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Brexit – the argument from confusion

A common complaint made by Remainers is that Brexiteers constantly say wrong things about what the EU actually does and actually demands. I recall an entire round of the TV quiz show QI, presided over by the lordly Stephen Fry, devoted to exposing such fabrications. Bendy bananas, rules about rubbish disposal, that kind of thing. I can’t recall what all the alleged EU meddlings – there were about half a dozen of them – were. But I do clearly recall the QI verdict that came at the end of the round. Which of these claims is true, and which false?, asked Fry, with a tremendous air of impartiality. All, he subsequently announced, were false. The Brexiteers just do not get their facts right. They are wrong about bendy bananas, etc. etc. Therefore, the clear implication followed, the Brexiteers are wrong about everything, and Britain should Remain, in the EU.

I don’t trust QI about things like this. At the very least, I suspect that several of these situations were more complicated than Fry said, but that is not my central point here. Even supposing that QI had got all its facts right, I assert that this sort of confusion, rampant on both sides of this argument rather than just on the one side, is a major fault of the EU itself, at least as much as it is a fault of those who criticise, or for that matter who praise, the EU. Such confusion is built into the very way that the EU operates.

Someone proposes some new EU rule or regulation. If it is vehemently objected to, the proposers pull back, often claiming as they retreat that they “never intended” what they intended and will have another go at doing later when the fuss has died down. If, on the other hand – as is much more usual – nobody objects, the rule or regulation goes through, with no discussion. No wonder nobody knows what the hell all these rules consist of. They consist of mostly of those rules that have never been objected to by anyone, and hence never even talked about by anyone, except those who proposed the rules and who will profit from them in some way.

The Remainers say that us Brexiteers should become better acquainted with all these rules, that have never been discussed.

I say that all this confusion, inherent in the nature of the EU and ineradicable, is yet another reason for Britain to (Br)exit.

Discuss. And while discussing, note that any disagreements concerning the facts of what the EU does will only serve to confirm how right I am.

“We should all know by now”

Bernard Thompson, in a piece for the pro-independence Scottish website Newsnet.scot, makes the case for repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act of 2012: Offensive Behaviour: the case for the SNP repealing their own act.

He writes,

Opponents of the Act – none more so than the campaign group Fans Against Criminalisation – have been vociferous in their condemnation of the legislation.

And they have been joined by a host of academics and media figures. Human rights group Liberty have expressed concern that: “the broadly framed offences in this Act will unnecessarily sweep up individuals exercising their right to free speech who have no intention to commit or incite a criminal offence and in the event do not do so.”

And

The Act does not simply ban “the singing of sectarian songs” but also: – “other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive…

“…behaviour [that] would be likely to incite public disorder”, even if ‘persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers’.”

We can offer all sort of examples of behaviour that might offend a “reasonable person” but, for brevity, we may note that the Act banned Frankie Boyle (or recordings of his material) from being played wherever a tenuous connection to a football match could be established. Not so rugby matches.

In defending the Act, after someone wearing a tee-shirt supportive of Palestine drew police attention, SNP MSP John Mason even went so far as to say that wearing a Yes badge should be considered unacceptable while watching football.

“We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”

Mr Mason was apparently not questioned on whether wearing a poppy could be considered to be expressing a political view, and we can only speculate as to how objecting to a poppy might be viewed.

When reading that quote from John Mason MSP the old cliché about the “Nanny State” came alive again.

“Wherever this is”

The Shadow Europe minister, Pat Glass, has had a bad day. According to “Politics Home”:

A Labour MP has apologised after branding a voter a “horrible racist” while campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union.

Pat Glass, the Shadow Europe Minister, also said she was “never coming back” to Sawley in Derbyshire, after an exchange with a member of the public about immigration.

According to BBC Radio Derby, the unnamed voter had referred to a Polish family living in the town as “scroungers”.

Ms Glass told the station: “The very first person I come to was a horrible racist. I’m never coming back to wherever this is.”

Following criticism of her remarks, the MP said: “The comments I made were inappropriate and I regret them. Concerns about immigration are entirely valid and it’s important that politicians engage with them.

“I apologise to the people living in Sawley for any offence I have caused.”

The row has echoes of Gordon Brown infamously being caught during the 2010 election campaign branding Gillian Duffy a “bigoted woman” after she challenged him on immigration from Eastern Europe.

Echoes of Gordon Brown’s encounter with Gillian Duffy it might have, but this was not a case of an “open mic”. Ms Glass did not have Gordon Brown’s excuse: like Emily Thornberry, she chose to say what she did to a mass audience. [Later edit: Commenter Cal has pointed out that accounts differ on that point. She may have thought the interview was over. But as Cal also says, it’s revealing that she felt free to express herself in those terms to BBC reporters.]

I would guess that the insult to Sawley, and by extension to all those places like Sawley that parliamentarians never visit except when a vote draws near, is a bigger vote loser than insulting one man. She made it clear that the stops on her campaign trail mean so little to her that she could not even be bothered to remember their names. Anyone who has been embarrassed by forgetting a name might have some sympathy with that, until Ms Glass compounds the offence by making it clear that she regards her presence in such a place as a privilege that can be withdrawn as a punishment.

