Brexit Meets Gravity

Why May is trying to keep the customs union


Comments: 222

  1. Prof Krugman
    It's not about the customs union, it's about the single market. The single market is a regulatory union.

  2. Just got through reading the piece and your point is staring me in the face. It's the single/internal market that Britain needs to stay in (plus c.u.). Otherwise, they will still have a hard border with Northern Ireland. So, ECA/EFTA?

  3. Britain got a terribly bitter dose of self-inflicted pain when it elected Margaret Thatcher as their PM. We got ours with Ronald Reagan. Decades later, we are still chasing each other's destinies, with Trump and May. Each is his and her own brand of disaster.

    Why did we get these two? For that we need to look at each nations' labor movements and their failure at resurgence, after the 80's and 90's. Both nations have a sizable precariat. Both nations, of all the Western nations, have the stingiest of social safety nets. Neither nation was able to produce leadership that can inspire voters to move away from the abyss of Ferengi economics.

    But here we are. Both nations are on a very steep trajectory toward painful times. We might be able to apply the brakes if the Democrats get serious about messaging and embracing a left flank they've pushed away for far too long. For Britain, the brake pads are completely worn. Short of Labour completely booting out the Tories, I don't see a way out of the monumental catastrophe that Brexit will be. In these Trumpian times, it is Vladimir Putin who wins. He gets to survey a disunited, destabilizing Europe from his Kremlin windows.

    It worries me that no Democrats are emerging in the main areas of policy wonkery to offer a contrast to the inherent stupidity and ignorance of the Trump cabinet. There is nothing, until a reaction becomes a must, like SCOTUS

    ---

    www.rimaregas.com

  4. Tom,

    I hope you click through and read the article I posted for Rocko. There is nothing re-heated about Sanders' or the Democratic Socialists' platform, as dogmatic as Sanders may sound often times.

    It is the repetition in his presentations that we can point to, when we analyze the change in public opinion of policies as they relate to various parts of the social contract. It is the repetition in his presentations that we can point to when we analyze the public's much greater awareness and awareness of some of the finer points of policies. What Sanders did, alone, over 2015-2016 is a massive teach-in. We needed it. We need more of it, not less.

    I hope you read the piece and rethink your position. What is moral and right never gets cold.

  5. Rima, very insightful, thank you for your serious study of these issues! Yours truly, Dennis King

  6. Rima,

    Thatcher was elected P.M. exactly because of the previous failed policies of the Left in the U.K. just as today Scotland is suffering because the S.N.P. is governing as though it were “The People’s Democratic Republic of Scotland”!

    Lady Thatcher was famous for saying, “Socialism is always great until you run out of other people’s money to spend”

    A quick review of public services in Scotland will demonstrate that nothing has changed and that the money has run out!

  7. It is not just that Brussels will set UK policy. Now UK will need a bureaucracy of its own to negotiate and set policies of its own with other countries not in the EU.

  8. Part of the problem seems to be that as civilization evolves, economic interaction becomes ever more complicated while the brains of voters and politicians are not evolving in pace. Of course British voters didn't understand what the consequences of Brexit would be.

    In the U.S., this problem is further complicated because our politicians have to spend the majority of time panhandling for campaign contributions instead of boning up on the complexities of things like how the internet actually works, modern trade, banking and the complicated mechanizations of Wall St.

    And to receive those contributions they often vote for legislation only beneficial to their contributors at the expense of the rest of us.

    So instead of careful, proactive planning, we are left with passing of the buck and reactive, sometimes improvisational actions to deal with the disasters that our incompetence and corruption create.

  9. Alan, the convo would be much different had gore defeated W - we wouldn't have the Roberts court, and corporations wouldn't have the right to political speech. Brought to you courtesy of Nader voters. Stein voters just made it worse.

  10. The role of the wealthy donors in the political system they have bought, but not paid for, cannot be overstated. Politicians are bright enough to understand complex issues such as the internet, world trade, bank, Wall Street and even climate change. They are like the rest of us. When a worker's salary depends on not knowing the truth, there is no limit to what that worker will refuse to learn and no limit to what that worker will refuse to admit knowing. Those billionaires are buying selective ignorance with their political donations and sending the bill to the rest of us.

  11. Seriously, the left has to get off this high horse that "everybody who disagrees is STUPID" -- the Brits understood very clearly what Brexit was and voted FOR IT. They have every right to determine their own future, and have rejected being ruled by elites from Brussels (UNELECTED elites!).

  12. May should schedule a do-over on the referendum.

  13. ''All of this explains why May is trying to negotiate a deal that keeps the customs union intact. '' - The ruling party is being split apart on the question alone of whether there is going to be a hard or soft border with Ireland. (let alone Scotland and Wales wanting to deal with the E.U.)

    Time is money and any delay of even half an hour (compounded over thousands upon thousand of vehicles just trying to get up the road) would be devastating to the local economies, let alone trying to get goods back and forth across the channel.

    The ruling party knows that not only is it a money issue, but translates to a political one with dire consequences, It speeds up calls for reunification and independence respectively.

    They are looking for an exit strategy, but the only exit there is going to be is their massive losses at the polls.

  14. Why vote for Brexit?

    Why Not?

    That's seem to be as much thinking into the potential dire consequences as many voters were willing to give. Just like votes for Trump. Or Jill Stein.

    Even a vote in anger should be done with more consideration than a poor yelp review.

  15. So Great Britain, voting for the hate (“unlimited” immigration) and the seduction of nationalism, very much like the United States, is now facing economic disaster through a trade miscalculation.

    Like Donald Trump’s xenophobia and his dog-whistles about America (and Americans) losing jobs to China and Mexico and our being stiffed with astronomically high tariffs by the evil Canadians, Brexit was going to be a raging success. Marine LePen would be running France, Angela Merkel would be prized out of office by the twin pincers of immigrant crime and the renaissance of Nazisim, and right-turning Poles and Hungarians and Italians would all conspire to turn back the (black) tide of sub-Saharan refugees with their strange Muslim creed. The Brexiteers found a soul mate across the Atlantic in Donald Trump as confirmation of a growing international tide to take their countries back. Until the bill came due.

    Now America has declared economic war with a cunning adversary that it cannot possibly defeat (China) in either the long run or the short. Erstwhile allies inch away, including the U.K., knowing now that they’re on their own.

    Brexit and “Make America Great Again” are surprised and shocked that the rest of the world didn’t blink.

    “Now what?,” they whisper to one another. In the dark.

  16. @Sox

    Great comment, however I would only quibble about taking on China. On the surface it seems like there is a trade war, but (over several posts I have made) I think it is coordinated to specifically deconstruct certain sectors to make winners (the President/his family/backers) and losers ( the heartland/farmers ? )

    Anyways, you can see the obvious movement, as all nations (except Russia) are inching away and biding their time for the next 2 years, thinking that there will be a reset. I believe them to be correct.

  17. It is astounding that two of the biggest Democracies on earth who are filled with inventive, talented, intelligent people have engineered their own demise. I guess Britain has many under-educated people like in the USA who'd rather see a show instead of dealing with substance. If the people in a free Democracy allow this to happen to them, they deserve failure. Learn to speak Russian and Mandarin, because apparently, those are the countries that will be the future of the world. Britain and America are not as smart as they think they are.

  18. The Brexit referendum posed too complex a question for the public to answer, gave the government too broad a mandate to define and was transformed into an impractical political movement.

  19. Krugman spends half the article going on about how various aspects of EU membership favour trade between members over trade with non-members; and then he spends the other half of the article marvelling that an EU member trades more with EU members than non-members.

    If Krugman really believes that trade is substantially or entirely determined by just the two factors distance (measured from where) and GDP (what proportion is traded? How is the economy structured?...), and such questions have been the subject of a lifetime's study -- then we can only conclude that he, like so much of his profession, lacks the mental capacity to handle complexity. The Gravity Model is the trade economics version of the idea that Homo sapiens is actually Homo economics. It is so often a calling card for economic illiterates. Well that's not entirely fair -- I omitted the cranks who like the theory because it allows them to claim that economics is on par with Newtonian science.

    If Krugman really believes in this theory then he has a subnormal grasp of economic development. The average person can tell you that the cluster of East Asian Tigers developed through exporting to the other side of the planet, not to each other proximate though they are. Is Krugman's blind spot here due to the way that these Tigers refused to follow neoliberal dogma? To what extent is Krugman simply scared that Brexit would lead to a Corbyn premiership that also refuses to follow neoliberalism?

  20. Chris, yes please continue to educate as to how much clearer you see this than Krugman does. Your summary of Krugman's thoughts is just so enlightening, please continue, really...

  21. Always happy to try to educate, Rocko. However having read your comment about how 'Brexit was just about racism, nothing more', I fear that the time commitment would be too great for me. Sorry.

  22. Unlike the "Tigers", who developed their industries starting from a low base and heavily relied on foreign investment plus trade in a favourable global environment (only to later run into trouble due to the irrational ebb and flow of unrestricted money and the peculiarities of the dollar standard, remember the asian crisis of the 90ies), the UK already has been a "fully developed" nation for centuries, actually THE original industrial power on this globe and with a commensurate standard of living.

    But go ahead, Chris P from London and persuade the Brits that they should accept to start over from square one, perhaps to the tune of 1.50$ (or €?) for an hours work.

  23. Americans shot themselves in the foot with Trump and his tariffs. The British with Brexit shot both legs off. I would feel sorry for them but they fell for the same nationalist bilateral garbage that America did when Trump was elected. That is, the Americans that fell for it less those that just hated Hillary, or voted for Stein, or didn't even bother to vote.

    The lesson here is that there is strength in numbers. A collective is inherently stronger than everyone tearing at each others throats. To gain the security of the collective, one has to sacrifice some profits, but the gained stability is more than worth it. Trump voters who are about to lose their jobs in the coming months will soon find that out.

    But guess what? The best way to eliminate hostilities is to prosper together. Making money together keeps the peace. Making money at the expense of others breeds contempt. Sort of like the contempt blue collar voters have for the wealthy elite so they elected a wealthy Manhattan elitist who sold them down the river by giving huge tax breaks to the super rich that they will have to pay for with future taxes and higher interest rates on their credit cards and bank loans.

    But as with Brexit, nobody thought that far ahead. They all got caught up in the hopes for a whiter America with them at the top. By the way, hows all that working out ya? Get any of that new Trump healthcare? How big was that tax cut raise? Priced soybeans lately?

  24. For reparations, why not, instead of disenfranchising, why not make black men's (and women's!) votes 5/3 of a Citizen's. And let the ancient Electoral College have one more go at it.

    Heck, if corporations are people too my friend, a little Southern Justice might be just what the doctor ordered.

  25. I cannot wait to see what our thrice-bankrupted* President is gonna pull out of his economic hat, before this is all over, speaking of lousy deals, and bankruptcy. Are we just gonna hand the Planet to Putin on a platinum platter?

    *not including morally, obviously.

  26. Fully for-profit TeeVee has given us a reality star President. It has zero interest in educating the Citizenry. It's just not where the Profits lie.

    It's like ... WE the People don't even OWN the Airwaves.
    Which is ridiculous because -- WE DO. Own them.

  27. "Too bad more people didn’t ask it before the referendum."
    ==========================================
    They may have. But the lies and phony photos of uncontrolled swarms of refugees scared the heck out of them.

    After the vote and after the truth came out, many who voted for Brexit joined the minority in demanding a new referendum.

