2016 TATOC Conference Highlights: The BREXIT debate and more
In our latest report on the highlights of the 2016 TATOC conference, HELEN FOSTER reviews the event’s BREXIT debate and more.
Delegates at the 2016 TATOC Conference were treated to a BREXIT debate of their own, when the Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset and a GP by profession, took to the platform. Dr Fox has held several high-profile UK-Government offices and is also the founder of the charity Give Us Time which supports servicemen, and their families, who are in need of rehabilitation.
Offering assurances to those Brits who live overseas in countries such as Spain, Dr Fox said in the event of Britain exiting the European Union, the UK Government would set out an exit process and, ultimately, it was his opinion that there would not be much difference to their lives overseas from how it is now.
EU and competition
Being in the holiday business, many delegates were keen to elicit Dr Fox’s views on how a British exit from the EU would impact their operations and the holiday trade. “I don’t believe the factors driving the holiday trade depend on the EU and the UK’s EU membership,” he responded. “It depends on the health of our own economy. We in the UK are importing too many regulations from the EU and it kills our competitiveness. We need more free market and less regulation.”
Dr Fox went on to share concerns over the loss of control of UK borders, and the number of people coming in to the country. “1.12 million EU citizens have settled in the UK in the last decade. I believe the risk of staying in is greater than coming out,” he said.
The conference was divided. Conference moderator, Robin Mills, organised a BREXIT vote at the close of the debate which returned a result of 40 to come out of the EU / 49 to stay in – a fairly close call!
There was much support for the argument that Britain should not be holding a referendum at all, as the whole business of exit was too complex for the average person to understand. Other delegates were mindful that the referendum would ultimately determine an irreversible decision that would affect children today growing up over the next 20 years. Motivational speaker, Michael Jackson, said: “A country that may be substantial now is not being seen as it was two years ago; and will it be the same two years from now? The world is changing.”
Comments from the floor – all in favour of staying in:
“Some countries have property tax sales beneficial to EU citizens – 19% for EU citizens, and 33.3% for non-EU citizens.”
“We should not block people coming into the UK, as we need inbound visitors for tourism.”
“Employment abroad will be given to nationals in EU countries, making it harder for Brits to get jobs.”
“We are a small country. If you live in the village, you can’t believe you’re the only house.”
“Peace in Europe will be greatly enhanced by staying in the EU.”
Comments from the floor – all in favour of leaving the EU:
“The trading figures given for UK trade with Europe have been built up over many years, they did not spring up overnight. [They were] built up over the years we were not in the EU.”
“[The EU] needs us as much as we need them. I heard we got a deal – the UK only has to pay £960 billion to the EU over the next seven years. How can this be sensible? How many hospitals and schools could we build with that?”
“We put more in than we take out. It’s time that stopped.”
“We need better-qualified MEPs in Brussels. And how can we have UKIP MEPs in Europe? They are making a point!”
On another EU matter close to the hearts of TATOC delegates, Dr Fox commented on the success of the 2011 EU Timeshare Directive, recently reviewed by the EU Commission for Consumer Protection. “The new Directive was supposed to be cleaner, with simple rules. It sets out detailed information for timeshare consumers on price, description of product, length of time of stay entitlement under the contract – all to be provided in the consumer’s own language if chosen,” he explained.
“There is a 14-day cooling-off period, no taking of deposits and it explicitly makes the buyer aware of the right to withdraw from the sale within the 14-day cooling-off period,” he recounted, noting that member states were legally obliged to ensure consumers were informed, and had the power to apply appropriate penalties on those not adhering to the regulations of the Directive.
In December of last year, the EU Commission review accepted that there would be no retrospective application of the legislation going back beyond 2011, when the Directive was implemented. Dr Fox attributed this positive development to a strong lobby from the industry, plus fears of insolvency within the industry if the legislation been retrospectively applied.
“The EU Commission felt the industry was subject to enough national regulation and, in general, a statute does not apply to the past,” he said. “Any retrospective application of Laws can make a criminal out of someone who acted within the Law at the time. To do this would be morally unthinkable.”
Thank you for giving them time together
Dr Fox concluded his lively conference session by offering his thanks to all in the industry who had been generous in their support of his charity, Give Us Time. The charity was founded in 2012 by Dr Fox who, in his time as a UK Army medic, and later as UK Secretary of State for Defence, became aware that homecomings were not always as easy as might be expected for service personnel or their families. Often, after months away from home, the family dynamic can change and it can be stressful for both the service personnel and their families to readjust to a life together again, in a domestic situation that may be different to how it was before they left. Give Us Time helps service families to reconnect after combat and provides them with the chance to spend time together and reaffirm their family bond. Holiday companies are asked to donate time in their resorts, hotels and accommodations to give to such families to help their rehabilitation.
Among those thanked by Dr Fox for their contributions of free holidays to the charity were: Silverpoint – donating more than 40 weeks; Azure Malta – donating over 30 weeks; and Club La Costa which gave 38 servicemen and their loved ones holidays last year. Phil Watson was also thanked for his support in terms of promoting the charity and raising awareness of its work.
“A good number of these families could never have afforded a family holiday and you have no idea how good it is to be able to give them that opportunity,” Dr Fox told delegates. “Not just the service personnel, but the families themselves, have given us so much and it is tremendously rewarding to give them something back to thank them. So many of you have given so generously to Give Us Time, and I’d like to thank you and to tell you how extremely grateful I am to you. Thank you.”
For more information and to donate, click here.