‘Je suis Européen’ and Other Myths: Part I

The arguments I have encountered from many In campaigners in recent weeks could, at my most generous, be described as misguided and ill-informed. This is something that deeply troubles me, as this referendum, where we are making a decision which is so crucial in defining our futures, is being fought on the basis of misinformation and deception. I have thus decided to take a break from my usual issue-specific Musings on Europe for the next few weeks, and instead engage in some myth busting.

Myth: ‘Je suis Européen’

The most common myth perpetuated by the In camp is about identity. Yes, the notions of Europe and the EU are used interchangeably as short hand (most notably from my perspective in the name of this blog series), and yes, there is a place for questions about identity in this referendum, but it is not, and should not be, the ‘I am European therefore I must vote In’ line espoused by the Inners.

Conflating ‘Europe’ and ‘the European Union’ in this regard is an underhand tactic. Europe is a continent. It is a great continent. The continent of Da Vinci, of Mozart, of the European Championships. I am, and always will be, proud to be European, but membership of ‘Europe’ is not what we are voting on (for a start I should imagine the equipment required to drag ourselves out into the Atlantic would be quite pricey)!

What we are voting on is membership of an undemocratic political union, a bankrupt economic union, and (with its future direction) a dangerous security union.

So to the Inners (and particularly to James of Southampton Students for Europe, whose blog title this is aimed at), I say: Oui, je suis Européen, mais ce n’est pas pertinente!

Myth: ‘We don’t know what Leave looks like, we’re safer In’

This is a statement I often see, which requires both a rebuff and a rebuttal. I shall begin with the rebuff.

When In campaigners say this, it is to put forth the fear of going against the status quo to the electorate. Here is the truth: we know exactly what Leave looks like. When Britain wakes up on the 24th June, having voted Leave, the Cotswolds will still be standing, the Channel Tunnel will still be running, and the UK will still be a member of the European Union.

What changes then? Well, a government that you elected will begin a two year long process of departure from the European Union. Two years in which we can decide whether our departure will be to EFTA or some other deal. Two years in which we can secure not the Canadian Option, not the Norwegian Option, not the Swiss Option, but the British Option. What does that look like? Whatever we want. On the 24th June 2016 we will begin a transition to a new, a free, and a great Britain. That is what Leave looks like.

Now to the rebuttal. In 1975 the United Kingdom voted to join a common market and got a political union. Our politicians promised us then, that ‘we’re safer In’ and that what we saw on polling day was what we would get. They lied. This time around, they tell us that we are voting for the existing Union, the status quo, that the EU we see is the EU we get. It isn’t.

The only certainty on June 24th is that if we voted In, we give the EU freedom to change, safe in the knowledge that we are tied in for another generation. We don’t know what the EU will look like in two years, in five years, in ten years, but from past experience we have a rough idea. The quote then should really be, ‘We don’t know what Stay looks like, we’re safer Out’.

Myth: ‘Leaving the EU will put our rights at risk’

A common misconception spouted by In campaigners is that Brexit would have an effect on our human rights. This is plainly untrue. Our human rights are guaranteed in the Human Rights Act, which is based on, and linked to, the European Convention on Human Rights, set down by the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe being an entity of which we are a founder member of, and which we joined in 1949, some 24 years before we joined the Common Market. The Council of Europe, of course, being an entirely separate organisation to the European Union, and the ECHR (and our adherence to it) not being linked to this referendum in any way.

As for workers’ rights, here I will concede that there may be some effects. After all, our workers’ rights presently do far outstrip minimum EU levels, and I do fear that (with the increased funding we could pour into constantly and consistently improving these) our workers’ rights could indeed change after we vote Leave!

Conclusion of Part I: Three myths busted for today, with the In case seeming tenuous and perplexing, many more in the weeks to come.

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The election that Trumps Politics

The 2016 election has been one of the most controversial and unpredictable in the history of American politics, and it hasn’t even started yet! With candidates who make Frank Underwood look tame, this is an election where there seem to be more anti-establishment candidates than establishment ones, and in this piece I will assess how credible an anti-establishment victory is.

