It’s been a shade over a half-century since the United Kingdom made its first application to join the ‘Common Market’ of Europe during the Harold ‘You’ve never had it so good’ McMillan era in 1963. Since then, many have wondered whether our membership has actually benefitted the country or hindered it. With the prospect of a new referendum addressing continued membership, there's a new threat being discussed in secret behind closed doors and where dire consequences might arise if the UK chooses to remain within the EU and affecting us all. I apologise in advance for such a lengthy discourse on this subject but once you read it in entirety then much will become clear. Ignore it at your peril!
It was a political union sold to the public as a utopia supposed to generate a wealthier economy and society with marketing and employment opportunities for the British people and businesses in 1963 under the Harold 'You've never had it so good' McMillan government. That application for membership was vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle and perhaps we should have left it at that with a Europe not particularly keen to see the UK as members.
Despite this, a new application was forwarded in 1967 by the Labour Government led by Harold 'the pound in your pocket' Wilson and which met with similar rejection with Charles de Gaulle using his power of veto for a second time. Ultimately, a third application was made under the Edward Heath administration and shortly after Charles de Gaulle died in 1970. We joined the ‘Common Market’ in 1973 then wondered why we had even bothered to consider the notion.
We were confronted by ‘scary’ price hikes in every shop with some staples like milk and bread almost doubling in price on account of the ‘Common Agricultural Policy’ and in which the massive inefficiencies of European farming practices were unmasked. It was bad news for all to see the creation of butter mountains, wine lakes, meat vaults and grain storage on a huge scale and withdrawn from the regular marketplace as a means to keep elevated prices so that the inefficient farming practices could continue. If the produce stored or destroyed during this period had been allowed to follow the normal rules of 'supply and demand' as advocated by Adam Smith then many farmers in Europe, some working in local factories by day and then 'crofting' at other times, could have been addressed within a short period of time and by natural means. I was too young to vote in the referendum but if I had been given the choice then I might have opted for a resounding ''Non' of my own in the absence of Charles de Gaulle.
Membership meant that foreign fishing boats of all member nations could seek out the formerly protected waters around the UK and where many countries had already decimated the fishing stocks closer to their own coastline. Decommissioning of the Scottish Fishing Boats also meant closure of many smaller boatyards around the country and where these jobs were lost forever to future generations. Foreign investment mainly from the USA began to depart in droves due to the economic pressures caused by EU membership. We even had to contribute huge sums of cash on a regular basis to support a new level of government increasingly commanding of member states and Federalist in nature.
As the debate about 'Europe' becomes centre stage to British politics once again, it's inevitable that the cost of membership will become a contested part of the arguments. Already, one group has suggested an annual fee of about £55 billion gross without taking rebates into account and which pays farmers and more. a more realistic net figure is about £8.6 billion or about £24 million per day.
The rebate side of the equation was often seen in the early days when I travelled in the Highlands of Scotland and where one observed many road signs with a circle of gold stars on a deep blue background; each describing how the road project was being funded by the EU. Some of these can still be seen on the Isle of Skye yet it never seems to filter into the busiest towns and cities of the Scottish heartland. Taking a selfish viewpoint and example, why has the Bankfoot Interchange in Southern Glenrothes never been completed according to original specification and affecting thousands of motorists each and every day whilst a better road to Armadale on the Isle of Skye assumes a greater priority? is this a local isuue or one compounded by the EU?
For the most part, such ‘largesse’ has faded away as new members of a massively expanded EU included EFTA countries and more from the East. I’m guessing, the ‘new’ members’ assumed greater priority and where the monies drifted in that direction - at least for a time. Whilst I'm happy to concede that many European Directives or Laws have been well thought-out and implimented; there have been some incredible 'howlers' of huge proportion tooand in which European manufacture became untenable.
One doesn't have to travel far to see how many former industrial estates devoted to the principal wealth-creating enterprises of manufacturing are more likely to be occupied by a series of retailers importing goods from 'Chindia' (China and India) and where workers receive less that minimum pay and are often employed in terrible conditions. It's quite astounding to me that one can walk into a local store, buy a tee shirt of loose thread count manufacture from India for about £3 then wear and wash it for a few times before it shrinks and becomes ideal for Oxfam to ship it back to India as a child's tee shirt! By far, the bulk of manufactured goods that I see these days originate from ‘Chindia’ (China and India) or else from the USA and Japan. Incredibly, Britain now imports 80% of its food from elsewhere in the World!
