The UK will vote to be inside the EU – eventually

by Jonathan Todd

The UK will have another referendum on our membership of the EU. Rather than if this will happen, it is more a matter of when, on what terms, and in what circumstances.

This is because:

  • The referendums of 1975 and 2016 have established a de facto constitutional principle that the UK cannot move in or out of the EU without a referendum.
  • If this referendum does not come before March 2019, and the UK exits the EU at the closing of the Article 50 window, the UK will make right-wing and/or left-wing attempts to find a new place in the world, but neither will be able to turnaround the ongoing diminishment of UK living standards associated with Brexit, building pressure for a revision to the status quo ante.

There’s much to be said for the Ken Clarke view that referendums are defective instruments. It is difficult, however, to imagine circumstances in which it would be politically possible to reverse the verdict of 23 June 2016 without another referendum.

While Best for Britain is expected to publish its campaign manifesto on 8 June, calling for such, given the intransigence of Labour and the Tories towards a referendum, the likelihood remains that the UK will leave the EU in March next year.

45% of the public now expect that this will have a negative impact on the economy. Versus, according to the latest polling, 30% who think it will have a positive impact. Only 13% think it will make no difference to the economy. In contrast, 40% think it will have no impact on their personal finances.

“A recession,” Ronald Reagan said, “is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.”

When the consequences of Brexit cut, sadly, more deeply into personal finances, the 40% will shrink to closer to the 13% and not only will be the 45% further grow but it will be increasingly composed of people vehemently anti-Brexit.

No Brexit scenario makes it easier for the UK to trade with our nearest neighbours. While we choke on chlorine-washed chicken, alternative trade relations will not compensate. Thus, every forecast of the economic impact of Brexit points unremittingly downwards.

Reality is even catching up with Nigel Farage. “I never promised it would be a huge success”. This disingenuous line has received most attention. But what follows also merits scrutiny. “We will be in control of our destiny.” This claim, too, is flawed. For reasons that can be illustrated with reference to Sir Ivan Rogers.

“The reality – not one I welcome, but businesses have to deal with the world as it is, not build castles in the air – is that three discrepant data realms are developing in data protection and privacy – a US one, a Chinese one and an EU one … The result is that the UK, recognising that it has no practical choice in its own commercial interest but to deliver long term convergence with one of these three regimes, is formally indicating that it intends to stay aligned with the EU model.”

The bigger point is: The UK is not big enough in isolation to be a rule maker. All we can do is chose with whom we align.

There may be right-wing fantasies – even after Trump’s imposition of steel tariffs – of Brexit that involve much closer alignment between the UK and the US. Or even left-wing ones entailing that between the UK and China. From where, for example, does John McDonnell anticipate debt financing for a left-wing UK government outside the EU and seeking to pull away from the orbit of the US?

But the UK will never hold an influence over rules emanating from China and the US as firm as that which we hold over EU rules as an EU member. We are doomed to be a ruler taker. We won’t – pace Farage and Labour spokespeople airily speaking of the UK in similar terms – be in control of our destiny. We could, though, influence the rules we live under as an EU member.

Mirroring the rules of the EU is the road to somewhere like Norway and the least economically damaging Brexit. But the rules will ever more be shaped without us, rendering us increasingly uncompetitive.

“And recovery,” Reagan concluded, “is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Or, in our case, when Brexit is ended.

The UK can most immediately discover this by following the course that Best for Britain chart. Or we can remain on our current trajectory and come back to this conclusion over the years ahead, with much painfully foregone in terms of UK jobs, livelihoods and public services.

No option is easy. But in the absence of castles in the sky, they are the only ones we have. Those who pretend otherwise – whether in blue or red rosettes – will, as the economic pain of Brexit, unfortunately, cuts in to personal finances, suffer.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut


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10 Responses to “The UK will vote to be inside the EU – eventually”

  1. Vern says:

    I got as far as chlorine washed chicken and gave up. You are part of the problem with the other shit scared cowards in the media. You regurgitate silly scare stories designed to unsettle people and constantly use unsubstantiated statistics and have a bias for negative forecasting of Brexit. And experts and academics opinions in the brave new post Brexit world don’t count for shit at this stage.

    Try getting behind your country instead of doing it down.

