Author Archives: Chris Kendall

About Chris Kendall

Anglo-Schwäbisch EU public servant oscillating between London and Brussels (physically, not politically). Real life name: Chris Kendall.

LSE Brexit Blog: So Long & Thanks For All The Red Tape

I’ve contributed another piece to the LSE Brexit Blog, this time expanding upon my tweet below which went a bit viral after I spluttered indignantly at David Davis and his disdain for impact assessments.

It’s identity theft

Here is the gist of a semi-impromptu intervention I made in the sleet at the #FinalSayForAll rally  in Brussels on 11 December.

I was radicalised by Thatcher’s Bruges speech. I’m a lifelong advocate of European integration and at times it has felt like a very lonely furrow to plough. I’ve been arguing with anti-EU types for years. In the end, every argument I’ve ever had with an anti-European can be reduced to an argument about identity.

They’ll dress it up in lots of ways – sovereignty, democracy, red tape – in the end, they’ll say: “the EU doesn’t have a demos”. The EU can’t be democratic, however hard it tries, because there is no EU identity. Our identity is illegitimate, they say.

Theresa May says that if we call ourselves citizens of the world then we’re citizens of nowhere. She says that the EU never felt part of our national story. She is wrong!

They lack the imagination and empathy to see that identity is rich and multifaceted. Because they can’t accept a multilayered identity themselves, they want to take away ours! I’m British, I’m German, I’m a Londoner, I’m a Brusselaar, I’m European. They don’t get to take away my identity and they don’t get to take away your identity.

If the referendum has done one thing it is to prove them wrong. Once, speaking out for Europe felt like a lonely undertaking. Not any more. Millions of British people are speaking up and acknowledging their European identities. Where is the European demos? It’s right here!

They rejected the emphatic win for pro-Europeans in the 1975 referendum and they fought for forty years to overturn it with a second referendum. They think we’re going to roll over and let them walk away with this? We’re never going to give up. And it’s not going to take us forty years. If I was radicalised in the 1980s by Thatcher’s Bruges speech, just imagine how our kids are being radicalised by this disgraceful mess. We are not going away, we will get our chance to reverse this, and we’re going to be ready to take it.

Remembrance Day and Brexit

This year, I made this little blue and yellow poppy and posted a photo of it on Twitter. I knew that this might prove controversial and also that some people might take offence. To them, I offer the following arguments:

Marking 11 November as Remembrance Day has a long international history. Many countries mark it. In Belgium, where I’ve lived for many years, it’s a public holiday. It does not ‘belong’ to the Royal British Legion nor to the UK, and I feel it has been appropriated in Britain by people who want to make it about the country’s current armed forces. That’s not what it is to me. To me, Remembrance Day is first and foremost about the awful horror, stupidity, and waste of the First World War. Then, by extension, it’s about the Second World War, and the way European civilisation turned in upon itself in fratricidal conflict. That’s what Remembrance Day is to me, and while I respect other people’s wish to make it about something else, something more than that, or something less than that, I reject their wish to impose their interpretation on me and everyone else. My understanding and experience of Remembrance Day is as valid as and arguably historically more valid than theirs.

Those who serve in the military are public servants who make great sacrifices for their fellow citizens. In the modern era, they are volunteers, so they have chosen this path knowing that it might entail great sacrifice. However you feel about the state’s use of arms to achieve its objectives, I think this choice by individuals is worthy of respect, and I do respect it. Respect that is forced isn’t really respect, though, is it? So-called “poppy fascism” (by which we mean pressure to conform in wearing a poppy) is, I think, fundamentally disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to people who serve in the armed forces because it poisons public debate around their service; it’s disrespectful to those who so pointlessly gave their lives in the First World War; it’s disrespectful to those who gave their lives in the Second World War to fight *actual* fascists, and defend our fundamental freedoms; and it’s disrespectful to all the other public servants who make sacrifices on a daily basis, even if those sacrifices are (thankfully) rarely mortal.

