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Chatham House: Brexit could harm UK climate and energy policy

Posted on 24 June 2016 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Sophie Yeo at Carbon Brief

The UK is better staying in the EU from the perspective of energy and climate change, according to a new paper by international affairs thinktank, Chatham House.

Carbon Brief has been tracking [views on Brexit's impacts] relating to climate and energy.  The latest offering from Chatham House is particularly thorough, as it spells out what the impacts for the UK’s energy system and climate goals might be under the various scenarios that could be adopted, should the UK vote to leave.

Chatham House, which conducts research on subjects including climate, economics, law and security, receives funding from more than 500 donors, including the European Commission, Shell, Rockefeller Foundation and a range of national governments. Itsays: “This diversity of global support is critical to the independence of the institute.”


No member state has left the EU before, which means there is no precedent for how exactly the UK might extricate itself from its relationship with the EU, and what kind of arrangement it might establish in its place.

Several countries outside the EU have a formal relationship with the bloc, to which the UK could subscribe. It is also possible that the UK could negotiate its own unique relationship with the EU.

Each option presents various choices and trade-offs that could impact climate change and energy policy, says the report. These include the degree of access that the UK has to Europe’s gas and electricity markets; the extent to which the UK would be able to influence EU decision-making on energy policies; and the ease with which a deal could be negotiated with other EU states and institutions.

The following table, taken from the report, summarises the various options that could be available to the UK in the case of a “Brexit”, and also what a remain vote would mean.

Summary of Brexit vs Remain models

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House

In this table, EFTA stands for European Free Trade Association, an organisation that extends free trade to four non-EU states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. EEA stands for European Economic Area, which provides for the freedom of people, goods, services and capital between the 28 EU member states and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Acquis communautaire means the EU’s body of laws and rules.

Impact for climate and energy policy

The report looks at six areas of energy and climate change policy in the UK that could be affected by a vote to leave.

These areas are: market access; investment; funding; standards for goods and services; climate change and pollution targets; and diplomatic engagement.

For each of these six areas, the Chatham House report spells out the implications and presents a graphic illustrating the benefits and opportunities compared to the costs and risks for each Brexit scenario.

Market access

The UK is strongly integrated with other EU states when it comes to energy, and greater use of renewables is increasing the need for interconnectors, says the report.

The EU has progressively liberalised energy markets over the past two decades, moving regulatory control away from governments and towards independent national and EU bodies, its says. Further market liberalisation measures are due to be introduced at EU level during 2016.

The report says that the UK’s current government is unlikely to want, or be able to, reverse the trend of domestic energy market liberalisation from Brexit. While some models would provide long-term continuity to accessing the market, the report points out that a successful agreement is not guaranteed and could take years.

Market access infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

Energy investment and price security

The energy sector is in need of significant investment in order to replace ageing infrastructure and enable decarbonisation. The UK government estimates that total energy infrastructure investment requirements between 2014/15 and 2020/21 will be £274.9bn.

The UK is currently a major recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), with EU countries accounting for over half this flow. A report for the UK parliament concluded that it was not possible to calculate the impact of EU withdrawal on the flow of FDI, but a survey by Ernst & Young on company confidence for power and utilities indicated a concern that a vote to leave the EU could make capital more difficult to access.

The decision could also affect the price of electricity, the report says. Additional interconnectors to the continent and Ireland by the end of 2021 could provide more than 10 gigawatts of power capacity and lower the wholesale market price for baseload electricity by 7%, HSBC has predicted. The report doesn’t expand upon whether these will go ahead after the vote to leave.

On the other hand, most of the social and environmental costs seen in customer bills are the result of domestic rather than EU legislation, including the Climate Change Act and Fuel Poverty Regulations, which are unlikely to change.

Energy investment and price security infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

Funding mechanisms

The UK is currently a net contributor to the EU budget, meaning that it gives more in direct contributions than it receives in EU expenditure.

However, it has received significant funding from the EU for energy- and climate-related projects. Under the EU’s current seven-year budget (2014-20), the UK is set to receive €1.9bn for climate change adaptation and risk prevention, and €1.6bn to support the transition to a low carbon economy. It has also received significant loans from the European Investment Bank.

