Thoughts on the European Referendum: A Personal Attempt at Clarity


Thoughts on the European Referendum:
A Personal Attempt at Clarity
by Sean Gabb
(25th February 2016)

Because of its charitable status, the Libertarian Alliance takes no view of the European Referendum set for the June of 2016. This is, then, more than usually not an ex cathedra statement. It is purely an expression of what I think. For anyone who is interested, and has no inclination to read my justifications, I will say now that I will vote to leave the European Union. This is notwithstanding the views that I have lately expressed regarding the nature and benefits of our actual membership. I now proceed to my justifications.

I do not believe that the terms of our membership are, in themselves, onerous. So far as I can tell, the various regulations and directives that the Eurosceptics denounce are generally vague, and are studded with derogations. In short, they can be ignored where inconvenient. The Austrians, Slovaks and Hungarians are subject to the same rules as are said to have stopped the British State from dredging the riverbeds. Their management of the Danube is unaffected. To my personal knowledge, the Slovaks do not recycle. The European railways run better than ours. The Germans and Austrians do not extradite their citizens to face trail under European arrest warrants. If these requirements are carried to the point of lunacy in this country, it is because our rulers are incompetent, or because they are in bed with special interest groups that want full and overfull compliance.

As for most harmonisation and product regulation rules, these are nearly all decided by other international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation, or the various bodies of the United Nations. If they arrive in this country via Brussels, that is simply the most convenient way of bringing them into effect. Leaving the European Union would not free us from these rules, or others like them. Our own rulers might have some direct influence over their making. On the other hand, these are rulers who gold plate everything already. A British seat at the relevant tables might easily make things worse.

I believe that the effect on trade and investment of leaving or staying in would be minimal. We are all subject to the rules of the World Trade Organisation, and neither the British nor any European government would be interested in unpicking the current patterns of trade and investment. There would be little business lost with the European countries, and little gained elsewhere.

And, if this country has become a cultural leftist police state, that has nothing to do with the European Union. There is nothing in the European treaties about feral social workers, or “equality and diversity” rules. No European law requires British citizens to drop their voices when talking in public about certain issues, or the schools to be made into propaganda centres for the ruling class. European law did not take our guns away. It did not cartelise the universities. It did not, in the first instance, ban smoking outside the home. It is not considering plain packaging for cigarettes, or minimum prices for alcohol, or dress codes for children. Nor does it order the police to hound old men to their graves over allegations of sexual assaults committed half a century ago, and made by anonymous complainants. The European Union did not compel us to take part in three Middle Eastern wars that have been catastrophic for the people living there.

Indeed, when European laws do bite, the victims are as often our rulers as ourselves. It is thanks to European law that our communications data is not made available to the authorities on request. It is thanks to European law that the growth of the DNA database has been slowed.

If we vote to leave the European Union, we shall be at the absolute and unaccountable mercy of a thoroughly malignant ruling class. There will be no more appeals to foreign judges, who may think our rulers are off their heads, no more need for these rulers to nag or bribe several dozen foreign governments into slow agreement on common schemes of oppression.

We shall also drift completely into the orbit of the United States. Downing Street has been mostly a branch of the White House since about 1940. Without any counterweight from Brussels, the relationship of overlord and satrap will become total. We shall not get any of the benefits of American constitutional law. All we shall get is unlimited military commitments in areas and on sides that have no congruence with our own national interest. It is hardly surprising that every shabby neoconservative whose name I know – Michael Gove, for example, or Liam Fox – is desperate to leave, and is wrapping himself in a Union Flag that he only wants to soil more than it is.

Why, then, have I decided to vote to leave? One answer is that nearly all my friends will vote to leave. This may not seem a very good reason, given what I have said above. But I do not wish to let the side down. When I denounced the Iraq War, I also upset many friends. The difference then was that I knew most of these were not really friends. My Eurosceptic friends are real friends, and, as said, I will not be seen letting the side down, now the referendum campaign has begun.

A more compelling answer – and this is associated with the above – is that opposition to the European Union has become a shorthand for opposition to much else besides. The scepticism I have expressed so far about Euroscepticism is based on the assumption of no domestic change. I have asked – do we really want to be locked into a vast open air lunatic asylum run by the usual suspects? On the assumption of no domestic change, my answer is to vote to stay in. But is this a valid assumption?

