From Dave’s back yard

This letter appeared in the Witney Gazette, the local paper serving the Prime Minister’s Oxfordshire constituency, shortly before the mail-out of the government booklet last week:-

 

Sir, David Cameron is to spend £9 million of our money on a one-sided leaflet on Europe to go out to every household. This is on top of other support for the “in” campaign, hardly making it a level playing field.

For balance, local people and  businesses might be interested in reading a free download, an outline plan showing how jobs and trade could be preserved after Brexit.

Flexcit – the market solution draws on extensive research to show how we could manage practicalities on matters such as international agreements and regulations and restore independent policies. There are even ideas on giving more power back to people.

The model plan is not a straitjacket – it is flexible enough to be adapted to changing conditions.

Mark Taylor

Campaign Manager, New Alliance

PO Box 13199, London SW6 6ZU

 

 

 

Photo by Rictor Norton & David Allen

That booklet!

We have received a number of e-mails from people very angry about our money being spent by the government producing the booklet which landed on our doormats last week.

Some people have very kindly responded by making a donation to us, for which we are most grateful. “I don’t want my taxes used on propaganda… so I have to do my bit to redress the balance” said one kind contributor.

But what of the booklet itself? It has been criticised  – and with good reason – both for its style and content. Rosalind Moffitt, an inclusive communications consultant at Inklecomms, said of the former, “I….am astounded by the long and complex sentences within the leaflet. It also uses many unnecessarily difficult words. The leaflet is written at a complex level for average-low literacy readers, so it will be difficult for many to read and understand” Good news for the Brexit campaign!”

Turning to the content. Lord Wemyss did not mince his words, calling it “senseless twaddle – insulting to the intelligence of the recipients.”

This is indeed a good summary. If the “twaddle” can be categorised, most of it comes under three headings:-

  1. So-called “benefits” which aren’t actually very beneficial.
  2. Benefits which we don’t actually need to be in the EU to enjoy
  3. Untrue and misleading statements.

In the first category comes the European Arrest Warrant, which is mentioned under “keeping us safer”. Since 2004 (when the EAW was first introduced), we are told “over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in  UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited.” Fine. You try telling people like  Andrew Symeou or  Edmond Arapi how wonderful the EAW is. These men suffered gross miscarriages of justice, being exposed to judicial processes on the Continent which do not include the legal safeguards we are accustomed to in the UK. It is so easy to forget that Magna Carta may have crossed the oceans, but it never crossed the Channel. One consequence of this is that you can be tried in absentia, tried on hearsay evidence or kept in detention for ages without being charged. The EAW potentially exposes any one of us to all these horrors.

Also sold as a benefit, on page 12, we are told that “the EU is leading the world on tackling climate change”. Try telling those made redundant in the now defunct UK aluminium smelting industry what a good thing this is! Perhaps when we suffer blackouts because our government has signed up to unachievable emissions targets we will console ourselves with how virtuous the EU is being!

Turning to the second category, the phrase “Single Market” comes up no fewer than eight times. There are probably few regular visitors to our website who aren’t aware that we can retain access to the Single Market on leaving the EU by re-joining EFTA and availing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement.  The booklet boasts how the EU “guarantees many employment rights” without mentioning, of course, that most employment legislation originates with global organisations like the International Labour Organisation. These benefits would not disappear if we left the EU.

“EU reforms in the 1990s have resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights”, proclaims the booklet.  Once again, one has to question whether this benefit would disappear if we left the EU. to help us answer this question, guess which airline won the “Best low-cost airline in Europe” award in 2015? It was called Norwegian and furthermore, this airline which seems to hoover up awards, flies to a number of European destinations but isn’t based in the EU.

What about the untrue and misleading statements? It’s hard to know where to begin. Going back to the Single Market. we are informed that “No other country has managed to secure signficant access to the single market without having to follow EU rules over which they have no real say /pay into the EU”. Shoddy work here. As we have pointed out, Norway is widely consulted  in the framing of EEA relevant legislation (which amounts to less than 25% of the total Acquis)  and the price it pays to access the singel market is peanuts compared with how much we pay per capita to the EU as a memebr state.

The first page proclaims that “the UK has secured a special status in a reformed EU.”  Oh really?  The legality of the agreement has been widely questioned, with Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice-president of the European Parliament, describing it as “nothing more than a deal that has been hammered out down the local bazaar”.

Part of the “deal” is that “we will not join the Euro” Didn’t we secure that opt-out over 20 years ago? What about the “tough new restrictions on access to our welfare for new EU migrants”? Well, suppose that, say a  Latvian decorator moves over here after 2016, falls off a ladder and breaks both legs after living here for three years dyring which time has only worked for 29 months. In theory, he shouldn’t get much out of our system under Dave’s new deal. In practise….?

Keeping our own border controls is another benefit which is part of our “special status” so we are told. Once again, if this means that we are not part of Schengen, this is not exactly a show-stopper. We secured an opt-out here many years ago.

