EUROPE DEBATE: Sceptical about the sceptics

Which way will you vote in the E|U referendum?
Which way will you vote in the E|U referendum?

We should be sceptical about Euro-sceptics.

In a major referendum, accuracy is vital, so can we correct the deliberately misleading claim that the UK pays Brussels £350million per week?

Subtract the £100million rebate, the £90million in agricultural and regional support we receive, plus the £30million received by our private sector, universities and research institutes. The resulting correct £130million per week is a lot of money, but why shamelessly almost treble it?

In our MP’s Trevelyan Express, she claims that the CAP is failing UK farmers. In fact her own constituency receives around 30 times as much money from Brussels, chiefly in environmental and farm payments, as the amount of constituents’ taxes paid to the EU.

This 1.1 per cent of our taxation x 30 circulates through local businesses to the benefit of all. The remaining 98.9 per cent of our taxes goes to our Westminster government which spends £223 per resident on infrastructure projects in the North East, but £5,400 per resident in London.

She bizarrely claims that somehow ‘we’ would not have control over a European army – which doesn’t exist; this is a phoney ‘straw man’ argument. The other item she picked on was the harmonisation of VAT on sanitary products. No doubt to her disappointment, this has now been happily agreed. Is this the sort of issue on which we should base our nation’s future?

Our Trojan horse MP has failed completely to name a single quantifiable advantage which we might hope to gain in comparison with the immense ‘downside’ risks of the Brexiters’ wild gamble.

Trade is obviously a major reason to stay in.

The EU accounts for 50 per cent of UK trade, while we amount to only 10 per cent of our EU partners’ trade. We would immediately have to try renegotiating terms with Brussels.

In The Brexit delusion (February 27, 2016), The Economist compares the process ‘to a divorce demanded unilaterally by one partner, the terms of which are fixed unilaterally by the other’. The vast, controversial US/EU TTIP trade deal would simply miss our little island out.

The Brexiters seek trade with Commonwealth countries, so cheap grain, beef, butter and lamb are likely to devastate Northumberland’s economy.

The angry tales whipped up about Brussels supposedly telling us what to do mainly originate from billionaires and media tycoons in their tax havens, cynically pushing the UK ever further towards an American-style neoliberal devil-take-the-hindmost society.

They want the British people vulnerable, out on our own, free from the EU’s pesky regulations on pollution and civilised working conditions which, despite the bluster, have actually improved peoples’ lives.

The EU was formed in a successful era of idealism; a period which made my post-war generation probably the most fortunate in history. Most people had jobs for life, decent pensions, rising wealth for all, lots of new private and social housing, free universities – and peace in Europe. What today’s young people facing a debt-laden future wouldn’t give for the cosy lives of the bold Brexiteers!

That idealism faded in the late 1980s when the liberalisation of finance transformed markets which once provided fair returns for investors and productive funding for wealth-creating industry and jobs into a global casino.

Banks gamble on concoctions like collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps to no productive purpose for society. Since the crash of 2007/8, debt has grown to 200 per cent of global GDP and world finances are in an extremely fragile state. Bloomberg places a Brexit up there with global Islamic revolution and a Trump presidency as massive threats to the entire world’s economy, not just our own. This is an extremely dangerous game.

It is dishonest to imply that we can return to Merry England; we face a straightforward choice between Europe’s enlightenment values or the brutal neo-liberal world of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Trump and Cruz are indeed highly relevant to the Brexit debate because the only other significant group of people on the planet to share their terrifying, crackpot denial of climate science are campaigning to take us out of Europe.

Despite every academy of science on Earth frantically warning against playing climatic Russian roulette with our children and grandchildren and despite the clear evidence of rapidly-worsening floods, droughts, storms, melting ice and indeed thermometers across the entire world, these arrogant zealots cannot even grasp their personal responsibility for leading humanity towards catastrophe.

While leaving the EU is clearly not on the same scale, the fact that these people have been completely and disastrously wrong over climate science without a hint of remorse or humility, their judgement and common sense must be very seriously questioned. Just like the world’s climate scientists, the opinions of economists and serious publications like the Financial Times and the Economist are completely ignored in this wild, utterly unnecessary gamble .