The Brexit debate showed how for once, it’s not really about us.

While all involved should be congratulated for staging it, goodness knows what the public made of the streamed Brexit debate. The horrible truth is that we are required to say  yes or no to a question which admits of no clear answer.  No one knows the cost of “uncertainty,” or the advantages of going it alone Dunkirk style. The Leave campaign is Panglossian, Remain is perilously like Mr Micawber. Call me parochial but the lack of a full time Northern Ireland panellist was glaring.  However committed to her native soil Labour MP Kate Hooey doesn’t  fit the bill. For some reason they also failed to find a neutral chair and power chaired it unsuccessfully.

For me best speakers were the former SoS Owen Paterson for Leave, airing his frustrations over dealing  with the EU as a cabinet minister, supporting  UK going- it- alone internationally and saving £8 billion a year; and for Remain, former Conservative MEP  John Stephens looking ahead to an ever -globalising world  where  you need to be Big to survive and which is less about  tariffs and hard goods  and more about regulation and services. EU membership is necessary to resist trends towards international protectionism and preserve the British lead in services in Europe.

Questions about the peace process, the common travel area , north-south trade and British -Irish relations were too quickly  shrugged off.   The Bel Tel report does the local journalist thing of  exaggerating the local angles in the debate.

In the too short time for available for questions from the floor, the debate took off when a businessman asked the practical question: “how would Brexit affect our interest rates and mortgages?”    Remain Co-chair Angela Magowan of Danske Bank said inflation and interest rates would rise but the Leave  co-chair Jeff Peel shouted her down. This was Northern Ireland after all.

In a real sense this is not our referendum.  It’s taking place over specifically English nationalist notions of Westminster sovereignty and a curious  nostalgia for the Commonwealth. The Brexit side fails to notice that sovereignty today is little more than a doomsday backstop, having been compromised for generations over national defence, myriad trade and legal relationships, currency rules, the growth of human rights and more recently devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On the other hand the EU expanded willy-nilly south and east after the abrupt fall of the Berlin Wall, in the fond hope that it would  all be alright in the end, and despite the fact – by their own admission –  that a common  European “demos “or united democratic community does  not exist.  Global financial crisis and turmoil in the middle east gave us all a rude awakening and exposed the weaknesses of our common institutions. For me, however that is no reason to give them up.   Just now the EU may not be making a great success of the euro, immigration and political stability. But can you imagine Europe and the UK doing any better without it?

Ipsos Mori  did trend  polling by text before and after the debate. Remain won but the debate narrowed the gap. I failed to catch the figures and so far nobody has bothered to report them.



Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • On the fence!

    Sure as long as there’d be no Brits at the border everybody’d be happy enough!

  • Angry Mob

    Haven’t we been over this, the EU is not democratic, no matter how much you repeat this mantra is doesn’t make it any more so.

    I’ll take your point and amend my statement to the de facto internal market, not that I see how this changes anything given we are already in the EEA and to retain access to the single market we will continue to be, whether we stay in the EU or rejoin the EFTA. The EFTA is not a political entity like the EU so democracy or sovereignty doesn’t even come into it.

  • Angry Mob

    The kind of democracy I want in Europe is one that each nation’s ‘demos’ have ‘kratos’. If other nations citizens wish to subvert power to the EU let them after the people are given a choice to do so and made fully aware of the fact. Not this sneaky continual creep of legislation which has no mandate.

  • William Anderson

    Most of DARD’s work is focused to dealing with diseases of farm animals and poultry. Also in ensuring complete traceability of farm animals. That is something they would do anyway regardless of EU membership.

  • Chingford Man

    Geneva is surrounded on almost all sides by France from where most of its commuters drive in and out of the city each day. If France and Switzerland can manage all those people crossing the EU frontier every day without checking every vehicle, why not the UK? I have walked across that frontier previously: no guards, no border crossings, nothing.

  • On the fence!

    No it’s not, the single biggest farming matter they deal with is implementation of CAP. TB testing is carried out by private veterinary practices, brucellosis is pretty much gone although BVD is occupying some who dealt with that, aphis will soon be exclusively online, and most of the poultry disease control is taken care of by the industry itself.

    By contrast implementation of SFP/BFP and all it’s associated arms is immense. They’re starting to trade entitlements again this year which will occupy another raft of people all summer doing something which is of no need or benefit to anyone. I mean camera planes mapping the entire countryside for analysis annually??????????

    As for farm assurance, red tractor, etc. These are all self-funded by their relevant industries whereas implementation of CAP comes out of the block grant ultimately.

    Support the EU by all means but don’t deny the stuff that comes from it (assuming you actually know that is!).

  • Angry Mob

    You’re right that a lot of countries are members of trade blocs but what differs with the EU is it’s not just a trade bloc but a political union.

    As for Norway and the EFTA member states, yes they pay for access but significantly less than what the UK is forced to contribute for economic and political union, cut out the cost of political union and you have a valuable deal.

    They do have significant input however; whilst not having a vote they are in continual correspondence but were they win is regaining seats at a global level in where they influence policy before it is passed down to the EU to implement.

    Whilst Norway has some advantages I’m fail to see how they detract from the UK re-joining EFTA. Indeed Iceland has a higher debt to GDP than the UK but being outside the EU allowed it to recover quickly from its banking crisis by suspending the freedom of movement of capital which it could not of done under EU laws.

    No guarantees but very high probabilities with the right plan.

  • Tochais Siorai

    German economic miracle(s). Good at obeying orders.

    I can never help wondering is there a connection?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I disagree the premise that the Tories after giving tax cuts to oil and gas are refusing to intervene because they see green benefits from punishing the coal based Steel and Electricity markets. The irony of reopening the coal mines to reduce the carbon footprint might kick in.

    Nationalising steel I think is reasonable but it would either see borrowing or spending cuts. There are rules on state interventions, but they are not impossible as we have seen with banks and the assets of banks.

