How often do we hear the tired refrain that leave voters didn’t know what they were voting for? Certain options were not on the ballot paper, usually followed by an insult to our intelligence. But what about those who voted to remain? Did they know what they were voting for? The EU of 2019 is a very different place to the EU of June 2016. In the next five years it may change beyond recognition.
The Loss of Veto
Much was made by the remain campaign that if we left, we would lose our veto, so that we would no longer be able to block EU legislation that we didn’t like, for example the EU army. Recently the EU has proposed ending veto powers on tax by 2025. The EU wants centrally set and regulated taxes. A number of EU member states rely on setting a low tax rate, such as corporation tax, in a bid to attract inward investment. For example, Ireland has used this policy to attract big tech giants like Apple, who are the biggest taxpayers in Ireland. However, they fell afoul of the EU in August of 2016 when the EU Commission ruled that Ireland had granted illegal tax benefits to Apple. It was seen as against EU state aid rules. You know, the ones that Remainers claim don’t exist.
There was a report which opposed the principle of opt-outs for Member States from EU legislation. If the UK were to Remain, expect the EU to take aim at our opt-outs.
— Jonathan Arnott MEP (@JonathanArnott) January 17, 2019
The fine was €13 billion. Now, while I won’t shed any tears for Apple, it was clearly an infringement on Irish sovereignty to say that you cannot set your own tax rates, as tax policy is not included in the EU treaties. It is also potentially damaging, as large US multinationals employ a quarter of the private workforce and pay in around €28.3 billion in taxes. If companies that moved to Ireland to take advantage of low taxes find themselves paying huge fines, they may well decide to leave. But keep worrying about that hard border that nobody has said they are going to build. That’s clearly the real issue.
But remember, the most important thing is no hard border, even though nobody wants one and no one is going to build one. https://t.co/P6NR46rcQQ
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 3, 2019
The EU proposal would see countries give up their veto rights piece by piece on less sensitive matters by 2020, with more sensitive areas decided by supermajority rather than by unanimous vote. But there is yet more fun to be had. Under Article 116 of the Lisbon Treaty (which Remainers have all read, of course) the EU can override national vetoes anyway. So much for the UK being able to block legislation and policy it doesn’t like. Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
The EU Army
As we were told by completely honest and upstanding politicians, this is just a dangerous fantasy. Except it isn’t. It’s very real and growing. Article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty strengthens the solidarity between EU countries in dealing with external threats by introducing a mutual defence clause. This clause provides that if an EU country is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other EU countries have an obligation to aid and assist it by all the means in their power. Wonderful. One in, all in.
Merry Christmas everyone! I got what I always wanted. Jean-Claude said it was a bugger to wrap. pic.twitter.com/8K26cHO5YE
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) December 25, 2018
Add to this the EU Common Security and Defence Policy. This allows for deployment of EU troops overseas. The EU currently has civilian and military operations in Ukraine, Georgia, Iraq, Somalia, Palestinian territories, Niger, Mali, Central African Republic, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Mediterranean Sea. But it’s just a trading bloc, right? The genius that is Emmanuel Macron (or Micron) has recently said the EU army is needed to face off against Russia, China and maybe even the USA. The German army is to be increased in numbers and a new tank battalion formed. Macron has reintroduced national service in to France. Germany is considering allowing foreign nationals in to its armed forces. Fancy a stint on the Russian front? Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
The EU-Morocco Deal
The EU has recently signed off a trade deal with Morocco. This has caused controversy because it allowed fishing in the waters off the disputed territory of Western Sahara. There was previously a war there when Spain left, and Morocco moved in. A nationalist uprising ensued led by the Polisario front. The United Nations recognises the Polisario Front as the legitimate representatives of the native Sahrawi people. Morocco occupied two thirds of Western Sahara, even building a border wall to keep out the Sahrawi from the areas it didn’t control. That’s right my little Remoaner friends, a Trump style border wall.
