Before reading this please note you can listen to some of the music I create by using the player on the right.
I have put a pro Brexit video at the end of this article and will try to put a pro Remain one on a bit later too. If you have a suggestion for a really good one please let me know.
If you’re reading this it means you’re probably interested in the referendum that will be taking place on June 23rd in the UK, which aims to decide whether or not the UK remains a part of the EU. Lots of people aren’t sure which way to vote so I thought that if I touched on the main issues it might make it easier for people to work out which issues are most significant to them. So to get things rolling here are a few questions to help… 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 them. 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.
I have listed the main headings of this article below, that way you can just jump to those that mean something to you, however if you have a spare 20 minutes you might want to read the whole lot.
This referendum is different to a local or national election, people from the same points of the political spectrum will be voting in opposing directions, it pivots on other axis’s, some of which I aim to cover here.
Before we go any further though, I’ll be clear about my agenda, I’m for a Brexit, but I would have wanted to Remain in the EU if two issues were dealt with. There could have been other options offered in the referendum if were not for the EU’s intransigence on issues such as the free movement of people and the issue of sovereignty regarding EU law. So, now it’s a simple, in or out decision, but really, it’s still mainly about those two issues for many people. I imagine there are many on the Leave side who would have wanted to remain if it weren’t for these issues.
Before getting in to some of the main issues that I’d like to cover let’s touch on a couple of the less obvious ones. The first is what I’d term as voters who are “unsure and under the influence”. What I mean by this is that many people will feel unable to make a decision themselves so will look to others and decide to follow their lead. It could be someone they know, a peer group policy, a dominant member of a social group, a celebrity or, amongst other things, a political leader. This single factor may be the most influential one that 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 leaned towards staying too. So ironically, in the quest for keeping democracy this referendum has shown a severe weakness in the democratic notion. People do not tend towards logical arguments based on facts and reason but instead just follow others.
Paradoxically the other side of relying on people who follow others is that they may 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.
Whilst on the subject of being made to feel full of fear I have wondered lately whether this is this really going to affect me significantly. If it is the end of our culture will I be around long enough to be affected? Probably not! So who is really going to be affected?
As far as the Brexiters are concerned, if we stay we won’t be part of a democracy, and our culture is going to be obliterated. 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.
The absurdity of the financial loss theory, which seems to have been the most dominant subject in the media, is that when it suits the likes of our chancellor, George Osborne, the UK’s Chancellor, us being poorer is not a problem. For example, for the last 7 years we’ve all been told to brace ourselves for austerity. So, for the sake of keeping the economy more economically viable, we must suffer financially but when it comes to higher ideals of sovereignty he wouldn’t want us to lose a penny. Even last weekend’s news illustrated this quite clearly when Osborne said “Now, some people might think wrecking the economy is a price worth paying; I absolutely reject that.”
Big businesses seem to benefit from being in the EU, so no wonder they seem to support Remaining. If you get the chance to watch a video called The Brussels Business you will see how organisations such as “The European Round Table” have a very big sway when it comes to EU Commission policies. Therefore the self-perception of Brexiters being anti-conglomerate, anti-globalisation, pro-democracy, anti-establishment and localised grass roots up power is opposed to that of the Remainers seeing themselves as being pro-business, pro EU legislature, pro togetherness. How you see yourself will have a sway as to which camp you want to be seen with.
There is another dichotomy around these areas and that is the stress between what is best for oneself and the greater “good”. A lot of people on both sides will feel they are voting for the greater good, but there will be lots voting for what’s best for themselves.
These underlying themes, they are often important to how we feel about the vote. For instance, do you see yourself as an idealist or a pragmatist, or do you feel you can be both? Do you see it as battle between different generations, different classes, different educational levels? Do you hold principles as more important than money? Are your ideals with those who believe in one world, one humanity, or is that just unrealistic to you? What you see in the policies of both sides and how it related to you personally in relation to these themes may well draw you towards one group whilst repelling you from the other.
Is the EU heading towards your dream of reality or is it a nightmare you want to wake from? It’s not surprising therefore that the EU was born of a dream that came from the nightmare of reality.
