EU Citizens resident in the UK are not Bargining Chips

On June 25th, just a year and a day after the Referendum result, my wife, a Dutch Citizen who has lived in the UK for most of her adult life, will be part of the Great Britain team competing In the European Age Group Sprint Triathlon Championships being held in Dusseldorf.

Yannie is honoured to have been selected to represent the country that has been her home for nearly 30 years and is looking forward to taking part.  Given that she only took part in her first Triathlon 2 years ago, this is a fantastic achievement.

However, I remember the shock and tears that were shed on the morning of June 24th last year; the uncertainty it has caused both Yannie and myself to realise that currently there is no guarantee that she will be allowed to stay in the UK post Brexit.

No amount of saying we will be OK makes us feel safer.

Telling us (as our local, Labour Leave MP, has) that no one is suggesting that Yannie and other EU citizens who have lived in the UK for decades will be told to leave does not help.

Until it is confirmed by the UK Government that EU citizens who have made their lives here can stay with no need to apply for naturalisation (at a cost of over £1250 minimum) or applications for permanent residency (which involve long complicated forms and documentation up to 20 years old), my wife will not feel secure.

Mrs May needs to be open & tolerant and make a gesture that will mean the negotiations with the rest of the EU can start in a spirit of generosity and openness, announce that all EU citizens who are resident in the UK on the day Article 50 will automatically have the full rights to stay in the UK just as they have had before.

My wife, along with the many other EU citizens who live here, contribute here, raise families here, is not a bargaining chip and should not be treated as such.

In a mild winter, our NHS is barely coping

We have had a mild winter so far, very few days of frost in the morning for most of us, no flu or norovirus epidemics, not even too much flooding.
In spite of this the NHS is at bursting point, Hospitals over full, essential budgets over spent and a crisis in Social Care (see Winter pressure ‘busts NHS budget’).
Just imagine what would have happened if we had had a couple of weeks of really bad weather (as is quite common most winters) or a serious outbreak of one of the common winter bugs. It simply doesn’t bear thinking about.
This year we got lucky. Because of the dedication, commitment and professionalism of the people who work in the NHS at all levels, we seem to have muddled through, just.
Next winter or the year after we may not be so lucky and an NHS running at overcapacity & underfunded will not be able to cope despite the efforts of the people who work in it.
It will be too late next winter to start throwing money at a problem that is already turning into a disaster. The NHS & Social Care need better funding now so that they can prepare for the bad winters & epidemics that will be coming before very long.
Send Hunt, Hammond & May a message today that we need to increase Central Government funding in these areas even if it means increasing Income tax or Corporation tax to pay for it.

I do not hold British voters in contempt

Because I unrepentant in fighting for the UK to remain in the EU, some people think I, and other like me who will not give up that fight, hold those who voted Leave last June in contempt.

This is not true, I do not hold them in contempt.

No, the people I hold in contempt are for those who have deceived, misinformed and downright lied to the British Public about the EU over the last 30 or more years in an attempt to wrest the UK out of the EU, not to give control back to the British people but to stop the EU undermining a privileged elite who feel they have the right to control us.   All the Euromyths that have been perpetuate in newspapers like The Mail, The Express, The Telegraph and in all the Murdoch papers have been spread not to educate the British public but to deceive them.

Others I hold contemptable are those politicians who came late to the Leave campaign because they thought it was politically expedient to appear to be a Brexiteer (while hoping we would stay in the EU); other politicians who were for staying in the EU up until June 23rd but now say we must Leave at all costs because it as “the will of the people” regardless of the harm they know it will do those very people.

Yes, there were some who have deep, honest & long-standing view that the UK will be better off out of the EU.  I may not agree with them but I can respect their views.  I can even debate with them (sadly not on facts as there are no objective facts that support a case for leaving the EU) about whether sharing UK sovereignty with the other EU member nations is a good idea or not.

However, such people were not the leaders of the Leave campaigns, many of who were opportunistic carpetbaggers trying to forward their own career & interests while hoping secretly for a Remain vote.

So it is not the British voters I hold in contempt but those who have wilfully and selfishly deceived them and lied to them that the UK will be better off out of the EU.

