Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Brexit reader

All of the links below are worth clicking on. Some are pretty short.

1. Let's start with something lighthearted. These photographs of the rubbishy EU model theme park tell a story: "I've got a picture of me at home being hugged by this giant tortoise with a big EU logo on it."

More substantial matters are below the break.

2. The economic starting point in a nutshell: yes, the IMF and 200 economists can be wrong. But you knew that already. Bootle, at the link, has a good starting point for the debate: "In the current debate, the EU’s single market is the focus of much attention. ... To sell into it, non-members normally have to pay EU tariffs, submit their goods for inspection at border controls, together with the associated paperwork, and comply with rules concerning the origin of goods and their components. // There is no doubt that not having to bear these various costs and inconveniences is an advantage. So, if this advantage came without any costs, you would of course want to have it. // But that is precisely the point – it comes with umpteen costs: having to impose EU rules across the whole of your economy; having to pay the EU’s annual membership fee; being unable to negotiate trade deals with other countries around the world; having to impose the EU’s external tariffs on imports into your country; and being obliged to take any number of EU citizens to live and work in your country. // So the issue is about weighing up costs and benefits – and how these might change over time. // But it is more of a judgment call than a totting-up of numbers. In trying to make it, I suggest that you ponder three key questions. // First, if the benefits of the single market are so enormous, then why is it that over recent years countries all around the world have increased their exports into the single market at a faster rate than most single market members? // Second, if the single market is of such overwhelming importance, why are so many of its members in a terrible state? Why is the Greek economy not carried forward on a wave of prosperity unleashed by the absence of form-filling and checking at borders? // Third, if trade deals are so important, why does the UK do such a huge amount of trade with countries that it doesn’t currently have a trade deal with – including America?"

3. But what about emotions? "On leaving the EU, Britain will be regarded like the philandering husband who walks out on his wife, leaving her with a crushing mortgage and the children to bring up on her own." It's interesting to note what your immediate reaction to that is. Mine was, "they're not my children". And my second thought was that I didn't take out that mortgage either. Still, that's not to say that you shouldn't stand by your step-children ...

4. So, what do sane and sensible economically literate people have to say?

- Here's a liberal, free-market guide to Brexit from Open Europe.

Gove asks, "Did Stephen King write the In campaign’s script?" (And that was before the Inners told us that Brexit would lead to WWIII and a house price crash all at once.)

- But Scott Sumner is against Brexit, I think because Britain will be needed to help the EU when the euro fails.

- And Ben Wright agrees, the safest vote is in - for now at least: "The most disingenuous argument made by the Leave campaign is not that we would be better off outside the EU; it is that we have to quit now."

Tyler Cowen is with Sumner and Wright: "the United Kingdom, with its own currency and set of distinct historical traditions, can leave whenever it wants ... Since “wait and see” is an option, leaving has to be much better than staying, given the mathematics of the expected value of irreversible decisions." (Hmm, substitute "Texas" for "the United Kingdom"...) Cowen also says this: "if the United Kingdom could simply press a button and obtain the current status of Canada, vis-a-vis the EU, probably they should do so. But they cannot ...".

5. But what about voices from the Left?, I hear you cry.

- Well, here is Paul Mason: "The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear. The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime. It has an executive so powerful it could crush the leftwing government of Greece; a legislature so weak that it cannot effectively determine laws or control its own civil service. A judiciary that, in the Laval and Viking judgments, subordinated workers’ right to strike to an employer’s right do business freely. // Its central bank is committed, by treaty, to favour deflation and stagnation over growth. State aid to stricken industries is prohibited. The austerity we deride in Britain as a political choice is, in fact, written into the EU treaty as a non-negotiable obligation. So are the economic principles of the Thatcher era. A Corbyn-led Labour government would have to implement its manifesto in defiance of EU law. // And the situation is getting worse ...". He's a bit scared of Boris, but wants out soon enough. (Interestingly, he is waiting for the 'final offer' - do you remember the great 'vow' to save the UK during the Scottish Referendum? Do you expect anything comparable here? And what does that tell you about relations between rEU and the UK compared with those between rUK and Scotland?)

- Here is Simon Jenkins rubbishing Cameron's WWIII ideas: "The best thing that happened to medieval England was its defeat in the hundred years war and the end of English ambitions on the continent of Europe." Splendid Isolation was not exactly a bad policy; the Crimean War not a great achievement. (Kandahar, Crimea - why do these parts of British history come back? Agincourt and Quebec seem to be pretty quiet nowadays.)

- And here's the Guardian's Larry Elliott pointing out that "[Tony] Benn’s dystopian vision proved entirely accurate" (I think that's the Guardian equivalent of saying "Enoch was right"). He adds "This is not the US without the electric chair; it is the USSR without the gulag." (Farage would get roundly mocked for such rhetoric.)

- Finally, let's not forget the intersectionality aspects of Brexit: after all it ain't easy being a black Brexiteer.


  1. Very good collection of thoughts, thank you.

  2. With pleasure I got to reread this page just now. #3 I liked in particular.