LSE RB Feature: ‘What does Brexit mean to you?’ Introducing 5 key items from LSE Library’s current exhibition (open 17 September – 14 December 2018)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 9:51pm in

The history of the UK in and out of the European Union has been a long and complex one. LSE Library has unique collections that document this history, from the archives of MPs active in the debates, to think tanks and campaigning groups arguing for and against the UK’s membership of the EU. Running until 14 December 2018, a new free public exhibition at LSE Library, ‘What does Brexit mean to you?’, features some of the items from these collections. Invited curators from the LSE community interpret and explain these objects.

Ahead of his lunchtime talk, The Origins and Endings of Britain and the EU: A Conversation through the Archives’ on Thursday 15 November 2018, exhibition curator Daniel Payne picks out his 5 favourite objects from the exhibition.

1). ‘What does Brexit mean to you in three words?’ visitor wall

Since the exhibition opened, we’ve had over 400 responses to this question from visitors, which has become a fascinating object in itself that changes every day. From ‘Everything and Nothing’ to ‘Things were attempted’, the answers also span multiple languages such as English, Welsh, Arabic and Romanian.

2). Anti-fascist Federal Union badges



Anirbaan Banerjee, a postgraduate student from LSE Sociology, came to explore the archives of the Federal Union, an organisation founded in 1938 to advance the cause of federal government worldwide to achieve international peace. These Federal Union membership badges from the 1940s were adapted from the three-arrow anti-Nazi symbol which were ‘chalked on walls all over Europe’ as they could be used to easily paint over the swastika.



3). Photograph from the Newbury by-election, 1993 

This photograph is from Alan Sked’s ‘battle bus’ used to campaign in the Newbury by-election of 1993. LSE Emeritus Professor of International History Alan Sked (pictured centre, with Nigel Farage second to right) founded the Anti-Federalist League in 1991 to protest against the Maastricht Treaty. The organisation would later change its name to UKIP, and Sked writes in the exhibition about his reasons behind its foundation (see also the LSE History Blog post, ‘The Founding of the Anti-Federalist League’).

4). Harold Wilson government leaflet

In 1975, the UK held its first national referendum where the electorate were asked ‘Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?’, with 67 per cent voting ‘Yes’. This is the official Government’s leaflet at the time, with an introductory message from then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. You can read the leaflet in full online here, as well as browse other campaigning leaflets from the time, such as ‘Why every student should vote no in the referendum’.

5). The 2016 Referendum Vote

In the lead-up to the 2016 referendum vote, LSE Library worked with the British Library to collect campaigning leaflets, which are on display at the exhibition (and available online here). In addition to this, teacher of French at LSE and artist Patricia Gaudron produced some monoprints to express her feelings related to the referendum vote. They are a very striking series of images that serve as a backdrop to the archive images on display.

If you want to visit the exhibition and pick out your own favourite objects, ‘What does Brexit mean to you?’ is running in LSE Library until 14 December 2018 and is free and open to all. Daniel Payne will also be speaking about the archival materials on display in a free lunchtime talk on Thursday 15 November 2018, ‘The Origins and Endings of Britain and the EU? A Conversation Through the Archives.’

Daniel Payne is the Curator for the Politics and International Relations archives at LSE Library, where he has worked since 2012, connecting students, staff and anyone interested in our special collections.

Note: This feature gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. Images are provided courtesy of LSE Library/the London School of Economics and should not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder. 

A Reckless Economic Experiment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/10/2018 - 8:20am in


The following article appeared in the Church Times on 20 September, 2018

“The Government is unprepared for a hard Brexit, says Ann Pettifor. The financial impact could be devastating”

The Brexit referendum provided conclusive evidence that economics is inherently political. There was nothing scientific about any of the campaign promises or economic forecasts. Instead, in the run-up to the referendum Brexiters stressed the importance of the domestic labour market and blamed immigrants for the post-crisis slump. They ignored the costs of exiting a huge EU market in goods and services, and of cutting off the long supply chains of British firms. Remainers focused on Britain’s role in the globalised economy.  “Britain is a global nationwith a global role and a global reach” opined the Prime Minister. Voters scratched their heads over what it meant to be a “global nation.” Many preferred the Brexiters’ commitment to the national flag or “sovereignty’”

The Treasury argued that the UK would be better off staying in the EU than leaving, and then used an opaque model to estimate the precise cost of leaving for every household in Britain: £4,300 by 2030.  The overwhelming weight of independent economic opinion – from the IMF to the OECD, from the LSE to the IFS backed up the threat that Britain would suffer an immediate economic shock, and then be permanently poorer for the long-term. George Osborne attempted intimidation of voters with a “punishment budget” if citizens voted Leave. With the backing of Alastair Darling, he announced confidently in June, 2016 that if Britain vote to Leave, the Treasury would have to fill a £30 billion black hole in the public finances. This would take the form of increased taxes and even deeper cuts in public spending.

