Europe: Should we stay or should we go?

Dylan Moore reports on the IWA Debate- Europe: In or out?

Amid high security and a palpable buzz of excitement around the Hoddinott Hall at Cardiff Bay’s Wales Millennium Centre, the IWA debate, Europe: In or Out?, could not have been more timely, coming the day after Prime Minister David Cameron gave his strongest hint yet that the in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union could come as early as this summer.

The debate, chaired by ITV Wales Political Editor Adrian Masters, and held in partnership with Cardiff University, brought together Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones and UKIP leader Nigel Farage for a head-to-head debate on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU.

The ‘strongly held arguments on both sides of the debate’ referred to by Adrian Masters in his opening remarks were apparent from the first moments, as Jones and Farage dramatically made their way onstage from separate entrances on opposite sides of the room. As his many vociferous supporters in the audience might have expected, Nigel Farage began with a strong appeal to the emotions: ‘Do we want to gain independence as a Nation State?’ he asked in his opening remarks, ‘to become a normal self-governing nation… a true democracy.’ The UKIP leader was keen to delineate the continent of Europe from the European Union as a political entity. ‘It has a flag, an anthem, a police force and is hungry for its own army,’ he said, before turning his attention to some of the specific benefits, in his view, of an ‘Out’ vote.

Leaving the EU would ‘free up small business’, ‘allow us to stand on our own on the world stage’ and ‘crucially’ end ‘intolerable, unlimited EU immigration’. Farage predicted scaremongering from the pro-EU side, setting a bantering tone that would recur all evening by saying that according to some pro-EU voices, leaving would mean ‘we’d end up living in caves.’ He painted Brussels as ‘fantastic for career politicians’ but claimed ‘our political class don’t believe we’re strong or big enough to take control of our own lives’.

Waiting for Farage’s enthusiastic reception to die down, Carwyn Jones adopted a different tone. ‘Croeso i Gymru, welcome to Wales, Nigel,’ he said, before immediately attempting to discredit his opponent’s opening remarks: ‘If a politician gives you an easy answer to a complicated question, they’re pulling the wool over your eyes.’

The First Minister’s opening comments celebrated Wales as a place that ‘punched above its weight in the arts, culture and sport – and now in economy as well,’ and it was on the economic argument to remain in the EU that much of his argument rested. ‘Wales is part of two unions,’ he said, ‘the UK and the EU – and both bring prosperity.’ 43% of Wales’ trade is with the European Union. Jones claimed that ‘Nigel wants to turn the clock back; I want to look forward,’ with a message that suggested Wales’ future in Europe is crucial to its ‘role on the international stage’.

Carwyn Jones did concede that ‘neither union’, the UK nor the EU, is perfect, but stressed that ‘decisions are made by those who turn up.’ He made the point that 200,000 Welsh jobs depended on European trade – a statistic he was to return to numerous times during the following exchanges. He warned against ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ and claimed that for Wales, ‘a vote to stay in [the EU] would be the vote of a confident nation… at home in Europe.’

Adrian Masters then guided the two politicians through some of the ‘main sticking points’ in a half hour of direct exchange, before the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions. Both participants agreed that the EU needs reform, with a particular focus on the perceived lack of necessity for institutions in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. However, Farage was sceptical about the potential for reform, which ‘over there means ever-closer integration’ and disparaging about concessions gained by ‘Dave’ Cameron in his negotiations: ‘the only thing [he] has asked for is a reduction in benefits to migrants.’

Masters asked whether there are any laws that the UKIP leader would repatriate. Farage attempted to outline the EU’s power by referring to the 75% of German laws created in Brussels, to which Jones responded: ‘We’re not in Germany, Nigel.’ Sensing his advantage, the Welsh Labour leader pressed his opponent on why, if he was so concerned about EU fishing regulations, he had attended only one of 42 meetings of the EU fisheries committee of which he was a member.

On jobs, Farage claimed 25% of the working week for small businesses is spent dealing with EU red tape, a point that was countered not only by Farage but by former MEP and Liberal Democrat activist Peter Price with a question from the floor about which aspect of workers’ rights Mr Farage would abolish, allowing Jones to jibe that the UKIP leader is a ‘lapsed Tory’. Carwyn Jones chose, not for the only time in the debate, to use the views of some of Wales’ major employers as fuel for his fire: ‘Airbus want us to stay in Europe; Tata Steel want us to stay in Europe; their views have to count for something, Nigel.’ Farage viewed this as ‘scaremongering’: rather than ‘using Wales as their European base’, as Mr Jones had claimed, Farage believed ‘they invest in this country because it is the right thing to do’ – and pointed out that Toyota and Airbus have already promised to stay in the event of a ‘Brexit’.

