Thursday 21 July 2016

Brexit was the right decision, but we are treading on other people’s dreams


I had dinner last night with a wonderful, young, idealistic Romanian lawyer who has been traumatised (really) by the decision of a country she loves to abandon the European project she passionately believes in. I didnt realise some young Romanians feel this way but they do and very many good people in Britain and Europe feel the same for the sort of reasons I respect - idealistic, noble ones.

Lots more British people worry about how it will affect the economy, which I very much understand.

But a fair few people in Britain on the left feel like Ed Vulliamy in this article in The Guardian (where else?). They hate Brexit because they don't like Britain and want it to stop being so British. This is also a strong reason why they are in favour of lots of immigrants Coming to the U.K.

"For me, departure from Europe was a given: in the tea leaves at a deep and mainstream cultural level beyond the slaughter at Heysel stadium and serial record of England’s football fans, or politicians’ Eurosceptic ranting. It was in the tarot cards of those bulimic, retarded royal occasions – jubilee, wedding, babies; in the sickly nostalgia of The King’s Speech; in the Olympic Games and Boris’s parachute – like Ukip on bad acid. Above all, over the crisis of wretched refugees and migrants, it howled from the pages of newspapers like the Sun, which has never lost an election and wasn’t going to lose this one... 
On the slipstream of empire, I’ve always thought – to the point of treason – of my British passport as a “burden of shame” as UB40 so eloquently put it, “a British subject, not proud of it”. Now, trying to cling on in “the continent”, it is just a downright embarrassment – not only a badge of shame, but also, worse in a way, of pointless, bellicose imbecility."
He is right about one thing - Brexit now feels like it was inevitable, although unlike him I did not expect it.

Some Romanians think our leaving the EU is 'selfish' and we should stay to make the EU a better institution, particularly for Romania's sake. Many (most?) Romanians seem to think Brexit is about racism directed towards East Europeans. The Romanian executive I had lunch with today thinks that, though he said he thought racism was normal. A few admire Britain's courage in leaving. 

In the late nineteenth century Romanian intellectuals looked to France as a source of ideals on which to model themselves, as Lucian Boia pointed out, whereas most Romanians liked the EU because it spends money spent on the country and because they prefer to be ruled by Westerners rather than their own politicians (they are right to do so). However things are changing and a number of Romanians in their twenties believe in European unity. Which makes good sense viewed from Bucharest.

It is not only British freedom that is a romantic idea. The EU has its poetry too. Unfortunately those beautiful ideals segue into ideas like this, expressed by a German Professor of International Relations who moulds the minds of young people at a British university.
I understand the term foreigner but I reject it as retrograde. I don't perceive myself as a foreigner, or any of the people I know. I reject the idea of countries and boundaries should be transcended as much as possible. The very nature of states or countries has changed dramatically. Borders limit human freedom, they are social constructs that need to change. From an IR point of view, the purpose of international institutions is to alter the behaviour of states so that they cooperate rather than purely pursue national interest because the latter results in conflict.....I see the EU as a vanguard promoting freedom of movement which in the future should encompass the world.
This is Romantic with a vengeance - the kind of ideas that the French Revolution produced in the minds of the sillier readers of Romantic poetry.


  1. Whatever prejudices and social shortcomings the British may have, it is still ridiculous to talk of a British passport as a "burden of shame" - only a myopically misguided, psychopathic self-flagellator could think in such terms!

  2. I think his beef or rosbif is with the English, not the Scots or Irish, nor even the Welsh.

    1. In my opinion it was a tragedy that the Welsh voted by a small margin for devolution, but opponents of devolution accepted the result without demur.
      I just added a bit more to my post.

    2. David in Banja Luka24 July 2016 at 10:30

      A very small margin, 50.3% for, 49.7% against.

      A difference of less than 7,000 votes.,_1997

      However the criteria for acceptance of the result were fulfilled.

  3. You cherry-picked the most bizarre quotes possible about the EU that you could. Most people who believe in it aren't that bonkers.

