Tag Archives: EU

Confession: I think the EU referendum was a mistake

I now think that holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union was a mistake. I have, I fear, reached this conclusion far too slowly.

I suspect it was the glamour of it all; the honour of working at the heart of a history-making political campaign that clouded my judgement.

I was in the midst of it all a 20-year old that had been given a fantastic first job I was arguably too immature for. That is not to say that it wasn’t anything other than a modest role, but to me it meant the world.

This, combined with occasional television appearances after the result, got to my head a little too much. I should have realised sooner that simply taking part in the referendum would not be enough.

It is a matter of head versus heart. The heart looks back with fondness at the privilege of campaigning and the many friends and contacts made.

But the head is nagging me about our constitutional difficulties, ambiguous Brexit options and unstable, incompetent leadership during such a sensitive period.

I always try my utmost to allow my head to win these battles. And so in this case I must concede that referendums are not the way to exercise ground-breaking political reform.

It has been quietly obvious for a while now that the real winner of the referendum was in fact David Cameron, who was able to use the result to slip out of government in time and avoid the mess we are now in.

He and his advisors probably saw all of this coming. I predicted as the results were coming through on June 23rd that he would step down as Prime Minister, but, rather naively, did not foresee the obstacles that acting on the result has since faced.

The main problem with last year’s plebiscite was that it did not provide clarity for those like Richard North who supported both Brexit and membership of the single market.

I wish I had taken notice of researchers like him (and indeed his blog eureferendum.com) much earlier than I did. He and his son Pete, bizarrely inept at social interaction, have yielded answers to complex questions for longer than our media has been able to keep up.

Referenda are binary, usually offered to appease the electorate and are and deliberately oversimplified. The options given lack nuance, ensuring they provide exactly the fertile soil for disruption and chaos. This is why governments tend to support the status quo option. 

Our EU referendum created the inevitable problem that, in the event of a Leave vote, which became predictable weeks before polling day, ambiguity over what kind of Brexit its voters would prefer caused poisonous hostility. 

Now, a simple way of getting round this would have been to alter ballots in New Zealand-style fashion and ask those voting for Brexit a second question: “Do you think the UK should remain a member of the single market?”

Of course, we know what the answer would be if folk were well-informed. Since immigration was the largest single issue aroused by our camp, most would have opted for a single market exit too.

But that is not the point. My point is that a referendum over such a huge issue created a mandate for a policy without a policy. We were left directionless in an uphill battle.

And what made it worse was the fact that we had a government responsible for addressing the policy that did not agree with its premise in the first place. 

Despite being an exercise in direct democracy, our referendum exposed a sharp disconnect between public opinion and the preferences of those in the Westminster bubble. 

Referenda are, as I now appreciate more fully, renowned moreso for the constitutional upheaval they generate. Crimea in 2014 is perhaps a more extreme example. 

Since signalling for EU departure is the most profound democratic decision made by the British electorate arguably in history, it is no surprise that our politicians can barely organise themselves to adhere to it. 

In hindsight, a much more durable alternative to a national poll would have been a clear manifesto commitment, from either of the two major parties, to leaving.

Both Labour and the Tories have more than their fair share of voters wanting out, and any party claiming to be government material must be able to embrace the possibilities that come with legislative repatriation.

Yes, upon election, there would still have been the grave difficulties of negotiation, but at least direction and mandates would be more clearly established.

The only reason why neither party dared to do this was because they were (and still largely are) afflicted by the lingering Blairism that for so long prevented them from carrying out policies supported by faithless voters.

David Cameron certainly wouldn’t accept such an inclusion in a Tory manifesto. He is as supportive of the European project as they come.

A mutual friend of Dan Hannan and I, and notable Flexcit supporter, once told me that during his years at university, Mr Cameron donned prized cufflinks sporting the EU flag.

And the party’s current stock of leadership contenders aren’t much different, I might add. A referendum may therefore seem like an escape from this problem, but in reality caused many new ones of its own.

Had there been no referendum, significant pressure from Tory party members would have spurned their politicians into action, I am sure of it. 

I sometimes wonder what the European Commission and fellow member states think of all this. They cannot possibly consider Mrs May to be tough negotiating material.

