Monday, 20 May 2013

So what if we left the EU?

This the second of my 'what if' blogs, where I examine topical events and ask a few what ifs?

I'll take an alternative view wherever possible to stimulate some debate and possibly actions to counter what might be perceived as injustices or just plain greed and stupidity!

Of course there are two sides to every story and there may well benefits to leaving the EU, however I do not believe that they would emerge in a short enough time frame to be of any practical benefit. In fact I believe that anti European sentiment is driven by anachronistic dogma and greed. The greed being on the part of the wealthy elite, who would stand to benefit from a reduction in legislative protection for workers and the environment (two of the pillars of sustainability).

On the other hand, the impacts of leaving the EU could be quite severe and impact with almost immediate effect. It's worth taking a little time to look at some of the potential impacts , as most UK citizens stand to be affected in some respect.

I have outlined some of the main arguments, in the hope that it should become evident that we would be much more vulnerable outside the EU.

Some politicians have said that if we leave we would not be paying into the EU pot, but that we would still have all the free trade agreements, which would allow us access to our biggest market. This might well be true, for a while at least |(until we are slowly written out of various agreements), however the Americans seemed to make it quite clear during Cameron's visit to the White House, that we would be foolish to leave and that it would direct impact investment into the UK.

It would also be true that in order to trade within the single market, we would still have to meet all the EU production standards (as do Norway and Switzerland) which would entail cost, but with no representation in the making of those standards. What's more, we would still pay tariffs, which would affect our competitiveness.

So what about jobs? It has been widely argued that EU regulations have been a brake on our SME's, which make up a large part of our economy and only a fraction of which, trade within the EU. There is an element of truth in this, but surely there is room for negotiation on such issues, the EU has already recognised this and is taking very similar measures to those that we have proposed.

So by coming out of Europe we could create nearly a million new jobs in the UK, however that is only one side to the story and the fact is that we are likely to lose millions of jobs, as large production sites move in to mainland Europe (Airbus/cars manufacturers, etc.). This would have a very detrimental impact as these are high end earners for the UK and many SME's depend upon them for their orders.

As well as these issues, we would have fewer rights in the EU than we do now, which would make it much harder to retire to other EU member states or buy property there.We would also lose much of power at the negotiating table by not being in Paris, Berlin  and Brussels, this could see us increasingly marginalised by the US, China and Russia for example. None of this would be good for either our trade or status which is an invisible benefit.

The cost of being in the EU, whilst it is a big number, doesn't look so big when put alongside the trade figures, as our exports are just over 50% into the EU, which is a much bigger figure!

Don't forget also, that many EU laws benefit the environment, social well being and human rights, we have come to rely on these and changing them would cause an imbalance and could lead to many UK citizens losing out, with fewer protections.

At the end of the day, the case for leaving the EU just seems to be a charter for large corporations and wealthy industrialist to prey on UK workers by pushing down wages, restricting recourse to the courts and generally lowering everyone's standard of living. It is somewhat ironic that some of these corporations are those that don't pay their share of UK tax, something the EU has been trying to sort out!

For me there would be no point in having a vote without all of this being discussed openly and with access to information on the expected impacts. In such circumstances, I would not expect the vote to be a foregone conclusion!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

What if?

I wanted to put some ideas out there about various aspects of our everyday lives, aspects that maybe we take for granted, but which could disintegrate before our eyes, or render us helpless to determine our own destiny. I hope to make this a mini series of questions about currently topical subjects to provoke thought around alternatives and what the World might look like, when you are stood looking back at the box!

The first 'what if' that occurred to me, has been the eerily quite aftermath of the Cypriot bail out! There are many ways that you could look at this, but in a basic form, didn't the Cypriot Government steal money from savers to leverage more borrowing from the EU banking stability fund (i.e. Germany, Austria, Sweden Finland etc.). When you look at it in this way, it all seems a bit imperialist rather than a cosy democracy!

Is Cyprus now any better off? Well not really it's limping along with several holes below the waterline, no one really wants to invest, expenditure will continue to creep back up again. either as benefits increase or attempted growth measures. In the meantime, tax revenues continue to stagnate or fall and eventually this beautiful island will find the economic buffers again! I would suggest that when this happens, a second round of account dipping will not be an option!

The 'what if' comes in two parts, they take the form of; what if it happened to us and what if we weren't prepared to sit idly by and accept it?

In the case of Cyprus the statements were all well prepared and rehearsed, because the governments and the bankers have the figures in front of them a long time before we do. We were told that the Cypriot economy was small and vulnerable to the global recession, that they had a burgeoning bureaucracy and that they had failed to move with the economic drumbeat, which is all pretty well true, as it is of many established democracies! We were also told lots of those horrible rich Russians were hiding their money in accounts there and that it would serve them right (but not as nasty as Mubarak and some other despotic leaders to whom, we pander for their wedge!). So in essence, they were pretty poor excuses for stealing money from the vast majority of honest, hard working and law abiding citizens!

As I said, Cyprus in not alone in this particular basket, Ireland is still there, more or less flat lining, as is Spain, Portugal and probably Italy too. We can't be sure about Belgium, because no one seems to have been in charge for some time and Slovenia has just asked if it can try the basket for size as well! In each case, all of these countries have sworn that they will not do the same as happened in Cyprus, but now that it has happened and a precedent has been set, hands up all those who believe them!
If you've got your hand up, you may be excused, you probably don 't need the money or you are already a politician!

And so, the second part of the question, are you prepared to step outside of the comfort zone? Rather than wait for things to get worse and for politicians to mess up and greedy banks to start snatching money that isn't theirs (as opposed to just inventing it against a future that can't pay), why not be a little pre-emptive?

There's never been a better time, with interest rates that low that saving is relatively pointless and banks piling on spurious charges to keep up their income! What if everyone started to pull their money out of all the large banks and place it in safes or small local building societies.

Banks have made it so convenient to spend money, one of the ways they get us to rack up debt in the name of growth, however in doing so we are totally losing control of OUR money! You know, the stuff that you work 40 hours for every week. What happens if they turn off the terminals and the ATM's, it might be your money, but you can't have it!!

Once you have regained control of your money, you will probably say to yourself, Hmmm, I a bit open to fraud, robbery and this is less convenient (which at this moment is true, but doesn't stop a lot of our population from still dealing in cash). You are somehow made to feel like a Luddite if you use real money, almost as if it is socially unacceptable, I wonder why?

Once enough of us have control of our money, there's a deal to be done! With the Internet at our disposal, why not set up as your own personal bank and/or form co-operatives with your friends? This is already happening with the likes of Paypal and EBAY, but it could be so much more, if were open, legally founded and operated for the benefit of you, as opposed to greedy fat cat CEO's and shareholders.

What of the banks? Well would you care, if you didn't need one?!! They only support their rich friends and dodgy politicians, so it might even help clean up our democracy, double bubble, and its mine all mine (although I might put some of it to a socially just use)!