Category Archives: Europe

Reflections on railway renationalisation and a Tory Brexit

My apologies, firstly, to readers for the general inactivity at the blog since the middle of April. This has been down to juggling work at a new job and the completion of my journalism dissertation, which I submitted on Thursday evening.

My hope is to achieve the 2.1 that will allow me to continue my studies into Masters level, with my eyes currently set upon an MSc at Royal Holloway in ‘Campaigns, Elections and Democracy’. I should now hope to return here frequently for the foreseeable future.

In my absence, this year’s General Election has gotten under way. A portion of the Labour Party’s manifesto has been leaked, and thanks to pledges to renationalise the railways, Royal Mail and energy sector, has been described as taking the UK ‘back to the 1970s’.

It may be worth remembering for a moment that Germany, a modern and well-run country, operates nationalised rail and worker-run energy co-operatives. Northern Ireland, too, (incidentally a part of the UK) retains public control of its rail system.

For the record, I don’t support renationalising Britain’s energy sector, but local, energy co-operatives, similar to those that exist on the continent do not sound like such a bad idea. I do admit to succumbing to the appeal of democratic ownership of utilities and co-operative privatisation (worker control of industry) of Royal Mail may be popular amongst postmen and women.

As far as our railways go, the ongoing debate around public and private ownership would seem to me to be a secondary issue. The primary issue is upgrading infrastructure and investment, and cancelling the vast amounts of money we seem keen to spend on vanity projects like HS2, which stands only to increase London’s workforce and damage the rural environment of the midlands. Any strong government ought to, by now, have scrapped such madness.

Britain’s rail infrastructure is predominantly Victorian and not entirely electrified, much to our national embarrassment. The billions put aside for HS2 should be re-directed towards modernising track and signalling, and towards investing in more medium-speed, medium-distance inter-city railway lines. London is too often used as a connecting city for long-distance travellers making their way across the country (and often finding themselves paying extortionate amounts).

The question of who owns rail services is made less important still by the fact that there need not be one single system of ownership, as demonstrated by the state operating of the East Coast mainline until March 2015. Britain’s rail system is not only franchised, it is regionalised, which means that, with very few exceptions, services are all co-ordinated independently of one another. The state can retain ownership of some lines whilst allowing for others to be run privately, depending on factors like performance and quality of service.

Immediate renationalisation would not make the running of rail services particularly cheap. As I have said, it is the cost of maintaining infrastructure, due to its age, that sets the cost of British rail travel above that of the rest of the continent. Upgrades to infrastructure ought to be at the centre of any debate about Britain’s railways and present a far more pressing concern than discussions over ownership.

I will not vote for the Labour Party on June 8th, but the aforementioned leaked manifesto content doesn’t look to me as if it will take us back forty years. This is merely dishonest Tory propaganda, no doubt aided by the incompetence of figures like Diane Abbott, who do nothing but discredit the Left and its labour movement.

Meanwhile, the Tories sit firmly in the driver’s seat of this election. They are rightly standing on a platform of seeing out the Brexit process, but of course, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Many of them do not support out withdrawal from the European Union and thoroughly resent last summer’s referendum result. My vote for them in June (if I bother or indeed remember) will be more out of obligation than anything else.

I am at least glad that the Liberal Democrat leader this time around is Tim Farron, and not a young and fresh Nick Clegg, who managed to sweet talk the country into voting for him seven years ago. Thanks to Farron’s confusing position as leader of a party with which he has profound moral disagreements, the Lib Dems are not quite the force they could be.

Knowing that I was an adamant leaver, some readers might think that I am relieved the Tories are in poll position to win this General Election. This is not quite so. Something about the party’s (and indeed the Prime Minister’s) track record over the European question is cause for concern in my mind.

A couple of days ago, David Cameron made a comment that sparked some degree of doubt in my mind. He said that Mrs May needs a big majority so that she can “stand up to the people who want an extreme Brexit, either here or in Brussels.” It is a shame that UKIP can no longer muster the strength that it did back in 2014.

UKIP formed the ideal barricade against sentiments of this kind within the Conservative Party. There are many who call themselves conservatives, despite their continued existence that Britain should not govern itself and control its own affairs, who are fanatically supportive of the European project and of ceding parliamentary sovereignty.

