£350 million per week to the NHS – really?

It’s a seriously eye-catching headline, isn’t it? The Leave campaign’s argument runs as follows: if we leave the EU, we can take back the £350 million per week we currently give to the EU, and spend it on the NHS instead. This has been plastered all over the Leave campaign’s “battle buses” – incidentally, I wonder what it’s like to be on a battle bus with Boris Johnson…

It’s easy to see why this is a really appealing prospect, especially at a time where there are raging debates about the under-funding of the NHS, and the fiasco of the junior doctor’s contracts. I am immensely proud that we have an NHS, however, this £350 million per week claim simply doesn’t stack up.

Why, you ask? Well…. Continue reading

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What would leaving the EU entail?

There is a brilliant post about the EU referendum doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. It reads (with a few minor amendments):

I know there are problems with the EU but can anyone properly explain what our plan is if we leave?

We have all been on a night out with that mate who, when you are in a club, says “it’s rubbish here, let’s go somewhere else.” Then when you leave you realise he has no idea where to go and the place you left won’t let you back in. Without a decent follow up plan, a leave vote could see the UK standing in a kebab shop arguing about whose fault it is.

A round of applause for this person – what a brilliant analogy!

The post itself exposes a really important issue. If you’re being asked to do something, you want to know what you’re getting yourself into, right? So if we are being asked by the Leave campaign to vote to leave the EU, then we need to be clear on what voting to leave actually means in practice.

The problem is that there seems to be no clear proposal as to what we would do if we were to leave the EU. Instead, I’ve read about at least seven different options. How can we be expected to make a decision on whether to stay or leave if the choice is being presented as remain in the EU or one-of-potentially-seven-different-options-of-leaving?

In this post, I will look at the main proposals for the UK’s relationship with the EU if we were to leave, and explain why I think they are worse than our current relationship with the EU. Continue reading

What does the EU do for us? The benefits of free trade

Aldi and Lidl have taken the UK by storm in the last few years, and they now account for around 10% of supermarket sales in the UK.[i] Aldi and Lidl shoppers can be an amusing bunch, with some of them acting as if their discovery of these supermarkets is a very clever secret. There are two types of Aldi/Lidl shopper that amuse me the most:

  1. The proud feeder – this breed of shopper will feed you something and then ask what what you think of it. Upon you expressing your approval of said foodstuff (come on, we’re British, of course we’re going to say we like it!), they will proudly inform you that it came from Aldi or Lidl. Great, to be honest I was just pleased you cooked for me!
  1. The presenter of food – this shopper will proudly present items of their shopping to you, and ask you to guess how much it cost. It’s as if you are participating in the worst game show ever. Upon you ultimately guessing the wrong price, they will proudly tell you how much it cost, and knowingly tell you that this came from their discovery of Aldi or Lidl. All hail the cheap tomato sauce!

You might be wondering what on earth this has to do with the EU. Aldi and Lidl are great examples of companies based elsewhere within the EU setting up business in the UK. This is made far easier by the EU ensuring free trade between Member States. In this post I will argue that this is a significant reason to stay in the EU. Continue reading

How does the EU actually work? (Part 3 – Democracy)

So to the final part of this series of posts (if you’ve made it through all three – thanks for sticking with me!) In this post, I take what we’ve discussed in part 1 and part 2 and explain why:

  1. There is a risk that claims of the EU’s democratic deficit are over simplified.
  1. The issue of the EU’s democratic deficit should not dominate the EU referendum debate.

How does the EU make law?

The key criticism in relation to the democratic deficit goes something like this: laws are made in Brussels by people we can’t control.

Is this true? Let’s look at how law is made in the EU…

Continue reading

How does the EU actually work? (Part 2 – Institutions)

Democracy, and the EU’s “democratic deficit”, is a Eurosceptic favourite. I’m sure you’ve seen it before with claims such as we are controlled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels (it’s those pesky –crats again…)  It is not an unjustified point either – the EU is not a fully democratic entity. However, arguments around the EU’s democratic deficit are often coupled with a misunderstanding about the EU’s institutions.

This post seeks to explain the EU’s institutions and their composition. There is no overall “point” to this particular post. Instead, it aims to explain what the EU’s institutions are and how they work, so that in part 3 I can deal with the criticisms of the EU’s democratic deficit. If you already know about the EU’s institutions, or you just want to know what my thoughts are on the democratic deficit, skip to part 3. Continue reading

How does the EU actually work? (Part 1 – Powers)

I like to think I am a calm person, but like 99.25% of London commuters, I am guilty of having silent tube rage, especially in the mornings (or more precisely, before my first coffee). For things that annoy me on the underground – see here.

My most recent source of tube rage comes from reading stories in newspapers over people’s shoulders (I know, it’s annoying, and it’s entirely my own fault – I should probably be included in the list of people in the link above). What has annoyed me particularly is just how much of the reporting on the EU doesn’t seem to fully understand how it works, which results in suggestions such as we are being controlled by Brussels.

This is the inspiration for the first three posts on this blog. I am going to take on the task of explaining the basics of how the EU works with the aim of showing that the UK has important controls over the EU (start with something easy, they said…) Think of this as EU 101… Given that I couldn’t cover all of this in one post without sending you to sleep, I’m going to break it up into three parts:

Part 1 explains the basics of the EU and how it gains its powers. In particular, I will explain how the UK controls the powers given to the EU and therefore deal with the suggestion that we have no control over what goes on in the EU.

Part 2 explains the EU’s institutions and how they work [if you know about this – you can skip this one]. This post serves as the basis for…

Part 3 explains how the EU makes law, and identifies the often overlooked democratic elements of the EU. I also explain my thoughts on why discussion of the EU’s “democratic deficit” should not dominate the EU referendum debate. Continue reading