We’re all susceptible to ‘confirmation bias’: a tendency to seek or interpret things in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and to ignore whatever challenges or contradicts them. A good method to escape this human foible is to ask difficult questions but the choice of questions or the way they are framed may also be biased. We start here with a few basic questions that should go to the heart of what any of us believes.
What do you think are the major aims and achievements of the EU? Are they:
– avoiding another big military conflict?
– increasing prosperity for all?
– bringing people across the Continent closer together?
– protecting the environment?
– aiding scientific advance?
– any others you can think of?
We will give our answers to these questions ourselves in a separate post and hope to justify our beliefs with both reason and evidence. We would welcome others’ answers, from all perspectives.
We now turn to more detailed aspects of the debate. Here our choice of topic and the framing of our questions may reflect where we have focused our attention, while perhaps overlooking other aspects (again, we welcome suggestions).
The Future of the Union
Can the Union survive on its current course or must it make major changes to avoid dissolution before much longer? (Say before its 70th anniversary in 2027)
At present Europe is the slowest-growing of the five inhabited continents, is this a temporary condition?
Junker said: “The British since the very beginning were part-time Europeans. What we need are full-time Europeans.” Could the British ever become reconciled and even enthusiastic members of the EU?
Did people understand what they were voting for in 2016?
If the Leave campaign had stated that the UK sends £250 million a week to Brussels instead of £350 million, is it likely it would have changed the outcome of the Referendum?
If MPs want to diverge from an unambiguous manifesto commitment on which they were elected should they resign their seats and ask their constituents whether they will re-elect them?
Is it acceptable to re-interpret a binary Yes or No referendum decision as conditional on a factor that was not asked?
Would it be acceptable to re-run a referendum but with different options which exclude the previous decision? (To clarify, we mean a choice of remaining in the EU or a ‘soft’ Brexit with the UK still in the customs union and other key institutions, with no vote or veto, as proposed in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.)
If a referendum were re-run should the second result override the first? Would it make a difference if both outcomes were the same or if they were contradictory? Or if the second referendum excluded the option to leave the EU?
If a democratic decision risks making some, many or most people poorer than they otherwise might have been should it be considered mistaken and overturned? (For example, if it resulted in a tax increase.)
Economic growth and economic self-determination are different objectives, can both be optimised?
Is it reasonable for the EU to deny the UK trading terms at least as favourable as those available to Canada or Japan without imposing its own standards and regulations?
Is it fair to compete with the EU by adopting different tariffs, tax rates or subsidies?
Is it necessary to make the ECJ responsible for judging member states’ behaviour given that the International Court of Justice and ECHR exist or should it be sufficient for EU membership to be conditional on adherence to these bodies’ rules and judgements?
If the UK leaves the Union but remains bound by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), would that match the commitments made under the Treaties?
What are the major downsides of leaving or remaining?
What are the major upsides of leaving or remaining?
(We will offer our own answers in another post and attempt to answer any others that readers ask.)