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A respectable case for Brexit.


MY REMAINER FRIENDS complain bitterly about Brexit, about how the public were deceived by the Brexiteers, but there is a perfectly respectable case for wanting to leave the EU, one that is not nasty nor xenophobic.

Before I begin, I would like to declare that, had I been able (I was not in the country), I would have voted to Remain. This in part was linked to the idea that, for all its faults, the EU has presided over peace among its members all my lifetime. My other thought was that people of my age should not determine the future of the young who apparently wanted to Remain.

I imagine the vote centred on two issues: migration from Eastern Europe and not letting the EU dictate to us about human rights or about the meat content of our sausages.

These are issues that cause concern in pretty well all western European members of the EU. We all feel we don’t need the unelected EU Commission lecturing us on how to behave.

It may not necessarily be xenophobic or racist to want to halt or curtail migration from Eastern Europe. Concerns about housing, jobs and schooling are legitimate. But even if the people’s motives are unpleasant and xenophobic they are entitled to be that way, and the EU should listen. Again, I would like to say that, personally, I couldn’t care less if the entire population of Romania rocked up to live next door to me.

My Remainer friends say that it was the £350 million per week deception that swung the vote. The people were lied to. Technically it wasn’t a total lie because they talked about “regain control”. However it did deliberately give the impression that we pay far more than our actual net contribution. This was refuted ad infinitum by the Remain campaign. You would have had to have been in a coma for the entire campaign not to know that our net contribution is one-third that.

The government put out pro-remain leaflets at state expense, which arguably breached the referendum funding rules. All this was carried out by senior politicians, so you can’t expect terribly high standards on any side.

In all this noise, the respectable case for Brexit is drowned out.

THE ORIGINAL TREATY of Rome called for ever-closer union. This is the project. This is why the Lisbon Treaty created the Union’s foreign policy. This is why we have the Euro. The ‘Europeans’ wanted to create the state of Europe. They wanted to enshrine their particular brand of social democracy, market regulation and social justice. They will steam roller anybody who gets in their way. This is why the Irish were “persuaded” to rerun their referenda on the Nice and Lisbon Treaties. The Danes were offered concessions over the Maastricht Treaty which they ratified only in a second referendum.

The concerns expressed by the Irish and the Danes were replicated across much of Europe. The concessions were not offered to any other country.

The concerns expressed by the Irish and the Danes were replicated across much of Europe. The concessions were not offered to any other country. In fact most countries don’t hold referenda and their representative democracies can cheerfully ignore what the people want. Even when the people vote to accept an EU treaty, it is not as though they agree with every provision of the treaty and there are always provisions which most of the people of Europe don’t want. It is like a party’s manifesto; you just dislike it a bit less than the others.

I don’t believe this happens by accident. I think the Commission carefully weighs unpopular measures against popular ones so that with each treaty they approach their vision for “ever-closer union” despite the fact that most people in Europe want co-operation but not a supra-national state of Europe. We want national identity.

When things go wrong the EU can be pitiless. The Greeks are in a dreadful mess. Unemployment is 21 per cent, but youth unemployment is a catastrophic 45 per cent. Even if much it was their own doing, they have amassed a mountain of debt (180 per cent of GDP) with consequent failing public services. Austerity won’t get them out of this. It wouldn’t cost much to forgive the debt and help Greece to exit the Euro but this would be unpopular, particularly in Germany. Sixty-year-old German workers don’t see why they should pay the pensions of 50-year-old Greeks. The Germans might possibly be persuaded that if the Greeks weren’t on pension they would be unemployed so it results in much the same thing.

It isn’t any more edifying when it comes to Italy. The word “unelected” always precedes the EU Commission and often it sticks out like a sore thumb. For example, Italy is also in a mess; unemployment is half that of Greece, but the Italian national debt is 130 percent of GDP. It is not surprising that there is a growing disenchantment with Europe and the Euro. It isn’t helped by European Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger telling the Italians that they ought to vote for a centrist government.

The EU’s treatment of Greece and its attitude to the Italian voter is a warning to other nations in the EU. “You had better behave!”. And that is the respectable case for Brexit.

All that is good for us.

WRITING IN THE Times on 4th June, Nick Clegg asserted that it was the moral duty of pro-EU MP’s to oppose Brexit. Public opinion remains split down the middle on the issue and this is despite the barrage of anti-Brexit sentiment and predictions of economic disaster expressed on the BBC and in much of the press.

Nick Clegg just doesn’t get it although he should by now. As deputy P.M. he presided over the near annihilation of his party. In the 2010 election the liberals unexpectedly won 57 seats. This dwindled to 8 in the 2015 election. Deservedly, Nick Clegg lost his seat. The loss of popularity centered on the Liberals dumping their manifesto promises, particularly their promise to scrap tuition fees.

Nick Clegg argued that they had to in order to form a coalition government with the Conservatives. The British public argued in the next election, that the Liberals couldn’t be trusted. Faced with a choice between power and honouring promises, the Liberals rushed headlong into power.

In a way this is funny. The small parties have a habit of attracting votes with populist promises in the sure and certain knowledge that they will never have to keep them. Now we know, that if they ever have to, they won’t.

When Clegg discusses the EU he does so in tones of exasperated reasonableness, as if we, the people, weren’t good enough for democracy. On this, he is in quite good company.

When Nick Clegg discusses the EU he does so in tones of exasperated reasonableness, as if we, the people, weren’t good enough for democracy. On this, he is in quite good company. The ancient Greeks thought much the same. Until recently, we didn’t have universal suffrage and even now we have a representative democracy designed to thwart the will of the people. The Swiss, on the other hand, have a system of referenda tilted in favour of what the people want. With relatively few signatures the Swiss can, and do, call referenda, on any issue, to repeal or introduce and at every level of government. As a result, Switzerland is a well-run country largely in harmony with itself.

I lived in Switzerland and saw that, because the people can actually decide, issues are carefully considered and sensible decisions are taken. Switzerland’s association with the EU, puts this system of democracy at risk, where EU edicts can override the will of the people.

This then is the battleground. Power has steadily been wrested from individual nations and concentrated in the EU Commission and Council of Ministers. The people of Europe don’t like this much more than the British do. It is not as though Brussels is giving us a healthy diet of economics and social justice. Policies on migration and the Euro have been ruinous for some nations. It is about time we all followed the Swiss and allowed the people to decide.

Nick O’Hear is chairman of Tension Technology International, Ltd. in Schoonhoven, The Netherlands.

Note: This essay was expanded and revised subsequent to its original publication. — Ed.

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