Why I think the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union

These last few weeks have been absurdly busy, and even without Thursday’s referendum, next week promises to be even busier. I will, however, definitely make time to vote and I urge you to do the same, whichever way you feel inclined to cast your ballot.

A number of my friends and colleagues have been posting on social media about why they plan to vote for one side or the other, or in some cases already have voted ( by postal ballot), so I thought I’d do the same today. I don’t suppose my ramblings will change anyone’s mind, and that’s not the reason for posting this anyway. It’s just a personal opinion, that’s all. It’s fine if yours is different. I have friends who disagree strongly with what I’m going to say, but we’re still friends. There’s no reason to think that will change whichever way the vote goes, although I am deeply worried about what damage the campaign has done to British political culture (which was deeply flawed before it started).

Let me start with a bit of biography that might explain why I see things the way I do. I was born in Wallsend on Tyneside in 1963. My parents were both born just before World War 2 started also in the area where I was born. Of my four grandparents, one was born in England, one in Northern Ireland, one in Scotland, and one in Wales. I always smile when I get to right my nationality on a form, because I put “United Kingdom”. Of course being born in England makes me English too, but I find that less defining than “UK” or even “Geordie”. To be honest, my ancestry means that  I generally find the whole concept of nationality fundamentally silly. I find nationalism silly too, except for those occasions – regrettably frequent – when nationalism takes on the guise of xenophobia.  Then it is much more sinister. That is happening now in the United Kingdom, a point I will return to later.

I don’t come from a wealthy background. Holidays abroad were an unaffordable luxury when I was a kid. In fact, the only members of my immediately family ever to venture abroad before I did for the first time (in 1986) were my grandfather’s brother (who died at Arnhem in 1944), his cousin (who died at the Salerno landings in 1943), and my uncle Richard who crossed the Rhine with the British Army in 1945 and was stationed in the devastated city of Hamburg for the duration of his National Service; he at least survived the War.

I had the good fortune to be born during a time of peace and relative prosperity, and have experienced immense good fortune in my life. I got a scholarship to go to a very good school and thence won a place at Cambridge University, where I did well enough to go onto a PhD here at the University of Sussex. Thirty years ago last summer, when I was 23, I went abroad for the very first time – to a cosmology conference in Cargèse, in Corsica. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely in Europe and beyond, meeting and working with some wonderful people. What little sense of nationality I started with has diminished steadily with time, and I now have no difficulty at all in adding another label to my identity: European. I’m British and I’m European. And proud to be  both. That statement alone has led to me being called a “traitor”, such are the depths to which this wretched referendum campaign has sunk. Fortunately I an nowhere near sufficiently important or prominent for anyone to assassinate.

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (as it was then called) in 1973, when I was ten years old. The EEC morphed into the EU in 1993, but in some form or another it has been a fact for all of my adult life. There is no question in my mind that Britain’s membership has been has been very good for Britain and for the other member states. We pay a subscription to the modern EU that amounts to around 0.5% of our public spending and for that we get preferential access to a free market that gives us around ten times as much back in trade and inward investment.

My career in science gives a perspective on this too. The UK is a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the European Space Agency (ESA), all of which have been stunningly successful. None of these are actually European Union organizations. ESO and CERN were founded in the 1950s and ESA in the 1970s, all before the EU formally came into existence. But they do serve as models for why the EU is such a good thing in a wider sense than the science that they do. Members of ESO, CERN and ESA pay a subscription which amounts to a pooling of resources into a pot far bigger than any individual country could manage. Each organization is run by a council that makes collective decisions on where and what to invest. The UK has a strong influence on those decisions. By being a member it has a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions. The net result is that each of these organizations is much more than the sum of its parts.

fat cut

That model that works so well for ESO, CERN and ESA is basically the model for the European Union. Even when they’re not lying about the cost of membership as the official Vote Leave campaign consistently does, people tend to talk in a very short-sighted way about the amount we pay and how much we get back. That’s the wrong way to look at it. The point is that, just as with scientific organizations,  the EU is more than the sum of its parts. Pooling some resources and doing things collectively does, for certain things, give a value way beyond the relatively small amount we invest. But remember that we only pool 0.5% of our public funds in this way. It’s an astonishingly good deal. And, what’s more, it’s mutually beneficial. The UK benefits and the other EU member states benefit too. It’s not “us” versus “them”, it’s “we”.

