Brexit: The Flight 93 Secession

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Whether you believe that Brexit is a brave and noble endeavour or a rash, ignoble folly probably depends a lot on your perception of short and long-term risk

Imagine that in some surreal scenario you mysteriously found yourself on board a huge passenger aircraft flying a multi-stop, seemingly never-ending transoceanic journey to nowhere.

As the hours and days tick by onboard this strange vessel you begin to question where the plane is taking everybody, and who set the flight plan. There’s an old framed picture of the airline’s founder, Jean Monnet, hanging at the front of the plane above the sealed cockpit door, but the captain and the other passengers refuse to clearly state the destination themselves, even though they all seem very anxious to get there. Rather than being candid, they make only vague allusions to the potential destination and arrival time, and repeatedly emphasise the importance of travelling together in a big, stable aircraft to keep us safe from turbulence.

Then suppose that one day you question whether you want to be on this flight in the first place – your fellow passengers keep getting sick, the pilot stops randomly at tiny airfields in seedy-looking places to let a whole bunch of extra people climb aboard without even checking their boarding passes, and while every seat comes with its own plastic toy steering wheel giving the childish illusion of individual control, it is plainly apparent that the pilot is the sole person in charge.

You also have strong suspicions that a certain Lederhosen-wearing passenger sitting in First Class is the captain’s special favourite, and that this is why they get to control the cabin air conditioning, select the in-flight movie, dictate the meal choices for everyone sitting in Economy and sometimes even persuade the pilot to change speed and altitude. Back in 2015, a little scrawny passenger owed Lederhosen Guy some money and was being evasive about paying it back – now he rides in the unheated, unpressurised cargo hold.

So you finally speak up and ask why we are on this flight at all, this Airbus A380 on steroids, when out the window we can see other happy families zipping along in their Cessnas and small private jets, travelling together in a loose formation to reach their preferred destination but also preserving their individual ability to climb, descend, stop at an airfield for lunch or set a new destination altogether if they so choose.

And in response, some wiseguy across the aisle says that you have no right to complain because a mysterious benefactor bought your ticket armed with perfect information as to the plane’s ultimate destination. The travel agent certainly never lied to them, making the journey seem shorter and the destination more pleasant than the reality now unfolding – no, your benefactor apparently was apparently very firm in their desire for you to embark on this particular journey, and approved of every subsequent course change made by the captain, tacitly if not explicitly.

Many of the other passengers also take turns lecturing you that the era of private aviation is over, that only a fool would put his life in the hands of Westphalia Private Aviation Corp., that one family in one aircraft cannot possibly complete a safe and successful autonomous journey in this day and age, and that only by abandoning our trusty Learjet and boarding the enormous Airbus can we protect ourselves from dangerous pockets of clear air turbulence and other assorted perils of the sky. And if that means eating the same cheap airline food day after day, and giving the airline pilot total authority over us while in the air then so be it.

This is unacceptable, so you pluck up the courage and deliver an ultimatum: either the captain gives up his absolute powers and pays more attention to the demands of individual passengers – even if that means amending the route – or you will disembark, return to your own aircraft to fly on your own terms with your own companions in your own squadron, and with your own destination in mind. The captain laughs in your face. Lederhosen Guy stares at you with a kind of impassive curiosity, but says nothing. The aircraft continues humming along at cruising altitude.

What to do? You figure that storming the cockpit, relieving the captain of his duties and attempting to land the plane yourself is inherently risky, yet it seems preferable to reaching the plane’s ultimate destination and then realising that all of your worst fears and suspicions were correct – and that there is no return service.

If the aircraft will not change course and you are unwilling to accept the destination (or continued vagueness about the intended destination), then indeed storming the cockpit is the only option left. You don’t want to permanently hijack the plane and steer it exclusively according to your own preferences, nor do you want to thwart the captain and harm others by crashing the plane altogether. You just want to disembark peacefully.

Would it be nice if another Airbus A380 with a more amenable pilot was waiting at the next refuelling stop, ready for you and likeminded passengers to hop aboard and continue your journey in a more collegiate style, agreeing the destination and flight plan together rather than stubbornly navigating according to the old captain’s worn-out, anachronistic 1950s map? Yes, of course it would. But that’s not going to happen today. There is no alternative jet on the tarmac, and for all the money you have given the airline the small print on the back of your ticket is clearly marked “non-exchangeable and non-refundable”.

So you gather what support you can from among the other passengers, count to three, and charge the door.

