I know that we live on an island here in the UK. Having lived in mainland Europe and also worked in quite a few countries there too, I can appreciate the advantages of a quick hop across the border to another country for all kinds of reasons.
Switzerland is an interesting different proposition. I have one of those Swiss vignettes on my car from using the motorways when I’m over there (oops it’s just run out actually). But at the end of the motorway to Switzerland everything turns into a 30 minute bottleneck to cross the border.
There could probably be a whole post about motorist behavior at such points.
Instead I’m interested in the emerging debate about what happens to the UK as a European entity. Cameron has finally made his much leaked speech about a Yes/No referendum by the end of 2017.
Can the European question really be netted into an X Factor like vote?
There’s plenty at play now beyond the regulations affecting overly bendy bananas (EU directive 2257/1994) and deliberately inflexible cucumbers (EU directive 1677/88). Not forgetting Class 1 peaches must be 56mm diameter (between July and October, of course).
All the above examples could be used to run a whole layer of debate about the EU’s usefulness or otherwise.
Although the bigger questions are about fostering competitiveness, governance with relevance and, of course, the lubrication of finance to make it all work.
That’s where it gets muddled in the debate. The UK puts in around the 3rd largest amount of funding to the EU’s total budget of around €137bn. Germany and France put in more. The UK is also the second largest net contributor to the EU (after Germany).
It illustrates that even if UK hasn’t decided to adopt the Euro currency, there's still an awful lot of UK Sterling in the Euro-mix.
That was the big debate before Christmas, all about the 2013 EU budget.
The challenge seems to be that the EU machine is now so big and complicated that it has comprehensively taken over the way that it wants to run things.
There’s some commonsense arguments that could be applied:
- Keep the EU competitive; there’s new economic challenges from different parts of the world.
- Be efficient; slim down like everyone else is having to.
- Be flexible; which I suppose is a networked form of ‘think global act local’ for an organisation of this scale.
- Support sensible diversity; Don’t expect Malta to act the same as Germany.
- Don’t over centralise; don’t try to suck all rule making for everything into Brussels
- Apply accountability; find a way to keep some governance at the relevant country levels.
I suppose I'm musing that this is quite complicated stuff. Maybe the 'Vote' is supposed to be a way to give it some focus? Perhaps a way to divert attention from years of under-governance of the main body?
And the reactions to this slippery speech are equally as complicated. There's already politicians from all sides taking it as symbolising whatever their own political aims are.
Perhaps the collective noun for a group of politicians needs to be 'a confusion'?
Oh well, In / Out / Shake it all about?