Friday, 15 June 2018

And there's another country



I supported Brexit for these reasons.

1. I thought the UK could in the long term be more prosperous if we could trade freely with whomsoever we chose. The EU runs a club that allows us to trade freely with other members of the club but imposes a common external tariff on all those not in the club, i.e. the rest of the world. We have to pay to be a member of the club, which means not only that we do not have free trade with other EU members, we don’t have it with anyone else either. This always struck me as a bad bargain. Let’s instead not pay the fee and seek as much free trade as we can get.


 2. Any idealism that I once might have had about the EU was gradually lost. France and the Netherlands voted against the proposed EU constitution in 2005, only to have those votes ignored. Ireland voted against ratifying the Lisbon treaty in 2008, but then later under pressure had to change its mind. Greece for me was the final straw. It became clear in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way the Greek people voted. The birthplace of democracy had become its tomb. That was enough. I was going to vote to leave the EU.

3. I wanted UK laws to be determined in the UK.  I didn’t want unelected judges or bureaucrats to tell the Parliament we voted for what to do. Whatever else the EU did for us it wasn’t worth losing our sovereignty to get it. The Americans wouldn’t trade their sovereignty for a mess of potage, nor would the Australians. Why on earth should we?

4. I realised that the biggest danger to the unity of the UK was Scottish independence, but that Scottish nationalism depended on the EU acting as guarantor that relations between the UK and Scotland would carry on more or less the same after independence. If we could just get out of the EU, then no rational Scot would vote for independence.

I didn’t vote for Brexit because I thought it would give the NHS £350 million a week. The NHS needs reform far more than it needs extra money.

I didn’t vote for Brexit to stop immigration from the EU. We should get down on our knees and thank God for ever Pole and Czech who decides to come here to live and work. But we should be able to control who arrives from both inside and above all from outside the EU and we should be able to limit the numbers.

The idea that the fifth largest economy in the world couldn’t manage outside the EU is simply preposterous. If tiny New Zealand can manage to trade with the rest of the world without being ruled by anyone else and without being part of any Australasian Union, then clearly the UK can do something similar too.  

There would be difficulties in leaving the EU in the short term. There might even be costs. But so what? It would be worth it.

Are we going to get a clean Brexit? Your guess is as good as mine. The way in which Parliament is leaving the EU is both boring and infuriating.

Last week there were various votes in Parliament, various back room deals, but we are no closer really to getting out of the EU. It’s all just a tangled web and I’m afraid there is a fair dollop of deception. Some of it is self-deception.

Ludicrously the SNP walked out because there wasn’t a long enough debate about EU powers that might be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There would have been more time if they hadn’t walked out.

The reason that this latest SNP stunt is ludicrous is that the SNP would prefer that these powers remained with Brussels. If Scotland ever became independent moreover the SNP would immediately give them back again. The SNP’s position becomes still more ludicrous when we reflect that if they had anything to do with it very few powers indeed will be repatriated from Brussels. They would like Brexit to involve Brussels continuing to control most of the powers that Scotland might gain back if we were able to leave the EU completely. The SNP would prefer that Brexit Britain remains in the Customs Union and the EU’s Single Market. This pretty much amounts to remaining in the EU. We’ pay more or less the same to do so, but without having any say whatsoever on how the EU is run or what laws it passes. A few powers may eventually be repatriated back from Brussels, but is it really worth walking out for powers that you don’t want in the first place? Or is it just a matter of Brussels good London bad, because anywhere but England.

What sort of Brexit are we liable to get? It isn’t entirely clear yet. But my guess is that we are going to be part of “A customs union” which will be indistinguishable from being in “The Customs Union”. We are going to be so closely aligned with the Single Market that our position will be indistinguishable from being in it. The Prime Minister might call this Brexit, but it will amount to EU membership without the voting rights. This clearly will be worse than if we had voted to Remain.

Why are we where we are today? Two reasons. Michael Gove lost confidence in Boris Johnson and tried to stab him in the back. This was a mistake. With Boris as Prime Minister and Gove as his second in command, we could have had to the two main Brexiteers leading the charge. Instead we ended up with Theresa May who lacks both the personality and the intellect to lead anything. The second reason we are where we are is that she believed that she would win a landslide victory and lost her majority instead.

What is to be done? It is worth pointing out to Remainers that theirs is a very risky strategy indeed.

The British public were not told during the EU referendum campaign that the referendum was merely advisory and that Parliament could ignore their 17 million votes if it so chose. Once you go down the route of ignoring voters, you have to be very careful that it doesn’t become a habit.

As I have pointed out before, this stuffs the SNP’s second referendum strategy on independence. Why should anyone suppose that Parliament would feel forced to implement the result? Parliament could instead say that clearly the Scots didn’t understand the implications of independence.

