Monday, April 11, 2016

The Governments EU Leaflet - is that it?

The EU leaflet from the Government has arrived. Here's an easy guide


  • Economy: remaining guarantees full access to the 'Single Market', which makes selling easier and cheaper. 
  • Cost of living: increased export costs.
  • No other country has managed to access the Single Market from outside the EU without having to follow EU rules, pay into the EU, and accept EU workers. 
  • Membership gives police access to EU intelligence, DNA and fingerprint information (but we don't know if non-membership doesn't). 
  • Guarantees right to live, work or study abroad in the other 27 countries, plus employment rights. 


  • Leaving creates 'uncertainty and risk' for companies. No idea how much, or what's at risk. There's no indication of how much trade or investment a change would cost us. 
  • 'Pressure' on the value of the pound
  • 'No guarantee' of keeping customer benefits (cheaper mobile charges, air fares, and free healthcare)
  • 'Risk' of higher prices
  • 'Potential' economic discuprtion
  • 'a vote to leave could mean a decade or more of uncertainty'

And to be honest that's about it. On the 'facts' above, there's no information about what we wouldn't have if we weren't members of the EU (e.g. would police co-operation stop?).

For £9m I expected better. I'd like to be convinced that we should stay in the EU. But is this the full and best case for staying? Really? That there might be some unquantifiable economic loss to not being in the EU? This almost looks like it was written to bear out the 'Project Fear' jibes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

The three things ticked on the back of the leaflet are 'protecting jobs' 'a stronger economy' 'providing security'. Lets have a little look at those:
Protecting Jobs: like when Britain voted against an anti-dumping law in the EU, which might have prevented the current crisis in the UK steel industry. Or when EU procurement laws prevent the government from buying British to support particular industries. Yes, that's working well.

A Stronger Economy: built on the backs of low wage foreign nationals coming to the UK to do the jobs we won't pay for, or don't train for. Workers from overseas prop up the NHS and care sectors, when many of them are needed much more in their own countries. And within the EU, the economic logic has led to the Euro, which is fine for the strong economies, and disastrous for Greece, which can't set interest rates or key aspects of economic policy because of Euro membership. History will thank Gordon Brown for keeping us out of the Euro with his constantly shape-shifting 'economic tests'. The jury is out on the EU and economic prosperity.

Providing Security: why should not being in the EU stop us sharing security information? We do it with the US. Having fewer people coming through the borders will make it easier to police and track people.

I worry when any argument is defined all or mostly in terms of economics. There are more important measures than money. I worry when a document like this does nothing to address the real concerns: why has the EU project resulted in bankrupt countries? What are the implications for the refugee crisis? I worry when we are fed speculation rather than facts: exactly how much more costly will it be to export to the EU, as a %? What EU laws will we keep on the statute book if we leave, and what will go? Will (for example) food companies and restaurants still be required to label for allergens (we have a coeliac in the family)? How much of a counterweight does the EU provide to the lobbying interests of the fuel and food sectors?

Maybe the problem is that the Conservatives are blinkered in their focus on the economics, whilst the strongest arguments for staying in are the ones better made by Labour. The working time directive and the social aspects of EU membership, the power of a collective of states to act against multinationals trying to ride roughshod over governments, the global leadership of the EU on climate change. These might be better selling points than 'we might be economically better off staying as we are, but we can't say how much, if at all'.

There's a reason CofE members are encouraged to pray for their governments and all in authority. There's a very real danger that the current government will preside over the disintegration of the EU, the UK, and the Conservative party.

I can't see this leaflet persuading any thoughtful person to vote 'Remain'.


  1. Does that mean the Labour argument for Remain is "Stay in as an undemocratic structure will then keep your democratically-elected Parliament in check"?

    1. I've no idea, though if you put it that way then we start to look more and more like the USA, where the system is designed to check and balance power accumulating in any one place. The tax business shows that we're already pretty powerless over undemocratic structures anyway (tax bills settled over a pint with the Chancellor), so do we need the EU as a countervailing force, or is it just another channel for the lobbying power of big business?