I know I am a photographer and artist so you may wonder about my credentials for discussing such an important issue as in or out of the European community. Through my work in handling creative projects for major City of London institutions I drifted into the financial world of the late 80s through the 90s including a stint running hedge funds and being a member of the board of directors on more than a few city companies.
The more I look at this referendum the more I believe it should never have happened. The decision on the 23rd of June will be taken on the basis of personal pride, hypothesis, the desire to be contrarian, supposition, ignorance and assumption. It is the man in the street who will sway the balance and there is not a political party that has given clear arguments. I’m not even sure that if the arguments were given clearly the average person could make a distinction. The concept of democracy does not exist in any country in any part of the globe today and probably with good reason that in a world of 7 billion people and growing there needs to unity and management. Now as a highly intelligent uncle of mine once said variety is the spice of life and I would certainly not want to live in a world where we are all the same or a world where 1984 is the norm. Striking a balance is what creating a comfortable planet is ideally all about – difficult for combative human nature. The contribution that immigrants have made to the UK is great in the NHS and business.
To quote from the Economist:-
Concern about the economic impact of immigration has centred on two areas: the effect foreigners have on native workers’ wages and employment; and the extent to which immigrants, in particular those from countries within the European Union who are free to move around at will, take from a system to which they have contributed little. Research by Christian Dustmann of University College London and Tommaso Frattini of the University of Milan focuses on the second.
By calculating European immigrants’ share of the cost of government spending and their contribution to government revenues, the scholars estimate that between 1995 and 2011 the migrants made a positive contribution of more than £4 billion ($6.4 billion) to Britain, compared with an overall negative contribution of £591 billion for native Britons. Between 2001 and 2011, the net fiscal contribution of recent arrivals from the eastern European countries that have joined the EU since 2004 has amounted to almost £5 billion. Even during the worst years of the financial crisis, in 2007-11, they made a net contribution of almost £2 billion to British public finances. Migrants from other European countries chipped in £8.6 billion.
The authors point out that the cost of some government services—in particular “pure public goods” such as defence spending—remains the same no matter what the population, so the overall cost of providing them to immigrants is zero. Calculate the amount per person, and the price for Britons goes down as the number of immigrants rises, since the cost is shared between a larger number of individuals.
Immigrants’ overall positive contribution is explained in part by the fact that they are less likely than natives to claim benefits or to live in social housing. Between 1998 and 2011 as many as 37% of natives were receiving some kind of state benefit or tax credit; European immigrants were nearly eight percentage points less likely to collect them. Those from Europe were also three percentage points less likely to live in social housing than Britons.
Another immigration myth that I would like explained is Britain is not member of the schengen agreement, so there is no restrictions on British border control. This points to a government failing.
This points to the immigrant argument as being somewhat of a ‘red herring’ and fear promoter.
The other issue is that immigration should not have any racial connotations it is purely a volume issue. The question I ask is why with strong government policy even from within the EU is it not possible to control immigration. The UK border force is undermanned and underfunded will this change outside the EU and don’t say some of the £350 million per week will go towards this that’s already spent on the NHS and elsewhere? Besides it is not a weekly £350 million contribution only without rebates/batteries not included.
There is also a spurious argument that rules are made by faceless unelected bureaucrats based in Brussels this is not entirely correct as there is a body of elected MEPs from each member state. Now I’m not saying I agree with the elected representatives on all issues much is wrong. I will though put forward an argument that to come out of the EU would put Britain in the hands of a small myopic political establishment that could erode any semblance of leaning towards some minor form of democratic governance, Within the EU there are 28 member states all arguing their agenda this does create a senate even if the strong percolate through to the top of the table, not true, Greece is an example of eating from the bottom of the table and it should be pointed out that the Greek debt was not compounded by the Greeks but by that blight on the financial world Goldman Sachs. When I see the infrastructure Spain has put in place using EU money, railways and Roads/highways years ahead of the UK I see a benefit as with many other EU countries that have benefited from membership. A country with infrastructure will grow. I ask is leaving and indication that our political elite are shirking their duty of strong negotiation. If the EU finances the Spanish infrastructure why can’t they finance a well-funded border force. We have seen European countries put up physical barriers to Middle Eastern immigration/refugees without substantial repercussion from the EU – why can’t a powerful member state such as the UK force change and get deals? The way to change a club is to be elected to the board of directors in order to do this you have to be a member of the club.
