Melanie Phillips believes that leaving the EU will enable us to ’rule ourselves and make our own policies’ (see her article here). Unless she wants the UK to be some kind of imitation of North Korea, that would be folly. Every civilised country accepts that there are gains to be made by sacrificing some sovereignty. Membership of NATO for example imposes an obligation to defend a fellow member state in exchange for the assurance that a country will be defended, if attacked by a non-member country.
Melanie maintains the fiction that “the EU needs us more than we need them”. This is a gross misunderstanding of the dynamics of trade negotiations. These are predicated on market size. A country with a market size of only 64 million (the UK) will always be at a negotiating disadvantage as against a continent more than ten times that size.
Melanie says that “Remainers have no confidence in their country”. This is clearly nonsense. Remainers simply believe that staying in the EU is better than leaving – and that view is supported by 88% of economists surveyed as well as countless institutions – IMF, OECD, Bank of England, IFS, LSE, CBI, TUC, NIESR – to name but eight. And saying that the IMF predicts 2017 growth stronger than that in France and Germany is very misleading since it neglects to mention that the IMF cut its UK forecast by nearly a full 1% because of the Leave vote. And the 1.3% forecast for the UK is only fractionally above the 1.2% forecast for France and Germany!
Melanie says that “Remainers still insist that Brexit is proving an economic disaster”. They do not have to ‘insist’ – just look at the data – like the CBI Business Optimism index which registered its sharpest decline since Q1 1974, falling to -47 in Q3 2016 from -5 in Q2. Then she resorts to unsubstantiated derogatory assertions about Remain voters (“They are still disdaining Brexit voters as being too stupid to have understood the issues”). And Remainers “don’t rate democracy as being that important”. Of course they do – they just don’t think that democracy is adversely affected by EU membership. “Remainers think of themselves as European rather than British” – another argument without evidence. “They [Remainers] tend to be emphatic in their belief in British powerlessness and vituperative in their denunciations of Brexiteers as bigoted and ignorant.” This is ludicrously wide of the mark. Remain supporters believe that the sacrifice of some sovereignty involved in EU membership is well worth it. They may not understand the thinking of Leave voters but the move from that to suggest that they denounce “Brexiteers as bigoted and ignorant” is – again – an assertion without evidence – which moreover denigrates Remain voters.
Wrapping yourself in the Union Jack and suggesting that Remain voters are somehow less patriotic than Leave voters might be a suitable strategy for 7 year olds in the playground but it really does not belong in a debate about what is best for the future of the UK.