dr david bull

Why I’ve finally decided to vote to LEAVE

In Opinion Pieces on June 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm

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Like most people, the question of how to vote in the EU Referendum on Thursday has been weighing heavily on my mind.

It’s a question of such profound enormity that I have spent a long time reviewing, re-reviewing and questioning both sides. 

And like most people I have found myself pulled one way and then the other. 

One day I’m in and the next day I’m out.

It seems extraordinary to me that we have asked the population to vote on something so complex. Something that even the most hard-core politicos with extensive knowledge of EU matters find complex and without a universal panacea.

Trying to unravel the last 40 years of history since we first joined the Common Market (EEC) in 1973 and then the subsequent manipulation of countries into the European project is a Herculean task.

I’m 47 and I was way too young to remember the last time we had a vote on anything to do with Europe. I was only four years old when we voted to join the Common Market.

As far as I understand, the UK populous was asked if they wanted to join a single common market, the premise of which was that there would be no barriers to trade and it would allow European countries to trade easily with each other without the imposition of tariffs. And that was all the vote was about.

So how on earth have we been subsumed into this European superstate? We have never been asked if we want closer fiscal and political integration. We have never voted on whether we should set up a European Parliament and never voted to allow the EU to have primacy over our own Parliament. And yet that appears to have happened.

But now, for better or worse, we finally have a say. 

I was, until now, persuaded that the best course of action for the UK was to stay in the EU.

I even wrote an article in the Daily Mail explaining why I thought the NHS needed the EU. There are certainly arguments that go in favour of this premise. Not least that the NHS relies on 130,000 EU workers to keep it ticking over. Drugs are also licensed on a pan-European basis which should mean it’s quicker to bring them to market. We also have access to research funding and of course access to healthcare abroad. But the inescapable fact is that the NHS is collapsing around us. It is under extraordinary pressure from the huge surge in migration. It simply cannot continue to exist in its current form unless billions of pounds are pumped in or we start to ration services. Or privatise the whole lot. Something I do not believe in.

Even having said all that, this referendum isn’t just about the NHS. It’s about everything we do – how we legislate, what we have control over and how we protect and look after our country.

Last week the penny dropped for me.

Even though we are not in Schengen and don’t have fiscal uniformity with the rest of the EU, we are inextricably linked.

If you take a step back, and look at the bigger picture, it is clear to me what the European project is really about.

The self-aggrandisement of the EU leaders mean that they are trying to push 500million people from 27 disparate countries into a single Federal Entity. They are trying to create the United States of Europe.

That’s fine if you believe that we should replace our National Governments with a central Pan-European one but I don’t.

These bureaucrats that run it are unelected, unaccountable and can’t even get their act together to publish their accounts.

I hate the scare mongering that has been going on. If leaving is really so dreadful, if it would render us financially bereft and bankrupt the country, then why on earth did the Prime Minister offer the Referendum? Surely the role of an elected Government is to take decisions on behalf of the electorate. It shouldn’t have to have referenda on every nuance.

But we have been given the vote.

I’ve been totally torn. My heart says that we need to leave, stand on our own feet, broker our own trade deals and free ourselves from the shackles of a failing European superstate.

But my business head says personally I would be better off if we stayed. 

As a TV host, I work for many European companies, can work in any country in the EU without a visa and travel extensively with my work. I am also a landlord and rent many of my properties to EU nationals who have come to the UK to study or work. I also own two properties in Spain. I live in Canary Wharf which is the financial capital of Europe and expanding rapidly. Apartments are being snapped up at extraordinary prices as EU nationals and non-EU nationals fight to own property in the epicentre of the fifth largest economy in the World.

As a doctor, I like facts. I like evidence based medicine. And here is the evidence.

Migration

Last year 270,000 EU nationals came to the UK, not the tens of thousands that we were promised. Whilst many are working, they have still put enormous pressure on our infrastructure.

We simply don’t have enough schools, hospitals, our transport network is over capacity and creaking and it’s set to get worse.

