Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Remain or Brexit pursued by a (Russian) bear?

Harriet's birthday at Bolton Abbey.... Harriet's French-speaking job is in the balance....
Contemplating potential sadness
Being retired I have been able to spend many hours reading about tomorrow’s EU referendum. I have tried to read more Brexit than Remain arguments because some of the people I love are contemplating voting to leave the EU and I want to be able to understand if the vote does not go the way I hope. My initial instinct was to Vote Remain, largely because I believe that global cooperation is a better future for mankind than individual countries going it alone; but the more I have read and studied, the more I am now a Remainer by absolute conviction. If tomorrow the country votes to leave the EU, I will be extremely sad.
The Botanist in Leeds - need to celebrate Life, Birth, Optimism, Future....

Rocking the boat

The UK is currently in a gradually improving recovery period – and it seems to me that Rocking the Boat would take us backwards politically, economically, culturally, historically and philosophically. If we Brexit tomorrow, not only will we need a bigger boat, we will have to start – without hesitation – building a brand new boat, on our own, without instructions! That might work if we could
  • operate in glorious isolation and ignore the rest of the world
  • close our island borders
  • fill all the vacancies in the jobs that Brits don’t want to do
  • trade with only ourselves until we can renegotiate all the international deals that we currently have by being a member of the EU. The historical pattern of international trade has involved in the first place multilateral negotiations centred around the World Trade Organisation, currently dominated by the US and the EU; and, then, a new wave of bilateral trade deals involving major negotiations with a whole series of countries including the US, China, India, Indonesia, the Phillipines – in these deals the EU is the world leader and these are the ones we would have to negotiate as an individual country (“back of the queue”as President Obama pointed out). Unless of course we applied to join the Single Market and thereby accept free movement of people…
  • and re-integrate the 1.2 million non-taxpaying ex-pat (mostly) pensioners from Spain, France and Italy whose residency rights in Europe will have to be negotiated according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which is very explicit: the acquired rights of states are preserved upon termination of a treaty; but the situation of natural and legal persons is to be determined by agreement (either in advance or upon exit.) The EU Treaties make no provision in advance; residency rights have to be agreed upon withdrawal. If they all have to return, they will become a (non-contributing) drain on our current resources.

Labour In

My Mum always voted what Labour voted and the official Labour line is Labour In. Thus, in honour of my Mum the past two weeks, I have been out leafleting, pounding the local pavements with Labour In campaign leaflets and I am now living in a house with a Labour In garden post.

For whom the bell tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

(John Donne)

Overwhelming support from admirable sources

Why are people suddenly frightened about intelligent expert opinion? About evidence-based research? If you were going to have an operation, you would want an expert to operate on you. If you were going to send an astronaut to the International Space Station, you would want an expert to go there. It is perverse to disagree with the overwhelming number of intelligent individuals and groups who are supporting the Remain campaign with public and detailed letters (references can all be found on the Wikipedia page here):
  • 1,285 business leaders in a letter to The Times today
  • 200 senior Healthcare Professionals working for the UK NHS right here, right now
  • 150 scientists and researchers working in all branches of Science, led by Professor Stephen Hawking
  • Over 100 university leaders
  • 279 leading economists
  • 300 leading lawyers
  • 300 leading historians
  • the 18 most senior leaders of the Armed and Security Forces
  • Premier Football League boss, Richard Scudamore and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (who both want the UK national teams to stay in the Euro Football Tournament)
  • 300 Writers, Artists, Architects, Actors, Directors, Painters, Comedians, including, for example, Eddie Izzard, JK Rowling, Jo Brand, Tracey Emin
  • 25 of 30 Cabinet Ministers
  • President Obama and the vast majority of world leaders
  • 25 major newspapers and magazines including The BMJ and The Lancet (health professionals), The Farmers Weekly, The Economist and, surprisingly, The Mail on Sunday and The Times (possibly because of the letters they have been sent)
  • 16 Local Government Authorities
  • major organisations like the CBI, National Farmers Union, Universities UK, Quakers, Friends of the Earth, the Round Table, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the TUC (and all major trade unions including the Fire Brigades Union and UNISON)
  • Archbishops of York and Canterbury, 
  • CEOs of All UK Airports
  • Bosses of Asda, Aviva, BAE Systems, BMW UK, BP, BT, Burberry, Cisco, Dixons, Easyjet, Ford UK, Fujisu UK, Jaguar UK, Lastminute, Lloyd’s, London Stock Exchange, M&S, Mothercare, National Express, National Grid, Ocado, 02, Pearsons, Prudential, River Café. Rolls Royce UK, Ryanair, Santander UK, Shell UK, Siemens, TalkTalk, Unilever, VirginMedia, VirginMoney
  • The Labour Conference on the basis of
  • jobs
  • investment in our economy
  • protections for workers and consumers
  • increased security that cooperation with our continental neighbours provides

Brexiters include:

  • Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith
  • Dennis Skinner and Frank Field (latter two Labour MPs I greatly respect but disagree with on this topic)
  • the Shipley MP Philip Davies (my own MP....)
  • Donald Trump, former Australian PM John Howard
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Katie Hopkins, Julian Fellowes, Michael Caine
  • The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and another 9 newspapers including the Communist The Morning Star 
  • 5 declared major employers: Aspall Cider, Go Ape, JCB, Tate and Lyle and Wetherspoons
Do I want to ally myself with these people?

