Lefty poseurs and Brexit

by Chris Bertram on May 20, 2016

I’ve felt myself getting almost irrationally angry over the past few days with a certain sort of person. The kind of person who advocates Brexit from a “left-wing”, “classical republican” or “democratic” perspective. It is bad enough when such people live in the UK or Europe, but at least those people will have to live with the consequences. But it is particularly galling to hear these lectures from across the Atlantic, from people whose sole take on the subject is that the EU is undemocratic, a “bosses club”, enforces a neoliberal agenda, and would be an obstacle the plans of some future hypothetical fantasy Jeremy Corbyn government. (I suspect that Corbyn is imagined in this scenario as the analogue of Bernie Sanders.) Nearly all of the things such people say about the EU are actually true. But before drawing the Brexit conclusion, you at least have to demonstrate that leaving would not make things even worse. You have to ask, “where we are now?”, and consider what the real-world possibilities actually are. And make no mistake, If we vote for Brexit the economic consequences will be pretty awful, many people will lose their jobs, living standards will be hit hard, non-British workers will be in fear of being kicked out, many of our rights will be curtailed, and many of the environmental protections we now have will be ditched. Brexit will energise the most reactionary and xenophobic elements in British society at a moment when the left and its institutions are pretty weak. Even now the right-wing part of the “Leave” are licking their lips at the prospect of people being subjected to a Darwinian sink-or-swim future. Perhaps the “left-wing” advocates of Brexit hope that a renewed workers’ movement will be magically conjured into in such an outcome? That’s about as likely as a similar left-wing renaissance under President Trump (who also backs Brexit, by the way). Here’s a pretty good piece by Alan Thornett about why the left should back Remain.

{ 89 comments }

1

johnb78 05.20.16 at 10:15 am

A bizarre example today from the Guardian’s Larry Elliott: Brexit would be good because the crisis it created would allow Varoufakis to take control of the Eurozone.

(why, yes, he does have a book to sell! I suspect this may be a common thread among this kind of tedious, actively-harmful contrarian.)

2

franck 05.20.16 at 10:43 am

There is no alternative to the EU. Submit. You will be assimilated.

I’m unclear on what horizon is important here. During the Scotland leaving debate, many people on the left assumed that England would be forever conservative.

The EU has brought many important benefits. The current EU structure is fundamentally undemocratic and favors neoliberal economics, savers, and the central core of countries over the periphary.

The tension between these two things is driving right-wing and nativist movements throughout Europe.

Staying in Europe without democratic and economic changes will enable right-wing government in the UK. Leaving will enable right-wing government in the UK. Seems like a Hobson’s choice.

No wonder the Scots want out.

3

Metatone 05.20.16 at 10:48 am

Well said Chris. Crucial to me is that if we get a left-wing government and find that the EU is getting in the way of our utopia, we can always vote to Brexit then.

(I’m also sympathetic to the Yanis V. point that y’know, if we actually manage to vote in a proper left wing government, they could probably influence positive EU reform.)

Most important, right now, voting for Brexit is largely voting for Boris Johnson for PM. And if that doesn’t worry you, well, I’m not sure where the rational middle ground for discussion is.

4

franck 05.20.16 at 10:53 am

As far as I can tell, this comes down to optics. One shouldn’t vote no because one will be lumped in with the hard right bigots, even if one is voting no for entirely different reasons.

If one is Scottish, should one vote no and then vote yes for independence from the UK?

5

engels 05.20.16 at 11:13 am

Susan Watkins on the pluses (I’m an unenthusiastic Bremainer myself but I don’t think I’d call her a ‘poseur’)

Corbyn himself inexplicably surrendered his right to formulate EU policy within hours of his election as Labour’s leader, bowing to pressure from the Remain campaign. British exit from the EU is a tactical, not a strategic question; the left takes different stances on it, and some might want a campaign for contemptuous abstention or vote-spoiling. But at one level the politics of the Brexit referendum are clear: a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986. A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly. It would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty, as Labour, Tory and UKIP Brexiters like to claim; decision-making would remain subordinate to Atlanticist structures. It would certainly involve a dip in GDP—around 3 per cent, on the most plausible estimates, so smaller than the contraction of 2009. But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot. The mechanics of exit negotiations, involving a two-year countdown once the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 has been invoked by, presumably, a new—Corbyn-led?—UK government, might themselves provide one of those unexpected frameworks for democratic awakening, as with the 2014 Scottish referendum and the Labour leadership campaign: the opportunity for a real debate on alternative futures for the country. Most of the Leave camp seem then to be arguing for a further referendum, to accept or reject the negotiations’ outcomes. [11]

6

Igor Belanov 05.20.16 at 11:15 am

The problem with the left-wing ‘popular sovereignty’ position on leaving the EU is that there is very little evidence to suggest that socialism in one nation-state (particularly when that nation-state is the UK) is any more likely than a socialist United Europe. Given the history of nation-states and nationalism, I’d make a case for saying that a supranational Europe could only be an advantage for the left.

The undemocratic nature of the EU is undeniable, but surely those on the UK left must recognise that the democratic nature of the UK state is somewhat dubious? From the point of view of popular sovereignty, it remains largely theoretical in the British system, and individual sovereignty, when it comes to human rights, workers’ rights and the like, would be substantially worsened if we left the EU now.

7

casmilus 05.20.16 at 12:00 pm

Back in February there was a big CND rally in Trafalgar Square. Corbyn was the star turn at the end.

I saw the various hard Left sects with their stalls and their papers. It seemed to be a 50/50 split between the ones that were against EU because it was a neoliberal institution, and those who wanted to stick up for internationalism and workers solidarity. Special notice to the Socialist Party (led by former 80s Labour MP Dave Nellist) who want a Brexit win as it will immediately lead to Cameron’s removal (which it will).

8

Metatone 05.20.16 at 12:46 pm

To my mind the shortest path to power for the UK left at the present time is to get Corbyn into government. (It’s actually rather rare to have an actual socialist at the head of the Labour party.)

As far as I can see, the splits that a Remain vote could put into the Tory party are the best hope for that. UKIP will gather strength and diminish the Tories in the process.

Brexit will rearrange the UKIP-Tory axis back around the Tory party as UKIP will have lost it’s main reason to exist.

9

Pete 05.20.16 at 12:57 pm

This is the Trump/Clinton/Sanders debate in different clothes, isn’t it? Mapping to Farage/Cameron/?Syriza.

The establishment is increasingly intolerable, but if we kick over the table and vote for change, the people who want things changed for the worse or back to how they were in the bad old days will win the vote for what change actually happens.

There’s no credible mainstream UK social-democratic leftish party at the moment outside of the SNP, who are (a) localised and (b) not actually all that “left”, just left of Cameron and Blair and far more organised than today’s Labour.

(Personally I think it’s great that the SNP have managed to stand as the party of making public services and benefits generally work without having any contamination from Marx or capital-S Socialism, but others would disagree).

10

ZM 05.20.16 at 1:28 pm

I was just at a talk on Justice In An Age Of Global Dislocation which was the first in a weekend of lectures on justice organised by the regional community legal centre for Law Week.

One of the speakers was Felicity Gerry QC who works in the UK and Darwin, with one of her commitments being to help women who have been subject to human trafficking. In her work in London she became interested in the legal question of whether it is a crime if a woman subject to human trafficking does something illegal under coercion.

In a key case the Court Of Appeal threw the case against the woman out of court due to the UK Human Rights Act which calls upon courts to act in accordance with the European Convention of Human Rights, which gives legal protections to women who are subject to human trafficking, so they either are not prosecuted, or if the crime is serious enough their state as modern day slaves is taken into consideration in sentencing.

She said she thought if there was a Brexit that victims of human trafficking in the UK would have less protection in the law since it was the European Convention of Human Rights that gave them the most protection.

11

casmilus 05.20.16 at 1:38 pm

@9

“UKIP will have lost it’s main reason to exist.”

Political parties have a knack of continuing long after they lost their reason to exist. They just find a new one.

12

djr 05.20.16 at 1:45 pm

engels @ 5 : How do you think that a new government, whether Corbyn-led or otherwise, could come to power? The two year countdown would start ticking immediately and the next election is in 2020. Nobody in the Conservative party wins votes by delaying the start of the process, and there’s pretty much no incentive for an early election during the negotiations.

