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 Brexit flyer, limited to the material assertions. The EurIn flyer will be another blog post.
About the flyer:
- the flyer for Leave.EU is a coherent, somewhat emotional story, that correctly uses facts to support a strategic view of the European Union’s perceived objectives and attitutes, concluding that these are bad for us.
- the flyer plays to some emotions of the casual reader, but it is aimed substantially at the casual reader’s ability to think rationally about particular issues.
- the flyer takes the form of a professional letter rather than razzle-dazzle mega-colour junk mail.
- the flyer lists ten reasons which do indeed provoke thought (and perhaps an emotion).
Crucially - and very differently from the EurIn flyer - the Brexit flyer does not seek to socialise, emotionally-blackmail (much) or to otherwise manipulate, the casual reader. The EurIn flyer is overwhelmingly emotional and cites various half-facts deliberately devoid of essential, useful context or interpretative notes. More of the EurIn flyer in a different blog post.
Accordingly, whilst is it possible to challenge the Leave.EU flyer, it is at least an attempt to appeal substantially to reason.
Relating to the body of the letter:
The flyer said
My immediate reaction
Since that time [the UK’s last referendum in 1975] it [the European Union] has sought without our approval ever greater political union.
The European Parliament regularly passes laws and rules inappropriate to us.
At least three examples would have been really useful. The lack of examples loses the letter credibility.
Ask yourself, does the EU benefit you or make your life evermore complicated?
We don’t know. Tell us how…! And prove that it would have been different without the European Union… and why it would have been different.
Expect must misinformation over the coming months that you will need to filter.
Relating to the ten reasons to leave:
The reason to leave
My immediate reaction
To protect ourselves from the waste, overspending and misappropriation of funds in Brussels.
Yes, this is a nice ideal. But how would we achieve this after Brexit?
What alternative ways would the European Union find to extort money out of the UK post-Brexit?
Where is the evidence that the UK itself does not waste, overspend and misappropriate fund already? The Taxpayers Alliance also seeks similar assurance, but keeps on finding evidence about systemic government waste at both UK and EU levels of government.
We can remove our politicians who are answerable to us. Unlike unelected European Commissioners.
Yes. But no. I’ve already commented on how contemptible our elected politicians hold us.
Why would Brexit magically change the attitude of UK politicians?
Why would Brext magically improve the quality of the politicians, and their decision-making skills?
Why would Brexit magically reduce corruption, either in UK or in EU?
Why would Brexit magic away the party-political corruption that continues to erode democratic participation in the UK?
Why would Brexit magically improve the quality and commercial acumen of our civil servants?
Enhancing our country’s security by re-establishing the vital control of our borders.
Keeping the trade routes open?
Where would our exclusive fishing zones be, and how much are we prepared to sink foreign ships venturing into those zones?
Shelter us from the frustrations of negotiations with 28 disparate economies who will never agree.
Officially, at least, the 28 do agree.
But even so this reason is misleading. Whether in or out of the European Union, we have to negotiate with foreign countries on various matters, whether we are in control of the agenda or not. If nothing else, the European Union at least provides some sort of arbitration service.
Reclaim our territorial waters, prevent overfishing to provide affordable and choice of fish.
Map out the territories. Then map out the fish migration patterns during the course of the year.
Then explain how overfishing enforcement will (or can) change within the residual European Union waters, such that there are fish left to fish.
Fishing is a worldwide problem, not just a tin-pot European one. Spanish vessels fish illegally in the Southern Ocean, and this requires Interpol to handle, not the European Union. Is the European Union’s inactivity a form of solidarity with the illegal fisherman of Spain?
Safeguard us from laws and regulations passed by Eurocrats who have never visited the UK.
Yes, to take one old example, the European meat inspection regime was a classic example of arrogance by tin-pot Eurocrats.
But this reason only stacks up if we know - and can measure - the extent to which British officials “gold-plate” their regulations above-and-beyond European requirements. Evidence?
The City of London is integral to the UK’s GDP and a major UK taxpayer. The EU seeks to shackle it.
This seems to be a reference to the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (2004/39/EC), possibly one of the most wrong-headed piece of legislation that Europe has ever devised. A press release summarises the key objectives of MIFID2.
It looks reasonable, but the net effect is an economically-illiterate and financially-illiterate regulatory structure - with inevitably poor regulatory choices - that will come back to haunt the regulators, just as the 2008 crash demonstrated.
A new freedom to trade with the dynamic parts of the world. The EU’s world position is in decline.
i) re trade, the reason cited is misleading.
The UK is already free to trade world-wide. It simply cannot negotiate bi-lateral trade deals, and needs the European Union to do so on its behalf.
In general, a common-law country like the UK needs no “free-trade agreement” prior to trade.
ii) re EU’s world position, yes, this is in decline because its foreign policy choices are an abomination to the world. I’ve already commented on European foreign policy.
The UK is the world’s fifth biggest economy: independent, we can sit at the world’s top tables.
The UK already sits on the United Nations Security Council (largely for historic reasons). The UK already participates in the Gx meetings, and also attends Davos.
It’s hard to see what effective influence the UK government exercises to the benefit of ordinary taxpayers.
Neither Fortress Britain nor Imperial Britain form viable models for an independent Britain (even less for an independent England, i.e. what’s left if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland leave the British Union).
So it makes no rational sense to keep pretending that such obsolete models are desirable. They are not.
Cameron’s woeful concessions aren’t permanent. They can be revoked. No second referendum!!
If Britain votes for Brexit, then British taxpayers fall at the unaccountable mercy of British civil servants to negotiate their way out of the European Union, saying goodbye to the possibility of a second pension. That’ll hurt. And there’s no evidence that British civil servants have sufficient commercial acumen to apply ‘backbone’ when required.
If Britain votes for EurIn, then the European Parliament will consider Cameron’s agreement of 19 February 2016, and most likely reject it on the basis that the 28 governments have deviated from the base policy of deeper, on-going political union. No top-down system of control can sustain permanent opt-outs; to do so would create demand by the other 27 governments for their own opt-outs.
One cure could be a second referendum in June 2017 specifically to assess how the Europeans have adhered to the agreement of 19 February 2016. But that would require political ‘backbone’, and I see no evidence that such political ‘backbone’ exists in Britain.