Why Brexit?

The vote to leave the European Union opens up the UK to a fair, liberal, and global future, where we trade and cooperate with the entire world. Brexit is an opportunity to create a network of global free trade deals, a fair immigration system, and a more democratic political system.

Let’s be clear, the EU is not some progressive globalised body. It is a protectionist organisation designed to promote intra-European trade at the expense of trade with the other 169 countries of the world. It prevents the UK from conducting free trade deals with growing economies outside the EU, and with our traditional global allies. The Common External Tariff means that European good and services are made to seem cheaper by pricing out other markets.

As a globalist, outward-looking nation, the Brexit vote mandated us to seek to secure free trade deals, not just with the EU27, but with the wider world. We will be able to secure fair trade deals with the growing economies of the world: China, India, Brazil etc.; and with our traditional Commonwealth and Anglosphere allies. If we are to truly be a part of a globalising world then it is also important to have a seat at the top table, which means increasing our influence from simply being 1/28th of a voice in organisations like the WTO.

Brexit also presents us with an opportunity to establish a fairer, more liberal immigration system. If we accept that there has to be some form of upper limit on immigration (whatever number we set that at), then free movement of labour within Europe is inherently illiberal because it reduces the opportunities for people from non-EU nations to come and work in the UK, simply based on the passport that they hold. We should use the opportunity presented by Brexit to ensure that our immigration system is based on the person, not their nationality. It is not just, fair, or liberal to propose a system that requires us to discriminate against people based on their result in life’s first great lottery.

This is a chance to reclaim and strengthen our democracy. Brexit removes the impact of an unelected supranational body on our legislation, and instead returns important competencies to the UK’s legislative system. Increased power for Parliament should see powers that currently exist at national level passed down to regional governments, creating a system where the decisions that affect Southampton get made by a Southampton government that is much more convenient for you to lobby and influence, and by representatives who can be swayed by a much smaller group of people (as they have smaller constituencies).

It also brings an impetus for democratic reform. We have seen people examine the House of Lords with more scrutiny already during the Brexit process, and ask important questions about how much constitutional power the executive and the judiciary should have, and that sort of deliberation can only be a positive thing with regards building a representative and effective democracy, and eradicating further democratic deficits.

Britain can use this opportunity to retake our place on the global stage. A global Britain trading, working, cooperating with our European friends and neighbours and with our global allies. Taking the lead on security cooperation within and outside of Europe. Cooperating on global issues as a whole voice, rather than as a tiny part of one.

Brexit is about ensuring that we create a global Britain, with global free trade, a fair and liberal immigration system, and a better democracy.

The Case Against Freedom of Movement with Europe

Free movement of people within the European Union is often held up as a bastion of modern liberalism. This article starts with a single premise upon which the argument that follows is based: the idea that there is (however high or low you set it) some maximum limit on immigration which is desirable in any given year – whether that number is 100 million, or 10,000, the argument holds simply under a pragmatic assertion that it is desirable to have some upper limit on immigration.

The question that follows then, must be: what is the fairest system to determine who can enter the country? Whatever form this system takes, traditional liberal values indicate a number of crucial criteria it must fulfil. There must be a fair and equitable chance for all people who apply to enter the UK to be successful. Most importantly, there must be equality before the law: an ideal, fair and just system of immigration doesn’t take into account your race, gender, or (and here’s the crux of the problem) your nationality.

Just as it is wrong for Donald Trump to issue an arbitrary ban on people from a specific country (or, in the case of his campaign rhetoric, a specific religion), so it is wrong to give preferential treatment to some people over others, simply because of the passport that they hold. The very same people who have been quick to call out Donald Trump on the illiberalism of banning the citizens of seven countries from entering the United States have been less keen to address the hypocrisy of supporting the latter position, indeed, calling the alternative policy illiberal, or xenophobic, or racist.