    Steel does rely on raw coal and iron imports or possibly used steel, so the pressure to cut out the middleman and just import the steel can’t be ignored either.

    Only by recycling steel, a green industry, is the only long term sustainable means of maintaining self-sufficiency here. 30% of steel is recycled, UK the figure is higher and mainly because of electric arc furnance technology existing in the stations outside Port Talbot.

    I could see Liberty Steel buying the other Tata Steelworks, but Port Talbot with its blast furnace could be too big and too old without major investment.

    That or steel replacement materials, other metals, carbon fibres maybe even nanomaterials … Often all are coal reliant. Coal can be the raw material for the latter two.

    Main source of coal is Russia however.

  • Zig70

    Because the English wouldn’t be paying the same level of farm subsidies or peace money. Anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be cut after a few years is just naive.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No nation in the EU wishes to subvert unnessary power to the EU, but the fact is you need to have compromises to ensure common trade and common rights.

    Hate to break it to you, Common market needs Common Rules, not 1/8th of the EU deciding all the rules for the other 7/8th without some degree of compromise.

    There has been no handicap to the UK ignoring the demagogues and the splendid isolationists to have scientists, engineers and businesses work together, compete in a large market place and tackle common problems.

    Consider the economic performance in the UK between the early 70’s and today. They’ve not been shackled into being a pseudo Eastern European nation like Romania, which is a nice appeal for victim hood.

    The idea that British get to be first class citizens within the EU, and other EU citizens don’t get the same reciprocation is not democratic, simply by leaving the EU it’s bordering on the theocratic. No God’s chosen people privileges can be voted in on Westminster with the expectation other European nations are bound by any of it.

    It’s pretty much the “democracy” you see in Israel, Iran or at the very best Russia.

    You can’t vote for friendship from others when all you have to trade is hostility and defining ones entire nationhood by hostility alone.

    Young British people are saying they are afraid of being imprisioned in Britain through the sacrifice of free movement to all non-elites in Britain just bankers who can get a specialist passport, so unless they become continental bankers they are trapped in a state that only has a hostile and isolationist mentality towards other countries.

  • Angry Mob

    Yet every member of the EU does. You are right that common markets needs common rules and regulations but can you tell me why a common market needs control of areas of policy not in any way related to trade itself; with every treaty that goes by more areas of policy come under EU control.

    You don’t need political union to make rules for what should be a trading block. Again, Norway manages to trade with the EU whilst maintaining control of several important areas of policy. It only has to follow the rules and regulations of the EEA in order to continue trade but can pick and choose whether it wants to participate in EU programs like Europole, Erasmus which it sees as being mutually beneficial.

    Leaving the EU political union is not isolationist, quite the opposite in fact as it allows to make trade deals with the entire world which we can’t do now as it’s an area of policy surrendered to the EU.

    I’m not asking for VIP treatment, merely what Norway already has which is an amicable arrangement that can be further developed in the future which will suit the UK’s needs and possibly other EU members who’ll eventually join us.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The point is that as it stands at present there isn’t a straight replacement for steel

    Whatever amount of steel is required for manufacturing in this country will be produced and purchased.

    If it is produced abroad and shipped here then there is the additional problem of increased emissions from transportation.

    Thousands of people will be out of work, the knock on effect will be that local businesses will be effected by the loss of income to their companies and they will also suffer.

    I have witnessed the devastation caused to mining communities in South Yorkshire and the social problems caused as a result.

    The limited interest shown by the government in manufacturers difficulties, and the contrast with their reaction to the banking crisis shows a lack of concern for ordinary people and the regions which is contemptuous in the extreme.

  • Angry Mob

    I only wish people were more open minded on the opportunities that brexit will bring.

  • Anglo-Irish

    To date, whilst I am no great fan of the EU and accept that it needs serious changes I have heard no convincing argument from the Brexit camp which would persuade me to take a leap into a solitary unknown.

    The Tory historian Andrew Roberts arguing on behalf of Brexit in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago came out with the following.

    ‘ Britain was on its knees and lacking good leaders when it joined the EEC in 1973. Now much stronger it must break free of its continental shackles and embrace freedom. ‘

    All very stirring and patriotic, and Tory.

    A few points occur;

    Firstly ‘ Britain was on its knees ‘ so not doing so well on our own then?

    Secondly, ‘ Now much stronger ‘ that would be ‘much stronger ‘ following 43 years in partnership with our fellow Europeans wouldn’t it? Presumably Andrew Roberts is giving Britain and Britain alone all the credit for this improvement.

    Thirdly, ‘ lacking good leaders ‘ so presumably he rates our current leaders as good?

    Have to say from my perspective they’ve made a hell of a good job of concealing it from me.

    As I say, I’m not convinced, as yet at least.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Which are?

  • Ulsterman

    As a Northern Irish farmer I am voting leave in June. All farming subsidies should be scrapped. The farming industry would be much much stronger as a result! Leaving the EU is, and must be the first step along that road!

  • Angry Mob

    Britain was known as the sick man of Europe back then, I know you’ll vehemently disagree with me on this point but it was largely down to the policies that Thatcher implemented that got the country back upon it’s feet again.

    I can’t deny the that common market wasn’t a significant help as it helped open up existing markets on our door step, however that’s where it should have remained, as an economic trading bloc; not the political union formed in 1993 which we do not need to be part of in order to trade with Europe, that’s my gripe with the EU.

    As a Tory he’d probably rate the despicable Heath quite low, with Thatcher being excellent and the rest since being woeful, including Cameron.

    The best argument for Brexit can be found here, this is the short version:

  • Angry Mob

    Increased trade, by trading with the European EEA/EFTA nations and by regaining the ability to make our own trade deals. On exit the presumption of continuity of treaties will ensure that all free trade agreements made whilst in the EU will continue as normal.

    Regaining our sovereignty, with powers for key policy areas returned to such as trade mentioned above, agriculture & fishing etc.