The biggest criticism, however, is that nowhere in this booklet does the word “sovereignty” come up. The  EU’s unique selling point is that it requires member states progressively to hollow out their national institutions and surrender soverignty to supranational institutions. These other issues are peripheral. the creation of a federal superstate is the EU’s raison d’être. Failing to mention it is rather like a supplier of fruit trees illustrating its products with lovely pictures of apple blossom but failing to show a single picture of a nice ripe apple or to mention that the reason you buy an apple tree is to eat of its produce.

To be blunt, this reluctance even to mention what the EU is all about is just plain dishonest. If the referendum is won by the “remain” side without this issue being at the centre of the debate, it will have been a pyrrhic victory which will leave us stilll being the EU’s awkward partner, always dragging our feet and being outvoted more than any other member state.

Is this really what Mr Cameron  wants? it will be a most unsatisfactory legacy. Best for his sake and for our country if we deny him such an opportunity by securing a vote to leave.

 

 


 

EU Referendum – Brexit £10 billion windfall – how would you spend it?

The UK switching from EU membership to an economic free trade style agreement with EU countries could save annually net contributions up to £10 billion a year, with an EFTA membership of up to £8 billion a year savings. Since joining the EEC/EU, the UK has made net cumulative financial contributions of over £130 billion, and also had a cumulative trade deficit of over £400 billion – hardly a win-win agreement. In fact a trade deficit is more than an export of jobs; it involves less jobs paying income tax, lower government tax revenues in VAT, council tax, corporation tax and more. So a win-win agreement could result in a more even trade balance and more tax revenues for public services.

How would you spend it? If we said the current money returned is spent similarly to now, then the net contributions have an opportunity for used in a different way.

Here are a number of options:

1) Not borrow the money in the first place, to give to the EU, so reducing the national debt and interest. An obvious choice. It seems giving money to other EU countries, where people avoid paying taxes, and corruption in government spending, is not a good reason for UK taxpayers to make up the shortfall, since the solution in better behaviour is already within the EU country if they wish to improve.

2) Evenly spread the money across all government spending departments, e.g. education, health, environment, defence, pensions etc. It doesn’t seem right that the UK has been paying £ billions to the EU, including to Greece, where people have been retiring at 50 in sunny weather, while in the UK the government has not had enough money to give elderly extra winter fuel benefits to keep warm.

3) Give aid to Eastern European countries – continuing as now

4) Give aid to Southern European countries – continuing as now

5) Increase foreign aid budget – give money to the rest of the world

6) Or more focused use of the money e.g.

6.1 Reducing student tuition fees and outstanding loans

6.2 Increasing winter fuel payments to the elderly

6.3 Increase thresholds before people pay tax

Looking at this option in more detail:-

6.1) Currently there are around 250,000 new graduates a year in the UK ,with on average £35,000 debt, from tuition fees and maintenance grants. Before political union, i.e. moving from EEC (only economic relationship with European countries) to EU, there were no tuition fees. Tuition fees started in the 1990s. The amount of annual student debt is around £8.75 billion. If tuition fees were halved and outstanding loans gradually paid off in half, this could be done with the ‘Leave EU’ savings. In the summer of 2015, there was around £73.5 billion outstanding student loans. Since half could be paid off, i.e. around £4 billion a year, then it could take 10 years to pay off half outstanding loans, of £37 billion.

6.2) There are around 12 million elderly people who receive the winter fuel allowance, varying between £100 to £300. So an extra £50 could mean another £600 million a year. Easy to afford with the ‘Leave EU’ savings.

6.3) Increase threshold before people pay tax by £500 costs the Treasury around £2 billion a year. So this is also feasible with the ‘Leave EU’ savings.

It is also worth being aware that a reduction in regulations across the economy could be like a tax cut for business, and help the economy grow. Similar to a cut in fuel prices or reduction in interest rates. Since estimates of the cost of regulations have a range from 3% to 10% of the economy, the benefits could be considerable. This could lead to more tax revenue, so allowing even bigger reductions in student fees and outstanding loans, so freeing up younger workers purchasing power to be spent in the economy and not paying off debt, so helping create more jobs.

In conclusion, the windfall of around £10 billion savings from ‘Leave EU’ options is an opportunity, that can improve lives across all age groups in the UK, and help create better standard of living for millions.

TEMP Referendum leaflet-page-001

For more information on the EFTA, European Free Trade Association option, see www.efta.int

For EFTA powerpoints, see: here or here

For the Bruges group.s polling showing 71% support for re-joing EFTA as opposed to 29% for stayting in the EU, see here

 

Photo by Images_of_Money

Stuff and nonsense from the Treasury

One of the worst examples of government waste in recent times must surely be the 200-page document produced by the Treasury claiming the average British family would be £4,300 worse off if we left the EU. Maybe one of the larger “leave” organisations may consider hiring an economist to produce a lengthy counter-document to rip the Treasury document apart line by line, but it isn’t really ncessary. For all the bleatings of Stephen Crabb on Radio 4’s World at One urging our side to reply in like manner, the flaws of the Treasury report don’t require a 200-page rebuttal.

