Passports and Brexit

by John Quiggin on September 9, 2019

I was looking over this post from 2016, on the consequences of a relatively successful Brexit

I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved. The Poles and other EU citizens whose presence was the biggest single justification for Brexit won’t go away. On the contrary, it seems pretty clear that all EU citizens will get permanent residence, even those who arrived after the Brexit vote. Even with a hard Brexit, the benefits of consistency with EU regulations will be overwhelming. The terms of any trade deal with non-EU countries won’t be any better than the existing EU deals and probably worse.

Even symbolically, what’s going to happen? Typically, national independence is marked by a ceremony where the flag of the imperial power is lowered, and the new national flag is raised. But, from what I can tell, the EU flag is hardly ever flown in the UK as it is. The same for national currency, passport, official languages and all the other symbolic representations of nationhood. So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged. Will that count as success in the eyes of those who voted to Leave. I don’t know.

Most of that still looks about right. But as commenters at the time pointed out, I was wrong about passports. One of the big things Leavers disliked about the EU was the replacement of the blue British passport with EU burgundy. It turns out that the colour change wasn’t compulsory, and the reintroduced blue passports will be printed in France, but at least that is a symbolic win for the Brexiteers.

On the other hand, how does this fit with the oft-repeated claim that Leave voters were “left behind” “stayers”? To be nostalgic for blue passports, you would presumably need to have undertaken a fair bit of international travel before 1988, when they were replaced. That experience, combined with the assumption that Britain is far superior to the EU, sounds like the profile of a stereotypical well-off, middle-aged or older, Tory voter. And, as far as I can tell, it was this category that provided the core support for Leave. That’s consistent with Trumpist voting most places in the English speaking world.

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Hugh 09.09.19 at 8:24 am

“… stereotypical well-off, middle-aged or older, Tory voter.”

I agree with most of that but I’m not so sure about the “well-off” bit. Most analyses suggest the poor were more likely to vote leave.

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/brexit-vote-explained-poverty-low-skills-and-lack-opportunities

Our instinct is to try and categorise the factions and define ‘typical’ leavers and remainers. We (and the media in particular) like a caricature to focus on. We like to see all leavers as Nigel Farage and all remainers as Siân Berry perhaps, but I don’t think it’s that simple with Brexit.

Certainly amongst the people I know, there were surprises. Many voted the opposite way to the way I’d have expected based on their circumstances and prior political beliefs.

Both sides build straw men to attack and I think that’s unfair. It isn’t helped because parliament largely lives up to the straw men we want, but I think it’s far more complicated amongst the voters.

2

Dipper 09.09.19 at 9:08 am

I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws. What’s so funny about that?

3

Jim Andrakakis 09.09.19 at 9:19 am

I think you underestimate racists.

I’m pretty sure, actually we already have solid evidence for this, that they are perfectly willing to shoot a massive bullet in their own foot just to see a few 100s Poles leave the country.

4

notGoodenough 09.09.19 at 9:58 am

Just to throw my own handful of grit into the works….

[note, I am not a statistician, nor do I have any expertise in the relevant fields]

Just to echo Hugh @1, I think that while it is difficult to give a “typical” voter, the data[1] seems to suggest that a “typical” leave voter (not to stereotype!) tends to be older (50 or over), Tory voting, with a below-degree level education, and more likely to be poor/unemployed. Thus, while clearly the Nigel Farage-level Brexit supporter is very well off indeed, that it is not necessarily indicative of the aggregate.

[1] Who voted for Brexit? Individual and regional data combined, E. Alabrese et al., DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2018.08.002

5

Tabasco 09.09.19 at 10:04 am

The British (actually English) emigre communities in countries like Spain, a cheap place to retire to with a much better climate, voted strongly for Leave. You can live in these places while only speaking English, eating English food that you buy from English supermarkets, watching English television, reading English newspapers (not just on the internet, you can buy the print Daily Mail and Sun) and so on.

It would be both funny and just if they are forced back to England. Bognor Regis, look out, here they come.

6

Jim Buck 09.09.19 at 11:00 am

My take is that many of the poorer-off, who rarely vote , did so for brexit as an act of desperation over Cameron winning the previous year’s election, and all the spiteful austerity that entailed for them. It is tragic that that revolutionary fervour was expended for populists prepared to use it to tilt at windmills e.g blue passports; “proper duty free at airports”, and all manner of bollocks.

7

Cian 09.09.19 at 11:54 am

I’m fairly sure the passport thing was whipped up by the newspapers. In general if there’s a crazy anti-EU thing it’s a fairly good bet that its genesis was in some tabloid newspaper story somewhere.

8

Harry 09.09.19 at 12:12 pm

It also turns out that the blue passports weren’t in any meaningful sense blue (as anyone who actually cares about these things already because they kept their old passports which are black). The new ones will be a completely different colour, and entirely different design, from the pre-EU ones. So its a victory in their heads only.

9

Barry 09.09.19 at 2:29 pm

Dipper 09.09.19 at 9:08 am
“I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws. What’s so funny about that?”

You already had a chance, the WA, and turned it down. Now you want No Deal, but you have a shortage of MP’s willing to slit the UK’s throat.

10

ph 09.09.19 at 2:38 pm

I understand the desire to employ “stereotypes” but have to join with those questioning the utility of the term, and with characterizations of “these kinds of voters” across borders no matter what that category-type these voters may be. As a Remain supporter and a Trump supporter, I can say that I don’t like Trump, but find his vulgarity a far more fitting face of the rampant greed and selfishness that is the reality of life under the rule of the Versailles liberals. It is perhaps an accident of history that the only alternative to more of the same is someone like Trump, but if it’s a choice between a raving, white-haired socialist and a Clinton, Obama, Cruz or Bush, I’m going to jump off the cliff with the nut every time.

That’s the part of Leave and Trumpism that many, I suspect, can’t understand. The well-off aren’t worried about their own futures, they look at the future and can’t find a place for their kids in that picture; those on the bottom end of the scale are desperate enough to find solace in anyone who convincingly listens to their complaints. The idea that “we’re f-d, and nothing can be done” is the message of globalism, corporatism, and despair. Anyone who stands up, calls bs and says convincingly: it doesn’t need to be like, there is a way out, is going to find an audience. The content enjoying the benefits of the screw-the-voter economy can’t quite understand why those not living high on the hog want to kick over the apple-cart.

Had the lower-orders between treated as equals, rather than garbage, none of this would have happened.

11

Scott P. 09.09.19 at 2:50 pm

I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws. What’s so funny about that?

Queensland isn’t sovereign, but still has political power, as Britain does in the EU.

12

Dipper 09.09.19 at 3:24 pm

@ Barry. I’d have voted for the WA, dreadful deal that it is.

@ Tabasco. In that sense, Brits in Spain are like many communities in the UK where people don’t speak English and keep apart, (or Welsh if in Wales). If you’d talked about it being funny for them to be sent back to Pakistan/Poland whatever I think we know where about on the political spectrum that would place you.

@ Scott P. the EU is not Australia. It is not a direct comparison.

@ Jim Andrakakis. The Brexit Party has members from lots of races.

What is it with so many on the ‘left’?. You cannot just disagree with people, you have to invent things about them so you can hate them too. Ridiculous

13

nobody.really 09.09.19 at 4:02 pm

Let me echo the others responding to Dipper 09.09.19 at 9:08 am

I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws. What’s so funny about that?

Presumably, someone who favored this outcome would have refused to participate in the referendum, recognizing that the appropriate body to address this matter is the HOUSE OF COMMONS, where the people’s ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES make the laws–including the law agreeing to join (or leave) the European Union.

So congratulations to Dipper: The House of Commons is valiantly striving to make the laws–although the Prime Minister (a man picked by 0.13% of Britons, and with a current approval rating below 33%) is doing his level best to frustrate the process of representative democracy.

14

Hidari 09.09.19 at 4:25 pm

‘Brexit was not the voice of the working class nor of the uneducated – it was of the squeezed middle’

‘Our findings confirm a negative relationship between education and voting Leave: the higher the level of one’s education, the lower the likelihood of them voting Leave. Our findings, however, reject the dichotomous view of the low-educated Brexiter vs the high-educated Remainer, by showing that two groups with intermediate levels of education (voters with good GSCEs and A-levels) were more pro-Leave than the low-educated (those with no formal education and with low GSCE grades)….

Looking at class (next), we find the Leave vote to be associated with middle class identification and the more neutral ‘no class’ identification.

But we find no evidence of a link with working class identification.

So, based on the above, the Leave vote was not more popular among the low skilled, but rather among individuals with intermediate levels of education (A-Levels and GSCE high grades), especially when their socio-economic position was perceived to be declining and/or to be stagnant. These findings point to an alternative narrative to that of the left behind.

This argument of the squeezed middle being behind Brexit raises new questions about how the new politics of inequality influences voting, for it shows that Brexit was the expression of a widely felt social malaise that affects ample segments of the population.’

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/brexit-and-the-squeezed-middle/

15

J. Bogart 09.09.19 at 4:26 pm

Will they be in the long slow lines at customs with Americans and Russians and Chinese?

16

Hidari 09.09.19 at 5:31 pm

The Lobster Magazine might be a bit ‘Alex Jones’ for y’all, and no I don’t buy all the stuff about the JFK assassination either, but this is a review of a book by respected academic David Wearing, and seems to be a reasonable precis of his argument.

Cui Bono is ALWAYS a good question to ask.

‘Hedge funds like the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, whose bid for
leadership of the Conservative Party is known to have received backing from
hedge fund managers such as David Lilley of RK Capital, Jon Wood of SRM
Global, and Johan Christofferson of Christofferson, Robb and Co. They are
especially keen on his support for ‘Brexit’, that is UK withdrawal from the EU,
apparently at any cost. These individuals are characteristic of their colleagues
in that they dislike the ongoing financial regulation introduced by the European
Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) after 2008 and designed to
prevent another Crash. Due to the very nature of the way they make their
money, the ‘Hedgies’ favour markets which are free and prone to volatility. Nor
are they keen on the quantitative easing (QE) policies followed by the EU – as
well as the USA and the UK – in a bid to sustain economic activity in a period
of debt redemption, given its tendency to inflate the price of assets and reduce
opportunities for shorting. Their preferences have helped to provoke a shift in
British external policy away from Europe and in favour of Brexit….

…Johnson’s campaign to become Tory leader
received much City backing. Both he and Cameron are old Etonians, as are
some of the leading proponents of Brexit in the Conservative Party, such as
Jacob Rees-Mogg (co-founder and co-owner of the hedge fund, Somerset
Capital Management) and Kwasi Kwarteng. This group has used Brexit to
stage a political and economic coup, as a result of which Britain will (so the
perpetrators hope) shake off the remains of industrial capitalism and embrace
a future supplying ‘business, technology and financial services to emerging
markets such as China and India and as the financial manager of the world.’
If they are successful, only sufficient manufacturing capacity to build and
service a military machine capable of protecting the new politico-economic
configuration would be retained. This is not a strategy which needs Britain to
be – in the words of John Major thirty years ago – ‘at the very heart of
Europe’. It does, however, need a strong presence in regions such as the 25
Arabian Gulf, whatever the cost to the local populations there, and the
continuation of the ‘special relationship’, Britain’s close alliance with the USA, the chief guarantor and guardian of the international capitalist order.’

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster78/lob78-angloarabia.pdf

Those curious about why people who are devoted to the continuance of the capitalist/imperialist world order, which Brexit would apparently damage, are so keen on ‘No Deal’, should have a loooong read of Klein’s Shock Doctrine, and the idea of administering an aggressive and destabilising ‘shock’ to the economic system, and, in the ensuing chaos, fundamentally restructuring the very lineaments of the existing economic order (e.g. privatising the NHS, essentially abolishing the ‘welfare state’ etc.).

17

Dipper 09.09.19 at 5:32 pm

@nobody.really “where the people’s ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES make the laws–including the law agreeing to join (or leave) the European Union”

As I think I may have said several times previously, I didn’t ask for this referendum for those reasons. My view was a Remain vote would have been used by the EU to claim a mandate and go over the heads of Parliament.

“The House of Commons is valiantly striving to make the laws”. Much discussion on this over at David Allen Greenwhere I am why usual witty and erudite self. But this Parliament is not just making decisions, it is making the constitution to remove checks and balances. The Fixed Term Parliament Act means Parliament can keep going as long as it likes up to 5 years. This Parliament is now acting in breach of manifesto and personal commitment given, and the People have no means of recourse.

Burke said “No man should be judge in his own cause”. Well this lot are. I’d like an enhanced power of recall so when MP’s break commitments or cross the house they can face a by-election.

18

Foster Boondoggle 09.09.19 at 5:49 pm

Apropos the blue passports,

19

Dipper 09.09.19 at 6:24 pm

So this is where your unfettered unchecked Remain Parliament is going in all its righteousness. Demanding full access to all personal correspondence and electronic communication. Full Stasi. Absolute disgrace.

20

Cian 09.09.19 at 6:55 pm

I suspect you’d find a strong correlation between readership of certain tabloids/broadsheets and voting leave. Impossible to prove now of course, but anecdotally that would fit the evidence I’ve seen.

In the US the poor didn’t vote for Trump – they just didn’t vote. In some areas (e.g. Wisconsin) that was due to voter suppression, in other areas they just weren’t excited about Hillary. Republican turnout held steady, Democratic turnout collapsed.

I keep seeing people trying to connect the two events in some kind of argument about populism, but I really don’t see it. If Brexit was an act of populism, then the Sun is a populist newspaper. Which is not an argument I find terribly convincing.

Where both events do have something in common it is with regards to the collapse of the center. In the UK this has also been accompanied by the collapse by the right (an event some 25 years in the making). There has been no such collapse of the right in the US – possibly because the left is not (yet) resurgent, possibly for other reasons.

