Why did you vote to leave the EU? What do you hope to gain from it?
These are the two questions that I am most frequently asked whenever Brexit is the topic of conversation. But to answer these questions, it is not as simple as repeating the mantra of “taking back control” because it is a question of far more than an issue of national sovereignty.
However, in order to find out why I voted for Brexit, it might be useful to briefly start with why the UK is in the EU in the first place.
In 1972, when the Heath government decided to take Britain into the “Common Market”, the British people were told that it was merely a free trade association. However, it is a little known fact that nowhere in the European Communities Act 1972 (the document that paved the way for the UK’s membership) does it actually mention UK trade with Europe. And it is a fact that the Foreign Office received legal guidance, that the Heath government were fully aware of, that signing up to the Treaty of Rome would mean the end of British parliamentary sovereignty.
So in order to push through the UK’s membership, Heath used Parliament’s legal sovereignty and status as representative of the electorate to simply go ahead and sign the accession documents and permanently limit the political sovereignty of the British electorate, in complete contravention of both British law and the Constitution – and we, the British people, who never voted to join what is now the EU, have been living with the consequences ever since.
As to what I hope to gain from Brexit, yes, there is the question of “taking back control” but there are many areas that this “control” applies to. For instance, who makes the laws that apply in the UK.
Under British law and the Constitution, the only body that has the legal authority to create and pass laws in the UK is still the Parliament at Westminster because the 1689 Bill of Rights (which has never been repealed and is therefore still in force ) states that:
“No foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate has or ought to have jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority within this Realm.”
Despite this legal injunction, various UK governments have signed up to various EU treaties over the past 44 years, and the UK has had to ‘adopt’ into British law all laws that are made under the competence of the EU, principally in the form of EU Directives and Regulations.
And while it cannot be doubted that some of these laws and regulations have had a positive effect, such as the Working Time Directive, it cannot be denied that most of these regulations actually do not apply to the circumstances that obtain in the UK. This is particularly true for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), of which there are approximately 5.5 million in the UK private sector.
But just 8% of them actually directly export to the EU. So while the UK is still a member state of the EU, these SMEs must comply with Single Market regulations. But what about the other 5.1 million? Do they also have to comply with EU regulations?
Well, the simple answer is YES, even if it puts them at a competitive disadvantage. But just how many local shops on our high streets need to go bust before the British people realise that it is too late to undo the damage done by cheap EU imports?
Another interesting fact about EU laws and regulations is that House of Commons Information Office Factsheet L11 2010 on ‘EU Legislation and Scrutiny Procedures’ clearly states that the great majority of EU legislation is made directly by the [unelected and unaccountable] EU Commission, and is not subject to EU parliamentary scrutiny. It is also a little known fact that, under the terms of the various EU Treaties, the EU Commission alone has the power to legislate in various areas on its own account without reference to the EU Council – for example, in certain areas related to state aids (e.g. financial support from public funds for commercial enterprises).
My expectation from Brexit in respect of laws therefore is that we – and only we -, the British people through our elected MPs, will regain the right to make the laws that apply in the UK.
Issues such as Britain’s need for immigrant European workers has also been repeatedly mentioned by Remainers as being essential for the UK economy but this ignores the fact that the Leave Campaign never said a vote to leave the EU would mean an end to immigration. However, when the UK leaves the EU we will be able to use our own judgement to decide immigration criteria and quotas based solely on the economic needs of the UK without being forced to allow people to enter the country purely because of the passport they hold.
And if we want European citizens to come and live and work in Britain, as hundreds of thousands of them did prior to the UK joining the EEC, we will be able act and legislate accordingly without being forced to accept migrant labourers that we either do not need or who are prepared to accept wages that drive down those of our own people in similar occupations.
I do not doubt that immigration has had positive benefits, especially in the NHS.
However, it must be remembered that the overwhelming number of immigrants that were originally employed in the NHS came either from the Commonwealth or the British Overseas Territories. But opening up jobs to EU immigrants has done much to persuade citizens from these countries that the UK no longer welcomes them, preferring instead to employ people from the near Continent.
