A bicycle on a steep downward slope towards a brick wall

As a hard Brexit looms (nothing has changed here—it is still the legal default[1]), as Boris Johnson’s government keeps pedaling its bicycle at a brick wall,[2] and as plotters plot to prevent it but lack a certain path to do so,[3] there was a suggestion that a “humble petition” might be passed by Parliament asking the Queen to travel to Brussels to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline.[4] “Earlier this week, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, threatened to send the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to Buckingham Palace ‘in a cab’ taxi to tell the Queen that the Opposition would be Labour is ‘taking over’ if Mr Johnson were to lose a no-confidence vote but refused to resign.”[5] (Would he bow?[6] Inquiring minds want to know.) It appears Her Majesty isn’t interested.[7]

Which is to say that Parliament, the very same Parliament that hasn’t been able to agree on any Brexit option,[8] will have to get its shit together.[9] To say I am skeptical about the prospects for this happening would understate it; I might be wrong, but I think this impossible.

I now think a hard Brexit is all but certain.

Yesterday (August 9), I noted that a hard Brexit is one of a number of factors in the possibility of a stock market crash and global recession that a number of folks are predicting.[10] I’m not competent to make such forecasts myself and I don’t know that the crash and economic downturn will indeed materialize. But there will certainly be collateral damage from a hard Brexit simply because no country’s economic system—not even North Korea’s—exists in isolation. I just don’t know how much, how widespread, or how that collateral damage interacts with other factors in that possibility.

One of the problems of systems theory is that I can see possible tipping points and hypothesize that some things are not going to be the same. But this is an emergent situation. How it plays is unknown. The one thing I can tell you for certain is that anyone who claims to know is an arrogant asshole, full of shit.

In reality, that applies to Brexit itself as well. The feedbacks in Parliament might yet prevent the worst. I’m just not seeing it.

