Highlighting misconceptions with the EU In-Out Debate…

Cameron has finally given into the demands from his backbenchers and the growth of UKIP alongside feeding Euroscepticism ignorance within the UK by promising an in-out European referendum if the Tories get re-elected.

I’m not against referendums but voting on membership to the EU is stupid on two counts:1) There is so much ignorance, lies and misconceptions regarding the European Union and the Eurozone, which would only be intensified through right-wing media monopoly 2) The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and gambling with this through a vote is like a game of Russian Roulette.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/mar/05/eu
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/mar/05/eu

Both of these points relate to the differences between the European Union politically and the Eurozone and the related Stability and Growth Pact and the recent Fiscal Compact. The UK are not in the Eurozone and so are not really effected by the Stability and Growth Pact and the recent tightening of these measures by the Fiscal Compact, given that we have opted out of the Euro and probably will never join.

The measures shaping the Eurozone include:

  • The Stability and Growth Pact (1998) was key to setting a debt limit of 60% of GDP and a deficit limit of 3% of GDP: “in general, the debt must be reduced by one twentieth each year. Countries which are already in the Excessive Deficit Procedure because of not meeting the 3% criterion are expected to work towards reducing their debt as well. They have a further three years to meet the 60% criterion after they have achieved the 3% criterion. At present, 23 of the 27 member states of the EU, including Ireland, are in the Excessive Deficit Procedure. Ireland has until 2015 to meet the deficit requirement of 3% of GDP. (In 2012, the target is 8.6% of GDP.) Ireland has until 2018 to meet the debt requirement.”
  • Stability and Growth Pact was reformed in 2011 through the ‘Six Pact’ extending surveillance to macroeconomic imbalances where the potential for intervention to promotion liberalisation was intensified through supposed indicators of imbalance used to justify ‘reform’. The 2011 reform also increased pressure of financial sanctions on Eurozone countries.
  • The root cause of the current Eurozone austerity measures is the Stability and Growth Pact, not the Fiscal Compact.
  • The Fiscal Compact extends these conditions so “they further commit to pass a national law or an amendment of the national constitution that limits the structural budget deficit to 0.5% of GDP…For countries with a debt-to-GDP ratio “significantly below 60% of GDP”, the structural budget deficit may be as high as 1% of GDP.” The European Court of Justice can fine offending countries

This is also related to the European Banking Union proposals and development to regulate Eurozone banks and again the UK is not directly effected given its formal opt out from the Euro. However, despite the differences between the European Union and the Eurozone, Cameron utilises the Eurozone crisis and associated fiscal restraints as a way to support his move towards potential European exit for the UK:

Third, there is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems. People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent.We are starting to see this in the demonstrations on the streets of Athens, Madrid and Rome. We are seeing it in the parliaments of Berlin, Helsinki and the Hague. And yes, of course, we are seeing this frustration with the EU very dramatically here in the United Kingdom.

Other parties, including the Greens, have supported the referendum with a similar conflation of the EU and the Eurozone, as shown by the following quote from Natalie Bennett’s recent article on the matter:

So yes for change in Europe – but to a kind of Europe that isn’t a giant institution, bearing down on peoples and nations from above (as it has born down particularly oppressively on the Greeks).

It isn’t Europe as an institution, it is specifically the Eurozone with the related Stability and Growth Pact and the Fiscal Compact effecting countries such as Greece, which this referendum will have nothing to do with given we are not a part of the Eurozone or these related conditions.

The UK has only contributed relatively little to the IMF led European bailouts and has nothing to do with the European Stability Mechanism which is the new permanent rescue fund for the Eurozone countries and future Eurozone bailouts. If the UK cared so much about their money being used to promote austerity why are they committing so much of their own funds to austerity within the UK? Let’s also remember that Cameron’s problem is with legislation such as the Working Time Directive – which we already have a partial opt-out from – that “imposes employment rules such as limiting the working week and giving EU workers a minimum number of holidays each year.” Hardly caring about living standards.

Again, this is another victory for a government that is becoming an ever-increasing specialist in PR. If it isn’t turning a private debt and financial sector crisis into a public debt ‘crisis’ where the public sector, welfare claimants and social services pay for risky and speculative behaviours of the financial crooks, then it is the utilisation of the democratic deficit within the Eurozone – that the UK are not members of – to justify potential exit from the European political union.

Even if we were members of the Eurozone, given the UK’s commitment to austerity and neoliberal measures, we would hardly be able to criticise the austerity measures as Cameron has. Even the IMF have warned the UK about its austerity approach and its need to consider Plan B. The government isn’t listening though, as it harks on about the ‘global race‘. Sure, we should be very critical of it happening in countries such as Greece and Spain, but it can hardly be referred to as a justification for having a vote on European membership given how engrained austerity is within our own country because of them.

So what benefits does Europe bring for the UK?

Many. Yes, there is need for democratic reform to European structures, as there is reform needed to local democracy in the UK, parliamentary structures and electoral systems. But even contemplating leaving Europe with ever-increasing regionalisation doesn’t make logistic sense, and will see the UK become increasingly isolated.

