Letters – Meningitis B petition

Dear Editor,

I am stunned and impressed with the efforts of Gateshead dad Lee Booth’s petition to raise the age upon which children can get the meningitis B jab. Since the recent sad death of two year-old Faye Burdett, the time has come to look closely at the possibility of widening the age range of inoculation in order to increase our children’s chances of survival when they are at their most vulnerable.

This is a cause worth fighting for and I sincerely hope that MPs in Parliament will listen to families across Britain and introduce an increase in access to the meningitis B vaccine. Protection for children is vital and I am stunned that there is no automatic inoculation against the virus; the NHS and Parliament need to listen and think again.

Jonathan Arnott MEP
UKIP, North East


EU legislation harms job prospects for North East residents

Legislation approved today (Thur) by the European Parliament is highly damaging to job prospects for the unemployed in the North East, said UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott.

The new law expands and strengthens the European job site, EURES, by making it mandatory that UK Job Centre Plus puts all jobs publicly advertised with them onto the site.

“Currently employers can voluntarily put vacancies on EURES but this new report means all public sector jobs will have to go on it,” explained Mr Arnott, North East Euro-MP.

“The North East has the highest regional unemployment rate in the country and this EU interference is not going to help local people get into work one jot.

“Figures show that 22.6% of employed people in the region worked in the public sector in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was the highest proportion among the English regions but this new law is likely to change prospects for the future.

Mr Arnott continued, “An opt-out to the new legislation is restricted to cases where it is, “duly justified” but no-one has been able to tell us what that actually means. The legislation also allows for private employment services to apply to join EURES.

“UKIP voted against these changes but they have been approved and it means that

British job vacancies will be advertised to half a billion people across Europe.

“So many Brits are struggling to find work as it is, a problem already compounded by migrant workers, and now they will find it even harder. The Bank of England says that for a 10% increase in immigration in certain sectors wages on average are cut by 1.88%.

“ And not only will this site contain all UK jobs but it will also provide a free cv – job matching service and help people apply for roles in the UK most suited for them.

“It will fast track EU nationals into high paid and skilled UK jobs and it will also require traineeships and apprenticeships to be advertised as well.

“This is going to drive more people to the UK and we can forget the emergency brake, in one fell swoop this legislation will do far more damage than can be repaired – and Labour were happy to vote for it,” he said.

“This is a timely example of how the EU bulldozes its way through our lives and reinforces calls for Britain to leave,” said Mr Arnott.

My Column – The idea goes that the EU would punish us for leaving is nonsense

As the Brexit debate hots up, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told a ‘divorce’ from the European Union would be messy.

The idea goes that the EU would punish us for leaving, like someone unhappy at the break-up of their marriage.

It’s one of the biggest pieces of nonsense I’ve ever heard. I mean, seriously. Pull the other one. You’ve only got to look at the treaties. Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty is perfectly clear: “The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness.”

That sounds nothing like a vindictive ex trying to hurt us. Frankly, if the EU were going to be that nasty, petty and vindictive, it would prove my point: if our continental neighbours did treat us with that level of contempt we’d be best to run a mile and get out whilst we can.

The European Union doesn’t want to cut off its own nose to spite its face. The big car manufacturers in Germany wouldn’t let it, nor would all the other big exporters who sell far more to the UK than we sell to them. Yes, three million British jobs depend on EU trade. But five million EU jobs depend on trade with the UK They don’t want to lose five million jobs, we don’t want to lose three million, and that’s that. Sometimes when you’re not arguing with your ex on a daily basis over nonsense, you might get on with them better after a divorce.

EU apologists just love to tell us that the North East is the only region which exports more to the EU than we import, as though that proves their point. It doesn’t; it puts the North East in a uniquely good position – our deal with the EU isn’t going to be negotiated by the North East. It’s long to be negotiated by the UK, the EU’s best customer. Because five million is more than three million we can negotiate a great deal. The North East, whose figures are the other way around, will benefit.

Of course, the North East is a net exporter to non-EU countries too – but you don’t hear so much about that. You also don’t hear much about the fact that the figures are distorted more here than anywhere else by the ‘Rotterdam effect’. This is where goods are shipped via EU ports (usually Rotterdam) to non-EU countries like the United States, but for official figures it’s recorded as trade with Holland. That impacts the trade figures by a few percent – no-one can say exactly how much.

Twice in debate recently, I’ve been told that the North East exports more to Ireland than it does to India and China put together, as if that’s an argument for staying in the European Union.

Actually it’s completely the opposite: India and China are emerging markets, which we should be tapping into. Together they account for one-third of the world’s population. We’re not trading much with them at the moment? Then there’s far, far more to be gained from a British trade deal with them.

Iceland – yes, Iceland, with a population similar to that of Newcastle – has a free trade deal with China. We don’t. We’re throwing away masses of untapped potential, and then the Europhiles try to tell us that our failure to tap it whilst shackled to the EU is a reason to stay in the EU.

