By Alan Gibbs
1. Sovereignty and democratic control: The EU makes a huge amount of the laws that effect our lives, around 60 % of all laws in this country originate from Brussels. Being an EU member has contributed to the general disaffection with parliament and politics in general. We’ve all heard people say why should I bother to vote – nothing ever changes, well that’s hardly a surprise if we cannot change at a general election the people actually who make our laws. Voting to leave will restore our sovereignty, and strengthen and reinvigorate our democracy.
2. Trade: It simply nonsense that the world’s fifth biggest economy needs to be part of a political union to achieve prosperity. Since Britain joined the EU in 1973, the USA, South Korea, Japan and many more have done better trading with the EU from being outside than we have from being inside. Europe is the only continent in the world that we run a trade deficit with, the only continent where we lose more money than we gain from engaging in trade with. In the EU we cannot run our own trade policy, we can’t make trade agreements with emerging economies that will shape the modern world. We need to vote leave to regain control over our trade policy, and start to trade with the rising economies of the world and not be stuck trading with the declining ones.
3. Immigration: it’s crucial that we decide who comes into Britain, how long they come for, and for what purpose. At present being in the EU means that not only do we not have any control over who comes to this country we cannot deport EU citizens even if they are the most undesirable people in the world. A good example of this is the case of Mircea Gheorghiu who was convicted of rape in Romania, and drink driving in Britain. He was deported back to Romania but an EU tribunal ordered his return to Britain because they said that even though he was a convicted rapist he ‘posed no threat’ to people in Britain. The EU inspired Human Rights Act has stopped us from deporting many foreign Jihadists, because they were born in EU countries. The HRA also prevented Britain for years from deporting prominent Jihadist Abu Qatada, at the cost of millions of pounds of tax payers’ money. We recently heard that the mastermind of the Bataclan attack Abdelhamid Abaaoud visited Britain before launching the murder of 130 people in Paris last November. He was allowed to travel so easily into the UK because of the right to free movement of EU citizens, despite his being placed on a travel ban by Belgium authorities. If we vote to leave we can control who enters this country and for what reason. Voting to leave would remove the freedom to travel to the UK for thousands of terrorists, for that reason alone it’s worth voting to leave on Thursday.
Even if Britain opts to ‘Remain’ on Thursday night, the debate about immigration is likely to continue. Immigration has been a key theme throughout the referendum debate and ranks very highly in voter concerns according to a recent poll from Ipsos Mori. A large ‘Leave’ vote, even a losing ‘Leave’ vote will be interpreted as a sign of disillusionment with current government policies on immigration and a signal that the public want a more effective system.
Above all else the British public want an immigration system that they can trust and that they view as fair. A government that repeatedly fails to meet its own immigration targets will not gain trust. Consecutive Conservative manifestos have pledged to bring immigration to the tens of thousands, but according to the latest ONS stats they remain well off that target. Feasibly there is no way that this can be met. The longer the government stands by this promise, the more trust will decline. Politically it is hard for any government to renege on a commitment, but a more considered targeting system, possibly separating skilled and non skilled migration which could be hit would be smarter.
Fairness must also be at the heart of future immigration policy. Immigration has had a disproportionate effect on certain areas of the country and this has caused some strain. A proper migration fund set up to help areas with high migration would be astute. Increasingly this idea is gaining traction with Yvette Cooper the latest to back this move. A contributory welfare system where new arrivals have to pay in before they can take out and rigorous enforcement of the minimum wage ensuring British workers cannot be undercut are also other possible suggestions.
It is not racist to be worried about immigration, nor discuss the topic and there are many legitimate fears which should be tackled and will continue to exist after the referendum. The conversation though must be sensible and reasonable. These reform proposals would not solve the problem overnight but are a decent starting point for debate post-referendum in the event of a ‘Remain’ win. It is time to move from the somewhat hyperbolic language we have seen in recent weeks to the more sensible, reflective and reasonable.
