Gordon Campbell on the delusions driving the “Leave” option

On the brink of the Brexit vote, the irrationality of the “Leave” option is now apparent. Voting for “Leave” requires (a) a fantastically unbalanced view of the impact of immigration on modern Britain (b) a demonizing of the EU “regulations” that are commonplace within a modern economy and (c) a simple-minded optimism that Britain would not suffer any major damage to its economy, or to the status of the City of London.

Immigration. Ironically, the murder of Jo Cox by an anti-immigrant fanatic may well have tipped the balance back in favour of “Remain”. In practical terms, the notion that by leaving the EU, Britain could raise the drawbridge and deny entry to the migrant hordes has always been fanciful. In reality, Polish plumbers and Ukrainian construction workers did not cause the unemployment and poor wages that plague the British precariat. And as for Europe’s refugee crisis, the main effect of a “Leave” victory would be to shift the refugee border much closer to home – from Calais to Dover, or to the porous border between Ireland and northern Ireland. The solution to the global refugee crisis have to be international. Britain cannot imagine it can simply opt out, and resort to some pastoral state of denial about the humanitarian crisis on its doorstep.

EU Regulation. The demonizing of EU ‘regulations’ creates a useful scapegoat : the Brussels bureaucrat tying up honest, hard working Britons in reams of red tape. In fact, almost all of those dreaded regulations – on safety standards, climate change, renewable energy, working hours, parenting leave etc etc – are simply part and parcel of a modern economy. When Britons woke up after their “Leave” triumph and try to re-negotiate new trade deals they would– in all likelihood – face the same regulatory environment, yet with far less power ( as an outsider) to re-write those rules. The Brexiteers’ assumption that Britain would be able to win new trade deals easily and without making concessions, from the EU – who would mysteriously feel motivated to set aside all of the regulations that Brexiteers currently find objectionable – is delusional.

Currently, New Zealand is seeking a free trade pact with the EU, presumably with all of those current EU regulations in train. Would New Zealand firms really prefer to deal with a shrunken Britain that was ‘free’ to down drive wages, work conditions and environmental standards? That situation underlines the darker reality behind the “Leave” option. Britain would only be able to “ escape” EU regulations by fostering a neo-liberal paradise of deregulation situated offshore from Europe, in which British workers would then be worse off than those in the weakest economies of the European Union.

British economy. In the short term, the uncertainty surrounding a “Leave” victory would drive down the pound and fuel a capital flight that already seems to be under way.

During the two year divorce proceedings from Europe, more lasting damage would be done. The City of London would decline as a banking hub. The City’s role has been dependent on it being a convenient financial services gateway to the 28 nations of Europe, without the need to get regulatory approval in each of those countries. According to the Wall St Journal, about half of UK’s 6.9 trillion pounds of banking assets are currently held by non-British institutions. Dublin would probably pick up much of that business, with all of the attendant job losses in London that this would entail.

One can argue as to whether Britain’s reliance on the City of London as its economic powerhouse is healthy – in 2013, Lib Dems’ leader Nick Clegg argued that it wasn’t – yet it seems even more unhealthy for the “Leave” supporters to try and live in denial about the pain that would be involved in the transition.

Finally, a “Leave” victory would mean the British Prime Minister – by then almost certainly Boris Johnson – would invoke Article 50 of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, which allows for a two year process of dis-entanglement.

The Vote Leave campaign says the Government would have “informal talks” with EU leaders before invoking Article 50, to help bring about a new free trade relationship with the EU quickly and smoothly before exit. The Government says Article 50 would be invoked straightaway.

In a document published earlier this year, the Cabinet Office suggests that a new agreement with the EU is very unlikely to be done in two years and Britain could face a decade of economic uncertainty because of the absence of trade deals.

Up to Britain though, to choose its destiny. Or to England, actually. If the “Leave” option ultimately prevails, it will only be because the wishes of English voters will have prevailed over those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – most of whom are polling in favour of “Remain.” Such an outcome would see Britain less unified, not more so. Add in the looming succession of Prince Charles as the British monarch, and the cumulative effects would ripple on through the “United” Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The effect would be one of further disintegration, not unity. Arguably, that may be the one real advantage : almost certainly, a “ Leave” victory would lend impetus to this country eventually becoming a republic.

