Saturday, 17 June 2017

Wouldn’t It Be In Our Best Interests to Ditch Brexit?

MARK ALEXANDER: Referendums actually have no place in British government and politics. They are alien to our way of doing things.

In the United Kingdom, parliament is sovereign. We have a parliamentary democracy. Therefore, when referendums are held––and, historically, they have been held only rarely––parliament can legally ignore the results of the referendum held. In British politics, a referendum is advisory only. They are not, I repeat not, legally binding on parliament. If our elected representatives believe that to follow through on the result of the referendum it would be deleterious to the common good, the economy, or Britain’s place in the world, they can safely be ignored.

The last EU referendum held on Thursday, June 23, 2016, the so-called Brexit referendum, yielded a result that was surprising to very many of our parliamentarians. A remain vote had been expected.

From the start, the referendum had been very poorly construed, because for such an important referendum there should certainly have been a stipulation that maybe sixty per cent of the electorate should vote for this huge constitutional change, one way or the other. It should not have been acceptable to have a simple majority with such a small margin in favour. That goes for a result one way or the other.

The referendum was won by a very small margin: 52% of the electorate voted to leave the EU, whilst 48% voted to remain in the EU.

By not stipulating that there should be a much wider margin between those who voted to get out of the European Union and those who voted to remain in the European Union, the nation has been divided like never before in my lifetime.

David Cameron called this referendum in order to silence the Europhobes, the so-called Euroskeptics in his Party, the Conservative Party, to stop the squabbling. The Tory Party had been riven by the issue of Europe for decades. In fact, it has been divided ever since the electorate voted to enter the Common Market in 1975. That was known as the United Kingdom European Communities referendum, more usually called the Common Market referendum, or the referendum on EEC membership.

By calling the referendum, Cameron tried to heal the rift in his Party. He wanted to silence the naysayers once and for all. However, instead of healing the rift in his Party––the Party is still divided on the issue––he has now divided the nation too. It is said that it has even caused rifts within families!

I have listened to many debates about the pros and cons of EU membership, but nobody is able to answer convincingly one simple question: What are we going to gain from leaving the EU, except pain? Economic and financial pain? To say nothing of all the pain that is being caused to Europeans working here, or Brits working in Europe. Brexit could well turn out to be a lose-lose situation for all concerned. It is ill-conceived, and very short-sighted.

There is an old saying which is apt in these circumstances: You never miss the water till the well runs dry. How true that old adage is! That means to say that we are not going to miss the EU until we are no longer in the club.

Fact is, the UK has done rather well out of its membership of the EU. It has given us access to a market of 500 million people. It is the largest single market in the world. Goods and services can be traded, tariff-free, across many frontiers. What a remarkable achievement that has been! And how conducive it is to the prosperity of our people, our nation, and our continent. Where are we going to find a market like this outside of the bloc?

Since the result of the referendum, our living standards are already in retreat. The pound has gone down in value vis-à-vis the US dollar and the euro. On the day of the referendum, the pound was trading at $1,4877. But ever since, it has been on a downward slide, trading at around $1,2908 on July 7, 2016, a depreciation of 13.24%. In fact, the value of the pound is at a thirty-one year low. As I write this today, the pound is actually trading at only $1.2783.

This is said to be good for exports, of course, because it makes our exports more competitive in the marketplace. But how good is it for the pound in your pocket? Because it makes imports much more expensive, and we mustn’t forget that most of our foodstuffs are imported. Therefore, this depreciation in the value of the pound has already started to fuel inflation. It is to be expected that the worst is yet to come. As they say: ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’

So, the pound is depreciating in value, prices are going up in the shops. Travel across the continent, or anywhere else in the world, will become more expensive and more difficult in Europe too. Going to Europe to live or study will require permits, and will certainly become more expensive.

But very importantly, we are going to lose our place at the top table in Europe. Further, if we remain in the single market, we will have to pay for the privilege; and we will have no say in the decisions being made. We will simply have to accept what other European nations decide. To put ourselves in this disadvantageous position is nothing short of ludicrous. I don’t care what people like Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan or Boris Johnson say. It is stupid. Absolutely stupid! It defies common sense.

Then we have the difficulties that Brexit will cause the banks and finance houses. Indeed, the financial sector has the most to lose from Brexit. Passporting rights will have to be forfeited when we leave the EU. This is going to make it very difficult for banks and finance houses to sell financial services in other countries in Europe; and because of this loss of rights, banks and finance houses already have plans in place to relocate to other cities in European countries, cities like Frankfurt, Paris, or Madrid. All these cities are waiting in the wings to take London’s business away. And if this happens, London will start to lose its pre-eminent position in the world of finance. This is really totally and utterly stupid. It’s as if we are engaging in self-harm. Again, it defies common sense.

Brexit talks are set to begin this coming week, the week beginning Monday, June 19. But the government is said to be in chaos as a result of Theresa May’s ill-fated decision to call a general election on Thursday, June 8. As is well-known, she lost her large majority in parliament even though she had been expecting a landslide victory at the polls. As a result, this has weakened Britain’s bargaining position considerably. The other twenty-seven nations in the EU are now holding just about all the ace cards.

It really is time for the country to reconsider this course of action. Brexit will probably impoverish the nation. One thing is certain: Brexit is not the route to prosperity. Moreover, if it impoverishes the nation, it will impoverish you with it. This is folly indeed. Surely, it is time for us to reassess our decision to leave the EU. It’s time to call the whole thing off. Brexit is not a winning strategy for our future. Our leaders should pluck up the courage and tell the electorate that it will be detrimental to our national interests.

Arrêtez Brexit !

© Mark Alexander

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