13

casmilus 05.20.16 at 2:00 pm

@13

“The two year countdown would start ticking immediately”

Actually no. The process starts whenever the British government formally notifies Brussels it wants to leave under Article 50. Cameron has indicated he will do this straightaway (to spite his enemies, pretty much)… which is why he will be removed immediately by pro-Brexit cabinet members who won’t let him.

14

Salem 05.20.16 at 2:06 pm

ZM: The European Convention of Human Rights and EU membership are not the same thing at all. There are lots of countries signed up to the former but not the latter, and if Britain left the EU our commitments to ECHR would be unaffected. Indeed, our current government wishes to stay in the EU, but water down the enforceability of the ECHR in domestic law.

15

ZM 05.20.16 at 2:09 pm

Salem,

Oh, thank you, I had no idea that was the case.

I wrote another longer comment that seems to have been lost, off topic, asking Chris Bertram if he would be posting on the UN World Humanitarian Summit that is happening in a couple of days 23-24 May in Istanbul.

There are a couple of websites, the second one below asking people to Tweet their political leaders to act

http://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org

https://impossiblechoices.org

16

RichieRich 05.20.16 at 2:54 pm

If one agrees that the EU is less democratic than an independent (Brexit-ed) UK would be, then the nub of the argument seems to be that those on the left should choose the less democratic option (Remain) as it’s likely to result in an outcome more palatable than the more democratic option (Brexit).

I guess the alternative argument is that one should vote for the more democratic option (Brexit) as a matter of principle and stomach the democratic choice that, in its wisdom, the British electorate makes. Which, with Jeremy Corbyn in place, is IMHO very (extremely) likely to be another Conservative government.

Rock and a hard place?

17

Metatone 05.20.16 at 3:53 pm

@12 (casmillus)

“Political parties have a knack of continuing long after they lost their reason to exist. They just find a new one.”

However, in a FPTP system they don’t always continue to have the same level of impact.

18

Z 05.20.16 at 4:04 pm

Nearly all of the things such people say about the EU are actually true. But before drawing the Brexit conclusion, you at least have to demonstrate that leaving would not make things even worse.

Well, in fairness, I think there is a reasonable case that a Brexit could make things better… for the rest of us! The shockwave it would send and the growing pressure to organize referenda in other countries would force a massive political reorientation and I would give it slightly better than average chance that it would yield a better EU (better according to me); the rationale being that the worse feature of the actually existing EU is its total independence from the will of the people, and that the EU elites would definitely have to reconsider that in the eventuality of a Brexit, for fear of being permanently and literally voted out.

But I understand very well why British citizens do not feel like playing the sacrificial lamb so that maybe the rest of the EU starts functioning slightly more democratically.

19

Sebastian H 05.20.16 at 4:49 pm

This is an interesting problem because if the EU elites are going to be shaken loose a little they probably need to be scared by the possibility of countries breaking off, but their method of policing it is by threatening to severely punish any country that breaks off.

Is the economic threat so serious without EU spitefulness? If EU spitefulness is the main economic threat, doesn’t that strongly suggest something wrong with the system?

(Not that I have any idea what can be done about it.)

Maybe I’m not identifying the players properly, but aren’t quite a few of the same people who thought Scottish independence was fine now strongly against Brexit? The UK has many faults, but it would seem that the case for extricating one-self from the system that wants to crush a member state as much as the EU wants to crush Greece is much stronger than any of the internal problems of the UK.

I was convinced by the economic argument against independence, but that depended much more on the argument of Scotland not having a strong enough economic base. No one argues that about the UK as a whole, so we end up worrying about spite arguments–which may be true, but revealing about how EU power functions.

Unless I’m misunderstanding, which is completely possible in a debate I’m so distant from.

20

Daragh 05.20.16 at 4:56 pm

engels @5

“Corbyn himself inexplicably surrendered his right to formulate EU policy within hours of his election as Labour’s leader, bowing to pressure from the Remain campaign.”

Or it could simply be that his political base is made largely of young voters who tend to be the most favourably disposed towards the EU, and that it wouldn’t really do him any favours to engage on a two-front war with both the people who elected him and the overwhelming majority of his parliamentary colleagues. Instead he chose to focus on the issues that matter, and which will surely sweep him to power in 2020, like Trident and not shooting suicide bombers.

21

Igor Belanov 05.20.16 at 5:23 pm

“Maybe I’m not identifying the players properly, but aren’t quite a few of the same people who thought Scottish independence was fine now strongly against Brexit?”

And vice-versa though. If you’re arguing from the point of view of national sovereignty then it is very hypocritical to defend the United Kingdom against Scottish independence while advocating a UK exit from the EU. That’s just rank nationalism. I’m pro-European integration and anti-Scottish independence, but at least the pro-independence, pro-EU argument has more logic, given that the EU is much weaker and less controlling than the UK nation-state.

22

Placeholder 05.20.16 at 5:41 pm

Brexit appeals to certain elements of the left and you can’t see ‘ANY’ reason for it because you don’t care about the things they do care about.

Sinn Fein used to be a hardcore europhobic party but has come out for Bremain purely based on opening the border with the North – nonetheless they have demanded a border poll in case of a Brexit. The situation is paralleled in Scotland where the heavy Bremain sentiments of nationalists will convert secession if their overwhelming unity is once more overuled by a the stubborn weight of an English majority.

Even Ernst Bevin said: “My policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!” Well, the EU is no state called Europe the nice decent liberal Bermainers swear blind! No American Decent like yourself would tolerate the Republican congress using the recession to pass a Balanced Budget amendment outlawing deficits forever – yet somehow all the parliaments have Europe have consented to the European Fiscal Compact surrendering their national sovereignty for this ‘duty’! But they do not surrender sovereignty – the decent, respectable and moderate decent liberals have surrendered chip after chip of freedom of movement, of the social chapter, of human rights one after another. The EU is no superstate monster – except for balanced budgets. What could leftists possibly have against such faultless internationalism? A capitalist’s ticket to ride and worker’s choice of detention centers.

Croatia if anything is offered EU membership as a reward in the face of an unprecedented Ustashe resurgence. Say what you like about President Park and Shinzo Abe but only the British left is accepted to acquiesce to ‘ever closer union’ with the Latvian Legion and the Azov Batallion.

A United Ireland, an independent Scotland, a wrench thrown in global capital and a Tory party tearing itself apart. What leftist could possibly want any of these things? The word trolling is overused but the classic definition of concern trolling is adopting a posture you don’t really have to insult and belittle people. Chris, you are trolling.

23

djr 05.20.16 at 5:57 pm

You’re right that there is a formal step to be taken to start the clock ticking, but Cameron said he would do it straight away, and I don’t see how an alternative way forward would stack up. Cameron is knifed, and the new pro-Brexit PM (BoJo?) diddles around for 2+ years (trying to negotiate something with someone?) and fights the 2020 election as a re-run of the referendum, losing due to splitting the right wing vote with UKIP?

24

Brett Dunbar 05.20.16 at 8:41 pm

casmilus @ 14

I’m not sure I follow you. Cameron has a stated that he would immediately begin the process of leaving if there were to be a vote to leave. Why would the brexit lobby want to prevent this, when it is exactly what they are campaigning for?

25

novakant 05.20.16 at 10:14 pm

If I have the choice between the EU elite and UK elite, I’ll take the former any day. And if I am thinking of the subsection of UK elite that is pro-Brexit (Gove, Johnson, Farage etc.) I get really scared – they are clowns, but then Trump is a clown about to run for president. And if we had real democracy in the UK we would still have the death penalty and likely all sorts of other nasty stuff favored by Sun/Daily Mail readers. So yes, I’m very happy with “EU dictatorship”.

26

otpup 05.21.16 at 1:26 am

I have been somewhat disappointed by many sectors of the left to think clearly about and to give priority to procedural and structural aspects of democracy (both as a matter of principle of and as matter of political necessity). Federalism by itself has strongly conservatizing and anti-democratic dynamics. That is true even without the neo-liberal stuff baked into the EU establishment. If leaving doesn’t make these things better, is there a plausible case that staying will? A European wide resurgence of the Left is more likely than a national resurgence? Things must get worse before they better?

