The Charge of the Light Brigade?

“…immigration, sovereignty and the EU budget are the main reasons for Britons’ hostility to the EU…”

Who wrote these words? Was it Nigel Farage? Or Douglas Carswell? Could it have been John Redwood? Maybe it was Daniel Hannan? It is my contention that it could have been any of them—and that is a problem. The EUReferendum.com readers amongst you will already be aware that the above is an extract from a wholly misleading article about what is called the “Norway option”, written by an employee of the Centre for European Reform—an organisation that routinely receives operating grants from the EU—published in The Daily Telegraph.

This apparent elision of what “eurosceptic” spokesmen are wont to say and what a partisan for the other side would like us to say should give us pause for thought. To that end, long-time anti-EU campaigner, Peter North, says that it is “time to ditch the eurosceptic baggage”. Euroscepticism always was a nebulous term. Self-professed “eurosceptics” routinely vote in favour of further EU integration—no less an authority than the Prime Minister claimed to be a “eurosceptic” when it was politically advantageous for him to do so. This deception has been going on for more than 40 years and when push comes to shove “eurosceptics”—in both of the major political parties—have always and will continue to put Party before Country.

With that in mind, one has to wonder why so many genuine Brexiteers—wholly committed to the cause of independent self-government for Britain—still repeat so many of the tired old mantras that have so far failed to pause, let alone reverse, even a single solitary slither of EU integration. There are three mantras in particular that should be re-examined—you may call them the unholy and divided trinity of the Brexit campaign—and those are: immigration (“control our borders”), regulation (the above refers to ‘sovereignty’ but regulation is what is meant and the term is more concrete) (“cut red-tape”) and cost/budget contributions (“save money”).

Immigration: two-thirds of Britain’s immigrants arrive from countries that are not covered by the EEA agreement—besides, the British government has a derogation from (non-EEA) EU immigration and asylum policy. Migration Observatory provides “policy primers” on “freedom of movement” and “asylum and immigration” that serve to introduce British government policy in this area and its basis in law. Immigration is a very important issue and it has been managed poorly over many years, but, uncomfortable as it may be for us to admit it, the fault lies almost exclusively with the British government. In that sense, immigration is only partly an EU-related issue, and, if you will permit a short digression, even if (in some marvellous parallel universe) the EU had never existed, Britain would have still almost certainly agreed some form of visa-free travel with its immediate neighbours. The vast numbers of people on the move in Africa, Asia and across the Middle East are a global concern requiring global solutions that are probably beyond the scope of Britain’s EU referendum debate.

Regulation/sovereignty: the notion that leaving the EU would “free” the British government to “cut red-tape” is superficial rubbish—it also plays into the enemies’ hands in the sense that many people (not all, I know, but many) quite like the regulations that are traditionally associated with Britain’s EU membership. Moreover, for the most part, what we think of in this country as Single Market rules are technical standards for trade that apply globally. The Bank for International Settlements, located in Basel, drafts banking regulations, Codex Alimentarius, based in Rome, is responsible for food, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), headquartered in Geneva, oversees a variety regulatory disciplines, to name but three. The EU has neither the expertise nor the manpower to draft all of the documentation that emerges from these global bodies. The EU has become a “regional sub-station” for the receipt of international standards that are negotiated and agreed between nation-states at an intergovernmental level “above” the EU. Even Australia has sovereignty issues regarding regulation. Leaving the EU will give Britain a voice, a vote and a veto on these vitally important global bodies, which are the real “top table”.

Cost: this has to be one of the most unstable pieces of ground on which Brexiteers could possibly choose to fight. The figures for supposed cost-savings are all, ultimately, conjecture based on economic models that are impossible to verify. All an opponent needs to do is to introduce a hint of doubt and the most carefully constructed facade crumbles into dust. Furthermore, payments to the EU would not just end the day after exit. It is actually to our advantage that there would be continuity and stability for quite a long time. Agreeing some kind of transitionary arrangements would certainly be part of the Article 50 exit negotiations, and programmes such as Single European Sky and the Galileo sattelite system, for example, are the kinds of projects in which Britain will continue to participate, even outside of the EU’s supranational (“above the nation”) political structures.

