Just before the EU referendum I wrote this article about my struggles with how to vote and why I eventually ended up opting for Brexit. It got an astonishing reaction being downloaded, read and passed on over 100,000 times. I have written other things on this topic but never anything on that scale…until today. I have heard lots of people asking about what is going on and, outwith the few committed people on either side, being quite confused about the claims and counter claims. So here is
Brexit for Dummies
Are you fed up hearing about Brexit? The arguments seem never ending, circular, meaningless and increasingly bitter. Claim and counter claim is made. Anyone who disagrees with the others point of view is treated like a heretic. I have tried (not too successfully!) not to get involved in social media arguments on Brexit because they are usually frustrating and pointless as people put forward their beliefs backed up by the best confirmation bias that Google can provide. There is little interaction, less thought and even less light. As some are aware I have had a keen interest in this and have followed the debates and discussions quite closely. I have begun writing numerous articles on various aspects and have decided not to finish them because I thought what is the point of adding yet more to the ever-growing mountain of verbiage on the subject. However I have been persuaded to give a (relatively) succinct summary of what Brexit is all about – a kind of Brexit for dummies.
Although I am pro-Brexit, I do not write this seeking to persuade those of a different point of view (I don’t think I can do that), nor am I seeking to justify my own view. However I do hope to provide information, encourage understanding and above all, from a Christian perspective, encourage Christians to pray…(I should add at this point that I am not writing this as THE Christian perspective. The bible tells us nothing about Brexit and the church should not be making pronouncements either way. Christians will disagree about this according to our politics, knowledge and circumstances, as we disagree about many things, but it is how we disagree, that is important. Above all Christians should show the kind of humility that comes from knowing that we know so little and that the future is not in our hands, but the Lords – this knowledge should prevent both hubris and despair). S
So here are the main points that I hope will be helpful for those trying to make their way through the morass of propaganda and hysteria on both sides.
1) The British People voted in the EU Referendum to leave the European Union
After years of being in support of Britain’s membership of the EU when the referendum came I, (like David Owen the arch Europhile and former Labour foreign secretary and leader of the SDP) changed my mind and voted for Leave. The article I wrote on this went viral and was read by hundreds of thousands of people – some of whom contacted me to tell me that it had persuaded them to change their views as well. Despite the fact that most of the major political parties and politicians, 80% of Big Business, 95% of Church of England bishops, 90% of University principals and the majority of media and ‘cultural’ stars were against Brexit; the majority of people in the UK voted to leave the European Union. 17,410,742 voted Leave (52%), 16,141,241 (48%) voted Remain. It was an astonishing and unexpected vote. One that the Establishment did not expect – if they had thought it was even possible we would not have had the referendum.
2) The EU is not just a trading arrangement and will not remain the same.
One SNP MP tweeted publicly in response to my statement that the EU was not democratic – that it did not really matter because the EU is a trading arrangement not a political entity. This helps us see a big part of the problem. The Big Lie on which British entrance into the EU was based and maintained.
Let me explain. I have just read The Great Deception: Can the European Union Survive? (Booker and North). It’s a stunning book that clearly and comprehensively demonstrates that the UK was taken into the EEC by Edward Heath on the basis of a lie. The EU is not, and never was, solely a trading arrangement. Trade is vital and recognizing that, those who wanted a United States of Europe, decided to use that route, rather than the political one. That is still the same today. One of the myths about the Single Market is that it is a free trade area whose purpose is to permit free trade. In fact it is a highly regulated protectionist regime whose purpose is to exclude those outwith and to ensure that trade can be used to control those within. The EU is not about free trade.
That is why when people say those who voted to leave did so not knowing what they were leaving for are right but also wrong. Wrong in what they did not say; that they also did not know what they were voting for. Because one thing is for sure the EU is not going to stay the same. There will be greater political as well as economic harmonization. There will be an EU army. And there will be political upheaval as the Far Right continues to gain in France, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Hungary etc. because of the refusal of the political and cultural elites to deal with the issues that are affecting many poorer people who don’t have the comforts of the establishment to protect them. The idea that Britain could be part of that but opt out is a deception – by definition that can only last so long. It can only be a temporary measure. If we are so tied into the EU that our economic, academic and political systems are dependent on them, then ultimately any other vestiges of sovereignty and independence will be gone.
