BARRING extraordinary coincidence, you will never have heard of Geoffrey White. Neither had I until today, when I came across his Facebook views on the EU Referendum: the views of this ‘Man On The Clapham Omnibus’ and his friends are the least hysterical contribution I have seen so far, without any of the mud-slinging, spin and downright lies in which our politicians are trading.
Geoff adopts neither an even-handed nor balanced approach. He argues to stay in, which I admit to supporting. But he attracts sensible, rational comment from Brexiteers whose views coincide with those of my friend and <voiceofthenorth.net> regular Keith Hann. But nowhere do you come across the petty insults, xenophobia and vituperation our so-called leaders’ arguments have encouraged.
When I checked one hour ago, his three-day-old post had attracted 13,000 ‘shares’. Whether or not you agree with his viewpoint I beg you to read my plagiarised reprint below and a short selection of his personal friends’ comments.
“SOME OF my friends and relations have told me they will vote for Brexit in our referendum. At the risk of falling out with them I intend to vote for us to remain in the EU.
Here’s a bit of pre-EU history to help explain my position.
I grew up in a time of post-war austerity. My country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was broke and virtually in ruins. Germans were still ‘the enemy’ in children’s games. Bomb sites and abandoned air-raid shelters were our playgrounds. Nine years after the war ended, butter, meat and sugar were still rationed. One couldn’t buy sweets without coupons issued by the government.
Portugal and Spain were fascist dictatorships. In Spain, unauthorised gatherings of more than three people were illegal. A military junta later seized power in Greece. Half of Europe was sealed off behind the Iron Curtain.
I remember lying in bed at night in my parents’ home and hearing the roar of American warplanes flying overhead on their Cold War missions. We were told that if the Russians unleashed their missiles we would get four minutes’ warning of Armageddon.
In Britain our currency was weak. We had exchange controls. Travellers were allowed to take only £25 sterling out of the country plus a limited amount in foreign currency. On return, any leftover cash had to be sold back to an authorised trader. The details were entered in one’s passport.
The UK still had the death penalty despite some obvious and irreversible miscarriages of justice. In France they still executed condemned prisoners by cutting their heads off. In Spain they used strangulation.
The press and the BBC, (there was only the BBC), were not free from government interference and books, films and plays were censored. Women were paid less than men for equivalent work and landlords could turn away black and Irish people with impunity. For private acts of “gross indecency” gay men were sent to prison.
During the 1950s, six similarly devastated European countries were determined that the catastrophe of war between them should never be repeated. They decided to work towards creating a single European economy. The result was never “just a trading agreement”, as some detractors now suggest. The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, provided for free movement of goods, services, people and capital with the stated aim of “closer relations between the States”.
The UK was invited to participate from the outset, but Prime Minister Clement Attlee rather scornfully declined, thus missing the opportunity to influence the future development of Europe. However, by 1961 it had become obvious that the economies of The Six (France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg), were growing faster than ours, so we applied to join. It took nine years of negotiations, (and two vetoes) before terms were agreed. The United Kingdom officially joined the European Community on 1st January, 1973.
In the 1980s many of our skilled workers took advantage of the free movement of people and migrated to West Germany, whose economy had already overtaken ours. These British ‘migrants workers’ were the inspiration for a popular television series, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Since 1945 there have been wars in Europe but none between countries that were members of the European Union. Despite global economic storms, the EU’s citizens in 28 independent countries enjoy greater prosperity and greater freedom of movement, freedom from discrimination, freedom from conflict, freedom to trade across borders and freedom of expression than at any time in history.
So far, no member state has ever applied to leave the EU. Yes, Greenland left its forerunner, the EEC, in 1985 following its change of status from a province of Denmark to becoming an autonomous Danish dependent territory. Greenland (population 57,000 compared, for example to the EU’s smallest state, Malta, with 400,000) became ineligible for EU membership as it is part of the North American continent and not part of Europe.
There have always been candidates to join but to succeed they must have democracy, the rule of law, a market economy and guarantees for the protection of minorities and human rights.
They also need the support of ALL existing members, including the UK, without which they cannot join.
In my opinion it would be a shame if Britain were to turn its back on Europe, give up its voice and influence and opt for an uncertain future.
I shall vote IN on June 23rd.
Some responses from Geoff’s Facebook friends
WELL PUT and well said, Geoff. In my mind people like Boris Johnson, who talks about normal people’s wages being static because of the EU, has no idea about how the poor live. He kept his mayor’s job while being an MP (two sets of pay?). My rights as a worker would be poor if left to the likes of Farage and Rees-Mogg. I am voting to stay in. – KAREL
AN EXTREMELY rational analysis of the situation, well argued and convincing in its sincerity and avoidance of the emotional soapboxing which has detracted from so many posts, whichever side they are arguing for. Thanks, Geoff. I am, of course, sharing this. – SHARON
THIS IS great stuff Geoffrey but, sadly for me, not enough.
At the moment we pay in around £8billion after rebates etc, which can be better used at home. The EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty is a real threat to our NHS and without at least 12 countries supporting us the UK would not have any influence on the nature of this.
Our justice system is subservient to the European Court of Justice, which means we are often overruled and can’t deport criminals. The EU Parliament does not make legislation; it’s done by the Commission which is an unelected and non-democratic organisation. Security in Europe is down to NATO and not the EU. Remember NATO already consists of 28 countries and includes nations such as Canada, the US and Turkey.
I am disappointed that neither the Leave nor Remain campaigns has delivered any hard facts; it is all based around “maybe this. . .” or “such-and-such might cause that” etc. I have made my decision based on the facts as I see them.
Whilst migration is an issue and does put strain on housing, education and the NHS it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sadly it seems that everyone is focussing on this rather than our sovereignty, how we can best use the money saved and the reducing influence the UK has in the EU. – MATT
The EU Court of Justice only rules on matters relating to the EU. In every other area of law (the vast majority) our Supreme Court is the highest authority. The EU Court has nothing to do with deporting criminals. That is a completely different organisation.
The EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers (including our Government) make EU laws; the Commission drafts them just like the UK Civil Service does.
NATO is the ‘back stop’, like the buildings insurance in case your house falls down, which you hope never to use. The EU underpins peace by helping trade between former enemies.
Remember, only 12 years ago countries that are now in the EU had Russian missiles in their country pointing at us. – STEPHEN
THANKS FOR clarifying, Stephen. The problem I have in making a decision is the spin both campaigns put on everything and the lack of definitive facts about whether it is better to remain or leave.
That said, I voted for a trade agreement in 1975 and not becoming part of a federal Europe. If the Government could give me some real facts about the advantages of belonging to a federal Europe I can make an informed decision.
At the moment I still favour Out as this is not what I voted for in 1975 and unless the government comes up with a strong reason to join I’ll be voting Out on the 23rd – MATT
Polite. Informed. Facts offered, counter-arguments presented. . .
So there you have it, Messrs Cameron, Corbyn, Johnson and Gove: rational, well-argued debate with conviction that doesn’t resort to name-calling. You now have a month to move the national debate onto a similar tack.
Otherwise a disillusioned and angry British public should vote the lot of you OUT!
TO CONTINUE THE DEBATE GEOFFREY WHITE SO INTELLIGENTLY STARTED PLEASE LEAVE (or REMAIN!) YOUR COMMENTS BELOW. . .