Friday, 10 June 2016

Still undecided

I envy so many of my friends. They are clear and resolute in their decision about the forthcoming referendum.  Many, like Rupert Beale, are convinced that we would be mad to leave the EU.  Rupert argues the case here, for example. Others, like Mark Lambert, are equally clear that we are better out; see Mark's facebook page for many arguments. (See Update below!)

And then there are the politicians...

I have found the paucity of the political debate particularly depressing, if I am honest. It is almost all predicated on economics and self interest, as though these are the most important things. 

Rupert Beale, to his credit, makes some appeal to the common good, but I am not wholly convinced.

For me, the choice is difficult, but I see the issues at stake differently. (It's all the others who are wrong, of course, as the mother watching the parade said, when her son was marching out of step...)

But for me, the main reason to consider voting to leave the EU is the relentless ambition to construct a European Empire. I think this an ill-founded and dangerous ambition. I also dislike the profligate waste (typified by the Strasbourg -Brussels-Strasbourg move every month at vast expense - but there are many other examples, and all beyond hope of reform, as far as I can see) and the contempt for tax-payer implicit in that. And I have a natural preference for smaller and more local power structures.

On the other hand, the thought of giving succour to the Little England (and sometimes racist) views of so many on the Out side is wholly repugnant. More serious still is the fear that a UK exit would lead others to seek to leave, and the potential balkanisation of Europe with all the risks implicit in that.

My preference is for a reformed EU - a reversion to a trading group, shedding the ambitions to political and fiscal union. But that seems a pipe dream - and certainly a vote to remain seems to me to be in practice a vote for the direction of travel.

But on the other hand, would a vote to leave give us any influence? It is conceivable that it would: that both the British political establishment and the EU would be so shocked that they would work to cobble together some real reform... But I doubt it.

So what to do?

I really don't know...



I have clearly misrepresented Mark (albeit inadvertently) - see his comment below.


Sitsio said...

I'm far from clear! I'm posting the best arguments from both sides (I hope), or at least those that sway me...See Lord Sugar vid I posted today. However I am tempted towards out. Subsidiarity and all that!

Pétrus said...

Funnily enough I would be in favour of a reformed EU. The reason I am so stridently in favour of Brexit is because the EU has shown, time and time again, that it cannot be reformed. Quite the opposite in fact, rather than seeking to reform itself, it pushes further and further in the other direction.

Ben Trovato said...


I am sorry to have misrepresented you. I have seen you post comments from both sides, but had read your own comments on them as favouring out; whether that is the result of selective reading, or an initial impression and confirmation bias, or what, I do not know. I am now intrigued by my error and my misreading of your posts. But the misrepresentation was inadvertent.


I have a lot of sympathy with your views, as you will realise. But I also have some real concerns about the consequences for Europe of a no vote (and some for the potential consequences for the UK, if it lends power to demagogues).

Ben Trovato said...


In 1975 I voted against staying in the Common Market (as it was called in those days).

Although Cardinal Nichols seems quite keen on the EC, I suspect the whole project will end in tears – especially if Turkey joins the EC.

One of the key principles in Catholic Social Teaching is the principle of subsidiarity – but the EC appears to me to be in complete opposition to this.

Furthermore like most people I am in favour of democracy – as opposed to rule by unelected Brussels bureaucrats.

Finally while Mr Cameron and his allies claim that staying in the EC will make the UK more prosperous, they do not seem to realise that this will inevitably attract more and more migrants to the UK from less prosperous parts of the EC – with all the inevitable consequences.

I do not think that living like ants on an overcrowded anthill called London is a desirable long-term goal.

Of course the very wealthy metropolitan elite (the majority of whom who seem to be in favour of staying in the EC) do not have problems about getting a mortgage in London or the South East of England – and often also have a second home in a less crowded part of the UK.

And I think that the myth of King Midas provides some lessons about the relative merits of the quality of life as opposed to an unlimited growth in wealth.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

I have decided to vote "remain" for two reasons.

Firstly I am not (and I think no one is) sure what the economic effect of leaving will be on the UK as a whole. There would be a period of uncertainty and then things would be better or worse or about the same (the last being most likely). However the most vulnerable part of the UK - Northern Ireland - would certainly suffer when a harder border with Eire was put in place. Custom processes on the border would lead to slower movement of people and goods which will harm the local economy. Poorer economic development will indirectly harm community relations. There will also be direct harm to the political situation caused by greater separation between the 6 and 26 counties that make up the island.

The remain campaign talk big about maintaining the old agreements between the UK and Eire but those agreements were developed when neither country was in the EU. Although The Republic will not be free to make unilateral agreements with the UK particularly about movement of people and goods. EU politicians and civil servants will not understand the unique position (let's face it - very few English people do!) and will have no motivation to be accommodating. In fact their own self-interest will be to make things difficult for the UK to discourage other states from leaving.

Northern Ireland is vulnerable; the current relative peace is remarkable. Anything that risks this should be avoided.

Secondly when faced with a choice where the consequences are uncertain it is safer to choose the one which is more easily reversed. If we leave it will be very difficult to re-join but if we remain there is always the possibility of leaving at a later date.

A final point: the debate should be a principled on: collective international solidarity against national sovereignty. Very little of the debate has been along these lines and we have been subjected to both sides lying about consequences with the electorate knowing they are being told lies. The negative effect on democracy in the long term is very worrying.

Patricius said...

I share your preference for a reformed E.U.. I voted to remain in the E.E.C. in 1975 because I viewed the economic union as a means of locking in the peace my generation was experiencing. My father had fought in the Second World War and his father in the First. I think in was Churchill who saw that "Jaw-Jaw" was to be preferred to "War-War". I agreed. I was also painfully conscious of the situation in Ireland where partition was an important factor in the troubles which had re-ignited in the late 'sixties. It seemed to me then that if the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom were both to become part of a larger entity this would undermine the ideology of conflict. It did take a long time but it was surely not insignificant in the 1997 agreement.
For the present, the referendum seems an absurdly blunt instrument for dealing with such serious and complex issues. If, for argument's sake, we were instead facing a General Election where one major party advocated remaining and the other advocated leaving then we might reasonably assume that each party had planned policies across the board to deal with reasonably foreseeable consequences of their preferred option.

Pétrus said...


I completely understand your fears of demagogues. They tend to rise though when the demos feels ignored. They are a symptom rather than a problem themselves.

There has been a wide spread rise in populist politics across Europe. It isn't something unique to our country. The reason behind this is widespread unhappiness with the EU.

A lot of that comes down a democratic deficit, both real and perceived. There are very real problems of democratic accountability with the EU, problems the Remain side acknowledge. I have little time for talk of reforming the EU from within, Cameron tried that recently and came back with little of substance.

Aside from the real problems of the democratic deficit there are the perceived problems. In our country, even the most simple of folk can get their head around, roughly how things work. With the EU, even its most ardent supporters struggle to explain its innermost working. For democracy to be effective, the people must understand it. Tony Benn is not someone with whom I often agreed. His five questions on democracy are very appropriate when looking at the EU.

“What power have you got?”

“Where did you get it from?”

“In whose interests do you use it?”

“To whom are you accountable?”

“How do we get rid of you?”

With all of this in mind, I think that the EU will lead to the rise of more demagogues. To reduce this a vote for Leave seems the sensible course.