Victories for Brexit and Donald Trump in 2016 would be
deeply destabilising for world peace and would threaten
to turn the ‘Special Relationship’ into an ‘Axis of Evil’
Monday 20th June 2016
Donald Trump’s march to the White House goes on. On Super Tuesday he won sizeable victories in a number of states that makes him virtually unassailable in the race for the Republican nomination at the July convention. Attempts to stop him and replace him with a more ‘amicable’ candidate if he falls just short of the required number of delegates would be a powder-keg moment. It would ignite a civil war within the Republican Party and quite possible result in deep civil unrest. Trump has already indicated that he would call his followers onto the streets, and having previously directly incited violence on the campaign trail by telling Trumpeteers to punch protesters, his fervent supporters would be at no risk of misinterpreting his meaning. Like all dangerous demagogues, Trump is not adverse to inciting violence if the powers that be try to stop him.
As he has already indicated with his wall, a Trump presidency would be bad for migrants. It would also be bad for Muslims and for women and for virtually all minority groups. In his victory speech he contemptuously derided Hillary Clinton’s standing and worth in the Presidential race as being based solely on her gender. This, despite her having served at the highest level of public office for decades while his own experience and knowledge of public policy and world affairs could more than adequately be surmised on the front lid of a cigarette packet.
His unpleasant misogyny and controversial views are longstanding and are not playing to the gallery. His Presidency, we can therefore predict, would lead to a full frontal assault on civil liberties and human rights; human rights that have made great strides around the world in recent years, and have acted as lighting rods to countries and leaders who hold such values in contempt, raising the temperature, increasing the pressure, and making their own ascendancy and grip on their undemocratic fiefdoms less secure and less certain. This assault has already begun in Republican states, with the overturning of LGBT rights in North Carolina with more states looking set to follow. Yet this reversal in global modernity will not just threaten American civil society.
In Britain, similar Trump and Republican-right values are virtually universal in the argument for Britain to leave the EU. In attacking President Obama’s support for Britain to remain a player on the world stage, during the President’s recent visit to the UK, Boris Johnson, the ex-London mayor and wannabe-future-prime-minister, called into question the President’s ancestry, as if this indicated that he couldn’t be trusted. Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, condemned this as “dog-whistle racism”, and its implied “otherness” would certainly not have been lost on a considerable majority of those calling for Brexit. Donald Trump made similar slurs during Obama’s re-election campaign and went on to publicly question the President’s birth right, an imposition that will no doubt be returned on millions of Americans should he secure the White House.
The assault of the transatlantic right on civil liberties and perceived political correctness continues unabated. In America, Fox News can barely conceal its contempt at the US Treasury’s decision to replace the slaveholding, former U.S. president Andrew Jackson on its $20 dollar bill with the ex-slave and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman; while in Britain, the right-wing Daily Mail smeared the new London mayor, Sadiq Kahn, by associating him with the July 7, 2005 London bombings—a kind of connect-the-dots, all-Muslims-are-terrorists inference. These are virtually daily examples of dog-whistle prejudice that emanate from a deep simmering distrust, fear and loathing of the “other” in both Britain and America. They are a backlash and a reassertion of perceived cultural and social superiority that inevitably result in political, social and economic discrimination, all backed up, hidden and marshalled behind an anti-PC banner and affirmative-action conspiracy. Supporters of Trump and Brexit tend to be older white men who view cultures and religions they do not understand as a threat—a view expressed through a strong dislike of immigration.
They are also examples of “breakout”, of strong normalising-attempted, “break-into-the-middle-ground” beliefs that if left unchecked would gravitate into policy, and they have more than an echo of the ghettos in Poland during the Second World War and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, a conflict that the EU was criticised for not doing more to stop, including by Britain, when conversely, Brexit would make the EU less able to respond to such crises and would further destabilise the region, as a more fragmented Europe would find it much more difficult to agree on a unified response.
