Tag Archives: Vote Remain

Democracy, Diversity & anti-Hate Speech, Norwich Stays pro-EU Brexit rally

Speeches delivered at #NorwichStays pro-EU Remain Rally

I was one of 8 great speakers at a peaceful anti-Brexit demo, attended by 1500 people, organised by UEA students Emily Cutler and Tom Johnston on the steps of Norwich City Hall, Thursday 7 July. It followed the result of the EU Referendum on 23 June which saw 48% vote Remain but lose in a campaign that was punctuated by fear and fraud, rather than reasoned evidenced debate. It was a democratic process that has highlighted and polarised division in the country over the UK’s relationship with the European Union. But democracy also means that we can keep pressing for change and reconsideration of Brexit, which is a once-in-a-lifetime retrograde decision.

Pro-Europe banners at Norwich Stays anti-Brexit rally
Pro-Europe banners at Norwich Stays anti-Brexit rally (more pics here)

Speaker List

Councillor Alan Waters, “this is our moment to shape the future of this city”, Leader of Norwich City Council with a background in education and the arts

Emily Cutler, UEA Economics student and co-organiser

“I can’t believe how many people are standing in front of me. When I was organising this I was expecting a couple of hundred people. I can’t believe how many people have come out to support our future.” – Emily Cutler

Cllr James Wright, Norwich Liberal Democrats and Deputy Lord Mayor

“I’m proud to belong to a city that looks forward and not back to some golden days in the 1950s that perhaps never existed”

Andri Innes, UEA International Relations lecturer

Cllr David Raby, “Another Europe Is Possible”, City Councillor and member of the Green Party’s international committee

Katy Jon Went, writer & diversity activist (full transcript below)

Jon Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk and campaigning member of Britain Stronger In Europe

Claudina Richards, Europe “part of my identity… part of our identity”, senior law lecturer at the University of East Anglia

For a thoughtful reflection about the event and more on each speaker see Tony Allen’s blog. Check out some photos of the event and consider joining the Norwich and Norfolk Stays Facebook group.

Katy Jon Went pro-EU Speech Transcript

Katy Jon Went speaking at pro-EU anti-Brexit rally in Norwich
Katy Jon Went speaking at pro-EU anti-Brexit rally in Norwich

As the number of speakers grew so inevitably our speeches had to be reduced, so I’ve put below my full-length text, actual text, deletions and ad libs in different colours, so you can compare the planned and final version speech (annoying for many of you, no doubt, but interesting for speech writers!) – if you want a clean actual speech only version click here.

Speech download as PDF

I’m a democrat, a liberal, a socialist, and an economist and statistician, and have previously run a business that enjoyed the freedom to trade across the EU. Fifteen years ago I would have voted Leave. A fortnight ago I voted Remain with all my heart, having spent the month before it writing and debating daily for a reformed EU, not a disUnited Kingdom.

Let me say from the outset that I believe in hope not hate, unity not division, and am totally opposed to all forms of xenophobia and racism, but and this is where you might not like me so much I’m also against tarnishing all Leavers with the same brush. Whilst the majority of racists it has been said voted Leave, the majority of Leavers are not racists. Nor are they all elderly, nor are they all uneducated, nor are they all unemployed, nor of a different class to some people who may be gathered here. Yes, there are demographics that voted more one way than another, but descending into generalisations and personal attacks without factual qualification is part of the very issue that brought such disrepute to the campaigns of both Leave and Remain.

That said, the result of the vote which falls on everybody as much it falls on all voters, as it falls on non-voters, it falls on the media and politicians and everyone who got us where we got two weeks ago which is not the end we can still change that but there have been alike, has been that a majority of people of colour, folk from different countries and cultures, even legally British but ethnically diverse people who have been here for years, my partner is Dutch and has been here 17 years but couldn’t vote. Some of these people now feel less welcome, less safe, and along with a majority of young people under 35, are now worrying about a more insecure future with fewer educational, scientific, cultural and employment opportunities.

