The Pro-EU Elites Have Not Even Considered The Case For Brexit

Britain in Europe Campaign

More people become eurosceptic with time and experience than come to love the EU. That should tell us a lot about who to listen to in this EU referendum debate

In his Telegraph column today, Charles Moore considers the  soft bigotry of the “swivel-eyed moderates” who instinctively support the Remain campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union without even considering the opposing arguments.

Moore writes:

I do not mean that they do not know a lot about the subject – many of them do. Nor that they are not genuinely concerned for Britain’s future – most of them are. I mean that most have not, for one single second, imagined that life outside the EU might be a viable, even preferable alternative to life within it, so they do not understand the case they are opposing.

This is a form of bigotry, and it is less common on the Leave side – not because the Outers are necessarily deeper people, but because they have lived under the dominance of the pro-EU order, and so have been forced to think hard about it.

The bigotry of successful people is stronger than that of uneducated ones, because their life stories tell them they know best. So they stop thinking and instead merely disdain those who disagree with them. Years ago, Mr Cameron famously derided Ukip as “swivel-eyed loons”. Such people exist, perhaps, but the present danger is much more from the swivel-eyed moderates, who so resolutely refuse to look at the way the world is going.

They also do not see how much they have failed. In the 21st century, the world order and financial systems dominated by the free West have been shaken more profoundly than at any time since 1945, and the people in charge do not know how to correct their own errors, or even admit them. The euro is a major part of this new world disorder, as is the effort to deepen the European Union in the wake of it.

There is a lot of truth in this argument.

Certainly everyone of my age (33) has grown up knowing nothing other than life inside an explicitly political European Union, with many of the same institutions – the Parliament, the Council – which exist today. Unlike those who voted to leave the European Community in 1975, people my age have no recollection of life in a sovereign country, and so have no frame of reference when considering Brexit. No wonder, then, that to many young people the thought of leaving something so seemingly rooted and permanent as the EU (though of course it is nothing of the kind) seems to be crazy.

There is much truth, too, in Charles Moore’s assertion that those of a pro-EU dispensation – particularly the wealthier professional and establishment types who tend to support the EU the strongest – have not been forced to think hard about the question. This is not a criticism of such people, for in many ways it is inevitable.

If you have grown up and prospered under the status quo, with Britain as a vassal state of a larger and ever-more tightly integrating political union, then it takes an extraordinary amount of curiosity, empathy or insight to come to any conclusion other than that the EU has been a resounding success on all counts. By contrast, if you are self-employed or work in a semi-skilled or unskilled job at the sharp end of globalisation, you are more likely to be negatively impacted not just by immigration, but by the inability of your vote to effect any kind of meaningful political change in Britain thanks to the cross-party pro-EU consensus.

As this blog recently noted when discussing the Christian case against the EU:

Too often – at least in Britain, with the media’s patronising and dismissive coverage of UKIP leading up to the European and general elections – we explain away these populist movements, or belittle their support base by suggesting that they are all economically left-behind losers or curtain-twitching village racists.

And it’s partly true, only not as an insult. If you are a well paid professional in rude financial health you can better afford to be a consumer rather than a thinking citizen. You can use your vote to signal your virtue (anyone but UKIP!) or advance your lazily thought out utopian daydreams, with little fear of the consequences. But those of our fellow citizens on the sharp edge of globalisation – those whose livelihoods are impacted by deindustrialisation, new technology, outsourcing and the information economy – tend to see things differently.

This doesn’t mean that we should adopt every nativist, protectionist policy that comes along – because barriers to trade are never the right answer. But it does mean that we should acknowledge that the eurosceptic parties of the Right and the Left are at least asking some important questions that the mainstream parties, trapped in their centrist consensus groupthink, have consistently failed to do.

I feel particularly qualified to talk about this, as growing up I was the most ardent European Union supporter and federalist imaginable. And not in an ignorant way – I had done the reading and acquainted myself with how the EU was structured and how it worked. I firmly believed that the age of the nation state was over, that patriotism was silly and gauche, and that our only hope of a prosperous future lay in dissolving ourselves into a greater European collective. Adopting the euro, creating an EU army – you name it, I believed in it.

I would look enviously across the Atlantic at the power and influence of the United States and, coveting the same, agitate for the European Union become an equally powerful actor on the world stage. Britain seemed small, parochial and redolent of the past. Surely, I thought, our future lies as part of something greater?