All these forecasts made basic, but biased political assumptions. They concentrated overwhelmingly on issues of ‘free trade’ as if trade was and is the only important aspect of economic activity and well-being. But in 2017, goods exports were equal to just 17% of GDP, and service exports peaked at 14% of GDP in 2017. (HoC Library, July 2018). It is aggregate demand withinthe economy that drives trade and could help balance our trade deficit.

Remainers preferred defeatism: the public finances would collapse after Brexit, and government could only fill the ‘black hole’ by cutting spending and increasing taxes.

Not so. We know that with the help of the government’s Debt Management Office and the Bank of England, government can raise finance to expand investment in the UK, and create higher-paid, skilled jobs. We know because only recently it raised £1,000 billion to finance private bank bailouts, and later added more for HS2. We also know from experience that by investing in, and creating well-paid employment after Brexit, the government could stabilise the economy, ensure the repayment of its financing and balance the books. Keynes’s theory of the ‘multiplier’ would kick in, and job creation would pay for itself. After all, the employed pay taxes, many as PAYE. These revenues return to HMRC in the immediate, medium and long-term as income for the Treasury. Higher incomes would allow employees to shop for fuel, insurance, solar panels and food, for example. The VAT on these items ‘multiplies’ the income returned to HMRC’s coffers. And the makers and sellers of goods and services in turn pay corporation taxes on their gains, multiplying even further the revenues needed to balance the government’s books. Not just in year one, but over the many years that skilled workers remain in employment.

But fixing the public finances would only happen if politicians abandon the economic orthodoxy that assume markets determine our fates, and take active responsibility for the state of the economy. If they roll up their sleeves after Brexit and choose to invest in skilled, well-paid work to meet society’s, the ecosystem’s and the economy’s urgent needs. If they don’t, then expect the economy to weaken, and public debt to rise, as it has these last ten years.

The post-referendum economy

After the referendum, a big drop in business confidence occurred but this recovered quickly. The pound fell sharply as many had predicted, but has also since recovered. Employment remains high, and manufacturing and exports are doing well, boosted by sterling weakness. The fall in sterling led to a rise in inflation which in turn cut real incomes, that in any case had been weakened by the Global Financial Crisis. As Geoff Tily at the TUCshows, real wages today are still worth £24 a week less than they were in 2008. But the decline in real wages, and the decline in labour’s share of national income, began well before the EU referendum. Britain’s workers are victims of low levels of public and private investment. The UK ranks below the OECD averagein every single investment category. Policies for the promotion of self-regulating financial markets that periodically crash; for the contraction of the public sector after the GFC – helped exacerbate the shock of the Referendum outcome. Together they caused the economy to shrink by about 1% of GDP.

Despite this weakness, we can rightly conclude that forecasts of the consequences of voting to Leave were far too pessimistic, and that ‘Project Fear’ was misguided and self-defeating.

What happens next?  

But and it’s a big but, Britain has still to Leave the European Union.

It is my view that there can be no ‘soft’ Brexit, given divisions within the governing party; given the rules of the Single Market; given the threat to the future of the Union if exceptions are negotiated for Britain; and given the political and logistic complexity of the Northern Ireland border. We are therefore headed either to Remain, or for a ‘hard’ Brexit. If it is to be the latter, we will automatically leave the EU on 29 March, 2019.

The big concern about the imminence of this date is that the UK government has a record of unpreparedness. Britain was unprepared for the Second World War. We embarked on the Iraq war quite unprepared for the ongoing consequences and fallout. We were catastrophically unprepared for the Great Financial Crisis. Our government, and its under-staffed, stretched civil service is clearly not fully prepared for a ‘hard’ Brexit. And yet that is where we are heading.

Then there is the global context in which we will undertake this reckless experiment. The US Federal Reserve is determined to continue ratcheting up interest rates and to strengthen the dollar – a policy which impacts the entire global economy. The governor Jerome Powell, cannot reverse this trend, even as a stronger dollar causes turmoil in global capital markets.

More financial volatility, including sovereign debt crises will be the global context in which the UK exits from its largest trading market, and begins trading anew – under WTO rules.

