Back to: Rise Of The Trollbot | Forward to: FAQ: The Laundry Files--series timeline

The unavoidable discussion

Right now, the British (and by British I mean London) press are currently obsessed with a single topic: the up-coming BRExit referendum on June 23rd, asking whether the UK should leave (or remain in) the EU.

(This topic is somewhat less visible in the Scottish media because we have a general election coming up on May 5th. Campaigning is currently frantic, with Labour and Conservatives scrabbling to come second, the Scottish Greens (not the same as the English Greens) looking to upset the Liberal Democrats in fourth place, and Pat Robertson presumably saying "I knew it". But I digress.)

I already blogged about the BRExit referendum back in early 2013, when it was still only an idiotic twinkling in David Cameron's eye, and I still maintain that it's basically just an internal Conservative Party power struggle—the stench of hypocrisy and opportunism hangs over the contenders. But I'm not going to bore you with arguments I already went over years ago. Instead, I'd like to kick open a discussion (noting the presence of lots of non-British readers on this blog: I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside) with two observations I didn't make the previous time round.

Firstly, the London-based press (who are overwhelmingly europhobic, mostly because they're owned by rich white billionaire tax exiles) are moaning about the Project Fear arguments deployed by the "stay" campaign. What they seem incapable of recognizing is that the fear, uncertainty, and doubt-based arguments directed against the BRExit campaign are identical to the arguments the pro-Brexit press were hurling at the Scottish Independence campaign during the Independence Referendum of 2015, because the proposed courses of action are equivalent. It appears that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as well, and I'm coming dangerously close to overdosing on schadenfreude at the sight of conservative politicians who spent 2015 tub-thumping in the bully pulpit on the subject of how hard it would be for Scotland to maintain trade and travel and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world suddenly having to reverse themselves and defend their position against exactly the same arguments.

Bluntly: any argument that against Scottish Independence from the UK that merited consideration also works as an argument against British Exit from the EU.

Secondly, as with the Scottish Independence referendum, it's not about money. Most of the arguments being thrown around boil down to whether the British voter will be financially better or worse off in event of the BRExit vote passing. This is because most British voters are stupid, greedy, and think in the short-term (so, no different from anyone else) and this is therefore the lever that political campaigners like to pull.

But the UK and the EU are both about rather more than money. In the case of Scottish Independence, the argument was about the continued domination of a distinct Scottish national identity by a political agenda set from afar, by a caste located in the South-East of England. (For an American analogy: imagine if you lived in Massachussets or Washington but your political frame of reference was dictated from Mississippi or Alabama, without representation.)

And in the case of the EU ... the EU isn't really about mediating European arrest warrants or reciprocal rights of residence or setting standards for power consumption by vacuum cleaners. The EU is the current incarnation of an institution established in 1947 to ensure that never again would the nations of western Europe go to war with one another. And it has been staggeringly successful: no army has crossed the Rhine river in more than 70 years, and this is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since before the rise of the Roman Empire. This is the dog that doesn't bark, and therefore doesn't make the news. Some of you might point to NATO as being the instrument of peace, but I disagree: the existence of armies means that war is still possible, but it's the EU that has largely removed the motives for war.

I submit that breaking the institution that has given Europe the longest period of peace in recorded history would be a mistake—especially in pursuit of a goal as parochial as a Conservative Party leadership struggle. There are plenty of things wrong with the EU, viewed from the right or viewed from the left. But if your house has rising damp, you don't deal with the problem by burning it to the ground; you generally look for ways to repair it.

628 Comments

1:

I'm not that sure the argument "it is NATO" is so easy to dismiss. After all, for all the EU means, the big reality of the 20th century, which was where most of those 70 years are, was "choose what provider of nuclear security do you want". None of the countries of Europe could really prioritize their particular interest in pursuing any conflict with another while marking themselves as outsiders and troublemakers on the whole are you with the US or with the URSS conflict. "Crossing the Rhine" would be a suicide, or having to go to bed with somebody you did not want to.

Now, what was the real weight and role of the EU on the peace and what can be its role now, not sure. I was a very vocal Europhile as 99% of Spaniards were; look where it took us.

I fully bought all the ideas that the EU represented a better stage for European civilization, to get over our petty differences and start building something that represented the best of us. Now we have it as a group that decides it is better to leave brown people to drown as a warning for others not to come here, and negotiates with disgusting petty tyrant-wannabees like Erdogan to "solve" the issue of said "invasion" of desperate people.

So... I dont know. My knee-jerk reaction would be "Oh, the british making noises about leaving, what a surprise" but right now there are so many questions about what, really, should the EU be... of course leaving it would not work in any way to fix it, but ... can it be fixed?

2:

while marking themselves as outsiders and troublemakers on the whole are you with the US or with the URSS conflict.

You missed France pulling out of the NATO command structure in 1997 1967? (IIRC they only rejoined in the 1990s.)

You also missed the recent mutterings -- whether black propaganda or genuine leaks -- about Putin strategizing to weaken the EU?

I think the whole concept of a Europe-wide institution has enemies, mostly on the right (I consider Putin to be a classic right-wing strong man; see also Marine Le Pen's recent offer to campaign in the UK for BRExit). Some of these enemies are enemies within, right-wing authoritarians installed to push the agenda of local right-wing administrations -- right wing governments tend to go for nationalism in a big way.

3:

From my own wildly parochial viewpoint, I'm giggling about the number of "rah, isn't the UK great" politicians who seem to have forgotten about the existence of one of the UK's constituent countries, and therefore that an exited UK would share a land border with an EU country.

I'm starting to think the average British political thinker can't work in fractional islands.

4:

Umm, didn't the French just remove their nukes from the NATO command structure? And either your dates are wrong, or they dropped out *after* the collapse of the Soviet Union.

5:

I happened to be talking about this yesterday to a German now resident in the UK. He's probably 35 to 40, and while still in Germany, spent several years as some kind of financial assistant to an MP for one of the Länder. Here are some of the things he said:

1) It's lunacy. Once out of the EU, Britain will have no political influence.

2) British farmers will lose money, because the Government will not replace the subsidies they no longer receive from the EU.

3) British expats living in Spain and other EU countries will have problems with their benefits. It's lunacy that Cameron has not stated what exactly will happen to them. It's also lunacy that he's not said what will happen to residents of other EU countries now living in the UK. There are 3.5 million of these, so it would not be practical for the Home Office to make them all apply to continue living here.

4) Banks and other financial services all have contingency plans for BRExit. Because it takes such a long time to do things such as moving tax arrangements between countries and transfering money from one portfolio to another (*), the banks and other services will start doing this as soon as the "No" vote is announced. In other words, they'll start pulling out of the UK immediately, even though there's a three-year period before arrangements made with the EU itself cease. So the economy will suffer immediately. (*) My acquaintance said he had experience of how long these take while working for his Land.

5) Being in the EU means we have the right to police the refugee camps in France. After BRExit, we won't. Will the French let us, or do it for us? Will they buggery! If it means they can push the problem onto our soil, they'll be only too glad to make it as hard as they can for us to stop these refugees getting to Britain.

6) For similar reasons, smuggling will become easier.

I also believe we should stay in, but the above are all my acquaintance's views, intact as far as possible.

6:

The recent mutterings are worrisome, yes, but precisely, they cant be tied to the 70 years of peace because we are living in the post-Cold-War world

Which may be a very good reason for why we would need an EU now to keep the peace, if it works. Just saying that, France stuff notwistanding (and yes, that was worrysome), if you ask me what was the main reason for those 70 years of peace, the EU was going go be second place at best.

7:

Indeed. The EU may well be a good way (or part of a good way) of avoiding war between the countries of continental Europe.

However, the UK has a rather substantial water barrier between itself and continental Europe. Which makes a big difference. Saying that the EU stops France and Germany having at it does not necessarily mean that the UK ought to be involved.

Incidentally, there are those who say the UK should never have got involved in WWI; if we had not, the war would have been over a lot sooner and Britain might have much stronger links with the rest of the Commonwealth, or even possibly still have an empire - and the British Empire was a force for good in the world, IMHO. It wasn't perfect, but no human institution ever is.

Again IMHO, the biggest problems of the EU are corruption (fifteen years since the accounts were signed off!) and a severe lack of democracy. Were the EU governed by a federal parliament of some sort, democratically elected and with actual power (similar perhaps to the original idea of the USA, with semi-independent states in a loose confederation) I would actually be in favour of the EU.

With its current structure (governance by a corrupt bureaucracy with no accountability, with a parliament as a cover for the corruption) I am most definitely not.

8:

As working in the finance industry in EU I view the British lunacy as just that. Any country that wants access to the inner market will have to implement all EU regulation. Norway currently has a better agreement than the UK can hope for outside the EU and they still have to implement all EU regulation. The difference is that Norway has no say in what legislation is passed in Brussels and Strasbourg.

The UK will get a worse agreement as Paris and Berlin will like to stop any other countries thinking to leave. Probably they will give access to the inner market, but of course they will require adherence to immigration rules and other less popular things. Then they might force the FX (currency exchange) business related to the EURO from London to Frankfurt (or even Paris) if it does not move of itself. London's biggest industry is, I think, Finance...

So it is impossible to understand why the British are thinking of leaving now that they are part of the club.

9:

Possibly a purposeful genocide in Australia.
Institional child murder by neglect in Canada.
Basically just being better at being violent drug dealers than the Sinaloa in China.
Firing into a crowd for 10 minutes in India.
[Insert stereotypical "800 years!" Irish person rant here. Let's go with the burning of Cork, why not.]

This is the output of less than 5 minutes of Googling British Empire atrocities. Basically, [citation needed].

10:

You forget the European Parliament which is very powerful nowadays. Then the council and the commission are elected officials, but indirectly. Most of the EU is relatively open although not as open as some of the member states.

Then that is an argument to enhance the EU, not to quit. As Charlies fine text put it: you repair houses rather than burning them down without having a replacement place to live.

11:

As an Australian I see the Britexit as being driven by underlying neuroses that the sun will never set on the British empire, and that some pinko commie Eurocrat will force dogs to live with cats. Rather than it being driven by financial concerns.

Should Britain leave the EU the Farrage et al are going to have to look for a new bogey man to scare the electorate with. My money's on Muslims, but how successful that is, is anyone's game.

And speaking of Muslims, if anything is going to break the EU it'll probably be the mass of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Sadly the tide of compassion is turning against them, and right wing politicians from Norway to Spain are stoking the flames of xenophobia everywhere.

12:

UK leaving the EU might actually advance the cause for Scottish independence.

13:

Currently living and working in the UK. Since I moved here every office I've worked in has had a majority of people from other EU countries. A lot of UK companies would probably collapse or face major problems.

I wouldn't be ejected for various reasons but I can only imagine the chaos if nationals from other EU countries had to leave and the UK had to suddenly absorb a few million expats.

At a stroke millions ejected from their jobs and homes and millions more suddenly jobless british people ejected back to the UK.

I think it would be stupid to exit but the little tiny part of me which stares fascinated at big fires kind of wonders how beautiful the chaos would look.

14:

UK and finance, someone has alluded to banks pulling out above. jobs and associated spending & taxes are one thing.

A bigger issue is the macroeconomic numbers. The UK's debt relative to its economy is large but currently dwarfed by the financial flows powered by the banks in the City.

What happens if/when the EU banks in particular pull out? And a lot of the finance flows appear on some other country's books?

If the EU in order to manage its finance sector puts the cuffs on banks operating in the UK and the finance sector dries up the liquidity sloshing around the City?

15:

In 1975 I voted to stay in the Common Market because I thought it was a good beginning to a United States of Europe. I had to do a deal with the devil since the posters on my car and flat came from the Conservative party.
I haven't changed my opinion.

16:

One of my old teachers had an old quote, I'm probably not getting it quite right but it was along the lines of

"The wronged never forget, the culprits never remember"

Talking to people who grew up through the British school system they covered remarkably few of the misdeeds.

The British empire has a lot to answer for, just for a hint: nazi Germany didn't invent the concentration camp, they copied the British empires Boer concentration camps.

Some of the countries that were part of the empire gained infrastructure and sewers but they almost all gained mostly-artificial and intentionally engineered cultural conflicts. It was part of standard operating procedure in the empire to help control remote nations: split the locals up, give one group something to lose if the empire was kicked out then stir the pot of tension.

The existing state of hostilities between Pakistan and India is pretty much directly attributable to british empire policies.

The empire also killed millions through mismanagement such as the Bengal famine. Then there's a few full on genocides.

As you'd imagine these aren't the most uplifting things to teach to British school children. Much better to talk about the origins of the crown jewels.

17:

the biggest problems of the EU are corruption (fifteen years since the accounts were signed off!)

Stop right there! This is an urban legend repeatedly propagated through the (right wing) London-based press. It's not actually true, though.

18:

"The EU is the current incarnation of an institution established in 1947 to ensure that never again would the nations of western Europe go to war with one another. And it has been staggeringly successful."

I've been pointing this one out to pro-Brexit idiots a lot lately. You'd think they'd realise that the costs of the EU are infinitely less than even a minor war, but no...

19:

OMG. I've been falling for (and parroting) that line for years. New site to bookmark.

As regard's Fletchers other comment I think you can look at democratic in 2 ways. Do the voting mechanisms give the appearance of democracy? Do the bodies constituted by those vote enhance democracy? If we look at the EU through that lens we see it tends to act as a brake on our more extreme local parliaments - particularly in the realm of privacy and personal liberty. The EHCR is the prime example of that in spite of what the papers and Dave try to tell us.

20:

BRexit is a non-issue in the USA. To a first approximation, nobody knows and nobody cares, because all our attention is used up until January.

On a second look, nobody cares because there are no obvious consequences to the USA either way. The UK has pounds or Euros... will that change? Most USAns are unclear anyway. The UK is an ally, and they speak English, mostly with weird accents. USAns can't tell the difference between Irish, Scots, Welsh and Cockney any more than they can distinguish Australia from its island territories Tasmania (isn't that in Africa?) and New Zealand.

We also don't know what's happening up in Canada, except that they are all socialists and they elected some kind of millenial hippie as their new president-minister.

21:

s an Australian I see the Britexit as being driven by underlying neuroses that the sun will never set on the British empire

Yup. It's the reactionary wing of the Tory Party in full cry; the in-house leadership provided by ambitious greasy pole-climbers like BoJo who see it as necessary in order to winkle Cameron out of Downing Street before 2020. BoJo will be 55 in 2020, which is getting dangerously old for a first run on Number 10. This is his last, best chance of getting his feet under the PM's desk while he's still young enough to enjoy it.

Should Britain leave the EU the Farrage et al are going to have to look for a new bogey man to scare the electorate with. My money's on Muslims, but how successful that is, is anyone's game.

That's already a noisesome subtext of UKIP policies; a bunch of their support comes from the right of the Conservative party, and a somewhat smaller but even more loathesome corner comes from the former BNP/NF fascist right. That's what originally sent Cameron running to the right; the fear that if he didn't play immigrant-phobia/EU-phobia/xenophobia in general as a policy platform, the Tory right could actually peel off and join UKIP as an insurgent party, much as the SDP peeled off Labour and joined the Liberals to form the LDP in the 80s.

It was short-term expedience, in other words, driven by internal Tory splits -- but it's now driving UK-wide policy. Feh.

23:

UK leaving the EU might actually advance the cause for Scottish independence.

What do you mean "might"?

There are two possibilities that right now look possible:

a) England votes for BRExit. Scotland and Wales vote to stay, but with 6% of the votes between them, the margin isn't enough to overrule England. So England drags Scotland out of the EU over the wishes of the Scottish electorate.

If this happens, Nicola Sturgeon has already flagged it as possible grounds for another Independence Referendum -- one which, on current polling, the SNP would win, if their platform involved an explicit "out of the UK, back into the EU" plank. Oh, and expect the previous EU opposition to Scottish independence to go into reverse (the Spanish opposition was based on it setting a bad precedent for the Catalonia question: with that gone, backing Scottish admission to the EU would be an easy rebuke to the Little Englanders).

b) Less discussed: Scotland looks likely to vote to stay by a much wider margin than England. What if England votes to leave by a narrow margin -- but it's so narrow that a resounding Scottish "stay" vote carries the day?

At this point, England will be kept in the EU by Scotland. And I would expect the Conservative party and UKIP to suddenly focus obsessively on how to either bring Scotland to heel (UKIP's current policy: roll back devolution) or eject Scotland from the UK ASAP.

24:

I wouldn't be ejected for various reasons but I can only imagine the chaos if nationals from other EU countries had to leave and the UK had to suddenly absorb a few million expats.

Worse: most of the EU nationals in the UK are skilled workers. But most of the UK nationals in the EU are pensioners. So we'd be swapping skilled workers for non-producing dependents.

25:

On a second look, nobody cares because there are no obvious consequences to the USA either way.

Given that BRExit might lead to the collapse of the EU, the largest democratic trading bloc on the planet (and, IIRC, the USA's largest overseas market), it might matter just a little bit. But hey, storm clouds on the horizon on a sunny summer's day.

26:

While they're doubtless all lying (they're politicians after all) every time a pro-Brexit campaigner trots out the party line about paying the EU ~£360M/w they are just lying through their teeth. Thanks to the great heroine of most of them, and the rebate her government organised, the weekly bill is actually £277M/w. The IFS estimates the net contribution is appreciably less than half of this at £110M/w when you take into account direct grants to government (for agriculture, poor regions etc.) and grants to university and industry. (The reason it's an estimate is that the reporting of the second is a bit harder to add up because it's not directly reported in the same way.)

The difference between the Scottish Independence Referendum and the Brexit Referendum is the clarity of the change vision. You may or may not have believed in a land of milk, honey and thistles under Alex Salmond but even here in rUK we knew what his vision was. We also knew what the stay campaigners were after. The EU vote is nine weeks today. I know what I get if vote with Callmedave and Gideon. No one has yet articulated a clear picture of what I get if I vote with BoJo and the Poisoned Gnome.

I have an pre-existing opinion but I'm willing to be swayed if there is a good enough argument put forward. However, I'm rapidly running out of patience with the whole bloody lot of them. There isn't an debate - the Remain campaign makes statements that in any other time we'd look at and consider, and it gets dismissed as bollocks and "Project Fear" and there is nothing substantial from the Leave campaign. Every independent body that speaks gets dismissed as "got at by Project Fear" if it says anything that is at all critical of leaving. It's a cat-fight of politician statistics on one side vs hyperbolic name-calling (applauded by the so-called journalists in the cheap seats) on the other.

I will vote, because I always vote. But I'm going to vote despite the campaigns, they really are that bad IMO.

There are definitely problems with the EU. I have yet to see a convincing argument that leaving improves our situation, whether I look at boring things like the economy and trade agreements that the politicians keep shoving down my throat, human rights and all the rest of it. And if we remain, we stand a far better chance of reforming things and improving them than if we're outside and they wander off but insist we have to obey their rules if we want to trade with them - just like Norway do. Or they keep us negotiating forever - just like Canada.

27:

I don't buy the anti-war argument. The last 3 times an army crossed the Rhine it was because of Germany being under the control of a megalomaniac, and France got shat on. (And before that it was the other way round.) Each time it happened was worse than the last, until it got serious enough to cure everyone of liking megalomaniacs and to make it clear that there are no real winners in such a war, just different colours of losers. I'm more inclined to put the lack of war down to countries' leaders finally getting it through their thick skulls that it's a bad idea rather than to the EU.

I don't respect the economic arguments because both sides are simply arguing over the best way to continue to support a fundamentally broken system. (It is fundamentally broken because its primary aim is not making sure that everyone has the food, shelter etc that they need. Instead its primary aim is to let people make money, and provision of food and shelter is just sort of assumed to happen automatically. Which it doesn't, hence the need for palliatives like the benefit system - which itself doesn't completely solve the problem because it too suffers from the same kind of misdirection.)

I used to be in favour of getting out because I saw the EU as the cause of a fuckton of pointless and stupid bureaucratic/regulatory bullshit. But then I found out that that isn't actually true. Most of it is home-grown bullshit that just gets blamed on the EU because that's easier than thinking, and most of that which genuinely does originate with the EU we'd still have to deal with whether we were in the EU or not.

And some of it doesn't even exist - eg. the scare over the EU proposing to limit the power of kettles to "save energy" (even though it would actually have the reverse effect). Which turned out, when I looked at it, to be just the Daily Bloody Mail scaremongering off the back of the vacuum cleaner power limit (which does make sense) and everyone else failing to question it. The whole thing was made up.

The "out" crowd seem to be motivated partly by that same ignorance, and partly by anti-immigrant xenophobia. I can't allow either of those as valid reasons.

So I end up on the "stay in" side largely because there is no good reason not to. ("Change is inherently bad unless there is a bloody good reason for it" ;))

28:

That's another one you're falling for, I'm afraid; the ECHR has nothing to do with the EU - it's derived from the Council of Europe, a separate body with 19 extra members. So leaving the EU has no effect on the ECHR's ability to rule on British cases.

29:

I deeply, deeply resent being enlisted by David Cameron to vote for him in what is essentially a Tory leadership contest by proxy.

But I will hold my nose and vote against burning down the house (with us still living in it), and figure out some way to punish him (by proxy vote) at a later date.

30:

Ah - the EHCR is an example of "things falsely attributed to the EU". The "out" crowd don't like it, but they also don't realise that we'd still be subject to it if we weren't in the EU.

31:

It's reporting a Parliamentary Select Committee meeting. It's a matter of public record. You can watch it for yourself at parliamentlive.tv

tl;dw the facts he presents are accurate. You may or may not agree with the interpretation of the facts - I think it's pretty spot on.

32:

"You forget the European Parliament which is very powerful nowadays."

You forget that only the Commission drafts laws, and the Parliament only gets to vote on them if the Commission sees fit. Otherwise it's the Commission that runs the EU.

It is the single reason I will be voting "Out"

33:

The important difference between arguments for Scottish independence from England, and British separation from the EU, is that Scotland wanted independence in internal government *as a full participant in the EU*.

The Scots never saw it 'going it alone' the way the English do. In part, they saw it as a chance to be a better participant in Europe than Britain has been.

They certainly expect Brussels to be far less burdensome than London; or generally benign in every way that the London government is not...

...Which is not to say that IndyRef was about Europe: it was definitely about Scotland and self-government; but the reference point for how a similarly-sized nation finds its way in the world was as a small-to-medium nation-state within the European Union.

So: while any individual point of argument in IndyRef or Brexit may seem identical, or at least a close analogy, the context is quite different.

34:

I can't say I'm exactly overjoyed at the idea either, but I deal with it by (a) considering the matter as a larger thing than a purely Tory matter - even if the Tories are hijacking it - and (b) figuring that things can get worse than Cameron, and an anti-EU Tory leader would quite likely act as a demonstration of that.

35:

"the stench of hypocrisy and opportunism" -- if that doesn't sum up politics, I can't think of much better.

I came across an excellent Groucho Marx line that also does a nice job of summing up politics:
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble,
finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it incorrectly,
and applying the wrong remedies."

I'm not sure which election I'd rather be embroiled in: your Brexit or our presidential election.

36:

The trouble is, you won't vote against Cameron by proxy later. I'm pretty sure you've never voted for him. You won't be switching your vote from Scottish Conservative at the next election, and even if you were, it wouldn't be a vote against him, because he'll have fucked off to invest in offshore accounts without the hassle of having to speechify about how immoral they are.

I don't know about the Scottish Greens, but the rest of the Greens are pro-EU membership. The SNP is definitely pro-Remain. The Labour Party is officially pro-Remain. Forget all the Tories slugging it out (or enjoy the show of them slagging each other off) and vote positively with one of the other groups.

37:

That's easy. The Brexit campaign will be over in 9 weeks. If the vote is to leave we might have 2 years of pain sort that out.

I was bored of the Presidential campaign before Super Tuesday and you don't vote for another 7 months!

38:

I'm not quite old enough to have voted in 1975 but I feel much the same. Indeed, I maintain that I'm not getting offered my choice in the upcoming referendum - it's basically an option between slightly backing out or completely backing out, and neither of those seem particularly positive options to me.

I fear that Charlie is right though - it all depends upon which side can appeal best to the basic financial self-interest of the average voter, whether that self-interest is remotely accurate or not. The 2015 Conservative election campaign demonstrated how to do that to perfection.

At the moment, both Euro campaigns seem entirely geared around keeping hold of their old supporters rather than trying to persuade new ones, and I have no reason to suspect that this will change over the next couple of months.

39:

Apparently the British communists and marxists are in favour of exiting the EU:

http://www.communist-party.org.uk/britain/eu/2258-leave-eu-new-group-formed-to-fight-for-an-exit-left.html

As an Australian outside it looks to me that both right and left want to leave the EU because otherwise there's little possibility of change. The EU may look kinder and gentler than the USA but seems just as ruthless in enforcing the desires of the 1%. Ask the Greeks about the EU reaction to their attempt to get off the privatization and austerity roadmap.

40:

as a French sidenote, some historical background :

in 1966 France gets out from NATO's integrated command, while remaining in the Alliance

in 2007, France announces that it will fully take part in the NATO military structures.
After two parlamentary votes about this subject, in 2009 some 750 French officers are the integrated into the, er, integrated command structure.


In 2016, French National Assembly voted the acceptance of the Paris protocole, which marks the full integration of France into NATO.

At this time, France has not joined the NATO Nuclear Plan Group, and thus remains independant as for its nuclear capacity.

Well, sorry for my French, hope I was clear enough !

(and yes, it's a shame, but well ... )

41:

The argument that the EU is a major preventer of wars stands or falls not on whether this is true, but rather on whether there have been any potential wars to prevent.

I would contend that continental Europe has rather gotten over fighting as a way of settling differences, probably mostly through ageing population demographics. The only nations currently actively campaigning are those in the Middle East and Africa with populations much more skewed to the youthful, and aggressively enthusiastic.

With no potential wars to prevent anywhere in the Westernised areas of the world, pretty much any organisation can sit around and claim to have achieved a local peace. For all we know, the overall peacefulness of Europe might be down to the Milk Marketing Board.

42:

That's overly simplistic. Im not sure I would lay that at the feet of the EU entirely that was mostly a Franco/German agenda with an EU label, and less about the 1% (they have taken their money and run already) National Governments or their Supranational proxies (IMF etc) are holding most of Greek debt.

http://www.ft.com/ig/sites/2015/greek-debt-monitor/

You are correct on the possibility of change, stability in other words, extremists on both sides tend to seek to disrupt the status quo.

The EU has a large number of flaws immigration being the current bug bear, lack of fiscal controls on entry being another but over all I agree with Charlie, you dont fix things by burning them to the ground.

43:

The Cold War cost the regimes both sides of the Rhine a fortune in defensive spending over a period of several decades, probably more in terms of consumption of wealth than a real conventional war would have. Absent a politically unified Europe on the left side of the IGB it might well have devolved into a shooting war or three at various times.

The EU is a vaccine against war in Europe; the problem is the wars that were prevented never happened so people think the vaccine isn't really needed because there haven't been any wars so we can do without that icky unification stuff now. That's not how it works.

44:

By the same token I would question whether proportion of youthful agressive populations is a useful measure either.

Its generally middleaged or older politicians that drive countries to war.

Otherwise both Spain and Greece with stupidly high levels of youth unemployement would both be spoiling for a fight.

You could argue for instance that there hasn't been a major turkey/greece conflict for a long whilst as a result of the EU. Greece being a part, Turkey a massive trading partner and wanting to join.

45:

Thanks, that looks more like it.

46:

Be afraid, be very afraid. The Milk Marketing Board was dissolved in 2002.

47:

Aye, bloody good operational security there.

I'm just using them as a call-out to a fantasy author who uses a character who is convinced that the Milk Marketing Board are behind every major conspiracy in the world as a running gag.

This is generally a problem for anyone writing in fantasy; how do you make a conspiracy loon look sufficiently barking mad? Hence Pratchett's Retro-Phrenology, and Holt's Milk Marketing Board conspira-loon.

In truth I tend instinctively not to credit bald assertions of any organisation being actively promoting and maintaining peace unless there is actual evidence of a lack of peace where that body is not doing anything.

This parallels nicely with the anomalous drop in criminal activity in the developed world back in the 1990s. A confusion of the usual suspects claimed responsibility for this crime-fighting miracle: police, politicians, legalised abortion, alien green reptiles from outer space; they all got thanked for the drop.

One Jessica Reyes finally nailed it by statistically linking the phase-out of lead in gasoline to the drop in violent crime later; the results being especially strong because different parts of the USA banned leaded gasoline at different times, and this difference could be seen in the crime figures.

In that instance, we saw a parade of claimants to the honour of reducing crime, all of whom had good but not convincing evidence on their side, to be finally rubbished by an even better claimant.

The EU war-stopping claim may be viewed in a similar light.

48:

The EU as a vaccine against war in Europe? Great, sign me up?

But what if it only means that instead of being sent to die in Flanders, you're sent to die in Central Asia or the Congo?

Now regarding relations between the Land of Ire and a post-Brexit rump UK: in 1965 Sean Lemass and Harold Wilson signed an Anglo-Irish free trade agreement. I've not been able to find out if it still exists and would be enforceable, post-brexit, or if it got superseded by later treaties etc.

If it was still enforceable, it might give the big UK firms a post-brexit back door into the EU.

49:

Charlie,
BRexit is surely foolishness, but I'm confused by a couple of your discussion points. First, to what are you referring with respect to 1947? The North Atlantic Treaty, aka the Washington Treaty, establishing NATO was signed in 1949. The Congress of Europe in the Hague was in 1948, and the Council of Europe founded in 1949. The European Coal and Steel Community wasn't formalized until 1951. The European Economic Community wasn't founded until the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

I see the EU and NATO being complementary organizations. NATO provides for the common defense, and the EU builds the economic, political and regulatory ties that bind European countries together. I agree that the EU formalizes and reinforces the realization among EU member states that the costs of conflict far outweigh the costs of cooperation, but NATO without the EU does not have a "Europe" to defend, and the EU without NATO is still vulnerable to attack from outside the EU. Similarly, the costs of Scotland exiting the UK seem to outweigh the benefits of trying to improve their relationship with England (and Wales and Northern Ireland).

@2 You missed France pulling out of the NATO command structure in 1997? (IIRC they only rejoined in the 1990s.)

Not to mention DeGaulle kicking NATO out of France in the 1960s.

@6 "we are living in the post-Cold-War world"

Have you not been paying attention to what Russia has been doing for at least the last five years? If this isn't the Second Cold War, it's just because we haven't wanted to acknowledge it by naming it.

@20 "BRexit is a non-issue in the USA."

Maybe true on the pages of USA Today, but I doubt you'd get the same reaction from someone in the international financial sector.

@25 "Given that BRExit might lead to the collapse of the EU, the largest democratic trading bloc on the planet (and, IIRC, the USA's largest overseas market)"

Exactly why this matters to the US. I'm not sure that we can say BRexit will break the EU, but as another straw on the camel's back after the Greek default and the stress of Syrian refugees, it certainly wouldn't help.

50:

The EU has a large number of flaws immigration being the current bug bear

You'd think the governments would welcome a few hundred thousand refugees as a good practice for millions of internal refugees in the EU once the sea levels rise.

51:

Given the current Irish Foreign Minister is making "don't be so sure the Common Travel Area's secure" noises at Westminster, and that's been bedrock since the 20s... I don't like the odds.

