Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Eurosceptic case for voting 'Remain'.

I came of political age as the ERM debacle and Maastricht ratification process corroded the Tory party. Saving the pound against its "inevitable" inclusion in the Euro project made me a Eurosceptic. The Queen on the money, the ability of the state to finance itself *is* sovereignty, and the ability to generate our own finance has been the United Kingdom's saviour in three world wars, and it would be a profound piece of treason to give up a world reserve currency.

Next to currency, any other pooling of sovereignty is trivial and easily unwound. NATO which extends from the Arctic to Asia Minor, the area to which the UK MUST respond to any attack is arguably a far greater pooling of sovereignty than what remains of the EU. I will NEVER accept the United Kingdom adopting the Euro and I'd take to the rooftops if necessary to prevent it. I am deeply hostile to the idea of ever closer union, and any conversation with one enthusiastic about a federal Europe often has me reaching for a cudgel. I am a Eurosceptic.

Too many people like me, blooded in politics in those bitter divisive battles which pitched Tory business-toadying against Tory patriotism in a civil war whose skirmishes continue to this day, want to restart the war. For many, trust in the EU forever lost, they have spent 20 years believing every anti-EU pitch from the UK press (however untrue), and simply not considering any benefits of being in the club, hiding in an intellectual jungle pretending like Hiroo Onoda that the war wasn't over. So satisfying, so heady was the victory over the Euro, they now yearn to defeat the EU itself, and so they have worked themselves into a hysteria where the EU is a silent enemy poisoning everything.

All this willful cognitive bias by the 'leave' camp means going into their campaign that they have so long demanded, with some truly dreadful arguments, based on exaggerations, lies and wishful thinking. You can almost hear in their words a background by Elgar, the sound of a merlin engine, the image of a lone Tommy in battledress standing on the white cliffs of dover, fist raised to Europe as the Supermarine Spitfire roars overhead he yells "Very Well, ALONE!"


I shouldn't need to say this. The European Union isn't Hitler's Germany, nor is it the USSR. It is a collection of some of the most successful, happy, free, prosperous nations on earth who seek to do business together, and yes, club together to solve problems (environmental, political and financial) that face us all. Shielded from many of the worst problems by our Island fortress, the British experience is different. And our unique experience is reflected and recognised. No-one serious now expects the UK to join the Euro, or Schengen. The UK's implacable hostility to a "Euro-Army" has prevented one being formed. Without the UK, an EU defence policy would be worthless.

For all the grunting about immigrants' benefits about which I simply don't care, what Cameron has achieved is a recognition, even from the likes of Guy Verhofstadt that the UK's status is special, and that should be reflected in the treaties. An opt-out from "ever closer union" was in-effect achieved in Maastricht with our Opt-Outs from the Euro (with Denmark) and Schengen (with Ireland), and this development achieved by Cameron is symbolic, but not meaningless: future treaties will be easier to negotiate because a UK opt-out is already considered a possibility from the outset.

A UK vote to leave the European Union wouldn't be a disaster for the UK. The UK is a big, powerful, influential country with nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers (soon...) and a permanent seat on the UN security council. To imagine we need the EU in any serious, existential way for our prosperity or security is laughable. 3,000,000 jobs "depend" upon the EU? These kind of nonsense numbers discredit the people that make them, no less than the 'KIPpers wanting to pull up the drawbridge. But it would be a disaster for the EU, and that would harm our interests in the long run, to very, very little benefit.

To What Problem is 'Leave the European Union' a Solution?

The most likely 'Brexit' scenario would be to leave the European Union but remain in the European Economic Area, so we'd still have access to the single market, have to take on board a lot of the trade legislation and still pay dues at much the same rate. Not sure what this achieves except getting out of the decision-making process which at the very least allows us to keep an eye on the French. 

Without us in the EU, the EU will run off and integrate. Great, you may say, good luck to them, but that would betray 500 years of British foreign policy. They will become more protectionist, and that won't help us, not at all. A messy European collapse after Franco-German mismanagement will inevitably need the Anglosphere grown-ups to pick up the pieces. Again. Better to prevent that happening. The Zero-sum thinking by many on the 'Leave' camp - believing what's bad for Europe is good for us - is particularly toxic and idiotic.

From 1975, when the UK was "the sick man of Europe" to now, when we're seriously expecting to overtake Germany (and even Japan's) GDP,  it's simply not evident that the EU has held the UK back. I don't credit the EU with all, or even much of this turnaround in the UK's fortunes. But the idea we're "shackled to a corpse" is absurd. The EU isn't preventing the UK being the USA's 2nd largest investor, after Japan for example.

