Tag Archives: EU membership

Thoughts on the EU referendum

With the date for the referendum announced and campaigning underway, I wanted to try to enunciate my thoughts on the subject. I’ve written before on my desire to have a referendum. 3 years ago I said that I “would likely vote to remain in Europe”.

Likely, but not certainly. I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument from either side. So I wanted here to think aloud, as it were, and hopefully either prompt you in some questions you may not have thought of, though I’d rather like to start a reasonable discussion.

By ‘reasonable’ I have in mind cutting out a lot of unnecessary bickering, demonisation of the other and acknowledgement that there may be good reasons on both sides. I’m fine for someone to have made up their mind, but not for them to become belligerent in putting forward their case at the denigration of the opposite view.

The idea of “project fear” has been touted quite a lot. There’s a problem with it, though. It is right for the Remain campaign to point out the risks that are associated with leaving the EU and to ask questions about how those risks would be mitigated. Some of that has been worded a bit too strongly, possibly with the intention of trying to scare people into sticking with the status quo, but it is wrong for every legitimate concern raised and question to be dismissed as part of this “project fear”. Thus far, the Leave campaign has used this as a means of not answering questions which I, and others like me, want to hear the answers to.

An interesting thought I had regarding the referendum centred on the Scottish National Party (and, by inference, other nationalists around the UK). On the Andrew Marr Show, Nicola Sturgeon said that she would be on the side of the Remain campaign but that were the UK to vote Leave, then that would likely trigger a 2nd Scottish independence referendum (you remember, the “once in a lifetime” referendum that we had about 18 months ago).

So it would make a kind of sense if the SNP were to not be too persuasive in their case for remaining in the EU. i.e. be seen to be supporting the Remain case, but don’t actually try to win (rather like Manchester City’s team selection in the FA Cup). That way they get a second bite at the independence cherry, even though it would then be their intention to apply for membership to the EU.

I say “a kind of sense” because I must admit I don’t understand the view of some nationalists who want to be independent of the UK but not independent of the EU. If anyone can explain that one to me, I’d be most grateful.

Finally, I wanted to look at the theological perspective. Which of Leave or Remain better fits the maxim: Love your neighbour as yourself.

My issue with the Leave and Remain campaigns is that both have, thus far, put a large amount of stock in the idea of which makes Britain “better off”. But no one’s saying at what cost. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the UK is better off leaving. Does that mean also that our neighbours in France, Greece, Hungary  or Ireland will be better off? Or is it a case of making ourselves better off and choosing to not care about others?

When you try to dig into the matter, what does “better off” mean anyway? Is it purely a cold measure of macroeconomics, or are we factoring in the cultural and the spiritual? If it is purely economic, then one must be careful that the “better off” argument isn’t merely a form of prosperity gospel.

Possibly the strongest argument the Leave campaign has (in terms of appeal to the general public) would be that it would signal the end of UKIP. They would have achieved their aim and then all could see whether or not their myth of withdrawal from the EU being the panacea to all our ills would bear out in reality.

The strongest argument for the Remain campaign has actually come from one of the cheerleaders of the Leave side: Michael Gove. He claimed that the Conservatives have been stymied in pushing through some of their punitive measures because of the European legislation. In my book, anything that helps to tie the hands of Tories from hurting citizens is a good thing.

For now, I lean slightly inwards, but that lean is ever so slight. Those who promise than a UK outside of the EU will be a land flowing with milk and honey are not people to be taken seriously. Neither are those who speak as though withdrawal from the EU will be the end of civilisation. It’s a choice between two different shades of beige.

Persuade me, entice me, allure me to your point of view. Just don’t beat me about the head and call me an idiot. Such tactics rarely work in evangelism, whether religious or political.

A Voter’s Manifesto (part 4 of 5)

Link to part 1

Link to part 2

Link to part 3

Welfare/Social Security

It should be a principle that in this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, none should starve. So punitive measures that are taken to remove benefits from those in need will be made illegal. With a level of retrospective action, any such measures which may be shown to have had a significant influence on anyone’s death, either by starvation or suicide, will be deemed to bear a portion of responsibility for that death and any person who enacted or directed such measures shall be held criminally liable.