Samizdata quote of the day

The academics see the rise of anti-politics as a problem. The inherent premise being that more politics will be good for us. Therefore the low popular opinion of politicians makes political action more difficult. Guido thinks this is a good thing, that the low esteem in which politicians are held is reasonable, people have made a more realistic appraisal of the nature of those who seek to rule over us. Politicians complain that they feel beset by the media and hostile voters because 72% of people see them as self-serving. Good. People should not be afraid of politicians, politicians should be afraid of the people.

Guido Fawkes

Thought of the day…

It is quite possible the REMAIN side will win the vote regarding the UK’s membership of the sclerotic regulatory suicide club called the EU. This would be a horrendous outcome in my view, but there is something to keep in mind. The EU will be rocked by crisis in the future, that is a certainly, because it is intrinsically unstable. And that means even if the UK is still an EU member when that happens, the LEAVE/REMAIN vote can also happen again.

They have to win every single time.

We only have to win once.

Oh noez, Brexit be bad!

Just spotted this splendid summary of the dire consequences of Brexit:

6. The NHS will collapse as Bulgarian X-ray technicians head home, leaving thousands of Brits with badly-set broken limbs
7. When we tell German intelligence about terrorist threats, they will put their fingers in their ears and go ‘nah nah nah’ (actually, they probably do this already)
8. The British advance Battlegroup stationed on the Oder (two tanks, a platoon of RLC dog-trainers and a QM Sergeant) will be asked to return home

Check out the rest on Raedwald.

Samizdata quote of the day

But why should those of us who want to leave the EU feel any obligation to accept the particular vision of the UK’s future offered by Gove or anyone else? Why the insistence that we couldn’t vote to leave the EU without a clearly worked out plan about what happens next? The referendum question boils down to the question of control: who decides what the UK should do in relation to the economy, immigration, trade rules or anything else? Those things should be decided in Westminster, not Brussels.

Rob Lyons

Samizdata quote of the day

So, the EU is primarily a political project. Just think about it. The mantra of the Remain camp is “to trade with Europe you have to be part of it”. But this is bizarre. Nobody says “to trade with China you have to be part of it”. That would be very scary. They don’t even say “to trade with the USA, you have to be part of it”. Nobody suggests accepting the US constitution or the dollar as part of the price to trade with America.

Alan Sked

A Tale of the Sea

This anecdote was sent to me by a correspondent – NS.

*

I chanced to be speaking to a chaplain who works with a mission to seafarers in a British port, and had the following tale from him.

One of the seamen he knows is a guy – let us call him John Smith – who is fine provided he remembers to take his meds but not so fine if he forgets. On a working ship, daily life is structured and John reliably remembers to take his meds, and if he did not, the captain would look into it, or John would be given medical evacuation. However the control regime is different in port.

Recently, John’s ship was sent to port for several months awaiting a new cargo or scrapping. Presently the chaplain was summoned by port security. When you are asked to the main security point, things are serious. When they offer you a cup of tea, things are really serious. Security told him that John had clearly not been taking his meds, was doing things that were not dangerous in themselves but “violated security protocols”, so they’d have to act in a way that they would prefer to avoid, unless the chaplain could make something better happen.

The chaplain contacted the Port Health authority and was told, “Well, you know, a seaman has rights. If we get involved and the result is to say he’s unfit or whatever, he could sue for loss of earnings or whatever …”

He contacted the company that contracts John’s labour. “Oh well, we’d like to help but seamen these days have a lot of rights. If we get involved and it’s later ruled we did not respect all of them …”

He contacted the union rep, whose first words were “You do know John has rights, don’t you?” and who then pointed out that John’s ship “is not my flag state, so I can’t come aboard uninvited.”

The chaplain solved that one by saying pointedly, “I’m inviting you to come aboard with me.” So, with the union rep in more or less literal tow, the chaplain went aboard, and was told by the captain, “Do whatever you can and I’ll back you.” He had a long and sometimes very strange talk with John, at the end of which John swallowed his meds, whereupon a very hyper man swiftly became calmer.

This example was in the context of the chaplain’s explaining to me how much of his job these days was doing what none of the jobsworths dared to do, even when some of them were not such creeps as not even to want to help. As he put it, “Sometimes the one with no formal power is actually the only one with any remaining power to act.”

Discriminating against people on the basis of philosophical belief is unlawful

I suspect that we all hear a lot about discrimination by employers against people on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion and age, but there is also under the Equality Act 2010 (all 90,000+ words of it) in Great Britain protection against discrimination on the basis of philosophical belief, or the lack of it. Or rather, you have a means of legal retaliation against your employer.

The main case in this area came from an employee who had a profound belief in ‘man-made climate change’, but a recent legal case involving a Mr Harron has shed a bit more light on the issue. Mr Harron apparently had a problem with his employer, for which he sought legal redress, he had:

a belief (which the Employment Tribunal thought genuine) that public service was improperly wasteful of money

He worked for Dorset Police.