There’s but one simple problem in the European Union model of immigration: free movement of people means that, if you accept the condition previously outlined about a maximum upper limit, people from 27 countries are prioritised over those from the other 169 nations. This passport discrimination, whereby you give people from some countries a privileged immigration system compared to people from other countries, is inherently illiberal as it violates that crucial condition of equality before the law. If you believe that people from Europe should possess such a privileged position with our immigration system, then by all means continue to support free movement with Europe and a more closed system with the rest of the world.

On the other hand, if you believe that all people, regardless of their result in life’s first great lottery, should have equality before the law in our immigration system, then you have one of two choices. You can choose to defend and advocate free movement of people from all countries, which seems to have significant practical and pragmatic limitations (not to mention violating the condition previously set out); or you can choose to advocate a position that would see all people face the same system of immigration, regardless of whether they come from Berlin or Brazzaville.

It doesn’t seem a fair system to say that someone from Europe should be prioritised over someone from one of the other 169 nations. Ultimately that is the main problem with a liberal justification of free movement of people within the European Union, in that it creates a situation where people are judged initially by their nationality in whether or not they can live and work in the UK. If we end free movement of people, it doesn’t mean that there has to be less immigration – the debate about how high or low the desired level of immigration is still has to be made – but it does mean we will have an inherently fairer, more just immigration system, that looks at who people are and not where they are from.

An immigration system which emphasises equality before the law seems to be the only fair, just, and liberal system. An immigration system which considers people on who they are and not the flag they were born under seems to be the only reasonable, non-discriminatory, and liberal system. An immigration system where your result in life’s first great lottery doesn’t improve or decrease your ability to live and work in the UK is the only justifiable one.

Lessons from 2016

2016 has been a year which has challenged the traditional political consensus. Brexit was delivered against all odds – a victory for all those who had campaigned against the undemocratic nature of the European Union, the unfair system of immigration it created whereby people from 27 countries are prioritised over people from the other 169, and the restrictions on policy choices available to British voters at the ballot box that membership of the EU brings with it. That victory, in spite of the ad hominem insults thrown at Leave voters, should teach valuable lessons on how to conduct a campaign in 2017.

The ultimate difference between the Leave campaign and the Remain campaign was twofold: the Leave campaign was positive and optimistic; and the Remain campaign offered very little by way of emotive arguments. The oft-quoted phrase that summed up the referendum (and perhaps 2016 as a whole) was Michael Gove’s quip: ‘People in this country have had enough of experts’. This is not strictly true, but what is true is that people don’t respond well to simply being told they should support a cause because they should – they want to be given an emotive reason why they should back it.

2016 has shown us the need for political campaigns to make an argument that combines emotive and logical reasoning – it isn’t enough to simply assume that people agree with your positions, you have to persuade them to agree with you. Likewise 2016 proved, once and for all, that negative campaigning is ineffective – particularly if people don’t believe what you are telling them. Merely having the support of an ‘expert’ isn’t sufficient to win you an election, and likewise fear and negativity (the weapons of choice of the Remain campaign and Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign) aren’t as impactful as a positive, optimistic message.

The election of Donald Trump also compounded the argument that governments need to do more to prove they are listening to the will of the people. While Brexit vindicates David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum on EU membership, as it proves the demand for a referendum was overwhelming more accurately than any opinion poll; Donald Trump is a reflection of an American establishment that has systematically failed to respond to its voters. Barack Obama was elected as a force for change in 2008, and so it was in 2016. Moreover, Trump’s election proved that insulting supporters of your opponents is unlikely to convince them to change their minds.

What does that mean for 2017?

The reactions of many to Brexit and Trump suggests they haven’t learn the primary message of 2016: voters need to be convinced of your position through discussion and debate, however objectively correct you think you may be. Those of us who believe in the value of democracy and tolerance have to work harder than ever to defend them.

2017 will see big electoral chances for Le Pen in France, Wilders in the Netherlands, and Alternative für Deutschland in Germany. Those fighting against them would do well to learn the lessons of 2016: when making the case against a populist demagogue, make it with passion, conviction and logic, and don’t insult those you are seeking to convert.

