Blog

Blog 11: EU Referendum Questions

23/04/2016:

In 62 days' time we will be voting on whether to Remain a member of the European Union or to Leave the European Union.

 

Issues I look at in this blog:

 

1. President Obama Said The US Would Not Do A Trade Deal

2. The UK Economy will slow 6% of GDP - this will cost £4,300 for every person in the UK

3. The UK Will Be Unable to Negotiate With The World

5. Summary

 

The EU Referendum And What You Need To Know

 

Most of us in the Leave groupings knew what the Government would do running up to the EU Referendum on 23 June 2016.  We knew because we had watched the Scottish Referendum.  We knew that the Big Hitters would be wheeled out to enunciate on shocking and frightening scenarios, and to set out a near terror state of affairs if the UK decided to Leave the EU.  It was called the Project Fear because we watched Labour and the Conservatives do exactly the same in Scotland.  They won in Scotland, so we were prepared.

 

The difference this time is that the Remain camp did not have very much to start with.  In Scotland they started off with low level fear and gently worked their way up to Project Screaming Terror in the last week.  Interestingly, that is how they conducted the 2015 General election too.  By the final week of the Election you would have thought that UKIP was the Devil's own party the way they were attacking us.


So, this is a gentle message of what questions come up and what some of the answers are.  I will, where possible, be as open as I can be because I think you do need to know the negatives as well as the positives.  However, I cannot be 100% unbiased because I am passionately a Leave campaigner and I do not think we need to answer every little point they raise.

 

President Obama Said The US Would Not Do A Trade Deal

 

You can watch his speech HERE[1].  Essentially, what he says is the UK is small. so the US won't go out of its way to negotiate a trade deal with us.  The US would be very busy with the EU trade deal, known as TTIP[2].  As such, the US will not be jumping to attention and negotiating a trade deal with the UK anytime soon - they are more interested in dealing with the huge trade block trade agreement.  Pretty frightening, yes?

 

President Obama's comment rang true - why is the UK telling him to butt out and would we not want to know what the President of the USA has to say about our comments that we would simply negotiate our own trade agreement.  It is true, to an extent.  We want to know what the President of the USA thinks.  Except he will no longer be President after January 2017.  It will be Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump.  So I would much prefer to know what they think than what Obama thinks.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Obama, but this press conference just stank of a back-room deal.

 

Why would Obama do a back-room deal?  Why does he want us to Remain in the EU?

 

TTIP is an all encompassing trade deal[2].  It will allow US business to sue EU Governments if they do not play ball.  Remember, the UK has one of the largest state funded health care systems in the world.  Big Pharma want to control drug prices in the UK.  Big care providers want to open private hospitals.  TTIP will, without doubt, lead to more of the NHS being sold off to private providers but much, much faster than Labour and Conservatives have been selling it off. The US wants to be in on the action, because to date the NHS has kept them out of the UK in big numbers.  TTIP will change all of this[3][4].  Of course the President of the USA would prefer we agree to TTIP than a directly negotiated trade agreement, because under the terms of TTIP as it stands, big US Corporations will get to sue the Government and force the part and potentially full privatisation of the NHS[5].

 

Essentially, Obama wants the UK to open up the NHS to the US more.  The US would love more private healthcare in the UK.  But Obama will not be in office for long.

 

Yesterday (22/04/2016) a US civil servant simply denied that Obama's statement is completely true.  They flat out contradicted him in some parts.  That is what happens to Presidents in the last few months of their presidency.  Their demands can be ignored because they will shortly be replaced.  If the headline is true, Obama just got sucker-punched[6]:

 

"U.S. Office of Trade Official Contradicts Obama – ‘UK NOT Too Small To Have Free Trade Deal With America’

 

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official working within the Office of International Trade in the United States has issued a stunning rebuke to U.S. President Barack Obama and his trade official Michael Froman by insisting that the United Kingdom is not too small to have free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.

