Farewell, old friend?

Goodbye, ever closer union?

Goodbye, ever closer union?

Reading some very depressing articles about the EU and whether it has a future has led me to wonder about the actual mechanics of dismantling the EU. Supposing the member states were forced by popular demand to do the deed? How would they do it?  What would be the effect on day to day life? And would the public really welcome the abolition of everything to do with the EU? Let’s look at it piece-by-piece:

The Institutions: There’s no question, the abolition of the parliament, commission and council, and the ECJ would be popular. They are unloved, and that’s being polite.

CAP/CFP: The abolition of CAP would cause ructions in some countries, like Ireland and France. Suddenly, Ireland would be faced with a question that would drain the blood from the faces of our politicians. Do we try to fund an Irish style CAP, perhaps with a hefty Farmers Solidarity Tax on urban voters? Or do we finally let the free market into farming, wiping out small farms? The abolition of CFP will be popular with fishermen, but we will still need to police our own fishing stocks. By the way, as we have 15% of the EU’s waters, and the EU currently funds our Naval Service, we’ll have to increase defence spending quite substantially to keep other countries’ fishermen out.

Regulations: Yay! No more Brussels bureaucrats telling us what to do, right? Technically, yes. But consider the reality: The day the EU ends, motor manufacturers from Germany to Sweden to the Czech Republic would be demanding that the common emission standards be kept by national governments, because they want to manufacture products that don’t have to be radically changed for 27 different markets. This will be replicated across industries from chemicals to food ingredients to electrical and electronic products to toys. The difference is that small countries won’t be entitled to contribute, as happens now. Once the big countries decide, everyone else just has to sign up.

Border controls: The Daily Mail will be delighted that Britain will have control of its borders again. But to do what, exactly? Every EU country has citizens working in pretty much every other EU country. Is there a real benefit to us all shipping each other’s people home? Governments know the dirty secret about immigrants: They keep prices down, and some immigrants are far smarter than the local crowd, and so contribute more wealth to society. As for the hated EU passport, the end of the famous “Schengen wave” of passports as border officials scrutinise every passport will lead to even more irritation at passports. Don’t be surprised if many governments decide to keep a common “Europe” passport, and conclude common arrangements on working and studying.

Police co-operation: This will surely continue, although maybe without the European Arrest Warrant. Civil rights will be strengthened, as will criminal gangs. Would most countries keep the Schengen Information System in place? Probably.

EU spending: This is a definite. No more contributions to the EU coffers. For the contributing countries good, for the non-contributing countries, bad.

Influence in the world: Considering that the member states can hardly ever agree a common position on any of the big things, and are unwilling to create a combined military capability powerful enough to be taken seriously by anyone who matters, one would have to question what we’d lose here.

Economic influence: This is one of the areas where we would lose out in a major way, and yet most Europeans would not realise it until too late. The EU, in particular the Commission and the ECJ, is a force that has a major impact on big companies like Microsoft, or the mobile phone companies, or air safety regulation, who pay it heed. Would they have equal fear for a Belgian or Spanish regulator? German maybe, but it ain’t the same.

The Euro: This is the big one. Could the Euro exist without the EU? Almost certainly not, in that the mechanisms to ensure stability, such as Commission policing, and the interconnected pressures of day-to-day deal making which keeps everybody onboard, would no longer exist. Curiously, an end to the Euro would, ironically, probably hurt Germany the most, as a new Deutschmark would appreciate rapidly as the most solid European currency (stifling German exports) and most other former Eurozone currencies would plummet. Would it save Germany having to bail-out the rest of Europe? Bear in mind that one of the reasons Germany is bailing out everyone else is because they all owe German banks billions. Germany has no interest in letting them default on debts to German banks.
Funnily enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Save the Euro” marches would start to appear, particularly in smaller countries. For most countries, who don’t have an anal hang-up about their currency, the Euro is not loved but recognised as useful. A purely Irish currency, on the other hand, measured against our massive national debt, would not be a good bet. It would be very weak, which would help exports, but would send our imported raw material and goods prices through the roof.  

Overall, the more you look at it, the more you realise that Europeans are now so integrated that although you could get rid of the public façade of the EU, and curb its spending (two achievements most eurosceptics would be ecstatic with) there’s not an awful lot that would change, except, curiously, it would be less transparent, and more open to being affected by the sheer economic might of Germany without the benefit of EU consultation. The great irony of the eurosceptic achievement would be the unshackling of Germany from its self-imposed EU restraints and a de facto more German Europe. Likewise, the other “What the f…?” moment would come for left-wing eurosceptics as they, by dismantling the EU, dismantled the only supranational state agency with the power to face down multinational companies. Huh?  

The other major effect would be the loss of the “dampening effect” the EU has on countries doing more extreme things. Without EU law, how long would it be before countries started bowing to pressure from powerful internal interests to put quotas or tariffs on imports, or subsidise favoured industries, or block non-national companies from tendering for state tenders?

