Expat worries are mistaken

The pro-independence movement is excited by the prospect of withdrawal. However, to secure that all-important “out” vote, it will be necessary to win over a good many people for whom the terms of the debate so far has made them anything but excited about the thought of “Brexit”. One such group is the expatriate community. Some of our compatriots living abroad are very concerned indeed.

The root of the problem is the strong language that has been used in the debate about immigration. For a number of voters, a desire to limit the number of people coming to the UK is the most important reason they would give for supporting withdrawal from the EU. Some of these people may have genuine concerns, such as suffering an increase in waiting times at their local GP’s surgery due to large numbers of migrants, or finding themselves undercut by Eastern European tradesmen willing to work for a pittance. Others may be xenophobes in the worst sense. For all the variety of reasons different people may give for their concerns, the net result is that there is considerable political capital to be made in talking tough on immigration, whether from the EU or elsewhere.

However, this cuts both ways. A substantial number of UK citizens live abroad – some 8% of our population, in fact. Most countries boasting large numbers of expatriate Brits are, unsurprisingly, Anglophone nations such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, but the prospect of a retirement in the sunnier climate of the Mediterranean has attracted large numbers of our fellow-countrymen too. Estimates vary, but it is possible that as many as 700,000 UK citizens are resident in Spain and 200-400,000 in France. Also growing in popularity is Bulgaria, which boasts a pleasant climate, incredibly cheap housing and, at least in the villages, a strong community spirit. At least 50,000 of our countrymen have chosen to relocate to this country whose own citizens are not exactly popular when they come over here. It’s not just retired people who have moved abroad. Berlin, hardly renowned for sea, sand and sunshine, was home to over 14,000 Brits at the end of 2012 – many of them young people attracted by a city that has developed a trendy image in recent years.

If freedom of movement of people were curtailed when we leave the EU, what would become of these people? As has already been pointed out on this website, misinformation stating that they would become “illegal immigrants” has been put about by no less an individual than Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General. As we pointed out, people who have acquired rights of residence will still have those rights whatever form of exit might ensue. They simply can’t be booted out. However, our blog isn’t reaching the areas it should, for a recent report suggests that a number of expats are so concerned about withdrawal thay they looking at acquiring dual citizenship to ensure they won’t end up stateless. Likewise, as the Guardian reported recently a number of EU citizens resident in the UK are considering similar action.

It would be a tragedy for the “out” campaign if immigration was to become the most dominant issue. It would mean that we would lose, point blank, and the blame lying with wishful thinking. Given that the most seamless exit route from the EU is via the EEA and EFTA, whatever some people might desire, we would still initially remain subject to all four freedoms of the Single Market, including free movement of people, so compulsory repatriation of EU residents just isn’t going to happen. Within the EEA, we need not allow the dependents of migrant workers from the EU to join them and if we feel we are struggling to cope with the number of EU citizens arriving here, there is the possibility of applying a temporary brake, as Liechtenstein has done. That is all. Furthermore, any long-term arrangement replacing the EEA agreement would inevitably want to ensure the preservation of vested rights – a fundamental principle of international law – allowing long-term residents to remain where they are. It is, of course, possible that independence may well result in substantial numbers of people voluntarily returning to their own country. Some expats, disillusioned with recent politics in the UK, may feel that independence offers a chance to put the country right and come home. Some EU citizens currently resident in the UK may decide that they do not wish to reside outside of the EU, even if they would not be treated any differently in an independent UK. However, we cannot be sure what will happen. Others clearly like it here and will want to stay, come what may. It is therefore better for them and for our own expatriate community if ALL supporters of withdrawal keep the focus on what really counts – the re-establishment of UK sovereignty – rather than allowing free movement of people to dominate the forthcoming campaign. Those who are uncomfortable with the current level of immigration will vote to leave regardless. Their votes are already in the bag. We need to focus on winning the votes of people who have other concerns and alienating our expat community for no sensible reason will do our cause no good.

For further comment on the Guardian Article, we recommend the latest article in the EU Referendum blog.

Comic Relief?

It’s not difficult for a good tradesman to find work. I’ve come across some that don’t even need to advertise. Likewise, if you invent something of immense benefit to mankind, you don’t need to spend millions telling everyone how good your invention is; it soon becomes self-evident. Ask Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet. How much of his hard-earned cash has been spent on promotional material praising his clever idea to all and sundry?

Not as much as the EU spends on promoting itself, that’s for sure. A recent article in the Daily Mail claims that Brussels has spent over half a billion pounds on propaganda, with the UK’s contribution (the sum total of our money being frittered away in other words) amounting to £357 million.