At one point in 2016, some of the more extreme conservative political pundits in America began referring to the presidential campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the “Flight 93 election“, a reference to the United Airlines plane hijacked by terrorists on 9/11 and deliberately crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and mounted a fightback against the Islamist hijackers. This risible, overwrought argument posited that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be so damaging to the United States – effectively the equivalent of another 9/11 attack – that it was the duty of every true patriot to “storm the cockpit” of American government by electing Donald Trump president instead.

Britain’s 2016 EU referendum was not quite a “Flight 93 moment”, not only because unlike the 9/11 attackers, the EU’s motivations and trajectory (though severely misguided) are not deliberately malevolent, but also because the speed of European political integration is slow and incremental, not sudden and rapid. Unlike a hijacking situation, we therefore theoretically had time to think and form a more considered plan of escape. Unfortunately Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, the ringleaders who nominally led the storming of the cockpit, failed to come up with any kind of coherent plan for what to do when they got their hands on the controls. And now they have handed over command to Theresa May, who sits with white-knuckled grip on the yoke, trying and failing to reassure we the passengers over the intercom by repeating the same worn out banalities. Our position, post storming of the cockpit, is therefore significantly suboptimal.

But ultimately, if the captain will not desist from a reckless and undesirable course of action and an orderly disembarkation is impossible then one is left with little choice other than to forcibly set the plane down, blow the emergency exit, jump down the inflatable slide and walk back to the terminal in search of alternative transportation.

With Brexit, as with all flights, there is an outside chance that the new pilots will crash the plane, resulting in total hull loss and our fiery deaths. There is a slightly higher chance of experiencing a landing so rough that there are multiple injuries, the undercarriage fails and the plane requires lengthy and expensive repairs. Right now there are probably even odds that the landing will be sufficiently bumpy that those who do not have their seatbelts fastened securely will get thrown around the cabin a bit and generally have a bad time. But of course, the corollary to this is that remaining on the aircraft despite not knowing its destination and having no individual control over the plane carries a risk of its own. The next stop may be Warsaw or Bucharest, but eventually the plane might head for Pyongyang, carrying us along with it.

The difference between Remainers and Brexiteers is this: Remainers do not seem to much care where they end up (or at least seem willing to smile and suppress any gnawing doubts that they do have) so long as they can be seen to be travelling happily and in total harmony with all the other passengers on the plane. In support of their position, Remainers can point to all of the aircraft’s previous stopovers – many of which were vaguely pleasant or at least neutral – to suggest that we are participating in a wonderful global excursion and would be mad to spurn the promise of future tropical delights.

By contrast, Brexiteers care deeply about the end destination, strongly disagree with the current direction of travel and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to alter it. Leave voters can bolster their argument by pointing out the unprecedented scope of control passengers have ceded to the captain over time, and noting that ours is the only part of the world where people seem to have lost faith in private aviation and insist on flying together in a single huge aircraft. If abandoning our autonomy and climbing aboard the Airbus is so great, they argue, why are people in Asia, Africa, North and South America not following Europe’s lead?

Neither viewpoint is inherently evil. Rather, each view is formed by a different perception of reality and a varying sensitivity to short and long-term risk.

Or perhaps all Remainers are just flag-hating, anti-patriotic, virtue-signalling traitors who think that supporting the EU is an easy way to check the “internationalist” box on their checklist of trendy-lefty political opinions, and/or every Brexiteer is a harrumphing, xenophobic retired colonel who fetishises the British Empire, hates foreigners and wants to re-impose the social values and norms of the 1950s.

It’s hard to say.

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Centrists Cling To Their Failed Dogma Even As It Tears Their Countries Apart

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In a wide-ranging essay, Michael Lind argues that the elite managerial class have broken their compact with the working classes to the detriment of the country, thus explaining the populist backlashes witnessed in Britain and America

“The New Class War”, an essay in the American Affairs Journal by writer Michael Lind, perfectly captures the intersection between trade regulation, democracy and the interests of the managerial elites which is at the heart of the current debate over sovereignty – and which fuelled the Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency in America.

It is necessary to quote at some length from the section entitled “The Politics of Global Arbitrage“, in which Lind discusses the ways in which corporate behaviour has influenced the contours of our democracy:

Even as they have exploited opportunities for international labor and tax-and-subsidy arbitrage, firms in the post–Cold War era of globalization have promoted selective harmonization of laws and rules, when it has been in their interest to do so. In the second half of the twentieth century, successive rounds of negotiation under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and, more recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) effectively reduced most traditional tariff barriers. By 2016, when the WTO effectively terminated the failed Doha Development Round of global trade talks, the United States and other leading industrial nations had shifted the emphasis from removing barriers restricting the cross-border flow of goods to harmonizing laws and regulations through “multiregional trade pacts” like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), in the interests of transnational investors and corporations reliant on transnational supply chains.

