Some people say: the EU is not accountable

Not the case at all.  These are the facts:

It’s the European Commission that drafts the laws.

It’s the European Parliament and European Council that make the laws.

The European Commission is headed up by Commissioners nominated by member states.

Their appointment is approved by the Parliament to whom they are accountable.

The Parliament is made up of directly elected representatives from all the member states.

The Council is made up of elected government ministers from the member states.

British ministers and MEPs have a say in every stage of the legislative process and are directly accountable to the British people.

 

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Some people say: Brussels makes the laws

British ministers and MEPs have a say in every stage of the legislative process and are directly accountable to the British people.

It’s up to individual member states to work with other like-minded members to get laws they favour.

In some cases there is a national veto.

As to the number of laws made in Brussels what matters is that 98 per cent of tax payer’s money is spent by national and local government.  The House of Commons Library shows that from 1997 to 2009, just 6.8 per cent of primary legislation and 14.1 per cent of secondary came from Europe.

Big ticket items such as education, health, defence, taxation, welfare benefits, transport and the supreme decision of going to war are outside the remit of the EU.

As for a loss of sovereignty, sharing sovereignty in a globalised world in exchange for influence is a fact of life. Think of our membership of NATO, the UN or the IMF.

All trade deals have an impact on sovereignty.  ‘Getting sovereignty back’ by leaving the EU, we would have to surrender it again in each new trade deal.

As for the jam jar story, complete myth!

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European Court takes precedence. True?

Yes it is in matters of common interest.

But all international law takes precedence over national law.  By definition.

Like all member states, the UK has a say in the making of European law.

And it can give us real benefits.

Take British beef. The EU approved its sale in all member states. France resisted but its objection was overruled by the European Court.

Many Commonwealth countries refuse to sell British beef. We can do nothing about it.

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Some people say: too many EU migrants

They come here to claim benefits, rent our houses, take our jobs, get free medical treatment.

They get loans to go to our universities.

They only pay the fees they would  be charged in their home country. Not the high fees English and Welsh students have to pay.

When they finish their degrees they go back to their countries and never repay their loans.

It’s not fair.

Not quite, let’s look at the facts.

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EU immigrants: the facts

Under the Treaty of Rome residents of any one member state, and that includes the UK, are free to live, study and work in others. Under certain conditions:

  • To live and work they need to have a job
  • To study they need to gain admission to an accredited university or college

Hundreds of thousands of residents of member states have come here to live and work.

And British people in their hundreds of thousands have gone to live and work in continental Europe. Our economy has benefited from the labour and skills these migrants have brought, both business and the public services.

The only way the UK could limit immigration from other EU member states would be if it opted to trade under WTO rules and free trade agreements.  If the EU offered a custom union to the UK like Switzerland it would almost certainly come  at the price of free movement of people.

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Benefit tourists? The facts

Immigrant workers have not been a burden on the British taxpayer.

A recent report from HMRC (May12, 2016) shows nationals from the European Economic Area, that includes the EU, paid more than £3bn in income tax while claiming just £500m in benefits.

Since April 2014, only migrants in work have been able to claim housing benefit. And workers who lose their job will have to wait three months before claiming job seekers allowance.

It is true that migrants get free medical treatment on arrival. That is because in the UK health treatment is free at the point of delivery.  In other countries you first have to take out insurance.

As to university fees, British students are free to seek admission to universities in other EU countries and pay the lower fees paid by students of that country.

Remember, less than half of the immigrants to this country come from the EU.

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EU red tape stifling UK business? The facts

If you have a single market you must have common rules. If we left the EU but wanted access to the Single Market we would have to go back and abide by many of the same rules as before.

Europe wide regulations allow British firms to trade on equal terms with other companies in the Single Market and maintain seamless supply chains across the continent, without lengthy inspections of for example imported Italian mushrooms at national borders.

Nearly half of UK exports go to the EU. If we are to continue trading with European countries they will still demand compliance with their environmental, safety and other standards.  (The Economist December 17, 2016)

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Single currency a failure? The facts

Because of the difficulties that some members of the eurozone have faced since the financial crisis of 2008, it is common to blame the single currency itself.

In fact that crisis hit countries inside and outside the eurozone alike. And being outside has not shielded Britain from having to take painful austerity measures very similar to those of the eurozone.

While Greece and some other members have struggled to adapt, countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland have benefitted.   Without the euro, the European economy could have been destroyed by a wave of competitive devaluations by individual countries similarly to what happened in the 1930s.

While unemployment remains high in some members of the eurozone, including in particular Spain, recent economic data show signs of a broad based recovery taking hold.

 

Other myths

For the real facts behind some other weird and wonderful ‘euromyths’ check out the European Commission’s website.

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If we leave the EU could we be like Norway?

Norway didn’t join the EU.

On the face of it Norway did the right thing.

It kept its fish.

It is far richer than we are.

And it does a lot of business with Europe without having to be a member.

