Monday, 15 February 2016

Why we should leave the EU

This blog has said much of the inadequacies of the Leave campaign. It has said much of the limitations of Brexit. It has detailed much of what the EU is, how it works, why it's redundant and how we can work better from outside.

Being as reasonable, practical and honest as I can be, I can see my way clear to admitting the value of the single market, freedom of movement and regulations, but quite obviously, political integration and subordination is not required in order to get the best from that.

Despite all of the limitations of the most likely Brexit scenario it's still totally worth the trouble. On matters of trade, there is no contest. Independence is manifestly better. We should not be competing to get a share of EU runtime to lodge our concerns, register our complaints or pursue emerging interests.

There's blocking, bickering, congestion, backlog and confusion - not least since it's becoming harder all the time to understand what is and isn't an EU competence. Moreover, the EU has shown a willingness to exploit that confusion in order to confiscate authority when convenient.

The way trade works now is less about tariffs as it is removal of technical barriers to trade and harmonisation of systems, where virtually every nation on earth has a direct line in order to set the agenda items, unless of course you are in the EU. That sucks. That's no good to a first world, leading economy that is also a global technological and scientific leader. If that is true of physical exports then it is true in spades for intellectual property and digital services.

In this the EU is way behind the curve, routinely stifles innovation, crushes good ideas and is about as agile as a pregnant hippo. It's exasperating. Many ask what reform I would be willing to accept in order to stay in and if I could pick one that would make it economically tolerable, then I would pick the capacity to trade on our own terms and veto the EU unilaterally on trade grounds. And that is the one thing that is never going to change because that is in the DNA of the EU. It's a power cult.

The real engine of trade now is the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and in order to raise concerns, those must be lodged first with the EU for the EU to negotiate on our behalf. That also applies even when we have unique industries or relationships that no other EU state replicates. Each an every time we have to go via the EU because the EU wants it that way. It's ideological - not practical.

The one thing the EU is (allegedly) designed for is trade and to secure better deals. It's the one thing it is the least capable of doing. The procrastination and delay that comes with pooling sovereignty actually makes the "market size" a disadvantage. The battle of this ideology versus pragmatism not only causes disruption within the EU but also in how it interacts with the top tables like the IMO. It's a bloody nuisance in trying to insert itself as a national entity and its input is not a welcome development in multilateral forums.

The benefits of pooling sovereignty are wholly overrated, and in fact stand in the way of each member advancing trade according to their historical and cultural connections. Spain and Portugal free to arrange their own trade talks could massively enhance European trade links with South America.

And as we see in recent times, trade is not these big ticket, big bang events. It's hundreds of backroom meetings in specialist areas, consulting all interested nations, corporates, NGOs ands alliances, and more progress is achieved by small increments than anything the EU is likely to achieve with big bloc deals that take years and stall many times along the road. Where trade is concerned, I just don't see an advantage to EU membership. Elective pooling of sovereignty is fine but the rigidity of a single bloc that demands ultimate loyalty each and every time just defies all logic.

Were there a practical reason for doing it, I might be more inclined to take the rough with the smooth but it's more to do with the bankrupt ideology that the EU stands on - which is born of the post-war paranoia. It couldn't be any more obsolete if it tried.

And then there's the democracy aspect. Most people don't care that the EU isn't democratic. Most people aren't even bothered what goes on at that level. That's one good reason for leaving, but that's evidently not enough of a motivator. What does concern everybody though is the shared feeling most of us have that there is something not quite right domestic politics. It looks and feels like a shadow of its former self.

In this I squarely blame the EU, in that we have outsourced our trade and aid policy and within it have become parochial, self-absorbed and insular. The only time foreign affairs is news is when we're voting on air-strikes. We are seeing an atrophy of politics, and that's a goodly reason why most of our politics is stuck in a timewarp. We've become infantilised and you can see it in the displacement activity of parliament where it is increasingly confiscating powers from local authorities just to give itself something to do.

And in this, that atrophy means local councils are effectively powerless regional development agencies that are barely even local anymore. Things just happen, nobody was forewarned or consulted and nobody could have stopped it. The idea that we have local democracy is risible.

When you stip people of power and take away politics, all you have left is administration and benign managerialism. It's empty. And in that regard we can scarcely be surprised that the think tanks and policy engines are a shadow of their former selves and that our media is a dismal gossip circle where knowledge and expertise is frowned upon.

The malign fallout of the EU is for more pernicious and insidious and its cultural effects, in making us passive receivers of rights and entitlements, make us bovine and more than a little dehumanised. There is a cultural and spiritual rot that has set in as the people are lacking a political purpose and no mechanisms through which to express their preferences.

While the EU remains the supreme authority over UK affairs we are detatched for the power held over us and we are passengers in the globalisation process. Our presence on the international stage is increasingly symbolic. They'll roll out out on the red carpets when they need legitimacy to bomb something but the rest of the time we just have to wait our turn.

If we want a dynamic and agile UK with a revitalised democracy then leaving the EU is the gesture we need to kick off the process. Because things might get complex and it's inconvenient is absolutely no reason to stay and there is nothing that can be said for membership that we don't get as participants in the single market.

The EU serves the vanity of our politicians and it likes to pretend it is the embodiment of cooperation and intergovernmentalism, but the fact of the matter, in theory and in practice, it is the exact opposite. It's inward looking, claustrophobic, increasingly parochial, slow to respond and becoming more isolated all the time. If you're following the real global trade matrix, the EU barely features in it.

Even now, because of the WTO TFA, we see Germany sneakily reasserting itself and we're going to see ever more of that, with nation states increasingly bypassing the EU in order to get things done. The EU just hasn't responded to the change of paradigm, so we are in effect maintaining a pretense. They are welcome to if they want but I don't see the value in us doing likewise. Not when we don't have to.

I don't think we need a supreme government for Europe, I don't think that's the right direction for us or Europe and I don't see that the EU has a long term future (not least because only its elites actually want it) - and I would rather be out now, before we have to cobble a replacement together in a hurry.

By leaving the EU and strengthening the global institutions we then have the ideas and the mechanisms in place for with the EU does eventually go the way of the dinosaur. It's an obsolete structure, it doesn't work very well and if Brexit is the beginning of the final chapter of the EU, then all the better.

I would rather see Europe pulling together on the basis of intergovernmentalism, and I think subregional blocs are going to be more effective, more democratic and less cumbersome. Certainly it has more of a chance of bringing Russia back into the community of European nations than the ring of stars in all its pomposity and hypocrisy. I don't see that isolating and further humiliating Russia will bring about a safer Europe. When has that ever worked? An Eastern European version of Efta, including Ukraine and Russia just might though.

Put simply, the EU is a yesterday's pisspoor solution, to yesterday's problems, built on a foundation of intellectual sand, and now it is a solution in search of a problem. Now is as good a time as any to put it out of its misery. Brexit is the beginning of that process, and it signifies the beginning of true European reform and nobody has anything to lose from it. Except maybe the parasites who did this to us in the first place. Cry me a river.

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