EU citizens! As you know, the EU is a hub of democracy, a beacon of light and transparency in a gloomy and opaque world. However, no one need to discuss the completely above board and totally legit EU-Morocco deal because reasons.https://t.co/CafhbRDPRl
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 14, 2019
The EU is fine with this, it seems. Fine enough to have signed association agreements with Morocco previously. Fine enough to hand over millions our taxes in cash, for example €1.472 billion for 1995–2006. The new deal means Morocco will get €52.2 million annually, up from €40 million in the previous deal, for allowing EU vessels to fish in its waters. It goes against a previous ruling of the ECJ, which stated that the deal would not apply to Western Sahara. That’s right, the EU is ignoring its own court. But, rule of law, or something. This will boost Morocco’s claim to the area, worst case scenario is a new conflict. But, 70 years of peace, or something. Public debate of the deal was blocked by Going Postal “favourite,” Guy Verhofstadt. Voters don’t need to know, apparently. But, as we are told, the EU is more democratic than the UK. Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
The EU, being a beacon of democracy and far better than the UK, loves to keep things secret. First, MEP expenses. MEPs get a €4,416-a-month expenses budget. Unlike UK politicians, they don’t have to account for it to the public. They have been attempts to make them reveal their expenditure, but each has ended in failure. The most recent ended with the ECJ ruling that MEPs didn’t have to reveal expenses. What exactly are they spending it on? Are you comfortable with them being unaccountable? After all, your taxes are paying for it.
The EU is a flickering candle of democracy in an otherwise dark and cold world. We bring hope where there was despair, like in Greece. Therefore, you don't need to know our expenses or how we vote. But remember, the EU is more democratic than the UK.https://t.co/E3GujLx0Fm
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 18, 2019
To add to the fun, MEPs are now pushing for a secret vote. On greater transparency. That’s right, they want to keep secret from the public how they vote on measures to make the EU more transparent. Only in the EU. Why, you may ask? My gut feeling is that they want to vote down the measures, but don’t want the public to know that they did. That way they can deny it was them later on when people complain. Or am I being too cynical?
Today is #FatCatFriday. Luckily for us in the EU, we got our totally independent court to rule that we can keep our expenses secret, so you can't tell how much of your taxes we spend. But remember, we are much more democractic than the far-right UK.https://t.co/aa6yeUXtW1
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 4, 2019
What are they voting on? Greater transparency on EU lobbying. Many vested interests including big businesses and big tech regularly hold lobby meetings with EU officials, including the unelected commissioners. Federica Mogherini, the top EU diplomat, met with Google and Microsoft. There is no record of what was said. At least not for public consumption. Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen held seven meetings with lobbyists. The Commission has no minutes for these. Jean-Claude Juncker held six meetings with lobbyists. No written records exist. EU commissioners Miguel Arias Canete and Guenther Oettinger held 14 meetings with companies such as Goldman Sachs, Statoil, Suez, and Peugeot. All had no minutes. There is no mandatory lobby register and MEPs and others can meet with lobbyists not on the register. Who is the EU talking to and why? What is being said? Add to this the chief of the European Central Bank joining the secretive “Group of 30.” But there’s no shadowy cabal that runs the world. Once again, Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
As we’ve been told morning, noon and night since the 2016 referendum, Russia is bad and the cause of everything wrong with the world. Russia is touted as the greatest threat to our national security, cyber security and our electoral process. This must be why Germany and other EU countries are allowing their companies to build the Nordstream 2 pipeline directly from Russia to the EU. This massive pipeline will carry even more gas from Russia to help power the EU, much of it in Germany.
