EU or Not EU: Reasoning the Issues
In this companion piece to his article EU or not EU: Deciding with the Inner Voice, which gives suggestions as to how undecided voters might find a clearer way forward, ANDY THOMAS, author of The Truth Agenda and Conspiracies, here presents a helpful – and more partisan – summary of the actual issues over the EU vote and shares his own reasons for having come to a decision…
UPDATE NOTE: This article was written in the run-up to the British vote on whether to leave the EU. In the end, as we know, Britain did make the decision to do so. Whether it was implemented correctly in the way that was promised, with honesty, common sense or any real vision, is something that can be debated elsewhere, but this article and its companion piece (see below) remains available as a rare nuanced attempt to focus on the real issues and dilemmas that were – or should have been – concerning the nation back in 2016 when people were still making their minds up.
A Difficult Choice
In the sister piece to this article, EU or not EU: Deciding with the Inner Voice, which can be read at http://truthagenda.org/2016/05/23/eu-or-not-eu-deciding-with-the-inner-voice/, I suggest ways in which people might find a way through all the propaganda and dilemmas, by-passing the head a little and seeing what the heart or gut might have to say. But this does not mean that reasoning has nothing to offer this debate. Far from it. The choice before us is not an easy one, and the problems we might be left with at the end of a clear decision in either direction will need careful navigation.
At my lectures on ‘An English History of Freedom’ in particular, I have been increasingly asked what my view is on the EU vote, and I have written this piece in response. My thoughts on ruling elites and conspiracies are widely available elsewhere and are largely left aside here in the hope that the referendum might be an unexpected wild card.
Before clearly revealing my own feelings on the way I believe things might go better, it is worth a summarised consideration of the key elements firing the polarisation. For those who are unclear, what are the main issues around staying in, or leaving, the EU?
The Main Issues
It is notable that the economic argument has been well to the fore in the debates, eclipsing the issues of sovereignty, border control and immigration, which were originally the key concerns of Brexit campaigners. This has caused suspicion among more hardcore patriots, seeing this as ‘leavers’ selling out to appeal to a wider part of the electorate – or perhaps it has been realised that an economically shaky post-EU Britain might be in need of cheap labour and that an over-emphasis on immigration control might prove to be awkward later.
Anyone for whom border control is paramount must vote to leave the EU because only this will bring Britain any flexibility. Whether it concerns choosing how to deal with economic migrants from within Europe or juggling difficult moral dilemmas over refugees from the Middle East, this issue could prove to be vital in future, although as the above point demonstrates even then things will not be clear cut. Greatly over-inflated arguments about whether we will be more or less secure against terrorism or future wars is another angle which has distracted from the original concerns, seemingly coming straight from the ‘Project Fear’ mindset, but the economy remains the strongest flagpole for both sides.
One likely reason the economy has become the dominant focus is because it has been realised that that many people will vote with their pockets. For all the more profound concerns, the public’s fear of losing money or jobs has always been a political crowbar. Yet with both sides now recklessly wielding that crowbar it has been conveniently forgotten that financial forecasts are notoriously unreliable.
The reality is that neither camp can prove what will happen, whichever decision the public reaches. In recent decades endlessly missed targets and the continuing failure to deal with the ‘national deficit’, on top of shifting global currents, demonstrate that it is impossible to meaningfully anticipate long-term futures. Embracing the EU fully may bring more fiscal reward and employment or it may not. The euro, the glue for most Western European countries, has not been the most stable of currencies. That it has been propped up this long by ultimately unsustainable means is seen as a miracle in some quarters, raising the suspicion that it is being kept afloat just long enough to ensure Britain is persuaded to stay in the EU. Even if Britain resists joining the common currency for the foreseeable future (not a given – see below), being asked to stay in a financially unstable federal system in which we will have around 8% of a say is hardly comforting to wavering voters. Yet leaving the EU cannot be seen as a guarantee of financial stability either and might well bring years of economic uncertainty. Is the financial criterion the right one to be mostly basing such a big decision on, though? Are having cheaper holidays in the EU more important than freedom?