    1. I didn't cherry pick. This was my apology for Brexit triumphalism and I said Mr. Vulliamy's opinion was a fringe one. The professor probably speaks for many academics and opinion formers but of course I cannot prove that and hope it's not so.

  4. I felt a real sense of deja vu reading this. The way you describe your Romanian friends reminds me so much of my Greek friends; passionate about the bold and wonderful EU project and the broad new horizons it was going to open up for their country. Of course, that was ten years ago. Now Greece is an indebted third-world hellhole, beset by mass unemployment and financial misery. Like Romania, Greece was initially showered with EU money, which they spent on pretty trinkets, like marbled platforms on the Athens metro and such. In this way the EU operates rather like a paedophile, tempting children with sweets, in order to arse-rape them later. Greece happily gobbled up the sweets and, my goodness, did they get a brutal arse-raping later on! The same will undoubtably happen to Romania, if they continue down the path of ever closer integration with the EU monster. I do hope that you have made your Romanian friends aware of this.

    1. Right, can I just make one thing clear. I was giving Greece as just ONE example. As I pointed out, in another post, the Euro has had a detrimental effect on the economies of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and even (though to a lesser extent) France. This conversation was never intended to be specifically about Greece.

  5. If the political refugee believes the Greeks were lured like children to waste the hundreds of billions that the EU has been pouring over them, it is clear that his thinking is fundamentally flawed at best!

    He is blaming the generous donor for the gift rather than the recipient for the poor use of it. It also assumes that the Greeks are children who cannot properly decide for themselves. The Greeks probably like to think of themselves that way when it comes to bearing the consequences of their own acts.

    Populism at its very best! Easy answers to complicated questions.

    Now the Brits have to pay too. What a pity for the 48% of Remain.

    1. "He is blaming the generous donor for the gift rather than the recipient for the poor use of it." You have a very strange idea of what constitutes a "gift". A gift is something given for free. The "gifts" that the EU offers have numerous terms attached that do not have the long-term welfare of the recipient in mind. The whole point of these "gifts" is to trap the recipient in a debt prison from which they cannot escape. By your standards, a loan shark would count as a "generous donor"!
      "It also assumes that the Greeks are children who cannot properly decide for themselves." In a sense they are; Greek politicians are notoriously corrupt, so it wouldn't have taken much for them to be persuaded to sell their country and their people to the Brussels plutocrats.
      I notice that you are making good use of your neo-Marxist lexicon; calling me a populist, how original!

      Definition of "populism": anything which runs counter to the wishes of the Brussels elite.

      Even if we do have to pay for leaving the EU (which we probably won't) we won't have to pay for very long; euro-scepticism is on the rise all across Europe. I doubt there will be much left of the EU within the next decade, and I say good riddance to it!
      As for the 48% remainers, they are mostly parasitic globalists, champagne socialists, corrupt corporatists, and butthurt millennials. I have no sympathy for such people.

    2. I think that the Global Villager has no idea of the misuse and abuse of the EU funds in Greece and elsewhere.

      Instead of making the investments for which they were given (strings attached for good reason) they were wasted on consumption: BMWs and mansions in Greek agricultural areas.

      It is not only the truly corrupt politicians but mostly the common and not so common people who misappropriated the funds. There has been no trap but a rather conscious effort to bend the rules.

      Regarding the 48% it is very easy and populist if to call the most productive part of British society names. This is what populism is all about: what happens to us is always someone else's fault.

      Surely globalization has put a lot of pressure on a number of households across the western world, including the USA.

      The EU is not the problem but rather the answer to it. You can face an increasing complex and competitive world through union rather than discord. Even the bigger and stronger European countries are too small for the likes of Global powers. Germany who foots most of the bill for the EU seems to think that way. Even the Greeks backed out of their catastrophic Grexit route at the last moment at a very high price.

      Why are the British any different? I think even BORIS Johnson and Nigel Farage realized their mistake, a bit too late I'm afraid. The question is can Theresa May fix the mess.