27

robotslave 05.21.16 at 4:49 am

Did you by any chance recently pass your 35th birthday?

28

faustusnotes 05.21.16 at 7:41 am

Ze K, the nativist movement in the UK is being driven by racism and fear of migrants, not by the loss of sovereignty. That’s a fig-leaf over a much simpler demand, the demand to kick out the foreigners.

In a different polity Brexit might be a positive thing, but with the SNP now dominant in Scotland the UK is looking at a long period of Tory dominance (at least until SNP and Labor work out how to play together). The EU offers some kind of vague protection against their worst excesses – see e.g. Johnson’s shenanigans on air quality, which wouldn’t even be an issue for the London mayor if the UK weren’t part of the EU, where standards are stricter. The right is smacking their lips at the thought of a divided left and no European checks on their anti-worker agenda.

29

Hidari 05.21.16 at 8:39 am

Not directly relevant but almost all of the debates on the EU presuppose that the EU actually has a future. It might, but let’s not forget that the EU has essentially been on the go since roughly about 1945 and major European economic powers having referenda about whether or not to stay in 2016 was not meant to happen.

Looked at from the outside, it’s difficult to see where the EU goes from here. The Euro is a busted flush. Radical anti-European forces from both the right and the left are growing throughout the Eurozone: at some point one of these forces is going to come to power in some country, and then what? The long term plan of a United States of Europe is in ruins.

So it’s entirely possible that if we don’t Brexit now, we may face Brexit under much less favourable conditions in 20/30/40 years time, if the whole EU simply disintegrates (like the Holy Roman Empire before it, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire: the record of supra-national entities’ survival over the long term is not good).

I speak as a highly reluctant Remainer, voting ‘Stay’ purely for reasons of economic self-interest.

30

Dipper 05.21.16 at 9:12 am

If anyone wants to see an example of short-term political expediency delivering long-term damage then the EU referendum is it.

IMHO there is a clear majority view in the UK, which is that we should be in the EU but the current EU is an elitist, centrist, anti-democratic mess. The UK government has a clear implicit mandate to push for a reformed EU. There is evidence from other mainly north European nations of similar views, so what the government should be doing is forming alliances with other nations round a programme of reform.

That is not what has happened. The majority membership view of the conservative party is clearly for out. The leadership is for in. So to avoid confronting the issue Cameron promised a referendum for purely internal conservative party reasons. There is no national reason for this. There is no treaty change imminent, no significant change, so we are voting on an existential question, not a political one.

The problem now is that the UK’s bluff is being called. If we vote out, then its a hard road. But if we vote in, then the UK government will have no influence at all in the EU because the likes of Junker know they can impose whatever they like and the UK will not leave. So a vote to remain will trigger an onslaught on UK national rights from the likes of Junker because they know they can get away with it.

Personally I am faced with a choice I really wish I didn’t have to make. I will be voting to leave, as staying will simply be handing all my democratic rights over to unelected federalist psychopaths in Brussels who will stop at nothing to pursue their mad and deluded dreams of a European superstate.

31

Dipper 05.21.16 at 9:16 am

@ Hidari I speak as a highly reluctant Remainer, voting ‘Stay’ purely for reasons of economic self-interest.

There is history on these promises. If the UK didn’t join the Euro then we would be consigned to the slow-growth fringe of Europe with the Euro core racing ahead. Nissan said they would no longer invest in Sunderland if we did not join the Euro. Needless to say, we didn’t join, we have higher growth then the Euro zone, and Nissan invested in Sunderland anyway.

Does your vote matter so little to you that you will give it up because of threats from people who made the same empty threats last time an EU issue arose?

32

Dipper 05.21.16 at 9:25 am

I am not sure the left in the UK really understands what a toxic issue the EU is for the conservative party. There are many conservatives who would rather lose than have a pro-EU leadership. The assumption that Labour is unelectable and a conservative victory inevitable means there is everything to fight for here. Post referendum this is going to get really nasty.

I advanced my John McDonnell theory recently to my true blue friends and they instantly disagreed. They all chose Sadiq Khan as the leader after Corbyn. It sounds plausible, and as a likeable leader, he could make it to No 10 whilst the conservatives tear each other to pieces.

33

Igor Belanov 05.21.16 at 9:59 am

The idea that the EU referendum is a choice between British democracy and EU authoritarianism is a ridiculous distortion of the situation, based on a misreading of democracy as ‘national sovereignty’.

‘National sovereignty’ taken to its conclusion means something like North Korea or Hoxha’s Albania, not a particularly desirable or democratic entity. What the leaders of the leave camp want (but the majority of leave voters don’t) is a UK that is fully open to the global economy and can enjoy all of the benefits of ‘free trade’ while ignoring all of the regulations and standards that states currently follow within the EU. So various working, environmental and social rights will go if this makes certain businesses more competitive. Effectively the British state-economy becomes the world’s leading free-rider.

The only way this can be a desirable aim is if you are a member of a section of the British elite that benefits from this ‘free-riding’. I would like to think that people would want to defend rights such as freedom of movement, working regulations, health and safety and environmental standards, and that these are common desires that cross borders. Many of these rights and regulations protect my individual freedom and sovereignty a lot more than the chance to participate in a political system that currently asks me every five years to consent to a faction of politicians to govern the country on the back of the votes of ridiculously small percentages of the population.

The EU does have a problem with relating political action, institutional procedures and change, but this is one just as common in liberal ‘democratic’ nation-states. It is time for Britons to engage with the political space we are in, one that extends to the Arctic Sea and the Aegean.

34

Randy McDonald 05.21.16 at 10:18 am

Sebastian H.:

“if the EU elites are going to be shaken loose a little they probably need to be scared by the possibility of countries breaking off, but their method of policing it is by threatening to severely punish any country that breaks off.”

Stating that countries which leave the European Union will no longer enjoy the privileges they had as a result of their membership is many things. It is not punishment. Why would anyone in Britain expect to enjoy virtual membership of the European Union while leaving? If Britons wanted the Norwegian model of EU relations, that would be a different thing, but it seems the Leave people want that without any responsibilities. Such is impossible.

35

kidneystones 05.21.16 at 10:21 am

To Chris’s point re: xenophobes and racists. http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/671997/Austria-elections-far-right-Europe-Freedom-Party

There are so many people to blame for the current crisis in the UK it’s not clear where to start. I noted a couple of months ago that I fully expect 3 or more European nations to elect fascist governments within the year. If people in the UK vote to remain in, which I personally support, that may stave off the larger crisis for six months, or so. Once 2 or more member states start unilaterally refusing to comply with EU laws, or simply withdraw, everything changes again.

Unfortunately, Cameron’s stupidity and willingness to use force in Libya, and the bungled invasion of Iraq has greatly increased the number of legitimate refugees flooding into Europe. It is extremely difficult to see how, in the longer term – say 2 years, the EU survives as a state that allows the free movement of peoples.

36

Danny A 05.21.16 at 8:07 pm

I just get frustrated by the idea that we need the EU to defend us from right wing policies in the UK given the weakened state of the Labour party currently. A convincing and effective leftist movement in the UK can gain power and ensure a fairer economy and outcomes in or out of the EU. The EU has a number of fundamental flaws, some highlighted by other posters, that are pulling it apart with no obvious route to change. I think it may be either a slow death or an implosion accelerated by Brexit.

37

casmilus 05.21.16 at 8:36 pm

@25

1. Amongst the minority of Brexiters who’ve seriously thought about it, it’s understood that 2 years is not going to be long enough to negotiate a deal on advantageous terms (which is precisely why the time limit exists – as a deterrent against any country actually starting the process). The idea is to start a round of pre-negotiations and dealmaking. Don’t ask me how that’s going to work – I’m not a Brexiter.

2. In addition, the “2 referendums” idea is still floating about: Get an Exit vote, use it as a threat to get a seriously renegotiated deal, then put that to a 2nd referendum. Boris has offered this idea in one of his week-long enthusiasms, and it seems Doninic Cummings might still believe in it.

38

Sean Fernyhough 05.21.16 at 9:49 pm

The post neatly encapsulates the choice in this referendum: do you want to change the way that the country is run through democratic means, or are you happy to give up those means because they are outweighed by the benefits of remaining in the EU?

