The referendum campaign turned out to be a bit of a factual ‘desert’. Some of us naively thought that we would have reasoned debate about things like the extent of the EU’s democratic deficit and the full cost/benefit analysis of membership, for example. Instead all we got from the Remain side was an aggressive narrative that anyone who questioned limits on immigration was a racist and a scare story each day based on the corruption of the ‘experts’. So I have put some facts together with plenty of references linked. If you like it please share it…
What is wrong with the EU…
The EU is all about creating a new nation. A key element of EU treaties has always been ‘ever closer union‘. Among other things the EU has a flag, anthem, parliament, court, civil service, diplomatic corps with embassies, currency, central bank, passports and citizens. In a world of globalisation we do not need another nationalism with all the attendant strains and conflicts that introduces. The rise of nationalist movements across the EU member states are in part a response to the threat posed to national identity by the EU.
The EU is not the sort of transnational body we need. In theory the EU could be a good idea. In a world of globalisation, transnational bodies are needed to sort out the things that nations cannot do themselves. For example, the environment, world trade, multinational tax avoidance, mega science projects like space travel or fusion. The nations and subdivisions within them would then do the things they are good at and suit their local peoples.
A picture of this might look something like this…
Each tier of government would have areas of democratic responsibility that others do not violate.
The trouble is the EU isn’t like that – not even remotely. The picture looks more like this:
In the EU, the power to make and enforce law is massively centralised. There is no delegation of powers in the areas where the EU has jurisdiction. In any one year, the EU is responsible for the majority of the law made in the UK. Some of this is legislation that directly passes into UK law – Regulations (‘R’ above) – the rest is legislation that the nation states must incorporate into their own laws – Directives (‘D’ above). VAT is an example of an EU Directive. The ‘Pasty Tax’ debacle was all about George Osbourne trying to avoid being taken to the EU Court for not applying VAT correctly – not, of course, that he mentioned that at the time. The EU is a super-bureaucracy, and one of the real problems with discussing the pros and cons of the EU is that it is such a huge topic and it would take a large book to cover all the issues properly. But if you are involved in a business that deals in something that the EU decides to control then you will know about it. For example: the EU decided to standardise the size of wine bottles (Regulation 2007/45) and defined a whole list of arbitrary sizes for wine bottles. In countries like the UK where other traditional sizes were in use this then required the retooling of a factory – or bankruptcy.
More than half of UK law is imposed on us by the EU. In any one year the EU is responsible for between about 55% and 80% of the law made in the UK. A recent BBC program put EU law at 62% of UK law.
The EU is not a democracy. The European Parliament is an advisory body not a true parliament, it has little influence or power. It cannot create or repeal legislation, this is the role of the EU Commission (the EU Civil Service). Even as an advisory body its role is limited. The large quantity of legislation produced by the Commission and the short time available to ordinary MEPs to discuss it makes democratic debate and scrutiny minimal. From the EU’s ‘ABC of Community Law‘ “the European Parliament, unlike the true parliaments in a parliamentary democracy, does not elect a government that answers to it …”
The EU costs us about £275 million a week (£14 billion a year) in direct fees. Or £350 million a week £18 billion a year if you don’t include the UK’s precarious rebate – which has already been halved once by Tony Blair trying to curry favour and become the first President of the EU. We get some money back (about £5 billion) but we have no control over the way it’s spent, the EU decides that. Whichever figure you chose they are all dwarfed by the total cost of EU membership (see next point).
EU over-regulation is stifling European economic development. The unnecessary ‘red tape’ produced by the EU reduces the productivity of European businesses. Gordon Brown’s own Treasury assessment in 2005 said ‘that barriers to external trade and investment – such as tariffs, quotas and unjustifiably restrictive standards – could cost Europe’s consumers up to 7 per cent of EU GDP‘. So he is saying that the EU could be costing the UK £112 billion a year – a figure that is likely to have gone up since, not down (In February 2016 the Institute of Economic affairs put this figure at about 13% of UK GDP or about £208 billion). If you want to get an idea of what ‘restrictive standards‘ look like, a good example is the EU Regulation on the Marketing of Fruit and Vegetables, number 543/2011. This is 64,784 words long and defines a myriad of pointless standards for fruit, for example, the percentage of skin that a red variety of apple must be red colour or the shape of Kiwi fruit where ‘The ratio of the minimum/maximum diameter of the fruit measured at the equatorial section must be 0,8 or greater‘. There are currently about 11,500 Regulations and 1800 Directives in place. In 2010 Open Europe calculated that if printed out the total, current, EU legislation would be a pile 11 metres/ 36 feet high. Big multinational businesses don’t tend to mind this so much as they have the economies of scale to cope, that is one of the reasons they tend to be pro-EU, it stops smaller businesses competing on a level playing field.
The EU is not essential for Trade and Jobs. You don’t have to be a member of the EU to trade with it. Switzerland is not in the EU and it exports more per person to the EU than we do. The United States exports more goods per person to the EU than we do and there isn’t even a free trade agreement in place between the EU and the USA (which makes Barrack Obama’s intervention even more contrived). Only 5% of UK firms export to the EU, yet currently all 100% have to abide by EU regulations on their business.
The EU has put itself ‘above the law’. The EU Treaty of Rome grants all its staff full lifetime immunity from prosecution. In addition it states that ‘….premises and buildings of the Communities shall be exempt from search, requisition, confiscation or expropriation’ .. ‘their archives shall be inviolable…’. This means that the buildings and offices of the EU, wherever they happen to be, cannot be searched or inspected. This is something that just shouldn’t happen in a democracy.
EU judges overrule UK law. EU judges have already overruled British laws on issues like tax, counter-terrorism powers, immigration, VAT, and prisoner voting. Even the Government’s proposed new deal can be overturned after the referendum: it is not legally binding. Articles 171-188 of the Treaty of Maastricht gives the European Court of Justice authority to overturn verdicts by UK courts and laws made by Westminster.
More than half of net migration to the UK comes from the EU. All mainstream political parties believe that immigration is good for the UK. We have an ageing population and need immigrants. The issue is should the numbers be regulated. It is a space issue – not a race issue. More than a quarter of a million people came to the UK from the EU in the 12 months to September 2015 – the equivalent of a city the size of Newcastle every year (we need to build 88,000 houses every year to cope with current population growth alone the UK is actually building 115,000 and needs to build 240,000). While in the EU the UK can never set its own goals for levels of migration and the numbers are likely to get worse as the EU expands further.
The Euro is bankrupting Southern Europe. Historically no currency union has ever succeeded. Large disparate economies like the United States survive with one currency by making massive fiscal transfers from the more prosperous parts of the country to the less well off sections. Until the Germans are happy to give money to the Greeks to compensate them for the fact that the Euro benefits the German economy more than the Greek’s the Euro can never work. Thanks to the crippling effect of the Euro the Greek unemployment rate is currently about 25%. Among the under 24 age group it is 51%. Italy isn’t in a much better
The EU has not kept the peace in Europe. NATO has kept the peace in Europe, not the EU. If anything the EU’s tampering with democracy and nationality in Europe and the fact that its economic policies have resulted in mass youth unemployment in southern Europe means that it is a long term threat to peace not a benefit.