I came across a documentary from French TV about the North Korean “Ghost Fleet” of fishing vessels. Large fleets of North Korean fishing boats have been raiding the fishing grounds of neighbouring countries, most notably making intrusions into Russian waters, overfishing and using banned techniques such a drift netting. Which is causing all sorts of environmental problems. And as many of these fishing boats aren’t terribly seaworthy, there is believed to be a fairly high death toll from ships sinking, or their engines failing and ending up adrift and becalmed until the crews starve.
Anyway, it was interesting to watch Russians and Chinese fishermen complaining about how they have to follow all of these complex rules, yet the North Korean don’t. They seem to be allowed to do whatever the hell they like. Now why does that sound familiar? Because that’s what the brexiters want. They see brexit as their chance to get Singapore on the Thames. However, in reality what they are actually pitching for is Pyongyang on the Thames, where the UK becomes a Pariah state, who routinely breaks international law and gets by through a combination of criminality, intense propaganda and brainwashing (even now in UK schools, as if control of the media wasn’t good enough) as well as constant threats if they don’t get their way.
Consider that in the last week the UK government has broken international law twice, unilaterally reneging on parts of the EU trade deal, before the EU’s even had a chance to ratify it. And meanwhile many Tory MP’s and cheer leaders are urging for even stronger action, such as fighting a trade war with the EU, or banning EU made bottled water, or forcing people in the UK to eat more shellfish (I’d love to see these brexiters try that outside a Glasgow takeaway on a Saturday night, they’ll likely just get stabbed with a plastic fork).
Up in Northern Ireland the DUP are trying to undo the trade deal (which in December they’d been praising) by any means necessary, including simply not building the infrastructure to enforce it (so basically they campaigned for brexit, the results of which they are refusing to implement). They’ve also begun to use threatening language, including calling for “Guerilla warfare” against the EU, clearly a dog whistle to their terrorist allies. Which was received loud and clear, as shortly afterwards several loyalist terrorist groups announced their break with the Good Friday agreement.
And, as regards corruption and criminal behaviour, we have the health secretary being found to have acted unlawfully in the award of PPE contracts during the pandemic to his chums (of course he’s not going to resign, don’t be silly!). The prime minster setting up a charity slush fund to redecorate his flat and using taxpayers money to pay for fake news articles (adverts masquerading as real news) to sell brexit as a success.
Consider for a minute if anyone else behaved the way the brexiters behave. Imagine if a Muslim stood up and talked about launching Guerrilla warfare. How many seconds before they’d be arrested? Consider how the Tories were calling for Nicola Sturgeon’s head for the last few weeks, while ignoring the far greater scandals from within their own party. If labour had won the election and they heard Corbyn was going to use taxpayers money to fool Daily Mail or Telegraph into reading articles promoting his socialist policies, how would they have reacted? Likely by rolling around on the ground and chewing the carpet, then calling for him to be arrested for misuse of state funds. There is one rule for brexiters and another one for everyone else.
I recall a conversation I once had with someone who worked for the Brazilian government (under the previous left wing administration) who bemoaned the fact that any time the country implemented any sort of left wing policy, stronger environmental protections, raising taxes for the wealthy, better labour laws, the credit rating agencies in the west would cut the country’s credit rating. Yet whenever the right wing parties did something, such as lowering taxes for the wealthy or selling off state industries to the private sector, the credit ratings would be raised (even when the measures were clearly going to lead to higher levels of borrowing and a higher risk of default for investors).
So we now have the situation where the UK has essentially imposed sanctions on itself and its led by politicians who are deliberately trying to sabotage the UK economy, yet the UK’s credit ratings aren’t being cut. Again, one rule for one group and another for everyone else.
Of course there is a difference between North Korea and the UK. North Korea survives on the basis of the CFC gambit. Or Crippled (anyone attacking North Korea will be stuck with the bill for rebuilding a crippled country from scratch), Fearsome (as they have a vast arsenal of conventional, as well as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) and Crazy (while they would be all but guaranteed to loose any war they are just about crazy enough to use this arsenal as an act of national suicide). In short, its better for its neighbours to treat North Korea with kid gloves….because Kim Jung un’s gloves are likely made from real kids!
In short, CFC works for North Korea because they are an impoverished nation whose leadership have nothing to lose by self isolation. Its a little different with the UK. The EU’s likely response will be targeted sanctions and tariffs. These will be used to cause maximum pain to the the UK and Tory politicians in particular, while minimising the harm to the EU. So likely measures could include heavy tariffs on fish or agricultural products, or a financial transaction tax on UK/EU trades (which would hit Tory voters and donors hard).
And while some cosmetic tabloid friendly retaliation from the UK might happen, the UK can’t really do much, given how dependant it is on things like food, medicines, electricity and energy supplies from the EU. In fact customs checks they should currently be undertaking, which they delayed till July (illegally), might be watered down even further due to fears of possible food shortages (so they wanted brexit so they can shut the border…but now they don’t want to shut the border WTF!).
The GFA is underwritten by the US. They will take a very dim view of any effort to undermine it. Measures they could take could involve, joining in with EU’s sanctions, ruling out any trade deals (or making it plain to other countries that they should drop their trade deals with the UK if they want to remain friends with Washington) or boycotting of international events (such as the upcoming G8 meeting).
Its also not clear how they will react to any resumption of violence. There were some Americans back in the troubles who argued for a more robust American stance (e.g. refusing to sell miltary hardware to the UK until it negotiated with the Irish), or an American led UN peace keeping force in NI (the unionist wake up one morning to find US Marines standing on every street corner). So its kind of up in the air what happens next, particularly if its seen as the UK provoking a unionist bombing campaign in the Republic.
So the brexiters are in for something of a rude awakening. And its clear they still don’t know what brexit means. And even if they do, they are plugging their ears. They want a fantasy brexit, where they still have all the benefits of EU membership, but (much as North Korea pretends they won the Korean war) they get to pretend they’ve also gotten their Empire 2.0.