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Referendum

I can’t avoid it.

All talk in UK this week is concerned with a forthcoming referendum vote – a choice to ‘remain’ with the European Union, or ‘leave’.   Still, at this very late stage, there is a thirst for information from those who want the element of chance eliminated entirely from their decision, which suggests there are large numbers who want to vote to leave, bbanker 2ut daren’t.

This nervous indecisiveness is, of course, prime meat for the ‘remain’ campaigners, who wade in with dire warnings of financial Armageddon, forfeit of international influence and a variety of other terrors lurking in the black chasm that awaits a friendless UK, condemned to wandering in outer lands.

Why, they reasonably plead, take that chance?  Why leave the safe harbour of your European friends and brothers for the sake of an experiment;  why follow where the inexperienced shepherd leads?   Is it not safer, more prudent, to remain obediently within the fold, where nations may work together for a brighter future?  The EU will progress, will improve and prosper, with you or without you:  why sacrifice your part in that process?

It’s a challenge I can’t resist.

Let’s question the position if the ‘remain’ argument prevails in the vote.  If UK stays Brussels sees all 28 member nations coming under the umbrella of a federalist alliance which must, eventually, mean one government for all (presumably in Brussels, BTW) and one currency for all.  Otherwise any major step forward will be lost in a quagmire of conflicting interests.  28 separate governments, all with their own electorates to appease, already provide plenty of ready examples of this.

The UK is a major culprit.  The Westminster government has exemptions essential to its national interest in many matters, including that vital component, free movement.   The UK will not surrender the pound sterling, nor will it agree (it says) to the admission of further member nations.  Thus it is, in a sense, already halfway out.   It occupies precisely the ‘offshore island’ position Brussels has threatened it will have if the ‘leave’ vote holds sway.   And that is a position that would be untenable anyway, if the federalist plan comes to fruition.

But there is another pivotal question:  just how stable and secure is the EU?   Terrorist activity is on the rise, government response sluggish.  Growth within the EU is negative, decision-making is ponderous, its government unrepresentative of its people.  Greece, Italy and Portugal are treading close to the edge of liquidity, and the cost of living, especially in Greece and Italy, is prohibitive.  Unemployment, especially amongst the young, is outrageously high.  The immigration issue is seriously destabilising, with no prospect of diminishing in numbers in the immediate future.  To grasp the immigration issue the EU has to renege upon Schengen, to resolve its financial imbalances the Franco-German Alliance has to consent to a very much smaller slice of the cake.  Neither of these are feasible without the collapse of the EU.  So, how ‘safe’ is an offshore island tethered to this leaking hulk?  How long, indeed, will it stay afloat?

By contrast the UK scores highly in its ability to trade.  Unemployment is low, growth is positive, and where diplomacy and guile will secure a new market, or negotiate a lucrative deal, the British will succeed:  this is their history as one of the world’s great maritime trading nations.  Although the playing field may have changed, those innate abilities are never lost.  The UK also harbours one of the world’s great financial centres – liberated from EU constraints, its banking sector faces a profitable future.   So, fiscal chasm there is not: a process of levelling, maybe, a lot of sound and fury, maybe, but ultimately signifying nothing.

In making this case I have not emphasised the UK’s status as the EU’s largest trading partner, a market they will be unwilling to forgo.  Nor am I, despite your thoughts, a ‘Little Englander’.  I don’t harbour dreams of national glory, or seek to relive the days of Empire.  I do remember times before the EU, though, and I have some perspective upon all the UK has lost.   With others of my age (I, too, was young and optimistic once) I enthusiastically declared myself a ‘European’ when the clarion call came, and even absorbed gladly the sudden rise in the cost of living that came with it.   But now?  No.  For too many years I have watched various European interests – mainly French, German and Spanish, and more recently Eastern European – rape UK’s assets for their own advantage; and I have watched as the UK gave way, too many times.