Economic arguments dominated. Carwyn Jones said that ‘it makes no sense for Europe to fragment down’ in the face of competition from ‘big markets’ in China, the USA and India. The two men clashed over the specifics of the Port Talbot steelworks and its sister plant in the Netherlands. If Wales and the UK were outside the EU, claimed Jones, Port Talbot would be under further threat from global economic forces. He had, he said, ‘spoken up for Wales,’ and claimed Mr Farage had ‘done absolutely nothing.’ To loud cheers in many parts of the hall, Farage countered: ‘If it wasn’t for UKIP and what I’ve done, there wouldn’t even be a referendum.’

On farming, Jones repeated his argument that leaving the EU represented too much risk. The Common Agricultural Policy meant there was ‘money on the table for Welsh farmers now’; to leave meant ‘no idea what the endgame will be.’ Farage said that ‘Farming wasn’t invented here in 1975’ and reminded the audience that the ‘British Government supported farming before the Common Market and will support it afterwards.’

Immigration did not dominate in the way some might have predicted. Carwyn Jones began by agreeing that ‘it’s not racist to debate [the topic]’ but didn’t see that Farage’s repeated demand for ‘an Australian-style points system’ would work. The models held up by UKIP – Norway and Switzerland – have larger net migration percentages than the UK, although Farage argued that this is ‘their choice, and we don’t have a choice.’ Jones thought it much better ‘to work together’ on immigration policy, but his opponent contended that this argument is ‘utterly and entirely fraudulent.’ He reminded the audience that as a British citizen the first two words on your passport are ‘European Union’ and that as such we have the same rights as ‘480 million people.’

Farage argued that there was little problem until the integration of Eastern European countries – with lower wealth and health standards – into the Union, and also took issue with what he called the ‘terrible mistake’ of the EU’s common asylum policy. ‘One million people have been let in by Germany – soon those people will have German passports and the same rights as the rest of us.’ He thought this represented, among other things, a terror threat to the UK.

In closing, Farage brought the debate back to the ‘one simple thing’ he claimed it was all about. We could, he said, argue about whether the UK would be better or worse off in or out of the EU; ‘what is not arguable is that we will be a self-governing democracy… we might do it really badly or really well… I want to live in a free democracy.’ Responding to the UKIP leader’s claim that to be governed from Brussels was ‘not what those who went before us fought for’, Carwyn Jones reminded the audience that ‘the Poles who come here are the grandchildren of those who stood with us on D-Day.’

Views expressed from the floor were as strongly held as those on the platform; questions were often aimed at one politician in particular, even though both had to answer. Asked whether they considered themselves Europeans, Farage emphasised his admiration for the cultural richness of the most ‘interesting continent on earth’ and reminded the audience of his ‘wife from Hamburg’ and bilingual children, but also that he did not respect the EU flag or ‘say Sir to Mr Juncker’. Jones – a ‘proud Welshman, proud Briton and proud European’ – questioned any need to have to choose between identities.

One questioner brought up the broader sweep of history, asking whether the European project had brought peace and stability. ‘We’re way past any threat of wars in Europe,’ claimed Farage, asserting that the danger now was about power – and ‘the rise of really extreme politics of right and left’ (a comment that raised some chuckles in the auditorium). Jones characterised Europe’s history as one of war, stressing the benefits in creating peaceful solutions the EU had brought; he also raised ‘something we haven’t talked much about’: the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic that would potentially cause a huge new problem should the UK leave the union.

Drawing proceedings to a close, Adrian Masters invited closing statements from both protagonists. These summarised the central arguments made throughout: Carwyn Jones said the debate was ‘about the money in people’s pockets’ which he was ‘not willing to put at risk. We want to be on the pitch, not in the crowd shouting,’ he said. Farage claimed that ‘we don’t need to be bribed – with our own money – into some kind of political dependency. Let’s stand up for our birthright [and] regain our democracy.’

