your assumption appears to be that Corbyn will continue to unconditionally support Brexit. I don't expect that to be the case. If Labour now mounts heavy opposition to the terms of Brexit that May negotiates, then they can maintain a principled position without being accused of being died-in-the-wool Remainers, gathering support from both Remainers and soft Leavers, and isolating May in the lunatic fringe.

    Currently May is at the high water of her support, reaping the benefits of her rhetorical position without reaping the effects of the inevitable failure, betrayal and economic crash.

    I guess we will see.

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    1. We will. But if you want to Remain, why would you vote for Labour, who voted for A50. It does not matter how much Labour complain about the terms, they have cast themselves as a Leave party.

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    2. I suspect that you are being a bit too monolithic is your thinking. The question could equally be asked why a Remain voter would vote for the Lib Dems, as they were in cahoots with the Tories only a couple of years ago. It's notable that their national polling has risen only a couple of points since the referendum. I think that we are in very fluid times, and especially at by-elections.

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  12. In Stoke and Copeland there was a modest increase in the Lib Dem vote but no sign of a Brexit backlash. I am uneasy about people "waiting on events" to trigger the supposed backlash. It cannot be healthy for some Remainers to be hope for greater economic hardship and pain to arrive in order to teach the idiotic 52% the error of their ways.
    Of course, bad things will always happen at some point,and there are plenty ready to scream "Brexit" when they do.

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    1. The problem is that most of the 52% do not want to Leave if it costs them anything, and it will cost them something. They have been deceived. The country has been deceived. I don't wish this, I know this. The evidence is clear.

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    2. "[Leavers] have been deceived. The country has been deceived. I don't wish this, I know this"
      Yes, but THEY don't know this and likely never will. See my earlier comment.

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  13. You say, 'Most people voting Leave expect to be no worse off as a result, and would not have voted Leave if they thought otherwise.'
    Is that actually the case? My feeling is that Brexit was an act of political nihilism/arson.

    I find it hard to believe that people really thought they were going to be better off as a result or that there was much rational evaluation of economic gains and losses.

    My suspicion is that a lot of people were more motivated by a desire to make sure that others who did benefit - supposed metropolitan, political and economic elites and foreigners - ceased to do so.

    Some of the biggest claims of the Leavers - about a massive cash injection for the NHS and the supposed threat of mass immigration from Turkey - seemed clearly to have so little relation to reality that I find it hard to believe that logic had much to do with the result.

    And whenever an economic expert did point out the possible costs of Brexit, Leave campaigners and supporters simply put their fingers in their ears and blew a raspberry.

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    1. So when most people who voted Leave say they expect to be no worse off as a result, and would not have voted Leave if they would be worse off, are they lying?
      Yes, people did think they would have greater access to the NHS because there would be less immigration. One of the phrases I heard over and over again was it can't get any worse. Remember most people who voted had just two sources of information: their paper and the broadcast media. Trying just looking at them, and then say that claims about Turkey and the NHS were obviously ridiculous.

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    2. but again, those are the two sources of information that they'll have access to should the UK not get a decent trade deal and everything turns south.

      The papers will just double down and blame foreigners, the EU (for being intransigent) and so on

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  14. Comparing Brexit and Iraq is tasteless. Iraq involved aggressive war, widespread bombings, and the destruction of a country. The death penalty is appropriate for the invasion of Iraq, not for Brexit.

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  15. I'm not entirely sure the you gov analysis of public opinion is entirely correct - this Mori report (https://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/ca/287/Iraq-The-Last-PreWar-Polls.aspx) is a lot more nuanced and it's introduction says:

    "The final polls to be published before the war in Iraq started, conducted last weekend, all found a shift in public opinion in favour of British involvement in the war but still found a majority disapproving both of military action and of Tony Blair's handling of the Iraq crisis".

    Similarly, I'm not so sure popular opinion is for Brexit - It's a democratic travesty that the opinion of under 16-18 year olds, long term EU residents in the UK and long term British citizens in the EU had no voice. The 3 demographics who stand to lose the most from Brexit had no vote - I'd really like to see what UK public opinion would be if those groups were included in opinion surveys.

