It was while having a discussion with my daughter about the potential exit of Britain from the Eurozone (EU), that I thought, I’d put together a piece on the pluses and minuses, as I saw them.
EU – Why Join? Why Now? Why Ever?
I was a teenager, when Britain joined the “Common Market”. At the time, it seemed mature, internationalist, forward looking and thinking to be part of this Europe. A Europe, that had seen so many wars, stretching back centuries. The Napoleonic Wars, The Franco-Prussian War, The Wars in Spain, Austro-Hungaria, The Balkans, The Great War, and the war that engulfed the whole of Europe as a madman, attempted to build an empire; an empire that would last a thousand years and killed six million jews into the bargain.
We as a continent, needed to put this misery and bloodshed behind us. Only by unifying in a democratic whole, could we escape from our past – so it seemed.
Apparently, Britain had applied to join a good few years before it was eventually allowed in… Something about our individualist, capitalistic view of the world, empire, and commonwealth, perhaps persuaded French President – Charles de-Gaulle to push for keeping us out. Harold Wilson, wanted to join in 67, and also Supermac as he was known, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan back in 1961. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, at 79 years old, retired permanently, and died the following year.
In 1972 Edward Heath, got us in and signed us up, as De-Gaulle, had given way to French President – Georges Pompidou, who had a better relationship with Britain, than his predecessor.
By 1975, 3 years later on, we were asked to vote on whether to remain as full members… I, along with the majority of the population voted “yes”. We, who had just come through three years of hell, as we had suffered 26.9% inflation, a 3-day working week due to electricity power cuts and strikes by coal-miners, council and power workers, two general elections in one year and by then this new fangled currency with 100 new pence, instead of the good old British Pounds, Shillings and Pennies – the world of thre’penny bits, “tanners”(sixpence), “Bobs”(shillings), “Half-Dollars” (as Half-crowns were called) and “Dollars” (5 shillings or a Crown)… The “Ten Bob Note” had already disappeared some years previously as we prepared for the 50 Pence piece that would replace it, and the Ten and 20 pence pieces. Old pennies were now 2.4X less value then their new peers, despite the size and metal content having been drastically reduced, and the new and distinctive 2 pence piece and 5 pence piece were introduced.
Did this change of currency on 15th February 1971, contribute to the inflation, that preparation for Common Market membership inevitably entailed? Did the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that was set up to protect German and Fench peasant and part-time farmers – a result of the heredity laws on the continent, also make food that much more expensive pushing inflation through to such levels after we joined? Probably, was the general consensus. Which begs the question… If it caused inflation then, why would it cause inflation if we left, when we could access world food prices and world food?
The Forty Years Since…
Once we had joined, and settled into our new status as fully fledged members of the statists association, we began to influence the club. But Germany too grew in power, as still subsidized by having the troops of four nations – French, British, American and Russian troops stationed on German soil meant that the Germans needn’t spend as much money on defending their nations – East and West. That money, not spent on foot-soldiers, corporals and sergeants, junior officers, colonels and generals, aircraft, flight crew, ships, sailors, officers, back office and logistics staff, could all be spent on engineering research, or building state of the art manufacturing facilities. Is that why Germany now has such dominance in engineering?
Though, one recently learned fact, suggests an alternative reason for Germany’s engineering dominance, but that is best left for an alternative blog.
The late 1970s saw some harsh realities when Prime Minister Jim Callaghan at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool scolded the party for its spendthrift ways and told them the country could no longer go on like it had… The reason? That year, the IMF had been called in to bail Britain out, from its free spending ways, and Chancellor Denis Healey, had had to return from his summer holiday to deal with the financial crisis, when Britain’s bondholders decided to sell en-masse their Bonds, and the government could no longer continue to outspend its income. (On a separate note, is this fate destined for the U.S.?)
This monetary crisis, though ultimately ushered in the now infamous Iron Lady as unemployment surged, and a prices and incomes policy was broken, by striking Ford workers, and Shell Tanker Drivers… Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher elected in the spring of 1979 brought us into a new reality, that would prepare us for the growth that the next 30 years would bring, painful though it would be. Britain re-elected her three times more, and her hand-bagging the Eurocrats, became part of her story – the stuff of legend, as she dragged the now European Economic Area into a more realistic future. But that wouldn’t be enough.
