Globalism, Neoliberalism and the Big Questions of Our Time 214

France is a standing affront to neo-liberals. Despite a failure to bow down to deregulation, despite extensive worker protections, despite complex health and safety, environmental and building regulations, despite strong and legally entrenched trade unions, France persists year in year in having productivity levels 20% higher than those achieved by unprotected, deregulated Britons. Despite the fact French workers put in 15% less hours per week, and refuse to be less Gallic.

You can find right wing economists who attempt to explain this away so as to make it consistent with the neo-liberal narrative. The most hilarious right wing propagandists like Professor Ryan Bourne argue that this is because the French economy, due to over-regulation, does not produce enough low skilled jobs. This is nonsense. There are not far less people picking vegetables, sweeping streets, serving coffee or washing restaurant dishes in France. A related argument is that high productivity somehow causes high unemployment. This is based on a strange fallacy that an economy is of a fixed size. If economic output was limited to x, then using less people to produce x would indeed cause unemployment. But I cannot readily conceive how stupid you would have to be to believe that. No, unemployment in France is caused by insufficient demand, which cannot be caused by high productivity. The answer to unemployment plus high productivity is a stimulus from public spending.

The truth of the matter is that deregulation does nothing to increase productivity. What deregulation does do is increase corporate profits, by decreasing workers pay and conditions, and decreasing public health and safety and environmental benefits. Deregulation transfers monetary and other goods from people to corporations. It is just a lie that it is anything to do with productivity – indeed the evidence is that a workforce with no job protection and few other rights is demoralised and less productive. That is certainly the obvious conclusion to draw from the comparison between France and the UK.

The concern on the left in France is that Macron is a creature of the corporations who wishes to introduce Anglo-Saxon style deregulation into France. This is, in a word, true.

Deregulation is a bad thing because it vastly reduces a whole stock of public goods.

Where confusion has arisen in public discourse is the notion, propounded also by neo-liberals, that globalisation and domestic deregulation go hand in hand. They do not and there is no reason at all that they should.

There are many definitions of globalisation, but I use it here as meaning the increasingly free movement of goods, capital and people around the globe. In that sense, I am a strong advocate of globalisation. Yet, at the same time, I am a strong opponent of deregulation.

Trade is a good thing. There are things that grow in different climates, there are raw material resources which make production particularly suitable in a particular location, there is local expertise and cultural flair. Trade has existed as long as men have existed, and is undoubtedly a common good. The increase in trade is a good thing too. There is not a single person in the UK who has not benefited from the massive fall in the consumer price of white and electronic goods caused by globalisation. I am today in Ghana where the availability of technical and trading partners from Turkey, Singapore, China etc, in competition with the traditional powers, is part of the revolution which has transformed the economy and the living standards of ordinary Ghanaians since 2000. The economy here grew by an average of over 7% over that entire period and is about to take off into higher regions again. (After a brief interlude of ultra-corrupt government very much sponsored by the USA and the multinational GE, but that is another story).

Globalisation is caused by a combination of technology and reduction of artificial barriers to trade and movement of people and money. It has beyond any doubt caused a huge amount of economic growth in Asia, and although from a very low base, in Africa too. Africa is the coming continent. The opponents of globalisation are those who wish to see a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources continue to be consumed in the old industrialised countries. They disguise this as protection of the working class.

Immigration does not depress living standards. Again, to believe that it does you would have to be extremely stupid and to imagine that an economy was a fixed size. If immigration depressed living standards, the United States and Germany would be among the poorest countries in the world. It is a complete and utter nonsense.

If it were not for immigrants, there would have been no growth at all in the UK economy for a decade, and absolutely no chance Britain could maintain its pensioner population. Immigration does not depress wages, it grows the economy. To take but one example, Polish immigration has contributed enormously to the British economy and to British society. It has given new economic opportunities to Polish people, and a Polish person is worth every bit as much as a British person. But the competition for Labour is also an upward pressure on wages in Poland, which is a good thing too.

I support globalisation very strongly as boosting the economies and raising the living standards of the entire world. That is the internationalist view.

