Monday, 21 March 2016

Give the Brexit bullshit a rest!

By trade, I am a database developer who dabbles in web technologies. I have in the past made a respectable living out of it and I've done it on and off for the better part of fifteen years. 

So if I offered an opinion on computers and computing you would believe me. You shouldn't. As much as I hate the things, I couldn't tell you what goes into them, I have only a distant memory of how they actually work and for the most part I couldn't care less so long as they do work. 

As someone who largely tinkers with software, on software developed by massive teams of serious developers I am a nothing in the IT world. Even if I could say I was an expert in my field, I still wouldn't be an expert in the dark art of networking and hardware which is a whole other discipline. But that is still considered as IT. 

The point being that it is a vast field and no one person has a full understanding of all of it. There will be realms of the IT world extending into robotics and AI that I'm barely even aware of. Were I to offer an opinion on the state of IT and where it's going in the future it would be little more qualified than yours. I am but a technician. And the same dynamic applies to Brexit. 

One of the most irritating facets of this debate is the europhile instance that the word of economists and "business leaders" have the first clue what they are talking about. There are economists of all types each with specialists according to their own sector. 

An economist for a shipping or energy company would be looking at entirely different things to an economist working for a foreign exchange company. Their job is to take the pulse of particular sectors to gain insights into the future based on knowledge in their narrow fields. They are not treaty law experts, nor are they especially informed about the technicalities of trade.

Taking two noted economists on my side of the debate, Ruth Lea and Patrick Minford, their arguments are easily taken apart because they speak on the subject of Brexit without reference to international law and without reference to non tariff barriers. There is no reason to put any stock in anything they say. Economists are glorified accountants with a side hobby in politics. That's it.

The subject of Brexit is multifaceted and not something you can waft into without looking at every single strata of EU integration. It is a specialism in its own right. It also depends entirely on how we leave the EU as to what the possible outcomes may be. So for an economist to stand up and say that Brexit will make people three thousand pounds worse off is, to put it bluntly, complete bollocks. It is an appeal to authority.

But these people are not authorities. Their view lacks any nuance or sophistication and depends entirely on assumptions about the future without accounting for what Britain may do to mitigate any of the possible drawbacks of leaving the EU. They don't know. They can't even offer vaguely accurate guesses.

More to the point, this is not a question for economists. This is a question for the people; to decide what their basic preference is. Do they want Britain to be subordinate to a supreme government of Europe or do they want Britain to be an independent state that speaks for itself with full rights of veto?

No doubt there are economic consequences to either outcome, most of which are unknowable - except that we know that there will be on some level a continuity of single market access which has consequences good and bad. 

Without being mindful of the distinctions and circumstances and the projected pace of withdrawal, anyone feeding you certainties about what will happen is feeding you pure propaganda. This also goes for the Leave campaign with their risible fag packet calculations that Brexit will save the average household £933 a year. 

What we do know is that trade is not contingent on political subordination under the EU. There are real world examples of non-EU states having privileged access to the EU market while also retaining a level of independence we do not presently enjoy.

In the end it comes down to your own personal estimation of whether you think Britain needs to be told what to do, and whether or not we can fight for our own rights. It is an estimation as to whether you think the world's fifth largest economy and world leader in soft power can make its own way in the world. The Europhile case is that we can't do any of those things and that democracy is too much of a risk. That to me is the biggest Brexit bullshit of all.

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