Working with our neighbours makes us stronger

Part 1) Introduction

Hi everyone. I’m off work all week. I’m home alone as my flatmates are away. One of them has gone home to Cyprus. The other, a German girl, has gone to a wedding in Carcassonne. The groom is French and the bride is from Belorussia. I could have gone to my parent’s house in Normandy, but it’s rented out. It’s great to just be able to hop on to Eurostar to see them.

On Thursday we all have to make the biggest decision we have ever made.  You and I may make different choices about what we think is best for our country.  That’s democracy. It’s not like an election where the result only lasts for 5 years and then another side can come to power. There’s no going back. No second chance.

I understand that there’s a desire to give the political class a bloody nose. They seem remote and divorced from the realities of our everyday lives. Some people have done better than others as a result of globalisation. Austerity and a rise in inequality, has led to many people feeling a sense of injustice. But [i]‘’the blame for that can’t be put at door of the EU’’: its domestic politics. The easy answers of the populists (they are not all on the other side of the Atlantic) seem compelling.

The result of the referendum will last for our live times. That’s why it matters so much.

Do you have children? Grand children? A niece? A nephew? A Godson?

That’s who we are voting for.

I saw the debate a couple of weeks ago with Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon and others. They all sounded reasonable. The Remain side has been referred to as project fear. However

At a conference I attended last week the economist Anatole Kaletsky argued that [ii]‘’Officials have a duty to warn of risks. The Remain side have put out a lot of analysis. The other side haven’t presented much of a case. Basically ‘believe me it will be fine’’.

Or, as I would put it ‘it’ll be all right on the night’.

Replying to the scaremongering accusation Anatole Kaletsky went on to say (We, economists) [iii]‘’do know the direction of motion. You can’t say that a drunk driver will kill someone tonight but you can say that’s its dangerous’’.

The rhetoric has gone in to overdrive because it’s such a tight race & that there’s no going back. We are all being bombarded with information. Claims and counter claims. We aren’t about to be hit by a Turkish invasion or WW3.

Some of you may feel like tuning out. All those IFS billion pound statistics go over my head, and make it all seem abstract rather than something that will affect the ‘man in the street’.

It does.

It’s about how we as a nation define ourselves. How people from other countries think about us. What your friend from Spain, your colleague from Poland, think of us, you & I.

Think about your own experience of travelling to the continent. About your friends, flatmates, and colleagues from Cyrpus, Italy, France. That sense of being interconnected makes them feel closer. A vote to leave would be like taking the welcome mat away.

Being part of the European Union hasn’t made Parisians feel any less French or made Italy less Italian. Identity is multi layered. You can be Catalonian, Spanish and European. Scottish, British and European. Japan being an island hasn’t made it any less Asian than it’s neighbours across the water.


Part 2) Economy

In my job:  more customers come from other EU countries, e.g. Spain and Italy, than from the UK. They are taking advantage of the free movement of people I referred to.

Brexit would surely reduce the number of Europeans travelling to the UK. That would mean I’d have less customers to deal with so reduce the number of employees my company would have to hire. Think of all the tourist income in London.

Nearly half of Britain’s exports go to elsewhere in the EU. How can you have a stall at Spitafields market and not register or pay to join. That’s what Boris Johnson proposes.

World trade is dominated by North America, Europe, and the Far East. It helps to be part of a large trading bloc. We benefit from the increased bargaining power of a market of over 500 million people.

I don’t understand how ending our membership of the world’s largest market would help us sell more of our goods to the rest of the world ?

Developing economies such as Brazil and China are cooling down. So don’t think that increased exports to those markets will compensate for reduced access to the EU Single Market.  Meanwhile, [iv]China is tripling its investment in to the EU this year. Foreign companies invest in Britain because they see it as a gateway to the rest of the European Single Market..

The EU single market in services is only now coming to fruition. That’s a great opportunity for our service sector economy.  [v] ‘’We are the second biggest exporter of services in the world’’. That may sound a bit dry.  That means   music, journalism, the internet advertising company my flatmate works for. Brexit would mean less access to the digital single market.  It would would hinder all those digital companies.

Michael Gove & Boris Johnson have said  a brexit Britain would leave the EU but still want to have access to the Single Market. Note, not a member of, but have access to. So let’s have a look at an example of a non EU country that has access to the Single Market. Norway, for instance. [vi]‘’Norway downloads (EU) legislation’’ and has to accept free movement of people in order to sell its products in the EU. But it doesn’t have a seat at the table when decisions are made.

