Brexit will break it

I love Europe.  That’s my reason for hoping Britain will vote, on June 23, to stay in the European Union.

European Union map

So I leave to John Major. former Conservative prime minister, the benefits for Britain itself.  In a forcefully worded recent statement for the Stronger In campaign, he showed that the arguments of the Leave campaign are “unforgivable fraud.”  He essentially exposed them as deliberate lies, though he didn’t want to apply quite those words to politicians who had been colleagues of his.  Britain by leaving would lose money on a huge scale.  It would have to renegotiate more than fifty treaties.  Immigrants contribute far more value in services and taxes than they cost in benefits.  And more.

Many other major points have been made – that the young are in favor of staying in because they can so easily travel and study in the other countries;  that three million jobs depend on exports to the EU;  that the United Kingdom could well break up (Scots want to stay in the EU);  that the European Police. European arrest warrant, and other forms of cooperation are vital against terrorism and cross-border crime;  that 78% of British businesses say that leaving the EU would be bad for them;  that everyone would be £3,500 a year worse off;   that the EU forced multinational credit card companies to cut extortionate fees charged to shops and passed on to customers;  that it broke up the monopoly of two airline companies on transatlantic flights;  that it enables citizens of Britain (for instance) to get treatment in the health systems of other countries if they wish to do so because it is better or quicker.

I have to transfer my dollars to pounds, and the number of pounds per dollar rose sharply at the mere announcing of the referendum and the possibility that Britain may cripple itself.

Even the defenders of the EU tend to talk about staying in a “reformed” EU.  What they mean is that opponents may be mollified if the EU lets Britain opt out of more of the rules.  The British political system needs reform more than the EU’s does.  Its parliament is a shouting-match.  Its electoral system is unfair (leaving millions unrepresented if their MP is not of their party, and leaving elections to be decided by the few “swing” constituencies); it needs the proportional system used by the EU.

But these are the kinds of things that appeal to me:

The EU sets standards in environmental matters, building codes, job safety and the like that are usually higher than Britain’s.  Hence much of the grumbling about being “told what to do by Brussels.”  Britain’s air quality has been improved almost entirely because of having to comply with EU directives.   Many of Britain’s beaches, such as the one close to where I lived, had failing grades for sanitation till they had to be brought up to EU standards.  EU directives on wildlife habitat have enabled the recovery of many endangered species – birds, butterflies, orchids, dolphins.  The Natura 2000 network of protected sites covers 18% of Europe’s land, increasing the area of sensitive habitats in Britain.

The EU is working toward an end of the use of apes and monkeys in invasive experiments.  It banned the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, and promotes research into alternatives to animal testing.

The EU is the world’s largest aid donor.  It leads the fight against the poverty that breeds rebellions and terrorism, against malaria and AIDS.  It paid for the inoculation of two and a half million children against polio when that reappeared in Syria.

In Madagascar, we learned that many children are fated to a life on garbage heaps because they never went to school, which was because the authorities didn’t know of their existence: their parents never registered them.  The EU has funded mass drives to register children.

A friend, who was studying Germanic languages while I was studying Arabic and Persian, said to me: “I think Europe is unique, don’t you?”  I replied flippantly: “Yes, it’s the only continent that doesn’t begin with ‘A’!”

The eu-niqueness of Europe can be over-eulogized.  It isn’t yet a eu-topia.  (And its name doesn’t really begin with the Greek word for “good”: the “eur” part probably meant “broad.”)  It is really only a peninsula of a larger continent, Eurasia.  Still, the idea of continents was a European idea: for the Greeks, the world seemed to be divided into Europe on one side of the central sea and Asia on the other.

Europe is a richly diverse tapestry of cultures.  Still, what continent or subcontinent isn’t?  Europe spread its languages and its ideas far around the world.  But it was Africa that originally sent humanity itself around the world.  What matters for us is our own time and trends.

I see the European Union as the most beneficent of the superpowers, the foundation for a new and better era in world history.

Europe was the devil of the twentieth century.  Its many nations had fought each other for millennia.  Out from Europe flared the only two World Wars.  The first was followed by vindictiveness and the worst of all hatreds yet.  The second was followed by reconciliation and cooperation: the Marshall Plan and the European Union.  The countries thus bonding in friendship have never fought each other in the seven decades since and it has become inconceivable that they ever will.  Who should be more proud of this than Britain?


