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Lexit: The Fool’s Journey

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fool

A recent poll (10 June) estimated that 44% of those who voted Labour in the 2015 General Election will support Brexit. This was perhaps the poll that began the general freak-out amongst remain supporters. That said, neither that number nor the top line figure of 55% leave are likely to survive the vote come Friday morning.

Brexit is an emotional, nationalistic movement, and my guess is that a strong majority of that 44% figure are not motivated by the Lexit arguments. Summed up, the basic argument is that the European Union has been little more than a neo-liberal project, concerned only with big business and trade, and worse, would prevent the UK from becoming the progressive, socialist paradise should we ever, you know, elect such a government. Most Labour-Brexit support want the same (ill-informed, misguided) things all Brexit supporters want: their “country back”, an end to unregulated immigration, and to snub their collective noses at the elite.  According to at least two vocal members of the audience of a panel I chaired a few weeks back debating a “better EU”, I represent said elite.  (I’m still waiting for my membership card, instructions for the secret handshake, and the financial stability that membership of the elite promises). But, there are those that genuinely believe that Britain, and the left in Britain, would be better off and in a better position to effect progressive chance should we leave the EU.

This is a good, brief read on the folly of Lexit-ism. It outlines how ignorance over the EU is driving the left as well as the right, albeit from different perspectives entirely such that the EU is rendered some sort of schizophrenic institutional blob:

If you listen to some left-wing voices – proponents of what is being called Lexit – the European Union is an undemocratic, neo-liberal empire. It is ruled by Angela Merkel and an army of cold-hearted, faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who spend their lives plotting to privatise British public services and deliberately making life in Southern Europe as miserable as possible.

Listening to both left-wing and right-wing arguments for Brexit can be rather confusing. Similar to Schrödinger’s immigrant who lazes around on benefits while simultaneously stealing jobs, the EU seems to be at the same time both communist and predatory capitalist. It has transformed Europe into a fortress while at the same time opening its borders to mass immigration. The EU’s rescue packages for Southern Europe have been too stingy while at the same constituting an outrageous burden to British taxpayers.

But here’s some truth:

But that is not the case for the UK. Britain has been driven by neoliberal economic policy for the past four decades. The EU has actually brought back all kinds of protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Among other things the EU forced the UK to introduce the statutory right to paid leave. Before the implementation of the EU Working Time Directive in 1998, two million British employees did not receive any paid holiday at all.

European integration has clearly been a left-wing corrective to British neoliberalism. Meanwhile, it was actually the UK that has pushed many of those developments in the EU that the left opposes.

The government of the United Kingdom lacks any sort of real checks and balances that can be found in many democratic systems. Yes, there’s the toothless House of Lords, who can be somewhat of a nuisance to the government of the day if they so desire, but then said government can effectively quash any objection the House of Lords raises by invoking the Parliament Acts 1911 & 1949. Within this constraint, their power is limited as the Lords can not muck around with supply bills or anything mentioned in the governing party’s electoral manifesto.  What does that leave?  The Queen.  The monarch hasn’t withheld royal assent since 1708, and I’m thinking that the left doesn’t want to rely on the monarch to share in its goals regardless.

The European Union effectively provides the left of the UK with an implicit check on the ability for Conservative parliaments to make life harsh. Furthermore, in the event that Britain elects a left-ish Labour government (where left-ish equates to the left of Blair and Brown) the EU does not prevent a lot of the left’s dream agenda (which is a common critique of the EU by Lexiters):

Nor do arguments about the EU holding Britain back from re-nationalising public services and the railways stand up to much scrutiny.

The privatisation of British public utilities had a lot to do with British politics and very little with European integration. While the EU Rail Directive opened up the railways for private competition, it did not oblige member states to privatise state-owned service providers. In fact, the UK was the only big EU state to do so.

If a left-wing British government tried to renationalise the railways, or any other utilities, the EU would be the least of its worries. The main obstacles would come from within the UK, most notably from the private sector and, indeed, the electorate. British voters are – whether the left likes it or not – far more economically conservative than most of continental Europe.

The piece correctly points out that the only way for this dream to work is for a left-leaning Labour government (or, let’s face it, a Lab-SNP coalition) to get elected. Alas, there are problems with this dream.

Brexit could only be in the left’s interest if it was followed up by consequential left-wing politics. It would require a Labour party that has significantly moved to the left to get into government very soon.

Giving up on the EU and the left-wing corrective it already provides in exchange for the slim hope of a genuine left-wing government coming to power in Britain is a rather risky gamble. In the short term, Brexit will empower the likes of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who have never made a secret of their Thatcherite fantasies.

In the long term, Brexit might render Labour completely impotent. If Britain leaves the EU against the will of the majority of Scottish voters, their appetite for independence will surge again. Needless to say the left’s electoral potential will diminish for generations without the Scottish vote.

Unmentioned is that any future Conservative government, and there will be more Conservative governments than Labour governments, can simply undo whatever it is that a progressive left government established.

Should the UK vote for Brexit on Thursday, there’s a decent chance that we’ll be governed by some form of a Boris Johnson – Michael Gove administration. This would make Kansas appear well governed in comparison. Which leaves this for our Lexiters:

Any British left wingers thinking of voting to leave the EU over these issues should perhaps instead consider leaving Britain.

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  • Gwen

    Brexit would also serve as a fabulous pretense to revisit Scottish independence, not to mention fuel whatever republican grievances exist throughout the Commonwealth. I am pretty sure a vote “for our country back” would end up succeeding only in the final destruction of the British Empire.

    Anyway, I am furiously at work on my explanation as to why the left should cheer for Texas secession. I put up a joke website for the “People’s Republic of Texas” back in the Geocities days. Apparently, Lexit teaches us that any joke can be taken seriously if you deadpan it enough.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      I wonder if there’s a substantial number of English conservatives who’d like to see Scotland leave. Pesky social democrats! That would help (in their eyes) to cement Tory rule in the rump UK.

      This brings to mind something else-there was (IIRC) a degree of ambivalence about an independent Scotland joining the EU around the time of the referendum, because some other EU countries wouldn’t want to encourage their own separatism. In this case though (independence after a Brexit) maybe there’d be more encouragement to have Scotland join the EU out of a case of sticking it to London.

      • Warren Terra

        See also Wales. And maybe even Norn Ireland!

        • ThrottleJockey

          I really have a hard time seeing much benefit to joining the EU when even Krugman says he would (grudgingly) vote Remain, but only because national income would be a whole 2% higher. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

          If California was its own independent country do you think it would vote to join the US? What with Texas and Georgia and Florida restricting its independence?

          I just don’t think an increase of 2% in national income justifies the significant restrictions in sovereignty entailed in union. Absent the strong historical & cultural ties that link California, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, New York, etc, I don’t see a reason to voluntarily constrain self-governance.

          What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

          • Gwen

            But that’s 2 percent every year, right? Sooner or later that adds up to real money.

            • sonamib

              It’s just a flat 2%.

              EDIT to clarify : in any given year, if the UK’s GDP is 100 inside the EU, it would be 98 outside the EU.

              Still, it’s a significant amount of money. The EU budget is just 1% of the EU GDP, and people still manage to complain about the way they spend that money.

              • ThrottleJockey

                No, Gwen is right, its 2% compounded each year. That’s not enough to straight jacket me to Berlin.

                • sonamib

                  Ok, this is a little confusing because we’re not economists, and we aren’t using precise language.

                  So here are two scenarios. Let’s say the UK’s GDP inside the EU is 100, and let’s compare that to the UK’s GDP outside the EU.

                  1. 2% drag on growth.
                  -Year 1 : the UK GDP is 98
                  -Year 2 : the UK GDP is 96
                  -Year 3 : the UK GDP is 94
                  etc.

                  2. 2% drag on the overall GDP level.
                  -Year 1 : the UK GDP is 98
                  -Year 2 : the UK GDP is 98
                  -Year 3 : the UK GDP is 98
                  etc.

                  I’m pretty sure Krugman was predicting scenario 2.

                  Edit : Scenario 1 would be pretty dramatic, it would mean that, in 70 years, Britain would only have half the GDP it would otherwise have inside the EU. That seems too strong to be true.

                • sonamib,

                  But it’s 98% of a growing pie, right?

                  (I owe you an email.)

                • sonamib

                  Bijan : yes, if the economy’s growing, 2% represents more money every year.

          • I really have a hard time seeing much benefit to joining the EU when even Krugman says he would (grudgingly) vote Remain, but only because national income would be a whole 2% higher.

            That’s a back of the envelope (with it possibly being higher or lower) and *every year for forever*.

            I just don’t think an increase of 2% in national income justifies the significant restrictions in sovereignty entailed in union.

            First, it’s a *loss* not an increase. And there are increases as well. You lose some local control in exchange for greater leverage and a say in overall governance.

            What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

            A lot? Plus, we have significant local autonomy. EU regulations generally provide a useful floor (e.g., annual leave policies).

            • ThrottleJockey

              Are you making (like Brockington appears to be making) a policy preferences argument? Are you saying that the EU tends to be more liberal than British governance and so the EU gives you a better “policy bundle” than you would get from just Britain?

              That’s a legitimate angle of attack, but that type of argument usually suffers from unimaginative thinking: Tomorrow’s Britain will be like today’s Britain. Most people can’t see the future. In 2007 Karl Rove was running around talking about the permanent Republican majority. What a difference 12 months made!

              • Are you making (like Brockington appears to be making) a policy preferences argument?

                No.

                Are you saying that the EU tends to be more liberal than British governance and so the EU gives you a better “policy bundle” than you would get from just Britain?

                That’s true for me, but not my argument.

                That’s a legitimate angle of attack, but that type of argument usually suffers from unimaginative thinking: Tomorrow’s Britain will be like today’s Britain.

                Well, on Brexit it will be worse. It’s not going to empower leftists, that’s for sure.

                Most people can’t see the future. In 2007 Karl Rove was running around talking about the permanent Republican majority. What a difference 12 months made!

                Well, let’s just say we’re not relying on Rovean clown analysis.

                My last point was that the UK has considerable local autonomy even with the EU. A lot of what they promulgate, they could get us to accept on the basis of trade treaties. Conversely, we have a great deal of influence on Europe and we could exercise more.

                We will lose power inside the EU (by 1) not being a member with considerable rights and 2) by pissing everyone off) and outside (because we won’t have EU muscle behind us).

                It is almost certainly a net loss of de facto power from the individual citizen to the nation as a whole. What gains that are projected totally aren’t worth it.

                And we know this because Leave systematically lies about the costs and the benefits. Indeed, they are incoherent about it. There’s no way we’re going to reduce net migration. Just Won’t Happen. They are even talking policies to *increase* migration (just from different countries).

              • BTW TJ, you mentioned once that you liked Zoe’s voice. She put out a video for the solstice.

                And she hit two of her stretch goals for her next album’s kickstarter campaign.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Yes, she has a wonderful voice! Thanks for the link! Congrats to both of you!

          • sibusisodan

            To add to Gwen’s comment above, we’ve been lucky to get annual GDP growth above 1% for the last few years. Taking two percentage points off that, year-on-year is not pretty.

            • sonamib

              See above, it’s not a 2% drag on growth, it’s a 2% drag on the overall GDP level. In other words, you’ll take a one-off 2% hit to GDP, then it’s business as usual. But you’d still be 2% poorer for no good reason.