The UK would give up access to most of these funds under most exit models, says the report. Meanwhile, countries such as Norway and Switzerland still make a sizeable contribution to the EU budget.

If the UK adopts a model which allows it to retain its EU budget contribution and, therefore, spend it on domestic projects, it would be up to the UK government to decide how much it allocated to energy- and climate-related projects, in the face of various competing priorities.

Funding mechanisms infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

Standards for goods and services

The EU sets standards for vehicles, goods and buildings that have established a baseline for energy efficiency across Europe.

The report points out that the UK would be unlikely to abandon these standards after Brexit, as it would still have to meet all future minimum standards to continue to trade with EU countries. The UK is also likely to continue with energy efficiency programmes to meet its domestic climate change commitments and lift 2.34 million people out of fuel poverty.

While it is likely to continue to abide by EU regulations, all options for leaving the EU would lead to the UK having no say in setting them in the future.

Standards for goods and services infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

Climate change and pollution targets

The UK is bound by the EU’s climate change legislation, but its own domestic legislation goes beyond the European targets. Therefore, withdrawing from the EU is unlikely to immediately impact the UK’s ambition when it comes to climate change, says the report — although it would make it easier for the UK government to change course in the future, as only a change in domestic legislation would be required.

Withdrawing from the EU will also require the UK to draw up its own contribution to the UN climate deal, as Norway and Switzerland have done. It is less clear how EU withdrawal would affect UK renewable targets, the report says.

Leaving the EU could also release the UK from the Industrial Emissions Directive, which will, in particular, drive down coal use. However, the UK has already achieved cross-party support for phasing out unabated coal power, and tackling air pollution is likely to remain a priority.

Climate change and pollution targets infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

Diplomatic engagement on energy and climate security

The UK is better off negotiating within the EU than as a lone voice when it comes to both energy security and climate change, argues the Chatham House report.

Concerning energy security, the UK would no longer be party to EU negotiations with Russia, from which the UK gets 16% of its energy imports. While it could continue to operate on a bilateral basis with other energy producers and importers, the country would carry less diplomatic weight when operating alone, says the report.

The situation is similar within the UN climate change negotiations. Negotiating with the EU allows the UK to operate on a par with emitters such as the US and China. But without the backing of the EU, it would be relegated to the second tier of global powers, alongside Australia, Canada and South Korea, says the report.

Meanwhile, the EU may swerve towards the positions of member states arguing for less stringent ambition on climate change, without the UK’s support for strong international climate leadership.

Diplomatic engagement on energy and climate security infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.


The exact model that the UK adopts will determine the extent of the impact on climate change and energy policies. However, all will generate significant uncertainty, says the report. It summarises the overall risks and opportunities with this final graphic:

Summary infographic

Credit: UK Unplugged? Chatham House.

The implications for climate and energy may not have made front page news in the reams of Brexit coverage to date, but it could end up being a defining issue in years to come if the UK decides to leave the EU, it concludes:

Energy and climate issues are not among the principal concerns of voters during the referendum campaign, although both areas could acquire greater importance for citizens in the event of either rising energy prices or an increased desire to see the UK respond to the domestic impacts of climate change.

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Comments 1 to 19:

  1. Supporters of Brexit have been called many things, among them "racists, xenophobes, rednecks, rightwingers, morons" and other terms which I needn't repeat. And now Skeptical "Science" is weighing in too, implying that Brexiters are also global warming deniers. Lovely.

    Reality is that many people - including those who identify themselves as environmentalists - see a lot of economic problems thanks to globalisation, outsourcing, austerity, and other "harmonization" policies which the EU promotes. The devastated middle class has almost no tools to fight back with, especially when both of the UK's major political parties offer little to differentiate themselves. The Brexit referendum was one of the few - perhaps the only - time that voters were given a chance to express their displeasure with the status quo, and many took advantage of it. Whether or not it will make a big difference in the long run remains to be seen.

