Fisking anti-EU myths: a task Canute would wisely avoid

The “debate” on the EU referendum has reached the point where ordinary people are now fully aware of it. We have reached that surreal stage in a campaign when a Facebook timeline normally full of vexatious memes, baby pictures and recycled memories now contains discussion of Treasury forecasts, fishing stocks and TTIP.

flag_yellow_highFor people who follow politics more regularly, it’s a strange old time. There are many myths and outright lies being spread, but for once, the perpetrators aren’t necessarily aware of what they are doing. It’s an opportunity to engage, challenge, and persuade, but you also have to pick your battles. Attempting to hold back the tide of misconceptions is a task King Canute would have mocked, just as he mocked the advisers hoping to flatter him – or so the story goes.

However, there are some interventions that cannot be ignored. One such, doing the rounds on my Facebook timeline today, was a lengthy piece posted yesterday by David Robertson, the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. Robertson is a prominent commentator and apologist for the evangelical Christian community in the UK, of which I used to be a member, and his views carry significant weight with church leaders and churchgoers alike.

It is regrettable, therefore, that his blog post – entitled “European Referendum: The TIPPing Point”, an apparent reference to TTIP – should be so obviously slanted towards one side of the debate.

I don’t usually enjoy writing “fisks” of such posts, because I think the format is overlong and comes across as confrontational. That is not my intention here. But I cannot leave his post unanswered and so what follows is an attempt to redress the balance. It won’t be exhaustive, as there are bits that are relatively uninteresting, but I will try to honour the context of each statement.


Robertson begins his post with a claim to be “inclined towards a pro-EU position” emotionally, politically and socially. He then lists “David Cameron, Hilary [sic] Clinton, Jeremy Corbyn, all the Scottish political leaders, most of big business, the BBC, and President Obama” as opposed to Britain leaving the EU.

This is immediately questionable. His inclusion of the BBC – an avowedly politically neutral organization, especially on such big questions as this – reveals that he is taking things as read from the beginning. He offers no evidence as to why he believes the BBC has abandoned neutrality. But here’s the point he’s making:

The case for staying in the EU is strong, but in a world of soundbites and political celebrity endorsements it appears as though facts and reasonable arguments are hard to come by.

Yes. Apparently party leaders and world leaders’ specific and carefully articulated positions on the major political issue of the day can be dismissed as “political celebrity endorsements”.  Of course, such “endorsements” are merely throwaway. They don’t include any facts or reasonable arguments, do they?

Well, judge for yourself. Here’s David Cameron on why we should stay in. Here’s Jeremy Corbyn. Here’s President Obama. And, because I’m a Lib Dem, here’s Tim Farron. I’m not sure any of those speeches can be accused of being mere “soundbites”.

So for a number of weeks I have been trying to find out as much as I could before finally making up my mind.  What I have discovered has astounded me – and also disturbed me how little of this information is actually being discussed in the public square.

I’m forced to question how hard you are looking if you think there is “little information” to be found. But then if you feel that the BBC is not a reliable source of information, it may indeed  be challenging to find the kind of stuff you want.


Robertson then outlines (and I mean outlines) the case for remaining in the EU. He does this in a remarkably succinct 281 words across six short paragraphs. For example:

Borders – Freedom to travel without passports. The removal of borders. The right to live, work and study in any other EU countries. These are surely great benefits.  I love being European. I consider myself European and I loathe what is sometimes called the ‘Little Englander’ mentality.

We don’t have the freedom to travel without passports, as the UK is not part of the Schengen Agreement. Moreover, there has not been a “removal of borders” even within Schengen, as the recent refugee crisis has shown; it is entirely possible for countries to reintroduce border controls when they wish, and they have done very recently.

Human rights. Hasn’t the EU been a bastion of human rights and workers rights? Despite its weaknesses the European Charter on Human Rights has been a positive thing.

The European Convention on Human Rights predates the EU and is separate to it. Staying in doesn’t guarantee that we keep it – and the Tory manifesto said they would scrap it. Irrelevant.

President Obama – ok perhaps he shouldn’t have come here and interfered in our affairs, but perhaps his warning is apposite. If Britain withdraws from the EU we cannot be guaranteed favourable trading arrangements with anyone.

The second sentence here is not what President Obama said at all. But then in order to know what he actually did say, you’d have to read his full remarks rather than dismissing them as just another soundbite from one of the most powerful and articulate men in the global public square.

I’ve undermined half of Robertson’s “case for Remain” there. Why would I do that, as someone who clearly favours staying in the EU? Because I want to show the lack of thought and effort – and the slanted approach – that has gone into his purportedly tentative, “instinctively pro-EU” post. If the Remain case can be so easily misrepresented, what about the Leave case? Let’s find out.


Robertson’s approach is to take each point he has raised for Remain and score them against the opposing view. So here we go.

Peace– The ‘outers’ would argue that whilst there has been peace within Europe (if you leave aside the small matter of the Balkans) this has been guaranteed more by NATO and the need to stand against the communist Eastern Bloc than anything else. Besides which European nations have been involved in more than 100 wars throughout the globe in the past 70 years. As for Islamic terrorism they would point out that this ‘security’ does not appear to be working too well at the moment, and with the arrival of millions of Muslim immigrants it is more, not less, likely that Islamic terrorism will increase within Europe. The almost inevitable defeat of Islamic State, will not kill of Islamist terrorism, it will only make it more resentful and more deadly.

 Score: Overall I think this is a win for those who want to stay in. European nations acting together are more likely to maintain peaceful relations and deal with Islamist terrorism.

This is a good start. He comes to a surprisingly balanced conclusion, although there is little serious discussion here of the scaremongering rhetoric of the Leave campaign in advancing their view. Given he will later go on to criticise what he calls “Project Fear”, it would have been interesting to know what he thinks about Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that we will suffer a “Paris-style attack” if we stay in the EU.

Prosperity – As regards prosperity they ridicule the Treasury figure of £4,300. The Treasury’s ‘report’ was as The Spectator observed ‘perhaps the most dishonest document ever produced by HM Treasury’. It dressed up GDP as household income in order to deceive people and avoided the real figure of £1,480. However even that is a meaningless figure. Chancellor George Osbourne keeps bringing forth Treasury projections for which he now has a 100% record. Of failure. As he admitted in 2010 the Treasury is not much good at economic forecasting.

Mr Robertson earlier complained about the lack of “facts and reasonable argument” in the debate. He derides the Treasury forecasts on the costs of leaving the EU. Of course, he is right that Treasury forecasts are often wrong – although George Osborne set up an independent Office for Budget Responsibility precisely to avoid the sense that Chancellors can influence economic forecasts.

