If there was a referendum on Europe....

(190 Posts)
CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 15-Jan-13 08:31:42

... which seems to be the hot topic... how do you think it would go?

legalalien Wed 30-Jan-13 06:52:39

Still waiting for my books to arrive, in the meantime have read "Brussels Laid Bare" by Marta Andreasen.

I am not sure what to think - having googled her she certainly seems like someone who is often mired in controversy. But if even half the stuff in the book is true, the Commission needs to be scrapped, not reformed. (Note I am talking about the Commission here, not the eu generally)

legalalien Fri 25-Jan-13 17:37:24

That link didn't seem to work on my ipad. For anyone following along it is, together with some other potentially interesting bits, at

www.europarl.org.uk/ressource/static/files/publications_ressources/ep_speeches_dps_final.pdf

somebloke123 Fri 25-Jan-13 17:20:28

If you read both books then I think we'll be asking you questions!

I've read Booker and North myself and have Young which I've read part of +extracts elsewhere.

Another thing that's worth looking at is a speech by the then Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell gave to the Labour Party Conference in 1962. It's still amazingly relevant after 50 years.

www.cvce.eu/viewer/-/content/05f2996b-000b-4576-8b42-8069033a16f9/en

I like this bit:

" We must be clear about this: it does mean, if this is the idea, the end of Britain as an independent European
state. I make no apology for repeating it. It means the end of a thousand years of history. You may say ‘Let
it end’ but, my goodness, it is a decision that needs a little care and thought. And it does mean the end of the
Commonwealth. How can one really seriously suppose that if the mother country, the centre of the
Commonwealth, is a province of Europe (which is what federation means) it could continue to exist as the
mother country of a series of independent nations? It is sheer nonsense.
I referred to the Liberals. Of course, the Tories have been indulging in their usual double talk. When they go
to Brussels they show the greatest enthusiasm for political union. When they speak in the House of
Commons they are most anxious to aver that there is no commitment whatever to any political union. I do
not often sympathise with Dr. Adenauer, but I am bound to say in the recent exchanges with Mr. Macmillan
I was all for him."

Also I think on the general concept of sovereignty this pamphlet by Noel Malcolm is brilliant:

www.cps.org.uk/files/reports/original/111027161740-SenseofSovereignity1991.pdf

legalalien Fri 25-Jan-13 17:03:11

Right - books on order together with another one by richard north about the battle of britain that looked quite interesting. Will be back with questions in due course mo doubt.

I wonder if i can convince anyone i know that a regular "figure out this eu thing" group would be much more interesting and useful than a book group (not a fan of book groups myself).

legalalien Fri 25-Jan-13 16:55:06

Flatpack - I agree absolutely re the content on europa (which is enough on its own to put anyone off the eu), which is why i was thinking about subheadings only (eg trade, justice, internal market etc).

I'm finding some of the open europe papers helpful but presumably they have their own agenda.

I'm thinking:

Trade / single market
"Influence" in global affairs
Free movement of labour
Social chapter / rights type stuff
Democracy/ accountability / cost of operating the EU
Cross subsidisation / CAP
Crime /policing/justice

And then a basket of regulatory issues that i haven't quite worked out how to describe. Gratuitous regulation? Or perhaps simply jurisdiction / scope.

I know this outs me as a bit ignorant, but at least I'm prepared to try and engage! Civic duty and all that.

Links to blogs welcomed.....

somebloke123 Fri 25-Jan-13 16:51:42

egalalian

If you really want to get into it, you could read 2 books on the history and development of the EU:

"This Blessed Plot" by Hugo Young, which is written from a pro-EU perspective,

"The Great Deception" by Christopher Booker and Richard North, which takes an anti EU view.

The EU's website would give you the pro-EU "party line".

