Four Fallacies at the Heart of Brexit
There are many myths and half-truths behind the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This article takes a close look at four of them.
“They need us more than we need them”
This is predicated on the fact that we buy more goods from the other 27 member states than they collectively do from us. Hardly surprising, given that there are more of them. But that, like the assertion, misses the point of the Single Market which is what it says it is — a geographically large home market. Not “us and them”, just “us”, the 28 member nations. In theory it should be as easy for a business in Liverpool to trade with ones in Berlin and Milan as it is to trade with businesses in Birmingham and Manchester. The only impediments are the distances travelled and the need for currency exchange. This latter, by the way, is one reason why it would be advantageous for the UK to join the Euro.
It is also to overlook the way in which modern manufacturing businesses operate. Complex products, such as vehicles and domestic appliances, have parts sourced from various member nations and are assembled in another. Few products can any longer be described as “British made” or, for that matter, “Made in France” or “Made in Germany”. That extends, too, to the ownership of most businesses. Many of the largest companies operating in the UK and across the EU today are owned by enterprises and/or entrepreneurs based in India, China, Japan and elsewhere.
A similar situation pertains in the case of food production. On the island of Ireland, a cow born in Northern Ireland can be grown to maturity in the Republic and vice-versa, some times on the same farm! This is one of the reasons the notion of border controls between the two is impossible to contemplate.
Where we quite definitely need the EU more than any of the other 27 member nations need us is in trading with non-EU countries. The EU has established special trading arrangements with some 70 such countries, including most recently Japan, Australia and the group of South American nations belonging to the MERCOSUR partnership. Outside of the EU, the UK will need to negotiate its own new relationship with those nations.
“The EU is undemocratic”
To evaluate this statement it’s a good idea to examine how democracy works in practice in the UK. Suppose a group of individuals feel they are disadvantaged, either by some existing legislation or by a proposed new regulation. They seek out a sympathetic politician and explain their concerns to him or her. Assuming the politician shares their concern he or she will discuss it with fellow politicians and civil servants and try to come up with an amendment or a new bill to deal with the perceived problem.
Of course, this might take years, depending on whether the desired change is consistent with the ideology or general outlook of the party to which the chosen advocate belongs and whether or not that party is governing or in opposition. As the proposed legislation is discussed, both before and after it comes before the relevant authority — Parish council, County Council, devolved Assembly or the Houses of Parliament — others will be asked for their input or will come forward without having been asked, lobbying for alternative points of view to be taken into consideration.
Democracy, as operated in this practical way has very little to do with elections or referendums. A problem is highlighted, possible solutions examined and a decision taken whether or not to implement a solution. The result may not command the support of the majority of the electorate who might make their feelings known at a subsequent election, although there is no guarantee that a change of government, even if achieved, will lead to the repeal of the unpopular piece of legislation.
There is within this process a number of opportunities for corruption; for some powerful individual or organisation to offer incentives to politicians or their party in order to ensure a particular outcome. There are various safeguards built in to the process in order to prevent this.
Now, if this broadly characterises the way local authorities and the national parliament operate in the UK, how does it compare with the way legislation is formed in the EU?
Objectively viewed it appears that democracy in the EU operates in much the same way. For “unelected bureaucracy” read civil service (or council officials); for “unrepresentative council” read ministers, elected in their own member countries and operating as a cabinet. For “toothless parliament” read a parliament elected by proportional representation and therefore arguably more representative of the electorate than is the British Parliament. The process by which legislation is proposed, debated and agreed is essentially the same as that which I have described above, except that a greater degree of unanimity is required before any new regulation is passed into law.
“The EU imposes unwanted rules and regulations on the UK”
See above! But also bear in mind that the UK has approved 95% of the EU legislation passed since 1999.
“It’s the will of the people”
Probably the biggest illusion of all, one that, extraordinarily, has been bought into by the majority of politicians and the media whether originally in favour of “leave” or “remain”. ‘The referendum result has to be respected’ is the almost universal mantra.
It is incredible to me that even the most respected liberal elements of the media, as well as the usual suspects, and the majority of remain supporting politicians have colluded in this lie for more than three years.
Let’s look at the facts: 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU. But 46.5 million people were eligible to vote. Simple arithmetic tells me that 29 million did not vote to leave the EU.
Never mind that what kind of relationship, if any, the UK might have with the EU in the future was not on the ballot paper. Never mind that, had the result been mandatory, the process was so flawed it would have been illegal. It is the simple, primary school arithmetic that makes plain the fact that leaving the EU is not and never was the will of the UK public.