Three Reasons for Brexit?

I have heard only three arguments which carry some weight in going ahead with Brexit. All from private conversations but there are echoes elsewhere.

The first was a senior criminal lawyer, who dealt in fraud cases such as motor accident claims. Deliberately causing crashes, by for example slamming on brakes without any notice, so that people would run into you. Personal injury and whiplash guaranteed to make a tidy profit. She said 90% of the organised fraud gangs behind this were Romanian or Bulgarian and those she came across were all crooks. She felt the EU had expanded too far and too fast. The opportunity to get rid of these people by voting leave was too good an opportunity to miss.

I could not dispute these figures. She is a good friend and a person I implicitly trust, so I’m sure it is true in the circles in which she moves. I counter-argued that the rapid expansion into the former Soviet Block was to a large extent driven by the UK under Blair’s premiership. Furthermore working in an academic environment the Romanians and Bulgarians I came across were smart, hardworking and delightful – we all live within our own bubbles! She agreed that one needed perhaps to look at the bigger picture. Her husband is an ardent remainer – possibly why we could disagree and remain good friends.

The second was a fervent Northern Irish Republican. I must stress these are a small minority of the Irish and indeed NI population. Diehard Republicans are often of the mentality “England’s Loss is Ireland’s gain” and he thought Brexit would would be a disaster for England and hasten a United Ireland. I must stress that I am not of that mentality.

Decades ago I remember a heated family discussion, in my Dublin home, when the first BHS in Ireland opened near the GPO (the spiritual home of the Irish Republic and centre of the 1916 rising) in the late 1960’s or early 1970s. I was horrified at the time (as a young teenager) that a British store could be allowed to open so close to the GPO. One of my uncles said “we all prosper by taking in each other’s washing” – I had to agree. Indeed the seed of my abhorrence of zero sum game thinking and the belief nations co-prosper, was possibly planted that day.

Whereas I profoundly disagreed with this NI Republican, I could not fault his logic. I would like a United Ireland, but one very carefully thought out over at least a decade. Evolution rather than revolution. Far better to see how Brexit plays out than trying to force a premature outcome. The though of Arlene and the DUP in Dublin, rather than London, does not excite!

The third was a left wing liberal. He detests English imperialism and exceptionalism. He likewise thought that Brexit would be a disaster, but a necessary step in England growing up and becoming a modern European democracy. Similar arguments have been used by Anthony Barnett in The Lure of Greatness and Garvan Walshe in  a recent CakeWatch podcast. I argued that the pain and disruption too great and that the Leave campaign was not only guilty of “dishonesty on an industrial scale” (Prof Michael Dougan) but also electoral fraud to a  unknown and pernicious level (Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Geoghegan). He said he accepted all of that and that it was totally idiotic to have a Brexit referendum in the first place. However the opportunity to vote Leave, which offered the potential of remove this poisonous cancer from our society was too good an opportunity to miss.

I counter-argued that there was a possibility that the UK was likely to descend into a state of neo-fascism and that the cancer could grow to consume the host. The EU which was already blamed for all the UK’s ills would be blamed for the inevitability of a disastrous Brexit. He thought I was overstating the risk. We agreed to disagree.

In summary, only the third argument is sufficiently strong to be taken seriously. Over the past few days we have had Mark Francois MP with a  little Englander rant about the CEO of Airbus displaying exactly the same abhorrent aspect of the English character so detested by my hospital doctor friend.

On Saturday we had a supreme example of imperialist thinking when  John Humphrys issued the staggering invitation to Helen McEntee (Ireland’s Brexit minister) to leave the EU and realign with the UK – a prospect so remote it would make the UK’s joining of the Euro a certainty by comparison.

And wouldn’t that leave the Irish Republic with something of a similar democratic deficit that is so detested by the Brexiters?


  1. Adrian Kent. -

    Although it was never one of my reasons for voting Leave, as a data scientist for a UK motor insurance company I can confirm a very heavy preponderance of Eastern Europeans in such ‘crash-for-cash’ claims, and would add too a similar heavy over-representation in ID theft fraud cases.

    Of your three individuals I’m much closer to your other two chums – ‘Our voice’ on the ‘world stage’ has very rarely been a good thing and the break-up of the UK would be an untrammelled good.

    I agree with them that your fears of a descent into fascism are over stated (there simply is no evidence that the British (or by then English) electorate would be happy to tolerate the Singapore-On-Thames version of Brexit, let alone a descent to authoritarianism). Indeed any advantage that Remaining may have in confronting fascism anywhere assumes that such movements rightwards were not already underway in the other EU member states – or worse actively being encouraged (see Italy where the reaction of the EU is favouring the Northern League over the Five-Star movement, Germany where the AfD are now happy to stay in the EU because they know that it’s really on their side and, of course, every single thing that’s been inflicted on Greece).

    If I may be so bold, I’d like to add a fourth reason for Brexit – the fundamental irreformability of the EU. Nailing in the neoliberalism (as essentially the Lisbon Treaty does) with a requirement for unanimity to make subsequent changes at the very time that the EU was expanding to 29 member states essentially made it’s collapse inevitable. I’ve asked numerous prominent Remain & Reformers as to precisely how the EU could be reformed and never had an adequate reply (Another Europe Is Possible are particularly poor in this respect). NO ONE has stated how this reform could be achieved given the electoral landscape across the EU, the current make up of the Commission, Council and ECB. There’s lots of talk of Brexit Unicorns – that the EU can be reformed in a progressive manner is most definitely one of them.

    As for the electoral fraud, I really cannot take that at all seriously. The efficacy of the Cambridge Analytica algorithms has never been proven (indeed one of Carole Cadwaladr’s two whistleblowers was simultaneously hawking his wares to the Canadian Government as he was ‘revealing’ their alleged dastardly effectiveness to the Observer). Her plain falsehoods in reporting on Wikileaks and Julian Assange, her subsequently exposed links to the Integrity Initiative and her frankly batshit Russophobia show there’s every reason to take her accusations with a very large pinch of salt.

    In case you’re interested, I’ve put my little question about EU reform in rather more detail here:

    1. Peter May -

      “There is also no evidence that [the English] would be happy to tolerate” foodbanks either – but we do, because well TINA. Especially with the fixed term Paliament Act our electoral system is now so broken that our government can afford not to be responsive and sail on regardless.

      And with respect it doesn’t matter whether or not you take referendum electoral fraud seriously when the NCA does. It is also true that if the referendum had been binding rather than advisory Parliament would have had to ignore it because fines for illegality have been imposed.

      The reforms of the EU are not going to be easy, as you suggest, but there are work arounds that can usually be found (QE itself is one). Now I agree why should we have to is a good question, but we have to look to Yanis Varousakis and get the European Parliament working for us as a start. We’ve been thoroughly misled by our own media who never gave Europe enough SERIOUS attention.
      Still the right will not be in power for ever, there or in national Parliaments. Indeed we also need more left leaning Commisioners – which are nominated by national governments of course.
      And now we know that Article 50 can be revoked at will if Europe doesn’t reform then it only needs a few countries to instigate it – or threaten to – as a way of threatening EU instability. And if the UK ends up staying it is likely to have a stronger voice because it will know what it is talking about. And if there isn’t it will be able to say there is no local support. Most fortunately, we are not Greece and nor are we in the Euro.

      1. Adrian Kent. -

        I take all of your points, but I’d say that there’s a level of magnitude of difference between the (marginal) acceptance of food-banks and the full acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism.

        Yes the NCA are investigating illegal payments made during the campaign, but the step from there to a conclusion that the referendum was necessarily affected is supported only by supposition and the snake-oil of those with every reason to want to exaggerate their influence. Certainly Cadwaladr has offered no evidence whatsoever that these allegedly micro-targetted adverts had anywhere near the effect claimed.

        As for DiEM25 and Varoufakis I wish them all the very best – in an ideal world we would be discussing this in the aftermath of the May EU plarliament elections, when we’d have a better idea of how popular (or not) his platform is. But it isn’t just our media who have failed in their coverage of all things Europe – across the EU average turn out has falAlen in every single EU election since the 70s. I suspect they’ll fail, the Parliament will take a lurch to the ‘populist’ right and we’ll be rather pleased to be out.

        I too hope that the right won’t be in power forever in the EU, but it will likely be so for a long time and even if not in a full majority will remain so in sufficient number to scupper any meaningful progressive reform (remember even with the ‘simplifications’ of the Lisbon Treaty, Article 48 still requires ratification by all member states and agreement of the completely captured ECB for anything financial too).

        The kind of reforms the EU prefers are all of the further integration & deeper neoliberal variety – with the most significant post SM being the Lisbon Treaty which was enabled by a confluence of ‘centre-left’ ‘third-way’ governments pushing at an open door in a much smaller Union. That the direction of travel could be altered is unlikely, that it could be done in a time scale to save the EU from itself, impossible.

  2. Peter Dawe -

    Wow, dismissing all the other reasons not racist or nationalist as carrying no weight “I have heard only three arguments which carry some weight in going ahead with Brexit.”

    And I commend Adrian’s link above. The EU cannot reform, indeed, when a policy is shown to be ineffective, the EU doubles up. “If the medicine isn’t working, give them more!”

  3. Samuel Johnson -

    What use logic when the English (mostly) are having a national emotional breakdown?

    FYI the E European insurance fraud racket is epidemic in Ireland. I think some philosophical perspective is needed. The word Tory means thief/brigand, as you know. Ireland has suffered worse than a few insurance fraudsters but we didn’t overreact.

    I don’t know which is more distressing, crime inflicted on foreigners simply for being foreigners (and sometimes vulnerable as result) or crime committed by foreigners, which activates nativists. The saddest lately was the kidnap and murder of a young Filipina student in Wicklow by a violent drug addict. She was the only child of a couple working as housekeepers for some wealthy family. The public reaction was immensely empathetic, with a large sum raised for the family’s expenses, but nothing will ever compensate them or remove the stain (guaranteed to be widely reported in the Philippines). Always useful to remember our own sins when confronted with those of others. Not much sign of this in the UK these days, which may be the greatest difference with postwar Germany, nor, needless to say, of any reparations (beyond a creditably generous commitment to international development; though one may wonder what it ought to be).

