The Brexit referendum
Daniel Woker writes on these pages that the Brexit campaign 'lack(s) any intellectually sound argument'. Judging by how difficult it has been for my colleagues and I at The Interpreter to find writers who favour the Leave campaign, it is tempting to agree. And The Interpreter is not alone: we have consulted editors around the world, and they are having the same problem finding writers to make a cogent case for the Leave campaign.
Why is this?I'm sceptical of the claim that there is 'no sound argument'. Perhaps there is a sound argument, but we are just not hearing it.
This might be a class issue, with professional writers and policy analysts being mainly in the Stay camp, while the Leave camp is composed of people who ordinarily don't write for a living. We carried a pro-Brexit piece earlier in the week by political analyst Richard Johnson who argued that the Labour Party is woefully out of step with a large portion of its supporters on this issue: 'One-third of Labour supporters will be voting "Leave" on 23rd June. Most of these come from the party's working-class base and are at serious risk of defection to other parties, especially UKIP'. The Guardian also has a stark statistic about the class divide in the Brexit debate:
Voters in professional “AB” grade occupations are strongly in favour of staying in Europe (57%-38%), whereas skilled manual workers (C2s) are plumping for leave by an emphatic 67% to 29% margin.
So if publications such as this one are finding it hard to identify professional pundits to make the case for Brexit, that means the case against Brexit is being over-represented. That's concerning for the health of the public debate. But what's also interesting is that this apparent over-representation is evidently not having a decisive impact on the public debate, given that British public opinion is on a knife-edge but trending towards Leave.
For the record, there are thought-provoking and rigorous arguments being made in favour of Brexit. The best I have seen comes from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Telegraph:
My Europhile Greek friend Yanis Varoufakis and I both agree on one central point, that today's EU is a deformed halfway house that nobody ever wanted. His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account. Though even he doubts his dream. "There is a virtue in heroic failure" he said.
I do not think this is remotely possible, or would be desirable if it were, but it is not on offer anyway. Six years into the eurozone crisis and there is no a flicker of fiscal union: no eurobonds, no Hamiltonian redemption fund, no pooling of debt, and no budget transfers. The banking union belies its name. Germany and the creditor states have dug in their heels.
Where we concur is that the EU as constructed is not only corrosive but ultimately dangerous, and that is the phase we have now reached as governing authority crumbles across Europe. The Project bleeds the lifeblood of the national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable or legitimate at a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.
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