General discussion


What should the UK do next?

By neilb@uk ·
Europe is heading towards federalism and a hyper-regulatory European socialist system that just won?t work for the UK. The apathy of the UK?s citizens will result in the wrecking of our economy if we sit back and let our government move us closer to the European model. I think we need a wake-up call to get out before we get sucked into the Euro and our exit becomes a lot more messy.

The creation of a federalist Europe can only succeed for those countries with an aptitude for it. Britain is certainly not one of them. Unlike Britain, none of the larger continental European countries has truly effective political institutions. Those of Germany date from 1949, France from 1958 and Spain from 1975. The Italians are still trying to reform their constitution. All have proportional representation voting systems and usually cumbersome coalition governments. It is obvious that these countries, unlike Britain, might feel that in moving toward federation they are not giving up much.

There are now 50,000 European regulations, filling over 230,000 pages, applicable to Britain. I accept that not all of these are detrimental to our way of life but a significant number of them fit into this category whereas a number of others can best be described as ?more trouble than they are worth?.

Monetary union would be soon followed by a common foreign and defense policy. This would reduce national sovereignty in the member countries virtually to the level of local government.

For an example of ?European Common Foreign Policy?, look no further than the events in the Middle East. The general EU Middle Eastern policy is to wait for the Americans to do something and then stake out positions more favorable to the Arab powers. I know that the Americans are not always right but surely the EU can manage to be a bit more honest than to go against them every time. The EU?s treatment of Turkey will destabilize that crucial country and the entire region. The Greeks need a serious slapping but, while the leading continental European powers hide behind the Greeks, we ? and more recently, Spain ? seem to be the only ones with a consistent policy to keep Turkey on-side.

Getting out wouldn?t be so bad, surely. We would still continue to trade with our ex-partners. Probably on better terms than before.

The World Trade Organisation has reduced the EU?s common external tariff from 5.7% to 3.6%. Not too much to pay with our lower production costs. Attempts by the EU to limit imports from non-members can only be sustained if unanimously upheld by multi-national trade panels, which is practically almost impossible. So, the scare story of being frozen out of Europe by vindictive Community bureaucrats is not tenable. Anyway, as we have a negative balance of payments with Europe, they need us more than we need them!

The annual direct cost of our membership of the European Union is made up as follows: we make ?10 billion in gross budgetary contributions. Almost half of this is returned in EU spending but we, the UK citizens, don?t get to choose what that ?5 billion is spent on! Higher food prices in the UK, because of the Common Agricultural Policy, cost us more than ?6 billion annually although about half of that is rebated directly to British farmers usually for things that, again, we don?t want or need anyway. So, the overall cost of the EU to Britain is between ?8 and ?12 billion, or around 1.5% of G.D.P. We also have that ?3 billion trade deficit with the EU.

There are also the indirect costs of regulation, and the heavy political costs of eroding sovereignty and the tacit encouragement of provincial separatism as Scottish and Welsh nationalists envision receiving the sort of direct grants that have benefited Ireland. The true federalization of Europe will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and there will be no way of putting it back together.

Westminster has served Britain reasonably satisfactorily for centuries. The institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg are both undemocratic and inefficient when viewed from the political standpoint of our democratic system. Almost all continental European governments, because of the proportional voting system, are multi-party coalitions incapable of decisive action. We?re not.

We have absolutely no chance of guiding the Europeans towards transparency, privatisation, deregulation, lower taxes and labour flexibility until it has got a lot worse and they have dragged us down with them. Do we really want to re-live the Thatcher years because that is what will be needed in Europe?

So, if we did leave. What could we do?

We could join the European Economic Area with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This would maintain our full access to the Single Market and avoid further political integration. We would save most of the present financial cost of the EU. The Swiss option, the European Free Trade Association but not the European Economic Area, gives almost as good access to the EU market but only free movement of goods and not of people. Given the existence of our large current account deficit with the EU, we should be in a position to negotiate complete reciprocal access of goods and people but with complete withdrawal from the political and judicial institutions if we just had the cojones!

