Monday, 16 January 2017

Smell the coffee: Leave vote to be used to deliver Taxhaven Sweatshop Britain dream of ToryKip fanatics

I said many times during the EU referendum campaign that the real agenda of many ToryKip Leave fanatics was to turn the UK into Sweatshop Britain – a tax haven with low levels of worker’s rights and minimal safety and environmental standards.This was often dismissed as (guess what?) "scaremongering".

But the warning signs were clearly there:

Leaving aside how you can threaten others when the gun you’re holding is pointing at your own head, take heed of what is said including:

  • Cutting corporation tax 
  • Changing the UK’s economic model 
  • Moving away from European style social model (tax funded healthcare & social security?)


But wait a minute, didn’t PM May claim a (non-existant) mandate from the EUref ballot paper, namely that of delivering “change” in order to make Britain “a country that works for everyone”?

Turning the UK into a tax haven sweatshop is the very antithesis of country that works for everyone; it’s a country that enables big corporations to call the shots and exploit workers. This is most definitely NOT what many Leave voters thought they would get from Brexit. In fact it seems like the opposite of what was promised.

It’s also the antithesis of what Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party claim is their vision for Britain. Will this be the moment when the Labour party wake up from their Tory Brexit cheerleading and join the Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP in opposing this Torykip government and its damaging plans for the country? 

The battle for the soul of Britain has begun, and it's one we can't afford to lose!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Radical idea on EU free movement: use conditionality that already exists!

I’ve got a radical idea on how to amend EU free movement in the UK: let’s use the conditionality that already exists!

Despite many Leavers insisting that the referendum was about sovereignty and taking back control and not immigration, it appears that the only thing that Theresa May’s government believes people want to take back control over is EU free movement. All you Leavers out there who disagree with the government on that and e.g. think the Single Market is important; you’re being AWFULLY QUIET.

Now it appears that many in the Labour Party and even one former Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Vince Cable (who fought against illiberal/ideological immigration policy while Business Secretary in the Coalition government) agree with the government that EU free movement has had a negative impact on the UK (evidence that even Migration Watch can’t produce, see below), and has to change or be scrapped. So UKIP’s view on EU free movement (EU migrants are to blame for EVERYTHING!!) now appears to be shared by others, despite the lack of evidence, which is quite frankly A DISGRACE.

But what NONE of these converts to the anti-free movement cause mention is that there is considerable conditionality to EU free movement that the UK HAS NEVER BOTHERED TO USE. And No Vince I'm not talking about transitional controls when new countries join the EU.

This is one reason David Cameron struggled to persuade other EU leaders that the UK needed special conditions for EU free movement. That and his utter failure to unearth ANY evidence whatsoever that free movement had a particularly negative impact on the UK. Even the anti-immigration pressure group Migration Watch when asked to help Number 10 could only come up with one local newspaper article about pressure on a hospital in Corby! (see article here and scroll down to the paragraph “evidence what evidence?”:

So here is the conditionality that EU law already allows countries to implement (except the UK doesn’t):

  • Allow EU citizens to freely circulate in the UK only for 3 months and then require them (should they want to stay longer) to show they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have sufficient resources (pension, savings) to support themselves and comprehensive sickness insurance e.g. valid European Health Insurance Card enabling the NHS to claim back the cost of treatment or private health insurance.

It can’t be that bloody difficult given that other EU countries manage to do this! So Vince Cable, Keir Starmer, Andy Burnham etc, stop pandering to UKIP/anti-immigration sentiment and instead make some suggestions as to how existing free movement conditionality could be implemented in the UK.  

Addendum: How Free Movement is managed in Belgium*

  • Any EU citizen intending to stay in Belgium longer than 3 months has to register with their local council.
  • The local council will only allow you to register if you meet the conditions outlined above about being in work/being able to support yourself and having sickness insurance. (I showed my employment contract and my registration with a Belgian mutual health fund).
  • Without being registered, you’re not in the Belgian system, so ineligible for social security, unable to get any credit, unable to sign a rental lease etc. etc.
  • After an initial 3 month residence card, you go back and get a six month card (assuming you can still prove you’re working/can support yourself etc.) and after six months you can get a five year residence card. Once you have a five year residence card, then you’re pretty much treated as a Belgian.

* I lived and worked in Belgium from 1998 to 2009 (long before I was an MEP) so I have personal experience of this process. 


Sunday, 4 December 2016

LibDem victory in Richmond by-election: more significant than the Brexiters will admit

As a Liberal Democrat who went down to Richmond Park and North Kingston on a number of occasions to help Sarah Olney’s campaign to unseat Zac Goldsmith, I am of course delighted that she became the constituency’s new MP on Thursday. 

First is first, kudos to the Greens and the Women's Equality Party for not standing candidates and for supporting the LibDem campaign. Also a big thank you to all the non-partisan pro-European activists who came to Richmond to help. 

The idea that this was merely a strong Remain voting constituency having a chance to reiterate their 23 June vote is a simplistic and somewhat lazy interpretation.

Britain’s relationship with the EU wasn’t the only issue the LibDem campaign highlighted. The Libdem very long term (over 20 years) opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport and our criticism of Tory underfunding of the NHS also featured heavily.

And while the LibDem campaign deliberately chose not to mention it at all, Mr Goldsmith’s horrid divisive London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan didn’t do him any favours. Some voters did raise it on the doorstep and it was never in a positive light.

I would imagine that the nasty anti-foreigner rhetoric coming out of the Tory party recently e.g. naming and shaming companies that employ non Brits etc will have been similarly received in Richmond as Mr Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign. Perhaps the UKIP-isation of the Tory party will lose more moderate Tory voters than it will gain rabid Brexiters back from UKIP? And you can guess where I think those moderate Tory voters will head. 

Even on the issue of Brexit, it isn’t as clear cut as the anti-Europeans would have you believe. Liberal Democrat canvassing shows that some Tory Leave supporters voted for Sarah Olney on Thursday. If you live in a very pro-Remain area like Richmond and you voted Leave, then you must have been pretty convinced about it. Yet less than 6 months later, some of those people decided to vote for an unashamedly pro-European Liberal Democrat?

The Brexit tide is turning, albeit very slowly....