All the current nationalist parties of small nations in Europe — the Scots, the Welsh, the Basque, the Catalans, the Flemish — strongly support membership in the European Union, which is dedicated to, and even predicated upon, the extinction of national sovereignty. One would have thought that these parties wanted, at a minimum, national sovereignty. The contradiction is so glaring that it requires an explanation.
The human mind is not a perfect calculating machine, and no doubt all of us sometimes contradict ourselves. Perfect consistency tends to be disconcerting — but so does glaring inconsistency. It’s possible that the nationalist parties’ leaders don’t perceive the contradiction, being so blinded by ideology that they are simply unaware of it. But another possible explanation exists: by leading their nominally independent countries, they forever will be able to feed at the great trough of Brussels and distribute its largesse in true clientelistic fashion. The nationalist leaders certainly lead their people, but by the nose.
Oddly enough, I have not seen the contradiction between current nationalism and support for remaining in the European Union referred to in the press, though I don’t read every paper in every language. This is surely one of the first times in history, however, that the expression, “Out of the frying pan into the fire,” has become not a warning, but the desired destination of substantial proportions of whole populations.
Theodore Dalrymple, “Nationalist Contradictions in Europe: Why do breakaway political parties want to remain in the European Union?”, City Journal, 2016-06-27.
July 23, 2016
July 8, 2016
Published on 7 Jul 2016
We have everything to be proud of.
I saw this firsthand as a senior advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron. After just a few weeks in office, I was struck by how many things the European government was doing that the prime minister and his team didn’t just not know about, but would have actively opposed. Every few days, the civil service circulated a pile of paperwork about a foot high, proposing regulatory or administrative government action.
In time-honored fashion, the process was stacked in the bureaucrats’ favor: proposals would be implemented unless elected officials objected within two days. I wanted to know where these “requests for policy clearance,” as the EU directives were known, originated. More importantly, I wanted to know the extent of their effects on the lives of British people. So I requested a detailed audit. I discovered that some 30 percent of the British government’s actions came as a result of the actions British people elected us to undertake. The rest were generated and mandated by the civil service machine, the majority coming from the EU.
These directives determined everything from employment law to family policy, all through distant, centralized processes that UK citizens barely understood, let alone controlled. To this day, British officials spend much of their time in the EU’s administrative capital, Brussels, trying — mostly in vain — to block policies they don’t want and which no one in Britain voted for, all of it wasting inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money.
Steve Hilton, “Here’s Why Britain Should Leave The European Union Today”, The Federalist, 2016-06-23.
July 4, 2016
John Kay discusses the differences between the English anti-EU vote and the Scottish anti-English vote:
As a schoolboy in Edinburgh, I was taught that, long before the union with England, Scotland had been a cosmopolitan country. The ports on the east coast showed the influence of trade with the Netherlands and the Hanseatic League. The Scots language demonstrated continental influences. The citizens of Edinburgh would shout “gardyloo”, supposedly from the French “gare de l’eau”, before throwing their slops into the streets from the windows of the tall tenements of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Even then, this example of early Scots sophistication did not convince. And the claim that their vote to stay in the EU — all districts of Scotland voted Remain in the referendum, and 62 per cent of the nation’s voters as a whole voted to stay in the EU — is the product of a broad-minded outlook not seen south of the border also misses a crucial point.
The reality is that the discontent with established politics that erupted in the Leave vote elsewhere in the country has found expression in other ways. As one student of Scottish politics, explaining the UK Independence party’s lack of traction north of the border, put it to me two years ago: “People in Scotland who are disgruntled and suspicious of foreigners [the English] already have a party they can vote for.”
The fracturing of the opposition Labour party’s traditional support in depressed areas of the north of England, which was decisive in securing an Out vote, paralleled the collapse of Labour’s vote in the west of Scotland in favour of the Scottish National party in the general election of 2015.
The great achievement of the SNP, now in government in Holyrood and with MPs in Westminster, has been to be a party of protest and a party of government at the same time. This is an achievement Brexiters will find hard to emulate.
