Sunday, 5 June 2016

Don't Leave Me This Way!
With there being a lot of discussion on whether to stay in or leave the European Union in advance of the June 23rd referendum I have decided it's time to give my two -'euro cents' worth on the matter.

My initial thought when I received my polling card was to decline my right to vote in the referendum. However having taken the time to weigh up the pros and cons I've since changed my mind and I'm voting to stay in the EU and for the reasons outlined below:

Firstly, one of the main points of contention for  Britain's leave campaign is the need to have control of their own affairs without interference. The idea that the most colonial power on the face of the planet would even admit to this publicly is hysterical. I wonder from this if they will host similar referenda in their remaining colonies yet I very much doubt it!

Britain's leave campaigners are further concerned over how European laws are being passed in Brussels and later upheld in the European court. As people subject to 'British Justice'(now there's an oxymoron) I believe we in the North benefit from this oversight which offers a level of legal scrutiny we would not have outside of the European Union.

Whatever your thoughts on the Good Friday Agreement, lawyers have argued that leaving Europe can make null and void some of the promises fulfilled as well as those outstanding from the agreement. Taking this into consideration alone this could be a reason why the Anti-Good Friday Agreement DUP are firmly behind the leave campaign.

On March 31st in the Global Justice Academy Blog, Professor Christine Bell described the impact that leaving the European Union would have on the political institutions and on the people in the North. Within her analysis Prof Bell identified four key problematic areas: 1)The removal of an enabling factor for peace 2)The reinstatement of a Now-Invisible Border 3)The impact on trade and 4)EU funding for peace. This blog is worth reading irrespective of your views on the peace process.

Locally some campaigners have argued leaving the European Union on the strength of the refugee crisis. One of those in favour of leaving has made specific reference to the images of refugees being kept out of Europe with the use of huge fences. With this argument I would contest that leaving will see these fences being replaced with strict border controls which will make it more difficult for those fleeing war torn countries to seek asylum. This is clear with others on the leave side stating that leaving will allow them to control immigration levels.

On the issue of employment rights, in April of this year, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that to leave Europe would permit to Tories to "dump rights on equal pay, working time, annual leave, for agency workers, and on maternity pay as fast as they could get away with it”. I would tend to agree with Corbyn on this and as such question what guarantees, if any, have been given in respect of these rights with those including some trade union bodies/individuals opting to leave the EU.

On the issue of trade those on the leave side contest that leaving will make them more flexible and allow them more freedom to increase trade with countries such as China and India, of which there is no guarantee. Meanwhile leaving the EU is set to mean less flexibility when it comes to trading with existing EU countries.

With the issue of investment/employment the leave campaigners are confident that the low corporation tax will help attract further investment. Again there is no guarantee that this investment will come and if it does will remain long term. Low corporation tax may be attractive in the short term but once the incentives dry up the companies will up and leave just as they do here in the north when the Invest NI grants dry up. In one case in particular a company (Stream) moved jobs from Derry to Belfast to avail of another grant, a move which was welcomed by Stormont politicians!

With lower corporation tax we must keep in mind that it is the poorest who will be footing the bill for any money lost whilst big corporations get to enjoy lower tax bills.

The leave campaign contest that banks currently based in the UK will choose to stay in the UK with the low tax rate. I have no love for bankers but the reality is these banks currently enjoying the profits offered under the European Union will avail of lower tax rates which may serve to make up any reduction in profits. Either way you can be sure that the UK government will compensate the banks for any loss incurred, with the UK economy under threat of collapse if they leave.

The UK Tax expert Richard Murphy has this to say on the matter:
“I rather strongly suspect that Brexit would be the precursor for the creation of tax haven UK where a relaxation in regulation and tax rules would bring hot money to London. After all, why else are hedge funds so keen on Brexit?” Now apart from the rich, who would benefit from a tax haven, not you or I, I'd bet. I'd say we're more concerned with tax credits than tax havens. And on the subject of hedge funds, you only have to look at the role they played in the creation of the financial crisis. Our great grandchildren will be paying for this fallout long after we're gone.

We in the North have a lot to lose financially from cutting ties with the EU considering Europe has paid £1.3 billion euro since 1995 to support 'peace' in the north and the border counties in the Republic of Ireland through PEACE and Interreg programmes. Added to this there is a further £400+million earmarked for the North. I would be concerned about losing access to these funds. With this I believe we have the most to lose when you consider the money that will be saved from leaving the European Union is less likely to come here than anywhere else, with corporation tax powers soon to be devolved to Stormont (God help us). Hey with information so vague the money said to be saved from leaving Europe may even go to topping up the bankers coffers to ensure they stay put.

As someone who lives in a colony (lol) this entire fiasco seems to be mismanaged by both the leave and remain campaigns. I'm sure at the root of it, on both sides, big business has it's hands in the pockets of both campaigns because as usual they'll bet on both sides of the coin and no matter what the outcome it will be the ordinary people who bear the brunt of this mismanagement.

Here there has been little public debate,unless you count the recent intervention of comedian Eddie Izzard, who if I'm honest, I'd rather have representing me than some of those on the hill. To date both sides here just pop out of their respective foxholes and make a statement before retreating again.

In contrast, during the run up to the local assembly elections the political parties were only too keen to lay out their positions at hustings events where they could be questioned by the great unwashed. I am now calling on those in support of both stay and leave to engage in a public debate here in the city where they will be given the opportunity to lay out their positions and answer questions of those on the floor. I would go further and offer to organise and publicise this event. After all members of Labour have no problem standing alongside members of the Tory party as part of their respective remain or leave campaigns so this shouldn't be a problem here.

I look forward to hearing from you all, and remember there's only a couple of weeks until the referendum so time is of the essence if you are willing to debate this publicly. So Stormont parties the ball is in your court.

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