Thursday, 24 March 2016

The European Union – In or Out?

The European Union – In or Out?
     There seem to be three issues: gut feeling, distrust, and economics. The out-campaign emphasises gut feeling and distrust, the in-campaign emphasises economics. 
     I think we all start with a gut feeling. Are you European or British? Some in Britain feel European, thrilled to belong to the culture of Grieg, Rembrandt, Bach, Montaigne, Dante, Cervantes, Socrates. Others have more local loyalties; e.g. England, London, Chelsea.
     Perhaps the next strongest decider is distrust of strangers.  Do we trust the civil servants, politicians, and judges of other member countries to make sensible, humane, and fair judgements? Or is common sense a British monopoly?  Looking at labour relations, education, transport, etc. it is clear that we should trust the 6 founder western European democracies, and in fact we have much to learn. They (with Britain) account for 60% of the people of the EU (and 72% of the GDP). We still do not know much about the poorer countries on the eastern and southern fringes of Europe, and some degree of caution is perfectly rational.  (Incidentally, though we are the 2nd largest economy in the EU, we are only the 11th wealthiest nation per caput. We have plenty to be humble about.)
     However, most of the discussion is about the financial benefits of membership. Here, I would like to make one point that I have not yet seen advanced by other commentators. I think a nation even of our size is still too small to stand up to large commercial and financial concerns. Our annual gross domestic product is around 2.9 trillion £; the annual cost of the entire NHS is 0.096T£. But the total assets of Barclays Bank are 1.36 trillion £ (T£), that of HSBC 1.84. How can we ‘control’ these banks when they have a common interest and ‘gang up’?  Is this not why all the capitalist economies are getting ever deeper into debt? For debt is the income stream of the money lender.  Nor is it just the banks. Royal Dutch Shell has total assets of 0.35 T£.  Walmart has a net annual income of 0.33 T£.  I think there is a great danger when a country can be held to ransom by powerful independent interests with objectives that differ from the National Interest. 
     It is clear that welding a united Europe is difficult, and may take time. But some level of unity must be achieved. We just have to try harder, with more skill and flexibility. The European Union has required gigantic effort to get even this far. I am for going forward, rather than going back. 

Middleton Cheney, 
Northamptonshire,  OX17 2NB

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