Before reading this please note you can listen to some of the music I create by using the player on the right.
I’ve written this piece in order to help people focus on the main issues that might influence their vote in the EU referendum that will be taking place on June 23rd in the UK, so to get things rolling here are a few questions to help you see which way you’re likely to vote at the moment.
The first 7 are what I would call “Deal Breakers / Makers” as in any one of these issues may sway you no matter what your answers would be to the rest of the questions. The latter ones however tend not to be so important but may tip the scales.
Deal Breakers / Makers
- Do you believe that the British Parliament is better than the EU when it comes to making laws?
- Do you believe that a British Parliament should be able to refuse EU Laws?
- Do you believe that UK democracy and sovereignty are more important than the economy?
- Do you believe that being a part of the EU will lead to a negative change to British Culture?
- Do you believe open borders are a danger to society?
- Do you believe that the UK would be better off financially in the long term if we left the EU?
- For UK citizens who live in or have property in the EU (not the UK bit) do you believe that they will not be adversely effected by a Brexit?
- Do you believe that peace in Europe has little to do with the EU?
Less Important Issues
- Do you believe that a Brexit would have an immediate positive financial effect on the economy?
- Do you believe that an EU security force (like the FBI) would be a bad thing?
- Do you believe that benefits paid to EU migrants should not be allowed until they have worked here for a number of years?
- Do you believe that leaving the EU will have little effect on citizens when it comes to holidaying in Europe?
If you answered yes to most of the questions, then you’re probably going to vote to Leave the EU and likewise if you answered no then you’re probably a Remainer. If, however, you’re still wavering, or maybe you’re just curious to see if there’s more to consider then please read on.
Before we go any further though, I’ll be clear about my agenda, I’m for a Brexit, but if it were not for the EU’s intransigence on issues such as the free movement of people and the issue of national sovereignty taking precedence over EU law I would have wanted to Remain in the EU.
I am going to cover some of the main issues shortly but firstly here are a couple of the less obvious ones. The first relates to people who feel unable to make a decision themselves so will look to others and decide to follow their lead. This single factor may well be the most influential one that probably wins the referendum for the Remainers. The major party leaders have made it clear that they want to remain, the major fiscal and business bodies have also leant towards staying too so ironically, in the quest for keeping democracy this referendum has shown a severe weakness in the democratic process, people are generally not informed enough to vote with any accuracy to represent their true wishes.
The second of these issues is that many people will not have much motivation and on the day simply won’t bother to vote. The only way to get them to vote is to scare them, and that’s precisely what both campaigns are up to. Therefore, Brexiters are pushing that, if we stay we will relinquish our democracy, and due to open borders we’ll bankrupt ourselves and obliterate our culture. As far as the remain campaign goes, if we leave we’re all going to lose lots of money in a highly deregulated, racist, sexist world, full of child labour, nationalism and war.
So is the EU heading towards your dream of reality or is it a nightmare you want to wake from?
The Philosophy behind the EU… A long time ago…. In a Universalism far, far away
Notions of a fairer, more liberal society have been around for hundreds of years and such notions were at the heart of “The European Project”, whose architect had been Jean Monnet. During WWI Monnet believed that the only path that would lead to an Allied victory lay in the fusion of France and England’s war efforts. However, he observed that, in reality, the Allies were acting independently rather than collectively. He proposed a plan that would co-ordinate the Allies’ war resources; the French President of the Council agreed that it should be implemented, and later he was recognised for his contribution in helping to win the war. It wasn’t until decades later with the release of previously classified documents in the USA that it became clear that Monnet was one of many who were funded by the US. The US intelligence funded the European movement secretly for decades, and worked aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into the project… [for instance] Another document shows that it provided 53.5 per cent of the European movement’s funds in 1958… [Other] Papers show that it treated some of the EU’s ‘founding fathers’ as hired hands, and actively prevented them finding alternative funding that would have broken reliance on Washington… A memo dated June 11, 1965, instructs the vice-president of the European Community to pursue monetary union by stealth, suppressing debate until the “adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable”.
So, soon after World War I “The European project” recognised that the purging of nationalism, and therefore war, could come about by creating a United States of Europe, this idea had many advocates including British Prime Minister Edward Heath and still remains one of the key values of many Remainers. Later, as World War 2 came to an end, the development of nuclear weapons, and with the realisation that Armageddon could really be upon us it was felt by many in power, as well as the intelligentsia, that it was time to try to stop any more wars. The philosophies were in place and the opportunity was at hand. It was time to make something worthwhile come from all this suffering and destruction. Where fascism had been the old enemy, nationalism was the new one as it still is today.
In 2010 the EU president Herman Van Rompuy said “The biggest enemy of Europe today is fear. Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war,”
Somewhere between the EEC and EU the instigation of the Universalist model started and the Eurosceptics began their crusade.
