No more project fear

Andrew RT Davies calls for more positive arguments to be made by those on either side of the EU debate.

Wherever you stand on the issue of our European Union membership, it’s clear that there needs to be a more positive tone to the debate in the final weeks and an end to the doomsday predictions of armageddon.

We need to see an honest, open and positive debate of the choices facing the public on June 23, and voters will see right through the propaganda.

Let’s be frank, if Armageddon really was waiting just the other side of a vote to leave the EU then it would never have been put to a public vote in the first place.

That’s why, in the last few weeks of the campaign it’s time for a more positive tone from all sides – and an honest discussion of the choice we face as a nation.

Starting with the remain camp: be honest and open about what a vote to stay means for the future of this country, and what it means for the future direction of travel of the European project.

I know that there are plenty of people who would support the idea of the EU taking on more and more of the functions of a nation state, such as tax-raising powers, or control over health policy. And even though I’m not one of them, it does frustrate me that it’s not the case being put to voters at present, who are instead being encouraged to fear the idea of change – not invited to buy into a positive vision.

On the continent itself people are much more open about the EU and the political union it has become, but for some reason here in the UK there is an apparent reluctance to call it what it is.

In reality, a vote to remain in the EU amounts to a vote for a United States of Europe, which is fine if you support that; many people across the continent do. But be in no doubt that it’s a one way road to ever closer political union.

On the other hand, there are people like myself who believe that we should stay true to the principals on which we originally joined the EU; to drive the UK towards economic prosperity and to boost trading relationships with our neighbours.

It is my belief that we can no longer achieve those aims within the EU, and that’s why I’m backing a Vote to Leave.

But I want to see that case being made positively, and rather than being tempted to join in the politics of fear we should be painting a positive vision for the future of our nation outside the EU.

There can be no disputing that the EU project is political in nature and its reach will only continue to expand in coming years. It already has a distinct presence in foreign affairs, a fledgling defence force, national flags and an anthem.

The logical next step is for the EU to develop tax-raising powers, particularly with the Euro so central to the project.

For my part, I don’t buy into the vision of the EU as my nation and I believe that a Vote to Leave would be a shot in the arm for British democracy, and allow us to take back control over our economy and trade.

If we leave the EU we can revitalise the democratic process, clawing powers back from a supranational, undemocratic institution and bringing them into national and local governments, so that the decisions which affect Wales are made here in Wales, and the decisions which affect the United Kingdom are made in the United Kingdom.

We need to remind voters that there is no such thing as EU money – that it belongs to the UK taxpayer – and highlight the huge benefits that a Brexit dividend would have for the country.

The UK pays around £10 billion a year surplus to be a member of the EU – over and above the money we receive back from our taxes, in structural funds and agricultural support. Just imagine what Wales’ share of that money could achieve in the hands of local communities, in terms of support for farmers, businesses, and areas in need of regeneration.

We also need to remind voters that a Vote to Leave will empower us as a nation. We could strip away some of the burdensome regulations that stifle small firms, and frustrate Welsh farmers. And we could once again be masters of our own destiny, free to sign trade agreements with new trading partners the world over – including with the EU itself.

Above all, we have a responsibility to the public to hold an honest, open and positive debate of the choices facing the public on June 23. Project fear just won’t cut it.

Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

6 thoughts on “No more project fear

  1. Whilst I am unashamedly a ‘remainer’ I totally agree that the remaining period of campaigning should concentrate on the facts rather than the ‘personalities’ which has (in my view) overshadowed the discussions so far.
    I agree that both campaigns need to be more positive in engaging the public, who are being increasingly bombarded by some pretty tenuous propaganda from both sides and look forward to seeing the Welsh debate becoming an exemplar of facts over fiction.

  2. “Let’s be frank, if Armageddon really was waiting just the other side of a vote to leave the EU then it would never have been put to a public vote in the first place.”

    I disagree. The Prime Minister’s leadership of the Conservative Party has been a lesson to us all in weakness. He has wilfully conceded on just about every point from leaving the EPP through to calling a referendum. Under the mask of ‘letting the people decide’ (ignoring the fact that referendums are actually against our version of representative democracy), the PM is playing yet another high stakes game with our country in the hope of holding on to power and getting another one over his schoolboy rivals.