              • Warren Terra

                The question is: is it a two percent hit to the growth rate (so a GDP growth rate of 1% becomes a recession with a “growth” rate of -1%), or is it two percent of the growth rate (so that 1% growth becomes 0.98%).

                I rather suspect it’s the former, and if so it’s huge. Leading politicians would sell their souls, their dignity, and anything else they could think of if it meant they got the credit for a 2% boost in GDP annually.

          • sonamib

            Krugman is a little hostile against the EU because of the way they handled the economic crisis, especially in the so-called PIIGS countries. The EU’s actions were awful in that regard, so it’s normal that a sensible economist like him would be pretty skeptical of the EU’s usefulness.

            But the response to the economic crisis is not the be-all end-all of the EU institutions. There are a lot of positive aspects, cited in the OP. Not to mention the original goal of European integration, which was to prevent the French and the Germans from going to war against each other, which was a regular feature of European history since the Roman times.

            TL;DR : Krugman only talked about the economic aspects of EU membership, because he’s an economist. But there are other things that matter.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Not to mention the original goal of European integration, which was to prevent the French and the Germans from going to war against each other, which was a regular feature of European history since the Roman times.

              Does Brexit = Frexit? I see no reason for the French to leave the EU just because Britain does.

              • sonamib

                No, but I thought you were making a larger argument here :

                What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

                What does Nantes know about Hamburg?

                Anyway, I do think Brexit would create a dangerous precedent, and French Euroskeptics might be emboldened by their victory and try to do the same thing at home. The National Front is pretty popular these days, and they’re as anti-EU as it gets… A conservative French politician could conceivably do the same stunt as Cameron and call a referendum. But to be clear, I think that’s very unlikely.

                • antoni_jaume

                  In fact what does Nantes knows about Marseilles? Or Barcelona about Cordova.

                • sonamib

                  What does the 16ème arrondissement know about the 20ème? What does Greenwich know about Clapham? So many potential little states!

                • wjts

                  Hard to see how that could go wrong!

                • Ahuitzotl

                  yet another reason to drag Thoreau out into the woods and give him a good kicking

                • Yankee

                  Maybe we could just dispense with an absolutist notion of the Soverigenty of the State. No divine right of kings at all!

          • ajay

            2% of national income is quite a lot of money. Try it like this: “This decision will cost your country £90 billion over the next ten years.”

          • Bruce B.

            It turns out, and I realize this may come as a shock, that there are more considerations than a simple one-line total of income received. Human rights policies, the treatment of labor, and the like may or may not lead to specific measurable sums up or down, and yet they matter tremendously to lots of people’s lives.

            As for your question, Munich and Milan have ways of learning things they need to know about Manchester, and they have the big benefit of not starting off by hating it and its people. Lots of Americans don’t know how much sectional prejudice shaped Thatcher’s policies and therefore a legacy that’s still an active issue.

          • ajay

            Absent the strong historical & cultural ties that link California, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, New York, etc, I don’t see a reason to voluntarily constrain self-governance.

            What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

            More than you do, clearly.

            What, you think there aren’t strong historical and cultural ties between the EU member states? Good grief.

          • antoni_jaume

            What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

            The three cities were part of the Roman Empire. And both Munich and Milan were also part of the Carolingian empire, and of the HRE.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Roman Empire. Jesus’ time. World hasn’t changed much since then. I mean just yesterday I was saying to my neighbor, Aristophanes, that by Jupiter, that Muhammad fellow has no idea what he’s talking about. How could there be 1 god when we have the sun and the ocean? Wisdom and beauty? If he doesn’t watch himself he’s gonna get a lightning bolt up his ass. Allah whatevs, Mars will get him.

            • Hogan

              Munich was founded in 1158.

          • Donalbain

            Is the 2% figure assuming continued access to the common market? Because if so, then arguments about sovereignty become meaningless since we would have to keep abiding by the rules of the market AND accept free movement of people.

            • Ahuitzotl

              It is, and you’re correct. There are european economists with rather more pessimistic views on the effects of Brexit on the UK, although I dont have any way of assessing their inbuilt political biases.

          • Hogan

            What does Munich and Milan know about Manchester?

            What should they know of England who only England know?

          • Yankee

            The main thing about states being in the same country is they don’t have to go to actual war with each other. We tried that once recall: it was very nasty and didn’t really resolve anything, except that states aren’t allowed to go to war with each other.

    • Gwen

      Meanwhile, per the Houston Chronicle:

      http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/brexit-texas-secession-8313662.php

      “Britain’s Thursday vote on withdrawal from the European Union could energize Texas’ recurrent push for independence, which has gained a high profile of late.

      “The Texas Nationalist Movement is just one of a handful of groups that have pushed the notion of a reborn Texas Republic through the years, but it claimed the national spotlight in May when it helped make secession an official discussion topic at the Republican Party of Texas’ convention.”

      And obviously, the first official act of the reconstituted Lone Star Republic will be to name Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as President and Vice-President.

  • JohnT

    Across the Western world the ‘Goddammit I’m so ANGRY! Party is basically growing massively in strength everywhere, but in many places, especially with 2-party systems the followers of this party have signed up to an existing party, of which there were always ANGRY! sections.In the US Trump and some of the Berniebros demonstrate this.
    In the UK the Labour Party election and now Brexit are proving to be an excellent chance to work who in Labour is who: Corbyn supporter + Remain supporter = Leftist. Corbyn supporter+ Brexit supporter = ANGRY (Hi George Galloway – so surprised to see you there!). Anti-Corbyn + Remain = standard social democrat/moderate. Anti-Corbyn + Leave = someone who is pretty confused and contrary!
    For the Tories it is different – as you say nationalist Thatcherism is about the only coherent political movement that should logically want Brexit, although at the same time the Tories have always had a deep strain of ‘turn the clock back 70 years’ ANGRYism.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      I think it’s not only ANGER, but also a sense of powerlessness. Or, better, that sense of powerlessness is what causes the anger. That doesn’t make the Lexit argument any more coherent. But it’s important to remember that “ANGRYism” really is a product of neoliberalism, a combination of a certain kind of working-class precarity with the nagging fear that there’s very little to be done about it (the flipside of Thatcher’s TINA). If the game feels sufficiently rigged, the desire to kick over the card table grows.

      So while we’re arguing against things like Lexit as foolish, we ought to be taking very seriously the social conditions that help bring them about. If we don’t work toward some sensible form of socialism, we ought not to be shocked at the popularity of various socialisms of fools.

      • sibusisodan

        we ought to be taking very seriously the social conditions that help bring them about.

        This is absolutely true.

        Where I get stuck is that we’re a year on from people not voting for the party/ies that would more ably deal with those actual problems.

        What does one do about that?

        • Murc

          People vote on more than one issue… unless there’s only one issue to vote on.

          There are Republicans who would never dream of voting for a Democrat but would happily vote Yea on “Drag the Wall Street Fuckers From Their Offices and Hang’em Hrom the Lampsosts Act of 2016” if it came up by itself, for example.

          • Aexia

            Nearly every single Republican voted against the “Inconvenience the Wall Street Fuckers Act of 2010” and the director of the “Investigate and Possibly Fine the Wall Street Fuckers Bureau” so I don’t know where the votes for anything stronger would come from.

            • Murc

              Nearly every single Republican voted against the “Inconvenience the Wall Street Fuckers Act of 2010” and the director of the “Investigate and Possibly Fine the Wall Street Fuckers Bureau” so I don’t know where the votes for anything stronger would come from.

              … those were pieces of legislation, not referenda, assuming you’re referring what I think you’re referring to. They were never before the electorate, and, thus, there was no chance for “nearly every single Republican” to vote against them.

              • ThrottleJockey

                Yeah, Wall Street ain’t popular anywhere outside of Wall Street. Trump and others bag on Wall Street all the time. The Republican coalition is a coalition of necessity. Wall Street supplies the money, and Main Street supplies the votes. Its not a coalition of camaraderie.

                • Murc

                  And there are, of course, other examples. There are people who vote a straight Democratic ticket but would never vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice they think would uphold Roe if they had a chance to do so. There aren’t a ton of them, but they exist.

                  My basic point was “just because people didn’t vote for Party X, which wants to do Y, doesn’t mean they’re also against Y. Because Party X also wants to do a ton of other things as well.”

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Yep, I’m with you. That’s the value and limitations of a 2 Party System. You have to hold your nose and accept a lot of shit you wouldn’t otherwise accept.

                • Murc

                  That’s the value and limitations of a 2 Party System. You have to hold your nose and accept a lot of shit you wouldn’t otherwise accept.

                  Well, it happens in multiparty systems as well. It’s just there the compromising happens after the election rather than before.

      • guthrie

        A fair bit of it is basically a feeling of “I can stick it to some politicians by voting Leave!”.

    • Ahuitzotl

      ‘turn the clock back 70 150 years’ ANGRYism.

    • Yankee

      I’ve been wondering lately about whether there is a switch deep in the human consciousness that in its normal (sez me) setting desires peace and business as usual, but which can flip to desiring radical change, any change, the question being what change is the changy-est. Obviously there is an avalanche effect at work and questions of right or left become emotionally irrelevant.

      I suspect we will indeed get radical change of some sort.

  • Gareth

    The monarch hasn’t withheld royal assent since 1708, and I’m thinking that the left doesn’t want to rely on the monarch to share in its goals regardless.

    She probably wouldn’t stay the monarch for long in that situation anyway. All hail King George the Seventh.

    • Warren Terra

      Do you really think the next monarch will adopt a regnal name? I have a hard time picturing it …

      (ETA: though I suppose, assuming it is Prince Chuck who finally gets a shot at the title, the various Charleses who’ve held or pretended to the British throne have their problems, and King Charles is rather more successful as a spaniel than as a ruler).

      • Gareth

        No, I’m just assuming we’d want to skip Charles the Third and William the Fifth for someone more pliable.

        • Warren Terra

          Well, installing the infant George is one way to shoot for a long reign …

      • Lurker

        I believe that George is the only doable name for a British male monarch. Everything else has a lot of historical burden:
        *William might be OK, but the last William on the throne was a lecherous drunk whose greatest achievement was securing his succession by Queen Victoria
        *Edward is forever marred by bad king Edward, the nazi. And his predecessor Edward was a lecherous drunk, too
        *The two Charleses on the throne were unpopular, and the first one was dethroned and condemned to death by the people represented by the parliament
        *James has the same problem. The last James on the throne was dethroned in the Glorious Revolution. It would not be cricket to reuse the name.
        *The only John who reigned in England was the villain of Ivanhoe and Robin Hood.
        *Richard, on the other hand, was the loser of the War of the Roses.

        “George” was used by the kings who saw Britain through two world wars. Not a bad score at all, though a George also lost the 13 colonies and two Georges were insane.

        Perhaps Henry might also do, “Henry VIIII, defender of faith” would really have an interesting sound to it, but it would take guts to use that name.

        If you would want a real break with tradition, you would rule as “Oliver II”. BTW, if Great Britain were ever to become a republic, it should name its ceremonial head of state “Lord Protector” just for historical continuity.

        • Schadenboner

          Henry VIIII

          All I can say is nIX to this!

