Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref

This is about the UK referendum on EU membership. It’ll meander back an forth across some issues as it’s more an ideas and concerns barf than a rational argument aimed to persuade, so apologies if it’s a chaotic and incoherent at times. These are the issues that I hear people talking about; issues about populations, migration and sovereignty that are easier to understand than the economic ones that even the ‘experts’ can’t give clear answers to.

Here’s a quick summary, with short videos, that explains the organisation of the EU and the powers of its various bodies. Use it as a primer if you’re not sure what the EU is about: BBC’s EU Introduction.

Plenty of people that want to remain in this complex and not exactly representative EU political system are the same people that complain that the UK government is unrepresentative because the Conservatives received less than 50% of the vote in the last UK election. Feelings on self-governance seem to be confused by ideological positions.

The fear of the economic uncertainty is the story that #Remain want to sell. Several non-EU European nations do quite well on the outside. But, if they were honest, both sides would have to admit their economic predictions are speculation.

It’s really about sovereignty, directly elected representation … and … population management.

The free movement of people should be a welcome idea from anyone that values the ability to travel, work and do business across the whole of Europe. Isolationism has always been a divisive force that is used to tell us how bad those other people are.

But it’s not plain sailing. There are problems that arise when nation states have different systems for health and social welfare. Of course poorer or sicker migrants will move to the more wealthy and generous nations if they can.

Even so, on the whole, secular liberal democracies of Europe with reasonably similar cultures are a result of the movement of people across Europe for centuries. From the Romans to the 19th Century of marriages among the monarchies, Europeans have found ways of mixing that have worked out reasonably well – putting aside periodic wars and the persecution of minorities. The goals of the EU after WWII were not only economic. It was hope that closer union would prevent future wars.

But changes to populations that are too rapid don’t give enough time for the society to respond – unemployment rises, wages are depressed because poorer migrants will work for less, the housing shortage becomes more critical, leading to more land being built upon, leading to greater demand for roads and transport, shops and schools. Our economies value economic growth, but it that’s matched by population growth there’s no net benefit, just more people consuming more resources polluting the planet for ever more people.

The UK is one of the most densely populated members of the EU. Put aside Scotland and Wales, with their relatively low population densities, and a few uninhabitable hills, and the population density of England is even greater. London, the greatest of all.

Compared to two other powerful EU states, the UK is full. Germany could take another 13 million people to reach the population density of the UK. France? 81 million.

And, what about migration from outside the EU? The EU screwed up massively recently, by confusing genuine refugee status with economic migrant status.

A few short years ago nobody other than some global hippies and anarchists would have thought it sensible for the EU states to open their borders to anyone. Can you imagine any airport entry control simply opening the gates and letting anyone in without checking passports?

Has there been a great call to get rid of these airport border controls? Has there been a great cry to open up all land borders to anyone from anywhere?


A key dissuader to mass migration into Europe has been how arduous the journey is, and how likely that in small numbers you will to fail and be turned back. Even so, in very small numbers even leaky borders are manageable. Our populations can absorb some illegal immigrants.

That changed with the Syrian crisis.

There are genuine refugees that need our help. Any of the persecuted minorities, as well as the old, the very young and the sick, too vulnerable to stay in camps: the EU can play a part and take them and give them a home.

The problem started when economic migrants – the ones that we would otherwise have no trouble rejecting or limiting – mingled with the genuine Syrian refugees. And when refugees from Syria that had a safe haven in Turkey decided to join the economic migrants, then that’s what started a mass illegal migration to Europe. Even the regular North African sea routes gained momentum as a result. Europe had opened its doors.

And once a child’s body washed up, that was enough to prick the consciences of Europe so that they completely lost sight of the bigger picture.

But, what’s the problem? Above, I’ve already pointed out that the large EU states with population densities much lower than the UK technically have room for large numbers, many millions.

It’s not that simple. Again, the rate of increase causes the problem, along with the fact that the migrants aren’t the educated people that the EU has been welcoming to satisfy some skills shortages. These economic migrants present a mix of problems: uneducated to the standards required for employment; they have language problems; they have significant cultural differences that clash with what has become a pan-European secular liberal democracy.

The problem with Angela Merkel’s generosity is that once a citizen of the EU, then they are free to come to the UK too.

This is the compounded problem that is a result of our inability to control our own borders. In principle we have an open border with the EU states, but if the EU states have an open border with the world, then we have no border to speak of.

The Prime Minister has been telling us how well he’s been doing in negotiating on our behalf for a greater say in our border independence. But all that takes years, and in the mean time the rush is on.

It isn’t the EU that’s going to manage migration, but individual member states, and states that border the EU. The slow cumbersome EU is busy reprimanding those states that have taken a harder stand to stop entry and turn people back, while breathing a sigh of relief that someone else has temporarily prevented migration in even larger numbers.

In Germany, Sweden and other EU states there have been many problems that have resulted from clashes between migrants and local people. It hardly reaches our regular news outlets, but it’s there to see if you look for it. Sexual assaults in the the street, or in swimming pools, assaults of social workers helping the migrants, and the failure of the police to act (and even the fear of the police to enter some parts of some cities) has hardened the locals.

