The Remains Have Nothing Positive To Say

The British Union flag and European Union flag are seen hanging outside Europe House in central London

I observed several months ago that the Remain campaign is not so much pro-EU as anti-Brexit. To that end, I have yet to hear a single argument explaining why international trade and co-operation requires supranational governance.

There are none. Australia and New Zealand do not need the same currency, the same foreign policy or a common legislature and judiciary in order to work together. Neither do the United Kingdom and continental Europe.

EU membership is not about trade and co-operation, it is about the subjugation of the historic nations of Europe to a set of supranational institutions that are not governed by the same democratic—europhiles would say “populist”—pressures as elected politicians.

EU institutions are not remote, unaccountable or anti-democratic as a result of a design flaw; it is in their nature; that is why the Prime Minister’s assertions about remaining in a “reformed EU” ring so hollow. I do not know anybody who believes that Mr Cameron’s promissory note achieved anything of substance, let alone a “reformed EU”.

For all of the cries for Leavers to tell people “what Out looks like”—some of us have done so repeatedly and are sick of being ignored—the Remains have nothing to offer ordinary voters other than a desecrated promise of “reform” and hysterical threats that imply leaving the EU will end the Western alliance and collapse the global economy.

Everybody knows where further EU “reform” will lead. There is only one direction of travel in the EU, and the only way to avoid being dragged into an “ever closer union” is to leave. Even the logic of David Cameron’s claim to have won a “special status” for Britain—outside the euro, outside of Schengen and outside of “ever closer union”—points to the exit. The only reason to remain in the EU is to keep open the possibility of one day being dragged into an “ever closer union” and participating in all EU programmes including the euro.

If you genuinely support the imposition of supranational political and judicial institutions, with the power to coerce formerly sovereign nations into accepting policies that national electorates have no power to influence, then you should do so openly and honestly. You are setting yourself against the entire course of enlightened human history and aligning yourself with liars, charlatans and an assortment of other creeps and chancers, but David Cameron will happily accept your vote.

Remainer Logic Points To The Exit

philip-hammond-3

Yesterday, Philip Hammond was running the media circuit, promoting the government’s latest report on the options for Britain’s post-exit relationship with the EU. This is what the foreign secretary told Sky News:

“Nobody on the leave side has been able to show us, has been able to explain to the people of Britain, how we could even hope to be able to get access to the European market for those businesses that make up such an important part of the British economy without also having to accept freedom of movement, European rules and a contribution to the EU budget, and, frankly, if we are going to accept all of those things we may as well remain a member of the European Union and have a seat at the table, shaping the future of the European Union, rather than being a passive bystander having to accept rules we have had no influence over or input to”.

Hammond’s assertion that “nobody on the leave side” has been able to show how Britain would continue to access and participate in the Single Market without “accepting, freedom of movement, European rules or a contribution to the EU budget” is misleading. The Leave Alliance and especially the Brexit bloggers have been promoting a credible vision for Britain outside the EU, as outlined in the pages of Flexcit, for many months.

I shall not quibble over the fact that freedom of movement is not the most important part of the immigration that this government (and previous governments) have neglected to control, or the fact that the “European rules” that concern Mr Hammond are increasingly international in origin, or even the fact that payments for cross-border co-operation would not be paid into the EU budget in the event of Britain’s EU exit. I shall defer arguing over those minor technical points in order to ask, “Is that it?”

When all is said and done and the big Brexit scares have subsided, the administrative obstacles to Britain’s EU exit amount to freedom of movement within the EEA, the application of so-called EU rules and costs that, without taking into account the rebate or money returned in the form of services rendered, amount to 2.6 percent of total government expenditure? Seriously?

Inside the EU, freedom of movement would continue. This very basic point seems to be being neglected. Remainers point to possible Leave options and declare that because they retain freedom of movement the British public would never accept them. Err. Except that any scenario in which Britain remains in the EU would retain freedom of movement—unaltered. Moreover, the EFTA states that participate in the EEA agreement have a genuine “emergency brake” which can be “pulled” unilaterally, without the consent of the European Commission or any other EU institution.

The salient point about “EU rules” is that only around one fifth have Single Market relevance. That is, as an EFTA state, participating in the EEA agreement, Britain would immediately take back control of its own trade & aid, agricultural, fisheries, energy and environmental policies. Rather than accepting the compromise position of the EU28, with only nine percent of the vote in the European Parliament (voting on a simple majority) and 12.5 percent of the vote in the Council of the European Union (voting on a qualified majority), British politicians and policy-makers would be fully responsible and therefore accountable for the actions that they take. As for the remaining 21 percent of “EU rules”, those are increasingly negotiated and agreed amongst the galaxy of standards-setting bodies where every independent nation-station has a full say and its own right of reservation—and where, EU Member States, by contrast, accept EU representation.

Leaving the EU means sacrificing “influence” over EU rules for genuine policy control in all manner of important areas and a full say at the global top tables where international standards are really made.

On the issue of expenditure on co-operative programmes, I can only say what has become something of a stock phrase for this blog: international co-operation costs money.

David Cameron and the Tories have already conceded the main point—much to the chargrin of some of the europhile old guard, I am sure—about “ever closer union”. The “negotiating triumph” that Mr Cameron would like people to believe concerns the fact that from now on Britain will be uniquely excempt from “ever closer union”, which, given that the EU and the other EU Member States remain committed to “ever closer union”, does rather beg the question: Why remain in the EU? The benefits that we derive from our “special status”—outside the euro, Schengen and “ever closer union”—are things that non-EU countries take for granted. Moreover, the problems that Remainers associate with the various Leave options are EU-related—freedom of movement, EU rules and EU fees—and all would continue unaltered if Britain remains in the EU.

