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Paul Finch: Why I'm voting for Brexit

Paul Finch

The world should be our oyster, not a federal Europe where we increasingly lose control of our own affairs, says Paul Finch

The forthcoming referendum on EU membership is not an architectural issue, even if the outcome has an effect on architects. So this column is not offered as impertinent advice on how readers should vote, but simply as a reflection on the re-run of the first and only UK referendum, in 1975.

It has become apparent that ‘Project Fear’ is not having quite the effect its inventors had hoped, probably because the public is more sceptical about claims by politicians and business leaders than it was four decades ago.

Mr Cameron’s dodgy dossier, the propaganda sheet being pushed through the nation’s letter boxes, is a mixture of facts, half-truths, whoppers and untestable predictions. The word ‘could’ crops up a lot. No doubt the same could be said about some Brexiteer propaganda, but that is not being paid for by the taxpayer. As is often the case with EU affairs, we are being bribed with our own money.

For every scare story there is a contrary view – to my mind generally more convincing because it is based not on fear, but on confidence. That confidence stems from being the world’s fifth largest economy, and one which trades at a surplus with non-EU countries, but at a deficit with EU members. That is why we shouldn’t worry too much about ‘Europe’ being beastly to us if we leave. Other countries, though not members, trade perfectly satisfactorily within the EU.

Since 1975, globalisation has transformed business and culture, leaving the EU looking like an analogue invention struggling for relevance in the digital era. Isolationism has been banished by communications technology which has collapsed time and distance; you can feel closer to India, Australia or Japan than to France (or vice versa), whatever the map looks like.

However, globalisation does not mean the end of nations, despite the EU’s cultish belief in the ‘free movement of people’. The biggest change in sovereignty that has taken place since the last referendum concerns our absolute inability to exclude EU nationals we don’t want from entering our country. This objectionable condition represents an attack on the idea of national rights because, like the medieval papacy, the EU claims supra-national authority.

We can do without an overweening bureaucracy bent on expanding its power

Also like the medieval papacy, the EU has its own system of taxation (VAT), and its own laws. Another parallel is the corrupt nature of an institution whose accounts are qualified every year by auditors who cannot account for billions of Euros that have gone missing. With its unique system of book-keeping, we were bound to end up with the Augean stables Neil Kinnock promised (but failed) to clean up. Instead he sacked the brave whistle-blower who dared to tell the truth.

We can do without an overweening bureaucracy bent on expanding its power and influence, dictating to a free parliament and judiciary which have little to learn from neighbours who in living memory have been run by Nazis, fascists, collaborationists or plain old dictators.

In arguing for the continuing role of nation states, I am putting an internationalist case. I don’t want to stop people from other countries coming to the UK, but I want them to be here by invitation (including refugees), not as of right. One-size-fits-all is no guarantee of success, as the recent history of the Euro, the Soviet Union and the Balkans shows only too well.

The world should be our oyster, not a federal Europe where we increasingly lose control of our own affairs. In 1975, as an internationalist, I voted to stay in the EU; this year, still an internationalist, I will be voting to leave.

1975 EEC referendum Hellman cartoon

1975 EEC referendum Hellman cartoon

This cartoon is from AJ 15.01.75 at the time of the referendum on the EEC


Readers' comments (11)

  • Would you really rather give Boris & Co (to take the worst case scenario) free rein to govern us how they like?

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  • It won't happen.

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  • If it does, whoever is Prime Minster will be working within a parliamentary democracy with checks and balances which Brussels and its unelected president find inconvenient.

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  • Industry Professional

    I find your comment very funny now: "working within a parliamentary democracy" but without parliament, "Brussels unelected president" ... A professional journal such as this one shouldn't be a place for political opinion but to inform us about the industry from a neutral perspective, very disappointing.

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  • Just spotted this article in the 'most commented' list. To read the comments now is sobering.

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  • The is a weak and tenuous argument, once again, from this journalist. Architecture does not exist in a vacuum and the political context can not be ignored. The analogy of Brexit to the Reformation is a completely fallacious and reckless one. Does this entail that the 50% of the voting population who voted leave will be hunted down like recusants and burnt at the stake for heresy?! Placards in Parliament Square have already branded remainers as traitors.

    In terms of lessons from history the more relevant period is far more recent than the medieval one. Although both the Maybot’s and Bojo’s attempt to use ‘Henry VIII powers’ (royal prerogative) take us back to the 16th Century and the absolute power of monarchs. The Civil War was fought to establish the nascent phase of democracy, and succeeded in wresting power from the king to parliament. Parliament is sovereign and must decide what is in the best interests of the country (as it did in 1972). The subsequent ‘first referendum’ was merely a confirmatory vote for approval only, with no legal power. As the 2016 referendum vote was, which should have had a super-majority caveat for it to be taken remotely seriously as a opinion (as the 1975 referendum had).

    Referendums breed the tyranny of the tiny majority and were avoided for that reason in ancient democratic civilisations. The more recent historical lessons we need to heed now are from Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler rose to power on the back of referendums and the proroguing of parliament. The EU is the biggest peace project ever attempted by humanity. We need to stay in and reform this peace project, as exit will result in civil war and wider armed conflict. Bojo is a dictator and not a liberator.

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  • Given their combined wisdom and democratic credentials, it is surprising that 'Industry professional' and 'Number Five' choose not to tell us who they are. Until they do so, I'm afraid their comments go into the 'poison pen-letter' box.

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  • If you want us to go into the poison pen letter box, you should at least grant us the ability to write in green ink. It is entirely valid for us to write under a nom-de-plum and even encouraged by this journal. Our real identity is irrelevant, and your response shows that you have no valid argument or response for your weak arguments and outlandish opinions.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I think that even you will admit that your views in this article, penned in early 2016, were completely abhorrent. As you are so keen on medieval religious analogies, I suggest that you don a horsehair shirt and commence a barefoot pilgrimage to Brussels, to atone for your many sins.

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  • Yawn. Over and out.

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  • On your way...out.

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