A direct consequence of these failures has led to a reactionary boost for the far right groups. Many ordinary decent citizens of Europe now march along with the less savoury elements of the right, because the socialist left flatly refuses to acknowledge the problems caused by high rates of immigration from cultures that are significantly different to the secular liberal democratic EU.

The pity is that many of the migrants will be people who really do value western secular liberal democracy, after having lived under dictators and fascistic theocracies. There are many people that were born outside this country that have made great contributions to it. Genuine xenophobia is unhealthy. But that’s not what we’re seeing.

Many people that are immigrants or descendants of recent immigrants are in favour of leaving the EU. In the midst of some internecine battles of the two sides, it’s been encouraging to see unexpected allies on each side.

My own preference would be, and has been for many years, to remain in the EU and make it better, more accountable, more flexible. But currently that seems too slow a process, while in the meantime that behemoth that is the EU marches on to ever greater political and military union, and, it seems, with a willingness to sell its soul in order to placate the US administration, and pander to US business just to get access to US markets.

The Roman Empire became too big and unmanageable and failed. Napoleon’s Europe was too big to handle. Hitler stretched himself too thin. The USSR failed. The Islamic Caliphates failed. The British Empire became too big for its boots. Even the US, that basically started from scratch with a virgin Constitution, still had problems balancing the federal and state governance, and still does. It’s had a civil war, and many in the South might not object to another, if cessation was at all possible. Large political systems are more difficult to manage than smaller ones. We don’t have the geographic limitations of transport that earlier empires had to cope with, but we have a hell of a lot more people.

The nation state has been for a long time the most manageable compromise between individual and local freedom on the one hand and the larger collective interest on the other. There might be a time in the future when massive, even global governance starts to look promising. We’re not ready yet. Trading groups are not governments, and pretenders to the EU’s throne have been screwing up to such an extent that it is questionable whether the EU is beneficial or detrimental to its citizens.

On the whole, and until recently, I’d have taken the chance and said the benefits are worth it, and the problems can be fixed. The EU Parliament needs to be more representative and have greater control, and there needs to be less behind the scenes deal making that really is undemocratic. But we could solve these problems, in a reasonable time.

The stupid open borders cock-up, mainly by Germany, still guilt racked whenever it sees a line of people looking persecuted, has changed the game, and I’m not sure it can be fixed. This piece explains some of the german approach that sounds generous but creates an agenda that discourages questioning: Germany’s Syrian Refugee Crisis.

I’d like to see far more progress on this one issue before I had to vote – but that’s not a luxury I have. Even at this late stage I’ve been undecided. My heart wants to be part of Europe – I consider myself to be a European. The Germans of today, our fellow secular liberal democratic Europeans, whose parents and grand parents were seduced by pan-European empire, are now our friends. Even Pegida is a pan-European co-operative organisation – it’s not a matter of being anti-Europe, xenophobic, racist, despite what some dishonest proponents of #Remain claim..

The Czech premier also made it clear that it’s not about racism or xenophobia – all European nations have flourishing communities from disparate cultures from around the world.

The key is integration and assimilation. If there’s one key ‘European value’ that’s common across Europe that’s now the secular liberal democracy model. It’s one we value because it’s about the most tolerant any society has ever been when gathered in such large numbers.

But the toleration can backfire when you tolerate the intolerant. And we have to name the problem. Islam is an intolerant political religion. Read the Quran and its clear. And don’t try any what-aboutery. What about the Bible? The Bible isn’t a solitary book authored by one man, taken to be inerrant and valid for all time and a complete manual for living, theologically, politically, judicially. The occasional nod to toleration in the Quran comes at a price – it is very clearly and emphatic about Muslim privilege and superiority. It is a fascistic book.

Are all Muslims to be tarred by this book? No. There are many nominal enforced Muslims that would be non-Muslims if they could be, if they could avoid the threat Islam holds over their necks. On entering Europe some take the opportunity to leave Islam, to be free atheists, or to convert to another religion – something that’s anything from difficult to impossible in their home lands. Why wouldn’t we welcome people wanting to be free?

Many Muslims are secular liberal and democratic at heart – some, the reformers, explicitly so, in that they acknowledge the problems with the inerrancy principle. Why wouldn’t we welcome them?

Others seem to avoid talking about the Quran’s anti-liberal anti-democratic demands. Many, far too many, stick to the Quranic message – non-Muslims aren’t worth squat, and will, one way or another, submit to Islam. Many Muslims living in the EU may accept they live in secular liberal democracies, but they are very clear about how much they would prefer to see the collapse of this western system and the rise of Islamic values, even Sharia.

In the west we have, for various reasons, chosen to have smaller families. This isn’t all about an altruistic regard for the planet’s capacity to support is. For whatever reason our ‘nuclear family’ has become a one, two and three child family, and as a result it’s easier to manage a stable economy, and it’s less threatening to the planet and the resources we use. There are enough small families to allow some others to have more than three children without threatening a continued population explosion. But in many parts of the world large families are the norm, and when backed by a religious ideology that values large families as a means of expanding the religion, it’s clear that migrant families from outside the west are going to be the cause of a growth in western populations. It could be argued that the Roman Catholic church already encourages large families in Europe and the Christian world, and though this is true generally, the European culture doesn’t encourage very large families. When it comes to Islam, there’s a strong religious-cultural force that encourages larger families; and some Islamic voices demand they have them in order to spread Islam.

