Both sides of the EU debate have put forward some completely inept and downright misleading arguments in favour of their positions, but the appalling opportunism and incoherence of the Brexit camp is really beginning to get on my nerves. It doesn't matter what the news story these days, there's always a pack of Brexiters ready to pounce on it and reshape it into an anti-EU diatribe, using all manner of tortured logic, fantastical thinking and downright misleading rhetoric in the process.
The purpose of this article is not to persuade you to vote one way or another, I actually believe there are good arguments to be found in favour of both sides of the debate if you're prepared to actually look for them.
The purpose is to show the shameless political opportunism and logical incoherence that elements of the Brexit camp are ever willing to present in order to dupe gullible people into supporting their cause.
Once you've read this article you'll be able to keep an eye out for people jumping into political debates about serious issues with the sole objective of piggybacking their personal political agenda onto the debate by any means possible (including the complete abandonment of logic, reason and basic common sense).
When the EU tried to intervene in the steel market by imposing import tariffs on artificially cheap "dumped" Chinese steel, UKIP actively voted against the measures then the Tory party successfully vetoed the deal.
Despite these displays of utter contempt for the UK steel industry, an awful lot of right-wing Brexiters (including UKIP leader Nigel Farage) have opportunistically tried to claim that the only way to save the UK steel industry is for Britain to leave the EU.
Just a few moments thought about what a post-EU Britain would look shatters this absurd fantasy. The Tories (who in late 2015 sacrificed 3,000 jobs in Redcar because they were far too busy sucking up to the Chinese at the time, and then in February 2016 deliberately torpedoed EU measures to protect the European steel industry) would be in sole charge of the UK economy.
Anyone who thinks that post-Brexit Tories would suddenly give up either their fanatically right-wing economic ideology or their pathetic subservience to China just to save a load of mainly Labour voting steel communities really must be imagining some kind of bizarre post-EU fantasy land where the fundamental laws of political nature have been reversed.
Another of the utterly ridiculous claims from Brexiters is that the quitting the EU is the only way to save the NHS. The same "just think about it" counter argument stands.
A post-EU Britain would be run by the Tories who have spent the last six years wrecking the NHS by deliberately underfunding it (like they promised they wouldn't), carrying out a catastrophically wasteful top-down reorganisation (like they promised they wouldn't), bringing in new rules to make forced closures of NHS services much easier (like they promised they wouldn't), carving the NHS open for privatisation and cherry-picking of profitable services (like they promised they wouldn't) and deliberately picking ideological fights with junior doctors in order to drive them overseas or out of the profession entirely.
The idea that a post-Brexit Tory party emboldened by the fact they're no longer constrained by European rules like the working time directive would suddenly decide to start looking after the NHS rather than continuing their strategy of deliberately running it into the ground, treating NHS employees like shit and privatising all the profitable bits is another example of hopelessly unrealistic utopian fantasising about what a post-Brexit UK would look like.
Another tactic of the Brexit crowd is to claim that the only way to beat the TTIP corporate power grab is to quit the EU.
It's worth remembering that the Tory government are so fanatically in favour of the complete corporate over-writing of our democratic and judicial systems that they outright refused to ask for a TTIP exemption for NHS services or demand the removal of the highly controversial ISDS (corporate over-writing of sovereign democracy and judiciary) elements of the plan.
Let's think about this post-Brexit scenario again. Yes, we wouldn't be subject to TTIP (if it even ever goes through), but the Tories would then have free rein to draw up their own corporate power grabs disguised as "trade deals".
However, unlike with the EU where there is a massive and growing resistance to TTIP, it's undoubtable that what the Tories would come up with on their own would be far worse than TTIP, and there would be far less opposition to stand up to it (or at the least force the withdrawal of the most rabidly pro-corporate elements). So once again, despite the Brexiter rhetoric, it would be a case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire".
One of the most irritatingly poor Brexiter arguments is that the EU is damaging British businesses with their "pesky rules". The problem with this argument is that an awful lot of Brexiters seem to think they can have their cake and eat it. They either want to stay in the single market (but ditch the single market rule of free movement of labour) or negotiate a single market like trade deal between the UK and the EU.
The EU are not going to allow the UK to just cherry-pick the bits of the single market that they like and ditch the rest, because that would obviously open the door to other member states to begin cherry-picking which rules they want to abide by and which they want to abandon.
Even if the EU does decide to make an exception for the UK and give us continued access to the single market without having to abide by the free movement rules, all of the rules would be drawn up in Brussels, and the UK would have absolutely no say at all in their development.
Additionally, whether Britain gets to stay in the single market or not, if our companies want to continue trading with Europe, then the products they sell within the EU would still have to comply with EU standards. The UK would no longer have any say whatever in what those standards actually are, but we'd still have to abide by their "pesky rules" anyway!
One of the central Brexiter criticisms of the EU is that it's undemocratic. I actually agree with them on this. Elements of the EU are extremely undemocratic, especially the European Commission, the European Central Bank (and the way they ganged up with the IMF to impose socially and economically toxic austerity economics on Greece). However a think about what a post-Brexit UK would look like is revealing.
The UK would still have a completely unelected House of Lords; an unelected head of state; an unelected central bank; a deeply unrepresentative and apathy inducing Westminster voting system where a mandate from just 24% of the registered electorate is sufficient to form a majority government; and an utterly bizarre hotch-potch of a constitution where the people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London get their own proportionally elected parliaments, while all of the non-London English regions have to do without.
The bizarre thing is that the European elections are the actually only proportional elections that the English regions get to participate in, so Brexit (which is much more popular in the English regions than any of the places with their own proportionally elected parliaments) would clearly make the English regions less democratic!
After the "Panama Papers" furore and David Cameron's excruciatingly protracted admission that he personally benefited from shares in his fathers' offshore business empire while he was a serving MP (shares that he never registered on the Parliamentary Register of Members' Financial Interests) some Brexiters have even begun mouthing off about how Brexit is necessary in order to clamp down on tax-dodging!
Once again a think about what a post-Brexit UK would look like is revealing. The Tories (who have repeatedly battled and lobbied against EU efforts to clamp down on tax havens) would have an even stronger grip on the UK government, and it's absolutely clear that they they have no honest intention of cracking down on tax-dodging, heavily funded as they are by a bunch of tax-dodgers.
Additionally the Brexit faction of the Tory party would be emboldened, meaning that the likes of John Redwood would be more likely to achieve their ambition of turning the entire UK economy into one gigantic tax-haven.
Whether you've decided which side of the debate you support or not, it's really important that you don't allow yourself to be taken for an idiot.
Few on the "Bremain" side are promising that the EU will suddenly become some kind of fantastical utopia if Britain votes to remain. In fact many of them are prepared to admit that the EU has problems, but their solution is to fix these problems from within, rather than run away.
An awful lot of people on the Brexit side seem to want people to believe in a staggeringly unrealistic post-EU fantasy land, where the Tory government will suddenly start caring about things like the NHS, the steel industry and clamping down on tax-dodging. Even worse than, they they seem to expect people to be gullible enough to believe that the unrestrained Tories wouldn't concoct so-called "trade deals" that are much worse than the TTIP corporate power grab, and that stripping the English regions of their only proportional elections would somehow make Britain more democratic!
It's absolutely fine if you still want Britain to leave the EU, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just don't let yourself be taken for an idiot, and try to keep an eye out for people opportunistically using the tactic of piggy-backing their own biased political agenda onto topical news items, regardless of whether it is logically justifiable.
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