Some argue that concerned press statements from the likes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and various economic, political and corporate bodies make plain that Britain could not prosper outside of the EU, although other bodies have said the opposite. But many of these supposedly ‘independent’ voices have much to gain by keeping Britain within their influence. Christine Lagarde of the IMF, for instance – who has herself been accused of corruption – is a key attendee of the dubiously undemocratic Bilderberg group which already wields undue influence over global politics. When some warn of Britain’s ‘loss’, of finances or influence, if it leaves the EU, what they actually mean is their loss, especially if they receive generous grants or perks from the EU that are not widely distributed. Some of the worst-case economic changes that might result from Brexit would be unlikely to affect many everyday people further down the austerity ladder, because much of that apparently-threatened wealth is, despite what George Osborne has recently implied, rarely passed to them in any case.
As for President Obama’s dire warnings to the UK about the consequences of leaving the EU, these plainly have much to do with keeping Britain within the reigns of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) hegemony agenda, which could see corporate America gain huge and undue influence over Europe if the deal goes through in its current form – hence growing protests against it. Allowing corporations to sue governments which don’t do their bidding, just one of the numerous anti-democratic TTIP aspirations, would see off what little remains of ‘sovereignty’ for countries within Europe anyhow.
It may be that long years of British decline could follow a Brexit. Leaving would be a financial gamble, to be sure, although probably not a terminal one. Yet if successful the move could equally bring boom years for Britain, once new free trade deals were struck outside of EU restrictions, which sooner or later they would have to be for the global economy’s sake. Some say international trade deals aren’t even needed; we should just go ahead and trade as we have throughout history. Economically, Britain is too big a country to ignore, and the EU will need us even if we are on the outside. Staying in the EU brings its own risks; it has been argued that its protectionism harms our ability to trade with the wider world, while the collapse of the sometimes shaky euro, even if we weren’t yet within the common currency – although we would almost certainly be compelled to be in time – would pull us down faster within an increasingly federal system than outside of it.
David Cameron’s warning that European wars might be more likely after a Brexit, provoking a break-up of the whole EU, seems to pay no heed to the wars that might result from its continued existence and into which we might be drawn. New crises in Greece, or future (probable) ones if the likes of Turkey or Ukraine were to join the EU and civil war were to erupt within their borders, could threaten financial and social stability within the EU overnight. An increasing refugee crisis would then also result, especially if many hundreds of thousands of new Europeans had an unblocked right to settle anywhere within the Eurozone, with a subsequent rise of even more far-right movements attempting to counter them.
The fact is that the EU has never yet managed to balance its books, nor produce firm accounts for public scrutiny, while its lack of transparency has long been a bone of contention. With the EU’s financial position an unknown factor in the first place, even outside of wider crises, economics, seemingly chosen as the key issue around which the current arguments are raging, are therefore criteria with no guarantee on either side of the debate. We need to stand back a little and look at wider implications.
Patriotism and Democracy
To pretend that patriotism is not a factor in the current decision-making process is a dangerous denial, because it gets to the heart of what some feel very uncomfortable about when considering Britain’s future in an increasingly federalised and controlled Europe. In the companion piece, I discuss the myths and legends of Albion and Arthur that underpin the British psyche and have instilled a feeling of being a ‘chosen’ people. However obsolete they may seem in this age of claimed enlightenment, these factors should not be underestimated. Blended with the hard-won democratic achievements of actual history, giving up centuries of our past to blend seamlessly with a less democratic collective with uncertain aims was never going to be easy.
The adoption of a pro-EU line by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne is therefore, by ancient default, an unpatriotic one. Their counter-claim that an EU future is the real patriotic stance is not supported by the general public’s view; indeed, hardcore doubters see their position as treasonous, as they now similarly see Prime Minister Ted Heath’s position when he encouraged Britain into the Common Market in the 1970s under knowingly false descriptions of what the then EEC was always destined to become (see below). That the ‘remain’ leaders’ adopted policy is still less than honest about the rigid superstate that the EU is planned to turn into is disconcerting because it clearly calls their motivation into question.
