Behind the Veil of Respectability

A thought came into my head earlier. It took me back to my student days, studying the German ‘constitution’ (quotes explained below) in Potsdam in 1992, when the burning issue at the time was how to elaborate on the asylum clause in the document.

A few days ago, the German Bundesverfassungsgericht, or Federal Constitutional Court blocked a ban on the NPD—the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands or National Democratic Party of Germany, which is a far-right party, and has existed since the early 1960s.

It has sailed close to being banned in the past (I can recall that it faced such a threat during my student days, and it came close to a ban again in the early 2000s), but just managed to keep on the right side of constitutional law. There is no doubt though, that it is a party which attracts the more extreme elements of the German far right. It has never managed to cross the 5% hurdle required to gain representation in the German Bundestag, or Federal Assembly, but has managed to gain seats in state parliaments.

The German Grundgesetz, or Basic Law, is the German ‘constitution’. It was not officially called a constitution when it was draughted, post World War 2, because that term was reserved for the then hoped-for constitution of a future reunified Germany.

Since this goal of reunification was achieved (and far more quickly than anyone expected), the term Grundgesetz is still used to refer to the document which sets the legal framework of the Federal Republic of Germany, evidently because reunification was effectively (with few exceptions) a takeover of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany and the merger of the newly-created six states of the former GDR into the Federal Republic rather than a mutual union of two nation states; a state of affairs which caused (and continues to cause) much consternation for years on the part of those Ossis, or GDR citizens, who believed that not every aspect of the GDR was bad, and that an opportunity to incorporate positive aspects of GDR society into the newly-unified Germany were squandered.

The first nineteen articles of the Basic Law relate to core human rights and cannot be revoked. They are the ‘eternal clauses’ and were written, post World War 2, very much with recent German history in mind. They can be expanded upon or clarified, but they are, to all intents and purposes, permanent and irrevocable.

Article 4, Paragraph 1 states:

“Die Freiheit des Glaubens, des Gewissens und die Freiheit des religiösen und weltanschaulichen Bekenntnisses sind unverletzlich.”

“Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable.”

So, at the start of the Basic Law, freedom of religion is set out as a core right.

In Article 21 of the Basic Law, Germany has a controversial article which some believe borders on the curtailment of freedom of conscience, but was designed to prevent the rise of a successor to that funny mustachioed Austrian bloke.

Article 21, Paragraph 2 states:

“Parteien, die nach ihren Zielen oder nach dem Verhalten ihrer Anhänger darauf ausgehen, die freiheitliche demokratische Grundordnung zu beeinträchtigen oder zu beseitigen oder den Bestand der Bundesrepublik Deutschland zu gefährden, sind verfassungswidrig. Über die Frage der Verfassungswidrigkeit entscheidet das Bundesverfassungsgericht.”

“Parties that, by reason of their aims or the behaviour of their adherents, seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic basic order or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be unconstitutional. The Federal Constitutional Court shall rule on the question of unconstitutionality.”

The article was used a couple of times in the 1950s as the legal framework for the German Constitutional Court to ban the extreme right SRP, the Sozialistische Reichspartei (the Socialist Reich/Empire Party) and the extreme left KPD, the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (the Communist Party of Germany).

Some are appalled that political parties can be banned, but I have some sympathy with the notion that a constitution should not allow for the existence of parties or organisations which seek to undermine its fundamental principles.

But this is where things get interesting…

Whilst political parties can be banned for being anti-constitutional, there is no such provision in the Basic Law which would cover religions, so presumably adherents to a religion which didn’t believe in the fundamental principles espoused by the German Basic Law would be free to preach the downfall of the German Republic and the repeal of its laws in a way that would see secular promoters of such ideals prosecuted. Not only that, but followers of an anti-constitutional religious doctrine would be protected by their inviolable right to freedom of religion or philosophical creed, as set out under Article 4, which, if you recall, is a right which cannot be revoked.

This presents a couple of interesting potential scenarios.

On the one hand, there is clearly nothing to stop religious adherents preaching the downfall of the German state in line with their own holy books and scriptures, in a way which a political party could not do in its own core principles without finding itself banned.

On the other hand, it does make me wonder why any determined extremist party doesn’t simply hide under the veil of a religion.

There are adherents to certain religions who have equally backward and anti-constitutional beliefs to extreme political parties. In fact, many religious adherents often go even beyond revoking the German Basic Law, rejecting the notion of any man-made law and demanding the imposition of religious law.

So, without wishing to give any ideas to extremist parties, what would happen if a new Führer arose and dressed his political ambitions up as religious beliefs? The Nazis were halfway there as it was, founded on the back of the Thule Society, and with a mixed bag of occultism, astrology, and Nordic mythology playing a big part in the highest ranks of the Nazi party.

In other words, what if an extremist party were simply to assume the trappings of a religion?

Sure, such a party wouldn’t be recognised as an official religion, which seems to rely on numbers of adherents and offers tax breaks and special status under German law, but could well potentially enjoy the officially-recognised status of a ‘sect’.

