The leftist Brexit urge is irrational

Picking up a point I tweeted about a few days ago, and, I think, also pointed out independently by Chris Giles….

It’s a curious thing that the right in the UK may want to leave the EU if David Cameron does not succeed in watering down labour market and social protections that bind the UK enough.  Yet, if he does, this will prompt the UK left to want to leave.

And thinking about it the left’s desire to leave seems irrational.  If rights get watered down, there’s still the option of topping them up locally.  And the watered down rights that remain imposed centrally by the EU act like a guaranteed minimum.  If the left were to vote to leave, in a strop, this would expose their workplace constituents to the rise and fall in their own fortunes.  In years of electoral wilderness (say, for example, hypothetically, the next 25 years), the right could chip away at these rights so that they were below the minimum that remaining members of the EU enjoyed.

The right’s desire to leave is more internally coherent – even if I don’t support that either.  From their point of view, there is no recourse to local watering down if the centrally imposed minimum level of protection is not sufficiently low.

Perhaps this will all be academic.  Peter Doyle pointed out to me that if Corbyn makes the Labour Party unelectable, this will lessen the need for Osborne and Cameron to worry about the right of his own Party, and make them bolder in campaigning for us to stay in an EU with no more than cosmetic reform.  For they can swap the deserting Tory UKIP voters for those on the right of the spectrum who would usually vote Labour.  Electorally, the latter are likely to be more decisive, since that switch would trigger a rush of marginals to go blue.

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9 Responses to The leftist Brexit urge is irrational

  1. Bob says:

    “If rights get watered down, there’s still the option of topping them up locally. And the watered down rights that remain imposed centrally by the EU act like a guaranteed minimum.”
    There are other reason for leaving, such as TTIP, which many on the left dislike.
    Some on the left also dislike the “unlimited immigration.”
    I think it is mainly due to left’s like of democracy (my point), and treatment of Greece.

  2. Bob says:

    “For they can swap the deserting Tory UKIP voters for those on the right of the spectrum who would usually vote Labour.”
    Most of those voters are gone anyway.
    Labour can go after UKIP voters.

  3. blenheim says:

    “Peter Doyle pointed out to me that if Corbyn makes the Labour Party unelectable, this will lessen the need for Osborne and Cameron to worry about the right of his own Party, and make them bolder in campaigning for us to stay in an EU with no more than cosmetic reform. For they can swap the deserting Tory UKIP voters for those on the right of the spectrum who would usually vote Labour. ”

    Not sure about this: the key election in this scenario is not the 2020 General election but the 2018(?) race to replace Cameron. If we vote for “in” and Osborne is seen as partly culpable then that leaves space to his right for a rival. And the base may be further emboldened if Labour is not seen as a threat. Osborne knows this, but it’s not obvious how he is going to square this circle.

  4. blenheim says:

    Also, is it right to look at the costs/benefits of the EU simply through the prism of (minimum standards of) social protection? I think the opposition of the Bennite left to the EU is rational (not that I agree with it) – the EU has rules e.g. against state aid, which would curtail the ability of a future socialist government to do what it wanted. Reducing free trade would also ameliorate pressure to lower taxes for tax competition reasons.

  5. donald says:

    Do you really think Europe doesn’t prevent some left wing stuff?

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