In 40-odd years of EU membership, the UK's economy hasn't aligned at all to that of Europe. We are still the home-ownership obsessed mid-atlantic economy, hypersensitive to interest rates that we were. This gives the lie to the "inevitable" integration to which we're allegedly subject.

We do get outvoted more than any other nation. That is why we're negotiating a special status and all our opt-outs. This isn't evidence that the UK is put upon or suffers under the Euro-yoke, more that the EU, but that the UK is a steering and restraining influence. We cannot always have our way, but being outvoted on lots of trivialities, it does seem we have set the EU agenda on enlargement and free trade.

"But they make all our laws" I hear you say! So what? Really, who cares where the law comes from, and the idea much of this would change were we out is absurd. Most of what the EU sends is intragovernmental negotiated directive on international things the EU is supposed to be for like climate change, or high-volume, low-impact trade law. As EU referendum points out all the time, most of the trade regulations come from world bodies anyway. I just can't see why he thinks this a compelling argument for 'leave'. The fears of EU law being "supreme" that the "roman system" will replace common law and that we'll all inevitably be dragged into a superstate are just paranoid fantasy. We've secured the opt-outs to remain a free, independent nation. The Eurozone will integrate, and we will lead the 'outs' who won't.

What about immigration? Well if you want access to the free market, you have to accept free movement of people. Free movement of people is a good thing. What about the Syrians, I hear some of you grunt? Well, Didn't Cameron play a blinder there? Most of the refugees will not become EU citizens so there's no "danger" even if "they" are all itching to cross the channel as soon as they've got their German passport. Our biggest source of immigration is India, which, last time I checked, isn't in the EU.

It's simply difficult to see what benefit leaving the EU for the EEA has for the UK, over what we've already achieved, and so many of the other arguments sound like paranoid fantasies of people who're desperate to justify an emotional loathing of the EU.

And now the case for 'Remain'.

First, let's get "project fear" out the way. Businesses hate uncertainty. From the 'Leave' vote to any certainty as to the business environment post withdrawal, there will be investments put on hold, weakening of Sterling, projects delayed as decision-makers wait and see. This will probably cause a recession. People who advocate for out must persuade me the benefits outweigh the damage of an unnecessary recession. Thus far, they haven't.

Where many see "the EU" as a disaster, I see "the Euro" as the disaster in much the same way ERM was a debacle for an otherwise excellent government. The Euro is not the same thing as the EU.

The European Union - it's extension to the East and the very Free Market we all hope to keep were british-driven projects. While it's true NATO has delivered peace, the EU has done a good job in institution-building in post-fascist Greece and Spain (sadly, much good undone by the Euro-catastrophe).

When the Berlin Wall came down, Ukrainians and Poles had the same living standards. Poles who were able to orient west, were able to enjoy significant benefits and investment from the EU. Democratic institutions (admittedly currently being tested by 'Law and Justice') have been built and corruption squeezed. There is still much work to do, but former-soviet eastern and central Europe has done well out of the EU, and we have benefitted from their growth. Ukrainians want some of that - an association agreement due to be signed in 2013 is not an "act of aggression" by an "expansionist" EU to appease "fascists" in Kiev, it's part of making the world a better place through trade and investment. Putin, however threw his teddies out of the pram, and thousands of people have died.

Putin hates the EU, and fears it. He fears it, because it offers the people of former soviet satellites evidence that the Russian embrace is not warm or friendly. It is paranoid, and parasitic. The EU gives hope to the people who want these places to become as free and prosperous as Tallinn or Warsaw. The EU offer a way to quietly destroy enemies by making their people rich. The only world leader itching for a 'Leave' vote is Vladimir Putin, because he knows the UK is important to the European union, and now is not the time to be having an almighty row with our allies.

You may say "our interests are not served by Europe" and in narrow, financial terms you may be right (though I'm not convinced by that, and there's plenty of evidence the EU makes us richer). But in the broader interests of a free, confident, rich and united west who can look the totalitarian masters of Russia or China in the Eye and say "do your worst" the EU is part of that process. Because standing together, the West, in its clubs: NATO, the EU can still set the agenda. The USA wants the UK to remain in the EU for the same reason it wants Scotland to remain in the UK. The USA is a hegemon, but one that desires its friends to be as united, strong and free as it is. While Russia, by way of comparison wants its satellites, poor and dependent. The EU is a bulwark against totalitarianism. Perhaps the Carrot to NATO's stick. The UK's role is to be a leader in all major clubs of the west NATO, 5-eyes and the EU as such we are the hinge on which the unity of the Atlantic west rotates. The UK leaving leaves us, and our allies weaker and more divided, just as we need to be unified in the face of a newly dangerous world.