The EU referendum is quickly descending upon the British people. With economic arguments dominating headlines it is hard to see anything but the interests of businesses. But in recent weeks the effect Brexit would have on British security has been raised, with David Cameron going as far as saying Brexit would be ‘a threat not only to British economic and national security’. But are there any validity in these claims?
Many argue that being part of the EU would help constrain the growing assertiveness of Putin’s Russia. An open letter by defence officials argued that membership to the EU was critical to deterring Russia. This ignores the importance of NATO, a military alliance that Britain signed on the 4th April 1949 to counter the threat from the Soviet Union and its allies in the eastern bloc. Britain pulling itself out of the EU does not suddenly make its membership of NATO null and void. If a non EU member Britain is attacked it is still protected by the military alliance, whereas the EU has no military capability. Therefore offers no protection to Britain’s security. Also EU sanctions made against Russia after the annexation of the Crimea did little to deter Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War. This results in the EU offering next to nothing in terms of conventional security or influence. But what does it provide on the war against terror?
The public letter by defence officials also claimed that membership to the EU was vital to combating ISIS. However the threat to the UK from ISIS and other Islamic extremists would persist irrespective of Britain’s membership of the EU. It is the liberal and cultural values which brings conflict not membership of the EU. So if Britain left the EU ISIS and other Islamic extremists would still oppose Britain.
The sharing of intelligence has often been touted as a great benefit of remaining within the EU. However the UK and the EU would immediately craft new intelligence sharing mechanisms in the interest of mutual security. Both the UK and the EU are facing the same threats, the stakes are too high for them to refuse simply based upon Britain leaving the EU. Also the UK is part of the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance comprising of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. This alliance is of greater value and would still be intact. As a result the UK would still have access to intelligence and therefore able to counteract any possible threats.
The horrifying attack on the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, just over two weeks ago opened up fresh debate over the ongoing issues of gun control and homophobia that currently plague US society. There has been far less of an attempt to place the attack in the context of the terror tactics being deployed by the Islamic State who inspired it. The attack demonstrated the power that IS retains to inspire lone-actor terrorism as well as larger scale terrorist attacks in western nations, even as the noose is tightened around its neck by the Iraqi army in Fallujah. The specificity of the attack against a gay nightclub also represents a chilling new dimension to the tactics of IS.
What made the Orlando shooting more disturbing than other major terrorist attacks of recent times is that it deliberately targeted LGBTQ people. It was more than a mere attempt to spread the fear of losing one’s life amongst members of a population or to forcibly coerce a government to take a certain action, but to make people afraid of expressing their sexuality. Additionally concerning, is the suggestion that pre-existing prejudices that exist toward LGBTQ people in European and US societies could fuel similar attacks and serve as a potent recruiting tool for IS. There is a strong suggestion that Omar Mateen, the perpetrator in this instance, was fiercely homophobic.
Although Mateen pledged allegiance to IS prior to his murderous act, there remains considerable doubt over how much direct influence they had in motivating him. Mateen had lived his entire live in the US and had a history of mental illness. These two factors would preclude him from having had any physical contact with IS and would suggest an alternative reason for his actions respectively. Yet the fact that he undeniably fell under their influence clearly demonstrates the continued power that their ideology has to inspire such acts.
It is unclear how long it will take to eradicate the influence of this ideology. What recent events have also demonstrated is that IS will exploit every conceivable societal division that they can in order to further their deadly ambitions. Keeping society cohesive in Europe and the US therefore, will be as much a blow to IS as any victory won against them in the field.
Last Thursday over 33 million people went to the polls to decide whether the UK would stay in or leave the EU, bringing to an end a debate which has engulfed our politics for many years. By the end of the night the result was clear; 17,410,742 had voted to leave the EU whereas only 16,141,241 had voted to remain in the EU. This result which defied the late polls has caused tremors likely to be felt for some time to come and has changed British and possibly European politics forever.