Given my personal views set out in the previous two paragraphs, it can hardly come as a surprise that my understanding of Remembrance Day is intimately bound up with my passionate belief in the European Union. To me, the EU flag is a far more potent symbol of Remembrance than a poppy. To me, Brexit is an offensive act of disrespect for the sacrifice of millions in past European wars. As soon as the idea occurred to me, I felt I had to make this EU poppy and show people that I had made it. This is the very opposite of trivialising Remembrance Day. Brexit trivialises Remembrance Day. And to the author of the Spectator piece who feels that talking about Brexit politicises Remembrance Day, I can only say that Remembrance Day is and always has been profoundly political, and his article only serves to prove that.

Post on the LSE’s Brexit blog: “Going it alone on trade is like bringing a chocolate spoon to a knife fight”

I’ve reworked one of my twitter threads on trade into a post for the LSE’s Brexit blog. I argue that the kind of Brexit being advocated both on the left and the right of British politics is unrealistic given the way international trade works in the modern world. The public are being missold Brexit by both camps. Read the whole thing on the LSE’s site, here.

Play up, play up, and play the game

Michel Barnier has warned the UK that Brexit is not a game. This was in response to Theresa May’s comment in Parliament that “the ball is in the EU’s court”.

Language matters. Tone is important. Ever since the EU referendum and throughout the negotiation process, it seems that everyone on the UK side has been using the language of conflict and confrontation, sport and gaming, winners and losers. This fundamentally colours the UK’s approach to the process, and in my view handicaps us. By seeing this negotiation as a contest, with winners and losers, the UK sets itself up to fail. I’ve already written about this in two posts: Brexit – a negotiator’s observations, and Brexit negotiations – how is the UK doing? To summarise, a confrontational, zero-sum approach rarely makes sense in a negotiation, and never when you are the weaker party, which the UK is.

Why is the UK adopting this unhelpful tone, when there is no need for it, when it is counter-productive, and when the other side would greatly prefer (indeed expected) to do this in a spirit of cooperation? Here, I want to move beyond the tactical aspect and briefly explore a more fundamental cultural question. Because this tone of confrontation is not new in UK-EU relations. I think it is symptomatic of a deeper culture clash between Whitehall and Brussels, Westminster and Strasbourg. It is a cliché that Westminster’s politics, with first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all, government and opposition benches set facing each other a sword’s length apart, is at odds with the continent’s politics, with rainbow hemicycles and Jamaica coalitions, proportional representation, and tiny centrist parties perpetually in government as junior partners. Certainly it is true that people raised in other political cultures find it hard to identify with the martial tone of British politicians and press. When aggressive, conflictual language has had real consequences within living memory, you take more care. In Whitehall, it is normal to think in terms of alliances and enemies: reflexive instructions to “follow the Germans”, antipathy to “Club Med”, not-so-secret away-days with “like-mindeds” from the Netherlands and Denmark; Paris and the Commission as the enemy. Others do this too, of course, but my sense is that no-one revels in it to quite the same extent as the British, nor takes it quite so seriously. Because this is serious, grown-up business. Building Europe is not a game. The nations of Europe once played the Great Game, the result was two world wars.

“Play up! and play the game!”

Hang on Chris, you say, did you not complain bitterly when Theresa May said that the EU never felt an integral part of the UK’s national story? Isn’t this what she meant? Isn’t it true that the UK and the EU are just a bad fit – clashing personalities? Well, dear hypothetical reader, you may have a point there. People like me hoped that membership of the EU would begin to wean the UK off its oppositional approach to politics. We had hoped that forty years spent marinading in the cooperative pickling vinegar of Brussels might transform British politics, take the edge off so to speak. It hasn’t. We knew this when we saw our first attempt at continental-style coalition government fail so dismally. It’s not that the coalition didn’t deliver consensus politics – arguably, it did – it’s that no-one wanted it or understood it. It was too alien for a country tuned to winner-takes-all. Nevertheless, I do not accept that this culture clash meant the experiment was doomed to fail. The EU is made up of 28 countries, all of which have different cultural and historical experiences, and each of those countries is made up of regions with diverse cultures and histories. None of this is a legitimate reason to abandon the experiment of European integration, in fact the opposite: given the conflicts which have arisen as a result of this diversity, integration was essential and remains essential. Integration is perfectly compatible with respect for diversity, and preservation of differences. The point is not to homogenise; the point is to understand, and respect.