The Philosophy behind the EU… A long time ago…. In a Universalism far, far away
Well ok let’s go back to sometime between 1845 and 1847 when Alexander von Humboldt wrote of civilisation
“it is that of establishing our common humanity — of striving to remove the barriers which prejudice and limited views of every kind have erected among men, and to treat all mankind, without reference to religion, nation, or colour, as one fraternity, one great community, fitted for the attainment of one object, the unrestrained development of the physical powers”.
So, liberal ideology isn’t that new after all! Such notions became the basis 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.
The Telegraph newspaper recently mentioned Monet in an article which touches on the US involvement in the EU. I thought it worth including some highlights from this article as it offers some perspective around the involvement of the USA with the creation of the EU.
“For British Eurosceptics, Jean Monnet looms large in the federalist pantheon, the eminence grise of supranational villainy. Few are aware that he spent much of his life in America, and served as war-time eyes and ears of Franklin Roosevelt… declassified documents from the State Department archives [show] that [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”. This was too clever by half, as we can see today from debt-deflation traps and mass unemployment across southern Europe… In a sense these papers are ancient history. What they show is that the American ‘deep state’ was in up to its neck… [However,] America had second thoughts about the EU once the ideological fanatics gained ascendancy in the late 1980s, recasting the union as a rival superpower with ambitions to challenge and surpass the US. [But this] frustration passed when Poland and the first wave of East European states joined the EU in 2004… Today’s combined threats comes from Jihadi terror and a string of failed states across the Maghreb and the Levant; from a highly-militarized pariah regime in Moscow that will soon run out of money… The dangers from Russia and China are of course interlinked [and] it is likely – pessimists say certain – that Vladimir Putin would seize on a serious blow-up on the Pacific rim to try his luck in Europe. In the eyes of Washington… this is not the time for Britain to lob a stick of dynamite into Europe’s rickety edifice.” So if you’re wondering why Obama was so interested in our involvement with the EU, that might shed some light.
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes… 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 World Wars happening. Added to this were the horrors of the holocaust, the breakdown of the old aristocratic order, the collapse of colonial rule, and the rebuilding of nations ravaged by 5 years of war. 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.
Whilst you had capitalism in the West and a supposed form of communism in the East the notion of social and liberal democracy grew in the West. Whilst there was a Cold War between those either side of the Iron Curtain, there were other battles going on too, for instance there were many sympathisers in Europe with communism, there were spies who were in positions within the highest echelons of the establishment. There was a war between the old guard and the new one which became more apparent throughout the 60’s, whereby the youth took on a liberal, left wing position whilst the older generations tended to the right. As the new generations became more aware of our colonial past, of the racism that permeated the old world, the ideas associated with Universalism became more and more attractive. These philosophies percolated through the heart of Western society, manifesting themselves within the hippie movement and popular songs such as John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Later the breakdown of the old world finally tumbled with punk and the death of fashion, the anti-Eurocentric understanding of history and ultimately an absolute hatred of what had been the image of “Englishness”. If old school Englishness was unacceptable then anti English was the new ideal, this came to be expressed primarily via a highly sensitive aversion to anything racist and a particular orientation to multiculturalism.
Before the World Wars, British society was more clearly definable, but by the 1970’’s after the dominance of popular culture, the sexual revolution, the breakdown of family values, women’s rights, gay rights, ethnic diversity, social mobility, physical mobility, and many other fragmentations, society became far less homogeneous. There was no longer an easily identifiable notion of what it was to be English and as a consequence nationalism became the place for right wing groups and those who could not let go of the past. Patriotism was seen as “the last thing, to which a scoundrel clings” whilst nationalism was associated with ignorance and racism.
