Brexit and the European Union
In the last few weeks we've had a barrage of back-and-forths within the much maligned British European Exit. With just over half of the voting electorate wanting to leave the European Union, HMS Britain stoked its engines and set off into unchartered waters (apart from Greenland, which left years ago). As with any good break up there is a divorce, and this has become a very public celebrity spat. It hasn't involved deriding one another's mothers yet, but its close. Certainly at the end of this debacle there may well be smashing up of picket fences and the words 'whore!' etched in large letters in a barren lawn.
Britain, having contributed vast sums of money to the EU over the years wants a quick and easy divorce with access to the kids in future, paying little remuneration and expecting not to have to pay child support. The EU, having given birth to kids, provided money in return, and all around spent years losing its figure whilst greasy Britain was off on its business trips to festooned waters selling its soul for weapons and the occasional hand job, is being very motherly and demanding what it seems appropriate within the divorce case. According to the Leavers, there are well over 27 mothers in Europe. The divorce settlement looks to be it the region of 100b Euros, with money being paid back in reimbursements after the up-front cost, bringing it back to a measly 60b Euros.
What would be excellent is if the people that voted to leave then offer to foot the bill. Of the few friends I have, and even fewer of them actually voted Leave, this suggestion hasn't gone down well.
Don't mention the...
With our sisters in the EU flashing their 100b knickerbockers, they've been branded treacherous whoremongers that should be thankful we exist at all...because....<tadahh> Britiain won the war, you know! Nothing like a slight agitation to ignite stroking of Empiric moustaches and jumping on a high-horse clutching the reins of xenophobia, which many of the Leavers have constantly pledged it's not at all about. Well, until now anyway. But now it's on: its dig up the garden for the bomb-shelter, rejoinder to the War Room (garden shed) for a strong cup of Bovril and listening to those gruff speeches of Churchill!
How does the European Union work?
The EU is run by five main institutions: the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Court of Justice.
We'll go for the easy ones first. The European Court of Justice, ECJ, in Luxembourg, interprets the law and settles disputes, same as with any court. There is one judge per member state. Each member state nominates a judge whose role is then ratified by all the other member states.
The European Commission (EC) is where the laws are drafted and managing every day business of the EU. They sit in Brussels. Each country (28) has a nominated representative, and they vote on the leader - the current president is Juncker. The President then allocates roles to all the others and they get interviewed before being given those roles e.g. one for Energy, another on Competition etc If they're rubbish, then they can either take another portfolio, or the president can request the member state to give another candidate. The EC is accountable to Parliament.
All seems very sensible so far, two down three to go.
The European Parliament
Then there's the European Parliament. There are 751 members, and together with the Council of EU and EC, it exercises the legislative function of the EU, but also controls the EU Budget. President of the European Parliament (speaker of the house) is Antonio Tajani. The EP sits in Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg. Becoming an MEP differs between different countries, but essentially there is either a vote in the country or they are directly appointed.
Three down...boredom to go...
The Council of the...for the love of God!
The Council of the European Union and the European Council sound like something out of Monty Python - Judean Peoples Front? Fuck off! We're the Peoples Front of Judea! In all honesty, when I read it, my mind glazed over and I wanted a cup of tea and a hug. The opening line I read said "it is part of the essentially bicameral EU legislature"...right. Good. Am glad. Bicameral? That's what I thought you said.
The crux of the matter is that in most cases you didn't vote for them, forgetting that of course that you don't vote for your own Prime Minister either, you vote for the party, and they elect the Prime Minister. They in turn put their representative forward to Europe. All these members seem to get their jobs through either direct nomination or through voting, or perhaps through pure bribery with truffles and foie gras.
How much does Britain give to the EU?
According to the Telegraph (not really a paper to be trusted, but anyway) Britain sends 12 billion pounds per year to the EU. Then we get a great deal of money back, almost 6 billion in EU payments, private organisations, EU Agricultural Policy etc. So effectively Britain is out of pocket by about 6 billion pounds a year. Apparently when we compare that to other countries in the EU per head of population, Britain aren't even in the top 5. The fallacy that I think is often cited is that if that money isn't spent on the EU, it will undoubtedly be spent where we think it should be spent: more policeman; more teachers; more hospitals. Unlikely one would imagine. It's more likely that the money would be spent paying off the national debt (currently 1.85 trillion pounds, or 5000 a second as http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk/) put it. In fact it's 89.1% of Britain's GDP, very, very close to 90% where Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, together with Carmen and Vincent Reinhart, believe economies stall. Countries that are economically absolutely screwed sit well above (Japan 250%, Greece 179%, Italy 132%) whilst others sit below (Germany 68%, Australia 36%, UAE 15%, Brunei...ermm...3%). The UK sits at about 17th worst.
Tax Collection and Transparency
Interestingly, Britain collects 750bn in tax each year. Imagine all the good you could do with that money. In Germany you get a tax receipt of where all your money was spent and you can elect to spend more on different things. Isn't that transparency wonderful?
In the last week we've just seen the Manifestos of both major parties in Britain being launched, without much fanfare or anyone apparently reading either of them, which says a great deal for the political institutions and indeed public interests in the UK. Either way, a great deal of people shall be miserable in the coming weeks whichever way the decisions fly, and since that may well involve the hardening of feelings to abandon the European Union, I am left with little choice: I shall calmly collect my things, find an English garden and prepare my etching material.
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