Posts Tagged ‘EU Referendum’

Post-referendum reflections – Part 2: Plot holes result in Box Office flop

16 July, 2016

Despite a big budget, a 5-star cast and great special effects, significant plot holes in a storyline can leave movie goers deeply unsatisfied. 

The EU Referendum was certainly like that in at least one respect: 

The Remain camp failed to engage adequately with a major question in the minds of many undecided voters. 

Are immigration levels – the size of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne per year – sustainable? Simply that! That is not a racist question (necessarily); it’s a practical one. I voted to Remain, but this question of sustainable immigration levels was one that I felt was not addressed satisfactorily. (The irony, of course, is that it was and is still unclear what effect exiting the EU will have on immigration levels.)

Unaddressed, this would leave a significant plot hole in the Remain storyline.

Remain, however, did not engage with the question. Instead, as politicians often do, they answered the one they wanted, but even then not very well.  

Immigrants are net contributors to the economy, they said; “they put in more than they take out”.

 But what does that mean? Does it mean that those coming from overseas pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits? Does it mean that their tax contributions or labour more than offsets the demand on the healthcare and education systems? It would have been good to have had that detail.  

Without that detail or an alternate credible narrative, it is easy to imagine the worst – especially when people experience hospital/GP waiting times and competition for jobs, housing and school places – or just personal and societal disharmony and needing something to blame it on.

Without information to the contrary, logic would, for many, argue that it is ‘in fact’ unsustainable.

So the plot hole remained but the country didn’t, as the “Remain” campaign flopped at the Box Office!

Post-referendum reflections – Part 1: Democratic deficit

3 July, 2016

Does a propaganda-ridden campaign on both the Leave and Remain sides of the EU Referendum reveal a democratic deficit in Britain and perhaps other Western nations?

I – along with many others – have been less than impressed by some concerning issues surrounding the debate. Here are two such issues that most readily come to mind:

a) The evident misinformation (or at least a lack of transparency) – I would say, on both sides – that has left many Leave voters and non-voters regretting their voting choice. Whilst in many cases this was avoidable (such as protest votes and those that assumed that to Remain was an inevitable outcome) – some others voted based on being (they would say) misled by, at best, a lack of transparency by the Leave campaign and, at worst, downright deceit. Examples would include figures of payments to the EU (stated as gross, not net, and does not account for Britain’s automatic rebate), promised investment in the NHS (implied to be £350 million per week) and vast reductions in immigration levels (then implicitly guaranteed, now clearly uncertain).

b) A failure to on both sides to effectively addressing real people’s real (or imagined) concerns, on both sides. Instead, there was a lot in the way of sound bites and scripted answers.

Asking people to make a democratic decision without arming them with the information they need and ask for is (I would suggest) democratically deficient or anaemic.

I wonder if other nations, not run on the same democratic principles that we are so proud of, are laughing at us right now. Maybe not, but I fear that the process surrounding the UK’s EU Referendum has not been the beacon of democracy in action that it could have been.

What do you think?

EU Referendum – Part 3: Sovereignty, democracy, immigration and trade

22 June, 2016

The first two posts looked at issues of Influence on, as well as the Stability offered by, the EU. In this last post, I highlight some other issues that have been in my thinking.

National sovereignty

I have an instinctive conviction about protecting national sovereignty – and that’s one of the main reason why I’d consider voting to Leave. Unfortunately, there are undemocratic principles and practices at work in the EU, which appear to erode our sovereignty – not to speak of the creeping movement and growing agenda toward closer political union. The changes of name from the EEC (European Economic Community) to the EC (the European Community in 1997, and then to the EU (European Union) in 2009 appears to reflect that journey pretty well. 

Democracy

It seems highly undemocratic that unelected officials are making our laws and interfering with the application of our laws through the European Courts. 

I understand, however, that the UK has only voted against a very small proportion of the bills that made it into EU law. In other words, the vast majority of EU laws supposedly “imposed” on us are those we voted in favour of. 

An independent academic research organisation reports that: “From official EU voting records is that the British government has voted ‘No’ to EU proposals on 56 occasions, abstained 70 times, and voted ‘Yes’ to legislative proposals 2,466 times since 1999.  In other words, UK ministers were on the “winning side” 95% of the time, abstained 3% of the time, and were on the losing side 2%.”

Nevertheless, the “distance” we might feel exists between us and our UK politicians is amplified several fold between us and decision makers in the EU. And where we are represented by MEPs – well, I can’t imagine many British people feeling connected with or empowered by their own MEP, let alone our MEPs as a whole group representing our national interests in Europe. This is an ongoing problem that surely affects the sentiments of some voters.

Immigration

There are many positives of immigration, from within and outside of the EU. Here is a blog piece written by a North East employer discussing what the EU referendum means to his business, including the advantages of being able to employ people from within the EU.

