Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:50:23 AM EST

Given that it is the great Bard's 400th. Anniversary, a Shakespearean soliloquy seems apposite. What are the arguments for and against a British exit from the EU, and what are the views of European Tribune contributors on the subject?

President Obama has just swung by on his way back from being snubbed in Saudi Arabia, before giving Merkel some much needed succour on the refugee problem. His emphatic endorsement of Britain staying within the EU inspired Brexit lead campaigner Boris Johnson to the heights of Trumpian abuse.

Basically Obama said Britain should stay in the EU to maximise its global influence, and suggested that the UK would have to go to the back of the queue if it wanted bi-lateral trade deals post Brexit. And in case anyone should think that Obama is on the way out and therefor cannot speak for the USA on this issue, it should be noted that Eight former Republican and Democratic Treasury Secretaries have just written a letter endorsing his point of view.

This struck at the heart of the Brexit case - which has always maintained that Britain could have all the benefits of EU market access, without the costs of EU membership.  Britain, the argument goes, is so important in its own right, that other countries including the rump EU Block would be falling over themselves to cut bilateral trade deals with a newly independent UK.


To those who suggested he shouldn't be interfering in an internal UK debate, Obama noted that there where thousands of Americans in European graves giving testimony to the fact that no Nation is an Island...

And that, perhaps, has been part of the problem. The debate appears to have been carried out largely within England amongst English nationalists who want to wrest more political power back from "Brussels Bureaucrats" with little regard for the impact of Brexit on Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland; and on the millions of British expatriates living abroad - many of them within the EU.

Opinion polls are giving the remain side a slim lead, although that has risen from 2 to 7% since Obama's intervention. However, they were notoriously wrong when predicting the result of the last general election and can be influenced by day-to-day events and media coverage. Experience in Ireland and elsewhere suggests that referenda often become referenda on the popularity of the Government of the day, almost without regard to the substantial issue being voted on. In addition, the more committed side tends to prevail, especial in a lower turnout vote. No one can claim that the no side are not vociferous in their cause, with many simplistic and counter-factual arguments to bolster their case.

For many it simply comes down to a case of identity: Do you want to be British or European? And there is little doubt that there is a lack of identification with the European project, particularly amongst older, English, and less educated voters.

Cameron's political problems with the Budget, the Panama papers, and the refugee crisis could not have come at a worse time for the remain campaign - as has the move to the right in many central and eastern European EU members. Everywhere, xenophobia and nationalism seems to be on the rise, perhaps as austerity has sapped the legitimacy of ruling elites and made people more fearful of their own circumstances.

But perhaps more crucial still has been the loss of any vision in the European project: It has become, at best, a technocratic endeavour devoid of any rallying cry beyond the fast fading memories of the Second World War and its aftermath. As W.B Yeats said of an earlier era:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity"

-The Second Coming

Some analysts have suggested that the Brexit referendum is just yet another gambit by the UK to renegotiate the terms of membership to it's own advantage and to force the EU to remodel itself more in the UK's image. The suggestion is that the UK Government may not necessarily trigger the two year exit negotiations provided for by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, but seek to negotiate a better deal for the UK - to be put to the electorate again in another referendum in due course.

Again the Irish experience of referenda may be instructive: After initially rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in a low turnout Referendum, the Irish Government negotiated some minor clarifications (that the Treaty would have no impact, one way or the other, on the availability of abortion in Ireland) and put the Treaty to a Referendum again. Despite much resentment that people were being asked to vote again on substantially the same Treaty until they gave the right answer, the Referendum was passed the second time around by a much wider margin in a higher turn-out vote.

However there are dangers in adopting such a strategy: First of all, there will be great resentment that people are being asked to vote on essentially the same question twice. Many who voted to remain first time around might change their vote to exit in protest at this abuse of democracy.

Secondly, Ireland remains an overwhelmingly pro-EU country. The No campaign had successfully muddied the waters by claiming the Lisbon Treaty would facilitate Abortion in Ireland. When this shibboleth was removed from the debate in the second referendum, the normal pro-majority reasserted itself.

