Sunday, 8 September 2013

The value of being 'citizens of Europe'



If you're a UK citizen confused about the value of EU membership, due to the 'untruths' coming from UKIP and the national press, then just follow the evidence, says Jon Danzig



It's probably best not to be too entrenched about most subjects. That's a lesson you learn as you get older.  Nothing stays still, new truths are always being discovered, and we should always be prepared to change our minds on receipt of new evidence or superior arguments. On this basis, it's hoped that science will be self-correcting and that all scientists - without fear of losing face - will willingly amend their views when new proof is discovered. 

As in science, shouldn't it be the same in politics - especially when it comes to the future of the country and its citizens?


Referendum


In the first, and so far only referendum, on whether the UK should be part of the European project that was then quaintly called, ‘The Common Market’, I voted 'No'.  Back then, I didn't think the UK should continue with its membership.    I was very young, probably stupid, and in any event, I was outnumbered two to one. 

Since then, whilst generally proud to be British, the concept and benefits of also being a ‘Citizen of Europe’ have grown on me.  I appreciate the idea that I can reside, work, study or retire in any other European Union country.  And I enjoy living in a cosmopolitan, global, modern Britain, where other Citizens of Europe can also come here and become useful members of our society, as well as friends and allies.

I can also see the advantages of being part of a Single Market, where there is a level playing field for businesses to transact, without the burden and bureaucracy of customs duties, and multiple standards in manufacturing and services that would make trade so much more complicated and expensive. 

I also feel safer being part of the European Union, not only because it’s the planet’s biggest, richest trading community, but because it can transact laws to protect us in ways that a single country acting on its own would find impossible. For example, safety of medicines, protection of the environment, behaviour of multinational companies, dangers of international crime and trafficking, quality of imported products; these are all matters that transcend borders, and require a cohesive, international response of countries working in harmony.  

The European Union provides such an established structure for regular collaboration, without having to debate each time where, how and when such international discourses could take place, as used to be the case in the distant past of diplomacy, when there were far less efficient and satisfactory outcomes compared to that of our European Parliament.

Personal protections


I also deeply value the personal protections afforded by our membership of the European Union.  European directives, such as the Data Protection Act, came about after the appalling abuses of privacy and personal freedoms during the Nazi and Communist regimes in Europe.  These were more profoundly felt by those who were most grievously affected on the mainland of the continent, and sometimes not always so fully understood here in the UK.  But as a second generation Holocaust survivor, I am acutely cognisant of the dark dangers of breaches to personal data and privacy, and again, believe that only Europe-wide laws can be effective for such issues, rather than those attempted at a national level.

Furthermore, I think we've become generally richer during our membership of the European Union, despite the huge economic hurdles now facing us, which I believe, naively or otherwise, will be temporary.  Back in the 1970s, at the time of our entry to the ‘European’ club and that first referendum, Britain was considerably poorer than now.   Regardless of our current ‘mountain of debt’, can anyone name a time in history when, generally, the population has been richer, healthier, more educated or lived longer than now?   The country has seen a huge transformation in its standard of living during our membership of the European Union. 

Most importantly of all, above all economic considerations, no countries during their membership of the European Union have warred with one another; we've found peace. That’s quite an achievement, I believe, when one considers that the planet’s only, and hopefully last, two world wars originated right here, in Europe.

Without being able to enter a parallel universe to see what would have happened, all those years ago, if my ‘No’ vote had prevailed, we cannot be one hundred per cent sure whether the UK would have fared better or worse without membership of the EU.  But I suggest it may be a dangerous experiment to play with the future prospects of our nation by leaving the Union now.  It would be a one way trip, with no easy opportunity to vote ourselves back in again, if ever.

Open mind?


So, with such heartfelt thoughts, based I hope on seriously considered evidence and arguments, is my mind open to change?  Yes it is, of course.  Presented with better evidence and superior arguments, I could be persuaded to vote 'No' in a possible future referendum, just as I did before.  And anyway, I enjoy a good debate, where the arguments are seriously and intelligently considered, with respect, and without personal attacks.

Unfortunately, for anyone who’s read my blogs on this subject, so far that hasn't happened. For posting on theTelegraph about the EU benefits of the free movement of people, I was called ‘a moron’, an ‘utter idiot’ and told to ‘get medical help’.   So much for edifying debate.  

I’m also concerned that most UK national newspapers, with a combined readership of 20 millions, appear to be fundamentally against the EU, with almost daily inaccurate reports about the function of the EU, and some actually promoting xenophobia in their attempts to forward anti-EU sentiments.  The lack of effective discerning challenge against ‘facts’ being presented by the anti-EU UKIP party is also a source of concern.  They say that 75% of our laws now originate from the EU; that the EU is run by people we cannot vote for; that hospital A&E department are overrun because of a rising immigrant population.  All wrong, baseless, and without evidence.

So, if we’re to have a debate about the UK’s future in Europe, let’s make it clean, honest, respectful and evidence based.  Yes, my mind is genuinely open, and I’m listening, carefully, to both sides of the argument. 

And you?
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Other articles by Jon Danzig:


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Responses:

Thank you for all your comments below and as I wrote in my article, I am listening carefully to both sides of the argument - and I enjoy a good debate.  I will try to respond to some of the comments.  More comments are welcome, please add them in the box at the bottom of the page. -  Jon Danzig

