ECJ

What do I want from Brexit?

December 9, 2018

in Opinion

Originally posted to Facebook in June 2017. Edited for clarity.

What I want out of leaving the European Union:

* Out of any further federalisation of Europe into a single unitary state, which continues apace: they just held the first EU state funeral (for Helmut Kohl) and they’ve just approved the establishment of a military headquarters for joint “operations” (bombing third countries).

On that note, the Commission is trying to get approval for the transfer of designated peace-making funds for developing countries to be used for the building up of the militaries of specific countries on the basis that this is going to be “good” for peace.

I don’t want that. I voted Leave to stop it, and that is being delivered. No regrets yet.

Helmet Kohl’s state funeral. The EU project is not about streamlining trade regulations.

* A continuation of participation in European agencies for which we do not require EU membership and which leaving would just be kind of stupid. There’s just no good reason why we should leave Euratom, which regulates the transfer of radioactive material around Europe. There no good reason why we should quit the Erasmus scheme, or the various science and research agencies, which all exist sort of independantly from the European Union. I don’t believe the latter has been considered yet but the idea that we should leave Euratom (and leaving was included in the Article 50 letter) because members are under the authority of the European Court of Justice as an arbiter of disputes arising from it is just daft. That’s a completely reasonable trade-off of sovereignty for clear benefits.

* A continuation of freedom of movement. This is much more controversial for both right and left Brexiters because freedom of movement lets immigrants in and those immigrants “are taking our jobs” but at the end of the day, your birth should not determine where you can live or work and as a matter of principle I think borders are morally abhorrent. And the disgusting controversy over where we should let people who’ve lived here for decades and have settled with families should be treated in any way other than with welcome arms and indefinite leave to remain shows what happens when that right is not upheld unconditionally.

* Continuing involvement in the single market, which could come from a bilateral trade deal like with the Swiss or through a bespoke deal, or very simply through the EEA. Like, yeah, it sucks that we have to comply with trade regulations that might be annoying but whatever, they’re the largest trading bloc in our neighbourhood and we sign up or we’re left with trying to form trade deals with Australia and Ghana. We can blather on about national sovereignty and the impact on workers til the cows come home, but if the cows don’t come home because we can’t afford to own any then it’s a moot point. Single market membership doesn’t compare. So we should just take it and do what they want of us to get it. I think it’s an insult to Norway that people talk about the EEA having no participation in the development of new regulations, they do, it’s just not formally agendaed and they don’t vote on the end result.

I thought that a bespoke deal might well be possible and might be the best of both worlds when the result first came out and people started talking about our actual options, but I think it is evident now that our Government really does have very little grasp of what it’s doing. I expected our ministers to be a little unrealistic because they’re Tories and then just get to grips with the task ahead, but we’re a year in now and egged on by the media they’re still talking about the divorce bill as if this is some sort of clash of wills that the stiff upper lip will see through and not a straight-forward accounting reality that we have to pay for commitments already made as stakeholders in the European investment bank. We look like complete idiots in the European media, and while I am unsurprised that the typical British person isn’t really paying attention to that, I am profoundly shocked that either no-one in the civil service is briefing the Cabinet on how ridiculous they’re being and how much they’re messing up our negotiations, or the extent to which ministers just aren’t bothering to listen. There’s zero chance of any kind of special treatment while ministers are just clowning around instead of actually listening to what Michel Barnier’s negotiating team is actually saying.

So, it has to be the EEA. It completely takes the issue of the Northern Irish border off the table, which is otherwise going to be very difficult to resolve because the DUP supported Brexit but also want an open border with the Republic, which is legally impossible. It provides certainty to British business and prevents any kind of “cliff” in March 2019. It ensures, and enforces, our commitment to freedom of movement, and just driving to France for the weekend on the ferry which seems to be what most British people perceive the main EU benefit to be. It just deals with most of the problems caused, and while obviously it doesn’t deliver what the loudest right-wing Brexiters want, which is an end to immigration and total national sovereignty, the fact is that all field research and national polling done have shown solid majorities of the public in favour of giving up border control for single market access. Solid majorities. The most field research was this RAND survey using a set of stated preference discrete choice experiments conducted in February 2017:

 

“What sort of Brexit do the British people want?
A longitudinal study examining the ‘trade-offs’ people would be willing to make in reaching a Brexit deal”

And this YouGov poll from last week:

June 2017 (YouGov)

I regard it as testament to the extent to which UKIP’s narrative has infected the way we think about Europe that when I talk about Brexit with people, the assumption of Remainers is that everything is irretrievably broken, everyone who voted Leave is stupid, and we are all going to hell in a handcart. The stats show differently: there is solid public support for a soft Brexit AND THERE ALWAYS HAS BEEN – there’s a solid majority support for a soft Brexit in the House of Commons AND THERE ALWAYS HAS BEEN. We just have to mobilise it and make it happen.

So yeah, I’m sure it seems to some people that joining the EEA makes the whole leaving thing pointless because we’ll just being signing up to a bunch of regulations out of our control. But the EEA doesn’t cover financial policy, social policy, security and defence, and a bunch of things that you never think about as being covered by the EU but are. Being in the EEA in no way signs us up for flags and anthems, and the Euro, and a European foreign policy, and crushing Greece and selling off all their national assets, and letting migrants drown in the Mediterranean, and all of the other dark sides to neoliberal institutions that people don’t think about when they think of smiley same-sex marriage supporters like Trudeau.

We’re just out of that now. I think that’s a good thing, and I continue to do so.

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