Arguing the Classical Liberal Case



As my Twitter bio used to put it: “EU is bad for the UK AND for Europe. Love Europe? Vote Leave. Democracy is the issue, not immigration. Classical Liberal. Free-Market. Free-Movement.”

But the British people voted to leave on 23 June 2016. The question now is, what next. Well, leaving the EU, of course. But how? Remainers like to bleat that Leavers “don’t have a plan”, but in fact many of us do, and have had for a long time. Roland Smith explains the position that I share most succinctly here:

If you want more detail (probably more detail than you could want, in fact), then have a look at the painstaking work of Richard North and other Flexciteers here:

This is what I had to say before the Referendum, and it still holds true (despite some oddities of tense):

  • The foremost reason that UK citizens should vote to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 is because the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic (and indeed anti-democratic) institution which has shown itself to be incapable of meaningful reform.
  • Whilst it is desirable that neighbouring countries should cooperate and work together for the common good as far as possible, the EU does not provide the best foundation for this common endeavour.
  • The decision we are being asked to make is whether to leave the European Union — as it actually exists — not whether we accept or reject an idealised fantasy.
  • The only way that Britain could ‘leave Europe’ would be for every citizen and every institution to move, physically, to another continent. The UK is part of Europe as an historical, cultural, geographical and indeed political reality. No one denies that Switzerland or Jersey are part of Europe.
  • The EU’s doctrinaire insistence upon geographical expansion and monetary, political, military and fiscal union, far from bringing the nations of Europe together in fraternal concert, are actually making Europe less prosperous, less stable and less democratic.
  • The EU is keen on policies that appeal to both the Left (workers’ rights, protectionism, coercive regulation) and Right (free trade, freedom of movement and capital, privatisation and competition). Whether we should leave the EU or not is therefore not a question of Left or Right. It is a question of democracy.
  • If the UK leaves the EU, then it is possible, even likely, that other nations might follow. This could be the salvation, not the destruction, of European political cooperation. Very few people wish to ‘turn their backs’ on Europe. It is unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who have turned their backs on the people they pretend to represent.
  • Whilst it is right and proper that a sovereign nation should control its own borders, and whilst it is not ‘racist’ to be concerned about immigration, it is only one issue among many. What makes EU migration and immigration so problematic is the disparity between welfare and wages in different member nations. The EU solution will be eventually to harmonise wages and welfare across the EU (along with taxation), but this must remain  a matter for national (or even local, as in Switzerland) governments.
  • The best prospects for Britons, and especially poor Britons, is for the UK to pursue an open, free-trade agenda after Brexit. But that will be a matter for us, the newly emancipated electorate to decide upon. My countrymen may decide they want Jeremy Corbyn as their Prime Minister in 2020 (or even before), and although I believe that would be a disaster, I would far rather that happen than for us to remain in a stagnant EU moving in the wrong direction. Like Tony Benn, I would rather have a bad government than a good king.

And finally:

  • If you find yourself in a burning building, you should get out. You should not listen to anyone who says, “Let’s stay here. Stick with what we know. We don’t know if another building will be any better.”
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