Brexit or Not?

Masters of Manipulating Public Opinion

Brexit deadline is 31 October 2019. On 23 June 2016, the British people voted 52% against 48% to leave the European Union. In England alone, the margin was somewhat higher, 53.4% for leaving the EU, against 46.6% for staying. In the meantime we know that this result was influenced by Cambridge Analytica, the same as the Trump Presidency was apparently helped by CA, and according to CA’s own account, more than 200 elections or referenda worldwide during the last 5 years or so were decided by CA.

CA is said to have disappeared; however, the knowledge on how to manipulate voters’ opinions – the algorithm to do so – is by now well known by Google, social media and, of course, by the world’s key secret service agencies, foremost CIA, NSA, MI6, Mossad, DGSE (France), BND (Germany) and others. Therefore beware of believing even in a shred of democracy in upcoming elections, anywhere in the world.

Will Brexit actually happen?  Chances are it will not. Almost three-and-a-half years after the UK vote, and two-and-a-half years after the UK started the exit process, the Brexit “soap opera”, as it is often called – leave or stay – continues.

Both, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and so far, also the opposition Labor Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, have assured British people they will respect their choice; no new referendum, no Parliamentary vote; and instead, they foresaw negotiating a “deal” with Brussels. If there is “no deal”, then Brexit will take place as a “No Deal, or Hard Brexit” – so the erstwhile verdict – which could change, of course, as just about everything that has been said and agreed upon in the Brexit saga. But what exactly is meant by a “deal”, or a “no-deal”, for that matter?

Though, the definitions of a “deal” are vague, a “deal” refers basically to a UK exit from the EU under as smooth as possible conditions for both business and individuals, meaning that current relationships; i.e., business licenses, trading relations, residency permits, free exchange of labor, would not stop at once, but a transition period would allow to work out specific conditions. In fact, this is precisely included in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, the WA has not yet been ratified by the House of Commons. Why not?  Is there a hidden agenda? Once the WA is ratified, there is no way back? Is that it?  The Parliament’s holdout for a 180-degree change from “leave” to “stay” despite the popular vote?

The WA provides for a period up to 31 December 2020 after Brexit actually happens, or longer, if negotiated, to hammer out the post-Brexit details of trade, future tariffs, business licenses, transit of labor and capital and more before the new UK/EU divorce rules would enter into force. This is plenty of time to negotiate individual trade and peoples (free movement) agreements with EU partner countries. Everything – the current UK-EU relations agreements – would stay in place during the transition period; i.e., for at least another 15 months (or longer, if more time is negotiated as necessary), if Brexit would take place on 31 October 2019.

Some of the possible post-Brexit bilateral negotiations have already started behind the scenes, notably with China and the US and most likely with others, like Germany and France. The UK could, for example, look at the Swiss model. Switzerland, not a member of the EU, is de facto an EU member, just without voting rights. Switzerland has currently more than 120 multi and bilateral agreements with Brussels and the 28 EU members. And this despite a three-time direct popular rejection of EU membership by referenda (1992 – against joining the European Economic Area, 50.3% against; in 1997, EU membership referendum – 74.1% against; and in 2001 on “EU access negotiations” – rejected by 76.8%). Yet, Switzerland is still looked upon as a model for ‘democracy’ – where people decide.

So, everything is possible, direct negotiations with a selection (or all) of EU countries, following the Swiss model, and/or a wider scale of by- and multilateral negotiations with countries or trading blocks around the world.  Actually, Brussels has already hinted to the UK leadership at starting bilateral negotiations with EU members, even though the official line is “leave” or “stay”. No doubt, Brussels as well as Washington would like to do everything possible to keep the UK within the EU bureaucracy. The UK has an implicit reputation of being Washington’s mole in the EU, representing Washington’s wishes in crucial decisions — like when 10 new Eastern European member candidates had to be admitted — or not.

Therefore, why the hype about a “no deal” Brexit?  Do people even understand what “no deal” means?  That it literally means all doors are open for negotiations during the transit period and that nothing changes during that period, which is even extendable, and, of course, that a myriad of options to negotiate new deals with new partners are open after the transit period, in the post-Brexit phase.

It’s all fearmongering, manipulation of public opinion — the stock market will crash, UK’s GDP will contract by between 2% and 4%  depending whom you ask, and who pretends having had all the details to calculate such nonsensical numbers; that unemployment will soar, especially as UK citizens will be expulsed from their EU host countries and come home to look for work, and so on. These threats emanating from Brussels, as well as from the UK elite, have, of course, only one goal in mind – No BREXIT; find a way to reverse the people’s opinion and Referendum decision.

