Monday, 13 June 2016

Brexit Babble

So in the next few weeks the UK will decide whether or not it remains in the EU. Personally I tend to agree with David Mitchell on the referendum because it is SUCH an important decision that I believe it should be made by the people we voted in to LEAD our country. There is also the worrying undercurrent with this particular subject that many people will vote to leave on one small matter (to stem immigration) when there are SO MANY other issues that will be massively affected by a Brexit.

I worked for 7 years in a role which engaged with and managed projects which could only operate due to being part (or in some cases fully) funded by the EU. These funds were apportioned to those areas of the UK most in need, those with high levels of unemployment, poverty and depravation. We were made to record the postcodes of businesses and individuals we helped so that the EU could monitor that the funds were really getting to the areas they were intended for – yes, EU funding administration is bureaucratic but it has to be that way to ensure the money is spent how and where it should be. Having also worked with non-EU government funds, it will probably come as no surprise to find out that they are far less stringent with their evidence of eligibility in spend.

I have heard NOTHING from the government to suggest that these vital sources of funding will be bridged by them if the UK leaves the EU. In the current economy do you really believe that the current, swingeing, Tory government will step in to fund these schemes? No, me either.

During my time working with these projects I saw many (as in HUNDREDS) of businesses get a real, tangible boost from their engagement with them. I saw EU funds support and engage with struggling SMEs (who could not access assistance anywhere else). Part of my job was to collate evidence of created and safeguarded sales that the EU funds had created – it was standard to get an 8:1 return on investment from these projects, an impressive success by any measure. This is worth bearing in mind when you go on like a broken record about how much the EU costs us.

I also worked first hand on a project which used EU funds to get graduates into SME jobs. Without the subsidy provided by this funding the companies would never be able to afford a graduate in such a role, the graduate would also struggle to find work – this project solved two major economic issues with deft use of the available funds. This was no mean feat. The admin required to pull this off was huge but it was SO worth it when we could clearly see (and report on) the jobs created, the graduates who were being assisted into these roles, the long term impact this had both on the companies and on the graduates was nothing short of stellar.

The UK benefits greatly from these tranches of funding which are ploughed into supporting our SMEs and graduates and there is nothing to replace it if the plug is pulled by an exit from the EU. I have tried to understand the viewpoint around leaving but struggle massively to see anything within the literature I have scoured which, at its heart, is anything other than racism disguised as politics.

It is sadly the case that a lot of people will vote in this referendum without reading up on the facts, they will vote with their heart, not their head and they will be swayed by sensationalist headlines about people from Romania invading our shores and milking our benefits (even though the facts very easily refute this nonsense). It is also quite telling that the amount of misguided rants about immigration and how this negatively impacts upon the UK economy are, without exception, by people who want to leave Europe. Coincidence? I think not.

I have seen a number of interesting posts (again, designed to stir up sentiment and resentment against the EU without considering any objective elements or impact) about how so many UK industries and businesses have moved their operations outside of the UK “because of the EU”. This is stunningly blinkered and a great example of positioning irrelevant information to foster an emotional (and therefore angry) response.

Whether we were in the EU or not, it is highly likely that many of our manufacturing giants (Mini – which is owned by German BMW anyway – Ford Transit, Cadbury) would have shipped out of UK based production anyway because in the current GLOBAL market it makes more sense to run your production plants in an economy where the minimum wage is lower and the profit margins higher. Ironically, that is just as likely (if not more likely) to mean India, China, Malaysia or any of the South East Asia region. And they would have done it regardless of EU loans.

Like it or not, the UK is not a manufacturing dependent country anymore and it never will be again. Our strengths lie in technology, high-skilled workers and service industries (a great article on this can be found here). 

I also fear for UK farmers who may well be financially crippled again if the UK votes to leave. Do you fancy an increase in tax to replace the subsidies they currently rely on? Has the government outlined a plan to cover it?
I do not believe the EU is perfect, I understand that it has its faults, but I fully believe in 2016 the UK would be both short sighted and bloody minded to step away from the benefits, protection and opportunities that being a member affords us.

Yes, I choose to live in Australia at the moment and will likely become an Australian citizen in the next few years. However, I will retain my UK citizenship and hold both simultaneously so yes, I do believe I have a right to a say in all this and I have cast my postal vote to remain accordingly. I feel obliged to say this because I have been the recipient of a few barbed remarks about my views on the Brexit over recent weeks. I am certain that more will be aimed at me after this blog post is published. Oh well.

One of the delights of modern life is freedom of speech. I respect everyone’s right to their opinion and if the UK votes leave then I will sigh, roll my eyes and watch the fall out (just like I did when the UK inexplicably voted in a Tory government at the last election). On the Brexit debate, I find myself agreeing with Dishface for the first time ever. I guess the fact that it has come to that underlines the weight of the risks involved with a Leave vote for me (hence the blog).

Cast your vote and have your say. Just ensure you have truly read around both sides of the argument first and don't base your vote on scaremongering immigration rants alone.