Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit and EU failure

The 52%-48% win for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum has already been framed many ways, but what should be an obvious one (though for many it will not be) is how much of a failure for the EU this represents.

In June 1975, a deeply divided Labour Government held a referendum on the UK's membership (then 2 years old) in the European Community (EC) as it then was (known colloquially as "the Common Market"). The then recently installed Conservative Opposition Leader, Margaret Thatcher, campaigned strongly for the UK's membership. The UK electorate voted decisively for membership, 67% to 33% with a 65% voter turnout.

In June 2016, a deeply divided Conservative Government holds a referendum on the UK's membership of what is now the European Union, the UK now having been a member of its various incarnations for 43 years.  The recently installed Labour Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, campaigns (perhaps somewhat tepidly) for the UK's continued membership. The UK electorate votes narrowly for leaving, 52% to 48% with a 72% turnout.

If one ignores the sort of special pleading which, for example, suggests the 1975 UK electorate was terribly wise and the 2016 UK electorate deeply stupid, then 41 years of further experience of the EU had shifted the opinion of the British electorate by 19 percentage points against the EU. That is a considerable shift in opinion.

The EU of 2016 does, and aspires to do, far more than the EC of 1975 did: clearly, more is, in fact, less; at least in terms of inspiring popular support and confidence--quite a lot less. Though that large shift in opinion will be treated as a failure of the electorate, not of the glorious European project, by many of the Great and Good who supported EU membership. Which, of course, will be an indicator of precisely why that shift in opinion has taken place. Significant majorities in provincial England and Wales has discerned that the European Project has become deeply intertwined with a deep contempt for folk like them and they have given the finger in return.

It is worth remembering that many of the same Great and Good who took the UK's continued membership of the EU as the only proper policy were the same folk who thought it desperately important that the UK join the Euro. They were wrong on that: they will be wrong on this, and for the same reasons.

It is true that the narrowness of the result, and that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU, could presage problems ahead for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That immigrants seem to have voted strongly for Remain is perhaps another point of pressure. If, however, after a likely somewhat rocky transition period, the UK actually prospers, particularly relative to the EU, then the divisions will likely fade.

An outcome I am reasonably confident will occur. The reason for my confidence in this is quite simple: the UK has voted to improve the accountability of its institutions. The democratic deficit of the EU has given it a much less accountable governing structure which will continue to produce policies which reflect that lower accountability. Particularly as the EU tries to do too much with too little commonality between its societies and economies.

The Euro has been a serial disaster because it is emblematic of all these problems -- too little accountability, trying to do too much across insufficient commonality. Even just in economic terms, as Paul Krugman's rather nice paper The Revenge of the Optimal Currency Area (pdf) points out. Nor is Britain the only EU country where popular approval of the EU is problematic.

Whatever political calculations may have been involved, David Cameron PM is to be congratulated for giving the British people a clear say on such an important issue. It is regrettable that it has also ended his Premiership, but given that the Tory electorate voted so very strongly for Brexit, and given the contestable intricacies involved in negotiating Britain's leaving of the EU, and the difficulties of the transition, it is understandable that he has decided he is not the person who should be leading either Britain or the Conservative Party through what is to come.

We live in a time of elite echo chambers and a plethora of techniques for discounting (indeed, treating with contempt) the concerns and language of ordinary folk. So it is unlikely that many who really should will see how much a failure and condemnation of what the EU has become this result is. But that is precisely what it is.

[Cross-posted at Skepticlawyer.]

21 comments:

  1. Ah, yes, "ordinary folk." Sarah Palin would doubtless recognise the type. She just calls them "Real America." I wonder, how do gay men like yourself reconcile your love for the ordinary and the provincial, who, if given the chance at a referendum, would no doubt elect to strip you of your own dignity? God save the "elite echo chambers" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recognition_of_same-sex_unions_in_Slovenia#Same-sex_marriage)! Not all contempt is contemptible (https://youtu.be/WqVCvbtfkho?t=2m34s). You of all people should know that, judging from how reliably contemptuous you are of Muslims.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is a difference between treating other folk with condescending sneers and idealising them. Just as there is a difference between critical examining Islam, and even more Islamism, and being "contemptuous of Muslims". If you cannot see that difference, the world will be a confusing place for you.

      Delete
    2. You might also look at the polling results for the "ordinary and provincial" and for Muslims regarding all sorts of opinions. Including on on queer rights.

      Delete
    3. You might also care to look who suffer most from the rise of Islamism: it is not comfortable Westerners.

      Delete
    4. I have no delusions about where Muslims stand not just on gay rights but on human rights in general. If anything, I think it's you who find the world a confusing place, considering the bedfellows your politics often finds yourself in these days (https://youtu.be/uiWE5frLjZQ?t=56s). As for polling results, funny, I do seem to recall that more Muslims support gay marriage in America than evangelicals. You know, the ordinary and the provincial. The Trump voters. The Muslim haters. The gay bashers. The immigrant scapegoaters. Were Trump to win in November, should we expect another article in the same nativist vein from you? You know, one where you trash the elites with their extraordinary values and commend instead "the concerns and language of ordinary folk" who just love you the sinner, just not your abomination, I mean your sin (http://www.advocate.com/election/2016/6/23/meet-trumps-horrifying-evangelical-advisory-board)?

