A motion tabled by Green Party Councillor Julian Dean at full council on Thursday 19th September made the headlines of the Shropshire Star. For some reason the motion and the subsequent debate (which consisted largely of defensive statements by Julian Dean and his LibDem allies in response to my speech) was reported in the North Shropshire edition of the Shropshire Star but in neither of their two other editions.
This is the article followed by the full text of my speech…
This is the full text of my speech…
This move by openly anti-Brexit Members to continue to damage this nation with their delaying tactics is to be regretted.
In the Shropshire Star of September 12th it was reported that Shropshire farmers, like the rest of the nation, just want to “get on with Brexit” and end the uncertainty introduced into the whole process by the people who propose motions like this, motions that prove that ANY arguments supporting the result of the 2016 referendum won’t have the slightest impact on the pro-EU camp.
They display a breathtaking arrogance, dictating policy by arguments based on denigration and verbal intimidation, using emotive terms like “disaster”, “cliff edge”, and “crashing out”.
I didn’t gloat over the outcome of the 2016 referendum, I just drove home and got on with looking forward to seeing the government carry forward the clearly expressed will of the British people to leave the EU, with or without “a deal”, because I had researched the potential options BEFORE choosing which side I would campaign for. The deciding issue for me was that we leave the EU – not the Europe with whom we’d had a succession of successful free trade arrangements within a common market, but the explicitly political EU and its plans for a federalist state.
The thinly-veiled contempt in this motion for anyone who voted for Brexit displays the liberal elite’s denial of the right of anyone else to hold any view that runs counter to its own.
Anyone tempted to read too much into the “narrow” margin by which they failed to get their way, should take note that the total number of Shropshire votes cast for Remain was 78,987, the total number of Shropshire votes cast for Leave was 104,166, which is a wide enough margin to convince anyone that Shropshire’s vote to LEAVE THE EU was both conclusive and informed.
To fully understand my anger at Julian Dean’s action you need to read my earlier blog post from three years ago, July 11 2016…
From which you will see why Julian Dean’s motion stoked an old fire that had smouldered for over three years, with Andrew Bannerman continuing to stoke the embers…
This (further) response of mine was meant to appear a few days after my speech in response to Julian Dean’s motion but, after the contentious judgement that came out of the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament, it’s taken me a while to calm down and take on board the many observations on that ruling that subsequently appeared, not least that of an ex-SUPREME COURT JUDGE…
Although I’d written my response to the motion early on the morning of Full Council (19th September), I still wasn’t sure whether to speak because I know that nothing anyone says in support of Brexit has ANY effect on the pro-EU Remain lobby, but once Julian Dean stood up and voiced his “concern” for the livelihoods of livestock farmers and the agricultural industry generally in the event of a ‘no deal Brexit’, well the hypocrisy was just too much.
One thing I do regret is that after the debate I never thought to ask how many of those supporting the motion were vegetarian or vegan, or how they squared the Green Party’s advocacy of plant-based diets to reduce dependency on the greenhouse-gas producing livestock industry with the motion’s claimed concern for the livelihoods of those same greenhouse-gas producing livestock farmers rearing all that offending livestock.
The LibDems, of course, are determinedly anti-Brexit, period, so Heather Kidd’s insistence that their ONLY worry was the impact of a no deal Brexit was at best disingenuous.
That the Labour group supported the motion, despite the Leader of the Labour group attacking the LibDem’s for hypocrisy, was to be expected, although what wasn’t expected was my not being singled-out and reference made to my past membership of UKIP!
NOTE: I actively campaigned with UKIP during the lead up to the referendum and left the party three days after the result, job done as far as I was concerned. I was actually dismissed from the Independent Group at Shirehall because, I was told: “UKIP is racist and we don’t want a member of a racist organisation in the Group”. This despite the Local Government Association (LGA), of which the Independent Group at Shirehall is a member, includes UKIP as a member of the LGA Independent Group along with the Green Party. A few months after I’d left UKIP I was allowed back into the Independent Group.
