Vigenonilateral Negotiations and Stockholm Syndrome

As Lawrence Tomlinson explains in the above excerpt, the reason negotiations between the EU and other nations take so long is because they are not in fact bilateral, but have been vigenonilateral – i.e. not between two parties, but between 29!

This is a long-standing problem in the EU. How do you reconcile the balance between nation states’ sovereign decisions and being able to work efficiently, speedily, and decisively?

The simple answer is that you can’t.

You can have prolonged and tedious discussions to try to elicit a compromise solution between the 28 (soon to be 27) members of the EU, which will inevitably please a minority of member states, probably annoy others, and invariably require some agreements on give and take compromises over other matters, which mean that nobody gets the best of anything and everyone settles for less-than-ideal outcomes.

The obvious (and preferred solution in the EU institutions) is to create a United States of Europe and increasingly erode national sovereignty. This happened in the Council of Ministers following the Treaty of Lisbon, but will be required increasingly across the institutions if the EU hopes to deal with crises and changes in geopolitics in any kind of realistic and sensible timescales.

In the meantime, the UK can get on making plans with the other 168 countries of the world, who somehow manage to survive outside the EU, or at least those which have progressed beyond the Bronze Age.

Regarding any future EU/UK agreement, if it truly takes a decade to hammer out an agreement when we start from a position where our standards are aligned and we incorporate all existing EU law into UK law, that says more about the EU than it does about the UK, and merely demonstrates all too perfectly why we are better off out of the EU.

If the EU prioritises dissuading other potential exiters over the interests of the people and businesses of its member states, is that really a club which appeals? The EU can have a free trade deal with the UK on perfectly decent terms, but says that the four freedoms of movement of goods, capital, services, and people are indivisible. But it is only since January of 1993 that this has been the case.

The more fundamental question is why should the EU need to threaten any member state which wishes to exit? Is that the sign of a healthy relationship? A more confident and self-assured EU would stand by its own positives and appeal to prospective accession countries – in essence, more carrot than stick.

A party which has to lock the doors and demand that its guests enjoy themselves is no party which any sane person would attend willingly, unless they get off on that sort of thing, of course.

A chacun son goût, and all that.

 

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Arrogance in Academia

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This piece was originally written earlier this year, but I didn’t get around to posting it. However, a talking head piece by Richard Dawkins, someone I admire for his other work in evolutionary biology and promoting atheism, once more reminded me of its relevance in the debate around the EU.

People are getting hot under the collar about this article, but they shouldn’t really. It’s utterly revealing about the bigotry and sweeping generalisations of a certain mindset. In short, it is a clear demonstration of how a free press allows people to show their true colours, and out of anger, to reveal their innermost prejudices.

His caricature of Brexit voters, steeped in stereotypes that could only be possessed by someone wholly out of touch with ordinary people, is one which, had it been applied to any other national, racial, or religious group, would have been countered by howls of revulsion from the brigades of PC virtue-signallers.

So, this is a very useful and revealing piece. It not only betrays the author’s true prejudices, but undermines his own credibility.

In the same way that giving BNP an open platform to discuss its ideas was the best means of defeating it (who could forget Nick Griffin’s car-crash appearance on BBC Question Time?), the best means to expose this kind of bigotry is to give its purveyors a platform—or perhaps a scaffold and enough rope would be more apt.

That last paragraph itself would probably leave Boyle confused.

“Wait, this is a Brexiter who says bad things about the BNP? But if he’s a Brexiter, he’s bound to be a UKIPer, pro BNP and have an instant dislike for anyone vaguely foreign or with a strange accent.”

Rather depressingly, this simpleton’s narrative is one I encounter quite often. It speaks volumes as to the lack of nuanced thinking in some people.

It would perhaps astound Boyle that someone like me could be anti-EU; someone who has something in common with himself; namely an academic, university background in Germanistik; and what is more, someone who shares his clear love of European culture; someone who has been “groomed” by the EU’s Erasmus programme, and under the wings of recipients of Monnet money, to be a helpful promoter of the EU agenda.

Unlike Boyle, however, I make a clear distinction between a supranational organisation and a continent.

But of course, whereas I left the halls of academia to seek my fortune in the heady world of employment in business, he remained in academia, studying the fine works of Goethe, Schiller, Böll, Grass, inter alia, surrounded by his fellow soixante-huitards and successive generations of idealistic youngsters, poised at any moment to throw off the old order and usher in a new utopia.