12 thoughts on “Brexit will break it”

  1. I have read the comments above and must first admit Guy has put down his arguments against Brexit well. However as an immigrant myself I disagree with staying in the EU for different reasons.
    We arrived as immigrants in 2000 to UK. It was a much safer, more polite decent place. As a family we speak English love cricket and all sports for that matter and were able to integrate very quickly. I also realized at the time that there were conclaves of immigrants who wouldn’t / couldn’t / make the effort to integrate.

    EU immigration has made this worse. Most of them live in their own little ghettos and communities and I now happen to be surrounded by them and unfortunately these immigrants don’t seem to know the norms by which the brits live and / or don’t seem to care. The street corners are littered as litter is not taken to the local dump. There was time when they didn’t even respect the norms of good neighbourliness by reducing their noise levels after 10:00 – 11:00 pm. They have put sever strains on local services. As s direct result of these people congregating in selected areas schools have difficulty in coping with influx ( in an era of austerity).

    Driving on the roads of Britain used to be a pleasurable exercise. No more. There are very few decent drivers who acknowledge good road manners.

    Years ago, in my youth I was selected for a scholarship to study in Japan for six months. What was my first action upon selection? Enrol to study spoken Japanese. Upon entering Japan, I could converse fairly well with the Japanese.
    If I couldn’t speak and write English, I would have never entertained the thought of coming here.
    I am not against migration. I am sure migration definitely helps Britain. Not the type we have now.
    Guy quotes the number of businesses who are against brexit. Businesses are against it because they use cheap labour to boost their profits. The whole EU expansion scheme was mechanism to dilute the expensive workforce within the EU. The EU bureaucrats ( they are not saints), saw the breakup of the old soviet union as a good opportunity to make us of some cheap labour that became available.
    This is all politics and not charity. Let’s be clear about it.
    On matters of Syria and Madagascar, I only say there is no mention of Saudi Arabia which is a serial violator of all known human rights laws. Western nations including the EU are disingenuous and so are we as voters keep these politicians in power. Our so called liberal values are so biased we only see what we want to see to the point they are not liberal anymore.
    A good example is the war that is going on in Yemen that is hardly reported in so called Liberal western press.
    Back to brexit, The other reason I voted for brexit was the fact that decisions are taken by faceless unelected EU officials. The only reason Tony Blair wants us to stay in Europe is so that one day he can be a top official there. Most of the politicians who support to remain have a hidden agenda. Not that the politicians who support Brexit are saints.
    My prediction is that EU will crumble ( It’s in ruins as an economy) and is only a matter of time before voters in other countries take back control.

    Unfortunately EU is not the saviour Guy thinks it is. It wastes vast amounts of money and mostly it’s a large inefficient behemoth that exists to serve the people who run it and puppeteers who are behind them ( aka big business) and not to serve the residents of the member countries. This is my opinion and I thank Guy for providing a platform for offering it.

  2. I think the argument based on the young’s lazy desire to be able to “easily travel and study in the other countries” undermines security as these invisible borders are also a threat to security from those who mean to spread fear and to do harm. The UK’s voters have spoken and their decision is a rebuke to the open borders mess and an expression of their desire for maintaining their democratic (small ‘D’) heritage.

    Also, I don’t understand why you would want the EU to spend their resources by funding mass drives to register children living on the garbage heaps of Madigascar. But perhaps we should defer to your geographic expertise as a European as I am simply a reader who is writing from one of those continents other than Europe that begin with the letter ‘A’ – Anorth America.

    1. It may be because of seeing Europe from a distance (35 years in America besides years in other continents) that I value it.

      The world’s problems will not be solved by fortifying frontiers and keeping furriners out. As I just heard a speaker say, Britain has because of worries about a few thousand immigrants taken a step backward from international cooperation; meanwhile there are ten million people, half or so of them children, displaced because of climate change in Bangladesh alone. If the causes of desperation in countries like Syria and Somalia and Mexico are not tackled, we will see the pressure of refugees continuing to build up until it is a tsunami that no fortification will keep out.

