22 December 2017

Brexit: the myth of British superiority

The arrogance behind British nationalism is not supported by facts

One of the nationalistic-xenophobic assumptions of Brexiters is that Britain is in some way ‘better’ than its European neighbours, and, for that reason, should not be in a union with them. How else could the following comment on passports by the pro-Brexit Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell be interpreted?

“The humiliation of having a pink [sic] European Union passport will now soon be over and the United Kingdom nationals can once again feel pride and self-confidence in their own nationality when travelling…”

However, the myth of British superiority is worth probing with a few comparative facts, contrasting Britain with its immediate European neighbours. Let me take these to be Ireland, France, Germany, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and Scandinavia, all democracies since the Second World War. It is worth noting that this group of countries, including Britain, contains a majority of the EU’s population and wealth.

Among these countries, according to the IMF in 2017, Britain is the poorest in GNP per head, with $ 43 500 per year – only marginally below France, but well below Germany on $ 49 800. The smaller countries of Benelux, Ireland and Scandinavia are all considerably richer. And by the end of 2017, as a consequence of Brexit, Britain’s economic growth is lagging behind that of Eurozone, exacerbating rather than reducing the difference.

For working people, their situation is even worse than their mainland European counterparts. Britain is the most economically unequal, with inequality at an index of 34, while France and Germany both score 29. (To understand these figures, zero represents complete equality, while inequality in the United States stands at 40.)

In fact, Britain is more unequal today than at any point since the middle of the nineteenth century; And with welfare cuts in a deteriorating economy, inequality is growing further in the UK. In absolute terms, in the period 2009-16, a massive 70% of households experienced stagnation or a drop in income.

Inequality is linked to a dysfunctional society. Just to take one example, in every 100 000 people, Germany imprisons 81, France 118, but Britain a staggering 150.

If the current situation is bad, the future is worse. Brexit is already causing capital investment to avoid Britain, and for business to relocate out of the country. The prospect of trade barriers after March 2019 further impedes the economy. The Tory Brexit elite, with a whip hand in the May government, want to spurn the European social-market model all together and fall into step with the US economy. After the shocks of EU withdrawal, they seek a society of low taxes, minimal rights for workers and consumers, with little or no social welfare - a European America or a Singapore on the Thames.

The outlook is grim.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spot on! I gravely fear the country is swinging to the right driven a fear 'the other' and the totally misplaced belief that somehow the UK is 'special' in the world. I'm pleased to be a Brit, but not daft enough to think I belong to somewhere 'superior' in any way.