21

Faustusnotes 09.09.19 at 7:27 pm

I arrived in the uk on Saturday for a week with my brand new non-EU passport (I think if you apply online from overseas you don’t get a choice of colours!) and was struck that the “uk+eu” line at immigration has been changed now with the addition of the white commonwealth countries, Scandinavia and the high income pacific. Interesting! So brexit bought you a longer immigration queue ! Well done!

Dipper trust us aussies when we tell you that being an independent action not part of a bloc comes with some considerable challenges you haven’t had to face for a long time and aren’t ready for. When you unmoored yourself from Germany and Italy you’ll discover noone wants to buy what you’re selling. Free trade agreements come at a cost, and you will quickly learn how steep it is.

22

RobinM 09.09.19 at 8:09 pm

Voter suppression—and gerrymandering—have surely played a part in Wisconsin politics during the 21st Century. But Cian, @ 20, might also have mentioned how the mainstream Democratic party from Obama and Clinton on down completely ignored the Wisconsin rebellion against the Republican governor Scott Walker’s attacks on the labour unions and then hijacked the consequent recall election. Their neglect of Wisconsin continued, as has been widely discussed, into the Presidential election of 2016.

23

nobody.really 09.09.19 at 8:15 pm

@ Dipper
Much discussion on this over at David Allen Green where I am my usual witty and erudite self.

Oh yeah? I click over to David Allen Green, and find this:

It will be too late.

The door has shut.

The cat, the horse and the genie are out of their respective containers.“

Ok, I’ll grant you the witty and erudite part….

24

ccc 09.09.19 at 9:32 pm

John Quiggin: “To be nostalgic for blue passports, you would presumably need to have undertaken a fair bit of international travel before 1988, when they were replaced.”

Why think nationalism is reality bound like that? It always runs on fantasies about some imagined lost golden age (be it fairly recent in this case). It’ll funnel the fantasies through whatever objects/practices/stories that are at hand at the moment.

@2 Dipper: “I just want … to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws. What’s so funny about that?”

Not so much funny as boring. Regardless of leave/stay national sovereignty will keep on decreasing as institutions/economies/technologies mesh globally. Outcomes for people in the UK will increasingly be driven by factors outside the UK and there is approximately nothing you or anyone can do about that.

But, as you and I touched on in an earlier thread, it might be easier for other parties to crush the UK and its putrid, worst in the world tax evasion system into submission if it leaves the EU, so there is at least something to hope for.

25

Alex SL 09.09.19 at 9:39 pm

I find this obsession with sovereignty rather odd.

Often the analogy to people seems helpful to illustrate what is going on with countries. I can become member of a club to enjoy the club’s benefits. I can then rant and rave about having to pay membership dues and having to abide by the club’s rules, and say that that infringes on my free will to do what I want and to spend my money as I see fit. In consequence, I can leave the club again, and lose the benefits of being a member. Either way was my decision, my free will, whether to be a member or not to be a member.

It is a trade-off. You buy the benefits of club membership by having to follow certain rules. UK buys the benefits of EU membership by following certain rules. Either way is UK’s sovereign decision: either to be a member or not to be a member. No sovereignty is or was lost.

A problem arises only from the UK being in three minds about what to do. At least as of the referendum there was no majority for staying in the EU, but there is clearly no majority for any alternative solution either. It is nearly as if, collectively, the preference is for not being a member of the club but retaining the now accustomed benefits of membership.

26

Barry 09.09.19 at 9:44 pm

Dipper 09.09.19 at 6:24 pm

” So this is where your unfettered unchecked Remain Parliament is going in all its righteousness. Demanding full access to all personal correspondence and electronic communication. Full Stasi. Absolute disgrace.”

For a UK right-winger to complain about surveillance and loss of privacy is a bit rich.

27

Barry 09.09.19 at 9:46 pm

From a very quick scan, they are invoking the Freedom of Information Act (see: https://twitter.com/sundersays/status/1171168943685492737)

That would be the opposite of Stasi.

28

John Quiggin 09.09.19 at 9:47 pm

If sovereignty is the issue, why are the Leavers so keen on the WTO? It’s the embodiment of unaccountable globalism overriding national sovereignty on all manner of things.

More generally, the EU gets the blame (or credit) for lots of things where it is merely the conduit for rules imposed by global agreements. Leavers seem keen to rejoin as many of these agreements as possible.

29

Barry 09.09.19 at 9:50 pm

From ‘https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/1171134305587859458’:

“Tory MP Nigel Evans criticises parliament for voting to force the government to disclose private messages about Brexit.”

Dipper, please note the word ‘government’. They are calling for government accountability and transparency, while you are trying to shut down Parliament in favor of pure executive power.

30

J-D 09.09.19 at 9:53 pm

Dipper

I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws.

But (even on your own analysis) you already do!

As far as I understand it, according to the accepted conventional understanding of ‘sovereignty’, reflected in national and international laws, the UK is a sovereign state and the EU is not. But there is a reasonable argument that the EU has at least some of the characteristics of sovereignty. Where your argument breaks down is that if we consider the EU as a sovereign state (or something like it), then we have to conclude that the laws of the EU are made by institutions which are elected by the people of the EU (at least as much as this is true of the UK, or any other country). Granting (for the sake of argument) the EU to be a sovereign state, then it would follow that you (Dipper) live in a sovereign state (the EU) where you (the people of the EU) elect the people who make your laws.

31

Barry 09.09.19 at 9:55 pm

From: https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/1171134305587859458

“Tory MP Nigel Evans criticises parliament for voting to force the government to disclose private messages about Brexit.”

Dipper, that for government transparency and accountability. That’s the opposite of ‘Stasi’.

32

nastywoman 09.10.19 at 6:03 am

– for somebody who already has more than just one passport –
(and more than just one ”nationality” – and more than just one ”ethnicity”)
this is a discussion of some ”ancient past” –
and please don’t take any offense about this superficial and arrogant statement – as as mentioned. before there isn’t a country in the world – like the UK – or better said ”London” – where there are aaaall these people who are in exactly the same situation as somebody who has multiple nationality with or without multiple ethnicities – and as just in my immediate family there are already 7 -(in words ”seven”) different nationalities – and all of the so called (jokingly) ”One (Nationality)Trick Ponies” are soooo old – that they soon will be (nice to remember) history – the ”dippers” of this world can do whatever they want – BUT they want to be able to stop that there are more and more of US!
-(and not only in London – or the UK)
AND with – the more and more of US – there comes a completely new type of (non-dipper) mind set – which makes all of these worries the dipper has – totally and absolutely irrelevant.

And that’s how it is!
– and I wrote that – in such a very offensive way –
BE!!-cause:
HOW dare somebody here mention ”the Stasi”?
-(who isn’t at least partly German)

Or in other words:
As the ”multiculti” and ”global” future is already so unavoidable present -(for everybody who wants to enjoy it?) – do we really have to worry if there are still a few who yell:

”Get of my lawn”!?

33

Z 09.10.19 at 7:29 am

Where your argument breaks down is that if we consider the EU as a sovereign state (or something like it), then we have to conclude that the laws of the EU are made by institutions which are elected by the people of the EU (at least as much as this is true of the UK, or any other country).

No, they’re not. And honestly, I can’t fathom how you could have come to this opinion.

I have said it before, but I don’t think it helps pretending the Brexit vote is anything special politically. Compared to contemporary major political decisions in comparable countries (think the election of Trump, the election of Macron, the re-election of Merkel, the Lega/M5S coalition in Italy etc.), it is not particularly difficult to understand, there is little reason to suppose it was inspired by unusual political preferences, it was not particularly undemocratic, nor was it especially baroque or ill-designed in its process, nor is it particularly likely to have consequences out of the ordinary, nor does it appear to be especially unpopular, based on the results of the recent European elections and on opinion polls. In particular, I don’t think it helps pretending that Dipper’s “I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws” is meaningless or absurdly misguided.

What is relatively unusual, though becoming less so, is whose political preferences got expressed during the Brexit vote. Not si much what happened nor the likely consequences, but who won. If you don’t like it, put forth an alternative and campaign for it.

34

J-D 09.10.19 at 8:42 am

Z

No, they’re not. And honestly, I can’t fathom how you could have come to this opinion.

I’m not sure how my unfathomability (or alleged unfathomability) is supposed to be relevant.

There are, obviously, differences between the structure of the legislative institutions of the EU and those of the UK, but no more than the difference between the structure of the legislative institutions of Germany, the UK, France, and other EU member countries, not to mention non-EU countries (the US, for example, or Switzerland, for another example). I’d be interested to see your explanation of how EU laws are not made by institutions elected by the people of the EU.

In particular, I don’t think it helps pretending that Dipper’s “I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws” is meaningless or absurdly misguided.

Then you should be pleased that I didn’t pretend it was meaningless or absurdly misguided. It’s not meaningless, and it’s not absurdly misguided, but it is inaccurate.

35

anonymousse 09.10.19 at 9:24 am

“I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved.”

Then what is wrong with it? If Leave won’t change concrete rules/laws (i.e. if existing rules/laws will, by and large, be maintained), then the only change that Leave will create is who is making the decision (EU, or British Parliament).

And what’s wrong with the British Parliament making British laws that apply to British people? As Dipper said: “I just want what you’ve got John, which is to live in a sovereign state where we elect the people who make our laws.”

If the only substantive change that Leave will create is increased sovereignty for the British, then your opposition must be towards that: increased sovereignty for the British, right?

anon

36

Hidari 09.10.19 at 9:27 am

In response to the point of the OP specifically this:

‘Even symbolically, what’s going to happen? Typically, national independence is marked by a ceremony where the flag of the imperial power is lowered, and the new national flag is raised. But, from what I can tell, the EU flag is hardly ever flown in the UK as it is. The same for national currency, passport, official languages and all the other symbolic representations of nationhood. So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged. Will that count as success in the eyes of those who voted to Leave. I don’t know.’

The answer to this question is that because of what one might call ‘the time effect’ (i.e. just the period of time that Brexit has been in the news as the dominating story) people are starting to define themselves as ‘Leavers’ or ‘Remainers’ (and both sides are equally guilty of this). In other words, it becomes an almost metaphysical statement of one’s core beliefs: how one sees oneself. Whether or not the end result will have any concrete results is irrelevant.

Needless to say this is not good news for the Left, and the current poll lead of the Tories (they started to pull ahead about the same time that Johnson started to spin the narrative of ‘the people versus Parliament’) should worry Labour. Corbyn is (for once) getting positive press in liberal rags like the Guardian, and the anti-semitism smears have ‘mysteriously’ gone away, and yet Labour’s poll numbers have gone down, not up.

Z’s point in @33 is germane here: the hysteria (on both sides) about Brexit (when there is a real crisis, about the oncoming Eco-geddon which SHOULD be dominating the headlines) has not helped anyone, and it has not done anyone any favours to try and pretend that whether or not the UK leaves a trade agreement/union is the most epoch-shattering event in the history of the Universe.

37

Alex SL 09.10.19 at 9:42 am

Z,

It may not be special in terms of what voters want, but there are two problems: First, what they wanted was based on disinformation resulting from decades of lies. The EU was demonised, and people were given the impression that you can leave a club while retaining its membership benefits. There was no informed decision. Now it could be argued that is always the case, in any democratic decision – how many voters ever understand all the competing electoral platforms and their trade-offs? Fair point, but, second, yes, the referendum was “especially ill-designed”.

It was the equivalent of giving somebody the impression that a much better house is free for the taking than the one they currently occupy, then asking “do you want to move out of this house?”, and, when they assent, claiming that they have given you the mandate to have them sleep in a cardboard box under the bridge. A well-designed referendum would have taken place after having drawn up a thorough and realistic plan for the future outside of the EU, one that is honest about the downsides of that decision.

38

ph 09.10.19 at 10:13 am

@33 Thanks for a very welcome and sober assessment of the current state of affairs.

I can’t imagine paid civil servants in any place in any country but the halls of elected representatives behaving in any remotely similar fashion. Everyone involved, and I do mean everyone, would be sacked on the spot for simple bloody-mindedness were they working in any other kind of job.

@20 I think this is partly right. What currently passes for voter suppression includes reporting bad things about people we don’t like, ie: making it more difficult to vote for our opponents. The press would do well to openly state their biases, which clearly exist.

A free press does not mean a neutral press, it means a press free to insult and attack anyone as long as these attacks do not violate slander and libel laws.

The emergence of the new puritans and their strident attempts to regulate and interfere with the unruly, morally deviant, and rude frequently makes bad behavior even more attractive – nothing is quite so satisfying to many than giving the new holy orders fits. I watched part of the Trump rally earlier, and it only got really once an outraged SJW type stood up to shriek and then get bounced out to the amusement and cheers of all.

I will say that 45 2020 looks too much like a repeat of 2016 – and not in a good way. The schtick is old and tired. Those hoping to understand the appeal need imagine the base as attendees at a theme park. The 2016 roller coaster thrilled everyone initially and still draws in the crowds. But successful theme park owners understand the need for a new rush, product plus, and a more detailed nuanced theme park experience. The signs at the rally look too complicated, and the message was tired. I’ve no idea whether the GOP can win without a motivated base, but if the economy remains strong, 45’s actual appeal/negatives may not be much of a factor in 2020. My guess is that a significant number of Brits have had enough of all the silliness, and will back Bojo as long as he can bring the current nonsense to an end. Labour has now pretty much all credibility and I say that as a Corbyn supporter.

He needed to step up and fight the election, even if that meant losing. By avoiding the fight he confirms the worst – he’s too weak to win, he has no faith in the voters, or his own leadership; he knows the party lacks the candidates and the vision to defeat the sorry-ass gaggle congealing around Bojo and his feckless followers. Why not just hang a sign around his neck saying – ‘I suck.’ Hopeless, waste of space.