The UK has low productivity in relation to much of the developed world. If this was higher I could see more of a reason for Brexit. Trade deals will take time to negotiate and breaking into the Asian pacs and US American continent pacs will be a long-term project. These pacs are already set in their procedures and have been for many years. It is possible but will take a considerable amount of time. Canada has been trying to ratify a deal for nearly 5 years. Norway is a very wealthy country and would say they are better off outside the Union however Norway has some products vital to Europe and the world mainly substantial oil. Norway is also currently trying to renegotiate some of it’s EEA (European Economic Area) deals for trading with the EU. It is in a different position to Britain but all is not well if you need to renegotiate some of your arrangements. There is a global drift towards trading blocks to name some; African Union (AU), Union of South American Nations (USAN), Central American Integration System (SICA), Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC), Arab League (AL). Although the EU was not originally created as a trading group but to reduce the possibility of further wars in the European zone it has developed into a strong trading block with the largest GDP in the world giving it massive negotiating powers..
Most car manufacturers in the UK have foreign ownership and are here for the access to a 508 million market the biggest trading block in the world with the biggest GDP. If their market goes from 508 million to 65 million it is naive to believe there will not be redundancies. Also countries like Spain Italy Germany already have the infrastructure to accommodate car manufacturing so it is not beyond the possibility for companies to move camp. This is only one of many foreign-owned business sectors that find the UK legislatively comfortable to operate from but don’t be under any illusion most also point to Europe 45% of UK exports go to Europe.
The City of London generates 22% of the UK’s GDP. The current job environment in the City is one of despair that generates a culture appearing to be greed. The city is a vicious hire and fire culture forcing employees to reach for greater and great targets. There is a general recognition that like justice regulations need to be seen to be done a blind lady of regulation. There is far too much incest between the political establishment and the banking and fund management fraternity. With a vote for exit and a further lowering of manufacturing production the dependence on the City could become even greater. This could lead to blind eye despair banking and fund management taking even more dodgy capital from despotic regions of the world, the city’s best method for increasing business will be to deregulate. Remember what was said to Cameron at the conference on corruption that took place some months ago, when the president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari was asked when his government would commence tackling corruption his reply was “when you stop taking the money” . The City is already a culture of despair and knee jerk regulation. The need to pump up the capital flows through the city due to lower industrial productivity could end up being and even greater necessity.
Brexit is a brave idea a step in the dark with promoters falsely believing that the political class exist that can manage the transition they have not existed in the past so why suddenly now? Strongly negotiated membership could have many benefits and does not necessarily mean giving up a vague form of sovereignty with an even vaguer belief in obscure democracy. Closer EU integration could be contested from within if not then maybe that is the time to say we will leave this could be a negotiating hand. I don’t believe past negotiations have been very strong but contested by weak UK political management who have failed in their obligations to the British public. Also it should be noted that the UK stays as a member of the European Council.
Few of the general public understand the issues and my conclusion is that such a decision is for the elected parties to fight out in the elected houses with all their expert advisors and to make a parliamentary decision. Unfortunately we currently have a self-interested political system with little interest in discussing the options but more interested in scoring political points.
I have only mentioned some of my thoughts here and I sure the exit group could put up strong counter-arguments to these thoughts and that is what is needed. There is much wrong with Brussels management and the question needs to be asked can Brussels be forced to change. Many member states have substantial grievances with the EU. These grievances are also a reason why the EU will not be able to strike favorable deals with the UK, as such deals would open the floodgates. the EU can’t also offer a deal to the UK that is better than member states get.
Shane Aurousseau – Photographer