In, Out or Shake It All About

I did not think I would return so quickly to the UK’s in out referendum as a blog topic but here I am. Once again I am heartily sick of this misinformation that is allowed to run across our media outlets without proper questioning.

This week much has been made of the legal status of the agreement with the Council of Europe and whether it is binding. Bottom line on this, in my view, is that the agreement is binding in intent but only becomes formalised after treaty change. As I explained in my previous post, this will require referendums in several other countries. If rejected by the constitutional process in those countries then what?

There continues to be a lack of clarity on many areas of our relationship with the EU regardless of the agreement negotiated. The in/out decision is really about this for most out campaigners. Regardless of the renegotiation details which appear almost to be a side show. I’ll focus on three elements Finance, Security, Rights and Trade.

Finance

The UK’s is the 4th largest contributor but the 2nd largest net contributor behind Germany. This net contribution is effectively a membership fee and that contribution is used by the EU organisations to subsidise and support other EU nations of which Poland, in 2013, was the largest recipient. In other words it is overseas aid for the EU.   This fee in 2015 was £9 billion based on £18b contribution, £5b rebate (Mrs T) and £4b in farming via Common Agricultural. As a comparison the UK currently pays £43b per year in interest on its National debt of £1.6 Trillion.

The UK is the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world depending on which source you site. G7 membership, G20 membership IMF etc are not dependent on EU membership.

Security

The In campaigners claim we are safer inside the EU. The Out disagree.  So facts:

Under Article 51 of the UN charter all nation states have the right to self defence. The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council – one of five. Under Article 51 NATO operates its collective defence policy of an attack against one is an attack against all. NATO is the same size as the EU in terms of members, but they do not align. Several EU countries are Neutral (Austria, Finland and Sweden. You can add Ireland based on non-belligerency) therefore they cannot help with that type of security. Of course the USA and Canada are not in the EU but help with security. In/Out this does not change.

Security has other forms. The UK is one of the so-called 5-eyes which share intelligence information this is (CIA, MI5, MI6 , NSA, GCHQ etc with Australia, New Zealand ,Canada and the USA).  No other member of the EU is; therefore, there is intelligence information that the UK does not share with those countries. There are separate agreements with some countries (France, Germany, Netherlands etc) and NATO shares some. So much for the contribution to the EU security.

Europol is put forward as  a good example of EU security. Norway is mentioned as European, non-EU member that shares information. What is Europol? It has 800 members of staff of which 145 are liaison officers from member police forces. Under 5-eyes MI5 which along with the Met Police has Counter-Terrorism responsibilities, can’t share info with Europol. In fact much activity in 5-eyes is spent spying on our EU partners. Mrs Merkel’s phone for example. Do we really believe that Europol cooperation would stop if the UK left, or would a Norway arrangement be made. Then there is Interpol which is in 190 countries with many of the same aims as Europol. We would still be a member of that.

Rights

We are protected by the UN, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Both predate and are separate from the EU. The European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution, nor is the War Crimes unit nor the International Court. The EU does have the CJEU or the European Court of Justice which arbitrates on EU law i.e. the rights and wrongs under the treaty. This was the argument on legality disputed by the two sides this week. In effect they are both right. The CJEU could over turn but it has never done so so it will not or might not but could.

Some rights I believe the EU has done a much better job on then the UK authorities. Data protection is one are where the UK’s Information Commissioner has been an abject failure primarily due to the powers granted to the ICO. The EU has been much stronger striking down the pathetic Safe Harbor agreement with the USA as offering no protection. Whether the UK alone would stand up to the USA in these matters is doubtful, given 5-eyes its unlikely. This might mean that in event of an exit the EU may not be able to exchange data with the UK. That will be a major impediment to trade so would need to be addressed. In this case EU protection offers more than just UK.

