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.

 

 


 

A voice from Dave’s back yard

Readers may be interested to read this letter which appeared in the Witney Gazette earlier this week. How power corrupts! Whatever Dave really believes about sovereignty, he said something very different when first seeking election as an MP to what he is saying now. Can we trust this man?

Sir, Watching the BBC Andrew Marr Show a couple of weeks back, I was perplexed to hear David Cameron, our Witney MP and Prime Minister, dismiss the return of sovereignty to the people of this country as being inconsequential, or words to that effect.

Sovereignty means the recognition that a people actually count and in the same way that we have district councils and county councils to create a degree of order and to avoid anarchy, so we need sovereignty at a higher level for the same thing. Perhaps Mr Cameron thinks that we would be better off with a sovereign EU, but experience has shown that that entity is, apart from being unlovable, puts accountability and understanding out of reach of we ordinary citizens because of its sheer mass and the fact we cannot get rid of those who run it, – the larger the size, the more remote it becomes.

Anyway, apart from the philosophical argument, my bewilderment arises from what it was that prompted Mr Cameron’s epiphany conversion, for when first seeking the Conservative Party candidature for Witney in early 2000, he had a very different view of sovereignty, regarding it as a major issue in Britain ’s relationship with the EU. Then he publicly declared that he opposed any further transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU.

In fact Mr Cameron went further than that complaining that ‘politicians have given up far too much sovereignty’ and wanted no further transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels and went so far as to say ‘If that’s being a Europhile, then I’m a banana’.

Well it could be that Mr Cameron now has a much deeper understanding of the issue, and that in spite of the transfer of huge swathes of the people’s power (and we are ultimately talking about the power of you and I through the ballot box to influence things for the better) since millennium year, he has something to tell us that we should all know about.

I believe it is the duty of our elected representatives to explain the thinking that lies behind their decision making, especially on an issue which I know to be dear to most people in this constituency and in the country in general.

Shall we be enlightened? Well let’s wait and see.

Photo by bazzadaramblerimages

More educational bias

Anyone who has taken part in debates at schools and universities will know that supporters of “leave” face an uphill battle in trying to sell the noble cause of withdrawal to young people, While one study suggests that some 80% of pensioners support withdrawal, something like 80% of under-24s support remaining in the EU.

There is no doubt that this is due to the pro-EU material which has been widely used in schools recently. Of course, it’s our money which ultimately funds this stuff and most of our MPs aren’t that bothered. In January 2014, the House of Commons debated the Europe Citizens’ Programme, a five-year programme costing €185 billion to fund educational projects that seek to enhance both the understanding of EU institutions and European integration. One MP put it in these words: “This grant-making exercise is aimed at providing propaganda, as I see it, for purposes of political union.” Only 32 MPs opposed it in the Second Reading and only 30 in the final stages.

It is nonetheless good that some schools genuinely want an open debate on the EU and both your author and our Chairman, Edward Spalton, have been happy to accept invitations to speak in these debates. Unfortunately, not all schools are prepared to be so even-handed. A correspondent mentioned to me how her 14-year old granddaughter was disciplined by a teacher at a school in Cumbria for criticising the EU. Reports also have circulated of schools singing pro-EU songs. Readers may recognise the pro-EU cartoon (above) where the teacher uses the phrase “ignorant extremist” to describe the boy’s father, just because he believes in national sovereignty.

However, the worst example to come to light of pro-EU bias can be found in an audio clip, sent to us by another supporter. It features a talk by Dr Tony Arnold of the EU Law department at Birmingham University. It begins on a perfectly sensible note, advising students to register for the coming referendum and pointing out that if the referendum is held on 23rd June, it will be at the start of the summer vacation. Dr Arnold then rightly says “This is a really big moment for the future of this country”, but the bias that then follows is frankly appalling:-

“Your children and your grandchildren will say to you, ‘Did you cast your vote?’ and if you say ‘no’ they will say, ‘why didn’t you cast your vote? You might have affected the outcome. Look at the disaster which has befallen the United Kingdom since it decided by the smallest of margins of withdraw from the European Union.’”

No, Dr Arnold. This is nonsense. It would be a disaster if we decided to remain in the European Union. However, if we are to convince young people that we’re better off out, we must not resort to similar scare tactics but instead, to paint a positive picture of the benefits of exit. As I drove home from losing a debate last Friday, for all my own strong convictions on the subject, I found myself asking, “How do I tell people, especially young people, in the short slot of time we are usually allocated in these debates, just exactly why we would be better off?” It’s a question which isn’t as easy to answer as you might think, but one we all need to ask ourselves if we are to win.