Sunday 26 June 2016

Towards independence: thoughts on the referendum

As a supporter of leaving the European Union, I did not expect to win Thursday's referendum. Or, at least, I did not expect to win until 10.15pm on Thursday night when I heard reports of an unusually high turnout from council estates, at which point I immediately put £20 on Leave at 6/1. It seemed inconceivable to me that people who had gone years without voting - or had never voted at all - would pour out of their homes to keep Britain in the EU.

And so it proved. Much has already been written about how the 'dispossessed' and the 'deprived' gave a bloody nose to their supposed betters. The left is already rewriting history to make it appear that the working class were voting against 'austerity', against Cameron, against neoliberalism - against anything but the EU. Nonsense. If that were true, we would have spent the last year with Ed Miliband as prime minister.

Occam's Razor time: the EU referendum was about the EU. Yes, immigration was a major concern of some who voted to leave and freedom of movement is one reason why some people dislike the EU. But it is deeply patronising to assume that ordinary working people do not understand - or do not care about - self-governance, sovereignty and democracy.    

The In and Out campaigns were both pretty dispiriting but I found the grassroots of the Remain side to be particularly contemptible. They fought the campaign like the left has fought every election in recent years, ie. by calling their opponents racists and making up stories about the NHS (that's the same NHS they pronounced dead in 2013). They sunk to a new low when they exploited the murder of a young woman in the final week and are currently throwing the most enormous tantrum on social media. The sight of educated men and women trying to overturn a national referendum with an online petition is pathetic beyond belief. What kind of imbecile responds to electoral defeat by fantasising about what would have happened if children had been allowed to vote? What kind of twisted individual turns on the entire elderly population?

The EU is fundamentally undemocratic and insofar as it incorporates democratic processes it does so in a way that means Britain would be ignored even if every person in the country spoke with one voice. Many of the arguments made by the Remain camp were fundamentally anti-democratic; they prefer to have an elite in charge with whom they agree than have a demos in charge with whom they do not. Since losing the referendum, their contempt for democracy and the demos has become terrifyingly  explicit. Every attempt is being made to find a way of overruling the will of the people.

The mask has slipped once and for all. If it wasn't already obvious that self-proclaimed liberals hate the working class, it is vividly clear now. The left has claimed for generations that it wants a working class revolution. Now they've got one.

It is tempting to savour the schadenfreude for a while, but the important task of turning independence into tangible gains must begin. It is all very well fighting for sovereignty, but sovereignty, like democracy, is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. There are costs and benefits to leaving the EU and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It is important to minimise the costs, but at the moment we are hearing too much about fears and not enough about opportunities.

The markets don't like uncertainty and there is now great uncertainty about the European Union that will continue for years to come. It should be obvious from the arrogant remarks of European Commission officials in recent days that their fears about Brexit were for themselves, not us. Angela Merkel has been noticeably less aggressive, and the extent to which the EU tries to 'punish' Britain pour encourager les autres depends on how much it is prepared to cut off its nose to spite its face.

It is inevitable that some jobs will be lost as a result of Brexit. I believe, however, that many more jobs can be created if we seize the opportunity. To do that we need to have people who believe in independence running the show. David Cameron acted decisively in making a dignified exit. I'm not his biggest fan, but he took a cataclysmic personal blow with grace and honour. We need George Osborne to show similar class. It is unthinkable that the man who threatened the country with a punishment budget and who does not see the benefits of leaving the EU should be Chancellor as we make the transition.

Vote Leave do not have a manifesto. They were never supposed to have a manifesto. They are a collection of individuals with wildly differing world views. Perhaps somewhere in Whitehall there is a detailed plan on what to do in the event of Brexit, but I doubt it. For forty years, UK businesses have been buried beneath an ever-growing pile of petty regulation. Countless European directives have become enshrined in UK law, often gold-plated by our own politicians. Leaving is not enough. We need a legislative bonfire on a grand scale.

Some of the industries that will benefit from independence are obvious. Our fishing industry can be reborn, for example, and Tate and Lyle will no longer have to close down. But there are people in every walk of life who complain about the damaging effect of EU regulations on their businesses. It is doubtful that distant bureaucrats are aware of more than a fraction of it. They need to be told.

What we need in the coming months, I would suggest, is a national appeal to businesses large and small - but particularly small, since big business tends to like regulation - to nominate EU regulations that need to be repealed. The coalition government made a half-arsed attempt to do something similar in 2010, but it came to nothing. This time needs to be different - and I believe it will be. So many EU regulations do not benefit us at all. They were not designed to benefit Britain, rather they were designed to benefit other European countries or the special interest groups that the EU funds so generously with our money.

We also need our civil servants to rediscover the art of making trade deals. The EU is pitifully slow at making trade deals and, as a result, has very few of them. This is not surprising given the competing interests of member states. Remainers cheered when Obama said Britain would be at the back of queue when it came to trade deals, but how many of them support the only EU-US trade deal on the table - TTIP? Thanks to the usual idiotic squeals from pressure groups - including the bizarre claim that it will lead to the NHS being privatised - TTIP will be heavily watered down if it is ever signed at all.

Britain may yet get a deal with the US before the EU does. Even if it does not, there are many dozens of major global economies to approach. Let's get cracking. The battle for independence is won. The battle for a better Britain is just beginning.

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