    The fact that you don’t recognise the importance of this vote, and the economic, cultural and civil implications of an out vote suggests you really haven’t understood the issues sufficiently – as the rest of the article confirms.

    It is deeply ironic that you call for an end to project fear, then state that “a vote to remain in the EU amounts to a vote for a United States of Europe”, just after implying the EU after control of our NHS. This simply doesn’t fit with reality.

    Then you go on to talk about democracy. This argument continues to confuse me. The fact is that the EU is actually at least as democratic as the UK, and in many ways more so.

    They have a Parliament which is more democratically representative. They have a Commission President who is the leader of the largest group in that Parliament (precisely the same process which enables David Cameron to call himself Prime Minister. I wonder if Andrew would call him undemocratic?). Then the Commissioners are appointed by Member State Governments (just like how we appoint Ministers, or other nations their Executives). Then we have the Council which is made up of the leaders of the nations who are themselves elected by that nation (often through systems less democratic than those of the EU itself – i.e. the UK).

    Compare all that to the UK. A nation with an unelected head of state who just happened to be the first child to pop out of the last ruler’s wife’s womb – supposedly given a divine right to lead. A Parliament in which the vast majority of votes don’t matter and a party can rule with less than 40% of the nation’s support. And a upper chamber of almost entirely unelected nobility who can just be put there at a whim.

    I’d take an imperfect EU over than any day if you want to argue about democracy.

    Finally your point about there being no such thing a EU money. As you should know Wales is a net beneficiary of the EU. That means that in Wales your argument is simply false (and that’s being kind and ignoring the extensive benefits of EU membership which the simple figures argument doesn’t cover). There is EU money coming to Wales. That means some of your CAP payments are additional. There is such a thing as EU money.

    Sure you can claim that money spent could be re-directed to Wales. The only problem with that is that your leader disagrees, and he’s the one who decides. While i’m sure you strongly believe that a Conservative Government in London would spend all that extra money on Wales, you’ll have to forgive me for being sceptical given the last century of Conservative governments.

  3. I believe (and I think it is generally accepted) that we are a part of Europe (EU or not). With this in mind, I agree “that the decisions which affect Wales are made here in Wales, and the decisions which affect the United Kingdom are made in the United Kingdom”. However, I would add to this, decisions which affect Europe should be made in Europe.
    While we have not yet found the best method of making decisions democratically in a group as diverse as the EU, we should still try. Historically the UK has often lead the way on democracy, now is another oportunity to help this union become more democratic, not to give up and walk away.
    As the world becomes more connected, it becomes both smaller and larger. Everywhere is within reach, and there is so much to reach. In this world we need bigger unions, not smaller.

  4. Mr Davies is right. We, the people, have been given a once in a generation opportunity to discuss the future direction of our country, but the whole debate has been taken over by the ‘usual suspects’ – the politicians who got us here in the first place. The decision by an unelected and unaccountable quango to designate a lobby run by Tory grandees rather than the grassroots organisation as the official ‘Leave’ campaign has discredited the whole process.

    Neither official campaign has covered itself with glory. The official ‘Leave’ side has lost credibility by understating the short term economic disadvantages of leaving while ‘Remain’ lost it by overstating them. ‘Remain’ have also ignored the fact that there will be just as much uncertainty in the longer term if we stay in. Both sides seem reluctant to discuss the level of population – the issues that most non-politicians want them to discuss.

    Worst of all, both sides, and the media, seem to think everything is about money. People in the real world know better.

  5. Not sure how this call to end project fear (of which both sides are guilty) sits with Vote Leaves latest salvo over Turkish membership.

    That said I am not surprised there is a desire to move away from economic arguments given the way the Remain campaign seem to have won on that front.

  6. Andrew is completely right. If we vote to remain, we will see in the not too distant future how the promises of the remain campaign turn to dust like they did in the previous referendum. The EU itself may struggle to survive despite a remain vote. Schengen and the common currency still are issues which are far from resolved.

    And to those who claim the EU is a democracy, it would be good to ask – did you vote for our commissioner in the EU? Even MEPs were only given one person on the ballot paper, Juncker. That is the same system being used in North Korean elections!

    Far from leaving the EPP being a sign of weakness, it was a sign of strength that we were no longer willing to rubber stamp federalisation. Unfortunately Cameron failed to continue his previously strong stance.

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