BREXIT – Mourn or Celebrate?

I’m conflicted on Brexit. I tend towards favoring independence from multi national confederations, especially if they attempt to manage domestic affairs. It is my core belief that most problems are best addressed at the point of their origin by the people experiencing them. Economic downturns are natural economic adjustments that force people to adjust their practices. Competition, rather than being hobbled to enable other regions to enter or stay in the market place, should be encouraged. That competition should be absent government regulation other than preventing fraud, dangers to public safety, and strong arm tactics. While humans have a large degree of common needs they also have a larger degree of specific, area and culturally influenced needs. It isn’t all about money. The wide variety of natural human differences and desires is ultimately a strength that should not be artificially adjusted by government, especially far removed government.

 

That being said, the EU has at least been partially responsible for the longest period of peace, among those nations that have joined, since the great European peace from 1871 to 1914. This ‘Pax Europea’ is somewhat due to the cold war that made European conflict unthinkable but it is also, in large part, due to the intertwining of economic interests and nanny statism of the EU.

 

I’m going to try to examine the context of the UK exit from the EU. pro and con. If you want to avoid my rambling examination you can cut to the chase and go to the In Summary – stay or go? section at the end

 

Some Context

In 1950 French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman issued the declaration that lead to the founding of the European Coal and Steel Commission. [1] In it he envisioned a step by step process whereby initially France and Germany could avoid conflict by joint control of the raw materials needed to wage war, i.e. coal and steel at that time.

“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.”

 

From that limited beginning grew the EU. The intent to grow beyond the management of coal and steel was fairly evident in the Schuman Declaration. The European Union concept has constantly expanded and absorbed internal functions and taken on more and more authority over the lives of the individual citizens whose nations are member states. Much like the original American concept of individual states in a confederation, the European Coal and Steel Commission, then the European Economic Community and now the European Union has begun to bypass the member states’ national governments and directly govern the lives of the citizens in those states.

In 1973 when the UK was finally granted admission into the European Economic Community after three applications, it was a drastically different organization than the current European Union from which British voters narrowly voted to exit. However the EEC was also drastically different from the ECSC to which the UK initially applied for membership. The Merger Treaty of 1967 had gone a long way towards creating a single European ‘supranational’ trade bloc. In 1970 when the UK , Ireland and Norway were approved for membership and began the negotiating phase for eventual entrance, the European Parliament was granted control over a portion of the EEC’s budget. The direction that the organization was headed was clear to the British who nonetheless rushed in, despite European doubts about their political will.

1979 Direct Election of Members of European Parliament and increase in European Parliament powers.

During the tenure of the UK’s membership in the EEC and then the EU there were some monumental changes. Those changes did indeed expand the interference of the organization in national sovereignty and the redistribution of wealth among its members.

 

Originally the ESCS and the EEC were mostly controlled by the Special Council of Ministers (which became the Council of the EEC and later the Council of the European Union) and the European Commission. The Council consisted of the head of state or designees of each member country. Representation was one vote per country with unanimity required for imposition of any act or obligation.

 

The Commission served the function of vetting bills, and issues to appear before the Council much like congressional committees determine which bills appear before the US Senate and House of Representatives. The European Parliament, originally called the Common Assembly, was an appointed body with the numbers of members varying according to the population of the various member states. Its role was largely consultative with little to no binding power beyond issuing opinions. After the Treaty of Rome in 1958 the Parliament was to assume powers that would eventually equal or exceed the powers of the Council. It was to become elected directly by the citizens of the various member countries, when and if the member states could agree upon voter qualifications.

 

In 1973 when the UK joined the EEC the European Parliament was still consultative and due to no agreement on voter qualification it was still appointed.. This meant that the relationship between the EEC and the member nations still ran directly through the individual governments of each state. The citizens of those nations elected their governments and those governments appointed the EEC representation. In 1979 that changed drastically when the EEC agreed upon a common voter qualification and for the first time members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were directly elected by the citizens of the member nations, bypassing that nation’s standing government. This was a not insignificant loss of national sovereignty.

 

Still when the UK joined in 1973 British officials were well aware of the Treaty of Rome provisions and the inevitable change. In fact Norway, a far better candidate for EEC membership due to being geographically contiguous and possessing vast oil and uranium reserves, ultimately rejected membership in the EEC. This rejection was due to the apparent challenges to national sovereignty. The British had ample warning of the intent of the EEC Parliament’s intent to expand powers and become a directly elected supranational body.

