Euro-MP blasts telephone ‘scam’ hitting pensioners the hardest

With consumers in the North East being ripped-off to the tune of over £11 for a 90-second call to Directory Enquiries services, local Independent Euro-MP Jonathan Arnott has called it a ‘scam’ and demanded immediate action – together with some contrition from those who caused this situation in the first place.
Twice as many over-65s (4%) use 118 services as all adults (2%), leading to suggestions that some of our poorest pensioners are being victimised most by the current situation.
Jonathan Arnott said: “It is utterly morally despicable for companies to be allowed to hike their prices so much without it being made clear to consumers that they’ve done so. They seem to think that fleecing local pensioners is a licence to print money, but it isn’t. This is an appalling situation for those who get a massive shock when their phone bill arrives. Ofcom have been monitoring this situation for over a year now; it’s time for less monitoring and more action.
“I’m sure many of us remember that before the switch over to the 118 services, a phone call to Directory Enquiries used to cost a flat-rate 40p. They may have forgotten, but I have not, that the European Union forced this situation upon us through Directive 2002/77/EC. The European Commission arrogantly seek to pull the wool over our eyes by denying on their website that they ‘demand the use of 118’, in the full knowledge that they actually demanded the change – they just would have allowed us to use a different number if we’d wanted to.
“This is yet another example of just how far the European Union reaches into our daily lives: forget rip-off Britain, this is rip-off Brussels. The European Union created this mess; it’s high time that Ofcom got on with fixing it.”
Notes to Editors:
2 – See, for example, footnote 15 on p19 of this document from the National Audit Office
3 – Directive 2002/77/EC required (article 8) the removal of this public service from BT and placing in the hands of various companies, causing confusion and huge price hikes: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32002L0077&from=EN
4 – The Commission, however, state misleadingly that “the UK was not forced to adopt the 118 directory enquiries prefix as a result of EU law”. Indeed  it was not; the UK could have chosen 117, 119 or any other three digits – but the Commission mandated the change. See: https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/commission-to-blame-for-new-118-enquiry-number/

Jonathan Arnott MEP has slammed a suggestion by five North-East Labour MPs that the Brexit referendum should be re-fought

An independent North East Euro-MP has slammed a suggestion by five North-East Labour MPs that the Brexit referendum should be re-fought, saying the conversation should have moved on by now.

Jonathan Arnott said “Let’s just try to keep things in context, shall we? Yes, we had a referendum at which more people voted Leave than have voted for anything else in British history – including 58% here in the North East. But that one referendum didn’t come in isolation. The 2014 European elections, the 2015 General Election and the 2017 General Election were all won by parties pledging to leave the EU, or to hold and implement the referendum result.

“David Cameron, a Remainer, described the referendum as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’. Are we now to reinvent this, and say it should be two, three or four times just because he didn’t get his way?

“The conversation should have moved on by now. Leave or Remain should be ancient history; we should be debating what kind of independent nation we want to be, how to exercise our newly-regained power, imaginative policies on global trade or local tax that would have been illegal whilst in the EU.”

The five Labour MPs, who made the call writing in the Independent, are Phil Wilson (Sedgefield), Paul Williams (Stockton South), Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South), Anna Turley (Redcar) and Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North). Four of the five constituencies they represent voted for Leave at the referendum.

MEP slams peers amendment vote

Local MEP Jonathan Arnott has described the House of Lords vote on an amendment for the UK to continue in the EU’s Customs Union as “an utter betrayal.”

The amendment, tabled by cross-bencher Lord Kerr, passed with a majority of 123 votes and was backed not only by Labour and Lib Dems, but also by some senior Conservative peers.

Independent MEP Mr Arnott said, “It is both saddening and ironic at the same time that an unelected House of Lords sees fit to attempt to overturn the biggest democratic mandate in the history of our country.

“The one thing both Leave and Remain campaigns agreed on during the referendum campaign was that a vote for Brexit would mean leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.

“Labour are trying to keep the UK in the Single Market; the House of Lords are trying to keep us in the Customs Union. If the UK were to remain in both, we wouldn’t regain control of our  Parliamentary sovereignty, our courts, our finances, our borders, or our fisheries.

