Brexit or what?

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From the financial and political confusion in the United Kingdom

When I started drafting this paper, Liz Truss, the new British prime minister at the time, had just begun, under pressure from her party and the public, to dismantle her "mini-budget" with which she wanted to combat the economic and financial crisis. I wanted to write about the shortcomings of that program, which had a lot of ideological baggage poured into it, and also about what proportion of the Brexit to the special crisis situation in Great Britain. Then, on October 20, 2022, the expected for Liz Truss but embarrassing resignation. In the midst of the crisis, she plunged her country into political chaos. Fundamental questions about the ability of the British Conservatives to govern and the future of conservatism now arose. How things will continue in Great Britain is open. I dare not make any predictions.

Brexit or what? – On the financial and political confusion in the United Kingdom

There were - and still are - two terrible plagues that have afflicted the world and also the people of Europe: the corona pandemic and, since February 24, 2022, the Russian attack on Ukraine. The Chinese government may be held responsible for the rapid spread of Corona because it did not warn the world of the outbreak of the disease in good time. For the war in Europe wears the Russian President Vladimir Putin the responsibility; it is Putin's war. 

But as if two plagues and their aftermath weren't enough, the UK is being joined by the aftermath of a third plague: the aftermath of the Brexit, for which the Conservative politicians of the former EU member are responsible on the one hand and a slim majority of British voters on the other hand who voted in the referendum on 23 June 2016 for "leave" have voted. The ones from the Brexiteers The great future promised and expected by many without the shackles of the boo-men-hyped bureaucrats in Brussels has not yet become visible – on the contrary. For example, while the remaining 27 EU members are shouldering the consequences of the pandemic together - not least with the European recovery plan "Next Generation EU", for which the EU is taking out large-scale loans for the first time in its history – Britain is alone in facing the three plagues rampant there.  David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson had to bring the front door key Number 10 Downing Street give back and in the meantime was also Liz Truss the fourth victim of the plagues and their own party, which does not agree on the ways and means of combating it. "We can now watch the most successful political party in world history collapse in real time," she said Heilbronn voice Richard Murphy from the Sheffield University Management School (Heilbronner voice, 6.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Backing for Tories is fading").

There may be a great deal of personal failure behind the failure of the three – and now four – British prime ministers. But a closer look at the Sheffield scholar's note leads to the crucial question: is the Conservative Party in the UK on the verge of an end? David Cameron wanted with that Brexit-Referendum his party one again. He had expected the British to vote against leaving the EU, but he made a huge mistake. Theresa May had negotiated a detailed withdrawal agreement with Brussels, but was unable to get it through the lower house. Boris Johnson did indeed with the slogan "Get Brexit Done" won an election brilliantly, but then failed due to its own volatility and inadequacy. Johnsons Successor, so the Heilbronn voice got off to a bad start as Prime Minister, to say the least. "Only four weeks after taking office, she had lost support in large parts of the party and also in the population." The exit from the European Union - in chronological order it is actually the first plague that afflicted the British - is not solely to blame for today's Tory calamities. But they got intoxicated too soon and underestimated the consequences or downplayed the supposed trick they thought they had pulled on the EU. 

Auch Liz Truss succumbed to this paradigm when, on October 5, 2022, at the British Conservatives’ Annual Meeting in Birmingham explained: “Where ever there is change, there is disruption” – “Whenever there are changes, there are also shocks.” Wants (or wanted) to change Trussing especially the economic and financial policies of their country. As she said, she wants to end the times of economic policy orthodoxy and usher in a period of growth. The consequences of this approach Liz Truss describes the New York Times in a detailed report from the Conservative Party Convention in Birmingham: “In her chaotic first month in office, Ms. Truss' plans to cut taxes have shaken up financial markets, sent the pound plummeting, caused a departure from a core element of her plans, created confusion about the timing of her government's fiscal plans and sparked a round of skirmishes between her Cabinet ministers and leading Conservative MPs that caused uproar at the annual conference" (, 5.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Liz Truss, Facing Disruption of Her Own, Promises UK Rapid Change”). 

The Süddeutsche Zeitung saw "a prime minister in free fall" and credits her report on the Tory party conference in Birmingham with describing the blunders of Liz Truss similar to that New York Times:  “She announced tax cuts for the rich, shocked the financial markets, the country anyway. And this time, at the Tories' convention, there will be no singing, but arguing. Liz Truss and the question: How much can a head of government get wrong in 29 days?” There is a deeper reason for the excitement among the Tories: “It is in the polls Labor Party clearly ahead of the Conservatives, with 25 - 33 percentage points, the last time the lead was that big was twenty years ago, when Tony Blair carried away the British. A poll published on Wednesday by YouGov came to the conclusion that Liz Truss is currently not only less popular with the population than Boris JohnsonBut also as Jeremy Corbyn, the former ultra-left Labor leader who was considered largely unelectable" (, October 5.10.2022, XNUMX: "A Prime Minister in Free Fall").