The nation has a chance to begin to reclaim some of its own resources.  Maybe it can regain some of its plundered fishing industry by reasserting its territorial waters:  maybe it can subsidise and remodel its agricultural policy, begin to police its borders properly, deport the foreign criminals it is forced to detain here by EU law.

I am all for breaking down the insularity of nation states, all for the ideal of a united world.  I also see these are ambitions that can only succeed when component nation states refrain from using them as a tool for conquest, and show respect for the needs and views of people, rather than their own financial gain.

With regret I have to say of the European Union;  this has not happened – it will not happen – here.

Brexit; a Pointless Referendum

Cameron
…and a year’s supply of free pate…

 

Referendums are exceptional in UK, but it is likely one will take place this summer.  In a very little time loyal subjects of HM Queen Ltd are going to be allowed to vote ‘remain’ so they can stay not quite part of the European Union.  Of course, an illusion of a free vote on such an important issue must be maintained, so there will also be an option to vote ‘leave’ the EU altogether.  My advice is, don’t bother with it.

Those who think for us are anxious that a substantial number will select that option.  But not too many.  It would be embarrassing, after all, if the ‘remain’ vote was 70 or 80%.  Allegations of ballot-rigging would abound, protest groups would make inconvenient noises.  No, a sixty-forty split in favour of remaining should be sufficient, and could be proclaimed a ‘landslide’.  The people would have made a truly democratic decision – wouldn’t they?

The truth is, most democratic choices are reached undemocratically.  Unless someone behaves exceptionally clumsily, the choice with the most money behind it always triumphs.

As an exceptional curmudgeon and inveterate old-stager, I look back with nostalgic affection to days when simple propaganda was the parent of choice – when we, the rebellious people could be persuaded by a leaflet or two, a ‘Government Information’ film, or an authoritative  educational lecture to see the error of our ways and return to the fold of opinion advocated by the great and the good.  A stentorian voice would instruct us to put aside foolish dreams of freedom and individuality, and we would obey.   A penny off the tax on alcohol, threepence off tobacco would induce us to simper pleasingly and rest content.

No more.

I marvel at the array of tools which augment the present day spin-artist’s box.  Democratic manipulation is an intricate art, and rather like the Rolls Royce which is the last fading symbol of British engineering, its function should be as undetectable as it is silent, working smoothly beneath a well-polished exterior.   To assist our informed choice all the arguments in favour of staying with the EU or leaving it will be put, all information our masters feel we need  will be fed to us.  Coverage of salient points and consequences which affect us most will be impeccably balanced while that big engine murmurs discreetly, driving the ‘remain’ vote relentlessly forward.

On the face of it, the ‘remain’ crowd have a difficult task to convince us.   Like so many innocent children the ideal of a Common Market grew up to be a hideous monster.  It has few pretensions to democracy, and many ambitions as a neo-communist state.

Das Kapital (formerly known as Brussels) makes the rules, issuing random edicts from behind featureless doors whilst exacting tribute of millions of pounds every day.   Membership has destroyed Britain’s fishing industry and well nigh a third of the world’s prime fishing grounds, inflicted a common agricultural policy which works very effectively if you own a French smallholding, and bestowed laws upon us which, though commendable in theory, make their simplest practical applications expensive and unworkable.

So tightly stitched is the bureaucratic sack not one of these issues was even up for negotiation when our Prime Minister and knight crusader, David Cameron, sallied forth to challenge the Faceless Ones; to throw down the gauntlet on subjects such as immigration and Benefits, promising us he would sow the seeds for ‘real change’ within the European Union.   The Faceless Ones made some noises.  Cameron came home with a purse full of very watered down concessions to feed to the serfs; concessions, it turns out, that could be contrary to International Law, and likely to be voted out anyway by the European Parliament once his referendum is safely over.

No ‘real change’ then?

Honestly?  None.  Affecting change in the EU is a thankless task, unless it is undertaken by the core members, France and Germany.  Every door knocked responds with the same bland ‘occupé’.   So how does that immaculate engine ensure GB votes ‘remain’?

 

Well, bearing in mind that the balance of argument must be preserved, the spinners turn to those who are making the argument:  thus, all who support the ‘remain’ cause should be seen as upright and dependable, with a fairly low bureaucratic profile.  Those arguing to ‘leave’ must be high profile, iconoclastic figures given to excitement, air-headedness and cant.  Of course, you can find examples of each character type in either camp:  the skill exists in massaging public perception.   Thus Boris Johnson of the wild hair who wants us to vote ‘leave’ is something of a coup for the ‘remain’ camp.  We British, you see, don’t really like the amiable eccentric, no matter how clever and politically astute.  We abominate political falsehood, yet we recoil from those who tell us the truth.Viking Boris

 

(aside:  a current British nightmare is the prospect of Donald Trump as President of USA, Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister, and Vladimir Putin as President of Russia – it could just happen!)

 

For or against, all those to whom we bend an ear must make their case in interview.  And the interviews will be strictly impartial in all respects, except in the opinions of the interviewer.  A good journalist can always swing an argument in his favour, without putting a word out of place.

 

Then there is fear.  The remain camp have all manner of ‘fear’ arguments to justify membership.  If we leave, we are told, our economy will collapse, our export trade with Europe will become complex and difficult.   The value of the Pound will diminish.  There will be unaccountable natural disasters and we shall all have to move to Bradford.

 

A few examples, then, of the spinner’s craft.  These incipient messages are carefully managed and discreetly scattered so we hear them whilst still believing we are being offered balanced argument.  The advantages of unfettered immigration will be propounded – after all the British Isles can safely nurture a population of two hundred million before the entire country is concreted over and people begin to fall off the edge.  Wise and logical warnings – that our health service, our social services, our police force and our infrastructure are already stretched to breaking point – will be gently tilthed over by entreaties for common humanity and the need for compassion, thus paving the road for anyone who preaches prudence to be treated with righteous disdain.

Only if the vote to ‘remain’ looks seriously jeopardised will the big guns come out.   Only then will the vote-winners which are known to always sway the serfs be brought into play: higher interest rates and more taxation.   By the 23rd June, when the referendum takes place, the machine will have ensured that the balance is safely in the ‘remain’ pocket.  However, should a disaster occur and we outdistance the  opinion polls; should a ‘leave’ vote prevail, no matter:  the government will step back, enter a protracted exit negotiation, the EU will dangle a few more meaningless carrots and a second referendum with subtly altered wording will follow.

So, my message to anyone who is interested:  vote ‘remain’ on June 23rd.  It will save us all a lot of trouble.

 

 

 

 

GRANDPA, AM I A EUROPEAN?

 

When I am asked for my view of Europe (which is not very often) I always answer that I can’t see it from here. Any deeper significance in my reply is usually lost; but then why should it not be? I, after all, represent a passing generation. I am not, it is generally thought, in a position to judge.

But I am, you see. I really am.

I was among millions of Britons who voted for The Common Market, who agreed to suffer the idiosyncrasies of French agriculture and the ingress of Spanish trawlers as the price of a trade agreement that benefited the strike-torn economy of nineteen-sixties Britain. For a while I was an enthusiastic European. After all, my Liege-Lords for the last three hundred years had been German, had they not? And it was all so inspiringly liberal and democratic! I felt certain of the Euro, too, had we joined the currency in the early days. Not now, of course.

Oh no, not now.banker 2

Why? Well, gone are those democratic visions. The Euro has become a political tool of federalists who see Europe as one great nation (and for ‘federalists’ read ‘bankers’ and for ‘one great nation’ read ‘several component nations among which speculators may engage in uninhibited play’). Please, don’t misunderstand me: nationalism is dangerous, and there is nothing wrong with tearing down walls between nations: a common currency is a great way to start. But to the federalists the Euro-zone, and especially its outer fringes, is a chess board upon which to execute some particularly profitable moves. In short, even on a wet Sunday in a fog it would be difficult to find a bunch of more disparate nations to unite, and these people are simply not the ones to try it.