The biggest cost would come from a partial or complete breakdown of the arrangements that make trade possible at all, and the impact this breakdown has on British jobs. This failure is more likely because of the long supply lines of British firms, which locate different stages of production in different countries.

Firms importing from abroad would be hit by rising prices as sterling will invariably fall. Firms exporting abroad would be hit by rising input prices caused by the need to replace EU imports with costlier products sourced outside the EU. Consumers on low incomes will be faced once again by higher prices, on top of the costs of ongoing ‘austerity’ with its decimation of the ‘social wage’ of public and local government services.

Who or what will come to the rescue? The Bank of England bailed out the whole financial system in 2008-9. Regrettably, there is no comparable institution that could bail out Britain’s trading system. So, with a ‘hard’ Brexit, we are likely headed for a severe recession in the near-term. The longer-term? Who knows? Much depends on whether our politicians (and Treasury officials) are willing to abandon the delusion of self-regulating markets and to begin to “roll up their sleeves” and consciously subordinate both domestic and international markets (in money, trade and labour) to the interests of British society as a whole and not just to the vested interests of the ‘global’ 1%.


Brexit: Knives Out for Theresa May (Again) Over Extending Transition Period

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/10/2018 - 9:31pm in

The lay of the Brexit land is becoming clearer after the inconclusive October European Council summit.

Will Hutton’s speech to Wales for Europe: three key points

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/10/2018 - 7:46am in

Last night, Will Hutton gave a passionate and powerful speech to a Wales for Europe gathering in Cardiff.  The event had been scheduled to include Andrew Adonis, and was focussed around their book Saving Britain; in the event, rail chaos at Paddington meant that he was unable to attend.


Much of the material in Hutton’s address was drawn from that book, and similar to his talk to the Cardiff Book Festival in the Summer (and which I blogged about at the time). In particular he argued passionately about how those areas that voted for Brexit were those that had been left behind by successive economic and social failures that were made, not in Brussels, but in Westminster.   However, there were three key points that bear repetition.

First, Hutton was scathing about the idea of a WTO-based Brexit (and scathing, too, about the political journalists who keep repeating this as an option).  He pointed out that in leaving the EU – and in particular the customs union and single market – we were not just jeopardising trade relations with the 27 other members of the EU, but all the states that already had trading relationships with the EU; 88 nations in total, amounting to around 50% of world GDP.  Because of this, the EU anchored the world trade system.  The WTO was ineffectual, had no enforcement powers, and was essentially a tribunal of judges with  President Donald Trump blocking the appointment of a successor; it had no real power whatsoever.  Moreover, the three biggest economies with whom the Government is looking to establish a trading relationship are China and the US – both of whom are adopting policies of extreme protectionism – and India, which was both reluctant to open up its markets in those service sectors in which the UK was strong, and would demand a degree of freedom of movement of its citizens which would be wholly incompatible with the Brexiters’ aims of controlling borders.  Moreover, because of its dominant role in the world trade system, the EU was in effect the world’s standard-setter – a fact that is not lost on some US politicians who complain that measures such as the GDPR, adopted by organisations like Microsoft and Google, were unacceptably constraining US businesses. But by leaving the EU, the UK was giving up its voice; a voice that had been heeded, with the UK view prevailing in more than 90% of negotiations about standards.

In other words, the idea that Brexit could make the UK freer, more prosperous and able to strike trade deals around the world was, to use Hutton’s word, “risible”.  But one searches in vain for any serious discussion of these points in the media.

Second – and a point that I have argued in the past, but needs to be emphasised more strongly than ever:  the fight against Brexit is a fight for liberal enlightenment values, against nativism and crypto-fascism.  It is a fight against post-truth politics of both the right and left.  For all the transactional arguments about how Brexit will make people worse off, it’s essential to realise that this is a debate about the sort of political culture in which we want to live.

Third – defeating Brexit is not enough.  The Brexit vote was the result of failures in our own domestic politics, especially austerity and inequality; those areas that have been left behind, in particular the towns and the coastal communities, were precisely those that voted for Brexit.  So it is absolutely incumbent on those of us who are opposing Brexit to understand that we need to be bold about changing our economic settlement.  Hutton argues for a purposeful, socially responsible capitalism, in which corporate governance is reformed to allow employees and communities a stake in their running and profits.  He argued that the best companies already do this; and that this is mainstream within the EU, going with the grain of EU policy (which has long upheld the rights of trade unions and of employees to have a real role in shaping the decisions of the companies that employ them).  He argued that the opposition of private and public that has dominated political debate for Britain since the days of Thatcher is futile; both have a vital role to play.  And the devolution of power is essential.