The GOP

The Republican race has shed candidates faster than water from a colander. With an initial field of anti-establishment candidates broad enough to cancel one another out, the anti-establishment field has thinned to two. That the most recent withdrawal, the bonkers Ben Carson, backed Donald Trump is indicative of the way the anti-establishment on the right is coalescing behind one of those candidates. The other, Ted Cruz, may be an anti-establishment icon in the Senate, but in this Presidential race he has positioned himself more towards the establishment, so to all intents and purposes he has become another establishment candidate.

So Mr Trump then. Donald Trump is to politics what the History Channel is to television; bizarre, unintelligible, but strangely compelling and full of Nazis and conspiracy theories. Insane and spewing a fascist rhetoric, Trump has become the front-runner for the GOP nomination. Helped on by a multitude of establishment candidates splitting the vote between them, Trump is on course to secure a genuine shot at the Presidency, something that he has manipulated through a unique brand of pragmatism and personality. Whether or not he can guide the GOP to an incredibly unlikely anti-establishment victory is another matter.

Faced with Hillary Clinton, Trump possesses the ability to mobilise the conservative movement across the spectrum of the right against a candidate who cannot do the same for the Democrats. His force of personality and inability to be hit in debates or by negative publicity mean that his poll numbers can only go up. Against Sanders the story is unclear. Faced with an opponent who could mobilise the left, victory would go to whichever candidate could mobilise the Clinton vote.

Verdict: Unclear but possible.

The Democrats

With the Democratic race down to the final few candidates, the anti-establishment candidate has fared worse than his GOP equivalent. Bernie Sanders has seen off Martin O’Malley, but he is losing serious ground on Clinton in the popular vote, and of course when the Superdelegates are taken into account Sanders has already lost the race. None the less, the veteran Independent represents the closest thing to an anti-establishment candidate the left has fielded in years, and he has succeeded in bern-ing Clinton’s fingers in several states.

If Sanders were able to gain some momentum, then he perhaps has a long shot at the nomination. Even then, Sanders is perhaps even less likely than Trump to unite his party, with his views being considerably to the left of the traditional Democratic base. If Trump wins the nomination, or perhaps even Cruz, there may be a sufficient enough gulf between the two candidates to offer Sanders a chance, if no candidate captures the middle ground then the veteran Senator has a shot at the White House. Against Rubio, or even Kasich, Sanders has little chance at the White House, with those candidates offering an alternative to the Democrats right of Sanders.

Verdict: Impossible, too much stands between Sanders and the White House.

An Alternative

Of course, the two major ‘alternative’ anti-establishment cases would seem to be independent runs from Sanders and Trump. In the case of Trump, this seems an unlikely course of action. For a man who has built a campaign based on winning, losing the nomination would cast adrift any hopes of the White House. Though Trump and his supporters are not the most predictable, and an independent run against two establishment candidates could put Trump in the White House. For Sanders, an independent run would bring a situation he is used to, but it would also dent his chances, with any momentum he has gained being lost.

So the final consideration must go to a third party run. There has, it seems, never been a better opportunity for an alternative to make their mark on an election. Michael Bloomberg has ruled out a run for the White House, which leaves only the Libertarian Party as an alternative on the ballot in every state. Former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, seems their most likely candidate, and his message is one which could appeal to a disillusioned Republican and Democratic base, with a wide range of social and economic policy which he claims enables him to work with either party. Governor Johnson is rough around the edges, but if he were able to get on the stage with the Democrats and the GOP, and if the nominees are favourable (i.e. Trump and Sanders, or Trump and Clinton), then there has never been a better time for the Libertarians, and Gary Johnson, to take the White House.

Verdict: Unlikely, absurd, and verging on impossible, so with the spirit of the 2016 race, entirely possible.

Deal? No Deal!

I must start this blog by warning you that I’m not convinced I will be able to make my usual 600 word limit. To be quite honest with you there is so little in David Cameron’s ‘deal’ (and for the duration that word shall be in inverted commas) for me to analyse that I fear this piece may be quite short. Let us start with a little bit of background.