However, there is a wider point to be made here. The Treasury’s argument may be flawed, but it is based on rigorous research and complex economic modelling. I’m not sure that appealing to the Spectator (a famously neutral right-wing rag formerly edited by one Boris Johnson) really gets to the heart of why the Treasury is definitely, absolutely wrong.

By contrast, what has the Leave campaign produced? Mr Robertson is about to tell us.

The Outers argue that Britain would be freed from EU bureaucracy and regulations and would be able to trade both with the EU and with the wider world and that we would be better off. Food and fuel would almost certainly be cheaper and the British government might actually be able to do something about saving the steel industry, if they wanted to.

We can already trade both with the EU and the wider world. A good example is David Cameron’s slavish attempts to build a closer trading relationship with China. Part of the reason we are able to do the business we are doing is because we are members of a powerful trading bloc.

“Food and fuel would almost certainly be cheaper.” This may be true. However, it would probably be because of the total removal of regulations on food safety and the use of pesticides. As Paddy Ashdown recently said, too, leaving the EU would probably signal the end of British agriculture.

As for steel, the British government actually argued against recent EU attempts to raise tariffs on Chinese steel dumping. In other words, they stopped the EU doing something that would have protected the British steel industry. Here’s a Daily Telegraph article on the subject (in case the BBC is too biased for your liking).

Furthermore there is the not insignificant fact that we pay £13 billion into the EU treasury each year and get £4.5 billion back (that is with our rebate – without it we would be paying £18 billion). Whilst there are risks in leaving, what seldom seems to be mentioned is that there are as many if not greater risks in staying. The Italian banks have a 360 million Euro black hole, the Greek economy is still devastated and Spain and Portugal are not much better.

For someone who claims to have sympathy with a progressive political agenda – certainly in economic terms – this is a particularly bizarre paragraph. The suggestion is that we should get back more than we pay in to a club where we are one of the wealthiest members. That would be redistribution away from the poorest nations to the richest. Is that really what Mr Robertson wants?

Some more facts. 79% of business activity in the UK is internal. 11% of our GDP is with the rest of the world (and increasing) only 10% with the EU (decreasing). No one believes that this trade would cease.

Actually, quite a big part of the Remain campaign’s case is that much of this trade would be under threat. We buy much more from the EU than we sell. We are not in a good negotiating position. And business is already suffering significantly due merely to the uncertainty of just having a referendum, let alone the result. 10% of our GDP is an enormous amount to create uncertainty over – it cannot be so easily dismissed.

The EU is a declining market – from 36% of the worlds GDP in 1973 (when we joined) to 17% now.   The EU determines who we trade with elsewhere in the world and on what terms, because individual countries are not allowed to do so. Note this simple point – for the sake of 10% of our business we have to apply 100% of EU rules to 100% of our business.

The bit in bold is correct, but that doesn’t make the bit in italics (my addition) right. Just because our businesses must abide by EU regulations does not mean we cannot trade with other countries on our own terms, and in fact we do so all the time. Look at China again – our government has brokered recent bilateral deals with the Chinese government on nuclear power plants, an Asian investment bank, long-stay visas for tourists, and much else. It is the purest nonsense to say that the EU “determines who we trade with elsewhere in the world”.

What about the three million jobs that are dependent on being in the EU? Daniel Hannan points out how deceitful that claim is: Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our trade with the EU.’ The dishonesty of this claim is staggering. It is based on the same false idea that Britain would stop trading with the EU if it were not a member. Why? No one argues that we have to form a political union with, say, Brazil or Russia in order to do business with those countries. The economist from whose work the figure was taken, Dr Martin Weale, has said: ‘In many years of academic research, I cannot recall such a wilful distortion of the facts.’”

I agree that the 3 million figure is deceitful and should not be used, which puts me at odds with some members of my own party. However, the point of the claim is to demonstrate what is being put at risk by the possibility of leaving the EU. The onus is not on the Remain campaign to prove that every job would be lost; it is on the Leave campaign to prove that they have a plan to maintain our beneficial trade relationship with the EU when we leave. So far, they have completely failed to do that – suggesting at different times that we could be like Norway, or Iceland, or Canada, or even Albania, but never actually proposing a concrete plan.

Mr Robertson then praises this video, saying he “loved” it:

The statement that this man makes has no relevance to anything. It sounds very vaguely plausible but lacks any kind of detail. It’s a great example of how “soundbites” can trump “facts and reasonable argument”, wouldn’t you say?

Right, that’s enough about economics. Let’s do immigration!

Borders – This is probably a clear win for the Outers.   There is no way that Britain can control its own borders if it is within the EU.   The freedom to travel, live, work and study does not just apply to the Western European nations but now to the Central and Eastern European nations which make up a significant number of the 28 member countries. This has already had a significant impact on Britain and will continue to do so. The millions of immigrants/refugees are one factor but by far the biggest factor is the proposed entry of Turkey.   This has been hastened by the refugee crisis and the difficulties of Merkel and the German government, who’s commendable but ill thought out policy as resulted in some quick back tracking and some hasty promises to Turkey.

There are so many problems with this. The most obvious is that Britain can and does control its own borders. We chose to remain members of the EEC in 1975, knowing that that included free movement of labour, which has been part of the European settlement since the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Opening up our country to EU workers was therefore an entirely British decision.

Moreover, there is abundant evidence to suggest that EU immigration is a net benefit to the UK’s economy (Economist, Financial Times). It is the UK-born population that is a net cost! Also, forecasts that suggest a post-Brexit UK can succeed tend to rely heavily on high levels of immigration, so those who advocate Leave on the basis of “border control” must choose between prosperity and the “little Englander mentality” Mr Robertson earlier claimed to deprecate.

Moreover, new members of the EU are subject to transitional controls, and in any case, the scaremongering about swarms of Bulgarians and Romanians arriving on Britain’s shores has proved to be precisely that.

Finally, Turkey has been a candidate for EU membership since 1999, and in accession negotiations since 2005. In those 11 years, it has closed precisely one of the 35 chapters required to complete the accession process. The probability of Turkish accession in the next decade was very low even before the current crisis, and it is rapidly diminishing given the increasingly authoritarian actions of President Erdogan.

Influence: This seems a no brainer. You can’t influence something if you are not in it… But in reality our influence is very limited. We have been outvoted 40 times in the past five years and we only have 3.6% of EU Commissioners.   In fact we have voted 70 times against proposed EU legislation and we have lost 70 times. Some influence! David Cameron’s EU renegoiations got almost nothing. As regards influence we now have no vote and no voice in the vital World Trade Organisation – where instead we are represented as one 28th of the EU by a Swedish sociology lecturer!

