Friday, February 3, 2017

Brexit - the triumph of misinformation?

The slow and still uncertain progress of the United Kingdom towards a final severance from the rest of Europe seems to me little more than a victory for misinformation - or, more charitably, widepress ignorance about how the European Community actually operates.

When I read stories of 'Brussels bureaucrats' dictating what British citizens should or should not do, it is clear that the writer/speaker is either disguising the truth or is woefully ignorant of the process of decisions that eventually become European law. There is in fact a complex procedue of negotiation at many different levels, including summit meetings of Heads of Government (presidents or prime ministers of Member States), government ministers (say, defense or finance), European commissioners (nominated by Member States), the European Parliament of MEPs democratically elected by each Member State, the ESC (Economic and Social Committee, a group of specialists elected by Member States), the Committee of theRegions - and finally the European Commission itself, a body of bureaucrats drawn from the Member States, and responsible for initiating legislation and finally working out the details for implementation in each Member State (once debated and finally adopted by that State).

One can even add the role of lobbyists in all this - yes, there are hundreds of them representing every shade shade of opinion, from bankers to charities, and registered and published in a directory accessible to all.

There is no excuse for reputable journalists to not know how the process works. For the 'general public' they tend to believe what they read, even when they are being misinformed.

Which brings us to the question of Britain's trade with the rest of the world and the exciting new future promised by PM Theresa May. Currently Britain exports some 44% of its goods and services to other European Members - worth about £220 billion (out of a total £510 billion exports) - and it is this huge market that she seems to think Britain can throw away - and find exciting new markets elsewhere - such as Turkey! The top supplier to this progressive country of 80 million citizens  is the USA with a modest $11.88 billion........Britain does even appear among the top ten suppliers.

I shall end with a quote from the French monthly journal Alternatives Economiques* :
'Europe is already very open-minded about trade with the rest of the world and discussions about commerical agreements with the United States (Tafta) and Canada (Ceta) have already shown that the gains in trade are small. And who can believe that the British on their own can negotiate a better deal with China than the European Union acting together? '

* Christian Chavgneux, p35, February 2017.

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