The areas chosen for arbitrage and harmonization reflect the interests not of national working-class majorities but of the managerial elites that dominate western governments. Harmonizing labor standards or wages would undercut the labor arbitrage strategy, while transnational crackdowns on tax avoidance would thwart the strategy of tax arbitrage by transnational firms. Instead, the emphasis in harmonization policy has been on common industrial standards, the liberalization of financial systems, and intellectual property rights, including pharmaceutical patents. These kinds of harmonization benefit transnational firms, investors on Wall Street or in the City of London, and the holders of intellectual property rights in Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry.

In many cases, this kind of regulatory harmonization makes sense—standardizing product safety measures, for example. But the new regulatory harmonization agreements produce a “democratic deficit” in two ways.

First, they remove whole areas of regulation from the realm of ordinary legislation, replacing it with “legislation by treaty.” Favorable laws and regulations that corporate lobbyists are unable to persuade national democratic legislatures to enact can be repackaged and hidden in harmonization agreements masked as “trade” treaties. These treaties, often thousands of pages long, tend to be drafted in secret by committees involving corporate lobbyists and may be ratified by legislatures without careful scrutiny.

Worse, most of these contemporary regulatory harmonization agreements include “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions that allow individual corporations to sue national governments that change the rules in their countries after the passage of the treaty in private tribunals, dominated by corporate lawyers, with no appeal mechanism. If Congress enacts a statute that adversely affects the interests of Acme Inc., then Acme has few options, other than paying lobbyists and making campaign donations. But if Congress ratifies a treaty, and later changes a provision by passing a new law, Acme can sue the federal government for financial damages. The United States has yet to lose a case to ISDS, but other countries have, and some believe that the prospect of corporate lawsuits has a chilling effect on new laws and regulations of which particular corporations disapprove.

None of this is to imply that the transnational managers of the West and littoral East Asia who control the new global oligopolies are more selfish or less public-spirited than the managers of national corporations during the Second Industrial Era. On the contrary, in personal terms, today’s managerial elite is for the most part less bigoted and often quite philanthropic. The point is simply that the American, German, and Japanese corporations of half a century ago were constrained by kinds of Galbraithian countervailing power and Burnhamite/Moscian juridical defenses that have crumbled. Thanks to globalization, itself a voluntary policy choice enabled but not required by new technology, today’s transnational firms have much more bargaining power in their dealings with workers and democratic nation-states.

My emphasis in bold.

This perfectly sums up a core part of the democratic case for leaving the European Union as it relates to trade, and is very much in line with the analysis and arguments advanced by Dr. Richard North of eureferendum.com and Pete North.

Lind is quite correct to acknowledge that regulatory harmonisation can be an enormous force for good. In fact, the trouble only really comes about when there is no option for a democratic nation state to “opt out” of a certain regulatory change or edict when its imposition would harm the national interest in some way. Obviously there would be consequences for such an action, such as the non-recognition of standards relating to the product or industry in question. But the opt-out is a vital tool which nation states must possess in order to wield sensibly and with restraint on those occasions when the compromise hashed out by 27 EU member states is unacceptable to the sole outvoted dissenting country.

This is what we mean by the outsourcing of sovereignty. Remainers and assorted pro-EU apologists love to make the glib assertion that EU member states retain ultimate sovereignty at all times because they are technically free to leave the EU, but this is an asinine assertion. Sovereignty should not be a choice between having to go along with every diktat from Brussels or deploying the nuclear option and leaving the European Union. Indeed, how can you call it sovereignty when the choice is between accepting papercut after papercut (grave though the cumulative wound may be) or else enduring the disruption of severing ourselves from the union? This isn’t sovereignty, it is blackmail. Thank goodness that Britain finally called the EU’s bluff.

This section is also instructive:

To obtain social peace and mobilize national populations during World War II, the United States and its allies like Britain brokered business-labor pacts and promised welfare benefits to veterans. In the ensuing Cold War, every major industrial democracy devised some kind of “settlement” or compromise among business and labor interests within the nation.

The postwar settlements were a combination of employer-specific welfare capitalism and universal or means-tested, social-democratic welfare states. In West Germany, welfare capitalism took the form of “codetermination,” or union membership on corporate boards. Japan, following intense labor conflict after 1945, developed a system of corporate paternalism and lifetime employment for many workers. Organized labor was weak in the postwar United States, but the “Treaty of Detroit” negotiated among automobile companies and unions was a successful example of informal business-labor corporatism. Low levels of legal and illegal immigration, and social pressure on married mothers to exit the work force to become homemakers, strengthened the bargaining power of mostly male workers by creating tight labor markets.

