EU Parliament

Jonathan Arnott MEP – The EU’s Magic Trick


Jonathan Arnott, UKIP MEP for the North East, has written this exclusive article for Get Britain Out:

Like the magician’s illusion through sleight of hand, distraction, a little theatre and smoke and mirrors, the European Union subtly convinces its audience that preposterous claims are true.

The bigger the claim, the less scrutiny it seems to receive. I’ll touch on just a few of many examples in this article. From rewriting of history to hand the EU credit for NATO’s role in keeping the peace in Europe, to odd claims about ‘giving us rights’, I can praise the European Union for one thing: it certainly has an effective propaganda machine. It should have. Taxpayers are paying good money for EU propaganda through ‘information budgets’, the behind-schedule ‘European House of History’ and so on.

They tell us how desperately we need EU funding. It’s painfully obvious such funding can hardly be an argument for EU membership. I describe it by asking the question “Would you spend £20 to buy a £10 Marks & Spencers’ voucher?” The analogy captures not only poor value for money, but also that the money comes with strings attached – it can’t be spent wherever and however we want. The EU goes one further: it expects us to be grateful for the voucher, and to put up signs saying how wonderful the overpriced voucher is.

The media loudly reports on the European Union saving us from mobile phone roaming charges, in a spectacular misunderstanding of the role of the free market. I have no roaming charges – for calls or data – on my mobile phone network from a variety of countries. It’s totally free for me to call home or browse the web from a long list of countries including the USA, Switzerland, Australia and Sri Lanka. There are more non-EU countries on the list than EU ones, so EU apologists can’t claim that the companies have done it in contemplation of the forthcoming legislation. No, they’ve done it because their business model allows them to do it without losing money. They’ve done it because they know which way consumer demand is going.

When the European Union forces them to unprofitably offer free calls from Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria or Finland, there will be a cost attached. How naïve is it possible to be, to fail to understand that private enterprise, faced with such legislation, will claw back the money in the only way they can? Higher monthly charges for everyone – regardless of whether they’re a regular visitor to Finland or not – will undoubtedly follow.

The free market already gives me genuinely free roaming from many countries. It favours popular tourist destinations like France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland for the benefit of consumers. I’m a strong supporter of the free market, except for those rare cases where the free market seriously breaks down. The European Union pays little to no regard to the benefits which a free market can bring.

What about the ‘rights’ the EU supposedly gives us? Maternity rights, equal pay for men and women, holiday pay, anti-discrimination legislation and so on. We didn’t have to have such legislation as EU members – we had an opt-out from the social chapter which Tony Blair removed. But when you scratch the surface the truth emerges. Didn’t we have the Equal Pay Act all the way back in 1970, long before the EU legislated? Weren’t we already moving towards paid holidays with the 1938 Holidays With Pay Act? Didn’t Race Relations Acts in 1965, 1968 and 1976 legislate against race discrimination? The European Union finally got around to it in a Directive in 2000, namely 2000/43/EC. Don’t we have stronger maternity rights today than required by EU law? You see, the British government was already moving in the same direction on this – providing rights for our citizens. Tony Blair chose, rather than doing it himself, to allow the EU rather than himself to incur any wrath from business. But is anyone seriously, with a straight face, claiming that a Labour government from 1997-2010 wouldn’t have introduced those measures themselves if we weren’t in the EU?

Particularly on the social chapter and mobile phone roaming charges, eurosceptics seem rather too eager to concede ground to the opposition. Rarely have I seen us take pro-EU politicians and campaigners to task on this, but we shouldn’t allow them an open goal. It’s a simple enough argument. When the EU ‘gives’ you something, ask yourself two simple questions:

1. Is there a hidden cost attached to what we’re getting?

2. Is the EU legislating on something which our Westminster Parliament can do at least as well, acting alone?

The answer is almost always ‘Yes’ to one or both of these questions. This is where the ‘magic trick’ lies – in hiding such basic points. I watch in the European Parliament with amazement as it constantly votes for legislation in 28 countries to solve a problem which exists in only one. I am yet to see a problem for which their solution is not ‘more Europe’, even when the problem itself is the European Union. But unlike the magician, sadly the European Union’s conjuring trick is deadly serious.

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