Influence cannot be measured by the number of votes you win or lose; if it were, we should probably just give up on democracy entirely. Moreover, it depends very much on the nature of the vote as to whether the result means anything. Perhaps one of the reasons the UK might lose votes in the EU is because we’ve been trying to make 27 other countries do what we want from a position of arrogant weakness, rather than working with them for the good of the entire community.

Similarly, judging influence in the European Commission by percentages is very silly. It’s very simple and straightforward – each member state gets one commissioner.The UK’s current commissioner, Lord Hill, happens to be in charge of financial services and the capital markets union, one of the biggest and most important innovations in EU policy in decades – and one that will greatly favour the UK as the financial powerhouse of Europe (if we stay in).

If you are looking for proportionality of representation you could look, for instance, at the European Parliament, where the UK, a country with around 12% of the EU’s population, has just under 10% of the seats. It’s not perfect, but it allows small nations to have a slightly higher share of influence – again, something a progressive could, in theory, welcome.

If you seriously want to consider the UK’s influence in the EU, you should look at the success we have in securing the policies we want. And as it turns out – rather unsurprisingly, given we are one of the largest member states by both population and economy – we do pretty well at that. Mr Robertson could consider reading British Influence’s annual report on, erm, British influence, as a corrective.

Finally, the UK is a member of the WTO in its own right – as are all EU member states. The EU is also a member, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own representations, and neither does it mean that we are in any sense “represented” solely by an EU delegate. Neither is there anything wrong with being a Swedish sociology lecturer.

The EU is not just a market – it seeks to be a superstate and has increasing regulations that affect everything. Just think of this one (of thousands of examples) – the British parliament wanted to stop charging VAT on sanitary towels (as it was quite reasonably pointed out they are not a luxury item), but were told that they could not do so because it was against EU regulations.   This in the very week that David Cameron was negotiating for a new deal!

A single market involves the creation of new regulations. The way business operates continually changes – just think of the way digital technology is constantly shaking up the way we purchase and use goods and services. The test is whether the regulations are useful and worthwhile, and prevent harm to citizens and workers. I note that Mr Robertson makes no attempt whatsoever to interrogate this question.

As to the sanitary towels issue, he clearly hasn’t been paying too much attention. It was announced over a month ago that the UK government had secured a deal in the EU to allow VAT to be removed from tampons. It turns out that if the UK wants to achieve something constructive it can use its EU membership to convince other governments to act.

Human Rights – There are of course quirks in the European Convention on Human Rights but overall I think it is a good thing. But here is the surprising thing for many people. It is not a product of the EU but rather of the Council of Europe, which if Britain left the EU, we would still belong to, and therefore we would still be a signatory to the ECHR. That simple fact destroys the In argument.

We are through the looking glass. I can’t honestly think of a single time I have heard a Remain campaigner claim that this is a relevant point to the referendum. Mr Robertson is either confused or is deliberately spinning what is actually the Leave campaign’s poor understanding of European institutions.

A more interesting question, though, is whether the UK would remain a signatory to the ECHR if it left the EU. Given that the current UK government has already signalled its intention to scrap the ECHR, and Home Secretary Theresa May reiterated her approval for that policy only this week, perhaps encouraging the public to abandon EU membership is unwise if you wish to protect the UK’s proud historic commitment to human rights and justice. Just a thought.

Overall my score is 4:1 in favour of leaving. Before we come on to point six, which for me was the tipping point, let me mention a couple of other reasons that it is very difficult to support staying in the EU.

Yes, that seems fair. After all, the Remain side got a detailed hearing where their careful arguments were considered closely and attentively.

Democracy – Anyone who believes in democracy cannot vote to remain in the EU, at least not without shutting their eyes and crossing their fingers. The EU is fundamentally NOT a democratic institution. Indeed it is anti-democratic. The power in the EU lies not with the parliament but in the unelected EU Commissioners.   Twice in the past five years the EU has removed a democratically elected government (in Italy and Greece) and appointed Brussels-approved technocrats. Tony Benn got the situation spot on. Once you have rulers who you cannot get rid of then you no longer live in a democracy. The lack of democracy means that there is a lack of accountability and therefore greater opportunity for corruption.

The EU has no power to remove national governments. In no way is Mr Robertson’s representation of the politics of Italy and Greece aligned with reality. The people of those countries voted in elections and governments were formed as a result. There may have been turbulence and the formation of technocratic administrations – but those were due to internal upheaval both political and economic. If anything, in Greece’s case, the changes of government (particularly the election that gave Syriza a majority) were exactly the opposite of what the EU might have wanted.

Mr Robertson’s representation of the democratic stature of the EU is also a caricature. The EU is more democratic than the UK. I recommend that he read this post, and in particular the section entitled “How democratic is Europe?” for a thorough, if fluffy, upbraiding education.

His post also completely fails to examine the nature of “democracy” in the UK, and to question whether removing ourselves from the EU would actually give citizens any more power. I would have to carefully consider a Leave vote if the alternative on offer was a more democratic UK political settlement. However, that is just not on the table, and instead to vote Leave would, in my view, hand even more power to an even smaller group of power brokers and politicians who already benefit from an absurd, broken and sometimes non-existent constitution.

Corruption – Corruption is rife within the EU.

This is the only section of Mr Robertson’s post that holds water. He is entirely right to condemn some of the EU’s wasteful behaviour. The right thing to do in response is not to simply turn our backs on a flawed institution though; that would be to allow this kind of behaviour to go unchecked and unreformed.

What kind of nation wanting influence and the good of all does that? We should seek to be a positive influence in the EU to weed out corruption and ensure that money is spent well and wisely on good endeavours. That’s real influence, sorely needed and likely to be welcomed by other member states as well as the wider world. But perhaps we are too parochial – too “little Englander” – to see it.


So what’s left? Well, it turns out that there is one thing that really has got Mr Robertson’s back up:

Doesn’t President Obama’s intervention make a difference? Yes it does.   I was swaying towards ‘leave’; Obama’s intervention has tipped me over the edge. Here’s why.

Ok. This should be interesting.

His intervention is enormously significant – not because his points have any substance (as we shall see), but because of the fact that he made them at all. Such a direct intervention in another countries internal politics is almost unprecedented. Why did he do it? I was amazed at how many people were naïve enough to say that ‘he’s just expressing his opinion and everyone is entitled to do that’. No. He is the President of the USA and his concern is with the USA. He was not doing David Cameron a favour; he was looking after his own and his countries [sic] interests.

This is not our country’s “internal politics”. This is our country’s decision to make on our membership of an external, supranational institution that carries influence and power far beyond its borders. It is an institution that is at the very heart of the political and economic world. Mr Robertson has some nerve to talk about naivety when in the very same paragraph he’s claiming that the UK’s membership of the EU is merely an “internal” matter.