But globalisation is not synonymous with the deregulation agenda. Neo-liberals have managed to establish in the public mind the idea that globalisation and domestic deregulation are necessarily part of the same process. The left has accepted the fight on this neo-liberal ground, with disastrous consequences to which I shall revert. But as is often my style when I say a truth outside the accepted political discourse, I am going to say this twice.

Domestic deregulation is not a necessary concomitant of globalisation.

Domestic deregulation is not a necessary concomitant of globalisation.

The neo-liberals, whose interest is that corporations rather than people profit from the process of globalisation, argue that domestic deregulation is necessary in the face of globalisation. This is the so-called model of the “race to the bottom”. Whoever pays the least, can shed labour easiest, has least health and safety and environmental regulation, will succeed in the global market. Therefore to face the challenges of globalisation, domestic protection must be dismantled.

I offer two irrefutable proofs that the neo-liberals are wrong:

1) France. And Germany too.

Annoyingly for the neo-liberals, many of the most regulated economies in the world continue to be the most productive countries in the world. This stubborn fact is extremely frustrating for the neo-liberals, and leads them to make fools of themselves coming up with the daftest possible explanations (see Ryan Bourne above). It is also why they are desperate to destroy the French model (see Macron above).

2) TTIP. And more or less every other multilateral trade agreement too.

Why did the neo-liberals have to stuff the proposed TTIP with proposals to destroy regulation within the EU market? If the neo-liberals believed their own propaganda about deregulation increasing productivity, then by a natural and ineluctable process the EU would be doing this as the invisible hand moved them to compete in the globalised market. But actually it is not a natural part of the process of globalisation at all, and has to be forced on by the corrupt political class in the pockets of corporations. Hence the deregulation provisions in the trade agreements, along with other corporation boosting measures like extra-territorial arbitration.

Frequent USA/EU rows over Boeing vs Airbus illustrate my point very well. Each accuses the other continually, and fines the other continually, over state subsidy. But within free trade, why is it of any interest how the state(s) trading mobilise their own internal resources? Again, if neo-liberals really believed what they say they believe, then by subsidising aircraft production a state is damaging its own economy massively elsewhere and opening up other comparative advantage opportunities for its trading partner. It makes no more sense for states trading to try to police their internal mechanisms, than for a car manufacturer to argue about where another car manufacturer places its canteen in relation to its production line.

How a state organises its internal resources, how much it pays people and how it protects its inhabitants from unfair dismissal, pollution or bad food, even how it subsidises a particular industry, cannot give it any unfair advantage across the whole range of trade with another state. The most economically productive and successful states are those which do regulate strongly for worker and general welfare and health, not those who raced to the bottom.

Domestic deregulation provisions are unnecessary, inappropriate and damaging to trade treaties.

You can reject deregulation without rejecting globalisation. That is a largely ignored intellectual position and it is one which the Left needs to adopt if it is to distinguish itself from the far right. In France, Macron represents the neoliberal position of embracing both deregulation and globalisation. LePen stands for the rejection of both. A worrying number of people who call themselves “left wing”, in France, throughout the media, and on this blog, allow themselves to flirt with the notion that LePen’s position is preferable.

The anti-globalisation angle that attracts the left is recidivist. In the name of protectionism it opposes the movement of capital, of goods and, its strongest emotional pull, of people. Here it blends neatly into the fascist agenda.

I argued earlier that those who oppose globalisation are opposing the trends which have pulled a huge proportion of the population of the earth out of extreme poverty in the last decade. I have argued that those who oppose globalisation were happy with a situation where a massively disproportionate share of the world’s economic resources was consumed by those in the first industrial world, and wished to return to that situation. This in itself is an inherently xenophobic position.

But they are also racist in another way. The process of domestic deregulation – a different process to globalisation – has massively increased wealth disparities in western states. The Tories are parroting that the top 1% of taxpayers pay 28% of all taxes. That is because the top 1% of taxpayers consume over 28% of all income.

The ultra-rich have distracted the mass of the people, who are suffering increasing and real poverty and an inability to acquire housing and other fixed capital.

The wealthy and their political and media propagandists have pointed to immigrants and persuaded people that it is not the obscene share of resources sucked out of the economy by the ultra-rich, but rather the productive immigrants who are responsible for their poverty. And people fall for it. This is the attraction of the racist dog-whistle on immigration blown by Trump. LePen, UKIP and now shamelessly by Theresa May and the Tories. Some who consider themselves Left fall for this racism to the extent they are prepared to tolerate LePen.