Now I know that BrExit advocates will say. “You profit from EU grants! You’ve been bought off by the EU! You’ve a vested interest!” I’ve been attacked on social media repeatedly for having the temerity to argue that EU membership is as good for science as it is for everything else. But the fact of the matter is that the accusation is completely false. My own research is wholly funded from UK sources. I don’t have any EU funding at all. Even if I had I’d still have a right to express my opinion, but I don’t. I haven’t been “bought off” by anyone. I’ve thought about the issues and come to my own conclusion. You can do that in a free country.

The EU is by no means perfect. I think it could be made more accountable, more democratic. I understand those concerns, but I do feel that they’re hard to justify coming from one of the least democratic countries in Europe. We have an entirely unelected House of Lords, and a House of Commons that has delivered an overall majority to a party with a minority share of the popular vote. Pot calling the kettle black?

I think the economic, educational, cultural and societal benefits of EU membership have been discussed widely in the referendum campaign so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just say that I think the benefits are immense, and the risk to this country if they are lost is huge.

But there is one reason over and above all this why I shall be voting to Remain in the EU. For this I will quote note other than Boris Johnson, who wrote just two years ago in his biography of Winston Churchill:

It was his (Churchill’s) idea to bring those countries together, to bind them together so indissolubly that they could never go to war again – and who can deny, today, that this idea has been a spectacular success? Together with Nato the European Community, now Union, has helped to deliver a period of peace and prosperity for its people as long as any since the days of the Antonine emperors.

I won’t comment on why Boris Johnson has changed his mind, but I agree with that statement. It brings me back to the bit of personal family history with which I started this post. I have been lucky enough to live in the period of “peace and prosperity” described in that quote. I am sorry my grandfathers’ generation was not so lucky. I don’t have any children of my own, but  I categorically refuse to take any step that would risk any future generation having to endure the same horrors.

And then there’s this.


The top left image shows  a poster produced by the UK Independence Party. The other three are taken from a Nazi propaganda film of the 1930s. The historical parallels are obvious and not accidental. This is indeed “Breaking Point” indeed. It’s the point the BrExit campaign descended into the gutter.

Of course I’m not saying that all those who want the UK to Leave the EU are fascists. Far from it. Many – indeed the majority – are reasonable, civilised people. But like it or not, if you vote Leave you’re voting the way the far right want you to vote. I for one will not take a single step in that direction. Fascism only needs a foot in the door. I fear that the domestic political consequences of BrExit will give it far more than that. Once they get hold of it, we’ll never get our country back.

One final point. On Thursday I will definitely vote for the United Kingdom to remain in the EU. However, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows any member state to leave the European Union, and sets a protocol for how this can be achieved. This demonstrates that the UK has sovereignty over its own affairs, thus defeating one of the central arguments of the Leave campaign.


98 Responses to “Why I think the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union”

  1. What an extraordinary Boris Johnson quote!

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention; and for explaining your Remain case so eloquently.

  2. Bryn Jones Says:


  3. If they leave and realize they made a mistake, can they come back in? If yes, then it would be an expensive but perhaps educational natural experiment to leave the EU.

    • telescoper Says:

      If we left and joined again, under current rules we would have to adopt the euro. I can’t see that happening.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Yes. The United Kingdom would also lose various opt outs from European Union programmes that previous governments have negotiated. It would also lose Margaret Thatcher’s rebate on the financial contributions: the membership fee would then actually be £350 million per week (it’s about £260 million per week at present).

      • telescoper Says:

        Not to mention that every member country has a veto on new accessions. Perhaps Turkey will veto us? 😉

      • Although technically possible to rejoin, I am sure that any such attempt would entail following the rules which have applied to all new members for a while, such as adoption of the Euro as soon as possible. Also, the UK pays less than it should according to the rules, as a result of Maggie Thatcher wanting her money back. Whether or not that is justified, this and other special agreements would not be possible upon rejoining.