  1. [1]Jack Maidment, “Brexit latest news: Theresa May’s deal defeated again by 58 votes – PM hints at general election to break deadlock,” Telegraph, March 29, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/29/brexit-latest-news-theresa-may-final-push-mps-prepare-vote-withdrawal/; Peter Walker, “Could parliament’s latest amendment stop no-deal Brexit?” Guardian, July 18, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/18/could-parliaments-latest-amendment-stop-no-deal-brexit; Josh Wilson, “No-deal Brexit odds: Latest predictions on leaving the EU without a deal,” Telegraph, August 2, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/0/no-deal-brexit-odds-latest-predictions-leaving-eu-without-deal/
  2. [2]Karla Adam and William Booth, “Could Boris Johnson’s ‘no-deal’ Brexit break up the United Kingdom?” Washington Post, July 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/could-boris-johnsons-no-deal-brexit-crack-up-the-united-kingdom/2019/07/29/b871ebac-b1e6-11e9-acc8-1d847bacca73_story.html; David Benfell, “The Disunited Kingdom,” Not Housebroken, July 31, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/31/the-disunited-kingdom/; David Benfell, “Boris Johnson might think he’s playing poker with the European Union, but he’s actually playing ‘chicken’—with a brick wall,” Not Housebroken, August 2, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/02/boris-johnson-might-think-hes-playing-poker-with-the-european-union-but-hes-actually-playing-chicken-with-a-brick-wall/; David Benfell, “The hatless mad hatters,” Not Housebroken, August 4, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/04/the-hatless-mad-hatters/; Daniel Boffey and Rowena Mason, “Boris Johnson has no intention of renegotiating Brexit deal, EU told,” Guardian, August 5, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/05/no-deal-brexit-is-boris-johnsons-central-scenario-eu-told; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Irish deputy PM Coveney: No deal Brexit would mean customs checks in Ireland,” July 21, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-politics-49062367/irish-deputy-pm-coveney-no-deal-brexit-would-mean-customs-checks-in-ireland; Amanda Ferguson and William Booth, “Northern Ireland’s politicians don’t agree on much. Except that Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit would be a disaster,” Washington Post, July 31, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/northern-irelands-politicians-dont-agree-on-much-except-that-boris-johnsons-no-deal-brexit-would-be-a-disaster/2019/07/31/c209affa-b2eb-11e9-acc8-1d847bacca73_story.html; Gwynne Dyer, “Boris Johnson is quite possibly the last prime minister of the United Kingdom,” Hamilton Spectator, July 24, 2019, https://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/9515926-gwynne-dyer-boris-johnson-is-quite-possibly-the-last-prime-minister-of-the-united-kingdom/; Peter Foster and Camilla Tominey, “Boris Johnson warned that ‘no deal’ Brexit will require return of ‘direct rule’ in Northern Ireland,” Telegraph, July 26, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/07/26/boris-johnson-warned-no-deal-brexit-will-require-return-direct/; Nick Hopkins, “UK less able to cope with hard Brexit than it was in spring, say officials,” Guardian, August 1, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/01/uk-less-able-to-cope-with-hard-brexit-than-in-spring-say-officials; Conor Humphries, “Irish PM says hard Brexit would raise issue of Irish unification,” Telegraph, July 27, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-ireland-nireland-idUSKCN1UL280; Steven Morris, “No-deal Brexit would endanger rural life, says Welsh leader,” Guardian, July 30, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/30/no-deal-brexit-would-endanger-rural-way-of-life-says-welsh-leader; Lisa O’Carroll and Rowena Mason, “Johnson told no-deal Brexit will crush domestic policy plans,” Guardian, July 28, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/28/boris-johnson-ifg-no-deal-brexit-crush-domestic-policy-plans; Anna Mikhailova et al, “Michel Barnier rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘unacceptable’ Brexit plan,” Telegraph, July 25, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/25/boris-johnson-new-prime-minister-cabinet-parliament-brexit-latest/; Séamas O’Reilly, “Hard Brexiters’ stance on the Irish border is nonsense – I can tell you, I grew up there,” Guardian, August 7, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/07/northern-ireland-hard-border-brexit-customs; Andrew Sentance and David Blanchflower, “‘No-deal Brexit talk has hit home hard’ – two experts debate the data,” Guardian, July 31, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jul/31/no-deal-brexit-talk-has-hit-home-hard-two-experts-debate-the-data; Heather Stewart, Lisa O’Carroll, and Daniel Boffey, “Brussels repels Boris Johnson’s quest for new Brexit deal,” Guardian, July 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/25/brussels-throws-out-boris-johnsons-plans-to-alter-brexit-deal; Tim Wallace, “‘Very real’ recession risk as economy contracts for first time in seven years,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2019/08/09/recession-risk-now-real-economy-contracts-first-time-seven-years/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Okay, so really now, assuming they choose to do so, how do the British avoid a hard Brexit?” Not Housebroken, July 26, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/07/26/okay-so-really-now-assuming-they-choose-to-do-so-how-do-the-british-avoid-a-hard-brexit/; Edward Malnick, “Dominic Cummings tells MPs: you’ve missed your chance to stop no-deal Brexit,” Telegraph, August 3, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/08/03/dominic-cummings-tells-mps-missed-chance-stop-no-deal-brexit/; Oliver Wright, “Could Brexit rebels scupper conference season?” Times, August 8, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/could-brexit-rebels-scupper-conference-season-q7hqdh9w0
  4. [4]Nicholas Watt, “Brexit: Scheme to block no deal ‘could involve Queen,’” British Broadcasting Corporation, July 18, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-49040128
  5. [5]Christopher Hope and Harry Yorke, “Buckingham Palace and Downing Street plan to keep the Queen out of looming constitutional crisis over Brexit,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/08/09/buckingham-palace-downing-street-plan-keep-queen-looming-constitutional/
  6. [6]Alex Finnis, “Why Jeremy Corbyn was actually correct not to bow to the Queen,” ShortList, June 22, 2017, https://www.shortlist.com/news/why-jeremy-corbyn-was-actually-correct-not-to-bow-to-the-queen
  7. [7]Christopher Hope and Harry Yorke, “Buckingham Palace and Downing Street plan to keep the Queen out of looming constitutional crisis over Brexit,” Telegraph, August 9, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/08/09/buckingham-palace-downing-street-plan-keep-queen-looming-constitutional/
  8. [8]Heather Stewart, Jessica Elgot, and Rowena Mason, “Brexit: May calls for cabinet showdown as MPs reject all options,” Guardian, April 2, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/01/brexit-deadlock-continues-as-mps-fail-to-find-compromise
  9. [9]Oliver Wright, “Could Brexit rebels scupper conference season?” Times, August 8, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/could-brexit-rebels-scupper-conference-season-q7hqdh9w0
  10. [10]The factors I listed include a tech bubble, Donald Trump’s trade war against China, Brexit, a housing bubble (yes, again, but apparently not so much in the U.S.), an idea that what has been going up for so long must surely come down (we are unlikely to have eliminated the “economic cycle”), and that the Federal Reserve has limited options to deal with a downturn in David Benfell, “Forsaken,” Irregular Bullshit, August 9, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/08/09/forsaken/ Update: John Kemp thinks we may already be in a recession in “Global economy is probably in recession,” Reuters, August 7, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-global-economy-kemp/column-global-economy-is-probably-in-recession-idUKKCN1UX1OF

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