Here is a scenario: the British vote, by a narrow margin, to leave the EU. The British parliament decides to respect the result of the referendum and mandates the British government to begin the process of withdrawing from the EU. The government sets up a broad, cross-party panel of senior legislators, judges, and individuals from business and civil society, to prepare a road map for Brexit. Studies are commissioned and published. Proposals are developed which achieve consensus. At every stage, those responsible in government and in the panel carefully consult and inform their EU counterparts, and jointly they determine a way for the UK to leave the EU, respecting the result of the referendum, while minimising the impact on the EU itself and on the UK. That would be how a grown-up country would go about this complicated and sensitive task. But that requires a habit of consensus building and respect for dissenting voices which does not exist in the UK of 2017. So instead we have a chaotic and divisive process framed in a narrative of conflict which is reminiscent of Christopher Clark’s Sleepwalkers.

Knit for Victory

About 18 months ago I taught myself to knit. It’s something I’d been meaning to do for a long time, I had always seen it as a beautiful craft and a potentially very satisfying creative outlet. With a bit of encouragement and coaching from my sister, I took the first tentative steps, and I quickly fell in love with it as a hobby. It has lived up to all its promise and I’m still completely hooked. Speaking of hooks, this summer I diversified into crochet. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it’s the perfect pastime: creative, contemplative, manual, organic, solitary, but also social.

 

I’ve previously posted a knitting pattern on this blog. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to knit a pair of socks by a previous happy recipient who wears them in bed. He wants another pair but, he specified, he wants a pair decorated with the EU stars. I duly delivered the first of the pair and at the time of writing I am working on the second. I tweeted a picture of the first and it found its way into the Brexit camp’s echo chamber. They don’t like it. It offends them, and they began queueing up to tell me about it.



“knitting against democracy”


I cannot begin to tell you how gratifying I find this. I knit because I love to, and I knit the EU flag because it’s a way to make a statement, isn’t it? It won’t change the world or reverse Brexit, but it feels good. But oh my God it feels so much better when I know it annoys Leavers!

A number of people on Twitter have asked me for the pattern. This isn’t going to be a pattern as such, but the following should give you all you need to knit these yourself, it’s actually very easy.

It’s based on a standard sock pattern. I got mine from a really good book which I recommend, Knitting Socks by Ann Budd.

Buying a book may be overkill but what I like about this book is that it gives you a basic formula that you can follow for any size sock in any size yarn on any size needles, once you have the gauge. I have the Kindle version on my phone for quick consultation. I also recommend following Youtube tutorials the first time you attempt socks – a very good one I’ve used is the one below.

Once you have your basic sock pattern, then the rest is straightforward. Get your blue and yellow sock yarns (I use Regia 4-ply) , knit a sock as you would normally in a blue yarn but switch to yellow for the heels and the toes (for the toes I do two rows in alternating yellow and blue before switching to just yellow, and I start these at the beginning of the decreases). Then, for the star pattern, at about twelve rows beneath the ribbing I simply do the stranded colour work following the pattern below. Again, Youtube is full of helpful tutorials if you’re new to colourwork.

Sizing can be tricky so it’s important to get the gauge right. I’m using Regia 4-ply sock yarn with 3.5mm needles and 64 stitches in a round, so I have room for 8 stars following the pattern above. It’s relatively simple to adapt the pattern to a smaller sock size either by reducing the number of stars and increasing the space between them, or by adapting the star pattern. Doodling new knitting patterns is what meetings are for, right? There’s also an app for that.