For information regarding the benefits of EU membership have a look at the following links:

http://www.euromove.org.uk/index.php?id=15296
http://tinyurl.com/b4fzhnj
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20412306
http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/human-rights/human-rights/the-human-rights-act/index.php

Crucial benefits include:

  • “Critically, being a member of the EU, the UK is part of the procedure for making the rules and regulations of the single market.  Britain’s seat on the Council of Ministers is essential to enable the UK to put its case on proposed regulations and to argue for reform of existing rules.  Our MEPs in the European Parliament are also important because most of the decisions of the EU require the Parliament’s involvement.  Were the UK to leave the EU but join the European Economic Area (assuming we were admitted to the EEA), we would be bound by most single market rules but have no part in the decision-making process.”
  • “The EU Health Insurance Card is a free card which enables EU citizens to receive emergency healthcare on the same terms as the citizens of the EU country they are visiting (often free).”
  • “In addition to being able to live where they choose in the EU, pensioners can receive their UK state pension wherever they live in the EU.”
  • “The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) has been very important in bringing criminals to justice across Member State borders, preventing the long delays and sometimes politicised extradition processes seen in the recent past.”
  • “One of the EU’s most popular programmes is the university mobility scheme ERASMUS, which enables students and staff to study or work at another higher education institution in the EU.  Over 7,000 British students went universities elsewhere in the EU in 2008/09 and 16,000 students from other EU countries came to the UK in the same year”
  • “Research and development is a growing area of EU activity with substantial sums now spent on collaborative and cross-border research projects.  The UK has been particularly successful in winning research grants from the EU – €2.3 billion between 2002 and 2006.”
  • “Only 6.8% of UK primary legislation and 14.1% of secondary legislation have anything to do with implementing EU obligations – not EU diktats – agreed to, approved of and signed off by UK officials.”
  • Laws such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

If an EU referendum does present itself, we have to highlight the misconceptions, lies and myths circulated regarding the EU and the differences to the Eurozone alongside the real benefits being a member of the EU brings. There already is a sovereignty lock in place where any more transfer of ‘power’ from the UK to the EU will be voted on, taking things to a new level of whether we are even a member of the EU is ill-conceived and not based on logic of the real benefits such membership brings.

What we need to do is campaign against the increasingly neoliberal Eurozone but given we are not a member and given our own austerity measures, this isn’t easy. This is where the real work needs to take place. It is dealing with the Eurozone crisis, something we are not engaged in, that threatens the UK.

David Cameron has even boasted that a two-tier European Union will not undermine the UK after opting out of the banking union, saying:

What you’ll see is a growth of this multi-faceted Europe and I don’t think it’s something we should be frightened of at all, I think we should be very confident.

Similarly, Osborne said that it was “a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe.” With the expected treaty change required for increased Eurozone integration, this is where David Cameron hopes to change things. He doesn’t intend to attack the Eurozone, rather he hopes to claw back progressive environment, social and employment legislation. So even if people argue that leaving the EU helps against the creation of a two-tier system, this is something the Tories have claimed to have prevented already. Importantly, the issues have to be clear and conflation of key terms and debates have to stop whatever happens.

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2 thoughts on “Highlighting misconceptions with the EU In-Out Debate…

  1. Ye gods… This really is rambling of the most incoherent type.

    Firstly it is interesting to note that Greens and (proper lefties Bob Crow, Arthur Scargill, Respeck and so on) recognise along with UKIP and the “right” of the CONservative party (even if they disagree on everything else) that the EU is a political con, dreamt up by politicians whose only interest is lining their own pockets.

    Then, ignoring the twaddle that has been written in the upper section, I drift into the “Crucial Benefits” section… 🙂

    In the first crucial benefit, we learn that we are “at the coalface” making the rules of the single market… Actually trading rules are generally agreed at world level, with such marvellous mnemonics like “GATT” which may or may not be agreed, I can never remember, but the EU is a signatory to that and the UK is (now) one 1/28th part of that negotiating team… OTOH, Those poor sad yokels in Norway, get a vote of their own at world level… AND they get a vote of their own, according to the rules of the EFTA along with Iceland and Lichtenstein at EU level in regard to so-called single market legislation… I kid you not. They, far from having what is often referred to as fax government, have MORE say than the UK.

    The EU’s “single market” is actually a Zollverein (aka customs union) which seeks to keep foreigners out… It is really successful too, the EU (when it was the EEC) had 40% of the world market in goods and services, but since the introduction of the single market in the 1980’s, that number has risen fallen to 25%. How splendid (and crucial) is that?

    The EU health insurance card may or may not be a good idea (personally I don’t think so), but it certainly doesn’t need something like the EU for a few people to have a meeting and agree on something like this.

    As far as living wherever you want, this is already the case, pensioners live all over the world, and there are not many countries where the benefits of a pension scheme are not honoured by the company involved (it is pretty amazing that the UK welfare state complies with some of this), but they choose to pick and choose where they can be bothered to honour a business agreement. Oh and working age people (and genuine students) can work anywhere else in the world according to local rules… Be that using work-permits, or some sort of sponsorship et. al..

