As one of the most critical votes Britain has ever had looms I’ve been asked a lot about what I think. Most questioners don’t really want to know. Some are just making idle conversation – the default topic will be back to weather next week. Some are just bating, opening an opportunity to beat down a view with ad hominem attacks. A few, however, are curious. Sadly most of them appear to want to have their minds changed. It’s often in the question. “Help me make my mind up about this thing.” I’m uneasy about slipping into persuasion where there should just be conversation.
“The purpose of this debate, any debate, is to change people’s minds”
That is a phrase I’ve heard several times recently. Interestingly only from one side in the EU ‘debate’ so far. I may have just been tuned into it. It might have been added to my EU campaign phrases bingo card (It’s a fun game, try it). The purpose of debate is not to change minds. The purpose of debate is test the propositions. I’ve all but given up on that happening in any conversation on the EU. The campaign has been quite an angry affair from the outset. Perhaps in the cold light of day you might examine which side embittered the whole thing. If you want a simple pattern to look for to decide that; Just look for every time any subject is responded to with personalising rhetoric. For instance ascribing concern on immigration to xenophobia. Watch also for appeals to the moral high ground as a response.
The kinds of responses to subjects in that pattern are guaranteed to inflame a debate. Just as surely an ankle chopping tackle is sure to inflame a footballer. It’s playing the man not the ball. To keep the football metaphor going. There is also the propensity to dive and appeal to the referee. You will have witnessed lots of faux offence and indignation to go along with that moral high grounding.
The tricky thing about applying that pattern recognition is knowing how vested interest is different. “You’re a terrible person for thinking that” is different to “You would say that, you stand to benefit from…”
At this point I think it’s worth a slight digression into who I am, Some background may well help keep at bay all that personalising rhetoric that may well have turned into bias in a readers mind. It’s unfortunate I feel the need to enter a personal defence before I even begin. But there it is, that is what has become of it all.
I would probably say I am quite European. I don’t mean in the sense that I go on shopping trips to Paris, make a meal of pronouncing Spanish words like a Catalan, or have become fluent in Italian so I can order a meal at the local ristorante. I mean it in the sense of my early summery memories of family visits to Eisenach, Germany. Consider this was in the eighties while Eisenach was in the former German Democratic Republic – or East Germany as most knew it.
I’m one quarter German. My Grandmother was a refugee and given shelter here in Britain. I’m even told I could well qualify for German citizenship under the restored citizenship scheme. My childhood was filled with Welsh, German, and eventually English.
So yes, I’d say I’m pretty European. I’m certainly no Little Englander – I answered to my Grandmother’s German and spoke Welsh long before I understood English. Oh, and there’s that whole descended from a migrant thing. A refugee too. Though I do have golden memories of taking a pee against a canon in Wartburg castle. I think it was more a three year old me taking an anti-war stance rather than xenophobia. I even have my Kraut Grandmother to thank for my nickname and name of this website. Justin spoken with a German accent is Yoostin. Get it?
So I grew up with an understanding of our differences. So too how we are so alike. The differences are fundamental and, though not scientifically true, ingrained in the DNA. For instance a five year old Justin asked his German great uncle where bacon comes from. After breakfast he showed me. From squeal to sizzle he showed me. No messing, no glossing, and dawdling. This was entirely unlike the rather fluffy explanation an Welsh aunt gave me for where my beefburger came from.
So know I have great affection and openness for Europe, for Europeans. I know that extends to peoples from further away too.
So now that I have lodged a personal defence I’ll trust you can reconcile any personal attacks yourself. No need to bother me with it and send me into a hissy fit. Ok? Thanks.
There follows a few random points about the EU that have formed to my opinion of it. This is an opinion that pre-dates even the merest whiff of a referendum by a long way. These have long been frustrations silenced with a shrug and “what can ya do, huh?” In itself that is very telling, as you will find when you read on.
1. The EU is at best a dysfunctional democracy.
The EU is quite undemocratic. You could even go so far as to say it is anti-democratic – which is it works to subvert democracy. You can look to recent events to see the signs of that anti-democratic tendency.
For instance Greece, the most prominent example amongst many, has three times voted for a government that promised pain and to default on debts. This was an extraordinary mandate from the people to do what all economists have agreed would be the right thing. It is the only “correct” option. Yet the EU has thwarted that will at every turn. It even installed it’s own un-elected ministers into power. If you have any questions about the economic case the abridged version is simply:
Greece defaults and the debt is restructured. The various credit default instruments (insurances) cover some of the lender’s losses. Greece repays that old defaulted debt off over a far longer period. The lenders don’t make much, probably taking a loss – but that’s the bet they placed.