July 1, 2016
At Questions and Observations, Dale Franks writes about the distrust of the traditional “elites” among the non-elites of society:
There’s a growing sense, not only in Great Britain, but in the US as well, that the elites, or the political class, or whatever you’d like to call them, are incompetent and have been leading us astray. And the response from elites is to call those criticisms illegitimate. Those doing the carping are assumed to be racists or nationalists, both of which, of course, are unpleasant, dirty types of people. Both the UK’s Leavers and the US’s Trumpers share some commonalities. Among them are skepticism over free trade and free immigration; concerns that elites dismiss as foolish and uneducated. And, of course racist.
But perhaps the Leavers weren’t so concerned with brown people because they were brown, but because they were concerned at seeing buses being blown up in London, British soldiers being beheaded in broad daylight in the High Street, and dozens of children being raped for years in Rotherham. Perhaps, the British people have come to wonder about immigration because many immigrants seem less interested in becoming British than they are in making Britain more like the Middle East. And, maybe, just maybe, the Leavers prefer to live in Britain, in the free and modern culture that has developed over the last 1,500 years, rather than go back to live in the year 692. Maybe they wouldn’t be any more interested in living in the 13th-century culture of Richard the Lion-Hearted any more than they are in living in the Dark Age culture of Middle Eastern immigrants.
When people come into your country from elsewhere, they don’t do so simply as fungible economic units, but as real people, who bring along cultural and political ideas that may conflict those that are traditional in your country. It is almost at the point where elites cannot even conceive of an argument that implies the superiority of one culture over another, so they dismiss this argument as nationalism and nativism. But, the thing is, a free society that continually imports immigrants who have no interest in individual liberty, religious freedom, and political pluralism, will eventually have none of those things. The problem isn’t race. It’s culture.
National sovereignty means something. At the very least, it means that the people of a country have the absolute right to restrict immigration to the sort of people that will, in their judgement, benefit the country, and, once the immigrants arrive, to force them to assimilate to the country’s national culture more than the country accommodates the culture of the immigrant. No obligation exists, in any sense whatsoever, that requires the people of a country to allow entry to immigrants who desire to transform the country into something different. It is entirely legitimate to reject calls for sharia in the UK, just as it’s entirely legitimate to be upset by seeing political protestors in the US waving Mexican flags or wearing “Make America Mexico Again” hats, explicitly letting us know where their primary political allegiance lies. Nor is it illegitimate to wonder why such people are in this country, and not in the corrupt shithole of a country that they so obviously prefer, yet so oddly fled.
June 26, 2016
In his latest column at the National Post, Colby Cosh wonders why Canadian pundits have been so strongly pro-EU when their other mode is to reject anything resembling an EU-style relationship with our own largest trading partner:
I might have voted Remain myself if my great-grandparents’ generation hadn’t lit out for the great plains, but isn’t there something obviously unusual about our view of the transatlantic frenzy? Canada is a political entity defined by its perpetual rejection of a continental political union. No one here, at all, ever expresses any doubt about the wisdom of that rejection. It costs us all hard cash, every day, to not be the 51st state. Yet we keep the Americans at bay, preserving the freedom to make arrangements on trade and defence on a basis (or pretence?) of mutual, separate sovereignty. We do this even though we share a common tongue with Americans, and they are much more similar to us culturally and ideologically than an Englishman is to an Estonian.
Look at the list of imprecations being hurled at Leave voters Friday, many of them by Canadians. They’re “small-minded,” “isolationist,” “short-sighted,” “fact-blind,” “racist” countryside boobs without vision or understanding. Couldn’t all these epithets be turned on us like a gun-barrel? Who speaks for, even contemplates, the discarded project of American Union — which was once a lively concern, actively advocated by some of the first people to call themselves Canadian in the modern sense?
If the sheer craziness of Canada’s Remain sympathies weren’t obvious enough, the intellectual leaders of the Leave camp are constantly upholding Canada as a model for immigration policy, with its self-interested, skill-privileging, but globally indiscriminate points system. They also cite us as an obvious potential partner for the kind of bilateral trade deal Britain will now be free to pursue on its own. Basically, the Leave campaigners didn’t put it this way or incorporate it into a slogan, but they want the U.K.’s relationship with Europe — a polyglot kaleidoscope of radically dissimilar nation states, some of them failing — to be the same friendly, wary relationship Canada has with the United States.
