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Should the UK Have an Opinion on Catalonia?

by John Brian Shannon

As the UK remains a fully paid-up member of the 28-member European Union, it seems fair that the government should have a position on Catalonia’s recent move toward greater autonomy. Which in recent weeks, has grown beyond simple autonomy within the Spanish federal government architecture to seeking full independence, but the attempt has since been knocked down by the Spanish authorities.

Had the UK passed the Brexit threshold by now, it would be difficult indeed for the British government to have any public opinion at all as it then becomes a very different thing. It’s fair comment to opine on the internal politics of a fellow EU member state, but it is quite another for a non-member to criticize the goings-on in a foreign country.

For that reason, it’s well within Theresa May’s purview as the Prime Minister of a paid-up member of the European Union to comment on issues Catalonia.

Nigel Farage MEP certainly didn’t hold back from informing his viewers about his opinions on the Catalonian situation and it’s difficult to find flaws in his argument.

Certainly, it was a tragedy that 900 mainly peaceful protesters were injured and/or arrested by Spanish federal police, although many of those charges against protesters may be dropped in exchange for the much more serious charges against the police being dropped. Look for this to happen on a case-by-case basis. Many of the police are reputed to have used excessive force against the (probably annoying, but otherwise peaceful) protesters.

Until such times as Britain is no longer an EU member state, the UK and its citizens have every right to comment on the unfortunate Catalonian situation, but after Brexit I hope the government feels constrained about commenting on what will then be, a comment on the internal affairs of a sovereign bloc (the EU) a sovereign nation within the EU (Spain) and a state within that nation (Catalonia)


“What Goes Around, Comes Around”

This has been true since the universe began and were the British government to attempt to unduly affect the outcome (either way) in Catalonia, eventually it could work against the United Kingdom and conceivably against the Commonwealth, as there are rumours from time to time about disaffection among jurisdictions of either entity.

Therefore, it’s best for the UK government to comment in good form only and avoid trying to make political hay against the EU bloc simply because we may have other frustrations with them. (Hey, they’re frustrated too. It isn’t a one-way street. Let’s just get the Brexit done and not unduly antagonize the EU Parliament or its individual member states in the meantime, because that works better for the UK in the long run)


As a Member of the European Parliament and as a citizen of the United Kingdom, Nigel Farage has much more leeway to comment than the government, and his recent talk show brings up some fascinating points about Catalonia. Take a few minutes and watch Nigel take calls from all over the world about the attempted Catalonian secession.

The Problem with Immigration

by John Brian Shannon

Immigration policy continues to appear in British headlines and excessive annual immigration loads in the UK are cited by many citizens as one of the main reasons Britons voted to Brexit the European Union.

Immigration has been a factor in Britain going all the way back to Roman times, and without it the United Kingdom wouldn’t be the thriving country it is today.

As with so many things in life it’s all about balance. The other important factor in this discussion is the implementation of immigration policy.


Some Immigration Stats for You

Britain has a population of 66 million people and it received 650,000 economic migrants and refugees in 2016 alone. Yes, it’s like that every year. Of course, people in favour of higher immigration levels will always refer you to the net migration number, which was 335,000 in 2016.

Immigration to the UK for year ending June 2016. Image courtesy of the Office for National Statistics.

Immigration to Britain for year ending June 2016. UK Office for National Statistics.

Regardless of how you choose to calculate UK immigration, millions of Britons have a negative view on the topic and blame scarce jobs, higher infrastructure costs, longer wait times for government services and higher taxes on unprecedented immigration.

High numbers of migrants aside, the UK economy continues to grow and companies are making better profit due to the lower wages paid to immigrant workers.

No economist on the planet will dispute these two points; Higher immigration results in improved corporate profit and growing GDP.

Although it needs to be said that the economy can still grow with lower or even zero immigration when government economic policy is perfect and all the stars are aligned.

