Monday, 20 June 2016

EU Referendum - In or Out?

Everyone is talking about it, the media has been covering it for months and there can be little doubt the referendum vote this coming Thursday is a once in a generation event for everyone to have their say whether they want Britain to remain or leave.

They say most younger people want to remain but are less likely to vote. Older people are more likely to want out and are more likely to vote.

The opinion polls sway one way then the other - at present they seem to be saying it will be a very close call - but are they accurate, they got it very wrong for the general election last year.

I really do not feel very well informed on the EU and for all the media coverage and debates in recent months, there is much spin and rhetoric and few reliable facts. I am possibly less clear on many issues now than before it kicked off.

I must say however that I have been dismayed by the campaign of fear - house prices will plummet, every household will be £4,000 worse off, state pensions will be affected etc.

I suspect a great many people remain confused and for me the decision therefore boils down to a gut feeling about Europe.

For me, the three biggest issues are democracy, immigration and the economy.

Democracy

Most people haven’t a clue who their Euro MEP is or what they do. On average, 2 out of 3 people vote in the general elections but only 1 in 3 vote in the Euro elections. Most people do not relate to the EU, they do not think their vote makes any difference and therefore simply do not bother to vote.

We can hold our MPs to account and ultimately vote for a change of government every 5 years if we don’t like the one in power. In 2010, people were getting a bit fed up after 13 years of Labour. The coalition came to power. In 2015, the public in their wisdom decided they did not want the Lib Dems and returned an outright majority Tory government.


Since the 2008 crash of Lehman Brothers, there has been a general tendency to put aside democratic procedures or to change them into pseudo-democratic processes. The “too big to fail” policy of bank rescue has become a permanent but barely discussed feature. The Troika is another structure living its own life in isolation from democratic procedures - an expert committee composed of representatives of the Commission, ECB and IMF – and no democratic oversight whatsoever.

In the EU laws are proposed by the unelected civil service called the EU Commission and are later approved by the unelected Council of Ministers. Do our so called representatives decide what laws are implemented or is this more the role of the unelected commissioners?

We cannot hold these people to account at the European level and this is profoundly undemocratic. The only way for the UK to regain our sovereignty is by leaving the EU.

Immigration

Net migration to the UK is running at ~300,000 per year - up from 100,000 in 2004. The government wants to reduce this to ‘tens of thousands’ but has failed to make any inroads into the rising influx. Whilst we remain in the EU we must allow free movement of people from other EU counties to come and live and work here.

This is putting a big strain on services such as our NHS and schools as well as infrastructure, transport and housing. I believe we, not the EU, need to have the final say on numbers of people coming here so that they can be set at a level we need and can assimilate and also where applicants from non-EU countries around the world have an equal opportunity to live and work here.

Economy

It seems to me the original ideals of the EEC were noble but they have been overtaken by the inevitable push towards its stated objective of ever closer union - what feels like a wannabe superpower United States of Europe. For this to become a reality, it needs a common currency controlled by a central bank which can control debt and interest rates in relation to every member state.

Unfortunately, the global credit crunch of 2008 exposed the structural flaws in the euro resulting in the near collapse of  some of the weaker economies of southern Europe. Those countries had become weaker because they had access to cheap money when they were admitted as members. Greece, Portugal and Ireland could borrow money at the same rates as Germany.

Real estate bubbles were just one of the consequences. Cheap money enabled countries to run up big debts, pay high wages to government employees, and create false prosperity that encouraged consumers to spend and borrow beyond their means.

We all know the consequences when the bubble burst - high unemployment leading to many young people leaving to seek employment elsewhere, and a legacy of huge debts owed to the European banks which will probably never be repaid.

Conclusion

For me, I am convinced project EU can never work. The EU is creaking at the seams - it is a failed experiment. In the lon run, whether we vote to leave or remain will proably not make a great deal of difference. However if the vote turns out to be leave, I imagine the demise will be all the swifter.

Like an animal with some incurable sickness, the kindest act would be to put it down as humanely as possible.

I will be voting to leave on Thursday and will very likely stay up into the early hours to learn of the result which should become clear by around 4 am - I suspect remain may just have it!

Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below.

5 comments:

  1. Hi John

    I've been keeping an eye on this poll of polls https://ig.ft.com/sites/brexit-polling/

    Currently showing 44% leave, 44% remain with 12% undecided. If this is right it's going be close. That said I can't help think many will reassess and go with the status quo once thy're standing in the ballot box giving remain the win.

    Cheers
    RIT

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    1. RIT,

      Yes, most polls are very close but with a significant % undecided it could go either way.

      It may depend on the turnout - if high, that is over 75%, I think that would favour remain.

      Sentiment seems to be swinging behind remain this weekend which has boosted the markets today but expecting quite a bit more volatility over the coming weeks!

      With your planned move to a Euro destination post early retirement I am guessing you will be happy to remain?

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  2. Hi,

    I'm firmly in remain camp for the EU vote. I have written my thoughts below and I think what I have written below sounds more like a rant to be honest but to be honest don’t want to re-write it so I’m sorry!
    Regarding UK immigration I think it is wrong to blame EU for that as it currently stands about 55% of immigration which is about 150,000 people comes from outside the EU. We have full control over whether these people enter or not but it is still above the 'tens of thousands' target. I personally do not see EU immigration come down since we cannot control immigration from outside the EU at the moment so how can we control immigration with are closed neighbors?

    Democracy... we have a unelected House of lords, unelected head of state and have a first-past-the-post which typically means at least 50% of those who do vote have their votes ignored compared to the proportional representation for the EU vote which means only about 15% are ignored (it would be less if the government merged EU constituency’s). Also we hold MPS to account? I have to wait 5 years to hold an MP to government? 13 years for a government? That is too long in my opinion. Even to hold MP to an account we can only hold our local MP and what make it worse is some people vote for the MP on local rather national matters. Which means we tend to have national projects taking decades to complete and no long terms plan in infrastructure.

    The EU is not the perfectdemocracy but it is better than ours and it we are still going to have to obey the EU law for trade and travel so I would think it would be better to stay in the EU so we have a say in the laws that the EU creates. Rather than being an “observer” and having a reduced presence in Brussels which means less negotiating power with EU which means the UK will be worst off.

    For the economy we have a government with appoints cabinet ministers more on who their buddy and who has influence rather than their skills. While I accept that this occurs in the EU and all governments in the world, we are worse at this compared some of are more developed European neighbours and since it is our government that is mismanages parts of the economy, the economy will not be any worse in than out of the EU.

    In short until we sort the way our government is voted and runs the UK is improved we should remain in the EU and only then can we consider the EU.

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    1. Well said yellowman - its good to have conviction!

      Whether the EU is more democratic than the UK, I think we probably will not find much common ground.

      But at least we have the referendum where everyone can register their vote to a simple question - Remain or Leave. It will be interesting to see how it goes and I hope there is a large turn out to give legitimacy to the process.

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    2. True, at least we are having a referendum on the EU and indeed I believe the UK should hold more referendums on various matters as I believe that way people will engage more in current political matters and get them to actually vote for any side rather than sitting at home.

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