What in Hades could possibly be wrong with that, as a basic proposition?
June 24, 2016
I had expected a narrow Remain victory in yesterday’s referendum, but had I been eligible to vote, I’d have voted to Leave. The initial reports I saw certainly made it seem as if Remain had squeaked out a narrow victory, but I was delighted to see my hometown voting convincingly to Leave at over 65%. The revolt of Labour voters probably was the deciding factor in the final result … the Tories had been having trouble for years trying to keep their EU skeptic wing quiet for fear they’d decamp to UKIP, but Labour seemed to have their supporters well in hand. Yet Middlesbrough and many other Labour ridings in the North East were the ones who came out most strongly for Brexit.
David Cameron has announced that he’ll be resigning (as is proper, under the circumstances), so it might be former London mayor Boris Johnson who ends up leading the negotiations with the EU. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t indicated whether he will also resign over the result, but it would be difficult for him to continue to lead Labour after Labour’s voters came down for the Leave side against their own party’s recommendations. At Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait shared some thoughts:
Re the Jo Cox murder. Many Remainers used this horror to imply that voting Leave was like voting in favour of MPs being murdered. (The Remainers who refrained from using this argument were not so audible.) I surmise that (a) some potential Leavers were persuaded, (b) some potential Leavers were angered and caused to vote Leave having only previously been thinking about it, and (c) quite a few continued to move towards Leave for reasons unrelated to the Jo Cox murder, but in silence. When the Cox murder happened, there was a shift towards Leave taking place. I surmise that this continued to flow, but underground, so to speak. Minds continued to move, but people stopped telling the pollsters. But, they’ve told them now.
Next, I refer honorable readers to these graphs (which I also wrote about in this posting here). These graphs say: (1) that when the government takes charge of something the immediate effects are often quite good, but in the long run less good, and then bad, and then very bad; and (2) that a piece of market liberalisation has the opposite effect, disruptive and unsettling at first, but then better, and in the long run unimaginably better. This explains why people so often vote for the government arrangement, against their long-term interests. Voters often have a short-term problem and are begging for a short-term fix. But these “Alpha Graphs” also explain something else, which is that when voters think that they are choosing between (1) bad now and bad in the future, or (2) bad now and better in the future, they are capable of voting in their long-term interest because long-term interest is all that there is on offer. Once governmentalism, so to speak, gets towards the far end of its graph and things are getting worse, really quite fast, and will go on getting worse no matter what, the decision changes radically. The only question is: Will the bad news ever stop? All of this now seems relevant to the Referendum debate. “Europe” was, for many, bad and getting worse. Brexit will also be bad, but eventually, better. If you think those two things, Brexit wins. And Brexit did win, with the people in a terminally bad way voting for it most heavily, and the people, like these people, who are now getting by or better voting for Remain, because they have something or a lot to lose.
It was assumed by Remainers that every time another London and/or Global Grandee came out for Remain, that helped the Remain cause. But for many, the unhappiness of such persons about the idea of Leave was a Leave feature rather than a Leave bug.
Speaking of London grandees, Eddie Izzard, dressed like a loon on Question Time, did not, I surmise, help the Remain cause. I mean, he really didn’t help. Imagine (as lucky old libertarian me living comfortably in London only can imagine) being staunch Labour but long-term unemployed, in Wigan or some such place. And you see on your TV some London Labour-Luvvie comedian, cross-dressed like a cross between Margaret Thatcher, Victoria Wood and Benny Hill, arguing for Remain. You’d vote Leave just to shove a stick up this thoughtless, frivolous, openly-contemptuous-of-everything-you-believe-in idiot’s arse, no matter how much more unemployed it might make you. (See above about not having anything to lose. If you have nothing left to lose, or if you merely feel this, punitive voting becomes one of your few remaining pleasures. (More Izzard related ruminations by me here.))
