EU referendum: right-wingers gear up for hysteria


8:06 pm - October 19th 2011

by Tim Fenton    


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Out there on the right, an increasing number of hacks and pundits are getting themselves rather excited on the issue of the EU – more excited, even, than usual. Because there is going to be a vote in the Commons on our membership.

This will be so much easier for the assembled MPs as the question is multiple choice. But some are already smelling a rat.

The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope has news from “Government sources”.

It’s bad news, too: Tory MPs, so his “sources” tell, will be instructed to vote against going for a referendum on membership, and subject to a three-line whip.

Hope paints a picture of rebellion against Young Dave among back-benchers. Which only goes to show that Hope is lost when it comes to doing his sums.

Even if half the Tory MPs were to rebel, most of the other half, and most Lib Dems, together with the Nationalists and some Northern Irish MPs, would more than cancel them out. Mil The Younger and the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party could take the evening off.

This scenario, though, is not allowed to enter the world of the Telegraph punditerati, notably Benedict Brogan, who tells of “The slow implosion of the European project”.

Indeed Ben, it’s so slow that you’ve been banging on about it for the last couple of years and it hasn’t happened yet. If I had a tenner for every time a Telegraph pundit made that prediction, I would now be filthy rich.

Even further out there in left field is Dan Hannan, who kicks off his routinely dishonest rant by telling “Depending on how you measure it, between 50 and 84 per cent of our laws come from Brussels”.

Dan and factual accuracy are only very occasional bedfellows: the latest study on the matter concludes that the figure is around 15%.

Hannan cannot get it into his head that telling whoppers – and of a kind that can easily be debunked – is not a good way to persuade voters of his case. But at least his invective stops short of abuse.

No such restraint constrains the outpourings of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, who has likened Cameron to Sailor Heath.

The torrent of abuse is as vicious as it is ineffective: Cameron is “pointless, spiteful, vindictive, bullying” says Del Boy, while satisfying all four criteria handsomely. Young Dave is denounced as the “Worst Tory Prime Minister in British history”.

But then, Del sprays his credibility up the wall: “most talented up-and-coming Tory MPs … Douglas Carswell … Priti Patel”. Oh dear.

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Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


1. Northern Worker

Never mind what the ConDems think, or the right wing press, what’s the position of Labour? Given that a majority of the UK adult population wants an in/out referendum, and MPs are supposed to represent our views, this looks like a real chance for Labour to reflect the views of their constituents. If Cameron denies his MPs the chance to express the views of voters, then voters will not forget. Come on, Ed, show some guts and go for it! It could be the making of his leadership and get the party back from the wilderness.

2. Biffy Dunderdale

Perhaps you could articulate why the British people should not be given the opportunity to have their say, instead of tribal snarkiness? If you think the European project is in rude health, presumably a referendum would be a walkover for you. So, where is the harm?

3. Leon Wolfson

@1 – No, MP’s are supposed to govern the country.

And yes, it could make the party a carbon copy of the Tories on the right, and when the voting share of the populace drops by 5% again and Labour lose again and again…well, that’s your aim isn’t it.

Umm, you’re using Clive Matthews, recipient of an EU prize for “objective” journalism about the EU, as your source there about the truth are you?

Oh, well done.

“Even further out there in left field is Dan Hannan, who kicks off his routinely dishonest rant by telling “Depending on how you measure it, between 50 and 84 per cent of our laws come from Brussels”.

Dan and factual accuracy are only very occasional bedfellows: the latest study on the matter concludes that the figure is around 15%.”

The other point about this is, well, how important is it who makes your laws?

We might argue that it’s like where you get your calories. Some in a restaurant, some at a sandwich bar, some at home. The precise mix doesn’t matter all that much.

We might also argue that it’s like sex. Getting a bit while, you’re out, a bit at home, well, reactions will be different, eh?

Certainly, the reaction of one’s inamorata to “No, not hungry, ate on the train” will be different to “No, no sex, had some on the train” won’t it?

So, is the law like food, most sources are just fine? Or like sex, you only get that at home? Or perhaps should do at least?

So, given all this direct democracy stuff, the referendum to remain in NATO will be just around the corner, then?

What’s rightwing about wanting a government that is accountable to the people?

Is Tony Benn rightwing too?

This side of sanity, does anyone seriously suppose it will be easier to protect Britain’s commercial interests by opting out of the EU?

It’s a complete illusion to suppose that we – with a population of 61 million – would get similar bilateral deals to Switzerland or Norway.

The EU negotiates as a bloc on behalf of all its members states in the WTO international trade rounds. How much weight would Britain carry by itself?

@ 2:

“Perhaps you could articulate why the British people should not be given the opportunity to have their say, instead of tribal snarkiness?”

The Tories are evil, therefore the causes they support must automatically be evil as well. Lots of Tories want a referendum on the EU, therefore holding a referendum on the EU must be an evil thing to do. QED.

@4 – If you’re opposed to the UN and international treaties of all kinds, sure.

Which you apparently are.

Tim W @4 – Dearest, you really must stop it with the constant attempts to imply that accepting a prize from the European Parliament somehow affects my impartiality. Not least because the piece in question was a) written over a year before I was given the award, and b) not commissioned or paid for by anyone.

In the piece I also provide links and references for all of my claims about the percentage of laws, and actively ask for evidence to the contrary – evidence that neither you nor any other eurosceptic commentator has managed to provide, more than two years after the piece was written.

More to the point, I believe (due to the mention of 15% as a figure) that Tim F is referring not to my piece but to the study by the House of Commons Library which I linked to in an update on that post earlier this year, when the study was released. (That same study has been repeatedly misquoted by eurosceptics as saying that 50% of laws come from the EU, but this is a major misreading/misunderstanding – deliberate or otherwise – of a single table from a lengthy and heavily-footnoted report.)

@7 which side of sanity are you talking about?

“It’s a complete illusion to suppose that we – with a population of 61 million – would get similar bilateral deals to Switzerland or Norway.”

Are you saying the bigger the population (i.e. the market) the worse deal we get? Why?

Me, I think one of the most hilarious examples of hysteria around the EU was Denis MacShane’s claim that a referendum would “unleash…a festival of xenophobic hate against Europe“. It isn’t just opponents of the Union who say foolish things.

Denis MacShane can usually be relied on to say something silly. He went OTT about joining the Eurozone c. 1999.. Fortunately, diminishingly few take him seriously.

The problem I always find with this issue is that both sides of the debate make such overblown claims. We would not be reduced to penury if we left and our trade with the rest of the world would not automatically boom. Our trade became more focused to the European geographical area and away from the ROW before we joined the EEC. Don’t be fooled by globalisation, as most trade all over the world is conducted between neighbours.

The claim that Europeans would stop trading with us if we left is truly bizarre. We have a trade deficit with them and the UK is the biggest export market for the EU. It would be extraordinarily myopic for the EU to then erect protectionist barriers towards the UK. Moreover, it would be illegal. It is ridiculous claims such as this that do the pro-EU case a disservice.

Why on earth would we have trouble with the WTO? The UK has traditionally be more free trade oriented than our protectionists friends on the continent and would presumably be more open to trade outside the EU. The UK does not want to stop the developing world selling their agricultural produce here. It is the protectionist EU that often stops them. The UK does not want to stop the poor Vietnamese and Chinese shoe and trainers producers selling here. The EU does that to protect the rent-seeking Spanish and Italian producers. The result is you pay higher prices to subsidise their rent-seeking.

I really do not know if we would be better off leaving. I am probably more convinced than ever that we would have been better off not joining in the first place. However, our membership is a fact and because we would have been better not joining does not automatically say to me that leaving would be the best thing. Debate in any society is surely healthy. So let’s have a debate where all sides can make their views known without the silly ignoring of this issue that clearly vexes some people.

@10

“the constant attempts to imply that accepting a prize from the European Parliament somehow affects my impartiality.”

Surely the implication is that it illustrates your partiality?

Umm, you’re using Clive Matthews, recipient of an EU prize for “objective” journalism about the EU, as your source there about the truth are you?

Lame Tim Worstall, really lame. Try harder next time.

@15 – indeed. But Worstall’s additionally implying that cause and effect are muddled – that I write stuff the EU likes because it gives me prizes rather than it gives me prizes because I write stuff the EU likes. (The fact that I frequently write stuff that the EU *doesn’t* like is conveniently ignored.)

18. Roger Mexico

There’s a nice illustration of how anti-EU hysteria works in the Telegraph article by Christopher Hope linked to in the OP:

The back-bench business committee yesterday voted to hold a debate on the issue on Oct 27 after more than 100,000 people signed a petition demanding a choice.

Now as it happens this is mostly untrue. A minute’s googling will show that the debate is actually being called at the request of a backbencher, David Nuttall (Con, Bury N):

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/backbench-business-committee/news/eu-referendum-and-nhs-care-of-older-people/

and the EU referendum petition on the website has only got about about 36,000 signatures:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/356

But rather than check these easily verifiable facts it’s much easier to believe what suits the emotional narrative of a people’s revolt against the evil empire rather than the reality of the backbench committee doing its job of representing backbenchers.

It’s a minor point, though one that also indicates the incredible laziness of the lobby. But it also shows how the EU has become a matter only for emotional workouts for the Right. They have no need to engage with its reality because in the end they know that the UK will stay in. I’m reminded of those Japanese salarymen who belabour stuffed images of their bosses with sticks, but then go back to bowing deeply to them the next day.

Whle the EU has very serious flaws, the truth is that the geopolical situation demands that we remain in it. The EU has 26% of the world’s wealth while Britain only has 3.6%, so it’s obvious that Britain on its own would have a lot less clout than a united EU could have.

This is relevant because China is resurgent and will overtake the USA some time in the next decade. And in the USA, the Republicans are manifestly unfit to rule: they prefer religion to science, want to live in the dark ages, and think that only the richest 1% should have a decent life.

So if Western civilisation is to be saved — and it is worth saving — who else can save it but Europe?

Excellent article. The loony wing of the conservative party and their backers among newspaper owners have completely entered fantasy land on this subject. The eurozone is outstripping us on growth and doing better than us on inflation and yet we are constantly told (at a scream) that the eurozone has collapsed and that people on the continent are fighting over the last few scraps of food.

We managed to kill off large sections of our industry by joining the EU late. We’re finished outside it.

21. Leon Wolfson

@14 – Indeed, the UK has historically had no problem with child workers and slaves in other countries producing goods for it. It’s SUCH a shame that the EU has forced us to be marginally socially concious.

And no, it would be PERFECTLY legal for a country leaving the EU, and hence pulling out of the free market zone, to have trade barriers erected against it. Free trade is not some kind of default state!

I hesitate to mention this but we’ve not had referendums on Britain’s membership of NATO, the UN, the Bank for International Settlements, the IMF, whether the Church of England should be the established church, retaining the monarchy, staying as a Parliamentary democracy or reinstating witchcraft as an indictable offence.

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 22

Precisely. This is another example of certain groups being happy to live in a representative democracy most of the time, but suddenly coming over all referendumy when they reckon a cause they like might win a popular vote.

Incidentally, does it not confuse anti-EU types that, if the EU is so unpopular, presumably a major political party could get a lot of votes by coming out against it, and yet they don’t? Even the Tories? Because that suggests to me that people who know what they’re talking about realise that leaving the EU would be a very bad idea.

This is another example of certain groups being happy to live in a representative democracy most of the time, but suddenly coming over all referendumy when they reckon a cause they like might win a popular vote.

I think it’s actually more a reflection of the apparent new convention that matters related to the constitutional establishment of the country should be put to a referendum. Labour effectively sold the pass on this by holding referendums on the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the North-East regional assembly, and the London Mayoralty and by announcing that a referendum would be held before signing the European Constitution (and I think joining the Euro, though I may be misremembering that one).

5 or 6 referendums start to look like a trend. Add to that the fact that our initial entry into the EC was confirmed by a referendum (another Labour referendum to boot) and that the essential terms of the relationship between UK and EU have changed dramatically since then, and you begin to see why there is a perfectly reasonable argument for another one. It’s not a call I agree with as it happens, but it’s not a lunatic thing to ask for.

My favourite line about referendums is Ken Clarke’s: “You ask the people for their view on bi-metallism and they reply ‘throw the rascals out!”

That’s one way to look at it. Another way is that this is an example of certain groups of people not wanting to have their country radically redefined and attached to another bunch of countries, and then noticing that most people probably agree with them. A referendum would go some way towards verifying this.

Given the fact that most people don’t want something to happen, why should it? Well, because most people ain’t in charge. We are. And we’ve decided that it’s in your best interests to have your country radically redefined and attached to another bunch of countries. Or at least, in ours, which amounts to the same thing. We ain’t interested in what you think, so whether you think it is totally irrelevant. Got that, everyone? Good.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 vimothy

“That’s one way to look at it. Another way is that this is an example of certain groups of people not wanting to have their country radically redefined and attached to another bunch of countries, and then noticing that most people probably agree with them. A referendum would go some way towards verifying this.”

We’re looking at different things. You’re talking about people’s reason for wanting out of the EU, I’m talking about the selectiveness of demands for referenda.

“Given the fact that most people don’t want something to happen, why should it? Well, because most people ain’t in charge. We are. And we’ve decided that it’s in your best interests to have your country radically redefined and attached to another bunch of countries. Or at least, in ours, which amounts to the same thing. We ain’t interested in what you think, so whether you think it is totally irrelevant. Got that, everyone? Good.”

There’s a middle ground between “we should always do whatever would win a popular vote” and “what the public think is totally irrelevant”. It’s called representative democracy.

I see you’re one of the people who likes to sarcastically push the “we know what’s best for you” line, but please bear in mind that there’s a lot to be said for specialisation. EU membership is a complex issue, and quite frankly an economist or an MP who deals with Europe is likely to know more about it than the man on the Clapham omnibus.

If you’re so anti-authority that the very idea of professional expertise offends you, I assume you’re happy to criminal trials to be decided by phone-in vote, and new laws to be written by crowd-sourcing on Twitter?

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 TimJ

“5 or 6 referendums start to look like a trend. ”

I’m not really in favour of referendums in general. If we’re going to have them (and I agree constitutional matters would be top of the list) I think we need a codified system saying when they are and aren’t required, rather than a case of “you can have your referendum if enough papers agree with you and raise a big fuss”.

