EU Democracy

It’s undemocratic EU bureaucrats telling us what to do

Interfering European Union (EU) officials
BANNED in Britain today by interfering European Union (EU) officials

How many times have we heard this? From tabloid media to politicians, we have heard them all using this as a lazy excuse for our own policy failings. Instead of understanding the real underlying problems and developing policy options to address them, our politicians have for decades simply blamed faceless EU bureaucrats. It’s no wonder so many people have a negative view of the EU. And where have our politicians been in explaining all of the enormous benefits of being in the world’s biggest single market?

There are two parts to this claim: that the EU is undemocratic and that unelected bureaucrats set EU regulations and tell us in the UK what to do. Let’s take a look at these claims.

How does EU regulation come about?

EU Political System
By 111Alleskönner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

The European Council

EU regulation does not appear in isolation. The European Council comprised of the heads of state/government of the member states sets EU policy and is the highest political body in the EU. The current president of the European Council is Donald Tusk. So the European Council, with our Prime Minister as one of its 28 members sets the strategic framework in which everything else in the EU operates.

Within this framework citizens of member states can ask for specific new laws to be considered by the EU, through a European Citizens’ Initiative. Where the policy agenda set by the European Council requires new regulation, the European Commission is responsible for developing appropriate draft regulations.

The European Commission

The European Commission is the executive arm of the EU, rather like the Civil Service of the EU. Each member state, including the UK, appoints one of the Commissioners who are responsible for drafting all law of the EU and for proposing new law (bills) in support of the strategy agreed by the European Council. The current UK Commissioner is Julian King, a former UK ambassador to France and politically neutral. All Commissioners are required to be independent of national interests. They are also responsible for day to day running of the EU and upholding its laws and treaties.

The Commission is led by the president (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) who is nominated by the European Council and approved by the European Parliament. The remaining 27 commissioners are nominated by member states, in consultation with the president, and have portfolios assigned by the president. The European Council has to agree the list of nominee commissioners and the European Parliament then interviews and casts its vote upon the commissioners before they can take office.

As an institution, the European Commission relies on the work of about 33,000 officials, staff, and special advisers. Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a huge, unnecessary bureaucracy please remember that the UK has more than 400,000 civil servants, according to 2015 figures from the Office for National Statistics. So the UK, on its own has 12 times the number of civil servants than the whole of the EU.

So the European Council (including the UK Prime Minister) sets the strategic direction for the EU. Any required regulation to support that strategy, or requested by EU citizens, is drafted by the European Commission (the EU Civil Service, including one Commissioner nominated by the UK). Then what? All proposed regulation is reviewed by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers and can be amended by both before it is either adopted or rejected (11).

European Parliament

The European Parliament has 751 members directly elected by EU voters every 5 years by proportional representation and representing nearly 500 million citizens. It is the only directly elected body in the EU and shares budgetary and legislative authority with the Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers). The UK has 73 elected MEPs (7) with the next election in 2019. The UK is divided into 12 electoral regions, each region has between 3 and

UK European Electoral Regions
UK European Electoral Regions

10 MEPs and each MEP in a region represents every person living there.

In the last European election in 2014 UKIP came out top with 24 MEPS, Labour second with 20 seats, Conservatives third with 19 seats, Greens 3, SNP 2, Lib Dems 1, others 4 (8).


Council of the European Union (The Council/Council of Ministers)

The Council of the European Union (often called the Council of Ministers) is composed of 28 national ministers (one per state). The ministers attending vary depending on the topic being discussed. The 28 ministers represent their governments and are accountable to their national political systems. It is the main decision making body of the EU holding legislative and limited executive powers. It’s presidency rotates every 6 months (with every 3 presidencies cooperating on a common programme). Votes are taken by majority or unanimity with votes allocated according to population. They share legislative and budgetary power with the European Parliament and lead on common foreign and security policy.

This is separate from the European Council.

