by Martin Odoni

You know, despite the mocking assessments of Brexiteer propagandists, the United Kingdom has actually had a pretty good deal as members of the European Union. Under the Treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon, the UK really did have all the best of EU membership, and little of the worst. Whatever one feels about the EU, and there is, as I always concede, plenty to dislike, the simple reality is that the UK has seldom really suffered the sharp end of it.

Due to being members of the old European Economic Community prior to the 1990’s, the UK was allowed to enforce a number of opt-outs when Maastricht was put into effect, which members joining subsequently could not. Two in particular substantially blow most of the case for leaving the EU out of the water.

The first of these opt-outs was joining the Single Currency. There was a long and wobbling debate over it during the Tony Blair administration, in which they generally spoke in favour of joining, but were always teetering back and forth over whether to proceed.

In truth, it was overwhelmingly right that the UK did not join the euro. Painful and unnecessary as Austerity has been for the country since the Global Financial Crisis of a decade ago, it would have been far worse without control of its own currency supply. This is a rule I would apply to any country: A country without control of its own money supply is not an independent country, because any time it embarks on policies that the issuer of its currency disagrees with, the money-tap can simply be turned off. This is the essential process by which Greece in particular was, almost literally, tortured by the EU for ten years. Any time Greece tried to re-stimulate its flatlining economy with new investment, the European Central Bank, which blindly wanted Greek spending pared to the bone at any cost, would simply cut off its access to euros. When money stopped circulating, the Greek economy would revert to cardiac arrest.

This vindictive EU treatment of eurozone countries with a high National Debt is often raised as a key reason to leave. But the UK has been allowed to stay out of the eurozone all along, so it has never been an issue. Avoiding association with a political union that behaves in such a way could be raised as a point of principle, a perfectly respectable argument, but it is long past time people stopped saying, “Look what the EU did to Greece, we could be next!!!!” Because we most certainly will not, at least as things stand.

Similar with immigration controls. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of Brexiteers who cannot be persuaded that the British Government, not the EU, is currently in control of UK borders. It is true that the EU has an ideal of open borders across the continent allowing people to travel where they wish without requiring a passport. And new members joining the EU are compelled to become a part of this vision, by signing up to the “Schengen Area“. But again, the UK joined well before Maastricht, and so was able to reserve the right to opt out. The Schengen Area is not even a specifically EU Agreement anymore, as it has been joined by various non-EU states – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – while various EU states are not part of it – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and, oho, the United Kingdom. Being able to opt out means the UK already has control of its own borders.

Brexiteers are trying to ‘escape’ from an arrangement the UK is not part of.

Both of these complete misunderstandings keep rearing their ignorant heads in public discussion of Brexit, no matter how often they are debunked. But what makes them truly aggravating is not just that they are ‘illnesses’ the UK has never contracted. It is that the proposed ‘cure’ – Brexit itself – will in the long run make it far likelier that the UK will contract them.

This is the aspect too many people miss. If Brexit goes ahead, especially a No Deal Brexit, the UK economy will undoubtedly take a heavy hit. In the very distant future, the country might eventually make a net gain of some description. But for the foreseeable future, life in the UK, already generally less-than-affluent, will become harder for a lot of people. Even allowing for the stubborn, fact-resistant, story-changing arrogance of Brexiteers, there are bound to be at least some of them who will eventually come to regret that Brexit ever went ahead. And given the narrow margin by which Leave won the Referendum in 2016, it would not require too many defecting Brexiteers for there to become a majority to rejoin the EU.

But at that point, with the UK almost certainly in very bad shape and pretty desperate for a change-for-the-better, the EU would effectively have the country over a barrel as never before. So, what terms do people think Brussels would insist on imposing on Westminster as the price for returning to the fold?

Well of course, the UK would have to join the eurozone, and the Schengen Area. As what would be effectively a ‘new member’ of the EU, the UK would be compelled to do so anyway, but any ‘leverage’ to force Brussels to make an exception would be quite non-existent. Under such terms, we really will have to look at the way the EU tortured Greece and say, “We could be next!!!

This, Brexiteers keep insisting, is ‘taking our country back’.

Brexit BS

The narrative put about by anti-EU types is a Brexit Story, not unlike other forms of BS.