Britain is not leaving the EU. It ain’t going anywhere. Nope. I’m going to lay down this forecast hard, right now – Brexit will be a pub trivia question ten years from now. Why am I so sure? Attorneys fees alone will keep Old Blighty right where it is.
When the news of the Brexit referendum hit America, most of us Yanks didn’t really take it too seriously. Our older cousins the Brits held a direct democratic referendum on a matter completely essential to every single one of its diplomatic and commercial interests? How strange. And ooh – they actually voted for it! You’re kidding!
Then I read colleagues from overseas talking about bursting into tears at the news, and certainly my heart went out to them. America has been making all kinds of historically tragic maneuvers in recent years, and I was sad to see the British just as capable of foolhardy political mistakes. Yet with the Brits, it seemed like nobody could think of a way out.
I had a simple solution to the problem that nobody really wanted to hear. The answer to the Brexit trap is 90 years of age and universally considered adorable. Yes, I suggested that Britain could resolve its little issue by taking advantage of the fact that technically the country is still a theocracy headed by God’s own representative at the head of the Anglican church – Elizabeth II, regina Brittaniarum. To save the United Kingdom, she could simply wave her scepter and declare that, as God’s representative through the Anglican church, she was ever so sorry, but Britain would be remaining in the European Union so thank you for coming we are pleased to have had this chat.
The Brits and Anglophiles that I bounced this off were pretty unanimous that this was a stupid idea. They gave reasons, such as this would lead to the abolition of the monarchy, the Constitution would be violated, et cetera. Again, this was an impossible, stupid idea.
I know. That was my whole point.
In which stupidity saved America and maybe the world
In the Western world, we love to believe that our systems of government are rational. Above all, we hold dear to the notion that the voters are fully capable of making wise decisions. After all, aren’t we running around fighting and dying for democracy in all of our most recent wars? And even if the voters aren’t necessarily that sharp, don’t we fundamentally believe that the technocratic mandarins that we place in charge of the boring bits all have the right skills and attitudes to guide the ship of state? Well, history is so interesting precisely because none of that is true 100% of the time.
There are some situations in which stupidity and irrationality can be more valuable than trying to keep the façade of normality. I suggest that the Queen just come out with a magic wand and cancel the referendum. This will be irrational, which will allow both the politicians and the British people to save face. Otherwise, they’re all going to have to go through with one of the stupidest political moves in history.
In America, we have some experience in this kind of policy making. In the 2000s, we allowed the banks and the housing market to go insane. We allowed millions of people to believe that their house had doubled in value overnight and let the banks steal money left and right with gusto. Not content with regular stealing, financiers constructed vast empires of illusory financial instruments to rip off even more money.
Then, it all came crashing down in the fall of 2008. Citibank owed $3 quadrillion to the Mongolians, Lehman Brothers had taken out $11 trillion in loans denominated in rupees – it was mass hysteria. The world financial system nearly collapsed.
But it was the solution to the problem that was genius.
A tight cabal comprised of Ben Bernanke, Presidents Bush and Obama, and Treasury Secretaries Paulson and Geithner made a cunning plan to fix the unfixable mistakes of the past. They decided to simultaneous say ALAKAZAAM! and put the banks back together. Bad assets? No problem, the Fed will buy them! Out of capital? Here’s some more capital! Still have bonuses to pay to criminal bankers even though you’re broke? No problem, go ahead and write those checks! ALAKAZAAM!
Now, did the million families who lost their homes perceive such magic? Nope. Were the small businesses driven under comforted by this policy? Nah. But it was determined from on high that looking corrupt and irrational was better than watch the world burn.
What happens if Britain won’t dare to be stupid?
I want you to imagine the sheer number of contracts that will need to be re-written about non-trivial matters if Britain actually tries to leave the EU. Just take the pharmaceutical companies located in the UK, using that English speaking nation as the base of operations for sales to the rest of Europe. Try to imagine the sheer amount of paperwork in financial agreements, trademarks, intellectual property, import and export treaties, and more. Put a price tag on the professional work required to manage that – much less suddenly changing it.
Now, multiply that times natural gas, agribusiness, military affairs, and even something as prosaic as a Canadian guitar company that just got settled in Liverpool. Brexit will not be some emotional issue of national pride. It’s going to be a technical nightmare on a scale never before witnessed. There are trillions of pounds sterling worth of transactions that will be disrupted in some manner, and that will take billions of pounds of barristers’ fees just to get around them.
Of course, there will be the issue of making democracy somehow look impotent or illegitimate if they ignore the will of the people. True, that will look bad, and it will make everyone in the Western world consider the fundamental issues of elitism, technocratic rule, and the ability to self-govern. But let’s face it – the British people did not fully understand the implications of what they were voting for. Neither did their politicians, almost all of whom have been run out of town for putting the country in this position.
And so I return to the magic wand theory of governance. Sure, the Queen doesn’t normally do stuff like this, but these are not normal times. It will be a bit awkward. Everyone will know that this was a mistake that required a silly response.
Then, life will go on. And dealing with real problems instead of man-made catastrophes isn’t silly at all.
“The Brexit Club” graphics courtesy of the brilliant Christhebarker.