 

Budgetary Control by the European Parliament

 A budgetary treaty in 1970, three years before the UK joined the EU, gave the European Parliament defacto control over the ‘non-compulsory expenditures’ of the EEC. These were all expenditures not resulting from EEC treaties and international agreements. This was ample warning that the European Parliament would be involved in the spending and therefore member due’s collection of much of the EEC’s total budget. This was an important step because the Council of the EEC, a one vote per nation body had sole control before. Most Council votes had to be unanimous to be binding and so every nation had a practical veto over increased spending and allocations. The European Parliament did not have that unanimous requirement. Most parliament decisions were decided by either a simple majority of present members or an absolute majority (a majority of members of the total body whether present or not for the vote).

In 1975 another budgetary treaty gave the Parliament of the EEC the right to reject the entire budget and in effect an equal voice in the spending of all funds. It is important to note that MEP’s, while elected from the various member nations, are actually members of the various European political parties. This means cross continent loyalties that often supersede national loyalties much like American members of Congress often place their party loyalty over loyalty to the wishes of the state from which they were elected.

The increased budgetary control by the European Parliament was a decided loss of the ability to veto attempts to target one nation’s purse strings over another’s.

1985 Schengen Agreement.

In 1985 the EEC adopted the Schengen agreement which created a zone of minimal border control checks between nations. The borders of nations in the agreement that abutted nations not in the agreement became the defacto border for all of the nations in the agreement. There would be many alterations over the course of the years including inclusion of two non EU members (Switzerland and Norway) in the created ‘Schengen Area’.

The UK and Ireland sought and were given a ‘protocol’ exemption form the agreement, somewhat to the chagrin of some other nations. Of course their island status made the Schengen agreement impractical until the much later completion of the Euro Tunnel. That the agreement would severely weaken national control over immigration and border inclusion was obvious and well publicized. The British, rather than seeking to exit the EEC instead sought and received an exemption. Many of the unchecked immigration problems that plague the EU derive from the implementation of the Schengen Agreement by nations that are on the frontier of the EU.

 

1986 Single European act (SEA)

In 1986, 13 years after the UK joined the EEC, the Council of the EEC and the European Parliament approved, to wide discontent in not only the UK but also in Italy, Denmark and Ireland, the ‘Single European Act’. This act set as a goal the creation of a single European market by December 31, 1992. It also gave the Council powers to draft collaborative measures in furtherance to that goal with the approval of the European Parliament by means of a supermajority (55%) rather than unanimity.

In essence the SEA was the treaty that gave birth to the EU as a successor to the EEC. It involved a large step forwards for the assumption of powers by the EU. Powers heretofore reserved to the member nations. The UK objected strenuously to many of the terms but did not exit before the fruition date. In part this was probably because of the lack of a clearly defined exit route from the EEC although Greenland, a part of the Realm of Denmark, did exit.

1992 Treaty of Maastricht

In 1992, in fulfillment of the goals of the 1986 SAE, the Treaty of Maastricht was adopted. This Treaty would almost certainly not have been possible in 1973 although it could have and should have been foreseen. The gradual eroding of the single nation veto and increase in power of the directly elected European Parliament made the Treaty ratification possible but just barely. The Treaty of Maastricht created the European Union although that title was not used until 2001. It expanded the powers of the new union over social, political, military and criminal justice.

It was wildly controversial. Razor thin referendums in France and Denmark suggested extreme unpopularity. In the UK attempts by the Conservative Party aka the Maastrich Rebels, to opt out of the social provisions of the Treaty which transferred social program sovereignty to the EU almost brought down the government of John Majors. British MP Nick Budgen, leader of the Maastricht Rebels said:

“It would be my general feeling that the transference of power to Europe was so important a matter as to require a vote against any organization and any party that wished to transfer that power.”[2]

 

At this juncture it was apparent that the EEC cum EU was intent upon becoming the most powerful governmental entity on the continent and reducing the sovereignty of member nations to an almost negligible degree. Still, rather than exiting, the British pushed for an odd bifurcation of EU power, commonly called the ‘Three Pillars of the European Union’.

Rather than placing the Foreign Policy and Police Cooperation common entities under direct control of the EU Council and European Parliament they were instead styled as “Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)” and Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters(PJCCM). The first pillar of the EU was controlled exclusively by the EU Commission, The Council of the EU and the European Parliament. It included most economic matters and social matters. The other two aforementioned pillars were a compromise between national governments and the Council and European Parliament. Ultimately the three pillars would be eliminated and all of the powers consolidated under the Council and Parliament by the Treaty of Lisbon. However for 14 years the EU operated the compromise in large part due to the British desire to at least appear to maintain national control over foreign policy and policing powers.

 

New members dilute the vote and increase the liability.

In 1981 Greece became a member of the EEC. In subsequent years Sweden, Finland, Austria, Spain Portugal, Malta and Cyprus joined pushing the concept of Europe and contiguous borders much further. After the fall of the iron Curtain numerous former Soviet satellites applied to and eventually were allowed into the EU; The Czech Republic ,Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and recently Croatia.

