Monday 29 February 2016


On Thursday the 23rd of June 2016 eligible, registered, voters will be asked the question: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ If you aren't registered to vote, and you are eligible to do so, or think you may be eligible to do so I encourage you to go and register.

Apologies to Private Eye
Okay, civic due diligence out of the way, onto the partisan business of the day. There is a lot of stuff going around at the moment that seems designed to trick you into being afraid of Britain leaving the EU.

This is all about immigration! I'm in favour of immigration!

I'm in favour of immigration too. I think we need to sustain or even increase the number of migrants coming in and paying taxes. We need to do this to pay for our ageing population. I don't however, agree with a situation where manual labourers from the EU get a privileged status compared to skilled workers from elsewhere. What's that based on? A shared cultural heritage? In New Zealand, they have the Queen on their money, the French killed all their royals. The legal framework of Hong Kong is based on the English common law, the French don't have trial by jury. Canada has an unbroken history of liberal democracy, Germany... does not. (Nor do France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal etc.) Thanks to the legacy of Empire, Britain has far more shared cultural heritage with former and current members of the commonwealth than with the people it happens to have geographic proximity to. I know some people are nervous about immigration, it's a complex and emotive issue. I expect heated debates in the commons and in the media about what any post brexit immigration policy would be. At least we would have a plan that was tailored to the will of the British people. A plan we could actually work with, build houses, schools, hospitals. Have an idea of who was coming in, and where they were going to settle. 

We would be worse off economically!

First of all, we pay about £9bn net into the EU. For this we get access to the common market (free movement of goods, capital and services, we also have to adhere to a bunch of rules and regulations we wouldn't otherwise have to, but I will cover this later), but, we could negotiate trade deals with the EU without being in the EU. It seems likely to me that the Germans will want to continue selling us Audis and Volkswagens, a quick look at some numbers tells us we would become one of the EU’s largest export markets, if not necessarily the largest once you factor in services. Much is made of the fact that we export a massive 44% of our exports to the EU. However it should be noted that, firstly, that number, whilst still tremendously significant, is falling, and secondly, it is very likely overstated due to something called the 'Rotterdam-Antwerp Effect'. Goods are shipped to EU, and then shipped out elsewhere from these large Dutch ports, this effect is very hard to quantify. We might end up a little worse off on the EU imports / exports side of things, however, it is very unlikely this would be the biblical disaster suggested by remain. Don't forget we would be freed from EU protectionism, and more able to strike up trade deals with other markets, such as China. Economically, it is a risk, and it could go either way. I feel however, that the element of risk is being continually overstated by remain.

What about all the things the EU protects us from!

A veritable cavalcade of meaningless environmental regulation that makes our energy generation uncompetitive. The fatally flawed Common Agricultural policy. And the ECHR. These make up three of the remaining planks of the Europhile argument, if we left the EU we would instantly take up torturing and turning national parks into landfill. The tacit argument here seems to be: We don't trust the British government do nice things, so we need to be forced to do them by the EU. First of all, since call me Dave is the main person campaigning to stay in the EU, that could be regarded as a subtle clue that EU membership is not the eternal thorn in his side stopping him from realising his dreams of becoming Skeletor, he seems to be doing a fairly good job of random comic book villainy all by himself. Does it not seem more likely that he finds the EU useful (perhaps because he would quite like TTIP to come in)?

Secondly, and for me this is what the whole debate hinges on, we in the UK have a history of 200 years of liberal democracy. We know what we are doing. I object to the watering down of my vote that the EU represents. The people that live on an island should get to decide how that island is going to be run. I can't express it any more simply than that. We might lose a little bit of money, and some laws you quite like that we have now we might not have in the future. Such things are, however, small potatoes compared to enormous pillar of civilisation that is liberal democracy. Let's not let this opportunity to reclaim some of that slip us by because we are afraid.

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