What did Europe ever do for EU

As I discussed in my last blog, many who voted leave did so because they had no real idea what the EU does and had been fed a negative diatriabe of excuses and lies from several directions in the last few years before the referendum. For millions of us, however, the awareness of the benefit of the EU was there, maybe in the background, maybe taken for granted, but it was there and the x by remain was every bit as much an instinctive emotional response to the question as is claimed leavers had, because we had had some direct experience in some shape or form with the EU.

For me there were many clear benefits I could see but Ι want to share a small and simple story which illustrates how just looking at EU membership fees is an oversimplistic way of counting the cost/benefit of the EU.

In 2000 we had moved to a rural area of Wales and set up a little micro business working from what was a larder in the house, to all intents and purposes it was a cupboard under the stairs. We had very little cash available. We had only the income we could generate for ourselves from our own efforts in our mail order business. We claimed no benefits and we relied on nobody but ourselves. We took no holidays except bank holidays. We had dial up internet which was very slow. As we went on making a reasonable living we grasped the nettle of creating our own website but we could feel the limits of our internet access with regards to efficiency over the next couple of years, we were being held back.

The IT revolution was in full flow throughout the world of business. It was to change every single part of the way business was run. It was also to open up massive opportunities for SMEs and we wanted to tap into that. But there was already an inequality coming from the poor and non existent service available in rural areas. Internet infrastructure was being built and improved piecemeal by the private sector, understandably priority was being given to the big cities and the areas where population was higher and people could afford the service. In practice Wales was a million miles behind England in providing an adequate service fit for the industrial world of the new millennium.

We did our research and discovered that we could put in a satellite internet service which would give us, for the time, good access to speedy internet. This would help us enormously but we had no spare money to invest in this. So we applied for a tiny grant which had become available from the WDA as was. This fund was available because Wales received funding from the EU in addition to funding from Westminster which could then be used in projects for the benefit of business development. This grant of a few hundred pounds may sound like peanuts but to us it was a really big deal and gave us the ability to keep up with our competitors and access new technology. Our customers were based all over the UK and we were really only able to do this because of technology.

This article from 2002 discusses the general problem of internet infrastructure and the bigger project that followed over the next few years to try and bring Wales up to date. Though it took some years the money was made available thanks to the EU and to Westminster. Would Westminster alone have ever provided enough money for Wales to do this? I don’t believe it would have done, if they really cared about business in the regions, this would have been a top national priority.

This was literally the only grant we have ever applied for in our business lives. The timing was perfect and it was just enough to give us a step up and be able to compete effectively. We could reach our marketplaces more efficiently and it opened up some new opportunities. We could create and manage a better website. All tasks on data analysis and accounts became a little bit easier and quicker and we had much better quality information we could base business decisions on. We grew our business and took some offices in the neighbouring town and started hiring people.

So one little grant in a scheme available partly thanks to EU funds

Led to renting of an office which represents spending in the local business community

Led to Business rates being paid on the office which benefits the local community

Led to employment of some local people

Led to PAYE and NI going to the exchequer

Led to income earned by staff to be spent in the local economy

Led to VAT collected in increased sales made throughout the UK

Led to income from us personally and our business being spent in the local economy

Led to access to cash to invest further in the business which led to growth which led to more employment

Led to corporation tax paid on profits of the company

Led to increased expenditure with our suppliers, all of who’s communities then benefit from all the points above.

Incidentally later, many years later, we grew sufficiently to tap into overseas sales and diversify thanks to the single market at a time when our domestic market was stagnant and unprofitable due to the effect of austerity on our customers. This saved our jobs and our company and our growth and our tax contributions.

My daily 12 pence or whatever it costs me for EU membership is absolutely nothing compared to what I and my community gained from a tiny door that was opened to us.

This calculator lets you figure out the cost of EU membership to you then if you can’t think of personal benefits you have enjoyed, have a look at this app, it will jog your memory. Then share these with everyone who asks with scorn “what has the EU ever done for me”.

Most importantly get yourselves and EVERYBODY you know down to that polling station on Thursday and vote for party which has a positive commitment to our future where we belong as members of the biggest most successful partnership of nations in the world. If the EU did not exist we would want to invent it.