Don’t tell me that Norway and Switzerland have bad deals either. Their people consistently vote against the EU in referendums, and 70%+ according to opinion polls in Norway don’t want to join.

Why do we think they’re happier outside despite such a poor deal? Wouldn’t Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, have much more clout to negotiate a better one?

I’m fed up of hearing political opponents talking down the United Kingdom and talking down the North East. They just don’t believe we, with all our advantages, are capable of standing on our own two feet. Going back to the divorce analogy, I’m sure many people stay in a terrible marriage because they lack the confidence to leave.

In one way though, the marriage analogy breaks down: a marriage is a solemn promise to someone intended for the rest of your life; our political relationship with the EU held no such promise. In 2016 we don’t need to be locked in a 1950s solution to a 1950s problem.

This article was originally published in The Journal.  You can view it online here.

My Column – No, Brexit Isn’t a Risk to the City

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has just backed Brexit. Much of the debate will now switch to arguments that the City will lose out if Britain leaves the European Union, that businesses would relocate to Paris or Frankfurt.

I don’t see any risk of any significant move from the UK in the event of Brexit. And surely, in any event, there is a risk associated with staying in: there are serious moves afoot towards harmonisation – the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) is a real issue. This would cause the UK to lose its competitive advantage over other countries, and would cause an outflow of capital and jobs from the UK, probably to non-EU countries. This doesn’t matter so much to the EU nations with smaller financial sectors, because their increased tax revenue from an FTT would outweigh the costs. Nations with smaller financial sectors are likely to be more focused on domestic transactions than on international ones, so an FTT would genuinely create income for them. The UK might be able to stay outside an FTT, but we don’t have to just trust our current Conservative government on that. We have to be able to trust any future Labour government too.

One of the pro-EU arguments is that ‘it’s okay, we have to agree to changes’. Yes, and no. On some issues we do, on others we can be outvoted. The problem is what we mean by ‘we’. If an unpopular government votes in a bad law in Westminster, our next government can repeal it. But if it hands a power to Brussels, the next government can’t bring it back.

So what could cause the City problems in the event of a Brexit? There’s no realistic threat of tariffs being imposed between the UK and the EU. Why? Because in the absence of any deal at all, we’d be subject to the Common External Tariff – which provides for tariffs for goods but not for services. The Common External Tariff would be a nonsensical position (for the EU), and for many reasons we would have a better deal than that: there’s a legal argument to suggest that we have a right to EEA membership and conditions. There’s a self-interest argument from other countries, and there’s WTO rules preventing punitive tariffs. There’s pressure from EU businesses. Then there is the Lisbon Treaty: Articles 8 and 50 spell out the conditions on which negotiation would be based: a ‘special relationship’ aiming to establish an area of ‘prosperity’. Does that sound like a tariff war to you? Yet that’s what’s written in the Treaty in the event of Brexit. So I think we can safely rule out the possibility of tariffs.

Next, would any bank really want to move financial services away from the UK? Of course, businesses which want to stay in will make empty threats to leave. We know that; Nissan used this tactic in the 1990s to try to force us into the euro. When we didn’t join the euro, they did an about-turn and expanded their business in the UK rather than leaving. We’re now seeing HSBC doing the same. But the financial services sector is split in any event: note that the hedge funds are generally pretty anti-EU (and have backed this up through campaign donations – which hints that they care somewhat more about the issue than other companies, which have not). A successful financial services sector requires expertise and experience. Neither Frankfurt nor Paris will be offering anything substantially cheaper than what the UK has to offer, Switzerland even less, and even if the talent pool exists they would have to find it. There is a gamble in staff recruitment, especially in that sector. The human cost of relocation is greater than in other industries for this reason.

Outside the EU, the UK would have to seek to be a low-tax economy for financial services. Generate business, generate employment, generate taxation revenue. We would be far less hampered in this respect as EU members. Consider the possibility: the UK tries to attract investment through low taxation and a regulatory system designed to prevent the worst excesses of the sector’s problems of the last decade – but otherwise to interfere as little as possible. At the same time, the EU is adding to the regulatory burden through the FTT. The Common Corporate Consolidated Tax Base is currently in the pipeline in the EU; would the UK not be again seeking a competitive edge? The advantage of English as a global language being factored in, isn’t it possible that actually the movement would be in the other direction? That firms would be moving from EU countries to the UK, to avoid the FTT and to take advantage of our reputation in the field.

