Julian Eldridge on Europe 

Until June 23rd at least if you’re asked “are you an inny or an outy?” the questioner is unlikely to be interested in the shape your belly button.Whether you’re suffering from Brexit anxiety or not for the next few months all our media realities will be dominated by pro and anti EU bluster. As to how significant Britain’s membership of the EU proves to be history will decide. The economic and legislative arguments are complex so it’s no surprise that when invited into the debate, the man and woman in the street cite controlling immigration, stopping benefit tourism and regaining control of our borders as the most important reasons for leaving the EU rather than the balance of trade. I’ve lost count of the times interviewees have responded with the words “we want our country back.”

Now, as I’ve said before, I’m an inny. I’ll happily admit my fondness for a united Europe is founded on an internationalist, some might say Utopian, vision of a better World. I may therefore be seeing the EU through rose tinted specs.

However when I hear prominent Eurosceptics talking about the people of Britain resting control of their destiny back from Brussels I choke on my Belgian lager. If it’s control of our destiny we’re worried about then we’re failing to see the wood for the trees, or rather the power brokers for the suits. It’s not the Eurocrats we need to be worried about but the lobbyists who are pulling their strings. The captains of business, of big oil, big pharma and the FTSE one hundred are the non-elected arbiters of policy we need to free ourselves from.

A common complaint from British businessmen is the burden of regulation emanating from Brussels. They talk of regulation as if it’s devised by EU administrators simply to make life difficult for business. Over regulation is a yoke around its neck, holding it back, slowing down expansion and increasing costs. Regs is a four letter word (okay, abbreviation). But one mans regulation is another’s protection. If an over regulated world is more administratively complex and more bureaucratic then an under regulated one is much riskier.
If you need an illustration, the introduction of BSE (mad cow disease) to British farms can be directly traced to the easing of animal feed processing regulations under Margaret Thatcher. Far from making production cheeper for Britain’s beef industry, deregulation cost our beef farmers their export markets for many years and the British taxpayer around £2 billion to clear up the mess.

EU membership has afforded every citizen of this country improved rights, benefits and protections. Yes, restrictions and costs for some institutions and private companies perhaps, but I’d venture to suggest that any savings to industry and commerce generated by deregulation post Brexit won’t travel much further than the share accounts and annual bonuses of our corporate overlords.

There’s general agreement that the EU and its institutions need reform. Everything we humans attempt could be done better but those improvements stand a much better chance if voiced in the language of co-operation. 

One thought on “Julian Eldridge on Europe 

  1. Great article.I can never get my head around the leavers bold claim of “getting my Country back”. Do they not have eyes and ears? I find it difficult to find an industry/company that we haven’t sold off to America, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany. France, etc, etc. It’s Cadbury. 4 of the Big Six energy forms, Steel, Rolls Royce, Bentley, loads of Premiership clubs and their players etc, etc – I should make a list sometime, it seems never ending, yet none of the leavers seem bothered about getting them back. Mike P


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