These new members meant:

  • The inclusion of Scandinavian nations prone to socialist solutions.
  • The stretching of the EU common borders to the middle East and the edge of Russia,
  • The inclusion of many under developed economies that would tax the resources of the
  • EDF (European Development Fund) due to their inability to contribute and low net receipts.
  • Due to degressive proportionality, the dilution of the European Parliament representation from the UK.

 

The stretching of borders to the middle east and the removal of internal border controls would lead to a massive influx of both political asylum seekers and economic refugees. Recently the Schengen Agreement has been abrogated if not suspended in many countries. Still the numbers of new immigrants to the EU because of the agreement and the contiguous borders of nations on the periphery of Europe was perhaps the single largest point of contention in the Brexit movement.

 

The Treaty of Lisbon or ‘the Straw that broke the Camel’s back’

In 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon shifted the balance of power in the EU from the shared sovereignty to EU ascendancy.

A – It shifted the threshold for passing legislation in the Council in 45 major policy areas to a ‘double majority’ (55% of the council members representing 65% of the EU citizenry) from unanimity. This eliminated the ability of a nation to avoid legislation particularly contrary to that nation’s interest or to even, by threat of voting no, exact concessions or opt outs.

B – It made the allocation of Members of the European Parliament degressively proportionial. In order to increase the power of smaller nations in the parliament it gave them a greater allocated number of representatives than their population would have merited under straight proportionate allocation.

.In the case of the UK, despite the fact that the UK is the fourth largest contributor to the EU budget, it is 25th in the proportion of MEP’s in the European Parliament with one MEP representing 839,000 British citizens. Contrast this with Malta having an MEP for every 80,000 citizens yet contributing the least total to the EU budget.

MEP proportionality vs Member contribution

MEP proportionality vs Member contribution

 

Degressive proportionality increased the ability of smaller nations to broker disproportionately in matters including budget allocations and natural resource sharing. Viewed in a classic fiscal conservative manner it allowed smaller nations to mount looting of the purses of larger nations disproportionate to their numbers and contributions. While the UK was not the greatest victim of degressive proportionality (that dubious honor would probably fall to Germany or Spain)  it was a violation of anglo saxon aversion to taxation without representation.

C – It eliminated the ‘Three Pillars’ compromise and directly incorporated all of the second and third pillars (  “Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)” and Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters(PJCCM). ) directly under the authority of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. This was a negation of even any illusion of retention of the foreign policy and criminal justice provisions of the 1993 Maastricht Treaty compromise.

D – It assigned the national parliaments or assemblies roles as advisors in place of their lost sovereignty. National parliaments were now to receive advance copies of proposed legislation before it went to the EU Commission and subsequently to the Council and Parliament. The national parliaments were to review the proposed legislation for compliance with the ‘Principles of Subsidiarity’ i.e. the principle that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most local level that is consistent with their resolution. They could then issue a non binding opinion.

This was a poor and somewhat insulting consolation to those wishing to retain national sovereignty over social, defense, and judicial matters. In 1973 the European Parliament was largely an advisory body. In 2009 the national parliaments of EU members became largely advisory in numerous areas while the European Parliament became controlling.

E – The Treaty of Lisbon did finally codify a procedure for leaving the EU which is ironic in that it also created the most dramatic single argument for leaving the EU.

F – Finally the Treaty of Lisbon gave full force of prevailing international law to the Charter for Fundamental Human Rights of the European Union aka CFREU. This move included numerous social and political forced changes including forced labor benefits, non discrimination laws on basis that included sexual orientation and identity and social affirmative action protocols.

The UK and Poland both took an opt out on those provisions at least as far as affecting standing laws within their borders however future legislation by the EU Council and European Parliament would be binding

It should be noted that the UK had been granted numerous ‘opt-out’ options to numerous political and social sovereignty issues. They were no doubt granted to keep the UK in the EU. One wonders, however, if the exit procedure, Article 50, might have anticipated the discontent with the single economic and political unit direction of the EU and provided a way to orderly dispense with nations that can not be satisfied therewith. In other words, a way to dispel serious dissent.

In Summary – stay or go

 

In summary the reasons for the UK to have stayed in the EU are as follows with a couple added that have not been covered above.

 

1 – The UK knew the ultimate object of the ESCE, and  the EEC when they rigorously petitioned to be admitted. Their political and philosophical suitability was very much in doubt but the European Community compromised and admitted them.

2 – The UK had ample opportunity to leave before the Maastrich Treaty in 1992 yet they chose to stay and negotiate concessions that bordered on detrimental reliance rather than parting company.

3 – The UK was seventh among the membership of the EEC in nominal GDP per capita in 1973 when it joined.[3] Among the original members it is still seventh in nominal GDP per capita.[4] It has not been appreciably harmed financially and has benefited from the peace that the EU has brought to its member states.

