Remainer Mythbusting: Brexit: So In The End We Found Out

Another list of Remainer bullshit to tackle. This time from a post by erstwhile star of The Word, Terry Christian, who advocated that employers should fire people who voted for Brexit: not that he’s advocating anything illegal there, of course.

Brexit: So in the end we found out list

Let’s get straight on to the points listed.

“We could always have Blue Passports”

Not sure why blue passports qualify as a proper noun, but there you go. The blue passports thing seems to have preoccupied more Remainers than any Brexiters I’ve heard from. Probably something they read in the Sun/Daily Mail (why do Remainers insist on reading these publications? – I don’t) and in their usual way assumed that these publications speak for all Brexiters.

The colour of passports is wholly irrelevant to the important matters around EU membership, Irrespective of the colour of a passport, an old style blue cover without the words European Union or an EU flag cover can be picked up online for a fiver.

“We can already deport EU criminals”

This presumably relates to the statement by then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, Dominic Raab, in June 2016, concerning the difficulty involved in deporting 50 criminals who were EU citizens. A dossier was drawn up detailing these cases, involving everything from murder to drug crimes. Raab’s assertion was not, as implied by the above, that we can’t deport EU criminals, but that the threshold for deportation was higher for EU than non-EU nationals.

The flip-side to this is, of course, that the UK has had to deport UK citizens to other EU member states under the European Arrest Warrant under the flimsiest of conditions, with rights in many cases below those they would enjoy under the British legal system. Those unfamiliar with the issues around the EAW may like to read up on the case of Andrew Symeou.

“Unelected Eurocrats, are actually elected”

What does this mean? Which Eurocrats? Members of the Commission College aren’t elected: they are appointed. And as the executive, they have sole legislative initiative in the European Union. There’s a simple response to this one:

How does the European Union electorate remove from office members of the Commission College? In other words, if EU citizens are unhappy with the EU government, how do they change it?

The answer… they can’t.

I’m guessing that Remainers might have the tiniest objection to a government in the UK which was not directly answerable to the electorate in a general election. But when it’s at a supranational level, hey no problem!

“The £350m never existed”

Another favourite of Remainers, this one. Both sides of the debate have become hung up on this one and both sides have been guilty of obsession and misinformation over the matter. The final figures for 2016, according to the Treasury, were UK gross contribution of £327m per week, minus the UK rebate of £75m, meaning a net contribution of £252m per week.

However, three facts remain:

  1. The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU budget (after Germany). We have, since 1975, paid more into the EU budget every year than we’ve received back, and this trend is upward.
  2. How the totality of the gross figure is to be spent (including the component returned to the UK) is decided by the EU, not the UK.
  3. Leaving the EU would return that figure (and subsequently more) to the full control of the UK, to spend how it pleased. It would be entirely at the discretion of a government, not a referendum campaign, to decide how to spend that money. And yes, a government could decide to spend the full gross amount on the NHS if it chose to, as it would have full control over the totality of the money.

“Apparently, Weatherspoon sells Champagne”

This is based on Tim Martin’s (chairman of Wetherspoon, not Weatherspoon) comments about stopping buying Champagne and instead sourcing cheaper alternatives from outside the EU.

From my perspective, I don’t buy into the boycott of products made in countries which are members of the EU, but it’s wholly within the right of Martin to source his products from whichever market he likes. It actually seems that his decision was based on cost, but even if it were a boycott, it’s his choice as a business owner and likewise, a consumer’s right to prefer to spend six times the amount on a bottle of Moët than they would spend on an Australian alternative.

“We are already not liable for future Eurozone bailouts”

This one is true – in theory at least. The fact is that the EU has and will bend its rules when it needs to, and especially in times of crisis. For evidence of this, I recommend watching the surprisingly objective and frank BBC documentary Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil – especially episode 2, Going for Broke, which deals with the height of the euro crisis. At the time of writing, this is still available on the BBC iPlayer for a week or so. The programme tackles how the EU dealt with the euro crisis, and had to call in favours from non-euro countries to prop up the foolhardy euro project.

