Monday, June 27, 2016

Reflections on Brexit

Referendum: Latin - that which must be referred to another.

I am not a historian. I wanted to study history at A-level but was persuaded to study Latin instead, mainly, I now realise, because it suited the school timetabling. Had I studied history at A-level it is highly likely that I would have read history at University rather than languages. However, I have an abiding interest in history and politics and have read widely and esoterically, probably the more so because I have never focused my interest on a certain country or period. I have also been aware of world events for the last 50 years, long enough to see what goes around come around again.

Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all the others. In truth there is only one alternative form government, and that is dictatorship, whether by an individual or a group. People talk of 'benevolent dictatorship' as an acceptable form of government because it 'gets things done' without the restraint of consultation. It is utilitarian - the greatest good for the greatest number- which is fine unless you are not part of the greatest number. In a dictatorship, if your neighbourhood is in the way of a new airport or sports stadium, then you are well advised to find somewhere else to live PDQ as the bulldozers are just around the corner. Moreover, there is but a short step from dictatorship to tyranny, if not under the dictator then under whichever individual or group succeeds him.

Western Europe, over centuries of evolution and occasional revolution, has established a method of reducing the likelihood of dictatorship arising in its midst. That method is parliamentary democracy. Of course it is very insecure, and can be overthrown in very short order by a ruthless and ambitious opportunist with the backing of an army, whether national or private. It failed three times in Western Europe in the last century and produced three dictators who had at first a benign and then an extremely malign effect on their countries and subsequently on most of the world.

A parliamentary democracy is dependent on constant vigilance on the part of its citizens. It is tempting for people in power to create layers of bureaucracy and reduce accountability. In the end, our liberty depends on our ability to remove from office those who govern us if we believe, whether rightly or wrongly, that they are not acting in our interests. It is a model which Europe has exported to the more successful nations of the world and it has ensured a level of civil and political stability in a surprisingly large number of countries given that it is in the nature of the powerful to seek to retain and increase their power.

I have heard people say, and I have said myself, that it is global, multinational organisations which now truly run the world. What we must bear in mind is that, powerful as they are, they cannot imprison us without trial, torture us, send us into exile or execute us because they do not like what we say or write. It is dictatorships that do this, and our rights, both civil and legal, depend on preventing ourselves from falling into the hands of a dictator.

So then, the European Union. I will not rehearse the oft repeated arguments about whether the UK should remain or leave. In any case the die are cast now and it is up to us to do the best job we can with what we have. People voted to leave for many reasons. Mine was simple. In a union of 28 countries, citizens are too far removed from the seat of power. The European Commission is appointed, not elected. True it is appointed by the elected MEP's, but the very numbers make it extremely unlikely that the MEP's could remove the members of the Commission if they felt they were acting against the interests of the people. In addition, where countries as diverse as, for example, the UK and Estonia are concerned, the interests of the citizens may diverge substantially. It could be argued that there are very few areas where all the nations that make up the EU have common interests. They may have common goals - peace, prosperity - but very different ideas about how these are to be achieved.

Thus we have a situation where the EU, when it makes laws, has to be utilitarian. It has to attempt to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Therefore if an individual state is the only one to be disadvantaged by a new EU law, then it is in the position of the neighbourhood which is standing in the way of the airport.

For me the EU is a form of benevolent dictatorship. Over the last 40 years I have watched it take to itself, and away from individual member states, more and more power over the lives of their citizens. I have watched governments trade their country's lawmaking powers for economic benefits which in some cases have been short-lived. I understand and appreciate that everything a government decides to do will be to the disadvantage of some of its citizens, but when the EU passes a law the potential disadvantage is to millions of people and there is in reality no way that those people can oppose those making the law and remove them. There is a constant accrual of power to the powerful and a distancing of citizens from the levers of power.

I have heard many young people say that older people have taken us out of the EU against their will and jeopardised their future. On the contrary: I voted to take us out of the EU in order to protect their future. Economic prosperity is by its very nature uncertain. It is important but it is never more important than liberty. It is likely that the EU will not move from dictatorship to tyranny. It is likely that other nations would elect to leave if they were clearsighted enough to be aware that it was happening. In any case, I probably won't be around to witness it. I take issue with members of Parliament, such as John McDonnell, who insinuate that those who voted to leave were the old, the poor and the uneducated who did not understand the issues. They are underestimating the intelligence of those whom they govern, and for the moment we are still able to make that clear to them with our votes.

Patsy Whiteside


  1. The Government made a proposition for rich people that required poor people to vote for it. Not surprisingly they didn't. It was an ill-informed debate.

    However, there was a majority of only 3.9% for Leave and if only 650,000 people had voted the other way then the result would have been different. To say that you cannot ignore nearly 18 million people means ignoring over 16 million people who will be pretty hacked off. There are precedents (Ireland twice and, I believe, Denmark) for having another referendum (with a more detailed legalistic proposition). It will, however, take another Government to do it so we need a General Election. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London will not just go away. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that kicks off the notice period for Exit requires a Parliamentary Vote.

