Why We Brits Should Vote for Brexit.
By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.
As a Europhile British ex-pat who has spent most of his adult life living on “the continent,” as we Brits are fond of calling the non-British part of Europe, it might seem rather odd to be encouraging my fellow Brits to vote to leave the European Union.
Not so long ago — perhaps a decade or so — I believed that the interests of Britain would be best served if the country was a full-fledged member not only of the EU but of the euro zone. I was wrong, but it was a different time and I was a different, more innocent me.
By the time the sovereign debt crisis hit Europe in 2010, the full extent of the EU’s ambitions was clear: to slowly, almost imperceptibly, weaken nation-state institutions to the point of total dependence on Brussels; and then have them supplanted with EU institutions. As I wrote in a 2014 article, it is the financial equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. The EU’s weapon of choice was the single currency.
Luckily for Britain, its government had not joined the euro. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at the turn of the century, Gordon Brown, knew that sacrificing the pound would have been electoral suicide. Preserving the national currency has provided the UK with some measure of economic independence and flexibility.
For many other European countries, their economic independence and flexibility died the day they joined the euro. As Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos recently put it, “the Eurozone is a club where you can check in but you cannot check out.” The main reason for this is that the euro is merely a means to a much more coveted end — political union, as Germany’s Finance Minister glibly admitted in a 2011 interview with Welt am Sontag:
Schauble: “We decided to arrive at a political union via an economic and currency union. We had the hope – and we still have it today – that the Euro will gradually bring about political union. But we’re not there yet, and that’s one of the reasons why the markets are distrustful.”
Welt am Sontag: “So will the markets now force us into a political union?”
Schauble: “Most member states are not yet fully prepared to accept the necessary constraints on national sovereignty. But trust me, the problem can be solved.”
As Schauble promised, the constraints on national sovereignty in Europe have been severely tightened since 2011. European banking union became a reality last year, transferring supervisory authority over the banking systems of the euro zone’s 19 economies to the ECB, an institution with even less transparency and accountability than the European Commission.
Manning the Borders
Now the EU is planning to use a brand new crisis to expand its powers – Europe’s refugee crisis. As the Financial Times reported on Friday, Brussels is set to propose the creation of a standing European border force that could take control of the bloc’s external frontiers — even if a government objected:
If the plan is approved by EU states, Frontex’s replacement will have a slew of new powers, including the ability to hire and control its own border guards and buy its own equipment. It will also be allowed to operate in non-EU countries — such as Serbia and Macedonia, which have become transit countries for people trying to reach northern Europe — if requested.
The new agency will be able to deport people who do not have the right to remain in Europe — a power Frontex lacked.
Even the pro-EU FT warily concedes, “the move would arguably represent the biggest transfer of sovereignty since the creation of the single currency.” After all, controlling one’s own borders is one of the core functions of a sovereign state.
Naturally, the country that will be piloting the new scheme is Greece, which is on the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis. Once border agents from countries like Germany and Poland have been dispatched there, the project will no doubt be swiftly extended to all other EU states. Even non-EU countries, such as Serbia and Macedonia, could soon fall under the EU’s “protective” umbrella – but only “if requested.”
Thanks to their opt-outs of EU migration policy, Britain and Ireland will not be obliged to take part in the scheme. For now.
Highly Choreographed EU Dance
Back in Britain the UK’s embattled prime minister, David Cameron, is desperately trying to convince recalcitrant British voters and euroskeptics in his own party that he is on their side. According to official accounts, he has been busy flexing his diplomatic muscles in Brussels in a last-ditch effort to deliver fundamental reform to Britain’s relationship with the EU. As City A.M.’s Brian Monteith warns, however, it is all an elaborate ruse, “a highly choreographed EU dance”:
It is a bittersweet fudge designed to fool the public into believing there will be worthwhile reform of the EU when the evidence of the EU’s Five Presidents’ Report demonstrates that it will only get more centralized, more expensive and more regulated.
