Wednesday 30 March 2016

Brexit hopes v some facts.

Already we are being bombarded by both "remainers" and "outers" in the Europe debate by claims which may or may not be valid. There's a good deal of exaggeration and wishful thinking on both sides. In this post I shall try and distinguish between what is fact and what is speculation oropinion..  The facts quoted are based on the Springfield and Telford article summarised here and available in full in Prospect Magazine (January 2016).

The cost.

Brixit hope: we shall save our net contribution, which is generally agreed to be about £10bn per year.  Brexit likes to quote this daily outpouring, which I make to be about £2.7m a day.  (Oops!  Actually £27m a day.  Thanks to "Anonymous" - comment below - for this correction)

Fact: true, but Brexit also assume that we shall be able to continue trading with What  Remains of the EU (WREU) on favourable terms.  If we do so we shall have to pay, for the most favourable terms (the Norway option) about 90% of what we pay now, on less favourable terms (the Swiss option: tariff free access for goods but not for services) about 50%.

Opinion:   Being able to have  our cake and eat it seems rahter optimistic 

Trade with WREU after Brexit.

Brexit hope: the UK is an important market and WREU will be anxious to continue trading with us .

Fact: true, but they are a far more important market to us (45+% of our exports) than we are to them (c6% of their exports.)

Opinion:  WREU are likely to drive a hard bargain.  There is also a political factor: WREU will be anxious not to  encourage other countries which might be tempted to leave, so the bargain could be even harder that economics suggest pour encourager (or rather d├ęcourager) les autres.


Brexit hope:  Britain will reclaim control of its borders and be able to let in only those people we like.

Facts: 1) Both Norway and Switzerland have to allow freedom of movement  for EU citizens in order to obtain their favourable access to the market.  For reasons explained above WREU are unlikely to allow us favourable access without similar free movement.  So to close our borders to WREU citizens (other than those here already) we should have to trade with them on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms – that is, over the external tariff barrier.  Some estimates of the loss of trade under these circumstances rise to £3 000 per household per year.
2)  We already have theoretical complete control over our borders for people from the rest of the world.  The fact that the control is a bit leaky is not due to the EU, but to the parsimony of the British government in starving the Border Force of both person-power and funds.
3)  The refugee and asylum seeker crisis will continue whether or not we remain in the EU, and we are required to play our part in caring for refugees and asylum seekers, both by international treaty obligations and for reasons of common humanity.
4)  Economic migrants, simply seeking a better life, will continue to try to come to the UK, again whether we remain in or leave the EU.

Opinion: 1)  Brexit  would  limit the freedom of  British  citizens to work in WREU as well as vice versa.  This is particularly serious for academics, highly qualified professionals  and students, but also for apprentices, artisans (remember Auf Wiedersehen pet?) and humble bar staff (Tony Blair). 
2)  For refugees and asylum seekers clearly an international response is essential and the EU as it exists should play a part in negotiating an equitable response with other safe and peaceful havens. 
3)  For economic migrations we need to adopt a 21st Century approach.  With modern communications and relatively cheap international transport the days of closed borders are long past, even if they ever existed.  We need a controlled but fair approach which will require international co-operation.

Trade with the Rest of the World.

Brexit hope:  freed from the shackles of the EU we shall be able to expand our trading relations with the rest of the world, especially the growing markets of India, China and South America.

Fact:  Britain would not inherit the existing terms the EU’s bilateral trade deals with the rest of the world: all would have to be individually renegotiated.

Opinion:  this could take years, adding considerably to uncertainty.  And it is difficult to see how the UK alone, with a market size of only 66 millions, could negotiate better deals that the EU with over half a billion.

Red Tape.

Brexit hope:  freed from regulations imposed by the EU British industry and commerce will  flourish and expand.

Fact: there are very few facts available.  “Red tape” is a very vague term.  As the great judge Lord Bingham said of the European convention on Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU of course):  “Which of these rights would we wish to discard?”  In relation to red tape, some EU directives are mythical (bent bananas and cucumbers), others relate to workers' health and safety and conditions of employment, others to our environment, pollution, condition of our rivers and beaches etc.  A list of what Brexit would like to discard would help the debate.

