We must remain in the EU for peace and prosperity.

The time for agnosticism about the EU referendum is over. Those of us who have been sitting on the fence now need to decide which way to vote.

A few weeks ago I was still an agnostic. Not any longer. The weight of Barristerblogger is very modest – but for what it is worth it is now firmly behind the Remain campaign.

I have great personal respect for many, though not all, of the Leave campaigners but I think they have lost every important argument.

Economics

The economic arguments – important though they obviously are – are perhaps not decisive. The EU has hardly provided a model of good economic management and in the long run, who knows, we might well be richer outside. Norway and Switzerland respectively have the highest Gross National Income per capita in Europe; neither are members of the EU. Yet it would be unwise to assume that the wealth of those countries derives only, or even mainly, from the fact that they are not members of the EU. Switzerland has been one of the richest countries in Europe for well over a hundred years, not least because it managed to avoid involvement in two world wars.1 Norway has been blessed with wealth from vast oil and gas reserves which – unlike many oil rich countries – it has managed not to squander.

The UK economy has become steadily more inextricably entwined with that of the EU over the last forty years and for that reason the uncertainty that a decision to leave would bring could be very difficult to deal with. British companies might find dealing with the EU more difficult, foreign companies might leave or hesitate to invest in the UK without knowing if they would have access to the Single Market. The extent of such problems is unknown: that there would be some is surely undeniable.

For many Remainers, all Leavers are “Little England isolationists.” There are no doubt some who meet that description, but the more persuasive ones do not. Gisela Stuart, for example, speaks persuasively of the need for more, not less internationalism. The EU, she says is old fashioned; the world has fundamentally changed since its inception:

This is a modern networked world, where regulation must be agile and government must be open, flexible, inclusive and accountable. It is also one where large bureaucracies fail. Political structures such as the EU – centralised, opaque and managed by a clique of bureaucrats and elites – will never succeed.”

The French and Spanish speaking Daniel Hannan, perhaps the most persuasive and energetic of all the Brexiteers, talks constantly of the benefits of free trade; indeed one of his main criticisms of the EU is that it prevents free trade with much of the world.

So the characterisation of all those who wish to leave the EU as “Little Englanders” is unfair.

Their argument is that the EU is itself a protectionist club, and if you believe in free trade you should oppose it. The EU, say the Leavers, is an old fashioned and sclerotic project that has brought misery to much of Europe and without it Britain would be much better off. Boris Johnson recently described the EU as “a graveyard of low growth.”

Attractively though this argument is often put, it is nonsense. Since Britain joined the EU its economic performance has not been bad. In fact, since 1973 when – as the “sick man of Europe” – Britain joined the Common Market, not only has it enjoyed a better economic performance than its European rivals Germany, France and Italy; it has also done significantly better than the freedom-loving, regulation-free, ass-kicking USA that many Brexiteers would like us to emulate. Per capita GDP has grown by 102% since 1973 in Britain, as against 97% in America.

GDP per capita since Britain joined EU

So whilst I do not doubt the sincerity of the Leavers’ belief that the British economy would do better freed of European shackles, I think they are completely wrong. There is a far more powerful economic case for remaining inside the EU that has – at the very least – not prevented Britain from performing better than most comparable countries over the last 40 years.

The British economic success story has been closely linked to trade with the single market. 44.7% of British exports now go to the EU (and another 8% if we include single market members Norway and Switzerland): in purely economic terms it would be deeply reckless to risk damaging that market without a very clear strategy of how Brexit would be managed. There is no such strategy, just an economically incoherent obsession with erecting bureaucratic obstacles to immigration.

Export destinations EU

The arguments are by now well known. It might be possible to leave the EU, yet remain within the single market. But – if Norway and Switzerland are any guide – that would only be possible (and perhaps not even then) if Britain agreed to join the Schengen agreement on the free movement of people. Since, for many, the single most important reason for leaving is to prevent the free movement of people, that seems a highly unlikely outcome.

The idea that the EU would be bound to offer the UK a favourable trade deal is at best wishful thinking. Faced with the danger of other countries also wanting to leave it is just as likely to drive a hard bargain, pour encourager les autres. At the very least the sunlit uplands of free trade with the whole world will only be reached after years of crippling uncertainty.

It is a pie in the sky argument that the end of free international trade, which may well never be attained, justifies the means, which is an expensive and acrimonious divorce. Most divorces have two characteristics: first, they are always worse than anyone thought imaginable; secondly it is the children who suffer the most. This one will be no exception. If we walk out of the EU it is our children who will pay, with economic stagnation and unemployment, all the more bitter for having been foreseeable and avoidable.

The Leavers’ economic arguments may be based on optimism, but for most of them the argument is not just, or even mainly economic. The arguments are political.

The central political arguments are these:

      1. The EU is undemocratic
      2. The EU has removed sovereignty from the UK Parliament

The arguments are linked.

Democracy

The Leavers’ are right. The EU falls very far short of being a perfect democracy.

It is not alone in that. Democracies are always imperfect.

For a start, democracy in practice is almost always indirect. Direct democracy, in which every citizen can participate in every decision, is both unworkable and undesirable. In Britain, in distinction from most countries with a Presidential system, the executive is not directly elected: some Government ministers are not even elected at all.

The governance of the EU is not just lacking in democracy, it is also complicated and opaque.

The first important point is that it does not have power to make laws about anything it wants. Its area of “exclusive” competences are:

  • the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market

That said, the EU also has powers to legislate in many other areas (of “shared competences” in the jargon), although here Britain has negotiated some important “opt outs,” for example on “freedom, security and justice.”

They certainly are not trivial powers and they have had huge effects on the lives of millions of people, but they still fall a long way short of giving the EU power over most aspects of our life. The core of EU law is directed towards regulating trade within the single market. If you are going to have a single market there is a need for common regulations about trade; and if there are to be common regulations there has to be some sort of supranational authority to make them. Without some such authority it is hard to see how the EU, and certainly not the single market, could function in anything like its current form. On many important issues: education, social services, health, most criminal law and most taxation, decisions are taken largely, or entirely at national level. Britain, with its various opt outs, and sitting comfortably outside the Eurozone, has considerably more autonomy than most other EU countries.

What about spending our money? Again, it is easy to exaggerate how much it costs. In 2015 the EU’s total budget was about £128 billion: by comparison in 2014 – 15 total UK spending was nearly 6 times that at £735 billion. Despite being the fourth biggest net contributor to the EU, the UK pays just 0.6% of its Gross National Income to Brussels. Largely thanks to Mrs Thatcher, this is by some way the smallest proportion of GNI paid by any EU member. In 2014 the UK paid a net contribution of £9.9 billion, a large enough sum of money to be sure, but still representing only just over 1% of total public expenditure.

Back to the question of democracy.

The EU “executive” is made up of Commissioners, who are appointed by the national governments, and ministers from the member countries who take decisions through the Council of Ministers. The European Parliament – it’s not entirely accurate to call it a legislature – is elected, but its powers, though much greater than they were, are still rather feeble. However, it can (and does) scrutinise proposed legislation. It also possesses power, which it has occasionally exercised, to dismiss the entire Commission, which provides at least an element of democratic accountability. Participation in European elections is generally low throughout Europe: in the UK it hovers around 35%, roughly the same level as vote in most local council elections. In Europe as a whole the trend has been for the turnout to fall over the last twenty years.

Leavers are entirely correct to complain that there is a “democratic deficit” in these arrangements. Part of the difficulty is that whenever anyone proposes to remedy that, for example by giving the EU a directly elected president, the first people to object have been the very same ones who complain the loudest about its lack of democracy. They perceive that increasing democracy in the EU would in all probability lead to increasing its power. So it is stuck with a cumbersome system of government which is neither very democratic nor very powerful.

But whilst it is not very democratic (at least when measured against some democratic ideal) nor is it remotely despotic. Rules on qualified majority voting amongst the Council of Ministers, the increased power of the European Parliament, and an effective European Court of Justice means that the EU is unable to take any decisions at all unless they are supported by broad consensus among national governments and European Parliamentarians. There may sometimes be a consensus to take the wrong decision, but no political system can altogether avoid the possibility of error.

How important is the EU’s lack of democracy? Most written democratic constitutions – that of the United States is an obvious example – deliberately include undemocratic elements. As the American founding fathers recognised, untrammelled popular rule can trip over into tyranny, and restraining democracy with legal rules can be a conscious decision to reduce that risk. To take two examples from the US constitution: the President is chosen not by popular vote, but by an electoral college made up of representatives from the states of the Union; as a result George W. Bush became President in the 2000 election despite having won half a million fewer votes than Al Gore. US Supreme Court judges, who have enormous power, including the power to overturn statutes, are unelected, unaccountable and for practical purposes unsackable. These are indeed democratic deficits, but are not necessarily to be condemned for that reason. Indeed, as we contemplate the possibility of Donald Trump being swept to power on a wave of popular support many will be thankful that there are undemocratic forces that will limit his freedom of action.

The British constitution also includes a number of undemocratic elements, although these have evolved by accident rather than design.

Our judges have considerable power, yet they are all unelected. There is very little political pressure to change that.

