Dr Nathaniel Copsey
Dr Copsey first pointed out the classic challenges for European integration the question of legitimacy, which implied that co-ordinating action would be found acceptable and gain democratic acceptance. He disputed the first question set out as one of the themes for the day Where do the UKs real interests lie? if the UK was part of Europe, the focus must be on European interests. The faults perceived in the European Union were largely generated by state governments rather than European institutions. There has been increasing unemployment, but, unlike other global economies, European capitalism included a strong element of social support.
He suggested that there were two Europes. These were not a
contrast between west/east, north/south nor in/out of the urozone. This picture of
two Europes drew a contrast between an elite who gained from European integration (perhaps
10-15% of the population) and the majority who currently gained nothing in particular from
integration. While the elite group adopted a wider perspective and tended to support
mutual support with problems, the majority were older, less travelled, and focused on
national issues. The latter could however be open to persuasion, not just through
propaganda but through reoriented policies. A clear illustration has been the Common
Agricultural Policy, where subsidies generally benefit only the top 10% of richer or
The challenges were difficult but there did not appear to be any serious alternative if what has already been built up in Europe was to be preserved. If Europe is to work politically, socially and economically, the bonds of solidarity between strangers need to be extended beyond the 10% elite, making the two Europes into one. Of practical benefit along this road would be a successful conclusion to the free trade discussions with the US, growth stimulation of the service industries - and not merely the knowledge based sector of the economy, and demonstrating to the other 85-90% of citizens that they too have benefited from the social and economic underpinnings created through EU policies.
In the discussion that followed these points were
An example of concern was that richer areas like Kent nevertheless showed
substantial support for UKIP. But it was pointed out that the Thanet and Margate areas
were notably poorer than other parts of Kent.
Sir Stephen Wall
The origin of the Common Market had been driven by French economic priorities. De Gaulle had made a hard-headed assessment in 1963 of the best interests of France, particularly focused on support for French farmers. The spectre was seen of failing conservative farm workers migrating to the cities and becoming communist car workers. Hence the French veto. When the UK finally joined in 1970 both Conservative and Labour politicians were split. Edward Heath undertook to join the EEC only with the full-hearted consent of the British people and Parliament, implying that between them there was a difference of view. Accession at this point in history was to a process not to a fixed institution. During the referendum campaign there were hints of Europe developing a political union, but no clear definition. The No campaign was clear that joining the EEC meant the end of the United Kingdom Europe would be a new country on the world stage. Subsequently Margaret Thatcher was in favour of harmonisation and health & safety regulations, but found the Working Time Directive more controversial. Two interesting points came from her Bruges speech that the central and eastern European countries were equally European and that there was a need to roll back the powers of the state.
|The UK's real interest - inside or outside
Sir Stephen Wall
continued from column 1
At the time of entry to the EEC the UK was a net contributor, but economically a poorer member state. The UK was not high in the league table of competitiveness. Figures showed GDP per hour worked to be $60 in the United States, $51 in the EU and $47 in the UK.
Worker migration had recently become an issue in politics. There was in fact a lower EU migrant population in the UK than in other EU states. One million migrant workers had come to the UK, and since then 500 thousand had returned to their home country. Statistics also showed that migrant workers had overall made a higher than average contribution to the UK economy, contributing some 37% more in taxes than they took in benefits. It was not only a matter of migrant workers coming to the UK. Some 700,000 UK citizens live and work in other EU states.
Stephen Wall concluded by saying that in the UK the business community was reluctant to voice its pro-European interests, and the government loath to acknowledge that our foreign policy interests were magnified through the EU. Too often EU structures were exploited by member states solely to their own advantage rather than in the interests of the EU as a whole. The EUs communal promotion of democratic values had over the years brought increased stability to the whole region, to the benefit of all member states. In contemporary Europe we were all ferociously nationalistic countries held in balance by the EU framework.
In the following discussion
The queston was asked why David Cameron was pictured as sitting at the feet of Margaret Thatcher ? and why had Conservatives in the European Parliament abandoned the conservative European Peoples Party?
Replying, Stephen Wall believed that David Cameron was actually finding the eurosceptic members of the Conservative party irrelevant, because it was too unrealistic to leave the EU.
The general point had been made that UK trade with the EU was too significant to drop, but why was it not conceivable that trade could not continue with the EU after leaving the union? Here the problem would be absence from the decision-making process.
A problem lay currently in public debate arguments were not being pursued to any depth. It was thought young people were open to well-argued persuasion.
Scotland had not yet been mentioned it was a wild card in the argument. Scotland, if independent, would strive to remain in the EU. David Cameron would not risk holding an in/out referendum while the Scottish independence referendum was pending.
If leaving the EU, what timescale was needed to unravel the existing framework? The Lisbon Treaty has a default timescale of two years. But treaty renegotiation was not realistic within a normal electoral timescale.
How could the complex arguments needed for a properly informed referendum campaign be financed? In 1975 there had been hidden government funds. It was difficult to anticipate how a 21st century referendum would be financed privately or from government grants. Access to broadcasting was a significant issue.
Stephen Quigley explained that this would be an essentially practical session.
The key question was how to bring sensible balance to public awareness. No serious effort
had been made to inform the common man. There appeared to be no European
demos. Throughout Europe policy adopted a top-down approach, yet there was
widespread lack of awareness about who were the European leaders. There were
no charismatic figures. There were no pan-European political parties. When MEP candidates
go to the polls next May it would be on a national party ticket.
The technique adopted in the pilot site had been to move from slogan
headline to presenting simplified, clear information. The pilot was technically modest. A
fully public site would cost single figure thousands, combining modern style,
screaming headers, cartoons, humour. If approved, the question would then be
whether to launch now to prepare the ground for the eventual referendum, or to wait until
the referendum date was decided.