She made far too humiliating a mess of last week’s General Election to be considered so, and only remains in Number 10 thanks to a cynical, gentleman’s agreement from the DUP (who themselves favour what we call ‘soft’ Brexit).

I must also point out here that in no way do I regret my vote or campaigning last year. I am as fervent a supporter of our secession as one can be. I just think that our means of securing that exit were profoundly flawed.

And since elections are now heavily influenced by last year’s result, as was expected given how divided we are, it may as well have been a party decision to take us out after all.


Why, if Britain is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again

I voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd because I thought it would inject patriotic and democratic life into a country sorely lacking both. It was a decision I had made over the course of a couple of years; one thought about extensively and certainly not taken for granted. It wasn’t, to the dismay of some of the more petulant Remain voters, a decision based upon xenophobic prejudices or the consumption of misinformation.

It was an honour to have worked for the Vote Leave campaign and something that I will never forget. To say that I played even a small part in a campaign which made history is immensely pleasing, but, weirdly enough, the post-referendum jubilation has been replaced by a few nagging fears, some of which I feel obliged to address.

On polling day, 17.4 million people opted for Britain to part ways with the European in the most substantial and important democratic exercise of a generation. The question now is not whether we desire an exit, but when and how it will be arranged. Towards the end of June, I became a member of the Conservative Party as I considered it to be, as of David Cameron’s resignation, the most effective buffer against the European Union.

I confess to being disappointed by the lack of urgency surrounding our departure, but I hold faith that the current administration are working on it and consider it to be a top priority. My personal suspicion is that Theresa May is waiting for the outcomes of the French and German presidential elections next year before invoking Article 50. It would seem to align perfectly from her perspective: a two year period resulting in Brexit, with a few months to go to prepare for the 2020 General Election.

From my own perspective? My nerves would probably prefer Article 50 to be triggered much sooner than that. I should also explain here and now that if Article 50 is not triggered in this parliament, I will not vote for the Conservatives at the next or indeed any forthcoming general election, and, by extension, if Britain is not pulled out of the European Union entirely (I am happy to entertain arguments advocating temporary EFTA membership, but would want a full retreat as quickly as is possible) then I will cease voting completely.

Why? Because it will have been cheapened and insulted beyond any reasonable repair. Because I will never again trust any government to act according to the wishes of the British people, and because my own determination and campaigning efforts leading up to the referendum will have been thrown in my face. To vote again after such a betrayal would be to re-legitimise a fraudulent process which in part was designed to allow politicians to manipulate us.

Voting is often wrongly portrayed as a crucial freedom in our society. Many cherish the opportunity to vote, but few actually bother to think about what it entails. In equal measure, the freedom not to vote is just as important. I have expressed before on this blog and for other publications my desire for Britain (and other western governments) to adopt democratic procedures based fundamentally around a system of sortition. I will return to this subject again very soon.

What has been rather astounding since the result of the referendum was announced on the 24th June has been the Westminster elite’s attitude towards both democracy and the concerns of ordinary British people. The Labour Party, in particular, has exposed this divide in more obvious ways than perhaps they would have liked. There is an element of snobbery amongst those who govern us. Many of those at the top in our society clearly think that we should not have been trusted with this decision, and that everything possible must be done to ensure that the British government overrules or ignores it.

If Britain is not withdrawn from the entirety of the European Union framework, electoral democracy will once again have been proved bogus. We will have been lied to by those elected by us to govern us. On a leaflet sent to more than 27 million households a few months ago, the government advised us to vote to remain a member of the EU, but, crucially, assured us that “they will implement our decision”, regardless of the result.

It couldn’t have been written in plainer English.

Yes, the political and economic consequences of leaving the European Union will be far-reaching, but this is no excuse for kicking the issue into the long grass. After a gruelling campaign and many months of claims and counter-claims, many British people (including myself) will at least feel at ease in the knowledge that their government listens to them and is willing, despite the dissatisfaction of many within the Metropolitan elite, to carry out their wishes.