Now is not the time

It is possible sense could prevail, and a post-EU UK could be a free, open, prosperous and happy place. But I suspect any leave vote would be driven not by the open-minded, but by the dull-witted sour old gits who want to pull up the drawbridge and return to 1956. It's possible a 'Leave' vote could have 'Falklands effect' in restoring the national mojo, a return to national self-confidence. But it could also trigger a recession, Scottish independence and the collapse of everything I hold dear.

Now, with the SNP in Holyrood, Putin in the Kremlin and the world recovering from the biggest financial crisis in a century, there is no need to roll the dice. The ephemeral benefits simply aren't worth the risks, and there's no evidence the EU is doing us harm beyond losing a few votes in the Council of Ministers over things that don't really matter.

All the Brexiteers needed to do was wait until the next treaty and turn that into an in/out thing. But they were too stupid to see even that.  When perhaps, the threat of Scottish independence will have receded, and Putin's safely swinging from a gibbet, and then I might say "very well, alone". But now is not that time. They wanted the battle too much, the 'KIPpers; they hated the wrong enemy with an intensity and passion that has completely blinded them to new threats. And that, ultimately is why they will lose; their foul chauvinist miserablism looks worse even than turgid bureaucracy of the EU.



10 comments:

westcoast2 said...

Interesting piece. Could you clarify some things about sovereignty?
"The Queen on the money, the ability of the state to finance itself *is* sovereignty"
In what way is this sovereignty? My understanding of sovereignty is it is about governance. Legal tender laws seem to be only one aspect.

"Next to currency, any other pooling of sovereignty is trivial and easily unwound".
How is this 'pooling of sovereignty' easily unwound? Is 'pooled sovereignty' a euphemism for dependent and non-sovereign?

"NATO... is arguably a far greater pooling of sovereignty....".
How is NATO a pooling of sovereignty? My understanding is that a treaty with obligations is not the same as governance.

"But they make all our laws" I hear you say!"
This is fundamental to sovereignty, who governs. How is the UK a sovereign nation if another body can make laws directly affecting how it is governed? Doesn't this situation put the UK on a par with a local council making bye-laws? As more nations join the EU, does 'pooled sovereignty' dilute self government?

"Really,So what? who cares where the law comes from?"
Aside from governance there is also an issue here of accountability. How is the EU directly democratically accountable to the UK polity?

Although 'sovereignty' has been described as 'arcane', 'esoteric' or of no interest would you agree that it forms the foundation of an nation state?

Jackart said...

All power is limited - the charter of fundamental rights, constitutions and so forth. Even the fact that other nations might take umbridge at your actions. I'm not a constitutional lawyer, so not the best person to ask for a definition of sovereignty.

The UK's relationship with the EU involves handing some areas of law particularly some trade and taxation, to the EU for the functioning of the single market. But the UK parliament could, if necessary withdraw by repealing the single European act. Parliament remains sovereign. In or out, much of what comes from Brussels would be incorporated into UK law anyway.

Some are angry that 'foreigners' have a say in how the UK is governed and would rather nothing came from the EU or anything else. I'm not sure, given that the EU is basically a club of liberal democracies, how different the laws would be. Yes. The EU has taken control of some law. But I don't think this fundamentally affects sovereignty because it could in extremis, and with little disruption beyond any crisis which would precipitate such a move, to simply withdraw.

The British constitution can be tweeted: The Crown in parliament is sovereign, no parliament may bind its successors. Nothing changes that.

NickM said...

Jackart,
Have you been reading my brain? Excellent argument. I agree 100%.

westcoast2 said...

Jackart,

Thanks for the reply, very helpful. I am unsure that it can be considered a club as such.
"The UK's relationship with the EU involves handing some areas of law particularly some trade and taxation"
The EU seems to be acquiring competencies in all areas. For example, one of its aims used to be harmonization of trade regulations, it seems from 2016, it has now extending this idea to legal systems.
From EU Justice and Fundamental Rights:
"One of our main goals is therefore to build bridges between the different national legal systems across the EU. A borderless and seamless European justice area will ensure that citizens can rely on a set of rights all across the continent."
Since our legal system is different to the continental legal system, this is quite an undertaking. Since there are already basic rights across the EU, I am unsure what this is all about and its implications.

I have no problem agreeing standards with other nations, my concern is governance and accountability.

Simon Jester said...

Next week: Jeremy Corbyn on the Capitalist case for voting Communist.

Jackart said...

I'm a Eurosceptic, not a Europhobe. I simply cannot see to what problem 'leave the EU' is a solution. Can you tell me, Simon Jester? Fees? In EEA we'd still pay. Immigration? A plurality of immigrants come from india, a majority from the subcontinent. How would that change, & why? Law? Pah! Nothing would change, as all that EU law comes from world bodies anyway. Sovereignty? We can repeal the Single European Act at will, should we need to, and walk away. Why risk all the potential disaster to no obvious gain.