M. Butcher - France:
Not a single mention of the loss of democracy for all citizens of countries within the EU, nor the loss of sovereignty of each individual country. Note how the Soviet Union disintegrated as the people of the satellite countries for their freedom from being governed by unelected individuals from a centralised power base.
The emasculation of governments, as more power is torn away from national governments and all they become are talking shops with totally emasculated powers. You can have the serfdom of the EU; I, as an individual, want my freedom and the democratic right to elect a national government run by my elected peers capable of governing a sovereign country without outside interference.
As we are traded away by our politicians to be shackled into serfdom, no matter how much velvet the manacles are lined with. I want emancipation and freedom to live in a free and democratically led country beholden only to its citizens.
Reply to M Butcher by Jon Danzig:
The European Parliament is democratically elected and decides nearly all EU laws, and has the democratic power to dismiss the entire European Commission. It's of one the world's largest democratic assemblies, made up of 754 elected members, representing more than 500 million citizens.
Each commissioner, including the president, has to be approved by the European Parliament and some have indeed been rejected. The EP also has the final say on the commission's budget.
Also, commissioners are not comparable to UK government ministers. Commissioners have far less executive power and have to reach agreement from both a large majority of national ministers and a majority of MEPs.
I wish that our UK media would write more about the democratic workings of the EU, so more of us would understand the important work that elected representatives are doing in the European Parliament for our benefit (with the apparent exception of UKIP, unfortunately, whose 11 MEPs are reported to have the lowest participation record). 
Anne - Denmark:
I am afraid most UKIPers suffer from a "superiority complex", thinking that the UK would be entirely unaffected by the rest of the world and completely free to make decisions if it left the EU.
As if there was no interdependence at all between the nations and economies of the world. Blaming the EU for loss of freedom is ridiculous, coming from a country which denies its population basic fundamental rights and runs an antiquated feudal system of a house of lords.
Of course, the other EU countries would not punish the UK but why should it get any other special treatment than that afforded to Switzerland and the other EFTA countries?
Herman van Rumpy Pumpy - Member state under the Fourth Reich of the EUSSR:
I have never been and never will consider myself a "citizen of Europe" and the long-running attempts to foist that identity on the people of the UK have met with nothing but distrust and dismissal; and for good reasons. We want our country back.
Reply to Herman van Rumpy Pumpy by Jon Danzig:
We still have our sovereignty. Only 8-10 per cent of British laws originate from the European Union, and not 75 per cent as UKIP falsely claims.
There are advantages for us and the other EU nations to work together on specific international issues in an increasingly globalised world. For example, the United States wants to negotiate trade with the entire European Union, and not with the UK alone. 
Mark Thompson - Kings Lynn, England:
You are so out of touch with the average Joe, you are unbelievable. My income has virtually halved (I am a tradesman) since 2004.
Reply to Mark Thompson by Jon Danzig:
I can completely empathise.
You may think I am 'out of touch' but I ran a business for many years and had to close it down when I became ill. So I do understand the pressures especially small businesses are under.
And it's vital businesses like yours are given every facility and opportunity to truly thrive if this country is ever going to flatten its huge burden of debt. But the question to ask is this: how do you really know if you would have been better or worse off if the UK was not a member of the EU?
Larger businesses claim that if we were out of the EU, the UK would lose £92bn a year. A consortium of some of the country's leading business people concluded: "The benefits of membership overwhelmingly outweigh the costs, and to suggest otherwise is putting politics before economics."
Dean Carroll, editor of the journal, Public Service Europe, called for a, "thorough and independent cost-benefits analysis on European Union membership". I support that; it's vital that we have more reliable data about the benefits or otherwise of our membership of the EU.
There's an old adage, 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it'. I believe that the benefits of our membership of the EU far, far outweigh any costs. But as I wrote in my article above, I will follow the evidence; it's evidence that has to be the key to all our debates and consequent decisions.
I know that from your point of view, and that of many others, you have a deep feeling that it's the EU that has caused a downturn in the country's fortunes, and that of small businesses. All I would ask you to do is have an open mind and absorb all the information carefully.
With the UK out of the EU, your business might actually be much worse off. The international economic crisis will improve in time, and maybe your point of view will also change when, and if, business picks up. 
Matthew Goodsell - Charlton:
The fact is we are citizens of Europe and we need to work with it or else become an irrelevence. This is what these UKIP-voting cretins don't understand. We need to work together rather than cut ourselves off. In effect, they are betraying the people on this island to a moronic ideal.
Alan - Brentwood:
The EU is a pooling of sovereignty, just like NATO or the Commonwealth. It is democratic but different to Westminster, which does not make it a bad thing.
I value modernism, wealth creation and efficiency over freedom to be an insignificant country constantly looking backwards. The tabloids have brainwashed too many people for 20 years about the EU so much they cant think straight; they are consumed by garbage and stories of EU sausages, and UKIP lies.
David Prentice:
Former BBC hack talks up EU shock. They just don't know when to stop, do they.
Ray Veysey - France:
If you are an investigative journalist, then investigate why the EU cannot balance it's books. Investigate the billions being defrauded every year from the EU, investigate why Britains without any interference from our own courts can be carted off to be jailed for many years without trial in a foreign country on the whim of a magistrate.
Reply to Ray Veysey by Jon Danzig:
I believe you are referring to the European Arrest Warrant, which is strongly supported by the UK police. The EU issued this statement: "The European arrest warrant – in effect since 2004 – provides an efficient tool for extraditing people suspected of an offence from one EU country to another, so that criminals have no hiding place in Europe.
"For example, dozens of suspected drug smugglers, murderers and child sex crime offenders have been brought back to the UK from Spain thanks to the system.
Yes, there have been concerns about authorities in some countries issuing European Arrest Warrants for non-serious offences. However, there are safeguards which allow the UK courts to refuse to return people in such cases. 
Travis Zly - Larnaca, Cyprus:
Jon, I am a Brit living in Cyprus. Right now our central bank has no board of directors, all resigned in protest at the unabashed looting of deposits by EU finance ministers. There is grand theft going on in the eurozone by governments. Merkel and Sarkozi said Greek bonds must take an 80 per cent haircut.
So Greece got to steal €105bn from banks and markets. The leaders of Europe are on a grand crusade to steal private wealth to pay down years of overspending to win elections.
Germany owes banks and markets €2.2tn (85 per cent of GDP), hence the sudden rush to stop tax evasion. Please wise up. Europe is in chaos.
Its unelected leaders are out of touch with reality (Catherine Ashton on €288,000 salary is trying to set up 152 EU embassies around the world.)
If you think Britain will gain an advantage by staying in this madhouse called Europe, then you need to come and live in a country such as Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus or Slovenia.
You will see that things have spun out of control. Cameron has lost control in the UK. Barroso et al have lost control of Europe. Very scary sitting in Cyprus in the middle of the storm. Like a plane going down.
Julian Davies - Portsmouth UK:
Jon, your old employer has a great programme on Radio 4 called All in the Mind. Two weeks ago they did a really interesting piece about how members of a cult reacted when the end of the world did not occur as their leader had predicted. They had this mass denial thing going on. They created ridiculous scenarios to explain why the world hadn't ended. They came up with new calculations about when the world would end. They just couldn't accept the reality. I thought of Vince Cable and Ken Clarke et al. 