Instead Greece has not been allowed to default. The combined public purse of the Euro along with other lenders underwritten by countries like the UK has been lending Greece even more money. This money has gone directly to the original lenders. Greece has not been bailed out at all. Its lenders have. Just follow the money and something will become very clear about the order of things in the EU. The creditors that lent Greece the most are all major German banks. You’ll also find Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan in the list of firms that will take an almighty hit if Greece defaults.
Greece has not been allowed to default. It’s people who have voted time and again to accept the consequences have been denied even that.
You can look to a similar pattern in the EU’s relationship with Ireland. There was even a furore in Ireland when it emerged officials at Germany’s state bank had seen and suggested amendments to Ireland’s budget before most of its treasury, let alone its parliament. If you recall, there were two referendums in Ireland on the so called “bail out bill.” The first time Ireland rejected the terms and opted to just take their medicine. The EU had them run another referendum on the same question. Very much a case of “Nah Nah… Wrong answer. Try again, Ireland.” It was the wrong answer for the EU. But if it’s the people’s answer it can’t really be wrong for them, can it?
You then have to look to the EU’s democratic structure. Well, if you can call it that. I’ll contrast it with our own democracy for comparison.
The EU has a parliament, a council and a commission. Only the parliament is elected.
It’s a bit bonkers already at this point since most EU commissioners have been rejected from power in their own countries. If you think how terrible Margaret Thatcher’s government was said to be. Imagine how bad you’d have to be to fail to get elected against it… Twice! That is Neil Kinnock’s path to the EU Commission. This is a good point to consider political dynasties too. There’s been a tendency to make the business of ruling a family trade. Apparently we don’t much like that in Britain. But I digress.
When you vote for an MEP you in truth are voting for a party. It could be Greens, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, or who ever. The person that goes to represent you occupies a place in the party’s list. Ok, it kind of works out the same as the British system, right? Sort of. It gets murkier though.
When your elected representative gets to Brussels (and Strasbourg, more on that later) they then join one of nine groups. A group is just a party by another name. Very few voters will know anything about the group their MEP will eventually end up allying to. I doubt many in party political circles have much idea either since they are very mercurial outfits, these groups. Just like in the UK parliament, MEPs follow the whip. Basically they vote as they are told by the group… or else!
Can you see how already your representation has been abstracted away? If you are so inclined a look through Karl Popper’s words on democracy would be highly enlightening here. Essentially the case goes anyone elected through a list system answers to the party, not the people. Since it was the party that was elected. The MEP in the case of the EU is a voting machine. Except they are no longer voting for the party that owns the seat/machine. They are handed over to a group. This is a layering of abstractions that weaken accountability.
Let’s look to at the electoral process itself. If you were aggrieved at something an incumbent UK government was doing you get to kick them out of office. You can literally participate in that process locally. There is a cap on local campaign spending of just under fifteen thousand pounds. The average constituency size is around 72,000 voters. Even in a two horse race with a 100% turn-out you need to muster 36,001 votes to win – and boot out the incumbent party. That is a task well within the doing of a group of regulars in a village pub. Few do it. But it is doable. If only more would though. Some truly independent MPs (and AMs, MSPs) would shake things up for the better.
Contrast that with getting an MEP out of office, or one into office. The average MEP represents a million people. They can spend forty five thousand pounds per seat in that region. So for instance in Wales there are four seats which amounts to one hundred and eighty grand! You can see how it’s not really within the doing of a pub’s regulars to have a say. Consider low turnouts and a cosy not particularly challenging campaign come election time and it looks something of a stitch-up.
Then consider the further numbers game contrast that is the EU. This is a dilution of your democratic say. Taking Wales again as an example. In the UK parliament Wales as a region has forty MPs out of six hundred and fifty seats. The same region in the EU parliament has just four. That’s four votes, which if you remember are pooled with a group of god knows who else for god knows what reason, out of seven hundred and fifty one.
Incidentally this one confounds me when it comes to Welsh independence. The proposition is we will have a stronger voice in Europe than we do in Westminster. Really? But then maths never was a strong point for any nationalist movement.
So can see just by the electoral system for the EU the idea of representation of the people is stretched far beyond breaking point.
You then have to consider laws are actually created in the un-elected, un-boot-out-able, EU commission. The parliament can either reject, mildly amend, or ratify. There is no way for the elected part of the EU legislature to repeal bad laws. And there are bad laws, there always are. But the EU has a talent for them.
To sum up: the EU thwarts the will of national democracies while being quite poor at democracy itself. It is very much a ruling body.
2. The Euro is all the EU cares about
This is not a matter of debate. It’s a fact. The EU commission and the EU parliament have for a long time stated the Euro is their priority and will legislate on all members to support the Euro. That is a very straight forward declaration. Seven more EU members are set to join the Euro and have agreed to that declaration. Guess which came first though – accession commitment or declaration of Euro supremacy of member interests? Hmmm, indeed – tough one huh?
