Wednesday, 29 June 2016

No Thanks To EU - Part 1

On Thursday, June 23rd 2016, I voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.


If you look down on me for writing that sentence, please do yourself a favour and don't read any further. Seriously. I'd rather you did something happy and constructive like dig the garden or bake a pie.

I've dusted the 4 year old cobwebs off this blog to try and sort out my feelings on what's happened in the past few months, the current chaos and the future potential for our country. I'm here to vent, not debate. There's so much to say it'll take a few chapters.

I've had to cut down on Twitter and Facebook because I'm finding all the sore losers very tiresome and I've lost a lot of respect for people I thought I liked. As much as I empathise with the disappointment the Remain supporters must be feeling, it disturbs me that they are aiming their anger at Leave supporters instead of the one person who got us into this mess in the first place - Prime Minister David Cameron. So I'll start with some background which may fill in the gaps for those living outside the UK who have no context for what is currently being reported.

Why Was There a Referendum?


Mr Cameron's Conservatives won the May 2015 General Election by a larger majority than was predicted. Pollsters had been caught by surprise with a second successive coalition government expected to be elected. His manifesto pledge to renegotiate the UK's terms of membership of the European Union and then hold an In/Out referendum was the one policy that stood out against Labour and the smaller opposition parties. With the rise in support of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) over the last decade, it would be easy to conclude that the referendum was nothing but a sop to bring voters to the Tories instead of UKIP. Although UKIP are a right wing party they have taken a lot of working class voters from Labour who have been criticised for abandoning their grass roots supporters since Tony Blair tried to reinvent the party in the mid 90s.

The price of another five years of Conservative power ended up being a dangerous gamble with the future of the United Kingdom.

In February 2016 the 28 EU members' heads of state met to thrash out Mr Cameron's new deal for Britain. Here is a guide to what he asked for and what he actually got. More tinkering round the edges than massive reform. The UK has always been the awkward child of Europe, with a long history of refunds, opt-outs and vetoes. We didn't adopt the Euro, we stayed out of the Schengen border-free zone and we have always rejected the EU policy of becoming an ever closer union. In 1993 the British government (then led by John Major who in recent weeks has been damning of the Leave campaign) faced a massive rebellion to ratify the Maastricht Treaty which enshrined the freedom of movement across the EU and the single currency in most member countries.

If you want to join a club, such as a golf club or a social club, you get given a list of rules you agree to abide by. If you don't like the rules, you don't join the club. So how can the UK ever be a wholehearted member of the EU "club" when we reject a lot of its rules and want others specially rewritten just for us?

One fact omitted from the recent campaign is that Britain is far from alone in our Euroscepticism. Anti-EU parties are on the rise right across the continent. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy and even France are reported to have a strong groundswell in favour of either leaving or holding a referendum. Should the far right Front National gain power in France's general election next year, their policy is to hold a referendum and that will make the UK's current upheaval seem like a walk in the park!

As part of the EU-wide tactic of scaring the British into voting remain (or in other words holding onto their own vested interests) French finance minister Emmanuel Macron said Brexit would make Britain "as significant as Guernsey". That's Guernsey with a GDP per capita of International$52,300 compared to France's INT$41,400 & the UK's INT$41,200, by the way. During that speech, M. Macron declared that Europe should "act fast to avoid other countries starting a similar process... There must be no question of Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, deciding they want the same status." Now imagine the old USSR saying that about Ukraine or one of its other old territories. But because it's the EU we're supposed to accept it's benign. I don't agree with that logic so that's the first of my reasons for voting Leave. I'll discuss those in more depth in the next chapter.