In December 1972 the then Prime Minister Edward Heath published in The Illustrated London News in the following terms:-
The Community which we are joining is far more than a common market. It is a community in the true sense of that term.
There appears therefore to have been some confusion as to precisely what “we” voted for and ratified in 1975.
The then Prime Minister seemed (with the presumed benefit of a contemporaneous understanding) to have felt differently to referendum voters in 2016, most of whom had never voted in 1975. You would now have to be aged 60 or over to have done so.
Heath then went further in his understanding.
It (the European Community) is far more than a common market…
…it is concerned not only with the establishment of free trade, economic and monetary union
…but…with social issues which affect us all – environmental questions
“Won’t affect me – I’ll be long gone.”
…working conditions in industry
“Socialism through the back door, as Maggie said.”
“Who needs cheap calls if you don’t go abroad?”
…aid to development areas
“Is that what the Welsh are bleating on about?”
…maintaining good relations between the industrialized countries which is vital for the prosperity of the whole world
“Why does anybody need trade agreements?”
…and with working for an improvement in relations between East and West
“It all changed when the wall came down.”
In the context of Heath’s message to the country something has gone seriously wrong in terms of the understanding of what people were voting for in 1975, evidently. All of Heath’s objectives in terms of the European Community are instantly recognisable to anybody in the run up to the 2016 referendum. If, therefore, voters wanted to take us back to what was voted for in 1975 how have they achieved their objectives?
They have not, of course.
The discernible change in circumstances upon consideration of Heath’s message in 2017 relates to events in 1990 onwards in the easterly “half” of our continent. The stated objective of the Community could not have been clearer in terms of inspiring an improvement in relations between east and west. Consequently when the wall came down the Community had partially achieved its objective. The rebuilding of a Europe split tragically by an iron curtain was the furtherance of the objective.
When a person aged 60 or over says
“I’ve got nothing against Eastern Europeans apart from them sending money back home, taking jobs, hospital beds, school places and claiming benefits. That’s not what I voted for. I voted for a Common Market only. I’ve no problem with that…”
he or she is clearly mistaken.
It’s funny how referendums cause such confusion. Not to mention how many people under 60 seem to think that they know what they cannot have voted for. Because “we” did vote in 1975 by a clear majority. A very clear majority if your only knowledge of a referendum is that, so-described, which took place in 2016.
David Davis, the so-called Brexit Minister, was asked on television of Michel Barnier. He enlightened the audience by saying that he was “very French”.
A piece of masterful self-assertion in the process of the “negotiations”. Imagine the impeccably dressed Barnier, cool as a cucumber, being asked the same question of Davis.
“Il est vraiment…anglais”.
So what is there to learn of Davis’s response?
Davis is scared witless of Barnier, and rightly so. Barnier exudes the cool and understated confidence of a poker player holding a good hand but not afraid to lose one in the course of a long evening’s entertainment.
The banal uttering of Davis says more about its origin than its object. It is a real door opener into the mind and machinations of the Chef of the Department for Exiting the European Union.
A confident and sage Davis would have immediately lauded his opposite number, assured of his own standing in this meeting of minds.
But he let this slip. It was a good question. Simple but extracting. Rather like asking a Prime Minister whether he has shared prayer with a President.
The answer is tainted by stereotypical illusions of Johnny Foreigner. Did Barnier smell of aïl?
Did Davis spot a necklace of onion bulbs that everybody else missed when Barnier strode confidently to his lectern? Had Barnier enjoyed a long lunch? Did he order escargots or cuisses de grenouille?
Imagine the vice versa. Did Davis have baked bean residue on the bottom of his tie? Did he ask for Heinz Salad Cream, or insist on Heinz Tomato Ketchup? Did he order rosbif, bien cuit?
In consideration of the strengths of each “side” entering the illusory negotiation phase Davis’s comment shows the weighing scale in true perspective. Seriously unbalanced.
Appearance is not everything, of course. A Cheshire-cat grin from ear-to-ear does not necessarily reveal a chancer with no hand. The grin has to be placed in context.
This is one of the most critical few months that the United Kingdom has faced since World War II.
On a practical level it appears that the apparatus of state has crumbled. It has been allowed to wither under various guises. Perceived lack of efficiency, a need to privatise for dogmatic principles of a post-Thatcherite era, a sale of assets to prop up an ailing economy during the financial crisis of the late noughties and latterly “austerity”.