39

Sebastian H 05.22.16 at 5:41 am

“Stating that countries which leave the European Union will no longer enjoy the privileges they had as a result of their membership is many things. It is not punishment.”

Merely not having the privileges of membership isn’t the totality of the threat.

40

novakant 05.22.16 at 7:55 am

The EU offers some kind of vague protection against their worst excesses

That’s one really good reason to stay in the EU: there are protections afforded to every EU citizen equally while national governments consistently try to undermine these – the UK being one of the worst offenders, but look at Orban in Hungary… If these guys are let loose then one can only hope and pray for a miracle.

Other reasons (in case anybody here is actually considering voting Leave):\

– the economy will tank and not recover for the foreseeable future, the dependency on dodgy money from Russia and the Middle East to keep this country afloat will increase, with all the nasty dependencies and corruption this entails

– freedom of movement might not sound like a big deal to those unaffected, but it has forever changed life in Europe especially for the younger generation who haven’t known anything else (ask any Erasmus student or Polish plumber) – a Brexit would lead to a bureaucratic nightmare and leave the UK as a cultural wasteland (just think about London)

41

Robespierre 05.22.16 at 8:23 am

From a selfish non-Uk European perspective, the permanence of the Uk in the Eu has consistently made it less regulation-friendly in economics and more intergovernmental in operation: you can’t have Eu democracy without the member countries losing sovereignty. That’s without even starting to list the ridiculous exemptions the Uk has and its sabotage of economic integration and financial regulation, or its consistently pro-Usa foreign policy.

42

Dipper 05.22.16 at 12:55 pm

@Novokand and Robespierre.

This is a curious bag of arguments.

Firstly, there is the anti-democratic argument that the EU prevents a sovereign parliament imposing its will. We should remain in the EU because otherwise the British people will use their vote to do things we don’t agree with. Surely this is such a dreadful argument I’m surprised anyone can make it.

Secondly there is the effect the UK has on Europe. We might have had some in the past, but once Britain votes to remain there is no reason on earth why anyone in Europe should listen to the UK. what are we going to do if we don’t like what they impose on us – leave?

I particularly liked Robespierre comment on financial regulation. You think the Europeans are a bunch of warm humanitarians being undermined by the UK? The rest of Europe hates the fact that the UK has the worlds biggest financial centre and will do everything possible to destroy it. The Tobin tax will destroy London as a centre – that is its purpose – and will raise no money and deliver no other outcome. EU regulation has nothing to do with transparency, financial stability, or any other worthy cause.

If we leave Europe we will be denied access to the single market in financial services. Except there isn’t one, by design, as that would harm Germany.

The economy will tank. Like it tanked because we didn’t go into the Euro? How will it tank – will Mercedes refuse to sell us their cars?

43

Alex 05.22.16 at 1:11 pm

Firstly, there is the anti-democratic argument that the EU prevents a sovereign parliament imposing its will. We should remain in the EU because otherwise the British people will use their vote to do things we don’t agree with. Surely this is such a dreadful argument I’m surprised anyone can make it

Not really, because you’re unfairly characterising it. The choice is not between “British democracy” and “EU non-democracy”, but rather between two different, but flawed, conceptions of democracy. The question then becomes, what are the benefits/costs of those different forms? And naturally such costs/benefits are contingent on historical circumstance. For instance, if (hypothetically), Tony Benn had ever been Prime Minister, then a referendum on the EU would’ve meant a Leave vote meaning a British constitution with a radically more democratic structure. So there would’ve been a better system of democracy being proposed on the Leave side, and only hopes of one on the Remain side. This is not the case today.

In fact, the sovereignty argument is easy to blow into an argumentum ad absurdum. Imagine Possible State X is integrated into a Union Y with a bunch of other states. State X proposes to leave Y on the basis that Y prevents it from democratically deciding to do the things it wants to do. So far, State X is the UK and Union Y is the EU perhaps. But equally, if I was to tell you that State X is the Confederate States of America, Union Y is the USA, and the thing it is being prevented from democratically deciding to do is slavery… maybe you might see the flaw in your argument? That is, democracy does not necessarily come above basic human and economic rights (but is one of those rights). And especially not if you’re lauding British democracy as being somehow massively superior to EU democracy.

44

Igor Belanov 05.22.16 at 3:19 pm

Alex is quite right. Democracy is a much more complex concept than is recognised by some of the arguments for leaving the EU.

Take this very referendum for example. Seems simple. If over 50% of voters want to leave, then the UK will exit the EU. But the problem is that such a simple question disguises a whole range of different goals and outlooks towards the issue.

Some of the leave camp want an end to immigration and a ‘fortress Britain’. Others would like increased control over the national economy, including nationalisation and import controls. A few think the EU is undemocratic and want to extend democratic rights in the UK, while more people consider the EU as a source of hippy liberalism, guaranteeing rights to criminals, terrorists and scroungers. The established leadership of the leave campaign all want the UK to leave the EU in order to become an enlarged Panama or Cayman Islands, ripping up economic and social regulations and restrictions and becoming even more dependent on global capital.

So it’s hardly a yes or no question, and many on the winning side (leave or remain) are going to be disillusioned with the consequences. Deciding issues like this is difficult, but it doesn’t help when such simplistic arguments are offered.

45

Dipper 05.22.16 at 3:36 pm

Yes. I get that its a trade, that I am trading some sovereignty and control over a smaller body to get smaller degree of sovereignty over a larger body. That is clear. And personally I was prepared to be persuaded. But David Cameron asked for very little and got nothing. That’s how much the EU cares about my vote.

And all these politicians and military figures who come and tell me I need to vote to remain or I will face instant impoverishment and be faced with an onslaught of terrorism as a direct consequence – where were they when the discussions were ongoing? Did they tell the EU they need to give the UK something or they might vote to leave? No. So I have found the market price for my vote, and it is precisely zero.

46

Dipper 05.22.16 at 3:38 pm

Igor Belanov @ 47 – this is just a vote about being in the EU. It is not a general election, or even a popularity contest. The leadership of the leave campaign can want whatever policies they like, but a remain vote still leaves them having to get power over a major political party and then get elected at a general election so beyond the specific EU related issues their opinions are largely hot air.

47

Alex 05.22.16 at 4:04 pm

In case you weren’t aware Dipper, the governing party is the Conservative party and many of its members have made it quite plain they’re being prevented from doing things like taking away workers’ rights or “controlling our border”. On Brexit, this part of the Conservative party would feel vindicated, and they would be in the ascendancy, backed by UKIP and many commentators in the media. So many of those things could well be changed just a short time after the referendum, without the pesky EU in the way.

And this brings me on to Ze K’s comment. Actually the scenario I posted is highly relevant. First, because tearing up workers’ rights (as the Tory Right want) will lead to more aggressive forms of wage slavery under capitalism, and wage slavery isn’t much better than regular slavery. Both are awful. And second, because there are a great many EU migrants in the UK (many of whom are my friends) who potentially face the risk of being deported upon new terms if we’re outside the EU – and all while being denied a vote in the very referendum that will decide their fate! Maybe that’s not slavery, but they certainly seem to be lacking in self-determination to me. What about their democratic rights? And what about their rights to live here peacefully in the UK? Brexiters would rather frighten them, all because of abstract concepts like “sovereignty”. That’s despicable.

48

Dipper 05.22.16 at 4:29 pm

Alex – the issues on Trade Union rights and the Lords vote have been quite well documented and covered in the press. Personally I don’t think there is any good reason to reduce workers’ rights but UK parliament should be sovereign over this. If you don’t want to see workers rights rolled back in the UK, the best way is to have electable leaders of left wing parties, not to hope that foreign nations will save you from the opinions of your fellow citizens.

Its nice you have friends who are EU migrants. I worked with lots myself, very much enjoyed their company, and am proud of a country where people from overseas can come and have decent careers. But I also worked with a lot of people from outside the EU. They have to go through a bureaucratic process but there are still lots here. So it is unlikely they will all leave.

And then there’s the skills argument. Freedom of movement helps to fill “skills gaps”. As if skills just fall from the sky, and gaps are just random acts of nature. What it means is we don’t have to spend money giving our young people skills. We can just keep them on reservations, supplied with benefits, and import people to do all the brainy jobs. How on earth is this total failure to invest in our young people socially acceptable?

