The Left Wing Argument for Brexit.
At the beginning of this campaign, I would have regarded myself as a left wing pro-exiter (or Lexiter as some people now refer to it) and I wanted to deal with the assumptions made by the Lexit campaign first. I would completely agree that the EU has a terrible track record of enforcing the rights it provides.
Many on the left also criticise the EU because they feel that our own law has done far better to build rights for workers- for example the 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave in the UK is considerably longer than the 14 weeks guaranteed by EU law . However, they miss two crucial points in my view; firstly, there are millionaires on both sides, and I would much rather that rights were guaranteed on a national and international level, whilst the people in power squabble amongst themselves. Some of these rights include :
the rights to a weekend,
paid holiday under the working time directive,
regulations on minimum pay for part time workers,
the right to rest and sleep by limiting the working day to a certain number of hours (dependent upon the type of work),
protection of worker’s personal data,
limitations on surveillance at work,
directive 89/391/EEC gives employers an imperative to maintain standards of secure health and safety, runs data collection on accidents at work (ESAW),
and data collection on diseases that could potentially be work related (EODS),
guarantees a target youth employment rate of 25% or above in EU countries,
with the aim of producing a 75% employment rate for those aged 20-64 years of age,
the creation of thousands of apprenticeship schemes to fill EU quotas,
bringing together experts in the EEPO to provide data for governments to better reduce rates of unemployment,
TUPE guarantees and minimizing social damage when a new manager/company takes over,
protection for people taking maternity leave,
the right to take a certain amount of time off on the grounds of family illness/bereavement (particularly important for single mothers),
the right for your union rep to be informed of any major forthcoming changes by your employer,
the collective redundancies directive (directing procedure to minimize damage of mass redundancies,
by setting a minimum standard of consultation and information between employers and employees),
providing improved conditions of employment for legal third country nationals inside EU territory,
a body/authority working towards male/female equality in the workplace,
the right to be told the terms and conditions of your employment contracts (91/553/EEC),
the right to free movement without discrimination on the grounds of nationality (BUT contrary to popular ignorance makes exceptions for times that might pose a risk to public health and security),
protection of a minimum standard for pensions (2003/41/EC),
protection of pensions in the case of a company going bankrupt (2008/94/EC- article 8),
the rights of all citizens to equal treatment and access to social security (inside a nation) as a citizen of that nation and a secondary authority to refer to in case any of your rights have been infringed.
While all of these rights may not be properly enforced at all times, and the EU provides many in addition to those provided by national parliaments, who would argue that the above rights are not worth having a second body to guarantee their legal status?
When it comes to Greece, which gets comparatively less of the legislation it votes in favour of through the EU council (Britain was on the winning side in 97% of EU council debates between 2004 and 2009, with a slight fall to 86.7% from 2009-2015 ) the EU often gets the blame for imposing austerity on Greece, when really the matter is not so simple. As Richard Corbett MEP puts it on his website :
“Greece asked for bailout loans from the IMF and from its fellow eurozone countries — not from the EU. It was given the largest ever loan of this kind in history: long-term (30 years), low-interest (1.7 per cent) loans destined to give it time to turn the corner. It also negotiated the biggest debt restructuring in history, with the private sector writing off nearly half of Greece’s debt. Without this help, the plight of Greece would be far worse. Far from imposing austerity, European solidarity actually attenuated the pain — a point often ignored.”
I would recommend reading Mr Corbett’s full article on the recent economic pains of Greece if you are still confused about the issue . The issue of Greece is far more complex than many lexit campaigners would have you believe
If this referendum has proved nothing else, it has proved that democracy is a strange and unreliable thing. Could we do without democracy? Absolutely not. Democracy is the key to a progressive society- not just a society in the interests of all the people, but a society that functions efficiently. Stalin and Mao both sincerely believed they had no requirement for it; that it was slow and pointless, and as a consequence, both proceeded to conduct policies (the Five Year Plans and the Great Leap Forward respectively) which led their people into ruin, and cost millions of lives. I like to refer to it as the dictatorship complex. Hitler also showed signs of it, through his invasion of Russia and attempt to fight a war on two fronts- in my mind, this was the suicidal result of a society in which the leader went unquestioned. And it will always be that way- it is our one saving grace that democracy will always be superior to dictatorship and one party rule.
But nonetheless, democracy has it’s issues when TV shows which should enlighten us on the debate refuse to engage in the facts and the depth of the referendum for fear of boring audiences, but are perfectly happy to talk about the “negative nature of the debate” which is something of a nothing claim in my view; the debate is always going to be negative because what we are debating is a positive/negative issue whichever way you look at it. To make such a statement as “we do 44% of our trade with the EU” is not negative from an illocutionary point of view, but the perlocutionary effect of anyone with a negative mind towards the remain campaign makes them see that as a threat and the speaker providing ‘no positive reason to stay.’ And the exact same is true of the claims made by the leave campaign.
But the second point, and I think what renders the Lexit campaign most incoherent, is that the Lexit view is based on the assumption that the UK will have a snap general election in the next few weeks, which seems unlikely, as conservative leave campaigners have already declared their intention to support the current government . You see, were this not the case, the legal community are largely agreed that untangling 40 years of UK and EU law would be a job that would naturally bypass our parliament (due to the sheer scale) and be handed directly to the government, giving the conservatives an express right to re-write 40 years of UK law, as Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool Law school stated in his speech on the referendum . Anyone who can seriously support the lexit campaign despite this seriously needs to re-read that last sentence. And members of the government have stated beyond reasonable doubt that a watering down of worker’s rights is there reason for campaigning on the leave side .
At this point, I want to move on to the primary “right wing” Brexit campaign- the one which has dominated our media- but I should point out that there is a lot of overlap between the two campaigns moving for Britain to leave Europe.
The Right Wing Argument for Brexit.
The more right wing or “mainstream” reasons for a Brexit vote usually take one of 5 forms:
The EU quashes our democracy.
The EU destroys our sovereignty- let us be independent again.
The EU stops us controlling our borders.
We would have more money outside the EU, because we pay £xamount for EU membership.
We cannot make our own trade deals.
Now I’m going to say something that may surprise you; some of these claims are not entirely false. There is a limited amount of truth in them.
But they are extremely misleading nonetheless, and I can’t see any of the problems being solved by a British exit from the EU.
Now, first of all, the EU being undemocratic depends entirely on your opinion of the term “undemocratic.” If you would regard appointment by elected representatives as undemocratic (as the commissioners are appointed by our elected leaders) then that’s your right, but you should have just as much of a problem with the British House of Lords, which as even more power over the respective parliament it is attached to, and is a much larger body. But you could say ‘but that doesn’t change the fact the EU is undemocratic.’ In which case, I would refer you to my image below, which explains why, in terms of structure, I do not believe the EU is itself undemocratic.
A popular Brexit myth is that the fact that most people cannot identify their MEP means that the EU is undemocratic, which seems to me a bizarre argument. It is like ordering food at a restaurant without paying attention, and then blaming the waiter for following your instructions. Is the UK undemocratic because people don’t know that Michael Gove is the Justice Minister? Popular ignorance cannot be blamed on the EU.
By the definition put forward by the UN, the UK is regarded as a sovereign nation in every sense of the word , but some people still state that the EU has the power to overrule us. While this seems to be true at a first glance, the European Court of justice can only overrule our courts if it is given express permission by parliament to do so, and furthermore, the European communities act of 1972  is what gives the EU all of the (very limited) rights it has to overrule our parliament. Parliament would simply have to repeal this act, and the EU would no longer have power over us in any de jure (by law) manner. So the question is, are people who require our permission to overrule us, actually telling us what to do?
The term “democracy” is being thrown around a lot. But democracy is not the same as “always getting what we want.” The two terms have analogous meaning, being neither completely univocal nor equivocal.
III- The EU stops us controlling our borders.
I’m not entirely convinced it does- Britain actually retains border control, along with Ireland, as it is outside of the borderless Schengen area. The European Union laws on free movement of peoples are very clear that free movement must be for work purposes, and can be halted on the grounds of a) threat to public services (ie overcrowding) b) threats to national security or c) the need to quarantine to keep out diseases .
But I think it is reasonable to still argue that this does not entirely give us control, even if 5000 Jihadis are not headed our way with nothing we can do to stop them, as Nigel Farage would have you believe.
So perhaps you want tighter border control because you don’t think that immigration is good for the country? Well, I don’t share that belief, because EU migrants contribute 34% more into the UK in taxes than they take out in benefits according to UCL .
But let’s assume that you’re right, and that migration will be an issue that causes us harm.
Voting Brexit will do NOTHING to solve the problem with immigration.
The most likely outcome is that it will make immigration higher, or leave us in the same situation we are in now. The latter is slightly more likely than the former.
Why do I say this? Who am I to say this?
Well, assuming that the UK leaves the EU, it will still need access to the single market. We may be the 5th largest economy in the world, but much of this depends on our membership of the European Union, and our access to the single market. And there is no European country that has been able to gain access to the single market without agreeing to European free movement rules.
A common Brexit response to this is “Well, Canada, China, and the US don’t have to have free movement to access the single market do they?” And I have to make it absolutely clear- geographically, we are dependent on the single market for huge amounts of our trade, and China, America, and Canada simply are not.