Save the NHS, reject Brexit

nhsTheresa May is leading us towards a Brexit that will mean we are exchanging the shared sovereignty of the EU, where we are equal partners in shaping the future of our continent, for being a protectorate of the USA, so dependant that we are will to destroy our institutions like the NHS for a few crumbs from the great table.

Outside the Single Market (a British initiative under Thatcher) & the Customs Union, we will be at the mercy of a rampant nationalist America under a President (at least until 2021) who is open about only signing Trade Deals that are skewered in the USA’s direction.

Already May has indicated her willingness to allow US Companies to take over parts of the NHS, what else will she allow in her desperate attempt to get a fig leaf of a Trade Deal?

Meat from animals grown using growth hormones, Chicken washed in chlorine, GM crops are all currently banned for the UK under EU rules but are common in the US.  It is likely that any Trade Deal with the US will mean having to accept them into the UK.

Given that our Trade Balance with the USA is currently in our favour, I can’t see Trump wanting to let to many more UK goods or services in to the USA without the USA getting even better access to UK markets, which will mean weakening our regulations that currently exclude many American products,

When I, along with many others, warn that this was the likely outcome of Brexit, it was labelled “Project Fear” by the Leave campaign and we were told it would never happen.  Now it is becoming all too real if Brexit becomes a reality and yes, it is frightening.

What can we do now?  The Government’s mean little Bill to give May the authority to invoke Article 50 without any further need for Parliamentary scrutiny is up for debate next week.  Jeremy Corbyn has waved the White Flag and said he will demand all Labour MPs vote for it  but all is not yet lost.

You can write to your MP to ask him to vote against this Bill unless there are safeguards added to give at least Parliament (better still the British People) a chance to give its assent to any agreement with the EU on Brexit.  There is an excellent app to help you do this.

Regardless of how their Constituency vote and regardless of how they are told to vote by their party, Members [of Parliament] have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents.  Brexit is rightly being dubbed Wrexit as it will be an economic and probably a social disaster for the UK so MPs must vote against it regardless of a “black and white vote on a rainbow of issues” last June.

The choice facing our politicians is simple and stark.

single-marketIf we want to persist with leaving the EU, we can choose between keeping full, tariff-free, access to the EU Single Market or controlling the movement of EU citizens to work & study in the UK.

Any politician who tries to claim that we can have both is ether deluded or lying.

 

What does losing full access to the EU Single market mean?  For companies that trade with the Single Market (export or import) it will mean that they will have to pay tariffs on any goods brought in from or sent to the Single Market and that shipments to and from the Single Market will accompanied by Customs forms and permits as well as having to be inspected by Customs as they cross into the Single Market.

This will add costs and bureaucracy causing prices to rise.  Some companies will find that their markets in the EU will disappear as they become uncompetitive against rivals still based inside the Single Market, causing these companies to either shrink or cease trading entirely, meaning job losses to UK workers.  Even taking goods into the Single Market for personal use or for

At the same time, the costs of our imports from the EU, much of the food we eat & the raw materials used by manufacturers, causing price rises here in shops.

 

So, against this what do we have to gain from controlling the movement of EU citizens to work & study in the UK?

The simple answer is very little.

EU citizens working in the UK pay more in taxes than they take out through benefits or services.  Many important parts of our care system (including hospitals & care homes) will struggle to find the workers they need.  Our Universities need EU students & lecturers both to survive economically and, just as importantly, to proper academically.  The economic activity generated by EU citizens living in the UK creates work rather than taking jobs.

Many of the problems in society that get blamed on EU workers in the UK are really the fault of our own Governments.  Low wages are cause by exploitative employers using practices that have been allowed by British Governments.  Blocking EU workers won’t increase wages the exploiters will simply find another source of cheap Labour.  The crises in Housing, Education & the NHS are not caused by the “influx” of EU citizens to work & study here but by successive UK Governments over decades failing to invest in building homes, training Doctors & Nurses and creating new schools where they are needed.

Scapegoating EU workers and blocking their right to come here won’t cure these problems (indeed, the fall in economic activity & taxes caused by getting rid of them will actually make these problems worse), it is just a way of deflecting the blame from where it belongs.