During these decades our membership of the EEC was very much only of the trading kind, but it is possible to see the subtext of what was going on, and maybe those who came to be the main protagonists in the development of the EU were children of this revolution. They had a taste for power, even if it started on the lighter stuff, flower power. Just recently (well 2010 is recent in geological terms) 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 EEC model and would be happy to be a part of a trading body 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. Those who want to leave believe the EU has crazy laws that are not relevant, are wasteful or simply unfair. Surprisingly, given there’s so much emotion around this issue, most people from either side of the argument are unable to come up with more than a handful of examples of EU laws when asked to cite any. In fact, most people don’t know much about the EU at all. For instance, do you know the difference between the three bodies of the EU that make the European Laws: The Commission; The Council of Ministers and the EU Parliament? Do you know what the other 4 pillars are, or even how many presidents there are? Did you know that an EU Regulation becomes law in all EU countries immediately they are made whereas Directives are guidelines towards which a country should legislate. I expect most people don’t.
So the next value I want to look at is around who should be making the laws, the UK Parliament or the EU? Should we be ruled by a party voted in by a “majority” of voters in the UK? Remainers argue that UK parliaments are generally only voted in by around 30% of the electorate whilst Leavers would argue that even if everyone in the UK voted for a party in the EU parliament then that would only count for under 9% of the members within the EU parliament and when combined with the other two parts of the legislative apparatus far less.
Some Leavers have asked if we have the right, both under our own laws and morally to give away British sovereignty to an external government. Here is the legal argument:
“One of the most significant aspects of the treaties of Rome, Maastricht, and Lisbon concerns the constitutional position of the Monarch. During her reign, Queen Elizabeth I stated: ‘To no power whatsoever is my crown subject save to that of Christ the King of Kings.’ 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 and being subject to past and future judgements of the Court of the European Communities in Luxembourg, from which there is no appeal, her role as a constitutional monarch has been put into doubt. By the treaty, this Court was confirmed in authority over her courts, in which she was not previously arraignable. 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. Since the EU is a military union, it has the means at its disposal to carry out its objectives.”
The moral argument centres around whether we have the right to give away our right to national self rule, rights that were fought for by our ancestors, which we are taking from both our peers and future generations.
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 a similar situation to arise in Europe. 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 their connection with the past which differs between each country. Thirdly the US Federal system has clear boundaries over what 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, and finally, for now, people put being American before being a member of their state whereas in the EU it’s the other way round. There are numerous books and articles that compare the US and EU federal systems, it’s not a lightweight subject but needless to say, if people try to make trite comparisons then they are probably not accurate ones, as you may even say about the points I just made.
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?
In some ways we have already handed over parts of our sovereignty when it comes to organisations such as NATO and the United Nations, so in what way is it different to acquiesce it to the EU? Maybe the answer is connected with how the lack of sovereignty is experienced. NATO and the UN deal mainly with foreign affairs but the EU is increasingly involved with our daily lives, for instance, how many times a month the recycling waste is collected, or whether trading standards can help us, or how long should a guarantee on a product last. There are lots of good and bad rules that come from the EU, but if you don’t like them you’re going to have an even harder time getting them changed than you would UK ones. I’ve had experience of getting laws changed through lobbying, or just meeting with a local MP, it can happen, but let’s face it, most people don’t think they have a say in national let alone International politics. Most of the time EU politics is an enigma, both in terms of the process through which laws come about and the laws themselves. It’s as if the laws belonged to another world. This dislocation is partly what has brought about the referendum in the first place and what’s behind so much of the confusion that’s underpinning the debate.
Diversity, Self-Hatred and a New patriotism
As I mentioned earlier, 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. One where another genocide would not take place. We would ask ourselves: Were the Germans not cultured, not intelligent, not Christian, not hard working? We knew we were not much different and we knew that our society could become worthless if it did not deal with the ultimate sin, racism. Racism along with a little tweaking here and there and a good dose of propaganda could result in the killing of millions of people.
During the 1970’s the issue of anti-racism became a core part of the UK’s identity. Whilst black people had been a part of the UK’s population for hundreds of years, during these decades where migrants with non-white skin started to live in certain areas race relations often broke down. The notion of being taken over by another type of human started to play on the minds of many white people. Paradoxically during the 1930’s the influx of Jewish immigrants caused the same reaction, so nothing new really.