Well, it’s just another way of looking at the same thing, like I said. Obviously, if you favour membership of the EU, then you favour the judgement of your elected representatives, since they will likely produce that outcome. If you would prefer not to be a part of the whole shebang, then you’d prefer a referendum, for exactly the same reason.

As for the wisdom of the experts, I’m afraid that it is little use in this sphere. There is no objective way to determine whether it would be better to be a part of the EU or not, and thus there are no people who are better skilled at determining it. It would be like trying to hire the best soothsayer. Whoever you get, they’ll still be staring at fish-guts.

Bob @ 22:

“I hesitate to mention this but we’ve not had referendums on Britain’s membership of NATO, the UN, the Bank for International Settlements, the IMF, whether the Church of England should be the established church, retaining the monarchy, staying as a Parliamentary democracy or reinstating witchcraft as an indictable offence.”

No, because the debate surrounding those things hasn’t really changed in recent years, whereas the debate surrounding the EU has. If Queen Elizabeth II had spent the last thirty years giving herself ever-increasing amounts of power, would you expect to have a say, or would you just go “Well, we decided we wanted to be a monarchy back in 1666, so there”?

30. Roger Mexico

One reason that the right are calling for a referendum to leave the EC is that they have to. The UK had a national referendum to confirm its membership back in 1975. I’m sure those advocates of representative democracy who are denouncing referendums would be very unhappy if a Conservative/UKIP parliament pulled out of the EC without consulting the people (though legally they could).

So as Tim J said at #24, Labour may have sold the pass on this one, but that was back in the Seventies not more recently (there were Scottish and Welsh referendums then as well).

If a referendum did take place (and remember it’s technically Lib Dem policy as well as the desire of a lot of Conservative MPs) I suspect people would vote to stay in, whatever the polls now say. The reason is the same as the main reason people voted against AV earlier this year (a referendum Tim J didn’t mention). Without being given good reason to do so people tend to vote against change. This was probably also the reason the 1975 referendum passed.

Besides if the UK actually left the EC, what would the Right and the Press do if they were deprived of their favourite punchbag? The British ruling classes take responsibility for their own decisions? That will never do.

“So, is the law like food, most sources are just fine? Or like sex, you only get that at home? Or perhaps should do at least?”

Now where is your sense of adventure Tim?

@11 Trooper Thomson

Are you saying the bigger the population (i.e. the market) the worse deal we get? Why?

Yes because Norway and Switzerland are niche economies, which provide services and little competition to the EU so they are tollerated.

The UK would be a major competitor. To compete the UK would need to undercut the EU by having worse employment regulations etc. The EU would state this a unfair competition and impose tariffs on our exports to the EU.
This would make our goods uncompetitive in the worlds largest market.
Foreign investors in the UK (most of our manufacturing) would move their production into the Eurozone to avaoid the tariffs (it’s why most of them are here in the firts place)
UK financial services would be excluded from the EU, and the bankers would up sticks to Frankfurt or Zurich

We could retalliate by imposing our own tariffs but e are so dependent on EU imports it would stoke inflation.

It is totally unrealistic to think we could simply leave the EU and continue trading on anything like favourable terms.

“The EU would state this a unfair competition and impose tariffs on our exports to the EU.”

Ah, no, trade and tariffs don’t work that way. If we left the EU then the worst that could happen to us is that we face “most favoured nation” tariffs under the WTO rules. On most manufactures around 3 or 4% then. On services usually nothing at all.

There’s actually been a whole book written about this, Patrick Minford. He says that leaving would grow our economy, not shrink it.

One reason that the right are calling for a referendum to leave the EC is that they have to. The UK had a national referendum to confirm its membership back in 1975.

EC != EU

(Not sure about the referendum / plebiscitary, mind)

The reason is the same as the main reason people voted against AV earlier this year (a referendum Tim J didn’t mention).

Good point – I appear to have successfully wiped that whole business from my mind. But it follows the same pattern as the others – a referendum on a proposed constitutional change. Which leaves the conclusion that the UK almost certainly couldn’t leave the EU without a referendum, but that there’s no particular constitutional reason why we should have one right now.

@29: “No, because the debate surrounding those things hasn’t really changed in recent years, whereas the debate surrounding the EU has”

The relevant question is whether dropping out of the EU would make it easier or more difficult to protect Britain’s commercial interests when 40% of Britain’s exports of goods and services go to the Eurozone. The EU negotiates in WTO international trade rounds on behalf of all EU members. How much weight would Britain have in negotiating just by itself? It’s delusional to expect Britain outisde the EU, with a population of 61 millions, to get similar bilateral arrangements to Switzerland and Norway for Britain’s trade with the EU. Just check on how many times Osborne has had to intervene in EU policy debates to defend the interests of Britain’s financial services industry.

Try sticking pins in a wax doll with a label saying EU instead.

Btw quite a few question whether the public money spent on the monarchy is worth while. Personally, I think the alternative of an elected politically partisan head of state would be worse. And I definitely question whether the Church of England should be the established church.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 vimothy

“Well, it’s just another way of looking at the same thing, like I said. Obviously, if you favour membership of the EU, then you favour the judgement of your elected representatives, since they will likely produce that outcome. If you would prefer not to be a part of the whole shebang, then you’d prefer a referendum, for exactly the same reason.”

I hope I’m not as biased as that, though I admit it’s hard for me to test it. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an equivalent where I disagree with the status quo and think the public would back me in a referendum (possibly legalisation of cannabis, albeit due to the “pro” side having more motivation to vote than the “anti” side). I think my objections to referendums are valid, though.

“As for the wisdom of the experts, I’m afraid that it is little use in this sphere. There is no objective way to determine whether it would be better to be a part of the EU or not, and thus there are no people who are better skilled at determining it. It would be like trying to hire the best soothsayer. Whoever you get, they’ll still be staring at fish-guts.”

There’s a big difference between experts considering an issue without 100% certainty and non-experts deciding it based on instinct and prejudice. There’s no objective way to know in advance whether a law is a “good” law, either: so again, you up for laws being drafted on Twitter? People being found guilty or not guilty by popular vote?

But this isn’t science–all the experts have to go on is their own instinct and prejudice. And it turns out that their instinct and prejudice is largely the same as yours.

If you want to design, I don’t know, a rocket ship, then it’s better to have a bunch of MIT grads than some hungover drop-out from U of Palookaville, or a committee of Daily Mail readers. There is a right way and a wrong way to design a rocket ship. If you want to answer the question, would we rather be a part of the EU or not, then that is simply a matter of opinion, and all the welfare analysis in the world won’t make it otherwise.

Phil Hunt presents an argument which clearly doesn’t add up:

Whle the EU has very serious flaws, the truth is that the geopolical situation demands that we remain in it. The EU has 26% of the world’s wealth while Britain only has 3.6%, so it’s obvious that Britain on its own would have a lot less clout than a united EU could have.

So rather than have the influence of 3.6% of the world’s wealth (and we have more influence than wealth alone anyway…) we would have one twenty-third share of 26% – the EU accords all its members equal voice you know. So by staying in the EU we get the equivalent voice of just over 1% of the world’s wealth (that is if the national voice is heard at all). I don’t think that makes much sense.