Many people in the Leave campaign would be supportive of the former EEC model and would be happy to be a part of a trading body with whom many aspects of life and legislation could be discussed, but draw the line at transferring power to the EU to legislate on a national / federal level, whereas many people who would vote to stay believe firstly that the EU tends to be more liberal and fairer than our own governments. But what happens if they stop making laws that are so attractive? If all the people in the UK voted for one party in the EU our total influence would be less 9% of the total members there.
Some Leavers have asked if we have the right, under our own laws to give away British sovereignty to an external government. “One of the most significant aspects of the treaties of Rome, Maastricht, and Lisbon concerns the constitutional position of the Monarch. Section Three of the Treason Felony Act of 1848 asserts that condemnation is incurred ‘If any person whatsoever shall, within the United Kingdom or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise or intend to deprive or depose our most gracious Lady the Queen…from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom.’ The Treaty of Maastricht made the Queen subject to the European Union and a citizen of that Union. As a citizen of a different political entity, her role as a constitutional monarch has been put into doubt. By that treaty, the European Court was confirmed to be an authority over her courts. Her status as a citizen of the EU has rendered her, like the rest of the British people, ‘subject to the duties imposed thereby’.
The Privy Counsellor’s Oath, to which all prime ministers are sworn, is a promise ‘To bear faith and allegiance to the Crown and to defend its jurisdiction and powers against all foreign…persons…or states.’ While there is no doubt that this oath was breached at Maastricht, the situation over Lisbon is somewhat more grave because Lisbon is a constitution. A country cannot have two constitutions. The laws and constitution of the United Kingdom are diametrically opposed by European laws and the European Constitution. One has to submit to the other, and, as is observed and clearly stated, the Lisbon Treaty ‘takes primacy’. If the EU Constitution is superior to the British Constitution, at the point the Treaty was given Royal Assent the British Constitution was abolished. [And] since the EU is a military union, it has the means at its disposal to carry out its objectives.”
The Remainers argue that we are still part of a democracy, but we are part of a bigger, more meaningful one, that instead of being part of a self-centred state that we are part of a far better collection of states. But is it possible even for us to become such an entity? Many people look towards the USA and wish for us to become a similar Federation. Apart from the USA’s federal system developing over the last 2 centuries, often following a rocky course, it should also be quite plain that some other major factors differ between the two “federations”:
- The first is, of course, language, there are at least 28 major languages spoken in Europe where as all the states in the US use one main official language.
- Secondly European civilisation has developed over thousands of years and its ancient identity is part of the fabric that makes each state / country. In other words, people want to hold on to their connection with the past which differs between each country.
- Thirdly the US Federal system has clear boundaries over what areas it will legislate about, whereas the EU can take control of almost any section of society given the vagueness of its remit.
- Fourthly in the US the political choices at a Federal level are simple, whereas in the EU there are many to choose from.
- Fifthly, people in the US care about who their president is whereas in the EU most people could not name them.
- Finally, for now, people put being American before being a member of their state whereas in the EU it’s the other way round.
So, do you want a US style federation of Europe, and if so is it possible? Do you believe in the Universalist ideology fully, would one Europe, with no borders and legislated by a barely democratic, highly influenced by corporations, powerful, unelected commission and weak parliament work for you? Would a common police force and army make you feel more secure? Is this the way things are really going? How far along the Universalist / Federalist path is the EU likely to go?
Diversity, Self-Hatred and a New patriotism
During the 1960’s we let go of a lot of the old, stifling culture and started to hate ourselves, we hated what we had been, our colonial past, our customs and celebrations and went in search of a new way. If previously patriotism had taken on the form of a superiority complex tied in with kin and colour the new post racial awareness was an unbridled pride in the notion of diversity and inclusiveness. One type of pride had been swapped for another. Africa, Arabia, China, India, Pakistan, South America and many other parts of the world are not engaged in self-hatred, nor are they insisting that their national borders be torn down, their histories erased, their culture be set aside. We on the other hand believe that we have gone a step further in human development from them, that we are leading the way towards a new world. This is the new patriotism, it’s just as arrogant as the old one and just as dangerous. Let me quote you some lines from the EU’s vice president which illustrate this point.
“Central European countries have “no experience with diversity,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said Thursday, making them susceptible to fears about Muslim refugees. Timmermans, in the BBC interview, said Central Europe must adapt to the demographic changes. “Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future — that’s the future of the world,” Timmermans said. “So [Central European countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of playing into the fears as I’ve seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of months.”
A Scent of Slavery
Paradoxically to me there is a scent of slavery in the EU’s vision of immigration, it goes like this. We will force you from your lands (via economic hardship), you will work for many years for less than we would pay our indigenous population (which will help keep wages low and our profits higher), you will live in slave quarters and you will be treated as second class citizens, but if you work hard enough you will find freedom or, if not you, then your children will. As I said, it’s just a scent of it, but I’m sure you get a sense of it.
