“This is about control” – yes, of course it is

This video clip sums up the whole EU referendum debate. It hits the nail on the head. It is virtually all you need to see, to make your mind up on the matter.

It’s from a Daily Mirror debate, chaired by Mark Austin. The Guardian summarises the clip thus:

Ukip’s Nigel Farage accuses Labour and Peter Mandelson of encouraging immigration to “rub our noses in diversity”, during the Daily Mirror’s panel discussion on the EU referendum on Tuesday. The comment sparked a furious row between Farage and other members of the panel, with novelist Dreda Say Mitchell saying many from ethnic minorities refrain from supporting the Leave campaign due to ‘the intolerant rhetoric’.

At the height of the spat, Nigel Farage blasts out:

This is about control!

That word “control” has struck me as being at the heart of this debate for a long time. “We want to take back control” – say the Brexiteers.

It reminds me of a tipsy man propping up the bar at his local – boring everyone to death with his boozy rants at closing time. “We need to take back control” he says. “Control!”

It’s a very male thing. Machismo. We need to be in control! We need to have our hands on the steering wheel!

The problem is that you can be in control and also be completely messed up.

A man marooned on a desert island is completely in control. But he is also completely snafued.

And this is the EU Referendum debate in a nutshell.

If we leave the EU we will be completely in control but completely messed up.

The boozy, boring men propping up the Brexit bar offer no facts, just blithe sweeping boasts. And yet, we have piles and piles of businesses and experts saying over and over again, with hosts of facts: we’ll be worse off.

So we actually seem to have a coalesced debate now. The Brexiteers seem resigned to the fact that we’ll be worse off if we leave – they have offered no real facts to support the contention that we won’t be.

So all they are left with is:

Ah, but we’ll be in control!

Yes, indeed. In control of our own mess.


* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • “The Brexiteers seem resigned to the fact that we’ll be worse off if we leave – they have offered no real facts to support the contention that we won’t be.”

    I think we need to distinguish between “facts” and economic speculation. Nobody knows for sure whether we will be worse off or not if we leave. If I learned one thing studying economics at university, it’s that you shouldn’t put any faith whatsoever in the predictions of economists.

    What we do know – because Norway and Switzerland both prove it – is that it’s perfectly possible to be a European country outside the EU, and yet still be richer per capita than any EU country except Luxembourg. Whether there are any British politicians capable of emulating those examples is another matter!

    Up to now, each side has only put forward one argument that I can get excited about. Regaining control of our borders would be a big plus, but on the other hand losing EU-granted workers’ rights and protections would be a disaster, especially with the Tories likely to be in power for decades. At the moment the latter argument is the one that’s swaying me in favour of Remain.

  • It’s not about control it’s about democracy and the nation state v a regressive economic block that treats the electorate as a dangerous inconvenience to business. Immigration and the economy are at best a side show and more often than not a big stick to beat opponents over the head with.
    Whilst populism can be bad, the fear of the electorate and the retreat from democracy embodied by the EU seems worse to me. This is why I’m voting out.

  • petermartin2001 18th May ’16 – 1:00pm…

    Presumably, post Brexit, our trade inbalance with Germany will not suddenly reverse?

    If we seek to reduce our trade deficit then we need to increase our exports; the US and ‘old’ commonwealth countries (Canada/Aus/NZ) are quoted by Gove, Boris, etc…..

    The US is hesitant (to say the least)…What can the UK supply Canada with that the US can’t supply cheaper? What can the UK supply Aus/NZ that their Far East neighbours can’t supply cheaper?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 18th May '16 - 5:59pm

    I must admit, I’ve gone from being an unenthusiastic remain supporter to being staunchly in favour of leaving the EU.

    It’s clear that the EU is not democratic and the EU parliament doesn’t even get to decide what it’s debating, the executive are not directly elected and cannot be removed.

    Mass immigration from the eastern block has made the rich richer and made life more difficult for the poor. If immigration had not been used against the poor this way and the EU was a genuine democracy i would probably feel differently, but it is what it is and I’m out.

  • Bill le Breton 18th May '16 - 6:10pm

    Tyler Cowen has recently concluded,

    “My own view is this: if the United Kingdom could simply press a button and obtain the current status of Canada, via-a-vis the EU, probably they should do so”

    He goes on to write that they can’t do that. But is he right?

