New York Times columnist Roger Cohen has waded into the UK’s ‘Brexit’ debate. He opened his article, published yesterday, by incorrectly and provocatively describing those of us who are critical of the UK’s position in the European Union (EU) as “little Englanders”.
In fact those of us campaigning for a ‘Brexit’ are actually pushing for the UK to re-engage internationally – to re-establish a more global vision for trade and diplomacy (hence the slogan “Out Of the EU – Into the World”, Roger!)
Our membership of the EU has meant that we have been myopically focussed on our own continent and ignored the other six for far too long.
Cohen says that we Eurosceptics “see the 19-member eurozone mired in the agony of its flawed creation. Look at the whole European Continent, with its sluggish economies and myriad regulations” and in this he is correct – the Eurozone and the European Union are both ‘flawed creations’ and this is increasingly obvious to anyone who keeps up with current events.
He asserts, however, that the observable facts are “all baloney… fanned by the Murdoch press”.
Ironically, this is the same Mr Cohen who wrote an article called “In Defense of Murdoch” in which he praised Murdoch’s “loathing for elites, for cosy establishments and for cartels”, and Murdoch’s “no-holds-barred journalism”. He said: “If you add everything up, he’s been good for newspapers over the past several decades, keeping them alive and vigorous and noisy and relevant. Without him, the British newspaper industry might have disappeared entirely,” concluding, “the British media scene without Murdoch would be pretty impoverished”.
Even so, the “Murdoch press” is hardly eurosceptic. Murdoch’s the Sun, the Times, and Sky News all showed anti-UKIP bias on the run up to the UK General Election, and the Times has even published an op-ed by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker today. Hardly the staple of those wishing to fan the flames of Euroscepticism.
Cohen describes my party – UKIP – as “anti-immigrant hatemongers”. In this, Mr Cohen is wrong, and offensively so.
It is true that UKIP has long called for more strictly managed migration, but in this we are reflecting the views of the British public, and indeed calling for a return to how Britain’s immigration system has looked for… basically forever. Only since Blair in 2004 have we had open borders, and we’ve seen how it has overwhelmed our public services. I’d invite Mr. Cohen to come and see for himself. I could take him on a tour of where I’m from: Bootle, in the North of England.
And UKIP would not seek to end all immigration. We’re not “anti-immigrant” no matter how much it suits the New York Times‘s readership to paint us as such. We simply want an Australian-style points based immigration system which would attract the best and brightest people from all across the world and not discriminate against non-white people (from outside the EU) in favour of white people from inside the EU (which is what our system does now). Which policy is more likely to “hatemonger”?
But I don’t really care what Mr Cohen calls me or others in the UKIP team. It’s the main thrust of his article that is the real insult. An insult to the millions of decent, patriotic people who vote for our party, many of whom are from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Like many Europhiles, Mr Cohen asserts as fact that “the European Union has been good for Britain” without supplying any hard facts as to why he believes that is the case.
He cites UK trade with the European Union member states, but no serious commentators doubt that this will continue unabated whatever happens in this referendum.
Cohen piles on the insults by saying that “Britain is a significant pygmy”. I would counter that by saying that the United Kingdom is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, our military is in the top ten in the entire world in terms of strength, and the UK has the world’s 5th largest economy – some “pygmy”.
And then he cites Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, but overlooks a recent speech in which Mr. Carney said “increased economic and financial openness means the UK economy is more exposed to economic and financial shocks from overseas. As a result of closer integration within the EU and, more recently, with the euro-area crisis, this may have increased the challenges to UK economic and financial stability. Most recently, challenges arising from European Monetary Union (EMU) have been particularly evident.”
Cohen states that upon exit, the UK “wants to remain part of a single market… but would no longer have any say in how that market is shaped.”
This is a bold and incorrect assertion, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the EU. Most EU rules he refers to are handed down from global bodies such as the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the International Monetary Fund, G20 meetings and the Basel committee (to name a few) and transcribed into single market rules.
Outside the EU, the UK would have more influence on these bodies, able to reshape harmful rules or block them well before they ever reach Brussels. For instance we could finally speak for ourselves at the WTO instead of letting Eurocrats do it for us.
As a journalist, I do not expect Mr. Cohen to know as much about these issues as I do in my role as a Member of the European Parliament – but his journalism is particularly lazy.
When the UK votes to leave the European Union, the nations of Europe will continue to co-operate through the Council of Europe, Interpol, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the other bodies.
When we leave, it will be for the most part business as usual – the nations of Europe with continue to trade with each other and work together – superficially little will seem to have changed at first.
The main difference will be that upon ‘British Exit’, ultimate responsibility for the future of the UK will rest with our elected politicians in Westminster, not unelected commissioners in Brussels.
That point alone makes the choice clear – we must vote to leave a troubled union and re-engage with it from now on, as friends and good neighbours.
Paul Nuttall is a Member of the European Parliament and Deputy Leader of the UK Independence Party