Working together these institutions ensure that EU regulation only exists within a strategic framework agreed in the European Council (including the UK Prime Minister), is drafted by a professional civil service (the European Commission, including a nominated UK Commissioner), is debated, amended and agreed or rejected by the directly elected European Parliament including 73 directly elected UK MEPs, and debated, amended and agreed or rejected by the Council of Ministers (including the appropriate UK minister or prime minister). National parliaments also now have the power to consider and to challenge any EU laws that they think should be made at a national rather than an EU level (13).

This does not sound like faceless bureaucrats telling us what to do!

There are also two supporting institutions that exist to ensure fair play between member states and that tax payers money is being well spent.

Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union, located in Luxembourg, is responsible for Ensuring EU law is interpreted and applied the same in every EU country; ensuring countries and EU institutions abide by EU law. It includes one judge from every EU country.

It is NOT the same as The European Court of Human Rights and is NOT responsible for adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Court of Auditors

The European Court of Auditors is an independent institution established to ensure that taxpayer funds from the budget of the European Union have been correctly spent and provide audit reports to the Council and Parliament. The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission’s handling of the budget. The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions. It is composed of one member from each member state appointed by the Council every six years.

There is also a European Central Bank that is the central bank for the eurozone. The UK is outside the eurozone.

So how democratic is it?

There are many ways in which the EU is truly democratic and may be more democratic than the UK. Here in the UK we have an unelected upper chamber (the House of Lords) unlike many countries where the upper chamber is directly elected, and we are not able to directly elect the prime minister, unlike countries where the head of state/president is elected by citizens independently of the ruling party (e.g. the USA and France).

That’s not to say the EU is perfect! Clearly, no democracy could claim perfection, so in what ways could EU democracy be improved?

  1. The EU can be seen as too distant from its citizens and too complicated for the citizens to be sufficiently involved in its decision making. There are actually some very good attempts at addressing this (e.g. 11) but no doubt the EU needs to continually work at improving the way it communicates with citizens through better education, information sharing, engagement, and transparency.
  2. Elections for the European Parliament suffer from a low turnout. In the UK only 35.6% of people voted in the 2014 EU election, so many citizens are not accepting the opportunity (responsibility?) to influence EU decision making. Those who do vote tend to vote more on the basis of their opinions on national issues rather than European issues,. It should be noted that turnout in UK elections generally is a problem not restricted to EU elections. In the 2017 Mayoral elections turnout was as low as 21% (Tees Valley) and the first Police and Crime Commissioner elections in 2012 had a turnout of only 14.9% (14). This is something that should concern everyone.
  3. The European Commission is an entirely appointed institution, not directly democratically elected and, some would argue, is too powerful. However, the Commission can only propose EU laws in areas where the UK government and the House of Commons has allowed it to do so. A Commission proposal only becomes law if it is approved by both a qualified-majority in the EU Council (unanimity in many sensitive areas) and a simple majority in the European Parliament. In practice this means that after the amendments adopted by the governments and the MEPs, the legislation usually looks very different to what the Commission originally proposed. In many ways, the way the Commission is chosen is similar to the way the UK government is formed. Neither the British Prime Minister nor the British cabinet are ‘directly elected’. We cannot vote on the choice for the Prime Minister, but rather vote for individual MPs from different parties. Then, by convention, the Queen chooses the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons to form a government. This is rather like the European Council choosing the candidate of the political group with the most seats in the European Parliament to become the Commission President. Then, after the Prime Minister is chosen, he or she is free to choose his or her cabinet ministers. There are no hearings of individual ministerial nominees before committees of the House of Commons, and there is no formal investiture vote in the government as a whole. From this perspective, the Commissioners and the Commission are more scrutinised and more accountable than British cabinet ministers. (3)

You get what you wish for

There is a detailed and complex debate to be had about any potential democratic deficit in the EU and how it might be improved (4, 5 and 6). Indeed it would be childish over simplification to think democracy could not be improved in the EU, and in the UK or any other existing democracy. There is also a real debate to be had about what level of democracy is appropriate for the EU, given it is not a state, and neither is it like any other international organisation such as the UN, NATO, WTO, IMF, World Bank, etc.