By now you’re concluding that high immigration loads are the lazy politicians way of improving the annual GDP statistic, increasing corporate profits, and (probably) increasing donations to their political party. Yes, every economist agrees with you.


Your Economic Status Determines Your Worldview

If increased profits for companies, higher GDP, and donations to your political party are all that matter to you — you’ve hit a home-run! as they say in America. Congrats to you.

Others disagree and cite quality of life issues — real life problems like increased unemployment among native Britons, longer wait times for government services, and the higher personal taxes that pay for the rapidly growing infrastructure required to sustain increased demand.

Your view no doubt, depends on which side of the unemployment line you’re standing on and your tolerance for higher taxes.

It’s easy to see where all this is heading in a decade or two; Those who view immigration negatively will join new, right-wing, anti-immigrant parties similar in concept to Germany’s nationalist AfD party, while big business and (some) politicians will morph towards Trump-style politics — resulting in a quantum shift to the right of the political spectrum among a majority of voters (but very important to note here) that shift will split between many factions.

And isn’t that exactly what has recently happened in Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland and America?


Is Multiculturalism a Failure, or is Implementation to Blame?

It’s interesting to note that Canada has maintained a multicultural policy since the late 1960’s and that it’s been an astonishing success story with few Canadian detractors.

Led by former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, multiculturalism was sold to Canadians as a silver bullet to;

1) fix a falling Canadian birthrate,
2) to increase aggregate demand in the economy,
3) to attract the highly skilled workers that Canada desperately needed,
4) to access the low wage workers to do the jobs Canadians no longer wanted.

It was also touted to diversify the social fabric of the country and work to subsume the extremely stark (and sometimes hostile) divide between Francophones and Anglophones in eastern Canada.

The level of skepticism was high, but because multiculturalism in Canada was properly and thoroughly sold to Canadians and because it really did accomplish all that Pierre Trudeau said it would, multiculturalism succeeded across the country.

  • NOTE: Canada’s population of 36 million is augmented by 300,000 new arrivals annually, while Britain’s population of 66 million is augmented by 650,000 new arrivals per year. (Remember, these are gross total immigration numbers that have little in common with *net* migration numbers)

In recent months, Statistics Canada has reported the number of visible minorities (people from other countries and their Canadian-born offspring) living in Canada now outnumber Caucasian citizens of European descent. And nobody cares.

In Canada, the colour of your skin, your choice of religion, or your cultural bias, simply don’t matter. If you’re there to work, raise a family, and agree to abide by Canadian laws, Canadians are happy to have you along for the ride.

And in Canada émigrés tend to do what is expected of them because everything about becoming a ‘landed-immigrant’ and (after a significant probationary period) a Canadian citizen, is explained to them prior to their acceptance by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Unlike in Britain, migrants to Canada are walked through the process every step of the way and because of that, they are far more likely to understand Canadian values and Canadian culture, and are therefore more likely to assimilate well and become part of the Canadian mosaic.

The importance of informing future British citizens about what is allowed and what is expected of them cannot be underestimated — and the same importance must be attached to informing today’s British citizens how to work with new arrivals. It’s everything in this discussion.

In Canada, the federal government wanted multiculturalism to work and that’s why it worked. Full stop.


Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s taken decades for the UK to get to this point and every party represented in the House of Commons has been a part of the process. Playing the blame game is a waste of time, so let’s just focus on what’s to be done from here.

There is little Britain can do about the 9 million foreign-born residents already in the country. Of course, the argument could be made that they could all be deported to their countries of origin, but that isn’t a realistic solution to a perceived problem; “perceived” because less than half of Britons report being concerned about the number of immigrants in the country.

In 2016, the total number of foreign-born residents in the UK surpassed 9 million.

In 2016, the total number of foreign-born residents in the UK surpassed 9 million. UK Office for National Statistics.

