I'm coming out - as a Leave voter

Since the Leave vote won the referendum by four percentage points, I have seen a lot of comment in the mainstream and social media to the effect that Leave voters voted on the basis of misinformation, with the suggestion that consequently their vote should be discounted. I have seen many calls for the referendum to be ignored, favouring the 48% who want to Remain over the 52% of voters who want to Leave, and suggesting that this is acceptable because Remain voters and MPs know better than Leave voters.

I haven't seen any coming out saying why they voted Leave and presenting their good arguments for leaving the EU. Perhaps this is because I'm not looking in the right ways in the right places. But also I think it is because many Leave voters, like myself, were simply too scared to say that they want to Leave after the reaction of some Remain voters to the result.

So I am presenting here some of the economic and democratic reasons that led to my voting to Leave the EU.

 

Generalised System of Preference[1]

The EU reformed its Generalised System of Preferences (trade assistance to poorer countries) to give more clarity and permanence to the GSP. At the same time, the reform mostly benefits richer states, and the overall impact may be negative. The ODI concludes that the reforms “are a poor way of helping fledgling industries in very poor, less competitive states.”

As part of this, the EU has presented developing countries with a non-negotiable Economic Partnership Agreement. Ska Keller, a German MEP, said that in such deals, “developing countries have a gun pointed at their chest.”[2]

 

CAP[3]

The Common Agricultural Policy damages agriculture in developing countries. This is a small effect, and there are a range of positive and negative impacts arising from CAP. However, even a country with low exposure to CAP is exposed to negative impacts. CAP was designed to improve food price stability within the EU (the cost is increased volatility outside the EU, and large-scale dumping of food) and to protect the environment; it is not clear if CAP is still the appropriate mechanism for achieving these aims.

Oxfam wrote, “Subsidies destroy opportunities in developing countries and hamper global efforts to reduce poverty”.[4]

Writing in the Backbencher, Darren Grimes writes, “The European Union’s extortionate tariffs and relentless protectionism has ensured that Africa, as a continent which imports over 80% of its food, has an estimated 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable farmland and with millions of people able to work on the land, remains unable to feed and sustain itself.”

 

Protectionism[5]

In 2012, the ODI identified that the EU was moving towards protectionism. This means, essentially, the favouring of white Europeans over Asian and African nations. CAP is already a protectionist mechanism; TTIP will exacerbate this.

The EU is taking an approach that excludes, rather than co-operates with, the emerging markets of Brazil, India and China, as the EU sees these as competitors.

Dirk Willens, quoted in the Guardian, writes “The clear protectionist trend in the EU's new strategy will not only damage the developing world, but also European economies and consumers.”[6] In the Independent, George Gillett writes “the union amounts to a syndicate of wealthy states preserving their global privilege at the expense of international equality.”[7]

Gillett goes on to say, “The EU’s founding principles endorse a latent and pernicious xenophobia. Masked behind the justification of a “united Europe” is the uncomfortable fact that the EU is comprised exclusively of predominantly white, Christian nations.” He questions how the EU can offer unlimited migration to white Europeans, whilst rejecting refugees camped on its borders; why wealthy EU neighbours “are more deserving of our trade than some of the most deprived countries on earth”, and why “it is acceptable to use shared European wealth to coerce developing countries into signing political agreements.”

 

TTIP[8]

TTIP is a bilateral trade agreement between the EU and the US. German development minister Gred Muller argues that a reason behind TTIP is “to set minimum ecological and economic standards for the entire world.”[9] However, the arrangements being discussed would worsen ecological and economic standards: the EU would lower its environmental regulations to the level of the US, and the US would lower its banking regulations to the level of the EU.

The US has lower labour standards than the EU, and the EU has admitted that TTIP will likely lead to job losses from the EU to the US – to the extent that EU members may have to seek European support funds for unemployment.

TTIP seeks to introduce the right of companies to sue governments if governmental policies harm profits. This is a significant breach of democracy, and additionally prevents governments from using regulations to internalise otherwise external costs (such as environmental degradation and poor working conditions). A Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, is already suing the German government, and there are reported to be around 500 other such cases occurring before ‘arbitration tribunals’ made up of corportate lawyers.

 

Single Market

Eirk Jones argues that “Europe’s problems do not originate in money or migrants; they stem from the single market.”[10] He writes that, whilst the common/single market has assisted in peace and prosperity, this does not negate the unintended negative consequences.

For example, money flowed not just from countries with savings to countries looking for investment, it also flowed from poorer countries to richer ones, and even across the Atlantic. The accumulation of large stocks of assets, assisted by the Single Market, contributed to the global crisis precipitated by the US sub-prime lending crash.

The Single Market makes it easier to move from one country to another for work, but does not make it hassle-free; there is still some need for re-training to meet the qualification requirements of the destination country. At the same time, some labour markets are more attractive than others, and thus the net flow of labour is from poor countries to rich ones.

Norman Lamont[11], a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, considers that, “not only can Britain leave the EU and have access to the single market, we'd actually get a better deal.” He writes that the EU’s low external tariff would cost us less than it costs to pay into the EU, and that non-EU countries “have often exploited the single market far more successfully than we have.” Not only that, but “the importance of trade deals can be exaggerated… in the modern world, tariffs between developed countries are low and are small compared with movements in exchange rates.”

 



[2] Quoted in George Gillett, The Independent. If you're an internationalist, you must vote to leave the EU. Here's why. 21/5/16, accessed 29/6/16

[3] The impacts of European Union (EU) Trade Policy and the Common Agriculture Policy on Development, Oct 2012, ODI round table

Darren Grime, The Backbencher. Farmers in developing countries are being hurt by the EU’s protectionist trade policies. 26 April 2016, accessed 29/6/2016

[4] Oxfam Briefing Paper, 2004. Dumping on the world: How EU sugar policies hurt poor countries.

[6] Mark Tran, The Guardian, EU trade reforms 'will hurt developing countries. 27/7/12, accessed 29/6/16

[7] George Gillett, The Independent. If you're an internationalist, you must vote to leave the EU. Here's why. 21/5/16, accessed 29/6/16

[8] Lee Williams, The Independent. What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you. 6/10/15. Accessed 29/6/15

[9] Quoted in TTIP is ‘big bonanza’ for developing countries, EU claims, EurActiv, Erika Körner, 23/1/15

[10] Erik Jones, Politics and Strategy. EU in crisis? Blame the single market, not Schengen and the euro. 18/12/15, accessed 29/6/16

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