    Getting back to climate - since one of the major "benefits" of globalization is to export industries to countries like China with very low environmental standards, one could easily argue that Brexit might offer some hope - however small - to return some industries to Britain, where environmental standards are higher. A big bad joke of the EU (and other western economies) is that they claim their CO2 emissions are going down, but in reality this is because the dirty coal-burning factories moved to Asia, along with the jobs. It should be obvious enough that exporting CO2 emissions to other countries (all of which share the same earth's atmosphere) doesn't help to solve real climate change problems.

    I personally am a believer that AGW is real, caused mainly by CO2 and methane emissions. I also support nuclear power as one of several solutions for reducing emissions, and have had to take a lot of abuse from so-called "greens" for that. And since in the end I decided to support Brexit, I can now become a target for charges that I'm a "racist" and "AGW denier." You guys really know how to trash your potential allies and destroy your own credibility.

    Finally, I have to say that I've found it almost amusingly ironic to see supposedly "progressive" or "liberal" political activists stand firm with hedge fund bankers and the world's worst polluters to fight for free-trade blocks like the EU. Are you on board for the TPP and TTIP too? Well, their is an old saying that politics makes strange bedfellows.

    You shouldn't be surprised to see that your readership is dropping, and that few bother commenting now. I'm not even sure why I'm bothering, but hey, it's Sunday and I've got a bit of free time. Hope this comment at least gives you food for thought.

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  2. Very sensible comment Paraquat.  In addition, whatever you think of Brexit, you have to admit that the UK is a democracy which is more than you can say for many other so called democracies.  Cameron's exit speech was gracious, honest and to the point and he is much to be admired for it.  I would be much more for the EU if it was a democracy.  The main characteristic of a democracy is not being able to vote for someone but rather to be able to chuck out the incumbants before they think the office they occupy is theirs by divine decree.  The EU is not a democracy and as a dictatorship is much more easily manipulated by the country that has destroyed emerging democratic movements wherever she found them, usually labelling them as communist as if that was a justification for her actions.  Good for the Brits.  I didn't think they would have the courage to leave the existing comfortable if unpleasant situation and to step into the unknown.  I appologize for my lack of faith in them.

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  3. Paraquat - At this point I have no idea whether Brexit will be a net gain or loss for the UK; I think only time will tell. The demographics of the votes are curious - definitely weighted towards older, whiter voters in support - I'm a bit concerned that this represents conservative backlash rather than forward thinking, but again it's IMO too soon to tell.

    Regarding SkS readership, however, it's on the increase, along with recommendations, sourcing by scientists, mentions on mass media, etc. Comments have as far as I can see dropped, but I suspect that's due more to the moderation policies which don't encourage mindless unsupported venting - the loons have moved on to less discerning venues.

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  4. @ William...

    Good to make your acquaintance online. I agree with you that Cameron's exit speech actually was gracious and honest, which I found a pleasant surprise. I can only hope that Cameron's successor will be as gracious and honest when it comes to leading the UK in this tumultuous times.

    @ KR

    I'm actually glad to hear that SkS readership is increasing, even though comments seem to be falling. I'll try to do some more commenting in the future. As for suggestions to this blog, I think it's perfectly OK to present differing opinions (including some nutcase opinions) as long as you present some balance, and (in the case of a guest opinion) make it clear that this site doesn't necessarily support the author's position. I took this Chatham House article as being SkS's position on Brexit and maybe that wasn't fair, but I didn't see anything that it was being balanced by other arguments. Over the past few days, we Brexit supporters have been getting slammed left and right as racist ogres, mental retards and possibly child molesters as well. Actually, since I support nuclear power, I'm kind of used to being accused of all that, but still I hope for more intelligent dialog.



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  5. Paraquat.

    While nobody would suggest that millions of UK citizens that voted to leave are climate change deniers, even skeptics, there are certainly some people in the leadership of the UK Independence Party that fit that description.

    While Brexit has certainly been an expression of the will of millions of ordinary UK citizens, it has also attracted a few more extreme elements as well.

