50 reasons to love the European Union
As the EU celebrates its anniversary, The Independent looks at 50 benefits it has brought, and asks: "What has Europe done for us?"
Published: 21 March 2007
Well, the answer is actually very little, as we shall see.
- The end of war between European nations
Ummm, this isn't strictly true, is it? OK, it's not even vaguely true. The major reasons are that all of the big powers were bankrupted after World Wars I and II and no one had either the money or the appetite to complete the trilogy. And then NATO was formed and, with everyone in debt to the US and a major Communist threat sitting on the doorstep, no one was going to gainsay NATO's protection. The EU had stuff-all to do with it.
In fact, the EU's one involvement with any war, in the Balkans, didn't exactly see it covered in glory—lots of gore, but no glory.
- Democracy is now flourishing in 27 countries
Yes, but this was rather more to do with the collapse of Communism, wouldn't you say? And that was brought about by the iniquities of that system and by the US arms race that exposed them and led to the collapse. In other words, it's fuck all to do with the EU.
- Once-poor countries, such as Ireland, Greece and Portugal, are prospering
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Apart from the fact that Portugal, at least, has still defaulted on its national debt repayments a number of times in recent years, these countries are prospering only with large amounts of—what is effectively—state aid from the richer countries.
They are also prospering through the EU's protectionist policies, especially Portugal; one of their main industries is textiles and they were one of the main protestors against China during the so-called "bra wars". One of my clients is a textiles manufacturer and I can tell you now that a lot of production is now shifting to Turkey. The EU regulations governing Portugal are making cloth-making there increasingly expensive. If Turkey join the EU, Portugal is fucked.
- The creation of the world's largest internal trading market
Well, big deal. This is nothing that EFTA, the EEC or, in fact, bilateral treaties formed by those with a basic understanding of economics could not have done.
What is has done though, is to lock out the majority of the countries of the world, thus making both us and them poorer. So, to look at it another way, one could say that the EU is the world's largest protectionist block.
- Unparalleled rights for European consumers
Erm... Even were this true, so what? We need a massive, supranational bureaucracy to do this?
- Co-operation on continent-wide immigration policy
True, and it's been a bit of a fucking disaster. Or were those riots in France, Belgium, etc. just in my imagination?
It also means that individual countries have little or no control over their own immigration policy, directly leading to the rise of fascist organisations such as the BNP and National Front. Nice work there.
- Co-operation on crime, through Europol
Erm... First, this could have been achieved through bilateral treaties.
Second, that has meant the "harmonisation" of justice systems leading to the erosion of principles that we in Britain hold dear and do not share with our Continental cousins. These concepts include such things as habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, jury trials and Common Law—in which everything is legal unless specifically made illegal—over the Roman (in which everything is illegal unless specified as legal). The EU has introduced thought crime concepts (xenophobia), in busy inhibiting free speech (Holocaust denial) and extradition of citizens from their native country without a court case.
- Laws that make it easier for British people to buy property in Europe
So what? It's pretty easy to buy in the US too, and many other countries. Again, this could be achieved through bilateral treaties.
- Cleaner beaches and rivers throughout Europe
Could achieved through bilateral treaties not massive, supranational bureacracy.
- Four weeks statutory paid holiday a year for workers in Europe
Oh well fucking done on this one, eh? Look, why not just put "introduced a whole raft of measures designed to make employing people very expensive"? Look, the EU needs to be a protectionist block because its companies are often globally uncompetitive; employment costs are a big part of that.
In any case, the state should not be involved in the negotiation of private contracts.
- No death penalty (it is incompatible with EU membership)
Don't these people have editors? This was done by the Council of Europe, not the EU. Besides, the debate still rages about whether abolishing capital punishment was a good thing or not. There seems to have been a significant rise in crime since its abolition in this country at least although, as I believe that there are other factors, it would be foolish to conflate correlation with causation.
What is certain is that we have never had a referendum on the matter as our government knows full well which way it would go.
- Competition from privatised companies means cheaper phone calls
Really? So, BT was privatised in 1984, whilst the EU wasn't formed until 1992. So, how precisely is this down to the EU?