That is the clearest the economics argument is ever going to get in the EU referendum. When it comes to the Pound and the Euro it is something of a zero sum game. The EU have said it will back the Euro in that head to head clash. And the EU in this instance is the rule make and the referee in the match. What a comforting thought that is.
Whether Britain likes it or not. It is in a currency match with the Eurozone. The only chance of not being hobbled is to not be in a match where it’s the opposing player writing the rules as they go and blowing the whistle.
When it comes to an economic risk to the Britain. Remaining is the far riskier option. If you think of all the levers an economy has to muddle it’s way through this globalised world. It would be madness to agree not to use most of them. In fact, to hand over control of most of them to our counterparts who are themselves pulling all the levers they can to chart their own course. Do you want to leave our economic fate up to people in the same boat as you. Or hang it on the whims of the captains of another boat whose accountability to us is incredibly tenuous.
3. It’s zee Germans, Stupid.
It’s true. The EU is all about Germany. It’s an economic case again, of sorts. It’s how a set of conditions were set out long ago in the EU and the chickens are coming home to roost. The original motive for the EU’s creation was always German focused. They didn’t want to repeat the humiliations of the Treaty of Versailles that resulted in the second world war. But there was a need to manage Germany’s power. Its power a product of its people, their industriousness and abilities. The idea was to anchor Germany in a healthy relationship with the rest of Europe. Vested in Europe, Germany would tend away from its more muscular tendencies to neighbourly relations. The plan called for Britain and France to provide a counterbalance to Germany. They called it an axis about which the rest of Europe would orientate itself.
Up until the late seventies and early eighties this all looked a splendid success. Britain joined, France was looking quite healthy even for all Gitanes they puffed on, and Germany was playing nice with the neighbour kids. Then someone got the idea of expanding Europe. This was hubris of course. There was a sense that Europe should be a superpower alongside the posturing US and Soviet Union. A growth strategy if you will.
This expansion saw the EU spin faster and faster on it’s axis sucking in everyone. As this happened the small imbalances between tri-axis became magnified. You’ll notice this effect if you have a wheel on your car that’s a little out of balance. At low speed it’s just not doing anything. At seventy miles per hour you lose your fillings and the world goes very blurry. This imbalance in the EU saw things shaking loose in other countries. Germany became a centre of gravity and began sucking in wealth.
Now one of the fundamental rules in the EU is you should play nice, economically speaking, with your neighbours. They have rules on how you manage your economy. Well, France and Germany were the first to break those rules. Also deals were made around the time of the reunification of Germany that at first looked like a good thing for all. But dude to that imbalance, the good shook loose and ended up as more of a help to Germany.
The Euro is another example of how those little imbalances, the product of deals and fudged negotiations in the past, have crept up on us all. Bringing about the very set of conditions the EU was envisaged to prevent.
The Euro is an example of that. As of a few months ago the effect of the Euro on Germany’s economy, its industrial base, its power in Europe has all been to boost it. Most people understand how the Euro is over valued for the economy of Greece, Italy, or even France to really thrive. What isn’t so evident is the potent opposite effect it has had in Germany. The cumulative effect of the Eurozone has been to suppress the currency’s relative value for Germany. In simple terms Germany trades with the rest of the world at roughly a 30% discount compared to if it still had its own currency. That is what has sustained Germany through the global slow down. It is why Germany reports record trade surpluses every single month lately. Germany is on a roll. It has a savings culture and until lately hasn’t seen any great inflation in asset prices.
Those EU rules on playing nice with your neighbours? What happened to them? Well it seems Germany isn’t really playing along. Understandably it feels it is bankrolling the rest of the EU. It exercises that power at the European Central Bank too. The rules, though, should see Germany stimulate demand for goods and services from the rest of the Eurozone and the EU to stop the imbalance getting out of hand. It hasn’t. In fact Germany is busy pushing quite protectionist policies to defend that imbalance within Europe. For example a directive is proposed to see posted workers paid the same as local workers. Imagine a Spanish company wins a contract to build a new furnace at a German manufacturer’s factory If in Munich. Its employees may earn 25% less than their German counterpart. That could have been the only reason the Spanish firm won the contract. Their labour costs are much lower than a German competitor. As are living costs for the Spanish employees. What happens in the future when the Spanish company has to pay German level wages? Will it be competitive compared to a firm in Frankfurt? Unlikely.
The open market is a mechanism to correct those imbalances across Europe. When a serious imbalance has come home to roost Germany, with lost of support from other members, has sought to hobble the mechanism which would correct it. A mechanism that was envisaged to provide ongoing harmony and unity within Europe. Well, it has gone a bit wrong. Hasn’t it.