Brexit Means Letting Theresa May get on With it

The impact of uncertainty on an economy has never been more apparent than in the case of the Brexit vote. Nothing has changed since the vote – the UK remains in the European Union, Article 50 has not been activated, and no deal for departure has been agreed – and yet the markets have already been through turbulence. That turbulence is not because of Brexit – it is because of the uncertainty that has been allowed to permeate the markets.

When you have six months of being told that the markets will crash and there will be a recession after a Brexit, then the likelihood is that, in the event of a vote for Brexit, you will assume the markets will crash, and accordingly sell stocks and shares and stockpile resources rather than investing – you would also be much less likely to pile investment and consumer spending into the economy. As a result of that withdrawal of investment, the markets will decline and GDP will be lower than expected – thus compounding the impression that Brexit will lead to market decline and recession, and resulting in a downwards spiral of investment and growth.

That downwards spiral is why stability and certainty are so important. We have seen the markets become significantly less volatile following the conclusion of the Conservative leadership election on July 11th, with the election of Theresa May providing stability and giving confidence to investors and businesses. May’s election in particular was important, with her record in government meaning that she has the experience needed to guide Britain to Brexit, as opposed to the much less experienced Andrea Leadsom.

Equally important to achieving a successful Brexit will be May’s quick dismissal of any suggestion of a snap election. Accusations that the Conservatives do not have a mandate to implement Brexit are unfounded – the manifesto to which the British people gave a mandate in 2015 include a commitment to hold a referendum and ‘honour the result’, meaning that the Conservative Party were explicitly given a mandate to implement either the deal to Remain in the EU or the necessary legislation according to a vote to Leave.

A snap election is not only unnecessary, but would also have the effect of causing political instability at a time when Parliamentarians should be working together to achieve the best deal for Britain in Europe. There might have been a political advantage to calling an election when the Labour Party are in disarray, but Mrs May deserves great credit for not giving in to the temptation to prioritise political advantage over achieving the most stable Brexit possible.

The delay to the activation of Article 50 has caused great consternation amongst many staunch Leave voters, but the logic behind such a delay is sound. If Theresa May can build good relations with the international actors who will be crucial to discussions about post-Brexit Britain, then the government can ensure that there is a clear, concise and coherent plan in place for Brexit negotiations and a clear end goal, before discussions start with the activation of Article 50. Having such a plan in place means that negotiations can be focussed on achieving the best deal for Britain and ensure that no important areas get overlooked – it also means the process from official declaration of our intention to exit to departure from the EU will likely be a lot quicker. Such stability and long term benefits are worth the costs of a short term delay in the activation of Article 50.

Another idea that has been floated – most notably by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron – is to have a second referendum on the terms of any deal on Brexit. While this works conceptually and certainly seems like an idea that provides real power for the people to decide on the terms of Brexit, it is an idea which is inherently flawed in its execution. If, which is not what is being proposed, there were a referendum on the goals of the negotiation, then that might be an idea with a sound basis, unfortunately however, the idea of a second referendum once terms have been agreed is not one with any sound footing at all.

First off, the timeframe such a referendum would require would be prohibitive to constructive negotiations. If we have a referendum at the end of the two year negotiation period, then we will have had to present a deal to the British public around four months before such a referendum, meaning that we lose four months from an already tight window to negotiate a new deal.

Alas that is not the largest problem with Mr Farron’s proposal, the problem more comes from a logical paradox within his assertions. In essence, in order for a deal to have been negotiated on which to hold a second referendum we will have had to trigger Article 50 and thus have begun the inevitable process of departing from the EU. In that circumstance, were Mr Farron’s referendum to return a result of ‘Remain in the European Union’, we would have to reapply for membership of the EU via Article 49 – during which time our Article 50 negotiation window will presumably expire and we will leave the EU without a deal, which would cause further uncertainty and instability.

If we vote to Remain through Article 49, will Farron then demand a referendum on the terms of re-entry? The argument could go on and on. As no such referendum on ‘accept deal or remain on current terms’ is possible, why is Farron continuing to promote uncertainty by pushing for such a referendum?

