1st July 2016
Mel Cooper writes to Nicola Blackwood MP for Oxford (UK) West constituency:
THE SMALL-ISLAND MENTALITY CLUB: get your SIM card here?
Mel Cooper writes to Nicola Blackwood MP for Oxford (UK) West constituency:
Dear Nicola Blackwood, MP,
I write to you again to make an appeal that you take action to protect our country and its citizens by actively working to stop our leaving the EU.
The legally non-binding, consultative referendum of 23 June 2016 should be looked upon, perhaps, as an important step in creating a sophisticated national debate on the fate of the United Kingdom. It also could ultimately help the EU Parliament and its members to focus on the dissatisfactions with the EU of some of its members and encourage changes and reforms to the way business is done in Brussels and Strasbourg.
But as you are aware, because it was a non-binding, advisory poll, Brexit is not inevitable until the government activates Article 50 of the European Union Treaty. This should not be done in haste or without continuing to inform the British public of the consequences on both sides of the debate.The referendum should be treated as the start of a national dialogue; but it would be a travesty of democracy and good sense and a betrayal of your responsibility as an elected official to let this narrowly won and contentious one-off vote determine everything that follows. This crisis is an opportunity to educate and inform the British and all our neighbours about what the EU actually does, how it works, and why we must not abandon it at this stage whatever its flaws. This crisis needs to be treated as a chance to stop using the EU as a scapegoat for our own governmental malfunctions. It is also an opportunity to stop putting the emphasis only on the venal advantages or disadvantages of being in the EU and to start considering that larger, philosophical and non-quantifiable, issues.
While the decision for Britain to leave the European Union has not yet been taken, its probable consequences are now clear. The worst predictions of the Remain campaign are coming true and it seems to me that only the blinkered can any longer doubt the gravity of the situation and the extreme dangers of Brexit. If the government now follows through with Brexit without working for a pause to reconsider, the United Kingdom will unravel, the economy will fall back into recession and millions of livelihoods will be at risk. Furthermore, our long held high moral and political stature in the world will collapse, our European neighbours will be destabilised and the special relationship with the United States will be damaged, and with it the international order that it upholds. It is difficult to imagine higher stakes riding on a decision by the government.
It is widely agreed that the 23 June referendum was not designed, prepared or implemented appropriately. Indeed, it is now looked upon as an international embarrassment. It is now clear that the promises of the campaigns were riddled with falsehoods, impossibilities and even lies and the public was neither properly informed nor properly prepared to make such a momentous judgement.
The public should not now be punished for taking this vote when it was a situation created by our elected officials, who imposed this referendum. The public cannot be blamed for what follows. There was a lot of talk during the campaign about Sovereignty; and Sovereignty resides in Parliament. We have created in the UK a system of Representative Democracy. The representatives now have to listen to the confused and fearful messages that this Referendum has produced; in our system, they have the responsibility to be the ones who make the legal decisions. They must not simply be followers.
Worst of all, due to the dynamics of the campaign, the circumstances of the vote and its aftermath, it is entirely possible that the government is about to enact a decision that the majority no longer supports. There are widespread reports of ‘leave’ voters regretting their decision, and by Sunday 26 June the Mail on Sunday had conducted a survey that suggested that around one million ‘leave’ voters already regretted their decision. Furthermore, only approximately 37% of registered voters chose ‘leave’ on the ballot, winning by only 1.9%. Are we going to completely redraw 40 years worth of political and economic structures based on this alone, with so much at stake?
Every other advanced democracy in the world has checks and balances in place to ensure that constitutional changes neither lead to a collapse of public trust nor trigger rampant internal instability. Leaving the EU is arguably greater than just a constitutional change, and we must protect our political system, the unity of the United Kingdom and our economy by following the same good sense. A one-off, poorly planned, poorly implemented plebiscite (in a democracy not based on plebiscites), won with a simple and slim majority on an issue that could ruin the livelihoods of millions and even end the United Kingdom, must not be the only basis for taking this decision. This is not democracy in action. It is simply poor leadership.
