Posted to Facebook on the 26th June, 2016 as two separate responses to a comment on this post. Edited for clarity.

What Is the European Economic Area?

Here’s exactly how the EEA works: http://www.efta.int/eea/eea-agreement/eea-basic-features

Essentially, we retain access to the common market, and in return we have to provide the Four Freedoms, “the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital, as well as competition and state aid rules, but also the following horizontal policies: consumer protection, company law, environment, social policy, statistics.”

“In addition, the EEA Agreement provides for cooperation in several flanking policies such as research and technological development, education, training and youth, employment, tourism, culture, civil protection, enterprise, entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises.”

“The EEA Agreement does not cover the following EU policies: common agriculture and fisheries policies (although the EEA Agreement contains provisions on trade in agricultural and fish products); customs union; common trade policy; common foreign and security policy; justice and home affairs (the EEA EFTA States are however part of the Schengen area); direct and indirect taxation; or economic and monetary union.”

“The EEA Agreement ensures participation by the three EEA EFTA States in a number of EU programmes and agencies. Several others are under consideration or preparation for incorporation into the EEA Agreement. In addition, bilateral agreements with the EU ensure the participation by the individual EFTA States in several other EU agencies. The EFTA website provides a list of all EU programmes and a list of all EU agencies in which the EEA EFTA States currently participate.”

We also have to give them a load of money, but I never cared about that, our EU contributions have always been economically well worth it.

So the things that most of us would recognise as “the EU” are contained within the EEA. There’s also more choice over what bits of the EU we engage with, and which bits of law we can refuse to implement if they’re genuinely that repugnant.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, that deal means that we’re still holding ourselves down to a capitalist fire and we’re still going to be unable to nationalise our railways and we’re still going to get things shoved on us that we don’t want. But I think I can tolerate being told what fire retardant materials my curtains have to be made of so I don’t burn to death in the night in return for 450 million people having complete freedom of movement across Europe and the UK and our economy not collapsing. It’ll do.

Why I Voted Leave In the Belief We Would Join the EEA

A lot of people cast their vote shorn of all context and in the belief that if their side won, their vote would represent a clear instruction to everyone involved for what should happen next. I took a longer view and looked at what would be the likely reaction on the part of the people who wield power.

Moving away from hyperbolic articles by journalists who are literally paid to mouth off without any regard to the actual liklihood of their pronouncements, let’s look at the people who actually wield power:

Whatever Nigel Farage says about the negotiations now, he cannot actually *do* anything. He has precisely zero influence until the next election, when he’s going to have to find something else to campaign on besides a referendum and I think he will struggle to do so.

  • Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the European Council) does not wield much power, he is considered in European circles to be incompetent at his job.

He has some influence on the process, but at the end of the day the other European leaders consider him to be weak and ineffectual. What he says does not go.

  • Angela Merkel wields power. She’s running one of the largest constituent members of the EU and dominates all European debates.

*She* has said that there needs to be an orderly exit, that Britain should not be punished, and that she wants to try and keep Britain in the single market.

  • Boris Johnson, assuming that he does win the Conservative Party leadership election and becomes Prime Minister, wields power. To judge by his press conference and the fact that he hasn’t spoken in public since, it would seem that he is genuinely shocked that his side won and isn’t sure what to do next. He’s the variable in this equation that I can’t predict, but I imagine that he is going to get leaned on, hard, to agree to join the EEA. If he doesn’t, he faces having to manage an economic crisis even bigger than 2008, which I imagine he would prefer not to.
  • Sadiq Khan wields power. He’s the political representative for our financial capital, and our financial capital wants to retain our ‘passports’ that allow them to trade across Europe. He’s also got a million immigrants to protect and their Labour-voting families. He has already committed to fighting for access to the single market.
  • Nicola Sturgeon wields power. She has a huge mandate from Scottish voters and has the trump card to play that if the UK doesn’t remain in the EEA, she is guaranteed a win in the second indyref. She’s currently looking at whether Scotland can remain a part of the EU while a part of the UK, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the answer is no (the European Commission ruled this on Saturday, for some reason everyone’s forgotten already).
  • Our financial sector, our banks and the City of London all wield ridiculous amounts of power. They want to be members of the EEA. If you read the articles that people are pushing around on Facebook all the way through, they all start with frightening headlines like, “HSBC to move 1000 jobs to Paris“, “City of London could be cut off from Europe, says European Central Bank” “Head of Superbank’s risk division warns of epic sell-off in the FTSE 100 that will make the Great Depression look like a tear in Hoover’s eye” and every single one of them end with “…unless Britain joins the EEA of course…”. They’re threats from people who would not normally make statements that would destabilise markets, made with one outcome in mind.
  • The Brexiters shouting “go home” to immigrants and BME people in the street do not wield power, or at least not much of it. That’s WHY they’re so pissed off. That’s why they’ve been told, and they believe, that immigrants are the source of their problems – the powerless have been pitted against the powerless by the powerful. At the end of the day, their opinions don’t do not affect the political process, only their votes, and they’ve already cast them. No-one cares about what they have to say until the next election, which will be fought on First Past the Post and dilute their voting power across multiple constituencies just like last time.
  • The Bremainers epicly losing their shit on Facebook do not wield power. Well, they probably will in the Labour leadership election, but no number of memes that you post is going to persuade the five main party leaders to hold another referendum that has ripped every one of their parties in two (even the Liberal Democrats voted 30% to Leave) and saw ugly scenes of racism unleashed up and down the country, and prompted the first political assassination in this country since the IRA. This referendum happened by accident, remember. Who the hell wants to go through that again intentionally?