Hey, let?s join NAFTA! NAFTA is already negotiating with the EFTA and with Chile. We are currently the world?s fourth economy, after the U.S., Japan, and Germany so I can?t imagine there would be any great difficulty negotiating entry. Earlier EU initiatives to promote free trade between the EU and NAFTA have been typically vetoed by the French.

Hey you Yanks and Canadians. Would we be welcome in a renamed, expanded NAFTA if we kicked the EU into touch? I reckon we would.


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Control of currency

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Actually the European con ...

Yeah right, you telling me we have control of sterling. Just because we haven't either used or directly linked to the euro or the dollar for that matter does not mean we are separate. A sneeze in New York or Berlin has everyone in London reaching for a hanky. The euro enjoyed a long period of growth after it's launch particularly gaining parity with the dollar, it's decline at the moment is basically down to the French and German economies. The French are struggling with a set of irrational socialist policies, the germans with the burden of unification.
We cannot divorce ourselves from europe, any more than we can isolate ourselves from teh reste of the world, even if politicians and teh general public were 100% in favour, business would not be, ever. We are as much an encumbrance to the EU as it is to us, both sides need to resolve that. Trying to keep the free market yet having total independance in ecomonic matters is impossible.
The US and the UK are meant to be free market open trading partners, yet your moribund steel industry was suffering badly, so you hit us with import tariffs to protect your interests. You have that power, you want to keep that power, that's fine, but that means we aren't partners and the market is not free. Taanstafl.

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Regarding political and cultural differences.......

by sleepin'dawg In reply to Negotiate

The differences in the EU are what are keeping the UK from making any progress right now. The UK is unprepared and unwilling to handle the social controls and restrictions that exist on the continent and any attempt to impose them will only end in disaster. Add Ireland to the mix and a trade agreement amongst people with a shared language and a shared cultural history makes more sense even though there are differences in our present cultures. Do not forget the agreement would be between free and independent nations each maintaining its sovereignty and none suborning its interests and culture to a group of nations which were so recently your enemies. Do not forget nations do not have friends, they have interests and since when have the interests of France ever coincided with those of England not to mention Germany or any other nation. A closer examination of an agreement of English speaking people might indicate a more equal alignment of interests.

Dawg ]:)

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Don't agree at all

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Regarding political and c ...

you're forgeting I'm a staunch socialist. We are subject to all EU legislation, except where we have negotiated a deferrment such as say the working time directive. Social controls imposed by the EU are along the lines of treat people fairly, some people making a profit or political capital out of such discrepancies don't like it but I say ****'em.
Look at the things the UK has campaigned against and lost. The working time directive ( can't be forced on pain of losing your job to work excessive hours). Sex Discrimination (retirement age). Minimum Wage. Free labour movement. Everyone is a serious impingement of an individuals rights. You can work a reasonable amount of hours, where you want to work, can't be discriminated against and get paid a living wage, terrible stuff, only a left wing loony like me would be in favour of it.

Can't figure out where you think UK and US interests go hand in hand that the EU does not already ascribe to. The right to invade other countries in order to promote democratic freedom is the only one that springs to minds and I did not agree with that at all.

Language is not the barrier, certainly war isn't. British foreign policy has always been to foster the 2nd most aggressive power in mainland europe and turn them on the number one spot. When they achieved that we switched sides. Didn't care where they were from, what religious belief they esposed or how badly they spoke english, only that they were too busy to screw about with us.

Don't forget when free and independant nations disagree, they need an arbitration mechanism to resolve the contention. The EU is meant to be about convergence thereby reducing the number of points of contention. What good is an agreement if one party was free to break it at the drop of a hat and justify it with national interest and that is much more likely to be a short term political one for the current government?

The US has actively worked against british interests easily as many times as any european nation since it was formed, didn't matter that we both spoke english, all that avoided was the need to get someone to translate hijo de puta , jamais vu si con and dumkopf to us.

If it makes you feel any better the main reason I'm against swapping the US for europe is you are too powerful. The only way british interests would be served would be if american interests were being also, we would be swamped, might as well throw Britain in the bin and become a state at least we'd get a vote then. We can always find allies in europe though.