Word cloud image courtesy of @spaceangel1964

Brexits Fable

A Cautionary Tale 
England was a great and strong leader. She always ran at the front of the pack.  She had lots of friends across the globe. She was a trendsetter in many industries and fields.  Her people were admired and lauded in the main.  She was not without fault of course.  Some felt she could be difficult and prickly and arrogant, but this was nearly always overlooked and forgiven and sometimes her awkwardness was seen as a good thing in making EU a better-balanced team and stronger overall.
However, for many years England had a little Demon of Untruths sitting on her shoulder whispering into her ear whenever things weren’t going so well. When her people were dissatisfied with her performance the demon would whisper “It’s your suit of #EUFabric that the EU makes you wear as part of her team that is holding you back.  Make your own suit of fabric forged from your glorious past.  You need a suit made of pieces of English History, Ration books, Iron, Steel, coal and unlocked back doors all sewn together with threads of gold.  Shoes made of gold encrusted with diamonds, fish and chips and blue passports.  The world will see you for the great jewel you are and fall at your feet. You do not need EU to be great you are great.  You are better than all the rest.” 
In the main England was sensible and wise and was rather partial to a continental breakfast sometimes and for many, many years ignored the silly Demon of Untruths but gradually its poison seeped into the newspaper front pages, social media and onto the tv screens and a kind of hysteria overtook some of England’s people who became scared that the Demon of Untruths was right, and that the EU had secretly and deliberately taken something away from them just to troll them.  
England had a little drink with her oldest friends Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.  Wales said, “well I know I always complain about London holding me back and EU has given me lots of money to try and help my poorer people and my farming industry depends on EU giving it subsidy but even so, I will go with you on this rather marvellous suit idea.”  Scotland and Northern Ireland looked at the other 2 as if they had gone insane.  Scotland said “This is a bizarre idea.  The suit you are suggesting can only hold you back and it will hold me back.  EUFabric suits have made us strong members of a team and we look after each other.  EU has her faults but as part of her team she helps us in ways too numerous to count and we can continue to improve the way she works if we are on the inside.”
Northern Ireland said “Hang on, as a team member wearing the EUFabric suit I have been able to run side by side with my southern friend on this little piece of ground we share and forge new friendships and relationships since the Good Friday Agreement. Wearing your proposed suit will slow me down and jeopardise my relationship with them.”
Despite the wise counsel and warnings from NI and Scotland, England and Wales were swayed by the seductive Demon of Untruths who persuaded them that the people would be happier if England built a brand new team suit to run in and so she set about making it.
It took 3 years and all England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland’s spare money and time but finally 6 suits were forged.  A grand suit for England, 3 slightly less grand for Wales Scotland and NI and 2 SecondClassSuits for the #the3Million and #BritsintheEU. They glistened in the sunshine and England looked proudly at the chainmail like suits made from the GloriousPast and the 4 original friends set off on the road to GlobalPower that the demon had promised they could find.  England jogged along the path, Wales, NI, Scotland, #the3Million and #BritsintheEU by her side but soon the others were starting to flag.  The suits were heavy and hot and encumbered their progress without the smart EU protections helping them along the trickiest bits of path and steepest hills.  England grew impatient with them and barked at them to keep up.  
Scotland grew weary of England’s bossiness and was exhausted from the silly suit.  She said “Enough is enough, I am going to speak to my people.  Perhaps they are ready for a new chapter not following your stupid ideas, England and maybe we can get back in good books with EU”.  With that Scotland stalked off to examine their options.
NI and Wales were also struggling.  The suits were far too heavy for their little economies and they frequently had to stop for breath.  They said, “England this is really the worst idea you have ever had. You will have to go ahead, and we will try and catch you up”
 #The3Million was keeping up with England so far although she was looking a bit upset but they ran side by side for a while chatting about old times.  England suddenly noticed #The3Million was not wearing the rather smart SecondClassSuit she had made so lovingly for her (it was an Android version of course).
#The3Million said “England I love you dearly.  I love your culture and your music and your art and your people.  Some of my people have lived with you for less than a year and some for many, many years.  But you have ignored my advice and my opinions, and you have told me I am no longer, as I once thought, your partner, your friend, your neighbour, your equal, working together for your success.  Your success was my success for all these years, but it seems this feeling was not reciprocated even though you led me to believe it was.  You don’t want me to have a say in how the England team is shaped so it is with great regret I must carry on my life quest without you.  The suit you have chosen is heavy and slow and holds me back.  I choose the lightweight and nimble EUFabric suit to continue my race”
As England watched her old friend race on she felt some sadness. For a moment she tried to recall what had been so bad about Eastern European plasterers or Spanish Nurses.  She couldn’t quite remember why they annoyed her so, but the Demon of Untruths whispered reassuringly into her ear and she continued on with a little shrug.
 #BritsintheEU was still there by her side in her SecondClassSuit but England was taken aback with the frosty look she was getting.  “But what on earth is the matter my old friend?”. 
 #BritsintheEU replied “England I love you dearly, but you have made a huge mistake and you have ignored my opinion in the matter.  You did not even ask some of my people.  You have now turned my people into 2nd class citizens by making them wear this SecondClassSuit and unlike #The3million, my people find it more difficult to make a change so that I can carry on wearing the #EUFabric.  You have plunged me into a situation where I am neither one thing or the other when once we were all proudly equal to EU”
