I’m grateful to the 46 of my Facebook friends who have posted, on various occasions, the image above as their contribution to the debate. I’d like to bust the mythbustings, and then bust a few of my own (next time).
Critical Thinking 101 introduces the naïve and currently easily-fooled neophyte to the fallacy known as the straw man argument. Why attack your opponent’s argument when you can attack something which you say is their argument. Some of these points are things which Brexiters simply don’t say, think, or care about. Some of them are importantly different re-phrasings of things which are in fact valid concerns.
- Most of our laws come from Brussels
Does any sane, rational person actually even claim that ‘most of our laws’ come from Brussels? Even Farage at his most swivel-eyed hasn’t claimed that, has he? This isn’t a myth, it’s something that people simply don’t say. Even so, the answer is somewhat hilarious. 13.2% of our laws do. Wow. 13.2%. What could that even mean? How are the good people at the House of Commons Library even doing the counting? Is it pages or number of statutes? Is secondary legislation included? How about the Common Law? That’s part of ‘our laws’? Have they added all the judgments of all the cases that haven’t been over-ruled or distinguished out of validity to put it in the denominator? If 13.2% is negligible, at what percentage point are we going to start caring? 25%? 51%? That would be most, wouldn’t it? So, should we be resting content that Brussels is responsible for 45%, 49% of our laws (however the hell it’s being calculated) and then start to care when it tips past 50%?
In any case what on earth does the percentage matter? Does anyone really think that every law is identical in the size of its effect? Does anyone think that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 has no greater effect on people’s lives than, say, the Mineral Workings (Offshore Installations) Act 1971, or the Riding Establishments Act 1964? There’s only one Theft Act (well, no, there are others, but the one containing such major offences as theft, burglary, robbery and blackmail is the Theft Act 1968) but it covers a very large number of criminal cases, and you’d only have to add a ‘not’, or remove one, and living in our society would be a very different place. A single piece of legislation like that European Communities Act 1972, the enabling legislation for our membership of the EU is by itself the means by which some quantum of our sovereignty has been transplanted to Brussels.
- European laws are made by unelected bureaucrats
This isn’t a straw man, it’s an admission. This is not a myth, and it sure ain’t been busted as far as I’m concerned. Look at that answer. The Commission only proposes laws. The other bodies debate, amend and pass the laws. Now let’s re-phrase it in UK terms. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet only propose laws. It is the directly elected Houses of Commons and Lords that debate, amend and pass them. So the unelected bureaucrats of the Commission stand in the same relation to the UK Parliament as the Cabinet, each of whose members will, by stark and important contrast, have to fight for their seat at the next election. This matters.
- Norway and Switzerland enjoy all the benefits despite not being EU members
Another straw man. No one says this. What they do say, and which is hard to deny, is that very prosperous states which are geographically in Europe but not in the EU conduct trade with it without problems, and there is no good reason to believe that the UK couldn’t do likewise. Continuing to have to ‘pay in to the EU’ and abiding by trade regulations, would be fine to escape the yoke of the supremacy of Brussels law. Being able to influence them may be over-rated when our clout is diluted to take account of the other EU nations.
Even if it is true that the per capita payment of Norway is the same – and ‘it is not possible to compare net payments between those of an EU Member State and those of a Non-Member state’ – there is a very important difference between being committed to, and subject to, the whole European project, and participating in those individual programmes that we value or think will benefit the UK.
- EU migrants are a drain on the economy
This may be a widely held belief among those who haven’t read a paper in six months, but it is surely dead now. But while they may not be a drain on the economy, in terms of numbers (and I note that the £20 billion quoted is spread over ten years, making it £2 billion a year, somewhat less than the £8 billion we will allegedly save by leaving – thought I wouldn’t want to double-spend that. We can’t also spend it on the NHS and Housing) it must certainly be the case that they have an economic effect. A greater supply of workers increases local competition for jobs and would surely have a downward effect upon wages.
- The EU does nothing to help ordinary people
Again, I have no clue who actually says this, and it’s certainly true that EU standards have helped transform legislation of the work place. Because good has been done in the past, however, does not mean it will continue to be done indefinitely in the future. It is my view that the EU has done a great deal to harmonise standards across the continent, but it is somewhat far-fetched to suggest that Brexit would mean these standards would immediately be abandoned. Are the workers of Norway and Switzerland exploited and blighted with gender disparity?
- Our most important markets are China and the USA
The quoted figure in the government pamphlet for exports to the EU is 44%. So re-phrase this as ‘The larger part of our markets are non-EU’ and it is true. Project Fear has used the ‘ZZZ,000 jobs would be affected’ statistic tirelessly, and it becomes sillier each time. The conclusion it wants to be drawn is that those thousands would be immediately on the dole queue on 24th June. When people from the EU exercise their right to settle in the UK and send their children to the local fee-paying school, are those jobs ‘affected’?
- European Court of Human Rights forces its will on the UK
This one is correct. Bang on the money. It is also true that it does not force its will on the UK in the same way as the ECJ – but they didn’t want to say that bit. The UK has passed legislation requiring UK law to give effect to the provisions of the Convention, but that’s a whole different ball game from the way Brussels diktats become UK law whether we like it or not.
- The British are different
This one’s just a bit of filler, isn’t it? Since the answer is that each country is indeed different, then it’s hard to see how this is a myth that’s been busted. But since the question is raised of joining to lose identity – and it is a somewhat fatuous observation, a bit like ‘no one starts slimming to become anorexic’ – there is ample evidence that the long-term plan for the EU project is for ‘ever closer union’, a European army, and ultimately political union into a super state. Perhaps those states signing up don’t realise quite what they are getting into.
My own myths to follow….
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