How would the German Constitutional Court address such a problem? What is it that gives otherwise abhorrent ideologies the veneer of respectability if they invoke the supernatural?

Answers on a prayer card to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, c/o Frau Kanzlerin Angela Merkel.

 

Playing the Dead

Back in 2004, I was playing in a band I was with for many years, called BAiT. At the time, we were writing material for a new album under a new line-up. Our keyboard player, Nick, shared a love of Prog rock, and we were making efforts to write generally concise and melodic songs using a pallette of Prog instrumentation, with Andy using a Rickenbacker 4001 bass and Moog Taurus bass pedal sounds, and Nick making extensive use of his genuine vintage 1973 ARP Pro Soloist keyboard, virtual analogue synths, and, perhaps notably for the guts of the underlying keyboard texture, Mellotron samples.

For those unaware, the Mellotron was a kind of proto-sampler, developed by Streetly Electronics in Birmingham, England, comprising a keyboard which played individual tape recordings of recorded instruments (or voices, or musical segments) for up to eight seconds. They were the mainstay of Prog and are easily recognisable for their distinct sound.

During the couse of writing one track for the album, at the time untitled, which we were working on as a group, Nick said something quite profound.

“Of course, you do realise that the people who played the actual instruments sampled on these tapes are probably dead now.”

His comment was latched on to and we instantly titled the song Playing The Dead, which gave us a concept around which to hang the song, and the lyrics for Andy, to whom the task of writing lyrics in group compositions generally fell.

The latest Star Wars film has seen a bit of a reaction in certain media about the use of the likeness of Peter Cushing, who played in the original Star Wars (A New Hope), but died in 1994. The assertion in the Guardian and Huffington Post is that the use of a CGI manipulation of Cushing is disrespectful. How exactly is this disrespectful, if Cushing’s family gave its blessing? And why do such objections not apply to listening to the vocal performances of now deceased singers?

Should we stop listening to dead singers out of respect? I imagine there were similar thoughts about capturing recorded human voices in the first place. Indeed, hearing Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinvil’s sound recordings from 1860 is a little eerie.

I’ve had a conversation a couple of times with people along the lines of how in the not-too-distant future, deceased artists will be able to be “resurrected”, thanks to technological developments.

In my head, I can conceive that we will be able to extract individual phonemes from an existing, isolated vocal performance of a now deceased singer and use these as part of a wholly original vocal performance in a new song. As technology improves, we will be able to refine this technique, synthesising missing phonemes and accurately altering pitch with ever-improving technology until the end result sounds authentic. Artists like Mike Oldfield have already made use of full voice synthesis, such as Vocaloid, but this still suffers from the “robotic” effect and remains unconvincing to the human ear, but this technology will inevitably improve dramatically.

Some may see this as weird, others will see it as disrespectful, but others still will see it as a yardstick against which we can see how these technologies are progressing.

And as uncomfortable as it may be to some, perhaps the idea of being able to interact with a level of AI in the guise of a deceased love one may actually provide a great deal of comfort for a lonely, old person in future.

Perhaps today’s great singers could oblige by providing recordings of themselves singing a range of words in different pitches to lay the groundwork for such a legacy. And if that seems odd, consider that as Freddie Mercury faced his own mortality, he was selflessly, and despite great suffering, busily recording vocal parts for his Queen bandmates, for songs he knew he would not hear completed.

For my part, I kind of look forward to a development which allows for a natural sounding synthesis of classic voices from the past and to hear these resurrected in new contexts. I see the recreation of a vocal part of a deceased person no more or less disrespectful than using a sound sample of them passing a bow across a string or blowing into a flute and I’m quite looking forward to future releases of long-deceased artists.

What finer tribute to their voices than making them alive and relevant again to future generations?

Sticks and Stones

trumppie

I’ve just seen an interesting video (warning – usual sweary content from the start) by that omnipresent gobshite of the left-leaning millennial’s social media feed, Jonathan Pie, and, unusually, I find myself in almost full agreement with him. OK, so the guy has made his career out of relying on “righteously” angry and sweary videos, as though rage lends credence to arguments, but his latest offering is quite insightful and his anger is directed at a section of his usual supporters.

In essence, he’s blaming the victory of Donald Trump on the Left.

Sam Harris has said similar, albeit emphasising the liberal inability to name Islamist terrorism for what it is, when anyone with half a brain can see that mass murder accompanied by cries of “Allah uh akbar” probably does have something to do with Islam and a president or presidential candidate who not only won’t admit this or worse still, goes out of their way to deny it, is engaging in pure obscurantism.

Faced with people prepared to lie in the face of plainly-observable reality, where does that leave you? Apparently it leaves you in the hands of an unsubtle orange bloke who shoots from the hip and isn’t political establishment enough to tread very carefully with mealy-mouthed words, all the time ensuring that one or another section of the electorate isn’t offended, lest it should fail to support you on election day.

On Brexit, anyone I attempted to engage in positive discussion on the issues, with one exception (a friend who happened to move to the U.S. several years ago) declined, or even said they didn’t want to because I supposedly knew more about the facts around the EU!

