Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A Good Debate

Last Saturday St Mary's Church in The Avenue was packed nearly to standing room only to hear the latest local EU debate. Local Conservative MP and strong Leave Campaigners, Chris Grayling, took on Liberal Democrat MP and strong Remain campaigner Tom Brake from nearby Carshalton and Wallington.

Chris Grayling spoke for a good 10 minutes followed by Tom Brake and then a roving microphone was used to take questions from the audience - some loaded one way or the other and some genuinely looking for clarification on an issue.

Many answers on both sides were met with loud applause. As usual with these debates, the hour and a half was not nearly long enough to probe all the issues properly but it certainly did inform people about things. At the start around a third of the audience indicated with a show of hands that they were still undecided about which way to vote. At the end at least half of those indicated they had made up their minds based on this debate. The question was not asked of them which way they had decided so I would be interested dear reader, if you were one of the people who came to a decision based on this event, what conclusion you drew and why.

Both made their points well. I felt that Chris Grayling was the stronger speaker but I would like to hear from other people who were there to confirm or deny this!

I learned two very interesting pieces of information that came from the debate, both from Mr Grayling: First, a question was asked about how long it would take to negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world. Rather than the 'many years' scenario that has been doing the rounds, it seems the model for this is Czechoslovakia when it split into two countries, Czech republic and Slovakia back in 1993. Each country registered with the WTO that they would continue to honour and be bound by any treaties that had existed between Czechoslovakia and other nations - and they just carried on as before. They were then free to negotiate separate treaties as and when required. So Britain will be able to continue trading with the rest of the world on the same terms as if we were still part of the EU until we negotiate new treaties as an when we choose. Interestingly, why has nobody pointed out that during the seven year negotiation of the Canada/EU trade deal (and others), trade has still been carrying on between them just fine?

Secondly, a question asked if the French could send all the refugees in the Calais 'Jungle' straight to Britain if we left the EU. The answer was no, for two reasons:
1. Britain can fine any carrier (in this case ferry or train) heavily for every illegal immigrant they bring in. The current system stops them at the Channel before they leave France. If that system were to stop, the carriers would have no choice but to do passport checks on every passenger before leaving France.
2. The current arrangement is a bilateral agreement between France and the UK as two individual nations and has nothing to do with the EU. It has advantages for both countries and there would be no reason to abandon it.

Mr Grayling was also keen to emphasise that the EU becoming a single superstate is inevitable. It is already accepted in the EU that an area with a single currency and a single central bank can't work with 28 separate governments and sets of laws. He likened the situation to Birmingham having a different retirement age to London. Plans are already drawn up for further political integration, a major point being that all the laws and regulations made by this entity will be designed to favour the currency used by most of the peoples, the Euro, and that being out of the Euro, but still effected by laws designed to favour it, would be a major disadvantage over time.

Mr Brake argued the pro-stay side of the debate using all the normal pro EU arguments about being at the table and economic risks but I didn't feel he brought anything new to the debate. 

Something Better

The EU luckily is a very different thing to Europe. Mrs WP is Italian and I love visiting Europe. I love the differences between the different peoples and cultures as well as the breathtaking landscapes and also the sense of walking through history in many parts.

I look forward to us continuing to work closely with other European countries in the many areas where it is mutually advantageous regardless of the outcome: trade, science, security, arts, etc. We worked together in all these areas before the EU existed and can still do afterwards if we leave - surely. Is a centralised government of Europe is to our or indeed anyone's advantage? The people of Europe are civilised, intelligent and decent. Hopefully, either way we can find a decent way through to the other side - whatever that is.