... [An] e-mail from the body that implements America’s free trade deals with the world: the Office of International Trade, which states:

 

“This is the first time I’ve heard of the assertion that the UK is too small to have an FTA with the US… clearly the UK is not too small to have an FTA with the US if we have one with Oman.”

 

The official stressed: “Do be advised that FTAs are negotiated by the Executive Branch of the U.S., specifically by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) at the behest of the President”.

 

So, yes you should be concerned by what President Obama said.  If the US said that we had to wait three years for a trade agreement whilst they finalised TTIP then the UK would be in some difficulty because we import a lot into the UK from the US and we export a lot to the US.  The failure of a trade agreement being negotiated quickly could potentially be a disaster.  The problem is, the UK Government really badly needs you to believe that this Fear Project is as cut-and-dry as "No, you won't get one".  The fact that it is not that cut and dry and this is now public must be killing Honest Dave today.

 

Be concerned about this - but do not take it to heart.  Obama is not going to be in charge. The US has many, many reasons why a trade agreement with the UK would be beneficial to all concerned, predominantly because the UK has the world center for Banking in London, so world economic powers would not let Honest Dave and soon to be gone Obama wreck what is a good system.  And, obviously, US big business would be putting enormous pressure on the two Presidential Candidates to ensure they say something positive about a UK trade deal between June's referendum and November’s election  Essentially, ignore what Obama said and listen out for what Hilary, Donald and that other bloke say about it - that is where the real power sits.

 

The UK Economy will slow 6% of GDP - this will cost £4,300 for every person in the UK

 

This is another enormously ill fated attempt at making you terrified of the Vote Leave issue.  The problem George has is that Gordon Brown screwed him over on this question in 2005, making for some amusing reading this week.

 

George Osborne, the UK Chancellor, warned last week that leaving the EU would make the UK permanently poorer[7].  He said that the UK economy would shrink 6% by 2030 and this would mean every person in the UK losing £4,300 a year.  Simply terrifying.  We would lose that much money?

 

Nah, it is bull.  There are many ways of looking at this, so in the first instance, I will take it based upon it being 100% true and an absolute fact that this will happen.  For the avoidance of doubt: I do not believe a word of it - but let's look at the facts.

 

6% of GDP.  To lose 6% and this be £4,300 I would need to earn £71,666.66 a year (and yes, Illuminati confirmed with that number ha ha ha ha).  Last I checked, very few people earn that.  MPs earn that - is he just talking about what the Gravy Train people will lose?

 

The National Audit Office 2015 provisional results on average wages says this:[7]

 

"In April 2015 median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £528, up 1.8% from £518 in 2014. This follows an annual growth of 0.2% between 2013 and 2014. Growth has been slower since the economic downturn, averaging around 1.5% per year between 2009 and 2015

Adjusted for inflation, weekly earnings increased by 1.9% compared to 2014. This is the first increase since 2008, and is due to a combination of growth in average earnings and a low level of inflation

For the year ending 5 April 2015 median gross annual earnings for full-time employees were £27,600, an increase of 1.6% from the previous year"

 

 

So, in 2015 the average salary was £27,500 rounded up.  A 6% reduction would be netted off with inflationary increase.  So, by 2030, we'd be up on the 2015 figures even if we took account of the 6% decrease.

 

So I say that if this is true - which I do not believe - there is genuinely nothing to worry about.

 

However, we add to this something Mr Osborne missed out of his figures.  He can thank his former Chancellor for this one.  In 2005 Gordon Brown issued a report[8] that included statements as to what it costs to be a part of the EU.  Guess what?  Yep, he said that the cost of implementing the EU was 7% GDP.  So, if we take off this 7% because we would not be in the EU  that means that we would be .... wait for it ... 1% of GDP better off even if Mr Osborne's figures were true.  As I do not think they are true, you can take that 7% GDP increase and confirm that every single person in the country would be better off to the tune of 7% or greater.

 

"This has brought costs: expensive subsidies still remain in some sectors and it is estimated that barriers to external

trade and investment - such as tariffs, quotas and unjustifiably restrictive standards - could cost Europe’s consumers up to 7 per cent of EU GDP."

