Today on father’s day the best gift of all was seeing all my children posting powerful pro Remain stories on Facebook. I am glad we brought them up to be be warmhearted Europeans rather than little Englanders. I will just give one block quote from my son’s FaceBook post to give you an idea of his thinking:
“When I think about being ‘British’, whatever that means, I don’t think of short term reactionary politics that result in us throwing our toys out of the pram because the group we’re part of won’t let us have our way. I think of a nation that has learned from its checkered past (you don’t have to dig too deep to see where a nationalist, colonialist nation gets you) to become a leader in our geo-political system. That is democracy. That is being part of a global community. That is being part of the EU.”
Of course my son got the usual flack from some of his not so bright buddies. I did not want to troll these guys on my son’s time line so I block quote one of their #brexit arguments, to lay waste to it here rather than on FaceBook, where few will see it anyway. This is what one friend, I’ll call him Kevin from Essex, commented:
“Unfortunately like most ‘Remain’ arguments, this [my son’s post] doesn’t advance a single quantifiable, economic reason for staying in the EU, instead choosing to focus on the perceived bigotry of the opposition. We were told years ago that not joining the Euro would be disastrous for our prosperity. The decision not to join the Euro is now seen as a critical factor in our ongoing economic success. We’re one of the few net contributors to the union. Despite this, our influence in Europe is virtually non-existent. “
Why do Brits believe that tired line, that not joining the Euro zone in 1999 was so clever? Just because “wrong then, wrong now” has been repeated so many times, it seems to have become part of British folklore. Like people called Robin always stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. But that doesn’t make it true. Sure the UK could in theory have ended up in the gutter like poor Greece. But if you really believe in your country like my son, you might equally speculate in the Euro zone – rather than having an over valued Pound Sterling pricing British goods out of world markets- using an under valued Euro we’d be rich alongside Germany, the world’s foremost manufacturer and exporter of quality cars, engineering tools and household appliances. Our balance of trade in goods might show a healthy surplus like our trade in ‘services’.
Our clever Westminster government never cared much what went on North of Watford.
So instead we have our City of London, undoubtedly the world’s leading financial centre. Are we about to kill that off as well as our manufacturing base with a #brexit ?
Vote.Leave supporters like to make a big thing about the fact that the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget (alongside most of its Northern European neighbours actually). They simply can’t see that our payments are solidarity payments like the ones you make into a mutual insurance company. I always count myself lucky I’ve never had to call on my home insurance policy because my house didn’t burnt down. Your average brexit shouter has the mentality of someone on low wages blowing ten quid each week on the lottery. An amount more than their government pays to the EU per UK citizen by the way. They feel they have a right to win at every draw and get angry if their numbers don’t come up. They feel the same way about foreign aid to developing countries. It’s all about me, me, me! Kevin says:
However, do I think we’re getting an equitable deal from our membership of this bloated, un-elected bureaucracy? Not even close.
Next the discussion takes the predictable path of the “We buy more from them than they from us” discussion. “We have a negative trade balance and we have to pay for the privilege”. Cameron on BBC Question time today was actually confronted with the same question. I thought Cameron answered it very well. There are direct and indirect benefits to the UK’s EU membership. What UK farmers receive from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is easy to quantify. The billions of extra business revenue UK exporters receive by being part of the common market is much harder to measure, but it is estimated that for every billion spent on our EU membership UK businesses enjoy a tenfold return of investment in higher exports to the continent than they’d otherwise would have been. This in turn fuels economic growth, more jobs and more tax revenues.
The real die-hard Eurosceptics at this point will produce quotes from dodgy economists like Professor Minford or they may have read the Civitas report “Where’s the insider advantage. I have dealt with these demagogues in two separate blog posts
I suggest you follow the links provided above if you’re up for it.
Today’s post I’d like to finish by block quoting my older sister Louise, who shares with us her insider EU knowledge in dismissing the VOTE.LEAVE claim that for all the money it pays into the EU the UK has so little influence. She replied specifically to Kevin’s following point:
- our influence in Europe is virtually non-existent. We’ve ‘made a stand’ more than once, but it has proven to be nothing more than a short-lived token gesture before we’re eventually press ganged in to doing as we’re told
Please allow me to break into this conversation. I am a step aunt of Marcus’s step son and recently retired from a 40-year career as a translator for the EU Council of Ministers. I translated many of the legislative texts as well as the debates leading to their adoption. Let me respond to a few points made here. First of all the bureaucracy. The size of the EU administration is about the size of that of a major British city or the Treasury. Then the idea that the UK has been gang pressed to accept legislation it did not want. EU legislation is proposed by the Commission, then discussed by the EP as well as by the national parliaments. The phrase I translated most frequently was probably “UK enters a reserve for parliamentary scrutiny “. If anyone gang pressed it was the UK. Especially on financial legislation, which happened to be my specialty. It has always been tailored to the needs of the City. And lest you forgot, it was the City that was largely responsible for the first and the second financial crisis. It was also the UK that pressed for enlargement of the EU, time and again. It was the UK that pressed for the larger role of Heads of State and Government, which led to the politicisation of the decision making process. This, not bureaucracy, is the reason that decision making has become slow and flawed. It has become an intergovernmental negotiating process. That is exactly what you will get after Brexit, except that it will be only Britain against the rest of the world.