49

Pat 05.22.16 at 4:32 pm

I support Brexit as a lefty because, to be honest, I’m sick of Britons, and I want them to suffer. Brits complain about the immigration burden that comes with the EU but want to keep the free trade.

See what happens when Europe decides to replace The City with Frankfurt.

50

Chris Bertram 05.22.16 at 5:04 pm

How nice to see an American in Berlin, @Pat, generalise about “Britons” and want us to suffer because we complain about immigration (which, in fact, many of us do not). I suppose I could wish Donald Trump on Americans using similar reasoning, but I’m not enough an arse to do so.

51

Sasha Clarkson 05.22.16 at 5:31 pm

What leftist opponents of the EU want isn’t on offer in this referendum. Between FPTP and and unelected Lords, central government in the UK is the least democratic in the EU, and will get worse if the Tories get away with gerrymandering the new constituency boundaries in their favour. Also part of our democratic deficit, is a largely right wing press/media, foreign or non-dom owned, whith very little regard for the truth or informed debate.

Others have mentioned the assault on workers’ rights, environmental protections etc which would likely take place under a Tory-UKIP pact. There is also the fact that here in Wales, and in other poor areas, we depend upon EU funding. It is surely unlikely that a right-wing Westminster government would make up the gap in the even of #Brexit.

A #Brexit vote might be celebrated by a few on the left, but it would ford be a de-facto victory for the right of the right in British politics. It would also guarantee the UK’s break-up, with incalculable consequences.

My ideal result would be 55-45 Bremain, but with a majority of Tory areas voting Brexit. That would make peace impossible in the Tory Civil war, and give the UK left a chance to form a pact based on the important things which unite us.

I’m not overly optimistic, but I’m voting Bremain for the least of evils, and for a glimmer of hope.

52

Sasha Clarkson 05.22.16 at 5:39 pm

Well said Chris @54!

Someone who generalised about “blacks” or “Jews” or “Arabs”, rather than Britons, and wanted them to “suffer” because of their alleged group failings would be classed as a racist and not a “lefty”.

53

Igor Belanov 05.22.16 at 5:54 pm

“Personally I don’t think there is any good reason to reduce workers’ rights but UK parliament should be sovereign over this.”

Why? This is one of the assumptions I find annoying, that the nation-state is somehow ‘natural’ and trumps all other forms of political organisation or sovereignty. I would argue that workers’ rights are democratic in themselves, and that there is no reason why British workers should be entitled to lower standards than those of other workers.

One of the problems is that the whole political system of the nation-state lacks democratic credibility, not just that of the EU. When a political party can win a majority on 37% of the vote and 23% of the electorate (and 35% of the vote in 2005) and then somehow have a mandate to do whatever it pleases, then I see no reason to focus criticism on the EU, which at least offers guarantees of some social freedoms.

54

RichieRich 05.22.16 at 6:06 pm

Alex @ 44

The choice is not between “British democracy” and “EU non-democracy”, but rather between two different, but flawed, conceptions of democracy.

I don’t think anyone’s claiming the EU’s a “non-democracy”. But it’s difficult to argue that the EU isn’t less democratic than the UK. Those that initiate policy in the UK are elected whilst those that initiate policy in the EU aren’t.

To choose the less democratic (Remain) option to escape the verdict of the electorate under the more democratic (Brexit) option is not something I’m entirely comfortable with.

Labour has much to answer for choosing the younger Miliband and then Corbyn as leader.

55

Dipper 05.22.16 at 6:15 pm

Richie Rich. yes. Just to bang on, the nature of this debate just shows that having the referendum now is just a really bad idea. The UK can only lose whichever way the vote goes.

56

Pat 05.22.16 at 6:31 pm

h, fr cryn’ t… frst, th wbst s ld nd lv n S s, nt Brln nymr, nd f y vr cm vst Bngkk, wll bt y vn mny tht y wlk wy thnkng th mjrty f Brtsh ppl r trsh, t—bt wn’t thrw my mny wy n bt bt mrcns, s my cntrymn hr r s bd.

Jst by wy f ncdt, d knw sm Brts hr wh hv nt xprssd n pnn n mmgrtn. Bt f ths wh hv xprssd n pnn, sld 100% hv xprssd frm pnn tht t’s th mmgrnts, ftn mst spcfclly Pls nd Blgrns (n cl), wh r t blm fr ll f th .K.’s prblms.

m vrsmplfyng? N dbt. Bt ds Brtn nt rlly dsrv t b jdgd by ths, r by th sttmnts t th sm ffct f ppl wh hv ftr ll bn lctd thr?

Wll, whn mrcns nt thr cntry s hm t vlnt, gn-lvng, nd rcst scty, r whn ppl frm ny thr cntry nt t—d y dsgr? nd whn drng th Bsh prsdncy th wrd “mrcn” cld b sd ntrchngbly wth “wrmngr”… ddn’t w dsrv t? (nd fr hlf f tht prsdncy w hdn’t vn vtd fr hm.)

S pls xpln t m wht s dffrnt bt Brtn ndr th nglsh Grg Bsh Dvd Cmrn nd hs “swrms” lngg. f th Frnch vr lct L Pn, f th strns Hdr, f th Grks Gldn Dwn, wn’t thy b sbjct t crtcsm? Yt w’r t vrlk th KP vt lst tm?

s t wshng Trmp n mrc: By ll mns, fl fr. nd rcll Mnckn’s phrsm bt dmcrcy mnng th rdnry ppl knwng bst wht thy wnt nd dsrvng t gt t gd nd hrd.

57

Robespierre 05.22.16 at 6:56 pm

@58. If ithe EU is not a non-democracy, it comes mighty close. It’s a governments’ club + central bank. The EU parliament is a joke.

58

Igor Belanov 05.22.16 at 7:01 pm

“Those that initiate policy in the UK are elected whilst those that initiate policy in the EU aren’t.”

The European Council, Council of Ministers and European Parliament have nothing to do with it then? Seems like you’ve taken ‘Yes Minister’ as a comedy about the EU.

I’m all in favour of radical change to the EU, but the idea that things will be improved by scuttling back to the rotten edifice of the nation-state seems somewhat delusional to me.

59

RichieRich 05.22.16 at 7:19 pm

Igor @ 62

From the EU’s website.

There are four legislative procedures through which Community acts can be adopted. Each begins with a proposal from the Commission, which the Commission may withdraw at any point before the legislation is finally adopted. Although the Commission has a monopoly in initiating legislation, the Council, European Parliament and Member States can suggest to the Commission that it table a proposal. This procedure is referred to in French as “l’initiative de l’initiative”, which can be described as initiating the initiation of legislation. The Commission is not obliged to act on this request and remains the sole institution capable of proposing Community acts.

The Commission has a monopoly on initiating legislation. The Commission is unelected.

Are Norway, Switzerland and Canada rotten edifices?

60

franck 05.22.16 at 7:56 pm

Alex,

Your confederate states example is not relevant. The confederacy was not democratic: women and black people could not vote. The vast majority of the population could not vote, so not a true democracy. Also these states were dominated by a planter aristocracy who made it very difficult for poorer whites to vote, which restricted the franchise further. The confederacy was an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy.

The UK is much more democratic than the CSA.

61

franck 05.22.16 at 8:00 pm

Alex,

Another critical component is that the Confederacy seceded and declared war on the Union to prevent a non-slaveholder in the Presidency from exercising power over them. Abraham Lincoln did not emancipate any slaves before the US Civil War began and made no effort to outlaw slavery in any part of what became the CSA before the CSA started the war.

Find a better analogy.

62

novakant 05.22.16 at 8:03 pm

“An oligarchy masquerading as a democracy” is a very apt description of the UK.

63

franck 05.22.16 at 8:22 pm

Maybe, but still way more democratic than what became the CSA. Universal suffrage and basic human rights are a big deal, and they weren’t present in the CSA.

64

franck 05.22.16 at 8:25 pm

The EU doesn’t even have the democratic facade. It’s a straight up oligarchy. It isn’t benevolent, just ask the Greeks or the Irish.