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  6. The EU has been around for quite some time in various guises. And mauch of its structure is still grounded in cold war era ideas of nation states, late 20th century economic thinking etc. It would seem to be ripe got an overhaul. It has probably gone overboard on standardizing things across countries and cultures. And the common currency may not have been a great idea with economies as diverse as Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

    That said, it is also an evolving grouping. Bringing in new members and adapting to the time. Probably it needs a rethink, a realignment. However, as an organisation and a quasi-state it is still a wonderful thing. Look at the history of Europe during the 20th centurt; hell all the centuries before. Sure masses of distinct cultures. That spent a lot of time trying to kill each other.

    When the communist experiment failed, arguable the EU is the only remaining experiment in new forms of government, which we sorely need. Sadly it seems to be a bit too wedded to that other experiment in non-government - globalisation, TPP,  neo-liberalism etc.

    But it may be the best hope for a new form of government to emerge from what currently is a not too bad, but not too good, first attempt.

    For me what saddens me about the success of Brexit is that rather than being a 'reform of the EU' movement, with a vocal popular expression of dissatisfaction with how it currently works, it became a 'we are packing our bags and leaving' movement.

    I just hate seeing babies thrown out just because the bath water is dirty.

    But then, 14,000 km away in Australia, my voice doesn't carry much weight.

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  7. William @2, the only good, succinct definition of "democracy" is that Abraham Lincoln.  It is government of the people, by the people, for the people.  That is far more than the power to periodically throw out whichever autocratic government currently rules by means of elections, which you reduce democracy to.  Ideally it means electoral laws should be so structured that the representation within parliament matches in proportion the political opinions of the electorate - something that requires either a Hare-Clark system with at least 5 members per electorate, or better Mixed Member Proportional electoral system.  It also requires near full participation by the electorate in each election*.  Systems such as the Westminster system which favour a small number of major parties, particularly if they use a first past the post system, and particularly with low turnouts, as is normally the case in the UK, can be considered as government by less than half of the people at best on most occasions.  To make it worse, the the UK's house of review is almost completely undemocratic.  The UK is, therefore, only imperfectly democratic at best; and significantly less so than, for example, Australia (with compulsory voting, preferential voting, and a far more democratic house of review), or even better, New Zealand with its MMP system.

    I do not know enough to make a precise assessment about the EU.  However, every person with legislative power within the EU is either directly elected from within one or another of the member nations, elected from within a (imperfectly) democratic parliament, or elected by the European Parliament, whose members are directly elected.  It is imperfectly democratic primarilly because the institution with the most control within the EU is indirectly elected by means of the election of national governments by its members (and in which, therefore, European wide issues recieve significantly less scrutiny).  I have seen it stated that the EU is not democratic because the EU parliament cannot initiate legislation, but as the legislation in the Westminster system, with rare exceptions, is initiated by the cabinet rather than the parliament this is not a fundamental issue, especially given that the members of the European Commission are appointed by democratically elected governments, and the President of the Commission elected by the European Parliament.  Overall the EU is imperfectly democratic, just as is the UK and the USA (and Australia and NZ).  It may be possible to make it more democratic, but not without giving the larger nations effectively complete control over EU decisions.

    Finally, it currently is the case that the "incumbents" in the EU can be chucked out be the people of the EU.  Doing so, however, requires chucking out the incumbents not only in the European parliament by direct election, but also the incumbents in the various national governments by direct election in each member state.  What cannot be done is to chuck out the incumbents at all levels of the EU by a direct election in one or two member states only.  No single electorate (ie, member state) of the EU has veto power on government.  That is not a feature that makes the EU less democratic, just as it was no impediment to the democratic nature of the recent referendum that Gibraltar by itself could not overrule the result.

    In sum, you are a person willing to accept an effectively unelected body with a membership based on aristocratic membership, eclesiastical eminence in a single denomination of a single religion, and permanent appointment by governments as a house that can not just review but initiate legislation and veto legislation it does not like as constituting part of a democratic system of government.  Given that your insistence that the EU is not just democratic, but a dictatorship is wholly inconsistent - not to mention slanderous.  There are no doubt ways to improve the EU, and also ways to make it more democratic - but to claim that it is not democratic, and a dictatorship is false on its face.