Also Richard North has an anti blog site eureferendum.com

flatpackhamster Fri 25-Jan-13 16:29:14

egalalien

One thing this thread is bringing home to me is that I need to make more of an issue to consider all the issues in a more systematic way. Does anyone know of a non- partisan list of "brexit issues for dummies" out there on the interweb? Or do i just work my way through the subheadings on europa.eu over the next few years. smile

Well if all you want to read is pro-EU propaganda, then the EU's website would be a good choice. There is no 'for dummies' guide on the internet for this matter. I can point to a couple of useful blogs, including one by a chap who is an EU specialist and has very (anti-membership) views on it. He's extremely good, if a little bit confident of his own superiority.

flatpackhamster Fri 25-Jan-13 16:27:31

niceguy2

I gave a good example earlier. If we totally left the single market then the cars produced here would be hit with import duty. Given most of the cars made in the UK are exported that would have a huge impact.

mm, but that's not the same, is it, as leaving the EU? You're being disingenuous. I know that it's a popular refrain from those who are in favour of EU membership that the EU would throw up trade barriers against Britain, but frankly they can't afford to. How many jobs would it cost them to achieve that modest political victory?

Incidentally, don't know whether you knew, but thanks to our membership of the EU, major car manufacturers have been closing their plants over here for years. Ford closed Dagenham and Southampton and moved all production to Spain and Slovakia. Car production continues to decline, and production is being moved to cheaper EU nations.

So it's not as though the EU is a panacea on this matter. Skilled manufacturing jobs are being lost thanks to it.

My point regarding laws goes back to my overall argument which is that the EU has laws which are both in our interests and those which we'd rather not have.

And you brushed over my point again, which is that it should be up to our elected representatives in Parliament to decide on our laws. I don't want a country who has no interest in Britain's wellbeing (and the EU is a country now, it has legal status) making Britain's laws. That's fundamentally at odds with the essence of representative democracy.

I haven't seen a single good argument from the Better Off In lot that deals with this democratic deficit. The argument is always "We'll fix it once we're in." But we've had 40 years, and it's still not fixed - and a cynic might begin to suspect that something was amiss there.

But that's the same the world over. If you ask me personally if I agree with all UK laws, I could point many out which I think are useless. Someone else would pick different ones. BUT what I can't do is cherry pick. And that's what we're doing. We're going around saying "We don't like this law...and that one. We might leave unless you let us disregard those laws."

The difference is that if you don't like a law produced by Parliament, you have a recourse to get it changed. It is a long and difficult process but it is achievable. You can petition parliament. Get the signatures you need, and your cause can be debated there.

That isn't the case for the EU. CAP reform has always stumbled, for example, because of the hidebound refusal of the French to be 'good Europeans'. You have no recourse to change the laws the Commission lays down.

What I'd rather we did was simply "We don't like this law because of these reasons....we've also spoken to the other 26 countries and x number of them also think it's unfair.....it needs to change"

And then France vetoes it, and we're no further forward.

legalalien Fri 25-Jan-13 10:58:06

That would be, "more of an effort".

I think that some people do believe there is a european demos (ie lots of lawyers i have met who hang out with each other and discussion european law). I am unconvinced.

legalalien Fri 25-Jan-13 10:55:05

niceguy2 there would have to be a big readjustment, but surely it's the case that the uk would hit car imports from the eu with a similar or higher tariff, so that there would be some corresponding reduction in imports from the EU? I know e have recently changed from being a net importer to a net exporter from the eu, but still? Also, don't we need to consider whether or not the eu would be prepared to enter into a free trade arrangement, which depends on the overall trade picture?

One thing this thread is bringing home to me is that I need to make more of an issue to consider all the issues in a more systematic way. Does anyone know of a non- partisan list of "brexit issues for dummies" out there on the interweb? Or do i just work my way through the subheadings on europa.eu over the next few years. smile

Monopolies are always bad for consumers.
Nope, not true. Economists consider that natural monopolies can exist (IIRC Smith wrote it something about the singularity of soil(?)). These are monopolies where competition is less efficient than a monopoly because economies of scale can never be fully exploited. This is especially true where there would be network duplication (rail, postal services, roads). Gas and water were used as examples by JS Mill. Don't forget the European Commission's Competition Commission intervenes in concentrated markets to produce a better outcome for the consumer.

You are correct to consider the role of lobbying in decision making but that's not something unique to law making in the EU (Ecclestone and Labour with F1 cigarette advertising, Jeremy Hunt and Newscorp are two examples that sprint to mind).

somebloke123 Fri 25-Jan-13 10:43:40

Vadus

I'm aware of the various constitutional points you mentioned. Of course there are both elected and non-elected people in our constitution, both legislature and executive and of course there are many anachronisms which we wouldn't introduce if we were starting again from scratch, which we are not.

The 2 key points I think are these:

1. Whatever the voting rules and electoral system may be in place for the farce that is the EU Parliament, the EU cannot be democratic. It cannot be a democracy.

To have a democracy you have to have by definition a demos. A people, as in "we the people". In a democracy there has to be enough feeling of cohesion and homogeneity for a majority vote (whatever the electoral system) to be generally accepted as legitimate. In a democracy the vote may go against my hopes and be against my interests but I am prepared to accept it. Of course in all real democracies there will be strains and tensions, for example Thatcher's introduction of the poll tax in Scotland.

There is not and cannot be a European demos. The disparities in language and culture are too massive.

2. When this country was bounced into the Common Market in 1972 by Heath we were assured that it was just that - a market. Similarly in the 1975 referendum. Heath claimed mendaciously that there would "no essential loss of sovereignty" then years later admitted to Peter Sissons on air that he had lied.

People who were actually paying attention knew differently and such people were spread across the political spectrum (Enoch Powell, Peter Shore, Tony Benn) but the British people were given to understand that it was just an economic thing, not the supranational government it has become.

This supranational government has been but in place by lies and subterfuge and that, together with the fact that Europe cannot be a democracy is why I object to being governed at that level.

niceguy2 Fri 25-Jan-13 10:24:02

but how would it be harder? By what process does being outside the EU create difficulties for manufacturers?

I gave a good example earlier. If we totally left the single market then the cars produced here would be hit with import duty. Given most of the cars made in the UK are exported that would have a huge impact.

My point regarding laws goes back to my overall argument which is that the EU has laws which are both in our interests and those which we'd rather not have.

But that's the same the world over. If you ask me personally if I agree with all UK laws, I could point many out which I think are useless. Someone else would pick different ones. BUT what I can't do is cherry pick. And that's what we're doing. We're going around saying "We don't like this law...and that one. We might leave unless you let us disregard those laws."

What I'd rather we did was simply "We don't like this law because of these reasons....we've also spoken to the other 26 countries and x number of them also think it's unfair.....it needs to change"

flatpackhamster Fri 25-Jan-13 09:54:14

niceguy2

Manufacturing industries create wealth. Services tend to shift money around rather than add real value.

No they don't. Financial services might, but services covers everything that isn't manufacturing. If I get paid for doing a job, even if I didn't build something, that's still creating wealth.

One of the reasons why we were so exposed to the financial meltdown is because our financial services industry is out of whack to the rest of our economy. Same reason in Iceland except they were even worse!

An issue we could have shrugged off if Gordon Brown hadn't spent the next 30 years of tax money buying votes in Scotland by 'rescuing' his failed banks, but that's another matter.

The only way our country will grow and keep up in the world is if we have competitive exporters. By leaving the EU we'd make it harder for our exporters to compete to our largest market!

How? This claim comes up time and time again, but how would it be harder? By what process does being outside the EU create difficulties for manufacturers?

You say we are kowtowing. But it seems to me that many of the rules we'd lose would simply be replaced or not wanted in the first place. You mentioned earlier that one advantage is that we could let staff go easier.

I didn't mention that. Perhaps someone else did.

Another I guess is we could ignore the working time directive and people can be made to work more than 48 hours a week.

Is that really what most people want?

I'd like Parliament - my elected representatives to have the right to choose rather than having those laws imposed on them. If people want a working time directive, they should be able to petition Parliament for it. But saying that we shouldn't leave the EU because it makes some laws you happen to like smacks of dictatorship.

vadus

It's nonsense to say that the UK's service industries don't rely on the EU. Tourism is an example of a service industry which relies quite heavily on it

No, Tourism relies on tourists, who would still come to the UK if we were outside the EU. They're not coming here because we're in the EU, they're coming here because the UK is a great place to visit. We're outside Schengen, so they still need to show their passports. That wouldn't change if we were outside the EU.

And like it or not, the UK's service industry has benefited considerably from cheap labour from the eastern EU member states.

Some aspects certainly have. Whether or not that's comfort to the 2 million unskilled workers unable to find a job because of that uncontrollable flood of cheap labour, I don't know. Nobody seems to care about them, what with them being poor and undereducated and unskilled and largely invisible.