    Finally, I'm not sure if Corbyn is like Blair - it's not so much a case of Corbyn feeling the need to go along with the British electorate and thinking "and I'd quite like to leave anyway" - I suspect it's more a case of "I've always wanted to leave and I can hide behind "democracy" while it happens".

    Personally, I supported Corbyn, with reservations, because the Labour party was a lacklustre insider driven monster that had lost touch with it's heart. I'm horrified that a man who's sold himself on a commitment to democracy has stood back and watched an open attack on democracy that flows from exactly the same political wellspring as Trump without a murmer


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  16. In your blog you write that 'Most people voting Leave expect to be no worse off as a result, and would not have voted Leave if they thought otherwise.'

    I have seen similar statements several times, but not a reference to any source for them. Could you please provide a reference to to the survey that shows this result. Given that answers to survey questions depend on the precise wording of the question, and on previous questions if the survey has more than one question, I should be grateful for a reference to the actual survey, not just a newspaper summary.

    For example, I imagine the answers might be different to "Do you think you will worse off if the UK leaves the EU?" from "Do you think that in 15 years' time you will be worse off than you otherwise would have been if the UK has left the EU?"

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  17. Simon just to set the tone in response to your claim that Brexit and a 10% cost in GDP could mean 10% less spending on the NHS.

    You agree with me that in a depression, which we are currently traversing along the bottom of, it is as near impossible to get inflation that would prohibit money creation for spending on public services.

    So why do you along with most conventional economist persist in peddling the dogma that we can only fund our public services via taxation receipts?

    If we had a war tomorrow I guarantee the Chancellor of the exchequer would not be sat in his office counting out the pennies deciding whether or not we could afford it.

    Or to put it another way, Cameron sacked half of the environmental workers on the Somerset Levels before the floods (saving Money), Then (Tory constituency) during the flood crisis Cameron declared that money was no object and they would spend as much money as was needed.

    The point I am making in that, is, that Brexit has unquantifiable costs and savings attached to it, and it is the political decisions that are taken which are paramount as to whether we have a good or bad Brexit.

    Clearly a government that solidly backed TTIP with all the ramifications that would bring can't really be trusted to negotiate any trade deal on our behalf, and how can we seriously believe after Cameron's attempt prior to the referendum that the Tories are capable of negotiating anything.

    I personally wouldn't trust them to run a kindergarten let alone negotiate trade deal.

    I also believe they are working to given script, which is why they are so say cleverly keeping everything close to their chests. Europe as has ben pointed out above may face a total breakdown between now and the negotiations, we have the rise of fascism throughout Europe.

    To take these politicians seriously is like sticking a finger up in the wind, policy is clearly being written up elsewhere and the United States is not far away from it, as one pundit somewhere put it, were are swapping a star from Europe for one in the USA. Hence the visit to our good friend Trump and Hunt's negotiations with American Health Companies.

    I think we need to stop kidding ourselves that these negotiations are going anywhere, it will become an abortion of immense proportions and so long as no one recognises it the corporate media will dress it up as a success.

    People generally need to recognise that this is too big to allow incompetents like Theresa May to handle this, and that parliament should open up the negotiations to absolute public scrutiny, they should be held in camera so that we can all see what is being discussed, the idea that we should be kept in the dark is anti democratic and we all really know why they would do it.

    In the final analysis, we are a net importer of other peoples finished goods, we average trade deficits of around £4 billion a month, and have done since 1998, due to Thatcher's superb handling of our economy.

    So if we carry on as we are, then the future is bleak. So we negotiate to trade with the least possible damage to both our economies, we forget the USA as they are predatory rather than beneficial and we intervene in our economy, building up our infrastructure, create new nationalised industries,(quote; "1950 to 1970 the golden age of capitalism")and in short rebuild our public services.

    The private sector has destroyed and is intent on destroying more jobs, has proven to be worse than useless in delivering good value and service, and has retarded real development which only the state can deliver.

    So we either sit back and beg the world for charity as we are at present, or we develop a backbone and set about reconstructing our nation.

















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  18. Thanks for writing this blog, which I always enjoy reading.

    But, as a non-economist, I am confused.

    As I understand the numbers (from the analyses in The Guardian, and Politico, etc.), a hard Brexit would mean a tarif impost on UK exports to the EU of about £6 billion p.a., and perhaps we could add the same again for non-tarif barriers, which are harder to measure. So around say £12 billion p.a.. Okay, some service exports would also take a knock, but some would already be getting a boost.

