EU Referendum: Dr Huw Macartney

EU Referendum: Dr Huw Macartney

I have two very young children and I have
been telling them recently the story of the boy who cried ‘wolf’, and if you are not
familiar with the story, it’s a story about a boy who went up a mountain and shouted ‘wolf’
so often that people eventually stopped believing him. And I gave a talk last week where I explained
to people about the Referendum that I think there are strong parallels between that story
and our view of politics in this country in the lead up to the Referendum. That we have
stopped trusting the politicians and the elites, so that when they come out and say that we
should vote to remain, that is the best thing for Britain, we firmly believe that, all the
evidence suggests that, people have stopped listening to them, people no longer trust
them, and so, even if what they were saying was right and true, people have stopped listening,
and actually, it almost has the opposite effect I think, it switches people off a little bit
more. And I think for many people in the lead up to this Referendum, this is very much a
protest vote. People are protesting against what they feel is wrong with our economy and
what is wrong with politics in this country. My research over the last thirteen years has
focused on the European Union, its policy making processes, democracy in Europe and
how that works, the treatment and handling of the debt crisis in Europe and in particular
regulation in Europe and in the UK, the City of London, policy making in and around London
and Westminster as well. And I would be the first to admit that the EU has its problems.
Much of my research has highlighted that. Europe has a set of political problems that
we are I think very familiar with. Democratic deficits and so forth in Europe. Europe has
also I would say economic problems that we could go into to do with neo-liberalism that
many people are familiar with now. But I think those really aren’t the issue that’s at
stake, for me anyway, when I think about the Referendum. And there are two things that
I would like to say that my research points to. Two conclusions that will certainly shape
the way that I vote on June 23rd. And the first one is simply that our problems are
home grown. The UK’s problems are home grown. And my research very firmly points to that.
I do a lot of research and teaching on inequality in Britain, and that inequality I would say
is probably the biggest issue that we face in Britain in the 21st Century. And it comes
out, it manifests itself in all sorts of different ways. It comes out through over-priced rental
prices in Britain, it comes out in people being priced out of home ownership as well.
You know I’ve done a lot of teaching in the last few years about the staggering rise
of food banks in this country for example. Or pay-day lending, or you know, it’s just
so many different ways that inequality is a problem for us as a British economy. I also
have highlighted in my research the problems that very much lie with our Government. I’m
a big critic I would say of Conservative policy and the dismantling of the NHS more recently
and the post-financial crisis austerity politics in Britain. But I would simply say my first
conclusion to draw from all of that that my research points to is that those are not,
those problems don’t emanate from the European Union, they are very much home grown problems.
They are problems that emanate from if you like, Westminster, and our own political system.
And secondly, something I would like to say that will shape my vote on the 23rd is that
I very firmly believe that based on my research and my findings, that we would not be better
off outside of Europe, and I would say that there are two reasons for that. Number one
is that our problems I firmly believe are home grown and so a vote to leave would not
improve our domestic policy making process, the political stance UK policy in the slightest.
Certainly not make it any more ‘progressive’ is the term I would use, or socially minded
in any way that would benefit the rest of us. I don’t believe at all based on my research
that a vote to leave would benefit our UK policy making stance in the slightest. But
the second thing I would say which in some sense shapes my view even more in favour of
Remain, is that I firmly believe that a vote to leave would actually make matters much
worse. I follow and do a lot of work on the Bank of England monetary policy and the British
economy etc. and as I said, I do agree with the findings that our economy would in the
longer term be smaller. I do a lot of work on regulation and regulatory politics and
things like trade deals and so forth would I believe, become much more complex and complicated.
And I do also believe that based particularly on our current account deficit that there
are significant financial stability risks to the British economy, and they are not minor
and they are not trivial. I have heard some of the Leave campaign saying well it’s not
just about the money, we are voting, you know, it’s not the, and you are right in a sense,
but I also believe that many of the things that we are thinking about. You know we want
to see improvements to our NHS, we’re concerned about jobs in the economy etc. Those are very
firmly if you like, economic issues that would be affected negatively by a vote to leave.
So in closing, I would like to say that I very much feel the frustration that I think
many of us do with the state of our economy and the state of politics in Britain and these
ideas of you know, we’d have greater control if we vote to leave, we’d have more freedom
if we vote to leave. They sound very appealing but I’m afraid I do agree, an exit, a vote
to leave would make our situation, particularly our economy, much more challenging and fragile,
and that’s why on June 23rd I’ll be voting to Remain and I would encourage you to do
the same.


  1. Birmingham's Universities received nearly £27 million in funding from the EU in 2014/15. Which might explain the University Of Birmingham dropping all these pro-EU propaganda videos onto YouTube three days before the referendum. Money talks.

  2. Most universities benefit from EU PHD research funding, surely then all academics of institutions who benefit from such research funding are "in on it" also?

    …The University receives money from the National Government and possibly from pro-Brexit benefactors/ alumni in the form of endowments or willed cash. Altogether, their funds benefit the teaching experience of their students, who are ultimately free to decide how to vote on Thursday.

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