Brexitometer highlights anti-Brexit sentiment in Elmbridge

Monica Harding, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Esher & Walton, together with her campaign team are hitting the streets of Elmbridge and asking residents about their Brexit concerns – using Brexitometer. In it locals are invited to give their view on five Brexit-related questions, by placing star stickers in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ boxes. So far this street action has taken place in Walton and Claygate. Esher, Cobham, Molesey, Thames Ditton and Long Ditton are next in line.
There is no doubt about how Elmbridge residents are responding to Brexit – it is not going well, it is bad for our future, it will hurt NHS and economy. Mr Raab also gets a thumbs down when it comes to his role in the process. So no wonder a large majority of residents demand a People’s Vote.

If you’d like to hear more about Brexitometer or talk with Monica about your concerns, get in touch by emailing her – monica_harding@hotmail.com – or call her on 07799 704816.

 

Bored with Brexit?

We ain’t seen nothing yet!

Each week brings new problems to consider. Next week there will be more and this will continue for months if not years. We are nowhere near the end of this sorry saga, unleashed by David Cameron in a moment of madness. We are not even at the beginning of the end, nor sadly are we at the end of the beginning – we have barely started the process.

Despite the Conservative and Labour parties’ stated positions after the referendum and the subsequent national election, month by month, they are moving gently towards a near exit from Brexit. Britain will now likely enter a transition period for a few years, remaining in both the single market and the customs union. This is a long way from where they started. The only difference being that we will now no longer have any say in how either the single market or the customs union operates and will still have to follow EU rules. Rather than helping to make the rules, we’ll simply be following others’ rules. Completely the opposite of what the Brexiters promised.

All this to supposedly gain trade with the rest of the world. But we can trade with the rest of the world right now. Germany exports more to China than we do and Belgium exports more to India – despite all our historical and cultural ties. The EU was never in our way. As the ramifications of Brexit become clearer, more people will come to realise that the problems facing Britain are best solved inside the EU rather than outside.

Could Richmond Park be repeated in Elmbridge?

sarah-olneyZac Goldsmith resigned as MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston because of his opposition to the planned third runway at Heathrow. But he was ultimately ousted in the by-election by the largely ‘remain’ electorate for his uncompromising stance as a ‘hard Brexiter’. The Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney won the seat having gained support not just from Lib Dem voters, but also from a large number of pro-Europe Tories and Labour supporters in the constituency.
Could the same happen in Elmbridge? Disappointingly our MP Dominic Raab does not represent our views on Europe, after all 60% of us in the constituency are pro remain. Add to that his staunchly pro-Heathrow expansion stand and he is even less ‘our man’ in Parliament.
There are interesting indications of growing unhappiness in Elmbridge about this state of affairs. People are perturbed by the indifference Mr Raab is showing toward the majority’s views whilst promoting visions of ‘a paradise’ outside the EU. His widely publicised opposition to Parliamentary scrutiny is also puzzling for any democrat.
As the local Liberal Democrat party we have seen increasing numbers of now ex Tory (and Labour) supporters approach us with the question ‘can we not come together as a progressive force to ensure that our views are more fairly represented?’ It is heartening to note that pro-European citizens have not been silenced by the mis-representations and intimidation that emanate from the hard-Brexit camp. So our response is ‘yes, let’s work together’.

Should Dominic Raab MP resign?

european-union-flag-1024x7681Last Thursday (27 October) Dominic Raab MP held a meeting for local residents in Claygate. With 60% of his constituents having voted ‘remain’ in the June referendum the audience was keen to hear whether Mr Raab would have a reassuring message to offer. This was not the case and one audience member asked Mr Raab if it was a matter of honour for him to resign as he does not represent his constituents’ views fairly. Here are some audience reactions after the event:

  • Mr Raab, you made rather light of the roughly 20% drop in the pound. While this has some compensations in making British industry more competitive, if as seems likely it persists, it will have the inevitable result of boosting inflation probably into the 3-4% area for several years, which will erode British living standards. These things tend not to strike home right away, but over time a drop in the value of the currency gets reflected in the purchasing power of ordinary people.
  • You do not believe the British parliament will be able to veto the Article 50 submission, scrutinise yes, but no veto. This leaves the future of our country in a very narrow set of hands from within parliament!
  • You were keenly focussed on today’s data…. GDP (better than expected), the FTSE (highs), inflation (just 1%). But made no recognition of the future… inflation is clearly on the rise, hiring intentions are falling, and the FTSE is so high because the international earnings are translating into more pounds.
  • Mr Raab, your dismissive attitude to people who oppose you, your ideological fanaticism focusing on ‘deals’ and increasing tendency to play the man not the ball have stiffened my resolve to continue the fight. I was encouraged by the lack of substantive contributions made by your ‘fan club’…just a series of braying noises on cue when an opponent dared to challenge their hero, which sadly led you to go on repeating ‘the truth is..!
  • I was uncomfortable with the way you slyly used your supporters against your critics. You were  happy to mock people opposed to your views and used emotive language when talking about refugees – on the one hand using numbers of Syrian children into this country to show some mock humanitarian gesture – you in fact voted AGAINST the children coming here.
  • You just did not take seriously any of the ordinary mothers’ concerns about the future opportunities for their children after Brexit. Neither did you for that matter consider it worth while to consider what is already happening in small and medium sized business – layoffs throughout the supply chain.
  • On the day when the Banking Association told us that some banks are planning to re-locate as early as December you were cock-sure they would not have any place in Europe to go to.
  • You also stated that a good deal was likely because it would be in the economic interest of both Britain and EU countries to have one. I suggest that you are being naïve in the extreme. The western world these is days is riddled with anti-trade, anti-globalisation, protectionist sentiment. These elements are essentially irrational and unable to properly assess such self-interest and are likely to have their way irrespective of the economic self-interest that perhaps more reasonable people might perceive.
  • By the same token the ‘spite’ that you referred to could also easily prevail. History suggests that human being very often take decisions for reasons such as national pride, religious allegiance and many others that have nothing to do with economics. In my view the decision made in the recent Brexit referendum is itself an example of just such a tendency.
  • You also glossed over the potential challenges of the UK joining the WTO. Although Roberto Azevêdo the current director general does not see a problem with it does not alter the fact unanimous approval is required may delay matters and the UK may need to jump through hoops and make messy compromises in order to eventually achieve membership.
  • Could you possibly avoid repeating “the truth is…”, when it is not a truth.
  • May I suggest you should tone down your remarks about the strength of the economy. I predict yesterday’s growth figures will be revised downwards in due course and we will remind you of your optimism if this is the case. You brushed off a 20% devaluation, which in earlier generations would have seen a government fall.
  • You mentioned Glaxo’s increase in profits as evidence. They are of course higher as its revenues are in foreign currency and the pound goes down 20%. That does not show a strong economy; it just demonstrates that Glaxo is a good hedge against sterling.
  • You also brushed off questions about what you would do, if the government fails to achieve the optimistic Brexit you outlined. You should seriously consider what interim arrangements could be put in place once the two-year article 50 time is up to cover Britain until permanent arrangements can be agreed.
  • You talked up worse case scenario being WTO rules and the EU external tariff as “not that bad and potentially more advantageous than we have now”. You are completely blind to the rhetoric coming from EU leaders, such as Francois Holland, saying that Britain will need to pay the price for leaving the EU. How do you think that means we’ll have a better trading relationship with the EU than we do now?
  • You repeated the Brexit line that the EU needs trade with us more than we need trade with them (German cars.. etc) but that has widely been dismissed in Europe as nonsense. We represent about 9% of German car exports so yes they will feel pain over Brexit, but they aren’t going to sacrifice the four EU principles over that. The EU takes something like 45% of our total exports so they hold all the cards in this negotiation.
  • Please don’t forget that people in Elmbridge did not vote for Brexit and the country did not vote to become poorer. Whenever you mention trade, also mention services. That is how Elmbridge mainly earns its living.