    If the UK voted to leave, it would be impossible to prevent similar referendums taking place across Europe with similar results likely in a number of countries.

    EU enthusiasts would clearly head this off at the pass by instituting reforms.

    Perhaps one reform might be to allow ‘membership’ to any existing member opting for it based on the Canadian model.

    A second reform would surely be the break-up the the Euro Zone – allowing those who can trade with Germany at the present effective exchange rate to continue to use the Euro … and others free to resume independent currencies free to float against that Euro.

    This would see an immediate boost to economies across the continent – for those in the EZ it would be like leaving the gold standard and for those outside the EZ now, their trade with these newly liberated economies would boom.

    Instead – a vote to remain will see the suppressed economies continue to weigh down the whole Union as one after another countries fall to right wing governments.

    The centre cannot hold – nor should it!

  • Stevan Rose 18th May '16 - 7:39pm

    I would agree that the Euro is a trick to devalue the German currency and deflate the cost of the exports, whilst it increases the relative cost of exports and decreases the competitive edge of poorer countries like Greece and Portugal. But we’re not in the Euro and are unlikely ever to be, and leave or remain will make no difference to that. It’s not a reason for us to leave anyway.

    Greek governments, democratically elected, borrowed vast sums to fund projects they could not afford whilst having very generous public sector retirement schemes. It was irresponsible in the extreme and the chickens came home to roost. I don’t have much sympathy. But again not much relevance to UK leave or remain.

  • Some interesting posts about the pros and cons. As a reluctant remain voter (my concerns are based on liberal principles of democracy) I am very unhappy about the effects and social costs of austerity imposed on Greece. Nevertheless, I do understand the point Paul is making about the use of language.

    What struck me about the video clip in Paul’s article was the incredible personal insensitivity of Farage in saying what he did. The jovial mask slipped and we actually saw the awful prejudice underneath slip out.

    The same sort of crudeness (this time incredibly offensively sexist) was used by Neil Hamilton at the Welsh Assembly election of the Welsh First Minister today. My first thought was he must have had a late lunch.

    The mask is beginning to slip and we’re really seeing what the essential UKIP is really like.

  • Stevan Rose 18th May '16 - 9:33pm

    I must say I don’t understand the democracy arguments. Parliament is elected on PR methods. The Council is composed of leaders and ministers from democratically elected member states. The Commission are civil servants appointed by democratic member states and approved by Parliament, and can also be removed by the Parliament. Ultimately all institutions are subservient to the member states as each member’s government can leave the EU at any time so everything done by the EU is done with consent or compromise by Democratic member states. Like a Lib Dem party member, if you disagree with the majority you can leave if you feel that strongly, otherwise you accept the rules whilst reserving the right to voice objections. That is how Democratic organisations work.

    There have been arguments that the President of the Commission should be directly elected, and Parliament given more teeth. This would increase the Democratic credentials. However, the added “legitimacy” would result in stronger EU institutions capable of direct challenge to national Parliaments. Then you have a more federalist model and the US style battle for States’ rights. The structure, as set up, is actually an extremely clever balance of central direct democracy and maintenance of the supremacy of national Parliaments and governments. Alter that balance and you’re into that Federal model that would lose a referendum.

  • “We” will not be in control if UKIP win, no, the Westminster Conservative MPs who were voted for by 36% (ish) of voters will be in total control, ignoring the wisdom of European and British MEPs who were voted for by PR. Less democracy not more.

  • Katerina Porter 19th May '16 - 6:35pm

    The EU gives us some protection from a most authoritarian and punitive government, one which would love to roll back all those regulations that protect the environment, rights of workers and much else. Which allows 2,200,000 of us to work, study, live and travel in the EU while able to use local facilities like the local health system. Which subsidizes our film industry, our science research, builds roads in Scotland, the upgrading of London transport and much much else. Whose “bloated bureaucrats”in Brussels add up to 22,000 when Edinburgh Council was 19,000 and I am told are much more welcoming and helpful than Whitehall.

  • Katerina Porter 19th May '16 - 6:49pm

    Has taken on Google, Microsoft and other international corporate giants, and the effects of neonicotinoids.

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