Wednesday, September 20, 2017

To EU Or Not To EU, That Is The Question

There has been a lot said about the UK's decision to leave the EU. Some of it has been true, a lot has been false while most of the rest is hyperbole and misinformed.

The problems have come from both sides of the amusingly titled 'debate', but is an argument that has more in common with a couple of kids arguing over whose dad is the biggest.

I voted to leave, but not due to immigration or any of the other lies put forward by the leave campaign (The £350m was an outright lie), nor was it influenced by the fear-mongering that came from the remain camp. It was the culmination of acquired knowledge, in part from studying the EU at university in the mid 90s, but also due my keeping up with developments in the EU over the past thirty years.

Among my reasons are the four listed below, and I present them for information and to illustrate why I do not trust the EU in its current form and why I do not believe it either can, or wants, to change.


Remember this? Had it been passed into EU law, it would have resulted in US and European companies being able to buy up large parts of the welfare state across Europe, not to mention a lowering of health and safety standards in food production and elsewhere. Who negotiated it? The EU. So much for consumer protection. Further details about TTIP and its remifications can be found on Wikipedia and on the Stop TTIP site.

It was not the EUs finest hour and showed the organisation as being in hock to European big business, most of which have donated to political party coffers across Europe.

2) CAP

This has been a festering sore causing financial problems for Europe even before the UK joined. And to those who say we need to stay inside in order to fix it, we've had forty years to change this with no success. There have been many attempts down the years, but all have failed, in part due to French and German farmers intransigence, and their respective governments being unwilling to lose votes over the issue.

One upshot of this policy is the over-production of food. Aside from asking why, despite this over production, we still have hungry people in Europe, there's also the issue of dumping. Not wine lakes or apple mountains, but the price dumping on the international markets. To give one example, EU tinned tomatoes are on sale in West Africa, undercutting the local producers on price. It puts local farmers out of work and is a contributor to the poverty that ensues.

Political maneuvering by national governments is at the root cause of this problem, but there is no real desire to hand powers over to the EU Parliament so they can change it. All attempts to do so have been scuppered, not just by the UK, but by all European governments.

3) The Euro

As with the CAP, the Euro is another example of political expediency, (the convergence criteria were laid out in the Maastricht treaty) while there were several countries who should not have been allowed into the Euro due to systemic problems with their economies. Greece, Spain and Portugal come to mind, while even Italy and France were outside the standards set for entry. Even Germany cooked the books.

Most of the desire to join was to bolster the political union of the EU. It's result was austerity in the wake of the 2008/9 crisis and the suffering that is still ongoing.

4) Austerity

Greece, Spain, Portugal, have all suffered because of austerity packages imposed by the EU, Germany and the ECB, packages designed to sell off public assets and reduce the amount spent on welfare services. The consequence of this is that private industry has been able to buy, on the cheap, public services and buildings. (You can find more information about the impact on Greece from a February article in the Guardian and through another article written in 2015).

Not forgetting that one of the main reasons for the Greek debacle was the financial crash of 2008, for which the banks, the ones who are demanding governments bail them out, are yet to be held to account.

All the above show the current EU to be little more than a neoliberal, corporatist shell, designed to improve the lot of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. It's ideology is far from the mixed, centre left policies of post war Europe and its governments and has more in common with US style capitalism or Victorian Britain than anything else.

While there are some successes with regenerating a few poor areas, they have done nothing that a national government couldn't do if it had full control of its finances or the right people in charge. Other successes are in the fields of science and in combating global warming, as well as some educational areas.

The free movement of people is great in theory, but that free movement has been used by big corporations to import cheaper labour from former Communist countries and keep wages down, or export factories to those low cost areas. The free movement of capital, which runs alongside this, also allows firms to avoid paying tax in one country by basing themselves in other, lower tax EU nations, even while they have operations across Europe.

These are some of the reasons I voted to leave and would do so again, and I would ask those who are still in favour of staying in the EU to carefully consider what I have written, even if you later reject it.

An interesting booklet on the subject was published a few years ago, and goes into some more detail of the politics and trade within and outside the EU.


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