I have been trying to get pro-leavers to give me a sound reason for leaving the EU for around two years. So far I have not been able to establish that there is any substantive benefit.
There is not a single purported good argument for leaving that stands up to scrutiny. Please, please, someone prove me wrong. The only conclusion I can draw is that Brexit will not be good for the UK.
People such as myself had (and still have) legitimate concerns that the UK joined the EC/EU contrary to the UK’s constitution. In 1972, Parliament enacted the European Communities Act that had the effect of making UK law subordinate to EC/EU law. It was considered by many academics to be unconstitutional for Parliament to do so, because Parliament derives its power from the people of the UK. It is said that Parliament does not have the power to delegate its primacy (primary lawmaking powers) to either the executive (government) or any third party. If it were possible to do so, Parliament could delegate its power to a single person or a foreign nation for instance. The effect would be to disenfranchise the UK population.
As a result of the criticisms of the EC Act 1972 the UK’s first national referendum vote was held in 1975. The purpose was for the people to ratify or reject the EC Act and consequently EC membership. The question was “Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?”. The result was 67.23%/32.77% to stay. Just over 40% of the electorate voted to remain. While that did not create an absolute mandate (that would require over 50% of the electorate), it reached the common threshold of over 40% that is often used to qualify a referendum of constitutional importance.
The margins were sufficient to silence most critics (in contrast to the last referendum). However, there remained a group that continued to oppose EC membership. Some of the reasons provided were:
- Even the electorate does not have the power to self disenfranchise. While this may be wise council. It does not stand any significant scrutiny.
- There was not a sufficient margin to be sure it was the will of the people. For that, over 50% is required, but 40% and a substantial margin is likely to extrapolate to being the will of the people. Nonetheless, it could be argued, the significance of sharing sovereignty between 9 nations, should require an absolute majority.
- Blank cheque. It was argued that the Treaty of Accession and the subsequent EC Act was a blank cheque that could involve the UK in commitments that had not yet been anticipated. Of course this argument is a strong one. It was certainly not anticipated that the EC 9 would become the EU 28. The people of the UK agreed to share sovereignty with 8 other countries of similar economic and political alignment. On the other hand, the intention was always to achieve greater political and economic union. Therefore, the argument that the EU has become too much like a federation is rather weak. It was both the UK’s and the EC’s stated intention when we joined.
- The people did not understand the full implications of joining the EC. No doubt this is true in some cases. Many people voted to join the EC because the UK was in industrial and economic decline; the considerations of sovereignty were of far less concern. The counterargument to accession and loss of sovereignty, was that the UK could leave whenever it wanted. Thus, ultimate sovereignty was preserved. It is also of little doubt that only the most ill informed and stupid people could have thought that the Treaty of Accession followed by the EC Act (putting the treaty into domestic law) did not mean a loss of sovereignty. The clue is in the word “accession”.
- It can be seen that some of the foundations for our current circumstances have their roots in the circumstances that we first joined. Those of us that had remaining (no pun intended) concerns were classified as Euro-sceptics. I regard myself as a constitutional purist in that respect. I still have doubts as to the consent of the people of the UK sharing sovereignty with 19 additional nations. I still doubt that the margin of the first EC/EU referendum was sufficient.
However, Brexiteers and Euro-sceptics are quite different animals. Brexiteers are a broad coalition that include not only some Euro-sceptics but also people on the far right of politics, racists, stupid people and really anyone else that is willing to sign-up. I am not a Brexiteer, as you may have gathered. While I have remaining doubts about UK membership, I am not willing to fabricate reasons why we should leave. Neither am I willing to stand by while other people spread false propaganda to undermine the EU and the UK’s membership.
I have found many Brexiteers have seized upon similar constitutional arguments as mine, in order to promote Brexit. Notwithstanding that the same arguments are now very good reasons for remaining in the EU. Principals and logic do not have a place in the Brexit process. Brexiteers have hijacked these higher arguments because the arguments for Brexit, outside of those I have outlined, are virtually nonexistent. In most cases, with very little prompting, they revert to arguments that amount to base stupidity, misunderstanding of economics, racism or paranoia. I have very little respect for Brexiteers most of whom simply spread false propaganda circulated in the press, or fed to them by their politicians. Most Brexiteers are either incapable of critical analysis, or unwilling to attempt to differentiate lies from the truth.
Unfortunately the media in general have been extremely poor on both sides of the argument. There is too little investigative journalism and fact checking. Much of the press is taken up by endless opinion pieces that are often very misleading and bear no relation to the facts or the truth. For example, I would like to call out the editors on publishing two recent articles in the so called remoaner press:
Theresa May admits that she compromised to get this week’s Brexit deal and
At last, good news on Brexit: Britain is heading for Norway | Simon Jenkins
Neither, articles have any relation to truth or reality. Both articles are extremely misleading. They refer to a Brexit agreement … there is no Brexit agreement. There is not even anything more than a broad brush agreement on “transition” that has not yet been ratified. Many of the details of the transition deal have yet to be agreed. Incidentally, the so called compromises on both sides were actually a capitulation of the UK to all the EU demands on the transition. The idea that the EU would not allow the UK to negotiate trade deals was never a possibility. It was not an EU concession, but an obvious necessity for the transition.
There is absolutely nothing to suggest that agreement to the transition is in any way related to a Norway deal as Simon Jenkins contends. The UK has stated time and time again that it will not continue to contribute to the EU or be bound by its rules, except in possible bespoke agreements such as Euratom, or security etc. The EU has accepted the UK’s position that it requires absolute sovereignty, including judicially. The EU has intimated a deal similar to Canada is on offer and the Norway deal crossed the red lines that the UK has set… it is not on offer.
Politically, the UK cannot agree to a Norway style deal because it effectively requires the similar subordination to EU law, similar contributions, commitment to free movement, interference in trade relations and so on. There would be no point in leaving the EU … it would achieve virtually nothing. It certainly would not be the UK “taking back control”, but rather the UK giving up its right to make law and policy. It would be the worst of all worlds. It is the same fudge that has happened in Norway as a result of their referendum that refused to join the EU. Politicians have wrangled a way to be members, without being members in name. However, Norway has got a significant advantage over the UK … it provides a significant proportion of EU energy. It has it’s finger on the light switch so to speak. What does the UK have to bargain with? Financial services is the answer, but Germany, France and other EU members have long wanted to break their reliance on London’s stranglehold. Brexit is the ideal opportunity to deal a telling blow to the UK financial services sector and shift it to the EU.
The UK is in a mass delusional state driven by inaccurate media, political patronage and short term expediency. There is no benefit from leaving the EU other than to regain sovereignty. Unfortunately, regaining sovereignty will do little to regain control in practice, other than further centralise power in the executive and undermine our own Parliament.
The UK was in a hopeless and desperate state prior to joining the EC. Since then the UK economy has done relatively well. None of the EU laws have been particularly onerous on the UK. EU law has been exclusively drafted to further develop economic and political relations for the mutual interest of the members including the UK. Great care has been taken to avoid drafting EU law that impinges on matters that are of purely domestic interest (one of my concerns when we joined that did not materialise). I just cannot find a substantive benefit, or reason, for leaving.