Over 100 people came to Cromford to hear the arguments for and against the EU. The two speakers were Brian Mackenzie, Derbyshire Business Owner & Labour Party member and Edward Spaltan of the Campaign for an Independent Britain.
Many of our Derbyshire Dales Members attended and a lively debate was held. In a straw poll the majority wanted to remain IN, there were a few undecided voters and maybe 20% were going to vote leave.
This event was organised and sponsored by Scarthin Books - so a big thanks to Dave and Kathy Mitchell.
(Notes on debate with Edward Spalton by Brian Mackenzie)
Thanks to previous speaker. If I pursue this debate from today for as long as Edward has I’ll be 111 when I have achieved his level of experience. This is, in fact my first such debate but I’ll try and give the perspective from what I believe is the “real world” as owner and managing director of an engineering business in Swadlincote and someone who believes in human values of mutual respect and cooperation.
I have had my own engineering business for 25 years - seamless Euro co-operation. Nationality is not a significant issue although each nation retains it’s own characteristics. I deal with Germany, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and others as well as countries further afield such as India and have first hand experience of the benefits or EU membership to business. I have also been able to learn a great deal from the practices and attitudes of my European colleagues, which I have applied successfully here.
So just staying with the idea of the real world for a moment.
If a Martian should arrive from outer space and happen to land anywhere near us, this is what they would see:
Geographically we ARE in Europe so the question is how do we relate to it, separated as we are by 30km of sea (I choose my units carefully). Contrast with other areas of the world. Despite the “smaller” world in which we live, dominated by the internet, proximity remains an important issue in effective communication and most businesses find it easier and more cost effective to trade with near neighbours. Culturally we are also closer and, again, it is easier to relate to similar cultures with shared experiences outlooks and similarities. Those are the reasons why we must remain part of the EU. Despite what you hear Faulty Towers is very popular in Germany.
Edward mentioned “Sovereignty” and taking back control from the EU. How would either of those protect the 40,000 people who may lose their jobs at Tata Steel? Or the devastation rolling out in Middlesborough and the North East generally, following the collapse of the Redcar steelworks. Glaxo Smith Clyne fined recently for paying competitors to delay introduction of new drug. How would UK alone control something like that? Global warming, which increasingly affects us all cannot be managed by an isolated UK.
The only realistic means of achieving balance in world affairs is to be part of a significant group. World commerce is controlled by global corporations and tiny UK, on its own, has no prospect of influencing their behaviour. That may seriously damage our interests, but also we would miss out on interesting and positive developments to our cost.
Brexit campaigners tell us that our position is damaged by being in the EU and there are markets to be re-gained if we leave. Well working in commerce and industry as I have done for 45 years, I can tell you there are sales engineerings scouring every possibility for new business, so the prospect of some hidden Eldorado, if we suddenly leave the EU, is simply incorrect. My own company has sold in the UK, Europe, Africa,. The Carribean and Canada without restriction and many others do the same. I think this position by Brexit is disguising the fundamental weakness of the UK economy, which will be an issue in or out of EU.
A few points to make on that.
UK economy shrank in 2015 (manufacturing -1.7%). Industrial and manufacturing are currently 9.8% and 6.5% less than 2008.
Unemployment may appear relatively low but the increase in zero hours contracts, now over 1M, and McJobs hides a decline in high skill, high value and high earning employment.
Our balance of payments situation is steadily worsening so we are not succeeding now, even though we are in the EU. How could it possibly be better outside having lost markets, gained adverse tariffs and without the benefit of worldwide EU trading arrangements.
In the event of Brexit how strong are we to tackle any new markets or re-establish EU markets on our own?
Well, as part of a deliberate policy of de-industrialisation by successive governments we have sold off many assets such as energy and utilities but also industrial and engineering manufacturers, largely to companies who think longer term. Most businesses numerically are in the SME sector and many of them privately or family run with a long term interest in growth and succession.
Large corporations conversely, are devoid of such thinking and focus on the short term financial return. In successful industrial economies, such as Germany, these smaller industries are highly valued and preserved and are less likely to be consumed by large competitors.