If you were German would you sandbag yourself now in the name of European unity? You’re German, you’re a nice person. You’re direct, no nonsense and, as evidenced by all you achieve, probably know better than your European brethren. You’re prudent, you save, you haven’t gone bonkers for a “property ladder.” You’re content to rent modestly and buy comfortably nearer retirement. If you were driving the bus would you give the EU wheel to the Greeks? We’re different in so many little ways. This is a good thing. The differences are tiny, imperceptible to most economists’ models. But they are real and they are amplified as the whole shebang wobbles on its axis. A British EU exit would prompt the EU and the Eurozone to find a new centre for its axis. America won’t like that, of course. But last I checked they aren’t the boss of us – not on paper, anyway. Not yet. We’re told Russia would love it if Britain left the EU. But that is the American voice on it all. Go back to 1947 and that is the reason Britain was included as the third axis in the EU project.
4. The EU is not a free trade union.
“Yes it is!” you say. No, no it isn’t. The free trade bit is a side effect of what the EU is truly, and legally. The EU is a customs union. That means the members have joined up their trade borders and handed over control of them the the EU. The net effect of that is what looks like a free trade community, But as I wrote above there are other rules that do what customs duties would have done in the past. The difference is that those rules aren’t directly within the control of the state that needs to pull that lever for it’s own economy’s sake.
By now you should have a feel for how difficult the EU finds it to make a decision. Especially one that is fair to all twenty eight members. If you can’t quite grasp that – have a dinner party for twenty seven of your friends and see how far you get deciding what to cook. I bet you’ll have fewer friends by the end of the night.
It’s obvious the world moves pretty fast. Ferris Bueller told us that thirty years ago. It’s gotten a whole lot faster since then. It is also obvious the EU moves pretty slowly. Some say glacial while others answer that with scoffs of “Steady on, don’t say that. People in the EU will get nervous if they think they’re moving that quickly.”
So we, in Britain, have this different economy made up of a different blend of skills and industry that needs certain things to keep up with the rest of the world. Being a little rock covered in sixty eight million people, and rising. We should at least be nimble compared to America’s three hundred and twenty million. We’re a compact little unit and for all the talk of vast divides amongst us. We muddle along quite well with nothing like the internal differences found in the US, India, or even Germany. Having to sit and wait while the EU makes a move is excruciating. Even worse when all the waiting and kicking the can down the road appears to benefit certain fellow EU members massively.
Britain needs control of its trade border back. The EU obviously wants to resist that. The UK is the fifth largest world economy so adds a lot to the EU’s combined clout. Well, we handed over our trade border but the EU just hasn’t done a great job of using that pooled sovreignty. Taking it back will have a massive positive effect on Britain. Even Germany’s biggest global bank, Deutsche Bank, thinks so. It would also free the EU fro having to at least appear to be trying to do the right thing for members like Britain. They might actually get things done then.
5. Britain will trade with EU countries freely.
It’s true. Britain will trade with EU countries freely. Or if you want to be picky, will have good trade with the EU customs union. You don’t need any treaty promises or statements from Jean Claude Juncker. You need only rely on self interest here.
Remember how Germany has become this exporting juggernaut? Of our imports from Europe, of which there are way more than exports, a vast amount is from Germany. Remember how Germany is a very powerful force in the EU? Well does it make sense that Germany would cut is off. And by cut us off I mean revert our trading basis with the EU to the same ones we trade with much of the world upon already. Of course they won’t. Not least because they will have lost billions in contributions to the EU budget. Much of Europe will look to them to fill some of the gap. Amongst those thinking Germany should chip in more would be the four or possibly five new joiners. You can decide for yourself if Turkey will be amongst them. I know there is derision of the idea because they’ve only managed five of the seventy two conditions so far. But they weren’t supposed to get visa free travel until completing sixty or so of the conditions of entry. Yet, there they are. But that is another matter.
No. Germany and the EU as a whole will need external trade to make up the budget hole a British exit would entail. As net exporters to the UK, the EU would be barking mad to make trade with us harder. Like I said. Follow the money. Sure Britain will become more competitive globally against Germany. But all they would really be dipping into is their 30% effective trade discount thanks to the Euro. It will still be sailing along strongly. What’s more, as Deutsche Bank’s very shrewd economists see it, Britain will grow and a growing British market is good for German exports. Germany wins again.
Though it is a domestic political problem in the short term to sell Germans on the idea of paying even more for the EU. It’s exactly like Britain on that front. I haven’t heard any europhiles argue we should give the EU more… the EU will take it anyway. They love a good budget increase in Brussels.
6. Immigration, no I’m not a racist. Honest.
This is the sticky one and probably responsible for most inflaming the campaign. Immigration is simply about how we organise ourselves. It’s about who’s here, who’s coming and who’s leaving – or should be. There are rules, touched by the EU’s hand, that say how many people can be in a house. The same goes for your local night club cinema. There are even rules that say certain people aren’t allowed in a place under normal circumstances. We even have a good sense of when “normal circumstances” no longer apply – some people even write that downs and make it an agreement. That is all immigration is.
