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The Lexit ‘mythbuster’ that never was

This paper performs a significant role in ensuring the everyday lives, hopes, and fears of the millions of Labour supporters who voted Leave, are at the heart of the Brexit debate on the centre-left. One important conclusion to draw from the paper is that, by shaking up the political kaleidoscope, Brexit gives fresh impetus to a radical reform agenda which seeks to improve working-class living standards.’ - Frank Field, MP


 

‘Busting the Lexit myths’, the new paper from Open Britain (OB), contains some pertinent and accurate analysis, but sadly a fair few straw men and sleights of hand. Overall, it doesn’t do what it says on the tin - those ‘myths’ are still standing.

Busting the ‘Lexit myths’ entails demonstrating the following: EU democracy is in fine health, the EU’s treatment of Greece was fair and reasonable, TTIP was a great idea, the single currency is a sound economic project which has not devastated the lives of millions across southern Europe, the EU has not enforced austerity across the periphery, we don’t actually make much contribution at all to EU budgets, and the EU in no way imposes privatisation and market liberalisation. For all its gloss, research and considerable resources, the OB paper doesn’t achieve this, nor does it come close.

The OB paper is broken down into sections, ‘myths’, so we’ll respond in kind.

Sovereignty

Readers of the OB paper may note there is no section on either ‘democracy’ or ‘sovereignty’. This was the number one reason cited by Leavers in exit polls, both Labour and Tory, and the centerpiece of the Lexit (and Brexit) case. That OB have nothing to say on the issue at all is striking.

Many Remainers have shown an alarming disregard for basic democratic norms as long as the regime in question is one they sympathise with - the EU. That they feel compelled to mock and abuse those who do consider democracy important, and indeed risked some economic turbulence to protect it, is quite extraordinary. The EU’s technocratic disdain for the citizens of Europe is so central to its character, follies and history that any true debunking of Brexit arguments would take democracy as the starting point.

Instead, on this most fundamental pillar of the Leave argument Open Britain have nothing to say at all, and so we move on.

 

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Renationalising Rail

To start with rail, Dr Andy Tarrant omits some crucial elements from his defence of EU policy. It is indeed true that you can have state owned operators - we do already. But the question that Lexit ‘mythbusters’ always seem to avoid is this: could we reinstate British Rail, as an integrated, monopoly public service, under EU law, particularly with its Fourth Railway Package coming down the track? Could we reinstate British Rail? The answer is no. And far from busting this myth, the OB paper confirms it.

While Open Britain may favour marketised public services (and the broader regime of free market liberalisation and harmonisation that the Single Market enforces), the British public, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Leave would prefer to see rail returned to being a state owned entity, rather than simply a market in which state owned firms could compete. 60% of the public want rail state owned (YouGov, May 2017).

For natural monopolies the existence of a competitive market adds substantially to costs, above and beyond the gains from competition, which must be passed on to service users, the taxpayer, or both. In the last year before privatisation public subsidy for rail was £431m. By 2006/7 it had passed £7bn. This is to say nothing of the eye-watering fare increases.

Additionally, in the NHS you can see a demonstration of this unfolding in real time - for instance the NHS was recently sued for an undisclosed sum by Richard Branson, one of Remain’s chiefs, over the awarding of a contract. There are inherent and substantial structural costs to marketised public services.

Tarrant wisely chooses to talk mainly of freight rail over passenger rail, because the British public know well the joys of marketised passenger rail - which the EU’s Fourth Railway Package will soon be enforcing on the continent. Many of the current operators of British rail are indeed European state owned (or backed) firms - Abellio, Trenitalia, and so on. So it is clearly not simply a question of who owns rail companies, but whether those firms are competing in a market or operating outside the market system that determines their form, cost base and ultimately their value for money and fairness. Open Britain backs the current market system for rail, we do not, and under the EU legislation in question a Labour government could not reverse it.

If this is all a “myth”, Tarrant has not shown why, but has rather moved the goalposts. He has not shown that you can have an integrated state owned industry, but that you can have state owned operators in a commercial market. As Alex Gordon and Jonathan White wrote last year:

“Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to bring passenger rail services back into public ownership as rail franchises expire and repeal the 1993 Railways Act, which privatised our railways… Yet the Fourth EU Package of Rail Liberalisation Directives embeds an identical competitive structure to the 1993 Railways Act introduced in Britain, in order to open up domestic public rail services to compulsory competitive tendering across all EU member states and regions by December 2019… This rules out reconstruction of a coherent, integrated public monopoly responsible for passenger and freight services, rail infrastructure and public accessibility, such as British Rail.”