    The idea that the "leaders" of the Brexit Campaign should be tasked with overseeing the withdrawal of the UK from the EU really is putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum. Assuming that the SNP and the Northern Ireland MPs are still Remainers AND that the Labour Party finally gets its act together, there are no more than about 140 MPs (Conservative & UKIP), out of 650, pro-Brexit. These Politicians have failed the Electorate. Known problems should have been fixed years ago.

    The reason, by the way, why the Labour Party is pro-EU (but not apparently its Electorate) is that they value protections for working people and for "minorities" that have by and large been enshrined in law as a result of the EU. There is a fear that these protections will be diluted or rescinded completely by a Conservative Government out of the EU. There are genuine problems with Migration within the EU and if you really want to know why it is apparently necessary for the UK to have Bulgarian Fruit Pickers then Google "EU social dumping" and it's all there.

    It was fairly obvious that if poorer Eastern European countries were allowed to join a EU consisting of richer Western European countries then their populations were bound to migrate westwards. Wouldn't you? "Syrian Refugees" have changed everything. The EU belief in free movement of people is enshrined in Article 45 of the original Charter which results from paranoia about the politics of the 1930s. If you can choose who enters your country and who doesn't then you can exclude people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or sexuality. The next lot of countries that want to join the EU are Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, etc. and they are even poorer than the last lot. Countries such as Greece and Hungary are appalled at that prospect and it is widely viewed as a "vanity project" for France & Germany .... and Turkey are looming on the horizon.

    There are EU politicians who are sympathetic to the UK w.r.t. Social Dumping and its effect on Migration but they need to get going on necessary reforms. Greece, Portugal, Spain have internal problems which are distracting them and France is France. They don't like us and nobody likes them. Germany has been hurt by Inward Migration but is trying to appease France for the sake of "Unity". However, Germany does not want this situation and sotto voce has a lot sympathy with the UK.

    They all need to get moving - it isn't all down to us!!

    1. MP's and governments would be delighted to be elected with 52% of the votes cast and would not be suggesting that they are unrepresentatve and the election should be run again. The present government is in place with 36.9% of the votes cast in 2015. Some of us may not like the system but that is what we have until we all decide to change it. Either we have democracy or we don't and a majority is all that is required. In any election the losing side is 'hacked off' and nationally that is over 60%.

      A vote of 650,000 the other way would require an additional turnout of more than a million, and I think you can safely say that, in this election, everybody who had an opinion came out and expressed it. It was proportional representation at its best - every single vote counted.

      There will have to be a significant movement in public opinion before a second referendum could be called. At the moment it would be seen as cynical manipulation by the leaders whose wishes the majority had already rejected. English people on the whole do not like to be bullied and I felt that the remain campaign was quite bullying - nothing positive to say about the EU, just threats about the dire consequences of leaving. Usually if a club wants to retain a valuable member who is talking of leaving, then the other members make an effort to persuade that person to stay. We just had endless 'experts' wheeled out to tell us how dreadful it would be if we left. I have to conclude that the other member states aren't that sorry to see us go.

  2. Getting bored of it now.....rather wished they would all just get on with it so as that our business's can stabilise

  3. NeighbourhoodWatcher2:28 am, July 06, 2016

    I take Patsy's point that 50% + 1 is a victory but do 17 million people actually know what they have voted for? There is a groundswell of opinion that both sides in the debate lied to us.

    Ironically, how Brexit will actually progress ultimately depends on the vote of a few Conservative supporters in the Shires. What if there is a General Election, so we can all elect a Prime Minister and a "different" Government? We could then be presented with a series of legally framed propositions (much as happened in the Scottish Referendum) that we could actually vote for in a second referendum (as Ireland and Denmark did).

    This means that we may actually get an EU that we actually want to join, with Migration Controls and Workers' Rights properly legislated for. We as a Nation can't benefit from sensible changes in EU Law nor influence those changes if we are not in it.

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is "becoming more sympathetic" to the UK's interpretation of the EU's free movement rules - which is that they do not give migrants an unconditional right to claim benefits. ("Benefit Tourism" is a myth, b.t.w.) There are known (to all the member states) omissions and loopholes in EU legislation w.r.t movement of workers (ECJ judgements in the Rueffert Case, Laval, Viking Line, to name but a few) and the Council of Europe Heads of Government should have goaded the European Commission into sorting out proper legislation (and should have done so years ago).

    However, there are those that say it's ridiculous that the ECJ is involved at all. There is mounting criticism of the ECJ among member states for allegedly exceeding its powers by issuing judgements on matters outside its jurisdiction. Belgium, in particular, which has its own Constitutional Court, believes that the ECJ (and indeed the European Commission that kicks off a lot of legislation which comes under the jurisdiction of the ECJ) should deal with "big issues" and leave it to sovereign parliaments of member states to decide e.g. what sizes of containers olive oil can be sold in, which is a major pain in the bum for people all over the EU.