As members of the EU, that customs union, we’ve agreed our borders to those from the EU are the EU’s outer border. Again this isn’t strictly the case as simply as that. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to the EU. There are principles laid down in treaty after treaty. There are other policies that tinker and cause all sorts on unintended consequences. But really we’ve sort of agreed for economic purposes the EU has no immigration controls internally.
I’ve not heard a single credible person argue against that principle. Not even good old, dependably hate-able, Nigel Farage. The problem isn’t one of immigration policies really. It comes down to those wild imbalances between member states that other principles are supposed to prevent. Those rules haven’t been followed or worse they’ve been monkeyed with. And here we are. Essentially the full agreement we signed hasn’t been held up, but we’re being held to it anyway. This isn’t workable.
The imbalances are mostly around wages. For example by the time Serbia ascends the British minimum wage will be four times the average wage in Serbia. Inevitably Serbians will want to come here and earn great money. And it will probably be the best of Serbians. The ones who think “I’m too damn smart and work too damn hard to be this damn poor.” They probably have more about them than I do. But I don’t feel threatened by that. Just as you reading this probably have more about you than I do.
It isn’t about people and races or bloody foreigners. It’s about the wild destabilising movements of people that the imbalances within Europe drive. Imbalances that every scholar of the EU says just should not exist. But they do and we must muddle through.
Concern over immigration is a social conscience at work too. Don’t be fooled by the badge people pin on their chest and claim authority of social matters. If you double the supply of something you remove the incentive for its price to rise. That is markets in a nutshell. Everyone agrees that the migration to date has suppressed wages in the UK. Worse, it has suppressed low wages. When you have a minimum wage that effect isn’t immediately visible. It manifests itself in increments above minimum wage. It weighs down on the whole stack above.
Since Britain has received the mostly eastern European migration the economy just hasn’t grown. Productivity is also suppressed. More people are working but they are making less. We’ve also seen rocketing bills for in-work benefits. You and I have not been winners in this. Our McDonalds isn’t ten pence more expensive but it was twenty pence cheaper to produce. Guess where that twenty pence went. To corporate profits. That is set to continue unless we in Britain call a time-out until the other imbalances are addressed.
The major contention is migration into the EU. This is a far simpler matter. That simplicity tends to mean the rhetoric it outlandish and deeply offensive to anyone who gets it.
The EU’s responsibility, delegated to its members, is to secure its outer border. This a responsibility every country on earth has, there are global treaties that deal with it. The EU also has a policy where by internal member states do not cause border problems for the peripheral states. Simply, do not encourage those from outside the EU to try and crash the party.
The EU is built upon a web of reciprocal agreements. In one a state may agree to secure the EU’s outer border. In another agreement Germany agrees not to do things that would make securing that outer border really hard work. I don’t think anyone could argue that bargain has been held up.
Amongst the agreements that make up the EU is one on what to do in the event of refugees arriving. This is the “when normal circumstances do not apply” bit I mentioned in the opening. This was called an accord or a compact. It was simply an understanding that you accept and administer an asylum claim at the point of entry into the EU. That could be Heathrow airport or an Italian island in the med. There are other aspects that kick in around supporting the refugee, allowing them to go to another EU country etc. Though again there is a spiders web of rules that come into it. But the principles are very simple. Basically, do not be an arsehole. Don’t be an arsehole to the refugee and don’t be an arsehole to your EU neighbours.
As with so many of the EU’s well established rules. Some members were arseholes. They did the arsehole thing. Italy waved migrants through unchallenged. Note I said migrants. They aren’t refugees until they make that known by claiming asylum. It is very easy and only a struggle when those you are to tell hide from you. Ears covered, eyes closed “La la la la you’re not really there.” Germany threw open its arms… from the moral high ground far far away from the real hardship. This isn’t my prejudice or anything, There was a common pact on how to welcome refugees in the EU. Members threw it away. A pact that was hammered out with help from every refugee NGO you can think of. Sure, not everyone was totally pleased with the pact. Twenty eight commissioners, twenty council members and seven hundred and fifty one parliamentarians, not to mention the united nations and dozens of NGOs. But it was a reasonably fair and compassionate pact. Obviously worthless if signatories don’t stick to it.
Amongst the considerations in this pact was on limiting pull factors for migration. It is universally accepted that pull factors and plain old migration make it very hard to welcome refugees. So everyone wanted to make sure nobody started waving migrants through borders or calling on them to come.
