£156, not £350 million!

Treasury figures have confirmed that, in the year to March 2017, our contribution to the EU was £156m a week. This is less than half, 44.5% to be exact, of the £350m figure loudly boasted on the side of Vote Leave’s infamous battle bus in last year’s Referendum campaign.

The facts are that our gross contribution was £325 million a week, but before the money was sent to the EU our rebate was deducted. Once you factor in the EU’s payments to us, something Vote Leave seemed to forget about, we paid £156 million a week.

This is a small percentage of our national GDP: once you consider all the benefits we get in trade, travel, education opportunities, and in working collaborative on issues such as the environment and workers’ rights, it seems to be a very good deal indeed to me.

The Brexit deal we are looking at now seems likely to do only 2 things: cost us more and benefit us less.

I would like to see the full potential cost to our country of that ‘£350m’ lie calculated and billed to Messrs Gove and Johnson: see if they still want to pursue a hard Brexit then.

Back Benyon to back Brexit

An article in Newbury Weekly News online today confirms that UKIP are not standing a candidate in Newbury constituency in the 2017 General Election.

Instead they are urging their voters to back Richard Benyon on 8 June in order to back Brexit.

Chairman of UKIP Newbury, Roy Tubb, is quoted as saying:“We suggest … that UKIP supporters consider voting for Richard Benyon, if only to increase the chance of the referendum result being properly implemented.”

In response, Mr Benyon suggests they are not fielding a candidate because UKIP have no one who will stand, but, as the preferred candidate for right-wing Leave voters, how can Mr Benyon represent those who voted Remain?

Mr Benyon has previously said he will use the Remain vote in West Berkshire to lobby the Prime Minister for a better deal with the EU. However, Mrs May seems incapable of taking advice from her cabinet, let alone her backbenchers.

As there is little evidence that he has ever voted against his party, it seems clear that a vote for Benyon is a vote for a hard Tory Brexit that will leave us all worse off.

Happy Europe Day

In the New European today, Stephen Dorrell published an article to mark the 67th Europe Day. He explains:

‘On May 9, 1950 Robert Schuman made a speech as French Foreign Minister which initiated the development of the institutions which became the European Union. His objective was to begin the process of integrating the economic and political interests of member states of a new European Coal and Steel Community so that war between them became “not merely unthinkable but materially impossible”’

Keeping that objective as both a priority and a reality is why many people voted Remain in June 2016, including one of our members.

What are your reflections about our current relationship with our European neighbours on Europe Day?

The Brexit Election

Within 2 hours of Theresa May calling a General Election, it is already being called the ‘Brexit Election’.

10 months after the referendum we have more information now than we did on 23 June 2016 on what Brexit will mean for this country, and the direction the Tory government seeks to take this country in.

How will Brexit affect the way you vote on 8 June?

Impact Stories: electric Mini production may leave Oxford

It has been reported that BMW are considering moving the production of the electric Mini from their Oxford plant to Germany: a major blow to the government which wants to put electric vehicles at the heart of the UK’s industrial strategy.

The move is not confirmed but in a statement BMW have said: “What’s important for us is that the UK’s negotiations with the EU result in uncomplicated, tariff-free access to the EU single market in future.”

With Teresa May’s hard line on Brexit, it looks like BMW will be disappointed and our local economy damaged.

Is now the time to reconsider ID cards?

Last week, as EU migrants protested about being used as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations, Alice Thomson of the Times posed the question whether now is the time to reconsider the issue of ID cards.

When last considered a decade ago, it was blocked (in part by David Davis) due to privacy and cost concerns. However, our immigration service is at breaking point: would an ‘ID app’  be a way of responding to and allaying people’s concerns about the number of people entering the country and allow those who are here to feel welcome?

Thomson quotes an EU national who moved to the UK from France 18 years ago: “The UK is a very tolerant country but I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be accepted and integrated.”

The democratic thing to do

Last June, Southampton voted to Leave the EU. Yet Southampton’s Labour MP, Alan Whitehead, voted against the Bill to trigger Article 50.

Reading Alan Whitehead’s explanation makes an interesting comparison with Richard Benyon’s reasons for voting for the Bill.

Mr Benyon supported the Bill because he believed it the thing to do as a “democrat”: the UK voted to Leave.

Although he believes leaving will “produce a worse future for our country”, he wants to use the Remain vote in his constituency to push for a ‘clever‘ Brexit, which “serves the needs of West Berkshire businesses”.

Mr Whitehead felt the Government’s 4 line Bill did not provide a basis for an informed debate:

“I do not think that rushing into triggering Article 50 without clarity on what we will be doing is in our country’s best interest, and I was not prepared to stand by and allow us to go down what I regard as a potentially very dangerous path for the UK.”

Both voted against their constituents: so, which do you regard as the more democratic response?

48 questions for Brexiteers

In response to Tony Blair’s speech last week, calling on us “to rise up in defence of what we believe” (read it in full here), Alaistair Campbell has asked the following 48 questions of the Brexiteers, one for each percentage that voted Remain:

1 Do you accept that many people who voted Leave did so without knowing the full terms of Brexit?

2 Do you accept that it is open to the people to change their minds if they decide Brexit will in fact harm their own and the country’s interests?

3 Do you accept that there is no monopoly on patriotism and that there might be a patriotic case for wishing to reverse the referendum decision, if enough people feel it will be damaging to the UK?

