Only Believe (if only)

Remainers, like Leavers, presumably come on a spectrum; let’s say from soft to hard. The EU offers a list of its goals and values, which hard Remainers believe the EU conforms to, and soft Remainers want to believe. Perhaps; we’re not expert at understanding the urge to remain.

https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/eu-in-brief_en

Let’s have a look at some of these goals and values and compare them with what we see in practice.

The goals of the European Union are:

  • promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens

PeaceEU leaders frequently declare that their Project is responsible for 70+ years of peace in Europe. We have two main objections to this claim. First, European union and (relative) peace in Europe have coincided for (rather less than) 70 years. Coincidence does not confirm causality, as the EU wishes us to believe. They don’t say how their project brought about peace (the predecessor of the Union started in the 1950s, less than 70 years ago), they just want us to believe it and, like effective cereal sellers, they keep repeating their claim. Second, ‘peace’ is not defined in their advertisements and, while most of the Continent has been spared a shooting war, a broader definition of peace would not fit the fractious nature of European relations. [1]

A much more plausible claim for causality could be made for trade, tourism and tradition, after all, Europe was at peace for long stretches of its history. [2]

  • enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries

Motherhood-and-apple-pieTake these one at a time, to question the ‘motherhood-and-apple-pie’ feeling that is surely intended. Economic cohesion surely is a goal, elaborated in the next-but-one goal below (EMU) but we’ll save our comments. Is ‘social cohesion’ (whatever it might mean) a desirable goal? How many citizens of the diverse nations of Europe would want to cohere with one another? Does it matter what citizens want, if the goal is to deliver what they need? This goal is surely driven by ideology not by any notion of democracy. And territorial cohesion we simply don’t understand, unless it’s an oblique reference to a federal government being needed to protect the EU’s external borders, in which case we have to ask, ‘protect from what?’; migrants, Russia – as usual they don’t say what they mean. And then we have “solidarity among EU countries”. But what could ‘solidarity’ mean in this context, other than agreeing to do as they are told? This is surely what it does mean to the EU, if not to soft Remainers. [3] Perhaps what they have in mind is ‘no borders’, or possibly the Social Chapter, where everyone must endure exactly the same rules; and of course the same money. When we put everything in the same melting pot they melt, but do they necessarily cohere?

  • respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity

Respect-2Now we could be picky here and ask why “respect” is only a goal, something to be achieved, not so far achieved? But let’s not do that; after all much EU business is conducted in many (though not all) the different languages of the EU, so perhaps that’s enough. But once again this is (im)pure marketing puff; apart from being silly it doesn’t mean anything, its purpose is to persuade us to feel good about the EU, nothing more. [4] Is respect for diversity in some way preserved or intensified under the Union’s agenda, which presses towards conformity wherever it finds diversity?

  • establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro

Perhaps wisely, they don’t set the goal as being to establish a successful EMU, which would surely excite some trenchant challenges. [5] If this is a goal, what is its purpose? It attempts more control and less diversity but in practice it’s out of control and diversity – of performance – is greater.

Now we turn to “Values

“The EU values are common to the EU countries in a society in which inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination prevail. These values are an integral part of our European way of life”.

Laugh or cry-1We don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this introduction. But sticking with our theme, this is the what Remainers believe or want to believe. We wonder who could have been persuaded to write this stuff, and hope they were paid well.

We’ll start with “EU values are common to the EU countries”. It is sufficient to read the guff that accompanies the six values (see the link above) to give the lie to this claim. We must assume that Remainers, along the spectrum, have not read them; at least not with their minds open to questions.

Next we have “in a society”, which indicates clearly both the goal of federation and the belief that this has already been achieved. We think there is no such thing as a European society, let alone an EU one. But we know what they mean, and what they want us to believe. [6]

And to add syrup to the gravy we have, “our European way of life”. They write this because the EU actually wants to eliminate diversity, and wants us to believe not only that this is possible but that it has been achieved. If they were honest (which would defeat their Project) they would write ‘our European ways of life’, which would both acknowledge and celebrate diversity. Quite obviously, there is no such thing as “our European way of life”. As an example of diversity: when the German economy was in the doldrums its government introduced the Hartz reforms which reduced workers’ benefits and wages; when Macron tried the same recipe the ‘yellow jackets’ stopped it dead. We assume that the EU would prefer to ‘cohere’ around the German approach, but what to do about the French? And Poles, Hungarians, Italians, to name a few irremediably diverse populations.