Their spores have spread like fungus in the decaying democracy of a group of member nations which not only have nothing in common, but do not share a common language, and in many cases are combatants in blood feuds centuries old. The pot of member states is now so large and political interests so diverse that conflicts are inevitable and insurmountable. No-one wins, nothing gets done.

The political engine of Europe is misfiring; its mechanisms are cumbersome and slow. It is going precisely nowhere fast.

Yet this is at a time when quick, decisive action is needed. Whether or not we are aware, a major migration is taking place, originating in Africa and sweeping across Europe. It is stimulated, maybe even motivated, by the ‘open borders’ policy said to be at the heart of Europeanism. And while that policy is in place we have Canute’s chance of holding it back.

Meanwhile, the engines of change in our own country have signally failed to leave the station. We still drive on the opposite side of the road to other member nations. We adhere stoutly to our Pound Sterling and yearn for all else that was Sterling. The mile, the yard, the ounce, the inch. Even after more than four decades of ‘Decimalization’ and ‘Metrication’ if I ask the Automobile Association’s route finder to calculate a distance for me it gives the answer in miles, with the kilometer distance in faint, small print underneath (for the foreigners, I assume). When I purchase wood from a wood yard, I am likely to be asked for my requirements in foot runs.

According to British law, road signs, speed limits and the speedometers that record those speeds must be quoted in miles or miles per hour.

Edicts from those very federalists who constitute the backbone of ‘Brussels Bureaucracy’ are deeply resented because they are measures conceived undemocratically, and by colleges of thought outside our own nation, who often calculate to satisfy interests that are of no benefit to ourselves.

At some point in the next year or so we will be asked to vote in a referendum – should we be in, or out, of Europe. But the decision will be taken long before then, as the spinners and grafters steer the argument. Our political engineers are masterful manipulators of public opinion and they will do their work. They have already scored some early points. There is much more to do and they have a lot of time to do it.

I am anti-Europe, though I may be open to persuasion. Our Prime Minister is seeking ‘concessions’ from the member states which may make continued membership practical. The trouble, if I may be frank, is my instinctive mistrust of our Prime Minister – well, no, it is more than instinctive. So far the promises he has broken outweigh the promises he has kept. He has far too many concessions to deal with: our over-run borders, our plundered fishing industry, and our disadvantaged agricultural interests to name but a few. Even if he told the nation he had resolved these issues I would have trouble believing him. But then, these are not the reasons why I am likely, on balance, to vote ‘no’.

I am British. I am a member of a fiercely independent nation which has few friends on the international stage, apart perhaps from the United States. Certainly we have no friends in Europe and make no mistake, were we ever to hazard the Euro as a currency we would be savaged by the same lupine pack that currently has its teeth buried in the neck of Greece, and will move on to Portugal or to Italy in their turn.

I believe our advantage and our future – our trading, our cultural and our political future – lies not within the turgid mire of European bureaucracy, but with the wide diversity of nations waiting outside our door. Nations ready to trade. My argument is that which applies to the majority of divorces: irreconcilable difference. We have tried to make it work, but we are an insular people whose relationships within Europe have always been adverse, perverse and sometimes downright abusive. English is our language in common with much of the free world, and very little of Europe. We are notoriously bad at learning other tongues, but, I’m sorry, that is something of which I refuse to be ashamed. As a couple we are fundamentally unsuited, and some things are impossible to change.

And we get to keep the kids! So, my child, though for a while you may be persuaded otherwise, rest assured you are not European, you are British. It was a nice idea while it lasted, this Europe thing, and maybe one day it will be so again, but in the meanwhile I hope and trust we will vote intelligently so your island can stay afloat in the storm to come. If we don’t, I’ll keep a place for you: third lifeboat on the left.