          • Warren Terra

            + VIIII

          • Mrs Tilton

            Dammit, keeping you Germans from constantly telling Britain what to do is the whole reason for the Brexit campaign.

            • Schadenboner

              Damnit, keeping me from reinstalling CK2 is the whole reason for reading politics websites.

              • MilitantlyAardvark

                Cough *EU IV* cough.

                • sonamib

                  +1444

                • Schadenboner

                  Needs more creepily-detailed incest simulation.

        • Æthelred IV has a nice ring to it.

          • N__B

            A nice ring to rule them all.

        • Hogan

          What’s wrong with lecherous drunks? AFAF.

          • N__B

            Lechery, sir, drink provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance. Therefore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

            • Hogan

              I always enjoy a pint of good porter.

              • O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
                And on her daughter

            • Matt McIrvin

              My twelfth-grade English textbook had that passage removed without a trace. We discovered it when the teacher read to the class from an un-bowdlerized edition.

              • N__B

                My tenth-grade English teacher acted it out in class, and put up his forefinger and then curled it at “makes him stand to and not stand to.”

        • Warren Terra

          Well, OK, Richard III is not remembered kindly (although I thought he’s become something of a feel-good tourist attraction since the car park incident?), but Richard Lionheart is still extremely (and, really, inexplicably) popular.

          Henry V is popular, IV and VII are respected, and VIII is entertaining (less so if you’re Catholic, but that’s a problem with a bunch of English monarchs). And there’s Alfred, and Harold. Not to mention Arthur, though that would be both fictional and a wee bit much.

          James would be popular in Scotland, I think, if not in England (the same may even apply to Charles).

          How come we never hear about Aethelred anymore? And all the other old ones beginning with versions of Aethel? Or Edmond or Egbert?

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            James would be popular with only Jacobite leaning sympathizers in Scotland maybe? Even in the late 17th century I’m not sure he was enormously *that* popular (the main cleavage being religion, most Scots not being RC or Episcopalian sympathizers?)

            • ThrottleJockey

              What about Richard?

            • crownwave

              It also feels vaguely awkward to take the name James when the Jacobite succession is still traceable.

        • MacK

          George III lost the American colonies

          • Ahuitzotl

            Stephen II
            just to really stir the historians pot

            or indeed Alfred II

        • Murc

          I believe that George is the only doable name for a British male monarch. Everything else has a lot of historical burden:

          Stephen? Albert? Alfred?

          • Warren Terra

            There’s never been a king Stephen or Albert, I think. Victoria wanted her son to name himself Albert when he succeeded her to the throne, but he refused, claiming to do so would diminish the memory of Victoria’s beloved Albert.

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              There has been a King Stephen – and he was responsible for an absolutely horrendous civil war, fought by his supporters against those of the Empress Matilda after the death of Henry I. The death of Stephen’s son Eustace may have saved the English from some more than usually awful royal nomenclature as well as clearing the way for peace and the reign of Henry II.

              • Warren Terra

                Huh. Completely forgot him. Sorry.

              • Murc

                There has been a King Stephen – and he was responsible for an absolutely horrendous civil war,

                No, he was not. This is like saying Lincoln was responsible for the American Civil War.

                • MilitantlyAardvark

                  Given that Stephen broke his promise to Henry I and seized the crown when the recognized heir was Matilda, I think it’s fair to hold him responsible.

            • Mrs Tilton

              Stephen (r. 1135-1154), by the grace of God King of England, Duke of Normandy and Count of Boulogne and the man who brought us Anarchy In The UK before it was cool (indeed, before it was even the UK) is on line 2 and would like a word with you.

            • N__B

              What about Chet? Has there been a King Chet?

        • Matt Heath

          With whom was Charles II unpopular (except his wife)? I feel Round-head to the bone, but (especially compared to any other Stuart) I love me some Charles II: spaniels, actresses and horse racing are just so much better than the trouble caused by them all *believing* in stuff.

          • Warren Terra

            If I recall, his mistresses were seen as a problem?

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            Its interesting as well, considering that the republicans of the time were holier than thou kill joy Christians. It wasn’t like Charles was opposed by secular free thinking hedonists.

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              One of the better quotes attributed to Nell Gwynn has her getting out of her carriage amid the jeers of the populace (who thought she was Charles II’s French mistress Louise de Keroualle (aka Fubs) and saying sweetly:

              “I pray you, good people, remember that I am the Protestant whore.”

          • Just a Rube

            Well, he was basically on the French payroll (as was at least one of his mistresses) and ran England as a French client state for much of his reign.

            I suspect the surviving regicides he had executed (along with the corpses of a few of the non-surviving regicides) were also less than fans.

            • antoni_jaume

              the surviving regicides he had executed (along with the corpses of a few of the non-surviving regicides)

              What do you mean by regicide? AFAIK that means the killing of a king, those who kill a king. If they’re executed, they do not survive.

              • Donalbain

                The regicides were the ones who signed the death warrant for Charlie I. Charlie II was a bit of a dick about that whole thing when he came back home..

                • MacK

                  Yes, he did go so far as to have dead men disinterred and the rotting corpses hanged

        • ajay

          I believe that George is the only doable name for a British male monarch. Everything else has a lot of historical burden

          Robert IV would be an interesting choice, given who Robert I was.
          There were also three very good kings called Alexander, and a David (also good).

          William would be a bad choice not because of William IV (we don’t actually mind people being lecherous drunks in Britain) but because of the sectarian associations of William III, aka King Billy. Edward, similarly, has problems because of Edward I.

          “Lord Protector” is not available, as it is historically the title used by a regent during the minority of the monarch.

        • McAllen

          I believe that George is the only doable name for a British male monarch. Everything else has a lot of historical burden:

          Obviously the solution is for the British to start importing trendy American names. Long live King Ryder I!

        • Gareth

          Perhaps Henry might also do, “Henry VIIII, defender of faith” would really have an interesting sound to it, but it would take guts to use that name.

          You have to wonder what Prince Henry of Wales would think of someone else using that name.

        • guthrie

          The Scots say, Fuck off, it should be James.

  • Merkwürdigliebe

    Yesterday I had this idea for an emotional appeal from the other side, on the off-chance that it might persuade some of the late undecideds. I feel it’s an argument that hasn’t been really heard in the debate and it also kind of goes right for the amygdalae.

    • Gareth

      How’s your average Pakistani enjoying that ranking?

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        I don’t know. Is there something wrong with being the 7th most populous country on Earth?

        • ajay

          There’s definitely something wrong with having to live in Pakistan. The obvious Brexit response – and it would actually be correct here – is that it is far better to live in the UK than in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil or Pakistan, and this would continue to be the case even after Brexit.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            Then perhaps the message isn’t as clear as I had hoped it would be.

            This is not a ranking of how great countries are based on their population – it’s about their long-term standing as global actors. China, India, US and Brazil are all major movers and shapers and will remain so for the foreseeable future. EU as a whole is too – but its separate constituent countries are just bit players in today’s world.

            • Yeah, I think it’s ambiguous. But also, it can trigger a “big fish in small pond” syndrome.

            • Gareth

              Sure, but being Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian still sucks for most of the population. Even when their elites enjoy being major movers and shapers. The application to Britain is obvious.

            • ajay

              Brazil is a major mover and shaper? Really?

              • wjts

                It’s the most populous country in Latin America, has one of the 10 largest economies in the world (and the largest in Latin America), is the number two naval power in the Western Hemisphere, has an abundance of natural resources, and fields a decent national football team. So yes.

                • sonamib

                  and fields a decent national football team.

                  Well, used to field, in any case. This Copa América was disastrous.

                • wjts

                  I was being polite. (Their loss to Germany two years ago is my favorite soccer game ever.)

                • sonamib

                  As a Brazilian, I obviously didn’t enjoy the match. But I do enjoy seeing rival countries/clubs get ravaged so I can see why you might’ve liked it.

                  But hey, at least it entered popular culture and it features in a lot of jokes! That’s what my friends/family who live in Brazil tell me, anyway.

                • wjts

                  My loathing of Brazil* is motivated by two parts jealousy and one part cranky disgust with endless paeans to their so-called “beautiful game” which is, to my mind, best epitomized by Leonardo’s elbow smashing Tab Ramos’ face.

                  *The football team, rather than the nation-state or the people.

              • so-in-so

                “BRIC” wasn’t “Britain, Russia, India, China”.

    • Warren Terra

      I think they’re called “Little Englanders” for a reason, one that you fail to grasp or at least one that your idea is unlikely to appeal to. Even when “The Sun Never Set On The British Empire”, it was a British Empire, not a unified empire that happened to be run from Britain.

      ETA also: my impression (from several thousand miles away) is that the nationalist English see themselves as wielding global power, if at all, because of their legacy of greatness and because of the Special Relationship, not because of the might of the EU, which they portray as indecisive and in any case as indifferent to British priorities.

      • Gareth

        While we’re talking population, 143 million people are subjects of Queen Elizabeth. There’s been some polling on allowing free movement between NZ, Australia, Britain, and Canada, and it’s reasonably popular in all of them.

        • MPAVictoria

          I’d vote for that.

          • Hmm. I’d probably be personally better off with that arrangement. Realistically, I’m never going to move to France or Germany or Spain or Italy etc., but moving to Canada seems reasonable.

            I’m pretty skeptical about that happening and the motive of the government would be pretty serious racism.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Bijan–Does the motive for something have to be exclusively pure for you to vote for it?

              Assuming racism was a serious motive for many those people promoting free movement between Britain, Aus, NZ, and Canada, could you vote for it anyways out of your own self interests or for other reasons even?

              I ask because I’m smelling a whiff of, “We can’t be for Brexit because racists are for Brexit.” This is a special case of “I can’t be for X because conservatives are for X” which, in my opinion, is always suspect thinking. Its this type of thinking that drives the GOP to say, “No the sky is red!”, whenever Obama points out that the sky is blue.

              • Bijan–Does the motive for something have to be exclusively pure for you to vote for it?

                Obviously not as I propound lesser evildom.

                Assuming racism was a serious motive for many those people promoting free movement between Britain, Aus, NZ, and Canada, could you vote for it anyways out of your own self interests or for other reasons even?

                Yes?

                But I’d be pretty concerned with such a government.

                I ask because I’m smelling a whiff of, “We can’t be for Brexit because racists are for Brexit.”

                What does this have to do with Brexit? If net migration is going to be the same, then net migration isn’t going to be the issue. I sincerely doubt that we’re going to have that policy anyway, but if you offered me a free choice between freedom of movement in the EU and free movement in the white commonwealth, I’d have to think about it pretty hard. White EU is better for me getting a new job, but I don’t need a new job. I could imagine retiring to France like lots of Brits do. So from a personal perspective it’s a bit of a wash.

                I am, in general, anti racism. So I factor that in too.

                I really don’t get what you’re after here, but I’m smelling a whiff of “I’m trying to arguing against a straw Bijan” here.

                The thread contains ample evidence that I’m not shallow (in this way at least). Frankly, I think you owe me an apology.

                ETA:Oh,btw, if Brexit happens almost all Univeristies in the UK and certainly my dept are fucked. At least 1/3 of our undergraduate class is Eastern EU (e.g., Balken states) and not only is that a huge proportion of our income, but they are *awesome* students.

