No British person under the age of 56 has had a say on Europe
It will be for the UK parliament to decide whether or not to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU. But it is wrong to say British people have not had a say on Europe. Britain has a parliamentary democracy with scrutiny by our elected representatives. Britain has a big say in Europe through the British Government and Members of the European Parliament elected by the British people.
If a referendum is the only way to have a say, then there are many issues on which the British are apparently voiceless. A NATO referendum? A WTO referendum? Hanging? Flogging? Fixed parliaments?
Trade is fine, but we don’t need all these rules
A market needs rules. This includes having rules on:
- Consumer protection: with goods and services flowing freely across frontiers, a common approach is essential.
- Social standards, to avoid companies shifting to the country with the lowest health & safety protection or the weakest employee rights.
- The environment, where we all have a common interest in high standards.
- Competition policy, to ensure that our common market is not dominated by monopolies or a few multinational companies, or by firms given unfair subsidies by their governments.
The EU is drowning us in red tape
Customs-free trade in the EU makes business easier. Common rules for the common market cuts red tape – replacing 28 sets national regulations with one European-wide approach.
The EU is always telling us what to do
It doesn’t – unless it’s something we agreed to do in the first place! The EU is simply a way to meet with our neighbouring countries to thrash out common solutions to common problems. Nothing the EU ‘tells us to do’ is anything other than that which has been agreed by a Council of Ministers where the British government is a key player, and by the European Parliament which has a strong British contingent of elected MEPs.
Britain has always been different from the rest of Europe
And Italy has always been different from Germany or Spain. Every country is unique! All have different languages, cultures, histories and laws. And all are as deeply attached to their identity as we are.
Margaret Thatcher said that being in Europe hadn’t made the French any less French. She was right – being in Europe hasn’t made Britain any less British.
We could just leave the EU and deal by ourselves in the wider world
Half of Britain’s exports are to our EU partners. Britain exports four times more to the EU than to the USA, more to Sweden than China. Asian and American companies invest in Britain because it is part of the EU single market. Being a member of the EU hasn’t prevented Germany from being the world’s export capital.
Britain could be like Switzerland or Norway who do perfectly well outside the EU
They have to follow EU rules as the EU is their main export market. But as non-members they have no say over those EU rules. They cannot defend their interests. They have lost sovereignty by pretending to maintain it – which is what UKIP wants to do!
It doesn’t even save money – the Norwegian contribution to the EU budget is similar, per head, to the UK’s. For the Norwegians, as non-members, it is ‘taxation without representation’.
The EU is undemocratic
The EU has a better level of democratic scrutiny than any other international body: the UN, NATO, WTO, IMF, World Bank etc.
EU decisions are made by
– meetings of elected national governments
– directly elected Members of the European Parliament
National parliaments receive all EU proposals in time to debate them before their Minister goes to the European meeting to discuss them and can blow the whistle where a proposal goes beyond what the EU should be doing.
Each national Government appoints its European Commissioner – just like the Prime Minister appoints Ministers. The Commission then has to be approved by (and can be dismissed by) the elected European Parliament. And in 2014 for the first time you’ll help to decide the Commission president by voting in the European Parliament elections.
EU law should not override British law
All international law overrides national law. If some countries agree to a particular measure, this has to be binding on them or what would be the point? If a country could agree one thing at international level and then do something else at domestic level, then international commitments on peace, trade and defence would be meaningless. It makes no sense to complain that EU law supersedes national law.
EU law can only be adopted in the areas specified in the Treaties – and can only be adjusted with the unanimous agreement of all Governments.
The EU is run by bureaucrats
All decisions on policy and European legislation are taken by the elected governments of the Member States and elected Members of the European Parliament. Decisions are taken in Brussels, not by Brussels. The European Commission can only propose, and carry out what has been agreed.
By the way, the European Commission is small – it has fewer employees than Leeds City Council.
The EU spends too much money
The EU budget is 2% of public spending – 98% of taxpayers’ money is spent by national or local government. Spending has to be approved by national Ministers and by elected Members of the European Parliament.
The EU budget has to be in balance – there is no deficit or debt.
The pattern of spending has changed over time: over two-thirds used to be spent on the Common Agricultural Policy, now reduced to about 30%.
The EU budget has anyway been declining as a proportion of national wealth because spending has risen more slowly than economic growth, and far less than has national government spending.
The European Court imposes laws on us
The European Court, whose judges are appointed by national governments, rules on disputes referred to them concerning the interpretation of existing European laws, but they have no law-making powers.
As one former (British) President of the Court said: “the judges do not take political decisions, but they must sometimes remind politicians of what they have agreed”.
The Court is essential for ensuring that everybody abides by what they have signed up to. If a country fails to stick to its agreements, like France did over British beef, it can be taken to court.
It is this that has ensured that EU countries accepted British beef whereas the majority of Commonwealth countries did not – and there was nothing we could do about it.