The EU referendum

On the 23rd of June, people will vote on the question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”. The BBC hopes to be able to publish the result at around 6 o’clock on Friday morning (the 24th). First, I must apologise for my lack of writing in recent months; I’ve been revising for and then doing my GCSEs (for the 34% of my viewers from outside the UK; the main exams you do aged 16)!

Given the imminence of the referendum, I’m going to break my arguments down into several chunks, starting with the Pro-EU leaflet that was distributed to every household a few months ago. This leaflet cost £9 million of taxpayers money, so as one would expect, there was a huge amount of opposition before it had even been sent. The government’s response to a petition with over 200,000 signatures campaigning against the leaflet was this:

The EU Referendum Act 2015 commits the Government to provide information to the public on EU membership ahead of the vote, and that is what we will do.

The government however, provided a one-sided argument. The government was committed to provide information on our membership in the EU (information presumably meaning pros and cons AND not bending the truth or lying), however, it provided a one-sided argument, leading people to brand it as taxpayer-funded propaganda. Apparently, the idea for the leaflet came about in response to a poll that said that 85% of the public wanted more information from the government to help them make a choice. What seems wrong and debatably illegal, is spending taxpayers money on a leaflet that only gives one side of the argument, and then justifying by saying that people wanted it.

I’m not going to analyse the entire booklet, but one of its many sweeping statements is that we have secured a “special” relationship with the EU in the reforms. The word “special” isn’t used in any EU documentation regarding the reforms, and Francois Hollande, the French President, dismissed claims that Cameron secured a unique deal, saying earlier this year that “there can be no special case”.

More than 3 million jobs in Britain are linked to exports to the European Union.

One of the most controversial claims of all, this has long been disputed. Although the Government does cite its own research, based on ONS figures, to prove that 3 million jobs are linked to EU trade, the original number came from a paper developed by the pro-EU Britain in Europe group in 2000 – 16 years ago!  The economist who wrote the report, Dr Martin Weale, dismissed it as “pure Goebbels” and added: “In many years of academic research, I cannot recall such a willful distortion of the facts” in relation to how his figure has been used since.

In regard to trade, forgetting what the leaflet claims, there are some facts that we cannot ignore. For example, Germany exports 7% of its goods to the UK. Some of the scaremongering has suggested that trade between EU nations and the UK would stop in the event of Brexit. In Germany’s example, they would struggle with 7% of its goods no longer having a buyer. In more general terms, the EU sells far more to us than we do to it. If all trade was to stop therefore, they would be hit far worse than we would. Would the German and French electorates vote for a politician that wants to prevent them from selling their cars and their wine to the UK market? No, they would not because that would be extremely damaging to the French and German economies. We will continue to be able to purchase the same goods from Europe, and they will continue to purchase goods from us, because they need what we produce.

Sticking with trade, we do not have a seat in the World Trade Organisation. We are represented by the EU. Leaving would give us our own seat, allowing us greater freedom to trade with the rest of the world. The worst case scenario in the event of Brexit is estimated to be a reduction in GDP by 2%. In comparison, the ‘credit crunch’ of 2008 saw our GDP fall over by 6%. This 2% fall is not only estimated to be very brief, but a consequence of a failure – albeit a very unlikely one – of the EU to agree a free trade agreement with Britain.

Under such a scenario, UK trade to the EU would be protected by the UK and the EU’s membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). One member of the WTO cannot charge duties (import taxes) on the other’s exports at a higher rate than it does to another WTO member – and most of the world’s economies are in the WTO. The EU’s weighted average WTO import duty is just 1%, one of the lowest in the world. If the EU attempted to impose heavier duties it would receive a quick slap down from the WTO’s courts, heavy penalties would be applied.

This quote destroys much of the remain scaremongering regarding trade.

A House of Commons briefing paper suggested that Britain’s membership of the EU actually increases prices, despite what we’re being told by Cameron et al, because of the tariffs levied on companies importing goods from outside the EU. It states that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy “artificially inflates food prices” and that “consumer prices across a range of other goods imported from outside the EU are raised as a result of the common external tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade imposed by the EU. These include footwear (a 17% tariff), bicycles (15% tariff) and a range of clothing (12% tariff)”.