Liz Truss and her Chancellor of the Exchequer kwasi kwarteng failed with a core part of their mini-budget (supplementary budget) because they found themselves in a contradiction between aspiration and reality that they were not able to cope with. With their plan to remove the maximum tax rate of 45 percent for the wealthiest part of society and the upper limit for banker bonuses Trussing and Kwaiteng not only operated tactically unwisely, they also violated an invisible line of fairness. "We didn't know where the money for the tax cuts would come from Trussing and her Chancellor of the Exchequer openly,” she writes Suddeutsche Zeitung. “The financial markets then went so crazy that the Bank of England had to intervene by buying government bonds. The pound plummeted, several banks had to withdraw their offers of credit" (, October 5.10.2022, XNUMX: "A Prime Minister in Free Fall").

Paul Krugman warned in his column in the New York Times that in times of crisis the idea must be conveyed that everyone is affected. The political blunders of Trussing and Kwaiteng describes Krugman So: "In such times, lowering taxes on the rich, who are anyway less affected by higher energy prices than people on low incomes, sends the message that only the little people have to bear the burden. This message is particularly toxic now that the British public is already angered by cutbacks in public services, particularly health care... It is difficult to govern effectively when it angers the greater part of the population" (, 3.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "How Liz Truss Did So Much Damage in So Few Days"; opinion comment from Paul Krugman).

A turning point - also in the economic and financial policy of the conservatives?

Similar to 2008 when the collapse of the Lehman Bank in New York triggered a financial and economic crisis not only in the USA but also in Europe - it had already announced itself in the United States - the mistake of the British Conservatives triggered a fundamental debate on financial policy and science. Paul Krugman, In his commentary, the 2008 Nobel Prize-winning economist first asks for indulgence for the sense of glee that center-left politicians (including himself) are currently feeling. Krugman uses the German term Schadenfreude, which is also well understood in the USA. He points out that conservatives have repeatedly warned of rising interest rates that would be triggered by the announcement of higher public spending. And he describes what actually happened in Conservative Britain: the market did not react to excessive spending, the market reacted to irresponsible tax cuts, which were also supposed to be financed with debt. Doubts about the competence of Trussing and Kwaiteng were not least vocal when they justified their proposal with the dubious claim that the reduction in the upper tax rates would generate a strong growth spurt. 

Marc Beise worked in the economics section Süddeutsche Zeitung with similar questions. At the beginning of his comment he writes: “The new British government has made a spectacular reversal in the top tax rate. You can learn from that in Germany, too.” bite bezeichnet Liz Truss as a supporter of the old "trickle-down thesis" that was popular in the US President's era Ronald Reagan popularized that the income gains experienced by the rich in a society gradually trickled down to the middle classes and the poorer in society, more than that it was even claimed that more money for the rich was a mandatory requirement for income gains in the remainder of the population. Different to Paul Krugman, who described himself as “centre-left” in his NYT commentary, pleads bite especially for a balanced financial policy: “…at the latest during the financial crisis of 2008, the world saw that it is not wise to rely unilaterally on banks and financial investors and expect them to promote general prosperity. ... In the end it's about pursuing a balanced economic, financial and tax policy. The government Trussing for example, it would have been easier if their tax concept had been better thought out. Collecting the top tax rate of 45 percent would have meant that well-earning medium-sized companies would have had the same tax rate as multi-millionaires - that is neither fair nor communicable. The government should also have prepared smart measures to relieve the burden on lower and middle incomes. Clever politics means: to consider all this and put it into an overall concept" (, October 4.10.2022, XNUMX: "Everything for the top earners?"; comment by Marc Beise).  

Social cohesion is important

Liz Truss and kwasi kwarteng  were unable to convey their financial and tax policy ideas to the British public and therefore lost the support of their party, because social cohesion is also important to conservatives in times of crisis. If the weaker part of society gets the impression that it is left alone in the crisis and that it is overburdened compared to the more affluent, if the weaker part of society feels that politicians are not treating it in a spirit of solidarity, this part of society not only loses trust in the representatives of this policy, but in the political system itself.

Rupert Polenz, who sat in the Bundestag for the CDU from 1994 – 2013, wrote in an article for the magazine Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurt issues concerned with conservatism and with issues of conservative politics in modern times. He began his reflections with a reference to human dignity, which applies to all people in the same way “simply because they are human…. There are no 'inferior people' to be treated as mere objects,” writes Polenz. “People are responsible subjects who make their own decisions. These can be right or wrong, good or bad, because people are neither just good nor just bad – and they can be wrong.” Polenz goes on to state that nothing is more constant than change, but also that conservatives want to slow down this change , to secure the tried and tested - a short but clever summary of the conservative policy approach. 

Liz Truss sang in during her party speech Birmingham on October 5, 2022, in praise of economic growth, citing one of the mantras of old conservatism: “When government plays too big a role, people feel small. High taxes mean that people are less willing to work overtime, look for a better job or start their own business.” This echoes the old conservative notion of the “weak state”, which is mainly made up of what happens in the markets should keep out. Decades ago, American Republicans pursued this objective with great severity, forcing the central government to dismantle its services by withdrawing funds through tax cuts. At the latest since the financial and economic crisis of 2008, this objective is no longer at the top of the agenda, even among conservatives. It is not only in the USA that the state has intervened in the market, “rescued” banks, secured savings and, above all, regulated banks. 

