Okay, everyone – GCSE exams are finally over, and I’m on a plane at the moment, jetting over to New York! As you know, I haven’t posted anything for a while, and so, as a reward for all of you for sticking with me, and also as a reward for myself for surviving 25 public exams, here’s a very long, very serious, post! 😀
Brexit negotiations started yesterday, and as I have said very little on the subject on this blog, I thought I would write a bit about my opinions on the subject – a sort of Brexit-special blog post.
Last year, I found it very difficult – as I think most people did – to decipher the arguments for and against leaving the EU, in order to make an informed decision whether to support leave or remain. They were presented very emotionally by both campaigns, which made it difficult to truly comprehend the facts and the truth. Furthermore, many figures and explanations were as a result of different economic forecasts and ‘expert’ opinions, which, as I’ll explore later in this post, are not always as reliable as we’d like to think.
Luckily, my confusion didn’t matter, as I was fifteen last year, and so didn’t have to vote, but still – it was frustrating!
So, now I’ve had a year to think about it, I thought I’d just set out some ideas that I think are worth thinking about on the subject. I’ll start with Leave, move on to Remain, touch on the economic perspective, and finish up with my own opinion. Happy reading!
The argument I prioritise as the most important one for leaving the European Union is summed up quite well by Steve Hilton, in the quote below. He was speaking on the Freakonomics podcast (linked at the bottom), and although in some ways he’s quite a controversial figure, I really agreed with him on this, and was surprised at how much I agreed with what he was saying throughout the rest of the podcast, too.
He used to work with David Cameron, in the Conservative government, and talked of how;
There were so many things that we came up against when we’re trying to run domestic policy in the U.K., where they said. “You can’t do that because the E.U. rules or directives stop you from doing it,” in all sorts of areas where there’s no need for that to be a centralised function.
Then, because Freakonomics is an American podcast, he made an illuminating comparison between the EU and the US.
In America — everyone complains about Washington, the federal government — but at least the president is elected. At least Congress is elected. In the E.U. situation, you’ve got a centralised bureaucracy that is driving policy. People point to the European Parliament and so on and the fact that representatives of elected governments sit on the council of ministers that make decisions. That’s all true. But the driving force of policy initiation in the E.U. is the European Commission, which is an appointed body. To me, there’s a fundamental objection there, which is this is not democratic. That means it is wrong — even if the outcomes may from time to time be good. It doesn’t matter. It’s not democratic. It’s wrong.
The most compelling argument against Brexit is simply all the rights that I’ve now been denied. These are my rights as an EU citizen:
- To non-discrimination on the basis of nationality when the Treaty applies
- To move and reside freely within the EU
- To vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections
- To be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country
- To petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman
- To contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the EU’s official languages
- To access European Parliament, European Commission and Council documents under certain conditions
According to http://ec.europa.eu/justice/citizen/
As of 2019, I will have lost all of them. It is a simple argument, but a really powerful one. These rights feel intensely personal, especially number 2, to move and reside freely within the EU.
What right did the electorate have to choose to take them away from me?
And now, on to the economic perspective.
I really admire Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Economic minister turned economist maverick (see his ted talk at the bottom, for more). His opinion before the referendum about the economic arguments to stay or even leave the EU resonated with me massively. I will paraphrase them, but for his insights in his own words, the link here is to the Andrew Marr show before the referendum that he appeared on:
As an aside – it’s funny to look back on old political programmes. Without the key knowledge that we ended up voting to leave the EU, some of these respected political commentators seem quaint, and faintly ridiculous!
Anyway, the gist of what he said, merged in with my own interpretation, was this:
Economists are not really good at forecasting the numbers that would occur after an event like Brexit. Essentially, they rely on data sets for everything, as do normal people in their every day lives (i.e. to cope with a new social situation, for example, we think back on previous, similar encounters). Yet there is no data for an event like Brexit; no country of a similar size and GDP to Britain has ever left the EU before, with a political and economic climate similar to that of the late 2010s. Therefore, we should think of much of what economists say on the subject critically.
What do you think? Do you agree with this?
What do you think of Brexit on the whole? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions – maybe without the irrational passion and heat of so much that we often hear on the subject – in the comment section below. And if your that way inclined, please disagree with me!
Personally, my opinion on Brexit a year on is this. As Yanis Varoufakis says, there has been no similar event like it before. So we don’t know what’s going to happen – there’s not set formula to follow. Which means that it can be what we make of it; leaving the EU doesn’t seem to be a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing yet – its just uncertain.
And uncertainty can seem like a bad thing. But we mustn’t forget that a departure from the status quo can provide chances for opportunity and innovation. So many good things could come from leaving the EU; an example being the opportunity to open Britain up to trade fairly with the whole world.
So if I had a voice that meant anything, I’d call on politicians and the mainstream media to stop propagating the negative rhetoric around Brexit, and tentatively start talking about things constructively.
Whether we like it or not; Brexit is here to stay – I think it’s time to start talking it up. Let’s beat the Brexit blues!