A Hersham and Walton-on-Thames view of the EU Referendum


A Hersham and Walton-on-Thames view of the EU Referendum

The week has come. In or Out? Leave or Remain? A future as part of Europe or as an independent Island?

As some of you may have seen, my personal view is that decisions of such magnitude should always rest with our elected representatives and not with a generally uninformed public. By uninformed I don’t mean ignorant, our Government (and Opposition) have legions of researchers, policy advisors, analysts and ‘think tanks’ all charged with working with, and making predictions based on, huge amounts of data. I believe it just isn’t realistically possible for individual voters to be armed with all the information necessary to make such an important decision.

There is also a danger that this is being turned into an immigration question. Leaving the EU because you are unhappy about immigration is a bit like leaving your home and family because you don’t like how the garden has become overgrown, there is just so much more to consider than this single issue. Whatever way you choose to vote please, please consider this when you turn out on Thursday.

Anyway, thats enough from me, we asked a some local residents (you may recognise a few of them) what their views are on this enormously important question:

olivia-palmer-75Olivia Palmer

Blogger and social commentator who lives in Hersham and has a Masters degree in Human Rights and International Relations. read more


JohnSheldon-75xJohn Sheldon

I have recently retired as Hersham councillor, I have been a governor at two local schools, and in 2000 pioneered the self-built independent Hersham Young Peoples Centre.read more


janet-75xJanet Shell

Janet has lived in Hersham for 21 years and is a professional opera singer and vocal coach. She runs Mama Vox, a ladies’ choir based in Walton on Thames.

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redvers-cunningham-75xRedvers Cunningham

Redvers is a local UKIP nominated candidate, a barrister and chief executive of several insurance businesses in the City of London, mainly in the not-for-profit sector.

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Dr-Jepson-QsDr Peter Jepson

Libertarian Socialist and PoliticsBlog author and has been nominated to represent The Labour Party in both Walton-on-Thames and Hersham in previous local elections. read more


chris-author-75xChris Ritchie

Christopher Ritchie is a journalist, author and musician living bang on the border of Walton and Hersham.  read more


lewis-75xLewis Brown

Lewis has lived in the Walton and Weybridge area all his life and attended Cleves and Rydens schools. He was elected to represent Oatlands and Burwood Park on Elmbridge Borough Council in 2016.

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olivia-palmer-200Olivia Palmer

Olivia is a blogger and social commentator who lives in Hersham with a Masters degree in Human Rights and International Relations. With a strong interest in politics and equality, she has worked with a number of NGOs and recently stood as The Green Party’s general election candidate for Esher and Walton. When not writing, you’ll find her painting in the garden or enjoying local cultural events and music festivals!

On Thursday we have to make one of those most significant choices we’ll ever be faced with for the future of our country. During the campaign, the public have been subjected to misleading lies and propaganda on both sides of the debate. I’m worried that this will discourage reasonable people from voting, due to a lack of objective information. Some people have wholeheartedly made up their minds and I am not appealing to them in this piece. I simply would like to inform and encourage those who need a little more information to feel confident enough to visit the polling stations on Thursday.

The official Green Party stance is that we should remain in the European Union. As a Green Party candidate and activist I took this on board, however I am a free thinking person and never promote a policy or decision without independently researching the topic for myself. For some background, I studied International Relations at a postgraduate level so have a broad knowledge of global governance, including the history and activities of the European Union. As an environmentalist, I also try to keep up to date with European wide initiatives to tackle climate change and to protect our wildlife and ecosystems.

In April, I visited the European Parliament. I met some of our MEPs, spoke with some civil servants and I spoke to Brussels based activists who try to influence the EU for the better.  The trip highlighted to me both negative and positive aspects of the Union. Crucially though, those who spend each day critiquing, lobbying and seeking to improve the EU still view it as an important institution that we should not give up on.

I have tried to access as much independent information as possible: Radio 4 have done some good statistical analysis on programmes such as ‘More or Less’. Independent groups such as the TUC, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, RSPB and WWF have been distributing information on workers’ rights, animal welfare, conservation and climate change. I was most influenced by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth pointing out that there is a vast amount of European legislation protecting our environment, leaving the EU would void our responsibilities to meet these standards. For instance neonicotinoids are pesticides which kill bees. These are currently banned under the EU. Even if we sought to replace this ban in our own legislation, any intervening time period would allow farmers to use neonicotinoids. Even a short period of time could devastate our dwindling bee populations and cause disastrous consequences to our ecosystem.

