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Europe, POLITICS, UK

The EU referendum

The big vote is tomorrow and as the latest polls have shown (if they are to be believed after the last general election) the vote is a tie. As readers may know, I am keen for the UK to leave the EU – the faster the better. For our hudredth post, we ask: why?

Well, for all the good things it has in fact done (namely reducing barriers and allowing for people, goods and services to move more freely) the EU on the whole is nothing more than a crony protectionist racket bent on creating a supranational European state (they talk of federalism but the EU loathes having to deal with national governments). If you belong to this club, then life is not too bad, but for those on the outside you face tariffs and endless red-tape. Should we not stay in the club then you ask? I would argue from a classical liberal economic theory – basically, the fewer barriers to trade the better – that life outside of the EU is better for the UK in the long run. Prices would be lower if the ‘invisible hand’ is allowed to go outside of the EU to find the best deals rather than be bound to the moribund economies of Europe – where growth in jobs and the economy are anemic; even the euro is a project best left to the ashes of history (as the recent and all too predictable euro-crisis has shown). I find it difficult to understand why Britons are so keen to chain themselves to a continent the rest of the world is leaving behind (outside of a misguided sense of duty and nostalgia).

In fact, all of the Remain campaigns arguments have not been about why the EU is such a good  thing, rather why leaving would be so terrible; this is a subtle distinction. The Remain camp should have argued about all the good things belonging to the EU has brought to the UK and why continuing to belong to it will continue to benefit them (Cameron himself has admitted there are problems in the EU, but they can only be fixed from within the system he argues). Instead, they have chosen to focus on the fear and doubt leaving may (MAY!!!!) bring to these shores. They say, “If we leave then we will no longer have a, b, c or we can no longer do x, y, z…” Yet they never say what the UK enjoys right now – it is a purely negative argument. Cats and dogs will soon be living together!


“The EU on the whole is nothing more than a crony protectionist racket bent on creating a supranational European state.”


For all of the things Remain says the UK will lose, I can point to an alternative. They say “we lose security”! Well, there is no EU army (although they want one) and NATO takes care of the bulk of Europe’s security. Moreover, I am not sure how letting millions of so-called refugees into the EU has improved security (but thinking this makes me an un-caring bigot and racist, of course). “We lose access to the common market”! Well, you would have to renegotiate 27 different agreements (or perhaps just one with the EU as a whole). Moreover, I think the UK economy (the fifth-largest in the world) is just as important to the EU as the EU is to the UK. So contrary to what France says, a new round of (illegal) trade wars is not a likely outcome because both economies are so important. “We lose our place at the bargaining table”! EU laws begin with the European Commission, which then sends it to the European Parliament for debate. We would lose our seats there (unless special privilege was given) but EU laws already override national laws (within their respective policy zones). So if a law is passed the UK does not want, it still has to apply it and cannot overturn it unless every other member agrees. Whereas if a law passes in the EU and the UK is independent, well, fair play to the EU. At least then you would have a choice and, more importantly, vote to remove MPs or Government who creates bad policy.

Then we have the Leave side who has always been on the defensive and, to be fair, has a more difficult argument to make. At least with the status-quo we know what we are going to get (i.e., more of the same from Europe: more bureaucracy, less democracy). On their own, there is a lot of uncertainty for the UK. Yet it goes against millenia of history to say the UK is incapable of being independent and successful outside of Europe. To say Britain needs Europe is laughable if one were to open a history book. Yet Europe is certainly a better place with the UK actively involved, pomoting Europe’s well-being and influencing it away from its worst excesses. The UK has been in the EU car for a while now though, and it does not look like Europeans have taken much of their advice on board; driving the car towards an all too familiar direction which leads to an all too familiar destination. Seriously, does no one read a history book anymore?

I also have found it odd for the UK to be turning its back on the Commonwealth (of which I am a part). Immigration from these countries has gone down, while immigration from Europe has continued to rise dramatically; in short: why is it you want less of the people who share your history, culture, laws and language with those in Europe who have historically been at odds with you. Or put more cynically: why is it the people who have fought and died with you are less important than those who have been trying to kill you for centuries? I believe if the UK binds itself to Europe, it will mark an end (or perhaps the final nail) to the Commonwealth and a loss of identity to millions around the world.

Regardless, the Leave campaign has focused only on specific issues: immigration, security and the economy. While there are points to make within these areas, the campaign has not articulated itself very well (despite the charisma and favourability of lead spokesman Boris Johnson). Part of the challenge has also been the fact David Cameron is the prime minister and has instant gravitas (although he has led the campaign with such laughable fear-based tactics), and the Leave side is not the Government. I have been frustrated by the gall of the Remain capaign and the incoherence of the Leave campaign from the very beginning.

One final issue I wish to put on record is the elitist nature of this whole campaign. I am not one to indulge in the ideas of class (even in the UK), but my God has this thing reeked of elitism. The majority of Remain spokespersons have been from your upper-class or self-interested politicians and businesses keen on keeping a good thing going (although I think both sides are just as guilty). This is not on its own a bad thing. This group of people is just as entitled to their opinions as I am mine, and fair play to them. Yet I cannot help but feel like I am being patronised by a group of people who will not have to deal with the consequences going forward (e.g., how is that lost generation of young Greeks still living at home with their parents doing because they cannot find a decent job with 50 per cent unemployment?) or dismiss my views as nothing more than bigotry or racism. In the everyday world the lot of us inhabit, there are consequences to both sides of this issue; and whichever side wins, we will be left getting on with our lives for better or worse.


“I have been frustrated by the gall of the Remain campaign and the incoherence of the Leave campaign from the very beginning.”


The final vote will certainly be a close one. I doubt it will be a landslide in either direction. Of course, if Cameron gets anything above 50.01 per cent of the vote I am sure he will call it a mandate. If the Remain side does win, Europe will basically say “now you’ve got that out of your system, shut up!” Cameron will not get his so-called reforms and all the worst things of the EU project will continue unabated; and the UK will have signed-off on these problems everyone knows exist – it will be a very bitter pill to swallow going forward. Yet I would not read success into either side winning because the campaigns have so poorly explained their positions to voters (who in TV debates seem far more aware of the issues than the campaigns themselves).

If the Leave vote wins, I will be optimistic about the future (although still pessimistic about the EUs future) in the UK. I am not sure if the EU could recover from this loss. Sure, it would still do its thing but it is currently on a road to nowhere (cue the Talking Heads). Yes, there would be a lot of uncertainty and we may even, God forbid, end up groveling back to the EU (although I really, really doubt that would happen or that they would take us).

Historically, the place of Britain in Europe has been to defend Europeans from their excesses – from themselves. Yet it has always been done from an independent UK not bound to the goings on of Europe. Leaving does not mean ignoring Europe; rather, it means dealing with Europe by showing them what a successful nation and trade agreements look like – to be an example. Yet despite all my cynicism and despair, the world will keep on turning and the rest of us will just get along with it. Although I would not see either the EU or the UK enjoying the status they currently hold in the world. I think they will just become less relevant to world affairs, which is nothing short of tragic. Europe still has a lot to offer the world, but I am just not quite sure what it is these days.

 

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