In the coming months all manner of doom and gloom scenarios will be paraded to cajole British voters into voting the right way. Almost all of Britain’s elite institutions, including, of course, the City of London corporation, want Britain to remain in the EU. Even the US, Britain’s closest ally, recently got in on the act, warning London that if it leaves the EU, it would “be subject to the same tariffs, and other trade-related measures, as China, or Brazil or India.”
However, most Brits don’t seem to be buying it, just as a majority of Danes were able to drown out the establishment’s fear mongering before voting against forging closer ties with Brussels in a recent referendum. In the latest poll of British voter intentions, 52% of respondents said they would vote to leave the EU – up from 27% in June!
Granted, polls can be deceptive. No one knows that better than David Cameron himself who, in May this year, rankled Brussels by winning reelection on a manifesto of reform and referendum. However, trying to deliver meaningful reform in the UK’s relationship with the EU is an almost impossible task, especially given that what Cameron claims to want — a little less EU interference in British affairs — is completely at odds with what the eurocrats in Brussels want — ever-increasing EU interference in everyone‘s affairs.
Since joining the common market in 1975 the people of Britain have been repeatedly told by europhile politicians in Westminster and eurocrats in Brussels that the European project represents no threat whatsoever to British sovereignty or democracy. By now, such claims have lost all credence.
The EU is Not Europe
At this critical juncture of European history, it bears remembering that the EU is not Europe and Europe is not the EU. The EU is a primarily a political project run by an unelected elite, with the so-called five presidents at the helm. As the British blogger John Ward eloquently notes, this elite routinely ignores the individual, ignores State sovereignty, ignores debt mountains, ignores currency realities, ignores poverty, ignores its responsibilities and above all, ignores every legal and constitutional obstacle in its way.
At the advent of each new crisis — often a crisis it itself created — it launches a new grab for power. Customs union, monetary union, banking union, defense union, digital union, energy union, fiscal union, political union… there is no limit to Brussels’ lust for power and control.
In the coming year or two, the people of Britain will have a once-in-a-generation chance to elude its grasp, to preserve its sovereignty. As a europhile British ex-pat who once firmly believed in the European dream but now sees it for the dystopian nightmare it has become, I urge them not to waste it. By Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit.
And suddenly, French investment bank Natixis sides with the rebellious islanders. Read… Stunning Blow to EU Scaremongers over Brexit
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When I joined the UKIP and started funding Nigel Farage’s quest, my two longtime friends in the UK dropped me like a hot stone. Now both are bragging about supporting this guy they called a misfit, a drunk and other names.
The EU is the latest German Empire!
The last one went down when the Russians took Berlin in 1945. The Germans learned their lesson & this time they sent out their bankers instead of their armies.
The rest of the EU nations got locked into the Euro with no escape possible! The Euro is backed by Germany so the Euro is essentially a German currency.If these nations are locked into the Euro & the Euro is maintained by Germany then these other EU nations are German dependencies…Thus,…the new German Empire!
The EU is the latest empire of the old apparatchiks of the Soviet Union and their compatriots, sympathizers, and sundry other running dogs of socialism in the member countries. East German Merkel just happens to be the leader of the strongest economic entity.
There was once a famous expression that “The Germans are always either at your heels or at your throat”.
A unified European empire has been a dream often dreamt by vain and arrogant leaders but it was always washed away in the end by blood and tears.
This time will be no exception. The means change. The aim doesn’t.
Nice to see someone else besides myself “gets it”. Yes, the Euro is dead, long live The New Deutschemark.
I still remember the call for Europe 1992, and thinking “how’s that Gonna work without giving up sovereignty?” It took almost 10 more years than they thought to get there and now it looks like they’re not going to be able to sustain it without going to a single debt system and basically giving up all national autonomy.
By and large the article seems to correctly summarize recent history. However, why present this history as something sinister cooked up in Bruxelles? From the very beginning of European integration the entity was called a Union. Clearly it should keep developing until it reaches that objective.