Yesterday, George Osbourne announced that he’d hold a Budget with cuts and tax rises almost immediately if we left the EU. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, said his party would join forces with the 65 Tory MPs that oppose it to block the budget: “We would oppose any post-Brexit austerity Budget”.  Because the Government have such a tiny minority, this would make Osbourne’s position “untenable”. It’s a classic example of the government scaring us, by saying they’ll raise taxes if we leave, but we now know that such a statement is hollow – it couldn’t be done. It would be absurd to make a political promise to punish voters in such a way – to break Conservative manifesto promises. I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time a manifesto promise has been ignored. Cameron even promised to stop the EU moving every month from Brussels to Strasbourg, as shown in the video below.  Once he had been reelected, he said that it was not going to be part of his negotiations with the EU.

We come now to what we lose from the EU. There are all sorts of figures, but the one I’m going to go with is, last year, Britain paid into the EU £13bn, but it also received £4.5bn worth of spending back from the EU. The UK’s net contribution was  therefore £8.5bn. That’s about 7% of what the Government spends on the NHS each year. Instead, it goes towards other things, like bailing out countries that have suffered because of the instability of the Euro. It also goes towards this:

We entered the EU as the world’s 3rd largest economy. The EU has adversely affected our trade, and we are now the 9th largest economy in the world. Fact.  

Many people assume that the big name banks and businesses support the remain campaign. However, Barclays has put forward a scenario that would benefit us. It says the departure of one of the EU’s most powerful economies (the UK) would hit its finances and boost anti-EU movements in other countries. This would in turn open a “Pandora’s box” for the UK, lessening the potential negative impacts of a Brexit. It could even start a chain reaction that could lead to the collapse of the EU. In that event, the UK would be seen as a safe haven, attracting investors, boosting the pound and reducing the risk that Scotland would leave the relative safety of the UK for an increasingly unstable EU.

I’m now going to move on to immigration. I’m going to start my argument with this: according to the ONS (Office for National Statistics – a government-run body), the official number of EU migrants who came to Britain between 2011 and 2015 is 900,000. However, the number of new National Insurance numbers that were granted to EU nationals was over 2.4 million in the same period. Why the gap in figures? Well I don’t know. The 900,000 figure has always been quoted by the government. However, repeated freedom of information requests revealed the number of National Insurance numbers granted and therefore gave away the true figure. Any government-run body can bend the truth or lie to an extent.

Priti Patel, the employment minister, said: “These figures, which had to be dragged out of the government, show the scale and impact of immigration from the EU is even higher than previously admitted. It is out of control – and cannot be controlled as long as we stay in the EU. This puts huge strains on the NHS, housing, schools and other public services”. By hiding the true number of migrants, the government protects the EU.

I’m going to quote Allison Pearson now, an award-winning journalist for the Daily Telegraph. Her views may seem extreme, but the general message is an important one.

So, it turns out the British people are owed an apology. An apology for every parent whose child can’t get a place at a secondary school of their choosing. An apology for every plasterer who claims that his wages have been driven down remorselessly by Eastern Europeans, yet been told to shut up because migrants are really good for the economy. An apology for those damned as “racist” when they dare to wonder why families who have lived here and paid their dues for several generations can’t get priority on the housing ladder. A huge sorry is also owing, it seems, to every heavily pregnant woman turned away by her local maternity unit because it’s “full”. (Half of all UK maternity units have rejected women in labour over the past two years, particularly in migrant hotspots where the birth rate is going through the roof.) Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s say sorry to that poor woman’s husband who has to drive 35 miles, with his wife groaning like a stricken moose, to find another hospital in which she can give birth. And this in the world’s fifth richest nation.

In all, the ONS now estimates a total of 2.4 million EU migrants entered the country. In one year, mid-2014 to mid-2015, a quarter of a million Europeans came in according to the official measure, yet almost 700,000 bagged themselves a NI number.The Gap, in other words, is more of a grand canyon. Evel Knievel couldn’t jump that. Suspicions that the figures were being grossly underestimated, perhaps to spare government blushes, are now confirmed.

