Archive for juillet, 2015

Why I’m pro-European…..by Robin Baker

Lundi, juillet 27th, 2015

……….and will vote Yes to the UK’s EU membership.

The most important reason why I am pro-Europe is peace. I lived, albeit as a very small child, through the Second World War and although I had no understanding of the war at that time, I could to some extent understand its horrors fairly early thereafter and well remember what we had to endure in the post-war recovery period. The move to a united Europe started with the Schuman declaration in May 1950 when the French Foreign Minister called for the creation of a Coal and Steel Community saying:

« Le rassemblement des nations européennes exige que l’opposition séculaire de la France et de l’Allemagne soit éliminée : l’action entreprise doit toucher au premier chef la France et l’Allemagne.

Dans ce but, le gouvernement français propose de porter immédiatement l’action sur un point limité mais décisif :

“Le gouvernement français propose de placer l’ensemble de la production franco- allemande de charbon et d’acier sous une Haute Autorité commune, dans une organisation ouverte à la participation des autres pays d’Europe.” La mise en commun des productions de charbon et d’acier assurera immédiatement l’établissement de bases communes de développement économique, première étape de la Fédération européenne, et changera le destin de ces régions longtemps vouées à la fabrication des armes de guerre dont elles ont été les plus constantes victimes.

La solidarité de production (de charbon et d’acier) qui sera ainsi nouée manifestera que toute guerre entre la France et l’Allemagne devient non seulement impensable, mais matériellement impossible. »

English Version:

“The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.

With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.

It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

Clearly the key to his proposal was stopping any further conflict between France and Germany after the disastrous wars of 1870, 1914 and 1939. This was achieved while, at the same time, permitting the reindustrialisation of Germany which France’s history gave it so much reason to fear. And it was that which lead to the enormous improvement in the economic lot of the participants. Schuman was right, war did become impossible and this first European institution developed into the EU of today. Britain got it totally wrong, the Foreign Secretary of the time (Herbert Morrison) saying that we could not join the proposed Coal and Steel Community because “the Durham miners wouldn’t wear it.” Unfortunately when the Conservatives came to power, we still refused to join because of Anthony Eden’s belief that Britain’s future lay with its Empire. Of course today some people say that the avoidance of war is no longer relevant, war would remain impossible even were the EU to be dissolved. I would agree with them if they could tell me when they predicted that there would be war between the armies of Russia and Ukraine when the Soviet Union broke up. I see serious risks of instability in Europe that could arise were there to be no longer an EU: look at Hungary, look at the internal problems of Italy and Spain, look at the potential conflicts that could arise over the wave of migration from Africa. So I believe the Schuman argument remains valid and I want my country to be part of this.

My second reason is the impact of Europe on material prosperity. In the period up to the UK joining the EEC in 1973 our economic growth rate was significantly less than the EEC’s. My strong impression at the time was that this gap was reduced to an important extent thereafter. But the position is complicated to assess. North Sea oil production started in the UK sector in 1975 and that clearly had an impact, although there was also oil and gas production in other EEC countries. There are two articles about this I think worth quoting. One was in the Economist’s Free Exchange column that quoted a study of the impact on GDP of EU membership using a comparison of member and non-member states’ data. That reckoned that the UK GDP was over 20% higher than it would have been had we not been in the EU. The second is a research paper by the House of Commons Library that studied the economic benefits of EU membership. That points out that it is impossible to give a definitive figure because it involves estimating what would have happened had we not been a member. It does summarise a number of studies that have tried to answer this question and shows the range of different conclusions as follows:

uk-net-benefits-of-eu2

As can be seen, the estimates range from UKIP’s conclusion that membership costs us 5% of GDP to that of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills which estimates a gain of 6% of GDP p.a. The only one of these studies that I have read is the UKIP one, from which I concluded that their estimates were absolutely absurd; of course the study is readily available on-line.

But it does seem to me to be simple common sense that being a member of a major trading block with a population of over 500 million and GDP exceeding that of the USA, is of very substantial benefit. The EU takes 50% of UK exports (Nigel Farage claims that it is only 40% but that is not correct). Were we to leave, we might remain a member of the European Economic Area so still benefit from free trade with the EU but that would require us to accept all European trade regulations without any say in their development. Norway does that and it is called a fax democracy, because the EU Commission sends them a fax saying what new laws their Parliament must pass in relation to new rules, and they duly pass them. If we were outside that Economic Area, we would face the common external tariff on the half of our exports now going to other EU members. As an example, that would mean a 10% tariff on British motor vehicle exports to other EU countries, which amounted to £17 billion in 2013.

I would like to comment on some of the arguments currently used against EU membership. Nigel Farage is keen on saying that 75% of UK legislation is made in Europe. Daniel Hannan MEP has said that it is 84%. Again there is an excellent House of Commons Library research paper on that subject. That raises the interesting question as to how does one go about calculating a proportion of legislation, but finally concludes that:

“It is possible to estimate the proportion of national laws based on EU laws. In the UK, estimates suggest that over the twelve-year period from 1997 to 2009, 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU obligations, although the degree of involvement varied from passing reference to explicit implementation. Sectoral studies suggest that the agriculture forms the highest area of EU influence and defence the lowest. The British Government estimates that around 50% of UK legislation with a significant economic impact originates from EU legislation.”

Much of these laws related to the construction of the Single European Market, but little European law is now arising from that so the impact of Europe on UK legislation is falling.

The fact that agriculture is a high proportion is important, as a lot of EU legislation on agriculture relates to farming olives and tobacco, which does not impact on the UK.