Of course, it’s all been good news for the big business corporations forever seeking a bigger buck at less cost and where a pair of Nike brand running shoes can be made in China at the measly rate of about £3 but then retailed in UK stores at a figure many times higher and where peer pressure plays a huge part in the retailing game of modern times. Same applies to many forms of goods including denim jeans, tee shirts, cars and so much more.Hard times besets the parent who buys another brand deemed as lesser according to the classroom cliché for their schoolchild! The wiser minority can often see through the smokescreen either by choice or necessary budgeting yet leaving their child to be ostracised and rejected by those of the 'foolish elite' whose belief in ownership of an Armani suit, Rolex watch and a Mercedes car on credit actually constituted wealth. One of the richest men that I ever knew went round properties and rennovated them to a high standard. I never saw him in a suit or wear a Rolex. His transport was a battered and well used pick-up truck and where he typically undercut salesmen in this trade by substantial margins driving BMW cars and offering 'whitewood' products while he offered 'cedar' of better quality. It was often necessary to book some six months ahead and I personally knew that he had about eight and a half million pounds in the bank yet never owned a credit card nor ever had a loan or mortgage! He died in an road accident when a rental van struggled to overtake a haulier and then misjudged the distance before returning to the inside lane of a motorway. In response and braking desperately, the truck driver sought to avoid collision without realising that another vehicle was also following and attempting to overtake and swerved to the right and crushing the smaller vehicle.
I have mentioned this aspect in detail because we're often deluded about what constitutes wealth. Success in gaining a mortgage doesn't make you a home owner but rather a mortgagee and that's an important distinction which should be made more apparent. In asimilar sense, when an entire nation overspends, it might command many assets of huge value yet remain in debt to others. All countries have debt to others in the process of International trade with Japan perhaps having the worst trading figures of late and where stringencies applied elsewhere is causing the Chinese economic miracle to slow down and stagnate.
Given the crisis affecting 17 of the 28 members known as the ‘Eurozone’; it’s a blessed miracle that we are not among them! In the last year, the Euro has sunk in value to about 71 pence compared to 83p twelve months ago. Despite this, the EU is regarded as the second largest regional economy in the World with about €995,000,000,000 Euros existing the World and which surpasses that of the US Dollar.
By the ‘Grace of God’, the British government still retains a right of veto concerning many aspects of membership and that includes our rights concerning immigration, currency and more. In the months preceding the vote for ‘Scottish Independence’; one heard speeches advocating use of the ‘Euro’ in an independent Scotland just before the major collapse of global oil prices. If we had voted ‘yes’ then there’s a strong chance that the Scottish Nation would have become ‘broke’ within a short time and irrespective of the currency label applied. Voting ‘no’ may yet turn out to be the very best and wisest decision that the electorate of Scotland has ever made.
The ‘EU’ is definitely not the ‘club’ that the public voted for and signed up for back in the nineteen seventies!
Forty-Three years later; we’re back where we started; poorer yet hopefully wiser as to the antics of corporations with financial clout and bank balances exceeding that of some countries and often shirking any tax requirement they can get away with in the name of additional profit. The notion of a ‘renegotiated agreement’ as suggested by the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is complex and difficult. In our new and fast-moving World, companies have no nationality nor loyalty to any country unless a local government is amenable to their wishes. If not, they move their business to other regions of the World in which they can operate in the manner they choose and often at the expense of the workforce and local community. In Fife, we’ve experienced the phenomenon many times first hand. I can mention pledges made by International companies like Motorola, Cannon and ADC and where huge expenditures were undertaken on their behalf yet ultimately with nothing to show for such effort. Upon reflection, it saddens me that we were happier to waste major funds upon inward investment rather than seek out and support Scottish innovation more worthy of such capital funding. A thousand businesses with a dozen employees might have been worth far more than a singular global name!
The NAFTA & TTIP Connection
On January 1st, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect with the principal signatories of Canada, Mexico and the USA largely uniting to form a larger market base with a certain amount of legal harmonisation and akin that of a country joining the EU. Unlike the EU, however, was a clause in which any company could legally sue a government if local politics adversely affected the profits of their corporate business.
In 2011, citizens of the Canadian Quebec province were balloted on the subject to allow oil fracking to take place on the river bed of the St Lawrence Seaway.
Given the fact that fracking was already commonplace in some other Canadian provinces like Alberta, it initially seemed like a ‘no brainer’ since nobody in the several countries employing the technology had reported any kind of problems thus far. In Britain, fracking had been used in the production of North Sea Oil for years. In the USA, and where the history of fracking began in 1946, it was common practice and played a major part in the reduction of US imports of oil from elsewhere. As a consequence, the price for oil began to fall and where senior members of OPEC (Oil Producing Export Countries) like Saudi Arabia and others accutely felt the economic pinch and began a series of price reductions as a strategic means to financially strangle those oil companies using the more expensive technolgies of fracking and not currently applied to many Middle East reserves.
