The European Union – In or Out
Since joining the EU 1973, this once intergovernmentalist organisation sought to work together in the common interest of liberal democracies to promote common market economic associations. What has actually happened over the last 40 years is a widening and deepening of European governmental institutions towards a two-stage Europe with supranational powers.
The EU consists of 28 states with 736 elected MEPs. The north-east region has 3 MEPs. Alongside the elected representatives is the unelected. The European commission, the Council of ministers, and the European Court of Justice. This totals over 38,000 people. The European commission which are similarly to the government cabinet is bureaucratic and considered one of the most supranational institutions in that the college of 28 commissioners are nominated from each national government. Since the implementation of the 2007 Lisbon treaty, the power of veto from any single country was reduced and the strategic direction of the EU is given to policymakers and judiciary over and above the elected representatives. The commission not only shaped deliberations and discussions but hold considerable informal powers as seen in 1992 when the commission played an influential role in the signing of Maastricht treaty. The European Court of Justice applies and adjudicates on all EU laws that is binding over and above the laws of all member states.
Economically are we better in Europe or out? Scaremongers can be found on all sides of the argument. Do you think Aldi or Lidl will move out of the UK? Do you think BMW will not want to keep hold of prestigious brands like Land Rover or Bentley? We are after all outside of the Eurozone and the Schengen area already. The pace of change in rules and policies within Europe are on the greater part to benefit those countries which operate the euro, from the decisions of the European Central bank based in Berlin to the silliness of MEPs moving between Brussels and Strasbourg in order to keep both governments happy. The European Union has played little to no part in the financial prosperity of the north-east. Black & Decker would still have moved from Spennymoor to Trimice in the Czech Republic. Given the number of local and UK businesses who export to a much wider global market and the ever-increasing amount of goods which come into the country from outside of Europe, it is difficult to comprehend scaremongering tactics that say economically the UK will suffer significantly. Let us also remember that these global markets are already in place and economic instability in Asia, the Far East, South America play as much an important role as Europe does.
Are we better in Europe socially? Given the much increased higher standard of living in places like Germany and Belgium than we have here in the UK, the wealth of the UK compared with Hungary, Poland, Croatia and other Eastern European countries, together with the social problems found in North Africa and Middle East – one that Europe has failed to address,. The draw by people from around the world towards the UK is likely to continue. The question here is to what extent UK governments are able to or prepared to put restrictions in place. It has been said that many people living outside of the UK could be forced to return but I ask the question to what extent would the Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, French and German economies want to lose not just expertise or the financial boost to their economy from UK money.
To sum up, County Durham has over the last 40 years, through successive Labour, Conservative and coalition governments, remained one of the most socially and economically deprived areas of the UK. Since moves in the 1970s from a manufacturing to a consumer global market economy, politicians have failed at the national and European level to bring prosperity to the area. The argument to take back our social economic development from bureaucratic, ever-increasing powers of Europe are compelling. I leave you to make your own decisions.