As those of you who regularly read this blog know, I have forthright opinions on most things and am not shy about sharing them. Because of the importance of this month’s subject though, I apologise in advance for it being much longer than I usually deliver. There is much to say and rant about.The upcoming vote to leave the EU is purely a political tool to try to heal the rift and divisions in the Tory party, made flesh by the beer-swilling Cheshire Cat, Farage. While there are parts of the Labour Party that are at best lukewarm about the institution, the idea of even considering leaving would be laughed out of court by politicians in every other part of the UK, apart from England.
Ask the Scots, the Welsh or particularly the Northern Irish what they think. If we leave, the UK will break up too. Scotland will see to that. The fragile peace in Northern Ireland will probably shatter (Ireland being in the EU has a strong effect on the whole process). And the people of both Gibraltar and the Falklands (foreigners admittedly, so of no concern to the Brexit lot) will be utterly bereft, once the Spanish no longer have to take any notice of EU directives or policy towards UK dependencies.
As you can probably divine, I am a passionate supporter of staying in. Not because the EU is a perfect institution. It isn’t. I don’t think much of Westminster or the way we run our own democracy either. But we live in an increasingly interconnected world. The idea that we can just shrug that off and retreat to some golden era when Britain ruled the waves is utterly fatuous.
So I’ve nailed my colours to the mast. Opposite is a list of issues on which Brexit campaigners constantly lie and misrepresent the facts.
But apart from the facts, I would wish to remain because, on the whole, I find most of the foreigners I meet (who are generally anathema to the Brexiters) are much nicer people than most of the ignorant jokers who want to leave.
And if I hear the phrase, “We need to control our borders” one more time, I shall scream. Who the hell do you think is going to deliver NHS services, serve you food and drink in every hospitality outlet in the country, clean your premises or pick the crops in the agricultural sector, if you deny entry to Johnny Foreigner?
The entire Brexit campaign is being run by the ignorant, the foolish, the knavish – or in Boris Johnson’s case the political opportunist.
Here’s why staying in the EU is a complete no-brainer.
1. Human Rights.
Regardless of your feelings about the European Convention on Human Rights (and the Human Rights Act that writes it into UK law) which protects us all from the worst excesses of government, and even if you are concerned that it affords too many protections to criminals and terrorist suspects, you need to be aware that the European Charter on Human Rights has literally nothing to do with the EU. The Charter is part of the Council of Europe, and while they both contain the word ‘Europe’, they are not linked in any way. If we left the EU we would still be held to the European Charter on Human Rights, like all other European countries, including those who are not in the EU like Switzerland and Norway.
If, like most people, you believe that it is a good thing for the nations of Europe to trade freely with each other, then there needs to be a way of setting rules that all the countries can follow to ensure that they are trading with each other on a fair level playing field. The EU’s rules on workers rights, environmental protection and consumer protection are all part of laying down the rules to make sure the free market operates properly and fairly.
Since around half of all our imports and exports comes from or goes to the EU, and since half of all direct inward investment comes from there too, upsetting that particular apple cart (in favour of what exactly) seems an act of madness.
And if you think that US and other international businesses from outside the EU, which employ tens of thousands and are currently headquartered in the UK, would continue to stay here, once we are no longer a convenient bridgehead into Europe, you are living in cloud cuckoo land.
3. Free market access
If we did vote to leave, the UK would have to become part of the European Economic Area, along with Norway and Switzerland (or lose access to European markets completely). Norway and Switzerland both pay into the EU budget AND have to stick to the rules handed down from the EU, but unlike the UK currently, they have no MEPs, cannot appoint a European Commissioner, have no seat at the Council of Ministers and therefore no way of amending or influencing the EU’s rules. The UK currently has a veto on many rule changes, which we would obviously lose if we left. The Norwegian Government is very clear that they would join the EU tomorrow, if only their electorate would let them.
