We can still fight Brexit: The European Elections will become a Referendum by Proxy
As I watched protesters wave their placards around Westminster chanting traitor-mantras over the weekend, I understood their frustration at this botched negotiation process. Yes, I can see why they are angry with politicians who naively thought securing Brexit and negotiating trade deals was going to be simpler.
But, to insist that we should have left on the 29th March, with or without a deal, is reckless, and protesting for protesting’s sake. Perhaps the Brexit Day marchers need to be reminded of the many European directives which have been enacted into European law that each and every one of them has likely benefited from.
For example, the European time directive which protects employees from employers who want to enforce ridiculous working hours; or the European standards for drinking water which ensures the cleanliness of rivers and beaches in the UK. Not to mention, reduced roaming charges and the myriad benefits for all EU migrants travelling across Europe).
Do the protestors not realise how catastrophic it would have been to crash out on the 29th March without a deal. I heard one protestor on the news quip: ‘Today should have been a party, but now it’s a wake.’ Well boo hoo for spoiling a party. The more pressing point is that if we had of have crashed out without a deal, WTO rules would have immediately applied by default the very next day.
To give you some idea of its impact, WTO rules would have meant:
A levy of 35% to be applied to all dairy products, as well a 21% levy on confectionary. That means a £5 box of chocolates for Mother’s day would have go up to £6 overnight! These extra costs would not benefit anyone other than EU lawmakers in Brussels. Animal products would have been subject to a 15.5% charge, with the price of fish rising by 12% and fruit and vegetables by 10%. Thinking of buying a new car? That would be subject to a further 10% charge, on top of all the other duties you already pay.
Not only that, but you can easily add another 5% to the costs as a result of the extra paperwork and time that these changes would require.
These price rises wouldn’t just hit the consumer, including the Brexit Day marchers. They would hit small, independent businesses – the fruit and vegetable stalls, the car dealers, the dairy farmers, who are all trying to compete with larger enterprises. All this is bad news for small businesses, bad news for jobs and, therefore, bad news for Treasury coffers. Ultimately, crashing out would mean less money for schools, hospitals and public services. All because stubborn and myopic Brexiteers wanted to get out on deadline day, as a matter of principle.
The Treasury and the Bank of England has said time again that ‘just leaving’ would be a disaster.
So what now? Of course as a Liberal Democrat, I believe that revoking Article 50 is the least worst option. But I also know what an insult to democracy many would view this as. So if we can’t revoke Article 50, our only option is to go for a softer Brexit, or we have to hold a People’s Vote with ‘Remain’ as an option.
Given the current deadline after three failed meaningful votes it’s very unlikely Theresa May will succeed with a fourth, even with reduced options on the table. The easiest way to get an agreement through the House of Commons is to put it to a People’s Vote.
After the referendum in 2016 we were told by MP Liam Fox that we would be making deals over a cup of tea. But we have a measly eight continuity deals in place and even then they are with low-tier markets like the Caribbean countries and Chile.
As for the other promise from the one of the most prominent Brexiteer players, Boris Johnson, instead of money coming back to us, we are paying them £39 billion. This equates to, on average, £2,500 per family of four in the UK.
Whatever happens, it looks increasingly likely that we will extend Article 50 beyond April 12th. This means that as a nation we will have to vote for European MEPs. I believe that for as long as we remain in Europe, MEPs can do a lot to mitigate the damage already done. That is why I have decided to apply to run as a Liberal Democrats MEP candidate, representing the interests of over 8 million Londoners.
I want to hold Brussels to account on their spending policies from within while we still have the chance . Why, for example are there two parliaments – one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg? And why are there questions about European accounts not being signed off.
My priority would be to show the people of London why the EU has been so good for us. We often hear about the bad points of European membership but we hear very little about the positive laws it has brought in and the grants it gives us.
Crucially, I want to get behind Europe’s environmental policies. To make a difference internationally the world needs an international movement. Europe has already made great strides in reducing carbon emissions and introducing recycling regulations. The UK can’t fight climate change on our own. It needs to be within Europe working collaboratively, to make a difference.
Most of all I will fight to ensure that free movement of people endures. As a first generation immigrant and the founder of eBookers, which I started from a kiosk, I know only too well the value of immigration. I created a lot of employment in UK, simply because my market was made up of 11 countries within Europe. Shared markets create bigger opportunities, more growth, more jobs and the option for us all to live or work in a different territory.
Make no mistake, if we go to the European polls, the election will turn into a proxy for a referendum. It will turn into a battle between the Remainers, who believe in a unified future for Britain, and those who want to undermine peace and security and liberal values. Those who want to remain and get the best for Britain’s future generation Vs those who insist we retreat to a romanticised past that never existed. The challenges the world faces are in front not behind us and I will wholeheartedly put my weight behind a campaign to bring the best for Britain.