The real cost of our EU membership is not the £350 million a week on the vote leave battle bus. The head of the UK Statistics Authority said it’s misleading. Even a brexit supporter, Gerard Lyons, the economist who worked for Boris Johnson, doesn’t use that figure.    Saying that’s what it cost’s is like saying a £3 sandwich cost you £5 because you handed over a fiver. You have to deduct the rebate (Thanks Mrs. Thatcher) figure and the money sent back to our public and private sectors.  Think about how the area around Kings Cross station has been redeveloped. That was partially funded by an EU grant to help young people in to work. So after all that the real figure is £163 million a week. Yes that’s a big figure. But if you divide that by the whole UK population you get a figure of £2.50 per person a week. The cost of a cup of cappuccino in Starbucks. If you divide that by seven days the figure is 36 pence. The price of an apple.

Vote leave is offering the goods without the price attached. They have resorted to the populist tactic of rubbishing expert claims without coming up with answers themselves.  [vii]‘’they have made the term expert an insult, but you don’t want an amateur pilot’’

When I first heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact   (TTIP) last year I was alarmed. However its future is in doubt. [viii]‘’TTIP is unpopular and is being largely resisted by Europe and so probably won’t happen’’. The French President has said he would veto it as it currently stands.

If there was brexit do we think that America would impose fewer conditions on Britain than if we were in the EU?  USA still bans British beef because of mad cow disease. If we were negotiating a free trade with America after brexit they would have more bargaining power over us than if we were still in the EU and so would insist on TTIP style deal anyway.

Additionally [ix]‘’If we left the EU and ‘’adopted the Norwegian approach of having access to the Single Market as a member of the EEA ‘’we would be  subject to any changes in legislation that could result from a TTIP agreement. But crucially we would not be able to take part in the TTIP negotiations.

A chap I bumped in to on Crouch End Broadway (Professor Martin McKee) was highly critical of TTIP. He argued that the real threat to [x]‘’publicly funded health services, e.g. the NHS, arises from national governments’’.

Brexit could mean the government would possibly try to entice foreign investors by reducing things such as employment rights.  For instance, do you work  part time ? The EU  [xi]‘’Paid leave directive has helped over a million temporary workers gain same rights as full time workers’’.

Leaving wouldn’t help our manufacturers. It’s rare for one product to be made entirely in one country. Different parts are made in different countries. There are global production chains. So it’s more a case of ‘made global’ than made in the UK. The increased tariffs that brexit would incur would impede all that.

Brexit supporter, economist Patrick Minford, is on record as admitting that his brexit economic policy

[xii]“Would cause the ‘elimination’ of UK manufacturing and a large increase in wage inequality’’.

Part 3. Sovereignty

That’s not a price worth paying for the illusion of more power. North Korea is the most sovereign country on earth. The leave side slogan is ‘take back control’. But in reality a vote to leave would equal less control, less influence, as we wouldn’t have a voice at the table helping to write the rules.  But we would still need access to the Single Market.

[xiii] ‘’Sovereignty is having the power to deliver the best outcomes for the people. You decide how to share it’’.[xiv] ‘’ The UK has been a leader, it has shaped EU policies’’.

Globalisation …that sense of interconnectedness I referred to earlier – makes traditional notions of sovereignty more of a theoretical ideal than a practical goal. No man is an island.

Being in the EU gives more power. [xv]‘’Why lose what we’ve got. Let’s use power that we’ve got’’. We are unique: Britain sits at more top tables than any other country: the Commonwealth, G7, EU, NATO, Permanent member of UN Security Council.

Critics cite all the Brussels red tape’. Others [xvi]‘’call it maternity leave’’ and not having to work more than a certain number of hours each week. Employment rights are protected in UK law. That does not mean that a new government couldn’t take them away. 

Most legislation from the EU is to do with making the Single Market work better. Levelling the playfield to make it easier for companies in Birmingham and Budapest to trade with one another. We have one of the most open and deregulated economies in the world.

Besides [xvii] ‘’most laws don’t come from Brussels’’. There is little passed that the UK doesn’t support. And contrary to what Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson would have us believe, most public spending [xviii]‘’98 %’’ is controlled by politicians in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff.