    1. Gosh, where to start?
      1. In any election, how many people really know what they are voting for and how many rely on 'impressions'?
      2. I have already expressed on this blog the opinion that the Government will do an 'Irish' and ask us again hoping that we have frightened ourselves into giving a different result. That opinion was confirmed when Dave resigned and as part of his resignation speech made it clear that Article 50 would not be invoked until a new leader was in place. That's playing for time.Personally I don't believe it is up to J-C Juncke to tell us when to push the button and this is yet another example of the bullying behaviour we saw from various EU bodies during the campaign.
      3. Personally I don't believe that the EU will be prepared to make the changes that the British people want, principally the free movement of people/labour (they use both terms as if they meant the same thing but they don't) but also what they see as interference in their country's internal affairs, for example the insistence on allowing convicted felons to vote in General Elections.
      4. So let's leave the big issues to the European Commission and the ECJ and we'll just fiddle around with legislation re the size of food containers? No thanks.

  4. How many who voted really understood what they were voting for? How many really thought they were voting to save the mythical £350 million, block migration and for a free trade deal "like Switzerland" - which has to obey all of the EU diktats in return and has higher immigration from the EU than Britain.

    Did all the politicians on both sides of the argument really know the true facts behind their pronouncements?

    Mrs knowsie came across this on The Rowan Tree which sums the situation up beautifully:


    So, let me get this straight... the leader of the opposition campaigned to stay but secretly wanted to leave, so his party held a non-binding vote to shame him into resigning so someone else could lead the campaign to ignore the result of the non-binding referendum which many people now think was just angry people trying to shame politicians into seeing they'd all done nothing to help them.

    Meanwhile, the man who campaigned to leave because he hoped losing would help him win the leadership of his party, accidentally won and ruined any chance of leading because the man who thought he couldn't lose, did - but resigned before actually doing the thing the vote had been about. The man who'd always thought he'd lead next, campaigned so badly that everyone thought he was lying when he said the economy would crash - and he was, but it did, but he's not resigned, but, like the man who lost and the man who won, also now can't become leader. Which means the woman who quietly campaigned to stay but always said she wanted to leave is likely to become leader instead.

    Which means she holds the same view as the leader of the opposition but for opposite reasons, but her party's view of this view is the opposite of the opposition's. And the opposition aren't yet opposing anything because the leader isn't listening to his party, who aren't listening to the country, who aren't listening to experts or possibly paying that much attention at all. However, none of their opponents actually want to be the one to do the thing that the vote was about, so there's not yet anything actually on the table to oppose anyway. And if no one ever does do the thing that most people asked them to do, it will be undemocratic and if any one ever does do it, it will be awful.


  5. So, how Brexit is actually going to happen will in effect be voted on by 150,000 Conservative Party Members. That will put the Peasants in their place.

    Unless the EU sorts out the laws regarding Migrant Workers (by enforcing the Bolkestein Directive, for instance) or lets us pass our own laws - which the UK Government has done nothing about for years (like the rest of the EU) - then if as part of "trade agreements" we are expected to accept dumping of cut-price labour on "competitive" contracts then we will be in no better a situation outside the EU than we were in it.

    I wonder what the Government is going to do about non-EU migration, if it thinks it has solved the problem on EU Migration, as there are actually more non-EU than EU immigrants in the UK, with large contingents from Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria.

    I was intrigued that we apparently do 44% of our trade in the EU, which means that we do 56% with countries outside the EU. I am not sure what it is 44% of (monetary value?) but I was surprised it was that low. To listen to some doom-sayers, you would think that almost all of our trade is done with the EU and that the Brexit vote was risking everything.

    1. Technically the Conservative Party is electing a leader. That they happen to be in Government will probably have affected the votes cast by the MP's and thus the candidates who would have been put before the membership if Ms Leadsom hadn't made such a pig's breakfast of her campaign.

      It has been told to me by a reliable source that not only do we do more that 50% of our trade outside the EU but that we pay a 20% tariff on all food we import from outside the EU,therefore New Zealand lamb, Canadian cheddar (hardly ever see that now, I wonder why?) etc. Can anyone confirm this?

  6. If another referendum was called it would be a joke....'best of three' eh!

  7. Do we have to keep throwing insults at each other. The result is done. Lets move on now.
    I must say well said to Patsy. She clearly laid down her reasoning and we should respect her opinion, whether we agree with it or not.
    I cannot speak for anyone else but can say that I did research and found the information in order to make my decision as informed as possible. I am not unintelligent. I have may friends from the EU and outside. I am not a racist.
    I am probably a peasant. I certainly came from a working class background. I do not hold anyone as my inferior and hate bullies that attempt to shoot down others who do not agree with them. I do have a growing disillusionment with all politicians, no matter what party they represent, which is why I do search things out. I do believe that there are those who consider themselves a political elite and am fed up with being told they know better.