Name-calling, forwarding bullshit on social-media, and failure to engage in true debate got the world where it is.

Those who disagree with the course the world is taking had better start to equip themselves with solid, logical, arguments and above all had better start to grasp that the way to win people around to their side is probably not ad hominem attacks.

I am no fan of Trump, but the contrarian in me is increasingly disposed to defend him and his supporters, simply because I find the reaction to him (including calls for the murder of white men, alongside rejections of the democratic process) more distasteful than the Donald himself. And yes, I can at least see why a disaffected worker whose job has gone overseas to a cheaper Chinese worker might be tempted to vote for an isolationist, who’s threatened to impose massive import tariffs on multinationals if they don’t repatriate significant numbers of their jobs.

Pie is right. People won’t declare their true intentions publicly or even privately to pollsters, because they fear the reaction. At a time when the level of debate has sunk to such a low level that people actually use the terms “right wing” or “Tory” (in the UK) as insults, as though these perfectly respectable epithets somehow magically won debates, it’s hardly surprising that people who fall into those categories won’t disclose the fact publicly.

Someone summed the situation up brilliantly in something I read just after the U.S. presidential election.

“Trump supporters didn’t believe everything Trump said in his campaign, but respected him. The liberal media believed everything he said in his campaign, but didn’t respect him.”

An option for Bremainers?

EU passport

I saw a link to a change.org petition earlier, calling for the EU to offer European (sic) citizenship to UK citizens. While the author of the petition makes the usual conflation of Europe and the EU (I’m now convinced that the bulk of Remainers genuinely don’t know the difference between a continent and a political construct, given how often they use the term Europe when referring to the EU) and seems to be under the impression that we will be “unable travel and work together in a connected Europe”, there is some merit in the petition.

Namely, there may be mutual benefit for UK citizens and the EU to continue to offer UK citizens a way to opt in to EU citizenship.

From the perspective of those who hold dear the notion that nation states are bad and that it would be better to counter the concept of nationalism by, erm, building a larger nation and to counter the (admittedly imperfect) democracy of Westminster by pushing decision-making powers to more remote and, in the case of the Commission, unaccountable politicians, this offers hope. They would still be able to feel part of this great empire-building project and would continue to enjoy the right to live elsewhere in the EU without the inconvenience of first having to find work and fill in pesky forms. And they could keep their EU flag profile pictures too. I say EU flag, but it is of course the flag of the Council of Europe, which is wholly separate from the EU. The EU decided that it liked the flag and would use it as its own flag too.

On the part of the EU, it would have access to a keen and idealistic section of its citizenship living in a non-member nation. It would thereby exert an indirect influence into the UK through these holders of dual citizenship.

Naturally, citizenship carries responsibilities with rights, and it would seem that the fairest way to offer citizenship would be in exchange for a fee. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. This would be in lieu of the UK’s contribution to the EU. We have to pay for our national passports and given that the EU would be making a special case here, it would be perfectly justified in seeking a fee for citizenship.

Imagine the following scenario, based on what we know from the facts:

  • 16,141,241 people voted to remain in the EU.
  • In 2015, the UK contributed £17.8 billion to the EU budget (or £12.8 billion, assuming we use the number after the UK rebate).

If we divide the contribution by the number of Remainers, we arrive at the annual figure of £1,102.77 (or £799.20, based on the rebate figure). That would cover the UK’s contribution in full. That may be a little high, however, for even the most ardent Remainer.

So, to be truly fair to individual Remainers, and to think about it from their perspective and not that of the EU for the time being, we should probably use a figure based on the number of Remain voters proportional to the total population in 2015. The concession to the EU we should make at this point, however, would be to use the gross figure (without rebate), since the reality is that the rebate would no longer apply.

In that case, using the UK population figures for mid 2015 of 65.1 million, we arrive at a personal contribution figure of £273.43 per person per year, or as the Remainers kept telling us during the campaign in the run-up to the referendum, this represents a mere 75p per day per person.

Taking the idea further still, the EU could widen out the offer to any citzens of the world, or at least those with some level of European ancestry (to preserve its penchant for racial discrimination), who bought into the EU vision, on a similar basis. This would provide futher funds for the EU and a greater potential workforce for countries concerned about declining populations.

If this sounds like a strange notion, consider that people can and indeed do hold multiple citizenships, and that they would ordinarily have to go through the normal process of paying for a passport to hold that citizenship in any practical and meaningful way in the wider world. Indeed, many nations offer citizenship in exchange for money. Consider also that EU citizenship would offer the same rights across not just one, but 27 other member states (at the time of writing).

But maybe this still doesn’t offer EU fans true buy-in or influence into the EU project.

Perhaps then, an additional EU institution could be added; another parliament perhaps, to represent these “subscription citizens”, which wouldn’t necessarily be bound by traditional notions of geographic constituencies, but could instead assign representatives to virtual constituencies, simply based on one representative for the first x subscribers, another for the next x subscribers, etc.