If virtually the whole political class, plus the BBC, plus big business, plus the universities, are so eager to stay in, perhaps they have seen something I have overlooked. This is unlikely to involve any rational consideration of our interests as a nation. It is more likely to be fear of what might follow a vote to leave. A victory for the leave campaign might be the occasion for some kind of genteel uprising. At the same time, a defeat for the leave campaign might not be followed by a return to business as usual. I repeat that actual Euroscepticism includes much more than concerns about “ever closer union.” It may draw most of its strength from a desire to stop and turn back the cultural leftist revolution. So far as I am right, a defeat for Euroscepticism would be a general defeat.

I admit that I am conflicted. I know that what I am proposing is a gamble. Sadly or not, though, it is a meaningless gamble. Whatever way I choose to vote or write, I do not presently believe that the British people will vote to leave. The leave campaign is already a shambles. There is no agreed plan of how to leave, or of what to do next. Official funding of the leave campaign will probably go to some of the most shamelessly useless men I have ever met. They do not even need to be bribed to mess things up.

Also, I suspect that Mr Cameron has a card up his sleeve. The prospect of losing the referendum strengthens rather than weakens him. Until the referendum was called, he had little influence with European politicians more concerned about the refugee crises and another possible collapse of the Euro. He could be ignored or given very little. Now the referendum has been called, and now there is some chance that he will lose it and have to go through the motions of negotiating a withdrawal, he has the leverage to extract apparently real concessions. I shall not be surprised if he comes back from a summit at the end of May, with a treaty that is legally binding and that allows Parliament to make or repeal laws regardless of European requirements. That this can already be done for the most part, and that it will mostly not be done once it is formally allowed, is beside the point. What matters is that, by the end of May, the leave campaign will be even more of a shambles than it is now, and Mr Cameron will have looked strong.

Or, with his secret weapon of the official leave campaign, all he may need to do is sit back and wait for the public to look at him and at his chosen opponents, and vote for the man who does not look unusually incompetent or certifiably mad.

And so, with this possibly specious reasoning, I have joined myself to another lost cause. On the whole, however, I feel relieved. Defeat, and with your friends beside you, is always more honourable than sneering from the sidelines.

27 thoughts on “Thoughts on the European Referendum: A Personal Attempt at Clarity

  1. Brilliant essay. Similar points made to my own here:

    http://keirmartland.co.uk/2016/02/24/the-eu-referendum-a-quick-fix/

    I agree with all of the above. The problem, put more succinctly, is this: that the referendum is a simple “yes” “no” question which does not account for the differing visions of Britain and differing motives for a yes or no vote of the various men in the campaign, honourable or dishonourable.

    Gove and Fox want out to become the 51st state of America. Boris Johnson for reasons of personal ambition.

    Steve Baker seems to genuinely want out for libertarian free market reasons.

    IDS, Peter Bone, David Davis, Nigel Farage, even George Galloway, because they aren’t (full) members of the Political Class and sign up to the wider Euroscepticism you referred to.

    Should we leave and DD or IDS become Prime Minister, I’d be chuffed to bits. Should we leave and Gove become Prime Minister, I’d be longing for the good old days of Mr Dave.

  2. Keir he say:
    “The problem, put more succinctly, is this: that the referendum is a simple “yes” “no” question which does not account for the differing visions of Britain and differing motives for a yes or no vote of the various men in the campaign, honourable or dishonourable.”

    That is true, but surely the vagueness is also an opportunity?

    I am not sure (this in response to Dr Gabb) either that the shambolic-ness of the Leave factions (so far) is necessarily a bad thing, *provided that* the various messages actually get through to the voters. One of which should be that the gold-plating of petty regulation that’s blamed on ‘Europe’ is usually the product of domestic ruling-class (bureaucratic, empire-building) opportunism.

    And do not forget that voters can be morally as corrupt as our smirking overlords. Even so, time to give the ruling class a good prod with a sharp stick in their softer quarters. I’ll vote Out, as I did in 1975, but for different reasons. And then we’ll see what happens. Hey ho.

    We live in interesting times. This is not such a bad thing.

  3. On Question Time tonight some loud mouthed lady complained again ( as others have complained likewise but elsewhere) that they don’t know the facts, so how can they decide.
    As I have explained before, in 1970 when we fought Mr Heath we did not have the f***king internet and all we had was an old table-top printing press and shanks poney.

    There is a wealth of information out there on the internet if the idle bastards will only look.

    I have recommended to your readers Ruth Lea’s “Essential Guide to the EU” recently and it beats Robert Ould’s book hands down because it has a bloody good index and you can go straight to the point. A very good point which she makes is that on the top of page 40. Why do I need any other reasons for OUT?