    (* It also requires some form of constitution that requires that government be for the benefit of the people, something certainly lacking in the UK, and the presence of which in the EU seems to be a major irritant for many of those who object to the EU.) 

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  8. Paraquat @1, the OP in no way said that people voting in favour of BREXIT were deniers, a terminology you introduced to this topic.  It did not even say that BREXIT will result in higher emissions from the UK (or should I say, the soon to be "former UK").  What it does argue is that, depending on how a UK which is no longer a member of the EU structures its relationships with the EU, there will be different sets of risks of increased emissions, and different opportunities for reducing emissions.

    Having said that, many of the leading lights of the BREXIT "leave" campaign are noted AGW deniers.  Given the success of their campaign, it is reasonable to suppose that they will have more influence in future British governments, in which case the UK is likely to lag on its commitments, or even reverse current emissions reductions.

    Further, while I do not think that the majority of people voting to leave were racist, there is no doubt that fear of immigration was a cornerstone of the "leave" campaign.  Given Britain's colonial history, Britain can have no in principle objection to immigration.  If they do, they must acknowledge that they have done a major wrong to such nations as Pakistan, India, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and more especially, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - and make major reparations for that wrong to the indigenous peoples of those nations.

    As I doubt that would be a popular view in Britain, I conclude that the opposition to imigration is Britain is in fact racist.  It represents a view that British immigration to foreign nations is good for the foreigners, but return immigration is a bad thing for the British - a view only sustainable with the view of overwhelming racial superiority that was the ideology of empire.

    I of course, have no reason to believe that you yourself are racist.  You may have voted to leave for reasons having nothing to do with immigration.  You may even have been principled enough to repudiate the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric that was the cornerstone of the 'leave' campaign.  But please do not pretend racism had nothing to do with the schmozzle the British have landed themselves in. 

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  9. Paraquat @1,

    The evidence suggests there are not enough UK voters in denial over AGW to win a referendum. That is, when asked in a recent survey only 14% disagreed with the statement: “human activity is causing climate change." However. what that evidence does show is that this 14% in denial comprises 10% of Remain voters and 18% of Leave voters. So as you support Brexit and I am very definitely of the opposing view having campaigned to Remain, we can say that you as a Leaver are 80% more likely to be in denial over AGW than I am as a Remainer.

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  10. Tom Curtis@7 You say compulsorty voting in Australia makes it more democratic than the UK.  Surely forcing people to vote is not at all democtratic it is in fact autocracy by the government.  I'm in the UK at he moment and saw the Cameron exit speech.  He came across as a gentleman which cannot be said for any Australian politicians with perhaps the exceptions of Howard and Turnbull.  There has been extensive coverage here of Brexit and the general civility tosward one another by the proponents of each side is an object lesson for  Australia,.. Interestingly in all the hours I have watched and all the articles I have read on the post Brexit referendum there jhas been no mention of climate change.   As far as I, as an outsider, can gather, it is not an issue at all with either the Remain or Leave groups 

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  11. Paraquat@1,
    "... politics makes strange bedfellows."

    I would encourage you to better understand how that applies to the supporters of Brexit who only narrowly won the vote.

    Plenty of information is available regarding the type of people appealed to by the promoters of "Leave", including the June 19th episode of the "Last Week Tonight" show that John Oliver hosts on HBO.

    There is no doubt that misleading claim making by promoters of "Leave" was designed to appeal to "..."racists, xenophobes, rednecks, rightwingers, morons"...". The Libertarian UKIP website states it is a non-racist group and yet it has many representatives who clearly make racist comments and its leader has defended racist zenophobic moronic comments made by official representatives of the party. And there is also no doubt that those appeals to such damaging ultimately unsustainable attitudes mainly succeeded. Very few "racists, xenophobes, rednecks, rightwingers, morons" would be expected to vote Remain.

    So although there may be some selective rational reasons for voting Leave, the failure of many voters to understand the totality of the issue when making the decision and basing their decision on the desire to see global humanity advance to a lasting better future for everyone would clearly lead to future failure of any "democracy" including one simply following the definition by Abraham Lincoln.

