Over the weekend I watched two household names dodge logic and truth and declare themselves for leaving the EU.
George Galloway, a perennial contrarian, stood onstage with Nigel Farage and, as in the Scottish referendum, invoked the glories of a long-gone Britain, standing alone against the might of fascism. Aside from his unprovable claims that he would have been first in line to defend the UK and the dubious historical accuracy of such a statement, his argument was essentially that we could become the great trading nation
we once were, that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would no longer be a reality.
Does he really believe that the Conservative Party, a party he proudly claims to have spent his political lifetime fighting against, will suddenly become all social-democratic and cuddly outside of the EU? That the workers’ rights, consumer rights and citizens’ rights that we have thanks to the EU will simply be untouched, treated as part of British culture? This is a party which has said it wants to repeal the Human Rights Act!
Additionally, his view of international trade is totally defunct. We always hear how nimble and agile the UK would be outside of the EU, making deals to suit us with the great powers of the world. Again though, Boris and George have both forgotten that we no longer have an empire, and we will soon be overtaken by growing economies. We are an island nation of 65 million people, with little manufacturing and a service-dependent economy, and we seek to trade with – as equals – China and India with more than 1 billion people each, and economies streaking ahead, the USA and Russia with 350 million and two of the largest and most developed economies in the world, putting up increasing trade barriers, not to mention the idea of a ‘special relationship’ with the Commonwealth.
Boris Johnson, standing outside his home in London and causing a headache for David Cameron, harkened back to the notion of sovereignty, a concept that a nation or people is free to choose the law which governs it.
Legally, Boris doesn’t have much going for him in a best case scenario. In a case called Factortame, a seminal case in British and European law, judge Lord Bridge reminded us that the sovereignty of the British parliament is still absolute, we have only chosen to relinquish it as long as we are members of the European Union. This logic has been picked up on by both the German and Italian Constitutional Courts.
Politically and economically however, he has no leg to stand on. As mentioned above, we live in a multi-polar world, in which we are confronted with growing economic and military powers. Sovereignty, as pointed out in the Economist, in the 21st century is always relative. We can’t impose our will on others, so why cut ourselves off from our friends and try to go it alone? Especially since, as I have mentioned before, the Out campaign doesn’t seem to have a clue what the UK will look like post-Brexit.
It’s time to deal in hard facts, not just wishful thinking.