Brexit

I’ve a few things to say about Brexit, and here they are.

Firstly, I didn’t vote.  I abstained mainly because I’ve lived outside the UK for 13 years and am not registered to vote on UK matters any more.  When I looked at registering I found the government was asking me for all sorts of information I’d rather not give them, and so I quit the process.  The other reason was that I wasn’t sure how I’d vote.

For strictly personal reasons, I would have been happy enough with a Remain victory.  I am a French resident, I have bought a property in France, and intend to maintain a presence here for the foreseeable future.  Whereas I am quite confident France isn’t about to expel all Brits and a deal will be struck in pretty short order to allow me to remain in France (if for no other reason than France doesn’t have jobs for the 250,000 plus French who would be kicked out of London alone), few people appreciate the different between applying for residency under the terms of French (or any) law and being entitled to residency under European law.  One involves submitting mountains of documents to a bureaucrat who is supposed to operate within the law but is usually a law unto himself, and can delay your application indefinitely, lose it, or reject it without explanation; the other means you don’t need to deal with the bureaucrat in the first place.  Those Brits who can’t see the difference are usually those who haven’t gone through a residency visa application process before.  If Britain does actually leave, it is certain that I will have to jump through a lot more bureaucratic hoops in future.

That said, I was pleased with the Leave victory for one simple reason: I think the EU in its current form is completely unsustainable politically and economically and unless it undergoes major reforms it will plunge the continent into a disaster which might go as far as civil war.  Reforms were never going to happen while the whole project is run by and for Europhile has-been and never-was politicians in the pay of the EU, who as individuals are shielded from the fallout of their own stupid policies.  It would take a cataclysmic event, such as Greece leaving the Euro, defaulting, and taking a few other member states with it, to bring about serious reforms.  Despite all the bluster from third-rate EU shills, Britain walking away from the project might yet be such an event: Germans are going to be keenly aware that it is pretty much they alone who are going to be bankrolling the EU from hereon.  This is the outcome I am most hoping for: Brexit triggers huge reforms within the EU, and Britain either remains or retains the benefits of free trade and movement (with greatly improved immigration policies) while ditching all the regulatory and political crap.  If these reforms don’t happen, I am confident the EU won’t last much longer anyway and Britain will be glad to have jumped ship early.  With the enormous structural economic and social problems in countries like France (particularly), Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece it is only fair to ask why Britain would want to remain locked in a union with countries that are heading straight off a cliff.

I have noticed that a lot of the lefty middle-classes who are wailing on social media about the Leave vote “depriving their children of a future” and Britain “turning its back on the world” are monolingual, lifelong British residents.  As somebody who can hardly be accused of turning my back on the world and has carved out a life for myself overseas, allow me to point out that out of the six countries I have worked in since 2003 – Kuwait, UAE, Russia, Nigeria, Australia, and France – I only had the right to work in the last one.  For  the rest I had to apply for a visa, just as an American, Australian, or Canadian has to do when coming to work in Europe.  The idea that working in Europe will become unreasonably difficult should Britain leave the EU is demonstrable nonsense, given how many non-EU citizens work in London or Paris.  Not that many of those complaining on Facebook have actually taken up their right to work in Europe, though.  No, they are content to be middle aged and living in the Home Counties moaning about being deprived of an opportunity I’m sure they were just about to sieze in Slovenia when the racist mob voted to leave.  For most of them, Europe is a place to go on holiday and not much else.  If any of these people are genuinely concerned about their children having an opportunity to live and work overseas they ought to spend time getting a foreign language dinned into them rather than supporting a political union with people with whom they have no intention of interacting outside a holiday resort.

I think part of the problem is that people think European politics work like British politics.  Had more people actually “interacted” with Europe by living there and seeing how things work on the Continent (particularly the southern and eastern parts) they would realise how appallingly corrupt, nepotistic, and disfunctional much of it is.  I think it is precisely exposure to other European politics and government, rather than ignorance of them, that would drive more people to vote Leave.

This protestor seems particularly dimwitted:

Laura Honickberg, 33, from London, said she was concerned that the vote would lead to a rise in violence and hate crime.