When these people (Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan and George Osborne to name a few others) use the expression ‘extreme Brexit’, they demonise the reasonable belief held by large sects of the country, including especially much of the Tory grassroots, that the United Kingdom should control its own trade, borders, lawmaking and judicial process, no matter the difficulties which undoubtedly lie ahead.

Mr Cameron’s comments reminded me that placing complete trust in the Tories and giving them a free hand over such an important issue might not be advisable after all. We’ve heard ‘Theresa May’s hard Brexit’ quite a lot in recent months, but increasingly my fear is that when it is all said and done, Britain will no longer be halfway in the EU. Instead, she may find herself perching halfway out in what will look like an especially embarrassing position.


Three steps British people must take before we address the NHS’ problems

My personal NHS experiences haven’t been so bad. Thankfully, either through conscious effort or sheer genetic luck, I haven’t had any serious medical concerns over the years, with a little bit of physiotherapy and a brief period of mental health treatment the only real blotches on my medical history. Each time I’ve had to use a clinic, GP surgery or hospital, procedure has been reasonably smooth and staff helpful and reassuring.

For the most part, those who work in our health service do a tremendous job. They work long hours, often far beyond what they are contracted to, and really do make a difference in people’s lives. I sometimes think that, given the NHS’ blatant inefficiencies, it is the efforts of staff alone that help to maintain strong public opinion of the organisation. Even when visiting my local surgery I get a pretty clear picture of the sheer magnitude of demand placed on the health service. I daren’t imagine what hospital winters are like.

Notice first and foremost that I make a distinction between the NHS and its staff. This is done so deliberately, not because I love one and hate the other, but because it makes debating the future of the service a little easier. We have, in the UK, a very real connection to a treasured institution, so any critique can often be dismissed as personal attack or Right-wing irrationality. Getting over this sacred cow treatment and attitude towards healthcare would be the national equivalent of an alcoholic admitting that he is so.

Dr Kristian Niemetz noted in a lengthy overview of the health service for the IEA on December 4th, 2015: “The NHS’ status as a sacrosanct institution promotes ‘groupthink’ and undermines the ability to detect and correct instances of failure, and adapt to changing circumstances.”[1] He is undoubtedly correct. The first step towards injecting the UK’s NHS debate comes from admitting that even something we love so dearly has its problems, and that the sacred cow treatment it receives is damaging and unjustified.

An intriguing report published by the BBC on the problems facing the National Health Service can be read in full here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38887694

It is unsurprising to me that our society has such an ingrained attachment towards the main entity in the healthcare sector. Most people alive in Britain today were born on the NHS, have been treated by the NHS and will die on the NHS. But what is bewildering is why, given this affection, we let politicians to this day use it as a political football. Healthcare, after all, is on its own terms a private affair. The NHS was set up in a silent, broken country still reeling from the effects of the Second World War. The idea (however inherently flawed) was that people would have access to care based not on ability to pay, but on clinical need.

So herein lays the second step towards providing the NHS debate with some much needed clarity: we must recognise that the society in which our health service was so proudly set up no longer exists. The country is very different now from the post-war era. Free movement of people has increased overall demand as well as introduced new, complex problems to an already over-burdened service. Health tourism, frequently earmarked by doctors as a major structural and financial problem, is one such issue. It is good that we look after those who need help, regardless of where they are from, but compassion can all too easily fall victim to corruption and exploitation.

The NHS is a public service, and thus is set up for public use. If public dynamics change, such as increases in how long we are living or how rapidly the population is growing, then pubic services must adapt in order to reflect those changes. A stale setup will not suffice in an age where British citizens are used as a cash cow (even those on low incomes pay hundreds in National Insurance) for a service that many now feel does not meet their needs. Public satisfaction is noticeably declining.[2]

A third change in social attitude that must prelude any reasonable proposals to address healthcare in Britain relates to the United States. In the UK, too often we conflate private, market-based healthcare with the widely-condemned American system. This, for two reasons, is an unhelpful conflation that only manages to worsen unwarranted support for maintaining nationalised healthcare.

Firstly, the notion that American healthcare is private is largely a flawed one. The World Bank notes that state spending on healthcare by 2014 had reached just over 17% as a proportion of GDP.[3] Back in July, the U.S government announced that they expected total state healthcare expenditure to rise to $10,365 per head.[4] There is clearly something to be said for the claim that the private sector is at fault for very real faults in American healthcare.