Brexit pursued by a (Russian) bear

Not a Shakespeare reference to The Winter’s Tale this time, but my worry that Russia will celebrate the most if the UK leaves the EU. A fractured Europe would please Putin profoundly; the list of conflicts between and within European states suggests that it won’t be long before rivalries erupt if, as predicted, a Brexit leads eventually to a collapse of the whole European project and the end of the single market, the most advanced trade agreement on the planet (currently with no close competitor.) Time and again throughout our history we have entered European conflicts, sometimes starting them by way of conquest and sometimes in order to protect our independence by stopping another power from swallowing smaller countries. Michael Dougan’s lecture summarising the reasons to Remain is very persuasive and his further comments (on the university of Liverpool website) about immigration are compelling.

If you’re not prejudiced against experts, and are still unsure which way to vote, some extracts from their letters are below

Extract from what the NHS professionals wrote:
"As health professionals and researchers we write to highlight the valuable benefits of continued EU membership to the NHS, medical innovation and UK public health…. We have made enormous progress over decades in international health research, health services innovation and public health. Much has been built around shared policies and capacity across the EU…. EU trade deals will not privatise the NHS as the EU negotiating position now contains clear safeguards. Decisions on NHS privatisation are in UK government hands alone. EU immigration is a net benefit to our NHS in terms of finances, staffing and exchanges…. leaving the EU would not provide a financial windfall for the NHS".
Extract from what the university leaders wrote:
"Inside the EU, we are better able to collaborate with partners from across Europe to carry out cutting edge research, from medical and healthcare advances, to new materials, products and services. In the EU, the UK is also a more attractive destination for global talent, ensuring that our students are taught by the best minds from across Europe. This has a direct impact on our economy, driving growth, generating jobs and ultimately improving people’s lives".
Extract from what the leading historians wrote:
"On 23 June, we face a choice: to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness; or to reaffirm our commitment to the EU and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world.
Extract from today’s letter to The Times by business leaders:
"Sir, We own and run more than 1,200 businesses, from micro companies to the FTSE 100, employing more than 1.75 million people. We know our firms are stronger in Europe. Our reasons are straightforward: businesses and their employees benefit massively from being able to trade inside the world’s largest single market without barriers. As business people, we always look to the future — and a future inside the EU is where we see more opportunities for investment, growth and new jobs."
Extra material from Professor Michael Dougan addressing immigration:
"– a significant majority of the foreign nationals living in the UK (2/3 at the last national census), and over half the net immigration each year, come from outside the EU. That is almost entirely within our own domestic competence and power – we seem to be good at immigration, without needing any help from the EU.
– as regards those EU nationals who come to the UK: it is completely dishonest of prominent Leave campaigners repeatedly to claim that there is some sort of unconditional right to move to and settle in another Member State. We all have a right to circulate – that is the basis on which, e.g. we go on holiday to Spain and France. But when it comes to settling in another country, there are three main categories of right under EU law:
for the economically active (ie in work and paying taxes)
for students (eg enrolled at university and thus paying tuition fees)
and for those wealthy enough to look after themselves and their families without relying on public benefits.
There is no right to “benefit tourism” under EU law.
– Against that background, it is unsurprising to find that – according to all the objective social science research – EU migrants are significantly more likely to be younger, better qualified and economically active; they pay far more into the country in work and taxes than they take out in public benefits or services.
– When it comes to the particular situation of Eastern European migrants, we are rarely reminded of the fact that the UK was one of only three Member States (the others being Ireland and Sweden) that chose not to impose transitional restrictions on the rights to free movement of new EU citizens during the “Big Bang” enlargement of 2004. We chose to let these people come here as we did; no one forced us to and we could have decided otherwise. Small wonder that many other Europeans regard the UK debate as rather hypocritical.
– And nor should we forget that free movement is a two way street. Massive numbers of UK nationals travel for pleasure, study and work around the EU – taking advantage of all the benefits and convenience and protection EU law offers. Around 2 million UK nationals have also settled in other Member States – and the objective social science research suggests that those migrants are more likely to be economically inactive, ie they are not actively contributing through work and taxes to their host society. Again – small wonder other Europeans think there is a real double standard at work in the UK debate.
– It is also worth recalling that the accession of future Member States requires the unanimous agreement of the 28 governments plus their national ratification processes. The only large applicant is Turkey – and there is no realistic prospect of Turkey joining the EU within any of our lifetimes – not least since several countries have indicated that they would hold national referenda on any Turkish deal, obviously in the expectation that their populations would overwhelmingly reject it.”

Vote Remain!