I’m grateful to Dave Chapman for his hard work investigating and writing some papers on the EU, and for kindly permitting their publication on this blog. (His first was posted in UK/EU in/out #3: In the Face of God, which inspired this hub’s original title.)
A subsequent paper was first circulated to his neighbours and which “expressly leaves out the ‘spiritual take’, but was intended to be informative…Neither is it complete, of course. Below was the note I attached with the item…”
A Look at Some Facts on the European Union, and Britain
In attaching this small ‘paper’ I need to make a short explanation.
Being one of those who ‘wanted to know more facts’, and finding the heart of the issues (for me) were not being presented in all the petty, early bantering from both sides of the argument, I decided I needed to investigate what the EU stood for, myself. My findings cleared away some of the confusions surrounding the whole European ‘project’ and led me to make some personal choices over the issue.
I am not a member of any political party. I am not associated with any Remain or Leave official campaign. I am just one of those ordinary citizens of Worcester who has had the inclination to find out some things for myself. I can only say that the facts I found are as accurate as I could find and record. I recognise it does not cover all the issues. That might take a lifetime!
I don’t like most advertising leaflets through the door myself, so if this is an intrusion of privacy in any way, please pop it back through my door – or toss it over the front gate if you wish! I’ll pick it up!
Otherwise, I hope you will find it at least informative on some background facts, to help make your own conclusions, the same as, or opposite, of mine.
Thank you. Dave Chapman
EU – THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE
Some Facts on Europe
The Council of Europe was formed 1949 in London, under Treaty, and has today 47 Member Nations/States. This includes Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, for instance. Its Headquarters are Strasbourg, France. This is distinct from the European Union, though no Country has joined the EU without first becoming a Member Country of the Council of Europe.
The European Convention of Human Rights was formed by the Council of Europe in Rome in November 1950, to be effective from September 1953. This Convention established the European Court of Human Rights in January of 1959, with one Judge from each of the 47 Members of the Council of Europe. Any person from these Nations believing their rights have been violated can take the matter to this court, whose judgement is binding on that member Country. Though not explicitly a part of the European Union, all EU countries are participants, and it has supra-national and International authority. (It is this Court which prevented for 7 years the expulsion from our Country of Abu Hamza, and another radical Cleric also. Our present Home Secretary, Ms Theresa May, wishes to exit from this organisation as she believes it “can bind the hands of Parliament” – ours!).
How did the European Union form?
A forerunner of the European Union was the European Economic Community (EEC) – also known at the time as The Common Market, and signed under Treaty in Rome in 1957, by participating countries Belgium France Italy West Germany Luxembourg and the Netherlands. An earlier Treaty even than that was established in Paris in 1951 that covered the Coal and Steel Markets (the ECSC). The chart below shows the stages of Treaty evolution.
Structural evolution main article: Treaties of the European Union
The following timeline illustrates the integration that has led to the formation of the present union, in terms of structural development driven by international treaties:
Many subsequent Treaties were signed over the decades, as we can see, including some by names we may be more familiar with such as Schengen, Maastrich, Amsterdam, Nice and finally Lisbon in 2007, shown in this helpful chart above. The Lisbon Treaty, whilst combining all the others, effectively acts as the Constitution of the European Union.
What is Schengen all about?
What did Schengen Treaty decide? – In Luxembourg in the Town of its name, Schengen established in 1985 ‘control free border’ access to 26 of the 28 present Countries of the EU, effective 10 years later. So, no need to display Passports or Identification across these European Countries. The UK opted out of this, so we can check, if we determined too, ALL EU passport holders. However, we cannot prohibit entry under the Terms of the Single Market – so in practice there is very weak Border control at our Ports especially, due to its very limited authority.
What about the Single market?
The EU Single Market sets out to ensure the free movement of goods, capital, services and people, between all 28 Member States, with extensions to 4 other non-EU countries.
So, we finally come to look at the present day European Union, to which the United Kingdom is currently joined, and a Member Country.
What is its Organisational structure?
The European Union has many layers of authority, as you will see.