So much of this campaign has been focused on isolated topics such as migration, the economy, the environment etc. I want to offer you a different perspective on this, a demonstration that through globalisation, we cannot discuss these issues in isolation.

Globalisation is a term used to describe the various ways in which the world has become (and continues to become) more intertwined and interdependent. For instance, communication networks such as the internet, mobile phones and increasing availability of television channels mean that we can hear and see real time events happening across the globe. Transportation advances such as cheap aviation, rail networks and the channel tunnel, building of newer roads and faster vehicles, all mean that we increasingly travel further afield for holiday or to find work. Multinational trade of products and currency means that our economic stability is linked to that of other countries across the globe. This interdependence truly hit home to us during the global economic crisis. Government military intervention and foreign aid mean that we play an active role in other countries. We are the 6th biggest exporter of arms, meaning even when our own military are not involved in a conflict, it is likely that British weaponry will be amongst that used in any given war. Climate change means that our actions can have devastating consequences on other parts of the world.

I do not celebrate or condemn globalisation as there are so many aspects to it, some a force for good and some incredibly dangerous. However, what is undeniable is that globalisation has changed our world and now more than ever we need cross boarder institutions to tackle the new challenges that we face. If refugees are fleeing from war torn countries, do we not bear responsibility if our military have been involved in the conflict, or bombs made in Britain have destroyed their homes? If people’s homeland has become uninhabitable due to flooding or drought, we must accept that every car journey we make or electrical gadget we use or imported product or beef burger that we consume is likely to have contributed to the displacement of these people.

I am not saying this to make us feel guilty or to imply that we are bad people, as humans we all have a responsibility to each other. In the UK we are not just perpetrators but victims too, a third of our pollution come from the rest of Europe. We must work together. Does the EU do enough to address these issues? No. Does it do something? Yes, it has achieved and continues to implement environmental initiatives, trade agreements, improve working conditions, and animal rights. Who can point at any institution and say that it is perfect? I think our democratic system in this country is incredibly imperfect, we have a government who were elected with 24% of the vote, we have an unelected House of Lords and an unelected head of state. However, I engage in the democratic process, I seek to change it from within. Most people would not want to give up on democracy based on these flaws, yet some are willing to give up on the entire European Union.

We are facing some of the most difficult crises of a millennia, we should not abandon the European Union we should stay, mould and influence it. We should offer up our expertise, and welcome the knowledge of European nations. I am not a Europhile, I am a realist. I will be voting to remain in Europe and I will be campaigning to improve democracy, working with other European nations to tackle climate change and the refugee crisis.

I am asking you to consider joining me, see the referendum not as your one chance to influence global politics, but as your first chance to become engaged in it. Join me in voting Remain, and join me in continuing to influence local, national and international decisions by voting in Local, Parliamentary and European Parliamentary elections, by getting our councillors, our MPs and MEPs to work for us.

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JohnSheldonJohn Sheldon

I have recently retired as one of the Hersham Councillors, I have been a governor at two local schools, and in 2000 pioneered the self-built independent Hersham Young Peoples Centre, , becoming the Council’s representative and Hon Secretary of the administering charity Hersham Youth Trust. I am a member of Hersham Residents Association, and a helper with the Hersham in Bloom working parties co-ordinated by my wife Mary.

I am voting to leave the EU, because unlike many who wish to remain, I have not forgotten the years of nation-wide resentment at the subversion of British governance, the erosion of British traditions, and the undermining of British justice, through endless regulation forced  on us by unelected bureaucrats, riding the gravy train of an organisation acknowledged as undemocratic, inefficient, and corrupt. Suppressing national identities of the member states in this way is destroying the very things that have made Europe great, in the pursuit of a federal, united superstate, the undisguised objective of ambitious foreign politicians caring nothing for individual countries. This horrifying prospect outweighs the benefits received from our membership, making our exit the only course for Britain’s survival as a nation. The long term benefit, secured for our children and grandchildren as Mr Cameron wishes, will make any short term sacrifices infinitely worthwhile. Like a dying star, the EU is collapsing under its own weight, and we must not be part of it when it finally implodes.
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janet-200xJanet Shell

Janet has lived in Hersham for 21 years and is a professional opera singer and vocal coach. She runs Mama Vox, a ladies’ choir based in Walton on Thames, teaches singing at Notre Dame senior school in Cobham and is about to take up a post at St Paul’s Girls’ School in London. Over the years she has sung in many celebrity gala concerts both here and abroad and sung in some of the country’s finest cathedrals and concert halls as a soloist. Janet has broadcast as a singer for the BBC and was the first live singer on Classic FM. She presents a classical radio show on Brooklands Radio and as a former teacher is passionate about education. She has developed a keen interest in family ancestry and in 2013 her family were privileged to be given a full military burial of her great uncle, attended by Prince Michael of Kent. An officer with the HAC, his remains had been found and identified. The story made headlines around the world and Janet was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman for his programme ‘Britain’s Great War’. She was subsequently filmed at Armoury House for another BBC programme about Remembrance. Her desire to make a difference resulted in her standing as Liberal Democrat candidate in the recent Borough elections.