Last year Germany’s own figures on the refugee flows it had accepted did not tell the story we’re told. Over sixty percent of the asylum claims were merit-less. That’s to say the claimants had made statements that when included in any appeal would have invalidated the claim. Of course they could have changed their story on appeal – but what does that tell you. Germany had also told the EU that all these refugees were educated, often highly skilled. Their ministry of labour and social affairs found as many as eighty percent were functionally illiterate. So not only had Germany enticed millions but it turned out those that arrived weren’t those Germany had expected. This is a problem for Germany which has been a highly educated high skill and high employment country. The frictions of Reunification are still present even now. So imagine what such a large number of uneducated largely unemployable people will do in Germany. You should by now know the way of the EU. In four or five years time Germany will grant those people citizenship and the EU will be their oyster. Hopefully by then Germany will have educated them, at least.
Again. I have to reiterate these are not quarrels with anyone other than the EU. They have made a mess of things. Is it any wonder good hearted people all over Britain and Europe now find it harder to embrace the idea of giving refuge. The most recent wave of migration has been shown to be little more than a third refugees. Yet all who came have been labelled refugees. This aggrieves me. Refugees is a special word, a special status. In my time on earth I’ve come across few people who don’t genuinely want to help refugees. They do want to know what it is they are getting into, though. But they want to help others. That is a wonderful observation of my fellow man. So it annoys me when those covering up an EU made problem, the ensuing quarrel, so happily tar them all as racists or lacking compassion.
Simply – the worse the job the EU makes of migration. The worse it is for refugees.
I should also mention that NGO, Medicine Sans Frontier, recently cut off funding links with the EU. They did this over concerns of the way the EU had so readily done a deal with Turkey on returning migrants. MSF have found evidence the EU were happy if genuine refugees were returned from Turkey to very places they had fled from to seek asylum. This is a disgusting new low even for the EU.
7. The EU is a project with a dubious origin.
You may want to file this one under tin foil hat. I wish I could simply discount it as a conspiracy theory, but it’s gone too far for that.
Considering how big a role the EU plays in people’s lives very few know much about where it came from. Most will go back to the nineteen sixties and seventies and the common market. The EU project predates that. The EU project even predates the European Coal and Steel Community of the nineteen fifties that the more learned, or simply old enough to remember it, will know of.
The European project goes back to the late eighteen hundreds for it’s first steps. By the later nineteen twenties the project had come together forming a movement supported by the great and the good. It passed from father as a mere idea to a son who made it movement and fleshed out the ideology. See what I mean about the EU having a bot of a thing the dynastic? It was a full on ideology in the fullest sense you can use that word. There was a weighty personal manifesto to go with it with a fine name Praktischer Idealismus. It was published around the same time as another notable manifesto with a similarly grandiose German title. That one turned out well, didn’t it.
You might think it unfair that I lumped in the latter book by a Charlie Chaplin fan. Prejudicial you might say. Relevant I say. Both have plenty to say on Jews. Unfair maybe in as much as Praktischer Idealismus sets out an entire racial theory for the European continent. Spoiler alert: You’re probably not of that race.
Still got your tin foil hat on? Good. Buckle up this is going to get bumpy.
I won’t say any more about the peripheral Austrian aristocrats that were the Coudenhove-Kalergis. It’s far better you come to the story of the founders of the European movement with your own cynicism. All I’ll say is it’s a both fascinating and chilling history. Also one that answers why a certain class of people with certain ideas prevail.
We are now into the nineteen thirties and the Pan-Europa Movement is gathering credibility and momentum. I’m sure it is a complete coincidence the Pan-Europa Movement cites this as a golden period. Y’know, how it was also saw the rise of fascism. Total coincidence, strike it from the record. Or not, hmmm.
We all know about that great unpleasantness from thirty six to forty five. That’s when the other Austrian fella who had a big book launch in nineteen twenty five went all jackbooty all over the continent. The Pan-Europa Movement weren’t dormant. They were in exile and forging all sorts of alliances. Look to recent examples in the middle east of cliques of complete nobodies being installed into power after being exile for some context.
Near the end of the nineteen forties the pact formed at the Yalta Conference between the allied powers was under strain. The Soviet Union was getting muscular in response to the American’s overtures that it wanted to claim the spoils of victory. The American’s won the war y’know, as they keep telling the world. So the USA wanted a counter to the soviet union. Europe was it. A strong Germany balanced by France and influenced by, a heavily indebted to America, Britain. That’s the three way axis from earlier. Europe was to contain Russia, basically.
It turned out most of the work had already been done. Those Pan-Europa chaps had the hopey changey stuff. The industrialists who had fuelled and profited from two, German made, world wars had the business plan. All they needed was a man on the ground to bring it all together. At this point may I introduce the much lauded father of the European Union, Jean Monnet.
