Sunday, 3 April 2016

The cases in favour of the European Union: even off the starting blocks yet?

I’ve already commented that I cannot see a viable role a European Union, but I continue to seek some sort of robust case for the European Union.

In this blog, I headline some articles/blogs, with my comment further on.

  • The articles
    • The Centre for European Reform
    • The Union of European Federalists
    • The Financial Times
    • The Economist
    • Book review: the Case for the European Union
    • An alternative perspective: The Rethink Institute of Washington re Turkey
  • My comments
    • Centre for European Reform
    • The Union of European Federalists
    • The Financial Times
    • The Economist
    • Book review: the Case for the European Union
    • An alternative perspective: The Rethink Institute of Washington re Turkey

In short, I’ve yet to find the EurIn equivalent of the Flexcit plan.  C’mon guys, time is running out...

*** STOP PRESS *** there’s a new book coming out on 18 May 2016 (from Amazon).  Better late than never, I suppose.  It’s called “Towards an Imperfect Union: A Conservative Case for the EU (Europe Today)” by Dalibor Rohac.  As it’ll cost me £20, I’ll probably not read it until long after the referendum, when the price comes down to £0.01 in the second-hand market.  And I can’t help but notice that the author has chosen to publish only a real paper book, rather than an e-book.  Oh well, he is a conservative, after all.

The articles

The Centre for European Reform

The Centre for European Reform stands in favour for a better European Union.  It has published numerous articles of late, here are only three of them.

On 19 February 2016 - the day of Cameron’s Agreement - the CER published an article in New Statesman magazine, “The global case for staying in the EU”.  This opinion is broadly a foreign-policy comment on why a European Union must do more to extoll the virtues of the rule of law and democracy, and gives some examples of how it has done so, even pointing to the efforts that the European Union has done because America appears not to be bothered doing so.

On 23 March 2016, the CER also commented on why the European Union’s single market matters to Britain, why volume of trade outside of Europe is less valuable to the Brexit camp than Brexiteers want it to be, and says (without citing evidence) that inward investment to Britain would fall by being outside the European Union.

On 24 February 2016, the CER asked the most important question of the entire debate: “Would an 'independent' britain want to join the single market?”  This comment correctly identifies that proper EurIneers and proper Brexiteers are both proper open-market traders - neither of them represent “Fortress” Anything - hallelujah! - and that if an independent Britain were suddenly to appear on the planet out of no-where, the first thing it would do is pick up the phone and do a trade deal with Brussels.

The Union of European Federalists

Andrew Duff MEP, a member of the Liberal Democrats, and President of the Union of European Federalists wrote in a blog published on 6 March 2013 by the London School of Economics the case in favour of an associate membership for the United Kingdom within the European Union.

The Financial Times

On 01 January 2016, the Financial Times (not a credible witness) reiterated its base case for the UK to remain a member of the European Union, “being  the hard-headed calculation that Britain’s prosperity and security are advanced by pooling resources and, sometimes, sovereignty with its European partners.”  Specifically:

“The case for membership, in other words, is grounded in enlightened self-interest: recognition that the UK can best leverage its power and guard against potential weaknesses by being part of the collective endeavour of its own continent.

[...]

“The EU has abundant flaws. The financial crisis exposed a half-completed economic union, and the tide of arriving refugees has shown the weaknesses of Schengen. The Financial Times backs a Union that promotes a pragmatic, variable geometry of co-operation among groups of states alongside the shared competences embedded in the single market, international trade deals, climate talks and such like.


The Economist

The Economist wrote on 14 November 2015 that somebody needs to make a positive case for the European Union, but then chose not to do so.

Unsurprisingly, the first public comment on the article on 16 November 2015 by “baldy63” said, “An interesting article not least because it totally misses the point or fails to understand that "Events" have and will continue to make the running on this.”   Further comments thereon spread into the mould of the standard polemic arguments about Europe’s place in the world, and how Britain contributes (or not) to it.

Book review: the Case for the European Union

On 01 August 2013, The Times Higher Education Supplement published a book review for “Why Europe Matters: The Case for the European Union, by John McCormick”.  The review says that this is an excellent attempt at advocating the European Union, but falls short of making the best case in favour of the European Union.  The review also cites a lack of evidence to support some claims, specifically:

“For Europhiles, McCormick provides a useful checklist of points worth making, but anyone preparing for a debate with a serious Eurosceptic will have to supplement the book’s deficiencies (including a paucity of economic facts and statistics) from other sources.”

An alternative perspective: The Rethink Institute of Washington re Turkey

To take a different perspective, in August 2013, the Rethink Institute of Washington published a short paper (20 pages) “The Case for Turkey’s Membership to the European Union”.

If citizens of the EU, advocating the EU, can’t seem to get their thoughts straight, might non-citizens do a better job?

The paper argues that the European Union has overcome historic prejudices and religious prejudices, pointing out that that what started as a Roman Catholic club (France & Germany) incorporated Protestants (UK, Denmark), incorporated already struggling federations (Spain), incorporated formally recognised Muslim minorities (Greece) and incorporated former communist states and states of mainly Slavic origin (Poland, Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia).  Ignoring the costs in so doing, bravo!

Therefore, if the EU can absorb all of this, why can it not absorb the wide spread of religious belief that is Turkey?

The paper goes on to argue that “Turkey Needs the EU as much as EU Needs Turkey” because Turkey would teach Europe how to handle a properly secular state that accommodates religious beliefs that are alien to each other.

My comments

At last, proper debate, and plenty of very diverse reasons!

Not bad for only 30 minutes of Googling.

