The government, when not defending themselves from accusations of tax dodging have embarked on “project fear” for the EU referendum….although this mostly seems to consist of pointing to various reports by organisation such as the IMF, the CBI, the LSE or the recent report from the farmers union. In essence the message from the experts is that leaving the EU will have a negative economic effect, in part because it will not be as easy to undertake as the “leave” camp would have us believe (the only country to actually leave the EU was Greenland and that took three years….where the main sticking point was merely the issue of fisheries!).
So the government position is just mirroring expert opinion, they claim. However trying to get this through to euroskeptics is next to impossible. I’ve had several conversations with leave supporters whose constant point is that they can’t trust the information they get from mainstream sources. They demand to know the “true” facts. They believe the stay camp are just trying to scare us, because they have some sort of secret unstated agenda. But what exactly is that agenda?….aside from the obvious (they don’t want to see the economy collapse and spend the next ten years negotiating with the EU for a trade deal that will leave the UK permanently worse off).
Certainly, the last time we saw project fear (May 2015), where we were warned that Alex Salmond would be appointed PM by Ed Miliband and the wearing of kilts in London would be made compulsory, well yes then the Tories did have an agenda (make sure the lib dems got the blame for all the crap the Tories pulled in coalition). And during the Scottish referendum there was also a clear agenda, given how devastating Scotland leaving would be for the UK’s defence, losing control of the oil, the bulk of the UK’s renewables, etc. As I recall pointing out at the time, in the event of Jockexit the SNP won’t all have it their own way (so again, there would be some sort of economic correction), although I was still minded to support independence, in part because I worried this EU referendum might be round the corner. So there was some truth to “the fear”, although it might well have been blown out of proportion somewhat.
And in the AV referendum we were warned that it would lead to electoral chaos and governments that were constantly divided and unable to govern….which we seem to have gotten anyway with a Tory majority and an EU referendum. So again, the Tories clearly had an agenda here too, that of protecting the duopoly of themselves and labour. But as regards the EU vote, the agenda does seem to be as advertised. Although one is left with an element of boy who cried wolf syndrome.
Some UKIPer’s will at this point mumble something about “an agenda” involving steps towards “a European superstate” which the “stay” camp favour. Certainly some in the “stay” camp do. But David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn (who like quite a few lefties is something of a euroskeptic….just one who isn’t a raving racist loon), nor any of the other economic institutes I mentioned earlier are supporters of that. If you honestly believe the UKIP propaganda, do you really think Cameron would campaign for an EU superstate when he knows the first thing that state would do would be to crack down on the tax havens were he stores all his money? And again, too what end? Indeed the only member of the stay camp I’ve heard talking up an EU superstate recently was (of all people) Jeremy Clarkson.
So it would appear that in this case “project fear” is justified. But the UKIP’ers won’t listen. And it has to be said that the “leave” camp have been running its own version of project fear, which I’d describe as “project doom” given the anti-EUscare stories the tabloids been circulating. The only difference being that while the government position is based on academic views and peer reviewed research, the leave camp’s scare stories are based on hearsay, half truths or outright lies. And the whole reason why we are having a referendum has been several decades worth of the tabloids running an anti-EU project fear.
Take for example a recent story, where the Express tried to claim that the EU wants “control” of your pensions. The implication was that eurocrats would cease people’s pensions. Well no, actually the EU is more interested in making sure pension contributions can be transferred across national borders, important for those who work and live in different EU countries (as applies to quite a few brits). Also, and this is not the first time this has come up, the commission is worried about the massive difference between welfare payouts in different member states. They worry that this could be creating “benefits tourism” whereby people head from one EU nation to another with better benefits.
And contrary to what the tabloids would have you believe the UK is not likely to be a victim of this given our benefits system pays out a lot less than other EU nations. At most, all the EU is proposing is setting guidelines for what level of benefits nations should pay out, so we don’t end up with a massive pull on one country or another. And like I said, in the UK that would likely pull up pension payments rather than drop them, given that the British pension is one of the worst in Europe….although I suspect the Treasury will point out that UK pensioners get all sorts of things like winter fuel payments and free TV licenses.
Of course one cannot help but notice that the EU is actually doing something about an issue the tabloids have spent several years making a big deal out of and the tabloid response is to criticise the EU for doing what they’ve been lobbying for !?! That’s like some old duffer complaining to the council about boy racers racing up and down his street and then when the council puts in speed bumps complaining about the speed bumps and how much his council tax costs.
The devil’s rejects
And since we are talking of “agendas” its worth noting that many in the leave camp very much do have an unspoken agenda. Clearly many of the cabinet ministers who broke ranks and supported leave are on a downward career path. They know their days are numbered and backing “leave” is really a sort of forlorn hope. Boris Johnson is clearly only backing “leave” because he reasons its his best chance of becoming PM.
And quite a few of those bankrolling the “leave” camp, at least those who have gone public, have very clear financial motivations. Take for example the boss of Phones4U (amongst others), who is no doubt annoyed at the EU’s plans to end roaming and stopping phone companies fleecing customers when they make calls abroad. And that’s the “nicer” end of the spectrum. Much of the leave camp, are the sort of corrupt tax dodging, hedge fund managing troglodytes of a bygone age.
While Cameron, Osborne and even Boris all disclosed their tax returns recently, I think there’s very little chance of you seeing Farage’s or the Rothermere’s (Daily Mail owner, leave supporter and tax exile) or Richard Desmond‘s (Daily Express owner, also a tax exile) accounts…largely because it would likely get them arrested!
Suffice to say those in the leave camp have a very clear agenda, they worry about the EU’s long standing push for greater equality, and more recently a crackdown on tax avoidance. They also plan to profit from the carnage that follows. As the saying goes follow the money. And the money trail says this lot have clearly got something to hide, quite apart from the fact that they are all neo-facist bigots So their “agenda” for backing “leave” isn’t too difficult to deduce.
So while yes, the government does likely have “an agenda” by campaigning for staying in the EU, there is a strong element of truth and genuine fear backing this one up. And if were are going to accuse the stay camp of fearmongering, then its only fair we acknowledge the fearmongering that the “leave” camp are also engaged in much of the same. The only difference is the “leave” camp’s fear is mostly based on half truths and race-baiting. It is in truth very difficult to be a “leave” supporter without also being a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist.