I am writing this on Saturday afternoon and, as tends to be the case with these things, by Monday morning things may be different. I don’t know exactly how different they will be, I suspect not excessively, but that waits to be seen.
But I did think it worth writing up a little post about some of the things people like myself have been saying about the EU for some time and how those things have been panning out lately. Let’s just note a few of them.
Thanks to some comments from Michael Howard, a number of remainers decided we were on course for a war with Spain over Gibraltar. The claim was that we were about to go to war over the status of Gibraltar because Spain had a veto on any trade deal we might hope to strike. Of course, not only was such a claim palpable nonsense, war did not break out and the Spanish government did not block the eventual trade deal that was signed.
On the day of the original EU referendum, one of the reasons I gave for wanting to leave was this:
It is the case that national governments provide manifesto pledges that are then voted on by the people. If we like those promises, we may elect them. If we believe they have failed on their promises, we may remove them. Whatever we may feel about them, the collective will of the majority may reasonably assume that their elected representatives will enact the promises they voted for.
In the EU, however, our national government may be overruled. If an EU directive is issued, national governments must incorporate it into law. This means the collective will of the people within one national entity may be superseded by a handful of unelected officials. It renders our national democratic process utterly superfluous.
This was rubbished by remainers as untrue. It almost never happens, they said. Well, only one month after our transition period ended, what do we find? The EU decided to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol without speaking to the Irish government – now their only member state with skin in that particular game. They have since rowed back on that position – recognising they made a misjudgement – but that they felt able to act without even talking to a sovereignly elected government makes the point well enough. It took some serious negotiation from the Irish Taoiseach to get them to relent.
The journalist Iain Dale had this to say on Northern Ireland the other day:
As I previously noted here, Northern Ireland became an issue primarily for ‘a certain brand of Remainer in the UK who is quite keen to use the region – despite never having any interest in it before – as a means of shutting down the whole [Brexit] thing.’ It was claimed endlessly that Brexit posed a massive risk to the Good Friday Agreement and that only remaining in the EU could maintain the peace. One month after our transition period, it is the EU – to the consternation of both Britain and their own member state of Ireland – who are happily deciding to endanger what they previously said was vital to protect because it suits their agenda. Leaving, and the EU’s subsequent behaviour, has actually managed to do what nobody has done before – united the DUP, SDLP and Sinn Fein in their condemnation of the move. It is the EU’s current behaviour – as a direct result of Britain having left the bloc – that has now managed to unite all sides in Northern Ireland on this issue.
Andrew Neil wrote the following twitter thread, listing various things that had been said by remainers that are quickly looking a little foolish:
As Peter Ould notes:
The Times reported here:
It was said repeatedly that the UK leaving the EU was racist, xenophobic and protectionist. However, the UK has spent the same as the entire EU bloc on providing vaccines abroad for poorer nations. The EU themselves are fighting with AstraZeneca who are currently offering that vaccine not-for-profit in a bid to sort themselves. These are not the behaviours of those who wish to be anti-foreigner and xenophobic.
Again, in the news this week, the UK’s offer last year to welcome 3m Hong Kong refugees to the UK is coming to fruition. On the day that the EU referendum took place, I wrote here that I wanted to leave the EU because I believe remaining within made our immigration policy unhelpfully restrictive. I stated:
I am highly in favour of immigration to Britain. I do not believe the country would function without it and, in the most part, immigration has been incredibly beneficial. The period of mass immigration in the 1950s and 1970s were typically a response to worker shortages in our own indigenous population and were vital for us to sustain industry. So, to be totally clear, I think immigration has been a force for good. If anything, I would like to see looser (not tighter) restrictions than we have at present.
