The Brexit world is Weimar Germany all over again. No democracy in sight.
(Published on 12/6/2016)
The debate is over: the case is made. By any reasonable consideration of trade, business, law, diplomacy, settlement or economics the intellectual argument is over and Remain is the preferred option. Brexit has lost. There is now not a shred of evidence or opinion of any serious standing to support withdrawing from the European Union. But there are still those who want to leave.
The world they offer is one of freedom and independence. But the reality they have in store is isolation and the withdrawal from all international attachments so that they can pursue nationalistic and racist social and immigration policies. They shout their freedom message backed up with lies. This was exactly the situation in Weimar Germany in the 1930’s, which provided the fertile ground for the growth of Nazism.
The problem then was that nobody trusted the politicians and that is happening here and now. Many voters are only interested in immigration. All they want is to keep the foreigners out, and they blame the European Union. Even when all the advantages of belonging are pointed out and even though our best chance of regulating immigration is within the Union, they want out.
This looks like racism at its worst. At that time Germany had a weak and imperfect electoral system. Many parts of society felt disenfranchised. The national business model still favored the seriously rich. The legal system was outdated and difficult to access. Finally, there was economic stagnation. This all sounds very familiar now. However, Brexit is not the answer and Boris is not Hitler, thank God.
Back then, once the far right got into power, all opposition arguments were described as lies and inventions. Opposition spokesmen were vilified and accused of denying the right of the people to determine. They had three referenda and left the League of Nations. This sort of issue politics is very dangerous and creates factions and enemies. The consequences of this present argument will reverberate for long after June 23rd.
Fortunately, no Hitler figure is in sight. Boris is not really a person who one can take seriously. However, he has managed to create a considerable power base. His kind of jovial populism is invariably based on misinformation and incomplete knowledge. Classically, in his recent stint as Mayor of London he bestowed on London a system of cycle highways which was hugely expensive, is almost entirely useless, and has brought the traffic in London to a crawl, costing millions of pounds every day. And now causing considerable air pollution. The result is actually damaging to the majority population of London.
This is exactly the kind of political behaviour that the Brexits complain about from Brussels. And that brings us to the ultimate question at the core of the argument from this strange group. It is the idea that, somehow, Britain’s sovereignty has been usurped by the European Union. If that were even remotely true France, Spain and Italy would be first out of the door. These are proud countries that are absolutely clear about their right to approve and endorse everything and anything that happens to them. It is quite clear that those limits to the influence and power of the Union’s central administration are immoveable.
It is laughable to believe that the countries of Europe have acquiesced in substantial reductions in their individual sovereignty. Even sharing a currency, the ultimate test of sovereignty, has meant a great deal of careful compromise. In many ways the shared sovereignty of Europe is a paradigm of how the world will work in future. Every country that wished to participate in the expansion of trade and wealth will have to join with others to maintain stability. Short-term gains by blatant exercise of rights will become a thing of the past.
The other big issue paraded by the Brexits concerns democracy. Even last week Boris has been going on about Brussels being undemocratic. As if casting a few votes actually constitutes democracy. In fact we live in one of the most undemocratic countries in the world.
There are 206 countries that are members of the United Nations; 205 have written constitutions, even North Korea. One alone does not, and that is the United Kingdom. We have no Bill of Rights, and no guarantee of continuing citizenship. Our election process is a sick joke. We get to vote once every five years and then ninety percent of votes are useless. We don’t even have protection of so-called democratic rights written into any act of parliament. And even if we did these could be taken away by a simple vote.
Parliament is sovereign and can change the rules, and does from time to time, without any serious consideration of the consequences. Our electoral system is inherited from the 18th-century and is so bad that governments can be elected on a substantial minority. The present government got 35 percent of the votes and then insisted it had a mandate to do things clearly for the minority. That is the great contradiction in our system. The idea of a mandate only arrived in the latter part of the last century. But government is about the ever-changing passage of events and no government should be tied to its election promises. Especially when over half the electorate disagree.