    3. No, it is you who does not understand the nature of the strings that are attached to the EU's "gifts". Essentially, those strings involve giving up any ability to control one's own economy, primarily through acceptance of the euro. Because the euro is essentially the German Mark under another name, countries that accept it are forced to buy and sell goods at German prices, which are not matched to their respective economies. This effectively traps them in a debt prison, from which there is no escape.
      Currency, unlike a national flag, is not merely a symbol of national sovereignty, it is a material fact of it, like borders, a legal system, or an army. Without its own currency, a nation loses its ability to control its own interest rates and economic policy, and thus, its independence.
      This has not only impoverished the populations of countries which have accepted it (Greece is only one example, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and to a lesser extent France have all suffered as a result) but has disenfranchised their populations from the ability to effect change at the ballot box, because any government they elect will have its hands tied economically by the restrictions that the euro imposes.
      Some European countries, notably Poland and Hungary, have woken up to this fact and have, very wisely, decided not to go any further in terms of fiscal integration with the EU.
      Not only do you have a strange definition of "gift", you also have a strange definition of "productive". A collection of tax-dodgers, who hide their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying tax in the UK, and a bunch of whiney students, who have never had a proper job in their short lives, are "the most productive part of British society" according to you.
      Oh, there is an unproductive part of British society that was part of the 52% that voted to leave. They are the farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the EU's Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy. So, in their case, there IS someone else to blame; the EU! That is not populism, it is just the truth.
      It is obvious that you have bought into the fundamentally flawed principle on which the EU was founded; the idea that bigger is better. If that were true...
      The people of China would be richer than the people of Hong Kong.
      They are not.
      The people of Indonesia would be richer than the people of Singapore.
      They are not.
      The people of Russia would be richer than the people of Switzerland.
      They are not.
      In fact out of the top ten GDP per capita countries in the world, nine are micro-states. The only big country that makes the list is the USA and the USA is run more like a collection of tiny countries than like one big country, for instance, the state of Delaware has more control over its own tax laws than the Netherlands does.
      In fact, if the EU had been more closely based on the American model, I might have been inclined to vote to stay in rather than to leave. Unfortunately it is based on the Prussian federalist model, where power is derived from the top down, rather than from the bottom up, which leaves the peoples of Europe at the mercy of corrupt scum like Jean-Claude Juncker, José Manuel Barroso, and Catherine Ashton.
      As for Germany, who cares what Germany thinks? The German government has proven itself to be utterly incompetent; it has flooded its own country with hordes of savages from the Middle East and thus, unleashed a violent crime wave on its own people. If the German people had any self-respect, they would tie a rope around Merkel's neck and hang her from the Brandenburg Gate as a traitor. In any case, when AfD gets voted into power (which looks increasingly likely) Germanys attitude to the EU will change to a much more euro-sceptic direction.

    4. It is hard to argue against anyone who thinks that the most powerful state in Europe, ax a matter of fact, is run by incompetent people and that the only power to rely on there is the fascist AFD.

      It is also hard to argue against anyone who honestly thinks the Greeks were tricked into usurping hundreds of billions of € in grants and debt and that the only way out is bankruptcy, the drachma and Venezuela style livelihood.

      It is also hard to argue against anyone who thinks that the overwhelming majority of the COPRORATE UK are all tax dodgers and produce no wealth, or wealth that is inferior to that of farmers and fishermen.

      It is also hard to argue against anyone who believes that the only thing standing between Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain becoming Switzerland and Singapore (speaking of dirty money tax havens) is the €.

      If anyone has lived in any of these countries or knows anything about them, they would easily understand that the € is the only way out of their endemic problems such as corruption and mismanagement.

      If you want to fix things you run them the way they are run where things work, that is Germany!