In order for this to become official the next stage is for the decision to be ratified in Parliament. Remain supporters heavily outnumber their Leave counterparts in the Commons and there are fears the result could be blocked. Nicola Sturgeon has even claimed that the Scottish Parliament could block Brexit, angry at Scotland being dragged out of the EU despite a large Remain vote.
This feeling has also been mirrored within some sections of the public. At time of writing a petition calling for a second referendum had reached over 4 million signatures with another petition calling for London to declare independence from the UK and apply to join the EU gaining 177,000 backers. London also witnessed large protests with thousands gathering to show their support for the EU. These reactions are understandable given the bitterness of the contest and the different vote across the country but rejecting the result or re-running the contest would not be the correct response.
The consequences of this vote are tremendous, there can be no doubt about that. The Prime Minister has resigned, the leader of the opposition could follow, a second independence referendum may be called and there is the chance of a recession. Out of all this fear and confusion though what remains clear is this: in a democratic exercise the public voted to leave the EU. This is not up for dispute and the time for debate is over. Therefore instead of the protests and petitions, all have to accept what has happened. The time has come to work together and ensure Britain gets the best possible deal. We are all on the same side now!
The search for a new Prime Minister has begun and we now know that it will be one of five candidates: Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb, Michael Gove or Liam Fox. Conservative MPs will narrow this list down to two candidates who will then be presented to Conservative party members to make the final decision. Voting amongst the Conservative parliamentary party will begin on 5th July with ballots taking place every Tuesday and Thursday until there are only 2 candidates left.
Presently Theresa May is a long way ahead in terms of endorsements and the polling. According to influential Conservative Home website, May has the backing of over 100 MPs with these numbers steadily rising. Furthermore polls from YouGov, ICM and Survation show the Home Secretary in a dominant position. May’s status as the front-runner has undoubtedly been aided by the absence of Boris Johnson and there has even been talk of a coronation with the other leadership candidates withdrawing. This would not be the right way forward.
The referendum result and decision to leave gives a clear mandate for a Brexiter to at least be in the debate and possibly even become the next Prime Minister. Theresa May kept a low profile during the referendum but did reluctantly back the Remain cause. This means she was on the wrong side of the result and hinders her legitimacy when negotiating a deal for Britain to leave the EU. A true believer could be better placed to strike the deal.
This is not just an election for a party leader but is also an election for Prime Minister. Given what is at stake there is a clear argument that the process should go through as many democratic checks and balances as possible. Electorally this will give greater legitimacy to the new Prime Minister and will help them avoid the troubles Gordon Brown had in this regard. Calling a snap General Election after the contest is the final step in this process.
Theresa May has correctly distanced herself from suggestions to turn this race into a coronation and has indicated that she wants a proper contest. A coronation would neither be helpful, nor useful. This race may appear to already be over, but given the unpredictability of previous Tory leadership contests it would be foolish to hand the crown to Mrs May yet. There is a lot that will happen yet and still a chance our next Prime Minister could be someone different!
The recent treatment of Jeremy Corbyn is the latest blow to the representation of the views of young people in politics. This comes in the wake of an EU referendum result that revealed a serious generational divide between the views of the young, who overwhelmingly voted to remain, and older members of society who voted to leave. Encouraging younger people to become more involved in the political process is a democratic necessity. However, more effort must be made by younger people themselves and the political establishment to progress toward this goal.
Corbyn clearly enjoyed strong support amongst young people who supported his election as Labour leader and who have made up the bulk of the subsequent surge in Labour members. However, he has been consistently mocked in parliament, belittled and criticised from almost every conceivable angle. He has not been respected at any point by his political opponents or even by many from his own party. Proof, if any where needed, that many in the political establishment either do not take the views of young people seriously or simply do not believe that they need to. If further evidence of this was required, Nick Clegg’s infamous ‘selling out’ over the issue of tuition fees in 2010, the coalition government’s stubborn stance over their increase and the decision not to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the EU referendum would seem to offer it.
