Brexit = austerity squared

My post for the SPERI blog (republished widely, including by Newsweek) on the genesis of the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU referendum.

The UK has voted to leave the European Union; well, technically. In practice, the 17.5 million people voting for Brexit will have been voting for many different things, not all of which are relevant to the EU or the UK’s membership of the organisation.  After the ascendance of post-truth politics, spurious claims about additional NHS investment and even reducing immigration are already starting to unravel.

Many leave voters, apparently, have expressed instant regret, having sought only to execute a ‘protest vote’, liberated by the mistaken belief that the leave campaign could not possibly win.

The biggest falsehood of all was that nothing much would change, that is, that the UK could simply choose what kind of economic relationship to have with the remaining EU, because it was in many EU members’ interests to keep trading with the UK. This argument was exposed as a dangerous illusion within hours of the result being announced.  For the sake of keeping the remaining 27 together, the UK must, and will, be punished for daring to depart. Angela Merkel has been cool-headed enough to advise caution in this regard, but ultimately she must, and will, act to protect Germany’s interest in maintaining what is left of the union over the interests of a handful of German industries in selling to UK consumers.

So what, essentially, is going on? I think we need to look at the political and discursive climate in the UK within which this brand of politics came to thrive during the campaign.

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Image: MPD01605