Opinion: not mine, but that of the still existing and relevant Ed Miliband who in a speech on 22nd March warned Labour voters that if they fail to turn out and vote to keep Britain in the European Union on 23 June, the country will become a laboratory for a rightwing, free market experiment. (my emphasis)

So working class voters lured by the siren call of UKIP, be careful what you wish for.

Inward investment.

Brexit hope: since they say little about it, presumably they think it will be unaffected.

Fact: at present Britain is by far the EU’s largest recipient of foreign investment.

Opinion:  many foreign companies invest here, or place their headquarters here, because of the language. The Japanese are also apparently attracted by what they regard as cheap and plentiful golf courses. But surely without the main attraction of tariff free access to the EU market the UK will become less of a lure.   Banks, and all other companies for that matter, will have to obey EU regulations if they wish to continue to trade with WREU.  The “advantages” of banks remaining in the city of London in order to profit by lighter regulation should, after 2007/8, fill us with horror.


Brexit hope: freed from the Brussels bureaucracy we British will subject only to our own laws made by our own freely elected political representatives.

Facts: again there are rather a lot.
1) The influence of the EU affects nowhere near the “majority” of Britain’s laws, still less 75%, as is the more extreme Brexit claim.  The true figure is about 13%, on matters both great and small.
2)  Only 4 out of 121 laws passed by the last parliament were exclusively to implement EU law.
3)  The EU's procedures may not be a model of democracy, but the parliament is democratically elected and we British  are represented according to the size of our population.  When regulations are made by the Council of Ministers our minister is there and until recently he/she had to agree as unanimity was required.  Today in the areas where Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) is permitted he/she has the opportunity to argue the British case and win over the others.

Opinion: 1) Given that “our laws” are made by a lower house where the party with an over-al majority has the support of less than a quarter of the electorate and only 36% of those who voted, and the upper house is a collection of hereditary aristocrats and appointees of the present and previous prime ministers, it is difficult to argue that that our democracy is all that superior to that of the EU.

2) Just as John Donne so memorably pointed out that “no man is an island,” but we are all both enriched and constrained by others, so no country is free to act independently.  All countries are entangled by a mesh of international and bilateral treaties and agreements.  Many of us feel that the loss of sovereignty to unelected and profit motivated national and international industrial and commercial conglomerates is a more unacceptable  loss of sovereignty than the voluntary and formal “pooling of sovereignty” entered  into by arrangements with other countries, the EU, WTO and UN.

Monday 28 March 2016

The Easter Monday psalm

The psalm (62) set for Easter Monday in Thomas Cranmer's 1559 Prayer Book  contains the words (1559 spelling*)

". . .their delyght is in lyes; they geue good woordes with their mouth, but cursse with their harte."

The original psalm was probably composed  over a thousand years ago and written in Hebrew, but it could easily apply to our present government, so skilled in saying one thing and doing another. viz:

  • They say they believe in devolution to local government, but take away provision of  education, one of local government's main functions;
  •  they said there would be "no top down re-organisation" of the NHS, which would be "safe in  their hands" but they re-organise it, apparently in preparation for further privatisation, mismanage it and starve it of funds;

  • The say they want to maintain and even enhance Britain's international prestige, but but attack, starve and dismember the one institution, the BBC, which genuinely is "the best in the world and the envy of the world;"

  • and of course, they say "we're all in his together" yet take away from the poor, including the disabled, and cut taxes for the rich.

They and we should take heed of the warning given later in the same psalm:

"O trust not in wrong and robbery, geue not youreselues unto vanitie; yf ryches encrease, sette not your harte upon them."

* In the Prayer Book of 1662 (still in use in some enlightened churches) the spelling had become;

(v4). . .their delight is in lies; they give good words with their mouth, but curse with their heart.


(v10) O trust not in wrong and robbery, give not yourselves unto vanity : if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

The latest version (Common Worship, 2000) has :

(v4) . .lies are their chief delight; they bless with their mouth but curse with their heart.


(v10) Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take not empty pride; though wealth increase set not your heart upon it.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Social Security: reversal needed, not just a halt.

Yesterday, or maybe even the day before, the government announced hat it had dropped its proposal to reduce Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to the disabled, and had no plans for further cuts in expenditure on social security.  This enabled David Cameron to make, or rather re-make, the risible assertion  that his party  is one of Compassionate  Conservatism.