My 64-stitch round on 3.5mm needles gives me a sock that is pretty loose even on my size 11 feet so you might want to go with something smaller. Be careful with the colourwork – if you strand too tightly, your sock will lose elasticity and will be hard to put on; strand too loosely and a toe might get caught in a floater (a ‘floating’ length of yarn in the colour not being used – mitigate this by twisting the two coloured yarns around each other every four or five stitches). Experience is the only way to get this right. Just experiment.

The traditional way to knit socks is on four double-pointed needles (or three if you’re American). I’ve switched to using the magic loop method which I really recommend, it’s a lot quicker and neater.

Obviously, this pattern can easily be adapted to hats or scarves or mittens or gloves or anything else. If creativity strikes, please share your results in the comments.

I’ve put a gallery of my knits up on Flickr, and I intend to keep adding to it. I’d be delighted to hear from other knitters especially the craftivist type.

Knitting

Some Twitter threads on trade

I’ve posted a couple of threads on Twitter recently about trade, challenging the Brexit narrative of some ‘liberal leavers’ in which they argue that the UK has been held back by its EU membership. Going back to find one’s old tweets is a nightmare, so rather than do that I’m simply going to link to them here for future reference. (Edit – I’m broadening this to include other Brexit-related threads, not just the trade ones.)

1. Busting the myth that the EU is protectionist:

2. Why ‘copy and paste’ won’t work:

3. How the Bombardier story shows us what’s in store post-Brexit:

4. Leaving the EU’s defensive umbrella exposes the UK to the EU as well as the US:

5. What happens to the EU’s 1,000 international agreements after Brexit?

6. UK foreign policy after Brexit – where can it go?

I may will have come back and added to this list and will continue adding to it if/when I do more of these.

Brexit negotiations: how is the UK doing?

Last year, before Brexit negotiations got started, I wrote this short piece outlining my thoughts – as someone with many years of experience negotiating with and on behalf of the EU – on how the UK should approach these talks. It is no coincidence that my friend and former colleague Steve Bullock shared similar thoughts a couple of months back. We are now well into the negotiation phase. How has the UK side been doing? Time to take stock.

Those negotiating tips I gave can be boiled down to three golden rules:

 

Goodwill is your most valuable resource, hoard it and spend it sparingly.

As I said, you negotiate better with partners, not with opponents. International negotiations are rarely a zero-sum game, and usually the two sides will have broadly overlapping objectives or goals which are for the most part compatible, mutually achievable. For example, both the UK and the EU want a future trading relationship that is as frictionless as possible. If we accept that, outside the EU, there is going to be some friction compared to the status quo, nevertheless it is definitely possible to find a way to reduce it while respecting each other’s red lines. But to do that you need to be working together towards this common goal.

From the outset, the UK has burned through goodwill as if it were an inexhaustible, ever-renewable resource. It is not. Compiling a list of examples demonstrating how the UK has damaged goodwill since the referendum would take me all day and fill far too much space. Just off the top of my head: accusing the EU of meddling in the UK’s election; ad hominem attacks on Juncker and Barnier; treating EU citizens living in the UK with contempt; telling the EU it can “go whistle” for the money which the UK had already committed to spending; threatening to withhold cooperation on security and counter-terrorism… the list goes on and on. None of this was necessary, none of it did anything whatsoever to advance the UK’s negotiating objectives, all it has done is squander goodwill where we most desperately need it.

 

Know yourself.

The first advice given to anyone going into an auction is: know your limit. Self-awareness is generally a good idea when undertaking any project. Know what you want, know what you need, know what you are capable of getting, and have a sense of how you are going to achieve it.

“And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” The UK is hopelessly divided. And yet not only have British leaders done nothing to try to mend that schism, they have repeatedly and consistently denied that it even exists. The country is coming together behind Brexit, says Theresa May, again and again, against all the evidence. This comes across as panglossian self-delusion because it’s plain to everyone else, inside and outside the UK, that it’s not true. But not only is the kingdom divided against itself, so is the government. Minister briefs against minister, civil servant after civil servant quits, policy papers take an eternity to see the light of day, and when they do they are contradictory, implausible, short on detail, or just plain vacuous. Positions are taken, then reversed, then reasserted. Stakeholders cannot trust anything they are told because they are told very little and what little they are told is demonstrably false or contradicted by previous and subsequent statements.

