The EU, what are the questions? Follow up

We had a a very informative discussion at the last Friday Room meeting  at which we were able to explore the issues behind the EU debate without anyone trying to push a particular outcome. Here are some notes I made. If anyone at the meeting would like to clarify or add to this report please comment below or email me directly:

Regulation and independence from Brussels
Regulations are seen as too complex and unevenly applied. However, it may be that, where the directive says things like: “These are not intended to be enforced onerously on small businesses”, that it is over-enthusiastic UK regulators rather than Brussels that is the problem.

Democracy
The word democracy, in its narrow sense of voting on decisions, was originally conceived to work with small groups of citizens, but throughout the world it seems to work less satisfactory at larger scales.
UK democracy is in a bad state, with a widespread disillusionment with politics and an unrepresentative government. (The first-past-the-post voting system must bear some blame for this.)
There is a need for a better Europe-wide democracy, which I think implies the development of participatory decision-making beyond simple voting systems. See the “European Citizens’ Initiative” and indeed the activities of 38 Degrees.

Sovereignty
Needs to be put in perspective. We are faced with a potential massive and total loss of control over our institutions to the international corporations. Compared to this, the partial and negotiable sharing of control to our neighbours is trivial. Note however that the EU has yet to conclude the TTIP talks, so it is not clear how much EU membership can shield us from world domination by the corporations.

Corruption
Not on everybody’s list of issues, but there is good evidence that a high level of corruption is incompatible with the level of prosperity that goes with EU membership. Greece and Italy both have such a high level of corruption, which means that bailouts to these countries have gone to feeding corruption rather than remedying matters.
EU needs to develop better anti-corruption policies. Note that corruption in Turkey is at an even greater level.

Peace and morality
Peace with Europe is maintained by things like mutual dependence, working together, and being closer neighbours, and not so much by the making of rules. We would like to change the emphasis away from the individual and towards the community, and to see moral values such as human rights upheld. We don’t trust our own government.

Is the referendum decision reversible?
If we vote to stay in, surely we could just have another referendum after a reasonable time?
On the other hand, if we vote to leave would it not require very complex negotiations to get back?

Role for 38 Degrees
Has voted not to take sides but maybe take some sort of myth-busting role. Maybe there is a role in which it is accepted that there are indeed a lot of issues where the EU needs to do much better. (As we concluded.)
38 Degrees should draw up a list of these issues, get people to say if they agree or disagree and in effect say to the powers that be in the EU: “If we stay in, these are the changes that we require” or perhaps better “regardless of which way the vote goes, these are the changes that we want”.
Further, 38 Degrees should make contact and liaise with all the other European, pro-democracy grass-roots movements.
The politicians have had their go, now is the time for the people to say what they really want!

John Greenwood

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