If anything good or interesting came out of the EU debate over the past few weeks whilst I was out of the country I would have seen it in the British newspapers. However, whilst I chose not to purchase The Times, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Sun or The Daily Express from the local Greek Supermarket near to where I was staying, one glance at the daily headlines informed me that very little had changed or improved since I left home. Both sides were still peddling the same untruths with the Remain camp, arguably, becoming more negative by the day with David Cameron focusing on each potentially concerned cohort in turn. One day, the PM is forecasting disaster for businesses if we Brexit, the next day it’s pensioners and so on. About the only group that Cameron has ignored are the homeless but they don’t count as they won’t be voting anyway. And wasn’t it one of Mr Cameron’s friends, the Tory MP and now Lord, George Young, who referred to the homeless as those people you step over on your way out of the opera? Sir George also had the misfortune to appear in a poster campaign with the late Jimmy Saville in the early 1980s. However, to be fair, he wasn’t the only Tory who believed the former DJ to be excellent company.
It’s all very well to suggest where Britain might face difficulties should we leave the EU but seriously, don’t we have highly paid experts in place to manage such things as the economy to ensure that we only suffer the minimum amount of damage? The Governor of The Bank of England, Mark Carney, will no doubt have returned to his native Canada by the time the EU referendum dust settles so rather than him simply going along with all of the other nay-sayers wouldn’t it be more useful for him to concentrate on how we best do this in the unlikely event that Britain actually leaves the EU? I say unlikely because there has been so much negative campaigning from the Remain camp that I’m surprised that any sane British person hasn’t simply given up listening and asked for the ballot paper now, in order to put themselves out of their misery. It’s like being interrogated by the police prior to the PACE Act coming in – just give me the form to sign gov and I’ll admit to everything, just stop it with the verbals Please!
There are a number of reasons why I believe that we should vote Leave however, I never expected to find myself in agreement with individuals such as the politician Iain Duncan Smith, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson [Nigel] , the UKIP campaigner Nigel Farrage and the journalist Rod Liddle, none of whom I would ever wish to share a taxi with or anything else for that matter. However, there are others that, I am proud to say, share my views and these include the former cricketer, Ian Botham, Tory minister Theresa Villiers [ Secretary of State for Northern Ireland], Labour MP for Vauxhall, South London, Kate Hoey, Lord Owen [ David Owen ] and the businessman, Lord Digby Jones. I say businessman but Digby is so much than that. He is arguably the most inspirational, motivational business leader of the past fifty years [if you should ever want to view an impressive Curriculum Vitae [CV] then I suggest you check Digby’s out] a Leicester City and Aston Villa Supporter, author, visionary, social reformer and all round good guy.
Those latter four individuals mentioned above have perhaps, more experience of the European Union than the former sportsman but the views of everyone, including those who want to remain, are equally valid. That’s how it should be in a situation that is based, above all else, on the notion of democracy. However, look what happened with the Scottish referendum? The Scots were on course to vote leave until the nay-sayers intervened with their negative campaign fuelling fear into the hearts and minds of voters. Ironically, those voters who listened to what both former and current Labour politicians had to say, demonstrated their anger a few months later when they virtually kicked them out of Scotland. That’s fine, that’s democracy in action – or was it? I suspect that it was more a case of the fear of the unknown taking hold at the last minute. The Scots want another go now though! Not content with rejecting a “so-called” once in a lifetime opportunity to change the course of history, they want to go through it all again and at our expense.
Disregarding the recent Scottish referendum we should look at what those people mentioned have to say about the EU. Theresa Villiers who spent six years [ 1999 – 2005 as a MEP [ Member of the European Parliament ] a former barrister and lecturer in law at King’s College, London and currently the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland admits that her concerns about the EU were confirmed during the six years she spent working in Brussels as a MEP. She says that she used to think that the UK tabloids exaggerated their claims about the place but in fact, her experience led her to believe that if anything, they had understated them. As a lawyer herself, Ms Villiers was shocked to learn that EU law had supremacy over UK law and the only way to change this would be to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972. However, the only way that Britain can do this is by leaving the EU. Whilst this might appear to be a fairly drastic measure, Theresa Villiers is not convinced by all the arguments about the British economy collapsing if we were to leave. She believes that it would be worth taking the risk in order to become a self-governing country again, spending our own money and making our own laws.
I’ve always held the highest regard for the Labour MP, Kate Hoey and I was pleased to learn that she is also in favour of leaving the EU. The basis of all democracy, she argues, is the ability to remove the people who make decisions over your life. ” This can certainly be done in our small consituencies, but is virtually impossible at EU level. The EU Parliament is hugely expensive, has virtually no power and MEPs are all but unknown in the mega regions they cover.” [ from: Another View, The i newspaper, 10.6/16] Personally, I am aware of who my own MEP is and I have also had dealings with the her two predecessors. However, I am not convinced that any of them has ever done anything to directly benefit our region. They may well appear on television saying that for every pound we hand over to the EU, Yorkshire gets ten back but this is clearly not true. Even if you don’t subscribe to the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t, the fact remains that for every two pounds we hand over, the EU gives us one pound back. What you need to bear in mind however, is that not only does the EU hand back money which belonged to us in the first place it then dictates how that money is spent.