39

J-D 09.10.19 at 11:01 am

anonymousse

“I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved.”

Then what is wrong with it?

The massive effort involved! Putting a massive effort into leaving things exactly as they are is obviously foolish.

That is, granting the assumption that nothing will be changed, which I doubt. I don’t think, judging from his past writings, that it’s John Quiggin’s opinion either. The problem as John Quiggin is defining it is not putting a massive effort into producing no changes, but rather putting a massive effort into producing no benefits. If there were massive benefits to be derived, they might justify a massive effort; but massive changes with no benefits don’t justify a massive effort.

And what’s wrong with the British Parliament making British laws that apply to British people?

Nobody has argued that there’s anything wrong with it, or acted as if they suppose there’s anything wrong with it. The whole time the UK has been a member of the EU its Parliament has continued to make laws for its people, and the EU has never suggested that it shouldn’t or tried to stop it.

40

Cian 09.10.19 at 12:34 pm

Hidari: I like the Lobster a lot, and I think David Wearing has also written some good stuff. But that review (and possibly the book) are missing some stuff.

First of all it isn’t true to say that Brexit received a lot of city backing. The financial sector (and the stuff surrounding it like international law, accounting, consulting services) as a whole is anti-Brexit because it threatens their existence. One of the fascinating things about Brexit is that the Tory party is going against their traditional backers/base. It received a little bit from hedgefunds, which are pretty peripheral to the city and tend to be run by people who are adventurers/gamblers/whatever. While there are exceptions (e.g. George Soros), they’re often not the sharpest thinkers (sometimes cunning, often just lucky – survivorship bias is a thing after all) and often have very eccentric views on economics (and for that matter how to run a business).

Secondly I’ve never been terribly convinced by Shock doctrine. Yes some people, usually bottom feeders, benefit from disaster – but I think it’s a stretech to say that policy is designed to benefit them. Perhaps in the majority world – but even there I think it’s usually more about protecting financiers and overseas investments. Banks and corporations aren’t overly fond of instability as it creates risk (contrary to econ101 mythology – business hates risk).

Thirdly I think this article underestimates just how much wishful thinking surrounds the Brexit elites. They’re not deep thinkers – these are people who operate on daydreams, nostalgia and decayed ideology. That bullshit they spout about post-Brexit Britain – they believe it. Anyone who might point out the numerous flaws in their thinking – exiled from the cult.

Of course there are other cults …

Definitely agree that Brexit is a trap for the left. I have visions of bewildered school children in a hundred years studying the ‘Brexit debacle’ trying to understand why when the world’s ecosystems were collapsing, and poverty was off the charts, the UK spent three years arguing about dull trade agreements.

“But sir, didn’t they know that the eco-geddon was only a few years away”. “I guess they just didn’t want to think about it Susan”

“Sir did it change anything?” “Well Tom, only in the sense that the UK was even more woefully underprepared when things went pear shaped because they’d wasted so much time”

41

Z 09.10.19 at 1:07 pm

There are, obviously, differences between the structure of the legislative institutions of the EU and those of the UK, but no more than the difference between the structure of the legislative institutions of Germany, the UK, France, and other EU member countries, not to mention non-EU countries

“No more” is doing a lot of work here if you don’t specify what counts for you as a significant difference and what principles you hold to be so crucial that deviating from them opens a completely new political system (I found interesting the first chapters of Die nieuwe politiek van Europ by Luuk van Middelaar on that topic).

I’d be interested to see your explanation of how EU laws are not made by institutions elected by the people of the EU.

Every democratic country I know of elects a Parliament which has legislative initiative, holds the power of taxation and fixes the budget. Every one of them. The day the Parliament got these powers is often remembered as an important date in the march towards democracy, and the day it lost it (as Venezuela did in 2017) is often the day the country devolves in an autocracy. The European Parliament has none of these powers. In addition, since 1748 at the latest, it has been well understood that a democratic system requires independence of the legislative branch from the executive branch, so that in every democratic country I can think of right now, when the head of the Executive branch also holds part of the legislative power (as it usually does, through executive orders, for instance), it is either elected directly by the people in public campaigns which are largely open, or it is selected by the Parliament (usually within the context of a public campaign which is largely open). The Head of the European Commission, who is already exceptional in the democratic world in that it holds the entirety of the power of legislative initiative, is not selected in either ways. Not only is this situation in theory, but in practice it would take a lot of chutzpah to pretend that Ursual von der Leyen has been selected by even an approximation of either procedures.

In addition to this chasm between the European system and the rest of the democratic world even in terms of the definition and apportioning of the powers of the legislative branch, there are countless slightly less significant but still huge differences, like the existence of a dual system of legislative approval (through the Parliament and the Council), the special procedure of Article 289 and the consent procedure which strips the Parliament even of the power of amendment etc. At this point however, the real question has become “in what sense are the legislative bodies of the EU even remotely like that of usual democratic states (that of its members, for instance)?”

Sometimes, one reads replies running roughly as follows: the European Commission is selected by head of states, which have been elected or appointed by people who have been elected, and the Council is formed of ministers which have been appointed by people who have been (appointed by people who have been) elected. This transitivity property of democracy though multiple cycles of multitiered elections and appointments is not logically wrong, it is just a ridiculously low bar to pass. If EU laws are deemed to have been made by institutions elected by the people of the EU in that sense, then so also are the laws of Iran, China and Venezuela made by institutions elected by the people (five seconds of game theoretic analysis explains what kind of political systems favors multitiered system of elections, electoral colleges and successive appointments, and what kind of systems rely primarily on direct elections of the bulk of the electorate).

Then you should be pleased that I didn’t pretend it was meaningless or absurdly misguided. It’s not meaningless, and it’s not absurdly misguided, but it is inaccurate.

FWIW, I wasn’t thinking about your answer, but rather about @13.

42

anonymousse 09.10.19 at 1:30 pm

“The massive effort involved! Putting a massive effort into leaving things exactly as they are is obviously foolish.”

And what ‘massive’ effort is involved? Or more specifically: how is the effort considered unjustifiably ‘massive,’ when every country not in the EU (the overwhelming majority of countries) engages in that massive effort-does all the things the EU does, by themselves? For instance; whatever the effort involved is, it is being performed, every day, by Canada. Canada doesn’t belong to the EU, so has to make its own decisions as to how to label bananas and such. How is that ‘massive’?

“The whole time the UK has been a member of the EU its Parliament has continued to make laws for its people, and the EU has never suggested that it shouldn’t or tried to stop it.”

This obviously isn’t true. If it were true, then the EU wouldn’t be doing anything at all. Perhaps you could say that the EU has never stopped Parliament from making laws (and regulations) that aren’t being made by the EU. But the EU, by definition, exists to make laws/regulations in lieu of individual countries’ legislatures: that is what EU is and does.

anon

43

anonymousse 09.10.19 at 1:59 pm

“That is, granting the assumption that nothing will be changed, which I doubt. I don’t think, judging from his past writings, that it’s John Quiggin’s opinion either.”

??? The whole point of the post was for John to quote his own words from three years ago that he didn’t think anything significant will be changed.

“I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved…So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged.”

anon

44

Barry 09.10.19 at 6:06 pm

“Every democratic country I know of elects a Parliament which has legislative initiative, holds the power of taxation and fixes the budget. Every one of them. The day the Parliament got these powers is often remembered as an important date in the march towards democracy, and the day it lost it (as Venezuela did in 2017) is often the day the country devolves in an autocracy. “

I find this interesting, in light of the current UK situation (PM shuts down Parliament because he was losing control).

45

Barry 09.10.19 at 6:12 pm

I also notice that Z, like oh-so-many Brexiters, has dropped all of those promises about prosperity.

46

Dipper 09.10.19 at 8:23 pm

@ Barry

Just a reminder that the despotic PM Johnson offered a general election, and the outraged defenders of democracy the opposition turned it down, and then ordered phones and communications of their political opponents to be seized.

47

notGoodenough 09.10.19 at 8:52 pm

[Ignoring the 142 words those elipses neatly ignore, or – you know – just asking someone for clarification of their position rather than assuming it (which considering they are on CT is pretty rude in itself)….]

As I’ve said before, I don’t like to try and guess what someone is thinking, preferring to analyse what they say and do. If, however, I were forced to guess why someone might have some objections on the basis of one sentence alone (and not the many, many posts where they have exhaustively laid out their position, with citations, data, etc.), I would look at what they wrote:

“So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged”

one might (just maybe, you understand) imagine that John Quiggin’s objection is to the “poorer” and ” more isolated” bits in that sentance, rather than the “ otherwise largely unchanged” bit.

You know, in the sense of “well Mr Smith, you will of course never walk again, but otherwise your life will be largely unchanged.”

In other news, it turns out that if you want to discuss what someone has written, it is rather useful to actually read it. Otherwise, to those capable of “scrolling up” and “looking at what you’ve said”, you might look a bit of a fool. Astounding that, I know, but it is one of those useful tips one picks up in life…..

48

Hidari 09.10.19 at 8:56 pm

@40

I think we are furiously agreeing with each other. It’s certainly true that the City of London as a whole backs Remain, as do the rich generally (Brexit may or may not be a ‘working class revolt’, opinions differ, but Remain is definitely an upper middle class ideology: as the JRF and the LSE reports pointed out, there are few things which are better predictors of voting remain than education and income (especially both taken together): not all working class people voted for Brexit but the vast majority of wealthy, ‘well’ educated people voted for Remain. And if one thinks about it, there are very good reasons for this: if you are well off you have benefited from EU membership by definition (or at least it hasn’t hindered you): why would you vote to leave?

But hedge fund managers, at last some of them, back Brexit. And some more conventional capitalists also do (Dyson, the ‘Spoons guy, a few others) mostly self-proclaimed ‘mavericks’. In a democracy, it’s important how the populace thinks. But in an oligarchy like the UK, what section of capital supports which of the ‘choices’ presented to a stupefied populace is a more useful question.

About the Shock Doctrine: watch how easy it was for the Right to portray 2008 as a failure of the ‘left’ (!!!) and how what was necessary was ‘austerity’. You think they won’t be able to pull that off again? It will be trivially easy to blame the failings for Brexit on an ‘intransigent’ EU (and the left for ‘tying their hands’) and whipping up hatred of immigrants etc. is always a vote winner.

Economic growth makes people more ‘benevolent’ and more inclined to think the best of others and (e.g) immigrants: recession and depression generally speaking makes people ‘meaner’. The Right have a vested interest (paradoxically) in lowering growth and generally making things more shit: cf austerity, which led to Brexit which will lead to more hatred of immigrants etc.

https://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2016/07/camerons-failure-austerity.html

Playing the Brexit game is a game that’s difficult for the Right to lose: even if it’s a complete disaster they might be able to turn that to their advantage.

49

Hidari 09.10.19 at 9:03 pm

@38

‘My guess is that a significant number of Brits have had enough of all the silliness, and will back Bojo as long as he can bring the current nonsense to an end. Labour has now pretty much (lost) all credibility and I say that as a Corbyn supporter.’

The polls would certainly seem to agree with you, at least at the moment. Labour started to tank in the polls when they abandoned Corbyn’s careful cultivated ambiguity over Brexit and became a much more obviously ‘remainy’ party. The more BoJo earns the emnity of the chattering classes (especially over issues which normal people don’t give a shit about like ‘competence’ and ‘sticking to procedures’) the more he zooms ahead in the polls. You would have thought liberals would have learned their lesson after the Trump debacle, but apparently not.

50

notGoodenough 09.10.19 at 9:19 pm

It is rather bleakly ironic to see people complaining about how the EU are a bunch of unelected monsters “we didn’t get to vote for, how undemocratic!”, given that the UK now has its 2nd unelected PM.

Well, to be fair, we never get to vote for PM directly. Voters select a MP to represent their constituency. PMs are officially appointed by the Queen, and stay in office as long as they can command the confidence of the House of Commons (or until the next election).

“But surely nG, you get to appoint a PM by voting in the general election? You know, in the sense of [usually within the context of a public campaign which is largely open]”

Since 1900, the post of PM has changed hand 28 times. Depending on how you count it*, 10 or 11 times was following a general election. The remaining 17 changeovers happened outside of elections. Of those 17, three were followed by an election called within 50 days of the new Prime Minister taking office.

So no, we don’t generally get to directly elect or PM within the context of a public campaign which is largely open.

*Note: Labour’s Ramsay Macdonald who, in 1924, despite coming second, managed to form a coalition government with the Liberal party. Gosh, how undemocratic – the person who didn’t get the majority of votes became PM!

Let’s look at how the EU elects their president:

“Each new president is nominated by the European Council and formally elected by the European Parliament, for a five-year term. “

Now, I freely admit I am not an expert in such matters, but it seems to me (as a layperson), that if your argument is that the difference is how many layers there are between your vote and the representative, then I would ask you what exactly is the limit? 1, 2, 10? Where does it go from democratic to undemocratic? Or is it more of a gradient – a direct vote is democratic, voting for someone who votes is less so, and so on…?

There are, in my opinion, fair criticisms one can level at the EU. But it rather seems to me that those being levelled now are being used (as the old joke about statistics goes) in the same way that a drunk uses lamp-posts — for support rather than illumination.

51

J-D 09.10.19 at 9:57 pm

Z

I could go through your post line by line and find some points I agree with and others for which there are valid challenges to be made.

But on reflection I’m unsure of the value of that.

What I’m thinking about now is: how relevant are the points you raise to Dipper’s concerns?

If the structure of the EU was changed to reduce the differences between its legislative procedures and those of member States; if the European Parliament was granted the power to initiate legislation; if the head of the European Commission was directly elected by the voters of EU member countries–would Dipper then say, ‘That meets my concerns, I’m satisfied with these new arrangements, I no longer desire UK withdrawal from the EU’?

