Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Is there a Green case to be made for Brexit?

It feels a bit weird politically, to be on the same side as George Osborne over the EU Referendum. Weird also to be basing my conviction that Remain is best because the consensus of major economic institutions is that if we choose Brexit, we will be screwed economically, for a number of years to come.

The major economic institutions warning of this scenario being: IMF, World Bank, OECD
Bank of England, Monetary Policy Committee, Treasury, IFS, Confederation of British Industry,
Standard and Poors Credit Agency.

These are not persons with whom we instinctively agree. These institutions are all influenced to a greater or lesser extent by neo-liberalism, the pernicious ideology that believes that whatever the question, the Free Market is always the answer.

Brexiteers point out that some of these economists also advised us to join the Euro. It would be helpful if they could say which ones did and which did not? Can't have been very many. I recall a lot of people saying that it was daft to go for monetary union without fiscal union.

Over and above the problem with neo-liberal influences, the weakness of all these economic institutions is that they are working in an old framework. They all share the delusion that economic growth is necessary for economic health, despite the undeniable mathematical fact that it is impossible to expand forever into a finite space. They share the belief that it is better to allow the banks to create 95% of the world's money, although a tiny glimmer of light shows up from time to time. They share a common blindness to the fact that unemployment is a grossly inefficient market failure, given the amount of good work that needs to be done to help society and environment.

So the economic authorities are not infallible, but they most certainly are less fallible than Boris Johnson, Michael Govey, Nigel Farage, Nigel Lawson, Old Uncle Tom Galloway and all.

And we can recall that these institutions are run by professionals, some of whom take professional pride in what they do, and they are commenting on a specific point in their area of expertise - "What would happen if Britain pulled out of the EU?" - so that the answer is easier to work out than an indeterminate question like "When is the next major economic crash due?"

So the Brexiteers have lost the economic argument. We can perhaps concede them the migration argument. Brexit would probably lead to a lessening of migration, not least because no-one would want to come to a Britain stuck in an economic recession (no jobs) with BoJo and Govey at the helm.

And yet...would it be Greener to turn our back on the advice of growthist economic institutions? Would it be Greener to go it alone, seeking sustainability and democratic subsidiarity here on our little green island, trying to meet our needs and trade with the big world as best we could, with our balance of trade deficit trailing along behind us like a broken mast and rigging?

If the politicians calling for Brexit were all ecologically awake, it might be possible to take a  look at a Brexit vote. But the truth is that Jenny Jones is the only notable green that I know of who is pro-Brexit. Boris Johnson, Michael Govey, Nigel Farage, Nigel Lawson et al are all, and it pains me to say this, right wing nut jobs. Most of them are climate change deniers into the bargain. So given that in the event of a Brexit majority Cameron would resign, and the Tory Party would choose a new Prime Minister to rule us, so that the Government would make a sickening lurch to the right, if such a thing were possible.

All this is enough to put any sentient being off voting for Brexit.

Our only hope in this case would be that the people would suddenly wake up to the fact that they have been taken for a ride by a bunch of fruitcakes, so that they stop buying right-wing newspapers, and take to the streets in an Arab Spring style revolution. Hmm. Tempting. But it is very difficult to so a positive outcome to said revolution. We would probably lose because the Police and Army would side with the regime, and even if we won, revolutions tend to lead to chaos, which leads to the emergence of a Strong Leader. Which would not be good.

So, try as I might, I cannot see any tactical case to be made for a Green Go campaign.

1 comment:

Howard Lane said...

The trouble with the immigration argument is that it isn't particularly relevant. It's easy to whip up Brexit support from racists and xenophobes, and anyone who believes that immigration is having a bad effect on jobs, public services, housing etc. But actually our social and economic problems are much more fundamental and will not be solved by right wing nationalists and isolationists like Farage, Gove and Boris grabbing power. They will almost certainly be worsened.