Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thoughts from Pontedeume 21.6.16

Childbirth in SpainThe financial crisis, unemployment or job insecurity, low wages and difficulties in getting mortgages without a huge deposit have all meant that in the last 10 years or so, the average age of a first-time mother in Spain has risen sharply. First-time mums in Spain are now among the oldest in Europe. Back in 2004, the average woman had her first child at 31, but now, more than half are aged at least 35, and 20% are over 40.

Banking in Spain: I managed to get my tax declaration off via the internet before I left home for this week's camino. Though there was a last minute glitch when my bank account number was rejected. I recalled that my bank had recently sent me advice that the new IBAN number they's sent me a week or two ago previously had been incorrect. So I tried the corrected one and still got no joy. Nor with the one they said was incorrect. I called one of the lovely young ladies who deal with me and she said that the second one they'd sent me was also wrong and then gave me the right one. Hardly inspires confidence in the bank, does it? So, I won't name it. But it begins with P.

An Honest Beggar: As I was walking home at 11pm on Sunday evening - yes, an early night - a voice close behind me asked for 4 euros 'for drugs'. I was then overtaken by a young man who stressed this would be a 'life-saver' for him. I declined and he proceeded on his way to the gypsy settlement in my barrio, doubtless already in funds. I noted he was well-dressed and healthy looking and wondered how he'd be in a few years' time. If our regular druggies are anything to go by, it'll be thin of body and gaunt of face.

The Camino Inglés: As usual, this got off on the wrong foot yesterday when I missed my exit at the north of Santiago - not for the first time - and found myself stuck on the AP9 towards La Coruña and Ferrol. From the previous time, I knew there was an exit 15-20km further on so decided to relax. Until I found said exit closed, for no apparent reason. Perhaps just to annoy me. A second exit proved elusive and so I drove all the way to our meeting point in Pontedeume. To where I'll have to return for my car on Saturday, from Santiago. Things can only get better. Meanwhile, here's a foto taken last night in a church in Pontedeume. Political correctness is yet to arrive here, as the Moors whom St James the Moor-Slayer is attending to are clearly visible. In the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela they're hidden by tall irises. So as not to hurt the sensibilities of the thousands of Muslim visitors, would you believe.

Finally . . .  with apologies  . . . The Brexit again: Reader Tom took me to task yesterday for getting things arse about tit and for relegating financial aspects. I responded that there were bigger issues and he asked what these might be. Well, here's some, in 2 guises:-

We’re choosing between freedom and serfdom: Melanie phillips, 'The Times'

Brexit may cost us in the short term but I’d rather be poor than give up our right to govern ourselve

In the 1975 referendum the former prime minister Edward Heath, who had taken Britain into the European Economic Community (the EU’s precursor) two years previously, claimed membership would have no effect on British sovereignty. The EEC was purely an economic arrangement, he insisted, and we couldn’t prosper outside it.

I thought these claims ranged from deeply misleading to outright lies. It was the first time I was old enough to vote and I ticked the box to leave. I was dismayed that the British people voted to maintain the anti-democratic status quo.

Now we have reached that point of decision once again. The EU has metastasised into a full-blown superstate project. In the intervening years, the damage it has done to core British industries such as fishing, its crippling effect on Britain’s economic bedrock of small businesses and its increasing subjugation of domestic to European law have steadily ratcheted up public fury.

In addition, the EU’s founding principle of the free movement of people makes it impossible for Britain to control its immigration levels. To take the biscuit, anyone voicing such concerns has been damned as a Little Englander xenophobic racist troglodyte imbecile. The many millions who have thus had these anxieties dismissed and traduced by the entire political class are now spitting tacks over the threats, scares and sheer contempt for ordinary people issuing from Remain.

There are nevertheless many who, bombarded by claim and counter-claim, remain deeply uncertain how to vote. Not surprising: this is a most complex issue with profound and valid points on both sides.

Some of Remain’s arguments cannot be dismissed. It is right to warn that Brexit would cause turbulence and difficulties. Financial markets hate uncertainty and the pound would almost certainly fall. The legal complexities of disentangling the UK from all its European agreements would be formidable. We don’t know what kind of trade deals the UK would secure, or with whom. This turbulence, however, will in due course ease. In the longer term I believe it cannot possibly be in the UK’s financial interests, despite being outside the euro, to be tied into the EU’s sclerotic and failing protectionist economic system predicated on stamping out competitiveness among member states.

In any event, the issue for me that trumps all the rest is the ability to govern ourselves. I don’t believe for a moment that the UK, the world’s fifth-largest economy, will fail to prosper outside the EU. In the last analysis, however, I’d rather be poor and free than rich and enslaved.

The prevalent impulse to “keep hold of nurse for fear of finding worse” shows the extent to which the UK has become an infantilised dependency culture. A dismaying number now believe Britain is too weak to go it alone in the world.

Without independent self-government, however, there can be no democracy. We will increasingly become, as the EU intends, a regional province of a chimerical empire that has no cultural coherence or legitimacy but represents merely the desire to control all under its bureaucratic thumb.
The absence of self-government has already had a corrosive effect on parliament, where MPs have lost power and authority due to the steady encroachment of EU laws and regulations.