The EU exists for the very purpose of creating a federal collective ruled from a central body. As such, national sovereignty cannot survive within it in the long-term, and is not intended to, something made more than clear by the original small print that underpins its very foundation. (We are leaving aside here the more worrying occult-tinged signs and symbols at the EU’s core, which suggest even deeper autocratic and secret society influence, information on which can be easily searched for elsewhere or found by reading Toyne Newton’s The Occult History of the European Union.) It is worth readers looking up the actual documents and treaties which have carried the EU project. Stating that we can continue to be an independent country within Europe is, in the long-term, an impossible hope. EU advocates would do better to be more honest about its real aims and sell them to us more positively.
The UK’s claimed ‘protected’ status, as fanfared by Cameron after gaining minimal concessions from the EU early in 2016, is very far from guaranteed. It may or may not be honoured by those who lead the project in years to come. What the EU is today may not be what it is just a decade down the line. Once firmly within the system Britain would find it hard to resist further integration. The reality is that in the end we would lose our power of decision making, the euro would become our currency, and we would be unable to resist becoming part of the Schengen Area which enables unlimited movement across European borders. The Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) system, meanwhile, which will become the primary interior EU voting system within the next year or so, will leave Britain even less able to influence its own future, as QMV “allocates votes to member states in part according to their population, but heavily weighted in favour of the smaller states”. In other words, it hands even more power to the collective federal system – but is it truly democratic?
One of the key arguments about the danger of being in the EU – often strangely unsung in the current debates – is that most of the EU departments which make the big decisions are effectively undemocratic bodies answerable to no-one but themselves, protected under huge layers of bureaucracy. We have no public relationship with the people on these boards and there is no open process by which we can remove them. The powerful EU Commission has been a particular target of such criticisms, which it rebuffs, but the truth is that it is hard to defend it as a democratic institution. Some say it is actively anti-democratic.
The founding documents of the EU demonstrate that it was originally set up more to serve corporate interests than its peoples, and its seemingly lackadaisical attitude to public concerns about the lack of accountability unfortunately reflects this. Euro MPs may be elected, but they are not calling all the shots. Once Britain is in an inescapable position, if unelected Euro-mandarins, whose positions and powers the population of Europe have almost no say in, decide at some point that Britain’s ‘protected’ status is getting in the way of the federal dream then what little there is of that status could be removed and we would be powerless to prevent it. Those who say Britain will have more influence if we stay within the EU should ponder the long-term picture which makes clear that in time no European country, not even powerful Germany, will have any remaining individual influence over the faceless decision makers behind the EU mechanism.
But this is to presume the worst. What if the EU were to work in everyone’s favour after all? What if the long-term benefits of being in such an undemocratic system turned out to outweigh the downsides and Utopia really beckoned..?
Why Not Utopia?
These issues raise an important question – if the ‘remain’ supporters truly believe we will be better in the EU, why are they not honest about its full reality? Why not sell it as the Utopian dream of protected togetherness it is meant to be and explain why the democratic sacrifices will be worth it? Why pretend to be fighting for British sovereignty within the EU when they must know that such an empty vision is mutually exclusive to what the EU is?
The fact that Cameron and Osborne’s statements in particular convey few levels of genuine enthusiasm and are primarily fear-based tell us that they might not be entirely convinced themselves, otherwise surely they would be flying the flag for Europe full-on, with huge smiles. Their now committed stance means they no longer have to keep Eurosceptics happy, so why are they not going for it? They may simply be covering their backs to mollify a divided electorate afterwards, should there be an unclear vote, but the worst-case scenario is that they are having to do the bidding of EU controllers, maybe against their better judgment. Staying in the EU will doubtless personally benefit its advocates well enough so there’s an incentive for them not to drag their feet too obviously, but their position doesn’t come across as convincing. We might all feel a lot better if the euro-dream was sold to us solidly and positively as a potential Utopia. That it isn’t being sold that way creates an uneasiness that we are perhaps instead being sold out by compromised figureheads who may or may not have the nation’s best interests at heart.
Doubts on Both Sides
What, though, of the other side of the argument? Do those campaigning for Brexit really have Britain’s interests at heart either – or just their own? There might be dangers in being left in a nation no longer tied to any kind of wider general standards. Will we be left at the mercy of a more oppressive parochial regime if we leave the EU, one which wants to scrap the likes of the Human Rights Act? Will the City of London, already a state-within-a-state with far too much power, get above itself and start a new programme of empire-building, and will corporate international interests, freed from EU shackles, become dominating powers in Britain as undemocratically influential as those we would have under the rule of Brussels?
