Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Why us remainers shouldn’t be calling for a second referendum

“But Farage said he would call for a second referendum if remain won by 52%” cry some on the remain side. But does that make it right? No it doesn’t. Hand on heart and be honest, would you be really calling for a second referendum if remain had won by that margin? I know I wouldn’t. It may be a slim majority but it is technically a majority so the politicians have to listen to the people now and trigger article 50 and our exit from the EU. Interestingly though it is not a legally binding referendum and if parliament votes against it, we don’t leave the EU. Bear in mind the majority of MPs in parliament are in favour in staying, this is a distinct possibility. Although if parliament does this, you can imagine the backlash they’ll get and those MPs that voted against invoking article 50 would find it very hard to get re-elected. So it is unlikely to happen.

Is this a horrible result? Yes. Is the future uncertain and precarious? Yes. Does the idea of Boris Johnson being PM make my skin crawl? Absolutely. It is becoming increasingly clear that those on the leave side of the argument have no proper plan in place and have outright lied to the electorate on promises to do with the NHS for example. But what we remainers should be doing is pushing for the government to make sure we don’t get rid of things like the social chapter and environmental standards that we get from the EU. That will be very difficult. Even though there is very likely going to be a general election, I’m very worried whether the Tories will be ousted given that rather than take on the Tories, Labour seem to re-enacting an episode of Game of Thrones by brutally trying to get rid of their leader. It’s all a shambles at the moment in British politics but it is why we need people to remain calm and push for a progressive post Brexit Britain.  

To be honest, the only political leaders that have had any clarity are those pushing for remaining, Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron. Sturgeon has said to protect Scottish interests there needs to be a second independence referendum given that the majority of Scotland voted to remain. That makes sense. After all why would you accept leaving an organisation that the majority of your citizens voted to stay a part of? Although Tim Farron has said that in the next general election his party will have staying in the EU as a policy despite the referendum result. I’ve even seen some fellow Green Party members suggest that we make re-joining (through an eventual second referendum) as a manifesto pledge at the next election. Given that could be in a few months, I do worry about that pledge. It will make it look like we are ignoring the majority of the electorate in this country.

In hindsight I do think this referendum was a mistake. There was not a massive appetite to have one. It was only made so Cameron could stop Tory votes going to UKIP. It was also such a complicated issue that barely anyone, including me, fully understood how the EU works. I think what sums this all up is that a day after the referendum, the second most googled thing in Britain was “What is the EU?”  But that is all by-the-by. Even if it was a mistake, the referendum has happened and a slim majority of the electorate have spoken. We now need to live with that. Given that our friends, loved ones and neighbours are now facing torrents of abuse just from being EU citizens we need to help them and make sure we stop any more attacks and make sure that EU migrants are protected from potential deportation. I fear either not going through with Brexit or holding another referendum could further divide our country, cause more anger and resentment and make the situation a lot worse. I know a lot of people on the left of politics that did vote leave, So what I would like to see now is the progressives in politics on either side of the debate build bridges, unite and fight this government's austerity measures, which will sadly only get worse as a result of Brexit.

So stop going on about getting people to sign a petition for another referendum. We need to respect the wishes of a small majority of the electorate who wanted to leave a political union that felt distant to them. We on the remain side failed to put a really positive case for the EU forward. And this is where the EU itself has serious questions to answer as other nations themselves will start questioning their membership of the EU.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The debate surrounding the EU and why I’m voting remain.

So the EU debate. Hands up who cannot wait for it to be over and is sick of it some of the bullshit coming from both campaigns? (Shoots hand up drastically in the air). Well I’m afraid I’m going to be yet another mouthpiece trying to persuade you because this is such a huge decision that will effect all of us. So below I’m going to try and de-bunk some of the leave campaign’s claims and explain why I’m positively voting remain.

Firstly the “Leave” side say that we can get back our sovereignty and not let an undemocratic organisation make our laws. But just how undemocratic is the EU? Well the EU parliament elected by us can amend laws. The EU Commission which co proposes laws with the Council of Ministers (who are elected politicians from each country) is selected by the EU parliament and has a member for every country so no one country dominates the commission. Hope you are following this so far. So just be clear. Council of Ministers are elected politicians from every country. And the EU Commission is appointed by the democratic EU parliament. Compare that to the UK where we have a Parliament elected by us voting on laws that Ministers (elected MPs) come up with and we have an appointed House of Lords that can influence laws. Very similar to the EU. So rather than leave the EU to come up with laws only made in our vaguely democratic system, let’s improve the system in both the UK and EU so they are both more accountable and democratic. The EU does actually promote democracy because any country that wants to be a member has to be a democracy that gives it citizens’ rights and freedoms. Hence why Turkey will not become a member unless it changes its ways drastically regardless of what the leave side have said.

So that is the democracy argument de-bunked. What about our sovereignty? Surely each nation state should be free to make our own laws and regain complete control on any laws that have been made by the EU. Well there is an argument for that but I personally think some laws should be made internationally because that is the best way to make effective change. Climate Change, Air Pollution and Terrorism know no borders so it is good that we can have an international organisation that is partly elected by us coming up with laws to deal with those things. International workers’ rights legislation coming from the EU has raised standards everywhere in the EU (although not enough) and if we enhanced and improved it, it can stop forced migration. So if we have to pool some of our sovereignty as a nation state along with 27 other countries to help come up with legislation to benefit all of us, then that is something I’m quite comfortable with.

The leave side also say we can control immigration if we left the EU. Well considering most immigrants that come here every year, come from outside the EU it won’t make much of a difference to the numbers. (This is from the Office for National Statistics if you wish to look it up). Now the leave side have also said that whilst we should look to make trade deals elsewhere around the world, we can continue trading with the EU because it is in both their and our interests. Sure but if we want access to the single market from the EU, we have to accept freedom of movement as Norway and Switzerland do and how Canada will have to after they’ve signed up to the trade deal they have with the EU. Also if we wanted to amend freedom of movement then we have be a full member because having access to the single market but not the political union itself means we cannot influence any EU rules. The positive case for me though is that freedom of movement has meant that many British people have the opportunity to work and study abroad as well as EU citizens coming here. Ultimately different cultures mixing together makes our and other EU citizens lives more interesting and can create cohesion and understanding and a sense of unity and not division as it has done in London in particular.

The positive environmental case for the EU is also strong. We have laws meaning we have to have cleaner beaches because of the EU. We also have laws protecting our green spaces and making sure we have bio-diversity (i.e. the variety of plant and animal life in the world so that we can survive as a species ourselves). In regards to animals, the leave side have said “Fishing quotas” from the EU have limited the amount we can catch fish thus putting our fishing industry out of business. Well if we didn’t have these quotas, fish would run out quicker and thus that would in the long term put our fishing industry out of business. EU subsidies for “fish farms” means that we can selectively catch and breed fish and make that industry sustainable and protect the different species from going extinct. Bans on animals being used for cosmetic product testing has also come from the EU.

So to sum up. The EU is as democratic as our system but we can improve it. The good that comes from pooling sovereignty and making more effective decisions on animal rights, workers’ rights, protection of our environment and freedom of movement benefits all of us across the EU. So for the reasons above, please vote to remain in the EU on Thursday.

P.S.  Apologies if some of the things I’ve talked about are technical but I felt I need to really take apart the leave campaign’s arguments. If you would like to know more or debate this, please comment below or find me on Facebook or email me at lee.burkwood@gmail.com