To watch the IWA debate, please click here. 

Dylan Moore is Comment and Analysis Editor at the IWA.

20 thoughts on “Europe: Should we stay or should we go?

  1. A very good summary of a vigorous debate, with the points discussed all covered well, even the ones that are driven by emotion rather than substance.

    However,we need to be far more concerned about what was not discussed.

    Any change requires a plan and one of the magnitude of Brexit requires serious contingency planning now so that people can make their minds up based on facts rather than blue-sky ambitions that can readily be floated out in order to win support.

    From the perspective of rural Wales I have serious concerns of not only the impact of disruption to the support for Welsh farmers, but of the ongoing impact that will have on our wider rural communities.

    The current financial support packages are a significant contributor to the economy of Wales and whilst they may have some failings they are understood. Currently, the alternative after Brexit is “something else” accompanied by imprecise promises by groups not in a position to deliver the promises.

    Planning is essential, otherwise, we will end up voting from an uninformed position and that cannot be acceptable.

  2. Acutely embarrassed to hear Carwyn Jones start off with the words, ‘Croeso i Gymru.’

    Have we ever heard Mrs Merkel or Mr Hollande in France or Germany turn to their guests at the outset and and say ‘Willkommen in Deutschland” or “Bienvenue en France’? Of course not. So why do we accept such nonsense here in Wales? It’s just plain rude.

    As for the debate itself I think it showed Carwyn Jones, who to my mind comes across head and shoulders above everyone else in the Senedd, completely outclassed by his English counterpart. It mattered not what he said, it was how he said it, his body language, his inner frustration, his ungentlemanly attempts at a knock-out, his hits below the belt. It all just said to me ‘Made in Wales’.

    And I’m sorry, for me ‘Made in Wales’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time we demanded better.

  3. Fair account of an interesting event, Dylan, thanks for sharing and thanks to WDA for agreeing to host such a bold event. Been a lot written in recent days on who came out best, but I think a key aspect was how UKIP won the audience by amplifying their support. They may have only been 30% or so but they clapped louder, shouted loude and generally responded loude. In contrast the Yes side was far less United and responsive. In the absence of significant numbers of Labour supporters – surely a tactical error which wasn’t compensated for by the silly standing ovation a few of them gave Carwyn at the end – there was always going to be an imbalance of enthusiasm. This showed throughout and left me perceiving the Out campaigners as passionate and real and angry, while the In campaigners seemed half hearted and way too bleeding parchus for ther own good.

  4. In fairness, the First Minister started very strongly, but then he made the same mistake as Nick Clegg. He abandoned his statesmanlike position in favour of repetitive, hectoring personal attacks on Mr Farage. What he did not seem to appreciate is that the audience were there to hear about the issues, not to listen to politicians talk about each other as they like to do. Whether or not an individual politician attended a particular committee will not be the determining factor in anyone’s mind when it comes to the referendum.

    The impression that Mr Jones was out of touch with voters’ real concerns in this matter was compounded by the rudeness with which he responded to a question from the floor. Basic ‘Politics 101’ should teach that you do not insult your audience because it represents the electorate – or at least the electorate sees it that way. Once again, the political class came across as viewing themselves as seeing themselves as separate from and above what they call ‘ordinary people.’

  5. “So why do we accept such nonsense here in Wales”?

    I’m not sure we do accept it. A recent BBC poll indicated that 50% of people did not know that the Welsh Government was responsible for Health and Education in Wales. Furthermore the turnout for Welsh assembly elections is below 40% whereas for Westminster elections it is as high as 65%. Also, the amount of people who turn over as soon as the proper news has finished and before our regional Wales news programme is massive. Therefore I’d say its not so much a case of ‘accepting it’ as not knowing it goes on at all.

  6. It should be of great concern to all those of us who believe in fairness and basic democratic principles, that the IWA has organised a debate on such an important issue as this with only two political parties taking part. Welsh Labour and UKIP are not the only ones concerned by this issue. Leaders of the Welsh Conservatives, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party should also have been part of this debate.

  7. Firstly, I have to say that I saw that debate as about even. This was certainly not in any way reminiscent of the Farage – Clegg debate last year. It does appear that many of those who have criticised Carwyn’s performance are either UKIP/Leave supporters, or those who cannot be seen to give him any plaudits before May’s elections and together they have helped mould the subsequent narrative of the night.