‘Scofflaws Not Welcome’

Some have made the case that UK expats convicted of any crime more serious than a parking ticket should be deported to their country of origin, forthwith. There are plenty of people already breaking laws in the United Kingdom, the country shouldn’t be importing more of them!

And at an annual cost of £110,000 per year/per prisoner to incarcerate lawbreakers, Britain could save itself millions of pounds sterling annually for the cost of a few hundred airline tickets. Doing so would set a precedent, the kind of precedent that gets noticed for all the right reasons, and work to a) convince certain types to not relocate to the UK in the first place, or b) convince those already in the UK and considering committing crimes to choose an alternate lifestyle — either way, it’s a win-win for Britain.

Foreign Resident Tax

Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that foreigners living in the UK will be paying an annual fee to help pay a tiny portion of the infrastructure, services, and security costs on a per capita basis — likely around £100 per year, per expat. The PM in a recent PMQ period mentioned the fee would be “about the cost of a passport” but would be due on an annual basis.

Post-Brexit Immigration Policy

One great thing about Brexit is the government will be able to choose its own immigration policy.

Britain should cap total immigration at 200,000 per year, but it should favour highly skilled individuals from the Commonwealth and America who should be moved to the front of the line.

If there are any additional spaces to fill, then and only then should Britain consider allowing people from other countries to migrate to the United Kingdom.

Better Multiculturalism Guidance for both Immigrants and Citizens Going Forward

Proper guidance to help prospective immigrants choose whether Britain really is the country for them, whether they are willing to live by the laws and (Western) culture of Britain, and guidance on how to integrate into British society would smooth the path for migrants and citizens alike.

It’s not only new arrivals that need guidance. A bit of knowledge, understanding and sensitivity can go a long way to keep small irritations small, rather than to have them burst into the media spotlight in a way that makes all sides look mean-spirited, uncultured and uneducated.

Canada has a verifiable track record of success in helping both their new arrivals and their citizens to get along together and keep them focused on working for the good of the country and its goals.

If the Home Office hired one experienced Canadian multiculturalism / immigration officer per UK immigration office location (as an advisor) it could make the difference between a successful immigration policy and a failed immigration policy.

And that Canadian multicultural officer should assist in cases involving both new arrivals to the UK and long-time expats with unresolved issues.


Summary

Brexit affords the United Kingdom the opportunity to start with a clean sheet and design any immigration policy it chooses.

Incorporating some Canadian success seems appropriate, as does deporting criminal expats within a fortnight.

And an expat tax reminds expats it’s their privilege not their divine right to live in the United Kingdom — although if they’re contributing to the good of the country about as well as anyone else, the UK government and its people should be respectful of their commitment.


Related Articles:

  • Canadians in the Dark About Immigration: Survey (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Canadians Increasingly Comfortable with Diversity: Survey (Ottawa Citizen)
  • CBC’s The National – report on the Changing Face of Canada (CBC TV News)
  • Canada immigration explained: Answers to 9 common questions (CBC TV News)

Why the UK Must Steer Brexit & Not be Steered

by John Brian Shannon

As the UK is a net contributor to the EU, there’s no incentive for European Parliament negotiators to want an early deal

However, yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May ‘called time’ on never-ending Brexit negotiations by informing the EU that October 29, 2018 is the last day to avert a WTO-style Brexit, commonly called a ‘No Deal’ Brexit

UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Image courtesy of Reuters

To understand why there is any debate at all about the UK leaving the European Union, one must understand that the United Kingdom contributes more to the EU than it receives. Over £8 billion (net) per year flows from the United Kingdom to the European Union and people are wondering why the EU Parliament is opposed to Brexit?

That’s a lot of money even by European standards, a continent of 504 million people.

£8 billion is the difference between a rich EU and a cash-starved EU that can’t afford all of its legitimate programmes and its excesses. To wit; The alcohol budget for the EU Parliament is in the tens of millions (euros) per year.