These corporatist systems of welfare capitalism made the welfare states of the period from the 1940s to the 1970s much smaller than they would have been otherwise. Wage compression brought about by unions in the welfare-capitalist system made it easier for payroll taxes to fund entitlements like public pensions, which in turn were smaller than they might have been because of the widespread existence of private employer pensions.

The post-1945 settlements in the West and Japan demonstrate countervailing power and juridical defense in action. The result was the golden age of capitalism from the 1940s to the 1970s, combining high growth with a more equal distribution of its rewards than has ever existed before or since.

But Lind sees the end of the Cold War as a turning point when the post-war settlements established in the West and Japan began to be fatally undermined:

Following the Cold War, the global business revolution shattered these social compacts. Through the empowerment of multinational corporations and the creation of transnational supply chains, managerial elites disempowered national labor and national governments and transferred political power from national legislatures to executive agencies, transnational bureaucracies, and treaty organizations.

Freed from older constraints, the managerial minorities of Western nations have predictably run amok, using their near-monopoly of power and influence in all sectors—private, public, and nonprofit—to enact policies that advantage their members to the detriment of their fellow citizens. Derided and disempowered, large elements of the native working classes in Western democracies have turned to charismatic tribunes of anti-system populism in electoral rebellions against the selfishness and arrogance of managerial elites.

I have to say that Lind’s essay has given me pause for thought. This blog has consistently championed the Thatcherite revolution which took Britain from being the sick man of 1970s Europe, seemingly in terminal decline, to a revived and confident global power by the 1990s. I did so while acknowledging the various failures of the Thatcher government to ameliorate the decline of heavy industry outside of the wealthy Southeast and its cost in terms of suffering and wasted human potential, but I nonetheless saw (and continue to see) Thatcherism as a necessary if painful tonic for the economically sick Britain of the 1970s.

Lind, however, sees things differently. From Lind’s perspective, the post World War II settlements established between labour and the managerial classes in various Western countries were responsible for the great boost in productivity and living standards, not an anchor on these metrics (as I have always viewed the post-war settlement in Britain, partially deconstructed by Thatcher). To be fair, Lind pinpoints the start of the unravelling to the end of the Cold War when Thatcher’s premiership was nearing an end, but since many of the tenets of Thatcherism continued through the Major and Blair governments into the 21st century once can reasonably infer a criticism of Thatcher’s policies, which merely took a decade to come to full fruition.

This is food for thought for an unabashed Thatcherite like me, and I need to do more reading to decide how much of Lind’s narrative holds water. The narrative arc he constructs is persuasively argued and passes the “common sense” test, but to my mind Britain’s experience stands as an exception to Lind’s rule. In our case, the post-war settlement we constructed (based on the recommendations of the Beveridge Report) grievously held us back as a country. We did not benefit from enlightened German-style corporate governance or Japanese-style jobs for life in the post-war years, but rather sank into decades of adversarial conflict between unions and (largely state-owned) employers, with government policy repeatedly favouring the interests of the producer over those of the consumer.

Now, this could be because British government policy was particularly misguided and the British managerial class particularly useless (an argument I have some sympathy with), but it seems more likely to me that Lind’s blanket assertion that countries prosper most when there is a powerful countervailing force to push back against the elite managerial class is not always correct – or at least is only one of several other key factors determining economic growth and increases in standard of living. I would posit that Thatcher’s Methodist upbringing probably provided a great moral anchor that prevented excessive self-serving policymaking, while today’s decadent and avowedly secular elites are perhaps more prone to corruption and in greater need of the countervailing force that Lind describes (hence the populist backlashes we have witnessed).

Lind then goes on to discuss how labour arbitrage and tax & subsidy arbitrage in our more globalised world have worked to undermine the nation state and empower the corporation – a line of reasoning which would certainly be familiar to anyone on the Left.

He concludes by looking ahead to the likely geopolitical situation in the year 2050, and considers what will be the best strategy for the West to maintain power and influence:

Great-power competition, even in the form of limited cold wars, is likely to reward nations whose economic model is based on developing productive technology and raising the incomes of domestic worker-consumers, rather than engaging in labor and tax arbitrage, regulatory harmonization, and other schemes that boost profits without increasing productivity. In cold wars and trade wars, even if no blood is shed by the contenders, countries and blocs with empowered and patriotic workers are likely to do better than rival nations crippled by immiserated workforces and selfish, nepotistic, oligarchic elites.