Stability means that Brexit works, if we all come together and fight for the Brexit deal that works for all of us and provides as much stability as possible, then Theresa May will be right: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make it work’.

Catalan Independence Could Reverberate Far Beyond North-Eastern Spain

It may have gone unnoticed by the majority of the international media, but a decision taken by a regional Parliament in north-eastern Spain in the last week could have a profound effect on the future of both Europe, and the world. The Catalan government have set out their long awaited roadmap to a unilateral declaration of independence for Catalonia; despite all of the various and extensive attempts by the Spanish establishment to keep Catalonia in Spain at all costs. Since 2009, a series of referenda across the separatist region have shown overwhelming support for an independent Catalan state – most noticeably a 2014 referendum, which put support for independence at 80%.

With a weakened Spanish government and a strong mandate for independence, Catalonia has never been in a better position to wrest its future from Spain. However, both Catalan independence and the nature of it could have far-reaching consequences for Europe, the European Union and the world at large.

Most notably, it will have vast and destabilising effects on the Spanish state as a whole. Catalonia represents around 20% of the country’s economy, and considering the current state of the Spanish economy the resultant uncertainty and loss of business and industry would cause a severe, deep, and long-lasting recession. 16% of Spain’s populace reside in Catalonia, and so Catalan independence would further reduce Spain’s attractiveness as a marketplace and decrease the likelihood of businesses relocating to Spain. With a huge national debt and the inevitable uncertainty that would follow Catalan independence for Spain, the cost of borrowing for Spain’s government will increase, pushing up interest rates and crowding out private investment – increasing the risk of further bailouts.

Further political uncertainty in Spain would be highly likely as a direct result. Separatist movements in the Basque Country (including the states of Basque Country and Navarre) and Galicia will be emboldened at the prospect of the planned Catalan secession, and its unilateral nature will provide other separatist movements in Spain with a roadmap to independence. Additional concern for the government will be the future of the Valencia region – with a significant Catalan and pro-Catalan populace potentially demanding future unification with a pan-Catalan state. Considering the federal nature of the Spanish state, potential destabilisation is a serious threat to the integrity of the country as a whole – particularly considering their present political and economic uncertainty.

Catalan independence will have a serious impact on the map of Western Europe, in ways that we haven’t seen since the stabilisation of European borders following World War II. As well as the massive impacts on Spain, Western Europe will feel Catalan independence most acutely. French Catalans would be enticed by the prospects of a pan-Catalan state; while they have not previously been as politically active as their Spanish compatriots, a unilaterally declared independent Catalan state on the borders of French Catalonia would undoubtedly lead to demands in Southern France for unification between the Catalan regions.

Additionally, in the same way that Spanish separatist movements will be emboldened by a unilateral independence declaration, independence movements across Europe will receive a boost. Scottish independence was tipped to spark separatism in Flanders, Brittany and Bavaria, but the consequences of a unilateral declaration in Catalonia against the will of a hostile state will be far more far-reaching. The independence movements in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Flanders and Bavaria – as well as many others across Western Europe – will be boosted, and more established separatist areas like Northern Cyprus, Kosovo and Abkhazia will have a renewed legitimacy for their own unilaterally declared independent states.

The diplomatic consequences will also be far-reaching. Recognition of the Catalan state will be vitally important for it to be able to succeed and for it to gain access to organisations like the United Nations. However, this recognition would be in direct contravention of the wishes of the Spanish government, and as such the likelihood of an unrecognised de facto independent state in Western Europe would become a genuine prospect. The Catalan state could end up in the same sort of diplomatic quagmire that surrounds Palestine, Kosovo and Taiwan. Economic turmoil in Spain would raise further questions about Spanish membership of the Euro and the EU as a whole, and we could see the same sort of debates about ‘Spexit’ as we did over Grexit.

Internationally, the prospect of Catalan independence would likely lead to the continuation of the independence movements suppressed over the last twenty years, and may spark a run of newly unilaterally declared independent states not seen since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In addition, if Catalonia is successful in its pursuit of unilateral independence and in securing recognition thereafter, then we may well see the return of unilateral declarations of independence in the long run as a legitimised method of secession.