Secondly, using the United States as a projection for market and insurance-based models in the UK ignores the very tangible successes with similar systems in Europe. A BowGroup (respected Conservative think tank and research body) report summarised starkly:

“UK Healthcare continues to be much worse than in Europe. 323 lives are lost per day because we are not matching the best European standards in the three main killers – heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer. That’s 117,743 per year. 85 lives per day (or 30,965 per year) are being lost because we are not even matching EU average standards. Looking at trends over time, there has been no significant improvement over the last 7 years. Another good measure of the quality of healthcare is the survival rate once a disease has been diagnosed. On this measure, the UK is bottom of the league table of Western European countries for cancer survival rates. In fact, you have more chance of surviving lung cancer in Poland, Estonia or Slovakia than you do in the UK. In France, patients are twice as likely to survive lung cancer as they are in the UK. Significantly more money has recently been put into the NHS in the last seven years. But standards are still much lower than in Europe and activity (e.g. number of operations) has not increased. Money alone has not worked.”[5]

It is possibly due to the bureaucratic, centrally organised nature of the NHS that funding is not necessarily put to good use. Left-wing commentators and publications will, from time to time, refer to budgetary cuts as the source of these problems[6], but as studies frequently show, Britain’s successes in dealing with severe illnesses – of which cancer has emerged as a particular problem – have stagnated, likely due to the inevitability of longer waiting times in state-monopolised healthcare systems and irrespective of funding levels.

Europe has quietly managed to avoid the problems that we face by seeing and treating healthcare for what it actually is: a private concern, better organised efficiently than in a way that is necessarily universally liked. So the NHS zealots, which are also found on the Right in surprising numbers, would do well to concentrate on provision on the continent, and stop using America’s woes as a barometer for eternal market failure.

So, ditch the sacred cow treatment, acknowledge the many social changes that have taken place between now and the 1940s, and consider European templates before screeching about U.S healthcare. Only then, if we are to have a rational discussion, can we talk about what to do with the NHS.


Sources:

[1] https://iea.org.uk/publications/research/diagnosis-overrated-an-analysis-of-the-structural-flaws-in-the-nhs

[2] https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/files/kf/BSA-public-satisfaction-NHS-Kings-Fund-2015.pdf

[3] http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS

[4] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/new-peak-us-health-care-spending-10345-per-person/

[5] https://www.bowgroup.org/sites/bowgroup.uat.pleasetest.co.uk/files/The%252085%2520A%2520Day%2520Who%2520Need%2520Not%2520Die%2520-%2520January%25202005.pdf

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/20/nhs-funding-falling-behind-european-neighbours-kings-fund-research

 


How not to respond to a terror attack

How sad it was to see the people of France once again fall victim to Islamic terrorism late last night. As innocent bystanders celebrated Bastille Day in the beautiful city of Nice, one drug-fueled fundamentalist decided he would use a lorry to massacre almost 100 unsuspecting citizens. I want to send my sympathies and well-wishes to the families and friends of those affected, however meaningless and insignificant they may be.

What a shame also that westerners are beginning to feel desensitised to increasingly common, though equally-horrendous attacks. It has been a truly testing eighteen months for France; a country which (along with Belgium) really seems to be struggling in the fight against radical Islam. The heartbreaking fact is that this doesn’t look like a war that will end any time soon. My fear is that we will see a lot more bloodshed and violence in the months and years to come.

Vigils, candles and hashtags are pleasant gestures, but nothing more than this. They do not constitute progression in terms of public or foreign policy, they do not tackle the core of Islamic fundamentalism, and they do not bring back those killed in acts of vile, merciless terrorism. I suspect some will be comforted by kind displays of solidarity, but most are now left wondering why they are having to occur so frequently.

We can pray for the French if we wish to, but realistically, how helpful has praying proven to be? We can express publicly our love or hatred of Islam, but how useful is this in achieving anything other than divide and intolerance? We can suggest solutions to aiding the war on terror, but Twitter doesn’t seem an appropriate platform for these solutions to be adhered to. In effect, social media has become a tool by which outrage is magnified, tensions are exploited and disunity is encouraged in the wake of despicable incidents of violence and terrorism. For this reason, I try my best to avoid being sucked into emotional cyber spasms.