It is quite clear that the EU is engaged in a desperate no-holds-barred battle to shore up its failing credibility as it targets the UK’s schools. The Mail reproduces quotes extracted from Dennis-the Menace-style cartoons which are both biased and banal. Unfortunately, badly-written and sickening as this claptrap is, circumstantial evidence suggests that it is having its desired effect and poisoning our children’s minds. Anyone questioning the EU project is depicted as narrow-minded. Edward Spalton, CIB’s President and a veteran of school debates on the EU, used to win every debate. A couple of years back, he found himself on the losing side and it was nothing to do with his performance. Other speakers have also found the going much tougher.

As the article points out, this garbage is not getting into our classrooms behind the backs of the UK government, but with its full connivance. It suggests that Tory MPs supportive of withdrawal may well use the recently-published report from which the above statistics were taken to put pressure on the government to ensure a level playing field in the period immediately before the referendum and not to use public funds to promote the EU.

While CIB is grateful that papers like the Daily Mail publish these EU-critical articles, we are greatly saddened that the paper shrinks back from the obvious conclusion that should be drawn from them – namely that we should leave the EU. On 26th October 2011, it stated quite specifically “This paper has no desire for Britain to pull out of Europe.” and the editor at the time, Paul Dacre, remains in the post today. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, when the referendum campaign gets under way, that we will find ourselves with few, if any allies in the media. Still, with friends like your average press baron and the all too many ill-informed journalists who cover EU matters, who needs enemies?

The UK’s financial vulnerabilities as an EU member state


We are often asked for the full presentation of all the financial aspects of the UK’s relationship with the EU and the EU referendum.

While trading arrangements are important,they have not been as decisive as balance sheet destabilisations throughout history.

This latest analysis by Futurus considers the diminution in UK assets because of its budgetary contributions and the UK’s increased liabilities and contingent liabilities due to EU membership.

Its conclusion points out that “While EEA states have no risk exposure to EU liabilities, the UK has enormous exposure. Moreover, it is, in part, one-sided with no corresponding EU risk exposure to the Bank of England. It is likely that further collapse in the finances of eurozone governments and banks will not attract open-ended EU entity support as in the period 2009-13 and resort will be made to bail-ins and haircuts on bondholders. However, prudent finance would be for the UK to leave the political and monetary structure of the EU and move to EEA status urgently.

To read the full report, click here

EU NO Campaigners to launch Coventry campaign

Members from the main four political parties  planning on supporting the ‘OUT’ campaign in the forthcoming referendum on the UKs Continued membership of the EU; will launch their local Referendum Planning Group in Coventry on the 19th of August in a bid to persuade local Coventry residents to vote NO. The meeting’s theme “A Referendum is not an Election – How to win it and How to lose it”  will be addressed by Edward Spalton Chairman of the national cross party Campaign for an Independent Britain and the group’s local organiser Derek Bennett(contact [email protected]) followed by a short video and Q&A from attendees.
Speaking ahead of the meeting Edward Spalton said ‘’let’s be honest. The truth is that there is no point complaining about many of the issues facing Britain today unless we first address the real problem – Britain’s disastrous membership of the European Union.  We’d all be better off out.  Contrary to many statements by business leaders, we do not need to be part of the EU’s political structure to have access to the Single Market. Much of the regulation which comes to us via the EU is actually made by global bodies, like the United Nations, World Trade Organisation etc. Britain’s membership of the EU actually keeps us off the “top table” and without a voice at these bodies which really shape world trade. It is in the wider world where trade is expanding, not in the declining, inward-looking EU. The economies of Eastern EU countries are being massively weakened by the large scale emigration of their skilled workers”
He added that, following the Conservatives’ election victory in May 2015, various Euro sceptic groups had been getting their act together and that his own CIB was stepping up its activities locally in preparation for the referendum on EU membership which David Cameron has promised to hold before the end of 2017. Pronouncing that the CIB organisation is fully committed to playing a role in the “no” (i.e., the “Out”) campaign in the West Midlands.
Local organiser Derek Bennett, who is co-ordinating  the upcoming meeting, commented that in the Coventry and surrounding area his new group would be working flat out right up to polling day. ’’We will have leaflets to deliver, street stalls to man, dinners, public meetings, and door to door canvassing to arrange – in fact everything you would expect of an election campaign’’ and pleaded with interested members of the public or those wishing to learn more about how Britain would be better off out the European Union to attend its inaugurak meeting , which will be held at
7.00 pm on Wednesday 19th August at Coundon Social Club, Shorncliffe Road, Coventry CV6 1GT.

Photo by Nigel’s Europe & beyond

Article 50 – debunking some myths

One reason why some people are uncomfortable with the idea of the UK withdrawing from the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and taking the EEA/EFTA route is because they believe that an EU member state might announce a veto in advance, thus completely discrediting and  nullifying the proposal.

