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A Customs Union: Anything that looks so simple and involves the EU will always be too good to be true

Politics 5There have been and continue to be a great many striking things that the Brexit process and the Vote to Leave the EU have revealed about the way that our political system has and at this point continues to work.

Much of it, although hiding in plain sight for a very long time, has come as a surprise to many.

One that has caused frustration, distrust and indeed anger with the Establishment. With the politicians that form a great part of it, and with anyone who has been playing upon the unwitting and innocent ignorance on the part of many of us of how the political world has been working with its prioritisation firmly focused upon only the benefits for those involved.

We have been brought up, taught and indeed conditioned to trust the people that we elect to a point where we foolishly believed that we don’t need to worry what they are doing.

We trusted that other than at election time, there is simply no need for us to ever get involved in politics.

So it is completely understandable that at the point where Brexit has itself lifted the lid with all that is wrong with our broken politics, we now go in search of the most obvious solutions to get the matter quickly resolved.

Ours is a human response and one that is all too familiar. Because it isn’t just the Electorate that looks for the obvious and simple answers when there is a problem.

To do so is and has for too long also been the default setting for the majority of our MPs whenever there has been the hint of real work for them to do in Government.

This might all seem like a long route into a discussion about a Customs Union. But trying to make sense of this term – that even now is being banded about as what could be the common ground between all sides that gets the Brexit impasse resolved – when even the MPs who are being asked to legislate on Brexit don’t actually know or understand what really is involved, is not something that comes easy to any of us.

With a matter as serious and as potentially far reaching as the question over whether we get a Brexit that ctually delivers on the Referendum Result or doesn’t on the table, we have to be aware that a Customs Union and its implications may not even be the same in reality as what the MPs themselves are being trained on.

A Customs Union is certainly not the same thing as we are being told.

Yes, as ridiculous as it might sound, MPs are having to be trained on what a Customs Union with the EU actually is. And a big part of the problem is that for the many of us who don’t understand how government and legislation actually works, the concept of a Customs Union sounds very simple indeed.

To be fair about it, if you were to look for the meaning of the customs union, you would easily find a brief, perhaps only paragraph long explanation.

One that would no doubt outline that it a Customs Union is a reciprocal relationship between the EU member Countries or Member ‘States’ that harmonises tariffs on goods travelling across or entering the ‘EU’ at any location – even if they then travel to another constituent Country.

By apparent necessity, it leaves the legislation covering each and all of these tariffs for the EU to set in Brussels. Their setting is not left as a matter for any individual Country to resolve.

A Customs Union is a key part of the process of removing geographical borders, so that physical checks between ‘internal’ EU traffic are not necessary. Bureaucracy then appears significantly reduced and it can be argued that there is free, unhindered movement of goods between so-called Member States.

It sounds great. In fact it sounds like a no brainer. This is why the concept Remains so popular.

A Customs Union sounds like the right thing to do until you start to consider the wider implications of being in one and think about its true reach and the real impact upon the UK of all that is actually involved.

But things get confused at this stage. Often deliberately. Because a Customs Union itself is in effect a necessary, if not symbiotically irremovably intrinsic part of a Single Market and a key part of the direction of travel for the supranational EU.

A customs union or its namesake was one of the early dominoes in the chain or history of events that led towards where EU law and legislation is located right now.

A Customs Union between the UK and EU cannot therefore stand alone without legislation that is at the very least equivalent to that which already exists within the ‘known’ EU framework. Even if words and the legislation created say otherwise.

No. It is vital to understand that just as a bark wouldn’t come from a duck and a quack wouldn’t come from a dog, being in a customs union with the EU means that we are and still will be Members of the EU.

The UK cannot and will not be able to legislate as an Independent Sovereign State within a Customs Union.

Ultimately, any form of Brexit that includes even the most simple form of Customs Union machinery or legislation is and will be the act of Remaining within the EU. Even if what our MPs – who may actually believe what they are saying – tell us otherwise.