However, young people cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves. They must make their voices heard at the next Labour leadership contest if necessary, forgive the Liberal Democrats and listen to the progressive choice offered by the Green Party. They must however, be given help from the establishment. Political parties must realise the power that young people have to swing elections and political decisions and reach out to them. In the long term, plans must also be put in place to educate children from a young age about the political process and the importance of voting.
Young people must engage and be engaged by the current political system. The consequences of doing nothing are clear. The voice of young people in politics will fade into nothingness in both the present and in the future, and leave current and future generations at the whim of a political caste that they have no power in influencing. This scenario, quite simply, cannot be allowed to become reality.
In the midst of the drama occurring within the Conservative and Labour parties it would be easy to forget that UKIP too are searching for a new leader. Nigel Farage has stepped down (it appears for good this time) and the race is on to replace him. Furthermore deputy leader Paul Nuttall has confirmed he will not stand for the position opening the race to an even greater extent.
The next leader will face a difficult task in taking over from Nigel Farage. Farage was not everybody’s cup of tea but undoubtedly has been one of the most influential politicians in recent years and ultimately has been successfully in his main aim. He was a key driving force behind UKIP’s appeal and the effect his departure will have should not be underestimated.
UKIP as a party have achieved their main target, but can still continue to be relevant. Across the North of England UKIP have emerged as Labour’s biggest rivals and given Labour’s current crisis and the large Brexit vote in many Labour heartlands UKIP have fertile territory to work with. A negotiated Brexit settlement which places the free market above ending free movement would also give UKIP another selling point.
So who could be the figure to lead UKIP into this new era? Steven Woolfe MEP for the North East of England and UKIP spokesman on Migration and Financial Affairs appears clear favourite. Woolfe is mixed race and grew up in working class Manchester. He appears well placed to cement UKIP’s pivot to the North and would greatly improve UKIP’s image. His main rivals are likely to be Diane James and Suzanne Evans (though she remains suspended currently), although funder Arron Banks could yet enter the race.
UKIP as a party have an opportunity but they need to be astute. Firstly they must pick a leader who can appeal beyond their base and reach out to new supporters. Secondly they have to heal the wounds between the Farage wing of the party and the Carswell/Evans wing of the party and cannot tear themselves apart. If UKIP can achieve these tasks then they very much have a future in British politics. Don’t write off UKIP yet!
Nigel Farage’s recent claim that the Leave campaign has carried an ‘upbeat’ message further evidences the Leave side’s attempt to portray itself as the more positive of the two referendum campaigns. However, the disheartening truth is that both sides have quite clearly been motivated by fear and political opportunism. Debate will rage after June 23rd on what the future holds for the nation depending on of the outcome of the vote. What will be beyond debate, is the undeniable truth that this referendum campaign has been a deeply costly one in terms of the divisions that it has created in British society and politics.
Proving that both of the campaigns have been motivated by fear is not difficult. One cannot deny the incessantly negativity of the arguments produced by the Remain side. David Cameron has implied that a Brexit could put peace and stability in Europe at risk, while the criticism of the Leave campaign’s plans for building new trade relations with the EU and other nations has been constant. It has also become clear that the Leave campaign’s very existence is based on the fears that people have over the impact of migration, the strain being placed on the NHS and housing markets, terrorism and loss of sovereignty. If these fears were not present, there would be very little debate over Britain’s EU membership.
There are also a number of question marks over the motivations of politicians from both sides. Is Boris Johnson using the Leave campaign to put himself in contention to fill the power vacuum at the head of the Conservative Party once David Cameron steps down? Why were articles on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal website that espoused eurosceptic views deleted prior to his becoming Labour leader? Amongst the viciousness of this debate, the opportunistic and untrustworthy nature of many politicians has come to the fore.
This referendum has brought out the worst in modern day politics. Facts and arguments have been exaggerated and twisted, with fear mongering and opportunism clearly evident. Healing public faith in politics and reconciling members of the two political factions to work together again will be as much a challenge as dealing with the result of the referendum. There is already the potential of a second referendum if Britain votes to remain. For many, the thought of having to go through another campaign like this one is too much to contemplate.