 

Know your negotiating partner.

This isn’t rocket science. Good intelligence is always essential. Know your opposite number’s strengths and weaknesses, know their red lines, know their personalities. Luckily for the UK, it is negotiating with an organisation it knows intimately from the inside and which shares its DNA. So how is it that the UK shows again and again that it doesn’t really understand the EU and even that it doesn’t have much interest in understanding the EU? Oh, I know that key people on the UK side know the EU very well – civil servants have spent years working with and often in the EU institutions and they are not stupid. But these are the same civil servants that keep quitting, or being shunted aside. “The UK has had enough of experts” we are told. The German car industry will ride to the rescue, we are told. We will have our cake and eat it, we are told. We can be in the Single Market and yet not in the Single Market, we are told. The Prime Minister scorns an invitation to speak to the European Parliament but goes instead to Florence to give a speech. She gets to work on Merkel and Macron rather than Tusk and Juncker. Sat here in Brussels watching events unfold, the UK government’s actions scream ignorance of basic EU realities. They scream wishful thinking. The UK government seems to be dealing with a fantasy EU that resembles the caricature presented in British tabloids, not the real EU of which it has been a core member for over four decades.

 

This morning as I write this, Twitter is once again abuzz with something Boris Johnson has said. He thinks Brexit talks will fail and that Theresa May “will be humiliated”. “Nobody ever beats the EU in a negotiation” he apparently ‘told a friend’. If he really thinks this, it’s odd that he worked so hard to put his country into a negotiation with the EU, and then to frame this negotiation in needlessly confrontational, zero sum terms, so that the UK can only win if the EU loses.

Boris is right, insofar as he says that the EU rarely emerges from a negotiation as a loser. But he is utterly wrong if he thinks this means that the EU’s negotiating partners must necessarily then be the losers. As I said back in October last year, the EU’s default approach to negotiations is to find a way for both sides to win. This is the best guarantee of success. By spurning this approach from the outset, the UK has engineered its own probable defeat.

It is this, I think, that has most shocked and alienated the EU side. Cooperative, collegiate, consensus building is so baked into the way we work that it has become a reflex. After all, it’s why the EU was created in the first place. In our daily lives, we look for solutions that work for multiple and diverse interested parties. If we did not do this, we would not be here. The UK has been part of this for forty years and has generally been a very good player of the game. In Parliament Committees, in Council Working Groups, in Commission inter-service meetings,  Brits have earned a reputation for finding creative solutions, skilfully drafting inclusive language, and putting the emphasis on pragmatism and results. The referendum result was a massive shock, yes, but surely the British would deal with it in a pragmatic and sensible way? There was a widespread assumption that the UK would implement the referendum result in its typically sober, intelligent way to minimise shock to itself and the rest of the EU and build a solid foundation for a mutually advantageous future relationship. The opposite has happened. This is simply shocking and will have a lasting impact on the country’s influence and reputation.

“Leave Lies” rebutted

Here follows a lengthy reply to someone called @MaraudingWinger on Twitter who posted an (even lengthier) piece on what he called “Lies, Exaggerations and Threats from the Remain Side – Now & Then”.

Our friend deleted his diatribe. But given the amount of time invested in coming up with rebuttals and replies, I’m not going to let my contribution go to waste, so here it is in blog format… The italicised text is where I am quoting his text directly.

 

A: LIES ABOUT THE ‘£350M FOR THE NHS SLOGAN’

It is only people on the Remain side who say this was a promise or is a lie. If those remainers thought it was a promise then, why didn’t they vote for it? After all, many of the people who adduce this ‘evidence’ also worship the NHS and think more money should go into it.

You’ve misunderstood the nature of the lie. The lie is that the UK pays £350m a week to the EU. It doesn’t. Its contribution is about half that, and of course it is not a ‘gift’ or a levy, it is an investment the return on which far exceeds the outlay.