At the same time though we have to accept that a majority of unemployed or low-paid working class people also lacked hope and voted ‘Out’ because of their own fears about the future, exacerbated by unfounded beliefs that immigration was a threat to them personally or that the alleged benefits of the EU had passed them by and had not been felt or recognised by them. Our failure was in not getting across that message. We need an inclusive internationalism that leaves no communities and no or classes behind. Being part of the 48 per cent, if we shift that to 52 or 54, or 55% we still end up in a divided country if we can’t make that 65, 75 or 95% in favour of staying in Europe, and that means engaging with the 52 per cent, rationally, fairly and humanely.

We need to unite against prejudice, against discrimination, xenophobia and hate. I believe that the EU has actually helped that over the years with its motto of “Unity in diversity”, not just of nations and disparate peoples, but also of workers and employers, of women and women, LGBT and other minority communities. The Friday just before the Referendum, it was a Herculean task but they got all 28 nations of the EU to agreed common cause on promoting LGBTI rights across Europe, being part of the EU has helped people like me as a trans person because the EU actually trumped the UK in various courts so that laws were actually, yes, imposed upon the UK by Europe, but they were laws to do with human rights that needed imposing on us! But the EU having these kind of rights to do with human rights and LGBT rights and all the other things, they will actually mean that they can demanded improvement from countries that want to join the EU, from accession countries, countries like Turkey, with its poorer that has an abysmal human rights record. If they want to join the EU then they’re going to have to join the unanimity of the countries that have already promoted human rights in Europe.

The very worst thing that has come out of Brekfist (oops tongue tied and hungry!) Brexit, to me, has been the rise in hate crime – already we saw last year in the UK a rise in on the up, particularly Islamophobia in 2015. But even here in Norwich on a single day just days after the Referendum I heard of 3 local hate incidents, by the end of the weekend nearly a dozen I’d heard of, and those were just those I was connected to via social media here in Norwich. There were a hundred more elsewhere over Brexit weekend, and over 500 since, over a week it was 500% up according to the police, 66/day in London, 200+/day across the country, according to Tell Mama, over 800 per cent rise in Islamic phobic hate crime. Most go still unreported, so the situation is probably worse, many are now living in fear. Now, I don’t mean to shock you with this but one of the worst statements of what was actually casual racism as it’s called, as if there’s such a thing I saw was online, and it was locally was, and someone said: “don’t worry about the rise in racism, it will be offset by the fall in murders and rapes murderers and rapists“.

That is something we need to oppose vehemently, and that’s root and branch, and that doesn’t just mean “Oh I condemn it ” and politicians saying “I condemn it, and we’ll do more about it”, it means getting to the grassroots of culture in our country to change people’s attitude. London was a place that voted predominantly to Remain and yet has the highest immigration and has had it for the longest it is more integrated. I lived there in the 80s when it was less integrated. Places like Boston, yes they have high immigration now but it isn’t fully integrated yet and they haven’t got used to it. Some of these things take time but leaving Europe means we haven’t don’t have that time. There are things that we need to do now.

The UK was actually part of a liberal bloc in the EU, and that is actually weakened by our leaving, we’re abandoning the liberal and reforming movements within Europe by leaving them without what would become a 35 per cent blocking minority on less-liberal proposals from further far right groups factions within Europe the EU.

Absolute sovereignty and security – sovereignty was the biggest issue, even above immigration, in the EU campaign but absolute sovereignty and security in a global world is a myth. Geography continues to be redrawn on maps, and online daily – it doesn’t really exist at all. Instead, according to a leading British professor of EU law it’s about control and power, and they’re not even true. After Brexit we will have more apparent control but less actually less power and less influence in the world, and none at the EU table, and losing a market and community of states, that’s twice the size of America, and nearly half of our global trade. And even if we leave we will remain in the European Courts of Human Rights, we will remain in the Council of Europe, we remain in NATO, WTO, G7, G20, various international laws, human rights, maritime, and environment agreements. This is the 21st century not the 19th! We cannot peddle backwards.

Democracy though is imperfect and not always right – especially, when I don’t get my own way. Ha, no! Yes, the Referendum was democracy in action, but democracy in a factless vacuum and a fatuous vacuum does not work – Hitler rose to power on democracy and then abused and crushed it in the name of national unity and self-interest.