In the good old days (alas, a time I was not around to see), we used to get on with life immediately after terrorism. Perhaps this was because the war generation found themselves used to bombings and devastation, or perhaps it was down to that famous British stiff upper lip (which seems to have disappeared, I might add). Nowadays, we rant and rave and sign emotionally-charged petitions calling for bans, border closures and infringements to be placed upon cherished freedoms. We need to calm down.

Only those unfortunate enough to have lost a loved one in an act of hatred have a mandate to be emotional. Since social media has brought us all closer together and made life much more interactive, we seem to take the burden of mourning upon ourselves as a means of enhancing our own social desirability. Bizarrely, it is often those closest to an attack that remain the most rational and objective in the wake of its effects, and those furthest away who resort to the kind of bigotry and fear-mongering that terrorists have come to reap the rewards of.

This does not mean Islam, or indeed sects of the Islamic community cannot be held responsible. Islamism continues to thrive in a range of European, African and Asian societies. Intensifying anti-Muslim sentiment hasn’t worked, using terror attacks to justify bombing raids hasn’t worked and simply ignoring the ongoing presence of Islamic fundamentalism clearly isn’t working either. The question is whether or not western societies can respond by upholding the values they champion; of liberty and the rule of law. The question is whether the peoples of Europe can muster the tolerance and encourage the diversity that has brought great benefits to the continent.

Preserving liberty in the face of adversity can be extraordinarily difficult, but wholly worthwhile. It is for this reason that I cannot support the deportation of domestic Muslims in France or indeed my own country, and it is for this reason that I cannot support thoughtless bans on Islamic immigration. Liberty is too precious to be discarded in such a manner. Benjamin Franklin was absolutely right when he said that those who will sacrifice liberty for security will in the end enjoy neither.

An interesting article has cropped up in the Daily Mail, for anybody interested, that has described the attacker as an ISIS fanatic who ‘took drugs and flouted every rule of Islam’. This doesn’t surprise me. Most attacks of this nature, both Muslim and non-Muslim tend to be perpetrated by deranged, drug-obsessed lunatics. I am pleased that a major publication has highlighted the link between drug taking and violence. You can read the article for yourself here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691019/Several-people-injured-truck-crashes-crowd-Bastille-Day-celebrations-Nice.html

Motives aside, though, I don’t claim to have the silver bullet on this. It is obvious to me that French Muslims are not as integrated as they are in other parts of the world, like Britain. It is also obvious to me that continuing to allow the influence of Saudi Arabia and fundamentalist-supporting regimes to creep into French society is dangerous. France’s ‘state of emergency’ seems set to continue for the foreseeable future. But there is an interesting prospect on the horizon.

French presidential elections take place late next year, and I’m now almost certain that Marine Le Pen is set to take office, swinging France vigorously to the Right. I don’t like Le Pen, but if such attacks are to continue in her country, then support for her presidential bid is likely only to strengthen. I’m not particularly well versed when it comes to French politics, so forgive me, but it seems to me to be plausible to suggest that Francois Hollande’s legacy will be stained by France’s apparent buckling to Islamic extremism.

We will see how the French people respond to the fight against Islamic terror as the months and years progress, and I wish the country well in its battle, but it is time for a different approach. Those of us unaffected by last night’s events in Nice may also want to consider the way we behave in light of horrendous acts of violence. After all, sickening terrorists aren’t worthy of dictating public policy. Keep the healing French in your minds, folks. It is they who matter today.


Let’s talk about Britain’s constitutional crisis

For the time being, I’m uncertain as to who I shall support for leadership of the Conservative party. As a newcomer, I may find myself unable to vote in any upcoming contest, but I shall be following events and campaigning avidly nonetheless. I plan on spending a few weeks assessing candidates and will make my decision shortly afterwards. I’m extremely pleased, though, at the range and quality of Prime Ministerial candidates to date, and I suspect that watching the race unfold could well be as fascinating as it will be close.

We know now that Boris Johnson will play no part. Like most, I was shocked to see his official withdrawal earlier this morning, but as I spent time thinking about it over a full English breakfast, I realised that it made more sense than many will realise. I think for Boris to have become Tory leader in the current climate would have been a huge mistake. It would have had a hugely devaluing effect on the EU referendum; painting the entire campaign as a proxy for a Boris coup and a new Tory leader. By standing and (inevitably) winning, his legacy may have been permanently tarnished. It would have looked too opportunistic, too easy and too personal.

