Friday, 15 April 2016

The EU is a silent assassin of prosperity

Some may have noticed I was a little evasive about the whole Port Talbot issue. I stopped short of explicitly blaming it on the EU. Yes the EU has imposed green energy targets, but that's nothing our own government didn't agree to. It was our own malign bunch who decided wind turbines were the way to meet that target.

And though there are peripheral issues regarding state assistance and Chinese dumping, it's really hard to get at the facts. I actually don't know for certain and mistrust anyone who says they do. No one factor in isolation is responsible. It is part of a global trend.

In the end I reluctantly concluded that we probably should let the market decide on that one. If we wanted to save the industry we should have acted far sooner and not shot ourselves in the foot to begin with.

The Leave crowd have mistakenly believed that the left will be moved to vote for Brexit if they carpet bomb the web with messages that we can renationalise or somehow protect steel if we leave the EU. It's a bad move. It feels no more sincere than Boris Johnson saying we should leave to save the NHS. I don't think it's ever wise to attempt to insult the intelligence of voter regardless of how outwardly thick they seem at times. If you explain the issues carefully and correctly they will respect you more for that and be more receptive to an alternative message.

So in this I go with my first instinct that the reason we should leave the EU is not to save the steel industry, but so we have an independent and dynamic trade policy where we do not have to wait on or defer to the EU.

In a dynamic economy, jobs are created and jobs are lost. Liberal economies are constantly reinventing. So what matters is that we have the ability to replace those jobs. It is my belief that being in the EU mostly means we are on a leash - so we cannot prioritise our own economy.

More to the point, as an independent state we could very well unilaterally opt out of some targets in those instances where there are immediate job losses, as demonstrated by my recent article on the yacht building sector. Some Remainers have scoffed that it's only a few jobs and it's a fairly obscure example. Admittedly it's an arcane point, but it is significant.

Ukippers and the likes point to Port Talbot as an example of how the EU destroys jobs. Big headline news that sends shockwaves through the media. But if that were true, it's still a thin gruel argument. After all, how often does something like that happen these days?

And that's the example of the misapplied measure on shipping pollution is the better example. Because decisions like that occur in all the global regulatory bodies every single week of the year. Slice by slice it kills jobs and massacres competitiveness.

The EU is not known for doing everything in one go. From political integration to destruction of jobs - nothing happens fast so that you would notice. That is why there is so little public interest in the EU and the referendum debate as a whole - which is to our eternal shame.

And then there is the labour market interventions as we discussed yesterday in the wake of Corbyn's claims that the EU protects workers rights. The truth is far less glorious. With every meddlesome gold-plated right the EU imposes it kills yet more jobs - for young people especially.

It isn't that the EU is in some conspiratorial way seeking to weaken Britain. That's just what happens when you apply one size fits all policies to an economic area as vast as the EU without national governments having a veto to speak of.

We are told Britain is making a recovery from the financial crash, but that's in politicianspeak. We are still talking about minor percentiles of growth which they describe as "soaring" while I describe it as "bumping along the bottom". The have no real answers to stimulate growth because they are constrained by what labour market policies they can enact and what trade policies they can initiate.

So we are not an independent state, we are not self-governing and we are unable to adequately respond to economic challenges and that's why those jobs we lose will stay lost. And as much as we are not an independent self-governing country, all the regulatory impositions are decided at a level well above that of the European Parliament where MEPs can seldom block or amend new measures. So as much as we are told what to do, there is nothing even approaching democracy in this deal.

And this is why this is not a left/right issue. The EU is not good for workers and no right minded conservative can tell me that this is the essence of free markets at play either. It represents neither. It is malign managerialism for the sake of an obsolete ideology from the last century. If it didn't exist already, we wouldn't bother to invent it. We should leave.

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