People are outraged that we may pay the EU up to £350 million a week. But if you mark the box next to Leave on Thursday, that statistic will be miniature in comparison to what your vote will entail.
It takes only a little perspective to offer some clarity in the gloomiest of situations. As both factions of the referendum campaign vamp up for the final days, millions of people will be voting to leave the EU, for completely delusional reasons. I appreciate that many of you don’t take an interest in day-to-day politics, but what is being sold to you by the plutocratic trio of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage is a scam.
The focal argument for Brexit is that all the money being pumped into the EU will come flooding back into our public services. However, that money being paid to the EU is the least of a grim barrage of figures which are a slap to the face. Since they were elected in 2010, the Tories have been busy selling off public assets at an exponential rate, with the Royal Mail and the NHS being two of the most notable casualties. The latter now has a record deficit of £2.45 billion – the biggest overspend in its history and is a direct result of struggling to cope with a major budget squeeze. Many of the leading Brexiteers are on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. The fate of our health service really couldn’t be any more transparent if we vote to leave.
Another ugly statistic is the £555 billion the Chancellor George Osborne has racked up in debt, since he took office in 2010. To add insult to injury, Osborne has already warned of £30 billion more cuts to the NHS, schools and other public services, in the event of Brexit. The government’s actions raises two questions: how can anyone trust them to rebuild these public services with money we’d be saving from the EU, when they’ve already been working so hard to dismantle them? Secondly, where has all the money that has been stripped from our public assets gone? The first can only be answered by voters themselves but I’ll tell you where all this wealth has vanished to; our government hands a minimum of £93 billion to businesses and corporations each year – a transfer of more than £3,500 from each household in the UK. Just to put that into comparison, £1.2 billion is spent every year on benefit fraud, an argument which is supposedly one of the strongest for leaving the EU. Believe it or not, there’s a reason why we live in a country where the richest 20% now hold 105 times more wealth than the poorest fifth.
Leaving the European Union carries a price working-class voters literally can’t afford to pay. You only need to look at what the Tories have done in the past, without EU regulations, to see how they will act in the future. In 1981, the Thatcher government reluctantly agreed to introduce into British law obligations imposed by the European Union Acquired Rights Directive. This would protect the jobs and pay and conditions of employment of workers on transfer from one employer to another. However, the Tories excluded six million public servants when they introduced the regulations. The 10 years that followed were a privatisation frenzy, an auction on who could pay the least to the fewest, as tens of thousands were left with no protection on transfer. After years of campaigning and a shameful decade of mass privatisation, the workers took their case to the EU and won. As Paul Mason noted in a recent column, the likes of Johnson, Gove and Farage have fought all their lives for one objective: to give more power to employers and less to workers. Make no mistake, these men have absolutely no intentions of maintaining our rights at work if we leave the EU.
Perhaps the gravest threat to our society is the looming menace of TTIP. If you’re unfamiliar with this acronym, TTIP is the transatlantic trade and investment partnership and has two main strands: one is regulatory cooperation, which means standardising the laws on either side of the Atlantic. The other is investor-state dispute settlement, permitting companies to sue governments through an offshore tribunal if a law threatens their profits. If we vote to remain in the EU there is still no guarantee the deal will be prevented, but if we do leave it will certainly increase the chances of it being conceived.
If you’re still not worried, you only need to look at what happened in Romania. The government of Romania halted the production of a gold mine and swiftly found itself facing a massive lawsuit from a corporate mining giant in a secret “court”. The corporation has said it may seek up to $4 billion in “compensation”, which is half of Romania’s annual public healthcare budget. If TTIP is passed through, such cases could become commonplace in Britain. It will almost certainly eradicate every democratic process in this country and will be a death knell for the NHS and other public services. Yet David Cameron is calling for “courage” to push it through. Do you really think he’ll hesitate with Brussels out of the equation?
