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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.

36 comments to Brexit – the argument from confusion

  • Bruce Hoult

    I’m disappointed to see Garry Kasparov, who I have a lot of time for, saying that Brexit is bad because it plays into Putin’s hands. On the contract, I’m with Larry Elliiot’s “[the EU] is not the US without the electric chair; it is the USSR without the gulag”.

    I also think it’s simultaneously possible for it to be good for the countries involved (and for the world) to have Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine in the EU, but perfectly acceptable (and good for the UK) to have the UK out of it.

  • John Galt III

    In the US, the Federal Agencies are out of control. The only current remedy is legal action. Problem there is that the Democrats have placed so many friendly judges in the court system.

    That is why Trump beating the Democrat nominee is so important and that may be difficult if it is Joe Biden. Obama’s Justice Dept. is using the FBI to slowly cook Hillary Clinton alive – she is a goner. The party apparatchiks don’t want Sanders. That leaves Biden or Fauxchahontas Warren, the self-identified Cherokee Indian with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    Great Britain needs to unilaterally stop the implementation of EU regulations, or slow the implementation down to a 100 year phase-in. You are just complying very slowly. Can you use lawsuits by injured parties? Just asking? We can and do win sometimes.

  • Cal

    Richard North is very good on this sort of stuff. I know he gets up a lot of peoples’ noses, but he’s really the best at knowing what is fact and what is fiction on EU regulations. Generally you find that a lot of the bendy banana complaints are actually true, though of course the real situation is always more complicated than the Daily Express-type headlines.

    I also don’t trust the likes of Stephen Fry and the QI people on this sort of thing either, I suspect they will bend the truth. Remember when The Independent had a whole front page devoted to supposed EU myths? It turned out that most of those ‘myths’ were actually true?

  • JohnK

    I don’t trust QI at all.

    I recall once they produced a factoid to the effect that 95% of guns used by Mexican criminals come from the USA. This is a frequently repeated lie. All it refers to is that of the guns the Mexican police send to the USA for analysis, 95% originated in the USA (including the ones President Obama so kindly sent them in Fast & Furious). Obviously, the Mexican police do not send any of the thousands of full auto military and police weapons stolen or purloined from government armouries acros Mexico and Central America, as that would be a waste of time.

    The QI elves wrote back to say they would look into it, and that was the last I heard from them.

    As is so frequently the case, whenever there is something on TV which you know about, they get it wrong. It is therefore only prudent to assume that nothing they tell you is correct, especially if Stephen Fry is involved.

  • I’m disappointed to see Garry Kasparov, who I have a lot of time for, saying that Brexit is bad because it plays into Putin’s hands.

    Russians are prone to discuss this issue much as Americans are: Britain should/should not do x because it might effect us in the following way. Who cares? Well Russians/Americans/etc might but Britons shouldn’t give a damn, that’s for sure. If Kasparov wants to pay the UK’s net contribution to the EU, that’s great, otherwise, sod off Garry.

    Frankly Putin’s importance to almost anything not on Russia’s borders is vastly overstated. He is a detestable little shit and Russia needs to be contained at gunpoint in a mini-Cold War, but he is not the new Hitler rising, it is Mussolini, and every bit as half-arsed.

  • Watchman


    To be fair to Putin, he might be a horrible person but he is talented at keeping plates spinning. He needs to be to keep all the ministries and regions (almost all political fiefdoms of one sort or another) onside. And he can’t afford a major war – whilst it might unite the people, it would be too disruptive for too many of the powerful who control parts of government.

    Mussolini, another dictator who kept a lid on a lot of different factions, might well be a good comparator.

  • Watchman

    Talking with a Remain-supporting friend yesterday helped me realise something. It’s not the stupidity of the laws that is the problem, but simply the fact that this is another layer of politicians making laws, some of which will therefore be stupid (because politicians are still human, despite the best attempts of one or two to hide it) and others of which will be venal and self-serving. So whilst the bent bananna law (which is based on a real proposal in food quality legislation somewhere as I recall, but I guess was never taken seriously by the European Parliament to be fair because it is blatantly stupid) is probably misrepresented, there was still a mechanism that existed to consider this as a law, on top of at least two other mechanisms that could try the same at national and local levels.

    So I’ve shifted to a simpler position than I used to have: I want to leave Europe to cut out a layer of government. Logically, I should then plan for my home city to campaign to leave the UK…

    P.S. My friend was doing a fairly good job of arguing EU laws weren’t normally stupid even if they could be obtrusive – which as one of the few surviving wild Liberal Democrats seems to be less of a problem for him than for me.