For those who have reason to interact with the vehicles of state the demise is clear to see.
Privatised prisons propped up by emergency state intervention when order breaks down, as it frequently seems to. Prisoners filming ritual beatings for drugs.
Benefits’ services run by private companies; similarly almost all utilities provision. The NHS on its way. Schools run by academy trusts.
Post Offices all but vanished from high streets, tucked away in a branch of Martin’s or W H Smith.
Courts closed down, Police stations closed down, ambulance stations and fire stations closed down. Central administration helplines with never-ending menus to navigate.
In my interaction with HM Court Service I used to go 10 miles to my local County Court but then my local Court office closed, as did the one 25 miles away, leaving another 20 miles away open by appointment only.
There is a strange feeling in local Courts now. Many of them are either closed or resemble the Marie Celeste.
A Court used to be a place in which people who worked there had names. They were real people. You could ask for “Mr X” or “Mrs Y” to help and they would willingly oblige. A working world of building relationships and human interaction. Now, the national issuing office is nearer to 200 miles away, served by a telephone administration service. I am not critical of those who work there or answer the telephone advice line. Quite the reverse.
The state has virtually no visible role. Group 4 Security is more logo-recognisable than the machinery of state. Councils are selling off and converting buildings of significance to meet their budgets and keep Council Tax bills down.
A visit to the Continent places the British position in perspective. The state becomes visible again. Town halls, Courts, flags, railway workers with whistles and uniforms, the state logo on hats of smart uniforms.
Signs announcing European Union and state funding arrangements for roads, bridges and projects, shown to the precise Euro in investment value.
The result of the referendum has many causes, too complicated to apportion between the factors. The easy targets for the politically outraged are the right-wing and highly xenophobic press, or the self-serving ambitions of disingenuous politicians.
There is, however, an even more fundamental reason why the slim majority of those who participated on 23rd June 2016 voted to do something that no European politician, save for the likes of Farage, countenanced or thought possible. After all, the club of 28 is the richest economic members’ club on the planet to which excluded nations aspire only to belong.
The state at state-level has almost ceased to function. At supra-national level the non-existence of the nation state in the United Kingdom has meant that the European Union has similarly been let down and neglected. No signposts showing investment (even in areas heavily reliant on it), no flags on town halls, perhaps no town hall at all.
It is ironic that those who wanted to leave the European Union turned their attentions to a time when Britain was perceived by them to be Great.
The time that they yearn for is an era when the state assumed a greater proportion of GDP. A time when it was readily visible in terms of nationalised industries, utilities, educational provision and infrastructure of government. The Conservative Party makes no secret of its desire to reduce the role of the state and the proportion of expenditure it controls, to levels progressively lower. Whether this is a bona fide attempt to balance public finances or a politically dogmatic deep policy agenda masquerading as financial prudence can be left to speculation.
A change in the visibility of the state seems long overdue. If and to the extent, however, that this means contemplating withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (which is something more significant than EU legislation but deliberately confused with it mendaciously by Eurosceptics) and replacing it with a national Bill of Rights then the resurrection of the symbols of state might be something we should fear and not welcome.
Soldiers on our streets provide a measure of increased visibility of state. Coming on the back of the paring of the state to its bare bones it should be an uncomfortable place for the government to be.
Aristotle said of the state that it was “not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange…”
But our civilian state has been left impotent. The referendum vote has delivered a message that the public actually want more and not less visibility of the state; to a government committed to do the opposite.
When Theresa May announced that she was intending to create a Britain which “worked for everybody” and her Chancellor rolled back austerity the pair of them may have had Aristotle in mind when he said that “if liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost“.
Her “working for everybody” mantra was a modern-day Marie Antoinette moment. The people of Boston, Lincolnshire, ravaged by underinvestment were being offered their cake. They must be wondering if and when it will ever be served up.
Impotence is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as a “lack of power to change or improve a situation”.
The net migration figure last year was 273,000 of whom 164,000 people came from outside the EU. The 17th May 2017 London Evening Standard editorial was particularly savage about Theresa May’s pledge to reduce the figure down to the “tens of thousands”. Its editor served in the same government:-
“So you would assume that Mrs May would jump at the chance to bury the pledge. That’s what her Cabinet assumed; none of its senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief. But no. Mrs May has kept digging.”