So the question is whether the penalties of unlimited migration from poorer EU states is worth the benefits to businesses. I suspect that in the long run, it won't be.

It's worth pointing out that common EU regulations don't just benefit British businesses (by helping them to export), they also benefit British consumers: Common EU regulations means its easier for companies from other EU countries to sell their goods and services to UK consumers, which means more choice, and lower prices due to greater competition.

Actually, no. The EU creates monopolies when it intervenes in markets. Agriculture, fisheries, telecoms, aerospace, defence are good examples. The way it works is this: The Commission decides that it wants to make laws about X. It invites the representatives of the large businesses who do X and asks them what sort of laws they want. The large businesses choose the laws (with the EU) which create an artificial monopoly which squeezes out smaller competitors.

Monopolies are always bad for consumers. Adam Smith wrote:
“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

larrygrylls Fri 25-Jan-13 08:55:22

""Of course, being outside the EU, we wouldn't be governed by EU rules and thus only those businesses affected by EU regs would have to obey them, whereas those involved in the domestic or non-EU markets would not."

This is a complete fallacy. Countries wishing to trade with a major economic bloc toe the line where rules and regs go. All British exporters to EU countries would have to comply. Not just food producers, etc. "

Ummm, why are you are agreeing with a point whilst saying it is a fallacy? Those businesses operating domestically and those only trading with non EU countries would not be governed by EU rules. Cannot see that you disagree with that.

"What's the guarantee that the EU's negotiating position will be in the UK's national interest?

The guarantee is that Germany does not want to have to bail out Britain in the event of economic disaster. "

Eh?? There is a huge difference between actively negotiating in a countries' favour and bankrupting it. Germany may keep the UK very happily as a pet and useful export market, as a lot of the European media would argue it has done with the rest of Europe. Keep the Euro exchange rate at way too low a level for the virtual DM whilst way too high for the virtual Lire, Peseta etc. That way, German exports can rule the World whilst the rest of Europe cannot make FX adjustments to aid their competitiveness. Look at how Germany has performed relative to the rest of Europe since the introduction of the Euro. And look at the exchange rate movements (and accounting shenanigans) just before the Euro became a single currency. Everything favoured Germany.

vadus Thu 24-Jan-13 21:15:43

Yet another complication- the interests of individuals in their capacity as consumers and of uk manufacturers are not congruent.

They are, provided that those manufactures are internationally competitive.

legalalien Thu 24-Jan-13 18:39:37

Yet another complication- the interests of individuals in their capacity as consumers and of uk manufacturers are not congruent.

I'm not confident we can come up with an accurate economic analysis of the alternatives. So I would vote on political grounds, possibly, contrary to my normal practice, on gut feeling.

vadus Thu 24-Jan-13 18:14:28

It's worth pointing out that common EU regulations don't just benefit British businesses (by helping them to export), they also benefit British consumers: Common EU regulations means its easier for companies from other EU countries to sell their goods and services to UK consumers, which means more choice, and lower prices due to greater competition.

vadus Thu 24-Jan-13 18:05:06

flatpackhamster
the UK's services market is far larger than the manufacturing one, employs far more people, generates far more revenue and can quite easily run the entirety of its business without once being involved in an EU market. Yet those businesses are still required to kowtow to the mandarins in Brussels.

It's nonsense to say that the UK's service industries don't rely on the EU. Tourism is an example of a service industry which relies quite heavily on it. And like it or not, the UK's service industry has benefited considerably from cheap labour from the eastern EU member states.

vadus Thu 24-Jan-13 17:51:53

somebloke123
^It's nothing to do with whether you want a more redistributive
taxation policy, nothing to do with whether you like the Itailans or
French. It's very much to do with who you thing should govern us. Our
own elected MPs or Brussels.^

Our own elected MPs don't govern us. The government governs us, and it
isn't elected, though it needs the support of parliament, which is.
Similarly, the European Commission (the closest analogue to the UK
government on EU level) isn't elected, but it needs the support of the European Parliament, which is.

It's instructive to compare how the members of UK and EU political
institutions are chosen:

UK institutions:

House of Commons: directly elected, but using first past the post
system, which means proportion of seats per party doesn't reflect
proportion of vote.

