Monday, March 19, 2007

Miss Europe beauty pageant

Tonight I went to a debate organised by Intelligence Squared at the British Museum with the title: 'Thank God for Brussels'.

The debate by the people speaking for the motion was the typical naval gazing, 'EU has kept the peace in Europe', 'We need the EU for prosperity' backward looking rhetoric. It was just like a beauty pageant for 'Miss Europe'.

The argument against was slightly more factual, with speakers actually using facts and figures to back up their argument. The one exception was Ruth Lea, who is something of an idol for me, who used her allotted time to talk about the future. Fancy that, eh? Someone who wants Britain to withdraw from the EU not because she's a 'little Englander' but because she wants Britain to be a proper player in the global market.

Anyway, Trixy managed to get the first question in, and she asked:

'We are the third largest trading nation, yet we do not have a seat at the WTO and , despite imports making countries rich, the EU still imposes trade barriers. How is this either beneficial to our economy or giving us power?'

(Pro speakers had been talking about the EU giving us power and being beneficial).

The person who first answered this was former EU Commissioner Peter Sutherland, who is now a big knob at BP and Goldmann Sachs. He was around at the beginning of GATT, which became the WTO, and therefore spent a lot of time shouting at me from the stage saying that if the EU hadn't existed, then there wouldn't be a forum for international trade talks. He failed spectacularly to answer the second point of my question which was how can EU trade policy, which is protectionist, be beneficial to this country or, indeed, any other?

Thankfully, Ruth Lea managed to raise these points and as she pointed out, the EU was instrumental in ensuring that the Doha round was not successful over farming subsidies. (which they cannot, simply cannot remove because the EU is dominated by countries who don't want to adapt to globalisation and compete on a global market.)She also pointed out that the shoe-wars and bra-wars, which I have written about before in exasperated tones, were true indications of why we should leave the EU.

Chris Huhne MP said that the EU was going well about the CAP because in the 1970s the CAP was 78% of the total EU budget and now it is only 44%. He failed to mention these figures in real terms, which for someone who was a city economist I thought was rather poor. Considering that the EU budget has risen, it may well be the case that total spending on the CAP has not fallen significantly.

An MEP asked John Redwood MP how the Conservative Party were going to carry on with their green policies and still maintain a line that the UK needs to regain powers back from Brussels. Mr Redwood said that his constituents were more concerned with local issues, like green belt and planning permission, which doesn't really coincide with what Dave is talking about.

I would argue that Cameron can go full speed ahead with his green agenda, because hell will freeze over (wait until that next global cooling spell) before he regains any competences back from the EU, and with his 'we must all work together on climate change' line, he will be giving yet more powers to the Commission and the ECJ.

Which brings me on to my final point, which wasn't discussed during the debate but I spoke about with Ruth Lea afterwards.

People who talk about stopping the human effects on global warming through, for example, cutting CO2 emissions are rather like people who are pro EU. They are arguing for continued poverty in the developing world.

Just as the EU is a protectionist trade bloc which has policies which actively keep farmers in the third world at subsistence level, which have international aid policies which prop up corrupt and vicious dictators and which rapes the natural resources of these countries instead of allowing them to develop their markets and compete.

How dare we in the developed world tell the developing world that they should cut their carbon emissions, when the secondary sector is required in development for people to be lifted out of poverty? We are actively telling countries such as India and China that they need to look for sources of 'clean energy' but miss out of that nuclear, by far the best way to have a secure energy policy and reduce CO2, but we don't want them to do that because we don't want them to develop nuclear weapons.

We are telling them not to have geographical mobility of labour and to inhibit their communications by not wanting them to travel around the country or use technology which requires energy to function.

How hypocritical is it, of these politicians to in one breath talk about wanting to combat poverty and in the same breath say they want these countries not to develop.

Not that I am accusing them of stupid policies and rhetoric and political opportunism.


james higham said...

You went to something called 'Thank God for Brussels', even if just to heckle intelligently?

Trixy said...

I did, yes. Know thine enemy..

marcuse said...

There's a grammatical error in the first sentence of your 7th paragraph. You should delete the words "at BP and Goldmann Sachs" to correct this.