  2. Anne says:

    I agree totally with this article.
    My heart aches and my brain cries for the amount of time and money that has been foolishly and wastefully used on this disastrous Brexit project, and what for – to be in a far worse position than we started from – absolutely ridiculous.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Technically we didn’t move in to the EU(or EEC as it was) without a referndum we voted to stay in, actually we did move to the EU without a referndum,with Maastrict,

    In what way has Brexit caused a recession?

    Despite Corbyn thinking there’s mileage in getting more votes in safe London seats by not admitting he voted Brexit, labour stood on a leave the SM and Cau manifesto, no one forced remoaners to vote labour

    The terms of re entry into the EU, or what very it’s called 30 years from now after Greece and Italy have Left, are the question

    How about, the fact, that the working class felt financially they had nothing to lose if they were worse off voting Brexit
    And that the windrush scandal,of the only way the uK could control immigration was to deport commonwealth people who shouldn’t have Been deported

    I have gay labour working class friends told by middle class remain gay liberals they were traitors, and black friends called uncle toms, by fellow black remainers , if that’s the way labour treats its core vote, same as the gammon, slur, then labour can’t want to win,if we think just increasing the majorities in inner city seats is all there is

  4. paul barker says:

    I dont accept that any such Referendum principle has been established, we are supposed to be a Parliamentary Democracy & the proper place to scuttle or Reverse Brexit is in Parliament.
    I have always thought that if Brexit is to be stopped it will be at the last possible moment & Referenda cant be organised quickly, es peciaaly if there is a big block in Parliament willing to block any emergency legislation, at some point it becomes Parliament or nothing.

  5. Vern says:

    Anne, what is it that you find so attractive about membership of the EU? I am genuinely interested to hear.

  6. Anon says:

    I get sick of this narrative.

    Yes, I can see the advantage of belonging to the EEA, and I can see the advantage of moving to an EFTA scenario (the Norway option) – but in no way do I see that the people at the bottom have been better served by being part of this awful EU organisation.

    The eureferendum.com website today relates a story regarding the loss of local abattoirs and the vets that serviced them – and you can extrapolate this argument to all walks of life.
    The UK no longer trains its own people but relies on dragging in people from other countries.

    Our Parliament is even no longer fit for purpose and is unable to move out of its EU gilded cage.

    From my personal point of view – when I was young my friends were made up of bricklayers, plasterers, painters and decorators, electricians – and even a fair portion of butchers.
    Have houses stopped being built, do they not need the trades that go with building them – and don’t we have a need for butchers now?

    I have seen my community slide into decline; where once there were young people with hope and a spring in their step, we now have people who have been told to “Go home and we’ll get the benefits to you.” This has happened under governments of ALL colours – and it has coincided with the time we have been in the European Union.

    The privileged class of the Jonathan Todds of the world will be OK Jack – I can only cry for a tier of England who are being consigned to history.

    But, don’t be so cock sure on future generations wanting to rejoin the EU – the young are now getting a crash course in democracy; they will carry forward the arguments on democracy and will carry on questioning the validity of the EU and the supposed mandate for its institutions that nobody has had a say on.

  7. John P. reid says:

    If only Jeremy’s suggestion article 50 should be implemented straight away,we’d only have to put up with this bollocks for 2 more weeks,

  8. Anne says:

    For me the principle benefit of being a member of the EU is most certainly economic – free trade with the biggest economic area in the world.
    Another benefit for me is harmony between countries – workers rights, and human rights.
    Security is a big issue – co operation against terrorist activities.
    No hard boarder on the island of Ireland.
    I travel frequently to the Continent. We now get much less for our pound.
    As a country – our place in the world – having allies.
    These are but a few of the benefits – but most certainly, in my view, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

  9. Anon E Mouse says:

    Once again Jonathan Todd shows every Labour supporter how to lose even more General Elections. Well done. People like you are a major part of the problem hiding in the boundaries of London

  10. Vern says:

    Thanks Anne and whilst I don’t think it’s free to trade with the EU and that workers rights differ from one country to another I value your opinion. My own personal decision was based on my own appetite to risk, my view that the EU is becoming a liability that we will pay increasingly more for and recieve less from and that the working class have nothing left to lose.

    And above all else I am optimistic of what will be in the years ahead.

    For what it’s worth i don’t think it will matter a jot to the vast majority of people in the end and 10 years from now we will look back at this wondering how much money we threw into the EU project.

    I also find it iteresting there are no European citizens begging us to stay – perhaps they have always seen us as a fringe partner or maybe they can’t explain the benefits of the union.

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