LePen is a genuine fascist. She is in the tradition of the Nazis and Vichy. Her chosen senior colleagues are Nazi sympathisers and holocaust deniers. She is the grossest of crude Islamophobes. I detest the lies and callousness of neo-liberals, their complete absence of empathy, but there is no moral equivalence between a neo-liberal and a Nazi, and it is ludicrous to pretend that there is. Anybody who does so is not welcome, as I have said, to comment on this blog. I have no desire to associate with Nazis. The rest of the internet is open to you.

The Left has failed to formulate a coherent intellectual response to globalisation, largely because they have fallen for the neoliberal intellectual trap of believing domestic deregulation to be a necessary concomitant. The rejection of internationalism has led some who consider themselves “left” to be attracted to LePen and fascism, at least to the extent they do not recognise her extreme evil. Anybody who has felt that should be deeply ashamed.

Nick Cohen’s book “What’s Left” identified tolerance of Islam as the weakness of the British and European Left. In fact he was diametrically wrong. The weakness is an abandonment of internationalism and a susceptibility to racist anti-immigrant dialogue.

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214 thoughts on “Globalism, Neoliberalism and the Big Questions of Our Time

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  • witters

    I never thought I’d hear the “no moral equivalence” stuff here.

    Another classic of the genre: “Nothing in Chomsky’s account acknowledges the difference between intending to kill a child, because of the effect you hope to produce on its parents (we call this “terrorism”), and inadvertently killing a child in an attempt to capture or kill an avowed child murderer (we call this “collateral damage”). In both cases a child has died, and in both cases it is a tragedy. But the ethical status of the perpetrators, be they individuals or states, could not be more distinct… For Chomsky, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.”
    ― Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

    • glenn_uk

      Witters: Sam Harris is a pseudo intellectual who is actually an apologist for torture, and likes to shill for the far-right in supposed “thought experiments” that pander to the extremist position on Islam.

      Rather than take Harris’ highly distorted view on Chomsky as gospel, as you have done here, perhaps you should read Chomsky directly.

      This was their “debate”:

      You will note that Harris, along with a bunch of other “new-age” atheists (who give us a really bad name, btw) rant on about how bad religion is, but it’s always aimed at Islam. Never Christianity, which has far more blood on its hands, and very arguably more terrorists operating in the West for that matter.

      • bevin

        And Christianity isn’t the only Abrahamic religion which Harris et al rarely criticise. And which, for that matter, is up to its elbows in blood.

        • glenn

          Indeed. There’s one strikingly blatant example who also has every form of WMD, scoffs at UN resolutions, thumbs a nose at International Law and yet gets a pass on the most blatant violations of human rights (including using prohibited attacks such as deploying white phosphorus against civilians). All the while pretending they’re civilised, the oppressed victims (even while bragging about their might), and furiously attacking anyone suggesting otherwise.

          But the likes of Harris don’t have time for that. After all, there’s a highly profitable Libertarian base to be pandered to.

        • giyane


          Israel is a projection of USUK power into the Muslim Middle East. It is not a projection of religious faith into a place that is short on faith.
          Just as killer whales are being poisoned by eating fish containing polychlorinated biphenal, so Islam is being destroyed by eating heresies concocted by USUKIS in 1918 via the Muslim Brotherhood, and in Saudi Arabia before that.

          Takfirism being the main toxic component, militarism for its own sake being the second.
          The only difference I can see is that the PCBs were probably unintentional, whereas the neo-cons have completed the earlier task.

    • K Crosby

      ~~~~~Another classic of the genre: “Nothing in Chomsky’s account acknowledges the difference between intending to kill a child, because of the effect you hope to produce on its parents (we call this “terrorism”), and inadvertently killing a child in an attempt to capture or kill an avowed child murderer (we call this “collateral damage”). In both cases a child has died, and in both cases it is a tragedy. But the ethical status of the perpetrators, be they individuals or states, could not be more distinct… For Chomsky, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.~~~~~

      What despicable apologetics for child murder. I bet he’s a fucking American,

  • Laguerre

    It was Sarkozy who wanted to integrate France into the American system, and he failed. Why would Macron want to repeat the failure?