    5. Germany, a country "where things work"? That has got to be a sick joke! Because of Merkel's disastrous open-door policy on immigration, Germans are now fleeing their homeland for refuge in Hungary. Around 30,000 have already fled and the trend is continuing.
      So, who are they being replaced by? Answer; unskilled, illiterate rapists, who believe that their primitive and backward Islamic culture is superior to western culture and so, have no interest in learning German or integrating into German society. If this trend continues, Germany won't be the most powerful nation in Europe for much longer; within a few decades it will be back in the stone-age!
      I never said the corporate sector produces no wealth, I said it hides the bulk of its wealth away overseas, in order to avoid paying tax. According to the UK governments own estimates it costs the country three times as much, in terms of lost revenue, as the entire welfare state.
      I also did not state that farmers and fishermen were more productive than the corporate sector, in fact, I stated that they were UNPRODUCTIVE because EU policies have destroyed their business.
      These were two separate points, which you have conflated, in order to produce a straw man argument.
      I also did not state that the euro was preventing Greece, Portugal etc. from becoming Switzerland and Singapore. I stated that it was trapping them in a debt prison and taking democratic power away from their peoples.
      The point about comparing China, Indonesia, and Russia to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland was to illustrate how smaller governments are better than large governments.
      Once again, you have taken two entirely separate points and conflated them to create a straw man. That is two straw man arguments in one response! Do you have a doctorate in Intellectual Dishonesty?

      Its little wonder that you are so fond of the EU; your support of corrupt corporatism, your arrogant contempt for ordinary working people (by the way, it was that same kind of arrogance that played a large part in losing the Brexit vote for the Remain side) and the fact that you decry pro-democracy, pro-sovereignty political parties like AfD as "fascist", reveals you as a mirror image of the evil, elitist scum, like Juncker and Barosso, who grow fat on the blood of Europe's people.

    6. I do not see why arguing the truth is intellectual dishonesty.

      What you are arguing for is leaving the power to local incompetent and corrupt politicians rather than a better functioning central government run on the German model (to the degree one can emulate it). It is a matter of will to reform versus sticking with one's old ways that provenly do not work.

      I am not arguing for more government but for more efficient government. The € is a mechanism that can impose it for those who want to follow (by the way the UK and Romania do not even have the €).

      By the way, the small countries that are truly successful are the ones that have been amassing other people's wealth

      Regarding the refugee issue it is easy to turn a blind eye to a problem the west created with its intervention on sovereign states like Iraq and Syria. The Brexit vote was won primarily on the refugee issue and the U.K. was the first to intervene largely on false statements on the existence of chemical weapons.

      So it is irresponsible (and extremely populistic) to say we created a mess in your countries and now we will shoot you if you try to cross our borders. I do agree with you on one single issue: they have to respect our rules and way of life.

      The responsibility of absorbing these people should run across our continent as well as the US. The Hungaries, Polands and Romanias cannot be partners just for the good times and the EU funds.

      Regarding the Germans that flee to HUNGARY, long may they live with Victor Orban. They probably deserve him as they are one of a kind (the AFD kind)!

