Wednesday, 24 February 2016

EU referendum ................ excitement mounts in Belper

BelperStuff has decided to follow the in/out debate in the run up to the vote on 23rd June. There are many questions that need to be answered before we can make an informed judgement and this first post is something of a roundup of where we are after just a few days of the Remain/Leave debate.

The media has initially focussed on the declarations of prominent politicians and the personal mud slinging that inevitably follows. Despite the fact that many of these leading players are considered by BelperStuff to be unworthy of public office this blog will concentrate on the issues and not personalities. This early example of Brexit politicking is deplorable and in future is something that will be avoided in future blog posts but hopefully we can be excused if something emerges that just has to be commented upon:

Has LEAVE scored an own goal with this one?
No comment necessary except that the opposing camps have recruited some amazing bedfellows (in an attempt to avoid sexism I tried to think of a gender neutral term but failed to come up with anything ......... comments welcome).

So how have the political parties split on this issue?

Before we turn back to the issues perhaps a snapshot of where the parties stand would be helpful as the battle is enjoined.

Where the MP's stand on the EU in 1st week of campaign
Remain Leave  Undecided
Conservatives 132 115 84
Labour 215 8 7
SNP 54 0 0
LibDem 8 0 0
UKIP 0 1 0
Green 1 0 0
Independent 4 0 0
Plaid Cymru 3 0 0
Ulster Unionist 0 0 2
SD & LP 3 0 0
Sinn Fein 8 0 0
DUP 0 8 0
Total 428 132 93

A BelperStuff distillation from this article in the Guardian

So at this moment 66% of MP's want to remain in the EU, 20% want to leave whilst 14% are undecided. (Pauline Latham is one of the undecided). The overwhelming number of MP's who want to leave or are undecided come from the Tory ranks whereas there is a thumping majority of Labour MP's who will vote to remain in.

Of course come the referendum it does not matter who you are, the vote of Joe Bloggs or Jill Biggins counting as much as a Jeremy, David or Boris but the latter have access to the media and their every whim and whimsy will be slavishly reported, for good or ill depending upon the editorial slant of particular newspapers or TV channel. (Hopefully the media watch team at Loughborough University are already on the case). There will be poll after poll that will give us some idea of how accurately the division of MP's reflects the populace as a whole as the issues are debated.

The debate so far

Perhaps the most reasoned and thoughtful comments on the remain/leave debate came from Jeremy Corbyn as he described Cameron's efforts to gain an advantage in Brussels as a "theatrical sideshow" aimed at appeasing Tory MP's and party backers in the city. You can see a report of this here: Corbyn in Parliament criticising Cameron's EU negotiations. The details of what the Brussels negotiations achieved are far from clear as even Cameron has admitted. The agreement document can be read here: Reuters press release of UK - EU deal. BelperStuff is going through this line by line and there are a number of questions that are being thrown up not least the precise nature of the "benefits brake". This will be the subject of a subsequent post as there are real concerns about how this will affect the 1,260,000 UK citizens living and working in EU countries (outside the UK). On the other hand there is a debate on the payment of child benefit to EU citizens working in the UK: see here Migration Watch briefing paper . The actual saving will be 0.28 % of the total UK child benefit budget or, approximately £30 million a year (that is before the added costs needed to administer the reduced payouts is factored in ......... the savings could be far less as it will be the responsibility of the DWP and heir track record is not very good; see a previous blog: Disability benefit testing costs more than it saves). Whether you think that this is a significant gain from the the EU negotiations will depend upon your own viewpoint but it does seem rather trivial to trumpet this as a major consideration for the second largest economy in the EU. Yes the UK economy comes second only to Germany.

In conclusion

With 119 days to go I am sure that we will be heartily sick of the subject come June 23rd. One can only hope that we voters will be given the information we need to make a fair judgement but if the opening salvos are anything to go by then we are in for a barrage of spin and bluster that is all to common of political debate. Jeremy Corbyn has set a benchmark for honesty on the EU and the issues involved and I do hope that others follow this lead ............. how naive can this blog be as no doubt the media will find an angle to tear him to shreds. There will no doubt be some valid points made by the Leave group and if so, a careful judgement will be needed. Let's hope that we have less of this type of ill informed and evidence poor statement that has become the hallmark of ODS:

It's that man again.

Iain Duncan Smith Grilled By Evan Davis On Why - Voters Should Believe Him Over Security Experts On Brexit - Huffington Post. The astute amongst you will no doubt realise that the promise to avoid personalities and concentrate on the issues has been immediately broken. Do not expect an apology because no promise is binding where ODS is concerned.

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