Reflection of the Moon comment
It’s time to talk about the EU
Whichever side you fall, it is an historic time for Britain. The referendum to determine if the United Kingdom should remain inside or leave the European Union will take place on Thursday 23rd June. The Prime Minister David Cameron, after two whole days in Brussels, has finalised the basis on which the Referendum will be fought. He argues his deal means Britain will be ‘Stronger, safer and better off in the European Union.’ That quote is important, as it is already clear from those who want to remain in the EU that those points are going to be the basis of the Remain sides argument.
So what of the deal? One of the big points Cameron has been fighting on is an emergency break for migrant benefits and a stop on them sending benefits home to their children in other countries. Skeptics say this was always small beet compared to the big issues of controlling boarders and reducing migrant numbers, currently running at around a net of 300.000 a year. What has been agreed is a pretty confusing 7 year break with benefits to be phased back in after four years. It also will not be renewed after the seven years, which ties the hands of a successor who has no room to agree an extension. The right to send benefits to another country has also not been stopped as Cameron wanted, but child benefit will be paid on the basis of living standards in each country for new claimants and will be phased in for existing claimants from 2020.The costs of setting this system up will likely be more than will be saved in paying lower benefits, as a result it is hard to see what exactly has been gained at all.
There is a specific commitment to Britain not being part of ‘Ever Closer Union.’This is something to be cautiously welcomed, however it is broad and open to wide interpretation. As UKIP MEP Roger Helmer pointed out on 5 Live’s Steven Nolan show last night, every regulation from Brussels is in a way ever closer union because every directive is one more law they are imposing on us that we cannot decide ourselves.What it likely means in reality is that should there be further treaty discussions, it gives a future British PM an negotiating position of saying something disliked is ‘ever closer union’ and therefore the UK should have an opt out. This could lead to countless hours of wrangling in future summits and at home of which points meet this criteria. It also means the idea this Referendum will end Euro battles if we vote to remain is a fallacy, it ensures the issue will not go away as every future fight is grounds for another EU argument. David Cameron has claimed this point means we will never be part of the Euro or Schengen, but then we had opt outs on these anyway. He claims it means we could never be part of an EU army, that is certainly welcome, and we will never be part of a European Superstate, whatever that means in reality, I suspect few who support it even really know.
The deal also addresses concerns that non Euro countries could be discriminated against due to decision of the Eurozone. What has been agreed is that any nation can raise this concern, although all it appears to trigger is a European council meeting where as far as I can figure out, the Eurozone countries can then vote for the measure anyway.Cameron thinks this is important in protecting the city of London, given it’s a small technical EU process device, this appears to be a very grand claim.
So not everything in the deal is unwelcome and at least will give a future PM a standing on which to fight for Britain should we vote to remain in the EU. But it does not really deal with the big issues of boarder controls, sovereignty and the freedom of the nation state one hoped would be on the table. Looking ahead to the Referendum this deal is not substantial enough to base a decision of whether to stay or leave. The Prime Minister’s quote of ‘stronger, safer and better off’ are actually a better basis to assess the real issues.
So we would be stronger in the EU according to the Prime Minister? This is the most difficult of the three areas to look at as what does ‘stronger’ mean? Does it mean our place in the world? Britain will still be in the UN, the Commonwealth, NATO and have a permanent seat on the UN security council, indeed that particular role would be more secure outside the EU as that seat is something the EU has long eyed and wanted to take off the UK, something it would not be able to contemplate if we were not in the club. Outside the EU we could also join the World Trade Organisation as Britain (This also would restrict tariffs the EU could place on Britain if the EU decided to play tariff war after we left.) Currently we rely on the EU to speak for us in the WTO. We of course would have no influence on what the EU does itself. You can argue that is sufficient a loss of influence in itself to weaken the UK and thus were are ‘stronger’ in the EU, it is an argument that is difficult to sustain however.Why would we want influence in an organisation we are no longer a part of anyway?
Leaving the EU also means we can make our own free trade agreements. In the EU we have to impose a common external tariff on goods coming outside the EU. Outside the EU this would no longer be an obligation. This would cut costs for exporters outside the EU that a report this week showed was hugely on the increase (With exports to the EU falling.) We can have a free trade agreement that suits the UK with Canada, the USA, Iceland, Norway, China, Russia, India and any other nation outside the EU. As of now this can only be done through the EU on the EU’s terms. It could be argued such a power would make Britain stronger not weaker outside the EU.
So if being stronger is impossible to prove, how about being ‘safer.’ The Prime Minister sites the European Arrest Warrant should we want to extradite a terrorist from another EU country. So could this not be done before the European Arrest Warrant? Of course, there was still huge co-operation and agreements between nations before the European arrest warrants indeed all the EWA did was merge existing agreements. Is there no co-operation with nations outside the EU, of course there is. For example this agreement on wider cyber security between Britain and the UK. The idea Europol will stop co-operating with a nation that has MI5, MI6 & GCHQ, the best security agencies in Europe is nonsense. Leaving the EU also has no baring on our membership of the much more important ‘five eyes’ intelligence group including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.Besides which, the European Arrest Warrant, if it has any benefit at all, is merely to chase those who have already committed the crime, it does not prevent it which is what would actually make us safer.
