Thursday, June 09, 2016

Can you find rational arguments about the EU?

When even respected MPs change their minds on the EU debate it might be fair to ask what chance the rest of us have in understanding the issues and coming to a definitive conclusion. 

To be fair, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who has changed her mind from supporting "Leave" to supporting "Remain" has done so largely on account of her unwillingness to support a campaign that bases one of its core arguments on a lie.  Their widely publicised claim that leaving the EU would save £350 million a week has been derided in most quarters as at best misleading, and now Dr. Wollaston has determined that to support such an erroneous campaign would clearly be wrong.

The claims and counter-claims about the money we could save if we left the EU, or the immigration problems that could be solved if we left the EU, are responsible for many people suggesting that it is impossible to define a rational argument about it.  And yet, if you bother to spend just a small amount of your time for research about what everyone agrees is a crucially important vote, you can scratch beneath the rhetoric and identify some clear points.

One person who has done just this is a guy called Nick Carter-Lando, who has taken the time to analyse the statistical claims being made about immigration and the economy, and posted on his facebook page a piece that is remarkably clear and rationally presented.  I'd commend anyone to go and read the whole thing - it isn't too long, given the amount of material he is trying to cover. 

Amongst some of Mr. Carter-Lando's key conclusions include the point that immigration, based on the highest estimates, makes a difference of at most 2.8% (that's 1 in 35 people) over ten years; and that removing our net contribution might indeed save us £8.5bn a year, but that such a sum (spent several times over by Leave campaigners in their rhetoric) is a drop in the ocean of, for example, the NHS budget of £116.4bn a year.

We have been ill-served by much of the tabloid press in this campaign, most of it firmly in the Brexit camp and most of it majoring on scare stories about immigration.  But we have always known that our tabloid press is sensationalist, scandal-mongering and only tenuously linked to the truth.  It is actually up to us as individuals to be trying to make our own rational case for leaving or staying in the EU.  The weight of expert evidence so derided by Michael Gove (who needed to compensate for the complete lack of any expert evidence for his own case) does point overwhelmingly towards a Remain vote as the best option.  But rationality may yet play only a small part in the referendum outcome.

3 comments:

Richard Harrold said...

Where do I start with Carter-Lando's disingenuous, dishonest, disgraceful piece of propaganda? Yet start I must, and shall. The following is a lengthy demolition of his wholly vacuous arguments, utterly bereft of validity as they are. I've split it to meet the 4096-character limit.

A population increase of 2.8% is simply unsustainable. We're a small island nation, and to cope with projected EU immigration, we'd have to build the equivalent of a city the size of Nottingham in new housing every year... the green belt is already under enough threat. And yes, such an increase in population, without commensurate or exponential increase in the NHS budget, will inevitably put more strain on the health service. It will also mean much more traffic on the roads, more strain on the railways, the electricity and water networks, drainage - and of course schools.

It's easy to quote statistics glibly, but the reality is that most EU immigrants are low-skilled, low-paid, keeping wages artificially low, and whatever they manage to save goes back to their country of origin, never to be seen in the British economy again. Meanwhile, small British businesses are going under because they simply cannot hope to compete with the sharks bringing in ex-USSR nationals as cheap labour, lorry drivers etc.

At the moment, Europe is going down the toilet economically, with high unemployment across the union, and youth unemployment soaring. If we remain, net migration is only going to increase year-on-year. We are the second biggest economy in Europe, second-fastest-growing, and fifth-biggest overall in the entire world.

As for his argument that Turkey and Albania are nowhere near joining the EU, that is manifestly false. Significant moves have been made in that direction just this week, with the formal opening of talks scheduled for June 24th - how convenient! At the moment, there are two countries in the EU attracting immigrants - Britain and Germany. When Turkey joins - just watch.

As for what happens once we leave - we will not be wanting to rejoin! The EU is already in an advanced state of disintegration, and we will be the first of several nations to leave. The EU will cease to exist within 20 years.

He mentions underinvestment in the railways. That would be because, for the last seven years, as part of an EU-wide rail strategy, a vast amount of the rail budget has been sunk into the irredeemable white elephant which is HS2. Alternatives, like reopening the old Great Central main line, have not been properly explored.

The LSE has produced a number of documents commissioned by Remain. By and large, they have not stood up to scrutiny, and demonstrate only one thing: that you can prove anything with statistics. The same goes for the Treasury report about the economic damage leaving will supposedly do. It has been comprehensively trashed, shown to be a worthless piece of blackmail. Seven highly respected independent economic organisations think Brexit would be damaging? So, that'd be the IMF, which works closely with the EU and is run by the former French finance minister, the Institute for Fiscal Studies which is basically controlled by George Osborne, the CBI which does not represent the majority of British businesses (just the very biggest) and which has campaigned for TTIP, the European Central Bank (architects of the austerity currently crushing Greece), and who else?

