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 one of the high echelon Leave Campaigners, Chris Grayling, took on Liberal Democrat MP and arch Europhile Tom Brake.

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 and gained the loudest applause - although I am prepared to accept this might be wishful thinking (see section below) - and 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 in my view didn't bring anything new to the debate. However as I have a rather strong viewpoint on this (see next section) I may be downplaying Mr Brake's contribution. Please add your comments if you feel there was anything particularly ground breaking that Mr Brake said.

My Position

As I have made clear before, I am very much on leave side of the argument. In fact if you get a leaflet in Worcester Park urging you to vote leave, there is a small chance I may have put it through your door. My main issue with the EU is the lack of accountability. The EU hands laws down to Britain that we cannot reject, and more importantly, we cannot vote out those who are dictating them to us. Only the unelected EU Commissioners can proposed these laws and the MEPs we do vote for are powerless to block them. They best they can do is hold them up a bit. 

I am concerned that there is a cleared path between where we are now and a situation where the law makers can make self serving and punitive laws to a point where people can be imprisoned or worse for daring to stand up to them. Whilst I am not saying the EU is certain to take this path, history shows where such a path exists, the temptation to follow it eventually becomes too great not to. It is of concern that such a path had been deliberately created.

Democracy has natural checks and balances to stop things like this occurring. When you take that check away from the system (as in the EU) surely the system will naturally tend towards an oppressive system.

Dictatorships often start out as quasi-benevolent and become more despotic over time. We are in the early stages with the EU, being told about all the benefits of membership and finding that the rules we have no redress over might be a bit annoying but not desperately burdensome. Once we have sealed the right of the EU to make laws for Britain, there will be nothing we can do to refuse literally any law the EU Commissioners feel like dictating to us. (Mr Cameron's 'renegotiation' can still be overturned.) If those laws start to sting a bit we will wish we had taken the opportunity to get out while we could, but by then it would be too late, and our children and grandchildren would have to suffer whatever the EU deems appropriate for them without influence or redress.

We do have one last chance to do something about this. As with all difficult decisions there are gains and losses on both sides. What price-tag do you put on British sovereignty and democracy? We are a strong and great country. We have lead the world many times in many fields and can do so again - if we believe in Britain.

And whilst others try to focus the debate on uncontrolled immigration from the likes of Turkey, the economy, NHS, an EU army or whether a law on the shape of bananas is a good idea, I believe when historians look back at this moment in decades and even centuries to come, it will be through the lens of democracy. And whatever we choose now will be seen as how a free people chose their path at the democracy crossroads. Don't leave them wondering as to how we gave up something so precious for something so fleeting. Vote to Leave The EU.

Something Better

It is surely telling that the age group who have seen the world both with and without the EU are considered the ones most likely to vote out.

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: trade, science, security, arts, etc. We worked together in all these areas before the EU existed and will still do afterwards. A centralised unaccountable government of Europe is however not to our or indeed anyone's advantage. The people of Europe are too civilised, too intelligent, too good to be controlled in this way. I can't speak for the rest of Europe but at least I can put my X in a box to help save Britain from it.