Leave: a rich democracy. Remain: a rich economy. Choose your risk.

I wrote this article to note and clarify my understanding of the main issues in the Leave – Remain debate.

I voted Remain but as time went by I’m now a Leaver. I found it useful to place the reasons for Leave or Remain into three domains. The domains are Economic, Sovereignty and Democracy. Domain selection has no expert rational; it is my convenient method for articulating a few key aspects of the case for Leave or Remain. The domains are not nuanced, though there is overlap.

Remain or Leave: the game is not over. Noting that the EU referendum in May 2016 resulted in a marginal result for Leave, the debate continues across a wide front. MPs will have their say once the negotiations are settled with the EU towards the end of this year. Polls, while fluctuating, do not indicate a significant change in voting intentions from the 2016 result. Yet indications are that when MPs express a view on the final agreement, they might well vote to Remain against the referendum result.

 

Economic

As far as I can make out, among the principal cases for the Remain domain, is the economy. Within this, more column inches are given over to the perils of the UK economy, should we leave the EU. There are though economists (economists for Free Trade) who make the case for Leave. Economists on both sides of the debate – because at present that is what it is, a debate – use economic data to guide their interpretations, leading to forecasts and consequences. Some forecasts, whether for or against remaining in the EU, but especially those making the case for remaining often do so with timeline projections up to 15 years – some shorter, some longer. The case is made, so it is assumed, with the finest available statistics and peer review, to inform the conclusions veracity.

 

Sovereignty

The sovereignty case for Leave is one of the UK, or frequently sloppily called England’s Westminster, parliamentary system, being unadulterated at all cost.  Mantras such as ‘Take back control’, and ‘Let’s protect our sovereignty’ are shibboleths coupled with negative views of ‘Brussels’. The issue of an overly bureaucratic administration is linked with an obsession of ‘Brussels democracy’, or lack of.

Venomous comments are reserved for the European Commission (EC is the civil service of the EU). The ‘Brussels’ gravy train’ may be muttered. Issues of naming our MEP and let alone knowing how to contact one, only adds to a feeling of democratic distance, if not haplessness in attempting to influence EC and EU decisions (a popular pub question in recent times is ‘Name the four MEPs representing Wales?’). This is a far cry from the ease of access to Welsh Government AC/AMs and our Westminster MPs. The attractions of a familiar parliamentary democracy in the UK feeds a pejorative view of EC bureaucracy, which perhaps, had an influence on those with an inclination to vote Leave. Geographical and psychological distance may readily sully one’s view of the EU and sooner or later the opinion may become an entrenched prejudice.

It might well be that cases in the popular press of a lack of transparency in EU policy decisions and EC civil service appointments, may foster a feeling that the EU, and the EC in particular, are self-serving and not accountable as directly as political representation in the UK. There is a persistent myth (reliably recycled every year by some UK newspapers) that the European Court of Auditors has refused to sign off the EU’s accounts, but this is false, in fact they have been found to be error-free. But the perpetual myth does little to reassure those in the sovereignty domain that our taxes are being managed judiciously.

 

Democracy

Lastly, to those in the Democracy domain, of which I am one. The UK’s democratic system, for all its flaws, especially the pressing need for fairer systems of representation, is noted for its unwritten constitution; it has served us well for generations and seen off the threat of existential forces, both internal and external.  Our enduring (often unconsciously) emotional attachment to our various forms of devolved democracy – if not quirky on times, especially to foreigners – is one that suits a characterisation of who we are. We are people who greatly value free speech, with all its exceptions and of speaking our minds with measured impunity, and being responsible, should we wish, for engaging in a participative democracy.

Our democracy with its endearing features and odd procedures and processes, including, paradoxically the non-elected House of Lords, is a form of Nation State Management, that has promoted and embraced the plurality (not always of course) of respective country administrations that we would readily lose, at our peril, if we were to Remain.

Implicitly we cherish our democracy. It is both robust and flaky, constantly attempting to facilitate an innovative economy, promotion of creative and traditional arts, manufacturing product design, efficient retailing, contemporary, historic and traditional cultures and our never ending direct pursuance of fairness. This is what, I believe, many in the UK, while maybe be without substance in some cases, are fearful of losing by remaining in the EU. Strong political forces for greater integration amongst some EU Member States will only reinforce Leave voters to stay Leave voters.

Finally, there is a paradox in changing my mind from Remain to Leave. The more I learned of the opinions of expert economists with their forecasts on the negative consequences of Leave, the more I became concerned that the powerful economic case for Remain would subjugate the essence of our democracy in Wales and Westminster. Therefore, in this light I will settle for the evolution of our liberal democracy, chancing my arm with Leave economists.

 

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

 

 

Brenig Davies is a Queen’s Award Reader for further and higher education, and is a member of several education Boards.

6 thoughts on “Leave: a rich democracy. Remain: a rich economy. Choose your risk.

  1. The last paragraph sums up as –
    I don’t like what experts are saying about the economy so I’m going to believe what I want to.
    A bit like the basis of a creation/ evolution type debate.

    As for democracy and sovereignty the UK’s idea of those are basically England’s idea of democracy and sovereignty and that can be summed up as –
    Doesn’t play well with others.

  2. I don’t follow your arguments, other than as a kind of rationalisation of ‘well we’ve decided to go so we’d better get on with it – it won’t be so bad’ (add ‘worried face’ emoji).