The truly democratic next step is not to blindly carry on and leave the EU. It is to pause. It is democratic to reflect on the new information we have. It is democratic for our elected officials to continue to consider what is truly best for the country and to continue engaging with the public on this question as more information on the consequences of this step emerges.
When historians write this chapter of history, will they explain that this world-changing event occurred because of a political stunt gone wrong, without democratic checks and balances deployed? Or will they say it happened due to a deep process of considered national dialogue on what is best for all citizens in all parts of the country, enabled through careful planning? Based on the government’s current intentions, the latter will not be the case. Future generations will never forgive our leaders for this. And neither might the EU countries be able to forgive us.
We must make sure that if the decision to trigger Article 50 is made, it is done after giving the public proper information and education about its consequences and therefore, finally, with no regret.
All our futures and our children’s futures depend on you. Please stop this madness. Please put the brakes on Brexit.
With best wishes,
Mel Cooper, Oxford
THE SMALL-ISLAND MENTALITY CLUB: get your SIM card here?
Mel Cooper - 29 June 2016.
Given the response not only of the 48% of shocked British voters who perceive how important it is for us not to leave the EU but also of the entire rest of the world, could you please consider continuing the REMAIN campaign and ramping it up to the level where it should have been all along?
By the way I am part of that 48% and also part of the 39% of Oldies who voted to REMAIN in the EU.
It seems to me and to many other people that the LEAVE campaign won that vote because they lied to the voters or told half-truths and broadcast over-simplified messages were actually offensively patronizing..
Personally, I have faith that most of the British public would understand the complexities of the vote if anyone actually took the trouble to address and explain them; and that the Brexiteers are not the only ones who should be ashamed of themselves for underestimating the levels of comprehension of the British people.
Also, I contend that it is not Democracy when gullible voters are manipulated emotionally and intellectually by people who are effectively behaving like demagogues with covert agendas. So perhaps there is a possibility of continuing the debate properly, even if it does not put a brake on the process of leaving the EU.
Do we not have a responsibility to point out to the 52% what they have unleashed? Not just the quantifiable and inflationary consequences, but also the anger at us in Europe, and the encouraging of the racism and xenophobia that we are already experiencing? People say that it is not statistically significant. I suppose therefore that you would rather wait until it is great and therefore even harder to stem?
I believe that either a web site should be created to educate, inform and even entertain the British people with articles and possible podcasts on the subject; or that seminars need to be set up around the country to which anyone of any persuasion could come to vent their anger, discuss how misplaced it is to blame Europe for problems that are really under the control only of the British government, and maybe learn something. Here is a notional agenda of topics I would like these seminars, podcasts or articles to discuss:
SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS THAT WE HAVE OUTSIDE THE EU
The reason that the USA and Canada and other countries work well with us is precisely because we are in the EU, where we have political and moral weight and also a veto. If they want to lobby for something in their interests, we are a very easy first stop because of language, some shared history and culture and so forth. Having left the EU we are no longer in that position and their interest in our well-being will be diminished. Remember what Goethe said: You can only tell what kind of character a man has by the way he treats those who have nothing they can do for him. This applies to Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as well. What will they actually do for the British people now that they have “won” their vote? Already they are backtracking on promises given.
RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR NEIGHBOURS
We have been in a union for 43 years that has seen slow but decided progress in many ways, economically, socially and in the sphere of handling international mutual problems such as global warming and human rights. Our leaving this club will not only diminish our voice in Europe but in the world, and it shows great signs already of destabilising the rest of Europe. This will lead either to a complete dominance of the German approach to things or to the complete disintegration of the only voluntary experiment ever for former allies and enemies to try to solve their problems by negotiation and discussion rather than dropping bombs on each other or waging war to win power and territory. I would advise that you should try to see the clip of Sheila Hancock from the Jeremy Paxman debate last Wednesday on ITV, 22 June 2016, and make it go viral on the internet on You Tube and Facebook. And then get Sheila Hancock to make a few speeches! She is the only person whom I heard talk about larger issues and not just the venal ones in this debate. Simon Schama’s support was also appreciated, so maybe have him as a backup.
