EU Referendum

A vote to leave the EU is a vote against the centralisation of power

BY Dominic Frisby   /  21 June 2016




I’m a Europhile. I speak 5 European languages, three fluently. My grand-parents were Italian, I have lived several years of my life on the continent and I do business with people in Europe all the time. I’ll be voting Leave this June. My reasoning is simple.

People thrive best in societies in which power is distributed as thinly and widely as possible. In such environments people are happier, healthier, wealthier, free-er and they achieve more. In societies where power is centralized, whether via an autocracy (rule by an individual, such as North Korea), theocracy (rule by a religious elite, such as Iran), a stratocracy (rule by the army, such as Thailand or Egypt) or most other “cracies” you can think of, the opposite happens: people languish. Their possibilities are limited. For power to be dispersed, some form of democracy is usually best.

The EU was born out of the very noble aim of never again allowing large-scale war in Europe to be possible, but the consequence of this has been to centralize power in the form of another ‘cracy’ – a bureaucracy. Of course, it’s nothing like as bad as those countries I’ve mentioned above, but this centralisation of power has brought economic misery to Southern Europe. Limited in the laws they can make and, especially, in the setting of their monetary policies, the Southern European nations have been hamstrung. Without control of their own currency, they have been thrust into a deflationary depression. This is the 21st century, a time of plenty. How can we have 39% youth unemployment in a country like Italy? It is one of the largest economies in the world. Or was. In Greece (49%) and Spain (45%) the figures are even worse. Something similar has happened to our own fishing industry. It’s so unnecessary. I can’t support a project that has inflicted such misery on so many so needlessly, no matter how well intended the original plan.

The frightening irony is that the centralisation of power in the EU is giving rise to the very discontent it was set up to stop. Wars are often born out of economic malaise. Extremism in politics is on the rise. Such is the law of unintended consequences.

Looking at things from a self-interested, British point of view, for me, the choice between EU rule by officials in a bureaucracy and our system of parliamentary democracy is an easy one. Of the two, our system, for all its many failings (and there are many) is better. We don’t want to be further enmeshed in a EU project that is so restrictive. When our economy hits rougher times, and that time will come, we must have as freedom as possible to make our own decisions and set our own policies. We are more restricted if we vote to remain.

The evidence of history is irresistible. Free-er countries always outperform their more heavily regulated neighbours.

The idea that I won’t be able to trade and exchange with people in the EU and elsewhere if we’re not in the EU is just silly. I don’t need official approval to conduct the business I conduct in Europe – I just need the agreement of the person I’m doing business with. When we both agree, we trade and we both benefit from that trade. When the time comes, we both pay the appropriate taxes. What’s it got to do with the EU or anyone else? Barriers aren’t going to go up post-Brexit. Trade will carry on, as it always has.

The UK is currently thriving relative to the rest of Europe because it has been able to escape some of this centralisation of power. Though something like 60% of our regulation is determined in Brussels, we still have the pound, so we can determine our own fiscal and monetary policies. But even in the UK centralization is a problem. What suits London does not necessarily suit the rest of the UK, for example. London, it might be argued, needs higher interest rates, while the rest of the UK may not. That is an argument for another day.

One criticism of the various Leave campaigns is that no clear vision of what Britain would be like post-Brexit has been presented. Of course, there hasn’t. Nobody knows. Ironically, that is what a post-Brexit Britain would be like: unplanned, slightly chaotic even, lots of different energies and endeavours, voices and opinions – free-er. Unlike planned, centralised economies, these are the economic environments in which people most thrive. A vote for Leave is a vote against centralised power.

People seek security. Nobody knows, no matter what they may say, what the future has in store, and the idea of an unknown, uncertain future scares people. As such, I suspect many of the undecided will vote for the devil they know and go with the status quo, which is Remain. The irony is that, in doing so, they’ll actually be voting for a more uncertain future, because it will be a future over which they have less influence and control.

Dominic Frisby is a financial writer. He will be performing his show Let’s Talk About Tax at the Edinburgh Festival this August