Liz Truss and her Chancellor of the Exchequer are caught in a bind that Polez describes: "When 'preserving the tried and tested', conservatives are in danger of only looking at their own, possibly privileged situation and overlooking the fact that the situation has not proven itself for large parts of society." (Neue Gesellschaft/Frankfurter Hefte No. 10/2022; Rupert Polenz"The World Is Not Black and White - Thoughts on Conservatism and Progress"). 

Rupert Polenz has described a dilemma here that conservatives can already encounter when designing their policy approach: their policy measures are therefore not accurate because they look too much through their own glasses during the analysis. Have another dilemma Polez not mentioned: A policy that primarily tries to preserve the 'tried and tested' runs the risk of causing a reform backlog.  Richard Meng, the editor-in-chief of New society/Frankfurt booklets refers in the editorial of the already cited issue of this journal to the previous federal government and describes the political style of Angela Merkel as “management of the present”. "Preservation of the tried and tested" - perhaps this is one reason why the former chancellor often reacted cautiously to the EU reform proposals of the French president. If you don't go into too much detail, the EU has moved and achieved a lot since it was founded. So why initiate a difficult argument about change? In my opinion, however, the reform backlog in the structures of the EU has become immense and Merkel is not solely responsible for this. "The time of Neoliberalism is over: mrs Trussing failed with that in Great Britain," said the present day Gerhard Baum – born in 1932 and a veteran of the liberals – in an interview (, 22.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "One day Putin will stand trial").

Does conservatism have a future?

These and similar fundamental questions are often discussed, for example in sophisticated magazines or in circles of thoughtful people. However, these discussions are usually hardly noticed by the general public. But the chaotic failure of Britain's Conservative government in the midst of a crisis has made this discussion very public and interesting. Gustav Seibt, Literary critic, essayist, historian and collaborator of Süddeutsche Zeitung, wrote in a review of recent events in the UK: "The chaos in the Tories once again raises the question: what exactly is conservative and what would it be good for?" seibt mentions the observation: Where there are strong conservative parties, right-wing enraged citizens and enemies of the system are less popular .... "Generally speaking, conservative thinking and conservative politics react to changing states of progress with the impulse of preservation and delay. Above all, conservatism stabilizes in traditional milieus.” And seibt poses the current question: What about the actual political conservatives? His answer: “Looking around the world, they now appear to be forces of subversion rather than preservation. In Poland and Hungary they are transforming the state into illiberal majority democracies without a traditional balance of power. In the United States, they are aligning themselves with a former President who is not afraid to jeopardize sacred constitutional procedures by inciting a mob to storm Parliament.” 

In Britain, a triple crisis – leaving the EU, the pandemic and Putin's war – has brought much hardship and will bring more. The basic discussion triggered by this is necessary; she will be captioned "turning point" get even wider. Gustav Seibt explains that the basic emotion of the conservative is not anger but sadness. "Sorrow is for the irretrievably lost, while anger sees painful change as a crime." 

How is in this basic discussion of Brexit classify? Was and is it progress or will it preserve what is worth preserving for Britain? “Where does Brexit lie in such coordinates and distinctions?” asks Gustav Seibt in his SZ consideration. I will quote his longer and sobering statement: "Its proponents dreamed of a traditional England, the Empire and Isle, in Shakespeare's Silver Lake, with a sovereign Parliament rising up to the Magna Carta backdated from 1215. But one can doubt that Edmund Burke, whose "Reflections on the French Revolution" of 1791 became the basic text of all conservatism, in our time a follower of the Brexit would. Senn this abruptly cut the connections, rules and routines that had grown over two generations and that Great Britain had built up within the framework of and together with the European Union. Of the Brexit was a revolutionary act in the name of an idealized past. He was wrong in dealing with historical time because he preferred the antecedent to the past. Of the Brexit right from the start it had an ideological, impractical, essentially ahistorical streak that made it appear as actually unconservative.” And finally it pulls seibt the conclusion: “The Brexit was only a theater of conservatism, which is now possibly coming to an end in a bitter disillusionment" (, 21.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Everything in vain" by Gustav Seibt).

Described in a similarly sobering way Michele Auga, the office manager Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Britain the short reign of Liz Truss and draws a less than optimistic connecting line to Brexit: “What makes the country ungovernable is a deeply divided Tory party that has been kidnapped by ideological hardheads and in which pragmatic voices can no longer be heard at all. We are talking about an almost 200-year-old party that was instrumental in the development of democracy in Britain, but in which the self-destructive forces of the Brexit act that are decomposing. The fact is, the UK has been unstable since the 2016 referendum. However, the consequences are denied by the Tory party. Liz Truss is now after Theresa May and Boris Johnson the third prime minister to fail, the alleged Brexit dividend drive in Instead, the country has been permanently damaged" (IPG press service, 21.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: “A whole country made a guinea pig”; Interview with Michelle Auga).  