There’s no way to be sure without a response from Dipper, but would you be prepared to hazard a guess of your own?

52

J-D 09.10.19 at 10:12 pm

And what ‘massive’ effort is involved? Or more specifically: how is the effort considered unjustifiably ‘massive,’ when every country not in the EU (the overwhelming majority of countries) engages in that massive effort-does all the things the EU does, by themselves? For instance; whatever the effort involved is, it is being performed, every day, by Canada.

Effort expended in Canada in connection with efforts to withdraw Canada from membership of the EU: Exactly nil.
Effort expended in the UK in connection with efforts to withdraw the UK from membership of the EU: Not exactly nil.

Perhaps you could say that the EU has never stopped Parliament from making laws (and regulations) that aren’t being made by the EU.

Dipper referred explicitly to wanting what John Quiggin has. What John Quiggin has is two levels of government both with bodies with powers to make laws but neither of them with an unrestricted power to make laws. So what’s the difference?

“That is, granting the assumption that nothing will be changed, which I doubt. I don’t think, judging from his past writings, that it’s John Quiggin’s opinion either.”

??? The whole point of the post was for John to quote his own words from three years ago that he didn’t think anything significant will be changed.

“I’m finding it hard to see that anything will happen to justify the massive effort involved…So, after a successful Brexit, Britain will be a little poorer and more isolated than before, but otherwise largely unchanged.”

The statement ‘If there is no disaster, there will be no significant change’ is not synonymous with the statement ‘There will be no significant change’. It is, however, logically equivalent to the statement ‘If there is significant change, there will be disaster’.

In the passage quoted, John Quiggin wrote ‘… after a successful Brexit, Britain will be … largely unchanged’. An earlier paragraph from the 2016 post quoted begins: ‘It’s easy to imagine a disaster, and maybe that will happen. But suppose everything goes relatively smoothly.’

Judging by John Quiggin’s other writings on the subject, he thinks disaster likely. In the passage quoted, he adds to that opinion, ‘If not disaster, then nothing much’.

In other words, I feel confident that John Quiggin’s view is that, colloquially, they’re on a hiding to nothing.

53

John Quiggin 09.11.19 at 1:17 am

What J-D and notGoodEnough said.

54

nastywoman 09.11.19 at 4:03 am

@Hidari
He:
”It’s certainly true that the City of London as a whole backs Remain, as do the rich generally”
Me:
as do young Brits generally…
He:
(Brexit may or may not be a ‘working class revolt’, opinions differ, but Remain is definitely an upper middle class ideology”:
Me:
Remain is definitely a open-minded ideology too.
He:
”there are few things which are better predictors of voting remain than education and income (especially both taken together): not all working class people voted for Brexit but the vast majority of wealthy, ‘well’ educated people voted for Remain”.
Me:
AND the majority of all of the very peaceful – their European friends loving Brit – too.

So in conclusion: If ”young – open-minded – very peaceful – their European friends loving – Brits voted for Remain – who cares if they are at the same time also ”well educated” and/or ”wealthy” – as long as they are ”young – open-minded – very peaceful – and their European friends loving – Brits”

And y’all better never forget that!

55

Dipper 09.11.19 at 6:29 am

It is not just about the system of government under which you live, it is about who you share that with and whether between you there is a sense of mutual obligation and understanding.

It would meet the democratic standard for New Zealand to become a state in Australia, or Canada to become several states in an expanded United states of America. I sense amongst ‘little New Zealanders’ and ‘little Canadians’ there isn’t much appetite for such moves, and I suspect for the same reasons many in the UK are not keen on being in the EU under European law etc, which is that New Zealand doesn’t have a particular problem that becoming part of an expanded Australia would solve, but becoming part of an expanded Australia would leave it open to exploitation by Australians who can see extra resources and opportunity for them and have no obvious reason to make the lives of New Zealanders better.

56

Jim Buck 09.11.19 at 6:38 am

Let’s get Xmas dinner and the Boxing Day sales over before we brexthick and clog the nation’s trading arteries. Surely Mr Johnson can see that?

57

nastywoman 09.11.19 at 7:53 am

– and if Dipper has a problem to live under a ”system of government” which is far more ”progressive” than the system of government he lives under now – that’s actually much more his problem than ours.

58

J-D 09.11.19 at 9:01 am

Dipper

I live in New South Wales. In 1900, New South Wales voters approved by majority of a proposal for New South Wales to join an Australian Federation, which duly came to pass on 1 January 1901. I am inclined to think that was probably a mistake. The reason I incline that way is it’s not clear to me how people then would have benefited substantially from the change, which I know must have had significant costs: the cost of dislocation as new institutions and procedures were established and partly or wholly replaced old ones; the cost of the energy and resources that went into making those changes, when they could have been spent on improving people’s lives in other ways.

However, if there were a vote now on whether New South Wales should secede from the Commonwealth of Australia, I think I would vote No. Now, it’s secession that would carry with it the cost of dislocation as new institutions and procedures were established to take over functions from old ones and the cost of the energy and resources that would have to go into making those changes when they could have been spent on improving people’s lives in other ways.

Serbia and Montenegro are the two states which are currently negotiating the terms of future membership of the EU. If they join, they will face the same kinds of costs of dislocation as I’ve mentioned, and those costs won’t be justified if there aren’t benefits also. I’m not sure, for either of them, what the expected benefits of membership are, or what problems they currently have for which EU membership is expected to be a solution. But the question facing the UK is not the same question, it’s a converse one. For the UK, staying in the EU (no matter what else there is to be said about it) does not mean the kind of dislocation that results from joining the EU: the UK has already paid the costs of that dislocation. For the UK, the prospect of future dislocation, with its costs, is attached not to remaining but to leaving. It’s not remaining which needs to be justified in terms of the benefits it will provide, or the problems it will solve; it’s leaving. It would be different if there was not much disparity between the costs attached to remaining and the costs attached to leaving; but that is not the case. There’s a substantial asymmetry.

59

Hidari 09.11.19 at 9:16 am

@54

“He:
”It’s certainly true that the City of London as a whole backs Remain, as do the rich generally”
Me:
as do young Brits generally…”

That is of course true. What one infers from that is a whole other ballgame. There seems to be a tacit belief that ‘all’ young people are poor and ‘all’ (or at least ‘most’) older people are wealthy, something which is obviously not true.

Here’s a short article about Brexit and young people: I can’t vouch for its veracity.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/b8d097b0-3ad4-4dd9-aa25-af6374292de0

60

John Quiggin 09.11.19 at 9:45 am

Dipper, I would be interested in your thoughts on the WTO.

61

Dipper 09.11.19 at 10:41 am

Dipper, I would be interested in your thoughts on the WTO.”

I’m not sure what you want me to say here. I’m not an expert in international trade. But I like the idea of independent organisations providing certain guarantees and legal mechanisms in international affairs. One of my main issues with the EU is the use of what should be independent functions to push an aggressive agenda of federalism without any concept of independence or fairness. For instance, I’d be happy to submit to WTO opinions on the feasibility of a soft border in Ireland, but would never accept any EU verdict on the same issue as they have a clear partial agenda.

I’m not a WTO terms Brexit fanatic. I’d like a trade deal with the EU, as well as trade deals with other nations such as Australia and Canada.

62

nastywoman 09.11.19 at 11:03 am

@59
”There seems to be a tacit belief that ‘all’ young people are poor and ‘all’ (or at least ‘most’) older people are wealthy, something which is obviously not true”.

So I don’t belief in this belief neither but I’m very happy to read:
However, it is true that the younger you are, the more likely you were to vote to stay in the EU – studies suggest just over 70% of 18-24 year-olds voted Remain, while just under 30% opted to vote Leave. The older you are, the more likely you were to vote Leave. So, it’s fair to say that on the whole, younger people were more pro-EU than their parents and grandparents – only 40% of those aged 65 and over supported Remain”.

And that’s why I really would be curious if there would be a comparable statistic for ”open-minded” versus ”close-minded” too?

63

TM 09.11.19 at 4:34 pm

Z 41: I don’t think anybody here disputes that the institutional setup of the EU has shortcomings, but your arguments do not justify your claim that these shortcomings are of an entirely different order than those of so-called democratic nation states. For example, in the US the president, appointed by an only partially representative body, has veto power over all legislation. The current president, need I remind you, lost the popular vote by 2 million votes. Legislation also requires the consent of two chambers, one of which is by design non-representative, while the second chamber has also at times been dominated by a minority party. In the UK, the PM is appointed and the legislature is so unrepresentative that a party representing barely one third of voters may yield absolutely unrestricted power. The French parliament, if I am well informed, is also hardly representative of the electorate and need I remind you that France has been shaken by huge protests and riots because large parts of the population feel unrepresented by their political institutions.

I find Z’s apologia for bourgeois nation state democracy rather surprising given his often expressed critical views of same institutions. I would not refer to the institutions of countries like the US and UK as democratic in any meaningful sense. They are perhaps better than outright dictatorship but they are so obviously flawed that comparing those institutions favorably to those of the EU has no credibility to me.

I think Dipper is at least more straightforward when he states: “It is not just about the system of government under which you live, it is about who you share that with and whether between you there is a sense of mutual obligation and understanding.” The institutional setup is really beside the point, Dipper doesn’t want to share “his” polity with the wrong people. Of course he already does, because large portions of the UK itself do not share his “understanding” of the world. Homogeneous nation states are a fiction and have always been, but that fiction is indispensable to many people and no rational argument will disillusion them.

64

Wats 09.11.19 at 4:55 pm

@61 Not sure why the EU should be impartial about its land border with the UK (not an island. Who knew?).

65

Stephen 09.11.19 at 6:03 pm

TM@62: “I would not refer to the institutions of countries like the US and UK as democratic in any meaningful sense. They are perhaps better than outright dictatorship”.

Much virtue in your “perhaps”. Some people would prefer “indisputably, and by a very long way”.

But you may be writing from experience. How much time have you spent living under dictatorships, or talking to survivors who have done so?

And which if any institutions would you call democratic in a meaningful sense?

66

Dipper 09.11.19 at 6:53 pm

@ TM ” Dipper doesn’t want to share “his” polity with the wrong people”

Ireland broke away from the UK. Was that because they didn’t want to share their island with the wrong people? Are all independence movements racist at heart?

Rephrasing problems in incorrect ways that mean you can express some kind of supposed moral authority whilst avoiding discussing actual issues isn’t going to fool anyone.

67

J-D 09.11.19 at 9:27 pm

Dipper

I hazard the guess that what John Quiggin would like you to say is why you are prepared to accept compulsory directives from a supra-national body when that body is the WTO, but not when it is the EU.

What I would like, on the other hand, is for you to explain your objections to federalism.

Stephen

I agree that the institutions of countries like the US and the UK are better by a long way than outright dictatorship, but I would say exactly the same about the institutions of the EU.

Dipper

TM quoted your exact words, which were ‘It is not just about the system of government under which you live, it is about who you share that with …’

Who is it that you don’t want to share your system of government with, and why?

68

notGoodenough 09.11.19 at 9:32 pm

It is very interesting to read these comments, and to learn from people far more versed in history than I. I was, for example, previously under the illusion we have signed a “treaty” and “joined” the EU.

Now I learn that we had been invaded by the EU, forceably conquered 500 years ago, and that the EU has proceeded to
Engaged in physical violence to force UK farmers off their lands
Established military checkpoints throughout the UK
Engaged in several rebelion suppressions, executing those involved
Shot unarmed protesters who were marching in support of Brexit
etc…etc…etc…

More seriously, I agree that “rephrasing problems in incorrect ways that mean you can express some kind of supposed moral authority whilst avoiding discussing actual issues isn’t going to fool anyone”.

I wonder if saying things like “your unfettered unchecked Remain Parliament is going full Stasi”, or “the insistence of Remainers on not discussing the issues raised by Leavers, but instead undermining their status as equal humans”, rather than adressing the actual things people have said and done would seem to be edging a little towards that catagory?

Nah, couldn’t be.

69

Alex SL 09.12.19 at 1:44 am

As a (non-UK) EU citizen I also find these kinds of discussions extremely interesting. For some time I was wondering if the sovereignty argument was based simply on a failure to understand trade-offs and the requirement to accept shared rules when interacting with others (therefore my club member analogy).

Dipper’s language makes clear that this is not so. The problem instead appears to be that many brexiters see the EU as an enemy instead of a club. Unfortunately that means that no conversation or argument can be had, because once you see somebody as out to hurt you any evidence to the contrary can be dismissed as a trick or lie meant to take you in.

It is also fascinating what this says about the two sides in this controversy (and, by extension, similar controversies that are cast in parallel terms). Urban, mobile, citizens of nowhere like myself are often called arrogant for believing that leavers / Trumpists / rural conservatives / etc. vote against their own interests because they are ill-informed or mistaken. But I must say, when faced with, for example, the alternative of (a) assuming that somebody who clearly has no idea what the common market is and how it works may be ill-informed or (b) assuming that somebody who argues for the benefits of the common market is a vile traitor who really does not believe in those benefits but instead lies because he wants to sell the nation out to an evil empire I kind of have a strong opinion on who is the better person.

(And the same for e.g. “you are wrong, a Green New Deal would actually create lots of jobs” versus “you treehuggers deliberately want to destroy our economy because you hate your own country”.)

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ph 09.12.19 at 2:15 am

@63 “I find Z’s apologia for bourgeois nation state democracy rather surprising given his often expressed critical views of same institutions. I would not refer to the institutions of countries like the US and UK as democratic in any meaningful sense.”

Your surprise isn’t the least bit surprising given your evident ignorance of the history of democratic nation states. Which democratic nation states are not bourgeois? Are you aware that the foundation of the British, French, and American revolutions have largely about property rights for the middle-class and equality of opportunity (not outcome) for all.