In May, David Cameron was elected with a pledge to bring about fundamental reform in Europe, he did not. You wouldn’t necessarily notice from the rhetoric, words like ‘reformed European Union’ and ‘special status’ have been thrown around by the In campaign without any real substance to back them up. On the former, the only thing that this negotiation has proven is that a reformed European Union is impossible. If the threat of the world’s fifth largest economy leaving cannot induce any serious reform, then nothing can.

As for the latter, the UK does indeed have a special status in Europe, we always have. We have a special status in that, even in just the period 2009-2015, we have been voted against 13.3% of the time, that compared to Germany and Austria who are the second most voted against countries on just over five percent (http://www.theguardian.com/world/datablog/2015/nov/02/is-uk-winner-or-loser-european-council). To phrase that differently, we have been voted down more than twice as often as the next countries. So yes Mr Cameron, we do have a special status in Europe, and voting for your ‘deal’ will only reinforce that status!

Is it even worthy of the word ‘deal’ in inverted commas? It does, after all, have all the legal status of a handshake. This is not just opinion, that this deal is not legally binding comes from the mouth of several respected lawyers, as well as from the Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove. So in essence the Prime Minister is asking you to vote for a ‘deal’ which is not worth the paper it is printed on. He is asking you to vote for a promise. So the real question on June 23rd is ‘Do you trust the EU to reform itself?’

The headline of the ‘deal’, if one can find a headline, is the opt-out from closer political union. To me, this only confirms two things. One, it confirms once and for all that the true intention of the European Union is to create a so-called United States of Europe, and thus that the long-term aspirations of this organisation to which we are attached in statehood in its own right. Secondly, this opt-out confirms that we have no opt-out, in a roundabout way. Consider this: the European Union currently has the ability to legislate in a wide and significant number of UK policy areas, while we may have been promised an opt-out from any further integration, in the status quo this integration exists to a large extent, and so once the European Union takes up its single state aspiration, we will be a puppet state to it. We will exist at the whim of a larger state, with no more status than Western Sahara.

The rest of Mr Cameron’s ‘fundamental reform’ is essentially an extension of the status quo, all bar the sections where it talks about not standing in the way of further integration or the implementation of legislation affecting the Euro areas, or the vague ‘emergency’ brake.

Mr Cameron went to Brussels with a mandate to bring back fundamental reform, spent several months negotiating, and managed to come back with less than he started with. This ‘deal’ is not a deal, it is a meaningless piece of paper. It has no legal status. It brings no reforms.

In June, when David Cameron asks you, ‘Deal?’ The only answer is ‘No Deal!’

Guest Musing: The seven sins of the European Union

Those of you with an interest in religion and mysticism, and those of you who have seen the film Se7en, will doubtless be aware of the concept of the seven deadly sins, composed of greed, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, wrath and pride. In the wake of the upcoming EU referendum I couldn’t help but notice that the European Union embodies all of those. Let me explain.

Brussels is a glorious place for greed. Legions of bureaucrats line their pockets to run a colossal corporatist racket, throwing 42.77% of its budget into the corrupt monstrosity that is CAP. CAP, whose perverse incentives and pettifogging rules have seen millions of euros go to places like Eton, whose contrived standards have retarded the modernisation of British agriculture by propping up the status quo and discriminating against innovations like GM. CAP, that plank of a protectionist leviathan that sees the Third World denied desperately needed trade and Europeans forced to pay so that they can have higher prices and worse services. Obviously, CAP is not all of the EU budget, plenty of which lines the pockets of cronies via other routes. This racket isn’t free. £19 billion of the EU budget is gouged from the UK every year, and even with the scraps we get back, most of which goes to protectionist abominations like CAP (around £3 billion), to cronies and to vanity projects, contributing nothing and less to the public good, we are still £9.8 billion in deficit to them. Their greed directly hurts us, then, as it means we are mugged for more and more; in 2009, our net contribution was only £4.3 billion.

