Monday, 8 February 2016

Prez Sez - Let Brits Leave



Most states manage with between zero and one presidents.  The grandiose proto-state that is the EU has seven Presidents. (Yes. seven !).  On Friday 29th January, David Cameron attended a short-notice meeting with Jean-Claude-Juncker, the President of the European Commission, to discuss his EU reform package.  Cameron then agreed the details of his EU reform package with Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. Martin Schulz the President of the European Parliament, was in the UK in the latter part of last week, ostensibly to support the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

Schulz shoots down  Cameron's deal

In a keynote speech at the London School of Economics, Schulz fired a warning shot regarding the proposed EU reform deal: "proposals which cater to narrow self-interests, risk undermining the common good, or would set dangerous precedents for a Europe à la carte will meet with resistance from the European Parliament".  He also made clear that the "European Parliament needs to see its concerns addressed".

Specifically, he ruled out the idea of a multi-currency EU : "The currency of the European Union is the Euro. The Treaties are very clear on this."  Boom! There goes the economic governance basket in Cameron's reform package.

He also cast serious doubt over the emergency brake on benefits payments.  He describes an example scenario of the emergency brake which he suggests is unequal and not the type of EU we want to live in.  He then states that the European Parliament would not support proposals that "cause discrimination and undermine European values." Boom! There goes the migrant benefits basket in Cameron's reform package.

The competitiveness basket can be ignored as a repeated homily -  more competitiveness is always being promised and pursued.  Which leaves just the sovereignty basket.

Schulz addresses the sovereignty question by simply denying there is a problem : "the EU is not about giving up sovereignty".  He also claims that the EU is based on "dialogue, perseverance and multilateralism".  Schulz is of course indulging in the typical Orwellian doublespeak of the EU-federalists. The EU is precisely the opposite of this description. If the EU were multi-lateral and posed no threat to sovereignty, there would be no need for an EU referendum - there is no reason to oppose inter-national co-operation. Unfortunately, the EU is actually a supra-national body whose aim is to replace nation states. Hence the friction.

In the EU summit of December 2015,  on the topic of the UK's re-negotiations, Schulz himself described the UK as "moving more slowly along the road of EU integration" while also insisting that the UK should not gain advantage from its slower progress. Boom ! There goes Cameron's sovereignty basket.


To complete his demolition of Cameron's reform package, Schulz also cast doubts on Cameron's claims that the deal is legally binding in an interview with Sky News: "Nothing in our lives is irreversible. Therefore legally binding decisions are also reversible - nothing is irreversible."  This view is confirmed by the analysis on EU Referendum blog.


Schulz makes the case for the Single Market (not the EU)

President Schulz at least has a go at making the case for Remain, primarily by talking up fear of losing access to the Single Market:
"Let's face it: a huge chunk of London's attractiveness for global finance is down to it being part of the internal market."
"With such prospects, isn't it reassuring to be part of the biggest single market in the world?"
Which is all well and good, but of course the UK does not need to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market.  As covered in a previous post, the UK could Leave the EU, keep the single market. The UK would then regain an independent voice and vote in all international organisations, gaining more influence over the single market regulations (the bulk of which are formed in these international organisations).  The UK would also regain the freedom to negotiate its own trade deals.

UK foreign, defence & trade engagement in Europe (not the EU)

Whilst making the spurious claim that the EU is based on "multi-lateralism", Schulz also tries to talk up the Remain case by discussing the important role the UK has to play in foreign, trade and security policy:
Europe needs the UK with its foreign policy experience and clout, its open market policies and its trade track record if we want to have hope of solving any of these crises - and even more so, if we want to maintain the global security architecture and shape the future world order.
All of which can be agreed with. Europe (not the EU) and global security needs a strong and engaged UK.  Which is why the UK should leave the EU.  The UK has always been a leading player in inter-national co-operation - together with the USA we founded most of the existing international organisations. Sub-ordination to the supra-national EU, with Article 34 reducing the UK to little more than a Brussels mouthpiece in international organisations (e.g. UN, NATO), has weakened the UK's inter-national engagement, as noted by other allies. A recent article in De Spiegel also highlighted this :
Moreover, British successes in the EU are relatively rare, particularly on far-reaching issues such as defense and diplomacy, where Britain has increasingly taken a position contrary to that of the EU in recent years. It is an ironic state of affairs, since it was London, with its military strength and global diplomatic experience that helped Europe achieve a modicum of respectability in foreign and security policy in the past. But when it came to peace talks for the Ukraine, which resulted in the Minsk Protocol, Britain played no role at all. Instead, it was the Germans and French who engaged with the Russians and Ukrainians.
A similar misconception is displayed by Schulz when he discusses the EU's clout with respect to trade agreements and highlights the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement - TTIP. In practice, the EU holds up trade agreements as it takes into account the protectionist interests of all EU member states - TTIP has been more than 10 years in negotiation already.

Schulz suggests that the size of TTIP will define inter-national standards. In fact, the opposite is true and the EU's approach is outdated. Standards agreed in international bodies are used as the basis of sectoral or unbundled trade agreements.  These modern agreements are much faster to agree and are indicative of an emerging global single market. An independent UK would be uniquely placed to benefit from this approach, as described here.

Let the Brits Leave

The most interesting part of Schulz's speech is when he displays the EU's impatience with the UK. Along with his demolition of Cameron's reform package, this chimes with my understanding: the EU are not going to provide meaningful concessions to the UK - take it or leave it:
"the British often test our patience and good will with their continuous demands."
"They are demanding. They push hard. They insist. They just don't let go. Many of my colleagues say behind closed doors: Don't stop a rolling stone. If the Brits want to leave, let them leave."
A similar sentiment can be found in the European press, for example France 24's recent article, where they repeat Le Monde's complaint from 2011 : "the British are interested in only one thing: the common market".  This is reflected in polling of the British public, who regularly confirm their belief that they only joined a common market and that they would prefer a trade-only relationship with the EU.

Taken together with Schulz's (inadvertent) suggestions, we can see an independent UK which:
  • retains full participation in the Single Market;
  • regains full control of foreign, defence & trade policy;
  • regains independent voice & vote in international organisations;
  • actively engages in inter-national co-operation - in Europe and the world.

In short, the EU would lose an unruly subordinate and gain a strong partner and ally.  A relationship that would suit both parties much better than current arrangements. We agree with President Schulz: "Let the Brits leave".





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