Just one point on this issue of family size. The first response to this is often, “I’m from a large family. You’re saying I shouldn’t have been born?”

No. Whoever happens to have been born is just as valuable a human life as any. And of course no child chose to be born. Having a policy of encouraging small families is not to discriminate against members of large families. This seems off topic, but it’s a pity that this sort of explanation is even necessary – but there you go, some people miss the point and misunderstand the argument.

All this is where the EU governance problems, population dynamics, and high rates of uncontrolled immigration from Islamic states comes together at this crucial time for residents of the UK.

Can we stay in the EU and change its position on migration to suit what we and some other states want? Or are we doomed to succumb to the demands of the EU bureaucracy where some powerfully connected people get to decide what we can and can’t do. You think the Conservative government doesn’t represent you, and yet the EU does?

After finding no answers to the general economic questions about being in or out, I’m left pondering these few issues of sovereignty, population and migration. In the end I’m drawn to an inclusive Europe, and the UK’s willingness to make it better. For me it’s important we retain our secular liberal democratic politics and progressive tolerant and welcoming nature. But to sustain that, we Europeans must be in control of European immigration and must not be blackmailed by forced migrations.

Europe is in a great position to help developing nations in the Middle East and North Africa, and we can continue, as a bloc, to encourage the spread of secular liberal democracy. But to be able to help others we must make sure we are safe ourselves. If European secular liberal democracies go down the tubes, there will be nowhere nearby worth migrating to.

I don’t have any worries about the UK’s ability to go it alone. The issue is whether I want us to. In the end I’ve decided I want to stay in Europe and struggle for Europe. If anything this referendum has encouraged me to take a greater interest in the EU than I have taken in the past. I’m voting to stay in.



Here are some other resources that address the specific issue of the immigration of large numbers of Muslims that do not share our European values.. I hope they help. They include both warnings, and some encouragement.

Lebanese expat describes Islamification of Germany  – This perspective shows that the ‘Islamification of Europe’ is a realistic concern. O course it’s not just about Europe, since Muslim piety and conservatives has risen around the wider Islamic world as a number of groups, like The Muslim Brotherhood, Whabist Saudi, the iranian government and many smaller groups taken the Islamist political Jihad on board.

President Zeman of the Czech Republic speaks on Islam and mass immigration – “We have permitted the right wing, at times the extreme right wing, to steal the theme which used to belong historically to social justice. And that is the theme: the protection of national interest and the defence of European values. And we are putting up the face of peoples who had forgotten their past.”

Sweden’s backlash: Why the tide is turning for refugees – Talk to Al Jazeera In The Field – The response of European societies that have had to deal with the increased immigration of unemployable people has started to change them from the idealistic open arms, that always relied on small numbers, and only ever worked for genuine refugees, into the more cautious one that count the cost of their generosity.

Islam and democracy: What’s the problem? – We mustn’t forget that Europe isn’t the sole bastion of liberal democracy in this hemisphere. There are plenty of secular liberal democrats in the Muslim world. They have a greater struggle that we do. I’m often a critic of Mehdi Hasan and his anti-western rhetoric, but here he facilitates a good debate among Muslims as diverse as anyone. I still thank that Islam is in principle incompatible with secular liberal democracy, if interpreted as many Islamic states do; but this shows that despite the Quran and the uniform Muslim endorsement of it, many Muslims can ignore its more bigoted parts.

What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter – Deeyah Khan has been helping to raise awareness about the influence of radical and extremist Islam on our European children from immigrant families.


11 thoughts on “Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref

  1. Ron,

    Like you, I will vote #Remain, but I am much more convinced this is the more sensible option than you appear to be. So I’m writing this to try to convince you that you should be more confident in your decision by addressing some of the points in your post.

    I would first take issue with your dismissal of the economic case against Brexit as “speculation”. Statistical modelling and analyses are not mere speculation, though, of course, neither can they be described as “fact”. It is, nonetheless, the case that almost every analysis on the effects of Brexit predicts that there will be a significant, negative impact on the UK economy. The impact may be mitigated to some extent by the nature of the agreement that the UK reaches with the EU. The only study that claims positive impact from leaving is that produced by a pro-Brexit group that has been criticised for its unrealistic assumptions, most particularly that the new trade agreement will mean that the UK can continue to do business with the EU on the essentially the same basis with all the benefits, but none of the costs.

    That the Brexistas almost always dismiss economists’ forecasts as guesswork and their continued and repeated lie about the weekly cost of EU membership are clear signals that they can offer no coherent economic defence of Brexit. Michael Gove repeated this anti-expert stance during the recent Sky News debates. A stance, I might add, that is not a million miles away from that of many climate deniers and Christian fundies.