    Elsewhere I have made the point that our entry into the EU was long in preparation so that transfer of power from our dictatorship ( or “elective dictatorship”) to the bigger one was fairly seamless and easy. It has taken 40 years to ravel us. We can hardly be blamed if it is going to take a while to unravel, but for the moment I am going to try to give the NWO a little kick in the goolies. Then perhaps we can start a bit of unravelling internally of our very own”elective dictatorship”. and to that purpose I urge the readers.

  4. I mostly agree with this. I have written at great length here (though I admit not as much lately) regarding my opinion of the root causes of our problems, which amount to a socio-political climate of moral hysteria driven by the “puritan” faction of our society over a great period of time, centuries in fact. Leaving the EU will not change that, and will leave us entirely at their mercy.

    On the other hand, it will somewhat interfere with their ability to spread their pernicious moralitarianism to the Continent. Hampering their ability to “harmonise” the rest of the world to their moral fetishes is a valuable goal in itself.

    If nothing else, it will be the equivalent of a well targeted kick to the goolies of the Establishment.

    One thing of interest though is that we now have had two prominent Tories apparently “come out” as Leavers- Johnson and Howard- but on closer inspection of the articles they have written, both are in fact arguing for a “leave” vote to act merely as a shot across the EU’s bows to be used to gain more concessions. In other words, the traditional EU tactic of having another referendum to get the “right” answer.

    This is presumably Plan B.

    My bottom line is that on its own, leaving the EU will achieve nothing and possibly make things in the short term worse. But we cannot reasonably hope to achieve anything if we do not leave. What Churchill would have called “The end of the beginning”. Maybe.

    If on the other hand, the vote is Remain, particularly with a substantial margin, the cause of resistance will be put back a generation.

  5. “It is hardly surprising that every shabby neoconservative whose name I know – Michael Gove, for example, or Liam Fox – is desperate to leave, and is wrapping himself in a Union Flag that he only wants to soil more than it is…..”

    For no other reason than the one above, I plan to vote along with the Remain brigade. If it were not for the fact Britain would become the 51st state of the union, I would vote to leave.

    • As said, I’m conflicted. I prefer the European Union to America. I prefer the European Union to our own rulers. But the debate on Europe has become a cover for debates on much else besides.

      • Hitchens notes today how strange it is that the Eurosceptics are being co-opted by people whose only arguments are economic, when Enoch Powell and Tony Benn and the like always opposed it for political reasons, i.e. national sovereignty and self-government. He further notes that ‘Vote Leave’ is now being over-run by high profile Europhiles and scumbags who want to use the leave campaign in order to argue that we should remain, e.g. Johnson and his two referendums strategy.

        • The Two Refs Strategy appears to be why Michael Howard has broken cover as well. I cannot help being a cynic and wondering if Dave’s “savaging” of Johnson was a deliberate plan between them to giving him credibility to dominate the “Leave” campaign and thus drag us into the Second Referendum if we vote Out the first time.

          It’s not as if that hasn’t happened every time a referendum has gone against the EU.

  6. Sean’s argument is very sound.
    But…To vote to leave merely because you love and respect some of your friends who are going to do likewise, is a rather poor justification I think. They are mature enough to accept your personal views if these differ from theirs. None of us has taken solemn oath to mutually-die with each other on a stricken field, such as Harold’s Fyrdmen and House-Churls did.

    I shall vote to leave, for I see myself standing in the morning, in the mud of the field of AzinCourt, having discarded what was left of my shoes two nights ago, and hoping for the best with [what would need to be today] my trailer-borne and radar-directed machine-longbow. The only thing to do now is to make the point as well as can be done.

    We will probably lose the Referendum. Not for Sean’s reasons but _because the ballot boxes will be tampered with_ . Because they can be, then they will be. it is natural. Do you all think that your enemies and ours are so honest and so uncorrupted as to pass that easy solution up? Entire boxes from outlying wards of fierce Eurosceptic voters will “be accidentally delayed.” Vast numbers of non-existing people will be pre-registered as “alternatively-abled-postal-voters” in many many wards of all our great Northen Imperial Cities and Towns, and Leicester and Luton. Tower Hamlets’ Electoral Roll will quickly grow to 14 million elegible adults between now and mid-June.

    We sadly allowed the BritishPoliticalEnemyClass to get its hands on the shiny levers of the machinery. We all knew who they were at our Universities, but we didn’t stop them then, and it is too late now.

  7. Speaking from the other side of the pond: I’m not a voter, so my opinion is even further removed from ex-cathedra than yours, Dr Gabb. Nonetheless, I am a staunch advocate of favoring smaller in all cases. The more chance there is of more local control, the better. As for the downside risks, they are all equally susceptible to the “the more local the better” mantra, and must be pursued as individual efforts in any case.

