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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Euro Myths Unbusted

This post is in response to a posting by a friend on social media. I find it shocking that people I know are very intelligent fall for this stuff—it is no better than stuff peddled by tabloids. The meme in question is below and I have responded to each numbered point in turn below the image.

References are provided. Where secondary sources are used, the source provides links through to primary sources wherever possible.

image

1. Our laws go back hundreds of years. It would hardly be surprising that 13% had the EU’s involvement, but given the relatively small number of years we’ve been a member, this has precisely the opposite signifiance than intended!

But let’s give this statement the benefit of the doubt and assume it refers to recent and ongoing legislation. The figure is misleading, as it leaves out EU regulations (as distinct from EU directives). Regulations pass directly into UK law without touching the democratically elected House of Commons. See https://fullfact.org/europe/two-thirds-uk-law-made-eu/ for details. FullFact estimate the figure to be 62%, which is closer to the (admittedly exaggerated) claims made by some advocates of Brexit than to the advocates of Bremain.

2. Laws are made by the Commission, which is the executive. The European Parliament and Council have a means of providing feedback (in a similar way the House of Lords can influence the House of Commons), but ultimately, it is the Commission which is the executive of the EU. None of the Commission’s members are publicly elected, but are all appointed by member states, all take an oath to defend the interests of the EU above those of their own nation, and the Commission is accepted or rejected en masse by the European Parliament. Past commissioners have included people with failed domestic political careers and people with criminal convictions.

The Commission can not be removed or voted in through the ballot box by European citizens. It is therefore not directly elected in the way most executives are in modern, European democracies. In short, its members are indeed unelected bureaucrats.

The European Parliament, unlike a traditional parliament, can not propose legislation, but can only vote on legislation put before it by the Commission. Put simply, the only people in the EU institutions who we elect to represent us are not able, quite literally, to represent us.

Then there are policy areas where the Council may consult the Parliament, but is not even bound by its decision.

We need only take a look at the EU’s handling of Greece and Italy in recent history to judge its adherence to democratic principles.

But let’s just cut to the chase on this one with a simple question. How does the European Union electorate elect or remove a Commission, i.e. the EU government, to or from power?

Answer that honestly, understand how that differs from how modern, democratic, European electoral systems work, and perhaps you’ll understand why principled democrats on all political sides oppose the EU.

3. The Norwegians and Swiss have to abide by U.S. trade regulations when selling into the U.S., by Japanese trade regulations when selling to Japan, by Chinese trade regulations when selling into China. Somehow they manage, because many trade regulations are regulated outside the control of the European Union, through multilateral trade deals and international, multilateral trade bodies and standards organisations.

Regarding standards: IT standards, motoring standards, and other commonplace standards were not devised by the EU, but by innovators, business consensus, and the market around the world. It is these standards which must ordinarily be met by businesses, and many of them are set by organisations such as the ISO or quite simply by customer demand.

But back to the point on Norway and Switzerland, because seemingly, according to many Bremainers, these are the only models for nations outside the EU, despite there being 168 non-EU countries in the world. Let’s take a look at a typical example of how the discussion around Switzerland’s and Norway’s relationship with the EU goes, taken from an episode of the Daily Politics (https://youtu.be/hgrB2yAPPlQ?t=4m37s).

Andrew Neil: “I’ve looked at the EFTA Secretariat, which compiles these figures and the EU doesn’t in any way dispute them. Between 2000 and 2013, there were 52,183 legal instruments issued by the EU. Norway adopted 4,724, that’s 9%. Where does the 75 [%] come from?… Only 100 [0.19%] of these changes required primary legislation in the Storting [the Norwegian parliament].”
Andrew Neil: “How many EU rules does Switzerland write into its law?”
Matthew Hancock: “Well, actually I haven’t got the figure on that.”
Andrew Neil: “Well, I can tell you. It’s 0 percent.”

Andrew Neil: “If not having access to the Single Market is such a disadvantage, and as you say, Switzerland doesn’t have it, how come per capita Switzerland exports five times as much as we do?”
Matthew Hancock: “Because, err… Switzerland is physically much closer and surrounded by the European Union.”

