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The one-world government logic of Remain

One of the arguments of those wishing the UK to stay in the European Union is that if the UK decides to leave, it will still need to accept most, if not all, EU laws if the UK wants to continue to trade and interact with this bloc. (This is the position, for example, of Norway and Switzerland, or so the Remainers say.) It is all about keeping British “influence”.

The Remainers often don’t appear to realise where the logic of their argument leads. Surely it leads to the case for World government. Let’s look Westward for a moment. Consider the recent example of how the US uses a “worldwide system” of tax. Any American living abroad has to file an annual return to the Internal Revenue Service. The US recently enacted a thumpingly controversial and intrusive piece of legislation called the Foreign Account Taxation Compliance Act, or FATCA. This means any foreign financial institution must take all necessary steps to establish whether a client is American or not or, if it interacts with the US. If no such steps are taken, the FFI must pay a 30 per cent withholding tax. It means that the IRS and other branches of US government have been able to enforce a massive piece of extra-territorial legislation on the rest of the world. Many Americans can’t get access to accounts when they live abroad. The situation is a shambles. Do I hear Remain-type people arguing that we should join the US in political union to try and sort this out and “influence” the US? Of course not. In another case, that of the football organisation FIFA, it was the use of dollar-based transactions by the alleged crooks at FIFA that led to the US Department of Justice, rather than the Swiss or others, sending in the investigators to Zurich. I haven’t heard of Swiss people arguing that Switzerland should become part of the US so that the Swiss can gain “influence” in Washington over such powers.

In other words, countries that have the economic muscle to create a situation where dealing with it entails certain extensions of judicial power can have influence way beyond their borders and aren’t likely to want to have that power diluted by sharing it with others. The US is, despite the best efforts of its political class, the world’s largest economy, and likely to remain so for a while. Ironically, the US hasn’t actually signed up to many of the very cross-border tax compliance moves that it insists upon when applied in other lands. Rank hypocrisy, you might say. But what this also reveals is that when you hear a lot of fine words about “gaining influence”, what it really boils down to is brute economic wealth and power. China, for example, owns a lot of US Treasury debt, as do a number of other Asian jurisdictions, and I suspect that explains why the US hasn’t launched many noisy campaigns about evil expat “tax evaders” in that region. This isn’t edifying, but that’s reality.

The “influence” that the UK may have in the corridors of Brussels comes, if it exists at all, from the relative prosperity and hence economic power of the UK, rather than on anything else.

In fact, to gain the “influence” that involves going along with the Brussels machine as the Remainers see it requires the UK to operate under the Qualified Majority Voting system of the EU. So, on key issues, such as a proposed EU transaction tax on banks, the UK is likely to be outvoted, suffering damage to a key industry (the City). The UK is most likely to object to EU directives where the UK sees a key interest at risk, and by definition, most likely to be in a minority when a QMV process occurs. The “influence” is diluted, often in ways that hurt real UK interests. QMV may seem to benefit the larger countries, but in certain respects it means that the UK can lose key votes on issues that really matter, such as to financial services.

Competition between jurisdictions, with freedom, crucially, of citizens to be able to migrate and with open capital flows, represents arguably the best check on power that we have. A looser Europe, enjoying free trade and free capital flows, but without such centralised political power, is arguably the best outcome from a liberal (in the right sense) use of the word. World government is a deluded dream, but I fear the Remain camp is not willing to face up to where the logic of its argument is leading.

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8 comments to The one-world government logic of Remain

  • Paul Marks

    Agreed.

  • Rob

    It’s the same ‘influence’ we would apparently have by de-industrialising for Gaia and showing the foreigners a shining example to follow.

    It’s a ludicrous fantasy but one sustained by many.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Rob, my mind boggles at the thought!

  • Laird

    I don’t see that the argument for One World Government necessarily follows from the argument for Remain. Once could just as plausibly argue that a unified Europe is necessary in order to have the ability to resist extraterritorial assertions of power by the US (such as via FATCA), or for that matter by China as it grows in economic power and regional influence. It helps to be a giant if you have to fight giants. Or so the argument goes, anyway.

    The problem with that argument, of course, is that the people who support Remain today are likely to be the same ones who will be making the One World Government argument tomorrow, when and if the opportunity arises. In other words, they are not supporting Britain’s continued membership in the EU as a counterweight to the US, but rather as an intermediate step toward universal government. But that speaks to the individuals making the argument, and their personal motivations, not to the argument itself.

  • Cal

    “The Remainers often don’t appear to realise where the logic of their argument leads. Surely it leads to the case for World government.”

    On the contrary, I think they’re well aware of this, and it’s their ultimate goal. Obviously they want it on their terms, so they won’t be seeking any direct union with the US, or China, or whoever, soon. They are, rather, quietly working away towards this in other ways, eg. through the increasing amount of international bodies that are springing up and assuming power.

  • It seems, from this American’s perspective, that England had much more influence before the EU than during it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Laird the point I want to make is that if people assume that “influence” requires political union, then it’s kind of odd how the logic doesn’t strike people when they encounter examples like the one I cited.

    Some of the people who are Remainers are also in favour of transnational organisations of all kinds. There is a crossover.

  • rxc

    Agenda 21 is the blueprint