However, a stop to the rot, though welcome, is not enough.  For our society to deserve to be called civilised the damage that has been done to an already inadequate safety-net needs to be reversed.

 Under  "compassionate Cameron's" leadership, and  Iain Duncan Smith's stewardship:

  • the much delayed and so far incredibly wasteful Universal Credit system will, the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicts, leave 2.1 million families worse off  by an average of £1 600 per year;
  • the Work Capability Assessment  has been extended to cover  1.5 million people in order to reduce by 23% the numbers entitled to assistance.  So far 1 300 people have died within a short period of having been assessed as fit for work;
  • the Bedroom Tax, designed to encourage people in social housing to move to smaller premises if they had a spare bedroom, has so far  succeeded in persuading only 8% of those targeted to "downsize,"  largely becasue of the non-availability of smaller properties.  Most of these affected were disabled, and 75%  claim that they are forced to cut back on food;
  • the Benefits Cap (now £23 000 per family in London and £20 000 elsewhere), imposed regardless of family size or need, will force 40 000 children into poverty;. 
  • Sanctions, or the stoppage of social security payments for at least four weeks for missing appointments or other Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) rules, have increased exponentially;
  • an expensive Work Programme, largely administered by private companies such as G4S, fails to find long-term employment in 70% of cases;
  • the objective definition of Child Poverty (living in families with less than  60% of median income) has been changed to include more nebulous and more easily fudged criteria .
We are a rich society and we can well afford a social security  safety-net which enables all to live in dignity and without  fear of losing the basic physical necessities of life. As columnist Zoe Williams  wrote recently
( Zoe Williams, Guardian 21st March) :

. . . it is time to unpick the goal of social mobility, which is just a benign phrase for “survival of the fittest”. We need to concentrate not on a society where the ambitious can prosper, but build one in which the least economically productive still live in comfort and dignity. None of us is productive all the time, some of us aren’t productive any of the time – but we’re still as human as one another. This is an opportunity to make the point that freedom, for so long framed as the ability to compete and consume, is meaningless if your basic needs aren’t met. To chip away at any group’s means of sustenance is to be a government actively working against personal freedom.

Yes, of course there will be some "undeserving poor" who take a generous social security system for a ride, but they will be a tiny minority and we can afford it.  Much better to be ripped off by this tiny minority than punish the vast majority who through no fault of their own are unable to provide fully for themselves.

I've never yet me anyone who chose to be disabled.

Oh for a political party prepared to stand up to the Red Tops and tell it like it is.

Monday 21 March 2016

Duncan Smith's belated realisation

In his first budget in 2010 George Osborne, as Chancellor of the Exchequer,  raised the personal allowance for liability to pay income tax by £1000, thus putting £200 per year into the pockets of those people lucky enough both to have a job and to have a wage sufficient to make them liable to tax. However, he also  raised VAT, an indirect tax that impinges more on the poor than the comfortably-of, from 17.5% to 20%

 In the same budget Osborne:
  • switched the link for benefits payments form the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI);
  • froze child benefit for three years;
  • capped housing benefit:
  • introduced a new and more rigorous method of assessment for entitlement to the Disability Living Allowance.
Taken together, these changes were expected to remove £11bn from expenditure on social security by the end of the parliament.

In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister last week Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State responsible  for the social security system then and  for the whole of the next  six years, wrote:

 [Welfare cuts in the present budget] are not defensible in the way they are placed within a budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.


I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self-imposed restraints which I believe are more and more perceived  as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest.


There has been too much emphasis  on money-saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.

IDS concludes his letter by wondering "if enough has been done to ensure we are all in this together. "

What took him so long?.


Friday 18 March 2016

Academies: the not so hidden agendas

Once upon at time secondary schools in England were called either  just that, secondary schools, or high schools,or grammar schools.  Some posh ones (eg Eton) were called colleges.  There were also a few secondary technical schools or colleges, though, unfortunately these never really took off.  After the famous 1944 Education Act unselective secondary schools were called secondary moderns. The nomenclature didn't necessarily mean much.  Leeds Modern School, which Allen Bennett attended, was actually a highly selective academic school.