  • Sharp Ears

    Is Clarence Mitchell still employed on the McCann case? I ask because on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance, the child’s name is seen and heard everywhere – an interview with her parents on the BBC by Ms Bruce, a Panorama documentary on the BBC tonight, a TV appearance by the ex Met commissioner Paul Stephenson and on the Sky News website front page, 11 mentions of ‘Madeleine’. This morning the BBC even have a reporter live in the Portuguese resort.

    What is the purpose?

  • Sharp Ears

    Stench arising from the HSBC/Tory party sewer

    Kitty Jones – Millions of £s originating from HSBC have been laundered directly to the Conservatives

    ‘New cash for Conservatives scandal

    Roger Mullin, (SNP) MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, has called for an investigation after it was disclosed that “£5 million of HSBC loans were laundered directly to Conservative HQ.”

    Below is Roger Mullin’s last letter as current MP, parliament is now Dissolved until after the General Election. Mullin posted a copy of the letter on Twitter earlier this evening.

    letter facsimile on link and some excerpts from the long detailed piece.

    ‘In 2012, the US government was persuaded by our government not to pursue criminal charges against HSBC for allowing rogue states, terrorists and drug dealers to launder millions of dollars after George Osborne and the UK banking regulator intervened to warn that prosecuting Britain’s biggest bank could lead to a “national and global financial disaster”. Instead of facing a prosecution, the bank were given the option to pay a record $1.92bn (£1.4bn) fine.

    The House financial services committee report said the UK interventions “played a significant role in ultimately persuading the DoJ [Department of Justice] not to prosecute HSBC”.

    The report revealed that Osborne wrote to Ben Bernanke, who was then the Federal Reserve chairman, and Timothy Geithner, the then treasury secretary, to warn that prosecuting a “systemically important financial institution” like HSBC “could lead to [financial] contagion” and pose “very serious implications for financial and economic stability, particularly in Europe and Asia”.

    In 2015, it came to light that there are long-standing links between the scandal-hit HSBC and the Conservative Party, after Electoral Commission records showed three senior bank figures have donated £875,000 to the party in recent years.

    Further revelations emerged that the bank allegedly helped wealthy individuals evade tax through Swiss accounts, it was revealed that HSBC’s deputy chairman, Sir Simon Robertson, has made 24 separate donations totalling £717,500 in the last nine years.

    He gave 17 donations to the Conservative Central Office between 2002 and 2014, and four totalling £100,000 to George Osborne between 2006 and 2009. The other three went to the party in East Hampshire. Sir Simon, who was knighted in 2010, is reported to have a personal wealth of £10m.

    Conservative donors, peers and a high-profile MP are listed among the wealthy who legally held accounts in Switzerland with HSBC’s private bank, for a wide variety of reasons. Their ranks include Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, plus his brother, the financier Ben Goldsmith, and a Swiss resident, German-born automotive heir Georg von Opel, who has donated six-figure sums to the government in the past two years.

    Peers named in the HSBC files include Lord Sterling of Plaistow, the P&O shipping and ports entrepreneur who was ennobled by Margaret Thatcher, and Lord Fink, who was a party treasurer under David Cameron and has given £3m to the Conservatives.

    Zac Goldsmith has, with his brother Ben and their mother Lady Annabel, donated over £500,000 in cash and in kind to the Conservatives.’

    I believe Zac is standing again. May will be curtseying to the Monarch of this very corrupt country later today.

    • J

      Indeed they’re changing their own rules soon to include practices they appear to admit are already standard practice:

      From the canary:

      Theresa May accepted money from the company caught up in The Canary’s HSBC/Conservative Party ‘dirty money’ donations scandal. The cash from the company IPGL helped her election as Conservative Party leader. And ultimately Prime Minister. But it’s not the only scandal emerging around HSBC and May.

      In July 2016, May took £20,000 from IPGL – the company at the centre of the dirty money scandal. It was to “support [her] campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party”. As The Canary reported on 28 April, the scandal centres around a private investment firm called IPGL, run by former Conservative Party Treasurer Michael Spencer. In October 2008, HSBC made a £214.2m loan to IPGL. But at the time, IPGL was in financial difficulties, with one of its subsidiary companies (a betting firm called City Index) reporting £43m losses. So Spencer had to put in £70m of his personal £1bn fortune to bail out the failing company.