For those who say “Well it’s better than the world they come from!” Firstly I’d have to ask “Is it?” and secondly if we were so concerned with their welfare then maybe we’d be helping their countries more directly by at least not stealing their most important assets, good, hardworking, skilled workers, as we have been for decades despite protest and official guidance not to. ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4349545.stm .)
The Illogic of Migration to help with Elderly Populations
There is also a long term illogic to the way the EU uses migrant workers. By deduction if you bring in migrants to support your ageing population and reward them with becoming citizens then must you not have to bring in more migrants to look after the ageing migrant population as well as the indigenous one. It sounds like a pyramid scheme!!! Maybe having migrant workers stay only for the duration of their working years might solve this but of course difficulties arise with such schemes when migrants have children here, what do you do then? So far the EU have not encouraged such policies. In fact, quite the opposite.
The Issues of Indigenous Populations Becoming the Minority
If the UK continues to use migrants to support the ageing population then even by the UN’s calculations it will require an influx of so many migrants that the indigenous population would be a minority.
Even if those figures are wrong it is easy to see that constant immigration is going to have a profound effect on the ethnicity of a country, and that too has become a core issue of the EU debate. Many people feel that there is an element of ethnic cleansing / genocide going on through the process of immigration and varying birth rates between indigenous and migrant populations. If that’s you, and you see your ethnic group as the one being ousted then you are very likely to be voting out. For many people this is a central theme, but how accurate is it?
In opposition to the view of being taken over is the idea that migration and assimilation is a good thing all round, but do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages? Should there be a clearer differentiation between multi-cultural and multi-ethnicity? As in should the UK be encouraging a more US style society where multi ethnicity is celebrated but a more cohesive idea of culture is aimed for?
The Islam Issue
The next issue is often cited as a racist one, it isn’t though, because we are discussing an ideology, not a race. It does however often lead to unfair hate speech towards a section of our society, one which has a very varied approaches to their faith. However, I’m going to cover it because it is an often unspoken issue within the debate, and it is a part of a lot of people’s decision making process. This issue is of course the ever topical belief that a large number of Muslims have an agenda to take over the UK via population growth and in time change the country in to an Islamic one. If you believe this, then you are very likely to vote to leave. If, however you believe that the number of Muslim’s who do have such an agenda is insignificant, and even if they do exist our culture is so seductive that after a few generations they will be so integrated that their birth rates will lower, then this whole issue will be seen as an irrelevance.
Of course most immigration due to EU membership is from mainly Christian Eastern European countries, so I’m not sure if leaving the EU would directly have an effect on Islamic immigration or on birth rates, but in the minds of many Brexiters there may be some kind of solution via the sovereignty and / or closed border issues. Of course many asylum seekers are from Islamic countries but so far the British Government hasn’t let many of them in, although the EU may force that to change. Also the upcoming deal with Turkey to allow visa free travel within the Schengen area (which the UK is not a part of) could be seen as a threat, albeit indirectly, as would the possibility of Turkey becoming a member of the EU (although that maybe decades away).
My own point of view on this is that culture always changes and we have to accept that. However, if there is a significant perception of a threat that may undermine sections of our community, (such as women, gay people, atheists), then the least our governments should be doing is researching whether there is any truth in it. If there is an issue or not, then the government can be proactive in dealing with it, otherwise the rise of UKIP, Trump or Right Wing groups will just get larger, it is most likely that the government will not deal with this as it’s too contentious which means future generations may have to deal with even bigger issues., but saying there isn’t a problem to a large number of people who perceive that there is one, or threatening them so they can’t speak openly, doesn’t seem to be making things better, and I am sure many Muslims would agree they are not comfortable with how they are being perceived either.
If nations and borders disappear do wars end? If not, what happens instead? Is there is a new kind of war, a war of philosophies, of religion, politics, class, tribes or ideologies? Outside of us protecting the world oil reserves when it suits us, our new enemies are terrorists. Therefore, security is a major issue within the EU debate.
The argument that peace has been sustained in Europe because of NATO and the UN rings truer than it being because of the EU, after all the EU were pretty ineffective in terms of the former Yugoslavia but if you believe peace in Europe has been maintained because of the EU, then you’ll probably be veering towards Remaining. But if you’re giving NATO and the UN the credit you are probably in the BREXIT camp.
There’s been a host of ex Intelligence chiefs on TV lately proclaiming their support for either side of the EU referendum. Given their opposing views it’s hard to take a definitive position. On one hand being part of the EU means the UK could influence security related policy, on the other, being separate from it would mean the UK could decide on who comes in to the country or not. As for sharing information, it isn’t likely that there would be much difference. The US is not directly a part of the EU but many countries’ Intelligence services, including the UK, share information with them.