Now, you could say that I'm splitting hairs and that, in fact, the EC did influence the privatisation but that too would be bollocks. Next...
- Small EU bureaucracy (24,000 employees, fewer than the BBC)
Erm... Except that a recent report highlighted that the actual figure is much, much higher than that. This is because there are so many people working in national governments, effectively for the EU. The number working solely for the EU in national governments is estimated to be ten times the declared EU employee figure.
- Making the French eat British beef again
Only after they had flouted the EU ban for years and utterly ignored the fines imposed by that organisation. Besides, the trade-off was forming the EU Parliament building in Strasbourg, to which the MEPs troop from Brussels (doing massive environmental damage) every few weeks.
Not a fucking triumph, I might suggest.
- Minority languages, such as Irish, Welsh and Catalan recognised and protected
So what? We need a massive, supranational bureaucracy to do this? And as an email correspondant recently highlighted, they haven't protected Cornish...
Besides, it means that every Welsh child has to learn a useless language with no substantial economic value instead of doing something more useful and thus it damages their chances on the labour market. Brilliant!
- Europe is helping to save the planet with regulatory cuts in CO2
Well, let's see if it works. As someone who believes that our CO2 contribution makes stuff all difference, this doesn't impress me much.
And, whilst they are approaching the problem from a negative standpoint, shackling industry and making everyone poorer, we have had no positive moves at all. Where is the investment in developing technologies, eh? It is worth noting that the zinc oxide powerstations, that I bang on about all the time, are being developed by a Swiss company...
- One currency from Bantry to Berlin (but not Britain)
Yes, and...? Look, one currency means one central bank and one central monetary policy. We are already starting to see massive splits amongst the countries of the Eurozone as their different economies try to deal with one monetary policy.
Italy has been making noises about leaving and the National Bank has started buying in gold again, rather than Euros. Even the French have been complaining that the central bank is only looking out for Germany's interests.
It's not exactly a massive success and staying out (after the disaster of the ERM) was one of the best things that we ever did.
- Europe-wide travel bans on tyrants such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe
So what? That took a while to bring in and besides, he has been allowed to travel here on special license (for an African Nations meeting in Paris).
And, of course, thanks to the commentator who pointed out that the ban is somewhat... er... flexible...
- The EU gives twice as much aid to developing countries as the United States
This isn't true. We give more in direct government aid, sure. But not once you factor in private donations: in fact, I believe that US private donations alone are more than the total aid from the EU.
Besides, what is the point of simply lobbing money at dictators, eh? Oh, and don't forget that the EU also gives aid to terrorist organisation, Hamas, who recently announced that they have no idea where it goes or what it is spent on because their accounting procedures are non-existent. This actually breaks the EU's own anti-money laundering laws, which makes it illegal to give funds to organisations without proper accounting procedures.
Actually, under those same laws, it is illegal for any country to give funds to the EU. I'm still waiting for that prosecution...
- Strict safety standards for cars, buses and aircraft
We need a massive, supranational bureaucracy for this? With its own Foreign Minister, President, Army and Criminal Prosecution Service?
- Free medical help for tourists
Bilateral treaties, not a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- EU peacekeepers operate in trouble spots throughout the world
So does the UN and NATO. The EU most notably operated in the Balkans. Nice job and a big thumbs up there...
- Europe's single market has brought cheap flights to the masses, and new prosperity for forgotten cities
But... but... surely it is these cheap flights which are boiling the planet? The EU is blaming cheap flights for massive carbon emissions and is actively attempting to stifle their growth through higher "green" taxes. Isn't that something of a contradiction?
Besides, it was private comapnies that achieved this. And, once again, any regulatory issues could have been dealt with through bilateral treaties.
And, while we are about it, you can get cheap flights almost anywhere now and these have been achieved through worldwide treaties. You know, the sort that means that my Airmail gets to where I want it to go.
- Introduction of pet passports
So what. And, of course, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- It now takes only 2 hrs 35 mins from London to Paris by Eurostar
Yes, the Eurostar has all of the hallmarks of a state project, finally costing about £10 billion with a cost overrun of 80%!