The European project is clearly, obviously an utter and total debacle. Half the countries in the eurozone are bankrupt. That is the reality of monetary union.We are sucking in millions of people we don't need, but are obliged to offer health, education, housing and other services. That is what free movement of labour means to Britain. We can't deport criminals. We have the oldest and most robust democracy in the world, and we are one of the least corrupt countries in the world, but the wishes of the British are constantly overruled by unelected judges and unelected bureaucrats. Face it, it is a shambles.
Reply to Julian Davies by Jon Danzig:
The free movement of people benefits UK people as much as other EU citizens. IPPR statistics estimate two million Britons living, working, studying or retired across all other EU countries. It's also estimated that more British people live in Spain than Polish people live in the UK.
It's a myth that EU laws means that EU migrants are automatically entitled to claim benefits in the UK or another member state. However, there are many British people also claiming benefits and freely using the state health and other services of countries in the EU. It genuinely does work both ways.
Also, a major study revealed that immigrants to the UK from Eastern and Central Europe are considerably less likely than British natives to receive state benefits or tax credits or to live in social housing. The vast majority of them are gainfully employed, contributing to taxes and local economies.
It's also not true that we cannot deport criminals. The Human Rights Act prevents only a tiny minority of prisoners from being deported, in rare and genuine cases as decided by British courts. For example, in 2010, 5,235 foreign criminals were deported from the UK but only 108 won appeals in our courts to stay here because of the Human Rights Act.
Also, the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the Human Rights Act is an extension, is nothing to do with the European Union. We signed up to the convention after the abject horrors of World War Two, decades before we joined the common market. It's been a binding international agreement since 1953, and which the UK would have to adhere to whether or not we were in the EU.
The Human Rights Act gives protection to all humans, including you and me. If human rights are taken away from one human, they are taken away from all. It's a universal right.
Isn't it best to base opinions on true facts? I am not surprised that you and many others have come to the conclusions you have.The majority of our national newspapers, with a combined readership of 20 million, appear to be against our membership of the EU. They seem to purposely and almost daily publish anti-EU stories, many of them mischievously misleading and, often, completely untrue. The question is: are you prepared to change your mind and conclusions on receipt of more accurate information than some newspapers are supplying? 
Peter Andrew - UK:
What is this fixation with the EU being undemocratic? Bureaucrats in the UK are unelected, too.
British civil servants report to ministers appointed by the prime minister - EU civil servants report to commissioners, who are appointed by the elected heads of government of member states.
The European Council/Council of Ministers is the main decision-making body. And it comprises ministers of member states. Ministers are mostly elected, although the UK allows members of the House of Lords to hold office.
The EU Parliament is directly elected. True, its powers are limited but that's because Europhobes fight any move to give it a greater say. It's a bit rich to accuse a body of being undemocratic when you're the one curbing its democratic abilities.
Of course, every nation gives up a measure of sovereignty whenever it signs a treaty. And joining a larger body inevitably means agreeing to abide by its rules. That happens when an individual joins a golf club, or a group of women in a village opt to affiliate with the W.I.
They choose to do so because they believe that the benefits outweigh the loss of autonomy. What results is not serfdom, anymore than it is for Britons within the EU.
Rod Harper - Paris, France:
It makes a change to be able to read an article putting forwards the benefits to the UK of belonging to a major EU trading bloc within the globalised world economy. Major open trading nations such as the UK and Germany in particular benefit from access to the so-called single market of the EU and, of course, have to follow the agreed market "rules" in order to participate.
Such rules would also have to be followed by the UK as a member of EFTA to gain access to this market. Germany itself does not seem to have a problem in belonging to the EU and also performing as one of the world's major exporters in other markets. It takes benefit in this from being a member of the eurozone and able to more competitively price its products and services in world markets instead of in Deutsche marks.
All current members of the EU consider themselves separate sovereign states but it's here with the eurozone where the problem lies for the UK. With the recent financial problems within the eurozone impacting the weaker members, there appears to be a need for a central banking union and further fiscal consolidation to provide a more federal system of financial support for the future.
The current lack of democratic accountability within the European institutions together with the financial dominance of Germany, is evident from the way the governments of smaller sovereign states such as Cyprus have been treated in order to gain financial support.
Not being a member of the eurozone and unable to accept further dilution of its sovereignty within a more federal EU, the UK would have no choice but to renegotiate the terms of its membership, hopefully with the support of Germany.
Mike - Twickenham:
My conclusion from reading David Charter's book "Au Revoir Europe" is that the economic advantage of staying is real but grossly exaggerated by the pro-EU camp. The EU is a visionary political project but the pro camp has failed to sell that vision and has given up selling that vision.
They now focus on a series of specific issues such as tariff barriers against Honda cars etc. They make the case for cooperation between nation states over those issues and for the need for international treaties. They no longer make the case for the EU project with its unique features..
Their answer to the obvious question: "Why not a series of EU-UK treaties similar to to the Swiss model?" seems to be "because the French etc are too bloody minded.to agree to that".
No name supplied:
Who wrote this rubbish?
Reply to 'No name supplied' by Jon Danzig:
It was me, I did it; I let the dogs out. I am Jon Danzig and I have a point of view in favour of the European Union but it's open to change on receipt of new evidence and superior arguments. My mind is not fixed.
I note that I am one of the only few prepared to post under my real name, although others have been happy to attribute alternative names for me ('idiot' has been one of them).
Why not have the courage of your conviction, post openly and not anonymously, and join the debate? I promise to listen carefully and politely to your points of view, if you will do the same for mine. Who knows, our minds may change.
Laundryend - Shropshire:
Excellent article, please can you get it printed in papers like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. Their deliberate stream of negative articles and misinformation would be laughable, if it was not so seriously damaging to our future prosperity. Keep up the good work, there are lots of people who agree with you, probably more than you think.
Peter Levine - Vienna, Austria:
I don't know your age, Jon. But if you are older you will remember that Britain didn't join the EU, its electorate voted to remain members of what you refer to as the 'quaintly called common market'. Britain's membership of the 'European project' had been objected to and prevented twice previously by France whose officials cited Anglo Saxon dominance as their fear and reason for blocking Britain's membership.
So it was always going to be a hard sell when the going got tough to those who remember they were not welcome or trusted in the first place. Britain's history, culture and heritage is based upon trade; the benefits of access to a common market with the exhaustive process of customs and tariffs removed was a concept understood and recognised by people at that time.
However, the nascent federal superstate that the EU is becoming was not what the British electorate voted to join; ironically the common market has never succeeded as the price of goods and services differs vastly from one part of the single market to the other.
