Monthly Archives: February 2016

EU Referendum Debate With Peter Jukes

Since Prime Minister David Cameron returned home from Brussels with the EU deal to be put to the British people in a referendum on the 23rd June, I’ve wanted to write about it here on The Needle. However, I felt that an unchallenged polemic on the subject of why I believe the UK should leave the EU would be inappropriate for the blog and so I decided that it would be far better if I was to invite a respected commentator to debate the issue with me. I’m very grateful to author, screenwriter, playwright, literary critic and blogger, Peter Jukes for agreeing to make the argument for the UK remaining within the EU.

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Peter Jukes

Peter has been a feature writer for both The Independent and the New Statesman, he is now an adviser for the excellent independent platform for online journalism Byline. He is the author of The Fall of the House of Murdoch and more recently Beyond Contempt

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Jon – Can we agree from the outset, that the overwhelming majority of those who’ll be voting in the EU referendum on 23rd June later this year will do so because they hold honestly held, sometimes strongly held, opinions, whether they vote for the UK to remain within the EU or to leave?

There is likely to be increasingly intemperate commentary in the country over the coming months and if, on the one hand, those wishing to remain within the EU characterise or caricature those who disagree with them as xenophobes or anti-European, or on the other hand, those who wish to leave the EU paint their opponents as unpatriotic or national self-flagellants who have no faith in Britain’s ability to govern itself, then the important issues that are needed to inform any decision the electorate have to make will be lost in a deluge personal insults.

Peter – Jon. It’s certainly true that political debate rapidly descends into personal attacks these days. Given the variety of different shades of opinion on both sides, it would be cheap and defamatory to call all those who plan to ‘remain’ unpatriotic adherents to a superstate, or those who plan to vote ‘leave’ narrow minded nationalists . That kind of name calling won’t get us anywhere. However, I still suspect that the idea of the nation state, the main determinant of recent history, is somehow at stake in the whole referendum. That doesn’t mean that nationalists are ‘bad’: Indeed, I happen to believe the nation state is still the most viable, accountable and effective form of political organisation we have. So let’s frame it in another way. What kind of internationalism do we want? I suspect that’s what we’re really arguing over: the internationalism of the marketplace versus the internationalism of governance. But do correct me if I’m wrong.

Jon – Governance or Sovereignty tend to be the kind of issues that politicians get frothed up about; most members of the public have a more instinctive understanding of the principles of democracy.  The larger the political entity, the less control individuals have within it. Greater centralisation of power disenfranchises the ordinary citizen. Nation states have evolved and most people accept that the UK’s size offers a fair trade off between democratic accountability and security.

If I were to wish to change anything then I’d be looking to devolve power not centralise it. To answer the question that you posed; the kind of internationalism that I’d like to see is one of peace, security, trade and mutual respect. I feel certain that these can be achieved just as well if the UK were to leave the EU. I just wanted to check, when you talk of “internationalism of the marketplace versus the internationalism of governance”, are you suggesting that the two are in opposition, that we can have either one or the other ?

Peter – I completely agree with you – and critics from both left and right – that the problem of the EU is the ‘instinctive’ understanding that the institutions of Brussels feel remote and unaccountable.

The most powerful and persuasive argument for ‘leave’ is that, across Europe, we are being governed by elites who have little understanding of the travails of most people. Both left and right agree on this. Tony Judt said the same, and so does Daniel Hannan.
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But look at the wider picture. Because of the global movement of capital, trade and foreign exchanges, most states have little control over vast swathes of their economies. A corporation like Apple has revenues bigger than the Polish government, and can arbitrage taxes and regulation internationally. At present, I don’t think our forms of governance have begun to catch up with our market places, and I would put the 2008 crash down to that failure of oversight by relatively puny regulatory authorities like the FSA and SEC.
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Here’s a more current example. Those to the left of me cite the TTIP international trade agreements, negotiated secretly by the EU, US and others, as the prime reason to vote ‘leave’. But do either of us think that Britain alone will negotiate a better deal?
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My key position is really a right wing free market argument. Who is going to create a properly regulated, fair and open market place, and negate that ‘special problem of monopoly’ that Adam Smith warned us of? We’ve seen global convergence provably lead to ‘too big to fail/too big to jail’ monopolies in finance, media and energy. Who is going to counter them given the free flow of capital across borders? Only cross border institutions.
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So to answer your last question,I think the internationalism of governance and market is currently in opposition, and we need both to check each other to get the best of both worlds.
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Jon – I’m not aware that any agreement on the TTIP international trade negotiations has been reached and so it is impossible to say whether an independent UK could negotiate a “better deal”.  Broadly speaking trade negotiations are impacted by leverage, good will between the two negotiating parties, and compromise. The size of the EU certainly has the advantage of greater leverage but there is undoubtedly plenty of good will in the bilateral relationship between the UK and USA.  As the EU is negotiating on behalf of 28 diverse states it can not be said to be negotiating in Britain’s national interests; in this way the EU position is a compromise and there is every indication that the status of public service like the NHS may be a compromise that the EU may decide to make in the interests of a greater Europe.