Trade

Following the letter from several major companies promoting stay in the airwaves and print were full of disagreements on what exit might mean. I return to World Trade Organisation, G7, G20 and other agreements. Based on import export the EU needs us in a free trade area more than we need them especially as the EFTA agreements have not fully supported the trade in services.  BMW and Audi will not want to lose access to the market. Any hint of trade tariffs or protectionism would just escalate on both sides. The actions of the Eurozone will make this more and more difficult for those members

In or Out

I still don’t know but I want to see much stronger reasons for staying in then I have seen so far. The new agreement does not change that as I cannot see anything fundamental changing. Removing ever closer union from a treaty (if approved) means nothing when the Eurozone is doing just that and has to do that to make the Euro work.

 

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Migrants and Refugees

It seems ages since I wrote a blog, work and proper writing interfering with Internet broadcasting.

As it is all over the news I thought I would add my views on the current crisis impacting Europe. Refugees and migrants are attempting to escape their own countries and find a hoped for better or safer life in Europe. The European politicians of all persuasions struggle to come up with a suitable soundbite that can demonstrate a caring attitude whilst maintaining their pre-held opinions.  The UK is held up as either not doing enough or doing far too much, whilst facts are mangled and as usual the politicians throw as much mud as possible. There are multiple aspects to this. First some of my definitions:

  • Migrant – an immigrant or transitory person for whatever reason
  • Refugee – someone escaping persecution or seeking safety – can be internal to a nation as many in Syria already are
  • Asylum seeker – Someone who claims that there is a fear of persecution or worse in their own country and thus seeks asylum – but can also be some person hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
  • Economic migrant – someone seeking a better life for themselves – in and out of UK

The humanitarian urge to do what we can, evidenced in Hungarian people doling out food and water to walking migrants (most may well be refugees), is only one aspect. There needs to be a practical assessment of what can be done realistically. For example Turkey is host to 2 million Syrian refugees escaping the civil war of which ISL or Dash is only one element http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224

So let’s try and stick to facts – the UK net population increase (official government 2013 figures) due to migration was 300,000.  The vast majority of these 200,000 were from the  EU. These are either family and friends of existing residents or economic migrants searching for work in a growing economy. These are all legal migrants as no one has accurate figures on illegal migrants i.e. persons form outside the EU. The remainder are those that have temporary or permanent rights to stay e.g. students or key workers.

We then have asylum seekers, some key points from http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/migration-uk-asylum

Key points

  • Asylum applications (excluding dependents) rose from 4,256 in 1987 to a peak of 84,130 in 2002. They stood at 24,914 in 2014.
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  • Asylum applicants and their dependents comprised an estimated 8% of net migration in 2013, down from 49% in 2002 but up from 4% in 2010.
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  • In 2014, 59% of asylum applications were initially refused. A majority of refused applicants lodge appeals. In 2014, 28% of appeals were allowed.
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  • Men made up nearly 3 out of 4 (73%) main applicants for asylum in 2014.
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  • In 2014, the UK received 5% of asylum claims made in EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland), making it the sixth highest recipient of asylum claims.
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The latest estimated migration figure for 2014 is 330,000 of which the asylum seekers make up approx 25,000 so 7.5%

I heard Kent Council state on the radio that the numbers of migrant unaccompanied children under 14 had gone from an average of 240 per year to 720 last year all of whom needed initially foster parents, schooling and support. A huge increase in workload http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-34139364

At the same time we have an alleged housing crisis with organisations like Shelter claiming we need to build 250,000 new homes per year just to keep pace with current population growth http://www.thehomesweneed.org.uk/ The UK’s population is now also growing for many complex reasons see the ONS statistics here but this adds a further 200,000 or so on top of the migration impact. Therefore, we are adding a city population the approximate size of Sheffield to our overall population every year.

On the BBC this morning it was explained that during the 1956 Hungarian uprising the UK took over 40,000 refugees. This has also been discussed as one of the tens of thousands estimates and comparisons for asylum to be offered.Note on 7 Sep the UK Prime Minister announced the number is 20,000

In terms of the overall net migration and population increase numbers this would be a further 10% increase.

The problem for the UK and many other countries is not the humanitarian support. We have the money and the food and water we are after all a rich nation in GDP terms. It is the very practical question of where they are going to live, go to school, get health care. We do not have many large old military bases sitting empty but they can help. Do we want tented villages near ports of entry? Where in the UK will they go. How will they be transported there? For all the claims that we must do something we need to have answers first.