I live in federal Canada and, though we have good and bad days, the entity works remarkably well. South of us the US is also a federated entity and they have their problems with dysfunctional politics but the economy seems to be working better than most. The Swiss are doing well despite their language differences. Even Germany is a “Bundes Republik” – a federal state. Would the author explain why federation is necessarily bad and seeking to unite is something necessarily sinister? Why not just improve the EU institutions, which badly need some improvement, I agree with Farage.
The author has previously argued here in favour of Catalunyan separation from Spain. Does that mean that he believes that no union is worth preserving? Should we all remain unmarried? :-)
But wait, Tony: Canada had its brushes with independence movements that were decided in referendums. So not everyone was that happy to be part of the federal state.
And in the EU, the patchwork of ancient cultures and languages seems to be a bit more ingrained than in Canada and the US.
I’ve got nothing against marriage per se. I’ve been happily married to my wife, La Doña, for six years now; in fact our sixth anniversary is this week :-) What I’m generally not in favor of, though, is forced marriage. In Europe we are being FORCED down a path toward union.
A majority of the people of France and the people of Holland have already democratically voted against this current model of “union”. The response of the EU was a portent of things to come: a commission of unelected representatives redrafted the constitution into a new treaty, sneakily slipping in the most controversial points as amendments. No repeat referendums were held in either France or Holland and when the one country that offered a referendum on the new treaty, Ireland, rejected it by an overwhelming majority, it was told in no uncertain terms to get back to the ballot boxes until it got the right answer.
Perhaps, as you suggest, we just need to reform some of the institutions to make the EU more democratic? But how do you do that? Give more power to the parliament? More veto powers to each Member State? The result? A weaker, slower, more inefficient union. The only way the EU can be a powerful force on the global stage, which is what it ultimately aspires to be, is if it speaks with one voice — or failing that as few voices as possible. In the words of José Manuel Barroso, it must become the first ever “non-imperial empire”.
What’s more, as Wolf points out, there is a world of difference between the examples you give (the U.S., Canada, Switzerland and Germany) and the current European project. Let’s just take Canada and the U.S.: Both were in their formative years when they began forming their respective federations. And lest we forget, in the case of the U.S., a terribly costly civil war was needed to keep some of its constituent parts in line.
As for Catalonia, I don’t think I’ve ever written that it should seek to separate from Spain (if I have, please point out where). In fact, the last article I wrote on the issue drew quite a lot of flak from friends here in Catalonia.
What I’ve tried to consistently argue is that if the government of Spain does not offer a referendum (as your own country has with Quebec) or even acknowledge the grievances of 50% of the Catalan people (and a majority of the Catalan parliament) while refusing to sit down and negotiate with Catalonia’s elected representatives, the problem will only get a whole lot messier, resulting eventually in either separation or simmering conflict.
Ultimately, successful unions, whether a marriage between two people or a federation of states, tend to be based on mutual respect, tolerance, trust and shared goals and interests. Without them, coercion is the only means of keeping them together.
The provinces of Canada have not fought two world wars against each other – and dozens of other wars over the centuries. The people share a common culture.
This is a bad comparison
The EU and the so called Five Presidents, in league with national governments, are committing one of the worst mistakes they could: they are tightening the relief valve of national elections as hard as they can.
It’s beyond doubt the UKIP, France’s FN, Spain’s Podemos and Italy’s M5S are very popular in their own countries, at least among those voters still bothering with turning up at the polls. But by deft maneuvering and implementing every measure available, all of them are kept at more than a arm length from any meaningful position of power.
All these political movements vary wildly in their ideologies but on one things they all agree: the EU in its present unaccountable for and ever centralizing form must go. This accounts in large part for their ever-growing popularity and why they are so ferociously opposed both by national governments (which benefit from the EU in various guise, last but not least the ability to bury themselves in debt to buy votes: politicians can very rarely see beyond the next election) and everybody with even a remote stake in the EU.
Solzhenitsyin, once a cultural icon in Europe, became persona non-grata when, after moving back to Russia, gravely sentenced the EU reminded him of “a USSR with well stocked shops”. Was he wrong?