However, a strong argument can be made that the EU is at least as democratic as the UK: the UK having a monarch and a partly-hereditary House of Lords would strike some as ‘un-democratic’ in comparison to an elected head of state or upper chamber.

It is also clear that the EU is not able to simply impose its wishes on us in the UK without our consent – we have great power through our MEPs and Commissioners to stop anything we don’t like.

In the last European election in 2014 (8) UKIP came out top with 24 MEPS, Labour second with 20 seats, Conservatives third with 19 seats, Greens 3, SNP 2, Lib Dems 1, and others 4.

UKIP was founded in 1993 to campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (9).

With 24 MEPs out of 73 for the whole of the UK UKIP is the largest group of UK MEPs. So we used our democratic power to elect to represent us in the EU 24 MEPs whose sole policy aim is the destruction of the vary institution we have elected them to. They have, not surprisingly, failed totally in representing UK interests. UKIP MEPs attended the fewest European Parliament votes of any party in the EU’s 28 countries (10). Oh, and the UK as a whole has the worst rates of participation in votes of MEPs of all member states (10). So instead of complaining about the EU and it’s democracy why don’t we elect MEPs who want to actively work to make things better instead of MEPs whose sole purpose is to destroy the EU.

UK MEP Participation
Ranking of EU Member States by participation in votes 1/7/2014 – 18/5/2017

If you still believe that the EU is run by unelected bureaucrats ask yourself the following questions:


(1) The institutions of the EU:,3214,en.html


(3) Democratic Audit UK (Democratic Audit is an independent research unit based at the Public Policy Group in the LSE’s Government Department)

(4) Follesdal, A. and Hix, S. (2006). Why there is a democratic deficit in the EU: A response to Majone and Moravcsik. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 44(3), pp.533–562.

(5) Majone, Giandomenico. 2000. The Credibility Crisis of Community Regulation, Journal of Common Market Studies 38 (2): 273-302.

(6) Moravcsik, Andrew. 2002. In Defense of the ‘Democratic Deficit’: Reassessing the Legitimacy of the European Union, Journal of Common Market Studies 40 (4): 603-634.

(7) UK MEPs:

(8) European Parliament election 2014:,_2014_(United_Kingdom)

(9) UKIP web site:

(10) Vote Watch Europe:

(11) EU ordinary legislative procedure:

(12) Institutions of the EU:

(13) CIVITAS – Democracy in the EU:

(14) Mayoral Elections 2017 :

The only thing that’s breaking is the truth

Despite what the tabloid media tell you, EU immigrants do not drive up unemployment, drive down wages, sponge off the state, stop us getting houses, cause queues at GP surgeries or damage our culture. The evidence is clear and yet we seem determined to risk the prosperity and development of future generations in order to solve a non-existent problem.

Our Borders

Immigration from outside of the EU is, and always has been, entirely under the control of the UK government. What many people don’t know is that we also have significant powers to control EU immigration ( but successive governments have chosen not to use them.

Consistent with our membership of the EU the UK Border Force checks the passport/identity card of every person entering the UK and refuses entry to travellers who do not travel with valid identity documents, even if they are from another EU member state. You might assume, therefore, that we always know who is in the country legally. Unfortunately we don’t. Until 8 April 2015 we did not conduct checks on people leaving the UK (1) and even now, putting together entry and exit checks seems to be beyond our government’s capability.

This means we do not currently have accurate immigration data, EU or non-EU, so all policy decisions are based on estimates (2). Fortunately we have a mass of census data and data collected by the Office for National Statistics that supports detailed research and analysis. What do these data tell us?

Migration by nationality
Migration by nationality

They’re taking our jobs and undercutting our wages!

