Monday, 16 May 2016

How the Vote Leave case for Brexit is an absolute shambles


It doesn't matter what your opinion on the EU is, or which side you favour in the EU referendum debate, only those suffering extreme confirmation bias could be unwilling to recognise that the official "Vote Leave, take control" case for Brexit is an absolute shambles of empty misleading propaganda, unsourced statistics, fearmongering rhetoric, misleading claims, transparent false dichotomies and outright lies.

The "£350 million" lie

The official "Vote leave, take control" document repeats the lie that the UK sends £350 million per week to the EU five times. The lie has been repeatedly debunked as a massive over-estimate based on the dodgy misuse of official figures, yet it's the most oft repeated economic claim in the primary document of the Vote Leave campaign!

Surely it's a damning indictment of the Vote Leave campaign that they repeatedly use deliberately misleading numbers as crude propaganda instead of presenting anything even remotely resembling a structured and costed plan for what would happen to the UK economy after Brexit.


What would post-Brexit Britain look like?

The Vote Leave campaign have not prepared any kind of manifesto whatever for what a post-Brexit economy would look like, preferring to proffer a series of completely uncosted possibilities like "All this money could be better spent on the NHS, schools, and fundamental science research".

The idea that a Tory government that has spent the last six years on an ideological mission to slash spending on the NHS, education and science research in order to fund vast tax cuts for corporations and the very rich, are suddenly going to reverse direction after Brexit is a pure fantasy that only the most delusional people could possibly allow themselves to believe in.

This fantasy that Brexit would save the NHS is particularly delusional given that Brexit would further empower the most fanatically right-wing elements within the Tory party, who are the kind of people who hate the NHS with a burning ideological passion because it's a glowing beacon of successful, popular and efficient socialist policy.

Possibilities not promises

"All this money could be better spent on the NHS, schools, and fundamental science research"
The use of the word "could" gives the game away. It makes it absolutely clear that the right-wingers behind Vote Leave know perfectly well that any savings from leaving the EU will immediately be distributed to the rich, so they're only offering increased spending on stuff like infrastructure, services and scientific research as a theoretical possibility.

The hardline right-wingers behind Vote Leave know that they have no power, nor inclination to ensure greater funding for socialist projects like the National Health Service or the universal education system, but they're perfectly happy to use these possibilities as bait to hook in the gullible.
Even though Vote Leave make it absolutely clear that they are only offering increased funding for the NHS and scientific research as a possibility, not as a promise, they are perfectly happy to set it up as an utterly misleading binary either-or choice at the end of the document.

"A vote to keep sending hundreds of millions to Brussels every week, or a vote to put that money into scientific research and the NHS?"
Science

The "Vote Leave, take control" document continually claims to be championing British science, however what they completely fail to mention is that scientists overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. A survey of 2,000 EU based scientists found that 75% oppose Brexit, Stephen Hawking and 150 Royal Society scientists have claimed that Brexit would be "a disaster for British science"the House of Lords Science committee have calculated that Brexit could cost British research projects £millions in funding, and that none of Britain's most successful technology companies support Brexit.

Repeated claims to be standing up for British science when there is a mountain of evidence that an awful lot of scientists see Brexit as something that would damage UK science and technology is pretty brazen stuff. Even more brazen is the attempt by a bunch of right-wing Tories and 'kippers to criticise the EU for cuts to their science budgets when the Tory government in the UK has been savagely slashing spending on science, research and development, universities and adult education for the last six years.

The ideologically driven Tory freeze on science spending has seen the UK fall way behind industrial competitors like the US and Germany. These savage real terms cuts to UK science projects have nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with the crackpot Tory ideological austerity agenda that would be further empowered by Brexit.

Unsourced statistics

The "Vote Leave, take control" document is absolutely rife with unsourced statistics and graphs. One particularly egregious example is the claim that 74% of UK based Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) think that the UK government, not the EU should control trade policy. No source is given, no data, no sample size, nothing. The inclusion of unsourced statistics like this in a document that repeatedly claims to be championing science should be enough to cause cognitive dissonance in even the most determined of Brexiters.

There is simply no excuse for the repeated presentation of unsourced statistics, especially in a keystone document from the official Vote Leave campaign.


Who is "we"?

"We regain legal control of things like trade, tax, economic regulation, energy and food bills, migration, crime, and civil liberties."