This political decline has been deepened by the belief that nations are intrinsically threatening because they are governed by self-interest. The only legitimate institutions are transnational and thus supposedly committed to peace, love and the brotherhood of man.

Such EU faux-universalism has helped undermine the building blocks of our society by promoting the notion that all cultures have identical value, self-designated victim groups must be indulged in their illiberal demands and that war is worse than enslavement.

This presents acute dangers for Britain’s defences. It’s not just the implications of uncontrolled migration. Nor that, as Field Marshal Lord Guthrie and other top brass have warned, the proposed EU army would undercut Nato, the real bastion of Europe’s security.

It’s also that people will only fight to defend their own nation, with which they patriotically identify on account of its history, culture and institutions. No one would willingly fight and die for Brussels.
With so many in Europe similarly enraged by political powerlessness, Brexit might have a domino effect and cause the EU to break up altogether. Remainers say this would risk a return to war between nations and the possible resurgence of fascism.

It’s true that the European project’s foundational aim was to contain German militarism. Times, though, have changed and Germany is now a democracy. Moreover, the EU is itself fuelling the rise of neo-fascist parties capitalising on the way it rides roughshod over national interests.

If European free societies are to defend themselves against their enemies, whether from the Islamic world, Russia or the Far East, this will only be done by sovereign nations fighting for their own future in alliance with other such nations.

Britain’s historic record of inventing and defending liberty and democracy, not to mention the strength of its economy, mean that this week’s vote gives it the chance not only to become again a democratic nation but to put itself at the head of the defence of Europe. Freedom or serfdom? That’s the choice on Thursday that faces us all.

Thursday should be a vote of confidence in Britain - to take back democratic control of our country.       Dominic Raab, 'The Daily Telegraph'.

A vote to Leave is a vote of confidence for Britain

The referendum is a chance to vote for ambition and hope. Britain faces challenges and opportunities ahead, in or out of the European Union. But, we can only reach our full potential, if we take back democratic control over the direction and destiny of our country.

There are risks on either side. But, the risks of remaining in the EU are greater – including double-digit Eurozone unemployment, dangerous levels of Italian debt which beckon the next financial crisis, and a broken EU immigration system. We’d be better placed to weather these looming storms from outside the EU.

But the choice on Thursday should not be between alternative strategies of damage limitation. We’re better than that. It should be a vote on how Britain can go from strength to strength. Voting to leave is the right thing for jobs and innovation. Our small businesses – which create 85 per cent of new jobs – would be free from straitjacket red-tape that deters hiring. And tech start-ups would be released from suffocating regulation, such as the newly agreed EU Data Protection Regulation, which the government estimates will clobber the UK economy for £360 million each year.

Of course, we’ll continue trading with the EU. Only a suicidal German Chancellor or French President would go into their 2017 elections promising to put thousands of German car workers and French farmers out of jobs, by hiking tariffs with Britain.

But UK exports to the EU have fallen since 2011 – not creating any new jobs. Meanwhile, UK exports to the rest of the world are rising fast.

Far from needing to cling onto the EU for dear life, a sober long-term assessment suggests our horizons must gradually expand away from the shrinking continental market, to take in the growing opportunities of the future – from Latin America to Asia.  

That’s impossible if we stay in the EU, because we can’t negotiate free trade deals in our own right, and Britain is held back by the protectionism and special interests of an EU of 28.

On immigration, the principled choice is to end the discrimination in Britain’s approach to EU compared to non-EU migrants. That’s how to take full advantage of the brightest global talent – with an Australian-style points based system – while managing the costs that open-door immigration puts on wages, housing and the NHS.

If this is such a bad idea, why aren’t the Remain camp arguing to apply EU free movement rules to immigration from the rest of the world too?

Above all, I want us to be masters of our own destiny. With around 60 per cent of UK laws made in or derived from Brussels, we’ve reached a tipping-point, where that’s no longer possible.

When was the last time you got to vote out, or hold to account, the 27 heads of government in the European Council, the 27 EU Commissioners, or the 90 per cent of Members of the European Parliament, who aren’t appointed by or elected in the UK, but now write a majority of our laws?

So, this Thursday is a chance to vote for an innovative, global Britain, cooperating and trading with all – but democratically accountable to you.

At heart, it’s also a choice between optimism and pessimism. The Remain camp have spent four months telling us Britain won’t amount to much, standing on our own two feet.

The Leave campaign is the side with the ambition for Britain, and the belief in the British people. This Thursday is a vote of confidence – in Britain, and in you.

Dominic Raab is MP for Esher & Walton, and a Justice Minister


The Singing Organ-Grinder said...

Tom's the voice of the upper middle class establishment: a separatist with regard to Catalonia-in-Spain, and a unionist re UK-in-EU. We, on the other hand, are contemporary Wat Tylers, but with rather better immediate prospects.

Sierra said...

Meanwhile, another issue with seemingly no comments by either side:


Lenox said...

I think you are one of a very small group of British expats in favour of a 'brexit'. Most of us hope for a 'bremain'.

Colin Davies said...

Yes, I know, Lenox. Am I am pretty sure the Stayers will win. But the vote will be so close it won't be the end of the matter. As with Scotland. Narrow self-interst normally rules the day . . . .

Nice comment, Trevor.