What are the actual advantages of being part of the EU?

Italian EuroPushing tribal loyalties aside, and the belief that left-wing people tend to be pro-EU while Eurosceptics are characterised as crazed blue-rinse Thatcherites, what are the good reasons that we should be part of the EU?

After all, if we were not part of the EU we’d still be able to trade with European countries. What are the actual trade advantages to being part of the EU?

Until recently I was in support of the EU, but it was more driven by my heart than my head. I thought the EU represented sensible modern values of equal opportunities with respect to trade as well as for ordinary people, and I thought that opposition to the EU was mainly based on xenophobia and a backward-looking love of the British Empire.

The EU seemed to help smaller countries like Ireland and Greece stand up for themselves with equal trading opportunities.

This myth has now, for me, been totally shattered – not least due to witnessing how the financial crisis of 2008 affected the smaller EU nations like Ireland and Greece compared with non-EU members such as Iceland.

I now see that the Euro currency helps level the competitive trading field to the advantage of the bigger, wealthier nations like Germany, enabling their goods to be cheaper in the international markets.

In this interview (from 12 mins in) Simon Rose, campaign manager for the cross-party group Get Britain Out, argues against being part of the EU. He makes some very valid points (despite the fact that the Get Britain Out website to my mind plays right into the hands of the pro-European agenda, as its predominant Union Jack imagery is likely to confirm the fears of left-wing Euro-doubters that any anti-European feeling can only be due to excessive patriotism.).

At 14.40 Simon Rose says: “People seem to think it is a free-trade union. It’s not – it’s a customs union and it’s a very bureaucratic… one… We actually run a trade deficit with the European Union.”

At 18.20 he says: “One of the rules is that you can’t have more than 6 percent trade surplus. Well, Germany is currently up to about 8 and a quarter, the highest ever in its history in proportional terms, so they (the EU) should actually be applying sanctions against Germany. Are they? No of course not.


Jean-Claude Juncker. He looks sensible enough – why not just let him get on with it?

“Given that Merkel actually helped [Jean-Claude Juncker] get the job, I can’t imagine that there’ll be very much chance that Junker will do that…”

He adds that Juncker is also very unlikely to help investigate EU tax havens, as the biggest by far is Luxembourg, and Juncker was in charge of this, as prime minister of Luxembourg for 18 years. (Juncker was also Luxembourg’s Minister of Finances from 1989 to 2009.)

19.25: Juncker has now been elected Head of the European Commission by secret ballot of MEPs on a candidature of just one, which is now the body that is investigating tax havens. “The man who was overseeing Luxembourg becoming a tax haven is now in charge of the investigation into tax havens, of which Luxembourg is the biggest,” Rose says.

20.50: Rose points out that our new EU Commissioner is the unelected Lord Hill (former Bell Pottinger lobbyist and co-founder of Quiller Consultants).

Finally, the film The Brussels Business demonstrates how corporate interests have hijacked the EU, taking advantage of the lack of democratic accountability. Since that film was made, it has been revealed that the highly corporate, undemocratic TTIP treaty is being negotiated, mainly in secret discussions.

So, taking all this into account, and pushing tribal loyalties aside, what are the actual benefits to ordinary people of EU membership?



Why Scotland has its first UKIP MEP – could it have something to do with the EU?


The European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany.

It’s the day of the European Election results, and my Twitter feed is full of expressions of dismay that Scotland has its first UKIP MEP. Most see it as a move to the right, and are blaming the BBC and the 66 percent of Scots who did not vote.

I too am annoyed at the news that Scotland has its first UKIP MEP – however I don’t see this as necessarily a “move to the right”. I see these results as an expression of a growing dissatisfaction with and mistrust of the EU, a position that simply has no political voice in the moderate left and centre political parties. This, I believe, is why so few people “bother” to vote in European elections – and why some people I know who usually take voting very seriously admitted that they had “forgotten” to vote in this election. Maybe they are not actively against the EU, but they have a growing unease about it. Yet their “political tribe” supports it. So what do they do? Many of them clearly prefer not to think about it.