  4. Michael Kenyon Says:

    I’ve always said I’d vote remain but I think I might vote leave after the last few weeks, for no other reason that it would be good to watch the ensuing chaos. Lots of phoneys who have changed their minds on both sides, Corbyn only very recently said he wanted to stay in after wanting to leave for years. Lots of the far left want out as well, good to hear Arthur Scargill ranting on about it recently. And yes we should get rid of the House of Lords, the monarchy and let politicians serve no longer than two terms. I’d also advocate the armed forces being run on a more ‘Sacred Band’ style model. Roll on Thursday.

  5. “The UK is a member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the European Space Agency (ESA), all of which have been stunningly successful. None of these are actually European Union organizations.”

    Indeed; the EU is one of many European institutions. If someone says “Europe”, I assume that they mean the continent (which includes part of Russia but almost none of Turkey) unless it is qualified.

    I like this diagramme, but it is out of date. Note that it doesn’t even include ESO, ESA, or the EBU (European Broadcasting Union, responsible for the Eurovision Song Contest, among other things, and which has a very generous definition of “European”).

  6. My uncle also died in battle in 1944 on the German-Dutch border. His death devastated his family, something that I could still see in my father’s eyes when we visited his brother’s grave at Reichswald several years ago. I am named after my uncle and I will be voting Remain to honour his sacrifice for peace and democracy in Europe.

  7. Peter, thank you for writing this. Particularly, thank you for the image comparison of Farge’s ‘Breaking Point’ poster and the Nazi propaganda. The poster made me sigh and shake me head originally, but seeing the parallels makes my stomach churn.

  8. Anton Garrett Says:

    Thank you for this, Peter. I imagine it’s no secret that I’m a Brexiteer and I’ve given my reasons on another thread – essentially, that I believe the UK should be self-governing.

    Some responses (not all in disagreement) with what you say:

    You self-identify as British and European. I think of myself as English and European – and by saying that I mean respect to the Welsh and the Scots. Whether the UK should split is another issue (with parallels, of course), but it is possible to love Europe – as we both do – yet be sceptical of the EU project. In your fine contribution to the debate I don’t see any acknowledgement that the EU is dedicated not to the status quo but to ever closer union. The status quo is not an option and the question is what will the EU become and do we want to be part of that? The EU’s flagship policy, the Eurocurrency, is causing resentment in both Germany, which objects to bailing out financially corrupt Greek governments, and in Greece itself, where half of the young people are unemployed. That is going to cause extremism of either Left or Right in Greece in the forseeable future.

    The peace was kept in Europe postwar not by the EEC/EU but by NATO and the perception of a common enemy in the USSR.

    The immigration debate is mainly about the impossibility of infrastructure forward planning – which is based on predictable population growth – when a large part of the population of continental Europe is entitled to come and live here. This concern, together with the associated depression of wages of British workers in less-skilled employment, is what made Jeremy Corbyn a committed anti-Common Market/EEC/EC/EU man up to the moment he became leader of the Labour Party.

    I too have a low opinion of Boris Johnson, by the way!

    • “essentially, that I believe the UK should be self-governing”

      Do you, for similar reasons, support devolution or even independence for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales?

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I am happy to let my views on the subject be influenced by the views of the peoples of those lands.

      • Adrian Burd Says:

        A question that I have never answered to my own satisfaction is where does devolution stop? At the state level? At the county level? At the city level? Here in the US we have a large segment of the population calling for increased states rights, and less regulation at the federal level. But these very same people want to be able to tell counties and cities within their state exactly how to behave. There are some things that I think can (and probably should) be dealt with on the local level, but there are others that need to be dealt with on the larger, federal level. It seems to me that the UK is tussling with where this boundary should lie.

    • “the EU is dedicated not to the status quo but to ever closer union”

      That might have been true at one time, but even former supports such as Joschka Fischer have been backing down from this position.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Then how, Phillip, do you explain this document bearing the names of the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany stating that with Britain out of the way the rest should now proceed to harmonise laws, put in place an EU army and border force, and fiscal union?