EU values-1Here is what we think of three of the six “EU values” that they want us to swallow, preferably uncritically (the other three are Freedom, Equality and Human Rights).

  • “Human dignity
    Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected, protected and constitutes the real basis of fundamental rights.”

Whatever ‘human dignity’ might mean it is widely violated, not least in and by the EU. The disdain shown by EU leaders towards its citizens is legendary. [7] [8]

  • “Democracy
    The functioning of the EU is founded on representative democracy. Being a European citizen also means enjoying political rights.”

Representative democracy is a sound ideal, though not one respected or implemented by the EU, which is designed to keep its citizens’ representatives (members of the European Parliament) in their place, which is not to interfere in the governance of the project. [9] [10] The “also” in the next sentence suggests – correctly – that political rights in the EU are distinct from representative democracy. However, they don’t say what these rights are in the EU. An implication of this sentence is that citizens do not enjoy political rights in their own member countries, but drawing this inference may be unfair and certainly they would deny it, while not saying what they do mean.

RepresentativeWe think they mean that the EU comprises representative democracies already so doesn’t need to be replicated at the aggregate level or the Project would be going nowhere because of its members’ current diversity, which of course must be curtailed. Thus ‘values’ are secondary to ‘goals’. It is also interesting that direct democracy is denied when the result of a referendum does not further the goals, which is why Switzerland couldn’t join. UK Remainers are now steeped in the same ‘value’. However, failure to replicate representative democracy at the aggregate, or federal, level makes nonsense of democracy at the national level, since federal overrules national decision-making.

  • Rule of law
    The EU is based on the rule of law. Everything the EU does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by its EU countries. Law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary. The EU countries gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice which judgements have to be respected by all.”

Based in the rule of law might be more accurate. Law-making dominates the activities of the EU institutions and while the European Parliament has to approve all laws it does not have the power to initiate them, which lies with the non-elected Commission and the councils. We assume that it was Remainers, and their equivalents in the governments of other member states, who “…gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice…”, the purpose of which is not independent justice but to ensure that EU laws, regulations and so on are “respected by all”. [11]

But not “voluntarily and democratically agreed” when the Lisbon Treaty was agreed by representatives after being rejected by French citizens. The Constitution proposals, which the French had the right to ‘voluntarily’ accept, but rejected, was redrafted as a treaty which their representative (the French President) signed. The Brexit vote is being treated in the same high-handed way.

The EU has delivered more than half a century of peace, stability and prosperity, helped raise living standards and launched a single European currency: the euro.”

False claimsThe only bit of this that we can believe unreservedly is that the EU launched a single currency. The remainder of this unsupported claim is either suspect because coincidental (delivering peace and raising living standards), or simply false (stability and prosperity) – ask Greeks and Italians, in particular. [12]

The EU remains focused on making its governing institutions more transparent and democratic. Decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen. … European citizens are encouraged to contribute to the democratic life of the Union by giving their views on EU policies during their development or suggest improvements to existing laws and policies.”

More tiresome – and untrue – marketing puff. Most revealing are “governing institutions”, which states the true agenda (and is surrounded by a lie) and “giving their views” which tells us the limit of their use of the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘democratic’. [13]

We have tried hard to understand why Remainers (hard, soft and in between) want the UK to remain in the EU. Perhaps the ideals presented in this EU document give the answer. But then we have to ask why anyone would believe that these ill-defined goals and values both mean something more than one might find on a cornflakes packet and are being realised in practice. Our linked (and other) posts show clearly the wide gaps between the real EU agenda and how it realises its agenda, and the ideals that it wants us to believe are the true agenda. If Remainers would use their critical faculties when presented with the EU’s ideal marketing the case to remain would vaporise.

Hard-soft boiled

See our Brexit: a Brief Summary for links to many relevant posts.