As for looking after his own and his country’s interests: that is his job. David Cameron has made many statements about other countries in the past. Is Mr Robertson seriously suggesting that it is not the job of Prime Ministers and Presidents to use their office to influence the course of international political affairs? Are we to think that Cameron and Obama should keep their mouths shut when their counterparts gas their own people, imprison journalists and political dissidents, start wars or abolish elections?

And anyway, can’t two countries’ interests align? It’s entirely possible that two mature democracies on either side of the Atlantic have a mutual interest in Britain maintaining its position.

There are two reasons why it is important to America that Britain remains in the EU. Firstly we are America’s voice in the EU. America says ‘jump’, and we ask ‘how high?’. The ‘special’ relationship has become a subservient one. Obama came as the Master to threaten us and tell us what to do.

This is just conjecture based on no “facts and reasonable argument” at all. Where is the proof that we are doing the US’ bidding in the EU? Mr Robertson has just claimed that Obama only cares about his own affairs. Well, if so, why is he supporting our membership of a club that helps to maintain London’s financial supremacy? If London were to lose its competitive advantage, a US city like New York might well be a beneficiary.

Secondly Obama was representing the interests of corporate America. Perhaps because he believes that is best for his country and the world. Perhaps because corporate America funds corporate politics in the US, and Obama owes them.  So the question is why would corporate America want Britain to stay in the EU? It all has to do with TTIP. Obama wants it passed, ASAP, so that it can become his legacy. He made this quite clear.

More conjecture. Lots of “perhaps”. This is the opposite of illuminating.

I am astonished that so few of our media picked up on the main issue here.  They have presented it as though we already have a trade agreement with the US (at least through the EU) and they regard President Obama’s threat as somehow substantial. Anyone reading the papers or watching the BBC would think, ‘oh no, the Americans will withdraw from trading with us and we will all be worse off’.   The only problem is that we currently don’t have a trade agreement with the US, and we NEVER have! And yet trade goes on. We have lasted 60 years without one – and we will continue to trade without one. If we are at the back of the queue for a TTIP style agreement, so what?

This isn’t how it’s been presented at all. The point of President Obama’s comments is precisely to address the Leave campaign’s claim. The Leave campaign claims that should we leave the EU, the UK will be able to do lots of juicy trade deals with the rest of the world in ten minutes flat, no trouble at all, Bob’s your uncle and so on.

This is yet another reason why Obama is qualified to comment, by the way. He is the leader of the world’s largest economy, and the one that the Leave campaign would most like us to do business with. The point Obama is making is that it is not within the UK’s power to leave the EU and then force everyone else to make a deal with them.

For the hard of thinking: it is the Leave campaign that claims trade agreements are vital and that the UK could forge one with major economies like the US quickly after leaving the EU. Obama’s intervention is powerful because it cuts the Leave campaign’s legs from under it.

[TTIP] is clearly very important to [Obama] – and to the American political and economic establishment? Why?

What is TTIP? It is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which cuts tariffs and regulatory barriers between the US and Europe. Sounds good? Think again… This is big business in league with big government (whom they pay for – especially in the US) trying to circumvent democracy and the rule of law…

<long excerpt from Independent article>

TTIP is a difficult issue. That’s why it’s already been in negotiations for more than five years, and why it is far from concluded. But Mr Robertson’s objections to it, on the basis of the Independent article he quotes at length, do not chime with the rest of his argument.

Earlier on, you’ll remember (possibly), he claimed that one of the main problems with the EU was how its regulations restricted the UK economy and foisted all sorts of nasty rules on British businesses.

However, the vast majority of the points made in the Independent article he quotes are warning precisely the opposite: that EU regulations on things like public services, food safety, environmental safety and workers’ rights could be undermined, putting citizens at risk and reducing the quality of goods and services. He can’t have it both ways: either EU regulations are too onerous or they’re so great that we should defend them from the villainous Americans at all costs.

But it’s all a load of rubbish anyway. TTIP is one of the most misunderstood negotiations in history, partly because people tend to retweet and repost hysterical memes about dry economic/political talks rather than bothering to look at the detail. This leaflet from the EU Commission is a good place to start if you actually want to understand what TTIP does and why it is a good idea.

Mr Robertson finishes this section with a final blast:

This is the issue. We don’t get to vote on TTIP. We can’t vote on it. And in the EU our elected politicians can’t vote on it. Obama came here, at the behest of his corporate paymasters, to try and save an agreement which will bypass democratic governments and hand even more power and wealth to the big corporations.

Not a single word of this is correct. As above, if anything, President Obama came here to correct a false claim being made by the Leave campaign.

We in the UK have voted on the principle of TTIP by electing successive governments which were both committed to the EU, to a strong relationship with the US, and to free trade in general. What’s more:

  • EU member states are consulted at every stage of TTIP negotiations.
  • Once the final TTIP text is ready, it will be subject to all 28 member states’ governments and a public consultation.
  • It will then be voted on by both member states’ governments and the EU Parliament before it can be adopted.

When you are negotiating something as big as a trade agreement between two enormous economies, you don’t have votes every five minutes. But nonetheless, the TTIP process is pretty transparent. If Mr Robertson wanted to, he could read all sorts of interesting information, including negotiating texts and factsheets, here.


So why did I write nearly 6,000 words on Mr Robertson’s blog post? 

Because when someone claims at the top of such an article that they are committed to trying to find out the “facts and reasonable arguments” on an issue, and then proceeds to advocate leaving the EU on the basis of a mixture of myths and inaccuracies, I cannot and should not stay silent.

There is, in fact, a case to be made for leaving the EU, as I suggested above. Mr Robertson’s warning over the gradual decrease in British democracy and the rise of EU technocrats has some merit. There would have been a real chance for change had the Leave campaign focused on the former of those points, and attempted to attract those of us who are committed to democracy.

But we are very far from that. The Leave campaign is not even committed to the truth.


POSTSCRIPT: I didn’t intend to address fully the political discussion at the end of Mr Robertson’s article. But there is one bit I must object to:

The Lib-Dems – are of course pro-EU. It is an article of faith for them – even when the EU is going in such an anti-liberal, undemocratic direction.   But wait. There is a real shock here. One of my political heroes, Lord David Owen, founder member of the SDP, Europhile has announced that he is an Outer! David Owen Wants Out of the EU

That is like Nicola Sturgeon announcing that she wants Scotland to remain in the UK! IF David Owen wants out of the EU, we need to ask why!

I’ve discussed why the “anti-liberal, undemocratic” descriptor is so much nonsense. But here, yet again, Mr Robertson fails to do some basic fact-checking. David Owen was never a Liberal Democrat. He objected to the creation of the party and chose instead to carry on as leader of the SDP, before winding up as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords. He’s since disgraced himself many times over, not least by campaigning against AV in the 2011 referendum.