        Polish Eurosceptic ministers leaked this document.

      • telescoper Says:

        This is a natural move for Europe. Britain no longer has any influence so a true United States of Europe may well form (unless of course one of the other 27 countries joins). British scientists will then have the choice of which United States to emigrate to.

      • “Then how, Phillip, do you explain this document bearing the names of the Foreign Ministers of France and Germany stating that with Britain out of the way the rest should now proceed to harmonise laws, put in place an EU army and border force, and fiscal union?”

        Note that the document also explicitly says that different countries in the EU have different ideas about how much union is desired and that this should be taken into account.

        This document is not EU policy. Assuming it is genuine (note that just because something is leaked does not mean that it is real; there are a huge number of fake stories generated by the Russian propaganda machine, involving events in the Ukraine, activities of asylum seekers in the EU, and so on; despite having been thoroughly debunked, they continue to be discussed—I’m not saying that this document is not genuine, just a general caveat lector when not dealing with official documents), it reflects the views of its authors—nothing more, nothing less. Their opinions are not necessarily majority opinions. There is a range of opinion about what the EU should be and what it should not be—dramatically demonstrated by the UK over the years, for one. Personally, I doubt that anything even approaching a “United States of Europe” (a phrase which goes back to Churchill, by the way) will arise within my lifetime. As I said, many politicians who used to have this as a goal have become more realistic.

        Just to be clear, I personally don’t think that the more harmonization within the EU, the better, no matter what the topic. It makes sense for defense. It makes sense with regard to fiscal policy for those in the common currency (whether that is a good thing or not is another question; unfortunately Germany has no choice here since this was a requirement imposed to allow unification to happen). It would make sense, if properly implemented, with regard to university education. In many other areas, I am opposed to it, if only because I think that the majority opinion is not correct. (Note that with regard to Indians living in the forests of the Amazon or whatever, it is generally accepted that they have a right to their way of life, not only if it is not what most people in the country want, and even if it violates some UN conventions. I don’t see why this shouldn’t apply everywhere. Any region should be able to have its own rules as long as this doesn’t impinge on similar rights of other regions. Different things should be organized at different levels.)

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Peter: I was making quite a specific point in reply to Phillip’s pre-Referendum suggestion that the EU was no longer committed to “ever closer union”. The document (subject to authenticity, indeed!) clearly shows that it was, and that the only thing the vote changed was some restraint on Brussels’ wish to act to that end.

      • Two points:

        First, the term “ever closer union” has been interpreted by various people to mean different things. It is common among Brexiteers to claim that it refers to a closer political (as opposed to, say, cultural, or economic, or scientific) union only. Let me know if you find a precise definition in any official EU document.

        Second, the document is, as far as I can tell, not an official EU document, but rather expresses the opinion of its authors. There are probably similar documents from a variety of authors presenting various opinions on this and other topics.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Phillip, obviously my comments on that document are subject to its authenticity. But if the EU has never clarified what it means by “ever closer union”, isn’t that rather disturbing? Normally political entities make clear what their policies and goals are.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        I don’t see the relevance, as (a) I thought the UK was already in too close a political union with the rest of the EU, and (b) it’s what the EU thinks it means that counts, and isn’t it disturbing that they don’t clarify it themselves? Why not, when other political entities make their goals clear?

      • Are the goals always clear? The UK has no written constitution; doesn’t that make things unclear?

        Regardless of what this phrase actually means, or is intended to mean, or is interpreted, it seems that many Brexiteers have latched on to it as proof that the EU is committed to ever closer union in every possible sense.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Not proof, but not a bad example of inductive logic…

    • “In your fine contribution to the debate I don’t see any acknowledgement that the EU is dedicated not to the status quo but to ever closer union”

      Anton: you may be interested in what the UK’s independent fact-checking charity has to say about that phrase “ever closer union”: https://fullfact.org/europe/explaining-eu-deal-ever-closer-union/

      In brief, it never referred to political union but about “promot[ing] trust and understanding among peoples living in open and democratic societies”; and the UK has in any case secured an opt-out from even its symbolic meaning.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Yet monetary union without fiscal union is proving unsustainable…

      • “Yet monetary union without fiscal union is proving unsustainable…”

        Perhaps. However, the UK is not does not participate in the common currency, and is under no obligation to do so even if it remains in the EU.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Like many in Europe I am interested in “ever closer union” in general, not just in application to the UK.