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I understand the point that you make regarding global movement of capital, trade and foreign exchanges; however, your logic appears to be leading you toward advocating some kind of world government because, given modern communication, the free flow of capital across borders will continue as long as any territory remains independent.
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You claim that your ‘key position is really a right wing free market argument’ and ask, “Who is going to create a properly regulated, fair and open market place…?”  The answer is certainly not the EU as long as it continues to put the Eurozone political project above economic transparency . The problems within the Eurozone over the last seven years have not disappeared, the underlying weaknesses still remain, the Eurozone is still economically unstable.  Market crashes are often referred to as ‘corrections’ but no correction has been made because such a correction would have inevitably led to Greece, Spain, and others leaving the Eurozone.
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Regardless of what those who advocate remaining within the EU claim, the UK, the largest net contributor to the EU outside of the Eurozone, will continue to pay for it. In 2014 the UK was asked to pay an extra £1.7bn to the EU, while Germany and France received rebates. The UK had to pay more because it had remained outside of the Eurozone; Germany and France received rebates because their economies had suffered due to bailing out Eurozone countries. Despite all claims to the contrary, the UK ended up compensating the EU for the Eurozone crisis.
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It gets worse because the deal that David Cameron brought back and has asked the country to ratify, legitimises the use of central EU funds for the purposes of bailing out Eurozone countries.
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How can the UK possibly remain within the EU and not be pulled along into ‘ever closer political union’ ?
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Peter – On the point of principle. There’s always something gained and something lost in treaty arrangements with other countries whether in defence or trade.  Globalisation requires an increasing numbers of international protocols. This is just governance, not global government. But this does bring with it a problem of accountability beyond the single nation state. As an arrangement – with its council of ministers and elected parliament – the EU should, in principle, give more democratic control of supranational threats and arrangements.

In practice, largely because of the premature adoption of the Euro, it hasn’t always worked out this way. For the record, I always preferred John Major’s suggestion of a ‘hard ecu’ – a common currency but not a single common currency, which gave individuals and businesses the option to adopt over time. But Britain is not in the Eurozone – and gets the benefits of its own currency with access to the world’s biggest single market. What’s not to like? The £1.4 billion current subvention is pretty cheap at the price, compared to the subventions we make to other international funds like the IMF to smooth other market fluctuations.
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Is the EU the source of economic crisis since 2008? I don’t think so.
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 My personal experience of regular visits to the former Soviet controlled ‘Warsaw pact’ countries over the last two decades (particularly Poland) shows another side. The powerful stabilising effect of the acqus and structural funds in countries which could well have gone down the route of the former Yugoslavia and Ukraine without the civic rights obligatory for EU membership and the rising living standards associated with membership.
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Over a hundred people were shot by Yanukovitch’s secret police in Kiev’s Maidan. What were they protesting for? To become part of the economic and civic norms of the EU.  As a ‘soft power’ EU enlargement has done more than NATO in the last 25 years to secure peace and prosperity.
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Britain’s game was always to go for enlargement to dilute the Franco-German dominance of the EU – a wider rather than deeper project. Now width has been achieved, Cameron has forestalled the threat of depth by securing an agreement that the ‘ever closer union’ does not apply to the UK.  If an ever closer union is a threat even if we aren’t a part of it, aren’t we better off remaining members to keep diluting the threat? If it’s not, why not have our cake and eat it, with the stability of collective support, access to the single market?
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And here’s another twist. In the assertion of the primacy of Parliament and controlling our borders, we may well lose both. If the vote is for ‘leave’ in June, it’s a near certainty that the Scots would demand another independence referendum, and the nationalists would win. The threat of the break of the union is much bigger to me than the speculative (and now exempted)  ‘ever closer union’ of the Maastricht treaty.
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Jon –You make some interesting point which I’d like to tackle one at a time.

