Tuesday, 31 May 2016

More rebuttals

On zero VAT on fuel bills, and on parental leave, Caron Lindsay has this to say:

So, the latest salvo from the Leave camp is an assertion that the EU is stopping us from cutting VAT on domestic fuel.
There is one man amongst the ranks of the Brexiters who knows all about VAT on domestic fuel. That’s right. Step forward former Chancellor Norman Lamont. It was he who decided to put VAT on domestic fuel at the rate of 8% from April 1 1994. The EU didn’t force him to do this. He was doing it to cut public spending, something Tories have a bit of an obsession with. Not only that, but he would have been quite happy to raise it to 17.5% the year after.
Here’s a story from the Independent at the time where Mr Lamont is doing his usual Je ne regrette rien line.
Fellow now Brexiteer Michael Portillo, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, added his twopence worth:
And in an atmosphere of growing confusion, a damaging Commons row broke out last night after Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, suggested that poorer people would not suffer too much because of the ‘swings and roundabouts’of the Income Support system.
parliamentary briefing from 1997 gives more detail.
Member States are only permitted to charge zero rates which were in place on 1 January 1991. No Member State can introduce a new zero rate or reintroduce a zero rate once it has been abolished. Following the abolition of the zero rate on fuel & power on 1 April 1994, the UK may charge a rate as low as 5% on these supplies, but no lower.
Had Norman Lamont done the fair thing by the poorest households at the time, none of us would be paying any VAT on our fuel now. If people want someone to blame, he is your guy, not the EU. He knowingly introduced a tax that he knew could not be put back to zero because of a change in EU taxation law that the UK Government had agreed. If the Tory government had wanted to, it could have vetoed that clause. Did it? No.
This is not the only issue where Leave have tried to blame the EU for the Tories’ actions. Yesterday, Jo Swinson had to slap down Steve Hilton for saying that the EU tried to stop the coalition from offering extra parental leave. Jo was the minister who introduced shared parental leave, a key Liberal Democrat policy, and she says that it was the Tories who put paid to that idea. From the Independent:
Jo Swinson, a former business minister whose portfolio in the Coalition included women and equalities issues, told The Independent there was no “conceivable universe” in which the EU could prevent Britain from offering workers extra parental leave.
Ms Swinson said that far from campaigning for more time off for new mothers and fathers, the Conservatives actually “fought tooth and nail” against a Liberal Democrat initiative to extend parental leave.
She said her party, led by Nick Clegg, had wanted to follow a successful Scandinavian trial which saw men take up a fairer portion of paternal leave if a greater number of weeks were offered to the couple as a whole.
“Maybe he (Mr Hilton) was negotiating on his side and it was blocked by his Conservative colleagues,” she said.
“But in my time, it was very much the Conservatives who were fighting tooth and nail our attempts to make shared parental leave a success.
“The way EU directives work is that they set out a minimum number of weeks; if we wanted to offer more we would be able to,” she added.
“I was minister from 2012 and parental leave was in my portfolio. I do not understand in what conceivable universe it could be true that the EU ‘blocked’ plans here.”
We do know that the EU has done more to ensure workers’ rights than any Tory Government ever has, securing such things as maternity rights, paid holiday, and limiting the amount of hours you can be asked to work*.
Do Labour voters interested in workers’ rights really trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove with them? They have not been known for supporting them in the past. The EU, on the other hand, has a proven track record of delivery on that front.
On the "failed" currency: the euro was launched with a value of 69p in sterling; it is now worth 77p. Where is the failure?

On the failed eurozone: it grew 0.6% in the first three months of this year. The US economy grew slightly more - but on revised figures. Hardly a failure.

There have been economic disasters in constituent members of the zone: the Republic of Ireland, Spain and Greece, but these have been caused by reckless populist governments rather than the existence of the euro. Those failures have been more than counter-balanced by Germany, one of the most successful economies in the world, and seven other eurozone nations with a better government debt to GDP ratio.

On immigration: no Brexiteer has said that they would stop all immigration. Indeed, Tim Martin of Wetherspoon's has admitted that around 4% of his staff are immigrants, and he wouldn't want to stop them coming to work for him. Leaving the EU would not make any difference to the distressing casualties at sea, which are emotively used by Brexiteers as an argument. What is needed is a reversal in the cuts to the coastguard, together with an augmented and upskilled Borders Agency - but of course the latter steps need money, and Michael Gove wants to give up VAT on fuel bills as well as spending £350m/week on the English NHS. This is where we came in.

* I would add protection from dismissal on grounds of age and from being forced to work excessively long hours.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

It's good to have confirmation of the views in my last paragraph. Janet Street-Porter writes in today's Independent:

“The notion that we can 'hold back' the unprecedented wave of economic migrants and asylum seekers with a points-based immigration system, barbed wire or a few patrol boats is simplistic. The boat that pitched up in Dymchurch to pick up the 19 Albanians, when their original vessel started to sink, was bought for just £3,000 on eBay, and there are plenty of people who will pick up desperate migrants and charge them £8,000 each for the trip.

“The police disbanded its dedicated marine unit in 2014, and we currently have just three Border force vessels patrolling 7,700 miles of British coastline. The English Channel is the busiest shipping route in the world, and crossing in a small craft is hazardous. But the route is short, compared to 190 miles from Africa to Italy.

“As the summer progresses, people living near the Kent, Essex and Sussex coast can expect to see more abandoned boats with discarded lifejackets on board. The only way to control immigration is by combining forces with other countries within the EU and deciding on a common strategy. Going it alone is utterly doomed.”