  • Logically, I should then plan for my home city to campaign to leave the UK…

    Works for me 😀

    But in truth that is not a necessary logical inference. As a minarchist one could argue that if your home city left the UK, it would then need its own Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office, an army and maybe even a nuclear deterrent… whereas eliminating the EU level of government is pure blubber and nothing need replace the discarded institutions in Brussels.

  • Watchman

    And Perry clears my thoughts a bit further. Thank you – I hadn’t got round to considering utility.

    Although I still like the idea of local independence campaigns. I feel Accrington Stanley and Thetford would be good places to start with, for no particular reasons…

  • Alisa

    This standard defines the quality requirements to be met by unripened green bananas after preparation and packaging.
    A. Minimum requirements
    In all classes, subject to the special provisions for each class and the tolerances allowed, the bananas must be:

    green and unripened,



    sound; produce affected by rotting or deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption is excluded,

    clean, practically free from visible foreign matter,

    practically free from pests,

    practically free from damage caused by pests,

    with the stalk intact, without bending, fungal damage or dessication,

    with pistils removed,

    free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers,

    practically free from bruises,

    practically free from damage due to low temperatures,

    free from abnormal external moisture,

    free from any foreign smell and/or taste.
    In addition, hands and clusters (parts of hands) must include:

    a sufficient portion of crown of normal colouring, sound and free from fungal contamination,

    a cleanly cut crown, not beveled or torn, with no stalk fragments.

    (emphasis mine).

    This is the updated version from 2012, the previous one (1995) is here. Those willing to find the differences for themselves may further prove Brian’s point.

  • Mr Ed

    A pro-Brexit Defence Minister Ms Mordant reportedly said that the UK could not veto a Turkish entry to the EU on TV the other day. I am informed that it is in fact factually wrong to have said that, I cannot find the evidence one way or the other, but I understand that to be the case. If it was factually wrong to have said that, then it is frankly beyond idiotic to have done so, it is bordering on ‘moral criminality’ to mis-state your case, it wholly undermines your credibility.

    Mr Cameron stated that Ms Mordant was wrong, but in so doing gave the distinct impression that he would not in fact veto a Turkish accession in due course, which of course, is another argument altogether, you can’t trust our politicians not to betray our interests to the EU when we are in it, so we are safer out.

    That way, you have two arguments for Brexit.

  • I feel Accrington Stanley and Thetford would be good places to start with, for no particular reasons…

    I feel the world would be a better place if there were independent nations with names like Stoke Poges, Bagshot and Snodland

  • NickM

    I want a passport to Pimlico.

  • Snorri Godhi

    One thing that nobody has pointed out yet, is that it is easy to point out bad things that the EU does NOT do, eg set up rules about banana curvature. (BTW Alisa’s highlight is puzzling: what are banana fingers??) That does not mean that _nothing_ that the EU does is bad.

    I take it as an axiom that all forms of government eventually grow beyond their optimal size, no matter what the optimal size is, or what you might think it is. That, to me, is a sufficient argument against the EU.
    Bruce Hoult has a point: EU membership might still be good for countries which gain credibility from it; but given that the EU is eventually going to grow to a size problematic even for such countries, they better start planning NOW for exit!

    WRT the layer-of-government argument: another layer of government CAN be good, if its main function is to limit the power of the layers beneath it; and to a lesser extent if it takes power away from the layers above it. (Which i understand did not happen with the Scottish Parliament.)
    Unfortunately, by the axiom in the above paragraph, any additional layer of government is going to be an additional site of growth, which will eventually outweigh the benefits. The EU, in particular, is growing by design (ever closer union).

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT the comparison of Putin to Mussolini: too early to say. Mussolini did most damage, to the world, Italy, and himself, when he had been in power for longer than Putin has been to date.
    There are of course ominous parallels, eg being thin on top and being keen to be photographed bare chested.

  • Flubber

    HJArriet Harman was on the beeb over the weekend. She was shown photos of the seven “department” heads (i.e Barrosso, head of the commission , court all that jazz)

    She said she couldn’t name any of them. Yet they have more power than Cameron.

    She did however say “its a shame they’re all men” – what a fucktard.

    However the more compelling point is who the fuck actually knows and understands what the hell is going on. The EU is power with no accountability to voters.

  • Paul Marks

    It is bad enough that British civil servants ignore the rule of John Locke that a legislature must not delegate its powers.

    Locke was quite clear that the powers of Parliament to decide what the law is (actually I do not think he stressed enough that the High Court of the Monarch in Parliament does not “make” law – it decides what the law is) must not be delegated to officials. Because the power is already delegated from the people to Parliament – it must not be twice (double) delegated.