    Now, some of my Brexista friends claim that it’s “not about the money” as you seem to imply in your opening remarks. And I would agree that it’s not all about the money, but it is damn’ certainly NOT not about the money at all. Other things being equal, the higher is our national GDP, the greater the Government’s ability to pay for schools, hospitals, defence…, and deal with those problems that may be exacerbated by our membership of the EU. And, for the avoidance of any doubt, all the models do predict that, in or out, the UK economy will grow in the medium to long term, but GDP will be higher if we stay in.

    You toss in the throw-away remark that “several non-EU European nations do quite well on the outside” without being more specific. That’s a very sloppy argument that isn’t typical of your approach in other posts I’ve read on Ramblings, but I suppose you did issue a barf warning. 🙂 I will not go off on a tangent about Norway and Switzerland.

    Your remarks about the EU political system leave me a little confused as I’m not sure whether you are criticising the EU for being undemocratic or not. Since you point to the Beeb’s 101, I guess not, except your little aside, about objectors to the somewhat undemocratic nature of our own Government being elected by less than 25% of the electorate, makes me wonder. I think many people don’t understand that the EU legislation is made by elected representatives—the European Council, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament—they think it’s all about the European Commission, which is not much different in principle than the Civil Service, but it is more high profile. Certainly, there should be more transparency and openness in EU operations. I do think that whatever the result of the referendum there will be much soul-searching in the EU.

    Your discussion on immigration makes some valid points, but it does seem to imply that the problems would be ameliorated if we left the EU. This is what the Leave crowd would have us believe, but their arguments are not credible. David Cameron obviously made a big mistake when he promised to reduce net immigration to “tens of thousands”. If he would just admit it was a mistake, we could move on. But the Brexistas and the media insist on hammering Cameron on that promise. It’s irrelevant; what matters is the current situation not that the PM’s crystal ball screwed up; the attacks divert from discussion of more substantive issues.

    With respect to immigration, these issues, I think need to be broken into three areas:

    1. Migrants from the EU taking advantage of the free movement of labour
    2. Immigrants from outside the EU
    3. Immigrants from places like Syria

    With respect to (1), there is a lot of talk about immigrants “stealing our jobs” and “sponging off the NHS and benefits system”. The evidence suggests that these claims are largely not true: there is very little impact on employment levels of native Brits, workers from the EU contribute more in taxes and NI than they take out in benefits, and the level of health tourism is a tiny proportion of overall NHS costs. There is some evidence that wages are depressed for the bottom 10%. Undoubtedly, there are pinch points in different parts of the UK. These are where the Government should focus action. It needs to weaken its neoliberal austerity approach that often benefits the few at the expense of the many. The NHS, for example, does have huge problems, but these are entirely of our own making. The EU has no say in running the NHS; it’s all our fault.

    The schizophrenic, nonsensical approach of the Leavers is revealed in their plans to manage immigration from outside the EU. This currently constitutes the larger proportion of net immigration, yet the odious Farage and others claim they will “be fairer to the Commonwealth” by increasing the numbers of this group. At the same time, while preventing the free movement from within the EU, they will institute a points system that will continue to let in the brightest and the best from the EU. A system that my pro-Brexit friends support while at the same time wringing their hands about the “poaching” of such people enabled by free movement. The end result doesn’t seem to promise much reduction in the overall levels of immigration. Returning briefly to the money, any such points system would certainly scupper our chances of a deal that included our participating in the single market in the same way that, for example, Norway does.

    That UK employment is at record levels, and that we have the second lowest unemployment rate in the EU also gives the lie to the claim the immigration is damaging job prospects. It is, apparently, the same argument that used to be made against women joining the workforce.

    On the third group, your argument that the UK is full, but Germany and France are not, ignores the fact the UK has an opt-out that means we do not have to take any share of immigrants that have ended up in Europe. Your talk of blackmail into forced migration is inaccurate and intemperate. It is also disingenuous to claim that the “problem with Angela Merkel’s generosity is that once a citizen of the EU, then they are free to come to the UK too”. It takes longer to get German citizenship than British, and the requirements include things like speaking German and being self-supporting.

    The huge problem of groups like Syrian migrants is not one that has anything to do with our membership of the EU. It’s a global crisis that will need to be addressed effectively. I gave no idea how, but your comment about the washed up child’s body is a cheap shot. How would you expect people to react confronted with such images, and how would you *want* them to react?

    Your statement that we have no control of our borders is another canard perpetuated by the Brexistas. Nobody can come into the country without their passport being checked. EU citizens can be excluded if there is reason to do so on grounds of public health, policy or security. I have, no doubt, that some slip through who should have been prevented, but that is probably the result of system and process shortcomings. We are not part of the Schengen area, and (almost certainly) never will be.

    Your discussion about mass immigration, Muslims and Islam and tolerance includes some valid points, but I don’t see the connection between that and EU “governance problems”. Personally, I don’t think any religion has much, if anything, to commend it. Islam is, as you suggest, not a religion of peace. This is a global issue, but although you do come down on the side of #Remain, your words leave me with the feeling that you think that somehow the EU contributes to the problem. For sure, they have come up with a solution yet, but no-one has.