Yes, Hancock really did say that – in the era of globalisation. That video is a lesson in knowing when you’re on the ropes in a debate and when to stop digging.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, and is forecast by some to overtake Germany in the coming years to become the fourth largest. Switzerland is the 20th largest economy and Norway is 27th (or 25th, if you use UN rather than IMF/World Bank figures). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)

But there are those of course who assert that money isn’t everything; that it is easy to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Switzerland and Norway are the 1st and 4th happiest countries in the world according to the 2015 United Nations World Happiness Report. Iceland, another non-EU European country is 2nd. See http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/WHR15.pdf

So either Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway are rich and happy or poor and happy, but either way, they’re clearly very happy indeed – despite being European nations which have declined to join the EU happy club.

Ultimately though, Norway and Switzerland negotiated their own bilateral deals with the EU, because sovereign states get to do that sort of thing. Norway and Switzerland opted into Schengen, whereas the UK didn’t. In February 2014, the Swiss people voted in a referendum to return to immigration quotas. Due to the Swiss constitution and Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, it is ultimately people, not politicians or businesses, who are sovereign there. Swiss politicians are obliged to follow the will of the people when expressed through the mechanism of initiative/referendum and so Swiss politicians (many of whom would happily join up to the EU, if only their damn people would agree) now have to do what it takes to make things work – and the EU is of course reluctant to play ball.

As I’ve stated above, there are 168 countries around the world which are not in the EU. It’s utterly absurd to suggest that life outside the EU for the world’s 5th largest economy would be impossible or even difficult.

4. Ah, the ‘toxic’ migration issue. Well, this issue is very complex, and if you quote very specifically on tax contributions versus benefit claims, this claim may indeed seem to stand up to scrutiny on the basis of one report, but there is no consensus on this and there have been conflicting studies. See http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/08/are-migrants-good-uk-economy. Core conflicts around the financial pros of immigration revolve around GDP figures per capita versus overall GDP.

But immigration should never be considered solely on the basis of monetary considerations. The last year saw record net migration figures of 330,000 (see http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/migration1/migration-statistics-quarterly-report/august-2015/sty-net-migration.html). The effects of this in terms of wage suppression, infrastructure, housing, environment, demand on services, schools, career prospects for UK natives, and social cohesion seem to all too often take a back seat in this discussion.

Proponents of mass migration as a means to deal with the demographic issues of a low birth rate also seem to conveniently forget that people age, so if you import several hundred thousand young workers now, you will end up with several hundred thousand pensioners in a few decades, and so on.

If you open up an unregulated employment market to people from vastly disparate economies, what effect to you think this has on those in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs? It’s relatively easy to find research which would validate this narrative or research which concludes that the effect is negligible, but it’s also obvious to those who mix with people outside the middle classes that times have been tough for many indigenous workers when they are competing against people from EU nations where the minimum wage is one tenth that of the UK and who will gladly work at the minimum possible wage indefinitely, thereby keeping all wages low. See http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Minimum_wages,_January_2016_%28%C2%B9%29_%28EUR_per_month%29_YB16-II.png for a comparison of minimum wages around the EU.

And that’s not a slur at all on foreign workers, many of whom have a superb work ethic – it’s just an economic reality.

Similarly, the economics involved in NHS trusts deciding to take on foreign labour (80% of in 2014) is simple economic pragmatism on their part. If they can easily employ foreign nurses rather than incur the costs of training indigenous nursing staff, why would they not?

Head of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter, said that there were 57,000 applicants for 20,000 nurse training posts in 2014. He commented:

“Isn’t that a matter of huge regret that you’ve got people in the four countries of the UK who want to train as nurses. They’re being turned away, while we’re going off and raiding the often impoverished workforce of other countries.” (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33678773)

Migration Watch, an independent and non-political organisation, offers a Summary Fact Sheet regarding migration at http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/250, which tackles some of the issues around migration, quoting ONS sources.

Overpopulation has long-since been recognised as detrimental to society and following Malta, England (not the UK) is already the second most densely-populated country in the European Union.