As bad as the US surely can be, there would ZERO democracy in Europe today were it not for the sacrifice of 440,000 American soldiers in the second world war. NONE. Forget Swedish, Finnish, or Swiss neutrality in the face of a German or Soviet victory.

Empires in Europe survived the war. Spain survived as a fascist dictatorship until Franco died. France, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland shed immense amounts of yellow, brown, and black blood in Asia and Africa after the defeat of Japan, Germany, and Italy to retain control of their colonies into the sixties and up to the present in the case of France.

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Dipper 09.12.19 at 5:48 am

@ notGoodenough

The UK joined the Common Market in 1973. Since then its been through two name changes. Our government signed further treaties principally Maastricht and Lisbon. On neither of these did it give a referendum.

Today we have the UK Prime Minister being in essence charged with a Thought Crime in that whilst his action was perfectly legal the courts are now deliberating on what he was thinking.

Every state has restrictions on who can live there. For a state to function properly people need to feel some sense of commonality. Belgium, for instance, doesn’t have this as it is split between two groups who seem to be permanently locked in argument, hence their love of the EU because it saves them from themselves.

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Dipper 09.12.19 at 6:02 am

@ Wats

Not sure why the EU should be impartial about its land border with the UK (not an island. Who knew?).

Personally I’m not fussed about a hard border there. But the local residents don’t seem to want it. The two countries signed the Good Friday Agreement, and many have said a hard border would break that agreement although the treaty itself doesn’t say that. Now they are proposing to split off NI from the rest of the UK, which really is a breach of the treaty but the people who were complaining before that under no circumstances could the treaty be broken have now gone quiet when they are trying to break it themselves.

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Hidari 09.12.19 at 7:47 am

@68
Yes: I can’t be alone in finding the usage of the language of anti-imperialism by Dipper and Tim Worstall rather mind boggling. Can either of those two fine gentlemen point to any previous enthusiasms in their prior life for other anti-imperialist struggles? Scottish independence? Welsh independence? A united Ireland? In 1982 were Tim and Dipper to be found waving Argentinian flags and demanding that Argentina keep ‘Las Malvinas’? Or cheering in 1999 when Hong Kong was returned to China?

Or is it, by chance, only English nationalism of which they are in favour and might it be the case that the only ‘anti-imperialist’ struggle to which they have ever committed themselves in reality is the ‘struggle’ for England (sorry, Britain, what was I thinking?) to ‘liberate’ itself from the ‘shackles’ of the EU ‘Empire’?

@66 ignoring for a second the ridiculous comparison with the Irish independence movement, you seem to be rewriting history (again) and, yet again, obfuscating the extent to which this entire clusterfuck is all the Tories’ fault.

Please remember that we are in this disaster area because, in 2017, Theresa May took it upon herself to call an election which she then lost (i.e by not winning it) and was then forced to go into a coalition with the extreme-right wing terrorist-associated DUP (an act which, with your new found enthusiasm for Irish nationalism, I expect you will condemn vociferously). It is the DUP that has been the main sticking point in sorting out a deal with the EU (i.e. the notorious backstop).

Also: while it’s true that one can criticise Labour’s decision not to back an early election, who was it who introduced the disastrous Fixed Term Parliament Act? Why it was none other than ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron, another of his epic fuckups, which has now turned out (surprise!) to be yet another of his complete disasters.

And let’s not even mention Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson’s current record as PM.

Despite what you are constantly implying, no one is trying to overturn the referendum. And again, despite your grotesque comparisons of the EU to the racist British Empire, the EU don’t seem to care too much about whether or not we leave (indeed, there are plenty of people, especially in France, who will be quite happy about it. The French didn’t want us in in the first place remember).

As you would be the first person to insist in other contexts, all the major political parties voted to ‘accept’ the referendum (they didn’t have to do that). And apart from the Monster Raving Loony Pa-, sorry, I meant the LibDems*, no major political party has promised to overturn the results of the referendum, and the LibDems will probably backtrack on this, as they backtrack on all their promises.

It’s just that with the disastrous Tory FTPA, and with the results of May’s disastrous decision to call an election in 2017, leaving the EU has turned out to be quite difficult to manage. There’s no conspiracy. If the Tory party had been remotely competent, we would be out by now.

*And the soon-to-be ex-Labour MP Tom Watson.

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Hidari 09.12.19 at 7:54 am

@61 if you are claiming that the EU has a ‘partial agenda’ whatever that means, that is probably true, insofar as I understand your claim, but if you are claiming that the WTO does not have a similar agenda, you are sadly mistaken.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_World_Trade_Organization

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Z 09.12.19 at 12:00 pm

notGoodenough and TM misunderstand my position so as to essentially have it backwards (then there is Barry, who thinks I’m a Brexiter, which is funny, and who thinks I have dropped pretense of prosperity, which does not even reach that level).

I do find the prorogation of the British Parliament by an unelected PM to prevent a bill to pass a flagrant violation of ordinary democratic norms. Consequently, I also consider the permanent inability of the European Parliament to pass a bill a flagrant violation of democratic norms, which is permanent. When the Parliament has been stripped of the entirety of its power by an appointed body, as in Venezuela in 2017, the violation is still more extreme. That prorogation was to prevent the Parliament to pass a bill on a trade deal and more generally on international relations, a gross violation of people’s sovereignty, in my views. Likewise, I consider the fact that the Council may (and usually does) completely bypass the European Parliament on the exact same issues an even more serious violation of people’s sovereignty. When the power to deal with those issues is entirely in the hand of an Islamic Council, as in Iran, the violation is still more extreme. I do consider the American Electoral College a manifest attempt to suppress the expression of the political will of the majority. Consequently, I consider the even more layered system of appointment, nomination and validation of the European Union an even more manifest attempt to suppress the expression of the political will of the majority. When the system is still more multitiered, as in China, the violation is even more extreme. I am troubled by the veto power of the American President, and though I am partly convinced by the argument that it is a check on the potential tyrannic power of the Congress held by someone who has an equal claim to represent the people, I think that on balance I would prefer it removed, if I were American. Consequently, I am even more troubled by the fact that Head of the Commission does not even need to exercise a veto to prevent a bill, while having essentially no claim to being a representative of the will of the electorate and by the fact that the Council can completely bypass the Parliament on essential issues, like. When that blocking power is exercised by an appointed leader, as in Iran, the violation is still more extreme.

Some people here seem to agree that Johnson’s suspension of the Parliament, Trump’s election despite losing the popular vote or his veto power are problematic, and I assume that they believe that Venezuela’s suspension of the Parliament, the Chinese system or the Iranian Islamic Council are problematic, but the European system, which lies in between, is mysteriously fine by them. I admit I can’t imagine any standard that results in that conclusion.

@notGoodenough if your argument is that the difference is how many layers there are between your vote and the representative, then I would ask you what exactly is the limit? 1, 2, 10? Where does it go from democratic to undemocratic? Or is it more of a gradient – a direct vote is democratic, voting for someone who votes is less so, and so on…?

I admit that question took me off guard (I thought its answer was well known since Condorcet, at the very latest). It is an easy mathematical observation that the rules of the electoral system are not neutral, and that vastly different outcomes can be obtained through elections, depending on how they are organized and the votes tallied. It is also easy to observe that with every systems of rounds, cycles, layers, subdivisions of the electorate… you introduce, you allow more manipulation of the results with the electorate staying the same. Aside from being mathematically true, it is also quite historically well-known: the existence of the Electoral College allows the election of Bush or Trump, the outcome of the second round in France is frequently very different from what a single round system would have produced etc. In fact, it is so well-understood that every anti-democratic system in History, from France’s Ancien Régime to the Segregated South to today’s Hungary relies heavily on such contraptions. Also, the European Union.

@J-D What I’m thinking about now is: how relevant are the points you raise to Dipper’s concerns?

Why do you ask that question? You asked me to explain in what sense laws in the EU were not made in remotely the same way as in other democratic countries, according to me, and I answered. The impact this has on Dipper is unknown to me, but if I were to hazard a guess, as you invite me to do, it is nil.

@TM and need I remind you that France has been shaken by huge protests and riots because large parts of the population feel unrepresented by their political institutions.

You don’t need to remind me. Nor do you need to remind the family and friends of Steve Maia Caniço. Need I remind you that this remark was rather nasty and quite a bit xenophobic?

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Quentin 09.12.19 at 3:31 pm

Racism was a common complaint by Remain about Leave, but it was – apart from a few – never about immigration per se but rather control of immigration. Which is why all the accusations misfired and strengthened the Leave cause.

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Stephen 09.12.19 at 3:43 pm

Hidari@73: asking if Dipper and Tim Worstall had any “previous enthusiasms in their prior life for other anti-imperialist struggles? Scottish independence? Welsh independence? A united Ireland? In 1982 were Tim and Dipper to be found waving Argentinian flags and demanding that Argentina keep ‘Las Malvinas’? Or cheering in 1999 when Hong Kong was returned to China?”

Well, I can’t answer for them. For myself, I have felt some enthusiasm for a range of anti-imperialist struggles, which I’ve not had the need to express here: in former times for the struggles against German imperialism in Europe, more recently for an independent Kurdistan and Tibet, for a free Kashmir, for the happily achieved liberation of rather a large number of former Soviet satellites, for the struggles of the constituent parts of Yugoslavia to break away from the domination of Belgrade, for the independence of Taiwan, for the current pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong … but I fear you may regard these as the wrong sort of anti-imperialism.

However, when it comes to your “anti-imperialist struggles”: if you think that Scotland has been the victim of “imperialism” you are living in a world of your own. It is a strange kind of imperialism that allowed the not too distant Blair government, in which the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer [= Finance Minister], Lord Chancellor [= Justice Minister] and Foreign Minister were all Scots, in which votes on an English matter could be decided by the contribution of Scottish MPs. Or the current system in which Scotland receives more government funding per head than England (not that I complain about that; with an unhealthy and ageing population, worse climate, great expanses of sparsely inhabited wilderness, and a large number of islands that must not be allowed to become isolated, they fully deserve it).

The union of Scotland and England was by mutual agreement, Scotland being effectively bankrupt at the time (look up the Darien Scheme, intended to ruin England and Holland but backfiring disastrously). The union of England and Wales was under a Welsh dynasty that had by a sort of reverse takeover come to rule England.

The recent struggle for a united Ireland involved an attempt by an essentially fascist movement to seize control of a neighbouring territory without the consent of its inhabitants. If that wasn’t imperialism, I don’t know what would be.

Ditto, in spades, the attempt by the Argentine military junta, who had imprisoned, tortured, and murdered rather a large number of their own people, to capture the Falklands.

And if you think that the predictable Chinese government treatment of Hong Kong is not imperialist, I have no hope for you.

Have a nice day.

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TM 09.12.19 at 3:45 pm

Z: “Some people here seem to agree that Johnson’s suspension of the Parliament, Trump’s election despite losing the popular vote or his veto power are problematic, … but the European system … is mysteriously fine by them.”

Except that I explicitly stated the opposite:
“I don’t think anybody here disputes that the institutional setup of the EU has shortcomings, but your arguments do not justify your claim that these shortcomings are of an entirely different order than those of so-called democratic nation states.”

“Need I remind you that this remark was rather nasty and quite a bit xenophobic?”

Seriously, it’s xenophobic to critically mention France (as an example, along with UK and US) in a discussion about the democratic legitimacy of political institutions?

In fact, it is so well-understood that every anti-democratic system in History, from France’s Ancien Régime to the Segregated South to today’s Hungary relies heavily on such contraptions. Also, the European Union.

I admit I missed the part in history class about the Ancien Régime relying on several rounds of voting to get its way. And the segregated South relied on the very simple “contraption” of preventing Blacks from voting. The EU by the way has given millions of EU citizens the right to vote in local government elections outside their own country of citizenship, people who hitherto didn’t have a vote in their local affairs, which is a rather remarkable expansion of democratic rights. Also by the way, Londoners for decades didn’t even have an elected local government because the central government, representing way less than a majority of the people, simply abolished the local government. But it’s the EU that is the undemocratic monster.

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notGoodenough 09.12.19 at 3:46 pm

@ Dipper 71

(1)
You directly compared military occupation of another country to the UK signing treaties as part of the EU.

You also complained about people “rephrasing problems in incorrect ways that mean you can express some kind of supposed moral authority whilst avoiding discussing actual issues”.

Since I apparently need to explain this far more clearly: my point is that when you engage in ostentatiously hyperbolic liberties (for example, were you to intimate that people who are pro-Remain are big city elitists who are pro child-rape), it seems that you are holding yourself to a different standard than everyone else.

I find that rather odd.

(2)
Since you raise the subject: In 1975 there was a referendum (1975 United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum) “Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”.

This was the first national referendum ever held.

It was, as far as I can tell, the only one, until the national referendum on AV in 2011.

It would seem that the UK government made a lot of decisions without a referendum. Is your position that every decision made without a referendum is undemocratic?

And if the source of your contention is something more along the lines of “I object to the UK handing over sovereignty without a referendum”, then it would seem your objection is to the actions of the UK and not the EU. Which you propose to resolve, by handing over more power to the UK government. Which you then object to, as acting in an undemocratic way. So is the problem the UK government and Parliament has too much power over its citizens, or not enough?

(3)
There currently are restrictions on who can live, or even visit, the UK. Are you asserting that no such restrictions exist?

(4)
“For a state to function properly people need to feel some sense of commonality.”

The word “some” is doing a lot of work there. Do you think that you have more of a sense of commonality with literally everyone from the UK than you do with someone from any other part of the EU? Do you think that that is reciprocated? Or is your suggestion that, when Brexit has occurred, we should have a “Dipper-britishness” test – and anyone who deviates to strongly from your positions must be exiled? I suspect there may be some UK people who would object to that….