This week we hear the ThysennKrupp are a possible buyer for Tata’s UK sites, providing no doubt that the UK picks up the tab for the massive pension liability. (The UK steel industry has been described as a huge pension liability with a small steel industry attached). From a national point of view this is the economics of the madhouse. We need a coherent industrial strategy in or out of the EU. Investment is key and Government policies, such as support for training, are crucial.
When I worked at RR in the 60’s they trained thousands of apprentices, subsidised by UK gov, with the certain knowledge that many would go out into other industries and strengthen their situation.
The results of this difference in approach now are startling.
Apprentices per 1000 jobs Germany 45; Switzerland 43; Australia 39; UK 6. I experience the consequences of this every time we try to employ a new engineer. Good ones looking for a job are very thin on the ground and that hold us back.
Although the UK has always been a lead player in research and development the budget here has flat lined in recent years compared to a tripling in the EU generally in the period 2007-13. (Most recent figures). Nevertheless the UK does best from EU grant aid for R & D with £1.7bn received per year cf 1.1bn Germany and we currently lead 892 multi-state projects cf 532 Germany, giving us access to rich opportunities in Europe.
Report in the national press only last week by the EEF that skills shortage is putting even current productivity at risk and warned the government over lack of support.
Rate of HS2 build controlled by availability of skilled labour as were motorways in the 60’s.
Those who look back fondly on the British Empire may well tell you “we gave them railways” ignoring the fact that many other nations achieved them at a similar time without our help, but the present HS2 shambles shows the current status of our capabilities. HS2 is 160km costing £50bn min and will not be operational until 2032. That is £1/2M/m and 10km/year. I suggest most countries could do it better, quicker and cheaper, to our cost.
You only need to look back to the UK car industry to see the effects of these policies. Poor design, low investment, inefficiency, lack of quality control and poor management. It is now a thriving industry, still employing UK workers, having been rescued and transformed, in its case by the Japanese, with of course most of the earnings going not to the UK, but Japan.
We are no longer the world industrial force of Victorian times.
We can learn form and work with our European Partners.
You may have seen in the press this week a notice that Airbus had advised all it’s UK employees about the risks of Brexit. These are high salary, skilled jobs of the sort we need. Imagine the additional bureaucracy involved in the transfer of components and finished goods to and fro, between BA and Airbus Germany if we left the EU – all completely unnecessary, not to mention the implementation of VAT and possible tariffs.
Actually Airbus is a good example of the success of EU cooperation taking on the mighty Boeing in the high stakes world of aircraft manufacture. As we found with the failure of our own RR in 1970 it is sometimes not possible to succeed in major markets in isolation. RR was only saved from oblivion by short term gov intervention which has since repaid that investment many time over in subsequent taxes and employment.
Airbus is also a good illustration of some of the other EU benefits as my own bother in law, originally from Derby and an RR employee went to work for what is now Airbus 40 years ago as a programmer. The comparison was stark. He immediately doubled his salary and enjoyed far superior working conditions as a result of higher investment. He enjoyed flexitime long before it was available here and they have a range of very innovative and effective work sharing schemes to retain employees during those times where demand is reduced. In busy times you can work more and take additional holidays or credits towards early retirement and, should you be made redundant, which he was at one point, the terms are sufficiently generous to allow time to find suitable alternative employment.
And Brexit want to us to leave – little wonder many EU governments are incredulous. We should be studying best practice in Europe and trying to incorporate it in our industries.
Local sovereignty is an outdated myth based on rose tinted memories of the empire, which itself, ironically, was built on the UK’s then world leading, innovative and profitable industrial base, as well as a range of less attractive and justifiable strategies. Decades of inadequate investment and short termism have seriously damaged our ability to trade. It hurts me as an engineer that we no longer have a UK company capable of building a nuclear power station. That is a national industrial disgrace, given our history, and itself results partly from the vacuum in national power policy from successive UK governments. You can hide you head in the sand for so long but there are consequences and they are becoming increasingly apparent.
We should be careful of aiming for a rosy future, currently invisible over the horizon, in which, even if it existed, we are ill equipped to succeed and could well find ourselves much worse off.
Reasons for debate
The real reason for this issue is not of course Europe but fear about immigration. I have spoken to many people in the lead up to this event and, almost universally, that is their concern, often preceded by “I’m not a racist but…….”. This is the elephant in the room.
