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Brexit: The argument from confusion and the argument from punitiveness

The EU is very complicated and confusing, which is a big reason for Brexit. But also very complicated and confusing, say the Remainers, is the process of Britain getting out of the EU. For that reason, they say, best to stay in. But I say that the more complicated and confusing it is to get Britain out, the more reason there is for Britain to get out. The more complicated getting out is, that means the more complicated the damn thing itself must be. The question becomes: Which is better? Complication for a year or three, while we extricate ourselves from this ghastly morass? Or: Complication for ever as we sink ever deeper into it? I say we should, you know, go with the result of the Referendum, and get out. Happily, that is now happening.

Lee Rotherham at CapX agrees:

In a sense, the Maastricht debate is still with us. But the coin has been flipped. Those now droning on about the complexities of a given aspect of the EU are the same people who accused Sir William Cash of being a “bore”. They are using the very same arguments about the extent and complexity of EU integration as its earlier critics. What they miss, of course, is their ironic vindication of the case against the EU.

Quite so.

Another Remainer argument which has a similar logical structure is that the EU, in addition to being diabolically complicated and confusing to get out of, on account of itself being diabolically complicated and confusing, is also determined to stop us Brits getting out easily. The only exit terms we will ever be able to extract from it will be crushingly punitive. Ergo, we should stay.

Britain’s exit deal may indeed prove costly to us. If EUrope lets us out easy, other rebellious bits of EUrope may also then try to leave.

But if such punitiveness happens, it will happen at the expense of EUropeans, who will find trading with Britain more costly, as well as at the expense of us Brits. And I say that the exact degree to which the rulers of the EU put the perpetuation of their own power ahead of the welfare of the people whom they will still rule, and ahead of the welfare of people generally, then to that exact degree they are a pack of megalomaniacs, of whom we Brits are well rid. The more punitively they are now behaving, the stronger is the case for us Brits to escape from their megalomaniac clutches, no matter what the short-term cost may be.

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32 comments to Brexit: The argument from confusion and the argument from punitiveness

  • So, a woman being beaten by her boyfriend (or vice versa since its 2017), should remain in an abusive relationship because if she did a runner then there is a chance that he might find her and beat her for it?

    Sorry, but no. Better to face an uncertain future than the apocryphal boot stamping on our faces forever.

  • Mr Ecks

    We have spent far too much time arguing with remainers.

    Time for a few treason and sedition charges instead.

  • Regional

    Britain has a substantial trade deficit with the E.U. What are thy going to do, take your birthdays from you?

  • Derek Buxton

    The ones running the EU are meglomaniacs, it was set up in that manner deliberately, the People do not count. It was and always will be a bureaucratic nightmare, and if we do not get out now, we never will. There will be another Treaty and it will never have a get-out clause such as Article 50 gives us now. Regretably our political class and their bureaucratic advisers do not want to leave, it makes their lives easier and they do not get the blame for the troubles it causes.
    We could have moved out easily had the outsiders, all experts, proper experts in the EU, been listened to. But they weren’t, leaving us with the mess we now have and a government without a plan, any plan, because they do not understand what the EU is and how it works.

  • John B

    Supposing Country A has a complex treaty with Country B.

    Country A and Country B go to war.

    The treaty and all its complexity ends quite simply when the first shot is fired.

    So there is no reason why the treaty between the UK and EU cannot end the same way, except without the war.

    After 31 March 2019 the UK has no obligations under the treaty, so why not just wait for it to time out?

    Oh yes, a ‘trade deal’. UK unilaterally declares itself a free trade zone. Job done.

    If the Continentals want to impoverish themselves by imposing tariff and non-tariff barriers on UK imports, let them.

    UK companies who might be affected by a drop in sales to the EU, seek out new markets. If they cannot do that successfully, they need new export managers or deserve to go out of business and release resources for companies that can succeed.

    Seems simple enough to me.

  • Agammamon

    These people should really stop and ask themselves how so many other countries around the world have managed to handle the work of being a sovereign nation and why that’s so hard for the UK to manage that they need the EU.