 

 

As it it happens, I think we will see salaries increase out of the UK and I think we will see a GDP increase - add that GDP increase to the 7% GDP saving and you have yourself a good economy.  Even Lord Rose, the head of the official Remain campaign group, had to admit[9] that the low paid will see wage rises if we leave the EU because we will not have a flood of cheap EU economic migrants.

 

"Steve Baker, a Conservative member of the committee who is campaigning for an “out” vote, said: “There was an absolute admission that a vote to remain is a vote to continue a migration policy which discriminates in favour of EU citizens at the expense of lower paid workers. By giving a straight answer to a straight question, more often than not Lord Rose has helped make the case for the 'leave’ campaign.”"

 

The UK Will Be Unable to Negotiate With The World

 

I have been so exasperated by David Cameron continually saying that the UK would suffer if we left the EU.  He essentially has no faith that the UK could negotiate free trade agreements with the rest of the world.

 

The problem is, he actually believes that he cannot negotiate a free trade agreement, so he has projected that fear on to everyone else.  To the Remain groups the UK is too weak and ineffective and has no ability to negotiate with the bigger boys.  Whenever anyone from Leave says that the UK used to rule 1/3 of the world, so negotiating treaties will not be that difficult, we get "You middle Englanders" as if that some-how answers the question.

 

The fact is, the UK has been negotiating treaties for many centuries.  There are trade agreements that are still in force that were negotiated by England in the 14th century[10] - we were able to do  it at one point in history, there is literally nothing stopping us doing it now.

 

It is all about Fear.  Fear the unknown.  It is true, it is a new world; it a smaller world though.  In the world of the internet, trade between countries is more complex but not impossible - certainly easier than 1373.  The amount we import every year means that countries will be wanting a trade deal with the UK[11].

 

I have seen the ludicrous statement[12] from Philip Hammond that Expats would be forced to come back to the UK if we exit Europe.  I honestly cannot believe they thought this was something the UK would believe is true.  It's as if these people live in a different world to the rest of us.  As if Spain is going to kick out British people if we leave the EU.  It's about as stupid as saying the UK would suddenly start kicking out EU nationals.  It is a load of old tosh.

 

"Mr Hammond was asked what Brexit would mean for EU immigrants in the UK and replied: "It's a very good question and, again, a question that the Leave campaign has to answer.

"There are two million British citizens living in European Union countries.

"We have spent a lot of time in the UK focusing on EU citizens living here, but we have two million of our own citizens living in the EU - the largest number living in Spain.

"Somebody has to answer that question. Would we negotiate bilateral agreements, would there be quotas?

"What do the Leave campaign have in mind? If they are going to impose quotas, would they be retrospective? Would they expect them to be reciprocal?""

 

This is what he said at the Chatham House speech a year earlier[13].

"As for the EU, we have to lance this boil. There is a real thinning of democratic legitimacy and democratic consent for Britain's membership of the EU. We have to deal with this issue. We have to get the best deal we can from renegotiation with our partners in Europe and then we have to put it to the British people. The prime minister has been very clear: we're not neutral observers in this. If we can get a decent package, we will be selling hard the advantages not just of staying in the EU, but of stepping up. The Brits have spent far too long, in my view, thinking of the EU as something that's done to them by people over there who are big and powerful, and we're really insignificant. We're the second-biggest economy in the EU. On all the current trends, we're set to become the biggest economy in the EU during the 2030s. We should be thinking of the EU as an organization that we can shape in an image that we find attractive: outwardlooking, focused on global engagement, doing the things that Europe needs to do to be successful in the future. That's the prize here, to get the British people thinking positively about our engagement in Europe again."

 

Summary

 

I keep repeating this.  We do not know what is going to happen when we Vote to Leave the EU.  I personally think it will be a close vote, but we will prevail.  project Fear threw everything at it too early this time - they have nothing left.  Obama was huge, but it has not had the desired effect.  It is very hard to find anyone that wants to stay except politicians.  I do not know of anyone I work with or am friends with that wants to Remain, but according to a recent poll Remain have 51% and Leave have 40%[14].  There are other polls, many in fact, that put Leave ahead - but we have to accept that many, many people may not be talking about it, but could be thinking it.  That is why UKIP has done so well over the last few years - people do not necessarily tell pollsters what they are thinking.