    But the government, delighted with the original outcome, stuck fast to its victory based on lies.

    Now May is faced with trying to make the unworkable work. Corrupt government and gullible voters.

    Sound familiar, Americans?

  28. The May branch of the Tories was totally against Brexit, so I would hardly characterize the government as being delighted with the original outcome. In face, they were so un-delighted the Prime Minister resigned.

  29. The Brexit vote was originally driven by cheap labor from Poland and other Eastern EU members putting British plumbers and the like out of work.

  30. At least May is sane. Perhaps if the role of Russia were more clearly substantiated, there could be a mulligan even at this late date. But vanishingly small likelihood. She could always send @babytrump to terrorize Helsinki and later Moscow when trump goes to return Alaska to Russia.

  31. The referendum was an act of cowardice and cynicism on the part of David Cameron. Faced with an anti-Europe faction in his own party he chose to punt the question to the voters instead of dealing with it through his own (lack of) leadership. So, they got the lowest common denominator result. That the referendum was binding on a topic so complex is so far beyond comprehension it suggests the depth of his, and Brexiters in general, delusion.

    Politicians are elected to make tough decisions. Staying a part of the EU or not was a tough decision. They could have interpreted the results differently, such as a mandate to get a better deal, which actually seems like May's strategy, but it was presented as an all or nothing proposition and that's what they're stuck with.

    I wonder what all the bureaucracy that Brexit has required has cost the UK taxpayer. Billions. That's a big investment for a negative rate of return!

  32. Just a clarification: the referendum was non-binding, contrary to what you stated. The referendum also did not say anything about whether or not the UK should stay in the Single Market (a la Norway) or if they should stay the custom union. Afterwards, the government decided that the 52% majority in a non-binding referendum was a popular mandate to abandon both Single Market and custom union. Insanity...

  33. Actually, the referendum wasn't binding, but unfortunately simply cancelling the whole insanity now still appears to be political suicide.

  34. Stevenz: The Brexit referendum was not binding -- that is the tragedy of this. At every stage this has been self-inflicted and avoidable. Parliament could easily have stopped it. In fact a majority of MP's were and are against Brexit.

    Instead, the lack of leadership continues. Jeremy Corbyn as labour "leader" just mumbles things about the will of the people and does nothing because he represents the perfect irony of a long time anti-European socialist (self-paralysis?). The pro-Brexit fanatics keep steering the UK to higher and higher waterfalls (Farage, Johnson, Davis ...) and then jumping off the boat when they think stopping is unavoidable. This proves the point that they never had a plan or even an understanding of what they had done. For cowards such as these, it is easier to quit (and make a splash on TV) rather than have to officially admit that what they promised was never possible.

    Despite all the obvious deception and dire predictions, instead of grabbing the wheel and saving Britain, May just lets it keep going. Theresa May is probably the most enigmatic and lonely figure of all as she was never pro-Brexit and yet she will be the last one on the bridge when the ship goes down.

  35. The Brits and Americans are putting on a clinic for the world! We're demonstrating democracy's many weaknesses Plato warned about. The masses are easily manipulated by lies and half-truths, yet the British decided to make a monumental change in their way of life based on a simple majority vote? As the supposed experts in democracy, don't we know that the misinformed greatly outnumber the well-informed in any election? And we in the U.S. elect a malignant narcissist that doesn't understand or care for facts, or the truth, attacks NATO, the FBI, his own Attorney General(!), et al. At the same time he praises the psycho running North Korea that just duped him (nuclear problem in Korea is solved!), and praises the ex KGB Colonel and presidential handler that wants to subvert NATO, and expand the glorious former Soviet Union. Nobody in Hollywood could have pitched a movie with this theme because it's too ridiculous, but we're living it in two of the great democracies.

  36. Much like America the heart and soul of the British economy(London) voted against Brexit while the hinterland voted for Brexit. I use the dictionary definition of middle-class, and readers of the NYT are middle-class, have not given those who don't have our education and understanding a blueprint for their future where they or their children obtain the wherewithal for understanding how society works.

  37. Democracy was correct -- it was the grossly oligarchic electoral college that gave us both W. and Trump.

  38. A very bizarre reference to Plato. Plato made no substantive references to representative gov't, though he certainly agreed with the standard classical view that representative government is a form of oligarchy. On the other hand, if, as is conventionally done, one views his 'Laws' as his closest prescription for good government, it involves a vastly more restrictive, ethnically enclosed, strictly meritorcratic, and more limited notion of citizenship than virtually any extent liberal representative gov't presently existing, say, among all the OECD states. Just ask Michael Anton on this one...

  39. We were doing gravity models way back in the 1970s when I studied geography - not just for trade but for all interaction between two points. For instance, Tulsa is much closer to Los Angeles than New York City yet the interaction between Los Angeles and New York City is an order of magnitude larger than that of Tulsa and Los Angeles (or New York for that matter)
    .
    .
    I think I can understand a country like Britain wanting to get better control on immigration - not just for a Europe that was a little to open and willing to allow millions of a new wave of Muslims to immigrate when they already demonstrate problems assimilating almost everywhere they go, but also floods of peoples from Eastern Europe. It’s a small country with a proud and distinctive history and culture and the desire to preserve some of that into the future seems like a reasonable aspiration.

    But if I was British I would not want much of a separation from Europe. Europe simply has the best places and climates to travel and ulltimately live in the world, period. I spent three weeks in Spain a couple of years ago, and it was the best experience in my entire life, and hundreds of thousands of British citizens agree and choose to retire or settle and live there. They need to work out this stuff, but if I were British, I wouldn’t want anything coming in between me and Spain, Ireland, France and Italy.

  40. Yeah its like people see some brown people on the street and say "I'm gonna vote for Brexit."
    Most people understood little of the other issues at stake, they weren't explained well enough (apparently) and the liars on the other side apparently including Russia, gave them enough sop so they dismissed the two sides as being about the same on those other issues and who wants to figure all that stuff out anyhow.
    A tactic also used in Trump's being elected, same sort of stuff.

  41. Our 2nd and 3rd biggest trade partners are Mexico and Canada. We share borders with both.

  42. Funny, people used to say the exact same things about the Irish and the Jews "demonstrating problems with assimilating." Actually, I think the problem is that a lot of native-borns "demonstrate problems with assimilating" into the 21st century.

  43. Brexit was all about migrants. Not trade.

  44. Ah, but when will Her Majesty's Government (or the English press) follow the money TO Brexit? I'm sure it has the same source as Trump's claimed wealth.

    Indeed, the French recognized collaboration when they saw it in Marine Le Pen's "thank you" trip to Moscow prior to the presidentials. From 1940-44 they suffered under a Nazi occupation, and the collaboration of a number of French politicians and others scouted out by Nazi agents prior to 1939.

    The British--and the United States--were never occupied, so this scenario was apparently unthinkable. This will come back to haunt both nations when Trump flips the bird at NATO and gets on his knees before Putin for another handout--and further instructions.

  45. Actually, the Channel Islands, which are British, were occupied by Nazi Germany.

  46. So the takeaway for a lot of our being miserable is that in most , if not all, forms of democratic governments, ONE MUST PARTICIPATE. If you leave the decisions up to your representatives, you are as likely to be up the creek without a paddle as not. That is why it is entirely BIGLY SAD that only 50% or so ever show up at the polls.

  47. It's really not "too bad" that the British didn't think of all that before the referendum. It turns out that there is absolutely no bar to reversing that referendum except for politics. If somebody or party has the guts to save England, they can do so. It's just like our Democratic party. They made a choice and put up a loser last time. Now they have a choice to nominate someone left of center. If they don't, just like England that could vote out the referendum, we will continue on the path to oblivion. It could happen. I hope both countries aren't idiots twice

  48. If only Brexit voters had bothered to care about details, and demanded them! The cynical Brexit leaders had no plan, just slogans and rhetoric and promises that evaporated like dew in the face of reality.

    And ditto for Trump voters. Nobody asked what "zero tolerance" on immigration meant--Trump got away with just flinging slogans. And now we find out it means children in cages.

  49. Stoked by Russia and alt-right Fox Faux News porn!

  50. The truth is that outrageous lies have influence, and even more so if the liars have previously taken care to discredit responsible journalism and subsidize their own policy organs.

    The US, no more than the UK, is engaged "in a great civil war, testing whether .. any nation ...dedicated...to the proposition that all men are created equal," (and policy shaped to promote that goal) can long endure.

    Brexiteers lied. A responsible government would admit they made a mistake, hadn't presented relevant information, and intended to do better henceforth by following more responsible policy.

    Any chance?? We can hope.

  51. Stripped of all the trade rhetoric, what the BREXIT is all about is the same thing that the Trumpian agenda is all about. The 'soft BREXIT' will try to keep the goods flowing freely, while restricting the exchange of people... of course, the people the pro-BREXIT crowd is most concerned about are the refugees from those 'brown-skin' and 'radical Islam' countries. Keep out the refugees, the African refugees, but keep the goods flowing freely. In this country the Trump xenophobia is thinly (and wearing ever thinner)racism. "MS-13" is a code word... Trump said it right up front in his announcement - perhaps he feels he has to be more circumspect now that he's "presidential" in his speeches. Oops... May is trying to have the cake, but not pay the cost, and I hope the EU stuffs that back in the foolish faces of all the Britons who voted for exit.

  52. Professor Krugman - If you're looking for topics to distract you from the "grim political news", how about the credit bubble?

    The IIF reported global debt jumped to $247 Trillion, 318% of the world's GDP. You've written previously that at some point, debt will become an issue. Would be interested in your thoughts.

    Thank you.

  53. Oh lord, here we go again. I knew it was a problem but didn't know the extent. There is still no regulation (or even registration) of most credit instruments are there? I'm interested in policy that is reasonable that would reign these instruments in. Any ideas? Clinton had policies about the shadow markets. Your opinion of those?

  54. Xenophobia is certainly the basis of all the global shifts to the right. For Europe and England immigration has come from 1) their ex-colonies and 2) from the civil war in Syria. The second is the primary cause of current angst where Muslim speaking cultures have born the brunt of prejudice lately. All across Europe and England there are many more communities speaking a different language than there were 40 years ago. These immigrant movements have had a significant effect. In the United States the immigrants involved Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans. In the west, we rely heavily on an immigrant Mexican population.

    I don't know if I have these observations accurate. I am not well versed on this subject. I come away from the discussion recommending in particular that the war in Syria is the reason for rightward movement in Europe and GB. If the war had been solved leaving a country that is habitable, much of the stress in Europe would recede.

    I am a progressive and I believe very strongly that immigrant populations are what makes my country great. I love the differences. We miss out on so much if we restrict our world to people who look like us. So much.

    But I also see the stress that heavy immigration can cause. I understand why people are turning right. But I hate that they are. There are far more sensible and compassionate ways to deal with the problem.

  55. Brexit has the same root as Trumpism: Xenophobia and Ethnocentrism.

  56. Brexit was about racism, nothing more, nothing less.

  57. This plot is misleading - selective omission of data (as Mr. Krugman is want to do)

    None of the EU countries shown, France. Germany , Spain to which the UK exports, matches the UK exports to the US - that is farther away from the UK than either above

    Data

    UK exports to US British Pound 99.6 Billion
    UK exports to Germany British Pounds 49.1 Billion
    UK exports to France British Pounds 34.8 Billion
    UK exports to Spain British Pounds 14.6 Billion

    (Note that UK exports to Germany are more than 3 times than to Germany - Krugman's plot has at 80% which is wrong)

    Nor does trade consists on exports only. Imports are the other half

    The countries from which the UK imports are in decreasing order Germany, US, and Netherlands and China (tie)

    Finally

    The share of UK exports of goods and services going to the EU has fallen, from 54% in 2000 to 43% in 2016.