 

Leave/Remain divide everyone except UKIP and they hardly want another referendum.

Leave/Remain divided everyone except UKIP and they hardly want another referendum.

So, if you actually sit by the stream of consciousness of despair, anger, self-righteousness, and delusion, and pick out the voices who are actually counted, it seems reasonably clear to me that the players who actually run this country are quietly positioning themselves to influence the outcome of negotiations clearly in favour of joining the EEA.

This threatening article has Lord Heseltine saying that the House of Commons has 350 pro-EU MPs who can block any unfavourable deal – the implication of his words and the words of the other politicians quoted is that

a) the post-Brexit deal has to reflect the 16 million people who voted in favour of the EU and

b) that deal has to be put to a vote, either by the House of Commons (which is a majority pro-EU) or by another referendum (in which all the Bremainers, Bregreters, and all the Leavers who always planned to campaign to negotiate to join the EEA will put us over the top).

It’s clear what the ground is being prepared for.

The reason I am blithe about the impact of the racists who are abusing immigrants in the street on the exit negotiations, in addition to my comments above: Lord Ashcroft’s poll of 12,000 voters on the day of the referendum showed that the no. 1 concern of 49% of Leavers was the loss of national sovereignty to the EU.

Immigration was the top concern of 30%.

Leave-vs-Remain-podium-rankings-768x989

I think it has been wholly underestimated by the people who voted Remain just how strongly I and a lot of other people really, really care about British national sovereignty, just because they don’t. I believe a large number of people like me who voted Leave will be satisfied that we have enough sovereignty by taking back either the real secession of powers, or the future possibility of secession, over things like monetary union, defence and security policy, taxation and justice without actually destroying our economy by exiting the single market.

Now, I don’t want to downplay the racism element that motivated a lot of Leave voters, your man in Barnet wanting to stop Muslims entering the UK is no doubt one of many. But I think a lot of the Bregreters, when informed that there’s a way of making up for their poor judgement, will grasp it like they’re in quicksand. Along with the people who voted Remain and the people who always wanted to join the EEA, that adds up to a lot of people, and I believe it will add up to a democratic majority of public support.

We do not need to take everyone in the country with us. We only need the politicians negotiating on our behalf to support it, which they mostly do, the political weight of the financial and business sectors, which we have, and enough public support that politicians do not have to fear for themselves at the ballot box. That’s the variable that over there is the most uncertainty and over which you and I as individual voters wield power.

On the topic of why I suspect I have more influence than a Remain voter – as the last 48 hours has showed, people who voted Remain have not been shy of expressing their complete contempt for the people who voted Leave. They have abused people for being old, for being economically disadvantaged, for being stupid, for being English, northern, or white, for not being aware of what is good for them, for being racist, for supporting racism, for empowering racists, for breaking up the union, etc etc etc. I haven’t said much because I understand the place of pain and trauma and fear that it’s coming from and I accept people need to share their feelings, and for the most part people have read my posts and either refraining from commenting or explained they consider me to be a rare exception to a typical Leave voter, but I *am* a Leave voter and being on the receiving end of wall-to-wall hatred, for days, has been a deeply unpleasant experience. If I were a less empathetic person, I would hardly be inclined to then listen to those same people on the benefits of the European Economic Area. I would be inclined to listen to someone who has just been through that same experience. It’s simple emotional tribalism.

And [redacted] are completely right, “the Norway option” was raised again and again and again and again as a potential outcome in every piece I ever read on What Next. I talked about it for months. Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP and one of the leaders of Vote Leave, talked about it for *years* from national platforms and still Evan Davis looked shocked when he said it again and accusing him of back-tracking after the referendum. Leaving the EU and joining the EEA is official English Democrat Party policy. I simply don’t understand why, when the votes came in, everyone lost their minds and started wailing about how every immigrant was going to be deported next week and everyone who voted Leave was responsible for this ethnic cleansing. The alternative to both the EU and closing our borders was always there and always brought up as an option if we left.