    Chief Justice Hewart in “The New Despotism” (1929) makes the same point – officials must not be allowed to make their whims have the force of law. “Delegated Legislation” (“Statutory Instruments” and the like) undermine the Rule of Law – such regulations multiply without limit and no one can reasonably be expected to know what the law is.

    One of the reasons that the Texas State Legislature meets for only a few days (under the Constitution of 1876) is to give it only a limited time to impose new rules that have the force of law.

    Indeed Bruno Leoni (in “Freedom And The Law” 1961) implied that the ideal amount of time for a legislature to meet would be ZERO – because such a body could not resist the temptation to go beyond clearing up doubt as to what the law was, and would fall into the pit of trying to “make law” in order to “improve the general welfare” or other non legal concepts (all the madness of Jeremy Bentham and co).

    In law there must be a victim – someone who has been attacked, or robbed, or cheated. With “regulation” there is no clear guide at all – a legislature may declare that having red hair is a “crime”.

    “Yes Paul – but at least Parliament can be watched and can only pass so much madness”.

    True – which is why it if vital that “legislation” is confined to the legislature – not to officials (if officials can pass regulations with the force of law, they will strangle everything and everyone).

    This is why the American Supreme Court restated (in a 9 to 0 judgement in 1935) that only Congress could pass legislation – officials could not just pull regulations from their backsides under vague “Enabling Acts” such as the final act of the German Parliament of 1933 (declaring that anything the Leader felt like doing after that was “legal”)or the “National Industrial Recovery Act” of 1933 that declared that General Johnson’s “Blue Eagle” National Recovery Agency people could make their whims “law”).

    Sadly the 1935 judgement was de facto reversed in the United States during World War II – and officials have been out of control ever since.

    However, a President can stop officials – and Presidents can be removed by the people.

    In Britain mad officials can be forced to account by Parliament – and ministers can be thrown out by Parliament (forced to resign).


    Unless they can say “the E.U. ordered us to do it”.

    Before the magic words “the E.U. ordered us to do it” Parliament is helpless.

    Which is why we must leave the E.U.

    What I do not understand is what Stephen Fry has got to do with any of this…..

  • Eric

    WRT the comparison of Putin to Mussolini: too early to say. Mussolini did most damage, to the world, Italy, and himself, when he had been in power for longer than Putin has been to date.

    If Hitler hadn’t started it, Mussolini would never have become involved in a European war because he would never have started it without overwhelming advantage. He was like the guy you know who keeps preparing to sail around the world, but somehow he’s never ready enough to actually cast off. Putin is a bit more bold than Il Duce in that respect, but he’s still pretty conservative and he doesn’t have a Hitler to drag him into any bet-the-farm gambles.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    However, Putin has been playing nice with China, and China DOES want to overturn the existing order. Even if it doesn’t want to take over the world, it does want to dominate Asia, by kicking the US out. Putin might be inclined to help his ‘friend’, so he might support a war or two…

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    In the context of Brexit, does the EU have a common army? A common Navy? Air force? If countries need to defend themselves, why be in it?

  • Thailover

    I’ve seen 4 or 5 QI shows, and they’re rife with inaccuracies or even flat out falsehoods. It does Stephen Fry a disservice to be associated with it IMO. The researchers apparently do little to no actual research.

  • Paul Marks

    In his “On the Laws and Customs of England” Henry de Bracton observed a common place – that the King was under the law.

    The King could not take law from his backside – the rule of law bound the King just as much as the lowest peasant in the field.

    This is why I have no time for people who reject the Rule of Law and hold that the ruler or rulers can do anything they feel like doing and rule by WILL.

    In the end as the priests and lords and commons agreed in 1215 (the Great Charter) that if the King would not listen to reason – then the sword must be drawn to make him listen.

    This was nothing new.

    After all even the Holy Roman Emperor and King of France Charles the Bald had agreed as far back as 877 AD (and it was described as an “old right”) that even a King of France could NOT take land from one family and give it to another.

    So, for example, the government of South Africa is claiming a power (the power to take land by FORCE from one family and give it to another family) that even Kings and Western (not Eastern) Emperors admitted that they did NOT have.

    But at least the government of South Africa (or the government of Britain) can be removed at the ballot box.

    There is no need to take up arms against the British government (as men were forced to do in 1215 – having tried everything else before resorting to the sword) – because one can remove the British government at the ballot box and get a new government.

    We can not vote out the “European Commission” (and so on) and it claims the right to pass regulations with the Force of Law on the basis of its whims.

    Therefore we must leave the European Union.

