Friday, 21 December 2012
The Paradox of Politics and Cost/Benefit Ratios
A guest post from John Souter.
Many column inches (or should that be centimetres) have been allocated to the utterances of Mr Barroso on the 'in's and out's' of an independent Scotland and the EU. To be fair to the EU, it's a difficult position to address since until the outcome of the 2014 referendum is known it begs the question of whether any effort or cost should be expended on the problem until it exists as fact.
The problem is the campaigners for the Better Together camp - having already discovered their armoury devoid of positive, even pragmatic argument, have fired off this premature salvo in order to force their EU allies to do the fighting for them. (This is not an entirely new strategy for Westminster - Waterloo, Wellington claimed the victory the Austrians did the fighting. Anglo/Irish agreement 1920 - give in to most of the demands but stick on the oath to the King, then watch the scoundrels tear themselves apart.)
With this in mind I thought it might be worth trying to get at least a ball park figure on the costs and benefits associated with these alliances in the 21st century. (Here I have to admit to not being the most astute or diligent of researchers - but the path of analysis is not helped when confusion, either by design or bureaucratic traits, liquidise the component parts into a straw-sucked gruel.)
Anyway, here's what I managed to extract from the Bruges Groups 2008 analysis:
Cost/Benefit - UK/EU
Total gross cost: £65 billion
of that £28 billion for business to comply with EU regulations
£17 billion of additional food costs resulting from CAP*
£3.3 billion value of catch lost to the UK by CFP*
£14.6 billion gross paid into the EU budget
*CAP refers to Common Agricultural Policy. CFP to Common Fisheries Policy.
In the same year (2008) the UK benefited from £5.2 billion of Eu spending. This is usually deducted from the gross contribution. £2.4 billion of that was for agricultural subsidies - part of CAP.
(I couldn't find a direct comparison between the UK CAP subsidy and that of France - historically France has been the largest (in bulk monetary terms) beneficiary of CAP subsidies. In 2004 France got 22% (Euro 10.5 billion) while the UK got 9%.
In effect, the much vaunted single market amounts to harmonising a heavy burden of regulation across the EU in order to ensure that EU businesses are equally handicapped. If you find that hard to believe, the EU commission itself has estimated the EU regulation costs at 600 billion Euros a year, while the savings from the free market amount to only 180 billion per year.
In 2006 the Swiss Government instigated a Cost/Benefit study in order to analyse the pros and cons of adopting EU regulations.
The report concluded adopting full EU regulation would cost between six to nine times the costs of administering their existing bilateral agreements with EU countries.
The UK Government has never carried out (or if it has, it has never been published) an official cost/bebefit analysis in relation to its membership.
So why is the UK in the EU?
I accept 'values' can be difficult to define - for instance do we feel safer in our beds by being part of the EU? Has the EU earned its Nobel Peace Prize by maintaining peace in Europe or is that peace a result of more pragmatic and populace consensus? Has it shown compassion to its members on its southern flank or sacrificed them to the dictums of global corporate capitalism? Or have they been merely sidelined while the EU takes the initiative to consolidate its Supra National aspirations?
Add, deduct or comment as you will. By definition that is how we form and evaluate values. But surely it is the responsibility, nay duty, of all governments (and in Scotland's case - all aspirational governments) to know how much is going out or in to their public's purse in order to acquire and sustain these values. Excuse a simple analogy - if you mix your 30 year old single malt whisky with dry ginger - you have not only wasted it cost-wise but have distorted and diffused its provenance.
Having scavenged for reasons within a brain gifted yet perplexed by nature being constantly bombarded by the mediocrity of nurture I have come to my own personal gut tentative conclusion as to why the UK is in the EU.
It is hobris. Westminster's Establishment's mantra of the UK punching above its weight - its passion for a seat at all the top tables irrespective of principles or cost related to its domestic policies and the wellbeing of the people and nation they supposedly, and are well paid, to serve. That's it, nothing more than ego inflating vanity.
Take heed SNP; you may lead us out of the Union, but you cannot keep, or take us into the EU, without full Freedom of Information.
As yet, you have neither plebiscite or mandate for that.