Has EU immigration into the UK been economically harmful to people born in the UK? The simple answer is no. Research indicates that EU immigration has benefited the UK. The research (3), published by the London School of Economics, found:

  • Jobs: The large increase in immigration in the UK has not significantly harmed the job prospects of UK-born workers.
  • Wages: Median real wages for those born in the UK were growing from the late 1990s until the global financial crisis. Since then, wages have fallen by about 10%. The cause of the fall of wages is the impact of the Great Recession – not immigration.
  • It is clear that there is absolutely no statistically significant relationship (negative or positive) of EU immigration on unemployment rates or real wages of those born in the UK.

So why do some people believe that immigration hurts jobs? Think about two local authority areas – dots A and B in Figure 1.

Unemployment rates of UK-born & EU immigration
Figure 1 Unemployment rates of UK-born & EU immigration

Both have had increases in the EU immigrant share of over 8% – well above the national average. In area A unemployment for the UK-born has risen by over 3%, which is also above the national average. So in area A it feels like immigrants are bad for jobs. However, area B has had a similar increase in immigration rates, while unemployment rates have fallen by 2%. These ‘local’ effects are important as they need to be addressed but they do not detract from the broader conclusion that overall immigration does not hurt jobs.

They’re living on benefits and our public services can’t cope!

Wrong again. In a detailed study in 2014 Dustmann and Frattini (5) found that EU immigrants made a positive fiscal contribution to the country: they paid more in taxes than they received in welfare payments. UK nationals on the other hand received more in benefits than they paid in taxes. This means if we reduced net immigration to zero, as some would like, thus losing the positive fiscal impact of immigration, the UK’s national debt could be 40% higher by 2062 (6).

What about our local services?

The LSE research (3) found:

  • there is no impact of immigration on crime.
  • no effect of immigration on aspects of educational attainment and actually some positive effect from Polish children on UK-born pupils. The disadvantage in having English as a second language seems to be outweighed by a stronger immigrant push to work hard at school.
  • no greater usage of doctors and hospitals by immigrants relative to the UK-born; and little effect on NHS waiting times. These studies do not distinguish between EU and non-EU immigrants, but since EU immigrants are younger than non-EU immigrants, they are less likely to use health services, so the results are actually likely to be stronger.
  • there is a general perception that immigrants are given better treatment when applying for social housing. This is not true. Controlling for demographic, economic and regional circumstances, immigrant households are less likely to be in social housing than their UK-born counterparts. Lack of access to social housing has more to do with the falling supply of social housing.
  • the failure to create enough housing supply would be a problem even in the absence of EU immigration. It is rooted in the failure of the UK planning system to make appropriate infrastructure decisions, not immigration . The research evidence also does not show a correlation between immigration and local house prices.

The fact that the government has been cutting back on public services cannot therefore be blamed on immigration. In reality, immigrants are bringing extra resources that could be used to increase spending on local health and education for the rest of us. Rather than causing problems for our public services, immigrants are actually subsidising us to use them. The fact that we have enormous problems in our public services has everything to do with government policy and nothing to do with EU immigration.

But they don’t integrate !

You would think from what many people seem to believe that Britain is a swamp of culture clashes due to EU immigration. This is simply not true. It does take time for immigrants to assimilate but that does not equate to massive problems (7):

  • Britain is not riven by a large-scale culture clash
  • The longer immigrants remain in Britain, the more likely they are to think of themselves as British
  • Immigrants from poorer and less democratic countries assimilate faster into a British identity.

As to speaking English, 13% of the population was born abroad, but only 138,000 people, less than 0.5% of the population, could speak no English at all and in total only 1.6% of residents could speak it not well or not at all (8). These figures people who don’t speak English because they use sign language! The tiny group who speak little or no English are mainly older immigrants who arrived in the UK after they turned 50 (9).

Top 10 Main Other Languages in England and Wales, 2011
Top 10 Main Other Languages in England and Wales, 2011

Immigrants are often accused clinging on to the national identity of their birth, of not wanting to integrate into their local communities in the UK. To try to assess this researchers first had to find a way of measuring ‘cultural assimilation’ – to what extent and over what time frame do immigrants adopt a British identity and think of themselves as British. The researchers used a list of rights and responsibilities.