      But despite these losses, IPGL was donating between £500,000 and £1.1m a year to the Tories from 2007 to 2011 and 2011. And it specifically gave £1.03m to the Conservatives’ 2010 election campaign.


    Craih I agree with a lot of what you say. Allow me as a British freelancer resident in France since 2008 to respond. France’s economy is doing neither terribly well nor terribly badly. So why are the French so depressed, why this malaise? The main economic problem is inequality, exacerbated by inequiality between the regions. France has many cool, chic cities and large towns where the economy is ok and property prices increasingh. By contrast, rural regions are stagnating, the people there feel stuck and helpless, and it is here that a lot of Le Pen’s support comes from. (Also, like the UK, though to a lesser extent, France is suffering from colonial hangover and delusions of grandeur, but let’s not get into that.) I support Macron and would vote for him if I could. He wants to unify the country, to bridge the gap between rulers and ruled by making life simpler. As I am noither a socialist nor a conservative, and as he is foreigner-sympathetic, Macron would be a natural choice for me. It’s important to distinguish between “deregulation”, which we both agree puts health, safety and economic wellbeing at risk, and simplification of the multitude of laws, and fiscal regimes that are continually tripping people up. For example, as a freelancer who is a sole trader (I don’t employ anyone) I am still obliged to fill in TWO tax returns instead of just one. I am obliged to pay into a pension scheme, even though I am over 65, and I also have to pay into 3 other agencies: tax, health and a thing called URSSAF, more or less equivalent to Health and social Security. Also, the health agency for freelancers is different from the health agency for employees. Macron wants to merge the two and he wants to standardize pensions so that everyone who pays the same in gets the same out (incredibly, this is not the case at the moment). In France too much time and energy is spent in compliance. This distracts attention from what workers should be primarily working for, which is to create value and wealth. Macron wants to change this. He does not have any grand scheme, he wants to tweak the system to make it work. It is 20/80: maximum output for minimum input. I hope he wins. not only that, I hope that he can deliver on his promises and make a difference.

    • Habbabkuk

      ” It’s important to distinguish between “deregulation”, which we both agree puts health, safety and economic wellbeing at risk, and simplification of the multitude of laws, and fiscal regimes that are continually tripping people up.”


      I imagine that M.Macron intends to focus on the latter, where the case for reform is incontrovertable.

      The concrete examples Mr Chater gives are well-chosen – and absolutely correct.

  • Theresa's EU pawn

    Very well written article, although the main reasons for deregulation,. and I agree with your repeated sentence.

    TNC’s and those who have been actually sitting at the table during the Uruguay and Doha trade talks are the one’s who are doing the supping and the left’s reaction, i.e. limited protectionism is popular because it is seen as addressing voters concerns over TNC’s running in competition to their local organic food markets.
    here Colin Hines explains his theory for limited protectionism, mainly focussing on the ability to provide for oneself, before trade.

    What everyone does not want to talk about is the increasing superfluous labour due to very sophisticated, and I do mean the actual meaning of this word, robots doing the work.
    They are not paying taxes and increasing deregulation can only mean that the march of robotics around the world is accelerating to the point were workers are outclassed by AI and mechanised processes.

    Looking at some bricklaying robots yesterday, I thought to myself that this machine, with deregulation and minimum noise, would work 24/7 and its slow speed, inferior to that of most experienced bricklayers, would not matter much.

    Governments and regulators are in a deep quandary about it, because those using robots, for precision welding and accurate alignments of chassis and bodies, do not want to pay taxes for robots doing the work, their intention is to make more profits than they are already raking in.

    The mainly young demonstrators on the streets of Paris are understandingly disturbed by the choice of two candidates and their total lack of social vision, disturbed that a dependent police force can’t see over its visiere and see the future taxpayers who will provide the state with its increasingly limited means, is beyond me.

    If Marine Le Pens fascists and the AFD’s Germany’s equivalent fascists win and will get into Government, most likely in coalition in Germany with the CDU or CSU, the European Union will very likely break into factions. A right wing course will align Poland Hungary and the Czechs to a certain extent, Italy will see much upheaval and might go the same way, the end of the EU.