You write that you don’t think the EU is the source of the economic crisis since 2008, and the adoption of the Euro was premature. I think you’re half right. The Euro’s time was right for a number of northern European countries. However, because the Euro was always a political project rather than an economic project the EU turned a blind eye to the blatant economic misrepresentation which allowed southern European countries to join the Eurozone when they were not ready to. It is fair to say that the EU was not the cause of the 2008 financial crisis, nevertheless because of this the Eurozone was particularly susceptible and the global economic crisis was exacerbated  by the Eurozone’s weakness.
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I can see how the people of a country like Poland, that had previously been under totalitarian rule, would benefit from the obligatory human rights that come with membership of the EU but Britain is not Poland and this debate is about Britain’s membership of the EU not Poland’s. I can also see how the standard of living in Poland would have increased but that is hardly surprising given that Poland receives close to three times the money from the EU than it puts in – Britain, on the other hand, is a net contributor receiving close to half back what it puts in.
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I don’t particularly want to dwell in too much on a possible future Scottish referendum if the UK votes to leave; however, you have raised it and so I’ll address it with a few points. The first is that I’ve already stated above that I believe in democracy and strengthening it through devolving power and so to my mind it is entirely up to the people of Scotland whether they wish to become independent. I would only point out that if the Scottish voted for independence then it would seem rather foolish to then immediately vote to give it up by joining the EU and that I’d imagine that the EU referendum results would be calculated by region and that if a majority of Scots voted to leave the EU then there would be no raison d’etre for another referendum on Scottish independence. For the record, I hope Scotland remains part of the UK.
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I don’t want to belittle the benefits of EU enlargement eastwards; nevertheless, I’m not sure I’d be so bold as to state that it has had a greater impact on security and prosperity over the last 25 years than NATO. NATO and the EU have entirely different functions and I’m fairly certain that Putin is more wary of a Baltic state invoking Article 5  following any invasion or interference than he does EU sanctions. ‘Soft power’ has its limits and it can be argued that Angela Merkel’s ‘soft’ approach to dealing with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and Syria gave him the confidence to act as he has done.
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I don’t see ‘ever closer union’ as a threat to anyone other than the people within the EU. The EU isn’t a belligerent organisation; they are our allies on defence, policing and intelligence issues and I’m confident that that will continue if the UK votes to leave the EU and I’m sure an equitable trade agreement can be negotiated. Perhaps, Norway and the UK can negotiate with the EU and get a better deal for both countries.
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Now that really would be the best of both worlds rather than the fudge that David Cameron is presenting to the British people.
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Peter –  Ah David Cameron’s fudge. I rather like fudge. When did we become so doctrinaire and ideological (so French!)? It reminds me of the  probably apocryphal tale of a British EU proposal to which the French emissaries replie: “Ah it works fine in practice, but what about in theory?”

 To your last point about the acquis or EU accords. I was careful to say their ‘soft power’ was more effective than NATO, over the last 25 years only. There could be a case for arguing that, once West Berlin had been protected by the air lift, the economic demonstration of much preferable route western consumer society was more important in undermining the Berlin Wall than deterrence. But that’s a stretch. What we can say for sure is that Germany unified and the EU spread eastwards with a unprecedented speed and success no one could have predicted in 1988.
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This does affect Britain, in or out. We are not like Norway or Switzerland. We are an outgoing, seafaring nation with  former colonial connections which root our ancestors and dependants in places as far flung as Hong Kong, South Africa, Northern Canada, Tasmania and the Falklands. To deny our outward looking internationalism would be deeply unpatriotic.  I’m afraid the role models offered to us as ‘Brexiters’ really don’t cut the mustard and underestimate our importance to the European project.
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The real cause of the 2008 crash was massive global derivatives market which had hedged on US subprime mortgages with under the counter deals which amounted to much more in the shadow banking system than the actual bonds themselves. This was a highly complex situation which it took (and still takes) thousands of people across the world to unravel. The market was way ahead of any regulation or Basel agreements, and its effect more devastating than anything since the last European war. The vulnerability of the banks to a Greek or Spanish default came entirely from this. Argentina and Russia defaulted in 1998 on a much bigger scale and it there were no liquidity problems. The 2008 crash is, to me, an example of malfunctioning markets and evidence of exactly those kind of cross border agreements and regulations embodied by the EU. Even in the case of Greece, Spain and Portugal, I still think the non-EU alternative would have been much worse in terms of economic collapse and an exchange rate war which would have led to tariffs and isolationism.
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Which brings me back again to Scottish Independence. Yes, I do think more power should be devolved on many many issues. But on global problems like international banking, or perhaps carbon emissions, we need evolved decision making at the highest levels. Nations are like people in this way. They are never quite Islands, and they form alliances, societies, groups. They do this because collectively they are stronger, and can best serve the interests of the nations, by working together.
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So to move the discussion on (if I may) can I ask the Groucho question? If you wouldn’t want to be member of a club, like the EU, which would have you as a member, what is our alternative destiny in terms of alignment? Do we form a Scandi plus club with Norway, Sweden or Iceland? Or a more transatlantic, English speaking alliance such as the ‘Five Eyes’ of security documents –  UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand?
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Jon –  Well it is very interesting that you mention the ‘Five Eyes’ security alliance which highlights the importance of a future independent UK as a ally and active partner to the EU on security and policing and undermines the apocalyptic warnings made by the ‘Remain’ campaign. 