Also it misses the point – this is about democracy, not influence in the world. If impact on the world was the only criteria that counted, we should hand over government, rights etc to the big companies who could exploit us to the hilt. Mind you, I’d argue if you want to do that, stay in the EU…

40. Leon Wolfson

@33 – That’s got a massive heaping of assumptions, and assumes that among other things the EU as a whole is actually bound, which is debatable. And meanwhile they could do a huge amount of damage to a competitor.

Moreover, there are many other perfectly legal things they could do like revoking permission to stay for all non-working British people in the EU, sending several million older people back to us…

Perhaps the rest of europe should hold a referendum on whether they want us to be part of the EU?

Also, what happens if we hold one here, and england votes to get out, the other nations of the uk vote to stay in? (or vice versa, but that is unlikely)

Leon,

Moreover, there are many other perfectly legal things they could do like revoking permission to stay for all non-working British people in the EU, sending several million older people back to us…

Yes, because it is always a smart move to send people away who are bringing a capital stream into your country… You do realise most British people abroad are technically an import for us – we send money from Britain to them. So bringing them back would be the equivalent of exporting more – the money in the economy would increase (or to be technically correct, the money in the economy would stop decreasing so much). Not quite the problem you think, especially since many will have been in country long enough to claim citizenship should they wish.

It is the countries with nationals working here (I think I am correct that there is no EU country with a major imbalance towards our nationals working there) who would lose out – on income streams and also by having a lot of suddenly unemployed people to deal with. If you are going to come up with these arguments, it might be worth thinking them through first.

That’s got a massive heaping of assumptions, and assumes that among other things the EU as a whole is actually bound, which is debatable.

Bound by what? The only assumption is that the EU would not break WTO rules out of an irrational fit of counter-productive spite.

44. Chaise Guevara

@ 38 vimothy

Except that it helps to have a grounding in economics, knowlege of the trade that occurs between the member states, a detailed mission statement putting out a case for what we’d do if we did quit the union…

No matter how much you want to ignore this, expert opinion is better than ignorant opinion. And not knowing something for a certainty is not the same as having no idea whatsoever. It’s true that everyone is biased, but that doesn’t make every decision a coin toss.

45. Leon Wolfson

…No, they are NOT entitled to claim citizenship. Not if they haven’t filled certain criteria and are there only under EU rules. Which non-working people would be. Also, no, retirees are not a net positive economically. Remember that NHS thing?

And non-working people? Shies yes we have more abroad than other countries do here, propaganda notwithstanding. I’m not talking about throwing out working people, that’d cause a huge trade war.

46. Leon Wolfson

@43 – Is that what you call rational interest, when the WTO rules don’t properly address the situation, and given the specifics of the EU treaties would very probably in two opinions I’ve seen not apply.

Leon,

…No, they are NOT entitled to claim citizenship. Not if they haven’t filled certain criteria and are there only under EU rules. Which non-working people would be. Also, no, retirees are not a net positive economically. Remember that NHS thing?

Yes. It’s the thing that treats the expatriates who return to the UK when they fall seriously ill, because its cheaper for them…

Retirees are not a net positive – but retirees coming back here will be since the money they spend will now be in the economy. It will not increase the number of retirees, just reduce the flow of money out of the country. Hence my focus on imports and exports.

As to the citizenship thing, most countries have a residency requirement which means that people can take up citizenship after a period of time residing there legally. Now, as the EU thing would be legal up to the UK leaving (and this is assuming we do not negotiate new freedom of movement treaties – which would be quite likely) residence under EU law would have to be counted. You do not just ignore previous residence in cases such as this you know.

And non-working people? Shies yes we have more abroad than other countries do here, propaganda notwithstanding. I’m not talking about throwing out working people, that’d cause a huge trade war.

Hmm. Not sure how you’d do that you know – distinguish between one and the other. Either there is a right to stay, or there isn’t – obviously whatever system allows the employment of some overseas nationals would apply, but otherwise it would be ridiculous.

Anyway, I notice that no British retirees can be found in the US or Australia for example. So obviously your case is based on existing precedents…

46 – the EU is a member of the WTO, as are each of the 27 members individually. They wouldn’t be in a position to level enormous tariffs against the UK, even if they were economically crazy enough to want to.

If you believe that the EU will start a trade war with the UK if the UK leaves, then you have to believe that the remaining member states will act against their own diplomatic and economic self-interest. It’s possible, but it’s hardly likely.

49. Roger Thate

@7 Bob B

“It’s a complete illusion to suppose that we – with a population of 61 million – would get similar bilateral deals to Switzerland or Norway.”

Well, if not Switzerland or Norway, how about South Korea?
They have 49 Million people, and are not even in Europe…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_-_Korea_Free_Trade_Agreement

If the EU is vindictive enough to impose trade barriers on the UK should we withdraw, tells you everything you need to know about our ‘friends’ on the continent. But as we are running a large trade deficit with the EU, it smacks of cutting your nose off to spite your face. Nose Monkey, a very apt name.

Laughing at the rightwing europhobes!

Everything they think is wrong. The hysteria over the EU especially so.

Oh boy they’re going to be so disappointed come Monday night!

Can’t wait!

Given that a majority of the UK adult population wants an in/out referendum

The UK adult population want referendums about lots of things.

Not sure that Spain would chuck out all the British pensioners while it’s in financial trouble.

BenM,

Laughing at the rightwing europhobes!

Are people irrationally afraid of Europe (or perhaps coins from the single European currency) then? Nice to see your sympathetic attitude towards the afflicted though. What other phobias do you find funny? Or perhaps you meant something different…

Everything they think is wrong. The hysteria over the EU especially so.

So according to you the sun rises in the west, people are generally evil and there is no role for government at all (those are all the diametically opposite points to what I think). Interesting point of view you have there – you also believe incidentally that it is correct that the political views of an unelected bureaucracy should be imposed on us (since that is the opposite of what I think).

Oh boy they’re going to be so disappointed come Monday night!

Is Doc Martin not on?

Can’t wait!

Sad case. It seems you can troll a site you agree with…

Incidentally, those of us who would like a referendum (regardless of how we would intend to vote) don’t expect the vote to pass – we can do maths as well as you (probably a lot better considering your total logic fail above).

“The UK adult population want referendums about lots of things”

And I would put money on there being one on europe within the next 10 years. The result of which will depend on how the undecided vote.

What bullet points would you make in favour of the EU that you would put on a campaign leaflet?

I seriously doubt that the following would be persuasive:

– Everything eurosceptics think is wrong
– Eurosceptics are stupid

Ben @ 50:

“europhobes”

So people who disagree with you are mentally ill, then? What an interesting use of the English language.

Also, given your reference to “right-wing europhobes”, am I to take it that you’re fine with left-wingers who are against the EU? Or are you trying to conflate the right with euroscepticism?

“Everything they think is wrong.”

So if we take, say, Dan Hannan and Tony Benn as two examples of euroscpetics, then are we to infer that every opinion these two people hold is wrong? So, because Dan Hannan is pro-small government, then he must be wrong, so big government must be the way forward. But because Tony Benn is pro-big goverment, big government can’t be right, so small-government is clearly the correct option. But wait — we’ve already established that that can’t be the case. Oh dear, logic.

53.

you also believe incidentally that it is correct that the political views of an unelected bureaucracy should be imposed on us

Um, the EU is not unelected. European Parliament, Council of Ministers.