This situation is not really surprising given successive governments inadequate management of existing legislation, huge numbers awaiting processing and poor control of defaulters.
This situation would be bad enough but it follows a lengthy period of political correctness which allowed abuses to go unchecked and fuelled views already exaggerated by our partial press.
All this lead to the rise of UKIP, with a corresponding reaction from the conservative government, who rightly saw this as a threat to their continued power. Further it is an established fact that the actual membership of the conservative party in the country tends to favour Brexit and there was therefore a danger of them over-running the party.
Consequently the Gov followed a policy of appeasing UKIP, and part of their own membership, against the views of their industrial and financial advisers and subscribers.
Many people are swayed by the popular press and do not see through the skewed views, bias and propaganda to which we are subjected on a daily basis. Despite that the majority of people recently polled felt they had insufficient information to make an informed decision about Europe. This is not surprising as it is a hugely complex and involved matter with many inter-related issues.
Having correctly identified the main issue Brexit hijacked immigration and has used it extensively in the debate – so lets deal with that.
National borders have usually been decided by warfare. People are currently organised by nation states but the world is a global economy, which is why we see the stresses and strains on societies across the world. Wealth is divided very unequally, resulting in a pressure for economic migration. Despotic regimes, bloated with oil or drug wealth, often armed by our own industries, have caused this degenerate into outright warfare in recent years, producing a very large number of war refugees. Failure to plan for post war scenarios left a vacuum, readily filled by extremists.
This situation has not been presented honestly in the media.
Vocabulary has been skewed deliberately
Hoardes swarms over-run, migrants creating an image that is not sustained by the governments own statistics and facts.
The vast majority are actually war refugees, not migrants, economic or otherwise, fleeing for their lives from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. No-one puts their children on an overcrowded rubber dinghy on the Aegean in winter to try and get a job. They are fleeing danger of imminent death.
This has nothing to do with economic cooperation within Europe or indeed the free movement of labour “within Europe”. Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are not European countries so internal freedom of movement rules are not relavant. What these do have in common however is that they have all been involved in US/UK war activities and fuelled by arms sales to medieval regimes such as Saudi Arabia who are the kernal of Islamic extremism.
Looking at UK Gov Immigration figures again gives an unexpected picture.
In the last year for which official (i.e. unbiased) figures are available - y/e 20 September 2015 - there were more non-EU migrants (273,000) than EU migrants (257,000). Of the EU migrants, 92,000 came for study and other non-work related purposes. Those who come to work pay significantly more into the system than they take out and many of them are young people only intending to work for two or three years before returning to their own country. They generally do not have children, are healthy and often don't know how to claim for benefits for which they might at some time qualify.
Those facts may be at odds with your impression from the media.
Although immigration is the main driver for Brexit support, I believe I have illustrated that the reality, as it relates to our membership of the EU, is rather different. Certainly the handling of the refugee crisis is a major issue, my friends in Germany have lost all their public facilities to temporary accommodation and are understandably very concerned. It needs to be handled for what it is, a major refugee crisis, and handled as it has been in the past, by the short-term provision of humanitarian services, accompanied by diplomatic efforts for a permanent solution. It is a genuine concern and perhaps a subject for a whole different debate, but let us return to the issues as they relate to the EU.
The reason for the existence of Europe is in fact the enlightened decision of the leaders of France, Germany and the other four founder members after WW2 and preceding centuries of war to embark on a pioneering project to prevent further Euro war, partly by paving the way to a free trade area. Britain supported this but did not think it appropriate to take a lead role following the outcome of WW2.
That project has already generated immense benefits over the past 45 years including the social policy and positive regulation, that have made our lives immensely fairer and safer. The European scheme has been successful in it’s objectives. The EU has not been at war with itself for 70 years. Some may say the UK would have done these things in isolation, but even casual glance at the self interest of our complacently protectionist establishment says otherwise and indeed it is currently doing it’s best to dismantle many of those achievements, for example food safety and animal welfare. (although I read yesterday it has now had to abandon this latest ill conceived policy).
I think it is fair to ask “What has the EU done for us”. I don’t want you to fall asleep with the full list, but here are some of the more important.