Euroscepticism - Eurosceptic - Word Cloud

And I persisted in this belief for some time, the arrogance of youth helping me to dismiss friends, family, experts and the vast majority of the general public who thought differently to me as being xenophobic Little Englanders who just didn’t know what was good for them.

Only when my appreciation for democracy and self-determination (and small-c conservatism) caught up with my authoritarian Utopianism did I realise that the accumulated wisdom of the British people might exceed my own, and that there may be good reasons to be sceptical of the European Union. And only when I came to realise the extent to which the EU is a creation of a small group of European intellectuals and political elites who thought that they knew best – and that the only way to bring about their creation was through stealth and subterfuge, never declaring the ultimate federal destination of travel – did I come to see how profoundly wrong it is.

The point is that I have been on a political journey. I held one set of beliefs and looked to one limited set of facts, and then I questioned those ideas, drew on a wider array of evidence and renounced my previous positions. As Charles Moore would put it, I grew up under the dominance of the pro-EU order, but then thought hard about it and changed my mind.

The pro-EU Remain campaign boasts very few people who have been on a similar journey but in reverse; who were once ardent eurosceptics but came to see the light and learn to love enforced European political union. And that’s because the pro-EU consensus is nothing but a haven for establishment groupthink and bias confirmation. Newcomers to the pro-EU cause such as the Conservative Party’s Sajid Javid and Rob Halfon have not been on an intellectual journey, but merely fell into line behind their party leadership. That’s what makes their “coming out” arguments so desperately unconvincing.

The uncomfortable truth for the pro-EU crowd and the Remain campaign is this: the more you learn about the European Union, its history, the way it came about and its ultimate direction of travel, the more likely you are to oppose it and want Britain to leave. When ignorance prevails and people believe that the EU is nothing more than a friendly club of countries trading and co-operating with one another to Save the Earth, the europhiles win. But when the drip-drip of facts and evidence begins to permeate the debate, people start questioning those pro-EU shibboleths and opposing our continued participation in this mid-century supra-national experiment.

Furthermore, it is those who think primarily with their wallets, as consumers first and foremost, who are most likely to be susceptible to the Remain campaign’s Project Fear and scaremongering tactics about the hysterically hyped “costs” of leaving the European Union, while those who think as engaged citizens and global stakeholders who are most likely to question the European project.

Charles Moore is quite right: there is indeed an army of swivel-eyed ideologues in this EU referendum debate. And though they would hate to admit it, it is those on the Remain side who are most likely to be impermeable to facts, and who are least likely to have ever held a different view on the EU and been on an intellectual journey to arrive at their present position.

And as a rule of thumb, it is generally wisest to listen to those who can show evidence of having thought deeply about an issue and been persuaded by the steady accumulation of evidence to revise their thinking, rather than those who were born with their deeply-engrained love of the European Union pre-programmed in their brains.


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10 thoughts on “The Pro-EU Elites Have Not Even Considered The Case For Brexit

  1. Rose June 23, 2016 / 2:43 AM

    The Eu referendum debate has been long, argumentative and quite frankly full of mis -truths. We are going to get the chance to vote today and it will have a huge impact on our future.
    I have lost all respect for David Cameron and George Osborne and was particularly offended by the use of over £9 million pounds of taxpayers money to produce a one sided booklet ( supporting the Governments Remain in Eu position) This was an audacious use of public money and was hardly in the interests of true democracy. The PRIME MINISTER calls a referendum on the EU , gives us lots of lip service about how fair it will be , and how it is so important for each of us to exercise our vote, and then proceeds to issue this one sided propaganda . Utterly disgraceful.

    The primary thing I have noted throughout the debate is that the main topics of conversation have been about immigration and economics. The more pertinent issue of how we are ruled and how the EU is influencing ever more our political,social and legal life … Has not been fully debated. It has only been brought to the discussion table by the leave campaigners …. And the Remainers have been quick to brush it under the carpet. I wonder why????.

    I will vote to leave the EU after much thinking and research . The whole experience has been eye opening.

    One other comment that has been hinted at several times … Is that the typical brexit voter is either over 60 or poor and uneducated. Being a well educated, middle class professional I find that to be an irritating generalisation. Many of my relatively affluent , intelligent and broad minded friends are very much in the Leave camp.

    It begs the question… Who then is a typical remainer ?

