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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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EU directives and the expression of opinion

The economic arguments for leaving the European Union are obvious, but there is also an overwhelming cultural case for Brexit which is discussed less often.

Over the last couple of decades, there has been a noticeable increase in what is known as 'political correctness', which has accelerated in the last five or so years. It used to be the case that people could tell jokes without being worried about offending anyone, and people were generally free to say what they wanted. No longer. There has been such a change in the atmosphere in the UK that many would say we no longer live in a free country, and we are suffocated by political correctness.

There is an army of snowflakes waiting on social media to pounce on anyone for 'thought crime' if you say anything which they deem to be politically incorrect. If the consequences for this 'wrongthink' had not become ever more serious, this would merely be entertaining. However, if you say the wrong thing or have the wrong opinion today, you will not just attract criticism from people who disagree, you may well find that you are penalised in some way, or even threatened with punishment by law enforcement agencies.

One of the major legislative drivers for this is the Equality Act 2010. It is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever drafted, and it was a response to the EU's Equal Treatment Directives of 2000, 2002 and 2006.

Pre-existing equality legislation was on the whole fair and well-intended, but the Equality Act has given rise to all kinds of consequences which make life difficult if not impossible for ordinary people who simply want to go about their business, and have the freedom to say what they think.

The Equality Act allows organisations to offer paid traineeships and internships to groups with protected characteristics. It has been well publicised that the BBC operated such a scheme for non-whites-only. If an organisation promoted schemes for whites-only they would be condemned as bringing apartheid to the UK, but they get away with it when it is the other way around. This is not equality. It is actually hugely patronising to black, Asian and ethnic minority people to assume that they are not capable of competing equally because of their skin colour and therefore need extra help.

There is a recruitment and retention crisis in schools, but good teachers are being fired and threatened for refusing to conform to the transgender agenda. This has seemingly sprung up out of nowhere in the last four years, but it is a direct result of the Equality Act. 'Gender reassignment' is one of the protected characteristics, and Section 149 of the Act, otherwise known as the Public Sector Equality Duty, requires public bodies such as schools to 'foster good relations with' groups with protected characteristics. This has been interpreted to mean that everyone must agree with every latest ideology of transgender activists, no matter how ridiculous and unscientific they are.

It is a fact that there are two sexes determined by anatomy and chromosomes, and sex is the same as gender. Some people develop gender dysphoria which is a mental condition similar in nature to anorexia. Such people need counselling and care. Yet transgender activists want to force everybody to accept that this delusion is normal and natural, and anyone who disagrees will be punished. This happened to an excellent Maths teacher in Oxfordshire in a high-profile case, who was ultimately fired from his job for 'misgendering' a girl who insisted she be treated as a boy. Yet this is the tip of the iceberg: there are hundreds more cases for every one which hits the headlines.

One of the worst injustices in the education sector has been the targeted failing of Orthodox Jewish schools by Ofsted, because they refuse to stop teaching the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, or to accept transgender and queer theory. Many Charedi Jews are considering leaving the country to avoid plans by Theresa May's government to force all schools to teach LGBT-inclusive Relationships Education to children from 5-years-old from September 2020.

Similarly, a number of psychologists, magistrates and social care workers have been struck off for similar thought crimes, losing their careers and income, and being condemned as either 'homophobic', 'transphobic' or 'Islamophobic' depending upon their thoughts. One magistrate who stated in a private conversation that it was best for an adopted child to have a mother and a father, was reported and removed from his position. This is despite scientific evidence supporting him.

Under such draconian pressure, most people keep silent, living in fear of speaking self-evident, scientific truth as we lose our freedom of speech which has developed and grown over the centuries.

In order to ensure compliance with the Equality Act, a multi-billion pound 'Equality, Diversity and Inclusion' industry has developed. Just at the time when the UK's 25,000 schools are struggling to afford to keep good quality teachers, they are employing Diversity Officers. Not every school has one, but most larger schools do, and some have a team. Each one costs about the same as a teacher, so scarce money which could be used to employ Music, Art or Language teachers for example, is being used to extend the joyless bureaucracy of political correctness into the lives of our children.

The same is true across police forces, fire brigades, NHS trusts, local governments and businesses who supply goods and services on contract to government bodies. Most of them have created Equality Departments, which reinforce the entirely artificial and soul-sapping requirements of the Equality Act.

Police forces are some of the worst offenders at harassing ordinary members of the public for simply telling jokes and having banter. Recently, Humberside Police called up an innocent man to question him for writing a limerick about transgenderism. This kind of action is causing the public to lose faith in our police forces. They are turning their attention to chasing ordinary innocent people for telling jokes at the same time as they are losing their grip on violent crime which is spiralling out of control.

In our universities, freedom of speech is under attack. Successive universities ministers have made a song and dance of saying that campuses must be places of free speech, yet censorship continues. This is because Universities and Student Unions are public bodies. They are required to write Equality Policies which pay 'particular regard to the needs of groups with protected characteristics.' This means that they designate their whole campuses as 'safe spaces' where no-one may offend anyone else, even if no offence was intended. The results are suffocating.

In a free and open society, students, lecturers and visiting speakers should be able to say whatever they like, provided they do not incite violence. Yet over the last few years, speakers as diverse as Germaine Greer, Boris Johnson, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim who suffered FGM as a child, have been no-platformed from UK campuses. Students lose out by not having the opportunity to hear these people, but it is also detrimental to mollycoddle these young adults so much that they come to believe that the whole world is a safe space. Unfortunately for them, they will all have a rude awakening at the age of 21 when they have to go into the real world and fend for themselves!

Brexit provides a once on a lifetime opportunity for the nation. As we throw off the shackles of the EU, we will thrive economically. We can also thrive again culturally if we have the courage to snap off the mental shackles of political correctness. The opportunity to do this lies in the fact that we will no longer have to follow the directives of the European Commission after the UK leaves the EU. When we are free from the EU's Equal Treatment Directives, we can repeal the Equality Act 2010 and implement equality law which is more sensible.

We can then return to being a nation which values equality of opportunity for all, but free ourselves from the ridiculous notion that all groups must have equal outcomes, and from the Orwellian push to punish 'thought crime'. 

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