Clearly and simply set out the arguments for and against Brexit. (Leave) from Boris Johnson in today’s Telegraph. Boris begins: “Thanks to an unexpected wormhole in the space-time continuum, I have come across the following passage from a historical textbook a few decades hence. It is a chapter called “Brexit”…It is now generally agreed among historians that Britain’s departure from the EU really began in 1991, a quarter of a century before the famous “Brexit” referendum. It was then that the UK government took the controversial decision to opt out of the third stage of European monetary union – thereby ensuring that the British people would be able to keep the pound sterling, rather than being forced to use the euro.
When this historic rupture was confirmed by the Labour government, in 2003, there was widespread condemnation from those in British banking and business who were traditionally nervous of being left out of any European project, as well as from some politicians.
As time went on, the decision looked better and better. By imposing a one-size-fits-all monetary policy on very different economies, the euro became a disaster. Unprecedented levels of unemployment were experienced in some Mediterranean countries. The French were sunk in malaise. The Greek economy shrank by a quarter. And yet the entire energies of the EU political class were devoted to rescuing this project.
So when the British had their long-delayed referendum, in June 2016, they were being offered the worst of both worlds. They did not use the euro (whatever its supposed benefits), but there were at least two major ways in which – through membership of the EU – the British were exposed to the consequences of the euro catastrophe.
The first was immigration. Thanks largely to the decision to keep the pound, and the flexibility that went with an independent monetary policy, the UK was a zone of relatively high growth – a comparative El Dorado of job creation. This meant that the UK experienced substantial waves of immigration by people in search of work, partly from eastern Europe but also from the southern countries that had been devastated by the euro. The British were traditionally welcoming, but they could see the pressures of uncontrolled immigration on the NHS and other services. They were alarmed that the influx was about 330,000 a year, unsure that they wanted this surge to help push national population to a predicted 70 or 80 million.
They were disappointed when the UK government’s “renegotiation” of the terms of EU membership failed entirely to restore control of immigration to the UK authorities. They were also increasingly unsettled by the realisation – as the campaign went on – that it was not possible to vote for the status quo. The EU had plainly changed out of all recognition from the Common Market that they had voted for in 1975.
In their desperation to save the euro, the Brussels authorities had set an ambitious agenda to go further and faster with a United States of Europe. Reading the fine print, the British discovered that there was nothing they could do to veto such moves – towards a fiscal and political union, as detailed in the “Five Presidents’Report”. Nor could they stop further centralisation from applying to Britain.
By the spring of 2016, many electors were thinking that the EU was moving in completely the wrong direction. With some polls even predicting a Vote to Leave, a highly nervous UK government resorted to a series of scare tactics. Hysterical claims were made about house prices, food prices, World War Three and other nonexistent bogeymen. The American president was prevailed upon to campaign for the UK to remain – even though, as he was repeatedly reminded, the US would not dream of compromising its independence in the manner required of EU members.
As the brow-beating and scare stories intensified, many began to suspect that the government campaign to “Remain” was driven not so much by an enthusiasm for the Brussels system, but simple fear of the political embarrassment entailed in a Vote to Leave. The Leave campaigners focused on the anti-democratic nature of the EU. They noted the not insignificant expense of membership – £350 million a week, all in – and the inability of the Remain campaign to show that the UK’s net contribution of £10 billion a year was well spent.
They demonstrated that EU legislation now inspired 60 per cent of all primary and secondary legislation at Westminster, and that the costs of this torrent of laws were running at about £600 million a week for British business – even though only 6 per centof UK businesses actually traded with other EU countries. They convincingly showed that claims of UK “influence” in Brussels were laughable, given that only 3.6 per cent of EU commission officials actually came from the UK. They pointed out that plenty of non-EU countries had done better than Britain at exporting to the vaunted “single market”; that global free trade was legally impossible for Britain while in the EU; and in the end it was hard to resist the conclusion that the EU was an anachronism – outdated in a digital age in which people could shop across frontiers at the click of a mouse.
Given the choice between taking back control or being sucked ever deeper into a federal superstate, the British voted for independence on June 23. To no one’s very great surprise, Project Fear turned out to be a giant hoax. The markets were calm. The pound did not collapse. The British government immediately launched a highly effective and popular campaign across the Continent to explain that this was not a rejection of “Europe”, only of the supranational EU institutions; and a new relationship was rapidly forged based on free trade and with traditional British leadership on foreign policy, crime-fighting, intelligence-sharing and other intergovernmental cooperation.
The British felt suddenly and unexpectedly galvanised – with a renewed confidence in their democracy, and excitement about the new opportunities for global trade and partnership. The Brexit vote was followed by a powerful campaign for reform in Europeand a widespread euphoria that at least one population had plucked up the courage to say that the emperor had no clothes.
After only a few years it became increasingly hard to find anyone who would confess to having voted Remain.
Key arguments for and against Brexit are at the bottom of the article, click on the link.