Sunday, 19 June 2016

I hate the word "great" (An EU blog)

Okay, maybe hate is a little too strong; I don't really know if there is anything I really hate. I dislike a lot of stuff; who doesn't? But hate? Anyway - enough of semantics. I really do feel a need to type and it's not on my novel (much as I do want to work on that a little more).

It's the EU. Obviously it's the EU. With it being four days away from a referendum in the UK how could it be anything but the EU Referendum. I feel passionately about the EU. I don't blinker myself to its faults, of which there are many, but I believe that it is a tremendous force for good in the world. And that world includes the UK. I think we have benefitted enormously from being a member nation over these past 43 years. And this isn't just a fat cat big businessman benefit. Yes, being in the single market does make a lot of cross border business easier (even given some of the bureaucracy it adds) but it extends beyond that. It affects us all and in a mainly positive way.

Just go google how many workers' rights we all enjoy (mandatory minimum paid holidays, maternity leave, paternity leave and so much more) and you'll see this interfering nannying that some people complain about isn't such a bad thing - and c3ertainly nowhere near as intrusive as I've heard claimed. A lot of the stories you may have heard over the years that make it seem this way don't really stand up to fact checking. We've all heard about EU regulations on the size and straightness of bananas - just try to find an actual regulation.

So, yes there are problems with the institution but these are fixable - and from my travels in Europe I know there are common feelings about making it all better in most member countries. David Cameron managed to get a number of amendments to policies and practices earlier this year. Keep at it and I am sure a number more may be achieved. And we will get these by working with our partners not by pissing them off with all the rubbish we've been hearing.

(Okay time to state a couple more personal things so you judge my words against my politic views. In the last election I did not vote Conservative. Thinking back I would guess that there are maybe two or three times ever I've voted anything other than Lib Dem or Green. Next thing is I am focussing my previous statement about rubbish towards both sides of the argument. This needed to be an informed discussion detailing the truth of the choice we all have to make, not a campaign of lies and scaremongering.)

I'm going to mostly ignore the $350million per week we pay into the EU. All I'm going to say is it patently untrue. This has been said over and over again and yet it still hasn't gone away. I really think I'm going to start telling people that there are a race of intelligent humanoid creatures on Mars building canals and fighting to manage the dwindling water resources on their planet. This idea was thought to be true in Victorian times and has long since been shown as false but what the hell - why not try to keep it going? (Okay maybe that was a big paragraph for something I'm ignoring.)

Onto other things. There's one claim that I don't understand. There is a claim that VAT could be removed on household fuel bills if we leave the EU. It's true. We could. But I don't see the benefit of it. After all it seems to be acknowledged by many, many people (even some of the leave brigade) that leaving would cause the pound to drop against other currencies. As all of the fossil fuels are traded in dollars wouldn't that make fuel more expensive? Unless the fuel companies chose to not pass on the rise in oil etc to us all on our bills I can only see this cancelling out (at least) any benefit from a cut in VAT. And even if this is a net zero effect it only affects household bills. What about the petrol/diesel we all put in our cars. That would go up. Food process would go up (we import a large percentage of the food we eat and what we produce would be affecting by those annoying higher fuel prices). And this would only be the tip of a rather large iceberg of price increases.

Then there's the complaint I hear over and over about the strains on our services (the NHS, Schools etc) from immigrants., Why should this be an issue? After all the more immigrants that come here and work, the more the government tax receipts go up which means the more money there is to provide better services.

Swap quickly to the other side of this argument - that immigrants come over here just to take advantage of our benefits system. Well I don't see any truth in this - not really. And I don't think I need to add any real evidence other than the contradictory claims I've often heard that immigrants
 - come over here and steal our jobs
 - come over here and sponge off the state getting benefits for doing nothing
The two sentences don't really sit well together side by side.

Then there is the second fact that the migrant population is almost always of working age. Given the increasingly aging native population in the UK we need an increase in the working population to pay for all the pensions etc of the retired people. And no, I am not dissing anyone who is retired as spongers. Our system is built on the presumption that you will be taken care of in your old age as a kind of reward for working hard you entire adult life. To do this the government needs tax revenues and to get these revenues we need workers. Or to put it another way foreign workers in the UK are a boon to our economy.

There are a number of other issues on which I could give an opinion (ease of movement across 28 countries - no visas for holidays is one and the kind of oft forgotten fact we're more likely to avoid warfare of we work together as a family of friendly nations). I'm not going to though. I'm going to add one last thought. And it is about the word "GREAT".

You will notice if you talk to me I always call my home country the UK; the United Kingdom. I will not use Great Britain. For one thing it is because Great Britain excludes Northern Ireland but this is not the main reason. Great implies the wrong meaning. If you hear the word and I ask you for synonyms I would imagine that some of the following might figure - super, fantastic, incredible, wonderful, best. In truth Great in Great Britain means nothing like this. Great Britain is the name give to an island; the name of the largest island in the British Isles. It means nothing more than physically largest.

Being an island nations already gives a sense of separation from our neighbours that countries with land borders just don't have. Add in GREAT and we think we're better than them too. Well, we're not. I'm not sure I can think of a single way I would consider the British best in Europe - well except maybe at cricket but that's not exactly fair as we invented the game and most European countries don't play it. This is why I said I hate the word GREAT at the top of this blog.

We have four days until we all have the chance to vote on our future and at the moment it is neck and neck in the opinion polls. I hope enough of us realise what we have to lose is far too valuable. We must stay in.

And whatever happens can we please remember that the day after we are all still countrymen and women. This campaign has driven divisions between us. I have a feeling it will not be easy to repair these going forward. I can see the losing side accusing the other of dirty tricks and so on for months/years to come. I can see demands for a second referendum to change the decision from some; especially if the result is as close as the polls suggest it might be.

I guess all I can do is hope.

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