Catalan independence is likely to send ripples through the international community that will have a profound impact on Western Europe, the European Union and the world. Indeed, separatists in Scotland would undoubtedly take heart from the prospect of Catalan independence. On the other hand, the risk of international reverberations is not a reason to oppose an independent Catalan state.

Catalonia has an economy the size of Ireland’s and an independent Catalonia would come in at the 40th largest economy in the world. Their economy (unlike Scotland’s which is of a similar size) is based on a diverse mix of tourism, financial services, and manufacturing. Catalonia has its own stock market, and significant pre-existing infrastructure. It is also relatively populated and contains one of the world’s largest and most prosperous cities in Barcelona. Culturally, Catalonia is very different to Spain – Catalan people identify as Catalan and they have their own language. All of this together, means that there is a compelling case for an independent Catalonia; regardless of the international effects.

It may not be in the international media, but Catalan independence could spark the largest change in the international landscape in recent times – either way, the state of Catalonia seems to be marching inexorably towards independence, and if it does go down this path of unilateral independence that its Parliament has laid out, then Europe, the EU and the world will feel the effects reverberate out from North-Eastern Spain.

Brexit Means Brexit – How Theresa May Should Make It Work

When Theresa May took office yesterday afternoon, her opening speech set out a series of radical reforms to Britain that she will deliver over the next four years. Arguably her most important statement of the last week, however, is the one she made on Tuesday: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it’. With the appointments of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to her cabinet early on, it is clear that that statement was more than hyperbole, so here is what Theresa May might consider doing to ensure that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit.

If we are to deliver the Brexit that the country voted for, then we need to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Brexit requires real unity if we are to make it work, and securing that unity will be one of Mrs May’s toughest challenges. Within the Conservative Party (both its Parliamentary members and the membership as a whole), Theresa May has already embarked upon her unity drive. To continue to secure that unity, May will need a Cabinet which encompasses the most competent MPs from both sides of the Remain/Leave divide, and she will need to convince Party members that she is truly committed to delivering on Brexit.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be included and consulted as part of the negotiations on how our post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look. We are a family of nations in the United Kingdom – sometimes in a family decisions get made that not everyone agrees with, but what we must do now is ensure that we have an open and honest dialogue with all of our regions to ensure that we get a Brexit that works for all of us. The appointment of Ruth Davidson to the Privy Council last night was an interesting signal that there will be a cross-nation Brexit team, however it remains an important fact that – whether you like her or not – Nicola Sturgeon must have a representative at the table if we are to ensure true unity post-Brexit.

Many young people feel let down by Brexit, and it is they who will be affected by the future direction this country takes. We need to involve young people in the Brexit process – remembering that a significant number of (albeit less vocal post-referendum) people aged 18-24 voted to Leave as well as those who voted Remain. It would make sense, therefore, for May’s government to create a body of young people who could be consulted on the negotiations and the sort of package young people want to see delivered. MPs are, by the nature of life and their jobs, not able to be in touch with the Students’ Unions and the classrooms to the same extent that young people are. If we created a panel of young people, from both the Leave and Remain camps, who could go out and garner opinions on the best post-Brexit strategy for young people, then we would ensure unity in one of the most affected groups, and it would also be a terrific statement by Mrs May, that in her government, young people have a voice.

A Parliament united behind the Brexit package is so much more powerful than one fighting over every little amendment. To garner Parliamentary unity is no easy thing – as the Cameron/Clegg coalition premiership showed us – but garner it we must if we are to deliver a Brexit that will unite the country. Just as with all of the groups in our society being included, and all of the nations in our country being included, all of the parties in our Parliament must be included in the decision about what sort of deal to pursue. Including members from Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and all of the other Parliamentary parties would be another bold statement from Mrs May that Brexit is bigger than party politics.