“I’m Jewish and I find the rise of nationalism and hate crime in Europe deeply concerning,” she told the BBC.

She added that she felt the Leave campaign “was based on lies, about money that was going to go to the NHS and now isn’t, about what’s going to happen to the economy. These are things that are going to directly impact me.”

If she really thinks the biggest threat to her wellbeing is European nationalism instead of a rapidly expanding demographic adhering to a culture which isn’t too keen on Jews then she is seriously deluded.

But she might have stumbled inadvertently on a point regarding the NHS.  I understand that the Leave campaign claimed that monies freed up from EU contributions would be redirected towards the NHS.  This is monumentally stupid, for the simple reason that hosing more money at the NHS without it first undergoing major reforms is an exercise in futillity and will benefit nobody except the management classes and armies of administrators.  That people wanting to leave a structurally unsustainable EU incapable of reform were boasting of spending money on a structurally unsustainable NHS incapable of reform doesn’t say much about their capacity for consistent thought.  As an organisation, the NHS is about as close to the ideals of the EU as it’s possible to get.

This is why I never quite bothered listening to the bickering over that £350m figure.  Regardless of the real number, I have no confidence whatsoever that any saving would be spent on something worthwhile, and am quite sure it will just get fed into the gigantic maw of the state or some branch of it (like the NHS) with negligible effect.  Similarly, I am also not convinced Brexit will result in pettyfogging EU regulations being torn up: we were the only country to employ armies of people in hi-viz vests bearing clipboards to ensure they were being followed to the letter, and it’s not like any of the current crop of politicians from any party believe in light regulation and small government.  I can expect a huge lobbying effort being made to recreate all those “essential” EU regulations in a post-EU Britain, to be managed by sprawling government bureaucracies crammed full of civil servants.  “Just think of all the jobs it will create!” will be the cry, once “Think of the children!” has faded.

I was also not persuaded by the immigration argument.  Now I appreciate Poles, Romanians, and Latvians might be pinching jobs from hard-working locals in areas of Britain, but the real immigration issue that I see is one of people from outside the EU arriving in Britain with a mindset more akin to medieval theocracies than liberal democracies and no intention of integrating and every intention of causing as much trouble as possible.  The disgrace that is Rotherham, the 7/7 bombings, the murder of Lee Rigby, and the other dozen or so I’ve forgotten about were not caused by EU citizens exercising their right to free movement, it was brought about by immigration policies (some decades old) that were and are firmly in the hands of the British Home Office.  Nobody in government has even admitted there is an issue, and until they do I’m not going to take fears of additional undesirables arriving via the EU very seriously.  True, Angela Merkel’s astonishingly stupid and irresponsible decision to invite in millions of immigrants willy-nilly would have raised genuine concerns that gangs of jihadists will turn up in Britain after obtaining German or other EU passports, but this would be more of a worry were not hundreds if not thousands of British citizens waging merry jihad with ISIS already.

The problem is the British, as with every other citizenry which is not mentally ill, wants freedom of movement to be based on something other than nationality.  Most Brits have no problem with the EU citizens coming to Britain if they are going to be productive members of society and not try to forment foment unrest.  Similarly, most Brits don’t have a problem with intra-EU migration provided it does not come at the expense of their own livelihood.  Both of these are entirely reasonable opinions to hold, but it speaks volumes about the state of western politics that the only prominent politician willing to promote them is Donald Bloody Trump.  Sooner or later, if civil war is to be averted, freedom of movement is going to have to be guaranteed by holding the right passport and not being a complete fuckwit.  The criteria for the latter should not be hard to set.

