If anything has angered me beyond any measure, it’s been the reaction by some sectors to what was without doubt one of the most democratic processes I’ve ever taken an active part in, the recent EU Referendum, a process in which every individual’s vote was equal to every other individual’s vote.
And yet, under the headline: “Brexit bunch must produce quick plan”, Liberal Democrat councillor for the Quarry and Coton Hill Ward of Shropshire Council, Andrew Bannerman, said in a letter to the Shropshire Star of 1 July 2016…
Like half the population I am devastated by the referendum result. The genuinely disadvantaged and the anxious have been manipulated by a vigorous and mendacious campaign. “78 million joining soon” says the disgraceful sinking ship on the Bridgnorth Road – project fear or what?
Some of the areas that have benefited most from EU grants and EU trade agreements were amazingly the least sensible of this. Welsh farmers sell 90 per cent of their lamb to France, so why vote out? It’s like turkeys voting far Christmas? Bob Wydell and Co, aided and abetted by the right-wing press, have proved that if you say something often enough, many people will believe it.
The old have deprived the young (70 per cent of whom voted to Remain) of the opportunities offered by membership of the EU. No thought was given to the effect on Scotland, Ireland or the rest of Europe. We may have wounded the EU, we may have lost Scotland and resurrected the anguish of Ireland – but what do they matter to the comfortable pastures of Shropshire?
So Brexiteers, we now know what we have NOT got – the EU — with all its imperfections and all its vast potential to make us all friendlier, safer and more prosperous. Just what have we got‘? You haven’t a clue. “Independence” will butter no parsnips. You’d better came up with something sharpish.
My reply was printed today, Monday 11 July, but better late than never.
I edited down the letter to the Shropshire Star to keep it short enough on fine detail to be considered for publication, but here is the full text of the original…
The thinly-veiled contempt in Andrew Bannerman’s letter for anyone who voted for Brexit displays the underlying extremism implicit in the liberal elite’s denial of the right of anyone else to hold any view that runs counter to its own.
Councillor Bannerman is a Liberal Democrat and a decent man who has the misfortune of many in his party to suffer from a myopia that gives him a rather restricted view of the real world, the world as experienced by ordinary working people.
I am still desperately trying to work out how an otherwise intelligent man still doesn’t understand that every penny we get back from the EU in grants and subsidies was paid into the EU by the UK anyway. As a matter of official public record, our net contribution to the EU Budget in 2015 was circa £8.5 billion. That is a lot of reasons for them needing us more than we need them.
And as for the EU as a keeper of the European peace, with its “vast potential to make us all friendlier, safer“? That is specious nonsense. The closest we have come to a Third World War was the EU’s attempt at drawing Ukraine closer into the Union and into the sphere of NATO, creating a perilous situation equal to that of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, when US President J.F. Kennedy warned Russia not to site missiles (on Cuba) within striking distance of America’s seaboard. Happily, Russia backed down and, as an 18-year-old RAF airman, sleeping and eating in a one-tonner alongside a V-bomber on a dispersal pan at RAF Honington in Suffolk, with the aircrew in the cockpit on 4-minute stand-by, I and the rest of the duty crew of armourers stood down and went for a beer we never thought we’d see again.
And there is a reason why the EU was not a signatory of the Dayton Peace Agreement that brought a kind of peace to Kosovo, it has to do with the EU’s insisting that the murderous Slobodan Milošević be allowed to sort out his country’s “internal affairs” without outside interference, in the process arguing against the US-led bombing campaign that went ahead despite the EU’s protests, a campaign that eventually ended the genocidal war that would have seen the completion of Slobodan Milošević’s ethnic cleansing of every Bosnian Muslim from “his” country. Nice one, Councillor Bannerman.
Andrew Bannerman is a student of history with either a very short or a very convenient memory.
What Mr Bannerman said in his letter is deeply offensive, at best patronising, not just of Welsh farmers but of everyone whether on the “right wing” or “left wing” of British politics who disagrees with him. The Brexit campaign, quite apart from being genuinely cross-party, was not driven by an ideology based on the fanciful notion that the ideal state of mankind is one where everyone thinks and acts like Andrew Bannerman.
I don’t suppose it ever occurred to those who share his views that the farmers’ vote was probably against the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that works against the interests of both British farmers and British consumers? I thought not.
When the EU spends our money 40 per cent of it goes on the CAP, it is then paid out as subsidy, only a fraction of which comes back to UK farmers, thanks largely to the political power of French farmers, a situation many in the rest of the EU would happily see an end to – were they ever given an opportunity like our recent referendum.
Councillor Bannerman might like to spend some time pondering a situation that sees many dairy imports into the EU hit with a tariff of around than 50 per cent, a situation that discriminates against developing countries where agriculture makes up such a big slice of their economy. Taking the UK out of the CAP means it can trade openly with those developing countries, a move that is a far more effective anti-poverty – and anti-corruption – measure than any amount of direct monetary foreign aid because the UK will be helping people to help themselves without lining the pockets of their leaders.
Personally, I thank our farmers for a vote that will see UK consumers paying lower food prices, despite the fall in the value of the (still) over-priced pound because, according to a recent report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, as a direct result of the CAP food prices in the EU are 17 percent above world market prices.
Whilst I have no idea what the breakdown of the vote was for the local farmers who voted ‘Out’, the ones Andrew Bannerman has so much contempt for, but a poll in Farmers Weekly before the vote indicated 58 per cent for Brexit and only 31 per cent against. So perhaps what he refers to as the turkeys who voted for Christmas had a better view of the roots of the Christmas tree and saw just how rotten they were. They are the experts after all.
Anyone else upset by the margin by which they failed to get their way, should take note that Shropshire people were not fooled by (to borrow Councillor Bannerman’s phrase) the “vigorous and mendacious campaign” of scaremongering peddled by the likes of Cameron and Osborne, to the extent that whilst the total number of Shropshire votes cast for Remain was 78,987, the total number of Shropshire votes cast for Leave was half as much again, totalling 104,166, which is surely a wide enough margin to convince even the most cynical of deniers that the vote and its outcome was fair.
Hopefully, when the local council elections come around in May 2017, the people of Shropshire who wanted out of the EU will remember the contempt in which they have been held for apparently thinking for themselves.