Friday, 26 May 2017

Flavours of Brexit

Perceived wisdom over the last year is that our Brexit future comes in two potential flavours – hard and soft. At this moment in time, it seems rather likely we’ll be sucking on the hard version. But hard and soft is too simplistic, referring only to what parts of various European treaties we might remain beholden to or detach ourselves from. Economically, consensus is growing around three different flavours of Brexit – catastrophic, painful and Boris. The first two draw adherents in accordance with their belief on the likelihood of a trade deal with the EU. The latter is a rather fringe flavour, coated with euphoric optimism, based on nonsense and would barely be worth mentioning if it were not for the fact that Boris gets more airtime than your average Joe.

Theresa May attempted to paint Brexit red, white and blue at one stage. But socially speaking, Brexit is not a diverse, multicoloured creature. Welcome to White Brexit, a model based on Empire 2.0, nostalgic Brit culture, twisted history and a hostility to anything which is, or could possibly be perceived to be, antipathy to these notions. Notions which may seem vague, but which are clearly based to suit white, British born and bred folk, and to the explicit exclusion of ethnic minorities no matter from where they might originate. Notions which are based on positive ideals of the past while the many obvious negative aspects are aptly, and once again, whitewashed from public discourse.

This is not, I suggest, a personal opinion but a self evident fact which can be seen oozing from political debate, tabloid ranting, social media meddling and pub chatter like a form of societal puss from a national wound. The wound being a slight to the national conscience that being part of the EU suggests we are the same as and equal to our continental partners. That we are joined in a common plight. The very essence of Brexit is that we are seperate from and superior to ‘others’. When the Leave campaign cried “We want our country back!”, who exactly do you think ‘we’ refers to? Welcome to White Brexit indeed.

But even now, I have only ever so briefly touched on the many flavours of Brexit. We all have our own personal taste and I do not have the time and patience to investigate and report on all 65,471,598 (at the time of writing) different flavours of Brexit. I can tell you all about mine though. In common with (one assumes) every other working person in the UK, I would want to keep my job and for my pay to keep up with inflation. That’s a given. If I achieve the former, it is, due to the nature of my union dominated industry, likely I will achieve the latter.

My situation is simple. I am a year into a 25 year mortgage, currently on a fixed 2 year deal. This will expire next July/August – nine months before our formal exit from the EU – and I’ll either go onto the variable rate and pay more, or arrange a new fixed deal and hopefully decrease my monthly payments. Right now, and for the next 15 months, I’d like to see highish inflation, low interest rates and steady growth of house prices. All being well, come July 2018, I’ll have a low Loan to Value ratio that will enable me to get a better mortgage rate. I’ll fix it for five years. Given the economic uncertainty that is surely to come and the low interest rates that are currently available it seems sensible to me to fix a deal for as long as possible. Rates are far more likely to go up than down. There’s not much room for them to go down anyway, unless the government embarks on a toxic negative interest rate strategy.

That’s my good Brexit. You could fairly argue that it is just standard economics. But it’s Good Brexit based on it being the opposite of Bad Brexit. A worst-case Bad Brexit is a situation where UK-EU relations deteriorate to such an extent that negotiations end with a year still to go with no deal. Inflation rockets, taking interest rates up with it. Employment levels tumble, taking house prices down with them. And come next July, I am left with a property that is effectively in negative equity. As such I won’t be able to remortgage and will have to suffer the increased costs of those spiralling interest rates.

That would be the most bitter flavour of Brexit for myself and Mrs P. Difficult to swallow, to say the least. An unpalatable dish that I did not order and yet it is a dish that I cannot return. That is the point of this post. No matter how each person voted, and beyond the slogans and headlines, Brexit is going to be a very real, personal and potentially painful journey for every one of us bound up in it.

But no matter how bad the economic situation gets in the UK, I know that there will still be that hardcore, vocal Brexiteer celebratory chant of “We got out country back!” Things may not be alright. But at least they’re all white…