That said, you are raising it so that you can present me with two choices when I haven’t even accepted the premise that the UK needs to be in a ‘club’ and so I’ll decline your invitation. I mentioned Norway, who incidentally also have an outgoing and seafaring tradition – just ask the people living on the North East coast of England – because as a country independent of the EU, Norway is already in a situation similar to the one the UK will find itself in following independence and it would make sense for the two countries to negotiate with the EU together to get the best deal for both of our nations.
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I don’t disagree with you regarding national alliances and partnerships, and even friendships but I don’t agree with your pessimistic outlook.  On the one hand you highlight the UK’s outgoing tradition, listing in various ways strong allies and partners of the UK around the world but then suggest that if the UK gains its independence it will suddenly find itself adrift, alone, and friendless. That just isn’t going to be the case; the UK will still have a close relationship with the EU, the UK will still be a member of NATO and the Five Eyes, we’ll still be a permanent member of the UN Security Council and the UK will still belong to the Commonwealth.  It may well be that new alliances might evolve but it doesn’t mean that old ones built up over decades will disappear over night.
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Given that the City of London is one of the largest financial centres in the world, the UK will have to be part of any broad international attempt at tackling problems in international banking and I’m sure you’ll agree that an independent UK is quite capable of positively engaging on other global issues like climate change.
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You also highlight the importance of the UK to the European Project. I don’t underestimate it but I think that some, not all, of those negotiating the UK deal on behalf of the other 27 EU member states have done. It demonstrated the same kind of bureaucracy, pork barrel politics, and Eurovision voting practices that the people of the UK have watched with increasing dismay . It was the worst kind of advert for remaining within the EU and then to watch a desperate British Prime Minister try to put the best gloss on such an insignificant, reluctantly offered, take it or leave it, deal… It’s clear that it isn’t those in the UK that now wish to leave the EU who have underestimated the importance of the UK to the European Project, it is those that were too complacent around the negotiating table.
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Peter – Don’t you find it odd that, while complaining about lack of democracy in the EU, people rarely think of the undemocratic arrangements in surveillance, security or indeed the control and maintenance of Trident (utterly reliant on a foreign power)? We accept these constraints on our autonomy without protest. So why the focus on mainly economic arrangements with the continent, which are less existential?

