Thursday 10 March 2016

Pantomime decision-making

The trail of poor arguments from both sides in the EU debate continues unabated.  The out side claim that leaving the EU would enable the UK government to tear up a lot of the rules governing the behaviour of companies in the UK.  It’s true, of course, that the government could decide to scrap some regulations, change others, or add new ones as it wished.  But for any company then wishing to trade with the EU, it simply means that they would need to comply with two different regulatory frameworks, one for the home market and the other for trade with the EU.  Perhaps I’m missing something here, but I fail to see how that amounts to a guaranteed ‘reduction’ in what they like to call ‘red tape’ even for companies trading only in the UK – for those trading with the EU as well, it looks more like a potential increase to me.
In another aspect of the debate, I heard a Labour politician claim recently that workers’ rights are threatened by a decision to leave the EU.  Why?  Whilst it’s certainly true that there are a number of EU directives covering workers’ rights, there’s absolutely no reason why any UK government outside the EU could not protect all those rights – or even improve them.  A Labour argument that those rights would be threatened by an exit tells us that Labour either has no confidence at all that it can win a general election, or that Labour hasn’t the will to protect workers’ rights unless they’re told to do so by someone else.  I suspect both are true.
And another thing on the EU debate - it was claimed recently that leaving the EU would cause an economic shock.  As is ever the case, the discussion from that point on descended into a rather pointless pantomime argument along the lines of “Oh no it won’t” / “Oh yes it will”.  A more illuminating approach would surely be to ask how much of a shock and whether economic shocks are always a bad thing anyway.  Sometimes, shaking things up a bit is a positive, not a negative, even if the positive effect is more long term. 
Pantomime is a lot easier than reasoned debate, but judging which side is shouting loudest isn’t much of a basis for taking a decision – not outside the theatre, anyway.

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