Surrey By-Election

Leatherhead North 2016
Since the referendum there has been an upswing in support for the pro-European Liberal Democrat Party.  Membership in Elmbridge is soaring and in Mole Valley the Liberal Democrats have one a dramatic victory with very high swing of 23%.  All other parties lost support.

Unlike Britain as a whole, Elmbridge was for Remain as was Surrey and South-East England.

Never you tell ’em a lie!

BabyThe English have not been listened to for too long and eventually they lashed out. Unfortunately, in this referendum, they threw the baby out with the bath water.  Or more exactly, they have thrown the baby out but have ended up with the bathwater still in the bath.

Understandably, many on our island feel unconnected to the decision making around them and that they have been ignored by “those in power”.  In my view, the problem lay much more with the government of Britain rather than of Europe.  Mainly, but not exclusively, because Westminster MPs often use “Europe” to blame for unpopular or unwise decisions at home.  Treat people badly for long enough and they will rise up.

It reminds me of a poem that my father read to me when I was a kid and I, in turn, read to my children.

“My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

“The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

“You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

“But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ’em out if it takes you all day.

They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark.
It’s the sport not the rabbits they’re after (we’ve plenty of game in the park).
Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man-at-arms you can find.

“Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking, instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’
Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ’em a lie!”

We live in interesting times.

United in diversity

european-union-flag-1024x7681Just as Britain has its motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (Evil to him who evil thinks), Europe too has a motto, first used in 2000, “United in diversity”. This sums up perfectly how the European Union unites all our different cultures, traditions and languages.

When one sits in the chamber of the lower house of the European parliament with representatives from 28 different states one fully appreciates how much our forebears achieved bringing us together to work for peace and prosperity.

United in diversity sums all of this up – see it translated into each language here.

Daily Express Wrong Again

Candle Europe

The Daily Express is typical of anti European government cant.  It claim that “EU officials want control of your candles”.  This is another misleading article.  The technical changes required to bring the various rules that apply in 28 different countries to a common acceptable standard are often mundane but nevertheless necessary.

They reported here that those ‘Eurocrats’ are beavering away deciding to add unnecessary regulations to candle production. What they didn’t quite understand was that a) it’s just been proposed, there’s been no decision made and b) the safety of chemicals used in candles varies hugely and reducing the number of incidents caused is surely in everyone’s best interests.

They bang on about rules, but just making one decision now will reduce the number of hoops to jump through later down the line, improving all of our safety, and making it much simpler for all of us to trade across the whole of Europe.

No European law can be passed without the agreement of both the upper and lower houses of the European parliament.  Just as British civil servants cannot make British law European civil servants cannot make European law. – simples.

I think we’ll put this down to a rare case of smoke without fire!

European Accounts signed off

european-union-flag-1024x7681Despite what many Eurosceptics will be peddling, the EU accounts have been signed off by the European Court of Auditors for the eighth year in a row. This clean bill of health puts to bed outlandish claims to the contrary Want more detail?  Both the revenue side and administrative expenditure are free from significant errors. The overall error rate in payments has declined for a second consecutive year, to 4.4% in 2014. The Court also, in its annual report on the implementation of the EU budget in 2014, stresses the progress made by the Commission to increase transparency and absorption concerning the management of EU funds.

Let’s Join the EU

Looking back over the history of the European Union I wish we had joined at the beginning in 1951 when the European Coal and Steel Community was inaugurated.  I think that Europe would have been a better place today had we done so – but there is no point crying over spilt milk.

British Empire

Back then Britain still had an empire of sorts and many in Britain could or would not conceive that the British Empire was about to fall apart; so one could readily understand the reluctance of the British people to join in the European journey.