                So if you say “What’s my personal interest in Brexit?” it’s personal and immediate. That’s not my only consideration, of course.

                I’m feeling pretty pissed off at you right now.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Ummm, stop feeling pissed off at me. My observation wasn’t about you personally, it was an observation in general, based on Brockington’s posts…I’m not arguing a point, I’m exploring the root motivations behind Remain…And I wouldn’t be asking you these questions if I thought you were shallow. I asked you knowing I’d get a straight answer from you, and I got a straight answer from you.

                  There is a legitimate argument to be made that “If they’re for it, we have to oppose it” and that’s that its an efficient way of reaching decisions. If people you admire take certain actions you’re likely to emulate them; if people you hate take certain actions you’re likely to avoid that behavior. I’d argue that 40-70% of people think this way. Its not a political thing, its a human nature thing. There’s only so many hours in the day to analyze shit. Sometimes you have to analyze by proxy.

                  I had a friend who came to support transgender-integrated showers/restrooms that way. He had generally opposed that, but when he saw conservatives come out vocally in opposition he started supporting transgender-integrated facilities. Agreeing with the conservatives suggested a defect in his thinking, so he changed his thinking.

                • Ummm, stop feeling pissed off at me. My observation wasn’t about you personally,

                  Sure it was:

                  Bijan–Does the motive for something have to be exclusively pure for you to vote for it?

                  Assuming racism was a serious motive for many those people promoting free movement between Britain, Aus, NZ, and Canada, could you vote for it anyways out of your own self interests or for other reasons even?

                  I ask because I’m smelling a whiff of, “We can’t be for Brexit because racists are for Brexit.”

                  Particularly the last bit in context ties it pretty closely to me. Which was wrong of you.

                  To the general point: Sometimes you vote with people you despise because you have to (I’m voting “remain” with fucking Cameron) and sometimes you vote against things you like because of the people you hate (even if I were pro leave, it’s pretty important to defeat the leave side right now) and sometimes the company you’re keeping teaches you that that think you liked is wrong.

                • Hogan

                  Ummm, stop feeling pissed off at me.

                  This is about the most useless thing anyone can say under any circumstances. Like pretty much any variation of “stop feeling X.”

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Dude, so English has this thing where “you” can be both singular and plural. I switched back & forth. I didn’t intend what you’re accusing me of and I’m sorry.

                • Dave Brockington

                  it was an observation in general, based on Brockington’s posts…

                  I can see how this impression has come across, but the anti-racism heuristic (obviously) isn’t the only reason to be in favour of the EU. This shit is just a lot more fun to blog about in a semi-excited / emotional manner.

                  Bijan raised a good point about this heuristic: it doesn’t work, at all, in the EU referendum. There are people, both blue and red, supporting Brexit that want nothing to do with Farage. Likewise, here in Plymouth, Labour has rallied with the sitting Tory MP (to his credit, he’s a really charming, nice guy), whom we came within 532 votes of beating last May, and we’re taking the same side as Cameron and Osborne. It’s a fucking weird assed situation.

            • Gareth

              Yeah, I don’t see it as that likely. As for racism, the whole idea is that the countries are similar enough for free movement not to be a huge disruption. The distinction between the race or ethnicity of the inhabitants and the qualities of the country can get pretty subtle. Even if we just limit it to subjects of the Queen, I wouldn’t support free movement between Papua New Guinea and Britain.

              • sonamib

                Why not? It’s not a very populated country. There’ll probably be less immigrants from there than from Canada.

                • Gareth

                  They’re only 63% literate, it’d be a recipe for massive exploitation.

      • Mrs Tilton

        the nationalist English see themselves as wielding global power, if at all, because of their legacy of greatness and because of the Special Relationship, not because of the might of the EU

        Then the Little Englanders are even stupider than I thought, because the residual reason the Relationship remains Special is, to a first approximation, the UK’s usefulness to the USA as its proxy in Brussels. Depriving the UK of its commissioners, its MEPs and its voice on the Council isn’t going to make them more attractive to their American masters Special Relationship Partners.

        • Also for foreign investment.

        • JohnT

          Indeed – and of course President Obama has pointed this out very clearly (I hope he does so again this week, tbh). The only response from Leave was Johnson & Farage pointing that he would say that, being a Kenyan. Because Kenyans just hate us. (if you’re keeping track that was them dumping on the US and one the Commonwealth’s more enthusiastic members simultaneously – that we lose to these clowns remains an oddity).

        • AMK

          A little brexited Kingdom of England with the political attitude of Boris Johnson/Nigel Farage would make France America’s go-to ally in Europe (at least for Democratic administrations).

          • JohnT

            Probably even for Republicans. The French are more willing to bomb people than the British nowadays, and the geo-political realities mean that any (sane, non-Trump) American government would require their primary European ally to be a force in the EU (unless the whole thing breaks apart, of course).

        • Ahuitzotl

          Then the Little Englanders are even stupider than I thought

          without even knowing your estimate, I can assure you this is true

  • One of the sucky things about this campaign is being in the position of bailing Cameron out of his folly. Which is enormously frustrating.

    Of course the alternative, even putting aside the disaster of maybe leaving the EU, is that we’re looking at Johnson-Grove + an enormously strengthen Farage. That is super bad.

    • AMK

      Are there really enough Leave MPs in the Conservative Party to overthrow Cameron if a day after a Leave victory he declares that referenda are in fact non-binding in the British system and does nothing to actually take the UK out?

      • Are there really enough Leave MPs in the Conservative Party to overthrow Cameron if a day after a Leave victory he declares that referenda are in fact non-binding in the British system and does nothing to actually take the UK out?

        This is *super* hard to say, but if he needs labor to stay in power, it’s going to be a very fragile situation. If we have an election soon after losing the referendum and a rejection of the result, it will be weird, to say the least.

      • Dave Brockington

        Not on paper.

        But, should leave win, there’s a not insignificant chance of Cameron standing down regardless. He’s already on record as saying he will not fight the next general election. Then the question is — who wins the leadership contest? If you’re a Tory MP, there are incentives to support Boris, because you’re going to want to increase the probability of getting re-elected and stand with the winner of the referendum.

      • JohnT

        I think if you add up Brexiters plus people who will insist the referendum must stand (Corbyn at the forefont of those) there would be a majority in the Commons to proceed whatever Cameron wanted (and to be honest he’s not so pro-European that he’d either resign voluntarily rather than obey the result of the referendum, or take the consequences of ignoring it).

  • sibusisodan

    Slightly-OT, but I’m really struggling to remind myself that political debates and issues always were and have been fact-indifferent to a degree. I haven’t read much 19C history, but the stuff I have read has some hair raising political campaign material.

    But still. The chorus of ‘false flag’ from last week, ‘sleeper agent’ (as soon as anyone switches sides), and the ignorance on display from last night’s Question Time is doing my nut.

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      What else can you expect from people who think that Boris Johnson is honest? Especially now that he and Farage have finally found each other.

    • Chester Allman

      For those of us out of the loop: what happened in Question Time last night?

      • sibusisodan

        David Cameron was grilled by the studio audience. I didn’t watch it, but followed the Guardian liveblog.

        An audience member compared Cameron’s EU renegotiation to Chamberlain and Munich. Cameron then went off on a Churchillian peroration.

        He was grilled on why he wouldn’t commit to vetoing Turkey’s EU application now, why EU trade as a share of the world total has dropped, why we even have to subsidise these poorer European countries anyway.

        I don’t think anyone came out of it looking great.

        • Chester Allman

          Thanks. Question Time on CSPAN was my first window into British politics back in the early 90s, but I haven’t watched it for years.

          Sort of depressing to see the Munich comparison. That really is the nail upon which conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic focus their sole rhetorical tool, again and again and again, no matter the particulars.

  • MacK

    Funny – in 1992-3 I was in Brussels as a stagiare in the DG IV (competition) in the section dealing with Transport. Jonathan Faull, later one of the most powerful EU officials and an Englishman was my boss (Leon Britten was the Commisioner.) I worked heavily on aviation competition (yes Brexiters love Easyjet and Ryanair and fail to see how they were created by EU competition law.) One thing I was asked to help with was the Rail Competition issue and the advice around introducing competition to rail – there was an extensive analysis published, dozens of experts and economists worked on it.

    One of its core pieces of advice – do not use a franchising model, i.e., sell off certain rail routes to private companies, so that only that company can say run trains from London to Manchester, etc. because it will hurt the public. What you will be doing is a form of tax-farming, where you hand captive groups of users to private operators – who are not subject to political constraints – who are then essentially invited to screw-the-passenger for every penny they can, while providing as poor service as they can get away with.

    What did the UK do – a franchising model. Because the problem was that the ayatollahs of the treasury wanted to pull off rail privatisation – and it turns out that the sort of idea Brussels had, where you allowed competitors on routes (so you could take two different train companies to say Manchester or Cambridge) and buy your season ticket from Company A one year, Company B the next, was not every attractive to bidders – who then would have actually had to compete. So the Treasury insisted on franchising – auctioning off blocks of rail-commuters in particular in the south east.

    The result has been pretty awful. I took up a GC role in the UK in 2000 and was stunned to get in my new job paperwork an “application for a season ticket loan.” It turns out that the season ticket (commuter rail monthly/annual ticket) costs say $500-800 a month – it is so expensive that many companies have to lend their employees the price and deduct it from their pay check.

    That was all UK government policy, not EU.

    • Great, if horrifying, story.

      This is my impression of just about all the recent Tory efforts: Instead of finding places and mechanism to introduce competition and/or savings, it’s mostly costly crony deals (even if there’s not direct cronyism) and a brutal failure to understand economics.

      University fees are a perfect example. They were anticipating and average fee of ≈£7000/year, but of course just about everyone maxed out the fee. A *cursory* glance at the US tuition situation would have told you that. (Basically, there’s both a “don’t leave money on the table” motive and “don’t damage your brand by looking cheap”.) Since it’s mostly covered by government loans, there really was no incentive at any level to aim for lower tuition.

      Then to “fix” this, they introduced a *very* complicated scheme to try to force “competition” into the market (by taking out a band of possible students (e.g., BBB to BBC, maybe…something like that) from Unis with ≈£9k fees.

      AFAICT, all this did was introduce a lot of uncertainty rather than any efficiency.

      At the same time they sold off the old loan book for pennies on the pound *without* offering the borrowers a chance to buy out the loads on similar terms. This hurt the budget (even over just keeping the freaking loans!) and screwed the borrowers in favor of the loan sharks.

      • sibusisodan

        a brutal failure to understand economics

        I would urge you to dispel with this notion that the Tories don’t know what they are doing on this front. They know exactly what they are doing.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          The Tories are the vector by which disastrous right-wing ideas from America enter British politics just as their corrupt bankruptcy becomes blindingly obvious to any mentally competent observer.

          • Davis X. Machina

            In a first-past-the-post system, there just aren’t enough mentally competent observers out there.

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              Ours is a high and lonely destiny.

          • michael8robinson

            I would argue that the corrupt bankruptcy precedes and motivates the adoption of disastrous American right-wing ideas.

        • I would urge you to dispel with this notion that the Tories don’t know what they are doing on this front. They know exactly what they are doing.