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. And 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 .) 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 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? I’ve heard quite a few people say they think it’s already too late, that dwindling European populations are going to hasten the end of their world, but if European populations were to be allowed to fall and technology was developed (e.g. Robotic home help / medical staff) would that not be a solution? For instance the Japanese have not gone the migrant route, but instead are veering towards technology to help the ageing population.
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, who have very varied approaches to their faith. However, I’m going to cover it though 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 Muslims have an agenda to take over the UK via population growth and in time change the country in to an Islamic one.
So if you fear being taken over by Muslims then you are very likely to vote to leave. If however you believe that the majority of Muslim’s do not have an agenda to take over the UK, and even if they did our culture is so seductive that after a few generations they will be so integrated that their birth rates will lower, so much so that they will no longer be seen as a threat, then this whole issue will be seen as a typical divide and rule tactic.
Of course most immigration due to EU membership is from mainly Christian Eastern European countries, so I’m not sure how leaving the EU would directly have an effect on Islamic immigration or 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 up coming 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, as would the possibility of Turkey becoming a member of the EU. Perhaps that is the let in for the next wave of mass Islamic immigration that so many Brexiters fear.
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, then the least our governments should be doing is researching whether there is any truth in it, (not the kind of politically correct assessment that ignores an issue, but one that is serious about looking after our society). If there is an issue, or if there is 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. 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 then wars still happen but instead, there is a new kind of war, a war of philosophies, of religion, politics, and 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.
In my opinion 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, and when they mention imposing sanctions on Iran, well as far as I remember Iran isn’t in Europe and let’s face it most of the world was imposing sanctions on Iran. If you believe peace in Europe has been maintained because of the EU though, then you’ll probably be voting to Remain, otherwise 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 and who can remain. As for sharing information it isn’t likely that there would be much difference.
On top of all of this and certainly fuelling any people out there with fears of a new world order, 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. Investigations would be carried out by a centralised European security agency, which would answer only to the EU Commission but would have carte blanche to operate with impunity in the UK above the heads of our own law enforcement officials. The proposal is believed to have a number of high-profile backers including Belgium’s government and Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s all-powerful Home Affairs commissioner. Whilst recent attempts to put such legislation in to force have been blocked by the main EU players one can’t help but think an FBI type body may well be created in time.
Shortly after the Paris attacks, Mr Avramopoulos declared: “I believe it is a moment to make one more step forward and put the basis for the creation of a European intelligence agency.”
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? For instance, is the European arrest warrant a good thing? Is the EU open border a security problem? Would an FBI type organisation be something you’d trust?
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 far 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. This probably isn’t a deal breaker issue, but it certainly is one that separates many of the Remainers and Leavers. For Leavers, it highlights how the Eurozone is not a level playing field, and how one country must bear burdens more than another. Once again there’s another more philosophical point hidden in this issue. Let’s say the amount of benefits being paid out to EU migrants isn’t really much in the grand scheme of things, is it the principle that’s more important to you, or given that it’s not much, is it really worth worrying about? 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. Of this, £465 million went on Housing Benefit, £216 million on Jobseeker’s Allowance and the remaining £205 million on disability payments. I wouldn’t normally say this, but £886 million isn’t much really. I mean it’s less than a month’s subscription to Which, I mean the EU.
It is also important to remember that despite Cameron’s reform proposals many aspects of the deal, namely the restrictions on in-work benefits for EU migrants are subject to European Court of Justice jurisdiction and may be challenged. Also, the deal must also be ratified by the European Parliament, something that will be done post June’s referendum. So really it isn’t known to what extent these reforms will apply. Even so, the proposals don’t alter the UK’s relationship with the European Union anywhere near enough to be considered fundamental reform.
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….
One of the main issues brought up recently is that with further poorer countries possibly joining the EU will the richer countries be made to pay more to support them. There is also a threat of a new Euro crisis coming up (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36090188) So it begs the question that in order for the EU to succeed will the richer companies have to become poorer, and if so, how much poorer?
The counter arguments are centered around there being an economic benefit, 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 it’s too nebulous… But what this does highlight is the issue of economic benefit set against the other major issues keeps coming up but has no definitive shape or mass.