    Now £12 billion is not a trivial amount, but in an economy with a GDP of £2.5 trillion, it's hardly life-threatening, especially given the extent to which the post-referendum devaluation is already lifting the profits of exporters.

    And surely in a hard Brexit Britain would also save its current £8 billion or so net EU contributions, and would have the benefit of whatever comes out of any eventual free trade agreements with the US, and the countries of the 'old Commonwealth', and anyone else we can sign up.

    So how then do we get from there to your suggestion that the cost of Brexit is likely to be "almost 10% of GDP per year" (whatever that means). £250 billion p.a.? Year on year? Seriously?

    I don't doubt the truth of what you have written, it's just all so totally counter-intuitive that a simple explanation would be very helpful indeed.

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    1. As Simon may be busy, I suggest you see the extra cost of exporting as going straight in to firms' p&l account, causing them to move business out of the UK, probably into the EU 27. If profit margins were 10% that would,on your £24bn. figure, displace £240bn. of activity. This is of course a serious oversimplification but I throw it out to show how these things can leverage up from a much lower base.

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    2. As Simon may be busy, I suggest you consider the extra cost of exporting as going straight in to firms' p&l account, causing them to move business out of the UK, probably into the EU 27. If profit margins were 10% that would,on your £24bn. figure, displace £240bn. of activity. This is of course a serious oversimplification but I throw it out to show how these things can leverage up from a much lower base.

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    3. Thank you. Yes I can see how that might work as an equation, but the average tariff that a UK exporter would face under WTO rules would only be around 4% which potential impost is more than compensated for by the post-referendum decline in the Sterling exchange rate.

      So it really does seem quite alarmist to suggest that such a relatively small change in trading arrangements is likely to lead to a "10% decline in GDP per year".

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    4. I was commenting on the basis of fixed exchange rates as you had not introduced currency fluctuations into the discussion (part of the simplification I noted ). The decline in sterling of course means that in terms of other currencies UK GDP is already down by more than 10%. This has not yet been felt domestically as it takes time for an increase in import costs to feed through the system. But if sterling remains unchanged people will in due course realise they have become poorer.

      If for ease of debate we assume sterling has fallen 20%, this will probably in time reduce living standards by 6 to 7%.

      Those who forecast a loss of GDP of 10% usually talk of this happening over a long time-scale, up to 15 years?,

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    5. I should have added that non-tariff barriers can be considerably more damaging than 4% tariff barriers. Some have been calculated as equivalent to 25% tariffs. Sadly it depends largely how protectionist the importing government wants to be.

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  19. It's remarkable that the 48% of the electorate who voted remain now have little political representation. The lib dems are very quiet, conservatives taken over zealotry and Corbyn's actions effectively support the conservatives.

    I think Brexit is economically idiotic but I suspect that the majority of the electorate will never come to see this. The conservatives will both a) deny the non-Brexit projections, and b) claim Brexit itself wasn't the problem, it's just other countries acting irrationally. And it will work! For many an "other countries acting irrationally" argument will reinforce why we are better out of the EU.
    A clever opposition could make serious gains but neither labour nor the lib dems have shown much political intelligence in the past 7 years. take advantnge ombe

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  20. This is a little at a tangent to your main point, but it is worth remarking that the YouGov survey that you link to in your fourth paragraph refers to public opinion AFTER the Iraq invasion, not before. To quote from the linked page: "In 2003, YouGov conducted 21 polls from March to December asking British people whether they thought the decision by the US and the UK to go to war was right or wrong, and on average 54% said it was right." Note the "was".

    But before the invasion, public support was far from clear - indeed various polls showed a majority against action, at least in the context that it eventually happened. See for example the Ipsos-MORI survey of the last pre-war polls at https://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/ca/287/Iraq-The-Last-PreWar-Polls.aspx : "The final polls to be published before the war in Iraq started, conducted last weekend, all found a shift in public opinion in favour of British involvement in the war but still found a majority disapproving, both of military action and of Tony Blair's handling of the Iraq crisis."

    It is perhaps not surprising that there was a swing in favour of the action once the decision had been taken; perhaps it is a source of hope for remainers that a similar swing does not seem to have occured in the case of brexit.

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