In the U.S., Trump has listed a number of progressive policies he would reverse if elected, including health care reform and the normalization of relations with Cuba. This would cause millions of Americans to be priced out of health care and millions of Cubans to be isolated from the community of nations. Trump would reverse the Iran nuclear deal, a major foreign policy success of both the Obama administration and the EU. A Trump America and a Brexit Britain would not have the will or the influence to secure this deal, making the world a more dangerous place.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, in finally coming out in support of her prime minister and the remain campaign, sabotaged the cause by stating that Britain should leave the European Convention on Human Rights, because it is sometimes inconvenient and troublesome to right-leaning policy enactment, thereby completely failing to grasp the fundamental universal core element that is essential in the underpinning and protecting of such rights. It is populist grandstanding that represents the worst kind of grounding for long-term, sound political judgement, and, as with Boris Johnson, though much less brazen, has more than a suspicion of personal ambition and grass-root lobbying for David Cameron’s soon to be vacated Downing Street residence. With this stance being taken by a “Remainer”, it is an erosion of rights and civil liberties that would be accelerated by Brexit.
This assault by the right would be economic as well as social, with workers’ rights and employment protections such as holiday, health and pension, and maternity and paternity provisions directly under threat. Brexit’s clarion call for the people to be liberated from the supposed servitude of unelected EU bureaucrats would in fact see a reassertion of Victorian economic utilitarianism and the deep social division, inequality and economic subjugation that inevitably follows, as indicated by British Nineteenth-Century history and the work of Charles Dickens, with the rights of the wealth creators overly protected, enabling them to harvest and to bottleneck the redistribution of wealth to the people. Examples of this have already been seen with the proliferation of zero-hours contracts and inequality in both Britain and America having accelerated since the financial crisis, from a continued rise over the past forty years, laying wreckage to Conservative economic belief that is wilfully ignored in the governance of the few over the many.
Simultaneously, 1930s America would be revisited with Trump’s protectionism. Trade wars would harm U.S. exports and threaten jobs. It is also incompatible with Brexit’s vision for Britain: a stampede of instant “have-your-cake-and-eat-it” free-trade agreements with the rest of the world, including America. Trump rails against globalization and free trade, blaming it, along with immigration, for America’s ills. Immigration is also the scapegoat of Brexit, which, paradoxically, promises a free-trade utopia while setting fire to its free-trade single market access with the largest economic trading bloc in the world. Investment in education and the infrastructure needed to fully reap the benefits of immigration is the antidote to Trump and Brexit’s socioeconomic snake-oil elixir.
This two-pronged civil rights attack, post-Brexit and post-Trump victory, would occur simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet such an assault on liberal civil society would not just have severe implications domestically. Politico Europe recently reported the Russian influence in Donald Trump’s campaign, including the front-row attendance of the Russian ambassador during his recent strong-man, ‘America First’, foreign policy unveiling. This reveals that Putin’s strategy is to take advantage of the open democracies of the West in order to destabilise them from within. This can be seen in his support for right-wing groups throughout Europe. The media news channel ‘Russia Today’, renamed RT, also follows this pattern of subversion, for whilst castigating the banditry of Western unfettered neoliberalism – itself far from an ignoble cause – it offers not a peep of protest over Russian state-wide corruption and imperial ambitions, thus making a mockery of its supposed journalistic independence from Moscow. Putin then, in his support of groups wanting the dismantling of the EU and a return to national borders, has subversive links stemming from Moscow via Europe and London all the way to Middle America, all with the sole aim of destabilising Europe and weakening the transatlantic alliance and strengthening and extending his influence and borders. This can be seen through the concern of Western intelligence agencies over the alleged Russian infiltration of European political parties. It also explains why right-wing, demagogic leaders such as Trump and Nigel Farage admire Putin for being a strong man. It is the clearest indication yet that Britain’s self-imposed exile from the EU and the community of nations would be celebrated with kholodets and vodka in the Kremlin.
Strategically, and within the confused, contradictory foreign-policy rhetoric, Trump is at best indifferent to the transatlantic alliance, this being the sole reason for European peace and stability over the past 70 years according to those pushing for Britain’s EU exit and the cornerstone of their post-Brexit imaginings. This again would be music to the ears of Putin, enabling him to pursue unchallenged his geopolitical goals, leaving small Eastern European nations who have only recently enjoyed the peace and stability and prosperity of Western democracy in their long histories at the mercy of an isolationist Great Britain, a vastly destabilised European Union, a weakened NATO and a US President more interested in initiating a modern-day Nazi-Soviet pact, leaving Putin free to carve up the satellite states, returning Western Europe, the Middle East and the world to a new, dangerous era of cold-war geopolitical stand-offs.