Direct funding into areas of industrial decline
Clean beaches and rivers and air (School rowing and stomach pump) Smog
Lead free petrol
Restrictions on landfill dumping
A Re-cycling culture
Cheaper mobile charges
Cheaper air travel
EasyJet fares fallen by 40% and routes increased by 170% since the introduction of the single aviation area.
Improved customer protection and food labelling
Ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives
Single market competition driving improved industrial performance
Control of monopolies
Europe wide copyright and patent protection – intellectual proprerty protection (Denmark)
Exports completely free of customs control or paperwork
Compare outside EU, paperwork and VAT up front.
Freedom to travel live and work across Europe
Funded opportunities for study and direct EU university at lower cost
Access to Euro health services (E111)
Labour protection and social welfare
Smoke free workplaces
Equal pay legislation
Improved animal welfare although the UK is currently trying to dilute this
EU funded research and collaboration (currently £1.7bn/annum)
EU representation on international forums
Block EEA negotiation with WTO
EU diplomatic efforts to up hold the nuclear non proliferation treaty
European arrest warrant
Cross border policing
European civil and military cooperation in post conflict zones
Support for democracy and human rights across Europe
Cultural benefits Ireland controlled totally by Catholic Church a theocracy before EU; abortion/womens rights, ongoing issue.
Exposure and access to beneficial developments in education (Finland), Industrial practices, social structures (e.g prison policy)
Security - Better face aggressive policies of hostile nations
Safer because the EU has brought together former enemies to face common perils
Investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.
Extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships into the EU since 1980.
Cultural - Access and closer involvement with the rich cultural history close to our own
Effect on people living and working in Europe including retired people
And last but not least 70 years of peace between EU neighbours after centuries of bloodshed.
Reference list of benefits Simon Sweeney lecturer in Int Political Economy York Uni
Environmental, climate change, internet costs, consumer protection only possible inside EU.
There are of course much trumpeted opt-outs which affect the position of the UK in relation to the rest of the EU.
We are not part of Schengen and thus have control of our borders (hence the Calais refugee camp).
We can veto any treaty that enhances EU powers.
Opted out of ever closer union - but you might ask yourself why, when it has brought us so many benefits. It makes strong headlines for the little Englanders but undermines even Winston Churchill’s original vision. We can keep our national identity, as the other members have, whilst being a positive member of the EU.
Joined 11 years ago, somewhat nervously. Spent and invested well, as compared to Portugal and Ireland, and took advantage of the vast market which opened up to S W and N. I the past 8 years they have 25% growth, best in EU. Sec State EU affairs Trzaskowski (pro Chaskofski), speaks 5 languages, Oxford Scholarship American education, confident and outward looking. Influence is important, bemused by Brexit. Points out that Nowegians and Swiss have no influence but have to subscribe to the body of law in order to have access. Independent UK is an illusion. USA link depends on influence in EU. 700,000 Poles live and work in UK contributing to the economy.
Compare that to our begrudging approach to the EU
Post 1945 Churchill (perhaps someone who’s ideas are normally considered closer to the Brexit group) spelt out his vision to “create a European family” and provide it with a structure under which we can dwell in peace. We must build a US of Europe.
He saw France and Germany as the leaders and UK govs of all colours stood back from the Euro Coal and Steel community in 1951 and the EEC in 1957
1957 we withdrew from early talks sending a “middle ranking official as an observer”
1963 De Gaulle vetoed application on the grounds of “deep seated hostility”
1973 DeG gone we enter but call for major reform within a year
1975 Harold W referendum 2/3 want to stay in
1983 Michael Foot defeated offering to leave
1984 Thatcher gets rebate
1990 UK joins Xchange rate mechanism (11 years late)
1992 Withdraws for XCRM after speculation
1997 UK not Euro after GB 5 tests
1999 British Beef Ban (not lifted by France until years later)
2007 Lisbon Treaty (GB missed)
2011 Bank Levy Clash Cameron clashes EU over levy post crash – they were right!
2013 Cameron referendum pledge
2016 Cameron “new deal”
We can only influence policies from inside both for advantage and to minimise the effect of policies which may be against our national interests.
What is often ignored is the reaction and resentment to Brexit. UK has been a reluctant and complaining partner from the outset.