Don’t take our word for it, ask the Leave-backing RMT - who, Open Britain seem to suggest, just don’t understand their own industry.

 

 

Busting the austerity myths?

The Open Britain paper goes on, it purports, to bust the myth of EU enforced austerity. Its first ‘Labour Leave’ quote is questionable for precisely the reasons OB set out (this was in fact an open letter including, amongst others, Labour Leave signatories). The chief problem of austerity in the EU context, as Guinan and Hanna correctly describe and as Labour Leave set out in the campaign, is on the periphery. That doesn’t make it irrelevant to the UK Brexit debate - far from it.

Putting the EU’s treatment of Ireland, Cyprus and Portugal aside, its appalling destruction of Greece is an instructive case in point, resting as it does on two fundamental faults of the EU: its increasing capture by corporate interests, particularly finance (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, CitiGroup and JP Morgan all put big money into the Remain campaign), and its absurd single currency which has ruined the lives of a generation of young people across southern Europe.

The bailout of French and German banks by European taxpayers and the brutal austerity enforced on the Greeks for the same purpose make clear the extraordinary power that Germany, and to a lesser extent France, exerts over the EU as a whole. The banks come before citizens when push comes to shove. Merkel and Schauble had no qualms whatsoever in using the EU as their personal fiefdom.

“Europe is becoming a continent where force matters more than law. Germany forced Greece to accept a programme that will destroy its economy and strip its state of assets for the next 50 years.” (Paul Mason, 2015)

But of course the Greeks’ problems were severely exacerbated by the inherent problems of the single currency: their inability to devalue and the limitations of the ECB. Only in the EU will you find an ‘independent’ central bank which, rather than maintaining liquidity in the financial system, proactively instigates a bank run for crude political objectives - as the Greeks discovered in late 2014.

The governor of Greece’s central bank, an arm of the ECB, “predicted” that markets were facing a liquidity squeeze, implying that a Syriza victory would render the banking system unsafe – a statement that would be inane were it not calculated to start a bank run.” (Varoufakis, 2016)

The single currency is a prime example of the EU “project” coming before reason, common sense or the livelihoods of European citizens. While it serves as a wonderful subsidy for German industry, it has proved quite catastrophic for poorer nations in fiscal difficulties. The rate of youth unemployment is 43% in Greece, 39% in Spain and 35% in Italy. So the EU’s sins of austerity must be understood in the context of the Eurozone crisis - they are not an excuse for what the Conservatives have inflicted on Britain, on this we agree with Open Britain.

However, that Labour Remainers think these issues are of no relevance since they did not take place in Britain is a strange argument for those who profess a commitment to internationalism and pan-European fraternity. The Open Britain paper merely says ‘it didn’t happen here, we’re alright Jack’, and then goes on with the entirely different point of whether Leaving would ultimately help or hinder the public finances - a topic well beyond the scope of that presented in their paper which, understandably, takes a rather one sided view on the question. Remainers do not have a sparkling record of economic forecasting - we are now supposed to be, if you recall, mired in deep recession and ‘punishment budgets’.

The EU’s treatment of Greece alone was sufficient moral cause to vote Leave - not everyone views Brexit as a question of trade deals or percentage points of GDP, which in this brave new world are the progressive causes of the day.

So, is it a ‘myth’ that the EU enforces austerity? No, it’s been a brutal and inexcusable reality that utterly shames the EU. But if we shift the goalposts, again, then yes - OB is correct, the EU is not really a factor in UK austerity, it’s just wreaked untold misery across southern Europe.

We’d like to think some of the more aggressive Remainers would take the time to read Varoufakis’ Adults in the Room - a more obscene indictment of the EU it is hard to imagine. Alternatively, watch Paul Mason’s superb documentary, #ThisIsACoup. It might make them pause, if even for a second, before smearing 17m people as bigots again.

 

State aid

The OB argument here is a now familiar but misleading one: there are restrictions on state aid under the WTO as well, so the EU’s restrictions are not a valid issue. The reality is that the EU’s rules on state aid are much more restrictive than the WTO’s, so while it is true Britain will not be entirely free of such rules, they will have much more room to act.