(5)
“Belgium, for instance, doesn’t have this as it is split between two groups who seem to be permanently locked in argument, hence their love of the EU because it saves them from themselves.”

Well, shall we leave to one side your apparent mystical ability to read the minds of every single person from Belgium?

It is a good thing for such a statement that the UK has been of a single mind regarding every topic up until the Brexit vote. Otherwise it would look like you were making a very bold pronouncement on the basis of very little fact.

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TM 09.12.19 at 4:33 pm

One more thing. The EU cannot be run like a nation state with institutions of like say those of the UK because it isn’t a nation state, it’s a group of sovereign nation states that have agreed to delegate some of their sovereignty to supranational entity called EU. Therefore to claim that the EU can’t be democratic if it isn’t run like a nation state is meaningless. If you think that supranational entities are a bad idea per so, fine, but then there is no way the EU could ever find your favor. If however you think that traditional nation states are ill equipped to deal with the global challenges of our time and that supranational agency is our best realistic chance to deal with globalized capitalism, then one must accept that there is no alternative to those additional institutional layers (*). Fact is that an EU run by a Prime Minister in the British model would have much less legitimacy than the one we have now. The Commission and the Council of Ministers are set up the way they are because they *have* to represent 28 different countries, each of which wants to have a say. And the Commission President has way less powers than a British PM, *and* she is also elected by the Parliament, contrary to the British PM.

(*) And if you think that the EU should rather be a federal state like the US than a confederation of nation states, fine, but politically that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

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notGoodenough 09.12.19 at 5:47 pm

@ Z 75
I am not sure where I mad assertions regarding your position, but since this is something I typically try to avoid you have my apologies.

I think, however we may be talking past each other a little?

You talk a bit about prorogation, but since this is a topic I did not mention I assume that is directed elsewhere, and will instead address the comment directed at me.

“Some people here seem to agree that Johnson’s suspension of the Parliament, Trump’s election despite losing the popular vote or his veto power are problematic, and I assume that they believe that Venezuela’s suspension of the Parliament, the Chinese system or the Iranian Islamic Council (IIC) are problematic, but the European system, which lies in between, is mysteriously fine by them. I admit I can’t imagine any standard that results in that conclusion.”

For me, I would not make that assertion, nor would I say the European system is “mysteriously fine”. I would say all systems have pros and cons. Some have more pros than cons, others vice versa.

responding to @notGoodenough
I think you may have misunderstood me, or perhaps I misunderstood you. I am not an expert, so I hope you will forgive me if my terminology is incorrect, but I believe it will be sufficient for my meaning.

“It is also easy to observe that with every systems of rounds, cycles, layers, subdivisions of the electorate… you introduce, you allow more manipulation of the results with the electorate staying the same.”

While I think the exact degree any particular system is flawed may be debatable, and dependent on the system in question, I am prepared to accept your assessment as axiomatically true (tentatively, as I hold all positions). However, as you yourself point out, people seem to be able to make a differentiation between the UK and the Iranian Islamic Council (IIC). I would venture that the UK is – at least to some extent – perhaps a shade more democratic than the IIC. Perhaps you would agree?

In that case, we can see that not all systems are equal, and not all equally problematic.
Indeed, as I pointed out, the UK itself is not a perfect democracy. This does not mean, however, I view it as unreasonablly undemocratic – merely that it is a system which has its faults. I believe I can object to what I perceive as faults in the UK system without advocating for its destruction, and indeed may view it as something which has more pros than cons and thus is worth maintaining (while naturally seeking to improve it).

Similarly, I could say that the EU is not a perfect democracy. This does not mean, however, I view it as unreasonablly undemocratic – merely that it is a system which has its own faults. I believe I can object to what I perceive as faults in the EU system without advocating for its destruction, and indeed may view it as something which has more pros than cons and thus is worth maintaining (while naturally seeking to improve it).

There isn’t, therefore, a “mystery” where I think the EU is perfect but all else is flawed – I do not hold that position.

I simply am unconvinced that the difference in democracy between the UK and EU is so large that removing the UK from the EU would be worth paying any price. That does not mean I hold the contrary position (that staying in the EU would be worth paying any price). It merely would seem reasonable to me to assess what the price being payed is, and whether it is worth what is achieved in return.

I don’t believe that that is a position inconsistent internally, nor do I believe it is excessively unreasonable. Indeed, I would venture that many people across the Pro-Brexit to Pro-Remain spectrum will have done that very thing (though perhaps coming to different conclusions as to what the pros and cons of EU membership are and whether they are worth it).

As you say, the EU is not a perfect democracy. However, I would venture I have yet to see a perfect democracy – perhaps one day I will, but I don’t think I will hold my breath.

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Dipper 09.13.19 at 6:01 am

I’m not keen on Johnson proroguing Parliament. Also, parliament should probably be open now given the highest court in the land that has pronounced on it has said it is not legal. But proroguing is something that happens on regular occasions. Johnson didn’t invent a law, he used an existing part of the constitution which gets used regularly.

Re Scottish independence, I’m English and would rather they didn’t leave but it is ultimately their choice and the onus is on the rest of the UK to convince the people of Scotland that being in the union is in their best interests.

A nation is like a large family, in that you might not like them but they are yours, and if things go wrong there is an expectation that you will help. If you dismantle that notion then that means there are people at the bottom of the pile about whom no-one cares. Forming alliances with people in distant lands at the expense of worrying about the people who live next door doesn’t seem particularly progressive to me. And to repeat, fascism in the 1930’s was a pan-European movement of people motivated by a shared ideology.

I’m not particularly in favour of referendums because of what we have seen since the 2016 referendum. We now seem to be in a position where Parliament is run by MP’s who say they are representatives not delegates, they should act according to their consciences, and what we need right now is another referendum so they can be delegated to override the result of the last referendum. In particular, the notion that we should be asked to vote on a deal; deals are complex things that can be amended over time. If we vote to accept it every clause and sub-clause will become part of our constitution we can never touch, because the people voted for it. Unwise.

On the subject of immigration and Britishness, consider the case of the homophobic assault on Gareth Thomas. He is a gay rugby player who was assaulted by a group of Somalis. People who openly favour a multi-cultural society instead of a concept of British values suddenly get very upset when one of those cultures involves beating up gays, and say (rightly in my opinion) we should be a society which values all people and gays and lesbians should be free to be openly gay and lesbian. Which is to say that we as a society should have common values. A kind of Britishness. When it comes to equal rights for women and gay rights, I’m all for those to be included in a notion of ”Britishness’.

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J-D 09.13.19 at 8:50 am

Dipper

For a state to function properly people need to feel some sense of commonality.

This seems to raise the question of why you don’t feel that sense of commonality with the people of other EU members. Perhaps, however, the problem as you perceive it is not that you don’t feel that sense of commonality with the people of other EU members but rather that other people in the UK do not (or so you perceive) feel that sense of commonality, in which case the question raised is why (if you’re correct) they don’t feel that sense of commonality. When people don’t feel a sense of commonality—or when people do feel a sense of commonality, for that matter—it’s not something that happens without a reason.

@J-D What I’m thinking about now is: how relevant are the points you raise to Dipper’s concerns?

Why do you ask that question? You asked me to explain in what sense laws in the EU were not made in remotely the same way as in other democratic countries, according to me, and I answered. The impact this has on Dipper is unknown to me, but if I were to hazard a guess, as you invite me to do, it is nil.

Interpretation and relevance depend on context.

In this instance, Dipper made a comment suggesting that there was a lack or deficit which was the cause of his desire for the UK to leave the EU: that is, there was something he wanted which was not available under the jurisdiction of the EU but would be available in a country independent (that is, not a member) of the EU.

I suggested in response that the thing Dipper wanted was in fact available from EU institutions. You responded that it wasn’t. I asked you for more information. You then gave specific details to demonstrate the difference between EU institutions and national institution.

In context, you were giving details to show the inaccuracy of a response I made to a complaint of Dipper’s: so it’s relevant to consider how significant the details you supplied are to meeting Dipper’s complaint. In the meantime, Dipper has posted other comments indicating that the complaint is not (or not only, or not mostly) about specific institutional structures, which suggests that the details you supplied are of little or no significance to meeting the burden of Dipper’s complaint.

In other words, even if you are right about the ways in which EU institutions are less democratic than national institutions, that’s not what Dipper’s complaint is about (or only a small part of what it’s about); even if EU institutions were as democratic as national institutions, Dipper would still have the same complaint about EU membership (or mostly the same complaint). Also, at the risk of repeating myself, this is relevant to our exchange because the comment of mine to which you were responding was itself a response to Dipper’s complaint and should be understood in that context.

Further, I suspect Dipper’s position is, in this particular respect, representative: I suspect few if any Leavers support withdrawal because of the restrictions on the European Parliament or would drop their objections to EU membership if the Parliament’s democratic power were enhanced.

Stephen

The union of England and Wales was under a Welsh dynasty that had by a sort of reverse takeover come to rule England.

That’s a distortion; but delving into the historical details would be irrelevant to most of this discussion, and even to most of the comment from which I’ve quoted this one sentence.

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Orange Watch 09.13.19 at 3:29 pm

Dipper:

Today we have the UK Prime Minister being in essence charged with a Thought Crime in that whilst his action was perfectly legal the courts are now deliberating on what he was thinking.

But proroguing is something that happens on regular occasions. Johnson didn’t invent a law, he used an existing part of the constitution which gets used regularly.

This is the second time you’ve made this point, and while the problem with the claim seems obvious it also seems like you might keep repeating it until and unless someone explicitly calls you on it. So to put it simply, intent matters in British law (and indeed, in essentially every legal system). Illegal or criminal acts may be forbidden actions regardless of intent, but many forbidden acts consist of acts that are legally permissible under some circumstances for some reasons, but illegal under other circumstances when the actor’s intent can be inferred to meet certain criteria. The fact that proroguing occurs regularly does not mean that proroguing cannot be an abuse of power; it means that the intent in a given circumstances must be considered to determine whether it is being invoked in a customary manner or if there is some other intent that suggests this particular proroguing was a bad-faith act intended to manipulate customs for illegitimate political advantage. Briefly, it is entirely legitimate to consider Johnson’s intent in determining whether or not the proroguing is legitimate, and it is absurd to assert that considering intent WRT British law is wandering into the realm of “thought crimes”.

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Bartholomew 09.13.19 at 7:04 pm

Stephen @77
‘The recent struggle for a united Ireland involved an attempt by an essentially fascist movement to seize control of a neighbouring territory without the consent of its inhabitants. ‘

The IRA was based in West Belfast, Derry and South Armagh. What ‘neighbouring territory’ were they trying to seize control of? Southern Ireland? The inner Hebrides? The Isle of Man?

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Collin Street 09.13.19 at 8:40 pm

Again: people on the hard right displaying difficulties with legal standards based on intent is just another manifestation of the underlying neurological problems, is what my hypothesis suggests. I mean, I’m not the one claiming that Dipper can’t tell what other people are thinking, here.

87

Hidari 09.13.19 at 8:44 pm

@82

‘On the subject of immigration and Britishness, consider the case of the homophobic assault on Gareth Thomas. He is a gay rugby player who was assaulted by a group of Somalis.’

Was he now. You may be right. Perhaps there are facts about this case not easily available on the internet. But a brief perusal of relevant internet sites only talks about Gareth Thomas being attacked by ONE person (not a gang), who was a child, legally, at the time of the attack (16) , and who has subsequently apologised.

The reports that I find made no reference to his ethnicity, but one newspaper did describe him as a ‘local lad’.

As I say, perhaps Dipper has access to information conduits denied to the rest of us lesser mortals: I am prepared to be corrected here.

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Stephen 09.13.19 at 8:59 pm

Bartholomew @85
If you honestly believe that the Provisional IRA were not to a very considerable extent based in, withdrawing when necessary to, and supported by important elements in the Republic of Ireland, you have a considerable amount of reading to do (I’m assuming you are too young to have any direct knowledge). Look up Charles Haughey and Arms Trial, for one thing.

I notice you do not dispute that their “anti-imperialist struggle” ignored the actual opinions of most of the inhabitants of the territory they were hoping to “liberate”.

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J-D 09.13.19 at 11:04 pm

Dipper

A nation is like a large family, in that you might not like them but they are yours, and if things go wrong there is an expectation that you will help. If you dismantle that notion then that means there are people at the bottom of the pile about whom no-one cares.

There are people at the bottom of the pile about whom nobody cares. Is the reason that they have no family to care about them? Often it is, but often it isn’t. Is the reason that they have no nation to care about them? Possibly sometimes it is, but usually it isn’t. Whatever your expectation, in reality people who are in trouble are sometimes helped by family members, sometimes not; sometimes helped by other people in the same country, sometimes not; sometimes helped by people from other countries, sometimes not.

(Conversely, it’s fairly common for family members to be precisely the people who create each other’s problems.)

Forming alliances with people in distant lands at the expense of worrying about the people who live next door doesn’t seem particularly progressive to me.

The category of people you should try to help does not consist of people from your own family, or people from your own neighbourhood, or people from your own country, but rather of people you are able to help. Of course your capacity to help people who are familiar or nearby is greater than your capacity to help people who are unfamiliar or far away, but if you are in a position where you are able to help a foreigner, ‘because they’re foreigners’ is not a good reason not to. I refer you to the parable of the good Samaritan for a famous expression of this point of view.

On the subject of immigration and Britishness, consider the case of the homophobic assault on Gareth Thomas. He is a gay rugby player who was assaulted by a group of Somalis. People who openly favour a multi-cultural society instead of a concept of British values suddenly get very upset when one of those cultures involves beating up gays, and say (rightly in my opinion) we should be a society which values all people and gays and lesbians should be free to be openly gay and lesbian. Which is to say that we as a society should have common values. A kind of Britishness. When it comes to equal rights for women and gay rights, I’m all for those to be included in a notion of ”Britishness’.

