One of the Eurosceptic comments I have been hearing on the doorsteps recently is the argument that the EU is bad because of its treatment of Greece. I’m fascinated to year Yanis Varoufakis, formerly finance minister in the Syriza party argue strongly for the EU.
When people present this argument against the EU I’ve tended to respond by looking at ways to help in the regeneration of Greece. This is not to say a tough approach is always best, and there have been raw feelings among the Greeks going back to the second world war, but I’ve tended to argue that the route the EU took is probably the fastest to re-stabilise Greece.
In an interview with Owen Jones in The Guardian Varoufakis begins by pointing out that Brexit would leave the UK much more exposed to TTIP. At the moment (April 2016) it is not clear what the final text of TTIP will be, but Varoufakis is clearly right that, within the EU, we have the capacity to influence things, where outside we could do little more than accept what we are offered. He continues:
At first sight it can seem obvious that immigration undermines wages, at least in low-paid work. One of the rallying cries of the Eurosceptic right is about “foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs”. But is this true?
In an earlier post, I commented that “people at the bottom of the pile, resentful at the opportunities they feel they don’t have, are the ones who would lose most if these migrants stopped coming (or ‘went home’)”. I’d like to unpack this.
At first sight, challenging this seems counter-intuitive. In 2013, UKIP were spreading stories of 350,000-400,000 likely migrants from Romania and Bulgaria when restrictions on emigration were lifted. In reality, the number of EU migrants employed in the UK actually fell in the subsequent few months.
Today’s tranche of emails included one from Immigrant Spirit, which highlights the other side of this. It quotes Andreas Meyer-Falcke, Commissioner of Human Resources for the City of Düsseldorf, saying that in the next five years one third of his employees will retire. Thousands of jobs will become available. It asks: “How could expatriates benefit?”
The free movement of people means that, provided we vote to remain in the EU, I could respond to this by applying for one of those jobs in Düsseldorf, or anywhere else in the EU.
A few weeks after the storm over whether or not the Queen supported Brexit deserves a more detached look.
What actually happened was that The Sun ran a provocative piece on 9 March 2016, claiming that the Queen backed Brexit. The assertion was that she had “rip at the then Deputy PM [Nick Clegg] during a lunch at Windsor Castle”. Clegg rapidly tweeted “As I told the journalist this is nonsense. I’ve no recollection of this happening & its not the sort of thing I would forget” and the BBC ran a story about Buckingham Palace being clear that she was neutral over Brexit.
As the lunch in question was in 2011 it is stretching things to construe whatever was actually said as a comment on the forthcoming referendum. At this distance it might also be quite hard to be sure of what was said and what people wish she had said.
I don’t pretend to know the Queen’s private views on this, but the whole episode raises someone in the role of the Queen might respond to the EU, in terms of the role itself, history and the constitution.
One of the recurring threads of the EU referendum campaign has been the need for reform. What gets lost in that is that the EU has been on a continual process of reform from its inception.
While proponents of Brexit argue for reform in a way that sometimes leaves me wondering whether their comments are based on their fantasies of the EU or reality, the EU has been getting on with it.
On 16 March, Guy Verhofstadt tweeted his pleasure at the EU Council adopting measures for better law-making in the EU, published on European Council’s web site. Frustratingly that didn’t get much attention in the British media.
The dates in that document are interesting — ideas put forward for discussion by the Commission on 20 May 2015 — well before attempts at “renegotiation” were under way, so there is no sense that this arises from British pressure. The proposal has worked its way through the system in a way that enables proper discussion. As a democratic body, the EU is bound to have a complex decision-making process, to allow for proper engagement with those we elect to the European Parliament and the (elected) governments of the nation states, so there is wisdom in this taking a while.
There’s a startling gap between the English and French media on the agreement yesterday (8 March 2016) on migrants from Turkey which has worrying implications for the EU referendum debate.
In the afternoon I spoke with two friends who are usually well-informed, and who expressed concern at the deal being done with Turkey over migrants. My mind went into “euromyths” mode, wondering what the kernel(s) of truth in the story might be. Later caught a radio news bulletin which seemed to confirm what they had said — that a deal was being done with Turkey that would mean Syrian migrants reaching Greece from there would be returned, and one migrant from the refugee camps would be allowed to settle in the EU for each migrant returned. That’s an elegant way of removing the incentive for the human trafficers who are putting lives at risk. The implication is that this was a last-ditch attempt to head off Syrian migrants on their way to the UK, and linked to the sweetener of fast tracking Turkey’s application to join the EU (ignoring concerns at press freedom and democracy in Turkey).
The grassroots Cambridge for Europe campaign brings together a buzz of Cambridge’s communities from local businesses to researchers and universities, from political representatives to local interest groups. It’s the first such self-organised regional campaign in the country, and the fiery multi-community nature of the effort makes the campaign a model for how other pro-EU groups can get among their local communities to make the case for remaining in the EU. But what has driven Cambridge to be the first to rally itself?
Cambridge is a multi-cultural, vibrant and successful city. It’s open, engaged and looks naturally to the wider world. Walking through the city centre recently, I heard a group of people talking in French and grumbling, as Cambridge residents do, about the number of tourists. I went into a pub and found myself sitting by a table where people who didn’t seem to be visitors were talking in Italian. Being European is woven into the fabric of the place.