“EU state aid rules are a lot more stringent than WTO subsidies rules. First, the default position in WTO rules is that subsidies are generally allowed, while EU rules consider subsidies to be generally illegal. Second, EU rules also apply domestically, while WTO rules only concern themselves with international trade. Third, EU rules are applied prospectively (i.e. legality must be proved before awarding any subsidy), while WTO rules are only reactive, and are only triggered if a member country lodges a complaint. Finally, under WTO rules, only ‘financial contributions’ count as subsidies, whereas EU rules look at assistance in any form, whether financial or not.” (House of Commons briefing note)

No mention is made in the Open Britain paper of these differences, which are fundamental to the question at hand and seriously undermine their argument.

State aid is simply another in a long line of areas - including privatisation - where the EU acts not as an enforcer of social democracy, but of aggressive neoliberal expansion.

“The extensive Commission-funded PRESOM (Privatisation and the European Social Model) study by academics from twelve EU countries concluded that “the EU has taken over from the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and particularly from the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) the role of the avant-garde and driving force of further liberalisation and privatisation”. (Guinan and Hanna)

Some may interpret “avant-garde and driving force of further liberalisation and privatisation” as ‘kumbaya social democracy’, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call more orthodox readings “mythical”.

Where we do agree with OB is that EU rules on state aid, as in many other cases, should not be used to obscure the faults of the British economic model and the choices of Westminster and they are absolutely right to draw attention to this. But it is not an either/or proposition.

So is it a ‘myth’ that the EU’s rules on state aid are much more onerous than those of the WTO?

No.

 

Immigration

The supposed ‘myth’ of free movement is shown to be anything but, because, as the OB paper clearly states, the grounds on which people can maintain their stay are so broad. Nations’ ability to remove people are consequently extremely limited - in theory and even more so in practice. Rather than fight a losing battle, the paper moves on to argue that free movement of EU nationals is economically advantageous, and on this they are broadly right.

EU migrants, in general, have excellent economic performance in the UK - in pure economic terms a clear benefit to the economy as a whole, not to mention their significant cultural contribution (beyond simply teaching us how to cook). However, this broad brush approach overlooks much that matters to ordinary people: wages, access to housing and public services, working conditions and the social fabric: no society has a boundless ability to absorb new people. These problems are exacerbated by the often highly uneven labour flows causing severe localised pressures. Hot labour can be just as challenging as hot money. Most of these issues are not addressed by the paper.

It is often argued that mass migration has no impact on housing shortages or prices, for instance, yet Osborne argued quite openly that leaving the EU would see house prices drop by 10-18%. Regardless of what is intellectually fashionable both housing and labour generally operate according to supply and demand, and the imbalances between the two.

There is a reference to a popular LSE study claiming mass migration has had no impact on wages. You can find studies arguing the opposite case, like this from George Borjas at Harvard, which argues that the demand curve for labour is “indeed downward sloping”: “An immigrant influx that increases the supply of workers in a particular schooling-experience group by 10 percent lowers the wage of natives in that group by 3-4 percent, and reduces weeks worked by 2 to 3 percent.”

It is not always an easy subject to track for academics, but business leaders - those who actually hire people and pay their wages - are fairly clear. Take Michael Rose, chair of the Remain campaign, who was swiftly removed from the public eye after saying leaving the EU would see wages rise. He made the entirely banal economic point, or at least it would have been until recently, that if Brexit leads to restrictions on EU migrants, then “the price of labour will, frankly, go up”.

A curious aspect of the mass migration debate is how, on this topic alone, the lived experience of those struggling at the bottom of society - including migrants themselves - is entirely disregarded. Academic studies showing market liberalisation to be a win-win for everyone are also, on this issue alone, taken as gospel truths. In Professor Alan Johnson’s brilliant essay on why he was voting Leave, he quotes the following:

“I know a painter/decorator who has not been able to raise his wages for 15 years. There’s always someone else, he says, willing to work for less. A driver who arrived from Turkey 18 years ago, who says the bus companies used to pay more than £12 an hour, but can now pay £10 or less because they have so many takers (and yes, the irony is noted). A care-home cleaner in a rundown seaside town who reckons her hopes of ever getting more than the minimum wage are zero. Each blames an influx of workers from the EU. Each of them are voting out. Tell them the EU protects workers’ rights and they just laugh.

“When companies launch recruitment drives in eastern Europe they blame skills shortages in Britain. Really? If a big business wants to hire, say, drivers on £25 an hour, it will find it can do so easily; what they really mean is that they can’t find people willing to work for £10 an hour or less, with antisocial hours to boot. Meanwhile, workers here rejecting low wages are told they are lazy, chavvy and feckless when they refuse to be part of the so-called ‘jobs factory of Europe’.”