Yep – it’s another sad failure to seek out and understand the facts.

 

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Fisking anti-EU myths: a task Canute would wisely avoid

  1. Tom,

    I don’t have the time to respond point by point in detail to everything you say. Thanks for taking the time to do that to mine. I am very happy for people to read your response because in a strange kind of way it proves mine! If people believe, as you do, that TTIP is an open process, and that the EU is more democratic than the UK, then I guess there is nothing more I can say. Its impossible for me to argue against such blind faith. But I suspect most readers will have more sense than that.

    If you don’t mind I don’t have the time to respond to everything – however I will try to quickly go through your post. That seems only fair.

    1) I don’t agree the BBC is neutral and I think any analysis of their coverage of this issue would show that.
    2) I have read the speeches by the leaders you mentioned – indeed my post was largely inspired by them. They are largely meaningless rhetoric.
    3) Thanks for pointing out the things wrong with my summary of the positives of the EU – I did that later but its good to have it reinforced. The main one being of course that voting to leave the EU does not mean abandoning human rights.
    4) Thanks for pointing out that Osbourne set up an independent office for budget responsibility, but you forgot to mention that he did not use this ‘independent’ source for his figures, but his own department. Instead you assure us that the Treasuries figures are based on ‘rigorous research’ and ‘complex economic modelling’. I love your faith in Osbourne – not something I share. But I also note that you use the typical language of people who want to assure us that everything is fine in the EU. You make an assertion and when asked to back it up with some kind of evidence, just make another assertion. And then just to back that up – you use ad hominem (Spectator= right wing = therefore do not listen to anything they say)…. Lets go on to look at some of your other assertions (I am struggling to find any backed up by any actual evidence – which given you took 6,000 words to respond is actually quite a feat!).
    5) Yes – we do trade with other countries – more than we do with the EU – and that would continue. I stated that. So why do you use it as though I were stating the opposite. What I did state is that we are NOT allowed to have separate trade agreements – all those have to be done through the EU and apply to the whole EU. And yes – this does mean that we cannot trade with other countries outwith the EU on our own terms. Sometimes your argument borders on the fanciful – but it is directly contradicted by the law!

    6) This would be the end of British agriculture? Evidence? Paddy Ashdown says so! Guess that’s it then. Don’t bother pointing out that before we entered the CAP we had British agriculture, or that we pay twice as much in subsidies to the CAP than we receive.
    7) I never suggested we should receive more from the EU than we give. I pointed out the imbalance in order to deal with the number one argument of Project Fear – we will be worse off if we are out. I notice that the government and their establishment supporters then change the subject and make it sound as though giving to the EU is like supporting a charity for the poor – rather than financing Brussels bureaucrats and EU corruption.
    8) Not quite sure I get your point about the economy. Yes we do buy more from the EU than we sell. Your point? Do you think they would stop selling to us?!
    9) You state re the video ‘the statement this man makes has no relevance to anything’. That’s just another assertion – again without evidence. If you restricted yourself to avoiding the assertions your post would have been a lot shorter. His statement is directly relevant to the question of the deficit. He may be wrong but for you to be so dismissive indicates a real weakness in your argument.
    10) We don’t control our own borders. We cannot decide to close them to EU members. That may or may not be a good thing. But it cannot be described as being in control of our own borders. Its like me saying to someone – you can have access to my home and bank account whenever you want – but because I gave you that access I still control my own home and bank account. Please don’t play with words if you are seeking to convince.
    11) Another tactic is to ignore evidence. You say that Turkey is less likely to come in – another assertion with no evidence – when I provided evidence that Cameron amongst others wants Turkey in.
    12) I did read British Influence’s report. And I was not convinced. Again assertion seems to make up a large part of it. My figures still stand – in 40 years we have not been able to bring about any meaningful reform in the EU – we have as much influence as Slovenia!
    13) You miss the point about the tampons. It is not that the EU finally acted (whether to help the UK or not) – it is that it is ridiculous that we couldn’t act on such an issue without approval from the EU. That is micro management of the economy by unelected bureaucrats on a ridiculous level. Basically you are defending the fact that elected British MPs cannot set the VAT rate on tampons, but unelected EU commissioners can!
    14) Your point about human rights (I can’t remember a single time when a Remain campaigner used this) reminds me of the football manager who just ‘didn’t see whether it was a penalty or not’. This argument is used all the time – not least in the latest viral video ‘what has the ECHR ever done for us”
    15) And I love your version of history. Russia of course did not invade Ukraine, it was Russian Ukrainian patriots, nor take over Crimea, it was a spontanteous uprising against oppression. And the EU did not overthrow the governments of Greece and Italy and form technocracies. It was the spontanteous working of the Greek and Italian political systems! Again assertions (in the face of facts) without any evidence.
    16) But then we move into the realm of complete fantasy – ‘The EU is more democratic than the UK’. I had to read that twice because I thought it was a misprint. Its even better when you provide your ‘evidence’ a blog which makes Pravda seem truthful and based on fact! Anyone who asks ‘Ask yourself, do you believe that Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson are acting in your interests or in their own?” as a reason for their assertion has already lost the argument. Apart from the fact that he is asking people to make a judgement based entirely on feeling about people they do not know – the same could be applied to David Cameron and Osbourne!

    17) But if all else fails – bring faith. The EU is corrupt but just have faith that we can change it. End of story.

    18) Re your defence of President Obama – could you let me know any time that a democratic leader has sought to interfere and publicly expressed views seeking to influence an American election, based on their trade arrangements with Canada, Mexico, or China?

    19) It is accepted by us, and by the rest of the EU, and openly touted by the US that we are their ‘friends’ in the EU. Is there anyone who disputes that?

    20) TTIP is not speculation. Obama has stated that he wants it. Indeed he stated that was one of his purposes coming here. And again you didn’t answer the question about trade. We currently don’t have a trade agreement with the US – and we never have. So why would trade not continue?

    21) If you can’t present evidence then just argue against what is not being said. You argue against things I did not say about TTIP. What I did say you can read for yourself, but to sum it up….TTIP is a secretive deal which will hand power to corporations rather than peoples or states.

    22) And another assertion. TTIP is misunderstood. Evidence – a leaflet from the EU Commission! That noteworthy trusted democratic body! But the fantasy is in deep – did you know that we have ‘already’ voted on TTIP by voting in a British government committed to the EU? Try to unpack that ‘reasoning’. It goes along with the TTIP is ‘transparent’…Orwell’s 1984 use of language comes to mind. I have read by the way many things on TTIP, including the propaganda you put forward.