From a British perspective, leaving the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights would leave Britain less prosperous, less free, and vastly less secure in a weakened, destabilized continent. In America, protectionism, tariff wars, discrimination, social division, and the unravelling of alliances will not regenerate the Rust Belt—they will spread it like dry rot. In a time of peril for transatlantic liberal society, a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Brexit.
A version of this article has been published by the World Policy Institute and is available here.
UK-EU trade: A dangerous crack habit or Britain’s only viable future?
Monday 7 March 2016
The argument for Britain’s exit from the EU, post-David Cameron’s negotiated deal, has largely centred on the legality and permanency of the reforms, and over more general questions of sovereignty, than over the larger, more central themes.
This rather narrow focus has contrasted sharply with David Cameron’s and the Remain campaign’s quick-off-the-block more broader and all-encompassing economic argument. It is a curious disparity that is possibly explained by the lack of agreement between the different Out campaigns over what Britain’s post-exit economy would look like. Would it take on a wholly global dimension with the UK weaned off its economic dependency with the EU, like a destructive crack habit that the Outers will warn an initial period of unpleasant ‘cold turkey’ will be necessary for the nation’s greater good in the long run, or would there be some kind of negotiated settlement and continuation in the UK’s economic relations with Europe? In which case the overwhelming likelihood is that there would be a continuation in some form or other of dreaded relations. Either way, and which ever view becomes the settled Out argument, if one does rise to the fore, UK trade, future growth and the economy will form one of the major fulcrums of debate during the nation’s historic decision.
David Cameron and the Remain campaign have taken no time in wheeling out big business to voice their belief that Britain is better off in a ‘reformed’ EU. Whether this will sway the average voter is another matter as big business is bound to find the EU’s huge internal single market beneficial to the selling of their goods and services. But does the average person in the street feel the benefit of the EU’s 510 million single market? Whether they actually benefit or not is largely irrelevant as they are unlikely to feel that they do.
The Out campaigns hit back saying they have letters signed by thousands of SMEs and small businesses indicating their wish to leave, citing red tape and invasive regulations that are barriers to growth. Yet the Outers’ business argument also has flaws. The specifics of the red tape and invasive regulations are suspiciously vague, encouraging speculation that these might actually relate to the protection of workers’ rights, including holiday and maternity and paternity regulations and health and safety law, ironically and paradoxically, things the average person in the street does notice and directly benefits from.
The weakness of both business arguments highlights the unreliability of relying solely on the business community to put the economic case for Britain remaining or leaving the EU. A more reliable indicator of what Britain’s economic role in the world is, and therefore indication of what its future economy would look like in or out, is UK trade figures. The figures are revealing and are readily available.
The UK’s global trade in goods and services in 2014, excluding banking, travel and tourism, was worth £906 billion to the UK economy according to the Office of National Statistics (https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/internationaltrade/datasets/internationaltradeinservicesreferencetables) and HM Revenue and Customs (https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Statistics/BuildYourOwnTables/Pages/Table.aspx). Of this, trade with the EU accounted for £436 billion, virtually half of the UK’s total world trade. Globally, UK trade carries a deficit of -5%, -15% when the dominant service sector is removed. The UK imports far more than it exports. Within the EU this figure is even more startling, with a goods-trade deficit of -20%, -13% when services are included.
Of the other 27 EU member states the UK maintained a 2015 merchant-trade surplus with only 6 other countries: Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Ireland and Malta, for a combined value of £7 billion. A paltry amount compared to the UK’s total trade in goods with the EU of £354 billion. Bulgaria was also a credit in 2014 but is now a deficit. Doesn’t strike confidence that Britannia can rule the global commerce waves as Outers would have you believe.
The UK’s largest goods-trade surplus in the world is with Switzerland (£13 billion), the U.S. (£10 billion), followed by the United Arab Emirates (£4.8 billion), Ireland (£4 billion and EU member, down from £6 billion in 2014) and Saudi Arabia (£3.5 billion). The fact that two of our five largest goods-trade surpluses are in the Arabian peninsular tells its own story. Britain’s largest goods-trade deficits in the world are with Germany (-£30 billion), China (-£18 billion), Norway (-£10 billion), Canada (-£5.6 billion), Turkey (-£4 billion), Japan (-£2.7 billion), India (-£2.1 billion) and Russia and South Africa with -£1.8 billion apiece.
