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Nexit ? Are you crazy? 

What do you think Nexit will give you and will it be worth the cost? Let's look at some of the issues that mis-sold Brexit to the UK...


The Brexiters claimed that the UK had surrended its sovereignty to the EU. This is false, as every country is sovereign within its own borders.  However, once you start to have peaceful dealings with other countries, there have to be rules. And where there are rules, there has to be a means of resolving disputes if one country thinks that another has broken the rules. That means that there are international courts that can judge the cases. Even this does not lead to a loss of sovereignty  because although these courts can make decisions, they cannot force a country to accept that decision. However, there are pragmatic reasons for countries to ultimately abide by a court's rulings: it's bad for a country to be seen as a rogue state that doesn't honour its commitments. 

In this interconnected world, no country can stand alone and prosper: we all need something from other countries. Examples include a trade agreement for the speedy and cheap flow of goods between countries, deciding on the distribution of radio frequencies so that one country's transmissions don't interfere with another's, agreeing to deliver mail from another country, cooperation on air traffic control etc. Personally I find it bizarre that the Brexiers whine about the supposed loss of sovereignty brought about by membership of the EU which only means that we agree to follow the rules: the rules that we are intimately involved in shaping, and yet have no problems with membership of NATO which can lead us into a war to defend another member...

We should remember that as a member of the EU the UK was intimately involved in the decision making process: not only in proposing and agreeing legislation, but also in voting for the EU Commissioners and electing members of the European Parliament. In addition, the UK was involved in setting regulations for the quality and standards of goods. After Brexit it won't be involved in the decision making process, but will be required to abide by the standards in order to sell its goods in the EU... that's losing control, not gaining control.


Leavers complained  about the EU forcing the UK to have open borders and unrestricted immigration. Again this was misinformation. Immigration to the UK  includes people coming from EU countries, people coming from non-EU countries, UK citizens returning to the UK, refugees/asylum seekers and students. The only one that falls within the remit of the EU are the EU citizens. Even they are subject to rules: in brief, if they can't support themselves after three months they can be obliged to leave the country. In practice, the UK voluntarily has never made use of this rule, because it doesn't require people to register where they live. Therefore there is no way of knowing if they have stayed more than 3 months...

Non-EU citizens are a matter for each individual member state which can apply its own rules. Nationals of member states returning to their home country are obviously subject to their own country's rules.  Allowing students from other countries, especially non-EU ones is profitable for the UK universities as they are charged much higher fees than EU students. They also contribute to the economy through paying accomodation and living expenses. Refugees/asylum seekers are covered by the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. They are only tangentially an EU issue as the EU is looking for a way of dealing with them, so that they can be shared amongst all the EU countries, rather than remaining in Spain, Italy or Greece. Although the problem is still ongoing, the actions of the EU have lead to a dramatic reduction of their numbers  from 1,000,000+ in 2015 to less than 100,000 in 2018.

While some people in Europe are clutching their pearls and swooning at the thought of welcoming a few tens of thousands of refugees, let's not forget that poorer countries have welcomed them in much greater numbers: Turkey 3.5 million, Pakistan and Uganda 1.4 million each , Lebanon 1 million and Iran 970,00+.

The elephant in the room with respect to immigration in general is that all EU countries have a birth rate below the replacement rate. Not enough people are being born to replace older people who retire. This leads to less tax income at the same time as there is more demand on health and social services for the elderly and more money needed to pay pensions. The solutions include: incrasing productivity, lowering services and pensions, increasing the retirement age, increasing taxes or encouraging workers from abroad. Which option(s) do you choose?

In addition, Brexiters claimed that foreigners were "stealing" jobs from locals. The reality was that EU citizens were taking jobs that either the locals didn't want or weren't qualified for. Since the referendum and the 20% fall in value of the pound,  EU citizens have not been coming to the UK to pick fruit and vegetables and the locals have not been replacing them. The UK has also seen qualified nurses and doctors leaving... Who is going to replace them? Perhaps people from non-EU countries...

In my opinion, the worst aspect of the immigration discussion is the way that some people don't think of immigrants as real live human beings,  but rather as a burden or even as malignant, coming to "our " country to take "our" jobs, to live off "our" benefits, to destroy "our" culture etc. In reality, the only significance difference between them and you and me, is that we were lucky enough to have the right parents living in the right country. Just like you and me, they want to live in peace and fit into society. They want to create a life where their children can grow up without want and fear. Why do some people have so much difficulty understanding that?