The mainstream media has turned the focus on UKIP into a single issue: immigration. UKIP’s central demand, that of independence from the EU, has been simply ignored.

I am not and have never been a UKIP supporter. But over the years I have come to distrust the EU, and I would now prefer not to be part of the EU in its current form. This has nothing to with immigration concerns or xenophobia. It is because the EU seems to be supporting and encouraging an increasingly pro-corporate, centralised government agenda.


Logo of the Council of the European Union.

I want to be part of a European Union, but not this current European Union that negotiates secretive, undemocratic treaties like TTIP; that succumbs to corporate lobbying; that welcomed the Western-leaning Yatsenuk regime in Ukraine with open arms, while turning a blind eye to its fascist elements.

I have observed the debt crisis in Ireland and the southern European countries with alarm, noting how some of the wealthier EU leaders berated those countries for their financial mismanagement, using stereotypes like Angela Merkel’s “Swabian housewife” – while at the same time happily accepting their euromillions in payment for arms. While the people in those countries suffered financial disaster and social unrest, bankers chortled into their champagne as they referred to them collectively as the “PIIGS” (just an acronym for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, snort…). The PR machine has gone quiet on those countries now, in what seems to be a pretence that “the medicine has worked”, while in reality the economic hardship for many of their people continues.

The debt crisis was the excuse for the imposition on Italy of an unelected “government of technocrats” led by Mario Monti in 2011. A general election was held two years later in which Monti’s party came fourth, but a precedent had been set.

Another precedent was the “bail-in” of the Cyprus Popular Bank, whereby money was taken from people’s bank accounts. This measure was imposed as a condition of a €10 billion bail-out by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as a result of the debt crisis.

Iceland on the other hand, which had a dramatic economic collapse in 2008, has made an equally dramatic recovery. Iceland is not tied to the Euro. Iceland’s citizens also suffered economic pain, but not as a result of dictats from the ECB and IMF.

Political spin merchants like to think that they can divert our attention away from these issues by thrusting the spotlight on immigration, but it’s not that simple. Many people have a growing unease about the EU as a result of these events, even if it’s only at a subconscious level, and I think this contributes to low voter turnout. Others will vote for UKIP – some because they want to see less immigration, but some of them as an anti-EU protest. The mainstream media has not only massively promoted UKIP – it has also lumped together anti-EU feeling with anti-immigration feeling.

In voting for the European Elections, I looked for a party that did not want to be part of the EU. The only anti-EU parties on the list were far right parties and one far left party, no2eu. I looked at the information for no2eu and found that it had support from the Communist Party. The Communist Party represents highly centralised government, which in my opinion is what the EU is offering. I want more decentralised government. I would have voted for the Pirate Party if it had been on the ballot list.

In effect, the political choice for anyone who does not support the EU in its current form, is limited to extremist and right-wing parties.

In the end I voted Green, because it is the only party that has actually spoken out strongly against some of the issues I have highlighted above. However, I don’t think the Green Party speaks out strongly enough on these issues, so in a way my vote was a compromise.

The Green Party made significant gains in the European Elections, but if they had spoken out more robustly against the undemocratic practices and pro-corporate policies of the EU, maybe Scotland would now have its first Green MEP. How many people looked at that ballot paper and thought, “I’m fed up with the way the EU is going, so I’m going to vote Green.”? Not many, I suspect.

This to me is why UKIP did so well in the European Elections and gained its first seat in Scotland. It also explains why the Scottish Conservatives did better than usual in this election. It’s not just about immigration. People are questioning what membership of the EU actually means, but this is being played down by the mainstream media and political parties. Ed Miliband has ruled out an EU referendum. The SNP often say that the Scots want to be part of Europe, as if we’re an amorphous mass.

The SNP did well in these elections, but there is no room for complacency in politics. The rising tide of votes for UKIP represents a rising tide of Euroscepticism that currently has no other viable political outlet.



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