The Brexit Team: Swiss Watch or Contraption?

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain.com

One of the most credible economic stewards to serve Britain in a long time is the inscrutable Philip Hammond who has done nothing but improve the UK economy since the day he was sworn in to the post. Which was merely an extension of him having been born for the job, it seems.

It’s not only that; Mr. Hammond’s word carries a lot of weight in foreign capitals, and in the EU his word is his bond. Soft-spoken, adroit and adept, Hammond is one of the darlings of financial capitals everywhere and it’s a great thing to see him in his element.

So began Prime Minister Theresa May’s summer vacation, where she and her husband (also named Philip) went off to Switzerland to take the mountain air and hold long and meaningful conversations at full stride up the Matterhorn.

Leaving the country in the capable hands of Philip Hammond must be a comforting thought for Theresa May as she and hubby blow past the tourists struggling to get to the top for a selfie. My advice: Just get out of their way or you’ll get run over. Seriously.


The Exchequer comments on post-Brexit Immigration

However wonderful it is having a powerful Exchequer, there is the temptation for them to overstep their bounds and cross over into the areas of responsibility reserved for the Prime Minister.

And just as predictably as that; Before Theresa May had gotten her first alpine air, Hammond told reporters, “there should be no immediate changes to immigration or trading rules when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.” (Sky News)

It’s forgivable, and probably wise for Conservatives to be seen voicing the concerns of voters on both sides of Brexit. However, Exchequers should stick to their primary interest (the economy!) and let others, whose direct responsibility it is, to hold forth on immigration issues.


With Theresa away, the Remainers will play

While Theresa May gets some mountain air, the Remainers in the Prime Minister’s cabinet are clearing the air by presenting their side of Brexit — and that’s fine. But let’s make certain that fair play rules are enforced; Which means that cabinet officers publicly comment only on their primary area of responsibility. Only the Prime Minister has the authority to publicly comment on all matters, otherwise it looks like a circus.

Every misstep is celebrated in foreign capitals. People in the EU who may be opposed to Brexit are incredibly strengthened by each implied criticism directed towards the Prime Minister by members of her cabinet.

The entire period of Brexit is a highly unique time, a time where all Britons must pull together and come to the realization that many in the EU are fighting for a ‘Win-Lose’ outcome, an outcome where Britain loses vis-à-vis the European Union.

Meanwhile, the best of the Brexiters are fighting for a ‘Win-Win’ outcome where both Britain and the EU win. And those are the people I’m putting my money on.


Clear Lines + Clear Thinking = Positive Results

There’s nothing wrong with MP’s on both sides of Brexit informing the public about how they would proceed on any matter — as a sort of trial balloon to gauge public mood. That can be useful moving forward by keeping those who voted Remain interested and engaged with Brexit, and there is every opportunity that Remainers may come up with excellent ideas related to soft Brexit implementation within their field of expertise.

But greater care must be taken to avoid strengthening the hand of anti-Brexit forces in the EU, now that Britain has finally! asserted her rights.

Government ministers must draw the distinction between legitimate discussions about how Remainers (read: Soft Brexiters) or vocal Brexiters (read: Hard Brexiters) would handle any Brexit issue — and how the wrong sort of discussions or even the wrong tone of discussions could work against Britain in foreign capitals. The wrong public discourse works against both versions of Brexit.

Let’s not be naive. Each misstep by anyone in the UK government is celebrated at the EU Parliament and certain EU capitals. Whatever is going on behind the scenes within the UK government, a unified face must be presented to the world in order to obtain the best Brexit result.


Controlling the Narrative: Job #1 for Every Prime Minister

UK government ministers, and possibly even the Prime Minister herself may not yet realize the extent to which the world now sees the United Kingdom as a completely different entity. The UK no longer exists as only one of 28 EU members, and what the UK will eventually become, is unfolding every day like an onion being unpeeled.

Is the UK destined to become a nation of cross-talkers, mixed messages and unreliable partners? Or is Britain starting with a clean sheet to become all that she can and should become in the 21st-century?

Only the Prime Minister knows, as she’s the one holding the pen. Let’s see what script she writes.


Related Article:

This Week in Brexit: The Conservatives weak negotiating hand

by John Brian ShannonReposted from LetterToBritain.com

This Week in Brexit

One of the reasons that I’m a Theresa May fan is that she took a highly principled position by calling an election prior to Brexit, presumably to further legitimize her premiership with voters and thereby gain a stronger negotiating hand heading into Brexit negotiations.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May had been an MP for 20 years and served as Home Secretary for 6 years — and only then was she named to the post of Prime Minister by the Conservative Party when former PM David Cameron stepped down. Which is to say, Theresa May is as legitimate as any UK Prime Minister ever appointed (but not elected to) the PM’s chair.

