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Brexit. Where to now? – Supporter letter

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Bobby Bazalgette

Brexit is the most destructive and pointless move by the UK government in my lifetime, which is saying a lot. I will do anything I can to stop or reverse it, though I fear the horse has now bolted and it will take at least a generation to repair the damage.  I am almost 70 now, so I am unlikely to see us back in the EU in my lifetime.  I was vocal in my opposition from the moment this was announced, and since then I have marched and protested as much as I can to try and avert the disaster.

I see the EU as a rare example of cooperation and forward-thinking between European nations. It took a lot of courage and determination to persuade these disparate countries to open their borders and trust one another. Traveling through Europe now we are barely aware that we have moved from one country to another. What a contrast to pre-EU days when we had border posts with immigration and customs controls, changes to driving rules, different currencies, restrictions on what we were allowed to carry etc.  I want my children and grandchildren to have those same freedoms. Europe has changed a lot in 40 years. Those of us who can remember Spain as it was in the 1970s under Franco, or Greece just emerging from military rule, will know just how much better life for ordinary people is now.

I am the director of a small company based in West Wales. My business will be badly hit by Brexit in the long term, and ultimately may not survive. That is not the main reason I object so strongly to Brexit, but it is significant because a dozen well paid local jobs depend upon it. Why will it affect us? The bulk of our commercial work happens in Scotland and Ireland. That means we have a real problem if those countries eventually decide to be members of the EU while we are outside it. We buy equipment and components from Europe, since very little is manufactured here, and we rely on free movement and unrestricted trade with EU countries. By the time Boris and his crew have finished, it will be inconceivable that we will continue to have those benefits.

Every country has its nationalists, isolationists, and xenophobes, who had to be talked into accepting the union in the name of peace and prosperity. It has worked so well in many ways. Of course, it is not perfect, but people in the UK have been misled and misinformed to such an extent that many have rejected the EU without understanding what it is or does. I see no reason to simply accept the situation. I do not accept that it was a democratic decision. I believe we have been deceived and manipulated out of having an informed debate and making a rational choice.

A few years ago, I had a disagreement with HMRC over my accounts. I was a sole trader, doing most of my work in Scotland, many miles from home. They pulled me up on the fact that I had claimed my lunches as deductible. I was permitted to claim accommodation and evening meals, but not lunch. They went through my accounts for the preceding six years and then presented me with a demand for over £20,000. Not because I have particularly expensive lunches, but because a small amount un-paid six years ago attracted interest, and penalties. Those sums were rolled over to the next year, which added more interest and more penalties so that around £200 in a year became over £20k. At the time it would have put me out of business, but then we realised that according to European rules, workers have to be subject to the same rules when doing the same work. If I had been an employee, my company could have legally claimed tax relief for my lunches. When confronted with this, the tax inspector backed down and removed the demand.  The point of this tale is to ask, who will uphold such rights after Brexit?

I have often thought that Wales as an independent country within Europe would be preferable to the present situation. Whenever the Westminster government makes a particularly crass or dangerous decision, like taking the country to war in Iraq, I just want to dissociate myself. On the other hand, it makes so much better sense to be united with our neighbours. I am convinced that Scotland will break away from Britain and then re-join the EU, and at the moment, who can blame them?  Brexit could eventually result in the UK consisting of just Wales and England. Do we really want to remain England’s poodle when that happens?

 

The challenges we face right now threaten our very survival as a species. This has been explained many times recently as we understand what Climate Change means. The environment does not respect borders, so more than ever, we need to work together with our neighbours.  This is absolutely the worst moment to be wasting time and huge sums of money on something as destructive and divisive as Brexit