So all in all, I’m not sure Brexit will achieve much in terms of smaller government, lighter regulation, and improved immigration policies, and it will likely cause me considerable personal headaches in future.  But what Brexit has surely done is given the EU and British political classes and establishments a severe kick up the arse and shaken them to the very core, something that is long overdue.  I am deriving enormous pleasure from hearing the petulant wailing of lefty middle classes who think it all terribly unfair that their right-on, progressive thinking didn’t mean their votes counted twice.  I am also deriving great pleasure from watching politicians and other mouthpieces twist themselves in knots having realised they are firmly on the wrong side of most of the country.  The result has created some extraordinary bedfellows: you have social-justice warriors relaying the warnings of multinational corporations regarding future profits, and anarchists who are usually in favour of smashing the state marching in support of a superstate.  People who were a few months ago campaigning for minimum alcohol prices are now worried the price of wine might go up, and those who thought curbing the “excesses” of the City was top priority are now fearful the banksters might move to Frankfurt.  It is absolutely bizarre in its intellectual inconsistency.

Finally, I am dismayed by the lack of balls shown by many of my countrymen.  All the talks of “fear” and “panic” and “distress” at the thought of Britain, with a functioning (hah!) parliament and centuries of independent rule under its belt not being able to survive without being hooked to Brussels/Strasbourg is embarassing to say the least.  Being a good European, I am reasonably knowledgeable of the modern history of fellow EU member state Lithuania, which in 1990 decided enough was enough and declared independence from the USSR (the first Soviet state to do so).  Given the size of Lithuania relative to the Soviet Union, the demographics, and their dependency on Moscow, this took real balls.  And here’s what happened next:

The Soviet Union attempted to suppress the secession by imposing an economic blockade. Soviet troops attacked the Vilnius TV Tower, killing 14 Lithuanian civilians and wounding 600 others on the night of 13 January 1991 (January Events). On 31 July 1991 Soviet paramilitaries killed seven Lithuanian border guards on the Belarusian border in what became known as the Medininkai Massacre.

On 4 February 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognise Lithuania’s independence. After the Soviet August Coup, independent Lithuania received wide official recognition and joined the United Nations on 17 September 1991.

Any Lithuanian from that era who read about the protest march in London yesterday must be wondering how the hell Britain ever had an empire.  And any European politician jeering at Britain voting to leave might want to consider what impact Lithuania’s departure had on the future of the Soviet Union.

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14 thoughts on “Brexit

  1. Here here, well said, esp. re: lefty whiners. I had a chuckle.

    Two things:

    1. Re: the £350 million on the NHS: I think this is something of a red herring. I saw a picture of one of these buses, and the line was something like: “Let’s spend the money on the NHS instead.” Leaving aside the question of the correct amount…

    (Although I do think that was a little bit clever, in an underhanded way: by using an inflated figure, they got their opposition to start parroting their claim for them. “Our opponents say the EU costs us £350 million a week, but they lie! It’s actually £250 million a week!” I mean, from the point of view of the average punter, the size of the number doesn’t actually matter, as long as it’s big. Either way, they come away thinking: “Bloody hell! Why are they taking so much of our money?”)

    …there’s no way a sensible person could read that statement as a “pledge”, the way the newspapers termed it in the aftermath. The “Leave” campaign was a cross-party organisation in a referendum campaign. They had no standing to pledge public money to anything. How many seats did the “Leave” campaign have in Parliament? How many ministers? Plainly, the sentence means, “The NHS is the sort of thing we could spend more money on, if we weren’t in the EU.”

    I don’t doubt that a few dimwits misunderstood, but since the referendum I think there’s been a lot of deliberate misunderstanding from those aforementioned left-wing whingers.

    2. “Foment“.

    Mwua-ha-ha-ha!

  2. Dr Toboggan,

    Grammatical and linguistic pedantry is welcome on this blog. Only it’s normally dearieme who is supplying it. I’ve made the correction.

  3. Tim

    Very good article. My thoughts pretty well exactly except I did vote, by proxy, and to leave. I live in Italy and so the personal issues are similar, but I never had a moment’s doubt that leave was right.

    Cuffleyburgers

  4. Your point about the right of residence versus application is spot-on. I’m currently studying in Hungary, and the whole process of getting the right to live here consisted in filling in a couple of forms, waiting in a queue for about three hours, and having the paperwork checked over. The deadline on this was 90 days after arrival in Hungary. By comparison, a Ukrainian on my course had to queue for ~6 hours, complete considerably more paperwork (including fingerprints), go back another day because the fingerprint machine wasn’t working, all in advance of even entering the country. Insofar as the EU is a restraint upon, rather than an addition to, national governments I’m entirely in support of it.