The House of Lords is unelected except for a small rump of its members who are chosen in a bizarre poll of hereditary peers. There is some pressure to change the way its members are selected but as nobody can agree how it may never happen.

If we are going to criticise EU law-making as undemocratic, it is instructive to see how it compares with our own.

Leaving aside the contribution made by the unelected House of Lords and the judges; ignoring the fact that our electoral system is capable of producing grotesquely unfair outcomes; huge swathes of UK law are made in a way that is profoundly undemocratic in substance, even if cloaked in the camouflage of democracy. It is common, for example, for Acts of Parliament to confer enormous powers on ministers (who are themselves either indirectly elected or in the case of members of the House of Lords not elected at all) to make regulations. They are often called “Henry VIII clauses,” although historically that is a bit unfair on Henry VIII.

Take, for example, (there are plenty of others to choose from) the Childcare Act 2016, a short statute doing little more than impose a general duty to provide childcare for working parents, an admirable objective no doubt. It does so, as Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice pointed out in a fascinating lecture at Kings College London last April, by including:

eleven specific regulation making powers, including regulations to confer powers on Revenue and Customs, regulations to create criminal offences, regulations to impose financial penalties, and indeed identifies the relevant level of sentence.”

On top of all this the Act also confers powers on ministers to make regulations to:

(a) confer a discretion on any person;

(b) make different provision for different purposes;

(c) make consequential, incidental, supplemental, transitional or saving provision;

  1. amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or under an Act (whenever passed or made).

Read that carefully; yes, it really does say a minister can “amend, repeal or revoke any provision made by or under an Act (whenever passed or made).” And it actually means what it says. Lord Judge returned to the theme in the House of Lords last week (people should have been listening to him but probably weren’t):

Why should Parliament—both Houses—dish out powers to a future Executive of any political colour, elected by a view of the country that is taken at a particular time, to dispense with a statute? We do not know what lies ahead. We must not sit back and say, “This is England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales; we are all very civilised. We will never end up with the sort of Government who might misuse their autocratic powers”. Well, we might. Democracy works in funny ways. Austria came very close very recently. One must not ignore these things.”

The democratic camouflage is that a draft of any of these regulations (known as “statutory instruments”) must be laid before each house of Parliament before they become law.

The reality is that in practice statutory instruments are barely scrutinised by Parliament at all. Many do not even need to be laid before Parliament. Since 2009 nobody seems to have actually counted the number passed, perhaps because to do so would render anyone attempting the task insane; before that it varied between about 11,000 and 13,000 pages every year. It is probably more now. They are drafted by (unelected) civil servants. Practically all of them are very boring, some are inconsequential but some are of huge importance. They can (and often do) force people to do things that they would much rather not do, and many of them create criminal offences with potentially lengthy gaol terms. They may be deathly dull, and compared to primary legislation, they excite virtually no interest from the public or even parliamentarians, but they matter. For practical purposes they are far less scrutinised than EU legislation.

Since, say, Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister, how many of these instruments have been rejected by the democratically elected House of Commons? Several hundred perhaps? 40 or 50? Or just a few?

The answer is that since 1979 the House of Commons has not rejected a single one. Such scrutiny as there has been has come from the (undemocratic) House of Lords which, since 1968, has rejected six, an average of just over one per decade. And despite the warnings of Lord Judge and others Parliament continues to churn out legislation giving vast powers to future governments, including the power to amend or repeal actual legislation. If that is democracy, I think I prefer the EU version.

Of course just because our domestic law-making is undemocratic that doesn’t mean a lack of democracy is acceptable in the EU. But simply to say that the EU is “undemocratic” is not, in itself, to say a great deal. The same can be said than our own domestic constitution, or of that of many other democracies. These things are matters of degree.

And it is not it true that the EU legislative process is entirely undemocratic. Whilst all EU legislation is proposed by the European Commission (the members of which are not elected but appointed by national governments), those proposals are scrutinised by the European Parliament and must be approved by the Council of Ministers, the members of which are at least accountable to their respective nations. There is no avoiding the fact that it is a highly filtered and often indirect version of democracy, but it is arguable that it is at least as democratic as the British version of issuing statutory instruments, drafted by “non-elected” civil servants and virtually ignored by MPs.

Sovereignty

This is a word often invoked by Brexiteers, but we have to be clear what it means.

To possess sovereignty means to possess power or autonomy over something.

In this context it is generally used to mean “Parliamentary sovereignty,” or the doctrine that Parliament has the capacity to make any law, and that any such law will then be enforced by the British courts.2 It is a peculiarly British concept. Almost all other countries have written constitutions which, like the US Constitution, place legal limits on the sovereignty of their legislatures. That is one reason why Congress could not make an enforceable law reintroducing slavery – it would be struck down by the “unelected judges” of the Supreme Court; whilst the Westminster Parliament could.

The Brexiteers central argument is that while we remain in the EU laws made in Westminster can be over-ruled by laws made in Brussels, and that, as a result the UK Parliament is no longer sovereign. Their premise is largely correct but their conclusion is wrong.

Since the enactment of European Communities Act 1972 and the decisions of the European Court3 and the House of Lords4 in the well-known case (or strictly cases) of Factortame, it has indeed been established that in normal circumstances, if Parliament enacts a law that is incompatible with EU law, it is EU law that will prevail. Does this mean that Parliament has lost the capacity to make any such law, and thus its sovereignty?

On the contrary, it means no such thing. Rather, the effect of the European Communities Act was for Parliament to delegate some of its power to the EU. Just as any number of Acts of Parliament delegate the power to make regulations to ministers or local authorities, so the 1972 Act has delegated powers to make law to EU institutions.

A delegation of powers is not the same as a surrender. It is temporary, reversible and by definition involves no loss of sovereignty. Parliament retains the power to regain the delegated powers; should Parliament repeal the Act then (whatever international implications there might be) EU law would no longer over-ride any conflicting British law. Sovereignty has not been surrendered. Indeed, if it had been, the current referendum would be pointless.

Peace

I have been reading Timothy Snyder’s astonishing and disturbing book Bloodlands which deals with the fate of Eastern Europe – in particular Poland, Byelorussia, Ukraine and the Baltic states, that he calls the “Bloodlands” – in the 1930s and 40s. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Anyone tempted to be complacent about, or to scoff about the risks of another European war should read it.

The EU was founded quite consciously as a means of making war in Western Europe inconceivable.

It has succeeded. Europe’s seven decades since 1945 have been incomparably more peaceful than the seven, or even ten, before that. We have enjoyed unprecedented peace and striking prosperity. For all our problems those of us living in Western Europe have been living in a golden age.

It is of course true that NATO deserves much of the credit. In Stalin and his successors Western Europe faced evil and determined opponents; NATO stood up to them and Communism first crumbled in Eastern Europe and then collapsed entirely in the Soviet Union. It seems at least plausible that without NATO, Communists would today still be in power from Estonia to Bulgaria, if not in Paris and London too. Whether the Russians would have risked a war against the West if NATO had not existed is impossible to know, but as it was it did not do so. The EU had nothing to do with that.

But whilst war with the Soviet Union may have been the greatest threat to peace in Europe between 1945 and 1990, we have too easily taken for granted the fact that for most of this period war between the other countries of Europe was largely unthinkable. Anyone growing up between the end of the eighteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century would have witnessed a succession of European wars: Napoleonic, Franco-Prussian, First and Second World Wars, attesting to the fact that conflict between European states has long been, if not the default state, then at least a highly usual one. Travel a little further back to the seventeenth century, and the Thirty Years War caused proportionately as much slaughter and destruction in much of Germany as did the Second World War in the Bloodlands.

Sadly, Europe has not been entirely peaceful since 1945. The civil war in Yugoslavia, complete with forcible deportations, genocide and starvation sometimes resembled a mini-European war, and current events in the Ukraine – part of Snyder’s Bloodlands – also show that peace can never be taken for granted. Nor do we need to look very far beyond Europe’s borders to find a war being fought today with a brutality that would be envied by both Hitler and Stalin. It would be foolish to say that the EU (or its EC and EEC predecessors) alone have prevented Europe from reverting to its historically normal state of war, but where war has broken out it has not been between EU members.

It was to EU membership that the ruined countries of Eastern Europe aspired after the collapse of communism. Those that have joined have prospered: in the main, the rule of law has developed where there could have been anarchy and economies have been successfully rebuilt from the socialist rubble. The EU has been central to that effort. When surveying the undeniable disaster that the Euro has wrought on Southern Europe, we should not forget that the EU’s involvement in most of Eastern Europe has been a success story.

British exit would produce enormous strains on the EU’s very existence. A recent poll suggested that if Britain leaves the EU a majority of Swedes would wish to do likewise. Dutch and Czech voters too appear to be waiting on the results of the British referendum to demand their own referendums, while the French extreme nationalist Marine Le Pen has promised a referendum in the not inconceivable event of her becoming French President. The prospect of a catastrophic collapse of the EU is real and alarming.

Such a collapse would at least solve the problem of whether Britain should join the single market. There would be no single market. The EU would collapse in the bitterest of recriminations. Protectionism would return. Trade wars would replace the EU’s unprecedented experiment in international co-operation. Russia – already delighted to have acquired access to ports in Cyprus – would certainly wish to pursue “mutually beneficial” operations in Greece, though heaven knows what Faustian bargain they would strike with the bankrupt Greeks.