To deny that the Leave campaign – including leading Cabinet ministers – were not trying to influence voters by suggesting that the false figure of £350m a week would be taken away from the EU and given to the NHS is just pure sophistry – you know that this is what they were doing, and key Leave strategists acknowledge that this lie is what won them the referendum.

 

B: LIES TOLD PRE-REFERENDUM: THINGS WHICH WERE SAID WOULD HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY UPON A VOTE TO LEAVE – AND NOT JUST WHEN WE HAVE ACTUALLY LEFT

B1. A very hypothetical, worst-case scenario lower GDP in 30 years time by £4300 called a ‘Cost to every family’ (George Osborne)

To imply that every person who voted Remain is somehow complicit in every statement made by Cameron and Osborne is ludicrous – they are Public Enemy Number One for patriotic Remainers, as the villains who launched this totally unnecessary referendum in the first place and caved in to the fundamentalist right wingers.

That said, there is every prospect of the UK’s GDP falling to this worst case forecast, or even further. Naturally, we don’t know yet, but the signs are all there. Is this a “lie”? No of course not – a forecast is a forecast, a politician might choose a forecast that suits the argument he seeks to make, that is not the same as a deliberate and malicious lie, the kind that Leave told about the £350m, about Turkey joining the EU, etc, etc, and they’re still telling them, eg “40 years of EU legislation that was never scrutinised”.

 

B2. “I will trigger Article 50 on June 28th,” (Cameron).

You’re trying to discredit us by association with Cameron?? No sale.

 

B3. “I wont resign,” if the referendum result is in Leave’s favour – David Cameron.

I’m not interested in defending Cameron.

 

B4. “Interest rates could rise,” (Mark Carney).

That they “could” is a statement of plain fact. Inflation is heading up and will head up further, against wider trends in the developed world – wait and see what happens to interest rates in the medium to long term.

 

B5. ‘In the event of voting leave I will hold an emergency budget’: (George Osborne)

Get used to emergency budget after emergency budget as the UK government tries to plug the gaps created by Brexit in coming years.

 

B6. No plans for an EU Army. This is what Nick Clegg said on 2 April 2016: “This is a dangerous fantasy. The idea that there’s going to be a European air force, a European army, it is simply not true.”

Yeah, he was being disingenuous, both that there is no plan for an EU Army (we already have EU brigades and well-developed EU military capabilities) and that it’s a “dangerous fantasy” (it’s not, it’s a very necessary reality and the opposite of dangerous, because we need this for our own future security).

 

B7. ‘The Queen didn’t back Brexit’.

It’s the Queen, who gives a monkey’s what she thinks?

 

B8. ‘A Brexit vote will create an INSTANT DIY recession’ (George Osborne).

I don’t care what Osborne said, and serious people were not saying that a recession would be “instant” but that the UK’s economic performance would be seriously hit by Brexit, and indeed this is exactly what is happening, even before Brexit takes place.

 

B9. ‘Brexit might kill The City of London’

Yep. Jobs already haemorrhaging away from the City, this will continue, we will see a long-term decline in the City’s status and where it would/could have been without Brexit – and this will of course impact the UK’s tax base (disaster for eg NHS) and also London’s property market (small silver lining).

 

B10. ‘Brexit would lead to 100000 banking jobs being lost’

We’re already on the way to that figure.

 

B11. “The Commission is just like the Civil Service.” Various, including the Commission itself.

The Commission Services (for which I have worked for 22 years) are the civil service, working to and for the Executive, which is the College of Commissioners, an appointed body of senior politicians who fulfil the same role in European government as the Cabinet fulfils in UK national government. In terms of democratic legitimacy, the College of Commissioners has imo more of it than the Cabinet – the President is appointed as the candidate of the largest political grouping in the Parliament, the members of the College are nominated by national governments, each is subject to a confirmation hearing by the Parliament, and the College as a whole can be sacked by the Parliament. All considerably more democratic than the UK’s executive.