_______________________________________________________________________

[1]       Evidence of Fragility (Summary)                      [2]       All our yesterdays

[3]       Solidarity                                                               [4]       Attitudes and Ideology

[5]       The State of the Euro                                          [6]       Ever Closer Union

[7]       High and Mighty                                                 [8]       More High and Mighty

[9]       So What is Democracy?                                    [10]     On Democracy 1, 2, 3

[11]     The World’s Favourite Law                              [12]     Did the EU Bring us Growth?

[13]     Citizens’ Initiative      

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18 thoughts on “Only Believe (if only)

  1. “Of course there will be negative consequences but we Leavers believe they will be overcome”
    Do you have a reasoning about how to deal with the backstop?

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    1. Sorry for the slow response. For more on the backstop please see ‘Backstop or Backstab?’ in our recent posts. There is more in ‘A Withdrawal Agreement’. And a detailed analysis of the failed (so far) Withdrawal Agreement in the linked post, ‘Draft Withdrawal Agreement: A Fatal Flaw’, which looks in detail at the backstop and other issues raised by the draft.
      And thank you for following our blog; please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

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      1. If a Brexit without agreement seems imminent, it is unlikely that public protest in Northern Ireland could trigger a border poll. The EU can then temporarily exempt the Republic of Ireland from enforcing customs and regulatory controls to allow time for the poll.

        More conceivable in the case of a messy Brexit, London, Dublin, Belfast and Brussels, and potentially Washington, could meet in a slightly depoliticized atmosphere to determine how to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.

        In my own judgement, most likely solution would be similar to the specific support of Northern Ireland that was initially proposed by the EU, which implies controls in the Irish Sea between goods traveling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

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      2. Thanks again for your comment – and your interest in our blog. There are, as you say, alternative approaches to Brexit, including a ‘no deal’ one. However, the EU seems determined to maximise the pain, which will be shared across the EU, and we wonder if the British side have the skills to retrieve anything of value from the current muddle. The present Withdrawal Agreement, which the EU says is their final offer, should continue to be unacceptable to the UK because it binds us into an arrangement that could easily become permanent. And that would be the plan from the EU. We will see how things turn out but it doesn’t look good for a mutually satisfactory agreement as things stand now.

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  2. Ajuanesa, I’d like to add to my brother’s reply (and his thanks for your interest). The ‘likely solution’ you mention would result in withdrawal of DUP support for the Government which must then fall, with a General Election or a different coalition taking over. Perhaps a customs union would be a fairly likely solution from that, even Labour’s proposal for an agreement providing exactly the same ‘benefits’ as the Customs Union and Single Market (it doesn’t mention any dis-benefits). This would of course require us to continue paying into the EU budget but not receive funding (or rebate?), continuing free movement and accepting the ECJ’s judgement over ever-increasing areas of law and British life – without a vote.

    We would call it an Un-Brexit and probably prefer No Brexit so we could at least try to put a few spokes in the EU’s wheels – there are other nations and parties that would soon welcome our help in spoiling a few things. With disunity and defiance spreading already and economic minefields everywhere the EU might possibly continue indefinitely but soon become irrelevant as countries increasingly do as they please.

    There is a better solution and an obvious one, a free trade agreement (FTA) that includes mutual recognition of standards (MRA). Other non-EU countries have agreed these even during the Brexit non-negotiations, and with countries that don’t even have exactly the same standards already. The EU has just wasted a couple of years in a political war-game to punish Britain and to prevent the obvious and desirable outcome of a return to an economic community of European nations.

    We’d welcome any further thoughts you have. (Nick)

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      1. I’d hoped you might agree that a good free trade agreement might sufficiently satisfy the 52, 48 and 27. How else might the majority of dissatisfied British voters be reconciled? Surely not by being ignored, that undermines the legitimacy, the supposed values and in time the survival of the Union.

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      2. The decision on Brexit has already been taken.
        In my opinion was a narrow margin for such a decisive referendum.
        Now, again in my opinion, choosing between leaving with or without a deal is the only way, that another referendum could be held in a way that respects democracy.

