Monday, 7 March 2016

Brexit is the last chance for democracy in our lifetime


In the Brexit debate you will see a lot of people chucking up the most tedious technical minutia as to why it isn't possible and why we can't get a good exit settlement. It's a difficult argument to win because in so many respects, they are absolutely right. Brexit most certainly isn't easy to get your head round, and all of the exit paths are, in the short to medium term, suboptimal.

To those MPs who say this, my first response is that you should have thought about that before ratifying treaties you hadn't even read, but the key point here is that it's designed to be difficult to leave. Even Article 50, the departure mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty requires full EU ratification.

The founding fathers of the EU set about removing democracy and the DNA of the EU is encoded to make it next to irreversible. Supranational domination was their intent and they weren't going to make it easy to undo. It is why the institutions are so fundamentally unreformable. The prime minister has lied about reforms because he knew full well that you only have to fool some of the people some of the time - but if he had attempted real reform, he would have failed and everybody would have known.

So yes, there are some risks in this, and no we are not going to have an easy ride of it. That is absolutely why we must bite the bullet now because if you think it's difficult to leave, the next time we have a vote it might actually be technically impossible without a very serious and acrimonious split. For the time being we have a safe harbour in the EEA as a departure lounge, but there is no guarantee the EEA will still exist and there's nothing the EU would like more than to destroy Efta and bounce them into the EU.

In this, any politician who says Brexit may cause uncertainty is being utterly dishonest in that they have absolutely no idea which way the EU will go or what will be in the next treaty or even if they will bother to have another treaty, They may just use various legal instruments to confiscate powers by the back door. It might well be that a Remain vote is not only to close the door on independence but also to padlock it and throw away the key.

Once we vote in, there is going to be no more reform. If it was unreformable with the very real threat of Brexit, they are not going to listen to us once we have caved in and accepted Cameron's bogus package of reforms.

And on that matter, I have a bone to pick with Leavers. We are seeing far too much rhetoric from Tory MPs who have come out in favour of Brexit that largely lets the PM off the hook - saying that it was not the fault of Cameron that he didn't get a good deal. Not only did he not try to reform the EU or our relationship with it, instead merely restating various existing instruments that will never be used - he has actively lied about it.

And so any MP giving Cameron a free pass is hedging their bets - when to fully campaign for Brexit necessarily demands visceral opposition of the PM - who is, de facto, the leader of the Remain campaign. If such mealy mouthed behaviour is the best we can expect then you're simply not in in the game and ceding ground to the opposition.

I cannot stress how much is at stake here and why it matters so very much. If we don't get out now, there is only one real way out and if you think the Brexit on offer presently means uncertainty then you'll get a nasty re-education as to what that word means when we're forced out at the next Euro crisis. And there will be one.

The bottom line is that no supranational entity with so little mandate to govern has ever survived and it has never ended well. So we can take it as read that one way or another we are leaving and the choice in this referendum is not the choice you might think.

The choice is to either leave now in a negotiated, staged exit where both sides take great care to avoid trading disruption - or we can do it the other way. Suddenly, unplanned, and all at once at a date sometime in the future. You're not going to like that, I promise you. All the scares they're talking about now are not true, but if we do it that other way, then they will all come true. And worse.

And so it's really time to be adult about this and put the work in. Educate yourself, get active and put the spade work in because nobody can do it for you - and nobody will spoonfeed you. You should, if you are even familiar with the basics of what democracy is, know that the EU is not a democracy and it does not work on the basis of cooperation or any of the other things it pretends to be.

It was set up out of fear and paranoia of what could happen based on the geopolitics of 1950. We're in an internet age now and the institutions we have are no longer fit for purpose and will resist reform until the bitter end. Now is your chance to change that - to break with the past and start designing the future. A vote to remain is to hold this quagmire together and prevent there being a political market correction. And you know from basic economics what happens when you artificially prevent such from happening.

We know that Brexit can be achieved in an orderly, relatively risk free way - but no, it won't be easy and yes we will have to work doubly hard to escape the gravitational pull of the EU and it's not going to be completed any time inside the next ten years. As I say, Brexit is process, not an event.

It is going to be a huge commercial and diplomatic challenge, but one that will almost certainly reinvigorate politics and public participation and will pave the way to complete domestic democratic reform which I think we can all agree is long overdue. The only certainty the Remain camp can offer is that things will stay exactly as they are for a period of maybe ten or twenty years and then they suddenly become manifestly worse.

This is your chance to do it better. This is your one and only opportunity for change. After which, should you vote to remain, nothing your government does to you is anything you don't deserve. When the total absence of democracy massively screws you over and they come knocking at your door to take the last of what you have, don't expect any sympathy from me.

Instead of that though, we can be something better. We can be and should be an independent nation with a seat at all the global top tables, leading Europe out of stagnation and running our own affairs. We should have our own trade, aid, agriculture, fishing, energy and environment policy, and we don't need the EU gun to our heads to do it well.

More to the point, we should have the power to instruct our government and the power to say no to it. We should be the benchmark for democracy, not subordinate to a (for the moment) benign oligarchy. We paid too much for the freedoms we have. Don't make us pay for them again.

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