[..]

Managerial elites are bound to dominate the economy and society of every modern nation. But if they are not checked, they will overreach and produce a populist backlash in proportion to their excess. By a misguided policy of suppressing wages and thus throttling mass consumption, unchecked managerial elites may inadvertently cripple the technology-driven productivity growth responsible for their rise and accidentally cause the replacement of managerial society itself by a kind of high-tech rentier feudalism.

Managerial society works best when there are not only concessions to national working-class economic interests—the bribes to the “losers” of neoliberalism—but also genuine economic bargaining power and political power wielded by the many. Far from undermining managerial regimes, Burnham’s “juridical check” and Galbraith’s “countervailing power” make them more legitimate and sustainable.

In other words, the policies favoured by the current dispossessed centrists in Britain and America are not as smart and self-evidently beneficial as their advocates love to claim. Status quo globalisation, which increasingly seeks to leverage labour arbitrage, tax arbitrage and selective regulatory harmonisation to benefit the managerial class while doing little to raise productivity (not to mention leaving millions of people in dead-end jobs or the unemployment scrapheap) is not only selfish on the part of the managerial class, it is also injurious to the future prosperity and security of the country.

In fact, according to Lind, it turns out that having a patriotic population and workers with a commitment to the country they live in, together with some degree of bargaining power (preferably due to their possessing valuable skills rather than the threat of withholding their labour, as deployed in the 1970s), is perhaps a net positive after all, particularly in the long term.

Again: I don’t buy everything in Michael Lind’s essay. But he spins a plausible narrative and argues his case well. And if Lind is correct, how regrettable is it, then, that the populist backlashes on both sides of the Atlantic have been held in check partly through their own incompetence (Donald Trump in America and the Tory hard Brexiteers in the UK) and partly by the fact that the resurgent centrists have effectively ground the respective movements to a halt?

Bear in mind, if and when the centrists retake power, they intend to revert to pure business as usual. They have learned nothing from the comprehensive rejection they received from voters only a short time ago, and think that the world can revert to its previous happy state where they got everything that they wanted while anyone who dissented could go jump off a bridge.

I have long contended that such an overturning of these populist movements by the elite would be poisonous, even fatal, to our democracy. But if Lind is correct, it could also be fatal to the future economic prosperity and national security of our countries.

 

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Even Remainers Who Accept The EU Referendum Result Are In Denial As To Why People Voted For Brexit

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The EU referendum was not a question of “head vs heart”. When Remainers pretend that they occupied the intellectual high ground, they only delay their necessary and inevitable reckoning with the will of the British people

Remainers simply cannot help themselves. They cannot stop being arrogant and condescending toward Brexit voters, even when making otherwise admirable attempts to extend the olive branch and accept the nation’s verdict on leaving the EU.

Here’s Rachel Reeves MP, writing in the New Statesman:

Two days before the referendum, I visited the largest private sector employer in my constituency. I had spoken to many of the workers during the general election campaign a year earlier.

Although the chief executive works with a community centre to recruit local young people, like many businesses they also hire many Eastern European workers. It was a tough audience, as many blamed the EU for the squeeze on living standards and most felt immigration was out of control.

The people I met believed leaving the EU would mean less pressure on services and more money for them, because the downward pressure on wages would ease with fewer EU migrants.

[..] I knew in my heart at lunchtime on the day of that visit that we’d lost the referendum. My head had told me – the economist – that we would win because the consequences of leaving were a risk voters wouldn’t take. But, by Friday morning, we knew the Leave campaign’s emotional message was stronger than the rational arguments of the Remain campaign.

My emphasis in bold.

And there it is again – the infuriating “head vs heart” conceit, beloved by Remainers, that they unquestionably held the intellectual high ground when it came to arguing for Britain’s continued membership of the EU, and that the only reason for their defeat was that the base emotions and fears of Brexiteers somehow clouded their rational judgment and (to quote Lincoln, since Reeves tries and fails to do the same) shut out the “better angels of our nature”.

According to this cognitive dissonance-soothing rationalisation of defeat, Remainers were unquestionably right to warn of economic armageddon, and the economy was the sole worthwhile measure on which an existential question about national identity and democracy should be determined.

If this is the fruit of the Left’s attempt to understand Brexiteers (and we know it is, because the bottom of the article states that “This blog is based on a chapter Rachel Reeves MP wrote for the Fabian Society edited collection Facing the Unknown: Building a progressive response to Brexit“) then they have done an unspeakably lousy job.