When it comes to the economic issues one has to ask who really gets the economic benefit? In my opinion it’s large corporations 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, well as mentioned before, they have to work longer hours for less pay due to the influx of cheap workers, who, let’s be straight big companies are very happy to have at their disposal. 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 majority of scaremongering has been around the effects on the economy of a Brexit. The Leavers say that most of what the Remainers say is rubbish and vice versa. No one can see the future and everyone’s got an agenda. Some say if we stay we’ll just carry on as we have, others say the EU is just about to face challenges that may affect us adversely if we stay. Some of the myths though include that we will not be able to trade with the EU if we left. The Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the EU must make a trade agreement with a country which leaves the EU. The World Trade Organization (WTO) rules lay down basic rules for international trade by which both the EU and UK are obliged to abide. These alone would guarantee the trade upon which most of the 3 million jobs rely, that’s the 3 million jobs often stated as being vulnerable if we leave. The EU has free trade agreements with over 50 countries to overcome such tariffs, and is currently negotiating a number of other agreements. The EU 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.) Then 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. (The largest investor in the UK is not even any of the EU countries, but the US.) and one can see that the financial catastrophe and isolation purported to be as a resuilt of leaving the EU is not as definite as the Remainers would have you beLEAVE.
The other worry is that apart from economic losses we will no-longer have any influence over EU policy, but in reality we have very little say within the EU at the moment, and ironically we would have far more leverage outside the EU as an independent sovereign nation and the world’s 5th largest economy. The UK currently has only 8.4% of voting power ‘say’ in the EU, and the Lisbon Treaty ensured the loss of Britain’s veto in many more policy areas. Britain’s 73 MEPs are a minority within the 751 in the European Parliament, and with further enlargement (Croatia, Turkey’s 79 million citizens), British influence would be further watered down. As for continuing contributions by an independent Britain, Swiss and Norwegian examples show that the UK would achieve substantial net savings. Official Swiss government figures conclude that through their trade agreements with the EU, the Swiss pay the EU under 600 million Swiss Francs a year, but enjoy virtually free access to the EU market. The Swiss have estimated that full EU membership would cost Switzerland net payments of 3.4 billion Swiss francs a year. Norway only had to make relatively few changes to its laws to make its products eligible for the EU marketplace. In 2009, the Norwegian Mission to the EU estimated that Norway’s total financial contribution linked to their EEA (European Economic Area) agreement is some €340 million per year, of which some €110 million are contributions related to the participation in various EU programmes. However, this is a fraction of the gross annual cost that Britain must pay for EU membership. So if you’re worried about whether we wil be isolated in terms of trading then consider these points: The UK will become the single largest destination for EU exports the day after we leave the European Union. The UK has a trade deficit in goods with the European Union of £69 billion – this means we buy more goods from them than they do from us. EU businesses rely on the UK consumer market and will do everything they can to ensure they retain favourable access. (http://www.betteroffout.net/the-case/10-eu-myths-about-withdrawl/)
Deep down we all know that trading is going to continue and whilst we won’t be part of a body with as much leverage, so although “The UK would miss out on the benefits of the trade deals currently being negotiated by the EU, including with the US and Japan”, the Leavers say we will still make more money. 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. For Brexiters, the idea that trading arrangements in the interests of the UK public can be achieved by allowing the EU to negotiate on our behalf is a pipedream. As an example of this they’ll cite the Remainers failing to mention the possibility of a trade deal with India, a proposal that has finally been put on the backburner after seven years of unsuccessful negotiation.
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.
In a 2010 survey on UK’s attractiveness to foreign investors, Ernst and Young found Britain remained the number one Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination in Europe owing largely to the City of London and the UK’s close corporate relationship with the US. EU membership was not mentioned at all in their table of key investment factors, which were (in order of importance): UK culture and values and the English language; telecommunications infrastructure; quality of life; stable social environment, and transport and logistics infrastructure. 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) and seats on the International Monetary Fund Board of Governors and World Trade Organisation. The UK also lies at the heart of the Commonwealth of 53 nations. Moreover, London is the financial capital of the world and Britain has the 5th largest economy. The UK is also in the top ten manufacturing nations in the world.