Those campaigning for Britain’s exit argue that the UK’s chronic goods-trade deficit is something to revel in, that it is a good thing and something to be proud of because it ensures that the rest of the world will clamour to our door offering us trade deals on whatever terms we like. Our huge trade deficit will enable us to pick our terms, they say, and trade with any country we want at zero cost. This is extreme fantasy. The reality the figures reveal is an inherent and severe structural weakness in the UK economy. They reveal that Britain does not make enough of what the world wants. This is not “Project Fear” or Anglo-sceptism or Anglophobia. This is what UK trade figures tell us.
Outers argue that the EU is holding Britain back from being able to trade with the rest of the world, but considering Britain’s chronic goods deficit it is more likely that Britain’s membership of the EU, and access to its single market, has enabled Britain’s current degree of trade with the rest of the world, and that without it, Britain’s abysmal balance of trade figures would be even worse.
Outers argue that Britain would be able to trade more with the U.S., and Britain’s current £80 billion trade and £10 billion surplus with the U.S. is not insignificant. Yet this is more likely again to be a consequence of the UK’s membership of the EU, with reduced tariffs commensurate to single market benefits and standardisation. The UK-U.S. trade figure is also dwarfed by EU-U.S. trade of £487 billion, with an EU surplus of £97 billion (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2006/september/tradoc_122530.pdf). The EU and the U.S. are also currently negotiating a free trade agreement (TTIP) that would in all likelihood increase these figures still further, and this trade deal would still go ahead if Britain voted to leave the EU making it much more difficult for Britain to negotiate separate free trade agreements with both the US and the EU and or individual member states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/international-macroeconomic-data-set.aspx) also predicts that Britain will be the seventh largest economy in the world by 2030 (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-10/the-world-s-20-largest-economies-in-2030#media-2), with the department confirming that this prediction was based on Britain remaining in the EU.
It seems incredible then, with the vast global trading sums involved, that Britain would be able to negotiate free trade agreements on its terms. Much more likely would be unfavourable terms, with increased trading costs, higher prices and long-term economic disruption and harm the inevitable consequence.
Those in the leave camp also argue that Britain could flourish outside of the EU with increased trade with the Commonwealth and emerging economies, but the reality is that Commonwealth countries make up a tiny fraction of Britain’s global trade. Britain, for instance, has a -£5.6 billion goods-trade deficit with Canada. The figures for Australia are a surplus: £1.7 billion out of £5.9 billion traded in 2015. Yet these figures are still miniscule compared with global trade, and Australia has an ageing population of 24 million with a fifth forecast to be over 65 by 2050 (http://www.smh.com.au/national/australias-ageing-population-prey-to-abuse-20160224-gn2k7v.html).
The figures for China, too, are £18 billion in exports and £36 billion in imports. Trade with China is growing year-on-year, yet so is the deficit, and the figures are still dwarfed in global terms and by EU-China trade. Trade with India is also tiny with exports of £3.9 billion and imports of £6 billion, smaller than the UK’s trade with Hong Kong. Ditto Brazil, with £2.1 billion of exports and £2.4 billion of imports. These are the world’s emerging economies and their data reveals that they would nowhere near fill a UK post-exit EU-trade black hole.
The UK global goods trade, then, shows that Britain could only increase its trade with the rest of the world and ‘go it alone in the world’ by buying more things from China and from Canada. By buying more things from India and from Brazil, from South Africa and from Russia, from Turkey and from Japan, incurring huge debt that is unsustainable. The world does not want what the UK sells at the moment so why would it suddenly want our goods when we leave the EU? The truth is it wouldn’t.
The figures show that any argument that Britain could thrive without the EU is a fantasy and a dangerous delusion. The figures show the UK would do the opposite. This is the reality. The size of Britain’s EU trade would mean it would have to renegotiate with the EU, and considering the size of the EU on the global stage, it would hold all the cards. Britain would end up paying for access and accepting the terms and conditions without any influence or say over its running. The alternative for the EU is unimaginable: free, unfettered access to the single market without any of the terms and contribution and free movement of people? What about us, other countries would ask? Why can’t we have free access without any of the costs? It would be the end of the EU as a transformational political entity that has maintained the longest period of peace in Europe for over two hundred years. That’s why it couldn’t happen.
