Europe

The EU thing draws ever closer.

Some unstructured thoughts:

The Brexiters bringing about a legal challenge to which one of them should be the official campaign brilliantly illustrates the abilities of the average brexiter to get along with other people. Likewise, many brexiters seem very confident of things they can’t possibly predict. Bertrand Russell springs to mind: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

But…

…it’s a huge distraction to look at this by the players involved. Both sides are headed by politicians with vested interests. You can’t condense this down to “I shouldn’t back an exit because Nigel Farage is an idiot” (which he is), because ‘remain’ has some pretty shady characters too.

The net cost of EU membership, according to R4’s More or Less, is in the region of £9bn per year. This is a tiny sum; we spend 10 times that on state pensions alone. If membership of the EU has an effect on our economy, it is almost certainly an effect far greater than this number. It is a rounding error. So the statistic of “we send £large_number per day to the EU” is not a useful point to consider.

Freedom of movement is a raw deal for most people in the UK. Easy supply of cheap labour undermines wage growth and productivity. Voting to leave on this issue alone is perfectly justified.

However…

…two of the most notable nations going it alone against the EU, Norway and Switzerland, both accepted freedom of movement deals with the EU because the EU is quite strict on the idea that free movement of goods requires free movement of people. It’s naive to think that in the event of Brexit we’d be able to secure sufficient levels of international trade without the EU, or manage to secure large amounts of trade with the EU but avoid being pressured into accepting some kind of migration deal. If immigration is your main reason for voting, think very carefully.

The previous point illustrates something important. The EU is an influential entity which exists on our doorstep. I don’t think in general that the existence of the EU is a good thing for Britain, but leaving it won’t make it disappear. It might reduce our dependence on it, but probably not sufficiently to justify that we’ll lose almost all of our influence over it. I think most brexiters conflate the ideas of leaving the EU and dismantling the EU.

This is explained concisely in Yes Minister, which might be even more relevant now than when it was recorded.

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