Like everybody else, I am still reeling from the brutal murder of a young MP in the street last week. The shock felt by the whole country is palpable. In the same week we had the divisive poster for the LEAVE campaign with its hardly veiled implication for our nation.

I watched David Cameron on Sunday night being grilled by the public in a one man Question Time, which felt like a return to the era of the soap box where politicians had to face the public and answer real questions and concerns face to face. This is of course precisely what Jo Cox was doing in her Surgery that fatal day.

The mood is ugly and people are angry. This leads to the rhetoric we hear bandied about and takes us into realms where any opinion is given weight if it is shouted loud enough.

By now many of us have made a decision about whether we are going to remain in Europe or leave, yet a good portion of the population cannot decide and is trying to process the avalanche of information thrown our way.

My parents lived through an era where politics was less glossy, it seemed to have a much stronger connection to the people and where debate was a regular occupation for many when you went to the pub or to the shops. It happened while you were in the same room as somebody and you may have placed your thoughts on the table only for somebody to dismiss them, which meant you had to reframe what you said and try again. It gave a robust quality to thinking and possibly a deeper engagement to an argument. Different opinions were assimilated and the most that happened was a bloody nose by a disgruntled adversary who had tipped over the balance.

I think we are all frustrated that today our thoughts and worries seem to be a world away from the people who lead our country. They claim otherwise, yet here we are on the brink of a decision we are being asked to make which will affect generations to come.

Contrast all of this with an article in Der Spiegel, the German equivalent of the Times newspaper, which appeared a couple of weeks ago, saying how as a nation they have looked up to Britain and admired us for many qualities, asking us to remain part of Europe and extending a hand of friendship. This last week has seen images of a ‘kissing chain’ across Europe, again to show friendship and solidarity amongst ordinary folk like you and me. The very people who are being asked to ‘choose’.

I am somebody who reaches out to others. I know that I function best when connected to other people, something which is shown by my choice of professions as a teacher, a performer and coach. Over the years, I have been privileged to sing around the world and to work with international singers both here and abroad. My work is all about collaboration and unity: believe me you cannot put on an opera without teamwork!

I have learnt that other opinions do not belittle me as a person; that I benefit from being asked to order my thoughts and to stand by my beliefs, yet also to visit those occasionally and check that they remain valid for me. By working with different nationalities I have learnt to respect and listen and to modify all in the name of progressing forward. As it happens, my feelings and thoughts about living my kind of life chime most with the Liberal Democrat viewpoint, which is why I chose to stand for them in the recent local elections.

There is not one right or wrong way to do anything and it is far easier to sit on a fence somewhere in fear that you will be castigated and called into account for a choice you make. Yet, on Thursday, I hope that we will ALL be brave enough to make a decision and to vote.

The Leave campaign would have us think that we can return to golden days pre EU, but I lived through some of those and believe me, they weren’t that colour! Britain is no longer an empire, we do not rule the world and for me the way forward is through my instinct for collaboration and as a nation who reaches out to others. I will vote to REMAIN because my working life has put me in touch with Europe on a daily basis and because I have learnt that working with others is far better than fighting against them. You do not give up your personality just because you join with somebody else: in the best scenario, you enhance and grow and, yes, have a chance to influence, cajole and combine your expertise with others.

Those very qualities showed last week too when Major Tim Peake returned to earth following his space mission. We would be poorer as a nation in so many ways should we choose to close the door on Europe.

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redvers-cunningham-200xRedvers Cunningham

Redvers is a local UKIP nominated candidate, a barrister and chief executive of several insurance businesses in the City of London, mainly in the not-for-profit sector.

The net cost of the UK’s EU membership is about £10bn a year.

That is the equivalent of £15.4m a year per Parliamentary constituency.  So £300,000 a week is leaving Esher and Walton to fund EU bureaucracy and spending in other EU countries, at a time when Elmbridge Borough Council is having to make spending cuts to live within its means.  The total amount that Elmbridge collects in Council Tax each week is about £240,000, so we pay more to Brussels than we do to Esher. Just imagine what we could do if we stopped handing that money to the EU and used a small fraction to fund local services – no more cuts, better social and health care, better funding for education and better roads.