We all know Russia is the biggest threat to the world. That is why EU member states like Germany are so keen to build a gas pipeline to Russia, placing their energy security in their hands. But remember, Russia bad.https://t.co/sPEQyAILY6
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 15, 2019
Russia is such a massive threat that the EU is placing its future energy security in Russian hands, a country outside of the EU and one against which it likes to rattle the sabre. This is not to say there are no issues with Russia. I personally am ambivalent, they do some bad stuff, they do some good stuff. However, if as we are told, Russia is so terrible, why make yourself so reliant on them for energy? These companies and countries are even risking US sanctions to construct the pipeline. Ever have the feeling you’ve been taken for a mug? All that stuff in Ukraine? That’s just too bad. Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
France has had ten weeks of riots, fires, punch ups, police brutality, armoured cars deployed, tear gas from helicopters, forklifts rammed in to banks, manure sprayed on buildings, newspaper offices set alight, roads blocked, people killed, someone shot in the head while running away, flash guns fired in people’s faces, the works. Nothing on mainstream media. Macron was the poster boy for the EU. Young, neoliberal and energetic. Hailed as the antidote to the hated Trump. Oh dear, it hasn’t turned out so well.
EU citizens! The answer is more Europe! And if people don't like more Europe, then we have these beauties in reserve… pic.twitter.com/Fzl4UJYdt1
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) December 8, 2018
Macron, or Micron as we like to call him, now has a 78% disapproval rating. He has been unable to get any reforms through. He tried to get green eco fuel tax rises passed, which resulted in the initial protests. These quickly spread and became violent in some places. Macron eventually caved in to demands, promising a raft of measures to please the people, including wage rises, pension benefits and tax concessions. Contrast with Ireland. They haven’t worked, not only that, they also go against EU budget rules.
The far-right regimes of Russia and Hungary use the police to repress press freedoms and cover things up. Unlike in the EU, where we give journalists a close up view of our equipment. We have nothing to hide. It's our shared EU values. pic.twitter.com/IOMv3N2QND
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) December 29, 2018
Italy recently fell afoul of these when it wanted to run a deficit so it could invest. After the bridge collapse in Genoa, infrastructure would seem a priority. But oh no, slapped wrists from the EU and they had to alter their budget. But there has been no loss of sovereignty, you understand. However, France is allowed to get away with it? Why? To quote Juncker, “Because it’s France!” One rule for the favourites, another rule for everyone else. Meanwhile gendarmes in armoured vehicles bearing the EU flag are deployed against civilians. They are from EUROGENDFOR, a cross-border paramilitary force enabled by the Lisbon treaty. It is now being used to aid in crushing political dissent. Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
Remainers believed they voted for things to stay the same. I saw one recently on Twitter state they had “voted for today to be the same as yesterday.” There is no status quo. The EU is ever shifting, moving inexorably towards greater centralisation, unilateralism and authoritarianism. There is already a backlash, spearheaded by Hungary, Poland and Italy.
EU citizens! €6 billion of your money missing through fraud. But what's €6 billion between friends? Best not say anything. You don't want the fascists to win, do you?https://t.co/WJJ6E0Giha
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 11, 2019
Across the EU, so-called “populist” forces are rising. People are fed up with uncontrolled mass immigration, tired of seeing a rich elite rule over them and look down on them, tired of their politicians not listening and being unaccountable. The EU clearly doesn’t work for everyone. Youth unemployment is high, for example 34% in Spain, 31% in Italy, 21% in France. The “Yellow Vest” protests have spread from France to Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Greece, Sweden and beyond.
Romania now has charge of the rotating EU Presidency. The Romanian leader is accused of corruption using EU funds, in other words your taxes. He is now using our own court, the ECJ, to sue the EU Commission. It's all going well. I love the EU.https://t.co/7WAl8y5PzF
— Guy Verhoftwat (@GuyVerhoftwat) January 10, 2019
There are EU elections coming up in May this year. A high showing is expected for populist parties. The established liberal groups are already planning to go all out to beat them. I believe the EU will be utterly ruthless in trying to maintain its power. Things could become very ugly. Whichever side prevails, the EU will not resemble the idealized version you thought you were voting for in 2016, it will change beyond recognition. Remainers didn’t know what they were voting for.
© Jonathon Davies 2019