Democracy also fails when there’s evident electoral bias. My South Norfolk Polling Station had two Brexit tabloids on display next to the voting slips, if you ask me that invalidates that vote and that wasn’t Norwich I live just South – still under investigation by the Electoral Commission and local counting officer, despite reporting it halfway through voting day.

Democracy doesn’t work when we are lied to by, both sides, leading to a situation where 22 per cent of people admitted they didn’t understand the facts well and yet still voted, some of those same people googled after the polls closed, “what is the EU?” 47 per cent believed the Leave campaign’s openly acknowledged “mistake” and withdrawn promise, the that of the false £350m a week EU contributions blatantly false and proven to be so. That was and electoral bribe that was withdrawn immediately. That invalidates their entire campaign it would now be spent on the NHS. The Health Service will not be getting £350m more. Furthermore, the vote will make little difference to immigration. Net budget payments to the EU will probably cost us almost the same to get some kind of Norway or Swiss deal. If the Pound remains low, inflation will already add 5-10% to food and petrol prices, affecting everyone and especially the working classes, especially the poor, especially the people who voted ‘Out’. If we ever want to rejoin, you can be assured we will never get the rebates, reforms and exemptions we got before. We actually have one of the best deals in Europe at the moment and we’re about to trash it.

One of my biggest issues, is that people were not informed of the economic, social and legal facts and consequences, without falsehood or media and party bias, in order for the Vote to fairly consent to the Referendum choices, how can they consent when what they heard was not fair or true. In the most more blatant cases they were lied to by again both campaigns. Exaggeration that was what the Chilcot Report criticised Blair’s campaign to go to war over, blatant exaggeration. Fear won. It was a campaign of fear. Democracy based upon lies and fear is not democracy but deception and manipulation. That is how the National Socialists rose to power in the 1930s.

My first degree was in Economics and Statistics so I know very well how to lie! The UK was 5th in the world economic tables, and was about to overtake Germany, because of the Pound’s since Brexit’s 12% currency devaluation the last two weeks, (18% off its 12 month peak) we’ve already dropped a place slipped to 6th instead, behind below France. And we will keep slipping if we do not reform Europe and the UK’s position in it. The FTSE 250 remains 8% down.

But our rights of representation include the right to protest the results of any electoral or parliamentary decision, that’s what democracy is, it doesn’t mean just once every 5 years or once every 50 years which is what the EU Referendum was about. The rights to representation means we can keep complaining, it’s not sour grapes, it’s not just get on with it and accept it, or e-x-c-e-p-t it as a lot of people have been spelling over Facebook! I do agree with ‘excepting’ that decision the other spelling! But as millions have done since austerity under the Tories, or even under the war that Tony Blair took us into. People took to the streets and called for general elections, called for referenda, called to bring down governments, that is our democratic right, not to accept the decision and to keep campaigning, but to keep persuading as well, to keep proving that a majority are moving in favour of staying. 

Agitation to peacefully bring down a government, petition for change, is a very British revolutionary right way of doing revolution in these days. The parties are already stabbing themselves in the back. Brexit It has already brought down several seen two party leaders go and most of the Brexit pretenders. Nigel Farage himself, as you’ve already heard, says admitted that he too would have called for a second referendum had the margin 52-48% been the same in Remain’s favour. So it’s schadenfreude and hypocrisy to say that we shouldn’t be calling for it too.

In the 5 days since the Referendum, Parliament received over 5,000 petitions, nearly 50 times their normal democratic load. The most famous is the call for a second Referendum if there was a narrow margin of victory. It was actually a Leaver’s petition hijacked by Remainers! It has over 4 million signatures even after removing the fraudulent ones, the fastest and largest ever in the UK.

That is a demonstration of democracy, that is a demonstration of people power and a demonstration of political engagement but it is still not enough. If 80% of young people wanted to stay in and yet 80% didn’t vote, then there’s still a lack of political engagement, that’s what we’ve got to change. 