          I’m not so sure. The University fees things seems to have genuinely caught them by surprise. The selling off of the loan book was knowing, of course.

          For a bunch of things, they seem to be genuinely surprised when the economic analysis comes back negative (e.g., sell off of the forest).

          Similarly, I think they genuinely believe in confidence fairies.

          There is serious stupidity and ignorance mixed in with the evil.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            If you want to understand the Tories, imagine an inbred group of Megan McArdles in shiny suits with an unshakeable conviction that because their ancestors were lords of Little Buggeringham c. 1300 AD they should therefore rule over the British people amid cries of gratitude from the peasantry.

        • MacK

          Actually, the Tories mostly do not understand economics – they have ideological theories that they then try to hammer economic to fit. The fetishised privatisation because the early del-off made sense and worked (e.g., British Airways) – and so they assumed that all state industries were the same – selling off Water and Rail while completely ignoring the economic difference that these were natural monopolies – the main reason why so many were state owned around the world (no socialism.)

          • sibusisodan

            I think where I’m differing is whether they care about the economics at all. The economics can go dance naked in the rain if it gets in the way of their ideological theories.

            Although they’re happy to use economic justifications for said ideological theories if congenial.

            I may not have managed to put that clearly first time round, though.

            • MacK

              Think of tory economics as a bit like monetarism or the Republican belief in the gaffer curve – they have an economic theory that they care about – it’s large and organised – like say hardline marxism – and no one dare say that is is complete piffle because it ignores reality.

              It all sounds wonderful and they believe it like christian fundamentalist believe in the literal truth of the bible.

              • sibusisodan

                …and when anyone dares tamper with it in the face of reality (Osborne raising the min wage), they are a heretic.

                Yeah, that fits.

              • Schadenboner

                The problem with the Laffer curve isn’t that it’s untrue, it appears to be true in that there is a point where lowering tax rates will produce more revenue because more people will do more economic activity, and you’ll “make less on each sale but make up for it in volume”.

                However it appears that this point is somewhere around 75 or 80% (effective). That is: if your effective tax rate is 75% cutting it to 70% seems to produce more revenue). This was based on the experience of some of the Scands I think, but Taxation and Expenditure Policy was a really long time ago.

                In the case of the US, nominal (much less effective) tax rates are nowhere near that point and cutting taxes from 35% to 30% unsurprisingly results in less tax revenue and no sufficient uptick in economic activity to increase the total haul.

                The problem isn’t the observation: it’s that the GOP has debased the observation to the vulgar form of “Lower taxes equals higher revenue” which is, as noted, not supported by reality. And the media has (until the age of Trump) taken it as unsporting to point this out.

                • MacK

                  OK –

                  The Laffer curve is untrue. What it does is take an observed effect from the Kennedy tax cuts, which was that when very high marginal tax rates on certain economic activities were reduced – from rates of 70-90% revenue from those activities were seen to rise. Now some of this was because people stopped arbitraging their revenue between high tax forms and low tax forms (i.e., its easy to turn income into capital gain and vice versa to avail of a lower tax rate) and also that people stopped taking 3 martini lunches on expenses if they could keep the money otherwise deducted. But it is fair to say that when you take a very high rate down tax revenue does rise – but only to a point. Lower the rate much below 45% and the revenue gains dry up, especially when you say have Capital Gain rates and income rates in rough alignment.

                  Laffer took the graph that showed in a narrow range that tax cuts raised revenue and extended the line to zero rates, the so called Laffer Curve – it was BS then and remains BS today.

                • Philip

                  You mean a 0% tax rate won’t give the government infinite revenue??!?!

    • JohnT

      In general I believe one of the reasons many of the media barons (especially Murdoch) hate the EU is that it has a genuinely tough competition authority which is not as subject to media pressure as their national counterparts.

      • MacK

        That I would agree with … but also the Working Time Directive.

        When the right complains about EU regulation and they get pinned down on what they actually have an issue with, it almost always comes down to the employment rights guaranteed in EU law, environmental law and competition law. They never say what the regulations they object to are because they’d then lost the argument.

      • sonamib

        Indeed. The EU has been pretty tough on the telecom industry too. Roaming fees will be completely abolished next year.

        • MacK

          Yep!

          • sonamib

            I’m looking forward to being able to use my phone normally when on vacation.

    • Schadenboner

      Link to analysis?

    • Donalbain

      Wasn’t part of the Franchising model due to Major himself and his old fashioned views of How Things Used To Be? He was harking back to the olden days of Great Western Railways and the like..

      • MacK

        But one aspect of the Beeching cuts was that, for efficiency, he’d cut competing routes and lines that the different companies had built – one reason why cities had competing stations.

  • Hogan

    I’m loving “Schroedinger’s immigrant.”

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      That is indeed magnificent.

  • LeeEsq

    From my reading of history, there were pro and anti-EEC factions in both parties when the United Kingdom joined the EEC in the early 1970s. The more liberal, in the sense of cosmopolitan, broad-minded, and tolerant and market oriented towards joining the EEC. The more parochial members of both party opposed for similar reasons than that they do now.

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      I assume that still holds, like the far leftists who think the EU is evil neo lib Germanic hegemony over Greece, etc will vote for Brexit. Corbyn, (perhaps reading too much MacK on this site) seems to be a natural Brexiter himself, who by virtue of his position has to support remaining.

      • MacK

        The far left saw the EEC, not totally inaccurately, as the economic ancillary of NATO and largely and reflexively opposed it for this reason. Corbyn comes from that tribe.

        • LeeEsq


          You say that like its a bad thing.

          I don’t think that the entire opposition to the EEC in the Labour Party was from the Far Left. Jim Callaghan was not on the far left of the Labour Party but he didn’t want the United Kingdom to join either. Most of the opposition in the Labour or Conservative parties in the 1970s had to do more with sovereignty than economics.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            Callaghan was very definitely on the left of the Labour party, although not a Trotskyite. He supported remaining in the EEC in 1975 after negotiating the terms under which Britain would do so.

            • paul1970

              Jim Callaghan might have been on the left of the Labour Party in 1945, but by the mid 1970s he was generally regarded as a figure on the party’s orthodox right.

              There’s actually a line from the Crossman diaries where Callaghan is recorded as saying something like “I’m going to be a nice conventional right-wing home secretary” which was obviously partially tongue in cheek, but can also be seen as a deliberate point of contrast to his predecessor Roy Jenkins.

              • LeeEsq

                Roy Jenkins is a good example of what I was talking about. He was one of the people who left Labour during the 1980s because he thought it was getting too dogmatically leftist on economics at least. His stint as Home Minster shows him to be liberal in the sense of broad-minded and tolerant rather than economically.

                The permissive society is a very misremembered period. Most of the permissive society legislation was deeply unpopular among the general population of the United Kingdom regardless of their background and both parties were split on the issues. It tended to be a result of elite forcing reform from above.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        Corbyn is a well-meaning, muddle-headed old Left of Leftist whose sole virtue is that he isn’t Tony Blair. Unfortunately, he’s extended his negation of Blair to the winning of elections and political strategy in general.

        • LeeEsq

          Corbyn doesn’t seem well-meaning at all.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            I think he’s well-meaning, just not very familiar with current reality. He also has some very unfortunate previous associations that will not play well in a general election.

            • LeeEsq

              I’m a Jew. Having unfortunate previous associations with anti-Semites of the Jews are enemies of Islam level is not a sign that you are well-meaning to me. Its like asking an LGBT person to see somebody that used to hang out with homophobic pastors as well-meaning.

              • MilitantlyAardvark

                Well, that’s one issue that obviously matters to you greatly, but I don’t know of any convincing evidence that Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic. What I’ve seen so far in the British media is essentially an attempt to allege guilt by association, largely driven by the fact that Corbyn is distinctly unimpressed by Israel’s recent behavior and has made no secret of this fact.

                • witlesschum

                  The Brits in general have a bad reputation for sort of country club-style antisemitism, so I’m not sure singling Corbyn out makes particular sense.

                • Ronan

                  Yeah, Corbyn is a lot of things but anti Semitic isn’t one of them

              • MacK

                I do not think Corbyn is anti-Semitic (Ken Livingston, well that’s another story), but that said, like many who oppose Israeli policy, he has not moved quickly to kick anti-Semites out of bed.

                I really do not like Israeli policy, but wow, do I find myself with some unpleasant bedfellows (supporters of Israel have some pretty unpleasant ones too.) However, I take a pretty blunt view, racism is unacceptable appalling and intolerable whether it is anti-Semitism or anti-Palestinian/Arab, Black, Brown or White.

                Corbyn I think regards anti-Semitism as wrong but “understandable” and not that appalling, not a reason to immediately throw someone out of the meeting, especially if they are otherwise “sound” on left-ish policy he agrees with. He’s paying the price for that approach.

        • JohnT

          I think in the past Corbyn has tended to be in the anti-everything brigade, but obviously he is now trying to take a slightly broader perspective.

          However if ever there was a time to ‘test-drive’ his famously enthusiastic Momentum hordes that will drive out the Tories in 2020 with the passion of their campaigning then this would seem to be it. And I’ve seen nothing. I don’t know whether that’s because Jeremy Corbyn and his hordes are just Angries who basically hate everything, the EU included, or whether it’s because the Corbyn hordes were just a Twitter mirage and will never amount to anything meaningful.

  • Schadenboner

    So I asked this on Twitter but I might as well cross-post here, is Boris Johnson the British version of Trump or is it just the stupid hair?

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      Johnson is vastly more dangerous than Trump, despite having the same ethics and general view of life. He’s enabled by the deeply foolish delusion endemic to the British that “he’s got a sense of humor so he can’t possibly be a tinpot little fascist with the morals of an alley-cat and an endless lust for power”.

      • MacK

        The morals of an alley cat he has regularly displayed – two wives, 3+ mistresses, numerous affairs and random children. His father was as bad in Brussels – somewhat infamous in fact

        • LeeEsq

          Its really weird when people’s inner Calvinist comes in. If Johnson had politics more to our liking, most people on this blog would see his personal life as irrelevant to his political career. Its only because he has politics we don’t like that it becomes relevant. As long as it isn’t illegal or done with public funds than a politician’s personal life should have no bearing on how they are judge as politicians.

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            Well that is sorta the issue now isn’t it? His politics are everything here-in general, people who are members of conservative, right leaning parties who themselves display great gaps in their own personal ethics are always going to get skewered. It has everything to do with belonging to political parties that do claim to legislate a superior morality (and granted the UK Conservatives aren’t as bad as the US GOP in this regard).

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            No – it goes far beyond that. Johnson has a history of lying, exploiting and abusing women, being grossly irresponsible at best and generally showing off exactly why he should never be trusted with any sort of power over the lives of others. This goes a long way beyond a couple of flings and a roll in the hay before he settled down.

            • Warren Terra

              A completely trivial example, from the BBC Radio 4 topical comedy show The News Quiz, around the time Boris was getting into politics seriously, after spending years appearing on comedy panel shows. One of the guests on the radio show was telling a Boris story, to illustrate the man as they’d gotten to know him in their overlapping worlds. Apparently two full-time comedians and Boris had all been guests at the recording of some television show, late into the evening, someplace far from London, in various parts of which they all lives. Apparently it’s common to get a taxi ride all the way back to London (this seems weird to me, but go with it), and all three agreed to share a cab. They all agreed the two comedians would get dropped off first, in the part of London both lived in, and Boris last, in his more distant neighborhood. Also, that each would pay an equal share of the tab to their destination, with Boris picking up the full fare from the last part of the trip (it may be relevant that Boris is incredibly wealthy, and the two comedians weren’t). So, long ride, late night, the two comedians fall asleep – and wake up in their neighborhood, without Boris, and facing the full taxi fare.

