‘We can’t BLAME Europe if we’re not IN Europe.’
The Telegraph ran a cartoon by in-house cartoonist Matt with this subscript on 13 October last year.
It still decorates the noticeboard in our office.
Over the years the EU has been blamed for many things. Sometimes it deserved that blame, often it didn’t.
If Brits are to make a well-considered decision on whether or not they want to stay in the EU, it’s important that we separate national issues from EU issues.
Sadly, there are those who seem to want to turn the referendum into a vote on Mr Cameron.
Case in point: the National Health Service, which is now being dragged into the EU debate.
Now, I’m strongly of the opinion that a well-funded, public NHS is in the best interests of British society. That’s why it saddens me that it’s increasingly pushed towards privatisation.
I know that many Brits are concerned about the state of the NHS. So the Leave campaign is trying to capitalise on those concerns.
On Saturday it came out that the Brexit campaign was trying to have doctors, nurses and pharmacists sign a letter accusing David Cameron of ‘starving’ the NHS.
Predictably the draft letter concludes it’s all the EU’s fault. Britain can’t afford to properly fund the NHS because of its EU membership fee, it reads.
If you’re angry about the persistent underfunding of the NHS, I’d suggest you put your anger where it belongs. Direct it at the Conservative Party.
As divided as the Tories may be over Europe, privatising Britain’s health care is one thing they still very much agree on.
When independent research stated the NHS needed an extra £16bn to maintain existing service levels, the Conservatives replied “you’ve got to be joking.”
The Tories then picked a figure, £8bn, seemingly at random and used it to disingenuously claim they’d do everything they could to save the NHS.
It was a team effort, not something exclusive to the Europhile wing of the party.
But now Eurosceptic minister Michael Gove wants to put this all on Cameron.
Gove has quite a cheek considering he and his Eurosceptic colleague Daniel Hannan co-authored a book with Health minister Jeremy Hunt that called for the NHS to be denationalised.
Incidentally, the book was put together by Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, quite obviously also someone who wants Britain to leave the EU.
In addition to the hypocrisy of politicians who approve of the prime minister’s NHS policy now publicly criticising it, they also create a link that’s simply not there.
Less than one per cent of the UK’s total public spending goes to the EU so I find it hard to believe that’s the only money that could go to health care.
Blaming Brussels for a crippled NHS is as credible as Nigel Farage’s claim that traffic jams are caused by immigrants.
The NHS is in mortal danger not because of EU membership but because of Tory MPs on both sides of the debate.
Seeing that many Tory and Ukip politicians who back Brexit believe in privatised health care, I fail to see how leaving the EU would help the NHS one bit.
Another Eurosceptic MP, John Redwood, similarly confuses ideologically based government policy with EU mandates.
In his diary, Redwood claims leaving the EU would save enough money for the Conservative government to end austerity.
I’d like to point out that the £8.5bn Britain would save* is not nearly enough to plug the £56bn black hole in Osborne’s budget.
*’save’ may not be the right verb here since this figure ignores the economic gains of membership. The Confederation of British Industry estimates these are about £62-£78bn per year.
Besides, austerity is an ideology to reduce the size of the state, not an economic necessity. There’s therefore no connection between EU membership and the government’s austerity policies.
Plenty of arguments have been made that either support Britain’s membership of the EU or argue it’s time to leave the bloc.
A fair few of these arguments are made on the Talking Money podcast.
Last weekend host Glenn Fisher interviewed ex City fund manager Tony Berry, who makes the case for Britain to leave the EU.
It’s the second episode in a three-part series. If you missed the first episode in which I spoke about Britain’s reasons to stay, that one is available here.
On 23 June Brits will decide whether they think they’re better off In or Out. It’s vital, though, to stay on topic and only discuss issues that are actually linked to the EU.
The referendum is too important to be turned into a vote on Prime Minister Cameron.
I’m personally unhappy about Cameron’s policies but the EU referendum will change nothing about his cabinet’s course.
So, if you’re unhappy about the government’s NHS policy and its insistence on austerity, may I kindly suggest you make a change at the next general election?
The EU decision is knotty enough without adding the NHS to the mix.