In normal life what reaction would you expect from someone who behaved in this obviously reluctant manner? It would be no different if we left. The remaining members would not be pre-disposed to our benefit, quite the reverse. They would not wish to be seen to reward us for leaving so as not to encourage other states with nationalist tendencies.
It has been made abundantly clear that any deal to access the single market would include free movement of people and pay into the EU budget. Uncomfortable facts the Brexit faction tend to ignore.
Much is made about our “special relationship” with USA (incidentally a country made up almost entirely of immigrants). As many UK leaders have found, this relationship is not as strong as it is portrayed and they themselves have indicated that they would see Brexit as a major setback to the influence of the UK. Far from opening up new trade opportunities Brexit could actually close off many avenues of opportunity. (This of course has been confirmed since the debate by Obama himself)
If we leave the EU will the UK, in turn, break up? (Scotland)
What would happen in any event to current UK gov split 50/50.
Lauent Fabius, French foreign minister will “block special status”
Joschka Fischer, German foreign Minister warned UK against “wishful thinking post Brexit”
Pascal Lamy, Former DG of the WTO
Brexit bad news UK naked in the cold and the price of clothing would be high.
The EU is, of necessity, a huge and fairly young organization in world terms and inevitably will have areas which require improvement and development, possibly sometimes drastic improvement. The answer is to play a full and positive part in that process to make the outcome better for all. To leave not only damages our position but endangers the future of the EU itself by encouraging extreme right wing nationalism. Anyone even vaguely aware of European history will be only too aware of the dangers of that.
Costs – Some facts
Cost of membership 20bn less 5bn rebate less 8bn inward spending = 7bn
Less 1.7bn research grants = 5.3bn net
8bn inward spending may not be repeated by UK gov
Putting this cost, which generated the benefits I listed earlier, in perspective
Total UK Gov Expenditure for 2016 760bn
Public pensions 153
Social Sec 110
Other Pub Services 106
State Protection 29
Gen Gov 14
Pub Sector Interest 47
5.3bn approx ½ % of total expenditure for all the benefits and avoidance of the risk of leaving.
I have based most of my arguments on real and visible issues within the EU and positive reasons to stay in. What would happen were we to leave is, by definition, speculative, but I believe the informed opinion and evidence is heavily weighted against us.
A few comments culled from recent press cuttings support this view.
PWC through CBI, 95% of 773 firms believe we would be worse off out.
Estimates of 5.5% reduction in GDP = 100bn = 950k job losses.
US Investment Banks JP Morgan, Citi and BlackRock the worlds largest fund manager have all stated their opinion that we would be worse off outside the EU.
Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE warned that even in the most optimistic “Norway” scenario household incomes could fall by £850 but the impact from lower trade and productivity could be as high as 6400 per household as in the 2008 recession.
Airbus issued warning note to all employees, hardly surprising considering the amount of pan European transfers and comms.
Bank of England - biggest risk to stability.
90% of UK exports to EU could face new tariffs with textiles and automotive hard hit.
If we failed to achieve a “Norway” deal then the WTO estimates investment in UK could fall by ¼ by 2020.
Brexit assumes if we leave we can simply re-negotiate the advantages of membership on the basis that the EU needs the UK more than we need them. This underestimates the consequences of the resentment of the remaining states I mentioned earlier. It is pure fantasy. UK exports 45% of total to EU. Member states send only 7% of theirs to us. The consequences are obvious.
Big Investors in the UK, USA, China and Japan have all warned against exit.
We wish to retain access to single market without influence. This is a recipe for economic self harm. (John Major)
Welsh farming would collapse without EU subsidies. 30% lamb to EU
Av Welsh farmer receives 11k/annum 80% of their income. Each farm contributes 100k to the local economy
Immigration is a separate but important issue
We need a positive involvement with EU to have influence over policy
3M jobs linked to EU exports
Lower prices owing to lower tariffs
Cultural and educational exchange
10:1 return on investment – trade, investment, jobs, growth, lower prices
200k UK businesses trade with EU
66M/day inward investment from EU companies
By staying in we can maintain influence and benefit from the current trade arrangements.
One thing is sure - Less clout if you’re out
The choice is :-
Progressive involvement and reform from within the EU, or isolation, an uncertain future and economic difficulties if we are out.
The reality is, on 23rd June, we are voting for Great Britain or Little Britain (John Major).