The number of migrants that came to the UK in this period that the government didn’t tell us about is equivalent to six times the population of Newcastle. 1.5 million people came from the EU into the UK, that we didn’t get told about. The relationship between immigrants and the NHS is a sensitive one, and a matter that has caused much offence and controversy. EU immigrants make up about 5% of NHS staff. Across the UK, EU immigrants make up 10% of registered doctors and 4% of registered nurses. So, the NHS needs migrant workers to keep ‘the machine moving’. But another statistic is that one migrant per minute registers with a GP. I shall not say anymore, but the NHS is in crisis. The EU therefore does not help our NHS, because it adds to the strain being experienced by them.

Britain can never control immigration until it leaves the European Union, because freedom of movement gives other EU citizens an automatic right to live here. Immigration isn’t a problem. As you’ve heard, they make up a proportion of our workforce. They pay taxes. They buy food in supermarkets. They are no different to those who have lived here for generations and they should be treated as such. They’re also effectively a free workforce. They get educated in a EU country. Their education is paid for by that country. And then they come here. Educated. Ready to work and help build our economy. That is the beauty of immigration. The classic racist comment is immigrants steal our jobs. But when a Polish or French or Belgian or Spanish person comes into the UK, highly educated and skillful, and you have no GCSEs, who deserves to get the job? They’re not stealing your job if they’re going to be better at doing it. However, there is a serious problem with uncontrolled immigration. We want immigration, but we want the ability to control it, and we can’t control it inside the EU. This is having a detrimental impact on our economy and our public services.

Other key points:

  • Britain could soon be asked to contribute to a EU military, with reports suggesting Angela Merkel may demand the Prime Minister’s approval in return for other concessions. That would erode the UK’s independent military force and should therefore be opposed. We have the 5th most powerful military in the world, more powerful than any other EU nation, so it’s no wonder they want us to share.
  • Britain does not need the EU to prosper internationally. We are the centre of the Commonwealth, a founding member of NATO, a prominent member of both the G8 and G20, and have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The EU does not dictate our involvement in conflicts or any other events outside of Europe. It is NATO, and not the EU, that has kept the peace in Europe, together with parliamentary democracy. Both of which are being undermined by the EU.
  • By leaving, we will be able to determine who does and does not enter the UK. Failure to do so significantly increases the terrorist threat. Both the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and the attacks in Brussels in March 2016 were made easier for the terrorists by the EU’s free borders
  • The UK would regain control over fishing rights around its coast

I’m going to conclude on a sentimental but I believe necessary point. Millions and millions of people have died fighting for democracy both in Europe and around the world. Democracy is the culmination of thousands of years of existence, allowing us to cooperate and govern society in a fair and logical way. Of the 50 countries in Europe, 46 are democratic. As a continent we should be proud that we are so democratic (Surprisingly, South America is the most democratic continent, with only one non-democratic nation: Venezuela. Europe is 2nd). 28 of the 46 democracies in Europe are part of the European Union. It is my opinion that the institution that is the EU critically undermines a nation’s sovereignty and democracy. The EU’s governing body is the European Commission, none of its 44,000 staff are elected by us. The EU’s cabinet, known as the ‘College of Commissioners’, consists of 28 unelected officials. The presidents of five EU institutions are Jean-Claude Juncker (commission); Donald Tusk (council); Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Eurogroup); Mario Draghi (European Central Bank); and Martin Schulz (parliament). The hypocrisy is that in a recent debate, none of the representatives on the remain side could name all five. And yet they’re just as important to us as the Cabinet is! It seems contradictory that, as a democracy, we are having a large proportion of our laws and regulations dictated by an undemocratic body. Because votes don’t have to be unanimous, laws and regulations that the MEPs representing you don’t want to be passed in the UK, are passed in the UK. The UK consistently loses votes and so has law passed that we didn’t want. Some people would say that’s democracy – you have 28 people, everyone wants as something except one person (the UK), so that thing happens. But when we have a chance to get out of this group of 28 people so we can start doing things the way we want to, we regain our democracy. Regain our sovereignty, and as a result the United Kingdom will prosper, as I have shown above.

©Henry Jones 2016

4 thoughts on “The EU referendum

  1. Well howdy there, sir! Interesting post. Been reading a LOT of posts the last few weeks about whether to stay or leave. Very heated debate. Thanks so much for the follow. Look forward to getting to know you on the blogs. Have a great day.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a Bremainer, but it is good to see an argument that is evidence-based and specific, rather than full of generalisations and rants about immigrants.

    Well argued (even though I disagree with you). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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