4-Europe has historically been a very violent continent. The longest peace before the post WWII period was from 1871 to 1914 (appropriately called ‘The Long Peace’). [5] Much of that peace can be attributed to the unification of Germany and Italy into nation states rather than coalescing, squabbling city states. After the second world war the Pax Europaea[6]was in some part due to the unthinkable stakes of a world war that included nuclear weapons and partly due to increased European identity and entangled fortunes.

5 – The EU covers 7.3% of the world’s population and 17% of all the world’s GDP (measured by PPP), It is a huge, prosperous trading club with nearly unparalleled prosperity. It can reasonably be argued that the UK is very European in its cultural habits (French wine is consumed as much as British Ale, Brit holidays are more often to Spain or Portugal than to countries of the Anglophone etc) Most of the great British cooperative projects have been with members of the EU rather than members of the Anglophone. The Concorde SST, Airbus, the ESA, the Euro-tunnel et al are just a few that are more popularly known. Hundreds of others in biomedical and humanitarian projects could be listed. Part of the reason is probably that the EU has made European partners more feasible but a large part of the reason is the British outlook on science, philanthropy and political pragmatism is more European than Anglophonic.

Reasons that the UK has properly chosen to exit the EU include

 

1 – When the UK joined the EEC in 1973 the European Parliament was much weaker and was appointed and thus controlled by the national parliaments. In 1979 the EP became a directly elected body that bypassed the elected governments and pitched direct to the citizens. This created a shift in identity and a lessening of national sovereignty.

 

2 – Degressive proportionality of the EP means that large nations such as the UK actually get less representation proportionately even though they shoulder more responsibility. (find the proportions) Despite the fact that the UK is the fourth largest contributor to the EU budget, it is 25th in the proportion of MEP’s in the European Parliament with one MEP representing 839,000 British citizens. Contrast this with Malta having an MEP for every 80,000 citizens yet contributing the least total to the EU budget.

 

3- When the UK joined the EU in 1973 there was no agreement to form a single European economic unit. That goal was stated in the Single Europe Act of 1986. It provided for the formation of a single European economic market by the end of 1992. That in effect happened in 1993.

 

4 – The EU drive to make the European marketplace more equal and less internally competitive is contrary to all economic wisdom. Making the marketplace equally accessible and fair is good but hobbling competitive advantage wrought by harder work, better infrastructure, better education, etc is ultimately counter to progress.

 

5 – In 1973 when the UK joined the EU there were no Schwengen borders. The elimination of internal European borders has contributed to the insecurity of the member nations by removing the many points at which terrorists might be stopped and the compartmentalization that protects member nations.

 

6 – The EU expansion to the borders of Russia and the Middle East attracts economic refugees that strain the economies and infrastructures of member nations.

 

7 – When the UK joined the EU in 1973 the Council of the European Economic Community required unanimity to pass bills. This unanimity requirement allowed any nation that objected to certain actions to prevent those actions without compromise and accommodation of unequal and specific hardship. In 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon changed that requirement on 45 vital policy matters to a ‘double majority’, (i.e. 55% of the council members that represented 65% of the EU citizenry). This made it possible for nations to victimize other member nations and eliminated the incentive to lessen the unequal burden or exempt the most onerous ones.

 

8 – In 1973 when the UK joined the EEC, the member nations’ national parliaments decided most all internal issues from environment to social justice. The Treaty of Lisbon changed that drastically by prescribing more initiative, preliminary roles for national parliaments in matters that the EU decided to legislate upon. It also made the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union legally binding in EU courts involving individual citizens of member states in dealings with other member states. These ‘rights’ included numerous social justice clauses, wage and labor obligations, removal of the right to discriminate on basis of sexual orientation, obligations to provide housing and workers benefits etc.

 

And the verdict is?

 

On balance, I conclude that although the UK created some detrimental reliance in the EU by joining and staying therein those obligations should not bind future generations in a union that moves further and further away from local rule. I greatly fear some of the nationalist politicians in the UKIP and Britain First movements, especially their seeming association with Russia but feel that the Brexit was a long overdue and morally justifiable move. My verdict is:

BREXIT, good move but not a cause for celebration.

[1] http://europa.eu/about-eu/basic-information/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration/index_en.htm

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/obituaries/200019.stm

 

[3] World Bank Estimate per the http://unstats.un.org

 

[4] IMF World Economic outlook Database, October 2015 edition

 

[5] The Long Peace-Result of a Bipolar Competitive World by Alvin M. Saperstein in the Journal of Conflict Resolution issue 35 March 1991

 

[6] From War to Peace, A European Tale Nobel lecture by the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Durao Barroso December 10, 2012

 

Updated: July 29, 2016 — 12:27 am

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