To my mind this is outrageous and no thanks for all that this country owes the people of countries such as India, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, not just for all the British goods they bought over the years before we joined the “Common Market” but for all they did for this country in two world wars!
And it must be pointed out that House of Commons Briefing Paper Number 7783 dated 10 April 2017 shows that the NHS employs just over 1.1 million people but of all the non-UK staff employed by the NHS, only 5.5% come from the EU with just 6.7% coming from other non-UK countries. Therefore, UK staff make up almost 90% of the total number of NHS employees. So the Remainer claim that the NHS will suddenly collapse should EU employees leave is patent nonsense.
Another issue that greatly concerns me about the NHS is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), secretly negotiated and signed on behalf of all EU member states by the EU’s Foreign Affairs and Trade High Representatives.
My concern is the inbuilt right under the terms of the CETA for non-Canadian parent companies, especially those based in the USA, to challenge EU governments in court to at least prevent the loss of private finance input into areas such as the NHS but also the direct forced privatisation of state-owned enterprises, which has been denied by the EU Commission (but is there for all to read), and is probably the reason why the CETA was negotiated in secret.
In the area of trade itself, the reason why we were supposed to have joined the EEC in the first place, it is a fact that the UK’s exports to Europe are now lower than they were before the UK joined the bloc.
In the 13 years before the UK joined the EEC, our exports to the 11 core states saw growth of 131%, which grew to 136% between 1973 and 1993 as the union worked together on the creation of a Common Market system. However, the value of UK exports to the same 11 economies has only risen by 2.8% in the years since the creation of the Single Market.
While the EU’s economy hasn’t shrunk in size since the creation of the Single Market, the rest of the world has grown faster. That’s why the EU’s GDP (and by implication – as a member state – the UK’s GDP) makes up a smaller proportion of the total of world purchasing power parity than it did in 1973.
This has had a particularly devastating effect on the UK’s agricultural sector. For instance, in 1972, the UK produced almost 96% of the beef it ate but this has recently fallen to just below 70% due to EU imports. Not only has this resulted in many farms going bust but it has also been the major contributory factor for the rise in the cost of beef products to British shoppers – principally through making imports from countries like New Zealand have become ever more expensive.
In May of this year (2017) a House of Lords committee published a report looking at the impact of Brexit on agriculture which set out the challenges that the producer lobbies in British agriculture and food sectors will face when we leave the EU but nowhere did they recognise that French-driven protectionism has driven both UK and EU food prices above world prices.
However, the report does briefly quote evidence from Lord Forsyth and Professor Alan Swinbank (a former professor at the University of Reading) which argues that, after Brexit, there will be opportunities to open agriculture to international competition and to lower British food prices, which will benefit all consumers, especially those on lower incomes.
But the real damage as far as trade is concerned is the fact that since the UK joined the EEC, we have no longer been responsible for who we trade with nor under what those arrangements are. Of course, the UK (and any other member state) could have vetoed any such agreement but none has – and shame on various UK governments for not doing so.
We have also had to allow cheap imports from the EU to enter the British market which, in itself, has done immeasurable damage to UK producers, forcing up their prices which has then forced overall prices to rise.
And it must be noted that were the UK to trade under WTO rules, tariffs would range at somewhere around 3.8% compared to an average EU external tariff of some 7.5%. This alone has driven the cost of non-EU imports to levels far above those that would have applied were we not now in the EU.
My expectation (not just hope) is that, free from the constraints of the Single Market, the UK will be able to negotiate reciprocal bilateral trade deals with countries like Canada and Australia and, where necessary, trading blocs such as the EU because this would not only allow for cheaper imports but also boost British exports because there will be no need for external tariffs to be applied by the importing country or trading bloc – as there is currently with the Single Market.
These, for me at least, were the three main reasons why I voted for the UK to leave the EU. But they are not the only ones.
But perhaps THE main reason why I voted for the UK to leave the EU is that I believe that our own government and the British people, for better or worse, should be the only ones making the decisions for our own society and economy as they were for hundreds of years before the EU was formed or even thought of.
It should not be those whose interests lie in the creation of a European superstate ruled by unelected bureaucrats.