The debates from both sides have been deficient and confusing in many areas. Facts and figures have been thrown out without proper checking, designed for sensation rather than accuracy, while the personalities making the arguments are sometimes hard to give full confidence to. On the ‘leavers’ side, for instance, too many media debates are being led by UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who has valid points to make but is seen in some quarters as being too partisan and lacking character credibility or political clout. It would be helpful to see more active participation in public debates from some of the stronger heavyweights. It is a shame that we don’t hear more from the likes of David Owen, once a pro-EU voice and now a leaver, whose reasoned thoughts are refreshingly free of buffoonish bluster.
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan-Smith are the other main public voices for ‘leave’, but none of them are endearing as personalities and appear to hold back or are being held back (as they claim) from involvement in too many populist debating forums, their views often made known through the relative safety of speeches, interviews and articles. Could it be that Gove and Johnson know they have much to gain if the vote goes their way (both have been tipped as possible future Prime Ministers) and that they don’t want to alienate the electorate at large by publicly debating, with normal folk, views which might have to be compromised at some stage? Some might say Johnson’s comparison of the EU with Hitler and Napoleon is hardly shrinking from controversy, but there remains a guarded quality. It is doubtful that a post-EU Britain will be the far-right nightmare that some fear; many of those fronting Brexit are mainstream Conservatives who will settle into the middle ground soon enough, if only to placate their own party and cement future votes when normal service is resumed. Britain has never really done broad extremism and shows little sign of doing so now.
On a wider note, it is worth pointing out that some of the Brexit politicians are targets of suspicion from those who doubt the integrity of the whole British democratic system anyway, and, worse, are viewed in some circles as being New World Order operatives – but then so are Cameron and Osborne. Does it, therefore, make any difference to which way things go in the end, if there is a risk that the whole vote is a corrupt manipulation in the first place? What if Britain leaving the EU is the very thing desired by the global elite? This aspect should not be overlooked, although it may be that a clear vote either way could be an unexpected wild card difficult for any group to fully control short of rigging the entire vote, which would be hard to pull off in the event of a landslide swing.
Another discomfort for some ‘leavers’ is that of suddenly finding themselves on the same side as the Murdoch press, which is disconcerting for those suspicious of its undue sway over British governments in recent history. As Rupert Murdoch’s empire clearly supports Brexit, presumably believing it will be more powerful in an independent Britain, what does this tell us about who we might be unduly influenced by if we do take ourselves outside of the EU? Boris Johnson’s allegiance to Murdoch is possibly even stronger than David Cameron’s.
There are many other detailed discussions we could have here, from dissecting the monetary contributions we have to make to the EU and connected issues of transparency and accountability, to analysing protectionist tariffs and fish quotas, but this tells enough for this article’s purpose. The reality is that there are many uncertain nuances to the decision before us, and if sifting the surface details doesn’t bring clarity then we need to access the inner voice discussed in my other article.
In the event that the final vote is a near-50/50 outcome, then what? Will the government ignore a slight tilt towards leaving? Or simply fiddle the figures? Would there be a clamour for another vote in time, as Scotland is heading towards now? Civil unrest might even follow uncertainty or plain connivance, and the Conservative party will certainly have a lot of divisions to heal wherever things go. But those are issues for later.
What, then, of my own view on the matter? Readers may stop reading here if they wish. What follows beneath is a sharing of my own decision if it has not already become clear. It is not an attempt to sway votes, but simply an explanation of my personal reasoning, should anyone find it of interest.
A Personal Conclusion
As we have seen above, the decision we have to make is not easy. There are pros and cons on either side and a number of ambiguous issues. But, by following the head and the heart, in the method described, my predisposition is clear enough. I will be voting to leave the EU.
The reasons for my decision are embedded in some of the points discussed in both articles. I feel an underlying discomfort that simple, if understandable, fear of financial loss and of having to create potentially difficult new trade conduits is being fed to us as the main basis of our choice, above all the issues of democracy, sovereignty, borders and pride in our own history and legends. On reflection, I feel that we need to be prepared to pay a price for our freedom if that is what it takes, because freedom always speaks louder than economic chains. Trade deals may take a while to sort, but in the end they will be made.