Tim Worstall on the economic implications of Brexit now that it’s a reality:
As to the longer term economic impact there’s all sorts of dire predictions of imminent recession. And this really just doesn’t ring true. The last time sterling fell like this, in 1993, it set off Britain’s longest ever peacetime economic boom. A lower exchange rate is generally taken to be stimulatory to an economy. Sure, there’s something called the J-Curve which means that it might not be immediately so (the idea being that it takes time for people to change their trade habits, meaning that higher import prices and lower export ones might take 18 months to work through into the real economy) but it really is the standard economic position that a decline in the exchange rate boosts the domestic economy. That’s why the IMF always recommends it for economies in trouble.
That is, the very thing that people are worrying about, a Brexit induced recession, is dealt with by the very thing that people are worrying about, a decline in the sterling exchange rate. These markets things do in fact work.
As to what happens in the near future in proper economic terms the answer is, well, nothing. Since the last revision of the European Treaty there is a procedure laid out for how a country leaves the EU. And it is that everything remains exactly as it was yesterday for the two years it takes to negotiate what will happen next. The only thing that will be influencing things is uncertainty about how those negotiations will pan out. That uncertainty being something which, again, is rather well dealt with by this current fall in sterling. Make investing in British assets cheap enough and people will continue to do it.
And to that long term. I think the long term effects are going to be, as long as we follow sensible economic policies post-Brexit, beneficial to the UK economy. Partly on the Patrick Minford grounds, that leaving the EU allows us to take that one sensible trade stance, unilateral free trade, which being in the EU prevents us from taking. But more than that I am absolutely convinced that the generally slow growth of the advanced economies is nothing to do with Larry Summers’ secular stagnation. Nothing to do with inadequate demand, with slow technological growth, not Robert Gordon’s analysis. Rather, it is the accretion of regulation of the economy that is responsible. And leaving the EU means that Britain can free itself from much to all of that – if it so desires of course.
This does not mean getting rid of the welfare state, doesn’t mean some laissez faire capitalism red in tooth and claw. Just very much less paper pushing and the asking of bureaucratic permission to do things. Just rather more of that Uber idea, move fast and break things. If you prefer, economic growth depends not so much on people innovating but there being space not controlled by the previous rules for people to innovate into. And recreating that space is something that Brexit will allow us to do.
June 23, 2016
A random tweet appeared:
Whatever your feelings are about Brexit, this is the most awkward thing you will read today: https://t.co/aSJ5EWo4Ej
— Jeremy Senderowicz (@jsende) June 21, 2016
Having read the article, I rather have to agree:
I suppose there are such things as amicable divorces. Mine wasn’t. Like the First World War, it was fought for more than four years, and ended with the Treaty of Versailles (by which I mean that it imposed territorial losses and the payment of annual reparations for a very long time).
Which brings me to Brexit, the ultimate divorce. Leave aside the arguments based on economics. Leave aside history, too. Instead, permit me to get personal. You want to get a divorce from Europe? Very well, let me explain what divorce is like.
Unlike a scorned soon-to-be-ex-wife, Schäuble’s motive is not to make Britain suffer for the sake of revenge. His main motive is not even to help David Cameron avert Brexit. Schäuble wants to deter others – he specifically mentioned the Dutch – from contemplating a similar referendum (anyone for Duxit?). And with good reason. A Pew poll published a couple of weeks ago revealed that Britons do not in fact have the most negative view of Brussels. Whereas the EU gets a ‘favourable’ rating from 44 per cent of British voters, for France the share is 38 per cent. For Greece the figure is 27 per cent. And before you confidently assure me that Schäuble is bluffing, remember that the last people who thought that before a referendum were… the Greeks.
So you are voting for a divorce, my pro-Brexit friends. And, like most divorces, it’s going to take much longer than you think and cost much more. That nice yacht you were daydreaming about? Sorry, your money is going on alimony and lawyers’ bills, just as the money Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have promised to spend on the NHS and cuts in VAT will be swallowed up by the post-Brexit recession and negotiation nightmare.
Yet this is not just about time and money. For divorce has other unintended consequences. Yes, you’re fixated on all that is wrong with your spouse. But other people are inevitably involved in any divorce: children mainly, but also parents, siblings and friends. It’s the same with this referendum. If England votes Leave but Scotland votes Remain, you surely know happens next – to say nothing of Northern Ireland and Wales. I have friends whose kids didn’t speak to them for years after their divorce. A decree nisi can turn your family into Yugoslavia. How amicable would the breakup of Britain be?
