A Letter to Leave supporters - from a Remain supporter
You are patriots. So are we. We both believe in doing what is best for Britain, for ourselves, our friends and neighbours, our children and grandchildren.
The only point we disagree on is how we do that. You may believe that the UK has lost sovereignty to the EU. That UK laws are overridden by European laws. You may believe that the European Court of Justice - the ECJ has ultimate control of our laws. You may believe that immigration is out of control. You may believe that Britain cannot control its borders and needs to 'take back control'. You may believe that we have to support the Eurozone if it gets into trouble. You may believe that the EU is set up for 'ever closer union' and an ultimate 'United States of Europe'. You may believe that we don't need to rely on exports to the EU and can instead 'trade globally'. You may believe membership is a waste of money which could otherwise be spent on the NHS.
There is an element of truth in some of these beliefs. The problem is that the reality, the actual facts, have been exaggerated out of proportion - mainly by some newspapers and some self-serving politicians. Newspapers like the Express, Sun and Mail are experts in whipping up a sense of outrage in their readers. They know it makes their readers come back for more. It's a kind of drug, and it sells more papers. Slogans like 'corrupt unelected dictatorship!' "Migrant Invasion!" sell papers. But how many readers realise how much they are being manipulated by the newspaper editors and their wealthy owners? When was the last time you actually went online, or to a library, and checked out the claims that you read about in a newspaper story? When was the last time you asked your MEP a question about the workings of the EU? When was the last time you questioned what you are told by the politicians?
Can we look objectively at some of the issues?
The UK has never lost sovereignty. David Davis said this himself this year in the House of Commons. No army is coming to invade Britain if we don't "obey the EU".
By having signed up as a member of the EU, we voluntarily delegate certain areas of the law to the EU, such as Trading Standards, some environmental issues and allocation of fishing rights.
There will be disputes about some of those matters, and there has to be a court which can rule on those disputes. The Spanish wine industry wanted to introduce regulations to favour their own products; other wine producers took it to the ECJ and the Spaniards lost. That is a typical issue which the ECJ rules on. There are dozens of other such cases - none of which have in any way seriously affected UK goods and trade.
But what about those terrorists who can't be deported? That is not because of the ECJ. Smart lawyers take those cases to the European Court of Human Rights. That is not an EU institution. It was set up by the UK itself in 1953 to protect human rights. It is a totally separate court, and nothing to do with the EU. Leaving the EU won't remove the UK from the ECHR.
Immigration is not out of control. Yes, any EU citizen has the right to come to Britain to look for work. But if after three months they haven't found work, or have independent financial means to support themselves, they can be asked to leave. That is in clause 45 of the Lisbon Treaty. That rule is applied in Belgium and Germany for example. Why has that rule never been applied in Britain? Because successive UK governments have never bothered to set up a simple registration system as is done in Belgium or Germany. Theresa May during her 6 years as Home Secretary could have done that - but didn't. So the government then dishonestly blames the EU for the government's own failings.
Do we control our borders? Yes we do. Every person entering the UK is checked at passport control. The UK is not part of the Schengen zone, there is no uncontrolled 'free movement' into the UK. End of that story.
Is the EU an unelected dictatorship? No. It is a very democratic system with many checks and balances. Nothing can happen without the approval of the European Parliament. Yes, the Commission drafts new regulations. In effect, it is the Civil Service of the EU. There are dozens of working committees whose job it is to keep track of issues and propose changes to keep up with change. Those committees might spend a year or more consulting, discussing, getting feedback, before presenting a proposal to Commission to put to the European Parliament. If the European Parliament. doesn't like it, the proposal gets sent back for amendment until it is accepted - or rejected.
Who is in the European Parliament? 720 MEPs - all elected, for 5 years at a time. Britain has 73 MEPs. Unfortunately 22 of those are UKIP MEPs, who do little more than collect their ample salaries and expenses. (Nigel Farage MEP has earned around £3 million during his 17 years there.) So Britain's representation is dependent on the 51 'genuine' MEPs who work hard in committees and in Parliament. Nevertheless they do a good job and Britain has only failed to win motions in less than 2% of cases.