“We wouldn’t be able to negotiate trade deals for ourselves. In fact, it would mean nothing had been regained on every single major reason that caused Brexit voters to choose Brexit. It would be Brexit in name only, an utter betrayal of 17.4 million people – including a huge 58% right here in the North East.

“Instead of trying to limit Brexit, we should be trying to seize the opportunities it provides. Wouldn’t it be nice if our government started showing some vision, courage and leadership, working out how we can make the most of this momentous decision rather than constantly downplaying it? A good start would be for the Commons to torpedo this awful amendment.”

The fundamental principle of the EU telling us what our policies must be post-Brexit is reprehensible

Local MEP Jonathan Arnott has reacted angrily to EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier laying down the law over UK policies after Britain leaves the European Union.

Speaking at an environment conference, Mr Barnier declared that Britain must sign a ‘non-regression’ clause to prevent ‘key pre-Brexit standards’ being lowered in any further trade deals between the UK and EU.

“It is typical EU arrogance for them to imply they’re the only ones upholding ‘standards’, when in many areas we have higher standards than the European Union and legislated before them (they’ve finally caught up on the presumption of innocence this month, some 803 years behind us). But this isn’t really about standards, it’s about control. It’s about the European Union seeking to control our domestic policies, to prevent the UK becoming more competitive, to stop our economy booming – disappointingly, the Commission seems to consider a vibrant UK economy a threat to them, rather than an asset in a great trading partner right on their doorstep.

“Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of any of the issues raised by Barnier, the fundamental principle of the EU telling us what our policies must be post-Brexit is reprehensible,” said Mr Arnott, an Independent Euro-MP for the North East. “Their endless red tape and control is one of the reasons so many millions voted for Brexit in the first place. We voted for freedom and our government must stand firm and not be bullied,” he said.

“Even if the UK wanted to surrender on this point, I question whether a legally-binding guarantee about future domestic policies can even be legally achieved; a fundamental principle of the UK’s democracy is that no British Parliament may legally bind its successor.”

Mr Barnier has said that the UK would not be allowed to lower ‘standards’ on issues including taxation if a post-Brexit deal is to be achieved, insisting a so-called ‘level playing field’ must be achieved in not only environmental areas but also fiscal.

Project Fear 2

I was wondering…what if someone made a movie trailer from the scare stories politicians keep telling us about Brexit? So I did. Here’s Project Fear 2 – this time, it’s not at all personal.

Q: Is this true, or is it a spoof? 

A: It’s a film trailer-style video, designed to demonstrate a point – but shockingly, everything in the video is based on truth.

The Mirror did run a headline ‘Brexit could trigger World War 3‘ after David Cameron suggested that Brexit would risk peace and stability on our continent. The European Council President did indeed say that Brexit could ‘destroy Western political civilisation‘, and the Commission President agreed with him. The Treasury did claim that at least 500,000 jobs would be lost within 2 years if people voted for Brexit. This claim was made, in public and on television, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There’s a little poetic licence in the storytelling (it’s a spoof movie trailer, after all), but it’s all based on fact.

Q: Isn’t the phrase ‘Project Fear 2’ a bit disparaging?

A:  The phrase ‘Project Fear’ was coined by Rob Shorthouse in the Scottish independence referendum campaign, and it quickly became used to describe the Remain campaign’s tactics in the Brexit referendum too. Use of a label like ‘Project Fear’ is actually tame as a description of the campaign tactics of threatening war, mass unemployment, cancer, etc.

Now establishment figures, including former Prime Ministers, are openly working to reverse Brexit. Project Fear 2 seems an apt title for that.

Q: Are you actually making a feature-length film?

A: No. It’s just the trailer, sorry.

Q: But don’t Project Fear have a point? If experts are saying that Brexit could cause cancer, shouldn’t we listen to them?

A: There are expert arguments on both sides as to how Brexit will impact on healthcare, but Project Fear portrayed it as though Brexit was going to kill people. Morris Brown, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Cambridge described the EU’s Clinical Trials Directive as “a disaster that threatens patients’ lives”. That’s pretty strong stuff, reflecting the verifiable data in the link, but I don’t recall leading Brexiteers using such scaremongering tactics and saying that ‘Remain will cause cancer’. And Sir Andre Geim said in his Nobel prize lecture that [EU rules] were “discrediting the whole idea of an effectively working Europe”.

