Before you Czexit, check out Brexit!
Czechs are apparently among the most Eurosceptic peoples in the EU. While the results in the latest Eurobarometer show an improvement in attitudes towards the EU, Czechs still appear to be far more negative than the Poles, the Slovaks or even the Hungarians. The reasons behind this deserve discussion in a separate blogpost, but the upshot is that certain politicians, particularly the far-right politician Tomio Okamura, have encouraged talk of a referendum on EU membership. So for any Czech citizens reading this who feel persuaded that Czexit might be a good thing, I urge you to consider the following insights from the Brexit referendum :
One of the biggest and most effective Leave campaign lies was “we send £350m per week to the EU”.
Well that is one lie that cannot be copied by Czexit campaigners. The Czech Republic receives money from the EU.
“Leaving the EU is straightforward”.
Another lie which gets bigger every day as the British public discover more and more aspects of their lives which rely on EU membership. Furthermore, government and the Civil Service is so tied up with the process of Brexit that it does not have enough resource to deal with other more important issues.
“When you leave the EU, you can negotiate your own trade deals with the rest of the world”
Well, take a look at how well the UK, the sixth biggest economy in the world, is doing with that. The Czech Republic is far smaller. It is benefitting from trade negotiations the EU have completed with the USA and China, to name two important countries.
“We are a great country, we don’t need EU membership to attract inward investment.”
Well that won’t be true for the UK, so it certainly won’t be true for CZ. In the UK, Nissan and Toyota, to name but two, are carefully considering the future of their car plants in the UK. Why do you think Hyundai are here? To make cars for a population of 10mil? Of course not, they are here because CZ is geographically in the heart of Europe. If CZ were to leave the EU, they will simply move next door, to Slovakia.
“When you leave the EU, you can forget about all those restrictions imposed by Brussels”
Can you name three such restrictions that affect your daily life in a negative way? Are you sure that any you can think of, really came from the EU? Or were they Czech bureaucrats’ interpretations of EU directives?
“When you leave the EU, your economy will flourish”
Well, that is really working well for the UK, isn’t it? (as we saw in Part 1) And the UK has not even left yet.
Which politicians argue most strongly to leave the EU?
Do you agree with their other policies? Do Klaus and Okamura speak for you on most other issues?
Which businessmen argue most strongly to leave the EU?
In the UK they tend to be those who find that EU regulations stop them from doing certain things. Ask yourself whether it would be good for you, and for Czech society, if they are free to do all those things as they wish.
What are the three things that most bother you when you think about how you will vote?
When you have listed those things, ask yourself how they will be fixed by Czexit. If they are nothing to do with the EU (e.g. corruption, low pay in the health service, excessive bureaucracy, poor infrastructure, poor quality of schooling, higher prices in Czech than in German shops….) then ask yourself why some politicians would rather get you thinking about Czexit, than tell you how they will fix those problems.
“Ah but the EU isn’t democratic. That is why the UK is leaving.”
Sorry? Can you name your Czech MEP? Did you even vote in the last European Parliament election? In both the UK and CZ, around 70% did not bother. Whose fault is that?
“Ok, but in the EU we cannot control our own borders. That’s why the UK is leaving”
Well, as we saw in Part 1, immigration is certainly an issue in the UK, as since I left in 1993, the increase in population of the UK is equivalent to the population of the whole of CZ plus Slovenia. In that time, the population of the Czech Republic has hardly changed. Right now, the country faces a labour shortage but hardly any EU citizens take advantage of free movement of labour to come and fill all those Czech vacancies. And of course, the Single Market has enabled 45,000 Czechs to currently work in the UK. Currently it is not clear if they will be free to stay there when the UK leaves the EU.
“Yes, but what about all those refugees?”
Oh, sorry, you mean refugees from the Middle East…Well they were not much of a factor in Brexit, probably because so many Muslims have lived in the UK for years, thanks to our Commonwealth past. How many refugees did the other countries ask CZ to take? 1,000? It does not seem so much to ask, not least because Syrians came here under the Communist regime. I can remember visiting Poděbrady in 1998 for a spa weekend, and the best restaurant in the town was Syrian owned and operated. On the other hand, I accept that the way this was handled by other EU countries was not smart. Well CZ is not alone in thinking this. Go and debate it within the EU, CZ will not be alone. It surely is not worth threatening to leave, over an argument about 1,000 people with wretched lives.
So next time you hear someone proposing Czexit, don’t forget that, in the UK, you now have an actual example of how good an idea that might be. I will be returning to this topic as the Brexit car crash unfolds. Don’t hesitate to write and challenge me if you wish to.