#BritsintheEU started to struggle more and more in her heavy SecondClassSuit and soon she was left behind by England who now found herself totally alone. 
England slowed down a little, beads of sweat appeared on her brow.  The suit was heavy and hot and not quite so shiny anymore.  Out of a side road EU appeared.  She was looking fresh and beautiful in her lightweight suit of EUFabric developed and sewn together with 60 years of cooperation, friendship, consensus and peace.  She gave England a huge hug when she saw her.  England was rather taken aback with the demonstration of affection but was secretly quite pleased despite the Demon of Untruths jumping up and down with rage at this ostentatious display of European charm and affection.  
England said to EU, “where are you going.  Slow down.  Perhaps I could come with you?  What are you working on? Is it something exciting and new?”  EU looked tearfully at England and replied “England, I love you and your oldest partners dearly.  For 40 years we have run along this road together always in roughly the same direction and together we have chosen our paths and become stronger and fitter and been able to ride the bumps in the road with the help of each other.  My people love your culture and your language and your art and your people but as your friend I must tell you the truth.  You rejected my EUFabric Suit for one of your own. I must now continue without you, working in the interest of those who continue to wear my team colours.  But you have chosen a heavy suit holding you back, anchoring you to a past that never existed except in the imagination of your Demon of Untruths.  We will continue to find ways to work together for sure but it will never be the same again and it is down to my team to decide the direction now without your wise input.  This causes me great sadness, but you have chosen to wear a suit that is too heavy to run in and you must travel at the speed it dictates.  If you do not want me then I am not going to wait for you”
As EU sprinted off down a new road that magically appeared, England wondered sadly what had been so bad about sharing the top table with EU for all those years and those lovely little Danish pastries they served with the coffee were divine.  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry we always have the commonwealth”. 
Right on cue, Commonwealth appeared in all her glory.    She was looking strong and magnificent in her lightweight suit designed to look forward into a modern world.  The old friends ran side by side for a while.  England said to Commonwealth “We need to forge a closer working relationship together and run together more often.  I could design you a wonderful new suit that would complement mine.  We could get back to be the wonderful team we used to be”. 
Commonwealth looked sadly at England and said “My dear old friend, I love you I really do. My people love your people and I will continue to work in many ways with you.   But recently you have not been very kind to my children and grandchildren.  You asked them to come and help you be stronger and successful. They did that but then you withdrew your protection and support when they were no longer useful to you.  You have made yourself a very heavy and cumbersome suit to wear which you thought would be magnificent, but it will hold you back and you will have to live with the consequences.   I cannot let you hold me back when there are new opportunities and alliances for my people elsewhere to explore. Our paths will cross, and we will run together for spells, but I cannot fill the hole you have made rejecting EU’s suit”. 
England looked at the back of the sprinting Commonwealth with tears in her eyes and felt very alone.  Why was she being deserted by her old allies?  For that matter why had she left her oldest partners behind struggling in suits which were too heavy for them?  
The Demon of Untruths whispered, “Don’t worry there are plenty more where they come from”.  
Japan crossed England’s path and said to her “We can work together still but business is business and some of my industry is now running side by side with EU since you no longer wear her suit.  Her strength and speed and power help protect our people, I am sorry I have had to change my relationship with you.  We were once so close.”
China appeared next.  “Hello England, I love you and your people but regretfully I too must make some changes so that some of my industry can run directly side by side with EU for our relationship to continue smoothly.  I am sorry you have been slowed down by your choice of clothing and we have much to do together still of course but it won’t be the same as it once was”
Finally, along came TrumpsAmerica.  The Demon of Untruths jumped up and down with glee. “This is the one we have been waiting for.  Our dream of the Special Relationship which will make us the envy of the world.  Sod all the others, we don’t need them.  TrumpsAmerica did not at first recognise England in her fine new clothes.  “That’s a very shiny suit. It would look good on my lift attendant in my golden lift.   Anyway, let’s talk.” 
England said “Run with me TrumpsAmerica.  Together we will be great again and rule the world.  I have ditched EU.  I was sick of the flimsy suits she made me wear. It’s always been you in my heart anyway.  Let’s you and I be together”
TrumpsAmerica looked England up and down saying “I am sorry your suit can only hold me back and I don’t want or need hangers on.  It is far too heavy for the road to Global Power.  But I can do some good business deals with you.  That NHS you have, sell it to me and that will lighten your load – I would be interested.  All those sick people.  I could broker an excellent deal with my drug companies and health providers.  They would run by your side quite happily.  Anything else you want to sell?  What about the meat you eat.  My chicken is excellent”
England thanked TrumpsAmerica for her suggestions of business deals and told her she would give it some thought.  As she ran along the road exhausted and weighed down by her Suit of the Past doing a deal here and there – one with Lichtenstein, one with Easter Island, a little deal with Albania, a couple of little deals on scones to Australia, she couldn’t help but think about the old days when she ran at the front of the pack and when people looked to her for leadership and she wondered how she had lost so much good will and friendship in so short a time.  The Demon of Untruths laughed and laughed and laughed.
The end.