Jake's View

The British ‘rats’ abandoning ship sends a strong message the EU is firmly on the rocks

‘Brexit is an expression of fundamental differences on the nature of the rule of law, democracy and personal liberty’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 10:49pm

Brexit is built on a fearsome alliance of arrogance, ignorance and nostalgia.

- Philip Bowring, SCMP, Oct 9

Some falsehoods are immediately recognised for what they are, while others are so near the truth that they convince and are widely believed.

There is no evidence at all, for instance, that the French queen, Marie Antoinette, on being told that the poor had no bread, said: “Then let them eat cake.”

And yet it rings so true to the delusions of the French royal court that it rates today as given truth.

Although widely reported at the time, it seems that the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, never actually said of the Brexit referendum, “It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate.” And yet he might well have said it.

The statement so neatly encapsulates continental European notions of relations between the governing and the governed that there was no protest, no denial and no demands for retraction. People believed it, because it is in fact, true. It is indeed not the EU philosophy that people decide their own fate.

In Germany you can perhaps trace this way of thinking to the warmonger Otto von Bismarck, in France to his earlier counterpart, Napoleon Bonaparte, and across most of southern Europe, in my view at any rate, to the Vatican. Be obedient. Big Brother knows best.

It took a Briton, George Orwell, to cast Big Brother in a different light.

Brexit is not an expression of arrogance, ignorance and nostalgia but of fundamental differences from the EU on the nature of the rule of law, democracy and personal liberty

The idea does not generally sit well in Britain and never has right from the time that the French tried to impose it in their invasion of 1066. A successful (well, I would say so, wouldn’t I?) Dutch invasion in 1688 helped set things straight.

I think the difference mostly lies in the inherent differences of an island nation but, whatever the cause, I cannot agree with Philip.

Brexit is not an expression of arrogance, ignorance and nostalgia but of fundamental differences from the EU on the nature of the rule of law, democracy and personal liberty.

Nor, despite the recent weakness of sterling, do I believe that the British economy will be badly hurt by Brexit.

Yes, it is true that the latest figures show a current account deficit running at 6 per cent of GDP, but then there has not been a single year in the last 30 in which Britain’s current account was in surplus.

The same is true of the United States and in both cases you can easily take a different perspective of this balance of payments phenomenon, to wit that these economies are so trusted across the world that they attract heavy foreign investment, allowing the citizens to luxuriate in imports that they need not pay for with exports, more so now than ever before.

But if you choose to regard a persistent current account deficit as a bad thing, then I cannot see how the specific remedy for a bad thing incurred as a member of the EU is necessarily to remain a member. Surely Brexit is then an alternative.

The real problems are, in fact, all in the EU. It is, for one thing, distinctly non-democratic. The EU parliament cannot initiate legislation and referendums in France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland rejecting an EU constitution were simply ignored. This constitution was imposed by fiat as the Treaty of Lisbon.

The EU even ignores its own laws. Article 125 of the EU Treaty plainly forbids the union from taking on the liabilities of member governments. Along came Greece and Article 125 was casually pushed aside.

The European Central Bank is now pushing bond interest rates into negative territory on a confused reasoning that this will somehow stimulate economic growth. All it has done, however, is create a bubble in financial markets, weaken the euro and raise the prospect of serious bank failures. And yet the only prescription the ECB will consider is more of the same.

Yes, the British may be rats for leaving the sinking ship but let’s have it straight that the ship is indeed sinking and the crew will do no more than sing “Nearer my God to Thee” as they lead the passengers under the waves.

Better the rat then.