The immediate post-referendum polling clearly showed that the strongest driver of the Leave vote was widespread concern about sovereignty and democracy:

The biggest issue, according to Lord Ashcroft’s post-referendum poll, was the overwhelming desire to preserve what remained of British sovereignty.

In “How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday … and why,” a survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum, Lord Ashcroft found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote “leave” was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters.

Not hankering for a return to the 1950s.

Not an acute discomfort with dark-skinned people or eastern Europeans.

Not “Daily Mail lies” about curved bananas.

The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union because a majority of us quite rightly refused to accept the false claim that close and fruitful trade and cooperation with our European neighbours is somehow only possible by subsuming ourselves into the relentlessly integrating EU superstate. They were smart enough to realise that an organisation with a parliament, flag, anthem and ambitions for a combined military force has its sights set on something much grander than “friendship and cooperation”, and quite rightly wanted no further part of this doomed experiment in euro-federalism.

What’s more, the Brexit-voting people of this country were enlightened and dedicated citizens enough to see through the hysterical scaremongering propaganda of the Leave campaign, and accept that even if there were some short-term economic costs associated with Brexit, the Remain campaign clearly value our country and democracy too cheaply if they would remain part of a European political union through fear of a potential recession.

Were there oddballs, cranks and racists among the Leave campaign? Yes, of course we had our fair share. But the Remain campaign had Eddie Izzard, so let’s not tar an entire side based on its worst cheerleaders.

Look, I get it – daring to consider that one might have campaigned hard on the wrong side of history must be immensely difficult. The emotional investment of Remainers in their worldview, rhetoric and “identity” as super-progressive, tolerant and all-round awesome people is very strong and hard to see past. But if anyone should have the capacity to move beyond their own intellectual comfort zones it should be our elected MPs, people like Rachel Reeves. Sadly, there is little evidence that many are doing so. Nor will there be, probably, until a couple of decades’ time at which point warnings of economic cataclysm will have been taken over by events.

It is good that Rachel Reeves and some others at various points on the left-wing spectrum, Jeremy Corbyn included, recognise that the EU referendum result must be honoured and are reconciling themselves to the will of the people. But it is one thing to accept the country’s verdict while still sanctimoniously proclaiming that the people were manipulated and hoodwinked, and quite another to reach deep inside for some humility and admit that the people may actually have been right all along.

Nobody expects the Labour Party and other Remainers to make the transition overnight. But well-meaning articles like this from Rachel Reeves suggest that the majority have not even begun the urgently-needed process of reconciliation to the national will. And that is a real concern, for their own tenuous future political careers if nothing else.

 

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The Only Thing Paul Mason Hates More Than The EU Is Democratically Chosen Conservative Government

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Paul Mason, enemy of democracy

“Postcapitalism” author and former Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason is a truly nasty piece of work. For proof, one need only look at his latest sickening column in the Guardian, in which he diligently catalogues all of the European Union’s faults and inherent anti-democratic tendencies before going on to say that he can’t possibly support Brexit when the Tories are in charge, because doing so might mean that some awful right-wing people get to implement policies democratically chosen by the British electorate.

Mason begins well enough, albeit with a predictably left-wing slant:

The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear. The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime. It has an executive so powerful it could crush the leftwing government of Greece; a legislature so weak that it cannot effectively determine laws or control its own civil service. A judiciary that, in the Laval and Viking judgments, subordinated workers’ right to strike to an employer’s right do business freely.

Its central bank is committed, by treaty, to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. State aid to stricken industries is prohibited. The austerity we deride in Britain as a political choice is, in fact, written into the EU treaty as a non-negotiable obligation. So are the economic principles of the Thatcher era. A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law.

And the situation is getting worse. Europe’s leaders still do not know whether they will let Greece go bankrupt in June; they still have no workable plan to distribute the refugees Germany accepted last summer, and having signed a morally bankrupt deal with Turkey to return the refugees, there is now the prospect of that deal’s collapse. That means, if the reported demand by an unnamed Belgian minister to “push back or sink” migrant boats in the Aegean is activated, the hands of every citizen of the EU will be metaphorically on the tiller of the ship that does it. You may argue that Britain treats migrants just as badly. The difference is that in Britain I can replace the government, whereas in the EU, I cannot.

This is fair and accurate criticism of the EU. Mason rightly senses the unaccountable nature of the supranational government in Brussels, and hones in on the key point – that the EU is antidemocratic because we have absolutely no way of removing its leaders if we wish to do so.