    The European arrest warrant has seen many honest Britons languish behind bars for over a year in some cases, even though they were completely innocent. It also has the power to make an act or deed that is illegal in member province ‘a’, also illegal in province ‘b’ where it was legal… It is part of the attempt to “harmonise” EU law. As far as this country is concerned, one of the prominent of examples was that of Andrew Symeou who was mistakenly identified as being guilty of pushing somebody to his death in a nightclub in Greece, that he wasn’t actually in. There were a couple of blokes living in a Hungarian Hellhole for nearly a year before they were both released without charge… A woman who had been caught thirty years ago moving a small quantity of “pot” from Morocco to the UK (via Spain), was arrested on the basis that she had absconed thirty years back… which she did, but that is not really that useful, even to the Spanish.

    The “ERASMUS” grants are only given to gifted students of the European Union… If you were studying something useful, the grants/places would not be available, it’s even more “political” about “Monnet” grants which are awarded to the high flyers in EU (thought?).

    The EU makes research grants available… Apparently the British have received more than £2.3 billion between 2002 and 2006… During which time (of course… how could I forget?) approximately £70 billion travelled in the opposite direction… phwoaarr… look at the research grants on that!

    Out of the 4118 (that’s FOUR THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN!) new pieces of legislation vomited out by the Brussels machine in 2012 that is LAST YEAR ONLY… (all of which was passed into UK law WITHOUT debate), approximately 6.8% might have originated in the UK parliament, but that is probably an over enthusiastic estimate.

    DONT’CHA JUST LURVE THE EU… ITS CRUCIAL… LOL.

  2. It is with a great deal of irony, that given your sentiments established by this;

    “There is so much ignorance, lies and misconceptions regarding the European Union and the Eurozone, which would only be intensified through right-wing media monopoly”

    …that your piece contains more inaccuracies that is beyond human endeavour to point out within a reasonable space of time.

    Therefore I’ll start with the obvious ones. The statement above as an argument for not having a referendum is “stupid” for two reasons. Firstly it assumes that the people of the UK are so thick they are unable to figure for themselves how to vote. That is deeply patronising if nothing else.

    Secondly it assumes so-called right wing newspapers would campaign for ‘out’. That is hugely misleading. With the dubious exception of the Express aside, every newspaper would campaign for membership. Don’t believe me? Look back at the Telegraph over the last few weeks. It has been on a daily basis running scare stories in one form or another over the consequences of leaving, here’s but a couple of recent examples:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/9798824/No-responsible-leader-could-ever-leave-EU-says-Danny-Alexander.html

    And

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/9813184/Ford-and-BMW-warn-against-UK-exit-from-EU-as-David-Cameron-readies-historic-speech.html

    As for the Daily Mail it has consistently said in editorials it supports EU membership. Don’t believe me? Again a couple of examples:

    ““The Mail does not support withdrawal from the EU…”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2052022/What-s-wrong-open-debate-EU.html

    And:

    “The Mail doesn’t support a wholesale withdrawal from the EU…”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1365967/Europe-case-referendum.html

    Then you state;

    “Crucial benefits include: Only 6.8% of UK primary legislation and 14.1% of secondary legislation have anything to do with implementing EU obligations – not EU diktats – agreed to, approved of and signed off by UK officials”

    How on earth is that a crucial benefit, not least because they are laws passed by an unelected bureaucracy? Then I even question your figures. It seems to have come the vice-president of Italian Senate quoted on the BBC. How does she know, given there has never been an official government document in this country that has ever evaluated the extent of EU legislation – which is why for the first time ever there is a full audit of EU and UK law currently in progress:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18810566

    Instead the statistics seem to have come from here:

    http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP10-62

    Which says:

    “In the UK data suggest that from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation”

    Suggests? Hmm, that’s conclusive…! (And incidentally contradicts an earlier paper that said only 9.1% of “secondary legislation have anything to do with implementing EU obligations”). The same paper then says this on page 5

    “However, there is no totally accurate, rational or useful way of calculating the percentage of national laws based on or influenced by the EU”.

    Marvellous, what accuracy eh…?

    Then you say:

    “Were the UK to leave the EU but join the European Economic Area (assuming we were admitted to the EEA), we would be bound by most single market rules but have no part in the decision-making process.”

    “No part in the process” is not just wrong it is a falsehood. Norway in fact has a greater say than the UK. A large part of Single Market laws come from international bodies such as the WTO. Here Norway represents itself, but the EU adopts ‘a common position’ on behalf of its members. This means Norway has more scope to influence from the outset of international law for itself than the UK does.

    Then within the Single Market itself, Norway (as well as Lichtenstein and Iceland) via the EEA Council and Joint Committees can influence SM rules. Norway sits on over 200 committees that help frame SM rules.

    Then as a longstop, Norway has a veto – it can choose which EU laws to implement. It has done this recent in 2011 when it refused to adopt the 3rd Postal Directive. The UK, however as a member of the EU, had no choice but to force it through via the Postal Service Act 2011. Another nail in the coffin of our once efficient public Royal Mail service. Some say the UK had therefore as an EU member.

    May I respectfully suggest that before throwing stones about others’ ignorance you get your own house in order first?

    Kind Regards

    TBF

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