We also know that, contrary to previous repeated claims that he would not run for leader, Michael Gove has also decided to throw his name into the hat. For those interested, I would recommend you give his interview with Laura Kuenssberg a watch after reading (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36677028). As I write, I feel no pressure in saying that I am a huge fan of Michael Gove, and could well decide to back him for leader. Both he and Andrea Leadsom impressed me hugely during the course of the referendum, and I am also glad that Liam Fox has expressed interest too. This could well be the most talent-filled and tightest leadership contest in some time.

Though it has been suggested more than once, I do not believe it would be right for the next leader to call a general election. A Conservative government was elected in 2015 for a five-year term, and it would seem counter-productive to put what remains of the country’s constitutional stability at risk. Another general election in the autumn would merely add to the unease and uncertainty that many of us are feeling. I do not say this as somebody who has recently become a member of the Tory party, I say this as someone eager to see Britain exit the European Union as quickly as possible.

Britain’s constitutional crisis does not end here, though. The Labour party continues to fight and wriggle its way out of a deep, ideological conflict. The combatants consist of Jeremy Corbyn, a ring of trade unions and an overwhelming mandate from traditional Labour voters pitted against a circus of hostile, Blairite MPs. It’s a war that has been brewing for quite some time. The election of Jeremy Corbyn back in September hinted at something that Britain’s referendum definitively exposed: that there is a huge disconnect between the beliefs and concerns of the Labour party membership and those squatting in Westminster village.

So while the Labour party attempts to put out a raging fire, another party in our system is presented with a golden opportunity. Tim Farron’s fierce critique of Britain’s referendum result last week, as well as his impassioned pledge to keep Britain in the European Union if elected, could see support for the Liberal Democrats soar. The referendum result was certainly close, and so naturally, support for re-entry would be very strong. Other than the Lib Dems, no major party has taken such a stubbornly pro-EU stance since defeat. The SNP have sung their usual babbling choruses about Scotland being dragged out of the union by England against their will, but this whinging must not be taken seriously.

It is worth noting that the future success of the Lib Dems is currently very much contingent upon how effectively Labour re-unite. As things stand, reunification doesn’t appear likely any time soon, but the situation could be win-win for Farron’s party. If Jeremy Corbyn hangs onto power, backed by his membership and the trade unions, and fights back against rebellious members of parliament, the Labour party will continue to appear sharply divided. This could well mean that swing voters, or more Blairite party supporters, look elsewhere for their political fix. Labour voters who do desert the party are likely to be seeking a centre ground; ground which the Liberal Democrats proudly occupy. If, on the other hand, Mr Corbyn is banished from the party (a prospect which is looking dangerously likely), or is pressured into resigning, the overwhelming number of party members who supported him are likely to be angered and feel further disillusioned.

It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that many will jump ship through sheer protest, or cut ties with the party permanently – again, a result likely to benefit the Lib Dems more so than any other party. The Liberal Democrats currently hold eight seats in the House of Commons, and though it may seem implausible to suggest that they retrieve many of those seats that they lost at the last general election, stranger things have happened in politics. My own view is that Labour turmoil could potentially result in the Liberal Democrats becoming a major part of the opposition to the next elected government. Perhaps I am wrong, but after the week we’ve had, I think it unwise to rule anything out just yet.

If Britain’s domestic integrity has been crushed in the last week, its international standing wasn’t aided too well by a speech made in the European parliament yesterday by a certain Nigel Farage. Yes, he has much to be happy about, but his performance was pathetic. His parliamentary colleagues in Brussels haven’t taken too much of a shining to him over the last 17 years, but that was no excuse for the diplomatic petulance he displayed in his first appearance in the chamber since the UK voted to leave the European Union last week.

This is a time for unity, not division; a time for peace, not conflict, and a time for maintaining strong bridges built over decades with European partners. Mr Farage did the country (that he claims to love) no favours when he decided to resort to petty insults early yesterday morning, and a moment of reflection on his part I’m sure wouldn’t go a miss. Those engaged will have taken particular note at the reaction of the parliament when Farage boasted that a tariff-free trade agreement between both parties would be mutually beneficial and something to be negotiated as quickly as possible. I therefore suggest that calls for Nigel Farage to play a part in the exit negotiations be swept under the carpet. The next few months and years look set to be turbulent, and as such, Britain needs its politicians to show leadership and great diplomatic skill now more than over.