Unfortunately, it then quickly begins to go off the rails, as Mason’s snarling anti-democratic authoritarian streak surges to the foreground:

Now here’s the practical reason to ignore it. In two words: Boris Johnson. The conservative right could have conducted the leave campaign on the issues of democracy, rule of law and UK sovereignty, leaving the economics to the outcome of a subsequent election. Instead, Johnson and the Tory right are seeking a mandate via the referendum for a return to full-blown Thatcherism: less employment regulation, lower wages, fewer constraints on business. If Britain votes Brexit, then Johnson and Gove stand ready to seize control of the Tory party and turn Britain into a neoliberal fantasy island.

They will have two years in which to shape the post-Brexit economy. Worse, the Tories will be free to use the sudden disappearance of our rights as EU citizens to reshape the UK’s de facto constitution. The man who destroyed state control of education and the man who shovelled acres of free land into the hands of London developers will get to determine the new balance of power between the citizen and the state. So even for those who support the leftwing case for Brexit, it is sensible to argue: not now. The time to confront Europe over a leftwing agenda is when you have a Labour government, and the EU is resisting it.

Waah, waah, waah. In other words, Paul Mason fully appreciates that the European Union is hopelessly undemocratic and utterly unreformable, but he refuses to either campaign or vote for Brexit because reclaiming democracy for Britain might mean that we then go on to do the “wrong” thing with our new-found freedom.

Britain’s parliamentary system of government is not a shocking new reality. Our present system of mini “elected dictatorships” spanning the length of a parliamentary term is how Britain has always been governed in living memory. And unfortunately for Paul Mason, our electoral system produced a Conservative majority government one year ago. You can argue that most people did not vote for the Conservative Party. True. But if we don’t like the system by which our governments are chosen, it is within our power to change it. Indeed we had just such an opportunity back in 2011, and decided to stick with the status quo.

So when Paul Mason frets that a Brexit under the Tories might lead to two years of “neoliberal fantasy” government, what he actually means is that Britain might be led by the government which we only recently elected together. He is fretting that an anti-democratic impediment to Conservative rule in the form of Brussels might be removed, and that the government might then seek to fulfil its manifesto outside the constraint of the EU’s political union. He is effectively presenting democracy as the scary thing to be avoided, and the European Union as the “least worst option”, one step better than democratically chosen conservative government.

Mason then goes on to make it worse:

All this suggests that those of us who want Brexit in order to reimpose democracy, promote social justice and subordinate companies to the rule of law should bide our time.

And there’s the problem, right there. Paul Mason doesn’t support an eventual Brexit because he believes in democracy or the importance of British sovereignty. He wants Brexit only as a means to imposing his own radical left-wing policies and “social justice” values on the country. When the people look likely to support these concepts at the ballot box, he chafes at the democratic impediments thrown up by the European Union barring their implementation. But when the people spurn his left wing fantasyland and choose a conservative government, suddenly Brussels becomes his best friend, his bulwark against the people he views as “closet Nazis”.

Behold the face of the Mason/Corbynite Left. This is a movement which, to their credit, has no natural love for the European Union, often seeing it for what it is, but who have shamefully taught themselves to accept Britain’s EU membership as the price which must be paid in order to successfully “lock out” conservative viewpoints and policies.

This is a movement chock full of people who love nothing more than to prance around screeching about how wonderfully tolerant and accepting they are, right up until the moment they encounter somebody with a different political philosophy, at which point any previous lip service paid to the importance of democracy or even free speech goes straight out the window.

It’s hard to say  which is worse – the fact that Paul Mason harbours these seething anti-democratic sentiments in the first place, or the fact that he is so shameless that he openly admits his desire to thwart the general election result by forming a temporary alliance with the hated European Union, swinging around to support Brexit only when the prospect of giving democracy back to Britain seems likely to deliver the kind of government he wants.

One thing is for certain, though – Paul Mason is no man of the people, and no friend at all of democracy.

 

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

Top Image: Guardian

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Brexit For Grown Ups

Eurosceptic but tempted to vote Remain because of the Boris Johnson / Faragist circus that is the official Leave campaign? There is a better Brexit campaign out there, and they have a comprehensive plan for safely leaving the European Union which does not rely on trumped up statistics or school playground insults

Are you a eurosceptic or undecided voter who is instinctively sceptical of the European Union, but put off by the bombast and rank amateurism of the official Leave campaign?

Perhaps you sense that there must be a better campaign out there somewhere, that the well worn record of Nigel Farage and the ranting of Boris Johnson – a man who had not even decided which side he was on until a couple of months ago – cannot possibly make then the best ambassadors for Brexit.