Rights of those living in the UK:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion
  • Free elections
  • Treated fairly and equally
  • Free education for children
  • Be looked after by the state if cannot look after yourself
  • Protected from crime
  • Free health care if you need it
  • Have a job

Responsibilities of those living in the UK:

  • To help and protect your family
  • To raise children properly
  • To work to provide for yourself
  • To behave morally and ethically
  • To behave responsibly
  • To help others
  • To treat others with fairness and respect
  • To treat all races equally
  • To obey and respect the law
  • To vote
  • To respect and preserve the environment

For each of these they collected data on whether people think they ‘should have’ and ‘actually have’ these rights and responsibilities as a measure of the extent to which individuals considers themselves British. Interestingly on these measures not all white UK-born people see themselves as British either!

The key findings of interest however are that new immigrants rarely think of themselves as British initially but the longer they remain in the UK the more likely they are to do so. Second generation immigrants are only slightly less likely to think of themselves as British than the white UK-born population and it seems that the gap narrows further with each generation.

The research concludes: “The data on national identity do not support any alarmism about the effects of immigration in general … on national identity.” (7)

Breaking point – politicians have failed us all

Breaking Point - the EU has failed us all
Breaking Point – the EU has failed us all

We must break free of the EU to take back control of our borders. Really? We already have significant powers to control our borders that we do not use.

Also, the implication behind much of the Brexit propaganda is that the EU is to blame for all or our problems in the UK and so leaving the EU will solve them all. This is nonsense. All the evidence shows that immigration is actually good for our country. Where there are short-term local problems caused by concentrations of EU immigrants in a small geographic area, these can be addressed by policy decisions at the local, regional and national level, and can be dealt with without leaving the EU. There are no long-term problems with EU immigrants integrating into UK society.

There are very real problems in the UK today with social services, employment, housing, wages, education, the NHS and so on, but as the evidence shows these problems are not caused by EU immigration or EU membership. The underlying causes are down to the decisions, and lack of decisions, by successive governments over many years. The solutions similarly lie with government policy and leadership. Leaving the EU will seriously damage our economy and services and hence exacerbate these problems rather than solving them.


(1) HM Government:

(2)Full Fact:

(3) Wadsworth, Jonathan, Swati Dhingra, Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano, John Van Reenen, London School of Economics and Political Science., and Centre for Economic Performance. Brexit and the Impact of Immigration on the UK, 2016.

(4) BREXIT 2016: Policy Analysis from the Centre for Economic Performance
Holger Breinlich, Swati Dhingra, Saul Estrin, Hanwei Huang, Gianmarco Ottaviano, Thomas Sampson, John Van Reenen and Jonathan Wadsworth June 2016

(5) Dustmann, C. and Frattini, T. (2014). The fiscal effects of immigration to the UK. The economic journal, 124(580).

(6) Office for Budget Responsibility (2013)

(7) Manning, A. and Roy, S. (2007). Culture clash or culture club? The identity and attitudes of immigrants in Britain. Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science.

(8) Full Fact:

(9) Official Labour Market Statistics

Think before you post!

There is both money and political advantage to be gained from internet misinformation so think carefully before you retweet/post/link to anything – is this real, where is the evidence, what are the counter arguments?

Fake news (1)

People all over the world are getting rich by fabricating stories (2). The method is simple: fabricate a sensational story, preferably involving someone famous, and post it on a web site. The story attracts visitors to the site intrigued by the sensational headline and for ever site visitor, advertisers pay you a small fee. The more visitors the site gets, the higher up the search engine rankings it goes, so the number of visitors increases and the associated advertising revenue increases. One 18 year old in Macedonia made $60,000 in 6 months. These sites look very professional, and carry advertising from major international corporations such as Amazon and so appear very credible sources of information. So how do you know they are fake?

How we get news today
How we get news today

Paid advocacy

There are also groups and individuals being paid to deliberately mislead the public in order to advance the interests of a particular individual, group, or industry. For example, Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, funded by anonymous donors and linked to coal-fired power companies in Europe, uses similar tactics to the tobacco lobby to sow misinformation about climate change (3).