              A trivial story (and I’ve told it badly), but: untrustworthy, callous, and greedy.

            • MacK

              And then while settled, recruited a mistress while promising to leave No. 1, knocked her up, dumped her, divorced 1, married 2 and had another 2 mistresses and…. seriously….

          • MacK

            I don’t think so – as people will recall I’m not to kind to Corbyn on that front either.

            The stories around Johnson pére et fils are pretty legendary, Boris has cheated and betrays wives, mistresses and numerous women and there is always a new rumour of yet another random infant appearing. By any standards he’s in a state of permanent priapism.

          • Ronan

            I don’t know if it’s Calvinist to say that how you treat those closest to you is a reflection on your character. What I’ve heard “the left” say is not that all bad behaviour from someone on their side is automatically justifiable because politics, but that being an asshole is not a reason to vote against a candidate who supports your policy preferences

      • sibusisodan

        He’s enabled by the deeply foolish delusion endemic to the British that “he’s got a sense of humor so he can’t possibly be a tinpot little fascist with the morals of an alley-cat and an endless lust for power”.

        Quote. Of. The. Day.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          Bear in mind that one of the more plausible outcomes of all of this is a Boris Johnson coup to overthrow Cameron with Farage as a friend and adviser at the very least. I genuinely can’t think of a worse potential prime minister in British history – and there have been some pretty spectacularly unsuitable ones.

          • sibusisodan

            I’m doing my level best not to dwell on that…

            Plus, we’d get to have Gove in one of the few Cabinet positions he hasn’t already made a mess of. Foreign Office? Chancellor?

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              Chief Eunuch of the Treasury?

              If you dislike Gove, just wait until Dominic Cummings gets his step. He’s a gibbering kook who’s read a couple of self-help books and fancies himself an intellectual titan.

          • Warren Terra

            Oh, certainly. With all the obvious caveats about my viewpoint (I’m a poorly informed American), it seems almost accepted fact that if Brexit prevails it means Boris takes over the Tories.

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              I think that’s the likeliest ultimate outcome for the Tories, whichever way the referendum goes. The only possible way that it doesn’t happen is that quite a few of the elder statesmen in the Tory party regard Johnson as an unscrupulous chancer, even by Tory standards.

              • JohnT

                Indeed – a friend who knows the Tories well bet me a good lunch that the net result by the end of the year would be a win for Remain followed by the Tory Eurosceptic majority knifing Cameron and replacing him with Johnson in revenge. It is a sad reflection on where we are that I’d probably take that result, if it was offered right now.

                • N__B

                  That there is a non-zero chance that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump could be PM and Pres a year from now makes me think that the Matrix may have been a documentary.

                  But not the Matrix 2 & 3: those were too damned stupid to even be bad dreams.

                • Ronan

                  “That there is a non-zero chance that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump could be PM and Pres a year ”

                  Which would give a whole new meaning to the “special relationship”

                • Ahuitzotl

                  he Matrix 2 & 3

                  think of them as disinformation spread by the Matrix so you dont believe the actual documentary ..

                • Ahuitzotl

                  “That there is a non-zero chance that Boris Johnson and Donald Trump could be PM and Pres a year ”

                  Which would give a whole new meaning to the “special relationship”

                  put them both in a room for a days negotiation, and I’d call it a nonzero chance of a nuclear exchange between the US & the UK. Not sure who would start it.

                • N__B

                  put them both in a room for a days negotiation, and I’d call it

                  The first porn suitable for the Ludovico Technique.

      • ajay

        He’s enabled by the deeply foolish delusion endemic to the British that “he’s got a sense of humor so he can’t possibly be a tinpot little fascist with the morals of an alley-cat and an endless lust for power”.

        The vulnerability to the “evil clown” tendency is not unique to Britain. Where do you think Silvio Berlusconi came from? And, indeed, Trump?

      • Philip

        Alley cats do, of course, have a sense of humor. But it mostly involves torturing things smaller than them.

    • Warren Terra

      It’s not just the hair.

      (Also: both have a long history in light entertainment television, though not precisely of the same type)

    • sibusisodan

      Boris is cannier. He’s genuinely clever enough to play the buffoon.

      Trump appears to be all unrepressed ego, with very little calculating going on. I fear Boris is capable of scheming.

      So, he’s our closest equivalent to Trump, but he has very little of the Donald’s hidden shallows.

      • West

        … the Donald’s hidden shallows.

        outstanding!

      • MacK

        Awe common – I used that to describe my ex-brother in law ‘ ” man of hidden shallows”

      • Ronan

        This is what most Brits (who care about such things) I know always say, that Boris is extremely canny and extremely dangerous/effective (insert preference). I’d tend to give way to their greater knowledge , but a large part of me still feels he’s probably more parts moron than genius

  • The argument for Brexit would be a lot harder to make if the current system was working for the working class. People are not voting for Brexit so much as they are voting against what they percieve to be the cause of their current economic situation. And they’re not buying what Cameron is selling.

    • The argument for Brexit would be a lot harder to make if the current system was working for the working class.

      Well, Cameron et al are making the system work worse for the working class by, pretty much, deliberate policy. So, boo.

      • Yep, but this is against Jeremy Corbyn, too. Neither one is making the case against Brexit.

        Personally, I think that the Brexit vote will fail, but this is a wakeup call to the Labour Party. If Corbyn hopes to flip the government, he really needs to listen to what the working class’s concerns are, and it ain’t anti-immigration. It’s the fact that there aren’t enough jobs to go around and austerity is killing the safety net.

        • Corbyn has been a freaking disaster. The referendum campaign highlighted serious issues with his personal capabilities. Why on earth was he slow off the mark here? WTF.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            One guess is that Corbyn himself is deeply ambivalent about Brexit. Although he’s generally shown extreme tactical ineptitude when challenging Cameron on other issues, so who knows.

            • One guess is that Corbyn himself is deeply ambivalent about Brexit.

              That’s probably true, but so what? Brexit *at this point* and *in this way* is catastrophic for the left in both the short and long term and catastrophic for Labour.

              *If* you are going to go against your ambivalence in the first place, *do it early*. This is inept politics.

              • MilitantlyAardvark

                I refer you to the “extreme tactical ineptitude” which I referenced earlier.

                It should be noted that the other candidates for the Labour leadership were a sad and sorry bunch who seemingly had nothing to say for themselves when questioned on TV.

                • I refer you to the “extreme tactical ineptitude” which I referenced earlier.

                  Well, you presented an alternative, and I said that even if your first is true (as it probably is) it doesn’t excuse the second. :)

            • Donalbain

              He has chosen the very strange tactic of making something called the Posted Workers Directive the mainstay of both his attacks on Cameron and his argument for Remain.

          • sibusisodan

            I’m hoping that there’s more that Corbyn is doing behind the scenes, but if I had to sum up his leadership in one word so far, that word would be ‘damp’.

            Problem is, I’m not quite sure what the appropriate set of expectations are to measure him against. What’s his VAR as Labour leader?

            • He seems worse than Milibend on nearly all fronts. Which is pretty bad.

              • Murc

                Let’s be a bit fair here; Milliband didn’t have to deal with a substantial fraction of the party apparatus either sitting on its hands or actively trying to sabotage him.

                • I factored that in. At least I think so.

                  I mean, unless Miliband was having advisors keeping him on top of the need for strategic moves, Corbyn seems to be missing obvious points. Not just getting them wrong, missing them.

                  The referendum has been coming for forever, and he was slow off the mark. That pisses me off.

                • Ok, here’s exhibit one:

                  Jeremy Corbyn tonight lashed out at the ‘poisonous’ and ‘catastrophist’ warnings peddled by David Cameron in the EU referendum as he admitted: ‘I’m not a lover of the European Union’.
                  He insisted Europe will need to change ‘quite dramatically’ if Britain decides to stay in the EU as he made his final pitch to voters ahead of Thursday’s historic referendum.

                  He warned of ‘massive’ implications if Britain leaves the EU but again insisted there will never be an upper limit on immigration into the UK as long as we stay in.

                  But the Labour leader, a life-long Eurosceptic, revealed his anti-EU views as he hit out at the EU for crippling Greece with austerity and failing to deal with the refugee crisis last year.
                  He said Brussels must change regardless of whether Britain stays in as he told an audience of young voters: ‘If we stay in Europe there are implications,’ describing Thursday’s vote as a ‘turning point’ for the continent.

                  I don’t want this person to be leader of my party.

                  This isn’t putting the shiv into Cameron’s back, this is incoherent bullshit at a critical moment.

                  I had some brief hope when Corbyn won the leadership that it we’d get a more left Labour. But what we have is an extremely stupid Labour. Lib-Dem stupid. Gah!

          • bexley

            Corbyn has been a freaking disaster. The referendum campaign highlighted serious issues with his personal capabilities. Why on earth was he slow off the mark here? WTF.

            Because until recently the odds looked like we were going to vote to stay in the EU so he was happy to stay quiet and letr the Tories to knife each other in the media. Now its all a bit tighter than anyone expected and too late to do much about it.

            • Because until recently the odds looked like we were going to vote to stay in the EU so he was happy to stay quiet and letr the Tories to knife each other in the media.

              That’s not strategically smart, in my book. I mean the odds are still in favour of remain. The negatives were too high and things were too close.

              And letting them knife each other is fine, but he could have been building a positive case. Sitting on the sidelines for an epochal decision doesn’t build the case for labour.

              I stand by “Just awful”.

        • JohnT

          I’m sorry but I don’t buy that. Would love to, but can’t. The Leave campaign are within a whisker of persuading a majority of the British (not even just English!) people to go against the opinion of 98% of all relevant economic and policy experts, including the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, the US president, every EU government… and a big part of their strategy is clear to dwell endlessly on migration.

          Certainly amongst my working class Facebook friends the mood is anti-EU, and the grounds given are a) the annual contribution and b) immigration. My own takeaway from the referendum is that the UK is going to have to become even more restrictive on immigration as the majority of the population (in common with some others in the EU) seems to be genuinely mad as hell and not prepared to take anymore

          • I don’t think Corbyn is the dominant factor, but he’s certainly made a big ole hash of it from almost every perspective.

      • Mrs Tilton

        So, basically, working-class Tories divide into Remain and Leave according as whether they (i) want a government that will mercilessly and relentlessly fuck them over to the greatest extent possible within the constraints imposed by EU law, or (ii) want those constraints to come off.

        And to think that people ask what’s the matter with Kansas.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          Working-class Tories divide into: UKIP, Leave and the sort of people who think that brown shirts look pleasantly patriotic.

          • JohnT

            There a probably a few of the older ones who signed up long ago for the gentle caution of people like Harold McMillan and Edward Heath, but yeah, not very many!

        • Davis X. Machina

          Doesn’t really matter, so long as they get to watch someone who doesn’t look, sound or pray like them fucked even harder, does it?