So here we are, languishing on some kind of political precipice. I am worried, my family are worried and my fellow activists are worried. For now though, I have faith that the right thing will be done. I believe that Mrs May is genuine when she says that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and though I suspect she is worried and disappointed that ‘Remain’ was not the eventual referendum outcome, I am confident that she will respect the will of many in her party and the 17.4 million that made their voices heard on June 23rd.

But make no mistake, our democracy is suffering, and if the United Kingdom is not taken out of the European Union, I will never vote again.

A Sunday reflection on the week’s politics

I thought, for a change, that Sunday might be quite a good opportunity to sit down and reflect on the week’s politics, in a slightly different format. Whether I make this sort of post a weekly deal (I may well choose to do so) or not, I’m not absolutely sure as of yet. The post will not necessarily be in an order of any real importance but will include segments of news that have interested me over the last few days.

Project Fear hits the Premier League

There aren’t many things the ‘remain’ camp won’t say or distort in order to secure an EU stay after June 23rd. They know that football (and specifically the Premier League) is at the very core of British culture, and scaremongering over the importing of foreign players will no doubt present a great way of striking fear into what seems to me to be a heavily undecided electorate.

Not only did BSE (Britain Stronger in Europe) make the claim that various players would no longer be allowed to take part in English football, they also took the time to compile a list of players at each major Premier League club that, allegedly, would not have been able to move to the country without EU membership. I knew that our resident europhiles were unambitious and misguided, but I never had them down as clairvoyants.

Apparently those at ‘Stronger In’ don’t spend too much of their time following football (or logic, for that matter). Work permits are a common fixture inside the Premier League, allowing players to be transferred across continents with very little trouble at all. Problems seldom occur, and many talented players from outside the European Union have enjoyed great success in the UK.

Sol Campbell understands this simple concept. Why don’t Britain’s EU fanatics?

Another ‘Leave’ campaign enters the fray

How many unique campaigns now have their sights set on Britain’s departure from the European Union? With Grassroots Out, Vote Leave and Leave.EU currently the caretaker triumvirate in active competition for the mantle of official designated leave group, the phrase ‘too many cooks’ comes to mind.

In hindsight, this referendum’s ‘leave’ campaigners haven’t organised themselves particularly well. One campaign was enough to present the arguments for an exit, and so Friday’s news that a new Left-wing competitor, ‘The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’, has thrown its name into the hat didn’t exactly fill me with joy.

I’ve sought to avoid baseless tribalism in recent months; opting for membership of both ‘GO’ and ‘Vote Leave’ in an attempt to meet more people and be as active as I possibly could be. I don’t have a dislike for any of the campaigns per se, but a more unified approach to the summer showdown could well have been preferable.

I am happy that the Left have representation as we march towards the end of June, as a European Union exit isn’t just about those of us on the Right, but I do feel that such a late inclusion will only splay and ignite more tension.

People can represent any campaign that they so wish, but the bickering and political point scoring must come to end; if not for the sake of those involved, then for the sake of our EU membership.

Is this a ‘Ta ta’ to British steel?

How sad it is to see a magnificent beacon of British industrialisation beaten to its very knees by incompetent politicians, dumping and malicious energy costs. I feel for workers at Port Talbot, and would very much like the government to save our steel industry (one of the few bright spots across the UK’s manufacturing landscape).

I’ve been sceptical over the weekend as to whether renationalisation was the way to go to combat the issues our steel faces, but if no other option presents itself, then renationalise we should. Since state aid ‘in principle’ is not generally permitted across the European Union, government intervention will likely be tricky to coordinate.

If Sajid Javid fails to salvage what is left of our steel industry, he may as well say a brisk goodbye to his integrity and any future cabinet positions. He has a tough job ahead of him, but so long as thousands of innocent, hard-working steel workers are not dumped onto the welfare system, he’ll get a pass from me.

As the signs read only a couple of days ago, we bailed out the banks, now it’s time we bailed out our steel.

Praise for the Mail on Sunday

Pleased I most certainly was this morning to read about the Mail on Sunday’s belated (but nevertheless necessary) campaign targeted at the government concerning the extortionate amount of money that Britain gives away in foreign aid.

The feature, based on Friday’s leaked report which revealed that over £170m had been spent over the allotted £12bn budget, encouraged readers to sign an e-petition which calls for the government to re-think the policy and consider putting some of the money to better use.