The evidence of the ease with which global corporations can dance around EU bureaucracy, tax avoidance for example, demonstrates its inefficiency at policing financial activity within its borders. As consumers EU citizens do not pay uniform prices for the same goods and services. I am British and live in Austria, I say that based on my own experience not someone's misinformation.
All of those, and many many more, are peripheral issues. There is a growing body of support for a referendum on continued membership of the EU in the UK. The EU has a poor record on listening to the democratically expressed opinions of the voters of member states; ask the Irish or Dutch. This compromises the democratic legitimacy of the EU. The issue is quite simple, many people in the UK believe that continued membership of the EU is predicated upon by a deception; in 1975 they were asked should Britain remain a member of the Common Market.
It is open to speculation but had there been a clearer picture presented of exactly what the Common Market would metamorphose into, the outcome of that referendum would have been most likely very different. You talk about the experience and wisdom that comes with age; consider a marriage. It used to be taken as a given that marriage was a lifelong commitment for better or worse; people now accept that over time characters and individuals change, they see their futures lying in different directions and sometimes a clean break is best for both parties.
The European project was a response to cataclysmic and disastrous wars that had brought the continent to its knees. The world has changed, the EU has changed, the British people evidently feel they have not been consulted about their own destiny and the direction their political representatives have taken them in.
Consequently, as is their legitimate right, they want the opportunity to express their opinion. Until that happens, however they may vote, the UK's continued membership of the EU is under the sufferance of its population and has the increasing whiff of enforcement about it. You present some disingenuous arguments too about comparative wealth, it is not just countries in the EU that have enjoyed relative prosperity in the postwar period. Harold McMillan famously said in the 1950s that most Britons had never had it so good, nothing to do with the EU, the trend towards greater prosperity was established by then and the energy crisis of the 1970s was the catalyst of major financial restructuring in the world's economy, Britain's membership of the, by now, EEC, was a factor rather than the engine of its recovery.
Standards of living increased across the developed world, not just in the EU. Countries within Europe such as Norway or Switzerland who are not members of the EU have also seen their relative prosperity increase; Britain has been a major trading nation for centuries and to suggest that membership or otherwise of the EU is the defining factor in this demonstrates a poor grasp of both history and economics.
The principle of democracy is that everyone has a say; at the moment the British people are not being allowed to speak which is generating negative sentiment toward the EU and plays into the hands of its detractors. Whatever the people decide, let them speak; the EU will have dissolved long before it has the chance to develop if it is seen as an emerging tyranny.
And please remember the EU is not Europe, it is a political arrangement; Europe is a continent that Britain cannot leave, Britain will always be part of Europe. Personally, I believe that Europe needs a closer union based upon trade and common interests but with a completely different character to the bureaucratic superstructure that is emerging. The leadership vacuum in the EU is its biggest handicap; unstatesmanlike and indifferent EU Apparatchiks lacking imagination and an enlightened vision will undo the whole thing and fulfil the prophecies of the EU's detractors.
Europe has a history of thousands of years, that will continue with or without the EU. The EU was originally created to neutralise by integration the ability of Europe's main continental powers, notably France and Germany, to mobilise their industrial capacity for a further war effort. The EU's future is dependent upon the ability of its leaders to explain clearly and positively its continued purpose, benefits, and opportunities to all the 500 million plus people who live its its member states. If they can't do that it will fail, not just for the Brits but for all those whom it purports to represent the interests of.
Reply to Peter Levine by Jon Danzig:
Dear Peter Levine, you make some interesting comments, thank you. I note that you have taken advantage of the 'free movement of people' by living in Austria.
You made many points and this comments page doesn't seem the best place for long commentary, so I will just pick up on one. Silence, though, doesn't mean I accept all the other points you made.
You wrote: "It is open to speculation but had there been a clearer picture presented of exactly what the Common Market would metamorphose into, the outcome of that referendum [in 1975] would have been most likely very different."
The 1957 'Treaty of Rome' was the founding document of the European Economic Community, later to be called the European Union. This treaty set out a wide political vision for EEC members for 'an ever closer union' to 'eliminate the barriers which divide Europe'.
This should have been clear to the voters in the 1975 referendum, of which I was one. I have been reviewing some of the campaign literature from that 1975 referendum, especially that of the vociferous 'vote no' side. The 'vote no' campaigners were clear about what they considered were the implications of our continued membership of the European Community. These were some of the bold points made in their literature:
  • To end a thousand years of British freedom and independent nationhood is an unheard of constitutional change.
  •  Do you want us to be a self-governing nation, or to be a province of Europe?
  • Do we want self-government as a great independent nation, or do we want to be governed as a province of the EEC by Commissioners and a Council of Ministers, predominantly foreign, in Brussels?
  • Do we want to lose the whole of our individual influence as a nation, which is still great, in order to enhance the status of Europe, which would then function largely outside our control?
Although I now think the claims made by the 'no' vote (which I supported) were overblown, they were widely distributed to all voters. It seems the British people at the time were well aware of the meaning and possible implications of joining the European Economic Community, and yet voted two-to-one in favour of retaining our membership.
I don't think you can now claim that at the time of the 1975 referendum British people were not alerted to the possible issues at stake. In fact, what's amazed me most, peering back at the campaign literature of 1975, is that the same material could be published today – nothing much has changed.
But since these exact same issues have already been debated, voted upon and settled, I am not convinced that we need a second referendum within my lifetime to debate and vote upon them all over again.
There will be four years of uncertainty while we wait for a possible second referendum. This could cause great harm, and a rift across the nation involving intense arguing, some of it extremely heated, nasty and emotional. Rather than unite the nation, the recent announcement of a possible in/out referendum in four years time (depending who's in power), might instead divide the nation for decades to come, whether we're part of the EU or not.
It was, I feel, a mistake to make a promise of a referendum so far in advance. I can already see that people are going to get exhausted with the debating, friends will be lost, and four years of raging arguments on this issue before it can be settled (if there is to be a referendum) seems to be a totally unnecessary distraction. We should instead be concentrating our energies now on building the wealth of the nation through more and more trade with our allies in Europe and beyond.
Peter Levine - Vienna, Austria:
Jon, appreciate your reply. Just a couple of things, I'm in my working day so must be brief. Though I'm in Vienna, its status as a member of the EU is incidental.
I have lived and worked in the US, Canada, Turkey, Greece (before its EU membership) and expect to do so again in the future outside of the EU.
While it's definitely easier for a UK citizen in an EU country, I know many Kiwis, Aussies and South Africans who are thoroughly underwhelmed by the hoops they have to leap through to obtain visiting rights for the EU version UK despite a shared heritage and common mother tongue.