Turning Turtles

If – on the other hand – sanity and the ‘Remain’ option do prevail this week, we’ll be back to the usual spin and snake oil from David Cameron and George Osbourne. (Boris Johnson will be finished though. Ukip will have sustained a body blow. Both good things.) As they say, there will be a need for healing. So….maybe Cameron, Osbourne, Benedict Cumberbatch. David Beckham and Angela Merkel can release a new “We Are The World” celebrity version of this song:

19 Comments on Gordon Campbell on the delusions driving the “Leave” option

  1. I am sorry however I believe your opinion lacks much real research (outside of your obvious main stream sources) and does not delve deeply enough into the real reasons the EU was created and the fact that in it’s current form it is nothing short of a corrupt farce.
    More to the point I find it interesting to note that I have seen Scoop articles opposed to the TPPA and many other undemocratic issues yet when you get to the heart of the EU issue it is ultimately about that very same thing…Democracy?
    If you support the concept of “Globalisation” and “One World Government” then I guess the angle of your article makes sense however if you have doubts on these ideology’s then I would ask you look at the fundamental drive towards centralised power and what that might ultimately mean for the average citizen in all countries (not just the UK and the EU).
    If the idea of “globalisation” was to unite the world for the common good of mankind I would not have a problem however I believe this unity could only ever be achieved through de-centralising power,right from provincial level through to international and that (as history has repeatedly proven) centralising power has always proven a disaster for society(s).The very reason we as citizens have become so removed from our own democracies can be linked to all forms of restrictions on choice created by bloated bureaucracies and increasingly powerful industry and corporate structures,the EU being just another layer distancing people from true their democratic rights.
    Countries trade …they always have…cultures clash…they always have…retaining ones identity and roots is still important and trying to force all people to comply to laws written by some faceless twat in Brussels is actually to my mind ridiculous.
    I would like to see some real independent evidence of any actual real benefit that is helping the majority of the people in any of the EU member countries…riots in France..Greece,Italy,Spain,Portugal all broke oh but ofcourse you can freely travel and have the Euro to spend (assuming you have a job).Holland wants a referendum on exiting now also.
    I would ask you to put your objective thinking cap on and start to delve into some of the alternative media …some of it is crap..much of it is not and can lead you to information you can verify for yourself.
    The EU is part of the agenda of the real power brokers in this world and personally I would like to see it collapse as it would make their real plans much harder to implement.
    I include a link to a 2004 documentary which I believe is still very relevant although it’s opinion on the currency issues would now be inaccurate to some degree.

  2. I think the Brexit vote is a result of citizens on all sides of the political spectrum being tired of having both the politicians and journalists talking down to them. Both are totally dismissive of the ability of ordinary people to understand complex issues, instead preferring to resort to scaremongering and an insulting pat on the head to say “it’s all a bit complicated for you”.

  3. Thanks for your handy article summarising some of the delusions driving the ‘leave” options.

    There does seem to be some legitimate concerns on both sides of this issue although many relevant factors will likely never be up for public debate – particularly the policy making influence of The Troika on the Euro Group.

    As to your decentralisation point Greg,

    I’m not sure what inroads to democratic (and financial) decentralisation will ever be on offer from the ruling apparatus – whether Britons are partially beholden to Germany, France, or undemocratic and unaccountable supra-national technocratic institutions based in Brussels, Frankfurt, Washington DC or The City of London!

    (To jump on the link bandwagon and for whatever it’s worth I found this 10 minute video breakdown of some of the EU geopolitics a brief, useful, and more up-to-date link to share.)


  4. I agree with Greg that the key to the Brexit debate which Gordon failed to mention is of course democracy. The UK has ceded certain regulatory powers to the EU, many of which have implications on trade and therefore require collaboration with the 28 Member States to get right – this makes complete sense. Regulations in the EU are not created by some ‘faceless twat’ as Greg insinuates, they follow a strict procedure and are subject to EU Parliamentary scrutiny. UK citizens have a right to vote in the EU Parliamentary elections and elect UK representatives to engage in regulatory development on the EU stage. Ignorance of the EU system does not give you a right to criticize it.

  5. Normally I’m with Gordon’s take on the world, but in this case I’m much more with Greg.The merits of Brexit are not the same thing as the case that’s been made. Similarly, the odious nature of some of the Brexit proponents and their arguments (eg xenophobia) doesn’t invalid the value of an exit.
    The EU has become a frankensteinian disaster. Led by a clique of narrowly-focused technocrats, favouring the strong (Germany primarily) at the expense of the weaker nations, and militarily operating via NATO as a war-mongering US puppet (currently provoking Russia for all it’s worth).
    With zero hope of meaningful reform, I fondly hope for the demise of the EU which a Brexit might presage. At which point the process of building a meaningful EU 2.0 might begin in earnest.
    There are a vast number of issues to address, both within the UK and the EU, and their is certainly no guarantee of positive change. But, likely the prospect of Hillary being elected in the US, embedding and supporting the status quo offers certainty – the certainty of continued degeneration.
    Chaos may be frightening by virue of its unpredictability, but at a certain point, statis is the more certain evil.

  6. I am firmly of the opinion that no-one, and I mean no-one, can possibly know what is better for the UK, for Europe or the entire planet and universe, to leave or stay. Short of two spare Earths and a time machine, every single prediction is nothing other than a guess, mostly an uneducated one too. The entire debate, with a few honourable exception, has been conducted at the emotional level of fans arguing at a football match and the intellectual level of a kindergarten, though that’s probably unfair to kindergartens.