The ultimate source of authority in the EU isn’t the faceless bureaucrats of the European Commission. It’s the Council of Ministers – the democratically elected leaders of all 28 EU member states.

Of course British democracy is far from perfect. Our system of government was famously described (Lord Hailsham) as an ‘’elective dictatorship’’.

[xix]‘’We have none of the checks and balances on political power which are taken for granted in other liberal democracies’’.

Most countries have a written constitution e.g. in France and in America where the checks and balances of the system weigh against government trying to impose legislation that goes against the will of the majority of people. We in Britain don’t have that. The House of Lords is a revising, not blocking chamber. It doesn’t look very 21st century to me.

The other main type of EU law is human rights law (distinct from ECHR which is non EU). Such protections [xx]‘’also tend to wind up certain types of British politicians because they put some constraints on what they can do’’.

Maybe that’s one reason why some of our politicians feel frustrated with the EU as

[xxi]“That is precisely the type of law that the British public needs to provide some protection from the dogma driven whims of politicians. Bizarrely – Brexit could strip away even these limited protections’’.

Part 4) Immigration

You’re right. Immigration is a lot higher than it was years ago. I notice the rise in immigration. You look at the people sat opposite you on the tube. Many from abroad. I notice it on the W3 bus. I heard 2 different couples talk to each other on the bus. One couple in French and the other in Spanish. The bus goes past the Italian restaurant, the tapas bar. And the practice of my local dentist. Who is Polish.

Immigration to Britain has risen because our economy has grown and we have an ageing society. As the southern European economies improve it should surely go down. Immigration (e.g. care workers from Poland) has helped cities in the north of England as local young people have moved south.

There’s this notion of Johnny Foreigner being responsible for our ills. Creating fear of the other is one of the oldest tricks in the book for nationalists.  I know we were all appalled when we saw the vote leave advert of a queue of Asian refugees with the headline ‘Breaking point’. That’s the real project fear.

Leaving the EU would not give Britain more control over Syrian refugees applying for asylum as they are from outside Europe.

Surely a better way of controlling immigration from non EU countries is in partnership with our European neighbours. Yes, the ‘Jungle’ in Calais, where there is a UK border, is a bi-lateral agreement between Britain and France. But the French government would have much less incentive to continue with the deal if Britain opted to leave the EU.

One of the biggest distortions is that Turkey is about to join the EU. It’s not. Firstly it doesn’t meet the criteria in terms of human rights. Secondly it would be vetoed by the French and German governments. And just go ask the Greek Cypriots in Haringey or Enfield how they’d feel up about Turkey joining the EU. Because of the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus the Greek Cypriot government would also veto Turkish EU membership. The British government has sounded positive about future Turkish accession to the EU as a way of keeping the Turks sweet. It’s a diplomatic tactic to keep on board a NATO ally that borders Syria, Iraq and Iran. If, in say 20 years time it became a more realistic prospect – we could put pressure on our government to veto it.

Phillip Collins of the Times argued (May 27th, 2016) that much concern about immigration is really people worrying about how they are personally affected by issues such as the housing crisis and the lack of wage growth for the semi/low skilled. The response should be higher wages (e.g. the living wage) and benefits linked to contribution. EU immigrants will now have to work here in Britain for a few years before getting full access to in work benefits. Jeremy Corbyn. [xxii]‘’It’s not migrants who undercut wages but unscrupulous employers. Migrants are often the victims.’’

[xxiii]‘’Working class communities have been persuaded that migrants are more to blame for their problems than super rich parasites like Philip Green’’.

According to recent research

[xxiv]‘’The reduction in wages when using European workers is quite small.

-Any wage rise from a restriction on EU workers could be cancelled out by using the same numbers of agency or temporary workers. These have virtually the same small effect in reducing the wages as does the use of EU workers.

-Wage reductions are considerably greater when employers use workers from outside Europe, than when they use European workers. Substituting European workers with workers from other parts of the world, if allowed by future UK governments, could drive wages DOWN’’.

The UK government can address such problems. Leaving the EU wouldn’t help us fix the housing problem. Local authorities or government can change planning laws to address this problem. Surely we need more Polish plumbers to help build more houses.

