EU- Remain and reform? – What reform?

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February 12

I read with interest, and fortitude, accompanied by a very nice glass of red wine, David Barrages two letters in recent editions of CBN. One point we can agree on.
We all should be able to have debates, even robust debates without the discussion turning personal or abusive. Unfortunately, the social media revolution like the EU is creaking at the seams with abuses.
First, I do thank David for his insights on the internal systems of the EU in general. It added another layer or two to my own knowledge. To all the issues raised by David and other posters I think we are overlooking some of the key issues that cast a shadow over the EU and have led us to where we are now not to mention the worrying growth of the far right something that nobody wants. That said populism, others would call that democracy, has grown primarily because the EU and national governments refuse to listen. That is because there are simply no leaders. Making someone a President does not mean they are a leader. Populism is growing because, to use the title of the book by Malcom Gladwell, people have reached their ‘Tipping Point’.
I am not surprised that the Brexit subject is where it is. I have listened to, and discussed with many people, many of whom have their own valid and strongly held reasons for voting the way they did, and amongst my friends we have agreed to disagree on those strongly held views. I disagree with an article where the writer described the referendum as rigged, it clearly wasn’t and let’s be fair there were exaggerations on both sides of the argument i.e. 350 million to the NHS from the leavers on the one hand and a potential loss of 700,000 job losses on the other.
It started back in 2016. Cameron went to Brussels, asked for scraps, he got scraps and then tried to sell it to the UK voters as an A la Carte Feast. Why? – Because Cameron and the EU arrogantly thought there was no way the UK will vote to leave. I suggest no one within the EU Commission gave it a thought much less stopped to ask the question ‘but what if’. To date has shown not one scintilla of determined reform as much as Blair, Mandelson, Major and others constantly trumpet, ‘stay and reform’.
Full Sovereignty. The elected politicians/officials of any country are the ones best placed to determine laws, taxes, trade deals and the plethora of other strategic tasks and policies. To give up some or all of those sovereign rights is in my opinion at best foolhardy and at worst negligent particularly to unelected officials. In addition, as the saying goes ‘if you give up freedom for more security you get neither’. At least we can get rid of poor governments.
Second, where is the EU now, in two words, in trouble. The EU of today is not what I voted for in 1977 or remotely envisaged. I voted to join the Common Market not get on a conveyor belt that has been surreptitiously moving toward a Federal State, which was always the intention, aside from the initial objective at the outset of securing peace in Europe. Ted Heath’s memoires serialised in The Sunday Times many, many years ago articulated that this goal should be kept from the public at large. William Parker in an earlier letter says the ’EU is not a dictatorship, it is democratic and accountable’. Also, in an earlier article Anthony Wilmsens refers to the EU being a decent and professional body. Well I would suggest otherwise as it all but ditched democracy and is indeed moving toward a dictatorship.
Some examples, the Swedish accountant Marta Andreason, who reported to Neil Kinnock a then Commissioner charged with rooting out fraud etc, was fired for blowing the whistle on the EU accounting system being ‘awash with slush funds and fraud’. A case of shooting the messenger? When Neil Kinnock appeared on BBC’s HardTalk with Tim Sebastien, Sebastien took Kinnock apart, line by line. It was embarrassing.
The Court of Auditors for the last 24 years have refused to sign off the accounts, and recently the ECOJ backed non-disclosure of the MEP’s expenses on the grounds that it would infringe their privacy. They spend taxpayer’s money and the ECOJ says that it is ok. The raid on savers in Cypriot Banks in 2013 netted €5.8 billion and was described as daylight robbery. Here the EU trod all over a nation state and hit ordinary law-abiding citizens with no recourse. Take a look at the pay and perks of EU staff. 10,000 EU employees earn more than the British Prime Minister – do I hear gravy train?
Third, on the question of dictatorship, that arch EU fanatic Guy Verhofstedt in a speech to the EU in November 2018 spoke in despair of EU countries resisting the surrender of more, if not all, of their sovereignty to the EU. He lives in another world
Fourth, when I was living in Asia, I attended a meeting of an EU delegation following the 2014 Euro elections in Singapore. That 2014 election saw yet another low turnout that suggested apathy amongst certain European nations. That year a poll on whether people had trust in their politicians produced equally low figures. I suggested to the group that growing levels of a lack of trust and dissatisfaction with politicians and the within the EU in particular needed to be addressed. As is the case with the EU, it has been poor at communication aka listening. In making my points and others, the look on their faces was a picture. They couldn’t comprehend what I was suggesting, living as they do within the Brussels bubble!
The Euro is again under pressure together with the German economy slowing down; Italy technically in recession and France has its ongoing problems. Remember Project Fear were the UK to reject joining the Euro? The IMF, World Bank to mention two were strong advocates for the UK to join the Euro. Thank goodness we didn’t. The same organisations were also advocating fear were the UK to vote to leave. With everyone in the Euro a countries ability to tackle an economic downturn by devaluing their currency is gone. Joseph Stiglitz the respected Economist said the EU can only work with full economic and monetary union but if the EU held a referendum on that, which includes passing more, all, sovereign rights to the EU would they win? The figures I have recently seen on the levels of debt being carried by the countries within the Eurozone is truly staggering. Is it any wonder we face the problems we do?
Immigration. Most countries benefit from it but it has to be controlled. Free movement may have been fine years ago but in this volatile world of today even the security services are hindered by free movement. The EU´s response to the migrant was lamentable
I can recall whilst studying for my MBA not so many years ago that in the Finance module I learnt that as far as M&A’s were concerned only 30% added shareholder value. Who really thinks you can merge 28 countries into one happy family? When the corporate world is trying to pass decision making down the line to regions and/or local level the EU is moving inextricably towards centralising.
It is well documented that a no deal Brexit will harm Europe more than the UK, yet the EU doggedly sticks to its no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement. The EU sends €60 billion worth of goods more than the UK sends to Europe. Will common sense prevail?
If the EU had simply stuck with the Treaty of Rome then this situation would likely not have arisen. Yes, the EU was a noble cause but it has to change to survive but that has been kicked into the long grass. If the EU does not see the UK leaving as a wake-up call then maybe it deserves to die.

Ray Bigger

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