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Last night in Midhurst offered the residents of the Chichester constituency a chance to gain three very different considered, informative and, at times, entertaining perspectives on why Britain should leave the European Union.
UKIP Chichester Chairman Andrew Moncreiff introduced to the floor Conservative MP (E. Worthing & Shoreham) Tim Loughton, Vote Leave board member Suzanne Evans and former ITN Correspondent Michael Nicholson.
The event took place at the Grange Centre in Midhurst and was packed with both Brexit supporters, remainers and the undecided. All were informed with an hour of talks followed by an opportunity to ask their questions over the referendum that is now just over two weeks away.
Tim Loughton MP
Tim Loughton led with a compelling overview of the Brexit case and opened with “Europe is not working”. He outlined the following: the EU share of the global economy is 60% of what it was in 1990; 1.8 million illegal migrants entered the EU last year; the Eurozone crisis is still very much alive; youth unemployment in Greece is at 52%, Spain 46% Italy 40%, in spite of the fact that a third of EU spending goes to these economies to stop this. It obviously is not working.
Loughton started on economy outlining how the EU prevents us creating bilateral trade deals. The EU spent 9 years failing to secure a trade deal with India. The UK trading future should focus on growing markets like India. Switzerland (not in the EU) exports 4 times more to the EU than the UK does.
On the migration front Loughton acknowledged our need for migrants but damned the complete lack of control we have over the quality of migrants and the sheer number that arrive. There was a net increase of 330,000 migrants to the UK last year alone. Each migrant creates pressures on our public services. 25,000 EU school children arrived in the south alone last year. Parents are struggling to find school places. We simply cannot control migration while in the EU.
On the security front there already exist non-EU entities like Interpol that share intelligence globally that will not be impacted by our EU status. Regarding agriculture he highlighted how the EU enforces arbitrary fines to our farmers for sins like ‘wonky hedges’. £670 million have been paid so far! We buy EU subsidised milk from Poland while our farmers struggle to exist.
We’ve had 43 years of constantly being told ‘Europe is a great vision … and every time we come up with criticisms, well Europe is going to reform and it’s much better that the UK is on the inside pushing for that reform rather than on the outside and not part of it’. Well how much longer do we have to wait? 43 years and Europe is going backwards. It’s very inefficient; it’s very uncompetitive. And the rest of the world is racing ahead of us. And we are prevented from engaging with the rest of the world fully and properly as we would wish for an international nation, as the UK is. That is an absolute travesty.
The woman’s perspective on Brexit has not been well covered so far and Suzanne Evans outlined why Brexit is the best option for women. She countered Harriet Harman’s recent criticisms and comments on how a post-Brexit Britain will be a more sexist place.
Evans explained how many of women’s rights have been established by this country, and outside of the EU. In fact Harman appeared to demonstrate amnesia as she had only recently stated this fact herself when promoting the Labour party’s record on this very issue.
Evans went on to list the numerous legislations that the UK introduced such as the The Equal Pay Act in 1970 (before we even joined the EU). By the time we had joined we already had The Abortion Act, The Divorce Reform Act, and contraception was free (11 years before we joined). Britain also passed the Sex Discrimination Act, the Employment Protection Act, and the Domestic Violence Act independent of the EU as well. Today, new mothers in the UK enjoy maternity rights well in excess of those stipulated by the EU. It is simply wrong to credit the EU with any of these hard-fought for rights that have transformed the lives of British women.
The EU itself is a poor example of gender equality. Evans listed how across the main seven EU institutions women earn £13,000 less per year than men. The monthly average of female managers in the ECB is £8000 less than men. The higher up you go in the ECB the more the gender imbalance increases. Evans highlighted how the acceding and candidate countries like Albania, Serbia and Turkey all have terrible track records on gender equality. As these countries join they will bring their influence to the table in Brussels and this can only be a bad thing for women.
Finally, local resident and former ITN correspondent, Michael Nicholson offered a hypothetical 2026 news-style retrospective on the events around this current referendum. It included a comment on how the British public overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU on June 23rd 2016 which was greeted with a rapturous applause!
In the Spring of 2015 he (Cameron) attended a summit at the EU’s HQ in Brussels and demanded treaty changes. And he returned instisting he had gained important concessions for Britain. But it quickly became apparent that this was a choreographed charade. As the newspapers reported at the time ‘He had gone there asking for very little and he came back with even less.’
Nicholson debunked the myth of our influence highlighting how Cameron had objected to 72 EU directives yet each one went on to become law. His retropsective painted a bleak picture of the EU today – a stagnant economy, with high unemployment, and uncontrolled migration. Jokingly he referenced the unlikely alliance of Cameron, Corbyn, Sturgeon and the trade unions, all of whom he “detested”.
The retrospective continued post-Brexit to describe a Britain, not in a state of apocalypse, but stable, prosperous and with a new Government that established free-trade with countries across the globe. “Our economy flourished. British trawlers could fish their own seas. French and German manufacturers continued to sell their cars to Britain. The free entry of migrants from Europe was immediatley halted. Migrants had to speak English. They had to have a skill. And they had to have a job to go to. The British felt galvanised with a new confidence now that their democracy had been restored.”
Within a few years it had become increasingly difficult to find anyone who would admit that they had voted to stay
Nicholson regretted how he had not pressed former PM Ted Heath harder over his undisclosed knowledge of increased political union in the lead up to the Common Market referendum in 1975. This fact was largely hidden from the electorate at that time and we will now never know what the result would have been if this knowledge had been published.