Given the time, I could explain to Boyle that I love Europe, its people, history, heritage, diversity, and geography. But I particularly love its languages. I especially appreciate being one of the all-too-few (and decreasing number of) Brits who learn foreign languages and treasure the fact that I can travel anywhere in the German-speaking or French-speaking countries and communicate fluently in the local language. My Russian is extremely ropey, but I did learn that as a third foreign language from scratch too.

I treasure this linguistic ability. Not only does it allow me to converse with people in other nations in their native tongue, but it allows me to strike up friendships with people with whom I can only communicate through a mutual foreign language—an especially satisfying experience of bridging the gap in communication between peoples, which has allowed me to share great conversations and laughs with people from Spain, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and many other nationals, none of whom spoke English, and whose languages I couldn’t speak. It has even enabled me to assist fellow Brits when dealing with foreign companies.

But I could also explain to Boyle that, routed in history and politics as my German, French, and Russian studies were, they also taught me of the histories, but most significantly of political developments in those nations, including the background to the foundation of the EU, and, in politics lectures and seminars in Germany, the development of the EU.

I would tell him that one of the key skills I learnt during the course of my studies was that of arguing a point dispassionately, and therefore of the ability to look at things rationally and objectively, and the ability to change views through rational discourse; but perhaps most importantly, the value of primary sources of information, the ability to think things through from first principles, and most importantly, to think for oneself, rather than to rely on anyone else’s narrative, be it that of a political party or media outlet.

I would tell him that one of the aspects I enjoyed in essay writing was being a little contradictory, almost for fun, when situations allowed for it, by making points and backing them up with references. I had a good appreciation of certain lecturers’ own particular biases and quite enjoyed ‘prodding them’ in essays occasionally. To their credit, they would generally take this the right way and give credit for supporting arguments, perhaps going so far as to reward contrary views.

In one German essay I wrote, critiquing the book Der Aufmacher by German undercover journalist and writer, Günter Wallraff, I delighted in pointing out Wallraff’s hypocrisy and actions he carried out for which he condemned others. I still have the essay. My lecturer’s notes at the end:

“A sophisticated study. Well expressed. Complex sentence structure and choice of words. Perhaps more pro-BILD than the facts warrant.”

Having read it again, it was actually a fairly balanced essay, broadly supportive of Wallraff, but I don’t think that he was used to arguments which were in the least bit supportive of BILD, or more accurately, the journalists who worked at BILD and only maintained their positions, and therefore their livelihoods, by following editorial requirements.

Boyle would be a prime target for such ‘prodding’, but based on what he has written here, I fear he would not have the same patience so clearly exhibited by my great lecturers, or a sufficiently open enough mind to read contrary views.

I remain a passionate advocate of foreign language learning and have done as much ‘selling’ of it to my children as I can.

Not only has foreign language learning been shown to be extremely beneficial for our mental faculties and to improve our grasp of our own language, but it opens up a world of new experiences and understanding, of travel and employment opportunities, and of music and literature, although I suspect that Boyle and I diverge on literature as a subject of study.

Foreign literature study has been forever poisoned by my experiences dissecting Camus’ La Peste for A level French—sad, because reading the book for pleasure some years later was an altogether more enjoyable experience—to the extent that a fictional book about the outbreak of plague in 20th century Algeria with allegorical references to the Nazi occupation of France could be described as a subject for enjoyment.

I’ve dwelled on the above personal references merely to point out the weakness of Boyle’s arguments. Supposedly, as an Englishman, I fall nicely into his category of “lager louts of Europe.” Hopefully, the above points illustrate the vacuous nature of his assertions.

We’ll gloss over the fact that I’m not keen on lager and not really all that louty. In fact, I’m pretty rubbish at the whole being a lout business—middle class vicar’s son and all that.

But I have gone through the conditioning of middle class academia and I know what that entails. I indulged in it myself at the time—even buying the whole notion of cultural relativism at one point. But then I continued to read, observe events, discuss, and use that pesky, learned ability to think for myself.

Boyle’s portrayal of fellow English people who voted Brexit is not one I recognise at all.

No, it really isn’t.

There is not a single person I know who voted Brexit whom I would describe as the slightest bit xenophobic. And, I suspect my social circles are a little more varied than those of a Cambridge professor—just a hunch. His attitude is one he’s gained from spending too long in an intellectual echo-chamber where the prevailing attitude is that only people who diverge from its group-think are knuckle-dragging bigots.

But make no mistake; as much as I wholly support his right to make an arse of himself publicly, his article is vile and prejudiced and that is perhaps why, in a superb case of people being hoisted on their own petard, it was quite rightly reported by the head of the English Democrats as a hate crime: reference 42/17384/17.