Nothing is imposed on the UK. That’s your paranoid fantasy.

Britain is in the EU so has a say in everything it does.

You might not like that reality. But there it is.

This is why rampant Europhobe Tories end up behaving far more rationally in government than in front of their – usually ignorant – slavering Europhobe voters.

What bullet points would you make in favour of the EU that you would put on a campaign leaflet?

I seriously doubt that the following would be persuasive:

– Everything eurosceptics think is wrong
– Eurosceptics are stupid

Wasn’t that (with appropriate amendments) more or less the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign?

58. Chaise Guevara

@ 53 Watchman

Well said – even if I disagree with you on Europe.

21. Leon Wolfson

” Indeed, the UK has historically had no problem with child workers and slaves in other countries producing goods for it. It’s SUCH a shame that the EU has forced us to be marginally socially concious. ”

You really do like making a fool of yourself, Leon. The tariffs were nothing to do with concerns about child labour and everything to do with protectionism.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8426432.stm

You do know the tariffs expired on 31/03/11? So a question for Leon. Did the EU care about child labour until 31/03/11. However, on the 01/04/11 they stopped caring?

54.

A campaign leaflet would have something like:

– World’s largest single market
– 3 million jobs directly impacted by withdrawal
– Our membership key driver in FDI decisions
– Would still need to comply with EU rules as 50% of exports go there
– Would still need to pay EU for access to that market.

I think the “Outers” would be dead in the water.

Ben, excellent. Now that is a case that things can be based around – because a referendum will happen – and is more positive than the abusive stance.

@49: “If the EU is vindictive enough to impose trade barriers on the UK should we withdraw, tells you everything you need to know about our ‘friends’ on the continent.”

It’s naive to suppose that the EU sans Britain will behave “vindictively”. Europeans are more subtle than that.

Just check back on how many times Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and then George Osborne had to intervene in a series of EU policy debates to protect the international trading interests of the City from EU proposals.

Most recently, it was the proposal to introduce that Tobin tax on financial transactions, the main burden of which would have fallen on Britain because of our large financial services industry – London is the world’s largest foreign exchange market by far and one of the largest corporate bond markets. There are several other financial centres in Europe which would like that business and it’s unwise to assume European bureaucrats are all a bit dim.

The Single European Market isn’t complete yet, especially in respect of trade in services in which Britain holds a comparative advantage – Britain is the second largest exporter of services after America.

This pressure for a referendum in current circumstances confirms what many have suspected – an awful lot of Conservatives nowadays are Brain lite.

As an ancient who campaigned in the 1975 referendum – alongside a Conservative guy who went on to become an MEP – the main opposition then came from the likes of Wedgie Benn, Peter Shore and Michael Foot. The Attlee government had refused to participate in the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 because they thought that would interfer with their vision of a socialist future for Britain’s coal and steel industry. Really! It was the Conservative Party which pushed for Britain to join the European Common Market, starting with the application by by the Macmillan government in 1961. The Heath government negotiated Britain’s accession for 1973. The Thatcher government pressed for the Single European Market.

What really worries me as an ancient, is not the EU but this recent report in the Telegraph – and I’ve noticed there aren’t any Conservatives pressing for a government response about that:

Elderly patients condemned to early death by secret use of do not resuscitate orders
Elderly patients are being condemned to an early death by hospitals making secret use of “do not resuscitate” orders, an investigation has found.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/8829350/Elderly-patients-condemned-to-early-death-by-secret-use-of-do-not-resuscitate-orders.html

62
And if wouldn’t surprise me if assisted suicide was de-criminalized.

Killing off ancients is a sure way of reducing the budget deficit with all those potential savings in prospective healthcare costs and, of course, no more state pension payments. The bean counters are probably already doing their sums and grinning.

Why do Tories hate the EU so much? It’s dominated by right-wingers and enshrines their economic policies. If Britain left the EU, nationalisation would be on the cards again.

It’d be foolish to leave the EU, but the left should endeavour to scrap the aspects of it that enforce privatisation and neo-liberalism. I think some of us tend to act as if the social Europe we aspire to already exists, but in fact all the work of rescuing the European project from the right is still all to do.

Is there any leftwinger against the referendum who wants to give a straight answer to why we shouldn’t have one?

If it’s because the people are too stupid and irrational to decide, then does this also apply when there’s a massive anti-cuts demo? What would you say to someone who dismissed that by saying the people are too stupid and should leave it to the experts in the Tory government?

Is it because only rightwingers are in favour of leaving? If so, does this make Tony Benn a rightwinger? The fact is, as Hugh Gaitskell spelled out to the Labour conference in 1962 on this very subject ‘politics makes for strange bedfellows’.

@ 66:

“Is there any leftwinger against the referendum who wants to give a straight answer to why we shouldn’t have one?”

Most (though not all) people base their opinions on whether a referendum would be a good idea on whether they think their side will win, not whether holding referenda on such issues is a good thing in principle. But this looks rather cynical, so most people are reluctant to admit it, hence the lack of straight answers.

“If it’s because the people are too stupid and irrational to decide, then does this also apply when there’s a massive anti-cuts demo?”

Or indeed the AV referendum. I don’t recall many people at the time saying “No, referenda are bad, we should leave this issue to Parliament to decide!”

A referendum on EU membership would be a gross waste of time and money, especially so in current challenging circumstances. IMO the outters would most lkely lose. Even if they didn’t, the EU wouldn’t just disappear to please them and we would have to find a way of trading with the EU on its terms and where it decides the standards that traded products and services will have to conform with.

As BenM has pointed out @60, what of those inward investment companies – like the Japanese car companies: Nissan, Toyota and Honda – who came to Britain in the expectation that they would be able to export cars to mainland EU countries and to source parts? Britain remains high in the international league table for attracting inward direct investment and it’s extremely unlikely that would continue if Britain left the EU.

69. Leon Wolfson

@48 – I can believe you, a 1%er, or I can believe well-prepared legal opinions about the risks. Hum.

@49 – Because we’ve been spitting in their faces for 20 years, yes.

@52 – They’re a net drain after health costs, again.

@59 – That’s right, you believe that anyone inferior to you is a slave anyway and don’t care. Forgot that one.

@62 – To protect the bubble which so recently burst? Oh yes, because they were SO right to blow harder!

And so now the Eurozone gets a Tobin tax designed to hammer externals, and the City goes anyway. *claps*

@ 69 Leon

And the city goes away, and so do your tax revenues which pay for a large portion of the UKs vast social security budget.

*claps*

Having just got back from Geneva this evening, there really is nothing I can see which would stop us leaving the EU and in it’s place joining the EFTA group along with Switzerland and Norway.

It really would do very little to our economy in terms of imports and export dynamics, and trade tarrifs to block UK exports to the EU would actually be illegal in many cases, and pretty short sighted of the EU in pretty much all others. If anything, having less red tape and being better able to set our own policies to suit our own economy would likely help the economy be more competative rather than less.

As for the point about products meeting EU regulations – again immaterial. It doesn’t matter where they are produced as long as they meet the standards.

