What do you know about the European Union? Not much, I bet. Yet we are all going to be asked to vote about staying in or leaving.
It will be a decision made of ignorance for what do we know of the EU? Do you know how to contact your representative or even who they are and what problems they may be able to help with?
The political parties will tell you a little truth but they will also obfuscate, promise, predict and tell you only the things that matter to their cause. I will not say that they will lie to you but it is not in their interests to tell the whole truth.
We have some very gifted political journalists but their employers, the newspaper editors, will be following the ‘out’ or ‘in’ line. Journalists exist on the chatter from Westminster. When do we hear about events, debates and policies from Brussels? We hear only when the popular press can make fun of a decision or to express Righteous British Indignation.
Just like a club membership
Think of the EU as a club whose members are countries, 28 including the UK. Those countries have 508 million population or 7.3% of the world population.
Like all clubs you bring certain things with you to the clubhouse, paying the subscription is perhaps the most important but so is agreeing to obey the club rules.
You must be approved as a suitable member. In the case of the EU, member countries must be stable democracies, have a system of human rights, free speech an independent judiciary and an orderly and fair financial system.
The club, in return, offers its members favourable trade agreements, a central fund giving loans at good rates for developments and a central currency. The people in the member countries are considered equal and to be treated as equals when in other member states.
Below this level are unifying regulations about professional qualifications, border controls, standards for all manner of manufacturing and agriculture. There are schemes to bring transport between countries into existence, the channel tunnel for instance and the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden.
The UK has about 70 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). We have 10 representing our South East region one of whom is Nigel Farage.
The others I had never heard of until I looked them up just now. There are 13 regions to cover the UK. There are 751 MEPs to cover the whole of the EU. Elections are held every 5 years with proportional representation.
The Union or Common Market as it was at first, was set up to encourage trade rather than invasions after the Second World War.
A most important and enduring agreement was that an attack on any one of the countries would be regarded as an attack on all and we will all defend that one country. Otherwise the USSR would have picked us off, one by one, like it did Hungary and Czechoslovakia and now in the Crimea.
The EU has its faults of course. For 17 years no financial authority of any integrity has felt comfortable to sign off the financial audits.
There are scandals, fraud and other venal activities. There does not seem to be a coherent foreign policy nor defence system; that is left to NATO.
The Euro is not as sound as we would like as we saw with the events in Greece. The Common Agricultural Policy has been a scandal which is changing too slowly and is detrimental to other parts of the world.
Then there are the problems we in the UK are experiencing. Partly due to our own financial success we are generous to ourselves.
Whenever a state decides to give people money, it is no surprise that people line up to receive it. Nor should it be a surprise that there are unforeseen consequences. The rules are that anyone here in UK can benefit so European immigrants come to take advantage.
Given the faults, and there are many. Books are written about them. The governments of the individual countries are not faultless. The UK is not faultless. The euro may not be too stable but then is the pound sterling?
What’s in it for us?
Will the UK stop getting immigrants if we withdraw from the EU? Do we want to stop getting them?
What is really in it for us and what will we miss if we leave? Nobody is saying.
Today’s papers are full of who will rebel against the PM, who is organising the Brexit, who has fallen out with whom. All these ministers and other politicians will be long gone to directorships and the house of Lords in a few years but we will be living with the results of the decision we make in June.
Only one country has ever left the EU, Greenland. Are they any better for it? I have no idea. Are we, in the UK, any better for belonging to the EU? What do you think?
Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. George Bernard Shaw.
Countries in the EU
The EU countries are:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
Institutions of the EU
- European Parliament
- European Council
- European Commission
- Courts of Justice of the EU
- EU Central bank
- Court of Auditors of the EU
Members in waiting
Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Turkey.
Non-Members but with extensive trading treaties
Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican, Norway, Greenland, Lichtenstein.
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