And who was he quoting here? Not Farage or Gove, but Patrick Collinson, money expert at The Guardian.

In Barnett’s Lure of Greatness (an essential read for Leavers and Remainers alike) there is a memorable quote from Jonathan Portes in 2013, who said that migrants are “making the job market more competitive [and increasing] the incentives for natives to learn new skills”. This quote immediately strikes a chord when reading EP Thompson’s ‘Going into Europe’ essay on Britain joining the EU (then the EEC):

“For when an altruistic glint gets into the bourgeois eye one can be sure that someone is about to catch it … We can be sure that the things faced up to will be very different through the open shutter of the Dordogne and a bedroom window in Bolton.”

Millionaire columnists in north London, tenured professors, MPs and well heeled (and educated) grads understandably see huge benefit in the EU’s freedoms. What they have so far dismissed is the notion that things may look a little different from that Bolton window. The big question underlying all of this, of course, is who is the Labour party for exactly?

There is a reason big business has been at the forefront of lobbying for mass migration across the world - and it’s not because they ‘value diversity’. Bernie Sanders has been a long time critic of mass migration precisely because of its effect on the bottom end of the labour market: “There is a reason that Wall Street likes immigration reform… What I think they’re interested in is seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor into this county." (Sanders, 2015) Ha-Joon Chang, an economist popular on the left, said in his superb 23 Things Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism:

Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else, including any minimum wage legislation. How is the immigration maximum determined? Not by the ‘free’ labour market, which, if left alone, will end up replacing 80–90 percent of native workers with cheaper, and often more productive, immigrants.”

Clearly, some see importing a population the size of Brighton every year as wholly positive with no negative effects at all - hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals can all be thrown up as needed. As poll after poll shows, however, most of the British public don’t agree. This YouGov poll from 2015 is fairly typical: 76% want immigration reduced, 4% want it increased. Yet the majority do not want it stopped - so it makes little sense to call them “anti-immigration”, and even less “anti-immigrant”. They want democratic control, not sealed borders, and the vast majority understand that none of these structural tensions are the fault of migrants themselves. For most Britons ‘migrants’ are also their friends, colleagues and often partners, and those migrants themselves also express high levels of concern over further migration.

Had the EU taken a much slower approach, ensuring higher levels of economic convergence before pooling labour, the picture would be very different. British anxieties over migration are entirely in line with other EU nations, many of which record even higher rates of concern.

Corbyn understands that there are tricky economic realities beyond the abstract appeal of ‘free movement’, saying last year that while EU immigration would continue, “What there wouldn't be is the wholesale importation of underpaid workers from central Europe in order to destroy conditions, particularly in the construction industry.”

Those arguing to remain in the single market have no effective response because free movement means, with very few exceptions, free movement. 500m minus “very few” is still an awful lot of people with the legal right to move where they choose - though often painless and beneficial, economically and culturally, it can also cause real issues.

So to conclude, OB do not show free movement to be a myth, rather they just think it’s a good thing - which in many respects, it is. What they fail to engage with are the downsides.

It should be added that, far from being a central myth at Labour Leave, we made the decision to largely avoid it and focus on the issues outlined in our introduction above.

 

The NHS

The alleged myths here are that free movement has put strains on the NHS, that by leaving the Single Market we will save contributions which can be spent on the NHS, and that the EU’s TTIP deal risked privatising the NHS. While a lot of sound points are made by Galsworthy, none of the above are actually refuted.

TTIP is brought up in defence of Remain, which is by far the most surprising element of this OB paper. TTIP is one of the most sordid episodes in the EU’s history, and Trump’s election was a significant factor in TTIP’s alleged death.

The facts of the matter remain extremely damning for the EU: it tried to sign the continent up to one of the biggest corporate raids in history. It did so in extreme secrecy, our own MPs were not even allowed to view the text of the deal, and it took extraordinary kickback from the people of Europe - and the election of Donald Trump - to kill it off at the eleventh hour. Even the UN was ringing the alarm bells, with a senior official warning, “We don’t want a dystopian future in which corporations and not democratically elected governments call the shots. We don’t want an international order akin to post-democracy or post-law.”

And yet TTIP hasn’t been killed off, it is lying low, being repackaged, while the EU continues to look for a route forward. The new Trade in Services Act, TISA, may be the Lisbon Treaty to TTIP’s ‘European constitution’ (though one assumes the EU won’t be demanding free movement between all the signatory countries).

