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7:00pm on Wednesday, 13th April, 2016:

Long Term


I'm started to get irritated by the way that the referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU or remain is dominated by short-term arguments.

Imagine a horse towing a cart by a rope, with a driver sitting on the cart controlling the horse with reins. The driver will be able to get the horse to go roughly in the right direction, although it would be easier if the horse was attached to the cart by a fixed shaft rather than a rope.

Now imagine that there are two horses attached to the cart, each by a separate rope and with a separate driver. So long as the horses are roughly the same in power and so long as the drivers can communicate easily, it would still be fairly easy to get the cart to go in the right direction.

Now imagine four horses and four drivers. It starts to get tricky. If the cart is heading for an obstacle, the drivers would all have to agree whether to go left or right to avoid it. Maybe one of the horses is more spirited than the others and is harder to control. Maybe one of the drivers keeps looking at the scenery instead of watching the road. This is why carts with a team of horses have the horses attached to a shaft and only one driver.

Now imagine eight horses attached by individual ropes to the cart, each with their own driver. There's someone sitting behind them all, shouting how fast to go and which way to turn, but it's up to the individual drivers to obey the instructions. Oh, and one of the horses is actually a donkey; the driver said it was a horse but everyone can see it's a donkey.

What's going to happen? Well, there's going to be a crash. The only way to avoid it is to tie all the horses to the same shaft and have one driver.

So, this is the eurozone, except there are 19 horses.

Because of the euro's inherent instability, the eurozone can only end in one of two ways: as a United States of Europe or in a catastrophic crash. If it crashes, the whole EU crashes. If it becomes a USE, then the EU shrinks to fit it and the UK then has to decide whether it wants to join or not. Whatever, the EU can't continue as it is today, so arguments based on short-term effects are pointless. Eventually, because of the euro, either the EU will become a superstate or its wheels will fall off.

So, what's it going to be? USE or disintegration?

This is the argument we should be having in the UK that we're not happening. Here are your choices.
- If you think the EU is not going to disintegrate: vote remain if you want the UK to become part of a future USE; vote leave if you don't; vote remain if you want to make your mind up whether to remain or leave at the time the USE forms.
- If you think the EU is going to disintegrate, consider whether you think the UK will be in better shape if it jumps off the cart before the cart drives over the cliff or whether it will be in better shape to go over with everyone else: if you think the UK will be better off if it takes its chances, vote leave; if you think it will be better off it it sticks with the crowd, vote remain.

What you shouldn't do is assume that the EU you vote on today will look anything like what you'll see 30 years from now.

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Copyright © 2016 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).