As by far the largest nation in Western Europe, Germany, almost certainly no longer under the leadership of Angela Merkel, might again start to alarm its neighbours. Border disputes, almost irrelevant in today’s EU, would again be potential flashpoints. With America, perhaps under President Trump, liable at any time to retreat into sullen isolationism how much enthusiasm would there be in this atmosphere for Europe to stand firm when President Putin starts agitating to “protect” the Russian minority in Estonia? How long would it be before, say, Hungary started to complain about Romania’s treatment of Hungarians in Transylvania, or for that matter Germans to complain about Poland’s occupation of its historic territory?

Despite its many faults, taken as a whole the EU has been good for Britain and good for Europe. We should vote to remain.

1See Roman Studer When Did the Swiss Get so Rich? Comparing Living Standards in Switzerland and Europe, 1800-1913. Journal of European Economic History, 37 (2). pp. 405-452. ISSN 0391-5115

2The classic exposition is by Dicey in his The Law of the Constitution (1885): “The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely, that Parliament . . . has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.”

3[1990] ECR I-2433

4[1991] 1 AC 603

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Author: Matthew

I have been a barrister for over 25 years, specialising in crime. You may also have come across some of my articles I have written on legal issues for The Times, Standpoint, Daily Telegraph or Criminal Law & Justice Weekly

97 thoughts on “We must remain in the EU for peace and prosperity.”

  1. Norway, and Switzerland are NOT in the UK, and are doing better than the UK. The quality of life there is better. Jersey, is not in the UK, and the quality of life there is better than the UK.

    The UK is overpopulated, thousands of people are homeless, there is no housing for new people from the EU. The houses that are available, are so expensive, that even University graduates cannot afford to rent or buy them. How is a poor person, coming from the EU going to afford the rents in the UK?

    1. Your mileage may vary but I have higher ambitions for the UK than become some sort of island Switzerland who gets her orders from Brussels.
      If you want complete sovereignty, then you can’t be like Norway or Switzerland. North Korea springs to mind.

      1. It is really to do with numbers. There are no houses, people are sleeping rough on the streets of the UK. If we remain, we will need to build thousands of houses per minute, for many years to come? An impossible task for any Country.

        1. I think it highly unlikely that the French will continue to honour the agreement keeping all asylum seekers and ‘immigrants’ in Calais. The moment we Brexit it is highly likely they will give notice on this, in which case we shall have to house them along the South Coast.

          1. How I wonder will those migrants get onto ferries or trains at Calais without a passport?

            (Incidentally they are of course overwhelmingly illegal immigrants into France, which for some reason refuses to deport them).

          2. The reason why asylum seekers and ‘immigrants’don’t just fly into Heathrow, or get the train from Paris to London, or come on the Ferries from Calais is that the carries are not allowed to let them on the planes, boats or trains. If they do, then they are fined heavily.
            I see no reason why that policy should change?

          3. Matthew, according to the Dublin Convention someone seeking asylum in the EU is obliged to claim asylum in the first EU country they entered. Since none of the people in the Calais camps will have flown to France, they cannot under the Convention claim asylum there. They must make a claim in the first EU country they came to. Thus they are illegal – or perhaps unlawful – immigrants in France.

            France leaves them in the Calais camps presumably because the cost of doing so is lower than the cost of arresting them, trying to find out where they got in to the EU and trying to persuade that country to take responsibility for them.

            Of course the same considerations would apply to people trying to get into the UK, either before or after Brexit. In any event, as someone else has pointed out, ferry and airline companies are obliged to check documents before allowing a passenger on board, and face stiff penalties if they don’t.

            The myth that Brexit would mean migrant camps in Kent is I’m afraid just that. Another piece of Remain scaremongering.

          4. In March 2016 the French Minister of the Economy’, Emmanuel Macron, warned that should the UK vote for Brexit the bureaux à contrôles nationaux juxtaposés that allow British immigration officials to operate in Calais might be threatened, and that as a consequence the Calais jungle would transfer to Britain. In other words the customs control checks would cross the channel to the UK. This is not a Remain scare it is a French Ministerial statement.

          5. That does rather suggest that it’s not just David Cameron who’s pulling our collective plonker, doesn’t it?

    2. The UK government has the power to build more houses, but instead insists on mantaining restrictive planning laws and not investing in house-building projects. It’s far too easy to displace blame to the EU.

      1. You can’t have it both ways, they want immigration, but refuse to build houses, schools, hospitals GP clinics, transport to support those extra people.

      2. Agreed Claudius, the EU gets the blame for the failings of previous regimes to allow for the building of more housing stock. Combined with the chronic under investment in social housing and the right to buy council houses; and the poor provision of housing for key workers. UCL estimated that economic migrants contributed £20 billion to the UK economy between 2001 and 2011. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1114/051114-economic-impact-EU-immigration

        It is one thing to take advantage of cheap labour, it is another not to provide housing for the indigenous population and for migrant workers themselves.

  2. So much bunkum here where do we start? If you vote to leave the European Union, you are not voting to leave the European Economic Area or World Trade Organisation. All of the UK’s trade and benefit agreements will remain unchanged should we leave, until such a time that the UK decides to renegotiate them for any reason.
    The EU imposes higher taxes, unlimited fines, and the burden of an immense expensive bureacracy all of which is making us poorer. Its own economies are depressed, buying less from us than they sell and dependent on us as customers. We can do more trade in the faster-growing economies outside the EU.
    Our young people have few or no chances of jobs in the EU. Their own jobs are being taken by migrants who undercut them. Turkey, despite Cameron’s denials, is next in line to join, with Albania already sending thousands because of EU letting them into the Schengen zone.
    EU is corrupt – 670 million euros just disappeared unaccounted for in its last budget and that’s normal.
    Propping up the euro currency has meant that greece is no longer a democracy a nd all its assets are now owned by German or international banks.
    There is no Remain vote – if we foolishly waste this chance to escape, we will be forced into the single currency and closer integration.
    You need to read a few full length books to learn the truth – try Daniel Hannan’s Why Vote Leave or Roger Bootle’s The Trouble with Europe.

    See also
    Proof at last: Eurocrats secretly admit that countries are better off out
    The world, we keep being told, is coalescing into blocs. No single nation can afford to stand aside. The future belongs to the conglomerates.

    It’s hard to think of a theory that has become so dominant with so flimsy a basis. The story of the our age has been one, not of amalgamation, but of disaggregation: empires have split into smaller and smaller units. Fifty years ago, there were 115 states in the United Nations, today there are 193. What’s more, small territories are generally more successful. The wealthiest states on Earth, measured by per capita GDP, are Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Switzerland, Macau, Australia, the UAE, Kuwait, Sweden, San Marino and Jersey.
    So why do Euro-integrationists keep telling us that we’re heading towards a kind of Nineteen Eighty-Four carve-up, in which massive Asian, European and American superstates will call the shots? (In Orwell’s classic novel, the British Isles were part of the Anglosphere rather than Europe, but let’s leave that aside.) In truth, the claim is pure propaganda. Eurocrats don’t believe it themselves.
    How do I know? Well, I’ve just been reading the EU’s report on relations with Iceland, marked “for internal use only”. Although its tone reflects the official line – looking forward to a resumption of accession talks if and when Iceland comes to its senses – the details tell a very different story. First, the paper acknowledges the main reason that Iceland has bounced back from the banking crisis:
    The small Nordic country has largely recovered from its deep economic crisis, thanks to a devaluated [sic] currency and a strong trade surplus — a turnaround that was made possible in part by the country’s distance from the euro area.
    Then comes the really telling passage. Discussing Iceland’s trading profile, the report notes that that frozen lump of volcanic tundra has the twin advantages of small size and few “defensive interests”. Defensive interests is a term used by trade officials to mean “sectors which a country wants to shield from competition”. In trade talks, negotiators distinguish between offensive interests (areas where they want the other party to open its markets) and defensive ones (areas where they want to prevent liberalisation). Iceland, being an open economy, has relatively few protectionist sectors. As the report notes:
    This has made easier to conclude free trade agreement with bigger trade partners. The most recent FTA concluded on 15 April 2013 between Iceland and China, is expected to boost exports to China while eliminating tariffs on import of manufactured goods. It is the first free trade agreement concluded by a European country China. A second one was concluded by Switzerland in July.
    There you have it. The Eurocrats may bang on in public about trade blocs but, in private, they admit that small is beautiful.
    Now ask yourself this question. If Britain were not bound by the “defensive interests” of the EU as a whole, from French films to Italian textiles, is it conceivable that we would not by now have signed comprehensive trade deals with the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets, such as China and India?
    We sit on few natural resources in this mild, green, damp island of ours. We depend on what we buy and sell. Yet, crazily, we have locked ourselves into a customs union with the only continent on the planet whose economy is shrinking. Ça suffit ! as we Old Brussels Hands say. ¡Basta ya!

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100255422/proof-at-last-eurocrats-secretly-admit-that-countries-are-better-off-out/

    1. “All of the UK’s trade and benefit agreements will remain unchanged should we leave, until such a time that the UK decides to renegotiate them for any reason.”
      The UK does not *have* any trade agreements. All trade agreements we’re currently part of are trade agreements with third countries and the EU. Once we leave, we won’t have any trade agreements with anyone. I suggest you look at Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to see how the process would work.

