The European Union: Why say no to freedom?
Peter Fisher – v2 Law Blog
The EU is not an evil monolithic apparition of centralisation and enslavement. It is easy to leave, under article 40 of the TFEU, but do you really want to say no to freedom?
There is a lot of anger aimed at the European Union that I just can’t understand. A lot of headlines seem to claim that the British population wants to leave the EU and a lot of people have approached me with similar sentiments and comments to which I have to ask the question, who would say no to freedom? Because that’s what we are talking about. That’s what the EU is. As an example, I am an individual that is very interested in getting a pilot’s licence (as soon as I can afford it) known as a PPL, as a member of the European Union I would have a right to fly a plane to any destination in Europe with no extra charge. Suddenly as a European citizen I am offered so much more freedom and I don’t know about you but flying a plane to Italy sounds way cooler than Dorset.
The EU was established on the 4 fundamental freedoms. Which I would like to talk about in this article
The Free Movement of People
I live in London, the most multicultural city in the world. I also live in Haringey the most multicultural borough of London and therefore I literally live in the most multicultural place on earth. It is brilliant. I love diversity and I have friends from all walks of life, I have picked up a few words and phrases in a host of different languages and I have enjoyed the cultural delights of dozens of different nations. Sure there are people that don’t know the language, don’t want to know the language and generally hate British people as much as they hate everybody else and I can understand how that might frustrate someone but it is not then our right to tell someone how to live. On the contrary, the people that fail to integrate into a society are the most vulnerable and therefore need the most help and support.
I will never condone racism in any form and I am proud of the British heritage that has opened its doors to millions of foreigners, that is why when in 2010 the British government launched a poster campaign to try and discourage Romanians from moving to the UK I was truly appalled. However, from this atrocity the Romanian public answered in the largest free media campaign of the modern world encouraging British tourists to come to Romania with popular captions such as “We may not like Britain but you will love Romania. Why don’t you come over?” You can find some of the posters embedded throughout this article. Needless to say I took Romania up on her offer and I am writing this article from my apartment in Targoviste, the old capital of Romania. I will be staying for two months, did not have to apply/pay for a visa and do not need to justify my stay. PS, the plane ticket cost me £30 another plus for the EU.
I also want to take the opportunity to address some of the accusations made by UKIP towards the European Union during the AstraZeneca issue. One article I read claimed that the EU are pro monopolisation which is absurd considering that Article 101 and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union are arguably some of the finest anti-competitive laws that exist and have even on occasion prevented the UK government from imposing unfair charges on goods levied against the public. So, if I might be so bold, community law did give the European Union the right to decide on any potential merger of the company and my trust for the thorough, lengthy and detailed investigations carried out by the EU that support the decisions they make in these fields is in far excess of the confidence I place in British government. If that seems unpatriotic then I need only refer to the ‘Trustee Model of Representation’ and point out that in the possible 5 year time period an MP cannot be brought to account by their constituents. Thus, there is very little difference between the legitimate authority of elected MP’s and the European Union in my opinion. This may cause some of you to question why then someone who is not affected by the decision would have the right to decide on its outcome? Again, this is no different from the UK, I am talking about the ‘West Lothian Question’. Did you ever question why Scottish MPs were allowed to vote on the tuition fee bill which would make all British students pay up to 3x more for their tuition when in Scotland there are no tuition fees at all? Because this seems more outrageous than allowing a body which in the past and in arguably all of its rulings has only ever focused on the best interest of the public and done its utmost to reason and support its decisions with hard facts. I have seen no such lengthy publication or justification from the Scottish MPs that felt I should pay more for my tuition whilst having paid nothing for theirs. Ultimately, it seems that the general public pick and choose when they are to be offended by a particular issue and I feel this is because politicians want to encourage xenophobia and racism because this is what they believe will bring them votes (David Cameron, UKIP).
Speaking of goods;
The Free Movement of Goods
Remember those things called import taxes? Probably not because the EU got rid of those. I was recently looking to buy a particular item which was only available in two places Italy and America. Both places, same price of £34 now as you know America is not part of the EU and therefore I would have had to pay import duties that would have brought the price up to £49. This wasn’t the case for the product in Italy and I saved myself a cool £15. Alternatively, I am a massive Dell fan, unfortunately Dell do not have an office in the UK but it’s not all bad news because they operate just over the channel in France. Import duties on electronics are currently 9%, my latest Dell spend cost me £250 and the one before that was £700. If it wasn’t for the EU that £250 would have been £272.5 and that £700 spend a whopping £763. Thank you EU for saving me money and giving me the freedom to buy the finest goods from the finest parts of the EU without paying for the luxury.
