Part 3 - 31st January 2017 : The response to Mr Jason McCartney from Rachel Lee:
Thank you for your prompt reply. I do feel though that some of my questions are not really answered and I make the following observations:
On your first point about being a democrat; I too am a democrat and I believe that in the UK we have process whereby we elect MPs to make decisions on our behalf. As you are well aware, the referendum was advisory; it is, is it not, your job as an elected representative, whilst taking into account the views of the electorate, to make decisions that you believe are in the best interest of the country and your constituents? To vote simply on the basis of the referendum outcome would surely be a dereliction of that duty? I do, however, note that you seem also to personally believe that leaving the EU will be best for the county, but I think it is incumbent upon MPs to demonstrate to those of who did not vote leave why we are wrong; your answers have failed to do that for me. I propose to let my friends consider your responses through social media and see how they feel too. In the meantime on the specific points:
1. The issues I have with this idea of engaging with the wider world is that we already do that outside of trade agreements between the EU and those countries. I accept that there are opportunities to grow trade outside of the EU and that leaving the EU might help with that; though presumably only if we enter into bilateral trade agreements, on which point I refer you to my thoughts on your responses to my question 9 and 10. It is, of course, widely acknowledged and readily proven, that countries do most trade with close neighbours; not only is it just easier to do business with the people closest, but it is also cheaper and less carbon-intense where material goods have to be shipped. If the EU did collapse, presumably all nations would be in the same boat, equally disadvantaged; to pull out on the basis of speculation about the future of the EU seems rather like launching a small lifeboat into the stormy South Atlantic whilst the far more robust and capable ocean liner sails on for an indefinite period.
2. I understand the proposed ‘Great Repeal Bill’ and support it if we must leave the EU. However, that was not the question I asked. I asked specifically for some EU legislation/directives that you, personally, believe should be repealed. The reason I asked that question is that during the pre-Brexit vote ‘debate’, there was much talk of EU red-tape. I frequently asked the question of pro-Brexit voters to specify which bits of EU legislation should be ditched; it would be fair to say that virtually nobody could identify any specific legislation we should abandon. And of the couple of pieces of legislation that were named, after discussion, it was agreed that actually they were useful and shouldn’t be abandoned. The reason this is relevant in the discussion around EU democracy is that we often hear words to the effect that ‘Brussels is imposing X on the UK’ when in fact ‘X’ is always something that has been developed through a long process of consensual politics and is therefore usually (though not exclusively) what one might call reasonable. It is not the same form of democracy as we have in the UK, but it seems to me to be effective if slow. So I ask again, what specific pieces of EU legislation/Directives would you personally want to abandon?
3. I accept that you have a reasonable view on this; however, as it doesn’t match official policy, it doesn’t really help me reconcile the issues around immigration. Will you be lobbying for a points based system?
4. Again, here I asked you for a personal view on how much extra money you think will be available for the NHS. You provided a personal answer to 3 (thank you), so I would like your personal answer on this point also. (Presumably taking into account the fact that you expect a reduction in GDP in the short term.)
5. I take it from your answer here that there is currently no specific plan.
6. There are implications around electricity trading (and possibly gas trading, though I am less familiar with gas trading), particularly if we are outside of the single market as proposed. I would be interested to hear your views on whether the existing market coupling arrangements could remain in place with the UK outside of the single market given that Switzerland is not permitted to implement these arrangements. On the subject of renewables, as you are well aware, the conservative government has radically changed planning rules in favour of shale gas and against wind since it came to power and has dramatically cut renewables subsidies (despite the tariff digression process proving very effective) and increased developer risk. This has already resulted in a hiatus in renewables investment in the UK (with the UK dropping out of the E&Y top 10 renewables investment countries for the first time ever) and has had a direct impact on me in that I have had to abandon my own renewables business. I therefore find your statement that you ‘see no signs we want to change tack on this’ as completely at odds with reality. For me, being part of the EU was an extra lever in ensuring the transition to a low-carbon economy.
7. I agree that if there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that the economic forecasts will be wrong and given that there will be no ‘control’, it will not really be possible to establish what the economic impact of Brexit has been (unless perhaps it is as dire as some predict, which I personally doubt). However, to infer anything about future economic performance post Brexit on the basis of a 2 trading quarters post voting to leave, but without actually losing any of the benefits of being a member, seems speculative to say the least. I’m sure there will be some local business that are now able to export more competitively (perhaps into the EU?) due to the devaluation of the pound, but would you not expect that to be offset as that same devaluation ultimately increases energy and raw materials costs, which it surely must? Would it not also be offset should we fail to secure tariff-free access to EU markets? I personally know of one business that has benefited but 2 or 3 that have suffered; do you have statistics that support the view that there is currently a net benefit?
8. I applaud your confidence in expecting to achieve a trade deal in 2 years; as you know, it has never been done before. However, I did ask whether you believe that deal will be on an equal footing to our current tariff-free trade but without the free movement requirements and if not what kind of tariffs you might expect (perhaps expressed as a percentage of WTO tariffs); I would still like your thoughts on this.