In that respect Europol, the EU creation to share intelligence across boarders, is a failure. Simply look at the recent Paris attacks which failures in communication played a big part. Those coordinating the attacks were not based in France, they were based elsewhere in Europe. They were able to take full advantage of the boarderless areas of the EU to move around and put everything in place. Some call it ‘a free passport for terrorists.’ If the EU did not exist and all the nations had their own boarder controls, would that attack have been easier or more difficult to pull off? More difficult of course as their room for movement would have been restricted.. Are we therefore ‘safer’ in the EU? While not being in Scehngen protects us, free movement would still be part of what we have to accept that means we are not immune. If an attack like that is easier to pull off because it is in the EU and harder if we were individual nations, it is clear we are not safer in the EU and the attempt to create an EU wide police and security force is a failure. Long standing and respected Telegraph defence correspondent Con Coughlin has also written about the subject of safety within the EU in detail. He also concludes the EU is making us less, not more safe.
So how about ‘better off.’ This now comes down to the economic argument. Some of which I have already covered in the ‘stronger’ debate but the better off also covers a central claim of the Remain side namely that ‘3 million jobs are linked to the EU.’ It should be noted first the change of language from the Remain side, they used to claim this number of jobs were ‘at risk’ or ‘would be lost’ if we left the EU. Now they are only ‘linked’ which in itself is a victory for the leave side. A 2014 report from the Center for Business and Economics research Quoted in a report called ‘The Jobs Myth’ page 10-11, also found that there were 4.2 million EU jobs ‘linked’ to the UK, meaning they have more jobs linked to us than we do them.
This balance means the chances of the EU not wanting to quickly agree a free trade agreement with us are small. The same report refutes that millions of jobs would be at risk even if not however, due to protections under WTO rules. So what about the wider economy? What would be the full impact of leaving and would we be worse off? This is a question Woodford investments wanted to get to the bottom of. They asked Capital Economics to do an independent report on the full impact of the balance of risks of staying in and leaving the EU. The report can be found here.
Now the report does not claim everything about the EU is bad, nor does it cover the fact that there will be some losers if we leave the EU. For example, there would be at least a short period where exporters into the EU would face some tariffs they currently don’t, that is fact and to claim otherwise would be wrong. However, overall the conclusion is the economic impact of leaving the EU is neutral, with pros and cons, losses against opportunities and the balance of those who again and those who lose would ultimately be neutral in terms of the overall UK economy. Those who advocate leave should not overestimate any claims about us being hugely better off, but neither is the economic impact a reason not to leave the European Union. The conclusion is that we would neither be particularly worse or better off, and the decision to stay or leave therefore should not be based on the economic impact.
As a result there is no clear evidence, as the remain campaign will claim, that we are stronger, safer or better off in the EU. Stronger is more a matter of opinion,we would on balance probably be safer outside the EU and the economic impact is neutral. That does not mean we are better off (Financially and economically) out either and those who will claim that on the leave side are in my view exaggerating their case.This Referendum will open other cans of worms, especially if England and Scotland vote different ways. Scottish Nationalism could raise it’s head again.My view has always been that is a matter for the Scots, it is not a reason to colour ones view of the Referendum, however much some will try and skew it that way. If the Scottish Nationalists can use this for their own independence agenda, bully for them.
It also means normally great friends and allies will disagree, as David Cameron and Michael Gove have demonstrated already. and David Cameron’s position may be on the line. To be clear I respect what David Cameron has done, I respect his work in the negotiation, I respect the fact he has delivered the Referendum. (Ed Miliband would not have even given us one) He remains far superior an option as Prime Minister to the alternatives available, but on this issue, sadly, as with many people I respect who will back remain, I can’t agree with his conclusion. I am also acutely aware this will put me in the same camp as a number of people I have no time for whatsoever, as Nigel Farage’s extraordinary unveiling of George Galloway last night night shows only too well.
So how to vote if stronger is questionable, safer is dubious and better off is really economically neutral? Ultimately it comes down to the big picture. What sort of nation, or perhaps not do you want Britain to be? If you believe in Europe, working together ultimately being better then you should vote to remain. If you believe Britain should be a free nation state with laws determined by the people you elect, you should vote to leave. I call my blog the Moon Of Liberty because freedom is my top priority. Free nation states are an important aspect of freedom. I believe this is actually an exciting opportunity to explore a different path, form new friendship, create new alliances based on freedom and democracy rather than remain in a depressing, one size fits all EU with authoritarian, financially irresponsible (The EU has not has it’s accounts audited for over a decade) values. as a result I through this blog in an activities elsewhere, will advocate a vote to leave the European Union.