    I don’t know enough about movements like Pegida to make any comment. I am not convinced as you appear to be that there is no element of xenophobia in the Brexit camp. I do know that I would not be comfortable sitting in the same wagon as Farage, the BNP, and the French National Front.

    “You think the Conservative government doesn’t represent you, and yet the EU does?” Well, actually in many areas, I think I prefer the EU to the Tories: on things like worker rights, the environment, regulations to protect the consumer, the push towards a more circular economy. From The Economist:

    “On the Leave side, the fatal contradiction is their vision of a post-Brexit economy. On the one side are the anti-regulation heirs of Margaret Thatcher like Michael Gove who want to turn Britain into the Singapore or Hong Kong of Europe. On the other side are the nativists who resent immigrants on cultural, as much as economic grounds, and who favour protectionism over free markets.”

    This reply has gone on rather longer than I expected, but it got the stage where I’d started, so I’ll finish. Despite that, I’ve only written what was prompted by your post, and there are many other points that could be raised on both sides. I firmly believe that the UK inside the EU means there is more chance that solutions to the problems you raise can be found.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for the comment. No problem with the length. The detail is welcome. Trouble is I’ve a lot to say back. 🙂

    I didn’t mean to dismiss the economic arguments as irrelevant, but rather too uncertain to make sound judgements on. The models that support UK’s remaining might well be correct, but reality can very quickly diverge from the models. The models always contain many assumptions that might go out the window very quickly, especially if avoiding a calamity.

    “Other things being equal, the higher is our national GDP, the greater the Government’s ability to pay for schools, hospitals, defence”

    The problem is that events can make such statements totally irrelevant. Whenever a nation’s finances are in a certain state, provided it’s not runaway inflation and economic collapse, everyone moans but gets on with it. Every successive government and their supporters will blame the previous government for all economic ills and take credit for every economic progress. And verification of counterfactual claims isn’t possible, but it doesn’t stop opponents pretending that it is. If the UK left the EU and GDP did move to some lower level, the pro-EU lobby would blame the leavers, and the leavers would make noises about it would have dropped anyway, of that the costs that remaining would have had other costs to depress the GDP. And if GDP remained the same … and so on. And nobody would really know. Economies on this scale have so many variables and so much feedback that reality can only be compared with the predictions for the chosen path, and no data is available for the counterfactual path.

    The figures predicted here: http://news.cbi.org.uk/news/leaving-eu-would-cause-a-serious-shock-to-uk-economy-new-pwc-analysis/leaving-the-eu-implications-for-the-uk-economy/ put it at somewhere less than 4% down in the main scenarios, on an actual positive change in GDP of above 25%. Put this in the context of the second chart on this page: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2009/nov/25/gdp-uk-1948-growth-economy and it would be lost in the variability of the economy.

    The point isn’t that there are no good models making predictions that might well come to pass, it’s that the predicted outcomes are sufficiently small and variable for people not to take the figures too arduous, or to accept that loss in order to receive other benefits they feel will result from leaving.

    I’d agree that Gove and others are not very clear on this, or even that the simplistic explanations they are giving are wrong. The claims Johnson makes are indeed misleading, if you look at the side of his battle bus; but his less dramatic point is valid: we give X, and though we receive Y back, we don’t have as much control of what X, or even the Y portion of it, are to be used for, than it we decided what to do with X locally. As long as there is a net payment to the EU he has a point. A nationally selfish one to be sure, as we expect in any system that the strong help out the weak.

    Finally, on the aftermath, since the split is cross party to a great extent, opponents on this issue are going to have to paper over the cracks. While some vocal ones, even in government, will continue to point out the right/wrong choice was made, it will all fade into history. Buy the way, how much is the 2008 crash being talked about now? Five to ten years and the new generations of MPs will be in power and they, like all of us, will deal with the outcome.

    And, the other issues are matters of political and moral principle, rather than economic cost. Given I’ve got so many #Leave friends showing greater concern for these other issues I wanted to focus on them. In the end, it’s my position on these other matters that’s persuaded me – or rather the arguments to leave are somewhat persuasive, but they contradict other principles and feelings I hold about European secular liberal democracy that I feel more inclined to stay in.

    I have a bias towards staying in that the other issues don’t overcome.

    I think if I was anti-EU the other issues would persuade me, and the predicted negative economic outcomes, the cost, would be worth it, at the levels predicted. My position would then be that in the longer run – after the 2030 period of the predictions, the UK would find its feet in the wider world. If I thought so negatively abut the EU I might even be tempted to predict its collapse, or drastic change, as it eventually dawns on the EU members that it’s too big.

    I don’t need to be more specific on the matter of other European non-EU nations doing quite well. Perhaps a stronger claim is that being out of the EU hasn’t meant the collapse of those nations, and even if there are greater economic costs in some respects, they avoid others and have a degree of local focus that the citizens feel they are in control of. They don’t have to elect MEPs and then worry about what they are up to, or whether they are representing them well. For these other states all interactions outside their states come under foreign trade affairs. The border security issue isn’t so simple, since lots of land borders make border security more of a problem for non-EU countries on mainland Europe than it is for the UK. But at least they can independently decide how they deal with illegal immigration, from everywhere.

