Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Former UKIP Branch Chairman Backs REMAIN

Cards on the table. Many moons ago I was a member of Young Independence and established the Bolton Branch of UKIP. I was a member when UKIP was in favour of a flat tax, slashing the size and scope of government and was at least pretending to be libertarian. I left when I saw the writing on the wall; that UKIP was turning in a 1960’s Labour tribute band of social conservatism and big government paternalism (my two least favourite things).

I was and still am anti EU. I think it’s officious, bureaucratic, inefficient, meddlesome, nannying, bloated and expensive. But guess what – so are all governments. Long before the EU we were bribed and coerced by unelected faceless British civil servants, so I don’t buy the argument that Brexit would result in some miraculous purging of pedantic officialdom.

But that’s not my main reason for opting for Remain, rather history, the economy, and British values seem to point that way. Brexit advocates seem to want to fight the tide of history. The story of humanity’s political entities has been one, dare I say it, of ever closer union – groups of gathers came together to form small tribes, which came together to form communities, which in turn grouped together to become towns, which became cities, which united to become small kingdoms, which in finally came together to form the nation states we know today. Europe is now trying to forge the next step – that of bringing nation states into something larger. Being the first attempt it seems new and scary, just as there would have been those in the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex who resisted this new-fangled ‘England’, with its distant rulers and burdensome taxes and laws. It’s going to happen, so we can try and influence that as it’s evolves, or we can re-join in a few decades time as a junior member on much worse terms than we have now.

By far my biggest concern is that of the economy. Markets can deal with democracies and dictators, they can handle with Tories or Labour, but what they don’t like is instability and uncertainty, and Brexit negotiations are uncertainty incarnate. Nobody knows how long negotiations will take. Nobody has any idea as to what sort of deal we’ll get. Nobody knows what EU rules we’ll have to abide by and which we’ll be able to ignore. Nobody knows if we’ll repeal existing EU legislation and if so how much. All this is an anathema to business deciding where to sink investment. The best and brightest of the world flock to Britain because their skills and talents have an unrivalled platform and outlets through our links to Europe, the Commonwealth and North America. Brexit and the subsequent reservations about visas and free movement would throw this into doubt. “But it’s in the EU’s interests to give Britain a good deal, we do too much trade for them to jeopardise it”. This message has been the crux of the Leave camps economic case, but it’s tragically naive for it rests on the assumption that EU leaders act rationally. They don’t. The history of the EU is one of making political decisions that go against economic sense. The Euro, the madness of monetary union without fiscal union, was a political project, not economic. The CAP is a political settlement that runs against all but the most projectionist economic rationale.

If Britain opted to leave left the EU Brussels would have to make an example of us. Negotiations would be tortuous, dragged out for years with every line of the settlement debated and revised and amended purely out of spite. Just look at Greece. Every sensible economist pleaded for some form of debt write-off, but no. Greece had to be made an example of, especially after the defiance of the anti-austerity referendum. The vanity and pride of those behind ‘The Project’ cannot be over stated, and EU chiefs really will go out of their way to cause an independent Britain as much trauma as possible if it meant deterring other would be separatists. This is partly why the EU needs Britain. An EU without Britain would mean all the worst aspects of the bureaucracy would be let loose, with little or no restraint. Those members who tend to side with us, like the Nordic nations, would find themselves without a large ally, and would be cowed and bullied into meek compliance. A Britain-less EU would also be a more insular, inward looking beast.

During the 1990s it was Britain that led to the push to see the ten Eastern European states of the former Warsaw Pact brought into the EU, much to the annoyance of the French who argued attention should be focused on deepening integration among the existing members. But Britain triumphed, correctly insisting that without EU membership anchoring these new democracies to the West, they’d succumb to a gradual economic, then political slide back into the Russian orbit. And this is the rule rather than the exception – for Britain gets its way a lot in Europe, especially on the big issues. The very fact the EU is a free trade area is largely down to us. The European Court of Human Rights, though not part of the EU, was created almost at the British behest. That we don’t have an EU Army is down to Britain thwarting the idea every time it rears its head.

 And it’s not just our friends and allies in Europe that want us to stay. The Commonwealth nations, to whom Brexiteers point as an alternative trading bloc to the EU, want us to remain. Our closest ally, the United States, wants us to stay. Both recognise that our membership of the EU is the unique bridge that binds the Anglosphere and the continent of Europe together. Our place in the EU reminds Brussels that there’s a world outside Fortress Europe and that globalisation is an opportunity, not a threat.

It’s no coincidence that the only world leader who supports Brexit is Vladmir Putin, a man itching to divide and weaken a united West that’s hemmed in and punished his geopolitical trolling. I get the frustration with the EU, I really do. I too hear the siren song of Brexit, the temptation to stick two fingers up at Brussels and reclaim sovereignty. But every year nation states get less and less relevant. True sovereignty hasn’t existed for any state since the Second World War. If we took the Norwegian option we’d still have to follow EU rules, but we’d have no say in how they’re made. Leaving would be to ignore the pleads of our oldest friends. Brexit would be an economic roll of the dice that really don’t need. Much like the Scottish Nationalists, the economic case for Brexit rests on hopeful scenarios and keeping our fingers crossed – I’m sorry but the world’s sixth largest economy is too important to gamble on a wing and a prayer. The perfect is the enemy of the good. The EU machine is infuriating, but Britain, the West, and the world is a better place through our membership.

A guest contribution by Lee T Jenkins



1 comment:

Simon Jester said...

So, Lee, what changed?

Yes, I know you left UKIP because of how that party changed - but the referendum is not on the qualities of UKIP. It's about whether to leave the EU.

To the extent that the rest of your article is true, it would have been equally true back when you were a member as it is now. Did you favour remaining in the EU, even when you were in UKIP?

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