Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Brexit and Immigration

The argument goes that in the EU we are swamped by lots of nasty foreign types. Under Brexit we can let in just who we want to let in.

Can we?
In the EU we maintain full control over non-EU immigration and, even, entry. We can demand visas, we can prevent people visiting, we are free to set our own policy on residence, working permits and citizenship. There are no restrictions that a Brexit will lift.

Will we? 
As for EU citizens, at present, they all have a right to travel to the UK, work in the UK, live in the UK, claim benefits (with some restrictions) in the UK and, for most purposes act as if they were English!

A Brexit, though, is not sufficient to end this terrible state of affairs.

A full trade deal with the EU post Brexit would involve accepting freedom of movement. Norway, not in the EU, has accepted just that. You have a right to travel to Norway, work in Norway, live in Norway, claim benefits (with some restrictions) in Norway and, for most purposes act as if you are English! Not entering trade deal would put Britain’s ability to restrict EU citizens on the same basis as Britain’s ability to restrict non EY citizens. Not entering a trade deal would also reduce Britain’s income considerably.

In between there are a number of different trade offs between giving up the means to live and having to put up with icky foreigners. You may ask yourself how much of your income you are prepared to forgo to rid yourself of Vlad the Plasterer (a real person by the way. His name’s Vlad, he’s a plasterer and he drives round south London in a van with “Vlad the Plasterer” on the side).

But how much you, personally, would give up isn’t quite as important as how much most people would be prepared to give up. The answer is likely “not very much” and Britain would accept full freedom of movement to get that trade deal it needed to avoid an even sharper fall in national income.

A Brexit would, most likely, have no effect at all on immigration.

The economy will boom when we are free of Brussels!

I am perplexed by Brexiteers.

The bulk of their public statements are an entirely irrational combination of “Project Fantasy” with the back up of “Project Shutup” when the fantasy is revealed. Trade deals, for example, take a long time to negotiate and US would be negligent in looking after the interests of its own people were it to de-emphasise its trade deal with the EU in order to pursue one with a newly Brexited UK. “We’ll do a trade deal with the US” is Project Fantasy. When the President of the United States pointed that out the Brexiteers moved to Project Shutup.

The IMF (foreigners who should stay out if it), the CBI (little more than an EU pressure group), the Treasury (government propaganda) and the OECD (more foreigners) are just a few of those saying that the British people would be much worse off under a Brexit.  Meanwhile Kate Hoey, a leading Brexit campaigner cannot give one example of a report showing Britain’s would be better off under a Brexit. 

But still there is the claim that the British people will be better off. Or, at least, not worse off. Or at least not very much worse off. 

And anyone who say different is biased. Or in the pay of the EU. Or scaremongering. Or interfering. Or...just shut up ok!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What's good about the European Union?

Ignoring for the moment the negative reasons to vote remain, is there any reason to stay?  

I find it an easy question to answer.

The European Union was born shortly after the Second World War when a 

These are Winston Churchill’s words. One of the “victors”, who saw that the myriad of rival nations and states had come perilously close to bringing back the Dark Ages “in all their cruelty and squalor”.  Churchill’s remedy for this situation was simple, and shared by many others: stop being a myriad of rival nations and states. Become a community, in Churchill’s words “a kind of United States of Europe”.

Since then, a full seventy years, there has been no armed conflict (plenty of bickering, but no armed conflict) between any members of the European Union or its predecessors. That was not the case in the previous seventy years. Or the seventy years before that. Or before that. As we go back and back trying to find a comparable period of peace in Europe we find we run out of recorded history.

We have for seventy years lived together. We have welcomed into our union former fascist dictatorships, Portugal, Spain, Greece and kept them democratic. We have converted the former communist economies to the free market, their dictatorships to democracies and we have kept them that way. Our lives, commerce and societies are so intertwined that the dictatorships, wars and grinding poverty of previous generations have become utterly inconceivable.

In doing so we have dismantled barriers to trade, both in goods and services. You used to have to clear customs to sell abroad, there used to be tariffs on the import and export of goods, there used to be out and out bans on the export of services. Regulations varied from state to state; what one could quite legally sell in France could not be sold in Germany, what could be sold in Germany was against the law in Spain.