I should add that, though remote and imperfect, the European Parliament is at least some democratic check on the Brussels bureaucracy. Today, while Cameron was praising a new Saudi arms deal, the European Parliament voted to suspend all arms sell to the main source of Wahhabi extremism in the middle east and Africa.  The EU Parliament is probably more in line with public opinion on this issue than our own government. On that basis, why not devolve more democracy down, and make sure the supranational structures have some democratic accountability?
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I’m not of the apocalyptic persuasion of project fear when it comes to security, (though I do think the European arrest warrant is probably a plus). I’m actually much more concerned about the economic impact of, effectively, leaving the single market as an inside player.
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The City has thrived since the 1980s mainly by importing first American, and then European ownership and personnel. I personally think financial services are too dominant in our economy, but there are very few in that sector who think ‘leave’ will improve London’s central role in equity, bond and forex markets. You just have to look at the decline of the pound to see that.
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It’s this globalised role at the centre of the timezones which makes Britain completely different to Norway, with a population the fraction of ours and none of our reliance on foreign capital and migratory talent. After nearly half a century, our trading relationship with the EU has become much more dominant than the Commonwealth, which was historically defined by imperial capture anyway. After half  a century, the world has moved on.  Australia’s main trading partner, for obvious geographic reasons, is now China. Though we very good ties with other economies like India and Japan, they favour us as an entry point into the single market.
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Many who would vote leave say there’s no reason we can’t achieve a new deal with the EU to give us untrammelled access to the single market. But that’s a hope, not a certainty. And even if we achieved what Norway did, the subventions to the EU would only increase as a consequence. (Polish infrastructure has been largely rebuilt from the ‘Norwegian Fund’.) Only this time we would have no control over how those funds were spent, unlike we do now through the council of ministers and Strasbourg.
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In short, I really don’t fear complete disaster if we leave. But the idea that Britain would be richer and more productive, seems to me to be founded more on hope and a prayer than any cold cost benefit analysis. True, for a moment, we could relish our feeling of freedom. But as happened throughout my childhood, international forces – devaluation, balance of trade payments, etc – would soon remind us how contingent on others our freedom is.
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Perhaps, for a moment, I could move on from the dismal science of economics, and talk about other things. I actually love the idea that I can travel with a British/EU passport through Schengen countries unchecked. I like the idea I can move to France, Germany or Croatia and work there without a green card, and use their health services at virtually no cost. I’m proud to British, but I’m also proud to be European too. I was married to an American, and have lived and worked there, but there are various historical and emotional reasons why I feel Brits have more in common with the inhabitants of Warsaw than Boston. You could well counter that the EU does not express that Europhilia, and rather undermines it. But what have I got left of that, in any civic sense, if we leave?
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If we didn’t have the EU, wouldn’t we need to invent it? And if so, what would this ideal European arrangement look like?
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 Jon –  Surveillance and Trident, far from being ‘undemocratic arrangements’, are under the control of the democratically elected government of the UK. Every five years now, the British people have the opportunity to elect a new government that can change these policies.

I’m in broad agreement with you about the European arrest warrant; however, the Assange case highlights the different interpretations of the term ‘Judicial Authority’ across the EU. In the UK this refers to a judge, in many other EU countries this can refer to a public prosecutor and as a consequence warrants can be issued with a lower evidential threshhold than in the UK. That isn’t to say that UK judges always get it right; the disturbing case of the European arrest warrant issued on the parents of Ashya King stands testament to that. On the whole though, these cases are exceptions rather than the rule and I would expect an independent UK to negotiate similar arrangements with the EU once we’ve voted to leave the EU.
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I can see that like me you really enjoy European travel and love experiencing first hand the culture, history, and diversity of Europe; so I want to put your mind at rest – just like any citizen from any independent state from anywhere in the world, just like you can today, you’ll be able to travel freely throughout the Schengen Area once you’ve entered it using your British passport for as long as the Schengen Agreement holds. We need to accept that because of the unilateral decision of the German government to offer unrestricted migration from outside the EU that Schengen is coming under pressure but this is not the fault of the UK or indeed any of the other 26 EU member countries who have to deal with the consequences of of Germany’s generous offer.
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I want to seize on your mention of the dominance of the UK financial sector – I agree with the sentiments you expressed, the UK economy is too reliant on it – to look at the thorny issue of EU immigration into the UK.
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Over the last half century, the industrial and manufacturing sectors across the developed world have declined and the recent economic trend is toward increasing growth in the service sector. I hope you don’t think I’m deliberately oversimplifying the complexity of the service sector in the UK if I use high street takeaways as a vehicle to make my point but the proliferation of them in towns and cities across the UK means that it is an ideal example that readers can grasp. UK economic growth is increasingly dependent on the growth of the service sector, which means that using our example, it is in part reliant on more high street takeaways and more consumers of high street takeaways but there is a problem, the UK population is stable, increased life expectancy and a higher standards of living has led to lower birth rates to compensate so how can the UK find more consumers of takeaways so that the UK economy can keep on growing? The answer is simple, allow more consumers of takeaways to take up residence in the UK, this will invariably lead to even more takeaways on the high street and, hey presto! we have the illusion of perpetual economic growth.
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When 200 UK business leaders write a letter and state that – “Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs” – what they really saying is that UK business needs increasing numbers of consumers for the UK service sector, more takeaways, and to boot they also want a surplus of labour which will drive down wages.
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The dangers for the UK of relying on exponential immigration as a means of achieving  the illusion of perpetual economic growth are twofold; firstly it is simply unsustainable and secondly there is a very real danger that UK citizens will become lazy economic Eloi relying on migrant Morlocks. With no economic incentive to improve education in the UK why should we be too surprised if future generations of Britons emerge without the desire to compete for low paid jobs filled by migrant workers?
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The real tragedy is that a stable population number caused by increased longevity compensated by lower birth rates, coupled with the technological, information, and communication revolution, might be the first indication that the developed world is entering a new social epoch but if so UK citizens will not feel the benefit until their government cease to cling to the social and economic paradigms of the 20th century and that must include their obsession with economic growth.
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Peter –Looks like we’re getting to the heart of the matter over democratic control (without using the word sovereignty). Our treaty obligations with the EU are just as democratically accountable as your example of Trident or Five Eyes security deals. We can elect a government to renegotiate or sever them. The additional thing about the EU is the democratic oversight of an elected parliament.