Who is this "we" that Vote Leave are referring to in this sentence? If the UK public vote for Brexit, who will benefit from these additional powers? Will it be the man on the street? Or will it be the Tory government and the unelected House of Lords that David Cameron has spent six years stuffing full of hundreds of unelected cronies?

It's absolutely clear that "we" refers to the Westminster political establishment, not to ordinary British folk, so what would the Tories do with their "regained" powers?


Trade: The Tories are massively in favour of the TTIP corporate power grab, so anyone who thinks that they wouldn't cook up an even more terrifyingly pro-corporate "trade deal" with the US after Brexit is guilty of fantasy land thinking. Donald Trump has indicated that a post-Brexit UK would not be pushed to the back of the trade-deal queue were he to become President. Can you imagine how dangerously pro-corporate/anti-worker/environmentally destructive a trade deal drawn up between the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson would be?

Tax: The EU doesn't actually exert that much control over the UK tax system. There are EU rules on VAT, but there is still a lot of variance in VAT rates and applications across Europe. The EU has not prevented the Tory government from repeatedly slashing the rate of UK Corporation Tax over the last six years so that the rate of Corporation Tax tax rate for multinational corporations (the ones who actually pay their tax) is now below the basic rate of income tax for their workers! 
The UK government retains autonomy over all kinds of taxes such as Corporation Tax, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Council Tax, Stamp Duty, Fuel Duty, tax rates on alcohol and cigarettes ... so it seems that the word "tax" has only been included in the above list to make it seem longer and more impressive.

Economic regulation: On several occasions the Tories have wasted taxpayers' money trying to defend the interests of their rich mates in the City of London from EU regulations. Remember the time when George Osborne was the only finance minister in the entire EU to oppose the plan to cap bankers' bonuses at 200% of their annual salary? Vote Leave clearly want to help the Tories tear up EU regulations that impede their mates' financial sector profiteering.

Energy bills: Remember when Ed Miliband proposed a government cap on energy prices and the Tories lined up to shriek "communist" and "price-fixer" at him? Remember how just a few weeks later the Tories signed up to a ludicrous price-fixing deal to pay EdF (85% owned by the French state) and the Chinese government twice the market rate for electricity for 35 years? If the Tories are given more control over the energy market, they'll simply hand more of it over to Chinese communists and state operated energy companies like EdF in line with their crackpot ideology that the French, Chinese, German and Dutch states are more capable of running UK infrastructure than the UK state itself.

Food bills: Vote Leave don't bother to explain the means by which the UK government will gain additional powers over food bills, however it seems fair to guess that a Tory government would set up their own system of landowner subsidies to replace the subsidies distributed by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy. If the new Tory landowner subsidies are higher than the current EU ones, food prices would probably fall, but taxpayers would foot the bill, if they are lower than the current ones then food prices would rise. The idea of the Tories scrapping landowner handouts in line with their free-trade mantra is completely unrealistic. Farmers are such a loyal Tory demographic that Brexit would probably result in a large increase in free handouts to major landowners from the Tory government.


Migration: For the last six years the Tory Home Secretary Theresa May has been conducting an economically insane war on non-EU migrants, including migrants who are married to British citizens (the most likely of all to assimilate, contribute and stay long-term rather than working in the UK a while then extracting their wealth), non-EU students (a vital source of income to British universities, and a net positive to the UK economy) and non-EU workers who earn less than £35,000 per year (the average UK wage is £26,000). Anyone who thinks that such malicious and economically incompetent Tory immigration policies would just stop after Brexit is wandering into post-Brexit fantasy land again.

Crime: Again, Vote Leave offer no detail whatever on what they mean by "regaining local control of .... crime". In fact this sentence is the only mention of the word "crime" in the entire "Vote Leave, take control" document! Since Vote Leave are totally unwilling to specify what crime powers they think the UK needs to repatriate from the EU, it's fair to assume that it's simply another word added to their list seem longer and more impressive.

Civil Liberties: Given that the current Tory government are intent on scrapping as many civil liberties as they can get away with (the right to free speech, labour rights, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy, the entire Human Rights Act ...) it's an utterly bizarre item to add to the list. Essentially what Vote Leave seem to be saying is that it would be a good thing if the Tories gained even more capacity to scrap any of our human rights that stand in the way of them doing whatever the hell they like.