Monnet was a banker who had worked with Bank of America amongst others. He did all sorts of deals we don’t talk about through the late thirties and forties. Jean was a remarkably well connected nobody with knack of getting deals done. An uncanny knack. The most interesting thing about Jean Monnet in that period was that he was in the pay of the CIA. Yes, I did warn you to buckle up that tin foil hat. But it is true. Well, after nineteen forty seven it is true. Before then he was paid by the Office of Strategic Services. In forty seven the CIA, widely known as The Firm, was born in a big outward policy push by the USA.
By nineteen fifty two Monnet with some friends had delivered the European Coal and Steel Community. This was the first of many one way tickets for Europe. It was also the fail safe to prevent Germany rearming and doing stuff that’s alarming. From there on we were all just along for the ride. The Pan-Europa faction took care of the hearts and minds operations. They didn’t have to look look too far for inspiration on how to do that. It was just such a shame the creator of that scheme had topped himself after offing his six children in a Berlin bunker in nineteen forty five.
You will see the Pan-Europa Movement’s finger prints over so much we’ve had to consider in our lifetimes. Devolution for instance, is part of the onward path to reduce Europe to just individuals. You divide the big nations into smaller ones. Then further divide and set regions against each other and so on. You will see this even in federalist Germany were regions and even towns compete for EU funding.
The Pan-Europa ideal wants allegiance to Europe. That’s not a bad thing. It wants a European identity for all it’s people. Again, not a bad thing in itself. But it has always struggled with historic and strong national identities getting in the way. We have shared heritage as British, German, Saxon, Bavarian, Welsh. The Pan-Europa ideology has been to strip that away. You will see this in the constant smearing at anyone expressing nationalism for a sufficiently large nation in Europe. Contrast how English nationalism is accepted compared to Welsh or Scottish. That is Pan-Europa at work and straight out of Praktischer Idealismus.
On Praktischer Idealismus for a moment. It is practical idealism in German. As with many of Cudenhove-Kalergi’s ideologies they are a pastiche of edgy, trendy, morally superior concepts around at the time. Practical idealism was one of Gandhi’s principles too. That’d be the racist Gandhi who dealt with South Africa to support apartheid against blacks because he argued Indians were not black, and superior to them. Practical Idealism is the idea that you find a higher moral purpose and serve it. It’s the same rationale that the USA use to justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki – “It shortened the war by years and saved millions of lives.” When you look to how the EU conducts itself you will see Practical Idealism everywhere. Take the example of Greece from earlier. The moral case for the EU is “No more Nazis”. That’s it. I service of that lofty moral goal a bit of poverty, despair is fine. It’s better than Nazis. Youth unemployment in Spain at over fifty percent? You guessed it, better than Nazis. Ignoring the democratic will of millions of people… Better than Nazis? Doing a deal with a despotic Turkish premiere to knowingly send refugees back to their persecutors… yup, better than Nazis.
Keep this in mind when you try to reconcile the EU’s ideals of freedom, unity and harmony with what it actually does. This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s past that. Conspiracies when enacted are no longer theory. They are reality. For millions of devotees and apparatchiks of the EU it is baked in to their cognitive operating system. Forgive them, they know not what they do. They simply do not have another lens to view it all through.
8. The EU is a market of half a billion consumers
The EU is a market of five hundred million consumers. You will see that phrase everywhere. It is simply a given. But the phrase speaks to one of the most unsettling truths about the EU. If you can’t quite see the problem with it you are not alone. Few do. Look, I’ll fix it for you and you will see the problem with the accepted idea.
The EU is half a billion people.
Se what we did there? See how that phrase got a whole lot more human and a whole lot more accurate. Let me make it even better.
We are half a billion people.
Much much better. Concise, authentic, human. With or without the EU we are still half a billion people. We visited each other’s countries. We traded. We shared. We laughed. We cried. We have always done that and we will always do it. We don’t need ideology or bureaucracies to unite us in any idealistic way. We manage to work this all out for ourselves. In fact our continent has only really gotten into trouble because of the ideologies of small cliques of ivory tower dwellers. Especially when they get their hooks into the inevitable bureaucracies of nationhood.
Follow the money.
Sage advice you will rarely err in heeding. Europe, as with the rest of the world, has found most peril when ideology and money collide. Remember mention in the previous section that the industrialists that fuelled and profited from two world wars had a business plan to go with the Pan-Europa ideologies. Well this is quite a sinister turn indeed.
That business plan for Europe was drafted by the likes of Alfried Krupp, Semens, BASF and so on. These were businesses with centuries of history as merchants and industrialists in Europe. In late nineteen forty four the war was all but lost for Germany. The Waffen-SS hierarchy gathered the industrialists to plan what would be the foundation for a fourth Reich. This is all the subject of a much debated report, US Military Intelligence report EW-Pa 128.
What is less debated is the plan the industrialists came up with. Remember Europe was a mess and needed to get back on its feet as an economy. Lots of people had lots of plans to do lots of things. But this was the plan of Europe’s industrial titans. Old money that wasn’t about to relinquish a crown. Deals were cut. Not least because banks the world over were exposed to the debts. Yes, even back then there was international finance. Only a lot less of it. Oh, and investors swallowed their own loses, usually.