On the other hand the Remainers argue that the UK would be far less attractive if it was no longer a gateway in to the EU.
The Brexiters come back on that by arguing that far from increasing British influence in the world, the EU is undermining UK influence. The EU is demanding there is a single voice for the EU in the UN and in the IMF. The EU has also made the British economy and City of London less competitive through over regulation, and negotiates more protectionist and less effective trade deals on behalf of the UK.
The Commonwealth is increasingly discriminated against by the EU policy on visas, so that non-EU Commonwealth citizens face having to obtain visas whilst citizens of even new EU entrants have automatic entry. Historic Commonwealth bonds with Britain are being lost.
Danniel Hannan MEP argues for Brexit, saying that the EU has stagnant economic growth and that it is like being “shackled to a corpse”, that in the long term we would be better off out of it, and in the medium term, the dislocation would be a very slow process, possibly taking between 10 to 15 years before any significant changes would be noticeable. He also points out that those who say that there will be negative economic consequences are the same people who warned us of the dire consequences if we did not join the Euro, that their opinion was wrong then and is skewed now.
So what do you believe? Economic oblivion if we leave, or economic boom? And given so many people have given so much in the past to secure democracy in the UK, can we put economics ahead of democracy?
The Ever Closer EU
There could have been a more complicated referendum, one that might have offered the EU our membership with some provisos. The main two being control over our borders and the ability to veto out rules we found acceptable. 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.
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, even though currently we have negotiated (although not yet ratified until after the referendum), one of his main “victories” was amending of EU treaties to state explicitly that references to “ever-closer union” do not apply to the UK, but 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 subscription pales in to insignificance. On top of that the issue of corruption may be very costly to the whole of the EU, not just the UK. For most people this isn’t a major issue but is certainly worth a glance when considering the minor points.
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.”
“It is dedicated to exactly what we do not want – ever closer union. It has already wrecked much of Europe’s economy, though not the UK’s, with its single currency, and has generated politically dangerous levels of unemployment in its southern states.”
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.
To reduce it, RAND Europe suggested that the EU implement a Union-wide e-procurement system, which would bring down the cost of corruption by an estimated €920 million. Another measure to cut corruption would be establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the study said. Such an office would investigate corruption cases and could reduce corruption costs by €0.2 billion per year.
“Given the scale of the problem these are very modest proposals,” Dolan of Transparency International said. “And the fact that the EU has not been able to deliver on these very modest things is probably an indication of how low a priority this has been for the EU over the last number of years.”
As I said previously this probably isn’t the most important factor in a decision about remaining in the EU, 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. Whether roaming charges would have been reduced in time anyway, it is unlikely that Brexit would cause them to be raised 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. My experienced of passing through border controls before the open border policy wasn’t so awful. One would get to the border, one would sits in traffic for a while, one’s passport was checked, a few questions were asked and most of the time one would go off on one’s lack of adventure. In Europe nowadays you drive past a sign saying the country name. For the sake of more security I’d rather queue for a while.
Short term visa free holiday travel is very likely to continue, and post Brexit longer term working Visas may need to be applied for. This isn’t a big deal for most people. If by instigating this, terrorists will find it harder to move between borders, and workers who are appropriate to the needs of a country could be let in on a temporary basis then it’s a small price to pay and with technology developing as it is the system of processing applications could be sped up greatly, maybe to hours even.
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.
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.
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. Having border controls and controlling immigration are two issues that are often mixed up. True, Britain is not part of the borderless Schengen area, however this does not mean that we are or will be able to turn away migrants from EU nations. 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 suspect way of working out migration statistics, it’s based on sampling rather than real counting so is probably very inaccurate. Here’s how they explain it: “Accuracy of migration estimates….Surveys gather information from a sample of people from a population. In the case of the IPS, the population is passengers travelling through the main entry and exit points from the UK including airports, seaports and the Channel Tunnel. The estimates produced are based on only one of a number of possible samples that could have been drawn at a given point in time. Each of these possible samples would produce an estimated number of migrants. These may be different to the true value that would have been obtained if it were possible to ask everyone passing through about their migration intentions. This is known as sampling variability.” https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/bulletins/migrationstatisticsquarterlyreport/may2016#accuracy-of-migration-estimates
A 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 then I think given we wouldn’t have to let them stay and could for instance take a year or so processing them then much of the motivation for coming here would be swept away. After all, those seeking asylum will be grateful of the safe haven and those who are economic migrants would probably prefer the EU, especially places like Germany.