I’m not myself a fan of a foreign aid ‘budget’ as such. Instead, I believe that the UK should play its part in providing moral, humanitarian aid where possible on a sporadic and prioritised basis. By introducing a parameter in the form of a budget, some international disasters may not receive proportionate or adequate funding, and as has been shown over the last few days, over-spending is also inevitable.

Despite the Tory party’s target of setting aside 0.7% of our GDP for the purposes of global aid being a generous and fairly popular one, charity does often start at home, and over-spending should not be tolerated whilst Britain is gripped by intense industrial woes.

There is a fashionable line that argues that taking from the foreign aid budget is no way to cure domestic ills as it will only incur more suffering abroad. In some cases, this may well be true, but those fronting such an argument may like to consider that there is a huge wealth of difference between helping and appearing to help.

Much of the foreign aid budget is wasted on projects which do not provide direct relief to the intended recipients, and many governments shell out over-generously as a way of point scoring with ethnic minorities at home, or in a bid to bribe or sway certain international governments.

Britain spent £12.2 billion in foreign aid in 2015, and kind-hearted thought it may well seem, I think a far more moral approach would be to target crises individually and divert accidental over-spending towards problems happening at home.

2016 is the year that the UK’s steel industry urgently needs help, so let us hope that George Osborne does the right thing.


The new living wage is about to open up a whole new can of worms

There is something quite condescending about the term ‘living wage’. Much like with the delightful Tory-pedalled phrase ‘affordable housing’ (which is only affordable if you can afford it), the living wage is only sufficient for those who can live on it.

When George Osborne announced the introduction of the national living wage back in last year’s budget, I suspect he would have considered it an economic breakthrough. A pay rise for all those hard working people who keep the country ticking along was, on paper at least, a nice idea, but in reality the new national living wage ignores the problems that the labour market faces, and will create more problem than it solves.

As of today, Britain’s new national ‘living wage’ was ushered in. Previously set at £6.70, the new hourly pay for those aged 25 and over today rose by 50p to £7.20. Great, it would be easy to assume just by looking at the figures – until you begin to recognise that companies will try their utmost to get around this new wage hike.

For many low and unskilled workers living outside the UK and in the European Union, coming to live and work in Britain just got that little bit more attractive. I don’t say this to demean the motivations for migrating to the UK (of which there are many), but I do feel that for those wishing to see tighter control over borders and lower immigration figures, the news today will be particularly unwelcome.

It is well known that, in the main, immigrants who come to Britain do so for a better standard of living, and to work and earn money for themselves and their families. With the increase in Britain’s national living wage, migration (especially from the EU) is expected to soar even further.

George Osborne’s new national living wage will also create havoc for many workers and businesses up and down the country. As businesses are hit with higher costs in the form of increased wages, savings are going to have to be made. This could potentially mean mass redundancies across the board or a situation where companies look for the slightest possible excuse to lay off staff that don’t perform as well as is expected of them.

Larger corporations especially are renowned for paying employees lower wages, which will usually be topped up by the government in the form of tax credits. Whilst smaller companies are also culpable for this, it is looking increasingly likely that low or unskilled workers working for a wide range of companies will have their hours bumped down just enough so that employers will be able to make adequate cuts to expenditure.

The labour market has changed significantly in the twenty first century, and for many workers in developed countries, things have gotten significantly tougher. Cheaper transport, automation (in the form of self-service machines, CCTV cameras or ATMs) and globalisation have all ensured that the value of each individual low-skilled worker has been depreciated.

Wages have fought a gruelling battle with the scale of mass immigration, and employers of large companies have been able to pay employees minimal amounts to get by. The chancellor’s newly-introduced national living wage may look like a bright spot on the horizon for the low-paid, but believe me, it isn’t.

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.

Initial reaction to my Brexit campaigning

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of travelling down to Brighton for a couple of hours in order to campaign with Vote Leave. A stall was set up, some canvassing was arranged and hundreds of leaflets were distributed around the town centre. Despite not being there for too long, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable, and I look forward to my Sunday adventure in Bournemouth (this time for Leave.EU).

