Friday, June 10, 2016

Brexit: To Be Or Not To Be

Evocation of Hamlet is intended: The choice Britain faces on 23rd June needs deliberation of a solemn kind, involves an existential question and yet, not acting and letting evil carry the day will be a tragedy. Hence, despite my reluctance to add to what has been a nasty and misleading debate on both sides, I have to write this post.

At the outset, perhaps it is best to show my hand and declare that I will be voting to remain. This is not because the calculations of the Remain side has convinced me: Rather, It is a matter of principle, as I see Britain as an open country engaged with the rest of the world, and not a xenophobic little island trying to hide behind the seas. This, for me, is a matter of British identity, and pride, that its strength came from engagement with the world and shaping, for good or worse, its affairs. At the core, Britain is also an European country, as it has always been, with all the Saxon enterprise and Norman heritage making the country what it is, always involved in European affairs, and influencing, in more cases than not, progressive views in politics, art, literature and science.

But, it is also because that I found the case of the Leave side singularly unconvincing. Consider here their three main reasons why I should be voting to leave the European Union:

1) We should vote leave so that we can renegotiate to remain. This is simply ludicrous. This may be politics the Boris Johnson way, where you throw tantrums to eye Ministerial prizes, but this is not the way responsible statesmen are expected to argue. Are they telling me that it is really better to remain? I guess so. Therefore, it is right to vote to Remain, and not take chances.

2) We should vote leave because we may not have voted to join EU if that was on the ballot on the 23rd. If, for a moment of hope, one assumed that the argument about voting to leave so that we can remain can not be bested, she has been proved wrong: Here is one that was utterly dumb. We are not being asked to join EU, we are being asked whether we should leave. It is not that hypothetical question whether I should marry someone, where I can say without much consequence, but rather about whether I should walk away from a long marriage, causing great pains, costs (economics must be invoked) and uncertainties. Apart from the fact that the Leave campaign materials portray an European map with Turkey as a candidate country to join, and then highlight Syria and Iraq on the map for no apparent reason other than stoking up hatred, this line of argumentation tells me what I should do: If I did not want to vote to join EU today, hypothetically speaking, I am seeking to maintain status quo. Status Quo it is for me, then!

3) We should vote leave because this is a choice between Democracy and Economics, as Boris Johnson puts it. Now, the D-word has been abused before, as Churchill's excuse to create spheres of influence to Bush Jr's cover to please the Saudis, but this is the absurd best. There are many ways of looking at it, but let's try one which Mr Johnson may even approve: Every country is facing this choice between democracy and economics, and they are being told, by people like Mr Johnson, to set aside their customs, traditions and popular will, for the sake of economic growth; if they did not listen, the choices are being forced on them, for the sake of economic growth. Why is Mr Johnson is being so precious when, for once and without justification, he feels economics is taking precedence. And, when it comes to the choice between people like Mr Johnson and Mr Gove making the laws unrestrained by any commitment to basic human rights and paying a lower mortgage and having a stable currency, the latter is indeed infinitely more preferable.

The whole notion of Brexit is Britain's equivalent of Trump Wall. It is impractical and too costly, and shows the country building it to be afraid and out of step with the rest of the world. It is a political fantasy presented as an unifying platform for all our nastiest instincts and unreasonable fears, so that a few demagogues can look respectable and grab power which they so crave. The Remain side has not distinguished itself: Mr Cameron brought this upon himself with his opportunistic promises of 'no ifs, no buts' promise of tens of thousand immigrants, and Mr Corbyn has chosen to abdicate statesmanship for a too obvious leave of absence, as if he could not care less about the issue. This is also like the Trump Wall, a laughable political idea that ended up exposing all its political opponents as lackeys and all politics as false, the last resort of the scoundrels without the courage to offend.







 


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