Q: But surely the mass job losses have happened?

A: Quite the opposite. In fact, more people are in employment than ever before, with unemployment rates close to a record low. Project Fear couldn’t have been more wrong.

Q: Brexit hasn’t happened yet. The economic disaster is yet to come.

A: Here’s the problem with that argument. Project Fear campaigners claimed the disaster would start from June 24 2016, the day after the referendum. That just didn’t happen. If anything, the economy has improved. If they’d said it would happen from Brexit Day originally, they might have had a point. Now they’re moving the goalposts because they don’t like the economic data.

Here’s my report on why these projections are so wildly wrong.

Q: In the trailer, a sinister voice says ‘if you want to know the reason for the lies, follow the money’. What’s that all about?

A: This isn’t intended to be taken 100% literally, but there’s actually a strong argument that ‘big money’ is behind much of the Remain campaign, and the attempt to reverse the Brexit referendum vote.

Half a million pounds is being spent on a series of adverts designed to do just that. The Best for Britain group is funded by multi-billionaire George Soros, once dubbed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ over the UK’s withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. During the referendum campaign Remain outspent Leave by roughly 3 to 2, and the UK government spent a further £9.2 million over and above that on leaflets and online advertising recommending a Remain vote. Many of the pro-Remain groups in the EU referendum campaign had received EU funding themselves, to the tune of €160 million. Some of the questionable campaign tactics of the Remain campaign seem to be receiving a ‘free pass’ in sections of the media. Then from the EU’s point of view, the UK flits between being the second and third-largest contributors to the EU budget. The UK pays the EU far more than it gets back in return – why wouldn’t the EU want that to continue?

Q: And the phrase ‘standing up against a sinister government’…?

A: A more accurate phrase would be ‘against a bureaucratic and incompetent government’, but that wouldn’t really fit well with the genre. A little poetic licence, perhaps.

Q: What about the phrase ‘we’ll call them racists’? Surely nobody’s suggesting that all 17.4 million Brexit voters are racists?

A: Surprisingly, this slur comes up more than you might think. Even the leader of the Liberal Democrats was accused of doing precisely that after he claimed that older Brexit voters wanted ‘a world where passports were blue, faces were white and the map was coloured imperial pink’, though he later denied that he was accusing all 17.4 million of racism.

Q: Who are the ‘one small group of people’ who ‘stand up for freedom’ that are mentioned in the video?

A: Hopefully, you. I’m referring to the people who counter Project Fear’s misinformation. The people who keep up the pressure by writing to your MPs, by sending letters in to your local newspaper, getting on to radio phone-in shows, even just talking to your friends and family. The people who, if they tried to overturn Brexit, would take part in peaceful demonstrations to stand up for our national freedom. The people who would deliver leaflets and knock on doors if they forced a second referendum on us, to try to overturn the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ decision that we made barely 18 months ago.

A ‘culture of inspiration’ needed for school children

A culture of inspiration for school children needs to be introduced, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

His call follows the publication of a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England warning of the ‘huge gaps’ between the poorest Northern children and those in the South.

“We’ve known for a long time that children in Northern working-class communities are being left behind in our education system. The government isn’t putting the resources in that we need, and the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has proven to be more rhetoric than real action,” said Mr Arnott, a former teacher.

“Yes, we do need a culture of hope. I’m fed up of seeing working-class people left behind by a system that’s more interested in political correctness than in helping real people deal with real problems.

“Until we, as a society, stop using university as the almost-exclusive metric by which young people are judged, we’ll continue to have young people feeling abandoned by the system. The Germans don’t take such a snobbish approach; they understand the value of both vocational and academic education.

Mr Arnott said, “As teaching has become more bureaucratic, more focused upon paperwork and evidence, teachers have had less time to provide the extra-curricular activities which enrich and develop all-round education. It’s children in poorer working-class communities who are being denied opportunities. Truly inspirational teachers can change lives, but they’re being hamstrung by red tape.

“It’s not just about money, it’s about creating a culture within our education system to inspire our young people. But the money counts too: I don’t want to hear about gimmicks, derisory amounts of money spent on more training to follow a broken system – I want to hear about smaller class sizes, more individual attention and a less mass-produced system,” said Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP.