Our MEP Gerard Batten concludes with the last 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
- Aren’t both the Conservative and Labour parties in favour of EU membership?
Not quite. In fact, both the Conservative and Labour parties are riven with conflicts on this issue, as they have been ever since we joined the EEC in 1973. In the Referendum of 1975, leading politicians from each parties were to be found campaigning on both the In and Out side. The same phenomenon may be observed now.
At least 165 (about 50%) Conservative MPs have already declared themselves as Leavers in the coming Referendum, with many more expected to follow. These include many cabinet ministers like Iain Duncan Smith (since resigned from the cabinet) as well as major figures such as Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. Approximately two-thirds of Conservative Party members are believed to be in favour of Brexit.
The Labour Party is similarly conflicted, although they are not discussing it as openly. A number of Labour MPs have publicly declared in favour of Brexit: Kate Hoey MP, Graham Stringer MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP. A major Labour donor millionaire John Mills heads the Labour Leave campaign group. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was opposed to EU membership throughout his career, but now nominally backs the Remain campaign. While a majority of Labour MPs are in favour of remaining, this does not reflect the feeling of a very large number of Party members. Even Andy Burnham MP, a Europhile and former contender for the Labour Leadership, had to admit that despite campaigning to stay in the EU, “If I was to lay money on it…I would bet that Brexit is going to win” (The Daily Express, 15th March 2016).
Even the usually Europhile Scottish National Party is not united on this issue. Jim Sillars, a major figure in the SNP and a former Deputy Leader, has written an excellent pamphlet arguing why Scotland should vote to leave the EU. Mr. Sillars sums the issue up succinctly when he writes: “Should the Parliament we directly elect make our laws? If the answer is Yes, the coming out of the EU is a must. If the answer is No, then you must accept having laws imposed on your society with which your elected government does not agree.”
- Has any other country ever left the EU?
Yes, one. Greenland left in 1985. Greenland had, along with Denmark and Britain, joined the European Economic Community on 1st January 1973. However, Greenland’s politicians soon realised that the Common Fisheries Policy was destroying their country’s fishing industry. In their 1985 Referendum, 53% of Greenlanders voted to leave, which they subsequently did on 1st January 1986. The Greenland Treaty formalised their exit.
Conventional wisdom might dictate that Greenland is too small to survive on its own, and that it ought to be grateful to stay and to depend on EU handouts. The reality is quite different. Greenland has a workforce of only 28,000 and fish provide 82% of its exports; but it had the courage to leave and free itself of EU red-tape and regulations – and from surrendering its fishing grounds to the Common Fisheries Policy. The average income in Greenland is higher than those of Britain, Germany and France. If may be cold in Greenland, but life is sunnier there than in the EU. (Why is Greenland so rich these days? It said goodbye to the EU, by Alex Singleton. 28th November 2010)
- How can we leave the EU? What is Article 50?
Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty laid out, for the first time, the means whereby a Member State could leave the EU; however, were we to try and leave using Article 50, we might well find that we were never able to leave. Under Article 50, there is a two-year negotiation period which could be prolonged indefinitely by unanimous agreement of EU member states. Even if we did manage to leave using Article 50, we could find ourselves with a ‘deal’ that still required us to pay contributions to the EU budget, having to accept a large proportion of EU laws and with open borders to EU citizens. We simply do not know what that deal might be, in the two or more years following us giving notice.
Another great danger is that the British government could delay the whole process beyond the next General Election in 2020. Whichever party wins that election, it could then set aside the Referendum decision (which is, in any event, not legally binding) if it so wishes, on the basis that a General Election result trumps a Referendum (formally put, that no Parliament can bind its successors), and we might never leave.
The only sure way for Britain to leave the EU is for our Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. This would immediately return supremacy of law to our own Parliament and courts and free us from control by the EU. Chaos would not ensue because all EU Directives, which have been transposed into Acts of Parliament, would remain in place. These could then be repealed when needed, leaving what laws we might need to interact with the EU (if, indeed, the EU itself continues to exist). The difference between the Article 50 method and the straightforward repeal of the European Communities Act is that the repeal puts the British Government and Parliament, and not the EU, in control. A full and detailed explanation of how this strategy would work has been outlined in a book by Gerard Batten MEP entitled The Road to Freedom (The Road to Freedom by Gerard Batten MEP, with research by Pavel Stroilov. Published by Betwalda Books Ltd. www.BretwaldaBooks.com).
- What happens if the British people vote to remain in the EU?
Those on the vote to remain side of the argument have no positive arguments to put for continued membership, and their tactics are based on pure scaremongering. Should the British be frightened into voting to remain, they should not imagine that the status quo in the EU will continue for long. The EU has clearly stated how it will forge ahead with deeper and deeper political and economic integration.
The EU intends to implement full economic and financial governance of its member states from Brussels. It wants to create its own armed forces to implement its own Foreign and Security Policy. It wants to import millions more migrants from Africa, the Middle East and beyond. To think that Mr. Cameron’s feeble and ineffectual ‘reforms’ will protect us from any of this is delusional. The EU has always been about creating a United States of Europe (in substance, if not yet in name) and after the British Referendum, whatever the result, that project will resume its momentum.
If the British people vote to remain in the European Union, it will be a decision they will soon come to regret. But Parliament should always retain its sovereignty, so a future British Government could make a unilateral decision to leave the EU.
- But it’s all so complicated. I cannot make up my mind. How can I decide which way to vote?
You will indeed hear many arguments, facts and figures from the Remain and Leave sides in the Referendum campaign. If you feel it is all a bit too much to take in, then look at the question in another way. If we had never joined the European Economic Community (‘EEC’ or Common Market) in 1973, would you now choose to join the European Union (‘EU’) knowing what it has become?
Ask yourself this: do you want to live in a democratic, self-governing country where the electorate can sack the government and elect a new one? Or do you prefer to live in an undemocratic, and economically declining ‘United States of Europe’ (in effect, if not yet in name) where the real government (the European Commission) is not elected and cannot be sacked? Looked at this way, it is a simple choice.