Britain joins

When Britain finally joined in 1971 the original member states had already designed a Europe to suit themselves.  Many of their policies were not suitable for Britain.  For example, the protectionist and grossly inefficient Common Agricultural Policy was awash with grain, butter and beef mountains and wine lakes; with its high level of food prices it did not suit the average food buyer or third world food producers.  The poorly designed Common Fisheries Policy seemed to be determined to wipe out fish stocks.  There was no single market in goods and services.  Member states used all manner of means to protect their industries against their more efficient neighbours.  All meetings were held in multilingual settings making ordinary discussions difficult if not almost impossible.  The project was basically run for the benefit of the French – and who could blame them.

Britain makes changes

But what excellent changes have occurred through British membership.  Okay the Common Agriculture Policy is still around but it is much reduced.  Britain has substantially reformed the fisheries policy.  Britain pushed though the single market and encouraged the expansion of the union to include all Europe.  Britain made Europe look outwards – to be more competitive and created Europe to be the arbiter of global standards in trade and technology.  English is now the working language of the European Union with half the 500 million people having a functional competence in spoken and written English (apparently the average Dutch-person has a higher ability in English than the average Brit).

If Britain could make such changes over the last forty years just think what could be done over the next forty.  Of course there is more work to be done. By improving Europe we can help improve the whole world and, most importantly, make the lives of the British people better.  Britain cannot do this without getting engaged.

Britain cannot be engaged unless it adopts all European Union law – no opt outs.  In my view, the first items on the agenda are to establish the euro on a firm footing and to manage migration properly but there are medium-term to longer-term structural changes that need to be made too – like increasing democratic accountability.

Controlled Borders

Europe needs to manage its own borders. It should no longer rely on member states to do so.  Britain does not rely on Sussex to monitor our borders and nor should Europe rely on Greece or Hungary.  The processing, management and funding of non-European migrant should be entirely the responsibility of the European government.  I understand that 25% percent of recent migrants have come from Albania – nowhere near Syria.  It was pretty poor when I was there but it is not war ravaged.  Rather than let each state pass migrants onto Germany, Europe must set up border police and processing staff (where necessary a coast guard too) and these people must be directly employed by the European government – responsible to the European government using property owned, leased or rented by the European government.  I completely understand that such an approach is only a sticking plaster but Europe must get a grip.

Strong euro

Just like any modern country, Europe needs a currency and that currency must be backed by its government.  To properly function, among other things, there must also be an equalisation mechanism between the various member states.  Just like in Britain where funds flow from richer places like Surrey to poorer places like Northern Ireland (the average family in Surrey gives the average family in Northern Ireland £1,200 a year) so in Europe we should transfer funds from the richer part of Europe to the poorer parts.  It means that the European government provides directly to each European citizen a small monthly sum.  Very little is needed to completely stabilise the European economy.  True, European taxation would increase from the current 1% to 3% but that is nothing compared to the 40% that Westminster takes already.  The level of taxation would be limited by treaty so could not be increased without a referendum.

A further policy change that Britain would have to deal with itself would be to convert most welfare into a contributional framework.  There are two reasons for this: one because it is a good idea anyway (returning to the original basis for welfare when the Liberals invented it and Labour installed it after the war); second, because that is how virtually all the member states of the union work.  This policy would not end “welfare migration” but it would reduce it.  Welfare tourism is much lower than most people imagine it to be in any case.  A much more successful approach for Britain would be to resource the revenue staff to enable them to make sure employers are employing legal workers and paying them properly.

Britain could say to the other member states – we will join the euro and the passport area as long as the above measures are put in place and that every other member state also joins when we do.

No varied geometry, no opt-outs.  If you want to be in you are welcome to be in but the only other option is out.

Currently, Britain isn’t really in the European Union.  It is sort of semi-detached.  For example, one can drive from the Algarve, on the Atlantic, right across Europe to the Ukrainian border and you will not have to stop for passport control anywhere, or customs and euros are the currency in every country travelled though.  For nearly all Europeans, for all intents and purposes, Europe is already one country – it is just that the British, who normally fly, tunnel or take the ferry rather than drive (with all security that goes with them), rarely experience the freedom of moving around the world without borders.

We are in a time warp.

We need to vote in – really in.