Why, then, do I favour leave on this basis? First, I find the free movement of workers principle fundamentally racist. At present, if you hold a European passport you are entitled to move anywhere within Europe. In practice, this means if you hold a non-EU passport you are subject to stricter controls. A policy that discriminates based on nothing more than your passport is, in my view, racist. What about white, Western Europeans makes their coming to our country inherently more beneficial than non-white East, South and West Asians? Look at those beneficial periods of mass immigration – predominantly made up of black Caribbeans in the 1950s and South Asians in the 1970s. The existing rules would have made those fundamentally beneficial and valuable influxes nigh on impossible based on little more than their being the wrong nationality. This is surely wrong.
Second, I suspect our approach to refugees and non-European migrants is tighter because we are unable to control immigration within the EU. Whilst this may be an issue of political will, it is almost certainly true that when immigration levels from within the EU begin to rise governments seek to reduce non-EU migration levels. Once again, this means if you hold the wrong sort of passport you are bound to face tighter controls. Similarly, if you are seeking asylum, it is much easier to turn you away (despite the credibility of the position in reality) with a wistful reference to European migration.
Control of our borders does not necessarily mean a tightening of borders. It means the ability to accept migration from wherever we please. It means, rather than being open to Europe at the expense of everyone else, we may open up to the entire world. It means rather than turning away asylum seekers on spurious grounds of immigration overload, we may reduce economic migration at our own pleasure and bring in as many people fleeing persecution as we will. It makes possible the benefits of the mass immigration that previously served our country well during times of need. Sovereignty and control of our borders will give us the right and ability to be more, not less, open to migration.
Given the value of immigration to our country, if we leave the EU it is highly likely that the government would seek to reduce net migration to its stated target for a short time – just to prove that they are able to do so – before allowing it to rise again. The reason for this is simple: immigration has broadly been a force for good in this country. If we leave the EU, it is highly unlikely any government would therefore seek to reduce it drastically. The only benefit of doing so is political, satisfying the desires of a small section of society who do not understand the benefits of immigration. It is, therefore, inconceivable any future government would likely seek to reduce net migration. What a leave vote would do is allow the benefits of immigration from across the world rather than based on spurious grounds of race and nationality.
This comment was rubbished at the time of the EU referendum as highly unlikely. I returned to it when the government made its unilateral offer to 3m Hong Kong refugees, stating here:
I gave three reasons why I think Brexit would be good for immigration. Firstly, I believe the existing EU provisions on free movement are grounded in fundamentally racist ideas, permitting the inclusion of majority white nations to the detriment of predominantly non-white nations. It is racial profiling on an international scale. Second, I believe current free movement rules are (in part) responsible for our approach to asylum seekers. Where we have been unable to control intake in one area, government will very often seek to do it in another. Third, I believed that leaving EU rules on free movement would allow us to be more open-handed in our immigration policy
I went on in that same article to say:
For lexiteers like me, who wanted to leave the EU so that we might be more open-handed in our immigration policy, current moves by the government to welcome 3 million Hong Kongers is entirely in line with what we wanted to happen and what we predicted would happen given that governments of all stripes recognise the value of immigration.
Even as that was announced, it was rubbished again, as though it would never happen. As the BBC reported in the last few days, the UK is standing firm on their offer to welcome refugees from Hong Kong and will grant special visas. This is a move made eminently easier for the government because they do not have to concern themselves with issues of free movement. They can be open-handed this way in a move that would have been much harder within the EU.
We are, of course, continuing to wait upon the massive economic crash we were all assured would definitely happen too. But, as I noted here, there are companies who are still ploughing ahead and doing alright ‘despite Brexit’. The other curveball that nobody had predicted was the pandemic. It is going to be difficult to discern what the true economic impact of Brexit would have been now at an rate – whichever way we wish to argue it – because we have instead created a furlough scheme that is going to have a far bigger impact. Across the world, there will be similar economic strains. One finds it hard to imagine we will be dropping out of the G20 any time soon though.
Perhaps one of the predictions will come true. I don’t know. But so far, I don’t see many remainer predictions coming to pass and quite a few of the Brexiteer arguments are being seen to at least have some credit to them.