    7. God, give me strength! Are you capable of following a train of thought for more than a couple of lines, or is that beyond your mental capacity? I made it perfectly clear in the previous post why I was calling you intellectually dishonest; because you were conflating separate issues in order to straw man my arguments. You do understand what "conflating separate issues" means don't you? You do know what a "straw man argument" is don't you? Are you a child? It would certainly account for why I have to explain everything to you twice over!
      "What you are arguing for is leaving the power to local incompetent and corrupt politicians rather than a better functioning central government run on the German model." No, I am arguing for the right of sovereign nations to self-determination. Also, the German model only works in Germany because the Germans have a shared language and culture. The various peoples of Europe do not, that is why the EU does not and will not work.
      "It is a matter of will to reform versus sticking with one's old ways that provenly do not work." Speak for yourself! The British parliamentary system works perfectly well; we don't need faceless unelected bureaucrats in Brussels telling us how to run our affairs!
      "I am not arguing for more government but for more efficient government." Larger states require larger governments, the two are inextricably interlinked, you fool! Furthermore, larger governments are, by their very nature, cumbersome, inefficient, and unwieldy.
      "The € is a mechanism that can impose it for those who want to follow." No, it is a mechanism for destroying a nations economic (and thus political) independence, by forcing it to buy and sell at prices which are not matched to its own economic ability. That is why it is a good thing for countries like Britain, Poland, and Hungary to stay out. It is also why, if Romania persists with its insane plan to join, the fragile Romanian economy will be utterly destroyed by it.
      On the so-called "refugee issue", you need to get your terminology right. Firstly, when a refugee reaches a country of safety (for most of them, this means Turkey) they are no longer a refugee. If they move on from that country they are a migrant, NOT a refugee.
      By the way, this is according to the UN's own definitions, not mine.
      Secondly, most of these migrants (NOT refugees) do not come from the warzones you mentioned, they come from all over the Middle East and Africa. With respect to the conflict itself, don't try to guilt trip me with your neo-Marxist post-colonial garbage; I am immune! I know full well that the current conflict between the Islamic and western worlds is just a continuation of the conflict which the Islamic world started with the west 1000 years ago, with the invasion of Visigoth Spain.
      This brings me to my next point about the migrants (NOT refugees) they are mostly fit single men of military age; this is not a "refugee crisis" it is an invasion... merely the latest in a long line of Islamic invasions of Europe. Idiots like you need to wake up to this fact, before it is too late because, at the moment, people like you are effectively acting as fifth columnists for the islamification of Europe.
      "I do agree with you on one single issue: they have to respect our rules and way of life." If you honestly believe that muslims can be integrated into European culture and society, then you are an even bigger fool than I took you for! Islamic culture and western culture are fundamentally incompatible with one another and, because muslims believe that their laws come directly from Allah, they believe that their culture is, by default, the superior culture.
      As for Viktor Orban, I will just make a quick comparison between him and Angela Merkel.
      Viktor Orban: responds to the will of his people and protects their interests.
      Angela Merkel: ignores the will of her people and gets them raped and killed by muslim savages.

    8. I think the Global villager aside from having total ignorance of history is a total bigot worthy only of Viktor Orban and perhaps DONALD Trump, but that would be giving him too much. That is said by someone who is not particularly open to "cultural diversity US style'.

      This is why his only line of argument is insult, as he has no real counter arguments

      The ineluctable forces of history have transformed city states of ancient and medieval times to nation states (Italy and Germany became such only 150 years ago!) and super states such as the US or China.

      Many modern day states such as China or even Belgium and Switzerland do not share a common language and culture within their borders!

      By contrast the Walloons have more in common with the French than their Flemish brethren. So do the Austrians with the Germans and the Luxembourgeois.

      So I fail to see why language should be a barrier to reform. As far as culture goes, if the prevailing culture is corruption and cronyism it is better if it changes!

      I think the argument that Viktor Orban is worth more than ANGELA Merkel is that of a blithering idiot. One has built the most powerful nation in Europe and beyond while the other is a quasi dictator that has managed to pull his nation backward in every respect.

      I would invite the Global Villager to go live under his regime or perhaps he will prefer something even more purist like Mr Putin's Russia. He seems to have excellent relations with most far right parties in Europe.

      I do not think the blatant idiocy of the Global Villager is worth another second of my time

  6. Talk about distortion, disinformation and propaganda ... Does this guy have any connection with truth and objectivity? Facts:

    1. The Greek government deliberately lied to the EU about its economic performance prior to joining. Therefore it was always going to struggle to meet the EU's expectations.
    2. A major reason why Greece is in economic difficulty is because of its bloated state sector. It has an excessive number of civil servants who are overpaid and also massively less efficient by comparison with their opposite numbers in most other European countries. The cost of maintaining this gross inefficiency represents a huge drag on the economy.
    3. Another significant reason for Greece's economic woes is the abysmal state of the collection of taxes. Poorly-paid tax collectors are easily bribed into accepting tax assessments way lower than they should be, thereby significantly reducing the state's revenues..

    The Greeks have brought most of their economic problems upon themselves by lax and corrupt government. In this situation the EU becomes an easy target for blame. Some people are obviously taken in by the Greeks' specious arguments.

    Best - F.

    1. Talk about a self-defeating argument. All of what you have said is true, but it completely misses the point. The point is that the Greek lies were transparent, the Greek state sector and tax system were not closely guarded secrets, they were common knowledge. Yet, in spite of this, the EU still admitted Greece into the club.
      Because, contrary to its own propaganda, the EU has no interest in helping its members, only in subjugating them.