Anonymous said...

Jeez.. The Heathite wing of the Tory part is alive and well I see.


You're still a cunt.

Jackart said...

To what problem is "leave" a solution, apart from a childish desire to poke Johnny foreigner in the eye?

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with all of this although there are some excellent and very valid points. But . . . nobody wants to go back to 1956 and to suggest anyone does is somewhat far-fetched. However, the UK was an amazingly vibrant place in the 60s and early 70s before we joined the gang. Hugely prosperous, innovative, envied by many other countries and the place to be with considerable trade all around the world and not tied to the Continent by anything much apart from the ferry service. We did very well indeed without the EU then. We had to give up a lot of trade with our friends in NZ and Aus at the behest of the Common Market - and if you don't recall that well I do as I was old enough to know what was going on.
You don't care about immigration. Well a lot of people do. That is evident in the latest rounds of talks is it not? Why would David Cameron be negotiating to try and reduce the money spent on immigrants if it didn't matter to a lot of people in the UK? I spent this morning at work chatting to a Cypriot who used to work for the EU. She told me quite categorically that the view was to shove as many immigrants on a train to the UK as possible "because they are too spineless to refuse them and send them back". Her words and not mine. Now that other countries in the EU are having to deal with mass immigration they are getting very twitchy indeed as their native population doesn't like it overmuch, either. Hence the closure of borders and the slow dissolution of the Schengen agreement.

Moving on to the Law. Our parliamentary independence has been over-ridden by Section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, which states that in effect all European law must be considered to be a valid and binding source of UK law. Where European law exists on a particular subject (at least if set out in the Treaties or in Regulations), it can override any "inconsistent" UK law - including Acts of Parliament. In this way the concept of parliamentary sovereignty is meaningless. So we can't really differ from anything the EU wants in its laws. Personally I don't like being told what to do by a bunch of unaccountable unelected people. At least with a Parliamentary system such as we had we could do something about the little tykes called MPs every few years. Not much we can do about the likes of Juncker with his openly stated love of closed door deals and his attitude to democratic principles. His view of the French vote on a European issue was that he would press ahead regardless of the outcome. A true democrat!
Oh - and there are so many other things. The near bankruptcy of how many countries? The reneged promises to the Turkish Cypriots over the lifting of embargoes should they vote for the Annan plan - still embargoed, of course! Maybe Greece needed some tough input, but who let them in and who let them fall into such a state by lobbing yet more money into their pockets and then asking everyone to cough up to bail them out when it fell apart? Poor and dependent satellites? Just look at Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland - all of them going through the mill. All in the main was due to the pegging of the Euro to whose currency and to whose advantage? As for closer integration - under whose control I wonder? Though one might take the view that yet again we should be in there to ensure that one particular country doesn't dominate.
I don't like Boris, I don't like IDS, in fact I don't like most of them so I am going to have to decide who I like the most of two sides I dislike. I don't think the EU is much to rave about, I do think that there is a load of self interested bullshit being talked by both sides and by so called "experts". To quote Fagin in "Oliver" - I think I'll have to think it out again.

Unknown said...

I’m almost on the same page as you on this. The British encouraged the EU to make the world a much better place through expansion to the East. The EU Commission sometimes makes a stand against vested interests that could ignore a national government that will be here today and gone tomorrow. And we were all made stronger by having young people with energy and talent coming to the UK to peruse their futures.

Against that however are the walking nightmares of the Common Agricultural Policy acting as a tax on the poor, and excluding the potential of farmers in the developing world. The Common Fisheries Policy with its wholesale destruction of European fishing Stocks. And the erratic madness of the European Arrest Warrant.

There’s a big loss of sovereignty too, but frankly how big a loss is that? What percentage of voters actually have any effect on deciding the course of elections (safe seats etc), and do those voters have any better of an idea how to run a successful country?

 

You could easily argue the toss.
Personally I would vote to leave. What would reverse my decision would be if we could sign trade deals with external countries if we wished, rather being forced into a collecting trade deal with protectionist countries that have no interest in trading concessions.

 

That is rather a narrow requirement, but as I say it’s a pretty close thing.

The EU has clearly been a net force for good, but I don’t feel beholden to the status quo. Is it so terrible to demand improvements and reform?  What impetus is there for reform if we’re all locked in a deathgrip within the current 20th Century formation?

 

All institutions are resistant to change, and this one much more than most. I don’t feel bad about giving it a kick up the arse as it fails to adapt to a new globalized century.

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