3) The British Government is weak and the EU Commission is strong
The EU is run by three groups – the Council of Ministers (from individual governments), the European Parliament and the EU Commission (consisting of one Commissioner from each of the 28 countries. What people do not grasp is that the political executive of the EU, and thus the group with almost absolute power, is the Commission. It alone can propose laws. The parliament has an advisory and veto role – the latter giving it some power. But it does not elect or appoint individual commissioners and can only sack the whole commission – something that is highly unlikely.
Some would argue that the commission is ultimately controlled by governments because they each have a representative – but again that is to misunderstand the nature of the EU. It is not a representative, parliamentary or presidential democracy. It is not a democracy at all. It was not designed as an ‘intergovernmental’ body – where the governments can overturn, veto or refuse the decisions. It is not an equal partnership. The EU Commission is a supranational body – above national parliaments and institutions. The Commission uses national parliaments and institutions to enforce their decisions, but they, in 80% of cases, do not have the right to refuse to accept EU laws – which in the UK’s case are anything from 13%-67% – depending on who you ask!
This is significant when it comes to understanding issues like the Irish border. The EU Commission are using Ireland – just as they ignored them before. This article by Brendan O’Neill (an Irish citizen point out the hypocrisy) is essential reading if you want to understand what is really going on…
“As an Irish citizen currently mortified beyond description by the the weaponisation of Ireland’s border concerns against Brits’ democratic vote for Brexit, I have only one thing to say to this EU love for Paddies: pass me the sickbag. The EU respects Ireland’s borders and national integrity like a shark respects a seal. Is the crisis of historical memory now so pronounced that we have forgotten how the EU treated Ireland when its people had the temerity to vote against the Nice Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty? It was the polar opposite of ‘The Irish request is the EU request’; it was more like ‘The Irish request is pig ignorant and must be ignored by all good people’.
What most people don’t realize is that the EU Commissioners are NOT there to represent national interests – they are there to represent the Commission to their governments. Indeed they take an oath to that effect. Their priority has to be the needs of the EU, not the needs of their own countries.
Why is all that important? Because – as the EU Commission is not democratic and is not directly answerable to any electorate, it has much more power and can be much more authoritarian. This of course is the whole problem with the EU. Its what Tony Benn pointed out- “if you cannot vote out those who make your laws you do not live in a democracy”. So the EU Commission can play hardball with Britain (as they did with Greece and as they have done with every country that has dared to go against them) because they don’t have to answer to the electorate.
On the other hand the British government do. Combine that with a divided nation, a weak and ineffective Prime Minister who stumbles from one disaster to another, a fanatical and furious anti-Brexit elite, and you can see who has the stronger hand. The EU is able to use the threat of trade sanctions, Ireland and UK citizens, whilst the weak UK government will cave in on every one of those issues because they have to have a ‘success’ in order to be re-elected. The EU Commission can play hardball with impunity (witness their disgraceful treatment of Dundee and other UK cities applying for the European City of Culture) knowing that they can get away with it, and knowing that their apologists here will excuse them almost anything. Like supporters of King Herod claiming that the massacre of the babies in Bethlehem was really their fault for being born where the wise men were stupid enough to reveal the location of the Messiah!
Summary – the British Government is weak because it is a democracy and democracy is getting weaker in Western society. The EU is strong because it is a bureaucratic authoritarian technocracy which has no qualms about using issues like the Irish border ( to get what it wants. In my view if we do not leave then democracy in the UK is effectively finished. We would be as well voting for our MEPS as our MPs – largely a waste of time as neither would have any real power.
4) Its all about money and power
There are those who think that this is all about workers rights, peace in our time, prosperity and the establishment of a progressive Nirvana. There is an element of truth in that. The EU for example has in some areas been strong on workers rights – in others it has been terrible – and nothing will ever be allowed to interfere with the corporations and the market capitalism that the Single Market epitomizes. Again what many people do not know is that the Single Market was something that Margaret Thatcher fought hard for – she called it ‘Thatcherism in Europe’. One of the ironies of todays politics is that you have so called left wing nationalists like Nicola Sturgeon, Labour and Liberal leaders, arguing that Thatcherism in Europe is essential for our well being. There is a DNA chain that goes Thatcher-Blair-Brown-Cameron- Osborne- Sturgeon et al. (even if the latter is unwittingly in that line of descendants!)
As for peace in our time – the original EU was just a coal and steel community – set up to prevent France and Germany going to war again. To some extent it has worked – but the reality is that just as important was the American Marshall plan and NATO and the communist threat. In fact it could be argued that the EU was a product of the peace, rather than the creator and preserver of it.
The progressive nirvana is just that – a fantasy. Its typical of the left (like the nice right) to now associate justice with what they term ‘social justice’ rather than economic justice. The poor, as always, get left behind. The issue of workers rights was talked up by Tony Blair so that he could get the Labour party to change its anti-EU policy. Once the trade unions could be persuaded that the EU was not really about global capitalism but workers rights (a campaign promoted by various ‘European’ EU funded institutions) then the rest was easy. Now we have the continual mantra from the Kensington socialists that we all love the EU because it is a progressive organization that defends workers rights – which also just happens to ensure a supply of cheap moveable labour for big business! If the EU is so good on workers rights, why have they colluded with the corporations in preventing them in Rumania? https://m.theblacksea.eu/stories/article/en/romania-worker-sell-out
But the EU itself is very expensive. EU politicians and staff are on generous pensions and wages – it helps ensure their loyalty. It was estimated as part of the ‘divorce bill’ that the British share of the pension bill alone would be in the region of £8-£10 billion. Again what many people don’t realize is that the UK pays a vast subsidy into the EU. It may not be the infamous £350 million per week that was on the side of the bus…but it is £250 million. That’s a billion pounds per month – £12 billion per year. The EU Commission are desperate not to lose that and so they are going to make Britain pay. They want the money.
Of course if the British Government were not so pathetically weak, and so undermined by the EU Nationalists in the UK, they would be able to simply say, forget it. That threat alone would ensure a deal. But because the EU does not believe that the UK would do that – they are free to demand and get what they wish.
Money and power go together. The EU is terrified that other countries might follow the UK’s example and so as well as the money, they are determined to punish the UK, so that no others are encouraged to exit. As a supranational body, with its own court of justice, its own media and vast financial resources, the EU Commission has phenomenal power – which it is prepared to use. (At least it is when it comes to the UK – but not when it comes to dealing with the injustice currently ongoing in Catalonia.)
It funds politicians, media, academics, big business, big charities, local councils and the cultural elites throughout Europe.
They are very generous with our money as long as we obey. Anyone who steps out of line is finished. If you read how the EU treated Greece – short of military force (and once they get an army that will come) they used every trick in the book. Media leaking, political power, judicial manipulation, business bribery- Read Yanis Varoufakis’s ‘Adults in the Room;’ to see how the EU used all these to control and destroy Greece – and then reflect on how they are doing exactly the same with the UK. If you can’t be bothered reading the book at least read my review of it here!
Ironically the person most responsible for the setting up of the Single Market, Margaret Thatcher, was also one of the first to understand how the EU at its core worked and to her credit she stood up to them.
“Some for example, the Dutch prime minister, Mr. Andries Van Agt, were reasonable, but most were not. I had the strong feeling that they had decided to test whether I was able and willing to stand up to them. It was quite shameless: they were determined to keep as much of our money as they could” (Margaret Thatcher)
“But Thatcher was finding that ‘give and take’, in European terms, meant, ‘you give, we take’”
The bottom line is that the EU wants money and power – and they will have them.
5) Those in power prefer the current system.
Why is it that, as a general rule, the majority of wealthier and middle class people voted to Remain, and the majority of poorer and disadvantaged voted Leave? I have read people who seriously argue that the Remain people were more intelligent – they read the Guardian and Times, not The Daily Mail, they are better educated and so they were not fooled by the lies of the wicked Leave campaign. On the other hand the Brexiteers are dumb fools who don’t realize what is best for them – they are ignorant anti-immigration people who are only one step away from Britain First and the Nazis!
As always in every caricature there is an element of truth. Yes there are racists and idiots who voted Brexit – but there are also extreme, foolish and undesirable elements on the other side. I’ve heard so many people talk about how leaving the EU really is the end of the world. They are scared. They hear the stories put out in a re-run of the Scottish Referendum’s Project Fear and so they fear.
But I don’t believe that is the whole story. There are those who voted Remain because they had thought about it, worked out the pros and cons, and made an intelligent and principled decision that to leave the EU would not be in the best interests of the country – just as there were those on the other side.
Some however voted out of ignorance (again on both sides). On the Remain side many young people were indoctrinated to believe that the EU was about their future and leaving the EU was the old bigoted people screwing their lifes up. They were taught, and believed that leaving the EU would mean no more lattes in Milan, weekends in Amsterdam or holidays in Spain. A student in Edinburgh University told me that the University came round and told her to vote Remain. The University of Dundee held an ‘unbiased symposium’ with four participants, all at least partially funded by the EU, to tell us how bad Brexit would be. This type of propaganda bred a kind of hysteria that borders on the pathological. Which in turn is grist for the mill for polemicists like Paul Joseph Watson….this is actually an incredible video….
I don’t believe that the elites of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Edinburgh voted for Remain because they were concerned about the interests of the poor. For many – especially of the ‘haves’ – self-interest played a major factor. They are the people in power, and almost by definition the EU benefits those in power. When you are part of the system that benefits you, the last thing you want is for it to be destroyed or changed. The EU deliberately funds the rich and powerful academic, media, business and cultural elites – who return the favour by acting as spokespeople for the EU. If you don’t think that the EU is for the rich and powerful ask yourself this – why did US corporations help fund its development? Why are Goldman Sachs and the likes of George Soros such strong supporters of the EU?
This helps explain why the SNP – who used to be a radical party who campaigned for Scottish Independence – have become the government party which fights to defend the status quo. I think the SNP government (by no means all the members) genuinely believe that being out of the EU will do Scotland harm – but that is because being out of the EU will do the Scottish government some harm (projects, finance, access to Brussels etc.) and they think that they are Scotland. They have become part of the system and the system is inexorably tied to the EU. To leave the EU will damage that system. That’s why they fight so much for it. Which brings us on to one unforeseen consequence of Brexit.
6) The Referendum Vote means that Scottish Independence has been set back for years –
This seems counter- intuitive. The narrative amongst the majority of the Scottish media (a narrative that was picked up by the anti-Brexit press elsewhere) is that because ‘Scotland voted Remain’ and Scotland was to be ignored then this would fuel resentment and increase the demand for independence. But in reality the opposite is the case. This vote has killed off independence for the near to middle future.
The constant refrain ‘Scotland voted to stay in the EU’ is a somewhat disingenuous and dishonest claim. The facts are somewhat different. 1,661,191 Scots voted for the UK to remain in the EU. 1,018, 322 voted for the UK to leave. There was no vote about Scotland remaining in the EU. Scotland had voted to remain in the UK and this was a UK wide vote for a UK decision. Scotland was not on the ballot paper. It is also interesting that despite every major political party in Scotland and every media outlet and the whole of ‘civic Scotland’ being against Brexit – only 1.6 million out of 4 million voters actually bothered to vote Remain.