Moreover if it ever got to the negotiation stage those Scots who tried to negotiate a post-independence trade deal with the UK might find that they had to pay £38 Billion just to start the negotiations and that the price of free trade with the UK was that Westminster had the final say on all Scottish laws. They might find that “independence” was in name only and that Scotland remained a part of the Union, had to pay for the privilege, but didn’t get to vote.

There are stories of vague plots to prevent Harold Wilson coming to power, but he looks positively cuddly compared to Jeremy Corbyn. Who knows what Corbyn did or didn’t do in the 1970s and 1980s? Who knows what M15 or M16 might know about him? We already know enough to suggest that he is completely unfit to be Prime Minister, what might the police know that they haven’t told us?

Well in his landslide victory of 1997 Tony Blair won just 13.5 million votes. So even if Corbyn did rather better than this he is unlikely to top the 17 million who voted for Brexit. So what if a Whitehall mandarin came along and suggested that it really would be a bad idea to have a communist as Prime Minister. It would hurt the economy far more than Brexit after all.  Wouldn’t it be safer if the Conservatives just continued anyway at least for a transition period while we had time to organise another election. Are you really certain now that this could not happen?

Our democracy is in great peril. The inconceivable is now possible. We could join the long line of countries that voted the wrong way only for the EU to force us to change our minds. If Brexit turns out to be an illusion and amounts to staying in the EU but without any of the rights, then the result of the 2016 EU referendum will be still more farcical than the SNP walking out of Parliament.

What seems strange to me is that the Remainer MPs don’t realise that there will be a cost. I don’t know what will happen.  But this will change everything. All that ever fought for. It will be as if we don’t live in Britain anymore.




17 comments:

  1. You seem to say you originally held some of the idealistic view of the EU. Can I ask where you got that vision from? (School? Uni? The BBC?)

    The reason I ask is that, as a Leaver, I've been puzzled by the EU fanaticism I'm up against: people putting enormous faith in bureaucrats & politicians they can't even name (who trusts politicians, anyway??) on an epic power-grab

    I'm wondering what they've been reading or watching that I've missed!

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    1. Maybe its the lack of continental conflict between European super powers....That seems attractive.

      The ease of travel and not just with no visa but expansion of businesses and travel is easier and simpler via the EU.

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    2. Attractive, yes, and on a daily basis I have to explain that its a tad historically simplistic to credit the EU with peace (solely, or possibly at all)

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  2. I think the USA has a good model of government. I thought once the EU might turn into something similar. For a while I was neutral about the EU, then as events unfolded I though it my duty to oppose it. You only need to be able to count up to four to understand everything that there is to understand about the EU today. Eins, zwei, drei, vier.

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  3. The Constitution of the United States certainly offers an attractive model for a Federal polity. Robust and simple, it also incorporates the principle of the separation of powers. It has survived numerous strains and shocks, including armed conflict that took more American lives than all America's other wars taken together.

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    1. Other useful models, some incorporating the principle of parliamentary responsibility, include Canada, Australia,Switzerland, and Germany.

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    2. While the US Constitution has many commendable features, I do not share your enthusiasm for the practice in some States of subjecting the judiciary and the civil service to election. American friends inform me that the results are almost wholly deleterious.

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  4. Yanis Varoufakis was not the first to point out that the European Union in fact holds very few powers. (It consequently employs some 30,000 people, fewer than some local authorities.) Tue governments of the larger member states (especially the U.K.) resisted attempts to make the executive functions accountable to the Parliament.

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    1. Professor Varoufakis' strictures on the flaws in the architecture of the Euro are very persuasive indeed. So are his arguments that the so-far successful efforts of certain governments (e.g. that of the UK) and of certain parties (mainly on the Right) to oppose democritization.

      All this presents an existential threat to the European Union, and thus to all the fruit of our parents' and grandparents' effort and sacrifice to win and maintain peace in Europe.

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    2. His views are quite congruent with those of Alain Mind, whose prognostications from 'loin formalisation de la société onwards have proved uncannily prescient.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Recte 'l'informatisation de la société'

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  6. Brexit is so marginal a concern in the rest of the Community that it rarely makes the news at all. The aim of the other States is to ensure that membership of the Community remains more attractive than non-membership. Negotiators on behalf of the rEU were at first not a little confused at the prevarications of the UK delegation, and suspected that the latter were concealing their exact aims by way of a Cunning Plan. The prevailing view by now, however, is that there are no exact aims. Baldrick, thou shoulder be living at this hour ...

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    1. Not like the UK to want to be special.....

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  7. Every country, like every family and every individual, has something special about it.

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    1. The same is true a fortiori of polities, such as the UK, which contain several countries.

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  8. Just spotted another typo - the author's name is in fact 'Alain Minc'.

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