Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – a Campaign of Dissimulation and Distortion

I think it’s time to poke my head over the parapet.

First, apologies if this comes across as a little rambling. It is a work in progress, as you will see.

First of all, I love Europe. I love France, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Greece, and would love to visit many other countries. I love them because of their individuality, the variety of foods, countrysides, cities, and peoples. However, in recent months I’ve suffered a certain number of insults from friends. Mind you, it’s nothing compared to what the politicians who “represent” me have said. To many of them, I’m a Little Englander, a Xenophobe or a fool, because I have the temerity not to immediately agree with europhiles who are keen to see Britain remain in Europe.

This is an understandable aspiration. They say we should remain in the world’s largest single market. It is one of the things Britain has fought for over centuries. For us, one of the oldest democracies, it makes sense for us to fight to remain inside this great project?

Perhaps. But for every world statesman, for every banker, for every business leader who tells us with contempt why we should stay in Europe, I feel my resentment growing, and with it a developing cynicism.

First of all, let me state: I have not decided whether to vote to stay in or to leave Europe. The reason why I have been condemned is because I have not wholeheartedly thrown my hat into either ring. The reason is simple: I am still considering how I should vote. However, I am not confrontational, and find debates (especially internet shouting matches) exceedingly tedious, so I’m not going to participate in disputes here.

However, I will say this: I won’t be persuaded by a country’s President, for whom I may not vote, who tells me with truly breathtaking hypocrisy how I should vote, especially since it means giving up the very system of democracy and law that his own country emulates. I will not be persuaded by the head of the IMF, whose background as a politician and banker does not inspire confidence, that she holds Britain’s best interests at heart; likewise when a number of past American world statesmen tell that they know what is best for me – well, at the nub of it, I smell self-interest. Not the interests of the British.

Why such suspicion?

Well, America is exceedingly good at looking after her own interests. She does not allow shared sovereignty. She will support free trade, come what may – until it affects domestic interests, at which point free trade ends. Canada and Mexico know this all too well.

So where do I think America’s interests lie? I believe that America would love to be able to reduce the cost of foreign negotiations. The State Department has expensive ambassadors to uphold the dignity of America in all European nations. I am sure that the Department looks at the savings involved in having one single point of contact with enormous enthusiasm. One contact to negotiate treaties, so one American contingent where currently there are twenty eight, a number that will grow as Europe expands. Likewise, Australia, New Zealand, and other foreign countries who will find access to European markets possibly affected if Britain were to leave Europe, also advise Britain to remain in the safe cocoon of Europe. It makes their lives easier.

Yet I doubt any of these democracies would agree to join a similar organisation.

So what are the choices in pro-Europe or pro-Brexit?

Many cogent arguments have been put forward as to why Britain should remain in Europe or come out. They include the prediction that family incomes may not grow so fast outside (although the numbers are nonsensical; the Treasury’s ability to forecast six months into the future is pathetic, and Osborne’s credibility predicting one or two years hence is, for me, vanishingly small); the pound may drop, so holidays abroad for the wealthier may grow more expensive, but exports will be cheaper and smaller businesses will flourish; foreign residents may be forced to return to England, which is unlikely, but let’s stick with it. There could be far-reaching consequences  for big business, although the majority of Britons work for smaller firms which would likely benefit from greater flexibility. To every economic statement of disaster there is a logical counter.

So I don’t really care about the financial case. It has long been a rule of thumb for me that economists are proved wrong more often than they are proved right. It is not an exact science, as one economist told me.

However, Britain does stand at a cross roads. To one side there is the EU and greater European integration; to the other, British exit from Europe.

What does further integration mean? It means we agree wholeheartedly to the ambitions of the EU. Does that mean we allow free movement? Yup. We cannot control immigration from Europe any more than Alabama can control immigrants from Texas. That is one of the key principles of Europe, as Chancellor Merkel has reminded Call-Me-Dave. This is a problem. Down here in the west country our schools already suffer from too many languages, and we are having to expand our towns beyond the servicing capability of the water supply and treatment companies. Britain has a diminishing power capacity, yet we’re increasing our population and demands on the National Grid. Be that as it may, we need nurses, doctors, and other workers, so immigration will continue, whether from Europe or elsewhere. I would prefer to see immigration based on merit rather than residence in Europe, but we will have immigration.

