By Vexen Crabtree 2017
The UK's population faced a referendum in June 2016 on membership of the EU. The results were very close, with Leave winning by just a 2% margin (37% Voted Leave, 35% Voted Remain), but many news (and government) outlets scale up the difference by ignoring the "don't knows", and citing "Leave" as "the will of the people". Since then, it has often been forgotten just how divided the electorate were1.
Also in June 2016, the EU appointed Michel Barnier to lead a team of legal experts. A full year later, he complained that the UK had still not appointed a representative to talk to him2. The UK arrived late and unprepared for negotiations, and engaged in a series of embarrassing and harmful name-calling tactics, publicly insulting the very people they were trying to negotiate with3. A month into talks, and Mr Barnier is still trying to ascertain what the UK's stance is on most issues4. The UK government has been surprised by simple facts: It argued that Euratom's treaty only covers uranium even whilst its own scientific advisors cried out that hospitals need Euratom to source medical isotopes from Belgium, the Netherlands and France as the UK doesn't have the specialist nuclear reactors to make its own5. And as July 2017 drew to a close, the UK government finally thought to commission a year-long investigation on the economic and employment ramifications of losing EU workers. Most other responsible governments would have engaged in a fact-finding mission before making the most important decision made for 40 years. Most of the prominent "Brexiteers" have themselves exited the scene6, leaving a void filled with politicians who are pursuing a policy they don't think is good for their own country.
But before the people rise up against all this disorganisation, it is worth noting that it is not just Conservative politicians who are uninformed about the EU; in 2016 researchers found that the UK's citizens were the least knowledgeable about the EU7. After the vote, humorously, data released by Google shows that ... well, the Washington Post summarized it the best: "The British are frantically Googling what the E.U. is, hours after voting to leave it". The UK has suffered from many high-profile long-term campaigns ran by sensationalist newspapers that have managed to misinform the masses on almost every aspect of EU involvement with the UK8,9.
“Janan Ganesh describes the UK as "reluctant Europeans"10,11. The UK has voted "no" to EU proposals more than anyone else since 200912. We dislike learning about the EU, we don't keep up to date on EU news13, the most prolific newspapers on the EU don't have correspondents in Brussels, and the UK is the least educated of all EU nations on the very basic facts about the EU7. We are "marked by misguided assumptions and missed opportunities"11. UK citizens' complaints about the EU are mostly based on misinformation, such as complaints about "health tourism"14. The UK has suffered from having a dominant right-wing popular press which has served to actively misinform the populace about Europe, and about the EU in particular - the faction led by Rupert Murdoch has been particularly influential15. The eventual result was the UK referendum on 2016 Jun 23 which saw "Brexit" votes narrowly outnumber those of "Remain", leading to the UK withdrawal from the EU.”
Of the registered electorate of UK nationals, 72.15% voted in the EU referendum16. In general, one third didn't vote, one third voted Remain and one third voted Leave. Between the two active camps, 16 141 241 people voted Remain, and 17 410 742 voted to Leave17 the EU; it was a very close vote, with Leave winning by 2%. Government and news sources often looked at the 35:37 split and scaled it up, misleadingly saying that 52% voted leave18,16 and that this was 'the will of the people', hiding the fact that only 37% voted to Leave. To say "will of the people" is baseless nonsense.1
When it came to the buildup to the negotiations with the EU over the UK's departure, the EU spent a very long time waiting for 'first contact'. They said the meetings could start in May, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May delayed arrival until June. Infamous photos circulated the Internet of politicians sat around a table whilst the UK's chair remained empty, with a caption of 'we are waiting'.
“Officials have bemoaned the fact that, one year on from the referendum, Britain has still not officially appointed a Brexit negotiator to be their main point of contact. The EU's man, French former Commissioner Michel Barnier, has been in place since July last year, valuable time spent consulting with the 27 national governments and building a formidable team around him.”
In the absence of communication from the Conservative Government, our news outlets (unfortunately) remained the only loud voice to be heard. They reported on what our politicians were saying about their goals in negotiations. These unrealistic statements have been harmful to the UK's negotiating position.
“The pre-negotiation phase has been a disaster for the UK. The UK government first tried to divide the EU27, and then, when that didn´t work, set about deliberately breeding resentment and mistrust. [...] Its Cabinet ministers hectored, smeared and threatened the very people they are asking for help and concessions from. [...]
Then came the ill-fated “No Deal Better than Bad Deal” rhetoric. This had a disastrous effect on the UK's credibility, largely because it is demonstrably untrue. [...]
The UK government has acted as if the EU27 countries are yet to discover the internet, and don´t have access to UK news. The EU27, though, knows the UK has backed itself into a corner on so many issues that its positions are fundamentally incompatible with the positive outcomes it has said it will get. [...] Ruling out these things publicly, instead of explaining and managing expectations at home, shows the UK government is either willing to lie to its people or genuinely ignorant of the realities. This weakens any sympathetic voices for the UK.”
Article 50 (withdrawal from the EU) was invoked by the UK in March 2017, negotiations began in June, and by late July the EU's diplomat (Michel Barnier) was still complaining that there was no clear UK position on most issues4.
The UK's preparations for negotiations have been poor and disorganized and our "absurd" actions "served to make [the] UK look like it was not a serious negotiator"3. Steve Bullock, whose opinions I have been citing, was the UK's official negotiator and UK Representative to the EU from 2010-2014 and has also worked for the European Commission. He thinks that this level of disorganisation and the failure to prepare for negotiations (including fact-gathering) is due to the fact that the government is planning to walk away without a deal3. This would make sense of the ridiculous "No Deal Better than Bad Deal" slogan. John Crace says simply: "the plan was to be unprepared"4.