  • MJ

    So, which French politician is both anti-degregulation and pro-globalisatin? Melenchon? (I don’t know, I’m just asking).

    • craig Post author

      It is not easy to discern as politicians don’t tend to analyse in these terms. I would have supported Hamon, myself, rather than Melenchon, who seems to be something akin to a Maoist, and thus extraordinarily boring.

  • My Cocaine

    I must admit that I do feel sorry for the French populace when you consider the choices put before them: a Vichy throwback or the French version of David Cameron. God help them.

  • Dave

    The EU has lost its way by becoming too big and imperial, but it began as a Fascist (Catholic Socialism) project to build a (part of) United Europe that served the French, North West European and Italian national interest. Hence why Mosley supported it. It has always been a protectionist bloc and is the stronger for it and de Gaulle vetoed UK membership to stop the capitalist “Anglo-Saxons” from ruining it. Too late its happened and there is a nativist backlash expressed in anti-immigration terms.

  • Stu

    “Nick Cohen’s book “What’s Left” identified tolerance of Islam as the weakness of the British and European Left. In fact he was diametrically wrong. The weakness is an abandonment of internationalism and a susceptibility to racist anti-immigrant dialogue.”

    What exactly are the achievements of internationalism?

  • Sharp Ears

    Single handedly, Toxic Treeza is creating the Big British Brussels Rift.

    ‘Theresa May has accused European politicians of making “threats” against Britain to try to influence the general election result.

    The PM launched a stinging attack on the “bureaucrats of Brussels” in a speech outside 10 Downing Street after meeting the Queen.

    She said some in Brussels wanted Brexit talks to fail and that the European press had “misrepresented” the UK’s negotiating stance.’

    Will there ever be a Brexit at this rate?

    • Theresas EU pawn

      From the BBC link

      ‘Mrs May said she wanted to reach a Brexit deal, and for the EU to succeed: “But the events of the last few days have shown that – whatever our wishes, and however reasonable the positions of Europe’s other leaders – there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed.”

      It was the PM that threatened to walk away, not giving accurate accounts of what was said at No 10 whence talking to Drunkered.

      Now she is making out that her loose talk of three month ago, was only mere wishful thinking.

      ‘whatever our wishes, and however reasonable the position of other leaders’ now that takes the biscuit, to make out at this point in time, when half of your country thinks that you are wrong, that it is the nasty EU who is interfering. There are 27 member states who are united, there are no reasonable others who would split the EU like she is splitting up the Union, and to try and create division when you know this to be a fact is sheer desperation.

      She might be able to run away from her responsibilities regards Brexit and pretend its all down to some nasty leaders, but she has dissolved the House and can’t run away from this election.
      I’m getting the feeling that by the end of this snap opportunist election avoiding bad headlines, she will feel like it though.

  • Alicie

    Just now, the TV debate between them has begun. (France 2) No doubt some live translation will be on somewhere. If not a summary tomorrow.

    It certainly is a historic debate and election with two candidates that have caused more people than usual to hesitate on who to vote for or whether to vote.

    I happened to fall on this blog. I don’t know Mr Craig Murray. It was nice to read an article saying nice things about France by a Brit !! Rare.

    It got me thinking, as the economies and social/political/cultural etc differences of both countries has been part of my life, born in Britain, lived in France for 40 years, and will die here.

    So it’s interesting for me, and also the comments, some very different opinions, but there are things that I don’t agree with, especially this leftist habit of calling millions of people facists or racists, this was the same for Brexit. Marine isn’t her father, and wouldn’t have got so many votes if the left hadn’t caused the blockage on her main subjects (immigration, islam, security) for 30 + years. It’s been the same in the UK, but you didn’t (before UKIP) have a far right party. So Brexit was the result and a big shock, for me too. There are real reasons why so many people voted brexit, and why they vote LePen. They might be wrong, but saying they’re all morons, fascists, and they must have more of the same certainly isn’t going to change their minds !

    I might comment on some things tomorrow.

  • Dave

    Under first past the post the Conservatives could benefit from the EU referendum just as the SNP benefited from the UK referendum.

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