Robert Oulds’ book, Everything You Wanted to Know About the EU, published in 2013, remains timely and much more applicable than when first printed; I doubt whether some of its central contentions have been subsequently disproved, and we all need to welcome are some updates about the data that are probably likely to further confirm his fundamental contentions. In fact a number of the events since 2013, especially the Syrian crisis, must add more weight to his or her position. Yes, but being partisan doesn’t disqualify you from having an informed opinion, or farther from being right. The objective of criticism is to observe the thing for what it is and to do that one must know one’s own subjectivity initially and build that into the equation. This I think Robert Oulds has admirably done; and for the ethics of the review I need to disclose that I have known Robert for many years and respect him as a buddy.
The book comprises a brief introduction and then has 7 meaty chapters covering in greater detail than most people would prefer the economic, political, legal, historic workings of the EU, particularly as they relate to the United Kingdom. There was much criticism lately of the quality of the argument: that it lacks real information, real analysis, and is about’bullet-points’ every side fires in the other. Well, if you feel that’s the case, read this book. Rather than bullet points, Oulds provides chapter, verse and data on all the critical issues; farther, he also provides a balanced comment. To put this in perspective: in which the EU does benefit the UK he’s not slow in recognizing it. However, with Oulds, the crucial issue is always the balance of arguments: the cost-benefit investigation Quite simply, so that in reading the book one increasingly feels that though there are a few great things about being in the EU, yet there are several negatives too the position of staying there to some rational mind is untenable.
What, then, of a few of his arguments? What have I found particularly compelling in studying this work? I really do like his general observations about how things operate. This is similar to discussing first principles. A good example occurs in chapter two, The Trouble with the EU, when he sees:”Political unions aren’t needed for commerce; in reality from improving trade politics and politicians really create barriers to trade.” All of us know that political interference in business is catastrophic, thus the need during the past 40 years to de-nationalise numerous chronically underperforming industries; understanding that, how then is it consistent with Britain’s corporate leaders to claim company would be better in the EU, which is just not’state-run-regulated’ however’supra-state run’? When you think of the, it is foolish: FOOTSIE 100 Chiefs asking the UK Government for less red-tape and regulation and then implying the only hope for our company and market is being in the EU. Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU, but still trades with it under two spiritual structures. It therefore must accept – on its provisions – some limitations, but as Oulds notes:”Since the beginning of 1993, when the Single Market came into being, the Swiss have adapted their legal code to bring it into line with only about two million EU legislative instruments. The U.K., together with other EU members, has however had over 20,000 enforced from above”. If we then examine the expenses of the, as Oulds does in enormous detail, the Bilateral agreements let them get access to the market in a cost to them of 550 million Swiss France’s annually; whereas if they were to have full EU membership the price would rise to 4.9 Billion Swiss Francs – a nine fold increase. And this”excludes the expense of the inevitable growth in EU laws”! In other words, the 18,000 legislative acts they missed since 1993 – and more because 2013!!! These figures, incidentally, aren’t composed by Oulds but according to the Swiss Federal Council’s own study included within their Europe Report.
Citing the work of Professor Jean-Jacques Rosa, a French economist,”It [the EU] enforces and enriches the rents of big, older business companies and bureaucracies and freezes the hierarchical arrangement of both political and industry production in a moment when invention, new smaller firms, and lighter authorities are required. It’s a recipe for rapid decrease.” Certainly, this should resonate with us? We are aware that entrepreneurialism depends upon flexibility, innovation and vision – the exact reverse of what the EU provides us by being members.
Robert Oulds provides many more examples of where the EU works against our interests as Brits, and I’ve hardly mentioned the significant sovereignty and political arguments. Space prohibits my outlining here, suffice to say, as one significant point that Oulds explores: the growth of the political right wing in Europe, which the EU likes to characterise itself as the winner against, is almost certainly (and notably from the 3 years since his book was printed ) a result of the EU: the’democratic deficit’ has been felt everywhere across Europe, and instead of creating security and stability the EU is fomenting widespread resistance to its imperialist and non-democrat diktats, resulting in extremism.
But to return the financial problem, it would be best to finish on a positive note, for if we leave the EU, what choices do we have? As Oulds describes: quite a lot! He goes into fine detail that the situation appertaining to different international organisations and situations, two of those organisations, one obscure to most of us, and one well known, hold out enormous expectation for our advancement and success in the wider world when we opt to leave the EU. Briefly, on the former, it’s evident, if somewhat inconvenient to the EU, the four European countries which are now members – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – have some of the greatest standards of living for their populations of any nations anywhere in the world. So much for suffering by not really being in the EU. 1 significant statistic that Oulds cites is that in 2011 EFTA exported $189.2B value of goodness to the EU; the USA itself just managed $90B. This is pretty incredible stuff, but if we believe the Commonwealth, and also the choice of re-activating that choice, then what’s possible could truly amaze us.
Presently, of course, that the”UK is prevented by creating its own unique bilateral investment treaties on its own terms with Commonwealth nations, but also the EU prevents the UK from reaching trade agreements with these critters [markets within the Commonwealth]”. Lest we forget the Commonwealth comprises”54 countries stretching across every inhabited continent in the world; even Europe in which the UK isn’t the only member. More impressively still:”The inhabitants of the Commonwealth is almost two and a quarter billion people, coming a third of the planet’s population, living on over eleven and a half million square miles; almost a quarter of the planet’s land mass. Furthermore, this territory is full of natural resources, which not only offer the international market with the commodities which enable growth but can also give its member states real possibility.” Since Oulds goes on to observe:”Currently, the Chinese are forging links with these resource rich states; the UK’s Eurocentric orientation is making Britain lose out on the abundant opportunities overseas.”
There’s far more to say about this terrific book, but space prohibits. It’s a vital book for people who genuinely want to reach out to a few of the facts underpinning this argument and to move away from fear and slander: the notion that just nutters and Little-Englanders could possibly wish to move away from our beautiful Big Brother, the EU.
But I must end on one crucial note about this particular book, good as it is: given the caliber of research and the citations employed, the absence of an index is an important flaw; maybe a new, updated edition – timely today – will fix this otherwise amazing read.
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