    Regaining our seat at global bodies in which we can shape global policy on rules and regulations before bodies such as the EU implements them.

    There are other minor issues as well but they are subjective.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I am not a supporter of any political party regarding them as self serving and wastefully incompetent for the most part.

    Thatcher was correct to face down the unions but she took it too far and wound up gloating whilst ignoring the damage that she had done.

    Personally she did me a favour, I started my business in 1984 and she put thousands out of work in my area, a certain amount turned to crime and my business dealt with electronic security.

    Which didn’t mean that I couldn’t sympathize with those who’s lives were effected.

    If the EU interferes too much how come Thatcher was allowed to behave in the sometimes draconian manner that she did?

    The argument in that link is far too jingoistic and makes assumptions about events that it has no way of knowing will happen in that way.

  • Angry Mob

    Thatcher was forced out in 1990, the EU didn’t come into being until 1993.

    Anything in particular in that document that I shared, I think it’s a very pragmatic and balanced plan that deals with leaving the EU.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Presumption, exactly that’s all it is, a guess, maybe it will happen like that maybe not.

    What happens if those countries still in the EU and believing in its future decide to make an example in order to discourage further defections?

    Why the assumption that we can obtain better trade deals on our own?

    I was in business for many years originally working for PLCs and later with my own company, fact of life, the bigger the customer and the larger the order and potential future orders the harder the negotiation and the better the deal obtained by the customer.

    Why should it be any different for us trying to renegotiate trade deals with a smaller deal on offer?

    Virtually every developed country is a member of some trade bloc, why is that?

    Why should anyone be looking to do us a favour, and how good are we at negotiating?

    If we are seen as in any way to be desperate full advantage will be taken, every country looks out for its own interest.

  • Anglo-Irish

    We were in the EEC and Thatcher was the one that signed the’ Single European Act’ which was the landmark Act which started off the EU further integration.

    The document is far too optimistic it assumes cooperation and goodwill all around.

    Bearing in mind we would just have thrown a major spanner in the works so I don’t think that that can be taken for granted.

  • Angry Mob

    To clarify not presumption in as to whether it will happen because it has legal precedent but presumption as to whether the other party of the agreement agrees to continue, which by default is presumed unless otherwise revoked. Given that trade benefits all countries it would be safe to assume most if not all trade agreements will continue on the same terms as per before brexit, they can be revised at a later date if need be.

    The UK’s trade deals are negotiated by the EU, However EFTA countries such as Iceland and Switzerland have successfully negotiated their own free trade agreements, which the EU has not yet achieved. Surely you can agree free trade is better than tariffed trade? If a country of a population of just over 300k people and a fraction of our GDP can negotiate a deal with China, why couldn’t we? This isn’t to mention the other countries we could make deals with that the EU has been unable to do.

  • Angry Mob

    Whilst she signed the Single European act, possibly naively thinking it was for continued economic union she later called it a error, from her book Statecraft:

    “…that such an unnecessary and irrational project as building a European superstate was ever embarked on will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era. And that Britain, with her traditional strengths and global destiny, should ever have become part of it will appear a political error of the first magnitude”

    As for the cooperation and goodwill sentiment it is a legal obligation that once Article 50 is invoked the EU shall negotiate an agreement for its withdrawal of the departing state taking into account its future relationship. Under EU and International law negotiations must be carried out in good faith, so it’s not a case of cutting off their nose to spite the face, unless they want wish to face greater legal implications or negatively affect trade.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    don’t you think he over-estimated how much of an issue the EU is for most people? We’re all thinking about it now because the Tory right has managed to get a referendum, but really there is little need to have one. It never comes high on the list of issues most people think are important (I used to look at the trackers a fair bit). Immigration yes; the EU not so much. It’s a preoccupation of a bunch of Tory MPs, UKIP people and not really too many others, including I would guess most people who will vote for Brexit. It’s not something most people are actually that passionate about, is the reality here. But a few very political people are very passionate about it.

    The particularly worrying thing – and something Brexiters should reflect on – is that the older generations (55+) are the one who will carry Brexit if it does happen. It’s being overwhelmingly rejected by those of us younger than that, who still have big chunks of our working lives to get through. Oldies: listen to us working age people this once please.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Bloody Hell! It must be a sign of the Apocalypse!

    I find myself in agreement with you!

    I’m 69 years of age, this isn’t about me, it’s about the future of my children and grandchildren.

    You are right ( can’t believe I’m saying this : ) ) most people don’t really give it too much attention,

    You left out Daily Mail readers by the way, people who blame all of our problems on immigrants and dismiss all the benefits that they have brought to the country over the years.

    Yes, we need more control over our borders and need to prevent known criminals gaining access one step ahead of the security services in their countries.

    But every country have that right, I’ve been to America, Australia and Israel, and each of them made sure that they were happy with who they admitted, as should we.

    We are far better off in a grouping than trying to fend for ourselves in a cutthroat world.

    The days of sending a gunboat and enforcing our interests are over, we need to adapt to reality.

  • Ulsterman

    There is no denying that up to the present time farmers in Northern Ireland have benefited from membership of the EU! No doubt! However for primary food production inside the farm gate to be viable in the longer term it MUST be market led and market orientated! Farming units must be efficient, produce what the market desires and connect with our end consumer.

    EU membership with the resultant Single Farm Payment has kept unviable farming business’s in business! Without subsidy the banks and financial institutions would close many farms down! No profit = end result bankrupt!

  • Anglo-Irish

    So, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland signed an internationally binding document without realising the full consequences of that decision?

    She had at her disposal the finest legal minds available to the country and yet managed a complete balls up leaving the country at a disadvantage?

    Thatcher is regarded by Tory’s as the best they’ve had for generations.

    She made a complete horlicks of it and yet you have faith in the present lot?

    Your not convincing me here.

