10 July 2022 in Dossier The Challenges of the European Union, Geopolitics


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, overwhelmed by scandals, was finally abandoned by his party colleagues and, for several days, desperately tried to save his political career by refusing to resign as head of government. His argument: the votes for his party would be his personal votes – a personal mandate from the British people to lead the Kingdom after Brexit. A sign that his perception of democracy is deeply distorted, but also of his lack of understanding of the political fact that dominates the debate in the UK: the Brexit was a total disaster – economically, geopolitically and socially.

If a vote were taken today, certainly, the majority of citizens would want EU membership back. If, in 1973, the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community with the clear distinction of rejecting the principle of the progressive creation of the United States of Europe, the often tumultuous bond between London and Brussels has always had a common basis: money. During the period of Britain’s deep economic crisis, characterised by the harsh years of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, Europe supported the peripheral regions of the Empire (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Commonwealth countries around the world enjoyed significant facilities in their trade relations with Europe.

Boris Johnson and Neil Farage, the two champions of the pro-Brexit referendum campaign, promised the British people what has not been delivered. Farage, who probably knew better, retired from politics, and his last act was to actively support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, during which his partner was arrested for money laundering[1]. Johnson, however, convinced himself that he had won the referendum because of his charisma and, carried away by his ego, continued.

Today, the UK is in a situation of great financial strength (the rich, almost all of whom are in the banking and trust system, are getting richer and richer), but commercially, socially, health and educationally it is in a deep crisis which, especially in Scotland, has driven significant proportions of the population into starvation. Johnson has ignored all this, and this is the real reason, even before the sex scandals that have made him look ridiculous, why the population wants him out of the way, and will long damn him. The list of reasons is long and painful.

The lies of Boris Johnson

The breakdown of the Brexit referendum vote[2]

On 19 June 2017, the then British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, went to Brussels to see Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator appointed by the European Commission[3] . After only two hours, the EU announced that British demands to sign a new trade agreement as soon as possible had been rejected outright[4]: ‘This is not about punishment, nor is it about revenge. We are implementing the decision taken by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and to dissolve 43 years of patiently built relations. (…) The UK has decided to leave the European Union, it is not the other way around. The UK will leave the EU, the single market and the customs union, not the other way around. So each of us has to take responsibility and consequences for our decisions. And the consequences are considerable’ [5].

While the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish immediately notice the difference (all economic development aid programmes are immediately cancelled), for a long time the English are satisfied with the results promised by Farage and Johnson on the weak points of EU membership. First point: the British have always been opposed to the transfer of national powers to a parliament on the Continent[6] . Second point: the British are frightened by the uncertain and ineffective EU immigration policy: in the years immediately preceding Brexit there was a spike in arrivals, increasing acrimony towards European foreigners who have been arriving unchecked on British soil for years[7]. Moreover, Farage claimed that Turkey would soon join the EU, and that millions of Turks would land in Dover in search of work – a blatant lie[8] . All foreigners who accept to work for lower wages, and put the already collapsing national health system into irreversible crisis[9].

The arguments of those who supported the reasons for ‘Remain’ (Brexit will bring recession, inflation, weaker currency, higher unemployment) were not taken into account by voters from humble backgrounds, until they realised they had made a tragic mistake, for which the most enraged tried to take Johnson to court[10] . He promised that the £350 million that would be given to the EU every week after Brexit would be poured into the NHS accounts – another lie[11] . A decade later, those who had already voted in the majority to remain in the Union (Scotland, Wales and Ulster) are now pressing for secession from the United Kingdom, so much so that, in Northern Ireland, in the spring 2022 elections even English Protestants voted for Sinn Féin[12].

Johnson promised that the United Kingdom would leave the EU at the end of October 2019, ‘without ifs and buts’, only to find himself forced to ask for more time to negotiate in Brussels, concretising Brexit in January 2020. During the 2019 election campaign, he declared that he had a trade deal with the EU ‘ready to go’, only to have to admit that the hard-won agreement was far from settled[13]. His words: ‘There will be no non-tariff barriers to trade’ and again, the agreement ‘will, if anything, allow our companies and exporters to do even more business with our European friends’[14] . Nothing could be more untrue: the UK’s exit has resulted in a series of barriers that have been creating tens of kilometres of lorry queues at the borders for over a year now[15]. Not to mention the fact that UK citizens need permits to work in the countries of the European bloc, and their professional qualifications are not recognised in Europe[16] .

