Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Some EU referendum facts

In just over 8 days the country goes to the polls to decide whether to leave the EU. The referendum campaign has been rigged in favour of the remain side by the government with millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being spent on pro-EU propaganda delivered through our doors, free advertising on government websites and government departments churning out increasingly outrageous propaganda.

I've spoken to a lot of people over the past couple of months when I've been out campaigning and about 70-80% of them intend to vote to leave. Of the few people that have a reason for voting to stay in, their concerns can be narrowed down to a few myths and misunderstandings.

EU citizens will have to go "home"
The EU citizens living in Brookside and Stirchley (there are actually quite a lot of them) are already home, they're not here on holiday. EU citizens won't be deported when we leave the EU, nor will English people living abroad. That would be illegal under English law, EU law and international law and more importantly, it would be immoral. Any immigrant living here, regardless of where they are from, gains rights just by living here legally.

It will be harder to travel abroad
There is a league table of countries with the most visa-free travel. We're joint top with Germany. The EU isn't going to impose visa restrictions on the UK and we're not going to impose restrictions on the EU. Visa restrictions are imposed when there are serious concerns about security or illegal immigration. Some countries like the United States make everyone have a visa because they're insular and don't travel abroad much. The UK has always been an outward facing country and that is reflected in our very liberal visa regime. It will be no more difficult to travel abroad when we leave the EU than it is now.

We won't get EU money to pay for things
The EU doesn't have any money of its own, it spends ours. We give the EU £50m a day and they give us about half of it back, tell us what we're allowed to spend it on and then we have to put signs all over whatever we've just spent our money on thanking the EU for giving us some of our money back. Take the box road round the town centre for example. It cost £11.8m and the EU gave us £750k of our own money to help pay for it. In exchange for contributing 6.3% of the cost using our own money, big signs have had to be erected on one of the islands thanking the EU for its generosity. You'd think the EU paid the £11.8m bill, there's no sign saying thanks to the Department for Transport or Telford & Wrekin taxpayers or any of the private developers that contributed almost all of the money for it. The point I'm making is that the money the EU gives us is our own money, it's less than half of the membership fee we have to pay and we don't get to decide what we spend it on. Outside of the EU we can decide what we spend that money on.

I work for a foreign company and I'll lose my job
Organisations like the CBI (over £1m of EU funding in the last 9 years), the London School of Economics (£14m of EU funding) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (£5.6m of EU funding) told us that if we didn't give up the pound and join the €uro all these foreign businesses would leave the country and we'd all be poor and unemployed. They were wrong. They said that if we didn't join the Exchange Rate Mechanism all these foreign businesses would leave the country and we'd all be poor and unemployed. They were wrong. Now they're telling us if we leave the EU all these foreign businesses would leave the country and we'll all be poor and unemployed. They're wrong again. Companies come to the UK because we have a highly skilled workforce, it's easy to do business here and because the UK is a prestige location for multinational companies to do business. They aren't going to leave the UK because we're not in the EU and the likes of Nissan and Boeing who are investing heavily in the UK and saying that they don't care whether we're in the EU bear that out.

We can't trust the Tories not to abolish workers' rights if we leave the EU
Well no, you can't trust the Tories. You can't trust Labour either. Nor can you trust the EU Commission. Our fundamental workers' rights all predate the EU and almost all go above and beyond the minimum requirements set out by the EU and the EU average. Equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, maternity pay, paid holiday, etc are all rights that we gave ourselves before we were in the EU and in some cases, before the EU even existed. There is no EU law that says you have to have a minimum wage, we have more paid holiday than the EU requires, we have more maternity pay and leave than the EU requires, we have stronger laws on equal pay and discrimination than the EU requires. Abolishing these rights would be political suicide for the Tories or any other party in government and it's fear of election day that keeps politicians from doing things like abolishing workers' rights. But the EU Commission isn't elected and nobody can hold them to account, not even the government. If the unelected EU Commissioners decided to abolish equal pay laws or maternity leave nobody would be able to stop them.

The NHS is at risk if we leave the EU
Nothing could be further from the truth. The EU and United States are concluding a treaty called the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Programme (TTIP). As with every trade deal the US does they have included something called Investor State Dispute Service (ISDS) which is a mechanism that allows American companies to sue national governments for doing something that prevents them making a profit. Such as not allowing the NHS to be privatised and carved up between the big American healthcare companies, for instance. And of course this only works one way - a company in the UK wouldn't be able to sue the US government using ISDS. This is the biggest single threat to the NHS. The EU has a history of forcing the privatisation of public services in the name of "market liberalisation" and it's only a matter of time until the NHS is in their sights.

We need foreign workers to keep the NHS going
There are about 100k EU immigrants working in the NHS and other public services. There are 1.7m unemployed people living in the UK. Do the maths. It doesn't add up, does it?

We won't be able to trade with Europe if we leave the EU
We trade with the EU now and we will continue to trade with the EU when we leave just like every other country in the world that's not part of the EU does. There is a lot of talk about trade but let's put it into perspective. About 8.5% of our trade is done with the EU and about 9% with the rest of the world. The other 82.5% is trading with ourselves. Every time we do business we have to comply with EU rules and regulations and that costs money which ultimately gets passed on to the consumer resulting in higher prices. In fact, the cost of doing business as an EU member has been calculated to be higher than the highest tariffs that the EU could legally impose on our exports. But the most important economic statistic to remember is that we are the world's 5th largest economy and the EU's largest export market. The EU sells us twice as much as we sell them meaning that any trade barriers would hit the EU twice as hard as it would us. The EU can't afford not to do business with us.

The government says it'll cost my household £4,300 if we leave the EU
The government have said a lot of things, many of which contradict each other. This particular claim has been heavily criticised because the Treasury came up with a disaster scenario, did some maths, made some guesses and then pretended it meant something else. What they did was come up with the worst case scenario that sounded plausible which was that we would have no trade deal with the EU, that the EU would refuse to do business with us and that the economy would nosedive. They then estimated the cost to the economy in terms of GDP, divided it by the number of households in the UK, came up with the figure of £4,300 and said that that was how much every family stands to lose every year by leaving the EU. Ignoring the fact that their worst case scenario is never realistically going to happen, GDP is a measure of the size of the economy, not household income. The size of the economy has no direct relationship with household income and like all the pro-EU propaganda that's come out of the treasury this is a load of nonsense.

If you're still undecided watch Brexit the Movie. It's quite long but it's worth taking the time to watch. If you're wondering how many EU laws there are on pillows or teaspoons then this is where you'll find the answers!