Scotland, which has a different education system (and examinations and degree courses) to England and Wales, called its secondary schools academies, which has a certain grandiose cachet, though as far as I know they were not necessarily selective. To English ears the title has a certain up-market sound and, when I took a group of boys on a youth-hostelling tour of Cornwall in the early 60s, when we got to Land's End and had a group photograph taken under the signpost with one arm pointing to "John O Groats, 874 miles"we filled in the personal arm with "Walford Academy 279 miles" as a joke because we were actually a secondary modern.

Too many people in this country, not just the government, seem to think that one sure-fire  way of improving something is to change its name.  So when the Windscale Atomic Power Station blew up we renamed it Sellafield. The Labour Government of Tony Blair hit on the idea of taking poor-performing secondary schools in deprived areas into their control and calling them academies.  I suppose their intentions were good: they wanted to give them bit of status.  The Conservative-led government of 2010-15 hi-jacked the idea and bullied all sorts of other schools into becoming  academies, ostensibly to "free them from local government control" and enable them to flourish under the sponsorship of some non-elected, sometimes charitable, often business-orientated, body.

In last Wednesday's budget it was announced that all schools, primary and secondary, are to be forced to become academies.  Why this decision should be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the finance minister, rather than the Secretary of State for Education, is a mystery, unless it gives a clue to the true motive for the change.

The excuse of "freeing the schools from  local government control" is a nonsense for two reasons.

The first, baldly, is that the powers of local authorities have been so stripped away by this and previous governments that they now have virtually no control over schools, or anything else for that matter: they just provide suitable fall-guys for when things go wrong.

Second, the idea that local authority control was stultifying is a complete myth.  Some authorities were highly innovative.  I was educated by, and worked during much of my career for, the West Riding County  Council, which under its Chief Education Officer, Sir Alec Clegg, was internationally famous, particularly for its work  at primary level.  The Leicestershire authority introduced Middle Schools, which were regarded as the bees knees for many years, were copied my many other authorities and were very popular with parents,  though they seem to have gone out of favour now.

No authorities had anything like complete control of the schools in their charge - they had representatives on the boards of governors who, among other responsibilities, decided on the curriculum to be followed.

All of them administered such routine  tasks as:
  • paying the teachers, maintenance, ground  and cleaning staff, looking after employment conditions, superannuation, sick and maternity pay, thus enabling heads and staff in the schools to concentrate on their true expertise, education the children;
  • bulk purchases of materials for the schools, which probably saved a lot of money;
  • planning for new schools as population movements demanded;
  • providing a supportive advisory service to heads, subject teachers and probationary teachers.  These  were normally genuinely helpful  and without the judgemental bullying ethos of OFSTED;
  • negotiating and administering purchases of land and contracts for new buildings, repairs, extensions and physical maintenance. 
The national government provided most of the money and "guidance."

With the latest move this successful partnership is to be completely destroyed.  There is no evidence that the schools under charitable and private sector "sponsors" are any more successful than those that remain within the local authorities.  There is plenty of evidence that some of these sponsor chains perform very badly and some, not necessarily the same ones , pay their directors and chief executives eye-watering salaries.

At the moment it is not permissible to run schools financed by public money for private profit.  It is hard to avoid the suspicion that this restriction will not last long.

A curious anomaly has emerged since the budget: parent governors are to be abolished.  This is odd coming from the party which since 2010 has made a policy priority of encouraging parents to set up so-called "free schools" according to local whim.

This compulsory "academisation" policy will lead to planning chaos, further downgrade local government and land us with a national education system with no local democratic accountability, more suited to a dictatorship than a mature democracy.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Follies great and small.

The Conservative government has now been in office for ten months and there seems to have been  something in the papers at least once a week which has filled me with alarm, despondence or despair.  Unfortunately I am not sufficiently well organised to keep a detailed list but here, in no particular order, is a selection:

1.  The Squeeze on the BBC.  This continues apace, with finding cuts resulting in staff reductions (30% in the television division), the removal of BBC 3 to "on-line only" and threats s to Radio 5 live and local radio.  The Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale has suggested that BBC1 should be "more distinctive" (ie less popular, and so attract a smaller audience and weaken ready for privatisation?).  The Conservatives, supposedly so concerned with Britain's international prestige, seem determined to destroy  what is is possibly the only remaining British institution that is still "the best in the world and the envy of the world."