      1. IN 2 World Wars the United Kingdom and her allies ENTERED Europe to fight for peace, democracy, freedom and for justice. The #Leave Campaign are seeking to turn around and run. So un-English…against our culture and against everything our fathers and grandfathers fought for. Shame on you! #Remain

          1. I do not believe this is happening. If our voice has not be heard in the European Parliament it may well be our fault for electing UKIP MEPs who seem to be making themselves scarce. We need MEPs who will work for the UK and for the EU as a whole. This nation has had much experience in diplomacy, which it could well use with other countries to bring about necessary change in terms of greater democracy and subsidiarity. This is not a pipe dream as I have often spoken of this with friends in Germany, Holland and France.

          2. So it comes down to David’s dislike of Germans and migrants – get over it, BMW own mini and make them in Oxford. And if we Brexit, BMW will probably take manufacturing back to Germany and make them in Germany or South Africa as it will make it more economically viable than to manufacture in this country.

          3. “We did not fight in two World wars, to end up being ruled from Berlin.” Hear. hear!
            Well said
            Its tragic to listen to people arguing for their own subjugation. the EU is a ghastly mess and we would be far better off outside it. We were one of the world’s greatest trading nations before the EU was invented and could be again if we reclaimed the right to govern ourselves

          4. My memory is different to yours. I remember the UK being in rather a sad state before we joined the EU. Racked with strikes, industry in a mess, high unemployment… You have to look around the world to see how things have changed since we were young. When I was a kid everything seemed to have been made in Hong Kong and an increasing amount is made in Asia – even parts for Mr pro-Leave Dyson’s vacuums! The UK cannot roll back 50 years of evolution. It is interesting that some Commonwealth countries support our continued membership of the EU and I haven’t heard of any against. Many of the Commonwealth countries have such ghastly human rights records (e.g. 40 out of 53 criminalise single sex relationships) that I’d prefer not to be beholden to them anyway. You speak of being under the rule of Berlin. This is ridiculous nonsense. When will you #Leave people realise that the war ended in 1945! I am 62 and can’t remember it, nor can the children of my generation, nor their children. My best school friend lives in Dortmund. His father flew Lancaster bombers and his wife’s dad shot them down! The insanity of war. You seem to want to stay in a time warp. Live in 2016 not the 1940s. I am one who believes we should be a leader within Europe, working for the good of the whole and not being selfish and self centred. Working with those countries keen to see reform and change within the structures of the EU. There are a lot and I believe the time is right for necessary change. Why walk away?

      2. Are you 100% sure of this, they will only remain until the cut off date, from that point we will need to have Trade deals arranged, but because the World economies have seen the effects of just the referendum build up, they are saying, that the UK would not be welcome in their trading clubs. Trading groups want strong partners, not fickle ones.

        You really need to understand Trade if you want to understand the EU and how to vote.
        Selling things Internationally is not like shopping it’s far more complex, and getting a good deal is hard.
        When you sell that multimillion pound oil rig, a boat load of cars, good quality British HiFi, or what ever, we have to balance the books, or some country somewhere becomes significantly poorer along the way. This is why you’ll see many trading groups around the world, the EU is one such group. You might have heard the phrases Trade Deficit or Trade Surplus mentioned on the news, and switched off, thinking it hardly affects you, but you are wrong, because it affects your pay, inflation / deflation (both can be bad if they spiral out of control) and employment.

        So how does it work.
        The basic mechanics are like this. A country sells £1billion of good abroad, and also balances that by buying £1billion of goods back. This way all countries maintain their money, and the economy works, because everyone has their money back for the next deal.

        So why is being in a club important? There are many reasons I’ll give a few key ones, but being out of a club, is hard, and trying to strike a new deal as a lone player can be costly.

        Here are the some of the advantages of being in a Trading group like the EU.
        1. You get to the top of the list for deals, leaving lone countries struggling to gain a decent price, hence your pay packet goes further.
        2. You trade in bulk, it’s one call, and you are not fighting with your neighbours for the deal, you work it out together.
        3. Selling is easier, as the club has your contacts and inclusion is at heart.
        4. Your people get a better deal shopping over in the EU
        5. Surplus and Deficit of trade are burdensome, so these are balanced better.
        6. Lone players get poorer deals, no matter what they have to give, because they find it harder to balance the Trade, so the risk of sale/purchase is always weighed up, and bargains are few and far between, usually the lone player sells cheap, buys expensive, and that quickly cripples their economy, and causes inflation and unemployment.

        So what club will the UK be in on day one if we exit the EU, the answer there is probably none, as at the moment those clubs are effectively saying, “Sorry we don’t want the risk you are creating at present, you are messing up one Trading group, that’s causing us issues, why should we partner with the UK.” So when you are hearing world leaders, banks and economic institutions poking their nose in, they are NOT, they are looking at the Global picture, and they will look at our record and judge us as a poor risk, and deny access into their groups.

        So the message looks clear, Vote No to the EU, and you can look forwards to inflation, unemployment, business (including home grown companies) upping sticks and moving into a better location.
        We have little if anything that can’t be done elsewhere, and that is the problem, we are an average country, in an average world, we’ll never punch above our own weight, we’ll be scrabbling around and poverty will be greater than it has ever been in any living UK citizen has seen.

        1. If we are ‘outside’ the EU, we can once again ‘ban’ imports of goods we do not want. Other Countries in the EU depend on selling their goods to the UK, so we will be in a very strong position to get them to do a deal quickly.

          A lot of imports are dumped on us, like Chinese steel, dairy products from the EU. And we cannot buy cheaper goods somewhere else, if we stay. The EU is dying, the Euro will collapse soon. In fact if we leave the whole of the EU will implode.

          If you live in the UK, or the EU, Anchor butter no longer comes from New Zealand, it is made in the UK, from indoor British cows.

          1. David, can the Brexit campaign guarantee that we will have to sign a new Trade Deal that does NOT include the Free Movement of People? Norway and Switzerland have to agree to this, so, what make the UK so special to think that we won’t have to?

          2. because the UK economy is far bigger that Norway or Switzerland, the need our trade, more than we need theirs. This is only about mass migration into a Country with no housing. quality of life is better than having a few extra pounds to spend.

    2. “Our young people have few or no chances of jobs in the EU. Their own jobs are being taken by migrants who undercut them. ”

      I, and the people I know, have had no problem finding jobs (be they ones I’m qualified for or lower if necessary) since graduating when I try hard enough. Either here or across the EU.

      I don’t doubt there are people struggling, but I first of all question why people are struggling (I doubt it’s just because a European has snuck in and taken the job) and I resent the implication that all young people are incapable of getting a job.

  3. Thank you Matthew. I reply with a song (Tune: Theme from the TV series, Dad’s Army):

    Who do you think you are kidding Mister Johnson
    When you say we should vote out?
    We are the guys who can see through your disguise.
    We are the ones who can see it is all lies.
    So who do you think you are kidding Mister Johnson
    When you say we should vote out?

    You say there’ll be lots of cash so loads that you can do.
    But when we look at all the facts it shows it isn’t true.

    So who do you think you are kidding Mister Johnson
    When you say we should vote out?
    (DB & DMP)

  4. Thanks for this. I enjoyed it. It is the first thing I have read which takes a decently European perspective into account and treats us as responsible Europeans, as well as subjects of the UK. I do consider that we owe it to our fellow EU citizens to consider them, as well as ourselves, and to pause before we precipitate the weakening, even the destruction, of an institution that they, too, depend on.

  5. If the EU Is that good ,for jobs,growth etc. Why is it that Spain ,Greece et all, have such high unemployment,particularly among their youth?
    Little Englander , I may be ,however ,we survived as a country before ,ruling a rather large area of the world, we can forge our own way in the world, without interference and diktats from Brussels. Anything that Cameron ,Osbourne and the rest tell me to do ,drives me to do the opposite.

    1. I have a problem with Brexiteers and it is this…they continually refer to our history…usually through rose coloured spectacles. Life wasn’t all that great in many countries of the Empire…and certainly not if you were poor and not a member of the elite – such as you will put in power following a Brexit. My father fought in WW2, spending 31/2 years as a POW in the most terrible circumstances; my great uncle was an officer in WW1. Twice during the 20th century the forces of the UK and her allies had to enter Europe to bring about democracy, freedom, justice and peace. This is the first time there has been so many running away from that calling. Please don’t rest on the bravery and resolve of the past because I believe ‘many’ Brexiteers are just angry middle-aged men and women who lack either.

      1. Brexiteers are not angry middle-aged men and women. Many older people remember the much better ‘quality’ of life, ‘before’ we went into the EU. The UK was taken into the EU without a referendum. Perhaps, only those who voted to stay in, should be allowed to vote in this referendum, as only they know what life was like ‘outside’ the EU.

        Quality of life for many poorer people has gone, there is no housing for them. Thousands are living on the street in the UK, before we entered the EU there were only a few tramps, who chose the outdoor life, now people are forced to sleep rough because of the millions of EU people taking their housing, jobs, GPs, hospital beds, schools, filling public transport, and forcing us to live in an overcrowded Country.