How can the notion of the freedom of movement ever work? Essentially 500million people could chose to come and live in the UK even though we are a tiny landmass.

Yes of course, the counter argument is that we could live elsewhere in Europe but since we are the second strongest economy in the EU, it is more likely that people will come here than settle in Spain where youth unemployment is around 50%

Law

60% of our laws come from Brussels. We cannot repeal them. Our Parliament no longer has primacy. This has to be wrong

Economy 

Yes if we vote to leave, there is no doubt that there will be some correction. House prices will drop temporarily but will then recover. The pound will fall but then regain ground as we emerge as a proud, confident nation,

The Bank of England forecasts are wildly off and the talk of the Emergency Budget from George Osborne is boogey man tactics in the extreme. Two former Chancellors and two former Conservative Party leaders have called it nonsense.

We are the fifth largest economy in the World and the second largest in the EU. Our GDP is two trillion pounds.

Over the last three years, we have been the fastest growing economy in the G7 and most globalised. 70% of our GDP comes from exports. Surprisingly I found that only 6% of UK businesses export to the EU, but every single business, even those that don’t trade with Europe, are hamstrung by EU bureaucracy making business more expensive and increasing the cost base.

Interestingly the FTSE is higher now than when Cameron called the Referendum even though the markets think we will leave.  The pound is also stronger to the dollar. Leaving can’t be that bad. Uncertainty is horrendous for markets. As soon as the decision is made, things will stabilise.

Trade 

Even though the Government won’t tell us this, we trade more with countries outside the EU than with those in it.  In fact we trade more outside the EU than any other member state. Only 45% of our exports are to Europe (and this is due to fall further) and in the event of us leaving, they are hardly going to erect barriers to trade since we buy more from the EU than we sell. It would be sheer madness. 

Currently we are not allowed to negotiate our own trade deals with non-EU countries as the EU has our seat at the table at the World Trade Organisation. And the EU’s record on brokering trade deals is shocking to say the least . Leaving means we can negotiate deals with Commonwealth countries, the US, China, Japan and India. And, of course, the EU itself.

Even if we leave the EU, we will still have access to the single market thanks to regulations which are already in place. Many other countries outside the EU benefit from this already such as Norway, Iceland, Lichenstein and Sweden.  And from 1st January 2018, financial institutions outside the EU can provide cross border services into the EU. So we will not lose anything by leaving.

Euro

This is the most important aspect of the EU for the European leaders. And yes it is a total mess. Vast unemployment across Southern Europe, hyperinflation when currencies joined and a recession across most of Europe. They will do everything they can to prop up the single currency and we will have to bail it out yet again if we stay. Qualified Majority voting means the UK will be outvoted if we try and oppose bail outs. They will have to prop it up and since it shows no sign of resuscitating itself, we will have to pay for it.

LGBT

And before I finish, it’s worth reiterating that all the rights that we enjoy in the UK today such as equal marriage, family law and protection from discrimination came from UK legislation not EU legislation. The new countries especially those Eastern European ones trying to join the EU are very socially conservative and have terrible homophobic cultures. Many ban same sex marriage and ban LGBT people from serving in the military. Do we really want to embrace that?

Having taken everything into consideration, I feel that the days of the European Project are numbered. It’s a fanciful power crazed ideology. How can such divergent economies of the 27 member states be squeezed into a one-size-fits-all shoehorn where we have to share common currency, interest rates, employment law, trade, freedom of movement, and foreign policy.

Each 27 member state is unique, all the economies are wildly different with the Northern European countries remaining the powerhouse and the Southern European countries needing continuing bail outs. The project is doomed to fail. 

The only way that the EU can ever work is if there is full political and financial union. And the EU hierarchy knows it.

If we vote to remain in Europe, we are not voting for the status quo. 

If we vote to remain, the EU masters will push us bit by bit into fiscal and political union. The European Court will be in charge of our borders, immigration, asylum, and intelligence services. I understand there are already plans for a single European Army which have been kept quiet until after the referendum.