Another promise, made by the Secretary of State for Ulster, Brandon Lewis: ‘There is no border in the Irish Sea’[17] . A few weeks later, the Irish press publishes, disappointed, the news that the opposite is true[18] . London gets a special arrangement for Belfast, but because of this arrangement, the transfer of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country is bureaucratically hell and is burdened with heavy customs duties[19] . Johnson responds with yet another lie: ‘In five and a half years there will be no theoretical limit, other than those set by science, on the amount of fish we can catch in our waters (…). Thanks to this agreement, we will be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of fish’[20] . Too bad that the five and a half years he is talking about corresponds to the agreed transition period on fisheries, during which EU access to British waters has been reduced by a quarter. At that point annual negotiations will take place, and Europe will have the stronger position[21].

Thousands of lorries wait for days for a chance to cross the UK-EU border[22]

London promises that Brexit will signal victory for the local financial centre and that there will be equivalence between companies offering financial services in the UK and Europe[23] . But the negotiations on this issue are still open and not very reassuring for the British[24] . Britain’s exit from the EU has effectively deprived British financial services of those ‘passporting rights’ that allowed them to sell in the EU without the need for further authorisation[25] . The result: as of 19 April 2021, the number of companies in the financial sector that had left the City to open new offices in the EU amounted to 440 banks and insurance companies, which, in doing so, had moved more than one trillion pounds (around 1.15 billion euros) to the EU[26] . But whatever problems arise, Johnson promises: ‘We are about to open a new chapter in our national history, we will be signing free trade agreements around the world, in addition to the agreements with 63 countries we have already reached’[27] .

In reality, this is simply the reconfirmation, in bilateral terms, of pre-existing agreements with the EU[28] . The only new agreement is the one signed in October 2020 with Tokyo[29] . An agreement that was far from serene: Japan had an interest in getting its products (cars and hi-tech) through England in order to avoid duties within the EU[30] . With this advantage gone, the new agreement is nothing but spottiness, ‘something the British government will not make public’[31] . But it is impossible to keep the consequences secret: ‘the divorce with the EU is now less than a month away and the UK has to say goodbye to another company that has decided to seek better fortune elsewhere. Honda has announced the closure of its only British car factory by 2021: a goodbye that means the loss of around 3500 jobs. But the Japanese manufacturer is only the latest to decide to move off the island’[32]. After Honda come Sony, Dyson, Panasonic, Lloyds, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Airbus, Flybmi, P&O, HSBC, JP Morgan, UBS, Ford, Hitachi, Toshiba, AXA, Honda, Moneygram, Philips, Bank of America and Nissan: over 100,000 jobs[33] .

More promises: in 2016 Johnson promised that gas bills would be reduced if voters supported Brexit[34], because Westminster would eliminate a £2 billion per year tax on electricity prices, funding the measure with the £11 billion per year saved from British contributions to the European Commission[35] . At the end of 2021 the 5% VAT rate on energy bills is still in place and ‘there are no plans’ to cut it[36] .

Welsh independence and the Irish sword of Damocles

Welsh people march in protest against austerity measures imposed by the British government[37]

Boris Johnson’s greatest achievement has been to practically irreversibly undermine the Union that has seen England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland move forward together for 500 years: “the number of people in the United Kingdom who call themselves ‘British’ is steadily declining and those who identify themselves as ‘English’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Welsh’ are increasing (…). Brexit has reinforced this phenomenon’ to the point that even Wales has raised, according to political scientist Richard Wyn Jones, ‘for the first time, the issue of independence’[38] . Former minister Philip Rycroft had already said this years ago: ‘what will dominate British politics in the coming years will be (…) the question of whether this nation still makes sense as a bond of four different regions’ as, ‘at the moment, the various ministries of the British government are struggling to come to terms with devolution and the powers gained by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish local parliaments’[39].

