Thursday, December 22, 2005

Europe: The reasons why

I was going to write up my reasons for wanting a Europe of some form exist. My reasons for wanting Britain to be a significant, constructive part of the reform process. As I started, I got a comment notification. John's pretty much done it for me:
In a century's time the world's big powers are likely to be huge states like the US, China and India. Britain alone will have little economic or political clout in a world that works on that scale - how could it? Keeping all national sovereignty at Westminster will count for little the UK is too feeble to do anything with that sovereignty.

By pooling sovereignty in certain areas - particularly economically - with our allies, we could make ourselves stronger: we won't always get our way, but when we do it'll count for more.

That doesn't mean that Europe as it stands is perfect; in fact, it's mainly bloody awful. The CAP; the lack of democratic legitimacy; the lack of R&D spending; the fact that several of the continent's largest economies are spluttering. All these things and plenty more need fixing.

But if Britain is to retain any influence in world affairs it will be as part of a larger block. I think it's better to make the effort to get Europe right, despite the continuing incompetence of President Chirac, rather than just accepting our fate in obscurity.
Which is pretty much my position.

The world is globalising, and the big power blocks will dominate. Big corporations, frequently with anti-competetive practices, are beginning to be more than sub-state players. Flawed though they were, problematic theough they were, the recent trade talks in which the EU spoke as one group are a good example of how it's useful; the EU, speaking together, represents a significant chunk of the world economy; it has clout. The sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It's flawed, it needs fixing, but it's essential if we're to retain any sovereignty over our economic future.

7 comments:

Jonn Elledge said...

The trade talks are a good example of both how a united Europe can increase its influence, and how it's often misused at present - the final deal, or lack thereof, closely reflects European priorities; unfortunately the priorities in question are entirely the wrong ones.

This is why Britain needs to engage in Europe. The EU is a powerful trade bloc; Britain should be a part of that bloc to increase its own influence, and to encourage Europe as a whole to go in the right direction.

(...also, this is one of those issues which it's almost impossible to argue about without sounding like either a xenophobe or an idealistic tosser, so I'd like to apologize on that front.)

Gavin Ayling said...

Jonn, The trade talks are showing the EU as a dinosaur and, as Mat said, needs to catch up and stop being awful.

However, I don't agree with Mat that larger countries do it better. The US is relatively unique in fact.

The most successful countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, London (if it were a country), Japan and etc. The least successful include one that you mentioned, India. India has 1bn people and yet, for a country with relatively densely populated areas and so the potential for great wealth creation a la China, it still doesn't have roads covering the whole subcontinent. Socialism is what has taken root in India and it is socialism that has failed India.

By choosing the EU, which we cannot realistically reform, we are condemning ourself to India-ification, not Americanisation.

Further, the EU as a bloc is not a trading bloc and, if that was the ideology behind it, surely the EU would be agreeing to further free-trade with non-EU countries and trading groups?

It's actually quite useful to have a discussion on this topic which does not involve debate about the EU's failures (which are not debateable) and instead debate alternatives to the EU or reform...

Jonn Elledge said...

Agree with some of what you say, Gavin; but I think that, in fifty years time, there will be a European Union and Britain is better off inside trying to make it work than outside it hoping it fails. Having said that, though, this is one of those things where we could argue for weeks and never convince each other.

One point, though - India is, now at least, growing very, very fast. It has had economic problems in the past - not just down to socialism, I think, but to its own unique political problems and the ongoing hostilities with Pakistan. But to talk about it as an economic failure now just seems wrong to me - it's a huge country, the infrastructure between the cities will come with growth. The west of China is still cut off and impoverished too, remember.

ken said...

The argument as usual is that the EU in its present state is not acceptable and needs reform.

What would the end result of that reorganization be, what shape would it take, and is there any reasonable chance that it will be possible to influence that eventual structure, if the EU is to become anything other than the United States of Europe, a nation state in its own right, with one police force one armed services etc. I ask this because that is the direction on all fronts; it is being taken by those who do desire the EU to achieve statehood

The call to stay in this unacceptable organisation and seek reform, rather than seek a different future for our country, does really depend on the reasonable prospect of that reform being possible.

This call has been the argument that has been used for the past thirty odd years, we must be in the EU to affect the decisions, we must be at the centre etc. The optimism has not been met by the facts, even the rejection of the Constitution by France and Holland has been ignored, there has been no slowdown of the implementation of instruments of power the Constitution gifted to the EU, and now we are hearing that they intend to reintroduce the Constitution in its entirety, next year or the year after, and there are now further calls for and EU direct Tax on its citizens rather than the present budget systems that rely on the nation states having a veto and therefore control.

So where is the logic in the position taken by this post for the nation state of Great Britain, I am afraid it is no longer acceptable for our politicians to continue to offer us platitudes in place of firm proposals of what is and what is not acceptable to us in Britain, whilst those in power in the EU continue with their onward march towards building the nations state of Europe.

MatGB said...

OK, Ken, in many ways, I agree with your position, the way the politicians are going about it is terrible, but it's Blair. What do we expect?

See my most recent post, and tell me what the alternatives are? The EU or?

Do you really want us as junior partners in a transatlantic coalition where we're subject to the whims of whatever President wins the electoral college? I don't. But I see only those two options.

We can't stop the world. We're part of it, a trading nation with a strong heritage. But we need to be involved in it, to have a strong voice. The EU gives us that voice. It's flawed, yes, but it's not for me to solve all its problems singlehanded. All reform will have to come from negotiation, to do that we'll need allies; New Europe is a good source of those allies. If it was just us vs the French, then we'd pretty much have no option, but it's not.

As for the Constitution, well, that's a long post on it's own, but one for another time.

ken said...

There are many alternatives to full membership of the EU. which do not include becoming a junior partner with the USA.

Does our voice have any more power when it is subsumed into an EU whole? What voice does, say Maryland have on the world stage.

The argument that being a member of large block enhances our powers make sense only, and only if the EU takes the line on the world stage on any particular point that coincides with our wishes on that point, if it take a different line then in fact our voice is completely lost.

We have always been a trading nation, we will continue to trade with the EU whether we are members or not. So if we are not members then we will have to meet EU trading standards, and we will not have a voice at the table, but then we also have to meet USA trading standards and the trading standards of very other nation where we wish to trade.

So the EU does not give us a stronger voice, it does not enhance our trade, and so far all negotiations have gone in one direction, toward ever more integration, and yet you still wish to be a member because you still belive reform is possible. I belive that reform of the EU is not possible, there is no such thing as an EU of independent sovereign states, that is not what the EU is destined to be.

ken said...

Sorry after the hoildays I will try to post about the alternatives.