    Putting up a wall, so to speak, may reduce insurance fraud but it will also exclude care workers, fruit pickers and others. The unintended consequences are going to be historic and cannot fail to include the break-up of the UK and loss of its UN Security Council seat. Possibly to Germany!!

  4. Samuel Johnson -

    The fundamental irreformability of the EU? That’s a pretty droll idea coming from the quarter from which people bang on about how it has, in fact, evolved from a common market to a shared approach to much else.

    Inhabitants of the same quarter bang on too about how Ireland was “made to vote twice. .. and come up with the right answer this time”.

    Their inability to interpret reality is curious. Ireland exercised its sovereignty and secured advantageous reforms and didn’t ever vote on the same deal twice. But this is too big a stretch for some, so of course the tabloid press version is taken at face value, and the UK must never do anything like Ireland because, incredibly, it would be an affront to democracy.

    Now we have the absurd farce of the UK intent on withdrawal because, allegedly, its sovereignty was diminished as a member, while Ireland’s sovereignty is demonstrably amplified.

    The unappeasble arrogance, entitlement and overconfidence of the UK was on display this evening in the BBC documentary on the lead up to Brexit (w some nice diplomatic subtitle translations). And the cynicism of trying to craft the appearance of a win in order to just solve a Conservative party problem – – and carry on collecting money from the City – – instead of addressing fundamental problems in the UK. But the problem… was and is the EU? Even when political leaders of dozens of countries speak English it takes some level of deafness and blindness, and of course insincerity about the EU, to think faking it could last.

    I visited the UK during Cameron’s last election campaign and saw billboards all over SW England depicting Alex Salmond picking an Englishman’s pocket. It worked. And this dishonesty and lack of respect, this unreformable (so far) English duplicity is what has now scuppered the UK. This pretence of equality in the UK has been laid bare more than ever before. The union has been run as a protection racket, a confidence trick, for the benefit of an English establishment which likes things just how they are. They have utterly betrayed the UK, and most of all the English poor. Sure enough, it was the same story with the EU. These people are stealing from us, something must be done (in effect). Yes, the Eastern Europeans who come and contribute £2,300 each in subsidies to our public services are picking our pockets, and there are hordes here and more coming (in fact the UK has the EU average % of migrants from other EU countries, 4%). The EU leaders were right not to want to cooperate with appeasement and arguably went too far.

    What a failure of leadership to think following and appeasing delusional ethno-nationalists in THIS blood-soaked continent would be a good idea. And, of course, from the idea that people who are recognisably different in some way are stealing from us, it’s only a small step to calling them parasites, telling them they aren’t welcome (here illegally?), deporting them, starting with the most vulnerable, as we have already seen. As if nothing had been learned at all from history.

    This cannot die hard enough or soon enough. The English lecturing the EU on the mote in its eye is not going to work given the beams in its own. How appropriate that cynically weaponised misinformation should in the end blow up in Tory faces. “There is no money left” (look, here’s Liam Byrne’s note) was a lie used to inflict pain of the kind depicted in Ken Loach’s film “I Kevin Blake”. Live by sword, die by the sword. No wonder people wanted to hit back.

    I’m under no illusion that the EU is perfect but the shameless lack of integrity in British politics, and of the Tories in particular, is staggering. The implosion of this party will, I hope, be a silver lining of Brexit.

    1. Neil Robertson -

      “I visited the UK during Cameron’s last election campaign and saw billboards all over SW England depicting Alex Salmond picking an Englishman’s pocket.”

      The switch from “we respect you Scotland” during the referendum to “how dare Scotland have a say in the way the UK is run” was truly breathtaking!

      1. Samuel Johnson -

        I met 3 Scots at a new year’s party in Ireland each of whom voted against independence and intended to vote for it the next time. A small sample I know.

      2. Samuel Johnson -

        @joannaccherry has just tweeted 29 Jan 15:24

        “For viewers in #Scotland @theSNP WM group leader @IanBlackford has just received the customary notification that the PM won’t be staying in the chamber to hear his response to her speech
        #BetterTogether #respectagenda #Brexit #indyref2”

        Precious union, eh?

    2. Adrian Kent. -

      Samuel Johnson – yes Ireland gained some concessions from the EU, but that was during the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. However, that it was possible then does not mean that it would be possible now – the enlargement of the Union that took place around that time essentially nailed down the Treaties in perpetuity.

      If we remain, what we’re almost certainly going to be letting ourselves in for is just a series of desperate rear-guard actions against shite like the TISA and the appalling Services Notification Directive rather than anything significantly progressive. Outside we can remove ourselves from such claptrap should one Government choose to sign us up after just one election, not wait for another 40 years for a vote to extricate ourselves from a Union that’s heading off in the wrong direction right now.

      1. Samuel Johnson -

        Fair enough but that wasn’t the basis on which the referendum was fought.

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