The discussion with hardcore Brexit supporters generally goes down two routes:
- Discussion with football supporters
- Discussion with pseudo-economists
The football supporters dialogue goes like this:
What did you win?
Yeah, but how do you benefit?
Light bulbs! Vacuum cleaners! Bananas! Fishing! Sovereignty!
Yeah, I know, but what are the real benefits?
Told you…we won!
But what are the…benefits?
Woo hoo! We won!
What are the benefits?
We won! Get over it!
I repeat what are the benefits?
If you don’t like it, Leave!
This is the sum total of the dialogue. These supporters see Brexit as some sort of football game which Their Team won. So everybody needs to “get over it”. Strangely enough, they do not want to recognize that football teams play each other quite frequently, which gives the losing side an opportunity to win the next game. Brexit supporters like to pretend that the 2016 Referendum result was some irrevocable event.
The pseudo-economist discussion goes something like this:
Yeah OK. So what now?
We will get a great deal!
Yeah, you said that. What about those 753 free trade agreements the EU negotiated on our behalf over the last 45 years?
We will negotiate new ones!
Do you know how long it takes to negotiate 1 free trade agreement?
If they’re mean to us we will trade on WTO terms!
What countries trade on WTO terms? Why do all of these trade alignments like the EU, TPP and Mercosur exist if WTO terms are so great?
They need us more than we need them!
Um, the EU has 5 x the GDP of the UK. I think it might be the other way round.
The German car companies can’t do without the UK!
If they can’t they seem to be very quiet about it
The EU is being mean to us!
Um, we’re leaving the club. We don’t get to keep all of the membership benefits.
We signed a trade deal with the Faroe Islands!
Um, how large is the economy of the Faroe Islands?
We are going to get a trade deal with Australia!
How far is the EU from the UK compared to Australia?
Why are you so negative?
There is not one argument by the pseudo-economists that has any mathematical, legal or practical heft. Most of the people making the arguments above have no idea of the complexities of international trade. They are not tethered to reality in any way. However, the arguments are superficially plausible, and when accompanied by suitable cherry-picked data, can look reasonably compelling to the uninitiated.
The “sovereignty” appeal is to the abstract idea that a country in the modern world can be truly independent. No such country exists. The only independent peoples are those with no contact with the rest of the world. There might be 2 tribes in the world like that. The rest of the world has interdependent relationships.
The sovereignty mirage is similar to the imaginary world posited by old-style libertarians, who think that the USA is still a rural agrarian economy with unlimited space, where a man can go off to Be A Real Man. Such places exist only in people’s imaginations.