Smaller, regional newspapers are also concerned with the future of conservatism. Commented on 26.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX Norbert Wallet in der Heilbronn voice the political drama in Great Britain, "which strays between drama and farce in its bizarre scenes." Describes the rapid decline of the conservatives Wallet as follows: “The British conservatives, with their value-oriented composure, their sober pragmatism and their commitment to free world trade and tolerance, were seen as a shining example of a conservatism that is capable of change and yet fundamentally stable. In the meantime, however, the Tories, it must be said, have gone to the dogs. No leader in the party, unstable in its principles and unrestrained in the pursuit of personal career goals." (Heilbronn voice, October 26.10.2022, XNUMX: “Right-wing populist temptation”; comment by Norbert Wallet).       

The technical and technical errors of the Truss government  

Back to contemporary Britain: there – beyond the fundamental and the moral, which voters have become acutely sensitive to violating and which has infuriated the British Conservatives against the new leadership – Trussing and Kwaiteng also made technical and technical mistakes, which large parts of the economy and science and even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have criticizedIt's hard to put together that the Bank of England together with the central banks in other countries, increased the key interest rate in order to dampen demand and thus inflation, and at the same time the British government announced that it would generate more purchasing power through tax cuts and thus also the risk of rising inflation. The British central bank had and still has its hands full performing a difficult balancing act during the truss government has apparently accepted rising inflation in view of its primary goal of “growth”. Also the one already quoted Paul Krugman doubts the professional competence of Trussing and Kwaiting: "It's never good when economists at leading banks declare that the country's ruling party has become a doomsday cult."    

The abolition of the top tax rate was revised after a few days. A few days later came the next reversal: Trussing now supported the of Boris Johnson announced increase in corporate tax they are in Birmingham had also pulped. It is not entirely clear whether the new head of government has understood the longer-term financial policy problems and connections. In her speech on October 5.10.2022, XNUMX in Birmingham she explained - and her eyes got bigger and bigger: "I have three priorities: Growth, growth, growth” (, 5.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "I have three priorities: growth, growth, growth"). The reduction in the top tax rate was now off the table. But - so reported the Süddeutsche Zeitung – “There are other projects that should result in citizens having more money in their pockets. For example, the so-called basic tax rate will fall from 20 to 19 percent. Added to this are the reductions in social security contributions and tax breaks for companies. All of this is intended to boost consumer demand, which, however, should result in prices tending to rise – and thus inflation” (, 11.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "London battles for financial market confidence"). It should be mentioned again here: The financing of all these program items was unclear; loans would probably have had to be taken out for this purpose.      

A headline in the New York Times describes in a few words the dilemma in which the new British government found itself: "Liz Truss believed in the markets, but the markets didn't believe in them". In a guest article worth reading, the Canadian historian describes Quinn Slobodian (as of 2015 at Wellesley College near Boston, Mass.) connecting lines of Liz Truss and kwasi kwarteng to the imagination of Margaret Thatcher, who was British Prime Minister from 1979-1990. Mark Thatcher and the followers of Thatcherism – in the USA they operated Reaganomics with similar assumptions - praised the creative power of the largely unregulated markets and therefore did not concern themselves too much with the steering mechanisms of economic policy. Quinn Slobodian quoted in his guest post Margaret Thatcher with the sentence: “Economics are the methods; the goal is to change hearts and souls.” For them Thatcherites was: "Beyond the statistics and economic theories, the feeling remains that many of Britain's problems have their roots in the area of ​​cultural values ​​and mentality." The future must therefore begin with a revival of the Victorian values are shaped by hard work, training and self-reliance, without outside help. "Britain is now their laboratory" quoted slobodian a journalist (, 19.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Liz Truss Believed in Markets, but the Markets Did Not Believe in Her"; guest post by Quinn Slobodian).  

In the current situation, the balancing act between the government's financial policy, which wanted to boost growth with lots of money, and the bank of england, which wanted to siphon off purchasing power with higher interest rates in order to get inflation under control. These two important actors were and are not only in Great Britain in a tense relationship due to their different tasks. In the New York Times describes this tension as follows: “Central banks around the world are raising interest rates to fight inflation, and this is making it harder for governments to borrow and spend. This creates tension - if not outright conflict - between central bankers and elected leaders" (, 4.10.2022: "Economists Nervously Eye the Bank of England's Market Rescue"). The two players appeared unable to agree on a common line in the UK and markets panicked. – No wonder the Keynesians Paul Krugman feels "Schadenjoy" over all this.

What a finale...

…. also for this part of my paper. The top report of the "ARD Tagesschau at five" on Friday, October 14.10.2022th, XNUMX read: "Prime Minister Trussing fires finance minister. The media commented on this step as a classic pawn sacrifice, because the Southern German newspaper: The Tories are apparently discussing the Prime Minister's ouster.” It was getting tight for Liz Truss itself. The common U-turn of Trussing and Kwaiteng at the top tax rate was not enough. Kwaiteng had to go and Trussing now stood alone in the storm she had blown herself. Should it happen to her like her role model Margaret Thatcher, which was also dismissed by your own party in 1990?