Is it the case that gaybashings are not perpetrated by British people? No, it is not the case, and I don’t suppose you imagine that it is. If people said they wanted to draw attention to the problem of gaybashing in Britain, I would think it suspicious if they chose to do so by using the example of a gaybashing perpetrated by Somali people rather than a gaybashing perpetrated by British people.

I want people to treat each other well, but there’s no good reason to bound this desire at the borders of my country. Treating people well isn’t an expression of ‘Australian values’ or ‘British values’, it’s an expression of decent values which people of any background in any country ought to share. I am aware, of course, that many people don’t behave decently, don’t treat each other well, and don’t uphold these values, but that too is not something that is determined by national borders or national background. When people say that gaybashing, for example, is ‘un-British’ or ‘un-Australian’, they are only one or two steps away from saying that it’s the sort of thing that is to be expected of foreigners and to be regarded as unremarkable, and therefore ignored, when it happens in foreign countries. My capacity to affect what happens in foreign countries is nil or close to it, but then, my capacity to affect many things that happen in my own country is equally close to nil. The relevant values are exactly the same. If you say that they’re ‘British values’, aren’t you drawing borders around them, and why would you want to do that?

90

John Quiggin 09.14.19 at 5:49 am

Dipper, I’m still interested in the WTO. If you supported shifting from rule by the EU to rule by the WTO with no understanding of the WTO agenda, summed up its former Director-General as “writing the constitution of a single global economy”, that suggests you haven’t really thought much about the sovereignty issues you claim to care about so much.

https://www.epi.org/blog/free-trade-in-moral-hypocrisy/

91

Collin Street 09.14.19 at 6:48 am

The moral and even legal legitimacy of the current borders of northern ireland is… kind of central to the whole northern ireland problem, no? That the current border represents a valid polity is the view of only one group in the debate, so to accept the relevence of anything derived from the current borders is to accept the validity of the current borders.

Question-begging, no? The argument is worthless; evem if you agree with the conclusion that northern ireland in its current form is a polity that should exist you can’t do it this way.

92

Dipper 09.14.19 at 8:30 am

@ J-D

“When people say that gaybashing, for example, is ‘un-British’ or ‘un-Australian’, they are only one or two steps away from saying that it’s the sort of thing that is to be expected of foreigners and to be regarded as unremarkable, and therefore ignored, when it happens in foreign countries”.

That is pretty much the definition of multiculturalism. That that’s what those folks do.

Foreign nations do all sorts of things I personally don’t like, such as compulsory hijabs etc. But, if we take the issue 0f, say, the illegality of homosexuality in certain African countries that used to be part of the British Empire and are now independent, surely that independence was gained so that they can pass laws with which their former colonial masters disagree? What kind of independence is that allows a nation to pass laws providing their former colonial masters agree?

My native Yorkshire culture featured such standard things as regular domestic violence, women not being allowed their own money, dislike of foreigners and gays. That culture has been challenged and largely changed for the better. No-one seriously said that we live in a multicultural society so if the men of Yorkshire want to treat their women as punchbags that’s acceptable. If its reasonable to tell Yorkshiremen their behaviour is not acceptable (which it is) I’m not sure why anyone else should be spared.

@ John Quiggin “If you supported shifting from rule by the EU to rule by the WTO with no understanding of the WTO agenda” I think you may be missing the point of the EU. It is not a binary issue of complete control versus no control. It is about having a seat at a table and options. It is clear that international trade requires some common basis of regulation and dispute resolution. You may argue that the UK had a seat at the EU table, but it was unable or unwilling to use that to protect the rights of UK citizens in the opinion of the majority of the UK electorate who expressed an opinion.

Some in the EU now say ‘the EU isn’t about trade, it is about avoiding war’. It sounds so nice, but the implicit threats in that statement are quite stark. to the best of my knowledge the WTO hasn’t told a member that ‘this is about avoiding war’.

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Dipper 09.14.19 at 9:04 am

@ John Quiggin

That link (https://www.epi.org/blog/free-trade-in-moral-hypocrisy/). This seems to be pointing out that global trade is making workers in developed countries worse off by putting them in direct competition with workers ins out America/Asia/Africa. That may be true, but what seems also apparent is that international trade has been hugely successful in lifting millions out of poverty round the world.

The continent that is missing from that uplift is Africa, and even that seems to be improving on many indices.

All that liberalisation of global trade and the boom in global financial markets seems to be working.

94

TM 09.14.19 at 9:55 am

“It is not just about the system of government under which you live, it is about who you share that with and whether between you there is a sense of mutual obligation and understanding.”

“A nation is like a large family, in that you might not like them but they are yours, and if things go wrong there is an expectation that you will help.”

Guess what sort of “understanding” there is, what “sense of mutual obligation” an English nationalist Brexiteer feels towards NI Republicans (and vice versa), towards Scottish socialists, towards internationalist Londoners? That Dipper would offer us that old chestnut of nationalist folklore is perhaps not remarkable but – could it be that he sort of believes what he says, or sort of thinks he believes what he says without realizing what it is he is actually saying, while consistently acting the opposite of what he claims to believe: showing absolutely no solidarity whatsoever with those millions of members of the “family” who are condemned to suffer from the reckless actions of the Brexiters?

95

Jim Buck 09.14.19 at 10:48 am

My native Yorkshire culture featured such standard things as regular domestic violence, women not being allowed their own money, dislike of foreigners and gays. That culture has been challenged and largely changed for the better. No-one seriously said that we live in a multicultural society so if the men of Yorkshire want to treat their women as punchbags that’s acceptable. If its reasonable to tell Yorkshiremen their behaviour is not acceptable (which it is) I’m not sure why anyone else should be spared.

Born and brought up in postwar SY, I have never considered myself to be in receipt of a native Yorkshire culture (your compendium of violence, homo and zeno phobias). Certainly, the newly discharged KOYLI (of my childhood) had been brutalised by their experiences in Changi. One such “surrender monkey” would savagely beat his wife, in the street, every Saturday night. Trauma, not culture, that was. (it certainly traumatised me. ) But the teetotal, swearbox, Methodist steelworkers would not tolerate wifebeating. Nor did they countenance homosexuality; yet their grandchildren do. That’s the nature of our Hegelian world-culture. So spare me the Ken Loach bollocks, Mr Dipp.

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nastywoman 09.14.19 at 11:02 am

@92
”Some in the EU now say ‘the EU isn’t about trade, it is about avoiding war’. It sounds so nice, but the implicit threats in that statement are quite stark”.

As it takes a very sad twisted mind to see an ”implicit threat” in the statement that ”the EU isn’t about trade – it’s all about peace” –

And Dipper did you notice? I wrote:
”it’s all about peace” while your wrote: ”it is about avoiding war’’.

So it must be you somebody with a very twisted mind changing ”it’s all about peace” into ”it is about avoiding war’’ – in order to suggest that there is some ”implicit threat”

Right?

And that’s why WE all have to come TOGETHER in order to make such type of sad and twisting thinking finally ”a thing” of a very ancient past!

Capisce?

97

notGoodenough 09.14.19 at 12:07 pm

@ Dipper 82, 92, and 93.

Perhaps your trying to lead to a big picture look to explain why you’ve come to the conclusions you have – fair enough. The problem with that is it feels a lot like trying to hear a story from someone who has to stop every few minutes to go back to some part they’ve forgotten.

You seem (at least to me) to be making arguments against things people haven’t said, and making passionately talking about topics people haven’t even raised. For example, you jump from Brexit to Somalian immigrants engaging in gaybashing (though as Hidari points out, that story may not be as you frame it). Then you talk about multiculturalism (a topic only you raise), then about not allowing countries to pass laws we don’t like (something no-one has suggested). Trying to untangle all this is….a lot.

I don’t say this to criticise you, but just to explain that if I miss something or get something wrong it won’t be intentional – it is because I am genuinely struggling to follow your train of thought. I will try and respond as best I can, and perhaps we can see where we go from here?

”Foreign gaybashing”

When, for example, J-D pointed out the problematic assumption that gay-bashing is a “foreign thing”, you said “That is pretty much the definition of multiculturalism. That that’s what those folks do.”

Really? You are going to seriously argue that gaybashing is culturally significantly more prevalent in France or Germany, than it is in the UK? With the DUP forming part of our government? Maybe I am wrong on this, but I would not say that there is a marked difference in anti-homosexuality between France, Germany, and UK (though, to be clear, any level above 0 is too much and should be reduced).

Multiculturalism

You talk about domestic abuse in Yorkshire, finishing with “If its reasonable to tell Yorkshiremen their behaviour is not acceptable (which it is) I’m not sure why anyone else should be spared.”

Has anyone on this thread actually advocated that the UK (whether or not it is part of the EU) does not, nor should it be allowed to, venture opinions on foreign affairs?

You take a – frankly speaking – bizarre turn when you start talking about multiculturalism. I could, for example, go on a long point about diplomacy – how this wouldn’t be only allowing “a nation to pass laws providing their former colonial masters agree”, this would be laying out consequences for actions not agreed with (if you genuinely can’t see the difference, try thinking about the differences between negotiating a bank loan and robbing a bank).

I mean, you do realise that there are options between “we must rule everyone with an iron fist” and “we cannot ever disagree with anyone, ever”, right?

WTO and the EU

Here you vaguely approach the topic again, before veering off into the shrubbery.

[First a slight digression]

“Some in the EU now say ‘the EU isn’t about trade, it is about avoiding war’. It sounds so nice, but the implicit threats in that statement are quite stark.”

Once again you seem to conflate someone venturing an opinion with a threat. You did this on a previous thread when an Irish politician made comments about the potential impact of a hard border, so let me see if I can clear this up for you:

If someone says “I will burn down your house”, that is a threat. If someone says “Nice house you have there, shame if it were to burn down” that is an implicit threat. If someone says “great wobbling wombats Dipper, don’t throw lighted Molotovs in your house or it will burn down” then they are offering an opinion, not threatening to burn down your house. Try to mark the difference.

[Digression over]

“You may argue that the UK had a seat at the EU table, but it was unable or unwilling to use that to protect the rights of UK citizens in the opinion of the majority of the UK electorate who expressed an opinion.”

Except that the majority of the UK electorate haven’t expressed that opinion. As many have pointed out, the Brexit was straight up “in or out”. Not “are there criticisms you would like addressed”, or “please rank options in order of preference, Norway style, Hard Brexit, Remaining a member…etc….”. I would personally have preferred the latter, but it was what it was – stating that the majority of the UK have an opinion when that lacks citation is not exactly helpful. However, if you, personally, feel that the UK “was unable or unwilling to use that to protect the rights of UK citizens”, then why do you think this will be resolved by giving more power to the people you think won’t represent you?

And you seem to completely miss the point here. You have complained about the EU exerting control “over UK sovereignty”. Fair enough. Then, as is being pointed out, the WTO also exerts control and you respond “no, its fine if its more control, I just object to us being able to veto things we don’t like”. Eh?

Britishness

This….is where you lose me a lot.

“Which is to say that we as a society should have common values.”

OK, good. I mean, there are people in the UK I will not share many common values with, but in principle I am fine with the idea of finding common ground.

“A kind of Britishness.”

Why Britishness and not Europeaness? What values do you think are critical that are only evinced in Britain and not, for example, in France or Germany?

You talk a lot about cultural identity. Fair enough, I too enjoy Blackadder and Monty Python.

Where you lose me is in your implication that people in the UK, including me, must share more common values with each other than with anyone from the EU.

And that seems…unsupported?

I probably have far more in common with a Chemical Engineer in Spain than I do with Kray twins. Does that mean I am not part of the UK? Does it mean they would not be?

It seems to me that this is the problem with trying to elevate Britishness as a unique identity – it is so fuzzy and loose that the “values” you say are critical would apply to many, many others. And, as J-D pointed out, if you say “fairness” is a “British value”, it would seem either you have to agree it is equally a “German value” (in which case we have common values, so not really an objection to being in a union with them) or that the people of Germany do no – comparative to Britain – value fairness to the same extent. To me, either you should concede the argument, or you should define a uniquely British value as an example of something we don’t share with the rest of the EU.

My closing remarks

As I have previously said, the way I view the EU is an organisation which confers benefits on its members, while also imposing rules.

If your position is that you think that the benefits (which may include, but is not confined by, many of the things alluded to by others) will not be harmed by leaving, or are not worth the price paid by following the EU rules, then I can at least understand that (while not necessarily agreeing). I would say your objection seems to be aimed at the British MEPs rather than the EU, but OK.

But it seems you have some other deep-rooted objections which either you haven’t explained or I haven’t understood. If you want to continue this conversation I am up for it, but I think unless we can bridge the gap you may be better off talking to others on this thread.

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Bartholomew 09.14.19 at 12:38 pm

Stephen @88

Stephen, I regret to say that I would be surprised if you are much older than me. I was ten when the troubles started.

Yes, there was substantial support for the IRA in the republic, though this varied a lot, declining very sharply from the early 1970s onwards. Yes, elements in the Dublin government were planning to import arms in 1969-70, though this was primarily for defensive purposes within Northern Ireland than for invasion, given that entire streets of Catholics were being burned out in the summer of 1969.

But throughout the troubles, the prime movers were within Northern Ireland and remained there. They were a very violent implosion of the state that was set up in 1920. By the mid-70s the majority of the population in the Republic was apathetic if not actively hostile to the IRA, both branches. Describing it as a ‘fascist, imperialist’ invasion of the north by the south really doesn’t hold water.

99

J-D 09.14.19 at 1:16 pm

Dipper

That is pretty much the definition of multiculturalism. That that’s what those folks do.

Citation needed.