ECONOMICS AND IMMIGRATION
There is nothing like the amount of money going into Europe that the Brexit promoters claimed we would get back. Who says we are not in control of that money? Who says that we are living under imposed laws? We voted for and discussed everyone one of the EU laws that we accepted; our parliament accepted them; the EU parliament had to pass them. There are no Impositions. Also, after Brexit there will be far less money available for us to use according to our own discretion if we leave and nothing coming to our farmers, scientists or fisheries, to name but three, that we can rely on since we will now be reliant and the policies of changing governments. Already the LEAVE campaigners are saying they cannot promise what they promised a few days ago about funds for the NHS, education, house building or anything else.
Britain’s being on its own is like saying that you do not have to pay your taxes into the common pool any more but if you want a road to run from your front door to the shops in your town you have to pay for it all by yourself. And if we leave the EU there won’t even be a Polish or Hungarian workforce to build the damned road, even if you do pay for it privately!
DO UNTO YOUR NEIGHBOURS …
Why is there this reluctance to contribute to a pool of money out of which everyone in the union can benefit according to need? Why does it matter to a farmer in Wales that some tax money is also coming out of the common pool for farmers in Spain or Greece? What is it that makes Britain unhappy about being in a situation where we are trying mutually with 27 other nations to raise all of us to a certain level of prosperity—which also promotes peace? Is it not time to stop all the venal arguments about money and contributions and greedy immigrants? Why shouldn’t people want to come to the second richest country in the EU to work and live? How do you think the United States became so powerful and rich? What is the proportion of the GDP of Great Britain that actually is paid to the EU budget?
PAY YOUR TAXES
The money in dispute is made to sound as if it is some terrible burden on our economy and a drain. In a country that is complaining about rich people and corporations who will not pay their taxes, that is quite ironic. Why can’t you see this money as our fee for being in a club? It is a tax, not a salary. The tax is then used for all kinds of things that the UK agrees to. So far the club has liked us so they have given us all kinds of concessions and rebates. If you leave the EU, you will not have to pay your fees. But you will have to pay for many things that you have not had to worry about for the past 40 or so years.
EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND SYSTEMS
Is it not time that the cant about the EU being so undemocratic was examined? Don’t we have a Parliament for which we are supposed to be voting? Isn’t the European Commission more like the Civil Service of the EU? Does the Commission actually have any power to impose a law? How is it different from having the advice of the Civil Service or committees set up in Parliament to study an issue and then advise the Parliament? Does the EU have an appointed or unelected House of Lords? Do they have proportional representation? How does that make them less democratic than the UK? Has there ever been a law imposed in the UK; or have the laws been voted for in the parliament?
The Three Brexiteers, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage (All for None and None for All! ) claim that 40% of our laws are imposed on us by the EU and 52% of the British public believes this. My understanding is that no laws can be imposed; we vote for them like everyone else; and actually the laws from the EU that we have accepted amount to about 13% of our laws. Most of these laws address social issues of great importance and we are going to have to trust the current Conservative Government to redraft them without diminishing them.
COST OF LEAVING THE EU
Apart from the collapse of the pound, the collapse of the property market, being out of the single market, and so many other things, think of the cost of the lawyers who will have to redo everything locally and internationally. Also, given that the pound is now back to its 1983 level, where is all the money going to come from? We are also giving up subsidies such as those to our very important research programmes in science and education where we actually get back a lot more money from the pool than we put into that branch of it. There is also the political cost of the disaffection of Scotland and Ireland. If I had just voted, like Scotland, to stay in the UK on a promise that involved continued membership of the EU, I would now be exceptionally angry. And this is from a British public 52% of whom would have had a fit if Scotland had voted to split away from the UK. Scotland is the perfect example of why it is safer and better to stay together and work together – where would they be now if they had left and then the oil prices had plummeted? Where are we going to be if we leave the EU and have no access to its resources or a considerable amount of its market without penalties, tariffs, etc.