I’ve thought of little else but this referendum for months and sought wise counsel from as wide a group as possible.

Some months ago, I was at a dinner party in LA where I was being entertained by a CEO of a FTSE 50 company and his wife. He asked me why I was having such a problem with how to vote in the UK referendum. I explained why I felt it was so complex. 

His view was rather more simplistic. He explained that the vote was very simple. 

His take on it was that if we want full fiscal and political union and want to create a Federal Europe then we should vote to remain.

And if we don’t believe in that sort of union then we should vote to Leave. 

Short and succinct. And spot on.

The United Kingdom has never fully embraced the European project. We’ve negotiated all sorts of opt outs and we don’t even share the same currency as the Eurozone.

We are not part of the club as much as we would like to think we are.

It’s time that we made a decision to be fully in or fully out.

In my humble opinion, we need to get out and let Europe get on with it on its own.

We should Vote Leave and see if Europe can achieve its ambition of A Federal Superstate with total fiscal and political union. Or whether the entire project implodes and falls apart around itself.

I’m not a betting man but my money is on the latter

Enjoy the journey

In Opinion Pieces on February 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm

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bestest, craziest, insane medical friends

Let’s just put aside the small matter of where on earth I’ve been for nearly a year (more of that in future posts!) but suffice it to say I’ve been dealing with my own life crisis. Whether I dealt with it very well, or not, only time will tell. But what happened has really made me reflect on the sanctity of life and what on earth we are trying to achieve on this cooling ball of fire.

So you’ll understand why I was thoroughly entertained by a splendid piece in the New York Times today by Pamela Druckerman entitled ‘What you learn in your 40s’.

Now as a man of tender years and clearly with my 40s still at arms and legs distance (in my dreams), I approached it with caution. I’m not sure how much I have honestly learnt as I’ve grown older but she was spot on! Everything she said was true.

In your 20s, you spend all your time trying to get everyone to like you, you start new hobbies, new clubs. You try fitness regimes, diets. You do whatever it takes to fit in. By your 30s, this insane behaviour continues but now you have the dawning realisation that you are not that young any more. You have pressure of speech, keen to tell eager listeners what you have done, achieved and how much of a success you are.

And then you hit 40. I don’t know what happens but there is clearly a seismic shift in your brain chemistry. You suddenly wake up one day and realise that you actually quite like yourself. Moreover, it dawns that you can’t actually change anything about you. This is you, warts and all. And people will either like you or not like you. And you also come to an understanding that despite your silliness, and urge to still go out drinking and dancing to all hours (once in a while) you actually know stuff. Like important stuff. Stuff that takes a lifetime to accrue.

And you also realise one other thing. And it was something spelt out in the article today. A dawning realisation that THERE ARE NO GROWN UPS IN THE WORLD. Everyone is blagging it. You’re blagging it, your friends are blagging it and so are your contemporaries. One of my best medic girlfriends has a recurring nightmare that she never passed any of her exams!

On that topic, a couple of months ago, I went back to my Medical School ReUnion with some of my closest friends. It’s been over 20 years since I left and I hadn’t seen most of the others in all that time. Weirdly I was really anxious about it. But excited at the same time to be reunited with people that I had been through so much with. But I’ve been a bit of a black medical sheep.

20 years is a long time if you stick at one job and do what you’re meant to do. My friends have mostly done that. They did all the exams, worked their buttocks off, did unsocial hours, almost became psychotic (some did) and now they are all at the pinnacle of their careers. They are all 45, Consultant Physicians and Surgeons and Radiologists and lots of other fancy Greek Titles. They are amazing.