Experts from Oxford University (I still think experts are relevant despite Gove’s insistence to the contrary) have stated that we would not be negotiating this deal on our terms, but the terms of the wider EU, because they have a larger market to offer us . The implication of this is, of course, that we would have to accept the free movement of peoples, and many other European laws, without actually having any say over what we do and don’t want. And it is China and America’s official position to discover what our trade deal with the single market is, before they construct their own trade deals with us . Does that sound like “taking back control” to you?
That’s just allowing yourself to be bullied by larger markets.
How do we know this would happen? Well, it happened to Switzerland. Switzerland wanted access to the single market (although Switzerland never left the EU as it was never in the EU in the first place), but didn’t want to agree to the free movement of peoples. It had the chance to sign the European Economic area agreement in 1992, but because it could not accept the terms put forward by the EU. Switzerland, like Britain, saw themselves as a large market to the EU, but suffered a devastating recession in the 1990s, where growth ceased and their economy shrunk by 3% . Growth only picked up again in Switzerland after they reluctantly agreed to free movement and many other EU rules that they were none too happy about in their bilateral agreement in 1998 . If you want more information on this, you can go to Samuel Knopf’s video on the subject .
But let’s say that by some miracle we could get out of agreeing to free movement of peoples; a points based system would be even worse- conservative peer Lord Green did a study in 2011 that showed that immigration under a points based system (“like Australia has”) leads to immigration that is 3x higher per % of the population . So immigration, realistically, is likely to be more of a problem, not less, in the case of a British exit.
The problem certainly won’t be solved by Brexit.
IV- We would have more money outside the EU, because we pay £ xamount for EU membership.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Brexit’s thoroughly debunked  £350 million per week figure is correct. Regardless of what they would promise to spend it on, Brexit would simply not have the money to do so because almost every independent national and international body who has spoken on the subject has stated that we would be economically worse off to the point that the figure would be insignificant. To name just a few of these bodies, the IMF, the OECD, G7 economists, the IFS, White House economists, Oxford school of economics, the Treasury, the Bank of England, and London School of economics. In total 90% of economists are advising a remain vote in their capacity as professional economists . More than this, thousands of universities and businesses have signed letters expressing their dismay at the logical economic sense of the leave campaign  .
And stating that these people “got it wrong on the Euro” and “didn’t predict the recession”, as many Brexiters like to argue, simply doesn’t cut it for me; it seems rather like drinking cyanide against the wishes of 90% of doctors, and justifying it on the grounds that experts didn’t manage to guess the cause of the Black Death in the middle ages. And it leaves you in a situation where you can’t believe any facts or figure you hear if you distrust 90% of the independent bodies who gather those facts for us.
V- We cannot make our own trade deals.
This is rather similar to the argument about immigration and the underlying problems there. You may have heard Nigel Farage saying that “we don’t even have our own seat on the World Trading Organisation anymore.” This sounds very concerning, but ultimately boils down to nothing.
All of our trade deals are done through the EU for the simple reason that a market of 500 million people has greater power (the greatest in the world in fact) than a market of 70 million people (the UK population) when negotiations take place. As emphasised by Oxford’s experts , this is not an issue that can be dismissed lightly.
The idea of drawing up our own trade deals sounds great in principle, but in reality, we would simply be submitting to much larger markets, who are uncertain of our position on the global stage. To go back to the example of Switzerland (which I feel best reflects the UK’s own economy of all the EFTA (European Free Trade Agreement) countries), who recently tried to negotiate a trade deal with China as they are outside the EU, which it has to be said, was done on awful terms, in which Switzerland will make barely any money from the deal for the next 15 years, while China gets zero tariff access to nearly all of the Swiss markets . Does that sound like a free nation? That’s nothing when compared to the negotiating power we have inside the EU.
So, in essence, I think it is beyond any doubt that the economic Brexit argument is a null issue. Brexit’s arguments seem to count for very little when more closely examined.
Which leads me in to one last point in my conclusion: this referendum should never have been called. This is too much of a sensitive and delicate issue for the British public, who are so easily swayed by sensationalist news stories, and whose politicians are unwilling to allow them to look into the details and hear expert opinion. With a combination of pressures from within his own party, and the rise of far right popularism from UKIP, Cameron was forced to bring a referendum on an issue which very few- if any- members of the public can fully understand in a balanced and coherent way. The far right will not disappear if they are appeased- Cameron needs to understand this. A remain vote will see a surge in the far right, but so will a leave vote. It is the nature of the campaigns which relied on rhetoric, because the issue was always too complex and nuanced for people to make an informed decision on, that has led to this rise in far right xenophobic attitude.
This referendum should never have happened.