        • antoni_jaume

          Have you ever seen an episode of Blackadder? Remember Baldrick and George?

  • michael8robinson

    So, it seems that both Remain and Leave, on both Left and Right, agree that EU governance is fundamentally undemocratic, and everyone has taken sides based on the speculative calculation of what policies they can get in with less democracy or more democracy, respectively.

    There does not appear, anywhere, a constituency for governance accountable to the will of the people as a matter of principle, because, evidently, the people are by universal acclamation wrong-willed, so sod ’em.

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      both Remain and Leave, on both Left and Right, agree that EU governance is fundamentally undemocratic

      Not true. MEPs are elected representatives, just as EU law is enforced by British courts, not by some sinister army of egomaniac Belgian secret agents named Hercule.

      • JohnT

        Indeed – I was surprised and a little impressed to hear Anna Soubry, a Tory remain supporter pointing out that if people were so worried about the democratic deficit you’d think they can start by voting on larger numbers for the MEP elections – if the average turn-out for European elections was 70% and the campaigns were fought on actual principles then the European Parliament would pick up legitimacy more or less automatically.

        • sibusisodan

          Bingo. Britain deciding to be uninterested in European governance doesn’t equate to it being undemocratic.

          It’s complicated, for sure. But it can’t really be anything but, seeing as we’re dealing with the lives of 400 million people. There’s always going to be a large element of kludge.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          It’s a maddeningly typical English attitude to whine about how the EU is undemocratic and then decline to vote for…why, yes, the people who will be their representatives!

          • Davis X. Machina

            The psephological equivalent of Schrödinger’s immigrant, in other words…

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              Can Schrödinger’s Nimby be far behind, with his cake that is both eaten and uneaten at any given stage of proceedings?

        • Donalbain

          I cannot take any Tory seriously if they say the EU is undemocratic. If you care about democracy, start at home and get rid of the House of Lords.

      • michael8robinson

        Yes, speaking of democratic governance, and MEPs:

        Most MEPs prefer Brussels as a single base. A poll of MEPs found 89% of the respondents wanting a single seat, and 81% preferring Brussels. Another, more academic, survey found 68% support. In July 2011, an absolute majority of MEPs voted in favour of a single seat. In early 2011, the Parliament voted to scrap one of the Strasbourg sessions by holding two within a single week. The mayor of Strasbourg officially reacted by stating “we will counter-attack by upturning the adversary’s strength to our own profit, as a judoka would do.” However, as Parliament’s seat is now fixed by the treaties, it can only be changed by the Council acting unanimously, meaning that France could veto any move.

        The MEPs don’t even have democratic governance over their own selves, much less the rest of Europe.

        • Warren Terra

          This is silly. The MEPs are bound by the treaties establishing the EU, treaties enacted by democratically elected governments.

          • Murc

            The MEPs are bound by the treaties establishing the EU, treaties enacted by democratically elected governments.

            That doesn’t make them in any way democratic unless you’re defining the term so loosely it doesn’t have useful meaning anymore.

            It’s a bit like saying “the US Senate is entirely democratic.” Well, in a narrow technical sense you would be correct. In a practical sense the Senate is wildly undemocratic and unrepresentative, a problem often brought up here.

            So much of the EU’s apparatus is implemented at a level where the actual MEP’s can’t touch it, and can only be changed, altered, or scrapped by unanimous consent among all parties. That’s… not a good way to run things, I don’t think. You end up in these weird twilight situations where the EU is too closely tied together for member states to solve their own problems, but not bound closely enough together to override veto points preventing collective solutions or change.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          Very few people (i.e. no people) have the democratic power to overthrow a complex network of international treaties whenever they wish – and for very good reasons. If treaties could simply be discarded at the whim of any idiot with an axe to grind, we would rapidly descend into a state of mutually enraged and dangerous anarchy. Complaining that the EU is sensible enough to accept this fact is absolutely bizarre.

          • Davis X. Machina

            There’s a tertium quid. The American system of having your foreign ministry (State) negotiate them, and then having your legislature refuse to ratify them.

        • MacK

          It could be changed, but the reality is that the other member states do not want to change it hard enough. They have other priorities and it is only a pain in the arse for the Parliament – plus they resurfaced the road from Brussels to Strasbourg and widened it so its not as scary in winter as it was – it was lethal in the 80s and 90s.

    • So, it seems that both Remain and Leave, on both Left and Right, agree that EU governance is fundamentally undemocratic,

      This is not true.

    • Schadenboner

      And the award for “Most transparent attempt to beg ideological priors into a post” goes to…

      • michael8robinson

        Quoting the post:

        European integration has clearly been a left-wing corrective to British neoliberalism.

        If the British voters wanted left-wing correctives, they could vote for left-wing correctives, but they don’t.

        The post is an extended argument that remaining in the EU is the best available means for the Left to impose policies on British voters that British voters will not vote for themselves.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          You assume that British voters actually know what the EU does for them. All the available evidence suggests that they are in fact self-pityingly and militantly ignorant on this topic.

          But sure, let’s all assume that they don’t like such vile impositions as better-paid maternity leave, labor protections, clean water, clean air.. you know, those trivial concerns that are, in fact, the stuff of human existence. What sensible person could possibly accept the idea that clean air is a good thing, once some faceless EU bureaucrat has forced it down the throat of the British bulldog?

          • michael8robinson

            Just to clarify, are you arguing the pro or contra position on my assertion “the people are by universal acclamation wrong-willed”.

        • And Scotland would enact very different polices than the UK as a whole (evidently). But that doesn’t make the UK less democratic per se, nor does devolution necessarily make things more democratic.

          Some anti-majoritarian features (such as minority or individual rights) are, arguably, democratic, though you have to make a somewhat complex argument.

          The UK made a decision to join the EU which establishes at least one additional level of policy contention. Every level of governance has some counter- or non-majoritarian features.

          It’s really important to distinguish “losing” from “anti-democratic”. Plus we have some inter-temporal issues to deal with as well.

          • michael8robinson

            It’s really important to distinguish “losing” from “anti-democratic”.

            I couldn’t agree more.

            EU family leave policies, etc., originated in the staff of the European Commission, not the European Parliament. There was no “vote”, there was no “majority” or “minority”, there was no “winning” or “losing”.

            • sibusisodan

              EU family leave policies, etc., originated in the staff of the European Commission, not the European Parliament.

              And if you read the minutes [PDF, p99] of the European Parliament, you can see all the amendments that Parliament made to the Commission’s proposals.

              • michael8robinson

                As I understand it, if the Commission takes a negative position on an EP amendment, it requires a unanimous vote of the Council to override the Commission’s negative position.

                So, MEPs can propose and vote on amendments all day long, but they have no effective power to overcome the will of the Commission.

                I may well be wrong, though, and if so would be happy to be corrected.

                • Although the European Parliament has legislative power that the Council and Commission do not possess, it does not formally possess legislative initiative, as most national parliaments of European Union member states do.[7][8][9] The Parliament is the “first institution” of the EU (mentioned first in the treaties, having ceremonial precedence over all authority at European level),[10] and shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council (except in a few areas where the special legislative procedures apply). It likewise has equal control over the EU budget. Finally, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, is accountable to Parliament. In particular, Parliament elects the President of the Commission, and approves (or rejects) the appointment of the Commission as a whole. It can subsequently force the Commission as a body to resign by adopting a motion of censure

                  and

                  The Parliament and Council have been compared to the two chambers of a bicameral legislature.[46] However, there are some differences from national legislatures; for example, neither the Parliament nor the Council have the power of legislative initiative (except for the fact that the Council has the power in some intergovernmental matters). In Community matters, this is a power uniquely reserved for the European Commission (the executive). Therefore, while Parliament can amend and reject legislation, to make a proposal for legislation, it needs the Commission to draft a bill before anything can become law.[47] The value of such a power has been questioned by noting that in the national legislatures of the member states 85% of initiatives introduced without executive support fail to become law.[48] Yet it has been argued by former Parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering that as the Parliament does have the right to ask the Commission to draft such legislation, and as the Commission is following Parliament’s proposals more and more Parliament does have a de facto right of legislative initiative.[9]

                  (I’m by no means an expert, but your characterisation seems wrong.)

                  This seems reasonably democratic…

                • michael8robinson

                  17. Commission opinion on EP amendments

                  The Treaty specifically requires the Commission to deliver an opinion on the European Parliament’s amendments. The Commission’s position on the European Parliament’s amendments will determine the type of vote necessary in the Council: if the Commission has given a negative opinion on at least one amendment, the Council will have to act unanimously as regards acceptance of the European Parliament’s position overall.

                  Legal basis: Article 294(7)(c) and (8) TFEU.

                  In detail

                  In practice, the Commission’s opinion is a written reflection of the position expressed by the Commissioner in plenary on the amendments adopted by the European Parliament, accompanied where necessary by texts reformulating the EP amendments accepted partially, in principle or subject to redrafting by the Commission.

                  18. Council second reading

                  The Council has a period of three months (which may be extended by a further month), following receipt of the European Parliament’s amendments, in which to approve them by a qualified majority or unanimously if the Commission has delivered a negative opinion.

                  Legal basis: Article 294(8) and (14) TFEU.

                  In detail

                  The Council may extend the three-month time limit by a further month. The time limit starts to run from the official receipt of the amendments resulting from the European Parliament’s second reading, in all the official languages.

                  The Council’s internal workings are broadly similar to the preparation of the common position: the competent working party prepares a position which is submitted to Coreper and adopted by the Council.

                  Source

                • So they have a veto overridable by unanimous vote.

                  So?

                  I mean, that…doesn’t make it nondemocratic or that the parliament has no power. If the veto happens too much, they can withhold confidence.

                  AFAICT, your original claim is false:

                  EU family leave policies, etc., originated in the staff of the European Commission, not the European Parliament. There was no “vote”, there was no “majority” or “minority”, there was no “winning” or “losing”.

                  And you’re backpedalling to “Made under the threat of veto.”

            • MacK

              That is somewhat of a misunderstanding of how EU legislation works.

              The basic theory is that the Commission proposes, the Counsel (and Parliament) disposes. That is to say that the Commission drafts the legislation – but the Commission does not operate in a vacuum. It does not draft legislation that the Council and Parliament do not want to see. Family leave would not have appeared on the agenda at the Counsel if the Counsel did not want to see it – nothing would have been drafted.

              One of the major issues in the EU is that member states fear a “race to the bottom” in everything from employment rights to environmental law and subsidies (you cannot pay a team to move in the EU with bonds and tax breaks.) It is pretty obvious that one thing the Leave camp want is to trigger a race to the bottom.

        • Murc

          The post is an extended argument that remaining in the EU is the best available means for the Left to impose policies on British voters that British voters will not vote for themselves.

          I’m not sure I want to agree with the new guy, but I kind of agree with the new guy. A lot of this post was, basically that. I mean, Brockington even said:

          The European Union effectively provides the left of the UK with an implicit check on the ability for Conservative parliaments to make life harsh.

          If this is true, and you are a person who is committed to the idea that if people win, they get to govern, as a matter of principle, that should at least prompt some serious thought.

          • JohnT

            That depends on your sense of who the people are. An American would presumably not think it wicked if black people in Alabama wished their state to stay in the United States partly because they have a good sense for what their fellow Alabamans would have in store for them once unconstrained by the Federal government.

