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Alain Boublil Blog


The three lessons of the British disaster

Two weeks after its referendum on Brexit, the United Kingdom is confronted to a political crisis especially serious since it was completely unexpected. Referendum result was uncertain and polls have fluctuated all along the campaign. As it occurs frequently, they were wrong. The last days, they gave the “Remain” option as a winner, maybe due to the emotion generated by the assassination of the Labor M.P. Jo Cox. Bookmakers and investors shared on the same opinion. European stocks markets fall reflected the brutal reversal of speculative positions from those who had lost their bets. But, worst had yet to come. Prime Minister Cameron resigned, which was expected, but what was not expected was that the main architect of the “Leave” victory, former London mayor, Boris Johnson, refused to face his own responsibilities. He was followed, in this way, by UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who announced he was leaving political life. These two men had been the strongest voices asking for the Brexit but they now refused to implement the policy they supported with passion. Regarding the Labor, it was split and voices were rising to ask for the resignation of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. United Kingdom integrity was also under threat. Scotland was proposing to restart the debate regarding its independence in order to come back to European Union. Being a part of the United Kingdom, it will have to quit it. Debate about Ireland reunification was re-opened. Great-Britain and Ireland Republic membership had almost suppressed the border between them and succeeded in pacifying tensions which, thirty years ago, we shouldn’t forget, took them near to a civil war.

Politician maneuver by David Cameron, to strengthen his position, at the head of the Tories, is leading to a fiasco. He offered the opportunity to his opponents to take Europe as a hostage since it is not responsible for the discontent which was at the origin of the vote in favor of the Brexit. The country has chosen an ultraliberal economic model which has generated deep inequalities between, for instance, London and rural territories which are declining. Results map show how much English voters have been deceived. Main benefactors of European transfers are farmers and it is the country people who massively voted in favor of the “Leave”. London mayor attitude is especially reprehensible since his city never could have reached such prosperity without the European Union, which its citizens were conscious since they massively voted in favor of the “Remain”. Regarding Sunderland workers who have largely chosen the “Leave” option, nobody came to tell them that Nissan would never have decided to invest in their city to produce more than 500 000 cars a year, if England did not have a free access to other European markets. It is easy for a political leader to enounce, all along meetings, false assessments but the worst is reached when electors, at the end, are converted, follow such stupid proposals to note that these who were their authors are slopping off.  The first lesson of this disaster is political. It is necessary to scrutinize with attention, to analyze in depth speeches by extremist political parties to fight against them and to persuade voters that those who utter them will definitely not be able to assume them and will not have any other possibility, as what has happened in England, than to move back, leaving their country in a deep crisis.

The country is going to be confronted with difficulties which it is impossible today to calculate, but which will be heavy. The pound fall has made all the British people poorer. Stocks market downturn has reduced their savings. Threats are putting pressure on the City. Due to “Brexit”, the country became less attractive and real estate prices will go down. It is what has provoked real estate investment funds turmoil. Their quotation has been suspended, exactly as BNP Paribas monetary funds were closed in August 2007, giving the first signal of the imminence of the financial crisis. Comparison must stop here since England weight in the world economy is without any bearing with the US one. The risk is not there. All trade agreements between the United Kingdom and its partners, including European Union, will have to be subject to a new negotiation. The exit procedure itself will take a lot of time and during that period, who is going to invest in the country? The answer is simple: almost nobody, until the new rules of the game have been clarified. Well, the United Kingdom has always been the privileged gateway to Europe of American and even Japanese firms. The recession which is getting the country will be probably  deeper and lasting more than we believe today. The second lesson of the British disaster is that you cannot play without consequences against globalization when your country has been one of its main benefactors.

The third lesson is about Europe itself. If it has been used as a foil, it is because there were some reasons, and this situation is not only the case in the United Kingdom. “Populism rises” is not an isolated phenomenon. It is of course to fall in a crass trap that to consult people in such a context without presenting good senses arguments to convince voters. But European Union cannot act as if nothing has happened, as if it was England insularity and its historical tradition which were at the origin of the divorce, and as if everything will go back in order after. Europe must, after that, change its software, understand the reasons of the rejection which is developing against it and admit bureaucratic integration is a dead end, social protections and wages lowering have no chance to be endorsed by people, fiscal harmonization renouncement and tolerance of mail-box states are not compatible with public finance rigor inscribed in the treaties. Europe does not need a new treaty but more clearness and humility from its leaders. Let’s have a dream. The Commission would have a two days seminar behind closed doors where each participant would criticize himself and his predecessors in the domain he is in charge. Then would come the turn of heads of states and governments who, still behind closed doors, would report critics and suggestions formulated to improve the situation, they hear in their countries, in order to fulfill citizen aspirations. An action plan would be submitted to the competent institutions and approved. The purpose is not to restart the European project but to modify its path to get back people support.

Europe is not a firm and its functioning cannot be the purpose of a business plan or a restructuration. But if it turns a deaf ear to people critics, the British disaster will have much more dramatic consequences.


  1. Hugo 07/08/2016 10:05 a.m. #

    Merci pour cette tribune, très éclairante et sensée comme d'habitude.

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