In Britain, Rising Prices and Shortages Evoke 1970s-Style Jitters
Long lines at gas stations, rising fuel prices, empty shelves in supermarkets and worries about runaway inflation.
Britons have emerged from 18 months of pandemic-imposed hibernation to find their country has many of the same afflictions it had during the 1970s. There is nothing Austin Powers-like about this time machine: Unlike the swinging '60s, the '70s were, by all accounts, some of the bleakest days in postwar Britain; even contemplating a return to them is enough to make leaders of the current government shiver.
The sudden burst of doomsaying in Britain is rooted at least as much in psychology as economics. While there is no question the country faces a confluence of problems — some caused by the pandemic, others by Brexit — experts said it was far too soon to predict that Britain was headed for the kind of economic malaise and political upheaval that characterized that decade.
“It’s a combination of things that could, in principle, lead to that, but are quite survivable on their own,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of economics at Kings College London. “We always talk about the 1970s, but it’s half a century later, and all sorts of things are different.”
Britain’s economy, he noted, has bounced back faster from the pandemic than many experts predicted. The shortages in labor and some goods are likely a transitory effect of reopening much of the economy after prolonged lockdowns. Rising wages and supply bottlenecks are driving up the inflation rate, while the fuel shortages that have closed dozens of gas stations reflect a shortage of truck drivers, not of energy supplies.
Nor does Britain have the aging industrial base and powerful unions it had in the 1970s. Labor unrest led to crippling strikes that brought down a Conservative prime minister, Edward Heath, and one of his Labour Party successors, James Callaghan, after what the tabloids called the winter of discontent, in 1979.
And yet the parallels are suggestive enough that the right-leaning Daily Mail warned that “Britain faces winter of woe” — a chilly welcome for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he returned from the United States, having celebrated a new submarine alliance and rallied countries in advance of a U.N. climate change conference in Scotland in November.
“That is a very easy ghost to resurrect,” said Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to Washington who now sits in the House of Lords. “But these are real problems. You can just see this perfect storm coming.”
英國駐華府前大使、現為上議院議員的達洛許說：「那是個很容易復活的鬼魂，但這些都是實實在在的問題。你可以看到這場完美風暴逼近。」Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/5804159
Topic: Brexit ‘done’ at last: Now for the hard part
The United Kingdom left the EU on Friday, its most significant change of course since the loss of its empire — and a major blow to 70 years of efforts to forge European unity from the ruins of two world wars.
After the numerous twists and turns of a three-and-a-half-year crisis, the final parting is an anticlimax of sorts: Britain steps into the twilight zone of a transition period that preserves membership in all but name until the end of this year.
At a stroke, the EU will lose 15 percent of its economy, its biggest military spender and the world’s international financial capital — London.
“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum. “It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”
The EU cautioned that leaving meant losing the benefits of membership, though the US said Britons wanted to escape the “tyranny of Brussels.” While Britons either side of the Brexit (a portmanteau of “British” and “exit”) divide expressed either sadness or delight.
For proponents, Brexit is “independence day” — an escape from what they cast as a doomed German-dominated project that is failing its 500 million people.
Opponents believe Brexit is a folly that will weaken the West, shrivel what is left of Britain’s global clout, undermine its economy and ultimately lead to a more inward-looking and less cosmopolitan set of islands in the northern Atlantic.
Brexit was always about much more than Europe. The referendum, which split voters 52 percent to 48 percent, showed up deep divisions and triggered soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to empire and modern Britishness.
SMALL TIMEFRAME AHEAD
Feb. 1 marks the beginning of a new phase of negotiations between London and Brussels to agree on the shape of their future relationship.
They have until the end of 2020 — a transition period during which Britain will remain an EU member in all but name — to hammer out an agreement on trade and other issues including security, energy, transport links, fishing rights and data flow.
Johnson claims 11 months is time enough to strike a “zero tariff, zero quota” trade deal and has vowed — even though the option is there — not to extend the limbo period beyond 2020.
If they fail, the legal default will be a potentially crippling no-deal Brexit that would leave trade between Britain and the EU from 2021 onwards based on WTO terms, and see the imposition of import duties and controls.
Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2020/02/04/2003730294/1
Topic: In Slumping U.K., Feelings Of ‘Bregret’ Toward Brexit
Six and a half years after voting to leave the European Union, three years after the formal departure, two years after signing a post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels and one month after installing its fourth prime minister since the 2016 referendum, Britain is caught in — what else? — another debate over Brexit.
Brexit may be in the history books, but “Bregret,” as the British newspapers have called it, is back in the air.
The cause of the remorse is clear: Britain’s economic crisis, which is the gravest in a generation and worse than those of its European neighbors. Not all — or even most — of the problems are because of Brexit, but Britain’s vexed trade relationship with the rest of Europe indisputably plays a role. That makes it a ripe target for an anxious public casting about for something to blame.
The latest eruption of this never-ending drama began last week with an opinion poll that showed support for Brexit had fallen to its lowest level yet. Only 32% of those surveyed in the poll, by the firm YouGov, said that they thought leaving the European Union was a good idea; 56% said it was a mistake.
The Brexit second-guessing grew louder this week, after The Sunday Times of London published a report that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was considering pursuing a closer arrangement with the European Union, modeled on that of Switzerland. The Swiss have access to the single market and fewer border checks, in return for paying into the bloc’s coffers and accepting some of its rules.
Sunak quickly shot down the report, which was attributed to “senior government sources.”
“Under my leadership,” Sunak told business executives Monday, “the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws.”
“I voted for Brexit, I believe in Brexit,” Sunak added. “I know that Brexit can deliver, and is already delivering, enormous benefits and opportunities for the country.”
While nobody is predicting that Britain will seek to rejoin the European Union, political analysts said that the Sunday Times report, on top of the dismal economic data and growing popular sentiment against Brexit, would open a fresh chapter in Britain’s search for a new relationship with the rest of Europe. Where that would lead, they cautioned, was impossible to predict.
雖然沒人預測英國將尋求重新加入歐盟，但政治分析人士表示，《周日泰晤士報》的報導，加上黯淡經濟數據及日益高漲的反對脫歐民眾情緒，將為英國開啟尋求與歐洲其他國家建立新關係的篇章。他們提醒說，這將導致什麼結果無法預測。Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/6811142