People power can bring down governments and/or prevent Article 50 if we can prove the electorate has changed its mind or was lied to as with the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

We can continue to call for compromise and delay, and a fresh democratic mandate to ratify or reject any Exit deal, once the facts are known. This has been suggested by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, despite being ruled out by all the Tory leadership candidates. There are legal reasons why a referendum based upon lies can be disregarded, indeed Parliament is only morally obliged to follow a referendum’s verdict, not legally.

The regret vote, according to polls, is now already shifting 7-14% away from Leave, (oddly enough 3% of Remainers have shifted to Leave!). But the point is the gap has shifted in our favour. Wales is now polling as majority Remain – probably because of the football! People on Guido Fawkes website are already planning street demos and riots should there be a second referendum or non-Brexit. But it is the extremes of traditional Left-Right politics behind Brexit, nationalistic and anti-establishment views, not the centre ground of engagement with Europe. Politics is changing and it’s calling. It calls for a new politics, a the rainbow coalition and progressive alliances to defeat an insular nationalism. A majority of those under 45 voted Remain, but a majority of those under 35 didn’t vote. We need to re-engage with not only politics but voting and that engagement and education so that people’s futures are enfranchised. I think it was one of the Swiss guys this week who said that where we have failed is by abandoning investment in education over the last 2 decades. I mean with people like Gove at the helm – that is why!

If Article 50 is delayed and a Referendum or General Election called before any final EU withdrawal attempt, by then hundreds of thousands more younger people will have gained the vote and those that didn’t vote can be mobilised.

The UK and its universities receive more funding from the European Research Council than any other country and 50% more than Germany, allowing UK universities to fund more than 10% of project-based research from EU contributions.

The EU has contributed to 50 years of peace and harmony in Europe, prosperity has been dented not because of the EU but because of austerity and the world economic crash of 2008, because of the banks, because of bailing them out and not bailing the poor out.

Being in Europe but not a part of the Euro, has actually served British interests very well. 

The EU does not want us to leave, nor do Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, London, Norwich and elsewhere, not to mention Wales and Cornwall beginning to shift. I want to remain and if we have to leave, to revote once the facts of the deal are knows, or to petition to rejoin, as soon as possible.

It is not a loser’s tantrum, it’s my democratic right and yours to keep saying that I want to stay in the EU, even in opposition, but significantly it is and my moral responsibility to stand up for those in the UK who don’t have no electoral rights, no voice, like the millions of EU and other immigrant peoples who cannot vote, and the people under 18 whose futures we are gambling deciding now but the reality of which will not kick in until a time when they would have had their own a say.

With 7-14% of Leavers regretting their votes and 100s of thousands being enfranchised by the time an EU deal is negotiated, we would almost certainly vote Remain at another more honest fact-driven Referendum prior to debating deals or launching any Article 50, next year – according to Theresa May.

We are entirely within our rights to keep making those voices heard, as we are today. Thank you.

 

Economists for and against Brexit. Why don’t we believe the numbers? Lies?

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics Economics

Economics can be studied as a BA or a BSc, with the latter having more Maths and Econometric elements. The point I’m making is that Economics is a dark art and an arcane weird science akin to alchemy, it is not a perfect predictor of the future, but on balance it makes sense. People are the irrational unpredictable factor. Nonetheless, a group of 200 Economists is in favour of Remain and 27 Economists for Britain, and a further smaller ensemble of 8 in favour of Brexit (3 are in both lists). No doubt there are other groups that would bolster both camps, you can add my BSc (Econ/Stats) to the 200 camp. In addition, ten international winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics have warned against Brexit and nearly every international economic policy thinktank and institute. Even the Brexit economists accept they are the minority:

“I do not deny for a moment that there are more economists who write on blogs and in newspapers arguing against Brexit than in favour. Furthermore, opinion polls suggest that most economists believe Brexit would be damaging.”

The verdict, then? People trust economists about as much as they trust politicians and journalists! The polls are roughly 50:50 at the moment with less than 48 hours to go, but with a consistent 15% of voters undecided, who may or may not vote, or who might change their vote.

£350 million a week or £60 a year?

