The three core issues that appear to have arisen in the arguments about June’s referendum are those of democracy; ie that the EU is anti-democratic, finance; the cost of the EU to you and me and Immigration; control of our borders. This week I have had a couple of reminders as to how distorted the thinking of some of our politicians has become as they attempt to win the referendum for their side of the debate.
A Senior Councillor who I had written to about the business I am involved in, inviting a visit responded by email this week. I had written my message during the PCC campaign and I suspect the focus for this Councillor was getting our PCC re-elected. The party were successful in that respect. However the message in this weeks email was that we could not hope for a visit until after 23rd June. As a small business with 10 employees, a visit could have enabled the Councillor to ensure we all supported the cause or at least discover that as a small business what our views on Europe are. The fact that this is not going to happen suggests that at least one Politician is more focused on the campaign for its own sake, than the need to engage with people and persuade them in a real life context.
A second email that arrived this week came from Conservative Way Forward and outlined the reasons that this group wants us all to leave the EU. Their arguments do follow the three core issues listed above:
On democracy, the words used are “return control to our Parliament, answerable to the British people, not European bureaucrats”. The fact is that our Parliament has managed to remain unanswerable to British people over many decades. Over a number of years I have worked across Sussex for a network of charities and have had plenty of experience of writing to MPs from all parties, both in power and in opposition. The MPs in the party in power have a tendency to respond with a formulaic response from the relevant Minister on whatever the subject is. As a resident I am unable to get a response from an MP outside of my own constituency, which means that I cannot quiz or challenge the Government unless my own MP is a member of the Government. On the other hand, with 10 MEPs, although some ignore all correspondence, there are always some willing to respond to my questions or requests.
On the issue of the borders, what this email fails to do is explain how closing our borders to EU nationals might impact our own desire to travel and reside in other parts of Europe. This seems to be a very concerning oversight as many people including the Chair of Vote Leave (Nigel Lawson) have homes in European nations. They have also failed to explain how businesses that depend on EU migration to operate will replace such important workers. The group also fails to explain why the numbers of none EU nationals who enter our nation, far exceed any numerical targets set by this Government as their cap on immigration.
On money the term is “save the taxpayer £350 million per week which the UK currently pays to Brussels”. The fact that this sum is not the sum we actually pay to Brussels and that from the sum we do pay, large sums are then channeled into the UK economy is ignored by CWF. However my question for this small group of powerful politicians is how do they intend to use the sum of money that will be repartiated? If it is no longer being paid to the EU, what impact will it have on our society? To simply bandy around a sum of money without any clarity as to what it will provide, and what we will lose as a consequence is very sad from a group that claims it has some level of economic competence.
Whilst my views are that remaining in the EU is the best response to the referendum, I recognise that the EU is in acute need of reform. We need representatives at the European Parliament who will do more than criticise and poke fun. However we also need reforms in our own Parliament. Our democratic structures both here and in Brussels are in desperate need of change. I see no sense from one local Councillor or Conservative Way Forward that they really want change in the way they work. I imagine that is true of many of our 650 MPs and our 900 Lords, let alone most of the 73 MEPs. Without a real focus on change my vote on 23rd June, just like my votes for MEPs in May 2019 and my MP in May 2020 will not really achieve the impact that I and many others want to see take place.