Ultimately though, what makes a small elite think that it should defy the wishes of the people? We all share the same nation—the difference being that ordinary people, away from the “ivory towers” of high acadmia, are rather more exposed to everyday politcial decisions. Even if the public were wrong in its decisions when consulted, it has just as much right to make bad decisions as those in privileged positions do.

There is no politcal consensus and politicians do not always make good decisions. The current state of the world should be a big indicator of this.

And once again, I can’t help noticing that the country which has the highest citizen engagement in regular referenda and through the direct democracy measures of initiative and recall—a country which is the very politcial antithesis of the EU: namely Switzerland—consistently tops the worldwide rankings on a number of measures.

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.

 

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.

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!

What the Varoufakis he on about?

I recently watched this interview between Yanis Varoufakis and Owen Jones and was once again struck by an-all-too-common mindset on the part of Varoufakis.

I am so bored of this rather tiresome narrative and slur that those of us who value democracy and self-determination of nations are xenophobic, racist, or ultra-nationalist.

When did concepts of self-determination and democratic accountability become negative?

Here’s a thing for Varoufakis to consider. If an independent UK gets Boris Johnson and is unhappy with him and his government, guess what… We can vote him out of power in the next general election. Can we say the same about the EU Commission—the body which is part of the troika which has destroyed Varoufakis’ own country’s economy and democracy?

So, Varoufakis is trying to democratise the EU in the face of all the historic evidence, vested interests, and lobby groups involved. He’s right that the contempt is for political elites, but there’s also a hell of a lot of contempt for those who want to remove people’s sense of belonging to a nation state, which does not at all preclude friendship and partnership between nation states; and based on opinion polls, there’s quite a bit of public contempt for idealistic open-border advocates too. He may indeed find that it is precisely this latter development which is causing the resurgence of the extreme right, which, contrary to his rather bigoted view, many of us who favour Brexit vociferously oppose. For my part, I have growing contempt for idealists who think we should all share their utopian views in the face of all the contrary evidence and experience.

Why does he consider the notion that people like to belong to a group with whom they share cultural values, history, laws, and traditions, i.e. a nation state, a negative thing? I thought we were all in favour of maintaining cultural differences. The nation state is a natural and long-established state of affairs around the world. Most people are perfectly happy with and identify with the nation state, but are also perfectly capable of not hating other nations. Most people take the view that each nation, and even smaller subdivisions within nations, have their own ways, and see that rather as a point of interest, rather than a negative thing. In other words, we follow the maxims ‘live and let live’ and ‘vive la différence’.

Most people can identify with this sense of positive patriotism at times of national celebration or during international sporting events, such as the Olympics. If you support a national sports team passionately, you understand this. Your love of your own team and pride in its achievements don’t mean you hate other teams. Indeed, a good fan will recognise the positives in other teams and seek to learn from these.

One thing I find that internationalists (or continentalists, in this case) overlook is where their endgame inevitably leads them. In seeking to undermine the nation state and surplant it with a large political union, they are merely looking to create a larger, more powerful nation state in the long run—precisely the kind of empire-building they’ve traditionally opposed, and all entailing the shift of power from being closest to the people to increasingly remote levels away from people.

His argument against the notion of the nation state is as nonsenical as claiming that love for your family necessitates hatred of other families. It’s utterly bizarre!

He goes on to say

“[The Commission] can not be dismissed by anybody, and as Tony Benn said, ‘Unless you are able to ask those who make decisions over you, ‘how do I get rid of you?’ and get a meaningful answer, you don’t have a democracy.’ So that’s what’s important to do in Europe. We have to do it to give more sovereignty and more degrees of freedom to our national parliaments.”

He’s just made the precisely the argument I, and many others, make for Brexit. The difference is, he is under the rather bizarre delusion that the EU is capable of reform; reform which has been known about for decades (as a former pro-EUer, I know this all too well). How much longer is he going to put his idealism before the welfare of his own people and other members of the EU?

Do we need to be in a political union with New Zealand, the U.S.A., Australia, or Japan to be on friendly terms? No, we are bound by broadly aligned, common values.

“The retreat to the nation state is never going to benefit the Left.”

But Varoufakis seems to suffer under the bizarre delusion that adherence to an organisation which is governed predominantly by the Right and is subjected to the highest levels of lobbying from multinationals will benefit the Left.

Frankly, I don’t give a stuff what will or won’t benefit the Left. I won’t vote to benefit the political Left or the political Right. I’ll vote on principles and on the basis of making decision-makers accountable to voters, and at the closest possible level.