 

B12. ‘The EU is democratic’ – various

See above. Also, see http://ottocr.at/125/

 

B13. ‘The EU is more democratic than the UK’ – Alan Butt Philip, former Reader Honorary Reader in European Integration, University of Bath.

Yes, I know, I believe he drew on my work. Naturally, I agree with him.

 

B14. “There is no prospect of Turkey joining the EU in decades.”

If Turkey were to join, what would be so terrible about that? What’s your problem with Turkey? Turkey could only join if it fulfilled the Copenhagen Criteria and after fundamental reform and restructuring of its economy and political environment, and it would be a fantastic thing if it got to this point, and a great boost for Europe’s security and prosperity.

 

B15. ‘No one wants a United States of Europe’ – Guy Verhofstadt.

I want a United States of Europe.

 

B17. “EU roaming charges now down to near-zero; gone entirely next year. Consumers are better off remaining in the EU.”

Roaming charges within the EU are now gone. Not all UK providers have promised to continue to respect EU rules once the UK leaves. Note that roaming in non-EU European countries eg Switzerland is still incredibly expensive.

 

B18. ‘The UK is more secure in the EU’ – Michael Fallon. Security Expert and Government advisor Colonel Richard Kemp disagrees.

Richard Kemp is a foaming europhobe, not a serious figure, on the political fringe, and not someone I could ever take seriously. Of course the UK is more secure in the EU – I mean, just look at the reality.  http://ottocr.at/european-consolidation-and-disintegration-past-and-future/

 

C: POST-RESULT REMAIN LIES

C1. ‘We need the EU to protect human rights’

You: “We were hardly under a regime which abused human rights before we joined the EU. We can also protect human rights with domestic legislation, we don’t need the EU to do this. It is also worth noting that EU human rights protection is less than 10 years old. We were doing okay before that, weren’t we?”

This is incredibly complacent. If you look at how the current government is treating asylum seekers, refugees, foreign nationals, the disabled, how can you trust it to respect your human rights? It wants to gut the Human Rights Act, and you trust them because, what, they are British? That’s incredibly complacent and naïve. Human rights need protecting. Seeing what has happened to the UK Home Office under Theresa May, I would not trust her or her government for one second with my human rights.

You said: “Also, EU law allows for the killing of citizens by the state.”

Capital punishment is expressly forbidden by the EU Treaties. What you are referring to relates to the use of force by the state’s law enforcement and military. Are you saying that the UK post-Brexit will make it illegal for its police or its military to use lethal force?

 

C2. ‘Voting to leave the single market was not on the ballot paper’; or ‘There is no mandate to leave the single market’.

You fall into further sophistry. We all know what was on the ballot paper (a simplistic and imprecise binary question). How that result should be interpreted was left entirely open to question and debate, a debate which we are not having because the UK government led by Leave ayatollahs has stamped on it. It is perfectly possible to be outside the EU but in the Single Market, and this is exactly what all prominent Leave campaigners promised would happen. There are trade-offs which mean that it would come at a cost, but that is a debate which should be had, not suppressed.

 

C3 ‘The referendum was advisory’ so can be ignored – AC Grayling

The referendum was non-binding. We live in a parliamentary democracy. There is a reason why modern democracies with a history of fascism now ban referendums. Referendums are anti-democratic, reducing complex issues to simplistic binary questions where the motivation of voters is often unrelated to the issue on the ballot paper, especially where that issue is complex and something which a large proportion of the electorate don’t understand. This is obviously true of the EU, not least as the public has been systematically misinformed and lied to by generations of politicians and newspaper moguls. What we are witnessing is a populist coup, and honourable patriots should resist it. No serious modern democracy would countenance such a fundamental change to its governance – with such serious implications for its security and prosperity – on the basis of a 52/49 vote and as Leavers said before the referendum on such a narrow win it would be “far from over”.

 

C4. “A majority of the UK population wishes to remain in the EU. Proof: have another referendum. Include 16-17yr olds, all expats, all taxpayers”

I don’t want another referendum, see above, I want parliament to assume its responsibility and do what’s in the national interest.