But this decision is about so much more than money. This decision is about who governs us and how we are governed. If we do not like how things are being run in Elmbridge we can vote in a different Council, as we did in May. If we do not like how things are being run nationally, we can vote out the government and replace it with a different one, as we have been doing for hundreds of years. Yet if we do not like how things are being run in Brussels we cannot do anything to change it, because the European Commission is not elected and cannot be sacked by voters. This matters because the EU is responsible for passing up to 75% of new laws in this country. If we leave the EU we can take back control of law-making and make sure it is where it belongs, locally and nationally, in the hands of democratically elected representatives who are accountable to the people.

This is our last chance to leave the EU. We will never get this opportunity again. We need to believe in ourselves. We need to believe we can run our own country.

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peter-jepson-200Dr Peter Jepson

Libertarian Socialist and PoliticsBlog author and has been nominated to represent The Labour Party in both Walton-on-Thames and Hersham in previous local elections.

The EU – Why we should vote to remain.

Whether the UK votes to remain in, or leave, the European Union there is no doubt that Referendum Day, Thursday 23rd June 2016, will go down in history.  There are many people who argue that the use of a referendum to determine the future of a nation and its people is dangerous. They point out that real and important issues can be lost as the people get side-tracked by dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister, or their own prejudices.

Whatever we may feel about the referendum process, it is taking place and the result is expected to be close and therefore every vote counts. Indeed, if we think about it, elections in Esher & Walton have limited value. This is a safe Conservative seat and the outcome of a general election ballot is almost a fait accompli. Not so with the referendum. Every vote counts and the issues are complex to understand.

Clearly, in writing this article it would be impossible to address all of the EU issues. Thus, I intend to focus on what I consider to be the three main policy issues. These are: (1) The Economy, (2) Sovereignty, (3) Immigration.

(1) Economic Benefits.

A full discussion over the Economic benefits of remaining in the EU, or leaving the EU, would require a doctorate in economics. Even then, the analysis would inevitably be criticised as being scare mongering etc.  For my part, I accept I am bias. I have already voted by post, and I wear an ‘In for Britain’ badge.  That being said, nearly all of the respected economic bodies argue that the UK economy will benefit from remaining in the EU and take a massive hit should the UK vote to leave. Logically, therefore, it is safe to say that the vast majority of economic experts (IMF, Bank of England etc) believe that the national economy would be safer in the hands of a UK government that is continuing to play a participatory role in the EU.

(2) Sovereignty.

While the economic argument favours remaining in the EU, the arguments over Sovereignty are more finally balanced.

There is no doubt that in a representative democracy, local people should make laws wherever possible. This applies whether we are talking about the benefits of a ‘Hersham Community Council’ or the ‘Westminster Parliament’.

Logically, therefore, the Brexit campaign has a strong argument when it comes to sovereignty. By way of example, existing EU provisions on subsidiarity could and should be used more effectively to ensure that as many decisions as possible are made at local/national level.  We need to fight in Europe for improved democracy. We elect Members of the European Parliament, but they do not make the laws in the EU. We, logically, should be arguing for Citizen Power in Europe. We need to argue that the Citizens of Europe should make the laws. Indeed, we need a European wide referendum on the issue of EU Citizens being given the power to make EU laws.

That being said, sovereignty is about the ability of a government to make laws that they have the power to implement. As a further example, there would be little point in giving a newly established  ‘Hersham Community Council’ the ability to vote on issues affecting China. The HCC is too small and totally unable to influence China.

In reality, we need to recognise that we live in a global world where global capitalist companies are so big that they can ignore individual national governments. We may not like it, but the UK government acting alone will have insufficient powers to influence or control global capitalist companies. The U.K. Government seemingly cannot control BHS and Sports Direct – as such they have no chance dealing with tax avoidance issues stemming from global companies like Apple, Costa Coffee etc. Likewise, when it comes to tackling large oil or car manufacturing companies like VW, Toyota, etc.

The UK, as part of a 28 nation and 520m market, can influence global companies. By sharing our sovereign powers with 27 other EU nations we are able influence and maybe control some of the exploitation aspects of global multi-national companies.

(3) Immigration.

While the sovereignty arguments may be finely balanced, the third area of Immigration should favour the Brexit camp. Or so, we are led to believe.

