Sunday, 27 March 2016

Thoughts on a flyer from Britain Strong In Europe


On Easter Saturday 26 March 2013, I received two flyers: one from a Brexit group, one from the EurIn group.

This blog documents my immediate reactions to the EurIn flyer, limited to the material assertions.  The Brexit flyer is in another blog post.

About the flyer:
  • the flyer takes the form of a single sheet of glossy, double-sided, multi-coloured A3.
  • the flyer lists six false narratives about why being part of Europe is good for Britain.
  • the flyer lists six facts (overlapping the narratives), citing sources, presented in a deliberately misleading way, i.e. the raw facts don't support the way the flyer presents them.
  • the flyer engages in active scaremongering, playing exclusively to emotions and essentially slamming the door on rational thought.
  • the flyer attempts to socialise, emotionally-blackmail, manipulate and engage the casual reader into ‘groupthink’.
  • the format of the flyer is such that it makes it hard to identify a single, coherent headline!  It does resemble most junk mail!
  • the flyer quotes three newspapers in the context of “experts”.

It doesn’t seem to be a rational use of time to unbundle this flyer, but for the record, here goes.


The flyer said
My immediate reaction
More jobs lower prices your family is better off with Britain in Europe
Evidence? How does food price rise when, post-Brexit, the UK would import directly from world markets, by-passing price-inflated European food markets?

The European Union already dumps food onto world markets, causing poverty around the world.  Refer to the UN Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter.

Historically, food prices rose substantially in the early 1970s because of i) decimalisation; and ii) Britain’s requirement to obey the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Good for families with lower prices in our shops because it’s cheaper to trade and there’s more choice - helping family budgets.
Deliberately wonky thinking.  This is pure scaremongering.

There’s no point asking for evidence: the EurIn campaign clearly have none, otherwise they’d have pointed to it.

The claim that trade within the European Union is cheaper is likely to be false: social legislation makes the cost of employing European national very expensive, so whatever is saved in, say, import tariffs would be more than outweighed by the labour cost of any European workforce.  In economists-speak, the marginal cost of European labour would likely exceed the marginal cost of import tariffs.
Good for workers with over 3 million UK jobs linked to our exports to the EU (source: HM Treasury) and vital workers’ rights - including paid holiday leave and maternity and paternity leave - protected by the EU.
Deliberately wonky thinking.  This is scaremongering combined with emotional blackmail.

The deliberately misleading narrative is that 3 million jobs would suddenly disappear if we voted for Brexit.  This is obviously false; I wonder how stupid the flyer’s authors think its readership might be?

Workers rights are enforceable only by national institutions, not European ones, so the “protection” invoked by the flyer is a blatant falsehood.

Whether we can continue to afford such lavish workers rights - whether at a British or European level - is potentially still an open question.  There are plenty of people on the European left who would rather China make all of us unemployed (and unemployable) than we make our welfare states affordable.  Would that be in our interests?

Note that no major economy outside the European Union seeks to replicate the social model of employment law, presumably because they can see from the European experience just how much of the citizens’ future it mortgages (i.e. Eurosclerosis).
Good for small businesses who are free to trade with 500 million people across the EU the with no tariffs or barriers.  Over 200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU, helping them grow and create jobs in the UK.
Deliberate misrepresentation of the facts bundled in with a falsehood.

When an English company owns, say, a German subsidiary company, why does the English subsidiary still need to apply for exemption for withholding taxes under the UK-German tax treaty?

Whatever happened to the single market for services that we were promised in 1976?  Why, when I invest in a European Union country, do I still need little tin-pot local book-keepers, little tin-pot auditors, little tin-pot tax advisors and little tin-pot form-fillers?  The United States of America doesn’t require this little tin-pottism for each little tin-pot state, so why does Europe feel the need to be so pointlessly bureaucratic?  Non-job creationism?

Why is it already nigh impossible for me to open a bank account in another European Union country?  Why does a British bank obsess with needing to see identity documentation of a European Union citizen, even if that European Union citizen lives in a ‘paperless’ country?

Where is the evidence that the European Union is still moving towards removing the remaining barriers?

Without answers to the above questions, there is a fundamental limitation to how much growth and job-creation can happen at all.

The EurIn campaign need to spell out how this trade-equals-growth ideology works - especially with current inflationary monetary policy of the European Central Bank - because the status quo doesn’t support the EurIn view.
Good for young people giving them the freedom to live, travel, study and work abroad - and UK universities get nearly £1 billion a year in funding from the EU, helping students get on in life (source: European Commission).
The source is biased, so this is undoubtedly going to be deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.

UK universities would continue to attract funding from anywhere in the world if their academic abilities were good enough.

Being addicted to the opiate of European funding is not a valid reason to remain addicted to Europe.

I’m not sure why we have allowed universities to become replacement secondary schools; they are a very expensive and inefficient method of education.

Anybody with useful skills or qualifications has enough freedom throughout the western world already; the European Union’s contribution is trivial.