  • Kevin Breslin

    As a republican, I’ll bite my lip and give the man credit for having 3 referendums over two terms of office, albeit one to passify their coalition partners, one to passify the rebellious Scots and one for the enemy behind him to paraphrase Churchill.

    A referendum gives people ownership of a decision, we see this with Greece and Tprias winning a second election even after his decisions to act upon a mandate for rejecting bailout conditions where his party faced the people again with his renegotiations heavily criticised as being worse than what was put on offer.

    I get the arguement, If there is a Brexit it probably will provoke a Europhile backlash in the UK in the same way the Scottish referendum provoked a Nationalist backlash at the polls. The reverse may also be true a Remain vote could actually help UKIP ironically.

    I would say pragmatically if there is a vote for Remain, Eurosceptics have to push reforms, if there is a vote to Leave, Europhiles have to push for the sorts of compromises Norway gets or maybe further.

    I don’t think the EU is detrimental to controlling borders, the borders haven’t gone away you know. The Common Travel Zone is an insular Schegen, and Schengen is a continental Common Travel Zone, all nations in these arrangements have a duty to protect their external borders from illegal undocumented migration. To think that a football hooligan or a terrorist or a suspected criminal can’t be deported within the EU if normal procedures are in place is ridiculous. Look at Edward Snowdon, he wouldn’t be hiding in an Ecadorian Embassey if that was the case.

    The migration issue is extremely difficult, people abuse visa privileges should we stop handing out visas and kill the tourism sector? People jump from ports after being rescued, should we let non UK&Irish ship who crash against the rocks in bad weather drown? People do sham marriages, should we deny natives the rights to marry foreigners! Foreigners may claim benefits, but some will have paid in lost their job and only want to get by until they can return home. These all happen to Britons and Irish people too of course.

    As for heavy criminal migrancy such as smuggling gangs and trafficking gangs and terrorists and so on, they don’t give two hoots about the law and are going to remain as clandestine as they can. The issue there is not EU or British law controlling borders, it is about being able to enforce the law.

    I think some people in the UK unfortunately would say the Magna Carta’s opposition to cruel and unusual punishment is a denial of sovereignty, both in the Leave and Remain side

    The limitation is that certain criminals cannot be deported to a death sentence, there was another ruling where a mother would be deported but her British child who had no other guardians would be left abandoned.

    (I think if immigration significantly increases the UK population with regards to the European population, the U.K. should get more MEPs and a better QMV share. Heck nations like Ireland would take a few off their hands. Anti-Immigration parties might benefit and have a better platform to put an alternative.)

  • On the fence!

    Not as simple as that. Ten or fifteen years ago everyone was taking about OFI (off farm income) as the path for small and/or increasingly unviable farms to survive. Some, including myself, realised that this was the only way to go and diversified or sought employment off the farm. Many didn’t bother but were lucky enough to have SFP ride to their rescue before they had to face up to economic reality. As a result the NI farming industry has become increasingly inefficient and wasteful with most farm incomes being LESS than their SFP cheque. This situation will not change without having control of our own industry, and there is NO chance of that happening while we remain in the EU.

    Farming is not in a good place at present so I fail to see how the state of the farming industry can be held up as a beacon for EU membership.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No they don’t, common regulations and common freedoms from dimscrimination are necessary in a common market. Otherwise you get 28 single markets where British goods and services are discriminated in 27 nations and British people are discriminated against in 27 nations.
    Don’t confuse sovereignty with demanding the freedom to hate, discriminate and become violent.
    These are not cost free win all enterprises.
    If that was the case the Syrian government, the Kurds, the Syrian resistance, Al Queda and Da’esh would all have sovereignty because they have ultimate freedom to do what they want as all is fair in a war.
    What this ultranationalism has actually done has destroyed the Syrian economy, ruined trade and increased the immigration of terrorists into the war zone.

    Nationalistic chauvinism is not going to help native Brits by hating foreigners, emancipate Brits through discriminating against foreigners, and protect Brits by picking fights with foreigners out of nothing more than indulging red mist.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Aren’t farm subsidies the same for every farm across the UK? Size and type of produce maybe affecting the values. So any future changes would affect farming nationally. Hypothetical futures are a bit uncertain to base decisions on now.
    Peace money is nonsense anyway. Should be ended and people told to wise up and get on with their lives.

  • Angry Mob

    Nope, we can’t make our own trade deals. It’s one (of many) policy that is ceded to the EU but yet EFTA states can and have done successfully.

  • Angry Mob

    I’m not sure of all the reasons that she did, possibly pressure from the EU-phile parts of her party but she did later realise that she had made a catastrophic mistake in doing so, something that we can finally rectify on the 23rd June.

    No to political union, yes to economic cooperation.

    I have no faith in the current lot, remember the main of the political establishment and big banks are supporting to remain.

  • Angry Mob

    Yes they do, as I have already pointed out they have given up areas of policy not directly involved in trade. There are other trading blocs in the world that don’t rely on political union.

    Can you tell me how Norway not being in the political EU is being discriminated against or discriminating against EU states, yet it continues to trade and participate in many different European-wide programs such as Erasmus.

    So please stop with the straw-man arguments.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They face custom tariffs on agricultural goods and have very little to no say in the European Economic Area. God doesn’t run the EEA, neither does the UN, the balance of power lies firmly with the nations of the EU, representing most of the states and citizens within it.

    Norway’s main influence is by proxy through its neighbours, but it doesn’t have any say compared to a Malta or Luxembourg or Estonia that at least has some.

  • Angry Mob

    How exactly is this discriminatory?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Whether we stay or leave the influence of Big Business, Financial institutions, Lobbyists and private and Corporate sponsors won’t go away.

    There will be no ‘fresh start’ just same old, same old, without any backup.

    According to a poster on another forum today’s Financial Times has an article which points out that in 2013 Cameron resisted an attempt by the EU to create a register detailing who has beneficial ownership of trusts.

