It is getting pretty boring listening to all the remain supporters whine about the result of the ‘recent’ (well to an old fart like me anyway) referendum. It’s done; time to move on – it may have been the dumbest decision the public have made since electing Thatcher, but it’s still done.
But that’s not the end of it; it’s just the beginning.
The first thing to say is that the politicians are lying (not difficult to ascertain; their lips were moving) when they say they have a clear mandate for Brexit. With a referendum result as close as the one we have just had – 51.9% in favour of leaving and 48.1% in favour of remaining – we have a clearly divided country with a not insignificant minority who want to remain within the EU.
Does that mean we should ignore the result? Of course not (written with gritted teeth), but neither should we ignore the fact that there is a significant minority of voters who want us to remain. This should have an effect on the negotiating position – having what is effectively a weak mandate for Brexit should be a reasonable excuse to aim for “Brexit light”. Something like the Norway model.
Is this going to keep the leavers happy? No, but neither is leaving the EU going to make the remain supporters happy. And the only sensible course is something that leaves everyone mildly discontent rather than seriously piss off one side or the other.
And it’s time for the remain supporters to start work on getting back into Europe; just as the leavers started campaigning after they lost the last referendum.
Think about that for a moment. There is a minister of justice who wants to take away your human rights.
Whether or not you like the ECHR, the fact that a British politician wants to scrap the Human Rights Act is somewhat worrying. They want to take away our human rights. It is all very well saying that the British authorities never behave in ways that would threaten our human rights, and we have both common law and traditions that protect our human rights. But scrapping the Human Rights Act sends a signal that we do not need human rights; a signal that may not be picked up and acted on for years or decades, but the signal is still there.
Now if they were merely going to modify the Human Rights Act, that would be fine. I am sure there are parts that go a bit too far and others that do not go far enough. The key thing is that changing the Human Rights Act; even improving it, sends a different signal no matter what those changes are. That signal is that we do believe in human rights.
So the Euroskeptics want a divorce between us and the EU; or in other words they want to go back to a time when we would protect our interests in Europe by going to war every generation or so. Which is a far more expensive proposition than EU membership fees, and far riskier.
Because the continent has always been there. And throughout history we have had to keep an eye on what the rest of Europe is up to, and intervene whenever France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, or Germany has been involved in actions that interfere with our interests. Being part of a club that can discuss contentious issues and tell a member to stop behaving badly is far preferable than the old way of doing things. And yes that involves giving up a bit of sovereignty.
When you come down to it, that little loss of sovereignty hurts the politicians more than the rest of us, and the rest of us are more likely to be the ones killed off in European wars.
Does it seem a little far fetched that leaving the EU will cause the return of European wars? Perhaps, but one of the reasons it seems far-fetched is that we do have an EU where we can go and argue. Without that safeguard, there is not a great deal to stop the return of the old ways.
There is an assumption that leaving the EU will lead to fewer immigrants arriving in the UK.
Perhaps. At least in the long-term assuming we ignore the UN directives on refugees, but in the short-term there is a good chance that immigration will increase.
For a start, all those refugees and economic migrants from outside the EU won’t suddenly stop coming just because we leave the EU. Sure we’ll set up new border guards, but that will take time. And guards don’t stop everyone.
And what incentive does France have to co-operate over that migrant camp outside Calais? None of course; their interests would be best served by giving all the refugees a Eurostar ticket to move the refugee camp to Britain.
And what happens to all those Brits who have set up homes in the EU? Are they going to want to return to Britain? Is the EU going to force them? After all there is no natural right of residence for citizens of former members of the EU. Perhaps you would not count such returnees as “immigrants” but they would have all the same problems – needing a place to stay, and often needing income support.
And most of them would be rather annoyed.
The “outers” would have us believe that leaving the EU is an opportunity to make trade deals with the rest of the world to more than make up for the trade lost with Europe. Half our trade is with Europe, which in monetary terms is very roughly 230 billion a year.
In other words the “outers” want to put that 230 billion of income at risk in order to gain an unknown amount of trade through new trade agreements.
And what stops us making those trade agreements now anyway?
Regulation and Justice
Of course one of the big weapons the “outers” have is to claim that we would be freed from all that tedious European regulation. Well, perhaps but remember that 230 billion of trade with Europe? The EU isn’t going to let us export stuff to Europe if we don’t follow the EU regulation; it has always been the case that if you want to sell something in a market you have to meet the regulations of that market.
It is one of the reasons why the EU started regulation – to harmonise regulation across Europe so that you could meet one set of EU regulations rather than 28 different sets of national regulations.