65

Stephen 05.22.16 at 8:28 pm

Ze K@52: for once, I find myself agreeing with you. One pro-Remain argument seems to be: the UK in the EU enjoys many workers’ rights and safety-at work laws, if we leave the EU there is nothing to stop a Tory government removing them.
Strictly, that is true. But remember, first of all, before the EU the UK had many such rights: dum hoc, proper hoc is not a credible argument.
More importantly: if a Tory government, after a EU exit had been agreed by 2018-19, were to remove such rights, if the electorate on the whole strongly disapproved at the 2020 election they could democratically chuck the Tories out and make way for another government that would restore or even increase those rights. If the electorate on the whole approved, or at least did not disapprove of the changes, how can anyone argue the electorate’s wishes should be set aside?
(Yes, I know, FPTP, non-majority governments: but a government proposing very unpopular policies, even under FPTP, doesn’t have much chance.)
By the way, news from Athens, can’t say how reliable: the Greek government being desperate for money to appease the EU has sold the port of Piraeus to the Chinese, who are insisting on 12-hour working days, with crane drivers being confined in their cabins for that time, with food, drinks and buckets to piss in. If that is true, then so much for the EU as a defender of workers’ rights.

66

Brett Dunbar 05.22.16 at 8:52 pm

The Conservatives are not planning on gerrymandering. What will happen is that the review of boundaries will remove some of the bias against the Conservatives, this may have given Labour a dozen or so extra MPs in 2015. The measure in the changed rules that could be considered as gerrymandering inn their favour is the one of the exceptions to the rule that a seat be no more than 5% above or below the average electorate. The guarantee that the Isle of Wight gets two MPs rather than be one rather over tariff constituency as currently. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 gives two very low population Scottish island seats protection Orkney and Shetland (Liberal Democrat hold 2015) and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) (SNP hold 2015). It also grants an exception for seats over 12,000 km^2 (only Ross, Skye and Lochaber is that large (SNP gain from Liberal Democrats)). No seat may exceed 13,000 km^2

Basically the special cases are one Tory seat is split in two. Two then libdem seats protected, one of which they still hold, and one SNP seat protected. Otherwise all seats must be not more than 5% more or less than the UK average.

67

novakant 05.22.16 at 9:07 pm

Vote Leave, after having lost all the rational arguments, has now predictably turned to stoking xenophobia and racism:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/21/vote-leave-prejudice-turkey-eu-security-threat

I’m a bit surprised though they resorted to telling outright lies live kn TV:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/penny-mordaunt-andrew-marr-uk-veto-tory-minister-accused-of-flat-out-lying-over-turkey-joining-the-a7041956.html

68

djr 05.22.16 at 9:23 pm

The EU is very much a union of states – much more so than the modern day United States – which makes it democratic at a remove. The real powers are the Council (i.e. the elected heads of government of the member states) and the Commission. Regarding the latter, each member state appoints a commissioner, giving it some parallels to the US Senate up to a century ago. I vote for my MP, who gets to vote for the PM, who gets to nominate a European Commissioner – democracy is flawed at both levels, but better than the alternative.

69

Igor Belanov 05.22.16 at 9:29 pm

“The EU doesn’t even have the democratic facade. It’s a straight up oligarchy. It isn’t benevolent, just ask the Greeks or the Irish.”

Of course it isn’t ‘benevolent’. Neither are the Greek or Irish states or governments. The EU represents a political space, and one in which the balance of political forces is such that capitalist relationships and financial orthodoxy are encouraged but where some workers, social and human rights are guaranteed as well. I’d like to see this balance of forces shift against business and finance, but I’m pretty sure that there’s more chance of that happening within the EU than there is within a UK where those business and finance interests are even more dominant. If there is a force for radical change then I don’t see why it should be unable or prohibited from crossing the Channel.

70

Chris Bertram 05.22.16 at 10:09 pm

@Pat my patience for tedious trolls is thin. Don’t bother coming back.

71

Alex 05.22.16 at 11:11 pm

Should the UK exit, the issues of deporting foreigners and tearing up workers’ rights would have to be be worked out in a normal political way, by the UK constituencies and politicians.

Yes, and the likes of Boris Johnson are rubbish, that is my point.

Personally I don’t think there is any good reason to reduce workers’ rights but UK parliament should be sovereign over this. If you don’t want to see workers rights rolled back in the UK, the best way is to have electable leaders of left wing parties, not to hope that foreign nations will save you from the opinions of your fellow citizens.

I take it you believe in Scottish independence then?

Anyway, you’re begging the question here. Why shouldn’t I, who has way more in common with a French socialist or German social democrat than I do with a British conservative, work together with other left wing people across Europe to improve workers’ rights etc? How is that “anti-democratic”?

But I also worked with a lot of people from outside the EU. They have to go through a bureaucratic process but there are still lots here. So it is unlikely they will all leave.

You seem to be completely unaware of how non-EU migration policy works. It is actually quite common for e.g. British scientists to find it hard to work with non-EU scientists because of visa restrictions. In fact, new laws mean that you have to earn over £35,000 if you want to stay here if you’re from outside the EU. Many people are being threatened with deportation. This is a very real danger for non-EU migrants, and there’s no reason to believe the party that imposed it (Conservatives) won’t want to move this law onto EU migrants too if we left the EU (or at least the Romanian/Bulgarian ones).

Freedom of movement helps to fill “skills gaps”. As if skills just fall from the sky, and gaps are just random acts of nature. What it means is we don’t have to spend money giving our young people skills. We can just keep them on reservations, supplied with benefits, and import people to do all the brainy jobs. How on earth is this total failure to invest in our young people socially acceptable?

As a young person, I have to say you’re being completely insulting. And factually incorrect I might add. Point 1, we have more young people going to University than ever before. Point 2, the only parts of the benefits system subject to big increases right now are the state pension and housing benefit. That is nothing to do with young people.

On the subject of skills though, I agree that training up young people is usually a good idea. But that takes a long time for different industries (medicine most obviously), so any policy change takes time to filter through. The idea that there could ever be EXACT 1 to 1 matching between what jobs we need and what skills British people have is silly. There’s always going to be some shortages in some industries, just through sheer statistical fluctuation – that is an act of nature in effect! And you have to bring people in to deal with that.

Anyway in your ranting about young people you seem to have missed the crucial issue. The ratio of young British people to older people is getting worse over time, because of an aging population. We need immigration not really for “skills” but to tackle this problem. You might want lower immigration, but then you must be expecting a lower pension for yourself, or more taxes for those ghastly young people you like to insult.

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Alex 05.23.16 at 3:00 am

Your confederate states example is not relevant. The confederacy was not democratic: women and black people could not vote. The vast majority of the population could not vote, so not a true democracy. Also these states were dominated by a planter aristocracy who made it very difficult for poorer whites to vote, which restricted the franchise further. The confederacy was an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy

You’ve misunderstood my analogy. The fact that the electorates in the smaller state versus the larger state (in our case UK vs EU) differ is precisely the point I’m saying isn’t relevant! The UK could be the most super democracy democracy in world history, or similarly the EU could be just awful democratically, and this wouldn’t change the argument my analogy was making – namely that there are more than one set of values/rights that people tend to care about, and that people who witter on about “sovereignty” or “democracy” as being the only crucial deciding factor probably don’t actually believe that if they’re being consistent.

Besides, if sovereignty really is as important as people like Dipper believe, then logically that applies to determining the electorate of your own country. Excluding slaves or women from the electorate is a form of sovereignty, is it not? Do you now understand why sovereignty isn’t an absolute value?

Another critical component is that the Confederacy seceded and declared war on the Union to prevent a non-slaveholder in the Presidency from exercising power over them. Abraham Lincoln did not emancipate any slaves before the US Civil War began and made no effort to outlaw slavery in any part of what became the CSA before the CSA started the war.

I’m no expert on the American Civil War, so what you say here may well be mostly right. However, in so far as you seem to be suggesting that the Confederates didn’t secede because they feared their slave-owning rights were going to be affected, I have to strongly disagree.

73

Alex 05.23.16 at 3:57 am

I don’t think anyone’s claiming the EU’s a “non-democracy”.