    1) this referendum is a farce, destructive, unneeded, a cynical political ploy to placate some unruly Tories that Cameron was having trouble with. Nothing has happened in the UK, the EU or the planet, that makes this referendum necessary. Even at this late stage, it should be cancelled.

    2) I am old enough to remember the Common Market debate in the UK. I recall the contention, the problems for the UK, giving up it’s entire fisheries (would NZ do that?), the absurd and corrupt Common Agricultural policy, the milk lakes, the butter mountains, the knowledge we’d be joining a leaden bureaucracy. But we were promised this, that only by joining can we hope to improved this problems, and have a say in running Europe. Well, 44 years later, we’re still trying to have a say, The promise was worthless, it was a lie.

    3) The EU is a supranational body, run by and charged by the Americans and its corporate arm, of keeping Europe tidily out of the way, whilst the US pursues it’s aggrandisement elsewhere, and by incorporating all those eastern European states, making life more intolerable for Russia. Ukraine is the last domino to nearly fall. American neocons have still to deal finally with Russia, and they intend to do so. European leaders have not got the gumption to resist this geopolitical toxicity.

    4) The Eurozone is barely functioning, propped up by financial magic and prayer. It could implode any time This is the Eurozone (the UK isn’t a member, but is intimately bound with the countries that are) that put in non-elected managers in Italy, nearly bankrupted the Irish citizenry, and even now is lording over rates of unemployment in Spain, Portugal and Italy that in previous times would have caused a bloody revolution.

    5) Greece, what can one say about this poor country, the EU’s behaviour is totally appalling, cruel, demeaning and retributive. The near corpse of that country is now being picked over by corporate vultures in Europe and other countries. What has happened to Greece is not just salutary but should make any thinking and ethical observer reasonably convinced that the EU is a corrupt and financially incompetent organisation. Whatever benefits the EU confers, they come at a great cost in sovereignty and desirable democratic processes. Yanis Varoufakis’s description of his meetings with the EU are truly eye-opening, almost Kafkaesque in their absurdity.

    7) The whole planet is under siege and the EU is part of this. When the UK citizens joined the EU, they joined the European train with concern and with hope, but with their eyes half shut. This train is now galloping down the tracks and seems pretty near to derailment, we can’t be sure who’s driving it, if anyone, and it makes perfect sense to me to jump off while there’s time. One might break a bone, and get pretty bruised and shaken up, but one could be avoiding a complete disaster.

    8) Having said all this, I don’t think this vote, in or out, will make the slightest difference. It’s not just the EU train that’s heading for derailment, its the whole world economy and in a year or two this debate will be seen by everyone else for the farce that I now claim it is.

  7. Have to say I’m with Greg on this one. The true issue, largely ignored by both campaigns, and from the perspective of a NZer living in London, is that the EU is not democratic or accountable to the UK electorate. What’s more, because Brussels is so far removed from the electorate, it is in practice controlled by interests who have the resource and will to lobby it. This is basically undeniable. Regulation is absolutely fantastic news for big corporations, but it’s terrible for start-ups and small businesses. And I’m not talking about climate change regulation, I’m talking about absurd food standards that make it impossible to sell any food without a million pound kitchen! Or regulations that make it near impossible for a small town solicitor to run her own trust account, etc. Immigration is a non-issue here. Also, the UK has lost its sovereignty to trade with countries outside the EU without EU imposed tariffs. Thus, because the French are perpetually terrified about agricultural competition, the UK cannot purchase primary produce from African countries – at the expense of African countries. Now, what part of the world do you think holds greater development potential – provincial France – or the African Continent? Seriously, not to mention NZ, Australia, Canada, China, South America… And what do these developing countries crave? It’s clear, they crave British patents (which are extremely vast), the world’s leading tertiary education system, investment in their skills and labour, a market to sell their produce to, and City of London finance. Meanwhile, Germany and France can continue to trade with each other and simultaneously hold one-another back!!

  8. And when it comes down the sovereignty debate, Westminster sovereignty, by far the greatest British invention, should mean the prerogative and discretion of a government to do or undo what it sees fit, with the confidence and supply of an elected Parliament, and in accordance with its electoral manifesto. As it stands, this does not exist in the UK. Gordon, you have said countless times that the National-led Government in NZ would be stupid to trade its sovereignty as a commodity in return for trade benefits through the TPPA, and you were absolutely right to do so. What’s the difference with the EU? Recalling that like the TPPA, the law making process is controlled by corporations, and like the TPPA there are investor-state measures enforceable in the WTO…

  9. @Steve what nonsense, Westminster(the morphed Roman empire) is a disgusting example of a dictatorship.
    Let the slaves vote for govts candidates, elect them and believe they have a “choice”.
    Democracy as an idea does not exist in the UK or here as the Bankers who loan us money with interest own NZ (sovereignty). Their Crown NZ govt sees fit to protect the interests of the banker’s corporations and to borrow money in the people’s name.