    Data

    Office of National Statistics, GB

    https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/internationaltrade/artic...

  58. Amazing to see how Russia plotted with a primary Brexit backer by giving them a piece of a sweetheart biz deal in order to finance the Brexit campaign lies:

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/16/arron-banks-nigel-farage...

    laundering where the campaign financing came from. Wonder if that's a pattern (deepest sarcasm) ?

    Watching the GOPers' jawdropping 4th of July Treason Trip to the Kremlin, and remembering that Russia hacked the Republican National Committee's emails:

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/16/arron-banks-nigel-farage...

    as well as state level campaigns, but didn't pass that data out to Wikileaks for broadcast, one wonders what Putin may be holding over the heads of the entire GOP - and not just His Unhinged Unraveling Unfitness ?

  59. "one wonders" - yes we do. Too much circumstantial evidence that may become truth if Mueller is allowed to complete his investigation. The GOP, entire GOP, is now suspect, and complicit. I would venture that McConnell is the head of that snake.

  60. Where is David Cameron these days? I'm sure he could understand this as well as he could understand the advantages of governing by referendum. Besides, the Brits don't want foreigners telling them how to make sausages or tampering with their traditional foods: pizza and chicken tikka masala. What are export-related jobs and per capita GDP in the face of humiliating subsidies?

  61. Brexit is Britain version of Trumps " election ". When the "uneducated " drink the Kool-Aid and actually vote. And those that should know better stay home due to pouting, laziness or better things to do. Like pontificating on Facebook, playing video games, or cruising " dating " sites. Yeah, I'm talking to you, millennials. " When you know better, you do better ". I sincerely hope so. Please, prove me wrong in November. I dare you. Nothing would be better than a huge turnout among younger voters, increasing each year. That's real democracy in action. Seriously.

  62. My understanding is that the real reason behind Brexit is that many Brits resented other EU members migrating to the UK because of higher government benefits. IntraUnion migration was/is the problem, not the many Middle Eastern immigrants, although they would eventually be able to migrate once naturalized.

  63. The Brexit fiasco has revealed itself to be a gang war between two factions of the British ruling class, as represented by the Tories, Britain's economy be damned.

    Brexit is a desperate, last ditch attempt by certain segments of a senile ruling class to hang on to power, all at the expense of the nation, having safely tucked their money away offshore, just like Trump's backers, including the Ruskies. The Brexit branch of the Tory party is trying to pull off a colonial withdrawal, the finale this time, from the 'home' land, just another colony to be plundered, free of oversight from Brussels with its anti-tax avoidance stance. They've found enough credulous dotards among the electorate who'll buy the racism and xenophobia they're selling, and plenty of offshore scavengers stand by to pick the carcass clean.

    When is it going to sink in that it won't be the Tory ruling establishment that is going to pay for the Brexit delusion? Life will go on dreamily in offshore investment land with plenty of disaster capital opportunities.

    Meanwhile, rather than riding this compelling narrative into government, Corbyn has displayed the strategic sense of a gormless tapeworm content to dwell in the downpipe of British leftist fantasy and he just won't come out of there. The Panama Papers and Remain handed him the keys to power and he's blowing it in order to exercise his own anti-European stance. Dump him before it's too late, Labour supporters, or the goose is cooked!

  64. What options do the British have to rethink and re-vote this Break-It decision?

  65. (1) Follow through with Brexit, and leave the economy in a shambles for 20 years
    (2) Have desperate and uninformed voters fall prey to an even more hairbrained craven scheme from the same group.

  66. London's version of Trump trashes the current system then runs like a coward when it is time to replace it with something. Maybe instead of a trans-Atlantic customs union we could form a support group?

  67. As Stephen Marmon pointed out this is about migration and not trade. Paul, bless his heart, always treats these arguments as if they are really talking about what they seem to be talking about. Like Freud with the dream there is a manifest and a latent content, In the manifest it's about trade but in the latent content -- which is where the action is -- its about migration. The older folks in the UK are overcome with nostalgia for the days of the Empire. The grand old days when the UK possessed itself. But as global trade networks dissolve quaint historical artefacts like discrete countries and their borders the older folks in the UK felt their national identity slipping away.

    Hence the desire of the old folks to leave the EU. However as this economic narrative unfolds -- right in Dr. Krugman's wheelhouse --, the even more devastating development for liberal democracies built on compassion and empathy and open borders has been the flood on immigrants from the middle east. The single solitary thing that Trump has working for him is that no bleeding heart liberal plan to take the escapees from the civil wars of the MIddle East will work. It's only his being a dunce that has prevented Trump from making the deal to create a refugee camp in Syria and Saudi Arabia and keeping all their people at home and making them responsible for their own people. The UK can't assimilate these folks. Until the left figures this out, riff raff like Trump will bludgeon them with it.

  68. A brilliant comment. Agree 100%

  69. Wrong.

    Brits are talking about Eastern Europeans that have come to work there. Go to London, and you'll see what I mean.

  70. Immigration played a role in the Brexit vote but not refugees. Britain has received very few refugees. Some were trying to get there but France held them back in an infamous tent city in Calais (the "jungle").

    There was a big ruckus about Eastern Europeans who supposedly have come and taken jobs but that story like so many others about job-stealing immigrants doesn't make any sense. The Eastern Europeans that have come have almost exclusively moved to the cities and the cities didn't vote for Brexit.

    That is a common phenomenon. Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric is most popular in states like West Virginia that don't have many immigrants.
    Mostly old folks and rural voters voted for Brexit. Not because of some rational reason but mostly just to throw a spanner in the gears of the country. Not unlike the US, again.

    There is a strange mix of self-pity of not being taken serious enough on the countryside, ignorance about the consequences and yes, also manipulation by interested parties. They didn't listen to us now they will pay! Not exactly smart since the cities can weather the storm more easily and since the countryside with its structural weaknesses relies much more on help from the government.

    But this is no age for thoughtful decisions. It's an age of revenge for perceived slights and spiteful destruction. Many people really have no clue what we have to lose and what it took to have those past 70 years of peace. They'll find out soon.

  71. Thanks for yet another clear discussion of what could have been a difficult to understand issue.

    Trade is good for all sides, but it is especially good for the long term peace of the world. That is something even an economist as good as Krugman would have a hard time estimating.

    John Genereux

  72. I hope sanity retains and the Brexit does not happen. The Euro was an ill thought out plan, combining apples and oranges arriving at fruit cocktail. What do you do when Germany's bonds are good and Italy's are bad?
    On the other hand, the EU seems to work fine. Dump the Euro and keep the EU in tact.

  73. I think I follow the economic logic here. However, I think that the Brexit crowd is not going to be at all happy about still being subject to EU regulations. It might work if Britain regained control over immigration from other European countries, but the EU seems unwilling to permit that.

    I think the chance of a disorderly and costly no-deal Brexit is quite high at this point.

  74. I think Schrodinger is right, but Krugman's point is the they will be fully in charge of a much smaller pie this way, rather than having limited influence over a much larger one.

  75. Thanks for yet another clear discussion of what could have been a difficult to understand issue.

    Woof is right on the data, I 'm sure, and as a fellow data nerd, I appreciate that. However, he fails to take into account both parts of gravity analysis: Both size and distance. The enormous size of the US economy vis-à-vis any of the European countries means that our market attracts a lot of trade.

    Trade is good for all sides, but it is especially good for the long term peace of the world. That is something even an economist as good as Krugman would have a hard time estimating.

    John Genereux

  76. Yes, trade is good for all sides. And "Trade ... good for ...peace" sounds plausible, but a commonly stated myth prior to World War I was that a European conflict would be impossible due to the huge amount of trade between those nations. Didn't quite work out.

  77. So its a custom union not a free trade agreement? Brexit was never about trade of any form any way so what's the point of your snarky question? There is a real refugee crisis in Europe and the people said no to allowing their cheaper, quieter replacements. Krugman still has no feel for what is going on around the globe. But his article is cutesy, so he has that. Changes are going to keep on coming, so strap in(and jimminy Christmas this paper needs some new voices).

  78. Well, your response doesn't make any sense. He was talking about Brexit and you are talking about refugees which is completely unrelated. I thought his article was on point explaining the complexities faced by Britain because the leave campaign nurtured fears rather than truth.

  79. If you think Brexit isn't about immigrants you should randomly ask ten Britons who voted for it. All ten will tell you it was about immigrants. Blimey!

  80. Let's not forget the other reason a deal with the US is a bad idea for UK:
    Trump.
    He's a back stabber and can't be trusted.

    The US in fact, is now considered untrustworthy by the rest of the free world.
    I think EU and NATO need to simply get on with it and go it alone without the US.
    Trump is a completely unreliable force.

  81. Either untrustworthy or willing no longer. I tend to think it’s more the latter.

  82. This song is about why people voted for Brexit. Some of the British words might not make too much sense to Americans.
    'local' = local bar
    'kippers'= smoked fish
    'Tesco's = supermarket chain
    'blitz' = world war 2 bombing

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07X_yk1v8S4

  83. The key line of the song is in the middle:
    "Once we ruled over an empire"
    And from those words could -- but won't -- hang an enormously long comment that would cover, at least, Great Britain, France and the US, all starting in the 17th century and coming to a head (in each country in its own ways) in our own times.

  84. Angstrom Unit,
    This is probably the best short comment I've read about the Brexit vote since it happened.

  85. Thank you Paul Krugman for your clear, insightful comments on this crazy world in which we now live. I think the Brexiters and the Trumpies suffer from what is called "aggressive ignorance". I suspect there is no cure for it. Your columns/tweets brighten my day.

  86. Are "aggressive ignorance" and "truthful hyperbole" opposite sides of the same coin?

  87. allow me to add one word... willful Aggressive Willful Ignorance

  88. With apologies to Johnny Marr and Morrissey:

    Boris is nice, and
    Boris can stop you
    From doing all the things in life
    You'd like to

    So, if it's Brexit you'd like to try
    If it's Brexit you'd like to try
    Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?

    Dumbness is nice, and
    Dumbness can stop you
    From believing all the things in
    Life you'd like to
    So, if it's Brexit you'd like to try
    If it's Brexit you'd like to try
    Ask me, I won't say no, how could I?

    Spending warm summer days indoors
    Sending remorseful verse
    To former friends in the Euro Zone
    Ask me, ask me, ask me
    Ask me, ask me, ask me
    Because if it's not love
    Then it's the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade
    That will bring us together

    Econ is a language, can't you read?
    Econ is a language can't you read?
    So ask me, ask me, ask me
    Ask me, ask me, ask me
    Because if it's not love
    Then it's the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade, the trade
    That will bring us together

    If it's not love
    Then it's the trade
    Then it's the trade
    That will bring us together
    So ask me, ask me, ask me
    Ask me, ask me, ask me
    We didn't know what we were doing, did we?

  89. this is lovely!