The europhiles want us to keep making the same old arguments because those are the arguments that have lost us every previous contest.

The real battleground on which the referendum will be fought concerns the promise of a “new relationship” for Britain with the EU. Mr Cameron plans to offer us a “looser association” or a “market relationship” or “associate membership” or… there are any number of possible ways in which he may dress up what will be “second-class” EU membership. The plan is to top that offer by presenting a superior alternative that is both credible and safe. EU “reform” of the type that Mr Cameron claims to favour—a relationship based on trade and co-operation not political integration—takes us into “barking cats” territory. Supranational governance is a feature not a bug, as the software developers say.

Britain undoubtedly needs a new relationship with the EU. On that point, we are in complete agreement with the Prime Minister. The substance of our dispute is over the precise form that our new relationship should take. The question that the British people need to answer is whether we wish to accept Mr Cameron’s offer of “second-class nationhood” within a supranational treaty union that will always override Britain’s best interests—not in the common good, but in order to save the euro—or whether we wish to embrace this incredible opportunity to correct an historic mistake and reassert our profound and deeply-held committment to national independence, democratic governance and global trade based on the precept of intergovernmental co-operation between sovereign nation-states around the world.

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4 thoughts on “The Charge of the Light Brigade?

  1. Yes a good post but

    the financial matter is important.

    Norway does not contribute one penny to the EU general budget, the UK contributes at least £11 billion. Norway of course makes some hypothecated contributions-very little-to programmes it has agreed to join.

    So what do you think a Hungarian who gets money from the EU thinks. Yes he would like to be free of the EU but he is worried about losing EU funds as Merkel’s allies threaten.

    The fact is that our EU contributions could have created the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

    Additionally its not just the budget, it is the exposure to the liabilities of the EU, the ECB, the EIB etc. Why is the UK a shareholder in two central banks, the Bank of England and the ECB?

    Then there are the financial costs of EU immigration providing all the capital required by low wage migrants-of course this applies to non-EU migrants as well.

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    • Lots of very good points here, including several things that I have not yet read into in any real depth. I shall take them on board.

      The main point I was trying to make—good thing about the comments, they let you have another bite at the cherry—was that the naive way in which people are parroting tired old soundbites is not going to cut it.

      For instance, the assumption that we will pay nothing and that all payments will immediately cease. The ‘memes’ on the Net that talk about extra spending on the NHS or—the right-wing equivalent—massive tax cuts are not helpful… Better to simply state that leaving the EU will not cost us any more money—which it won’t—and then move on.

      Furthermore, I am no kind of negotiator, so I would happily accept a correction, but I would anticipate some sort of transitionary arrangements—our contributions would gradually taper rather than immediately stop. The EU budget is set every seven years, I doubt that we would be absolved from those committments…

      But, even here, the main, main point is to avoid getting bogged down in details. All of the above requires explanation, when, at the end of the day, we fight on principle. I would advocate that Britain “leave” the EU even if it ended up costing us more money because supranational governance is fundamentally unacceptable.

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    • Also, on the point of the money, I believe that the British contribution is closer to £20 billion, of which we receive about £10 billion back (very rough figures, but what is £100 million or so between friends?) to be spent on EU priority projects. The “EU money” spent in this country has to then be “match funded” by the British government. So, that is £30 billion.

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      • Useful & Interesting points on Norway’s contributions:
        – The fact that Norway’s payments do not go to “Brussels” would help overcome some peoples objections. Paying a small amount to EFTA for admin/single mkt access + buying into services/progs (which we would still pay same/more for if we had a DIY approach) + O’seas Dev Aid direct to Eastern Bloc (investment to reduce migration pressure & increase trade opportunities) – all put Norways “payments” into a +ve light.
        – The “match funding” is also a useful point. Our govt “match funding” is effectively following EU lead. Norway gets freedom of choice on how to spend this money

        Excellent & useful post overall by the way !

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