From the EU’s perspective, it’s worth remembering that only a small proportion of such subscription citizens would actually take the opportunity to live or work elsewhere in the EU, and so the EU could look at the opportunity as a means to make a significant income from these people for very little in return, other than to provide for those who feel they have an emotional connection to the ongoing project to create an empire across Europe a way to preserve their dream.

For my part, I am European by birth, history, and cultural values. I don’t need to belong to an artificial political construct to make me feel European. I don’t need the very symbols of nationhood—the flag and anthem—as a means to show how anti-nationalist and very cosmopolitan I am. I don’t need a supranational organisation as a security blanket or as a means to ostentatiously signal my supposedly progressive outlook.

I’m absolutely relaxed about the right of others to claim citizenship of wherever the hell they like. Not only will it make them happier, which makes me happy as a fellow human, but it will stop the incessant whining of the hardcore few among them.

Opt-in EU citizenship seems to offer a win-win scenario for these people and for the EU itself.

So, for the sake of people like Emily*, please sign the petition.

*Make allowances for her broad, sweeping, racist, anti-American comments and factual errors. She’s upset, damn it.

Who works for you?

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This picture is the “Foreigner ID Card” I was required to have to live and work in Switzerland back in the early 1990s. I had to update this on three occasions (for three different seasons) on entering Switzerland and had to stop initially at the border and attend a clinic for a chest X-ray, as did every other foreigner who was looking to reside and work there.

On arrival at the places I resided, I had to report to the police station, where my passport details were taken. There were also rules in place at the time about jobs being prioritised for Swiss nationals, where they could reasonably be filled by Swiss nationals. I had to prove that I had a job to go to and a place to live before I was given leave to remain.

I was very clear that I was there as a privilege and not as a right, and I was grateful for the chance to work there on all three separate occasions.

At no point did I feel that I was living in a nascent Third Reich. I wouldn’t have even considered to have such a self-entitled, arsey attitude. I was a foreigner and a guest in a foreign country, paying local, cantonal, and federal taxes in return for the privilege of working there.

My time spent living and studying in Germany and France required similar registration with local authorities. My entry into Germany to live and study there came at the end of 1992, just prior to the introduction of freedom of movement around the then EU of 12 states through the Maastricht Treaty, and, while my passport was retained by German police for some weeks, I was effectively unable to leave the country. Again, I was aware that I was lucky to be a guest in both Germany and then France and I was grateful for the opportunity to live and study in both countries.

So, the furore over the mere proposal that companies should disclose how many foreign workers they employ is stupefying and has me doubting the sanity of my compatriots.

Seriously, which part of a company disclosing these figures, which, apart from anything else will allow us to identify in real terms where we are lacking as a nation in providing training for youngsters, suggests the imminent creation of a new Auschwitz?

Which part of merely reporting statistics betrays a xenophobic agenda? Perhaps we should scrap the census, which clearly requires by law a declaration of nationality.

The primary duty of a government is to protect and act in the best interests of its citizens and not, despite the incessant whines of a section of self-entitled idealists to the contrary, to the world’s population at large.

We don’t live in a world of global government. If that’s your ultimate goal, we need to agree on the rules to be followed across the world and on which cultural values, economic system and legal system will apply. Do we follow western norms, those of the Islamic world, or perhaps those of North Korea?  Then we need to establish parity of wealth across the world to ensure that certain areas aren’t instantly impoverished by brain drain and others aren’t overwhelmed by immigration. Yes, we know that’s how you think it should be, but we’re not there; we’re far from there, even within Europe.

To those protesting about the proposals for the mere reporting of foreign workers within a company, get a grip! It may well be that certain businesses do actively have to seek out foreign workers for specific skills, as they claim (e.g. the agricultural sector in Lincolnshire and East Anglia). Such a report may even allow us to identify this need and prioritise residency rights for these people.

Your tedious portrayal of anything which seems to hint at any deviation away from your naïve and utopian “no borders” vision of the world as racist or as an indicator of the onset of Nazism is an insult to your own alleged intelligence, and belittles the memory of those who really did suffer at the hands of the Third Reich.

Nuclear Bore

I know Mhairi Black’s a hero to many, but in the speech she’s sharing from the Trident debate, she shows that she doesn’t understand:

  • the basic notion of a deterrent through MAD… “If I’m dying, I’m don’t care if we’re sending one back or not.” No, but the point is the other side probably does care*, so it prevents it from making a first strike. That’s how deterrents work. See Defence 101.
  • that just because there are more immediate threats from terrorism, cyber crime, and climate change, national security is not a game of either/or. All those threats need to be treated seriously, but the threat of nuclear attack remains in a world where proliferation is a reality or aspiration to many unstable and undemocratic regimes. “What terrorist attacks have nuclear weapons protected us from?” is as meaningless as asking how a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions can protect us from credit card fraud.
  • the existence and purpose of non-proliferation treaties against the backdrop of the aspirations of many states to acquire nuclear weapons. How come so many countries don’t feel the need to have nuclear weapons? Because, in large part, they’ve been prevented from obtaining them, wherever and whenever possible – sometimes forcibly, but more often by incentives (e.g. Iran). The core nations with nukes acquired them during the Cold War. They have them, and in the absence of full multilateral disarmament and in an uncertain world, are probably wise to keep them.
  • that the specific purpose of Trident is to keep an independent, at-sea, as opposed to land-based deterrent, so that potential aggressors know that even in the event of a strike on the UK, the UK will be in a position to retaliate.
  • that she has a simplistic view of national defence. Why don’t we spend the money we spend on Trident to invest in our energy and engineering sectors? Erm… possibly because doing so wouldn’t maintain an at-sea nuclear deterrent. We don’t spend our whole GDP on the NHS, schools, and diversity re-education programmes for Conservative Party members for the same reasons, much as Mhairi may prefer that we did so.

