UKIP and its follies

UKIP and a number of their contemporaries (there seems to be practically breeding going on of new right wing loony parties) are campaigning in the European election on two issues, “unlimited immigration” and “we want a referendum now” on Europe. While I’m probably going to be repeating myself, but its worth putting up something to debunk this lunacy.

An EU “in out” referendum
So for starters what’s wrong with giving the UK a referendum on the EU? Well firstly as I’ve discussed before the reason why the UK didn’t get a referendum, but we Irish did (multiple times in fact!) is because the UK doesn’t have a constitution. So this is really a fault of the UK’s antiquated political system rather than some dark political plot from Brussels.

The obvious solution would be, bring in a UK constitution. A constitution effectively limits the power of both the courts to make up the law as they go along, and it limits the government’s ability to pass arbitrary new ones without consulting the people first. This would incidentally solve a number of problems ranging from ridiculous health and safety paranoia, to making it easier to kick Islamic extremists out of the country.

Of course politicians, notably those on the right do not want this to happen, as they realise that if we start having referendum’s about this and that (for example the Tories latest welfare reform or banking policy or making the wealthy pay more in tax) they’ll probably loose and laws will be forced through that they absolutely do not want to see passed. And as noted a constitution effectively limits the power of parliament, and as you can imagine this is something that all politicians, even UKIP, want to avoid.

As for the idea of holding a retrospective vote on EU membership, well that represents heading down a very slippery slope. There were lots of decisions made by the UK Parliament which the public also didn’t get a vote on. The Trident nuclear missile system for example. Or the decision to privatise the railways, electricity and water companies. When did we get a vote on that? Will we be holding referendum’s on these policies too? Because I’ve a sneaking suspicion that if you offered most British commuters a choice between a referendum on these issues or a referendum on the EU most would say sod the EU, and pick a referendum on re-nationalisation of these essential services (or at the very least a re-running of the privatisation franchise processes). And the result would probably be a resounding defeat for the Tories and effectively much of Thatcher’s legacy ripped up.

In short what the Tories and UKIP want is to hold a referendum on the one issue where they reckon they can con the electorate into voting a way that suits them, but they have absolutely no intentions of giving the public any such rights to vote on a host of other issues. It is political hypocrisy at its worse.

“Stop unlimited EU immigration”
This is one I see a lot in election posters. The UK border is under attack as the great unwashed hordes stream across. Farage thinks that 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians are due to descend on us, no doubt speaking funny languages on trains as they plot against us :crazy:…

…actually recent figures suggest that if anything the number of migrants from Romania into the UK has actually fallen since January the 1st, somewhat debunking much of the xenophobic bigotry we’ve seen from UKIP and the tabloids. Of course as I pointed out a while ago, this should not come as a shock to anyone…at least those that keep an eye on Euro-stat’s (which as a UK MEP is kind of supposed to be Farage’s job! Perhaps he should stop hanging around in pubs). The Romanian economy is doing well, there are actually labour shortages in the country and indeed it’s being speculated that Romania will shortly be a net recipient of migrants.

But I digress, even if we imagine that the UK does have something to fear from immigration the implication of UKIP policy is that by leaving the EU the UK can solve them. Farage might want to run that by the Swiss. Despite not being a member of the EU, in some Swiss cities, native borne Swiss are now a minority of the population. I was in Iceland last year and had to stay in a hostel near the airport (early morning flight). A large proportion of the hostel residences were refugees from all over the world. According to the locals this was a growing problem in that part of the country, with large numbers of refugees and economic migrants moving in. And in Norway recall that the euroskeptic climate change denying serial killer who shot all those people a few years ago was reacting to Muslim immigration into the country.

So on the face of it I don’t think the non-EU EEA countries are in anyway in more control of their borders than the EU nations. And this should hardly come as a surprise. They are bound by many of the same international laws that the EU is, ranging from UN conventions on refugees (which means if someone shows up claiming to be a refugee you have to let them in), the Schengen agreement, the Dublin treaty and various pacts with they’re European trading partners or indeed other nations (such as the US).

As for work permits and visa’s as I’ve applied for jobs in the past, I know that I don’t need a work permit to go and work in Iceland or Switzerland. I’m not suggesting that I could simply show up at the border and ask the way to the nearest welfare office. There would be legal hoop’s I’d have to go through first. But then again, if I moved back to Ireland or moved to Germany I’d also have to do a bit of form filling, at least if I wanted to be sure my taxes contributed towards my pension, and that I got access to healthcare or welfare (if I lost my job or ended up unable to work for some reason).

While on paper the non-EU EEA nations do have a bit more wriggle room yes, but not nearly as much as UKIP fantasize they have. Indeed so desperate are the Swiss to control immigration that they recently voted in a quota system to try and control immigration. Inevitably the EU and its lawyers have questioned how this will work. And with good reason, after all how many refugees/migrant workers end up in Switzerland is largely influenced by policy in neighbouring EU states and the Swiss have no say in those affairs.

Indeed one could argue that Britain leaving the EU would actually make any problems with immigration worse. The country would, as noted, still be bound by a host of international treaties and would probably have to maintain some free movement of immigrants from the EU for the sake of any free trade agreement with the EU or indeed other members of the EEA.

Of course any “problem” migrants (the sort who we actually do want to keep out of the UK) that make it through the EU to the UK, cease to be an EU problem’s as soon as they are across the channel. Hence if the UK leaves, the EU would now have absolutely no incentive to stop these people making their way to Dover. I can even see them offering free shuttle buses from across the EU direct to Calais in the genuine hope that they’ll abscond. And recall a UK outside of the EU will probably share at least one land border with the EU, either across Ireland or at the Scottish border (if the SNP have their way).

The UK would need to do a lot more than withdraw from the EU to achieve UKIP’s aims. No, the country would also need to renege on numerous international treaties, which would cost the country dearly (political isolation) as it would mean anyone entering or leaving the UK would now need to apply for a visa, likely destroying trade and ruining the tourist industry. Plus the border would need to be protected (i.e. fences put up, patrols with sniffer dogs, etc.). In short, UKIP would pretty much have to turn the country into North Korea to achieve their goals.

To be blunt, if you do feel the UK has an immigration problem, the worse thing the UK could do is leave the EU.

But therein lie the problem. UKIP and its supporters have a pre-globalisation, if not pre-war world view. They still think we leave in a world where nations play a nationalistic great game against one another. Where we need to be suspicious of “the hun” or the “frogs”, least they invade (or make rude noises in our general direction), rather than co-operate. Where’ you’re not British unless you eat bully beef every day, drink real ale and came over with William the conqueror (who btw was a French nobleman who didn’t speak a word of English). And that immigration to the UK is a new and dangerous phenomenon. Actually the UK has seen many waves of immigration, Farage himself is of Huguenot stock (i.e. French!). Where would he be if we’d had some bigot at the border stamping passports back in the Middle ages?

Those tempted to vote UKIP due to fears of immigration are in short not so much racist as ignorant and stupid. Too dumb to be allowed to vote or indeed go out in public without their carer.

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