There is the European Council, made up of the Heads of the 28 Member States, and its own President (currently Donald Tusk) plus the President of the European Commission. Its mandate and purpose is to give impetus for the development of the Union, its objectives and priorities. It does not legislate (pass laws). It is based in Brussels.
Then there is the Council of the European Union. It consists of one Member from each member State Government. It does pass laws (legislate), along with the European Parliament. It is responsible for the EU budget, and for broad economic and social policy, plus it sets out guidelines for the ‘Common Foreign and Security Policy’, including International agreements. Its President is based on a 6 monthly rotational basis of all Member countries – currently the Netherlands, with its Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. (April 16).
Next is the European Parliament. There are 751 Members of Parliament. It acts together with the Council as legislator (lawmaker), and shares power over the budget, as last decider. It is said to exert control over the other institutions and the Commission, though this can hardly be described as democratic, since no one speech per MEP can be longer than 2 – 3 minutes long! (Needless to say it operates very differently to our own Parliament, as almost entirely it simply ‘rubber stamps’ Regulations and Directives within minutes, and rarely is able to suggest a change of law. Primarily it meets in Brussels, but it is all transported to Strasbourg once a month for political reasons only – at great cost!).
Then comes the European Commission. This is regarded as the Executive – ‘submitting’ proposals for new legislation to the Council and Parliament; it implements policies; administers the budget; is the ‘guardian’ of the Treaties; negotiates International Treaties. Its President now is Jean-Claude Juncker, who, in his inaugural speech, laid out he intends to ‘harmonise Social Security’, and ‘consolidate the European Army’! It is also based in Brussels.
Other organisations include The Court of Justice of the European Union, which basically covers all matters contested by Member Nations to assert European Law, based in Luxembourg; The European Central Bank, determines monetary policy primarily for the Eurozone, and, with or without reference to central banks of other EU states; controls money supply of the Euro.
Altogether there are some 23,000 bureaucrats, with 6000 at the European parliament – (its own Civil Service machine) – a 1000 of whom receive more pay than our own Prime Minister.
Also there is the European Court of Auditors appointed to check proper implementation of the budget. Not one of its Audits over at least 17 years have they ever been able to ratify! (Any Company in the UK here with that record would be banned from Trading!).
How did we, the United Kingdom, get involved?
Immediately after the war Sir Winston Churchill envisaged a European Federation. He suggested this in the light of the terrible wars fought mostly on that Continent. It was said as a contrast to us (UK) who, at the time, had the Commonwealth of Nations as our ‘power’ and trading base. He wanted us to encourage this Federation in the light of its wars, but not to be a part of it.
After our first application to join was refused in the early 1960’s President de Gaulle said “Britain is not much anymore”! Soon after this, he also said “England (he failed to call us UK) is insular and maritime. England’s nature, her structure and her economic position differs profoundly from those of the Continents” (bold emphasis is mine). Though at the time his comments were a slap in our face, on reflection, he was mostly right, was he not?
After all, for Europeans to agree to restrictions on Member countries power through Union with other countries, does curb temporarily their tendency for harsh rulers, or tyrant Kings. Our history was different. We had harnessed our authoritarian Kings or Queens, or would be rulers, for some 300 years past, and had established a Parliamentary Democracy – ‘governance of the people, by the people, for the people’ – models of which were established all around the world by now.
Into the 70’s
Afterward, when Edward Heath, who had negotiated for Macmillan, was elected Prime Minister, he was determined to take us into this Common Market. On his own admission, he lied to us that this was just for purposes of ensuring ‘free trade’, though he knew at the time it was intended to become a type of the ‘United States’ of Europe.
His bargaining power, or ‘bait’, was the fishing waters under our internationally recognised Maritime jurisdiction. It was enough to get us in. It is no wonder our fishermen sailed on mass up the Thames to protest for their mostly doomed livelihoods, as now our fishing waters were open to all of Europe.
As the Treaties mentioned above grew, along with the number of Member Countries, we gave up more and more of our own powers to this growing Organisation called the EU, and also the strength of our vote declined as more Countries joined, so that effectively our percentage of the vote grew less.
