Tuesday, 10 May 2016

No thanks, it’s time to leave. Why a Brexit can be a positive thing (and doesn’t mean you don’t like Europe)

I like Europe. I should start by saying this, not in the equivalent sense of trying to undermine my whole argument (some of my best friends are black, I’m not racist but, etc…) but in a genuine “I mean it” sense. Europe is full of small countries with lots of history, much of which is intertwined with that of our own. Much of Europe is accessible, doesn’t require vaccinations, free of hideous diseases, savage warfare and of a relatively similar climate. It is therefore a worthy geographical, economic and social companion. I would also add that my job is one that encompasses ownership and management of a range of websites across many European countries and I have a diverse team of people from many different European countries who interact well and contribute to the mix. However, in spite of all this I am intending categorically to vote leave in the forthcoming EU Election. This is not a decision I have really pondered much over of late; rather it is the persistent conclusion I have come to over many years of trying to understand why from a political and legal standpoint we have turned this likeable companion into a undemocratic and hugely costly vanity project.

I find myself smiling when I read and hear people who are Pro-EU make comments such as “We need all the friends we can get” and “this is not a time to burn bridges” and “we need closer union as it’s not a time to move farther apart.” As far as I am concerned one can agree with and fully endorse these statements both in essence and in practice without the iron burden of the EU hanging overhead. We do not regard Americans as “the enemy” and yet we have never sought to write ourselves into an umbrella contract with the U.S.A. Moreover, the Commonwealth has a history bound by a spiritual D.N.A that ultimately amounts to a sports festival once every 4 years. In short, there is no need to create pointless and bureaucratic millstones to simply make the point of being friendly.

We all know why we are here. What was originally conceived as a way of bringing many countries together following the massive upheaval of WW2 became essentially an economic trading agreement. A way of ensuring that countries could benefit from a “Common Market.” Before we knew it, the common market became a system of government in itself; a bureaucratic nightmare that attracted legions of failed politicians into an arena of grey; a utopia for the completely pointless; an organization for those who could not affect change in their own government systems so felt they could make an even tinier difference in Brussels via the back door. Lest we forget that a butterfly flaps its wings in Maastricht and before you know it the 0.001% is applied everywhere. Scale becomes scale and suddenly the likes of Neil Kinnock have gone from falling over in the sea to affecting change behind the scenes without anyone knowing. All we have to do is to sign more countries up and there you have it…

For politicians such as Tony Blair, signing even more of our “rights” away to the EU was convenient. For one, nobody cared anyway; in Labour’s first term in office following the landslide 1997 election, most people were either on a high having perceived a sudden change in direction and those who did not vote Labour were probably too depressed at the thought of William Hague being the Leader of the Opposition. I also doubt if people knew how the whole thing worked… who approves these things? Who decides? Does it get debated? Does it matter? What powers of law does the EU have? Can we pick and choose?

I can answer that last one. No. We cannot pick and choose. This is not a park run or a local library course. If a country is fully subscribed and signed up to the EU then it is bound under law by its decisions. And therein lies the problem. It is contentious enough within the United Kingdom to discuss and agree upon political direction. Some people vote Tory, some people vote Labour. A bunch of other people vote for other parties. Layered across this is a plethora of different ideas, ideologies, topical that matter and topics that don’t. Politics is complex and the idea of a democracy is a difficult one to enjoy until one considers the alternatives. One man’s government is another man’s disaster. And so forth. The point is that we all agree to disagree within the framework of the U.K; however, can anyone imagine trying this exercise out within the broader framework of the EU? An expanse of 4.5 million kilometers (why can’t I use miles?) covering 28 countries? There are 65 million people (that we know of) in the UK but try half a billion in the EU. The task is vast, nay infinite. And utterly futile.

To illustrate this, take David Cameron’s recent week in which he spent frantic round-the-clock sessions with EU leader trying to force his hand and negotiate “key changes” to some of the legislation that he considered to be restrictive. In all probability, his efforts were the most concerted and concentrated attempt by a UK leader to force their hand since the dawn of our membership back in the 1970's and yet the reality is that he was limited to beg for scraps at the side of the table. The holy grail of human rights legislation, freedom of movement across EU borders and other such contentious foundation pieces are carved in granite as far as EU leaders are concerned and we have as much chance of changing these as do we have changing the tide or the setting of the sun. That Cameron didn’t even attempt to negotiate his way around these tells us a great deal. More concerning, the crumbs that he did go after took days of immense effort and strain to affect. Imagine what this will be like going forward as the inevitable increase in legislation takes hold? We will be fighting a more intensive, all-consuming battle in a doomed effort at trying to influence a diminishing set of laws. In short, it is an invisible behemoth before which we are all-bowing. Our hands are tied and we will become more and more subject to its will and governance. It is not a case of trying to influence from the inside; moreover it is a case of getting out before it is too late and our hands are bound forever.

Hyperbole? Why am I so skeptical? Well, the issue of immigration is one. Europe is facing a migrant crisis and yet we are expected to take our fair share of immigrants by European leaders. However, one must consider the huge discrepancy in population density across European countries. The UK has a population density only surpassed by Holland and Belgium within Europe. To illustrate this, Germany would have to agree to house somewhere in the region of 9 million people just to draw level. Moreover, if one takes the southeast of England where a great deal of the economic opportunity lies, the place is as congested as can be; towns and cities now blend into one another with little definition. The expectation that we should continue to have people flow in from Europe without question whilst at the same time being allocated our “fair share” of migrants is frankly ludicrous.

There is also the question of cultural influence on policy. I have enough experience of European travel and communication to realize that Germans, French and Belgians operate in different ways to the English. Subtly different way for sure, but different enough for this to manifest itself in law and order. Some of the legislation that European countries aspire towards would be universally hated by those who reside in the UK. And I am talking about “similar” Western European countries – this is before we even start to factor in some of the more culturally diverse Mediterranean countries or even those in the East of Europe.

We have heard the arguments from those in favour of remaining. For the most part they are framed by scaremongery – be it apocryphal impacts on public services, the economy and security. All of which are speculative and subjective. The money we will save could be negated by the money we will lose. Or vice versa. The impact on our services are almost pointless to raise, given that we will win back governance over 100% of our law and policy. Our politicians are voted in every five years which ensures that democratic rule lies within the hands of the UK people, rather than an unelected set in Brussels. But of course, all these arguments are formed by opinion and much of this is pre-determined by a sense of direction rather than logic. So in an effort to be logical, consider this. There is not one single aspect, element, idea, policy, benefit or  agreement that currently exists or is in force that we are bound by as part of our membership of the EU that we cannot recreate in some way without having to retain our membership. Not one. However, in freeing ourselves of this utterly pointless burden, we can start to regain use of our limbs. We stop being bound by the laws and policies we don’t agree with. We stop wasting tens of millions of pounds a week on this impotent project. In other words, membership comes with some positives and lots of negatives. Brexit comes only with positives.

In the end it’s really rather a simple choice. It’s time to leave.

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