The Brexit that Theresa May delivers will define her premiership. Regardless of whatever else she delivers, she has been charged by the Conservative Party with securing the best deal for Brexit and her legacy will depend on that deal. She needs to deliver unity to a divided nation – removing hatred towards others (be they of a difference race, class, gender or political position), dismissing this idea of ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’, and delivering a Brexit that works for all. As Theresa May says, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – if she’s going to make a success of it, then we need unity now more than ever.

On Polling Day

Today you and I will cast the most important vote of our lives. This is a vote which will affect all of our futures, and with that in mind I urge you not to vote on personalities or short term decisions. Don’t vote to Remain because you ‘don’t trust the Tories’, you will never get this opportunity again – if you don’t trust the Conservatives then vote them out in 2020, but do not base a decision which will affect your future on who is currently in power. Remember that you are not electing Vote Leave into office.

A vote for Leave is not a vote for Farage or Gove or Boris, in the same way that I would not tell you a vote for Remain is one for Cameron or Osborne or Corbyn or that it is a vote for Jean-Claude Juncker and his contempt for democracy. It is a vote to say that in the home of liberal democracy we think legislation needs to be made by people elected by, and accountable to, the people.

I will be voting for a future where the people with the formal powers to make our laws are people who we can see, hold to account, and vote out. I will be voting for a future where the electorate of the United Kingdom can influence our immigration policy. Whatever immigration policy you want to see – be that open borders or a points system or some other system – you should be able to influence that at the ballot box. A vote for Leave is not one for less immigration, it is one for choice – do we want our elected government to set our policies, or do we want it dictated to us by an unelected Commission?

I will be voting for a future where the businesses I work for can trade in every country of the world, not just the 27 states of the European Union. I will be voting for a future without a regressive Common External Tariff cutting us off from the rest of the world. I will be voting for a future where Britain is a strong voice, not one voice drowned out in the din of another 27. A vote for Leave is not one for isolation, it is one for globalism – do we want to trade freely with the EU and the world, or are we content just to trade with the EU?

We do not need a political union to have cooperation with Europe – cooperation between the United Kingdom and the EU27 does not need membership of the European Union. Whatever happens today there will be cooperation on security, there will be cooperation on research, there will be cooperation on climate change – that is not in dispute. I will be voting for a future where we can take the lead on global cooperation alongside European cooperative efforts.

When you go to the polls today, don’t vote with fear – vote with hope. Don’t base a decision that will affect your whole future on a government that you can change in 2020. Where the only body with formal legislative powers is unelected, you can never change their decisions and you can never hold them to account. Governments come and go – vote for democracy.

When you go to the polls today, don’t vote based on personality – vote for the future. It is not an election – a vote to Leave is not a vote for Boris and co., it is a vote for your future.

When you go to the polls today, vote Leave.

On Britain

We live in a great nation. From Shakespeare to the Sex Pistols we have been at the forefront of world culture for thousands of years. We have led the world in engineering and science – Brunel, Faraday, Newton are just a collection of the brilliant minds who have guided international advances in technical and scientific theory. Britain adopted democratic principles before any other and in Britain we saw the birth of the Enlightenment. We saw the invention of football, golf, tennis and many others (even if our sporting abilities since then have been mixed!).

The United Kingdom has always led and we will continue to do so regardless of how we vote tomorrow. We have always been a world power and we will continue to be one regardless of how we vote tomorrow. The choice then, is not between ‘Big Britain in Europe’ or ‘Little England on its own’ but between ‘Britain as one voice in Europe’ or ‘Britain as a leading voice in the world’. In the European Union our influence is diminished. They have already spoken of how we are a bit-part player in their discussions, one voice drowned out among the din of 27 others.

Britain is, and always has been, a world leader. We will continue to be a world leader outside of the EU. Let us not talk Britain down and pretend that we wouldn’t be able to survive outside of the European Union – that is not in dispute. As the fifth largest economy in the world, we would be able to trade with every economy in the world – it is a simple fact that trade occurs when it is mutually beneficial, and trade with the fifth largest economy in the world is always mutually beneficial.

