EU Referendum: “At the start of the campaign I was relaxed over a Brexit vote.”

Interesting piece in the Guardian from Simon Jenkins who, by his own admission, has “long been a Eurosceptic”.  Although, as he also points out, “that is not the same as being a leaver.”  For a start he is equally critical of the ‘Leave’ and the ‘Remain’ campaigns – an assessment I broadly agree with.

Here’s what he has to say on the ‘Remain’ campaign

When marching to the remain drum, I have been shocked at the mendacity of “project fear”. I simply do not believe Brexit would cost 3m jobs, slash pensions, wreck the NHS or lead to the destruction of western political civilisation. That is silly talk. As for putting 2p on income tax or “endangering London house prices”, what on earth is George Osborne on about? How about threatening not to build HS2?

I have also been baffled by remain’s daily conga of elder statesmen, corporate toffs, bankers, intellectuals and celebrities all wailing that Brexit will damage their various interests. How will this impress an electorate dying for a chance next week to give the lot of them a bloody nose? The rich always find a way to survive. And if a chill runs through London’s property market, that is no bad thing.

I am unpersuaded that Brexit will spell economic catastrophe. We know what will happen. The British establishment will spend two years busting every gut to pretend we voted otherwise. It will wriggle, plead, pay up and concede anything to establish some sort of “associate EU” status. Somehow trade will continue. Somehow a deal will be done on people movement. There will be opt-outs plus, but no Armageddon.

And then on the Leavers

But then equally distasteful has been Brexit’s rhetoric on immigration. Not to mention its Trumpish portrayal of the EU as purveyor of rape, crime and terrorism, and its playing merry hell with statistics. What has struck a chord is its simple message “Take back control”. This has partially sanitised immigration as well as offering an easy win on bureaucracy. No one doubts that immigration and bureaucracy will continue after Brexit, but it is plausible to demand more empowerment rather than less. Project control is a better slogan than project fear.

In reality both projects are impostors. As the arguments have been fought back and forth, they have come to neutralise each other, like medieval knights slashing off one another’s limbs. There are clear risks to Brexit, but I can see it as an updating of 1979, a periodic moment when a modern political economy purges itself of bad habits, monopolies and taboos. Through the murk of potential renegotiation, it is impossible to see light, but I rate the balance of the economic argument as roughly even – but with the stakes not very high.

So what is left of the politics? The message of history is that Britain serves Europe best when it keeps itself semi-detached. It was right to join the common market but not the subsequent European Union, with all the toxic, undemocratic supranationalism that has come in its train.

The EU is clearly ailing. It must in some sense dismantle itself, either by debate and negotiation or by a sequence of copycat plebiscites. Other electorates are itching to do what Britain is doing. Anti-EU sentiment in most of Europe, much of it rightwing, is found in roughly a third of the population, and is growing. This is ominous for European unity.

He arrives at an interesting, if speculative, position

Were economics overwhelmingly on the side of Brexit, I would vote for it. I would advocate that Britain work for Europe’s salvation from outside, perhaps in league with other non-eurozone countries that might take the same path. Since I find the economics neutral, the politics comes to the fore.

Britain is not a big player in the EU game. It has always been a disgruntled bystander. But for Britain to trigger not a “dis-integration” but a dismantling of what is already a tottering congeries of states is most dangerous. It would leave Germany effectively alone at the head of Europe, alternately hesitant and bullying. That has to be a bad idea – as sensible Germans will attest.

This is not the equivalent of 1914 or 1939. It is closer to 1815 and Waterloo. A Britain that votes to stay with the EU would be able, for a crucial while, to wield serious clout, in Europe’s interest and its own. At the start of this campaign I wanted to leave, renegotiate and stay. Now I am for stay, lobby and see what happens next. Whatever anyone says, there is always another time.

But, read the whole thing.

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  • Angry Mob

    “A Britain that votes to stay with the EU would be able, for a crucial while, to wield serious clout…”

    An EU that in its own self arrogance wouldn’t grant minimal concessions to its puppet Cameron despite facing the prospect of its second largest net contributor heading for the exit door will somehow suddenly start to mollycoddle the UK after a remain vote in which we had the audacity to even challenge its authority? I think not, a remain vote will be seen as a rubber stamp for ever closer union.