Something else worth bearing in mind is the possibility of an EU army and FBI type police force being very much in the offing, but not imminent. The European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) has recently called on European leaders to act “fast” and create an EU “Security Union” which would see a transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels. Under these plans the EU’s own police force would take over responsibility for investigating and prosecuting terrorists in Britain, with the cases then tried by Euro officials in our courts.
Penny Mordaunt, the Armed Forces minister who is campaigning for the Leave campaign, said: “These matters are supposed to be, and must be the competence of member states. Intelligence sharing can only be done on a bi-lateral basis. “This latest EU integration project not only shows how little the EU cares for the sovereignty of nation states, but also how little it understands the business of counter terrorism.”
The report from the EPSC also punches a hole David Cameron’s renegotiation deal, that reaffirmed a provision in the EU treaties that national security is a strictly national competence, and makes the idea of an ever closer EU being limited somewhat challenged.
If security is an issue for you, and it is for most people, then it will ultimately come down to who do you believe?
The government has stated in its EU Referendum booklet that “Restrictions on welfare system for EU migrants” is in place, this suggests that benefits will not be available to newly arrived migrants from the EU. This is not true, the reality is more complex but does mean that newly arrived EU immigrants can still claim benefits and still get money for children not living here, but not quite as much. A report by the Department for Work and Pensions gives a figure that shows the total ‘out-of-work expenditure’ on European migrants was £886 million in 2013-14. For now, weak as they are, Cameron’s negotiations have not been ratified, and may not be if the EU referendum votes to remain.
In many ways, the remain campaign seems to believe it is winning the vote because of this one main issue. Before going in to it in more detail I believe there is a question that should be asked, and that is, “How much are you willing to lose financially in order to keep democracy, sovereignty and border control? This is a serious question for both sides. Would you be willing to lose your home, your savings, your job, your pension, £100,000, £10,000, £5,000, £1000, £500, £100, £50, £20, £10, £5 or nothing. Have a think, because maybe we all have our price. Did the people who fought against Hitler have a limit to which they would go no further in fighting for their freedom? Were they fighting for freedom, and is what’s at stake here the same thing? Are we actually giving away a right that was hard fought for and is not ours to give away, especially for the sake of future generations? Or are we not giving away our democracy but as Nick Clegg put it, expanding our democracy? Now, back to the economy….
Economists rarely agree, and whilst a good proportion of them have sided with the remain campaign a number have not. Of those who have sided to Remain many have been undermined because they said the same about joining The Euro and have been shown to have been wrong.
There is no easy answer and the argument that if we stay means you know what you’re going to get is not exactly true. France and Italy are on the brink of financial collapse, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36090188) plus a few more relatively poor countries are lining up to join the EU, so who will be paying to keep them all afloat? Will it be the richer countries including the UK?. So referring to the earlier paragraph, the real question isn’t so much about whether you believe one set of economists over another, it boils down to how much is democracy, sovereignty and border control worth to you.
I was reminded when writing that last paragraph about a video I watched about the stages Chinese dynasties went through. The final one was the merchant era during which money became the most important thing. This always led to their society’s collapse. Is that where we are now? Our countries are very happy to ignore the human rights violations of countries such as Saudi Arabia, the EU commission has a very cosy relationship with big businesses in Europe who consequently influence legislation, and it’s ironic that the likes of our chancellor, George Osborne, insist we mustn’t risk losing money for the sake of democracy when for the last 7 years we’ve all been told to brace ourselves for austerity cuts that don’t come anywhere near our expenditure on the EU during the same period. If you don’t think that we are losing anything by staying in the EU then it’s a no-brainer but if you believe we might be, then what’s your price?
Many Remainers argue that there is an economic benefit to us being part of the EU, that we might pay a net sum of £250 million per week (£350 million gross before our rebate) but being a part of the EU means we get more come back to us in the long run. It’s very hard to quantify the financial benefit of being in the EU, if you take the £13 billion we pay, and minus the rebate, then the grants and awards and money paid to our country folk living abroad and then all the money coming in that might not have been received if we weren’t members of the EU… And… Well it’s not going to be possible to answer this accurately, it’s just too nebulous… But if there is an economic benefit one has to ask who really gets to receive it? If we didn’t pay the EU £250 million a week would we be funding the scientists they funded, compensating farmers and fishermen? Where would it go? Is it about where it goes or that we, as a country, can choose how it’s spent, and that’s the main point? If we stay in the EU, who is going to benefit the most? As usual large corporations probably benefit the most, so no wonder we see large lists of them saying they want to remain, smaller companies (many of whom don’t like the complex regulations to which they must abide) tend to get less of a financial advantage, and at the lower end, the workers, they come off worse. Stuart Rose, former Marks & Spencer chief executive and a prominent pro-EU campaigner, conceded recently that wages may rise if Britain leaves – which would be good for workers, but less so for their employers.
