Brexit explained

This series of posts does not set out to explain what Brexit is, but why Brexit was the right choice for the English and Welsh electorate.

Much has been made since the vote of the nature of Brexit supporters. According to the LSE, their education and social standing was less important than their beliefs; people who support the death penalty, support Brexit (source). While correlations are interesting, they don't go to the facts of the issue. Supposedly 'enlightened' people voted for Remain, and supposedly naive or backwards people voted for Leave. Well, that may reflect the votes, but that doesn't mean I support the death penalty (I don't) and it doesn't mean I am anti-immigration (in principle, I am not). And most importantly, it doesn't mean that the Remain voters were right, or that the Leave voters were wrong. I will leave to others the notion that there are 'right' and 'wrong' answers.

So first, let me point out that, way back in 2007, I was against the so-called 'pooling' of sovereignty that the EU represents. Here's a motion I put before Adur District Council in 2007: Motion on 11 September 2007.

Note that, at the time, the treaty now known as The Lisbon Treaty, was then known as the Reform Treaty. This is because, while it was being drafted, it was a re-write of the EU Constitution that France and The Netherlands rejected in referenda (by 55% and 62% respectively).

Without wishing to get bogged down in the boring treaty wordings, The Lisbon Treaty itself recognises that the EU has historically struggled to be democratically legitimate:
DESIRING to complete the process... [of] enhancing the... democratic legitimacy of the Union (source)

And while giving 'more' power to the Parliament, is obviously great in moving us in that direction, there's still the fact that the larger a democracy is, the more diluted each person's vote becomes. This is made clear by the reaction in Scotland to the Brexit vote. A clear majority (62%) of Scottish voters voted for remaining in the EU. This was directly at odds with England where over 53% of people voted to leave (source). In a nation state that covers two such clearly-divergent perspectives, the views of one group or another will get diluted.

As an aside: The EU referendum result is an interesting volte-face from the position in Westminster since the Scottish Parliament was set-up. Google "The West Lothian question" to see what I mean by that.

What about specifics? Why is the EU bad for England and Wales?
Let's ask a general question first: If you were investing your money in something, would you tolerate wanton waste of that money? If you gave someone £100 to invest, you may expect them to give you more than £100 in a year's time. So any wasted use of that money would be something you would want resolved. Shareholders across the world hold companies to account to ensure efficient use of their investment money. Google "dividend yield" for more information.

So by the same token, we the people, as investors in our government, wish to see an appropriate return from our investment. Though most taxpayers do not monitor their 'investments' in the nation so closely as do other investors, we still have a right to say how that money should be spent. Some of the benefit from paying tax is the education of the next generation, defence of our borders, construction of infrastructure, defence of our citizens from criminals etc. but all of that should help the citizens to peacefully go about making their lives better.

So democratically, how should the people of the UK stop the wasteful traipse from Brussels to Strasbourg? We cannot. The European Union has it written in treaties that the Parliament must be based in Strasbourg, whether that's efficient, appropriate or clever (source). For the treaty to be changed would require unanimous agreement from the member states, because they require ratification.

How much does that cost? £93m a year, in the EU's estimation (source), or £130m per year if you believe the Conservative Party in Europe (source). Though the EU's estimate is only €0.18 per EU citizen (I would prefer to consider taxpayers, but that's how the EU Parliament report divided it), the principle is that the EU could save a significant sum of money, but 33m French voters (just over 6% of the EU population) can ensure that the EU's 510 million people have to waste that money. Is that democratic? Would you choose to waste money in other circumstances? This isn't "waste" as in spending money on a nicer car, or on chocolate, or on a luxury, this is waste as in throwing it out of the window.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is another example of gross waste. 11% of the EU budget is currently spent on the CAP. It amounts to a subsidy to protect European farmers from subsidised farmers in other developed countries and from farmers in less developed countries. Subsidies reduce the urgency for innovation, efficiency and investment. New Zealand has shown what removing subsidies can do to the agricultural industry (source).

Furthermore, we - the West - promised to stop subsidising agriculture because of the significant harm it was doing to the developing world. It's easy to say "harm... to the developing world", but what it actually means is people in Africa starving to death, not feeding their children, because we are selfish and - given the New Zealand evidence - wrong. But we haven't stopped the CAP, and voters in France - that 6% of the EU population - can continue to block reform. Google "The Doha Round" for more information.

The CAP deserves its own post, but it's not getting one. Next week, I shall consider the Common Fisheries Policy and delve a bit deeper into the democratic structures of the EU's Council, Commission and Parliament.

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