And then there are politicians. Political advantage can be gained by being ‘economical with the truth’ (4), spreading deliberate misinformation or only partial information, carefully selected to support one particular view point. The selective (mis)use of statistics, particularly percentages, is a particularly common method adopted by politicians to support their own position. Similarly the use of carefully selected time periods to demonstrate an apparent trend that, when a broader perspective is taken simply does not exist.

Trump Twitter Bubble
Trump Twitter Bubble

Truth or fabrication? Our filter bubble

There is no doubt that it is increasingly difficult to tell truth from fiction and this is a profound threat to our democracy – if we don’t know the facts how can we make appropriate judgements. We must, therefore, work harder at discerning the truth and must be much more careful about sharing, liking, up-voting on social media than we are at present. We should also be aware of the filter bubble that surrounds our social media interactions. Web site algorithms are now very effective at identifying our likes, dislikes, political opinions and view points. Driven by advertising where revenues directly correlate with clicks, search engines and social media increasingly show us content that *they* judge is what we want to see, filtering out material that has differeing views and opinions. This can leave us having our existing views reinforced without ever seeing alternative perspectives.

Daily Mirror Left Wing Bias
Daily Mirror Left Wing Bias

The good news

The good news is that the internet, the enabler of many of these problems, also provides some great tools to help us navigate the fake news oceans. It is up to us, indeed it is our duty, to make use of these tools to challenge those who would deliberately mislead us, and to be aware of the biases inherent in many sources. For example, if you read The Daily Mail you should be aware that it has a strong conservative bias through story selection and political affiliation, and has a poor track record with fact checkers. They may publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes (5).

Daily Mail Far Right Bias
Daily Mail Far Right Bias

What to do

So, before you despair at the state of the world, here’s how you can fight back.

  • Always check the veracity of something before you share it. It’s very easy to click the ‘like’ button or repost something in a rush. Don’t! Please always check first – how do you know this is true?
  • It’s great to share something with like-minded people (assuming they don’t already know) but it’s much more powerful to share information to help those who have only seen a distorted or erroneous view of a subject. Show them the facts.
  • Don’t let misinformation go unchallenged. Use the fact checking resources below to find the data/facts you need to counter ill-informed opinions. Stick to the facts and avoid emotive language, it will only antagonise.
  • Seek out web sites that peddle fake news and misinformation and use the same resources to challenge entrenched opinion. You may just prick someone’s information bubble because they are not used to seeing alternative view points.
  • If you always use the same sources to get your news firstly check them for media bias and then find an alternative source with the opposite bias and compare the two before coming to a conclusion.
  • Always base your arguments on facts and evidence from credible sources, not emotion. The scientific method of having your peers challenge your work has proved robust and effective for over 200 years, so try to use sources that have been peer reviewed before publication.
  • Be very wary of articles that do not identify sources, and of sites and organizations that are not transparent about their fuding.
  • Think Tanks are often quoted in the media and some are given enormous coverage. Many of these are small organizations that are little more than lobbying organizations for special interest groups, companies or industries. Reputable think tanks are transparent about their funding so you can use sites like Transparify to check the funding of a think tank before you take too much notice of it.

    Breitbart Extreme Right Bias
    Breitbart Extreme Right Bias

Don’t expect to see anything change quickly – this is going to take time. With everything going on in the world from Trump to global warming, Brexit, terrorist atrocities, the rise of the far right, all fed by fake news, there has rarely been such a dark time. But, we can change things for the better if we consistently and jointly challenge lies and half truths whenever we see them. Hopefully you will find some of these resources useful in that fight.