  90. The Brexit phenomenon is similar to the tribal division developing so rapidly - and frighteningly - in the U.S. Brexit supporters were told that the UK didn't need to be "bossed around" by EU regulations, that the UK could and should stand alone. The Brexit people were assured that bilateral trade agreements would be better than multilateral ones, and all would be well. It's not and it won't. As a workshop economy, the UK - much more than most - depends on the rapid and efficient flow of goods - elements for assembly and refashioning - from all over the world. Such an economy works much more efficiently within multilateral agreements such as within the EU. As a confirmed Anglophile, I think it's really too bad - awfully bad - that the Brexit folks fell for a pig in a poke. But we should know all about that, now shouldn't we?

  91. “Can we have the colonies back, please?”

  92. The public wase also told that Britain would get to keep the money they were spending on EU infrastructure (OK, bureaucracy) and that that money would go to shore up the NHS. And I've got a bridge for them..........

  93. "Too bad more people didn’t ask it before the referendum." In those areas that voted most heavily for Brexit, the most asked question on the internet after the vote was, "What is the European Union?" The British people were sold a pile of lies, and does that remind you of what's happening in the US?

  94. It’s not at all evident that America was sold a pile of lies. Trump is doing pretty much what he promised in his campaign. Some may not agree with what he’s doing but he’s sticking to his promises far more than his predecessor.

  95. Following through on promises?You mean, like his promise to introduce “the best” health care plan? Or the one to have Mexico pay for a border wall? Or was it the one to drain the swamp of lobbyists and cronyism? So many promises filled. So much winning. What a sick joke.

  96. The areas that voted most heavily for Brexit were also the areas with the fewest immigrants. Kind of like Iowa or Kansas.

  97. The Brexit vote in Britain encouraged Trump's win.
    Perhaps Brexit failure would encourage Trump''s downfall.

    I would appreciate any comments on this from Prof. Krugman.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

  98. I seriosly doubt that Trump voters cared about Brexit, or even that they follow news from beyond their belly buttons.

  99. Do you think that those who supported Brexit anticipated the dissolution of the United Kingdom? Scottish voters are strongly in favor of staying in the EU, as are voters in Northern Ireland. A "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would be reversal of years of economic and political progress for Northern Ireland.

    I don't know if the Brexit supporters thought this through. Maybe they just want to go back to little England, you know, the "good old days."

  100. Good points. A Hard Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would violate, very significantly, the peace accords that ended the troubles. The Republic of Ireland has promised to veto any Brexit with such a Hard Border. Several other countries will veto any agreement allowing a Soft Border there but not elsewhere. And only one veto sinks any deal.
    England literally can only avoid a hard Brexit by ceding Northern Ireland, which I doubt will happen. Scotland and Wales and the Channel Islands also would very much prefer to stay in the EU.

  101. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland is a bit of a hard sell for the Republic. They’d be a sudden and quite economically demanding neighbour, with a political fondness for groups like the DUP, and a socially conservative bent that Ireland has done a great deal of work to move away from, if cautiously. Erasing that border and insisting NI suddenly ditch the monarchy and become ‘joiners’ in the Catholic republic would upset deep rooted identity politics and likely lead to turmoil. The conflict that led to the Troubles was hundreds of years in the making. 20 years of being neighbours who both get their own political leadership and all that entails, while still being able to cross the border without fear of violence hardly means it’s all been washed away.

  102. Also: Wales voted, bafflingly, to leave. They were overwhelmingly the largest beneficiaries of European subsidy within GB.

  103. As anyone who isn’t an economist could have told you, the point of Brexit was to keep out immigrants: Poles and anyone else from Eastern Europe, and Syrians and anyone else with darker skin. Outside of London, no one expects to hear a foreign accent, let alone a foreign language, and the Brits are willing to make economic sacrifices to keep things that way.
    The false economic arguments that were made during the Brexit referendum only provided cover for the real issue of immigration. Whether it’s Poland, Hungary, Britain, or West Virginia, social issues rule. Money, economics, and the opinions of economists count for zilch.

  104. Sorry, but you can't have free movement of products (free trade) without free movement of people (immigration.) That is just the way the EU works. So you'll get your immigration control, and your economy will fall in the toilet.

  105. I think this is correct. Arguments are made that Japan must pivot and accept immigration to combat declining birth rates and population. This framing is likely to have very predictable results...

  106. Yes, in times of relative prosperity. Wait until the next global recession, which will strike the white working classes of the countries you listed, and see what if economics suddenly matter.

  107. Brexit is NOT primarily about economics

    It is primarily about national identity

    A soft Brexit would require Ms. May to accept the European condition for access the European Economic : free movement of people - sans losing her job.

    We shall see.

  108. Even allowing for the racism of Brits and Americans, both Brexit and Trumpism were also sold on the basis of economic promises which have no basis in reality. Without this icing on the cake I doubt either Trump or Brexit would have passed. In the US there was little to fear from the "wave "immigrants who were already on the decline before Trump arrived on the scene. In fact arguably we could use more given the current full employment situation. The European immigrant problem however is real as Friedman noted a week or so back. However the answer was to develop a Europe-wide response and include efforts to end the destabilizing wars which are largely to blame for the flood of immigrants to Europe.

  109. "So what was the point of Brexit in the first place?"

    Above all, it was about immigration. But it was also about a myriad of petty regulations on every aspect of life emanating from Brussels. And a generalized feeling that Brits were living under the thumb of the German finance minister. They simply wanted their country back, just as Trump voters wanted their country back, at least the country they knew.

    That Krugman needs to ask that question speaks volumes about how we got where we are, and how we might get out of it. The white working class, on both sides of the Atlantic, want their government, and society generally, to support them in their hour of need. Barring that, we will continue to see the break-up of the liberal order, and ever more authoritarianism.

  110. You say that "the white working class, on both sides of the Atlantic, want their government...to support them in their hour of need".
    Last I checked, the white working class in this country is dying of Opioid overdoses, unable to afford decent healthcare, and unable to find work that they are skilled to undertake. Trump has made numerous promises to solve all of these problems.
    Somehow, though, favoring Big Pharma over individuals and their overdoses, continuing to undermine the A.C.A. (by recently refusing to extend the payments to insurers for the high risk classes of claimants), and proposing to return us all to the coal mines and assembly lines (a most vacuous pair of promises if there ever were) are not quite the solutions we've been promised.
    I think the fact is that otherwise able-to-think-for-themselves Republican constituents have decided en masse that the merits of a would-be, tough-sounding dictator outweigh the need to ever question or think critically about a single one of his actions based upon its own merits. In Fox News they trust. And that "speaks volumes about" commenters like yourself.

  111. "The white working class, on both sides of the Atlantic, want their government, and society generally, to support them in their hour of need."

    Translation: white people want to continue to have all, and not just most, of the power in society. The loss of the slightest amount terrifies them. And if you don't do exactly what they say, then they'll destroy everything.

  112. Because the voices of women and minorities are increasing in power, the country that Trump voters knew is never coming back.

    If they want someone to support them in their hour of need, they should look to Democrats, who have given them Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare, along with numerous other benefits.

  113. Ron Cohen and others are correct about Brexit: "Above all, it was about immigration." Not just immigrants who wanted to live in the United Kingdom, either. Considerable disruption was caused by skilled laborers from poorer areas of the continent who wanted to work long hours and hard and amass what would be a fortune when they returned home. Hundreds of thousands of "Polish Plumbers" had successfully competed with complacent British tradesmen who did not work evenings and weekends, charged a lot more, and were often not as competent.
    Several EU countries have repeatedly told the UK, including before the Brexit vote, that if there is no free movement of labor there will be no free movement of goods or capital. And the UK cannot have a sweetheart Brexit deal without unanimous consent by EU member states. Johnson and May probably really knew (and today definitely know) that the deal they claimed they would get was impossible.
    And I add another dose of reality to the concept of sweetheart deals with the USA. Krugman shows us graphically that it will not work. But as long as Trump is President, no such special deals will be offered. He would much prefer a trade war. Remember, trade wars are fun. They're good. And they're easy to win. So says Trump.

  114. Krugman's graph must be wrong. Exports between the UK and France only account for less than one fifth of one percent of the UK's GDP? Adding in Spain, Germany, Canada, the US and Japan still falls short of one percent? If that's the case, who cares? 1% can mean a lot in certain Olympic races but in matters of GDP and international trade it's not even a blip.
    Check your numbers, Dr. Krugman.

  115. Percentages are often expressed as ratios. 0.15 is the ratio and means 15%. The labels on the table are indeed misleading.

  116. It shows the percentage of the GDP of the IMPORTING country, not of the UK’s.

  117. Alan who?

  118. Tongue firmly in cheek - why not just leave the EU and join the US? Get eight senators, more house seats than California and allow the Windsors to go the way of the Kardashians. You’ve been acting more like Americans than Europeans, lately, anyway.

  119. As many here have noted, the whole point of Brexit was anti-immigrant. Briton wants the customs-union advantages of theEU without the free labor market of the EU.

    Why should or would the rest of the EU give them that?

    Brexit was a child's tantrum: won't eat their vegetables, want ice cream now.

    The EU is putting them to bed with no supper.

  120. Love the imagery, Lee - here's hoping a Nanny shows up pronto, if not sooner.

  121. So a lot of the comments are not about Krugman's economic points but about the "why did we do it?" comment on the end. Yes, as with Trump, there were a lot of not so silent dog-whistle's. Call it what you will: national identity, racism, white privilege. But Brexit would have failed without the false economic narrative. Similarly, in the US, Trump voters were told just enough economic lies to let them feel comfortable about voting for a thinly disguised appeal to ethnic nostalgia. The only reason people on both sides of the pond are willing to react to their feeling of "feeling neglected" is that they were willing to not look at the real economics. So that's the answer to Krugman's "good question." People were blinded by their own pride.

  122. Donald Trump's ascendancy and Brexit are showcasing the problems of democracy in which low-information and apathetic voters make a huge difference. Democracy works best when citizens are knowledgeable and involved, not part-timers who can walk in and walk out at their leisure. It is somewhat like parenting, a full-time job that requires 24X7 attention and involvement. Demagogues like Trump, Bannon, and others (here in America) and Farage, Johnson, and others (across the pond) tell lies without consequences. This demagoguery provides the bread & circus for the low-information and apathetic voter. The result: Donald Trump gets elected here in America and Brexit happens yonder in the UK.

  123. All of your cited demagogues are funded by the Russians. The goal is to destroy democracy and the EU. NATO is also on the Russian hit list. Watch what happens this week.

  124. Immigration was the hook that got the electorate. But what was the real reason? What moves people like Boris Johnson to push for something so detrimental to his country? What was his personal gain? He's very similar to Trump.

  125. All you described is true. The Brexit vote was over one simple thing...English voters did not and do not trust the political establishment. When Poland et al joined the EU, the Labor government at the time)did not put a 7 year stay on immigration from new member states, stating that less that 75,000 would move to the UK. In actually, close to 2 it million did in the space of two years (Germany, France etc kept the 7 yr prohibition. While economically this helped the UK, no one in power addressed this issue. Brexit is not a rational economic choice but seems to be a cultural choice.

  126. the referendum was non-binding. why do politicians act as if a <1% tilt in favor of leaving the union is a mandate? And all this sounds even more than suspicious now that we know there was an misinformation campaign associated with that vote similar to the one in the US presidential election.

    Isn't it time for a revote that requires more than a simple majority to disrupt something so fundamental to the British economy?

