Tuesday 31 May 2016

The agony of the eurosceptic 'Bremainer'

I'm going to level with you: I don't like the EU. I never have. One of the earliest posts on this blog was on the subject of the European Union - and it was far from positive. I later wrote an article comparing the EU to the Chinese communist party. My job brings me into semi-regular contact with EU institutions (primarily the EU intellectual property office) and much of what they do seems wasteful.

But I'm going to vote to stay in the EU.

I'm not going to vote out of any commitment to European federalism - a project I think incredibly misguided and likely to end in disaster, and which has resulted in disaster with the Euro. If this referendum were about avoiding joining the Euro, or creating a European army, or any of the federal projects that the Brexit campaign say may happen (but won't because the UK has a veto on them), then I'd vote to leave in a heart-beat. The high-flown ideals that supporters of the EU sometimes talk about leave me cold. At this stage if you're not sceptical about the EU then you just haven't been paying attention.

Unlike that previous referendum on another union - the United Kingdom - the (happily inaccurate) polls showing a majority favouring a vote to leave don't hit me like a punch to the gut. Whilst I have family connections to other EU countries, it's not like leaving the EU is going to endanger these. There's a possibility that new immigration rules might be troublesome if I wanted to live on the continent again, and possibly my wife may have to get a visa, but these are hardly insuperable challenges.

No, if we leave the EU things will most likely (eventually) be OK. But we'd also likely be poorer than we would be if we stayed - almost all the experts say so - and there seems no real likelihood that there would any commensurate gain to offset that. Even pro-remain economists like Andrew Lilico think we'd miss out on around 2-3% in GDP growth in the short-medium term, which offsets even the most optimistic predictions about how much would be saved.

The story that we'd be doing more business outside of Europe if we were outside the EU is the sheerest, most pure fantasy.  There is absolutely no-one out there of any real credibility saying "I'd love to do invest in the UK, but I can't because of the EU" or "I'd like to buy your products, but the EU is stopping me". People who think otherwise seem to me simply to be people obsessed with extremely minor things like the so-called "tampon tax", or immigration, something which I do not see as a problem at the moment (or at least not one where the EU is the main source of the problem).

Instead I can see from my own work that Brexit will inevitably lead to slower growth and most likely a recession in the short term. I am already hearing from friends in the UK patents/trademarks trade that their US, Chinese, and Japanese clients are worried that they won't be able to represent them fully in the EU post-Brexit, and some are bound to switch to EU-based firms if we leave the EU, even if we somehow remain in the EEA by joining the EFTA (something the Leave campaign has ruled out). Nothing, absolutely nothing that the Brexit campaign have shown any credible evidence for, is worth making ourselves poorer than we might otherwise have been.

Leaving the EU marginally increases the risk of war on the continent by emboldening aggressive regimes such as Vladimir Putin's. It also may possibly strengthen the case for Scottish independence in the long term. By themselves these wouldn't stop me voting to leave the EU if there was any substance at all to the claim that UK sovereignty were seriously endangered by the EU, but since it isn't, they also count in my decision-making.

Friday 27 May 2016