  10. Gordon, its not difficult to find economic experts that disagree with you that in the short term, the uncertainty surrounding a “Leave” victory would drive down the pound and fuel a capital flight. Prof. Richard Werner, a international and monetary economists at the London School of Economics with a doctorate from the University of Oxford in economics has tested, using advanced quantitative techniques, the question of the size of impact on GDP from entry to or exit from the EU. His conclusion is that this makes no difference to economic growth, and everyone who claims the opposite is not guided by the facts. He says that the reason is that economic growth and national income are almost entirely determined by a factor that is decided at home, namely the amount of bank credit created for productive purposes.
    Greater economic growth is possible as soon as steps are taken to boost bank credit for productive purposes – irrespective of whether the UK stays in the EU or not (although Brexit will make it much easier to take such policy steps). Norway – thought more dependent on international trade – fared extremely well after its people rejected EU membership in a referendum in 1995 (which happened against the dire warnings and threats from its cross-party elites, most of its media and the united chorus of the heads of international organizations). Besides, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China never needed EU membership to move from developing economy status to top industrialized nations within about half a century. He concludes that the argument of dire economic consequences of Brexit is bogus.

  11. The worst thing the EU did was make NATO (US Foreign Legion) membership a condition of membership.

  12. Having commented about the democracy free zone of the EU, I do need to recognise the huge democratic deficit in the UK. Nearly 2/3rds of those who voted in the last general election voted against a Tory government – what did they get? A Tory government. FPP must go. The House of Commons itself is a bear pit, Government vs Opposition, an outmoded model of political machinery that needs to change. Perhaps with the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster a less oppositional and more functional model can be built. The House of Lords, a constitutional anachronism of an extreme kind, that needs cutting back in size and a total overhaul of its membership and functioning. The Monarchy needs too to be modernised and its residual powers removed. I am not though an anti-Monarchist, I think it has its place as an important historical and cultural appendage to life in the UK. These unaddressed issues are why I find this referendum so unnecessary and diversionary. When the dust settles and the UK decides to remain in the EU, which I’m sure it will by about 55% to 45% political life will unfortunately settle back to its second and third rate existence and having expended so much political energy on this referendum, calls for reform in the UK will unfortunately likely remain unheeded. ,

  13. John, “Democracy” is but an marketed idea that you are told you have when banker’s candidate John Key sells public assets and signs the TPPA without support of the majority of the people.
    “Democracy” yeah right.

    The reform needed is the destruction of the Crown, its Westminster pedophile rings and the establishments pompous ruling elites and ‘royals’.

  14. Look at who makes out like trillion dollar bandits with the pound currency manipulations around the idiocy in the fake democracy.

  15. I disagree with John M regarding the need for reform of Westminster to make it less adversarial. Adversarial parliamentary democracy is the strength of Westminster, in that the essence of it is that the opposition’s purpose is to continually attack the Government and look at every one of the Government’s failings. When we have floor crossing, we have cronyism! Conciliatory democracy, such as in the United States is notoriously anti-democratic. It’s a process of politicians pursuing their individual motives within Congress, which is literally impossible for constituents to even follow, let alone hold to account. What the UK does need is MMP, which will significantly improve the effectiveness of the adversarial Westminster system. The only issue is there’d be an election every other damn week!

  16. Steve shouldn’t you should look at fixing corruption in your own govt before you take on your ideas of fixing its parent company in the UK?
    OMG the “Westminster pedophile ring” hasn’t even been investigated yet!

    The Merchant Bankers Crown govt is not “adversarial” except in appearance as the opposition is controlled. You are so politically naive.

    Who the hell would want leaders spending all their time engaged in show of debating,disagreeing,captured in their PR image and fighting and yet at the end of the day still just doing whatever the merchant bankers that control our economy want.

  17. And Alastair Thompson is right the “brexit currency manipulation show”has got nothing to do with a ‘democracy’.
    Our NZ dollar, Bitcoin (and the pound) should not have dropped as a result , it’s been manipulated ( as it always is = by merchant bankers) they are just using the Brexit as an excuse.

  18. Hey Gordon, why such an elaborate exposition of a rational case for the UK to not brexit? You must be well-aware that the groundswell of dissent and disgust is emotional, and any brexit would result from that. Paternalism is no longer an effective strategy for the ruling classes. Deceit ain’t working too well either, whether it comes from the political left or right. I suggest you give serious consideration to the underlying factors that motivate political behaviour. Rational decision-making evaporated post-enlightenment, nigh on a couple of centuries ago…

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