Tampon Tax Explained

 

The Tampon Tax Story

Sanitary towels and tampons are taxed in the UK at 5% due to European regulations on Value Added Tax. People are angry and kind of amused about it. There are campaigns to end this tax on women all over the world.

Everything you need to know about the EU Referendum in under 5 minutes

Yeah, you lost me: what’s the EU referendum?

Referendum; a vote on a single political decision which has been put to the public.
Example; Scotland had a referendum in 2014 to decide if they wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. (They did. Just.)

Right now; it’s about whether the UK wants to leave the European Union.

 

What’s the EU?

EU referendum - the flags of the European Union member states

Time to flag up our issues with the EU?

The EU is a political and economic partnership of 28 European countries.

It is run by the European Parliament. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are voted in every five years by the public. MEPs set laws which cover transport and business rules in Europe among many other things.

The European Commission proposes laws to the Parliament and enforces EU law. It upholds treaties and looks out for the interests of the European Union – not individual countries.

The EU operates a Common Market.

Sometimes called a single market this means goods, services, money and currency; but most importantly people can move freely between EU states. The idea is free movement of goods and services, which means good news for business and everyone profits. No, it doesn’t mean you get stuff for free. 

In 1973 the UK signed up to the common market (called the European Economic Community or EEC) to trade with other countries and develop international relationships. Jump to 1993; the EEC became the European Union and the European Parliament arrived. Some say 75% of UK laws are influenced by the EU parliament; others say as little as 7%.

 

Is the UK better off “in” or “out”?

That’s the million dollar question. We’ll be wrapping up the main arguments for and against the EU in a way even an 11-year-old can get their head around. Stay tuned for the full video coming soon.

 

What you need to know

 

Save the Date

The EU referendum will take place on Thursday 23rd June 2016.

Cameron has negotiated a set of changes to the UK’s EU membership. He wants to:

 

– Protect the single market for non-Euro countries like Britain

The UK is one of nine EU countries which doesn’t use the Euro as it’s currency. Cameron wants to ensure that the Euro-using countries can’t gang up and force through measures on non-Euro countries. He also wants to ensure there is no discrimination or no disadvantage for non-Euro countries.

 

– Change immigration rules

Current EU immigration rules mean that people from EU countries can travel to Britain to work without needing a visa or a work permit.

This also means that they can claim state benefits. Cameron wants to reduce the number of economic migrants coming into Britain. To do this he plans to restrict migrants from claiming benefits until they’ve worked in the UK for four years. Everyone seems to think this is unlikely to happen.

 

– Get Britain out of the “ever closer union”

One of the founding EU principles which the UK signed up to was the ever closer union. This means European citizens driving to integrate more closely.

EU skeptics dislike this idea as it erodes our national identity and could lead to an EU superstate. Cameron wants a legally binding “get out of jail free” card for Britain. He also wants national parliaments to have more power to block resolutions from the EU parliament.

 

– Make Europe business friendly

The EU parliament sets certain regulations for businesses in Europe. E.g. the standards new products have to meet when tested. Cameron wants to cut the “red tape” which he believes is holding businesses back.

Cameron’s plan is to get the “best deal” for Britain, before we vote. For more details see his letter to the EU council and a speech he made explaining his demands.

Not everyone is satisfied with these demands. One Tory MP asked “is that it? Is that the sum total of the government’s position in the renegotiation?”

Another asked “how is he going to be able to sell this pig in a poke?” This is a reference to the allegations that David Cameron did something very naughty with a pig’s head whilst at university.

The latest reports suggest that the prime minister wants to push on with the EU referendum sooner rather than later, perhaps even before the end of 2016. We’ll be updating when we know more.

 

The Question

The question which will be put to the UK is ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ The choice of answers will be ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’.

 

Only 18+ get to vote

You’ll have to be 18+ to vote in the EU referendum – this is different to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, where 16 and 17 year olds got to vote.

 

The “In” Campaign

Britain Stronger in Europe (BSIE) is a major campaign to stay in the EU. Headed up by former Marks and Spencer boss Lord Rose the campaign has the backing of former Labour Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as well as Caroline Lucas from the Green Party and Conservative Damian Green.

In Campaign Decoded: The campaign video concentrates on the business argument for staying “in”. The EU is our main trading partner – if we leave the free market we start paying import and export taxes which would hurt business. Without the EU the UK risks being isolated in the international community.

Though there are other pro-EU campaigns, it’s likely BSIE will be chosen as the official “in” campaign by the Electoral Commission.

 

The “Out” Campaign

The Vote Leave group is the official “out” campaign. The two main faces of Vote Leave are soon to be ex Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Conservative MP Michael Gove. .

Out Campaign Decoded: The campaign video focuses on the cost of EU membership. As the UK is one of the richest EU countries it (along with Germany and France) pays more for our membership. Some estimates put the total cost as high as £118 billion a year. Ouch.

Both Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave are cross-party campaigns – made up of MPs from various political parties.

 

Join the conversation



 

EU learnings; you didn’t sign up for it, and you may not get a say in what happens next. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care.

Are you “in” or “out”? Let us know in the comments below.

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The simple story of the Greek debt crisis in one graphic

 

 

Greece Bankruptcy: It’s All About Money

Five years ago, Greece ran out of money due to overspending on public services, lack of income due to tax dodgers and a global recession where the financial markets of the world collapsed.
Greece says: Oh £$*%!

The European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailed them out and lent them €240billion.
Greece says: You guys are the best.