The Leader of the Independent Group who helped sponsor the motion has relatives who live and work in Europe and so her support for such a motion was a given.
But the background…
Most of the people campaigning so loudly against Brexit have no idea of where most of us who want to leave the EU are coming from because most of the pro-EU grouping have no idea of a UK outside the EU; most of them either weren’t even born when the EU’s roots were first put down or were too young to know what was happening.
Having been around at the time, I remember few people signing up to the political aspects of what is now the EU when the UK joined its predecessor the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1973 because, at the time, the “political aspects” weren’t in the forefront of everybody’s mind because, during the subsequent campaign leading up to the 1975 referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU, both Conservative and Labour supporters of EU membership ignored the political and constitutional issues and emphasised the economic aspects of membership.
That said, the political and constitutional issues were a factor in uniting some individuals who on most other issues would have been violently opposed to each other, people like ultra-right-wing Enoch Powell and the ultra-left-wing Tony Benn, both of whom strongly opposed membership because they could see that talk of “ever closer union” foreshadowed federalism: the creation of a European State to which all its constituent member states would be subservient, subsequent moves by the EU proving Powell and Benn right to voice concerns.
Tony Benn said: ‘Britain’s continuing membership of the Community would mean the end of Britain as a completely self-governing nation and the end of our democratically elected parliament as the supreme law making body in the United Kingdom.’
[It’s worth reading the Spectator article that came from to see how it would, today, be a commentary on the shambles that dedicated anti-Brexit parliamentarians (especially the Conservative ones) have created in their determination to frustrate the result of the 2016 referendum… https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/05/a-lesson-from-the-1975-referendum/ ]
[It’s also pertinent to consider Benn’s words in the light of the recent ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court that they have the right to consider themselves “the supreme law making body in the United Kingdom”, rather than merely empowered to enforce laws passed by parliament, parliament being the government of the day by virtue of their majority within the House.]
My principle objection to the EU is about what the UK signed up to back in the day, as former Master of The Rolls Lord Denning put it in 1974: ‘The Treaty of Rome is like an incoming tide. It ﬂows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back.’ He was referring to the further integration of “European” states into a single political entity, the federation of states known as the European Union.
A fear too far.
It is 74 years since the end of the Second World War and yet the rhetoric from the pro-EU side is still about Europe trying to escape from its shadow, despite all the institutional changes that have happened since to make a repeat of that dreadful time difficult to comprehend. Despite the emergence of far-right groups within some members of the EU, to envisage the kind of ‘triumph of evil’ that led to the Third Reich is to assume that the world has not moved on.
It is worth reminding those who promote the EU as an engine of peace of the signal failure (in which the UK played a significant role) of the EU not only to prevent but to implicitly encourage the massacre of more than seven thousand Bosnian muslim men by Serbian forces – an act of genocide that could have been prevented had “Europe” not sat on its hands – by insisting that the break up of the former Yugoslav Republic was a ‘civil war’ in which the competing factions should be allowed to sort out their ‘differences’ without outside interference.
It was the US-led air attacks against the Belgrade-backed Serbian military that led to the ‘Dayton agreement’ and the backing down by Slobodan Milošević.
After the Second World War Germany was a divided country with scant hope for reuniﬁcation. The Cold War raged and people lived with the ever-present fear of nuclear annihilation, a reality I was actually a part of as a 19 year-old airman nurse-maiding the nuclear bomb in the bomb bay of one of the Victor v-bombers at RAF Honington, with the aircrew on 4-minute standby for what would have been a suicide mission because there would have been nothing to return to. That was the ‘Cuban missile crisis’ of October 1962. The Second World War was just 17 years past and yet here we were literally four minutes away from WW3.
In 1962, it was a totally different world. Whilst travel by aircraft was common, it was still rare for the majority of people. Compared to today, there were still few telephones (I never had one in any of the houses I lived in until 1973) and even fewer televisions – most of those that were around were rented – and certainly no computers or at least none available to ordinary people, so no internet and no email.