And – to anticipate the end: declared after 44 days in office of the Prime Minister Liz Truss her resignation on October 20.10.2022, XNUMX. "Trussing leaves office during one of the country's worst crises," she wrote Heilbronner Voice (Heilbronner Voice, 21.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "The game is over").

Brexit - Britain's invisible third plague

Back to the three plagues that are plaguing the United Kingdom and that were mentioned at the beginning. As in other countries, the current crisis has its roots in the pandemic and in Putin's war. Nobody argues about that in Britain. Also Liz Truss cited Covid and Putin's war in Ukraine as the causes of the global crisis. The negative consequences of Brexit didn't mention her. your predecessor Boris Johnson had repeatedly spoken of the great prospects for the future of the country without the bullying from Brussels. "We want our country back!" they said Brexiteers repeatedly requested. Now they have their country back - and a crisis and leadership chaos to boot. From the EU program "Next Generation Europe" Great Britain does not benefit. The country is “outside” and on its own.

That Liz Truss in Birmingham not about the negative effects of Brexit spoke for the British economy is understandable. She wanted to give a "departure speech"; her motto was: "Moving on up".  “We are the party that Brexit done and we will keep the promises of Brexit realize ... We are using the new freedoms outside the European Union ... Day and night I think about how we can get this country moving, "said Trussing on 5.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX in Birmingham. At times her speech sounded as if the Conservatives had just won an election and needed to wake the country from a deep sleep. But were her three predecessors— Cameron, May, and Johnson – not from the same party?

Trussing spoke in October 2022 about the Brexit similarly optimistic and unrealistic as its predecessor Boris Johnson IOctober 2021 - long before the start of the Ukraine war, when there were "only" two crises in Great Britain. the New York Times reported extensively at the time: “Wages are rising in some industries because employers cannot find enough workers.” The report includes photos – taken in September 2021 – of empty shelves in a supermarket and of closed petrol stations in Manchester. The reason at the time was not that there was no food or fuel, but rather that there were not enough truck drivers to transport goods from “A” to “B”. Many truck drivers in Great Britain originally came from Eastern Europe. When the companies had to close down at the beginning of the pandemic, many went back to their countries of origin. When they were later needed again, they had long since found a new job in their home country or elsewhere in Europe. The few who wanted to return to Britain now had great difficulties with the new immigration regulations of the Post-Brexit time. Certainly, the labor and skills shortage was and is not just a British problem. But the combination of the pandemic and Brexit created a very special situation in Great Britain: “The Brexit discouraged immigrants from Eastern Europe from coming as truck drivers while new customs formalities disrupted freight traffic at the ports," wrote the New York Times. In contrast, celebrated Boris Johnson this calamity as part of the country's urgently needed economic reorganization: "The Brexit brought us an advantage Britain has been missing for more than a decade: rising wages.” 

Others explained the actual connections: “So far, this is pure rhetoric. There is no concrete plan as to how this (the development of a well educated and well paid UK workforce) is actually going to be achieved,” said Bernd Brandl, Professor of Management at Durham University. Adam S Posen, a former member of the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England described this rise in wages as a one-off; the employee side was not permanently strengthened in wage negotiations. "The fundamental problems will not be fixed" (, 20/21.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Boris Johnson Claims a Positive in Britain's Shortage, Economics Disagree”). It may be that the labor problem will be solved at some point, but that a number of international companies will move their European headquarters from the island to the Republic Ireland or moved to the continent to remain present in the EU is not so easily revised. The American chip manufacturer Intel had intended to invest in other operations in the UK.  Intel is now looking around in EU countries (, 20/21.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Boris Johnson Claims a Positive in Britain's Shortages. Economists Disagree”).

It should be mentioned again: A year ago there were two causes of the crisis in Great Britain: Brexit and pandemic, which the conservative government also had to deal with in the public debate. But it understood far better than its successor Boris Johnson, to reinterpret the reality of the crisis in his own way. Liz Truss declared on 5.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX in Birmingham: We are the party that Brexit has and will fulfill the promises of Brexit implement it.” But it failed with its economic program in record time. With the statement “We are the party who got Brexit done" wanted Liz Truss finally put an end to this issue that is still haunting the country. "After six years Brexit there is a certain yearning for calm and stability in the UK. But there is no rest in this country, not now, not in birmingham, and certainly not with Liz Truss" keeps Michael Neudecker the Conservatives and the Brexit supporters from 2016 towards (, October 5.10.2022, XNUMX: "A Prime Minister in Free Fall"). the consequences of Brexit and Brexit problems will continue to be visible in the future. 

