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Karina's Column

An insider’s view on the City of London and beyond

A Lament for Britain


Why Grayson Perry is right

Broken-hearted, I write this column a couple of weeks after Brexit. We seem to have decided to imprison 16 million bright, mostly young people into an old people’s home led by a myopic political class that is too intent on back-stabbing to notice the flames engulfing the nation.

Youth are not sad. They are fuming. One Facebook post from a 22 year old university student read: “To the 17 million idiots out there [who voted for Brexit], Fuck You.” The morning after the result was announced, young people gathered outside former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s house. “Shame on you, Boris!” they shouted, alluding to his choosing to side with Brexit in full knowledge of the ensuing damage to the country (allegedly).

A Dublin-based digital company is not alone in posting a job ad on various social media sites: “Fancy leaving the UK? We’re hiring more than 50 people across engineering, sales and marketing.” In the four days following Brexit, there was a 57% increase in complaints about xenophobic attacks reported to the police. Our political parties are in disarray at a time when level heads are needed. Uncertainty will reign for years as a new deal is negotiated.

At the Financial Times’s summer party, stuffed to the rafters with 400 Londoners, the global elite shook its collective head at the referendum result. We gave a resounding cheer when Editor Lionel Barber stated that turncoat Boris was now out of the race for Prime Minister. We lamented together when he stated the evident truth: the UK is no longer stable and predictable following Brexit and our imploding political parties. We depend on foreign investors to finance the nation and our companies via financial instruments and foreign direct investment. No listed, accountable company can put money into the UK over the next few years.

However it was famed cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry (absent from the FT party) who encapsulated the truth in his post-Brexit remark, “Well that’s taught us peace-loving, country-running, money-earning, forward-looking liberals a lesson.”

Governments and companies need to spread the benefits of globalisation wider and shout its advantages to the rooftops. This is an issue that has been on the West’s agenda for a number of years. We in Britain are the ultimate warning, and where Brexit goes, Trump and Marine Le Pen may well follow.

As for the UK, social unrest looks likely. Firstly, how the country exits and what sort of a deal it strikes will not be known for a few years. A full 28 states have to agree a deal, and the departing state is torn asunder. A petition to hold another referendum has already garnered over 4 million votes and it only takes 100,000 for Parliament to consider a motion for debate.

Additionally, the worst affected will be many of those who voted Brexit, such as a vocal car worker at the Nissan plant in North East England, lured by false promises that Britain’s contribution to the EU would be spent domestically. Interest rates, pace Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and his soothing remarks post-Brexit, could well rise. The UK is bound to pay more to finance itself following the loss of its coveted triple A credit rating. Meanwhile, imported inflation looks likely, with estimates of 4% in 2017 on the back of the plummeting pound, and recession lurks as growth forecasts nose-dive.

The City, chock a block with excellence from all over the world, will lose business and jobs to other jurisdictions – a serious matter for the country as it contributed 11% of total tax revenues in 2015.

Some pundits are busy predicting the UK might remain in the single market by agreeing a Norway-style deal, although as this includes free movement of people it looks unlikely. Others say a bilateral trade deal is the only possible solution.

I would no longer dare a prediction, for these are truly sad and unprecedented times.