The first Channel Tunnel idea was floated in 1802, but this one was started in 1987. It was agreed in a bilateral fucking treaty between Britain and France and was absolutely less than sod all to do with the EU.
So, an absolute irrelevance from The Indie, there.
- Prospect of EU membership has forced modernisation on Turkey
True. Although, it's not actually going terribly well and some commentators in Turkey maintain that the EU is encouraging the Islamic extremist sections of the government.
Lukewarm arsebiscuits to that point, methinks.
- Shopping without frontiers gives consumers more power to shape markets
Well, possibly, except that the massive amount of regulation does tend to stifle these markets somewhat.
- Cheap travel and study programmes means greater mobility for Europe's youth
Of course, this is a lovely notion. One word: Faliraki...
- Food labelling is much clearer
This is a lie. Right now, under EU laws, if Argentinian chicken is imported to Britain, as long as it is packed here, it can carry the British Food label. It's not British in origin and it wasn't killed in Britain, but it can be displayed as British. How is that clear?
This is the reason that British farmers started using the "Tractormark", to indicate food which was grown, killed and packed in Britain. Unfortunately, this was declared illegal under EU law. What a fucking triumph.
Besides, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- No tiresome border checks (apart from in the UK)
Border checks are for our security; I will happily show my passport to get in and out of this country if it means that people who mean us harm have a harder time getting in.
Besides, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- Compensation for passengers suffering air delays
A fucking stupid idea that has driven up the cost of flights and, besides, the government should not interfere in private contracts. Besides, the US has the same thing, so...
- Strict ban on animal testing for the cosmetic industry
So what? Besides, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy... (You all know the mantra now, eh?)
- Greater protection for Europe's wildlife
And again, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy.
Besides, unless you think that the fish species being wiped out under the Common Fisheries Policy aren't wildlife, this is a lie.
- Regional development fund has aided the deprived parts of Britain
What the fuck is this shit?
Look, Britain's net donation to the EU is about £7 billion a year. That is £7 billion that is not going to our most deprived areas, you fuckwits.
What happens is that we give the EU billions of pounds a year and then the EU gives some of it back—about £7 billion less than we gave—with fucking great strings attached. How is that beneficial?
In fact, that £7 billion goes to aiding the most deprived parts of countries other than ours. Some of them, like the fucking French farmers, aren't deprived at all.
- European driving licences recognised across the EU
International driving licenses are recognised around the world and, bilateral treaties have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- Britons now feel a lot less insular
Really? I haven't seen much evidence of this and, indeed, the BNP's increasing membership (and, to be fair, some of UKIP's) is predicated on this being complete bollocks.
Besides, if this is true, it is the increasing ease and affordability of international travel that has achieved this; these things are everything to do with private comapanies and absolutely sod all to do with the EU, as we have seen.
- Europe's bananas remain bent, despite sceptics' fears
Actually, bananas—and, indeed, cucumbers—of excessive curvature are not allowed to be sold. You chimps.
- Strong economic growth - greater than the United States last year
Sustainable growth? I severely doubt it.
Besides, if this kind of growth is possible even under the massive EU regulatory burden, just think what growth would be like without the EU.
- Single market has brought the best continental footballers to Britain
What the fuck? Are you saying that we had no Continental footballers before the EU? And, even if I gave two fucking shits about this, isn't this fact responsible for the severe lack of homegrown talent? Why spend money training young British footballers when you can simply buy foreign ones who have been trained at someone else's expense?
- Human rights legislation has protected the rights of the individual
Council of Europe, not the EU. And actually implemented by The European Court of Justice, which is nothing to do with the EU and was brought into effect in 1948 along with its charter of Human Rights which were the ones incorporated into UK law.
- European Parliament provides democratic checks on all EU laws
No, it doesn't. And anyone who believes this is a fucking fool.
- EU gives more, not less, sovereignty to nation states
What the fuck? Is this for real?
Look, if the EU were to take just one tiny competance from a national government—the ability to sell excessively curvy bananas, for instance—then that nation state would have less sovereignty than before, right?