And there is another problem that arises on the Brexit goes back and that just reappears: Die Scottish National Party (SNP) has reaffirmed its aim to hold another independence referendum and then rejoin the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP Chair and head of the regional government in Edinburgh has already announced the date for 19.10.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX. The British government in London refuses to consent to a second referendum and points out that the Scots voted to remain in the UK back in 2014. The Scottish regional government holds against it and refers to the Brexit vote from 2016 in which the Scots voted to remain in the European Union voted. To be on the safe side legally – a situation like in Spain Catalonia will Nicola Sturgeon avoid – she has taken the question of whether Scotland can vote again to the Supreme Court in London. The decision is expected in a few weeks (, 11.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "May Scotland vote again?").  

But that's not all. In Cardif, the capital of Wales, one observes exactly what is happening in terms of detachment in Scotland happens. In the country part Wales there was a slim majority in the 2016 referendum for the Brexit, but especially the farmers and especially the sheep breeders in Wales meanwhile it became clear that no more money flows from Brussels. the Frankfurter Rundschau quoted in April 2021 Richard Wyn Jones from the university Cardiff  with the hint that a lot would depend on how the situation in Scotland developed. Would there be another referendum in London despite the opposition? Scotland come, and if the Scots then voted for independence, this could also have a domino effect Wales trigger (Frankfurter Rundschau, April 26.4.2021, XNUMX: "Brexit: After Scotland, Wales turns away from London"). 

Scotland and Wales – there is another unresolved internal British issue Brexit problem: The "Northern Ireland Protocol". This part of the withdrawal agreement between Great Britain and the EU is primarily about saving the country Good Friday Agreement from 1998, with which the violent and also bloody clashes in the province belonging to Britain Ulster in Northern Ireland ended and a peace process started. Beneath a thin layer of discernment and reason simmers a long history of intolerance and hatred between England and Ireland, between Catholics and Protestants, between 'us' and 'them' and much more. In Ulster it went before Good Friday Agreement about the interpretation of this long history, superficially also about religion, but basically about the decision-making power over the future of the region. They should become part of the Irish Republic, they had decided Irish Republican Army (IRA) and also their political arm, the sense fine written into the program. It should and should remain a part of the kingdom is one of the basic demands of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Gerry Adams, the party leader of sense fine from 1983 – 2018, and the pastor and politician Ian Paisley stood for the inexorable contradiction, one could say for the fraternal dispute in the region. 

The Brexit brought that since Good Friday Agreement grown tender seedlings of reconciliation in serious danger. Britain leaving the EU had to mean that up there, between Ulster and the Republic of Ireland an EU external border is created, with all the consequences: border controls, security, police and much more - sometimes right through the territory of a community. Some farmers would have had to drive across this border every day to till their fields on the other side and endure the associated procedures. To prevent this open and visible border, the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated and signed. The goods controls do not take place between Ulster and the EU member Irish republic instead, but in the Irish Sea. This was not the commuters and the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland  affected – but whole Northern Ireland he remained a de facto member European Customs Union. For the hardliners among the Brexiteers and also for that DUP an intolerable condition. "It is no exaggeration to say that the DUP hates this protocol to the core.” In her eyes is Northern Ireland since Brexit no longer an equal part of the United Kingdom (, 27.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Blockade in Belfast"). Boris Johnson, the one before the exit agreement and thus also the Northern Ireland Protocol itself had agreed to, demanded a revision from the EU. The negotiations were tough, were interrupted in spring 2022 and made even more complicated that Johnson again the question of the jurisdiction of ECJ brought into play in the dispute between the EU and the UK.

The situation became even more complicated when the American President Joe Biden the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the US opposes any move that would upset the delicate balance in Northern Ireland could endanger. Biden is involved both politically and privately. That Good Friday Agreement was with the active support of American diplomats during the tenure of Bill Clinton come about. In addition Biden family connections to Ireland (, 18.10.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Showdown Over Northern Ireland Has a Key Offstage Player: Biden").  

Liz Truss continued the unyielding line of her predecessor, but during her short term in office there was a positive surprise: "After seven months of radio silence, negotiations between the EU and the British government have been up and running again for three weeks," reports the Suddeutsche Zeitung. However, under the government Altar not much happened in the next few weeks. "Given the chaos that Trussing triggered on the financial markets Altar for now, other topics on the agenda than the situation in Belfast(, 27.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Blockade in Belfast"). there, in Belfast, the refuses DUP since the regional elections in May 2022, in a government of the election winner sense fine to enter like this that Good Friday Agreement provides. the little one DUP will continue to try to get the new conservative government in London to put under pressure.

Despite Brexit: Great Britain is still part of Europe

January 1, 2021 was something of a public holiday for many Tories. The country had finally been "taken back" and freed from the shackles of the bureaucrats in Brussels. the Brexiteers thought Britain now had a great future. The media reported on many small and large problems that the Brexiteers hadn't even thought of before: For example, that a customs declaration was now required for parcels to the EU or that it was now becoming more difficult for young people to study or work on the mainland. There were long queues of lorries at UK ports - before 1 January 2021 because of Crown, afterwards because of the more complicated customs regulations. Smaller British firms could no longer afford the paperwork and have given up trading with the continent. I have already mentioned the exodus of workers and also international corporations from the island - the list of small and large problems could be extended. Some things have returned to normal in the meantime, some things will no longer change. 

