Jun 202016

This has all become a terrible mess. We are having a referendum for no particularly good reason, it has hit democracy on all of its weak spots and degenerated into such a cavalcade of misrepresentation that it is hard to see anything good coming out of it.

Its origins lie in the run-up to the last general election, and it has continued as a knife fight among the present cabinet. Most obviously it is the child of a serious split on the right of British politics, and it is more about the deep fissures between capitalism and nationalism than anything else.

As a result we are essentially having a general election by proxy, and the British public appear to be about to elect the hardest right government we have had in generations, something it would never do at any national poll. The issues have been skewed so badly that the moderate right pitch about prosperity has been entirely swept away by the hard right fear of immigration. Well done boys, break my country why don’t you?

Referendums are a very mixed blessing. They should be about simple issues, like the voting system, where arguments can actually sway people, and office is not at stake. Here we have a disproportionate amount of passion on one side and a limp hope for the better on the other. That’s not clever in politics. It’s also dumb to put up an issue that doesn’t need to be decided now, and is of such complexity that it should be taken by a government. All the other decisions about the European project have been taken by Prime Ministers in cabinet – all of whom since Macmillan have been pro-European, and none of them stood for election on that specific issue. The European project has never been a high priority for any of Britain’s voters, except those at the fringes of left and right who have always seen it as a conspiracy of some kind.

Now in the middle of a global revolt against elites, we are asking an apparently simple question to an electorate that is so riled up that it can’t disentangle entirely unconnected issues, and is being encouraged to conflate them by deliberate spin-doctoring – so that the NHS and Premiership football have moved into questions about international relations.

So, the reasoning, the question, the timing, and the conduct of this campaign are all bad in their ways. And we can see again, exactly as in the Scottish event of two years ago, that the whole idea of optimism is being abused. One person’s optimism is another’s delusional, hyperventilating fantasy. As with Scottish independence, leaving will solve almost nothing. We will recover economically either way. But what will be lost is harder to see, as is persuading people of its value.

Last thing. If Brexit wins, if the optimistic, confident, patriotic pitch is persuasive, if we smash up so many things at once, is it reasonable to assume that all the pieces will fall where we want them to?

 Posted by at 6:23 am

  2 Responses to “Referendumb”

  1. For once I do not agree with your arguments RM. Britain voted to join a trade area, the project of the EU leaders is for a federal style Europe which we did not vote for. I am voting to leave for many reasons:
    The destruction of Greece by Germany was vindictive, driving an entire generation into unemployment. As the German minister said at the time – ‘elections change nothing – there are rules’, This is a glimpse of the future EU.
    Goldman Sachs adjusted the Greek accounts to make it look as if their economy was better than it was. Meanwhile the Deutsche Mark was undervalued when the Euro was created to give Germany and advantage.
    The EU took money from personal savings accounts of Greek Cypriots to help pay for their national debt.
    TTIP will destroy free-enterprise as we know it and replace it with an American dominated neo-Liberalism
    The one size fits all business legislation. 90% of start-ups in the U.K. employ less than 15 yet the EU legislation is designed for huge multi-national companies.
    The EU is undemocratic, about 50% of laws made by unelected civil servants. We don’t know who they are and can’t vote them out
    It is no coincidence that Goldman Sachs, J P Morgan and George Soros are campaigning for the remain side.
    We will probably have extreme right democratically voted politicians making up a significant proportion of the EU parliament.
    The EU is largely run by Germany, Merkel has no official EU position yet speaks on behalf of the EU frequently.
    Democracy is in the British psyche, we have never had an extreme right, or extreme left, government in U.K.. Until 1989 Eastern Europe was under Communist rule – you could be imprisoned for criticising the Berlin Wall
    Spain, Portugal and Greece have all been under fascist rule in living memory, In Spain you could be imprisoned for speaking Catalan, even thought it is the native language of thousands.
    Supporters say the EU has stopped warring European nations. This is untrue, one nation decided to invade other European states and that nation now largely runs the EU. The other European countries were not warring by choice.
    The free movement of labour has driving down wages which benefits ruthless businesses, the EU recently ruled that local trade unions could make binding wage agreements
    The EU has imposed academic economists to run a previously democratic country – Italy
    France is just about bankrupt, as is Spain. When the EU gave money to Spain much was syphoned off by corrupt politicians.
    The idea rich countries subsidise poor countries is misleading. Many of the poor countries are corrupt. In Greece members of 600 professions (including hairdressers) could retire at 50 on 95% of their final year salary. When our government said people must get used to the idea of working to 70, Hollande reaffirmed the French workers’ right to retire at 59.
    Obama said the U.K. would go to the back of the trade agreement queue. This is irrelevant, None of those standing in the presidential elections dislike Britain as Obama appears to and I doubt any U.S. president would stop Apple, Amazon, Google etc. trading with the U.K.
    The U.K. is the 5th largest economy in the world, the EU needs us, we do not need them.
    Corbyn’s promised reforms to build more social housing would be illegal under current EU law.
    Juncker when in charge of Luxemburg changed his country’s VAT rate so that multi-national companies could be based in his country and avoid paying tax in other countries. This is why Apple pay practically no tax in the U.K.
    The EU accounts were not signed off for 19 years by auditors. they have been now but only by allocating large sums as unaccountable errors.
    As I see it the EU dislike Britain but are scared the EU will collapse if we leave. It probably would, and it should. You can not pour ordinary, hard-working, decent people’s money into a good idea that didn’t work. If it were a business or a rock band it would have been wound up by mutual agreemen years ago.

    In my experience the working class are largely against the EU, the middle-class are largely supportive of the EU. It is not about right/left, old/young, liberal/racist etc. The people I know from the Caribbean and India are against the EU.
    And I am patriotic. That my country fought the European evil in the 2nd world war; that in the 1960’s Britain lead the world in just about everything; the EU, a racially homogenous group that started as a trade agreement between 5 countries 50 years ago, is nothing compared to the multi-racial Commonwealth.
    The EU is parochial in its thinking, it is the past, a bureaucratic, leaden, old-fashioned closed group. The world is different now and the U.K. should be trading openly with Brazil, Russia, India, Iran, China, without the leaden, intellectually driven EU legislation round our necks. Britain should decide which countries it makes agreements with, not the overpaid academics in the EU. We live in a global economy and the EU serves no purpose.

    • Good to see you in fine form, Ian. I am a reluctant remainer, but in this piece I was really complaining about the unnecessarily political, and very present tense, terms of the debate. And the naivety of imagining that everything will be better if we could just get out of the EU. We could stay and reform it … but there again it is all full of foreigners …

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