    2. The EU has gone a long way to establish peace and prosperity in post war Europe. Eastern Europe should be especially thankful. The EU at the end of the day is what you make of it.

      If you mismanage like Greece or Spain or Italy you will wind up with a lower standard of living. The only thing that changes is the mechanism by which you sink in misery: you choose between (hyper)inflation and devaluation or deflation and hyper taxation. The former suits local politicians as it allows them to print money to the benefit of their friends and against everyone else's interest.

      If you take advantage of the opportunity like Germany, the Netherlands or even the UK you will wind up better.

      I agree that EU entails a shift of the decision making power to the center but I would argue that for most countries, Greece and Romania included, this is for the better, as they have historically proven unable to manage their own affairs.

      The U.K. Is a bit different to the degree it is a relatively large and successful country and they have always considered themselves apart from the Continent. They do, however, seem to want to have their pie and eat it: they want access to the single market with no obligations.

      They also have to consider that Scotland and Ireland are overwhelmingly pro EU which could easily amputate the Kingdom!

      We have not yet seen any of the economic effects of Brexit as article 50 has not yet been activated (why?)

      Hundreds of thousands of well paid jobs are ready to migrate to the continent. I fear that it will be too late when the British people will realize their mistake. Some already have admitted they did not mean the vote which was supposed to say NO to something else (their boss, their wife, their life, mostly immigration etc)

      It is easy to vote NO as you can protest about almost anything. Bearing the consequences is another story.

      In case of the U.K. this vote is extremely unfair to the younger generations who were overwhelmingly pro EU and are no bound by the choice of the old people who felt insecure in a changing world.

  7. It so happens I was looking the other days for historical economic data on Greece, thinking of parallels with Romania.
    I came across this PhD thesis supervised by Thomas Piketty-who surely has a reputation by now of disliking Capitalist Wealth distribution (for those with little patience go to page 28 onwards)

    It explains in graphs and data the historical wealth formation of Greece, both Private and Public Wealth. The ratio most used is Wealth-Income Ratio (capital accumulated divided by income). You will observe the explosion of wealth that followed with 1986 (Greece joined EU in 1981). Interestingly enough, starting with 1990 the Government W-I ratio depreciates significantly (no surprise knowing what we know about Greek public finances) while the Private W-I ratio is marching on happily, with a peak in 1999 at 700%. In the 1980s it started at 200%. Real incomes to capital grew by more than 300% in the following 2 decades.
    One of the summary findings of the very interesting thesis is that Private Wealth in Government statistics is most likely underestimated (yes, those off-shore accounts of very wealthy Greeks we keep reading about in and other capital accumulations like that). By any economic yardstick Greece has known tremendous Private Wealth formation since the 1980s and I dare anyone to come up with an economic statistics (other than poetry and words) that indicates otherwise.

    Now, having settled the Greek issue and the "disaster of joining the EU" I think that discussing Romania's evolution after joining the EU (less than 10 years) is premature. However, having lived these 10 years in Romania (more or less) I can testify that by any standards Romania has made a huge progress, experiencing both social and economic progress. The benefits of joining EU far outweigh any cons such as loosing sovereignty on certain issues (very little still for us as we still have our local currency). Also please note that Greece joining the EURO did not disrupt in any way the Private Wealth formation process.

    So I think it is safe to say that myself and my Romanian friends we are a fairly well informed bunch, not some group of wide eyed children waiting for the EU candy truck to come by our door so we can get our daily sugar fix. Moreover, we like to think in our ingenuity that we are doing good hard work right now and our bit to push up the local economy and improve living conditions for ourselves and our fellow Romanians. I personally welcome such debates, I think they are great at reminding us how much we still have to do to make things better for ourselves here and I for one am very motivated when I am reminded of how nice is to have a helicopter view, when one doesn't have to worry about the basic daily needs, something that I can only hope my fellow Romanians can say about themselves in the near future.

    Cristian Constantinescu