2.  Local Environmental  Record Centres (LERCS). No, I hadn't hear of of them either, but there are 40 of them, funded by Natural England, for whom they act as "eyes and ears."  Their 128 paid staff, 500 volunteers in offices and tens of thousands of outdoor volunteers who record changes in the occurrence of insects, plants, wild life  and habitats in their spare time.  Just the sort of thing a wealthy and civilised country should be doing, even just or interests sake, but vital for proper records of the effects of climate change.  The cost to the public purse is a mere £205 000 but that will not be renewed next month.

This, I suspect, is just one  of dozens of other organisations doing worthy things which are being strangled by a government that pretends to believe in "the big society."

3.  The Denuding of the North.  The government was not directly involved in the Science Museum's decision to transfer the internationally important photography collection from Bradford to London, but the above-mentioned Mr Whitingdale has refused to intervene.  The move has been described as "cultural vandalism."  The government is, however, directly responsible for the closure of the Sheffield offices of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in order to create a "combined central HQ and policy centre in London."  So much of the "Northern Powerhouse."

4. The Green Investment Bank, one of the major Liberal Democrat achievements in the Coalition (even though its funding was very modest) is to be privatised and permitted to look for profit-maximising opportunities in other countries rather than concentrate on the greening of Britain.

5.  (Failing) attempts to "balance the books" by privatisations.  Our 40%  stake in Eurostar has been sold to a Canadian consortium.  the publicly owned and successful  East Coast was not even allowed to bid to continue running the trains on the east coast main  line. Our shares in Lloyds Bank and RBS are being sold to the private sector with the alternative of retaining at least one of these banks in public ownership with the remit to provide investment funds at at reasonable rate of interest to small and medium enterprises being ignored.  The OBR estimates that in the period of this parliament £32bn of public assets could be sold.

And still the books don't balance. And, when assets are sold abroad, the already yawning gap on the current account of the Balance of Payments is made even worse.

6.  Our democracy is threatened by the reduction in the Short Money available for the finance of opposition parties, and the Trade Union  bill to reduce the powers of employees representatives and to force union members to opt in rather than out of the political levy. The shameless bringing forward, against the advice of the independent Electoral Commission, of the new method for voter registration, will, without careful safeguards, disenfranchise thousands of mainly young and less affluent  voters (who are less likely to vote Tory).   This latter mover is presumably to distort the size of constituents  by number of voters in them and so skew the coming boundary revisions in favour of the Conservatives.

7.  The shortage of affordable homes continues, but the government's answer of "Help to Buy" with a 5% deposit and 20% equity loan will simply inflate the bubble in house prices and generate the house-price inflation on which much of our so-called economic recovery is based, rather than lead to an increased supply of houses.

8.  Outsourcing.  Government contracts worth billions continue to be given to private conglomerates of proven incompetence such as G4S (failure to provide security for the Olympics, so the public service army had to be brought in to do the job) and Serco ('Doncaster prison branded inadequate two years ago remains "very poor".'- BBC yesterday)    Why, oh why? 

10.  Sham devolution to Local Government. What is really being devolved is perceived responsibility for the effects of the cuts, and that, paradoxically, only on condition that we have an elected mayor, which the public of  Greater Manchester have voted against and our leaders in  Yorkshire are adamant that  we don't want.

And all the while the government ploughs on with grandiose follies such as  HS2, the Hinkley Point nuclear power station (to be built by the French and financed by the Chinese), a replacement for Trident (last week the government committed and additional £450m to this even thought the Commons vote on whether or not to go ahead has  yet to be held), disruption  the NHS as a preparation for further privatisation and operation an illiterate economic policy which inhibits recovery while rewarding the rich and punishing the poor.

And instead of debating these issues as a mature democracy should, we are sidelined  into a pointless debate on membership of the EU, on which David Cameron has gambled the future of our country in order to save his party.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Full marks for Sturgeon - yet again.

In an earlier post I have applauded Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon for by far and away the most sensible and constructing economic policy in last year's General Election.