    Realistically, the UK could just sod-off and leave right now and deal with the issues as they came up. 90% of them will just be the EU unilaterally slamming the door out of spite. Sometimes its best just to rip the bandage off, wipe off the bleeding, and carry on.

  • Agammamon

    John Galt
    August 19, 2017 at 8:55 am

    So, a woman being beaten by her boyfriend (or vice versa since its 2017), should remain in an abusive relationship because if she did a runner then there is a chance that he might find her and beat her for it?

    Its worse than that – she should stay and endure the beatings because a divorce and living on her own would be ‘too complicated’.

  • Stephen K

    Its worse than that – she should stay and endure the beatings because a divorce and living on her own would be ‘too complicated’.

    The Remainer argument has a further layer of complexity available, which is that she should
    1) ignore the beatings;
    2) pretend they’re not happening;
    3) even ignore the fact that he acts selfishly towards other people too, and forces her to join him in doing so (hello, Common External Tariff);
    because of all the sweet nothings he says to her in between beatings, and because he’s doing such important stuff.

  • Laird

    Donald Trump has stated that the US and the UK are now working on a bilateral trade deal, to become effective immediately upon the extrication of the UK from the EU. Assuming that to be true (I haven’t seen it reported anywhere other than in that one small remark), as of 31 March 2019 the UK will have ready access to a far larger market than the rump EU. It seems to me that’s your trump card (pun intended) in negotiations with the EU. Let the EU shoot itself in the foot; they’re the ones which will sustain most of the damage from reflexive obstructionism and spite.

  • Sam Duncan

    I like the previous paragraph to the one you quote, Brian:

    So much of how the EU operates – socially, economically, administratively, and pseudo-democratically – has been hidden from the eyes of the public, indeed from the eyes of most MPs. It is precisely that huge mass of hidden architecture and the undemocratic way in which it operates which has driven Eurosceptics within and around Parliament for so very long.

    That’s spot-on. “Pseudo-democratically” is particularly good. I’ve always said “anti-democratic”, but that’s actually closer to the target. And it’s absolutely the case that our MPs don’t know any more about the EU than your average member of the public. It’s bad enough that we’re governed by an institution that most of us don’t understand, but it’s absolutely unacceptable to be governed by an institution that our elected representatives don’t understand either. Let alone have little to no say over:

    Meanwhile, the work goes on behind the scenes. Because that’s what Whitehall does, and that’s also what the EU does. The relationship between Brussels and its nation states is largely out of sight. It resurfaces briefly at the European Parliament, for what that’s worth; there is also a brief blowhole moment at the time a law is rubber stamped by a national parliament. For the rest of the time, it is comitology, diplochat, corridor talk, lobby fodder turf, and favours. For the rest of us, it is report and rumour.

    Whitehall is hardly a libertarian ideal. But Brussels is Whitehall without Westminster. (Quite literally so in the days when the “Parliament” only sat in Strasbourg.) It’s the engine and wheels without any steering or brakes. It’s the government Sir Humphrey would design, shoving the elected politicians out of the way, keeping them quiet with meaningless debates, fake votes, and virtually unlimited expenses, while getting on with the business of government without all those tiresome interruptions from the electorate.

    Frankly, it’s depressing that Brexit took so long. When I look at the Remainers, especially the ones fanatical enough to go out and march, wrapping themselves in the Ring of Stars, the term “useful idiots” has never seemed more appropriate.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The consistent underlying argument against Brexit is that things will get worse once we leave, even though there is (a) no viable economic justification or evidence for this, and (b) that they wont get even worse anyway if we stay in (which most leavers would contend is assured).

    Consider the meme that states how “old” people have shafted “young” people by voting for something that wont affect them, again assuming that leaving the EU is bad or worse, the more likely argument is that “old” people knew what life was like before the EU got involved and want the best for their descendants, if “old” people didn’t care then they would not have voted, but they did, in much larger numbers, obviously driven by the mythical hatred they have of the “young”.