The real ponit though is who we want to be governed by. I think our parliament and courts should be supreme in our country, yet we have a situation where our vote is watered down time and time again in Europe. We only get to directly elect our MEPs, but they are near enough powerless. The actual levers of power we have absolutely no say in. Did anyone on this site vote for Herman Van Rompey, or anyone else in the European Commission? Wasn’t Baroness Ashton simply appointed?

That is where the problem lies. There is a serious democratic deficit. At least in the UK every 4 or 5 years we can vote out the government. In the EU its hard to say who the government really even is, yet many of the decisions they make have serious implications for our country and our laws.

Not that it really matters because this crisis is the beginning of the end for the Euro and the EU in current form, as trying to patch it together will likely push France and German financing costs into danger territory. Turns out the people sceptical about the Euro currency were pretty much right all along.

“Did anyone on this site vote for Herman Van Rompey, or anyone else in the European Commission? Wasn’t Baroness Ashton simply appointed?”

For pete sake stop trotting this out. They are officials. Did anyone on this site get to vote for the head of the British civil service or anyone else in it?

@72 Chris

Sure they are officials, but they have real power, spend huge amounts of our money and we have absolutely no way of kicking them out. They are totally unelected.

The UK civil service DON’T have decision making powers over our laws, and work for the government who we *can* kick out if the electorate choose to do so.

@73:

But the EU won’t go away if Britain leaves. Without any British input, the EU will just go on making decisions about regulations and standards that will affect Britain’s trading interests in Europe anyway.

“Did anyone on this site get to vote for the head of the British civil service or anyone else in it?”

Did anyone on this site get to vote for our Head of State? Did anyone get to vote for Liberal Democrats to go into coalition with the nasty party?

http://cuttingedge2.forumotion.co.uk/t47-the-eu-is-the-future

“The real ponit though is who we want to be governed by. I think our parliament and courts should be supreme in our country, yet we have a situation where our vote is watered down time and time again in Europe. We only get to directly elect our MEPs, but they are near enough powerless. The actual levers of power we have absolutely no say in. Did anyone on this site vote for Herman Van Rompey, or anyone else in the European Commission? Wasn’t Baroness Ashton simply appointed?”

The real point is how astoundingly people misunderstand representative democracy. Lets just break this down…

First, who do we want to be governed by. Where do you stop with this? Why do I get represented by westminster? Why haven’t I got a regional South West government that negotiates on policy with the rest of the UK while maintaining an agreed trade system between regions? Why not town? Why not street level crime policy?

I’m not going to claim one level over another is correct, because it is arbitrary. There are countries in the EU with governments that preside over less of a population than my local constituency, this doesn’t mean that my constituency should be an autonomous EU member state, nor does it mean those small countries shouldn’t be.

You think our parliament and courts should be supreme, yet there is no discernible reason why they should be other than through some kind of nationalistic pride. To argue that the parliament should be supreme is also to argue that a town council should supersede the authority of parliament. If you don’t argue this it’s only because you’ve chosen your own personal and subjective limit of where to draw the line on where authority should reside. But it is just that, subjective…arbitrary.

Our vote is not “watered down” in Europe, it is proportionate. Sure, it may become less strong as more people join the party, but it’s still a fair vote.

To talk of MEPs as powerless is ridiculous. There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs in this country. Do you believe that MPs are powerless in this country?

Then we come to the crux of the whole representative democracy thing. For a start you’re overly simplistic on the realities of the “election” of the president of the council of Europe. The European council is every head of state for those in the EU, and has the responsibility for political objectives. It is therefore entirely democratic that heads of state (either directly elected, or indirectly elected) then go on to “elect” their own president, in this case through a unanimous decision by all heads of state.

In essence the president of the EC has one of the best mandates of any politician in the world through representative democracy. And yes, Ashton was also “appointed” but only by in practice getting a majority of “votes”.

It’s time to start thinking a little bit more maturely about the EU (or perhaps to simply start thinking). In the UK we elect an MP who does little but bring our concerns to parliament as a very influential lobbyist (at least if a member of the ruling party), and has a small say on implementation of policy. That MP then helps decide which party wins, and that party democratically decides who will lead them. All the EU does (outside of the situation of MEPs, which is exactly comparable to MPs) is for the purposes of European wide political direction then extend that party (through their leader) to be our voice. It’s not an alien concept, and it’s readily embraced in this country within our own borders.

So who do we want to be governed by? We decide by who we vote for to decide the policy direction of the country, and therefore what type of policy direction we want to take on to be considered in Europe. If we have a problem with how we’re governed in the EU then we better tear up what constitution we have with our own national governance and try again.

78. Leon Wolfson

@47 – A period *working*.

“You do not just ignore previous residence in cases such as this you know.”

Yes, you certainly CAN. We’d have to negotiate for it being counted. And quite likely add to the bill we’d have to pay for EEA/EFTA access for it.

“Not sure how you’d do that you know – distinguish between one and the other.”

If they have a job. Geez.

There is a VAST difference between leaving a bloc, and treaties regarding residence for our nations negotiated with other nations.

@77 Lee Griffin,

there’s a fair measure of hogwash in that post of yours.

“The real point is how astoundingly people misunderstand representative democracy. Lets just break this down…”

What rubbish is this? How is a campaign to change a government policy outside the pale of representative democracy? The position of this government on the issue of EU membership is disliked and opposed by many people in this country and you cannot surely object to such people exercising their democratic right and proclaiming such opinions in the hope of bringing this change, and you are of course free to disagree with such opinions, but why do you disagree.

You write at length of the arbitrariness of political divisions. There is of course some truth to this, although if they be so arbitrary, why object to those who seek to make them less so? Your position seems to amount to a Panglossian conservatism.

79, you appear to have woefully or stupidly misunderstood what I actually said. Feel free to try again.

Woefully = wilfully

Lee @ 77:

“I’m not going to claim one level over another is correct,”

Then surely there’s nothing wrong with trying to replace one level of government (the EU) with another (Parliament)?

“You think our parliament and courts should be supreme, yet there is no discernible reason why they should be other than through some kind of nationalistic pride.”

Democratic government can only really work if people see themselves as being part of the same community, having the same interests and goals. If people identify as British (French, German, Greek…) first and European second, then it’s going to be hard to have a working democracy. Preferring to be governed by your own nation’s legislature rather than a super-national body may not be 100% rational, but you’ll still come a cropper if you ignore that fact.

“To argue that the parliament should be supreme is also to argue that a town council should supersede the authority of parliament.”

Erm, how, exactly?

“But it is just that, subjective…arbitrary.”

In which case your own support for the EU is also subjective and arbitrary, and you can’t meaningfully criticise people who disagree with you, just like I can’t meaningfully criticise people who don’t share my taste in clothing.

“To talk of MEPs as powerless is ridiculous. There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs in this country. Do you believe that MPs are powerless in this country?”

I’m afraid I fail to see any connexion between “There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs” to “MEPs have power”, and the connexion from that to “Anybody who thinks MEPs are powerless must also think the same of MPs” is also a mystery. Care to explain it for us poor souls who don’t share your amazing grasp of logic?

“It is therefore entirely democratic that heads of state (either directly elected, or indirectly elected) then go on to “elect” their own president,”

It’s less democratic than voting directly for a head of state, though. The more layers you put between the actual vote and the choosing of the person, the less influence the public have, and therefore the less democratic it is.

“If we have a problem with how we’re governed in the EU then we better tear up what constitution we have with our own national governance and try again.”