‘The reason divorce is so expensive,’ a twice-married American once said to me, ‘is because it’s really worth it.’ Well, maybe. Maybe England really will be happier without the EU, not forgetting the UK. But how many divorcees have a clue at the outset what divorce will cost them in time, money and heartache?
June 21, 2016
At Samizdata, Johnathan Pearce points out that there can be a powerful, irrational reaction to the person making the case rather than the case itself:
I cannot help but think that the very fact of Remainers often being the likes of the IMF, or Very Grand Economists, etc, is like the sensation for many of chalk scratching down a blackboard (I am giving my age away). When a EU Commissioner like Juncker attacks Brexiters, you can imagine how well, or badly, this goes down. And on the some of the interactions I have had on Facebook, much the same effect applies. I have been told, for instance, that the UK electorate has no excuse for whining about the undemocratic nature of the EU because British voters, by and large, don’t vote for MEPs and that the EU Parliament is chosen via proportional representation and therefore a fine and worthy body, and stop whining. The fact that MEPs cannot initiate, or repeal, legislation of any serious nature is ignored (MEPs do have blocking powers). And there have been a few outpourings of rage from a few of my acquaintances that a referendum is happening at all. What such folk don’t seem to realise is that such attitudes only make those of a EUsceptic strain even more annoyed, and more likely to vote Leave out of a “that’ll show you arrogant bastards” tone. In much the same that however logical a position of Mrs Thatcher in her heyday might have been, people, given the cussedness of human nature, disagreed.
The tone does matter, in other words. And although some of the vibe coming out of the Leave side is unsavory and foolish, the Remain side’s collective impersonation of 18th Century French aristocrats (just before the Bastille fell) is, in my view, even worse. It should not always matter, but it does.
June 13, 2016
In the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchins rubs his hands in glee at the implications of the surge in popularity of the Brexiteers:
I think we are about to have the most serious constitutional crisis since the Abdication of King Edward VIII. I suppose we had better try to enjoy it.
If – as I think we will – we vote to leave the EU on June 23, a democratically elected Parliament, which wants to stay, will confront a force as great as itself – a national vote, equally democratic, which wants to quit. Are we about to find out what actually happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
I am genuinely unsure how this will work out. I hope it will only destroy our two dead political parties, stiffened corpses that have long propped each other up with the aid of BBC endorsement and ill-gotten money.
I was wrong to think that the EU referendum would be so hopelessly rigged that the campaign for independence was doomed to lose. I overestimated the Prime Minister – a difficult thing for me to do since my opinion of him was so low. I did not think he could possibly have promised this vote with so little thought, preparation or skill.
I underestimated the BBC, which has, perhaps thanks to years of justified and correct criticism from people such as me, taken its duty of impartiality seriously.
Everything I hear now suggests that the votes for Leave are piling up, while the Remain cause is faltering and floundering. The betrayed supporters of both major parties now feel free to take revenge on their smug and arrogant leaders.
June 8, 2016
May 28, 2016
Sean Gabb believes the Brexit side has already lost the yet-to-be-decided referendum on staying or leaving the European Union:
Though we have nearly four weeks yet of campaigning, I find it hard to believe that the European Referendum will end in other than a crushing defeat for the Leave Campaign. For many on our side, this will be the end of their hopes. They have spent twenty five years – sometimes forty – connecting everything bad in this country with membership of the European Union, and pressing for a referendum. They now have their referendum. It will be lost. Age alone will give many of them nowhere to go. Some will pass the rest of their lives complaining that the vote was rigged. Most will drift away into confused silence. My own view is that the Referendum was always a mistaken strategy, and that its loss will bring an end to one of the less valuable chapters in the history of our movement.