    This was an attempt by the EU to introduce transparency regarding who benefited personally from these types of financial ‘arrangements’ .

    The British government successfully lobbied for secrecy to remain with regard to these matters.

    This ‘loss of sovereignty’ which seems such a big concern to Brexit supporters would appear to be more prevalent when it comes to the general public.

    It hasn’t prevented Britain becoming involved in various wars over the past 40 years, at least one of which was considered illegal by many people.

    It hasn’t prevented the UK cosying up to the USA a non member.

    It hasn’t prevented us sharing a nuclear deterrent with the US.

    It hasn’t prevented us doing a deal with the Chinese over building a nuclear power station, nor is it interfering with our attempts to sell British Steel to the Indians.

    With regard to NI, to the best of my knowledge it made no attempt to prevent American involvement in the internal politics of two member states.

    So what in particular is the main problem with the EU?

    I would agree wholeheartedly that it needs reform in terms of its bureaucracy and far more oversight with regard to expenditure but taking our ball and bat home in a huff isn’t the response needed in my view.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well a Swedish exporter can send agricultural goods to Helsinki or Copenhagen cheaper and more efficiently than to Oslo.

    Its limited protectionist abilities in the undemocratic EFTA do very little to shift the balance of power in the EEA to their favour.

    So the notion that associate states of EFTA can steer the EEA more than the average EU state does is a bit questionable.
    Given that Norway signs up to Schengen too, it is very questionable it has less opt outs from average common market laws than the UK has already.

    There is no obvious external trade advantage over the EU states just common benefits where Norway’s interests conform with the EU’s. It’s also worth remembering the customs tariffs for CAP/CFP goods the EU imposes on Norway and other non-EU countries help to fund EU farmers and fishers, British farmers exporting goods outside the EU being tariff free would mean making up the shortfall somehow else possibly with state funds as Norway and Switzerland do.

  • Angry Mob

    You are right and I expect that if independence day does come the biggest shock to the current remain camp will be the fact that very little will have changed, we will still trade with the EU, still drive and work across the Irish border, fly to Spain for our holidays, have foreign exchange students, co-operate on science programs, etc, etc.

    You’ll get bad political decisions whether you are inside the EU or outside it but you will never be able to reform our political system in a meaningful way whilst under EU bureaucracy as you’ll still be subject to it.

    As for your FT article, do you have a link?

  • Anglo-Irish

    I wouldn’t be too sure about there being little change, maybe not immediately, but depending upon how the remaining EU members react to our leaving – and it will be their collective decision as to what action to take in response – there may well be changes.

    As to flying to Spain, if we vote to leave the arse is going to fall out of the pound, and it will depend on how long it takes to recover before you can decide whether or noy you can afford to visit Marbella again.

    The Financial Times website is pay to view, but now I’ve got around to reading the Times it’s in there as well, page 7 headline ‘ Cameron fought to protect trusts from EU crackdown ‘.

    Since the story broke about his fathers involvement in setting up a trust in the Bahamas Cameron has issued four statements, he’s running scared on this and obviously not bright enough to realise he’s making things worse.

    The last statement which was issued by number 10 is as follows;

    ‘ There are no offshore funds/trusts which the Prime Minister, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future ‘

    Whoever drafted and or approved that statement is a moron.

    The form of words chosen ‘ in the future ‘ make you immediately draw the conclusion that the money was there but has now been moved.

    Had there been no substance to the suspicion and had Downing Street wished to end the debate then the correct wording would have been ‘ have benefited from in the past or will in the future ‘.

    These are the type of duplicitous, two faced, self serving, one law for us and another for you arseholes that the Brexiters want as our captain and crew as we sally forth into unknown waters on the good ship United Kingdom.

    I’m feeling seasick already!

  • Angry Mob

    If brexit is handled properly then there will no noticeable change to the man on the street on the day of independence; but this is not a single one time event, it will be a continuous process over the course of years where unnecessary legislation is repealed and replaced, new trade deals negotiated, our fishing and farming rejuvenated, etc. This is the positive lasting legacy that brexit will be for your children and grand children.

    How do you know the arse will fall out of the pound? As far as I can see this is mere speculation, based on poor assumptions that we will not have continued access to the single market and pluck for some idiotic deal that Boris Johnson presented on a whim.

    What type of action could other EU members actually take against us anyway? They can’t impose tariffs specifically on us as under WTO rules that would be illegal and everyone in the single market would also have to suffer equally. They won’t invade us. They can’t stop us visiting as freedom of movement would be maintained. They may call us names behind our backs but there’s not much they could actually do to punish us, they will still want to trade and share resources in areas such as security.

    Cameron and his ilk will be gone in a few years, maybe sooner if we vote the correct way and leave however if we make the wrong choice we will be living with this mistake for many years to come. The establishment won’t make the same ‘mistake’ of letting the plebs have a voice so soon.

  • Anglo-Irish

    If was the opening word of your post, exactly, IF.

    What could the EU do?

    Well for a start off they will definitely do what any organization would when required to renegotiate an agreement.

    They will look to come out with an agreement which is more beneficial to them than the current one.

    There is nothing wrong or vindictive about that, it is simply the way that commerce works, you aim to get the best deal for your side.

    Do you think that the UK will be negotiating from a position of strength?

    The EU will know that we need the deal, and they’ll be happy to do a deal, providing it suits them.

    What do we produce and supply into the EU that they can’t obtain elsewhere?

    I’m sure that there are some things that that applies to but the question is how many and how profitable are those items?

    The EU will be in the position of dealing with us in the same way that they would deal with any other non member.

    There will be competition from other non member countries who will see an opportunity to replace us and increase their exports in some cases, the EU will listen to competing offers, why shouldn’t they?