 Your point about Schengen travel is well made, with this exception. We will no longer enjoy the rights of employment, welfare and residence in the rest of Europe that we currently do. We will just ‘travel’ to Europe as a tourist destination, sample their takeaways: we will no longer have the same rights there. It will be a huge loss to me, practically and emotionally, and not something I would happily give up. Those younger than me (for example my two kids who are in their 20s) take this freedom of movement for granted. They are even more resistant (as polls show) to losing their European Union civic identity
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On immigration and reliance on services. I know you used takeaways merely as a metaphor for the service economy, but it’s a very loaded one implying crass consumption of perishable products. We have huge shortages in mainly highly skilled sectors of employment, especially in engineering and healthcare. Where will we get the additional workers? Back to Australian dentists and their famous lucrative ‘antipodean trenches’ of mercury fillings which financed their ranches back in Oz? The EU provides a nearby and highly trained pool of labour for all the bottlenecks in our economy.
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It seems to me that many who adhere to Adam Smith principles of the free movement of capital forget the corollary – free movement of labour. I’m not accusing you of this, but many UKIP voters are utterly reliant on the labour and tax revenues of the immigrants they’d seek to prevent. They want the benefit of a care worker or cheap plumber from overseas on an individual basis, but fail to see the collective effect.
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It might be worth exploring this for a moment, because it hadn’t really occurred to me that some who oppose the EU are actually opposing the current models of growth. The libertarians I generally talk to oppose regulation, and see Brussels as a brake on growth.
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It’s a truth you’re clearly aware of – most economic growth is dependent on population growth. These days, in developed societies, immigration is a major factor.
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I for one, don’t think Britain is at all ‘full’ – only 5% of the U.K. Land is urbanised. In my youth most the science fiction books I read were based on the dystopian vision of overpopulation. Meanwhile, inner London lost a million inhabitants, as we all pursued a suburban dream.
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Now people are moving back into the once hollowed out inner cities, and over a million have returned to central London. Living densely is both ecologically and economically more sustainable and efficient, compared to the suburban idyll which actually concretes over much more land. Britain feels ‘full’ only because there hasn’t been enough investment in some areas to provide sufficient services.  Much of our start up growth and innovation comes from the hybridisation of ideas and synthesis of different cultures in the metropolitan cities or university towns.
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But perhaps, as you indicate in reference to H G Wells, you actually have a more profound problem with that paradigm which I would share – growing inequality. But this seems to be much wider than the EU. The Eloi/Morlock division is becoming as much problem in the US as the UK. Germany escapes it but Europe wide, Greece does not. Absenting us from the EU will not solve this global structural shift of engineering to the developed world, and rising inequality due to the drift of capital accumulation at 6% per annum. Indeed, I would argue it leaves us more vulnerable, without the collective ability to reconstruct as a community of nations, as the EU did so successfully in former communist countries.
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Jon –I’m certain that there is nothing more likely to instil fear in the UK populace of the theoretical consequences of leaving the EU than conjuring the spectre of antipodean dentists poisoning their patients with mercury. You should write to No 10, they may be grateful and use the image on a billboard, “Vote to remain”, the accompanying text can say, “…or Tasmanian Jack will be back!”
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You mention the democratic oversight of the elected EU parliament. That’s the one that meets half the year in Luxembourg and then moves en masse to Brussels for the other six months with all the inefficiency and waste that it entails? Let’s say that, for arguments sake, every elected UK MEP decided that such profligate waste could no longer be defended. Could those MEPs effect a change? No, of course they couldn’t and nor could a British Prime Minister within the European Council. Not that MEPs would unite and call for such a thing; most members of the public haven’t got a clue what their elected MEPs are up to, they are too distant and remote and as a consequence there is little accountability or public scrutiny.
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You’ve quoted Adam Smith a couple of times now; you’ll recall that he also noted that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”  All of those MEPs from 28 nations milling around Brussels and Luxembourg – all dependent on the European Parliament for their status and lifestyle – far from home with little accountability and public scrutiny… Is it really any wonder that the European Parliament continued to vote for increases in budget expenditure following the 2008 financial crisis when every national parliament was forced to cut back? Is it really any wonder that they never tackle the appalling waste and profligacy or push for EU reform, reform which may impact on their comfortable existence?
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I’m very grateful that you stated that you do not believe that Britain is ‘full’ because it gives me the opportunity to ask you the question that no proponent of continual immigration into the UK is prepared to answer, and that is, just what size of population is full or ideal?
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You mentioned that only 5% of the U.K. Land is urbanised. I’m sure you can’t be suggesting that as the UK currently has a population of around 64 million, that a full UK would have a population of 1.28 billion. So, what is the ideal population size of the UK?  100 million? 150 million? 200 million?  It would seem to be a question of uppermost importance, governments must plan ahead and yet nobody seems prepared to provide an answer to that question.
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You mention the UK skills shortage in engineering and healthcare and you ask, “Where will we get the additional workers?” The answer is that we educate young British people and we ensure that they can earn a living wage instead of relying on importing cheap labour from abroad. When I see politicians almost boasting about the dependency of the NHS on immigrants, often coming from third world countries, I’m frustrated and ashamed. This is not a criticism of those individuals who come here and work in the NHS, it is just that it is indicative of failures in UK education and our economies over-reliance on cheap overseas labour. The problem is that it is only cheap in the short term, in the medium and long term greater and greater numbers of low paid workers will need to be introduced to sustain such a parasitic economic model.
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Yes, I am concerned with inequality and exploitation but I’m more concerned about how it will effect us and what kind of society is likely to evolve as a consequence.
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Peter – You noticed I played the Oz Mercury poisoning card!  Dammit.  I hope you’ll forgive me. At least I haven’t once mentioned an Australian born US citizen who owns a large chunk of our media explaining recently that he doesn’t like the EU because they don’t do what he says, while Number 10 does. This speaks a little to my point about the power of a collective of nations against global corporations who can game the rules.