But as the shadow of the Second World War receded the European economic community, the precursor to the EU, was changing, its membership greatly increased once the Berlin Wall came down and fear of the old Soviet Union and the prospect of WW3 receded.
The advantages of membership of a Common Market between the continental European nations made sense as the old fears receded and the post-war effects of the war were gradually overcome.
The UK had not been as badly damaged in the war as mainland Europe, its small and efﬁcient agriculture sector surviving intact, but that wasn’t enough to stop the UK’s economic post-war decline (relative to the continental European countries who anyway started from a lower base line), a decline that – despite the obvious comparisons with its Continental neighbours – had nothing to do with Britain being outside the European Community.
As unpalatable as the fact is to some sectors of the UK political establishment, the reason the UK’s relative economic performance improved was down to Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990) getting to grips with the real factors that had held the country back: excessive trade union power (I witnessed that first-hand at British Leyland), weak management (the self-destruction of the British car industry being a case in point), and under-investment resulting in a poor economic structure.
But still the Establishment insisted that wholehearted membership of the European Community (with an aspiration to monetary union) was the only answer to Britain’s ‘problems’. It was only later that the fallacy of such thinking was exposed when, in 1992, with the UK inside the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM, introduced by the European Economic Community), unemployment was soaring, businesses were going bust and the economy was in recession. Nevertheless, the Treasury and most of the ‘usual pundits’ (coincidentally the same ones who rail against Brexit) insisted that if the UK came out of the ERM, the results would be disastrous.
When the UK was eventually forced out of the ERM on 16 September 1992 interest rates fell and economic recovery was soon underway. There was a lesson there, one that those of us who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum had not forgotten!
Sovereignty, what’s that all about?
The EU’s shoehorning of states with different histories and characteristics into an artificial common identity – “Cross-nation integration” – may be a noble objective, but it is one doomed to failure because it is an abstract intellectual construct predicated on wishful thinking.
Which is what drives UK euroscepticism. Too many vested interests, prime amongst them being the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the reason most British farmers supported leaving the EU at the 2016 referendum. And of equal significance for communities directly impacted by it is the Common Fisheries Policy that devastated communities around the coast of the UK from Scotland to Cornwall.
I mentioned earlier:
“That the UK had not been as badly damaged in the war, its small and efficient agriculture sector surviving intact”.
What angers British farmers is seeing the bulk of the vastly expensive CAP being channeled to the inefficient agricultural sectors of France and what are referred to as “the emerging economies” of the ex-Eastern bloc countries. For years the heavily-subsidised French farmers have effectively (as one farmer expressed it to me when I was campaigning in the lead up to the referendum) “taken the piss”. That farmer was scathing in his opposition to the CAP, others who campaigned to Leave reported similar unsolicited reactions from farmers, who approached us to voice their support. That was an eye-opener for me.
The Cameron years.
And not the recent BBC programme of that title, but the few years leading up to the 2016 referendum when David Cameron tried to negotiate reforms within the EU to bring it more in line with the expectations of not just the UK but many other European countries, most of whom were quietly complaining but doing nothing about it.
Cameron did try, although seeking for the UK to be excused from the EU’s ultimate aim of “ever-closer union” was an unrealistic step too far because the EU’s founding fathers had made it clear from the outset that they were about establishing “ever closer union”, an aim that remains at the root of UK unease with the European project.
Martin Schulz, at the time the president of the European Parliament, said it all:
“What makes me sad and angry is the undertone of national resentment. Hatred is spread. People are used as scapegoats.” It was “not possible” to change the UK’s relationship with the EU, said Schulz, adding that Britain “belongs” to the EU.
Cameron, in a January 2013 speech, laid out general principles for reform that included a transfer of powers back to member states and their national parliaments so that European leaders should remain accountable, although the “remain” bit was always a case of hope over expectation because one thing the EU has never been is accountable and they’ve never given any indication that that’s ever likely to change.
The coup de grace to these aspirations was Cameron wanting to enshrine these changes in a new treaty for the EU. Not a chance.