The failure of the Leave Campaign can in part be blamed on the personalities involved. They are generally chancers and incompetents. If there is some reason to believe they were bought off in advance, nothing involving Boris Johnson was bound to end other than in defeat. I have always thought him a sinister buffoon. The only reason he became and stayed Mayor of London was that he was running against Ken Livingstone. Even I might have voted for him. Everything else achieved in his life has been the effect of sucking up to the right people. I have barely anything good to say about Michael Gove, and nothing good about Michael Howard or the others whose faces I see in my occasional skim of the BBC website.
In part, though, the failure is structural. The Leave Campaign has no plan for how to leave and what to do afterwards. It has none because none of the many plans on offer has general support. The Remain side can unite round a clear and simple message: we are better off in the European Union. The Leave side is a loose coalition with nothing in common beyond wanting to leave the European Union. Do we repeal the European Communities Act, scrap virtually all the regulations from Brussels and elsewhere, and practise unilateral free trade? Or do we disengage using the treaty mechanism, and then keep most of the regulations? Or do we try for a Keynesian siege economy? There is no agreement. If the Leave Campaign were to speak in details, it would disintegrate. The alternative, of being torn apart by the Remain side, is ruinous though preferable. So long as the campaign remains in being, something might turn up before polling day.
As I don’t follow British politics at the retail level, I know Boris Johnson more from this little parody than from anything he’s actually done:
May 15, 2016
Published on 11 May 2016
Midlands News lays out the unbiased facts on Brexit, including its devastating effect on Americans, polar bears and old people who can’t swim. For more details visit www.doreen.tv, or better still just vote the way you’re told.
March 30, 2016
It was apparently quite a surprise when Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the BBC TV show Top Gear, came out in favour of Britain staying within the European Union. Patrick West explains why it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all:
While Top Gear was a vehicle in which to issue mischievous slights about Indians and Mexicans, not a series seemed to pass without a snide remark from Clarkson about people from Birmingham. Or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or the north of England. Or the West Country. In fact, anywhere outside London. His Sunday Times column over the years has been the same.
As he once observed: ‘Provincial Britain is probably one of the most depressing places on earth… the towns, with their pedestrian precincts and the endless parade of charity shops and estate agents… There is nothing you want to see. Nothing you want to do. You wade knee-deep through a sea of discarded styrofoam trays smeared with bits of last night’s horseburger… for the most part urban Britain is utterly devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever.’ Here, Clarkson displays all the prejudices of a sneering, metropolitan, right-on BBC comedian. As a paid-up member of the snide establishment, Clarkson is ideal pro-EU material.
Among those who urge us to remain in the EU, a certain type of patrician class has been emerging. Its members may hail from different political traditions, but among them we find rich, privately educated, well-mannered, conspicuously cosmopolitan, paternal and patronising types, people who work in entertainment or big business, and many of whom have a material interest for wanting to remain in the EU: dirt-cheap, servile foreign labour; pliant Czech nannies; and second homes in Tuscany and the south of France.
Ever since Clarkson dropped his Yorkshire accent, he has sought to become part of that elite. And now that he is a member of an executive club, why else wouldn’t he want to remain part of another: the EU?
January 13, 2016
The sort of real democracy that European Unionist loonies hate, because it is expression of common people trying to get their ideological rulers to listen to their real world concerns. The sort of democracy that inevitably leads to dictatorship… (or at least to a different dictatorship than that of Merkel and the European Union diktats).
Democracy is supposed to be a wonderful thing, unless of course the majority of your population do not want to go where the political and chattering classes believe they must take them. In which case it is something to be ignored, or outflanked. Preferably by non-democratic routes such as the European Union, but if necessary by the simple expedient of ignoring the electoral result and trying to install someone who fits your preferences better … see Portugal after the last election.
So the great ideal of democracy is ignored by the ideologues, until the electoral swingback gets so extreme that protest voters start electing people who hate democracy … Extreme parties of the left and right across Europe come easily to mind, and can be compared with other popularly elected lashback responses by irritated and frustrated voters – Fascism and Nazism spring to mind.
The modern ideal of Democracy, is founded on the ridiculous, and incorrect, 1700’s assumption that all Europe’s problems can be traced back to Monarchy.
Nigel Davies, “The Solution is… European Union/Multiculturalism/Communism… Name your poison!”, rethinking history, 2015-12-26.