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Well if your idea is allies like the French you won't need any enemies.

by sleepin'dawg In reply to Don't agree at all

You really want to get cozy with the Krauts who managed to start not one but two world war within the same century. After the frogs ran off it was the rest of the commonwealth and finally the Americans who had to jump in and save your bacon. Now why would they have done that? I'm sure you're memory is going to go blank on that one. Just think maybe you won't be so lucky next time because we might not give a damn. Can you pronounce arsheloch???

Dawg ]:)

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Westminster has served Britain

by john.a.wills In reply to What should the UK do nex ...

Westminster has served Britain reasonably well for centuries, you say. What do you mean by Britain? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was founded in 1921, less than one century ago.

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It should be fairly obvious what I mean by "Britain"

by neilb@uk In reply to Westminster has served Br ...

England! Most of the population and most of the wealth.

OK, so we've got Wales and Scotland in the island of "Greater Britain" - as named by the Romans. The sea makes a pretty obvious boundary so I suppose that I should include them.

btw. I would happily leave Northern Ireland to the Irish (the name of the place is a giveway!).

I still don't see that your cleverdick post means a lot, though.

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UK founded in 1921?

by Montgomery Gator In reply to Westminster has served Br ...

More like 1603, when King James of Scotland became King of England, uniting the monarchy of the two nations, and 1707, with the Act of Union. Ireland (under English control for several hundred years already) was formally added to the Union in 1800, but the United Kingdom had already existed before then, consisting of England, Scotland, and Wales. These two dates seem like the appropriate dates for the United Kingdom. The 1921 date was just acknowledging that the Irish Republic was independent, but that Ulster remained in the United Kingdom.

As far as the Parliament, it has existed for several hundred years, going back to at least before 1215 (Magna Charta), long before England and Scotland were joined, so that is what Neil is referring to.

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UK of GB & NI

by john.a.wills In reply to UK founded in 1921?

The UK of GB & NI was founded simultaneoulsy with the Irish Free State in 1921 by the partition of the UK of GB & Ireland, i.e. of all Britain except the Isle of Man. Britain was united in 1801 by the union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. But it is no longer united. England ceased to be a separate state during the reign of Henry VIII, when it was united with Wales. Englandandwales lost its independence in 1707 when it was united with Ancient Kingdom of Scotland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain (not of all Britain).

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Boy do you have a warped view of the facts.

by sleepin'dawg In reply to UK of GB & NI

You have the facts down as to dates et al but your interpretations of them are totally erroneous. At no time regardless of the titles on the various pieces of paper did England ever cease being a separate state. Englan official added Wales to itself under Henry VIII but the eldest sons of the kings of England were styled as Prince of Wales since the days of Edward I. The Act of Union of 1707 under Queen Anne was the act of unifying the parliaments of England and Scotland. Similarly Ireland was added to England's parliament in 1801; there not being any kingdom of Ireland as such since about 750 AD. In 1921 the catholic portion of Ireland won it's independence but Ulster which was and is predominantly protestant remained under the crown. There was never any entity refered to as The Ancient Kingdom of Scotland it was just plain old Kingdom of Scotland. There was no Kingdom of Ireland or for that matter King of Ireland. Ireland was a collection of small kingdoms which supposedly came under an Ard Reigh(?) the last of which disappeared around 1100. The various Kings of England styled themselve as Kings of Ireland, Wales and Scotland by right of conquest. You might be interested in knowing that at no time was either Scotland or Ireland ever officially conquered although many English kings claimed as much. Saying so did not make it so. What I've said here is only a brief generalization, the full story being much more complex. BTW Queen Elizabeth is also officially called Queen of Canada but not even the most ardent monarchist thinks of her as such in reality.

Dawg ]:)

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warped view

by john.a.wills In reply to Boy do you have a warped ...

I claim that it is your view that is warped. You certainly have one fact wrong: an Irish Parliament declared Henry VIII of England King of Ireland in 15-something, and the Kingdom of Ireland continued until 1801, when Britain was united - with the exception of the Isle of Man.

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