    They will owe us nothing, all bets are off and we will sink or swim on our own skills and ability, with our £1.6 Trillion debt increasing at £310,200 per minute and poor productivity rate.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • Angry Mob

    Oslo would incur those same tariffs. The fact is that Norway has chosen (which it has the right to do so) to opt out of areas of treaty clauses in order to protect its own agricultural sector, of which it views as a matter of national security. This has helped protect its agricultural and fishing industry where as the fishing industry here in the UK has been decimated by the CFP.

  • Angry Mob

    Yes if, I can’t make guarantees but only informed assumptions based on the fact that the Norway option is by far the safest way to leave the EU. In the same way the remain campaign can’t guarantee that we won’t be able to achieve it. (If you look at remain literature you’ll notice an abundance of buts, ifs, coulds and possiblys.)

    Access to the EFTA would not be based upon EU negotiations but the existing members, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein approval. This is an existing framework for access to the EU single market in which we already meet all the criteria for access via the EFTA and which would mutually benefit them from our presence within it. Like I said before the EU is obliged under its own and international law to negotiate in good faith, they can’t impose specific restrictions on us out of spite.

  • Angry Mob

    “If Britain votes to leave we would have to put in place an agricultural support system. I am very pro-countryside and pro-farming and, as Prime Minister, I would make sure that happens.”

    The words of David Cameron, arch Eu-phile.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Good faith does not preclude hard bargaining, it doesn’t mean simply agreeing to everything the other party demands.

    Anyone given the responsibility of negotiating on behalf of their country will attempt to obtain the best deal possible not only for their country but also to enhance their own career.

    Norway and the rest of them didn’t reject the EU causing severe disruption.

    Good faith and goodwill may be in short supply, and there are ways and means of showing displeasure without providing a cause for legal redress.

    You haven’t explained how we will be able to be so much more successful outside the EU despite our poor productivity, aging population, less than average education results and enormous debt problems.–Lithuanians-achieving-A-level-standards.html&usg=AFQjCNGU6aq0Zlf2m7xnFII9ZAV_mLqrdw

    Are all of these going to magically disappear once we leave the EU?

  • On the fence!

    I could happily write an essay in response to all of your points except that I’m neither that good with a keyboard and just about scraped an “O” level in english language so would probably make a hash of it so instead I’ll generalise. So if I miss a specific point my apologies in advance, I’m not trying to dodge it.

    Firstly, size of farm is not an issue here. I know of some excellent large farms well run, willing to adapt and change. I know of some larger farms who are only muddling through thanks to SFP because it’s handy money, in some cases a son with little or no interest in actual farming but a big annual cheque saves him having to do something else. I know of some small farmers who farm part time with another job or source of income and they run an excellent ship, full time farmers love to dismiss them as “hobby” farmers which is pretty unfair as many of them are keener, more knowledgeable and much more dedicated farmers than they are. Farming, indeed any industry, will do best when the people involve in it are as enthusiastic and dedicated as possible, the support structures developed at the behest of the EU are totally counter productive to this ethos.

    Yes, if we leave the EU there is no indication of how the UK itself will develop it’s agricultural support, although we do know that it WILL be supported, but at least we will, through the democratic process, have some control over that and much much more input than we do now. We will also have a support system specific to the UK rather than the entire EU, don’t expect it to be nirvana but fail to see how it could possibly be any worse, and see many many ways in which it could improve.

    Also the issue of treatment of the UK within the EU. I know for certain that farmers in many other parts of Europe don’t have to deal with the nonsensical raft of legislation than we do. Can you imagine the reaction of French farmers if they were told they were going to be fined for having a sheugh too wide or a whin bush too large as proven by this years aerial photograph? I’ve asked many different people many times why there is this apparent discrimination, but don’t get answers. Don’t know why, but again a Brexit will not necessarily answer the question, more make it a non issue completely.

  • Angry Mob

    You’re right it doesn’t and it doesn’t stop us hard negotiating either but it will keep it fair. If something unjust does happen a formal complaint the ECJ would lead to the offending action being blocked which is backed up by international law. It outside the realms of reality that the EU would try to punish regardless off their ill-will towards us as they would be cutting off their nose to spite the face. They will still want to trade with us and cooperate in areas of mutual interest such as security, otherwise they send the whole of the EU into recession and face legal action, if that’s not a good enough reason I’m not sure what is.

    No country has left the EU but Greenland negotiated a withdrawal from the EEC. Brexit is not a complete rejection of the EU as we still wish to have amicable relations and participate in the single market but not in political union.

    None of these issues will disappear whether we are in are out but leaving gives us new tools in order to crack the nut.

  • Anglo-Irish

    In any negotiation the crucial factor is who needs the deal the most.

    Who would that be in a negotiation between a single state of 60 million and a trade bloc of 27 countries?

    No doubt there would be the odd occasion when we would have the stronger hand if we were dealing with an item or service that was unique to us.

    How often will that be the case, and how often will it be the other way around where the item under discussion could be obtained elsewhere?

    There is no rule which states that you Have to obtain goods and services from a particular source.

    Are you aware of the Common Customs Tariff which applies to goods and services imported into the EU from non member states?
    Plenty of room for manoeuvre there, and it’s a ruling which already exists so no accusation of bias would apply.

    Incidentally, Greenland is one of the EUs Over Seas Countries and Territories ( OCT ) because it is a member state of Denmark.

    For me there is too much unfounded optimistic jingoism coming from Brexit supporters.

    Most of their argument appears to consist of ” We can do it because we’re Great Britain ”

    Obviously if leaving caused the Scots to go for independence the ‘Great’ part becomes redundant.

    There are also the facts to consider.

    We are in serious debt, we have an aging population, our state education standard is poor in comparison to other European countries, our productivity is poor in comparison to other European countries.

    Now you may not like those facts, but non the less that’s what they are, and added together they cast serious doubts on the ability of the country to prosper even without a negative response from our late companions.

    There are also opinions, which whilst not the same as provable facts are worth considering.

    Such as we were ‘ the sick man of Europe ‘ prior to joining the EEC, what’s changed other than our membership of a trade bloc which obviously helped in our recovery?