However, when you examine the arguments, it is clear that even Brexit recognise the importance of immigration to the UK economy. Pulling out of the EU will not stop immigration. Indeed, over half of immigrants don’t even come from the EU. What is more, there is a 310-mile long hole in the Brexit immigration argument. The Republic of Ireland is part of the EU and they accept free movement of EU workers into the Republic. Thus, EU citizens have a right to fly to the Republic and they can then simply walk over a 310-mile long border that Brexit confirm will have no custom or immigration controls on.  What this demonstrates is that the Vote Leave Brexit campaign have a massive hole in their immigration argument. They won’t be able to fully control immigration. Issues of immigration control will continue to exist, no matter what the outcome is on the 23rd June.

There is no doubt that the British economy benefits from migrants who come to the UK to work. They pay their taxes, and help add to the finances of the UK. It is also the case that efforts are being made, by all political parties, to limit the ability of immigrants to come into the UK if they don’t have work.  That being said, we all have friends or relatives that have taken advantage of the EU free movement rules to go and retire in the sun in parts of Europe, For example, my sister is working in Spain and my brother-in-law has retired early to live in Portugal. Friends of mine now live in France and a number of my former students have moved abroad to study.

What all this demonstrates is that immigration is not all bad. We, as individuals, have enhanced freedoms from the free movement rules. That being said, we should continue to control our borders. Not everyone who crosses the White cliffs of Dover is a welcome invited visitor. As a nation, we need security and control of our borders. Just like we, as individuals, need the freedom to go and live, work, study, and/or retire, as we choose.

In conclusion, whatever way we choose to vote in the referendum – there will be problems and challenges in the future. For the past 43 years we have been a member of the EU. In that time the UK has become one of the top five richest nations amongst the world economies.

In my view, we should be aiming to Win in Europe. We should ensure that the UK play a full and active participatory role in EU law making. The EU is far from perfect. It needs to reform its democratic processes, with issues of subsidiarity and Citizen Power extremely important.

We should be working to improve/expand democracy and decision making in Europe. Now is not the time to wave the white flag and retreat behind the White cliffs of Dover.

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chris-author-200xChris Ritchie

Christopher Ritchie is a journalist, author and musician living bang on the border of Walton and Hersham. His two novels, ‘House of Pigs’ and ‘The ordinary’, are available in Walton and Kingston Waterstones and almost everywhere online in eBook and paperback. He’s married, has two children, and doesn’t care about football.

Brexit – are you serious?

Local author and journalist Christopher Ritchie spends his tuppence on what he calls ‘a spectacular waste of time and money’ and a vote we shouldn’t even have…

From the outset, let it be clear that I’m not voting in this ‘Brexit’ thing. ‘But,’ some of you might say, ‘that means you have no right to comment!’ That’s a tired argument because I, just like anyone else, am entitled to an opinion, and whether or not you put any stock in mine depends on a few things.

Do you believe what you read in the newspapers, or see on the TV news? Do you trust what David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn tell you? Do you have faith in your elected government to do what’s in the best interests of your country?

To all those questions, I answer ‘no’. I don’t follow the media circus, avidly slurping up all that spectacular froth that’s being spat around by people who really should know better. What ‘Brexit’ (and who came up with that ridiculously showy name?) does is expose us to two sides arguing for and against. My take? I’m arguing for neither. You see, to vote in this sham would be to legitimise it – and to involve myself in something that simply isn’t any of my business.

‘Wait, did he say neither? You can’t. There is no vote for neither!’ If you’re still with me, let me bullet-point my argument for quick reference later on:

  • Brexit is a reaction to a poor understanding of the immigration ‘problem’.
  • Leaving the EU will not change that for the better. The majority of immigrants from the EU come here to work, something many Brits choose not to do because of the same welfare state they’re draining which they claim those EU immigrants are draining – which, erm, they’re not – on the balance.
  • EU membership has done a lot for Britain. A great deal. By the way, it’s not Britain that’s leaving, it’s the UK. So ‘Brexit’ is nonsense at the outset.
  • Almost everything you have seen in the media is scaremongering. That’s what they’re good at. The giant headlines? The dramatic music? That’s what’s called theatre. You pay to go to the theatre.
  • Those ‘facts’ people are telling you? They are mostly opinions. Facts and opinions are not the same things (did you know that the ‘Theory of Evolution’ is an opinion? That first word is a clue). This is the Theory of Brexit.
  • Frequently you’re being fed lies. Let’s put that in capital letters for effect, the same way newspapers do: LIES. By both sides. BIG FAT LIARS.
  • If you buy a newspaper, that newspaper will inevitably have taken a stance. Does that then become yours, or are you independent of the opinions being slammed into your face every day?
  • We elected the government to make decisions for us.
  • Cameron and Osborne gave us a referendum and then immediately warned us against voting to leave. Then they threatened us with economic peril!
  • The government wants shot of the NHS.
  • By giving this vote to the people and then destroying the NHS by whichever means it decides, it ends up being our fault because the blame can be put against that decision, either way.
  • If Britain leaves the EU, there’s no instant fix to any of the problems you perceive to be the fault of EU membership. It will take years… and years…
  • However, leaving might lead to significantly worse problems affecting your life very quickly.
  • The racist under(and sometimes over)belly of Britain will not go away. Indeed a successful Leave campaign will likely fuel further racism.