Or, y’know, try and get the government to change its policy on the EU. By, for example, holding a referendum on the matter.

“Then surely there’s nothing wrong with trying to replace one level of government (the EU) with another (Parliament)?”

And similarly nothing wrong with just sticking with the EU

“Democratic government can only really work if people see themselves as being part of the same community, having the same interests and goals. If people identify as British (French, German, Greek…) first and European second, then it’s going to be hard to have a working democracy. Preferring to be governed by your own nation’s legislature rather than a super-national body may not be 100% rational, but you’ll still come a cropper if you ignore that fact.”

And do northerners see themselves the same as southerners? Men the same as women? under 30s the same as over 65s? Lets draw more arbitrary ways we can divide ourselves in to this discussion that are irrelevant to the effectiveness and objective benefits of the system at hand, even if following the argument you present discredits our own government too.

“Erm, how, exactly?”

simple logical progression of the argument.

“In which case your own support for the EU is also subjective and arbitrary, and you can’t meaningfully criticise people who disagree with you, just like I can’t meaningfully criticise people who don’t share my taste in clothing.”

My support for the EU isn’t based on the idea of it being more or less appropriate for a national government to be 100% in control of their policy, so it’s not really comparable to my discussion here that is purely about the weakness of such arguments.

But yes, if my only argument for the EU was that I believe we should be governed by a wider body than the UK government alone, you might have a point. But that’s not my stance.

“I’m afraid I fail to see any connexion between “There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs” to “MEPs have power”, and the connexion from that to “Anybody who thinks MEPs are powerless must also think the same of MPs” is also a mystery. Care to explain it for us poor souls who don’t share your amazing grasp of logic?”

You don’t understand how MEPs operate? That probably helps to explain things.

“It’s less democratic than voting directly for a head of state, though. The more layers you put between the actual vote and the choosing of the person, the less influence the public have, and therefore the less democratic it is.”

Yet also the more useful it is. Representative democracy has it’s benefits in application of knowledge. Sure, every EU member’s population could vote for an EU president, but would that president be any good for the job? The current president was chosen for his ability to lead a country in political turmoil through it’s rough times. Would the public have chosen him? Maybe…but in reality it’s more likely we would have got a “superstar” politician. The further people are from the position they are voting for, the less informed their decision is.

If I’m voting for my local councillor I’m able to very clearly get a definition of what their aims and objectives are, and on top of that understand them as they’re relevant to me. Go to MP level and those objective generalise, some are relevant, some aren’t. Go to party level and it generalises even further. I’d *hate* to have to help elect a president of the EU, most of their issues wouldn’t be relevant to me, and I know full well that those less inclined in politics wouldn’t even bother to work out what they stand for outside of the typical left, right or liberal leanings…if they even bothered to vote for such an abstract position in the first place.

Heads of member states electing their president is democratic, it’s a different type of democratic, but I’d argue it is a better kind of democratic too given the remit of the president.

“Or, y’know, try and get the government to change its policy on the EU. By, for example, holding a referendum on the matter.”

You’ve missed the point by a mile.

Lee @ 83:

“And similarly nothing wrong with just sticking with the EU”

No. In which case, I’m not sure how you’d advocate deciding which level of government should be the highest. Tossing a coin? Pulling a name out of a hat?

“And do northerners see themselves the same as southerners? Men the same as women? under 30s the same as over 65s?”

I’d wager that they feel more in common with each other than an Englishman feels with a Greek, for example.

“irrelevant to the effectiveness and objective benefits of the system at hand,”

The effectiveness of a democratic system, and therefore the benefits it brings, depend to a large degree on a sense of community among the voters.

“simple logical progression of the argument.”

No more than “Banning any criticism of the government” is the logical result of “Having laws against slander”.

“But yes, if my only argument for the EU was that I believe we should be governed by a wider body than the UK government alone, you might have a point. But that’s not my stance.”

Well no, judging by what you’ve already said, your “stance” is entirely based on arbitrary preference. There’s no point trying to argue you out of it, because you haven’t argued yourself into it in the first place.

“You don’t understand how MEPs operate?”

I don’t understand how there being a large number of MEPs somehow makes the European Parliament more powerful.

“Sure, every EU member’s population could vote for an EU president, but would that president be any good for the job?”

You could make that argument about any election.

“You’ve missed the point by a mile.”

Probably because it’s buried under a heap of non sequiturs and logical fallacies.

85. Leon Wolfson

“The effectiveness of a democratic system, and therefore the benefits it brings, depend to a large degree on a sense of community among the voters.”

Got a cite on that?

@ Lee Griffin,

I think XXX is making a similar point to me, that, as you declare that political boundaries are arbitrary, then you are in a very weak position to defend the status quo.

87. soosy swell member

Yes the Tory’s are gearing up for hysteria. In fact I heard that at one meeting an activist got so excited that she put two sugars in her tea having forgotten that she was trying to cut down to one sugar.

@ Lee Griffin

“In essence the president of the EC has one of the best mandates of any politician in the world through representative democracy. And yes, Ashton was also “appointed” but only by in practice getting a majority of “votes”.”

I honestly don’t know wether to laugh, cry, or tell you to stop taking so many mind altering drugs.

Many members of the EC have no democratic mandate. Ashton and for that matter Barroso were not voted for at all, and the EU electorate have no way to remove them at all. Yet the MEPs we can vote for are nearly powerless, not least because the EC can and does pass legislation without their approval.

Democracy is an imperfect system, but at least we in the UK have the one major failsafe intact – removal. This simply does not exist in the EU any more.

@75 Bob B

Are you for real? The EU won’t go away if we leave, and any products sold into the EU would still have to meet their inane requirements, but we would not have to put up with all their ludicrous beaurocratic rules nor pay huge amounts of moeny to be part of their club. The Swiss and Norweigans seem to be doing well enough without the EU, for example.

“No. In which case, I’m not sure how you’d advocate deciding which level of government should be the highest. Tossing a coin? Pulling a name out of a hat?”

Maybe by not making a decision on the effectiveness and need of the EU based on such criteria perhaps?

“I’d wager that they feel more in common with each other than an Englishman feels with a Greek, for example.”

And I imagine they’d feel more in common with a Greek than the Chinese or Russians. And I imagine we all feel we’d have more in common with each other than an as yet to be discovered alien race. Let’s just keep going back and forth o these arbitrary lines of distinction!

As I said before, your discussion on this is one that lends itself to asking why we have a national government rather than a series of regional governments. Interesting none of you have dealt with that analysis.

“The effectiveness of a democratic system, and therefore the benefits it brings, depend to a large degree on a sense of community among the voters.”

Profound. Do you have any studies to back that statement up?

“Well no, judging by what you’ve already said, your “stance” is entirely based on arbitrary preference. There’s no point trying to argue you out of it, because you haven’t argued yourself into it in the first place.”

My stance has nothing to do with particular groupings of people or the affinity they supposedly feel to each other, I’m just arguing here against that kind of reasoning.

“I don’t understand how there being a large number of MEPs somehow makes the European Parliament more powerful.”

Neither do I, but then that’s not what I said. Read it again.

“You could make that argument about any election.”