I think the crux of the issue is your statement: "But since these exact same issues have already been debated, voted upon and settled, I am not convinced that we need a second referendum within my lifetime to debate and vote upon them all over again." Should a referendum in the UK occur in 2017, no-one under the age of 60 will have ever had the opportunity to answer the question; you have the luxury of saying you've already cast your vote: been there, done that.
I was not old enough to vote at the time but aware of the arguments; I think recent events in the UK have shown us that a lot of people in the UK are less than impressed by the decision making abilities of many influential people in that decade.
If you voted in an election and were told that the outcome was set in stone, irrevocable, no chance to vote again ever, what would you think about that processes' legitimacy?
Surely the democratic process needs the safety of review or those who benefit from a decision made at one point in history become ever more complacent in the knowledge that their position is above question or challenge.
History shows us that elected officials who take no notice of the people are on a slippery slope. If the British people want a say in their own affairs and they are denied that by leaders who are looking increasingly out of touch, what is the likely prognosis?
EU credibility is lost, the democratic principle exposed as a travesty, the acceleration of detachment in people from the political process - which is already in crisis.
As I said previously, the outcome is not the issue, life will go on. What is the issue, however, is that the political class seem to be condescending to the electorate whom they purport to represent and that gives lie to the democratic argument which is exposed as unfit for purpose; that is a dangerous precedent to set.
Reply to Peter Levine by Jon Danzig:
Dear Peter, thank you for your reply. You asked whether the younger people of today should have a chance to vote for our continued membership of the EU. I am pro democracy, so if there is a referendum, so be it, let's have an open debate and a vote. But are young people really interested in this issue?
It seems that most members of UKIP, and most people calling for a referendum, are the older generation. Do they simply want a second chance at the 1975 referendum, still sore that they lost that vote two-to-one? Absolutely none of the issues seem to have changed since then.
One of my latest blogs was about democracy and called, 'Can't vote or don't vote?' The UK turnout at the last European Parliamentary elections was only 34 per cent. It seems that many young people simply don't engage on this issue, and possibly find it boring. Before we have a referendum, we need to encourage more people, especially young people, to become involved in the democratic process and actually vote.
I also wonder if there's enough steam in this issue to sustain four years of intense debating before we get a possible referendum. It could be that, by the time of the general election in two years' time, the issues most to the fore don't include the EU at all.
Best wishes, Jon.
Jorian:
Jon Danzig wrote:  "We also feel safer being part of the EU - not only because it is the planet's biggest, richest trading community but because it can transact laws to protect us in ways that a single country acting on its own would find impossible. For example - safety of medicines, protection of the environment, behaviour of multinational companies, dangers of international crime and trafficking and quality of imported products. These are all matters that transcend borders and require a cohesive, international response of countries working in harmony."
I agree with this, and would also point out the need for the EU to finally be able to get over the hatred among nationalities and historical border disputes that amassed in the constant history of European conflicts. Any nation that would quit the EU would just become alienated from its own neighbours and the UK could still need some time and EU cooperation to get over issues with the French and German people, among others.
Susan McCann - Southampton:
What about Spain and its refusal to treat UK citizens holding EHIC? I have been refused treatment this year in Spain while on holiday. One law for Spain one for the UK?
Reply to Susan McCann by Jon Danzig:
Susan McCann - could you please provide more details of the alleged refusal by Spain to treat you under EHIC? The allegation is strongly refuted by Spain, and of course, there should not be one law for Spain and one law for UK.
The Spanish Embassy in London gave me this statement from their government's Ministry of Health:
"Every hospital and national medical centre does systematically take care of patients who carry the European Health Insurance Card. The Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality has not knowledge of any patient who has been denied care if they provided the European Health Insurance Card.
"This would be an irregularity. In the event of visitors with double assurance (European Health Insurance Card and private health insurance), it is the holder of the policy the one who decides which one to use. At hospitals and national medical centers, this is explained by the staff in the patients own language in order for the latter to understand and sign the appropriate document. Spain receives every year hundreds of thousands of tourists from European countries.
"Neither the Ministry nor the Autonomous Communities have received any complain form any other country from the EU with regards to the European Health Card. In view of the above, our recommendation to travelers visiting Spain, or any other country within the EU, is to make sure that they have a current European Health Insurance Card, or to verify that any private medical insurance that they have contracted out covers them for all medical costs and for complete medical eventualities."
Philip - London:
Jon Danzig wrote: "All wrong, baseless and without evidence." 
So, where is yours?
Reply to Philip by Jon Danzig: 
Philip in London - If you tell me which specific statement I have made then I can provide a source. For example:
  • Estimates of Britons living in other EU countries (2,201,800) – research by the Institute of Public Policy Research.
  • How much legislation comes from EU (8-10 per cent) - research by the House of Commons Library
  • Immigrants from other EU countries are mostly young, fit and less likely to be ill – research by the Nuffield Trust.
  • Up to 40 per cent of the increased use of Accident and Emergency Departments come from the over-85s – research by the Nuffield Trust.
  • The European Parliament has the right to accept, amend, or reject the vast majority of EU laws – Research by The Congressional Research Service for the United States Congress.
No name given:
I am not from Britain but an American citizen. That being said I have always felt some connection to England for one reason or another. To me Britain should stay as its own country, maintaining its sovereignty.
I can give many reasons for keeping the country sovereign - one of which is you get to choose who you want in your country. The EU has a loose way of granting citizenship and being part of the EU means that the UK has to let the citizens into the country.
I think that alone is a good enough reason to remain sovereign. I will not pretend to know EU laws but feel this is a valid point. I also applaud the UK for not adopting the euro as the main currency. I strongly believe every country should have the ability to print its own money.
Antonio - Zagreb, Croatia:
After reading the whole article and all of the comments, I have to say that some of you have no clue about the EU and its laws. The EU is a political agreement and not a single country.
I feel that Brits in general are media-manipulated and they believe everything that's on the TV. The human trust is based on seeing and hearing - and that's exactly what the media are paid to do, to make you believe the story that is the government's interest.
Your biggest problem is pride. Why do you think that you are more special than others? Why can't you all stop all this nonsense and start worrying about your life in particular? How do you like the benefits of freedom of movement that come along with the EU?
How do you like going to Spain, getting drunk, braking glasses and bottles, having sex with local woman/men and not giving a shit about nothing? If you like to do so, then you have to be prepared to welcome Spaniards in the UK who will drink and make noise etc.
But no, they can't do that in the UK. You'll say go to Spain and leave us alone. As I said before, you think you are the best, the smartest, but in fact you are really way behind the likes of Scandinavians and Germans and they are not the arrogant people you are.
I have a lot to say but its not the right place and the right time. Note that Spain was taken as an example. And respect to you Jon for a more realistic and self-created opinion that unfortunately most of your nation has trouble having and accepting.
           ______________________________________________________________