            • Murc

              This is true, but analogizing EU member states with US states is always tricky. The former are still sovereign states, whereas we had a big old war over that notion, settling on the answer (unless you’re John Roberts) of “you sons of bitches aren’t sovereign over jack or shit.”

              • sonamib

                I’ll grant that the EU needs more transparency and democracy in their decision-making processes. But why should the answer be “leave the EU” instead of “stay in the EU and try to improve it”? Why is giving up more virtuous than trying to work it out?

                I view the EU as a necessary institution, full stop. There’s no way the various European states (sovereign or whatever) can get by without cooperating with each other. The alternative for the EU is a bunch of multilateral trade agreements and security arrangements with even less democratic oversight.

                • Murc

                  But why should the answer be “leave the EU” instead of “stay in the EU and try to improve it”?

                  Oh, it shouldn’t be, of course.

                • sonamib

                  Oh, ok. Sorry for misinterpreting you. I remember now that you’re pro-Remain.

                  Well, the rest of my comment still stands as an argument against lexiters.

                • MacK

                  Actually the EU is pretty transparent. You can attend meetings in the Breydel anytime (and the coffee is good), legislation is published in the OJ in draft – there is some sneaky stuff in the Parliament – but the Commission is very open.

                  The problem is that the national press is completely uninterested. Two rightwing buffoons that covered the EU were Rich Miniter (after he split up with Anne Coulter) for the Wall Street Journal and Boris Johnson – both were fired eventually, but they were so lazy and their stories so unreliable that it was legendary.

                  There is also democracy, but it is indirect – and to really influence it you have to get your own government to do the heavy lifting – the UK’s is famously disinclined to do so.

                • sonamib

                  Maybe transparency is not the word I’m looking for.

                  But as you say in your comment below, EU governments love to blame the commission for any unpopular decision they take, and aren’t ready to explain their own choices and compromises. That’s the lack of transparency I don’t like, national politicians explain very poorly what they do when they negotiate in an EU summit, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of who advocates for what.

                  Sure, if you look it up, you can find out what’s happening, but as you say, the press is usually completely uninterested in providing an accurate picture of the EU decision-making processes. That’s a problem, but I’m not sure how to solve it.

    • antoni_jaume

      The UK use to complain about lack of democracy from the EU, but whenever the rest try to bring democratic steps into play the UK adamantly opposes them. Juncker might not be a saint, but he gathered more MEP to vote for him.

      I cannot avoid the perception that when the UK complains of lack of democracy in the EU, that means in fact that the UK is not the only country allowed to speak and decide over all of the EU.

  • MacK

    One issue that I find myself in arguments with both sides on is the “democratic deficit” in the EU.

    First, you have to understand how organised democracies work. All of them are rife with contra-majoritarian devices. In the US it is first the Constitution, and the amendment process for the Constitution, which acts as an effective break on the the immediate democratic will of the people. Then it is the Supreme Court – judges are appointed rarely by a democratically elected President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The it is Presidential terms 4 years before you can get rid of the bum. Then the Senate, both the 2 senators per state and the six year staggered elections.

    The EU too has contra-majoritarian devices. The most powerful is the treaties and the shear hell involved in amending them. Then there is the Council, which is the member states – but with all sorts of voting rules. Then there is the un-elected Commission, selected though by democratically elected governments. The Commission is unelected, mostly at the instigation in latter years of the British, because they wanted the Commission politically hobbled by the lack of a direct popular mandate – they wanted to be able to say – “who elected you” to the Commission.

    Second, there is a fear in the EU of too much democracy – it is not expressed, but it is there. The problem the EU faces is that in broad terms there are large economies (Germany, UK, France and to a lesser degree Italy, Spain and Poland) with certain large-economy interests and small economies with small economy interests (and medium), economies with big service sectors, economies with small, economies where agriculture is important, economies with heavy industries, etc. – plus you have countries with a left wing government at any given time and other with a conservative government. In short on a lot of policy issues you can see fault lines running across the EU member states; all of the member states are worried about being outvoted on an issue of heavy importance to that country, hence all the complex voting rules in the Counsel.

    Third, the Commission is very unlike the Federal Government. It does very little directly – it operates through the member state governments and bureaucracies. So when there is an agricultural issue, it relies on the member states to do the direct on the ground work, data gathering, etc. This applies in pretty well every field, transport, science, etc. You don’t deal with the Commission, you deal with your national government. The Commission can hear citizens, but in reality national governments speak louder and if they decide to screw say their fishermen to get something for the banks ….

    Fourth, the Commission never likes to make member state governments look bad. So it lets them blame the Commission and “Brussels.” It lets them pretend that their politicians are going into battle with the Commission rather than horse-trading between themselves.

    All of this has turned the Commission into an institution that is not undemocratic, but is politically autistic. The Commission is fairly oblivious to the political and public view of it because it does not engage in direct retail politics. It does not see the consequence of always allowing the member states to blame the Commission for the decisions their own governments have taken.

    At some stage, possibly sooner rather than later the EU needs to solve the problem of indirect democracy – of making the Commission and Council more directly democratic. But that is going to be very tough.

    • michael8robinson

      More importantly, and this is evident in recent cases such as Ukraine, Greece, banking, refugees, etc., there is no mechanism or institutional structure in place that allows for good and rapid decision-making in a crisis situation that will be perceived as politically legitimate.

      So, consequently when an European crisis forces a European decision, the decision is late, bad, and of questionable legitimacy.

      And there are no foreseeable prospects for fixing any of this.

      • MacK

        Yes and no. With respect to Ukraine and Greece the decision making was not really in the hands of the EU. Greece’s problem was that it owed the money to German, French, Belgian, Netherlands and UK banks – and it was their national governments that had to go along. Ukraine – the EU lacks an army, so what did you propose it did?

        The refugee problem is not fundamentally solvable by the EU, because the solution if there is one is in Greece, Iraq (Eritrea and Sudan.) As long as the countries the refugees are coming from are falling apart or run by applying regimes, their economies desolate, the refugees and migrants will keep coming. All the EU can do is try to deal with millions who want to leave chaos and poverty and come to stability and prosperity in the EU.

        You solve the refugee and migrant problem in their homelands, not in the EU.

        • michael8robinson

          My argument is not that better EU institutions would have prevented the crises.

          My argument is that, when confronted by crises concerning Europe broadly (irrespective of place of origin or root cause), the institutional structure of the EU is such that the response to such crises is badly decided, badly coordinated, and late. This in turn undermines popular confidence in EU governance, and consequently the political legitimacy of EU institutions.

          • My argument is that, when confronted by crises concerning Europe broadly (irrespective of place of origin or root cause), the institutional structure of the EU is such that the response to such crises is badly decided, badly coordinated, and late.

            But take Greece. What was the EU institutional problem? I mean, what’s needed is fiscal transfers which the democratic governments of say Germany and France were reluctant to do….so…less democracy? Less local democracy? (I’m not sure an EU wide vote would have gotten us what we need in Greece specifically.) The ECB wasn’t as good as the Fed, policy wise, but they kinda came around with some QE. But that’s better economic policy over immediately responsive democratic decision making.

            The US did better because Obama and the Democratic congress did better, not because there was more democracy. And they were painted as illegitimate.

            • MacK

              Yes – the issue which I regularly point out to people when they complain about the undemocratic nature of what Merkel did to the Greeks is that they need to remember that Germany is a democracy too, and Merkel is the Chancellor, not Führer. It would be nice if the German electorate had been prepared to back a better deal for Greece, but they were not.

              Similarly, all these Leave types decry the lack of democracy in the EU, but fail to contemplate something – the EU is letting them have a referendum and will let the UK go if that is what its majority want, something the British Empire that they fetishise was not willing to do for Ireland, India, the American Colonies ….. etc.

          • Ronan

            Why and how does coordination on these events take place more effectively outside the eu at a European level? The problem with the refugee crisis Is European states, and their populations, don’t want to take the refugees in. How is this resolved by undermining European institutions?
            You aren’t even making an institutionalist argument, you’re just very vaguely arguing “European institutions” (which ones?) Hinder cooperation and decision making (what are your examples? Compared to what?) and/or are beginning to lack legitimacy (again which aspects of the eu are you talking about? And where’s your evidence)
            You’re just taking a few of the headline cases of “European dysfunction”, assuming they are caused by the eu and generalizing from these supposed failures to every other part of the eu.

        • MacK

          Sorry I meant the solution is in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. What I mean is that until these countries cease to be hellholes for so many of their population they are going to flee to places where there is safety, the rule of law and working economies. The nearest for many is Europe.

      • sibusisodan

        That’s all true, but when has it been better? (Geniunely. I’m racking my brains for historical European examples that don’t make me go ‘woah, there!’)

        In order to get better crisis decision making, we’d need a stronger executive…like you said: no foreseeable prospects for it.

        • michael8robinson

          I think the question is whether “it” was better 10 years ago (better economic situation, more favourable economic situation, more political goodwill) than it is now.

          And, if “it” was better 10 years ago, what are the chances it will be worse 10 years hence?

          In other words, yes, the EU project performed better than its predecessors, but what if it has peaked? If, in fact the institutional fitness of the EU is in decline, there is no apparent mechanism within the existing structures by which such a decline can be arrested and reversed.

          • sonamib

            Your argument seems to be : the EU is crumbling, so let’s tear it all down. That’s a little nonsensical. Will individual European states, acting on their own, find better solutions for the refugees, Ukraine and financial crises? Of course they won’t.

            Let’s try to perfect the EU, not try to bring it down.

            • michael8robinson

              Let’s try to perfect the EU

              How does that work, exactly, with 28 vetoes on any substantive structural change? I ask in all sincerity. I haven’t seen anywhere any explanation of what “reforming” the EU would look like, much less perfecting it.

              If 28 vetoes is an insurmountable obstacle to reform, then, yes, tearing it all down and starting over is the only available alternative.

              • sibusisodan

                We could follow a process similar to that which resulted in the Treaty of Lisbon?

                That got past all the vetoes, after all.

                • michael8robinson

                  It very barely got past all the vetoes, and only after significant dilution and arm-twisting, and it’s very much in doubt whether it would pass all the vetoes if brought to the member states again today.

                  But nevertheless, yes, I’ll concede that where there is strong consensus and sufficient political will, it is possible to materially reform the institutions of EU governance within existing frameworks.

              • How does that work, exactly, with 28 vetoes on any substantive structural change?

                The way it has happened in the past? E.g., the EP has gotten greater powers.

                You act like the EU institutions have been static. They haven’t.

                I ask in all sincerity.

                I’m pretty skeptical about that given your performance above.

                I haven’t seen anywhere any explanation of what “reforming” the EU would look like, much less perfecting it.

                Cf sibusisodan’s point: The Treaty of Lisbon.

                If 28 vetoes is an insurmountable obstacle to reform, then, yes, tearing it all down and starting over is the only available alternative.

                Pretty big “if”, dude.

            • antoni_jaume

              Note that the works of the UK seems to me to be all about bringing down the EU, by turning it in a EFTA 2.0.

  • Origami Isopod

    Cuteness relief: #CatsAgainstBrexit

    ETA: #Mutts4Remain.

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