    I wasn’t clear about the EU political system. I think it is more accountable than Brexit tend to make out. The greater problem is that it’s big. Another layer of government that’s difficult to manage. Lobbying and behind the scenes deals happen in all political systems. When it happens in Europe it’s another level removed with less immediate response. Imagine some outrage in the UK Parliament with regard to lobbying – it hits the news and the opposition gives the government hell and demands action. If it happens in the EU, where’s the opposition? Parties in the EU Parliament cross many nuance political parties that vary left and right across all nations. What mechanisms are used to deal with this?

    And then there is the matter of corruption within states than neither other states or the EU can prevent – or may take a lot of effort and cost to stop (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/corrupt-european-countries-costing-eu-nearly-800bn-a-year-says-study-a6944436.html).

    These are the ways in which unaccountability is a problem – more so than than having actual unelected dictators.

    So, on just those issues my bias towards Europe outweighs what I think are at least reasonable arguments for leaving, with arguments for staying not in themselves strong enough.

  3. Roger,

    I don’t think I’m being contradictory. Look at it this way.

    If these are the factors:
    A = Economic cost
    B = Political cost
    C = Bias (i.e. ideological feelings of unity, if a remainer, or independence, if a leaver)

    Look at these scenarios …

    I accept that there will be a drop in GDP. So staying in gives a +ve A. Suppose I think that on balance leaving would give more independence, while I also expect a drop of unity as the EU fractures over various disagreements (Greece, Turnkey, non-EU immigration, national corruption in some states increasing costs to other Eu states, …) – so for remaining in B is -ve. But my bias, C is +ve for ideological reasons – i.e. I want to stay in an mitigate the problems of B:

    My particular position then is A – B + C > 0,

    where even though I think B is -ve, and I don’t think A is overly significant, it’s C that swings it. Does this explain why I can see -B for remaining, and yet I still want to stay in?

    What’s my assessment of leaving then?

    B – A – C 0

    Of course some Brexiters are claiming its all good for leaving (they reject -A and assert +A, for leaving):

    A + B + C > 0

    To a Remainer the argument for remaining in is:

    A + B + C > 0

    The scaremongering of some Remainers are arguing that to leave:

    -A + -B + -C < 0

    And what this boils down to is that anyone’s perspective depends on:
    A – A cost of leaving that isn’t beyond any other extremes of GDP variation we’ve seen.
    B – Political arguments about the benefits of leaving that are made.
    C – An ideological bias that in all but very extreme outcomes isn’t going to change

    The fact that the alternative outcomes are not extreme is important. That’s why it’s a conundrum – unless one's ideology is strong enough to be a firm Brexiter or Remainer.

    I found those Leave arguments I've presented compelling, in isolation, but not enough to sway me to want to leave.

    You raised other points about the poor case made by some Brexiters and characters like Gove. All true enough. But their arguments haven't influenced me. If I decided to vote leave it would be because my views on the political matters would have outweighed the others. Gove has made a poor case and Farage makes too many poor cases (I'm not an ideologue so I often find I agree with Farage when he's making his points in he EU parliament, though he's full of crap in more general political terms). But their bad showing wouldn't alter my view.

    If I had a headache I'd take an aspirin, and that if quack says I'll benefit more if I pray, that won't persuade me not to take the aspirin.

  4. Roger,

    Last lot …

    On sources of immigration:

    1. Migrants from the EU taking advantage of the free movement of labour
    2. Immigrants from outside the EU
    3. Immigrants from places like Syria

    The point is that the increase in immigration from outside the EU into EU causes an increase in EU citizens, which are then eligible to enter the UK under 1, where if we were out they would have to come in as 2. Being outside the EU ‘solves’ (if one thinks it a problem) 1 and part of 2.

    The child on the beach isn’t a cheap shot. Paul Bloom makes a good case as to why. The image was used as a cynical tool to appeal to sentiment. Pointing this out isn’t the cheap shot.

    The Syrian refugees in isolation are an international problem. Leaving Turkey on dodgy boats, with infants, may seem like desperation, but it also shows something of a different cultural value for life. A recent vessel arriving in Italy had the women threatening to drop their babies into the sea if Italy, the soft touch, didn’t take them in. It’s not uncommon in the Islamic world for mothers to see their children as martyrs. Paradise is a significant positive for Muslims. It’s not that they don’t value life, but rather it’s not the end of the world. And, my point about Syrians was that they provide cover for economic migrants. And, if it’s a world problem, why aren’t they migrating to wealthy Arab states? It’s an EU problem because some EU nations, Germany in particular, but also Sweden until recently, have been seen as soft touches.

    As to the problem of Islam specifically, the solution to the specific mass economic migration from Islamic states is stronger border control, and the rejection of migrants that are not in political danger back home. The solution always was in place, since the EU didn’t officially have open borders, and made attempts to control the borders when migrant numbers were low. That changed, and the EU has had effective open borders as large groups of young men from across the Middle east and North Africa have moved in. These are mostly economic migrants by any standard and they have taking advantage of confused sentiment in the EU.