But at least British politics is interesting again. That much is certain.


Actually, Brexit campaigners aren’t ‘Little Englanders’

Of all the the ridiculous names we eurosceptics (a misleading word; I’m not sceptic about anything) have been called leading up to this referendum, only one has really bothered me: the ‘Little Englanders’ jibe. 

In the minds of our critics, our views are old-fashioned, antiquated and do not belong. We are of another era, where women stayed at home and homosexuality was illegal. According to those with whom we disagree (on this, rather vital EU question), we wish to turn the clock back, isolate Britain and turn inwards – ignoring the rest of the world.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Rather than turn our backs on global interconnection, we want to embrace it. Britain’s rapidly-expanding eurosceptic movement seeks an end to our EU-shackled failures and a more rigorous relationship with Asia, the Commonwealth and the Americas. We are ignoring countries with which we could enjoy very fruitful, mutual arrangements.

Thanks to the UK’s membership of the European Union, we are legally incapable of negotiating our own, bilateral or Free Trade agreements. For the world’s fifth largest economy to be restricted in such a way, as well as having no contributory seat at the World Trade Organisation seems to me to damage both Britain’s global influence and its economic prowess.

There is, however, an alternative.

By leaving the European Union, the British government regains control of its local supremacy. The word ‘influence’ has been thrown around quite a bit in the run up to our June referendum, without really meaning very much, but how can a country claim to have more influence in the world, if it seldom influences its own law-making?

Supporters of independence such as me see vast opportunities awaiting the United Kingdom post-EU membership. Let’s have the trade and cooperation necessary for a peaceful, stable Europe, but let us not forget our allies in Asia, such as Japan and India. By reclaiming control of national trade, which we don’t currently have, we can expand heavily upon our connections with the rest of the world, boost relations and maximise our role in international affairs.

The European Union, after all, doesn’t represent internationalism; it merely represents regionalism. As I wrote in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, centralised decision-making inside the EU is beginning to sprout internal disputes and conflict between member states. This means that, thanks to the differing political interests of 28 EU members, it is becoming more and more of a battle for Britain to exert its internal influence.

But European Union operations aside, it is important to note that the UK works with other countries in over 100 multi-national institutions on issues such as foreign aid, military alignment and climate change. Britain plays a crucial role in organisations like the G7, Commonwealth and NATO, but what is intriguing in these instances is the absence of intrusive political union.

For countries to cooperate and trade with each other, political union is not necessary. Rather, it is quite rational to suggest that the United Kingdom would benefit from maintaining its existing international alliances, whilst controlling its own domestic affairs and determining its own place in the world – through trade and foreign policy. The idea that by revamping our relationship with our European neighbours, we ‘isolate’ (I never liked Nick Clegg) ourselves in the world is an absurd suggestion, and not one worthy of anybody who knows any history or politics.

You have to wonder how the world’s 167 self-governing nations get on without too much trouble.

But comparisons are beside the point. Britain is held back, both economically and geo-strategically, by EU membership. Did British people feel influential when their country was inadvertently dragged into the 2014 Ukraine mess? Do British people feel influential when unelected commissioners negotiate trade deals on their behalf, and often in secret?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted recently that he’d like to see a ‘strong UK in a strong EU’. Never mind that the statement is clearly an oxymoron, I wonder how American citizens and officials would react if their borders and law were determined in Mexico City, and their international trade in Ottowa.

Despite ‘influence’ being difficult to measure in objective fashion, I firmly believe that Britain’s role in world politics is expanded and magnified by independence. Sovereignty is something good men and women fought for over many years, and when harnessed well, can really maximise the UK’s global leadership.

We are told that continued EU membership will assist us in combating terrorism, climate change and catching criminals. It is a shame that misguided attitudes towards global warming, Interpol and the EU’s now glaring role in promoting Islamic terrorism seriously negate these arguments.

Upon regaining self-governance, Britain must and can rekindle old relationships and reassert its place in the international order. The UK is a nuclear power, the world’s fifth largest economy, a major exporter and a touristic powerhouse. We CAN do this.


Opting out of European Union is in Britain’s best interests

It is an organisation that has evolved far beyond its original purpose.

A union bound together under the watchful eye of reconciliation and unity has become one of increasing instability, and an uncertain financial climate. A promising and necessary project pioneered in the late 1940’s has developed into the exact antithesis of its founding purpose. That is; unrest and turmoil.