4 Do you agree the government approach can now be defined as ‘Brexit at any cost’?

5 Do you accept that people are entitled to be concerned at the scale of that cost, economically and politically?

6 Do you accept that the financial cost of withdrawal, the UK having to pay for previous EU obligations but not benefit from future opportunities, could be as high as £60bn?

7 Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s and the Chancellor’s former views that maintaining our partnership with the biggest political union and largest commercial market on our doorstep fulfills rather than diminishes our national interest?

8 Is there not something surreal about the Prime Minister and Chancellor now claiming hard Brexit is a huge boon for the country when during the campaign they said the opposite, in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s case with real conviction?

9 Do you accept that politics, not economics or the genuine national interest, is now driving the hard Brexit chosen by May?

10 Are you seriously saying the PM’s vision of Britain as a ‘great open trading nation’ is best served by leaving the largest free trading bloc in the world? Might her vision of Britain as a bridge between Europe and the US be more realistic if we remained part of the EU?

11 In what way will her call for a fairer capitalism be met by moving to a low tax, light regulation economy?

12 Do you accept that if the right-wing ideologues pushing a hard Brexit so Britain becomes a low tax, low regulation, offshore hub have their way, we will need huge tax and welfare changes? Were they voted for in the referendum?

13 Will this approach in fact lead to less not more public money for the NHS? Less not more protection for workers?

14 Is it not the case that the UK government could make these changes now, but wouldn’t because they know they do not have public support for them?

15 Is there any chance at all that Brexit will lead to £350m a week more for the NHS?

16 Please define the ‘big argument’ that Tony Blair says is missing from this pursuit of hard Brexit, and how it will benefit Britain economically.

17 Do you agree that of the many arguments put forward for Leave in the referendum, only immigration and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) are still really being pursued?

18 Do you accept that the Leave campaign deliberately conflated the ECJ and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?

19 Can you confirm that that ECHR is not and never has been a EU body?

20 Can you name any laws the UK government has not been able to pass because of the ECJ?

21 Can you confirm that of net immigration into the UK in 2016, over half was from outside the EU?

22 Do you accept that as May wants to keep those EU immigrants who come with a confirmed job offer, and students, this leaves around 80,000 who come looking for work without a job?

23 Do you agree that of these 80,000, roughly a third come to London, mostly working in the food processing and hospitality sectors; and that the practical impact of Brexit on our ‘control’ of immigration is on analysis less than 12% of the immigration total?

24 Do you agree that most of the immigrants we are talking about in this 12% work hard and pay their taxes?

25 Do you think the biggest constitutional, political, economic and social change of our lifetime is merited by such numbers as set out in questions 23 to 26?

26 Do you accept that the immigration most people worry about – that of people determined to challenge our security and way of life, in the name of a perverted view of Islam – is not affected by Brexit?

27 Do you agree that the post Article 50 negotiations are going to be as complex as any we have experienced, covering a vast number of areas?

28 Do you accept, as a matter of fact, that the Single Market covers around half of our trade in goods and services?

29 Do you accept that leaving the Customs Union may adversely impact on trade with other countries like Turkey?

30 Can you confirm that we will need to negotiate the replacement of over 50 Preferential Trade Agreements we have via our membership of the EU?

31 Do you accept that EU-related trade is actually two thirds of the UK total?

32 Do you accept scientific research and culture are both going to suffer as a result of Brexit, and indeed already are?

33 Are you content to have the WTO as a fall back strategy should we fail to reach a satisfactory deal within two years?

34 Do you accept this too has enormous complexity attached to it; that we would need to negotiate the removal not just of tariff barriers; but the prevention of non-tariff barriers which today are often the biggest impediments to trade?

35 Do you agree that the fall in the value of sterling against the euro and the dollar as a result of Brexit is an indication that the international financial markets believe we are going to be poorer?

36 Do you accept that therefore the price of imported goods is up and so will be inflation?

37 Do you agree that the Single Market and enlargement were huge foreign policy successes for the UK?

38 Do you agree that the Single Market has brought billions of pounds of wealth, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and major investment opportunities for the UK?

39 Do you agree that enlargement has enhanced EU and NATO security?

40 Do you accept that in the early 21st century, most countries are seeking to forge rather than break regional and economic alliances?

41 Do you agree we can do more on issues like the environment with others than alone?

42 Do you agree that the route taken on and since June 23 has helped revive the argument about Scotland leaving the UK?

43 Do you accept that the failure to address the question of how to maintain EU freedom of movement without a hard border between Ireland and the UK is destabilising the peace process?

44 Do you accept the government is obsessed with Brexit, and has no choice but to be so?

45 Do you accept that the scale of government focus on Brexit is having a detrimental impact on their ability to deal with other issues, such as the NHS, education, the new economy, crime, prisons – and, er, immigration policy?

46 Do you accept there is a cartel of right wing newspapers skewing the debate in the broadcast media, and whose support for May is contingent on her pursuing a hard Brexit policy?

47 Do you agree that had the business survey mentioned by Tony Blair said the opposite – namely huge confidence in Brexit – it would have led the news because the cartel would have splashed on it, not ignored it?

48 Do you accept Brexit has divided the country across its nations, regions and generations, contrary to May’s claim to have 65 million people behind her?

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