You could indeed, hence why I’m a supporter of representative democracy where the only people you elect are people that are purely to act as your proxy because you understand they would be a good proxy. Those people can go on to elect others, or appoint others, from a position of greater knowledge and authority with the underlying knowledge they can lose their position if they don’t act as a good proxy. Having billions of people voting for something so broad as the EU presidency is bad democracy. It only works in America because they have such a binary system.

“Probably because it’s buried under a heap of non sequiturs and logical fallacies.”

If you’re unable to follow the logic that’s fine, no-one is here to hold you hand, but it certainly explains why you seem to have such a terrible base of argument against the EU.

“I think XXX is making a similar point to me, that, as you declare that political boundaries are arbitrary, then you are in a very weak position to defend the status quo.”

I’m not making an argument for the EU on arbitrary boundaries, as stated previously, I’m laying out why the argument about the need for the EU based on boundaries is a bad argument. I’m glad you agree with that

“Many members of the EC have no democratic mandate. Ashton and for that matter Barroso were not voted for at all”

Yes they were, by the heads of the member states that make up the EU.

“and the EU electorate have no way to remove them at all”

Quite right, the president of the EC is a representative of the heads of member states, not a representative of the people of the EU. If people want to influence the presidential appointment then they need to elect different heads of state. You can’t remove our foreign secretary, or our Prime Minister, or any other cabinet member. This is the same kind of deal.

The president is also someone completely separate from the process of making policy, and our representation in that field is through MEPs, who have every way to remove MEPs if they so wish as people of the UK have to remove their MP.

“This simply does not exist in the EU any more.”

Ignorant nonsense.

“The Swiss and Norweigans seem to be doing well enough without the EU, for example.”

They’re also completely different from the UK. And, as this article rightly says, what about Iceland? They’re not doing well at all.

http://www.jcm.org.uk/blog/2011/05/why-britain-leaving-the-eu-for-the-eea-or-efta-will-not-solve-any-of-the-anti-eu-crowds-complaints/

@ 89 Lee

Ashton and Barosso are APPOINTED officials with great power. They are UNELECTED.

They have NO democratic mandate. In fact Ashton has NEVER won ANY election.

As much as you might say that UK ministers aren’t elected to their posts, they are at least elected to represent their constituents in government, with their ministerial roles being temporary roles allowed through being part of the elected governing party.

Elected. Read that again a few times. It’s really quite important in a democracy.

@ 90 Lee

Iceland is a completely different story, and nothing to do with being in or out of the EU. Their banks went bankrupt as they simply had way too much debt and leverage, and the country was too small to stand behind them.

However, whilst they had a short very painful recession, their currency devalued and their economy became much more competative, so are actually growing really quite nicely again, Faster than pretty much anywhere else in Europe in fact. Something they wouldn’t have been able to do if they were trapped in the Euro. Iceland at one point was likely to adopt the Euro, but after their own problems and the lessons of Greece, it is almost certainly never going to happen now, and rightly so.

92. Leon Wolfson

@91 – Appointed directly by elected government heads. Unless you’re suggesting that anyone appointed automatically becomes un-democratic…

And yes, the LIMITATION of elections to REPRESENTATIVES in government is one of the keys to it!

And MEP’s would have had even more power had not the Right in Europe blocked it!

Lee @ 89:

“And I imagine they’d feel more in common with a Greek than the Chinese or Russians.”

Probably. In none of these cases, however, would they feel enough in common to consider themselves to be one people.

“Let’s just keep going back and forth o these arbitrary lines of distinction!”

They’re not arbitrary, they’re based on a shared feeling of nationhood. Such feelings may not be entirely rational, but — shock, horror! — neither are people in general. Most decide questions of who should govern them based at least partly on emotional ideas like shared history or common culture. Until you start accounting for this, you aren’t going to convince many people of the desirability of a single European government. No doubt you’ll keep telling yourself that this failure is due to the evil media and foreign companies, though.

“As I said before, your discussion on this is one that lends itself to asking why we have a national government rather than a series of regional governments.”

A person living in Cumberland and a person living in Kent would both consider themselves to be English. There is a sense of shared nationhood there, and therefore people consider it desirable to live under the same government. The same can’t be said of somebody living in England and somebody living in Greece.

“Profound. Do you have any studies to back that statement up?”

A cursory glance through a history book will reveal that countries whose inhabitants don’t want to have the same government tend to break apart or collapse into civil war and genocide. Or both.

“Neither do I, but then that’s not what I said. Read it again.”

You said that “To talk of MEPs as powerless is ridiculous. There are about as many MEPs as there are MPs in this country.” Now, the way this is phrased implies that you think there is some sort of logical connexion between these two statements — i.e., that it’s ridiculous to call MEPs powerless *because* there are about as many MEPs as MPs. But given that that’s apparently not what you mean, would you care to explain your reasoning for the rest of us?

“You could indeed, hence why I’m a supporter of representative democracy where the only people you elect are people that are purely to act as your proxy because you understand they would be a good proxy.”

But why bother with any form of election at all? Why not just abolish elections altogether and have some sort of benevolent dictatorship?

94. Leon Wolfson

@93 – So we’re going to split the country down party political lines then? The Tories are part of no people I recognise.

Leon @ 94:

“So we’re going to split the country down party political lines then? The Tories are part of no people I recognise.”

Fortunately your position appears to be very much in the minority. Also, “the Tories are part of no people I recognise”? Jesus Christ, do you have any idea what a disgusting sentiment that is?

96. Leon Wolfson

It’s a direct return of their identity politics. If it’s good enough for them, why isn’t it good enough for me?

Except I’m only excluding /them/, of course; I don’t recognise English nationalism (as opposed to British nationalism), I never have. It’s literally meaningless to me, as someone who isn’t Anglo-Saxon (“White Other”, for reference). So when the Tories pursue it with vigour…

@96 Leon,

I’ve worked out what political ideology you ascribe to: hatredism.

98. Leon Wolfson

@97 – And as usual, the far right ascribe their own ideology to everyone else.

@ 94 Leon

Except more people voted Tory than Labour.

If it’s my tribe against your tribe….

In general though, your outlook on life and politics seems to have not out grown studenthood.

100. Leon Wolfson

@99 – I’m a left winger, not a Labourite.

And you’re the one who thinks in terms of identity politics and tribes. Again, Tory.
And insults based on some people not being “allowed” to participate. Again, Tory.

Tory really IS a vile insult these days.

Leon @ 96:

“Except I’m only excluding /them/, of course; I don’t recognise English nationalism (as opposed to British nationalism), I never have. It’s literally meaningless to me, as someone who isn’t Anglo-Saxon (“White Other”, for reference).”

Just because it’s meaningless to you doesn’t make it meaningless to everybody else. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t recognise the fact that national identity means something to a lot of people. Saying “I don’t like this, therefore it’s not worth taking into account” is an extremely arrogant position to take.

@ Leon

I honestly cannot think of anything more disgusting than socialism, given the number of people that have died or been indentured under its cold, clammy, corrupt grip.

Your politics seems to have not matured much past the playground. My parents both grew up in communist Hurgary, and have seen the culture of control and dependency socialism seeks to engender, both there and here in the UK. Socialism seeks to control people through the arms of the state. If that isn’t evil, I really don’t know what is. Socialism; it’s a system which has proven time and time again to be a failed one which brings nothing but misery to its people.


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