    There has been a need for a discussion on EU membership – its quality, though, not its existence. David Cameron could have initiated that – a Royal Commission, perhaps. The complete pointlessness of leaving the EU would have become apparent before ever causing such damage.

    There is, now, a binary position between, on the one hand what the fundamentalists always wanted, an economy free of all control where money speaks and devil take the hindmost (hint … it won’t be them) – and on the other hand the rest in gradations of customs fudges, freeish markets and angels on pinheads. This was not the question on the referendum ballot paper.

    The Leave campaign (aided by the Remainers) managed an unique confluence of interests that produced the relatively narrow leave vote, which will never be repeated (that’s why they fear a referendum on the terms).

    The choice now – go over the cliff edge with the fanatics, or continue to work towards a better Union. The chaff in the middle is not worth the pain. Any justification of Brexit now merely gives support to the fanatics, for whom very few would have voted. Not what I’d call democracy.

    The move to leave the EU has no substance. There are no arguments, by now, being made in favour of it, even by its staunchest supporters. The government’s own figures show that it only has downsides. It has the characteristics of a marketing campaign – slogans and memes – and will shortly be as flat as last years tv commercials (and UKIP).

    To still classify people according to how they voted in a Super Opinion Poll two years ago misses the point entirely. In that sense there are no Leavers and Remainers. Most voters know this at heart, and the next generation will ask ‘what the hell was all that about?’ unless we scupper them before they are even born.

    If Wales was independent, would we ever have taken such a damaging step? Answers to Mark Drakeford on a postcard.

  3. Why will we be able to get better trade deals with the commonwealth and the rest of the world than those we gave up in 1973,on economic grounds, to join a much smaller common market?

  4. “The UK’s democratic system…..is noted for its unwritten constitution; it has served us well for generations and seen off the threat of existential forces, both internal and external”
    Do you have any experience of a Written constitution? No?
    Why did Americans reject the British system in 1776? Why has noone copied it since?
    Britain functions sort of well despite its system, because its people are basically moderate in their ways?
    Example: we have loose/no rules on whether or not a Referendum is binding. A written system would not have this flaw.
    We could have been spared all the (and your) flailings on Brexit.
    Written!

  5. Geraint. My response refers to remarks made in your two comments.

    By inserting the word ‘simply’ to your first sentence (second response) you completely distort the drift of my case, which is the primacy of democracy. Yet you are ‘…surprised that you (I) think the democratic argument is a trump card. Well Geraint, I must say, that it is a trump card. I conclude by stating that democracy does not stand alone. The final sentence of my article reinforces that a thriving economy is integral with a sound democracy. The pertinent sentence is: ‘I will settle for the evolution of our liberal democracy, chancing my arm with Leave economists’. Though you dismiss Leave economists as ‘economists for a flat earth…’ Well I’m sure we both agree that early flat-earthers have had their day in the sun.

    The number employed by the EC, and UK administrations, of course, I accept. However, for figures to be valid when arguing a case, they must relate to a measurement of efficiency with similar organisations, in terms of size and purpose, otherwise figures may become spurious. Should you wish, I would advise, that when using a suitable equation to validate the figures, that you do so before a few pints of Brains Dark.

    You ask: ‘Are you really arguing that Wales will have more control over its affairs when the UK leaves the EU than it has now as a member? I would have thought the recent dispute over the effect of the Withdrawal Bill on the Welsh Government’s powers had provided conclusive proof of the contrary.’ Well who knows, not even the fairies, as you say. You might well be right, but as we both know the Government of Wales has signed up to the Withdrawal Bill, so it is assumed that they believe that there will be scope for tough negotiations in ensuring Wales does not lose out. I’d be shocked if the Welsh Government were not already preparing for the meetings that lay ahead. After all the Withdrawal Bill is a holding Bill that will provide for agreement to be reached on evolving devolved matters, albeit over a frustratingly protracted period. I’m neither sanguine or cynical on such matters.

    You end with your wish to offer advice to IWA members. I too do not depart from this proposition and would recommend (as you are doing) a read of the excellent new The Welsh Agenda; interestingly the Welsh Agenda includes a few articles related to Brexit to inform the debate we are having.

    We two have said that the debate continues, and so it is. How different it might have been, as we know, had the UK Government engaged in a significant way with early talks which led to the European Union’s predecessors: the Treaty of Paris (1951) which established the European Coal and Steel Community and the Treaty of Rome (1957) which established the European Economic Community.

    With respect and friendship

    Brenig

  6. @Brenig Davies
    “the Government of Wales has signed up to the Withdrawal Bill, so it is assumed that they believe that there will be scope for tough negotiations in ensuring Wales does not lose out. ”
    It is assumed and they believe. We shall trust in faith then. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

    ” I’d be shocked if the Welsh Government were not already preparing for the meetings that lay ahead.”
    The thing is that these meetings you’d be shocked if they weren’t preparing for will be meetings where the UK government tells the Welsh government what the UK government has decided that the Welsh government will do(or more accurately not do). If it’s a Welsh Labour government the only preparation it’s likely to need is to be ready to roll over and they’re well practiced in that “skill” already.

    I think that to be honest the regret that the UK excused itself from the discussions that led to the creation of the EEC is specifically regret that the UK missed the opportunity to create a type of EEC that the UK wanted but the actual founder members didn’t want. That is an EEC where the UK could successfully push the other members around in order to get it’s own way.

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