In the case of the Quebec ballot, the issues were more complex since the seaway in question is a major artery route from the Atlantic Ocean from which shipping can access the Great Lakes of Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. As such, it’s a major communication link with vital interests to both Canada and the USA. Any unforeseen geological accident or disaster in the St Lawrence Seaway would thus immediately impact upon millions of jobs and so the ballot returned a negative result.
As a direct consequence, Lone Pine Energy, a subsidiary of a US company based in Delaware, quickly filed a $250 million claim against the Canadian government on the basis that the company balance sheet would be adversely affected by ratification and implementation following the ballot
Under the terms of the ‘NAFTA’ agreement, this matter is supposed to be brought before a totally neutral ‘Court Of Law’ and settled by the rules of a self-appointed Inter-State Arbitration Service. In effect, three arbiters are involved with one appointed by one side and another from the other side. The third arbiter has to be agreed by both sides. If the arbitration favours the oil company then it can result in millions being paid out from the national treasury and where the populace has paid taxes to create such a fund yet without their vote having any meaning! At present and this time of writing, the outcome has yet to be determined.
So why should you be greatly worried and concerned about this?
Simply because the EU and the USA are attempting to enforce a new similar agreement upon us with all meetings conducted in supreme secrecy in order to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and which includes much of the same paragraphs and legalese as applied to earlier agreements ratified in North and South America.
Such agreement could prevent legal application of an improved minimum or living wage if a foreign company felt its balance sheet had been lowered by the application of such a law. Technically, a foreign company could sue the British government for a lot of tax payer’s money in such a case. It goes further in that if certain local laws were not conducive or agreeable to corporate wishes then they could use this as a weapon to secure funds. It might even present a threat to the National Health Service and many other government run departments and institutions. Under such an agreement, there are technologies freely used in the USA that would not be seen as acceptable in Scotland or the UK. Use of cloned cows and chlorinated chicken is an accepted farming practice in the US and which may already be among us in the form of tinned products exported from the US.
The Scottish SNP government recently declared that genetically modified crops will not be grown in Scotland even though there is no current scientific proof to say that such crops are harmful to human digestion. Questions concerning pollination largely conducted by bees at present in a normal and natural way become moot if the application of sprays and chemicals used in genetically modified crops are found to be responsible for the ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ or CCD affecting many bee hives in the Western World. In the US, it’s already big business to ship millions of bees to deprived areas in order to pollinate crops. In Britain, thefts of entire hives have been reported in Wales but it’s likely to get worse and more widespread. My point here is whether some company might elect to sue the Scottish or British government if the entire country were to abandon the concept of genetically modified crops and adversely affect its financial balance sheet because farmers have stopped using its chemical sprays. It’s just one of many scenarios in which an International Company, most likely of US origin, might seize huge sums from any UK government subject to arbitrators rather any Court of Law.
The UK and the US are each other's main trading partners and already enjoy the largest bilateral trade relationship in the World. Transatlantic trade flows at an average rate of $4 billion each day as recorded during the first three quarters of 2011. In 2008 EU/US combined economies accounted for nearly 60% of the global GDP.
According to one source I read before writing this article, one politician said thus; “the deal could bring an extra £10bn to the UK annually and give a huge boost to jobs in our economy at a time when we are still suffering with the effects of the economic crisis. That is an extra £400 to every UK household!" Given the kind of deceptive schemes presented in the past by politicians; one can now easily discern when they’re unsure or lying. It starts when their lips begin to move! In current times, I’m old enough and wise enough to recognise when we’re being sold a ‘pup’ rather than a race hound!
It’s the same rhetoric used to convince us that joining the ‘Common Market’ was a good idea. What we got was hiked prices, butter mountains, milk and wine lakes followed by a bunch of Federal overseers taking control of our society and sovereign rights over border controls and immigration, our legal system and much more. If we'd been stupid then we would have been another Eurozone currency calamity. We got screwed on joining a ‘Common Market’ as a trading partner rather than any Federal Overseer involvement diminishing our sovereign hierarchy that exists in present times.Visit38degrees.org.uk/ttipor study the subject from other sources before lobbying your local Parliamentary representative. My guess is that he or she will prove totally or largely ignorant of this vital subject!
In closing, I normally try to steer clear of politics but it does become hard to realise how a few wealthy corporations have now begun to rule the global roost and are even ready to influence, cajole, threaten and control democratically elected governments by virtue of their operational activities. They can avoid tax by merely threatening removal of their facility to a neighbouring country.
Perhaps it’s high time we took back control of our country and our land and where election of any new government meant control according to the wishes of the population rather than unelected overseers and corporate investors. Perhaps it’s time to sever and rid ourselves of the Federal Europe forever.