I would like to be able to say that the reality that underpins all of this is also simple to understand. But it is not.

In fact, we have to go right back to the travesty that was the first European Referendum to even begin trying to unravel the direction of travel in what we now know to be the EU.

That was when the ‘Common Market’.or what our parents and grandparents thought and supported to be a simple trading relationship – not massively unlike the explanation of a Customs Union that I have outlined above – on a journey to become the single market and with it the progressive harmonization of laws which go way beyond simple trade.

This resulted in growing mistrust, many questions and above all the decision to Leave the EU. A result that has only appeared to be so near or close to balance, because many still have no apparent reason to question all that is involved.

The term ‘progressive’ is one that has been adopted for a certain style of politics that Remainers often use and one that encapsulates how the EU operates too.

But the political use of ‘progressive’ as a term is actually a misnomer. One that is used to manipulate people into thinking that they are being offered a type of politics and legislature where the only direction of travel in policy is always forward and therefore will only ever have positive impacts for us all.

It all works a little like building a house. Once the house is built, you then decorate. Once it has been decorated you install the equipment. Once the equipment has been installed, you bring in the furniture. Then you move in with your family and to keep things as you perceive they should be, you lay down a few rules.

In this same vein, the ‘Common Market’ or trade agreement led to the Customs Union that then created a shared marketplace or ‘Single Market’. To make sure that the playing field of this ‘Single Market’ was level, it was deemed essential to ensure that all goods are manufactured to the same standards and the same rules. To make sure there is no way for an industry or sector in one member state to gain an unfair advantage in any other way, this meant that the tentacles of legislation then had to reach out to areas like employment law and the European Working Time Directive.

Before you know it, the EU is rewriting the laws that underpin just about every part of life, ultimately creating social problems and changing the very way that we identify as a culture.

And the EU keeps legislation moving progressively to make the rules the same for everyone across 28 very different Countries without fear of consequence because the ideas underpinning this new but nonetheless undemocratic way of doing politics through the de facto and unquestioned implementation of rules is not something that most people see coming.

We certainly don’t understand there has actually been a change when it has arrived in our lives under the auspices of something completely different and much less insipid than the very dangerous truth and reality behind it.

The reality is that we are having our identity stolen by the back door and this process has been facilitated by MPs who should know better.

They don’t because they are ignorant of the truth.

They are only interested in their own glory, rather than having to think through the implications of their actions.

They avoid and therefore neglect a process that we once trusted them to undertake automatically. Because that’s what responsibility to the Electorate actually involves.

It is no use saying that the alternative of the UK becoming again fully Independent as a Nation State will be easier than being a member of and rule taker from the EU because it isn’t.

However, it also doesn’t make it right. Nor does it mean that it will deliver the right things for the UK.

The truth is that there is very little being said by even the Leave side of the debate about the true cost of remaining within the EU and being in any way tied and obligated to it. Never mind the price that we as a Country have already paid.

In fact, the whole Brexit and EU Referendum debate has, is, and looks like it will continue to be very short on facts, whilst remaining subject to the knee-jerk and quick-win approach that has already created so much of the pain that has already been involved.

If the arguments were to be thought out, translated and then effectively made without bias or self-interest, there is no doubt that the argument in favour of the compromises required for continued membership and indeed a relationship of the kind being sold by Theresa May and many on the Labour side of Parliament would not actually be seen as compromise anymore.

It would be seen as being worse than the subjugation to a Foreign power that we have been on the end of for far too long. Subjugation that the Vote to Leave the EU on 23rd June 2016 stated clearly to our MPs had already gone too far and MUST be stopped.

Yet at the same time, no detailed and comprehensive case for Leave has been made.

Without it, the anger and frustration which is now going to drive and fuel a clean Brexit, possibly outside of any form of reasoned control, will not lay the foundations of what an Independent and fully Sovereign UK will then look like.

