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December 06, 2018



Why doesn't the Green Party welcome Brexit, since it is likely (at least in the short- and medium-term) to lead to lower consumption and perhaps increased self-reliance ?

Sophia Grene

Because they’re not clever enough. Also, it would be hard to sell voters on the proposition that they will be poorer, but they won’t mind.


Economists seem over-reliant on aggregate GDP, whereas GDP per capita is relevant to voters' lives. Brexit may mean a lower population, due to reduced immigration from EU nations, but higher GDP per capita as immigration is likely to be focused on higher earners.

Also bear in mind that even if GDP per capita is lower under Brexit than EU membership, the distribution matters more than the mean. It's possible that the owners of capital will lose out (protectionism, migrant labour) whereas those who sell their labour into a more protected marketplace for such skills and who consume basic products that benefit from enhanced competition and reduced tariffs may well be better off.


Does Brexit entail any gains to national self-control though? Seems to me it will actually lead to a significant loss of sovereignty. All that lovely investment the Brexiters are so keen on is likely to have major political strings attached. We are unlikely to be in a position to protest.

Dave Timoney

I think Brexiteers have made this argument, but specifically in terms of the trade-off between higher growth and lower immigration. This has allowed it to be dismissed as the price of xenophobia, marginalising the "procedural utility" angle.

Ian Bright

Reasonable arguments, Chris. On procedural utility, another way to look at it is that some outside the main cities feel neglected – that “Westminster” is not listening to or care about them. I suspect there is feeling that EU money spent on structural adjustment funds (“the EU funded this road / community centre”) would be “better” even if exactly the same money on exactly the same project came directly from the central government – rather than going through the EU first. In that sense there may be a feeling of taking back control.


Your arguments lead to Lexit which has little to no backing, or so it seems, among those well described here as needing/wanting to regain self-determination and influence – a better descriptor than working class racist – though of course just like the middle classes we have some of these too.


They used the second argument a fair bit, surely? "Take back control" and all that. The first, not at all. We saw this in Scotland in 2014 as well. The politician or pundit who is prepared to say, "You can take back control but you very well might be worse off" is practically non-existent. I think I know only one nationalist - out of dozens - who was willing to acknowledge that independence would almost certainly mean people would be worse off, at least in the short-run.


People often say that the EU has prevented war in Europe. And that is fine as an argument. But there is no reason why policies that are designed to prevent war should automatically be policies that produce widespread economic benefit. Hence the many economists who say, Brexit is terrible, being part of the EU, even the Euro , is best, but inexplicably the ECB pursues policies that impoverish nations and they should implement different ones. Quite, but they don't.


You'd have gone down a storm in the 50s and 60s when all those Empire colonies were going independent - don't vote for independence, you'll all be worse off!!!!!


Nice try. But the arguments may both founder if Brexit, as seems quite likely, further increases inequality as well as making us relatively poorer in aggregate. The Green Party opposes Brexit because the single market at least potentially avoids the race to the bottom on environmental standards. And it isn’t obvious why we should be happy if GDP per head rises on account of high earning immigrants.


The procedural utility argument has some force. Note though, that this implies that the bulk of the UK population accepts the referendum as a fair procedure. I would be more careful on the argument built from the Easterlin Paradox. Perhaps the best recent paper on the Easterlin Paradox (ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp8914.pdf) by Jan Emmanuel de Neve and others suggests that the Easterlin Paradox is caused precisely because people are more sensitive to negative shocks than they are to positive ones: economic growth has only a marginal impact on life satisfaction while recessions have a large negative impact. If this is true (and I find De Never fairly convincing) then the Easterlin Paradox suggests we are likely to underestimate the negative impact of the economic consequences of Brexit...


Why should the average worker care about "growth" when none of it has been returned to him in wages or benefits for at least the last 30 years (in the US at least)?

To him, the presence or lack of it is irrelevant. All the presence of it does is present a slightly lower chance of being laid off.

Ralph Musgrave

It occurs to me that an increased used of the word "phobia" in the Brexit debate would improve the standard of debate.

Muslims and their supporters chant the word "Islamo-phobia" at anyone with any doubts about the amazing culturally enriching characteristics of Islam: genital mutilation, homophobia, mistreatment of apostates, etc. And that's a good debating technique as it suggests one's opponents are both wrong and nutters.

So Brexiteers should chant "Brexit-phobia" at Remainers and Remainers should chant "Remain-phobia" back.

Just an idea.

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