My article, 'Brits should recognise the value in being citizens of Europe', was first published by Public Service Europe.  Sadly and suddenly this online publication went into administration. I have re-published my article here on my blog. Please keep the debate going by adding more comments below.  

13 comments:

  1. Yes to Independence for Scotland.8 September 2013 14:13

    I hope the European Union continues to grow,it is good to be in the EU. The union I want to leave is the United Kingdom so that Scotland can flourish as an economically stronger country with a fairer society.

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  2. In truth, it's hard for me to take anyone seriously who claims that the British people knew what they were voting for in 1975. Virtually every single respectable Europhile from Hugo Young to Roy Hattersley has admitted the British people were not told the truth in 1975 and to an extend still aren't about what membership of the EU actually entails.
    Similarly the fact that the Eurosceptic point of view is represented by the sections of the media (how dreadful) such as the Sun, the Daily Mail or the Telegraph is offset by the fact that the Europhile point of view can be found in the Mirror, the Guardian, the Independent, the Financial Times and most importantly of all the BBC -- or Brussels Broadcasting Corporation as the Eurosceptics call it.
    I absolutely agree that UKIP talks a lot of nonsense about the EU, but so has Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories -- not the least of which is all three parties' habitually lying about how much sovereignty we are losing and have lost to the EU and that a federal Europe is in fact the end destination (why don't Europhiles have the guts to come out and tell the electorate that?)
    You claim to want a debate, but you trot all the same old talking points -- many of which are abject nonsense -- something you accuse your opponents of doing.
    Frankly, a continent whose economies are in relative decline and whose native populations are in absolute decline doesn't have much of a future. I don't want "ever closer union" with the Europeans and, according to every respectable opinion poll, nor do the majority of us.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, although I note that you have decided to do so ‘anonymously’ rather than in your own name, and you haven’t offered any arguments or evidence of substance to counter mine except to accuse me of talking ‘abject nonsense’ and others of ‘habitually lying’. Such ‘ad hominem’ type remarks hardly elevate or edify the debate.

      Regarding the 1975 referendum, I already wrote in the comments section of my article above that at the time, the 'Vote No' campaign ‘warned’ all the electorate that continued membership would ‘end a thousand years of British freedom’, would make Britain ‘a province of Europe’ and would lose our ‘influence as a nation.’ Despite such prominently distributed arguments by the ‘No’ campaign, which I supported, the British public voted ‘Yes’ two-to-one in favour of continued membership.

      You argued that the Eurosceptic newspapers are ‘offset’ by the ‘Europhile’ newspapers, yet my article argued that most national newspapers, with a combined readership of 20 million, appeared to be against the EU. The newspapers you claim are pro-EU only have a combined readership of less than 9 million.

      Regarding your general claim that the BBC is biased by being pro-European Union, the Cardiff School of Journalism last month published a major content analysis of the BBC’s coverage of the EU between 2007 and 2012. Their conclusion was that the BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world. See: http://goo.gl/tmCztt However, if you have other empirically researched evidence regarding the BBC’s overage of the EU I will be happy to review it.

      You commented that Europe’s economy is in relative decline, but despite the world-wide economic crisis, the EU is still the world’s largest, richest economy (measured by GDP). All the western economies are under threat from the rapidly emerging economies of China and India, but I fail to see how our economic situation would be improved on our own. Through the EU we benefit from huge economies of scale, and also a negotiating position with the rest of the world that packs a punch considerably greater than the small, isolated country I believe we’d become outside of EU membership.

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  3. Anonymous wrote......


    "In truth, it's hard for me to take anyone seriously who claims that the British people knew what they were voting for in 1975. Virtually every single respectable Europhile from Hugo Young to Roy Hattersley has admitted the British people were not told the truth in 1975 and to an extend still aren't about what membership of the EU actually entails."

    End quote.


    I attended as a Union member, weekend seminars and various assemblies in places all over the north west during the run up to the first referendum, listening to wise and educating council from MP's and economists, and others in support of our joining into the 'common market' and at all times it was made expressly clear that in joining we would be entering a progressive and cumulative march to full integration into a trading and political union that would ultimately become a federal union along the lines of both the USA, and at the time the USSR. But with no parallel to either in the way those operated.

    That the newspapers and general media abjectly failed to bring the issue to the general public, in terms they could grasp, the understanding of what the future held, is absolutely down to the owners of the media in all it's form, and manipulators of the common herd, as they made sure we were not fully informed,.

    For Hattersley to claim the public were not appraised of the consequences of voting for the EU, as it now stands, is rather a vague comment, as he MUST have known what his colleagues in the Labour movement, both in the party and the supportive Unions, were advocating to,and lecturing people, such as myself, an ordinary union activist at the time,.

    The plain truth is, the British people are constantly fed a ration of crap by the media, especially the popular press which is owned by either ex-patriot tax haven lodged corrupt figures, or global mega nuts like Murdoch, whose agendas range from simple manipulation of the political environment, to an outright megalomaniac desire to control all, through their newsprint and TV monopolies.