You said: “Firstly, ex-pats are not a part of the ‘UK population’.”

So now you’re depriving British citizens of their citizenship? You don’t think British citizens should have a say on a fundamental, existential matter for their country?

 

C5. “The ref was advisory, major constitutional change requires supermajority if vote for it is to be binding.” – AC Grayling

See above. “Oh but we don’t have a proper constitution” IS NOT AN ARGUMENT.

 

C6. ‘Hate crime has surged’ – The Guardian

It unquestionably has and your attempt to explain this away as nothing to do with Brexit and the current wave of xenophobia lashing the country simply undermines the rest of what you say. As I said to you on Twitter, “Not all Leavers are Nazis, but all Nazis are Leavers… Brexit was fed by and feeds an atmosphere of xenophobia stoked by redtop press.”

It cannot be repeated too often: the European Union was established explicitly as a tool against Nazis. That’s why it exists.

 

C7. ‘The EU is an outward-looking organisation. We have become isolated and insular due to Brexit.’

You said: “If the EU is so outward-looking, why is its list of current free trade agreements so pitifully short?”

Oh God. See my Twitter posts and threads and blog posts passim. Here for example. https://twitter.com/ottocrat/status/894304509568180224

 

C8. “The queues seen at airports are due to Brexit.”

They’re not due to Brexit. However, Brexit will make travel harder, not easier. That’s a given.

 

C9. “Food standards will be threatened post-Brexit.”

Yes naturally if Liam Fox has his way and we have a bonfire of regulations, deregulating the food industry means removing standards, ie they are threatened.

 

C10 ‘The EU does not drive down wages’ – Vince Cable.

This is a straw man, and circular to boot. EU policy will do what it does, and if people don’t like it, they should vote for a different policy in national and European elections. Same as in a national election, if you don’t like the national government’s policies, or in a local election, mutatis mutandis.

 

C11. “We can control immigration and therefore remain in the EU” – Tony Blair

We already control immigration. Freedom of Movement is a wonderful thing and destroying it will be one of the greatest mistakes ever made by a British government.

 

C12. ‘The Tories are only pushing for Brexit because the EU has anti-tax avoidance laws coming into effect in early 2019.’

First I’ve ever heard this claim so I’m calling straw man. Of course it’s not why the fundamentalists are pushing for Brexit.

 

D. GENERAL LIES/MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE EU PROPAGATED BY PRO-EU PEOPLE

D1. “EU law doesn’t prevent the railways being renationalised”.

It doesn’t. If it did, why are so many railways across the EU state-owned? What it does is oblige rolling stock and infrastructure to be incorporated separately – both can be state-owned, however.

 

D2. ‘EU law won’t prevent Government aid or nationalisation of the steelworks’

We have competition rules, that’s one of the benefits of being in the EU. It’s about creating a level playing field to make the Single Market function. If state aid is in breach of EU competition rules, it is not allowed. This isn’t a blanket ban on all state aid, or on nationalisation, both of which are policy tools used by all EU member states all the time.

 

D3. “Labour’s better than expected performance in the 2017 election was a rejection of Brexit and/or a ‘hard Brexit’.”

Straw man. People voted on all sorts of grounds, Brexit certainly one, but not the only. All we can say is that Theresa May did not win the endorsement for her approach that she sought.

 

D4. ‘We will lose Drs due to Brexit’.

But this will be offset by more applications for UK medical licences for medics from outside the EU, according to the GMC.

Yes, we already are losing EU27 national doctors, you think this is good? Offset by non-EU doctors? How are you going to square that with your tougher rules on immigration? Why is this a good thing? Why can’t we keep the excellent professionals we already have?

 

D5 ‘The EU is pooled sovereignty, not lost sovereignty’

Semantics. You say lost sovereignty, I say pooled sovereignty. What you are really arguing is that power should all be concentrated in a single, national tier of government, which I dispute. See http://ottocr.at/british-federalism-and-english-exceptionalism-fear-and-loathing-in-west-lothian/