In the last few months, I note an increasing amount of house building going on around nearly every town I go through. My home town alone has two huge ongoing developments on former green field sites on its outskirts. The house-building necessary to meet the requirements of this increase in population means more asphalt covering more fields and consequent run-off of water unable to drain naturally away where it falls. And as we know, flooding exacerbated by run-off is becoming more of an issue on an almost annual basis now.

The whole subject of migration is extremely complex and has wide-ranging effects, many of which are without doubt positive. But it seems strange that on the one hand many will gladly be wholly pro immigration, but then fail to make a connection when market forces cause large companies (such as those represented by the pro EU and historically woefully wrong CBI – see http://capx.co/find-out-what-the-cbi-thinks-and-do-the-opposite/) to seek cost reductions by employing cheaper labour from overseas or moving operations overseas and thereby close down British companies, much to the annoyance of these very same people who were willingly or unwillingly advocating global market forces in the first place!

I can’t help but note the number of people who are unashamedly pro-EU and yet, without the slightest hint of irony, express outrage at the current crisis around the steel industry and the government’s inaction!

5. Naturally, if the EU has been legislating, one would hope that at least some of its legislation would be beneficial to people! I’m more than happy to concede the point that it has helped ordinary people in some respects, although I can’t help recalling in my own experience that I could use my mobile phone data allowance in Switzerland (outside the EU), but not in Germany, and that, having proof of employment there, I was able to live and work in Switzerland on three separate occasions with no problem at all, years before Schengen.

In terms of how the EU has benefitted my wider community, we could of course open this up to ask how it helped Peugeot workers in Coventry when operations moved from Coventry to Slovakia – with EU support. You’d be foolish not to recognise that lower wages in Slovakia were a huge factor in the decision for Peugeot to move, but of course, in the grand scheme of thinking above and beyond the future of local car workers, that was the right decision, and from a large business perspective, it was of course a great cost-reduction. It is hardly surprising then that many large businesses support EU membership, is it? In its defence, the EU denied the move was funded by £78 million from its structural and cohesion funds (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/4936696.stm), but I don’t see why it should be so shy about this. It should be brave enough to openly promote the redistribution of wealth from the richer countries of Europe to the poorer ones, because that is precisely what it does and that is precisely its point. If you’re a full-on EUphile, why would you care about local car workers when there are workers in Slovakia to worry about? Sod the local working class when there are wider, idealistic, internationalist (or at least continentalist) considerations!

In all seriousness, if you take the view that money should be redistributed from wealthier, more productive economies to poorer and less productive economies, the EU has historically undoubtedly done a pretty good job in raising the living standards of the poorer EU nations over the last few decades. If you are happy that taxes of your fellow countrymen should go into building nice, new roads in Bulgaria and Romania rather than be put into transport infrastucture in the UK, that’s an absolutely legitimate view to have. It’s not one I share, as it goes, for all sorts of reasons—principally that old notion of no taxation without representation.

Back to the main point. Are we really saying that policies which are beneficial/progressive can not be made by national governments? I keep hearing people state that they would rather remain in the EU, because they are worried about what the Tories would do given a free hand. In essence, whether they realise it or not, they’re advocating the concept that an unelected organisation holds power over elected politicians, while they happen to think they agree with the aims and objectives of the unelected organisation, that is. I’m not sure how they’ll feel if/when the EU goes all-out corporatist (TTIP anyone?) and a left-wing government is in Downing Street. You can forget any notions of state protectionism and interventionism under the EU’s rules, so I’m not sure how many on the political left who are pro-EU square that circle in their own minds.

In my own, admittedly anecdotal experience, the most commonly-heard pro EU statement is “so long as they fight the Tories, I’m in favour of remaining in the EU”. This is generally accompanied by utter ignorance over how the EU operates, but so long as the EU is perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be a bulwark against the actions of the current UK government, and in their short-term interests, that’s a good enough reason to sacrifice long-term democratic principles. We’ll ignore the obvious question as to why a Conservative government would be pro-EU if it felt in any way that EU membership were to the detriment of its policies.