Brexit would also have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment. Overbearing private corporations would exploit the situation to demand the repeal of the Climate Change Act, the dismantling of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and push for even more fracking than is already currently in prospect. They would also urge for the removal of any remaining measures to encourage renewables, energy efficiency and community energy. The record of the Brexit cheerleaders offers no reassurance that they would resist any of this. Furthermore, the EU has provided us with a number of environmental benefits, including cleaner beaches, more rigorous action on air pollution and increased protection for UK nature. All of these advantages handed to us would likely to be wiped away.
The referendum has brought the worst out in some people, with casual racism and xenophobia rearing its ugly head and piercing the surface of our political discourse. The Leave campaign is the primary culprit and in recent weeks they have produced some truly odious propaganda. In the wake of the Orlando shooting on June 12th, they fabricated a shameful piece of racist scaremongering, claiming that “Islamic extremism is a real threat to our way of life” and we face an “Orlando-style atrocity” if we don’t leave the EU. The master of chicanery, Nigel Farage, then went one step further. He unveiled a poster illustrating a vast queue of desperate refugees, with the headline “Breaking Point”, in a demonstration of his expertise at whipping up racial hatred. The poster was eerily reminiscent of one deployed by the Nazis.
Last week, the boundless torrent of fear and hatred which has been pumped into the veins of this EU debate reached boiling point. Thomas Mair, a far-right extremist, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in her constituency, while shouting “Britain First”. It is still unclear whether or not he was referring to the far-right group of that name, although it is now known he had ties with neo-Nazi organisations. Atrocities like these aren’t caused by the overnight invention of racial superiority, but by the gradual evolution of a noxious political climate. Just as we like to talk about the radicalisation of Islamic extremists, the catalysts for this racial extremism need to be named and shamed; tabloids such as the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun, far-right groups like Britain First and outright neo-Nazi groups like National Action, as well as many individual members of our political institutions and media. Poverty, low pay and the sanctioning of benefits are not caused by immigrants; they are a direct result of the ideological austerity fermented by this Tory government.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer on the EU referendum, although even if we remain we face a punishing few years until we have a change in government. However, I can confidently say that affairs are going to get much worse if we decide to leave. The EU has become a gerrymandered dinosaur, which allowed the most left-wing government in Europe plunge into financial chaos. But it still offers the British public protection on many levels. One major criticism of the EU is that it failed to block the Tories’ trade union bill, which would stem the flow of political funding to opposition parties. Even though it didn’t prevent the bill, it raises the question, why would you want the country’s security to be left solely in the hands of these people? The trade union bill, after all, is a gleaming example of things to come in the event of Brexit.
A post-Brexit government would be sculpted in the images of Johnson and Gove, and everything they have ever achieved suggests they would turn Britain into a Thatcherite’s wet dream. It may have escaped your notice, but on numerous public appearances in recent weeks, David Cameron has been attempting to soak all the blame being fired at the Conservative party onto himself. Forget divisions within the Tories’, the Prime Minister’s subtle ploy is to ensure the legacy of his party remains intact for many years to come. This can’t be allowed to happen. You won’t be getting your country back if you vote to leave, you’ll be seamlessly placing it in the hands of the most right wing government seen in years.
Regardless of whether we leave the EU or not, a financial crisis is probably around the corner. It was reported only two weeks ago, that the megalomaniacs and government overlords of Britain had taken £65 billion out of the British economy in just March and April alone. Our chancellor has created a gargantuan debt and this country faces grave repercussions. This should serve as a final warning to vote remain, so the Tories at least have some restrictions on their venomous assault on the state. If we leave, they’ll be left unshackled to run riot in a manner we haven’t seen since the 1980’s.
We should then seek to replace those in government at the next possible opportunity.
Our democracy is broken but to win it back we must work with democratic forces across Europe, not by cutting ourselves adrift. The EU may never be rebuilt and if that is the case there will be a time to leave. But that time will be when we have a measure of stability, when we have a Labour government.