Why Would We Want China?
A Failing Europe is Still Preferable
With respect to Professor Espen Lunde, I reject his argument in favour of Brexit. To summarise; that the British economy has been held back by neo-liberal austerity measures, implicitly because the EU bans direct support for domestic industries; and that new trade opportunities have opened with Canada and China. I would like to refute this hypothesis in general terms.
Austerity was a political choice endorsed in 2010 by all three of our major parties: the debate between them was on the rate of deficit reduction and the areas worthy of continued investment, such as the state-funded welfare and infrastructure.
With regards to our film industry, which is admittedly perhaps more oriented toward Hollywood’s outsourced post-production than original works: this sector of our economy is supported both by tax relief and investment from America, for which George Osborne was given a credit on the latest Star Wars movie. One of our state-owned broadcasters has financed and produced literally hundreds of globally high-profile films.
The British film industry has state support and has won multiple awards around the world: if it is underfunded (relative to what?), it is not because our government cannot reasonably intervene. If Professor Lunde is disappointed by Britain’s recent record in film, this may be a cultural criticism more than an economic one.
Of course, there are multiple industries which may be suffering under European regulation, such as fashion, bicycles, pre-fabricated homes… there is a wider argument to be made regarding Britain’s economic re-balancing and its over-dependence on its financial sector. However, this over-dependence was not a result of European intervention: the growth of our financial industries is the result of deregulation by the British government. Its out-sized influence is the result of our own policy and our representatives in Europe have argued again and again for the privilege of mismanaging our affairs in this way.
Which brings me to the over-valuation of the pound. If our currency is over-valued, it is because it its over-used by global businessmen to trade valuable international assets (including London property). There has always been a contention between British industry at home and investment abroad: the more valuable the pound is to international investors, the harder it is for domestic businesses to fund new enterprises. If there is a monetary debate to be had, it is about British policy, not a value imposed on it from the outside by the European Union.
I am in total agreement with Professor Lunde regarding the Union’s failures. There are innumerable problems with the way in which the nascent European state is dominated by its most economically powerful members at the expense of its least prosperous. I am of the opinion that this problem cannot be resolved until Europe’s people invest in it their sovereignty and with it the mechanisms of a functioning federal state. Further, I believe that David Cameron’s time in government was defined by his failure to seize the opportunity of the European crisis to cement Britain’s status on the Union’s second tier.
If there are problems within the European Union then these are problems European members must solve together, or else break apart: David Cameron’s negligent European policy will stand as an example for future generations to avoid. Professor Lunde seems to ignore the implications of Britain being a Union member leaving, which is a different kettle of fish altogether from what Norway achieved from outside of the Union.
Regarding Britain’s new opportunities: free trade with China is something I would rather go without (as for Canada: if we’re jumping onto a trade deal Europe negotiated, why leave rather than reform?). India, China, Russia, Turkey and others are experimenting with new models of authoritarian capitalism. This may be producing economic growth but it is also promoting authoritarianism worldwide: a new pole in global politics is emerging based on the principle of ‘whatever it takes’.
As a Briton, a European, and a democrat, I fear that the arbitrary and unlimited powers of supposedly benevolent tyranny will destroy the liberties our system of free enterprise, rule of law and representative democracy is designed to protect. Our economies need to get back in order all the better to protect ourselves from the forces of authoritarianism and conformity: at present, they are malfunctioning due to the inadequate constitution of the Union. We should have fixed the roof rather than torn down the house.
I too am disappointed by the referendum debate: while the leave side became disgusting, the remain side made all the wrong points by focusing on the economic.
The fallout from the referendum result has been largely cultural because it is a cultural problem. From the right, there is a nostalgia for a racially and culturally uniform country where manners are codified and easy to navigate; from the left, there is a yearning for the unfettered leavers of the British state, all the better to usher in half-baked utopias with.
The system of European freedoms under which we operate is a threat to these ideals of uniformity, which really do have more in common with China than Europe. I, for one, do not want to entrust Britain’s fortunes to a power we will likely need to bring to account for its violations of its own civil law as well as international treaties. We risk capitulating to the ideals of our nemesis.