Monday , April 19 2021
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That’s it, we’re out

Summary:
“That’s it, we’re out!” said David Dimbleby in the early hours of Referendum night as the mathematics became inevitable. He was premature: it has taken four years to fend off the petulant determination of the deniers to overturn the result.Now, I hate referendums. Changing the constitution — the rules by which we can be inspected, regulated, taxed, licensed, repressed, judged, censured and punished by our politicians — you should have near-unanimous agreement. And not just a small majority, as the losers keep bleating. Mind you, they didn’t bleat when giving Scotland an entire new government on the basis of a 51.6% to 48.4% vote — not so far off the Brexit majority that Nicola Sturgeon was so anxious to overturn. Wales was even slimmer, 50.3% to 49.7%. But we didn’t have four years of

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“That’s it, we’re out!” said David Dimbleby in the early hours of Referendum night as the mathematics became inevitable. He was premature: it has taken four years to fend off the petulant determination of the deniers to overturn the result.

Now, I hate referendums. Changing the constitution — the rules by which we can be inspected, regulated, taxed, licensed, repressed, judged, censured and punished by our politicians — you should have near-unanimous agreement. And not just a small majority, as the losers keep bleating. Mind you, they didn’t bleat when giving Scotland an entire new government on the basis of a 51.6% to 48.4% vote — not so far off the Brexit majority that Nicola Sturgeon was so anxious to overturn. Wales was even slimmer, 50.3% to 49.7%. But we didn’t have four years of hissy fits trying to overturn those results. 

Nor should we have had it over the Brexit referendum, which was far more justifiable than the devolution polls. We were taken in (!) on the mere say-so of the politicians. Only later did we have a (simple majority) referendum to remain (I voted Yes, BTW). So, it’s reasonable that we should now leave on the basis of a simple majority too.

But the entire establishment, plus wealthy or state-funded, self-styled ‘world citizens’, plotted to overthrow the decision made by the majority (despite billions of EU and UK government money, plus warnings of World War III thrown at them). It was ‘only advisory’, just a ‘protest’; voters were ‘lied to’, ‘didn’t understand’. We needed a second referendum — no, think grander, advised PR guru Roland Rudd from his Georgian mansion in Somerset (or maybe his swank Holland Park townhouse), we need a People’s Referendum. Which is what we all thought we’d just had.

Then it was Gina Miller (either from her £7m home in London or her one in France, I’m not sure) spending her husband’s £40m fortune on London’s snootiest law firm to stop the government moving Article 50 without the say-so of an overwhelmingly Remainer parliament in which it had a wafer-thin majority. It was “a matter of democracy,” she declared. Pure, cynical, monied opportunism, more like. And so it went on for years, more petulance, more scares, more litigation, more machinations designed to — well, overturn democracy. It looked like the 2019 general election (oh, no, not another one!) had settled the issue, but even then, scheming merely re-focused to ensuring that the ‘deal’ pretty much maintained the status quo. There’s even dismay that the final deal exceeded expectations — because now we’re out for good.

It wasn’t leaving the EU that divided the nation, it was being in it. And now at least we can all focus on doing what is in the interests of people in the UK, and indeed the rest of the world. We can at last renew our role as the global leader in free trade, extolling the merits of free trade and the folly of protectionism. Unlike the EU, we know that trade barriers hurt our own consumers. We’ve already signed umpteen trade deals, with more to come. It’s a big world out there. We can provide markets for the produce of the poorest countries instead of walling them off with 30% tariffs. And by showing what can be achieved, we will probably have more influence on the EU than we ever could as one of 28 horse-trading countries.

More broadly, we can be the global leader promoting the rule of law internationally too. We have a pretty good record on freedom, democracy and justice that we can recommend to the world. To replace opportunism with law — on trade, treaties, arms, finance, and dispute resolution. To re-engage with the Commonwealth to consolidate liberal values and spread them more widely. To work for peace and counter threats such as cyber warfare with all our allies — instead of being split from them by submerging into the inevitable EU army. To promote international understanding through education — we have some of the best universities in the world, remember.

At home, we can grow our SMEs into world-beaters, giving them the oxygen of low corporate taxes and sympathetic, growth-aware regulation. No longer do we need to subject businesses to EU regulation, even if they export nothing to EU countries. And our financial markets can avoid the slide into transactions taxes, bans on short selling and the micro-regulation that has driven financial services to Singapore and elsewhere. Forbes Magazine already ranks us as the world’s best country for doing business, and we can build on that with business-friendly policy and opening international markets.

Perhaps the most significant benefit is one that is never noticed. We will get our legal system back. Instead of being bound into a prescriptive system, we can reassert our permissive one. Instead of having to wait for legislative permission to do things, we can get on with invention, innovation and entrepreneurship and sort out any problems in the courts when they arise. The Continental legal system imposes a detailed micro-managing rule book on individuals and businesses. Our system relies on the test of what is reasonable, not what some official decides should and should not happen.

We are not leaving Europe: Scandinavia and Continental Europe are and remain our friends, allies and partners. But our eyes, hearts and tradition range more widely. In fact, rather than being reluctant participants in a local, centralising political and economic vision that we do not share, our departure will actually make us better friends, allies and partners in the future.

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Dr. Eamonn Butler
Eamonn Butler is Director of the Adam Smith Institute, rated one of the world’s leading policy think-tanks. He has degrees in economics, philosophy and psychology, gaining a PhD from the University of St Andrews in 1978.

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