Despite his efforts to get reform (meeting resistance at every turn), Cameron was never a fan of the UK’s coming out of the EU and his hopes of keeping the UK in the EU lay in winning the general election in 2015 and then winning the in/out referendum he had promised in January 2013 in an ill-concealed attempt to neutralise the growing support for UKIP.
Note: Cameron first raised the prospect of a referendum in 2010, when he said that voters had been “cheated” out of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty
Cameron did not expect to lose in the referendum and so he simply didn’t prepare for something he considered an impossibility.
As we all know, the referendum happened in June 2016 with the majority voting to leave the EU.
One of the things that convinced me that I was right to campaign to leave the EU was WHY Cameron failed to obtain those reforms – EU intransigence. The EU had been, without putting too fine a point on it, contemptuously dismissive of Cameron and, as Cameron was Prime Minister of the UK, contemptuously dismissive of the people of the UK.
In his thoroughly-researched book ‘Brexit & Ireland’ (pub. Penguin Books, 2018), Tony Connelly says:
[within the EU single market] “There are still many obstacles that, according to critics, are simply forms of protectionism under the guise of health or cultural sensitivities.
“Ireland is not alone in wanting those impediments removed. Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and the Baltic states all pursue a more liberal, free-market course. Germany and France tend to be protectionist.”
He goes on to say:
“There was one member state Ireland could always rely upon to champion greater access for companies to sell their goods and services across the EU. That member state? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Cameron didn’t have a hope in hell of getting change, let alone compromise, out of a EU dominated by France and Germany.
Is there life after the EU?
No one doubts that the UK’s trade with the rest of the EU is significant, but it is wrong to presume that all British exports to the EU would cease as soon as the UK leaves the Union. A good proportion would continue, pretty much come what may. Exactly what would happen depends on what sort of trade relations were agreed.
The thing is that whilst we cannot be sure of the answer, we can get quite some way by focusing on considerations of self-interest and the structure of existing international arrangements. One thing is clear, though: there would be enormous advantages for both sides in continuing a very close commercial relationship. Those supporting Brexit believed that would have been the most likely outcome but for the tactics of the Remain lobby sabotaging any attempt to get ANY deal from negotiations with the EU.
The UK is in a strong position to negotiate. The UK is the EU’s largest single export market. The EU exports more to the UK than the UK exports to the EU. The UK has a strong hand in negotiations over future access to UK fisheries.
European car manufacturers would want to maintain free and open trading links with the UK. With the UK’s existing trade relations favouring EU imports into the UK, it’s likely that Britain could negotiate a trading relationship that would work to everybody’s benefit, except that with ‘no deal’ effectively off the table (thanks to the mischievous Benn Act – I wonder what his father would make of that!) the UK has literally to hand even more negotiating leverage (and the mere act of triggering Article 50 also meant the EU called the shots on the nature and timing of any negotiations) to a EU that just wants to keep us in the EU.
What about foreign direct investment (FDI)?
It’s not an easy one to call.
The answer is that the UK is successful at attracting FDI for reasons other than its membership of the EU:
- the English language;
- a legal system that can be trusted;
- a skilled and ﬂexible workforce;
- a familiar social and political culture and global links
– although all of the above can be said of Ireland who, moreover, introduced a notoriously corporation-friendly tax regime, lowering capital gains tax (in Apple’s case to 0.005% in 2014) in order to attract high-tech companies to the Republic at the UK’s expense.
By doing so, Ireland raised the ire of the European Commission (EC) who ruled the move illegal. Ireland appealed the European court’s judgement on the grounds that, as a sovereign nation, it had the right to determine what was best for Ireland and to do whatever was necessary in order to achieve that end.
There is, of course, nothing to stop the UK from doing the same!
At the time of Ireland’s scrap with the EU, Nigel Farage said:
“I think Ireland, in the next few years, [.…] is going to have to have the same debate about its future relationship with the European Union, about its right to its own government.” (ibid)
If the economic case for coming out can be made to appear “not particularly overwhelming”, the economic case for staying in is equally challenging because they are both based on uncertainty about how the world will be in the foreseeable future, an uncertainty made worse in terms of its impact on UK businesses by the delaying sabotaging tactics of the Remain lobby.