The NHS, pensions, paid holidays, public holidays, maternity leave, and trade unions all pre-date UK accession to the European Union (or Common Market as it was when the UK joined) and many such social benefits (and more besides) are enjoyed by countries outside the European Union too. Again, progressive policies are not driven by the EU, but by public, societal demands and evolving, wealthier societies—oh, and public pressure on politicians who have to win votes, of course. Ask yourself to what extent politicians who need not fear the ballot box have to work in the public interest.

This latter point is key, the Commission does not have to appeal to the wider general public in a society. It can operate in the interests of large business and further disenfranchisement of the EU electorate pretty much at will. On the other hand, what do you think would happen to a UK government which tried to repeal existing rights? Do you really think they’d even dare to stand on such a platform? Do you think that they’d remain in power in the following general election, assuming they could even get such messures through parliament? Currently, when things go wrong, the government can point to Brussels and say “nothing to do with me – it’s out of my hands.” Regardless of whether this is true or not in individual cases (it most certainly is in the case of governments being forbidden from offering state support to companies), it nevertheless means that elected politicians in the UK can use the EU as an excuse.

Were a UK government wholly accountable for its actions to the electorate, do you not consider that it might have to be a little more cautious with its actions?

Post World War 2, the British public voted to remove a war hero from government and replace him with a Labour government. Even in light of the success of Churchill, he was not immune from the power of the ballot box and public desire for real change, including, of course, the foundation of the NHS under the ministry of Clement Attlee.

I have a great deal of faith in the British public. I think it’s fair-minded, and history appears to validate that supposition. A wholly right-wing, socially conservative and mean-spirited government would not last long in an independent UK – least of all if it started to enact laws which were detrimental to a large section of the electorate! Britons have a strong cultural sense of standing up for the “little man” (as epitomised in our comedy culture going back centuries) against the bullying upper middle classes. When the latter push too far, the public has a strong sense of restoring equilibrium through the ballot box.

6. The trends are important here. The EU’s share of global GDP has fallen from 30% in 1993 to 24% in 2013 with the emergence of the BRIC and other economies. See http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/international-transactions/outward-foreign-affiliates-statistics/how-important-is-the-european-union-to-uk-trade-and-investment-/sty-eu.html. We also remain a net importer from the EU (see https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Statistics/OverseasTradeStatistics/Pages/EU_and_Non-EU_Data.aspx) and this trade deficit has grown in recent years, meaning quite simply that there is more money in the EU trading with the UK than there is in the UK trading with the rest of the EU. Following a Brexit, you can bet that the heads of BMW, Volkswagen, and Bosch (among many others) will be demanding a favourable trade agreement between the EU and the UK! It is not UK jobs, but EU jobs which are most at risk from any kind of petty, vindictive action on the part of the EU following a Brexit.

It is certainly true that a small majority of our exports go to the EU (see http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/gbr/#Destinations), but that should hardly surprise us, and broken down by nation, only five EU members are larger export destinations than China. Then we need to consider the Rotterdam Effect, meaning that the figures for the Netherlands are hardly reliable, given up to 50% of exports to the Netherlands are destined for wider export outside the EU from the port of Rotterdam (see http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/uktrade/uk-trade/december-2014/sty-trade-rotterdam-effect-.html).

The 3.5 million jobs thing is a carefully-phrased hint to make people believe that 3.5 million jobs are reliant on EU membership. You’ll note that the above graphic is careful how it words this.

“Half of Britain’s exports destined for the EU account for 3.5 million jobs”

This does not mean that these jobs are at risk from Brexit. This is a long-discredited myth that simply will not die. Well done to the Bremainers who continue to use it, because it immediately flags up where they’re coming from for everyone in the know to see.

This assertion originates from a distortion of a report carried out by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), commissioned in 1999 by the pro-euro lobby. The then director of the NIESR angrily dismissed this interpretation of his organisation’s report as “pure Goebbels”. The fact is that the jobs rely on trade with the countries which comprise the EU, not membership of the EU. It’s really not a difficult concept to grasp and the continued perpetuation of this myth no longer serves any purpose than as a means of quickly and easily identifying disingenuous or ill-informed Bremainers.