52:

Being sent to the Congo (or Syria, or Iraq) to die is fine unless you're that unlucky soldier. The real win (for Europe at least) is 1/2Bn or so civilians in the EU don't get to die or have their financial and cultural lives destroyed by war passing by.

Europe has got one of the densest and wealth populations in the world, thus if we look at it very very coldly - economically - better them than us

53:

As a German I'm not too worried of the EU falling apart due to BRexit -- it's not that the UK government has a stellar reputation for being such a good team player and for being helpful at resolving conflicts.

The cost of BRexit for the UK depend very much on the trade negotiations after an exit. With the usual package as for Norway or Switzerland the UK shouldn't do too bad. OTOH, some countries could use the opportunity to settle some scores. For example Ireland might want to discuss the status of Northern Ireland before promising not to veto a post-exit trade agreement. Same goes for Spain and Gibraltar.
Any of the remaining EU countries could ask for some concession for supporting a post-exit agreement.

I'll take it as a given that Scotland will leave the UK in favor of the EU.

54:

At this point, England will be kept in the EU by Scotland. And I would expect the Conservative party and UKIP to suddenly focus obsessively on how to either bring Scotland to heel (UKIP's current policy: roll back devolution) or eject Scotland from the UK ASAP.

OMG, there is going to be a Referendum on independence from Scotland.

55:

From not-so-faraway Spain, the few conversations I've had about Brexit follow the line hinted by Andreas Vox. My generation had to witness Mrs. Thatcher's "negotiation" tactics, and Britain's constant opposition to attempts to strengthening the Union, opting out or dynamiting common policies.

So the more or less default conclusion is "probably they should never had joined in the first place, if they hate it so much".

56:

Given that even troops sent to Congo or similar places for 'peace-keeping' missions have been caught engaging in disgraceful behaviour - torture, sexual exploitation of minors etc. (and yes, this includes western troops) - I'm afraid I can't share your blithe spirit where this sort of thing is concerned.

Our grandfathers got sent to Flanders to die because inter-imperialist rivalries got out of hand (well not my grandfather, he was too young, but you see the point).

A united Europe might be peaceful internally - but if it is just one big power bloc among others (US, PRC) then what's to stop new inter-imperialist rivalries emerging, and getting out of hand (again)?

Then there's this sort of thing: EU mandated permanent austerity, the sort of thing that will allow the far right to clean up electorally (and the last time I looked, those lads weren't the most pacific of people):

http://triplecrisis.com/tscg-fiscal-rules-eu-mandate-for-bad-policies/

57:

(noting the presence of lots of non-British readers on this blog: I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside)

Basically comes off as an insipid nationalism slapfight that makes W's crap from the naughty aughties look downright reasonable.

Main cause for concern is that it stands to blow the markets (particularly sweating the London property bubble) which will A) bring about 2008 size calamities without sensible Keynisan policies to offset and B) Bring on President Trump come November.

It isn't making as much news over here as it should, but where it is it comes off like teenages showing how tough they are by smoking in a fireworks factory

58:

I'll be very surprised if Brexit passes, by the way.

What do the rest of you think?

59:

I think a big part of the debate in the UK is shaped by the relative historic uniformity of England (where most of the press is focused). England has been a unified political unit since the 10th century. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy are all much more recent inventions. France is in the same ballpark as England, but arguably its regions are much more diverse and politically distinct.

The UK is also the only European country with a "first past the post" electoral system, where coalitions are rare events. As a result, in the modern age, British governments have not had to learn to work with others parties whose opinions they don't share. On the whole, a British government can be more radical than a European coalition government.

These two factors mean that the English idea of what government is, and how it should work, is at odds with most Europeans. And the English see sharing sovereignty as something that's dangerous and wrong, whereas in many European countries, it's the natural state of affairs. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that's different.

60:

In the good old days, wasn't it traditional British policy to prevent any one power from dominating Europe? Does the EU count as that?

61:

The look of the political betting shops puts "IN" somewhere around 1/2, and "OUT" somewhere near 6/4 so it looks quite like Brexit isn't going to happen.

62:

I will never underestimate the ability of the English electorate to vote in the most petty, bigoted way possible, at harm to themselves.

63:

I hope it doesn't.

Last year's general election suggests opinion polls can get it wrong but the last few I've seen suggest that Remain has a small lead over Leave but there's currently a huge undecided camp. Even if they're wrong about the numbers by more than they were for the general election (the chances are largely in the direction of leave you'd think), the "Don't Know's" still hold the ability to just move the vote in entirely the opposite direction.

So, honestly I don't know. Received wisdom is that it's hard for a referendum to vote "yes" to change, so it's likely there will be a vote to remain, but I honestly don't know.

64:

Traditional British foreign policy with regards to Europe was to maintain the ability to fight two simultaneous wars with European nations, mostly at sea.

In times of peace it was "Wogs begin at Calais" and the foreign affairs focus was generally on the Empire. It's not for nothing it was known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as if the two areas of interest were distinct.

65:

Charlie
Your Scottish analogy (governed from Alabama) is false, but never mind - irrelevant under the circs ...

However, I have decided to vote "Out" but for somewhat unusual reasons ...

Here they are:
Europe's nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation. - Jean Monnet (30th April 1952)
Err, so all the economic "arguments are entirely false, on both sides.

"Immigration" may matter, but is entirely secondary.
Which is why everyone is shouting about it, to distract attention.

LAW & FREEDOM are much more important.
The utterly vile EAW means you can be arraigned before a court on an semi-anonymous say-so of a corrupt foreign state & sent to rot in one of their jails, without a prima facie case being presented: Contrary to the Bill of Rights.
Code Napoleon Law has primacy over ours, & the unelected commission, too.
Common Law can go hang. NOT good enough.

Come on, folks these things matter, because, in the past, when people tried to do these things we:
1: Cut off a King's Head to stop it. [ Charles I ]
2: Threw out the next-successor dictator to stop it. [ R Cromwell ]
3: Threw out the next-king-but-one, because he wouldn't learn [ James II ]

By voting "IN" we would be throwing all of that away.

THIS is what matters, really matters.

66:

I didn't know the Birman could type!
He's an intelligent cat but ....

67:

I'll give two posts. The first is what I hear from friends. Their source is mainly Fox News or Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity radio shows. In other words, you know ahead of time they're bullshit. In the interest of full disclosure, I will include them. The second post will be my actual opinions

1. The EU as a vaccine against war.

Their response is that since Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are not in the EU, this invalidates the argument. In their perspective, peace will be maintained in Europe because once the EU collapses, every country will get nuclear weapons.

2. They're confusing the EU with the ECHR.

They're not. I don't know which one promised that the UK will exit the ECHR within a year after exiting the EU. From the Murdoch press, I get the impression the BRexit camp wants to exit from ALL pan-European agreements. Something called the "bonfire of the quangos". Haven't looked up what that meant.

3. UK pensioners being forced to move.

Spain won't put any restrictions. Their economy is so fragile that it can't take the hit. So they'll grit their teeth and bear it

4. The EU is mitteleuropa, and its existence is an insult to all US soldiers who died in WWI.

5. New economic regulations

"Britain will just put high tariffs on French wine and cheese. They'll cave within a week".

6. Immigration/Calais

Outside of the EU and the ECHR, England can solve that problem with "heavy artillery". This actually shocked me, since I've never knew her to be this bloodthirsty. I mean, I feel like I don't even know this person anymore, despite the fact that in a lot of ways, she helped raise me. It especially disgusted me when she said that this was her "plan B" if Trump's wall failed.

I don't know if any of these arguments violate the terms of service. If so, please feel free to delete this post, and accept my apologies ahead of time. I just felt you should know these arguments exist.

68:

Err ... no.
The late Amthony Wedwood Benn, I'm sorry to say, was correct on this one.
He claimed the EU was an employer's/Corporate ramp.

69:

Nobody cares in the US because our media right now is trying to make a reality TV show out of our presidential election, and throwing disproportionately enormous coverage to The Drumpf. Presumably, once Clinton is elected, they, and the Washington "elite," will demonstrate that they're just as much sexist bigots as they've been racist bigots to Obama these last eight years. It's truly sickening, and it extends right across the board into the public broadcasting system now, so there's no escape from it.

As is usual in election years, I try to get more BBC coverage (now that Al Jazeera America is off the air), but unfortunately, I keep tuning in at times to miss the Brexit stuff.

Oh yeah, I'm not well represented in Washington. The situation in the cities and on the west coast relative to DC is not so different than the situation in Scotland relative to London. We've got Republicans and Democrats here too, but they tend to work better together on the state and local level, at least when the national leaders aren't paying attention and trying to force them to go for each others' throats.

70:

Actually, I'm not-so-secretly hoping that "Out" gets a majority - of between 0.01 & 1%.
In other words, whisker-thin.

THEN
We just might get some real reform of the EU & its corrupt dealings.
And not leave, of course.

71:

I have not been posting, because I don't want to derail, but your post is both relevant and unreasonably biassed.

Of, course, you have noted that the UK (on its own) agreed such a deal with the USA, only that applies largely one way, and most states in the USA have vastly more hostile legal systems than anywhere in Europe? Similarly, it is the EU that has been dragging its heels on allowing some of the nastier encroachments of USA legal powers over the EU, with the UK pushing the EU to sign up?

72:

I think no-one could possibly reply better than Sir Humphrey.

73:

In the good old days, wasn't it traditional British policy to prevent any one power from dominating Europe? Does the EU count as that?

That was the policy, but I think circa 1945 they (the FO) came to recognize that modern transportation speeds/logstics made the issue of who owned the coastline irrelevant; then the advent of the EEC/EU meant that it was possible to allow one power to dominate the coastline as long as the UK was part of it -- without surrendering national sovereignty.

Except the atavist wing of the conservative party sees any surrender of their right to rule without hindrance as a surrender of sovereignty, which must therefore be opposed (oh, and rah, Empire! rah, or words to that effect).

74:

Honestly, I could see the EU not allowing the UK to remain within the free trade zone if they leave. And with that the London economy collapses. London's banking money is based on it being part of so many trade agreements its a great place to do business. Especially since its easiest to get to the rest of Europe via London.

Take that away and you'll have a horrible structural collapse of the economy.

Honestly, I think getting rid of the UK would be great for the EU in the long run. It would remove the loudest and most well funded opponents to federalization. An actual Constitution might pass.

75:

Coalitions are NOT that rare events in the UK
The main parties just like to think so.
1916-21 or 22 was a coalition
1931or2-36
1940-45
2010-15
???

76:

Interesting.
The bookies have a much better reputation for correct results than the "pollsters"

77:
For example Ireland might want to discuss the status of Northern Ireland before promising not to veto a post-exit trade agreement.
You must be bloody kidding. The lid's just about back on the pressure cooker and you want us to kick it?!

More seriously: the UK is Ireland's biggest trading partner, main export route, and we are entangled to the point that citizens have reciprocal voting rights. Irish officialdom seems too busy attempting to remind their British equivalents of this (and that they don't still rule us and therefore can't just declare "it'll be fine" by fiat) and worrying about how all this could screw us to try to capitalize.

78:

Bookies aren't always right - a huge bet on one side or the other skews their odds for obvious reasons - but because punters put their money where their votes are going for obvious reason, they're usually more reliable than pollsters. I feel happier.

79:

For an American analogy: imagine if you lived in Massachussets or Washington but your political frame of reference was dictated from Mississippi or Alabama

I would say Texas.

I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside

The UK got by far the sweetest deal to join the EU. It still has its own currency and an unregulated financial system, but full access to EU markets. Why would they want to screw that up? Where do they think they can go to get a better deal?

80:

The biggest trading partner, sure, but no longer the destination of two-thirds of Irish exports.

A brexit - which ain't gonna happen, but let's say it did - would mean that the pressure cooker would have to be dealt with, given that it would inevitably mean a change to the UK state, and a change to the relationships between the nations in that state.

81:

French citizen married to a Brit and living in the US here. Our daughter is tri-national. My wife wants us to go back to London eventually, and Brexit would complicate that dramatically, as would the ensuing economic depression (I believe the rEU would take a 5% hit, but the UK would probably be closer to 10-25%).

I don't think the EU would implode if Britain left, in fact the end of British obstructionism and its slavish promotion of US interests would strengthen EU decision-making significantly, so Brexit might even be a long-term silver lining positive for the rest of the EU.

Cameron unwisely promised the referendum to appease one side of the civil war within the Conservative party. The root cause is of course British insularity and delusions of former grandeur, quite surprising in a well-traveled trading nation.

The ECHR may be separate from the EU, but membership in the ECHR is a requirement for EU membership.

@Nojay (64): UK policy has been to keep the EU a mere free-trade common market and resist moves towards political union. One of the tools for that was pushing for expansion to new members in the East.

82:

Speaking of the new members in the East. . . they have their own Europhobics, don't do they? What UKxit mean for them?

83:

I said "route" on purpose, thinking of the exports transiting as well. I freely admit to this being backed by no figures whatsoever though.

And yes, of course, and the Republic will have to be involved - but can you imagine how complicated that's going to be without some prominent Free Stater demanding the end of Partition?
Well, demanding it, actually meaning it, and possibly having a tactic...

84:

Agree with EC on this one. By and large the EU has acted as a brake on loony legislation from authoritarian UK politico's of all stripes. Why do you think they hate the EHRC so much? The EU is much more libertarian (in the original sense of the word not the batshit crazy modern day interpretation) than any UK Government for the past 20 years.

Just striking down safe harbor was enough to keep me voting "in" for the rest of my life.

Hell the fact that the EU thinks using sleep deprivation techniques on such a piece of trash as Anders Breivik is utterly unjustified suggests to me that its a beacon of civilisation in an world that's otherwise increasing hostile to the individual against the powers of the state.

85:

The Good Friday Agreement stipulates that the end of partition can only be ended with the consent of both populations in Ireland. That agreement is supported by all but the marginal and irrelevant in Dublin, Belfast and London. So the idea that someone is going to rock up and say "hand it over" to London is not even wrong, it's just silly.

86:

Yes, hence my quoting the bookies' odds.

What I'd quite like to see is how much money is being bet on the outcome; it would also be most interesting to track the shifting odds of several different bookies over time in this matter.

The reason for wanting to know this is that in my youth, I worked for on-course bookmakers and got very used to the symptoms of too many books chasing too little money. Generally speaking, odds dodging up and down are the results of bookies trying to gain an edge in too sparse a market.

An even better tool for predicting the outcome of an election is a sort of quasi-stock market trading system. Here each person in quite a big pool of people starts off by being issued an equal number of shares in each political contestant at the start of the contest.

At the end, a set and quite large sum of money is divided up between the shares in the winner of the contest only. Therefore, a share will during the contest have a set value based on how likely that candidate is to win the contest, and the value of the traded shares reflects the honest, self-interested opinion of the traders.

This is the key to this technique: you're not doorstepping someone who just wishes the prat with the clipboard would go away, you're testing peoples' financial interests in a forthcoming event.

87:

Not much talk of social protections here. When I hear people like Gove, Grayling, Johnson and Patel talking about sovereignty I hear between the lines their annoyance at not being able to dismantle rights and the social state fast enough. I am so disillusioned by the recent generation of British politicians that having a superstate that holds in check some of their excesses is rather appealing. It's a bit like averaging. Outlying ideas like "let's make it impossible for workers to arrange a strike" can eventually get smoothed out by having courts of appeal above the national ones.

The point about it being also a decision about who leads the Tories is an important one. We are in part voting on whether to change the leadership of the country. When Gove and co talk about what "we" will do, he doesn't mean we the British people, he means it literally. I find that chilling.

88:

Aaah, yes. Couldn't quite get the reference, as I haven't read much by Holt. Tried, but kept thinking "I can see this should be funny, but it isn't".

I think I first heard the EEC has kept the peace in Europe line while at secondary school in the early eighties, and it struck me as highly dubious then. Most people advancing the idea seem to ignore the existence of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, which seems a bit of an oversight.

89:

BTW - my wanted Brexit outcome an "IN" vote that fractures the Tories enough to stop them getting re-elected but not enough to let Labour get in so we have some kind of coalition where the worst excesses of both the big mainstream parties are kept in check.

Can't understand what BoJo is playing at. Can only assume his plan is to play the great reconciler if/when he loses. Would have thought his constituency among the City elite has taken quite a short term knock though.

90:

I'm an American from Texas and a liberal (as we Americans define it), watching both our countries lose their collective political minds. (Too late for my state, and don't get me started on our secessionists.)

Is there a purpose to the "special relationship" if Britain, exiting the EU, ends up losing Scotland as well? Can Britain remain relevant if it is no longer a friendly gateway to EU markets and suffers inevitable diminishment from losing the Scottish tax base?

Britain looks to me like a country that resents having lost its globe-spanning empire and wants to remain a fulcrum for American/European relations (in part as a way to feel like it's holding on to some of its old importance). Brexit looks to me like an ill-considered means of giving up British relevance all in one go.

91:

Here is my opinion on this topic

1. Would the EU impose trading restrictions in the event of a BRexit or restrict the UK from the common market in any way.

Short answer, no. The global economy is too fragile to allow such a hit. To do this would piss off the US, Russia, China, and several Arabian principates. No way would London's status as a financial hub be allowed to be threatened, by hook or by crook. I'm sure the NSA alone has enough blackmail worthy material to restrain drastic economic changes.

2. Is the EU a vaccine against war?

It's impossible to prove a negative, but I'll try. If you look at Latin America since the second world war, except for the Falklands war, the wars fought there have been civil wars or US interventions. Outside of the Falklands and US interventions, I can't recall any interstate wars in the region.

I would say the same is true for East Asia post-Korean War (in my opinion, a continuation of WWII). The exceptions there would be the Sino-Soviet War and the Sino-Vietnamese War.

Keep in mind, that Europe faced its share of Civil Wars since WWII. The Irish troubles and the Basque separatists come to mind.
Having said all that, I favor remain for a much larger reason. From my perspective,

92:

Having said all that, I still think that fundamentally, the BRexit vote will define how the UK faces the problems of the 21st century. From my understanding, most supporters, note I said most, are treating this as a referendum of closing the borders. Same as with Trump supporters. Do they want to live in a global society, or a (for lack of a better term) closed British society?

93:

Do you really need to climb the greasy pole if someone can float you to its top? (...and if you must be nude to get there, so be it.)

94:

Your numbers show that coalitions are relatively rare in the UK; you're looking at one in the last 50 years, and 4 in the last century, and, across the time period you discuss, 20% of the time is under a coalition. In contrast, the median EU country has spent over 50% of its time under a coalition since the EU began - and if we limit ourselves to that time period, the UK has spent under 10% of the time under a coalition government.

Basically, we're one extreme, and the Dutch are the other (perma-coalition).

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/once-you-recognize-that-coalition-government-is-a-european-norm-and-is-likely-to-endure-in-the-uk-further-changes-in-british-party-politics-such-as-electoral-pacts-look-quite-feasible/ for a data point. Over a 44 year time period, a majority of EU countries spend more time under coalition government than under single party government.

95:

You're assuming that the EU will be rational about a BRExit; it's not hard to imagine a situation in which the EU as a whole spites the world in order to punish Britain for leaving - basically, screw the global economy in order to win points at home.

96:

Whether or not the EU impose trading restrictions, if the UK want to stop obeying the regulations they say they want to leave the EU over they'll kick themselves out of the European Single Market and impose restrictions by default. And if you think the UK can negotiate another special snowflake deal...

97:

"It's impossible to prove a negative, but I'll try. If you look at Latin America since the second world war, except for the Falklands war, the wars fought there have been civil wars or US interventions. Outside of the Falklands and US interventions, I can't recall any interstate wars in the region."

Chile and Argentina's exchanges of artillery fire and Guatemala's attempted annexation of Belize in the past few decades spring to mind immediately. Civil wars... The Syrian mess is a civil war and getting your city block bombed to rubble by fellow citizens is about as bad as having it done by dastardly foreigners, in my opinion. There's been no such war in the European Union since its inception, unlike the situation previously.

98:

North American with no ties to the UK (apart from enjoying its culture), extended family ties to Europe.


Re: 'Main cause for concern is that it stands to blow the markets (particularly sweating the London property bubble)'

That was my first thought ... originating from a BBC art history doc that included a tour of a London Mayfair property valued at a quarter billion pounds. Because of this, I think that even if the only outcome of leaving the EU was the bursting of the London/surrounding area real estate bubble, that in itself might be enough to cause a major economic crisis.

Took a quick look at one of the linked reports re: poll results. From my POV, these reports are completely useless as aids to understanding the underlying issues because they neglect to show which issues most closely relate to a leave/stay decision nor do they show any results by subgroups (i.e., demos, geographic, party affiliation, etc.). I'd also like to see how these results map against currently sitting MPs ... because this might show which side these MPs would be likelier to rally round: Would an MP go against the majority of his/her constituents or side with the party leader? Quite odd really considering that the campaigning will likely be based on such piddling details.

BTW - I'm assuming that the Brexit vote is a one-person-one-vote with the largest number of votes (for all of the UK combined) the winner. Or is there a minimum, i.e., 50% + 1 vote?

99:

The impression I am left with is a battle between two unspoken philosophies. On the one hand, an EU driven by trans-continental elites that want to rebuild the Roman empire of the Adoptive Emperors 96–180 AD, regulation by regulation instead of conquest by conquest. This is pitted against trans-Atlantic elites trying to steer the UK to recreate the Empire circa 1815 but with the USA inside this time, beginning with an economy built on "intellectual property" from patents to TTIP, with an English style legal system as the underlying mechanism to keep China, India, Russia, and other smaller rivals at bay.

These aren't wonderful options, Pax Romana versus Pax Britannica. I'd rather see a Banksian Culture as the goal state, than recycling of systems that were optimised for their local temporal conditions, rigidly espoused by people who have studied history but not thermodynamics, and seem intent on ignoring inconvenient data that doesn't fit their vision.

100:

I'm not saying that the EU or UK would behave rationally by choice in the event of a BRexit. I'm saying that they may not have a choice.

"And if you think the UK can negotiate another special snowflake deal..." If the US or China holds a gun to the EU's head, why not?

101:

Can't understand what BoJo is playing at.

Oh, that's easy (as OGH has already pointed out). As has been pointed out by several commentators, Boris is an utterly self-centred political operator. The floppy hair and scruffiness has achieved its aim - everyone knows exactly who he is (unlike the army of ambitious politicos who no-one can name). Make no mistake, there's a sharp and ruthless brain in there. He's also a git of the first water, judging by his apparent treatment of his wife.

Note that he didn't announce his position until after Cameron / Osborne had nailed their position down hard.

So; having seen which side of the camp the current Prime Minister and Chancellor (and hence Party Leader + Heir Apparent) have decided to stick with, he chose the opposite. If the Brexit campaign wins, Cameron will probably resign, Osborne will be damaged, and the obvious candidate for Party Leader is the recognisable face of "Leave"...

It's too good a chance to miss for an ambitious man; if the referendum goes his way, he could be Prime Minister before Christmas.

If he had waited / backed the "Remain" camp and they lost, he's damaged too. If he had waited / backed the "Remain" camp and they won, he has four more years of Cameron, and potentially another five to ten of Cameron's successor.

As I said, easy if you assume that Brutus is an ambitious man...

102:

Disagree with the borders you chose. A trans Atlantic alliance would span both N. And S. America, Oceania, India, and as much of Africa and Southeast Asia as they can get.

103:

I didn't know about Guatemala's attempted annexation of Belize. That counts as an interstate war. However, I'm not sure the brief exchange of artillery counts, since it didn't escalate despite those nations not being in the EU.

104:

Dumb question: What percent of London real estate do the Saudis own (vs. the Chinese, vs. USians vs. other nationals) and how badly would they be screwed if the London real estate market tanked? Then add this to the oil price collapse impact and see who gets hurt most vs. who wins most.

Where did Cameron's former off-shore moneys (Panama papers) get dumped: perchance in London real estate?


105:

I agree that Ireland will not ask for NI, but they'll want to have sweeteners for suddenly having to run an EU land border. Would be much easier if NI decided to become independent and stay in the EU...

106:

China? Why should they want to intervene against the EU on behalf of the UK? And with what gun?

Also it's not their style. They appear to prefer silent politics, unless someone meets with the Dalai Lama.

107:

No. Just no. Whatever happens, there is no way the north of Ireland will seek independent statehood.

It is not viable as an independent state, for a start, with most of its industrial base gone the way of all British industry. The majority community is dependent, psychologically as well as economically on Britain, and while the minority may be (justifiably) pissed off at their co-nationals south of the border, they don't see themselves as forming a separate national community.

In the 1970s the lunatic fringe of paramilitary loyalism did talk about UDI - but even then there were few if any takers for that particular idiocy.

108:

From the perspective of an American, watching the Brexit debate (as with the Scottish Independence one) is like watching a dear old friend who keeps attempting suicide and being helpless to do anything about it.

109:

Mr. Stross: ...noting the presence of lots of non-British readers on this blog: I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside...

FWIW, my perspective (i.e. that of an American of Midwestern extraction resident and employed in Greater D.C.): it looks like a last, desperate bid by a faction in English politics to perpetuate their idea of a British cultural and political "separate-ness" from those Franco-German-led continentals. And, in so doing, theoretically restore a semblance of England's past imperial glory and geopolitical throw weight. Somehow.

Inside the Beltway, the general sentiment is that Brexit is a foolish, quixotic notion and an all-around bad idea. U.S. interests are better served with Britain inside the EU as, if nothing else, our inside man.

On one of our political talk shows recently, the subject of Brexit came up. One of the panelists said there's an idea circulating among some of the pro-Brexit faction that, once out of the EU, Britain could enter a free trade pact with the U.S. and formalize a global "Anglosphere Union." The entire panel basically went, "yeah, right."

Outside the Beltway, I doubt many people are paying much attention.

110:

The only reason I haven't really talked about it (although I did mention it) is that it's not been part of the overt discourse. Reading it into their covert discourse as part of Brexit is, I think, a mistake: the Tories, Brexit or no, seemed intent on dismantling their sign-up to the ECHR etc. and want to impose a far weaker "British Bill of Human Rights." It's in their manifesto, but they seem to have forgotten it with the civil war they're currently having.

Part of this is because if we vote for Brexit, they think it won't matter, and they need to have the legislative board clean for everything to go with the crazy two years to follow. If we vote to remain, apart from a messy rerun Night of the Long Knives (although probably less actual blood) within the Conservative Party I would expect to see it on the books just after the summer recess.

I do think the timing of the referendum is... interesting. Normally we have a state opening of parliament every year on the anniversary of the election pretty much. This year we're expecting May 18th. But the referendum is five weeks later. Depending on the result there's potentially going to be a complete overhaul of the government's business. Any constitutional lawyers out there that know what the process is? Unless Cameron falls on his sword, shoots his fixed term parliament act and dissolves parliament I'm not sure how he clears parliamentary time but it must be possible.

111:

Also in LatAm since 1945 there's been the Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras and at least two border wars between Peru and Ecuador.

112:

''Is there a purpose to the "special relationship" if Britain, exiting the EU, ends up losing Scotland as well? Can Britain remain relevant if it is no longer a friendly gateway to EU markets and suffers inevitable diminishment from losing the Scottish tax base?''

Whether or not it includes Scotland won't matter. The UK's principle use to the USA is as the latter's fifth column in Europe, mainly as its political lobbyist, and that would disappear.

113:

I don't see the gain for the USA in holding a gun to the EU's head - too much risk of it backfiring and damaging USA interests in the remainder EU, and risking damage to the USA economy. Better for the USA to make the best of a bad deal, and try to confine the plummet to the UK economy (e.g. by agreeing a free trade pact with the EU that's more generous than it would normally be, at the expense of trade with the UK).

Similar reasoning applies to China - there's no gain from upsetting a big trading partner for short-term stability, when you can hit a minor trading partner while they're down and try and extract concessions from the big trading partner while you're at it.

114:

I think you're just mocking U.S.-ian ignorance, which is fine and justified.
It is not universal, for the reason that Charlie outlined; there is a fear that the BRexit will trigger a global recession or worse, and (among the sane (imho)) that this will in turn significantly increase the odds that D. Trump is elected, and (if he is) then the U.S. will either collapse or regress significantly or both, and do more stupider things internationally than usual. Like refuse to adhere to the commitments in the Paris climate accord, for starters.

So we are counting on UK people to reject the BRexit.

115:

Wasn't that the real idea underlying the Crusades? 'We have too many younger son knights. Civil wars are bad. If we send them off to the Holy Land they won't be fighting here, and they will either not come back, or come back with loot.'

116:

Some of you might point to NATO as being the instrument of peace, but I disagree: the existence of armies means that war is still possible, but it's the EU that has largely removed the motives for war.

I would argue that economic growth is responsible for the absence of war. Too much too lose these days and no material gain by going to war. Of course one can debate whether the EU is responsible for that or not. I think the same growth could have been achieved without it.

The brexit. I would like to see some countries leave the EU but GB isn't one of them. It doesn't make sense. Most countries around the mediterranean? Good riddance! They shouldn't have been in it in the first place. Most of Eastern Europe ditto. They don't fit the mold but politics ran it's course and now it's part of the mess.


This commercial
for a german DIY chain is the best imaginable recap possible for the EU. :)

117:

For an American analogy: imagine if you lived in Massachussets or Washington but your political frame of reference was dictated from Mississippi or Alabama, without representation.

Let me tweak this statement slightly, to get "Imagine if you lived in Mississippi or Wyoming, but the political frame of reference was dictated from New York or Washington, DC, despite nominal representation." I can show you tens of millions of Americans who believe that's the case. With some justification. Much of the framing is being done by the finance industry in New York, and the vast regulatory bureaucracy and two big courts in Washington (DC Circuit Court and the Supreme Court). The Supreme Court justices were all trained in law at exclusive law schools in coastal states between Boston and Washington; with one exception, their entire adult existence has been dominated by time spent in that same NE urban corridor. The current nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy fits exactly the same mold (and if confirmed, would be moving his office just a few blocks from one of those courts to the other).

I'm one of the lunatics around that, for carefully considered reasons, think that this will end with a partition of the US.

118:

Oh really? With Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana having ten Senators for their combined 4 million population, while California has two for its 40 million, rural America has an effective veto on appointments to the Supreme Court. Do you think SCOTUS would be muddling along with eight Justices if the Coastal Elite ran the country?

119:

Sources:

Trade to GDP ratio from ... http://stat.wto.org
Real GDP annual growth 2014 from ... http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG

The UK is in the mid-range on trade-to-GDP for now. While it does look as though the EU as a whole is fairly protectionist, it's still not as protectionist as the US.

Trade to GDP ratio (2012-2014)/Real GDP growth 2014*

EU 33.9 / na
Denmark 102.4 / 1.2%
France 60.9 / 2.1%
Germany 85.7 / 1.6%
Greece 55.9 / 0.7%
Italy 55.5 / 0.6%
Sweden 84.2 / 2.3%
Switzerland 122.7 / 1.9%
UK 60.3 / 2.9%


China 46.9 / 7.3%
India 53.6 / 7.3%
Japan 35.9 / -0.1%
Russia 52.1 / 4.3%
USA 29.9 / 2.4%

120:

The Guatemala/Belize affair never actually came to a shooting match, thanks to the Royal Navy and an impressive bit of naval aviation and bluffing.

in the 1970s Belize (British Honduras as was) was being threatened militarily by their neighbours, Guatemala who claimed the territory as part of their country (see Falklands/Malvinas for a later example of Latin American border-shuffling). Britain, which stood guarantor for Belizian independence only had an aircraft carrier. the Ark Royal some distance away in the Atlantic to change their minds.