Finally, ask yourself where the future of the UK’s financial services industry lies. Is it with the European Union, whose share of world GDP continues to decline? Or is it with the emerging markets? I believe that we need to expand in order to survive, to look wider than we are doing at the moment. But whilst in the EU, such bilateral deals are not permitted. We can’t, for example, look towards what will become a highly lucrative Asian market. On trade deals whilst we’re in the EU, we have to negotiate our negotiating position. The French will want our negotiating position to be different to the one that we want; the Germans’ requests are different still. The upshot of all this is that we might well sign trade deals whilst in the EU which do nothing to help our financial services industry. Outside the EU, we can guarantee that is precisely what the deals will do.

As for the question of foreign exchange markets, I don’t suspect that this is a problem either. Look at trade in dollars, for example. Twice as much trade in dollars is done in London as in the USA, for example. We don’t have to be governed by the USA for that to happen. London is the largest foreign exchange trading market in the world. The strength of our position here isn’t relevant to the EU debate: we trade more euros in the UK than the whole eurozone combined. If you said in the 1990s that London’s financial dominance was at risk if we didn’t join the euro, you’d have been wrong but the argument would have made some sense. Today’s debate isn’t about the euro, it’s about political structures and changes which could only make it easier to do business in the UK.

I understand that the ‘in’ campaign feels the need to scaremonger on these issues; after all, it is their primary tactic on the economy. Is there any substance to their claims? I don’t see it.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website.  You can view it here.

My Column – As a Ukip MEP, I’m Disgusted by Government Cynicism Over Migration

If any government openly stated it intended to pick upon the weak, the vulnerable, the ill, those dealing with tragedy and anyone unable to speak up for themselves, there would be uproar.

This government does it cynically to throw red meat to those who have concerns over mass immigration, and to distract from the fact that we’re doing absolutely nothing about the true issues. It’s as disgusting a strategy as it is simple: pick upon people who can’t defend themselves and show a severe lack of compassion and simple crass intolerance. Kick a few people out of the UK who should obviously be allowed to stay, and hope that people don’t notice that overall immigration figures are at record levelsbecause our government has been too impotent to do anything about it. Make an example of the innocent, and hope that we won’t notice the failure to deport those who have abused our hospitality and committed serious crimes – or that we can’t because of ‘human rights’ legislation.

So we have the 92-year-old woman from South Africa, whose family are all in the UK, who has nowhere to go and no-one to care for her if she’s sent back to South Africa. That case was taken to court to force her deportation. If it weren’t for the public outcry then the government wouldn’t have had to back down (and in a case that’s dragged on for months, the climbdown actually occurred whilst I was in the middle of writing this article).

Or what about the Nigerian student who the government wants to get rid of, so that he can die of Hepatitis B in Nigeria rather than survive in the UK – despite the fact that he’s contributed massively to the UK whilst here? This vendetta can only be described as pure nastiness.

How about the Canadian woman who cared for and married a motor neurone disease sufferer, who is looking after his three children after his death, who faces deportation? Apart from the obvious trauma it’ll cost to the kids, are we really so clueless as to the economic cost of unnecessarily taking three children into foster care? It’s hard to imagine a more unthinking decision.

There is absolutely no justification for this – or for a raft of other cases which I could mention. But it’s a great dog-whistle way for an exploitative government to try to distract us from what’s really going on.

We’ve had killers given the right to stay in the UK, Abu Hamza’s daughter-in-lawfighting extradition to face justice in Morocco, a Zimbabwean robber and drug dealerfreed to roam the streets and a rapist fighting deportation given extra taxpayers’ money because he’d spent his current allocation on cigarettes.

There are many more of these appalling decisions. Murderers, IRA gunmen and terrorists are being allowed to stay in the UK thanks to the European Convention on Human Rights. We’re now being sued by those who aren’t even in the United Kingdom, who’ve crossed safe country after safe country but want to seek asylum in England instead.

Why doesn’t Cameron do something about it? Because he knows that in order to be in the European Union, you have to accept the Convention. And he’s hell-bent on remaining in the EU, come what may. For the same reason, he won’t speak out about mass immigration. He promised before he became PM that he’d bring net immigration down to the tens of thousands; from the European Union alone we’ve had 183,000 more coming to the UK than leaving in the last year.

The Conservatives’ immigration policy is a disaster. But Cameron persists in using dehumanising language about immigrants. The government continues treating people who deserve to be allowed to stay in the UK like dirt. Do they seriously think the British people won’t see through their squalid actions? Have they no shame?

Sadly, I think they don’t. Uncontrolled mass immigration will continue. It will continue to drive down workers’ wages in the UK. They’ll continue to try to prove that we’re an uncaring, immoral, inhumane nation by exploiting the vulnerable.

There’s a better way, a way that involves protecting the innocent and targeting the guilty. A way that involves being humane but protecting our borders and getting immigration under control. A way that involves ending the discrimination between EU and non-EU workers, and having a fair points-based system for all to make sure our economy gets the skills that it needs. The only catch? Cameron can’t go for it: he’s committed to staying in the European Union at any cost.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website.  You can view it here.