In Wales, after decades of Labour Party domination (Peter Mandelson: ‘the Welsh will always vote Labour because they can’t go anywhere else’)[40] , in 2021 the left lost its majority[41] and the movement for Welsh independence began to gain support[42]. In February 2021 polls record 39% pro-independence supporters[43] . Commented Richard Wyn Jones: ‘If I had been told two years ago that 40% of Welsh people are in favour of independence, I would have thought it was a joke’[44] . Until then, the battle for the secession of Wales was an identity issue of the rural communities in the north who want to defend the Welsh language and customs – today the anti-British front is strong among young people and has economic reasons[45]: it is estimated that the European Union has brought over £680 million[46] a year to Wales, to which must be added £200 million a year in subsidies for the Common Agricultural Policy[47].

Their hope is Scottish secession: ‘if Scotland leaves the UK, this completely changes the Welsh debate. Conversely, if Scotland stays, we can kiss any autonomist hopes goodbye’[48] . And the central issue, once again, is not patriotic but economic: Wales is the UK’s most important exporter of goods to Europe. At stake are 200,000 jobs and the end of development aid[49] . Nothing is to be expected from London: Theresa May has focused on four priorities: currency, market competitiveness, sovereignty and immigration – all issues that weaken Wales[50] and, likewise, Northern Ireland[51] .

In Theresa May’s agreement with the EU, the Irish question was resolved with a Protocol defined in two successive steps: first, it was agreed that the UK would remain within the Customs Union[52] (for tariffs to be applied to third countries), aligned with European standards for products[53]. Having rejected this proposal, the choice adopted by Theresa May and then revised by Boris Johnson, was to place the border in the sea between Britain and Northern Ireland[54] . Even if an agreement has been reached, the game is still open due to inevitable twists and turns, with the Irish knot as punctumdolens – a sword of Damocles that risks thwarting the aspirations of Welsh independence: the European Commission is ready to reopen an infringement procedure, which would follow the one initiated on March 2021, against the United Kingdom, after London introduced legislation[55] on Monday 13 June 2022 to unilaterally revise the Northern Ireland Protocol – a move that could lead to the collapse of the post-Brexit trade agreement[56].

The differences between Theresa May’s agreement and Boris Johnson’s proposal[57]

Among other things, London intends to change the governance arrangements in order to move the venue for disputes from the European Court to an independent arbitration[58] . Although the Johnson government insists that the proposed law is ‘legal’, the Labour Party and the Northern Irish Republican Party Sinn Féin have accused London of ‘violating international law’[59] . The issue is more important than it may appear, as it sums up the terms of the conflict between European sovereignists and globalists which, as Noam Chomsky also points out, risks reopening pages of horror that we thought were buried by the bombs of the Second World War: “Among the most sensible approaches I have seen is the one proposed by YanisVaroufakis and the DIEM25 movement, which aims at preserving what is positive and progressive in the European Union but overcoming those internal contradictions that prevent it from realising itself in an accomplished and successful form”[60] .

The possible future

According to Oxfam data, 9% of British people are no longer able to feed their children[61]

As has happened many times in history, a delegitimised and weakened government sometimes manages to stay in the saddle because no alternative can be found – and this is what Boris Johnson is banking on, thanking the contingency of the war in Ukraine, the inflationary spiral and the pandemic. The Scottish autonomist drive creates new tensions to any hypothesis of a new autonomist referendum. Such a Scottish initiative could be followed by a similar Welsh one, which could be accompanied by dangerous disputes in Northern Ireland. As long as Johnson continues to reside in Downing Street, London’s re-entry into the European Union is a road that is not viable but is being considered. Five years after the referendum and almost two years after Brexit, the majority of Britons, in a new referendum, would vote to re-enter the EU: according to a poll 53% of Britons today would favour re-entry into the EU and 82% of those who did not vote in 2016 would now vote for re-entry[62].

The government is running for cover by trying to reopen the borders: in December 2021, without too much fanfare, and on Christmas Eve to be exact, London hurriedly allowed thousands of European workers in to reduce staff shortages in two crucial sectors: agriculture and health – after months of complaints from British trade unions and businesses that the lack of European labour had forced farms to let their fruit rot in the fields and the few staff working in nursing homes and hospitals to take on punishing shifts and continuous overtime[63]. Evidently the government’s promise that British workers would replace European ones, yet another broken promise, has not materialised[64]. The jobs are there, but the British don’t want them, they have other expectations, which creates a kind of macroeconomic schizophrenia[65]: on the one hand a pressing need for people to do manual and menial jobs, and on the other an abnormal mass of jobless that in July 2021 had reached 4.8% – a disproportion for a country that before Brexit had full employment[66].