  127. Immigration was a major driver of the Brexit vote -- fear/resentment over the cultural changes immigration had engendered, more than job anxiety I think. But what I think gets overlooked in the Brexit discussions is *English* resentment about regulations created by the EU structure and the sense of a loss of sovereignty. I personally think Brexit is the worst thing to happen to the UK since WWII, and I think the impact will be very negative for the people who supported Brexit most. But I also think the actual or perceived accountability gap in the EU political and administrative structures created a lot of resentment - particularly in England. Authority without accountability corrupts, and the EU was perceived as having too much power and too little accountability by many people in England, where the average citizen until relatively recently could hold MPs to higher level of accountability. Scotland and NI traditionally have had limited sense of sovereign control in what an England-dominated Parliament, so the EU gave a welcome new pathway to money and power for many in those regions. NI and Scotland qualified for lots of EU funding schemes that England couldn't compete for, given its higher level of development. So among the stressed small businesses, England was perceived as getting the stick, and no carrots, while academics and other "elites" and NI and Scotland generally saw that they would lose a lot of good things under Brexit.

  128. Nice explanation. Succinct and accurate.

  129. The old saying about sleeping dogs applies in both these cases, UK-EU and US-Mexico-Nafta. Neither the EU-UK nor Nafta-US were broken, so why did Ms. May and Mr. Trump try to fix it? An ephemeral political boost, I guess.

    It's amusing to watch the Tories clinging to mast of a sinking ship, er, issue. Has anybody gone below the waterline to check for leaks lately on our US ship of state?

  130. Agree with your point in general, but must clarify one thing - Ms. May was not the instigator of Brexit. We can thank David Cameron for that mess.

  131. Thomas Jefferson warned about major legislation passed with the support of only one political party. Likewise, no major changes in a nation should ever be passed by a single vote of the public. Passions become inflamed, those who take one side might have a lot more money than the other and some voters don't take time to fully understand the issue. A simple majority vote, also, is inadequate on something like Brexit because it was a system, a series of processes, built over decades.

    In addition to all this, Brexit was supposed to have been an advisory vote, not a hard mandate. As soon it was passed, however, the politicians said they would fall in line, forget advisory. What a mess. Perhaps they deserve it, having failed to sell the public on the EU in the first place.

    We need some sort of initiative process right here in the States, but something more limited and controlled than the California example which has evolved to be a side door means for the rich and powerful, mainly businesses, to get what they want.

    Without change, we are lost. Congress can't even address our major problems. Floating on an ocean of billionaires' money, lobbied constantly by hordes of those protecting the interests of business and the wealthy, Congress is all but a lost cause. "We, the people" need a way to express our will since the majority view of the public on many issues no longer matters, especially with Republicans in control. There are risks, to be sure, but it is a gamble we must take.

  132. I wonder how many farmers in Montana or Idaho know what Brexit is or would care if they did know. Most of them have never been to the UK or the EU.

    I wonder if any of them know that the crops in California can't be picked without migrant labor. Do they know that guns won't protect them from the fertilizer they use when it seeps into the ground and their ensuing illnesses will not be covered by Obamacare because it will be gone. Do they understand that Dow and Monsanto's CEOs will buy their 10th homes, cars and yachts? How many know what "international commerce" is and why what happens in the UK or in Poland or Turkey can actually have an effect on us? Have they ever heard of a gravity equation for trade? Bet not.

    Someone should create a survey -- what do they actually know and understand? My guess is that Trump's base thinks they know but do not and they think it doesn't matter but it does. Ditto for the folks in Britain who voted to leave the UK. Didn't think it would matter but it does.

  133. Idaho farmers know about migrant labor. The Idaho Republican Party just defeated a motion to prosecute employers who hire illegal immigrants, explaining that Idaho farms and dairies can't survive without undocumented workers.

  134. Typo: "voted to leave the EU" not "voted to leave the UK"
    Absolutely spot on analysis.

  135. "Ferengi economics." Clever and accurate

  136. You’re over simplifying, Paul. The EU is much more than a customs union; it is primarily a regulatory union. The frictions Britain will face arise from leaving the Single Market more than the customs union. The Single Market has common oversight and enforcement mechanisms that the UK is abandoning, thus jeopardizing crucial trade with Europe.

  137. Mr Paul is simply trying to elaborate more on the 'Law of gravity ' in International trade.Distance and efficiency matters alot in international trade,This simply means that Britain need to cooperate with its allies in order to generate more profit and off-course, Their just in time method get automatic elimination right after leaving the custom Union.

  138. For many, Brexit was about sovereignty, pure and simple.

    And the recent push for Article 13 in the EU makes a great retrospective case for Brexit, regardless of the economic impact. Having a say in the laws that govern you is worth paying a price.

  139. We had a say. We were one member among equals, represented by duly elected representatives (of which the thankless prime Brexiteer Farage is one).

    The so-called "sovereignty" we desperately longed to regain belongs to some bygone 19th-century conception of the nation-state. But that political fiction was always dependent on warlike expansionism, murder and plunder. The sovereignty of Western nation-states was predicated on the domination and instrumentalization of the natural and the non-Western world.

    Wanting stand-alone national independence in the contemporary world is like wanting your very own private but comprehensive internet--both impossible and, if it could be done, essentially self-defeating.

  140. Britain did join the EU of its own volition, did it not? As for "regardless of the economic impact", this sounds like an argument in favor of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

    Like much of contemporaneous US policy, the Brexit vote was constructed as an all-or-nothing affair involving lots of magical thinking, but without much attention paid to likely real-life outcomes should the dog actually catch the car.

  141. This is simply not true. Britain has a say - actually an outsize say - in all of the laws that affect it. From the EU's official website:

    "The EU’s standard decision-making procedure is known as 'Ordinary Legislative Procedure’ (ex "codecision"). This means that the directly elected European Parliament has to approve EU legislation together with the Council (the governments of the 28 EU countries)."

    As one of the most powerful EU members, the UK actually has (well, had) an outsize influence in directing EU direction, from both the directly elected MEPs and the UK government via the Council. I'm really sick of this constant fact-free claim that Britain has no say in the laws that govern it. Apparently "having a say" is actually code-speak for "getting to shout everyone else down."

  142. Here, again, we have Putin meddling and interfering with success in swaying the British public into voting for Brexit. Trump is doing Putin bidding domestically, and seems to be taking Putin's advice on his behavior abroad.

    Our Democracy is not at a crossroads as many say, but it is actually being derailed, along with many stalwart alliances of our long time allies.

  143. Dr. Krugman could be right, but not necessarily for the reasons given. What’s certain is, short of a Trumpian miracle, that Boris Johnson’s political career not only has met gravity but has disappeared into a black hole. I, for one, won’t be conducting an interstellar expedition aimed at finding it again.

    But Dr. Krugman, who can’t lightly be challenged on purely economic issues (and certainly not by me), might seek help in understanding the replenishment details of manufacturing operations (at which I’M an “expert”). If the extent of “friction” arising from more intensive customs inspections can be rationally approximated (and of course it can), whether it be Mexico or Britain, manufacturers still can run efficient JIT (just-in-time) operations perfectly well – they just need to account for the known lag and trip their replenishment triggers sooner – or their suppliers, with visibility into their customers’ inventories and rates of production, can do it for them. Volumes of contracted parts really determine cost-per part, not the transit method or duration, and in most countries addicted to tax accounting, you don’t undertake the tax burden of inventory until you actually acknowledge receipt of the inventory.

    Of COURSE businesses are screaming, as they always scream at the hint of any inconvenience, but this aspect of Brexit (or NAFTA) is quite manageable. If they must, they’ll manage it without missing a beat. Or at least without missing two beats. …

  144. … However, the reasons that Brexit has met “gravity” aren’t really economic in their intensity, but have to do with political awareness by the British people. They didn’t narrowly approve Brexit because they thought the economic reasons were compelling but because they wanted to limit the number of migrants entering their country, to regain control of borders that Brussels doesn’t acknowledge for the purpose of protecting cultures perceived by Community members as endangered. But they were given to believe that the sheer complexity of severing ties to support this interest, as well as ending rules dictated generally by Brussels, was manageable.

    But they’ve discovered through the travails of PM May that the complexity is not limited merely to supporting JIT operations but is pervasive throughout their interactions with Europe. And there may very well be unacceptable COMPREHENSIVE costs to a “hard-Brexit” that place that original value-proposition at question.

    And I’m sure they feel betrayed by the Brexiteers, who so minimized those complexities and costs.

    Perhaps PM May, with a purged cabinet, can find a path to a looser confederation that Brussels will find wearable; but it does appear that a “hard Brexit” ain’t in the offing. And Brussels seems adamant about allowing migrants who somehow make it to Europe to cover the English landscape at will – because EVERY member wants to get rid of them.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the grip of such “gravity”.

  145. Hmm, for once I agree with you, Richard. What you wrote was largely true and sensibly phrased, aside from the usual snark.

    Possibly Richard's remarks are improved by distance - I took a lovely bike ride around Helsinki today, where the locals are dreading the coming meeting between the most powerful man in the world, and his apprentice. I hope Putin gives Trump a favorable quarterly review.

  146. Probably a poor question, but does the amount of trade accurately reflect the value of the trade relationship?

  147. hhhmmm ... I wonder ...

    ---"For example, the British auto industry relies on “just-in-time” production, maintaining low inventories of parts, because it has been able to count on prompt arrival of parts from Europe. If Britain leaves the customs union, the risk of customs delays would make this infeasible, substantially raising costs."---

    American auto manufacturers use parts from Mexico and also use "just-in-time" production. Customs delays are not making this infeasible. It's just something worked into the scheduling process.

    "Customs delays" aren't a problem. Where there is a well-established relationship between the 2 countries the customs process will be predictable and can be included reliably in the scheduling. So in the beginning, once Brexit takes effect, there may be some hiccups. But no doubt there will be plenty of economic pressure on both sides of the Channel to get the process smoothed out.

  148. "American auto manufacturers use parts from Mexico and also use "just-in-time" production. Customs delays are not making this infeasible..." That 's because of NAFTA. Impose tariffs and watch the delays and the paperwork soar.

  149. National identity? Which nationality? Scots? English? Northern Irish?

  150. Worth noting none of the UK based manufacturers are UK owned - they are owed by French, German Japanese, & now Chinese brands. The current platforms/ factories can be put on the back of trucks & brought elsewhere should tariffs be introduced in the event of a "hard" brexit.

    80% of the cars/ LCV's manufactured in the UK are exported to Europe. Therefore it makes no business sense to continue manufacturing in the UK should we fall of a cliff on the 29th of March. Independence day, according to the mad hardliners like Gussy Fink Mogg. Nissan & BMW have already made noises to this end. PSA, owners of Peugeot Citroen & now Opel/ Vauxhall have already laid off 650 people since they took over the brand. An initial 200 followed by 450 from their two plants. This impacts both the plants in question and the general supply chain. Both factories will close, they have more productive plants in Germany & France.

    It will be death by a thousand cuts, why would any sensible business invest in a country that wants brexit but does not know what kind of brexit it wants. A cabinet who cannot agree a position, who seem oblivious to the needs of business & employers, who seem wholly unaware how tax income is generated to pay for services.

    40% of food is imported & much of our agricultural produce is harvested by those dreaded immigrants! Fewer are coming & some fruit is rotting in the fields! Local people are not prepared to do this hard seasonal work.

    We have lost all sense.

  151. I value Mr Krugman's opinion and others presented here, but I am not seeing enough discussion of the underlying problems:

    (1) Immigrants move in search of "better" lives. Unless we stop turning a blind eye on our global neighbors and work with countries that are not doing as well, of course we will have migration problems.

