Where Angles Fear to Tread

February 22, 2016

A referendum ahead…

Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Tags: — Right Angle @ 7:54 pm

So, we now know the date of the EU in/out referendum and some of the primary leaders for the debate. Now we have time before 23rd June to weigh up the arguments on both sides and vote in one of the important questions we will have in our life times. I will be adding some blog posts on this topic over the next few months, with the occasional break for the devolved elections, and the ocassional Presidential election info burst.

I’ve been following the build up to the referedum with interest, and now that the cabinet can campaign it only seems right that I should make a few comments and start noting down some of the changes during this time. This won’t be a daily blog (when were we ever) but I hope to return periodically with updates.

Obviously lots has happened over the weekend, and there is much to read. Boris is Out; Dave is In; Jeremy is in In; and some chap called Nick is In (but very few people noticed)

Not since the 5th June 1975 has the British public been able to vote on the issue of Europe (excepting the voting for MEPs of course). At that point the public voted to remain in the EEC (having joined in 1973). The EEC was a great idea (and indeed still is). A common market with your closest neighbours is always a good idea. Trade and communication will always encourage a progressive and peaceful growth of countries. The EEC succeeded, our parent’s were right to vote for it.

Now we have a different question. The EEC has morphed into a monolithic beast. The European Union has grown with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and has become a political union. However the public have never been asked if they wanted to do this. The number of referendums on this question in any country in the EU have been remarkably limited and rare events. The UK and Germany have become huge contributors to the EU project and send money across all states of Europe to ensure growth of power and influence.

When the Conservative Manifesto promised a renegotiation Cameron may have thought a coalition agreement could be an excuse to drop the requirement. However the Conservatives did a very good job of burying their coalition partners and so won the election. Having made the promise a change was necessary and welcome. However David Cameron aimed low – no Common Agriculture Policy; no Common Fisheries Policy; no discussion of security of borders in the EU (I don’t mean our borders I mean the ones in Eastern Europe which are overwhelmed); no discussion on ‘suggesting’ France should pay what the UK do. Having aimed low he also failed in the aims set! By asking for changes to the principle of freedom of movement and treating citizens differently from different countries he was always going to have difficulty. Eastern Europe was never going to agree to a 2-tier EU.

The other difficulty I have with David Cameron’s aims and rhetoric was the focus on immigration. The UK has always, and will always need immigrants. They have proven their worth to us for centuries and we have ‘borrowed’ the good things the immigrants bring with them. And they have always integrated into British Society (and always made small changes to it). Focusing on this element will strengthen the ‘In’ campaign enabling them to suggest racism at the heart of the ‘Out’ campaign.

It won’t surprise those who know me when I say the renegotiation should have concentrated on economics. Would this have excited the press? Would the Daily Mail have been happy? Would it have been ‘sexy’? No… clearly not. But it is where the EU is currently failing. Two countries (144 million people) can’t keep paying for 500 million people. The countries which used to benefit (France, Austria, Italy) need to shoulder more of the responsibility and allow the money to filter through to the new arrivals. This will allow the Eastern European countries to improve their standards of living (and of course the costs of living!) and equalise the EU.

On the first weekend we already have both parties discussing the ‘what-if’ outcomes of the referendum. This is, of course, good. However, there are already stories which are clearly intended to scare – border control,  terroists, economy failing, overwhelming immigration, France terminating agreements. All I hope for is a reasoned debate on both sides, and people making up their minds having reviewed the reasons for each options and weighed the benefits. It may be optimistic but I hope the campaigns move in the right direction.

-Right Angle     (22nd Feb)

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