The Divisive Vote Over Brexit

By Steve Keen – economics professor and Head of the School of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London – Debt Deflation blog.

Andrew Watt has written a passionate critique of my support for Brexit (“Progressive economists should support Remain not Brexit – a response to Steve Keen”), and it highlights a key feature of this peculiar referendum: people who normally find themselves on the same side in most economic and political debates have been divided by this referendum.

Andrew comments that he broadly agrees with my economic analysis on most issues, but vehemently opposes me here. Likewise, good friends like the heterodox economist Geoffrey Hogdgson; Ann Pettifor, who led the successful Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest nations; and Yanis Varoufakis, who knows a thing or two about the EU, all strongly support Remain.

But many other economic colleagues, such as Richard Werner, support Brexit as I do. Richard states his position this way:

The economics is clear: there is no need to be a member of the EU to thrive economically, and exiting does not have to impact UK economic growth at all. The UK can remain in the European Economic Area, as Norway has done, or simply agree on a trade deal, as Switzerland did, and enjoy free trade – the main intention of European agreements in the eyes of the public.

The politics is also clear: the European superstate that has already been formed is not democratic. The so-called ‘European Parliament’, unique among parliaments, cannot propose any legislation at all – laws are all formulated and proposed by the unelected European Commission! As a Russian observer has commented, the European Parliament is a rubber-stamping sham, just like the Soviet parliament during the days of the Soviet Union, while the unelected government is the European Commission – the Politibureau replete with its Commissars. (Richard Werner, “EU Basics – Your Guide to the UK Referendum on EU Membership”)

How can one issue divide people who are in agreement on so many others? Partly it’s because of the politically ugly fellow travellers one finds oneself with: the UKIPs and the Britain Firsts that put forward racist, anti-immigration arguments for Brexit. Better vote Remain than find yourself with such bedfellows—and there’s the concern that winning the Brexit vote might strengthen their hands in domestic politics as well.

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  • Nick Smegg

    Well done, Steve

  • unheilig

    Agree. LEAVE. Who needs rule by commissars. Not that I get a vote since I’m an expat.

    • animalogic

      Also agree: leave. Hopefully, a leave win will damage the EU, and damage NATO, and therefore damage US imperialism. Yes, it’s a big hope, but small steps….

  • cettel

    Leave it to Steve to state things with clarity and total honesty. He’s got the guts to do that dangerous thing. All who honor truth, honor all the few people who are like he is in this regard.

  • jadan

    Nigel Farage has done more to illuminate this issue than Steve Keen or any other. The issue is political freedom and only secondarily the economy. There is no market economy without political freedom. He has very courageously stood up alone before this sinister parliament of weasels and fools and spoken loudly in the most disparaging terms into the faces of these fascist bastards. It’s hilarious to see! He has insulted them in a glorious way that embarrasses many people who lack his courage or his democratic conviction. UKIP my have some racist elements, but in Nigel Farage, England has a great patriot and a brilliant orator with a sense of humor. If brexit takes the day, it is chiefly owing to the tireless efforts and in your face courage of Nigel Farage.