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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Bullshit Diary
I really don't know at this point how I'm going to vote in the EU Referendum. I am floating in the not-so-blue water between the two sides, waiting for one or both of them to throw me a lifeline in the form of great, evidence-based arguments. Hopefully that will happen over the next few months. (Meanwhile my daughter is fuming that the vote will take place just a couple of weeks before her 18th birthday, thus denying her a say.)

Meanwhile, there are already a lot of bullshit arguments floating about in these same waters, and since I don't yet know my own mind and so am not in a position to try persuading anyone, I thought the most useful thing I could do was to perform some turd triage by listing some of the arguments that won't do a thing to persuade me, either because they're non sequiturs, rely on emotional manipulation (usually attempts to scare people, or to appeal to some nebulous past or future utopia), or because they involve questionable premises. Here are some I've heard so far:

The existence of the EU is what has prevented a third European war in the past 70 years. (I think NATO and the Iron Curtain had rather more to do with it.)

Immigrants are coming en masse to claim benefits. (I've seen no evidence that this is happening on any significant scale. The free movement of people is one of the things most likely to make me vote for the EU, in fact.)

Britain has bad weather, which would be improved by continued EU membership. (I don't know if that's what Emma Thompson was trying to suggest, but it's the best I can do. Climate change may do the job anyway.)

The vote is to decide whether Britain stays part of Europe, and hence of European culture. (The EU and Europe are not the same thing.)

You don't want to vote the same way as [insert name of bogeyperson here], do you? (I have bogeypeople on both sides, though admittedly many more on the Leave side, but this is in any case a weird sort of ad hominem argument at one remove.)

We will definitely get favourable terms for trade with the EU should we leave. (I can see a number of reasons why this might not be the case. It's certainly not something we can be confident of.)

We will definitely get atrocious terms for trade with the EU should we leave. (See above.)

British Indian forces in the Second World War fought and died for "the European project". (Just no.)

This may be a continuing series...

I'm not saying these are good arguments (in truth they're more like the absence of good ones to vote the other way), and I'm not saying I'd definitely vote to stay in, and of course I don't have a vote anyway, but the arguments against leaving that have given me the greatest pause are:

1) That untangling the legal connections with the EU would be an endless, nearly impossible, and exceedingly expensive task;
2) That, while the burden of EU trading regulations are a major complaint by those who say Leave, the UK would in practice need to continue to abide by them to do business with the EU.

The second of those seems potentially a very strong argument, along with the allied argument that the UK would in any case become a less attractive proposition for inward investment. I look forward seeing some scenarios explaining how this might or might not happen in detail, though. The counter-argument is that, as a much larger economy than (say) Norway, and one that the rest of Europe has a large trade surplus with, the UK would have a better bargaining position to negotiate its independence. On the other hand, I think resentment against the UK amongst the rest of the EU might be such that they would attempt to humiliate the UK even to their own immediate detriment, not least pour encourager les autres.

(no subject) - kalimac, 2016-02-21 01:53 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-21 03:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
As an American, I don't know as much about this issue as I should, but I'm curious as to what you think are reasonable arguments for leaving the EU. Not going on the Euro was very clearly an excellent choice for the UK, but I'm uncertain about what the downside of staying in the EU is for the UK?

It's a very reasonable question, and beyond a general appeal to the attitude that "we will nothing pay for wearing our own noses" I've not seen many detailed answers, yet - except in matters of immigration, where I've no sympathy with the Leave people. There are (relatively) small matters, such as getting out of the Common Fisheries Policy, for example, which has unarguably been bad for the British fleet, and I'm sure such examples could be multiplied. But mostly it's been quite emotive (as have the calls to stay). To get a sense of it, perhaps try imagining that NAFTA had gradually morphed into the basis of a proto-North-America-wide state, and imagine how that would play in Indiana.

As a matter of fact, I'll be very surprised if the UK votes to leave: their record in referenda has been pretty uniformly in favour of inertia. But I've been wrong before - often.


(no subject) - heleninwales, 2016-02-21 01:34 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-21 03:52 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - veronica_milvus, 2016-02-21 07:19 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - heron61, 2016-02-21 10:52 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-22 07:54 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - heron61, 2016-02-22 09:56 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - kalimac, 2016-02-21 01:58 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-21 03:55 pm (UTC)(Expand)
The existence of the EU is what has prevented a third European war in the past 70 years. (I think NATO and the Iron Curtain had rather more to do with it.)

I accept that NATO, as a defensive alliance, was an important part of keeping the peace. But history shows pretty clearly that a military alliance without an overarching political project is weak. (The equivalent of NATO in the Pacific, SEATO, was founded on similar terms but collapsed in 1977.) So the EU dynamic, specifically in giving France and Germany reason to cooperate on all fronts and not just defence, has been important in preventing war in Western Europe; and by offering newly liberated Eastern European countries a framework other than the nineteenth-century model of territorial aggrandisement, it was important in deterring conflicts between the former Eastern bloc countries (as opposed to within their former borders, where a different dynamic played out).