As for lust? It is in the obsession with constantly expanding its sphere of influence and deepening integration that the EU displays it, a lust for power and expansion. Eastern Europe was barely free of the Soviet Union when the EU absorbed it nation by nation, with no time given for the nations to properly establish their place independent of supranational empires. Serious consideration has been and is being given to countries like Turkey as potential members. Countries were allowed to join the Euro without meeting actually meeting the rules for entry, with bureaucrats failing to dig into blatantly manufactured statistics as the lust for power overwhelmed prudence; this would come back to bite Brussels.

The Envy of the EU is most evident in their barely concealed Anglophobia. One barely needs look to find Eurocrats disparaging the United Kingdom, whether as greedy, insignificant or insubordinate. They do this because our culture of individualism, parliamentary supremacy and the rule of law are anathema to them, in part, but more because they envy the success our culture has given us. They envy our strong, well-managed economy, which is why they continue to try and gouge more money out of us. They envy the prosperity of the City, which is why they push policies meant to destroy the financial sectors of Europe, most notably the spectacularly ill-conceived financial transactions tax. They envy the power of our brothers across the ocean, which is why so much talk of the EU as a counterweight, not a complement, to NATO abounds Brussels. This envy serves only to weaken the EU, building resentment in Britain, tearing at the pillars of its prosperity and weakening the vital defensive links with NATO, but envy always has been self-destructive.

Gluttony describes the endless consumption of increasingly scarce resources that has come to characterise the EU. Its budget is over 142 billion euros, having grown almost 4% year on year. This has funded the recruitment of more privileged bureaucrats, on whom 8.52 billion euros is spent annually, and more hand-outs for well-connected cronies, along with the bribes with which Brussels keeps Eastern Europe in the EU, and quixotic fiscal shenanigans to keep Southern Europe in the Euro. And for what? Germany and France are stagnant, Southern Europe is rotting and the EU is actively working against British interests, all while consuming more and more of its vassal states’ resources. The Euro is failing, Schengen is failing, Europe is coming apart at the seams and all Brussels can think to do is spend more. That’s a sign of an eating disorder.

Further, EU policies serve to reward Sloth. The vast subsidies lavished upon Greece gave it a bloated, self-serving, extractive civil service with gold plated pensions starting at 55 that worked with a network of lumbering crony corporations to give the appearance of a prospering nation, an apparatus of indolence that helped precipitate the state Greece finds itself in today. Such, to a lesser extent, is the story in Southern Europe at large. The same pattern of privileged bureaucrats and comfortable cronies defines everything the European Union does. Endless overlapping layers of pettifogging, unelected bureaucrats exists to oversee the tortuous yet predictable decision making process and the wasteful spending programmes that give thousands of pen pushers comfortable work. Big business and other wealthy organizations can lobby themselves special favours, subsidies and protections that would never receive a democratic mandate, allowing them to ignore the laws of supply and demand by parasitizing the people they are supposed to provide a competitive service to, and crushing smaller competitors who could have given the people a better deal. Such is sloth rewarded and diligence drained by the perverse policies of Brussels.

All of this could someday, perhaps, be forgiven were it not for wrath. The federalists in Brussels have no regard for such petty things as consent, and won’t take no for an answer. When Ireland rejected the Treaty of Lisbon the EU made them hold the referendum again so they’d give the ‘right’ answer. Similarly, every nation that has rejected the insane Brussels proposals on migrants is being threatened with fines, tarred as bigoted and side-lined as the EU pushes through its quotas anyway. Such has been the response whenever a new expansion of the EU’s prerogative is rejected. Such a rejection of democracy, sovereignty and consent is all too typical of Brussels’ imperial tendency. Their wrath is such that they are willing not merely to consider but to execute civilian coups to crush dissent. In 2012 when the EU had tired of Berlusconi, a democratically elected leader, they forced him to resign with threats of even greater financial ruin for Italy, and placed Mario Monti a bureaucrat from the Commission, as their viceroy. When in 2011 George Papandreou refused to meekly bow before Brussels he was deposed and replaced similarly, again by a bureaucrat, this time Lucas Papademos, former Vice President of the European Central Bank. The wrath, pettiness and spite have driven the federal dream far, but they have also poisoned it; the people of Europe are increasingly rejecting these impositions, and as the crises facing Europe reach boiling point Brussels may find itself weaker than it imagined.