You can also do worse than listen to Yanis Varoufakis, who is an idealistic proponent of a united Europe, but a critic of the European Union, having experienced it up close and personal.

But the UK did provide money to bail out the Eurozone already: €3bn for Ireland in November 2010 and €3.5bn for Portugal in May 2011.

You can bet that the next time the euro hits a crisis, and if the UK is still a member of the EU, we will be compelled in one way or another to contribute: and, shackled into the wider EU project, it would probably be in our best interests to do so.

“Vote was not legally binding”

This is also true, but largely irrelevant in the light of events.

The UK government and the parliament voted in favour of a referendum: a device used in the UK to turn decisions over to the public when an issue is too divisive within parliament, or a matter of conscience, or of constitutional significance.

Having determined to hold the referendum with the support of parliament, the UK government from the Prime Minister down gave concrete assurances that the outcome of the referendum would be respected and moreover that a decision to leave the EU would mean leaving both the Single Market and Customs Union – a comment which they thought would scare the electorate into line, but has subsequently backfired spectacularly.

Due to the UK’s unwritten constitution, and because the European Union Referendum Act 2015 did not make the referendum legally binding, the outcome of the referendum was in any case endorsed by parliament (both houses) in the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017, following the verdict of the case brought by Gina Miller, and HMG formally triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on 29 March, 2017.

During 2017, the two largest parties in parliament explicitly committed in their election manifestos to honour the outcome of the referendum.

So, as can be seen, the matter of whether or not the vote was legally binding became a moot point.

Something we have learnt from this, however, is that future referendums will need to be explicitly legally binding to have any kind of significance in persuading voters.

“Irish border will be affected”

Bit vague, this one. Of course the Irish border will be affected. The Irish border is already affected. There are separate sovereign nations on either side of it.

The reason the border exists in the first place is due to the decision of Irish separatists 100 years ago to Irexit from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and to leave the world’s economic superpower of the time to ‘take back control’.

Presumably, Irish Unionists at the time called the Republicans racists, xenophobes, and nutters for leaving such a powerful empire for the apparently vague notions of sovereignty and self-determination.

It’s worth remembering that in modern terms, the Irish decision to leave the British Empire must have been far more economically illiterate (according to Remainers) than the UK decision to leave the EU. And yet the Irish, despite a subsequent civil war, somehow managed to survive.

On the matter of the border itself though, the following have given categorical assurances that there is no need for a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic:

  • The UK government
  • The Irish government
  • The European Union
  • The World Trade Organisation

Additionally, Lars Karlsson was commissioned by the EU in his capacity as a world customs expert to find a solution to the Irish border issue in the event of a real Brexit. He came up with one which he said could be cheaper than current arrangements, based on existing technology.

Critics say such a solution hasn’t been implemented anywhere yet, even though the tech used is in use between Norway and Sweden. But, in any case, even if it hasn’t been rolled out in precisely the manner required on the NI/IE border, that doesn’t make it unfeasible any more than any other historical ‘first’.

“Loss to the UK has been 600m a week since Brexit”

Presumably, this means since the vote to leave, rather than Brexit, since Brexit hasn’t happened.

Trying to find an objective source for this is proving difficult (the New European, Goldman Sachs, and the Standard are hardly objective sources), but we’ll take it as a given for the sake of argument.

The biggest issue affecting business is uncertainty. It’s patently the case that businesses and countries can and do operate outside the European Union. 15 (soon to be 16) of the G20 countries are outside the European Union. Only 17 (soon to be 16) of the world’s top 50 largest economies are EU countries.

The Brexit process has been ongoing for almost three years and during this time, businesses have been clueless as to the future status of the UK. Uncertainty is not good for business. It is this uncertainty which will have had negative implications. Sadly, when we have a Brexit process dragged out by a Remainer Prime Minister heading up a Remainer government in a Remainer parliament, this is what happens.