Polls show that the majority of people actually believe the £350m/week claim (around £252/year each) of the cost of the EU which is a blatant half-truth in that it totally ignores the UK rebate, inbound EU benefits and investment, EU jobs creation etc, which by other counts brings the cost down to about £1.15 a week. Less than a cup of coffee – the cost of reciprocal EU health and travel benefits, improved worker rights, gender equality and human rights agendas, and multicultural diversity benefits – cited by a CEBR study as a cause of UK economic growth and investment attraction. £350m a week has been consistently debunked by the BBC, Channel 4, The Guardian, The IndependentInFacts, the New Statesman, and the head of the UK Statistics Authority who says it is closer to £110m, yet people still believe it.

Brexit EU 350m Bus Poster Claim
Brexit EU 350m Bus Poster Claim

One thing, for sure, is that we don’t send £350m a week to the EU. What the net contribution of the UK to the EU budget is, after our rebate, grants, subsidies and other receipts, sources cannot be sure but vary from £83m – £164m, minus just the rebate it is around £248m but that ignores other benefits:

[table id=2 /]

£4,300  a year cost or £3,000 a year gain?

The figure on the cost of Brexit ranges from £300-£4,300 to Armageddon per family, so it is not as if either side are clean of the putting a spin on the figures. The CBI actually says that we gain around £3,000 per household from EU investment, trade, jobs and lower prices across Europe. That £3,000 a year gain (or rather, status quo) more than offsets the £200-£300 a year cost per household.

Fear, Hate and Scapegoats

Few believe, however, neither the allegedly independent academic facts nor the financial fearmongering of Vote Remain, instead preferring the demonising of the EU. They quote ‘figures’ alleging that the EU sucks us dry financially, that we are supporting the sick economies of Europe, and financing the health and benefits of millions of migrants. Neglecting the costs that 2 million Brits living in Europe run up! You see, Vote Leave‘s fearmongering is combined with scapegoating – someone to blame, that is its increased ‘sell’ factor, its USP.

The irrational human factor, always the bane of economic theory, is that we seem to need someone to hate, someone to blame. In this case, it is the EU, some kind of nine-headed Hydra, the Beast of Revelation, the government of the AntiChrist, German federal dominion redivivus, or fresh French neo-Napoleonic invasion, not to mention an influx of ‘begging and thieving gypsies’ – as some have erroneously and xenophobically characterised Romanians and Bulgarians, not to mention an entire nation of millions of Islamic terrorist Turks – Turks who are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of ISIL violence.

This may partially explain why people are predisposed to believe only the figures that reinforce their preexisting views and beliefs – much like religious argument!

It has not gone unnoticed that some of the poster campaigns and political assertions would not have been out of place in the 1930s Nazi Germany.

Breaking Point the EU has failed us all, UKIP, Vote Leave, EU Referendum
Breaking Point the EU has failed us all, UKIP, Leave.EU, EU Referendum

Bigger Lies more likely to be believed

A “big lie” or famously the große Lüge was a Nazi propaganda tool first put forward by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf (1925) suggesting that if a lie were so “colossal” nobody would believe that someone would have the “impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

“…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”  — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X (tr. James Murphy)

Goebbels took the theory further, and even cited the English in his development of it!

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” – Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik (“From Churchill’s Lie Factory”), Die Zeit ohne Beispiel, 12 January 1941

When even opposite minds agree

It should either be seen as really worrying or oddly reassuring that the leaders of all the parties except UKIP and other further far Right political entities are in agreement that we should not leave. For Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron to agree is a sign of institutional panic, and Corbyn is normally anti-institution. The dilemma is that people see Vote Leave as, as much a vote against the EU as against Politicians of all hues. Cameron is seen as dodgy Dave but Farage as normal Nigel, the honest speaking man of the people. It’s not just the Sun readers who believe its barely researched economic claims that Brexit fears are “nonsense” but also the entrenched traditionalist views of 75% of the Daily Telegraph readership.

The EU Referendum is not about those who have already made up their minds, but those who have yet to decide, for they will determine the UK’s fate on Thursday. Whether they will listen to 9 out of 10 economists, Richard Branson, and David Beckham, in favour of Remain or the 1 out of 10 economists, Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage, we will see then.