Will Hutton described Brexit as the biggest political crisis of his lifetime.  But that is not just because of the facts of Brexit; I’d argue that it is about what Brexit represents – the final, desperate fling of the Thatcherite project.  It is why anyone who calls themselves a democratic socialist should be opposing Brexit with every breath in their body; Brexit is a state of mind that is rooted in nationalism, elitism, and austerity – things that every democratic socialist should oppose.  Defeating it is essential, but it is only the starting point.

Photograph (c) Neil Schofield-Hughes

Brexit: Fatal Complacency?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/10/2018 - 9:35pm in

EU leaders have apparently decided that dealing with Brexit isn't a pressing matter. That's not a good move.

The Real News on Labour’s Plan For Nationalisation and Workplace Democracy

In this 15 minute video from the Baltimore-based The Real News network, host Aaron Mate talks to Leon Panitch, professor of political science at York University about the proposals announced at the Labour party’s conference last month that Labour intended to renationalize some of the privatized utilities, introduce profit-sharing schemes and workplace democracy in firms with over 250 members, in which 1/3 of the board would be elected by the workers.

The video includes a clip of John McDonnell announcing these policies, declaring that they are the greatest extension of economic democratic rights that this country has ever seen. He states that it starts in the workplace, and that it is undeniable that the balance of power is tipped against the worker. The result is long hours, low productivity, low pay and the insecurity of zero hours contracts. He goes on to say that Labour will redress this balance. They will honour the promise of the late Labour leader, John Smith, that workers will have full union rights from day one whether in full time, part time or temporary work. They will lift people out of poverty by setting a real living wage of ten pounds an hour.

McDonnell also says that they believe that workers, who create the wealth of a company, should share in its ownership and the returns that it makes. Employee ownership increases productivity and improves long-term decision making. Legislation will be passed, therefore, for large firms to transfer shares into an inclusive ownership fund. The shares will be held and managed collectively by the workers. The shareholders will give the workers the same rights as other shareholders to have a say over the direction of their company. And dividend payments will be made directly to the workers from the fund.

Commenting on these proposals, Panitch says that in some ways they’re not surprising. McDonnell stated that Labour would inherit a mess. But his remarks were different in that usually governments use the fact that they will inherit a mess not to go through with radical policies. Panitch then talks about Labour’s commitment to bring the public utilities – rail, water, electricity, the post office – public ownership, pointing out that these used to be publicly owned before Thatcher privatized them. McDonnell particularly focused on water, before going beyond it, citing the 1918 Labour party constitution’s Clause IV, which Blair had removed. This is the clause committing the Labour party to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, under the best form of popular administration. And unlike previous nationalized industries, these will be as democratically-run as possible. Councils would be set up in the water sector made up of representatives of the local community and workers’ representatives to be a supervisory council over the managers in the nationalized water industry.

They then go to a clip of McDonnell talking about the nationalization of the utilities. McDonnell states that the renationalization of the utilities will be another extension of economic democracy. He states that this has proved its popularity in opinion poll after opinion poll. And it’s not surprising. Water privatization is a scandal. Water bills have risen by 40 per cent in real terms since privatization. 18 billion pounds has been paid out in dividends. Water companies receive more in tax credits than they pay in tax. And each day enough water to meet the needs of 20 million people is lost due to leaks. ‘With figures like that’, he concludes, ‘we cannot afford not to take it back into popular ownership’.

Mate and Panitch then move on to discussing the obstacles Labour could face in putting these policies into practice, most particularly from the City of London, which Panitch describes as ‘the Wall Street of Britain’, but goes on to say that in some ways its even more central to financialized global capitalism. However, Panitch says that ‘one gets the sense’ that the British and foreign bourgeoisie have resigned themselves to these industries being brought back into public ownership. And in so far as bonds will be issued to compensate for their nationalization, McDonnell has got the commitment from them to float and sell them. He therefore believes that there won’t be much opposition on this front, even from capital. He believes that there will be more resistance to Labour trying to get finance to move from investing in property to productive industry.

