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.

Children ‘spectacularly failed’ in State experiment

Following reports that a thousand young girls have been sexually assaulted in Telford, an independent MEP has called for a change in the law to try to prevent more children becoming victims.

Jonathan Arnott, a former teacher who represents the North East of England in the European Parliament, has made the proposal after many people have questioned why these sexual assaults were not picked up by the authorities sooner.

“This scandal is, sadly, nothing new. Blind eyes have been turned to child sexual abuse for far too long, including some horrific cases in my own constituency. The fact is, though, that when parents are unaware of what is happening, they have no way of protecting their children.

“The law needs to be changed so that parents receive better information about their own children’s welfare.

“In 1985, a court ruled that children are entitled to access to contraception without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Later, this same logic was used for abortions to be provided and for parents to be kept in the dark by both social workers and medical professionals. This created a culture of silence around statutory rape and predatory criminal behaviour,” he said.

“That court decision was said to be in children’s best interests, but it is inconceivable that these organised cases of grooming could have continued for so long without it. We need a change in the law, to ensure that parents are once again provided with the information they need to be able to do their job as responsible parents.

“When the State started to take parenting away from parents, it undermined one of the key planks of child protection. The experiment has spectacularly failed. That 1985 court decision must be overturned, through legislation if necessary.

“Even where victims were, or are, in the care of local authorities, the authorities should fiercely protect the child’s interests every bit as much as a responsible parent – and information should still generally be shared with the biological parents.” said Mr Arnott.

Note to Editors – the relevant case law is Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, 1985 

MEP congratulates former chess champion for stance against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women

Local MEP and chess player, Jonathan Arnott, has congratulated Maria Muzychuk, a former women’s world chess champion, for her stance against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women.

His comments come on today’s International Women’s Day – which ironically coincides with a controversial visit to this country by Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been welcomed by Theresa May.

Mr Arnott, an independent Euro-MP, met the former champion at the European Parliament yesterday (Tue) where she simultaneously played chess against about 25 people, including Mr Arnott.

“I managed to win my game, thanks to the somewhat lopsided nature of a simultaneous display. I was able to devote 100% of my attention to the game, whereas she was not,” he explained

“Her sister Anna was the reigning world rapidplay and blitz champion. They refused to compete in the most recent world chess championships in Saudi Arabia in protest at the Saudi Kingdom’s treatment of women.

“Those women who were prepared to compete had to dress according to the Kingdom’s rules. The ‘when in Rome’ principle my apply as far as tourism is concerned – but it is wrong to insist that this must be a condition of defending a title. In this, I think, FIDE (the world chess governing body) erred by holding the event in Saudi Arabia.

“They were principled – and right – to refuse to compete. Doubtless, their claim that they would have ‘earned more than in a dozen events combined’ is probably absolutely true, and demonstrates how important this sacrifice was to them.

“One of the great things about chess is that there exists no barrier to competition – to win, or to lose, depends first and foremost on your ability and skill level. If you’re sexist (or racist or any other kind of ist) during a game of chess, that arrogance will lead to underperformance. The game itself is the ultimate meritocracy.”

jon and chess champ 2