But the Bexit side didn’t exactly help its case. Had we done what the Irish government did, anticipating an ‘either way’ outcome to the 2016 referendum (explained in forensic detail in Tony Connelly’s book), then the UK would indeed have left the EU, fully prepared, by the end of the transition period triggered by Article 50.
The ‘personal’ bit.
About 14 years ago I had been contracted to convert a regular customer’s cellar into a study/playroom for their children. My business was called ‘Conservation Joinery Services’ which involved joinery work almost exclusively on older properties, the bulk of my work coming either through word of mouth between customers or via the Conservation Department of Bridgnorth District Council (prior to unitary). I worked alongside fellow tradesmen who I either sub-contracted directly or recommended separately to the customer to contract in.
I was working with a plasterer friend, Nigel, who had recommended to the customer a local company to do the electrics. When the electrician turned up it happened to be the owner of the electrical contracting company. Now he was known to turn up to quote for work but then usually sent one of his two employees to actually do the work. We took the mick, pulling his leg about things having got so bad that he was forced to get his hands dirty for once. We had no idea how close to the truth we were.
Faced with competition from Polish tradesmen, (at that time Poland had recently joined the EU and so its people could move freely across other EU member states) he found his work – including long term regular contracts established over many years – simply going to Polish workmen who were charging prices so low that he couldn’t compete. The Poles were able to do that because they were coming over from Poland and staying with relatives among the long-established Polish community in Telford, often two or three to a room, staying only long enough to earn however much and then returning home to Poland, coming back to the UK when they needed to earn more money.
The Polish guys the electrician found himself competing against were getting around the need for work to be certified [ Approved Document P: electrical safety, dwellings ] by doing what quite a few uncertified UK electricians were doing, paying a Part P qualified sparks to inspect the completed work and signing it off for Building Regs. All perfectly legal and an experienced electrician in one European country doesn’t have to do much to adapt to working with the electrics of another European country. The Poles are bloody good tradesmen, the trouble was they were over here and seriously undercutting British tradesmen who had mortgages and families with a reasonable expectation of a decent standard of living – but at UK prices.
That Part P-qualified electrician working on that cellar job was no longer the owner of a three-man company with regular contracts, he was now a sole trader having had to lay off his two guys who he then found himself competing against for work as well as the Poles.
And what went for electricians also applied to all other construction trades. Many Eastern European construction gangs were multi-skilled, able to offer a full service to customers, from digging the first hole in the ground to topping off. You can’t blame the British customers for wanting to save a few thousand pounds on their job, nor could you blame them for not appreciating the severe impact it was to have on the availability of home-grown tradesmen, an impact that wouldn’t be felt until – as is now becoming evident – Poland’s economy picked up and Poland started enticing those Polish tradesmen back home.
The EU policy of open borders and free movement of people had a direct impact on the British tradesmen that I knew back then and, arguably, on the skills shortages that are now beginning to be felt in the construction industry.
On a personal level I wasn’t directly affected because I operated in a specialist niche market that had as much to do with a knowledge of English architecture combined with a professional relationship with Local Authority officers and specialists from English Heritage (now ‘Historic England’). At the time in question there was also an unofficial ‘approved tradesman’ scheme operating in Bridgnorth District Council, entry to which was dependent on your “coming to the attention” of the local Conservation Department, if you weren’t “approved” you didn’t get the Listed Building Consent to work on buildings of “historical architectural interest”. A bit of a specialist closed shop, in other words, which officially didn’t exist – or at least wasn’t admitted to!
That personal experience of the impact of at least one of the EU’s “four freedoms” isn’t the only one, the second case surprised me even more.
In the course of my work as a joiner working on older (usually Listed) properties it sometimes happened that I needed to form a complex profile that my existing machinery couldn’t produce in a single pass, one such being the corners of a shop-front I’d been asked to repair. I could have done it using multiple passes and some delicate positioning of expensive oak, but that was risky and expensive in time. I needed a bigger machine and so I went on ebay to see what was out there. I found just the thing, a spindle moulder with the capacity to take the size of piece I needed to shape those shop-front profiles.