      • Like many in Europe I am interested in “ever closer union” in general, not just in application to the UK.

        In that case, it would be an argument against Brexit: one could then have a say in such matters. (Whether that trumps other arguments for Brexit is another question.)

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Having a say when inside – ask the Welsh about that.

      • Some EU decisions have to be ratified by all countries. I don’t think that that is the case in the UK (with England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland being the “countries”).

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Please consider the questions I’ve just to Phillip above in the light of the document leaked in Poland, to which I link.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Any significant transfer of powers from member states to the European Union would require a new treaty, which the United Kingdom government could veto.

      Ratification of the treaty would require approval by the United Kingdom parliament which could veto it, and by the electorate in a referendum under provisions of the European Union Act 2011.

      The UK electorate has a direct veto.

  9. Very nice Peter. Like you, I find nationalism in general puzzling and disturbing. I also think the right wing coup problem outweighs everything else at this stage. There is/was a left wing argument for leaving, although like Corbyn I would still go with 7/10 for the EU. But the dangers of a right wing coup in Britain are much worse than the problem of neo-liberal dominance of the EU, so in reality it just has to be remain, and then work on a liberal Europe from the inside.

    I have been puzzled for some time by the “lack of democratic control” thing, because rationally its no different from our representative democracy, but it does *feel* less democratic. I think I have begun to realise that is a media issue. We see Westminster politicians on the telly every day getting grilled, so we have at least the impression of accountability. So what we need is Jeremy Humphrey going to Brussels making trouble. Seriously, I think that would make a huge difference.

  10. Reblogged this on thecuriousastronomer and commented:
    An excellently written personal perspective of why it would disastrous for the (Dis)United Kingdom to leave the EU, and I concur (even though I am a Plaid Cymru supporter and wants Wales to have more independence from London)

  11. Adrian Burd Says:

    Many thanks for a wonderful, personal, and deeply thoughtful article. Like you and Andy Lawrence, I find nationalism to be a puzzling position, and a disturbingly dangerous one. I am greatly disturbed by the recent rise in far right-wing stances in the UK, and the ease with with lies and distortions become the accepted catch-phrases, even amongst otherwise intelligent and rational individuals. Political leaders promoting these views generally appeal to emotion, and powerfully negative emotions at that. I suspect that they think they can control the inevitable wave of anger that ensues. Here in the US, Republican politicians have been peddling in such rhetorical tricks for many years, becoming ever more extreme (to the point of parodying themselves) and empowering evermore extreme right wing and fundamentalist religious (basically Christian) ideas. Now those chickens have come home to roost in the form of Donald Trump, who has played the Republican game, played it far better than they ever have, and beat them at it, hands down. The establishment Republican politicians have lost control of their own base, a base that they created and have cultivated over the past 25 – 30 years. The reactions you have received to your statements about the Brexit issue are common place here (they occur almost daily and have the effect of silencing discussion), and in some cases they are accompanied by violence. This is an incredibly worrying situation over here. I sincerely hope that the social and political divisions highlighted by he Brexit issue are rapidly healed, whatever the outcome of the vote (to do so requires a leadership that has the ability to inspire that healing) and that society and politics in the UK do not go the way they have in the US.

  12. I was somewhat surprised that John Cleese is a Brexiteer, as a while back his “Don’t Mention the War” essay competition had the goal of dispelling prejudices about the Continent. Of course, Cleese and others argue that there are also rational reasons for Brexit.

  13. The bottom line for me is this:

    Nearly all the fact-based arguments favour Remain.
    Nearly all the pro-Leave arguments are based on fear.

    So, being a scientist with a healthy respect for facts, I will be voting Remain.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I too am a scientist with a healthy respect for facts and I thought you had them the wrong way round! This has been a very poor campaign on both sides.