Much of the rest of her speech is straw-man, national socialist, and anti-British (but not anti-Scottish, of course) ranting. She claims we’re isolating ourselves from the world more and more at a time when new government ministers are sounding out new agreements in a wider, global context and outside the bounds of the little EUer mindset, in preparation for Brexit, and these same ministers are advocating a continuing role of cooperation with fellow European countries. Leaving the EU does not remove us from Europe. The widespread inability to differentiate between the EU and Europe has become a hallmark of whining Bremainers.

Her final few words about the possibility of an accident involving trains transporting nuclear waste through Paisley Gilmore Street have nothing to do with Trident. Just standard techophobic conflation of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons, which is actually always quite helpful in identifying someone driven by dogma rather than facts on nuclear issues.

Like it or not, nuclear weapons prevented another world war between the super powers over decades and continue to do so. If you dispute that and the military expansionism of the Soviet Union, you’re simply being ahistorical. Read up on post WW2 history and pay special attention to flash-points: the Cuban missile crisis; Berlin during the 1948/1949 Airlift and during the building of the Wall in 1961, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968. That’s not to say that the western allies are blameless in this period. From the earliest days following Nazi Germany’s defeat, from the seriously considered Operation Unthinkable and support for dodgy regimes on the basis of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, to the numerous other proxy wars, the West can’t pretend to play the innocent. Nevertheless, the potential doomsday scenario of an all-out nuclear exchange was an insurance policy against reckless conventional acts of aggression across Europe.

So, I love nukes, right? Wrong. I hate them. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, which is a time that millennials probably won’t fully grasp; a time when our cinemas and music were dominated by themes of imminent nuclear war. Many of my age will be familiar with “Protect and Survive”. For those of us at the time, it wasn’t a question of if, but when nuclear war broke out. This formed the backdrop of my teens and was frankly thoroughly depressing. Mhairi Black wasn’t even conceived when the Berlin Wall fell. This isn’t an appeal to authority of age on my part, but a simple observation that I at least spent my formative years in constant fear of impending nuclear war and yet, despite that, and my own preferences, I must reluctantly concede that they did keep peace in Europe.

I write as a multilateralist. Yes, I believe that the world would be better off without nuclear weapons, but I’m also a pragmatist. The mindset of those who’ve enjoyed decades of peace means they grow complacent of what precisely has enabled them to enjoy that peace. It’s a sad indictment of how history is taught in schools, often by teachers with leftist agendas, that many people believe that the European Union has kept the peace in Europe since the end of World War 2 when the unpalatable truth is that this very peace has been maintained by NATO with overwhelming U.S. support (something that sticks in the throat of so many) against the backdrop of Mutually Assured Destruction.

Fortunately, those in charge of our national defence aren’t of the “but everyone just wants to be our friends” school and don’t believe that the defence budget would be better spent on safe-space bongo-playing diversity workshops. They are not historically illiterate and they appreciate that there remain state equivalents of the school bully, of whom someone of a nice and kind disposition doesn’t approve, but who nevertheless exist, irrespective of and indifferent to such sensitivities.

The greatest failing in the collective mindset is the view that reality has to fit around our own personal moral preferences. It would be impressive if a few more people at least considered that even though they may loathe the notion of nuclear weapons, the idea of unilateral disarmament at a time when the likes of North Korea is actively working on a long-range delivery system is not just foolish, but downright dangerous.

The real worry now is not so much that pacifists and self-loathers share the odd meme and parliamentary ramblings of a fellow anti-establishment spokesperson, but that such people are once again so close to power and risking our civilisation in the interests of easing their consciences.

*The caveat here of course is an enemy which has a sincere belief in an afterlife and doesn’t especially mind committing state martyrdom. Faced with a nuclear threat from a theocracy, all bets are off, which is why theocracies must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Is there a real doctor in the house?

This blog entry is in response to a blog post by a certain Doctor Andy Williamson, called 10 points to comsider about Brexit and the EU referendum (see http://www.andywilliamson.com/10-points-to-consider-about-brexit-and-the-eu-referendum/). A friend suggested that I might want to write a response, but it is tough to go over similar ground time and time again.

Nevertheless, since I am on my hols and have some quiet time, I’ve taken the opportunity to address Doctor Williamson’s ten, supposedly frequently made pro-Brexit comments and his responses. The doctor’s original comments and responses are in italics.