In order to remedy this disaster, Roberto Costa, the ‘king’ of independent restaurants in London, in order to have waiters in his eight establishments, has taken steps to set up an Academy of Hospitality – and to reconvert unemployed young people into the world of entertainment: the British will have to learn to do those jobs that the Italians, Spaniards and Poles did for decades[67]. The risk is to end up like Nando’s, another restaurant chain: the Mexican brand is forced to close many of its locations because no truckers can be found to supply its kitchens with chicken – and without chicken, goodbye to PiriPiri, the most famous dish[68] . McDonald’s has been forced to remove milk shakes from menus all over Britain because there is no milk[69].

The effect can be seen: people are reducing the portions of food on their plates, skipping meals to feed their children, and eliminating hot food to save gas and electricity: according to data released in May 2022, 2 million British citizens are direct victims of the crisis resulting from the rising cost of energy and bills (+54%)[70] . The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, warned that the UK must prepare for an ‘apocalyptic’ rise in food prices, a global trend triggered by the war in Ukraine and sanctions, but pointed out that the inflationary spiral had already begun to weigh on the population since January, a month before the invasion[71]. Sluggish growth combined with high inflation is holding the UK in the grip of stagflation. The real risk is that this will degenerate into a recession of historic proportions[72] . Inflation at 9% in May opens the door, according to Bank of England estimates, to 10.2% in October (it was 1.5% a year ago), which should be followed by the country’s entry into recession[73] .

Palliative measures such as the £150 property tax rebate, the ‘Warm Home Discount’ (£140 discount on electricity for the less well-off) and the ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ (between £100 and £300 for heating) to help citizens struggling with gas and electricity bills that have risen by 53.5% and 95.5% respectively over last year serve little purpose[74]. All dynamics that started not with the Donbass war, but with the UK’s exit from the European Union – as confirmed by government figures[75]: leaving the single market and customs union reduced British foreign trade by 14.9%[76] . By the end of December 2021, the economies of the other advanced countries had rebounded 3% above pre-pandemic levels, while British exports remained 12% lower[77].

The financial centre, the last sovereignist bet

London, 8 July 2022: a growing crowd waits impatiently for Boris Johnson to emerge from Downing Street to announce his resignation as Prime Minister[78]

In this debacle, everyone thinks, at least the financial centre is on the rise: by now the whole of the UK is a galaxy of tax havens: Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands – but also London and Belfast – have laws that protect anyone’s money from their country’s tax system and, to a certain extent, also protect it from the intrusions of the criminal judiciary and the thirst of defrauded creditors.

According to consultancy firm EY Ernst & Young, this has not been enough: since the referendum to date, 44% (97 out of 222) of the UK’s largest financial services companies have relocated offices, operations or staff from the UK to the EU: a figure that has almost doubled since March 2017 (53 out of 222, 24%), then remained unchanged over the past year (95 out of 222, 43%, as of March 2021)[79] . But it does not end there. According to EY analysts, ‘although many contingency plans in response to the worst-case scenario have not been adopted, EY anticipates relocations of operations and staff of financial services companies across Europe, as Brexit is increasingly becoming part of a broader discourse involving strategic business drivers and operating models’[80].

The Brexit has triggered a series of centrifugal pushes that risk disintegrating the UK and has uncovered the Pandora’s Box of contradictions that have begun to erupt after centuries in which first the might of Empire, then the fear of the Nazis and Communists, had ensured that there was a unique national cultural pride (consubstantiated in Queen Elizabeth II) to cement in peace what had been united in blood. The UK has found itself embroiled in an economic, financial, political and social crisis that has created poverty and fear – a crisis that, given the international conjuncture, will not be resolved anytime soon.

According to Limes, the referendum on Brexit was wanted by the British – not so much for a cooling of relations with the European Union, but more to reassert London’s hegemonic position over the other nations that make up the United Kingdom – the same strategy traditionally used by the United States, when financing bloody coups abroad, or by Vladimir Putin, who promises nationalist patriots that Holy Mother Russia will become an empire again[81]. Like Putin and Kissinger, Johnson bet on the security card, and not just in defence against immigrants, swearing (and, perhaps, believing) that with Brexit Britain would take on a different role and weight internationally, a role that cannot be separated from Britain’s control.