Not quite that simple. Let’s look at the facts.

 

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Norway kept its fish

Yes, it kept its fish but not completely

Because it’s a member of another trading organisation, the European Economic Area

Norway has to let EU fleets take some of its fish.

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Norway is quite different from the UK

It’s much smaller. Less than a tenth of our size.

Its economy is heavily dependent on oil.

O i l

It is the world’s third largest exporter.

In 1996 it set up a national oil wealth fund that is nearly twice the size of its GDP and the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Today it stands at 920 bn euros. FT March 22, 2017

That’s why it’s so rich. The fund contains more than £100,000 for every member of the population.

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We wouldn’t be leaving at all.

If we left the EU and became like Norway, we wouldn’t really be leaving at all.

Norway is a member of the EU in all but name.

Some 70 per cent of its exports go to the EU.

Over 80 per cent of its imports come from the EU.

Norway applies all EU laws on the Single Market.

Norway is even subject to the European Court of Justice.

And get this….

Although it is not a member of the EU it pays into the EU budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the price tag for Norway?

It pays about 340 million euros per annum to the EU.

In fact it’s the 10th largest net contributor.

And that’s not all.

It’s a member of lots of EU agencies and programmes. For example:

  • Schengen that eliminates border controls within the EU (See more details of the Agreement)
  • The European Defence Agency
  • The borders agency Frontex

 

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So what does Norway get back?

Norway is a member of lots of EU agencies and programmes.

But despite all this, it gets nothing back for its farmers or help for its poorer areas.

Norway’s exports to and imports from the EU have to go through customs which is costly and time consuming.

That’s because it’s not a member.

Although Norway gets consulted on changes in laws it has to comply with it has no say in them.

Norway has been called a ‘fax democracy.’ That’s because that’s how it gets its instructions from Brussels.

Norway is quite happy with these arrangements. Why ever would we be?

And we would still have to pay into the EU budget and only 10 per cent less than we pay now.  And to get full access to the Single Market, like Norway, we would have to allow the free movement of people.

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Some people think we could be like Switzerland

It’s another rich country like Norway.

It does lots of business with the EU. But it doesn’t have to be a member.

Not quite. Look at the facts.

The way Switzerland does business with the EU is special.

To get access to the Single Market it has two-way agreements with the EU.

There are over 30 of them.

And when Brussels changes anything in the Single Market each of those agreements has to be reviewed.

It’s a pain on both sides.

Even with these agreements, Switzerland gets access to only about two thirds of the Single Market.

But Switzerland’s relations with the EU are up in the air as a result of a referendum two years ago to impose immigration controls. If applied these could means the collapse of its trade relationship with the EU.

 

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Switzerland gets access to only about two thirds of the Single Market.

It has access to the goods trade in return for signing up to EU rules.

But has limited access to other areas such as financial services. Bankers don’t have full access to the internal market and have to do cross border finance via London and Luxembourg.

That would pose a threat to the City of London.

It can’t do business in agriculture.

That’s because it gives its farmers much more than they would get from the EU.

And the EU has got fed up with those special bilateral deals.

It has told Switzerland if it wants to get into more sectors like energy

which is very profitable

It will have to be like Norway

And apply all the EU trading laws.

And if we wanted to be like Switzerland we would still pay into the EU budget.  A little over half of what we pay now but with much reduced access to the single market.

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The Canada Option

Canada’s relationship with the EU (EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) that took over seven years to negotiate, might have its appeal to the UK as a Brexit option.

The agreement allows both sides to enter into separate deals with other partners. It puts Canada outside the customs union and single market. It provides limited benefits to providers of services.

But the Ceta model would impose costs. Suppliers of goods to the EU would have to meet rules on local content. Suppliers of services would lose favourable access.  And the Irish border problem would remain unresolved.

Although the UK could then strike new trade deals, the important ones eg with the US, India and China would be tough. The easy ones with eg Australia or Canada will be unimportant.

The overall impact is likely to be a reduction in five percentage points in UK GDP after 15 years than it would have otherwise been.   Source: FT February 21, 2018

 

 

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Free trade agreement (FTA)

Under this arrangement the UK could set its own trade policies with non EU countries. Because of size of UK market, would probably secure deal with EU quite easily with perhaps zero tariff on manufactured goods.

But EU would regulate the labour market, set health and safety standards and product standards. Would be subject to anti dumping rules. Access to services might be more difficult because of UK trade surplus with EU in services. And UK would have to accept free movement of people and probably continue to make payments.

The UK would not inherit EU’s existing bilateral trade deals, including the 22 the EU has concluded with Commonwealth partners. And would have to negotiate new ones. As already very open to imports would have little to offer to other countries in return for reducing tariffs.

The trends are towards negotiations between blocs and away from country to country. It would all take time and the UK is short of professional trade negotiators.

In principle (FT May 13, 2016) ‘the more ‘independence’ the UK seeks, the worse its access to EU markets, particularly in regulation intensive financial sectors.’

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