MARX ON MONDAY
Kevin Marx – a view from the left
I was enjoying a few days skiing last week at the millionaire’s playground resort at Klosters in Switzerland when I foolishly decided, after a good lunch, to ski off-piste to get back to my chalet in Davos. Half an hour later I was caught in a blizzard and freezing to death. I looked around for a St Bernard wearing a barrel of brandy and, whilst no rescue dog could be found, I was fortunate to see the lights of a nearby chalet through the gathering gloom. I skied towards it and was astonished to find that it was an astounding 20 bedroom skiing villa valued at £7 million. It was obviously owned by a Russian Oligarch and as I knocked on the door I cursed myself for having only a couple of words of Russian. I needn’t have worried. The door was opened by a dashing looking man who enquired in perfect English, “can I help you?”
I explained my problem and he invited me in for a cup of tea, and as he came in from the kitchen carrying two steaming mugs I gasped as I realized it was none other than the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.
“Nick,” I stuttered, “what are you doing here? I thought this place belonged to a billionaire Russian Oligarch.”
“No it’s daddy’s,” he put me straight, “I’ve come here to get some peace and quiet whilst I prepare for my EU debate with that drunken pleb Farage.”
“Pleb?” I was shocked to hear Nick use such a term, “but I thought you both went to London public day schools?”
“You’re not seriously comparing Westminster, one of the finest public schools in Britain, with that second rate minor public school Dulwich?” Nick scoffed.
“Is that how you’re going to attack him on Europe?” I asked. “By pointing out that he went to a minor public school, or do you have more substantial arguments?”
“Let me be absolutely clear: leaving the EU would be economic suicide. You cannot overstate the damage it would do to British livelihoods and prosperity.” Nick replied. “Three million British jobs are linked to the Single Market – three million. As a member we are part of the world’s biggest borderless market place, made up of 500 million people. It’s now the largest economy in the world – ahead of the United States – and it’s where we do around half of all our trade.”
“But haven’t UK exports to non-EU countries grown by more than 40 per cent over the past five years while sales to Europe have risen by just 3.1 per cent,” I played Devil’s advocate, “and hasn’t the UK deficit on trade with EU countries risen by £1.5billion to £15.4billion in the last three months while the deficit with the rest of the world was £1billion lower.”
“We may run a massive trade deficit with the EU,” Nick conceded, “but who is to say that it won’t be even larger if we leave?”
“But before we joined the EU in 1973 didn’t we have a small trading surplus with them,” I asked, “and if we leave won’t it be possible to negotiate a limited membership of the EU like Switzerland have, which costs them only £6 million a day, compared to our membership cost of £50 million a day, even though the EU imports three times as much from Switzerland as it does from us?”
“Why would the EU agree to that,” Nick scoffed, “what would be in it for them?”
“A trade agreement akin to Switzerland’s would allow the EU to continue exporting £60 billion more of goods every year to the UK than we export to them,” I said, “it would be economic suicide for the EU to cut us adrift.”
“Kevin,” Nick shook his head ruefully, “you’re arguing like a conservative, placing too much emphasis on facts. We liberals know we are right, regardless of the overwhelming evidence against us. Maybe the economic argument for membership doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but we receive so many other benefits from the EU, and all for the bargain cost of just £18 ¼ billion a year!”
“What will happen to our influence in the world if we choose to go it alone from Europe?” Nick asked. “We stand tall in Washington, Beijing and Delhi when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin.”
“But haven’t we increased trade to America, China and India by billions of pounds in 2013?” I asked, “and didn’t Cameron negotiate a free trade agreement with China, who imported £12 billion worth of goods from the UK last year, with China promising to invest £50 billion in the UK economy, only for the EU to block the agreement because it didn’t want cheap Chinese imports flooding into Europe?”
“Okay then forget world influence,” Nick took a red pen and crossed out a section of his notes for the Farage debate, “what will happen to our citizens’ safety if we leave? The British police depend on cooperation with their counterparts abroad – sharing information, pooling resources, helping each other bring criminals to justice. Take that away and you are forcing the police to do their job with one hand tied behind their back.”
“But doesn’t our signing up to the European Human Rights Act hinder our citizens safety?” I postulated. “Didn’t Europe block our attempts to extradite terrorists like Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, costing our taxpayers ten of millions of pounds a year, and giving a green light to terrorists to come to Britain and plot its destruction from within whilst living on benefits, without fear of us throwing them out?”
“Well what about our environment?” Nick quickly changed the subject. “Climate change doesn’t stop at Dover. There is no point reducing our carbon footprint unless our neighbours do the same. But together we can set collective targets and work in concert to achieve them – and we have far greater clout in encouraging other countries and regions to do the same.”
“The European Science budget, along with additional spending on tackling climate change, will cost the EU taxpayers a minimum of £267 billion over the next five years,” I informed him, “what do the EU taxpayers get for this huge amount of money?”
“EU scientists last year exposed many myths which have been long put about by the likes of Nigel Farage and his climate change denying puppet James Delingpole,” Nick replied.
“Such as?” I challenged the Liberal Democrat leader.
“Let me tell you Kevin,” said Nick, “if it weren’t for the expenditure of this £267 billion European scientists would never have uncovered the fact that climate change is man-made and can only be stopped by more wind farms.”
“Is that their only discovery?” I asked.
“No they also discovered that prunes are not a laxative and it is now illegal under EU law to claim that they are, Nick replied.
“Any other scientific discoveries from our £267 billion?” I raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Certainly,” Nick replied with a note of triumph, “ after a five year study funded by the taxpayer and costing only £30 million European scientists found no evidence to suggest that drinking water rehydrates you and it is now, under EU law, illegal for companies like Evian, Perrier and Highland Spring to advertise that drinking water is a cure for thirst.”
“Let me get this right,” I sought clarification, “at the bargain cost to the taxpayer of only £267 billion, European scientists are equally sure that climate change is man-made and can only be stopped by renewable energy, that prunes are not a laxative and that drinking water is not a cure for thirst?”
“Precisely,” Nick confirmed.
“So given the strength of the arguments you will put forward against Farage,” I asked Nick, “how do you think the European election results will go next year for the Liberal Democrats and UKIP after your debate?”
“Between us the Liberal Democrats and UKIP have 21 seats in the European Parliament,” Nick replied, “after my debate against Farage, when the British people have heard what we both have to say, I think we will still have 21 seats between us.”
“You currently have 12 and UKIP have 9,” I pointed out, “do you think those numbers will stay the same?”
“To be honest with you Kevin no,” Nick sighed, “after our debate I expect UKIP to win 21 seats and the Liberal Democrats 0.”