Trade Agreements

The Brexiters claimed that the EU prevented the UK from trading with the rest of the world and that once the UK had left it almost instantly and easily make favourable trade agreements with the whole world. That one really was an obvious lie: take a look at the labels on your clothes and electrical apparatus: do the words Made in the USA/China/Malaysia/Japan/Taiwan etc seem familiar? Of course, they do, because the UK already trades with the rest of the world.

And the claim of easy and favourable new trade agreements has been revealed as a huge lie. It was claimed that it would be possible to "roll over"  the existing trade agreements that the UK has as a member of the EU with other countries. In practice, after two years, the UK had only managed to sign half a dozen before the original Brexit date of 29th March 2019. In fact,  Japan decided to delay discussing a bilateral trade agreement with the UK, because they believed that they could get tougher concessions from the UK once it has left the EU. It should have been obvious that a country  of about 70 million people can never get a better deal than a trade block of 400+ million...

So those were the (non)-issues that Brexit was supposed to solve. Brexit has not yet taken place and what have the effects been?

Right after the referendum about Brexit in June 2016 there was an almost overnight +/- 20% fall in the value of the pound.  One unexpected result was a short term surge in retail sales and services as tourists flocked to the UK to take advantage of the sudden fall in prices in relation to the own currency. Another unexpected result was an increase in hate crime against foreign nationals and even UK citizens who spoke with an unusual accent or who looked foreign.

Immediate damage to the UK economy was prevented by the Bank of England lowering interests rates in August 2016 and pumping an extra £170 billion into the economy. This is approximately £2,500 for every UK resident. However two years further on and even the Brexiters' economist acknowledges that the UK economy has lost at least 1% of growth. In June 2018 the Financial Times looked at estimates for the cost to the economy from a number of sources  and arrived at an average estimated loss of £469 million per week. Let's not forget that before the referendum the Brexiters told everyone that Brexit would enable the NHS to be £350 million per week better off...

At the level of the individual this lack of growth coupled with the fall in the pound has led to a fall in income. Wages have generally stagnated while prices have gone up. Exporters have not really benefited from the fall in the pound, because although their goods are now relatively cheaper, their imported raw materials are now more expensive. Uncertainty is bad for business, and Brexit is providing a lot of uncertainty.

In addition, many companies have become concerned about the implications of the UK leaving the Customs Union with the EU and no longer having frictionless and tarif free trade.  This would mean that items produced in the UK would be subject to import duty when entering the EU and would have to undergo customs checks. In this day and age of just-in-time manufacturing this is likely to increase costs as items may be held up for an unknown length of time at customs posts. Currently they just roll off the ferry/train and drive away.

The risk of import duty on sales to the EU has encouraged manufacturers to move production elsewhere. Even the enthusiastic Brexiter Dyson has moved his company to Singapore. It's just signed a trade deal with the EU, so he is guaranteed easy access the EU market. According to Mark Rutte, approximately 250 UK companies are enquiring about moving to the Netherlands: talk of Nexit might cause them to think twice...

Another consequence has been the hit to the local and national economy of EU institutions moving from the UK to another one of the EU27 member states:  the European Medicines Agency (EMA) moved to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority (EBA) moved to Paris. As well as the EMA the Netherlands hosts EUROPOL and EUROJUST, all three would leave in the case of Nexit.

The UK economy earns a lot through financial services, however this trade is dependent on access to the EU markets. Because of fears that UK companies will lose access, a number have set up companies and have moved staff to other EU countries. Currently over 250 companies are in talks with the Dutch government, discussing how to move operations to the Netherlands. This include companies from Asia and America who want to continue to benefit from unfettered access to the EU market. All these moves will represent lost jobs and also lost tax income for the UK. The Leave campaign didn't put this on the side of a bus...

