Our MEP Gerard Batten continues with the next few answers to the frequently-asked questions you might have about this summer’s referendum. If you have any further questions, please contact Gerard on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Haven’t senior members of the British armed forces said we are safer in the EU?
A letter orchestrated by 10 Downing Street in February 2016 was signed by a number of senior and former members of the armed forces: however, this manoeuvre spectacularly backfired after it turned out that one of the claimed signatories had not signed at all. General Sir Michael Rose had not only not given his permission to be included, but had instead said that “sovereignty and security are intrinsically linked and in the recent years we’ve seen the EU erode our sovereignty” (The Daily Mail, 25th February 2016.) No. 10 was forced to issue a humiliating apology to Sir Michael.
Other respected military figures have come out in favour of leaving the EU, including Colonel Richard Kemp, former Army Commander in Afghanistan, who wrote an article in the Sunday Express of 28th February 2016 stating that “NATO is our main military alliance, not the EU … By leaving the EU we will gain far greater control of our borders and better confront these challenges that have the potential to undermine the very fabric of our society.”
- Some say that if we leave the EU, we would be like Norway and Switzerland, who have to obey most EU laws, pay a contribution to the EU budget, and have open borders. Is this true?
No. When Britain leaves the EU, it will not be obliged to follow either the so-called ‘Norwegian’ or ‘Swiss’ model. The Norwegians chose to be members of the European Economic Area. Switzerland had agreed over 100 bilateral treaties with the EU, which has meant it has adopted most EU laws without being a member of the EEA or EU.
No genuine advocate of Brexit would suggest this outcome is desirable. Instead, we should adopt the ‘Canadian’, ‘Japanese’ or ‘Singaporean’ models: independent nation states that trade and co-operate without being members of the EU. In reality, we want a British Model which would mean we do not have to obey EU laws, pay them any money or have open borders. We would be in a very strong position to negotiate our own trade deal with the EU – and indeed trade deals with the rest of the world. We would not have to join the EEA – and nor should we.
It is noteworthy that the Swiss Parliament recently voted to withdraw its 24 year-old application to join the EU because the costs of EU membership are too high. In 2006 the Swiss Federal Government carried out a study that calculated that full membership of the EU would cost up to six times the cost of their existing bilateral arrangements with the EU.
- If we left, would we still have to comply with EU rules in order to trade with member states?
Any country that exports goods or services to another country has to comply with that country’s related rules. For example, when we export goods or services to the USA, we have to comply with the USA’s own rules, specifications and laws. That is true of any country wishing to trade with another. As has been said earlier, the rules governing trade are agreed under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation. The WTO strives to bring trade barriers down internationally.
- Outside the EU, would we lose our Human Rights?
After the atrocities committed on the Continent during the Second World War, the European Convention on Human Rights was proposed by Winston Churchill. It was modelled on the protections enshrined for centuries under English Common Law. So, you can see we had perfectly good human rights under our own laws before we joined the EU – and we will after we leave.
Under Tony Blair’s Labour Government, the Convention was incorporated into UK law by means of the Human Rights Act (1998). This has subsequently led to all kinds of abuses and to it being described as a charter for criminals and terrorists. This is because of numerous decisions by the European Court of Justice. British Courts have found themselves powerless to deport foreign terrorists, murderers, rapists and paedophiles, all because the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECHR’) has decided that it might infringe their ‘human rights’ to do so.
In fact, leaving the EU would not make much practical difference to our situation regarding either the Convention or the ECHR. However, if a British Parliament decided to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove our country from the jurisdiction of the ECHR, then we could return power to Parliament and legal jurisdiction to our own Supreme Court – but that is a separate issue.
- Hasn’t David Cameron ‘renegotiated our membership of the EU’ to deal with all these problems?
Mr. Cameron’s ‘deal’ is, in fact, no deal at all. There is not sufficient space here to address each one of his ‘reforms’, but in summary, neither do they amount to very much, nor do they return or repatriate any significant powers to the UK Parliament (despite Mr. Cameron’s many promises to do so).
The ‘reforms’ will require many changes to the EU Treaty (which will necessitate the unanimous consent of 27 other member states), and many amendments to existing EU Directives, which first have to be voted upon by the European Parliament and then additionally require the consent of the European Council (comprising Heads of the 27 other member states’ governments) by Qualified Majority Voting.
Martin Schulz MEP, the President of the European Parliament, has made it plain that how the EU Parliament votes cannot be guaranteed in advance and that MEPs may decide to change the substance of the reforms – or even to reject them wholesale. Likewise, the European Council might decide to reject the changes, including the proposed Treaty changes. We simply do not and cannot know what will happen, because although the Referendum will be on 23rd June 2016, the changes to the Treaty and Directives will not happen until months or years afterwards. Mr. Cameron is trying to sell the British electorate a pig in a poke.
Part 8 follows tomorrow.