The EU has indeed provided many NHS staff as the OB paper sets out, though it doesn’t address the demand side issues that free movement creates. Next year we could have 50,000 or 300,000 arrivals from the EU, we don’t know, but what we will require is sound facilities and capacity for their treatment. This holds true for mass migration in general - infrastructure is slow and costly to build, yet people flow is often rapid, highly fluid, localised and unpredictable. That is a fundamental mismatch for any society with social democratic aspirations.

It is frequently said that Brexit is draining the NHS of EU staff, and yet there are over 3,000 more EU nationals working in the NHS today than there were before the Brexit vote. Nor is it asked why such a wealthy country as Britain should be reliant on bringing in medical staff from abroad - often from poor countries who have funded the training. That’s nothing to be proud of. For instance, it is estimated that Romania lost around 10,000 doctors in the 7 years to 2014. The medical student quoted says more than half her class plan to leave for wealthier European countries.

As for Brexiteers not giving a damn about the NHS, this is a little rich given some of Open Britain’s most high profile supporters were key architects and enablers of the NHS carve up.

So while we have some sympathy with Galsworthy’s piece and he raises important issues, the NHS simply isn’t a key part of the Lexit argument, and nor have the ‘myths’ described been shown as such.

 

 

Employment rights

As the paper itself concedes, in many areas the UK exceeds the rights the EU offers. If the EU is what is stopping this race to the bottom it is surprising that, despite a Conservative (led) government for the last 8 years, so many of these rights remain in place. What prevents the Tories slashing away at rights is an archaic practice known as elections - something the EU wisely avoids, unless it’s for a talking shop like the EU parliament.

If it is the EU that secures our rights, what is the point of trade unions, the TUC, and indeed the Labour party? The achievements of the British labour movement have been all but erased in the ahistorical and misguided quest to convince the public that without the EU we’d all be washing dishes at 30p an hour. The vast majority of our rights belong to the labour movement, not the EU.

It should be added that employment rights for the EU are often a fair-weather aspiration - when casino bankers need bailing out or when businesses have profits threatened, workers’ rights can be very much up for debate. Powers of collective bargaining are being eroded across the periphery while the Viking and Laval cases before the ECJ demonstrated both what freedom of movement really means to the EU, as well as how much it values your right to strike.

In both instances, workers attempting to strike in protest at plans to replace workers from one EU country with lower-wage workers from another, were told their right to strike could not infringe upon the "four freedoms" – free movement of capital, labour, goods, and services – established by the treaties.” (Guinan and Hanna)

So the notion that workers’ rights under the EU are absolutely guaranteed and set in stone simply isn’t true. As in other areas, the EU does what is expedient - whether it’s ignoring its own treaties on bailouts or removing workers’ rights where it deems necessary.

Doug Nicholls, chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU, describes the left’s embrace of the EU as “the most puzzling thing I’ve ever seen happening in the labour movement since I got involved in the 1970s”. While the union leaderships mostly fell in behind Remain the rank and file was a much more mixed picture.

So, yes, clearly the role of the EU in workers’ rights has been overstated - but that is not to say there aren’t specific areas where the EU provides greater protections. There just aren’t many of them. As even the pro-Remain FT conceded, Brexit simply isn’t going to have much impact on labour rights.

 

The Environment

The OB paper is entirely right to suggest the EU has thus far shown a stronger commitment to environmental concerns than Westminster - no argument there. But the idea that the environment was a central pillar in the Lexit argument is, as most people know, just not true.

A win for OB here.

 

Trade deals

In brief, it is argued that EU trade is so vital to the UK economy that the Single Market, the customs union and the EU’s trade deals are all indispensable. The EU’s vast size gives it the necessary clout to achieve such deals. We will, apparently, lose up to 30% of UK trade by leaving the single market. An astonishing figure, as it would require an almost complete collapse in trade with EU nations solely due to our exiting the single market. Astonishing because nations like China and the US do huge amounts of trade with the EU - from outside the single market and without a trade deal. In 2016 alone the Chinese exports to the EU totalled EUR 345bn.

Not only has the EU’s share of global GDP been falling but so too has the proportion of UK exports going to the EU, down from 61% in 1999 to 44% in 2015. Given the self-destructive nature of the single currency project, shackling ourselves too closely is not necessarily smart. The EU’s size does indeed give it advantages in negotiation, but also problems: getting the agreement of 27 states is not easy as all have their own specific markets to protect, which is what results in messes like the CAP.

