Why I Voted ‘Leave’
One of the things that has surprised me most when discussing this referendum with my friends is just how few of them actually believe in democracy. They like it when it is producing governments that they approve of, and not when it doesn’t. Similarly, they couldn’t care less about the democratic deficit in the EU, so long as it continues to do what they see as a good job. In summary, in a choice between a dictator they agree with, and a democrat they don’t, most people would choose the dictator.
You get a good example of this when politicians stand up and say that the EU has been a force for good because it stops those pesky Tories cutting back on employment rights. Ok, but what if a Tory government was elected on an explicit manifesto commitment to reduce certain worker’s rights in an effort to increase overall employment (not an unreasonable suggestion). Would you endorse the ECJ stepping in and actively frustrating the democratically expressed will of the British people? You would? Then you don’t really believe in democracy do you.
In my view this is goes to the very heart of the referendum debate. The question is not ‘are the Commission doing things you approve of’ but ‘can you remove them if they stop doing things you approve of’. The main purpose of democracy is not to replace the experts with the ill-informed mob, but to ensure that the experts act in a way that benefits the ill-informed mob. In other words, that the experts are accountable.
The EU Commissioners are not elected, they are not accountable, and therefore, if they do something we don’t like, we have no power to remove them. That’s a real issue when they are the only people capable of proposing to initiate or repeal legislation. That, in my view, is the single most important fact within this whole debate, and it is the chief reason for my decision to vote Leave.
Now to be fair, each Commissioner is chosen by our elected representatives, and the President — Mr Juncker — is chosen from the party which wins the most votes in the European elections. But saying ‘X is appointed by someone who is accountable’ is not the same as saying ‘X is accountable’. Every step between the politician and the ballot box is a step too far, as it makes that person that little bit more removed from the will of the electorate.
You’ll notice that so far I haven’t made any mention of immigration. That’s because, as a free-marketeer, I am in favour of unrestricted immigration. I think it’s good for our economy. That doesn’t mean however that I think the British government should be banned, as they currently are, from adopting an alternative approach. Again, if the British public vote to restrict immigration from the EU (foolishly in my view) then they should be allowed to do so. That’s democracy. That’s parliamentary sovereignty.
Of course, a lot of Remainers would agree with all of this, but still argue that the economic costs of leaving make it not worth the risk. I question whether you can put a price on sovereignty but even putting this aside, I am not sure the economics are as clear cut as the Remainers make out.
For a start, most of the acronyms that have come out in favour of Remain have based their models on some really strange assumptions. For example, none of them take into account the potential gains from negotiating new free trade agreements with other countries — something which we are incapable of doing currently, and which the EU is terrible at doing on our behalf. They also discount the potential gains from repealing some of the more onerous EU regulations, which Open Europe have estimated cost Britain £33.3 billion a year.
Economists for Brexit, led by Patrick Minford (incidentally one of the only economists to stand against the prevailing tide and endorse Margaret Thatcher’s monetarist policies) has estimated that if Britain were to use its new trade powers to adopt unilateral free trade it could improve GDP by 2%. That’s quite different to what the Treasury has been saying.
Even if we don’t go down this path and instead stick to the traditional policy of negotiating trade deals, the notion that the EU would refuse to offer the UK free trade is just ludicrous. Our trade deficit with the EU means that it would be massively against their own economic interest to do so. No leader is going to go back to their electorate and say, “I’m very sorry growth wasn’t quite what we expected this year, and I’m very sorry that this means some of you won’t be getting the raise you expected, we just had to teach those naughty Brits a lesson.”
At this point, most Remainers point out that if we leave, the EU’s main focus will be on discouraging other member-states from doing likewise. Helping Britain succeed by negotiating free trade would go against this. There is a certain logic in this argument. The fact that the EU was willing to adopt the Euro in the face of all common sense implies that they are willing to make economic sacrifices on the alter of integration, but would they do so in this case? I doubt it. Not to their biggest export market.
In any case, if the EU would actively go out of its way to harm us (and itself) just to prevent other nations from taking advantage of their democratic rights, are these really the kind of people we want to be in a political union with? Statements such as, “dissenters will not be welcomed with open arms” (Jean-Claude Juncker) are essentially blackmail.
I need to address one last point — the ‘peace’ argument. This is the suggestion that we should support the EU because it has been responsible for preventing another continental conflagration akin to World Wars I and II. I can’t understand people who actually believe this. Are they really suggesting that the only thing stopping Germany from occupying the Sudetenland is that the Commission can legislate on the thickness of British washing up gloves? Peace in Europe has been secured by NATO and the spread of democracy (democracies tend not to go to war with one another, the electorates don’t like it), not the European Union.
By way of conclusion, I would like to leave you with this quote from one Winston S. Churchill:
“We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”
23rd June 2016