Because the SNP leadership expressed such devotion to the EU that it seems to have become a matter of faith even more important than Independence, they have alienated a considerable number of their supporters – one third of whom voted Leave – the highest percentage of any political party in Scotland. The notion that the Remain voters, who included a considerable number of unionist Tories and Labour, would change to the SNP was always fanciful – despite the stories of ‘converts’ zealously displayed on SNP websites and twitter feeds. I suspect that for everyone who has changed to support Independence, ten have gone the other way. It just doesn’t make sense for a party arguing for Scottish Independence to move from one supranational body to another. That is one of the main reasons why the General Election showed a considerable drop in support for the SNP. It is an irony that a vote for the UK to leave the EU has almost guaranteed that Scotland will not leave the UK.
7) Britain is unlikely to leave the EU.
For all the above reasons I think it is unlikely that the UK will leave the EU, in anything other than name. Because of the ineptness and weakness of the Tory government and the EU Nationalists within the UK – Blair, Clegg, Osborne, Branson, Campbell and pretty well the whole establishment), I doubt there is anyone with the guts and kudos to take on the EU Commission with all its weaponry. Here are the possible results I foresee.
1) Staying in the Single Market
The most likely result is that we will stay in the Single Market in some form and pay a fortune for doing so. Again a lot of people misunderstand what the single market is – they think it is just a trading market. Its not. It means being under the jurisdiction of the EU in many areas, accepting the four ‘freedoms’ (movement of goods, services, capital and persons), not being able to make the rules and paying for the privilege! We won’t be able to make our own trade deals; we won’t be able to make our own laws and we won’t be able to use the money we spent on the EU on the NHS because we will be spending it in another form on the EU. Ironically the weak Remainers like May and Hammond, will have combined with the strong Remainers mentioned above, to make such a weak case that the thing they said would happen will happen. We will end up paying for failure and not even have the little political influence we had. We were bought and sold for EU gold, such a parcel of rogues in a nation.
2) Proper Brexit –
There is another possible result which is that the UK government gets some guts and walks away from the intimidation of the EU Commission and either goes it alone or, as I would expect, they would be compelled by EU governments to cave in – because they need the money and trade.
I was sent the following parable which I thought summed it up pretty well:
Subject: The best explanation of Brexit to date
Davis is at the golf club returning his locker key when Mr Barnier the membership secretary sees him.
“Hello Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier. “I’m sorry to hear you are no longer renewing your club membership, if you would like to come to my office we can settle your account”.
“I have settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis.
“Ah yes Mr Davis”, says Mr Barnier, “but there are other matters that need settlement”
In Mr Barnier’s office Mr Davis explains that he has settled his bar bill so wonders what else he can possibly owe the Golf Club? “Well Mr Davis” begins – Mr Barnier, “you did agree to buy one of our Club Jackets”. “Yes” agrees Mr Davis “I did agree to buy a jacket but I haven’t received it yet”. “As soon as you supply the jacket I will send you a cheque for the full amount”. “That will not be possible” explains Mr Barnier. “As you are no longer a club member you will not be entitled to buy one of our jackets”!
“But you still want me to pay for it” exclaims Mr Davis.
“Yes” says Mr Barnier, “That will be £500 for the jacket. “There is also your bar bill”.
“But I’ve already settled my bar bill” says Mr Davis.
“Yes” says Mr Barnier, “but as you can appreciate, we need to place our orders from the Brewery in advance to ensure our bar is properly stocked”.
“You regularly used to spend at least £50 a week in the bar so we have placed orders with the brewery accordingly for the coming year”.
“You therefore owe us £2600 for the year” average restaurant bill was in the order of £300 a month, so we’ll require payment of £3600 for the next year”
“I don’t suppose you’ll be letting me have these meals either,” asks Mr Davis…
“No, of course not” says an irritated Mr Barnier, “you are no longer a club member!”
“Then of course” Mr Barnier continues, “there are repairs to the clubhouse roof”.
“Clubhouse roof” exclaims Mr Davis, “What’s that got to do with me?”