One might think that this sounds like a vegan putting himself on the boning line in a slaughterhouse. However, all we know is that Mr Harron though waste of money improper, not public service. It is not clear from the case how it was (or was alleged) that this belief led to Mr Harron suffering at the hands of his employer. Poor Mr Harron has also had a Tribunal waste public money holding a hearing listening to his case and getting the law wrong, and now he will have to go back and re-argue his case all over again.

At least we do know that in order for a ‘belief’ to qualify for legal ‘protection’, there are 5 criteria to be met.

(i) The belief must be genuinely held.

(ii) It must be a belief and not,… …an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.

(iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

(iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

(v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”

Note that if your ‘belief’ is evidence-based (or even reason-based, like economics), as per (ii) above, your beliefs are not protected, but if you have a belief in an Flying Spaghetti Monster, your beliefs might be ‘protected’. But sacking a libertarian because he did not believe in climate change would be unlawful as it would relate to the ‘absence’ of a belief, rather than the holding of it.

Of course, no libertarian would be seen dead suing his employer over discrimination, so may we say that those of us of a libertarian bent would not sue if fired or harassed at work for being a libertarian (of whatever shade or degree)? In fact, claims of this sort seem to be quite rare.

For information, membership of a political party per se does not qualify one as holding a ‘philosophical belief’, which is an inadvertent judicial recognition of what is fast becoming the ‘bleeding obvious’ with some parties. And ‘Jedi Knights’ will find that the Force (of the law) is not with them.

The de-ulsterisation of Ulster

When I was a child Northern Ireland was rarely off the front pages. That has changed, and thank God for that. Back in the ’90s, I did not expect the peace process to work. This just papers things over, I thought; it has done nothing to solve the fact that the two sides want incompatible things. But the years have gone by and that layer of paper appears to be holding up the whole house.

Why? I am happy it worked, but why has it worked?

Maybe the two sides stopped wanting incompatible things. Or to be accurate, one of them stopped caring so much and the other almost stopped caring at all. In 2011 I saw a few scattered reports about this survey that said 52% of Northern Irish Catholics in the sample wanted to remain in the UK. Given all the blood and ink spilled about that question the reaction to this was curiously muted. Sinn Fein, its raison d’être gone, continued to do pretty well in elections to the NI Assembly, local elections and EU elections.

Today’s Observer has another such story, equally little regarded. Malachi O’Doherty and his subeditor have done their best. They gave it a dramatic headline: “The nationalist identity crisis that could change Northern Ireland for ever”. Yet at time of writing it has a grand total of 54 comments while the umpteenth opinion piece in which a Labour guy with some connection to reality laments the unelectability of Corbyn has 3,882.

Yet Mr O’Doherty’s story records a development that no one would have dared predict twenty years ago:

The easy assumption about politics in Northern Ireland is that it is a contest between two ideas of sovereignty. Unionists see the place as British; nationalists see it as Irish. And the Good Friday Agreement, in effect the constitution – according, as it does, sovereignty rights to each – is the best interim solution to the old quarrel.

This election has signalled a change in the old model of two mirror-image communities at odds with each other
But one of these two blocks is not sticking to the old template. Nationalism – if we can even call it that any more – is diversifying. And the strongest evidence of that is the fact that in the assembly elections Sinn Féin has taken its first reversal in its traditional heartlands of Derry and West Belfast. The party was outflanked on the left by People Before Profit, an anti-austerity party that has also put economic policy before ending partition.

Not just on the left,

And Sinn Féin wasn’t the only nationalist party to suffer. The SDLP lost seats in both cities, too – and one of those, held by Fearghal McKinney, was fought over the question of whether abortion should be legalised. McKinney had allowed himself to be photographed beside strident anti-abortion campaigners – and paid for it.

The issue had risen to unexpected relevance with the prosecution of a young woman who had self-administered abortion pills. Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP are now caught in a dilemma over this issue and stand to lose voters whichever way they move. They can placate the conservative Catholics by holding fast to “pro-life” positions and lose the newly secular liberals; or they can go with them, as the Green party did to its advantage, and lose the religious.

Yet even among conservative Catholics who do want a united Ireland, some have put their moral causes before the constitutional question. In East Derry last week, a group of conservative Catholics campaigned for the DUP as the party most likely to resist abortion reform and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

I am not trying to get anyone to cheer for the unionist or the nationalist side, just observing that a significant change has quietly taken place.

Farewell the plumèd troops and the big wars
That makes ambition virtue! Oh, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th’ ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
The immortal Jove’s dead clamors counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone.

Quite right too…

Politicians from all sides lined up to condemn the Conservative Party tactics in the race, but in the aftermath, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon refused to apologise.

“In the rough and tumble of elections, you get stuff said, questions asked,” Fallon told the BBC. “I think it is right that candidates for some of the most important offices in Britain do get scrutinised about their past associations.”

And Fallon is right to refuse to apologise, because apologising for highlighting Sadiq Khan’s vile associates would be like apologising for highlighting the past associates of some ‘right-winger’ who had shared a platform with members of the KKK.

What the Tory Party should be apologising for is running a twattish zillionare green like Zac Goldsmith as a candidate.