How about the person I was responding to, Dipper, who said:

“the current EU is an elitist, centrist, anti-democratic mess”

And:

“staying will simply be handing all my democratic rights over to unelected federalist psychopaths in Brussels”

I think “non-democracy” is a fair characterization of such absurd hyperbole. Or how about franck, early on in this thread:

“The current EU structure is fundamentally undemocratic”

Just because you’re not arguing something, doesn’t mean others aren’t.

But it’s difficult to argue that the EU isn’t less democratic than the UK.

I dunno. European Parliament has proportional representation, the EU has way better separation of powers than the UK (so no ministerial block vote in Parliament), no aristocrats or bishops in the Parliament, these aren’t to be sniffed at.

Those that initiate policy in the UK are elected

British civil servants are elected?

Labour has much to answer for choosing the younger Miliband and then Corbyn as leader.

This comment appears out of nowhere. Are you suggesting Labour would be more Eurosceptic if David Miliband, Kendall, Burnham or Cooper were the leader?

74

Dipper 05.23.16 at 8:45 am

The EU was constructed to solve a specific problem which does not affect the UK. Hence the construction of the EU is not beneficial to the UK and we would be better off outside it.

France was invaded by Germany three times in 70 years. The second world war saw most of Europe unable to resist German expansion and paying a very heavy price. The principle underlying the foundation of the EU was “better to negotiate away your freedom in times of peace than have it violently taken from you in times of war.”

So the EU is about containing Germany. To that end the EU is designed to ensure German stability and prosperity. So we have a single market in manufactured goods – which Germany is good at – but no single market in Financial services – which Germany is not as good as UK at.

Hence the fiscal surplus which Germany runs is largely the intended consequence of EU policy. The German fiscal surplus means, given the large degree to which the EU is a single trading block, that the rest of the EU runs a fiscal deficit. Hence there is a flow of funds from Germany to the rest of Europe.

Thus is not unusual. In the UK there are flows of money from the prosperous south-east to the regions. These flows are part of the financial structure of the UK. They are not loans. Wales does not owe this money to London. However in the EU these are loans. Greece owes Germany the money. And certain German politicians think this means they own Greece, and have the right to tell Greece how to run their affairs. This current state of affairs is not sustainable because it is a half-way house. It is neither a union nor independence. The logical conclusion of this is that the EU will form a single European super-state with Germany funding the rest of Europe. Hence there mantra of the EU leadership “ever closer union”. Greece is finding it has no effective independence, and has to implement policies mandated to it by German politicians over whom they have no influence.

Where does the UK fit into this? Our history was that we can withstand German aggression. We do not see why we should give up our sovereignty to restrain Germany. Nor is there any obvious reason why the UK’s interests are best served by being reduced to a subordinate role under German economic dominance. Being an independent state operating freely in the rest of the world is surely our best option. This does not mean turning our back on the rest of the world. It means embracing the rest of the world.

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RichieRich 05.23.16 at 9:02 am

How about the person I was responding to, Dipper…I think “non-democracy” is a fair characterization of such absurd hyperbole.

Thanks for reminding me of Dipper’s earlier remarks. Like you, I think they’re hyperbolic and, in non-hyperbolic mode (@61), Dipper’s perhaps rowing back from a “non-democracy” characterization.

British civil servants are elected?

Those that initiate policy in the UK are Ministers. Those that do so in the EU are Commissioners. Both are supported by a civil service but only the former are elected.

I dunno. European Parliament has proportional representation, the EU has way better separation of powers than the UK (so no ministerial block vote in Parliament), no aristocrats or bishops in the Parliament, these aren’t to be sniffed at.

Well, certainly neither are perfect. But I’d argue that unelected Commissioners constitutes more of a democratic deficit than an unelected second chamber. Agree that the European Parliament has PR in its favour but, on the other hand, turnout at elections for the European Parliament is way lower than turnout for the British Parliament. The disengagement from Europe is huge.

This comment appears out of nowhere. Are you suggesting Labour would be more Eurosceptic if David Miliband, Kendall, Burnham or Cooper were the leader?

The arguments here in favour of Remain are not exactly gushing about the EU. The argument seems to go that, yes, the EU’s a toilet but less of a toilet than Brexit would be. And Brexit is regarded as more of a toilet as, in (large?) part, it would leave the UK in the clutches of the Conservative right who would realize their ambitions of rowing back on workers’ rights, environmental protection and so forth.

I was arguing that one of the reasons the right is currently dominant in the UK is that Labour’s choice of leaders – Miliband the Younger, and then Jezza – has reduced its appeal. I fear that, with Corbyn at the helm, Labour is simply unelectable. Rightly or wrongly, a photo of Corbyn standing next to Gerry Adams ain’t no vote winner.

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Alex 05.23.16 at 11:43 am

The EU was constructed to solve a specific problem which does not affect the UK. Hence the construction of the EU is not beneficial to the UK and we would be better off outside it.

Well this is false, because the EU was constructed in 1993. But even if it were true about how the EU was constructed, this is the genetic fallacy.

So we have a single market in manufactured goods – which Germany is good at – but no single market in Financial services – which Germany is not as good as UK at.

It is the UK that is the barrier to the single market in financial services though:

https://next.ft.com/content/d2dc4078-d0da-11e5-986a-62c79fcbcead

As for the rest of your stuff, the situation with Greece is very bad, however I am unsure how policy in the Eurozone, which the UK is not a member of, is relevant to how I should vote in the referendum. Especially as the Greek people seem to disagree with you that it is a reason to leave too.

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Dipper 05.23.16 at 11:46 am

And this. Which is well worth reading for all views.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/23/dear-britain-dont-leave-the-eu-we-would-miss-you

And where were all these voices when the negotiations were going on? It reminds me of post-bonus conversations. “We really love what you do. We value you most highly. We would be distraught if you left. We think you should stay here. Your future here is a good one.”. “So how come I got stuffed on the bonus and those tossers out there are buying Porsches?” “Well it was tough. Really tough. We had to protect the core business.”. I’ve sat both sides of that table.

78

Sasha Clarkson 05.23.16 at 11:56 am

“The EU was constructed to solve a specific problem which does not affect the UK”

Why then did my father spend all six years in uniform between 1939 and 1945?
(And nearly 5 years abroad, without seeing family or loved ones, in Cyprus, Palestine, North Africa & Italy!)

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Alex 05.23.16 at 12:02 pm

Those that initiate policy in the UK are Ministers. Those that do so in the EU are Commissioners. Both are supported by a civil service but only the former are elected.

But in practice, EU laws are initiated by various elected bodies/figures, and the Commission then writes the proposals. In this way they act as glorified civil servants. Now, you may say, “Practice schmactice, they have no requirement to follow a request to write a particular law, they could just ignore it” and this is true to an extent. However, if you want to critique the EU based on the letter of the law, you should do the same with the UK too. For example, Ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister and there is no requirement that they need be elected. The Prime Minister himself is appointed by the Queen, who also has the power to veto any Act of Parliament. So you see, the fact that constitutionally the EU is not so good applies perhaps even more so to the UK.

turnout at elections for the European Parliament is way lower than turnout for the British Parliament

Why should I be denied my vote inside the EU purely because some people can’t be bothered to vote in EU elections?

The arguments here in favour of Remain are not exactly gushing about the EU. The argument seems to go that, yes, the EU’s a toilet but less of a toilet than Brexit would be.

I’m not sure what sort of arguments you expect people to put in favour of being in one state versus being in another state? Like, we’re not in a colonial situation, so democratic arguments don’t weigh so strongly. The choice then is always going to be histroically contingent – at this moment in time, what will taking this particular action mean? And what will taking this other mean? And those questions are always going to come down to *here are a bunch of things we care about* and *here is how we might get more/less of them on the other side*.

On that basis then, talking about how we have certain economic rights inside the EU and freedom of movement, which are both amazing things really, is not comparing toilets with lesser toilets. It’s saying *here’s some great stuff we currently have, and may well be threatened at this particular historic juncture if we leave, so let’s not risk it*. Perfectly reasonable argument to make.

<blockquoteI was arguing that one of the reasons the right is currently dominant in the UK is that Labour’s choice of leaders – Miliband the Younger, and then Jezza – has reduced its appeal. I fear that, with Corbyn at the helm, Labour is simply unelectable. Rightly or wrongly, a photo of Corbyn standing next to Gerry Adams ain’t no vote winner.