        1. You choose to blame the EU for the number of people on the streets. I choose to look nearer home…to Government policy over the past 20 years. There is a housing shortage…and many houses in London are now owned by (non EU) foreign investors and stand empty. In the part of the world from which I come there are villages empty for much of the year because most of the housing stock is owned by people as holiday accommodation. This is true throughout the South West. As for people on the streets. It is a fallacy to suggest this has anything to do with immigration of EU policy. Again I should point to UK Government policy over the past 15 years. It’s worth talking to the homeless on the streets as they have interesting and sad stories to tell – ex-army, the mentally ill, people who choose this way of life. Not everything is the fault of the EU.

  6. Matthew,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this piece. I follow you on Twitter and usually find what you say interesting and persuasive. I must say I read your piece at top speed and may not have caught the allusion, but unless I’m very much mistaken you don’t mention the subject of immigration.

    Since excessive migration is the reason most Outers give for wanting to leave, I find that rather surprising. It’s Hamlet without the prince, no? You spend a long time talking about quite recondite subjects (the way in which legislation is passed, for example), but nothing about one of the most important consequences of our EU membership. The words “wood” and “trees” spring to mind.

    I too have a background in law, though I no longer practice, thankfully. I don’t live in London any more and I have – possibly – a greater experience than you of how ordinary people live outside the metropolitan liberal bubble which most lawyers (including me) tend to inhabit.

    One of the most striking things about the Brexit debate has been that I have never heard a poor person argue for Remain. Why would they? After all, they are not the people who tangibly benefit from being in the EU. People like you and I do. We travel a lot; we benefit from cheaper access to the service industries (hotels, restaurants, nannies, plumbers); we’re already sorted for housing; we’re not competing with East Europeans for jobs; our wages aren’t depressed by the endless supply of skilled labour coming in from overseas.

    But if you’re an ordinary person our membership of the EU has real and tangible costs. It’s harder for ordinary people to get jobs; their wages are undercut by foreign workers; housing is eye-wateringly expensive; there are queues for the NHS; it’s hard to get your kids into the school of your choice. Where I live all these things are real. And they are resented.

    Just the other day one of my family members needed needed expert medical advice at short notice. We went private. We can afford it. After all, we could have waited up to a year to see a consultant on the NHS. That’s one example of the way in which people like you and me are insulated from some of the adverse consequences of EU migration. Complacent middle-class Remainers are able to buy their way out of these logjams. Can’t get your kids into the local school? Oh well. Draw in the horns a little. Send them to school in the private sector.

    You may think people who feel angry about this situation are wrong. You may feel that in reality there’s nothing to feel cross about. Every 100 migrants who get a job create 100 jobs just by being here. There’s plenty of countryside we could build new houses on. The NHS would collapse without EU labour, and after all, we don’t have enough bright young people ourselves who could be doctors.

    Perhaps. But put yourself in the shoes of one of the angry (but perhaps wrong). They want to see something done about excessive migration, and they now realise that, thanks to the EU, there is nothing that any British politician can do to make this situation better. All Cameron’s fine words about the “low tens of thousands” are just so much bullshit. Actually, on one of the two subjects the British feel most strongly about (polls show this time and again – the other is the economy) British politicians are powerless to act.

    I don’t know about you, but that makes me deeply uneasy about the future of our politics. Here is an issue on which people feel very strongly, and yet our system does not allow the possibility of electing a government which can do anything about it. That is not going to end well.

    At first sight your piece is thoughtful, measured and thorough; but I’m afraid it displays a total ignorance of the way ordinary people live, and as such makes you look like you’re just another of the affluent bien-pensants who really couldn’t give a shit about the proles, just so long as you’re alright. For if the besetting vice of the Brexiters is anger, that of Remainers is complacency and smugness.

    1. Thanks Nicholas, you’re right that I don’t go into great detail about immigration. But read it again – I recognise that it’s an important issue.

      1. Hi Matthew. I have read your piece again.

        You write, “There is no such strategy, just an economically incoherent obsession with erecting bureaucratic obstacles to immigration . . . It might be possible to leave the EU, yet remain within the single market. But – if Norway and Switzerland are any guide – that would only be possible (and perhaps not even then) if Britain agreed to join the Schengen agreement on the free movement of people. Since, for many, the single most important reason for leaving is to prevent the free movement of people, that seems a highly unlikely outcome.”

        That’s it. That paragraph. That’s all. You describe the desire to reduce migration as “economically incoherent”, which is a point of view, but it’s one you don’t justify either with facts or argument. As I say, it makes you look out of touch with ordinary people’s lives, and oblivious to the pressures placed on them (and on the nation’s infrastructure) by EU membership.

        If Remain loses, it will be because the concerns of people at the bottom end of British society were ignored, much as your own piece ignores them.

        1. No, we leave the EU, and if they decide to made it difficult, we just put a very high tax on any imports from the EU. They sell us so much that even the threat of that would bring them to their senses.

  7. As one of the Great Undecided I read this with glee: I want to reTweet and Facebook it, email it to all my friends. Here is exactly what I’ve been waiting for: a calm, rational, informed argument telling me so much I didn’t know, enlightening me and making me wonder how I could possibly have considered for one minute voting Leave. But hang on a minute – here are the counter arguments. Nicholas’s is especially persuasive. I’m hardly a member of the metropolitan elite, geographically or economically: but as a pensioner living as I do in deeply rural North Yorkshire, I face no ‘threat’ from immigrants, perceive no pressure on health or education services, and am certainly not in the competitive jobs market. So yes, I do fit neatly into his ‘smug middle-class’ definition. I also read the economic Brexit argument from ‘clairethinker’: my grasp of economics is pretty thin, to say the least, but what she says sounds to me, in my ignorance, persuasive and well-informed. And so I am thrown once again into a turmoil of indecision: based on my limited knowledge, and my tendency to be swayed by thoughtful argument as opposed to the scaremongering hysterics from many politicians, I might as well toss a coin on June 23rd. The real question for me, then, is this: why, if leaving the EU poses such a massive threat to our economic wellbeing and to the stability of Europe as a whole, is our membership being risked through a referendum, the outcome of which will be decided by the Great Uninformed? It’s a huge responsibility which in my view rightly belongs to our elected, and paid, politicians.

    1. I’m glad you found my comments helpful Betsy.

      You ask, “Why, if leaving the EU poses such a massive threat to our economic wellbeing and to the stability of Europe as a whole, is our membership being risked through a referendum, the outcome of which will be decided by the Great Uninformed? It’s a huge responsibility which in my view rightly belongs to our elected, and paid, politicians.”

      Well I guess you’d have to say Cameron risked it to keep the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party onside at a time when he thought he would have to go into coalition with the Lib Dems after the 2015 election. It was in other words a promise he never expected to have to keep.

      Having found himself unexpectedly having to keep it however he then set out some demands which would be his price for supporting Remain. One of these was the “emergency brake” on migration. But when he sounded out Mrs Merkel about this she said that freedom of movement was non-negotiable. Cameron duly dropped the demand, made a lesser one (which depends on the post-referendum agreement of other states) and proceeded to use taxpayers’ money to lie about Britain’s immigration arrangements (“we will keep our own border controls”) in a pro-Remain Government leaflet costing nearly ten million quid.

      So for me your suggestion that we should just leave it up to politicians raises a weary smile.

      I offer you the following (briefer) alternative analysis to Matthew’s.

      No-one knows what the economic consequences will be of Brexit. My own guess (and it’s only a guess) would be that the cake won’t grow quite as quickly, but that the increasing number of people sharing it won’t grow as quickly either. In particular, employers will have to start competing for staff by raising wages, which will start to reverse twenty years of widening inequality. I don’t believe for a moment that Brexit will mean WW III (or that Remain will prevent it should some aggressive madman like Putin decide to have a go). I think we’ve had peace since 1945 partly because of NATO and partly because the consequences of war are so well-known and so unappealing. The EU is a consequence of our desire for peace rather than the cause of it.

      More than anything however I repeat that you can’t go on having a healthy politics where the major concern (excessive migration) of most people is something politicians are powerless to fix. We’ve seen this in Europe with the rise of the far Left and Right in the context of the Schengen area and the diastrous Euro. Remaining is the surest way of encouraging the growth of such movements here. UKIP got millions of votes in GE 2015, remember.

      The sooner we get out the sooner we can begin to discuss with our neighbours what mutual arrangements we can set up which might actually work, and might actually have the consent of the Great Uninformed like you and me.

      1. Thank you, Nicholas. Point taken about Cameron. I knew he’d promised it to appease the Tory eurosceptics but I’d forgotten the precise circumstances. I take your point about politicians and share your weariness. But while they may be seriously flawed as individuals (aren’t we all) and the system is less than perfect, it is what we’ve got and better than many alternatives. It is also the system we’ll rely on post-Brexit or post-Remain, to either clear up the mess or steer us towards the sunny uplands of economic prosperity and social harmony. I am genuinely and deeply conflicted in this debate, and fed up with people still crying out for ‘the facts,’ like there were any. As you yourself say, “No-one knows what the ecomomic consequences will be of Brexit.” That’s what’s scary, and that’s why I think it was a fundamental mistake to call this divisive, time- and energy-consuming referendum. We cannot know where it will lead. As a postscript, interesting to see Labour suggesting, as Tom Watson did on Newsnight last night, that post-referendum and a Remain outcome, the immigration issue would have to be tackled. And Hillary Benn proposing that as new countries are admitted, it may be possible to put restrictions on their freedom of movement. Oh really? Haven’t heard that one before.