However, the other implications of throwing ourselves headlong into Europe are more key. They are almost diametrically opposed to what we were told in our last referendum, which, we were told, was to join a common market and no more. The pound was safe, the pint and gallon secure, our legal system inviolate, we were told. This time, if we vote Remain, make no mistake, the British people must accept the end of much that makes their countries unique. The pound sterling will go. The British legal system of common law will go. The British army will go, and with it our independence. Perhaps these don’t matter in the 21st Century, but they have served Britain well. Our legal system now serves America, Canada, Australia and many other countries equally well. I would miss it. In its place we will have the Napoleonic system. It is no worse, probably, but it is different.

Next, there is the argument of “shared” sovereignty making Britain stronger, allowing her to “punch above her weight”. This is nothing more than fatuous dishonesty. It is a ridiculous invention. The idea that giving up our independence and allowing our views and national interests to be blocked by foreign nations in Europe somehow enhances our position in the world is a contemptible falsehood. The independence of Britain depends on her place in the Security Council of the UN, her large economy and power, both hard and soft. If we remain in Europe, our military will be subsumed by an ever-growing European government, our economy will, I think, probably reduce as more and more control is taken by Germany, and our permanent seat at the Security Council will go. We will be significantly diminished in the world.

Perhaps that would be good. We should accept that we are only a small territorial offshoot from a great continent, no longer an empire, and give up the remaining trappings of power: cancel Trident; reduce our army; stop supporting American policy as a matter of principle (the “Special Relationship” is a one-way street and only exists when America has a need for our military, generally); and throw our lot in as a senior, influential part of a new European state. There would be logic to that.

However, it does mean that we will be forced to support one of the great disasters of the Union: the Euro. There were clear rules of entry to the Euro, and it was stated that no country would be able to fudge them. Except they were fudged.

It was blatantly obvious that Greece did not meet the entry requirements, but as soon as the Euro was launched Greece was included, and German bankers flew to Greece waiving the strict German regulations on banking loans, lavishing money on clients who would never have been allowed such generosity in the days of the DMark. When the banking crisis hit, and Greece could not pay her debts, the EU put in an administration to guarantee that Greece paid German interest. The cradle of democracy taken over by bureaucracy. Greece might as well not have bothered with her battles for independence from the Ottomans.

If we stay, we will join the Euro and we will become jointly responsible for that currency.

What is the alternative option for Britain?

It would mean returning to the big, wide world, where we can decide to trade with America, India, China, or any other nation. Instead of being bound to a European Union that is declining, or at best growing only lethargically, we could deal with countries that are growing. And, like anyone who is self-employed, that means taking a punt. It means gambling. It is a big, unknown world out there. But a small, agile country can react to world trade faster than a bureaucratic monster.

So, that, for me, is the main implication of the referendum: we need to choose between full membership, which means engaging fully in Europe and not whinging about every decision we don’t like, or comi

Many British are European

Many British are European – Arras

ng out completely and returning to independence, whatever the risks.

Would Britain outside Europe be immediately stronger and safer?

No. Outside Europe we may have more control over our destiny. We will be able to choose which markets which we wish to deal in. Would that make us stronger? No one knows. I may not be an economist, but I do know, as I said before, that economists are very often wrong, no matter what they argue.

I certainly do not believe the ever more panic-stricken campaign of terror being waged against Brexit. I most certainly do not believe the Cassandras warning that cataclysm and international collapse followed by World War Three will inevitably follow. The EU will not cut off its nose to spite its face. It will be irritated to see such a large amount of annual income disappearing, but Europeans are pragmatic. They won’t want to lose access to the fifth largest economy in the world. Nor will America, whether under Trump or Clinton.

If Britain votes against remaining in Europe, the first result will be that Europe will sneer that we are too ill-educated, that we didn’t understand what was at stake, and that we need to be asked to vote again, as were the French and Dutch when they rejected the new EU constitution in 2005, or the Irish when they rejected the Lisbon treaty in 2008, after suitable reeducation. Then, hopefully, they may renegotiate, and this time seriously (Call-Me-Dave’s pathetic chat earlier this year was embarrassing).

