Just after the 2016 EU Referendum, I speculated on Twitter that, despite the clear majority vote to leave, the overwhelmingly anti-Brexit ‘Liberal’-Elite, New-Class Establishment would not willingly respect and implement the electorate’s democratic decision without a fight, so that we might have to take to the streets, preferably non-violently, to achieve it.
In hindsight, even that pessimistic prediction was an under-estimation, but the revelations from Theresa May’s now infamous Chequers Summit, and developments since, serve only to exacerbate fears of an impending massive sell-out and a soft-Remain, Brexit-In-Name-Only, at the very least. In my view, even May’s conceding a second referendum, as the price of the EU’s agreeing a limited or even indefinite extension of Article 50, can’t be ruled out.
Assuming that supposedly Brexiteer Tory MPs continue to sit on their hands, and that the burgeoning grassroots revolt doesn’t grow sufficiently large or irresistible to force May’s resignation and replacement with a committed Brexiteer, the question arises: what next?
I don’t believe that May and her sycophantic majority-Remain government should be allowed to ride roughshod over democracy itself. I hope there’d be huge outrage across the country, particularly among the 17.4million who voted for Brexit, not least about the Government’s promise to implement their decision. But: to be effective, what tangible form should it take?
The ‘Liberal’-Elite Remainer Establishment would undoubtedly love us to take to the streets, so that with the willing assistance of its similarly-inclined compliant media we could be painted as ‘violent far-Right’. Something more subtle would be required. To quote Sun Tzu in The Art of War: ‘The wise general never fights a battle on ground of the enemy’s choosing.’
My provisional blueprint for a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic resistance has as its inspiration the fuel price protests of 2000. No more than 3,000 people, by cleverly strategically blockading the main fuel refineries and distribution facilities, and skilfully eliciting public support, not only credibly threatened to, but very nearly did, bring the country to a halt. Crucially, and as was admitted only later, they also very nearly brought Blair’s first government down.
We’ve become accustomed to believing that, between elections, we’re comparatively powerless. I’m not so sure. True, we may not have direct political power. But what 17.4million of us in aggregate do potentially have is economic power, and in spades. There are several ways we can exert substantial unconventional political influence, and by wholly peaceful, legal means.
Mass, rent and council-tax strikes can adversely affect local authority finances very quickly. The key is in numbers. They can’t possibly sue and/or prosecute everyone, because that would overwhelm most local authorities’ meagre legal resources, as well as clogging up the courts; moreover the cash-flow problems it would cause most councils would be damaging on their own. Imagine if council staff couldn’t be paid because of a mass rent and council tax strike.
The next option is for a mass boycott of the corporates who’ve joined in anti-Brexit scaremongering, whether of their own volition or at the Government’s request; 17.4million is a lot of customers.
There are alternative supermarket chains to, for example, Morrisons, or Sainsbury’s whose Blair-ennobled Lord (David) Sainsbury donated £4.2million to the Remain campaign. Watch their share prices start to tank if costs rise from unsold or perishing stock, while sales slump and profits start to slide.
We don’t need to use anti-Brexit Branson’s Virgin-branded trains, banking services or satellite TV. Not only are there alternative online retailers to Amazon, but can we not do without most of what we buy from Amazon for three months?
It could take as short a time as that. Remember, the modern mass retailing business model is predicated on just-in-time delivery for high-volume sales, thus minimising stock-holding and warehousing costs. A significant interruption to the constant flow of high-volume sales via a mass customer boycott has the potential to cause major logistical problems, a build-up of non-shifting stock and all the attendant cost ramifications and effect on profit.
That has the additional possible effect of reducing the State’s tax take, both from VAT on sales and from corporation tax on company profits further down the line.
You can probably think of many more avenues: but this final one could be a clincher. It exploits the adage that if you owe the bank £50,000 and can’t repay it, you have a problem: but if you owe the bank £50,000,000 and can’t repay it, it’s the bank which has the problem. Hence a mass withholding of mortgage payments can affect the entire banking system more rapidly than you might think.