Nevertheless, at the most important political moment in since the end of WWII, Theresa May decided to further legitimize her premiership by calling a snap election and (hopefully) cause her party to rally ’round her in time for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Thereby empowering Britain in its dealings with the European Union.

By any definition it was an admirable plan.


It Worked! (Somewhat)

Except for the Conservative MP’s that didn’t campaign hard for her and were only interested in maintaining their position as a Member of Parliament, and excepting the millions of former UKIP voters — only some of them supported the Conservatives on election day.

All in all, a surprising result.

Perhaps three terrorist incidents in the UK within 90 days of the election changed the mood of the electorate, or maybe when confronted with an actual Brexit complete with veiled threats emanating from some EU capitals it’s possible some British voters felt cowed into lowering their Brexit expectations.

If so, that would be a shameful indictment on the British people, the people who succeeded admirably even after suffering horribly in two world wars and are a people who carry-on through all manner of terror attacks, other social upheavals, recessions, and Britain’s famously inclement weather.


Now with a ‘weaker hand’ Theresa May must pull-off a reasonable Brexit

How to do more, with less? That’s the job facing Prime Minister Theresa May over the next five years.

It’s an unenviable position for a longstanding British MP (20 years) with 6 years as Home Secretary to her credit and 1 year as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who deserved better from her party and from voters.

At least 42.4% of UK voters agree with Theresa May (see BBC election chart here) which was a gain of 5.5% for the Conservatives since the last election when David Cameron became Prime Minister. The business community likes the progress on the economy, and she is highly regarded by foreign leaders.

She deserves better than she’s gotten.


Methinks there are strings being pulled in places that we know not…

But just for the record, let’s look at a July 17 poll result from an internationally recognized polling firm.

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high
One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high (Says it all, doesn’t it?) Click image to enlarge.


Another chart for the doubters

One thing that Britons have every right to be proud of is the National Healthcare Service (NHS) and in recent years it has begun to score well in the prestigious Commonwealth Fund rankings. In fact, the 2017 ranking puts the NHS in 1st place over 10 other wealthy nation healthcare systems. But you’d never think it because (according to some) the NHS is falling apart at the seams.

Just as former PM David Cameron was rightfully proud of the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking (1st place) so Prime Minister Theresa May should feel proud of the 2017 NHS ranking (1st place) even as some of the countries named in the study improved on their 2013 rankings.

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings
UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2017) Click image to enlarge.

For comparison purposes, I’ve included the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking graphic below.

UK tag, The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013)
The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013)

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013) Click image to enlarge.


One more chart that uses actual facts to combat negative perceptions — shows how well the UK is faring

This chart shows GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) which illustrates that purchasing power of both UK citizens and expats is increasing — even though (according to some) the sky is falling every day!

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP
UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP. Source: tradingeconomics.com Click image to enlarge.

With all of that going for the UK in 2017 (and more positives that I haven’t included because I don’t want to drown you in charts) you’d think that Prime Minister Theresa May would get plenty of respect from her party, from certain media outlets and from voters.

But apparently in the United Kingdom, almost-perfect scores aren’t good enough to get the Prime Minister the majority she needed to allow the country to cruise through Brexit. And that’s a shame.

This Week in Brexit: What Scotland Missed

by John Brian Shannon | Reposted from LettertoBritain.com

Congratulations to Prime Minister Theresa May for working out a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to allow the present minority Tory government to continue in office.

Theresa May strikes ‘confidence and supply’ deal with DUP

And congratulations to DUP leader Arlene Foster for negotiating so well on behalf of her jurisdiction, thereby gaining £1.5 billion in additional infrastructure and other funding.

That’s a ‘Win-Win’ for the Tories and for the Democratic Unionist Party — and more importantly (sorry, Theresa and Arlene!) it’s a ‘Win-Win’ for residents of Northern Ireland.

Theresa May signs ‘£1.5 billion’ deal with the DUP

Infrastructure in Northern Ireland is in bad shape and the funding appears at an opportune moment, as there comes a point when it becomes cheaper to tear down a bridge (for example) than to pay ever-increasing maintenance costs.

The same is true for all infrastructure. Whether roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, airports, or the underground infrastructure that carries water to homes and businesses, all of it has a ‘best before’ date where leaving vital infrastructure spending for too long can cost more than the savings of not doing the work.

The Conservative/DUP deal: what it says and what it means

Of course, £1.5 billion isn’t going to fix it all. But I wouldn’t be surprised if two years of successful DUP ‘confidence and supply’ support gets the residents of Northern Ireland additional infrastructure spending allocations, courtesy of DUP leader Arlene Foster and Prime Minister Theresa May.

And why not? Arlene Foster prevented a divisive and perhaps extended Parliamentary crisis — one that would’ve prevented much good from being done in the United Kingdom.

Speaking of which; See how infrastructure spending is increasing in Northern Ireland, and how it isn’t in Scotland? Not only additional spending, but PM May and DUP leader Foster also negotiated more devolved powers for Northern Ireland.

