|The EU at work|
On Thursday someone who, for all that their politics is very different to mine, I have some regard for told me I am an idiot for wanting to leave the EU. "I didn't have you down as an idiot" were mor eor less his words. It seems this dismissive attitude dominates the case for remaining a member of the European Union. The idea that anyone who believes in exiting from the EU is somehow stupid is central to the campaign strategy for 'remain'. The 'leaving is stupid' message is presented by a parade of the world's great and good explaining why it's so important that we stay inside the warm embrace of that union.
The 'remain' campaign has roped in every leader in David Cameron's address book - from the US president and prime minister of Japan to warmed over trade union bosses and assorted (often French) international bankers. And the message is consistent - these great and good people believe, usually for entirely unspecified reasons, that the UK's interests are to stay in the EU. Such a strategy, founded on the good old logical fallacy - Appeal to Authority, is an easy one for campaigners to use. Just look at those posters and infographics showing the mugshots of all those great leaders - 'all these clever people say we should stay, how can you possibly vote to leave'.
As a result people, such as the local politician whose comment I quote, feel able to dismiss the advocates of Brexit as 'Little Englanders', as isolationists, and above all to tell them they're stupid. The hope is, of course, that people will be embarrassed by the suggestion of their stupidity and line up like good little sheep to vote remain. To stress this we're regaled with the less appealing parts of the leave argument - the crypto-racism, the islamophobia, the protectionism - and, slightly appalled by the unpleasantness of all this, people turn away from the idea of leaving the EU even if their instincts tell them it's the right thing to do.
Well I'm not stupid and I'm going to vote to leave the EU. And I'm going to do this for the very opposite of the argument from all those grandees. These people, the international elite, like things distant and obscure. They prefer government to be complicated and dominated by regulation. And they hate the idea that most of us, most of the time want to be left to muddle along with our ordinary lives free from their lectures, strictures and fussing interference. Leaving aside the foreign heads of state (who're doing a favour to another state boss - presumably in expectation of reciprocation), the people telling you you're stupid if you want to leave are the beneficiaries of the EU. Of course they want to stay in, it's their source of power, influence and money.
Assuming you're not employed by some 'European-funded' organisation (in which case your pro-EU argument is entirely down to selfish interest), you are not a beneficiary of the EU. Oh yes they pretend that millions of jobs (hint, hint, this might include your job) 'depend on the EU' but they can never actually point to all those jobs and explain how they are the result of a union run by a distant, unaccountable bureaucratic entity. They'll tell you we're at peace because of the EU - by which they mean that France and Germany haven't been at war since 1945. But what makes them think that that Kafka-esque castle of bureaucracy in Brussels is somehow responsible for that peace or that it couldn't be managed with a simple treaty?
To hear those great and good - let's call them The Beneficiaries - talk, you'd think that there is no other possible arrangement of Britain's relationship with its European neighbours that would encourage trade, promote economic growth and help protect the environment. This is just nonsense - I don't have to go into the slightly occult discussion of alternatives to know that there are perfectly practical alternatives. I can look around the world and see very successful places that have entirely different ways of co-operating with neighbouring countries. And I can go back to 1970 and see a Britain with every opportunity to succeed without joining the EEC.
So whatever choice is made about the process following a Brexit vote, it will be our choice made by our elected representatives in our interests. That doesn't mean that I'll agree with that choice or that it will all go smoothly but it does mean you and I get to sack them for getting it wrong, it means that Britain's economic destiny is once again in the hands of Britons. Right now, if we are angry enough to vote out a government that we think is failing us, there's very little that the new broom we install can do to make the changes we want. Ask the Greeks - they thought they could vote for change. Look at Italy where the EU sacked the government and imposed an unelected technocracy.
No-one is saying the Brexit is risk free. No-one is suggesting that leaving the EU is a solid gold, nailed on route to greater prosperity. No, us idiots are saying that it won't be worse than staying in but it will be our worse not a worse created by an institution we didn't elect and can't sack. Plus staying in the bureaucratic monster means travelling further down the route it has planned with more determined at meals bought by lobbyists in expensive Brussels restaurants than by the people we supposedly elect to make decisions on our behalf.
Plenty of The Beneficiaries are implying that staying in the EU is risk free, that everything will be just fine, no problems. Yet there's no discussion of what happens if (when) the Euro crashes again. There's no examination of how increasing EU legal 'competence' undermines our legal system by imposing Napoleonic systems onto English common law. And no-one mentions that the EU's sclerotic economy is a drag on Britain's more dynamic and flexible business environment.
For me this isn't about borders or migration or whether we're about to be swamped by rapey Muslims (these arguments are not only wrong and offensive but almost guaranteed to deliver a vote to remain in the EU). Nor is it about governmental sovereignty or voting systems or the dimensions of bananas. It is rather about whether or not you and I can, if we're angry enough, get up from our armchairs, turn the telly off, go down to the village hall, and vote the bastards out. It's not our country we want back, it's our rights. Or rather the most important right of all - the right to overthrow the government and stick in a new one.