    There is also the significant factor of leadership. Do you have confidence in our current leaders?
    Can you see anyone in the political sphere that you believe can provide the strength of leadership which will be required in the case of our going it alone?

    Because I can’t.

  • Angry Mob

    In answer to your last question, after brexit we will be able to negotiate our own deals including the tariffs.

  • Angry Mob

    The best part of our deal is already formed, by the way of seeking access to the EFTA which already exists with structures and agreements in place and where we already meet the criteria and all necessary legislation is in place. Whilst the EFTA isn’t exactly what we want it’s a compromise that offers a safe way to leave the EU with minimal disruption to businesses and trade in a reasonable time frame whilst helping us reclaim our sovereignty, from here we can work over the next number of years to get to where we need to be.

    No, there’s no rules as to how you phrase it but the WTO has rules that nations cannot be discriminated against:

    The problems you mention, will persist whether we leave or stay. Why does political union with the EU do to solve these issues? We are not the only country who face these issues yet many survive and thrive outside the EU. Outside the EU we regain more control to tackle those issues.

    No, our current leaders are all woeful but looking further afield doesn’t give me much hope either. Take solace in the fact that the majority of the work done regarding our phased withdrawal from the EU will be done by the civil service and not the likes of Johnson or Cameron.

  • Anglo-Irish

    ” The problems you mention will persist whether we leave or stay,”

    Yes they will, and maybe given time we can resolve some of them, the aging population problem has usually been resolved by immigration,

    Union with the EU maybe won’t solve the problems, how will leaving solve them?

    Where does discrimination apply when countries are simply negotiating the best possible deal for themselves, and when the EU negotiators have a duty to ensure that no imports from non members have an advantage over existing members?

    The trend throughout the last half century or so has been to form alliances and trade blocs, we are currently in one and Brexitors want us to leave and go it alone.

    At the same time they recognise the necessity to have agreements and arrangements with groups of trading partners in order to ensure that we can trade with them.

    Bit contradictory isn’t it?

    We leave a union where we have a say in the rules and regulations, and join another group that hasn’t got so much of a say, and yet we have to obey and conform to all the rules and regulations of the union we left if we wish to trade with them, correct?

    Your faith in the civil service – which was the same organization when we were the ‘ sick man of Europe ‘ and has not to my knowledge changed much in the interim period – is touching, but perhaps misplaced.

    It is obvious that we are not going to agree on this subject.

    If the bunch of weirdos and no marks such as Boris, Gove, Farage, IDS, Grayling , Villiers and Priti Patel get their way and we leave then for the sake of my children and grandchildren I hope it works out well.

    Let’s leave it at that and wait to see what happs.

  • Hugh Davison

    Racial sneer, there?

  • Hugh Davison

    Might be more to do with workers on the board, and the annual collective agreement being pretty well institutionalised in German industry. Contrast this with the institutionalised class warfare that went on in British industry (which industry is by now almost extinct).
    Obeying orders? I don’t think so.

  • Hugh Davison

    Diane Dodds is working on it.

  • Hugh Davison

    You’ve said it right there, Kevin. Nation Stateism’s death is being greatly exaggerated, unfortunately.

  • Hugh Davison

    Ahem, that would be Julian Assange who is wanted in Sweden. Edward Snowden is in a much worse predicament, not being a European, and having his passport cancelled by the USA. It’s tempting to think had he been European he wouldn’t have suffered what he has. On the other hand, no European securocrat (e.g. GCHQ employee) has ever put his head on the block for the common good.

  • Hugh Davison

    Thanks for your story. I find you very articulate. I’m also not totally convinced about the CAP approach in the EU. I think it’s too subject to political interference on the national level.
    Having said that, the policies are set, in theory, by national Ministers of Agriculture acting collectively. Are you sure your UK minister is doing the best for NI farmers?
    Also, the rules are in theory the same for everyone so I don’t know why French farmers are getting away with stuff that UK farmers aren’t. Does that mean that enforcement is national authority based and wouldn’t the same people police the rules if the UK left the EU?

  • Hugh Davison

    So tell us again how we persuaded Afghanistan and Iraq to become self-governing democracies.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Okay Julian Assange I meant, Snowdon is in Russia of course. You get a tick for the correction.

  • Annie Breensson

    “Jaw-jaw beats war war”, to perhaps misquote someone whose name eludes me right now. But the Brit class system didn’t, possibly still doesn’t do jaw-jaw.

    When I worked for a US owned / UK based major car manufacturer everyone was expected to know their place, and woe-betide anyone who broke the caste system.

    For example, Separate dining rooms for
    – directors
    – senior salaried staff & junior salaried staff (both paid monthly)
    – clerical staff (weekly pay into bank a/c) and hourly paid (hard cash)

    All female employees were classed as clerical, but they had their own canteen/dining room.

    A similar, but not quite as rigid system applied when, 20 years later, I worked for a major insurance company.

    It’s interesting (to me) to note that one of the companies has sunk without trace, the other has been reduced to a small fraction of the company which employed me.

    Not that the above proves anything, but if management had adopted a more flexible attitude would there have been a different outcome?

  • On the fence!

    I take your point Hugh but would put it back to you this way. Just because you couldn’t directly influence George Osbornes monetary policy decisions, would you therefore conclude that you might as well be in the Eurozone? I don’t believe a common agricultural policy makes any more sense than a common EU monetary policy. If we leave of-course there’ll still have to be compromises made to farming policy to suit regions, big farmers, small farmers, upland, lowland, dairy, poultry, intensive, organic, etc, etc. But it’ll bring the decision making process considerably closer to home which has to be a good thing surely, and I dearly hope may help to stop the rot which has been eating in to the farming industry here for the past 20 odd years.