    I must also say that I have concerns about certain aspects of the handling of night’s proceedings. Firstly the ability of the members of UKIP members and supporters to hog the first few rows seats and keep up a barrage of infantile clapping, laughing and hooting throughout, was rather disappointing and provided a school debating club atmosphere. Furthermore, although on the whole Adrian Masters was very good, the event tailed of somewhat with the questions taken from the audience. I was amazed that out of an audience of 400 of the 5 or 6 questions taken, one was allowed from Mohammed Islam a well known UKIP member (unveiled as a party member at UKIP’s Welsh conference in 2014 by Nigel Farage!) and another from a gentleman (who alleged that some firms in Wales only employ Polish workers – the voracity of his claims should really have been questioned by Adrian and not left to Carwyn) who was sat right next to David Rowlands, UKIP’s candidate for Merthyr in last year’s elections! While of the two other questioners one asked something about the panellists supporting the United States of Europe sports team? While another asked about the EU destroying Britain’s 1000 year history?

  8. After watching some of the ‘performance’ by our First Minister I can fully understand why he has decided to stay in Caerdydd,rather than competing with the big boys and girls in Westminster. I think we all want to have free and open trade in goods and services with our european neighbours,along with wider world,however the current ‘project’ of ever and ever closer political/economic union is what we stopped in 1939-45.The UK (of which we are still a part) is a very significant contributor in finance to EU,and we also have huge structural trade ‘deficits’ with most European countries,and in particular a united and dominant Germany.The fact that our borders are open to any people from the EU,whilst the skilled engineers/technicians we need from outside the EU to grow our industrial base is MADNESS. I voted to stay in during the 1975′ charade,’however it was called the EEC in those days ,and our industrial strength was being destroyed by trade union power,so needed ‘stiff’ competition which European economy provided,and in particular the west german economy. We are now in different position with City of London being one of the two major capital markets in world,and have world class companies so we can survive outside the EU,and if they start causing problems for us when we leave,then stop buying French champagne,and German Cars!!!.When the German people realize the impact of ‘immigration’ on their a)way of life.b) pockets we might see some big changes coming from there in any case!!

  9. The debate about getting out of the EU is rooted in xenophobia and the good old fashioned British sense of natural superiority. Whatever we do we are British right and its a damn sight better than anything those damn Johnny foreigners can do right? Well may not. Sometimes yes. But, and I know this will upset some posters, not everything the British do is naturally better.

    UKIP get their way and we leave the EU. What happens the day after. Most of our trade treaties are done through the EU. Without the EU Directorate General for Trade, headed by the EC Commissioner for Trade, currently Cecilia Malmstrom, middle ranking Britain will have to negotiate and re-negotiate trade agreements with India and China for example and we won’t do these as part of the largest trading bloc which can basically dictate its own teams. We still get trade agreements, but less favourable. (Leon Brittan commented on the EU Commissioner for Trade “Frankly, it is more important than most national cabinet jobs”). Britain will also have to negotiate some trade deal with the EU. London and the financial sector are most at risk, foreign banks are already making plans to move to the EU should the UK leave the EU. Although making plans and preparing does not mean they will do so. The financial sector is not usually covered by trade treaties and London is protected now by its position in the EU and has become one of the world’s major financial hubs. Outside the EU London gets a shoeing of some sort.

    So we leave the EU, we still get illegal immigrants and immigrants from outside the EU, we don’t benefit from the EU trade treaties, we have to make some sort of deal with the EU, and could still get EU migration, and London gets a shoeing. Yes, I think we are really going to show those Johnny foreigners this time around

  10. A good summary of an event that should not have taken place, at least in the form that it did. It’s interesting, perhaps, that such an important topic for the future of Wales and the UK has, thus far, attracted only six comments.

    Several times during the debate I was starting to wonder whether this was the starting pitch between the genial guy with(out) a pint in his hand and a legal eagle for the forthcoming Assembly elections – UKIP versus Labour. Was this a pitch between Nigel and Carwyn? Not so much a debate as an opportunity to assess two individuals? The referendum will not be about individuals.

    And there, I suggest, lies the danger: the risk that people will vote on the basis of personalities and soundbites rather than on what underpins the arguments.

    Given that the UK is a net contributor to the EU, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that if we leave, there will be money to spare. Instead of subsidising inefficient (and belligerent) French farmers, it should be possible for Westminster to transfer to the Assembly more than the amount which the EU currently pays in farming grants. The questions then become will Westminster do that and will the Assembly still allocate the additional funds to agriculture. I wonder if that is what makes Carwyn pro-Europe: worry that he might otherwise have to make a decision!

    Whether Welsh businesses will gain or suffer from a Brexit remains an “up in the air” question. Frankly no-one knows (and only liars will claim otherwise) what the result of a Brexit will be. For the average voter, the choice will be between the devil you know and the one you don’t. And the devil we know is not doing that much to make its case at the moment; rather their growing numbers of regulations (which even govern the plants I can grow in my garden) are impacting on various groups of people. It may well be that the timing of the referendum, down to the particular day, will influence the result depending on how someone feels when they wake up on that day compared with the day after.

    So did this debate help? I don’t think so. I haven’t made my mind up yet and remain torn between stay and go. How I vote won’t be determined by party politics.

    But back to people. Did it impact on how I may vote in May? The answer is “yes”. And that’s why I think the debate should not have happened, at least in the form that it did.

  11. Staging this debate at this moment was hugely valuable because it showed that we need to learn lessons quickly about how to tackle the likes of Nigel Farage and how to conduct the campaign for continued membership of the EU from here on. First, is that one should never allow the debate to be framed by one’s opponent. The idea that the enlarged EU is on a fast track to a union akin to that of the USA is for the birds. There is currently much greater danger of fragmentation than of homogenisation. Even Nigel Farage had to admit to the EU’s current instability at one stage in the debate.

    Second, the referendum will not be won by transactional arguments about costs and benefits, since many so-called facts on either side of the case are often unprovable. The precise costs of Brexit may be unknowable – a matter of judgment – but what is undeniable is that Brexit will cause several years of instability – adding to very many other global instabilities.

    Third, there is, as Darran suggested, an emotion deficit on the pro-EU side that needs to be filled. One of the reasons why the pro-EU side comes over as ‘too damn parchus’ is that many of us are not as familiar with all the arguments as anti-EU people who have made the issue their special obsessive subject for decades. There is a job of education to be done.

    Fourth, even in Wales we will not win the necessary hearts and minds just by concentrating on the Welsh case. We have to raise our sights. The notion, implicit in the arguments of the ‘kippers’, is that the EU’s achievement in cementing European peace is somehow now old hat, and that we can safely revert to a system of nation states. Can one really be so sanguine with so much dangerous instability on Europe’s eastern borders all the way from the Baltic through the Balkans to the Mediterranean? In a world where we all contend with global forces – economically, technologically and environmentally, not to mention terror – do we really believe that the answer lies in reducing our bargaining power and instead competing with every neighbour in our street?

    The pro-EU side has left it dangerously late to begin this process of education. Last week’s debate was a valuable wake-up call. We should heed it.

  12. Karen, when Mrs Merkel publicly welcomes visitors to Germany she speaks in German and indeed says Wilkommen. Do you imagine she speaks Mandarin to the Chinese? Similarly the French President speaks French and the translators cope. Nothing rude about that. As the t-shirt says: This is Wales, some of us speak Welsh, get over it.
    As to the debate I found it embarrassing but my expectations were low so I wasn’t disappointed.
    I doubt if it makes a massive difference to the UK whether in or out, though there are temporary dislocations from any change. But Wales would be worse off out because no Westminster government would provide the farm and regional support that the EU does. And the English angst over sovereignty seems comical from the Celtic fringe. Mind you I think the EU would be better off without the UK because all we do is moan and ask for special treatment. None of Cameron’s “renegotiation” is about the things really wrong with the EU, like the corruption and inability to get accounts audited or the stupid way the Parliament commutes between Brussels and Strasbourg. Real reform is not on the agenda, just trying to get special treatment for the UK. Pathetic.

  13. Why do the people of Wales put up with such nationalistic nonsense from people who move to Wales from England. I am not sure what is funnier, thinking it’s rude to speak Welsh or thinking that the German chancellor doesn’t speak in German when he says welcome.