Hate speech that is directed to claimants of benefits, either individually or collectively, should be made a crime, along with other forms of hate speech that are currently recognised as such. Any penalties for such hate speech should be ringfenced and directed into the benefits system. So if person X calls their fellow human being and neighbour, a scrounger, and they get fined £500 then that £500 will be go directly into funding social security, for providing for those who have fallen on rough times.

The bedroom tax must be condemned as the product of a warped and malignant ideology and therefore must be repealed immediately.

This is not the only punitive measure that has been introduced by the current coalition government. One may think especially of their attacks upon the disabled. All such evil measures are to be rolled back to allow for disabled people to live dignified lives, where they get all the help that they need and they shall not be subject to humiliating tests. There will also be a complete overall of the work assessment capabilities, where assessments will no longer be carried out by for-profit companies, but by a person’s own GP, with potential 2nd opinions available made from other local GPs. If an assessment is subject to any appeal then the person should not have their benefits reduced or sanctioned in any way during the time of the appeal.

Any and all targets for welfare sanctions, whether overt or covert, shall be illegal. Any direction given by any minister of the government, any manager in a job centre plus or any other such person of responsibility will be punishable by ensuring that they are in receipt of unemployment benefits and that as soon they are in employment to be subject to a fine not less than the total amount of benefits that they denied to those in need.

The single best way to reduce out of work social security is by creating jobs that pay a living wage. It is an ideologically fuelled folly to believe that the way to increase employment is to cut out of work benefits. Any efforts to reduce the expense of out of work social security should be by investment in jobs.

Europe

Given the increased popularity of Euroscepticism in recent years, it seems that there is sufficient disillusionment with the current relation between the UK and Europe to warrant a referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. I have written more about that here.

We must reaffirm our commitment to human rights and the treaties governing it. Any organisation that seeks to undermine the implementation or withdrawal from such treaties represents a threat to basic human rights and shall be considered as a potential terrorist organisation.

International Aid

At present, the United Kingdom pays 0.7% of its GDP in international aid, but this is not set in statute. I would propose that this should be legislated for and will be subject to review once every 7 years.

Housing

It cannot evade the notice a reasonable person that at the moment, there is something of a housing crisis in many parts of the country. This is a classic example of excessive demand and insufficient supply. There are a number of measures that can be undertaken.

To address the issue of under-occupation, any house which is owned by left vacant will be subject to an increasing scale of tax to encourage either its sale or a reduction in the asking rent to make it affordable. If a property is left vacant for more than 6 months, then 5% of the property of the value will be levied as a vacant property tax. If the property remains vacant for over a year, then this will increase to 10%. Any property left vacant for 2 years should then be subject to a compulsory purchase order and turned into social housing.

Buy-to-let landlords do provide a valuable commodity, namely a home for someone to temporarily live in. However, in so providing this commodity, this reduces the supply of housing available for purchase and increases the price in the rest of the market. As such, there should be disincentives on landlords unreasonably buying up properties. Such measures could include a flat 45% tax on income from 2nd homes or even a ban on private landlords owning more than 2 homes.

Consecutive governments have failed to build enough new social housing to replace the stocks that were sold off under the Thatcher regime. As such, increased investment must be made to increasing social housing stocks. As these are for those more in need than private home owners, the building of social housing shall be prioritised over and above affordable private housing, though that is not to be neglected.

Economically, this will come at some initial cost, though one notes that this will provide employment for labourers, who, paid at a fair wage will contribute via income tax and that the building firms they work for will be able to reap profits from their work which shall also contribute to the treasury via corporate taxation.

This will also have the effect of increasing supply, reducing demand and so push down house prices, which is a necessary corrective measure to the rampant house price inflation which currently plagues us.

Utility Costs

As has been noted in recent years, the privatisation of the utility companies has transformed the energy market from a monopoly to an oligopoly. This has not yielded any great improvement in customer service and the aim of competition to reduce prices has proved to be a complete failure, with energy prices going up at the first hint of increases in the supply market and failing to come down when the supply market reduces its prices.

As a result of this failure of the private sector, the energy suppliers should be taken back into national ownership and price rises limited by statute to no more than 2% above inflation. This has the added benefit that any profits made the renationalised service will go straight back into the provision of utility services and not being siphoned off to shareholders.