The next big area people argue over is the issue of trade agreements and that we would be weaker when it comes to negotiating trade deals if we were not part of a larger organisation such as the EU. Brexiters put forward that we would easily be able to negotiate favourable trade deals and whilst France and Germany have warned that they may punish us if we leave by not offering us a good deal, the reality is probably more controlled by the fact that we buy so much from the EU that if that were hindered then the EU would be further hit financially at a time it can’t afford to be. The EU has free trade agreements with over 50 countries, it also now exempts services and many goods from duties anyway. Add to this that the EU is not the place where most economic growth is occurring in the world. (The EU’s share of world GDP is forecast to decline to 22% in 2025, down from 37% in 1973.) and take on board that Britain’s best trading relationships are generally not within the EU, but outside, i.e. with countries such as the USA and Switzerland. and one can see that the financial catastrophe and isolation purported to be as a result of leaving the EU is not as definite as the Remainers would have you beLEAVE. However one should accept that there possibly could be a period of financial decline, in which case, once again, how much are you willing to pay / lose?
The idea that the UK will no-longer have any influence over EU policy, should be tempered with the reality that we have very little say within the EU at the moment anyway, and ironically we may have far more leverage outside the EU as an independent sovereign nation and the world’s 5th largest economy. (http://www.betteroffout.net/the-case/10-eu-myths-about-withdrawl/)
For some Remainers it isn’t about whether we might lose out in some way, but whether we should be caring about our European family and not walking out just because we aren’t happy but Brexiters say that if your family won’t listen then sometimes you have to just leave to protect yourself. They also say the European Union has shown itself to be wholly ineffectual in negotiating free trade agreements on behalf of the UK. They believe the more protectionist stance of many other EU Member States has hindered the EU’s ability to negotiate free trade with the world’s emerging economy and therefore the British public ends up paying for this inactivity in more expensive goods.
On the other hand, it has also been stated that the shock of a Brexit would lead to the pound devaluing and foreign investors leaving Britain. The IMF and other leading organisations have put themselves forward as believing a Brexit would have extremely damaging economic consequences. But given Britain has a substantial ‘portfolio of power’ in its own right, which includes membership of the G20 and G8 Nations, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (one of only 5 members), seats on the International Monetary Fund Board of Governors and World Trade Organisation. that it lies at the heart of the Commonwealth of 53 nations, that London is the financial capital of the world, that Britain has the 5th largest economy and the UK is also one of the top ten manufacturing nations in the world, so given all of these things, is Britain really likely to find itself in a long term financial down turn if it was to leave?
So what do you believe? Economic oblivion if we leave, or economic boom? And either way can we afford to put economics ahead of democracy or the other way round?
The Ever Closer EU
Cameron went to the EU to hammer out a deal but was told that on no uncertain terms that open borders for EU members was a red line we couldn’t cross. (http://news.sky.com/story/1481578/cameron-warned-eu-free-movement-a-red-line) It is possible that if Brexit were to happen, unlikely as it is, that other countries will follow and the EU may have to accept that a body of European countries will be associated by trade mainly. If we stay, one of Cameron’s main “victories” was the amending of EU treaties to state explicitly that references to “ever-closer union” do not apply to the UK, (although not yet ratified until after the referendum) this simply confirms what has already been true for decades and of course, new treaties may bring about further erosions of the UK’s sovereignty.
Although we pay a subscription to the EU and in return receive subsides for certain sectors of our society the issue of corruption and costly side effects of regulations may be so great that the EU subscription pales in to insignificance. The cost of corruption to the EU is just under €1 Trillion per year.
Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary, said “Europhiles might usefully address themselves not to the question why we should stay in the EU, but why we should ever want to be a member of it at all when the institution is corrupt and so riddled with fraud.”
In 2014 Corruption across the Europe costs £99 billion (€120bn) a year, or so the European Commission estimated in a report. However, in 2016 according to a study commissioned by the European Parliament, the EU says it has a corruption problem that could be costing it up to €990 billion a year.
This probably isn’t the most important factor on a decision about remaining in the EU and maybe the EU will be able to sort this out, but I don’t think a look at the EU can ignore this issue completely. So is corruption in the EU a factor for you?
As a matter of contrast I can’t help but smile at the idea that mobile phone roaming costs are being reduced for those on holiday this year, which is probably more significant to people than the issue of corruption. It is possible that roaming charges would have been reduced by the major companies in time anyway, it is unlikely that a Brexit would cause them to be raised again later as whichever company decided to put up its charges might well end up losing a lot of customers. However, procuring a reduction in roaming charges may well be seen as a success story for the EU and may also be seen symbolically as a sign of times to come, where one day Europe may be a more level playing field. But for now, and you might want to call me cynical, among other things, but one can’t help but see it as a pre-election bribe.