    These folk have created the behemoth of instant and global communications in their hunt for ever massive profits, yet baulk at confirming what they have created by stalling every attempt to have their creation regulated by a political merging of the nations of the world.
    It may well take another century, or it could happen in the newt decade, but sooner or later, thanks to what these corporations have engendered, as they seek to control and profit, the world will become a single community, and federalising Europe will be the best way to go about it, on a law based programme of progression
    The alternative will be for the global corporate world to turn to a form of world wide fascism in order to achieve their aims, or suffer the endless scenario of war upon war, until the world gets sick of their antics, just as the world got sick of the Nazi and Empirical ambitions of Germany and Japan in the thirties and forties, and take actions to eradicate such from ever again engaging in how the world operates.
    Europe is developing, it may take some avenues that will need addressing to correction and amendment, but the genii is out of the bottle and all the bleatings by the likes of the uninformed Europhobe and the UKIP will not impede the progress, the juggernaut is marching steadily across the ridiculous 'sovereignty' issue because there is NO issue, it's an over emotive and anachronistic perception of how a nation state works.
    Your assessment is correct, we now need to be fully integrated into the Union as a federal state, not an off shore and poor neighbour, waiting with extended begging bowl for the crumbs from the table.

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    1. Interesting view of the media , I find that if properly briefed in good time the press are pretty objective. There is often some sour grapes about global press groups but they swim in a competitive environment, the speed is very different to a decade ago with less emphasis on hard copy.
      There is now a growing disenchantment with federalist Euro policies and the 2014 elections are likely to be a bumper time for Eurosceptics in a number of countries, not just the UK

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  4. Answer me this ,what is the election system going to be when the eurozone merges into a single state. How will you vote out a euro gov , will you be able to vote them out.
    Will a socialist block form in the euro gov that can never be voted out, even if 100 million voters are against there policies.If you want to take UK voters down the road of a single euro state, then these questions have to be answers first.
    But every european I have asked this question of, cannot answer how we will be governed. To proceed with integration is madness until europe can show how it will work. There record is not good ignoring no votes does not inspire confidence in a future democratic EU.

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    1. Thank you for your contribution John Irish. I agree with Churchill about democracy and that the consent of the people should always be sought. You asked what is the election system going to be when the Eurozone merges into a single state. Such a plan, were it ever to come to fruition, would have to receive the democratic consent of the European Parliament.

      Will you be voting in the European Parliament elections in May?

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  5. The greatest possible threat to peace and European cohesion is the creation of the Euro . As a consequence of this central policy large sections of entire generations of Europeans have been consigned to penuary. The EU is fundamentally and practically undemocratic even in the event that a referendum is held to seek the views of a member states voters its reheld until the required result is achieved .The council members are not elected by the vox populii but by a cabal of eurocrats.. Leaving the EU doesn't mean we can no longer trade or travel its naïve to think that europenas will no longer wish to trade with one of their biggest trading partners .

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    1. Thank you for your comments, Anonymous (did you not feel you could publish your comments under your own name?)

      I don't know anyone, or any organisation, claiming that the UK could not or would not continue trading with the rest of Europe if we left the European Union. That idea just doesn't seem credible; of course we would continue trading with Europe, it's our most important export market and the world's biggest single market. However, if we left the EU, we would lose free trading across our continent, making the cost of trade much higher than it is now.

      Furthermore, if we left the EU, living or working in another EU country would be much more complicated than it is now; I certainly don't want to lose the right to live, work, study, retire or do business in any other EU country. Britain is the biggest exporter of people across Europe, and more British people move to other EU countries than any other EU nationality.

      The European Union is one of the world's biggest democracies. The European Parliament is democratically elected and decides nearly all EU laws, and has the democratic power to dismiss the entire Commission of the European Union. No democracy is perfect; here in the UK we still have an unelected House of Lords and an unelected Queen. If, however, you're suggesting democracy could be improved, I wholeheartedly agree - for both the UK and the EU.

      Nobody forced countries to join the EU or the Euro. Denmark and Sweden voted not to accept the Euro as their currency and so they retained their Krone and Krona respectively. The UK has chosen not to adopt the Euro. All countries are free to leave the European Union if they so wish; that's a stark difference to, say, the Soviet Union to which countries had no choice but to join and had no choice to leave (until it collapsed).






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    2. Switzerland and Norway both enjoy trading rights within the EU on the same basis as member states as guaranteed by a plethora of bilateral agreements , to suggest the UK could not enjoy the same situation seems to me to be totally flawed or deliberately misleading .
      Norway, Iceland and Switzerland member states of the Schengen area and as such enjoy the rights unrestricted travel , the UK opted out so its hard to see how your concerns in this area hold water.
      as regards democracy when was I given the chance to vote for Manuel Barosso ? or any member of the council , the same council that continues to have no issue with its auditors refusing to ratify its accounts. If we cant get rid of fools like Barosso its not a democracy. In a democracy you abide by the outcome of a referendum not rerun it until the result changes . Your point about the house of Lords and the queen is crass since neither formulate and determine public policy .
      You are correct we can leave the EU and certainly given that the original referendum was relating to membership of a free trade area ( of which I approve) and not a centralized federal Europe clearly the question needs to be asked again.

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    3. Dear Anonymous, of course Britain could enjoy the same status as Norway and Switzerland for free trade across our continent, but then we'd have to accept most of the rules of the Single Market and pay a sizeable annual budget to the European Union. I thought you didn't want that? I don't want that because why accept laws that we cannot have any say in? We might as well stay a member of the EU rather than leave and have to accept the regulations anyway.

      To repeat: As a price for belonging to EFTA, Norway and the other EFTA countries must still implement the EU single market legislation, including the social policies often disliked in the UK. Yet despite having to pay towards the EU budget and having to adopt EU law, EFTA countries have no vote, and only marginal influence, in the policies, vision, direction, rules and laws of the EU. That’s not what I’d want for Britain.

      Is it any wonder that countries want to join the EU, but not EFTA; in fact no new countries want to join EFTA, their membership is stagnant.