4. Why does free trade matter?
Because we can trade freely with the rest of the EU, our economy can focus on doing the things it does well – designing computer chips, manufacturing cars, financial services – and export them to other countries, while we import things – wine and cheap manufactured goods – that we’re not very efficient at producing. If we were no longer in the free market, exports and imports would be taxed and our country would have to spend time and money producing things we’re not very good at. This would make our economy smaller and less efficient and we’d all have less money. In economics, this is known as the rule of comparable advantage.
5. Keeping out of the bits we don’t like The UK has already negotiated opt outs from many of the areas of the EU that go beyond regulating a free trade area. The UK does not have the Euro (nor is it ever likely to), did not have to help to bail out Greek banks and we are not part of the Schengen agreement (which would force us to have open borders).
Many people claim the EU is undemocratic, despite the fact that we directly elect the European Parliament and that the governments that each countries’ voters elect appoint the EU Commissioners and ratify EU decisions in the Council of Ministers. Also, we do not elect the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation, World Bank or United Nations but I’ve never heard anyone calling for us to leave them, as our country would lose all influence in the world.
The net cost of our contributions to the EU is £161million* per week (not the £350 million that is constantly quoted by Brexiters). i.e. about £8 billion per year. Compare that with the UK’s annual budget of £772 billion in 2016-17. It may be a big number but it is still chicken feed. And the Brexit idea that the whole of it would be diverted to our NHS is fanciful (current annual budget £116 billion, so even if it were, it wouldn’t make all that much difference) – apart from the fact that our farming community might have something to say about the total loss of all their subsidies as a result. Oh and don’t forget that joining the European Free Trade Area, like Norway or Switzerland, will cost us too: at the moment those two countries pay a per capita sum between half and two-thirds of our current contribution.
The current budget of the European Union constitutes only 1.04% of the GDP of its Member States, which means that it is the cheapest and most efficient international organisation which has ever been created.
* Source: BBC Reality Check – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36040060
Eight Euro myths busted
1. “Most of our laws come from Brussels”
Just 13.2% of our laws have anything to do with Brussels according to the House of Commons Library. This figure includes everything that mentions the EU, even if it’s just a ‘passing reference’ or a definition.
2. “European Laws are made by unelected bureaucrats”
The European Commission only proposes laws. It is the directly elected European Parliament and the Council of the EU (Government Ministers) that debate, amend and ultimately pass European legislation.
3. “Norway and Switzerland enjoy all the benefits despite not being EU Members”
The Norwegians and Swiss must pay into the EU and also abide by EU Trade Regulations — without actually being able to influence any of them. Norwegians make roughly the same per capita contributions to the EU as Britons.
4. “EU Migrants are a drain on the economy”
EU migrants contribute more to the UK exchequer in taxes than they claim in benefits. Economists at University College London estimate that EU migrants contributed over 20bn Euros to the UK economy between 2001 and 2011.
5. “The EU does nothing to help ordinary people”
The EU has ensured safe working hours, introduced higher levels of annual leave and extended parental leave. It was also the EU that established the legal principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.
6. “Our most important markets are China & the USA”
The EU is the world’s largest single market. Half of Britain’s exports go there, accounting for some 3.5 million British jobs.
7. “European Court of Human Rights forces its will on UK”
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has nothing to do with the EU. It is part of the Council of Europe — an entirely separate institution that was set up by Britain after the Second World War.
8. “The British are different”
All EU members states have their different languages, cultures, histories and laws. No one joins the EU to lose their identity. In fact, the EU’s motto is ‘United in Diversity.’
Maybe you didn’t think much of him as Deputy Prime Minister (I certainly didn’t), but have a look at this bravura performance by Nick Clegg at a recent Oxford Union debate on the EU referendum, opposite Nigel Farage. He makes mincemeat of him. Do watch it.
And another thing: they say you can judge people by the company they keep, and maybe the same is true of ideas. Here is my 1st XI of Brexiters – those who most want the UK to leave the EU – and arguably the 11 main reasons for staying in (playing in a 4 – 3 – 3 formation):
Gove Johnson Carswell Howard
Galloway Nick Griffin Hammond
Rupert Murdoch Vladimir Putin Marine le Pen
And you want our country’s status and future prosperity to be determined by this lot?
David Croydon: 01844 237450/07836 334150 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.