However, against this we can set the ongoing positive economic news from the UK, with record employment levels and healthy growth, while the EU and even powerhouse Germany teeter on the precipice of recession.

“Easiest deal in history is actually the hardest”

Slight hyperbole there. The hardest? Really?

A sensible Prime Minister would have begun plans for a WTO Brexit from day 1, but made a unilateral offer to continue free trade with the EU (without the associated four freedoms of movement), along the lines of free trade deals the EU has concluded with third nations.

Given the UK’s position as net importer from the EU, with a suitably large trade deficit, the cost to any friction in trade would be borne predominantly by the EU.

But we’re not blessed with a sensible Prime Minister. We’re lumbered with a PM doing all she can to keep us in the EU by concocting a deal worse than remaining in the EU, with a view to forcing a decision between such a deal and remaining in the EU: the kind of choice ‘People’s Voters’ would also like to see in a second referendum. She (and they) think we can’t see the plan, but we see it.

It’s obscene to imagine that the EU wouldn’t be prepared to offer its largest export market a free trade arrangement when it has concluded similar with far less significant economies. And the UK starts from a position of complete alignment of standards with the EU.

It’s absolutely the case that a trade deal between the UK and EU should be the easiest in history to conclude, given this existing alignment, but that does of course rely on both parties acting rationally and from the UK’s perspective, it is absolutely reliant on the UK operating from a position of strength, outside the EU, and not from a position of craven pleading for some kind of, nay, ANY kind of deal from a position of weakness inside the EU.

Apparently, contrary to May’s earlier assertions, any deal is better than no deal.

“Turkey had no chance of ever joining EU and we could veto it”

Fine, so why is Turkey an official candidate country (above a potential candidate country) and why are we funding Turkish accession programmes, if Turkey isn’t set to join the EU?

Anyone with a smattering of knowledge of the EU knows that Turkey is on a convergence programme to join the EU.

We (our government) could indeed veto it (at the moment), but given that our government and many other governments would favour it for economic reasons (supply of cheap labour), and given that the UK has traditionally either favoured or been ambivalent about Turkish entry, why would our government veto it?

This is again where anyone with a hint of understanding how the EU operates would grasp how potentially difficult decisions for one member can be eased with a bit of horse-trading or pressure in other matters. Cyprus and Turkey have a bit of history, to put it mildly, but Cyprus would easily be brought into line under pressure from other member states.

Turkey has also had the EU over a barrel over the migrant crisis, where it leveraged its refugee resettlement programme in 2016 to its own advantage in negotiations with the EU – or precisely, in negotiations with Merkel and Dutch PM Rutte, who acted unilaterally without informing other EU leaders.

In any case, we are funding Turkey’s accession, so this is a moot point.

“Migration from outside EU is higher than from within”

This is true, but irrelevant. In the case of the former, the number of migrants could be controlled, but in the case of the latter, it can’t.

The merits or otherwise of each type of migration is also largely irrelevant. This is a matter of who controls the nation’s borders and to whom these decision-makers are accountable.

The electorate could decide that the number of non-EU immigrants is a pressing issue of paramount importance and vote accordingly for a party which expressly undertook to stop non-EU migration. Since no party is advocating stopping migration, this is irrelevant.

Controlling immigration is not stopping immigration.

But it is actually the case that EEA (not just EU) migrants are net contributors to the UK economy on balance, whereas non-EEA migrants are a net cost. This is a rather simplistic metric, since in every case, one needs to drill down to countries and occupations to have a meaningful debate.

And it’s precisely this latter point which is why many rational people advocate a meritocratic immigration system which is colour-blind and doesn’t give precedence to predominantly white EU citizens with no skills over non-white non-EU citizens with key skills.

“We can already send non-contributing EU migrants home”

Current rules allow a period of six months of unemployment before an EU migrant can be deported, but there are no Home Office figures on how often people have been returned and it is thought these figures are low in any case.