    Vince Cable himself purported a variation on this meme by accusing “old” people of harking back to a better world based on colonialist ideology, thereby neatly wrapping the whole thing up in a kind of racist/xenophobic/supremacist argument without a shred of evidence.

    As with the OP, the tactic should be to start addressing the underlying arguments against Brexit and pointing out the ridiculousness of them, this would expose that the real imperialists are those opposing Brexit who want to keep the gravy train running, and I’m looking at you Tony Blair, etc.

  • Thailover

    Only pets and slaves have a Lord and Master. Yes, much less “complicated” to remain a pet. But less complicated is not an argument.

    End of transmission. (Drops Mic).

    LOL

  • Patrick Crozier

    What John B said + there’s probably an issue with pensions for euro-bureaucrats.

    Also: I have always accepted that it’s a case of short-term pain; long-term gain. Let’s just hope that that’s what we get.

  • Mr Ed

    To mis-quote Hirohito ‘We must endure the endurable, and cease to endure the unendurable.’.

  • Chip

    Wealth and technology have made people more self-sufficient than ever before, so it’s somewhat of a paradox that the socio-political trends in the west are toward greater centralization of power at the expense of the individual.

    Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have come within a whisker of power despite worshipping the most ruinous and blood-thirsty ideology known to man AND while having absolutely zero experience or knowledge of the private sector.

    I suspect this is because although the Left has consistently failed at governance, it has succeeded in taking over education and the media, while importing millions of people from statist cultures.

    They’re losing every battle but winning the war.

  • […] Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait encourages the Brexiteers, as staying in the EU is clearly not a viable […]

  • Stonyground

    I think that Brexit could be a massive opportunity for the UK if only any of our politicians had any kind of vision. The current government seem to have no real direction. Being so far to the left and also being Tory in name only seems to be the perfect formula for alienating all sides of the electorate. I dislike them for being an interfering high tax government, socialists won’t blame socialism when the government makes a mess of things, they will of course blame the Tories.

  • Derek Buxton

    Stonyground,
    I agree with all you said, we do have a government that is Tory in name only. Not what we voted for at all.

  • Laird

    Well said, Chip. I concur.

    Derek, in the US we use the term “RINO” for “Republicans in Name Only”. It is now in common parlance. Is use of the term “TINO” common over there?

  • “Britain’s exit deal may indeed prove costly to us. If EUrope lets us out easy, other rebellious bits of EUrope may also then try to leave.”

    It may be my perspective but it looks to me like it wouldn’t take much for Britain to take most of eastern Europe with it.

  • It may be my perspective but it looks to me like it wouldn’t take much for Britain to take most of eastern Europe with it.

    Yes, but I suspect that the “wouldn’t take much” is still a matter of time and money.

    Only after the UK has left will the real EU shitstorm begin in earnest, as the funding collapses and feeds through into lower cash flows from Brussels to Eastern Europe and demands for increased contributions.

    Keeping the EU together requires both carrot and stick. If the carrot gets smaller and the stick gets bigger then the cost / benefit of EU membership for many of those Eastern European members becomes somewhere between weak and negative.

    Then all it will take is a big, hard shove in the right direction…

    None of this will happen overnight, but I expect that by the EU’s 70th anniversary, 10-years from now the EU will exist in name only, defining a loose confederation of trading nations for whom “A Country called Europe” is little more than a bad joke.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Some Europeans think that Europe should have an army. This probably means they will also get around to making a navy. Watch out, Britain! At least James Bond will always have his work cut out for him, with all these new enemies of Britain to beat.

  • monoi

    The problem, as alluded in a previous comment, is that we are in great risk to be left with all the problems of leaving whilst getting none of the advantages.

    Didn’t Hammond say that they would not repeal any EU regulations?

  • bobby b

    “Didn’t Hammond say that they would not repeal any EU regulations?”

    Don’t they pretty much have to do that in order to be able to accomplish the leaving without triggering another opportunity for the Remainers to block or hinder the leaving?