Eurozone Austerity

One of the most bizarre things about the "Vote Leave, take control" document is the way that it tries to portray the dire consequences of ideological austerity in the Eurozone as a reason to vote for Brexit. Of course anyone with any macroeconomic sense should be appalled at the way the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF have colluded to force socially and economically toxic austerity on countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, but using that as a reason to support Brexit is utterly illogical. It's illogical because the Tory government are even more fanatical about ideological austerity than the EU, in fact, George Osborne even found £10 billion in British cash to hand over to the IMF in order to go around forcing austerity onto other countries.

A bunch of hard-right Tories who have voted for one appalling austerity policy after another in the UK for the last six years using austerity in the Eurozone as an argument for Brexit is a display of the worst kind of unprincipled opportunism.


Uncertainty

During the 2014 campaign for Scottish independence the right-wing media constantly attacked the Vote Yes campaign and the SNP government for perceived flaws in their detailed plan for post-independence Scotland. During the 2016 campaign for the UK to quit the EU, swathes of the right-wing press have been completely silent on the total lack of an actual plan for what a post-Brexit UK economy might look like.

As far as the right-wing press seem concerned "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" is a viable economic strategy for a stable transition out of the European Union!


It's incredible that swathes of the right-wing press were so desperate to fearmonger about the uncertainties of Scottish independence, but less than two years later they're supporting a Brexit campaign with no detailed plan whatever for what comes next. 

Economic chaos

The lack of anything resembling a coherent plan for what comes next is certain to cause economic uncertainty if Vote Leave win.

It doesn't matter how much froth and bile Brexiters like Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrea Leadsom spit about expert interventions, financial institutions like the Bank of England would be utterly reckless if they were to fail to point out the obvious fact that Brexit with no strategic plan of action from the people who are promoting it would be extremely likely to cause severe economic turmoil because financial markets generally don't like uncertainty and instability.

  An unjustified and unjustifiable conclusion
"A vote to leave is the safer option"
There is absolutely no effort to justify this conclusion from an economic, political or security perspective. 

Economic: I'm not one to take the utterances of financial institutions like The Bank of England, IMF, OECD or private banks at face value. These are the institutions that failed to see the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis coming. However, the underlying justification for their pessimistic projections about the economic consequences of Brexit seems sound. The Brexiters have outlined no real plan for Brexit and seem to think "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" is sufficient. This mens that severe and sustained economic uncertainty is inevitable given the total lack of strategic planning. Under these circumstances anyone who tries to claim that Brexit is economically safer than Bremain is playing you for a fool.

Political: Post-war European co-operation came about as an effort to prevent another massive conflict between the European powers. Given that the first half of the 20th Century featured the two most deadly industrialised wars the European continent had ever seen, it is worth celebrating the fact that there have been no wars between EU states since the era of European co-operation began. It would be the worst kind of fearmongering to suggest that Brexit could lead directly to war, but it's difficult to imagine how it's possible to justify any claim that voting for the UK to remain in Europe would make the UK politically safer.

Security: Despite all of the Britain First style fearmongering about refugees from the Syrian civil war being terrorists, it remains an incontestable fact that all of the deadly terrorist atrocities carried out on British soil since the 1950s have been perpetrated by people born in the British Isles. The idea that withdrawal from the EU would make Britain safer from terrorism is the worst kind of counter-factual nonsense.


It beggars belief that high profile Brexiters like Michael Gove blubber away about the unfairness of fearmongering rhetoric from the Bremain side when the official Vote Leave document ends with an unjustified and unjustifiable assertion that voting to remain in the EU is somehow more unsafe than voting to leave.

Conclusion

The EU is far from perfect, I've been criticising it for years, but the official "Vote Leave, take control" document is an abject demonstration that the official Brexit campaign is a complete shambles run by people with no strategic plan whatever, who think that a garbled mess of fearmongering rhetoric, unsourced statistics, shocking opportunism, misleading claims, blatantly false dichotomies and outright lies is sufficient to convince anybody of anything. 


Essentially the whole "Vote Leave, take control" document is a demonstration of the utter contempt that the hard-right Tories and 'kippers behind Vote Leave have for the general public. It's a demonstration that they believe that people are so ill-educated and lacking in critical thinking skills that they'll simply uncritically rote learn the abject mess they've presented as their keystone document, then trot off to vote for Brexit.

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