    It is pretty clear that for humanity to have a future it is essential that only attitudes and actions that can be proven to most likely advance humanity to a lasting better future for all, with all things related to the item being evaluated being rationally considerately responsibly considered, can be allowed to compete for popularity and profitability.
    Without what I have suggested the results of a vote in a "democracy" can easily be seen to be a narrow victory for an unholy marriage of well-meaning voters with "racists, xenophobes, rednecks, rightwingers, morons".

    However, I guess the result of the success of such a cobbled together voting block would be decent as long as those well-meaning voters that chose to be bedfellows with a collective of unsavory characters can effectively eliminate any further influence or success from the "racists, xenophobes, rednecks, rightwingers, morons" in their unacceptable pursuits (beyond getting their votes of support to be part of winning a vote). However it is clear from history that the leaders of pushes to win by appealing to single issue inconsiderate irrational, irresponsible personal desires continue to need to feed that damaging voter base.

    My closing point is that the leader of the Libertarian UKIP group pushing for Leave declared in May that a 52-48 win by Remain would only be the start of a further push for a new vote. That may have been a reason for the foolish decision by the current leaders of Britain to fail to require a clear majority of eligible voters to be the measure of a 'win'. The current PM is rightly resigning his position. But the likes of Boris Johnson who clearly failed to win the majority of votes in the city he used to be Mayor of should also resign, not be considered the likely replacement for PM. And that Libertarian group leader should also clearly not be considered to be a suitable candidate for national leadership.


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  12. Haze @10, you might as well say that making it compulsory to drive on the left hand side of the road is "anti democratic" as say that compulsory voting it anti democratic.  Because ballots are secret, all that compulsory voting can compell is that you place a ballot paper into the ballot box.  You cannot be required by law to mark an "x", or fill order of preference, or whatever is the method of registering a vote in the jurisdiction, for such a requirement is incompatible with a secret ballot.  So, all that follows from compulsory voting is that nearly the whole voting public vote; and as they are in the voting booth already, the vast majority of them register a valid vote.  In consequence, it becomes impossible to do as is done in the US, ie, to ignore the concerns of a large constituency because by  doing so you sufficiently discourage their interest in voting so that they can be effectively ignored.  If you try it, you end with a parliament increasingly dominated by minor parties who take up the views of those you wished to exclude.

    As to Cameron being a gentleman - I do not value the trait highly.  Gentlemen have been slavers, rapists, murderers and thieves, and their "good breeding" and "good manners" was neither here nor their on the fact that they were villains.  Howard, you you applaud, was happy to lie repeatedly to the Australian people, and when found out, equally happy to have underlings fall on their swords to protect his position.  A gentleman, he may have been, but he was a liar and without honour.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Offtopic and beyond pale.

  13. Hello all, just one more little thing I feel I should say before leaving this topic to rest. I see from some of the replies that I may have inadvertently given the impression that I actually voted in the Brexit referendum. Much as I would have liked to, that was not the case because, among other reasons, I am in the interesting position of being temporarily stateless. I am an expat living in Taiwan, married to a local lady for many years now. Having undergone a lengthy process to become a Taiwanese national, the last required step was to renounce my nationality (Taiwan's naturalization law rejects dual-citizenship). I am awaiting some documents, most importantly a temporary Taiwan ID card, which becomes permanent after one year, at which point I also can also receive a passport, very different from the one I just gave up. During this one-year period, I can't vote or travel outside Taiwan.

    Anyway, I just wanted to clear that up. I didn't vote in the referendum, but did actively support it here in the local expat community, which includes many UK citizens who could (and did) vote. I have no idea if I influenced even a single person to change his/her position, but the discussions were lively enough. I don't know if it wins me any points, but here in Taiwan I qualify as a "migrant" and I'm married to someone of a different race than myself.