Most of the prominent "Brexiteers" have themselves exited the scene (including both of Prime Minister Theresa May's strategy advisors, who authored her speech on Brexit)6. All of these issues tell us that we don't have a caste of politicians who are capable of forging a post-Brexit Britain, and leaves us with Vince Cable's comment, as leader of the Liberal Democrats (who campaign for the UK to Remain in the EU):
“We need an exit ... from Brexit.”
Radioactive isotopes are required for cancer treatments and medical body scanners; they are produced only by specialist nuclear reactors. Not many countries have them, and the isotopes in involved do not last very long. Tc-99m has a half-life of just six hours and it is made from molybdenum 99, which also has a short half-life of 66 hours. The supply chain is delicate and must operate efficiently and with good international coordination. Therefore, Euratom organizes the storage and transport of these commodities. Not many people need pointing out that Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community) is a part of the EU.
But the UK government Brexit's team doesn't have a scientific advisor, despite the urgent advice of its own Commons Science and Technology Committee5. It also doesn't have a representative from the Health Department, as recommended by its own Commons Health Committee5. And when the Financial Times in February 2017 highlighted that leaving the EU would entail supply problems for medical equipment, and nuclear industry experts sounded the same warnings, the government doesn't seem to have paid much attention. Even in July 2017, the government said it doesn't "envisage problems"5 and, apparently not understanding the issues very well, it also argued (wrongly) that Euratom only deals with uranium. It turns out that all of the UK's medical isotopes come through Euratom from Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Has the UK government gone rogue and started secretly building new specialist nuclear reactors? Given that they seem surprised by some of their uses, the answer seems to be: unlikely.
“Although it may be possible for the UK to remain within existing arrangements, it will be exceptionally complicated and the UK's position will inevitably be weakened. Crucially, the government has offered no real clarity on how any agreement might be achieved. The position paper on Euratom published by the government in July 2017 contained little detail even on nuclear power and did not mention medical isotopes.”
"Why we must stay in the European Atomic Energy Community" by Martin McKee, prof. (2017 Jul 26)5
And to continue with a note of unpleasantness, even Dominic Cummings, the initial campaign director of Vote Leave, said that politicians who support leaving Euratom are "morons"5.
Right on cue, as I was collecting notes to create this web page, the UK's government's Home Secretary (Amber Rudd) commissioned a major investigation and analysis of the role of EU citizens in Britain. For the first time. That's right - one year after asking the populace to vote on leaving the EU, the UK government has now begun the its important piece of information-gathering on the EU. The detail that is to be obtained is essential for the decision-making process, so that plans can be made to avoid a "cliff edge" for employers. Too late! The decision was made year ago to leave the EU. Not only that, but the investigation is important enough that it will run for one year from now. There is widespread condemnation, criticism and confusion from all quarters, that this basic research was not part of the initial preparations when deliberating over EU membership.
The investigation will cover20:
“The UK population did not have enough realistic information about the EU to make an informed decision on whether they should vote Remain or Leave. The UK's citizens are the least knowledgeable about the EU out of all its members7. The UK has suffered from many high-profile long-term campaigns ran by sensationalist newspapers8,9. Of those who voted in the Brexit vote, 70% of those with the worst education voted to Leave but amongst those with degree level education or higher, only 32% did22. The Leave Campaign Director Dominic Cummings admitted in 2017 Feb that the public voted to exit the EU as a result of lies and misinformation23. The Remain campaign was more honest but it was very sparse, and the mass media chose to only pick up on the disreputable "project fear" element (knee-jerk claims that painted an unbelievably dystopian future if the UK left the EU). In total, the entire campaign was poor quality and "a distinctly unpleasant affair"24.”
In case the UK governments needs any other advice on areas to investigate, here's a partial list of the benefits of EU membership:
Current edition: 2017 Jul 28
Last Modified: 2018 Jun 12
Parent page: United Kingdom: National Successes and Social Failures
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Daily Express. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Right-wing newspaper.
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source. A newspaper.
The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.
Brown, Gordon. Prime Minister of the UK 2007-2010 for the Labour Party.
(2016) Britain: Leading, Not Leaving: The Patriotic Case for Remaining in Europe. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Published by Deerpark Press, Selkirk, UK. An e-book.
(2017 Jul 05) `Bloody difficult´ Britain has already blown its chances of a good deal from the EU27. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 27. Published by the London School of Economics. Steve Bullock was the UK's official negotiator and UK Representative to the EU from 2010-2014 and has also worked for the European Commission. An article.
(2017 Jul 20) Fail to prepare, prepare to gloriously succeed in Brexit negotiations. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 27. An Article in The Guardian.
(2017 Jun 14) Ready and waiting: How EU's negotiating team is primed for last minute U-turn on Brexit. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 27. Brussels correspondent. An Article in The Daily Express.
(2017 Mar 26) 9 Pro-Brexit Stories Since Proven To Be Utterly Inaccurate. Date last accessed 2018 Jun 12. An article.
(2017 Jul 26) Why we must stay in the European Atomic Energy Community. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 27. An Article in the magazine British Medical Journal.
Parker & Peel
(2013) In search of a new deal for Britain. Originally published 2013 Jan 16. An Article in The Financial Times
(2013) Britain and the EU: In or Out?. Amazon Kindle digital edition. Drawn from articles originally published in the Financial Times between 1975 and March 2013. An e-book.
(2017 Jul 26) Theresa May Is Hit by Another Resignation as Strategy Chief Quits. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 27. Published by Bloomberg's politics news feed. An article.
(2017 Feb 08) Vote Leave director admits they won because they lied to the public. Date last accessed 2017 Jul 28. An article.