And, in any event, the future for our young people is Asia, not Europe.
Good for women with the EU protecting women’s rights in the workplace, including vital anti-discrimination and equal pay laws.
Deliberately wonky thinking.  This is scaremongering combined with emotional blackmail.

The deliberately misleading narrative is that the Equality Act 2010 and Sex Discrimination Act 1976 - both Acts of the British Parliament - would suddenly disappear if we voted for Brexit.

I ask again, I wonder how stupid the flyer’s authors think its readership might be?

Workers rights are enforceable only by national institutions, not European ones, so the “protection” invoked by the flyer is a blatant falsehood.
Good for pensioners giving them the freedom to live, travel and retire abroad - and with our economy strong as part of Europe, pensions are more valuable.
I ask for the third time, I wonder how stupid the flyer’s authors think its readership might be?

The flyer cleverly manipulates a message, that could apply to all of us, applying it just to pensioners, as if they are special.

And the point about the value of pensions is a blatant lie: the authors cannot possibly know that, and with central bankers still printing money, the underlying purchasing power of any fixed saving scheme can only fall.

I’d guess that the flyer’s authors were struggling to type something into this corner of the flyer.
“Being in Europe makes the UK safer.  It gives us access to the European Arrest Warrant, which helps us fight crime and terrorism - and helped bring Hussain Osman, one of the July 2005 London bombers, to justice.”  Sir Hugh Orde, former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Bullshit.

The European Arrest Warrant is a fundamentally a re-working of extradition treaties.  Osman would have been extradited using those treaties had the European Arrest Warrant not existed, without quibble.  I’ve already commented on the European Arrest Warrant and security generally.

Orde’s expertise is questionable.  In spite of extensive experience in policing Northern Ireland during the “troubles”, Orde still seems to think that identity cards are worthwhile having (something that the Home Office rather liked), which would only work against terrorism if terrorists applied for such an identity card and ticked the box “I am a terrorist”, which somehow I doubt they would do.  In turn, that means the average plod would have to wade through millions of records of law-abiding citizens to find the one terrorist he wants to find, from a list in which the terrorist doesn’t appear anyway.  So, for me, to have Orde ordain a flyer for EurIn is counter-productive.

The flyer appears to have pretended that the immediate lessons of Brussel’s bombing of 22 March 2016 didn’t exist.
Leaving Europe is a leap in the dark for you and your family.  Experts agree that jobs would be lost and family finances hit if we left - and our security would be put at risk.

“Brexit puts jobs at risk say 200 business chiefs.” Times 23Feb2016

“AA warns of pain at the pump with possible 19p rise if Britain leaves EU.” Sun 18Feb2016

“Brexit would leave Britain vulnerable to threats of Isil and Russia, say military chiefs.” Telegraph 24Feb2016
Bullshit.

The world without European Union rules is very clear.  A lot of international law is already harmonised, even in Asia and even in respect of corporate law.  So where is this ‘dark’ to which the flyer points?  Is this just another appearance of Project Fear?

The 200 business chiefs turned out to be excessively-paid private-sector bureaucrats whose job is to tick boxes at the top-end of the corporations listed in the FTSE100.  The fact that it took them less than four days to co-sign the same letter smacks of very careful choreography orchestrated by Project Fear.  So this headline can be ignored.  Subsequently, a pile of entrepreneurial business leaders voiced support to leave the European Union.

The AA’s wittering about petrol prices turned out to be based on an expected fall in the value of the pound on foreign exchange markets following a Brexit, making imports more expensive.  The AA doesn’t say why it chose to believe economic models that are rigged to assume that Brexit shall cause the exchange rate to fall.  In any event, movements in the exchange rate are irrelevant to the issues of Brexit or EurIn, because foreign exchange rates vary for all sorts of reasons (exchange rates are practically random by nature). So this headline can be ignored.

I’ve already commented on security threats.  Russia is more of a threat to the European Union because the Union’s paymaster, Germany, relies on Russian gas to warm its citizens’ homes.  The Russian state holds this particular ace card.  So this headline can be ignored.
For every £1 we put into the EU, we get almost £10 back through increased trade, investment, jobs, growth and lower prices.  Sources: CBI, OBR.
The sources are both partisan, so the presentation of the figures is going to be dodgy.  This flyer further distorts them.

In short, such numbers are objectively incalculable.  They depend upon a counterfactual analysis, which, of course, this flyer carefully chooses to avoid.
The UK gets £66 million of investment every day from EU countries, creating more jobs and opportunities in your area.
In short, such numbers are objectively incalculable.  They depend upon a counterfactual analysis, which, of course, this flyer carefully chooses to avoid.

To validate this claim, the flyer would need to spell out how much of this £66 million would not happen post-Brexit, and why it wouldn’t happen.

The flyer implies heavily that Brexit means Fortress Britain, which is not what the Brexiteers say they want.  This is a clear example of how the flyer seeks to manipulate the reader’s emotions and mislead the reader about alternative narratives (groupthink again!).

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