They flew off two pairs of unarmed Buccaneers, one pair acting as buddy tankers for the other pair which made several low and noisy passes over the Belizian capital where the Guatemalan diplomats pressuring the Belizians were located. Things quietened down after that.

121:

It mostly looks like a long standing policy of using the EU as a boogyman for political gain on the national scene has backfired, and obligated the conservatives to put it to the vote or stand up and admit they actually quite like being in the EU. Which they can not do, because : Long standing campaign of vilification.

Probable consequences: Britain gets offered the Norway deal, where they implement every EU regulation slavishly, but get no vote on them. .. I honestly am utterly unable to tell if that's a deal the conservative government is even able to accept.

If it isn't, I am pretty sure the rest of the union will just flat out go out of its way to fuck the with the finance sector of London. Mostly because financial repression will be the only practical way to limit the fallout from the ensuring disruption.

122:

I miss intrade.com (closed up 2013). The political markets there were a lot of fun just as an observer.

A Bet is a Tax on Bullshit.

Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge.

123:

The EU as the keeper of peace in Europe.
So, how did that work out in the Balkans?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Wars

The EU sure was impressive in keeping the bodycount below half a million, although I hear that the USA and NATO handed out tea and biscuits, or something...

124:

Um, yeah, we tried the Texas-Wyoming axis for two presidential terms back around 2000-2008. That didn't end so well for the country, and then those stupid coastal cities, instead of doing the illegal secession thing (it's been illegal for states to secede since 1869), went and started bailing out the economy yet again.

There are things that will split the US, eventually. No empire lasts forever, and it's perfectly likely for an empire to shed provinces internally as it is to have it broken up by losing a war.

In any case, getting back to the Brexit, the irony is that you're doing it backwards, at least compared with the US. In the US, it's always the poorest parts of the states that try to split off (cf West Virginia, Jeffersonia, etc.). Is the UK really that poor in comparison to the EU? I mean, what is the UK going to do with out the EU, except become an offshore banking destination of choice for oligarchs?

125:

Worst case scenario: "In" wins marginally because of the Scottish vote.
That would provoke a vast seething resentment in England.

126:

Canadian here, and yes, it looks bizarre from the outside. I also just keep thinking what a waste of money and resources, never mind that the government is ACTUALLY doing nothing (as opposed to doing a tiny little bit of 'work') while this goes on.

An Exited UK better not hope for closer ties in the commonwealth to make up for deficits, they would be overestimating warm feelings for the Mother Country.

127:

Citizens United. Federal reserve policy from 2007. Obamacare upheld. Same-sex marriage. CO2 emission regulations. The latest expansion of the definition of "navigable waters". Federal land-use policy on the enormous public land holdings in the West. All "won" in the bureaucracy and the courts by NE elites of one stripe or another (with support on some from the 100-mile-wide Pacific Coast strip).

Cite me a half-dozen major policy decisions that favored the view of the part of the country from the Appalachians to the Sierras, and south of Virginia along the East Coast, that has become enormously Republican when measured in state legislatures and state governors, or membership in the US Senate and House.

128:

Yellow Card for Michael Cain.

This is not an American blog.

This is not a discussion of American domestic policy issues.

Continuation of this subject is banned and if you try to continue it you will be banned too, and your comments unpublished.

129:

Possibility one. Yeah, absolutely. A vote for Brexit is a vote for a second Scottish referendum, and in all probability a vote for a breakup of the UK.

Possibility two. The vote will be a close run thing, so it's likely that Scotland will tip the balance. I don't buy Charlie's nightmare scenario though. There's no discernable advantage for the Tories in venting their frustrations out on Scotland, and in any case they will be fully engaged taking it out on each other.

As for Project Fear. It works because it's true.

130:

Sorry. My bad. I'll be quiet.

131:

Comment on how stupid it looks?

Hey, I live in the US, and we've got Trump as a major candidate. How could I possibly say anything negative about anyone else.

132:

The perennial Ecuador-Peru border dispute actually boils over into actual shooting from time to time

133:

"An Exited UK better not hope for closer ties in the commonwealth to make up for deficits, they would be overestimating warm feelings for the Mother Country."

The UK made a choice between the Commonwealth and the EU years ago to the determent of the rest of the Commonwealth. Dumping the EU with all the disruption for foreign companies sold the 'English speaking gateway to the EU' line will just further demonstrate that the UK is an unreliable and untrustworthy trading partner.

134:

The Guatemala/Belize affair never actually came to a shooting match, thanks to the Royal Navy and an impressive bit of naval aviation and bluffing.

....not quite, AIUI. It was another point on the spectrum of those "undeclared wars" that were so popular in the 60s-80s.

Apparently, the story goes, the Guatemalans started sending some of their Special Forces types across the border in the 70s; there was the occasional "navigational error". These were, in turn, met with the occasional unwelcome surprise involving lethal force - much as happened to the Indonesians during the Konfrontasi.

By the time I visited in the early 90s (they were trawling for umpires for the annual battlegroup exercise, and desperate enough to consider me), things had settled down [1][2]. The UK had a flight of Harriers[3][4], a battery of artillery, a troop or two of CVR(T), and resident infantry battalion rotating through each year or so, learning to do jungle warfare and keeping a weather eye on the border.

There was still a concern about the Kaibiles coming to visit, and the Guatemalans were still producing maps that didn't show a border (they showed Belize City as a town in Guatemala), but they were regarded as unlikely to be so stupid as to try it on - the lessons from Argentina in 1982 were very much:
"military juntas tend to lose power if they lose the war they started"
"first world professional armed forces will chew up and spit out an inexperienced conscript opposition"
"torturing Nuns and murdering civilians do not count as military experience"
...and the UK was now a credible deliverer of such lessons.

[1] By then, the major concern of the sneakier parts of UK forces was the drugs trade, trying to use Belize as a stopping point - they'd be hiding in bushes, trying to catch drugs shipments. The platoon I was working with had accidentally found several million dollars worth of cocaine washed up on the beach of the remote island where they were having their barbecue; presumably abandoned by its smuggler on the approach of law enforcement...

[2] The Guatemalans had just had a Richter 7+ earthquake, and the RAF Puma helicopters were actually going over to help with disaster relief. We utterly failed to persuade them to give us a lift to an otherwise-unreachable Mayan city on their route.

[3] When our VC10 flew in, the fighter controllers were vectoring the (ground attack, no radar, Sidewinder armed) Harrier onto our wingtip for practice. Belize International Airport didn't have HAS, but it did have some blast shelters for the Harriers at one end of the runway...

[4] Alleged quote from a US tourist, on seeing a Harrier fly past "I didn't know the Marines were here". Sigh.

135:

OGH noted that "no army has crossed the Rhine river in more than 70 years, and this is the longest period of peace on the Rhine since before the rise of the Roman Empire."

This period is sometimes called The Long Peace, which phrase is worth googling.

136:

From my (English) POV BREXIT is a tradeoff between economic loss and Brussels undemocratic bureaucracy. Both are hard to project into the medium/long-term and subject to large uncertainties. The idea of ever-closer EU union is pretty horrendous, but the projected loss of GDP growth from BREXIT is also not nice.

I don't see how BREXIT in itself increases the chance of war between France & Germany, so I am down to choosing between Brussels bureaucracy and smaller GDP growth.

137:

Funnily enough, leaving the EU and the total collapse of the financial industry would actually IMPROVE standards of living for most Britons.

It'd destroy London, but since London can't build any more housing, all that financial trade is going straight to rent and choking out every other British everything in the process.

So yeah, go Brexit.

/A similar dynamic applies to the American Closed-access cities, like SF/LA/NYC/Boston. Destroy those centralized industries and it'll only hurt the landlords, while leading to vast improvements of the standard of living for Trump supporters.

138:

That's slightly delusional. Whilst it might hurt the landlords the most they will be more likely to have the resources to cover it.

A situation where everywhere outside of London gains by a relatively lower decline in gdp than those in London is rather a pyrrhic victory don't you think. Cutting off your nose to spite your face is the shorter version.

And that's without getting into the fact that any crash centred around London will hurt millions of ordinary Londoners.

Can you back up that "only hurt the landlords" statement with any facts?

139:

As for real estate markets, don't be so sure. NY and SF are bounded by water, so there's not really any new place for people to live. This has been a problem for other cities (notably in Europe) for centuries, which is why Monsieur Pickaxe used to be far more respectable than he currently is--they'd use picks to dismantle old buildings so they could reuse the useful bits in new construction.

In the case of SF and LA, the next earthquake will do whatever the dismantlers don't, but we don't know when that will happen. A sufficiently long drought or the fabled ARkStorm might do the same.

As for London, I can't speak to it. Perhaps someone who's more British can enlighten me as to how the British Financial world will benefit or be hurt by Britain suddenly being an island again. My assumption is that it's a bad idea, unless there's some massive web of corruption that needs to be hidden by making government oversight smaller.

140:

Perhaps someone who's more British can enlighten me as to how the British Financial world will benefit or be hurt by Britain suddenly being an island again. My assumption is that it's a bad idea, unless there's some massive web of corruption that needs to be hidden by making government oversight smaller.

The problem with London's financial center is that it's a bit like Vienna. Vienna has over 25% of the population of Austria -- it'd be a bit like New York having 80 million people. That's because Vienna grew up as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire; what's left -- Austria -- is far, far smaller. Similarly, London's financial sector grew up to be the financial hub of an empire that at one point covered nearly 25% of the human population of the planet: the only word to describe it is "gigantic". It maintained its stature after the withdrawal from empire, by leveraging the commonwealth and then the EEC/EU. But without a toe in the door of the EU, it's hard to see where it goes.

One additional issue is that London is very much an offshore/tax haven center. Some British territories really are tax havens -- the Channel Islands, the British Virgin Islands, a bunch of Caribbean dependencies ... we're up to our elbows in them. And our press barons are mostly offshore tax exiles. Guess what all this smells like? Yes, it's Panama Papers territory. One model for what the BRExiters really want is to turn the UK as a whole into a giant offshore tax haven, and reduce those of us who don't work in the City to the status of captive service sector peons providing necessary support for our lords and masters.

141:

Yes, I've been saying for a while that we're basically choosing between two or more lots of elites with their own specific concerns and ways to maximise profits. Which set is more reality oriented or less likely to crush the peons is perhaps the one to go with.

Relatedly, a lot of the footsoldiers on the brexit side are the sort who think the EU crushes small businesses. They forget that the neoliberal policies of the last few governments are not supposed to help small businesses, rather the large ones, and there's no reason to suppose that they would be reversed if we left the EU.

As for destroying the power of the City of London, that is best done slowly and carefully, because popping bubbles is painful and sudden. Removing tens of billions of pounds of taxes from the UK government budget by crashing the city would be a pretty horrendous shock to the wider economy, net result being mass unemployment etc.

142:

Very simplistic examples London is a very convenient middleman when dealing with Europe a Brexit potentially removes the EU rules on free flows of trade and capital allowing cunning French and Germans to fill that middleman role.

Also the pound is a useful middleman currency on a journey to the Euro and companies can use the fact that the EU has 2 defacto currencies to hedge fluctuations between them. Suddenly barriers to free capital movement go up and a whole lot of UK based FX businesses go down the pan.

What's really really scarey that's being reported in the papers today but not being linked to a Brexit as yet, is that the Southern Europe debt crisis is blowing up again.

Worst case scenario would be a perfect storm of Brexit plus Euro crash that would be felt worldwide as the EU contracts back to its Northern European roots.

143:

As an American, I think that the EU did things backward in a weird way. Here in North America, we immediately set up free trade between the states, and also partially combined our armed forces (particularly our navy) and our foreign relations; but most aspects of economic policy and nearly all of the police power remained the domain of the states until the early 1900s, and didn't come under massive federal domination till after World War II. Europe looks as if it immediately set up a regulatory bureaucracy with police power, but hasn't integrated its armed forces or changed over to unified diplomatic representation—there's not a European ambassador in Washington or a Europe seat in the United Nations, for example.

Most of what I have toward Brexit is not reasoned analyses but sentiments; I'd be pleased to see the UK leave the EU, and equally pleased to see Scotland leave the UK. On the other hand, when I look at the current political condition of the United States, I feel like Monsieur H. O. Pétard; I imagine my flinching at the Trump candidacy is a lot like how people in other countries feel about UKIP or the Front Nationale. . . .

144:

Given that BRExit might lead to the collapse of the EU ... it might matter just a little bit.

That's a bit worrying, but it's not "Donald Trump with thousands of nukes" worrying or "I turned on my air conditioner when it was still technically winter" worrying. It's not even "Chinese warships in disputed waters" worrying. It's barely "Islamic notjobs building a caliphate with actual slaves" level worrying. News cycles are crowded these days; you have to go wild to get any attention at all. That guy of yours who stuck his dick in a pig's head almost made a blip on our radar.

145:

USAian with family in England & Wales. I get most of my British news here or the Economist. No real mention of Brexit in US media, but I'd rather you stay in. Brexit seems like "go back to the gold standard" levels of lunacy.

146:

Yep. The City of London for all intents and purposes is a tax haven in its own right, it just isn't directly called such in public.
For leftpondians ... the financial district of London is mostly found in the City of London, which is a square mile of land owned by the City of London Corporation, following its own laws, with its own police force independent of the rest of the greater city of London which surrounds it. The City of London Corporation is controlled by the big financial firms, since they get voting blocks of several hundred votes while ordinary people living in the City get ... one.

And Greater London is filling up with all sorts of dodgy dealings - see The Curious Case of 2000 Companies In One Building for a good writeup of some of the things that go on.

147:

"Some British territories really are tax havens - the Channel Islands, the British Virgin Islands, a bunch of Caribbean dependencies ... we're up to our elbows in them. And our press barons are mostly offshore tax exiles. Guess what all this smells like? Yes, it's Panama Papers territory. One model for what the BRExiters really want is to turn the UK as a whole into a giant offshore tax haven, and reduce those of us who don't work in the City to the status of captive service sector peons providing necessary support for our lords and masters."

Which is pretty much the method of the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph, in trying to take over Sark.

148:

As others have noted, it's not getting a lot of media traction in the US, though a piece just went up in the WaPo opinion section. If I was still living in the UK, then I would clearly vote Remain, benefits far exceed risks as far as I am concerned. As a non-resident citizen of the UK and the European I hope people vote remain , as the ability to live and work anywhere in the EU is something I would like to retain for myself and my daughter.

149:

From this American's point of view, BRexit causing the demise of the EU is a non-issue, because the EU seems unlikely to survive in its current configuration for more than a decade. With the vastly differing economies, and the impending refugee and demographic crises, they're going to have to shed a few members, which seems to be an anathema to Brussels, or they're going to end up having to enforce EU diktats via force. I'd give the slight edge to breakup here, but only slightly, but the latter would certainly end the illusion that the EU's preventing war long term.

As to how it's done so, so far? It's really simple. First, if the rest of Europe had been willing to just surrender to Germany in the last two world wars they wouldn't have happened; this is essentially what's happened now. From an outsider's perspective, Germany runs the EU, the German central bankers pretty much control everything.

Second, with the US covering the defense needs of Europe, they haven't needed to build up anything approaching a real modern army, so they simply haven't had the tanks and warplanes to do it. If they'd had them, they would have used them. Simple as that. But this is likely to change in the future - there's a growing contingent here that wants to withdraw from Europe. Sooner or later it will end up in power, and y'all will be on your own. Of course, Putin's likely to be running the place about fifteen minutes later, but them's the breaks.

150:

Fascinating, check out the military spending of just the UK and France compared to Russia's
Similarly, check out the nuclear capability of the U.K. and France, while dwarfed by the Russian's, it's more than enough
It's a common US meme that Europe couldn't defend itself, and it's not true. Even Putin is smart enough to know that.

151:

From the outside, it doesn't really register that much. The EU generally is seen as 'old and decrepit', and any exit of the UK just looks to make both sides more so. However, it's kinda missing the point - since in or out doesn't solve the base problem.

In some ways it looks similar to the scottish issue in that the exit side seem to have no plan or vision for exactly how exit would practically work. On the other hand, it's different since the EU is on borrowed time. The ideologues have pushed it so far together (for their own ends) that it's going to explode apart sooner or later (probably sooner, that 70 years of tension is still there). So whereas scotland voting to leave the UK would hurt them and allow the UK to continue as before, the loss of the UK would just be nailing another nail in the already constructed coffin.

Saying all that, Cameron's moves have been dumb on this. First he promised he was going to get a Trump-like 'great deal' from the EU - and then came back with virtually nothing. Now he's promoting this pig (sic) of a deal and deepening the divisions in his party as a result. And if it goes against him, he's dead. If it goes for him, he's still dead.

Personally I'd have kept my mouth shut and quietly started 'doing a france' and ignoring anything you didn't like coming from the EU. Sure you might have to neuter the EU courts, but that's a hell of a lot easier to achieve than this path. I'd also be putting up some firewalls and building alternatives such that when the EU does go titsup, the UK could survive and prosper. And I'd be dealing with the structural issues that mean the UK is on a slow decline path - particularly working towards a mass automation path right now, getting ahead of the game.

Mind, a conservative government can never do this, since all they ever do is destroy and deconstruct.

152:

The Scottish government had published a very detailed plan (White Paper) laying out a clear vision of how they expected an independent Scotland to relate to the UK. The problem was that it takes two to tango and the UK government didn't necessarily see it the same way. Neither did the EU. Hence the bitter arguments over currency, borders, EU membership etc. etc. Project Fear or Magic Pony Provision.

The problem with Brexit is that it is not UK government policy to leave the EU, they have not even begun to make plans for it, and the although the constitutional mechanisms are known, nothing else is.

153:

The USA contains widely different economies within it's borders. It survives because it's a real country, not a pretend one, with a system of financial transfers that operate almost unnoticed with minimal political impact. The Spanish banking system crash was comparable in scale to the S&L crash in Florida a couple of decades earlier, but where the Spanish government had to back it's own banking system, painfully, in the USA the Fed took the strain, with ease.

Logically, the Eurozone requires progress towards a real federal European state with revenue sharing, backed by political institutions with democratic legitimacy. The last part is the hard bit. That's when a Brentry referendum would be called for. More likely, the EU will just limp along dealing inadequately with each crisis as it comes up.

154:

Yes.

You might also note that the generation who saw and fought the First World War are thin on the ground or dead now, the same is pending for ww2, and the generation acutely aware of the consequences of that latter war are retiring.

155:

From an educated American's perspective, the EU is a bit of an odd duck in the first place. A common currency but national budgets and tax collection authority? How does that work? A largely unelected regulatory authority? Huh? Common borders but national militaries? It makes little sense from this end. And isn't Britain only half in anyway?

But at least there appears to be a plan there, which is more than I can say for the Exit side. What is the UK going to do without the EU? It reminds me a bit of that referendum they held in Greece, in which austerity was rejected by the entire country, and then implemented anyway. I am not well-enough informed regarding British politics to know one way or another, but the cynic in me suspects that if Brexit won, the party in power would immediately start trying to find some way of reneging on their promises. This same cynic inside me suggests that maybe what the pro-exit people really want is a better deal with the EU. My inner cynic also thinks they have about the same chances of getting one as Greece did.

In the big picture, I imagine that all this is a symptom of globalization growing pains, much like the immigration crisis here in the US. Speaking of which, I will say that if Brexit wins, pray to whatever higher power you may believe in that Trump does not become our next president. His foreign policy can be summed up as "America Wins". If the EU starts fragmenting, Trump with is predatory business instincts will immediately start looking for ways the US can profit in the short term- renegotiating terms with all and sundry. And not to your benefit.

156:

One argument for BRexit is that smaller countries do better. From where I now sit, it seems that the perception of EU taking away local decision making is making a subset of the English population unhappy.

Related to this, as we've seen with the collapse of the EU periphery, economic control by the center of the EU, most notably Germany, hasn't exactly been an unalloyed success for these countries. Britain is not an economically strong country (I well remember the moniker - "sick man of Europe" - in the 1970's) and it just may be better off with more control over its economic policy, rather than being tied to Europe.

If BRexit does occur, what are the plans in The City and what impact will those plans have for Britain over the long term?

157:
From where I now sit, it seems that the perception of EU taking away local decision making is making a subset of the English population unhappy.

So it's all about Countries' Rights? duck

158:

I'm with you that this is playing with the future of the country to (try to - it won't) sort out an internal party matter. And with how appalling that is.

I'm voting in - for all the flaws of the EU. The bit I find strange is that I'm voting to stay in for almost exactly the reasons I didn't want Scotland to leave Britain, but many people living in Scotland would vote differently on the two. As I said at the time, by basic national identity is "Brit".

One unexpected effect of the Scottish referendum process has been to make me even more convinced we should stay in. I was surprised at how visceral my feelings were that if Scotland voted to go, then it could just fuck right off, now, with no help from us. It wasn't rational but it was there (very much there), and it was there in a lot of otherwise normal sensible friends of mine with quite a range of political views. If Europe is going to feel like that then we most certainly shouldn't leave.

What Europe should be, is another matter.

I think events in the last few years have shown that the current level of European integration won't work (and, perhaps, there's something here for the UK when and if we continue to devolve). You can't have a single currency and that much financial policy independence. And you can't have a common internal borders policy without a common external borders policy (whatever we should be doing about the refugee crisis, it's not what we are doing). I don't know what the answer is - a retreat to more of a partnership or a convergence to a proper federation. But whichever it is will have a huge impact on all us Brits so being in must give us a better chance to be involved in the decision. When it shifts fundamentally in a way that we clearly think is wrong for us, that's when we should start to think about leaving and not before.

159:

"Second, with the US covering the defense needs of Europe, they haven't needed to build up anything approaching a real modern army, so they simply haven't had the tanks and warplanes to do it."

As of 2010, EU military forces including reserves we have:
6.8 million personnel
6,800 main battle tanks
3,500 combat aircraft
1300 transport aircraft
7 aircraft carriers

[And about 600 nuclear warheads between Britain and France]

160:

Half-right
A lot of people who work in the City, even on supposedly generous-looking salaries are nonetheless peons.
I know one, exceedingly well.

161:

Agree
But given that choice:
Pax Romana or Pax Britannica, the latter is the lesser of two evils.

I note no-one seems to have answered my point about the advance of arbitrary "law" over Common Law & unlawful imprisonment that the EU represents ...

162:

The Saudis are going to be screwed anyway.
The US is apparently close to giving up & possibly "leaking" data showing complicity in 11/9/2001.
Could be interesting

163:

I'm not sure which election I'd rather be embroiled in: your Brexit or our presidential election.

Their Brexit doesn't have both sides of the ballot opposed by a majority of the voters. Mostly likely the Presidential election over here will.

164:

There are worse things than Trumpy as POTUS.
T Cruz, for a start - that's really scary

165:

Possibly
And especially because the Barnett formula has been revised, in even greater favour of Scotland.
Meanwhile, the SNP are STILL blaming everything, including stuff they have had total control over for several years on the evil greedy English.
And, at the moment, they appear to be getting away with these lies, which are as barefaced as those of Jeremy Hunt.

166:

AIUI isn't Belize where the Hereford Hooligans do their jungle training?
And the Belizians has a few fun encounters with these nice people ....

167:

Err... there are so many technical errors in that, I'm not even going to start.
The land in the City is definitely NOT owned by The Corpration, for a start, though ....

168:

Personally I'd have kept my mouth shut and quietly started 'doing a france' and ignoring anything you didn't like coming from the EU. Sure you might have to neuter the EU courts, but that's a hell of a lot easier to achieve than this path. I'd also be putting up some firewalls and building alternatives such that when the EU does go titsup, the UK could survive and prosper.

YES!
Spot on
Why "we" have not taken that ultra-sensible course is beyond me, which is another reason I feel myself forced into the "out" camp.

169:

,i.I note no-one seems to have answered my point about the advance of arbitrary "law" over Common Law & unlawful imprisonment that the EU represents ...

Thats because you're plain wrong Greg. Its not arbitrary and a huge amount of EU legislation (Directives) are enacted at the country level following the Countries own legal frameworks, and if you are explicitly moaning about about judicial dependence you want to look a bit closer to home first. All the recent UK Governments have enacted stupid laws without the help of European directives.

If you really want something to be worried about in the realm of Government legislation go away and look at the increasing use of Bills that are hugely vague and rely on fundamentally unchallengable, undemocrative untransparent use of statutory instruments to essential make stuff up on the fly. They have managed all that without the EU, and a lot of the shady stuff they have done has only been challenged because of the primacy of things like the EHRC.

As for false imprisonment? I presume you mean things like the European Arrest Warrant? If you think that is bad go and look at how one sided our extradition arrangements are with the US, and again our politicians did that without the help of the EU.

Bottom line - our own politicians are a bigger risk to us, and interfere in our lives more than the EU ever will, and at the moment there is so little difference between the vast bulk of them that we need an outside influence as a moderator. The EU ain't great but its better than nothing.

Look at the make up of the Tory part of the leave campaign, with exception of BoJo its basically the Tory junior shits league. (i.e. those with more ambition than talent). Gove being a prime example.

170:

Second, with the US covering the defense needs of Europe, they haven't needed to build up anything approaching a real modern army, so they simply haven't had the tanks and warplanes to do it. If they'd had them, they would have used them. Simple as that.

Just because the US had the most toys from 45 to 89 didn't mean the other folks didn't have any. They had a LOT. The US just had a LOT MORE.

171:

It depends on how long it will take to fix the house and how much it will cost. If being in the EU is only slightly more expensive than not, and it can be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, then fine. But if it is wildly expensive and likely to take ages to fix, then forget it.

Sometimes a building is only good for burning down. In my town the longstanding mayor and a fire-chief who was running for city council were having a very public feud about whether city employees could be on the city council, and meanwhile a huge crumbling asbestos laden building had defaulted to city ownership due to the owner failing to pay taxes. It would have cost millions to properly tear it down according to all the regulations. On the day of the election it mysteriously caught fire and burned to the ground. Fire departments from all around the region came to help, to prevent it from spreading to nearby buildings. Both the mayor and the fire chief lost the elections and their jobs. Just saying, sometimes homeless people need a safe place to smoke.

172:

From an educated European's perspective, the USA is a bit of an odd duck in the first place. A common currency but State budgets and income tax/sales tax/property tax collection authority? How does that work? A largely unelected Supremem Court authority? Huh? Common borders but State National Guards? It makes little sense from this end. And isn't Puerto Rico only half in anyway?

173:

This makes a... frightening amount of sense. Make Britain a giant Bermuda...

Re conflict reduction, how much of the EU setup actually mitigates against the 'strong man' model that tends to be central to conflicts elsewhere (from Hitler and Stalin through to Milosevic and Karadzic, and arguably Putin and Erdogan now)? It's glaring in its absence in the modern European state, even the ones with very recent experience of it. Is this EU influence or something different - coincidence rather than correlation?

As an economic entity, the EU can only function if the fiscal integration is much tighter, and adequately compensates periphery areas for economic issues generated out of policies focused on supporting the core. Arguably, the issues in PIGS economies had their start in an inability by their central banks to raise interest rates to remove heat from their economies in the early years of the Euro, when they were kept low to help finish getting a united Germany back on its feet (a fact successive German Finance Ministers have conveniently forgotten).

And a genuine question, as I can't find the answer - in the debate around the iniquitous effects of the European Arrest Warrant and similar, has there been an effective test in English courts in recent years of Haebus Corpus or other 'basic Magna Carta' tenets of the common law system? Some recent security legislation would appear to raise a question on this.

174:
It depends on how long it will take to fix the house and how much it will cost. If being in the EU is only slightly more expensive than not, and it can be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, then fine. But if it is wildly expensive and likely to take ages to fix, then forget it.

The problem is, all of those statements are incredibly loaded and subject to a lot of interpretation. Depending on your politics and more, there isn't even basic agreement on what's wrong with the EU. When you identify an issue, if you get a majority to agree there is an issue, there isn't agreement on how to fix it.

We shouldn't be surprised about that - there isn't agreement on how to fix problems that we (nearly) all agree are problems within the UK, like bed-blocking in the NHS. When you're trying to balance a multitude of different countries, different economies etc.

Overall, I believe the benefits of being in the EU outweigh the drawbacks and the benefits are increasing. It's not a constant, smooth up movement - like any human organisation they're guilty of fucking up - but generally they have a will to improve and they work on that goal. Various bugbears that have been raised here have been changed (like tar babies, they're sticky attractors because the EU is a target for vilification, just like "benefits scroungers" and "health and safety legislation") and changed for the better because the EU does seek to improve.

Others have other opinions of course. Some of them are better based in fact that those that are stuck to their tar babies.

But the analogy to a building is fatally flawed. You can assess the costs of repairing a building - and rebuilding from scratch and make a reasonably informed decision. While leaving the EU isn't a revolution in the sense of a war where the cost will literally be written in blood, at least I hope not, we've been in an intimate political union for 40 years and we'll have 2 years to separate. It's going to be like the messiest celebrity divorce you've ever seen, where both sides are worth billions - with the added fun that one side is going to change whose in charge in a coup that will be as dirty as the current campaign while several of the other parties will have massively difficulty domestic elections with the rise of their own anti-EU campaigns. Would you care to try to put a financial cost on much of that mess?

175:

Nope - AIUI, that's all in Brunei :)

http://www.army.mod.uk/operations-deployments/22792.aspx

Michael Yon did a fascinating series of short articles on attending the trackers' course there... there are one or two broken links in the list, normally an extra period or hyphen.

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/tracking-afghanistan.htm

176:

[Spaniard writing from Spain, and working in a British/Irish/Indian/Spanish environment; don't ask...]

Spanish media&politicians mostly seem rather puzzled by this Brexit thingie, as in 'How can this even be a question?' Only a few radical leftists question the European Union, and even them only rarely talk openly about leaving the EU, they are quite more likely to say they defend a different kind of Union (by which they mean one that implemented radical left policies... sort of like Yanis Varoufakis)

Add to that a sizeable number of European Unionists that wouldn't really mind to see the British leaving if that means faster advance towards an 'ever closer union' and you'll have a brief but accurate image of the way the referendum is seen from Spain.

My own opinion? I have to say I agree with the more common view. Of course the European Union isn't perfect (and what is?), of course it would be better if it were deeply reformed, of course the Euro to work properly needs an European Treasury, Finance Minister, etc (someone should have remembered what Disraeli said about the most dangerous policy of all being to jump a chasm in two leaps) but seriously, what good can result from leaving? The main driver behind the idea seems emotional, romantic, outdated, and even a tiny little bit irrational.

For pretty much everyone over here the Union is synonim with peace, freedom and democracy. The Long Peace is a very real benefit (ask the ex-Yugoslavians, which incidentally didn't belong to the Union) and personally I can see every day how important is it for business: if Britain opts for leaving very probably the very corporation I work for (a household name) will either break or, more probably, move its London headquarters to Madrid and/or Dublin.

P.S. Regarding that old, old zombie myth, namely, United States defending the West and Europeans being freeriders, the truth is that West Germany alone did contribute quite more soldiers, tanks, artillery and aircraft to the defence of Europe than America (and the same would apply to France). The most cursory look at a NATO OOB of the Cold War is quite instructive at this respect.

177:

I think we're probably too close to actually answer if the EU actively works against the "Strong Man" model but I would argue it probably does.

This is part of why the Tory Right with their dreams of Empire hate it, because it says "Britain can't be great" and while objectively Britain is no longer a superpower, an organisation that reminds us of that daily is unconscionable.

But, more seriously, the EU model has individual states with quite a lot of power but they also have to work together with the other EU leaders on many things. Undoubtedly there are weaker and stronger voices in those discussions but whether you have to reach a qualified majority or a unanimous decision, you've still got to bring a big chunk of folks with you. A policy of massive overt discrimination against gays and lesbians (no matter how many of the leaders would love to support it privately) would not get supported because it's political suicide in Western Europe. You can substitute in whatever other "Strong Man" leadership process you want and see if you think any of them will fly.

Personally I'm kind of surprised they agreed to ship illegal migrants back to Turkey, it's bordering on anti-muslim discrimination - so much so that the ECHR threw out the first agreement! I'm not sure quite how they've got away with it the second time but clearly they've steered a very careful course - and they've moved the refugee pressure from Greece (intended) to Italy (unintended) according to the news. When they slow that one, Spain will presumably be next.

178:

And that's just the optimistic viewpoint! As I have said, I think that leaving the EU would (indirectly) crash the City of London. It would also mean that our foreign-owned manufacturing and services would close down pronto. Those in turn would crash our housing bubble. The UK's pensions are dependent on the UK's housing market being a Ponzi scheme, which is itself dependent on the higher value housing being used as an offshort bullion store and tax haven by m(b)illionaires from even less reputable countries. And, whether immigrants are made unwelcome or simply don't come because our pay drops, the majority of essential and highly skilled workers in many areas are immigrants. I am predicting an evens chance that we will start to leave the EU by 2020, and a 90% chance that we will be bankrupt by 1950s standards within 5 years of leaving. Insane is not the word.

179:

@169 "the Tory junior shits league"
Why am I immediately reminded of Python's "Upper Class Twit of the Year"? ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqObJtGrKaA ) A Tory Junior Shits League for football, or better, rugby, could be quite amusing.

@172 "From an educated European's perspective, the USA is a bit of an odd duck in the first place."

Because history. Each of the original 13 colonies was just that, a separate Crown colony. There was intense diplomacy at the personal level to get these 13 separate entities to agree to the idea of being one polity. Our first go at a constitution was a failure ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_Confederation ). Incrementally, over time, the federal government has gained power relative to the states, but the rationale for the division of powers has never been explicitly addressed. The limits of the EU over the sovereign rights of member states is somewhat analogous. While I wouldn't compare BRexit to the US Civil War in terms of severity, it's still going to be a massive shock to the economic and political landscape of the UK if it passes.

180:

Fact check on global military spending:

In number one place, the USA accounts for half of global military spending.

In number two place, in aggregate, the EU accounts for two thirds of the rest.

Iran, China, Russia? Between them they spend less than half as much on military crap as the EU.

If the EU can be said to have a military weakness it lies in the fact that it has 25 different defense ministries and bureaucracies -- mini-Pentagons -- and a huge amount of redundant infrastructure. Not to mention different priorities because, well, different national governments.

But if the EU was re-formed as a single federal state with a single merged military, it'd be a credible rival to the USA (and the only real rival on the planet).

181:

how much of the EU setup actually mitigates against the 'strong man' model that tends to be central to conflicts elsewhere ... It's glaring in its absence in the modern European state

The ECHR and other pan-European institutions make dictatorship hard, but not impossible. In particular, Hungary under Viktor Orban and Fidesz looks a lot like it's trying to morph into a one-party state -- wikipedia is wary of calling them on it, but they've been nobbling the judiciary and bringing in constitutional/electoral changes to lock in their control over Hungary and make it hard to mount effective opposition.

has there been an effective test in English courts in recent years of Haebus Corpus or other 'basic Magna Carta' tenets of the common law system? Some recent security legislation would appear to raise a question on this.

I'm pretty sure Habeas Corpus has been dead since the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974, and the more recent Terrorism Acts that brought in detention without charge for protracted periods (although the Home Office were forced to row it back from three months to two weeks). In theory HC should be superseded by the European Convention on Human Rights as implemented by the Human Rights Act, but in practice? Our current government plan to replace the HRA with a watered-down British Bill of Rights (which is a constitutional can of worms insofar as Scotland has a separate non-common-law legal system, the HRA is baked into the Scotland Act establishing the Scottish parliament, and the Scottish government unanimously said "nope" -- oh, and the same goes for Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement).

182:

Military spending and military power are not directly correlated, cost of labor matters. I would bet that for a price of a single USA aircraft carrier, PRC could build several.

183:

Yes, but I stand behind my point: aside from the USA, EU members are the only folks operating a CVN, two different classes of SSBN, multiple non-nuclear carriers, and so on. If the political will existed (luckily it doesn't) the merged EU could become a meddlesome imperialistic superpower with the same global nuisance potential as the USA.

(I hold that one meddlesome imperialistic superpower is one too many. But at least it's better than the two we had during the latter half of the 20th century, or the multiple ones prior to that.)

185:

Yes. See also Rex vs Haddock (Mr Justice Lugg delivering judgement) :-)

186:

Also, a super-carrier is not an iPhone. There is a VERY long tail behind building this kind of thing, never mind operating it effectively (never mind several of them).

If the BrExit brouhaha does have some value, it lies in challenging long-held assumptions and treasured 'givens'. On the UK side in putting a cold hard challenge to the trad Euroskeptic Tory rump to back up their mistrust with a real alternative (still waiting, like a dog chasing cars they appear to have no idea what to do in the event that they succeed), to the EU monolith that the only approach to change is incremental without addressing root-and-branch sclerosis. Note I do not say 'resolving', merely 'challenging'...

My own take, as Scot living for the past few decades in RoI, is that a) the EU is a Good Thing, if it can continue to dilute the autocratic tendencies of its core members and offer up a useful social alternative to the UK/US corp-friendly "citizen=effective-economic-unit" model and b) I really should sort out my Irish citizenship.

187:

I agree that it's one too many, but you can see what happened during the period it was unchallenged - and what it is still doing today in the areas where it is effectively unchallenged - so whether one is better than several is a good question.

188:

Aside from Hungary there's some nasty politics in Poland too. My suspicion is that the horrors of the 20th century have, for now at least, put W Europe off dictators and strong men.

189:

Exactly one CVN (nuclear powered) - MN Charles de Gaulle. Everything else is a CV of some description...

190:

But if the EU was re-formed as a single federal state with a single merged military, it'd be a credible rival to the USA

Which is exactly what "our dear ally" USA will work very hard and fight very dirty to prevent from happening - at ALL costs, to the Europeans. The Americans want to make the world safe for business, democracy is un-safe.

There is the legal way, by, using the TTIP and TISA to place all of Europe's democracies under the thumb by a committee of three lawyers.

The there is the CIA Gladios-style way of setting the middle east on fire, arming (almost) every colour of islamic millitant and then to make sure "things kick off nicely" task NATO with bombing a clear passage for them through Libya.

...and Turkey. Since Russia don't really want a fight, maybe the Turks would be up for a little invasion and restoration of The Ottoman Empire?

I used to be very pro-EU. I liked the "Nationalistic EU", the "United States of EU" that could have been some kind of creative and humanistic superpower.

Instead we have the Corporation-friendly, American Vassal Bureaucracy that is afraid of everything and nothing.

Infested with neoliberal ideas of Growth as Magick Pixie Dust that will fix all problems - so - every time the EU meets a problem, It just includes another member state so it doesn't have do deal with fixing anything within the borders. Veery business-like.

That EU, the EU we have now, needs to be replaced by something finer and better, which is MORE than "free trade".

191:

I was poking at "one meddlesome imperialistic superpower," not the CVN. I let being a smartarse override clarity of communication, sorry.

192:

Yeah, one. Hint - who did the French have to ask to airlift their troops in?

193:

Indeed. The UK is building a pair of aircraft carriers, on time and (so far) to specification, for much less than the cost of the first of the Ford-class CVNs. This, after Type 45, is allegedly a source of envy on the part of the USN...

Part of that is the competence of certain US military shipyards - who aren't always highly regarded in terms of quality or precision, as exemplified by the USS SAN ANTONIO (link).

I'm not suggesting that UK shipbuilding is routinely awesome; the powerplant choice for Type 45 was political and problematic (now being fixed), and Barrow had problems with skill-fade that needed help from the USA when it was time to design and build the first Astute-class SSN, but the RN is very happy with how things are now turning out...

194:

Serval had airlift cadged from all over, but I can't find any external airlift support for Barkhane. What am I missing?

195:

Oh, dear. Where to start?

"But if the EU was re-formed as a single federal state with a single merged military, it'd be a credible rival to the USA."

Great. Then I and the other 60,000+ DOD personnel still in Europe could go home and you lot could deal with Putin. A unified, proactive, well-defended EU would mean we could marginalize the eternal debating club that is NATO. Right now, the only way to get NATO to do anything in the short term is to rely on the ABCs - America, Britain and Canada.

"The[n] there is the CIA Gladios-style way of setting the middle east on fire"

Sigh. It's so much more convenient to think that the CIA is some sort of super-competent, limitless evil cabal than to think that even governments stumble through life. Don't attribute to conspiracy that which can as easily be explained as stupidity.

196:

Would also suggest that describing France as an 'imperialistic superpower' is being a tad generous (by about 70 years or so... no matter what de Gaulle might have thought). More a 'nuclear power with post-imperial legacy issues', unfortunately there are several of those!

197:

Maybe not everything has hit the press. I can't go into specifics, but the French did ask for, and get, USAF airlift for several operations in Africa.

198:

"Then I and the other 60,000+ DOD personnel still in Europe could go home and you lot could deal with Putin."

Putin does not need dealing with, especially by the USA. Russia could not even take down Chechnya without a hell of a fight. How do you think they would fare with Germany? Putin as a military threat to the EU is laughable bullshit.

200:

Have you been paying attention to NATO member spending recently? Military effectiveness relies on much more than numbers of tanks. Re the German Bundesheer, read this: http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pulling-germanys-military-back-the-brink-13852

Plus, don't limit your threat dimensions to refighting WWI or II. Look at what Russia is doing in Ukraine. By backing separatist or ethnic Russian groups, cyber warfare, economic blackmail (who supplies your natural gas?), and other indirect means, plus what is now called A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial), Russia can "influence" bordering states with a very limited likelihood that EU/NATO/US can mount a credible military response.

201:

They may not look imposing from where you sit, but if you lived in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria your outlook would be very different. And those are ALL EU members.

202:

Certainly France can't be compared to the US, but it can't be compared to Britain, either. In most of Africa French military and economic presence is strong enough to almost constitute an unofficial empire, and no year passes without French troops entering combat in some African country. Mali, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic...

Actually, most of the French ex-colonies in Western and Central Africa still use the CFA franc (the old 'Communauté Française d'Afrique' franc) now pegged to the Euro but guaranteed exclusively by the French Treasury.

203:

Oh yes, but I cheated and picked the operation that doesn't have NATO participation. :-)

204:

France and the U.S. have a bilateral military relationship, too.

205:

@200 & @201

Have you seen how the Swedish armed forces have been dismantled? I though UK politicians were short sighted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_Armed_Forces#/media/File:Svenska-f%C3%B6rsvaret-1965-2010.gif

206:

No, but I'm not surprised. Sweden and Finland have been a LOT more enthusiastic about military cooperation with NATO over the past year.

207:

Hardly a secret - USAF refuelling support was a part of Op SERVAL, and the Air Force Blues cartoon strip was offline for a while because the Mildenhall-based author was reeealllllly busy.

208:

With apologies for the interruption, a public service announcement for the hipsters; http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/radio/specials/165_gramchallenge10/

209:

Christ, get me taking myself so seriously. I do apologise. It just creates the impression that post authors are five years old, and the dissonance with what they're actually saying makes it hard to take them seriously; I want to read what you're writing, but could you meet me halfway and write in such a way that I can concentrate on the meaning and not keep having the words drag my attention to them?

210:

I may be wrong, but my perception is that England has the strongest caste system – socially, financially and politically – of any European country. (Okay Monaco and Lichtenstein are outright monarchies, but their regular non-aristo populace seem to do okay: they’re not starving, they have roofs over their heads, etc.) Having to more fully integrate into the EU system might mean that English aristos would lose some of their perks to those self-centered, money grubbing nouveau riche vs. keeping the wealth/power in the deserving hands of the self-centered who got their money the traditional way (i.e., inherited it).

I’m not familiar with the differences in legal systems (UK vs. EU*) but considering that InterPol predates the EU, ditto embassies/consulates and various international peace treaties/orgs (UN), I really don’t see a problem on this dimension for England either leaving or integrating itself more fully within the EU. Countries/people will always have spats. Having open borders that allow citizens to freely travel to/from many countries should in theory mean that more citizens would be less likely to be conned into believing that such-and-such a country is ‘evul’ by some ticked off bratty pol who didn’t get his/her own way on some piece of legislation. Having open borders also means that there’s a chunk of the population that comes from/has close family in that other country and who also would probably really, really prefer not to see pols declare war. (BTW … How many of the current batch of senior Brit pols are from the aristo group vs. pols in the EU?)

*I find it hard to believe that the EU legal system in its entirety is solely based on the Napoleonic Code considering the number of member countries with long-standing other legal frameworks.


Re: The poorly working patchwork that is the present EU vs. the better-working model of the present-day 'united' US states ...

Total BS! The states making up the USofA continue to have uneven/unfriendly economies, squabble most of the time, often try to pass weirdo state-ethos/mythos-centric legislation that eventually gets struck down by the US SC, etc. BTW, NAFTA only goes back to the mid-70s: free-trade is not really a US strong suit unless it allows them to move low-tech industry to cheaper labor areas (Mexico).

211:

I may be wrong, but my perception is that England has the strongest caste system – socially, financially and politically – of any European country.

Once again, with gusto: England is not the UK. Let me just run a flag up the mast and remind you that Scotland has a different legal system, different health service, different bank notes, soon-to-be-distinct tax raising powers, and different social and ethnic structure from England. (Northern Ireland and Wales also differ, to varying degrees and in varying directions.)

Every country in the EU has a different legal system because -- who knew? -- they're separate countries. However, a bunch of them had their legal code overwritten circa 1790-1815 during Napoleon Bonaparate's Excellent Adventure. England and Ireland still run on something descended from Common Law; Scotland runs on something descending from the Roman Law that predated the Code Napoleon in much of Continental Europe. Since the 1970s, EU member laws have to some extent been drafted to comply with various EEC and later EU directives, but only as they can be implemented in terms of existing bodies of law dating back several centuries. In the East, member laws were also drafted to comply with various fads promoted by their local franchises of the CPUSSR, which were as varied in their enthusiasm for and approach to Leninism as any random Christian sect is in its approach to the bits of Jesusology not nailed down by the Nicean Creed.

As far as social mobility goes, the UK had a higher index of social mobility circa 2000-2010 than the USA. Then the fucking Tories got back into the driving seat and dragged the country kicking and screaming back towards the 19th century, hence things currently being rock-bottom relative to the EU, if not the entire developed world.

You are entirely correct that the current batch of senior Conservative pols are all multi-millionaires, mostly born with silver spoons in their mouths and pedigrees going back more generations that the Founding Fathers of the United States had years between them. (Only a slight exaggeration ...) That's because for the past 3-4 centuries, modulo the odd wobble (circa Benjamin Disraeli to Edward Heath) the Conservatives have been the Party of the Rich Landowning Gentry. A faction within Labour -- New Labour -- would have liked to join the club, but didn't hang onto power for enough generations to earn their membership fees; a much larger faction in Labour today (the Corbynites, who now number about 70% of their rank-and-file members) would be happy to hoist the red flag, start singing the Internationale, and start slitting throats raising inheritance tax. (And I for one would be cheering from the side-lines.)

David Cameron is basically the English Home Counties equivalent of George W. Bush, only without the man-of-the-people I'd-drink-a-beer-with-him touch. He's a multi-millionaire who married an Astor heiresss. See below for how he looks in his native habitat:


212:

Only one of those 7 is an actual fleet carrier. Another is STVOL, the rest are helicopter ships.

The EU has a serious issue with projection. Like others discussed, the West Germans had a large military. But it wasn't built to fight where ever needed, it was built to fight between the Rhine and Elba.

This applies to lots of complicated bits, like logistics, as well as doctrine and command structures.

The US, Russia, the UK and France are the only ones with reach. And honestly, the UK, France and Russia are much more limited than they used to be. Its expensive running a global logistics chain. France's interests are mostly in Africa, so building their projection there makes more sense. The Aircraft carriers allow for operations in africa and in remaining possession around the world. The UK made its focus anti-sub work for the cold war, and those ships are impractical where needed now. But retooling is expensive.

Honestly, who could project power if they organized and needed to would be South Korea. Daewoo alone is building the Indian Navy's new subs and the RN's new coilers. Otoh there's a much bigger difference in building something and making it work. And building a carrier is just such an insane task, especially when doing nuclear (if you go conventional you've got a lot less freedom to operate and a lot less fuel you can carry for operations).

213:

T Cruz, for a start - that's really scary
(Keeping this short since it is only tangentially related)
I think T. Cruz POTUS is a very low probability possibility. Trump is also low probability but things can change; e.g. he could win if there is a sudden deep recession in full force at U.S. election time. (Nov 2016).
(Also I haven't fully figured out what's going on with the Guccifer (Romanian "hacker") extradition to the U.S., related to the Clinton email scandals.)

Just saying that things can be causally connected and that the UK has first move. :-)

Also, I'm seeing US news reports today about reactions to a Telegraph opinion piece by Barack Obama. Hard to parse the reactions from left-of-pond - any observations?

214:

"I'm intrigued to know how this very British lunacy looks from the outside"

From the U.S., pretty simple. Conservatives want to be able to do all the things that they want to do (financially and politically) without being held to account for it. The EU is a layer of government that (at least occasionally) holds them to account for their actions; EU-wide financial regulations and court review of human rights issues are the most prominent examples. Disdain for government is world-wide conservative phenomenon, and Brexit is a chance to vote away a layer of government. If there was a similar opportunity in the U.S., you can bet that the Republican party would be all over it. As things stand, they're stuck with raging against the paper tiger of the U.N. and trying to starve the federal government into immobility through a tax-cuts-now-tax-cuts-forever platform. In fact, though I have not seen it reported, I would bet that there are some conservative U.S. political operatives who are working for the Out camp. You have BoJo and Brexit, we have Trump and The Wall.

215:

More useful to think in terms of privilege than aristocracy, tbh. The elites of UK institutions tend to come from a fairly restricted bubble of private education and a few key universities (good summary on the Guardian site here), with much activity centralised in and around London. It's like the Ivy League/Beltway elements of US politics but massively magnified, and very much to the fore during any Conservative administration. More broadly, it tends to lead to groupthink on any number of issues based on a skewed perception of 'normal UK society'.

216:

Beat me too it on EU vs local law.

Good analysis here on what proportion of UK law is influenced by the EU. (hint- relatively small amount given how closely we are intertwined.)

http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/how-much-uk-national-law-is-based-on-eu-law/

217:

"The EU has a serious issue with projection."

Which is perfect. Unless, of course, you are a fan of the USofE stomping around the world imposing "peace". Libya being a good example of such a local project.
OTOH, a land based defence only military is my ideal. I have no interest in fighting China unless they arrive en mass via Russia

218:

From an educated European's perspective, the USA is a bit of an odd duck in the first place. A common currency but State budgets and income tax/sales tax/property tax collection authority? How does that work?

Day 1 there were thing laid out that the national government did/does and the rest "left to the states". Been doing it for nearly 250 years so we're used to it. Size plays a big factor here. Originally the US was to be a loose confederation. Wasn't working. But going all in on national control of everything wasn't an option politically.

A largely unelected Supremem Court authority? Huh?
Life time appointments, president nominates, Senate has to approve. Was supposed to keep things to middle of road and non partisan. Or that was the goal. Didn't quite work out that way.

Common borders but State National Guards? It makes little sense from this end.

Left over some the past due to size of country. But it gives the governors a small army they can call up for emergencies. Floods and disaster relief mostly. (Well except for the 60s/70s.) Allows the national forces to expand numbers quickly.

And isn't Puerto Rico only half in anyway?

But unlike the Philippines they don't want to be a state or an independent country so there they sit.

As to the original question, our insane presidential campaign has drowned out all but a nuclear bomb going off in terms of news coverage around the world for most people.

Based on what I read in various places the exit seems a lot like what Trump supporters want. Get out of entanglements with "fureners" and all will be wonderful.

219:

a land based defence only military is my ideal

Ask the Swedes or the Canadians how they feel about other peoples' submarines travelling through their waters; ask any ships travelling in the Indian Ocean whether piracy is a problem.

If you acknowledge the need for a blue-water force (especially given the UK's demonstrated dependence on seaborne trade lanes), then ask yourself whether it's allowed to do more than local area air defence; or whether blue-water operations without air support (surveillance, rescue, transport, etc - not just air superiority and attack) are a sensible move..

220:

Yes. And a further point is that, while the aristocracy and plutocracy overlap, not merely are they not the same but quite a lot of the former have been and are very liberal (as in left-wing). And it was the fact that those were influential within the party that led to the Disraeli-Heath period of fairly civilised, paternalistic conservatism. In this context, Khedron and Agent0090 are spot-on, and SFreader has misunderstood - the modern conservatives (and Blairites) are extremist worshippers of Mammon, and are happy to include johnny-come-lately pseudo-aristocrats and just plain vulgarians, just as long as they share the monetarist dogmas.

221:

May I offer a truly unpleasant suggestion?

How much difference *is* there, between the US GOP and the Tories? Are there not a lot of overlapping Board memberships (as they say when speaking of corporations)?

Consider the horrid thought that the billionaires on both sides of the Pond have reached the point where they think they *deserve* dragging both countries back to, oh, 1907, with lots and lots of cheap labor (that's labour) to you, aka the 99%, and they pay negligible taxes. Oh, and that cheap labour? They can always set up a war, and get you into it, takes care of excess funds, and excess populations....

One last note: I don't *like* Putin... but I can see the justification for what he's doing. People forget just how bad it was for, oh, the 99% of Russians after the collapse of the USSR, and home-grown and external vultures came in to grow themselves new millions or billions. And there's the fact of NATO's continued expansion... and the Russians are NOT going to forget Napoleon, and Hitler, and here's NATO *right* on their borders, with no buffer states.

mark

222:

"or whether blue-water operations without air support (surveillance, rescue, transport, etc - not just air superiority and attack) are a sensible move.."

Surely thats why the RN having such a preponderance of Helicopter capable ships left over from their ASW cold war duties comes in handy? Fast movers aren't great at anything but offensive warfare against a similarly equipped military, and there can't be much more than a dozen of those in the world that aren't allied.

One thing I don't think the RN will ever forget is its vulnerability to enemy Jets in '82. If the Govt ever ponies up the cash for the F35B/C for the 2 carriers then the RN would be able to but the frighteners on most potential enemies.

223:

The F35 - an overpriced underperforming heap of junk. Maybe we should buy PAK-FA from Russia

224:

While we're on the topic, here's a question

Outside of possibly Russia, what are the security threats to the EU that it needs a much larger military for?

For fighting piracy? Just use the multinational model which worked in Somalia. Does the EU collectively lack ships or projection capability to combat piracy?

225:

Well, obviously aircraft carriers are a bit of overkill when it comes to Somali pirates. Apart from Russia being provoked into threatening the West (NATO is trying as hard as it can) there is no threat.

226:

Well, it's not precisely a matter of weapons, but the arguably biggest security threats are:

--migration
--disaster relief
--famine (probably not for the next couple of decades, but I would worry about the Iberian Peninsula
--disaster relief, most likely from storms.
--pandemics

Note that you don't need nukes or main battle tanks for any of these, but you do need trained troops, because large-scale unrest and insurrection commonly accompany these.

While it's possible we'll get into wars over oil or food (and don't forget, Nazi Germany wanted to annex Poland and the Ukraine to guarantee its grain supply), I'm looking more at what's happening in the Middle East and the south rim of the Mediterranean. The EU has done a crappy job of dealing with the relatively small number of refugees that have hit it already, and the problem's only going to get worse, even if we do get serious about deep decarbonization. We've already locked in most of a century of climate change even if today turns out to be Peak Oil Day (and I devoutly hope it does).

227:

Thanks for the explanation. Okay, I get/had assumed that the UK/EU legal systems were a hodge-podge mostly because there's so damned much history.

In the US, the Louisiana legal system is the odd man out because of its history and is based on Spanish (not Napoleonic) law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Louisiana

In Canada, Quebec civil law is based on French civil law vs. British Common Law in the other provinces/territories. (Because criminal law is the same across the country Quebec has a bijuridical legal system.)

Since legal system hodge-podges are nothing new, nor unique to the England vs. rest of UK vs. EU situation, either folks should learn to deal with it or maybe come up with a truly universal law system that all countries (states, provinces, etc.) can live with. Which I thought was the point of the EU anyways starting with trade and basic/universal human rights ... you know, those things that wars are generally fought over.

228:

The F-35 is apparently only "underperforming" if you're badly informed. Or in the pay of Boeing, who are desperate to sell more F/A-18.

The PAK-FA is still only a prototype. Undoubtedly with the dodgy engines, rubbish avionics, agricultural build quality, poor ergonomics, and comparatively short lifespan that are representative of most Russian-built aircraft. I appreciate the doctrinal compromises that are involved in the Russian "hammer out lots of them, because a lot will be shot down" view of military equipment, but the West tends to buy equipment that it hopes it won't use...

You do realise that every time that the Russian Navy goes into blue water, they take along an ocean-going tug for when the ship breaks down?

229:

Actually, London also has an election coming up on May 5: the mayoral election (in which my area's MP is the conservative candidate).

I think it's bizarre and depressing that Britain is even having this discussion. An EU exit, IMO will certainly mean a Scottish exit, and quite possibly a Welsh one, too. Then the north of England will decide it would rather be part of Scotland, and what will be left? London as city-state?

wg

230:

You might enjoy this:

Natural and Artificial Aristocracy [Thomas Jefferson's letter to John Adams]

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/print_documents/v1ch15s61.html

Agree ... but still think that, if it came to a contest, old title/old money beats no title/new money among voters. Habits are hard to break.

231:

Outside of Russia

What, they aren't enough? Remember, this is Russia that has taken chunks of land from other countries by force, and declared them to be "part of Russia". And views the Baltic states' membership of NATO, not as an understandable strategic reassurance against "hybrid warfare" as demonstrated in the Ukraine, but instead declares them to be a strategic threat.

https://www.rt.com/news/333865-latvia-nato-military-presence/

While everyone else in Europe was scaling back on the tanks and planes, the Russians are about to start rolling the new T-14 Armata out. Guess where it's being delivered first? Correct, the reformed 1 Guards Tank Army, in the Western Military District. The Ukrainians will be so pleased.

http://www.janes.com/article/57828/russia-completes-reformation-of-1st-guards-tank-army

232:

My understanding is that aristos in England are eligible to run for Parliament (House of Commons*) or via hereditary title or by royal (via PMO) appointment, sit in the House of Lords. Commoners can only get into gov't by being elected as MPs (Commons). To me, this gives English aristos a huge and unfair advantage. And, although the House of Lords is not required/supposed to have any authority over financial (tax type) bills, apparently the House of Commons allows them a say. Why?

*Aristo can run for Parliament provided he/she is not a member of House of Lords, i.e., cannot sit in both Houses at the same time.

Yes, I understand that the House of Lords has been undergoing review/changes for decades ... but nothing has really changed apart from its getting bigger and bigger. Why ... it's certainly not because their mandated gov't responsibility/authority has increased. In fact the reverse is true (as per Wikipedia): the House of Lords (on paper) now has fewer powers - less authority and/or responsibility - than ever. (My guess is that Cameron is buying influence/paying off debts.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Lords

'In April 2011, a cross-party group of former leading politicians, including many senior members of the House of Lords, called on the Prime Minister David Cameron to stop creating new peers. He had created 117 new peers since becoming prime minister in May 2010, a faster rate of elevation than any PM in British history. The expansion occurred while his government had tried (in vain) to reduce the size of the House of Commons by 50 members, from 650 to 600.[43]'

...

'In August 2015, following the creation of a further 45 peers in the Dissolution Honours, the total number of eligible members of the Lords increased to 826.'

233:

From across the pond, this particular British lunacy looks fairly lunatic, in that the US regards European unity as a good thing and the exit of a major power as an indicator of instability. And also the conventional wisdom, when Europe starts world wars we end up having to pick up the pieces. "If it weren't for us you'd be speaking German" would be the ugly side of it-- and so forth.

From a more personal viewpoint, what affects UK law and politics directly affects my current work contract, so: stability desired.

234:

I think you misunderstand. The aristocrats are a minority in the current house of lords, which has been dominated by placemen, ex-politicians and plutocrats for a decade or two by now. The HoL has a little influence, but can be overriden, and party's in power ensure that their side has a reasonable power in the lords so nothing much happens against them.

An aristocrat simply has no real influence nowadays unless they are sufficiently enough of a plutocrat to have independent means aside from their title.

235:

I will cheerfully admit to being Profoundly Ignorant when it comes to the latest Military Toys from the US of A/Uk toy-box as sold to The Oily Arab Kingdoms, but.. aren't all of these shiny Flying Horse Substitutes as Mounts for the Aristocracy of Your Polity and Aristocracy ...

https://www.royal.uk/ and also

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_service_by_the_members_of_the_British_Royal_Family

A bit hard to feel the same way about Drones of every shape, size and kind, controlled by the Electronic Games Playing, Post Suez, Post Fall of the Berlin Wall Generation?

The thing is that the British/Scottish/English with a touch of Irish Aristocratic Model was Exported to the US of A way back a bit before and during the Napoleonic Wars ... when The Empire of England was a wee bit preoccupied with survival in Europe and thus it could, reasonably, be said that the US of A was a Kind of redoubt Final Fortress for the English/British Aristocracy.

How is that working for you so far US of Americans Citizens of The Special Relationship?

It is ATTITUDE and Culture that counts in the forthcoming decision on Br-exit and not Nationalist labels and National/Nationalistic Super States like the US of A and of The ... How does it go these Days,

" the EEC was incorporated and renamed as the European Community (EC). In 2009 the EC's institutions were absorbed into the EU's wider framework and the community ceased to exist."

Oh, not quite that ..this repays reading .. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Economic_Community

Its a bit beyond an " Economic_Community " these days isn't it? How many people who are due to vote on the future of the UK in or out of the ..Euro ..Thingy ..Whatever it is called right now? Actually read this sort of stuff? It is far more lightly that the electorate will vote, not upon hard facts and balance of Economic Lies, but upon whether or not they really like to be told what they should do by Foreigners ...

OH ..If only The Yanks could have been to be just a little more Humble and have had their President keep his mouth shut on the subject!!

As it is it does look like a line up of opposing sides on the membership of the Ruling Classes -of all kinds Commercial, land and property owning Aristocratic, and Multi-National Corporate - against the 'umble Folks of England who should DO AS THEY ARE TOLD BY THEIR BETTERS!!

Now what could possibly go wrong with that sort of approach?

236:

You are mistaking reality for fantasy - the fantasy that the Aristocracy will just fade away if you ignore them .."An aristocrat simply has no real influence nowadays unless they are sufficiently enough of a plutocrat to have independent means aside from their title."

You mean the Aristocracy in the U.K? You couldn't be more wrong. Aristocrats still exist and have power ..who owns half of the property in the UK?

http://www.countrylife.co.uk/features/who-owns-britain-top-ten-aristocratic-uk-landowners-20175

http://londonist.com/2014/08/who-owns-london

They just are terribly good at camouflage, and at persuading the populace to bend the knee ..in suitably Modern fashion ....

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/apr/11/how-the-royals-became-cool

And also ..this will sting a bit with some on Charlies Blog ..

http://labourlist.org/2016/04/corbyn-queen-birthday-speech/

237:

How much difference *is* there, between the US GOP and the Tories? Are there not a lot of overlapping Board memberships (as they say when speaking of corporations)?

Yes and no.

The venal wings of both parties see eye-to-eye on everything -- as witness the preeminence of Rupert Murdoch among both.

However, there is no UK equivalent of the Screaming Jesus People wing of the Republican Party -- it's not so much that they don't exist here as that there are only a tenth as many of them in the population (maybe 3-5% instead of 30-50%). Socially, while the elderly Tories are as stuck in the 1920s as anyone, the younger generation -- including Cameron -- are a lot more progressive. Could a 55-year-old Republican leader have stood up on the floor of the house and made an impassioned pro-Marriage Equality speech? Nope? Didn't think so. (Cameron did that.)

The third leg of the Republican party is the bugfuck southern racist side -- the folks Nixon ran towards with the Southern Strategy. Again, there's no exact equivalent in the UK. There is a nasty xenophobic/anti-immigrant fringe, but the UK hasn't in living memory had an ethnic minority out-group with 10-15% of the population for the rednecks to get riled up against, and today, to the extent that immigrants constitute a double-digit percentage, many of them are "invisible" -- white Europeans who only stand out when you hear the accents.

So the key point of overlap is the venal/corporatist wing, and the xenophobic wing. But that's entirely bad enough.

(IIRC Boris Johnson surrendered his US passport a few years ago, but had dual nationality; he seriously considered a career in US politics but opted for the UK because he probably figured he had a better chance of making it into 10 Downing Street than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.)

238:

Um, sorry, I just saw a news story today about the software for flying the thing - a human pilot can't by themself - with inadequate testing, and no fallbacks.

At $400 BILLION for the fleet of them, it's a humongously overprice PoS, and I want my tax dollars that were wasted on it *back*. Or maybe used for something useful, like repealing the Hyde Amendment, and federal funds paying for abortions.

mark

239:

What the UK really needed was a referendum on building a fifty metre wall around the City of London and charging a thousand quid a body to let people go in and out -- to the banks based there, of course, who could then run it as a kind of mini-Singapore and get the crap out of the hair of the rest of the UK.

240:

A modest Post Scrip to my above remark that .." OH ..If only The Yanks could have been to be just a little more Humble and have had their President keep his mouth shut on the subject!! "

To that I will add .. If only Polly Toynbee could have restrained herself from gushing Hero Worship .." Our idiosyncrasies he tolerates, before the real business: talks with the prime minister and a town hall meeting with young people where he will proclaim for remaining in the EU. That’s what he’s really here for. Then on to Germany.

If on 23 June we vote to leave, future US presidents may bypass shrunken little tin-pot England with its showy royalty, ignoring a Ruritania whose empty ceremonial strutting will look yet more comical when stripped of its present influence. Scotland gone, struggling with the economic fallout from our own folly – why stop here? Instead presidents will head straight for the German chancellery. We shall no longer boast of being the “bridge” between the EU and Washington. The outers’ pretence that striking a unilateral deal with America will be better than being that bridge looks thin indeed, when the president makes such an exceptional effort to keep us inside." ..

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/21/david-cameron-obama-sadiq-khan-eu-referendum

241:

No, I'm not, because I'm not ignoring them. Last year's plutocrat is this years aristocrat, and vice-versa. You probably aren't familiar with the large number of relatively impoverished aristocrats- in medieval times there were something near a thousand aristocratic families, yet you trumpet a list of top ten aristocrats as if every titled person owned a huge amount of land. Any random aristocrat has more influence than you, but probably less than many politicians, local or national, and certainly not enough to be paid attention to. If it were that simple do you not think they would have re-permitted fox hunting in the old way, for instance?

242:

Commoners can only get into gov't by being elected as MPs (Commons).

Not quite: the PM can appoint them to the House of Lords by giving them a life peerage (an honour that's non-hereditary). This in fact is the usual retirement bonus for long-serving cabinet ministers.

243:

Re Charlie's post 235:

Please, we're not *that* bad. The raving screaming self-proclaimed evangelical Christians are less than 30%. I'd be surprised, actually, if they were over 20%. Unfortunately, they overlap a lot with the "libertarian"-brainwashed. Together, that makes up the 30%.

About the RSEC's (I just invented that acronym), two things they've got going: first, the US has become massively more urban, and a lot of those still out in rural America had utterly miserable schools, and grew up surrounded by RSEC ministers, in small communities. The other is the US South, which is an area with that writ large, except, to some degree, the big cities. (N'awlins is a whole 'nother ballgame). The upshot is that it's all self-reinforcing. And with Faux to encourage them.... (The Lib'ral Media, oh, except for Faux....)

Thanks, Oz, can we please send Murdoch *back*?

mark

244:

I'd vote for that.

With the money from the thousand poundses to be dedicated (in the first instance, at least) to two things:

1) Capacity increases on the Underground. Which is choking to death trying to get all the people in and out of the middle, and can't get the money to build increased capacity faster than the capacity gets used up.

2) Awareness courses for bankers on what email and telephones are for.

245:

A bit wider than the City of London perhaps?

These days London has become a World City and day by day is being turned into a Gated Community for the Super Rich inside the Ring of Steel.

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/esmagazine/the-paranoid-world-of-londons-superrich-dnalaced-security-mist-and-nuclearproof-panic-rooms-a3096491.html

Of course the Elite will still need some Body Servants - Medical Persons Close Protection Bodyguards and so forth - but very few of the Traditional Servant Classes are needed to serve the Super Rich These days. Those Loyal Servants can be Imported as Part of The Lord and Ladies Retinues ..it may be necessary to bio- engineer these household servants that they might properly appreciate their Lords and Ladies and DIE for them as is required by their Regal needs and entertainment. Loyalty is a commodity.

246:

Speaking of Putin, as has been done here and there upthread, I came across this video of the 2015 Victory Day Parade in Red Square, in which Putin receives the salutes of the commanders of various participating units. Kinda reminds me of OGH's A Colder War in places, though I didn't spot any shoggoths.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrSzCnz9Sic

(The video is narrated in Russian, with a portentious delivery that is reminiscent of USAian English movie news of the 1950s.)

247:

" You probably aren't familiar with the large number of relatively impoverished aristocrats"

Times change as does the texture of the Aristocracy ..impoverished Aristocracy? It depends on what you mean by impoverished for they all know each other and will do each other favors in the confident expectation that those favors will be returned, if not to themselves then to their children and grandchildren with whom the fortunate will have gone to school and whose families they will intermarry with.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics

Aristocrats are harder to kill off than bed bugs or cockroaches.

248:

Agree that the old-school hereditary peers/aristos are declining as a proportion of total HoL. But the appointment of peers is itself enlarging the effective 'aristo/titled segment' population in total.

Getting a title is still very desirable. Titles not only get you better tables at chi-chi restaurants, titles pay for your lunches too thanks to the daily allowance that peers can pick up en route to their lunch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_peer

'Life peers created under the Life Peerages Act do not, unless they also hold ministerial positions, receive salaries. They are, however, entitled to daily allowance of £300 for travel and accommodation on signing in each day, though there is no requirement to take part in the business of the House.'

So that’s an allowance of £9,000 per month/£108,000 per year for every single year until they shuffle off and for doing absolutely nothing. Now multiply this by the 150+ peers, so £16,200,000 per year in additional expenses since Cameron became PM.


A few articles report that the HoL has become so crowded that the Lords who actually do have jobs there, can't do their jobs due to over-crowding.


249:

Indeed, relatively they are better off than you or I, but in practical terms, they have no more power than some scummy businessman with no blue blood.

250:

Yes, I know all that. So I don't really see what you are on about. You seem fixated on the HoL having real power, when it hasn't had that since 1910 or so. Which doesn't mean it has no power at all, and the privileged will use any opportunity to network or get free stuff. Nevertheless, things here are different than they were 40 years ago, as mammon has taken over.

251:

Um, sorry, I just saw a news story today about the software for flying the thing - a human pilot can't by themself - with inadequate testing, and no fallbacks.

Human pilots can't fly most modern fighters without assistance; they're designed to be dynamically unstable.

As for "inadequate testing", you're talking utter bollocks (politely put). Aircraft are now more tested than ever before, largely because of the sheer amount of software. If you don't believe me, go and look at the crash statistics for designs in the 1940s to 1960s - they had attrition rates approaching half of all the airframes built (see: Gloster Meteor, Gloster Javelin, F-102, F-106, F-104 in Luftwaffe service). This lasted into the 1970s.

http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/0000/AT.htm

Here's an example - the B-58 Hustler. 116 built, in service for ten years, 30 lost to accidents / crashes. How about the F-14? A quarter of all of them crashed.

Now compare that with the dynamically-unstable Eurofighter Typhoon. 467 delivered, in service for nearly thirteen years now, four crashes. Or the dynamically unstable F-22; nearly 200 delivered, ten years in service, four lost.

At $400 BILLION for the fleet of them, it's a humongously overprice PoS, and I want my tax dollars that were wasted on it *back*.

Politely, I would suggest that you don't know what you're talking about.

252:

I should also point out for clarity that $400B is about a third of the project cost.

On the bright side, the UK is the only "Level 1" partner nation in the project - and stands to see a significant percentage of that $1.5T sum.

Oh, and one loss out of the 171 delivered so far...

253:

"An aristocrat simply has no real influence nowadays unless they are sufficiently enough of a plutocrat to have independent means aside from their title."

Spot on. I always find it odd when people object to aristocracy - in a UK context, at least - on the basis of a view of who holds effective power which is over a hundred years out of date, and in doing so fail to aim at the genuinely objectionable targets. These days it is commercial and moneyed interests who are the holders of non-democratically-accountable power, and if an aristocrat does happen to have undue influence it is because of their connections in that sphere, not because of their title.

As for the House of Lords - its influence in most things is minimal because its members' interests have very little overlap with general politics these days. The fox-hunting thing is a glaring exception - but even there they certainly don't get it all their own way. And while I personally would like to see all hunting banned, I have to admit that as far as the UK as a whole is concerned the subject is way down at the bottom of the list in importance.

Where it does have value is in acting as a curb on the more looney excesses of the party in power in the Commons. Partly because of the existence of left-leaning liberal aristocrats as pointed out by Elderly Cynic, and partly because once someone has got there (by way of "graduating" from the Commons) it's more or less impossible for them to get kicked out - so they are free to stop being a cunt and to start voting on the basis of conscience, and quite a lot of them do turn out to actually have one. Hence the actions of recent governments in further limiting the Lords' powers, and in trying to stuff it with their own life peers in the hope that the habit of being a cunt will persist for long enough to give them at least a temporary advantage.

254:

And right now the current govt has the hump with the HoL due to a couple of stinging rejections of bills from Dave. So much so that inspite of the fact he's been stuffing it with his own cronies he's still way off a majority, so he wants to reduce their power further.

Again it's a bit like the EU anything that acts as brake on some of the dumber legislation is ok in my book regardless of its origins.

255:

Getting a title is still very desirable. Titles not only get you better tables at chi-chi restaurants, titles pay for your lunches too

Yes.

It has been said that the life expectancy of a family fortune is three generations -- one on the way up, one to sit pretty at the top of the pile, and one to lose it.

The flip side of this is that if your family fortune is convertible into land with tenants paying rent, and if your children aren't too profligate, and if they marry within a pool of similar families, you can smooth out the boom/bust cycle over the long term and stay rich for a very long time indeed.

This model hasn't been terribly prominent during the 200 year period of industrial revolution and continuous capitalist economic growth, but it was the steady state situation prior to that, and it's possible it will reassert itself in future. Certainly the old aristocracy are rooting for that to happen, and they've got something the nouveau riche want -- perceived legitimacy.

Which is why any new multimillionaire strives to send their kids to the same posh schools and universities as the upper crust, and ideally to get them to marry into the upper crust, so that by generation 3 the family will have been wealthy gentry with a seat in the Lords all along (and ignore gramps in his wheelchair in the drawing room with the funny accent).

256:

Indeed. This Guardian article helpefully points out that part of the issue is the forcing housing associations to take part in the expensive and discredited "right to buy" stuff, and it says:

"Since housing associations are private charities a forced sale of their assets is a form of state expropriation of property, so the FT tut-tutted last year."

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/18/why-the-housing-bill-could-give-the-lords-another-victory

Basically most of the rest of the plutocrats are going WTF? at major parts of it. Last I read, nobody quite knows where the right ot buy for housing associations stuff came from and who it actually appeals to. So the HoL is acting as a sensible brake on sheer lunacy and has a chance to talk the government down from the ledge, so to speak. If it had real power it could just refuse it altogether and the matter would never be raised again, but there's usually at least one time in a prime minister's career when they have a confrontation with them.

Nevertheless, the HoL swims in the same sea the commons does, and has the same sort of people in it, so whilst it can act as a reservoir of better sense, in no way is it an alternative power base.

258:

What the UK really needed was a referendum on building a fifty metre wall around the City of London

Or around the central reservation of the M25. Londoners seem to be big on the "Why should we let Brussels dictate our laws". A lot of the areas outside seem to be "Brussels, London, there's a difference?".

259:

Personally I think the F35 PROGRAM is a huge waste of money as planned and then implemented. But the planes fly.

260:

Re: 'You seem fixated on the HoL having real power, when it hasn't had that since 1910 or so.'

The HoL can block legislation by sitting on it for up to 2 years. Often that's enough for that legislation to be forgotten and/or for a new gov't to be elected.

Or it can outright defeat bills related to human rights/working conditions as below. Plus they have defeated bills on: alternate energy, welfare/child care, land development, rents, etc. Okay -- I haven't read the actual bills so don't know what the HoL was objecting to but the point remains that the HoL does have and does exercise its powers/authority.

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/parliament/house-of-lords/lords-defeats

Government Defeat in Lords on Modern Slavery Bill
Wednesday 25/02/2015

On 25/02/2015 the government had a defeat in the House of Lords on an amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill: To insert a clause giving greater protection to overseas domestic workers, in particular allowing such workers to change employer

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/research/parliament/house-of-lords/defeats_tabs/201415-defeat-11.pdf


Damned! Could have saved myself time/effort if I'd found this article earlier. Basically what I found/said but authored by a Brit authority: Professor Meg Russell, Deputy Director, Constitution Unit, University College London.

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/constitution-unit-news/270815

261:

But whitroth's arguments don't hold up at all.

262:

Indeed it can, but that's only a bit less amazing than the fact teh Queen can just not sign some legislation she doesn't like.

From the outside it might look like there is a lot of argy-bargy, but most of the time things run smoothly as the political class gets on with passing laws, dividing on party political lines.

As for the article you linked to, same old same old. That's how the lords has worked for decades. I say it again, it hasn't had real power since the early 20th century, all you are seeing now are the vestiges of it, and the effects of a prime minister so inept that he cannot even play politics effectively and throws his toys out the pram. The HoL need reform, but the elite are divided as to what sort of reform it should be, and us plebs aren't being invited to give our ideas.

263:

What would be useful would be comparing the amount of legislation that the HoL passed, and how the voting split on it, with the amount of legislation blocked completely. Bear in mind that in the game of politics a defeat on one thing can often happen in return for something else passing. Moreover, the defeats listed aren't usually the entire bill, but over some small part of it, and the rest of the legislation gets passed just fine.

Looking for instance at the immigration bill in 2014, the defeat was that the gov was forced to establish a committee considering the matter of people who would be made stateless by removal of their citizenship of the UK. Meanwhile, the rest of the bill seems to have sailed through just fine. The BBC has a roundup of it here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24469584

Or in July 2014, the government was defeated on a motion:
"To regret the Prime Minister's decision to 'diminish the standing of the House' by not making the Leader of the House of Lords a full member of the cabinet and ask that he 'reconsiders this decision'."

That's basically just a "We don't like what you've done and are unhappy" sort of statement. Because the lords are of the same elite as the commons, they do have some cultural pull with the people in the commons, especially since many will want to get into the lords. But I can't see anything about it being reversed.

264:

All true, but China:

- is a participant in lots of longstanding political feuds: Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, and a serious grudge with Japan.

- kicked the US up and down the Korean peninsula back in the 50s, and the balance of forces has changed in China's favor since then.

- is much more necessary to the American economy than Europe. Europe mostly does first-world things that we can do ourselves; China makes lots of things that we've lost the ability to make ourselves.

- has been making more and more dodgy friends in low places. China outspends the US and lacks its habit of moralistic nagging, which makes it popular in the third world.

- has been developing some seriously nifty military hardware. Worse, it actually seems to have been focused around a coherent, reasonable military strategy for obtaining Chinese objectives re: the aforementioned feuds.

- and has quantity, which is a quality all its own.

American foreign policy is oriented first toward the middle east (the oil, the wars) and secondly toward the Pacific Rim. Europe has been calm enough for long enough that we're not really paying much attention (by enormous global surveillance network standards).

265:

" China outspends the US and lacks its habit of moralistic nagging, which makes it popular in the third world."

It's not the moralistic nagging the world finds distasteful about the USA, but the blatant hypocrisy. At least China doesn't pretend to fuck people over "for their own good".

266:

Well golly gee willikers, it looks like an actual American, President Obama no less, has made a case against the Brexit:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/22/barack-obama-crush-brexit-fantasy-eu-referendum

Wonder if that will make the news over here? Probably not. It's not orange-colored and aimed at reality TV.

Choice quote: "today he told the outers their fantasies were no more than that. First in print and then, more explicitly, in person he spelled out that America has no intention of forming some new, closer relationship with a Brexited Britain. On the contrary, a post-EU Britain would be at 'the back of the queue' if it sought to agree its own, new trade treaty with the US."

There's some interesting bigoted rhetoric from Boris Johnson further down the piece. Something about a “half-Kenyan” president [who] cannot be trusted because he is filled with “ancestral” loathing of Britain."

Indeed. What were you saying about racism in Britain, Charlie? Too bad Boris surrendered his US passport. If he hadn't, he'd stand a good chance of getting the Republican Presidential candidacy, writing stuff like this. I'll give Johnson points though: his bigotry is positively eloquent compared with the crap their trying to pump into our ears at the moment.

267:

Here's a text of Obama's speech. I don't see where he tells the UK to get to the back of the queue, but his position against the Brexit is pretty unmistakable:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/21/as-your-friend-let-me-tell-you-that-the-eu-makes-britain-even-gr/

268:

"...the fact teh Queen can just not sign some legislation she doesn't like."

And as Greg pointed out a few days ago, the last monarch who actually did that was Queen Anne - right back when it was still a raw new system and still having the corners sanded off. If the current Queen did it the sky would fall in.

269:

There's some interesting bigoted rhetoric from Boris Johnson further down the piece. Something about a “half-Kenyan” president...

Tempted to say something about BoJo looking half-Orangutan, but that's an insult to the apes.

270:

"Hard to parse the reactions from left-of-pond - any observations?"

Well... when it comes to news, I practise "crap overload avoidance" (see previous guest posts by Alyx Dellamonica). So I hadn't seen either the Telegraph or the Guardian articles until they were linked on here.

What has made it through the filter so far... if you scroll to the bottom of the Telegraph page there is a link to an article about Obama meeting Prince George. Two unrelated people on my twitter feed have posted the associated photo with comment to the effect of "aww". I suspect that is a good indication of what people will principally remember of his visit.

271:

And that last ever royal veto was on the advice of her ministers, who back then were responsible to her, not the Commons, and so didn't necessarily command a majority in the house.

It's sometimes said Brenda would get a pass for vetoing the Firstborn (Slaughter) Bill but not really anything below that.

272:

That's the European perspective, and not an unreasonable one. The typical tinpot dictator's perspective is more like "my internal issues/massacres are none of your business", and China agrees.

Also, America is not so much hypocritical as incoherent. The American government isn't following a coherent policy; it's a set of enormous bureaucracies that have different goals and don't (can't) coordinate with each other.

273:

It's not the subject that governs whether the HoL can outright veto or just delay a bill, it's where it originates. If the HoL votes not to read a bill that originated in thst house, it's dead and buried. Money bills (that is to say those that concern the raising of funds through taxation) have to originate from the Commons, but other bills may be introduced in either house depending on where the minister responsible sits or just the vagaries of legislative timetabling.

As a general rule, a bill that is less contentious is more likely to originate in the Lords, but every once in a while, the government slips up, starts a bill in the Lords that turns out to be more controversial than expected and it gets kicked out there. Usually when this happens the bill gets reintroduced in the following session in the Commons first.

Oh and *secondary* legislation can be blocked by either House.

274:

In theory, we have elected officials whose job is to control our government and make it act on policies instead of just habits. As far as I can tell, nobody in Washington even remembers that doing so is supposed to be their job. Not that they could if they tried.

275:

So Obama makes it clear they aren't interested in a closer relationship, or even particularly for a 'bit on the side'. Nope, they'd prefer that the UK remain wedded to the EU and occasionally available for a spot of fun in foreign climes - whilst feeding info and influence. Friends with benefits.

Once again, the killer is the lack of a plan for what the world would look and work like outside the existing partnership agreements. No matter how much a country would want it's freedom and independence - the world is getting run by the married couples and groupings of incestuous fornicators.

It seems like the only way to leave the abusive spouse today is to already have a new collaborative partnership up and running. In short, it's all about the cheating to hop from one bed to another - being old and with responsibilities in the meat market of truly free trade looks to be a lonely game.

276:

I'd argue that this particular dysfunction is found disproportionately in the small government boffins. They don't think government is functional at any scale, and they delight in shrinking budgets until a program can no longer function effectively, then point out how dysfunctional it is as an excuse to get rid of it and privatize the function (cf: US Postal Service). There have been enough problems with things like the park services, certain types of military involvement, air and water regulation that these tend to remain government functions, although you'll notice that the small government crowd wants to neuter these as well.

Sad, but there you have it. I'd love to be around when one of these ideologues realize governments are fairly necessary to establish and run markets, just to watch the cognitive crash.

277:

No, that's a written opinion piece. A transcript of the joint Obama-Cameron press conference is here:
http://www.eurasiareview.com/23042016-transcript-of-prime-minister-cameron-and-president-obama-joint-press-conference/
(As as American, I am amused and pleased that the U.S. president did this.)

278:

Thanks for the correction. And there's the "back of the queue" quote.

279:

As others have said, people in the US haven't paid to much attention to Brexit, given the circus we have going on over here at the moment. Cameron's involvement with the Panama papers was a bigger story, at least so far. However, calling Obama a "half-Kenyan" did make headlines and gain some notoriety, and has half-pushed the story into the headlines for a few news cycles. I haven't seen any deep analysis of the choices for the UK, though.

I guess this is a little off-topic, but something I have never understood about UK politics is what possessed the Liberal Democrats to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, or to maintain it when it seemingly became clear that it was going very badly for them. Is there a short explanation for the self-destruction of that party?

280:

Naked short-term opportunism by Nick Clegg (the then leader).

He had a chance for his moment in the spotlight and far more influence than any LibDem (or Liberal) leader in, well a lifetime essentially. He took it and either gambled that the LibDem support would hold in their safe seats (UK politics used to have 20+ safe LibDem seats) or just didn't care.

He may not have got his moment in the spotlight really - Deputy Prime Minister isn't a really strong position - but there are a number of LibDem ministers who came out of it looking pretty good, even if many of them didn't survive the decimation of last May.

There is a more charitable interpretation. A coalition was probably needed. It's pretty clear from the all shiny Tory government that the LibDems curbed what the non-Blue actual majority of voters consider the worse excesses of Callmedave and Gideon. He made a strong decision to serve the needs of the country and calculated that in 2015 the LibDems would get hammered but hoped that in 2020 we'd see what a good job he'd done and reward the party. My magic 8-ball suggests the electorate doesn't have that good a memory.

281:

If you are threatened with extradition to the USA ... at least you get a day in court to plead your case that you should not go.
With the EAW, even if it is/was a fake confession, beaten out of teenagers & there isn't a case at all, you can still be arbitrarily sent to a grotty (Greek in the actual case) jail for over a year, while the corrupt authorities hop you'll "confess" before the trail collapses.
Actually happened, & nothing to stop it happening again.

282:

People forget ( or don't know) that "Magna Carta" is a symbol & has been for a long time.
Much more important & still "on the books" is the Bill of Rights 1688, turned into an Act the following year.
That really matters & even the anti-terror legislation has to take account of it, at least partially.

And the EAW is contrary to that Bill ....

283:

Note that the "nasty politics" in both Poland & Hungary have a lot in common with 1950-60 Irish politics.
That's right (in both senses ...) the RC church.
Euw.

284:

Agree
SLIGHT problem
We actually need twice as many type 45's as we have actually got.

285:

Almost
But, there are large numbers of English, including me, who think, & act on the proposition that "class" is irrelevant in modern Britain & England.
Unfortunately, the total twats at the other end of the "normal" political spectrum seem to want to revive it.
Utter wankers like Corbyn & friends, that is.

- - - - - - -
BTW, various people have been slagging off Gove. Please don't - if you want truly repulsive tories, may I suggest Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt & Chris Grayling?
Yuck

The vast majority of the left of the tory party & the right of labour ( Like my excellent MP, Ms Creasy ) are actually quite good people trying to do a difficult job.
It's the nutters at both ends who are the trouble.
Unlike the USSA, where one party seems to have gone right over the cliff ...

286:

The torygraph has some ultra-right US-based or originating writers, who often appear loony even by their standards.
They don't like Obama & will go for him, no matter what.
Possibly racism, more likely simple dislike of his policies.

However, the tory graph has one redeeming feature .. PLEASE click on the link?

287:

London as city-state?
It almost is, anyway.
Comparison:
It has over 10 million inside the M25
Scotland has, what, 6 million people?
But Scotland gets LOTS of English money ( & more recently ) under the revised Barnett formula, & lots of self-government.
London can't even run it's own transport system without crawling to the Treasury.
Meanwhile the SNP are STILL blaming everything on the evil English whilst taking their money.
No, you couldn't make it up.

288:

Charlie, sorry, but you are talking utter bollocks.
You really seem to have a blind spot on this one?

My wife has always worked, for different firms within the "square mile".
And so do lots of other people, on not-too-high salaries, trying to make a living.
Oh & there are two major railway termini within that area, too ....

289:

Errr ... no.
Please "Compare & Contrast", as they say, my two previous posts @ 287 / 288

290:

What is interesting is that the major apparatus of the state - military, police, civil service etc are loyal to the Crown - not a constitution that can be subsumed into an EU legal framework. It means that in principle the UK Parliament, if push came to shove, will still have the enforcement arm of the state at their disposal.

291:

For what it's worth, despite being growing up in lower-middle class suburbs and being white-enough-to-pass in the states, these topics aren't totally obscured over here. When I did a research paper in school one of the topics was vaguely about the EU and I ended up going into the research as I do with everything, tying it back to the end of WWII, and the role it has in preventing a European start to a WWIII, so I wasn't crazy in coming to that conclusion!

292:

-being, started typing "being brought up" and thought I deleted the being and brought parts.

293:

A once powerful nation reduced to a shadow of glory now ruled by paranoid right wingers convinced they're being held back by foreign conspiracies and internal quislings... are you sure Ireland is the British Isles parallel to Poland? ;)

294:

You've pretty well described the operations of the entire American criminal justice system (which, let us remember, incarcerates roughly five Edinburghs worth of people at any time). Only a few percent of the accused go to trial, and they usually get severe sentences for wasting the court's time. Over 95% of the accused take a plea bargain.

295:

I think a lot of the people who are busy thinking BRExit will be a Good Thing for the United Kingdom are thinking and/or hoping things will economically snap back to the "good old days" of the Commonwealth trading bloc, most typically the version of it from back when Britannia ruled the waves around the turn of the 20th century. In doing so, they forget their former Commonwealth trading partners (such as Australia) were largely caught completely by surprise by the entry of Britain into what was then the European Common Market, and this had detrimental consequences on said trading partners.

See, the way the Commonwealth trading bloc was set up for nations outside the United Kingdom was thusly: we shipped ALL our surplus produce off to the UK, and got produce from other nations shipped back to us from the UK in return. This had been the way things worked since approximately the reign of Charles the Second (so, late 1600s) until about the 1950s. We didn't have to worry about foreign trade, since the rule was that British colonies (and a lot of former colonies, like Australia) traded only with the Mother Country (the UK, in other words) and didn't, for preference, have trading arrangements with anyone else - why would they need to?

So when the central market for everything (namely the United Kingdom) abruptly pulled itself out of the arrangement, all of a sudden there were a lot of countries which had economies largely set up in order to supply the needs of the UK which didn't have a buyer for their main product. For example: Australia supplied most of its wool crop to the UK - and that's why we were said to be a nation riding on the sheep's back for a long time; when the UK pulled out of the market, there wasn't the same demand for wool from anywhere else. The Australian sheep industry now largely depends on supplying meat breeds to the Middle East - our famous merinos are a minority in the Australian flock these days.

The majority of Commonwealth countries re-jiggered their economies such that they weren't primarily supplying the needs of the UK, and they found other buyers for the things they were selling, or other products to supply to the world in general. I doubt any of the former colonies would be overjoyed with the notion of being "brought back into the fold". Indeed, I suspect a lot of them would take a lot of pleasure in giving the UK a good solid raspberry at the notion. After all, the UK has already shown us they don't give a damn about our economic security - fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice... well, let's just say there's a lot of countries out there who are quite willing to sing along with Roger Daltrey about not getting fooled again.

So do think about it guys... where does the stuff you're buying come from? Who supplies it? How does it get there? And how much more are you willing to pay to get it from somewhere else?

(Oh, and I'm an Australian, living in Australia. At present, we're still largely interested in our own parochial politics - we have an election happening soon, y'know! - and haven't bothered to look outside our own borders except occasionally. The UK actually registers a lot lower on our list of priorities than it used to. Distance matters.)

withroth @ 243: Nope. You bought him, you keep him.

296:

Yes. Freedom has a $price.
Which is why Scotland voted to remain our northernmost county.

297:

I went through that cog-dissonance, somewhere near 20 years back. If you have the basic idea that you change your worldview in the face of enough evidence, it's not that bad.

But, I didn't have a completely developed case. I may have had too much faith in the free market as a way to give people more of what they want, but I still understood that climate scientists probably weren't brainwashed members of a worldwide conspiracy.