Another former politician who I had the pleasure to get to know in a former life, is Lord Owen who as a founding member of the SDP [ Social Democratic Party ] I met on several occasions in the early 1980s. David Owen then, just as now, has always been passionate about two things; The NHS and the future of Europe. Not surprising, considering that he was both a GP and Foreign Secretary [ 1977-79 ]. I saw him on TV recently discussing the EU debate and was relieved to see that he hasn’t lost any of his debating skills, nor, has he become “soft” in his old age. When questioned about Simon Stevens’ [ the current head of NHS England ] warning about the detrimental effect leaving the EU would have on the NHS, Lord Owen dismissed his claims adding that it was Mr Stevens job to sort out the mess that the NHS has been allowed to get into and not to be adding his voice to the deluge of unsubstantiated claims about the EU. Mr Stevens predecessor, [Sir]David Nicholson had been instrumental in bringing about the most radical reform of the NHS since its’ conception under the auspices of Health Minister, Andrew Lansley and it appears that Mr Stevens is more than happy to continue in a similar role for the current minister Jeremy Hunt. However, none of the reforms have, so far, been greeted with much approval from either NHS staff or their patients.
The greatest threat to the NHS apart from this Tory Government is undoubtedly, the Trans-Altlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] agreement giving multinational corporations the power to sue our government in the pursuit of further privatisation of our public services. Only by leaving the EU will we ever be safe from the risk of the NHS becoming privatised under the terms of the TTIP. You might say that the health service is already largely privatised but there is a huge difference between say, individuals having the option to pay for private health care and health care only being available to those who can afford to pay for it. Karol Sikara, a former Chief Executive of the World Health Organisation who has worked in the NHS for more than forty years believes that treatments are already being rationed in an attempt to save money. He states that “..the [NHS] is there to make sure that the organisation and the people within it make a living and to make sure that the burden on society as a whole is not too great.” In other words, the NHS is being run in exactly the same way as any other large business, the big difference being that the tax-payer picks up the bill whilst those running the service walk off with the profits. However, the “free at the point of need” service is still subject to “Cost Benefit Analysis” which means that the treatment or care you require may not always be available in your area nor will other NHS Trusts have to provide it instead.
The Tories want to transform the current NHS from being a “Free at the point of need” public service to an American Style insurance-based system with all but the most basic of interventions being funded by the patients. This is how the public health services operate in the United States and it explains why the poorer, more disadvantaged sections of American society suffer from more chronic illnesses than their better-off neighbours. The Remain group however, claim that the NHS will be safer if we vote to remain a member of the EU. That simply does not compute whichever way you look at it and everyone from Nigel Lawson to Digby Jones find the claim simply laughable. Another former Chief Executive of the NHS, [Lord] Nigel Crisp, who like David Nicholson is an advocate of further NHS privatisation warns that a Brexit would make it more difficult to fill staff shortages within the health service. However, he ignores the fact that since the health service reforms began in 2008/9, the NHS has seen a huge exodus of GPs and other health professionals, many of whom are now working elsewhere in Europe, Canada and the United States. Listening to some of these health professionals explaining why they chose to leave the NHS, it seems that not being able to offer patients the treatment they need is the main motivation.
In conclusion, I can only restate something that has already been said in my previous blogs that whether you vote In or Out, you do it in the certainty that it may well prove to be the wrong decision. That is the only thing we can be sure of. No side in the debate has yet come up with any concrete evidence to suggest how Britain will prosper, or, not prosper after June 23rd. Of course, no one likes uncertainty. Most of us continue to put our savings in the banks or building societies knowing full well that those savings are unlikely to grow very much but at least we know that our money will be safe. That’s a bit like deciding to vote Remain in my opinion however, there are still people who would rather take a risk now and then. They look at the odds of that risk paying off and perhaps, they take the advice of leading experts to help them decide. However, at some point their final decisions boil down to nothing more scientific than a gut feeling. How many of us have gone against a really strong “gut feeling” only to regret it later? A friend of mine once turned down the chance to invest a couple of thousand pounds in a young rock band that was trying to get established in late 1980s because their music was more to his son’s taste than his own. A decade later each member of that band was worth at least fifty million pounds! My response to my friend was if he had the money to spare why didn’t he loan it to his son for him to invest in his friends group and then they would have both become rich? It’s not the same thing I know but I’m simply trying to illustrate my point about taking a risk, looking beyond the obvious pitfalls to what might actually turn out to be a good thing.