    (2) A free market system is only free if it has free movement of people. If I can move my capital or factory to another country but people/laborers cannot, of course we will have market and economic problems.

    (3) Democracies that lose sight of their values (egalite...), and participatory mandate and then elect career politicians to run the show allow "populist" and "nationalist" ideas to take hold and so, of course we have governance problems.

    Less zero sum, right and wrong, us versus them, and more lift all boats, win-win, we're all in this together is more than just pie in the sky -- it's a way to operate with honor, integrity, and compassion. I'd like a politician to seek my vote on that!

  152. Despite how badly they've handled things so far, May and her Conservative Party will figure it all out before the deadline, or...what will the penalty be? A brutal, hard Brexit, with Britons suffering as they get cut off from the EU, and without any agreements, with the US or anyone else, to make up for being cast as a loner across the Channel? It might a poorer, more dour UK, but at least they'll be "free," right? (And Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, and Putin'll be happy too, no?)

  153. Brexit was always ill conceived so it should come as no surprise that it is being poorly implemented. But to its supporters, Brexit is a fanatical cause, even as its flaws are becoming increasingly obvious. It is clear that if a hard Brexit happens, Britain will become poorer, more isolated, and more dependent on an American master that has never reciprocated its loyalty (think of Michael Cohn before his fall). So why do the Brexiters persist in their folly? To answer this question, we should realize that to them the sole value of any economic activity is self enrichment, and if Britain becomes a backwater, but they themselves become as rich as Russian oligarchs, the price is well worth paying. Oligarchy may not be much of an ideology, but to its beneficiaries it does pay great dividends.

  154. The gravity model is a travesty to both gravity and the theory of gravity.
    It's one thing to say that in principle distance should make trade probably more difficult and the larger the sizes of the economies could mean more trade between them.
    That seems like a reasonable thing to say.
    It's a totally different thing to do pseudophysics, i.e. things like this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_model_of_trade#Econometric_estimat...
    In this way one is not testing a model, one is just trivially fitting data (themselves let's say not that good...) to a model which isn't actually a single model but infinite different models.
    For example the professor used "British exports to selected countries as a percentage of the importing country’s GDP, plotted against the distance to that country".
    UK's exports to country y as % of y country's GDP.
    How so?
    (I won't even bother with the units used, is it percent or is fractional?)
    This trick, given e.g. that USA's GDP is huge compared to every other country minus China, makes certain that e.g. the USA point on the graph would go downwards, very down, "verifying" the gravity model.
    Now consult actual absolute UK exports or imports of either goods or services (WTO-ITC data)
    www.trademap.org/Country_SelServiceCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm=1|826||||||S00|1|3|1|2|2|1|2|1|1
    www.trademap.org/Country_SelProductCountry_TS.aspx?nvpm=1|826||||TOTAL|||2|1|1|2|2|1|2|1|1
    and see for example how UK's trade with the US is actually faring...

  155. PS1 Fwit
    I wrote this
    "I won't even bother with the units used, is it percent or is fractional?"
    I had been influenced by
    drdeanster's and George's exchange, i.e.
    https://nyti.ms/2Jcp3un
    https://nyti.ms/2JdMcwi
    and more specifically George claiming
    "Percentages are often expressed as ratios. 0.15 is the ratio and means 15%. The labels on the table are indeed misleading"

    In fact, afaict now that I've ckecked again, the y axis data do seem that are indeed percent values albeit according to WTC data off by a factor of 2ish, at least according to the 2016 UK-USA data I've checked against.

    PS2 To NYT staff: the trademap WTO-ITC links I've included do not work, do not read well in Firefox, they get cut off at the end by your server software; they do work, they're fine with Chrome. Please ensure compatibility with the former. Thank you.

  156. Every time the Party of “more for a few and less for the many” comes into power, Democracy is damaged - sometimes severely.

    Democracy is true representation, that means fair access to power, the decisions of power, and the outcomes of power. It therefore stands to reason that Democracy stands for far less inequality, especially pain inducing inequality. Some may make more, but few are truly poor, and even for them, services exist to help. People matter!

    It’s time to face it: all over North America, Western Europe, and some parts of Asia,the jury is in: Democracies based on systems of populist equality , fairness, and decency, ultimately lead to a good life for most, with pockets of prosperity throughout. These societies are generally stable, happy, hopeful, and peacefully well-adjusted. Any time all the wealth and power is hoarded, it’s bad for the overall wellbeing, and society as a whole.

    Face it, modern Conservatism, and unfettered capitalism, simply aren’t compatible with a society whose focus is a happy and prosperous future for most. Every time Conservatives get to run amok, they pretty much ruin it for everyone else! Note as well, they are left not only making economic harm, but civic harmas well - as they must substantially lie or distort the truth together into power, or sell their ideas.

    Centrists and Liberals have their problems, but at least they’ Not focused on selling snake oil to get their party into power....

  157. So well said. We have the same problem in the US. Our chief snake-oil salesman has just implemented a tax cut that will give corporations and the wealthiest 10% billions in savings while giving crumbs to the majority of Americans. All this at the cost of trillions to the deficit which will cause them in short order to convince Americans that is social programs that are killing the national debt. Unfortunately the boom is going to fall predominately on the heads of his constituents..who are less educated and more susceptible to the jingoistic, xenophobic rantings of a snake oil salesman who is not even particularly good at that.

  158. Amazing how a non binding opinion poll, has now seen Britain proceeding to Brexit. No minimum threshold, of say 60% or 75% of the vote, required to change the status quo. Just a simple majority, which will have far more repercussions than many voters realised.
    The Brexit referendum was inspired by Conservative Party turmoil over Britain in the EU. Odd that the Conservative Party are still in turmoil over Brexit, 25 months after the vote. Now the Conservative Party are the ones trying to negotiate Brexit from a position of increasing weakness on their part.
    Brexit will have a long term negative effect on the British economy. Not sure if voters realised they were signing up for lower economics growth and less economic relevance.
    One common factor in both Brexit and the election of Trump, was the continued strong support for both from the Murdoch press. Fear of immigration was front and centre, while the reality of the benefits of immigration were ignore or downplayed.
    Members of the elite establishment attacked those who wanted to remain in the EU, as being elitist. Any opposition was derided and attacked. Negatives were ignored or glossed over. It was all going to be better fro Britain ...........but the reality is that a small majority of voters have given their approval for a Little Britain, which seems to be economic suicide.

  159. "Brussels will still set UK trade policy, except that Britain will no longer have a vote. So what was the point of Brexit in the first place?"

    All of the other things that were decided in Brussels as part of the Ever Greater Union subsuming nation states.

    How important were those? That is what the Brexit vote was about, apart from trade. And let's be clear, just on trade, Brexit had no motive. It was about sovereignty, not trade.

    The EU must either become one big state, or it must devolve some more powers back to sovereign states. The Euro is one example of that, but only one. Immigration is another. Right now it is stuck in the middle, not one thing nor the other, and not functioning to the satisfaction of many.

    It was just a Common Market. Then it became more. Britain in particular was very reluctant about that more.

    France and Germany and Benelux were very enthusiastic about that more from the beginning.

    The new Eastern European members really like the prosperity and safety, but don't want to compromise their new-won sovereignty, so they want both at the same time, which actually just makes no sense.

    If it was just trade numbers, this would all be very different. It is a lot more than just trade.

  160. The UK was the second most powerful member of the EU. It has a veto over all major decisions and can fairly easily block 85% of all secondary decisions.

    The UK very often set the EU agenda and had a good number of firm allies.

    For example the UK was responsible for up to 85% of the EU rules that govern aircraft construction and airworthiness.

    Giving up real power to chase after dreams is a serious business - just ask King Lear how that worked out for him.

  161. This is an excellent observation regarding our situation here and, had we better politicians making the case perhaps we could have avoided the chaos that has been created since the referendum. The events of last week offer a glimmer of hope that common sense is starting to emerge from the hopelessly divided Conservative Party but Mrs. May is a weak leader and saner voices are just not articulating the issues adequately enough. If the referendum were held today I believe the outcome would be to remain which makes much more sense in my opinion. Yes the super state notion is and remains unpalatable but the UK would have been better off challenging this within the EU where there are other voices among the 28 nations equally uncomfortable. It is difficult to predict the future in such a febrile environment but I expect that we and the EU will fudge the way to an arrangement which keeps the UK closely aligned. Economic reality will take us there .

  162. For all that talk about sovereignty, I have never met a single Brexiteer who was able to quote me even one single EU rule that he/she disagreed with because it put the UK at a disadvantage.

  163. Britain has a long tradition of rugged individualism, at both the personal and the national level. It's a tradition that promotes eccentricity and inventiveness but also encourages bloody-mindedness. That's not all bad and, at times, it has been important for the defence of world liberty and the promotion of global development. It's also sometimes rather inconvenient.

    Additional trade "frictions" for large businesses might indeed discourage those businesses from making substantial further investments in the UK, particularly as a base from which to exploit the EU market. They may increase the costs of trade between the UK and EU. As a result trade volumes between the UK and EU could be reduced by BREXIT, howsoever implemented, even though a huge proportion of all UK trade is in services which are close to frictionless in any scenario.

    However, this was not even a marginal consideration for most voters. The reasons that people voted for BREXIT were mostly to do with the sense of loss of control. Not that the British have any faith in their own elected political leaders who are subjected to more intense scrutiny and ridicule than in virtually any other democracy. People were just tired. Tired of endless bureaucrats from meaningless entities such as "Luxembourg" dictating how things should be done. They may even have been right, but at its root, the vote for BREXIT was a vote to take back the right to be wrong. Happily wrong.

    That may be quintessentially British. Or not.

  164. Couldn't have put it better myself.
    Mr Krugman doesn't understand the English, their history, or their motives.
    In particular, he does not understand their priorities. To the English, control over their destiny, over their very lives, is more important than how much profit big business makes this year.
    In 1940, after we had been thoroughly defeated in the field, Hitler offered us the deal of the century. We could keep our Empire, keep our navy, in fact keep pretty much everything. We just had to promise not to try and liberate Europe from the SS and the Gestapo, and not to interfere with his plans for Russia (and later the US). There were plenty that thought we should take the deal; and grow rich on the proceeds. Churchill didn't. He took the blood, sweat and tears option. And the people agreed with him.

  165. "a huge proportion of all UK trade is in services which close to frictionless in any scenario"
    Um, no.
    When the UK loses the "free provision of services" clause, access to European markets will immediately erode at a pace which will accelerate with time.
    Only one simple example : how long do you think the EU will allow euro demoninated trading in a market which is not under the jurisdiction of and regulated by European regulators? That market, worth 20% of the City's business, WILL move to the continent at or before March, 2019.
    Finance (inclunding insurance) play an outsized role in the UK's service economy. Aside from oïl, military hardware and tourism, it's basically all Britain has to generate export earnings.
    #KaThumpGoesTheBrexit

  166. Rugged individualism? Good god, man, who are these British rugged individuals you speak of?

  167. One can only hope that the Brexit case will serve as a catalyst to unmask populists like Boris Johnson who have used many and blatant lies to swing the Brexit vote in favor of an clear-cut exit. There will always be a hard core of Brexiteers who want to leave the EU for nostalgic, British Empire related reasons. However, many people have been swung towards voting for an exit because of lies that an exit would have economical advantages for the average Brit.

    And when this emperor's new clothes realization actually happens it could trigger a pendulum swing against populist leaders who promise simple solutions without any pain to complex problems, across the world including the US.

