May 3, 2016 19 Comments
As this blog is offering the ‘view from the Anglosphere’, I thought I’d say something about being back of the line, or is that queue? That, of course, is a reference to the comment from POTUS Obama that were the UK to vote to leave the EU we’d be back of the line in terms of a trade deal. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that the USA sells us far more stuff than we sell you guys, and perhaps, being so distantly acquainted with economic realities, he feels it won’t much matter – not doubt yet more goods from China can fill the gap? Others better qualified than I have made the point that the UK wasn’t back of any line at D Day or in Desert Storm, but what’s honour when you’re a politician? Like Falstaff, Obama would probably say ‘who has it, he who died a Thursday’.
It’s a shame he took that tone, and it’s a shame that the tone of the debate over Britain’s future in the EU is one of smear and counter-smear and the stirring up of fear. The fact is no one can know what the effect of the UK leaving the EU would be, but it seems perverse to imagine it will have little effect, and so far as I can follow the argument of those who want to leave (Brexiteers) it amounts to saying that in a few years we’d have trade deals with the EU and the USA as good as we have now – gee, thank guys, so why leave?
The leave argument amounts to an emotional one – we’d get sovereignty back. But who, in this global economy has complete sovereignty – North Korea perhaps? The US, by the sheer size and scale of its economy is closer than most, but as the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, the UK does not begin to compare with that strength. Sure, it could cut deals, but there will be a cost – there always is. The idea that the EU would seek to do us down economically seems a bit illusory – they do more trade with us than we do with them, but then so does the idea that they’d give us the same deal as they do now without our paying in what we pay in now. In short, I think the economic arguments are probably not decisive – except for one aspect – is this the time to give some kind of adverse shock to the global economy?
So it is, in the end, about sovereignty. But we all share aspects of sovereignty now. We can’t run the UK as we could in the mid twentieth century – the world has changed. The EU is, it is true, not the speediest organisation, but it is one of the world’s largest trading blocs, and it has a political as well as an economic aspect to it. It has helped entrench democracy in countries like Spain, Portugal, and even (despite the obvious problems) Greece, which have had, to put it mildly, chequered histories. It has also managed to include some nations formerly in the Soviet bloc. It’s far from perfect, but then as I look at the people running my country now, and those vying to, I’m not sure that they are any better.
Then, for me as a Welsh-born woman living now in Scotland, there is the little matter of the United Kingdom. The land of my birth, Wales, looks as though it is going to vote to remain in, and Scotland is certainly going to do so. If England votes to leave, the Union is bound to unravel. The Scots and the Welsh, and perhaps the Ulstermen, will want to stay ‘in’ and will want to if England leaves. The mess that would follow does not bear thinking about.
The small c conservative position seems to me to be to vote to remain in, with all the problems it is better than the alternative – so this woman of Welsh-German stock living in Scotland is voting to remain in the EU.