The plan, a blueprint for Europe as it was titled, circulated. Jean Monnet executed against it. Nobody had yet signed up to it. This blueprint bobbled around for years with only it’s cover changing. Seriously, they only changed the cover sheet. This was a detailed plan that even established trunk road routes across Europe that were strategic to trade. These designations still exist to this day – The M4 and A48 across Wales is part of a ‘Euro Route’ that extends from Cork to Moscow no less. Moscow, that’s not in Europe? No. These chaps were ambitious. They headed that way before, remember?
The blueprint, with a new cover, was eventually adopted to become the EEC and the EU we know today. Everything was going quite nicely until the late seventies and early eighties. All sorts of new fangled financial ideas took hold and America seemed to be on a roll. The business plan side of the EU’s personality wanted to compete. It was around this time that the Pan-Europa movement side of the EU’s personality was let off it’s leash. Its around then the EEC Britain signed up to morphed into a political union project. A United States of Europe.
The EU is a market of half a billion consumers. Do you see the problem with that now? Market. Consumers. No, we are people. We are not to be packaged up and bartered around the world in service of commerce.
I am the furthest thing from an anti-capitalist you will find. Truly. I’m not an Ayn Rand worshipping, laissez-faire at all cost type. They are dripping in a bit too much of the old Praktischer Idealismus for my liking. I just think commerce, capitalism, should be in service of us. When any ideology takes hold that gets that relationship backwards nothing good can follow.
We are half a billion people. Free of the rule of any particular ideology or excesses of commerce we get along rather well. We’re nice people, few of us have a racial theory about Semites and fewer still would sell refugees out to their persecutors. It takes the EU to get us to do that.
9. A vote to leave the EU is only move left in ‘playing the game’
I don’t really want to get into telling anyone how to vote. I’ve tried in the previous eight points to just show my rationale. Or rather the basis for it. On this last one there is no way around coming right out with it.
In the game of diplomacy that goes on as a member of the EU. Britain has had just one real power-move to fall back on. You’ll hear about our veto and how we can lead. Well that is all claptrap. In Cameron’s negotiation with the EU last year we actually weakened our veto on some matters. Weakened is a way of saying gave it away. Our bluff has been called. The EU did that rather than accept any real change to an EU they accept is not quite working. All those imbalances and changes in it’s centre of gravity.
So we have no choice now, we really don’t. Our bluff has been called. Our only play is to follow through and vote to leave. At worst we will leave and the EU will reorient about it’s natural axis. Other members will demand change or follow our lead. Their power-move will be emboldened. In truth a Brexit is the best service we can do our fellow Europeans, our Friends. And it will not hurt us. A chain reaction of exits could ensue, sure. But that only weakens the EU. All the while those imbalances will work their way out. The EU will have shaken loose the spark plugs in the engine. It will slow down. They will fix the engine and drive along a little wiser.
If we remain we are done. We have been served notice that the EU will legislate against our interests in support of the Euro. That is going to happen. We have already given away our veto on it during the negotiations. Since the UK economy has a huge service sector and there really isn’t much of a market in services in the EU, we are economically toast. London may continue as a banking centre. We may even sleep-walk into the Euro. The trouble with that is we would enter and find we are pegged at whatever currency valuation we enter at. This will be a permanent an irrevocable lock in of relative valuations. That’s what Greece, Spain, and even France are suffering now. The only solution is fiscal union, handing over everything that is left of government to the EU. If you think the EU is superior democracy then you should of course vote to remain. If not, you have to vote to leave.
Leaving the EU is a less permanent proposition than remaining. That is a suggestion that is hard to parse at first. The framing of the debate has been out is out. That we are turning our back on Europe. We would not. It is the construct that is the EU we have issues with. Not Europe. The EU has refused to address its shortcomings. Like an alcoholic that won’t quit… and demands you pay for their drink.
If we vote to leave there will be a two year period when nothing much changes. That’s good because we will continue to satisfy the conditions of membership, and entry. The EU might then begin a process of reform. Unlikely but possible. A few years down the line, if the EU has got its act together we could well apply to re-enter. In our exit negotiations we could even propose a fast track – I can’t see why the other members wouldn’t want us back.
So you see a vote to leave is by far the safest bet. It re-asserts our power-move, even though we’d have used it up. All the economic scaremongering is just that. It is the government and remain campaign’s own fact that we will grow and will be richer if we leave. It’s just their reckoning of remaining says we’ll grow a little more and be a little richer. They of course exclude any trade deals for fifteen years, which is a stretch of credibility.
Out. We’re better for it. The EU is better for it. Democracy is far better for it. Simple really?