    I’m seriously surprised he didn’t use the old buzzword “reform”.

  • Freeborn John

    It is simply rediculous to pretend, with the benefit of hindsight of Cameron’s failed negotiation, that we could vote to remain and suddenly “wield serious clout”. All experience tells you the EU is impervious to reform; like the old USSR it will break because it cannot bend.

  • whatif1984true

    The EU is not able to reform, it is trying to cope with its continual and ongoing growth. Reform would require a halt. Trying to get agreement is going to be even harder with more countries. The 5 prospective countries would fight hard to get/retain the same benefits that all the other ‘poorer countries’ got on their admittance to the EU.

    If 150 million (example only) EU residents want out of the EU they cannot do so in the same way that millions voted for UKIP but got only one MP in the UK. Change/Reform is not on the way in the next decade. Should UK wait it out with no idea of what any reform might mean to it or indeed any other current EU country.

    The bigger the family the more mouths to feed and the ones doing that are mostly Germany and the UK. The family is going to increase very considerably more, choices are very limited.

  • chrisjones2

    I too started favouring a deal that would allow us to stay – some sign of a possible change to a new model. What is worrying is that even the German Finance Minister admitted last week that NOONE on the Political side wants this focus on a European state but its being driven by the nomenclatura in Brussels and the politicians cannot slow or stop it

    And that is the problem with the EU and why we must go before this rotten edifice implodes

    Short term it may costs us but freedom and long term growth are worth it

  • Abucs

    If nothing else a vote for BREXIT, in time, will illuminate the rest of Europe on how best to pursue European politics.

  • aquifer

    If the EU is impervious to reform it is because our politicians have not been paying it due attention, or prefer to let their own Eurocrats do needed policies under the table out of sight of their own backbenchers.

  • aquifer

    “the nomenclatura in Brussels” are controlled by our governments through the commission and commissioners.

    If our governments cannot do this job why should we trust them to run here?

  • Kevin Breslin

    There is very little to debate here. This is a journalist who sees two project fears either side of this referendum. While I would have my own different opinions on Europe and the UK, the sentiment to err on the side of caution is understandably human.
    In the wake of recent events I would really want more serenity, more tolerance, more generosity of spirit, more perspective and more hope in this campaign and in what comes after.
    That’s not found from taking back control or being stronger in Europe, that comes from having self-control and being stronger within.

  • chrisjones2

    I fear that that’s very naiive.

    And then why does the German Finance Minister even feel that they are driving an Agenda that none of the political players want?

  • Sharpie

    Thats a ridiculous statement. The EU has changed and morphed every few years since its creation. For the scale of the work it gets through it is probably one of the most dynamic administrations that ever existed. I was an Erasmus student in the nineties and while studying in France I learned about the origins of the EU. At that time people loved already to bash its bureaucratic credentials until I learned that its entire staff was fewer than that of the Mayors office in Paris.

    It’s not a rational argument to leave – just an idealogical one. There is not a right and wrong – just two very different visions of what is better and no matter what happens this split is now in society and will continue after the vote – no matter the result.

  • whatif1984true

    Maybe they were just Bolshie and decided to try calling his/our bluff, expecting a Remain vote.

  • Sharpie

    The world is run by corporate interests. This is as true on a national scale as it is on an international scale.

  • chrisjones2

    “The EU has changed and morphed every few years since its creation.”

    …and all min one direction without a democratic mandate

  • Sharpie

    I cannot live without envisaging a moment, a day, when humanity sees itself as humanity, not that its highest horizon is a series of xenophobic, corralled, scared nation states peeking out to sea for invaders. Our interests and problems transcend any border and we will only resolve them and develop our human potential when we free ourselves from the shackles of thought control by bullying little generals.

    The EU represents to me an ideal that we are connected, interdependent, and more happy and successful at living (not just surviving) when we cooperate. It represents an acknowledgement and even celebration of diversity without trying to identikit and homogenise the world as American (anglo saxon) culture does. It also represents our best shot at tackling some of the worlds really big problems – global inequality, climate change, ecological collapse (of oceans, rainforests, and soil), resource scarcity – all of which manifest themselves as instability, migration, economic volatility, conflict, and increasing shortages.