      There are perhaps unique reasons for Norway and Switzerland, with Lichtenstein, to remain members of the EFTA ‘free-trade club’ when other members of EFTA decided to quit their membership in favour of the EU. For one, Norway has huge reserves of oil and gas, and Switzerland and Lichtenstein are tax havens. Furthermore, all three countries have much smaller populations than the UK - even smaller than the population of Greater London. This accounts for their much higher GDPs per capita and their relative prosperity. Their circumstances are not at all comparable to Britain; we cannot become Norway, Switzerland or Lichtenstein.

      If Britain withdrew from the EU and instead joined EFTA, we would still have to sign all the single market legislation into law, including social and employment policies. We could opt out of the common agricultural and fisheries policies, but this would only save a modest £1.1 billion a year. As members of EFTA, we would still have to pay billions towards the EU budget, but without any chance of a rebate, without any say in EU policies, and without any realistic prospect of an EU rescue if the country got into serious trouble.

      Regarding the House of Lords, of course it decides on policies and the laws of the UK, that’s what it is there for, as a check on the House of Commons. Also, you may complain that we don’t have a chance to vote directly for the President of the European Commission, but we do indirectly vote for the President, as the President is chosen by the parties that we vote for in the European Parliament. Similarly, we don’t get to vote directly for our Prime Minister, or any of the Ministers he or she chooses to run the government.

      My vote is for Europe. And it looks like I am not alone. The latest YouGov opinion poll shows that the country is evenly divided on the issue of whether the UK should stay a member of the EU: 40% would vote to stay in, 39% to get out. So there is everything to play for. To win a decisive victory in an in-out EU referendum (if indeed there is one) you and all other Eurosceptics will have to persuade more people than you currently have supporting you. And yes, so will those of us - including me - who support our continued membership.



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  6. As I previously mentioned I and I am sure most people agree that the free market aspect of the EU is in fact its most beneficial function . The provision of single market rules is a reasonable consideration in order to enjoy the benefits of the single market. We already have to accept laws in which we have next to no say so that's not really an effective counter in my opinion. Of course new countires would rather join the EU than EFTA because they would be net beneficiaries financially the position of the UK is vastly different .

    The UK has a gdp 4 times greater than switzerland and 5 times greater than Norway , yes gdp per capita is ;lower but gdp is far higher .

    as regards the house of lords you make my point for me , its a check not a policy maker .
    a the moment Britain's contribution to the Eu is a net 5 billion pounds a year , our contribution via efta would be a fraction of that . This seems a lot of money to participate in a largely undemocratic , unregulated , corrupt and dangerous exercise in pan European federalism.

    your last point is an interesting one it seem to me like I am not alone either and let me be clear I have nothing against the EU as originally conceived as free trade area . I have a great opposition to what it has become a corrupt , undemocratic and expensive exercise in the vanity of pan eurpoean politicians.

    I cant think of a more compelling argument than the fact that politicians have been willing to sacrifice the well being of their people on the alter of federalism. There is no question that the people of Greece would have been far better off leaving the Euro and retiaining the drachma and the consquentiial control over their own fiscal policy . In Spain the government paid 9 billion euros to support a group of regional banks whose underlying business was lending to property developers at the behest of the Eu this in a country that has over 50pct unemployment in people under 25 ! perhaps that money could have been better spent creating jobs . In Italy the country had a primeminster imposed on it .

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    1. Dear Anonymous, we will have to agree to disagree. Let’s see what the decision of the electorate is if we have a referendum on whether to stay a member of the EU. You and I have just one vote each.

      I have some additional points to make in response to yours:

      Regarding your comment about the House of Lords: it acts as more than just a check. As the second chamber of our Parliament, the House of Lords has the power to review and amend laws. Bills can also be introduced into the House of Lords or Commons. Yet unlike the European Parliament, members of the House of Lords are not elected. The European Parliament is more democratic, although for sure, I would push for even more democratisation of the European Parliament, including direct elections for the position of President of the European Commission.

      Regarding the UK leaving the EU and joining EFTA: What would be the advantage if we’d still have to pay a sizeable contribution to the EU budget each year and accept the laws and regulations of the EU single market – as other EFTA members have to do – but have no say in those laws? That doesn’t make sense to me. In any event, the annual membership fee for the EU to me seems a bargain; we get so much more in return than what it costs.

      And those recent countries who joined the EU: yes, they may be net beneficiaries of the EU budget for now, but that’s a good thing after those countries and their economies were ravaged by the successive, nightmarish regimes of Nazism and Communism for over 60 years. In time, their economies will recover and thrive again, and they will become net contributors to the EU budget, and help our continent to be more successful. EFTA could not offer any such help to these previously lost members of our European family, who we need now to embrace again as part of our integrated continent.

      Regarding your view that the European Union (EEC) was originally conceived only as a “free trade area” this is simply incorrect. The 1957 'Treaty of Rome' was the founding document of the European Economic Community, later to be called the European Union. This treaty set out a wide political vision for EEC members for 'an ever closer union' to 'eliminate the barriers which divide Europe', including free movement of people across our continent.

      I agree the European Union isn’t perfect, but I believe it’s better and more profitable for us to stay in the club and help to lead and reform it, rather than to abandon it. It’s several hundred years since Britain was last truly alone in the world. Before the European Union, we had our Empire as our ‘single market’. But that Empire was in steep decline after the Second World War; that was one reason why we applied for membership of the EEC back in 1961, an application incidentally that had the backing of Winston Churchill. And for sure, whilst we don’t want an Empire again, we do need to retain free access to what is now our most important single market in the world: the European Union.

      If we leave the EU, we will be a little country alone and out at sea, with diminished influence in the world, and having to re-negotiate from scratch trade agreements with all the world’s countries.

      In negotiating, the best deals are usually achieved if you’re the same size or bigger than the entity you’re negotiating with. The EU is the world’s biggest economy; bigger than the USA, bigger than China, bigger than the USA and Japan combined. With such power and reach, the EU has managed to negotiate trade agreements with other countries that benefit us enormously. What sort of trading agreements could Britain expect to achieve on its own, with countries such as the USA and China? Not as good, I venture to suggest, than the ones Britain benefits from now through the muscle and power of the European Union.

      You’re welcome to post again here on my blog, but please have the courtesy – and courage of your convictions – to do so under your real and verifiable name. Why hide behind anonymity, if you truly believe in what you’re saying?

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