You don't want to vote the same way as [insert name of bogeyperson here], do you?

Actually that would make a difference to me, and I think it's not an unreasonable factor to bear in mind. Looking locally to myself, I'm pretty neutral in theory as to whether Belgium should split or stay together; but I look at the leading advocates of an independent Flanders, and I see people who don't want people like me in their country. So that certainly guides my thinking and voting on that particular issue.

If I thought that a Leave vote would inevitably lead to a UK led by Nigel Farage or someone like him then I'd agree, but that seems far from certain. On the other hand, it's sufficiently plausible to be one of the factors worth considering, certainly.

I kinda see the EU as another layer of government.

If all it were was a free-trade agreement it'd be great. It's enacting and enforcing regulations.

Without the consent of the governed.

I've no problem with regulations as such: they're often necessary. (If I go Scuba diving, to pick a vanishingly unlikely example, I want to be sure that my equipment is safe.)

But the democratic deficit is certainly a problem, both in terms of the EU's various bodies' normal operation, and in terms of the ways in which democratic decisions and governments have sometimes been steamrollered by the EU. Examples (not unique ones) might be the the way that the Irish had to vote twice on the Lisbon treaty until they got it "right", and the appointment of Mario Monti as Prime Minister of Italy.

(no subject) - veronica_milvus, 2016-02-21 07:17 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-21 07:25 pm (UTC)(Expand)
My impression (though this isn't really my period) is that the project to prevent World War III was mostly about getting Germany and France as part of the same thing, and that Common Market didn't start out including Britain.

More relevant, perhaps, is that the existence of the EU didn't prevent war in the Balkans, and the existence of NATO didn't prevent a war between two NATO members.

That's certainly the way the story is told today, and it may for all I know be true. All the same, I've seen no evidence that there was much appetite for war in either country, EU or not. Germany was in ruins, after all, and much of France had been under occupation.

Edited at 2016-02-21 05:57 pm (UTC)

(no subject) - veronica_milvus, 2016-02-21 07:18 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - redbird, 2016-02-21 07:22 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Immigrants are coming here from the EU, and so are we going to other parts of the EU. There are 1.4 million British immigrants in Spain, France etc. The reason British people resent this is that many of those coming from poorer countries work for less than a British worker would put up with. That's not a European phenomenon but a British one. We don't have agreed official rates for particular jobs, so employers are able to bring in foreign workers for the minimum wage.

People conflate this stuff with immigrants from outside the EU being able to get here across European borders. Not so because we haven't been in the Schengen agreement. Hence the camps at Calais.


I entirely agree with this.

(no subject) - heron61, 2016-02-21 11:00 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Brexit, I vote to leave.
No war? I hallucinated Yugoslavia in 1991 then.
No dole if you are a Pole, massive waiting lists as East Europeans flood in.

I don't get a vote, of course, but if I did, I think I might find free movement compelling enough on its own. (In actuality it doesn't apply to me in any case, but I am very much in favour of the principle of it.)

I suppose Scotland is a factor to consider - having been screwed over already on the devo-max they were promised for staying in the UK, I think there's a very good chance that Britain leaving the EU would be the kick Scotland needs to actually vote themselves independent. Whether that's a good or a bad thing I will depend on one's own leanings.

There are understandable reasons one might want out (the fisheries thing, as you mentioned, is rubbish), but it's likely to be an issue closely related to devolution. As it is, Wales needs the EU, since they give us money for things Westminster won't let us have--it's a bit like running to your indulgent uncle when mum and dad won't give you pocket money, I suppose. When we have green energy projects or cultural initiatives or (god forbid!) minority language support, it comes from Europe. When we're told we should close the only hospital in mid-Wales because after all, there are hospitals in Cardiff that only take three for four hours to get to, or that we shouldn't put a windfarm there because it will spoil the view of some English MP's holiday home, that comes from Westminster. So from that standpoint, leaving Europe (whether Scotland stays or goes) is more than likely to be incredibly detrimental to Wales, so I confess I hope we stay in.

(That was a lot of words when I could have just read all the comments first and "me too"ed heleninwales, but there we are.)

(no subject) - steepholm, 2016-02-22 07:59 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - ashkitty, 2016-02-22 08:36 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(Meanwhile my daughter is fuming that the vote will take place just a couple of weeks before her 18th birthday, thus denying her a say.)

I do sympathize. A few weeks before my eighteenth birthday was the election that gave us the gift of Ronald Reagan.

Eep!