      • I do agree that both campaigns have been run poorly. But the bottom line, as the Observer points out, is that “The Bank of England, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation, the OECD and the World Bank have all warned of the risks” — all independent bodies, all of them well positioned to understand the situation. The Leave campaign has had every opportunity to publicise an independent study that indicates a positive outcome from a Brexit, and would surely have done so if such a study existed. Instead, it’s still leading with a “£350m weekly EU cost” that has been clearly and repeatedly shown to be simply wrong.

        So yes — all expert opinion seems to be on the Remain side.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        If it’s about economics, I think it’s clear that Remain is playing the most at fear, because it is Brexit that seeks to change the status quo. But, as we are both scientists, we will take all economic forecasts with a pinch of salt anyway. And in any case it isn’t only – or even primarily – about economics.

  14. Adrian Burd Says:

    I don’t know if you get to see fellow ex-pat John Oliver and his HBO show “Last Week Tonight”, but his recent piece on Brexit is…well, I’ll let y’all (I’m trying to learn the language over here) have look at it.

    I won’t post a link because it’s really not safe for work language wise, but it’s easily found on You Tube with a search for “John Oliver Brexit”.

    p.s. the bit about the pillow regulations in “Brexit the Movie” is hilarious.

  15. I’ll be voting Brexit because the EU is not democratic. Without the checks and balances of democracy, power corrupts, and it always ends in tears. People gave their lives for peace and democracy in Europe. They didn’t do that so that others could give democracy away.

    • telescoper Says:

      The EU is demonstrably more democratic than the UK. Are you planning to leave the UK too?

      • The EU is demonstrably LESS democratic than the UK. Decisions are taken behind closed doors by the European Council. Not even MEPs can attend. The European Parliament is a pretence of democracy. Jean-Claude Juncker dismisses democracy as mere “populism”. He is not my friend. He is Amazon’s friend. He is the friend of politicised unelected “judges” who seek to overrule UK parliament. See this 2012 economist article, and note this: “European elites today are in danger of creating a profound moral and institutional crisis in Europe—a crisis of democracy”. That crisis is here. We have Greece, and global fatcats saying “you zero-hours turkeys must vote for Christmas”. When ex Goldman Sachs banker Mark Carney says “we’re stronger in Europe”, the “we” doesn’t include me. I can’t go back to Canada when it all turns sour. And unlike some, I don’t benefit from the EU giving away UK money to curry favour.

      • telescoper Says:

        Simply untrue. Laws are enacted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the one directly elected and other consisting of elected representatives.

        There are no unelected lawmakers in the EU. The UK has 825 – they’re called the Lords.

        Judges in the UK aren’t elected either.

      • Joseph Conlon Says:

        This is false. The European parliament does not have legislative initiative. Legislative initiative – the ability to put forward laws – belongs to the European commission, none of whom are elected.

        The European parliament may amend, accept or reject laws put forward by the European commission, but it does not have the ability to create laws.

        In contrast, the House of Commons – all of whom are directly elected – does make law. The House of Lords can resist and revise, but the House of Commons can use the Parliament Act to force a bill through against the will of the House of Lords.

      • telescoper Says:

        The commission drafts bills in much the same way as civil servants do in the UK. Bills only become laws if and when they are enacted by the Parliament and Council of Ministers.

      • While one could interpret “enacted” broadly, I have to agree with Conlon here; the EU Parliament cannot propose its own laws. I think it should be able to.

        Yes, EU laws are proposed by the commission (though the parliament can reject them). I don’t think the first-past-the-post system (spare me the swingometer!) is substantially more democratic, if at all, than commissioners appointed by elected governments.

      • “The commission drafts bills in much the same way as civil servants do in the UK. Bills only become laws if and when they are enacted by the Parliament and Council of Ministers.”

        True, but the EU MPs, who are directly elected, cannot propose their own legislation.

      • telescoper Says:

        Indeed. But not all members of Parliament can either. I agree that the way the Commission is set up is far from ideal, but I think much of the criticism is highly exaggerated…

      • “I agree that the way the Commission is set up is far from ideal, but I think much of the criticism is highly exaggerated…”

        Full agreement here.