However, the greatest damage to the UK is not material: it is the harm that has been caused to society. For almost three years Parliament has done practically nothing other than try to find a solution for Brexit. Many other urgent matters have been essentially ignored: inequality, climate change, austerity etc. Brexit has also created (or perhaps revealed) a division between sections of British society and highlighted how fragile democracy really is. We now have a situation where the leading Brexiters claim that Brexit must go ahead or there will be riots in the streets, where High Court Judges have been called "Enemies of the People", where politicians receive death threats and abuse... all from Brexiters justifying their actions in the name of democracy.

It's always the fault of the EU

One complaint that anti-EU people often make is that the EU doesn't take action quickly enough or that it doesn't take the right action.  This may be based on a misunderstanding of the limit of the competences of the EU. It can only act in areas that are defined in the treaties.  In addition,  in practice the European Commission will only put forward proposals that are likely to be accepted by the European Parliament and the member states via the Council. In areas where there is a veto, it is inevitable that the EU Commission will have to take a pragmatic approach and suggest a less than optimal solution simply to obtain a consensus. So if things are not going the way you want or fast enough you might better point the finger at the Member States and so your own Ministers, in stead of the European Commission or the EU. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Brexiters/Nexiters generally complain,  but don't actually put forward solutions. It's a win/win situation for them, as they can never be criticised for making mistakes while always being able to claim that others are making mistakes. This approach  seems to be remarkably effective: the Brexit Party in the UK put up candidates for the EU elections,  but refused to tell anyone what its policies are.  

If you pay peanuts... you get monkeys.

One difficulty confronted by any international organisation is attracting staff from many different countries. It is obvious that staff should be treated equally irrespective of their nationality. This means that the salaries and employment package should be attractive to people from the  better paid countries, otherwise you won't be able to attract the better or best people from those countries. What might seem a huge salary to someone from a relatively poor country might be considered as marginally attractive to someone from one of the richer countries.  This unfortunately is used by Brexiters/Nexiters to attack the staff EU by pointing to the salaries and comparing it to the salaries in their own country. This is a typical example of them making a simplistic complaint without providing a solution to the problem.

Animal welfare

And the same phenomenon applies to animal welfare. Because the standards are higher in other countries and because there should be no distortion of competition, minimum guidelines have been laid down at EU level in all areas for the welfare of farm animals in particular. If they had not been there, for example, here in France the bar would still be very low. Most countries have fully and directly adopted these guidelines in their own regulations. The Netherlands and France too. Furthermore, the European Union has made a serious effort to include animal welfare and protection in all its policies. This has been done through Article 13 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

Article 13 (part of Title II) of the Treaty provides that "In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the EU countries​ relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage."

Unfortunately too much is still tolerated under the name of tradition such as bullfighting and cockfighting, foie gras production, slaughter of dolphins and whales in the Faroe Islands / Denmark, but also in name of religion such as slaughter without pre-stunning.

Although, of course, things are not going fast enough and far enough for us, the European Commission is working hard in this area. But here too she is tied to hands. And the minimum rules that have been agreed are often not complied with. National inspections often fall short. That things go wrong is not the fault of the EU but often of the countries themselves.

What about Nexit?

The Netherlands would also face the same sort of difficulties as the UK, but magnified, as it would have even less bargaining power with potential trade partners. In addition  it would have some different issues on top: Schengen and the Euro. 

It is extremely unlikely that after Nexit the Netherlands would continue in the Schengen Agreement.  It's very unlikely that the other EU member states would allow a third party to be responsible for the EU's borders. So the Netherlands would have to create a hard border between it and the surrounding countries. Can you imagine the physical difficulties of doing that? The borders are over 1,000 km long. This will complicate any trade agreement between the EU and the Netherlands as the EU will want to ensure that smuggling is prevented.

Leaving the Euro is going to be a big problem.  Presumably the Dutch would bring back the guilder. But it would need to be physically updated into new coins and bank notes that are resistant to counterfeiting. This would not be too expensive: it costs the US Treasury about 15 cents per note, however it would require time to design and print. The biggest issues would be the setting the new exchange rate, losing access to the ECB and repayment of debts in other countries. As the Netherlands would end up with worse trading conditions than before, it's new currency would be weaker, so the debts would be proportionally higher: just like what happened to the UK. 

In conclusion, if you've been following Brexit and seen the problems that it has created for the UK, you should realise that Nexit will be even worse for the Netherlands... so if you're advocating it, are you crazy or do you hate your country?