Prime Minister Boris Johnson will surely say that he got “Brexit done”, as he promised. However, in a sense, Brexit is only just beginning.
Among developed countries investors, there are various interpretations of the strength of the commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in emerging markets, ranging from the cynical to the idealistic.
The cynical view would be that there can be no “real” ESG in emerging markets because too often they are plagued by corruption, therefore investors cannot trust what companies in these countries report.
The idealistic view, on the other hand, would see every little step towards introducing ESG as a wonderful sign that these countries are finally deciding to adopt the same values as Western democracies.
While both extremes are wrong, sadly even the moderate take misses the main difference between emerging markets and developed ones: the effect of development itself on ESG — and in particular on the “E”.
If after the great financial crisis of 2007-2009 the word “extraordinary” characterised monetary policy, the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a much stronger adjective: “unprecedented”.
As the world has never before been faced with an instance when virtually all economic activity stopped for a certain period of time, this is an appropriate word. However, in monetary policy really very little can be said to be truly “unprecedented”.
For example, take modern monetary theory (MMT) — a theory about how to have your (monetary) cake and eat it, which (simplistically) states that if a country can print its own currency, that country will never default on its debt because it can create as much currency as it wants to and use it to pay back the debt.
Major central banks, to a certain degree, have already begun versions of MMT.
As the day of Brexit approaches (or not), emotions are running high. Particularly on the side of those wanting to remain in the European Union, there has been unprecedented unity and clarity in pushing for a deeper understanding of what the EU actually is.
However, this may come too late. A fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding of the EU is the root of the problems facing the UK today – not just the British government’s negotiation efforts, but also the public at large. Let’s look first at the main thing that sets the British apart from the people on the continental EU.
Brexit may be the most prominent attack on the European Union’s four freedoms, but it is by no means the only one. Subtler attacks are multiplying. If they are allowed to continue unchallenged, the EU will eventually crumble.
If Brexit does happen on March 29 this year, it will happen under the strangest possible presidency of the European Union: the Romanian presidency. While the role of president of the EU is all about openness, transparency and a love of democracy, the Romanian government seems to increase its preference for the opposites of these features.
Two years after the Brexit vote, the UK population is as divided and as shocked as it was immediately after the results were announced, if not more so. The difference is that the negative economic consequences of the vote are in sharper focus.
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.
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.
The scenes in Catalonia, where local authorities say more than 400 people were hurt by police, are reminiscent of violent scenes in Eastern Europe that have tested, time and again, the European Union.