And that is the problem I have with Europe, I think. The patronising attitude towards their electorates. It is the nineteenth century conceit: the aristocrats knew best, the plebs are too uppity to know what’s in their own interests. I still remember my rage when I heard the patronising tones of the arch-europhile, Ken Clark, telling a reporter that he couldn’t imagine anyone bothering to read the Maastricht Treaty because it was so long and boring. He voted for it, which was surely an abdication of responsibility, if he spoke the truth.

In the Victorian era, the grand advances of empires meant statesmen looked for ever larger units of trade. The British Empire was superseded by the American, and European nations eyed their wealth jealously. After the two World Wars, Europeans looked to the model of larger, safer trading areas, and the idea of the European Coal and Steel Community was born. Later this became the European Economic Community.

This is a very European solution to a problem that existed over a century ago. Europeans, traumatised by two hideous wars, made a firm decision to avoid conflict. To do so they created a superstate run by a all-powerful bureaucracy of officials. But those officials are not held to account. Even when whistleblowers (Dorte Schmidt-Brown, Marthe Andreasson, Paul van Buitenen etc) highlight failings, fraud or corruption, they are as likely to be punished as those who were guilty.

Corruption is hardly new behaviour. Dishonesty and misbehaviour in public office are not new. God knows, Britain has its fair share of mendacious politicians and bureaucrats.

Still, my own tipping point is coming down to the politics. In essence, how much safer or less safe does Europe make us and the world?

Some years ago, Edwina Currie spoke about when she was an MP. There was a government policy at the time to close down lunatic asylums and introduce care in the community. These were good aspirations (and made a lot of money from sales of land, of course), but Edwina was surprised when she was met with a blank silence when she asked what was the minimum number of beds that were needed? Not all mentally ill patients could be safely thrown on the streets: how many would need to be kept incarcerated? No one could answer her.

Europe has at its heart the opposite problem: a determination to expand. But there has to be a limit. What is it? Has anyone actually thought of this? Should the limit be political, geographical, cultural?

And meanwhile this ambition, I believe, is making the world vastly less safe. Putin is keen to recover the national pride of Russia, and he has achieved a great deal. When Europe entered negotiations with satellite countries of the USSR and brought them into the EU trading zone, Russia was not happy. When Europe and Russia confirmed the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up her remaining nuclear stockpile, that was before the EU started to bring the Ukraine into the EU’s sphere. Russia could not swallow that. Consequently we now have the disaster of an on-going war in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s theft of the Crimea. Russia will not accept being hemmed in by the EU.

Am I therefore convinced that we should pull out of the EU? No. I’m still weighing up the potential benefits of both options. But I’m not going to be swayed by the increasingly inflated, outrageous, facile or blatantly dishonest comments of politicians who are determined to fight a campaign based on Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

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35 Responses to “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – a Campaign of Dissimulation and Distortion”
  1. Ralph Spurrier says:

    Michael – I suspect you probably DO know how you will vote next month. In that indefinable space within our head that is called “the soul” (for want of a better word) everything you describe above in your well-argued polemic leads you to Brexit. All the arguments over economics and the like are, as you say, delivered to us either by those who have a vested interest (from large business corporations right down to academia which takes large amounts of funding from the EU) or who talk down to us as “buffoons and idiots” who shouldn’t be allowed to decide our own future.
    I too have been dubbed a Little Englander and much worse on those very odd occasions I have ventured into the social media political scrum and I find that inability to engage on an iintelligent level of discussion quite dispriritng.
    I came to my decision many many months ago. LEAVE. And take back the pride in a country that led the world in so many areas of innovation and invention over the centuries.

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  2. Jack Eason says:

    I’ve never been in favour of the EU Michael. My father’s generation fought for a free Europe in WWII. The EU is nothing more or less than Adolf’s totalitarian thousand year reich, controlled by Germany… I say ‘Out’. ;)

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  3. glenheadland says:

    Well said, Michael. I, too, am now a “Little Englander”. I shall be following my heart on voting day and they can make of that what they will!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very well put. You have captured many of the points very well. For me the overriding principle is that of self determination. I will not give that away to a non-elected foreign bureaucracy. I am voting leave.

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  5. loren bell says:

    out!!!! lol.

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  6. Ruth says:

    Well said. Armageddon will not descend whichever way we vote. As a small business owner I see the EU up close and personal, just 5 minutes ago I had to read an unintelligible document on EU changes to card payments. Meanwhile the euro and schengen are collapsing… You really couldn’t make it up!