COST OF STAYING IN THE EU
First and foremost, the effort and energy of taking a more pro-active role in getting it to reform. We have already damaged our moral position in the EU, but hopefully if the 48% not only take a more active role in trying to stop us from elaving the EU but also in trying to educate enough of the rest of us into understanding why and getting their support, this could mitigate some of the damage that the Schadenfreude-style crowing of Nigel Farage has helped consolidate. (I would call him the Grate Nigel; but after 17 years of collecting a substantial salary from a job that he says he detests from an institution he claims to despise, the Ingrate Nigel might be a more accurate title.) So what else will it cost? Whatever it takes keeping the British public aware of what it is getting and how the EU is working. Some money. Some effort. What percentage of our GDP will that be if we still have a similar GDP to the one we had before the Brexit campaign lied its way to a questionable victory?
IMMIGRANTS v REFUGEES
I want to thank David Cameron for taking his eye off several balls and distracting the whole of Europe from the really important issues that might have made us feel upset and given us even more sleepless nights. But what makes the Brexiteers think we will have any more control over immigrants coming into the country than we do now? Unless, of course, if we do not engage with the single market? Except, of course, as Britain gets poorer and nastier fewer people will want to come here and contribute their taxes, rents, VAT on their purchases and so forth.? I am told some of them even send money back home to help their families! How Un-British? Imagine making the decision to give up opportunities like going out to the pub for the sake of sending some of your disposable income back to your family – after of course allowing for rent, food and taxes all paid for in the UK! No wonder there is such a terrible pressure on our culture when immigrants fill up some of our cities. It is all the fault of the EU. But let us consider if maybe about 97% of the blame could be apportioned to lazy governments, one after the other, that never spent enough money of infrastructure for housing, education, welfare and health care.
FAULTS OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENTS
Instead of blaming everything that makes the British people angry about life on the EU, you might try making a list of the complaints that are actually the fault of successive British governments in not planning ahead properly or acting swiftly enough on issues such as housing.
Actually, you know what … I could go on for a long time. Perhaps you get the point by now. The vote to leave the EU is based on lies and half-truths. It is also based on an appeal to a kind of retrograde nostalgia for a Golden Age of Britain that, if it ever existed, certainly is not going to be possible in the modern, interconnected global world. Brexit is a flight back into a past that was dangerous, nasty and mean. It is a flight from reason, moral duties, interconnectedness, a place where we exercise our sovereignty for the good of a larger community without losing any of our identity. The Scots have been tied into the UK for over 300 years. Have you noticed them lose any identity or even their accent? What about the Irish? National identity is about culture and history, not about political unions and co-operation. In fact, if anything Britain has had its identity enhanced. But with this vote we are throwing away a good deal of how the world has perceived us for decades if not centuries. We are focusing on our most inward-looking, small-island viewpoints.
The 52% have put their trust in a lot of lies and half-truths. It is not their fault that they have been underinformed about what they were doing or what actually happens in the EU. Successive politicians and whole governments have spent decades blaming everything on the EU. Then REMAIN expected their use of the EU as their political scapegoat to be overcome when they reversed the message for four months and didn’t actually even take the trouble to give any useful facts or details to us. Shame on them!
So my point is simply that we all have the responsibility of not lying back meekly and going ahead with this dangerous plan to leave the EU even if we did initially vote to LEAVE.
I believe that we need to ramp up the levels of debate and of education about the EU and find some way to stop this dangerous lunacy before the harm we are doing in so many ways becomes irreparable.
I would also suggest considering:
· Forming a cross party committee to continue running and informative LET’S REMAIN AFTER ALL campaign
· Creating websites, podcasts and even broadcasts finally to inform the British public, all of it, properly – because even the REMAIN side was often voting with their hearts and fears, not their logic
· Promoting an ultimate vote of no confidence in any government that tries to instigate the negotiation to leave the EU
· Failing that, refusing to pass leaving of the EU into law in parliament
· If and when the Prime Minister or the Opposition is running a campaign (Labour? Liberal Democrat? Independent Cross Party?) on the basis that if you vote for “us”, “we” will not proceed to take you out of the European Union, that we vote for that because we have properly considered the issues, the consequences, the benefits and the down side and know what we believe
And then, if we do remain, working damned hard not only to keep the public informed about what goes on in the EU, but also working very hard and openly to implement whatever reforms are deemed necessary.