On the Other Hand

Polls suggest that potential Leave and Remain votes haven’t changed much since the Referendum though some have swapped sides, either frightened or disgusted by what has since happened. The EU is proving a tough negotiator in the Brexit talks, even an inflexible one. This promises to do us harm when we leave yet many still feel we should play our part and seek to change whatever is wrong with the Union from within. RemainersHere we will try to put ourselves in the minds of loyal British Remainers to understand why they might tolerate this.

These might be among the key sentiments that influence many who feel we should stay:

  1. When nations work together the world becomes a better place.
  2. We need to fight for our corner of the world by standing up to other countries or blocs that individually we cannot match.
  3. Despite the ups and downs our economic prospects are better the more closely they are aligned with our largest trade partner.
  4. We should stay and fight for change to make the EU what it could and should be.
  5. The European Union has focused our minds on creating more collaborations than were likely without it, especially in areas like research, security, the environment and justice.
  6. Our Continent has been at peace for over 70 years.
  7. It’s stupid to fall out with your nearest neighbours.
  8. Leaving the EU risks breaking up the UK.
  9. However strong the arguments are against the EU’s mission, performance or behaviour the costs and risks of leaving after 45 years of integration are much too high.

This seems a persuasive list even if we have missed some Remainer’s feelings. To what extent are these factors true and dependent on the EU, or something close to it?

When nations work together the world becomes a better place.No entry

When nations work together as a group they may do so for the good of the whole world or for a only a part of it. We can’t readily see what the good has been for the whole but the EU’s trade barriers are not helpful, in particular to poorer nations.

We need to fight for our corner of the world by standing up to other countries or blocs that individually we cannot match.

Stronger togetherThere is potential in the ‘Stronger Together’ principle though it has been rather tit-for-tat with the US so far. There is logic in this provided we have common interests but too often special interests delay or prevent appropriate action. We’ll be impressed if the EU’s ‘unqualified solidarity’ with the UK over Russia’s killings amounts to much more than words. Will Macron still go to Russia in May? Will Merkel cancel Nord Stream 2 (the new gas pipe)? Will sanctions be intensified?

Despite the ups and downs our economic prospects are better the more closely they are aligned with our largest trade partner.

EU GDP

The current upturn in the EU’s collective growth is probably cyclical, reflecting the global upturn; it has few means of protection left against the next downturn. The EU’s share of global GDP has halved over the last 30 years (far more than the USA or even Britain viewed separately); over the same period the EU’s share of our trade has declined and we have a positive balance with the rest of the world.

The European Union has focused our minds on creating more collaborations than were likely without it, especially in areas like research, security, the environment and justice.

CollaborationThis is true but did not require the heavyweight structure of the EU. Collaboration too often means burdensome regulation and centralised power. Looser ties could mean more realistic and effective outcomes with less cheating. There are many multinational bodies in and beyond Europe cooperating on things including trade policy, research, security, the environment and justice.

We should stay and fight for change to make the EU what it could and should be.

EU ReformWe joined on poor terms, especially regarding agriculture and fishing, and 45 years of argument have not redressed these. Increasing centralisation of power makes it harder to resist, let alone change course.

 

Our Continent has been at peace for over 70 years.

NapoleonKaiser Wilhelm

Aside from a few problems with Russia and between France and Germany, Europe as a whole was at peace for most of the 19th century, before the EU was even imagined. It is not obvious what conflicts its creation has avoided.

1815<——————————————————————->1914

It’s stupid to fall out with your nearest neighbours.

The UK has long had more close connections with distant countries than other EU members, including familial, constitutional, legal and cultural ties and similarities. These are being seriously undermined; it is now far harder to bring a Canadian spouse back to live here than an Estonian national, for example. Historic trading relationships have been weakened, especially in agriculture (cane sugar, bananas, butter and lamb).That is a narrowing of our international engagement. We are falling out with ideologues who don’t care about our interests, or indeed with anyone’s, but are committed to their theory over its outcomes. And it is they who are falling out with us, we only want to be free.

Leaving the EU risks breaking up the UK.

UK break-upThe EU can be flexible when it chooses to be but rigid when it suits its purpose. The simple solution to the Irish border problem is free trade and mutual recognition of standards and regulations, hardly difficult since they are exactly aligned now. If the UK chooses to diverge in some areas in future the proposed changes would need to be considered in the light of their border implications. Solutions can then be found, or the changes delayed until they are found, or that traffic could be banned; there is no need to threaten the unity and hence the peace in Ireland.

Scotland voted strongly to Remain but the SNP would find it easier to argue for separation from the UK and federation within the EU than if the rest of us left. Wales voted Leave of course (interesting then that Welsh Administration is consulting 7- 11 years on Brexit – how desperate). The EU even felt it could side with Spain over Gibraltar when we renounced them. Spain occupies two mainland enclaves in Morocco that have been disputed for 500 years; Gibraltar has been British for a mere 300 years, how much longer then until occupation becomes legitimate?

However strong the arguments are against the EU’s mission, performance or behaviour the costs and risks of leaving after 45 years of integration are much too high.

Brexit risksThere will undoubtedly be costs as a result of leaving though the severity and duration is very uncertain. This is because: we don’t yet know what the transition or final agreement terms will be; the EU’s future prospects are extremely unclear; the right policy choices are crucial to the UK’s success; future relationships with other partners are uncertain. Expert forecasts seldom prove reliable over more than the very short term, if at all, and we cannot assume that a status quo option is safer, or even that it exists.

 

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