People often refer to the issue of travel as a central issue but to me, for the sake of more security I’d rather queue for a while at a border, indeed as one does anyway when coming in or going out of the UK. Short term visa free holiday travel is very likely to continue, in both directions. A UK citizen enjoys visa free access to 173 countries around the world. Furthermore, citizens of 50 countries enjoy visa-free travel to the European Union, from Australia to Venezuela. Add to this the fact that London is the most visited city by EU nationals, to suggest the UK and the EU would not ensure easy travel for tourists and for business purposes is a non-starter, it is in their commercial interest to do so.
Post Brexit longer term working visas may be provided as they were in the EEC days, where if you had a job you could stay whilst you work. If this was to lead to terrorists finding it harder to move between borders, and workers coming in who are appropriate to the needs of a country then is it not a small price to pay?
For the I.2 million (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/reality-check/2016/mar/29/will-brexit-mean-a-brit-expat-exodus) but more likely 2 million British people who live, either full or part time, in EU countries, there is no clear pathway if Brexit happens, however four main strategies are likely. The first revolves around “acquired rights” and would depend on how long people had lived in the country and may vary between different countries. The second might be that the UK retains its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), this is an existing economic treaty between the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. In this scenario expats, would find that most existing rules on free movement in Europe would continue to apply. However, the immigration issues Britain finds problematic and issues of sovereignty would not apply with EEA countries. Then there could be an ad hoc solution between the UK and the EU. This would possibly result in less liberal agreements compared to EEA countries and consequently at least create bureaucratic issues for Expats. Due to all possible outcomes of the negotiations, this scenario is unpredictable but quite likely to happen. In the fourth scenario there would be no agreement between the UK and EU, and would result in expats being seen as third-country nationals in Europe. Expats may have to apply for a temporary visa or seek asylum in the EU, but this “worst case” prospect is very unlikely to happen. Of course other options may arise whereby the EU and the UK agree that people who have migrated before a certain date to either the UK or from the UK in to Europe would be allowed to remain as they are and new rules would come in to force after that date.
Pre-Referendum there are plenty of scare tactics going on, but in reality economics tend to shape policy, the financial consequence of either the EU or the UK immediately expelling or not offering healthcare to those still living in their countries would cause massive financial losses on both sides of the border, and that isn’t likely to happen. It is more likely that exit strategies will be put in place that cause the least financial loss for all concerned. The cost to EU countries of having to look after a sudden influx of over 3 million EU residents coming from the UK and 2 million coming in to the UK from the EU is just not going to happen. Needless to say for both sets of people there is a lot of anxiety so therefore it is not surprising that if you own property in an EU country then you’re very likely to vote to Remain.
If we remain in the EU we will have to keep our borders open to all EU citizens. EU citizens have an unqualified right to settle in the UK, a right that 630,000 EU nationals exercised in 2015, placing pressure on our healthcare, education and public services. As a member of the European Union, the UK is powerless to turn away EU nationals.
It is also worth noting that the ONS uses a very questionable way of working out migration statistics, it’s based on sampling rather than real counting so is probably very inaccurate. You can read more about it here.
Another recent scaremongering tactic was to suggest that the migrant camps in Northern France would find their way on to UK soil if we vote to leave. In my opinion, if the French were to tear up our current agreements and let the migrants over, which would be illegal for the ferry companies and Euro-Tunnel to do, as they cannot bring people over who do not have the right to stay here, then it would be the UK’s decision on how to deal with them. For those who believe we have enough space, money, and resources to let people in to become citizens then this issue might well be a trigger to vote to Remain, for those who think immigration is out of control it’ll be a major sway for voting out.
For most people this won’t be a major issue, it’ll probably sit neatly with the corruption issue in terms of importance. Both our Government and the EU have stated that “We have a commitment to reduce EU red tape”. The thing is the European Commission’s ‘better regulation’ agenda, which aims to lower red-tape across the board, is more than ten years old, but excessive administration for businesses, local authorities and national governments remains both widespread and costly. In other words this promise seems like a lot of hot air
Will leaving the EU lead to the UK breaking up?
The National Centre for Social Research states that a majority of Welsh, Scottish and Ulster voters endorse Remaining within the European Union. If 53 per cent of English voters voted to leave the EU, this would be enough to take the UK out of Europe against the preference of this majority of Scots, Welsh and Ulster voters.
Conversely, if the vote results in a Remain outcome, which is swung by the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish, then this may cause a crack in the United Kingdom too because the English may feel misrepresented.