Rational thinking

So let’s take a moment to reflect on all those terrible things the EU does to us. Now how many of those are actual facts rather than opinions based on what you’ve been told by someone or other?

And let’s make the point again: there is no quick fix here. We are tied into such a tight framework in so many ways that leaving will take a long time to actually happen. There’s also a great deal of sensible legislation that once we’re out, in theory, who’s to say the government of the time will review any of it – any of the stuff we’re saying we don’t want, despite knowing very little of what that means to us? Are you up-to-date on all the employment legislation the EU gave us, like disability and gender discrimination protection? Sheesh, those guys and their sensible, responsible governing.

Trust me – I know what I’m doing

Do you, I asked earlier, trust the Lord of Arrogance, David Cameron? Or is cuddlesome oik Boris Johnson more up your alley? What about plain-speaking Nigel Farage, who in some ways led us to this point by spearheading a party which people claim to be racist when actually, if you take a rational look at it, might not be? How about Labour leader Corbyn, who the papers colour as a red-commie-lefty-lunatic who wears old-man jumpers and has no political worth?

Are any of these people trustworthy? What about people like Richard Branson, Andrew Marr, and all those celebrity supporters like Keira Knightley who’ve put their ‘weight’ behind one camp or the other? While I’m not going to go so far as to say they’re all ignorant, because they’re not, they’re all looking at it as a binary decision: in or out? That ignores the wider truth of what is happening. Then there’s the Americans, and even that nice Barack Obama thinks we should stay. But he’s not going to sway the white supremacists, is he?

Did you say something about destroying the NHS?

Yes, indeed. That’s a big part of it. The NHS costs us a lot of money. More than a lot. Times a lot by loads and then again by silly amounts and you’re getting close. Getting that arrogant stooge Jeremy Hunt to play chicken with the junior doctors is all part of it; Brexit is very much the murderer that will push the NHS headfirst over the white cliffs of Dover.

Some years ago (I’m a journalist) I met with a senior member of the Department of Health and asked, off the record (but I won’t name him so this is fine), what the long-term goal was for the NHS. Killing it, he said. Costs too much. The American way is better. Privately funded hospitals all the way. ‘Oh?’ I said. ‘But how will you do that?’ Stealthily!

The outcome of Brexit is irrelevant here. See, our elected officials are elected precisely because we’re expecting them to make decisions that lead us through the stormy waters of merely existing. We pay them: they work for us. Apparently.

By handing this decision over to ‘us’ and giving us the illusion of having that power to wield, to participate in a huge decision like this, they absolve themselves of any blame because whatever the outcome is, it was ‘us’ who voted for it!

It’s not just the NHS we’re talking about here; it’s everything. Economic downturn? Our fault. Rising unemployment? Our fault? Little Mix releasing more songs? Our fault.

The whole shebang. ‘But,’ you cry, ‘we’ve had a referendum before and that went OK!’ Perhaps, but the world changes and the UK of today is vastly different to the one of 30 or 40 years ago. We’ve always had immigration. The whole world has, to some extent. People like to move about and that’s fair enough.

State-sponsored mismanagement of certain immigration protocols is not the EU’s fault – and there are racists in other countries too, you know. Really, when you think about it, the arrogance of our own government is responsible for just about everything that’s bad in the UK. The EU might tell us how bendy our bananas can be (gasp!), but it’s our very own elected officials who turn the screws on us.

Those ‘facts and figures’ we’re supposed to take at face value are always massaged one way or the other to serve a purpose, and for Boris Johnson to claim we could spend what we send to the EU every week on building hospitals and the like is, as the faux buffoon might say, absolute piffle and poppycock! He knows that too. Lies, lies and damned lies.

It’s all small beer anyway. Look instead to the huge sums our government wastes on other things we don’t need. It’s not the EU, it’s CamerOsbo, and before them Blair and Brown, and before them… yawn.

How much money do we give these people in tax every day? How much of that do they waste? They are the questions we should be asking, rather than pointlessly pointing our fingers at the bureaucrats in the EU. Our friendly neighbours, mostly.