This is where it gets a bit technical, but please bear with me.
It’s all to do with the extra capital which, under international banking standards, a bank must retain once a mortgage goes into non-performing mode for two or three months. Not only that, but banks then also have to increase the provisions they set aside against default and losses too, so it can be a double whammy. Provisions are a charge against profits, so it means lower profits, no new lending permitted, and in extremis, restrictions on withdrawals, because liquid deposits can form part of the (greater) capital that suddenly has to be retained.
When a bank lends money, it creates an asset of its own – its right to receive repayment, or the indebtedness of the borrower to the bank. But under those same international banking standards, the bank must allocate that asset a risk-weighting, which in turn dictates the amount of capital the bank has to retain against it, and which therefore cannot also be lent.
Lending to sovereign governments, particularly those with good credit ratings, can typically be risk-weighted low. Governments have the power to tax their citizens, backed by the threat of State coercion, to stump up the money to meet their debts, and so are considered a good risk.
Likewise, lending to good-quality corporates, especially those with a high Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s or Fitch credit rating, can be risk-weighted only slightly higher than medium-quality sovereign debt.
Residential mortgages are typically risk-weighted at 35 per cent to 40 per cent: which means that for a residential mortgage portfolio totalling, say, £500billion, the bank must retain, and therefore not lend, a capital base of between £175billion and £200billion to support it.
If a residential mortgage goes into default through non-payment, its risk-weighting has to rise substantially, and can double to at least 70 per cent to 80 per cent. If a whole £500billion residential mortgage portfolio went into payment arrears, the bank would immediately have to set aside between £350billion and £400billion against it, up from between £175billion and £200billion. That’s between £175billion and £200million which suddenly is no longer available for lending on other new borrowing, and at a profitable interest-rate margin.
I used to be involved in ‘What If?’ modelling for this kind of contingency: the planning assumed increased mortgage defaults from a major economic crash, but the effects from a mass withholding of mortgage payments aren’t dissimilar.
Clearing banks and building societies, as prime retail lenders, especially, are more vulnerable than often assumed. The shock of a significant part of an entire residential property-mortgage lending book suddenly needing double the previous capital base just to support it is a potential nightmare scenario, particularly for primarily retail lenders.
And if that newly doubled capital base consists partly of liquid deposits, whose withdrawal has to be restricted, depositors may start to worry that they may not be able to get their money out. And then you have all the ingredients in place for a bank run. Remember Northern Rock?
But, as Sun Tzu himself might have said, you don’t actually have to create a bank run – you just have to create the plausible prospect of a bank run.
To my mind, the ironic beauty of this kind of overall strategy is that, instead of challenging the Remainer Establishment-Elite directly, on the streets, as it would prefer, it instead targets, and in its key aspects – rampant retail consumerism, fractional reserve banking, and cheap credit – the very system which the crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy has created and encouraged at least partially to enrich and empower itself, and then uses it as a weapon against its own creators. Sun Tzu, I suspect, would approve.
These are merely the economic measures. There are others. For example, it needs only six vehicles travelling sedately, but perfectly legally, at 40-50 mph in a horizontal line across all six lanes, to induce motorway gridlock.
In 2000, we saw what just 3,000 people – a mere 0.02 per cent of 17.4million – so nearly achieved by boxing clever. In the way Sun Tzu favoured, they targeted their opponent where he least expected it, at a point where he was weak, and would have preferred not to fight.
Imagine what pressure could be brought to bear on a Brexit-denying government and political class by a concerted, concentrated mass participation in a rolling programme of peaceful, non-violent, civic resistance on the same basis.
It feels increasingly unlikely that we’ll succeed in getting our democracy-disdaining political class to implement the democratic result they promised to respect and honour by appealing to their principles, or to their hearts and minds.
But then, as a wise man reportedly once said: ‘If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds soon follow.’