Punishment or Pragmatism?
If Poland left the EU it would be absolutely vital for it to maintain its existing trade relations. The UK is not in the same negotiating position, not only because of the large quantities of German cars and French wine it imports but because its global reach and reputation is far greater than Poland’s or that of many other of the 27. In finance, education, tourism, law, insurance, film, music, IT, pharmaceuticals, or even whisky, few come close; yet it is agriculture and manufacturing that EU membership favours and these are not where the UK’s strength lies today.
The EU started as a trading agreement but is now primarily a political project, although that was always the real objective. Political interests come first; the EU negotiators can, if necessary, inflict pain on German car makers and French wine makers because EU decision making is well insulated from public opinion. The eurocrats in Brussels care far more about their vision of a future United Europe than about short term economic pain (they won’t be affected anyway). Then again there is only so much disillusion the Project can withstand and such high-handedness could steer more voters towards eurosceptic parties, such as Alternative fur Deutschland and the Front National.
The Plan should work for the people, not the other way around. Trade is a well-proven pathway to prosperity, regardless of membership of any FTA. When the leaders of China in the 15th century decided the outside world had nothing much to offer such an advanced civilisation it soon sank to the lowest rungs and was exploited by those that had rapidly overtaken it; China rose again when it stopped looking inwards. The same degree of isolation is unlikely today (though North Korea nearly manages it) but the EU cannot afford to cut off one of its biggest and more innovative trade partners. Despite Macron saying that members should stick together it is very possible that pragmatic Continental politicians will come to think good relations with Britain are more important than bullying, the signs are already there in Ireland, Poland, Hungary and even from some in the German government.
Of course if those who wish the UK to remain in the EU look like they may succeed in stopping Brexit there will be no need for the EU side to temper its demands. In fact by offering a dreadful deal they could raise the chances of it being rejected by the UK public if they were given the another say.
Pragmatism or Ideology?
This item draws on a report in euobserver by Eszter Zalan, which can be found here:
The EU’s Budget Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has the job of replenishing the EU coffers after Brexit. Consistent with the EU’s aim to transfer to itself as much as it can get away with, he proposes to claw revenue from environmental policies, currently collected at the level of the member states, to help fill the hole that will be left in the budget after the UK departs.
The EU budget may be €12-15 billion less annually. The ‘EU Executive’ – i.e. the Commission – is proposing to fill half the gap with money from member states and the other half by cutting existing projects.
As an example of how they intend to fill the first half of the gap the Commission will propose a plastic tax. In the UK the Government will widen the current charge on the use of plastic bags to cover all shops, which must charge 5p on each bag. The Government has not mentioned that this new rule derives from the EU; they know what reaction they would expect.
“What has gone mostly unreported in the UK is that the plastic bag charge is needed to fulfil a requirement in an EU directive” (euobserver). Perhaps the Government wishes to claim the credit for environmental rectitude.
The second step will be to extract the income from ‘emission trading’, including the charge on plastic bags, from member states to the Commission.
“Climate law is discussed at European level, it is possible for ETS [emissions trading scheme] to be traded on European stock markets, however incomes from these measures flow into national level. However it would be logical for this to be brought into the European budget,” Oettinger argued.
The ‘logic’ of this is lost on us. If the UK Government claims the credit then the EU government claims the money. Fair all round? Except, “In the interests of the world’s oceans … we have to ensure we reduce the quantity [of plastic] used in Europe,” Oettinger told reporters. So the EU wants both the credit and the cash.
This issue exemplifies our case that (a) the EU is founded in an ideology, (b) it disguises this with propaganda, specious claims and lies, and (c) as a result it fails, as it must, to achieve what it claims to seek.
The ideology insists that whatever powers and resources the EU has should be increased, or at least not decreased. The EU has recognised that simply demanding a steady up-flow of powers and resource would not be well received in the member states, so they have to disguise the facts with what could over-politely be called ‘public relations’; in more accurate words, propaganda, specious claims and lies.
Ideology or Bust?
The “integrity” of the EU Project is regularly raised as a explanation of the punishing line the EU is taking in the Brexit ‘negotiations’. It’s often unclear how the term is being used, whether it is a synonym for ‘unity’ or a portmanteau word to indicate the inviolability of their rules and regulations. In effect it is among the ways in which the EU tries to divert attention from the true agenda, the supra-national state.
Of course the member states don’t always behave as they are instructed to. Although internal disagreements and disputes have been somewhat muted recently (with the exception of Polish issues), they haven’t gone away. The North-South differences are visible again. A group of southern states, including Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain are combining to press the EU to give more say to its citizens as a means to combat populism. Meanwhile, among the members of the Visegrad group, populism is rampant and perhaps spreading to Austria.
The southern states are concerned that the EU is failing to “foster democracy and citizens’ participation”. We agree with them, though not with their ‘solution’ which is to organise consultations all over ‘Europe’ (we assume they mean the EU), following the lead of Emmanuel Macron. Such consultations may well pacify some of the complaints of remoteness and indifference that are expressed by citizens but they will not introduce anything that resembles democracy, through which citizens can ultimately dismiss those who govern them unsatisfactorily.
Meanwhile populism, most strongly expressed by both leaders and citizens of the Visegrad Group, sees the solution to an unsatisfactory EU in fierce nationalisms. We do not favour this deeply Eurosceptic ‘solution’ either, because we see a role for international collaboration in Europe, stripped of the debasing ideology that characterises the EU.
One solution seeks to pacify discontent by introducing distracting, superficial ‘reforms’. The other seeks to divert attention by flag-waving and attacking those countries who appear to support the EU regime because they do better from it. Neither offers an effective way to deal with the design flaws of the Union and to exploit the potential of international collaboration in trade, security and other factors.