    My fuzzy impression remains that, if Leave is accomplished in a way that causes GB law to be changed, then it will require an Act of Parliament and another chance to sabotage it, but if it can be accomplished simply by giving notice and waiting out the period without changing internal laws, no further Paliament action will be required, and, just as I’ve always tried to minimize the number of times my kids handle the good crystal, keeping Parliamentary hands off Leave would be best.

    And then, once Leave is a done deal, they can haggle over changing Britain’s laws without jeopardizing Leave.

    Of course, I may have this wrong. Y’all do things funny.

  • tomsmith

    I suspect this is because although the Left has consistently failed at governance, it has succeeded in taking over education and the media, while importing millions of people from statist cultures.

    They’re losing every battle but winning the war.

    Correct. And this is something the right neuters themselves against doing anything about. It is an un-mentionable problem, one they seem to hope will just go away. Of course it only gets stronger.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Speaking from the other side of the Atlantic, I suggest that the purpose of the delay is delay itself, prolonged until Brexit is put aside out of sheer frustration. You need to get out now.

    Just do it; leave today or tomorrow or next week, but leave. Then negotiate with the EU to clean up any messes, once leaving has made EU foot-dragging pointless.

  • Speaking from the other side of the Atlantic, I suggest that the purpose of the delay is delay itself, prolonged until Brexit is put aside out of sheer frustration.

    If you genuinely think this then you are mistaken. The purpose of Article 50 is essentially a timer on an ejector seat. Come 30th March 2019 we are out automatically, regardless of the sentiment of either Parliament or whoever the PM might happen to be.

    Article 50 cannot be set aside or reversed without coming to agreement with the remaining EU 27 (who are currently somewhere between intransigent and belligerent) and facing a political backlash from both those who voted for BRExit and those who (despite voting remain), believe that the government should just get on with it.

    At this stage the path of least resistance is to attempt to negotiate in good faith with the EU (since nothing will come of it) and dealing with the consequential fallout of inevitable failure in Spring 2019.

    At this stage a ‘Hard BRExit’ is inevitable as both the EU and UK red lines are completely incompatible.

  • Laird

    “At this stage a ‘Hard BRExit’ is inevitable as both the EU and UK red lines are completely incompatible.”

    That seems right to me. And (which is highly unusual when dealing with international treaties), in this case time really does seem to be on your side. The automatic trigger of Article 50 means that the bureaucrats negotiating on behalf of the rump EU will have less and less bargaining leverage as 30 March 2019 approaches. And your power is even further enhanced if the UK has a trade agreement already negotiated with the US that takes effect on 1 April (which Trump seems willing to do). You really hold most of the cards here, provided that your negotiators are willing to play them.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I saw that quotation by Lee Rotheram a few days ago and thought exactly the same as Brian. Complexity is now used as a reason for not leaving, when in the past those who went on about the hideous complexity of the EU were scorned as bores.

  • I’ve always believed that Article 50 only exists because “there had to be an exit process”, it was only there to be compliant with countries constitutional processes since it could be argued that EU Accession was not a one way street and could always be reversed through the Article 50 process. Therefore complying with democracies which cannot be bound by irrevocable treaties.

    Article 50 was never designed to be executed, which is why it has no substance, it was little more than an afterthought to appease Eurosceptics.

    This is why it has become so problematic.

  • Paul Marks

    The laws (regulations) of the European Union must NOT be the law inside the United Kingdom – the matter is that brutally simple.

    As for a “transitional period”, the thing the government talks about endlessly – it has already occurred, as the vote was more than a year ago. Business enterprises (and others) have had more than a year to prepare for European Union law no longer being the law inside the United Kingdom.

    There is no excuse for the laws of the European Union still being the law inside the United Kingdom – more than a year after the vote to leave the European Union. The Common Law is sufficient – there is no need for statute law in commercial and other matters. And there are more than a century of statutes passed before entry into the European Union – for people who like statutes and regulations derived from statutes.

    Finis.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    John Galt
    August 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    If you genuinely think this then you are mistaken. The purpose of Article 50 is essentially a timer on an ejector seat.

    If you want to give the Remainers two more years to figure out why, despite appearances, Article 50 doesn’t really apply, feel free.

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