For those who believe we have enough space, money, and resources to let millions of 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. The Awareness of a problem and effective action are two very different things. If the commitment to administrative burden reduction in the prime minister’s renegotiation included radical and meaningful reforms to how EU policies are made and approved there would be cause for hope, as it is we can only expect more of the same.
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
4 thoughts on “Issues to Consider when Voting in the EU Referendum in the UK 2016”
- Ant Miller
I’ve only skimmed this, and though I’m impressed by the breadth of sources you’ve covered, I’m sorry to see a few ‘brexit bloopers’ make it through the filter. For one thing the audit reports – it’s not true they can’t be audited and haven’t been for 20 years. Far be it from me to suggest you’ve been less than scrupulous in checking sources, but confirmation bias is devilishly hard to avoid, and may have snuck in a fair few howlers.
For me there are a few key issues. One is “is there a better deal to be had than membership of the EU?”. I think, with some degree of confidence, that there is not. None on offer, and taken in the round, in terms of what we get for what it costs, none reasonably possible. It’s not a fabulous deal, but it’s pretty good, and for the last four decades has served us very well.
I’ve taken out the audit reference.
As for what you say about the “best deal”, this is where our value system diverges. I would not make a deal to lose sovereignty or to have open borders. I’d rather go bankrupt. Never the twain can meet sometimes.
Thanks for reading, any more inaccuracies will be warmly received. I genuinely appreciate your attention.
- Ant Miller
Hi Simon, yeah here’s a source for the audit fact check. Can’t swear to its impartiality, but it has references https://fullfact.org/europe/has-eu-budget-been-rejected-auditors-past-18-years/
I’ll look at a few other issues that tingled the spider sense too. I think the constitutional law issue is a tad awkward to grapple though. Unless you are happy with the Devine right of kings and are a staunch mono-theist to boot, the definition of sovereignty that your proposing as inviolable has been superseded by an extensive list of international treaties and agreements. The international convention on human rights, the European human rights treaty (utterly seperate from the EU that one) probably some others (well out of my depth here if I’m honest). Anyway the main thing sovereignty is for seems, to me, to be signing treaties. In the EU we now sign up as part of a larger corporate body, not as individual signatory states. Actually I am fine with that. I like having the best negotiators in all of Europe fighting the corner of all of Europe in these big treaties. Maybe the exclusive interest of the U.K. Isn’t held up above all others, and maybe we do, individually lose out a bit. But that’s ok, so long as Europe, as a whole, is better off.
That might sound horrendous, absurd. Bear with me.
We are 22 miles from France, and they build our power stations. We are 300 miles from Germany, and they build our trains and cars. Poland, ships, Spain, our fresh fruit in winter. Europe as a whole going down the tubes is bad for us here. Leaving the EU does not make that nosedive any less enterprises to us. It moves France not one mile away.
We need France, Spain, Germany, all of it. It’s a common market, and it is by a colossal margin, who we deal with day to day. China may grow, but it’ll always be in China. Europe is here, it’s where we live, where we study and learn, where we grow.
Our sovereignty outside of that network is no comfort to me. It’s a weak tool, a relic of a bygone age of frankly well rid national interests. It’s part of a model of global politic that we’ve grown past. I see no need to return there.
Open to be shown the error of my ways of course. And very happy indeed to be able to debate in good humour.
I can’t agree with you on the sovereignty issue. It’s quite simple, we should be able to say to the EU, that any law that does not suit us will not be written in to our law books. Of course that wouldn’t fit with the EU model of a federal Europe.
As for Europe going down the pan financially….. Maybe the EU has a small part in that., us being there will not stop it happening.
I’m interested in your points.