‘Those who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones’. An alternative EU view.

by James

After reading another feisty post from Pat on her Madkentdragon blog in her most recent offering on this longstanding popular favorite, ever polarising chestnut, felt inspired to present an alternative view.

It’s hardly surprising given a thousand years of history and as a mercantile island nation that lost its empire, situated on the edge of Europe, that us Brits have always lived under the continuous gentle drizzle and occasional thunderstorm of Euroscepticism from the cradle to the grave that probably extends beyond just the EU to include in large part most of our our continental neighbours as well.

We joined the Common Market with a very different agenda to the rest of the club. After many years of being refused admission which I suspect probably lead us to a position that was strangely reminiscent of and/or vaguely akin to what Graucho Marx had to say on the subject. This was combined with a very much what’s in it for us attitude and a conveniently blind popular and political naivete to the fact that it was clear from day one it would evolve in the way it has. Unsurprisingly little has changed for half a century or more. It wasn’t long ago that in the face of seemingly terminal, inexorable, industrial and economic decline in the post-war years, that for decades this angst manifested itself in the aphorism ‘We won the war and lost the peace’ (and Germany vice versa). Little has changed now except the EU has become the bogeyman for us even if these days some countries might see German dominance of EU as its paymaster general as little more than a financial blitzkrieg on their country and economy, such that even the IMF recently has started to seem positively warm and cuddly by comparison. Maybe leopards can change their spots.

Have we ever not had politicians, the media and the like not take great pleasure in this political football?

To my mind, a lot of this EU bashing, makes for a convenient distraction from the far more egregious wanton profligacy of Whitehall procurement and general conduct in its business dealings; the NHS, MoD and DfT to name just three. Hardly surprisingly given the Yes, Minister acrimony of relations between Westminster and Whitehall. It serves the the politicians’ agenda as lawmakers living under the Damoclean sword of re-election, to seek to generate popular support and media coverage (where normally there’s no such thing as bad publicity) and electoral currency by keeping their departments busy messing with policy and endless headline generating reform and restructuring. Bar the inevitable, occasional ‘omnishambles’, keeping them on their wheel in this way also serves to keep the mandarins in their place and at the same time prevents them from having a chance to put their house in order, which should it occur would run the risk of putting ministers out of a job. A winning situation for ministers from whichever angle you look at it.

Certainly there are travesties in the EU budget and its accounting aplenty, but given its size and scale and the nature and composition of the EU, it’s hardly surprising that these problems have arisen, and it’s actually to be applauded for standing up to the misdemeanors of its member states. For goodness sake, there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the world. By all accounts and by any measure the EU DGs and its governmental insitutions run quite smoothly compared with the UK which looks more like a snake pit. For our part,  it’s taken the crisis of the GFC and the worst double-dip recession for a generation for government coffers to be so depleted and such a mountain of debt to have piled up for politicians finally to start to take action to rectify the situation. Reminded of the irresistible force paradox, I reserve judgement about these initiatives.

Just to finish with the observation that the NAO and PAC as the UK’s nearest equivalent to the EU’s audit watchdog are yapping chihuahuas compared to the EU’s, if toothless, Alsatian.