    23) You accuse me of not seeking out the ‘facts’ about the Lib-Dems and David Owen. I never said he was a Lib Dem. I mentioned the fact that he formed the SDP (which eventually merged with the Liberals into the Lib Dems), because he was so pro-EU. And now he is against. He is a thoughtful and interesting politician. You don’t have to agree with him, but just simply to cry ‘Judas’, weakens your already weak case.

    It was very kind of you to write 6,000 words in order to correct my ‘myths’. But you wasted your time because with a couple of exceptions you have provided only assertions without evidence. Once you are reduced to ‘its true because Paddy Ashdown says so’ ‘TIPP is transparent’ and ‘The unelected EU commission is more democratic than the UK’, you have lost your case. Which is a shame, because I could be persuaded on this. It has taken me a long time to come to my position and I have changed several times in the course of that. If you had provided me with evidence, reason and facts then you could have won me over. But instead you have provided bluster, assertion, very little evidence, ad hominem, nit-picking and general fantasies. When I began to look at the evidence for all of this, it was your kind of reasoning which has driven me more and more to realise that both the UK and Europe would be better if the UK was out of the EU superstate. Thanks for confirming my ‘final’ decision.

    Like

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, David. I have to say I don’t think you have really tried to engage objectively with the points I have made, but I appreciate the effort you have gone to in responding. I will try to respond to your points in as clear a way as possible, although comment systems are never that conducive.

      “1) I don’t agree the BBC is neutral and I think any analysis of their coverage of this issue would show that.”

      It’s good to have that confirmed. That’s an assertion, not evidence. I think that most people would agree that the BBC at least attempts neutrality on most issues – far more than the few publications you cite (such as the Spectator). The fact that you choose to dismiss the BBC out of hand suggests that you are willing to dismiss carefully written and well researched journalism.

      “2) I have read the speeches by the leaders you mentioned – indeed my post was largely inspired by them. They are largely meaningless rhetoric.

      3) Thanks for pointing out the things wrong with my summary of the positives of the EU – I did that later but its good to have it reinforced. The main one being of course that voting to leave the EU does not mean abandoning human rights.”

      If that’s the case, you should have based your post on the actual arguments being put forward by proponents for EU membership, rather than a caricature of their position.

      The reason I chose to point out what was wrong with your summary of the positives is that you were setting up a straw man. Instead of honestly representing the Remain campaign’s position, you claim that it is suggesting we would abandon human rights by leaving the EU. That is a total misrepresentation.

      The reason people are defending the ECHR and warning that we are risking abandoning human rights is because the current government has stated its intention to withdraw from the ECHR – SEPARATELY from the wider EU referendum. So it is an even more real danger than the danger of Brexit. We are fighting on two fronts because we have to.

      “4) Thanks for pointing out that Osbourne set up an independent office for budget responsibility, but you forgot to mention that he did not use this ‘independent’ source for his figures, but his own department. Instead you assure us that the Treasuries figures are based on ‘rigorous research’ and ‘complex economic modelling’. I love your faith in Osbourne – not something I share. But I also note that you use the typical language of people who want to assure us that everything is fine in the EU. You make an assertion and when asked to back it up with some kind of evidence, just make another assertion. And then just to back that up – you use ad hominem (Spectator= right wing = therefore do not listen to anything they say)…. Lets go on to look at some of your other assertions (I am struggling to find any backed up by any actual evidence – which given you took 6,000 words to respond is actually quite a feat!).”

      I have no faith in George Osborne. The Tories are one of the reasons we are in this mess in the first place – their obsession with Europe has wasted huge amounts of time on something that is ultimately irrelevant in comparison to domestic issues and other foreign policy matters such as the threat of a powerful, aggressive dictator on Europe’s doorstep.

      You are actually accusing me of doing exactly what you are doing. You make no effort in your original blog post to analyse the Treasury’s detailed output. Instead, you rely on commentary by a publication that is (in contrast to the BBC) avowedly non-neutral.

      Like you, I have limited time, but for the benefit of anyone still reading they can read the full Treasury document here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/517415/treasury_analysis_economic_impact_of_eu_membership_web.pdf

      Anyone who chooses to actually read the Treasury’s document in full will realise that the final numbers are less important than the argument that is being made, which is detailed, nuanced and complex. That is unsurprising given the complexity of international economics. Let’s be serious about this. You are an important figure in this discussion, and you have power to sway others. If you intend to use that power well, you should seriously engage with all the arguments being made, in detail.

      “5) Yes – we do trade with other countries – more than we do with the EU – and that would continue. I stated that. So why do you use it as though I were stating the opposite. What I did state is that we are NOT allowed to have separate trade agreements – all those have to be done through the EU and apply to the whole EU. And yes – this does mean that we cannot trade with other countries outwith the EU on our own terms. Sometimes your argument borders on the fanciful – but it is directly contradicted by the law!”

      My point is that no one in the Remain campaign is claiming we don’t trade with other countries, nor that we require trade agreements to do so. It is the Leave campaign that keeps talking about creating new trade agreements.

      It is also completely untrue that we are not allowed to have separate trade agreements done bilaterally rather than the EU. Please give a source for this claim, as it flies in the face of the evidence. Just look at our recent dealings with China (which I mentioned in the post) for some of that evidence.

      “6) This would be the end of British agriculture? Evidence? Paddy Ashdown says so! Guess that’s it then. Don’t bother pointing out that before we entered the CAP we had British agriculture, or that we pay twice as much in subsidies to the CAP than we receive.”

      Don’t take my word for it. Have a look at what the head of the National Farmers’ Union has to say about EU membership: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-3555458/Sorry-Boris-Brexit-WON-T-make-food-cheaper-Farmers-leader-EU-need-migrant-workers.html

      He gives a very balanced but ultimately pro-EU view.

      “7) I never suggested we should receive more from the EU than we give. I pointed out the imbalance in order to deal with the number one argument of Project Fear – we will be worse off if we are out. I notice that the government and their establishment supporters then change the subject and make it sound as though giving to the EU is like supporting a charity for the poor – rather than financing Brussels bureaucrats and EU corruption.”

      Being worse off is not merely financial, although you haven’t seriously engaged with the economic arguments raised by the Treasury as discussed above. The amount we pay in and get out is a very bad measure of the benefits of EU membership. It is like comparing the amount rich people pay in tax to the amount poor people pay in tax, and concluding that rich people get a bad deal.

      I have been open about the fact that the EU could spend its money better and more transparently, but there is a reason lots of Central and Eastern European countries are desperate to join – it is because the money they receive is essential in moving their economies forward. You only need to look at the improvements in Poland’s economic performance, for example, to realise the power of EU membership. Similarly, going across the border from Croatia to Bosnia makes the difference painfully apparent.

