Monday, October 26, 2020
 

AFTER BREXIT, FROM THIS SIDE OF THE MANICA CHANNEL

Luigi Paganetto

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report  showing UK cities declining in employment, share of high-qualified workers, fulltime jobs, immigration, and population dynamics. The link between economic difficulties and the ‘Leave’ vote is clear.

The two-topped cities of the 20-declining list, Rochdale and Burnley, voted massively for ‘Leave’, 60.1% and 66.6% respectively. And so it was for most of the other cities like Hull (67.6%), Middlesbrough (65.5%), Stoke (69.4). By contrast, dynamic cities like Oxford (70.3%) Edinburgh (74.4%), Cambridge (73.8%) massively voted for ‘Remain’.

However, we can’t underestimate that some high-level areas of immigration, as well as some declining cities, voted for ‘Remain’. According to the Report  the link between economic and immigration issues and EU is “at least in part a conscious political construction used for electoral purposes”.

The JRF Report makes us realizing the importance of going out from a mainly technocratic approach that has largely characterized the EU decision-making system. UK vote represents a traumatic break of direct democracy mechanisms and made clear, on the both sides of the Manica Channel, the distance  between ruling classes and citizens’ opinion. This distance comes from many reasons but its roots are the increased economic and social uncertainty and insecurity.

We should not forget the role, very important, of a badly managed globalization that led the hasty conclusion that  a “responsible nationalism” is a better solution.

Opinion polls as the Pew Center one reveal that the gap towards EU is differentiated by country with the highest in Greece and, looking the age, among the elderly. Judging the EU a negative assessment prevails, widely shared, on immigration and security policy. Hungary and Poland are in the lead in highlighting risks of terrorism and job losses. About economic policy the negative judgement is diversified with Greece and Italy in the lead. A positive judgement prevails in Germany and Poland.

The EU institutions responsibilities should not be separated from the delays that European countries economies showed in adapting to changes in the global competitive environment. The overall fall in the volume of EU investment is a structural difficulty signal. In this framework, the increased uncertainty on the economic cycle and the austerity policies helped to worsen consumer and business expectations. Insecurity, perception of income inequality, and discomfort of the middle-low income class (in terms of well-being) increased also due to the so-called “polarization of skills”.

The alienation from Brussels born from criticisms to  European bureaucracy and its Governance, but the analysis of the vote in UK tends to bind the negative reaction towards the EU with the perception of an increase in inequality, insecurity and reduction of well-being that, in turn, tends to be connected with the perception of the negative impact of immigration.

It should be noted that despite the negative opinions about the EU, it would give a more active role in its international activities even if, as regards military spending, only Poland and Netherlands want more.

What has to be done in next future ?

1.Managing negotiations with the UK avoiding conflicting attitudes and ensuring both parties possible and necessary commercial and financial advantages. 2.Take into account that the outcome of UK referendum reinforces the already existing trend to create an EU in two concentric circles, Eurozone and others. 3.Focusing  on choices  giving the perception to the public opinion of a “change of pace”, mostly on immigration and well-being.EU has to answer the security question.4.The effects of immigration,terrorism and economic decline of cities not adapting to globalization are at  stake.

About immigration, we need to find Eu resources, opening a fiscal space (with bonds or not) and defining an EU responsibility for external borders. About inequalities, we need an industrial policy that supports the high skill training, focusing on youth and innovation: it is wrong thinking that  “skill polarization” can be avoided relying on   investment policy.Incresing  public and private investments is obviously  the top priority in Eu  but the Juncker plan has to become  a European-wide investment and not a national aggregate. highly innovative both on big networks and on the infrastructure quality.

5.Brexit offers a double opportunity: a real Energy Union and the concrete start of a Common Security and Defence System like a “common good” (as it is for national countries).

6.The commitment on the “single market”issue   is a  basic goal  mostly for what concerns telecommunication ,electricity and transport  networks. Competition and innovation are  mutually reinforcing.

 

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