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Project Fear vs. Project Fear – #EU2016

June 23, 2016

Live from 7am (and here till the bitter end)

And they’re off! The polls are open and voting is under way in the #EUReferendum 2016. The Babel Fish Blog, now that we seem to have overcome the technical glitch de jour, will be with you throughout the day, bringing you updates, exit polls and our own distinctive brand of comment and analysis. Might leave the video at the bottom though, as it’s pretty, calming, and nothing whatsoever to do with the referendum.


Live Blog


6.07am: And it’s officially over. ‘Leave’ has now reached its 50% target. And 23 hours after I started, I am now going to take a short break.

4.39am: The BBC just called it for ‘Leave!’

4.30am: Well, having spent the last few hours watching the ‘Leave’ lead slowly but surely grow, it’s now around 750,000, or 51.6%, with around 60-65% of the votes counted. It’s hard to see Remain coming back from here, and I’m almost ready to call it. NB: The gap in England of over 1.3 million for Leave is no longer offset by the gap in favour of Remain in Scotland, which is around 620,000.

2.55am: Right now,  just on votes counted, the Scottish Remain vote is just cancelling out the English Leave vote. The prospect of a split decision, with Scotland keeping England in against its will, is still very much in play.

2.35am: Australian stock exchange just lost 3% on fears of a ‘Leave’ vote.

2.30am: Well, at this point the earliest predictions have been reversed. It’s still tight, but most now have ‘Leave’ in front and even the bookies have switched. Ladbrokes now has ‘Leave’ at 4:7 on. Of course, we’re still waiting for the London results. Remain has just retaken the lead on the raw vote tally, but only by about 10,000 votes out of 4 million counted. It’s going to be a long night (and I just had to correct pm to am on this post, it’s already been a long night).

1.23am: West Dunbartonshire –

Remain – 62%

Leave – 38%

1.18am: Here’s what the pound did when the Sunderland result was announced, with a stronger than expected win for ‘Leave’


12.05am: Remain win in Newcastle, but by less than expected

11.55pm: Nigel Farage has told reporters that the ‘Eurosceptic genie is out of the bottle’. Here is the video:

11.45pm: First actual result declared, and it’s Gibraltar.

Remain: 19,322

Leave: 823

To be fair, that one was never expected to be close. 😉

11pm: Well, we’re finally beginning to get some news, and early reports are of a narrow win for ‘Remain.’ Farage has said as much. It doesn’t look like anything you could remotely call decisive though.

7.30pm: I’m beginning to think I’ve gone a bit early with this. Just found out they’re not expecting a declaration until around 6am, 23 hours after I began. And it looks like nothing at all will happen until after 10pm anyway. So: a nap, or another coffee?

5.30pm: Well into the post-work voters now. Still no exit polls. I might go back to writing ‘The Story So Far,’ which is down at the bottom.

12 noon: Still nothing much to report.

10am: Polling gets off to a slow start in London and the South East due to storms and flooding. Good thing I don’t believe in omens. But it’s sunny back home in Clydebank, so enjoy it while you can folks.


7am: Polls open, last minute opinion polls still suggest the result is too close to call.

Last 10 days polls:



The Story So Far

Right, so obviously nothing much is going to happen for a while, and this blog is not the sort that will be showing you pictures of dogs at polling booths (I’m looking at you, Guardian). So let’s take the opportunity to have a chat about the issues. First of all, some regular readers may have been wondering why I haven’t had much to say about the EU referendum until now. I have to say, it’s been because I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about the whole business. It’s hard to love the EU, isn’t it? We haven’t yet developed a real sense of European identity for one thing. Although I’ll bet most of you have never found yourself in the corner at a barbecue in Melbourne, with someone from Spain or Serbia, Finland or France, trying to explain Australian culture to them. I have, and I can tell you I’ve never felt more European. But that’s cultural. It’s the EU as an institution I have issues with.

It’s not that it’s bureaucratic. Of course it’s bureaucratic. It’s a public sector body with a clientèle of 500 million. That’s going to take a massive bureaucracy, in fact it’s pretty much a definition of bureaucracy, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I have been a public servant. A bureaucrat if you like. In the 80s I spent nine months with the Australian Taxation Office, and in the 90s, five years with the Department of Social Security. Both bureaucracies. And both, I would argue, necessary ones. Some absolutely essential tasks can only be carried out by bureaucracies. Now obviously it’s best if your bureaucracies are efficient bureaucracies, and DSS in particular was an extremely efficient bureaucracy. They get inefficient when they get too fat at the top, because most of the actual work of a bureaucracy gets done by those at the lower levels.

Sometimes a government, or whoever is running the bureaucracy, employs high level bureaucrats, or worse, hires consultants, in the hope that they will have ideas which will lead to greater efficiency in the future. This is a mistake, as it turns out the best ideas are also generated at the lower levels, because those are the people who actually do the job and know what’s going on. The EU is not the most efficient bureaucracy by a long chalk. It’s top heavy, which is sort of inevitable. After all, where’s the local EU office in your area? There isn’t one, because they don’t really deliver services at a local level. That’s not what concerns me most about it though. And incidentally, I have now mentioned the word ‘bureaucracy’ enough times to fill the Eurosceptic quota. I’ll try not to use it again. My main concerns about the EU could be grouped, I think, under two headings.


It’s not very democratic. There’s the European Parliament of course, with its dubious electoral system, but it really doesn’t have much power. The real power resides with the Commission, and increasingly with the ECB. Commissioners are directly appointed by their governments, and most of the real negotiation takes place there. Funny thing is, it’s the Eurosceptics who have been most resistant to further democratisation, in case it would give the elected representatives greater legitimacy and so infringe more on their sovereignty. They have been trenchantly opposed to any form of political union, but it’s with political union that democracy would potentially become the dominant force. What we’ve had is a trade and financial union, which is completely undemocratic, because there has been no democratisation to go with it.

The Neoliberal Orthodoxy

The EU, and its institutions, particularly the ECB, has been completely captured by it. So much so that policy formulations continue to be applied, even as senior officials concede they are thoroughly discredited. And that’s what happened to Greece. Now I, like many, was disgusted at the way Greece was treated. Is still being treated. For those of us on the left that left a very bad taste in our mouths and severely damaged the EU’s standing in our eyes.

I’ll come back to this again a little later

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