It will certainly not begin to provide the basis upon which we can then build a genuine and dynamically balanced working relationship with our neighbours in the EU. The solution, result and aim that we must all work for after Brexit has been properly delivered, if the differences that now exist between us in the form of Leave vs Remain are ever to be satisfactorily resolved.

 

Fuel Duty and the OFT: Forcing us to pay more and more Tax on the essentials of daily life demonstrates just how far apart our Westminster politicians are from life outside and the reality of being British today

February 1, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s announcement by the OFT that the UK petrol market is working well had fudge written all over it and was unsurprisingly met with disdain by motoring organisations across the Country. But just how much does the Government response tell us about the missed opportunities that they could have used to help us, rather than simply using a clever play on words which completely ignores the elephant in the room?

Fuel Duty is of course nothing new where inflammatory issues are concerned. Since the Fuel blockade in 2000, the presence of the Fuel Price Escalator has become only too well known for its wholly disproportionate use as a revenue raising device for successive Governments who have failed to address almost every issue concerning overspending at its root cause.

Use of Fuel Duty in this way has been counterproductive for many years. Whilst making already stretched household budgets even harder to manage for those who have little choice but to use a car to commute, its impact on the all-too-tightly-margined logistics industry reaches into almost every part of our daily lives through the cost of the delivery and supply chains of products that we buy and use each day.

Taxing a product which is effectively the lifeblood of the Country so heavily, just because it is easy to do so is not only morally wrong; it demonstrates just how far detached from reality and void of understanding our politicians have become to the issues facing the Electorate and how desperate we actually are for Government that sees 5 years as an opportunity to do something, rather than the time it takes to work at little more than getting re-elected.

The UK Taxation and Benefits system is far too complicated to understand in almost every place that our lives touch it, and it is little wonder that an entire industry exists to assists to help those who have money to avoid paying every penny that they legally don’t have to.

Worse still are the plethora of revenue-raising taxes which have been put in place on virtually every item that we buy apart from the very minimum of bare essentials. This travesty makes the inability of our leaders to tackle the root causes of the Nations financial difficulties all the more serious when market manipulation and unscrupulous profiteering by the City and its Funds comes ever closer to pushing more and more families into the state of extreme poverty, when none should even be there in 21st Century Great Britain.

In 2007 and as a new Councillor, I argued on the Conservative Home Website that the then Labour Government should consider giving the Logistics Industry the same concession as Agriculture and remove Duty from Fuel.

As just an interim measure, I have no doubt that the impact from such a move would even now have massively positive implications for businesses and the prices of goods. I myself have been in that very situation where a contract has been negotiated which allows haulage prices to be tied and raised directly in line with fuel costs and it is no easy task when those costs will be passed directly to the end user price of the goods carried. But duty-free fuel at an industry-specific level itself would not go anywhere near far enough and attempted in isolation – the method classically used by Governments as an excuse not to do something – it would simply create more deficit of the kind that as a Country we can already not afford to sustain.

Tackling the disenfranchisement caused by our system of Taxation is no mean feat. But the simplification and application of our Tax system in ways that basically make sense to us all, without being left having the inherent feeling that those who give will always be asked to keep giving more has now become essential.

In order to do this, Government will have no option but to adopt and embrace a new and holistic form of politics which uses balance and fairness across all policy areas as the benchmark. It could then more readily face difficult decisions today for a better tomorrow, implementing systems such as a Flat Tax, which at its worst would be relative to income and expenditure, and at its best would be universally fair, proportional and easy for us all to understand.

Cheap political capital is of course made off the back of what each and every one of us does or doesn’t earn and possess. But forcing us to pay more and more Tax on the essentials of daily life, whilst at the same time telling us that the system is fair, not only smacks of a Government treating the Electorate like fools; it demonstrates just how far apart our Westminster politicians are from life outside and the reality of being British today.

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