The complicated consequences of Brexit are not only evident in British domestic politics. There are also foreign policy questions. What position will nuclear power, NATO member and former EU member Great Britain have in Europe and in the world in the future? the Brexiteers brought up the term Global Britain comes into play - to a certain extent for a more concrete description of "taking our country back" in foreign and security policy. Nicholas Westcott from the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London already described this term as "not sufficiently defined" in March 2020. "Warm words and fine phrases, and also a majority of 80 votes in the House of Commons, can show the nakedness of Britain's international position after the Brexit don't cover it up." 

Westcott describes that British foreign policy after 1945 was based on three pillars:

  • the transatlantic alliance,
  • the economic integration of Europe (since 1960),
  • the preservation of the multilateral system and international law. 

The Brexit destroyed the middle column and the other two appeared to be swaying. Therefore be Global Britain too vaguely defined as an alternative foreign policy to be useful at home and attractive abroad. 

“Economically, the UK is currently (2020) sixth in the world. But left to its own devices, it is a dwarf compared to the US, EU and China and relies on trade with other countries to ensure its own prosperity. The (British) export of goods and services amounts to around 30 percent of the British national product; import comprises another 32 percent – ​​49 percent of import and export is with EU member states Westcott and writes the one from "Global Britain" swarming Brexiteers into the family book: "Without food imports Great Britain could not survive long, and without the European market it would be lost" (European Council on Foreign Relations –, March 23.3.2020, XNUMX: "The big squeeze: British foreign policy after Brexit"; comment by Nicholas Westcott). It should be noted again at this point: This comment was published in March 2020, i.e. before the actual exit from the EU. A year and a half later, as already quoted, in the New York Times the images of empty supermarket shelves and a closed gas station in Manchester published.

Boris Johnson was enough of a realist to realize that he used the term Global Britain had to specify. This came in March 2021 with a 90-page overview of the country's new foreign and security policy. The report was mainly about emphasizing Britain's independence. The guidelines note that the upper limit of nuclear warheads in the country's arsenal is to be raised from 180 to 260 (, 16.3.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Johnson's dream of renewed strength"). Further details should not be described here, not least because Johnsons successor Liz Truss in her speech on October 5.10.2022, XNUMX in Birmingham which did not address foreign and security policy at all. The European reality - not least Putin's war against Ukraine - has now caught up with the Tories again.

Stephen Cornelius wrote on March 16.3.2021, XNUMX about the then new foreign policy guidelines of Great Britain in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Britain's immediate neighbors are mentioned in the document only in connection with NATO. The European Union, with its common foreign policy, does not feature. The USA is named as the closest ally and most important military partner. China and above all Russia are presented as a threat, but China is also seen as an important trading partner that needs to be dealt with pragmatically. Britain will turn to the Indo-Pacific region, so Johnson in Parliament.” Further stressed Johnson, that investing in research would give the country a foreign policy advantage. In this context, he spoke of a “scientific superpower” (, 16.3.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Johnson's dream of renewed strength"; Report from Stephen Cornelius).

"Dream of new strength" and "devotion to the Indo-Pacific region" - the backward-looking nature of the new approach is also noted in other reports and commentaries. Captioned "Big and Nostalgic". Stephen Cornelius another report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The government Johnson enacts foreign policy principles where ambition is at odds with reality. The EU is, of course, not in it – as if you could wish it away” (, March 16.3.2021, XNUMX: "Big and nostalgic"; Report from Stephen Cornelius). And the author and television journalist Paul Mason reported from London: “Britain is radically reassessing its place in the world. Arrogance beats a sense of reality – bad news for Europe” (IPG press service,  March 22.3.2021, XNUMX: "Empire desperately wanted"). 

A year later - one could speak of a tragic irony of fate - Putin brought the politicians in London back to Europe. In view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the British government is also supporting NATO's strategy and is on a par with the EU on sanctions against Russia - almost as if Great Britain is still there. 

But it would be far too early and downright presumptuous to dream of something like the “return of the prodigal son” to Europe now. The new British Prime Minister Rishi sunak had indeed with his resignation as finance minister in the government Johnson triggered his departure and is therefore seen by some Tories as a traitor. However, this does not mean that Altar with Johnsons political direction would be crossed. Declared at the beginning of his tenure as the new prime minister sunak, he wants to place integrity, professionalism and reliability at the center of his work. This is undoubtedly necessary; he is the fifth Tory prime minister in six years. But how does he feel about Europe? Michael Neudecker bezeichnet Altar in a comment in the Süddeutsche Zeitung than convinced Brexiteer. During his appearance in the House of Commons on October 26.10.2022, XNUMX, he accused the opposition of Brexit election not to be respected. "He didn't sound like someone who could finally unite this polarized country, but, at least at times, like a more serious version of Boris Johnson" schrieb Neudecker (, 26.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Rishi sunak speaks of integrity – but acts differently”). The European acid test will come when Altar to make decisions on the Northern Ireland question.