In our wonderful democracy, winner takes all, and we have to trust the government to look after everyone. Clearly that is not the case now that votes of over 90% of the population are worthless. We are supposed to have a system of representation which means parliament is to decide each issue. But the rise of party politics has meant that many members of Parliament are just there to do as they are told. In short we have a party government system depending on the election of individuals who then can only do what the whips tell them.
This is all in contrast to our European neighbors. They all believe that the processes of government and the decisions taken by government have to be endorsed and consented to by the people all the time through many channels. Its not just about voting. As if the idea of voting somehow gives something of validity when it is clearly a nonsense, as we are seeing with this referendum.
Added to all this, we have this history of an adversarial politics and a legal system where we believe that there is, on every subject, a right and a wrong answer. This is in sharp contrast to other European countries with democratic systems that depend on continual creation of consensus, which are much more stable in the long run because progress is made by general consent, and not by issues and decisions being handed down without proper consultation.
Fantasy is a good word for the Brexits. Most of what they describe in the future is in their imagination and not based on actual experience. When the President of the United States and the Chancellor of Germany make absolutely clear that Britain outside of the European Union would find it extremely difficult and expensive to negotiate new arrangements of trade and finance, one has to take this seriously.
Nigel Lawson has been particularly cavalier about this, believing that nobody will reject our good offices, and our financial management would continue to pay for it, and pay the bills, even after we have done this deed of leaving the certainty and security of the European Union.
When one looks at the whole range of arguments, one is bound to say that the Brexits are a sad crowd of disappointed individuals who seem to be much more concerned with their own futures than the future of the country, and are prepared to do lasting and permanent damage. The mystery is that this gang has been able to bring into their side of the argument a wide range of supporters who are clearly not listening to the counter arguments. At least in a democracy every voter should understand the consequences of his or her action.
What is the attraction to ordinary British people, of torpedoing one of the main planks of the stability of Britain in Europe and the world today? Why are they already invited to take such an irresponsible, and frankly, silly step, even when so much authoritative and important opinion, well thought out argument, and straight numerical information argues against?
In my own experience I have found that people, when faced with the reality of these arguments, say that it doesn’t matter. We need to regain our freedom. This is a complete fantasy. The idea that we are not free, and we are not able to run our own country, is simply a lie.
Behind all this stands the huge question of immigration and refugee policy. None of those problems will be helped by leaving the Union. We already have complete control of our borders. Ask anybody who has to go in and out of Britain on a regular basis. What these people are really complaining about is the fact that we have had an influx of Europeans into Britain. But, as we know, most of them are only too pleased to go home once they have earned a little money and gained some knowledge of English.
As a businessman who employs many of these people who come to us, there is no question about it. They are better motivated, better trained, and better educated than many native Britons. There is no question also that they have actually contributed to Britain’s wealth. The idea that they somehow take away of the opportunities from the British has never been established. Nor do they put undue strain on housing and services. All official government studies have shown that this was an urban myth that the availability of houses, schools, hospitals and everything else has been barely touched.
Much more significant has been that our continual immigration from the former Commonwealth, and those countries that are in severe trouble at the moment with armed uprisings and Civil War, but all of those issues can be dealt with under present regulation and legislation. There will be no gain in dealing with the flow of immigrants by leaving the Union. In fact the reverse is probably true. We are far better off dealing with these problems as part of the European Union than in trying to do it by ourselves.
So we come to the crux of the matter. A vote to leave the Union is a vote for decline, and will diminish Britain in every way. Most importantly it will start a deep social divide which could lead to civil strife and political stagnation, as happened in the 1930’s.
In the end the politics of Weimar resulted in the collapse of democracy, and the rise of policies of self sufficiency and extreme racial persecution. This is the true legacy of Brexit and our only defense is to maintain the Union.