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  7. Very well argued, Mike. The best reason I can see for staying in is that Putin and ISIS want us out. But why? Because they’re afraid of a strong Europe? Like the one that was so effective when Yugoslavia fell apart? Or has a clear and winning policy against ISIS? Or which acted swiftly and decisively over Ukraine? “Swiftly and decisively” may be the key words here; the EU is a massive, schlerotic and unelected bureaucracy. And incredibly expensive.
    It’s worth reading what we were told we were voting for in 1975, and comparing that with what we got.

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    • I’ve been trying to find a copy of the original promises, but sadly my filing’s not that efficient – i.e. it’s all in the loft (somewhere). I do remember reading George MacDonald Fraser’s excellent Quartered Safe Out Here, which had a list of the things he and his comrades fought and died for in the Burma campaign, and had very little to do with the aspirations of a Greater Europe.Europe is definitely not noted for its skills in foreign policy. As you say, the disasters of Srebrenica and other towns are a testament to the failures of the bureaucrats. I just wish we had some statesmen.

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      • I have some of the original pamphlets – from both sides. There’s a lot of vague verbiage and little to get your teeth into.
        In summary, we should stay in, the Yes camp said, because (I quote):
        It makes good sense for our jobs and prosperity.
        It makes good sense for world peace.
        It makes good sense for the Commonwealth.
        It makes good sense for our children’s future.

        In 1975, we were voting whether or not to stay in, following a ‘renegotiation’.
        The No camp said (I quote):
        The present government, though it tried, has on its own admission failed to achieve the “fundamental renegotiation” it promised at the last two general elections. All it has gained are a few concessions for Britain, some of them only temporary. The real choice for the British peoples has been scarcely altered by renegotiation.

        The Yes camp gave a page on ‘Britiain’s Choice’. It warned that “some want an isolationist Britain with a ‘siege economy’ – controls and rationing.” [their words, not mine]. It said “Some want a Communist Britain – part of the Soviet bloc.” [Yes, seriously, it did say that.] It went on to claim that America didn’t want Britain closer to America, the Commonwealth didn’t want us closer to the Commonwealth, and the European Community didn’t want us half linked to Europe as part of a free trade area. They all wanted us in the Common Market, as it was then.

        The No camp’s page, “The Right To Rule Ourselves” could be run again today with barely a change. “…already a bad bargain…it sets out by stages to merge Britain with France, Germany and other countries into a single nation… the Common Market increasingly does this by deciding our policies on food, prices, trade and employment…Under the Treaty of Rome, policies are being decided, rules made, laws enacted and taxes raised, not by our own Parliament elected by the British people, but by the Common Market – often unelected Commissioners in Brussels.”

        40 years later it seems that little has changed. The same old arguments, the same lack of specifics, the same dire warnings from both sides.

        As William Goldman said of Hollywood: “No one knows anything.”

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      • So we still have the same complaints. Not good, really.

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  8. Gary Wild says:

    I’m for out, I didn’t vote for what we have now, an unelected EU leadership. That’s not democratic at all.

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    • If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the EU is not democratic. THat’s one of my biggest fears for the future of my children.

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      • knotrune says:

        Interesting article which has made me think, if I comment it will be later after more thought, but I do want to just note in response to this that our country is hardly a proper democracy! That is part of my concern about leaving Europe. We need a thorough voting reform, the way things are now most people’s vote doesn’t actually count if you really examine it carefully. If you are in a ‘safe seat’ and would rather vote against that party, your vote does not really count for example. And what of ‘tactical voting’? We should never have to do that, we should be able to vote for the representative we want to represent us. I could write a whole essay on voting reform and this is not the forum for that, but I do not feel that this country is a true democracy.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Lesley says:

    Michael, I’m with you on this subject. Lots of arguments for and against, a lot of Politicians telling me what to do, when even their own behaviour is questionable. Lots of predictions with little facts to support them. Which way to go? Not sure but I’m going to give it some serious thought.

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  10. isoltblog says:

    I’m undecided too about which way to vote. What I am certain of, is that scaremongering & mud slinging by politicians and others with vested interests will not win my vote either way.