Of course I didn’t goddamn vote for some of my closest friends to be removed from my country because of where they happened to be born. I voted to Leave because I believe fervently and passionately in the rights of people to make decisions over their own lives and EU membership interferes with those rights. Exiting the common market interferes with the rights of my friends to make decisions over *their* lives so I support joining despite the loss of sovereignty to retain for them those rights. I would not have voted Leave if I had not weighed up the liklihood that we would actually join the EEA and come to the conclusion that it is very likely that we will. Only a major calamity or unexpected political event is going to prevent what is a very clear prevailing wind blowing down the corridors of power.

At the end of the day, I judged that I could vote Leave and we would retain freedom of movement, not because I had this airy fairy idea that the country would turn round in this atmosphere and suddenly decide that it would be good for people to be immigrate/emigrate where they wanted. I judged that I could vote Leave and we would retain freedom of movement because I believe that capital runs our world and freedom of movement is good for business. We have freedom of movement at all not because EU leaders thought it would be a good idea for people to be able to go on holiday without carrying a passport, but in order to create a much bigger pool of labour to keep wages down and fill gaps in the European labour market. The holidays thing was a side benefit that also kept tourists spending their money in the EU rather than elsewhere. It was all just economics. It is just all economics, as far as the people who wield power are concerned.

So, I have a lot of faith in our imperial masters to do their best to find a way out of this mess. Ceding EU sovereignty while retaining EEA membership is literally the most simple and effective move for capital to continue its exploitation of markets while keeping the mob in check. That’s why I think it will happen.

 

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Posted to Facebook 25th June, 2016. Edited for clarity.

So, it’s been a couple of days since we decided to leave the European Union. Many people have had extreme feels on the result, but I think the shock is wearing off. So some thoughts on what people have been saying:

1. Democracy doesn’t start or end with the ballot box. It’s a process of having an idea, developing it, talking to people about it, building public support for it, utilising events to draw attention to it, engaging influential institutions to bring them on board and lobbying our elected representatives until it becomes a no brainer reality (Universal Basic Income’s journey from a fringe policy of the Green Party to a serious proposal of several major think tanks now under consideration by Labour’s policy unit is a really great example if you want to watch this happening live). Actually, democracy is hundreds or thousands of groups working through various stages of that process simultaneously and having to decide what you personally support or care about and prioritising your efforts accordingly. That means that every individual makes political decisions based on multiple levels and competing considerations, many of which conflict with each other.

I say this because saying that everyone who voted in a particular way on any given binary question did so because of a single reason is not just mistaken, it’s pretty ignorant of how democracy works. Not everyone who voted Leave is a racist, not everyone who voted Remain believes in intersectionality. Some people are racists but also concerned about democratic legitimacy and some people wanted to vote Remain because despite their qualms about the EU’s crushing of Greece they really cared about subsidies for northern former industrial areas. What I’m saying is, until someone does a qualitative survey of why people voted the way they did in this referendum, saying that people or groups of people you didn’t talk to went one way or the other definitively because of their views on X isn’t based on anything other than one’s own assumptions.

(And I am guilty of this: I never met anyone who ever mentioned it so until the media started producing shocked voters saying they’d voted Leave to protest the government, not to actually leave, it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would actually do this.)

2. The only good Tory is a suppository, so whether David Cameron or Boris Johnson is Prime Minister doesn’t matter that much to me. A Tory is a Tory – tax cuts, assaults on the marginalised and dog whistle politics are the order of the day while the Tories are in power regardless of who is leading them. Boris managed to run London for eight years without it burning down, so it’s not like we’re looking at Trumpian levels of disaster if he takes over. The blue-on-blue psychodrama is their problem, not mine.

(I’d also point out that 42% of Conservative Party voters voted to remain, so it’s not actually a done deal that Boris will be elected. Theresa May, for example, supported Remain and is one of several cabinet-level Tories thinking of standing. That’s not at all comforting, but what I am saying is that Tory party members and not the thatched-hair-enamoured media are going to decide the outcome of that election.)

3. To people saying that we should just ignore the result of the referendum because it isn’t legally binding and other associated head-in-clouds reactions such as demanding an immediate re-run: are you absolutely mad? I see why the EU membership appeals to you so much if you think so little of democracy. The people have spoken, and however you feel about it, we now have to make this work. You wouldn’t be muttering about close results if you’d won.