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      3. Your wish for Britain to stay in the EU rests on at least two assumption that we challenge. The first is that the EU has brought economic benefits to British citizens, which they don’t feel is so. While not as bad as Greeks and Italians, British citizens, other than some well-to-do people, do not experience benefits from the poor economic performance of the EU, relative to other trading blocks. All they experience are the marketing spin and lies that attempt to cover up the poor performance. Second, for this lack of improvement British citizens, and others, have had to give up their democratic rights to a group of ex-politicians who cannot be removed democratically, even if their performance is poor. Only a few people are content to give up their right to elect or dismiss a government but the EU does not permit this, by design.
        Our view is that while it may be expensive for Britain to leave the EU now, it would be much more expensive to be inside when in the end it collapses, not least because of the two factors mentioned above. If citizens of other EU member states were asked (which they won’t be) they too would wish that their countries would leave the EU. The fear of this is the main reason for the inflexible hard line that the EU has taken towards Brexit.
        A good free trade agreement should be possible, but not while the EU is afraid that Britain might be successful economically outside the EU.
        Sorry! I seem to be talking to Nick not to you Antonio.

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      4. What proportion would you accept as desirable? They say that solidarity has increased in the EU since Brexit was decided. What is democracy worth if a simple majority can’t get action?

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      5. In my opinion, the rules of every referendum should be previously establish and “ad hoc” for each one.
        The proportion would depend of its relevance and trascendence.

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      6. The advantages of the referendum were that it was simple, clear and unambiguous. The main disadvantage, from the point of view of Remainers, is that it produced the ‘wrong’ answer. This is why there are so many calls for a second referendum, in the hope that it would produce the right answer this time. I won’t go on here because we covered the topic in some detail in two posts: A Second Brexit Referendum? (January 2018) and Second Referendum Test (October 2018). (A search on our blog for ‘second’ will bring both up at the top of the results.) (Dave)

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  3. Nandeu, the decision on Brexit has already been taken.

    In my opinion was a narrow margin for such a decisive referendum. Britain will remain divided and politically unstable for the years to come. The European Union and the Rest of the World will also suffer the consequences. The excess of democracy, any excess, can be dangerous.

    Now, again in my opinion, choosing between leaving with or without a deal is the only way that another referendum could be held, in a way that respects democracy.

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  4. An ” excess of democracy” is an interesting topic, one for political philosophers. Majority rule must be limited where the ‘rights’ of minorities can be traduced by those that simply outnumber them, but those rights must relate to human freedoms rather than the right to stall the legitate ambitions of most – unless by mutual agreement (The Good Friday Agreement for example).

    If you’re suggesting that those who know what’s best for us should set the limits on our rights to decide what we think what’s best for us then you are following an ancient line of political philosophers which we think is discredited. We addressed this in Shorties-22 (see the second section).

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    1. Now that Mr. Corbyn has made his demands for his support for Brexit
      (and it’s clear that he supports Brexit),
      the British people, the 48% of them who voted “remain”,
      aren’t represented by either party anymore.

      In my opinion, human freedoms are also legitate ambitions.

      The MP in the House of Commons should set the rules and limits of the trascendental referemdums.

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      1. We have posted about what MPs should do if they get elected on a major promise and change their minds – ask their voters again. They must follow their consciences, but also their promises where these were unambiguous, as they were for for practically all members. There were Remain parties to vote for in 2017 (LibDems, Greens and in some areas SNP or Plaid) but MPs overwhelming voted for Leave candidates, or so they thought – even those who really wanted to remain, curiously. Now many seem to have changed their minds, and want to press for a second referendum vote or some other method to frustrate the original result. Unfortunately neither party can be taken seriously, though in England the LibDems have consistently supported remain so any of the millions who voted to remain can move to that party and, perhaps, help it to recover in the polls.
        Please see Resign, You Cowards! and maybe Off the Table!

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    2. Mr. Corbin’s demands rejected.

      Now Corbyn’s letter has been rejected,
      what new ploy will he come up with,
      to delay opposing Brexit or promoting a peoples vote?

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      1. Corbyn is less than relevant, at the moment. We’ll have to see what he, and his Labour Party, come up with. But it will mostly be about getting another election to give him and them a chance to take over. What then? We don’t know because they don’t come clean.

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