Britain’s global trade figures indicate that we do not make enough of what the world wants, and to try to undertake the lengthy and long-term rebalancing of our economy whilst at the same time leaving the largest economic trading block in the world would leave us rather than in a short-term period of ‘cold turkey’ but in a longer, more permanent, multi-generational deep-freeze malaise, searching forlornly for a new Opium Trail. The data is there for us all to see. We cannot say we haven’t been warned.
Cameron’s demographic dilemma
Saturday 20 February 2016
So the deal is finally done. The square-bracketed areas of contention removed and the ink drying on the document of Britain’s new ‘special status’ relationship with the EU. Now the real fight begins.
Even before European heads of state had sat down to sign, the numerous Leave campaigns back in Britain had begun in earnest. To them the details of the negotiation and Cameron’s hard fought concessions were irrelevant; a side show to the real meat and drink of the referendum: Britain’s exit from the EU. To these campaigns it is fairly safe to assume that there is nothing that David Cameron could have achieved and levered out of the EU that would have burst their bubble and stopped their launch. They want out, and in that respect the groups are united, if in no other.
One of the campaigns getting underway was remarkable for two reasons. The Go Movement, with their curious potty-green ties and balloons, held a rally attended by two thousand people, with many queuing for hours outside in the rain. Yet more remarkable, and the danger to David Cameron, was the demographic. The vast majority of the audience were of an older generation, the category of voters most likely to vote Conservative in general elections. It is a demographic heavily weighted in Westminster political Out circles and all Out campaigns and splinter grass-root organisations; and, although the Go Movement’s bizarre revealing of their ‘special guest’ George Galloway is unlikely to persuade many don’t knows and the gathering of cabinet ministers at the Vote Leave photo op also unlikely to send shivers down the spines of Remain campaigners, the overriding demographic of the national support for Out is a huge concern for David Cameron. The vast majority of Cameron’s and the Conservative Party’s power base is now actively campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, regardless of any deals, concessions, negotiations or status, special or not.
On the major political issues of the day: Trident, the Scottish Referendum, the last general election, Cameron’s traditional support has stood shoulder to shoulder with him. On arguably the most important political event since the Second World War they won’t. At the Scottish Referendum, the older demographic didn’t like the risk, whether accurately portrayed or not: short-term was their long-term. To the younger generation the risk was a better future; a future they saw as infinitely better than the future they saw continuing to remain bonded with England in the UK.
To Cameron, the Scottish question raises the already huge stakes of the EU referendum to an even higher level. If, for instance, Cameron’s risky strategy doesn’t pay off and Britain votes to leave the EU, then a strong remain vote in Scotland would almost certainly result in a second Scottish referendum. This time, a leave vote would be much more likely. Cameron’s ungraceful speech the morning after the first vote would also not help the cause in a second referendum. Here he spoke the language of division instead of the language of unity. He appealed to his party and traditional English Conservative support, instead of appealing to the nation as a whole. This certainly would not be forgotten.
Cameron has also shown the same lack of grace towards Europe. He says he doesn’t love Brussels, despite its support. At the summits and behind the scenes, he appears personable and amiable, even reasonably well liked, and a strong believer of Britain’s place in the EU. Yet in front of the camera, when addressing the British people, he turns on the EU, even when his European colleagues have gone out of their way to accommodate British demands, referring to it almost as an enemy he has defeated in battle instead of neighbours, partners and close collaborators of similar, modern democratic nations; and, regardless of whether European leaders understand that this is just for his audience at home, this must grate. It is also a sad indictment of the UK’s insular attitudes and poor understanding of Europe for him to feel the need to do this at all.
Britain’s place in the EU is now on a knife edge. Cameron has let the genie out of the bottle and will have great difficulty putting it back. If Britain votes to leave and Scotland follows suit then appealing to the democratic argument of giving people a say on Europe won’t wash compared to a legacy of taking Britain out of the EU and Scotland out of the UK. History will be merciless. There will be no place to hide. And if Britain remains, what will he have achieved compared with not holding the referendum in the first place? And how long will it be after a Remain vote until we see the first anti-EU headlines? Try the very next day.
