Remainers and Leavers still argue about the benefits of Brexit and the EU, arguments that have divided friends and families. Here we imagine a family argument.
Stacey and Levi aren’t the most compatible of partners, they always seem to see things from different angles and never stop bickering, rather like the couple in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” they never stop. Their current favourite argument is about Brexit. When Levi challenges her and all Remainers’ loyalty to Britain by weakening its negotiating position, for example, Stacey says:
“Well I feel European.”
“No you don’t,” replies Levi, “Nobody does. Do you feel a touch Turkish, a bit Bulgarian or slightly Spanish? Just because you’ve got a degree in Place Mats and Table Manners, or whatever, doesn’t mean you’re a smarter or better person.”
“Politics and Economics actually. At least I know what I’m talking about,” she answers tartly, “anyway, I believe in European values.”
“Whatever they are. And I suppose you mean EU values,” says Levi, adding sarcastically, “or do you believe in Russian values too?”.
“OK, EU values, if you must be pedantic. They’re spelled out in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights since you ask. It was made binding on all member states in 2009 and your lot want to drop it. Then we will be like Russia, or Turkey for that matter.”
“You mean we’ll be able to send terrorists back where they belong, at last?” Levi always knows how to frustrate Stacey’s detailed knowledge with a basic question or Smart Alec answer.
Stacey thinks we should stay but Levi still thinks we should leave. Did she make her case or was he right to remain sceptical? We think he was right, here’s why:
The EU’s Charter isn’t necessary for Britain or any other signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which has nothing to do with the EU. In fact the Charter is just a way of stealing another’s clothes to cloak itself in supposed virtue. The ECHR has a positive track record, often challenging Russia and Turkey at its court in Strasbourg rather than pursuing Britain and other countries that are well-regarded outside the EU’s Court of Justice (ECJ) for their respect for human rights. Britain was in fact the prime instigator of the Convention, devised following the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals, so predating the Charter and indeed the EU and its forerunners.
The EU doesn’t ‘own’ European values, even when the term is restricted to cover just the 28 member nations. The Council of Europe, which is not an EU institution, includes Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for example, and its intention is to uphold human rights (via the ECHR), law and democracy. By leaving the EU Britain will not be renouncing its membership of the Council of Europe, nor its commitment to any of these values.
If there are other values common to European or EU national cultures we do not need the EU to protect them with legal charters. The basics are covered elsewhere, as we have shown, the rest arise from within the societies themselves and are held by these groups’ own sense of identity and community. They cannot be imposed or abrogated by Brussels.
Our story makes another point. On average, Remain voters had a higher education level than Leavers which many of the former believe gives them greater wisdom. However it may demonstrate that they have absorbed more ‘received wisdom’ whereas Leavers looked at the evidence of what the EU has done for them. They (Leavers) may seem more selfish than their ‘enlightened’ opponents but good intentions and abstract theory are no match for practical gains, or offset practical losses (e.g. democracy). Of course we don’t think that less education generally implies greater wisdom, simply that hoi polloi aren’t always wrong, or if they were then democracy would be unwise (as EU bureaucrats – and many Remainers – clearly believe).