      Delete
    5. You don't actually seem to understand my politics, nor my concerns, which is not leaving large slabs of the electorate deeply angry and unhappy. Especially, as it is not that hard to do, as Australia continues to demonstrate. Paying some intelligent intention is not the same as idealising or simply agreeing with. Still less thinking that The Donald would make a good President: indeed, paying intelligent attention would make it much less likely that we all have to deal with The Donald in the White House.
      Moreover, as I have pointed out more than once, US, Australia and Canada have, at worst, minor difficulties with their Muslim migrants because (1) small proportion of the population, (2) selected to integrate and (3) part of a much more diverse flow of migrants. Muslim communities in Europe are, however, a very different issue because none of those apply and so European countries demonstrably have a considerably worse jihadi problem and a worse integration problem. (There is a reason the National Front in France has been polling well among French gays and Jews: a wake up call if ever there was one.)
      Nor have I been criticising "extraordinary values"; rather it is the not paying attention and the self-serving dismissal of those outside various magic circles. I am hardly the only one making this point: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/21/11451378/smug-american-liberalism
      You don't seem to understand what you are reading because you want to put things in various boxes of what all right-thinking-people should think.

      Delete
    6. Oh, where to begin? If you had paid "some intelligent intention" to your own discourse, you would have realised that your usage of, say, "ordinary folk" is your own politically correct way of saying "white people," whose prejudices you are so quick to defend while denigrating those who have documented and demonstrated the politics and concerns of "ordinary folk" to be both historically and presently problematic. Honestly, is there ever a minority movement you have not derided as Virtue-signalling or whatever? The gay rights movement, perhaps? But even then one would not be unreasonable to suspect that is the case only because you yourself are gay. So how about you start by "[p]aying some intelligent intention" to yourself first? Your lack of self-awareness is truly astounding. In any case, when exactly did knowledge and expertise become "elitist" and "magic circles" (https://twitter.com/thejeremyvine/status/707566220158046208)? If certain "ordinary folk" think that man-made climate change is a hoax, then the utterly "smug style" of dismissal of such points of view is not "self-serving"; it's humanity-saving. It's not my fault if you think that I'm mean to you when I point out that 1+1=2, not literally anything else (https://youtu.be/iRAU6hODSck?t=1m56s). As for your Muslim obsession, the National Front in France has been polling well for the same reason that Hamas has been polling well in Gaza and various Islamist parties have been polling well in various Muslim countries: they scapegoat. Right-wing parties in the West claim that Islam is the source of all their ills and their counterparts in the Muslim World claim that the West is the source of all their ills. You right-wingers deserve each other. As the French immortel Girard would say, it's utterly mimetic.

      Delete
  2. Great post.

    It's OK for the sheep to vote Labour, of course. Salt of the earth, ordinary people, then. But, as Scottish Labour found out, everyone has a breaking point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You say the Brits initial vote to be part of a Euro zone was wrong and so is their current vote to get out of it. I expected you to go on to explain why that is the case but if you do my perception skills are clearly inadequate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, not what I said. The UK electorate had good reasons to vote for membership of the European Community aka Common Market in 1975. What I was suggesting was that 41 years of experience of what the European Union had become had shifted opinion in a hostile-to-the-EU direction and that was a failure of the EU.

      Delete
  4. It seems to me that concern over immigration was the primary motivation of most Brexit voters, whereas most the pro-Brexit politicians (Gove, Farage, Hannan) were concerned about the dissolution of sovereignty and undemocratic nature of the EU (Boris Johnson turned pro-Brexit out of sheer opportunism). Indeed Daniel Hannan's been attacked on twitter and the media for pointing out that immigration is unlikely to decrease after Brexit.

    I think this divide is a serious problem for the Brexit camp. How do they balance the needs of the economy (single-market access) with the expectations of Brexit voters?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is turning into a complete wreck. The UK political class has stopped functioning (exceptions Carney & Sturgeon), xenophobia unchained (even Brexiteers like Tim Montgomerie see this), the economy is roiled by uncertainity, and Russia, Iran, and China are either publicly or privately gloating. Only the Germans are showing maturity. Jesus wept.

      Delete
    2. China was actually overtly pro-Remain.

      Delete
    3. True but now that the vote's over they're gloating about how Britain and Europe are finished as global powers.

      Delete
    4. Well, that's counting your chickens way early. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that this will be an effective, and massive, wake-up call for both the EU and the UK. Maybe political class(es) in both will realise that yes, actually, you do have to carry your voters with you, which requires active engagement, not lofty lecturing.

      Also, one notes that the EU was already falling as a share of the world GDP: https://fullfact.org/europe/eu-has-shrunk-percentage-world-economy/

      Delete
  5. I love your site, it is so full of colour and inspiration1
    Bangalore Escorts

    ReplyDelete
  6. Did you know you can shorten your links with Shortest and make cash from every visitor to your short links.

    ReplyDelete
  7. https://debatemotioncentral.blogspot.in/2015/12/eco-open-wsdc-tallinn-2016.html?showComment=1496829866417#c8777815913955888178

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's the better way to brainstorm changes in your fun life. All the time your eye contact or we are able to say when you are being intimate that the sight has an important role.
    Goa Escorts, Jaipur Escorts , Nainital Escorts, Bangalore Escorts

    ReplyDelete