Thirdly, there is no guarantee that the terms of membership on offer as a result of the negotiations will be substantially better from the point of view of UK voters who wish to leave the EU. The damage done to the UK and EU economies by the ensuing prolonged uncertainty is unlikely to make continued membership seem more attractive. Indeed, the EU will be in an existential crisis at that point, with threats of exit by other nations gathering force should the UK be seen to get an even more advantageous deal. Why would the EU reward those threatening to disintegrate the Union? Indeed, why should Frankfurt and other financial services centres go out of their way to help their major competitors in London?

My guess is that the EU could be quite vindictive towards the UK in those circumstances, and make Brexit as difficult and painful as possible. Anything else would be to encourage others to go down the same route. Any Brexiteers who think they can get a better or even good deal for the UK post a successful vote for Brexit might be in for a very rude shock indeed. The EU leadership might just grow a backbone when its own future existence and stability is threatened. The UK might not even get the deal currently available to Norway or Switzerland, and thus the current UK Treasury median estimate of a 6.2% reduction in GDP (equivalent to a £4,300 loss per annum per household) on exit may prove to be unduly optimistic.

That is not to say that a Brexit would not also be damaging to the EU as a whole, and particularly to a small, open, economy like Ireland. The UK remains Ireland's main trading partner, despite Ireland's trade with the UK going down from c. 70% to c. 15% of our exports since we entered the EU in 1973. Ireland is the only EU country which shares a land border with the UK and all kinds of administrative and political problems will ensue even if special arrangements are put in place to avoid reigniting the N. Ireland troubles. Dublin will however be keen to capture any FDI which might otherwise have gone to the UK, and the damage to the Irish economy may not be anything like as great as it would have been in years gone by.

All in all, a period of potentially great uncertainty, and hence short term economic damage may ensue if the Referendum is passed. Cameron will probably have to resign and be replaced by Boris Johnson or some other anti-EU figure. Sometimes political decisions are simply not reversible even if they prove to have been manifestly wrong headed. We live in interesting times. Let us hope there are better times and leadership for Europe as a whole in the future.

Display:
I suspect that Cameron might go even if he wins the referendum. The Tory party is badly split on this issue and Cameron will not be forgiven by the brexit half whatever happens, I suspect the tories are in for a period of civil war whatever happens.

That said, Boris is damaged goods. He has certainly made himself a darling of the right by nailing his colours to the brexit mast, but his attack on the US president in such a typically Boris racist manner has curdled his popularity with the wider public.

So, it's an interesting year for the tories, god rot them

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 01:00:30 PM EST
Boris is a clown, and we all know Obama is uniquely gifted at making old white wingers say stupid things out loud that they'd normally keep to themselves, so no surprise there.

That said, I'm honestly not wild about Obama getting involved in this debate.  I know it's a good get for Remain, since he is -- or at least was, last I read -- quite popular over there.  And I'd obviously be in favor of staying in the EU.

But we don't really have any interest one way or the other in this, as far as I can tell.  It's a debate for Brits to have, so I'd have preferred he stayed out of it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 08:10:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but the US does have an interest. The UK has long been their trojan horse for keeping the legislative landscape just the way they like it. Trade barriers the US doesn't like get vetoed, and we campaign vociferously for things you do.

We are also the conduit for Wall St to funnel dirty money in and such good money out.

We your bitch and you just don't think the Italians would be as reliable

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 08:43:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only that but, as with Overlord, the UK is the US base for European invasions.  A great pile of US firms have subbed into the City to take advantage of the borderless borders.  Very handy to be able to do that from a country that has English as its first language, even if it is that funny other kind of English.
by rifek on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 09:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the pro-Brexit campaigners are claiming the UK can replace its ties to the EU with even closer ties to the US.  All Obama is doing is saying that that ain't necessarily so. If Brits want to leave the EU, there is nothing to stop them, but don't think the USA is going to come running to their aid all over again...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 11:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the point of being someone's bitch is that you have to be useful to them. If we leave the EU, we will be of no further use to the US and they'll drop us like yesterday's newspaper

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 01:26:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well there's still NATO and all those British bases, and Britain's willingness to sacrifice its soldiers for some US objective.  But the US has been pivoting away from Europe and towards Asia for some time now in any case. Brexit will simply accelerate the process... The EU is Britain's main chance of remaining relevant. How else to get TTIP across the line?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 01:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question
Britain, the argument goes, is so important in its own right, that other countries including the rump EU Block would be falling over themselves to cut bilateral trade deals with a newly independent UK.

