If you have linked here from Questions, Questions then this is the place to find out what we think are the right answers. However, we hope that you will provide your own responses and perhaps some counter opinions. If so, please contribute to our Comments section on this blog. Many of these questions we have addressed in earlier posts so we have limited our answers here and referenced those posts.
Q1:Should we stay in the EU because it enhances friendly relationships between people and governments?
A1: If friendly relationships have been enhanced that is more likely due to travel, trade and tourism, all of which have increased dramatically as transport and communications have changed the world. The way the EU has ‘negotiated’ Brexit – with hard-nosed disdain – shows us that politics and ideology matters more than friendship to its rulers. Despite winning a Nobel peace prize there is actually no compelling evidence that the EU has, or will, keep the peace, as it claims. It is more likely that competing European empires have been replaced by other global empires so the points of tension have moved. The EU may also be recreating the previous tribulations as nasty nationalisms re-emerge due to failing policies and by ignoring and overruling valid national identities and concerns. (see Ambition, Distraction, Unification and Division and/or Keeping the Peace and/or All our yesterdays)
Q2: Should we stay in the EU because it enhances our security?
A2: Since security for its citizens must be the primary duty of any state, why does the EU threaten to exclude from current areas of cooperation a nation with Europe’s foremost intelligence capabilities? The UK’s participation in Europol, Galileo and military intelligence with access to related databases would benefit EU members but ‘unity’ matters more to its leaders. Eurosceptic parties are now the most popular in Finland and Italy for example and in other countries – like France, Sweden, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands – their support is considerable; yet none of them any longer advocate leaving the Union because Britain’s example has frightened them. The strategy of non-cooperation is designed to deter further exits and this takes precedence even over the peoples’ safety. The EU needs fresh ideas more than frozen ideology, that might encourage nations to stay rather than scare them into it.
Yes, the idealists who conceived and designed the EU wanted lasting peace between the major powers and the security that would bring. They believed that political integration plus economic growth would achieve this; they have no evidence to support their claim that it has brought lasting peace. They have proposed that the Union should invest in its own defence force but is this more about closer union than better security, with the bonus of stiffing America and NATO? Perhaps members should pay their share and earn their say. (see All I want is peace. Peace! Peace! and/or Ever Closer Defence and/or State of the European Union 2018 – 1)
Q3: Should we stay in the EU because acting together we can better protect the environment?
A3: According to Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the LibDems, “if we want to be serious about preventing climate change” we must stop Brexit. [3-1] Her colleague, Ed Davey (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in Cameron’s coalition government) said, “ Britain can’t solve it alone, we led in Europe and got action.” [3-2] Saving the planet sounds like an important argument, so how is the EU doing?
The UK’s own Climate Change Act (2005) requires it to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 and has already reduced them by 43.5%, and now Parliament’s Climate Change Committee proposes to reduce them to zero by that date. Some days the UK uses no coal at all to generate electricity; in contrast Germany relies on coal for 40% of its generation, most of it lignite, the worst kind of coal for carbon emissions, and Poland is 80% reliant on coal. Germany is well behind the UK in CO2 reduction at about 31% and around a quarter of that was from a head start due to reunification in 1990 which triggered the collapse of mucky, inefficient East German industry. [3-3] Natural gas is far less polluting than lignite so Germany plans to defy other members’ wishes regarding Nord Stream 2 in order to maintain its industrial advantages. [3-4]
The EU Emissions Trading scheme (EU ETS, 2005) caps company emissions but they can trade what they don’t need – what we don’t emit others in the EU can. The added costs to UK industry accelerates its relative decline so apart from ETS we are simply offshoring carbon generation and adding transport emissions. The EU is all talk and no trousers, as usual, especially when it comes to German interests. “The European Commission has reportedly given up on plans to raise the EU’s 2030 carbon emissions target —with critics blaming the German government for ‘torpedoing’ the move.” [3-5]
However, we don’t doubt that the EU wants to reduce greenhouse gases, its various parties and bodies are as competitive as our own in their claims and ambitions, but as a whole it is slow to act, with Germany in particular acting as a brake. UK action has come at considerable cost to our industries and consumers but that’s our decision.
Q4: Should we stay in the EU so we can steer it towards a better form of union?
A4: The UK has tried, with some support from other countries – especially Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Netherlands – but the momentum lies elsewhere, especially with France and Germany. The agenda of Ever-Closer Union is more important than a better and fairer life for all citizens and requires member states giving up ever more of their sovereignty. We can see that the reforms required are fundamental and can only be achieved by a new treaty that replaces existing treaties. The EU will not allow fundamental reform that would undermine its idealogical objectives. (Can EU be Reformed? and/or Why Not Reform the EU? and/or State of the Union 2017)
Q5: Should we stay in the EU to protect and increase our prosperity?