What was perhaps most interesting about my time on the coast was the strong noticeability of ignorance amongst the local electorate. Many of those I spoke to either were not particularly well informed on the issue of European Union membership, or when questioned seemed fairly non-committal and hesitant.

This, I thought, was much more so a reflection of political inactivity and a lacking in any real connection between politicians and public than it was genuine disinterest. The danger is, of course, that with so many blissfully unaware (out of perhaps 40 people asked, only a handful were familiar with TTIP, and even less so with its effects) citizens roaming around in the lead up to our referendum, the more government can get away with.

Many in Britain, particularly socialists, are in for a huge surprise when this deal lands. Little do the disenfranchised know that a trade agreement of such magnitude will result not only in the privatisation of various European public services, but also in a much stronger corporate presence within EU and UK law.

Those who disagree with my euroscepticism do not bother me. For the most part, I enjoy entertaining divergent opinion, and those with whom I disagree are free to take a different stance. So long as voters can substantiate and justify an electoral decision, disagreement is usually welcomed.

It is those who show a lack of interest and reject politics that do. Those who feel that the system is too ‘dirty’ and who may feel unable to make any real difference. Understandable though this thought process may well be, it isn’t helping matters. Particularly when one considers that our national vote on June 23rd is of critical importance, both domestically and internationally.

The UK’s vote on whether it should retain membership of the European Union will, quite literally, mould the immediate and future destiny of our country. This referendum, after all, is fundamentally about who governs Britain, and how. I am astonished and irked somewhat by the wave of neutrality that I meet when speaking to members of the public about the subject.

So when I travel to Bournemouth on Sunday, I’ll remain cautious of encountering a similar level of ignorance. The leave campaign is well and truly under way for me, and the part I play (as well as all those making the effort country-wide) leading up to the summer vote will be incredibly important.

David Cameron has done a particularly fine job of highlighting just how dictatorial and domineering the European Commission are thus far, and it’s down to people on the street like myself to take advantage. Britain’s renegotiation has been a sham and our membership of the European Union is on the brink. Now all that remains is for British people to wake up.





Letting rip at all of this ‘renegotiation’ bullshit

I think it’s now pretty clear that David Cameron regrets his decision to campaign for the ‘stay’ vote. In hindsight, his alleged renegotiation may have proved far more fruitful had he expressed a threat to take his country out of the European Union. Perhaps, in such a case, the European Commission would have scrambled together some extra concessions, awarded him for his troubles and waited patiently for the referendum.

For any British patriot like me, having to watch a Prime Minister tour Eastern Europe, pleading with foreign governments to allow Britain a so-called ’emergency break’ on migrant benefits has been not only an insult to our sovereignty, but a refreshing wake-up call for anybody who had previously questioned the control that the EU has over the United Kingdom.

An independent, self-governing Britain wouldn’t, of course, have such a problem. If anything, this renegotiation has been a startling reminder of not only who this country’s supreme government is, but also their glaring lack of accountability. If only it was me at that negotiating table, instead of Mr Cameron.

The difficulties do not end with agreement between Donald Tusk and the Prime Minster, either. Once some sort of deal has been reached, other European Union members will be able to weigh in with their opinions and suggestions, possibly rendering any agreed negotiation obsolete. The whole thing would be laughable if it wasn’t so important.

When Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for North Essex, stood up in the House of Commons a couple of months ago and asked: “Is that it?” he wasn’t kidding around. The overwhelming problem with Britain’s renegotiation is that, quite plainly, no substantive attempt has been made to repatriate any existing legislative power. Nothing on fisheries, nothing on TAX or VAT rules, nothing on preventing the destruction of our coal-fired power stations and nothing on the European Council’s voting system.

It does pose the intriguing question of whether or not a successfully agreed deal will actually be a success for Britain, or whether it will actually be felt across the country. It isn’t entirely David Cameron’s fault, however. I get the sickening feeling that just about anybody, europhile or eurosceptic, in his position would have struggled to extract anything hugely substantial from our European neighbours.

Pathetic attempts to exclude the United Kingdom from ‘ever-closer-union’ and instead implement a new, cutely branded ‘associate’ membership are futile. Anybody interested in the subject need only read page 2 of the Treaty of Rome, 1957 to arrive at the conclusion that this project will not be stopped anytime soon. A rampant migrant crisis, soaring public debt and the threat of terrorism, though, have halted any aspirations for imminent political integration. I suspect normal service will be resumed in a year or two.

