says Bob Fleming, Leader of Town Council
Having read last week’s Newton News, I was concerned over the coverage given to the IN Campaign in the paper. One full page was devoted to being IN but not one word regarding being OUT. I contacted the editor and he explained that no one had come forward from the Brexit Campaign and he invited me to submit my views on the issue.
Let me state that these are my views and are not the views of the political party I have been a member of for almost 64 years, or the Council I am a member of. They are my views but are also shared by many of my friends and the people I represent.
Before the referendum on our membership in Europe was proposed, I did not give our membership of the Common Market too much thought. One year when I went on holiday to Spain and marvelled at magnificent new highways, paid for by the European Union funds, I thought ‘why don’t we have such roads in Britain?’ Why should the Great North Road North of Alnwick be two-laned when the Spanish have such facilities.
When I visited Germany I also thought that if the steel works I visited in Duisburg could be subsidised, why should our steel works not benefit from a similar arrangement? David Cameron went throughout Europe, trying to have something to present to the British public. When he descended from his aeroplane he stood there with a piece of white paper, which reminded me of another Prime Minister in 1939 saying ‘peace in our time’. Cameron had very little, only some vague promises which would need to be endorsed at some time in the future.
Since the announcement of the referendum, we have been inundated with so much information that many of us find it difficult to absorb. Amongst the information there are truths, untruths, lies, damned lies and statistics.
Cameron said that the referendum would be played on a level playing field. That was until he found he was fighting for his political life. Then he spent nine million pounds on the IN Campaign but nothing was given to the OUT Campaign. Then he unleashed many government departments, who surprisingly found overwhelming evidence to stay in. In the vanguard of the departments was George Osborne and the Treasury Department. Their record on financial predictions has been so far off the mark, and so often, that they would be laughable if not so serious. Just look at the last two budgets. They have been subject to more u-turns than the Monaco Grand Prix!
The level playing field has become so skewed that the only sport that could be played on it would be ski-jumping.
Which predictions should we believe? Well on one hand we have a relatively new Governor of the Bank of England advising us to stay. On the other hand, we have his predecessor of many years advising us to leave as soon as possible.
We have numerous market predictions advising us but models are reliant on the information you put in. Put rubbish in and you get rubbish out. If the only information you put in in pro staying in and against leaving, it is not surprising what the prediction will be.
Let’s feed the following facts into the model.
1. The Euro is in danger of collapse
2. The Greek economy is in tatters. They are unable to meet their debts and have enforced austerity imposed on them.
3. Italy is in line to join Greece. Their gross national product is declining. In some regions unemployment is over 65% – yes, two out of three people are unemployed.
4. Spain is also in the group of high unemployment, especially among young people.
What will this model predict? We are told that if we leave the sky will fall on our shoulders. It did not do so before we joined the Common Market. Then we had many flourishing industries.
Shipbuilding flourished on our North Eastern rivers. There were several steelworks in the North East. At that time, I took my family to Seahouses for a summer holiday and we watched the fishing boats unload the beautiful silver herring. Now Robsons of Craster, of Craster Kippers fame, have to import the herring from Norway and Iceland. Why? Because European companies hold the quotas for fishing in our waters and land their catches on the European mainland.
If our few remaining fishing boats have a quota, they are restricted to the number of days they can fish, and perfectly good fish has to be dumped if quotas are exceeded.
In his article in last week’s paper, Phil Wilson, our MP, makes some remarkable statements. First he states that 13.2% of our laws are made in the EU. I find that alarming. Our laws have evolved over centuries and are the envy of the world.
To state that 1 in 7 of our laws are imposed by the EU is totally unacceptable. That is not the end of the story. Not only do we have laws imposed on us but also EU directives which tell us what we must do, how we must do it and when we must do it.
These directives come from the European Parliament but it is the first parliament in history which cannot propose legislation. That is done by the European Commission. The European Commission are unelected bureaucrats who govern Europe. The European Parliament cannot repeal legislation, only amend or delay.
Let me give you an example of a European directive which affected Newton Aycliffe. Two years ago, the Council decided to replace a play area in West Park at a cost of £40,000. In the past, we would have gone out to tender to British companies who work to very tight British standards. Owing to a European directive, we had to go out to the whole of the EU, seeking tenders but having to accept work to much poorer standards. This led to a waste of time and money and the work has been delayed for almost a year.
We are also told that ‘membership of the EU has helped bring rights to working people, such as paid leave, working hours and maternity leave’. I applaud such action but I ask myself why did we rely on the EU? We had a Labour Party government for three terms of office. A party of the people and the workers. Why did we not implement such laws ourselves at Westminster?
How much does the EU cost us in contributions? Regardless of who tells us the story, the amount of money is staggering and varies between £15 million pounds a day and 55 million pounds a day. Yes, we do receive large amounts back in rebates. We also have large sums returned to us in projects which are decided by the un-elected bureaucrats. Would it not be better if we were to decide ourselves how we spend our money?
A number of predictions are stating the EU will have the upper hand when we negotiate trade deals. As we buy far more from Europe than we sell, I am not sure that is the case.
Doom and gloom. Cameron predicts the possibility of a Third World War if we leave and that we have not had a World War since the European Union. That is not true. We have not had a global war because the weapons are so powerful that the human race has the power to destroy itself. There would be no winners, although we came close to that in Cuba in the 1960s.
It was also stated that the EU has helped to preserve peace in Europe – that is not so. What about the war in the Balkans and Russia’s annexation of large parts of Ukraine and the Crimea? We are told that the soft power of European diplomacy cannot be underestimated. Well tell that to Vladimir Putin. Russia still holds what it annexed.
Now I wish to address two issues which were not addressed namely immigration and federalisation.
Prior to the last two general elections, David Cameron predicted (another prediction) and promised that nett immigration would come down to the tens of thousands. Last Friday it was announced that the figure for last year was 300,000. That is the size of a city the size of Nottingham. To put it another way, it is twelve times the population of Newton Aycliffe in one year, or the population of Newton Aycliffe every month.
So far, immigration has not affected the North East. I do not have problems with people coming here, providing we have the infrastructure to serve an increase in population levels. It is a matter of time before we feel the effect of migration. Already in Goole a town in Humberside just South of the North East, the population has risen by almost 15%.
There is a shortage of affordable housing, employment oppor-tunities for the local residents have fallen, basic service provision is affected. In a programme I watched it showed a school in Goole and the Head Teacher explained that although he immigrant children were very good pupils, the class sizes were in the order of 50 children, speaking 15 different languages.
Being in the EU entitles all of its passport holders access to Britain to live and work. We can expect an even greater influx in the future when the minimum wage reaches over £9 per hour in 2020. I doubt if we will have the infrastructure or service to cope.
Finally, I wish to address federalisation. Watching a Jeremy Paxman programme on the EU I was surprised at the number of European MPs who are striving for a United States of Europe. Britain would then become one state and our sovereignty gone forever. Who would preside over us? Who would command our army? Who would decide if we engaged in war or peace? History has shown that we have fought against losing our independence to those who wanted a large European state, controlled by France and recently Germany.
I remember the shout of ‘Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer (one people, one land, one leader). Are we in danger of losing what could not be achieved by force of arms being achieved by stealth?
At the polling station, I will not be voting for myself but for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Every vote carries the same weight, regardless of rank or position. It is essential that we all vote as this is the most important referendum in generations.