  168. It is interesting to read the endless number of anti-Brexit articles in the NY Times. To read them one would think that Brexit is something being sneakily pushed through by a small minority of Brits. It isn't. The UK held its largest ever exercise in direct democracy and people voted to leave the European Union. Regardless of what Remainers like to pretend, that support has not declined. Now people will continue to argue whether that is a good thing but it is no longer the point. Either democracy is respected or it isn't. Once people in positions of power start to believe that they can ignore election results they don't approve of then we no longer live in a democracy.

    One other thing to point out to our American friends. Remainers like to paint Leavers as being racist, xenophobic, insular populists. While of course those people unfortunately do exist (as they do in many societies), the vast majority of Leavers wish to see an outward-looking, globally-engaged UK trading freely with the rest of the world rather than being tied to the protectionist EU. We are not anti-immigrant, but want controlled but fair immigration, where immigrants are considered equally regardless of which country they come from, instead of favouring Europeans. There are so many myths about Leavers propagated by sneering Remainers who have clearly have no respect for democracy and wish to impose their view of the world onto all. Respect the vote!

  169. Is anyone NOT respecting the vote? You wanted less immigration, and you’re going to get it. Chill out.
    Krugman is just playing accountant and showing you the bill for your purchase. Brexit voters should be happy to pay it.

  170. As of right now "Respect the Vote" seems about as empty a slogan as "Lets Make America Great Again." Sounds great to some people, but the fact that your own government apparently has no idea how to "Respect the Vote," and implement a workable solution to the democratic mandate from their citizens seems to me proof that America is not the only nation where the voting public makes choices based on a lack of knowledge on the issue at hand.

  171. The concept of the “UK trading freely with the rest of the world” sounds good in the abstract.

    But its natural trading partners are the ones in close proximity. That is, the EU countries.

    And, of course, the tariff happy US.

    Oops!

  172. As usual, PK, a good analysis. However, it leaves out feeling and perception. These helped to give us Trump and Brexit and challenge democracy across the Western world. Old as I am, I can still say I've spent more than half my life on the other side of the Atlantic, seven years of that time in GB. I saw clearly the remnants of imperialism and the Little Englander mentality. Thatcher gave a real boost to that mentality. If the World Cup gives us an England-France final, God help any French business in any English city: look what a small mob did to an IKEA store in London when England beat Sweden! The referendum on Brexit was too close to be the basis of major changes in the lives of so many from Enniskillen to Skye to Brighton. That was not democracy. The fine levied against Facebook for its relationship with Cambridge Analytica is too little.

  173. I wonder if trade friction is not a feature of Brexit rather than a problem, at least from the perspective of many of its wealthy supporters. When the UK's economy is thrown into disarray, people who are already wealthy will be in a position to become even wealthier at the expense of their fellow citizens.

  174. As usual!

  175. It's only one small data point.

    I have friend in Belfast, NI, a retired civil servant, and over the last two years we've extended discussions on all sorts of topics but rarely Brexit. On the few occasions Brexit has come up, immigration is sore point as is the loss of local, i.e., UK control, over regulations of all sorts.

    The only time I've heard him express economic worries was when Trump threaten huge tariffs on Airbus/Bombardier parts shipped to the US for final assembly. (A number of family members work for the company.)

    His major Brexit worry is about the, currently, very porous border between NI and the Republic. If there's a "hard exit" the effects on the Good Friday agreement worry all sensible folks on both side of the border.

    I can't help but wonder how much that may worry PM May.

  176. Porous border? Porous suggests there are illicit items coming across it breaking trade rules but it's an open border like the rest of Europe.

    Agreed, a hard Brexit will be bad for the Republic of Ireland but the North will be hammered like the rest of the UK.

  177. Paul,

    Could you provide us with an estimate of how significant a reduction on global economic activity all this trade war/brexit folly will result in.

    Will it result in a reduction in CO2 emissions?

    Is there an up-side to china not feeding all those soybeans to pigs?

    What is the environmental upside to having more local production and less trade?

    (I’m fairly sure that if it was good for the environment the GOP would be against trade wars, so this does get complicated.)

  178. Trump has made manufacturing in the US the center of his trade war solution (more jobs, exports etc.) which will increase demand for energy. Keeping coal plants online and tariffs on solar panels will increase CO2In the US and reduce them in say China. Steal takes lots of energy to produce, transport and fabricated for production.
    British manufacturing is not that large or demand will not increase from Brexit. They are going green with cars I believe by 2026 all cars will be electric.

  179. Brexit will be somewhat like the republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. There is no plan.

  180. "Brussels will set the new trade policies with the UK, but the UK does not get a vote on the policy."
    I thought the idea behind BREXIT was to provide the UK with the ability to negotiate individual trade agreements with its former EU partners, supposedly with the idea of receiving preferential treatment and so as not to be bound by the free movement of labor that was one of the cornerstones of the EU agreement, in addition to the removal of custom duties between the signatories of the EU accord.
    It was also my understanding that under the EU provisions, a member nation that withdrew from the agreement was given a two year window to implement its new trade policies on a bilateral basis with potential individual trading partners and since the two year window is closing fast and if, as your article states, Brussels is responsible for negotiating trade agreements between the UK and the EU member nations, the UK will receive much less favorable terms. I must admit , I thought the UK could negotiate individual agreements outside the scope of Brussels, but if not it would appear the UK has bit off its nose to spite its face under the fallacious promise BREXIT provided autonomous sovereignty. the resignation of leading BREXIT advocate, Boris Johnson is a signal the promise of BREXIT has fallen short of voter expectations, resulting in the possible capitulation by the UK and rejoining the EU on less favorable terms. If true, not a good sign for our current trade fiasco.

  181. How does Brexit fit into Davos' plan from way back to harness the internet to cryptocurrency and the IOT, thereby eliminating banking as we know it and controlling supply chains for most major goods? The plan was not just English and American, but meant to benefit all of Davos--that is global mostly western corporations.

    However, now China and India are pushing back on crypto because it can be HACKED; and there goes the elaborate plan. The EU also sees its deficiencies and is furiously writing regulations.

    Meanwhile tech is working on a hack-free quantum code, but it is far in the future.

    With all this flux, shouldn't UK stay in the EU?

  182. Excellent summary. Basically the Brexit vote was insane but it happened and thus left the British government with the paradox at the heart of the Brexit. Trying to reconcile two irreconcilables. Brexit MUST happen because it's the will of the people etc. versus Brexit CAN'T happen because it will do serious damage to the British economy.

    Hence two years of British floundering around because ultimately the government was going to have to disown one of these irreconcilables. They now appear to have done this although the result is a dog's breakfast which will not be accepted by the EU. But I'm sure they know this already and are prepared for further concessions because not to put too fine a point on it the EU has them by (well you know).

    Ultimately, the outcome is almost certainly going to be a more apparent than real exit that leaves the UK worse off but is the only politically and economically viable way they can get out of the mess they have gotten into as a consequence of that insane vote.

  183. Well done economic integration-based piece by professor Krugman. A pity such article is published ex-post Brexit referendum. It could have helped immensely the public debate in Great Britain.

    One quick comment about the use of trade gravity model (GM) mentioned in the article and presented by Walter Isard in 1954.

    Since the 1980s, computable general equilibrium models (CGEs) are the tool of choice for evaluating the economy-wide impact of changes in trade policy

  184. The resignation of several ministers over the last few days - in protest at the government's much-delayed Brexit proposals - show that the prime minister has taken her party as far as she can. Her party will accept no more, indeed she has probably gone further than most in her party will vote for. Moreover, the position she has adopted is the worst of all worlds - it pleases absolutely no one, and even unites the hardest Brexiteers with those who would rather Remain in the EU. The UK Parliament will not vote for the hard Brexit, and it will not go for a compromise BINO. It seems Mrs May is unable to deliver any kind of Brexit. I suspect she is likely to face a leadership challenge in the next few months.

  185. I always thought that Brexit was about immigration rather than economics. Without even knowing what the "gravity equation" was it seemed to me that those pushing Brexit were using economic arguments to push an anti-immigrant agenda. Thanks for exposing that PK.

  186. Perhaps Mrs. May should call for another referendum, one that will withstand Russian influence this time? Putin wanted to destabilize the west. Between Trump, Brexit and continuing to create refugees desperate to leave war-torn Syria, he has been very successful.

  187. Americans endorsing Trump and Brexiters are afflicted by a condition which we could call for now fiascosys. Of course they will not recognize this and continue the road to perdition. There will be no miracles though, and gravity will eventually usher in Fiasco 101: don't shoot yourself in the foot or God forbid in both feet: it does not pay off! Many will fail the course.

  188. We Americans followed this same Brexit-like fantasy down the same broken path. At least France learned from both The UK’s and America’s stupidity. If it seems too good to be true, don’t believe the lie. And it really was mostly about those “dangerous” immigrants who are taking all of our jobs. And now both countries are struggling with the fact that we need all of these immigrants to do the jobs we don’t really want- the grape pickers in Napa, workers in hospitality, caregivers, gardeners, janitors. Ah... if we just had a time machine and could have a redo on the elections.

  189. One more recent example of the importance of THINKING and then VOTING. The British people caused this self inflicted mess. Hopefully US citizens can learn a lesson from them before November.

  190. Yes, yes, and yes. But it's at least arguable that the "lies" peddled by the leading Brexiteers about the economic aspects of Brexit were the main reason for the "Leave" vote in the - wholly unnecessary, unpatriotic and expectedly self-serving - referendum engineered by David Cameron, the Tory prime minister who presided over it to his lasting shame. There is plenty of evidence, not only anecdotal, that xenophobia, fomented in the run-up by the Brexiteers, to be sure, but a cancer on the UK's membership since the beginning, was the more important reason. For decades British politicians, of all parties, including the pro-EU Cameron, deflected blame from themselves onto "Europe" whenever a problem arose; the metropolis reaped the benefits of EU membership, and the rusty North and Midlands suffered the consequences. One of many examples: The London Olympics of 2012. Why London? Why not Manchester? Or Edinburgh? Too late now, but even the huge shot in the arm that a non-London Olympics would have provided economically might have been enough to keep Britain in the EU. The feckless Mrs. May, tellingly a silent "Remainer" presiding today over Brexit, has reaped the whirlwind. And later this week? Trump.

  191. I wonder what a second referendum, minus Putin’s meddling, would look like? Haven’t the British pretty much shed their nostalgia for colonial empire and its narcissistic “independence”? Brexit still seems out of character to me, just as wall-building in America is out of character.

  192. You hit the nail on the head regarding 'feelings and perceptions'.
    I still can't get my head around the fact that 48% of voters, voted from Trump in 2016.
    I may be a bit slow in understanding this, but after multiple debates and attempts at discussion with the Trump crowd I came to the realization that it has nothing to do with policies. It's all about tribalism. Trump voters are happy because they won a victory over 'liberals'. Brexit voters had a similar motivation in winning a victory over the EU elites. In both cases it's the working class voters who will be hurt the most, but still they don't care or don't understand.

  193. The vote: needless and nonbinding. David Cameron trying to consolidate his personal political power via a referendum question he thought the majority couldn't possibly be stupid enough to vote "yes" to. And Parliament could still ignore it, as was purely advisory (of course they won't though).

    Now this is treated as a cast-iron collar and chain dragging us over the cliff, despite all the evidence of Leave's outright lies (thanks Mr Johnson), violation of electoral rules (Vote Leave and BeLeave's excess spending) and general shadiness (the spending was on Cambridge Analytica).