        1. Hi Betsy. Yes, I picked up the one by Tom Watson, though I missed the one from Hilary Benn. What planet are they on?! I’m sure they have grasped that outside London Labour supporters are largely for Brexit, and largely because of excessive migration; but there’s no way the EU will do anything to detract from freedom of movement.

          As much as anything else, that’s so stupid. All they have to do is say, “Yes, we’ll keep freedom of movement, but countries can reserve the right to restrict numbers where net migration exceeds x percent of population in any one year”.

          It would be so simple for the EU to shoot Brexit’s fox. But – and here’s the shame – Cameron didn’t even ask them.

          1. That sounds like it would have been a neat solution. The awful dilemma for me is that I feel, because of the relative rural isolation I enjoy, and the fact that I can see the benefits of immigration while not experiencing any of the (apparent) drawbacks, I can’t in all honesty make a judgement about it. Yet I’m being asked to weigh it in the balance with economic factors that I also don’t fully understand. So I have to go instead with my so-called ‘gut’ instinct, hardly a sound basis for voting on such a momentous issue.

    2. One other point. It’s not often I agree with <a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/dawkins-speaks-out/news-story/3d252a2a2a24702b45092626f1ef60b3"Richard Dawkins, but he spoke for me on the question of why we’re having this referendum at all.

      The EU referendum is, he insists, an appalling abdication of responsibility by the government. “It’s an outrage that people as ignorant as me are being asked to vote. This is a complicated matter of economics, politics, history, and we live in a representative democracy not a plebiscite democracy. You could make a case for having plebiscites on certain issues — I could imagine somebody arguing for one on fox hunting, for example — but not on something as involved as the European Union. This should be a matter for parliament.”

      I think that’s exactly right – plebiscites, if they’re used at all, should be reserved for straightforward issues with high public interest but no wider ramifications. The idea that we may be about to make a radical change to this country’s position in the world, largely on the basis that slightly more people hate George Osborne than hate Boris Johnson, is terrifying.

    3. One other point. It’s not often I agree with Richard Dawkins, but he spoke for me on the question of why we’re having this referendum at all.

      The EU referendum is, he insists, an appalling abdication of responsibility by the government. “It’s an outrage that people as ignorant as me are being asked to vote. This is a complicated matter of economics, politics, history, and we live in a representative democracy not a plebiscite democracy. You could make a case for having plebiscites on certain issues — I could imagine somebody arguing for one on fox hunting, for example — but not on something as involved as the European Union. This should be a matter for parliament.”

      I think that’s exactly right – plebiscites, if they’re used at all, should be reserved for straightforward issues with high public interest but no wider ramifications. The idea that we may be about to make a radical change to this country’s position in the world, largely on the basis that slightly more people hate George Osborne than hate Boris Johnson, is terrifying.

      1. Well, it’s not often I agree with the professor, either, come to that, but he hits the nail on the head. And I agree with you, too, Phil, except that it’s not just this country’s position in the world but the implications for the whole of Europe. However the vote goes next week, it will be destabilising and disruptive for millions of people. Is it too late to halt it with an injunction? I half jest. . .

        1. Thinking very hard about getting some injunction on MEP’s, commisioners calling to respect outcome.. (regardless of what?)

  8. Impeccably argued as ever Matthew, but isn’t the truth at the end of the day ‘always keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse’ – problem being nurse may not be Mary Poppins, but an MPD construct of alters about to implode?

  9. I think there’s two key points you miss.

    The first is that in the long run, economies adapt. The drivers of economic growth in the long run are things like productivity, technological advancement etc. and there is no reason (or economic theory) to suggest that being in or out of the EU makes any difference to those in the long run.

    Since this is supposed to be a once in a generation referendum, short run economic scenarios are irrelevant because we are being asked to decide about the future of Britain in the long run. When people overhype short term outlier economic downside scenarios it’s akin to a straight forward attempt to bribe – take the bribe if you so desire.

    Secondly you miss a major point with regards to European politics. Why do you think extreme parties on the left and right are on the rise? You claim that because they are on the rise we need the EU to combat them. I put it to you that they are on the rise exactly because of the EU.
    An example of what I mean by this is the latest round of the Greek bailout this spring. It was agreed that Debt restructuring would only be considered in 2018. So why choose 2018 exactly? Because Merkel had previously promised her electorate that Greece was solvent in order to lend them any money and 2018 sits nicely after the next German election. Everyone following knows that’s the score.
    Just think about that for a moment: The EU is happy to submit Greece to even more economic pain for another two years simply so that Merkel doesn’t look bad to her local electorate. What do you think that does to the local electorate if not boost the rise of extreme parties? These are conscious decisions being made by the EU – it is not as if Greece have any say in the matter having been obviously bankrupt since at least 2010.

    Putting the two points together, thinking about the long run and short run, and the political situation, I was therefore saddened to read you think that:

    “If we walk out of the EU it is our children who will pay, with economic stagnation and unemployment, all the more bitter for having been foreseeable and avoidable.”

    Saddened because, actually, you couldn’t have it more the wrong way around.
    In the long run – over the sort of time horizon we should be worried about for our children – it’s better to leave now before extreme political sentiments grow any larger, regardless of any short term economic bribe we ourselves are being offered to stay.

    And so I put it to you that if you care about your children you should vote to leave. Yes it will be short term noisy – which we can handle indecently – but better off in the long run.

  10. Interesting piece that puts most of the ‘remain’ arguments well Matthew. I’m sure that if so inclined though, you could have put an equally persuasive case in favour of leave. If the case for and against was so lopsided, surely you would have decided before now which way to vote.

    I wonder what your piece would look like if it was written without national/EU self interest at its core? It may sound silly to say that but if one looks at the issue from the perspective of a non-EU citizen (perhaps from India/South America/Africa etc) then maybe a different conclusion would be reached. Alas, it is morally reasonable to approach this issue purely in the terms of our own self(ish) interest.

    The most powerful part of your argument is in regards to role the EU has played in preventing war between European nations. However, for many on the ‘leave’ side, the democratic deficits that you allude to pose real and increasingly likely risks of ‘extraordinarily dangerous’ forces being unleashed, fuelling the dangerous fires of populism further. Former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King is not alone when warns that ‘the eurozone is doomed’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/02/28/mervyn-king-the-eurozone-is-doomed/

  11. Many thanks indeed for this clear and thoughtful piece. I’ve shared it on Facebook and Twitter and many of my friends have gone on to share it, and commented on what a refreshing and clear-eyed piece it is.

    One small point noted by a friend who’s an immigration lawyer: you seem to have confused Schengen with the free movement of labour. We’re not a party to the Schengen agreement and I can’t see that changing either way, but we are required by the EU to permit the free movement of labour. It’s that condition that we may well have to continue to accept as a condition of the EEA if we choose to pursue membership of that if – God forbid – we end up leaving the EU.

    As an aside, I’m sure you saw David Allen Green’s thought-provoking piece in the FT, and for your other commenters, I’d urge them to read it. http://blogs.ft.com/david-allen-green/2016/06/14/can-the-united-kingdom-government-legally-disregard-a-vote-for-brexit/

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Kate. I may well have confused Schengen with free movement of Labour. I’m too tired to correct it now but will check & correct it tomorrow. And yes, I did see David Allen Green’s characteristically helpful piece in the FT. He’s worth a subscription, isn’t he?

      1. Fortunately, as a former FT staffer, my subscription is free – but yes, David is one of the people I’d happily pay to read!

  12. Excellent post; I hope it reaches a wide audience.

    The point about immigration & who it affects is a good one. We can point to the figures demonstrating that A8 immigration is a positive contributor to the economy and only creates local & temporary ‘crowding out’ problems, but that’s not going to cut much ice if ‘local’ is where you live and ‘temporary’ is now. (That said, there’s an established inverse correlation between levels of UKIP support and levels of immigration – perhaps the threat is more imagined than experienced, and once natives actually are competing with incomers they find it’s not so bad.)

    But the underlying problem is the political strategy of targeting deficit reduction through the underfunding of public services (or, if you’re cynical, using deficit reduction as an excuse for underfunding public services). If there’s less to go round, you start asking who’s having more than their fair share – or who shouldn’t have a share at all. We’ve heard a lot about lies and distortions put out by the Leave camp, but the idea that European immigration is the cause of pressure on public services is the biggest and most harmful lie of all – and it’s one that many Remain campaigners are happy to repeat.