And then, I went to work for local government, and saw my tax dollars at work. As well as how organizations deal with resource shortages. Governments have problems, sure. But not every problem is caused by an overabundance of money.

So, my worldview evolved. I feel that governments should be more efficient, effective, transparent & flexible. (hat tip to Paul Light's four tides of reform, a really excellent bit of public administration theory for USA-ians.)

But I no longer feel that budget cuts are the way to get there. Judging by my experience, service organizations are going to respond to budget cuts by cutting middle management, which means that there's no one to plan for changes, evaluate effectiveness, or report back on how things are actually working.

298:

Well ... since I'm from the UK but I don't live in london I guess I'm on the 'outside'? Or am I? Answers on a postcard please....

However I must say that I find at this stage in the game with regards to the brexit vote I find I can't either vote Yes or No. I'm honestly not sure what to do at all! Though I will say I am definately more pro than anti EU.

Here's how I see things right now;

David cameron has managed to quitely attach his "legacy" and a thumbs-up for the conservative party in general to this brexit vote. So the whole in/out question almost from day 1 got a lot more complicated than just saying stay in or get out. Ideally the in/out vote should just be a) being able to find out how the EU works b) making a decisison if you think it works or not after reading/thinking about it all and c) voting 'yes' or 'no' depending on if you think the EU works - or not.

But alas that was not to be.

I find myself in the annoying situation whereby at this moment in time I'm probably going to have to abstain (not vote).

(shortening things greatly here as I don't want to write a wall of text).

If I vote yes then I've effectively rubber-stamped cameron and given the conservatives the thumbs up. And since I don't like either, I'm not going to be doing that!

If I vote no however then I'm just doing the same for farrage. And trust me I have zero love for UKIP and the like. And voting "no" will means the UK ends up in a situation which right now looks like a bit like an unknown quantity.

And then there's the TTIP question. Does a vote yes enable or help TTIP to get passed in the UK?

Since I'm wanting things to change (as opposed to having 30+ years of the same old policies carrying on ad infinitum) I only see two choices -- either abstain or just consider what will do most "damage" and throw a big spanner in the works and vote no.

Quick thought: If the UK were to vote no and that causes trouble in the conservative party could this lead to an unexpeted result (e.g. the coalition in 2010); the conservatives rip themeselves apart internally which in turn triggers a general election, which in turn might see labour brought to power - could they return to the EU?

And also what if this vote is very close - let's say 51% Yes, 49% No. Does the 51% just say "whatever, let's just screw the 49%?".

Or prehaps the whole thing is non-issue, it is all just "willy-waving" and things carry on no matter what making the whole thing ultimately irrelevent.

Eh....life. :-(

ljones

299:

Also wanted to say this btw;

Leaving aside all the loony-tunes arguments that are made by UKIP and its ilk could it be - in the long term - that voting no is a good thing?

Think about it this way -- for sure in the interim it is going to be an unknown quantity. It'll be painful and be unplesent for sure. The conservatives will try to pass all kinds of hideous and ugly policies.

But thinking (say) 10 or 20 years down the road from now (long term) could it also mean that the UK gets to effectively do - to put it crudely - a "CTRL-ALT-Del" on itself and reinstall a different OS on itself? Sort of the phoenix rising from the ashes type o'thing....

Just a thought.

ljones

300:

"And then there's the TTIP question. Does a vote yes enable or help TTIP to get passed in the UK?"

Easy. Look at who has been trying to reduce its ghastlier measures and who has been pushing for us to sign up to it unmodified - indeed, our lot have been effectively saying "Ooh, yes, now, harder, Harder, HARDER!"

301:

That's what originally sent Cameron running to the right; the fear that if he didn't play immigrant-phobia/EU-phobia/xenophobia in general as a policy platform, the Tory right could actually peel off and join UKIP as an insurgent party, much as the SDP peeled off Labour and joined the Liberals to form the LDP in the 80s.

I see this as the major failure mode of the left (and center.) It is sometimes necessary for any political boss to actually get up on the stage and TEACH PEOPLE SOMETHING instead of letting your opponent set the agenda. If you're afraid to take the risk of getting up in front of an audience and telling them that THIS IDEA IS STUPID

302:

*comment continued*

then you're giving up the ability to set any agenda other than those imposed on you from outside.

The right doesn't have this problem. They'll beat the crap out of any idea, no matter how stupid, until someone implements it, then they'll claim victory.

303:

I see your point, but leftish types are also usually more interested in getting the job and keeping the job than in doing the job. Hillary, I'm looking at you.

Democracy has the same basic failure mode as capitalism and evolution: the competition usually produces roaches, not supermen.

304:

"...could it be - in the long term - that voting no is a good thing?"

The correct answer is that nobody knows

305:

I travelled in Belize during the eighties, and as we got to the Guatemalan border someone on the bus said to me, "See that hill up ahead? That's where the Brits landed a Harrier on the road in front of the Guatemalan army. Pretty much ended the war."

306:

The United States' Constitution is very much a reaction to European, particularly British excesses during the 1700s. It's not aimed at providing "sensible government." It is aimed at making sure that nobody has too much power, and that if one of the three branches of government is misbehaving, the other two branches of government can sort things out. This doesn't always work (note the current attempts by the Senate to make sure that Obama can't appoint a Supreme Court Justice) but that's the intent.

Another factor in the creation of the U.S. Constitution was the need to create a system which both slave-holding and free states could live with... once you get the history straight the structure of the U.S. Government makes perfect sense.

307:

Speaking as someone who gets stuck doing a lot of environmental activism that I don't particularly enjoy doing, I've got this very simple question:

Do you want to give a job to someone who wants the job, has trained for it, and appears to have the experience for it, do you want to give the job to someone who thinks the institution needs to be reformed and this job is just the way to do it, or do you give the job to someone who wants to do a hostile takeover and gross restructuring (under new corporate ownership) of the institution?

For the US at least (and for most countries outside, just possibly, North Korea), I'm not partial to the idea of hostile takeover of governments. I'm especially not partial to the hostile takeover of governments by corporations, because I think that corporate suits have every single political and personal shortcoming that you see in politicians and possibly then some.

Given that the job of US president is basically to deal with the policy shit that no one else can deal with, I think there's a really good argument to giving the job to someone who wants it and who has the training and experience to handle it. To date, my only reason for preferring Sanders over Clinton is that I think Clinton has a bit more tolerance for dysfunction than Sanders does, and that's not a good thing at the moment.

308:

Not so gentle reminder: this is not to discuss American politics. Quote, "This is not a discussion of American domestic policy issues."

309:

Indeed. Well, getting back to the Obama/UK nexus, NPR did actually cover the Brexit this morning, to answer one question about how it's being seen on our side of the pond.

310:

You can't decide. But voting no kicks the can down the road. You can always revisit later. Might be harder to reverse a yes vote. You should never vote in protest, always vote for the lesser evil. Everybody knows everybody does that, so there's no fear it will be taken for full approval.
The EU is a cool idea. I remember hearing about it back when it was a future thing. Kind of like the US but a looser federation. But as I understand it, it's execution has been flawed. There's a lot of overhead and a lot of micromanagement and there are regional frictions. Sounds like something that needs fixing up.

311:

My basic problem, and this applies to every democracy, is that over time the tail starts wagging the dog. Rather than elections being a method for choosing a government, "government" becomes a method for campaigning. The amount of effort spent on electioneering increases monotonically.

Of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.

312:

(In my George Takei voice)

Oh My.

313:

Economic overhead isn't really a problem with the EU - it just doesn't have the budgets for that to matter one way or another.

Current key problems: The ECB, most accursed. Not under any real oversight whatsoever, seriously suffering from a case of neo-liberal ideological capture. Which is one reason we are still stuck in economic crisis. This unfortunately, just means it's a typical central bank. If we didn't have the ECB, national central banks would most likely be fucking up in pretty much exactly the same ways.

Key problem the second: The common agricultural policy.
The idea was to secure food security (Which was very important to politicians that lived through WWII - hunger isn't easily forgotten) and prevent an internal competition to see who would subsidize agriculture the most and thus outcompete everyone else.
It did - and is doing that, but in implementation it was (and mostly still is!) moronic. Its effectively a reverse georgist land tax. Own agricultural land? Get money every year. This just drives the price of agricultural land through the roof, without actually benefiting farmers that bought said land after it was implemented, because the subsidy has been added into the price of the acreage.

Key problem the third: That the CAP is - in terms of money - most of what the EU does. It would be.. rather extremely helpful.. for europe as a whole if the union had at least the budget and the authority to build infrastructure on a european scale. It'd be nifty to have a european "national" rail system for example. But the union doesn't have the budget nor the authority to do that, or, for example, run common procurement for the militaries of europe.

314:

While I'm at it: Key benefits:

Common regulations. All those "intrusive regulations" the yellow press is bitching about. It's rather a heck of a lot less of a burden to the economy to have one set of regulations covering 500 million people than it would be to have to comply with a different set of regulations for each and every nation. This is very important for anyone who sells anything to more than just their own national market, because it means you only have to demonstrate compliance once.

And the right of free movement. That is a nearly unbelievably huge win for personal freedom. I have a passport. I haven't shown it to anyone in over a decade. When politicians start talking trash about this I just get quite unreasonably angry.

315:

To date, my only reason for preferring Sanders over Clinton is that I think Clinton has a bit more tolerance for dysfunction than Sanders does, and that's not a good thing at the moment.

I've felt for a long time that Clinton's policies are just what she figures will allow her to accumulate power. Within that context I will admit that she's more of a liberal than a conservative.

Sanders on the other hand I get the feeling he speaks honestly. I don't agree with a lot of what he says he wants to do but I'd rather vote for someone who's honest that I disagree with than ... well ...

316:

Sorry. Broke the rules for this post.

317:

Well, we can talk about this in general terms, because it applies to, say, Thatcher as much as to US politicians.

My general feeling is that when someone is smeared for going on 25 years, accused of all sorts of corruption, greed, arrogance, hunger for power, and so forth, then it's worth looking at the conviction record that person has.

Purely as an example, it's worth looking at Chicago and Illinois, and the number of governors and mayors who are or were in prison.

If we're talking about a politician who's been accused of every malfeasance under the sun, but who's never been successfully prosecuted, nor whose spouse has been successfully prosecuted, then perhaps...

...just perhaps...

that person is not guilty of all the slander thrown against them by their opponents? I listen to the slander myself, but I have to remind myself that, without anything resembling proof, it smacks of a smear campaign and should be treated as such (e.g. with contempt and derision).

As for hunger for power, I happen to agree that hunger for power is an addiction, possibly one of the worst. However, I've got to admit that campaigning for office is one of the better ways I've seen of keeping that addiction from consuming the person and destroying their lives and families. Perhaps (in a SF hypothetical sort of way) if we treated highly addictive drugs the way we treated political power, and forced every addict to publicly campaign for a supply of their drug or be forced to go cold turkey every year, there would be fewer problems with addiction?

318:

Surely the system could be fiddled with to make it resistant to such decay. In the meantime we have

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=Ylomy1Aw9Hk

(John Oliver on congressional fundraising. Summary: members of congress spend four hours a day calling people and asking for money like telemarketers.)

319:

Yeah, I suggest (from my Australian vantage point) that if the Scots are serious about independence, they should be voting YES.

Charlie wrote: any argument that against Scottish Independence from the UK that merited consideration also works as an argument against British Exit from the EU.

Exactly. If a majority of Brits can be persuaded to vote for BRexit, then they can be persuaded to vote for Scotting independence. (SCexit?) Nations do have the equivalent of sudden enthusiasms, or moods. It's in the interests of Scottish independence to vote for change.

Come to think of it, why don't Scottish Nationalists link the two issues? "We'll vote for BRexit if you guarantee our independence?"

320:

Addiction is only a problem because of the laws that artificially make it one. Heroin (to take an archetype as example) is not much more difficult to make than aspirin. If it was available, like aspirin, at a price which reflects its ease of manufacture and with guaranteed freedom from harmful impurities, then nobody would have a problem paying for it and so would not be driven to petty crime to do so. (Not to mention that it would knock the feet out from under the perpetrators of rather less petty crimes further up the supply chain.) Yes, there might well be more people who would find it viable to spend their time monged out of their skulls instead of hoisting buckets of water out of a well and pouring them back in again, but that is not an argument against heroin, it's an argument against the idiocy of a system which promotes hoisting buckets of water out of a well and pouring them back in again as something people should be happy to spend their whole life doing and has to place barriers in the way of things that would be more productive of happiness to sustain its ridiculous position.

I think it was Arthur C Clarke in "Songs of Distant Earth" who wrote of a system of government based on the principle that anyone who actually wants power is ipso facto unsuited to ever have it, and simply picked people at random to serve in government for a few years. For sure the total population on that planet was very small, but it still sounds like at least as good an idea as anything we do already.

321:

I don't have a passport. That does make a difference now, since Britain is not in Schengen. It wouldn't have been important before WW1, though.

The yellow press moaning about regulations miss the point that we would still be for very much the most part de facto subject to them even if we weren't in the EU, simply because everyone else still is and the scope of what we could do without coming into contact with them somewhere along the line is extremely limited.

322:

The reason why random people shouldn't be politicians is the same reason random people shouldn't be neurosurgeons or nuclear engineers--it's a skill set not everyone has. I respect politicians for sitting in a chair for up to eight hours per day, being shouted at, called evil, slandered, smeared, and never calling in their bodyguards (assuming they have any) to give the crowd a whiff of grapeshot to make them show some respect. Taking the crap while smiling and continuing to work takes a lot of grit, even more so at local levels where they aren't getting paid for their work.

Living in California, I've seen the damage wrought by term limits. The problem here turned out to be less corruption (google Willie Brown), and rather more that California's basically a massively complicated terraforming project, and it takes years to understand how it all works (I know more than most, and I'm still greatly ignorant). Your average idiot-on-the-street can't be trusted to put the recycling in the right can, let alone figure out how to create a program that gets 37 million idiots to recycle properly or keep the aqueduct system from crashing in the next drought.

Unfortunately, mandatory term limits mean that politicians have just enough time to start learning their jobs before they have to move on, except that they have to start fundraising and campaigning to move on halfway through their previous terms, so they
don't even have time to learn their jobs properly. The end result is that bureaucrats, consultants, and the members of unpaid commissions tend to have the institutional memory and understand how things work, and that's not necessarily a good system to have.

As for heroin and cocaine, they were legal most of a century ago in the US. That's why they're illegal now (what do you think was in the original formula of coca-cola?). I think there's a much better case to be made for legalizing marijuana, since (in the US--and perhaps in Britain?) there apparently was a strong strain of xenophobia in getting it banned in the first place. Coca leaf I'm fine with too, but just as I'm against snorting powdered caffeine (which would be a schedule 1 drug if only brown-skinned people drank coffee), I have issues with making highly pure coca and opium derivatives freely available on the market. We've already seen what happened, and the result was IIRC mass addiction, not sober behavior.

323:

Let the legislators make vague laws and the career civil servants turn them into regulations and policies based on lifetimes of experience. That requires a paradigm shift. The lobbyists have convinced legislators that they have to micromanage everything in statutes because that's what serves the lobbyists. Limiting consecutive terms might be worth trying. At least then they wouldn't be running in office while in office, spending half their time calling rich people and asking for money instead of learning about the terraforming project.

324:

I've only read about 200 comments, with, I confess, less than complete attention, so someone may have said this already.

I don't believe that the very sophisticated reasoning, advanced by some commenters, about putting pressure on the EU to change its ways, has occurred to any of the major players in the Brexit affair. I don't think they're capable of looking beyond their own narrow self-interest -- or at least, of putting the interests of others above their own.

From here, the Brexit proposal looks like it's based on a wave of nostalgia for the non-existent good old days, which nostalgia was caused by the austerity needlessly imposed by Osborne.

It's an example of what happens when the Lizard People struggle amongst themselves using public opinion. Osborne thought that imposing austerity would make him a new Thatcher to the rank-and-file members of the Conservative party, and therefore a dead cert for the next PM, so he did it. Johnson wants to be PM, so he's using one of the results of austerity as a weapon with which to beat Osborne.

Politically and economically, of course, Brexit would be very damaging, but the Lizard People don't care about that. Why would PM-for-Life* Johnson worry that he's broken the main bulwark against war in Europe, and turned the UK into the Albania of the North Sea? His life will still be comfortable.

*PM-for-Life under emergency powers granted him "to deal with" the inevitable consequences of Brexit.

325:

If you don't have a passport it's because you don't want to travel outside the UK. However if you had a passport you would have the right to travel everywhere in the EU and work anywhere in the EU. In effect the passport is your ID card. Shengen has nothing to do with your right to travel anywhere in the EU.

326:

small bit of news;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36120808

Obama claims it could take up to 10 years to negociate trade deals with the US.

ljones

327:

In California, they actually are slowly repealing mandatory term limits, because no one wanted to do the job of politics under the old limits, they did a crappy job while they were working, and the lobbyists were taking over. I'd rather have the politicians in power than the lobbyists, at least in a democracy.

328:

Well, yeah... your 287 refers to the same problem I was thinking of: "London can't even run it's own transport system without crawling to the Treasury."

Because the existing system is bursting at the seams; even minor improvements to one station cost a fortune; anything major costs a king's ransom; even something as big as Crossrail is reckoned to have all its capacity taken pretty much as soon as it opens; etc. etc... While on the other hand the idiot planners won't stop granting permission for ever larger buildings, which quite apart from looking utterly shite just for the sake of it each represent several train loads of people coming in and out, to do things which thanks to modern communications technology they could perfectly well do without travelling at all.

Of course the obvious solution is to give said idiot planners a good thumping, but implementing Charlie's idea and using the money raised to fix the transport system is much more closely aligned to my way of thinking :)

329:

No "in reply to..." tag on your post; I assume you were replying to me? If so my point was that until WW1 I wouldn't have needed a passport anyway. The idea that you do, and that of having systems that reduce the need for it, is the innovation.

330:

The word fortune is a relative term, check out what NYC subway and bus projects are costing, the second avenue sagas blog details this well
the FT had a nice piece today, contrasting Brighton and Bognor Regis and their attitude to Brexit, and portrayed it generationally, with the young in the remain camp

331:

Maybe that's a difference between US and UK perspectives. The kind of bear garden you describe is not something I can really get a handle on; Arthur C Clarke, being British himself, was probably in much the same boat.

Opiates and cocaine used to be legal in the UK too. It wasn't a problem except to the puritans who take it upon themselves to dictate what are "acceptable" forms of pleasure for other people. As I said, addiction is not a problem of itself; it only becomes one when artificial restrictions on supply force people into criminality and prevent effective quality control. The drugs themselves do not cause antisocial behaviour - alcohol is something of an exception in that respect.

332:

Yes I was replying to your post. I must have hit reply before I signed in. I think it was only the photo which began in around the start of WW1. Passports were in use long before then.

333:

For those curious about American reactions, Paul Krugman had an column in the New York Times yesterday on BREXIT. Summed up:

"So Britain, don't do this. You would pay a fairly high economic price, and in return and in return you would get governance so bad it would make the EU look good."

334:

Some (a lot?) of the effects of alcohol on behaviour might be people's expectations:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3035442.stm

I had some more scholarly articles saved on my other machine, but it's acting flaky right now so I can't get at them. The gist was that whether the effects showed up in the placebo case seemed to depend on the setting and what the effect was — which could be read as either some effects are placebo, or the surroundings you (expect) to get drunk in have a big effect on your behaviour.

335:

They existed, but were not necessary:

In his famously prescient 1919 book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes described the open borders of the then bygone first age of globalisation before WWI:

"The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery on his doorstep, he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, [and] he could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality. (Keynes, quoted in Paxton, 3 [emphasis added])."

(Source: http://voxeu.org/article/changes-migration-policies-after-1914 - note that I had to delete the CSS and JS from the document head before it would display it, but it was the first decent-looking source I found that wasn't on Google Books.)

336:

To my almost namesake
YES
I am quite a reluctant "OUT" voter, as may be apparent, because I have come to believe that the Apparat of the EU is beyond real reform, which it desperately needs.
Hence my comment, further up is what some of us really want is an "out" majority of less than 1%, at which point, people really might wake up & start paying attention ...

337:

This brings me to a blatant plug, I'm afraid.

READ London Reconnections
Where the authors & commentators are all too aware of these problems.
And look for sensible exit strategies.

338:

Which reminds me.
If you really want a professional, comprehensive & complete, utterly well-organised total fuck-up =>
Try the Germans & the saga of Willy Brandt Airport in Berlin.

( Also referred to, in typical Berlin fashion, & in English, deliberately so, as "Wllli T Everopen" )

339:

"I don't believe that the very sophisticated reasoning, advanced by some commenters, about putting pressure on the EU to change its ways, has occurred to any of the major players in the Brexit affair."

Actually Boris said this explicitly on one of his first speeches after he declared for the Brexiter's. I think it's actually his Plan B. Run the vote really close then run for Tory leader/PM on credentials of being the best man to unite the party and lead the negotaitions.

For a lizard Boris is pretty smart, he had created a Trump-like persona way before Trump and uses it far more effectively. It allows him to present conflicting views on a lot of issues at the drop of a hat. He uses it very effectively to present himself as an antidote to the anodyne PR managed Lizards. He's probably the least hated of the Tory heavy hitters by the electorate and assuming the Tories don't self destruct after Brexit vote and Corbyn is still around a very credible long range bet on next UK PM.

340:

In fact we don't use that name in public but call it "Flughafen Berlin-Brandenburg" or just BER; probably because no-one wants to smudge Willy Brandt's good name with that project.

341:

Didn't think this would happen this soon:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brexitthemovie/brexit-the-movie/description

From the people who also made "Nasa's Unexplained Files"," How Do They Do it?" and also "The Great Climate Change Swindle" .... what can go wrong? Uh oh.....

ljones

342:

Well the 10 years to negotiate a trade deal number has been floating around for a while in quite a few other contexts. The Brexit voices claim it's a shibboleth, denouncing it on the grounds "How can it possibly take twice as long as WWII to negotiate a trade agreement?" (I might not have got the wording quite right, but yes that is a quote. I think they need to learn some basic maths too, 2x6=12 but never mind.)

On the other hand, the Canada-EU negotiations have been going on for that long, India-EU, China-EU are both stalled after a number of years (I think it's 9 and 4 respectively) with no end in sight. The bulk of the Switzerland-EU agreement took 7 years and neither side is happy and they're both going back to the table (they've done this several times, there are three supplementary agreements to the main one). It also had a major interruption when Switzerland did something the EU was really unhappy about. Norway basically signed up and said "We'll take whatever you'll give us" and is in a far worse position than the UK as an EU member - even the Brexit campaigners won't go for a model like Norway's. Since the original agreement Norway signed up to, there have been about 10,000 additional regulations imposed on them for continued membership of the trading area.

10 years isn't an unreasonable, plucked out of nowhere number.

343:

Actually, I think one of the biggest problems facing the EU is the German constitution. Bluntly: it has failure modes.

For starters, Germany is a federal republic. The states have different election times, so one or another of them is in an election cycle at any given time. The Chancellor tries to ride herd on a coalition, but the coalition she's sitting on top of can shift semi-randomly in response to regional upsets. The Proportional Representation with a 5% low pass filter (you have to get 5% or more of the vote before you win any seats) works better than pure PR, and tends to promote coalitions of relatively solid voting blocs -- it's not as batshit crazy as Israel's pure PR system (where the ruling party is invariably held to ransom by fringe groups with 1% of the vote), but it's not ideal.

For seconds, Germany's citizenship law has an emergent failure mode, as witness the Turkish gastarbeiter problem. Simply put: to become a German citizenship you must renounce your existing citizenship. Does this sound unreasonable? Well, Turkish citizenship is by birthright and Turkey doesn't recognize the right of its own citizens to renounce their nationality. So if you're born to Turkish parents on German soil you get a free Turkish passport and you can't take German citizenship because you can't legally throw away your Turkish passport.

So: the German nationality law needs patching to support multiple citizenship -- without which the integration problem they've been ignoring for 50 years can't ever be fixed -- and, much as it pains me to admit that the USA got something right and David Cameron was right to copy it, doing something about the destabilizing effects of the regional election cycles seems like a good idea.

For thirds -- not a constitutional issue -- the German electorate's understanding of macroeconomics is no better, and arguably worse, than the British electorate's: it's all austerity and domestic kitchen-table economics and savings are next to godliness without any understanding that you've got to invest and spend in order to generate demand and keep the money supply liquid. And without any understanding that the reason the PIIGS went deeply into debt was that they buy lots of German goods, and if you cut their loans off at the knees you're drying up the supply of customers who pay your wages. The attitude to the PIIGS is part of the localist low-key xenophobia that having a large, unassimilable Turkish minority has inflamed, and it's really toxic: there's no sense of Germany as being part of a greater European project.

As Germany is the economic and fiscal fulcrum of the EU, fixing these local problems is a pivotal (hah!) priority.

344:

Yeah, I suggest (from my Australian vantage point) that if the Scots are serious about independence, they should be voting YES.

Nope, that doesn't work.

A second Scottish Independence referendum is contingent on the UK as a whole voting for BRExit, but Scotland voting to stay in the EU by a wide margin.

If we vote to leave the EU, then all that happens is we get dragged along in the undertow by the little-Englander lemmings[*]. We don't get that second independence referendum.

[*] Insert obligatory disclaimer about knowing about abusive animal documentary makers and the truth about lemming migration behavior.

345:

In effect the passport is your ID card.

I know people who have had to get/renew their UK passports recently, because they're looking to find work/move jobs, and employers -- thanks to the Home Office, c/o Theresa May -- face heavy fines for employing non-EU citizens, so they have to prove their citizenship, and a mere birth certificate isn't enough (there are no biometrics).

So yes, owning a passport is pretty much mandatory in the UK today (or rather, it's very difficult to participate as an adult in civil society without one), and there are circumstances where you can be challenged to produce it, on pain of penalties (like: being barred from the job you just applied for).

Which is why about 80% of Brits hold passports and the proportion is rising.

346:

Of course the obvious solution is to give said idiot planners a good thumping,

No; the obvious solution is to ban construction of major new office and business premises in central London and -- at a national policy level -- encourage migration of large businesses to other major regional cities with populations in the million-plus range and the infrastructure to support them. Because telecommuting. Right?

347:

Yeah. Obama more-or-less said "You Brits, wake up - your only use to us is as our fifth column in Europe - if you leave, you can get lost." The USA wouldn't give a damn about a trade deal with us if we leave the EU and (as most experts predict) our economy tanks. And War On Want has been saying the same thing about TTIP.

http://www.waronwant.org/media/president-obama-uk-force-toxic-trade-deal-ttip

348:

This is a bit OT, so moderators please kill it if appropriate.

Let's say that the vote is 51% to stay, there is a leadership change, and Bozo takes over. How do you think that he will wriggle out of attempting to leave the EU? My prediction is that he would create a negotiating team out of the Euroseptics that he couldn't ignore, ensure that they had no powers to actually agree anything, use them as bogeymen in EU negotiations, and otherwise just ensure that the Brexit negotiations took longer than he was in office.

349:

That's entirely plausible.

Given their short-termism he might just use it to do a bust-out in 2020, leaving office (and the stinking wreckage of the British economy) to Labour to tidy up, while he and his cronies retire on a pile of stolen moneybags (hint: forced academisation of the universities as well as the schools -- title deeds to all real estate are handed over to the corporations who take them over gratis, without payment to the public purse -- watch them do the same trick with the NHS hospital fleet too).

Labour would then inherit a near-as-dammit bankrupt nation and a commitment to negotiate EU departure, and if they do a U-turn on it or try to fix things they'll be crucified in the media for going against the will of the people as expressed in a referendum.

For added lulz, Boris could amend the parliament act 2010 to bring back unscheduled general elections and then push to destabilize the Labour government and get back into office after a couple of years of time out on the side-lines.

(Am I being too cynical here?)

350:

I can't be arsed to google the name, but he's kind of stuffed. Basically you file for divorce (it's got a different name but it's a close enough analogy) and there's a two-year clock that starts and after two years, the door shuts behind you. If you aren't in a very good position, tough. It's set up to be unpleasant to encourage people not to try it unless they really mean it.

Callmedave has said (yes, he's a politician and his lips were moving) if the vote is "Yes" he'll pull the trigger the next day on the process. They can't depose him that fast, it takes about a month. So whoever takes over will be locked into Brexit, that they allegedly want. Or will leave Callmedave in power to do the dirty work and then pick up the pieces so they can blame the mess on Callmedave.

351:

I'm expecting sterling to tank the very day after a Brexit vote goes through. And when I say "tank", I mean a 30% drop might be a moderate target.

The money markets aren't going to like the idea of the EU's unofficial second reserve currency being locked out, are they?

352:

I guess we can't really predict to any extent either the percentage either way. 51-49? 80-20? Who can tell.

Though I guess it might be a little easier to think about who will which vote in what direction; so for example, older people might be inclined more likely to vote no; younger people might be more inclined to vote yes.

Is there a case to be made for people who might want to vote no but not on all the bigoted claptrap from UKIP, Daily mail etcetera...?

There will probably be at least some people who won't vote because a) they find it impossible or b) too busy watching TV.

That I guess just leaves the "don't know's" and it is my guess that they'll largely make up their mind a) on the day and b) listen to whoever can shout loudest and/or who spends most on advertising.

Prehaps there should be a third option the voting sheet. One - Yes, Two - No, Three - Godknows. Godknows wins(!). :-)

ljones

353:

For seconds, Germany's citizenship law has an emergent failure mode, as witness the Turkish gastarbeiter problem. Simply put: to become a German citizenship you must renounce your existing citizenship.

That is no longer true since December 2014.

354:

Glad to hear it.

(Is there any sign of Turkish residents applying for German citizenship at this point? Or was it a step too late?)

355:

I agree with your prediction. When I said "tank" earlier, I meant 3-10x - but I wouldn't expect that until there is a run on sterling, and the housing bubble bursts and the foreign 'investment' in UK industry pulls out. 30% for the day after looks likely.

I am not sure whether you are being too cynical or not cynical enough :-( Donating the real estate to (foreign) plutocrats is very plausible, and needn't be limited to those where it is publicly owned - vide Thatcher and the Plant Breeding Institute and the current lot and the housing associations. But I don't think Boris is a vicious and vindictive sod (merely an ego on legs), unlike Gideon, not that it would make all that much difference to the result. The really nasty ones get their money out of the country into a foreign tax haven and leave for sunnier climes.

356:

The attitude to the PIIGS is part of the localist low-key xenophobia that having a large, unassimilable Turkish minority has inflamed, and it's really toxic: there's no sense of Germany as being part of a greater European project.

which totally gels with PEGIDA etc being most active in areas of Germany having around 1% migrants .. whereas in areas that have 15% plus they got sent home in disgrace.

A lot of what is happening is people going "don't give charity to these foreigners, give charity to ME", especially in the more benighted parts of Eastern Germany (some parts of ex-DDR are doing quite ok, it's not just a Ossi/Wessi thing). They are noisy, but they aren't necessarily what most people actually think.

Having most of the smart and ambitious young people leave for greener pastures does not do a civil society particularily good.

Getting a "German" position on Europe is basically meaningless since you'll get rather different answers depending on who you ask; inhabitants of Munich and Milan are more likely to agree than inhabitants of Munich and Cham.