 I hear all your complaints about the European Parliament in practice. But many of those could equally be applied (and often are) to Westminster. The claim that politicians have their noses in the trough and (to mix metaphors) won’t vote to reduce their costs any more than a turkey would vote for Christmas, has a very long and understandable history. It applies to local councils, national assemblies and town halls too. But more democracy and organisation is the answer. Vote them out.
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To which you could counter – why should I have to vote for anyone going to Brussels? Scottish nationalists might say the same about sending MPs to the House of Commons. We are, after all, already a multinational state with two different legal systems, and now with various levels of autonomy of democracy. We were for centuries an empire, and devolved power to former colonies. Brits of all people – who helped institute the United Nations and build the federal system of the post war reconstruction of Germany – understand that power is not absolutely gathered in one place. It comes from the people, but most of us have cascading levels of identity. Ethnically I’m a English-Welsh-Armenian mongrel. In terms of my culture I’m devotee of the English language (though only 6% of its speakers are actually English). In terms of my national allegiance I’m a Brit, but I’m also a European. I like political structures which reflect this complex identity. I know others don’t, but there we go.
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On the wider aspect of population size I think we’re probably a generation off our peak amount. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I do know that things feel crowded when services are poor, and we’re fighting over jobs, access to transport, housing and education. But Malthus pointed out we were already too full by that measure 200 years ago, with a population barely over 10 million. It’s all about resources, integration, sustainable lives and a future full of potential. Remove all of those, and the most remote desert island becomes an overcrowded nightmare with just two people.
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I don’t disagree with you on better training and skills for British citizens. But one of the greatest assets we have in terms of global trade and the creative exchange of scientific and cultural innovation is the population mix we have, with family or social connections all over the globe, and the dialogue of different cultures, insights and information. London is currently the most cosmopolitan city in the world, and its openness to strangers (just like Paris and New York before it) is the upside of migration. Of course, there are many downsides, particularly in the decay of industrial towns of the north. But let us remember that is a result of migration two or three generations ago, in itself a consequence of Britons’ imperial migration to Africa, North America and the Indian subcontinent. If we start getting nostalgic about our past, we should see how isolation has never been our destiny.
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On your side, you can point to this and say a Brexit will not change our history or global connections. But on mine, I could point out that leaving the EU will have very little effect on those problems of integration that are often held up as the main reason we need to ‘control our borders’.
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I feel like ending – if this is the close of our debate – on a version of an old joke about men and women’s attitude to marriage. Men get married hoping women won’t change, but they do. Women get married hoping men will change, but they don’t.
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I feel leave campaigners hope Britain will stop changing if we leave the EU, but it won’t.
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Best and thanks for such an informative civilised debate.
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Jon – Many thanks Peter, it’s been a pleasure debating the issues with you.
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We’re Watching & We’re Waiting

