Saturday, 7 November 2015

If you want a healthier, wealthier, happier Europe then vote to leave. I will be.

The actual referendum is still a long way off. So far as I'm aware there's not yet a firm date so we can assume that it will be, as promised, in 2017 - probably on the same day as that year's county council elections. Despite this distance, the arguments for leaving and remaining are being rehearsed by the two sides.

As we'd expect much of the argument - from both camps - is focused on scaring people. The 'leave' camp - or at least the UKIP-inspired part of it - is playing big on borders and migration taking advantage of the current situation where hundreds of thousands of Syrian and other refugees have decamped themselves onto mainland Europe. Linked to this is the very familiar "we can win back our country" rhetoric wrapped around the £15 billion cost of our membership. These are familiar arguments that have sat in the heart of the anti-Europe case for decades. Along with frowning talk of 'sovereignty' and 'our own laws', these positions have gone as far as they can to secure a base for leaving the EU - and, as polls show, it's not enough.

For the 'remainers', the scaremongering is different. It ranges from out-and-out lies about the number of UK jobs "dependent on EU membership" and misinformation about trade through to the very effective repetition of Jim's dad's advice to his remaining children - "And always keep ahold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse". The EU - or rather the altogether friendlier 'Europe' - is established, organised, operational and secure. Outside its walls are lions just waiting to gobble up the unsuspecting independent nation. An important thread in all this is now 'security' - leaving the EU means we'd be more exposed to terrorism, cross-border crime and, the new favourite bogieman, Russia.

A political dialogue based on scaring the pants off people isn't helpful for all those people who prefer a positive debate and who want the political system to focus on how we can all become healthier, wealthier and happier. And my botheration with the European Union is that it's entire mission is now to protect the health, wealth and happiness of those who already have health, wealth and happiness. Or at least a job.

Greece and Spain have been recording the highest figures, with overall unemployment over 20 per cent and youth unemployment around 48 per cent.

In the wider, 28-country European Union, unemployment also remained unchanged for a second month in a row in August at 9.5 per cent, with more than 23 million people out of work.

We skim over those numbers. But they're saying that half of young Greeks and Spaniards don't have work - and it's not much better for Italians. Indeed, since the employment isn't evenly distributed, there are parts of these countries where there is quite literally no work at all. We can talk about 'world recession' and seek to blame international capitalism or the USA but the problem of unemployment in the EU is here to stay and is a direct consequence of policy decisions made by the EU leadership:

According to European Central Bank's own calculations, the near 11pc unemployment rate is here to stay. Even in an optimistic case, it will only fall to 9pc in 2020 when the eurozone's economic slack has been used up, according to the IMF.

Most Europeans - even most Spaniards, Italians and Greeks - will probably be OK. They'll have their health, wealth and happiness protected but the EU intends to do this at the expense of those 23 million folk without a job.

Beyond Europe's boundaries - a place the EU looks on with ever more protectionist panic - the approach is to hector, lecture and do backroom deals. Yet at the same time the EU operates its own protectionist systems - mostly at the expense of poorer nations:

The economic efficiency costs of allocating additional resources to the farm and food sectors amount to some €38 billion, with the EU15 supporting more than €34 billion in allocative efficiency costs. Although the cost of distortions in the new Member States (NMS) is smaller, they are expected to increase as direct payments are phased in. Parts of the costs suffered by the EU are compensated by an improvement in its terms of trade in the order of €17 billion, at the expense of the EU’s trading partners, especially from Latin America.

Put simply, the Common Agriculture Policy (for all that the worst aspects of this policy have been reformed) continues to distort international trade and competition in agricultural goods - and it is producing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America that pay over half the price of that distortion. Healthy, wealthy and happy farmers in France, Germany and Britain are kept that way at the cost of the health, wealth and happiness of farmers in Paraguay, Tanzania and Vietnam. Moreover, these policies don't benefit us EU 'citizens' either - we pay the other half of these costs in higher prices and higher taxes.

Indeed, the EU systematically abuses trade rules to advantage domestic producers (never consumers - always producers):

The European Union and its 27 member states generated more than a third of the policies identified by the study, and 93 percent of them discriminated against foreign competition, a slightly higher proportion than in Japan and the United States.

European and Japanese discriminatory policies were also the most "selective", with more than two-thirds specifically targeting particular firms in the domestic market.

A tally of the 10 most affected sectors in each of the seven economies revealed that - in varying concentrations - all of them used policies that either discriminated against foreign competition or selectively favored domestic firms.

And the economies that resorted most to discrimination tended to rely most on policies where the WTO rules were weakest, such as bailouts, trade finance, and investment incentives - in 84 percent of cases in the EU.

For all its talk of trade deals and such, the EU is profoundly opposed to open trade - hence the preference for such deals as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) rather than for free trade and the removal of market distorting subsidies. And remember that we - the European consumer - will pay for these distortions. For the sake of protecting inefficient basic industries, we are paying a huge price in high prices, high taxes and high unemployment.

But all this can be reformed can't it? Isn't it just this sort of problem that David Cameron is trying to get resolved with his country-hopping?

I'm happy to be persuaded otherwise but the most likely answer to these questions is simply 'no'. The institutions of the EU are wedded to slow growth, protectionism and managed trade. Without an existential threat to these institutions, there is no prospect of any change least of all any change that might lead to more transparent and open government. The European Commission is comfortable (and confident) in its protected place - access is limited for individual citizens with preferential access given to lobbyists, business organisations and NGOs. Indeed, the Commission uses its funds to develop Europe-wide lobby groups and to support campaigns to change EU regulations.

The idea that we can change this comfortable arrangement without threatening its continued existence is ridiculous. We have watched as the EU has been prepared to sacrifice the health, wealth and happiness of Greeks to protect its project - what makes anyone think they are different and that those same men won't watch you lose your job or your business so as to protect their position - their health wealth and happiness?

This is why we have to vote to leave - not for little England or national sovereignty or borders but for the sake of the health, wealth and happiness of Europeans and for our future prosperity. To do this we have to move on from the protectionism of the EU model, to focus on standards rather than barriers in trade, and to deal directly with international bodies rather than through the opacity of the European Commission. Britain leaving will force the EU to confront its vulnerability and to recognise that it no longer serves the mission of a better Europe, that it is a brake on progress not a route to the better world to which it aspires.

If you want a better future for Britons, for Europeans and for the World, voting to leave really is the only choice. Do it.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on coming out of the closet - welcome to the real world. Now make sure all your chums follow your lead.