9. Given that we held a referendum, which you appear to believe should be binding, in relation to our departure from the EU, which I infer you support because of the greater ‘democracy’ that brings and the ability to trade more widely and more favourably, do you also think it would beappropriate to hold referenda on specific trade deals? For example, if, to secure a trade deal with the US would require the free movement of people from the US to the UK and the relaxation of food standards, should those points be put to the electorate?
10. I really ask the same again here as 9. How do we determine what is important to us as a country? Will we be allowed to vote on such matters as surely these are at least as important as our membership of the EU?
I do appreciate you taking time to consider my questions and look forward to your responses.
Part 2 - 31st January 2017 : The reply from Mr Jason MCCartney, to Rachel's letter
Thank you for your email. My voting position on article 50 is based on the fact that I am a democrat. As MPs we gave this decision to the electorate and they decided to leave the EU. I will be voting for Article 50 because that is the will of the people, locally and in the country as a whole. I would have voted for Article 50 even if I had been a remainer myself. To answer your questions -
1. I think the UK has a brighter future outside the increasingly fragile EU club, engaging with the wider world.
2. In the next parliamentary session, the Government will bring forward legislation to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on the day that Britain leaves the EU. This 'Great Repeal Bill' will end the authority of EU law and return power to the UK. The existing body of EU law will be converted into domestic law, wherever practical and Parliament will be free to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses. We will return to a situation when you will be able to lobby your representative for the laws you think we should have.
3. I personally support a points system allowing us to prioritise those immigrants that can help address our skill shortages.
4. That is a matter for whatever Government is in place at the point we leave. I hope some existing projects that are currently funded by the EU continue to so, and the majority of any other savings is invested in the NHS.
5. I understand we have to leave Eurotom because of it is uniquely legally joined to the EU. The Government has been clear it supports Eurotom and wants to see “continuity of cooperation and standards “ The indications are therefore that we would try and rejoin, or work closely together.
6. This would be an area of negotiation once Article 50 has been instigated, other EU countries will not discuss this issues until then. I have seen no indication that we want to change tack on this and our commitments to climate change are enshrined in our own laws.
7. I agree that there will be some short term negative effects as we leave, although most economist’s predictions have proved to be too pessimistic so far with economic results proving better than expected. Long term I believe we will see many benefits to the economy based on mutually beneficial trade agreements around the world. Somewhat surprisingly An increasing number of local companies are already finding new opportunities opening up through Brexit.
8. I do think we will be able to get new trade deals in place with EU countries within two years. We import more from the EU than we export, so it is in everyone’s interest to find a deal. It will be a different deal than we have now, but the exact details can only be done through negotiation, and as I said the EU will not enter into talks until after we have voted through Article 50.
9. Yes it is in the interests for both countries to find a deal.
10. Yes, when negotiating any deal we need to prioritise what is important to us as a country.
Part 1 - 30th January 2017 : A letter from CDT student Rachel Lee to Mr Jason McCartney, Member of Parliament for Colne Valley.
MPs contact details are listed at www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/
Mr McCartnety can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr McCartney
I understand that you supported the leave campaign in the Brexit Referendum. I am writing now to urge you to consider very carefully the pros and cons of voting to trigger Article 50.
I have found the whole Brexit campaign to be full of un-justified statements and rhetoric (on both sides) and I would appreciate some evidence that a clear thought process has been used to arrive at a sensible and justifiable voting position in the forthcoming Article 50 vote. I would therefore appreciate your thoughtful consideration on a few points outlined below.
1) Can you set out your reasons for supporting Brexit?
2) Can you identify some specific pieces of EU legislation/directives that you believe we should abandon post Brexit?
3) Can you set out your personal views on immigration and your thoughts on how we maintain services in the NHS and support our agricultural sector without free movement from the EU?
4) How much additional funding to the NHS to you personally believe Brexit will release?
5) I am personally involved in the Energy Sector; can you set out the reasons for leaving Euratom and how you see its safety and security functions being replaced?
6) Could you confirm whether the UK will maintain its links with the European Energy Market? Do you envisage the UK committing to the same liberalisation, sustainability and emissions criteria? If not, do you believe that security of gas and electricity supplies can be maintained and that we will be able to achieve our own Climate Change Act targets?
7) Most economists believe there will be a reduction in UK GDP at least in the medium term as a result of Brexit; do you believe these forecasts and what are your views on the long term benefits of leaving the EU from an economic perspective?
8) Do you feel that the UK will be able to negotiate equitable trade deals with the EU in the 2 years following the triggering of Article 50? Do you believe that the UK will be able to secure a trade deal that is as good as being a member of the EU or EEA, but without adhering to the principles of free movement of people, goods and services and without any payment to the EU? If so, can you explain why other members of the EU and EEA would accept this and if not, what are your expectations in regard to level of tariffs that UK exporters will need to pay?
9) Do you believe that an equitable trade deal with the US can be struck that will not involve freedom of movement or compromise to current environmental and food standards etc.?
10) Do you believe that the UK should take an ethical stance in negotiating trade deals? E.g. should we impose conditions on partner countries in regard to human rights, environmental and health and safety standards?
Obviously one could go on, but I think your reasoned answers to the above would make me feel more comfortable that, should you choose to vote in favour of triggering Brexit, then you have done so with due consideration for at least a few of the issues presented.