Like many I have been disappointed about the factual ‘desert’ that this EU campaign has become. So I offer this as a handy summary. If you like it please share it on social media with your friends.
In theory the EU should 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). Some of the key points about this follow but one of the real problems in this referendum is that the EU is a huge topic and it would take a large book to cover all the issues properly.
9 Facts about the EU…
- The EU costs us about £275 million a week (£14 billion a year – or £350 million a week, £18 billion a year if you don’t include the UK’s precarious rebate.). We get some money back but we have no control over the way it’s spent; the EU decides that.
- 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 …”
- EU over-regulation is stifling European economic development. The unnecessary ‘red tape’ produced by the EU reduces the productivity of European businesses. At the 2004 CBI Conference the Labour Europe Minister Peter Mandelson agreed that this cost us about 4% of GDP (about £64 billion a year). 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. 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 all 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. 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 immigration levels. The UK is actually building 115,000 and needs to build 240,000). While in the EU the UK has absolutely no control over this and this is 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 affect 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 state.
- 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. Some of this is legislation that directly passes into UK law (Regulations) – the rest is legislation that the nation states must incorporate into their own laws (Directives). A recent BBC program put EU law at 62% of UK law.
Some things said about the EU that are not Facts
- “Leaving the EU would cost every household £4300 by 2030.” (George Osborne). Governments can’t accurately predict what the economy will do next year let alone 2030. The BBC Reality Check described this as “questionable and probably not particularly helpful.” All long term predictions are based on guesswork and often ignore the massive economic costs of EU membership and red tape that affect us now, today. The Institute of Economic affairs on the other hand calculated that the EU costs us now £9235 per household per year.
- “The EU has 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.
- “Leaving the European Union would tip the UK into a year-long recession, with up to 820,000 jobs lost within two years.” Business Secretary Sajid Javid happily admitted that the Treasury had been told to only consider the downsides and ignore possible upsides to leaving – so again it is not a balanced piece of work – and this is from an organisation that once told us the EU was costing us 7% of our GDP (see point 3 above).
If we leave the EU there is bound to be some uncertainly for a year or two. For the long term the choice is this:
(a) Would you rather be the fifth largest economy in the world with your own democratic government in control of your own destiny and boarders? Or
(b) Would you rather be a part of an unstable political project, that is un-democratic, stiflingly over regulated, economically challenged with increasing civic discontent that is still driving for ‘Ever closer Union’?
Leaving the EU is better for the UK in the long term. It will probably help Europe as a whole as well as it may force the EU to reform itself into a pan-national body that is more appropriate for the modern world.
If you would like more information then this MEP’s FAQ is a good point to start: