Lexit: further update on Brexit

Only by leaving the EU will Britain be free to become a “social democratic nirvana”. So claim prominent left-wing advocates of “Lexit”. They argue that EU laws stand in the way of us reforming our economy along more Corbynist, that is, very left-wing, lines.

But you only have to look at Europe to see this is nonsense. In France, university tuition is negligible; in Belgium, zero-hour contracts are banned; in Portugal, domestic energy consumers benefit from regulatory price caps; in Hamburg, people voted to return their power grid from private firms to municipal hands. Did the “neo-liberal jackboots of Brussels” try to block any of this? No. The Lexiters talk of a post-Brexit UK finally being able to stand up to the multinationals. “But who fined Google and Microsoft billions of dollars for anticompetitive behaviour? Who has ordered Apple to repay €13bn in avoided corporation tax?” The European Commission. The EU may be flawed, but the idea that it’s some kind of right-wing project represents “a combination of wilful ignorance and ideologically induced blindness”. (Ben Chu, The Independent)

There is no doubt that the EU is incredibly bureaucratic.  It has made the crucial error of expanding too far, including countries with few West European leanings, and in the process it has really annoyed the Russians.  It conducts a very unfair fisheries policy and an agricultural subsidy policy that not even the experts understand.

Having said that, as the excerpt above by Ben Chu points out, it has been a stalwart supporter of human rights and has, in comparison to the US, tamed the worst excesses of hyper-capitalism. It has avoided a European war for decades, and, owing to free trade policies, has been responsible for a huge rise in the living standards of most Europeans.  Leaving it is a self-inflicted wound.

  • Read the following with care –  the respondents are principally readers of the Daily Mail, a publication of unrivalled prejudice:

    “67% of voters think leaving the EU without a deal would be better than a soft Brexit. 68% of voters would prefer a hard Brexit to a soft Brexit. 53% of Remain voters think a hard Brexit would be better than a soft Brexit, as do 85% of Leave voters. (LSE/Oxford/Daily Mail). This will not end well, but it is almost counter-productive to try to persuade the average voter, just as it is conterproductive to tell the voters in Tennessee that Trump is going to reduce the United States to a second class power.

  • Carmen

    The avoidance of war alone, to me, is justification enough for the EU to exist, whatever its weaknesses. This is especially true when Europe pushes back (though not nearly enough) against U.S’s destructive foreign and military policies.

    This was a very helpful post for me who stands on the outside trying to decipher the politics of Europe as a whole and of England in particular. Your comments also underscore how much I do not know. I’d not heard of “Lexit” or which interests sponsor it, nor am I au courant on what specific Corbynist far left policies would be.

    Most of what I have read, and I don’t know if it’s a representative cross-section, focuses on the ECB and the issue of state sovereignty and the control of credit and currency, i.e., the fiscal and monetary policies within member countries.

    Yes, I can imagine that the U.S. would also, like Russia, be “annoyed” if Putin decided to support regime change or arm proxies in Montreal–the same approximate distance separates Washington, D.C. from Montreal and Kiev and Moscow.

  • Owen Bell

    I think there is a need for a common fisheries policy and a common agricultural policy, even if the policies themselves are flawed. In the case of fishing, it is needed to prevent overfishing, environmentally irresponsible and cruel methods of fishing, and one country catching more than their fair share of fish. Some fishermen may complain. But without it, we would soon run into fish shortages and every country would try to fish as much as they can for themselves, leaving less for other people.
    A common agricultural policy is even more important. Without it, some countries would subsidise their agriculture far more so than others. In a free trade zone, this would soon bankrupt farmers living in countries with less generous subsidies. A common policy is to ensure a fair amount of subsidy for all farmers, giving advantages to none.
    The main problem with the CAP is that it makes a free trade deal with the US much less likely. The EU’s subsidies are less generous than America’s, so without a common agricultural policy between the EU and the US, cheap American imports would leave EU farmers far worse off. Also, the EU’s farming standards are higher, leading to better quality but more expensive European food.

    Your overall point about the left wing case for Brexit is absolutely right. It’s perfectly possible to create a socialist system within the EU; the country with the highest government spending as a percentage of GDP in th world is Finland. Equally, it’s possible to be very free market within the EU as well, as Thatcher demonstrated. The EU only prevents the very worst extremes of left and right. It prevents excessively subsidising your own industries with the intention of bankrupting any foreign competition. It also guarantees very basic workers’ rights, but most member states go well beyond minimum EU requirements. Which is why when people say they want to take advantage of not complying with EU rules, I get very frightened.