So, here goes…

1. We’ll have control over our own laws. No. We won’t, we will still need to harmonise with Europe. The only difference between now and then is that at the moment we get to influence those laws. If we leave we just have to adopt them (See Norway).

Yes, we will. We can have precisly the same relationship with the EU that the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, or any number of the majority of countries around the world have with the EU, if we decide to, following failed negotiations with the EU, by leaving the Single Market. As a major export market for the EU, with a large trade deficit, it is very likely that the EU will want/need to tread carefully with the UK. We hold the cards in this respect. The EU has more to lose if trade barriers are established, so it can be pragmatic and negotiate a good deal with the UK or be irresponsible and put the jobs of thousands of EU citizens at risk. The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy; Switzerland and Norway are the 20th and 25th largest respectively. Our prospective deal post Brexit looks likely to be on much better terms than those enjoyed by Switzerland or Norway, who nevertheless manage just fine thank you… but more of that later.

2. British courts can make the final decision. More complex this one but, in short, no. They can’t. At least not any more than now. The European Court of Human Rights (the Daily Mule’s biggest enemy) has nothing to do with the EU. The European Court of Justice is the final arbiter of EU law (not national law)… see point 1.

British courts will be able to reclaim judgements over issues currently ruled over by the ECJ. You effectively make this point in your own words. As for the ECHR, we agree that it has nothing to do with the EU, although EU accession does require subscription to the ECHR.  The UK government has touted withdrawal from the ECHR and the establishment of a British Bill of Rights, but this is separate from the debate around the EU. And yes, many of us Brexiters do know the difference—we don’t all rely on newspapers for our information, be they the Daily Mule or the Grauniad, which is no better, but merely has an editorial policy which is probably more in line with your mindset.

3. We can control our own borders. Er… We already do. You remember that passport thing you have to show the man?

We have no legal means to prevent an EU citizen from entering the UK without good cause for doing so. That is indisputable. This leaves us in the situation where Italy and Greece threatened last summer to offer all immigrants their respective nationalities and thereby to allow them to move unhindered out of their countries and onward to their preferred destination countries (after all, a genuine refugee could well feel in danger in Italy or Greece). The ‘man’ (or indeed ‘woman’) couldn’t stop any such person from walking into the UK. A sovereign UK could, as it used to.

4. We can control immigration. In theory, yes, we could. We could pull up the drawbridge and fill in the tunnel too. But it won’t happen because we lose more than we gain.

The financials on the benefits of mass immigration are hard to prove either way (see https://fullfact.org/immigration/how-immigrants-affect-public-finances/). There is conflicting evidence and it depends on how you measure. What is beyond dispute to people living in areas directly affected by large numbers of immigrants is the real effects on school places, doctors’ surgeries, transport, wage suppression and housing. Witness also the large number of house-building projects on farm land around most towns now.

Irrespective of this, you imply that those who campaign for Brexit wish to stop immigration. We don’t—we’d merely like to control it along meritocratic lines, so we can prioritise welcoming a citizen of any race from anywhere around the world whose skills we need over a probably white, unskilled EU citizen. The latter seems discriminatory and, well, just a bit racist.

Use of straw-men and talk of filling in tunnels and pulling up drawbridges is a little pathetic from an academic, but at least it identifies you as someone reluctant to argue based on facts.

5. Staying in makes terrorism more likely. One of the more facile claims, this is so brilliantly stupid that it is almost genius. Staying in the EU makes us a hotbed for terrorism whilst leaving means we’re all safe. There you have it! The only problem is, it’s not true. First of all, see point 4 above. Then consider that terrorists are just like multi-nationals – they don’t respect national borders, they don’t play fair and they don’t care about you.

Many terrorists have been EU citizens by birth. You’ll find that many identify with a certain faith which transcends mere boundaries and races, but those who come from outside the EU may acquire EU citizenship. Either way, see point 3 above, as this statistically makes terrorism more likely, since we can’t easily prevent potentially high-risk EU citizens from entering the country without good cause. It’s not the physical stops so much as the right to freedom of movement across the Single Market which is the problem. Someone doesn’t have to be transporting Kalashnikovs or nail bombs across borders to be a security threat.

In the EU’s preferred borderless Schengen area, the Paris attacks were carried out by fellow EU citizens who were able to travel unhindered across borders, without even ‘the man’ checking their passports. Had their passports been checked and had they been questioned at the border, their plans may indeed have been thwarted. So yes, while controlled borders won’t can’t guarantee that terrorism will be stopped, they do make it less likely.

However, this isn’t really a strong point I would make for Brexit.

6. We’ll renegotiate free trade deals to replace the EU. We won’t. Certainly not quickly at least. We’ll trade with the EU as a member of the EEA so we get pretty much the same as now but we lose the power to influence any future changes. Again, see Norway. And the US has already made it clear it has no interest in a FTA with a newly isolated and rapidly sinking UK. But if you believe we can do instant deals why don’t you start with Scotland. As it will undoubtedly leave if the UK leaves the EU. As eventually will Northern Ireland. And then Wales… starting to feel like the ugly kid at the school disco yet?

