Thursday, 30 August 2012

Britain should stay in the European Union

I attended a debate at the London School of Economics last month, which had a panel debating whether Britain should stay within the EU.  The panel members consisted of Sir Stephen Wall, George Eustice MP, Roger Helmer MEP, Mark Reckless MP, Dr Helen Szamuely and Evan Davis as chair.  It made for an interesting albeit that the panel was skewed in a negative way towards the EU with only Sir Stephen Wall a former adviser to Tony Blair making valid arguments for Britain to stay within the EU, whereas the other panel members were against this.  It was interesting to note that Roger Helmer MEP was a former Tory turned UKIP, which may give an indication of how similar their views are.

The debate began with Sir Stephen Wall outlining how the EU successfully manages the conflicting interests of 27 neighbouring counties in an effort to unite value systems.  This has resulted in peaceful, prosperous, stability within the EU.  New countries that wish to join the EU need to have high standards of democracy.

As Britain is one of the larger member states, we have one of the most powerful voices.  Many of the legislative changes that the EU has brought, has benefitted the UK.

The other panel members outlined their arguments stating that no one under the age of 55 has voted on this issue as it has been 37 years since the last referendum.  Current opinion polls show a majority of the British public may want to come out.

So should Britain stay within the EU?  I believe so.  Despite the comments from UKIP that Britain should go it alone, being in the EU has many benefits for us including:

Safer and Cheaper Flights

The EU has provided us with not only safer flights but also cheaper flights and increased competition between carriers registered in the Member States. Cheaper flights are the knock-on effect of a huge improvement in air traffic management and increased competition.

Student Exchange Programmes

Within the last 10 years the EU has created different education programmes in order to give students the possibility to experience different national cultures and broaden their personal horizon. Up to now 1.2 million students have benefited from the ERASMUS Programme and many more are expected to experience it in the future.

The Single Market

The Single Market is one of a kind as it guarantees ‘free movement' of people, goods, services and capital. At a practical level, it provides the possibility for EU citizens to live, work, study and do business throughout the EU, as well as enjoy a wide choice of competitively priced goods and services.


Peace in Europe was first created when an alliance was made between Germany and France and the European Coal and Steel Community was founded. Europe has come a long way since with a lasting peace amongst its Member States. International security is now a major issue for the EU: with increasing threats to a peaceful society in different areas of the world, the EU has put in place many policies to combat such problems.

Cheaper and Better Phone calls

The liberalisation of the telecommunication markets in 1998 and the on-going development in the field of technology have resulted in a steady decrease in prices within the EU. This means that it is cheaper to call your friends and family and choose between different operators.

Consumer Protection

Consumer protection and the safety of food in the European Union are two issues that have always gone hand in hand. The Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General's main responsibility is to provide laws and regulations on the safety of food and consumer rights.

A Healthier Europe

The public health issues dealt with by the EU are numerous and cover a number of different areas. They concern both men and women, young and old. The EU has also introduced the European health insurance card that is your guarantee if you should fall ill when going abroad.

Environmental Protection

In the EU, environmental issues including initiatives concerning protection have been underlined as some of the most important points not only for discussion but also for action. For instance, the EU is leading the "Kyoto" drive to reduce the air pollution that causes global warming.

Equal Opportunities 

The promotion of equal opportunities and the fight against Discrimination are considered some of the most important issues within Europe and many directives have been put in place to combat inequalities that occur in the Member States.

Better working conditions

EU legislation has brought workers in the UK a 48 hour working week (with opt out clauses), a minimum of 28 days annual leave per year, maternity and paternity leave and enhanced pension rights.

The benefits of the European Union need to be publicised more as relinquishing these would have far reaching implications for us as a nation.  Perhaps Hollande’s idea of a multi-speed Europe will come more into fruition as something that is more acceptable to the British public.  The question is do we want to be at the table, or outsiders seeking friend and allies to represent our views for us.  As for the arguments about the EU’s democratic deficit, there is just as low voter turnout in UK elections as there are in the European elections.  The EU currently makes up half of UK overseas investment and we have full access and influence within the single market.  For all of its flaws, Britain should stay within the EU.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hollande's first 100 days in office

France’s finance minister Pierre Moscovici confirmed this week that the country is on course to cut 3 per cent of gross domestic product by next year, despite a socialist president being in power for 100 days. President François Hollande, the Socialist president, is planning to stick to the debt reduction targets set in motion by former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Some Socialists may have preferred Hollande to make a clean break from UMP policies, but Moscovici states that continuation of the deficit reduction plan will keep borrowing costs low. This may be slightly at odds with Hollande's rhetoric that harsh austerity measures are not the only path to growth. No doubt Hollande’s tax on the rich will help him to accomplish some of the savings targets, but the path to recovery may be a slow and tortuous one as there has not been growth in the French economy for the previous three quarters. No doubt the 2013 budget setting process that begins in September will be an interesting programme as Hollande seeks to protect jobs, boost growth as well as reducing the budget deficit.

A recent survey of French voters by Ifop for Le Figaro newspaper showed that a third of those that took part said they trusted Mr Hollande’s Socialist government on cutting debt, while four out of 10 thought he could find a solution to the Eurozone crisis with other European leaders. So Hollande has a lot of convincing to do yet. The Le Monde newspaper said at the weekend:

“After 100 days, Mr Hollande still needs to assert his leadership”

The French public may have been hoping that Hollande would have had more of an impact on turning the tide on the Europe wide austerity plan. We will have to wait and see how Mr Normal tackles the huge challenges ahead.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Hollande takes a jibe at Cameron

The French president François Hollande yesterday stated some home truths about the empty seats fiasco at the Olympics and made a cheeky dig at the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.  Cameron probably won’t be invited to the steps of the Elysée Palace soon unlike opposition leader Ed Miliband.  Cameron and Hollande did however sit next to each other yesterday during the women’s handball game.

Cameron made a statement before Hollande's stunning election victory in France, that Britain would roll out the red carpet for French citizens who wanted to avoid Hollande's 50% tax hike for high earners and snubbed him during his visit to the UK during his presidential campaign.  The red carpet statement has come back to haunt him a few times since then and Cameron ended up rolling out the red carpet for Hollande during his first official visit to the UK as French President.

Hollande, celebrating France’s gold medal success as well as them being third in the medal table compared with Britain yet to win a gold medal and being 21st said:

“The British have rolled out a red carpet for French athletes to win medals. I thank them very much for that, but the competition is not over”.

He went on to state some home truths about the empty seats fiasco that is no doubt giving Lord Coe sleepless nights and would have many members of the British public agreeing:

“The problem is that there are simply too many corporate seats. It will be up to French organisers to sort out this problem if a bid for a future games is to be successful”, hinting that an Olympic games in France would not pander to rich corporate sponsor interests and make more seats available to the general public.
Hollande did not criticise the organisation of the London Games though.  It could be that Hollande is hopeful that in France’s likely 2024 Olympic bid, Paris would be successful.