      • Joseph Conlon Says:

        The UK civil service is expected to serve the elected government of the day, independent of their own personal views.

        The EU commission is democratic in the same sense that the House of Lords is democratic: people are there as nominees of elected governments.

        The current UK commissioner has a background with policy units and political lobbying, before elevation to the House of Lords and then to the European commission; i.e. he has never gone before any electorate.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      The democratic units of the European Union are the member states. All members have to be fully democratic.

      The European Parliament provides democratic oversight in parallel with the member states.

      Making the European Union directly democratic would mean turning it into a federation, for which there is little support.

      • Equating direct democracy with a federation is rather bizarre. Yes, Switzerland has both, but it has both; they are not the same thing. Direct democracy and whether the organization is centralized or federal are independent.

    • We elect the EU parliament under proportional representation. The council of ministers consists of the democratically elected heads of governments of member states. The commission members are proposed by democratically elected governments, and the commission as a whole is approved by the democratically elected parliament. Laws proposed by the commission have to be approved by the democratically elected parliament. Where is the equivalent of the totally unelected House of Lords in the EU governance structure?

      • Indeed. The EU is more democratic than the UK, but could be better. The EU Parliament could form a government, rather than having commissioners appointed by member states. The EU parliament would have the power to collect taxes. It’s not perfect, but it is more democratic than many countries, including some in the EU.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        How has the EU become more democtatic since Tony Blair, in a rare moemnt of truth one month after becoming Prime Minister, described its institutions as “impossibly remote from the people”?


      • Who claimed that it has become more democratic than it used to be? The point is that it is more democratic than the UK. No-one claimed it has become more democratic (though it has been pointed out what could be done to improve things).

        In any case, since when is Tony Blair someone worth quoting? 🙂

        A better question might be what changed Boris Johnson’s mind.

      • telescoper Says:

        Precisely. I hope a way can be found to improve the way the commission works, but as far as I’m concerned a far more important task is to reform the House of Lords.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        This is about the UK being governed by its own parliament. Whether the EU is more or less democratic than Westminster is a different issue.

      • It is indeed a different issue, which is why I find it strange that many prominent Brexit supporters criticize the EU for being undemocratic.

        By far most laws are still at the national and lower levels. So, to a large measure, the UK is governed by its own parliament. The question is whether the buck should stop there, or if there should be some higher authority.

  16. Actually, this particular subthread is about whether the EU is democratic.

    Whether the UK is governed by its own parliament alone, or in conjunction with the European parliament is as you say a different issue. But I find it hard to imagine any European parliament being less representative of me than that of Cameron, Osborn, Gove and Duncan-Smith. (If only there were a way for all four of them to be on the losing side.)

    • (Uh … that was meant to be posted in reply to “This is about the UK being governed by its own parliament. Whether the EU is more or less democratic than Westminster is a different issue.” But I was deceived by WordPress’s commenting system. Oh well. The point stands.)

      • The point is Mike, that one day you and people like you can vote Cameron and co out of office. You just can’t do that with the EU.

      • Can I? I tried my hardest in May, and I wasn’t able to do it.

      • Again, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Can you vote someone out of the House of Lords? No. With the first-past-the-post two-party system (only marginally better than a one-party system), a significant majority can vote for one party and the other party has the majority in parliament.

      • “The point is Mike, that one day you and people like you can vote Cameron and co out of office. You just can’t do that with the EU.”

        The Huffington Post? Really? Is that the best that you can do? I’m sure that the author believes that chemtrails and fluoride in toothpaste are secret projects run by multinationals/Illuminati/Bilderberg, that vaccines cause autism, that astrology works, that homoeopathy is real medicine, and that the Moon landings were faked.

        As long as you deny them your essence maybe you will be OK!

        (Extra points to readers who spot the reference!)