The rise of anti-political establishment popularism
Monday 25 January 2016
The following is a quote from a leading figure in a hugely important upcoming national poll. The city in question has been removed:
“If you think (…) is fundamentally broken, that there is bipartisan corruption of career politicians in both parties that get in bed with the lobbyists and special interests and grow and grow and grow (…), and we need to take power out of (…) and back to ‘we the people’, that is what this campaign is all about!” (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/23/donald-trump-bernie-sanders-lead-two-headed-insurgency-against-establishment)
You would be forgiven for thinking that the quote is from Nigel Farage talking about Brussels, but it is in fact Ted Cruz, the ultra-conservative Republican candidate for the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.
Cruz’s statement, and the firebrand popularism he represents, is akin to a tiger abhorring cruelty to chickens. It is ridiculous for this reason. Conservative (Republican) neoliberalism from Ronald Reagan onwards deregulated Wall Street and set it loose to feed like locusts on the U.S. economy, leading directly to the financial crash of 2008 that plunged the U.S. economy, the UK’s and Europe’s (a result of a sovereign debt crisis caused by the crash), along with most of the rest of the world, into deep recession.
By the same token, Nigel Farage’s popularism is just as harebrained, as his proposal to take Britain out of the EU removes the checks and balances that protects the British people from the political establishment, through laws protecting the quality of beaches, food regulation, workers’ rights and safety, and a multitude of others (all neo-liberal checks and balances that protects people from being exploited). His brand of popularism, hence, does exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin. Plain talking, opposite effects.
Popularism in these instances is all noise and no substance, or reality. Even if listened to, the electorate invariably ends up disillusioned and disappointed, until a process of renewal, and the same misguided, misdirected cycle of anti-political establishment popularism begins once again.
What is needed instead to solve the West’s chronic, destabilising neo-liberal marginalisation is a real leader with vision and conviction. Populist figures like Nigel Farage and Ted Cruz are not the answer. They are part of the problem, not the solution.
Challenging the Outers’ Trump card of democracy
Monday 4 January 2016
Eurosceptics and the out campaign always revert to the Trump card of democracy in the in / out referendum debate. It is the magical elixir and core of their argument that cannot be challenged or contested. The EU, they contend, is made up of thousands of unelected, undemocratic, faceless bureaucrats who make our laws. But is the democracy aspect of their argument as watertight as they would have you believe? Let’s look at democracy in the EU and the UK and see which is more democratic.
The EU is made up of the following:
The European Parliament = MEPs that are directly elected by EU voters in their member states every 5 years. The UK has 73, more than every country except France (74) and Germany (96). Unfortunately they are mostly made up of people who do not defend the UK’s interests (and claim taxpayers’ money for the privilege of not doing their jobs).
The Council of the EU = Government ministers from each EU country that adopts and passes EU law together with the European Parliament.
The European Council = Elected Heads of state and leaders of EU countries and the President of European Commission. Sets the agenda and deals with complex issues that cannot be dealt with at lower levels of intergovernmental cooperation. It does not make laws (like a UK government cabinet meeting. Determines direction and agenda but does not make laws – that’s the Parliament and the Council of the EU).
The European Commission = Appointed by EU member governments. Commission proposes legislation that is given up to three readings in the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (just like UK governments proposing legislation to Parliament and the House of Lords – oops, the House of Lords is unelected). The proposals after this process of readings and changes and re-readings are either adopted into EU law or rejected.
Now let’s look at the UK.
The UK is a Constitutional Monarchy. Our monarchy acts as our Head of State and our laws are passed through Parliament (having been required to pass through an unelected upper chamber of the House of Lords). Monarchists and Eurosceptics will tell you that this is the ‘best of both worlds’.
The machinery of government and state – what could be described as the establishment – is not elected. These are life positions that are hereditary and are born into (like the Monarchy). Peerages are also given as a reward for helping parties win or stay in power, usually having been in the form of huge donations made during election campaigns. Hence if you’re rich enough you can buy a peerage and vote on laws without being elected. You’re then part of the establishment. You have power and influence. Doesn’t sound very democratic to me.
The honours system is also part of this. This looks nice, and what’s wrong with being rewarded for doing good things, goes the cry? The reality is much more sinister. In reality, lifetime peerages and honours are a system of establishment control and entry. They are a barrier and a palisade to true democracy and equality. They enable the permanent entrenchment and protection of unelected hereditary power, privilege and influence, forming a protective ring around the Monarchy and the establishment. That’s their raison d’être.
Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy also enables Prince Charles to pay no corporation or capital gains tax on his huge multimillion pound annual landowning income (£19.8m in 2015), and to only ‘voluntary’ pay income tax on the amount left over after business expenses. This amount paid is also not independently verified.
This is the democracy Britain lauds to the world.
Not a single person in EU institutions votes on or amends EU law who is not elected. In Britain there are 760, more than the entire ‘elected’ European Parliament of all member states: 751 (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/about-meps.html).
The EU, then, is more democratic, more representative and more transparent then our own system of governance. So let’s hear no more mistruths and manipulation from the Eurosceptics on the question of democracy. If they have no stake in the privileged advantages of being part of our unrepresentative and undemocratic establishment, then they have been fooled and manipulated. If they have, then they are dishonest. Either way, steer well clear. There’s a reason why John Redwood only gives interviews at night.
This country will never be truly democratic and truly equal until the monarchy is politely asked to retire to Balmoral (unless it’s state owned of course) and we base our democracy on a proper written constitution, instead of the mouldy parchment of the Magna Carta that apparently represents the ‘best of both worlds’ of our oxymoronic ‘unwritten constitution’.
The Monarchy is defended to the hilt by calls of symbolism (Prince Charles – imagine what he would be like if he were king); tourism (Paris is one of the most loved cities in the world – who’d have thought it without a powdered Louis the XVI sticking his head out of the Louvre Palace? – watch that sash); admired around the world (Kate would soon be replaced from the covers of Uruguayan girls’ fashion magazines); charity work (the Royals can continue their fine charity work as private citizens, as they would no doubt be very keen to do); and the head of the Commonwealth (a bunch of countries too polite to tell us what they really think of us for what we did to them).
This is nothing personal – it’s a question of democracy and equality.
Bring back Thomas Paine, and let’s have the EU referendum open our eyes not just to the democratic realities of the EU, but also to the undemocratic realities of the UK.
Britain’s EU exit: for and against
Wednesday 6 January 2016
Britain needs to be informed and think very carefully about the decision it will be asked to make at the EU referendum.
Here’s a breakdown of the arguments for Brexit and Britin.
Brexit: Britain should have her own powers to create her own laws. The EU is undemocratic and full of unelected bureaucrats.
Britin: an examination of EU institutions compared to the UK’s Constitutional Monarchy and unelected House of Lords reveals the EU to be more democratic, more accountable and more transparent than the UK. Thousands of EU laws, ratified and voted on by the 73 elected British MEPs in the European Parliament, have greatly benefited UK citizens and protected their rights, in all aspects of society, both here in the UK and in Europe, as they have for all EU citizens. I would recommend researching these institutions and the laws passed because they are not publicised. Don’t rely on views expressed in newspapers about the shape and size of bananas etc. They do not want to inform opinion, they want to form it.
Brexit: Britain can flourish outside of the EU as it is the fifth largest economy in the world, which the rest of the world will be desperate to trade with.
Britin: Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world. It is the same size as France and three quarters of the size of Germany. It is tiny compared with the U.S., China and the EU, and will be compared with other free trade areas such as North and South America and other emerging economies and BRICS in years to come. Britain can survive outside the EU, but it would decline. That is inevitable. Large markets do not offer good terms to smaller markets. It is the founding principles of economics and international relations, to protect your citizens’ interests. Britain’s multinationals will see their market shrink from 500 million to 65 million. It will not be in their interests to remain in the UK. They are not nationalistic, they only desire to keep costs low and make profits. If their option is to pay the costs of exporting to 435 million people or to 65 million people, they will choose the latter. It is simple economics.
Brexit: Britain’s uncontrolled and uncontrollable open-door policy to migration will see this country ruined by swarms of migrants, mingled with terrorists, all abusing the UK’s generous welfare system that will destroy British society. Our way of life, jobs and security will be lost.
Britin: Net migration in the UK has risen over the past few years, but this will level off and will benefit the country in the long run. EU migrants to this country do not come to claim benefits. This has been well documented and the government knows this, but instead of educating the public it chooses to keep them in ignorance for self-serving reasons. News organisations like the BBC are wary of countering Eurosceptic claims due to outlandish claims of bias from the right and the threats to its future made by the government. The problems of immigration are short term and should in no way result in the taking away of considerable, long-term, multi-generational benefits of EU membership.