June 23rd is the target date for Britain’s vote on membership of the European Union, and my feeling is that the result will be incredibly close. In all likelihood, a mere 3-5% swing will be the deciding factor. But, no matter how we vote, one thing can be said for sure, and that is that David Cameron’s renegotiation should have absolutely no bearing on any voter’s decision-making.

Britain’s ‘Stronger In’ campaign gets off to a negative and misleading start

It has been just over a week since the basis of Britain’s Europhilic campaign group ‘Stronger In’ assembled itself, and I must say I am disappointed.

I expected intelligent, insightful and factual debate, not the scaremongering and condescending rhetoric we have been subjected to thus far. If this represents what is to come for my opponents heading towards 2017’s referendum, I can stay quietly confident.

And speaking of Britain’s referendum on its membership of the European Union, why has it been backdated to 2017? Is this a governmental tactic designed to kick the issue into the long grass and hope that the general public forget? If it is, it will not work.

When Lord Rose was announced as the campaign’s spearhead early last week, I was a little surprised. Mr Rose is a superb businessman and has made his name running companies like Marks & Spencer. A shrewd appointment, one might think.

But if you take a look at the man’s track record, particularly over the past twelve months, an interesting pattern unfolds. You see, until not too long ago, Rose was publicly sceptical and critical of the EU. His change of tune is a bewildering turn of events, to say the least.

He has so far attracted criticism for adopting similar tactics to those deployed by the ‘Better Together’ campaign group to negate Scottish independence. Tactics so deceitful and misleading, it is hard to believe that people are convinced by them.

The campaign slogan, for instance, (Stronger In Europe) is not only evidence of the group’s scaremongering defeatism, it is also geographically incorrect. The European Union is not the European continent. One is a failing political club; the other is a tectonic plate.

Mr Rose’s assertion that by retaining our membership of the European Union, each individual Briton would save £480m (a blunder, but nonetheless a rather comical one) was perhaps not the best introduction to the group’s campaign.

His claim, also, that leaving the EU was not in any way ‘patriotic’ was an odd statement to make, as eurosceptics will feel that ensuring Britain can govern itself is a strong and patriotic vision to hold.

Judging by his inaugural contribution to the movement, one can only assume that Mr Rose has more personal interest invested in staying in a dying club than he does national interest. Indeed, various newspapers have already blasted the introduction as patronising and negative, and a poor start to such a crucial EU project.

If you visit StrongerIn’s website, you will notice immediately the bright, bold motto emblazoned on its homepage. It states, rather inaccurately, ‘Britain is stronger, better off and safer in Europe than we would be out on our own.’

I mean, how many mistakes can you make in one sentence?

At first glance, the notion that Britain is safer inside the European Union is a highly contestable proposition. Thanks to the EU’s over-reliance on free movement, various member states including the UK could soon be subject to the ongoing and inevitable dispersion of militant jihadists.

Whilst I accept that this isn’t a particularly comforting thought, it is a reality that we must face up to as a country. Free movement means exactly what it says it means: free movement for all; hardworking, law-abiding citizens, criminal gangs and Islamic terrorists.

ISIS sent the European Union a stark warning back (a warning subsequently echoed by the Pope, of all people) in March that it would use the cover of the erupting refugee crisis to smuggle into the continent thousands of radicalised fighters, ready to strike at any point.

I wouldn’t call a continent braced for attack a particularly safe one, now.

Equally, I would raise question marks over the use of terminology like ‘stronger’ and ‘better off’. These are blanket terms designed to scare folk into believing over-hyped propaganda. Stronger how, exactly? It all sounds a little cliché, to me.

Did Mr Rose and his crew not get the memo? You don’t need to be in political union with other countries in order to work and harmonise with them. Britain has alliances and engages in cooperation with the world through a plethora of diplomatic organisations, ranging from military coalitions like NATO, to global warming frontiers within the G7.

Fear not, readers, we aren’t alone in this world.