Its inauguration – as a friendly unification between six of World War II’s hardest-hit nations – proved hugely effective, and ignited much needed resolution within the continent. It was just what Europe needed. The ‘Inner Six’ as they were known, included France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Belgium, with an ‘Outer Seven’ forming a surrounding free trade association.

In 1973, when the United Kingdom finally penned a deal to take part in the ever-expanding amalgamation, it was all about trade. We were asked to join a common market if you remember, and one that would transform our trading potential and avenues the world over.

Forty years on, however, and we’ve found no such reward. Instead, we stand as a nation fighting to retain its sovereignty, independence and freedom, and the price we pay for ‘ever closer union’ is much more expensive than we’d previously imagined.

Every single day, fifty-five million pounds are sent flying over the English Channel to Brussels to make up our membership fee to this esteemed and highly anti-democratic club. If you extrapolate, that figure amounts to over forty-five billion per annum. A huge sum of money that could be spent far better on our own peoples and public services if you ask me.

Through a series of foreign treaties, our United Kingdom has allowed itself to sign away many of its rights, political powers and responsibilities in favour of European alliance on an unprecedented scale. Whilst working with others is undoubtedly a good thing, there comes a point when political union becomes too restrictive to ruling governments, and has a dramatic influence on the ways in which businesses and societies operate.

In 2009, former British PM Gordon Brown stood in the European parliament and said: “None but those of the political extreme would question the fact that we are safer and stronger together than ever we are apart.”

Well that may be all well and good Mr Brown, but you do not need to partake in economic and political union in order to maintain steady international relationships with neighbouring countries. Free trade deals and friendship are more than enough to ensure the productivity of your country, the happiness of your citizens and the safety you so long for.

Fact is of course, our United Kingdom is absolutely capable of striking stronger and more penetrative trade deals with a whole range of both eastern and western economies. Emerging markets in Africa, Asia and South America offer exciting opportunities for us –as UK citizens and businesses – to explore new resources and strengthen our own industries and international relations.

As most of you may know, many of our laws and regulations are finalised in Brussels. The exact number of percentage – whilst unclear and impossible to definitively work out – is irrelevant when you consider that such decisions are being undertaken by assigned bureaucrats, many of whom achieved promotion in secret and were not democratically instated.

Men with unquestionable power, federalist ideals and a complete disregard for common equality should stand nowhere near modern European parliaments, and it’s about time our people opted out. Many of those involved in the elite class haven’t been to Britain, are unaware of our financial and social needs, and even if they were I doubt they’d care.

Need I also mention the need for our country to be compounded by a more thorough and logical immigration system? Under the current structure, the free movement of people with the EU allows for citizens from all other twenty seven member states to come and live and work here in Britain.

Whilst I have no animosity against migrants whatsoever, I do think we need to be implementing a more grounded and intense vetting system. People who want to come and live in this country must be assessed to ensure that they do not pose medical or criminal threats, and that they have a skill base and some savings to facilitate the immigration process.

Fundamentally, as our membership of the European Union is still valid, we cannot effectively carry out any of these processes. As long as a man, woman or child has an EU passport, they are allowed into the UK and can – in theory at least – do whatever they want. It’s a nonsensical system that I feel could be putting our national security at huge potential risk.

Immigration has demonstrably benefited this country in many ways before, but not on this scale. Aside from the physical problems it has created – longer hospital waiting times and a shortage of primary school places being two concrete examples – it is also virtually impossible to absorb and process this number of people at once.

People need time to integrate into jobs, neighbourhoods and everyday cultural norms. You do not become British over night, and in many areas of the country – particularly in London – are people feeling the enormous social strain being placed upon them by levels of mass immigration not seen before in this country. It was a brave experiment to open up the doors in 1998, but one that doesn’t seem to me to be working.

And the only way in which we can change such a divisive policy, is by freeing ourselves from European political union, constructing intelligent safeguards against improper and irresponsible immigration, and regaining the ability to govern ourselves.

It is clear to me that the EU project is dying, and I’m not quite ready for my nation to be taken down with it. The effects on fellow members like Greece, Spain and Portugal have been clear and absolute signs of political union being ineffective and anti-democratic. Thanks to pressure from the UK Independence Party, our government have proposed a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union.

Let us hope it’s full, free and fair. And let us hope the British public opt out.