He then moves on to talk about Labour’s plans for ten per cent of the stock of firms employing 250 or more people to go into a common fund, the dividends from which would passed on to the workers up to 500 pounds a year. Anything above that would be paid to the treasury as a social fund for meeting the needs of British people and communities more generally. Panitch states that this has already produced a lot of squawking from the Confederation of British Industry. Going to giving workers a third of the seats on the boards, Panitch states that it has already been said that it will lead to a flight of capital out of Britain. He discusses how this proposal can be radical but also may not be. It could lead to the workers’ representatives on these boards making alliances with the managers which are narrow and particular to that firm. The workers get caught up in the competitiveness of that firm, it stock prices and so on. He makes the point that it’s hardly the same thing as the common ownership of the means of production to have workers’ sitting on the boards of private companies, or even from workers’ funds to be owning shares and getting dividends from them. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction of socializing the economy more generally, and giving workers the capacity and encouraging them to decide what can be produced, where it’s produced, and what can be invested. And if it really scares British and foreign capital, this raises the question of whether they will have to introduce capital controls. Ultimately, would they have to bring the capital sector into the public sphere as a public utility, as finance is literally the water that forms the basis of the economy?

Mate then asks him about Labour’s refusal to hold a second referendum on Brexit, which angered some activists at the conference. Labour said that any second referendum could only be about the terms of the exit. Panitch states that people wanting Britain to remain in a capitalist Europe try to spin this as the main priority of the party’s members, even Momentum. He states that this is not the case at all, and that if you asked most delegates at the conference, most Labour members and members of Momentum, which they would prefer, a socialist Britain or a capitalist Europe, they would prefer a socialist Britain. The people leading the Remain campaign on the other hand aren’t remotely interested in a socialist Britain, and think it’s romantic nonsense at best. He states that the Corbyn leadership has said that they want a general election as they could secure an arrangement with Europe that would be progressive without necessarily being in Europe. They would accept the single market and a progressive stand on immigration rather than a reactionary one. They did not wish to endorse a referendum, which the Tories would have the power to frame the question. And this is particularly because of the xenophobic and racist atmosphere one which the initial Brexit vote was based. Panitch states that he is a great critic of the European Union, but he would have voted to remain because the debate was being led by the xenophobic right. He ends by saying that capital is afraid of the Trumps of this world, and it is because of the mess the right has made of things here in Britain with the Brexit campaign that capital might give a little bit more space for a period at least to a Corbyn government.

This latter section on Brexit is now largely obsolete because Labour has said it will support a second referendum. However, it does a good job of explaining why many Labour supporters did vote for Brexit. The editor of Lobster, Robin Ramsay, is also extremely critical of the European Union because of the way neoliberalism and a concern for capital and privatization is so much a part of its constitution.

Otherwise, these are very, very strong policies, and if they are implemented, will be a very positive step to raising people out of poverty and improving the economy. Regarding the possibility that the representatives of the workers on the company boards would ally themselves with capital against the workers, who put them there, has long been recognized by scholars discussing the issue of workers’ control of industry. It was to stop this happening that the government of the former Yugoslavia insisted that regular elections should be held with limited periods of service so that the worker-directors would rotate. Ha-Joon Chan in his books criticizing neoliberal economics also makes the points that in countries like France and Germany, where the state owns a larger proportion of firms and workers are involved in their companies through workers’ control, there is far more long-term planning and concern for the companies success. The state and the workers have a continuing, abiding interest in these firms success, which is not the case with ordinary investors, who will remove their money if they think they can get a better return elsewhere.

My concern is that these policies will be undermined by a concentrated, protracted economic warfare carried out against the Labour party and the success of these policies by capital, the CBI and the Tories, just as the Tories tried to encourage their friends in industry to do in speeches from Tweezer’s chancellors. These policies are desperately needed, but the Tory party and the CBI are eager to keep British workers, the unemployed and disabled in poverty and misery, in order to maintain their control over them and maximise profits.

Ireland and Brexit – Workers Need a Hard Border Against Bosses' Politics!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/10/2018 - 12:56am in


brexit, eu, ireland

image/jpeg iconireland3.jpg

On 12th October, the Financial Times (FT), described the Brexit situation as an "Unpredictable Muddle". We would not disagree.

read more

Brexit: Things Are Always Darkest Before They Go Completely Black

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/10/2018 - 9:19pm in

Don't kid yourself that the current relative calm on the Brexit front is a good thing.

Brexit: EU-UK Talks Collapse, Disorderly Exit Virtually Certain

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/10/2018 - 8:43pm in

Bad Brexit news just got worse.

Brexit and the Age of Incoherence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/10/2018 - 12:55am in

How Brexit is triggering a major political crisis in the UK.