And as soon as we get rid of EU regulation, we’re going to start getting British regulation instead. It won’t be a one-for-one replacement of course, but we won’t be losing as much regulation as we think.
There is a whole set of EU regulation that business universally loathes – the EU regulations that protect workers (such as the Working Time Directive). Well I for one think that European protection for workers is valuable; certainly our own government isn’t interested in protecting workers!
As to the European Court of Justice, the politicians are all up in arms about their power to overturn decisions made by parliament. Which must be very irritating for them, but ignore the whole “sovereignty” thing for a moment – don’t you secretly think it’s a good idea to have someone overseeing parliament? After all, it’s not as if politicians are trustworthy, so having some oversight is not a bad idea at all.
And people overlook just how useful the European Court of Justice has been to us – it wasn’t such a long time ago that France was blocking British beef imports on the grounds that British cows used to have this health issue. Of course what they were really doing was protecting French farmers. And the ECJ forced the French government to repeal laws that prevented British beef being imported.
And there are plenty of other examples where the ECJ has been helpful.
Unelected Bureaucrats & Democracy
You will often hear the phrase “unelected bureaucrats” (or even “eurocrats”) in association with the EU. You could almost imagine that politicians are volunteering to do some real work.
In reality government is run by unelected bureaucrats – when a farm inspector visited a farmer and told her that she needed to paint blue numbers on her cows and not red numbers, he would blame the bureaucrats; in the 1940s it was the civil servants in London; today it is the eurocrats in Brussels. It’s just a different flavour of bureaucrat.
And as for the EU being undemocratic, well the EU Parliament is trying it’s hardest to change that. And it’s the heads of national governments who are blocking such reforms. So when a national politician is complaining about undemocratic Europe, she is speaking with a forked tongue (how can you tell if a politician is speaking with a forked tongue? Their mouth is open).
If you hadn’t already guessed by now, I’m in favour of staying within Europe. Sorry I meant staying within the EU. The EU is the future of Europe, and for better or worse we’re part of Europe, so if we want to have our say on the future of Europe, we had better stay within the EU.
Probably not … this is hardly the first time that the Tories have had a spat over membership of Europe.
But when one of them grandly announces that they are all united over Europe, you know there’s trouble. You hardly need to announce that you’re united when there’s no trouble.
When you’ve got Lord Howe announcing that David Cameron is running scared over Europe, and rumours of someone close to the top using the phrase “swivel-eyed loons” in connection to grass-roots party activists, then you have a party with definite issues. In addition to the normal doubts over Europe, Tories have a streak of unrealistic traditionalists within their party – who could quite well qualify as “swivel-eyed loons”.
The loons want to hark back to a time when Britain had an empire, hung serious criminals, flogged less serious criminals, and a few other policies from the 19th century. And the thought of co-operating to any extent with the old enemies of France or Germany raises the hackles.
Well they are entitled to their views, and I’m entitled to borrow a phrase and call them “swivel-eyed loons”. And good luck to them; they will be the cause of the Tories becoming unelectable for another decade or so.
And of course there is the other half of the party – those with more than one brain cell – who realise that such archaic world views are really not helpful. Could the division cause the Tory party to splinter? Well there’s always wishful thinking.
But realistically there is already a place for disgruntled Tories to head off to: the UKIP party. You could almost say that the split has already occurred and that we’re watching the painfully slow death throws of the old Tories.
One of the humorous coincidences arising from the ever increasing horse meat saga, is that this would happen during the Tories reign of mis-rule. You see we often get treated to the Tories bang on about excessive government regulation and red tape, and how business could be far more effective without it.
And of course with a special venomous attack on the European bureaucrats.
Which is all very well, but the biggest lesson that can be learnt from the whole sorry saga of how horse meat got passed off as meat of another kind, is that we need government regulation to protect us from crooks pretending to be businesscritters. And honest businesscritters need that protection even more than the rest of us.
We have learnt how crooks have infiltrated horse meat into the market for cheap processed meat because it is so much cheaper than beef. This has two effects :-
The crooks make money … lots of money.
Honest businesscritters lose out. If it goes on long enough there won’t be any honest ones left!
There are those who say “well horse isn’t too bad … it seems to taste pretty good”, which is missing the problem(s). Not only should we be able to see what is in a product by looking at the ingredients list, but if crooks get away with putting safe horse meat into burgers, will cheaper crooks get the idea to put unsafe horse meat in ? Or rat? Or worse?
It is worth remembering this current saga when the Tories start banging on about government regulation – regulation is usually there for a reason, and the reason far too often is due to an event like this where unscrupulous crooks abused the public in order to make a bit more cash.