It’s beyond doubt if the Five Presidents and the unelected, unaccountable Commissars had a standing army available they would have already used it to quash all dissent and impose their will, very much like Lenin and Trotzky used the Red Army to impose the Bolsheviks’ will upon Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia etc.
In another chilling parallel, albeit the USSR was officially a “voluntary union of republics”, it was a lot like the patented Roach Motel: lots of arrivals, but no departures. This was applied to “satellites” as well: just ask Hungary.
There are no provisions for leaving the EU and when some members of Syriza put forward their proposal of debt forgiveness in return for Greece leaving the EU and the EMU (a very reasonable proposal in my opinion) they were silenced by their own party. Three generations of European politicians have been brought up with the myth of the EU as “the end of history”, so just the mention of stopping its spread is unthinkable.
But the turning point will come: Ancient Greeks were brought up with the idea Spartan warriors never gave or asked for quarter and never surrendered. For generations it seemed so until during the Peloponnesian Wars the unthinkable happened: a group of Spartan hoplites surrendered to an Athenian-led force. This sent ripples all through the Hellenic World.
Sparta ended up winning the war but the damage was done. The idea that Spartan hoplites preferred going down fighting and taking as many enemies with them as they could rather than surrendering was gone, destroyed by a single episode of not great consequence.
Not only it boosted the confidence of Sparta’s enemies (such as Thebes) but it shook the Spartans’ very own confidence. Spartan hoplites still fought as hard as before but the aura of superhuman bravery they had about them before was completely gone. All gone in a single fight of little importance.
It was Margaret Thatcher that saved the UK from joining the Euro. Gordon Brown was the one that sold all the gold at the bottom of the market.
Thanks for the well-written article! The Brits need to look how the ECB forced Ireland to shoulder 30 bn of debt (Greece: 200 bn), paid out to creditors on the continent…
Control the money and everything else falls into place.
It doesn’t matter if they change the treaty. Nobody followed it in the first place.
I should think a lot of my fellow Brits would be delighted if the USA were to exclude UK from trade agreements.
Just imagine: no more American films (movies) ruining our heritage with hard-to-understand language passed off as English. At least Scandinavian films, cintinental films too, have the decency to include sub-titles.
We could also get rid of Facebook, Twitter and other tax dodging Americanisms.
I am sorry to hear that you live in a country that forces you to watch American films as a result of its trade agreement with the US.
You don’t understand tax law. Businesses are usually taxed according to where they’re based, not where their customers are.
Perhaps your own HMRC can explain it to you, written in Real English for your comprehension:
“Non-resident trading companies which do not have a branch in the UK, but have UK customers, will therefore pay tax on the profits arising from those customers in the country where the company is resident, according to the tax law in that country. The profits will not be taxed in the UK. This is not tax avoidance: it is simply the way that corporation tax works.”
Furthermore, HMRC notes that UK companies also follow these “tax dodging” practices:
“Most major economies operate corporation tax in the same way as the UK, so UK-resident companies are treated in a similar way in other countries. In other words, UK companies do not pay corporation tax to another country on the profits from sales in that country, unless they trade through a branch based there. Instead, they pay corporation tax in the UK.”
The EU wants businesses to treat EU countries as a single homogeneous market. If US companies accommodate the EU’s wishes by selling to all EU countries from a base in one of them, they are doing exactly what Brussels wants.
If the European parliament (which as far as I know is democratically elected – with national seats allocated roughly in proportion to population and party seats within each nation allocated roughly in proportion to votes for each party) had power to overrule both the commission and the ECB by a simple majority vote, that would change the debate over participation in the EU a great deal. I’m not saying it would settle the debate, but at least any surrender of national sovereignty would be to an international democracy rather than an international oligarchy.
Given that the EU’s actual structure leaves its most democratic institution powerless on all key economic issues, and on most non-key economic issues and apparently on border status as well, the argument against surrender of national rights to the EU remains strong.