The Friday Night Song

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BETWEEN HUBRIS AND HYPE: EXARO NEWS SAYS IT IS TOO BUSY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS

As I had reblogged Tim Tate’s Six Questions for Exaro News – HERE It is only proper that I also reblog Tim’s latest post which contains Exaro’s response to his questions. The original post can be found on TimTate.co.uk

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Two weeks ago I asked Exaro News a series of six very serious questions about its stories relating to alleged historic sexual abuse at Elm Guest House and a VIP network based at Dolphin Square. Those questions – set out in my previous post (below) – quoted Exaro’s own statements, including its claims to have been responsible for initiating the multi-million pound Metropolitan Police investigation, Operation Midland.

On Wednesday evening the “Exaro team” e-mailed the following response. At its request, I am posting this in full.

Dear Tim Tate,

Please ensure that you publish our response in full.

Our reports on Exaro have already answered many of the questions that you pose.

Our long-standing policy is not to repeat answers on social media or to bloggers otherwise, as we are sure that you can appreciate, it would distract from the vitally important journalistic work that Exaro is doing in holding power to account.

So, first, you need to do some proper research. It is not for us to conduct your research for you.

In the meantime, you have referred at various points in blog posts to having been told a story by a “senior detective” on ‘Operation Fernbridge’ about how Customs had stopped Leon Brittan at Dover with “child pornography tapes”, while at the same time denying our report that Customs had seized a video alleged to show child sex abuse in the presence of a former Conservative cabinet minister.

Was the “senior detective” to whom you referred DCI Paul Settle?

All the best,

Editorial team,

Exaro

Apparently Exaro thinks it appropriate for a journalist to identify his sources (I don’t: and won’t). It is also apparently too busy (despite having several millions pounds of benefactor funding to draw on) to answer questions of very real public interest about its role in thetroubled and troublesome Operation Midland.

Exaro’s e-mail also makes clear that it believes it is much too important to be held to account. Anyone looking for humility will find it in the dictionary. Sandwiched between “hubris” and “hype”.

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Dame Janet Smith Review

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I’m not going to add anything before reading the report myself. However, I do want to supply a link to the report for readers which can be found HERE

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NAPAC’s Peter Saunders on BBC ‘The Big Questions’

The Big Questions BBC 21st February 2016

‘While the commission has been described as a policymaking body by some church officials – determining guidelines and best practices to avoid abuse – Saunders has long called for it to be far more aggressive, including addressing specific cases that have emerged all around the world. He has also questioned why the Vatican has not apparently made any progress on an abuse tribunal that was announced last year to hear cases of church officials who cover up abuse.

“A number of members of the commission expressed their concern that I don’t toe the line when it comes to keeping my mouth shut,” Saunders said hours after the news of his leave was announced.

“I made clear I would never be part of something that was a public relations exercise. There was a feeling around the table expressed in a vote that the commission could not work with me as things stood at the moment and unless I changed.”

“Our pope could do so much more to make things happen now. It’s incumbent on a commission appointed by him to impress on him the need to do things now, not years down the line … I don’t see movement, I don’t see action over an issue that they should be absolutely furious about.”

He also revealed that the commission had received a report that two priests from Italy recently discovered that a colleague was abusing children, but that when they alerted their bishop to the abuse, he “instructed they remain silent”.

“That itself rips my heart apart…and sadly this happens all over the world,” he said.

The Guardian

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On Journalism…

Extract from Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

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Many of Corker’s anecdotes dealt with the fabulous Wenlock Jakes. “…syndicated all over America. Gets a thousand dollars a week. When he turns up in a place you can bet your life that as long as he’s there it’ll be the news centre of the world.

…”Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below his window – you know.””

“Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny –and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the press  for you.”

“They gave Jakes the Nobel Peace Prize for his harrowing descriptions of carnage – but that was colour stuff.”

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Beatrix

The Friday Night Song

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