If you were asked:
- Do you want to UK to control our own borders? Of course you do.
- Do you want to stop paying money to a wasteful, corrupt organisation? Of course you do.
- Do you want us to make our own laws as an independent, sovereign nation? Of course you do.
- Do you want to trade with the rest of the world? Of course you do.
- Do you want to be subsumed into an undemocratic, tyrannical superstate? Of course not! Who does, actually?
When the Leave campaigns ask the voters these questions, or ask them as a rhetorical argument when interviewed on the media, the answers are so seductive (especially when told it’s possible to keep the benefits of EU membership without any of the obligations) and lead to the obvious conclusion that we should leave the EU as voters obviously want to control our borders, save money and make our own laws. When canvassing on the doorsteps, the electorate clearly support Leave! MP for Wellingborough, Peter Bone, of “Grassroots Out” certainly makes the promise that leaving the EU would immediately solve all these, and many other, problems. Now he’s free to speak in favour of BrExit, Chris Grayling is making these arguments too. In fact, this is a classic strawman approach: describe the EU as something it isn’t (or as simplistic parody of what it is) and of course people reject it. This is also the tactic of pro-BrExit commentators on (say) Sky and BBC paper reviews or politics shows.
They don’t want to be subsumed into an undemocratic superstate. Funnily enough, no-one I know in Remain wants to be either. I’m pretty sure the voters in France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Italy don’t either. In particular, the members who were once in the former Soviet bloc don’t want to be in one: they know what being in one is like and, no matter what Leave’s rhetoric, the EU isn’t like one. So, I think we can dispense with the last argument as basically a strawman.
However, the first three questions are harder to deal with. As covered elsewhere, if we truly want to have all those: no freedom of movement for EU citizens to come to the UK, no contributions to the EU, and no laws passed which are not agreed by the UK parliament, then we have a problem. That basically means we lose full access to the EU single market. We would continue to trade with the EU, but not on the terms we have now. We could trade as a WTO member, but that would mean some tariffs and lots of non-tariff barriers (the whole point of having the EU Single Market). We could negotiate an FTA (like Canada and other countries) but those are limited in scope and generally do not cover services. The economic consequences would be substantial (and even Vote Leave agree with that, advocating a “Norway” or “Iceland” model). Certainly many in the various leave groups would accept those consequences in order to achieve the objectives of the first three questions. They should at least be honest and explain those consequences and why they are acceptable.
The fact is, we can either have full access to the EU single market OR we can have full sovereignty (insofar as any nation state does in the 21st Century). We can’t have both. If the electorate want their way on those first three questions, then they have to forego the full access to the EU single market we currently enjoy. If Grassroots Out (or Leave.EU) wish to appeal to emotion, then the electorate must accept there are consequences of their emotional response.
As for the fourth question (trading with the rest of the world), that’s quite a strawman. There really is nothing to stop the UK trading with any other country. In fact we do. In fact Germany does very successfully, subject to the exact same EU trade relationships as we have. The EU does negotiate the trade relationships on our behalf (something that was decided back in 1972, so was part of the 1975 referendum) but let’s be honest: a market of 600 million consumers has much greater leverage to negotiate attractive deals than one of 60 millions. It may take longer, given 28 states have their say (oh, you mean these aren’t just decided by those unelected bureaucrats in Brussels?) and may cover things we’re not interested in (there’s not much tobacco grown or olive oil produced in the UK), but trade deals are usually negotiated regionally now, not bi-laterally. Nonetheless, as recent visits by Cameron/Osborne etc to China, India and other growing economies, we are still able to promote our own trade without the EU being involved.
What Grassroots out fails to explain is how in the 21st Century Britain could operate outside mainstream international bodies to address the key issues facing us in an interlinked, globalised world: free trade, security, tax avoidance, climate change, terrorism, crime, migration and so on.
Lastly, the Leave groups ask:
- Do you want to send a message to the “metropolitan elite” who lied to the country and forced upon us all an unelected, bureaucratic tyranny that deprives us of the historical freedoms and liberties our forefathers sacrificed for?