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Divorce is Painful, Destructive, Angry & Absurd – and full of Attribution Errors

I wonder how many of those ‘guiding’ us in these negotiations have actually experienced divorce? Or forgotten 1989’s moral fable, ‘War of the Roses’?

According to our leader who has never been divorced, the new socialist Theresa May, banning migration and kicking out anyone we identify as ‘foreign’ will release loads of jobs for excluded British people around Brexit land, who will rush from their homes to resume work. They won’t mind the zero-hours contracts, the minimum hourly wage, the boring or repetitious nature of the work. They won’t mind the commute, unsocial hours, or dealing with unappreciative bosses or distraught customers. No, they’ll feel great to be included again! “This is what I dreamed of when I voted Leave,” they’ll say. All is well!

For the social psychologists among you, the Leave vote may be a classic example of an ‘attribution error’. This is a tendency to place undue emphasis on an external agent, including assumptions about its internal characteristics & motivations, to explain a feeling or state of mind who’s origins may have little or nothing to do with that same agent. In this case the agent is the EU, [or Brussels or foreigners, or all of these]. But the source of dissatisfaction, the de-industrialisation & abandonment of heartland Britain is not caused by the EU. In fact the EU has done what it can in the form of Regional Development Funds to correct and compensate for the degrading of once great communities and their industries. Here you can see 19 projects that the EU has funded in Wales recently and prospectively.

what has the EU ever done for us?

And here, something similar from the North Eastern zone of the Northern Powerhouse: EU funding to the North East

All over Britain many people are distressed by crumbling cities, the struggle to get by, to get on, to find prosperity, meaning or pride in work. Surely it can’t be their fault?

Who is to blame?

The politicians, eager to avoid taking responsibility for failing their communities and to organise state interventions in an appropriate manner, point the finger at outsiders, specifically the EU, thus cathecting and re-directing anger that should be directed at them to this outside agent.  Because the EU does not exist as a phenomenon and its hard to hate an abstract idea alone, that hatred quickly shifts onto people from EU countries.

It was the Tories – not the EU – who boasted that their austerity policy would put Britain right – and you may have voted for it!

Clearly this idea that new jobs will be embraced by British workers has an element of wish-fulfillment about it. But it also plays well as an advantage driving a popular blame of others who are distinguished by difference of accent or colour who, we imagine, didn’t used to be here when times were like this:

Middle England

A noxious recipe for our time is emerging: the notion that if we kick out the evil, then our natural state of grace will resume. A kind of exorcism – a primitive idea of redemption. A bit like the Paradise offered to suicide bombers.

Unfortunately, it is our own suicide that we are engineering. It just seems that others, once eliminated, will take the problems with them. We have projected the enmity & inequality between us onto outsiders, who now seem responsible for all our ills.

The real reason for hard Brexit is vote grabbing by the Tories, attempting to sweep up disaffected Labour voters in the regions and the UKIP people who aren’t yet into punch-ups. They are talking tough, that is aggressively, and in response the pound has plummeted to parity with the Euro in the exchanges at Heathrow yesterday. Yes, that’s £1 for 1€.

Those outside the grip of these primitive fantasies washing across Britain, can see more clearly. Alone we will be less connected, less interdependent, less reciprocal, less supported by neighbourly donations. Do you believe for a moment that the Tories are going to replace the Regional Development Funds?

In short, what little you have is suddenly going to be worth a lot less. Anything we buy in dollars or Euros – and that includes oil, energy, machines like cars and white goods, foods from abroad, will be costing 10% more by Christmas as the stocks are replenished at new post Brexit exchange rates. Your cheap holiday abroad in Spain or France will cost you 10-15% more – and you may be treated with similar indifference to that we have afforded them in our country. What goes around comes around! All of these important and key examples of prosperity and modernity will become less accessible.

And be sure that there will be less resources to go round. The economy will shrink, the cost of Brexit will be enormous, the disruption to programmes will be huge, and the new laws will be 99% the old laws.

The press, almost wholly pro Brexit, will attempt to distort and diminish these effects, by blaming others and whipping up hatred, by now directed at local councils, health authorities, teachers, transport workers, instead of the EU.

But you will feel them because in the tumult of uncertainty released by this sword-waving, business will definitely not be inclined to give you a pay rise. It will become defensive, self-protecting and inward looking.

As things get worse the government may attempt to convince us all is well by ‘investment in infrastructure’ which they have been resisting for years. Infrastructure is expensive and politically dangerous [what do the places you are not investing in feel about it?] and the EU has an evolved a sophisticated process for spreading the necessary investment across its member states. We have no such practice or national programme here, so the money will follow egos and used to cover dissolution with vanity projects. Many of which will overspend and under-deliver as private business creams off its percentage. Think G4S, Enron and the like. Do you think they will suddenly become altruistic?

why can’t we build more houses?

As we have learned, it is neither efficient nor value for money to invest in privatised industries for infrastructure projects. See the PFI contracts storm here for more:

PFI hospitals disasters

[I’ve chosen the Telegraph to illustrate this dilemma for a view from the right. Sources like the New Statesman and the Guardian are more critical still of PFI.]

Add to this a few vanity projects like HS2, now estimated at more than £55 billion to cut nine minutes from the journey time to Birmingham

cost of HS2 explodes

Meanwhile, rising to the surface is a growing tide of hatred, fuelled by the permission given by politicians to see outsiders as the source of our woes. Just as the Nazis zeroed in on Jews and Slavs, we are now planning to list and shame the foreigners we can root out in our community. My wonderful European friends are already making plans to leave and take their energy, talents and wider perspectives with them. We will all be poorer. And I remain broken-hearted as I watch my country plunge towards a new darkness, pretending to be dawn!


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