There’s no evidence Blairites are any more electable. Elections tend to be won or lost on the economy; the economy, while not great, didn’t tank last Parliament, it did under Labour, so it stands to reason the Tories would be hard to dislodge from power for a while, until either the economy gets worse, memories of 2008 die down a bit, or some big scandal happens. There’s no magic Blairite pill to stop that.

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Dipper 05.23.16 at 12:18 pm

@ Sasha Clarkson.

The specific problem is the inability of countries to resist German aggression. What your father was doing was demonstrating we could resist German aggression, although at a price.

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Jim Buck 05.23.16 at 12:38 pm

If the Germans still scare us, maybe we still scare them too? We with our nuclear arsenal; and France, next door, with theirs. If I was a German…

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franck 05.23.16 at 1:14 pm

Alex,

I don’t think you should use historical examples as allegories if you don’t actually know them very well. It is true, as you say, that the southern states seceded because they feared, over the long term, that their slave-holding society was threatened by increasing northern power and the election of a non-slaveowner to the presidency of a political party that was hostile to slavery. But the CSA decided to blow it all up by resorting to armed conflict to overthrow a democratic election that went against them. You may know the local scene better than I, but no significant political faction in the UK or EU is threatening armed conflict if they lose the vote, right? That’s why it is a bad analogy.

I agree with you that there is a distinction here about “democracy” and “sovereignty”. I don’t believe in sovereignty as an absolute value. But the CSA was both less democratic and less representative than the Union, so there wasn’t any tension between democracy and sovereignty there. The civil war was fought on behalf of a narrow oligarchy to defend its priviliges, and so has very little bearing on this question.

You seem to not believe in sovereignty or democracy as absolute values. I also don’t buy this belief of yours that Europe is more democratic or “equally” democratic to the UK as currently constituted.

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franck 05.23.16 at 1:19 pm

Alex,

Why should I care if the European Parliament has proportional representation if it has no power? It’s a common tactic in quasi-democratic regimes for parliaments to have higher representation of minorities (see Iran, Pakistan) as long as they never get to exercise any power.

The fundamental decisions of the EU are not strongly affected by democratic decisions of their citizens. Witness Juncker telling people they will have to vote again and again until they get the proper result.

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Alex 05.23.16 at 1:55 pm

I don’t think you should use historical examples as allegories if you don’t actually know them very well.

It was an analogy, not an allegory. Don’t straw man.

You may know the local scene better than I, but no significant political faction in the UK or EU is threatening armed conflict if they lose the vote, right? That’s why it is a bad analogy.

You don’t seem to understand how analogies work. If I say that an orange probably has analogous aerodynamic qualities to a tennis ball, that doesn’t mean I’m arguing that tennis balls taste citrusy… Similarly, my analogy is about *the reasons for secession* not *the mechanism by which secession takes place*. I never claimed there was going to be violence.

However, since you asked, actually one person in this campaign has said there will be violence if the vote goes the “wrong” way – Nigel Farage:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/nigel-farage-predicts-violence-the-next-step-if-immigration-is-not-controlled_uk_573b8f77e4b0328a838b8c9c

The civil war was fought on behalf of a narrow oligarchy to defend its priviliges, and so has very little bearing on this question

Ummmm:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-donations-hargreaves-idUKKCN0Y22ID

Why should I care if the European Parliament has proportional representation if it has no power?

Because the European Parliament does have power. Don’t lie.

Witness Juncker telling people they will have to vote again and again until they get the proper result.

False:

http://www.politico.eu/article/jean-claude-juncker-deserters-not-welcomed-back-after-brexit-leave-remain-uk-referendum-eu/

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TM 05.23.16 at 11:40 pm

The “democratic” nation state vs “undemocratic” EU narrative is misleading – all the important integration steps, like free movement, were approved by all member countries including the UK.

Btw Boris Johnson has now ridiculed the EU for not getting TTIP passed more quickly. You might think with his concerns for democracy, he might have criticized the secrecy of the negotiations and objected to the surrender of national sovereignty to transnational corporations, but those don’t seem to bother him.

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franck 05.24.16 at 12:31 am

Alex,

The comment about Juncker was about Ireland and the Treaty of Nice.

What powers does the European Parliament have then?

Your analogy is misleading, because it isn’t relevant. You clearly care deeply about the UK remaining in the EU, so you reached for the most repellent secession you could think of to draw the analogy. But it fails, precisely because the CSA was less democratic, less representative, and was in service of a narrow oligarchy protecting its privileges, in contrast to the USA of the time. I don’t think the UK can be compared to the CSA, particularly if the EU is the USA. No one on this thread has been able to argue convincingly that the EU is more democratic than the UK. So the analogy falls apart, and is borderline offensive to people in the UK.

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Jim Buck 05.24.16 at 8:19 am

So the analogy falls apart, and is borderline offensive to people in the UK.

Certainly not at all offensive to many in UKIP whose have adapted the venomous “states rights” rhetoric, having encountered it through the transatlantic ramifications of social media. These are the same individuals who post pictures of gollywogs to Facebook– urging you to like it before ‘a certain group of people complain’; they also post the Stars & Bars memes, found on the pages of their American “friends”. The glamour of sovereignty to such people lies in the belief that it will buy them back the lost goods of their youth: capital punishment; all-white workplaces and living spaces; free speech about queers and wogs; good wages, weekends, and pensions ”once we are not sending billions to the EU scroungers”. What would really please many of those people, at the twilight of their lives, is a nice war—a compensation for the wonderful war, that many of them just missed, and a replay of the Falklands War which thrilled them in middle-age.

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Brett Dunbar 05.24.16 at 8:20 pm

The European Parliament has the power to dismiss the commission, which it has used. It has co-decision on most European law, that is it must approve the law. The powers it actually has are pretty significant especially if it confident enough to use them. For example it left the national governments no choice over the commission president by stating it would veto any other candidate.

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Alex 05.25.16 at 10:27 pm

The comment about Juncker was about Ireland and the Treaty of Nice

Well why bring it up then? Surely his comments on the referendum we’re actually discussing are far more important!

What powers does the European Parliament have then?

A fair amount, as others above have described. I’ll give another – the power to block bad trade treaties like TTIP. For example, ACTA was blocked by the European Parliament.

You know, this is a fun bait-and-switch by the Leave crowd. Sometimes they play alll “OMG the EUSSR!!11!1 It has its own Parliament, flags, constitution! Rararagh!” But other times like now it’s “Oh actually we just think the Parliament should have more power”. So funny.

You clearly care deeply about the UK remaining in the EU, so you reached for the most repellent secession you could think of to draw the analogy. But it fails, precisely because the CSA was less democratic, less representative

Again you appear to not understand how analogies work. For the nth time, it is not about saying “the UK is as undemocratic as the Confederacy”! My analogy is about providing an example where democracy is not the only value we care about. That is, I’m arguing the democratic natures of the EU vs the UK aren’t necessarily all we should care, precisely the claim you’re making about my analogy. Yes, the UK is more democratic about the Confederacy. I am saying, the reasons we don’t like them seceding from the USA is because we also care about things other than democracy – self-ownership, antiracism, that sort thing. By analogy, a lot of Leave people say we should leave because of democracy, and say it is undemocratic to want to stay in because of workers’ rights, environmentalism, and so on. I am saying, au contraire, let’s for the sake of argument grant that democracy is better on the Leave side, what we have then is a set of competing rights/values. Better democracy, vs better workers rights etc, the stuff the Remain may care more about. How do we choose between those? We don’t always choose democratic reforms over everything else, so there’s need to be a better argument than just saying “Undemocratic to keep the Tories from taking full control!”.

As for “repellent secession”, nope. My analogy is an example of an argumentum ad absurdum, the whole point is to take an argument to its logical extremes and test to see if it works there too. I didn’t “choose” it because it was repellent or because I support one side or the other. I chose it to test the logical consistency of what someone here was arguing.

But anyway, see Jim Buck’s comment for a good point about how it’s a perfectly apt analogy in some other ways too. Some of the UKIP crowd seem to come from the same psychological disposition as States’ rights types in the US.

No one on this thread has been able to argue convincingly that the EU is more democratic than the UK

Well two other commenters just have, plus I’ve made some arguments here as well – if you don’t find them “convincing” you haven’t told me why.

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