“No” Vote recognition of democracy

The “no” vote in Greece is recognition of democracy at its finest, said local UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott.

Welcoming the referendum rejecting the terms of an international bailout, Mr Arnott said, “I congratulate the Greek people. They have made their views clear and that is how it should be – a fine sovereign nation sticking up for itself.

“The Greeks are a proud people, whose country was at the birthplace of democracy and the European Union is the exact antithesis of that ideal. The Greeks have paid a heavy financial price since they joined the single currency. And they have had enough of EU bullying tactics.

“The austerity measures forced on them by the EU have proved too much.  The people never asked for it, voted for it, and certainly never deserved it.

“Across the Europe there is growing anger and despair at the way the EU operates, and we will now see nation after nation forced to reconsider the nature of their relationship with the EU, under the growing pressure from their dissatisfied electorate.

“Those running the EU care only for their political project and will continue to fight to keep Greece in the Eurozone. But leave they must, for their economy’s sake. A devalued drachma would see Greek exports and tourism surge – who wouldn’t want a cheap holiday to Greece?

“Iceland’s example shows how quickly a nation can recover: it defaulted on its debt, nationalised its large banks and its currency devalued, creating economic growth,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP’s EU budget spokesman.

Letters – We should not have “driver only” trains on North East lines

Dear Editor,

The recent report of a racist attack on a North East train is a perfect example of why I oppose the recently announced proposals to move towards “driver only” trains on North East lines.

Not only would these staff cuts lead to reduced customer service standards but they could also put public safety at risk.  A driver can’t watch everything that happens on a train at once and if an incident does occur  then a response may take longer if the train is only manned by its driver who could well be at the other end of the train or unable to leave his station.

The North East already has an underperforming rail system due to decades of under investment – this is the time for investing to improve systems not strip them away in the name of cost cutting.


Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East

My Column – Spartan Spirit and Sunday’s Referendum

Like many legends, it is perhaps a little overstated in the retelling – though only a little. On October 28 every year, Greek communities around the world celebrate the ‘anniversary of the No’. At dawn on that day in 1940, Benito Mussolini demanded that his army be allowed to enter Greece and occupy strategic positions.

Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas is said to have responded defiantly with a single word: “Oxi” – meaning ‘No’. Greeks took to the streets in large numbers, chanting “Oxi!”

The one-word answer is a proud tradition of that part of the world, dating back to the Ancient Spartans. Phillip II of Macedon is said to have sent the Spartans a message with various demands, saying “Unless you agree to my demands I will wage war on you and, if I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” The Spartans responded with the single word “If”. Phillip did not attack. From such Spartan (Lacedaemon) brevity comes the modern word ‘laconic’.

Similarly, the word ‘Oxi’ means more than just no; it is a symbol of defiance. Knowing that refusal would mean all the hardship of war, Greeks had the courage to do precisely that – and in the clearest possible terms.

On Sunday, Greeks will go to the polls for a referendum on whether they will accept punitive bailout terms. A quick reminder of how countries normally recover from financial crisis: their currency devalues naturally, causing their goods and services to be incredibly cheap on global markets, creating jobs and an economic boom.

With Greece shackled to the euro, it cannot take control of its own economy in this most basic way. At this stage any other country would be defaulting on its debt. But Tuesday’s relatively minor Greek default was bitterly opposed – not because of the consequence to the euro, and the political project.

The eurozone puts its own will above Greek sovereignty, attacking the very decision to allow the people a say on such punitive terms. The latest opinion poll suggests 46% will vote ‘No’ to 37% for ‘Yes’.

Europe stepped in to prevent Greek democracy once before, so it has form in this respect. Expect an unprecedented level of cajoling, threats and scaremongering from Europe to attempt to bully Greece into voting ‘Yes’. They have already begun to suggest that Greece will be forced out of the euro if they don’t vote Europe’s way in the referendum. There is no legal basis for this to happen, but if it did – so what? It might cause some temporary short-term pain, but it would provide the Greek economy with the tools (devaluation in particular) needed to recover. After all, who wouldn’t be rushing to take advantage of the weak drachma to enjoy a cut-price Greek holiday? Would Greek olive oil not become very attractive to British supermarkets? The Greek economy would bounce back far quicker with the picture of Apollo back on their banknotes than with the picture of a generic, non-existent bridge.

Will the Greek people fall for the eurospin, or will they show that same defiant ‘Oxi’ spirit which epitomises all that is best about Greece throughout the ages? The word ‘Oxi’ may literally translate as ‘No’, but it means so much more than that. It’s not negative but a positive assertion. An assertion of rights, of self-determination, of what it means to be Greek.

On Sunday the complex referendum question in practice means only this: Do the Greek people accept the right of Europe to overrule their democratically-elected governments?

You can read this article in full on my Huffington Post blog here.


Letters – The government must decide quickly on airport expansion

Dear Editor,

The Airport Commission has reported back; a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick could create up to 77,000 jobs and £147 billion for the UK economy.  The decision will have a significant knock-on effect to the economy of the entire UK, and it will impact upon us here in the North East of England.  I would urge the government to now take a decision quickly on a matter which they should have resolved years ago.

We’re all used to flights being delayed; this time it’s not a flight but an entire runway running a long way behind schedule!

Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East

My Column – A Case Study in Judicial Injustice

Justice should be the same for anyone: rich or poor; male or female; gay or straight; religious or atheist, British or non-British. I reject the ideas of those who claim that some people should be treated more leniently than others. The notion that women should receive a lighter sentence than men for the same crimes is a nonsense, as is any thought that cultural values could excuse sexual offences. Likewise, I reject the ideas of those at the other end of the spectrum who would use our justice system as a form of revenge or who would treat immigrants more harshly.

I believe that sentencing policy is generally too light for a range of offences, mainly those involving violence, dishonesty or contempt of a court order. The impact of violent and dishonest offences upon the victim is profound: burglary, serious assaults and theft from an employer for example should be treated more seriously than they are at present. If you, through repeatedly breaking the law, find yourself disqualified from driving and continue to drive anyway, then the level of danger and contempt is such that only a prison sentence can be justified.

I recently read this article which provides a case study of everything that is wrong with the current system. I’m going to redact nationality and religion because these things shouldn’t matter when it comes to sentencing.

A father, supported by his family, had a surprise in store for his daughter’s 14th birthday. He sent her younger siblings off to school, then gathered the family together. He dressed her in a wedding dress and, it appears without warning, introduced her to a man in his 30s. A wedding ceremony was conducted and she was coerced into saying words in a language she did not even speak. Later that day, the man she had just ‘married’ raped her. It appears that the father did not know that the man was going to rape his daughter, and the agreement was that they would not have sex until she was of legal age to do so. The daughter fled the family home after being raped.

The man who she had ‘married’ left the country soon after, and only the father was in court to answer charges over the forced marriage. The primary responsibility of course lies with the rapist, but the father’s actions seriously endangered his daughter. Parents have a responsibility to keep their children out of harm’s way, not to put them directly into it.

Ask yourself what you think a fair sentence in such circumstances should be. Does it meet the aims of punishment – does it adequately punish the crime, deter others from committing similar offences, and protect the public? Rehabilitation must come after the rest, if only because the others relate to society and rehabilitation to the offender only. It’s important, and we need a prison system which is able to meet that need.

You can read this article in full on my Huffington Post blog here.