    Head in the cloud idealist with utopian visions of a perfect global world where borders no longer matter?
    Hard nosed pragmatist, for whom money will always be the bottom line?
    The younger voter , who can not remember life before the EU and feels it will be such a problem to travel and work abroad if we leave.?

    The european Project has got totally out of hand, and the money that is wasted is scandalous.
    Brexit the movie , was very good at explaining exactly what goes on in Brussels and I recommend it to anyone who wants to find out more.

    The voting has not started yet, but soon we will have the results and I hope and pray that it will be For Brexit.


  2. Steve March 10, 2016 / 2:21 PM

    Great comment.

    I’ve noticed a lot of pro EU opinions seem rather…lazy to say the least.

    I’ve yet to talk to someone who was pro-EU who didn’t have a vested interest or otherwise put any real thought in it.

    You almost want to ask why they’re pro EU but you invariably know the answer will be something like “because I am” nestled into a lot of talk about cooperation and sharing of ideas and stuff, but there is no idea sharing about Europe going on behind a knee-jerk proclivity towards remaining in it.

    This also links into a major issue with the EU itself.
    Some people seem adamant that remaining in the EU is the only way forward, yet when the natural question of reform comes up, they remain equally stubborn and steadfast in their refusal to think about the matter.

    This is a major influence in my current intention to vote Brexit. Not only because I see manifold problems with UK membership in the EU, but I can’t see any real path to reform if we remain, which is ideally my preferred option.

    The pro-EU campaign is eager to disparage the concept of Brexit but it offers nothing in return, not even lip-service.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Samuel Hooper March 10, 2016 / 3:56 PM

      Many thanks Steve for reading and sharing your thoughts. You are quite right – the EU is moving relentlessly in a certain direction, and it will never be reformed as a result of concerns raised by just one (or even several) member states, even one so large as Britain. Therefore the choice is between even more integration in future (there is no status quo), or Brexit.

      Unlike the Scottish referendum, where the “No” campaign were able to make some arguments about the benefits of the United Kingdom (though depressingly they resorted mostly to project fear), the “Remain” campaign in the EU referendum have nothing positive to say about the EU. With the exception of a small number of hard core federalists, their desire for Britain to stay in the EU is driven more by a pessimism about Britain’s prospects as an independent country than a love of Brussels. The lack of excitement behind their argument is palpable.


  3. Gail Vickery March 6, 2016 / 9:07 AM

    Very thought provoking piece Sam! I find that the more I read and research, the more Eurosceptic I become!
    Before DC offered us a Referendum, I was very much like most UK citizens – that is “mention EU and my eyes glaze over”! When I realised that we were being offered NO FACTS to help us come to an informed decision, I started to read everything I could lay my hands on, which was how I found you bloggers! As a 70 year old, it seems an awful long time ago when I was an impassioned student of Economics! But this Referendum Debate has certainly stirred up my interest!
    As a member of the Conservative Party, my husband and I were invited to a Conference in Taunton last September, organised by two MEPs, supposedly to support DCs Renegotiation, and to make suggestions. It was there that I was reminded what an AWFUL, UNDEMOCRATIC, UNELECTED INEFFICIENT, UNWORKABKE AND MAMMOTH INSTITUTION THAT THE EU HAS BECOME – obviously not the intended mission of the Conference!! But it certainly opened my eyes to the true situation! Since then, I have endeavoured to talk to as many family, friends and even strangers to open up the debate, and remind them that THIS IS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY TO PUT RIGHT THE MISTAKE OF EVER JOINING THE EEC, which is what it was in 1972. Also to stress how so much power has been “Seized by Stealth” from us by the European Commission! I suggest that all supporters of the Leave Campaign do likewise. It would have a pyramid effect of spreading the facts and opening people’s eyes to the true situation, and hopefully winning the day for Leave!!


    • Samuel Hooper March 10, 2016 / 3:52 PM

      Many thanks Gail for reading, and sharing your perspective. Too many people are content to sit back and moan about not being “given enough information” to make an informed choice in the EU referendum, as if any politician is going to stand up and deliver a balanced, unbiased assessment. The only way to make an informed decision is to educate oneself – the materials are all out there, freely available, supplemented by conferences of the kind which you attended with your husband.

      And time and again, the more people learn about the EU, how it came into being and what its true purpose is, the more people become eurosceptic. The light of knowledge brings revulsion at what is being done in our name but largely behind our backs in Brussels.

      And you are quite right – this is indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity to correct our 1972 mistake and reclaim our democracy.


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