Every sinew in my being wants to vote Brexit. The EU is a distant, corrupt, undemocratic, bureaucratic monolith crumbling under the weight of its own hubris. Its members are not like us. They don’t share our Anglo-Saxon work ethic nor our protestant view of self-interest and determination. Yet we’ve arrived at a situation where our material well-being is so tied to the motley crew of graying technocrats and pontificating, hypocritical moralisers that make up EU institutions that we can’t leave. To do so would be to subject ourselves to unnecessary hardship. Therefore we’ll remain chained to the continent, longingly looking to the deep blue sea that once defined us… and we’ll hate ourselves for getting in this mess.
If Winston Churchill were alive today, what do we think he would make of Brexit? His memory is unique in the Brexit debate for being used by both sides to prove their point. His history is one long story of Britain in Europe. His most famous ancestor, John Churchill – Lord Marlborough – fought in Europe 300 years ago against the French and Winston’s birthplace is named after his forebears’ most famous victory – Blenheim.
He was more than a student of history, he was a writer and shaper of it. He was a man that would know.
To Boris Johnson – a man clearly styling himself as a latter day Churchill – he’s the bastion of British tradition, better than Europe, bigger than Europe, grander and of better moral fibre… and staunchly Brexit.
If only it were that simple.
For unfortunately for every fan of black and white simplicity, Churchill created the union of France and Britain during the war and openly looked forward to a “kind of United States of Europe”. Clear as mud then…
The most often quoted passage from Churchill is the most instructive, and underlines the dilemma we face:
“We are with Europe, but no of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea”
So what are we? Are we European? Are we better? Are we the central actor in European affairs, or an interested on-looker, the policeman of European squabbles trying to stay out of it wherever we can?
Does it matter? The answer sadly is that is doesn’t.
It’s the economy… stupid!
Our grand history won’t affect the vote. The referendum on the 23rd won’t be decided by the view of our national character, nor even the more important notions of sovereignty and self-determination, because if it were, we’d be out in a shot. The vote will be decided by narrow self-interest, and when it comes to this, the rationale is clear… we must remain.
Like it or not, we’re better off in.
The EU for all its faults is our biggest trading partner. Whether we like it or not we trade more with the EU than China, India and many other countries combined. Trade with the EU makes up 13% of our GDP. Although we import more than we export, we only make up 3% of EU GDP so contrary to the Brexit propaganda, we need them more than they need us. Jobs depend on it. Livelihoods depend on it. Anyone that makes things should want to remain, and anyone that imports anything should too.
It’s really as simple as that.
While it’s true to say we could still trade freely with the EU without being tied to its institutions, the options aren’t great. Let’s have a quick run through.
The Norway option: Part of the EEA so trades freely. You still pay into the EU budget and have to abide by EU regulations. You can’t vote on budgets, laws or control immigration – a non-starter.
The Swiss option: Cherry picked free trade agreements in some sectors with regulation only in these areas. Possible, but why would the EU agree to this? Not a probable option
Free Trade Agreement: We’re out but with an agreement with the EU. Won’t happen. We’ll instantly be able to undercut EU products by not adhering to their regulations. The EU won’t agree without regulatory agreement so we’re back to option 1.
The “MFN” option: Free trade with UK agreeing to external tariffs in line with the EU. Defeats the point.
The options aren’t realistic. And there’s more…
You could argue that it’s in the EU’s interest to trade freely on our terms like the Swiss model – after all, everyone’s a winner – but there is a powerful incentive to make us pay. Leaving the EU should be hard. If it is demonstrated to be easy then you can wave goodbye to Greece, Cyprus and possibly Spain and Portugal. At the moment all they’re getting from the deal is German overlordship, crippling debt and migrants overwhelming their coastlines.
It’s not about risk, it’s about fear – and it works.
Let’s be clear about this point. The argument for Remain is not just bad, it’s awful. It’s relentlessly negative. It’s the argument of a slave-owner that tells his property that they can’t cope on their own should they be free. It’s the argument of an abusive partner or that of a hostage taker appealing to Stockholm syndrome.
It says that if you can’t see your destination you shouldn’t set off at all.
The renegotiation (remember that) was a sham, a spectacular demonstration of our impotence to affect change in the EU and shows the argument that we should try to reform the EU from the inside as the insidious naivety we all know it is.
The EU does not bring peace and never has. Tell that to the Muslims exterminated in Yugoslavia right under Europe’s nose in the 90s, or the Ukrainians still fighting for their sovereignty. Both lacked the protection of NATO – the true guardian of peace in Europe.
The EU does not make us secure. It’s an open door to anyone with a boat and a suicide bomb vest.
The EU doesn’t protect worker’s rights. The EU is so bad on this front that it actually stops us protecting workers. The steel workers have been left to suffer from Chinese dumping thanks to EU restrictions on government support for industry. Even George Bush protected the US steel industry by imposing tariffs – and we can’t. The EU is no left wing champion of the working man.
Furthermore, we’ll see what the left wing champions of Remain make of newest EU innovation – TTIP – a thoroughly clandestine power grab by international corporations.
You think the Tories are privatising the NHS? Read up on TTIP, the EU is going to do more to bring the private sector in than any government would dream.
In any case, we – the fatherland of democracy and individual rights lest we forget – can do all this ourselves. Why do we take lectures from nations that were under dictatorships but a few decades ago?
I will vote Brexit… and I will lose
So to me the choice is clear. We will take a short term hit but in the long term we will be safer, freer and more democratic out of the EU. Therefore I will vote Leave.
And I will lose…
The referendum will depend on whether people believe they are better off in or out, and they’re better off in, at least in the short term.
That is not to say we don’t realise we’re stuck, it’s what makes some so angry. They want answers. How did it get like this? How did we end up so dependent on a foreign body for material well-being? Didn’t we fight two wars to stop this happening?
Again, it doesn’t matter. We’re stuck, we’ll vote to Remain and hate ourselves for it. Apparently it is better to live on your knees than die on your feet.
Winston Churchill would certainly be ashamed of that.