Like Norway: having in practice to implement most of EU rules and regulations without having any say on them any longer. Swell...

European Tribune - To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

Any Brexiteers who think they can get a better or even good deal for the UK post a successful vote for Brexit might be in for a very rude shock indeed.
Indeed.

European Tribune - To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

Ireland is the only EU country which shares a land border with the UK and all kinds of administrative and political problems will ensue even if special arrangements are put in place to avoid reigniting the N. Ireland troubles.
They sure don't care about the consequences for the Irish, but Ireland is now less dependent on the UK than it was 20 years ago.

Nitpick: Technically, Ireland is not the sole country sharing a land border with the UK (one could mention Spain too).

by Bernard on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 03:50:14 PM EST
If you really want to nitpick, Gibraltar is not part of the UK, it is a British Overseas Territory without a member in the British Parliament. The term United Kingdom is traditionally applied to the "united kingdoms" of Great Britain and N. Ireland (Previously Ireland). Great Britain having previously been created by the Act of Union between Scotland and England and the annexation of the Principality of Wales.  No one has ever claimed Gibraltar as part of either Britain or N. Ireland, unlike the Jersey islands or some other contiguous islands.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 04:25:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, France has a border c/o the Channel Tunnel. French border control is in London and British border control is in Paris

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 04:29:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well US immigration control is in Dublin and Shannon airports. So?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 04:58:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have we built a wall yet?
by rifek on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 09:28:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trump has applied for planning permission to build a massive wall across the Clare Coastline.  He claims it's to stop coastal erosion rather than Mexican refugees...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 11:58:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technically, Ireland is not the sole country sharing a land border with the UK

And what about Akrotiri and Dhekeli?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 01:48:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sign...Akrotiri and Dhekeli are not countries and neither are part of the UK even though they come under the Sovereign jurisdiction of the UK British overseas Territories...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 11:30:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tbh I find the memories-of-Imperial-England fantasies of the brexiters to be just a little stupid. The idea that the world is waiting for us to break free of the Brussels straitjacket so they can shower us with preferential trade agreements is so stupid as to make me want to rend garments.

But, while I accept, there may well be principled objections to the UK's membership of the EU, but much of it is dominated by Little Englander racism and xenophobia. People who don't really care about trade or human rights, they just don't like foreigners.

Fortunately it seems that, while they're noisy, they are a minority stream of thought in the country and we should expect a remain vote to win handily [crosses fingers and hopes}


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 04:38:40 PM EST
It's even more pathetic than that.  Exhibit A...

Financial times

My heart warmed to Michael Gove this week when he suggested that Albania's relationship with the EU was a good model for a post-Brexit Britain. Unlike the justice secretary, who wants Britain out of the EU, not enough Brits appreciate how much they have in common with Albanians.

For starters, who says the Brits behind their fogged-up Channel are any closer to the heart of Europe than the Albanians in their mountainous homeland? Not Mr Gove, and not me either. The two main subgroups of the Albanian nation are the Ghegs and Tosks, whose first instinct for centuries was to batter each other on the head, just like today's pro-EU and anti-EU factions in Britain.

Next, consider what the European Commission said in its latest report on Albania: "More needs to be done to address the divisive political culture and ensure a more constructive cross-party dialogue." Show me a better description of the modern British political scene, and I'll treat Mr Gove to the finest gjellë; in London.

In the 25 years since Albania threw off communism, about 1.25m Albanians, or a third of the population, have emigrated in search of a better life, often to Greece, Italy and other EU countries. Similarly, almost 2m Brits are living and working in the rest of the EU, only too glad, like the Albanians, to try their luck abroad.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 25th, 2016 at 05:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, for all the flaws of the current EU (but I would argue that the truly atrocious ones are specific to the Eurozone - what has been done to Greece, Spain, Portugal and even Ireland could not have been done without the Euro), I completely understand why you would be hoping for the UK to stay in.