    As for the “different treatment” thing, again I take your point but have no answers. It would be easy to blame our own DARD for being a bit nazi-like when it comes to rule enforcement. But the fact is they were fined a huge amount of money two or three years ago for improper implementation of EU rules. Now in this case the improper implementation was due to incompetence, but it just goes to show how closely our own government department was being scrutinised by the powers that be in the EU so it would appear that even if they chose to be less rigorous deliberately, they would not get away with it. Why there are different standards across the EU I don’t know, but I certainly take it as another indication that we should be “OUT”.

  • On the fence!

    As I just said on another reply, at least coming out of the EU brings the decision making process nearer to home. I know it will not be a “cure-all” but I do think that it’s just the way it should be.

    Admittedly I am a bit of a die-hard. I truly believe we should not have a Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, we should have a Department of Agriculture. The same department which deals with TB testing should NOT be dealing with the provision of rural broadband or tackling social isolation (worthy causes though they may be). Farming is important, few things are as important as having a continuous supply of good quality food to put on the table and few industries do what is required of them better than the farming industry. People talk about imported food, and it is an issue, but much more of what we eat than people realise actually does come from the fields that you drive past every day. But farmers have lost the respect they deserve as they’ve largely sold their soul in return for an annual SFP cheque. For this reason I firmly believe our only hope is “OUT”.

  • Angry Mob

    Yes after brexit. Im not saying it will happen, I’m saying after brexit if it does happen we will be able to negotiate our own trade deals.

  • Angry Mob

    Like I say it may not immediately solve those particular problems you have brought up but it will solve other problems nor do I see the problems you listed as either an argument for or against leaving.

    As for the EU and trading. If you refer to the image below the EEA shown is effectively the internal market. Leaving the political union that is the EU but remaining within the EEA and joining the EFTA grouping means we are still paid up members and have access to it, we would not be renegotiating our trade on a case by case basis because this is already done and if an EU member did try to impose a tariff on us it would have to do it across the entire grouping which is antithesis as to what the internal market is about and as I have said before is illegal.

    We wouldn’t be going it alone either, we would still be in the internal market. Given the reasons above it is in no way contradictory.

    As for having our say on the rules. In the Council of the European Union the UK has 29 out of 352 votes which is about 8% of the total vote, under qualified majority voting 252 votes are required which represents about 74% with limited powers of veto.

    In contrast leaving the EU would allow us to retake our seats at various global organisations where international law is now mostly made. Here we would make our own arguments, have opt out rights and like the combined EU-27 the UK would have a single veto right, giving us equivalence with them on international bodies. So any future legislation that would be disadvantageous would be blocked long before it would normally be passed down to the EU for implementation. If anything did manage to slip through we can still opt out of them as members of EFTA, which as it now stands as being members of the EU would see us being hauled up before the ECJ.

    Another point is that we would not have to accept all EU acquis, only that relating to the internal market which makes up about 21% of it. Of this, it would only have to be applied to business and industry that actually export to the EU (which I think stands at 6%). The other (94%) would not have to conform to all the EU legislation which they do now despite not trading with the internal market.

  • Hugh Davison

    Well, the issue of incompetence in the public service is not going away anytime soon. I think also for Europe to work there has to be some belief in it, which belief ebbs away as the practical becomes more difficult, or as perceptions grow of different rules for them and us.
    However it’s a big subject, and you know your own business better than I do, so I’ll leave it there.

  • Hugh Davison

    Yes. I remember my time working for a technology company in London in the 70’s. Many of the management came from the upper ranks in the army and some had served in WW2.
    Coming from the right background, of course that they were entirely qualified for the job, no training required.
    Funny enough, at that time labour relations were chronically bad all over the UK, but the Unions were getting the blame, not the incompetent management class.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You say that we will not have to renegotiate on a case by case basis. Whether or not that is the case , we will certainly need to renegotiate our trading position overall.

    As for tariffs, the purpose of the EU tariff system is to ensure that EU members can compete fairly and equally with non members, in other words if a non member is producing something which a member state also produces, but is doing it cheaper either because of low wages or higher efficiency, then the EU ‘ levels out the playing field ‘ in competitive terms by imposing a tariff.

    If you are under the impression that it’s all going to be perfectly amicable if we choose to leave and bugger up the European Project you should have another think.

    All countries look after their own self interest in the first instance, as a trading group the EU will have their own interests first and foremost.
    Why should they favour us in any way and why should they not look to improve their position whether or not it causes us problems?

    We are not going to agree on this subject, and continuing this debate is otiose.

    Lets just see what happens shall we?

  • Angry Mob

    I’d guess none would be, as that would be the remit of the civil service.

  • Kenneth Armstrong

    Hasn’t Nigel Lawson now let the cat out of the bag re stricter (Irish) border controls in the scenario of Brexit? Obviously in southern England that is not an issue, but it is to us. Also was David McNarry serious in his latest interview? If he was only joking wasn’t it in poor taste?

  • William Anderson

    Nigel Lawson (leading Brexiter) has now clarified this position and there will be a more solid border if he gets his way.

  • Angry Mob

    He has clarified his position, the man is a pillock though sometimes you have to wonder whether the vote leave is a Tory stitch up. Nigel Lawson won’t be involved in brexit negotiations however. Vote Leave has got official designation to campaign for leaving the EU not to negotiate our exit in the vote of a leave vote.

  • William Anderson

    Sammy Wilson told a whopper of a lie on a Radio Ulster debate today. He said that the EU were directly responsible for the job losses at Gallagher’s in Ballymena. It is very clear that market forces are to blame for the loss of those jobs. If less people are smoking and cigarettes can be made more cheaply elsewhere then the industry will struggle. The same happened when the textile industry moved its ‘centre of gravity’ to Asia. The whole Brexit concept is based on myths and half truths.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    You are correct that we selected only speakers that had UK-wide relevance – we had around 10 times more people watching online than were actually in the room. We’ve also had many hundreds watch the debate on-demand. Hence our decision not to have any Northern Ireland political parties represented.