There is NO proof that Brexit would send the British economy into recession, and a number of business leaders have dismissed such arguments as the crap they are. Once we're out, we'll be saving at least £160 million a week that we currently pay in and never get back. The same people warned that we would cause enormous damage by leaving the ERM - and, while there was a recession around that time, it wasn't caused by the ERM crisis itself, so much as the legacy of Thatcher's reign of destruction. We then did fine from 1993 until 2009.

Richard Harrold said...

Part 2 of 3

Now, of course JP Morgan and the other big banks want us to remain. The status quo (even though it isn't really on offer) means stability to them. They stand to benefit significantly from TTIP, at the cost of the ordinary people. They are also the beneficiaries of the EU-imposed austerity strangling the economies of southern European nations. So no, their warning is not to be taken seriously, but dismissed as the blackmail it is. Besides, even if it was the case that Brexit would cause some economic pain, it would be nothing as to what we'd lose in the event of being subject to further European integration. Meanwhile, Arron Banks is not the fatcat Remain portrays him as. He's a working class bloke who started out with nothing, but worked his arse off for every £ he has.

The Eurosceptic press isn't just a story of far-right tabloids either. The Daily Telegraph has run some very balanced and well-written coverage, as has the Spectator. Even the socialist Morning Star has come out for Brexit - as it and the Spectator did in 1975. Several trade unions also support Brexit, including ASLEF, the RMT and the bakers' union. To this can also be added a large number of Labour Party members, including several prominent MPs, Dennis Skinner the most famous and popular of them all.

Carter-Lando also hasn't done his research on the history of the EU. It only came into existence in 1992 anyway - Europe managed not to go to war for 47 years before that. Furthermore, Jean Monnet was planning what became the EU as far back as the 1920s. The European project was intended, from the very start, to achieve the creation of a single-party European federal superstate, with a single European identity in place of existing national identities. It was to take over all power from existing national governments. It was not intended to be in any way a democracy - members were to have no veto, unlike in the League of Nations. That was certainly NOT what Churchill envisaged, and it is far from clear that he wanted Britain to be part of any European integration anyway. Furthermore, too much store is set by Churchill's opinions. He was a disastrous, frequently vindictive post-war Prime Minister.

What began as the European Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950s was designed with the federal European dictatorship very much in mind. When Britain joined what was by then the EEC in 1973, it was in violation of our statute laws and constitution. Since then, every attempt to frustrate the inexorable march to further integration, including Ireland, France and the Netherlands rejecting the EU constitution by referendum, has been overridden. Britain's veto has been used 71 times, and overridden on 70 occasions - the one exception being over the wildly unpopular attempt to end freedom of panorama. The European Parliament unanimously rejected the ISDS clauses in TTIP - but the Commission is pressing ahead with it regardless. Furthermore, the Parliament has no right to propose or draft laws. That privilege belongs solely to the unelected, unaccountable and opaque Commission. The Parliament is also frequently told to vote on legislation without debate: bills are frequently bundled together, and/or piled one atop another, with vote after vote after vote in one session. Furthermore, the content of EU treaties, from TTIP to plans for European armed forces, is made available only by allowing MEPs a one-off maximum 30 minutes to read the documents (running to thousands of pages) under armed guard, with cameras and recording devices (even written note-taking) being banned from the room.

Richard Harrold said...

(Part 3 of 3)

I also dispute the claim that quality of life now is better than it was in the early 50s. That may well be the case in metropolitan cities and conurbations, but it most certainly is not the case in rural communities whose economies are reliant on farming and fishing, an industry which disastrous EU policy has eviscerated. The NFU is out of touch with farmers on this matter. The EU is also directly responsible for the destruction of much of our manufacturing sector, and is currently blocking attempts to save the Welsh steel industry, threatening our government with prosecution for breach of EU competition law and banning any attempt to introduce protective import tariffs on cheap Chinese steel. The EU is destroying the working class, from Athens to Swansea.

Listen to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel? Not bloody likely - they represent the neoliberal establishment which has wrought such untold havoc. As for Hawking, he's a scientist, and a very rich one at that. While his life is not without its own struggles, he has no idea what it's like to see your livelihood destroyed by the diktats of unelected, unaccountable officials in an overseas capital. The TUC does not represent all unions by any means - several of them, the two big rail unions included, are for out. Despite the NFU's stance, speaking solely for millionaire industrial farming, the family-owned farms which produce most of our food are overwhelmingly praying for Brexit. Their livelihoods depend on it. At the moment, a huge number of them are going out of business, the suicide rate in the farming community is soaring, and those who just about manage to survive are facing their children having to go and work in the cities rather than being able to take on the farms.

If Britain votes out - as I hope and pray we will - we will only be the first nation to leave the EU. Ireland, France, Holland and Greece will follow. The EU is disintegrating rapidly. We can either lead, or we choose being on the wrong side of history, and risk the horrifying prospect of the European Commission becoming the Orwellian armed dictatorship it aspires to be. More likely is that the EU will collapse regardless, but the cost to Britain of being last of the major western nations out will be vastly higher. The best we can do, as a nation, is to precipitate the total and utter destruction of the profoundly evil institution which is the European Union.