“Well it still needs to be repaired and the builders are coming in next week”, your share of the bill is £2000″.
“I see” says Mr Davis, “anything else?”.
“Now you mention it” says Mr Barnier, “there is Fred the Barman’s pension”. “We would like you to pay £5 a week towards Fred’s pension when he retires next month”. “He’s not well you know so I doubt we’ll need to ask you for payment for longer than about five years, so £1300 should do it”.
“This brings your total bill to £10,000” says Mr Barnier.
“Let me get this straight” says Mr Davis, “you want me to pay £500 for a jacket you won’t let me have, £2600 for beverages you won’t let me drink and £3600 for food you won’t let me eat, all under a roof I won’t be allowed under and not served by a bloke who’s going to retire next month!”
“Yes, it’s all perfectly clear and quite reasonable,” says Mr Barnier.
“Get lost!” says Mr Davis
Now we understand what Brexit is all about.
The parable is fine. Except we do not have a government courageous, united or strong enough to say ‘get lost’. So…
3) A third option?
Join the EEA – the European Economic Area. This is a compromise but one I think that would really work – if the EU and the UK government agreed. I have a suspicion that the former will not want it. Because they want the money and the power. This is one area where I would commend the Scottish government because it is what they have argued for. My late friend and mentor, Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, was also very keen on this. This chart explains it.
Finally: Hope for Visionaries
As we say in Scotland – it’s a Burach! It’s nobody’s fault and its everybody’s fault. We live in a divided nation where the ‘make Britain great again’ tribe are outdone in fervour and fanaticism by the flag emoij waving – ‘Europe is our country and we will die without it’ faction. There is a sense in which I want to say a plague on both your houses and a curse on social media – which has got to be the most toxic of mediums and the greatest single reason for the dumbing down of British politics.
What is the answer?
I believe that we need democracy. The trajectory at the moment is away from democracy towards an authoritarian technocratic elitism. I may be wrong but I’m convinced that a return to real parliamentary democracy where a nation makes its own laws is our best hope of real democracy. Democracy in the EU will only come if it is thoroughly reformed – and that is almost impossible (no-one has managed it yet!) because the whole system is designed to be irreformable.
I believe that we need social renewal and real economic justice. Globalised international capitalism, as personified by Soros and others, loves the four freedoms. They have the goods, they own the services, they are the capital. Most of all they love the ‘free’ movement of labour because it means they can get cheap labour along with government grants to keep their globalised corporations profitable. But all this is at the expense of the poor and of local communities. Margaret Thatcher whilst she did many good things, started it with her ‘there’s no such thing as community’. The Blair/Brown combo who also did many good things continued it with their putting all the eggs of the UK economy into the London services/city basket. Cameron/Osborne were more than happy to keep the divide. I honestly believe that both May/Corbyn and Sturgeon, in their different ways want to get rid of it. But none of them have the ideas or the means to do it. If we are going to build a better and more just Britain then we have to get out of the EU – the EU won’t allow us to build a better or more just Britain – because they are the builders – our political institutions are really just the sub-contracted firms who are limited. I don’t believe for a minute that the May government would be able to build a more just Britain – but I would like the opportunity to vote for a government that could.
Lastly – and to my non-Christian readers – I appreciate that this will seem an absurdity – I believe that whatever happens we are screwed unless there is a spiritual and moral renewal. You can’t build castles in a cesspit. Whatever the political system it won’t work without that renewal. The EU decided when it drew up its constitution not to mention Europe’s Christian heritage (much to the Pope’s righteous anger). The UK government talks about Christianity but doesn’t walk the walk – mainly because it hasn’t a clue what real Christianity is. People replacing faith in God with faith in the EU (the Nationals infamous cover of an EU flag with ‘I believe in EU’ was sadly not ironic) or faith in Britain (or Scotland) is an absurdity. Without vision the people perish. Lord grant us your vision!
6th December 2017
Here is a follow up regarding the latest ‘agreement’