Finally there is pride. Pride, in that Brussels bureaucrats think they can tear up their promises to us on a whim, most recently over making us suffer for the quixotic bail-outs, and have us remain subservient. Pride, in that they are arrogant enough to believe that they can continue to impoverish the third world, to savage the continent and to tyrannise the peoples of Europe. Pride, in that they believe they should be celebrated for it. Such imperial hubris has served them well thus far, it is true; the European Union has expanded both its prerogative and its boundaries relentlessly since its founding, and it plots to grow both greater still, with an EU army, harmonised wages and a financial transaction tax, among far too many other things, all in the works. The Eurozone crisis and the migration crisis has shown just how weak the fundaments of the federalist dream are, however. South Europe has been hollowed out by the traumatic bail-outs and the crushing burden of the euro, and the cynical attempts of Brussels to use the migrant crisis to deepen integration have sewn division and resentment. The crises will only get worse, not that Brussels will ever admit that until the floor falls out from under them. It makes sense when you think about it; we all know what comes after pride.

Pooled Sovereignty is no sovereignty at all

The inspiration for this piece came in the main from a tweet from Jess Phillips (the Labour MP), in which she dismissed the importance of sovereignty to a modern Britain. So Jess, here are the reasons why sovereignty should be important to you, to your constituents, and to the people of this country. Here are just some of the reasons why you should vote Leave on June 23rd.

Sovereignty. I could start off with a long and complex definition of sovereignty and its various meanings and intricacies of the concept, but that would be unnecessary, all you really need to know about sovereignty can be ascertained in the first few lines of its Wikipedia entry – ‘Sovereignty is understood…as the full right and power of a governing body to govern itself without any interference from outside sources or bodies’.

It is clear then how the European Union affects our sovereignty, how the European Union removes our government’s ability to be sovereign in and of itself. In politics, sovereignty is absolute power over our laws, our freedoms, and our borders. I shall not get into a lengthy diatribe on immigration, as that is an issue which merits an article on its own, what I shall do instead is simply ask, are we really an independent sovereign nation, if we cannot decide on our own immigration policy? Whatever you think that policy may be, the upmost issue is sovereignty – the ability to take control of policy for ourselves.

The idea that our sovereignty is important has been dismissed and mocked by the In campaign, most recently in a tweet from the Southampton branch of Students for Europe, but it a crucial part of being an independent nation, of actually existing at all. There is, after all, a reason why the United Nations only admits ‘sovereign states’. Sticking with the United Nations, to those who believe that Britain is not strong enough to make its own laws, or cannot be trusted to, I simply ask, why then are we one of the five most powerful nations in the UN? Why are we, the supposedly tiny island nation who cannot rule itself, one of the permanent members of the Security Council?

Those who justify the removal of our sovereignty as ‘for our own good’ do not understand it. Those who argue that the EU has passed things that are good for us, but that we would not have passed, simply prove the point. In that latter line of logic the EU is some benevolent dictatorship, but the important word there is dictatorship. When it is over an issue like TTIP or an EU army, should we really trust unelected Eurocrats over our own government? Even on ‘good’ policies passed contrary to the wishes of the British electorate, does this erosion of sovereignty not undermine our very democracy?

To come back to the purpose of this article, yes Jess Phillips, sovereignty is very important, and as one of our elected MPs, you should be championing it. The only way to reclaim our sovereignty is to leave the European Union. Not to accept some watered down ‘opt out from closer political union’.

When David Cameron says ‘deal’, I say no deal! To close my remarks, I simply ask you to consider this: if the status quo were different, and this was a debate about joining the EU, would you? Would you give up our sovereignty, our democracy, our freedom? Would you give up the power to control our destiny? I wouldn’t.

Deal? No deal.