Eurosceptics claim that we could still have a common market. What they fail to realise (something Margaret Thatcher did realise) was that in order for the common market to work, it needs to be policed and it needed qualified majority voting to get the rules through. Remember 1992? Eurosceptics forget that it is the single market rules on things like stopping countries favouring national firms over other EU firms, a key part of a single market, which makes it unpopular. It’s all well and good marching against “EU austerity”, but it isn’t the EU that let spending get out of hand, or built national tax bases on an unsustainable basis or single industry.

The thing is, the EU isn’t the problem. It’s a damn good punchbag, because it can’t hit back, but it isn’t the problem.





11 thoughts on “Farewell, old friend?

  1. Pingback: bloggingportal.eu Blog & Support » Blog Archive » The Week in Bloggingportal: Special announcements for UK and European bloggers

  2. “Not one world-class industrial business based on original technology – except maybe creameries in the early 1900s – ever came out of the 26 counties. Guinness, Jacobs cream crackers, Cement-Roadstone and Smurfit packaging were the commanding heights.”

    Havok gaming, Aerogen, Norkom, Opsona, Biosensia, MUZU tv, Timoney technology, celtrak……I’m pretty sure there are a couple of others knocking about…..

  3. “BTW – hows it going over there in the Country Bust Once Again”

    You tell us (I assume, perhaps incorrectly) you’re from the UK?
    All that lovely off the books debt, Mr Osborne is praying no one will look too closely at, unfunded liabilities out the bum ect ect out to the trillions mark….The main difference between The UK and Ireland is of course, the UK is too big to be saved when it ‘s chickens come home to roost (And no I take no pleasure in that, since it will have a knock on effect on us)

    Anyhow, call me when there is a million dead of starvation, then I’ll panic. Otherwise it’s just a bad Day but not shitting yourself weather.

  4. There are a hundred things we could be having a referendum on, but we don’t. Eurosceptics asume that everybody has their obsession about the EU. Yet we have marches and demos across Europe every week, yet none call for end to the EU. Some blame EU, but call for change in policy, not abolition. Public just don’t care.

  5. If there is no popular support for abolishing the EU, why are the apparatchiks terrified at the thought of offering referenda ? I’m sorry, but your line of argument is risible.

    I can but admire the chutzpah of regarding the current situation as being survivable for Ireland.
    Having come late to free-market capitalism and going overboard for it, the country of Celtic twilight, Catholic obedience and violent political necrophilia was a poor choice of site for neoliberal economic experiments. Without an instilled culture of entrepreneurship and self-reliance,The Tiger is now eating its own young, or forcing them to emigrate again.

    Not one world-class industrial business based on original technology – except maybe creameries in the early 1900s – ever came out of the 26 counties. Guinness, Jacobs cream crackers, Cement-Roadstone and Smurfit packaging were the commanding heights.

    Under the reformer Lemass, Ireland opened its doors to foreign investors who used it as a cheap-labour area for final assembly plants. Under Haughey, the people of little/no principle took over: property bubbles, EU slush funds and greasy palms became the Republic’s mode of capitalist accumulation. Throwing off the RC Church, the Irish also discarded their peasant puritanism, binging on a hedonistic spree. It”s all resulting in tears, with the endgame in sight.

    Once again the southern folk have proved incapable of running their affairs efficiently.
    They should have listened to Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, and settled for internal self-government under a joint Anglo-Irish monarchy, instead of the silly legal fiction of sovereignty. Now they are beggars of Brussels, an outlier of the Germano/Francic controlled EU, instead of the ancient Britannic nation, punching above its weight at Westminster.

    As a great man once said (again & again)

    Goodnight – and good luck.

    Kind regards

  6. David, you assume that there is popular support for abolishing the EU. I don’t.

    As for the country being bust, we’ll survive. We have faced challenges before. Hell, we once defeated the greatest empire in the world.

  7. Just look again at the second sentence in your post.

    It sums up exactly what is wrong with EUthink, & why the whole rotten edifice will collapse (foundations already crumbling).

    Unlike many other EUphobes I personally feel the EU has something to offer the pipple – but only as a vastly stripped down entity, which is responsive to the democratic imperative.

    BTW – hows it going over there in the Country Bust Once Again ?

  8. If the dismanteling ever happens, it will be the result of a serious, unforeseen disruption, rather than a co-ordinated process.

    The problem is that below the surface of what is said to be “the EU” there is a system of interaction of national officials and a network of de facto regulation that is not directly dependent on the political system of the EU. So even if you’d get rid of the top-level institutions, the administrative “supernetwork” would remain in place and regulators would find a way to replace the EU-coordination with similar instruments.

    Good article, by the way! 🙂

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