There’s also the issue of timing.


You might have noticed a rather large football tournament is taking place just as Brexit makes a splash in our toilet bowls. During the group stage too, so England can’t be out of it yet. Now I’m not into football, but even I understand it’s fuelled by a patriotic spirit and rides off the back of another media circus designed to perpetuate that spirit. Who called the referendum to happen now? What do they want us to vote for? Duh.

All a conspiracy then?

How should I know? I’m not saying you should do what I’m doing, but I am suggesting you look beyond what the media is telling you to think ‘outside the box’. Of course there are wider issues, and implications far away that we cannot begin to contemplate now because we don’t know what they are.

And that’s it. Here’s another bullet-pointer for you:

  • Imagine you’re the only person who gets the deciding vote.
  • That is effectively true because you don’t know how many are voting on either side. If the propaganda leaflet that just came through my letterbox is to be believed, it’s 41% for and 41% against (nice maths). Yours could be that one vote that seals the deal.
  • So it’s your decision, and yours only.
  • Do you know enough about this decision, and what might happen down the road, to accept that decision as your own?
  • Is your decision driven by a desire to secure a better future for the UK? Do you even know what that involves?
  • No? Then you’re not qualified to make that decision and therefore shouldn’t.

Without great power comes no responsibility

This power is an illusion. The government’s get-out-of-jail-free card. Where Blair started a war, Cameron doesn’t want to be remembered for something like that; he’s after the safe legacy – and, on the balance of it, it’s indeed the safer way to go. I suppose on balance I must be pro-EU, but that’s because I can’t see any particular way the EU is failing us more than we’re failing ourselves. But that doesn’t mean I’m voting to Remain. I’m not sitting on the fence either. For all the reasons I’ve set out here, I’m not anywhere near the fence. I’m a few thousand feet up, looking down at it all and shaking my weary head.

Remember two elections ago, where those pesky Lib Dems wound up in a coalition with the Conservatives? Well, back then there was lots of talk of a referendum on the electoral system. I maintain that’s the one we should have, because that would make a difference. But that’s a no-brainer anyway, isn’t it? It’s hard to think anyone outside the government would vote to keep it the way it is, which is why they’ve not given us that ‘power’.

If we’re out, we’re still relying on the government to ‘take the power back’ and use it properly. You have faith in them to do that? Taking back power from the EU does not hand it to us – it just gives our government more freedom to mess things up. I make no apologies to anyone who believes the government is a force for good.

If you really feel you must vote – and I cannot claim to care either way, because I don’t have any right to, remember – then make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, that you’re suitably informed, that you’re happy to be part of something you don’t belong in, and that you’re happy to accept the blame should it all go to hell.

And remember, whichever way it goes, by the very act of ticking one of those boxes you’re to blame for it. Good luck!

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lewis-200xLewis Brown

Lewis has lived in the Walton and Weybridge area all his life and attended Cleves and Rydens schools. He was elected to represent Oatlands and Burwood Park on Elmbridge Borough Council in 2016 and has served on the West Area Planning Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He works in digital marketing, has been appointed to the Surrey Museums Consultative Committee, and grew up playing for local rugby side University (now Weybridge) Vandals.

We are just days from deciding whether the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union.

Some may remember voting in the 1975 referendum, when Britain voted to remain a member of the Common Market. It was a pragmatic decision and I believe the right one. Looking back, had I been asked to make the same decision, I would have voted yes. In 2016, we are not being asked whether we want to remain a member of a loose collective of nation states centred around industry. Today’s decision is whether we wish to remain a member of what has become the “European Union” – a political project that aspires to be a superstate to rival the United States, complete with flag, anthem, currency, President, and even at times a proposed Army.

‘Ever closer union’ is at the heart of the EU project, enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. The Prime Minister tells us he has secured an opt-out in his renegotiation, however the European Parliament – dominated by federalist MEPs – has yet to ratify this deal and will not vote on it until after the UK’s referendum. Voters may perhaps recall when David Cameron pledged not to pay an increased bill presented to the UK by the EU due to the success of our economy. He was sincere, but he was forced to pay. The Parliament’s President Martin Schulz has already stated the PM’s deal is not “legally binding”.

Since Britain fell out of the ERM in the early 90s, we have been here time and time again – reform called for by the British, rejected by the Brussels bureaucracy. This sclerotic institution is too obsessed with problems it has created for itself: a disastrous single currency, imposition of financial punishment on Greece, huge levels of youth unemployment in many of its countries, and Angela Merkel’s negligent call to welcome any migrant who can make it to Germany, which has surely inspired people traffickers and led to more drownings.

