View from a Confused European-a few questions.


26/05/15 Update.

I wrote this piece nearly a year ago with an update last November. Nothing much has changed- oh, apart from the fact that Cameron has sneaked in and Labour has backed the in/out referendum…

But even at this late stage it is not clear what reforms are being demanded and what would they achieve.

The terms of the debate appear to be largely about migration and big business. It is not surprising that Big business wants the single market but we need to look at the benefits for “hardworking people.” (Did I really use that phrase? Sorry..)

Many of the issues we see as being a uk problem are actually european wide problems- take the issue of undermining minimum wages. Companies have been exploiting loop hole all over Europe. Is this 1 of the reforms being sought? This surely is a problem that can be dealt with inside the eu in a spirit of cooperation….

Those of us seeking an end to tax avoidance are best doing this within a European context.

We need to be putting these arguments forward so that the debate isn’t purely about business.

Could someone start by pointing me in the direction of a website that lists all the projects in UK being supported by EU funding?

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Let me start by saying I consider myself to be a European. This is not surprising I suppose as I have a Belgian mother and an English father. I am also pro EU- I believe in free movement of people and that some issues need to be dealt with on a bigger scale than the national…..

I also take an interest in politics at all levels and yet I have to admit that I could not explain how the EU functions nor exactly who takes what decisions. In the light of the current furore over Junker and the mass media pandering to UKIP I think I need to inform myself on what the issues really are….

And that is my first question.

How can we have an in-out referendum when there is so little understanding of what is actually at stake?

There are lots of shouty proclamations on all sides but very few facts. So far the media have failed to add light to the issues and have accepted the narratives the politicians have set.

My second question is to those who would like to pull out of the EU but would like to continue trading with other European countries.

How would withdrawal from the EU devolve power?

As I understand it, in order to continue trading with EU countries we would have to accept their trading conventions and rules. Yet we would no longer have any say in what those conventions and rules are.

People of all main parties are all talking about reforming the EU but there is little indication of what these reforms should be. most calls for reform are framed as aimed to return power to national governments. My next question is to all parties:

I also struggle with the idea that the reforms being sought are somehow in “the national interest”.

What is this thing, “the national interest”? Much discussion is taking place about the vast gap between London and the rest of the country. There is also a massive divide within the capital between those who benefit and those who suffer. I suspect that “the national interest” is shorthand for the interests of big business and the political classes.

Much is made in the UK of the notion that decisions in the EU are made by faceless, unelected bureaucrats, swimming in the great gravy train that is Brussels. Could we not say the same of the SPADS, the quango’s and the government business sub-contracted to private, profit making businesses such as ATOS and Serco?

My next question then is:

Could one of the main reforms to the EU be to give more power to the elected EU parliament?

That could mean giving more power to the citizens of Europe rather than the national leaders, so I suspect that is  low down on the agenda of reforms being called for. But if we are really talking  about EU accountability I’d like to hear what the objections to increasing democratic power of EU parliament really are. I believe it would reduce the democratic deficit and MEPS from, say NE England could get together with Dutch MEPS who may have regional interests not reflected by the “national interest.” (Trouble is I suppose that raises the spectre of the F word- federalism…)

There are many more questions I could pose and I will as I start educating myself in the machinations of the EU. If you have any answers to the questions posed, please feel free to comment…

Update- 05/11/14

Alas, I am not writing to say how well informed I have become on all matters EU- I have failed to do my homework. There is so much noise coming out about the EU at the moment that I have done what many will have done- dived under the duvet and blocked my ears…

We now have the battle over our payments to the EU budget. What a surprise it must have been to all the nations who had agreed a mechanism to adjust payments that the budget payments were, well, adjusted…

But today I just want to address a question I posed in my initial piece:

What reforms are you seeking? We need details here. And as a follow up question:

What would the reforms mean in practice? Not vague waffle but practical explanations and examples.

According to the BBC, Cameron stated in parliament today that he has a plan over EU reforms….

“What we have is a set of things we want to sort out in Europe – we want to sort out safeguards for the single market, get out of ever-closer union and we want reform of immigration.

You can read the whole article here

Sorry Dave, don’t think that amounts to a plan. What does “sort out safeguards for the single market” actually mean? Does it mean that you will try and sort out the tax anomalies for businesses across EU? Would that include “meddling” from the EU to regularise standards of goods? Or does it really mean that you will promote TTIP so that your friends in the USA can benefit from privatisation of public services? We need some detail here..

And you want to safeguard the single market yet at the same time “get out of” ever closer union. What does that actually mean? Presumably we should “get out of” say, sharing intelligence or standardising the market …

Reform of immigration? Again, what reform? Surely, if we have a single market, we should be talking about migration between different regions of that single market? Or are we talking about those people who risk their lives to claim those generous UK benefits?

All I really ask of those debating the EU and immigration is for some clarity about what they want and why and for at least one or two facts to be included. I fear this might be too much to ask of politicians, scared to create new narratives…

Right, time to do some homework. I will start with the full research study on cost v benefit of immigration .

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