Those who say that we wouldn’t be able to trade with the EU fail to grasp that we make up 16% of their exports – the Remain campaign have been throwing around some vague figure of ‘only 3% of their GDP’ in the misunderstanding that a) a market growing at less than 1% per annum can afford the lose 3% of their GDP per annum; and b) that GDP is reflective of the effects of trade. 16% of the EU’s exports come to Britain – then the EU gains a multiplier effect which increases GDP further. In addition, around 12% of the EU’s imports come from Britain – meaning that the imposition of tariffs would reduce living standards by decreasing the amount European citizens can buy. Does trade sound mutually beneficial to you?

We are an economic powerhouse, so shall we stop pretending that we will be in ruins if we leave the EU. Trade with the EU and the rest of the world without having to pay the Common External Tariff will make us even more of a powerhouse. Diplomatically we are a world power. We drove through the climate talks and climate legislation that has guided international reform. Britain can stand on our own two feet and be a global player, driving global diplomacy and global cooperation, or we can be content to be one voice amongst twenty eight.

As the nation from whence the very ideals of democracy and liberalism emerged, it is time to become globalising liberals once again. Liberals have fought for tolerance and freedom of expression – rather than banning parties from speaking, let them speak and prove them wrong. Liberals have fought for strong formal democratic processes – ensuring formal powers are wielded by a government of the people, by the people, for the people, and not by some unaccountable and unelected group of 28. Liberals have fought for reducing barriers to trade and increasing globalisation – not some regressive customs union designed to protect the EU28 from competition.

I am proud to be from a country with such a strongly liberal history. A history of upholding democracy and toleration. Britain is a country worth fighting for – we are a strong and successful country and will continue to be one regardless of how we vote tomorrow. That being said, we can do so much better.

To paraphrase one of the greatest (and possible most apt) speeches from a British Prime Minister – this relationship with Europe has become a bad relationship. It has become a relationship based on the EU taking what it wants and ignoring those things that matter to Britain (like wide-scale reforms). The fact that the EU’s answer to the possibility of Brexit has not been to say, ‘But we work together so well and we can do so much together’, but rather the embattled cry of, ‘You’d be nothing without us’, says volumes about our relationship.

We are a great country. Inside the EU, outside the EU, we will still be a great country. Tomorrow, choose to realign our relationship with the EU. It’s not a case of Little England vs Big European – it is a simple choice between a Britain working, trading and cooperating with just the EU – or a Britain working, trading and cooperating with the EU and the world.

On Immigration

Anyone who has been a regular reader of my writing during this campaign will notice that I have never given a firm stance on immigration. It is clear that immigration is an important issue within the referendum, but I do feel that the discourse on both sides has not reflected the realities of immigration. I am a firm believer that immigration can be a positive thing, but for me the problem with a Remain vote is twofold. Firstly, the way the EU imposes an immigration system upon the UK – and secondly the discriminatory nature of that system.

When the government of the United Kingdom is elected on a pledge to implement a specific set of immigration targets, it should be able to meet those targets. The commonly held belief in this country is that there needs to be a cap on the level of immigration. Whether you agree with that or not, that is what the Conservative Party was elected to do. It is fundamentally against the principles of democracy that a government elected with such a pledge should be prevented from achieving its mandated policies.

It is the same with any form of immigration system – regardless of which party is elected into office, regardless of their stance on immigration or their political viewpoint, there is only one set of decisions on immigration open to our government: free movement from the EU, and then a choice about non-EU migration. It is not democratic to have such a system in place, which elected governments cannot change.

We have to remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – if you feel strongly about open borders, do not make that your sole reason to vote Remain. This referendum is not a choice between open borders or closed borders. It is not a choice between immigration or no immigration. It is quite simply a choice between choice or no choice. It is a decision over whether you think that the British public should have a say in our immigration system, or whether you think that system should be dictated to us.

If you want open borders, don’t vote to Remain in the EU to guarantee them but take part in a democratic debate on immigration. Voting Leave does not mean supporting a system of less immigration, it means supporting the idea that the British electorate should be able to elect a government with the immigration policy they wish to see – be that a points-based system, be that open borders, or be that any system in between. You are not voting for a specific immigration system on June 23rd, you are voting for democracy.

The system of immigration that the EU thrusts upon us is inherently discriminatory. It is a system which gives people born in 27 states more of a right to come to live and work in this country than people born in the other 169 states. I don’t think that immigration should be about nationality – your result in life’s first great lottery shouldn’t make a difference to your ability to live in the UK. Should we not have an immigration system that looks only at the people, not what flag they were born under? Should we not have an immigration system that is fair to everyone – where everyone who wants to live in the UK should be considered on who they are and not where they are from?

I do not believe that it is right for a doctor from Delhi to have any less right to live in the UK than a plumber from Paris. I do not believe it is fair for a lawyer from Lahore to have any less right to live in the UK than a road-sweep from Rome. I do not believe it is just to have an immigration system where your place of birth matters more than who you are.

Together we can bring fairness back to our immigration system. Together we can end passport discrimination. Together we can guide the future of our immigration system.

It is not about immigration or no immigration; it is about choice or no choice. It is not about whether or not we should have immigration; it is about whether or not we should have a fair system. On June 23rd, vote for choice and vote for fairness – vote Leave.

On Democracy

To me, this referendum is unequivocally about the kind of democracy that we want to see in the United Kingdom. Are we happy to settle for a significant amount of legislation being dictated by people who are unelectable and unaccountable? Are we satisfied to be represented by a leadership which acts in a way which is fundamentally antidemocratic? Are we content to see British democracy weakened to the extent that local government becomes an irrelevance? I’m not.

The only body with formal power to propose legislation in the European Union is the Commission. Commissioners are unelected – we cannot hold them to account and we cannot vote them out if we are unhappy with them. I believe that in a democracy, laws should be made by people who we can see, hold to account, and vote out. There is very little transparency in the Commission – few people could name the EU Commissioner who represents the United Kingdom (who at the time of writing is The Lord Hill of Oareford) and even those who know who our Commissioner is have no way of holding them to account.

When we cannot elect our own Commissioner and hold them to account, how are we supposed to hold the other Commissioners to account? There are 28 people representing the peoples of Europe, none of whom were elected by the people over whom they legislate – that is simply not democratic. It is also simply not representative that in one corner of this union a single Commissioner is supposed to represent 64 million people’s views, while at the same time in another corner of the union another Commissioner represents the views of 420,000 people – not that representativeness makes a difference where there is no way for the populace to influence them.

The European Union has taken deliberate action to make itself even less transparent than before, including this 2014 case of restricting document access requests. It represents an antidemocratic body – the unelected Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has oft talked of curtailing anti-EU political parties’ abilities to have their voices heard in the European Union. Juncker and the Commission forced the anti-austerity Syriza government in Greece to adopt a platform of deep austerity and imposed budget restrictions on the Portuguese and Spanish governments, forcing them to adopt a specific economic policy – regardless of the opinions of the populaces of those countries.

Democracy is, fundamentally, about being able to see the people who make our legislation, hold them to account, and vote them out. The European Union simply does not fulfil this criteria. It is not transparent. The populace cannot hold their legislators to account. Our legislators cannot be voted out if they have acted against our best interests. To put it in one simple fact that says all that needs to be said about EU democracy: Jean-Claude Juncker was elected as President of the only body with formal powers to propose legislation (and so is, in essence, our Chief Legislator) with the support of 0.0000027% of the populace he represents. That is not a democracy.

Leaving the EU enables us to revitalise our democracy. Dragging power down through the system – from supranational government, to national government, through to local government – will re-empower our local government and enable us to build a better democracy. Decisions should be made as close to the people that they affect as possible, not drawn up to levels of supranational government further and further away. By voting leave, we can ensure that the decisions that affect Southampton get made in Southampton, and the decisions which affect the United Kingdom get made in the United Kingdom.

The EU is undemocratic. The only people who can propose legislation are unelected and unaccountable. On June 23rd we have the power to restore and revitalise our democracy – we must vote Leave.