NOTE to Nicola: It’s great to have a particular ideology, but when it costs your jurisdiction £1.5 billion in the form of missed infrastructure funding, it’s time to review what you think you’re accomplishing!

Loss of opportunity is also a metric by which UK leaders must be measured — it certainly is for heads of government everywhere else — and not as much as it should be, but it’s still an important marker of successful leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland’s SNP missed the boat. Arlene Foster of Northern Ireland’s DUP didn’t. And UK Prime Minister Theresa May begins to look like a bit of a deal-maker, which can only be viewed as a good thing as we head into Brexit. Well done, Theresa!


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Will Theresa May and Donald Trump Solve the #1 Challenge of Our Time?

by John Brian Shannon – Originally posted at LetterToBritain.com

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was invited to the White House on January 27 to be the first foreign leader to meet with the new American president, Donald Trump.

It’s always an honour to be the first invitee of the new president, and the timing couldn’t be better as the Western economic order is beginning to churn.

In the West, the past 70 years have been a relatively stable era with increasing wealth (although since the Reagan-era tax cuts, obscene inequality has become a destabilizing force) and social mobility has increased dramatically since the creation of the internet.

This combination could prove extraordinarily useful to motivate leaders to provide the kind of leadership required of the times — or 2017 could prove to be the pivotal moment in the unravelling of the Western democracies.

President Trump wasn’t elected U.S. president because American citizens were bored by the Democrats.

Americans voted Trump/Pence to overthrow the existing plutocracy in Washington, not to overthrow foreign governments.

Regardless how many Middle Eastern conflicts the West has prosecuted, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. But this time the problems are here at home, not in some faraway country.

Americans voted for Barack Obama (2008 and 2012) and now Donald Trump (2016) in large part to stop the unfolding economic disaster in the West. Britons may have held similar ideas to American voters about a sustainable economic plan when they voted for Brexit.

Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM
Will Prime Minister of Britain Theresa May and President of the United States Donald Trump work together to solve inequality, the existential challenge of our time? Image displays the share of the world’s total wealth for the Top 1% vs. the Bottom 99%. Image courtesy of OXFAM.

The chart below (from 2010) reveals the bottom 80 percent of Americans share just 7 percent of the nation’s wealth, but it’s much worse now (in 2017) and this phenomenon is no longer confined to the United States.

Theresa May must work with Donald Trump to roll back record inequality
Britain’s Theresa May must work with U.S. president Donald Trump to roll back record inequality that will eventually destroy the entire middle class. You can see the bottom 80% compete for only 7% of America’s total wealth. (This image is from 2010. It’s actually much worse now)

That trend will not change until politicians are bigger than the challenges that confront them, and actually do something about the record inequality sweeping the West.

It’s not a call to ‘do something, anything, anything at all’ — as some so-called ‘solutions’ might be worse than the problem.

But what citizens of the Western nations require is an acknowledgement by politicians of the sheer scale of the problem, and some initial steps to slow the rapid transfer of wealth away from the bottom three quintiles to the top 1 percent. (Even tiny baby-steps are preferable to the decades-long stony silence on the matter)

Theresa May and Donald Trump must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone.
Britain and the United States must ensure that globalization and free trade work for everyone. Image courtesy of the New York Times, You can’t feed a family with GDP by Neil Irwin.

Inequality ignored, will only result in citizens ‘giving up’ on their governments and ‘giving up’ on democracy — and we know how that will end. Badly. For everyone.

Including powerful politicians who serve for amazingly short stints of time in office. Once you’re in politics, four years pass by like a long summer!

Today’s toxic combination of ultra-low taxes on the rich and unrestricted globalization aren’t working for 3/5ths of the population. In 10 years, it won’t be working for 4/5ths of the population. And let’s remember, all of them are voters.

Here’s how that looks

In 2016, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth was owned by the 1 percent.
By 2030, more than 70 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.
By 2045, more than 85 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the 1 percent.

Put another way; Do you really want to live in a world where 8 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 30 percent of the world’s wealth?

Can you imagine what it’s going to look like in 2045 when 9 billion people are fighting over the then-remaining 15 percent of the world’s wealth?

At that time, you’d better be living on an island in the mid-Pacific that doesn’t appear on any map, in a castle with 100-metre high concrete walls.

I respectfully suggest to Prime Minister Theresa May and President Donald Trump that if inequality isn’t addressed this year, it’ll be too late. Just look for a remote island in the Pacific Ocean… now, before the rush begins.

The time involved in getting new legislation passed, combined with the lag time involved for it to take effect during the following fiscal cycle, is years after the day it is first discussed.

Can Theresa May and president Donald Trump cooperate to solve record inequality.

Let’s hope that January 27, 2017 will come to be known as, ‘The day the decline of the bottom-three quintiles was halted and reversed’ by these two great leaders.

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