  14. Dai Esh

    Nice try Dai but no cigar, the turnout for the Assembly elections in 2011 was 42.2%, in 2007 it was 43.7%. I don’t know about you, but by my mathematics that is over 40%, which somewhat contradicts your claim that Assembly turnout is below 40%. Nit-picking maybe but it’s over 40%.

    Another English nationalist myth is that its rude for a Welsh leader to greet overseas visitors by saying welcome in Welsh. While some posters may consider that the height of rudeness and ignorance, what do they think about the leader of Germany saying welcome in German, or the leader of France saying welcome in French, or the leader of England/Britain saying welcome in English. I guess that is okay because its German and French and English and anything but Welsh. Ask a German if he finds it embarrassing that his leader says welcome in German to, say, the Chinese delegation and he will say no.

  15. @ Phillip Hughes

    LOL! so because I was just 2% out in my figures (which I recalled off the top of my head) you have (after trawling stats on the internet for hours no doubt) decided I’m wrong and made some nauseating, eye rolling comments about ‘no cigars’. I tell you what Mr Pedant… why don’t you re-read my post and replace ‘<40%' with '42%' in your own head rather than wasting valuable electricity by posting it here! The fact you didn't challenge anything else I said speaks volumes!

  16. @Dai

    Sorry if you don’t like to be shown wrong, but if you are going to quote figures or facts you should not do so off the top of your head, that is simply not good enough. If you are going to say the turnout is below 40% without bothering to check the facts then don’t post for everyone to see you can’t be bothered to check your information first and don’t get upset when other posters do check the facts. Too many people on blogs make up facts and figures and get annoyed when their facts are shown to be, for want of better terminology, “incorrect”.

  17. I am ashamed to say that I voted to stay in the then EEC in 1975 because I had been grievously mislead into believing it was all about free trade. It never was, it was always, and remains, all about bringing into being an United States of Europe – and one modelled on the USSR – not just undemocratic but positively anti-democratic.

    I woke up about the EU in 1992 at the time of Maastricht when I realised that, under the Social Chapter (from which John Major believed he had secured an opt-out, only for it to disappear within months) they intended to make working long hours a criminal offence, (I worked 70 to 80 hours a week running my own specialist electronics business from 1964 to 1994) it became clear to me that these people were clinically insane and would in due course reduce the economies of Europe to rubble as surely as their power-mad predecessors had done twice before..

    That assessment was reinforced by the insanity of the euro. I was one of the signatories of the launch letter of Business for Sterling in the mid 1990’s, by then exporting 85% of my products and having one a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement, and therefore understanding why fixed exchange rates always lead to disaster. Indeed, Churchill, Chanceller of the Exchequer when Britain joined the Gold Standard (of fixed exchange rates) wrote when we abandoned it “The man who should be hanged for treason over the Gold Standard is Montague Norman (at that time the head of the Bank of England) and I would be pleased to turn King’s Evidence at his trial.” So when you hear what the In lot have to say, remember that their leading players, at the time prominent in Britain in Europe, vehemently argued that failing to join the euro would bankrupt this country! Yes, Mandelson, Clarke, Heseltine, Blair, the CBI (as Nigel said and I told the then head face-to-face a few years ago) wrong about everything, every time.

    Many rational people could not understand how the EU leaders planning the euro could not see that it would lead to disaster if countries with weak economies shared interest rates and exchange rates with strong ones, and why they allowed Greece and Italy to join by fiddling their figures. In 1998 I was told by an opponent of the EU that of course they understood what was bound to happen – and that was why they were doing it, to force weaker countries into economic difficulties so that the EU could parachute in their own people to take control of them! Initially the idea that anyone would do any such thing seemed incredible but only a few years later leaked EU documents – and at least one speech in public – made it clear that this was indeed why they did it. In other words, they could see that they could not hope to force these countries into one EU State with the consent of their people, so they tried to do it by crippling their economies so that they would have no choice. And as we have seen more recently, that is exactly what happened in Italy and Greece, with more to follow.

    Since 1992 I have spent tens of thousands of hours researching the EU and its ways, including attending hundreds of public meetings and speaking from the floor at most of them – and believe me, the more I know about the EU, the worse it gets. Habeas Corpus? Gone, under the EU Arrest Warrant under which hundreds are removed to jails on the Continent, without charge or trial, often for a year or more (as indeed Nigel said
    (and Carwyn asked “What’s Magna Carta got to do with it?) Jury trials and lay magistrates? To be removed as no such things exist under most Continental Napoleonic legal systems.