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    • The way the campaign’s being driven, I find the whole lot pretty offensive. I was always told as a salesman never to slag off the opposition. This bunch seem incapable of opening their mouths other than to slate the opposing camp. The worst of the lot is Alan Johnson. He’s managed to put me off more that even Osborne.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. It is so hard to decide, no-one knows for sure what will happen whichever way the vote goes. At heart I am not so much a Little Englander as a True Brit, and love the diversity of cultures in our nation. Working in the NHS has meant immigrants have been colleagues for many years, and what lovely interesting, and kind people they are, we need them. But then I hear about the immigrants of Rochdale grooming white girls for nefarious activities and I want them all exported (or shot!)toot sweet! I don’t want to be run by faceless bureaucrats from Europe, but I also don’t want to be run by a ruthless upper class set of Tories that gives no thought to workers rights, or disabled and disadvantaged people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Convention_on_Human_Rights
    is something that needs a great deal of thought about losing. And I also can’t help thinking, that in essence a unified Europe is a good thing to be a part of, but it is flawed, we all know that. But shouldn’t we vote in people in our own country who can play a bigger part in helping to make it better and stronger? I dunno…decisions decisions.

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  12. Steve Wyatt says:

    Very succinct, Michael. I agree that people should vote with their heart (or gut, as you put it) … but I know which way I shall be voting!

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  13. Lindsey Russell says:

    I’m for out. People have been told their jobs are at risk if we come out but the way things are going I can’t see those jobs being any safer for staying in when the whole thing is on the point of unraveling. At least if we’re out we’ll be in control of how we tackle putting it right, And my ears pricked up at your mention of water. The younger generation have no memory of the drought of 1976 when reservoirs were drying up and people were collecting water from stand pipes and watering their gardens with water that had been used for washing and using water from washing up to flush the loo – true it happened during a long hot summer but are people prepared for it to become the norm? The in camp talk about risk as though it’s a bad thing but some risks are worth taking, some can pay off big time.

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    • Yes, I remember those days too. The trouble is, politicians today have no idea of anything other than politics. At least in the past we had men like Healey, Eden and others who had served in the army and understood planning and management. Nowadays there were all too few who have competence in different fields. Uni, SPAD, then into a safe seat does not make for efficiency in government. And with global warming, we will suffer water shortages before long, just as we will soon be forced to accept reduced electricity supply because we do not have the capacity for the present population. Add to that the lack of available land for the crops we need, and basically we are in a mess.

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  14. knotrune says:

    Unfortunately, the decision is not going to be made only by the likes of us, who think deeply about all the issues and try to consider what really matters. The decision will be made also by a lot of people too busy or whatever to do more than vote by a kneejerk reaction to the rubbish being spouted by either side on telly. I do wish the media were not allowed to spew forth the biased drivel they do, but could only provide well thought out and balanced information which would actually help people make a sensible and informed choice, whatever that may be!

    Although I will consider carefully and vote according to my conscience, I am left worried by either outcome. For me, it cannot be an economic decision, so I have to ignore all such arguments. As you point out, economics is so imprecise they cannot be sure what will happen either way. I am deeply unhappy with how this country is currently being run, from how they treat the disabled to the fracking debacle and much else besides that I would fear being cut free from Europe and left just to their not so tender mercies. And I have many friends from different countries in Europe who live here and now feel unwelcome. I do not want the Euro though!

    I am currently still coming down on the side of staying in, but I now have enough reservations that if it goes the other way I hope to feel more curious than terrified. I am certainly troubled by anyone having a problem with someone who has not made their mind up yet – the issues are so complex that I think it a more intelligent position to be undecided or uncertain than 100% behind either position!

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    • I do so agree with your comments. Anyone who comes down wholeheartedly on one side or the other really hasn’t considered the consequences of the decision. It’s a question of the state of the world, of Europe, of Britain’s position in the world inside or out, how democratic Europe is compared with the UK (which is a dismal comparison) and what is likely to happen to our children inside or out. No one has a monopoly of wisdom on this.

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  15. Ms. Mary says:

    Just want to say ‘Congratulations!’ to England for leaving the EU. A nation’s sovereignty and self-determination have won over bureaucrats and irresponsible ‘buck-passers.’ I’m a US citizen, and was not happy about our President’s remarks. Sincerely wishing you the very best. God bless England.

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