What ‘was’ before the EU?
With less than 66 days to go to the 29th of March brexit looms ever closer. Even now there are stories of MP’s wishing to deny the democratic vote to leave and extend article 50 until perhaps they have swayed enough people and MP’s to thwart it and remain within the EU. Even if remaining in isn’t the same as before but worse for the United Kingdom. There are many suggestions, rumours and scare stories about what brexit will mean for the UK, including Gibraltarians. Perhaps looking at how things were before, we may at least peer through the fog and gain a perspective whatever your leaning. So let’s look at some of the stories.
Air Travel: Yes we travelled by air though not in such numbers. Yes it was more difficult but there was no internet. People walked to the travel agent or used the phone. Who had a phone in the 60/70’s? Budget airlines won’t stop working. How do the other 100 plus nations of the world get to the EU if it is so difficult? The channel tunnel was foisted upon us even if we wanted to I bet we couldn’t close it even in the event of brexit.
Visas: Needed of course in some cases but they are needed today. To travel to Australia or New Zealand for example you can get an electronic visa online for a few pounds. You can even apply through companies that do it for you at twice the price though I don’t know why you would. The beauty now is going to the EU you only need one instead of 27, in theory.
Medical problems: That’s what insurance is for and we are urged even now to take it out as the E111 doesn’t cover repatriation etc.
The economy: Economists can prove anything they want with the statistics. The problem with economics is that small factors can have serious consequences that could colour a result in a way not thought of. I’m trying to keep it simple here. For example the EU has rather a lot of public sector workers, administrators, interpreters and “politicians” etc etc. These are all paid for by the EU. This could prove that the EU economy as a whole is booming because they can afford all these people and not only that they will say they are all paying tax! However their salaries, all of them, come from taxation. Taxation of people that are not in the public sector. So any salary paid to a public sector worker is a negative contributor to the tax yield. In fact having that bit on their pay slip only serves to annoy them and make everyone else believe they are contributing. Really EU HQ could just remove that and pay them their net wages. They then might think they are on low wages which has a whole world of repercussions!
Prior to the EU the UK economy was in the doldrums we were the sick man of Europe. Mainly through the post war period we, like the EU, struggled to recover in fact it is quite likely western Europe recovered better which had possibly more to do with changing politics and industrial output in UK. Harold Wilson Labour PM tried to take us into the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1966 but it was vetoed by De Gaulle the French President. Some say De Gaulle wanted to ensure the French farmers who needed the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were protected and in fact only backed our second attempt because he then needed the UK to help fund it. Ring a bell? Ted Heath Conservative PM in 1972 tried again although the country was 3-1 against it. Strangely then as now the media and their proprietors wanted in and so the pro EEC propaganda began. Heath hid anything remotely mentioning the Federal European plan so the referendum was done and we entered the EEC. Subsequent treaties, Rome, Maastricht etc have increased EU authority to the point we now have the legally binding ECJ and within a couple of years an EU army. Not quite the EEC the UK was told we were signing up for.
However no one can argue the idea is a good one and on the whole positive for Europe as a continent. Yes at this time policies in countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland bring down the EU economic model but Portugal is tackling it’s issues though that will be harder for Spain and Italy. Countries like Romania , Greece and other eastern members all need to adjust but the EU model is not a one fit suit so perhaps the EU itself needs to think at it’s seeming intransigence. One thing that should change is the amount of unelected members that seem to hold power. Why do we need two Presidents is just one example. Why does the EU need a President at all? Each nation has elected leaders that could serve just as easily. The UK Minister for the EU could fulfil a role as the EU Ambassador?
Nevertheless being bigger can be better and together we are stronger. Gibraltar voted 96% to remain in the EU because we are embedded in Europe and know that to have them as colleagues is better than just the folks next door. Even if we don’t like who is in charge at the moment.