David Cameron’s negotiations with the EU on the ’emergency brake’ on access to the UK welfare system, which could have only been triggered once and would be valid for a single period of seven years, did not come into power, because they were dependant on the UK voting to remain in the EU. These would have prevented an EU citizen from claiming unemployment benefit during this six month period.

This is largely immaterial. We’ve already established that EEA migrants are net contributors.

What hasn’t been touched on, and what we won’t dwell on, is the pressure on housing, schooling, transport, medical services, environment, and other services, of a net 300,000 immigrants every year, at a time when we need to be building the same number of houses merely to stand still.

“We always had sovereignty”

Blatantly false and only asserted by low-information Remainers. This is one of those clear giveaways of someone who knows bugger-all about the EU.

EU law is supreme over UK law. The European Court of Justice is supreme over our highest courts.

These are irrefutable facts.

Remainers use terms such as “pooling sovereignty”. The words “surrendering sovereignty” clearly aren’t quite comfortable enough, so let’s humour them.

In “pooling sovereignty” we have 3.5% influence in the European Council and the Council of the European Union (i.e. the ‘Council of Ministers’ or just ‘Council’) and 9.7% influence in the European Parliament, the latter being based on population.

Since the Treaty of Lisbon came into effect, multiple competences within the Council of Ministers moved from unanimity to QMV (qualified majority voting), where decisions required majorities rather than unanimity to obtain consent. In the case of QMV, this means that countries can have laws imposed on them against their will and to their detriment, if the Council and the European Parliament endorse such decisions.

In fairness, the likelihood is that, as with any decision within the EU, as much is determined by consensus as possible to prevent obvious hostilities. Individual members concede on some matters and gain on others. With the expansion of the EU, this was a pragmatic necessity, but it is clearly to the detriment of individual member states, with decisions being made slowly and behind closed doors, often as compromises which are neither wholly satisfactory nor detrimental to member states.

It’s a fudge, but a necessary fudge to keep such a large, unwieldy ship on course.

But sovereignty, by definition, is “the power of a country to control its own government”.

According to the BBC’s own fact check, which is backed up by the independent Fact Check website,

If you count all EU regulations, EU-related Acts of Parliament, and EU-related Statutory Instruments, about 62% of laws introduced between 1993 and 2014 that apply in the UK implemented EU obligations.

But, as the BBC rightly points out, this includes regulations over industries which don’t exist in the UK.

In any event, it’s clear from the above that the UK is in no way ‘sovereign’ whilst within the EU.

“Rees-Mogg made £7m since Brexit and is desperate to avoid 2019 EU tax avoidance clampdown”

Politics of envy. Wholly irrelevant to Brexit. It’s clear to anyone that Rees-Mogg has more constitutional concerns than he has around money. If he were solely motivated by money, he wouldn’t be an MP.

In any case, there’s a rather good thread on Twitter dealing with the ‘Brexit was about tax avoidance’ conspiracy.

“Loads of rich campaigners and donors have since relocated their wealth offshore”

Good for them. Presumably, they’ve gone to join the likes of arch-Remainer, Richard Branson, then. ‘Twas ever thus. If you’re in favour of rich people remaining in the UK, you’ll want to attract them here with low corporate taxes and low personal taxes.

Most Remainers I’ve heard from don’t usually appear to be in favour of such things, but they could of course campaign more easily for such things if the UK had full control of legislation.

“Unicorns don’t exist”

But apparently, Utopian, supranational European empires where rainbows abound and the people rejoice without any resurgence of localised and national tensions do exist and with very little bloodshed…

Apart from every attempt at European union to date, of course, from the Holy Roman Empire via Napoleon’s efforts, to the Habsburg Empire, the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, and all those other astounding, less ambitious attempts at supranational union.

If you’re lucky, when unions dissolve, they dissolve peacefully, as with the division of Czechia and Slovakia in the Velvet Revolution. If they go a little less well, however, you get Yugoslavia, which was a far less ambitious project than the EU.

Yes, history tells us that supranational unions go just swimmingly well.

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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.

 

Arrogance in Academia

DawkinsAndBoyleEU

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.

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.