The Spectator Coffee House has hit form again. At a time when Dave and friends’ Doomsday assertions re the possibility of Brexit acquire the genuine comic value inherent in seeing highly educated and intelligent people knowingly talk drivel, Coffee House has two excellent posts.
Firstly, various ‘names’ give their views. Setting aside Bob Geldof (Remain) and Joey Essex (Undecided), the best bit is by one of Scotland’s genuine stars, the composer Sir James MacMillan**. He doesn’t take a position, so much as ask questions. They are absolutely relevant. Here they are:
- After 1989 why have the European elites failed to denounce the immorality of Communism?
- Why have the same elites supported the likes of Yasser Arafat and the Iranian governments?
- Why are extremist parties well supported and why is anti-Americanism on the rise in Europe?
- Is it true that productivity is declining in mainland Europe?
- Why is EU-style democracy not good enough?
- Why is their bureaucracy so unwieldy?
- Why do the European elites hate Christianity?
- Why is anti-semitism on the rise on the European Left?
- Why is Europe committing demographic suicide, failing to reproduce its populations to sustain their expensive welfare, health and pension systems?
- Why does Europe look like it has given up hope in its future?’
Forget the Tory internecine wars, which are a childish EU referendum-induced distraction but loved by the media, these loaded questions are not even remotely being addressed by the Inners.
On the same day, brainiac Noel Malcolm, fellow of All Souls writes an elegant and comprehensive piece on sovereignty and leaving. If only the standard of debate from the government was this high. A key selection:
For me, the most important issue is the one that flows directly from these problems: the loss of democracy. This huge artificial structure would indeed be paralysed if all decisions required unanimity. But once our laws and policies are made by EU majority voting, we begin to sacrifice the most precious thing of all: the principle that those who make our laws and rule us are chosen by us, and can be removed by us. European elections, and tinkering with the so-called democratic deficit in Brussels, are entirely beside the point here, as the EU is not, for any of its member populations, the primary political community, the ‘demos’ on which genuine democracy is based.
Most advocates of a Remain vote simply ignore this issue. Some contrive to suggest that it is just a matter of accepting technical regulations for the single market — whereas the range of EU law-making does in fact go much further than that. And some like to imply that if people do not want to put themselves under a supranational government, they must be harking back to a nostalgic (and probably right-wing) concept of ‘sovereignty’ which has no validity in the modern world.
Sovereignty is not in fact outmoded. But the term has become so misunderstood that it is probably better to put it aside, in this debate, and just talk about democratic self-government instead. I have yet to hear any leading Remainer explain why this valuable thing — which should be equally precious to both left and right — is worth sacrificing for the benefits, whether geopolitical or economic, that they think we shall get from staying in the EU.
In fact the array of opinion leading to a Brexit conclusion is pretty impressive and from right across the spectrum: Larry Elliott, Alex Brummer (1,2), St Augustine, scourge of the Clintons Ambrose Evans-Pritchard among others. Not only are these well made arguments, the quality and fun content of the journalism is much higher than that from the Remain camp, who are embarrassedly shackled to whatever nonsense Dave/the IMF/CBI/Treasury/Obama/Juncker etc etc are coming out with today.
It’s not that there aren’t cogent and persuasive reasons for being a Remainer, there are, but rather like in the Scottish Referendum, the separatists there (oddly allying with the Remainers now) failed to make a decent argument about sovereignty and belief, but rather opted for a pack of lies about the economy which has of course subsequently blown up in their face.
I can live with whatever outcome we get from next month’s poll, but it’s already clear that the intellectual weight and the necessary comprehension of history lie with the Brexit camp.
**author of probably the finest eulogy that I’ve ever read