80’s and onwards
Succeeding Prime Ministers, Harold Wilson, Lady Margaret Thatcher – who later declared she had been mislead – Sir John Major, Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown – who rushed to Lisbon to sign up when he replaced TB – all signed up to new Treaties extending the reach, both into and over our National life, by the over-arching EU, so that at this present time our Government are unable to pass many laws just for the benefit of our own Country, nor can we overturn ones we do not want!
Though we at first joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism known as the ERM this proved so disastrous for our Sterling £ that not only on Black Wednesday did we exit from it (Sept 92), but it at least became the reason why we stayed out of the EURO when it was launched on 1st January 1999. Sixteen of the 28 European Countries are now EURO based.
Originally any one Country could Veto at the Council of Europe any procedure they did not approve of, but this was changed in 1986 to Majority Voting among Member Countries. Though UK retained a Veto on some limited things at the time, Britain has objected on 70 occasions, and has lost every time, because we were outvoted! Remember, 16 of the 28 (57%) are tied to the EURO. Therefore, our influence ‘at the table’ counts for little.
Here are a few things the EU have supremacy over us in:-
Our Laws – made by our Parliament; Our Tax rates, mostly VAT based; our ability to regulate the numbers of Europeans coming to live here – for work or otherwise at present; our internal price of goods control – such as the ban on us providing a minimum alcohol price; our desired weekly bin collections; our democratically decided choices “no democratic choice is allowed against European Treaties” – quote of Jean-Claude Juncker; our involvement in ‘bail outs’ of other EU countries – though ‘on paper’ we have this exclusion, in practice it is ignored, as with Greece!
Is the European Union a State in its own right?
ARTICLE 1 of Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States – The state, as a person of international law, should possess the following qualifications:
a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
Ask yourself the question of each qualification – one by one – and give your own answer! It will probably look something like this:-
a) Yes – 500 million of us!; b) Yes – from Spain and Portugal to Greece, from Italy to Netherlands. c) Yes – and increasingly so; d) with its own EU Foreign Minister, and US President Obama advising last week that the US are in many years of Trade negotiations with the EU, that is definitely – a YES!
The EU has a Supreme Court, a Civil Service, a Central Bank, it covers Taxation policy, it has its own Foreign Minister, has its own Flag, its own National Anthem, has a seat at the United Nations, has its own National Holiday – 9th May, issues its own Driving Licences and Passports.
If it acts and behaves like a National State Government, looks like a National State Government, is accepted like a National State Government, it IS a National State Government! – that is, an acting Head of a Federation of National Governments, who now only act as Regional Heads! This always was its aim – political and economic Union under a Federal Government. If all Member countries were in the EURO it would be called one now!
What about its future development?
The Five Presidents Report
On 22nd June 2015 the EU Commission identified some new powers intended when it published a report called ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’. Called the ‘Five Presidents Report’, it calls for the EU to create a ‘genuine Economic Union’, a ‘Fiscal Union’, and a ‘Political Union’ – by 2025!
In practice this means handing power of our Treasury, our National Budget, our Financial Support for ailing European Countries, and what’s left of our Parliamentary authority, to Brussels. Apparently Mr Cameron has obtained one or two opt outs in recent negotiations, but that just means being towed in a small vessel/vehicle behind the EU juggernaut, without the power to avoid disasters.
Turkey in the pipeline to join
Attempts to prepare for the accession of Turkey to join the EU are already in process. We can only suppose that the EU thinking is that if Turkey become Members of the EU the problems of the Middle East will evaporate. Surely though, that can only open the door to further major problems of control of borders and terrorist opportunities. Recent events in Paris and Brussels do not support their view.
Neither are we exempt from the already dreadful situations of the fleeing migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other terror and war torn countries. Of course we should provide help for those in real suffering, but to the level we can, ensuring we do not become endangered through indirect access to our Country via the EU. To do this we have to take back control of our borders, which is not possible practically while in the EU.
We should bear in mind it was President de Gaulle who began European and Arab relationships (it is recognised Turkey are not Arabs of course) back in November 1967 in response to the mid east War in and around Israel. This became known at first as “Eurabia” and later, accepted by the European Commission in 1995, after the Euro-Arab Dialogue (set up in Dec 73) had been underway for some years, and known from then as the European Institute of Research and Euro-Arab Cooperation, MEDEA. Whilst sounding wise to build co-operation, we can see this is a wide doorway for too much integration of totally different cultures. So, allowed by clear EU policy, we currently see millions from the Arab and wider mid east world currently heading to Europe.