    “EU citizens can be excluded if there is reason to do so on grounds of public health, policy or security.”

    And that’s the problem. If Germany gives citizenship to unsavoury characters, but they don’t flag that up in security circles, then we have no good cause to stop EU visitors. Cameraon avoided answering the specific question put to him that unsavoury characters are coming in now.

    “Muslims and Islam and tolerance includes some valid points, but I don’t see the connection between that and EU “governance problems”.”

    If the governance is weak in it’s tackling of migration then it becomes a more general governance issue when parts of cities are enclaves of non-assimilation at best, locations where terrorists can hide.

    The terrorist threat from migrants is played down way too easily. It is not a claim that all, most, even many Muslims are terrorists or even sympathisers (though enough are systematisers to be worrisome). Whatever the reason, as Brigitte Gabriel points out very well, the peaceful Muslims are at best irrelevant: https://youtu.be/Ry3NzkAOo3s

    “your words leave me with the feeling that you think that somehow the EU contributes to the problem.”

    I think it does. The EU problem is specific to the EU, because nowhere else is such a soft touch within reach. These migrants are not flowing to Arab states, and they are not flowing into Russia. The political guilt, the wealth, the hand outs, they are just what attracts the unsavoury as much as the well intentioned hard working migrants and the genuine refugees. The open doors have probably attracted many Nigerian princes that now want to get at their cash that helpful Europeans have been transferring for them. Crooks and terrorists must love the easy access.

    “Well, actually in many areas, I think I prefer the EU to the Tories: on things like worker rights, the environment, regulations to protect the consumer, the push towards a more circular economy.”

    You don’t sound confident in a Labour victory any time soon. Best of both worlds? Independence plus more worker rights that even the EU offers?

    And as far as the Economist is concerned, “the nativists who resent immigrants on cultural, as much as economic grounds” form a large part of the traditional Labour vote. Most of my friends and family from home are working class, as am I, from some of the strong Labour areas in North Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton.

    They do live alongside many immigrants, and they really don’t like the cultural aspects of Islam, whether it’s excessive piety or a misogynistic contempt for British girls. It isn’t racism. I bet there are as many if not more mixed race marriages in these areas than anywhere.

    I’ve had very few of those friends saying they’re for voting in. They were disappointed with Blair and Brown. If we were out of the EU they flip back to Labour like a shot, because on all matters EU they’re are against it, because they don’t see much of the social benefit, except to immigrants with large families supported by the state. The main problem for them regarding Labour post-exit would be if Labour continued to show favouritism to immigrants, while ignoring them.

  5. Ron,

    I wrote a long draft response that I won’t post because I think we’d end up going round in circles. I do have a comment on your little A, B, C model that it would make more sense if it were a little more complicated by including a weight for each factor. As an example, I’ll just take A, the economic impact.

    I have argued that the weight of evidence and expert opinion is sufficient to conclude there will be a non-trivial impact on the UK economy. The Brexit position has been to argue that all these studies are meaningless. A position not exactly the same as yours, but designed nonetheless to give A=0 (or not far off), which I maintain is patently foolish. It is far more reasonable to assign a weight to this factor, so we’d get wA. This corresponds more closely to accepting the economic cost as a price worth paying as w decreases.

    I will consider my draft post to see whether there are some other points I want to make, though why I am debating with an admitted #Remain voter, I’m not sure. 🙂



    1. Roger,

      Yes, I specifically left off the weighting, leaving implied or normalised in some way such that the overall inequality stood with only an indication of +/- for the three factors. I couldn’t come with weights that wouldn’t make the simplistic catorisation even more arbitrary.

      My point was that w is already in a range whereby the other factors are already leading the debate, and the econimics is a sideshow. A sideshow filled with freaks and monsters given the way the story is told. I think you could tell the public the cost will be 10% and that alone wouldn’t be enough to shift opinion.

      If by some miracle we remain, it will be beacuse of makes the effort to vote – seeing Brexit in the lead might persuade many Brexiters not to botehr getting of their arses, while many young eagre voters are motivated enough to get out there. I really don’t thing that 4% is having an effect on masses of people who simply don’t trust predictions. They don’t trust the government, and Cameron is the government. They don’t trust Corbyn. It seems that it doesn’t matter how sleezy the Brexit bunch are, they are making the right political noises about population and sovereignty.

      Both sides have not made the strong cases they could for the positive points on each side:

      1 – They should, because of the analyses, agree that there would be some net cost to leaving over a ten or so year period, in the region of the % the analysed scenarios show.

      2 – Brexit should make the points I do; plus, they should appeal to their greater value of independence – even nationalism (it doesn’t have to be xenophobic). It’s all about population, self governance, culture*.

      3 – Remain should make the case for European unity, inclusiveness.

      In the end both sides are playing a dirty game – even dragging the Major out at the last minute and use him to do a bit of name calling. A note on this next, in another context.

      *British culture seems to be valued far less than immigrant cultures to the extent that one feels slut-shamed for even mentioning it.