House of Lords: small part unelected hereditary peers, greater part appointed for life (effectively) by PM.

Government: Queen (unelected!) asks somebody (effectively always the
leader of largest party) to form government (i.e. be PM), PM picks
ministers, doesn't need parliamentary approval for his choices.

EU institutions:

European Parliament: Directly elected using proportional
representation system. Number of seats per country roughly reflects
population size, but slightly favours smaller countries.

Council of the European Union (formerly Council of Ministers):
Consists of the Ministers of the member states in each policy area
(e.g all finance ministers, all home/interior ministers etc.). See
"Government" above for how British representatives are chosen.

European Commission: European Council (essentially all the heads of
government of the EU member states, including UK PM) proposes
candidate for president of commission to European Parliament, which
has to give its approval. 26 further commissioners proposed by European
Council, such that there is one commissioner from each member state
and for each policy area; European Parliament needs to approve
commission as a whole.

In both the UK and the EU there are many unelected civil
servants/bureaucrats which help carry out the work of government.

I think this comparison shows that it isn't the case that UK
institutions are completely democratic and that EU institutions are
wholly undemocratic. In my opinion, both EU and UK institutions could
do with reform to make them more democratic.

I think the big difference is that very few people take an interest in
what goes on in the EU institutions, it gets hardly any coverage in
the media, and a much smaller percentage of the population votes in
EU elections than in UK parliamentary elections.

It's also worth pointing out that we don't just have a national
government in the UK, we also have regional government (in the
Scottish Parliament/Welsh Assembly) and local government (councils).
If you accept that these bodies make the decisions that affect your
life, why is it unacceptable to you that some political decisions are taken
on a European level?

Molepom Thu 24-Jan-13 17:35:25

Personally I think we're screwed either way so it doesnt really matter any more what they do or don't do.

mathanxiety Thu 24-Jan-13 17:29:15

What's the guarantee that the EU's negotiating position will be in the UK's national interest?

The guarantee is that Germany does not want to have to bail out Britain in the event of economic disaster.

mathanxiety Thu 24-Jan-13 17:18:30

I agree with Niceguy's points here.

The country that stands to benefit most from the drain of international corporate hq's from the UK that would result from leaving the EU is Ireland, but of course there would be repercussions for Ireland as a trading partner of Britain if the UK left. The prospect of leaving would create major issues wrt NI's trading relationship with the Republic. Not smart to discount the major impact leaving would have on one large region of the state.

It's a completely idiotic idea of Cameron's to think he could renegotiate membership in the first place but also to think he could renegotiate membership with the only promise he can offer in good faith to anyone who would negotiate with him being a referendum, when his own party is the loudest noisemaker in the anti EU camp.

Of course, being outside the EU, we wouldn't be governed by EU rules and thus only those businesses affected by EU regs would have to obey them, whereas those involved in the domestic or non-EU markets would not.

This is a complete fallacy. Countries wishing to trade with a major economic bloc toe the line where rules and regs go. All British exporters to EU countries would have to comply. Not just food producers, etc.

niceguy2 Thu 24-Jan-13 17:07:07

Flatpack. Yes, the services industry is larger than manufacturing but we are in desperate need to rebalance our economy. In short we actually need more manufacturing.

Manufacturing industries create wealth. Services tend to shift money around rather than add real value. One of the reasons why we were so exposed to the financial meltdown is because our financial services industry is out of whack to the rest of our economy. Same reason in Iceland except they were even worse!

The only way our country will grow and keep up in the world is if we have competitive exporters. By leaving the EU we'd make it harder for our exporters to compete to our largest market!

You say we are kowtowing. But it seems to me that many of the rules we'd lose would simply be replaced or not wanted in the first place. You mentioned earlier that one advantage is that we could let staff go easier. Another I guess is we could ignore the working time directive and people can be made to work more than 48 hours a week.

Is that really what most people want?

TeddyBare Thu 24-Jan-13 16:24:22

I don't expect that there will actually be a referendum because it's such a huge risk for big businesses and they (probably) have enough influence to ensure it never comes about. However even if a referendum was held tomorrow I don't think we'd vote to leave the EU. I suspect that there are a lot of people who love to hate the EU but if forced to actually choose would choose to keep it.

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