A recent poll in Britain finds that only 33% of Britons would vote to stay in the European Union if a referendum were held today. More than 50% of people would vote against being part of the Union. As someone who does not live in the Union, even I can see the advantages to any country of being part of an economic bloc like the EU.
As part of a large group of nations, there will always be disadvantages, just as with any political or economic system. People give up something to become a member of a group, but they gain in other ways, and the secret is to balance the two. Many people only see one side of the scale and believe that is the only side that exists, often denying that there are any advantages on the other side at all.
Britain is slowly turning against the Union, because of the loud Euro-skeptics on the right. In any nation, or group of nations, or economic trading bloc, there are often two loosely affiliated groups of people. There are those that believe that cooperation and spreading the burdens of society, or of the economic system should be shared, that together people do better than they do apart.
On the other side are those that believe that they are better off on their own, running their own affairs, that people should take responsibility for their lives, and that the state should have no part in improving the general well-being.
The first group may be categorised, often incorrectly, as socialists, communists, or communitarians. The idea of a state or a nation, is not purely to provide for the common defense, which is what many on the right believe. It is also to provide a framework that extends rights to the people, and to prevent a single individual organisation from taking unfair advantage of the rest of the group.
On the other side, groups may be categorised, often also incorrectly as conservative, fascist, libertarian and so forth. They live by the incorrect belief that people make it on their own, that they do not need government interfering in their lives. What they want is the freedom, often referred to as liberty to do as they please without any rules.
This is where their ideology falls apart. Once people are allowed to do as they please, they create organisations to make sure that they have the playing field to themselves. In the business world, people create ever larger corporate groups that come to dominate a particular niche, whether it be banking, energy, defense, or retail.
These groups become so large that few people can challenge them. Individuals are left at the mercy of these groups, unable to fight them in court because of the massive cost, and unable to challenge the regulations that they create through contracts. Government is no longer there to protect people, since the lobbying actions of these groups essentially create the laws that govern the people.
These corporations and the wealthy who often run them, game the system by paying a lower share of the tax burden, while taking advantage of the economic environment, the air and water, electrical grid and other natural resources of the nation. Instead of paying into the system, they take from it, expecting others to support them.
This is what Britain is doing in the European Union. They want all the advantages of being able to trade with the Union, and enjoy the benefits of proximity to that large market, without the burden of having to pay in to the system. They do not want to pay their fair share of the burden that creates a large open market into which they can sell their products and services.
The European Union costs money to run, countries need help improving their infrastructure, educating their work force, financing projects that help the entire union. Th British want to take advantage of these structures while not paying for them in any way. Just like the wealthy and large corporations that believe that only the poorer classes should pay taxes, they want to plunder Europe while giving nothing back.
Britain does not want to have to adhere to the stricter labor rules that govern the Union, allowing them to lower their labor costs. What this really means is that bloated corporations can pay their workers less while executives benefit.
What many Britons do not realise is that if they leave the Union, it will become harder for Britain in many ways. Visitors to the Continent would need visas to travel anywhere in Europe, hampering business travellers. Trade surcharges and tariffs could be introduced on all goods passing through borders. Trade would need to be stopped at borders to make sure that all paperwork is in order.
It would no longer be possible to hop across the Channel for the weekend, or off to Spain for a week. All the inconvenience of cross border traffic would be reimplemented.
It is a relatively small cadre of people within the Conservative party that is attacking Britain’s European adventure with a passion. It is not difficult to determine that they are conservatives. All over Europe, these groups are cropping up, creating dissent and social discord by attempting to emphasize Britishness of Germanic nationality, or Frenchness.
In Scotland, right-wing parties want Scotland to become its own nation, in Spain, the Basque country and Catalonia want independence from Madrid. These right-wing groups want to govern themselves, break away from central government. They want to make their own decisions, represent themselves in Brussels, or shun the European Union altogether.
These groups often do this in the name of liberty, of decentralised government. What they really do is to create governments that are far more dictatorial in their own way than what they supplant. There is no greater dictatorship than a local home owners association or landlord who can dictate how many people can be in your home, how many pets, or what you can put on the walls.
The European Union is an idea whose time has come. It is the recognition that the ceaseless wars and conflicts that plagued Europe were not constructive, that Europeans had more in common than not, that they would be better off working together to prevent wars and conflicts. The right-wing want to change all that and take Europe back to a time when nations were closed to one another, when nations intrigued between one another, creating and breaking alliances and empires.
Britain does not want to deal with the Polish plumber who can now work in England, or the Romanian Roma, or the maid from Slovakia. They want to do business in Europe, just not have to deal with the great unwashed that may land on their shores.
Fifty-three percent of Britain’s exports go to Europe, all of which would be subject to tariffs. Europe has instituted a financial transactions tax, which would affect London’s position as a financial power house. They would now be subject to a foreign transactions tax in addition to tariffs.
The tough economic conditions in countries like Spain and Portugal have made their labor cheaper and their businesses more competitive, which is troubling for many UK companies. They do not like having to compete in Europe on an equal footing with these companies. Since they can no longer compete effectively on the field, they want to take their football and go home, withdraw from the game and change the rules to favor themselves.
Britain’s strength lies in the financial field, and investment into Britain keeps its economy buoyant. More investors are now investing in Spain, France and Germany than are investing in Britain, placing strains on the British economy. SOme Britons believe that withdrawing from Europe will allow them to encourage investment. They are wrong.
The fact is that without the enormous trade that the UK does with Europe, the economy will contract, unemployment will rise and the UK will become more insular and closed off from the continent. This is not good for Europe and it is worse for Britain.
Europe does not need to splinter into the multiple fragments that marked the nineteenth century and early twentieth, with incessant war. It is only by accepting that they are part of a greater Europe that they can prosper and grow. The austerity measures introduced by Cameron will not make Britain more competitive, it will only weaken the economy.
Exports to China are a very small part of British trade, amounting to some 2.8 percent, far smaller than the equivalent trade by Germany, France and Italy. If Britain withdraws from the Union, investors who now hold over 400bn pounds could well desert the island nation, just as happened in Ireland and Greece.
The figures provide stark reasons for continuing trade with Europe. Since the early eighties, income per head has risen six percent because of trade with Europe. Britons can live and work anywhere in the EU, which they would not be able to do if Britain leaves. Europe trades far more with Australia, Canada and New Zealand than does Britain.
Britain does contribute over 6Bn pounds to Europe, but the trade advantage that that partnership confers pays for itself many times over.
Conservatives love to complain about big government taking over their lives, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. There will always be someone telling you what to do, regardless of the size of your state, city or country. You may as well get used to it. It is far preferable to have the protections of large government than the small minds of regional government.
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