  17. On Thursday I will definitely not vote, being one of those being variously called invaders/scroungers/enemy by some (a minority) and therefore having no right to vote. I have seen similar hostility to foreigners in Germany, in the early 1990’s. It lasted 1 or 2 years, than things calmed down again as the economy improved, but for a while you ran a real risk of being shouted at on the public transport and told to go home (although I escaped having this happen personally). Overall, the UK is welcoming to foreigners, more so than many European countries (there are exceptions, exemplified by one particular university which I won’t mention (not my own) – I had never seen such a change in treatment when they discovered someone was not proper UK). But for now, I have rarely felt so unwelcome as at the moment. I expect that the animosity will die down again quickly after the referendum. The lesson is that these discussions should be done when things are going well, not after a decade of austerity. People have lost hope that things may improve, and suddenly they are given a target for their anger.

  18. Here’s an interesting take by Rhodri Evans which addresses some of the misinformation in some of the comments here.

  19. Anton Garrett Says:

    Well the England football team will soon be out of Europe…

    • By the way, why does the UK, as far as I know as the only country, have more than one football team in such tournaments?

      That would be like there being a separate team for Bavaria!

    • telescoper Says:

      Don’t you think they can beat Iceland?

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Iceland is it? Probably, but after failing to beat the worst team in the tournament, beating Wales only in injury time, and failing to score against Slovakia, it doesn’t look good after that.

      Dunno, Phillip. Something to do with history, I imagine.

      • telescoper Says:

        Yes, it’s Iceland. They beat Poundland in their last group to finish second to Asda.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Speaking of which, a Chilean red called La Moneda (Malbec) recently won Decanter magazine’s “best wine under 15 pounds” category and is available for rather under a fiver from Asda. Whoever wins or loses this referendum, some drinking will be in order…

  20. […] I’m writing this at 6:00 am on polling day. The pundits and papers are declaring that it’s too close to call. That’s not the case for UK scientists, however — they’re overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU for many of the compelling reasons (and more) that Peter Coles lays out so well in his recent post on the referendum. […]

  21. pdf版(*^ヮ゚)σ:http://www.geocities.co.jp/WallStreet/7659//sjp/statements/sjp20160623.html
    United Kingdom must never independent from European Union!

    Isn’t the true enemy of United Kingdom Vatican?
    The ground of this is the likeness between Christianity and Socialism♪

    Isn’t Russia in back of United Kingdom independence movement?
    Russia is the state which Soviet Union dissolved into♪

    There is something suspicious which Soviet Union had aimed United Kingdom for a long time♪
    Why Soviet Union aimed United Kingdom?

    There are some likeness between Christianity and Socialism♪
    Don’t Christianity and Socialism have relationship from the inside?

    United Kingdom is a Catholic enemy♪
    It is only natural that Vatican hate United Kingdom♪

    Wasn’t Soviet Union a front of Vatican?
    Therefore, hadn’t Soviet Union aimed United Kingdom for a long time?
    Doesn’t United Kingdom is punished by Vatican of several hundred years’ standing?

    United Kingdom must never independent from European Union!


    m9(゚∀゚)Идиот!> номенклату́ра
    נומנקלטורה עמלק
    Ceterum autem censeo, Nomenklaturam esse delendam.

    • telescoper Says:

      Interesting perspective….

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      If you think socialism and Catholicism are bedfellows, read Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors of 1864. Or recall Pius XI’s deal with fascist Mussolini to let Rome keep sovereignty over Vatican City (about which there had been a 60-year standoff since Italian unification) in response for pulpit support from the pulpit. Or Pius XII’s hiding of the fascist ex-Croatian Head of State Ante Pavelic in the Vatican’s buildings in Rome for several years after the war; Pius XII regarded fascist dictators as people the Vatican might do business with, but socialists never.

      • I agree with Anton here. However, the original poster is clearly deluded.

        Yes, some people have claimed that Jesus was a communist…and an extraterrestrial, even a mushroom.

  22. […] I’m writing this at 6:00 am on polling day. The pundits and papers are declaring that it’s too close to call. That’s not the case for UK scientists, however — they’re overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU for many of the compelling reasons (and more) that Peter Coles lays out so well in his recent post on the referendum. […]

  23. […] few days before the referendum a wrote a post that included […]

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