  6. Ron,

    I certainly agree the quality of argument has been piss-poor on both sides. I am going to throw in another element as you mentioned morality and principle previously. The following is a post from a Facebook friend also in the #Remain camp. The reference to The Guardian is about I link I posted in which the motives of the Brexit crowd of BoJo et al were questioned.



    [Names redacted], if you don’t like the Guardian, try this reading the output from the Brexit leaders themselves:

    Click to access upload13.pdf

    where Gove, Hunt, Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless et al describe how the public services such as the NHS and education should be privatised, for example “our ambition … should be denationalising the provision of health care”. Or this link on Patrick Minford’s words on his argument for Brexit: cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/brexit06.pdf

    “Under this policy (‘Britain Alone’),…. the ‘elimination’ of UK manufacturing and a big increase in wage inequality. These outcomes may be hard to sell to UK citizens as a desirable political option”.

    This is the heart of my reason for voting remain – the end game of the ideology for Brexit is the removal of all state powers from the UK, to disenfranchise the British electorate so that they are have no defence against the decisions of unelected business leaders in large multi nationals corporations. This would never be voted for in a democracy so they have to achieve it through other means.

    They could try outright lies such as “the NHS is safe in our hands” and then Jeremy Hunt (joint author of the Carswell policy statement) picking a fight with the doctors, or Cameron’s so called “green government” ditching and watering down “green crap” environmental regulations as soon as possible – but it’s easier to remove power from a democratically elected government with the message from that we have to take austerity measures to get out of a crisis. There are many examples in recent history of this happening, all with bad outcomes for the average man in the street – from Russia after the fall of communism leading to today’s mafia capitalism, to South Africa when Mandela was released where the ANC was forced to abandon it’s Freedom Charter and sell off all state assets which has led to the corruption of Zuma today, to Pinochet in Chile.

    The Brexit thinkers are not stupid and they know they will cause a huge financial crisis in the UK which can be used to justify austerity measures to reduce the power of the public sector, an agenda that would not receive majority support in a democratic election. They also gain a double whammy of crippling pan European controls holding back exploitation of the environment, workers right, health and safety etc etc. It maybe you agree with this direction, but there is no surprise that Johnson, Gove, Farage are not sharing with the electorate their vision of where Brexit takers us, choosing instead to fall back on the smokescreen of popular appeal to anti-immigration – this is the real lie of the Referendum campaign.

    1. My response to that is that the immorality of it is entirely the dishonest way in which they would be doing it.

      I see no moral issue with privatisation, I just don’t agree with on political grounds for the NHS. Some services benefit us all most straightforwardly if nationalised, because to achive similar effective benefits: universal fee at point of service standardised over the nation.

      Third party providers have never been privatised. An in-law of mine, a couple of times removed, a slimey bastard if ever there was one, was a director of a supplier to the NHS and was quite happy to boast how his company charged pounds for a product that cost them pennies to make; often followed in the same exchange by some mention of the latest jolly the company had arranged for its marketing and sales force in various expensive places around the world.

      The problem is that you can’t nationalise the thrid party service providers, so you have to regulate them, to meet quality standards, to restrict costs and profits … it’s always a struggle to define the boundary that stops you wanting to control everything to become a fully fledged socialist centralised economy. Madness of a different sort.

      There are fears of the extremes on both sides.

      And of course there’s fear of the US leaning on the EU with TTIP, which isn’t going to be any good for the NHS.

  7. Roger,

    As to your friend’s comments, I really couldn’t see a link between that, on the matter of this:

    “This is the heart of my reason for voting remain – the end game of the ideology for Brexit is the removal of all state powers from the UK, to disenfranchise the British electorate so that they are have no defence against the decisions of unelected business leaders in large multi nationals corporations.”

    and the link to the Direct Democracy document.

    I haven’t had chance to read all the detail, so I will come back to it when I have more time [I’m off on holiday in the morning].

    What that document seemd to be about was very much pro-democracy, direct democracy. In fact, chapters 1 & 2 when addressing the electorate’s concerns and general issues of the state of politicla hypocrisy, could have been written by a Labour group, with a few tweaks to change the individualist slant to a collectivist one.

  8. “the immorality of it is entirely the dishonest way in which they would be doing it.”


    1. They are lying about how the bogus £350 mn/week will be spent on the NHS when it is their declared intention to privatise.

    2. They are lying when they argue that the impact on the UK economy will be short-lived when the history Neoliberal economics/Reaganism/Thatcherism/Freidmanomics all indicate that economic and political shocks are used to further an agenda of policies that would otherwise not be acceptable to a large proportion of the electorate.

    On TTIP, the EU has made it clear that health care would be protected. The NHS would not be at risk. I refer you to:


    I have done only a little reading on TTIP, but I found this a while ago. It is entitled “TTIP is no reason to leave the EU”:


    Moreover, in what world is it reasonable to suppose that a post-Brexit UK would be in a better position to make a more favourable trade deal with the US than if we remained?

    I confess that I have not read the links in my friend’s post. The pile of unread contents grows considerably faster than material can be consumed. I am working my way through:

    This elaborates on the operation of Neoliberal economic doctrines, and is a bloody scary read.

    Have a great holiday.



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