  • Paul Marks

    Both Mussolini and Putin (and S.M lately of this parish) had-have for the Rule of Law – both ruled by WILL and undermined the Rule of Law in their country.

    In the United States in 1950 the courts rules (quite correctly) that the President had no right to steal the steel industry – such a major defeat in the courts would be impossible for the ruler in the Italy of Mussolini or the Russia of Putin.

    Such rulers rule (in reality) by WILL not by LAW – of course those who argue that all governments rule by WILL alone (that the Rule of Law is an impossible dream) deserve only one answer, the answer of 1215. The answer of the sword to send them to Hell to burn for all eternity (as they deserve). Francis Bacon ( judges and the law as “lions UNDER the throne” my stress) and his servant Thomas Hobbes, deserve no better.

    However there is a difference between Mr Putin and Mr Mussolini.

    Mr Mussolini led his country into unjust wars that led to its terrible defeat and conquest (Italy itself became a battleground of opposing armies).

    Mr Putin has not done that yet.

    Also Mr Putin is still alive – he still has time to repent.

    Not a small point.

    Even now Mr Putin could resign his offices and retire – say to a Monastic House.

    He could repent of ending such things as an independent opposition media in Russia and undermining the Rule of Law (which was indeed starting to emerge after the long nightmare of the Soviet Union).

    Mr Putin has a soul (just as much as any of us – and we all do bad things, I certainly do).

    He has time to sincerely repent and save his soul.

    Sadly Mr Mussolini does not.

  • Alisa

    Not sure what those fingers are, but we can all rest assured that the EU is checking for dirt under the nails.

  • To sum up this thread:

    – Thanks to Alisa (May 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm), we know that an EU directive of 2012 does indeed regulate the bendiness of banana fingers (a banana finger, I understand, refers to an individual banana on a cluster). Therefore QI’s calling that claim false is itself false. It seems not even a case of ‘more complicated” that Brian speculates, but outright falsehood from QI.

    – By this precedent, it is reasonable to suppose that most or all other claims that programme called false are in fact simply true or fairly true under Brian’s ‘more complicated’ rubric

    – JohnK (May 26, 2016 at 1:22 pm) points out that QI is often wrong and treated his pointing out a plain case with that kind of contemptuous civility so universal in the PC BBC.

    The website does say that “Our flagship show, QI, is a BBC comedy panel quiz” so the right reply to anyone quoting it would seem to be, “You do realise that QI is a comedy show, not a factual one.” The cover of comedy is one way such people lie in plain site, but it can be turned against them. I expect it is no accident that Thailover sees reason to think QI’s “researchers apparently do little to no actual research”; the point of the show is to put PC beliefs into the public domain under a merely superficial guise of fact.

  • Alisa

    (a banana finger, I understand, refers to an individual banana on a cluster)

    That is also my understanding.

  • JohnK


    Putin is not a politician in the western sense. He is more like an emperor, crossed with a mob boss. Such people never retire, they die in office. If they are lucky death is natural, but more likely they meet their end in a palace coup (usually with a patsy lined up to take the blame), and are then repleced by the ambitious pyschopath who had the stones to get rid of the boss. And so it goes on.

  • PeterT

    The banana regulation is actually not an EU regulation but a global one (can’t recall the international body; UN affiliated I believe). Lots of regulations are like this. The EU represents us on the international bodies, and then passes through the rules to member states, which makes it look like an EU rule.

    This doesn’t make the rule less silly of course, but it takes two to trade, and it is better to have a common rule that is silly, than it is to have to separate rules that are less silly, since having separate rule acts as a barrier to trade.

  • Andrew Duffin

    @Watchman: “…I guess was never taken seriously by the European Parliament…”

    Nothing personal, but your comment is a classic example of the ignorance about how the EU works, which this thread is (supposed to be) all about.

    British people generally (and Remainiacs particularly) imagine the European Parliament as a bit like ours used to be – carefully considering legislation such as EU regs, and deciding whether to implement them or not.

    It isn’t anything of the sort. The European Parliament cannot initiate legislation, and cannot in the end block it either. Only the (unelected) commission can do those things, and what the commission wants will eventually happen regardless of the Parliament. The Parliament is just a talking shop, a piece of window-dressing; it has few powers and takes no initiative.

    If more people understood this and cared about it, we might not be about to lose this referendum – a referendum which is our last ever chance of getting back to having a government we can remove by peaceful means.

  • Greytop

    QI is a comedy show, masquerading as a panel show, and thus allows its participants to make humorous asides, etc, to please the audience (many of who, if you have been to a TV show recording and will know, are required to laugh and applaud when the floor manager waves his hand over his head like so). It has precious little to do with reality, though there is some gain in putting forward amusing factoids — observed animal behaviour, etc — from the world at large. Politics however (and the EU is very definitely a political structure) is not a factoid: it is an opinion.