Another much used argument is that of bureaucracy. Of course the EU is a bureaucracy; it is run by human beings. But while the number of civil servants employed by the UK Government is 479,000 (out of the 4.4 million total in the public sector costing 23% of total government expenditure) and in France, civil servants number 2 million; the Commission only has 30,000 employees, i.e. three quarters of the staff employed by the City of Paris. What is remarkable is that this is achieved despite the fact that the EU has to work in 23 official languages and provide for interpretation between them, which obviously increases staff numbers. But, despite that, it spends only about 6% of its budget on staff, administration and building maintenance.

Is often said that, when we joined the EEC in 1973, we were told that we were joining a free trade area. This, of course, is rubbish, we were already in a free trade area (EFTA) before we joined the EEC and we left it because it did not work. It did not work because it did not prevent non-tariff barriers to trade. The EEC, and now the EU, works because non-tariff barriers to trade are prohibited. They can only be prohibited by having a central authority that sets regulations to stop such barriers (a recent regulation struck down German internal market rules that effectively prevent British manufacturers selling chocolate in Germany). That this was made clear before we joined is shown by a few examples appended.

There are many positive reasons for EU membership, for example:

1. We are part of a group of countries with a common cultural and historical heritage co-operating together for the greater benefit of all.

2. Co-operation within the EU covers areas where action by individual nations within the limits of their national boundaries would be at best ineffective and at worst meaningless. An obvious example is environmental protection. Competition policy applied across the EU is another example giving wide benefits.

3. Because of the Common Agricultural Policy, we are part of an economic block that is self sufficient in food. That important to me as I remember the rationing in WWII and the post-war period.

4. As citizens of the European Union we entitled to move freely, to live and to be employed anywhere within the Union. Also we can hold and transfer funds freely within the Union.

5. There are positive impacts in other areas which most people, including the press, never consider. An example is higher education in the UK which benefits from the EU providing a common economic space within which talent can move freely. The EU enlarges our nation’s research base. Over 80% of the UK’s internationally co-authored papers are written with EU partners. The UK secures over €6 billion of EU research, development and innovation funding; the University of Kent calculates that every €1 of such funding increases the added value to industry by €13.

6. Importantly for me, citizens of the European Union living in a member state other than their own, are protected against discrimination against them by their own government in relation to social benefits. For example, British state pensioners living outside the EU have their pensions frozen, despite having paid the same contribution as those living in the UK whose pensions are increased to allow for inflation. Pensions of Britons resident in the EU cannot be frozen.

Robin Baker
BCiP member

Apendix

What we were told about joining the EEC

Edward Heath

House of Commons Debate in August 1966.

The Community is so much more than a market … the phrase “Common Market” underestimates and undervalues the Community, and, for this reason, tends to mislead those who have to deal with it.’…. Those who say that the British people must realise what is involved in this are absolutely right. There is a pooling of sovereignty. Member countries of the Community have deliberately undertaken to achieve their objectives, and, because they believe that the objectives are worth that degree of surrender of sovereignty, they have done it quite deliber¬ately … When we surrender some sovereignty, we shall have a share in the sovereignty of the Community as a whole, and of other members of it. It is not just, as is sometimes thought, an abandonment of sovereignty to other countries; it is a sharing of other people’s sovereignty as well as a pooling of our own.

9th May 1967, “There can be no doubt that the logical conclusion in a common market is to move over de facto or de jure to a common currency.

As Prime Minster 10 June 1971: “We have said that as members of the enlarged Community we would play our full part in the progress towards economic and monetary union.”

Also in June 1971 the Foreign Secretary (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said; “On two counts I am in full agreement with the opponents of our entry into Europe. The first is that our application is a step of the outmost political significance, and the second is that there is a danger of its political importance being overlooked in the public debate on the economic issues.”

Third reading debate on EEC entry 13th July, 1972, Sir Geoffrey Howe (Attorney-General):

“The concept of a common system of Community law, uniformly expressed, operating and enforced throughout the Community, is integral to the community system. If this country became a Member of the European Communities it would be accepting Community Law….The constitutional innovation would lie in the acceptance in advance as part of the law of the United Kingdom of provisions to be made in the future by instruments issued by Community institutions. … It is open to right hon. and hon. Members opposite to declare that they have changed their minds and that the concept of a uniform system of Community law is no longer acceptable to them. However, it is simply not open to them to suggest that this concept is an optional extra to the basic treaties which they once accepted.”

And, of course, the opponents of EEC entry also made the position clear, e.g. Peter Shore in the same debate: “The area over which under the treaties European institutions will be able to make our future law is largely undefined, and is certain to grow. It already includes not only a general capacity to make laws but now a substantial capacity to raise taxes. Indeed, for the first time since the Stuarts we are to be taxed without the consent of Parliament. What is so deeply unacceptable is that we have no right to repeal, to change, to amend the laws to which we are about to become subject—no right, that is, unless we breach the treaty itself. That is the dilemma with which we are faced. So what it comes to is this: the Bill will create, from the moment it takes effect, a large “no-go” area for British democracy, an area in which Community jurisdiction will apply and Community laws will have to be obeyed. That is the truth of the matter.”

Research Briefings - Summer Budget 2015: A Summary

Vendredi, juillet 10th, 2015

The House of Commons Library has produced a summary of the ‪‎Summer Budget‬ 2015 which includes the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the economy and public finances.

Read the summary or download the full report here:

http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7251

Source: Facebook/UK Parliament

Key Post-Election Budget Points, 8th July 2015

Mercredi, juillet 8th, 2015

Thanks to the Yahoo! Finance link below, here are the key points in the post-election budget of Chancellor George Osborne.

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/budget-key-points-know-111606650.html