Given Britain’s substantial trade deficit some figures on the realities of our EU trade are pertinent. With the EU, we have a trade deficit of £71bn. With the rest of the world, a surplus of £34bn. And yet apparently it is the introduction of generally low tariffs with the EU that will be the death of the economy. In similar vein, the cheaper pound post-referendum is treated as a terrible blow - the exact opposite is the case. It is not clear that, for Remainers, the nation’s huge trade deficit is an issue at all; developments which will work to bring that deficit down are attacked as calamitous.  

Britain’s service based economy is simply not well served by the EU, despite its substantial contributions to the budget. There is no functioning single market in services. It should be added that most British firms do not actually export to the EU, and yet:

“...while inside the single market, all UK businesses, not just exporters, must adhere to the entire range of the EU’s often onerous rules and regulations. This piles extra costs onto the 92–95 per cent of UK companies that do not export to the EU.” (Lyons and Halligan, Clean Brexit, 2017)

As to the ‘myth’ cited that the EU is not good at striking trade deals, it is often trotted out that the EU has signed plenty of them. Which it has. But the key issue is not how many it has struck, but the value of the economies it has struck them with.

A relatively small economy like Switzerland, for instance, operating alone, has signed trade deals with nations boasting a combined GDP of $39,800 billion. That’s more than five times the $7,700 billion value of the economies covered by EU trade deals – despite, or perhaps because of, the sprawling Brussels trade bureaucracy… Chile, South Korea and Singapore have also struck extensive trade agreements with partner economies, their trade deals covering markets worth a combined GDP of $58,300 billion, $40,800 billion and $38,700 billion respectively. Again, these are all significant multiples of the total size of the EU’s signed-up trade partners.” (Lyons and Halligan, Clean Brexit, 2017)

So specifically on the competence of striking trade deals, clearly, the EU is not especially capable - balancing the demands of such diverse economies simply isn’t easy, or quick.

On a wider but critical point, the obsession with hyper trade liberalisation is an unlikely new crusade for the left. Many seem to have adopted the marketeers’ dogmas that what’s good for GDP is good for Jenny and Joe Bloggs, while ignoring the factor of winners and losers. Aditya Chakrabortty, one of the country’s most consistently interesting writers, noted in 2015 that “Instead of raising living standards across Europe, monetary union is pushing them downwards. Rather than deepening democracy, it is undermining it.” As the economist Dani Rodrik set out at length, the removal of tariffs pushes down wages at the bottom end in advanced economies as production moves to where wage costs are lowest (the single market is a great example of this: either you move the low cost workers to the capital, or the capital to the low cost workers).

And yes, we appreciate the theory on ‘what happens next’ and why this is all so much for the better in the long run, but after 30 years the reality on the ground simply hasn’t reflected the elegant visions of Chicago economists. If it did, Remain would unquestionably have won the referendum and Clinton would be in the White House.

So firstly, no the EU isn’t great at signing trade deals and the OB paper does little to demonstrate that it is. But more broadly, where is the left’s critical appraisal of the realities of trade liberalisation and globalisation? Islington Man and Davos Man are now hard to distinguish.

 

Conclusion

There is much to agree with in OB’s paper and none of the issues under discussion are straightforward. Yet it simply isn’t honest to call all these issues “myths” - as demonstrated by their inability to effectively debunk them. What have they done instead is raise related and mostly relevant issues which people should be aware of when assessing Lexit arguments - of course there are counter arguments, and OB set them out well.

The current fashion for Lexit “mythbusting” is not only a little patronising to the millions of people who voted Leave with these issues in mind, from Labour, the SNP, the Greens and even the Lib Dems, but also to some of the left’s own big beasts. While history has swiftly been rewritten, figures to put forward a case for Lexit publicly either throughout or until close to the vote include Owen Jones, George Monbiot, Paul Mason, Larry Elliott and Aaron Bastani. Not to mention Tony Benn, Gaitskell, Attlee, Peter Shore, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle and many more, whose arguments against the EEC apply tenfold to the EU.

Maybe they too are dupes and bigots, or maybe, despite OB’s efforts to the contrary, there are many forceful reasons for voting Leave - just as there are for Remain. To see such serious issues blithely waved away just won’t wash.

 

Labour Leave shares a number of viewpoints from external commentators, both Leave and Remain, without necessarily endorsing any of the viewpoints therein.


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