Think of what would happen, from a military point of view, in the case of a secession of Edinburgh, which would take away from London the locations of very important military bases, including those of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines[82]. Moreover, Scottish secessionism has not only historical reasons, but is also based on the discovery of North Sea oil, off the east coast[83]: something that leaves the Scots dreaming of being able to sustain themselves[84]. The same is happening in Northern Ireland, as the victory of Sinn Féin shows[85]. At the moment, centrifugal referendum drives are blocked by existing law: if on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall it is the Scotland Act of 1998 that sanctions that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate on matters of exclusive competence of Westminster (unless it is the latter that legitimises it, as in 2014), on the other hand it is the Good Friday Agreement that provides that for a hypothetical unification of Ireland one must simultaneously obtain favourable referendum majorities in both Ulster and Eire, entrusting the decision to call the consultation to the British government in any case[86] .

As things stand at present, therefore, secession remains unthinkable – but the situation left by Boris Johnson is so serious that sooner or later the legislative constraints will be blown up by street riots – and the only way to keep everyone happy is to find the money to get out of the black hole of the crisis: the money that Johnson, like Thatcher, was convinced was produced by the financial centre[87]. Boris Johnson’s resignation opens a new political chapter of great uncertainty: a choice has to be made between saving the dream of Brexit at any cost, or going back to Brussels, and using that ugly word only to name a historical context[88] . The premier’s political death leaves a bloodless body of a nation that, eighty years after its last great Pyrrhic victory, is forced to accept that it must give up dreams of greatness, and must strive to give its subjects food and a perspective – otherwise anything can happen.


























[25]https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/future-relationship-financial-services ; https://it.euronews.com/my-europe/2021/01/07/brexit-tutte-le-bugie-di-boris-johnson-e-dei-suoi-ministri-sull-accordo-commerciale-con-l-




[29]https://www.agi.it/estero/news/2020-10-23/gran-bretagna-giappone-accordo-post-brexit-10044363/ ; https://www.emilythornberry.com/blog/2020/11/26/uk-japan-deal/




















[49]http://www.lejournalinternational.info/it/brexit-paradoxe-pays-de-galles/ ; https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/2017-01/30683%20Securing%20Wales%C2%B9%20Future_ENGLISH_WEB.pdf







[56]https://euractiv.it/section/brexit/news/cosa-cambia-con-la-legge-britannica-che-vuole-modificare-il-protocollo-dellirlanda-del-nord/ ; https://euractiv.it/section/brexit/news/protocollo-sullirlanda-del-nord-lue-apre-una-procedura-di-infrazione-contro-londra-dopo-la-nuova-legge-illegale/




[60]“Perché l’Ucraina” di Noam Chomsky p.10











[71]https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2022/05/22/inglesi-stretti-nella-morsa-di-inflazione-e-carenze-causate-dalla-brexit-e-ce-chi-inizia-a-risparmiare-anche-su-pranzo-e-cena/6600155/ ; https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/gran-bretagna-post-brexit-e-inflazione-la-boe-scenario-e-apocalittico-AEUcmDaB?refresh_ce=1



[74]https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2022/05/22/inglesi-stretti-nella-morsa-di-inflazione-e-carenze-causate-dalla-brexit-e-ce-chi-inizia-a-risparmiare-anche-su-pranzo-e-cena/6600155/ ; https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/gas-supply-boris-johnson-ofgem-b1924733.html



[77]https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2022/05/10/cosa-resta-della-brexit-a-due-anni-dalladdio-di-londra-alla-ue-danno-da-15-miliardi-per-gli-scambi-commerciali-ma-anche-opportunita/6575193/ ; https://www.ft.com/content/2f63ef97-8d49-47a4-accd-4fb2e7ee9a5a







[84]https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/education/schools/3652656/similarity-between-scots-nordic/ ; https://www.osservatorioartico.it/tra-brexit-e-artico-la-strategia-della-scozia-per-il-futuro/amp/ ; https://www.orizzontipolitici.it/le-proteste-post-brexit-possono-porre-fine-al-regno-unito/





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