This, however, isn’t true. Negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty do not require unanimity
from the EU side, as they are subject to Qualified Majority Voting.  So a veto is not available to any member state.

The Commission is in no position to veto anything of this sort either, as these Article 50 negotiations are outside its remit, being reserved to the European Council.

So any pretended advance “veto” would be even more  bogus than  the one Mr.Cameron announced a while ago. In that case, treaty change whilst within EU membership does require unanimity by the Inter Governmental Conference but affairs had not reached the stage where a veto was possible.

Of course, the British press and media were largely taken in but, in the heightened degree of scrutiny during a referendum campaign, it is more likely (one hopes) that they would take the trouble to inform themselves.

More stirrings on the Left

The debates in the German Bundestag are, apparently, pretty soporific affairs most of the time but there are a few exceptions to the rule. One such occasion was this remarkable tirade by Sahra Wagenknecht, the economics spokesman and deputy leader of Die Linke, party translated simply as “The Left.” Die Linke’s ideology lies very much to the left of the German Social Democratic Party. It is profoundly anti-capitalistic and the party’s MEPs are part of the Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament, sitting alongside MEPs from, among others, Sinn Féin, Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos.

As this blog has pointed out before, the EU’s handling of the latest Greek bailout has upset many on the Left. Whether they are justified to be so upset is another matter. As Richard North points out, the media’s treatment of Greece as an innocent victim is somewhat one-sided. For years, Greeks have not been very good at paying taxes (or collecting them, for that matter), the public sector is very large and blessed with a very generous retirement package. You do not have to hold right-of-centre views to believe that a smaller, more efficient Greek state might help the country to recover economically or that pumping money unconditionally into a country in such a dire economic state is not money well spent. Indeed, one of the most vocal opponents of any further bailout has been the left-of centre government in Slovakia. “It would be impossible to explain to the public that ‘poor’ Slovakia . . . should compensate Greece,” said Robert Fico, the Slovak Prime Minister last February

Perception, however, is as important as reality – indeed, more so, in some cases – and Dr Wagenknecht puts forward her perception of how badly her country’s leaders have handled the bailout in a remarkably forthright manner. Followers of the UK’s eurosceptic MEPs will note that Frau Merkel’s face wears that same expression as the likes of Hermann van Rompuy or Jean-Claude Juncker when being verbally assaulted by Nigel Farage or Dan Hannan. “Europe is a non-democratic colony controlled by banksters,” she declares. “You are postponing the bankruptcy announcement to avoid admitted that you’ve wasted millions of euros.” Tellingly, she quotes from Paul Krugman, the influential Keynesian economist beloved by many on the Left, whose long-standing criticism of so-called “austerity” has metamorphosised into criticism of the whole EU project, especially the single currency, as a consequence of the latest Greek bailout.

Will we see Die Linke developing an increasingly eurosceptic position? The concept of any even remotely eurosceptic party emerging in Germany seemed like a fantasy a decade ago, but the arrival on the scene of Alternative für Deutschland on the right shows that all things are now possible. With some factions within Greece’s Syriza movement now openly supporting Greek withdrawal from the euro and no fewer than three Guardian columnists – Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Suzanne Moore – publicly proclaiming their willingness to consider voting “No” in a referendum, evidence is pointing to growing disillusion with the EU on the left across several different countries. While Greece, whether rightly or wrongly, has been a catalyst, there is a wider issue here, which Dr Wagenkencht also mentions. In the 1980s, the largest political grouping within the European Parliament was the Socialist group. The most influential Commission president of that era, Jacque Delors, was a socialist. The EU had a strongly socialist feel to it in those days, which Mrs Thatcher disliked as much as its federalism. Fast forward to 2015 and socialists are no longer a majority in the European Parliament. Centre-right governments are in the majority in the EU member states, with Denmark being the latest to eject a socialist administration in a general election earlier this year. Socialists are looking in vain for Delors’ European Social Model and its absence is making them feel less and less comfortable in today’s EU of lobbyists and multinationals with its willingness to reduce workers’ rights and dilute the Social Chapter..

The EU will achieve a remarkable feat if it manages to alienate both left and right. At the moment, right-of-centre withdrawalism is largely confined to the UK, while the mainstream left parties of the PSE group remain solidly behind the European project. It is quite clear, however, that if the widely-reported rumours of a new treaty in the offing, involving closer integration for the Eurozone countries, become reality that it will face considerable opposition, especially from the Left, many of whom have become convinced that a democraticaly-elected socialist government cannot fulfil its mandate from within the Eurozone. Still, that is for the future. For now, in this political quiet season, Dr Wagenknecht’s diatribe, complete with English subtitles, is a treat for anyone who enjoys seeing EU grandees like Merkel and Schäuble being given a thorough lambasting.