‘WWhen someone with honeyed words but an evil mind persuades the crowd, great evils befall the state.” Of course, Euripides was not referring to Brexit in his work. orestesbut to the chaos caused by the assassination of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra and the office of Orestes, in turn, by Clytemnestra.
The disastrous result for the Tories in the local elections may not lead to any kind of physical violence, but all signs are, when the recriminations begin, that the Tories find themselves in a metaphorical bloodbath.
Let’s face it: Brexiteers, led by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, conducted their referendum campaign with honeyed words; their minds may not have been intentionally evil, but you could have fooled me. Brexit has proven to be an absolute disaster.
Evidence grows that great evils have befallen the state. But this is just the beginning. Our imports and exports to our closest and most important trading partner, namely the EU, are already experiencing serious delays, in some cases even coming to a halt when companies decide to drop the ghost. The bureaucracy is going to get much worse at the end of the year, when the full impact of the government’s self-imposed trade limitations is felt.
Meanwhile, our scientists are hampered by a lack of access to the EU’s Horizon programme, young people can no longer enjoy the educational benefits of Erasmus student exchanges, and freedom of movement is inhibited in many ways. Furthermore, as the realities of modern economic diplomacy point to the wisdom of belonging to a European group that can hold its own against US and Chinese influence, we are left on the sidelines with very little bargaining power.
And yet, and yet: Labor leader Keir Starmer continues to dismiss the possibility of going down in history as the man who caught the Brexiters’ bluff, made a big deal about the cost of Brexit hundreds of billions , and it demanded nothing less than re-entry into an organization from which we should never have left.
Starmer was riding high last week, enjoying the pathetic performance of the Tories in local elections and opinion polls. His performances in the House of Commons against the hapless Rishi Sunak are even beginning to remind people of Harold Wilson’s great days as Leader of the Opposition.
But the truth is that the shadow of Brexit hangs over those election results. The Conservatives fared poorly partly as a result of the nation finally revolting against their abysmal 13-year record, but also because the troubles that are spreading over Brexit are reaching home to those who rightly feel they were cheated. hopelessly by honeyed words.
The Lib Dems did well because they made the right decision on Brexit and they are not afraid to say so. Labor has not fared as well as it should have because many pro-European voters have made their sentiments known by switching to the pro-European Liberal Democrats.
And another thing: the persistently high level of inflation is very much in the news, and it is being felt in the pockets of many people. But there is no doubt that the inflation rate in this country is higher than that of the US and the EU.
It is higher due to the dramatic impact of Brexit on import prices. Young people are amazed that the Bank’s rate has been raised to 4.5%, but those with long memories remember that, years ago, a “crisis” rate was 7%. The difference is that, in those days, the inflation rate was 3-4%, not 10% or more, like recently.
Anyway, in fine timing, the economist Stephen D King, a senior adviser to HSBC, not the novelist, has written an excellent guide on this subject entitled We have to talk about inflation. Among other things, he mistrusts the faith that is placed in central banks. As he puts it: “The really tough policy decisions, most obviously the costs associated with removing excessive inflation from the system, may ultimately require some form of political validation.”
He thinks that “avoiding tough measures may have contributed to increasing inflationary pressures,” and draws an interesting contrast between the “avoidance” approach of the US Federal Reserve Chairman’s 20% by his successor, Paul Volcker, in the 1990s. 1980.
These are deep political waters. But there can be no doubt that the Bank of England’s attempt to control inflation has not been helped by our exit from the EU. Nor that, when the figures for the annual inflation rate fall, the impact of previous increases will continue to be felt in a country impoverished by Brexit.