The NHS depends on immigrants to run. Just think how it would run without the thousands of nurses, and doctors from elsewhere in the EU. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in welfare. They are an asset not a liability. Enable taxes to be lower than otherwise.

Let’s look at the statistics. The ONS report that was in the headlines a few weeks ago. The actual total gross number of immigrants coming in to this country last year was 630,000.  For 2015 it was slightly down (by 2000) compared to the year ending 2015. Repeat immigration went down slightly. The reason headline net migration figures seem so high is because less British people left the UK last year.

So curbing migration would equal less money to spend on public services. Plus there many EU nurses and doctors- keeping them out would harm the UK.

Over a million British people live elsewhere in the EU. E.g. as pensioners in Spain who benefit from access to the Spanish healthcare system.



Environmental problems such as pollution are cross border. Common management of them makes sense. [xxv]Clear enforceable standards help business’’

There are environmental benefits thanks to the EU:  [xxvi]‘’Sewage is no longer pushed out to the sea’’.

Plus EU law has helped improve British seaside bathing water.

There are EU laws on air quality enforcement – poor people are more likely to die of respitary disease.

Sadly the Brexit side have [xxvii]‘’no clear environmental vision.



I now turn to the most important reason why I am voting Remain. Think back to the history of Europe before the European Union was formed:


The idea for European integration was born out of the ashes of the Second World War. Binding the steel and coal industries on the Franco German border together meant that neither side had enough of those crucial resources to build a war fighting machine. Countries that co-operate are less likely to go to war. The period since the EU started is the longest in history without any conflict in Western European. An interesting poll finding (sorry can’t find the reference) is that most people over the age of 75 back Remain. They remember the impact of war.  [xxviii]‘’ The EU started as a response to WW2, it’ now a response to globalisation. It is part of the architecture that holds European security together’’.



For young people, the world is supposed to be their oyster. Brexit would make it smaller.  Boris Johnson seems to want to go in to a cafe, rip up the menu and eat his own packed lunch.  Some vote leave supporters have said ‘I want my country back’. Sorry you can’t turn the clock back. The sun has set on the empire.

I appreciate that we can ‘throw out’ our MP’s and government every 5 years. European Commisioners aren’t directly elected. But they are still appointed by  democratically elected leaders. What’s more the ‘Brussels bureaucracy’ is hardly a dictatorship.

[xxix] ‘’We are not done to by the EU, but a partner at the table’’.

We have the best of both worlds. Not in the euro currency or Schengen border area but still in the EU.

The economist Anatole Kaletsky argued that [xxx]‘’‘project fear’ it’s really a series of home truths. The costs of brexit haven’t got through to the public’’.

Spending on hospitals and schools depends on growth in the economy. That’s what the Chancellor has been referring to. That’s what affects me and my family (sic).

All my flatmates are away this weekend. I’ve got the flat all to myself. I’ve got complete sovereignty over the house I live in. I can turn the music up loud. But it also isolating. When my flatmates are here – we can share the tasks, one person takes out the rubbish, the other cleans the bathroom etc.  Manage the chores together.  Good household management.  In classical Greek the term for that is … Oeconomica: economics.  Prosperity, peace and co-operation with our neighbours go together. They are mutually reinforcing. We achieve more together than alone.






[i] John Evans Trade Union adviser to the OECD speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[ii]  Anatoke Kaletsky, Economist & journalist speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London


[iii] Anatoke Kaletsky, Economist & journalist speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[iv] Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) speaking a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[v][v] Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) speaking a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London


[vii] Jonathan Freedland, Guardian, speaking at a Remain conference, June 15, 2016

[viii] Kaletsky, Economist & journalist speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London


[x] Professor Martin McKee

[xi] John Evans Trade Union adviser to the OECD speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London


[xiii] Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xiv] Dr. Charlotte Burns, York University, speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xv] Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xvi] Liz Kendall MP


[xviii] Dr. Robin Niblett, Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London







[xxv] Dr. Charlotte Burns, York University speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xxvi] Dr. Charlotte Burns, York University speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xxvii] Dr. Charlotte Burns, York University speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xxviii] Professor Michael Clarke, former  Director of the Royal United Services Institute, speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

Article used for reference:

[xxix] Dr. Charlotte Burns, York University, speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London

[xxx] Anatole Kaletsky, Economist & journalist speaking at a Remain conference. June 15th 2016, London



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