    At this stage, there is more than enough evidence of the referendum's dubious legality and horrific consequences to justify a second referendum. But *not* with a cliff-edge as an option. The vote should be a) whatever "deal" the Tories manage to wring out of the EU's left sock, and b) staying in. Those are the only viable alternatives. Anything else is pure ex-imperial fantasy.

  194. It is sure refreshing to hear Paul Krugman talk about a subject he is an expert in (i.e. economics) vs a topic where he just has an opinion (i.e. politics).

  195. The future is hopes, dreams, plans, and wishes. And then the future becomes today and reality kicks you in the teeth. I hope the National Medical plan in Britain includes dental.

  196. the British people will regret the Brexit, once it has become reality.

    They were duped and let themselves be manipulated by Trump-like demagogues and Russian meddling. The only clear winner is Putin.

    If Theresa May were a charismatic leader she would launch a public education campaign and work to avoid the Brexit by all means possible.

  197. Putin's asset known as Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing: Working to destroy the US and European alliance along with all of our other Western alliances so that his handler can invade Eastern European countries with impunity. Every time Putin's asset gets on Air Force 1, I pray for a mid-air explosion.

  198. Imagine if we had to check all of our goods through customs, and pay tariffs as we crossed state lines, or at least regional lines. We'd have checkpoints for goods on I95 as they crossed the Mason Dixon line; check points along the Mississippi; along the continental divide.

    We'd wreak havoc on agriculture, and Amazon. Produce might now make it to market without rotting; and Jeff Bezos could kiss his drone dreams goodbye. We trade locally without friction across a really broad expanse of land. That is what the EU was shooting for. They didn't get there, entirely, because nations are nationalistic, but they made strong headway.

    Fundamentally when you are busy destroying the status quo, you should start by considering why it go there in the first place. Social Security was among one plan that kept communism/rebellion stifled here when it ate up Europe. Clean air and water acts kept us able to breathe, and prevented another episode of a burning river. Trade agreements improve business flow, made products cheaper, and underpin our current jobs base. Pull out one of these programs and everything you built on top collapses. Actually understanding, or even caring, what got built on top, is a requirement.

    Except for the destroyers... the folks who feel anything is better than what we have. They just wreak havoc, and then we all get to find out that change for the sake of change does not guarantee that the change is for the better.

  199. Sounds like Brexit was passed because many people in England don't like immigrants.

    Many of our policies in this country are driven by racism, xenophobia, etc.

    I suppose that it is difficult to make wise policy when it is made on the basis of your hates.

    One question - will Brexit lead to the break up of the United Kingdom since Scotland favors remaining in the EU?

    The United Kingdom and the United States are in desperate need of constructive political leadership.

    I like it when the Good Professor explains economics and trade.

  200. The question I keep asking about Donald, Boris, Recep, Viktor,, Andrzej and Val is, "How do people continue to believe obvious and refutable lies". In the case of Donald, they are spun, recanted, and proven false several times a day. I can almost account for my fellow US citizens in that we haven't taught civics in high schools here for years, history texts for Texas are different editions than the same Textbook in schools in New York. At one point, recently, I thought about moving to Romania but, Klaus is getting kind of....Trumpish. Take heart. It will only take about 20 years for us to retrieve our Republic...after Donald is gone.

  201. Brexit, like Trump's election, was mainly about immigration. Blaming immigrants is just scapegoating to avoid real problems.

    In the U.S. real problems include the 31 million without health insurance, the average household net worth of $700,000 vs. the $100,000 the 50th percentile has, and a nearly 50% increase in the debt trajectory while Trump runs a stimulus plan 5x as big as Obama did despite the continuing Obama Boom.

    Real problems require thinking and cooperation, not emotional knee-jerk reactionism to non-problems.

    As Comey said famously, a quote that will long outlive him, "I try to avoid -isms of any kind."

  202. Lies of destruction are easier than the lies (when they are lies) of construction.

    In terms of a systemic construct of how the human species behaves, it is trivial to suggest that some people understand human reactions as sacrosanct objects of our souls. Others consider them trade-able commodities for our individual prosperity.

    This is the logic of the community versus the class.

    What Britain had accomplished in its 20th century of evolution was the NHS, the BBC, an exceptional University system and a pretty solid parliamentary democracy.

    There are not many losers in this framework. But those that exist clearly needed very little reason to vote leave. And Northern Ireland and Scotland voting in, while England and Wales voting out, shows you where the alienation is.

    And it's visible for watchers.

    "Small" lies and a little bit of Putin were all that were needed. But big lies and a fair amount of Putin were had.

    Even if people did ask the question before, they wouldn't have got an intelligible answer. And there was no investigation of either side at the time, so the voting was clear.

    No, this is an inevitable state of evolution for Britain.

    Mrs. May has the chance to set the direction and drink from her poisoned chalice, and survive to tell the story.

    She *will* get a deal that the Leavers will detest. She *will* retain customs union. The trade-offs on migration will be palatable.

    She is better than her male colleagues. She needs to stamp herself on her opportunity.

  203. Is there any chance at all of the UK having another vote on the exit from the EU?? Bet the results would be far different this time now that more folks understand how costly and disruptive Brexit will be to their lives.

  204. The point of Brexit, if any, is probably encapsulated in Michael Gove's famous quote: "Britain has had enough of experts." Why listen to Paul Krugman, or for that matter, any number of competent British economists, including those employed in the UK civil service, when you can flog an unrealistic fantasy instead?

  205. There’s ample reason to re-do the Brexit vote including the Putin effect. It seems like political malpractice to say that a corrupted, non-binding vote suddenly became the law of the land. Britain can and should do better.

  206. The point of Brexit, as in much of politics, was to use tribalism to allow certain people to feel better about themselves.

  207. It's always fun to play "Spot the Allusion" with the Times, and PK's column is always a good place to start. Thanks for the Wordsworth, Paul.

  208. Call me an idealist, a socialist, communist or whatever else you can think off. I'm Dutch, so what do I care.

    I think "America first" is a losing strategy. And the Brexiteers used a similar logic to start this mess. Both inspired by Russia.

    It is naive to think you can do better alone than working in harmony with others.

    Any dictator has learned that lesson the hard way (Russia, North Korea, etc). It may have worked out fine for them personally, but the people in the countries are suffering for it.

  209. The U.K. decided to have a vote for Brexit. They should have another vote. There is nothing that says they cannot change their mind. Perhaps they have a vote to decide if they re-vote.

    It is absurd they had a single simple majority vote for such a momentous decision that can be impacted by fleeting current events. This type of vote should require a super-majority, or at least two simple majority votes with an appropriate amount of time between them.

    That the principle politicians promoting this referendum lied to U.K. citizens about key aspects of the decision is reason enough to re-vote on the topic.

    When you are driving off a cliff, there is no absolute rule that you aren not allowed to turn the wheel or put on the breaks.

  210. Every political flame thrower these days claims he or she can negotiate better deals than their predecessor.

    Donald Trump says his predecessors did terrible deals and he can do better with China, Iran, North Korea, Canada, Mexico and the EU. The Brexit crowd like Johnson claims the UK can leave the EU and magically get better deals.

    Trump has bullied and insulted most of our deal partners, but has he negotiated even one "better" deal yet? Or how about even one deal of any significance whatsoever?

    Likewise, the EU has no incentive whatsoever to give in the the UK demands. Sure, the EU wants the UK to stay. But if they give the UK a deal that gives them the benefits of EU membership without any burdens, then everybody would leave the EU. So that's not happening.

    Putin is loving this. Western blocs that oppose him are devolving into squabbling hens, all pecking at each other, while he methodically rebuilds the Soviet empire under his control and expands Russia's influence in the Middle East. China is running around the world cutting deals in Asia, Latin America and Africa to fill the void we have left, adding to its power.

    Here is the most apt "deal" analogy: Trump and the Brexit guys are like real estate flippers, seeking to turn a quick buck now. Russia and China are like Amazon--investing in relationships now and willing to lose some money for awhile to make a lot more later. No one deals with a flipper more than once. But people go back to Amazon again and again.

  211. And what was David Cameron thinking allowing a referendum to take place? It’s truly mind boggling. This was a man made disaster.

  212. Actually, many, if not most, of the folks voting for Brexit didn’t understand it or expected (wanted) it to lose.

    Many, if not most, were taken in by false advertising (lies) and manipulation of social media (Putin).

    Democracy is a wonderful and very dangerous thing. Our Founding Father’s didn’t trust it and created a complicated system for electing our President. The Electoral College is meant to be a check on the popular vote - unfortunately the Electors didn’t do the job and we have Trump. You guys relied on ‘democracy’ to decide a complicated issue and you have Brexit. Lose, lose.

  213. The person in the picture is flying the UK flag upside down; it's equivalent to having the stars at the bottom.

  214. What both the US and the UK have in common, is the distorting effect on public information inflicted by the intentionally deceptive practices of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and media properties like SKY News and FOX News.

    The Murdoch empire acts like a foreign intelligence service using psych-ops to destabilize every democracy where they are allowed to operate.

    (Props to Senator Hillary Clinton for letting Australian News Corp evade the restriction against foreign ownership of a US broadcasting license).

  215. In foreign policy, you often have people wondering how we're going to deprogram millions of North Korean citizens when the Kim dynasty finally falls apart. Personally, I'm a lot more curious (and concerned) about how we're going to deprogram millions of NewsCorp viewers, who unlike North Koreans aren't penned up in a hermit kingdom but spread out across several of the world's wealthiest nations and globalized economies.

  216. Dr Krugman once again sets out a key issue with beautiful clarity. Thank you.

    Say, remember when Trump said Brexit would be “a great thing” for Britain?

    Now he says it’s put us “somewhat in turmoil” – an understatement, but he got one right for once!

    (And he misses his very, very nice, very supportive friend, the just-resigned Foreign Secretary. Aww.)

  217. The referendum to approve Brexit was the most absurd vote ever. It barely passed and was likely subverted by Putin. It was an unintelligent attempt of the right wing of the Conservative party to appease its angry and older rural base with fantasy nationalism and anti immigrant
    rhetoric. The establishment of this Conservative party then attempted to find a way to practically fulfill this absurdity and have discovered that they cannot without harming the British economy and the political standing of the UK.
    Instead of admitting their mistake and reversing this ridiculous decision and even redoing the vote they will end up with a Brexit that preserves the custom union but in which the UK will be denied their leadership role and influence in the EU. Still London, the only truly affluent area in the country, may lose its status as the financial, banking and commercial center of Europe.
    In short, Brexit was a policy error of the greatest magnitude and has exposed the Conservative party of its folly. They need to be voted out of office and Brexit should be declared a mistake. UK needs to return to EU as an European leader and promote a much more progressive policy of reintegration with Europe. Thank goodness we don't have binding national referendums in the US. But of course we have Trump, an even more malevolent absurdity, with his chaotic and incoherent trade policies. Just another folly! What a world!

  218. The border between fact and opinion has disappeared. Trump spewed lie after lie during the campaign and those lies were not challenged. This has laid bare the weakness of democracy, but also points to its potential greatest strength. The 24 hour news cycle could spend its time verifying facts rather than just endlessly repeating what the candidate/politician said. Would it take a great deal more research time? Probably, but isn't the truth and the future of Democracy worth it?

  219. Is there a graph showing the impact of population density? Trying to fit 70 million people in a state the size of Pennsylvania may give you an idea why people voted for Brexit.