The leaders of the EU, so resistant to reform, will pounce on any remain vote as the end of resistance. Don’t like the latest Commission proposals? Tough luck, you voted in. Not pleased with your increased bill? Sorry, what will you do, call another referendum? A vote to stay in the EU is not a vote for the status quo, but to accept British subservience to the European agenda for a generation.

The Remain campaign has thrown around vicious scare stories, talked our country down at every opportunity, and even tried to to panic our economy with emergency proposals that would never happen. And yet what has this irresponsibility been over? Not one single economist, for any institution, has said said that the UK will be poorer than today if it leaves the EU. Even the worst case estimates put the country around 5% less rich in 2030 than if we remain. The ‘recession’ warned of by the Treasury would result in the shallowest recession in British history.

For this small increase in future riches, Britons are being asked to continue to hand over large swathes of their democracy, their sovereignty, and their hard-fought right to hold to account the people who take decisions responsible for their lives. Even the one area of the EU open to public ballot, the European Parliament, is a convenient distraction: MEPs cannot propose any laws.

Yet the numbers are virtually worthless. Not only do they ignore any possible chance of Britain increasing trade outside the EU, but they do not account for the next Euro crisis that we know is coming, or the diminishing relevance of Europe as a trading partner. If you put in junk statistics, of course you are going to get junk numbers back. Whatever short-term challenges we would face, if Britain adopted the right policies post-Brexit, it is clear we could deliver higher growth and a richer population.

I am not an enemy of globalisation. The global free enterprise movement has been responsible for the largest increase in living standards in the history of humankind. Yet the EU is no longer a force for free trade, but a regional protectionist bloc determined to keep the outside world at bay. While countries like Switzerland sit outside the EU and sign free trade deals with China, the EU has none. The United States, Britain’s largest single export market, has a trade deal with Chile but not not the EU (we are already towards the back of that queue). And the EU-India trade talks have taken so long, the negotiators have given up. The EU has just a few trade deals, with nations like San Marino and Palestine.

Nor do I have any time for anti-immigration sentiments. Immigration is largely a boon for this country. However, if you were to organise a system which best harms the living standards of the lowest paid in this country, it would be the one the EU forces us to operate. Freedom of movement – the principle that anyone from 27 countries spanning to the Russian border has the right to settle in the UK whatever their circumstances – pushes down wages for the low skilled.

It is my belief that Britons are not inherently anti-immigrant; we have a proud history of welcoming people from all over the world. But when we hear words like “record numbers” and see poor wage growth, a housing crisis, and a lack of school places, we rightly begin to ask questions. These problems are not created by immigration, but they are exacerbated by our lack of control. It is my hope that when we Leave the EU, immigration will continue to this country, with the brightest and best the world has to offer coming to these shores. We will also be able to loosen our disgraceful policy of breaking up international families and couples who love each other, to put unskilled European workers at the front of the queue. It is often said that EU and non-EU immigration is roughly the same, but that fails to recognise that the EU is roughly 8% of the world’s population. Even accounting for the proximity of these nations, which would of course mean a higher proportion, it is clear we currently discriminate in favour of Europeans, some of whom offer little value to the success of our country.

So what can we hope for if Britain votes to take back control on Thursday? It will not all be sunshine and rainbows, and rivers of chocolate. Both campaigns have been disingenuous in their apocalyptic scenarios and their rosy outlooks. So much depends on the wider world outside Europe and much might not change either way. But there are a number of positive reasons that I believe mean we are better off voting Leave:

  • A healthier long term economy, fit to deal with the supply side challenges largely ignored by the EU.
  • A globally-focused, international trade policy aimed at the high growth economies of the world – India, China, Mexico, Vietnam, our US allies, and many African countries where the middle class population is anticipated to boom.
  • Saving of the roughly £10bn per year net that goes to the EU, to spend on our own priorities.
  • The ability to hold our politicians to account for the decisions they make.
  • Protection for our vital financial services industry, long a target of EU regulation.
  • Freedom from the onerous red tape that ties up our small and medium enterprises and harms our economic growth.
  • A fairer immigration policy attracting the skills to grow Britain while giving us the control we need.

Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world. We have the fourth largest military. On the day we leave, we will become the EU’s largest single export market. We are one of the five permanent members of the United Nations security council. Yet we give up our seat at many of the world’s negotiating tables and allow Brussels to speak for us. It is time for Britain to stand up, with confidence, and take back control of its own destiny.

No scare story should be able to put us off what we know we are able to achieve.

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