If that means we get a government of Left or Right, I won’t care, because that government will do either good things and be re-elected, or it will do bad things, and be ousted. That’s national democracy for you – political Darwinism, if you like. Varoufakis on the other hand, appears to be a political creationist and expects everyone else to share his vision/beliefs. No thanks, I want accountable politicians and on a level where decision-making is responsive, quick, and decisive; not cumbersome, slow, and indecisive.

And I want to live in a confident, positive, and outward-looking UK, which doesn’t believe that the world stops at the EU’s borders and in forcing unwilling European people into a giant, political, undemocratic empire against their will.

Obama Doesn’t Care

So, the big O has landed in Europe on his farewell tour, and has kindly popped in to do David Cameron a favour by invoking the memory of his fallen compatriots to galvanise support for the UK’s continued membership of the EU.

The tens of thousands of American soldiers who are are laid to rest across Europe deserve Europe’s eternal gratitude. Of that there is no doubt, and some of us make an effort to remind people of this on an ongoing basis and in the face of the all-too-prevalent, de rigueur, anti-American sentiment which pervades Europe.

Nevertheless, those soldiers died in defence of freedom and democracy. Obama may not grasp the ins-and-outs of the mechanics of the European Union, and be speaking from an understandable perspective of self-interest, but the European Union is fundamentally anti-American on a purely constitutional level. It is the antithesis of everything the Founding Fathers believed in.

Can you for one second honestly imagine a scenario where the U.S. public would be happy to send billions of dollars to, lets say Mexico City, and be subjected to laws created by a panel of unelected politicians there in return; their money being spent in Mexico, without any accountability to U.S. citizens, in an attempt to build up the economy of a country which may be massively less productive than the U.S. economy, and unprepared to reform. Oh, and the more the U.S. economy improves, the more it has to contribute?

Can you imagine that U.S. citizens would put up with this for decades, with constant lip-service paid to the notion of reforming this supranational organisation?

“Yes, we know that the American Union is a profoundly undemocratic and corrupt organisation, but we need to be in it to reform it.”

The maxim “no taxation without representation” was a perfectly legitimate expression of grievance on the part of the then American colonists in response to British governance of their lands.

In the European Union, in which Brits are net contributors, we are in a similar scenario, although even then, in Georgian Britain the government was at least accountable to some voters – The EU Commission doesn’t even come up to scratch on that level!

MEPs nominally represent voters, but they can’t legislate, but only express approval/disapproval of proposals from the EU Commission. Do you think a parallel situation in the late 18th century would have placated those colonists?

Did the notion of remaining in the British Empire with a view to reforming it placate the thirst for self-determination and the establishment of a state with a renewed sense of purpose, based on European Enlightenment values and secularism?

Certainly not.

Those of us who retain our belief in these core concepts understand and applaud the actions of the American revolutionaries. And let’s not forget that they were prepared to go not to the ballot box to press for these fundamental freedoms, but to their deaths.

We are in a situation where we can express similar sentiments of a desire for the restoration of local accountability of our own politicians and for restoration of our traditional rights of self-determination, so callously surrendered in the past, without the people’s consent, under the deceitful premise of a ‘common market’, and in the interests of the vanity and career progression of politicians, or to assure their place in the history books.

So while I hope that Obama’s outspoken support for the continuation of Britain’s membership of the European Union is one based solely on self-interest on the basis of American influence on the EU via the UK (in particular with regard to matters of defence) rather than any alleged animosity he may harbour towards the UK for personal, familial reasons, I’m sure he’ll understand if many of us think back to how the founders of his nation reacted in the face of disenfranchisement and, if not take to the barracades, take to the urns.

We never want to have to take to the battlefield to restore liberty in Europe again, but the actions of the European Union, in trampling over core principles of democracy are making this not less, but more likely at some point in the future.

For all Donald Trump’s foolish rhetoric in threatening to pull out of NATO, we know that the U.S. would stand by the defence of liberty in Europe if push came to shove, but trust me, nobody wishes to see the spilling of any more American blood on European soil as Europe once again loses sight of and becomes complacent over the core tenets of democracy.

Many of us see the threats ahead of a European Union, forced together without the full consent of its constituent peoples at a time when political power should be moving down to communities, not to increasingly remote and unaccountable levels. There is no historic precedent for the peaceful, long-term success of any such unions. They invariably end in revolutions, and more often than not revolutions of the bloodiest kind.

It’s in all our interests that this is avoided, and if Brexit can be the catalyst for the peaceful break-up of the European Union, while there is still the possibility of such a break-up, and its replacement with a loose, multi-lateral organisation of co-operating, independent states, we may find that it is precisely this which prevents future generations of Americans from being laid to rest in European soil.