Accountability & Brexit

2 different but significant points about accountability and the general debate on Brexit.

FIRSTLY The existing UK Government is far from accountable on many things.

Take Immigration as a major example. When the last changes were made, introducing the Tier-based system for non-EU immigrants, the primary legislation essentially made three key demands.
a) That the immigrant could prove who they were and didn’t have a nasty/criminal track record.
b) That they had a job to go to or (in the case of students) were attending a bona fide college that had itself been certified.
c) They should have no recourse to the Public Purse.

The RULES were then devised under Statutory Instrument (no vote in Parliament) by the Civil Service Policy Directorate. They built a system they wanted, not one which is either fair or equitable nor indeed shows accountability. (Look at the case with the Aussie couple in Scotland who are being deported after August.) So the present LEAVE insistence that we would have a fairer immigration system is garbage. Even the Australian points system only affects a small percentage of their immigration – the rest is largely like our own non-EU requirements. The free movement of EU citizens is far less degrading and much more transparent. I had major experience of working with the Immigration Service and they simply cannot be trusted to develop anything that is fair or reasonable (the reasons are historic and a lot to do with constant meddling by politicians as this is such a sensitive topic.)

On a different tack – does BIS do anything to improve accountability towards business? In my experience the answer is a definite “NO” (I was an adviser to the former DTI) – go to a meeting with Ministers and they only want to listen to their mates from big business. That has nothing to do with being IN or OUT of Europe – it’s the way they operate. At least being IN means there is some fall back on the European Court that can override a percentage of the idiocy. I had to fight extremely hard to be heard over big business on the design of Workplace Pensions. UK Big Business didn’t want any of the legal requirements that have resulted in a large proportion of the electorate being put into a pension scheme beyond State provision for the first time (to the ultimate benefit of us all because over the years they are less dependent on the State). That wasn’t subject to EU guidance or anything else but merely illustrates that government tends to favour large corporate over the micro economy all the time. Being inside the EU at least offers the chance that more small interests can be heard.

A good example of this is the way in which minority languages such as Catalan, Basque or Friesian as well as the Celtic languages have benefitted from EU-wide insistence on improving minority cultural rights. Individually very small but taken together they add up to a reasonable-sized row of beans and this matters to people. In this instance accountability to an EU requirement has an effect.

SECONDLY I’ve heard nobody standing up and explaining WHY this particular issue (IN vs OUT) deserves a different treatment from any other political decision that has been made over the last 70+ years. On our behalf various governments have negotiated treaties that have effectively committed the British people for eternity. The general principle is that a Treaty once made is not broken (we’ve moved on from the grand games of the 18th/19th Centuries). Ask yourself whether you are prepared to accept that we committed to NATO or the UN or WTO or Nuclear Non-Proliferation or Climate Change or bilaterals with places like Australia and whether they should be the subject of a recurrent YES/NO debate?

The way to change the European experiment is from within – just as we have to change our own politics from within. Takes a very long time and is imperfect but at least it is non-violent in both economic and physical terms. Do we want happiness at someone else’s expense (the old colonial model) or do we want to bring everyone forward slowly to a better place?

These are more cogent arguments to make than the isolationist, short-term economic or pseudo-democratic ones we have been hearing from all sides. Now go figure …

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