A5: The questions so far may influence how we feel about the EU but this one is the main focus of the Brexit debate. We have argued at length and in detail that the EU probably has not and will not make us richer. As with peace, what did or will happen cannot be conclusively proved despite the exaggerated confidence of many economists in their art (despite all the maths it’s not science). We believe we could do better without the constraints imposed by EU membership; whether we would do better depends on factors we cannot be certain of, including the will of our future government, but the risks in staying are already clear and considerable. Themes-7: Economics-1 and Themes-8: Economics-2 summarise and link to our principal arguments.
Q6: Should we stay in the CAP to ensure our agriculture is well-regulated and properly subsidised?
A6: UK agriculture used to be the most efficient in Europe but the CAP was designed for the benefit of French farmers and politicians. Subsidies once created lakes and mountains of produce, now they enrich the biggest, richest farms. New Zealand has demonstrated the pointlessness of all this. Agriculture remains the lifeblood of New Zealand’s economy, farming is not a small part of the economy as it is in the UK, it is the nation’s largest, most important sector. New Zealand thrives whilst being totally exposed to international markets, without subsidies, tax concessions, price supports and tariffs. Some have suggested the money the UK government has promised farmers after Brexit could be spent more wisely outside the CAP framework, especially by paying them to protect rather than destroy the natural diversity of the British countryside.
Q7: Should we stay in the CFP to preserve our fish stocks and to ensure the prosperity of our coastal towns?
A7: No again, because unfair allocations have massively diminished our fishing industry and the absurd discard regulation damaged fish stocks. If ‘May’s deal’ is passed then stage 2 ‘negotiations’ begin. France has made it pretty clear that fishing will again be on the line and our now tiny industry will likely be sacrificed for the ‘greater good’ (do they want to provoke Cornish independence too?). Before Norway’s referendum on EU membership in 1994 the people were warned the country would lose industry and jobs if they voted ‘No’. Wrong, Norway is doing very well, especially its fishing industry. Since becoming members our fishing industry has nearly been destroyed. (Shorties Revisited and/or All our yesterdays and/or Shorties-16)
Q8: Should we stay in the Customs Union to avoid paying tariffs on our imports and exports?
A8: Tariffs are not the major block to trade, after all they only average around 4% and are often outmatched by currency movements. 80% of the tariffs collected from third-country imports goes directly to Brussels rather than the UK Treasury. Non-tariff barriers are a bigger problem and therefore a key element of any Free Trade deal is ‘mutual recognition’ of standards and regulations. We start from a position of regulatory alignment and should be free to diverge where our interests demand it, after careful consideration and planning; perpetual, mandatory alignment would be a mistake where there are bigger opportunities. (Unusual Customs and/or Gawd Strewth! and/or Reasons to be Cheerful)
Q9: Should we stay in the Customs Union because we don’t have enough trade negotiators to agree new FTAs?
A9: The Customs Union is too restrictive and the UK should recruit and train negotiators to win a favourable FTA with the EU. The World Trade Organisation regulations on free trade agreements (and interim arrangements on the way to such agreements) do not support claims that leaving the EU without a deal would lead the UK over a disastrous cliff edge. Big changes are disruptive but can lead to progress if well managed; maintaining the status quo often leads to stagnation and decline (despite the EU growing its membership it has seriously diminished its world economic importance). Out of the EU we can make our own choices, and correct them if necessary. For example, we can go for unilateral free trade, basic WTO trade, protectionist trade or join FTAs where we can make them (which will be easier without the need to accommodate 27 other nations’ demands which have made agreeing FTAs agonisingly slow). Major economies representing over two thirds of the global economy have expressed their wish to agree an FTA with the UK, though that may take a while. (see This and GATT and/or Accentuate the Positive and/or Unusual Customs)
Q10: Should we stay in the Single Market because otherwise we won’t have access to it?
A10: Because the Single Market doesn’t work well for us we have a negative trade gap of around £10 billion per month with the SM. Our economy has prospered relative to the EU average through growth of its service industries. The Single Market scarcely applies to services and in fact many non-financial obstacles apply, including regulations that seem designed to damage UK firms; examples include the art and financial markets. We trade our services (and goods) successfully outside the Single Market, we have a positive trade balance with the rest of the world whilst running a deficit with the EU. Year by year the EU represents a diminishing part of our trade. The EU is protectionist. As a customs union with a particular bias towards agriculture the EU makes it hard for African farmers to earn the hard currency their countries need to grow out of poverty. It has also managed to displace African fisherman from their native seas and plundered them itself (like it has our own). What would be the effect on our economy of leaving the SM when all factors have been taken into account? We don’t know because we can’t account for all the factors. Anyway, it is not true that we would not have access to the Single Market; at the very least we would have third-country access to it and could probably negotiate a better deal in due course. (at least that’s worth trying: see Shorties Revisited and/or Service Advantage and/or The UK is Different and/or Collapse: Europe After the European Union – 1 & 2).
Q11: Should we stay in the Single Market to ensure access to more skilled, hard-working or cheap labour?