Perhaps you appreciate that most of us already know and understand the reasons why the EU is bad, and that what matters now is convincing a majority of our fellow citizens that there is a safe and non-disruptive way to leave the political construct of the EU while maintaining, even enhancing, our status as a global trading nation.

If this describes you, then you may get value out of this excellent TED-style talk by Dr. Richard North of the eureferendum.com blog. The video comes from a recent meeting of The Leave Alliance at the Royal Overseas League in London, and is a great visual exposition of the comprehensive plan for leaving the European Union known as Flexcit or the Market Solution.

Read The Market Solution pamphlet here.

Read Flexcit (the full-length plan) here.

It is vital for people to understand that the coming EU referendum is not like a general election, or even a by-election. We are not voting to elect the Vote Leave Party – thank heavens. That means that although Vote Leave often say some fantastical and frustrating things, and continue to spout statistics which don’t withstand the slightest scrutiny and end up helping the other side, fortunately it doesn’t matter because Vote Leave will not be in charge of the secession negotiations with the EU.

The idiots in Vote Leave do not speak for the whole Brexit movement, and their half baked plans for leaving (such as they exist) do not represent the political realities. In reality – when you take into account the inherent caution of the civil service and the composition of the Westminster parliament which would have to deal with a Brexit vote (more than 50% Remainers) – Britain would inevitably take the path of least resistance and exit to an off-the-shelf EFTA/EEA model (or a shadow version of the same) as a stepping stone, maintaining single market access but giving Britain the right of reservation, an emergency brake on immigration (like the one David Cameron failed to win) and a full seat on all world bodies once again.

This is why Remainers are desperate to falsely discount the EFTA/EEA model as something that Brexiteers either do not want or which would mysteriously be denied us – for it annihilates at a stroke every last one of their doom-laden warnings about economic apocalypse in the event of Brexit, while freeing us from the explicitly political union which they seem to love but dare not publicly say so. Adopting Flexcit (the Market Solution) leaves the Remain campaign with literally nothing besides their fear of change and love of having a supranational government increasingly do the hard work of governing.

For in truth, there is no cooperation between European countries which cannot flourish just as well – and often much better – outside the EU’s explicitly political, integrationist structure. Be it defence, international aid or the environment, inter-governmental cooperation can be far more effective than running everything through a set of institutions in Brussels which were designed not to foster effective governance, but to gradually sideline and undermine the various member states, creating immense resistance and resentment along the way.

If one reads the history of the EU, one quickly realises that the founding fathers never troubled to hide their intent, or the fact that two world wars made them see the nation state as the root of all evil, and the EU’s supranational government as the “cure”. This is not a conspiracy theory – you can read it in their own words. To think that Britain can stay in the club and not be swept along to the final destination is denialist fantasy.

As for staying “globally relevant”, this blog and my fellow writers in arms ceaselessly point out that most EU trade rules are actually set by global bodies like UNECE, Codex Alimentarius, the IMO and other organisations. The EU often does not come up with these rules and regulations, but merely passes them along to the member states, sometimes with unwelcome EU gold plating and tweaks which actually act as an impediment to global trade. The EU is certainly no longer the “top table,” as Remainers love to claim.

That is the future of trade and globalisation – global regulation. Being in the EU means that Britain surrenders our seat or vote on these bodies, must fight to be just one of 28 countries contributing to a common EU position, and has no right of reservation to say no to those regulations which could harm key industries or our national interest. Perversely, sometimes the EU, claiming competency and controlling the British vote, wields that vote against us in these global bodies. Brexit means we can rejoin the global regulatory environment as a full and active player, while remaining in the EU is quite literally giving up and conceding that Britain no longer has the ability or the will to govern ourselves.

But worst of all, voting to Remain because of understandable disillusionment with the mainstream Vote Leave campaign will doom us – quite unnecessarily – to a dismal future lived cowering behind the EU’s skirts while the opportunity to build a genuinely global trading and regulatory framework passes us by.

And for what? Nothing more than the pointless pursuit of a dusty, mid 20th century blueprint for a united Europe, dreamed up by old men scarred by the memory of two world wars and already out of date, long before it is fully realised.

Europe has moved on since VE day. And euroscepticism has moved on since the 1990s. Wanting Britain to leave the EU does not mean throwing your lot in with Nigel Farage, UKIP, Boris Johnson or anyone else, if you do not wish to do so. There is another way. There is a better Brexit campaign out there.

Take 30 minutes of your time to be an engaged citizen, and watch the video.

Then come join us.

 

The Leave Alliance - Flexcit

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