We won’t necessarily trade as a member of the EEA at all. The likelihood will be that the UK government, the day after our vote to leave, contacts partners around the world with whom we trade and asks them if they wish to remain on current terms. It is highly likely that most will. Those that don’t will have to be involved in negotiations on a one-to-one basis, which can be far more easily concluded than those where 28, often conflicting interests must be considered on one side alone. Switzerland has more free trade agreements than the EU does and reacts far more dynamically to events than the EU can. The UK can hardly be called ‘rapidly sinking’ compared to much of the EU! Christ, the self-loathing education we have seen over the last few decades has indeed work well on many of its products, hasn’t it?

What an outgoing US president says in his own interests does not reflect the UK’s interests. Tell me, who is in this US trade agreement line, I mean “queue”. Can you show me it? I would have thought that governments and civil services would work in parallel rather than series.

As for the prospect of another Scottish referendum, despite the assertions of the SNP, all the opinion polls show largely similar views vis-à-vis the EU in England and Scotland. This notion that the SNP has of being able to be more sovereign in the EU, where it would have 6 out of 684 (0.87% of seats for 1.8% of the population) MEPs in the European Parliament post Brexit, none of whom have legislative initiative, compared with 59 out of 650 (9% of seats for 8% of the population) MPs in Westminster, all of whom do have legislative initiative, and many of whom have gone on to be Prime Minister of the UK, is as factually accurate as Braveheart. Not only that, but Scotland would have the status of a minor country in the EU.

With these facts in mind, the stance of the SNP in desiring to rejoin the EU post-Brexit can only be rationally explained by anglophobia.

Nevertheless, if the Scottish people (or Welsh, or Northern Irish for that matter) voted for independence from the UK, I would wish them well. You see, I’m consistent in my belief in empowerment of citizens and decentralisation of political power.

7. We’ll be strutting our stuff as world power again. Newsflash! The UK is a world power. It has a seat on the UN Security Council. It punches enormously above its weight on the international stage. This is in part because of its connectedness to Europe and its power within the EU. Leave and what are you left with? There is momentum building to review the UNSC membership, what do you think are the odds that an isolated UK will still be there?

Blimey! A mere bullet point ago we were ‘rapidly sinking’! Our “punching above our weight” has precisely nothing to do with our EU membership. The UK was a world power and had its seat on the UNSC long before we joined the then Common Market. It is the EU which is seeking to assume control of the roles historically occupied by the UK (and presumably France). I can’t see the UK giving up that seat on the UNSC easily, although the rights, wrongs, and failings of the UN are for another debate. You carry on arguing for the precious 1/28th (3.5%) share in influence at the EU’s “table”, despite us being outside the majority of euro members, who are bound to and moreover need to act in their own best interests. I’ll argue for us regaining our own table once again. We are indeed a top economic and military world power.

8. The economy will thrive if we’re outside the EU. Seriously? It’s not even worth bothering trying to answer this one! The statement is just so blatantly devoid of logic. We’re not Norway. we sold off most of the family silver years ago. And what’s left is rapidly being outsourced and sold off too. And that great shining generator of wealth (for a small few), the financial sector? That will move to Frankfurt, did you ever see a bank with loyalty? (OK, I accept that this could be seen as a plus). In short, if we leave, we get to live through a fire sale at the sunset of a once great economic and political power.

We’re back to the doom-mongering, I see. Well, I suppose the unrestrained patriotism couldn’t last long. There you go, bringing Norway into it again. Indeed, we’re not Norway—we’re a much bigger economic power on the world stage, but make up your mind; is Norway a positive or a negative model?

All the negatives you insist on being an accurate assessment of the UK have happened and are presumably continuing to happen while we’ve been a member of the EU. We’ll take it as read that I have a little more faith than you in the UK. Your scenarios of doom don’t appear to reflect reality. The financial sector (I assume you mean ‘centre’, as there are existing financial sectors in all EU nations) could have moved to Frankfurt at any time and indeed the very same assertion was made in an attempt to cajole us into joining the euro.

It is nonetheless worth pointing out, that the record of small, independent countries around the world is extremely good, and since you insist on invoking Norway as an example, would you care to tell me which non-EU European country (along with Switzerland) is in the top five wealthiest per capita not only in Europe, but in the world? Then perhaps, moving away from money matters to the more important measures, would you like to take a guess which three non-EU European nations are in the top five happiest countries in the world according to the UN? Go on… Have a go.

9. The EU is incompetent, badly run and a drain on resources. Yes. It is. It is beyond incompetent in many cases. But we’re stuck with it one way or the other – leaving does not change that. It might be hard to change it but at least it’s possible from the inside (now more than ever). What can we do from outside? It’s also worth pondering that many of the problems with supposed-EU dictates lie in the local implementation (remember, it was the UK’s fault it didn’t impose the moratorium in immigration in 2004, as Germany and others did).