      1. We don’t need to over-exert ourselves in identifying the causes of desperation in countries such as Syria and Somalia (and even worse, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan). The great majority of the refugee crisis in Europe is from these countries, and the causes are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Blair, Sarkozy, Obama, and Hillary Clinton. These shills for the global financial and energy cartels had their hands on the levers of power and were able to launch devastating, destabilizing wars that unhinged otherwise stable countries (very flawed countries, but nevertheless stable) and unleashed a tsunami of death, destruction, and misery not seen since World War II. We in the west must recognize that our corrupt political leadership is the problem and vote to change it.

        As to the advisability of European countries banding together in the form of the EU, the libertarian scholar and writer Sheldon Richman offers this very thoughtful liberal critique of the EU:

        1. “Thoughtful if liberal”?
          In the Sheldon Richman article, a common typo: “vital knowledge is disbursed among large numbers of people”. He means “dispersed”.

          1. Sir, you have caught me again with some sloppy writing! I mean to write “. . . thoughtful, liberal . . .” I noticed some other typos in the Richman article that made me wonder if the website that hosted it introduced some errors in the copying.

  3. I was brought up and educated to believe that history is a tale of nation vs. nation, of country vs. country, or one ethnic group vs. another. 50+ years of experiencing history as it unfolds, and hearing what our leaders say, and seeing for myself the lies and manipulation, has led me to rethink history much more in terms of the 0.1% versus the 99.9%. The elite who control finance and large corporations, and by extension their operatives in (mostly) national governments who do their bidding, exploit and oppress everyone else in order to further their own aggrandizement. In my opinion, all of the efforts at consolidation of power in ever larger political or trade entities will do nothing but restrict freedom and transfer wealth from the 99.9% to the 0.01%. The existence of independent European countries did not cause World War I, as an example, but catastrophically narrow-minded greedy ignorant war criminals who only numbered a few individuals in the various countries saw opportunity to profit or otherwise accrue greater power to themselves caused World War I. Creating ever larger plantations that will afford even greater opportunities to the 0.01% is not the solution.

  4. Don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back: the Marshall Plan was an American idea; fascism is not dead in the European Union, nor is racism; Belgians don’t even like other Belgians; and let’s not even mention the direction Poland and Hungary are taking. At least in North America we don’t have the problem that our native soil harbors grievances that go back millennia, and we do make an effort to mitigate the long-standing ones rather than revel in them. Brexit would indicate a failure of reconciliation, but it’s not clear to the outside eye that reconciliation has a chance anyway.

    1. I was not comparing Europe with America. Both have, as I said, their flaws yet to be transcended. But there is a possibly useful analogy. Do you think that a country consisting of the present USA and Canada would be stronger and better still than those two countries divided? It’s one of those insoluble what-if-history-had-been-different propositions, but if at this point the northern part (Canada) of such a country were to want to split off, it would be a good idea? Canexit, we could call it.

      Or, there’s the wish of some to carve an Afrikan nation out of the US southeast. Afrexit.

      I didn’t think it necessary to remind anyone that the Marshall Plan was the American act of generosity that helped Europe back onto its feet.

      1. Your argument for opposing Brexit is compelling. I’m all for cleaner beaches and no more animal testing.

        From what I have gathered, the 2 major reasons in support of Brexit is to limit German control of England (the EU is mostly controlled by Germany), and to gain control of borders.

        Borders prevent unlimited immigration. Immigrants that integrate into the host society have traditionally been welcomed because they pay taxes and produce wealth with their talents and work efforts. But a substantial number of Muslim immigrants do not wish to integrate, but rather live in segregated areas and keep Sharia law. This changes the culture of the host country. I have heard that gay clubs in East London have closed because they fear retaliation from Muslims communities in the area. I would love to see open borders, but it seems we are facing a clash of civilizations. National borders seem to provide a sense of organization to the world.

  5. Well said, Guy, and thank you. It is deeply unsettling that the politics of today are run through Twitter-like comments and cheap shots at any easy target. Thoughtful commentary and richer – though sometimes more complex – analysis does not do well when limited to 140 characters and ten second sound bites. Unfortunately, nativist and reactionary attitudes do. The stay/leave vote in Great Britain is of major importance not only in Europe, but also to us here in North America. It is agonizing to watch this play out, but have no meaningful way to participate.

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