  8. I’m struck by the argument that the referendum is a proxy for a wider debate. A large Remain vote would be ratification of a raft of policies. Those who argue “we were never asked about mass immigration” will be told “but you know during the EU referendum that it had largely been linked with immigration, so if the country voted to remain, they voted for immigration”. I still think it a mistake of UKIP not to argue that if we stay in the EU, we should still do something about non-EU migration — too much has been subordinated to the withdrawal issue…

    • I don’t think there’s any escaping the reality that a Remain vote will be in effect an endorsement of the policies of the Establishment since the 1970s in all areas, particularly immigration. It will be declared a triumph for good, progressive people over outdated, old-fashioned, bigoted Little Englanders.

      If Britain votes Remain, most of these issues are dead in the water, settled, over and done. This amounts to a plebiscite on whether to follow the Progressive path or not for the foreseeable future.

    • Because UKIP is in favour of more non-EU migration. Indeed, they have gone to pains to emphasise the unfairness of excluding non-EU would-be immigrants at the expense of European free movement.

  9. Serious question: do you think that “Celtic” genes are necessary for racial awareness? I mean, there is me, plus David Duke, Kevin Macdonald, and Ian B (partially Scottish), Sean Gabb, David Webb (partially Irish), etc, and not much else. North-Western whites are obviously the least ‘racist’ race of the lot. Are the Scandis and “pure” English literally unable to defend their own ethnic interests? They can put men on the Moon but are unable to foresee the obvious disadvantages of massive ethnic displacement? Hands up who else is frustrated by this, and who might have majority non-Nordic ancestors. Are the non-Aryans among us the best hope we have of a pro-European leadership?

    • I think there may be a cultural connection, just as the Scotch-Irish in America were always less into the self-righteousness that comes with being Anglo.

    • I can’t walk past a McDonalds without feeling an overwhelming urge to massacre everyone inside and call it a great clan victory.

      Kevin MacDonald has as we know written an enormous amount on this. I don’t think there is sufficient evidence either way, though it is an interesting scientific question. The problem is there are so many cultural variables. For instance, just one: Anglos have dominated the world since before the industrial revolution; the two hegemonic superpowers being the British Empire and USA. This one could argue has led to a negligent sense of invulnerability and a patronising sense of having a duty to help and educate everyone else. The antithesis of, say, the bunker mentality of Jews inherited from their own historical experience.

      I don’t really know my genetic ancestry; my grandparents are two East Midlands/Anglians, one Borders Scot and one Northern English. My hair is fine/stringy brown with a hint of red which looks to me quite Frankish. Talking of which, Nicola Sturgeon makes me laugh; before her Bonnie Scots Lassie makeover, she looked pure Black Irish in descent.

  10. In terms of plus and minus points, the prognosis is bad on both sides. So my head suggests I should do the same as I do in elections, and stay away from the whole thing.

    However… my heart says otherwise. We’re pretty much at a point where change is so necessary, that almost any change – even if it might seem partly in the wrong direction – could be seen as a good thing. And exit from the EU would certainly be change. The only other sane alternative seems to be to wait for the EU to collapse around us; and that’s risky. So my heart says, Leave.

    Besides which, when I think about the skulduggery the Remain camp will no doubt use in order to make sure they don’t lose, I almost start to laugh. A narrow Remain victory, with accusations of vote-rigging, after four months of politicians slinging mud at each other, would leave large numbers of people very disaffected. And might even, perhaps, lead to demands for some real change at last.

    • I think my opinion comes down to something very simple; a Remain vote will be universally interpreted as an endorsement of the Proggie ruling class, and that anyone who disagrees with them is an outsider crank who can be ignored. Imagine the crowing and gloating from Cameron et al if they win.

        • If they win by one vote, they will declare a triumph and that everything is settled, whether about Europe or the other Progressivist projects. This is why I’ve always been highly cautious about a referendum, since the chances of “our side” winning it have never been encouraging.

  11. Pingback: PETER HITCHENS: Tory Establishment ‘Vote Leave’ Doesn’t Want To Britain To Exit EU | The Libertarian Alliance Blog

  12. Yes, that’s what now worries me. If our country votes remain, not only the Brussles bureaucracy, but the incompetent criminals who run things here will take it as a green light to really show us how they despise us.

  13. remain campaign on referendum reflects European unity based on skin colour, want to create race based power. The dream of such superstate now at the brink collapse.

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