Welcome to the first day of the rest of the year – a time full of possibilities! Of course most of those possibilities are, in my opinion at least, not the best we could have had but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see about that. Now, I’m not exactly full of confidence for the future seeing what I know about the past and what we are constantly reminded of each day on the news – that too many people out there are more than happy to spend their lives make the world a worse place (as if that made any sense at all). What I didn’t expect, and obviously came as quite a shock to a significant percentage on both sides of ‘The Pond’ is that a significant number of people, seemingly deliberately, have actually voted to make the world (again in my opinion) an objectively worse place to live in or, at the very least, a more chaotic and turbulent one.
I really should have put a bet on the result of the vote for the UK to leave the EU. Just days before the polls I predicted the result and got it spot on. From conversations at work and elsewhere I knew that many people intended to vote to leave for, yet again in my opinion, generally irrational reasons. The fallout from that decision is still largely up in the air but will come down (around our ears) sooner rather than later. As far as I know the value of Sterling on International markets still hasn’t recovered after 6 months. Those in favour of Brexit usually wave their hands at this point, mention that currencies fluctuate, and say that any loss is temporary. As I said – irrational. When Article 50 is enacted in a few months’ time I doubt very much if the value of Sterling will go UP. I’m not exactly sticking my neck out here by saying that its value will drop through the floor and probably stay there for the foreseeable future with all that entails. If any of my American readers are thinking of visiting the UK I’d wait on buying your money until the Spring. It’ll be a LOT cheaper here after that.
Article 50 will, naturally, have other consequences too. If I was a businessman who had any significant dealings with the EU I would’ve had fairly detailed contingency plans drawn up by now. The enactment of Article 50 will be, I firmly believe, a starting gun for those companies to move some or all of their manufacture or distribution elements on to the European mainland to avoid any future tariffs imposed post-Brexit. Any non-UK owned companies may move lock, stock and barrel to places like Holland (where they speak excellent English) to guarantee full access to the Single Market. After all they’re in the UK for that very reason. The idea that they would stay out of the EU marketplace through some kind of loyalty to the UK is nonsensical where money is concerned. Shareholders do not value sentimentality above balance sheets.
So, if things go as planned (which I imagine they will) what do I think the future holds for jolly old England? I think it’s a given that inflation will increase. It’s already bubbling under and sooner or later things will be passed on to the consumer. As over 40% of our food is imported and much is payed for in dollars I would think that inflation will increase month on month for years ahead. Public spending will decrease which will mean less spending on things like Health and Education. Get used to longer waiting lists and dilapidated buildings (and roads). The balance of payments will shift in the wrong direction and government borrowing will increase. Taxes will rise with little to show for the rises from the public’s perspective. As we get closer to actual Brexit more and more companies will move some of their operations to the Continent. The rest will either go to the wall or cut back as much as they can to maintain profitability. Unemployment will increase as will under payed part-time working and so-called zero hours work. Taxes will increase to pay for unemployment and we will see an increase in poverty, destitution and the dreaded food banks. Charities will be stretched to their limits.
Political unrest will naturally increase. We will see an increase in protest marching and the follow on riots. The main political parties will increasing move away from the centre to, in part, compete with organisations from the political extremes. Violence against minorities will increase as will the tolerance of such activity. Taxes will increase to provide more police, better equipment for the police and more surveillance technology. There will be talk, yet again, of Identity Cards and some kind of pledge of allegiance (as has already been mentioned in regard to future Public servants). This will divide public opinion but will probably be made compulsorily after a short trial period. It will have no noticeable effect on political unrest nor will it make people feel safer. Prison populations will increase as will new prison building. With increased unemployment, especially amongst the young (many of whom can no longer afford to attend University with the increased tuition fees), a national Youth Work programme will be developed as a form of National Service. Many will regard this as a good thing.
Well, that’s enough predicting for one day. I’m starting to depress myself here! I really hope that most of the above never comes to pass, I really do. I just hope that I’m being unduly pessimistic about the whole thing. I do actually seem to be in the minority with my expectations of economic suicide followed by disaster. I hope that I’m wrong, dead wrong. I’m not worried personally. I have a pretty safe job and I fully expect to be retired in the next 5 years. I don’t need much to get by so, financially at least, I should be OK. Thankfully I don’t have children so I don’t keep myself awake at nights worrying about their future – not that such things accomplish much to be honest. On my more optimistic days I wonder if Article 50 will, in fact, be enacted. I assume that the Supreme Court will force the Government to allow a debate and vote on it in Parliament. There’s a slim possibility that it might not get through the Parliamentary process. Unlikely, but it’s there. Then there’s the 2 year process to leave the EU. It is possible that the Government might abandon things and revoke the Article before we actually leave. It’s also possible that we might have a change of Government who have a mandate to keep us in the EU. Possibly. I can at least dream. No matter what I think the next 5-10 years are going to be interesting if nothing else. Watching a country crumble through its own self-inflicted wounds would, however, be more interesting if it wasn’t where I actually lived. Looking back from 2020 (The Year of Hindsight!) I’ll need to dig this post out and see how accurate I was. 50% seems reasonable I think. If I get more than 50% right I’ll be worried……