Global resources

  1. Snopes
    The oldest and largest fact-checking site on the Internet.
  2. ThatsNonsense
    One of the leading websites on the Internet that deals with debunking Internet hoaxes, hearsay, rumours and fake news.  UK based.
  3. Media Bias/FactCheck
    An independent online media outlet dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.
  4. SumofUs
    A global community dedicated to fighting for people over profits.
  5. Sleeping Giants
    Dedicated to stopping racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic news sites by stopping their advertising dollars.
  6. Debunkatron
    Dedicated to debunking myths, pseudoscience, grand conspiracies, quackery, and the supernatural.
  7. SkepticalScience
    Explains what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming and counters the most used climate myths.
    Connecting people across geographic and cultural borders to support causes they care about.
  9. Wikipedia
    One of the world’s largest reference websites.
  10. Transparify
    The first-ever global rating of the financial transparency of major think tanks.

UK specific resources

  1. FullFact
    The UK’s independent factchecking charity.
  2. TheyWorkforYou
    Takes open data from the UK Parliament, and presents it in a way that’s easy to follow. Check the voting history of every MP.
  3. 38degrees
    Campaigning organisation focused on UK issues.

Brexit resources

  1. Scientists for EU
    A campaign by UK scientists to keep the UK in the EU
  2. European Movement
    The European Movement is an independent, cross-party organisation committed to keeping the UK in the EU
  3. The European Union
    Official website of the European Union
  4. The BBC
    Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU







The Disgraced Dr – Liam Fox

What short memories we have! Dr Liam Fox, in his role as Secretary of State for International Trade is currently in Washington negotiating a trade deal between the UK and the USA – except that would be breaking the law because we can’t negotiate trade deals while we are still in the EU. So he is ‘exploring’ possible trade deals that might include allowing chlorine washed chicken, genetically modified crops and beef laced with antibiotics and steroids into the UK.

The Disgraced Dr Liam Fox
The Disgraced Dr Liam Fox

However, that’s for a different article on another day. What none of us should forget is that:

– in 2011 Liam Fox resigned in disgrace from his post as Defence Secretary, and

– in the 2009 expenses scandal he was the Shadow Cabinet Minister found to have the largest over-claim on expenses.

He was forced to resign as Defence Secretary because he gave his mate, the lobbyist Alan Werritty unfettered access to the Ministry of Defence and allowed him to join official overseas trips, despite having no official post and no security clearance.

“The disclosure outside the MoD of details about future visits overseas posed a degree of security risk not only to Dr Fox, but also to the accompanying official party.”

In the expenses scandal he had to repay more expenses that he wasn’t entitled to than any other Shadow Cabinet Minister.

It is disgusting that he is now all over our television screens representing us on the international stage as if nothing ever happened.

What short memories!

The Austerity Bomb is Ticking


The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 was addressed in different ways in different countries. In 2010 the UK the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government introduced an austerity programme consisting of sustained reductions in public spending, intended to reduce the government budget deficit and the welfare state. Seven years on government debt has increased from £1 trillion to a massive £1.7 trillion and the deficit is still £15 billion. So there has been some success in reducing the deficit but what was the cost and who bore the brunt?

UK Debt 2005 to 2017 –

Austerity measures have been implemented in the UK against a background of globalization, a process that should lead to lower consumer prices, greater choice of goods, bigger export markets, economies of scale and greater competition. If that’s true, where have all the benefits gone and what of the downsides:

  • exacerbation of income inequalities
  • degradation of traditional cultures,
  • operating in the interests of the richest,
  • not benefiting local communities, and so on?
UK Deficit 2005 to 2017 –

Wealth Inequality

By 2020 the income of the richest 10 per cent of the population are forecast to rise to more than six times the incomes of the poorest 10 per cent. This will be the highest ratio on record. Wealth inequality is increasing so it is clear that the poor are not getting a fair share of the benefits of globalization while definitely feeling the impacts of austerity.

Similarly it is clear that the entire bottom half of the income distribution in the UK will see living standards worsen over the course of the current parliament (to 2020-21) while the richest will see real incomes grow by more that 4%.

The Rise in UK Inequality – The Resolution Foundation

Effects of Austerity

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world so surely these reductions in living standards for the poorest are compensated by the overall economic wealth in the country? Judging by the evidence, clearly not!