Who elects the head of the Commission? The 28 heads of government elect one every five years. At present is it J.C. Juncker. He is a controversial figure who likes to make controversial public statements which the media love to quote. But he is not the 'dictator' of the EU, he is just the head of the EU's civil service. Do you know who is the head of the UK's civil service? Probably not, but if he were as publicity-seeking as Juncker you probably would!
Ever closer union? A United States of Europe? Some enthusiastic politicians in Europe might be happy with that vision, most others are not. It was a slogan that was popular a few years ago, and was even written into the treaty, but its relevance has faded since. The UK has no obligation to support 'ever closer union' and never will have. Most other countries in the EU are passionately keen to retain their sovereignty as it now exists. If you go to France, it is still very French. If you go to Italy, it is still Italian. If you go to Britain, it is still British, and always will be. On the other hand, if some countries such as Belgium and Holland want to have a 'closer union' within the EU, why shouldn't they? It won't affect us.
The Eurozone. Crumbling, a disaster.... ? No. Greece has been sorted and is recovering well. Economic growth in the Eurozone is taking off this year and leaving Britain well behind. The UK has no obligation to support the Eurozone financially - unless to do would be in in British interests. Since the EU is our biggest export market, it is in our interests to see it prosper and support it if we choose to.
Trade. Ah, trade. Here we go. It's not really about 'trade', it's about how much we export. We export nearly 50% of our goods and services to the EU, just 23 miles away. We export the other 50% to the rest of the world. Being a member of the EU doesn't stop us exporting to the rest of the world; in fact, much of our exports are by virtue of our being an EU member and able to benefit from EU trade deals with Canada, Africa, now Japan, next the USA.....etc.
Can we dump the EU and rely on 'global trade'? Philip Hammond has just been to Brazil on a little trip which must have cost the taxpayer £10,000. He has announced a plan of £3 billion in subsidies to encourage British firms to export there. £3 billion of our taxpayer money, to send stuff 6000 miles across the Atlantic to a country which represents 1% of our EU market, instead of sending the same stuff 23 miles across the Channel. Madness? Judge for yourself.
These are the facts; In 2016, our exports to the countries where Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond have been making expensive jaunts to promote British exports were:
Brazil 1.9 bn
India 3.5 bn
Australia 4.2 bn
China 14.1 bn
United States 48.3 bn
While we exported to the EU/EEA. ............... £ 156 bn.
It will take an awful lot of 'promotion' to make up for losing our biggest market. And trade deals can take an awful long time to be agreed....
Imports? Most of our food imports are from the EU. If we leave, food prices are forecast to rise by up to 20%.
Membership of the EU is a waste of money? About £8bn a year to benefit from £156bn of exports per year and cheap food imports? Judge for yourself.
And now, the government is preparing to offer £40 billion to settle a 'Brexit divorce account'. That's £1000 from each and every taxpayer in Britain. £1000 of our hard earned money - to make us poorer. Madness?
Well, we hope that's enough to be going on with.
We haven't even left the EU yet. The Cabinet is fighting amongst themselves. The pound has crashed to its lowest level ever. The UK car industry is forecasting a recession as bad as that in 2008. Farmers are worried about survival of their industry. The NHS won't be getting £350m a week, and will soon become short of medical and nursing staff who no longer feel they have a future in Britain....
It has become very clear that we can't "have our cake and eat it".
But it's not too late to change our minds. Exit from the EU can still be reversed if public opinion changes. Democracy gave us a vote in 2016. 37% of the electorate then chose 'Leave the EU'. Now we know the hard facts. Is it not time for democracy to give us another vote, based not on slogans, but on the hard, established facts?
Check the facts, and judge for yourself. We are all patriots, and want the best for Britain.