    1. I just don’t understand the claim that immigration causes pressure on public services. I work in health care, and my department has filled four recent vacancies with people from the EU. The hospital I work in has hired significant numbers of nurses from the EU. This seems to apply through almost every department and discipline. When we need someone to fill a vacancy and do a specific job, we stand a better chance of finding a qualified and skilled person by being able to look at a bigger pool of candidates, which is an ability we gain through being part of the EU. It seems to me that the health service would be under much greater strain if it was unable to fill these vacancies because of having left the EU and lost (or made it more difficult to) access to this pool of workers.
      Of course, this is before we even get into the issue of the medical supplies and equipment that is bought from companies in Europe. I’m seriously worried as to what a possible withdrawal and increased barriers to trade would mean for that. I recognise there is a possibility of doing a trade deal, or measures to help get the workers we need – but that seems to be a “maybe”.
      If you were needing treatment, how would you feel about the staff and supplies required being there? I don’t think a “maybe” is good enough. The current system answers “definitely” (well, at least as far as Westminster is prepared to fund it – but that’s a UK decision and not part of this debate).

        1. Not really. And it’s for the same reason immigrants pay more in tax than they take out in benefits. Most of them are young, economically active and here to work. They tend to have fewer and less complex health issues than older people, so place less demand on hospitals and health services. I’m not saying there’s no impact – any population increase will mean more demands on services – but it’s a relatively small one and outweighed by the advantages.

          1. They must be earning a lot of money here, to be able to afford to rent or buy somewhere to live? Most UK professionals, earning good salaries cannot afford the rents here?

          2. For every “young, economically active” immigrant there is waiting
            a wife, children, parents, siblings and their families and would-be immigrants of the ‘clan’ or ethnic group to whom help is due . All
            of these place demands on health care, schools and social services.
            Why should my taxes pay for this? Why should the character of my
            country be changed by a flood of immigrants?

          3. I said I shouldn’t comment on the Referendum today in respect for the murdered MP but as she was a Remain supporter (and this ‘may have been’ the aspect that made her a target) and in response to your comment, I would say that in my experience of living for 6 months in a poorer part of Gloucester, among a high proportion of immigrants from the West Indies, Asia and Central, I was always impressed by such people. Their homes were kept clean, their children excelled in school (especially the Asian and Central Europeans) and the adults (mum and dad) worked hard and paid their taxes. They were prepared to do the jobs many British people would not do…not because of low wages but because many British youngsters are either ‘work shy’ or want to be ‘Celebrities’ (I kid you not…I have been a governor of 4 schools in my time). I found the mix of cultures refreshing and uplifting. As an aside, the input of Poles has provided clergy for the English Roman Catholic Church! I was often invited to homes for a meal and these migrants were always gratified when I bothered to learn a few words of their first language. Few came with extended families but many sent money back to their homes. A lot were in the UK for work and intended to return ‘home’.
            I am always interested when people talk about “the British culture”. I am not sure what that means because cultures are always evolving. Return to the British Isles of 100 years ago and you might find vast differences in culture, dialect and dress in the various counties (compare Cornwall, Yorkshire and Durham for example) and there were contrasting lifestyles, &c. among people of different class. Perhaps Brexiters want to return to that? It is not going to happen. I can tell you from my experience in schools that the inclusion of different cultural traditions and religious practices provide a very positive experience for the young…that will hopefully knock down the walls which divide us. Something the murdered MP was keen to do. May she rest in peace.

        2. Earning a lot of money? It depends what they’re doing. I’m most familiar with those working in the NHS, and they get paid by the standard national scales – see http://www.nhsemployers.org/~/media/Employers/Documents/Pay%20and%20reward/AfC%20pay%20bands%20from%201%20April%202016_FINAL.pdf for the details of these. I personally know EU workers in positions from band 2 (relatively low pay) up to band 7 (relatively high pay). One thing I have noticed is that they seem more likely to rent a room in a shared house. This would help cut down on costs, but it’s not the entire answer. I used to be a band 5, before getting promoted to a band 6 position, and with both of those, I was able to afford to rent a flat on my own.

  13. Why does transport for London allow bus drivers to refuse more passengers, when there are not seats left, and many people are already standing.

    But governments allow millions of migrants to enter an overcrowded Country, where thousands are already homeless, and forced to sleep on the streets.

  14. Sorry Matthew, this is not directly connected with your excellent statement but I have to say something about #Leave and its leaders…who may well become leaders of the UK if Brexiteers get their way. I have checked this statement:
    Nigel Farrage was “democratically elected” as an MEP then failed to do the job (I wonder if he took the money???). Today he was sailing down the Thames protesting about the EU Fisheries policy. Thank God for Bob Geldof who reminded everyone that Saint Nigel was the UK’s representative on the EU Fisheries Committee but had only attended 1 out of 50 meetings!
    Michael Gove claimed his father’s fishing company went to the wall because of EU policies. Rubbish says his dad! Yes, Gove has been caught out in a untruth (some would use stronger words)!
    Bojo seems to only want ‘No.10’ on his headed notepaper.
    Lord Lawson lives in France (a member of the EU I think?). He claimed this as his main residence to gain £16000 expenses when an MP. I wonder if he will return from France if things go belly up after Brexit?
    IDS has been a disaster handling benefits …ask any disabled person. He now claims this had nothing to do with him! Dr Fox had to resign because of taking his friend to sensitive defence meetings. I wouldn’t trust him with a packet of biscuits!
    Chris Grayling has, in my humble opinion, been the worst prisons minister since the 19th Century …Michael Gove has had to undo his ‘reforms’.
    Do we really want these guys in control? Use your brain and vote ‪#‎Remain‬
    P.S. I have used my postal vote so don’t try to change my mind!

    1. This is just my ignorance, not a comment on what you’ve said, interesting though it is. Would David Cameron really have to resign in the face of a Brexit vote? As an in/out referendum was in the Conservative manifesto, there was always the possibility of a ‘no’ vote and he was elected for five years. Or would the Brexiters (not sure why we call them Brexiteers) just make it impossible for him to stay?

      1. I don’t think Cameron could possibly remain if he lost the referendum. If he tried to stay (except perhaps for a few months as a caretaker) he would be deposed. He would have to accept that he had lost and no longer had the confidence of the Party, or the country come to that. In the ensuing chaos, heaven knows what would happen. A general election with a hopelessly split Conservative Party opposing a hopelessly split Labour Party?

        1. The FTPA would normally mean that as 2/3rds of MPs need to vote in favour of an early election, it would hardly ever be simultaneously in the interests of both main parties to hold a General Election. The main party least likely to win would sensibly want to avoid risking a potentially heavy defeat. What makes the current circumstances different though, is that there’s a majority of Labour MPs that want Corbyn disposed of as leader. So whilst Corbyn (and his small inner circle) would probably want to avoid an early election at a point when Labour are lagging in the polls, a huge number of Labour MPs may well look upon an early election as a legitimate opportunity to remove their leader (once Labour did as badly as most of them expect him to).
          So, if Gove (my tip to replace Cameron) decides to go to the polls in order to get a fresh mandate following his move into number 10, there could well be enough MPs in Parliament to trigger an election within 12 months.
          A word of warning though, I suspect Corbyn may do a little better than people expect (but not well enough to win), and in that scenario it could still prove very difficult for him to be removed as leader, as his support among Labour Party members will not dissipate in a hurry. Labour MPs itching for an early election must therefore be careful what they wish for. It might just cement the current leader in place for many more years to come.
          Reply

      2. I suggest with Ken Clarke that his position would be untenable. We know he is going at the end of this Parliament and there seem to be people ‘snapping at his heels’. I think its make or break for him and for Bojo.

  15. NB The management of BMW in Oxford has said that they have no intention of shifting back to Germany if we leave the EU. There has been a public meeting about this attended by them, representatives of the workforce and the MP for East Oxford.
    On the other hand the EU did subsidize the Ford company to up sticks and move out of Southampton to Turkey. They got £80 million from the EU. All this rhetoric about being “european” boils down to one thing – you are paying for a stick to beat yourself.

  16. The EU is not democratic. It was never intended to be democratic. That is why it cannot be reformed. That at the end of the day is the one and only issue.

    1. In this you are accepting a half-truth and I am sure I don’t need to tell you this. There are elected MEPs who scrutinise and vote on laws/issues sent to them from the Executive. True this is ‘backwards’ to our system, where the Commons sends acts/bills to the (un-elected/undemocratic) Lords for scrutiny and the (un-elected/undemocratic) Monarch signs them into law. In the EU major decisions have to be accepted by the elected governments of the 27 states and can be vetoed. Changes to the relationships of states to the EU cannot be enacted without a referendum. The present Government of the UK did not a 51% share of the votes at the last General Election …in fact it had less than 30% yet in our ‘democratic’ system the Conservative Party has a working majority. Even UKIP should have more MPs relative to the number of votes it received nationwide. Both systems need reform to be truly democratic. I doubt the UK’s government structure is any more democratic in the strict sense than the EU. It is rather arrogant to suggest we are any better in this than the 26 other democracies but one of our problems has been the refusal of UKIP MEPs to play a full part in the process of EU government. Farage’s poor attendance as a member of the EU Fisheries Committee (I think the number was 1 attendance out of 39?) meant that we were not taking part in the democratic process.

  17. DB is my godson, 21 and this year graduates with a double 1st from Magdalen College, Oxford.
    As an intelligent young person I should like to share his thoughts on…

    Referendum Day

    Friday’s going to be amazing!
    i’m going to wake up in my Union Jack jim-jams
    to the sound of a squadron of Spitfires racing overhead
    and leaving a trail of hot buttered crumpets behind them

    I’ll run to the corner shop past all the British children
    who are laughing and squealing with excitement
    as they make a beautiful statue of the Queen
    out of happy wriggling bulldog puppies –
    with two corgis for her eyebrows!