 

Leaving the Single Market will be an unmitigated disaster to British Industry and it will take decades to recover from and build up alternative markets for British goods.  Controlling the movement of EU citizens to work & study in the UK will hurt not help in any attempt to rebuild after such a disaster.  Those that will suffer the most will be those in the very areas that have already suffered from Government neglect while the rich will get richer in a low tax, low wage, low rights economy.

Whether we are in the EU or not (and we should be in to increase our influence), having full tariff & customs free access to Single Market is vital for our future

It is time we had politicians brave enough to stand up for the truth, to base policy on evidence not prejudice, to lead not follow, to see beyond the hysteria whipped up rich people wanting to protect their riches.

The lessons of Aleppo

lucy-aharish
https://www.facebook.com/reshet.todays.talk/videos/1876992092532433/

I saw this clip on Facebook a couple of days age.  It is from Lucy Aharish, an Israeli Muslim Arab TV presenter, talking about the massacre in Aleppo that is happening this week.  She speaks in English so the World might hear, so please watch it.  What she has to say is powerful and moving, even more so because of her, an Arab speaking on Israeli television, choice of words.

This post isn’t just to get you to hear what Ms Aharish said, although that is worthwhile in itself, it is to try to answer the question a friend posted in response to my re-posting of it on my timeline, “But what can I do?”.

That really made me think.  What can we do to stop these recurring genocides?  How do we stop the vile, senseless killing of people just because they are who they are, because they live where they live, because they want to live in a society where people are free to think, speak, love & worship as they please?

To be honest, I don’t know.  We can, as Ms Aharish suggests, take to the streets to demonstrate; we can write to our elected leaders asking for “something to be done”; we can donate to appeals to help the survivors, the refugees, the victims.  But doing any of these won’t stop the killings happening again and again and again.

The problem is, that it is far too late to do anything now to stop the killing in Aleppo.  The seeds of what is happening now were sown years ago, when the West failed to give the Syrian pro-democracy demonstrators the backing they needed because Assad’s Syria was needed to help in (or at least tacitly agree to) dealing with rebellions in Iraq.  Indeed, it is possible to go back further to the West’s failure to deal with Hafez al-Assad (the father of the present President of Syria) vicious suppression of a revolt in 1982 or to the ill-fated invasions of Iraq in 1991 & 2003 which destabilised Iraq.  Those with a longer time frame will see the results of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire post World War I (see Sykes-Picot agreement)  which set up the current countries of Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon & Palestine/Israel mostly just as lines on a map disregarding the different ethnic groups who lived there, creating tensions & pressures that are still being felt today.

Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is to change our approach to Foreign Policy.  A lot of the problems listed above have been caused by a short-term approach, we need to sell arms to dictators to secure jobs in the UK, we need to back a tyrant as a bailiwick against another power, we must turn a blind eye to human rights abuses because we need the country to support British industry.

In many cases, this has come back to bite us, and bite us hard.  We supplied arms to Argentina’s Junta that the used to fight us in the South Atlantic, we supplied arms to Iraq that Saddam used to invade Kuwait, we now have much of our national infrastructure owned by China.  We can’t stop Saudi Arabia from killing civilians in Yemen because we need them to sell us oil & buy our weapons to keep British people in work.  We have no influence in Turkey because we need them to control the flow of refugees into Europe

Perhaps if we (along with other Western Democracies) had a more ethical Foreign Policy, where we only supported countries that respect Human Rights; where we only sold weapons to our NATO allies or other democracies; where we worked to deal with humanitarian crises not leave them to fester and generate waves of refugees; where we are prepared to use our military force to protect civilian populations threaten by dictators & tyrants

It is too late to help the civilians in Aleppo, it is too late for the Yazidi people in Iraq, it is not quite too late for the people of Yemen (although time is running out) but we must change our approach it dealing with other counties if we are to stop more and more names of peoples being added to the sad litany of the victims of a genocide.  If we don’t, then all the tears and  heartache over what is happening in Aleppo are worthless because similar acts will happen again, again and again.

The Single Market and Options for Brexit

brexitMany of our politicians (from both the Brexit & Remain camps) are calling for access to the EU’s Single Market (more properly called the Internal Market[i]) if we leave the EU as a way of minimising the damage Brexit will cause to our economy and help to protect jobs.

