It’s hard to find a more bullish start to a year than this one. There were “blockbuster” inflows of capital into stocks, as well as corporate and emerging markets bonds, according to the latest analysis by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
This year, the UK government must come up with solutions to the main crises that eat away at some ordinary Britons’ well-being. One of these is the housing crisis, which continues unabated despite the billions of pounds thrown at the problem.
As 2017 draws to a close, people in Britain are beginning to realise how seriously they were deceived by the Leave side promoters before the June 2016 EU referendum.
The catalyst of this realisation is the news that Britain will return to its “iconic” blue passport, a symbol of the country’s “sovereignty”, as Prime Minister Theresa May herself called it.
“The UK passport is an expression of our independence and sovereignty — symbolising our citizenship of a proud, great nation. That’s why we have announced that the iconic #bluepassport will return after we leave the European Union in 2019,” she said on Twitter.
This reply on Twitter is the essence of why I believe this to be a crucial moment when it comes to people realising how deceitful the Leave campaign was:
The #bluepassport fiasco might rebound on T May by showing those Remain voters who’d apparently resigned themselves to #Brexit, & Leave voters beginning to wonder if it’s really up their street, just what a silly, totemic, ideological, empty farce #Brexit really is
— Sarah Ludford #FBPE (@SarahLudford) December 22, 2017
Many people took to Twitter to point out that their old passports were black, not blue, and rather dull-looking. Others wondered if the prize was worth the price, both figuratively and literally.
Here’s one example:
FFS, I don't want a fucking #bluepassport, I want a caring, inclusive, welcoming, outward-looking, economically stable Britain, where bigotry, xenophobia & racism are confined to the 20th century dustbin where they should be.
— That bloke who looks a bit like… (@SpareElbowSkin) December 22, 2017
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) December 22, 2017
Some warned the British citizens that once out of the EU, it will not be the colour of the passport that will matter, but the doors it will open.
The blue passport saga is a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Brexit vote: The public debate was hijacked by a group of people who promoted narrow views with dishonest means.
People were lied to about what the EU’s relationship with Britain was, and were promised far more than what can realistically be achieved by leaving the EU.
Before the EU referendum in 2016, the Leave campaign said that nobody was threatening Britain’s place in the Single Market. They gave assurances that not only will Britain keep its Single Market access while getting rid of freedom of movement for EU citizens, but it will also be striking out new trade deals in no time.
The reality turns out to be quite different. So far, the EU has not even hinted at the possibility that Britain will keep its place in the Single Market, while other countries are still waiting to see what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU before seriously starting trade talks.
The immigration genie is not back in the bottle; it has, in fact, been liberated by the Brexit vote, as the fast-growing emerging market countries with whom Britain tries to strike trade deals rightfully point out that relaxing immigration controls should be part of the negotiations.
The case of the blue passport is symbolic for another reason, as well. As with many things to do with Brexit, it has come to light that in fact the EU never forbade any country to choose whatever colour it wished for its passport.
As Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, pointed out, the burgundy- coloured passports are the result of a recommendation of the EU, but they are not compulsory. The UK could have chosen to ignore that recommendation, and it did not.
There is no EU legislation dictating passport colour. The UK could have had any passport colour it wanted and stay in the EU https://t.co/bkQX0T0F2Q
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 23, 2017
Finally, an ironic tweet seems to embed the essence of what the Brexit process will do to Britain, if it continues.
Roses are red
Passports are blue
Please stand over there, sir
In the laughing stock queue#bluepassport
— Hans Niesund #FBPE 🇬🇧🇪🇺 (@HansNiesund) December 26, 2017
It looks increasingly like a second referendum on the final deal, with the option of voting to remain in the EU, should be put high on the agenda for 2018.
A study about corruption published in December puts forth an interesting, and troubling, conclusion: some countries in the European Union perceive themselves as less corrupt than they actually are.
Brexit and Bitcoin both start with the letter “b”. Does the similarity stop here? As it turns out, no. Both these words refer to concepts that are quite alike. Of the two, Bitcoin is probably the least toxic.
A recent working paper published by the International Monetary Fund looks at the impact of unconventional monetary policy on an open economy, taking Canada’s case as an example.
The paper’s main finding is that unconventional monetary policy by the Canadian central bank has had expansionary effects on the Canadian economy. Continue reading
Continental Western Europe, and the European Union in particular, have often been criticised as stagnant bureaucracies that impede creativity and growth. The US and UK economies have been praised as the places to go for people who wanted to see their careers thrive.
It is true that the Anglo-Saxon model, with its focus on free markets, works best for entrepreneurial types – witness the absolute dominance of Silicon Valley in the world of tech, or the City of London in banking.
And yet, when it comes to developing, attracting and retaining talent, it looks like the EU — or at least Western Europe and countries associated with the EU — are still the best places.
As we are about to hear again that there has been insufficient progress in the talks between Britain and the European Union, it becomes clearer that there never can be enough progress. The Brexit that Britain seeks simply does not exist.
Tolstoy’s famous quote about unhappy families offers a very good explanation as to why: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
As the major central banks are slowly retreating from their policy of asset purchases, we will probably witness some of the side effects of this withdrawal.
Warren Buffett famously said that “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” The tide is going out only slowly, but we are beginning to see, at least in the UK, the damage the ultra loose monetary policy has done.
Central banks are still worried about the danger of deflation, even though they have timidly started to lift interest rates. How else would they explain real negative rates almost everywhere in the developed economies?