    Bunting flutters everywhere
    and the man from the betting shop steps into the street –
    “Guess what! England just
    won the World Cup
    & The Ashes
    & The Grand National
    and here’s the best bit –
    Boris put a bet on it for everyone!
    You’re all MILLIONAIRES!!!”

    The red arrows fly overhead dropping fish and chips
    As I walk into the corner shop,
    to get my morning paper
    and go to the counter.
    “How much please?” I say to the Asian lad there.
    “1 pence, everything in the whole shop now costs just 1p!” he laughs,
    “Leave it on the counter, i’m off back to Pakistan –
    we all are!”

    And he’s right!
    Outside in the streets jolly old Nigel Farage
    Is leading a huge crowd of happy foreigners –
    Turks, Poles, Romanians, Syrians –
    there’s even a few English people
    with heavy suntans mixed up in there!
    Nigel’s playing Rule Britannia on a long pipe,
    rather like the pipe that takes the rats out of Hamlin
    and they’re all following and smiling and talking foreign,
    Bless them!

    Just then Boris flies overhead in a
    Concorde made of Bank of England gold –
    “Don’t worry!” he laughs
    “I’ve cut out all the bits the French ma de!”
    and with that he crashes into the ground at 1200 miles an hour,
    along with the economy, the country
    and all the dozy nostalgic foreigner-fearing folk
    Who fell for this bulls***
    Grow up and wake up!

    Dean Bottomley
    (with the author’s permission)

    1. Wonderful. I’m just sad and angry that my generation – the over 60s – have done such a disservice to Dean’s.

      1. Thank you Betsy, I feel the same way. His partner is a brilliant young astrophysicist and doubts there will be much future in this line of research in the UK as most of the UK’s involvement was with the EU funded ESA , so the plan is to permanently relocate,which means Dean will goes well. I fear a brain drain of our young. One also wonders whether we shall ever see another man or woman in space wearing the UK flag on his arm?

        1. Maybe we are worrying unnecessarily, David. Didn’t that nice Mr Farage say that after building several hospitals and training hundreds more teachers and compensating the farmers, all out of the non-existent £350million a week saving, there’d be plenty left over for scientific research? On a serious note, two young doctor friends of mine say there are real fears that cutting edge medical research is also seriously endangered if eu funding dries up. Which of course it will. What a sad state of affairs.

  18. Post referendum, Scotland are talking a good game about being able to resist the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

    What’s the legal perspective? Is it England, Scotland etc named on the EU documents or only ‘The United Kingdom’?

    It makes a big difference because you can’t join the EU now without accepting a commitment to take on the Euro too. No more opt outs like the UK got.

    It seems to me that Scotland resisting the exit is a different proposition to Scotland leaving and then rejoining.

    Would appreciate any thoughts

    1. I believe Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU, if they became independent, that was seen as the situation if they had left the UK in the last referendum.

    2. I agree the Scottish angle is interesting. Jolyon Maugham, a prominent Labour supportgin tax lawyer has an interesting post about the possibility that Brexit without the consent of the Scottish Parliament is illegal. In fact he comes to the conclusion that it isn’t illegal. He’s a much better lawyer than I am, but for the little it’s worth I agree with him. Worth a read though.

  19. Does anyone know whether it’s up to the PM of the day to ‘trigger’ Article 50 or does it have to be passed by Parliament? Given that there are many more Remain MPs than Leave, what happens if they don’t pass it? As an aside – I was ultimately persuaded by your argument, Matthew, and I did vote Remain. I cannot now imagine how I could ever have thought to do otherwise. I am completely gutted by the result. Judging by the tv pictures, so were Mr Gove and Boris. They each looked like they’d swallowed a wasp.

  20. (corrected)
    Ignore this stupid demand for a second referendum, launched by people who simply will not accept the verdict of the people.
    We have voted to LEAVE, and we will LEAVE.
    It is typical of Remain and its dirty tactics that this petition has been signed by tens of thousands of fake identities and people who are not British citizens.
    I will just add that I agree with what Nicholas Simpson says above , and I regard Richard Dawkins as a mentally handicapped person. To deny us a say in the basic question of whether to transfer our sovereignty abroad – a transfer that was never approved under Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair or Brown – would be outrageous.
    Nearly a year ago the leaders of EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, told us that there would be no problem in us re-joining it if we wished. Personally I hope we can get better deals, but the idea that it would take years to sort out any deal is just scaremongering.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11731694/Brexit-vote-could-trigger-European-free-market-chain-reaction-say-Swiss-and-Icelandic-MPs.html
    NB to David Mark Parry. The status of same-sex relationships is not a human rights issue. It is a behaviour that nations are entitled to make their own laws about. There is no “right” to such behaviour under any Human Rights declaration or treaty at any time.

    1. It was only because of the European Court of Human Rights (which we are not leaving – it is different from the EU) that the issue of same sex relationships was clarified insofar as the age of consent for gay sex had been 18 for homosexual acts but 16 for heterosexuals for a number of years. The House of Lords rejected parity a number of times but the ECtHR forced the British Government to either raise the general age of consent to 18years or lower the it for the gay community to 16 years. As to your other point: ” This week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Oliari and Others v. Italy that Italy is obligated to legally recognize and protect same-sex unions.” (The Atlantic, 14.07.2015). The same is true in the UK.

      As to Professor Dawkins being in some way ‘mentally ill’…please either state your full name and address so that I might pass your comments to him for legal consideration or withdraw them. I may not agree with Dawkins over his atheism but he is one of the finest and most respected scientists in his field. It is sad that just days after the Jo Cox murder, when people were calling for ‘kinder politics’ where people who have different views to ones own, should not be regarded as ‘stupid’ or ‘mad’, you should be writing in such terms. Yes people have tried to ruin the petition you speak of by dirty tricks (i.e. adding thousands of spoof names – about 70,000 have now been removed) yet there are still between 2 – 3 million signatories.

      One of the more depressing and alarming attitudes of many in the Leave camp has been to claim that they are nor racist. I believe most are not although, collect a copy of today’s Sun newspaper to see that there is a significant number who are…or the photo of the man walking around London yesterday (not the only one) with the T shirt bearing the words “YES WE WON! NOW SEND THEM BACK”.

      Professor John Velt-Wilson from Newcastle observes that the Referendum is advisory as it is Parliament that has to act on this issue and it has a duty to protect the greater interests of the country. “The government has long emphasised that it does not consider a majority vote valid if it is less than 40% of the eligible electorate, when it is union members voting for a temporary public sector strike. Given that an EU exit is far more important, how will MPs justify treating the 37.4% of the vote to leave as sufficient, especially when the majority is so small and significantly composed of old people who won’t be affected by the outcome?” (today’s Guardian)

      Echoing his last point, I should be very angry were I in the 16 & 17 age group as many pay tax, some are in HM Forces, but were denied a say in the voting process. The old American cry, “No taxation without representation” makes my point.

        1. So, that’s all we need. We haven’t got enough to worry about with financial turmoil, trade deals to renegotiate, laws to unpick and/or rewrite, the Opposition in turmoil, Leave leaders still suspended on metaphorical trip wires not knowing what the heck they’re supposed to do, Remainers dithering about whether they can pull the Article 50 trigger, 500 MPs not wanting what most of their constituents have demanded: Scotland, Northern Ireland, border controls, job losses, fearful immigrants and an angry and divided nation – I know, says a potential future prime minister, let’s worry now about the one thing we didn’t need to mess with and has nothing to do with the referendum anyway and which might just be needed to protect us against the idiocracy who rule our lives. Genius! And yes, David, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about Richard Dawkins and your general point about being careful what we say to and about individuals.

          1. Thanks Betsy. I am becoming more disillusioned by the day. I have just applied for Maltese citizenship (Mum was from Malta) … for when I visit my many friends in Holland, France and Germany. Gasp!

          2. I quite agree about the disillusionment, David. It’s this awful feeling of having been cheated and being powerless to do anything about it. It is early days, however. I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. Good or bad, who knows . . .

  21. Excellent article. I do, however, think people have forgotten that back in 1993 (when things were very different), there was also judicial review proceedings concerning the legality of the Government (via the exercise of the Crown perrogative) ratifying the Maastricht treaty. David Pannick QC was, interestingly, barrister who argued, on behalf of Lord Rees-Mogg that the Government could not lawfully ratify that treaty for reasons not too far apart from those he is now advancing against the exercise of the same perrogative in respect of the Article 50 “exit notice” (see http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/1993/4.html). It didn’t work then and, I am afraid (as I am on the remain camp), I doubt it will work now.

  22. The only argument that is important is not to do with how much or how little money we are going to make. That is all trivial in comparison to the real danger to us and the rest of the world. And that is what is the best way for surviving, given the fact of global warming. The future holds out huge uncertainties, wether we are in or out of a trading block is just trivial uncertainties. Saying up the pros and cons I think we are best trying to make Great Britain self sufficient in food and power and that is probably outside of this totally inefficient, undemocratic, wasteful, trading block. Small units should survive better.

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