The impression given by the Evening Standard editorial is that migration figures had become an obsession for the Prime Minister, possibly going back to her time as Home Secretary when she patently failed to control immigration numbers.
However, she had at her disposal a means for controlling immigration numbers, notwithstanding freedom of movement which derived from the European Union itself, found in Article 7 of Directive 2004/38/EC which prescribes and defines rights of residence in other member states in a way which might be surprising to some who voted to leave the European Union upon the basis that uncontrolled immigration was their “burning issue”.
Right of residence for more than three months
1. All Union citizens shall have the right of residence on the territory of another Member State for a period of longer than three months if they:
(a) are workers or self-employed persons in the host Member State; or
(b) have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during their period of residence and have comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the host Member State; or
(c) are enrolled at a private or public establishment, accredited or financed by the host Member State on the basis of its legislation or administrative practice, for the principal purpose of following a course of study, including vocational training; and have comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the host Member State and assure the relevant national authority, by means of a declaration or by such equivalent means as they may choose, that they have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during their period of residence; or
(d) are family members accompanying or joining a Union citizen who satisfies the conditions referred to in points (a), (b) or (c).
Tabloid newspapers failed to refer to the limits of the right of residence in another state, dependent upon the exercise of the discretion of the national government of any member state. In short, if there had been a problem with excessive numbers of penniless EU migrants coming to the United Kingdom for more than a holiday without work then their continued presence was permitted by means of inaction by the UK Government and in particular the Home Office, formerly presided over by the incumbent Prime Minister.
Then, on 14th June 2016, a ruling by the European Court of Justice confirmed that EU rules on free movement did not prevent Britain and other member states blocking payment of welfare benefits if migrants were unemployed and unable to financially support themselves independently. Little attention was given to this crucial decision in which a European legal institution did exactly what tabloid editors accused it of being incapable of. Independent scrutiny of the executive, namely the European Commission. In favour of a member state; in this case the United Kingdom.
As long ago as 5th November 2013 the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London had reported that “UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers”.
“The positive contribution is particularly evident for UK immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus three small neighbours): they contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11.”
Again, a report not widely disseminated by tabloid editors.
If a high percentage of migrant workers are young this also helps to reduce the dependency ratio – a crucial issue for government budget at a time when the country faces an ageing population with retirement burdens.
More migrants workers are educated to degree level than non-migrants, and this suggests a positive impact on the quality of the workforce.
There is also a particularly attractive positive about European migration. Migrant workers from the continent are likely to be more flexible and return home, if the economic situation were to deteriorate.
Having relied so heavily on economic migration to use it as a source of prosperity and wealth stimulation the idea that it should be taken away has with it a clear and obvious danger. Put simply, there will not be enough hands on the decks. The decks then become tarnished, worn and unfit for purpose. Or the produce rots.
The government’s impotence lies in the mismatch between the truth and the rhetoric. Is the gap too wide between the two to be scaled without party political damage?
There is a conflict of interest because characters at the head of government are connected with the failure to control migration to the extent that it was permissible to do so. That apart, migration was (and still is) in the best interests of the country. Migrants are attracted by buoyant economies. Regrettably the Prime Minister is likely to find that the sure fire way to reduce migration is to reduce the buoyancy of the economy and therefore the prosperity of the country. If she prioritises migration then she is pursuing a single interest to which she is too close. She has history. Lots of it.
Equally, she knows of the economic peril and readily advised audiences prior to June 2016 of the careful consideration that she had given in reaching her decision that Britain’s best interests were served by remaining in the European Union, freedom of movement notwithstanding. At that stage the interests of tabloid editors had evidently not crafted her approach.
As Sophocles said in Antigone:
“I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State”.
Sources and links:- i) London Evening Standard http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/evening-standard-comment-it-s-time-to-scrap-the-tory-migration-cap-a3541346.html ii) ECJ Ruling 14th June 2014, Luxembourg https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2016-06/cp160063en.pdf iii) University College London CReAM paper http://www.cream-migration.org/publ_uploads/CDP_22_13.pdf
The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome rightly fell to be celebrated on 25th March 2017, whatever Britain’s decision on 23rd June 2016.