  5. I was pleasantly surprised that Brexit got up even though I didn’t vote.

    But yes it is a dam shame and a sign of the times that the British would even countenance the thought that they would somehow be lost without European leadership. The British have always been expert traders and I believe that they will continue to be so outside of the market. Look at the FTSE 100 power, most of their revenues and profits are derived offshore. I do hope though that the lion will roar if somehow they try not to exit.

    Now they have legions of muppets wanting to jump on planes and sign up with other nations into trade agreements and treaties which is just not necessary. The markets don’t need trade agreements and treaties I thought the euro project would have taught them that. Business people and traders just need to be able to bargain with each other and exchange as they see fit with the time old issue of counterparty risk theirs to take.

    The Jocks were particularly pathetic about the result and to think that their is a discussion about the six counties of Ulster getting out of Britain is fucking astonishing to say the least.

    Lets face it with Europe, its destiny is to be a place full of fascinating old museums, galleries and buildings that rich yanks and Aussies like to come and visit.

  6. Yes, the argument that the people who yesterday governed half the globe are today somehow incapable of governing themselves must be the most shocking one to anyone outside Britain hearing it.

    In some ways, Brexit is very much like Maidan in Ukraine: it was clear there would be retaliation and that tough times were ahead, but the fundamental choice was between hope and hopelessness, and hope won.

  7. “The disgrace that is Rotherham, the 7/7 bombings, the murder of Lee Rigby, and the other dozen or so I’ve forgotten about were not caused by EU citizens exercising their right to free movement, it was brought about by immigration policies (some decades old) that were and are firmly in the hands of the British Home Office. ”

    The same Home Office which Theresa May herself has overseen for the last 6 years. The woman who is now PM.

  8. The same Home Office which Theresa May herself has overseen for the last 6 years. The woman who is now PM.

    Gawd, tell me about it. So depressing…

  9. Hi Tim, came across your site via the link from the other Tim this morning.
    I like what you write, good work! Have added you to my feedly…

  10. I too came across your site via Tim W and will continue reading your posts. The section on Lithuania was thought-provoking. I was on holiday there last year. Lovely place and people. They will be laughing.

  11. “Few people appreciate the different between applying for residency under the terms of French (or any) law and being entitled to residency under European law. One involves submitting mountains of documents …”

    I found recently that the UK’s procedure to obtain a permanent residence certificate as an EEA national [forms EEA(QP) at 35 pages and EEA(PR) at 85] requires a reasonable stack of supporting documentation for the relevant 5 year period (5 years being the qualifying time under the EU’s Citizens Directive and similar EEA rules). Many EEA nationals don’t bother, of course, since there is little or no need in practice for the certificate … except for naturalisation, where it’s suddenly essential!

  12. Dealing with local bureaucrats – they just want to be loved. When you tip up with your sheaf of forms completed in triplicate, offer them a home-made cake or a bottle of local plonk* to compensate for the inconvenience of actually having to do some work. You may find it works wonders! They’ve got a shitty little job, and they don’t expect a bag of unmarked € notes, but a small token of personal esteem never goes amiss.

    * Based on experiences in Spain, but it’s pennies to pounds it’s just the same in France.

  13. Based on experiences in Spain, but it’s pennies to pounds it’s just the same in France.

    If only it were. When I was dealing with the French bureaucracy I was thinking to myself how much easier it is in Russia when you simply find the bloke in charge and bring him a little gift…

    The worst thing about French bureaucracy is it is completely dysfunctional but they also don’t take kindly to bribery…at least not on the level I deal with them.

  14. Many EEA nationals don’t bother, of course, since there is little or no need in practice for the certificate … except for naturalisation, where it’s suddenly essential!

    Quite! I think a few people are going to be experiencing this misery post-Brexit. As you say, up until now nobody bothered.

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