The next UK general election is due in 2025 at the latest. As things stand, the Tories would lose massively, but two years is a long time and what will then be the core issue of the election campaign cannot be predicted. What if there were early elections and Labour would this win and provide the prime minister? (A dubious question, because the reality is different: the Tories will not commit political suicide and call early elections). But still: What if...? Also the Labour Party has in the disputes about the Brexit not shown in a convincingly European way. But I trust the current leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer more realism than Boris Johnson and Liz TrussThe German Chancellor made an apt statement Olaf Scholz on October 15.10.2022, 27 at the Congress of the Party of European Socialists (SPE) in Berlin: "A united European Union of 30, 36, 500 states with then more than XNUMX million free and equal citizens can assert its weight even more in this world bring" (, October 15.10.2022, 36: "Scholz: EU with XNUMX states would be more powerful"). Could Britain still be left out? There is also a little bit of hope after the first meeting of Macron toasted "European Political Community" on 6.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX in Prague. Was from Great Britain Liz Truss – then British Prime Minister – on hand to explore ways of cooperating with Europe outside the spurned European Union and has even offered to host the next meeting of the European Political Community to align in Britain. In the preliminary report to the Prague meeting, she writes New York Times the post-Brexit blues of the country have recently increased (, 6.10.2022: "Macron's New Europe Debuts in the Shadow of War"). Allow me a little bit of European hope for the future...

But the current realities in Britain are different. On July 4.7.2022, XNUMX, the British daily newspaper quoted The Telegraph Sir Keir Starmer stating that he does not aspire to join the European market or any customs union. Starmer advocated to “make Brexit work” – the Brexit implement. However received Starmer for this a headwind from Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London and more Labour-Politicians. Of the Telegraph wrote from one Labor revolt on topic Brexit (, 4.7.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Sir Keir Starmer clashes with Labor over Brexit”). What at the end of this discussion at Labour comes out is open. But at least Europe is still or again being discussed on the island. The convinced European draws a little hope from this – and as is well known, hope dies last.

Reflection: Not a rosy outlook - Two comments

On 25.10.2022 has King charles iii Rishi sunak appointed the new prime minister. sunaks Calling for unity - his top priority is to bring the Conservative Party and the country back together - shows all is not well in the UK. “There is a significant section of the Conservative Party that is not under Rishi will serve,” she writes Heilbronn voice and reports on critical voices from the Tory party (Heilbronner voice, 25.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Sunak should clean up the shards"). What chances Altar and how will he with the Brexit Consequences evade? I do not dare to make any predictions about this, but rather want to quote two critical comments, one from the island and the other from the continent.

The British writer and screenwriter writes with bitter sarcasm Nick Hornby in der Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The frightening mess of the past few years is of course on the Brexit return. But it's not just because the Brexit represents a political and economic catastrophe from which we may never recover. Madness or stupidity are now necessary conditions to get a job at all. Since taking office Boris Johnson each individual member of the cabinet, if they do not want to be branded a traitor, must prove that they are unconditionally committed to the Brexit believes. It has now been proven that politicians must be either crazy or stupid if they seriously think that Brexit bring something other than shame and ruin.”  (, 23.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: “The Tories have destroyed themselves. No one sheds a tear after them.” Guest post by Nick Hornby).

Also in the Süddeutsche Zeitung schreibt Stephen Cornelius made a similarly bitter comment: "Slowly, very slowly, the Tories are emerging from the populist frenzy they have worked themselves into since 2016. Boris Johnson got this populism from the UKIP party a certain Nigel Farage taken to the heart of the system and made the Tories the party of exit from the EU - a multi-generational issue that will continue to occupy British politics. After this Brexit did for Johnson However, a problem arises that will sooner or later affect all anti-populists: For what actually he stands, what is the constructive aim of his policy? As a charismatic solo entertainer you don't create jobs and you don't solve any energy problems. And if there are character weaknesses as well, then every populist in a rational society with a functioning (media) public sphere quickly stands there naked.” At the end of his commentary Cornelius With a view to the new prime minister, the question: "Can he free the Tories from their curse and find a contemporary, international role for his country? Six years after Brexit vote Wouldn't that be bad news?" (, 24.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Rishe Sunak, the last hope of the Conservatives"). 

The new British prime minister has a Herculean task ahead of him. Cornelius writes that it Altar was that before trusses suicidal tax-cut plans and was ridiculed for being unpatriotic and almost left-wing. "Today he is the prophet who got every syllable right." Trussing had announced that they would announce the details of their future plans on October 31.10.2022, XNUMX. Altar has since postponed this to November 17.11.2022, XNUMX. the New York Times writes of an unenviable task of restoring Britain's credibility in international markets (, 26.10.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX: "Rishi sunak, New UK Leader, Delays Major Economic Plan”). I'm curious how Altar and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt with the Brexit and deal with its consequences.