    And in a way more terrifying than all of those and many more is the fundamental difference between “No Parliament may bind its successors” and the EU’s guiding principle that once a law has been passed, or a VAT rate has been raised, they may never be reversed. Never,

    Tom Paine, the American philosopher wrote in the late 1700’s “The presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most arrogant of all tyrants” going in to say that all future generations must be free to make their own decisions, in the circumstances in which they find themselves, not be bound by the decisions of people now alive but by then long dead. That is precisely why in Britain and other countries with legal systems and constitutions, like ours descended from Magna Carta and its fundamental principles of justice and liberty, do not allow their Governments to pass laws that no future government can change, and see their governments as the servants of the people, to be hired and fired as the people wish, but so many countries on the Continent see the people as the servants of the Government. Does anyone here really want to live in the latter not the former? Make no mistake, that is what we will be voting for, not economics or trade or hand-outs or freedom to travel, but freedom to live in a free and democratic country, or not.

    I close with this moral and constitutional point – when voting in the coming referendum, any individual may feel that he has a right to vote to give up his own freedom and independence in pursuit of economic or other perceived benefit – but he has no right whatever to vote to give away mine or of others, of those too young to vote or as yet unborn – including his own children, and in turn theirs and in turn theirs. No right at all – and what how would that voter respond when his child or grandchild or great-grandchild asks “Why did you vote to stay?” . “It seemed a good idea at the time” really will not do.

    The American President Thomas Jefferson (who incidentally had reason to be grateful* for the rights provided by Magna Carta to jurors to acquit in defiance of the law and the evidence if they thought the law was bad) wrote that “Those who give up freedom and independence in pursuit of some temporary security benefit will lose both”. Never has that been more clear than now, and it you are concerned about what the EU has already done to this country’s freedoms, just imagine what they will do if we, foolishly, vote to stay in their totalitarian dream, and our nightmare.

    I am completely confident that our economy will thrive once freed of the burden of EU regulations, completely confident that the British people – as a matter of record by far the most inventive in the world – can succeed outside the EU and in the world of some 200 nations, 173 of which do not belong to the EU and 195 of which have economies smaller than ours. Utterly confident – but in any case, what really matters is freedom and being able to hire and fire the passing parade of politicians who do that in our interests not the interests of those we do not elect and cannot remove. Ever, if we choose to ignore the one prison gate that remains open, for the time being.

    * Jefferson was tried in a London court for Quakerism, a criminal offence at that time. Several juries refused to convict him because they felt the law was wrong, he was acquitted and the law was abandoned. Fancy your chances with that on the Continent or in the EU?

  18. Idris Francis, the bit I don’t get about the Euro is as follows:

    i) Europe is presently on its knees, the outlook is ghastly
    ii) the UK is following the US, things are improving slowly but surely

    and yet:

    i) on 1st January 1999 one Euro was worth 70 pence
    ii) but today, 21st January 2016 one Euro is worth over 76 pence

    Which currency do I wish I was holding?

  19. I listened to Sir Michael Caine this morning and he brilliantly summed up what the ‘average’ person thinks about the EU,and referendum to be held in 2016?. The ‘elite’ loves travelling to Brussels and meet other European politicos and decide our future,which is being made by politicians/eurocrats who would never get voted into power in Westminster. We stood alone in 1939-45 and saved the world,whilst spending our blood/treasure to retain our independence,and not be dominated by Germany. It should never be forgotten that huge swathes of France was governed by the French themselves with Petain/Laval and they co-operated fully with Hitler and his ‘jewish’ policies.As Sir Michael said if we pull out,and suffer some economic disadvanatages then so be it,but we’ll work harder and survive and be happier knowing that all our main policies are made in Westminster by governments that we can throw out when needed.

  20. Howell – “We stood alone in 1939-45 and saved the world” well yes with the help of the USSR, USA, Canada, India, the Free French, Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies etc, etc. This kind of jingoistic nonsense really does not do your side any good whatsoever. World War II was 70 years ago. I have heard the War used a number of times to justify us leaving the EU (mostly by Kippers). I have yet to hear any logical reason why it should play any part in a rational debate on the future of the UK in the EU.

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