Yes, every government has a wine and spirits budget, but the EU Parliament alcohol budget is bigger than the next ten countries alcohol budgets combined. And it’s not just the alcohol budget that we’re talking about here.

The only country that contributes more to the EU budget is Germany — which pays even more than the UK! — and not a word of thanks to either Britain or Germany for subsidizing almost every policy and almost every country in the 28 member bloc.


Ready for some numbers?

Britain’s population is 65 million, so the net contribution of £8 billion works out to £123. per Briton, per year.

If you want to figure it by workers, who after all are the ones paying this bill, there are about 33 million workers in the UK, and 30 million of them are Britons.

So, let’s do the math; £8 billion, divided by 30 million, equals £266 per worker, per year. Over ten years, that’s £2660 per British-born worker.

What could that amount of money done for each British worker over the past decade? We’ll never know.


So far, so good?

Let’s look at the UK contribution over the past decade, which means we are simply multiplying those numbers by ten.

The net contribution of the United Kingdom over ten years is £80 billion.
Let’s see what the UK could’ve done with that money:

  • 26 Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, completely fitted-out. (or)
  • 100 more Wembley Stadiums. (or)
  • 146 state-of-the-art UK hospitals such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. (or)
  • 183 copies of The Shard, an iconic building in London. (or)
  • 2285 brand-new Academy schools, or 5333 brand-new state-run Secondary schools. (or)
  • Every UK high school graduate could receive a tuition-free PhD education and a new small car.

That’s just the past ten years…

What could be better than any one of those things? Is there anything better? Let us know in the comments section below!

Really, for all the (net) billions that go to the European Union courtesy of the British taxpayer what do Britons get in return?

Not one thing. Because it’s the net amount, not the gross amount. Which by definition means that Britons are getting nothing for that particular £8 billion (annual) or £80 billion (decade) net payment to the union. It’s the net amount. Get it?


Obviously, there’s nothing in Brexit for the EU

How could there be? It’s all in their favour.

Every year that the EU can stretch Brexit out is another £8 billion (net) for the European Union to fund its good and necessary budgets and their unconscionable, wasteful spending programmes. (Bad for Britain, but good for the EU!)

Only the most foolish and irresponsible British government would allow the EU to stretch this out for as long as possible (and who could blame the EU for doing so?) and that’s why Prime Minister Theresa May must be shown respect here.


In Theresa May’s UK, Britain is No Longer the EU’s Cash Cow

Love her or hate her, everyone knew that Margaret Thatcher truly loved Britain — and we’re starting to see a renewed and more confident Theresa May rising to meet the challenges of her time, as did Maggie in her era.

Theresa May has wisely informed the EU that there is a ‘Best Before’ date for Brexit negotiations and that October 29, 2018 is the absolute last date that the proposed 2-year implementation deal can be offered to the European Union.

In the absence of such a signed agreement Brexit negotiators will have no other option but to prepare for a full-blown WTO-based Brexit. (Which won’t be half as traumatic as it sounds as most of the world operates on WTO rules and have done so since 1995)

Therefore, smart EU negotiators will string it along for as long as they can as it’s (obviously) the logical way for their side to proceed. But now that the Prime Minister has provided a timeline to work toward, expect the 2-year implementation deal to be signed one day before the deadline, because that gets the European Union the most British taxpayer cash without actually missing the October 29, 2018 deadline.

Calling ‘time’ on the EU’s negotiating tactics (delay, obstruct, delay some more) is the single best, and strongest thing Theresa May has done since becoming Britain’s Prime Minister — and when combined with her Florence speech where she reached-out to EU leaders and to the European people as never before by a British PM — Mrs. May will earn and thereby guarantee her place in British history as the UK’s Brexit Prime Minister.

Well done on all counts, Theresa!


Related Articles:

  • My mission is a two-year bridge to a final Brexit deal, Theresa May tells MPs (The Times)
  • Brexit divorce lawyers eye up EU’s wine list (Financial Times)