Foreign nations do all sorts of things I personally don’t like, such as compulsory hijabs etc. But, if we take the issue 0f, say, the illegality of homosexuality in certain African countries that used to be part of the British Empire and are now independent, surely that independence was gained so that they can pass laws with which their former colonial masters disagree? What kind of independence is that allows a nation to pass laws providing their former colonial masters agree?

I am not advocating something like Poynings’ Law, requiring the permission of one country for the making of law in another. It is the case that I don’t evaluate the laws of my own country by whether they are ‘un-Australian’ or ‘un-un-Australian’ (if that is the correct antonym), but by whether they are bad or good laws, and I evaluate the laws of other countries also by whether they are bad or good laws, not by whether they are, for example, ‘un-Ugandan’ or ‘un-un-Ugandan’. Laws criminalising homosexuality are bad laws in whichever country they exist or have existed (as they used to exist in mine), and they are bad laws for the same reason in whichever country.

My native Yorkshire culture featured such standard things as regular domestic violence, women not being allowed their own money, dislike of foreigners and gays. That culture has been challenged and largely changed for the better. No-one seriously said that we live in a multicultural society so if the men of Yorkshire want to treat their women as punchbags that’s acceptable. If its reasonable to tell Yorkshiremen their behaviour is not acceptable (which it is) I’m not sure why anyone else should be spared.

I agree entirely and I’m not sure whether you think you have some reason to imagine otherwise.

That all said, how is any of this supposed to be relevant to evaluating UK membership of the EU? If there are any values which you would like the UK to promote, but you consider it is being hindered from promoting by EU membership, you have not made clear what they are. If there are any examples in which you consider the UK is being hindered by EU membership from doing the right thing, you have not made clear what they are. If, to pursue an earlier example, EU membership were hindering the UK from doing something about gaybashing, that would be a good argument in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but so far it doesn’t seem as if that is your reason. If, to pursue another earlier example, EU membership were hindering people in the UK from helping those for whom things have gone wrong and resulting in more being left uncared-for at the bottom of the pile, that would be a good argument in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but so far it doesn’t seem as if that is your reason. If, to take up another example you’ve just raised, EU membership were hindering the UK from restraining men from using women as punching-bags, that would be a good argument in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but so far it doesn’t seem as if that is your reason.

Notice that I am capable of imagining, quite easily, the kind of argument that would provide support for UK withdrawal from the EU. It’s an empirical observation on my part and not an a priori assumption that Leavers aren’t offering this kind of argument. It’s not the case that I start from the position that there could be no good arguments against EU membership. There could be, quite easily, in theory. But since Leavers don’t seem to be offering them, it’s hard to avoid suspecting that they don’t operate in practice.

100

Barry 09.14.19 at 2:09 pm

Dipper: “A nation is like a large family, in that you might not like them but they are yours, and if things go wrong there is an expectation that you will help. If you dismantle that notion then that means there are people at the bottom of the pile about whom no-one cares.”

That’s precisely what the policy of the Tory Party is (with some Vichyism from some Labor Party leaders). Remember Thatcher’s statement about society?

It’s been interesting observing the fact that *all* accusations from the right are confessions holds true on the other side of the Atlantic.

101

Barry 09.14.19 at 2:11 pm

Dipper: “My native Yorkshire culture featured such standard things as regular domestic violence, women not being allowed their own money, dislike of foreigners and gays. That culture has been challenged and largely changed for the better. “

And every single such challenge would have come from the left, with the right supporting ‘traditional values’.

102

Barry 09.14.19 at 2:19 pm

Dipper: “All that liberalisation of global trade and the boom in global financial markets seems to be working.”

Brexit is precisely the opposite of that liberalization.

103

William Timberman 09.14.19 at 5:02 pm

Barry @ 94

Confessions, projections, call them what you will. The right in all its flavors proceeds from the assumption that everyone else — inside or outside the familial or ideological boundaries — is to be feared, despised, and ultimately subdued. However one explains its persistence in human affairs, politics as sadomasochistic pornography is definitely a thing — 88, shithole countries, cucks, incels, “Ich bin braun weil Deutschland so bunt wird,” MAGA, etc.

If this pitiful calliope of dread has to be allowed to tootle and wheeze its way through our shopping mall parking lots until evolution finally stumbles on the resolution to humanity’s inherent neurological contradictions, so be it. Eternal recurrences, the return of the repressed, the sins of the fathers — the saddest thing about us as a species is that, at least from the perspective of a single life, we never seem to learn a damned thing….

104

Stephen 09.14.19 at 6:04 pm

Barry@94: Remember Thatcher’s statement about society?

Very clearly. ” “I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it’ … and so they are casting their problems upon society, and who is society?And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours … and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations.”

How much of that would you disagree with, and why?

105

Stephen 09.14.19 at 6:18 pm

Collin sreeet@91: “The moral and even legal legitimacy of the current borders of northern ireland is… kind of central to the whole northern ireland problem, no? That the current border represents a valid polity is the view of only one group in the debate.”

Seen from an ignorant Australian Irish perspective, that may well be so. Seen from a bit nearer, the view of all major groups inside Ireland, north and south, as proposed in the Good Friday Agreement and validated by referenda with massive majorities, is that the current border does represent a valid polity, but one that might later be changed by democratic means.

The only groups currently opposing that are the murderous irreconcilable physical-force republicans, denounced by Sinn Fein and all other parties, the ones who brought such undemocratic triumphs as the Omagh bomb. I would prefer to believe that Collin Street has no idea about what he says.

106

Orange Watch 09.14.19 at 8:52 pm

Dipper@92:

It is about having a seat at a table and options. It is clear that international trade requires some common basis of regulation and dispute resolution. You may argue that the UK had a seat at the EU table, but it was unable or unwilling to use that to protect the rights of UK citizens in the opinion of the majority of the UK electorate who expressed an opinion.

This “answer “is not an answer in any meaningful sense. Why do you think for a moment that the British gov’t that would not use the UK’s seat at the EU table to influence EU trade regs in ways you approve of will do a better job at the WTO table, where it should be noted they’ll have less leverage? As shouldn’t need pointed out, the UK is more significant w/in Europe than it is w/in the entire world. Asserting as you’ve implicitly done here ‘That thing was bad, but this other thing is superficially different; therefore it will be better’ can only be described as either breathtakingly naive or disingenuous. Having the same political class that failed to wield disproportionate power over an international trade organ try to wield disproportionate control over a larger-scale international trade organ will not magically cause that political class to stand up for the interests of UK citizens, let alone allow them to successfully coerce the body to favor the interests of UK citizens over those of elites in other countries. It won’t even magically cause them to stand up for the interests of UK citizens over those of UK elites.

107

Dipper 09.15.19 at 1:00 pm

re IRA and Southern Ireland, there’s Sean O’Callaghan’s account, but we only have his word.

@ Barry And every single such challenge would have come from the left, with the right supporting ‘traditional values’. yes, but a reminder that the Government that made Gay marriage legal was the Cameron one. The conservative Party is essentially a party that enables managed social change. Or at least it used to be.

Brexit is precisely the opposite of that liberalization. No. Brexiteers generally want more open trade, but hold the UK government for managing the consequences of that.

@ Orange Watch “use the UK’s seat at the EU table to influence EU trade regs” if that was all the EU was I’d enthusiastically support it. But it is about creating an Empire. And that’s according to a man who should know, Guy Verhofstadt

108

Barry 09.15.19 at 4:44 pm

Stephen @ 104: I would disagree with this: “And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”

109

novakant 09.15.19 at 9:32 pm

#107

Yes, and not only would I disagree with it, I would say it is an exceptionally ignorant statement – just consider that if it were true, several academic disciplines – e.g. but not only sociology, history, political science – would be without merit.

110

John Quiggin 09.16.19 at 12:22 am

“But it is about creating an Empire. And that’s according to a man who should know, Guy Verhofstadt”

I wasted a minute watching the video. He didn’t say that, but perhaps you trusted Breitbart and Alex Jones.

111

Collin Street 09.16.19 at 3:35 am

An inescapable consequence of being more “conservative” than most is that most people will regard your positions as being needlessly conservative, and will hold you responsible for the negative consequences of the (percieved to be needlessly conservative) policies that you support.

This is true for all things, obviously.

112

Jim Buck 09.16.19 at 8:02 am

With Johnson now branding himself as The Hulk, is this a text for our time?

https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Behemoth/Dialogue_I

113

Dipper 09.16.19 at 8:03 am

@ John Quiggin “I wasted a minute watching the video. He didn’t say that”

If he wasn’t saying the EU is an empire, why did he go on about this being a world of Empires? Did he say “India is an empire, China is an Empire, the USA is an empire, but we are not an Empire?” No he didn’t.

If someone says “These things are empires. We should be more like these things” that’s pretty much saying we should be an empire.

114

Barry 09.16.19 at 11:45 am

I wpuld also add that to the best of my knowledge the effects of Thatcherism was to trash a huge number of UK inustrial jobs, while building up London as a financial center.

That’s the sort of thing which Brexiteers supposedly oppose.

The right creates problems, profits from them and then profits from quack ‘cures’.

115

Barry 09.16.19 at 2:55 pm

Dipper: “Brexiteers generally want more open trade, but hold the UK government for managing the consequences of that.”

Brexiteers are for abandoning an open market with 500 million people, and trade treaties for probably a billion more, for pie-in-the-sky promises which they’ve proven they can’t produce. In the meantime they are basically considering whether or not to expel a few million ‘foreigners’ from the UK.

That’s not open trade, it’s xenophobia mixed with BS.

116

Barry 09.16.19 at 2:57 pm

Collin Street 09.16.19 at 3:35 am

” An inescapable consequence of being more “conservative” than most is that most people will regard your positions as being needlessly conservative, and will hold you responsible for the negative consequences of the (percieved to be needlessly conservative) policies that you support. “

We have all witnessed the Brexiteers move ‘Leave’ to being ‘No Deal’. That’s the whole reason for the blockage here, that the Bexiteers won’t accept anything less, and almost everybody else doesn’t want to drive off of the cliff.

117

Orange Watch 09.16.19 at 2:59 pm

Dipper@107:

And yet you enthusiastically support WTO regulation, despite that not being merely trade regs – nor are they particularly democratic. Their trade regs come with requirements, and those requirements are meant to protect or install certain practices and structures in states subject to its policies. Which leads us back to John Quiggan’s observation that you don’t appear to understand what the WTO is and/or does. Or perhaps you count on the UK’s position as a traditional imperial power in the global north to ensure that the WTO will structure undemocratic agreements in your favor rather than to your detriment, despite your dramatically reduced leverage, simply because reasons?

I’ll defer to JQ’s judgement re: your link, as I’ve neither desire nor time to devote to InfoWars-level paranoia, especially when you seem unwilling to consider well-documented and public conspiracy from the WTO.

118

Tom Slee 09.16.19 at 5:08 pm

On Guy Verhofstadt. The significant words I hear are these…

The world order of tomorrow is not based on nation states or countries, it is a world order that is based on empires. China is not a nation, it’s civilization hub (?). India is not a nation… The USA is also an empire. More than a nation…
The world of tomorrow is a world of empires in which we Europeans and you British can only defend your way of life by doing it together… in a European Union.

Did he say the words “The EU is an empire”? No. Would a reasonable person take it that by drawing the parallel with China, India, and the USA, all identified as empires, he implied that the EU is an empire? To me, Yes.

119

Dipper 09.17.19 at 9:11 am

@ Barry

I said “but hold the UK government for managing the consequences of that.” Being in the EU makes it impossible for the UK government to manage the consequences, hence leaving. ‘NAFTA doesn’t require Canada to have open borders and accept US jurisdiction over its laws’ is now on auto-repeat

“We have all witnessed the Brexiteers move ‘Leave’ to being ‘No Deal’”. The number of Leavers who want No Deal as a preferred end state is small. Most want a deal, but regard being able to walk away as an essential element in negotiating a deal. The specific reason for wanting to walk away right now is the use of an interpretation of the GFA as guaranteeing open borders as a device to prevent the UK from leaving. If we leave without a deal then that forces an acceptable solution to be delivered between UK and EU around the border in Ireland, and then we can discuss a deal.

@ Orange Watch

I’m not aware of the WTO requiring unlimited migration from any nation I agree a deal with, or requiring me to pay money to countries I do a trade deal with, or requiring me to accept their laws, give extra rights to their citizens, or give other nations the right to control my armed forces. The bar is pretty low here for the WTO to be preferable to the EU.

120

Orange Watch 09.17.19 at 4:15 pm

Tom Slee@118:

That may be your takeaway, but it’s not to my eye the only thing a reasonable person would take away from that – it’s what a person reaffirming a certain set of preexisting notions would. If you’re laying out a future that will be dominated by empires, and you have recent experience with being a minor player in a struggle between superpowers (as well as with being conquered and occupied by a regional power), your takeaway is going to be rather different than that of someone who views their nation as a global power that has no history of being conquered. It’s worth considering the African Union when looking at the European Union – the underlying goal of the AU is to prevent strong outside forces from destabilizing and exploiting members as they have in the past while also preventing and/or resolving the internal conflicts that have occurred in the past. Both of these make perfect sense from the point of a past or present subject of global power hegemony w/o implying any notion of “empire”. From a perspective such as that (i.e., one that is certainly alien to Dipper, and possibly alien to you) the choice is not “become an empire or become a victim of empires”, but instead “become an empire, become a victim of empires, or use solidarity and mutual aid to become a counterweight that can resist imperial influence”.

It’s tempting to impute motives to someone who seems incapable of conceiving of actors who are not victims nor victimizers, but it’s probably unfair. However, it’s not unfair to note that there’s definitely a very rigid mindset underlying such an outlook, or even that it’s probably one that prides itself on its “realism” for refusing to be tricked into thinking that anyone anywhere thinks differently than they do.

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