Wednesday 4 November 2015

Is this the best the EU can come up with?

Chris Patten ("As a former EU Commissioner Lord Patten’s EU pension, amounting to around £100,000 per year is removable if he acts in a way which is detrimental to the interests of the European Union", but he doesn't mention that) writing in yesterday's Evening Standard:

It is in our national interest to show full support for Europe.

Woah! Bad start! "Europe" and "the EU" are two quite separate things. It's like the difference between "England" and "the UK government". You can like one while simultaneously disliking the actions of the other.

Boldness should transform the argument for staying in the EU. It is not enough to concentrate the gunfire on the ludicrous proposition that we can have all the benefits of membership — trade, the single market and so on — without paying a price.

I am pleased that Cameron has pointed out what the Norwegians (with whom as a Commissioner I used to negotiate these matters) have to do from the outside in order to get their goods into the single market. They have to follow most of the rules without taking part in deciding what these rules should be. On top of that, they pay heavily for this doubtful privilege.

People who know about these things have patiently explained that Norway has to make sure its exports comply with EU standards. Well of course they do, they have to comply with US standards if they want to export to the US etc. Norway has pretty much a free hand with its internal legislation.

And the Norwegians don't "pay heavily for this doubtful privilege". What they do pay and to whom is listed here.

In any event it's not comparing like with like, Norway is twice as dependent on trade with the EU and the UK is; we are net importers, so would be able to strike a much better deal. I'm not aware that other countries which have a free trade agreement with the EU have to pay very much.

(Perhaps Kj can explain this a bit better? He's the expert).

The article continues in a similar vein, mixing waffle with half-truths and lies. You can tell this by simply asking yourself whether any of the horrors he predicts have befallen Norway or Switzerland. They haven't.

So, my question is, if there are some definite and irrefutable arguments for remaining a Member State, why don't they wheel them out?


Kj said...

The EEA-deal is about handing out a bit of cash to the poorer EU-states, and this amounts to 78 EUR per capita annually. In addition the Norwegian govt participate in several EU "programmes" by choice, not part of the EEA deal, in which we pay an additional 60EUR per capita per year. Big whoop.
Let's say that the UK needs to pay as much, which is unlikely - If you multiply those costs with the UK population, that comes to around 8,3 bn EUR, around 6bn £, UK contribution now is what, 16-17 bn £?
It's unproblematic that we subscribe to (most) EU-regs as a part of the deal, whether we get to "being part of the deciscion-making" isn't really here nor there, the EU is fundamentally undemocratic anyway. We can and have not ratified those who don't fly in domestic politics. Not that there aren't running issues; the service directive and the whole free EU Labour migration thing isn't uncontroversial.
The Swiss have an even better deal IMO, but the end result isn't that much different. Both have exempted farming, and Norway has still gotten away with free trade in Salmon. The Swiss do not comply with the VAT-Directive, we do. So evidently, there are all sorts of arrangements you could do to suit the UK, and arguably the UK has even more leverage than us, so why the hell not?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Kj, thank you. That is very useful info.