However, annual net migration at a rate of approximately a city the size of Newcastle upon Tyne does not seem sustainable to the rational mind. 

And I can’t help but feeling that the Remain campaign’s approach of ignoring people’s concerns on the immigration issue is not helping. Simply stating that immigrants are net contributors to the UK economy does not ease the unease. 

With pressures increasing on our healthcare and education systems and budgets remaining static at best, are we really to believe that net immigration at around 300,000 per year makes no impact?

For me, this remains unanswered. And neither side is willing to dig down beneath the top line statements of their campaign’s particular position. This has been typical, and is unsatisfactory and disappointing. Ho hum!

Trade

The Leave campaign says that there is no way the the EU will impose trade tariffs. However, I can’t see how we could avoid it, when the EU does with the USA and when other non-EU, European countries have to pay for the privilege  of trading tariff-free with the EU bloc.

Arriving at a decision

In the end, I can see – and in some cases – share both sides of the argument. Some questions remain unanswered for me and the lack of depth and detail on some/many issues has been unhelpful. So, I have chosen (instinctively or rationally) to prioritise some issues in order to arrive at a decision.

What about you? What do you think?

EU Referendum – Part 2: Historical roots and future stability in Europe

22 June, 2016

In my first post on this topic, I discussed the implications of the upcoming EU Referendum on our influence in EU nations, through  the gospel and in other ways.

Here I’d like to highlight two other, interlinked reasons that lean me towards voting Remain. 

One is its historical roots following the world wars to promote peace and stability – through interdependence – in Europe

This powerful, positive message by Gordon Brown expresses my feeling on that particular point much more effectively than I can. It is well worth watching! How refreshing to hear a Remain politician focus on principles, values and the common good, rather than simply the economic argument or the fear of impending doom.

The second is, I guess, the “do unto others as you would have them do onto you” type of principle that Jesus taught. In other words, the question for me is, “Would I be happy for the EU to totally fragment (i.e. for  all EU countries to decide to Leave in time)?” I think not, particularly from in terms of the stability and relative peace that (I believe) the EU has had a role in since the last World War. 

What about you? Whether it’s likely or not to happen, how would you feel about an opt out by all countries, the end of the EU?

Some say that NATO has been responsible for “peace” in our time. I don’t know enough to evaluate that claim. The probable answer is that both have been important.

I recognise that the size of the EU has grown, especially in more recent times. At the same time, the underlying motivation, which has been about stability and prosperity through economic interdependence, has increasingly shifted towards political union (which I am opposed to). The Telegraph has a piece on “What is the EU and why was it created?”

Furthermore, it could argued that freedom of movement and mass net immigration into Western Europe is actually disrupting the cultural fabric of those societies and giving rise to growing nationalist, fascist and extremist tendencies. I don’t know how true that is – or whether that is a result more so of the economic and employment pressure caused by the recession. Perhaps both?!

In the next post, I explore some other issues – mostly concerns with the EU.

In the meantime, I welcome you thoughts. 

EU Referendum – Part 1: The gospel and Godly influence

22 June, 2016

It’s been an interesting process coming to a decision about how to vote at the EU Referendum. I’ve been someone who can see both sides of some arguments for Remain and Leave, whilst being largely turned off by other ones.

This series of posts highlights some of the issues that have been in my thinking while I have journeyed towards a decision (- though not necessarily in order).

Steve Thomas, one of the senior leaders of the Salt & Light family of churches, wrote a helpful blog piece titled “The gospel, the EU and me”.

One of the main things that stood out to me from Steve’s blog was that kingdom (i.e. God’s) influence was going to come from people (not governments or countries):

a) People (missionaries, church planters, mentors) going (or even coming) with the gospel

b) People (Christians) getting involved to influence and help shape the direction and policies of the EU to some degree (though it might take a Wilberforce type figure to do that to any degree?). 

And that in both cases this would be done best by remaining in the EU

Regarding the first, the great advantage is the freedom of movement that is currently possible – a bit like the freedom of movement that saw the rapid advance of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire in the first century. 

To illustrate what it could look like without that freedom of movement – I recently met a Nigerian guy who was a missionary to an Eastern European country. He was there for about 18 months before returning to Nigeria to reapply for a visa. I have a very close friend from East Asia who had to wait almost three years for a missionary visa to an EU country. 

I’ve really appreciated receiving Steve’s perspective – and object lesson – in how to put God first in thinking about complex and emotive matters. 

At the same time, I recognise that there are other aspects or principles that people might focus on in trying to come to a decision about which way to vote. And I also recognise that there is probably no right or wrong vote, just right or wrong reasons, motivations and attitudes for our chosen vote.

In the second post, I will be looking at two other issues that have been prominent in my thinking.


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