In answer to the question, what does Out look like? As Philip Hammond will tell you, initially, it looks a lot like EU membership, with more democratic governance, shorter lines of accountability, a less complex policy-making framework, and more say for voters and tax-payers.

Remainers Want To Bury Dave’s Dodgy Deal

The deal that David Cameron brought back from Brussels is a testament to the intractability of the EU institutions. The entire world was witness to the abject spectacle of the British Prime Minister taking his begging bowl around various European capitals and the outcome was not something that anybody—other than David Cameron himself it seems—would call “reform”. If the phoney “renegotiation” process was not enough to convince you that “EU reform”, along the lines that British politicians discuss, is not feasible, then I really don’t know what would. This is a fact that even the Remainers recognise.

To that end, no sooner had I dismissed Prospect Magazine on the grounds that its editor is apparently unable to read than up pops an article written by a legacy journo, published in none other than Prospect Magazine, which is worth a look.

Broadly, associate editor, Philip Collins, says that in order to win victory for the Remainers the Prime Minister must bury the “deal” on which so much publicity and political capital was expended. Mr Cameron must move the argument away from the particular towards the general, he reflects, if he is to convince the British people that democracy and accountable governance are matters for loser nations like the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India, not a confident, assertive United Kingdom, with all of the “clout” that comes from being subordinate to a supranational treaty organisation.

Collins states that there are two problems with the deal that Mr Cameron secured from Brussels. “The first”, he observes, “is that the details fall a long way short of the exaggerated expectations he foolishly raised. The second is that, dealing as it does with matters of no great relevance to anyone other than obsessed Tory MPs, the deal will be irrelevant to the final outcome of the referendum”.

First of all, while it is certainly true to say that the deal falls a long way short of expectations, it was not part of Mr Cameron’s strategy to raise expectations. Indeed, it was an important part of his strategy to lower expectations to rock bottom, so as to portray any kind of a deal as a win. This was when Mr Cameron thought that he would be able “piggyback” on the new treaty that most people anticipated, calling for still further fiscal and political integration between the members of eurozone, leaving Britain with some kind of a nebulous and uncertain “associate status”.

Second-class EU membership would never have addressed the concerns of genuine Brexiteers, but a two-tier EU would have fulfilled the promise of a “reformed EU” that Mr Cameron foolishly insists that he has achieved, in spite of the fact that Britain’s relationship with the EU has not changed one iota, and no powers whatsoever have been repatriated to Britain.

Indeed, Mr Cameron’s claim to have won a “special status” for Britain on the basis of the deal that was reluctantly agreed is absurd. Given that the Prime Minister has long claimed that he favours a new relationship with the EU based upon trade and co-operation but not political integration, his inability to negotiate anything of substance would have been the perfect opportunity to pursue a mandate to leave the European Union.

By his own lights, what makes Britain’s relationship with the EU “special” is the fact that we are not part of the euro, not part of Schengen and, as per his (unenforceable) agreement, not part of “ever closer union”.

The logic of claiming that Britain benefits from being less integrated than any other EU Member State would lead any rational actor to conclude that, with the rest of the EU still committed to “ever closer union”, now would be an appropriate time to negotiate an amicable exit and work with the remaining EU Member States from outside. Mr Cameron though, contra his claim to have “rule[d] nothing out” prior to his scanty “deal”, now affirms that EU withdrawal would be an unmitigated disaster for Britain, Europe and the World.

As such, whatever credibility the man might have once have had has long since vanished. Very little of what the Prime Minister is now arguing is sensible. The British people do not take well to being bullied and the threats of a serial deceiver will fall upon deaf ears.

Democracy and accountable government may not suit Mr Cameron, who has defied previous Electoral Commission recommendations for a much longer period between passage of the final regulations and the deciding referendum vote, in favour of a rapid fear and lies campaign, but the British have an ineffable sense of fairness.

As Mr Collins says, the deal has done “nothing at all on the big question”. Even if it is ever enacted (not guaranteed), Mr Cameron’s dodgy deal is not worth the paper on which it is printed, and even the people on his side of the debate know it.

The Case For Remain

1) Deny that EU membership has any significant impact upon British policy-making or the ability of national electorates to influence national policy via the ballot box. At the same time, argue that EU membership is absolutely vital for Britain’s future economic prosperity and national security.

2) Deny that EU membership has any significant impact upon popular sovereignty or self-governance. At the same time, argue that without EU institutions to supervise national electorates, employment protections would disappear, workhouses would return and Tory politicians would be stuffing women up chimneys and denying children the vote.

3) Be viciously anti-Tory and anti-Cameron, yet neglect to call out any of his absurd lies about EU membership and the consequences of EU withdrawal.

4) Accept at face value that prior to receiving a promissory note with no legal force from Brussels, David Cameron really did “rule nothing out”, even as you observe him repudiate precisely the kind of new relationship for which he has always argued—trade and co-operation without political integration.

5) Obsess over the kind of “trade deal” that Britain would have post-exit—as if trade is all that EU membership entails—yet also infer that Britain’s bureaucracy would be unable to cope/does not have sufficient expertise to administrate independent trade, justice & home affairs, agricultural, fisheries, energy, environmental, transportation and telecommunications policies, without the involvement of 27 other EU Member States, each with competing and sometimes contradictory interests.

Unless you care to argue the “positive case” for Britain’s acceptance of supranational representation on the global stage and less say for British voters than equivalent electors in Australia, Canada, Japan, etc., then your support for continued EU membership is little more than hypocritical posing.

In fact, you’re probably a politician or a legacy media journalist.