Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Choose life. Choose Brexit.
Better In is one of my favourite parody accounts on Twitter but is rapidly becoming indistinguishable from the real deal. The above tweet to me encapsulates the absurdity of the whole Brexit debate.
In many respects its an own goal by the Leave camp in making this an economic issue. It never has been an economic question. The EU is entirely a political project and the question is one of whether we wish to remain a supplicant of a supreme government for Europe. This is why we needed a plan in the early days to stop it being a boring debate about vague economic metrics, with either side getting into an ever more futile bidding war with arcane statistics that nobody can believe.
As it happens, whatever Gove might say, even if we wanted to go all the way out in one hit, it's just not a practical or achievable ambition. There is so much to the EU that it would take years even to chart the subjects for debate. The debate about tariffs and trade doesn't even begin to give depth to the Brexit debate.
To put it in the most basic terms, a sudden withdrawal and cancellation of all EU cooperation would be suicidal. If you need to amputate an infected limb you do it with care. You're not going to improve matters hacking at it with a chainsaw. Whether hard liners like it or not, we are going to have to evolve our way out of the EU and the referendum is just a mandate to pull the integration lever into reverse.
What we will see at the end of Brexit negotiations is just an acknowledgement that Britain is no longer under EU control but for the time being things stay as they are while we design our respective replacement policies. We won't see any noteworthy moves for a decade at least.
To treat Brexit as an entirely binary proposition is a complete misreading of what will occur. As yet I have not read a single Brexit assessment that takes account of what will actually happen in reality not have I seen one that takes account of the trends in global regulatory harmonisation and the opportunities it presents for the UK. Moreover, these economists cannot say whether the EU will achieve any of its trade deals currently in progress or what the ramifications of them are.
As ridiculous as it is to try and predict what will happen in fifteen years, you wouldn't get close to an accurate estimation without having considered all of the variables and every one of these bogus projections is obsessed with little Europe, paying no attention to what is going on elsewhere.
They key arguments they underline is that Brexit will cause uncertainty. Well of course it will. Big changes disrupt projections based on the status quo. So they are not saying the EU is beneficial. They are just saying they don't want big changes. This is not because the status quo is ideal for them, it's just that the status quo is what they have geared their business models to. And that's what business must always do - adapt to meet the conditions or die.
What they are saying to us is that it is we who must adapt to the status quo and arrange our lives and our politics for their convenience. That's not how democracy works though. It's not our job to serve them. And that's what Brexit is really about. Reminding them who is in the service of whom.
It is not a question of numbers on a screen. It is a matter of our lives and how we choose to be governed. And that's why Brexit will make us better off in the long run. We are always better off when government is acting on behalf of its own people and arranged to suit the needs of the public. At present, the government is working in the service of a political dogma - that of EU supranationalism. The EU is entirely concerned with one agenda only - the accumulation of power.
By leaving the EU we are departing from that political orthodoxy to say that our government must primarily serve the people. In that we will be making big changes to policy over time and it is the job of business to rise to those challenges. They will be listened to and heeded but not obeyed. They have no right to be obeyed. In this, some of those businesses will struggle to survive. Others will rise to the opportunity. That is really what capitalism is about - reinvention and revolution, letting bad ideas fail.
By maintaining the present paradigm we are saying no change. What that means is no change to the trends either. And the trend is ever more corporatisation of public services, power flowing away from the people and ordinary people becoming ever more voiceless and consequently disengaged. And that's really what our rulers want. The less engaged we are the less democracy will interfere with their plans. That is why China, India, America and the EU want us to stay in. They want fewer people in the room when the deals are struck.
The fact is though, because of the enormity of Brexit, the pace of change will be glacial at first. No greater than that which business must already adapt to. They are welcome to voice their views but at this point they have become activists in adding to the torrent of misinformation. It is at this point they become malign and unwelcome. Bogus projections on the basis of flawed models may carry prestige but they are little more than propaganda.
What we do know is that there will be a period of uncertainty but it will be shortlived. After the referendum, the government will be keen to reassure and the truth will finally come out that Brexit doesn't mean the sky falls in. There may be a short and marginal recession, but most people will be hard pressed to notice. The question we must each weigh up is whether it is worth that disruption.
To my mind, Brexit means a future where the UK is back in charge of its own destiny, free to make policies best suited to global developments and free from dogmatic restraints that prevent us making necessary democratic reforms. If that is the outcome and there is a price to pay then I will gladly pay that price. Mainly because Brexit is not about being a few quid better off. It's about the future and the Britain we hand to the next generation. Do we want Britain to be a prosperous independent nation or a supplicant of a failing bureaucracy hamstrung by its own inertia.
And I think people know this. That is why the lead campaigns are so utterly contemptible in reducing it to an economic question. I am not by any means a rich man and I may be a bit worse off financially for a time if we leave, but nothing could be further from my mind as I write this. There are very real adult considerations here that transcend our "what's in it for me" culture.
And we have all made those decisions. I'm sure every one of us at some point has quit a well compensated job for a better life quality or to change direction. I have. And that's what this vote is about. Sometimes you have to make a tough choice with complications just in the knowledge that it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it. None of us knows what the future will be or even if our gambles in life will pay off. But in that regard staying in the EU is like staying in that desk job you hate, watching the clock, counting every hour til Friday as it saps you of your vitality, curiosity and energy.
As it happens, I have made some poor choices in my own life, as indeed voters also make poor choices. And there are consequences. And we live with them. But that is what adults do and without that freedom of choice, there is nothing left but stagnation and a slow march toward death. Choose life. Choose Brexit.