The catch: Greece had to make several “austerity measures” meaning cutting billions from public services and raising taxes to raise more money.
Greece says: Urm, no.

The Greek people were very unhappy about these measures and voted in a new anti-austerity government last year, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Why does this matter?

Every time Greece gets another extension to its loan their government have to agree to certain changes imposed by Europe. These include dropping some of the anti-austerity measures that got them voted in. Not great news if you’re a politician.

Grexit, Sch-mexit

If Greece can’t repay its debts and Europe refuses to cancel them Greece may be forced to exit the EU. Greek Exit = Grexit

If this happens Greece would be the first country in history to do so.

It could prompt other countries that have large debts – Spain and Portugal – to do the same.

Any country defaulting (not being able to pay back) on their debt would be a serious hit to the banks that gave them the loan and the value of the Euro would be affected. European banks would find it hard to borrow putting major strain on the economy.

Since the majority of Europe now uses the Euro – if a country were to leave the effects would be felt by all the other countries. Unstable Euro = Unstable Economy.

Get the latest on Greece with our weekly explainer The Week: Decoded, like us on Facebook and follow @scenesofreason

5 questions about the Queen’s Speech that need answering

No, it’s not the sequel to the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech”. Today is the State Opening of the new Parliament and all eyes will be on Queen Elizabeth II. Here are five points which explain the Queen’s Speech:

 

1. So why is the Queen’s speech so important?

Today is the State Opening of Parliament.  This means a new parliamentary year begins, and why the Queen outlines the new laws the government will try to make official over the next five years. The tradition of the Queen making a speech at the beginning of Parliament goes back to the 16th century. If it ain’t broke… As we’ve just had an election, the speech is even more important as it outlines David Cameron’s priorities as Prime Minister of an all-Conservative government.

The Queen's Speech: Queen Elizabeth II looks bored

The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s plans for the next five years

 

2. I thought the Queen only made a speech at Christmas?

The Queen usually makes a speech every year at the opening of Parliament. There have been a few exceptions to this convention in the past – twice when the Queen was pregnant, and also in 2011 when the government at the time (the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition) decided they needed two years to put their plans into effect, and by that we mean writing.

3. So I guess there’s a lot of ceremony involved?

You betcha. First, the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace in an ornate horse drawn carriage followed by the Household Cavalry. Major points for style and also for being kind to the environment.

The Queen's Speech: a man dressed as a horse dances

The Queen’s Speech: The Queen travels by horse and carriage

When she arrives a House of Lords official goes to get the MPs but the door is closed in his face. This isn’t just banter; it’s meant to show the separation between the Head of State (queen), and the government.

At around 11.30AM the Queen, now wearing robes and the royal crown will be handed the speech, written on parchment (posh word for paper). Queenie sits on the throne in the House of Lords and the commoners, meaning members of the House of Commons, come to listen to the speech. Real life commoners, meaning members of the public, aren’t allowed to come to the State Opening. Invited guests only: So far, so regal. The Queen’s Speech is written by government officials, but is signed off by the Queen before the opening of Parliament.

The Queen's Speech: A scene from the movie Brave, the lead character slams the door

The Queen’s Speech: the door is slammed in the face of a House of Lords official to show the division between state government and the monarchy

 

4. What’s in the speech then?

At the moment all we know are rumours. Bills expected to be in the Queen’s Speech include a referendum (where we all get to vote) on the UK’s membership of the European Union, new laws to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the country,  and more powers to be given to Scotland and large English cities e.g. Manchester.

The Queen's Speech: Rapper Snoop Dogg turns .. into a dog

Expect the Snooper’s Charter to be in the The Queen’s Speech… hint: it’s nothing to do with the rapper..

The Tories also want to get rid of the Human Rights Act , create a 7 day NHS and to give MPs a chance to take away the Hunting Ban – foxes beware! You can also expect new powers for the security services with something called the Communications and Data Bill. This means officials will have more access to messages sent via social media and calls made over the internet. People are calling it the “Snooper’s Charter” and people can’t agree on whether it’s a good idea….

 

Queen's Speech - twitter screenshots showing responses to the speech

Not everyone is a fan of the “Snoopers Charter” expected to be in the Queen’s Speech

 

5. OK, speech over – what happens next?

The Queen goes back to Buckingham Palace and the MPs get lunch after their hard morning’s work sitting listening to a speech.

In the afternoon the Prime Minister then addresses the House of Commons and the MPs get to do what they do best – debate.

They vote on the speech – though the vote is mainly symbolic. In the past if MPs voted against the bill it could have been considered a vote of “no confidence” which basically meant “we don’t have confidence in the government – get out!” A vote of no confidence can trigger an early election and force the government to resign.

No Confidence Votes are still a thing, but the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 redefined how the vote has to be specifically worded. What this means for now: if the Queen’s Speech is voted down it will just be an embarrassing early defeat for the Conservatives.

The Queen's Speech: Animation of the Queen sticking up fingers at the camera

The Queen’s Speech: The Queen rules, OK

 

AND HOW DO WE ALL FEEL ABOUT THIS…. NOT GOOD APPARENTLY?

 

Queen's Speech - twitter screenshots showing responses to the speech

Will there be protests over the Queen’s Speech, or just lots of jokes on Twitter?

 

What we learned today: the Queen’s Speech = the Government’s Five Year Plan. Due to the Fixed Term Parliament Act losing a vote on the Speech doesn’t mean the Government have to resign.

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