Could Brexit vote lead to a technocratic take over?

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Many of those tempted to vote leave in a few weeks time are doing so out of frustration. Some seem determined to crash the system, just so they can have the satisfaction of then watching it burn. Well actually there is a strong risk of the opposite happening. That of the White hall bureaucrats stepping in and taking over to limit the damage.

Ultimately the primary goal of government civil servants, as they see it, is to ensure the continuity of the state, even if it means occasionally acting against the apparent will of the people. If that sounds undemocratic, they would point out that if the state collapses (well for starters they’re all out of a job!) things tend to get very messy. The nation’s currency become worthless and with much of any nations banking debt being sovereign debt (which can’t be serviced without a government), bad loans bring down the banks, cash machines stop issuing money, loans get called in, police, firemen, doctors and the army stop getting their pay checks and old people find their pension stopped. In short chaos, quite possibly followed by a military coup. So they would argue that a “technocratic coup” is a sort of least worse option.

We have a good example of just such a bureaucratic takeover of a country from recent events in Greece. About a year ago the Greek PM held a referendum that rejected the EU bailout terms, even thought they had been warned that such a vote would likely lead to Grexit. A few weeks later, Tsipras accepted terms that were even worse than the ones rejected in the referendum and his wayward minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis had gone.

One can assume that what happened between these two events (and there’s a lesson here for Brexit supporters), was that the civil servants sat Tsipras down and explained to him the cold hard facts of life. If he followed through with what he was proposing he’d be resetting the Greek economy back to zero. Everybody would lose everything and while yes things might emerge brighter on the other side at some distant future date, in the short term things in Greece would get a heck of a lot worse. Inevitably, he caved in and signed up to the new bailout terms.

And to be clear this wasn’t the EU overriding Greek democracy, it was likely the country’s own civil service stepping in. At this point the EU seem to want Greece to leave, as it would bring closure to the whole affair (the German foreign minster said as much at the time) and let them move on. And in Italy too, the mess left behind by Berlusconi let to a technocratic takeover of the Italian government.

So what is likely to happen in the case of Brexit? Well, its likely after the chaos of resignations and recriminations, whoever is in charge will find themselves put under enormous pressure by the civil service to sign up to a deal with the EU that will make the UK an EU member in all but name.

This will give the country access to the common market, but under similar terms to Norway and Switzerland. i.e. all of those EU laws the Brexit brigade are complaining about will remain in place (perhaps a few laws which guarantee workers rights might go thought), its just the UK will lose its right to veto or even be consulted on future laws and we’ll be paying the EU to enforce these laws (Norway pays about 82% per capita of what the UK currently pays for being an EU member).

But we’ll get control of the border back?no! The points system proposed by the Leave camp won’t work, European countries would respond in kind and any drop in foreigners coming in would be quickly outweighed by the millions of British forced to move back to the UK. Such a policy would likely lead to crops rotting in the fields, labour shortages as well as making it all but impossible for UK firms to trade with Europe. Inevitably some will relocate overseas. Keep in mind studies have shown that for every 1% increase in migration the UK economy benefits to the tune of 6-7%.

The best case scenario (for Brexiters), is there would be a bit more paper work (akin to how Australia treats New Zealanders for example, although keep in mind this would apply too to British people trying to move to Europe) and it would be easier to restrict migrant benefits. But this would be outweighed by the the fact that asylum seekers would find it easier to get into the country. Many Romanian or Hungarian gypsies, Jews or gays, who face harassment from neo-nazi groups, currently they find it difficult to claim asylum in the UK as they are coming from a fellow EU country. Britain leaves, and suddenly its not that easy to turn them around. We’d have to let them in, give them a council house and benefits while their asylum claim is looked into.

And keep in mind that our future UK PM will be doing all of this against a back drop of generally negative economic news and falling tax revenue. A downgrade of the UK’s credit rating, a few points rise of mortgages and perhaps a slow down in the issuing of new mortgages are all also likely.

Our PM will also be coming under pressure from MP’s, noting that pro-remain MP’s have a massive cross party majority and already there is talk of an emergency post-referendum bill to force the UK to remain part of the common market. And the regions, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (who’ll be wanting another Inde-ref) will be threatening rebellion. No doubt the generals will also stop by to point out how vital good links with the EU are to the UK’s defence, as will many business chiefs.

So given such enormous pressure, the balance of probability is that, much like Greece, post a leave vote, the UK will (after some economic chaos and a recession) sign up to a deal with the EU that will leave the country even worse off and even more under the control of Brussels and less able to turn around asylum seekers. As I predicted sometime ago, Brexiters will have succeeded in getting the complete opposite of what they wanted.

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5 thoughts on “Could Brexit vote lead to a technocratic take over?

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