But what have I done? Some people think I’ve thrown away my medical training by not becoming a traditional career physician. I can certainly say my career path has hardly been planned, nor could it have been. Having said that, I have done things I could never dream of, I’ve had champagne with the Queen of England, dined in the House of Commons, lived in Los Angeles, hosted and written Prime Time television shows for the BBC and other major networks. I’ve done a movie, bought and sold houses, started and sold a PR company. Oh and I’ve been a physician too! You name it, I’ve done it. But weirdly I’m quite jealous of what they’ve achieved and I think the same is true of them. We always crave what we don’t have

Now despite our obvious differences, my old med school friends and I have discovered one important thing. For some rather too late.
As you plan and plot and manoeuver your way up the career ladder, you are always spurred on by the hope that one day you WILL make it. You will get to the top. you will become the best surgeon or physician or whatever you chose. But at what cost?I may not have had the most financially rewarding career, nor the most traditional, but I can honestly say I don’t regret one bit.

One of my old girlfriends was at the reunion and I bounded up to her. She had always been so feisty, so full of adventure, such a bonne viveur. So naturally, I was so eager to know what she had done over the last twenty odd years. Answering my question, she uttered three sentences which hit me smack in the face.

“I’m a Consultant Radiologist. I’m married with children, we have a house. And that’s it”

WHAT? It was that ultimate sentence that completely shocked me. She had fought hard to get to her goal and now was couching her achievement with those three gloomy words. And that’s it.

As you can imagine, I’ve ruminated a lot since that evening over our various conversations. And I’m happy to report that I don’t want to swap places with any of them, even though they have achieved such extraordinary things. On a more sobering note, some are no longer with us. So I am now even more adamant that you have to live every bit of the path you chose. Life is a fantastic, ridiculous, frustrating, bonkers journey. But it is exactly that. It’s a journey. One you need to enjoy.

It’s not all about the destination. And there are no rules. No grown ups. Noone to tell you what you can and can’t do. And you have to grasp your friendships along the way and hang onto them. They happen for a moment of time.

But most importantly, know this.

We only get one go at it. One performance. One opening night.

Or as my gorgeous friend Frank told me all those years ago at Med School “Life is not a dress rehearsal

Thanks for Thanksgiving!

In Opinion Pieces on November 29, 2013 at 8:01 pm

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Yesterday was my fourth Thanksgiving! It’s an extraordinary time in the US. One of the few occasions that everything shuts, the streets are quiet and friends and family get together to celebrate being alive! It always falls on the fourth Thursday in November and became a Federal holiday in 1863 during the American Civil War when Abraham Lincoln issued a Presidential decree.

Thanksgiving is big in the US. No! It’s massive. It’s actually bigger than Christmas. And yesterday, some of my rather more erudite and intelligent friends explained that the reason for this is that it is entirely non-denominational. I hadn’t really thought about this before. And it’s so obvious once i was told. Christmas is a religious festival, celebrated by countries where Christianity is the predominant faith. My Jewish friends don’t celebrate it as such, but they do get in the holiday spirit by sending holiday cards. And since the US is a giant melting pot of faiths, cultures and beliefs, that’s why Thanksgiving is so powerful. It’s the one day that everyone can get together and give thanks for great friends, family and bountiful food.

In fact, the origin of Thanksgiving seems to be rather contentious. I always thought it was a celebration of a bountiful harvest enabling people to survive the long harsh winter ahead. But according to others it actually has its origins from those early settlers giving thanks for finally reaching dry land after tortuous and painful transatlantic crossings.

One completely bizarre custom that the President has to undertake regards Turkeys. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President with live turkeys. He then has it in his gift to proclaim a Presidential pardon for one of them (this has the highest legal executive authority in the US). The turkey that the President choses is then spared death and is sent to a farm to be pampered for  for the rest of its life!  Crazy yes. Quaint definitely. But lovely to have a tradition like this in, what is, a relatively young country.

To be honest it doesn’t really matter what the origin of the day is. It really is an amazing day and yesterday was no exception. It was truly wonderful to be part of a great American tradition. And it’s better than Christmas in many ways. There’s no pressure to buy presents whatsoever. It’s about food, drink, friends and family.

And in LA, it’s wonderful to be considered family and to have a strong, cohesive social network.

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