One can’t help but feel there is an irony in the way the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have sought to become more locally governed via devolution, yet at the same time wish to be governed by the EU.
By extension, a worst case scenario might see the breakup of the whole of the UK and possibly the commonwealth, or so says Project Fear, but what is the likelihood of that happening?
John Major and Tony Blair recently warned that a vote for a Brexit would be an “historic mistake” which could break up the UK. John Major said: “I believe it would be an historic mistake to do anything that has any risk of destabilising the complicated and multi-layered constitutional settlement that underpins stability in Northern Ireland.” Philosophically one has to question the word anything because surely there would be limits beyond which even in his opinion it would be worth it, but anyway, I think he means it more in terms of making the point as strongly as it can be put. In reply the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds condemned the former prime minister’s comments as “irresponsible nonsense”. He said: “Surely this is the most irresponsible talk that can be perpetuated in terms of Northern Ireland – very dangerous, destabilising and it should not be happening,”
The Remain camp says that The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could return to the situation of having border control check points at which passport and customs checks may have to be carried out. The Leave camp argue that the passport-free Common Travel Area has existed since 1923. It is enshrined in UK law and will continue after Brexit. Ireland’s ambassador to the UK Daniel Mulhall has insisted the arrangements will “still apply fully”. Also Ireland has an opt-out from the Schengen passport-free zone, so migrants will have to pass through either UK or Irish border controls before entering the UK. Added to this the incentive for migration to the UK via Ireland by EU citizens will substantially diminish after a Leave victory because non-Irish EU migrants will no longer have an automatic right to work.
In terms of the peace process the Remainers put forward that the process ending the Troubles took place within the context of both the UK and Ireland being EU members. The UK-Irish agreement that accompanied the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referred to the two states’ wish “to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union”. The Leavers argue that The Good Friday Agreement was a bilateral treaty between the governments of Ireland and the UK and did not depend on EU membership and it is “scaremongering” to suggest the peace process could be put at risk. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said “whatever the result of the referendum, Northern Ireland is not going back to the Troubles of its past and to suggest otherwise would be highly irresponsible”.
Extradition and Funding
There are other issues to consider, but they are not so major, for instance The EU has a dedicated funding programme to support the peace process, with funds going to both sides of the border. In 2014-2020, the programme is due to receive around £185m. Would a pro Brexit government fill that gap?
Then there’s the issue of extradition. Britain Stronger In Europe said of the 769 suspects surrendered by other EU countries to the UK under a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) between 2010 and 2015, some 129 – 16% – were handed over by Ireland, second only to Spain. Without access to the EAW, the UK and Ireland would have to negotiate alternative extradition arrangements.
Part of the argument for Scottish independence in 2014 was that England wouldn’t be able to force decisions on Scotland. At the moment the Scots seem to be overwhelmingly heading towards a majority Remain vote, so if they are forced to leave then there will be even more resentment. Funnily one wonders if many Scots might decide to vote tactically to leave the EU which could in turn create a situation in which another referendum to leave the UK would have to be offered, but even if they don’t vote tactically, then a Brexit may well result in the same thing. At that point they could vote to leave the UK and remain in the EU but of course it’s certainly not definite that Scotland would leave the UK if we were to leave the EU. The EU would probably not offer them very favourable terms, the price of oil may still be low, so it might be too risky a leap for many Scots to make, and the UK may actually be in a better position by the time the next elections came around, in which case the incentive to go it alone may not be strong enough. On top of that, if there was not a strong indication of a majority vote to leave the UK then a referendum to leave may not be in the offing. Of course if Scotland was to leave the United Kingdom but re-join the EU then acting as an “English” speaking gateway country to the EU it might find its economy does very well.
It’s very difficult to tell if the Scotland would vote to leave the UK. According to the What Scotland Thinks website, 41 per cent of Scots would support a leaving now, while 48 per cent would vote No. After a Brexit vote, 44 per cent would back independence, and 47 per cent would vote No.
The idea that the break up of the United Kingdom would be an unmitigated disaster that would lead to cross border skirmishes may well be in many people’s minds, however, given the moves towards devolution, it would not be too far fetched to visualise a more federalist version of the UK in which the four/five countries governed themselves except on certain federal aspects, which would be governed by a centralised parliament.
I was trying to find a line I’d heard Billy Bragg recite once which went something like, give the Scottish back their oil, give the Irish back their soil, give the Welsh whatever they want… I couldn’t find it, but whilst looking for it I came across an article he’d written which talked about “civic nationalism – the idea that all citizens should be engaged in the process of deciding where society is headed, not just getting their hands on the tiller once every four or five years.” As opposed to Nationalism in the traditional sense. He went on to say “It utilises the n-word because democracy on a national level offers the best opportunity for fundamental change.