So I ask the pro-EU case to start making real argument. Please, put aside your tactical phrasing of debate, your nonsensical slogans and your negativity for the sake of a genuine and mature debate. It will be in your country’s benefit, after all.

The ‘Stronger In’ campaign has been officially launched, and I’m happy to report on it. Underwhelmed, is my grading.

101 reasons why Britain should leave the European Union

On a rather more interesting note, a friend of mine (former Chairman of UKIP Bexley) has published a list of 101 reasons for Britain to escape the clutches of the European Union, up on the borough’s party website.

I thought I’d draw some attention to it out of pure curiosity. I thought it interesting that so many valid points were raised in just one list. Perhaps those of you who read could take a look at it (below) and use it to help form your own opinion.

The list in its entirety can be read here.

No Mr Corbyn, you can’t be democrat and europhile; you’ll have to pick one

You would be forgiven for thinking that Jeremy Corbyn was a principled and honest politician. After all, his majestic performances during leadership candidacy were convincing and genuine enough to furrow the brows of even the Conservatives’ most confident associates.

You would, too, be forgiven for attaching any real merit to Mr Corbyn’s sudden change of heart (full comments can be read here) concerning Britain’s somewhat polarising membership of the European Union. Such a dramatic personal U-turn could only have manifested itself through intense intra-party pressuring. It’s a disappointing turn of events, to say the least.

I should at this point confess that I like Jeremy Corbyn. He seems, to me at least, to represent a move towards the genesis of the Labour party. His proposals have struck a chord, both positively and negatively, with a large section of the British public, though my gut instinct tells me he’ll fall short at the 2020 hurdles.

For Jeremy Corbyn, ushering in a more traditionally euroscpetic approach to the EU could have presented his party with a refreshing opportunity to take back lost UKIP voters, whilst establishing itself as a more clearly defined oppositional force to today’s David Cameron-led government.

Instead, however, his decision to back Britain’s expensive European Union membership has inflicted immeasurable damage to his image both as a man, and more importantly as a democrat. And the reason for this is very simple indeed: you can’t be a democrat and a europhile. The two traits are totally incompatible, and for an entire plethora of valid reasons.

Democracy and European Union are terms seldom used adjacently. The European Commission, for instance, is a foundation supported entirely by privately appointed politicians, of which you can read about here. I shudder to think at the potential dangers posed by a body of un-elected politicians and commissioners, and just how demonstrably offensive this factoid is to modern, western government.

The Council of Ministers doesn’t fare too much better for the people of Britain, either, as a nonsensical qualified majority voting system will attest to. As you’ll be able to see in the document here, the UK is equipped with 29 votes in the council that must be forwarded either for or against any proposed legislative motion.

Malta, the European Union’s smallest member state, has a representative platform of three votes within the Council of Ministers. This means that, per head of the population, the Maltese have fifteen times more influence within the body than the British public, posing as yet more evidence of the EU’s abominable lack of democratic legitimacy.

It is worth noting, too, that since 1996, Britain has rejected an EU directive on 55 occasions, and has been unsuccessful every single time. This doesn’t feel like democracy or respectable government to me; in fact I’d go as far as to call it subtle dictatorship.

The European Union is perhaps the most pernicious, vile and intrusive form of government that I’ve experienced in my life, and it is great insult to the citizens of the project that we are seldom informed or influential of regulations or directives, and that we are unable to elect, nor hold the government to account for any of their political endeavours.

And so for Jeremy Corbyn to denounce his support for a system in which his voice, if he does get in to power, will be muffled and rejected is as bizarre as it is hypocritical. I’m not exactly sure how anybody, much less the new Labour leader, can refer to himself as a democrat and a europhile at the same time, and so his desire to persevere against his own personal interests seems to me to be on the level of futile gesture.

No, I don’t think he’ll be this country’s next Prime Minister, but if Jeremy Corbyn was indeed a man of principle, he should have done the right thing for himself and for his party, and forged an anti-European Union movement. Corbyn’s credibility has been irrevocably damaged by his indecisiveness over the EU, and so I’d be forgiven for thinking that he isn’t the principled and honest politician that his campaign so fiercely painted him to be.

You can’t be a democrat and a europhile, Jeremy, and so you’ll have to pick one.