Yet again those in favour of remaining in the EU are asking “when will Brexit pay off” , the latest iteration this question being in the Gruniad. Now I may well have missed something as I often do, but being better off was never that I noticed a primary argument made for leaving the EU. Certainly many people said we could be better off outside the EU, but it wasn’t ever a primary argument. In fact according to the like of the Gruniad it was racism and nostalgia for faded glories that was the motivation for people voting leave not economic improvement. Economic improvement was usually cast as a bonus.
Lot of other people have already observed that people frequently vote against their own direct economic benefit, for example most Gruniad readers that vote Labour. So voting against direct economic benefit really shouldn’t be a surprise to them. However what really annoys me about this “when will it pay off” argument is how morally bankrupt it is. Historically it’s probably just as well we never asked that question ( and I’ve been resisting these comparisons ever since the question was first raised ).
Lets look at a few other occasions when as a nation we’ve acted against our own best direct economic advantage:
- World War II debts (1941-45) repaid 2006
- World War I debts (1914-19) not yet repaid
- Irish Distress Loan (1847) repaid 2015
- Slavery Abolition Act (1835) repaid 2015
- Napoleonic Wars ( 1803–15 ) repaid 2015
Now some of those one might argue were avoidable and our own fault for getting invovled in wars and foreign ventures – though that would surely be an argument for isolationism? But equally some of those debts were obviously incurred for worthwhile causes that didn’t advance the countries economic interest. Blatantly raw economic interest should not be, and historically hasn’t been, the only factor to consider when we take action as a nation. So I do find it incredibly odd that people that would otherwise claim that individuals and companies should act for more than just economic gain all of a sudden feel that economic concerns outweigh all other consideration. But to answer their question a time scale of 100 plus years seems to be acceptable.