My not very well thought through Brexit post

I’ve tried to write several versions of this post and failed. The worst attempt was yesterday when I literally fell asleep while typing. An essay so dull that it sends even the writer to sleep could perhaps be weaponised and used for evil, so I’ll spare you that version. The apple keyboard didn’t even do an amusing autorepeat as my stumpy fingers sat semi-lifeless on the keys while I sat hunched over the laptop making snoring sounds and drooling slightly, so I can’t even present an amusing string of garble that I ’typed’ in my sleep.

Why is the Brexit so dull? It is hard to say. In many ways it is in parallel with the Scottish Referendum and that vote was gloriously exciting despite my overall neutrality. At its heart is a question of British and English national identity, a power play by the right-wing of the Conservative Party and a cloud of issues around economics and human rights. That should be heady cocktail of political intrigue but rather like Batman versus Superman, all the exciting goodies crammed together just doesn’t sound very appealing. I sort of feel I should go and watch it but somehow never get around to it.

What is at stake:

  • Britain’s membership of the European Union…
  • Hence the economic benefits (if there any) of membership…
  • And the associated legal and regulatory frameworks…
  • Which include social legislation and protection of workers rights.

It is superficially very easy to take sides. The forces who want to leave are dominated by (but are not exclusively) a classic toxic mix of the worst bits of conservatism – plutocratic fat cats who feel that the EU dilutes their influence conjoined with (or identical to) English nationalist with a side-serving of far-right crypto-fascist nationalists. For those who have been following the multiple strands of this blog it is sufficient to point out that Vox Day is very much in favor of the Brexit.

On the other hand:

  • Brexit sounds like a breakfast cereal
  • Picking one side of an issue just because of how toxically obnoxious the other side is, really is a case of the genetic fallacy
  • The issues at stake maybe all overstated

The economic benefits are unclear. There are various claims by non-omnispecious people but at their heart is the issue of counterfactuals. How much would Britain’s economy have grown IF it hadn’t been part of the EU (hard to say). How much will Britain’s economy grow if it isn’t part of the European Union (also hard to say)? As somebody on the left, I’m naturally skeptical of claims of vague economic benefits, particularly during a sustained period of rising inequality where said benefits often seem to land with the most wealthy. At times watching Conservative PM David Cameron squabble with hopes-to-be Conservative PM Boris Johnson it can look like it is primarily a discussion over which is the best way of keeping rich English people rich. I’m guessing that on balance they might be a tad richer in real terms *in* the EU but have more personal power and be relatively richer outside of the EU. There doesn’t seem to be a clear option of ‘they get substantially poorer and look miserable while everybody else has a party’.

Two other issues sway me towards scepticism of the stay-in-the-EU camp.
Firstly the EU is a bit crap, governmentaly, as a decision making body and as an entity that actually fosters unity. It is not a terribly democratic organization and arguably its existence, distance and tendency to fall into regional factionalism actually helps promote more toxic elements of ethnic nationalism. That does not mean there are no good aspects but there is no positive piece of social legislation from the EU that would be impossible to win electorally in the UK without the EU (although it might take longer and face various setbacks).

Secondly nasty toxic rightwing nationalists can be right for the wrong reasons. This is where the genetic fallacy does come into play. The obvious example is European Monetary Union. While there were important sceptical voices with rational arguments against it (e.g. Paul Krugman again), the importance of the eurosceptic right in British politics was a key element of it never really being an option for the UK. The UK avoided adopting the Euro and as a consequence was spared the additional fall out of the Eurozone crisis despite the fact that much of the economic turbulence of the Global Financial Crisis originated in the UK. Of course this does not mean that the nasty toxic rightwing nationalists are right – it just means they are so consistently wrong that just because THEY think something will benefit them doesn’t mean that it actually will. Their connection with reality is tenuous at best and they are more than capable of deceiving themselves into acting against their own interest (if only they would do so reliably then they would be a solved problem).

On the other other hand…
I’m currently a long way away. The issues on the ground may look and feel quite different.
The *potential* for the European Union to be a democratic, effective and positive source of social good is enormous. By that measure being in is probably better than being out – although maybe it will find it easier to reach that point without having to deal with British Conservatives.

The left and the Labour Party has had a long evolution in its views on Europe – from scepticism in the early eighties to enthusiasm in the nineties. The British left is a lot more like the European left than the British right is to the European right. The strain of extreme nationalism on the right in all of Europe creates an inherent disunity that tends to favour either the left or the center right. The UK being in Europe bolsters the forces of the left in Europe whereas the UK Conservatives create divisions among the right.

So that’s the end of the essay. I didn’t fall asleep and I didn’t reach a firm conclusion and it turns out I’m not registered to vote anyway. Good luck Britain and all who sail upon them! 🙂

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6 comments

  1. Lurkertype

    Because it doesn’t affect me, I was SO hoping Scotland would have gone independent, joined the EU, and then all the Little Englanders could do whatever. I suspect if that had happened, ye Brexit (Engxit?) would definitely happen.

    But it’s nice to hear London blamed for some of the recession instead of throwing all of it onto New York.

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  2. Stevie

    Camestros

    It is very difficult to get people up to speed on comprehending the financial markets, much less hope that they will grasp what will inevitably happen if we vote to leave the EU. I used to get paid to, amongst other things, teach people who were already highly trained, about complex financial instruments and the taxation thereof.

    I have noted on Facebook that I was directly involved in Norman Lamont’s last attempt to manipulate our currency, Black Wednesday, and thus don’t need to look it up; given his recent comments I think people do need to look it up, to inform themselves of Lamont’s CV when it comes to currency matters. I’m a tolerant and easy going person, in some respects, but I still feel that screwing the poor harmless taxpayers for well over £3 billion just to feed Norman’s ego exceeded my limits of ‘Bless his heart”.

    There are, of course, people who know perfectly well that leaving the EU will destroy our economy; they are driven by the ideology which privileges ‘what I want’ above any concern about the people in this country. However, most of them are delusional; they know nothing about the way markets work in the real world, much less the way in which financial markets work, and therein lies the problem.

    They are prepared to destroy anything they don’t understand, and they don’t understand much; they have no idea of the consequences, and the consequences for someone like myself, economically privileged, are that I’d have to cut back a bit on buying expensive products from abroad, and cruises in the Med. The consequences for those who are not economically privileged will be disastrous; I do feel that someone deliberately voting for those disastrous consequences is displaying contempt for the people who will suffer as a result…

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    • camestrosfelapton

      Thanks Stevie. I was hoping you would comment because I thought ypu’d have grasp of the deeper financial issues. I’m more numerate than average but I look at a lot of this and feel non-plussed ir can’t get a handle on it.

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  3. Stevie

    Well, yes; I spent decades at this stuff, so it’s not exactly surprising that it’s easier for me.

    However, I agree that your strategy remains good! Have fun!

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  4. Chris Gerrib

    Speaking as an American, it seems to me that a “United States of Europe (USE)” needs to happen if Europeans wish to continue to be relevant in the global economy and global politics. Thus, for me the question is “can and/or will the current EU evolve into the USE or should it be scrapped as a bad job?” America’s first attempt at a United States (the Articles of Confederation) looked a lot like the EU and we ditched that.

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