Scott Neville Hampshire Coordinator
Let’s not lie. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is not going well – much like David Cameron in 2014, our prime minister has successfully negotiated the UK giving in to the EU’s demands. If we are truly honest with ourselves following the result of the election – did we expect anything else? For all of his faults (and there are many) Jeremy Corbyn has played a tactical master stroke. He has positioned the Labour Party as one that the die-hard Remainers can support, whilst actually having a commitment to Brexit in their manifesto. His supporters know that the actual truth is irrelevant. After all, anything that was bad was done by the Tories! You only need to look at some of the Facebook pages which tell you the Private Finance Initiative is all the Tories’ fault despite it being Labour’s only plan for expanding infrastructure in the NHS in 2009. Mr Corbyn is now looking to strike a fine balance of: enough socialism to secure his position; sufficient Brexit back-peddling to ‘honour’ the referendum result; adequate connections to the EU and a sprinkling of just enough market based economy to ensure the EU will bail us out when it all falls apart.
Yet the Conservatives have no real plan for leaving the EU, they are all too aware of the public sector and the pensions funding problem. They can’t really allow immigration to fall as they so desperately need all those young people coming in paying taxes to keep kicking the unfunded state pensions can down the road. They clearly want to be a free market, but have no idea why the free market is good and are scared of it because socialism has become so young, new and cool (a child – at a mere 151 years old!)
“We have what will probably be the most important year for the Brexit negotiations. Thus, it’s important to restate the case of Libertarian values and the enormous benefits they can bring to our society.”
Amongst all of this, we have what will probably be the most important year for the Brexit negotiations. Thus, it’s important to restate the case of Libertarian values and the enormous benefits they can bring to our society. One key aspect I have noticed about those who voted remain and the new left is that they think in a very different way to I. We have heard Remainers say “You wanted our parliament to be sovereign”, I can’t help but think “no I did not”, I do not consider the UK parliament to be sovereign. I never shall. I consider the people of the UK to be sovereign. The UK Parliament is only needed to handle the logistical issues around getting 65 million people together to debate the small number of things which need to be done nationally. Much is the same with gender, race and religion, in nearly all cases it is totally irrelevant. Sure, if you want to be a vicar it probably helps to be a Christian. For nearly anything else in life these labels are irrelevant. I could not care less what labels someone wants to place upon me, but the modern left do. They appear to consider the labels that are applied to me to be more noteworthy than my characteristics as an individual. Yet, we should bear all of this in mind when making the case for a Libertarian Brexit – we don’t have to convince ourselves.
Then there is the matter of free trade. This has to be top of the agenda, surely? One of the most immoral and indefensible policies that the EU has taken has to be the common external tariff – and upon this matter we must be clear. The common external tariff means that we must implement various import taxes on a number of products. Yet the most repugnant of these is the tariffs on imported foods. Some foods have nearly 20% import tariffs associated with them, why? To protect EU farmers. Yet, when we have pensioners in the UK that have to make the horrific choice in winter between heating and eating, this is nothing short of disgusting. Further to this, the EU uses such tariffs to help keep poor countries poor. For example: coffee. This can be imported largely tariff free (in unprocessed bean form) and is quite cheap on the international market – so the EU imports a lot of it. However, where the price rises considerably is once the coffee beans have been roasted and processed into an end product. Of course the EU’s answer is a massive import tariff on processed coffee. This is so high that Europe exports coffee. We import the raw coffee cheap, block other countries from selling us processed coffee, then sell processed coffee back to the countries that sold us the raw coffee at a much higher price (oh and apparently the environmentalist vote is for the EU too as all this double shipping must be good for the environment). This not only keeps prices high for consumers in the UK, but stops countries that produce the raw coffee beans from enriching the product themselves and therefore progressing their own economies. Naturally we want to continue to have free trade with Europe and we should be promoting free trade across the whole world.
“We… need to reduce the regulatory burden on employers to make it easier to employ people, remove the minimum wage and teach our kids to stand up for themselves.”
We must also end the common agricultural policy ‘CAP’. Now the issue of farm subsidies is a complex one, nearly every country has some form of farm subsidy system and if you turned off all farm subsidies overnight the UK farming industry would go into meltdown. This does not excuse the CAP though, where most of the money goes to the richest land owners. It is an anti-Robin Hood system – rob the poor to feed the rich (of course Robin Hood actually robbed the tax collectors to feed the poor, but we will leave that one for another time). The biggest net recipient of CAP money is the Crown Estates, any time someone argues in favour of the CAP – duly remind them they are proposing that the Crown Estates receive minimum wage workers’ tax money simply because they already have land. How can that be justified? Now the whole issue of farm subsides cannot be addressed in a single paragraph. We might believe there should be none, I don’t believe we can change that overnight as too many people get hurt with revolutionary change. However, whatever the solution – it can’t be the current CAP.