More EU Referendum fact checking sites

BBC Reality Check & Live updates
BBC EU Referendum key claims round-up
Channel 4 Fact Check
Full Fact, independent fact checking charity
Katy Jon analysis

Rule Britannia as Brexit Armada & Sir Bob get shouty over EU Fishing Policy

Nigel Farage Leave Flotilla fires upon Remain

A small fleet of pro-Leave campaign fishing boats formed a flotilla at sea and set sail/steamed/chugged up the River Thames towards Tower Bridge, only to be met by a Remaining Boomtown Rat threatening scurvy. Sir Bob Geldof boomed out words and music while one of the Brexit boats fired the first shots – well, started a water fight. This is grown up politics, after all. It makes one wonder if giving the vote to 16 year-olds might result in a more mature response. Rats produce natural vitamin C whereas us pale-skinned limeys need to import it from Spain and elsewhere!

This about sums British political debate up sometimes – except the outcome is way more serious than the silly dinghy shouting match makes it appear. Perhaps Sir Bob should organise a EuropeAid concert? As it is he accused Nigel Farage of being a fraud for his membership of the EU fisheries committee and attending just 1 of 43 meetings! Hypocrisy to then turn around and support the fishing industry.

Will all the Brexiters and Remainers please stop SHOUTING exaggerated claims of Armageddon if we RemaIN/Leave. Read some of the fact checks here.

Even more pictures of British bath-time play here and here. British politics really is a blend of Yes Minister, The Thick of It and Spitting Image.

EU Common Fisheries Policy Under Fire?

Our fishing Navy won’t be great again or Rule Britannia, whether we leave or cleave. Few people want to work the hours fishermen do, consumers still want to pay the cheapest prices and supermarkets will still demand the cheapest sources. We’ve barely got an actual Navy anymore to patrol our coastline against some imagined future Spanish fishing Armada.

Nobody owns the sea, and fishing quotas are healthy to prevent stock depletion such as that of Bluefin tuna. We actually already have a good deal as the UK only possesses 13% of the EU’s total sea area, but is allocated 30% of the EU’s current fish quotas.

Here is an economic argument that the EU Common Fisheries Policy has helped not harmed the UK.

An Island Nation & its Dependents needs EU

Brits living abroad in EU
Brits living abroad in EU

Both Gibraltar and the Falklands are likely to vote IN as three-quarters of the latter’s exports go to the EU and continual border negotiations with Spain for the former are eased by EU membership whereas Brexit would close the border again.

Having lived in Spain, just 5 miles from Gibraltar, I appreciated EU rules and interventions, and the benefits of multicultural detente. Spain has by far the largest proportion of Brits living abroad – there are as many Brits living in Europe and European immigrants living and working here. Spain is a country we need good relations with, not to mention pescaditos fritos, boquerones, and oranges!

Spanish Armada ships

 

EU Referendum Vote Leave or Remain, Katy Jon Fact Check & BBC Reality Check

BBC EU Referendum Reality Check

The BBC is attempting to navigate an independent stance on fact-checking the statements by the ‘BrexitVote Leave and the Remain campaigns in the EU referendum June 23 Vote. This leaves most of my practical work on economics and statistics (my undergrad background) redundant and instead makes me ponder what are the emotional, personal and psychological reasons why people are in such entrenched positions, when, to me at least, the balance of economic and equality facts favour Remain.

Labour say they cannot understand why any worker would not want to Remain for enhanced workers rights. LGBT groups say something similar regarding LGBTI equalities. Yet I know left and right wing LGBT people who have vehemently opposed opinions on this. The vote will be decided on the waverers as neither campaign reaches 50% without the 10-20% undecideds, mostly women, so please research and reflect before voting. This is more important than any 5-year election, this is a 50-year, once in a lifetime decision. Don’t stay at home on June 23.

Economic Facts and that £350m a week

Both sides have accused the other of false figures, but the use of the £350m/week claim which arrived via Leave leaflet through my door again this morning leaves most to be challenged. Admittedly, in their small print they acknowledge we get some back, but they say “less than half”, the IFS and others disagree, arguing it is considerably more than half, as do BBC and Channel 4 Fact Checks.

