There is so much to write about the EU Referendum that it would take days.
However, here is a penultimate post with a set of topics to consider before voting on Thursday, June 23.
Tone of the arguments presented
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has threatened the UK with a ‘punishment’ budget if we vote Leave.
This makes no sense because we already have our budget for the year and, even if Leave wins, we are still fully part of the EU for the next two to four years until the government negotiates our full exit.
Therefore, one can conclude only that this is the final scare tactic of Remain’s Project Fear.
One of the comments following The Guardian‘s story on the ‘punishment’ budget makes excellent points about the way both Remain and Leave presented their respective arguments (emphases mine):
LEAVE is about hope, independence and a national identity our children can be proud of. REMAIN, is all about fear, threats and bullying. In the history of the UK peoples, when have we ever given in to threats and fear? Because the electorate simply WON’T do as our elitist, privileged superiors tell us. They threaten Armageddon, they use fear for they lack reason and honesty. The Guardian is legitimising FEAR as a means to subdue a democracy. Wonderfully liberal, precisely what the wealthy, know best political elites have done for decades. A vote to remain, is a vote for the same. Or we refuse fear, we refuse bullying, we vote to leave and raise two defiant fingers to their smug arrogant faces!
Five questions the government won’t answer
The surge in EU migration to the UK in recent years has raised questions in people’s minds — sometimes prompted by television documentaries, newspaper exposes or personal observation — about UK benefit money sent abroad. Child benefit figures prominently.
On June 15, the Daily Mail had an article describing how four Conservative MPs have accused Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of showing ‘contempt for Parliament’ by refusing to reveal the amount of child benefit sent to other EU countries.
The MPs have accused Sir Jeremy of politicising the civil service in order to protect Prime Minister David Cameron’s Remain campaign. Other ministers are also implicated.
These are the five questions the government refuses to answer:
Q. To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what her policy is on taking account of the effect on the demand for school places caused by immigration (a) in general and (b) from nationals from other EEA countries.
A. It has not proved possible to respond in the time available.
Q. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what estimate he has made of annual claims made for (a) tax credits and (b) child benefit by EU nationals who remain in the UK for less than one year in each of the last three years.
A. The information requested is not available.
Q. To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of child benefit payments paid to non-UK citizens in each financial year since 2010-11.
A. Around 7 million people are receiving Child Benefit. To extract and collate the value of all payments made to EU migrants for children living outside the UK in the format requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Q. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, how many nationals of other EU member states registered with a GP in each of the last 10 years.
A. The requested information is not collected centrally.
Q. To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people from other EU member states were in receipt of housing benefit in each of the last 10 years; and what the total cost to the public purse was of those people claiming that benefit in each of those years.
A. The information requested is not available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Conservative MP William Wragg co-ordinated the written complaint, supported by fellow MPs Bernard Jenkin, Anne Main and Karl McCartney.
The public will be appalled and surprised to learn that the Government refusing to tell us how mass uncontrolled migration from the EU is affecting these vital public services.
Remaining in the EU means that there will be more demand on the NHS, more pressure on schools, more pressure on social housing, and more costs to taxpayers in benefits being paid to EU migrants, some of whom send benefits home to their children who do not even live in the UK.
However the public will be shocked to see that the Government either don’t care, or lacks the courage to admit this.
The Cabinet Office had no comment.
Fishing stocks and quotas
On June 15, an early evening edition of Question Time on BBC1 featured Justice Secretary Michael Gove answer questions from the audience about his case for Leave.
Nearly all the questions he received were from people who backed Remain.
At one point, Gove brought up the control we would have over our fishing stocks. He described how his father had to close his own fishing business in Aberdeen in the 1980s because of EU rules. Notional moderator David Dimbleby said that was untrue, because The Guardian had interviewed Gove’s father who said EU regulations had nothing to do with it per se. There were a myriad of local factors which caused him to wrap up his company.
Gove accused The Guardian of misquoting his father. The paper then reprinted the full transcript of the reporter’s conversation with Gove Sr. The Mail reported:
After the newspaper approached the Cabinet Minister for reaction to his father’s remarks, a clarification was issued.
Mr Gove Snr said he would be voting Leave and was proud of his son for standing-up for people who lost their jobs due to the EU.
“I don’t know what this reporter is going on about,” Mr Gove Snr said, according to The Guardian.
“Everybody in the north-east knows it was Europe that did such damage to the fish trade. The common fisheries policy was a disaster not just for Aberdeen but all of Scotland. There wasn’t any future for my business. It closed as a direct result of Europe,” the statement added.
However, how did the UK get into such a situation? A 1996 article from The Independent provides the answers. Excerpts follow:
Everyone agrees that too many European boats are chasing too few fish. Britain, along with other EU states, has agreed three Europe-wide programmes to pay off fishermen and scrap their boats. But the British Government refused at first to fund its share (30 per cent) of the compensation, so for many years the scheme was not available to British fishermen.
Why not? The Treasury blocked the scheme because it would have reduced the annual UK budget rebate from Brussels. Whatever the EU spent on paying off British boats would be deducted from the celebrated Thatcher cash- back scheme, which reduces Britain’s net budget deficit with the EU. The Government preferred to spend both its money, and the EU money, in other ways. Fisheries were not a priority.
Spanish and Dutch fishermen became a problem during the 1980s because of the way the British government allowed our fishing boats to be sold and the rights that went with the sale:
British trawler owners sold their boats to the Spanish and Dutch. Or in some cases they sold them to British brokers, who sold them to the Spanish and Dutch. Why? Because they were offering the best price.
The main alternative – EU scrapping grants – were not on offer in Britain. Why were the foreign skippers so keen to buy British boats? Because under British, not EU, regulations, if you bought the boat, you also got the licence to fish and a guaranteed share of the national quota.
It is a purely British government policy to break down the national quota boat by boat, and allow the sale of quotas, in this way. Other EU governments have other ways of enforcing (or in some cases failing to enforce) the Common Fisheries Policy.
In case of a Leave win, this would be renegotiated. One would hope so. Two suggestions follow, although both have a direct negative impact on British fishermen and fleet owners:
Britain could, for instance, insist that all British fishing boats must land a proportion of their annual catch (say, 30 per cent) for sale or processing at a British port. Until now, the Government has declined to do this. Why? Because many Scottish boats, in particular, like to sell their catches directly to Spain or France, where prices for some species are much higher.
Alternatively, EU officials say, the Government could introduce a law insisting that the crews of “British” fishing boats be covered by British social security and health insurance. This would drill several holes below the waterline of the economics of quota-hopping.
The Government has been reluctant to follow this up. Why? Because it would impose a new burden of regulation on British fishermen, as well as quota-hoppers. Many British fishing crews, who operate on a casual basis, would have to come fully into the social security system.
The television documentaries I’ve seen on fishermen over the past two years show them being paid in cash. Some of these men are regular crew. Others are occasional workers.
Fleet owners continue to sell directly to Europe, not only in Scotland but also in Cornwall.
Changes to either arrangement would be as challenging as they would have been 20 years ago.
No one says that leaving Europe would be easy.
However, is freedom and independence worth a few years of pain?
It is, when we consider the alternative of the EU evolving and expanding with new demands placed on us every year.
No one can accurately predict what sort of Britain Leave would produce.
However, nor can anyone predict what the EU will decide over the course of the next few years.
This is our last chance, Britain! Vote wisely on Thursday, June 23!
Tomorrow: Two must-see films on the EU