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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

British Exit? Sleepwalking again???

The Introduction to my book In Praise of Doubt – a blogger’s year reviews its 130 plus posts and suggests that the” Elephant in the Room” (ie the big issue which failed to be mentioned in my late posts of 2014 or those of 2015) was……..Brexit - ie  the possibility of British exit from the European Union and the knock-on effects on Europe……

My blog may have a clear policy of ignoring the chatter which passes for political commentary but I do not avoid big issues eg the nature of contemporary capitalism; the health of our democratic institutions; or the swings of public opinion…I did, after all, devote a lot of posts last year to the question of Scotland leaving the “united kingdom”
My failure to devote even a single post to what is the increasing possibility of British withdrawal from the EU was not a deliberate decision; rather a reflection of the absence of any SERIOUS discussion in British journals or publications about the issue….

As long as the referendum which the British PM had promised on the question of continued British membership of the European Union seemed to be in 2017 - and we were sitting in 2014 (when a Scottish breakaway was the threat) or 2015 (when so many other issues jostled for our attention), 2017 seemed so far away.

But here we are in 2016 and there is suddenly talk that the government might put the issue to a vote in the summer of this year!! And I don’t see any serious discussion of what’s involved. Or rather, I see a lot of press coverage of the Prime Minister’s tactical discussions with European partners as he attempts to negotiate a new package which would satisfy the majority of his party (and citizens) - who profess increased distaste for the European project (see this European Council for Foreign Relations briefing for graphs on how the support for Europe has trended in recent years).

But I am aware of very little which would be of any help to the citizen who actually wants a reasoned assessment of what withdrawal would actually mean – in economic or political terms. A couple of Labour MPs have written about it – Pat McFadden in a pamphlet What would Out look like? and Dennis McShane in a book Brexit – how Britain will leave Europe whose argument is rather sullied by his recent conviction for over-zealous expenses claims….

The European Union is its own worst enemy. Reform of such a sclerotic system of policies, institutions and above all power does indeed seem to be almost impossible. Behind the rigid institutions and policies lies the apparently invincible power of the permanent technocrats with their inflated salaries and protected status (I know because for almost a year I worked there!!)

And yet the idea of the UK’s withdrawal fills me with deep unease. 
I’ll try to explain why in future posts – while still trying to retain the respect i always try to grant the specific arguments I encounter…..

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