Centre for European Reform

I think the Centre for European Reform should have a significantly more prominent presence within mainstream mass media that hog the face of electorate.  The CER makes its case rationally; crucially, it does not overtly seek to manipulate the reader.

The CER has clear opinions about Britain’s role in the EU (and has created a comment feed accordingly), but also has clear opinions about others matters to which it can react about Europe.  The CER’s website has a comment feed for the refugee crisis, security and the eurozone.  In these matters, the CER looks like it trots out the usual polemic, but on some occasions, its criticism can be deep. Examples include the migrant crisis, competitiveness and whether the Eurozone could be considered a success.

In all of these matters, the CER’s solution is broadly the same: more integration, more harmonisation, more democracy and more interventionist policy in more policy areas.

In two of the articles listed above, CER has focussed on trading figures as a basis for EurIn.  This is a mistake, because trade volumes are irrelevant to the British voters’ choice of EurIn or Brexit on 23 June 2016.  The CER’s comment about inward investment declining if UK left EU is without evidence - at best, a mere model has likely been rigged to calculate it, presumably why the CER cited no source for the comment - and this undermines both the CER’s case for EurIn, and possibly also CER’s standing in the EurIn/Brexit debate.

In the article published via the New Statesman, the CER comprehensively reviews foreign policy, but the article suffers two faults.  First, it does not account for blatant foreign policy failures of the European Union.  Second, it falls way short of wiring its aspirational ideological recommendations to the nitty-gritty of today’s real life foreign policy and how such nitty-gritty impacts the lives of ordinary people.  So whilst the article might appeal to those who already think in its vein, it won’t mean much to the average voter in, say, Doncaster high street.  And it needs to, because that voter in Doncaster high street pays taxes to fund all of this foreign policy stuff.


The Union of European Federalists

On the face of it, Cameron’s Agreement of 19 February 2016 has semi-formalised such an associate membership, without going so far as to amend the European Constitution (the Lisbon Treaty of 2007).  In this respect, Britain’s referendum could be an unnecessary (avoidable?) spanner in the works, derailing an existing subtle strategy currently in motion.

The policies of the Union of European Federalists (“UEE”) look ideological, but they don’t really hint at the business case (“Who benefits from these policies?”) behind each policy.

With Cameron’s Agreement of 19 February 2016 have obtained an agreement for Britain to opt out of deeper integration, the UEE might consider itself shut out of the Britain’s referendum of 23 June 2016.

I would suggest otherwise.  The UEE - its MEP’s - should be stating the case on their soapboxes directly in front the masses that elected them.  After all, we pay their salaries and generous expense allowances!

But I would insist on two requirements: stick to the evidence and deliver an argument with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely objectives.

Being cynical, I suspect the UEE know full-well what voters like me want to hear and to read.  So why their invisibility in the UK’s mass media?

The Financial Times

The Financial Times refers to a “hard-headed calculation”.  I’m not sure how one can calculate anything when some of the variables are themselves undefinable (and therefore incalculable).  Sounds like guesswork to me.

Nevertheless, the Financial Times has hit two greasy nails squarely on the head.  A European Union can only work by pooling sovereignty and comprising one’s own interest in the name of solidarity.  Nail one.  But the European Union has flaws.  Nail two.

And those flaws - which have been there, largely unreformed, since before 1971 - are rather the point, hence why the Financial Times has no credibility in my eyes.  The flaws in the European Union are many, but the most dangerous flaws of all are the twin expensive and unaffordable policy choices of welfare schemes and social models of employment (“jam-on-credit for me today, jam-on-credit for me tomorrow, the kids can pay the bills when they’ve grown up, oh dear they can’t get jobs because we’ve made employment impossibly expensive, never mind, let’s carry on regardless”).  Combining this with the disjointed and ideological policies of Schengen and the Eurozone, and we end up with a substantially unreformable mess.  This is the European Union that we’ve ended up with, because the demagogues who started this European Union thing couldn’t be bothered to do the groundwork right.

So, to me, the FT seems to be saying that, yes, we are in pain from repeatedly headbutting the wall of Fortress Europe (the outside wall apparently being ‘at the heart of Europe’), so the best solution is to keep on headbutting the wall because, one day, it might yield a different result.  Credibility?

The Economist

I have tried to find an article on the Economist’s website that makes the case for Europe as it is, but I can’t find one.

To be honest, I’m rendered nearly speechless.

Of all the publications… of all the publications…!!!!

Book review: the Case for the European Union

For me, the book review’s paragraph above pretty much says it all.

The case in favour of the European Union today, like that of the European Economic Community in 1970, is devoid of sufficient evidence to justify the ideology in favour of any such European Union, let alone a federalist one.

It seems to be a common theme for the EurIn crowd: where is the evidence to support your ideology?  Join the dots for us.  Make sense.  Make it relevant to us taxpayers.

An alternative perspective: The Rethink Institute of Washington re Turkey

I loved this paper, because it is so completely and utterly different from anything else written about Europe!

Whilst I am sympathetic to its message, and fully endorse its strong belief in the strictly secular state (in spite of bombing campaigns by fundamentalist terrorists to blackmail us into believing otherwise), I have too many doubts about how the author understands the European Union.  The author describes a European Union which I don’t really recognise: to appear to accept religious differences is one thing, but European Union policy choices show otherwise (especially EU inactivity relating to Bosnia in the 1990s).

And how ready Turkey might warm to the prospect of having the social model of employment, welfarism and the Eurozone shoved down its throat as a condition of membership is something I’d be particularly keen to see… but at a long, long distance.

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