A11: The Single Market (SM) doesn’t ensure this and the UK would do better if it controlled its own immigration activities. The British Government is determined to regain control of EU immigration but the Commission and most Council members say they won’t allow it (David Cameron failed to get its consent, if he had there might not have been a referendum) without extracting maximum penalties, with respect to the Single Market in particular. We’re not claiming that everything is simple if we leave the Single Market, simply that some institutional experts may have been selective in their choice of scenarios or been selectively and sensationally reported. For example, is there an advantage in favouring, say, a Latvian over a Canadian? Is it an attempt to create ‘unity’ through homogeneity? (The Single Market and the Four Freedoms and/or Access to the Single Market and/or Market Rules)
Q12: Should we stay under the jurisdiction of the ECJ; is it better than our own courts?
A12: EU (Roman) law overrules and undermines UK (Common) law, which has served Britain well. While Britain remains in the EU (or leaves under some ‘soft-Brexit’ formula) we are subject to the judgements of a ‘superior’ court, even when these matters are purely local. Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union obliges the EU’s institutions to act within the limits of their competences under the treaties; however, these competences are relentlessly expanding with every decision of the Commission and every judgement of the ECJ. The ECJ is mandated to make judgements that further the aims of the EU’s treaties regardless of the best interests of member states; that is why foreign companies, including from EU members, often use English law to agree contracts, even when a UK party is not involved. The UK system has evolved over many generations and some treasured elements are absent from Continental law, including habeas corpus and caveat emptor. (see Law and/or The World’s Favourite Law and/or Here’s the Power, Where’s the Glory?).
Q13: Should the UK continue paying into the EU budget so we continue to get research grants and regional subsidies?
A13: We don’t need a political union to collaborate on research, as the success of Western science has proved, especially over the last four centuries. The UK has done relatively well in winning EU funding because of the pre-eminence of its universities and commercial laboratories. Participation is already being denied and the UK is being excluded from existing projects even where its role has been key, such as the Galileo satellite-navigation project. Science does not prosper under political control as Galileo himself discovered. In 1984 Margaret Thatcher negotiated a discount to the annual cost but Tony Blair agreed a substantial reduction to this in 2005 in return for vague promises to reduce the cost of the CAP, which have not materialised. (The £350 Million Question and/or Gawd Strewth! and/or Nobody Voted to be Poorer)
Q14: Should we stay in the CU/SM because leaving could risk our jobs?
A14: This appears to be Labour policy but implies also staying under the jurisdiction of the ECJ for large and ever-increasing areas of British life whilst removing our ability to vote against the encroachment (though QMV limits our ability even if we remain full members of the EU). This is the hardest question to answer because the future depends on many unknowns, including our confidence to enact appropriate policies to address the risks. However the £39 billion set aside to placate the EU and beg for more favourable terms beyond the transition period should allow us good options to transition ourselves towards an independent future (in agriculture and car manufacturing for example).
Q15: Should we hold a second referendum now that voters have more knowledge of what leaving the EU means?
A15: The argument that ‘the people’ now know more about the questions they’re being asked is a cover for saying “now that we’ve had three more years to tell you how badly it’s going to turn out we’re sure you’d like to change your minds”. Overwhelmingly people hear about the economic devastation Brexit will cause (which can’t be proved) because the Remain elite know they won’t persuade ‘the people’ to love the EU, especially after they’ve seen how it behaves towards Britain, so they depend on fear and frustration. If the choice is between remaining, leaving, or a complex compromise ‘deal’ then voters will have an even harder decision to make. However Leavers are likely to split between actually leaving and not actually remaining (the compromise on offer) so that Remain comes top. This will not heal the division between EU lovers and loathers.
But there is another possibility, now that the UK Parliament has voted to take ‘no deal’ off the table why offer the people that option? A choice of Remaining or remaining in the Customs Union and subject to EU law over increasing swathes of British life; why vote to become a colony of an overbearing but declining Union? Many Leavers would probably opt to vote Remain and hope to build alliances with the growing Eurosceptic movements elsewhere to frustrate Ever Closer Union or reverse it. Some of these movements are not comfortable partners to share a bed with.
Another referendum would prolong uncertainty for businesses and if we eventually choose to remain a truculent EU may no longer be willing to offer the current terms, such as the rebate. What a pyrrhic victory! (Second Referendum Test and/or A Second Brexit Referendum? and/or Leave’s Labour’s Lost)
Q16: Final question – assuming a second referendum would offer voters three choices: Brexit with no overall deal agreed with the EU, or Brexit under the terms the Prime Minister has negotiated, or remaining in the EU – which option best fits your answers above?
A16: …we won’t spoil your thinking by offering our answer. Over to our readers (but if you want some more of our answers to the more general question of why the UK should leave the EU then you could try Brexit: A Brief Summary)
[3-1] BBC Radio, World at One, 9th May 2019
[3-2] People’s Vote march from Hyde Park, 23/3/19 https://twitter.com/i/status/1109484907242369026
[3-4] Gas Leak