In my lecturing and work I meet many people from all classes and it seems clear to me that the general inclination would certainly be towards leaving the EU if there were not the fear of financial loss. This speaks volumes. This tendency is more true of older generations, to be sure, who have known an existence outside of the EU, while younger thinkers brought up in an EU system which has painted itself in a good light seem more likely to keep to what they know, putting idealistic collectivism, visa-free travel and job opportunities above issues of democracy. This is not a judgment, but a simple observation. What if fear could be taken out of the equation, though?
Fear is being used on both sides of the argument, naturally, and the fears must be debated and faced, but it is currently being wielded more fervently by the ‘remain’ camp. History shows that decisions made through fear alone are rarely the right ones. Why not replace fear with a determination to make something work? This works two ways, I acknowledge, but particularly for those who worry about going under in a flailing independent Britain, perhaps we need to get our collective confidence back and learn to be prepared to make sacrifices to get what we want. It may be time to remember a little of the ‘Blitz spirit’ that has seen us survive many crises. We know that Britain can stand alone and live, and sometimes live well.
As fear is one of the problems, I will not be voting just through fear of a worst-case Orwellian superstate EU future, but also with hopeful confidence that Britain can create something better if it gives itself the chance. If the country chooses to remain in the EU then I am equally accepting that we will have no choice but to make the best of things and go ahead in a positive spirit of working for freedom and reform from within, albeit under unfortunate limits. Would our leaders, increasingly influenced and selected by an ever-more controlling EU, really want that or be able to make any difference, though?
That the EU is so plainly keen to keep us is rooted in self-preservation and shows just how powerful Britain is on the European stage, and still could be even outside of the EU. We have been talked down for too long. In our hearts this is not really who we are. The undemocratic departments of the EU know well that maverick British action might start a line of exiting dominos that could undermine the whole project. We are stronger than we know; it is ironic that the EU seems to recognise this more than some of us do. I feel it is time to realise that strength and learn to believe in ourselves again; this would power new currents to take us forward and help find our centre. Britain is still psychologically damaged by the two World Wars and the loss of influence that came as part of the price for the victories. This has profoundly affected our self-confidence – and yet historically this has all taken place within a very short time. We could easily rise again before long, albeit with less lofty and more heart-centred ambitions. We might even rediscover the art of manufacturing…
Leaving the EU may mean uncertainty and financial compromise for a time. But maybe that is the mission we have to set ourselves on. With enough willpower, we could deal with any situation that arises, as we have always done, and come out stronger for it. Why are we being encouraged to forget this? Sometimes we have to let go of our fear and do the right thing. One of my first jobs was in a soulless office. It was safe and predictable; yet I wasn’t happy and the feeling of discomfort grew. In the end, against the advice of a number of friends and family, I decided to leave for an uncertain career as a musician, with far less money and no security… it was a risk, but in my heart I knew it was right. In the end I made it work, and new and different life paths and opportunities appeared along the way.
Right now, the fear-based draw to stay in the EU feels like clinging to the known river edge. We need to find the courage to let go and flow with a new tide. We’ll learn to swim along the way, and in time manage by ourselves to sort out some of the darker issues and influences we will certainly be left to deal with. At least we can vote out those politicians we are not happy with, for all the systemic improvements still required. This is not so in the EU. If the EU was an angelic bastion of democracy and vision that would serve all its peoples to the highest aspirations and respect the individuality of its nations then I would be voting to remain within it. As it stands it falls far short of this dream. Some of those devoted to EU membership, displaying admirable idealism, somehow seem not to see this. For me, though, until the time that real reform creates a better version of Europe, I believe that Britain should hold to the democratic framework it has painstakingly built up, stand alone and rediscover its not insignificant strengths. This, at least, is the basis on which I will vote on 23rd June.
I hope that these articles have been helpful to a few people. We must all vote from our individual consciences, but do vote and let’s all vow to keep campaigning for positive solutions which encompass freedom and democracy whoever wins and whatever the future holds for us.
Main flags image borrowed from: