Tonbridge wants MPs to have the final say

SSTIE were campaigning on the streets of Tonbridge for the first time on Saturday 9th December. We had 21 volunteers over 4 hours from 10 am to 2 pm, during which time we spoke to hundreds of people and we were pleasantly surprised by how positive the overall response was.

The majority of the people we spoke to think that Brexit is a mess and that it is not what people voted for – no matter how they voted in the referendum.

Continue reading “Tonbridge wants MPs to have the final say”

Roaming

One of the EU’s great recent achievements is abolishing mobile roaming charges.

It used to be that when crossing a border within the EU, you’d see the savvy travelers swapping their PAYG SIM cards, while the not-so-astute contract customers would absorb horrendous roaming charges (which they’d only notice on their bills at the end of the month). Continue reading “Roaming”

Newsletter August 2017

Cooperation between South East Remain Groups

On the 12 August SSTIE ran a Workshop in Sevenoaks which drew representatives of 14 Remain groups from Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Essex and Hertfordshire.  We had expected 25 participants and were delighted that more than that turned up. This is most unusual for an event like this and demonstrates just how many like-minded people there are around. Continue reading “Newsletter August 2017”

South East Groups Workshop (12 Aug 2017)

Sevenoaks and Swanley Together in Europe are pleased to announce this workshop for local groups in the South East.

The event will use interactive peer-to-peer learning techniques to allow participants to share experiences, learn from each other and explore ideas for cooperation.

DATE: 12.08.2017
TIME: 9.30-13.00 followed by networking until c.15.00
VENUE: 71 London Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN3 1AX
COST: Free

Objectives:

-identify common areas of interest;
-consider the potential for Remain groups to cooperate;
-identify areas where cooperation would be helpful;
-exchange experiences and discuss ideas to overcome commonpbstacles;
-discuss ways of achieving our similar aims in opposing Brexit;
-facilitate networking and to open communication channels between Remain groups in the Southeast;
– establish cooperation working groups;and
-discuss specific projects being organised by participating Remain groups.

Programme

What are our Energy Futures?

Entering the common Electricity & Energy Market is a slow process taking many steps; for instance, it took two decades to agree the European Standard Colour Code for Electricity Wiring. We are now in mid-leap for another step and may well have to change direction in mid-air. The step I am talking about is agreeing the domestic supply voltage.

The Low Voltage Directive, 2014/35/EU, stipulated that the supply should be 230 Volts ±6%. For countries that had previously been on 220 Volts, the transition was easy: legacy equipment had its life expectancy shortened, and replacement products would be better performing. The consumer did not notice the change and everyone wins. But for us, going from 240 down to 230 Volts, it’s not been easy. If we change, life expectancy of legacy products goes up, but performance goes down. If we don’t change, life expectancy of new products will go down. The EU passed Standard EN50160 which allows our supply Voltage to be 230 +10%/-6%. This does not alter the technical reality at all, it just allows European Appliance Manufacturers to sell into the UK. We still have a 240 Volt supply.

Now what happens when you go to the shops to buy “white goods” or Electricity Appliances? The appliance is probably labelled 220-240 Volts, which is a lie, as it is most likely designed to operate at 230 Volts. You either have to shop around for a product specifically designed for the UK market, which is shrinking in relative terms and probably only satisfied by the more expensive high-end products. Or you have to accept market reality, with the caveat that the product will burn-out sooner than expected.

Keith Taylor, our Green MEP, is acutely aware of this problem and suggests complaining to one’s Energy Supplier, the Energy Ombudsman or the Citizens Advice Bureau whenever an appliance bought since 2014 burns-out. (Though I somehow doubt that any of them could be persuaded to take the matter seriously)

This is not the only problem. Energy Companies force, what is often significantly more than 240 Volts, into an increasing number of devices designed to take 230 Volts they need more Capacity. Increased Capacity means more Power Stations; and the difference between accepting the Low Voltage Directive (without the caveats provided by the Standard) and not; amounts to several Power Stations at least the size of Hinkley Point. In other words, if we switched to 230 Volts along with the rest of Europe, we would not need to invest in Hinkley Point.

Power Stations need raw fuel, and Nuclear Power Stations need fissile material. Just one cold winter of fuel starvation and the politics will quickly turn very nasty. (Just think of the real story behind Iraq, Afghanistan and Pearl Harbour). The EU is there to ensure equitable access to raw fuel for all members; and the importance of this job should not be under-estimated.