 

We cannot sit on our bums and expect to prevail.  We have to get out there and talk about the genuinely worrying issues.  How exactly will we negotiate the trade agreements if we have a Prime Minister that has spent the last year telling us we are crap and cannot do anything outside of the EU?  How on earth could he negotiate anything?  Look at the bloody awful agreement he got with the EU when he went crawling to them?  If that is the best he can get, we do not want him.  We want people from the Leave groups to be negotiating on behalf of the UK - these people believe in better.

 

Above all else we need to be looking at what we will do and we need to tackle the hard questions.  There is no point throwing up the same old tired quotes every time someone raises a valid but difficult argument.  People are genuinely concerned about what Obama said - we need to reassure them as to why they do not need to be frightened.  People have a right to have the issues explained to them in a way that they understand.  It has to be done in as a neutral way as possible.  Simply using "£350m a week" as a means of answering every question means those people will turn to the internet for answers - and we know how biased some pages can be.

 

Go out there and talk to people.  Information and data is what people want.  Tell them the truth - we are entering into a world where we genuinely do not know what will happen - but explain to them what is expected to happen.  People have told me they would rather be less well off just so long as we leave - others have said they do not know any facts so cannot make up their minds.  It is likely those without the knowledge and the right info will go out and vote for the status quo - we need to stop that happening.

 

Email me if you have questions.

References

 

[1] Reuters 23 April 2016 "Obama tells British youth - Don't pull back from the world"

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-obama-idUKKCN0XH2V9

 

[2] Telegraph 11 June 2015 "What is TTIP and why is it so controversial?"

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/11664750/What-is-TTIP-and-why-is-it-so-controversial.html

 

[3] Patients for NHS [undated] "EU/US Free Trade Agreement (or TTIP)"

http://www.patients4nhs.org.uk/eu-us-free-trade-agreement-or-ttip/

 

[4] Full fact.Org "TTIP Will privatise The NHS"

https://fullfact.org/europe/does-ttip-mean-privatisation-nhs/

 

[5] EU March 2016 See Page 10 "The Twelfth Round of Negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)"

http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/march/tradoc_154391.pdf

 

[6] Breitbart 22 April 2016 "U.S. Office of Trade Official Contradicts Obama – ‘UK NOT Too Small To Have Free Trade Deal With America’"

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/04/22/exclusive-u-s-office-trade-official/

 

[8] Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP October 2005 Page 3 "Global Europe: full-employment Europe"

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100407010852/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/global_europe_131005.pdf

 

[9] Daily Telegraph 3 March 2016 "Wages for British workers will rise in the event of a Brexit, head of 'in' campaign, Lord Rose says"

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12181385/Wages-for-British-workers-will-rise-in-the-event-of-a-Brexit-head-of-in-campaign-says.html

 

[10] Anglo-Portuguese Treaty 1373

http://www.angloportuguesesociety.org.uk/alliance-history

 

[11] Better Off Out March 2016 "10 Myths"

http://www.betteroffout.net/the-case/10-eu-myths-about-withdrawl/

 

[12] Daily Telegraph 2 March 2016 "Philip Hammond: Expat Britons could be forced to come home from Costa del Sol if Britain leaves EU"

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/12181134/Philip-Hammond-Ex-pat-Britons-could-be-forced-to-come-home-from-Costa-del-Sol-if-Britain-leaves-EU.html

 

[13] Chatham House The London Conference, 1 June 2015 "Keynote Conversation: Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP"

https://www.chathamhouse.org/keynote-conversation-rt-hon-philip-hammond-mp

 

[14] Reuters 21 April 2016 'In' camp bolsters lead ahead of EU referendum"

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-europe-poll-comres-idUKKCN0XH2RZ

 

 

 

 

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