The Schengen agreement is consequently not only under threat, but broken by many Countries, as they try to secure their own borders against an ‘invasion’ of hundreds of thousands fleeing either from war and terror, or in search of a better economic future.
What Government do you want to live under?
In the end it comes down to asking ourselves ‘What Government do I want to be subject to’? Our own, or the European Union? Whilst we may grow weary, even numb, to the petty Parliamentary arguments of our own, we should not allow ourselves to be disinterested or complacent regarding the much more far reaching choice of who ultimately governs us. Freedoms hard won, are more easily lost.
What are some things we have we most treasure?
Trial by Jury for instance is a very British innovation. That is, the right for every citizen to be tried by our equals. That’s different in Europe, where you are guilty till proven innocent, and tried in front of a Judge only. It is this Trial by Jury which delivered the judgement this last week, exonerating the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough and placing the responsibility at the hands primarily of Police Authority. Though this took 27 years to arrive at it would not have been possible to bring Authorities to account without our Jury system. Therefore it is a main pillar of our Justice system we should never give up. Only outside the EU will this be guaranteed to survive.
Our approach historically to making laws has been on the basis of when they became needed. That is, it grew as a situation demanded protection for the common man, or needed some form of regulation for the benefit of society. That’s why our Legal system developed on the basis of ‘Common Law’ – eventually becoming mostly linked to Biblical laws and teachings. It has been much more ‘bottom up’ than the European ‘top down’ background.
This actually has allowed all to develop with ideas, and freedoms, to advance in all walks of life under maximum freedoms, but ensuring responsibility towards our communities, until a problem arises which requires some form of management. The aspect of mercy was also an ingredient originally as the relevant circumstances of an ‘offender’ were taken into account – known perhaps now as ‘mitigating circumstances’ in a defence. Innovation was, and is therefore encouraged, and helps to explain our international influence from such a geographically small island.
That’s why we have had no ‘written laws’ as such, as all the other Nations have (a Constitution), since our laws developed ‘case by case’ to form ‘precedent’, except for the famous King John’s Magna Carta of 1215, which basically allowed no one to be above the Law (a Common one, the peoples one) including the King! This system has been good enough to go around the globe as the Commonwealth Countries (there’s a clue in the name too!) adopted a very British form of Governing its peoples, through Parliamentary Democracy.
Am I prepared to give that form of Government up here? For me, No. But, unless we act now, that will happen as a matter of course.
What about Trade relationships if we leave the EU?
Let’s ask ourselves for a moment “How do trade deals arise?” Well, first of all its because people, and countries, find they ARE buying and selling goods to each other. They are not needed in order to create trade originally! It’s the same issue again, as with our Laws. The EU though, seem to work on the basis that in order to Trade you must have a Trade deal first! Again, that is prescriptive, and naturally acts as restriction to trade initially. Freedoms are restricted as companies may not know the trading requirements, or find it difficult to find out what they are in the first place! Its far reaching regulations actually dampen the enthusiasm for Companies to trade abroad, and is perhaps one reason why sales to the EU from Britain have been declining proportionately.
By the way, is the reason Trade deals with the EU and USA are taking so long to agree on because the two political systems are so diametrically opposite? That is, the USA was founded on the basis of providing maximum freedoms to its populace in every sphere (taking its cue from, and modifying Britain’s one a little), whereas the EU is set up to regulate, and control, its operations and its people! For instance, the US and Australia began serious talks on Free Trade agreements in February 2003, which were signed in May 2004, to commence January 2005 – That’s less than 18 months for the ink to dry, and just over that, for it to become effective, and, all the while trading!
Take India also. There is no doubt with similar institutions established there as in Britain, any Free Trade Agreements would be established in a very short time. At the moment we are prohibited from forming our own arrangements as we have to do them through the EU! Being the 5th largest economy at present in the world, we would not be left out by China either. Internationally we would be advantaged to form our own arrangements – and with our language being the most spoken in the wide world, it provides the best opportunity!