But I hate the idea that Cameron will have managed to get yet more preferential treatment through childish blackmail. It seems that Germany was keen to keep exporting its cars, but surely a measured and mature response to his demands should have been "we have noticed for some time that you were not entirely happy with our project that you lobbied hard to join a few decades ago, and while we always refrained from actively requesting that you clear the room, we would not be so rude as to hold you back from the departure you spend so much time talking about".

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 04:42:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what preferential treatment Cameron has won. The concessions he claims to have negotiated don't add up to a hill of beans, and they are such little importance that they haven't been mentioned once by either side in the current campaign.

tbh, it was never about the terms, the brexit people were always all about the foreigners. that's why this is a campaign that's all about England, cos the little Englanders don't much like the Welsh, the Scots or the Irish either

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 05:52:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, they don't much like most of the other English either.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 06:37:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right, the concessions are nothingburgers, but we'll hear about them endlessly anyway because Spameron has to have SOMETHING to crow about.
by rifek on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 09:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While I agree that Cameron got little enough by way of concessions, I think your comment reflects a widespread ennui, if not outright anger at the constant whingeing of the poms.  Perhaps because of this, no one was inclined to Cameron anything but some face saving concessions.  If he (or someone else) tries it again after the referendum, I suspect they will be told in fairly straight terms just to go, and to close the (trade agreement) door after them..

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 11:28:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the UK could get the same deal as Norway quite easily: just join EFTA. Don't see why the current members there would block a founding member returning.
by fjallstrom on Tue Apr 26th, 2016 at 06:49:58 PM EST
Out or in? Frying pan or fire?

The non-Eurozone EU countries' economies are all growing better than the EZ.

'Snarling wolf' Schauble has his economic jackboot on the EZ's neck.

Merkel is a neolib tool. Her full-throated support for TTIP with Obama was the worst betrayal of European Values (TM) ever in the EU's short history. She had the grace to look shame-faced while she did it.

So it's pink slime and the monsanto diet, roundup and McJobs coming our way.

And we used to think Coca-Colonisation was the problem!

It's both a Sophie's Choice and (yet another) giant media distraction to extend and pretend either choice has any positive outcome. Exit and perish in the ensuing economic cold, (a few less foreigners, whew!),  or continue on the Titanic speeding merrily to its appointment with Davey Jones' Locker, mosques, burkas and imams vying with the arms and finance industries (death and debt machines), porn and prostitution for space on the dance floor.

For a while during the honeymoon before the Credit Crash, the EU strove -and in some important ways succeeded- in becoming a model, modern society. Switch the energy source to renewables, and the rest was tweakable.

The Great Promise of the Solar Revolution (with the attendant de-miseration of Europe's otherwise hopeless Southerndown belt) has been mostly mouth-noises since the heady days at Eurotrib's beginnings with near-daily posts from Jerome about how Big Wind (backed by Big Money) was the Energy Revolution putting Europe into its new age of clean (Big Utility-controlled rentier) power.
And the dash for gas, can't forget that, signing over future generations to the tender mercies of Vlad's whims.

Can we keep Schengen and Erasmus, and can the rest?

Put Steve Keen and Yanis Varoufakis on the ECB board, sort out the Euro and make it the convenience it could be, rather than a platinum millstone and extortion tool?

 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 03:22:16 AM EST
Back to your mellifluous best, I see, melo!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 04:31:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For a good read on how a successful Brexit vote might play out, see Denis Staunton London Editor of the Irish Times.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2016 at 07:10:43 AM EST
David McWilliams argues that Brexit could actually be beneficial for Ireland in a error ridden piece in the Irish Independent. Basically he feels that Ireland will receive a large part to the FDI that would otherwise have gone to the UK, and that this will, in time, more than compensate for any difficulties experienced with trade and in relation to N. Ireland.  It's an arguable case, but he puts few facts into evidence...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2016 at 07:15:00 AM EST
Martin Wolf attempts to demolish 10 Brexit shibboleths... in this Financial Times piece. I'm not sure that those he is trying to persuade are listening...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 7th, 2016 at 07:18:58 AM EST
it's come down to two opposing views. If the economy is the most important thing, then you're Remain, if immigration, you're a brexiter.

Talking to brexiters about the economy is wasted time.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun May 8th, 2016 at 10:19:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]