The machine was in Ipswich, I was in Shropshire, but the ‘Buy It Now’ price was good enough to make the trip worthwhile.
I arrived at a sizable building on the River Orwell just outside Ipswich, a boat builder. When I got inside the building I was amazed at the two boats inside, one of which reminded me of the yacht in the film ‘High Society’, True Love, on which Bing Crosby serenaded Grace Kelly, it was all mahogany and brass – beautiful.
Having phoned ahead to give an approximate time of my arrival the owner was waiting for me with the machine blocked up ready to load onto my van. His son came out of the office to help us load, during the course of which I asked him why he was selling such a good machine for what was a ‘give-away’ price (in fact I had been sceptical about the claimed quality of the machine on the basis that if it seems too good to be true it usually is) and he told me that he’d tried to sell it locally but had no interest at all, and that the ebay entry I’d responded to was the second one he’d submitted. He then went on to tell me that ALL the machines I could see around me were available if I cared to make him a reasonable offer, either for the lot or for individual machines. Because my own workshop was already well equipped I passed on the offer but asked him why he could afford to be so generous. And that’s when it all came out.
He was closing the business down because he couldn’t compete with boatyards in the Baltic states who had recently joined the EU. He had been in the business all his life, the third generation of boat builders in the same shed, his son would have taken over the business had he been able to keep it open, as it was the shed was so quiet because the other two craftsmen he’d employed (both of whom had done their apprenticeships with his company), both highly experienced men, were now working at a local composite-board factory doing unskilled jobs, and his son was starting at a local replacement window factory as works manager. Himself? He intended to retire.
He explained that it wasn’t the Eastern European tradesmen coming to the UK that was the problem, it was those Baltic states boatyards taking business off UK yards by undercutting them; it was cheaper for the owner of a yacht, like the ones he still had in his shed (although they were both owned by him – “Part of my pension”), to pay for the boat to be taken by road to, in this instance, a Polish yard on a low-loader, have the work done by highly skilled Polish tradesmen – as he put it: “Boat building is boatbuilding” – and then sailed back to a UK port by a Polish crew. To add insult to injury, a Polish yard could buy Volvo marine engines from Sweden and then SELL them on cheaper than a UK boatyard could BUY them for. Why? Because the EU allowed Volvo to subsidise the sale because Poland, having just joined the EU, was classed as an “emerging economy” and state aid rules (designed to cut out unfair competition) didn’t apply.
And I am NOT singling out Poland for criticism here but the EU’s insistence on no opt-out from its four freedoms – for goods, services, people and capital to move freely within Europe – regardless of any individual country’s circumstances, it is just that my personal experiences have their basis in events that involve that country, in fact Poland has been a friend to the UK throughout the Brexit process, as witness this Daily Express report…
‘It is NOT ACCEPTABLE’ Poland hits out to demand EU stops punishing Britain over Brexit… POLAND’s foreign minister has accused Brussels of punishing the British people over Brexit as he argued the EU must accept some of the blame for the UK’s vote to leave and MUST undergo ‘deep reform’ if it hopes to keep the bloc together. (Daily Express Tue, Oct 23, 2018)
Now contrast that with an earlier article back in 2016 that reflects an attitude maintained throughout the negotiations between the EU and both Cameron and May (and latterly Johnson)…
So no, I’m not a fan of the EU and I don’t agree that the UK will not do well outside of the EU… had it been allowed to complete the process that should have started in earnest over three years ago.
And for the record, the Farmers Weekly poll in 2016 prior to the referendum…
And after the referendum…
At the time the National Farmers Union, much quoted by LibDem Heather Kidd, disagreed with its own readership and lobbied to Remain. Hmmm. Sounds a bit like some of our parliamentarian’s attitude towards the people who voted them into power and trusted them to honour the result of the referendum and get us out of the EU.
But what do I know?