London’s celebration was tainted. First by impending divorce and then by terror. In the face of that strange atmosphere what would the metropolis deliver?
Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency and ideally needs to be treated in hospital within a few hours to avoid permanent damage to the muscles or nerves.
A year ago one of those who Marched for Europe in London was hospitalised with acute compartment syndrome. Numerous operations and a tendon reconstruction to replace the tissues removed through necrosis caused by this dreadfully surreptitious and merciless condition.
With the benefit of an international NHS medical team, a comfortable pair of Adidas trainers and many months of learning to walk again he completed the march to Parliament on 25th March 2017. A heel splint helped but his pained expression was unmistakable, as was his determination.
Earlier in the morning parents and children took to the trains and coaches with banners, packed lunches and daffodils at the ready.
Glorious sun; flags of nations and the symbol of their unifying structure fluttering in the early Spring breeze. An impeccable celebration, or protest, in huge numbers, despite the lengthy delay due to the larger than anticipated attendance.
A respectful and witty meeting of minds. Whitehall greeted the marchers with The Beatles pumping out of a window. The marchers greeted the Police with daffodils and smiles. Some sang Ode to Joy.
All you need is love!
Parliament Square was packed to the rafters, as were nearby pubs and restaurants. One of the former found itself the strange setting for a clash of cultures.
Nigel Farage may have relished hearing his name chanted like a football hero had he attended. A dozen or so of his all-male supporters arrived. In their designer football attire. They left. Nothing going. Completely and utterly out of place and with no chance of sport.
Cue Mail Online’s outrage at the fact the March had proceeded, evidently very successfully. Damn the Remoaners! Enemies of the People!
They managed to find some unflattering photographs and made no secret of their disgust that the yellow stars should have found themselves at the heart of the capital in such impressive numbers. Reminiscent of the Trump presidency inauguration they downsized the strength of the March as much as Mr President had exaggerated the love for his crowning moment.
A glance through the first couple of pages of readers’ comments left in response to the article is truly breathtaking and worthy of copy for those who wince at the prospect of opening up the page. Like a horror film watched from behind the sofa.
I think you should shut the hell up snowflake
…all the wrongs in Britain today: foreigners doing as they wish
I wonder just how many in that march are home born?
…they are enemies of their own country
Hundreds of flowers outside Westminster…a vile remoaner has planted a small EU flag amongst them
Assortment of Commies, Feminists and wimmin (sic.)
Do none of these protestors (sic.) ever have work?
Should have herded them onto the channel shuttle
Fifth columnist traitors
Marching against a democratic decision, terrorism by another name
Bunch of spineless objectors
Spineless weak cowards
The next march should be at Beachy Head
Hordes of dimwits
I have never seen so many British traitors in one place
THIS WAS NOT FREE SPEECH IT WAS TREASON and should have been treated as such
People like this brought terrorism to Europe
A mixture of tree huggers and upper class Spanish villa owners
Don’t care about democracy or the safety of others – what an absolute bunch of utter (removed)
…they are the dregs of the dregs…
…should be clapped in irons.
Try out the water cannons which Boris purchased
EU Funded Hippies
We won two world wars
Should of (sic.) banned it and got the water canons(sic.) out.
Most of them need a wash …the very type of person we don’t need in this country i.e. a migrant
The great unwashed – You can smell the hemp and urine from here.
The bad, encouraging the ugly and the ugly encouraging the bad. If Theresa May thinks that she can unite this country she needs to read a little more and take a glance over the cushion held to her eyes at the film that continues to roll. The fingers in her ears may be presently drowning out some of the screams.
The United Kingdom has a critical emergency reminiscent of compartment syndrome. Pressure building causing restriction and very unpleasant necrotic tissue which is in danger of taking over and compromising the entire patient. With appropriate intervention the scars of the treatment will be left although the re-building will be complex and demanding; without the skilled leadership required of this multi-disciplinary treatment the horror film could subsequently become a documentary.
“The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”
These were words of Theresa May whose vans had circulated around certain UK locations telling people that they were “on the radar”. A cut-price immigration policy.
I recently engaged in conversation with a lady originating from Slovakia, employed in catering services. She had noticed my “Still European” T shirt and, in hushed tones, we spoke.