Nuclear Safety is another issue. The greatest threat to our Nuclear Safety here in Kent is the giant old and run-down Nuclear Power Station at Dunkirk. Power Stations like this typically have an incident somewhere in the world once every three years, and the last ones at Dunkirk where in 2006, 2007 & 2009. – How long will it be before we have a Chernobyl or Fukushima on our doorstep? As an EU member, we are entitled to over-site of the safety at here; but if we leaves, what guarantees do we have?

The question is. If we leave the EU, will we continue with a switch to 230 Volts or will we stay as we are? Will the EU rescind EN50160 in order to improve standards, but making EU products less suitable for our market? Will manufacturers step up to fill our relative declining market? And, will we remain a member of EURATOM? (Theresa May wants us to leave).

SSTIE on the Streets of Sevenoaks

On Saturday 11 March 2017, members of the group Sevenoaks & Swanley Together in Europe (SSTIE) took to the streets of Sevenoaks as part of Open Britain’s National Day of Action. They handed out leaflets encouraging people to write to their MP about getting the best possible Brexit outcome for Britain.

Open Britain’s Day of Action in Sevenoaks on 11th March 2017

On Saturday 11 March 2017, members of the group Sevenoaks & Swanley Together in  Europe (SSTIE) took to the streets of Sevenoaks as part of Open Britain’s National Day of Action. They handed out leaflets encouraging people to write to their MP about getting the best possible Brexit outcome for Britain.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the group signed up a couple of new members for Open Britain. Photos were tweeted by SSTIE secretary Heather Styles, who also prepared a press release for the local papers.

“We had a successful day on Saturday” said SSTIE Coordinator, Peter Kinsler, “I was very interested to find a number of young people really concerned by the outcome of the referendum and where it is all going. It seems clear to me that we need to target seriously places which young adults frequent to give them the chance to sign up and be involved in what could be a political process covering a number of years. They are the ones who are going to be  affected by Brexit and we need to get them on board as fast as possible.”

SSTIE is currently looking to recruit new members. Further information about how to get involved in SSTIE’s activities and how to apply for membership is available on the SSTIE website.

Photo of SSTIE members
Members of SSTIE outside the post office in Sevenoaks

Operation Stack after Brexit

What will happen to Operation Stack if Britain leaves both the Tax and Customs Union?

Whatever one’s views of Brexit are, it is undeniable that a reintroduction of customs and tax checks will result in much longer delays at the ports, and it is hard to see how this could be managed without impact on the roads of Kent.

The port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel see an average of at least 10,000 trucks per day, and the people of Kent are well aware of what can happen when this flow is interrupted by adverse weather or striking dock workers: The lack of geographical space in Dover and Ashford means that lorries have nowhere to park, and with such a volume of trucks there simply is no feasible alternative to turning large sections of the M2 and M20 motorways into temporary parking lots.

But how far will it go? Fears that Operation Stack could extend up the M20 as far as the M25 junctions at Swanley or Sevenoaks may seem far fetched, but on closer analysis they are not in the realm of the impossible.

As most recently seen during the strike by French dockyard workers in the summer of 2015, Operation Stack can extend over 30 miles as far as Maidstone, and there is little reason to think this marks the ultimate limit of how long it could become.

While it probably is extremely unlikely that it would extend as much as an extra 20 miles up the M20 to reach Swanley, it is just as unlikely that there would be no impact at all. A more realistic estimate would probably sit somewhere between these figures – taking us a further 5 miles up to Leybourne, or 10 miles as far as the M26 Junction at Wrotham.

Increased Frequency as the bigger Problem

While these are estimates based on what are currently extreme scenarios, there is another dimension to this debate that is far more important – rather than looking at how long the queues for Operation Stack could become, we should asking how often we will have to deal with it.

The answer to this is – much more often. The increasing frequency of Operation Stack is much more assured than its increasing length in distance.

A reintroduction of customs at the ports will cause delays no matter what the weather, so what are now seeing as extreme scenarios will become regular occurrences in future. The time it takes to inspect each vehicle being loaded onto a ferry or the train is simply too long to avoid doing so without causing long queues at customs controls. It is a problem that has long been recognised – and was long resolved – by the creation of the EU Customs Union.

Recommended Further reading: For more information on this subject, please see this report from the Road Haulage Association.