4. ZOMG, the Leave campaign told loads of lies during the campaign, I’m sooooo shocked. Come on. Everyone lied. Well, I didn’t, but pretty much everyone else threatened, cajoled and made promises that they had no intention of keeping. How many were actually planning to launch a campaign to reform the EU if we’d remained or support a second membership referendum if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister? How many paid any attention to the Smith Commission or campaigned for further devolution once Scottish independence was off the cards?

5. We should remove age from our list of protected characteristics. We should forcibly retire people at a certain age to make jobs available to younger people. We should rejig our voting system so that as you age, your vote counts for less and less proportionate to your life expectancy. Sound ridiculous? Right, so stop dumping on people for having lived longer than you because they didn’t do what you wanted. It’s discrimination.

6. Scotland: so, a small, committed group of people patiently built a mass social movement over thirty years, won a thumping democratic mandate to hold a national plebiscite on independence from the nation that has treated them like crap for the last three hundred years, got felled at the last hurdle by a combination of empty promises about a better deal for Scotland and rampant fear-mongering about economic collapse, so grew their movement by another hundred thousand members, swept the next general election, and then announced that with the threat of economic collapse removed by the Leave vote, they were going to hold another referendum to reflect the fact that an equally thumping majority of Scottish voters support EU membership – and this is some kind of tragedy? I think not. Best of luck, guys.

7. Ireland: so, Sinn Fein literally exist to campaign for a united Ireland and it is no surprise that they want to call an Irish unity referendum off the back of the Leave vote. They’re also the junior partner in a coalition with the DUP who have flatly said they do not support such a referendum, and the Good Friday agreement requires consent from both British and NI governments before one can be held, so this is something of a fear that’s all fur coat and no knickers.

But IF such a referendum were held, and IF such a referendum were unexpectedly won, and Northern Ireland was transferred back from its British colonialist owners to the rest of Ireland, democratically and on the basis of a shared vision of their place in Europe rather than sectarian, religious or ethnic affiliations…this would be a bad thing…? You can’t condemn us as a former imperialist colonial power and then get all butthurt about the prospect of having to give back what we took to the people we conquered.

8. The UK has dropped from the fifth biggest economy to the sixth biggest: We live in a capitalist society, and when you say that, you’re basically saying, “God, isn’t it terrible that our capitalists aren’t generating as much profit off the backs of their workers as other countries”. Obviously the contraction isn’t good news for our marginalised workers (most of whom voted Leave) or our wallets but I find it an odd metric to choose to cite if you’re not a ideological capitalist, personally.

9. The EEA: The first minister of Scotland, the first minister of Wales, and the Mayor of London have basically now all come out and said that they are going to take a place in the exit negotiation team and they are going to advocate to remain in the European Economic Area, so this isn’t a policy proposal I just pulled out that is technically possible but realistically ridiculous (unlike just ignoring the outcome of the referendum: *WHAT* do you think you’re doing, srsly?). In the coming months we need to strengthen their hands, demonstrate our own support and make the case to the voters who want to close our borders that immigration and offering asylum to refugees is both economically positive and morally obligatory.

It’s not even just the left saying this: Daniel Hannan, one of the most Euroskeptic Tory MEPs to have ever lived, went on Newsnight last night to say we wants us to join the EEA. Look.

Some European leaders, particularly the German ones, want to cause us pain to punish us and discourage anyone else from leaving the EU. I don’t know enough German to be able to follow along that national conversation but the initial implications of what I read this week suggested that some consider forcing us to accept freedom of movement in return for access to the single market to be a fitting punishment. Which would be fine, because that will be terrible for the racists and great for those of us who believe in no borders. But that is more speculative that most of the other things I’ve said here, don’t take that as read.

10. Migrant solidarity and anti-racism: well, obviously. We have to do everything we can to love on and defend people who are being maltreated because of their immigrant status or their race; British, EU, non-EU and refugee. It was necessary before this referendum was ever a thing and it’s necessary now.

I acknowledge the fear and the worry and the abuse that people have received. I do believe it would have been worse if we had narrowly Remained, but whatever, I am sorry that we live in a nation where whatever way I voted I brought fire and brimstone down on the heads on immigrants and people of colour. I am sorry that people are suffering at the hands of the ignorant and the prejudiced. Whatever the numbers, a bunch of people DID vote Leave because they’re racist and they ARE jubilantly taking it out on every immigrant and PoC they see this weekend. I hear you. I’m sorry that’s happening. Everyone who can do something should, especially those of us with white privilege and *especially* those of us who voted Leave and said we weren’t ok with all the racism around it. Time to prove that statement. (Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants is that way if you’re queer.)

I won’t be getting into the habit of writing essays, but I have just refrained from using social media for two days out of respect and there was a lot to come back to…

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