    While the EU is messy, negotiated and built on compromise, it is ultimately based on agreement. It gets stuff horrifically wrong, but never out of malign intent, only because collectively that is what all the member states signed up for (e.g. fisheries policy), some euro decisions such as letting Greece into the euro. These are mistakes which lead to learning.

    Pretending that the World’s problems are not the UK’s problems is a deceit. I have not heard anyone in the remain campaign articulating these points and certainly not heard anyone in the leave campaign recognise them.

    Control is an illusion – post Brexit UK will likely lose more control of its destiny and certainly will not be able to take more control of anything. Closing borders is not taking control, its a strategy to kill the economy.

  • Reader

    Where is our best chance to break free of corporate interests? Within the EU?
    Poor Corbyn. Instead of him seizing power, power seized him.

  • Sharpie

    Yes regarding Corbyn – you are right. The country and indeed the world is not yet ready to conceive of an overthrow of the current order but the signals are all there and its a trend that is growing.

    Breaking free of corporate interests will certainly never happen at a national level when most of the major economy is transnational. Many TNC’s are larger than most economies – but not larger than blocs. Look at how the UK Government dealt with Amazon, Google and Starbuck tax avoidance – compared to how the EU deals with them.

  • H1Sport

    Same old misrepresentation of anyone else’s point, whilst pretending that your opinions and assertions are fact. Yawn, we’ve really had enough of this sort of pompous self-congratulation.

  • H1Sport

    “It’s not a rational argument to leave – just an idealogical one.” Sorry dude, but that is truly some meaningless drivel right there. Perhaps you should stop talking.

  • Sharpie

    Awesome contribution dude.

  • Sharpie

    Thanks for the great response H1Sport

  • Reader

    Sharpie: Look at how the UK Government dealt with Amazon, Google and Starbuck tax avoidance – compared to how the EU deals with them.
    1) The UK is actually in the EU – didn’t that help?
    2) The EU has permitted the double-Irish dutch-sandwich to be used. (Grandfathered until 2020 for existing users). As well as varying corporate tax rates (i.e. the Irish tax haven) and the Luxemburg offshore banking tax haven. How progressive the EU is…
    Sharpie: …signals are all there and its a trend that is growing.
    What is your prediction concerning TTIP and the EU? How will that affect your trend line?

  • aquifer

    Because the logical resolution to the euro crisis is for the others to wake up and throw the Germans out of it.

    Was that the answer you expected?

  • John Devane

    Exactly. If the EU was open to meaningful reform Corbyn’s about face on his EU views would be understandable instead they’re unbelievable.

  • John Devane

    A remain vote is the green light for EU political domination under the guise of ever closer union. The UK will effectively be signing it’s own death warrant. After two decades inside a bullying abusive relationship with the bloated EU it’s time to Leave. The EU will not reform even when it’s no 2 net contributor threatens to go. Corbyn can forget it

  • Pasty

    UUP near dead ones want people to vote leave and They claim a UK withdrawal from the EU “has the potential to kick-start a British renaissance of global proportions”. Oh for days of Empire as they looked out the window of the retirement home across the Green Fields. The Empire is gone – It’s Over, really it’s Over !!!!

  • Freeborn John

    The EU has only changed in the direction those on its payroll desire, I.e. Towards more integration which happens to disenfranchise voters who are the main losers of more power and budget for Brussels insiders. Hence the disconnect between the direction that society wants to go in (more democracy) and which Brusels has gone in.

    There are in fact no rational arguments for staying in the EU which stand up in debate. That is why defenders of the status quo in the UK like Nick Clegg were routed in debate and concluded that the In Campaign must use Projct Fear instead of rational argument.

  • Freeborn John

    European Nations can cooperate (as the rest of the world does) without a layer of supranational government that is inherently democratic. There are almost no problems that you might consider European which are not actually global problems and which therefore require worldwide cooperation using classical Inter-governmental means that use decision-making by consensus (rather than the EU democracy-destroying QMV).

    Your argument actually starts with a premise that democracy is impossible (‘control is an illusion’) so it is perhaps no surprise that you come to the conclusion that the EU is great. Democracy however is the norm in the outside world and used to work in Western Europe. I would encourage you to open yours eyes to the whole world and raise your ambition for what an (re)enfranchised electorate can achieve.