Dealing with the effect of Brexit though, see https://fullfact.org/economy/do-three-million-uk-jobs-rely-directly-our-place-eu/ for a wider explanation, but to quote from that article,

The most recent report Full Fact could find was conducted by Civitas in 2004. This provided an assessment of all the previous reports and concluded that “the economic impact of British withdrawal from the EU would be marginal—less than one per cent of GDP. Putting it another way, these three studies find that, for the UK, the net economic benefits of EU membership are at best marginal.”

7. I’m not one of those people who conflates the ECHR with the European Union, although it is worth mentioning that membership of the European Union requires members to subscribe to the ECHR, so therefore one must comply with the rulings of the ECHR to be a member of the EU.

In contrast, it is entirely within the remit of an independent nation to determine whether or not is should be bound by the ECHR. There are concerns of ECHR rulings relating to over-zealous application of rulings in favour of known extremists, but I concede that these fall outside the general scope of the EU and of this discussion, and I agree that fellow Brexiters should stop conflating the ECHR with the EU.

Importantly though, I’m not one of those people who conflates the ECHR with the European Court of Justice, which is an institution in the European Union, and which will of course interfere in domestic issues when decisions made by nation governments in the best interests of their citizens do not work in the best interests of the European Union.

8. Quite. All EU states do have different languages, cultures, histories, and laws. They also have different demographics, business sectors, world outlooks, cultural ties with nations outside the EU, and priorities, many of which are shaped by language, culture, history, and law and none of which are properly served by ‘one-size-fits-all’ empire-building mentality which invariably leads to constant compromises to the detriment of leading countries in certain sectors, and makes for an extremely slow, cumbersome, undemocratic, and unsatisfactory legislative process.

The founders of the EU wanted to establish a United States of Europe, but Europe is not analogous to North America before the creation of the United States of America, where a modern state was built where no such state already existed, and where incomers adapted to a common set of US legal and societal norms which had already been determined and did not have these imposed on them. Europe already exists as a set of proud nation states, each with its own political and legal framework, cultural differences… and centuries of history. You can’t force disparate European peoples into a supranational union against their will, and the myth that the UK is the only country in the EU with a EU-sceptic outlook is both ill-informed and wrong, and ironically demonstrates ignorance over our fellow Europeans.

The EU’s motto is irrelevant. It has shown through its actions how it pays lip service to its stated policy of subsidiarity (or confederalism). Actions speak louder than mottos. Mottos exist to convince people of something and not to reflect reality.

To conclude, this kind of meme and propaganda is pushed by many who see themselves as broadly pro-European and wish to associate themselves with a young, vibrant, cosmopolitan world outlook; the kind of people who see anti-EUers as grumpy, moustachioed, fogeys, who long for the days of empire and are suspicious of anyone with slightly brown skin or an accent.

It is an easy and convenient cliché, and doubtless, these same people associate membership of the EU with holidays and time they spent abroad, sipping coffees in pavement cafés. Unfortunately, they don’t distinguish between the EU and Europe. For so many, they are one and the same. As I mentioned above, many of these same people (if not most) are clueless as to how the EU operates.

On a positive note, there are those of us who likewise feel very pro European. I consider myself simultaneously a Yorkshireman, Englishman, Briton, and European, and yes, a citizen of the world, come to that. I love Europe, its varied cultures, people, languages, customs and traditions. I studied and graduated in modern languages at university, on a course whose content was history and politics based. I’ve worked and lived abroad and am perfectly happy to have done so and would happily do so again if life took a turn in that direction.

But it’s precisely because I love the diversity of Europe, but even more importantly, because I value democracy and moves towards increasing citizen empowerment and decentralisation, not centralisation, that I opposed the European Union. And, having argued the opposite case a quarter of a century ago, and voiced the still omnipresent mantra that the EU needs widespread democratic reform back then, only to see things worsen in this respect light of EU expansion from 12 to 28 countries and increasing dis-empowerment of member states as a consequence, I now find myself arguing precisely for a British exit from the EU and, for a new Europe of independent nation states, working on a collaborative and multi-lateral basis.

You see, my concern in all this is not just for Britons, but for all Europeans.