UK Income Growth from Richest to Poorest – The Resolution Foundation


In 2016 there were over a million user visits to foodbanks, a 9% increase over 2015, while millions of people are struggling to afford a decent roof over their heads and two thirds of children in poverty are in working households. There has been a 37% real-terms reduction in government funding to local authorities between 2010 and 2016 and this matters to real people. Local authority funding to help vulnerable people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2009 and 2015. Families of children with disabilities widely can’t access specialist local council help, leaving them without personal assistants, overnight support services and respite care. And 1.2 million people aged 65 and over who need support to eat, dress, or wash are not getting that help.

  • These impacts are not uniformly shared as councils in the poorest areas had to cut back local services 10 time as much as in more affluent areas.

  • The Royal Society of Medicine has stated that the United Kingdom’s austerity measures in healthcare may have resulted in 30,000 deaths in England and Wales in 2015.
  • When the coalition government came to power in 2010, capital investment in new affordable homes was cut by 60%, while government-imposed caps on local authority borrowing continued to restrict their ability to raise money to build new homes.
  • Former housing minister John Healey noted that the rate of starting social rented schemes had declined from 40,000 in 2009/10 to less than 1,000 in 2015/16.
  • The number of people sleeping rough on any one night across England had more than doubled between 2010 and 2016 to an estimated 4,134, according to a government street count.

Regulatory Austerity

Another theme of government policy in recent years has been a constant attack on ‘unnecessary regulations’, particularly health & safety, demonised and portrayed as barriers to growth and hindering progress. The Tory manifesto for the 2017 snap election stated “… poor and excessive government regulation limits growth for no good reason. So we will continue to regulate more efficiently, saving £9 billion through the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In-Two-Out Rule.”

In reality, sensible regulation facilitates trade and promotes growth while keeping people safe and healthy, and providing decent working and living conditions.

A Dangerous Divide

Evidence shows that the real benefits of globalization have not been shared equally across income groups in the UK. Policy decisions at the national level have directly rewarded the already wealthy at the expense of the poor. The controversial economic theory of austerity, as applied by the coalition and conservative governments, has reduced the deficit but has had absolutely no effect on reducing the national debt. And, combined with attacks on necessary regulation, austerity measures and globalization have made the poor poorer and much less safe. We now see a really dangerous divide in UK society with large portions of the population getting poorer in real terms while working ever harder, seeing their access to safe housing reduced, public services disappearing or becoming harder to access, while a tiny minority get richer and richer – and it is this wealthy minority that are dictating policy. Recent events have made this divide starkly clear and there is a vacuum of leadership when it is sorely needed to steer us away from confrontation and anger towards a more equitable future. This is ticking bomb!

Grenfell Tower

As the full horror of yet another disaster unfolds, there is anger and, quite rightly, demands for answers. At this stage it is pointless to speculate and much too soon to start apportioning blame – emotions are still much too raw. And I have no intention of trawling through the eye witness stories, amazing as

Grenfell Tower image
Grenfell Tower Fire

they are.

As I watched the live news this morning, and survivors, friends, relatives and neighbours appeared before the cameras, and the horror stories mounted, one thing really struck me – the decency and eloquence of the community. ‘Decency’ hardly seems an adequate word but it is the right word: behaviour that is good, moral, and acceptable in society.

People of every colour and creed, even the angry young man who used the ‘f’ word on prime time television to express his frustration, demonstrated the best of humanity. This has nothing to do with ‘British values’ or nationalism but has everything to do with real people, living in a vibrant community, often feeling neglected by authority, looking out for one another – as decent people, all over the world do when faced with enormous difficulties.

Mahad Egal
Mahad Egal & Victoria Derbyshire

I don’t know Mahad Egal, and I don’t particularly enjoy watching the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, but watching Mahad’s eloquent description of events, and Victoria comforting him when his emotions could no longer be contained, is a much more powerful demonstration of the decency and eloquence that my inadequate words are struggling to describe.