Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Some interesting thoughts on the EU that might explain why Britain is leaving it


Today the British Permanent Representative to the E.U. delivered a letter to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, starting the process by which Great Britain leaves the Union.

Though few expected it, there are so many reasons why this is happening, but the principal one is that we were allowed a referendum on the subject and other countries were not. Other reasons include the credible threat that Nigel Farage and UKIP posed to the Conservatives and the fact that at least one third of the British wanted to leave in every poll taken since 1973. 
Even well-informed British opinion-formers mostly never understood that the EU was not a trading bloc, but an embryonic federal state. Free movement of people was a design fault in a trading bloc, but it makes perfect sense if Europe is a sort of country.

There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.
Prime Minister Edward Heath, television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the E.E.C.
The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.
Mikhail Gorbachev
The E.U. is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.
Perry Anderson, former editor of New Left Review
Since the break-up of the post-war settlement which gave us decades of ‘never-had-it-so-good’, British society has been destabilised. A large section of the middle class hates the resulting liberalisation of a new order, dominated by large-scale uncontrolled immigration, crypto-socialists, so-called “modernising” Tories – and hung down by debt. Another, younger section, better at adjusting, quite likes it.
Lower down the scale, the old division in the working class between “rough” and “respectable” has been exacerbated as their settled security of jobs, full employment and welfare was replaced by employment insecurity, lagging household incomes and the death of traditional industries. The result was alienation, resentment and impotent anger, all greater among the “rough” than the more conformist “respectables”.
In June 2016, the two disgruntled groups, the alienated middle and the rough working – both left behind and resenting it – took their revenge by voting Brexit – to the horror of the modern middle and the respectable working, who saw it as a takeover by ignorant, xenophobic, racist, obscurantist, out-of-date yobs and geriatrics. On this analysis, both vote and reactions have more to do with the social antagonisms of class-divided Britain than either the iniquities, or the benefits, of the European Union. 
Austin Mitchell, former Labour M.P.

For all its faults, provided that the world economy remained fairly stable, the EU would probably have been able to stagger on reasonably well. The trouble is, though, that over the past few decades the world has undergone three enormous shocks: the collapse of communism, the advent of globalisation and the communications revolution. These shocks demanded the utmost flexibility in order for the economy to adjust to them. But flexibility is exactly the thing the EU has learnt not to do. 
Not only that, but more recently it has made three big mistakes. The first is the formation of the euro, which many economists, including me, correctly identified as a prosperity-destroying machine long before its inception. The second was the failure to amend the free movement rules once the EU had been extended to encompass the former communist countries of eastern Europe. The third was the introduction of the Schengen passport-free travel zone, which has proved to be a security nightmare at just the time that security is at a premium.
Roger Bootle


  1. Interesting quote from Gorbachev. Wonder when he made it?

    1. A few years ago but I don't know exactly when.

  2. And now we know why.

  3. The old man knew about multinational top down federations. It wasn't economic failure that did for the USSR in the end but the national question.

  4. Interesting and insightful in equal measure.

  5. Good article but I suggest you make it more clear where your quotes come from and give links, as this would add breadth to your articles. I think you quoted from that left wing article from teh NYT, the pro-Brexit one?

    What would be most interesting from you Paul would be to get into the left wing commentaries and wrte your articles from there. You can be relied on to have a right wing view and it is predicable but if you take on the left using their own sources it could get more interesting.

  6. By triggering article 50 now May has set Brexit up for a jumbo jet crash. Extracting ourselves from the EU Is like a surgeon trying to excise a metastatic carcinoma. It needs intelligent capable people. Hopefully the idiots in charge will realise they need to change track although by the time they realise that a free trade agreement is impossible to conclude within two years it will be too late. As North says the preparation needed to have begun before triggering article 50.

    1. North collaborated with Christopher Booker and closely influences him. North is the reason Booker, Brexiter and arch-Eurosceptic since the 1960s, is so keen on the Norwegian option - soft Brexit, remaining in the EEA. As is Daniel Hannan another famous Brexiter.

      Wikipedia says:

      North was one of seventeen shortlisted entrants invited to submit a full submission to the Institute of Economic Affairs's 2013 Brexit Prize competition. Entrants were asked to imagine an 'out' vote in a proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union and asked to compose a blueprint for the process of withdrawal, taking account of Britain's relationship to global governance and trade systems. His submission, 'FLexCit', proposed that Britain should rejoin the European Free Trade Association via membership of the European Economic Area. Under the proposal, Britain would initially adopt the community acquis of the European Union, the accumulated legislation, legal acts, and court decisions which constitute the body of European Union law. North argues that under this approach to EU exit there would be very little visible consequence of Britain's change in status, either for the better or the worse. Further renegotiation of trade and governance would become a longer term option. Though not a finalist in the contest, North continues to develop the Flexcit plan in cooperation with readers of the EUReferendum blog, and others.

      I wish I were clever enough to know but I tend to trust Nigel Lawson and others who think hard Brexit will be fine. I wonder if Mrs. May was a secret Brexiter all along.

    2. Of course there are some who think we should leave immediately and trade under WTO organisation rules but it is not clear where that leaves services, which are not covered by the WTO.