Entering the realm of intimidation, the British Government warns in a “clandestine report” – “leaked” to the Sunday Times – that a Hard Brexit (a “No Deal” Brexit) will hit the UK with food, fuel and medicine shortages. RT reports this much-feared prospect is becoming increasingly likely since the changing of the guard in Downing Street. Yes, this is clearly part of spreading fear to coerce public opinion against Brexit. However, this could all be prevented by the British Parliament voting for the Withdrawal Agreement which is part of the sovereign deal – no approval from Brussels necessary – for any country wanting to leave the EU. How come, this is never mentioned in the media, thus preventing the public from knowing what the government could do to avoid a Hard Brexit havoc?

There are also other economic predictions, contradicting the fearmongers, and by all accounts of logic, more plausible ones; namely, that the UK would do much better after Brexit, free to deal and trade with whomever, no looking over the shoulders by Brussels, no impositions of complex and often very costly rules, frequently mere rules for the sake of rules by the European Commission. Regaining full sovereignty would do the UK good, both economically and socially.

The UK could also continue maintaining a relation at a distance with a body that is often mentioned in the same breath as corruption; a body that has shown little sympathy for solidarity among member countries. Examples abound. Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal were all “sanctioned” with troika-imposed rescue packages (troika = EC, European Central Bank – ECB, and IMF). It is also clear that Brussels favors a set of nations, unofficially, of course, stronger, mostly northern nations that do not have to follow the strict ECB debt limitation rules imposed by the ECB and mostly applied to southern EU members. This amounts to an unspoken two-tier arrangement.  But these voices of reason, who would promote Brexit for the sheer long-term socioeconomic betterment of the British citizenry, are not allowed to come to the fore. The media are controlled by the “Stay” proponents.

Brexit, stay or leave, is a delicate matter. Labor, hence Jeremy Corbyn, has a tendency to favor “stay” – oddly, along with some of the conservative Tories, for all the false, scare-evoking reasons propagated – unemployment, reduction in GDP, gap in trading partners, and so on. Then there is the extreme right, represented by Nigel Farage, the boss of the very Brexit party, who supports Brexit for the wrong reasons — anti-immigration, racism, bordering on xenophobia, a similar reasoning as is used by Madame Le Pen in France, who also would like to exit the EU for stricter border control, anti-immigration and racism. Ditto, for Italy’s right-wing Lega Norte Deputy PM, Matteo Salvini. This controversy of reason is confusing to the general public – and possibly even to Jeremy Corbyn, who does not want to be associated with Nigel Farage, has to vouch for “stay” – perhaps against his better understanding of Brexit’s socioeconomic advantages for Great Britain.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to reverse the promises of former PM Teresa May’s and today’s PM, Boris Johnson’s assurances that the 2016 vote result will be respected. The easiest one would be for the British Parliament to revoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which gives member states the unilateral right to quit EU membership. That’s precisely what the UK did, trigger Article 50 by the Prime Minister’s decision after the Brexit Referendum. Once this process was set in motion, it was understood that it couldn’t be stopped except by a Parliamentary vote canceling application of Article 50.

Today, that option is fully on the table. It can be done equally unilaterally and sovereignly by the UK, without the approval of the remaining 27 EU member states. Should that happen, the status quo would win, the UK would remain a EU member. No change.

Labor Leader, Jeremy Corbyn has recently hinted about introducing a no-confidence vote against PM Johnson. If Parliament accepts it, and if he wins, he would become interim PM, calling for new elections which he expects to win. His support base in the UK is growing, despite increasing – false – accusations of anti-Semitism. If he would become PM, he could indeed call for a new Brexit referendum, or simply call for a vote against Article 50. Bingo! And the UK would remain a EU member. Knowing about Cambridge Analytica’s coercive methods applied to swing public opinion, a new Brexit Referendum would likely be manipulated in favor of “stay”.

By the way, since CA’s admitted interference in the Brexit vote, it is totally conceivable that the 2016 Referendum result could be annulled as invalid, and a new referendum be launched. It’s a miracle that so far, no politician, no media, nobody, has talked about it.

In summary, might it be possible that the outcome of the June 2016 Referendum came as a surprise for the British Authorities and elite? Hence, the result was simply not acceptable? Therefore, to preserve the illusion of “democracy”, could it be possible that an entire complex construct had be conceived and built over a period of some three years, in which public opinion had to be confused to the point of losing track of the details and of specific conditions for exiting the European Union so that it could be more easily swayed into the direction of the Master’s wishes, while still pretending to be democratic? Let’s wait and see, but no surprise, if Brexit doesn’t happen.

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Read other articles by Peter.