Unfortunately, they are wrong.  Access to the Single market is available to any country, even North Korea, willing to meet the Single Market standards for goods & services and willing to accept the tariffs & quotas that the EU will impose.

So even if we leave the EU we will be able to carry on trading with the EU and sell goods into & buy from the Single Market, just that everything we sell it will attract the basic EU 3rd part Tariff (e.g. 10% on new cars[ii]) which will make many of these exports uneconomic.

If we want to protect jobs in the UK and to mitigate the economic damage that Brexit will cause, the UK does not need “access” to the Single Market, we need to be part of the Single Market.  This is not just important to our cars makers (see above) but also to our Financial Services Industry as London’s position as the centre for Euro Clearing will be lost unless we can stay inside the Single Market.  Many other important parts of our economy also depend on being in (not just having access to) the Single Market.

Being part of the Single Market does means that we will need to accept the Four Freedoms that underpin the Single Market (Free movement of goods, Free movement of capital, Freedom to establish and provide services and Free movement of persons) as these underpin the whole arrangement.

Whatever British Politicians say, unless we accept all these Four Freedoms, the UK cannot be part of the Single Market, those leading the EU side in the upcoming negotiations have been very clear about this[iii]  Being part if the Single Market is not just important for our economy, it will also mean UK students can carry on being part of the Erasmus programme[iv] and UK Universities can continue to access EU Research funding[v].  We could however get exemptions for certain areas (as Norway has on Agriculture & Fishing[vi]) from EU rules if we so wanted through negotiation.

The other big downside is that the UK would still have to pay into the EU budget and apply EU rule & regulations (except in exempt industries) but have no say in designing these rules.

So, where does that leave us in relationship to Brexit?

The options for the UK are as follows:

  1. We leave the EU totally and, until we conclude a Trade Agreement with the EU (a process that takes years at a minimum and would need every EU members to agree), face having to pay EU trade tariffs to trade with the EU. While we will not have to apply EU regulations to UK industries & products, we will still need to make sure anything sold into the EU does meet those standards.  We will however not have to pay into the EU budget and we can control immigration into the UK rom the EU as we do currently from non-EU countries.

 

  1. We leave the EU but retain membership of the Single Market. This means UK companies can trade without tariffs with the EU but the UK must pay into the EU budget (indeed we might have to pay in more than we do currently as our budget rebate would disappear) & accept EU regulations.  We will though be free to area Trade Agreements with other counties although they will take time to be put in place.

 

 

  1. We decide on consideration that leaving the EU is not a good idea and decide dealing the political crisis this would create is easier that dealing with the deep economic crisis leaving the EU will create. We stay part of the Single Market & we keep our say in how the EU is run.

 

If the Government decide to invoke Article 50[vii], then unless there is an agreement otherwise, by default, Option A will come into force 2 years later.

If Article 50 is not invoked, Option C, the status quo, continues to be in force.

If we want to retain membership of the Single Market, then the Government must start negotiating for option B as soon as they invoke Article 50.

By saying that they want to retain membership of the Sigle Market but not allow a part of the “Four Freedoms” (i.e. Free movement of persons), the May Government is being either deluded or mendacious.   Either way that are not working in the best interests of the UK.

What we need now, before Article 50 is invoked, is a clear statement from the UK Government of which of the three possible options they want the UK.  We do not need the full details of negotiating positions, the redlines not to be crossed or the aspirations to try to get, just a simple (but realistic) statement of principle will do.  Until we do, then it seems that they have already decided on Option A but are too scared to tell the British people that they are in for an economic crisis the like of which the UK has not seen in decades

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Single_Market

[ii]http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/taric/measures.jsp?Lang=en&SimDate=20161107&Area=BR&Taric=87032110&LangDescr=en

[iii] http://uk.businessinsider.com/interview-guy-verhofstadt-european-union-brexit-negotiator-article-50-britain-2016-11

[iv] http://www.erasmusprogramme.com/

[v] https://erc.europa.eu/

[vi] http://www.norway.org.uk/norwayandcountry/Current-Affairs/Norwegian-Politics/NORWAY-EU-AND-EEA/#.WCDigvmLTIU

[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_50_of_the_Treaty_on_European_Union