In the post-independence debate about how the remaining parts of the UK are governed, the elephant in the room will be devolution for England. Regional assemblies elected under a proportional system with Holyrood-style powers would offer us the opportunity to address the inequalities that have opened up between London and the rest of the country.
Support for Scottish self-determination might not fit neatly into any left wing pigeon hole, but it does chime with an older progressive tradition that runs deep in English history – a dogged determination to hold the over-mighty to account. If, during the constitutional settlement that will follow the referendum, we in England can rediscover our Roundhead tradition, we might yet counter our historic weakness for ethnic nationalism with an outpouring of civic engagement that creates a fairer society for all.”
So for the English too, it might be better if powers were devolved with regards many areas of legislature.
The only region that might not cause a Westminster-based government a headache is Wales. The lack of any serious independence option, along with a broadly similar political mix to England, is thought to mean that there will be limited Welsh backlash to the outcome of the EU vote. That is despite Wales being the largest beneficiary of EU structural funds, relative to its economic size, of any of the UK’s regions. These subsidies are expected to account for 0.5pc of Welsh GDP in 2020, according to Capital Economics.
Is Breaking Up So Hard to Do?
I wrote this section a few weeks after writing the main article because someone had told me my article didn’t deal with this issue. I can see that, yes, there is a risk of the United Kingdom changing, but not necessarily breaking up completely, but if it were to move towards a more federalist model then I think it might possibly be for the best for all countries concerned. I find it hard to accept that Ireland is going to fall back to its past position of war and even if it were then would that outweigh the issues of sovereignty and immigration? What’s your feeling, are you so worried about the breakup of the UK and the risks of peace ending in Ireland that you’d rather stay in the EU, or do you think that leaving the EU is worth the risk?
Is the EU responsible for equal rights for women, gay rights, anti-racist laws, disability rights, age discrimination laws, and other equal opportunity legislation? The simple answer is mainly no. The UK pretty much had most of these laws in place long before the EU got around to creating them, however since its formation the EU has strengthened and tried to simplify these laws whilst the European Court of justice has made rulings that may have not been the same under the original laws. The Human Rights Act is a UK law passed in 1998. It defends the rights of individuals in the UK courts and requires that public organisations (including the Government, the Police and local councils) must treat everyone equally, with fairness, dignity and respect. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrines certain political, social, and economic rights for European Union (EU) citizens and residents into EU law. It was drafted by the European Convention and solemnly proclaimed on 7 December 2000 by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission. However, its then legal status was uncertain and it did not have full legal effect until the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009. The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and has the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements. The primary purpose of the Act is to codify the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations, which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain. This was, primarily, the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. In the case of gender, there are special protections for pregnant women. The Act does not guarantee transsexuals’ access to gender-specific services where restrictions are “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.
I don’t think it is accurate to hold the EU responsible for the majority of social justice laws nor is it realistic to presume that if there were a Brexit that subsequent governments could get away with taking the core protections away. Obviously if you disagree then you’re putting your faith more in the EU and obviously that’s the way you’re likely to be voting. Either way, EU laws are much harder to get changed than UK ones.
Not the band but the justification for staying in Europe. For those relying on the better the devil you know argument it’s worth bearing in mind that if we stay in the EU after the referendum there are changes coming, from a possible EU army and police force, the extremely likely collapses in the Euro zone, including Italy, France and Greece, a continuation of the migrant crisis (many of whom will be eligible to come in to the UK after being in the EU for 5 years), a new treaty based on The Five Presidents’ Report, this will include ‘deeper integration of national labour markets’, greater ‘coordination of social security systems’, and harmonising ‘insolvency law’, ‘company law’ and ‘property rights’. The document also proposes abolishing the UK’s representation on key international bodies where global regulations and standards are increasingly set. The Five Presidents Report argues that the EU must act ‘with one voice on the global stage’. Therefore, Britain will have to decide at that point if it wants to be included within the main bloc, if it doesn’t it can’t sit at the table, once again our governments will push for this, even though they have said no further closeness with the EU. If all that sounds good to you, then, you guessed it, you’re probably a Remainer, if not, well do I need to say?
As you can see this is a complicated issue, I’m sure many of those reading this will say I’ve missed something, if I have please feel free to comment. (All comments are vetted first before being published). I’m sure there’ll be inaccuracies too, if so it’s not on purpose. Hopefully, even though I have written with an obvious Leave agenda it may have helped you to focus on what issues matter to you most and those which may be less important are still ones that may tip the scales one way or another for you.
Whichever way it goes I doubt many of us will feel the full effects, they will be for our children or children’s children to deal with, I’m not scaremongering, because whichever way it goes could be good for them too. Let’s hope so.
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Just to be clear, as I often say, everyone is entitled to my opinion. Thank you for reading this