Well, you might be a diehard patriot who doesn’t believe in Italian gifts and French computers and that’s perfectly okay. If you were I’d image that you’re wondering what if at all it has to do with you and rather than blindly hope that you’ll be merciful to my technological needs let me address you directly. A lot of goods in the UK are imported from the EU. A lot of competition between companies in the UK (where competition leads to good prices and nice deals for the consumer) are between European companies. If the UK left the EU the prices of these goods would automatically rise. The competition knowing this would have no reason not to also raise their prices as well – let’s not pretend that companies aren’t out to squeeze the biggest profit they can. To go back to my earlier point arguably, by restricting other companies from being able to fairly compete because of the nature of import taxes as a result of you leaving the EU you are creating a bigger monopoly. Monopoly of course being a bad thing because it drives up prices as there isn’t effective competition and is bad for consumer welfare; the exact situation that would occur if Britain left the EU.
One more thing for all you wine drinkers out there. The EU in the case ‘Commission v UK (wine levy) 2000’ forced the UK to drop the price of wine because of an excessively high tax which it concluded was designed to protect its domestic beer products. Thank you EU for cheaper wine.
The Free Movement of Workers
When I take my LPC and qualify as a solicitor, I have the right to practise as a solicitor in any country in Europe, granted I may require a specific course in order to have the relevant grasp of the local legal system and in some situations it is a requirement to have appropriate language skills which certainly would be highly recommended, but by being a citizen of the EU when I qualify as a lawyer in the UK I qualify as a lawyer across Europe.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the unpleasantness of someone telling you that ‘these bloody foreigners are stealing our British jobs’ an unpleasantness that rippled throughout England as the syllables “British jobs for British workers” left Gordon Brown’s lips in 2007. Please just take a moment to think about what this phrase actually means.
Lets pretend briefly that we are a recruiter for a top company deciding who gets in and who doesn’t make the grade. We are rich, powerful and living the dream but before I get carried away lets get to the point. If two people apply for one position (If only it were that easy) and one of them is clearly superior in every way which are you going to choose? Now, it doesn’t matter which country you’re in, what nationality you are or whatever your political or general opinions the answer to this question will never be different. To consider that you would hire the less capable candidate because he happens to be a national even though the other has an equal right to work is not only absurd and a risk to the company but it effects the quality of services that the customer, representing the general public, can expect.
Quick example to illustrate; If you are hiring a worker for a McDonalds restaurant, people always seem to giggle when you use McDonalds as an example I have actually worked for McDonalds, now one candidate messes up 1 order in every 100 and the other messes up 1 order in every 10 but the second man is British, British jobs for British workers right? Now lets say we hire the second man and he serves 300 people in one day. 30 people are now very unhappy because they didn’t get what they ordered as opposed to only 3 if we’d have hired the other guy. So, not only are we racist but we’ve upset an additional 27 customers.
Let me be blunt, I scream stupidity when I hear people’s dislike for foreign workers because in a capitalist society we hire the best individuals for the job so if you lost out to someone who isn’t natively English it means not only do they have the significant disadvantage of moving to a new country but even still they are better than you. Its human nature to be envious or jealous but I can’t help but admire anybody who is better than me at a particular thing, especially if it was easier for me in the first place.
I know how it goes; I have been turned down for many jobs! I am currently applying for training contracts and have seen a few rejections there too. It stings, but it’s cowardly to blame someone else for your own failings which is exactly what this is. As Lydon Banes Johnson said in 1960 “If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.”
Bottom line, more workers means better competition, better competition may make it harder to get a job but it means that the quality of services is improved as better workers are hired. This translates to a better quality of life which benefits the wider population.
Free Movement of Services
I must admit I haven’t much expertise on this one, I can only really apply it in terms that I am familiar with, perhaps if you have any better examples you’d like to leave a comment below.
I’ve been spending my time all summer looking at law firms that I want to build a career with and many of these firms offer exciting opportunities to practise abroad with offices all over Europe, further these firms are rife with opportunities to join in on high profile cross-border legal work. As there is no restriction on services law firms can offer their services across Europe and teams from London could find themselves negotiating deals with the biggest clients in all of Europe. What an incredible opportunity for some amazing and varied work. Even with all the competition it is truly a great time to become a lawyer.
Now that’s not to say that these firms don’t also operate in jurisdictions outside of Europe like Asia, the Middle East and the US but hey anything that makes it easier to slide these great prospects firmly into my lap is a win with me.
Just imagine, any business owner in the UK has the right to expand their business in any EU country with no restrictions. You might be thinking but hey that doesn’t really affect me because I don’t own a business but it works in reverse too. My girlfriend loves Sephora, a French make up company and she is excited by the possibility of them opening a store in the UK as they have been doing across Europe. The influx of European businesses in the UK improves consumer choice and competition. It gives us the freedom to choose from a greater variety of services and to even expand our own services across Europe.
Now that you have read some examples about how membership of the EU gives us freedom and developed and understand that the European Union is founded on the principle of the four fundamental freedoms (people, workers, goods and services) let me ask you:
Would you say no to freedom?
Naturally, I would not want to rob anyone of their own opinion and as I have expressed mine I would also love to hear yours. If you would like to learn more about the EU or would like to express your own opinion leave a comment below.