We co-operate. The Costa del Sol used to be known as the Costa del Crime; criminals could retire to Spain and be entirely safe from the British Police. Now there is the European Arrest Warrant. If a dangerous criminal flees to Spain, Plod simply ‘phones el Plod and el Plod picks up the criminal for us. The Large Hadron Collider is just the most famous example of a European scientific project. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that scientific research is not now a national but a European endeavour. Many environmental projects are nigh on impossible without co-operation: pollution and global warming does not acknowledge borders.

Employment law requires co-ordination over the Union. All must provide holiday, sick pay, maternity pay lest a “race to the bottom” begins where one jurisdiction sees and advantage in screwing over its workforce leaving the others to follow suit or become “uncompetitive”.
Peace, prosperity, democracy, liberty, security, progress and a decent life for the citizens.

Do I want my children and grandchildren to be citizens of that?

Damn right I do.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Why should Britain be in the EU?

The same reason Mercia is in Britain.

This is a bit of Britain, around about 912 c.e.
Midland Map - 5 Boroughs 912 AD

There are six kingdoms and some strange Danelaw entity ("The Five Boroughs") on that map whereas now they are subsumed into one state. Mercia is now a vaguely defined region of Britain but, back then, was its own kingdom.

Way back then, though, just about everything was local.  Food, fuel and housing was all produced locally. Trade between localities was tiny; mostly restricted to some raw materials that couldn’t be produced locally and a few luxury goods that other localities specialised in. The vast majority of Mercia’s needs were produced by Mercia. Communications were similarly restricted, as was travel. The self-sufficiency of Mercia was not desired but necessary; there simply wasn’t the infrastructure to get goods from Wessex to Mercia, or an efficient means of signalling your wishes.

In such a situation you can have your little kingdom. Decisions and actions of Wessex, barring sending hordes of heavily armed Devonians to pick a fight, have no consequence for Mercia and Mercia can live in isolation. It can have its own king, its own laws, even its own system of measurement.

If it weren’t for the Vikings, it would have been lovely.

But it wouldn’t have remained so.

Let us forward the clock to a time when trade amongst the localities had developed to the point where it was not correct to say that the locality met its needs on its own; the materials for its houses or the food and fuel it needed.  Welsh slate for the roofs, York coal for the fire, and Wessex flour for the crumpets to toast on it. Could we then have had a king of Mercia, a Mercian road system, a Mercian law of contract? How would the Wessex farmers have coped with selling wheat in Mercian bushels to Mercia, hestawr to the Welsh? How would the Welsh have prepared slates to Mercian building regulations, and Northumbrian and East Anglian and all the rest? Would the road or the railway the Northumbrians used to transport their coal have been built if the building of it were an international project?

The lives of the people of Britain became so intertwined that the peoples of Mercia, Wessex, Gwynedd, Strathclyde, Kent, and all the other kingdoms were better served by a body that could act for all the diverse local kingdoms.  And so, the (early) medieval local gave way to the modern national. With that, and with much upheaval, the Local Kingdom gave way to the Nation State.

The Nation State was, in many ways, in a similar position to the Local Kingdom.  Just about everything was national. Food, fuel, housing, and manufactured goods where all produced nationally. International trade was largely limited to raw materials and luxury goods.  Decisions in one nation state could be taken without affecting other nation states and, so, you could have your nation state.

If it weren’t for the frequent wars, it would have been lovely.

But it wouldn’t remain so.

Just as early modern life transcended the locality, modern life transcends the nation. Little is produced in any single place; industry is international. Major projects, infrastructure and research, are international. Economic competition is international. Decisions are constantly taken that affect the lives of all of Europe’s people. A modern European Nation State is no longer in the position similar to that of a Local Kingdom in early medieval times.

Britain is in the EU because the lives of the British people are inextricably linked to the lives of the rest of the rest of the continent in the same way that lives of Mercians are inextricably linked to the lives of those in the rest of our island.