357:

The "third option" is the same as in the IndyRef: voting against leaving now, because if the EU really goes terrible then the UK can always leave later. Unlike the IndyRef, the Leave side has proposed nothing at all as to how leaving is going to work, probably so that such a proposal can't be attacked the way the IndyScot argument was. Yet, instead of deploying the proven tactic of calling Leave on its empty rhetoric and hammering home the equation "Leave=uncertainty", Stay is ignoring the absurd sophistry of "Leave=Rule Britannia" and trying to push the purely rational kinds of argument used in the AV referendum by the losing side.

358:

Not really. There are finance jobs that have to be done face-to-face in the City, and there are finance jobs that can be done much more cheaply by telecommuters in Mumbai or Manilla. There are few finance jobs that can be done outside of the City but can't be done outside of the EU.

359:

The final statistics for 2015 for the entire Germany seem to not be published yet. The state statistics I found (Nordrhein-Westfalen and Baden-Württemberg) said that roughly a fifth of all new German citizens had Turkish citizenship before the naturalization.

360:

Here's a question: Why hasn't that happened anyway?

I mean, after Silicon Valley became exhausted, the tech industry is expanding into Denver, Seattle, and Portland among other cities. Contrary to popular belief, they're still building dense office space, mainly in Oakland and San Jose. Likewise, the financial industry in the US is branching out to Miami, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Salt Lake City. Why has a similar phenomenon not happened in the UK, regardless of (a lack of) national policy?

361:

What do you think Wales and Northern Ireland will do after a BREXIT? Can we then expect a WEXIT and an irish unification?

And has the crown voiced anything, even very quietly? I'm sure they want to retain both their crowns.

362:

The Republic of Ireland will fight to oppose a Northern Ireland merger -- even though it's supposedly a constitutional commitment nobody sane wants to go there, for numerous reasons.

Wales has a significantly smaller population than Scotland and has been more tightly integrated with England insofar as it was invaded over 700 years ago (Scotland did a voluntary merger 300 years ago and retained its own legal system and institutions).

The SNP's position on the Crown was that in event of Scottish Independence, the resulting nation would be the Kingdom of Scotland, under the existing monarch. (Who would technically be Queen Elizabeth the First of Scotland, but who would probably hang onto the QE2 handle anyway.)

363:

That could well happen. It's not necessarily going to stop Callmedave living up to his threat/promise to initiate the exit process too. He will have a mandate (however much he doesn't want it) and he'll leave a mess for whoever takes over from him that they can't get out of.

364:

As you may remember, I am predicting that the current Northern Ireland calm will fall apart and lead to renewed conflict, but a Brexit would make that almost certain and a hell of a lot harder to deal with. I can easily see USA troops being sent in, with the obvious potential to make a problem into a disaster.

365:
As for heroin and cocaine, they were legal most of a century ago in the US. That's why they're illegal now (what do you think was in the original formula of coca-cola?). I think there's a much better case to be made for legalizing marijuana, since (in the US--and perhaps in Britain?) there apparently was a strong strain of xenophobia in getting it banned in the first place.
Xenophobia for marijuana, racism for cocaine. Take a look at the quotes here for a flavour of the hysteria.
366:

The current Northern Ireland "calm" isn't, really -- it's just that the murderously-inclined on both sides of the sectarian divide have sacrificed the mass base of silent public support that allowed them to operate on a large scale previously. (Now they're isolated and those same communities are happy to call them in to the police.)

But Brexit would be a horrible mess insofar as it'd inflame Republican/Unionist tribal loyalty in both directions.

And sending US peacekeepers in? That's the true nightmare scenario for NI. (Although it'd be, ah, amusing, to watch the FBI go after NORAID in Boston after the first Americans began coming home in body bags.)

367:

I would guess the following reasons:
1. London is 15% of the UK population, much more than NYC/US
2. UK is smaller than US, so travel times matter less for people.
3. High-Frequency trading means that ping times matter a lot.

Visualize the UK as New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, and the New England states. Move Massachusetts to the far side of Maine, add Philadelphia & call it Scotland. Pittsburg stands in for Cardiff. West Virginia stands in for Wales.

Culturally, there's more differences, but that does a ballpark approximation of population & area. And Boston + Philly have enough historical & cultural references that they make a better stand-in for Scotland than, say, Phoenix.

368:

Yes, precisely. And the current situation is preserved by a massive subsidy, and the fact that the UK can locate jobs in Northern Ireland, which I am damn certain would go.

369:

Politics is definitely a skill. Unfortunately, management is a different skill, and one that few politicians possess.

370:

In the 1960s I had read 'The American Challenge', a call for closer European integration. Europe, the UK included, was finally recovering from the war, but it had a way to go. Unification in the face of a superpower dominated world seemed a no-brainer. There were some opposed. In the early 1970s I remember hearing some radio preacher (in the US, obviously) arguing that the UK entering the Common Market would be a harbinger of the anti-Christ.

More serious objections came up in the 1980s with the proposed economic union. It was well known then as it is well known now that central banks manipulated currencies, and that these manipulations general work to the benefit of one particular urban area. In the US it was NYC with its satellite Boston. If you look at the US economy, you'll see Chicago, Minneapolis, SF, and LA as NYC colonies. The railroads reinforced this economic dominance with tariffs that kept manufacturing in the north-east and mid-west and natural resource extraction elsewhere. The south was kept a backwater, and the locals seemed to like it that way.

If you look at any European nation you'll see similar effects. London is outsized. In the US it would be like NYC in the US, except the next largest city would be Milwaukee. Hint, Milwaukee is #30 in US population. In other words, the UK is even more stratified than the US. In France, there is Paris and everywhere else. Germany is a bit different having been divided by superpowers for 40+ years. Even most Germans admit that Bonn was never more than a strip mall.

The European economic union works to the advantage of Germany, i.e. Berlin, with secondary cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam and Milan in tow. In the US, it became politically expedient to set up a backflow of funds from NYC and its satellites to the rest of the country. Naturally, this has led to a great deal of resentment. A lot of the blue-state / red-state divide is based on the dependent red-state's resentment of receiving subsidies, rather than having the overall union calibrated for their benefit.

Europe is different. If anything, the US was structured to spread out political power, so those subsidies are seen as essential. In Europe, the central political system does provide cross subsidies. There was a recent article in Science interviewing UK scientists worried about the end of the UK's science funding surplus. Has anyone done an actual accounting of which states get the most out of EU cross subsidies? The US survey of the state-federal balance is quite telling. Is the UK an irate Alabama or an irate New York?

We've seen the current union being challenged by Greece and now the UK. Would Greece have done better to have exited? Despite the rhetoric, they would still have gotten credit. Argentina is borrowing new money after its nth default, a messy court case and who knows what else. Would the UK do better without the EU? I remember that great "minds far more bureaucratic than our own" political ad featuring the EU octopus. How much of this is just general resentment of interdependence?

My personal guess, based on my view from the US, is that the UK would be better off staying in the EU, even if it means letting some loathsome sorts strut around like George W. Bush on the deck of an aircraft carrier. On the other hand, a close vote puts some more pressure on the EU to do something about its serious problems. The Greeks, more or less, voted for a Grexit, then gave up and stayed.

372:

I'll disagree with that. Most politicians actually manage pretty well. The ones that don't tend to work as campaigners for them, just as the politicos who aren't very charismatic tend to manage campaigns.

One problem we have in the US is that we tend to get our attention directed at right wing Washington DC and various state capitols, where there's been a concerted effort by a few rich libertarians to fund anti-government politicians, and see these inept clowns as the norm. They're not, and it's worth asking why media think it's worth spending so much time on them.

Still, the inept politician is old trope. Ancient really. Ridiculing people in power is one of the ways we keep them in check.

That's not to say that all politicians are good managers, but then again, most managers aren't all that good at what they do, either. There's a wide range of skill-levels and talents, but most of them are middling, not inept.

If you want to look at what cripples politicians, at least in the US (sorry, can't speak for the UK), it's that they're too concerned with money at the moment. On the radical right, they're too concerned with power for its own sake, and on the left, they're too concerned with win-win solutions.

373:

Opiates and cocaine used to be legal in the UK too. It wasn't a problem except to the puritans who take it upon themselves to dictate what are "acceptable" forms of pleasure for other people

Um, no. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853541/

Right now, the US has a problem with opioids, and it looks like the UK is developing the same problem, lagging the US by a few years. It's started with an increase in prescriptions for legal opioid painkillers. As addictions and deaths spiked from abuse of these drugs, they've been under a bit more control (less prescription, pharmacists checking more for prescription abuse, etc.). This, in turn, has led to spikes in heroin abuse--heroin is cheaper than legal opioids--and now the drug cartels are starting to make and sell fentanyl, which is even cheaper and more potent than heroin.

The evidence here suggests that addiction is the problem, not legalization or "puritans."

The lesson of the failure of Prohibition and the failure of the War on Drugs is that prohibiting the sale of these problematic substances doesn't make them go away. Unfortunately, legalizing them doesn't make them safe. Nor, according to the UK data, does finding substitutes, since people are finding ways to kill themselves with methadone.

Personally, I think western civilization is largely about addictions, and that's why we have so much trouble dealing with the ones that destroy us. Most people I've talked to angrily deny this, but then again, denial is part of addiction, right? We don't have problems with our consumption patterns, we can quit any time we want, except that no one thinks we have the will-power to do so. Sound familiar? It could be oil, sugar, or heroin. Or growth or consumerism, for that matter.

374:

Yeah, you need to be quite careful about how you read the data about people killing themselves with methadone. Some people on methadone die of overdoses and other drug-related problems but you need to poke the data quite carefully. Last time I looked (which admitted is quite a long time ago) a lot of those deaths were people on methadone taking other drugs too. Some of them carry on (or revert to) taking heroin but it often gets, or got, reported as a methadone-related death in some places because there's political opposition to the programme and it is tagged as the drug-related death of someone on methadone.

375:

Likewise, the financial industry in the US is branching out to Miami, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Salt Lake City.

I live in Raleigh. Where are these firms? We have a lot of growth but I've not seen much of it financial related.

Besides NO ONE is moving business to NC this month.

376:

3. No,

HFT has got nothing to do with demand for London (or Valley come to that) commercial property. Firstly there are a relatively small number of players involved compared to the tens of thousands of companies that call The Square Mile home.

Secondly if you aren't actually colated to the Exchange servers you are wasting your time. Co-Location being measured in inches these days,

Thirdly even if it was you just need a server rack or 2 not a 20 storey office block.

377:

**cough**

http://www.thrivenc.com/financialservices/companies-in-north-carolina

Ok it's already moved rather than moving but Ioan isnt far wrong.

378:
High-Frequency trading means that ping times matter a lot.

Thinking about the finance industry and their (non HFT) networks:

There is this theory that in case of a Brexit major finance institution will move to EUrope which means mostly Frankfurt. Frankfurt is also the major internet exchange point for Germany and central europe. A side effect of the Snowden revelations is a parliamentary inquiry in Germany into cooperations between the BND and the NSA. Something which came to light were the continuing traffic sniffing at this internet point.

Thinking from a NSA perspective interested in financial traffic: Who would be the better local partner, the seemingly frightening efficient GHCQ, also a five eyes partner or the bumbling bureaucratic Germans which do dumb stuff like parliamentary inquiries?

379:

In a world dominated by global corporations, does it help the genpop to have global or at least a large multinational (EU) centralized gov't as the counterforce? (Did having a central EU - which in buying power is not that much smaller than the US market) make it easier to force corp giants like MSFT, Google to play fair?)

BoJo and Drumpf ... googled their photos ... geeze - are you sure they aren't related? (Like a bad a subplot/thread on Orphan Black.)

Back to the 'aristos' with apologies for sounding fixated ... but since Charlie asked about how a thing looks:

It looks as though England is trying to go back in time when I read headlines saying that the number of 'lords' has been increased.

Ditto when England is seriously considering exiting the EU when the rest of the globe is essentially trying to join up into ever-larger alliances, and getting rid of barriers.

Or, is Brexit just a peevish way of saying 'We're different, and even if it makes no sense at all, we'll stubbornly maintain our trivial differences.' Or, maybe the English are afraid that if they stay in the EU, they'll finally have to drive on the correct side of the road.

380:

Ok it's already moved rather than moving but Ioan isnt far wrong.

That was my point. There aren't really new ones moving in. Historically Charlotte was a banking center but some of that went away in the last 2 recessions as bank mergers took away headquarters.

Only 4 of those listed could be considered Raleigh. And I think only one is new and be new I mean a few years ago. I suspect that many of these operations across the state are call centers paying $20K to $40K per year.

My original point stands. Financial firms are NOT moving to Raleigh in numbers that matter.

And PayPal has pulled their commitment to Charlotte. So there's 400+ jobs that will not happen.

For those that don't know Raleigh to Charlotte is 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 hours depending on the end points with NO traffic.

381:

People on methadone do frequently take other things as well because it's a crap substitute from the point of view of user experience. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be the official substitute.

There is also a problem with data on people dying from repurposing prescription drugs. The tablet composition is designed to make it difficult to separate the drug from the inert material for the purpose of injection. The result, of course, is that people make do with imperfect separation, and inject themselves with all sorts of gunk.

People do all sorts of things which carry a risk of death because they enjoy them. The UK drug figures in Heteromeles's link are about half the figures for people dying of motorcycling. Something like a third of the people who try and go up Everest don't make it. Someone I followed on twitter died the other week from falling off Tryfan. People drown while boating or scuba diving or other water-related activities. There is an endless list of legal forms of enjoyment that people get killed at, which don't get banned because they satisfy the puritan criterion of requiring some kind of effort to do them.

Another problem with the data is frequency of activity - people take drugs more often than they go motorcycling or climb mountains.

And of course taking drugs for enjoyment is anti-consumerist, so no wonder they hate it.

382:

Right, bang on the nail.

383:

"It looks as though England is trying to go back in time when I read headlines saying that the number of 'lords' has been increased."

That's an old trick for getting legislation past the House of Lords that they don't like: create a bunch of life peers (non-hereditary title) from members of your own party in order to stuff the HoL with people who will vote the way you want them to.

"Or, is Brexit just a peevish way of saying 'We're different, and even if it makes no sense at all, we'll stubbornly maintain our trivial differences.' Or, maybe the English are afraid that if they stay in the EU, they'll finally have to drive on the correct side of the road."

Abandoning driving on the left ain't gonna happen. But I think there is an enormous element of the first sentence.

384:

I can't help but wonder whether there's an elephant in the room; specifically the way the EU has treated Greece (or any/all of the PIGS.) Obviously, if you're Greek you've been badly fucked by your highest level of government, and it would be very thoughtless of people from the U.K. not to notice that Greece's highest level of government is also their highest level of government, and that Greece's highest level of government is pretty much owned by the French and Germans, both of whom have not historically favored the British.

Obviously the U.K. is in charge of its own currency; that doesn't mean that the EU doesn't have other ways to screw the U.K.

So as an American I have a couple questions:

First, is the treatment of Greece (or Spain/Italy/Portugal) getting heavily discussed by the pro-Brexit side? Second, if the answer to my first question is "no," is the Greek issue a background fact to the discussion; something that everyone knows and has feelings about but nobody is discussing?

385:

I'm sure others can answer better than I but my guess would be that the Brexit types know with utter certainty that the Greeks are a bunch of shiftless layabouts who deserved everything they got and probably a good kicking too. While England on the other hand is the natural economic and political center of the world and would rule again if only it didn't have to contend with EU regulations on banana curvature.

386:

England... would rule again if only it didn't have to contend with EU regulations on banana curvature.
Made me look. COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2257/94 of 16 September 1994 laying down quality standards for bananas.
I call foul. The only text in the regulations that mentions curvature mandates freedom from "abnormal curvature". I was looking for some more technical measure in that 7 (!!!) page document.


387:

I meant 3-10x - but I wouldn't expect that until there is a run on sterling, and the housing bubble bursts and the foreign 'investment' in UK industry pulls out. 30% for the day after looks likely.
Are there attempts to mainstream (necessarily simplifying) these game-it-out probable scenarios? Just wondering how effective the communications are on the no-to-Brexit side.

388:

Oh I'm well aware but it was a thing in the right wing press for a while and to me gets at the essence of a certain faction of anti-EU thinking; paranoid, misguided and more often than not flat out wrong on the details.

389:

Believe it or not Greece's treatment is both a reason to get out, or the Elephant in the room, depending which way the Brexit'ers winds are blowing on a daily basis....

390:

Yeah, back in the day, I occassionally came across USSA people who wanted the "Brits out of Ireland"
My usual response was:
"Certainly, as soon as you give the Amerinds ALL of their territory back"
Smetimes, after tha,t I was able to explain in greater detail ...
Highly amusing, as you say.

391:

THANK YOU, Dirk.
Yeah & Farming "controls" on use of "Things" too.
The Bog Boys can do almost anything, but I'm not allowed to keep blight off my potatoes or Tomatoes.
ONE RULE FOR EVEYONE, or don't bother ....

392:

The point of view on the brexit of the City of London Corporation:

Follow the link and go to 23m25s into the program. The next 10 minutes are interesting and in english. Don't know if it's available in all parts of the world though.

393:

Only one problem with that Guardian article - its mostly bollocks. The bulk of subsidies don't go to the 0.1% they go to med-big corporates e.g. Tate and Lyle.

Oh and in 3rd place those rabid 1%'ers Norfolk County Council.

5th place those dreadful royalists the Duchy Rural Business School. No links to Charlie - not OGH the other one - as far as I can see.

http://farmsubsidy.openspending.org/GB/2013/

394:

More or Less the Radio 4 programme did a piece 3-4 weeks ago about a lovely piece of rhetoric where you hear someone declaim about the number of words in the Lord's Prayer, the National Anthem and EU regulations on selling cabbages. (Typical numbers about 100, about 200, about 27,000.)

As we should, perhaps be clued into from the first quoted numbers, it's actually a trans-atlantic import, with a bit of inflation. It doesn't stop it being trotted out as a quote for the evils of EU regulation. The last number is also rubbish of course. Like so many of the stories about EU regulation.

395:

... the Euroseptics ...

Nice one. Is the term in general use in Britain or did you make it up?

396:

Oooh, been looking forward to this then missed the beginning.

I think there is a need to seperate two issues. Our current useless government is a short to medium term problem, which can be tackled by Labour getting its act together and the ballot box in 2020.

The EU is a long term problem. Overall, I think the concept of some kind of union is good, but this one is badly executed. I see it as being too in depth for how big it is. Ever closer union within the core European countries would work, but is going too fast for some of the ex Soviet bloc countries and southern Europe. How on earth you can tie together Germany and Greece successfully? I know from a Greek ex Girlfriend that Greece has huge problems with corruption, as witnessed by their inability to collect tax. I think there are so many inherant contradictions and stresses with how the EU has been built up that there is danger of it falling apart anyway.

My main concern is the lack of democracy. The only directly elected element of the EU can only modify, amend and approve/refuse legislation, they cannot decide to revisit or propose. I have been involved in a campaign against EU legislation that, according to the rules on proportionality, fairness and impact should never have been passed. But it was only a few bikers in the UK who objected, so that was all ignored. (To be brief, regulations banning the modification of motorcycles. There is zero evidence that modification causes accidents, the supporting documents had lots of "We'll find evidence later", which they never did. The UK government challenged it after some brief research found there was no evidence to support the ban)

I see the EU as being a great tool for big corporations to get their way. Rather than having to lobby 27 different countries and cultures, you just pop to Brussels and do it once. Conversely, if we citizens wish to oppose anything the EU decides to do, we have to unite across 27 states, 24 official languages and attitudes ranging from the rule of law is absolute (DE, UK) to we'll ignore the ones we don't like (FR, GR). With national governments it is far easier for the population to be heard. I remember OGH describing a while ago the idea of the Beige dictatorship-that politics becomes so dull, no one takes any notice and so the politicians can do what they like. A large body where your voice is very small sounds a good way towards achieving that.

The Euro was a flawed concept from the beginning-as is rightly said, how can you have one currency across many budgets? If southern Europe could have devalued the drachma, lira, etc 4 years ago we'd all be happily spending money on holiday there.

What should come as no surprise is the resentment, particularly in the UK, people feel to something forced upon them. The EEC vote was about joining a common market, not a common government. Our governments have been promising an EU referendum since the 90's, but never delivered. There has never been any explicit consent given by the UK electorate to be part of the EU.

Either way, I hope the result is pretty conclusive-at least a 60/40 split. Anything marginal, especially a narrow leave vote, will fail to put the issue to bed.

397:

I haven't seen any published analysis, from either side, that goes beyond the most bone-headedly naive level. I am damn sure that a few organisations have done some (there must be SOME competent ones in the UK, surely?), but only for their own benefit. As with pretty well all changes to complex systems (whether medicine, IT or politics), it's the secondary effects that are the things to worry about. But the UK politicians and proles, oops, voters have been so dumbed-down that following an analysis with more than one level is completely beyond them.

398:

I made it up, as something ruder than eurosceptic.

399:

You're certainly right that the myths that Greeks work fewer hours and retire younger is pervasive and widespread. Don't know about the kicking idea.

400:

Another thought. It was the rabid wing of the 80's tory party that took us further into the EU. It was Blair and Brown who continued that. Cameron and Osbourne used a EU sceptic party to get in power, then became incredibly Pro. Having negotiated a deal that, even if it were actually going to happen, only makes the situation of migrants worse.
Meanwhile, people such as Tony Benn and even Corbyn have been keen critics of the EU, Corbyn only half heartledly changing his mind to keep his party together.

401:

Charlie,
I’m trying to synthesize some ideas after an unfortunately short night, but it seems a proportion of the “out” vote is based on some strongly tinted rose-colored glasses looking back at the end of the Victorian era, ignoring little things like child labor and an 80-hour (just a guess) workweek, with a dose of old-fashioned jingoism.
There are certainly negative aspects of the EU: an overreliance on non-elected (and therefore non-responsive) bureaucrats, and a tendency to come up with a single solution to a problem (see above discussions on ECB and EU-wide financial policy). There’s also a distinct lack of leadership, as can be seen in the weak response to the refugee crisis.
I still think the benefits of the EU outweigh the costs for the UK, and for the vast majority of members. Just the lack of trade barriers and the free movement of people inside the Schengen zone are huge winners, as are the aforementioned common regulations, no matter how overdeveloped (better one 27-page standard than 28 27-page standards).
To hearken back to the early U.S. for comparison, one of the most important things the U.S. Constitution did was eliminate tariffs between the states and ensure the free movement of citizens from one state to another. Instead of 13 small, colonial economies, we created in essence a single market bigger than France. Though still a frontier, it was large enough to sustain its own development. The EU does the same thing for Europe economically.
@343 and subsequent posts:
It’s been interesting to watch the European, and specifically the German, response to the refugee crisis. The far right in Germany, and I believe in France, has been given a cause to focus on, but it’s pointed out the limited popular support for their positions. On the other hand, it does highlight the difficulty some continental European countries have in assimilating minority populations. Here in Germany, regardless of the law or their passport, an ethnic Turk is still considered by many Germans as a Turk, no matter how long his family has been here. There is still social, if not legal, separation and, as far as I can tell, an insular Turkish social community. Much the same seems to hold for French emigres from Algeria and other African former colonies. My limited time in the UK does indicate that the social barriers are less, though I doubt that the political elites hold many non-white members.
I think the people at Despair, Inc. pretty much summed it up: http://despair.com/products/meetings

402:

You didn't raise, but you did remind me of another part of the problem that I've mentioned previously.

The difference between Common Law & "EU" law.

It is impossible, AIUI, for Judges to "make" or rather re-interpret Law, the way as is done under Common Law.
"The air of England is too pure for a Slave to breathe" is probably the ultimate example ....
Or a blatant attempt by the Treasury to rip people off on marginal costings & "perks" that collapsed in a smelly heap, when it finally got to the High Court, because the judges looked at Parliament's INTENTION (As seen in Hansard) rather than what the appallingly-drafted piece of legislation actually said.
We've got another one of those coming up right now, about "psychoactive substances", which if enacted as written is going to be great fun" - not.

403:

is the treatment of Greece (or Spain/Italy/Portugal) getting heavily discussed by the pro-Brexit side?

Nope nope utterly nopety -- "Greece? What's that, a musical?"

Second, if the answer to my first question is "no," is the Greek issue a background fact to the discussion; something that everyone knows and has feelings about but nobody is discussing?

You know about American Exceptionalism? Well, Nationalist Exceptionalism is a contagious disease, and I'm pretty sure the USA caught it from England -- it's the only explanation for the depth of jingoism leaking out through the popular press of a moth-eaten has-been post-imperial lion of a nation that I can think of.

404:

"moth-eaten has-been post-imperial lion of a nation"

You make it sound like that disreputable stuffed toy of childhood that you're too sentimental to throw out. Just because the stuffing is coming out doesn't mean we don't still love you.

405:

In this case the stuffing predates evil health & safety regulations and mostly consists of asbestos.

406:

Well at least it won't catch fire.

407:

That accurately describes the emotional relationship of many English people with their nation, even after it's been hijacked by coke-snorting pedigreed asset-strippers.

408:

Small children often abandon even well-loved toys outside to get rained on or picked up by the garbage detail when they have other things on their mind or just plain forget. Yup. That analogy makes a lot of sense.

409:

Well at least it won't catch fire.

You can set fire to anything if you add enough chlorine trifluoride.

(Well, anything except maybe dioxygen difluoride or krypton difluoride, both of which are equally hair-whitening to be around. (Wikipedia doesn't really give you the flavour of these substances: for example, it says "the product can be stored at −78 °C without decomposition" where what it means is "if you allow KrF2 to warm up much above liquid nitrogen temperature, in darkness it explodes, violently". The phrase "oxidizes gold" should be a clue ...)

410:

I find it quite frustrating that the Anti EU argument that gets attention is the backwards and stupid version. If I were tin foil hat inclined, I could imagine UKIP being a false flag operation for the EU...

Though focusing on this hides the bits of the EU that are in the interests of the 1%. For example, people bang on about migration. I have seen many friends from eastern Europe who have their workplace rights destroyed. Employers know there is a surplus of unskilled labour, and that most migrants can't afford to lose their jobs and so daren't report, unionise or complain some appalling practices. Witness that sandwich factory in the north east, where no locals want to work due to conditions. Or sports direct. I'm embarrassed that people who come here for a better life, for an honest living, are being exploited by employers and yet demonised as scroungers.

Regards the moth eaten lion...it does sum us up rather well. It's a shame we can't do patriotism the right way, and actually care about making our country and society as good as it can be.

411:

Greg, you keep making that statement then failing to back it up. 2 examples of how UK laws have been challenged do not substantiate your point that there is no room for common law within EU law.

Firstly a big chunk of challenges are concerned about how local laws have been written wrt (or ignoring) European Directives. That's directly about Judges making a judgement on legal intepretations.

Secondly there are distinct areas where European law not only only allows for intepretation - it demands it.

"Proportionality is recognised one of the general principles of European Union law by the European Court of Justice since the 1950s.[99] According to the general principle of proportionality the lawfulness of an action depends on whether it was appropriate and necessary to achieve the objectives legitimately pursued. "
From :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_law#Direct_effect

So you keep stating that EU law doesnt allow common law, yet by and large by definition it has to because several of the countries that make up the EU enable EU directives using frameworks that include common law.

412:

And if you think that your USican interlocutors are the nadir of idiocy in the "Brits out of Ireland" slanging match: It's fairly easy to find graffiti in NI that proudly proclaims "Irish Out!", and not much more effort to find the kind of people who will readily make such a statement. (Irony, that means something with a lot of metal in it, right?)

Many thoughts on BRexit regarding the impact on NI, the peace process, the whys and wherefores of which local NI parties support "IN" or "OUT"; but past experience has taught me that the whole thing comes to close to home for me.

413:

Don't worry about the banana bureaucracy ... the Cavendish banana (along with many other banana varieties) may go extinct.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35131751

On-topic serious question:

Which configuration of gov't is easiest to dupe/corrupt: large monolithic/centralized or small, backwater and decentralized, or something in-between? Has anyone ever done any data collection/analysis on this?


I had thought that small, highly decentralized gov't
might make it too costly for orgs to bother corrupting them. Not so sure anymore mostly because such orgs would save money by not needing to spend on stealth. After all, who's going to look at, report and get all het up about what's going on with the small/trivial govts/depts?


EU ... thinking that all nations in the EU have and will continue to have economies that operate in complete lock step with each other doesn't make sense. Even within a small geographic region (town) you'll have some areas that do better than others at any given time. So, what is the ultimate objective of the EU ... providing everyone with the same playing field and that's it ... if they fail, that's their problem. Or, is it supposed to provide a safety net for similar minded nations ... everyone pitches in regularly and gets help in bad times.

What does England/the UK provide the EU that the EU couldn't get from anyone else? I'm thinking about the very low trade as a % of GDP for the EU as a whole simultaneous with double/triple percentages for member countries. (To me, this says that the EU as a whole is very protectionist, favors member countries, and who needs the London Exchange if you've already got the DAX.)

414:

WRONG
It apples to large numbers of many people of most nations.
Because it is their home, & they love it. ( Wherever it is )
And Britain & England are not "has-beens" either for that matter, certainly not if you use the usual economic measuring sticks, anyway.

415:

I have mentioned this, though the other way around.
Migration may be important, but that's no way why I'm anti-EU.
It's the corruption & undemocratic unaccountability & the imposition of EU "law" that gets me.
If you REALLY WANT coke-snorting pedigreed asset-strippers try the Barlaymont

P.S. to self @ 414: APPLIES not "apples", oh dear.

416:

... Our current useless government is a short to medium term problem, which can be tackled by Labour getting its act together and the ballot box in 2020. The EU is a long term problem. ...

Although my understanding of politics in the UK is a bit dim from my view in the US it seems to me from what I've read here and in other places that Labour "getting its act together" is a long term issue.

417:

Here's a thought...

Why are we having a referendum right now? Not because CallMeDave woke up one morning and shat himself at the photos of Farage having a pint and a fag in the papers. To put it another way, why did so many previously promised votes on the subject not materialise?

"I say, Mr Permanent Secretary, shouldn't we have a referendum on this whole EU thingy?"

"Are you sure that's wise, Prime Minister?"

My guess is that the reason it's actually happening, that Cameron has got it through the Civil Service, is that the Civil Service is itself out of ideas on how to proceed. It wants a new mandate or framework for the next 20 to 30 years. The consensus of the past 40 years is breaking down in the face of the Eurozone crisis, but also the EU's inability to act coherently (see also the Yugoslav civil war).

There's probably a couple of other things that ought to be factored in; the fall in membership of the three main parties over the last 50(?) years, allied with the rise of the SNP and UKIP, and probably others in the near future, places the claim of Labour or the Conservatives to determine policy on the back of being mass movements in doubt. Additionally, generational change in the populations of the member states. A 25 year old German , French or Spanish voter has no experience of the cold war, living under Franco or in a divided nation. Where's the driver for ever closer union, or the need to prove yourself as a good European?

418:

Re: 'Where's the driver for ever closer union ... ?'

The Inter/Web via affordable ubiquitous technology (esp. smartphones and cloud) that provide 24/7 global connectivity with folks/data anywhere on the planet. Plus the at-long-last official political recognition that there are in fact global issues and interests (climate change, viruses) that are most successfully addressed globally.

