Friday 3 June 2016

David Cameron's reckless EU gamble

On June the 2nd 2016 David Cameron made a rare live television appearance on Sky News to argue against Britain quitting the EU. During the debate Cameron described Brexit being an "act of self-harm for Britain" and urged people not to "roll the dice" on their wages and their families' futures by voting to leave the EU.

The Brexit fantasy-land

Given the abject lack of anything resembling a coherent post-Brexit economic restructuring plan from Vote Leave, it's impossible to argue that Cameron is wrong to assert that Brexit would be a huge gamble. Several high profile members of the anti-EU campaign have openly admitted that all of their proposed post-Brexit policies are nothing more than completely uncosted "options", yet the likes of Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove keep on making more and more uncosted promises.

An awful lot of people seem to want to believe in the ridiculous utopian fantasy that the post-Brexit Tories (that will have just been taken over by the most fanatical hard-right fringe of the party) would suddenly stop deliberately underfunding the NHS and attacking its workforce in order to justify their policy of carving it up for privatisation, or begin reversing their deliberate house price inflation schemes.

If there is any money to be saved from quitting the EU (which is debatable given the likelihood of Brexit triggering a deep recession and more than cancelling out any savings), who on earth would be naive enough to imagine that the newly emboldened hard-right fringe elements of the Tory party wouldn't simply funnel it all towards the super-wealthy minority (as is the Tory way)?

A dangerous gamble

Of course Cameron is right that Brexit would be a dangerous gamble. There's absolutely no way that entrusting the economy to a bunch of hard-right fanatics with no economic restructuring plan could be considered the safe option, however it's important to recognise how we got into this ridiculous situation in the first place.

The reason the UK is having a referendum on membership of the EU has absolutely nothing to do with giving the people a say in their own affairs. David Cameron and the Tories have time and again demonstrated their utter contempt for participatory democracy. The reason we're having this referendum is that in 2015 it suited David Cameron's personal self-interest to offer it.

Cameron's short-term pay off

Back in 2015 Cameron was facing a huge rift in the Tory party between the Eurosceptic and Europhile factions, he'd just suffered two of his own MPs making high profile defections to UKIP and he was in severe danger of losing millions of anti-EU Tory votes to UKIP.

Offering the Eurosceptic Tory MPs the referendum they wanted was a good way of stopping any more defections to UKIP, and it also drew the UKIP thorn. The move wrong-footed UKIP so badly that we ended up witnessing the utterly bizarre spectacle of Nigel Farage explicitly directing UKIP supporters to vote for the Tories rather than for his own UKIP candidates. The short-term payoff for Cameron was that the fanatical hard-right Thatcherism on steroids party ended up nicking more votes from Labour than they did from their Tory ideological blood brothers!

Cameron's ploy was undeniably successful in the short-term, but the consequence was a referendum on the EU that neither side were remotely prepared for. Just as the Vote Leave campaign have absolutely nothing resembling a coherent post-Brexit restructuring plan, the Remain campaign have been left scrabbling desperately to form any kind of positive case for Britain to stay in the EU.

Cameron the gambler

It's absolutely clear that David Cameron is a reckless gambler from his decision to turn the Scottish referendum into an "all or nothing" choice rather than offer the Scottish electorate their preferred option of Devolution Max. By ruling out the most popular compromise option and setting the referendum up as a straight choice between self-rule and continued subservience to Westminster, Cameron was guilty of gambling the entire future of Scotland just to avoid giving them a few more powers.

The panic stricken last few days of the Better Together campaign featured the much ridiculed "Vow" (which handed Scotland many of the devolved powers that Cameron's absurd gamble was designed to avoid giving them in the first place) and the bizarre spectacle of Gordon Brown riding to Cameron's rescue with a load of fearmongering pensioner-scaring rhetoric. The fearful hysteria from the Unionist camp in the last week of the Scottish independence debate demonstrated that Cameron was an awful lot closer to losing his "all or nothing" gamble than he ever imagined that he would be.

After almost losing an extremely risky gamble like that, anyone with any sense would surely have learned their lesson and been careful to avoid putting themselves in that kind of situation again, but Cameron clearly didn't.

Cameron's EU gamble is even more risky than his Scottish gamble because, although it had a number of flaws in it, at least the SNP bothered to draw up an actual plan for what a post-independence Scotland would look like so that people could read it and consider it on its merits. The Vote Leave campaign has nothing more than hot air and a litany of completely uncosted fantasy land promises.

The prophecies of post-Brexit economic doom from the Remain camp (and a host of international organisations) have sometimes been far-fetched, but anyone who thinks that the financial markets are going to react positively to a rapid bailout of the EU with no kind of economic restructuring plan must be living in Brexit fantasy land where the UK suddenly emerges Phoenix-like from the wreckage of a four decade long hard-right neoliberal experiment to become some kind of idealised 1950s style utopia.

You only need to look at the stock market slumps and falls in the value of the Pound when pro-Brexit polls come out to understand the kind of chaos that is on the cards if people allow unrealistic utopian expectations to lure them into gambling on Brexit, but such economic turmoil wouldn't be their fault. It would be David Cameron's fault for creating this ridiculous gambling opportunity in the first place.


David Cameron is guilty of gambling the entire future of the UK economy for the short-term benefit of stealing some of UKIP's thunder in the 2015 General Election. Even if you think people must be pretty damned gullible to entrust the future of the UK economy to a bunch of fanatically hard-right chancers with no economic restructuring plan whatever, at least Brexit voters are making that gamble because they believe in it. David Cameron didn't believe in it at all when he actually created the opportunity for Brexiters to "roll the dice" in the first place. His only consideration at the time was his own selfish short-term strategic self-interest.

Anyone who would gamble the entire future of the UK economy for a little bit of short-term strategic advantage is clearly being an appalling hypocrite if they then go on to criticise other people for participating in the reckless gamble that they were guilty of actually creating in the first place.

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