The United Kingdom will vote this week on whether to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum dubbed “Brexit”. In the wake of the assassination Labour of MP Jo Cox and the nationalist-inspired violence at the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, many have cast Brexit in “right vs left” terms. While the right wingers led by Nigel Farage are about the most distasteful people to be associated with, left-right coalitions make sense when the alternative is something that solely benefits the political establishment. For me, support for Brexit has become more logical as the campaign has worn on, and I have moved from a traditional establishment/utopian “stay” position to one supporting the UK leaving the European Union.
I am not British, not an economist and concede perhaps short-term the economies of the west will be impacted. I have read many detailed pieces stating that the world markets and US economy will be negatively hit as early as later this week if the vote goes the “wrong way.” But I have come to the conclusion that the idea of EU while largely utopian and those whose who seek to keep Britain in the EU either suffer from blind idealism based on that utopian vision or far worse, have a vested economic interest in the status quo.
Progressives like to be “open” and many are supporters of multilateral institutions. I personally have always had a healthy suspicion of the United Nations as well as the Free Trade agreements the US has entered into. For me, the EU is a corporatist institution run by elites who use idealistic notions to sell the idea of the entity, but in reality it is run by Brussels-based bureaucrats who reward big companies who spend millions of Euros on lobbying. The EU concocts rules which protect and promote multinational corporations at the detriment of those who aren’t so large and powerful. In reality the setup it is much like the United States, a government and system of Federalism the EU elites seek to emulate and impose on Europe, and one which has become wholly responsive to big money lobbying and large corporations. This is perhaps why Britain’s largest companies with strong political ties all have made clear the desire to keep Britain in the EU. This could also explain the desire of the leadership of both major political parties to remain in the EU.
In fact, much like the United States, the EU’s rule making often comes down to unelected bureaucrats and much of Britain’s fate is held in the hands of elected MPs to the European Parliament which have vested interests dissimilar to that of the British Isles. In fact the European Union has become a largely Franco-German economic control bloc, accomplishing great things for the German economy in exercising economic control over the rest of the continent. I found this nugget particularly interesting:
According to James Cleverly MP “Tariffs mean that in 2014 the whole of Africa made just under $2.4 billion from coffee exports, while Germany made $3.8 billion…without growing a single bean…Germany’s coffee producers need cheap, raw beans to make money, so there is no import tariff on green, unprocessed coffee. That’s why the vast bulk of African coffee exports are unprocessed. But there are import tariffs on processed coffee because it is in the processing, branding, packaging and marketing that Germany makes its money.” This is nothing short of outrageous, and the EU elites should be ashamed of themselves.
This reinforced suspicions that the EU exploits non-European trading partners for the benefits of Germany. The British economy in some ways now is subservient to that of Germany for the sake of “European good” or “Europeanness.” Meanwhile Africa continues to suffer because the EU rapes it for German benefit and does not encourage anything but what amounts to one-way trade with the continent.
Britain suffers from almost constant condescension from European elites and journalists. I’ve witnessed this again these past few weeks around the Euro 2016 football tournament which has become a focal point for hooliganism and right-wing political organizing. The quick reflexive reaction from European journalists and the French authorities when the violence began ten days ago was to blame the English or the Welsh. Only later was it conceded that Russian right-wing political leaders and perhaps even the Putin Administration had a role in the ongoing trouble as did right-wing groups from other Eastern European countries who happen to be in the EU. But condescension toward Britain from European elites is nothing new – in fact looking down on Britain (and the United States) is in many ways how you are accepted as “continental,” “european” and “sophisticated” in some of the circles I’ve run in throughout my life. People from the British Isles will always be looked down upon I fear among the elites that govern Europe and dominate the conversation about Europe.
Immigration is another reason for Britain to leave the EU. Many liberals think immigration is a reason to stay, but in fact the contrary is true. Now migrants from Eastern Europe can stream into Britain, yet Americans, Indians, Africans, Chinese, Latinos etc who seek employment in the UK have to go through the ringer and need to meet an incredibly high threshold to even receive a temporary work permit. Reducing immigration from EU members countries is against the rules of the EU so as a result the UK has dramatically reduced immigration from non-EU nations, a policy which in many ways can be interpreted as racist and has cut Britain off from many of its colonies. Afro-Caribbean and Asian-Indians are the two most successful immigrant groups in the UK, having assimilated far more easily into British culture than many migrants from other EU nations. Yet, under current immigration rules as part of the EU, Britain has had to make it nearly impossible for these immigrants to enhance British life the way the previous generation did.
The EU’s policy towards integration is in some ways racist. I am not a fan of the Bush Administration but supported Donald Rumsfeld among others when they urged the European Union in the 2000’s to accept Turkey as a member state. This was rejected out of fears that Turks would stream into European nations. What Rumsfeld and others in the Bush Administration wanted was a Turkey that was tied closely to the west and a buffer against Islamic extremists. What has in fact happened since Turkey was turned away from joining the EU anytime soon was a nation that was previously a model of secularism being radicalized and becoming a harbor for anti-western, islamic fundamentalist thoughts.
President Obama’s most irresponsible statement as President is perhaps what he uttered in April that Britain would have to go “to the back of the line,” if Brexit passes. Britain should never be threatened by the United States to stand behind the likes of Slovenia and Poland for trade with the United States. But my feeling is that the President was just doing a favor to the ineffectual Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron who leads the “remain” campaign. After all political elites like Cameron and Tony Blair before him have invested heavily in Britain being more “European.”
But Britain has its own destiny to fulfill and leaving the EU won’t mean trade with Europe ends. In the long-term Britain can create a meaningful BALANCED relationship with continental Europe while changing its immigration policy and having a more robust global outlook on everything.