But the EU does a lot more than that: it controls trade, environment, employment, international aid and a whole lot more. And it is grabbing more and more power, i.e. sovereignty, all of the time.
Besides, where is the sovereignty—or, indeed, rule of law—in the cases of David Dobbins cows, or the Bowlands Dairy Group?
- Maturing EU is a proper counterweight to the power of US and China
What? Big power blocks are a little last century, aren't they. You know, about 1913 or so when it was primarily competition between massive power blocks (Britain and Germany) which led to the First World War.
Besides, as I pointed out when in India, in that country the EU is a total irrelevance. I should think that it is any different for China or the US.
The EU's military presence is a complete joke. The only vaguely powerful military country is Britain (and, increasingly, Germany), and we tend to side with the US rather than our EU compatriots anyway. This is one of the reasons that the proposal for an EU Foreign Minister is so fucking hilarious...
- European immigration has boosted the British economy
True, although, as I am sure that my occasional colleague Martin Kelly would point out, at the cost of depressing native wages.
- Europeans are increasingly multilingual - except Britons, who are less so
Ummm... And this is what to do with the EU?
All that this shows is the well-known fact that English is the lingua franca of the world; the British are less multilingual for the simple reason that they have little need to be. The worldwide language of business is English (as much as the French may loathe the fact).
- Europe has set Britain an example how properly to fund a national health service
Really? I had no idea that the EU had its own health service which is the very best in delivery and fiscal efficiency! I must be very ignorant...
The French health system is, indeed, rated as the best in the world; it is part state-funded and part privately-funded and is, perhaps, the way that we should be going in this country; however, it is fuck all to do with the EU.
- British restaurants now much more cosmopolitan
Er... What? Because of the EU? Utter crap.
It's because of the mobility of citizens around the world that I discussed above. You might have noticed lots of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc. restaurants as well as European ones.
This is, again, fuck all to do with the EU.
- Total mobility for career professionals in Europe
True. But, bilateral treaties could have achieved this without a massive, supranational bureaucracy...
- Europe has revolutionised British attitudes to food and cooking
You really are reaching now, eh? As per the restaurant point above.
- Lists like this drive the Eurosceptics mad
Not really; you might have noticed the lack of traditional DK-style swearing. It's not annoying, because we know that your arguments are easily refutable; what is depressing is the concept that fuckwits like yourselves might actually believe this shit.
Look, if the Head of Policy for the Conservatives cannot defend the EU, then I severely doubt that a bunch of fucking hacks just off their red-brick student journalism courses are going to be able to convince me.
How about we have an open debate? I'll take part against your best pro-EU hack and slap him like the ignorant fool that he is. In two years of writing about the EU, I cannot see one, single way in which the EU benefits us.
UPDATE: this article is also beautifully fisked by Timmy and very, very competently by England Expects. Go read the latter, especially...
UPDATE 2: Trixy has also weighed in. More links as I find them...
UPDATE 3: Dizzy has pointed out a few flaws, and The Reptile has also done the job very succinctly. And Scott Burgess has eviscerated the print edition with all of his usual verve and provides an explanation for a very weird assertion.
This seemingly tertiary observation is interesting in that it provides an excellent illustration of a claim (42), which some might otherwise find bizarre:"EU gives more, not less, sovereignty to nation states."
Desperation makes for audacity, and both are blatant in this gem of an explanation:"Switzerland and Norway, two independent countries, have little or no negotiating leverage when they deal with the EU. In fact they have less sovereignty than member states who decide the policy. Britons are more able to control their own destiny - in areas from international trade, to environmental protection, to consumer rights - because they are part of a 27 nation, democratic bloc. Real sovereignty, rather than theoretical sovereignty, is enhanced by EU membership."
Ah, right. So, Britain, with 8% of the voting rights in the Council of Ministers, has more sovereignty than Norway or Switzerland, which have 100% control over their negotiations. Now that really is reaching.
As Mr E points out...
It's a carnival! A carnival of hate!
Aye, a veritable orgy of loathing...