      8) Not quite sure I get your point about the economy. Yes we do buy more from the EU than we sell. Your point? Do you think they would stop selling to us?!

      Again, the point I am making is in response to the farcical claims from the Leave campaign that the EU will be falling over itself to do a deal with us post-Brexit. They make this claim based on the fact that we buy more from the EU than we sell to it. It is like saying I buy more from Sainsbury’s than they do from me so they will be desperate to keep my business.

      We need a deal with the EU post-Brexit – everyone acknowledges this – but it is an open question as to what kind of deal the Leave campaign actually wants. Michael Gove, for example, recently suggested we could have a deal similar to Albania’s (https://next.ft.com/content/d0e88d1a-0624-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce) – hardly something that fills me with confidence.

      That I have to explain this suggests that you have not yet fully grasped the key issues at the heart of the referendum campaign – on either side.

      “9) You state re the video ‘the statement this man makes has no relevance to anything’. That’s just another assertion – again without evidence. If you restricted yourself to avoiding the assertions your post would have been a lot shorter. His statement is directly relevant to the question of the deficit. He may be wrong but for you to be so dismissive indicates a real weakness in your argument.”

      It’s a video showing a quote from someone whose credentials we have no idea about and whose workings we also cannot unravel from his brief comment. It’s a nice soundbite, at best. I’d love to be able to take it seriously, but come on. Let’s get real.

      “10) We don’t control our own borders. We cannot decide to close them to EU members. That may or may not be a good thing. But it cannot be described as being in control of our own borders. Its like me saying to someone – you can have access to my home and bank account whenever you want – but because I gave you that access I still control my own home and bank account. Please don’t play with words if you are seeking to convince.”

      Leaving the EU is unlikely to change the amount of control we have over our borders. Look at Norway – they are in the European Economic Agreement and they have not only accepted free movement of labour but they are actually part of Schengen. They are not EU members but have less control of their borders than we do as part of it. The same is true of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland.

      The Leave campaign has regularly suggested that we would replace our EU membership with an agreement similar to Norway’s – that might mean more EU immigrants coming here. I’m not sure that’s entirely what many people in favour of Brexit expect or would want. Do you?

      11) Another tactic is to ignore evidence. You say that Turkey is less likely to come in – another assertion with no evidence – when I provided evidence that Cameron amongst others wants Turkey in.

      There’s a difference between wanting Turkey to join the EU – as I do, and as many leaders in Europe do – and actually being able to make it happen. Your post suggested their accession was imminent, so I provided evidence against that view. Feel free to explain why you think a lengthy negotiation process that has proved tortuous to date is suddenly going to accelerate.

      Either way, if we want to stand up to Turkey’s human rights abuses – and we should – then encouraging the fragmentation of the EU is hardly going to help.

      12) I did read British Influence’s report. And I was not convinced. Again assertion seems to make up a large part of it. My figures still stand – in 40 years we have not been able to bring about any meaningful reform in the EU – we have as much influence as Slovenia!

      Your figures are meaningless. I could just as easily provide figures showing that the EU has voted with the UK on countless occasions. The question is whether we are able to get things done in the EU or not. There’s a good article out today on Politico that addresses this question and, surprise surprise, it shows the UK is one of the leading nations in the EU in terms of influence: http://www.politico.eu/interactive/power-matrix-charting-the-eu-players-by-country-european-council-national-capitals-leaders-ambassadors/

      13) You miss the point about the tampons. It is not that the EU finally acted (whether to help the UK or not) – it is that it is ridiculous that we couldn’t act on such an issue without approval from the EU. That is micro management of the economy by unelected bureaucrats on a ridiculous level. Basically you are defending the fact that elected British MPs cannot set the VAT rate on tampons, but unelected EU commissioners can!

      No. Your point was that we couldn’t do anything to change the tax on tampons. My point was that we could, and did.

      It isn’t at all ridiculous that it required action at the EU level. VAT rules are an EU-wide matter and part of the single market, for obvious reasons – it’s a form of sales tax. This has always been the case. The reason it’s complex when it comes to the UK is that we have a far better deal on VAT than most other countries, including being able to vary the rate for certain goods and services!

      14) Your point about human rights (I can’t remember a single time when a Remain campaigner used this) reminds me of the football manager who just ‘didn’t see whether it was a penalty or not’. This argument is used all the time – not least in the latest viral video ‘what has the ECHR ever done for us”

      I’ve addressed this already – see point 3 above. It is you who is (apparently deliberately) conflating the EU and the ECHR. That viral video even goes to the trouble of explaining that they are separate!

      15) And I love your version of history. Russia of course did not invade Ukraine, it was Russian Ukrainian patriots, nor take over Crimea, it was a spontanteous uprising against oppression. And the EU did not overthrow the governments of Greece and Italy and form technocracies. It was the spontanteous working of the Greek and Italian political systems! Again assertions (in the face of facts) without any evidence.

      Can I just confirm: are you seriously claiming that the EU overthrew the Greek government it was dealing well with, and installed Syriza, a radical left wing government that overturned much of the previous government’s policy?

      It’s not on me to provide evidence that the EU is responsible for coups in two of its member states. I would be DELIGHTED to see evidence for your assertions that the EU is actively involved in regime change, especially when it runs counter to its own goals.

      And what has Russia to do with anything? Again, you are misrepresenting me.

      “16) But then we move into the realm of complete fantasy – ‘The EU is more democratic than the UK’. I had to read that twice because I thought it was a misprint. Its even better when you provide your ‘evidence’ a blog which makes Pravda seem truthful and based on fact! Anyone who asks ‘Ask yourself, do you believe that Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson are acting in your interests or in their own?” as a reason for their assertion has already lost the argument. Apart from the fact that he is asking people to make a judgement based entirely on feeling about people they do not know – the same could be applied to David Cameron and Osbourne!”

      Again, you’ve apparently deliberately failed to address the facts. I’ll repost them here in case you missed them.

      “ALL members of the EU Parliament are elected by a proportional voting system to represent all the viewpoints of the citizens of Europe; the House of Lords [MORE THAN HALF the members of the UK Parliament] are UNELECTED, and the remaining members are elected by a highly disproportional system that gives complete power to Parties that have support from a minority of the population.

      The “Cabinet” of the EU is made up of elected heads of government of all the member states; the Cabinet of the UK is appointed on the whim of the Prime Minister and can even include people who have not been elected at all (usually by granting them an instant peerage).

      In the EU, the top civil servants, the Commissioners, are appointed by democratically elected governments and are accountable to the elected Parliament; in the UK, top civil servants, the ones known as mandarins or Sir Humphreys, are unaccountable and appoint themselves.