Firstly, the headline figure is based on a Canadian-style Free Trade agreement, which isn’t going to be our route out of the EU. However, the Treasury report reduced the figure to a £20 drop on tax receipts and a 3.8% fall in GDP if the EEA/EFTA option is chosen. Is it going to be a disaster even under the safest way out?

Not at all. The Treasury report says that under The EEA/EFTA model, “we gain partial access to the single market but we still face custom barriers and we still end up paying into the EU and accepting free movement”. Well, the mandarins at the Treasury haven’t done their homework. We even have more options to restrict “Free movement” under EEA/EFTA than as a member state and this is the least inaccurate part of the statement.

Perhaps they should read the most detailed analysis of how EEA/EFTA works – i.e., Flexcit, which makes it clear that countries like Norway do not face the problems with limited access to the Single Market or customs barriers implied by the report. If there is such a glaring mistake in the methodology, how can we trust their calculations?

Furthermore,  the Treasury report looks at a scenario as far ahead as 2030. The Financial Times tries to defend this approach. It asks the question, “Isn’t a forecast for 2030 absurd, since economic forecasts for even two years ahead fail?” and replies, “This is to misunderstand the exercise the Treasury has carried out. As stated, the Treasury is estimating the difference between two possible futures on the basis of a decision regarding Britain’s trading relationship. That does not require accurate forecasts, just a good understanding of the effect of trade on prosperity. It is the same as saying, “We do not know how heavy you will be in 15 years, but if you drink a bottle of cola a day, we are pretty sure you will be fatter than if you keep off the sugar.”

However, this argument isn’t convincing. One authority who has studied the EEA/EFTA route in far more detail than the Treasury has reached the opposite conclusion:-  “Brexit is cost-neutral in the short-term. As for the longer term, there are benefits, and these could be substantial – not only for the UK but the rest of the world.”

Let’s be honest, could you imagine a department commissioned by George Osborne to look at Brexit options coming up with a favourable economic forecast? Who pays the piper and all that…..

Likewise, Mr Osborne himself said that “the people want to know the facts” and followed it up by saying “Britain would be permanently poorer if we lef the EU”.  This report is hardly a set of facts, just a very long-term estimate. However, the economic arguments are the only weapon available to the “remain” camp and they are being played for all they are worth as a desperate attempt to take the focus off what the EU actually is and the threadbare nature of Dave’s dodgy deal.    If the debate can be shifted onto these issues, the “remain” camp is in big trouble.

Apologies for the lack of articles this week. We intend to produce a rebuttal of the Government leaflet in the next few days  and thank you to all our contributors who have made some suggestions.

   

Photo by HowardLake

EU vs EFTA surveys – can you help?

Hugo van Randwyck,  a long-standing advocate of the UK rejoing EFTA, has conducted a number of  opinion polls in conjunction with the Bruges Group, making the case for EFTA membership as a better alternative than being stuck in the EU. Polls conducted so far have shown that EFTA is far more popular than the EU with the electorate once the two alternatives are clearly explained.

A PR campaign is planned in the run-up to the referendum as it is believed this could help swing the vote in favour of withdrawal. However, this will require funding.

If you would like to contribute,  please click on this link.

 

The anger about that Government leaflet

Understandably, we have recently received a number of e-mails from people furious that the Government is going to spend £9.3 million of our money producing a 14-page colour brochure telling us how good the EU is. If you wish to sign a petition against it, here is the link. Already over 100,000 people have signed, which is sufficient to oblige Parliament to “consider” the matter for debate but regrettably, it is not likely to have any effect.

On a more positive note, we are very thankful to those supporters who have directed their anger into a donation, enabling us to produce more material to counter the government’s arguments.

What does the brochure actually say?  From what others have gleaned, much of it extols the virtues of the Single Market, which, of course, we could continue to access from outside the EU by re-joining EFTA and availaing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement. EEA/EFTA also knocks on the head the predictable fear tactics which the leaflet contains, e.g.,

“Voting to leave the EU would create years of uncertainty and potential economic disruption. This would reduce investment and cost jobs. The Government judges it could result in 10 years or more of uncertainty as the UK unpicks our relationship with the EU and renegotiates new arrangements with the EU and over 50 other countries around the world.”

Unfortunately, any pro-leave group without a credible exit plan is going to be vulnerable to this sort of tactic, as Richard North argues.

Remarkably, we are still hearing of undecided voters who are coming down in favour of withdrawal, but a convincing victory is going to be very challenging as long as this vulnerability remains. Some people may distrust the government so much that they won’t believe a word of the brochure, but not enough. Withdrawal from the EU can be risk-free with the EEA/EFTA option, but unless our fellow-countrymen are made aware of this, all too many of them may fall for the Government propaganda.