Once again, amid the dreary claims and counter-claims of economic ruin or prosperity beyond compare bandied by the mainstream  "outers" and "remainers"  in England,  M/s Sturgeon has hit the jackpot.  In a speech on Monday she castigates David Cameron for running a "miserable , negative, fear-based" campaign in the referendum and pleads for a "positive and constructive case" for remaining in the EU, and in particular for the protection and improvement of "social benefits and employment rights."

Well, it's certainly wishful  thinking  to expect even a self proclaimed "compassionate conservative" to extol the virtues of social benefits and employment rights, but the rest of us in the "remain" campaign should be doing just that.  Indeed I believe we should go further and extract ourselves from a sterile debate on the economic effects of "in" or "out" and look to the wider implications.

These are set out in a wide-ranging article by  Charles Grant (like Springford and Telford, authors of Prospect article, summarised here, a member of the Centre for European Reform) in the New Statesman  (19th to 25th February, 2016).  Whilst recognising that the EU is far from perfect, indeed a "muddled and messy organisation  but in essence a community of law, [whose] chief mission is to spread the rule of law," Grant highlights that::

  1.  The EU is committed to "democracy, liberal values and the rule of law, at home and in the wider world" in a "model of development based on pluralism and human rights."
  2. The current refugee crisis clearly demands a co-operative approach which will require [decent] "reception centres. . .[a] scheme for sharing out bona fide asylum seekers" whilst "sending home swiftly" those rejected (unless war is raging in their countries)
  3. "EU  leaders must do what they can to tackle the root causes of the refugee flows." 
  4. The EU leaders are strong believers in global governance.  The US, because of its greater power, is less enthusiastic.  Hence:
  5. European leaders take a pre-eminent role in the UN, WTO  and international financial institutions.
  6. "[T]he EU has pioneered global efforts to limit carbon emissions" and on other environmental issues.
  7. "The EU and its member states have taken the lead in forging a host of arms control agreements. (The US, Russia and China have boycotted those on landlines and cluster munitions.  The US has not ratified  either the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).
  8. The EU has played an important role in trying to resolve many foreign policy issues:  Serbia v Kosovo (the UK's Catherine Ashton, as EU High Representative, played an important part in this); Somalia; Mogadishu; abandonment (we hope) of Iran's nuclear programme; Burma.
  9.  EU members' internal security is bolstered by Europol and the European Arrest Warrant.scheme.  (From another source I know of something called  Prum. a EU policing database from which can be accessed information, sometimes in seconds, which could take to UK force alone months or even years to discover).

    Well, those are some non-economic areas in which  membership of the EU enables us to achieve rather more effectively than we could do on our own.

    The article also asks us to consider what so far has not entered into the UK debate to any extent, the effect on the rest of the EU if the UK left.

     Clearly Eurosceptic, and often unpleasantly right wing,  factions in other countries would be energised, and, even if they did not succeed in "exiting" their countries,  the Union would be weakened. Whereas I think the declaration George Osborne says he had no part in engineering at the Shanghai summit of the G20, that a  Brexit could produce a sever shock to the world economy, is ridiculous hyperbole, it is not too fantastic to suppose that our departure might, just might, precipitate the disintegration of the European Union.

    So, just 71 years after we congratulated ourselves on playing a noble part in the rescue of Europe from tyranny,  by our selfish chauvinism we could  successfully torpedo  the enlightened  attempts to build a more law abiding, peaceful, co-operative  and creative continent.

    Even if the Union survives our departure, without us it will be more politically lopsided.  From the beginning Germany, for understandable reasons,  has tried to avoid a dominant leadership role.  At first a dual leadership of France and Germany was the norm.  After Britain's accession this became a trio (maybe a quad as Italy grew stronger).  But, after re-unification and as a result of their incredibly successful economy, Germany has become immeasurably stronger, and the leadership dominance they have struggled hard to avoid will be thrust upon if the  UK were not  there to help keep the balance.

     "Keeping the balance of power in Europe" has been the object of British foreign policy for centuries.  We should not opt out now.

    So rather than a "miserable, negative, fear-based"  campaign, I'd like to see we reaminers adopt an adaptation  of John F Kennedy's famous and inspiring call:

    "Ask not what the EU can  do for the UK, but what the UK can do for Europe."