The EU is an opportunity for econo-politicians* to learn how to co-exist and a platform for effecting change. Multi-national cooperation can be done, just look at CERN, the ISS and WHO/UN, all of which are long-term and pretty expensive projects that provide benefits to all of humanity. (*As opposed to scientists and human rights activists ... less ego and more let's go!)

419:

The simplest explanation I've got is that the referendum promise was coalition-fodder.

Polls before the election were expecting another hung parliament. Cameron knew that his Eurosceptic back bench would take nicely to the promise of a referendum if they won; he also knew that no party with whom he could form a second coalition government would accept a referendum.

Coalition negotiations inevitably include posturing over which bits of manifesto each party gives up in order to form a government; Cameron did not expect to gain overall control, and therefore planned to throw the referendum he didn't want under the bus in exchange for a concession from his coalition partner. He'd retain the support of his party by claiming that he tried to keep it, but it was non-negotiable if they wanted a Tory-led coalition not a Labour-led coalition.

Then the election result was better than expected; he can't back down now on the referendum promise without the 1922 committee arranging a vote of no confidence, so the only way for him to retain his position is to run the referendum as promised, and pray for the right result.

420:

A comment about the British class system, the HoL, and "impoverished aristocracy": it's the same in the US, old money vs new... or, from left field, I have a good friend who's a superannuated outlaw biker. For real. And I was talking to him recently, doing research for some bikers that show up in a novel my late wife started, and I'm working on finishing... and he agreed, vehemently, that bike clubs (aka biker gangs) ain't the way they used to be; it used to be partying, riding, and fights, but in the eighties, serious money came in via drug running, and he tells me the loyalty to the club and to each other isn't there any more.

It's the same with the aristocracy, esp. I assume, with the newer aristocracy: it's about money, and screw the rest of their fellows. (Well, except maybe for Lord Zonker Harris of Doonesbury....)

The money's what's breaking them apart.

mark "but life is a zero sum game, and they who die with the most money win!"

421:

I suspect you're right, in part.

You can add to that if he wins, he can tell the awkward squad to STFU the public have spoken. If he loses, he'll just resign early. He's already said he's not going to be PM for a third term so he can be a POETS PM and leave the party and whichever poor sap becomes the new leader to sort out the mess. Looking at the pig's ear Jeremy Hunt has made of the junior doctor's contract negotiations for example - as well as the Brexit deal, and the inevitable pain that's going to cause, he might be quite happy to resign, invest in off-shore accounts and raise two fingers to the lot of 'em. It's not like he needs the money or the hassle after all.

422:

...the essence of a certain faction of anti-EU thinking; paranoid, misguided and more often than not flat out wrong on the details.
Sorry, was trying for UK-style snark, and didn't quite hit the mark.
Didn't know much about the UK anti-EU rhetoric before seeing your comment; agreed, it's often wild and counter-factual.

423:

Yup.

Cameron has already left his skid-mark on the fly-leaf of British 21st century political history; as Enoch Powell observed, every political career ends in death or failure, and if he fails on Brexit he might as well bow out gracefully rather than put up with the shit-flinging that will follow. (If he wins, then it's another matter: making it to 2020 and retirement would mean bucking a trend -- he'd be the first PM to quit gracefully since Harold Wilson, if I remember correctly.)

424:

Face it Greg - white working class English people are jingoistic racist scum who don't deserve a vote on anything. Stupid, violent, drunken uneducated idiots who usually vote for the wrong people. Just the kind of football hooligans that have an English flag in their home and read about royalty in the Sun.
They need the EU to keep them in line or they would probably go off an oppress someone.

425:

Dirk, yellow card for bigotry/racism. Stop it at once, or I'll ban you.

(I do not need you starting a flame war here.)

426:

Does it still count if I use sarcasm brackets and a smiley at the end?

Because what I wrote above seems to be the serious undertone of some of the comments here.

427:

Sarcasm tags would be helpful; on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (Also, I'm sorry to say you're not a stand-out among the commentariat for your snark.)

428:

I remember Niven and Pournelle's Inferno, in which SF writer Allen Carpenter is conducted through Hell by Mussolini. Near the end of his journey, Carpenter travels through the Traitors' Plain, a vast wind-blasted sheet of ice into which traitors are frozen. Amongst them are two senators arguing about ABM (the anti-ballistic missile system). One had voted for it; the other against. So how, one asks Carpenter, can God have treated them both as traitors? Simple. Further discussion shows that the one who had voted for it did not believe it would work, and the one who voted against it did. Both senators had voted against their own beliefs, merely for political expediency. "And a mistake would have destroyed the United States."

So (assuming BRExit), how does it feel to be a traitor, David?

429:

Well, yes, I see where you're coming from, and it definitely does have the advantage of being simple.

It's just that while the pollsters clearly made a balls-up of epic proportions, probably due to some assumptions about the nature of Lib-Dem support, and Cameron is clearly utterly inept, I'm not really convinced that the 1922 committee would really act against a leader that had just won an election that quickly or decisively, or that the backbenchers are generally that Eurosceptic. I probably need to think this one through a bit.

430:

Ha ha!

Presumably he'll be close enough to chat to Heath about it.

431:

Yup. Clearly.

And my suspicion is that an awful lot of times the phrase "Murdoch press" , particularly in certain Guardian articles, and related echo chambers, is code for just this.

432:

Umm, yerssss, that same ubiquitous technology that seems to given us algorithmic timelines, mass surveillance, confirmation bias and Boaty McBoatFace. And only slightly earlier, Manchester City fans apparently voting to name one end of their new stadium after Colin Bell. You can guess the name.

I guess my point is that the driver of the EEC's actual creation was the desire to avoid the future mass destruction of large tracts of Europe *after* it had already happened, not before, or in response to dire warnings.

Econo-policitians? Economist Politicians? Some sort of technocrat? I don't really understand your second paragraph.

433:

We're having a referendum now because Cameron promised it to avoid splitting the right wing vote with UKIP. Having promised it, any Tory PM who spent his 20s as a SPAD for the Major government would know he needed to deliver it. Coalition kept a lid on the rabid Euroskeptics, but with the increasing popularity of UKIP, a Tory government with a smaller majority than John Major was going to have to deal with the issue.

There were no previously promised votes on the EU that didn't take place. Tony Blair promised one on ratifying the European Constitution in 2004, but took full advantage of the French and Dutch rejecting it to avoid going through with it. Nobody else has won with it in their manifestos, in general Euroskepticism hasn't been a winning move at general elections, either for UKIP/Referendum Party or for major parties (Tories in 2001 and arguably 1997, Labour in 1983).

434:

@419 & @421

Of course whats deeply ironic about the whole Brexit fiasco is that Farage and the Kipper's that provided the pebble that started the landslide have been on a slow implosion for the last 18 months and are currently sulking on the sidelines coz no one wanted them anywhere near the official leave campaign.

435:

"Which configuration of gov't is easiest to dupe/corrupt: large monolithic/centralized or small, backwater and decentralized, or something in-between? Has anyone ever done any data collection/analysis on this? "

Hmm. Consider how corporate led the US is. Consider TTIP in Europe (that would end any chance of improving or strengthening workers rights, because you'd have to compensate everyone). Consider Greece and Italy having their elected governments removed, and years of terrible austerity, to save the banks.

Now look at Iceland, who told the banks where to go, made a decent recovery and just booted out a Prime Minister who was on the fiddle.

Of course, this depends on your county being full of politically engaged types who vote. Hard to nobble someone who will get booted out if you upset their voters. But at least you have that chance. The people of a super-state divided by language and culture will struggle to have influence.
Of course, the governments of our individual states should regularly meet up in an alternative, looser knit Union of Europe to discuss and sort out continental issues-free movement, human rights, response to refugee crisis etc.

436:

Turn that around slightly for a moment;

Any Tory PM who spent time as a SPAD under Major, would know that a Tory government with a smaller majority, should avoid digging into that particular plague pit at all costs, surely?

Particularly with regard to Simon's comment above, especially if they are expecting to throw it away anyway with the excuse of coalition government?

437:

Yup, I'd go along with that.

However,

Hard to nobble someone who will get booted out if you upset their voters *as long as he has nowhere else to turn to, that effectively offers the same amount of power with even less accountability*

I'm looking at you, Mr and Mrs Kinnock. And you, Mandelson. No use you skulking around at the back of the class, is there, boyo?

438:

Also;

There were no previously promised votes on the EU that didn't take place.

Ok.

Tony Blair promised one on ratifying the European Constitution in 2004, but took full advantage of the French and Dutch rejecting it to avoid going through with it.

Eh?

But anyways, the manifesto commitments point is a fair one, but from where I sit, it seems to be an effect of consensus politics, particularly after the 1975 vote, so 1983 would be too early anyway, and Blair just wouldn't after watching the Teddy Taylor and Baroness Southend(?) tag team run rings around John 'Big Daddy' Major. After all, if your enemy is making a mistake, don't point it out.

As a side point, given that joining the EEC seems to have been a Conservative obsession through the sixties, while Labour were against it, to what degree does the result of the 1975 referendum trigger the Gang of Four leaving Labour and founding the SDP?

439:

Not an option, give the continued presence of John Redwood, Peter Bone, etc., in the parliamentary party.

I'm not convinced that it would have been traded away, anyway. If the Lib Dems were negotiating another coalition, I expect they would have traded greater influence on pretty much any other policy in exchange for holding a vote that they would have considered pointless but perfectly winnable (in this counterfactual world where the Lib Dems were more popular than they actually were in 2015).

440:

Sorry, unclear. No promised in/out votes. Blair said he wouldn't ratify the Constitution without a referendum, but then it was killed off by others, and never ratified it at all.

441:

" Tony Blair promised one on ratifying the European Constitution in 2004, but took full advantage of the French and Dutch rejecting it to avoid going through with it."

The rejected constitution was taken away, and existing agreements fiddled with to form the Treaty of Lisbon. Which was only voted on by Ireland, who had to have two goes to get the right answer. So whilst he technically did as you said, what was implied, and people expected, was a vote on our future in Europe, that never took place.

The current EU is vastly different from the Common Market that was voted on in 1975. I've just found the text of the government leaflet here for anyone interested: http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm

442:

Yes, it was certainly a lawyer's promise*. Blair didn't want it, he wasn't nobbled by the civil service. While I doubt it was a big driver for Labour losing the following election, maybe it contributed. Maybe Cameron took away that lesson too.

* Terms and conditions apply.

443:

Nearly 4 days into a discussion on the EU before Greg brings up the key issue of what he can and can't put on his potatoes - is this a record?

444:

Coming in very late to the party, I have some idea of what's going on (I subscribe and read to The Economist and read this blog). Right now most Statesians are, to the extent that they pay attention to politics, overwhelmed by the Great Orange One, with a bit more attention on the other side to what new idiocy Sanders supporters are getting up to as the delegate count goes against them.

But...in my mind, the EU is made of brightly colored blocks--reunited Germany is the largest, but the UK comes next, and most USAians like it better Because Britain, and all that. Greece is a badly-behaved block, but we all have that relative. And yes, the major corporations and policy wonks are watching those summer clouds on the horizon, and starting to make adjustments. The EU's pile of blocks will be somewhat diminished with BRexit, but mostly the US and the EU will retain whatever agreements they have, we need those bases in Germany and on the Med to watch over our oil, you know.

And then Britain will be a brightly colored block all by itself (and maybe not even that if the Scots get their independence--maybe two smaller blocks). And Britain will be somewhat less important, save for sentimentality (the Queen, Hogwarts, and all that)--but the UK isn't that big any more standing by itself, not when we have Czar Vladimir and President Xi to keep an eye on. There are, of course, sideshows like Lil' Kim and whatever insanity Bibi comes up with (though he's staying rather quiet since his last speech in the US, it didn't play well in Peoria...). And Cuba, where most of the citizens of Miami are quietly waiting for Fidel to die.

But I have this weird feeling that the UK wants to make itself more important with Brexit, and from this point of view, it's not going to work.

Of course your mileage may vary--I live on the left side where Japan's point of view is somewhat more important (West Coast trade agreements, especially in agricultural products both ways) than most of whatever the EU is doing.

445:

Totally agree. Every once in awhile I dip into the comments sections at military dot com and frankly, the number of people who appear to be on active duty service who consider the F-35 a POS are legion (even the sock puppets hate that crap. I added in the musical question, 'how can we get Russia to buy them?').

446:

Although China's lack of moralistic nagging is counterbalanced by blatant racism, at least in Africa(if you're not Chinese you don't count, Middle Kingdom, and all that). A lot of Africans are beginning to realize that perhaps the Americans weren't quite so bad after all. And people in Asia are beginning to realize that the Japanese haven't been oppressors for a fairly long time, but are not especially happy at the thought of their new insect overlords.

447:

And only slightly earlier, Manchester City fans apparently voting to name one end of their new stadium after Colin Bell. You can guess the name.

--But it's only part of the stadium, so wouldn't it be a semi-colon?

448:

And my suspicion is that an awful lot of times the phrase "Murdoch press" , particularly in certain Guardian articles, and related echo chambers, is code for just this.

Do a Google image search for "Sun front pages". Maybe the phrase "Murdoch press" refers to the quality of the journalism rather than a coded sneer at the class of its readers?

449:

I live on the left side where Japan's point of view is somewhat more important (West Coast trade agreements, especially in agricultural products both ways) than most of whatever the EU is doing.

I hope it's not too disappointing to our trans-Atlantic friends to confirm that this is true. Over on the Pacific coast we tend to look west at Asia (and the huge ships full of money goods going back and forth) and less often remember that there's a continent on the other side too. Europe is still there doing, um, whatever it's doing, right?

450:

Thank you, Charlie, but, let's put it simply.
DIRK IS WRONG.
There are plenty of pink working-class people down on the plots ... & Bill from Hackney who is a very dark brown, "Bert" who is Nepalese, my neighbours ( & therefore Kashmir-descended) sister, the elderly Bengali lady, who grows amazing coriander, when mine's eaten by slugs ....
Oh & the "indian" iter-racial couple as "Raj" is obviously from the Indo-Gangetic plain, but his wife is from the extreme south.
OK, folks?

451:

Oh, no, it would be a different organ entirely.

452:

Reply to a comment waaaaaay back, but ( & also) the trope oft-repeated through here & elsewhere.
That this is "purely" a tory internal faction fight, writ large.
Err ... no.

Today's headlines repeat/revive the Wedgie Benn idea that the EU is a corrupt corporate employer's ramp, but reversed, in that Frank Field, an eminently sensible "right-wing" labour MP is anti-EU & is criticising Corbyn for going pro-EU.
Labour are almost as divided as the tories on this, it just doesn't show up in blazing headlines.

However, whilst I'm here ....
Some people, including Charlie sometimes represent the tories as greedy scum who want to enslave everybody, a trope I usually laugh at & ignore, same as the SWP loonies who scream "cuts are killing everything" every 30 seconds.
However, it appears that this time there might be a real "wolf" around rather than crying for one ....
The junior Doctor's strike is very bad. With the tory right-wing making noises that sound suspiciously like "miners" .....
This level of stupid we can do without. Because, the revolting Hunt, who does seem to fit the caricature obviously doesn't realise that even if he "wins" he loses, as do all of us, because there simply won't be any junior doctors.
They will qualify in our excellent medical schools & then fuck off elsewhere.
Can I SCREAM right now?

453:

The non-vote on the EU was almost certainly not a factor for anyone. Maybe one or two people, literally, amongst the electorate.

Labour had been in power for 13 years by then, and had run out of steam very much. Gordon Brown was not a good leader for all he was a very clever man. Labour as a whole, particularly Blair but all the big guns, we're tainted by their support for the war in Iraq. If Robin Cook hadn't died and had stood against Brown, they might have been able to shrug that particular one aside but probably not.

Then there was a little financial crisis. The fact it was largely due to external factors doesn't matter. Brown moved from being in charge of the Treasury to being in charge of it all, and then the economy blew up. It made him an incredibly easy target as being "the man responsible for your current financial woes" (regardless of the accuracy).

Put scaring people about their pockets, anger about the war in Iraq and a level of ennui about the faces of Labour together and a defeat was inevitable. The fact it was close enough we ended up with a coalition in 2010 was the only surprise really. At one point, when the LibDem-Tory talks were dragging on and there reports of irreconcilable differences between them preventing an agreement there was even talk of a LibDem-Labour coalition, with Gordon Brown agreeing to step aside as PM if required. We were, supposedly, that close to not having Callmedave and Gideon in charge.

454:

Insert obligatory sneer at anyone who buys the Daily Mail or votes UKIP. Right on!

455:

Go stand in the corner and have a long hard think about what you just did.

456:

Do you ever wonder if the complete dismissal of UKIP/Mail readers only makes them stronger? Knowing a few of both, I firmly believe the vast majority are perfectly decent people who are a little embarrassed by the vocal minority, but have nowhere else that represents their views.

I actually read the mail-I don't buy it, bloke at work does and I borrow it. (I read Vice, BBC, Private Eye and here for balance) A lot of it is celeb trash, and there are many articles ranging from the horrible to the utterly ridiculous. But among that, there are some pretty decent bits of journalism, and a good few opinions that, even if you disagree, are at least well reasoned.

Maybe, peoples views are affected by what they see in life. Or by incorrect information. Maybe a little less "othering", a bit less shouting, a little more open, reasoned discussion would syphon away the more central ground support. The fact that UKIP and the Mail are so popular would suggest to me there are real issues that need to be resolved-though maybe not the issues they think need resolving.

457:

The rise of the extreme Right is due to the failure of the Left to listen to the people. When the only response to legitimate worries of many people is for the Guardianistas to basically call them xenophobic retarded little Englander scum, what do you think will happen?
All across Europe.

458:

A lot of it is celeb trash, and there are many articles ranging from the horrible to the utterly ridiculous. But among that, there are some pretty decent bits of journalism, and a good few opinions that, even if you disagree, are at least well reasoned.

It's not so much the stories as printed, it's the editorial slant to them, and the selection of stories to print.

The Daily Mail appears to have aimed itself commercially at providing older middle-class eyeballs to advertisers. It achieves this by giving them their very own "safe place" - a warm and fuzzy reassurance that they're right, that they don't enjoy any unfair privileges, and that they don't need to feel guilty about being well off.

Buy the Daily Mail, and be reassured that the only people who are poor are the lazy and feckless, and that foreigners are all economic migrants - cue stories about unemployed teenagers getting pregnant to climb the queue for social housing, or stories about those who defraud the benefit system, or immigrants who go on to commit crimes. A particular favourite of the DM are stories that reinforce the line that women should stay at home to raise children.

Their perfect story is one that creates outrage, or fear. Cue leaders that mention threats to house prices, or an increased risk of cancer. We're suffering less crime than ever before, but that doesn't suit their agenda - so big splash on scary stuff. Next time you read the Mail, think about the editorial line that the selected story is choosing to reinforce...

459:

Yes.
I've been called a communist peacenik by right-wing trash ( I reminded that shite about my uncles' WWI service...)
I've been called fascist scum by the same guardianistas that you mention, who then usually refuse to listen to argument & start shouting - almost as if they were in the BNP or EDL ....

"His criticism of the East
Proved him, they said,
a Fascist Beast

Whilst rude remarks about the West
Proved him, they said.
a Commie Pest

How sad these days
The narrow path of Reason
should lead, instead
to a charge of Treason"

Written 1951 or thereabouts, I think.

460:

That's exactly what I mean-there is enough sensible news, even a few quite reasoned comment features (Daniel Hannon MP has done some great stuff) to draw people in, then some really quite nasty stuff gently sidles up alongside it. Doesn't mean the people reading it agree though, and if they were offered a counterpoint in a friendly manner, you have a chance of persuading them.

Loom at America for where the current road ends up. Both sides have tribal screaming matches, no actual debate happens and each side ends up picking more and more extreme leaders. End result, Donald Trump. There's a hell of a lot of noise, but no listening at all.

461:

Although to be fair, other newspapers slant in a different way - the Guardian offers a safe place and comfort zone to those to want to feel righteous, the Daily Telegraph tries to look like a more serious form of the Mail while pushing the Barclays' line, The Times just tries to look serious while pushing Murdoch's current line, and (as the old joke goes), and The Sun doesn't care who runs the country, so long as...

...while the Morning Star just knows that absolutely every story is proof of the evil of the capitalist fat cats and imperialist running dogs. And Americans, obviously...

462:

The problem with any military forum is Dunning-Kruger syndrome... having a strong opinion, is not the same as having a well-informed opinion. Try discussing 9mm NATO vs 0.45 for pistols, or 5.56NATO vs 7.62NATO for rifles, on any US forum, and watch the sparks fly.

Probably the best-informed thread I've seen on the subject of the F-35 is on the Army Rumour Service - and after three years is at 6000 posts, many of which are uninformed tosh...

Anyway, try this. While it's corporate output, the user quotes are fairly unambiguous:

http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=182

463:

While we're commenting on the Daily mail's editorial slant, they do have a disturbing set of dog-whistles for casting children as objects of sexual desire.

464:

On the topic of the Daily Heil: I believe it was Charlie who provided an excellent deconstruction and analysis of exactly how they slip racism, bigotry, xenophobia, or other deep unpleasantness into otherwise seemingly rational and well written articles, through clever use of dog-whistles and an almost bait-and-switch style approach to a topic. (Unfortunately I can't find the link, it was some time ago, and I lack the patience/time for a deep search of Charlie's blog today.)

While you might *think* that you've found some hidden gems of journalism buried in the Daily Fail's regular muck, I would be surprised of they turned out to be anything more than paste and cut glass, with nasty little surprises buried where you don't notice them.

465:

In fairness to DM, they've been pushing this kind of line for a long time now, and the positive effects on circulation don't appear to have changed...

466:

In fact, surprising they haven't revived the 1910 approach - an apocalyptic melodrama about the perils of staying in the EU would go down a storm right now.

467:

Exactly the same remarks can be made about the Torygraph, though they are more genteel about sowing their deception and bigotry.

468:

It sometimes seems as if the designers of the F35 took as the primary objective making the ur-example of the expensive high tech school of warfare. Setting aside the debate as to whether they can technically perform as intended it seems likely they're going to be too expensive to use, be unaffordable in useful numbers and mismatched to future strategic challenges. At this point the F35 looks a bit like trying to fight the last war in the most expensive way possible.

469:

Though mind you everyone was writing stories like that at that time.

471:

The last war was against men on donkeys holding AK47s. We lost. Again.
Against them a Stuka dive bomber would be somewhat more cost effective.

472:

And the DM outsells the right-on totally politically correct Guardian by 10:1
Of course, only xenophobic jingoistic little Englander etc etc etc etc scum buy it.

473:

Who is the poem about, and who wrote it? The second verse and date of writing would fit with contemporary opinions about J. B. S. Haldane.

475:

At this point the F35 looks a bit like trying to fight the last war in the most expensive way possible.

Which "last war"? The two strategic counter-insurgency failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Air Supremacy was utterly unopposed barring an attack on the airfield? Or the two operational successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, likewise?

The "hybrid war" as modelled in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and Georgia? (Heavy use of drone and EW-cued long-range artillery covered by decent air defence; apparently five minutes to cue a artillery battalion fire mission, two minutes for a artillery battery fire mission, and a Ukrainian Army having to resort to field telephones and runners / despatch riders).

The "Peace Enforcement" operations that required forming up several armoured divisions in Macedonia, and taking on the Yugoslav air defence networks? Or the "Peace Keeping" operations that required patience, gritted teeth, and negotiating access for aid convoys to the people that desperately need it?

it seems likely they're going to be too expensive to use, be unaffordable in useful numbers and mismatched to future strategic challenges.

Nothing is quite as expensive as a second-best armed force. Ask the Germans, Iraqis, or Argentinians about the value-for-money of their investments in "affordable" military technology.

When the F-35 is taken in context (high-end and modern SAM systems sold by Russia; not done yet, but nevertheless a possibility) then low-observability becomes an expensive necessity. When paired up, 5th-generation sensors and 4th-generation aircraft make for a potent combination, and this seems to be the future operating model for US, UK, Israel, China, and even Russia. The mistake is to assume that Air Forces will be operating an F-35-only force (they can't afford it)...

476:

Against them a Stuka dive bomber would be somewhat more cost effective

Nope. Because the financially-expensive bit isn't the aircraft, or even the avionics, it's the people. The politically-expensive bit isn't the cost of training aircrew, it's the number of casualties among aircrew and soldiers.

So to use your Stuka (or similar daylight-only, eyeball-only, low-speed, limited-payload, propeller-driven but cheap aircraft) you now need lots more airfields, so that the (slower, shorter-ranged) aircraft can remain close enough to support any "troops in contact" in a timely fashion.

Those "lots more" airfields now need lots more defence, because even a 300m airstrip and associated aircrew/maintainer accommodation, hangars, fuel/spare parts/ammunition stores has a several-kilometer perimeter that now needs to be secured and patrolled out to mortar range (thus annoying any locals who just saw their land nicked to build said airfield)

And of course, your daylight-only, fair-weather-only aircraft is rock-all use when the fog closes in, or it gets dark. And it's more likely to drops bombs in the wrong place, or almost in the right place but on the wrong people (i.e. your own). But you still need to provide fire support to your patrols during dark-o-clock times... so do you pull back to patrol bases at night, and surrender the ground to the enemy; push forward mortars / artillery, and accept an increased risk of "innocent people get killed"; or take it "at risk" and accept increased casualties on patrols? See "politically expensive" above :(

477:

Something 'cosy catastrophe' in the vein of Wyndam or Christopher might be more in keeping.

Unless zombies was a reference to the functioning of the European Commission.

478:

Perhaps someone else addressed this farther down, but if memory serves (and it occasionally does) France's desertion of NATO was symbolic. They withdrew civilian representation from the Atlantic Council, but their military continued to function inside NATO, they were part of planning, conducting war games and whatnot. The withdrawal from the AC was a little bit of symbolic Gallic hauture concocted by the great man himself. But France never really left NATO in any meaningful sense.

479:

The figurative 'last war', the WWIII everyone was sure was going to be fought over Germany with tanks and jet fighters and long range bombers. Tom Clancy's basic fetish material.

Its been a good four decades since the last real air to air combat in Vietnam and more than twice that to the mass aerial combat of WWII. At this point we're so far removed from real experience the parallel starts to look uncomfortably like the British Admiralty doubling down on bigger battleships. The F35 may well be the jesusplane, but its no good for shooting donkeys, and useless for peacekeeping, too expensive to risk getting shot down in a 'hybrid' war...

Maybe China declares WWIII and picks a conventional fight on American terms; even then its unclear how the stealth/AA race plays out - the AA is much cheaper to upgrade and keeping a plane stealthy under combat conditions with fast turn around (because you don't have many) is much harder than in testing...

I'm just saying it's a nose-bleedingly expensive bet on complicated and untried technology for a scenario that is unlikely to eventuate.

480:

Ooof!

A remarkable troll-fail there, Dirk. And clumsy with it too!

Tsk. Tsk.

(I am sure that you are smart enough to spot the difference between what I actually wrote, and the words you're trying to put in my mouth.)

481:

Somewhat derail'ish:

Germany is a bit different having been divided by superpowers for 40+ years. Even most Germans admit that Bonn was never more than a strip mall.

Germany is not different because it was divided for 40 years, it's different because it wasn't one country but a largish bunch of them before 1871, and existing old and large cities that used to be capitals don't evaporate all that fast.
Bavaria, f.e., used to be its own kingdom; it's about as large in area as Belgium and the Netherlands put together, and it has more inhabitants than Austria. Regarding language, Dutch is considered its own language, Platt is supposed to be a dialect, even though speakers of Platt and of Dutch have a better chance of understanding each other than either of them a Swabian or Bavarian (and vice versa) unless both sides are taking pains speaking "high German".

Germany got to unification via a tax union and later a monetary union, and Germans who paid attention in history class have expected the Euro to be the next step to a Federal States of Europe. This still seems a desirable long-term goal, stumbling blocks now are that the parliament does not have sufficient power and the commission has too much, and also that the idea that it's got to be a "for better and for worse" union if it's supposed to work still needs .. developping.

The European economic union works to the advantage of Germany, i.e. Berlin, with secondary cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam and Milan in tow.

oh heh, the quib that Berlin is poor but sexy does not exist without a reason. :)
Economically, Berlin has surprisingly little significance given its size. Pick Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg as the economically strong places in Germany.

482:

Pretty much what I said, it is interesting to actualy read some of the crazier stuff and spot what is going on.
I still maintain some of it is reasonable though, most of it adapted from other sources. Maybe it does get included for some less savoury reasons, but taken alone I reckon the writers of such pieces are pretty civilised. Remember too, it was a Mail journalist who won the Paul Foot award for investigating the Stephen Lawrence case so thoroughly.

Question is, where do you distinguish between an opinion you disagree with, but can respect, and dog whistling?
Anyway, I'm not trying to defending the paper-it is mostly a load of shite. I'm pointing out that not everyone who reads it, or votes UKIP, etc, is a terrible person. If you want to win, you need to persuade them. Shout, pillory and mock and you'll end up with Trump.

Regards the creepy photos of teenagers, have a look at The Male Online in Viz...

483:

As someone watching the run up to the referendum via the Economist from the United States, the whole notion seems to be a sort of British counterpart to the chant of "Build the Wall" over here, an exemplar of the H.L. Mencken quote that: "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong". My perception is that the whole "Ever closer union" thing has hit its limit stop because the UK is far from the only place that Euro-skepticism is a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, for this reason it seems to me that the EU would have to negotiate market access on the most punitive terms possible should the UK depart. The fear is the same well-founded one that Lincoln had about secession over here, namely that if the precedent is established who knows where the unraveling stops. So their first choice would be that the UK decide to remain, but failing that, its departure must be seen as a massive failure in order to prevent the EU from simply dissolving.

I do have some analysis that might be of comfort. As the voting day gets closer, it seems to me that the tendency is for undecideds to break in the direction of status quo. I think that Jefferson was correct in his assertion that there is an inherent conservatism when it comes to big, irreversible changes:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

My perception is that this dynamic is at least partially responsible for the failure of the referendum on Scottish independence. It is also for this reason that I would predict that, should the UK vote to leave, the SNP will succeed the in breaking up the UK the second time around. Voting to leave the EU ensures that there is no status quo option for Scotland, there is only the choice of remaining in a UK that is leaving the EU or choosing independence from the UK to remain in the EU and given the respective popularity of the UK and EU, I think it very probable that Scotland would choose EU, if forced to make the choice. That same dynamic makes that less likely, however, because it will probably bias a close vote towards the side of remaining in the EU.

I also think about Brexit in the same way that I imagine Europeans thought when Ted Cruz and company were playing "chicken" with the US debt-ceiling, that the World economy is still far too fragile to be messing around this way. As with the debt-ceiling follies, if Brexit does not happen then the economic effects will probably be limited to some market volatility as the vote gets closer. So, from this side of the Atlantic, I can merely hope that you don't make what I would regard as the mistake of leaving the EU.

484:

I did, and I realized I should have said 'semi-Colin'. And then I laughed and laughed and laughed .

485:

Anyway, try this. While it's corporate output, the user quotes are fairly unambiguous:

http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=182

--Thank you, I will check it out. All knowledge is...sometimes really interesting.