Labour’s Tony Blair, would ride into Downing street with the British economy, now in the best position it had been in, in almost 3 decades. Tony Blair, and Chancellor Gordon Brown, set about bringing the Labour Party out of its 70 year love affair with “taking control of the means of production for the people”, and using PFI, begun bringing Britain’s schools, and Hospitals into the 21st century, with a massive redevelopment of schools built in the 1930s, and hospitals, that were relics of Victorian and Edwardian England.
Gordon Brown would fund some of his free spending ways, by selling off half the nation’s gold reserves, selling off other state assets, raising taxes and borrowing heavily. When he took over in the tenth year of Tony’s reign, Gordon Brown would inherit a Britain pulling into a world where property prices had once again boomed, like the period from 1968 to 1972 as the baby-boomers became young adults, and started buying their first homes, and we were months away from a financial disaster – all forseeable by those with the right knowledge and experience..
Europe, had now become like big brother, extending its control into almost every corner of British Society. 1984, a novel by George Orwell, tells of a dystopian future where government surveils its citizens and controls their thoughts and actions. Written in 1948, Orwell suggests a world where we are like citizens of the former Soviet Union, but with the power to control us.
By late 2008, though it would be obvious that the Credit Crunch was not the usual, issue of a downturn in the market. Lax lending, a belief that the good times would continue forever, had led many politicians to conclude that they could control every aspect of our lives. Instead of leaving us to control our own lives, and spend our own money how we saw fit. Wars in southern Europe, and Afghanistan, then Iraq, and Libya would add to our economic woes as politicians thought they could spend, spend, spend, as Viv Nicholson, pools winner from the 1960s was famously quoted.
In the heat of this financial maelstrom, once again America would come to the aid of Europe, but this time not with ships, and tanks and men, but with $15 TRILLION in 0% loans to save the financial system loaned to 30 financial institutions. Lord James of Blackheath delivered his speech in the House of Lords, revealing this… But there is a price to pay…as the video below will reveal…
Why Brexit will help us back to a time of liberty, freedom, and individual merit…but we need to get out from under our Banking masters…
Here, below, we learn why Magna Carta, in 1215, set the tone, and nature of freedoms that we enjoyed for almost 800years, where the people held the power, subject to the “Law of the Land” whether in high office, or low station.
Since we joined the EEC, Britain’s role in the world, has been reduced… WHY?
Is this a deliberate policy? Here below, at the Daily Bell, they certainly think so…
Many believe that collaboration with our European, and American allies needs to be as a partner, not as servants to our masters.
Final Word on Brexit?
The reason so many large corporations/organisations want to stay in the EU, is because it makes it easy for them. Fortunately, in Britain, we speak the international language of Business the world over – English. As a member of the EU, if we comply with rules here, then the rest of Europe is just as easy… A few international instructions, on the packaging, and they’re good to go.
If you’re a professional person, with widely recognised qualifications, and in demand experience, the job prospects, are huge – essentially the whole of Europe.
However, if you’re a relatively low paid employee or even a middle income employee of a large corporation, then you are also at the competitive edge of several hundred million others looking for the similar work. In fact, those even with higher education and often high levels of qualifications, who cannot for whatever reason find work in their chosen field, are also competition for these low paid jobs – driving down wages even further. As Romania, Bulgaria, and potentially other eastern European nations – (Turkey, Ukraine?) join the EU, this can only drive down already low wages to the benefit of shareholders and business owners of large corporations.
Whether we stay or go, here in Britain, we need to recognise the pitfalls and potential of our choice, and do more to expand our horizons. Would that be easier outside the EU zone? Will there be pitfalls if we do? Probably, is the answer. But will it be worth it? I believe so.
Thomas Jefferson, believed that government was the greatest threat to individuals, and in drafting, and then framing the American Constitution, based on the tenets written down 500 years before in the Magna Carta, he had this to say…
“I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Perhaps it is time to follow Jefferson’s urging…