Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lancing the Brexit boil

The nicest picture of a boil I could find...

The nicest picture of a boil I could find…

There are 7 days to go before UK citizens vote on whether or not to leave the EU, and its becoming increasingly more likely that they will choose to leave.

On a purely logical level, this is difficult to understand.

For instance, the UK economy has prospered since the joining the EU. In 1973, when the UK joined, its GDP per capita was lower than that of Germany, France and Italy. Today it is higher than all 3.

Beyond economics, the UK’s system of democracy is archaic compared to that of the EU. Not only does the UK have an unelected Head of State (the Queen) and an unelected upper house of parliament (the House of Lords), kamagra uk, but its system of electoral democracy does not produce representative parliaments.

For instance, in the 2015 General Election, UKIP obtained 12% of the vote but only 1 seat out of 650 in parliament. By comparison, UKIP won 24% of the vote of the European Parliament election in 2014, and won 24 of the 73 seats allocated to the UK in the European Parliament.

A lot of the momentum behind the move towards leaving the EU appears to arise from immigration, but even in this, there is no logic.

There are approximately 3m EU nationals living in the UK who were not born in the UK.�If they were all to leave, and all the UK residents living in other EU countries were to return home, the population of the UK would decrease by about 2m people, or 3%. At current natural population growth levels (ie excluding net migration) that decrease will be made up in under 10 years. The only difference would be that the UK would have increased its number of pensioners and reduced its number of people working and paying tax (dramatically).

Clearly then, there is some other more emotional force at work that is pushing people away from the EU. Commentators frequently lay the blame for this at the door of the EU itself. This is an easy argument to make. The EU is a form of government, but because it doesn’t look and feel like the national governments that we are all used to, its simple to make the argument that its “undemocratic” or “corrupt”.

Its much harder to explain that while the EU is a form of government, it is not a nation state, and the fact that its institutions are not exact replicas of national institutions reflects that. For instance, the EU parliament �has fewer powers than national parliaments because the EU parliament is not supposed to replace national parliaments, and the EU Commission is the only institution that can propose legislation as the EU Commission is the only institution that can place the needs of the Union itself over and above the needs of individual member states.

Its also easy to refer to the “EU” when in fact what we are talking about are member states. For instance, in dealing with the Greek debt crisis, or the refugee crisis, collective decisions were and are being made by national governments, not by any EU institution. The institutions of the EU merely facilitate the negotiate and implement the ultimate decision.

In reality, dissatisfaction with the EU is really just dissatisfaction with politics in general. For many people, politics is about well-paid, far away people making decisions that always seem to involve someone being pissed off. However, we tolerate it because we understand the alternative is chaos.

In the case of the EU, the alternative isn’t chaos, its returning to the way we did things before the EU, the good times, where we only remember all the good stuff and all the bad stuff has been removed from our memories behind a screen of nostalgia.

That’s the essential difference with the EU. We regard it as an optional extra, something that we’re not sure we need, and who many people think we don’t need, compared to national democracy, which we wouldn’t dream of being without, even when we regard it with searing contempt.

In this regard, its difficult to see how the EU can prosper. Politicians talk about reforming this, and changing that, and listening to the people, but in reality, for as long as the EU is something that is separate to national politics, it will always be an easy scapegoat for problems created by national politics that national politics can’t solve.

Perhaps, therefore, the alternative to the EU needs to be put to the test. What if one member state decides that they are going to step into the time machine, and return to the 1970s, when George and Mildred was on the TV, when Liverpool used to win the European Cup, and you could buy Duty Free cigarettes on your way back from your holidays, and you could leave your keys in the car outside the house and you had a job for life in British Leyland?

It might all work out. They might get on fine. It might not. They could disappear into a hole in the North Atlantic. But at least we’d know. At least we’d have something to point to and say: “Look, this is what happens when you go with the alternative.”

I see this as an inevitable and logical step in the evolution of not only the EU, but international co-operation and governance. We can’t allow the EU to die by a thousand cuts, or to be taken over by people whose only interest is in its destruction.

Let’s allow the boil to be lanced, to see how much puss it spews. If we are better served by retreating into our nation states and looking out at each other over fences and walls, then so be it. I don’t think we will be, but I’d sooner know for sure.