Its only when internationally inclined companies are trading well, that some decent and helpful practices can be identified by Governments in order to ASSIST more trade, not cause less – on both sides! Stupid laws such as the restriction on the sale of bent carrots or bananas for instance (ask a farmer!) or banning of vitamin supplements and herbal remedies, cannot possibly enhance the basis of trade.
Speaking of farmers, won’t they lose out if we leave? From EU subsides, yes. But it’s basically our money we gave to the EU in the first place, so what would be to stop us supporting them – at least for a while – till they find their proper feet again? It’s only the farmers lack of confidence in our own Governments that have caused them to support a ‘stay in’ line officially – despite what they might vote individually when it comes to the Ballot Box – and on present Polls that’s about two thirds of them in favour of exiting! Let’s face it, one of the reasons a farmer is a farmer is because he loves to ‘do his own thing’! He enjoys his freedoms, despite the long hours he works. We supported them after the War, so why not now – and they are vital for our stability and supply!
There’s another one. Whatever our own political persuasions are – to the right or left – it seems pretty clear to the ‘common man’ that there are times when our national industries need some aid or support, for a while – which we cannot at this moment do by EU law as it would give our industry an advantage! We are not allowed (except for the Banks!) to do that under trade rules, to provide Aid and support to our own steel industry! Its regarded as them having an unfair advantage in trade! That’s counter-productive, and damaging to a Member Nation, whoever they are. Steel production is not only essential as an Industry, but it is part of our ability to provide us with security.
The freedom to manage our own affairs
It’s not that all aspects of the EU are bad, it’s just that we need to take back our freedoms to manage our own affairs in this Land. Suppose we make a mess of it! Well, it’s our mess – and, we’ll learn! We always have. We have some great Institutions established for many generations that have come up from the grassroots which allow and even generate and provide some great and good interest, opportunities, and most of all, a future for the youngsters of our Land worth working for. When a people such as ours find freedoms, we innovate, and grow.
Clearly there are many other issues to discuss or consider – I’ve avoided the pros and cons of our EU contribution and rebates at the moment for instance, since, once we manage our own affairs, that can get sorted out and without deduction of ‘Club Membership Fees’, as we face what is the most serious and important choice for our Country for decades ahead.
But, one thing is certain WE DO HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE. The only question is “Are we brave enough to back our own Country, its Institutions, its abilities, its determination, its people, and to vote to come out of the EU”? Or, are we just going to carry on being towed by the cumbersome juggernaut the EU has become that will increase in speed – come what may after we have voted – towards a fully integrated Federal European State, with Regional Governments? And, where will our one be based?
In any case, is the future of the EURO guaranteed – and therefore the whole project? All 28 Countries, those in the EURO or not, will be expected to try and prop it up till its final reckoning day arrives. What would we be in for then – if we are still in it – since we get to pay towards the bill? Isn’t it better to face a potentially ‘bumpy road’ for a while, where we are tackling, and negotiating, our own pot holes and problems, than face a potential sudden total break-up of the road ahead that’s not of our own making?
That’s the beauty of our Country at the moment. That we, the ordinary people – in old English, the ‘common man’, both man and woman that is – for which ALL of our fore fathers and mothers, battled, and sometimes with blood, to get to the place where our view is given in the Ballot Box, to enable our Government and elected authorities to be called to account by us, its ordinary people – is a prize not to be given up lightly. It’s not about preservation now, it’s about what has worked, and will work for our Country to ensure a brighter future.
Whatever my personal bias and conclusions are, the facts concerning the make-up and nature of the European Union are the facts, and its Federalistic intentions cannot be denied. This is our opportunity to take back our freedoms, to build on a Global basis, including with Europe, but definitely building also with the other democracies such as India, USA, New Zealand, Australia, even parts of Africa – whose projected growth is greater than all the others – and with all who favour the kind of internal and external freedoms of the nature our democratically elected Governance has provided. It looks brighter that way, it feels brighter, that way, and would be brighter – if only we have the courage to do it.
In the interests of our land,
Dave Chapman 28th April 2016