It was then that the very real face of the outcome of the referendum came to me. The effect of the cause that over 17 million people who voted to leave would not have contemplated, or wanted to see, save for the hardened bullies and sadists among them.
When they placed that paper in the ballot box, or posted their vote I suspect that very few of them gave thought to the misery that they would potentially create for people deserving of better.
I had previously heard mention of an incident local to me in which a foreign van driver had been subjected to vile abuse for having parked his van, temporarily blocking the closest route for his assailant back to his home for a matter of seconds whilst dropping off a parcel.
It was made clear to me that an element of the abuse was directed at his nationality; he was berated for not knowing the rules of “our” roads.
That apart, my own experience of intolerance in post-referendum Britain has been limited to hearing some racially discriminatory comments which may or may not have been made beforehand and which I always would have found offensive regardless.
My chat with the lady changed my perspective. I was concerned over prospective loss of my European cultural identity and possibly the right to retire or own property abroad. This was something else, however.
She confided in me (and hence she is anonymous) that she did not know what to do. Having worked in Britain continuously and successfully for a decade she had omitted to apply for citizenship due to the cost. However, when applying for promotions for which she was clearly competent she was thwarted by her name. Her employer was not prepared to plan their business operations around her, despite her abilities, experience, and near-perfect command of English. Apologetic head shakes.
Consequently she could not plan a family with her partner and found herself in a form of worldly purgatory.
Purgatory of the departed represented a kind of “holding area” for tortured souls whilst the powers-at-be determined ascent or descent of the soul.
In this case the torture was not only the lack of ability to plan and manage a life and relationship but also the suffering of significant levels of abuse post-referendum from customers; the feeling of helplessness heightened by the perceived inability to seek address and redress due to fears and anxieties instinctively natural for a vulnerable “outsider” to feel. I felt ashamed and a little tearful.
I am not going to repeat verbatim the terms of the abuse save for saying that it was stated to be directed often at her gender and invariably at her nationality (ironically, the abusers generally failed to correctly identify the latter, simply assuming that she was “Polish”).
If Mrs May’s aim was to create “here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration” then it appears that she, with the assistance of others, has surpassed herself.
Her successor Home Secretary declared at the Conservative Party Conference in Autumn 2016:
“We are ready to take on the challenges and tackle any threats we face at home …
So that all people across our country have the certainty of safety and security …
And can get on with their lives in a Britain that truly works for everyone …”
Marc Folgate, 21 February 2017
This is a simple call to all those who live in and around Oundle to join me in forming an association for local people who view themselves as being European. You don’t have to view yourself as primarily European, or have any particular identity “picking order”. This is not about patriotism, a lack of it, or in any way challenging the right of anybody to be and to feel English, British, Scottish, Irish or anything else.
However, if you view yourself as wanting to remain a European and closer to the continent of Europe than any other potential new cultural or trading block I hope that this is an association that will work for you and for like-minded folk together.
I wish to create this association as a non-profit making entity. We will have a broad statement of objectives by way of a Memorandum of Association and I would like to draft a simple constitution. My proposal is that the group (as it will be known, “Oundle Europeans“) has the following objective.
To promote, share, encourage and nurture the development of European culture and identity among the population of Oundle and its surroundings.
Broadly I would like to see the following development:-
i) a Facebook group site being formed;
ii) a meeting of kindred spirits to discuss the constitution and any membership contributions to fund publicity material such as banners or flags;
iii) the use of a forum such as this site for information exchange and communication between group members who do not subscribe to Facebook;
iv) some social gatherings for group members with the aim of furthering the overall objective.
As we continue to pick through the bones of the events of June 2016 it is abundantly clear that of the multi-faceted reasons for a marginal leave vote one of them was a lack of perception of European identity. That is something that we can seek to address whilst maintaining courtesy and respect for those who disagree with us.
I want us to be able to share our European values and our European identity; our European memories, aspirations and even our photographs. I wish us to be proud to do so and to have the courage to do so.
The world feels like is turning faster than ever. It isn’t, of course, but never has there been a time when a week seems so much like a lifetime in politics.
Please look up the group on Facebook and request to join. The group name is Oundle Europeans and it is a closed group. Please share this post with others who might wish to join us too, using the link and the share button below. If you do not have a Facebook account but would like to participate then please leave your name and e-mail address in the Reply box below or send me your name and e-mail address to:-