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  14. Tom Curtis @12 From what you write it seems that, like many Australians, you may prefer raucous bellowing and "gotcha" moments rather than civilised discussion.  Certainly the Australian press and politicians much prefer discord and aggression to sensible discourse.  As for Howard being a liar, compared with Julia Gillard's performance on the carbon tax  and the current utterly untruthful "Medicscare" being  spriuiked by Bill Shorten, he is a model of moral rectitude. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Okay, I appreciate this topic invites politics but this is straying offtopic and well beyond limits of comments policy. Further discussion on Australian politics can go elsewhere.

  15. Haze

    Leaving aside the irrelevent Australia dimension, the question of compulsory vs optional voting actually has a relevence to the Brexit question. Young people didn't vote in the same numbers and now are unhappy with the result. If voting had been compulsory, maybe the resut would have been different. Even if not, at least we would have known more clearly that this actually was the will of all the British people.

    As to compulsory voting being undemocratic, that seems to be conflating two different ideas as if they are the same thing; democracy, and individual rights. They aren't the same thing.

    Democracy is the basic idea of one nobleman male-property-owner male person, one vote. (see how the idea has evolved over time) About the equality of all people. Which in essence is the heart of the traditional concept of the rights of the individual. That all people have equal rights. Note this is not the same as all people have limitless rights.

    Then in more recent times Libertarian type thought has construed this as the individual does not have to do many things if they don't want to. Conflating equality of rights with what those rights are. The first is sacrosanct, the seond is a trade off that is the foundation of any society.

    In America the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution are collectively referred to as the Bill Of Rights. Other countries implement this in different ways. Something encapsulating what the rights of a citizen are. But what is missing is a comparable idea; A Bill of Responsibilities. Something encapsulating what the obligations of citizens are to the functioning of their society. And what the limits of those obligations are.

    Tom Curtis gave a simple example of all driving on the same side of the road. I would suggest that engagement with our society to participate in its good functioning is a citizens responsibility. That doesn't mean everyone should become an MP. But wanting to opt out of engagement with the broader civic society, which not voting is in part, is not on. It is not a breach of some ones rights to compel them to vote. It is an abrogation of their responsibilities if they don't. And some responsibilities actually need to be enforced. As long as that enforcement is totally even handed, I don't see a problem.

    Society provides us with most of the things that make life possible and decent; our individual contributions are small compared to that. I don't see it as problematic that we have an obligation to give back in order to make society work.

    Civilisation is the most amazing of human inventions. But it doesn't come for free; there is a price we need to pay to buy a civilisation.

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  16. This is in the way of a comment on moderation, so I apologize to the moderators for the extra work involved but:

    1)  It is a bit stiff being required to remain silent on a topic while Haze is given the benefit of a last (if rather silly) word.  Merely striking through an off topic comment does not remove it from the post, and is not, IMO, an acceptable way to end a off topic discussion.

    2)  When Haze purposely praised the current PM who is in the process of seeking reelection, I avoided discussion of him on the basis that that would be too political.  I find now, however, that his praise is allowed to stand as not being too political while discussion of a former prime minister is struck out as being off topic.  Surely the discussion of a man currently seeking election is more overtly political than that of the man who is long retired.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Normally moderation complaints are offtopic and deleted, but I will let this stand because the situation is unfortunate and I understand your annoyance. However, discussion of Australian politics and merits of PMs is definitely offtopic and tone of conversation was heading south fast. A break has to go in somewhere but I was late to party.

    I will allow a comment offering an alternative forum in which you could both continue to discuss Australian politics.

  17. Further to my comment @8, it appears that the genuine racists in British society are taking the success of the "Leave" campaign as endorsing their racist views.   I believe that shows my comments to have been on the mark.  Regardless, it is certainly encumbant on those "Leave" voters who are not racists to thoroughly disabuse the racists of their view. 

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  18. For myself, I comment less because most ground is well-trodden.

    Brexit is not, though. It's still too early, AFAICS, to start making calls on what will happen, especially WRT climate policy.

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  19. This discussion of 'energy' and 'climate change' is misleading as it is really dealing with systems made of irreplaceable materials supplying only electrical energy for the operation of some of the infrastructure. These systems cannot supply alternative forms of liquid fuels required by the fleets of ships and aircraft. And climate change is only one consequence of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel usage. Ocean acidifcation and warming is another deleterious consequence

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