    Therefore in all matters of opinion I cling to mine. I have the opinion I should not bother with QI, just as I am equally of the opinion that Britain should leave the EU as soon as possible. QI can, of course, relocate to Brussels and entertain the massed ranks of the EU members. Mr Fry, with subtitles, could be a huge hit in Baden-Baden with a little luck.

  • Paul Marks


    I agree with you – Mr Putin is a Mob Boss.

    And such people rarely retire – although they sometimes do.

    They fear revenge from the families of their victims – and they fear a new Mob Boss will take their place and murder them (and their families).

    However, the small chance remains.

    The chance for Mr Putin to save his soul.

    It has happened with some Mob Bosses.

    Although, yes, it is very rare.

  • Paul Marks

    Andrew Duffin – yes correct.

    Officials propose “law” in the European Union.

    And there is no practical way to remove these officials.

    A very simple point – but which “Remain” types seem incapable of understanding.

  • Patrick Crozier

    In similar vein (to Brian’s original point) it is often claimed that the British government “gold plates” EU legislation meaning that British law is far more restrictive than the EU law upon which it is based. This claim goes back at least 20 years and to the best of my knowledge it still gets made so it would appear that nothing can be done about it and that it is an inevitable part of the process.

    Another point is that no one has ever claimed that non-EU British law is “gold plated”.

  • James Waterton

    Paul, completely agree with you with regards to delegated legislation. As I’m sure you’re aware, a big, relatively centralised government like Westminster cannot exist without many thousands of bureaucrats being enabled to make decisions which have the force of law – the Commons would quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer number of petty laws that would be required to be introduced, debated and passed to maintain the vast regulatory structure imposed upon the UK by its government. I wasn’t aware that these kinds of legislative instruments have been outlawed in the USA. I guess its big government model survives and thrives without delegated legislation due to its relatively strong federal structure that has seen its States’ legislatures retain their reserved powers, lessening the legislative burden on Congress. If you combine this with the nature of the bills which routinely land on the President’s desk – hundreds or thousands of pages long and prone to proposing legislative change in a vast number of policy areas, it becomes impossible for an individual Congressman to give informed consideration to even a small fraction of what they are voting on. Such conditions would also permit Big Government to prosper and for federal bureaucrats to wield indirect yet substantial legislative power (guess who writes the bills?).

    In Australia, as in the UK, the Commonwealth Parliament regularly delegates de facto lawmaking powers to unelected officials. Our clumsily written constitution ensured that, over time, the ability to raise revenue has been concentrated in Canberra at the expense of the States, who are responsible for a heap of expensive residual powers, including skoolznhospitals, yet cannot come close to paying for these and are forced to go cap-in-hand to the Commonwealth for funding, which it dispenses on its terms. Now we live in the age of the “National Standard”; the States have been fiscally blackmailed into complying with Commonwealth laws covering policy areas it has no constitutional business sticking its nose into. Canberra’s imposition of federal regulation over state responsibilities required a vast growth in the federal bureaucracy to formulate said regulation, ensure national compliance and advise federal MPs regarding their vastly expanded remit. The grossly unbalanced Australian Federation couldn’t possibly function as a representative democracy without delegated legislation and the army of federal bureaucrats it empowers to issue arbitrary edicts which largely carry the force of law.

    Of course, we could do away with the insidious phenomenon that is delegated legislation, as well as the American workaround that maintains its overmighty federal government, if central government responsibility was reduced to a level of consequence commensurate to its legislature’s capacity to give all proposals before it due consideration before proceeding to its exclusive right to legislate. A Westminster executive would have to go with the (much reduced) flow, while an independent executive wouldn’t have a great deal to do. The bureaucracy would be largely redundant.

    This would necessitate massive and widespread decentralisation of political power as national seats of government prove incapable of managing regional or local matters, so there’s a snowball’s chance of anything like it happening in this lifetime. Hell, I’d be pretty surprised if the Brits escaped the clutches of the EU, regardless of how the vote goes. I can’t see that there’s any way to be rid of big government than allowing it to grow so large that it collapses under its own weight. And despite the enormous collateral damage that would accompany a total systemic failure, I imagine much of the general public would learn exactly the wrong lessons from the experience.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Something else for the Brexiters to consider- A U.N. report states that mass migration of peoples will increase, and Europe will be a prime destination! Are you going to let some Eurocrats, or the German Chancellor, decide how many of those millions will be settled in Britain?