Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Brexit – the vote that dare not speak its name

From our European & Foreign Affairs correspondent, Patsy

Since 23rd June I have been challenged from within and without my family asking why a person like me (i.e. well educated and relatively comfortable financially) would vote to leave the EU. Plainly I don’t fit the stereotype.

I have therefore had to formulate a relatively short answer which covers as many of the bases as possible. When asked why I voted to leave the EU, I now reply: I voted to leave a sclerotic, undemocratic, unnecessarily bureaucratic, remote, unwieldy, expensive gravy train weighted in favour of the French and the Germans. What did you vote for?

The answer, when it comes, is usually – trade.

I then have to point out that Britain has been trading with continental Europe since the day when the North Sea poured in and separated the two land masses. Attempts to block this trade, e.g. during the Napoleonic Wars, simply resulted in an increase in smuggling – watching Poldark, anybody?

But I want to be able to work in EU countries!

And then I have to say that in the late 60’s I worked for some time in France. All I needed was confirmation that I had a job to go to and that guaranteed me a visa. Quite a good system, don’t you think? The French didn’t want loads of people bumming around the country with no regular source of income, and neither did we.

So the last answer is – I want to holiday in Europe without having to obtain a visa. This elicits a comment and a question:

Long before we joined the EU I had enjoyed holidays in Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Portugal. All I needed was a passport.

Are you really willing to give up your right to democratic self-determination so that you can lie on a beach in Spain or Italy or whatever for two weeks a year?

Answer there came none.



  1. I might agree with your opinion of the EU and of 'Remainers' but their views were not necessarily without merit and the Referendum Campaign was a very ill-informed debate.

    The main reason for the 'Leave' vote (look at the areas of the country where it was strongest) was the under-cutting of jobs by what have become known as "BFPs" ("Bulgarian Fruit Pickers"). We were asked to accept allegedly low-skilled jobs being imported because "You don't want to stand in a muddy field in Norfolk, do you?" BUT workers were brought in by unscrupulous employers on "Temporary Agency Contracts" at £3.50 an hour and were fetching up as kitchen fitters in West Bromwich, putting UK-based firms out of business and forcing the lay-off of their employees. If you Google "EU social dumping" and "Bolkestein Directive" it's all there.

    As long as I was working we always had IT Consultants from Nigeria, USA, Canada, Australia and, yes, Poland; and people of my age can remember the NHS being staffed by nurses from the Caribbean and doctors from India.

    The issues regarding "Migrant Workers" post-Brexit are not about people who could apply for jobs just as they have done since 1945, as these people will continue to be recruited as they have been. Therefore, given that we can have engineers from Spain and Poland filling vacancies, both Leavers and Remainers are wondering why the CONTINUED movement of Workers (not "people" - that's not what Article 45 says) from Europe (and elsewhere) should mean that we cannot have some level of membership of the Single Market?

    The real issue for the GOVERNMENT "post-Brexit" is that Policy has been predicated upon preventing people coming IN to the UK (from Europe and everywhere else) whereas the real problem is the inability to get people OUT who should not be here. This includes EU jobseekers who have exceeded the limit of their allowable time under EU Rules.

  2. ... the real problem is the inability to get people OUT who should not be here ...

    We must be the laughing stock of the rest of the world. A few years ago I heard an interview on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire with the owner of a video rental shop who was involved in a long running battle over the counterfeit DVDs that were flooding his town and destroying his business.

    In desperation, he had met the first off-peak train from London one morning and performed a citizen's arrest on an oriental looking gentleman who was carrying a heavy holdall. He deposited him at the local police station and returned to his shop.

    Late that afternoon he asked the police what had happened. They told him that they were not experts on counterfeit DVDs so they had asked the local Trading Standards to verify if the DVDs the gentleman had were fakes or not but they were too busy to send anyone to look at them.

    The man turned out to be in the country long after his permit had run out but the Border Agency couldn't spare anybody to deal with him so they had no choice but to let him go ...

  3. Absolutely with you on every count Patsy! An American colleague living in Belgium alleged a while back that Britain was 'the laughing stock of Europe' because we always wanted to play straight....ho hum, eh.

  4. Thank you all for your positive comments and enlightening anecdotes. You have to laugh or you would cry.

    It makes me very cross when politicians and commentators refer to the free movement of labour and the free movement of people as though the terms were interchangeable. The former means that anybody can go abroad to work, the latter that any Tom Dick and Harry, sick or well, can go anywhere and beg on the streets or live off the guest State or both.

    I am not cross, I am actually enraged by the same treatment of the terms 'Member of' and 'Access to' the single market. Not being a member does not mean that there is no access. It simply means that WTO tariffs apply where there is no specific trade treaty. I cannot believe that the remaining members of the EU will wish to apply tariffs to our exports as that will simply lead to our doing the same to theirs. I heard on the radio recently that BMW sell one-fifth of their production in the UK , so they aren't going to be keen on tariffs. Nobody likes a trade war, but some of us may think that it is worthwhile to free ourselves from the vice-like grip of a doomed institution.

    However, we have a problem while Jean-Claude Juncker is President of the EU Commission. Not only is he very anxious, by making an example of us, to deter other EU countries from considering leaving the EU, he also has personal animosity towards the UK as we opposed him in the Presidential election. We can only expect a hard line from him. But a week is a long time in politics, and two years is a very long time in which almost everything can change.

    I still suspect that there is a strong movement to reverse Brexit, and the members of it are beginning to make themselves known (e.g Tony Blair this week.) I think that at some stage, an excuse will be found to ask us again and hope for a different answer. I don't see how my vote could possibly change, seeing as I am voting on the principles and aims of the EU, which will not alter, and not on the details of the deal.

  5. Ironically our leave vote may be the one time the rest of Europe agrees with us and thinks we are right.It may also well save Europe from itself before it us too late. Just because we don't love EU does not mean we are not Europeans.