      The board of the European Central Bank are appointed by the Heads of Government of the member states, after consultation from the European Parliament. The Governor of the Bank of England is appointed “by the Prime Minister” though as this is on recommendation from the Bank, effectively the bank selects its own governors.”

      As such, the EU has a strong case to be considered more democratic than the UK itself. Would you care to address this?

      “17) But if all else fails – bring faith. The EU is corrupt but just have faith that we can change it. End of story.”

      I am able to admit that the EU is not a perfect institution. There is much that I would love to see changed about it. What I do know is that it won’t change any faster as a direct result of the UK leaving. We also know that the UK has its own problems when it comes to corruption – often legalized and government-stimulated corruption – so let’s not pretend we’re able to condemn the EU out of some great sense of moral superiority.

      “18) Re your defence of President Obama – could you let me know any time that a democratic leader has sought to interfere and publicly expressed views seeking to influence an American election, based on their trade arrangements with Canada, Mexico, or China?”

      That is not equivalent. The clue is in the name: United States of America. Were a state like California, Texas or New York to try to secede from the US, I suspect world leaders might have a thing or two to say about it. But they don’t, because an arrangement that combines federal coordination with local autonomy suits them well. Interesting, eh?

      “19) It is accepted by us, and by the rest of the EU, and openly touted by the US that we are their ‘friends’ in the EU. Is there anyone who disputes that?”

      That wasn’t the claim you were making. Of course we are friends with the US; they are our long-term allies. You claimed, though, that we are actively pursuing American policy in the EU. I refuted that claim. You seem to have forgotten what you originally said.

      “20) TTIP is not speculation. Obama has stated that he wants it. Indeed he stated that was one of his purposes coming here. And again you didn’t answer the question about trade. We currently don’t have a trade agreement with the US – and we never have. So why would trade not continue?”

      Trade would continue with the US. But it would be threatened by a EU-US trade agreement making it easier for goods and services to be traded between the two large blocs. If we are not part of that agreement, we probably need one of our own. Markets function better when there are fewer ancillary costs to trade; unless we can make ourselves as attractive as the EU, we risk being left behind. That is what Obama is openly stating in his comments.

      “21) If you can’t present evidence then just argue against what is not being said. You argue against things I did not say about TTIP. What I did say you can read for yourself, but to sum it up….TTIP is a secretive deal which will hand power to corporations rather than peoples or states.

      22) And another assertion. TTIP is misunderstood. Evidence – a leaflet from the EU Commission! That noteworthy trusted democratic body! But the fantasy is in deep – did you know that we have ‘already’ voted on TTIP by voting in a British government committed to the EU? Try to unpack that ‘reasoning’. It goes along with the TTIP is ‘transparent’…Orwell’s 1984 use of language comes to mind. I have read by the way many things on TTIP, including the propaganda you put forward.”

      You can’t have it both ways. It can’t be both secretive AND the subject of propaganda. Which is it? Do you want the EU Commission to produce information on the negotiation of a trade agreement, or not? The leaflet from the EU Commission refutes all the points you made in your post – and reveals them for the myths and spook stories they are.

      Reading “many things” is not a substitute for actually addressing the evidence made available about TTIP by the people involved in negotiating it. We are in the realm of conspiracy theory here.

      “23) You accuse me of not seeking out the ‘facts’ about the Lib-Dems and David Owen. I never said he was a Lib Dem. I mentioned the fact that he formed the SDP (which eventually merged with the Liberals into the Lib Dems), because he was so pro-EU. And now he is against. He is a thoughtful and interesting politician. You don’t have to agree with him, but just simply to cry ‘Judas’, weakens your already weak case.”

      You talked about David Owen in the context of the Liberal Democrat position on the EU. The obvious implication was that this senior political figure is associated with the Lib Dems. He isn’t and never has been. That was my point. I also question whether someone who has actively opposed electoral reform in the UK is really the kind of person whose authority you want to appeal to, given your stated commitment to democracy.

      Like

  2. You have to ask yourself why Remain are having to work so hard as members of the status quo to gain sufficient traction in the referendum. It’s because people are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand they want to collaborate with their European neighbours as much as possible while on the other all they see is an EU that is fundamentally incompetent, illiberal and devious – backed up by similar politicians.

    It would be interesting to speculate if the energy employed to try and blackmail the British people on the current deal was instead used to get a proper deal worthy of our hard and soft power Cameron could at least be honest `we have compromised on the superstate route that the other nations want and we’ve got the best deal in a globalised world` Remain would be 20 points ahead.

    Now all that’s happened is that the referendum has opened up a can of worms – trade policies, identity issues, immigration, sovereignty are now common parlance subjects and the more people look into them the more they will vote Remain as an arm twisting exercise and make demands afterwards. It won’t be an easy ride for LIb Dems/Labour/Tories.

    Like

    • I don’t think Remain is having to work hard, really. We’re going to stay in and comfortably. It’s the Leave side that has been flailing, and whose statements become more and more absurd and, increasingly, openly offensive (think of Boris Johnson’s “part-Kenyan” remark on Obama, for example).

      There was an opportunity for the Lib Dems to make the running on reform. Our status as the only genuinely pro-EU party gave us a unique platform. Unfortunately we have never really done so and have been bypassed.

      Like

  3. “Actually, quite a big part of the Remain campaign’s case is that much of this trade would be under threat. We buy much more from the EU than we sell. We are not in a good negotiating position. And business is already suffering significantly due merely to the uncertainty of just having a referendum, let alone the result. 10% of our GDP is an enormous amount to create uncertainty over – it cannot be so easily dismissed.”
    I could pick apart much of the rubbish you have written but this stands out as the biggest drivel what utter nonsense while we buy more off Europe than they buy off us we are in an excellent position as the “customer” to get favorable trading agreements.

    Like

    • The consumer is in a terrible position to get a good deal. Here’s your argument: if I buy more from the supermarket than they buy from me, I’m in a great position to ask them for a discount.

      Like

      • Also you’re ignoring none of the countries that Leave has suggested as a possible model for a deal was leaving the EU when they negotiated it. Context matters.

        Like

  4. Seriously? You have both succeeded in putting me off completely. I have no idea how I will vote because both sides just say ” I am right and you are wrong.” I have no idea who to believe so, ultimately, this becomes a visceral, gut-feeling, decision, based in part on your own perceived identity. There are risks associated with Remain too. Cameron can’t even guarantee his not-so-amazing negotiated concessions will be ratified.No one can know what will
    happen , however the vote goes.

    No one can

    Like

    • Sorry you feel that way Julia. I’ve worked hard to use facts and rely on the best expert opinion. Ultimately it is sensible to trust the people who know more than us in cases where we feel like we don’t know what to believe.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s