We’re largely in agreement here, only your advice appears to be akin to the poor advice given to victims of domestic abuse to stay and to try to change their partners. I’m more inclined to go down the ‘get the feck out of there’ route. What can we do from the outside? The same as every other country outside the EU does. It may have escaped your notice, but several less powerful countries thrive outside the EU.

You claim that many of the problems with “supposed-EU dictates” lie in the local implementation of them. OK, fine. Even if we grant you that, in what way would having EU dictates implemented better locally be better than having none?

But the EU does issue dictates. They aren’t supposed dictates, but absolutely meet the dictionary definition.

A moritorium on immigration is as useful as Cameron’s negotiated farce of a handbrake on benefits for EU migrants, except that the latter needs to be pulled by the EU itself—it’s merely temporary and kicks the issue into the long grass.

10. What’s it ever done for us anyway? Nothing much. Other than working time directives and other ways that protect your rights at work, protect your children. Then there’s consumer protection and European peace. Not to mention the wholesale transition of Eastern Europe from volatile authoritarian states into thriving democracies. Maybe you don’t care about any of those things. But you should. In short, the idea of leaving the EU is somewhere between bat-shit crazy and economic suicide.

Are you seriously going to attempt to claim that workers’ and children’s rights didn’t exist before we joined the EU, and that they wouldn’t have been implemented in the course of the last forty years but by the grace of the EU in its benevolence? Again, you’re supposedly an academic, for Chrissake! At least make the tiniest effort to attempt to retain the illusion of impartiality! Just how much EU funding do you receive, by the way? Just interested.

Sweden, before it joined the EU, had some of the most progressive social policies in the world, which far exceeded those of any EU country. All modern, developed economies have various measures of protection of rights. These are driven by societal pressures in a connected world and have nothing to do with the EU. To claim that such rights would otherwise not be enjoyed by UK citizens when such rights are enjoyed by Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders, is simply ridiculous.

So, that’s the good doctor’s points dealt with individually. Most telling, however, as to his own bigotry was one of the opening paragraphs…

“Well, what exactly is the motivation not to be part of a modern Europe? It feels like a naïve and shortsighted hark back to the glory days of Empire, with a worryingly modern dose of isolationist xenophobia. It’s regressive. Hardly a platform for the future.”

This marks the doctor’s post out clearly as an appeal to virtue signallers everywhere through blatant straw-man portrayals of opponents of the EU. In effect, the doctor is making the following statement.

“If you believe in the EU, you must be a forward-thinking, liberal-minded, good ‘un. If you’re anti-EU, you’re stuck in the Victorian era, hate foreigners, and want to shut out the world.”

Well, perhaps this will be effective in bringing in a lot of young minds to the doctor’s side—that class of student who, sheep-like, falls in line with the prevailing group mentality and de rigeur opinion; those happy many, who like to be seen to have the right opinions rather than having to go through the trouble of examining evidence and thinking things through for themselves. It is, after all, far better and easier to be handed your socially-acceptable opinions, à la carte. And we see this now all too clearly and too often in institutions of higher education, where to have an original thought or to deviate from received knowledge was once considered positive or at least worthy of discussion, but is now more likely to see you no-platformed and sworn at by the mouthy, unwashed, “safe-space” numpties.

But the doctor has let slip his poor judgement and own prejudices. No doubt there are some who favour Brexit because they fit the doctor’s description, but I must admit, I haven’t met any of the Colonel Blimp would-be types.

No, quite the opposite in fact.

Speaking personally…

1. I’m not motivated not to be part of modern Europe.
2. The EU is a political construct; Europe is a continent.
3. I love Europe. I want the French people, Germans, Italians, Greeks, and British to have their politicians directly accountable to them. It’s hardly a radical proposal!
4. Nobody is harking back to the glory days of empire, except perhaps those who are looking to BUILD A FECKIN’ EMPIRE IN EUROPE! Pot, kettle, black.
5. Isolationism includes putting up borders and privileging people within those borders. The EU does precisely this by forcing the UK to discriminate in favour of unskilled EU citizens over skilled non-EU citizens. That seems rather more xenophobic.

Frankly, I don’t give a toss how it feels to Doctor W, because that’s wholly subjective. The doctor either utterly misunderstands my and many others’ motivating factors for campaigning for Brexit or he’s seeking to misrepresent them. Neither is especially good from an academic.

Many of us favour Brexit to increase political accountability, to bring decision-making closer to the people, and to ensure that the taxes we raise under the goverment we elect are used in ways we can influence. Furthermore, we seek to move away from the protectionist EU and embrace the wider world, welcoming talented and useful people to our shores from across the globe.

We recognise the EU for what it has become, not for what we might wish it were.

As I posted in a recent Facebook post…

If you’re going to decry people for nationalism and harking back to the days of empire while voting to remain in an anti-democratic political construct whose core purpose is to build a large, single, protectionist state through the acquisition of neighbouring countries… you haven’t really thought this through properly, have you?

Doctor Williamson… I’m afraid that my advice for others would be to urgently seek a second opinion!