The free movement of labour must be abolished. I have decided to call it “free movement of labour” rather than “free movement of people”. Visa free travel across Europe was a thing before the EU existed (as early as 1947 for travel to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland). Thus, all of this commentary about needing visas to travel is total nonsense, unless it is believed that an organisation made effective change to countries outside of its membership (Norway/ Switzerland) over 40 years before it existed – and I deem this highly unlikely. Now, ending free movement of labour is possibly the most un-Libertarian stance I have, people should be free to move country as long as they come here to work and subscribe to the values of inhabitants. However I do agree with the party manifesto that we can’t have free movement of labour all the time as there is a generous welfare state, a controlled market which ensures the lowest skilled can’t get work and we get involved with wars that help create the conditions for people to flee their homes. We should be looking to address the factors which render this a problem. However, this solution cannot be achieved overnight as too many people will be hurt, not because the free market can’t provide answers, but because it will struggle to provide an extra 10 million answers overnight. Most people support a welfare system which encourages people back to work, yet paradoxically most people also think decisions should be made more locally while having uniformity across the country! We should advocate decentralisation so that welfare is managed locally by councils, rather than nationally, this will allow best practice to evolve over time. We also need to reduce the regulatory burden on employers to make it easier to employ people, remove the minimum wage and teach our kids to stand up for themselves. A generation that is prepared to stand up to an employer when they step out of line is one that will address employment issues before they become a problem. Once these have been achieved and there is no longer a generation that has been left behind, then we can start talking about free movement of labour, and while we are at it, why restrict it to merely 27 EU countries?
And we must end the supremacy of EU law. This really goes without saying as Libertarians we want people empowered over their own lives, for them to have the freedom to live their life as they see fit (providing they don’t hurt anyone else of course). And to achieve this, we need to make the case for greater devolution. How can it make sense that we have the same solution to the housing crisis nationally when a one bedroom house can be bought outright in Cumbria for the same cost as renting a two bedroom flat in London for just over three years? While there are plenty of national solutions (which Will Taylor outlined in his video – featured in last month’s newsletter) many more decisions need to be made locally. How can a Whitehall official possibly know what the specific infrastructure issues are in each town and city across the UK? While total deregulation of planning will be too much for most people (and thanks to it being in place so long, such a change would be too revolutionary to do in one swoop), we can promote local councils being in control and accountable to their constituents. They will be the ones that understand the local conditions, needs and the attitudes of residents. The top three powers I would devolve: the Water Directive Framework – let the local people assess what is important and relevant for their area; the Common Fisheries policy, while there may need to be some management of the fisheries to ensure sustainable stock levels this can monitored more effectively by a local organisation; the Working Time Directive (rather let’s abolish this rule which stops people doing too much overtime, or forces a burden on employers to manage contracts and opt outs).
“…we must end the supremacy of EU law. This really goes without saying as Libertarians we want people empowered over their own lives…”
Finally, there is the issue of standardisation. There is no need for the UK to mirror the EU’s standards; the UK should create goods and services that fit with the customers of the business. For example, the EU Honey Directive (yes there is such a thing) states that sweeteners which contain genetically modified ingredients cannot be used in honey sold in the EU. What is the point of such a standard? Why is it so bad that GMO sugar be used in honey? As long as the market is free and honest – why not let the consumer decide if they want honey with GMO sugar in it. I can understand the desire for consumers not to be misled and this can happen, but as long as that information is available to the consumer, I am curious how this standard helps anyone. Should a UK business want to sell to the EU countries their product will of course need to comply with EU standards, but this is no different to any other country both inwardly and outwardly. Products made in the US must comply with US domestic standards to be sold domestically and EU standards if they are to be sold in the EU. Companies that export are used to dealing with different standards already. On day 1 we should import all of the existing standards to avoid any shocks, but there should be nothing that cannot be re-evaluated or reviewed.
The EU referendum on 23 June caused a massive shock partly because turnout was so high, so many people who felt disenfranchised with the current system came out and voted against a system that has taken their money, controlled their lives and done them no favours. Yes, the EU is good at building projects and many argue that this is how the EU is improving people’s lives, but these things are only actioned by the EU because nobody would willingly pay for them. Those that still argue in favour of these EU projects on the basis that people do not know what is good for them are totalitarian – plain and simple. Some people voted to leave the EU because they dislike immigration, some because they dislike excessive regulation, some -even – just to stick it to the establishment. With all of these different reasons for voting Brexit it falls back upon us to continue to make the case for a Libertarian Brexit!