The reality is that we pay less than £85m/week not £55m/day after rebates and other incomings. This is still a net donation to the EU, but why shouldn’t we, as the economically healthiest nation emerging from austerity, help our neighbours?  That is a global obligation in this modern world, on a broader stage than our own isle, every socialist would surely agree with a redistribution of wealth to poorer nations?

The IFS report estimates:

“the cost of EU membership to the UK to around £60 (€75) per person (per year)”

What do we get for our net £60?

Freedom of travel across Europe, a last-resort court for human, worker and equality rights issues, reciprocal health treatment, ease of settlement and benefits receipt should we retire or relocate in the EU as 1.4m-2.2m Brits have done. Inward investment, education, and scientific research might all suffer from our withdrawal.

Environmentalists argue that the EU has brought us reduced pollution and pesticide use, as well as species and habitat protection.

Whilst, not a direct comparison, non-EU Norway contributes a gross £135/person to the EU for its access to EU markets via the European Economic Area (EEA).

Norway and Switzerland Options

Aside from the Norwegian model of EEA membership and EU budget contributions – actually more than the UK’s there is the Swiss option. Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) but has to negotiate numerous bilateral agreements and has still ended up having to agree to freedom of movement, one of the biggest Brexit issues.

“A senior Swiss official said last month that Switzerland can expect no progress in talks with the EU over migrant caps until after Britain’s referendum on EU membership in June.”

In other words, the Swiss model already costs Switzerland and they are hoping a Brexit would empower them to renegotiate a better deal on migrant numbers.

Trade & Business Costs & Benefits

Whilst EU rules and red tape are the most-cited complaints about the EU, nonetheless, a majority of SME businesses (67-78%) said the EU was a net benefit and they would vote to remain. Access to a half-billion person world’s biggest single market far outweighs any 0.4% GDP cost. Open Europe describes an admittedly worst-case “Brexit” scenario with the UK economy losing 2.2% GDP by 2030 and only gaining 1.6% if we deregulated radically and achieved better terms by far than either Norway or Switzerland. Indeed, we buy far more from the EU than we export, but that balance of trade would likely worsen with Brexit, and to keep the status quo would cost us an EU budget contribution and probably sign-up to freedom of labour movement.

“The EU is…far and away our biggest trading partner, amounting to well over half of our world exports. Indeed, we export more to Holland alone than to the entirety of the Commonwealth.”

Around half of our exports go to EU countries (44-50%), tariff-free, with trade laws that we help to draw up and at least have a say on. Even if we left, to export to the EU British products would still have to comply with EU health & safety standards.

British dairy exports might attract the 55-200% tariffs on imports to the EU. British farmers stand to lose £2.7 billion in EU subsidies.

Equality, Consumer & Workplace Laws

We may berate the EU courts and laws, but they have been a significant factor in tightening workers rights and hours, consumer protection, and especially for protected characteristic groups, champions of equality legislation. Many rights for LGBTI persons have emerged from or been challenged but upheld by European courts.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Sir Ian McKellen says:

“Now is the time to be backing Europe and giving back that sense of empowerment to countries in the European Union that are still very backward in this regard. If I were to look at ‘in’ or ‘out’ from that point of view, there’s only one point, which is to stay. If you’re a gay person, you’re an internationalist. I don’t want us to retract.”

For trans people, it is even more the case, that EU laws and courts have granted improved rights and equalised protections, even if there is some way to go still, especially for intersex persons.

Since 1999 same-sex discrimination has been banned in Europe and any joining nations like Turkey would have to abide by them, the EU can raise the rights of people in nations with poorer human rights records. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in all EU states and discrimination in employment has been banned since 2000. European Court of Justice case law has often come down against the UK Gov in the past in favour of trans people’s rights since it interprets discrimination on the basis of ‘sex’ as also extending to ‘gender reassignment’. Thus, all EU sex discrimination law applies to transgender people. In 2002, the 1976 equal treatment directive was revised to include discrimination based on gender identity. Whilst not all nations have same-sex marriage yet, EU directives mean that a same-sex marriage agreed in one EU country must be respected in all others.

Nonetheless, whilst 63% of Pink News readers would vote Remain, a surprising 37% would not. Even Boris Johnson has tried to ride the pink bus for Brexit and an ‘Out and Proud‘ group has formed to favour Leave. Admittedly, countries like the Netherlands, Spain and the UK have been ahead of the EU game on many LGBT rights, but the EU has encouraged other nations to follow the trend for greater LGBT equality.

Reasons to Leave the EU?

The three issues of security, sovereignty, and immigration, are the most oft-cited Leave issues. In addition, there is the fear-competition factor of EU access to British jobs.

Migrants and Immigration

Immigration regularly raises its ugly head during elections and its control is considered the holy grail of pandering to electorate fears. The ONS says there are 942,000 eastern European working in the UK, along with 791,000 western Europeans. A combined figure roughly equivalent to the number of Brits living in Europe. A fair trade? A further 2.93m workers originate from outside the EU with China and India being the biggest source of foreign workers in the UK. In other words we have a bigger issue with the numbers we can control than the ones we can’t. It has also been suggested for years that over 3 million British jobs may depend upon EU membership and trade.

Unemployment rate in member states of the European Union in February 2016 via Statista
Unemployment rate in member states of the European Union in February 2016 via Statista

Furthermore, there is a demographic timebomb approaching, in that, even with high net migration of up to 300,000 people a year, a small city’s worth, in a decade with an aging population we would need them to fulfil available jobs. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates across Europe at around 5% compared to an EU average of 9.6%, only Czech Republic and Germany are lower and yet the latter has taken in huge numbers of migrants. A strong economy can absorb and afford migants, if not actually requires them. In addition, migrants tend to do the jobs Brits don’t want to. Long-houred agricultural, care or service sector, restaurant potwashing, jobs are invariably filled by foreign-born workers not British ‘shirkers’. Admittedly, a derogatory phrase but even in-work Brits are less productive than many foreign counterparts. France and Germany are 30% more productive per person-hour worked.

Security, Borders & Foreign Criminals

It is disingenuous to argue that the EU prevents us deporting foreign criminals. In only a handful of cases do EU courts block deportation on human rights grounds. One gain from membership is participation in the European Arrest Warrant which assists the bringing to justice of criminals across the EU. In addition, seeking to deport released foreign prisoners on the argument that they remain dangerous, suggests their sentences were too lenient in the first place, and prison reform and probation are the area of failure. Also, justice means that after a served-sentence, a prisoner is considered to have done the crime, done the time, and should be given a second chance, albeit with probation monitoring and social assistance at reintegration into society.

Iain Duncan Smith says our “open border” from staying in the EU is leaving the “door open” to terrorist attacks. Yet, recent attacks in France have meant a redoubled effort to share intelligence and prevent attacks. Security is illusory, as terrorism by its nature, usually circumvents most checks, although the British Government has already prevented and prosecuted many such attacks, all the while being in the EU. Many leading military figures say that the EU is an “increasingly important pillar of our security”.

As to preserving our UK borders and sovereignty, leaving the EU is almost certain to trigger a second Scottish referendum at which they would most likely leave the UK and commence negotiations to join the EU. Sovereignty is a false-idol and catch-22 if it leads to the break of the UK and creation of a future border with Scotland. In Ireland the border with Northern Ireland would have to close again.

Whilst we might regain control over fishing rights around our shorelines and for miles beyond, we don’t have sufficient a fishing industry any more to exploit that gain, or vessels to police incursion by other EU fishing boats.

Brexit is a big unknown, better the devil you know – and can influence and negotiate with, than an outside-EU limbo of uncertainty.

“The most likely outcome would be that Britain would find itself as a scratchy outsider with somewhat limited access to the single market, almost no influence and few friends. And one certainty: that having once departed, it would be all but impossible to get back in again.” – The Economist

Voting matters, your vote counts, but read between the campaign soundbites, slanging matches, economic promises and fears. Instead, think about the bigger picture, future development and not just apparent personal gain, which may include so much more loss, if we were to vote leave.