Peace in Europe
Brexit: NATO has kept the peace in Europe since 1945, not the EU.
Britin: a military alliance can easily be disbanded through fallouts with its members. Political and economic integration can not be. European integration has maintained the longest period of peace in Europe for two hundred years (with Europe’s hugely diverse history and culture, with modern, powerful nations in close proximity, this, historically, is a great success). Integration provides far greater long-term security than military alliances.
Brexit: ? (Meat and two veg? Pipe and slippers?). Reduced cultural diversity.
Britin: Britain has gained immeasurably, culturally, through EU membership. The deregulation of EU airspace has enabled cheap foreign travel to some of the culturally richest countries and cities in the world. This cheap travel would also disappear for future generations if we left (nice gift – we did it but we didn’t like them so you can’t).
The don’t knows need to consider very carefully and become as informed as possible in order to make the right decision, otherwise it will be a decision we will all regret for a very long time.
The European American Dream
Monday 11 January 2016
Imagine what the United States would be like if all its states seceded from the Union and imposed tariffs on each other. Imagine what would happen to the American Dream. It would be destroyed, and the US would be a hell hole. But would this really be the case?
People could argue that if all fifty states seceded from the Union then they would be free to negotiate free trade agreements with each other and live in peaceful co-existence and harmony, with full control of their borders to keep migrants out. The major flaw in this view, of course, is that it assumes that every person in each of the states holds the exact same view, background and values as the person propagating the view. This would not be the case. The individual states are as divergent as the people who populate them, even though they share a common language. They are diverse in terms of politics, economics, history, religion, values and outlook. The Southern and Mid-Western states, for instance, are hugely divergent socially, religiously and economically from the Eastern and Western states. In reality, if all fifty states of America seceded from the Union there would be years of torturous trade negotiation with states arguing over natural resources, workers’ rights and the protection of their own industries. There would be major disagreements and states would blame each other for increased crime, drug and gun proliferation, with some states imposing bans based on new constitutions, while others followed constitutions based on the Union’s. Eventually, millions of Americans would be turned into evil migrants trying to move from state-to-state in search of work, as occurred during the great depression. In reality, America, after the disintegration of its Union, would quite quickly descend into huge instability, chaos and eventual conflict. In short, it would turn into a hell hole that would destabilise the whole world. This is also true of Europe, medium to long-term, if the European Union disintegrates: huge instability, dispute, tension, distrust and eventual conflict. You only have to look at two hundred years’ of European History to see that.
The American Dream is not just about reaching the very top from the very bottom, it’s also about freedom; freedom of imagination and freedom of movement. The freedom to be able to get in your car in Farmington, Maine, with a change of clothes, and drive to California. That’s the American Dream (founded by migrants), and even Donald Trump – it doesn’t matter how many migrants poured into the country – would never try to take that away from Americans.
The free movement of people is to UK and EU citizens what the American Dream is to all Americans. That’s something they all agree on and would never give up, Republicans and Democrats. They would give up their guns first – or think about it – despite their aversion and distrust of the Federal Government.
The EU has got a problem with immigration at the moment, exacerbated over the last couple of years by decades of failed policy of the West in the Middle East. The point is, these problems are short-term, and will be solved if we work together, while the huge benefits of EU membership are forever.
To the Don’t Knows:
Think about this freedom. Don’t give up this freedom because of short-term problems over immigration, because if you do we will have lost them forever. There’ll be no going back when it doesn’t work out (which it definitely won’t). They won’t want us back who caused them so much trouble and was never committed. The only aspect of the Outers argument that’s real is immigration, but that’s short-term and will be solved. The rest is untrue and the opposite of what they say. Think and feel. Keep us in. Don’t let the Outers take away your freedom. Don’t let them take us over the precipice that David Cameron, for self-serving political reasons, has so foolishly led us to. Say to yourself: “Well, they can go over if they’re stupid enough, but I’m not. I won’t let them take away my dream, my children’s dream, my grandkid’s dream.”
To the Outers:
You might not like the EU, but think about your children and your grandchildren. You talk about never having been asked, but you’re not asking them. They will never have a say. You’ll be barring them forever from this dream, from this freedom. Do you think they’ll thank you for it?