Monday, 5 October 2015
The British political debate on the EU is an empty charade
Unintentionally I'm acquiring a reputation as having some expertise on international trade and global regulation. I've been getting technical enquiries via direct messages on Facebook at Twitter. At this point I confess to having precisely zero expertise on any of it. I just have an apparent expertise when contrasted with the majority of those involved in public discourse just by way of acknowledging it exists and having a basic idea of what it does. I'm only just sliding off the other side of "Mount Stupid".
Just the mechanistic interactions in one industry sector between the WTO and the EU regarding subsidies is something that would take two lifetimes to acquire expertise in. On that alone I only have a passing familiarity with the terminology.
Knowing how little I now know about so much, I find myself unable to comment on whether somesuch regulation is good or bad. I can only pass comment on roughly where it came from and the mechanisms by which it became law. The only immediately apparent thing about it is how little democracy is involved.
We may have had a national conversation at one point about plastic bag charging, and the debate that rages this week is largely shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. It didn't matter what you thought of it then and it matters even less now. It was decided at the international level by way of global accords and passed to the EU inside a block of regulations which automatically become law regardless of whether there is an act of parliament.
There might have been a vote in the European parliament, but by this stage, the technical standards are already decided and agreed upon thus the parliament can only stall or delay by voting such measures down. They are often bundled into a raft of measures like the US Stimulus Bill that no individual or deliberative body could ever have given it the proper scrutiny. There is no possible way this process could be described as democracy.
I often speak of journalists not having the intellectual architecture to comment on EU matters, but it's not some gift from the gods. All you need is an inherent sense of curiosity. When it comes to regulations and rights supposedly coming from the EU, I start off with the assumption that the EU lacks any such competence, largely because I know roughly what the EU is made up of.
Beyond that I look for the international body most likely responsible and search their own databases. Nine times out of ten I find most of what the EU does in relation to the so called single market begins life elsewhere. It is assumed by most in the media and in the house of commons that these bodies are merely advisory, but their productions are usually transposed into law verbatim because corporates, NGOs and governments have agreed to them at the very top tables.
In this process we have no independent right of veto by way of being in the EU and must always vote for the common EU position - where we are structurally outnumbered.
Meanwhile, it's astonishing how few people know what the WTO is and what it does. All of these threats as to what the EU will supposedly do to us if we leave look increasingly implausible when you look at the international law by which the EU is bound. If the EU does want to play dirty tricks we can give the WTO a century of casework just by looking at French agriculture alone.
The EU doesn't so much have skeletons in the closet as neon skeletons hanging outside the front door with giant arrows pointing to them. It will get a crash course it just how little of its own law is attributable to Brussels and that if we can be held to account, so can they.
Once you are aware of such interrelations and how the EU is bound by WTO rules, where we actually find that the basis of even the EUs own internal single market is governed by the WTO, virtually all politicos and hacks pontificating on the subject look like they're on another planet. If I know little then these people know nothing.
If you've been following any of my work over the last few months then you are now somewhat familiar with the rich tapestry of international agencies that govern everything from banking rules to plastic bags - and yet we still have party conferences to decide on what governmental policy is supposedly going to be. Given the latitude available to them, all they can really do is design their reactions to various problems bad international law creates - and even then, only within a narrow set of parameters, assuming these ignoramuses are even capable of understanding the source of the problems.
Throughout the refugee crisis, there has been barely a mention of the Geneva Convention on Refugees, just as during the debate on zero hours contracts made no mention of the Agency Workers Directive - which itself is a product of the International Labour Organisation.
Consequently if you get the vibe that British politics seems like an empty sham it's because it is exactly that. There is a long regulatory chain that operates as if in secrecy. You could call it a conspiracy except they publish their findings and intentions in full on their own websites only nobody bothers to look. Both the europhiles and the sceptics have little clue as to what's going on thus the Brexit debate between the self appointed campaign organisations on both sides is an empty charade also.
Consequently if you find my contempt is spread equally among Ukip, the Tories, Labour and the media then it's because they are all equally worthless in terms of their contribution to public discourse and politics in general - and because of the vast egos involved in perpetuating this circus, were our betters in the SW1 bubble made aware of how little they know and how little influence they have, they would move heaven and earth through the media vessels they control to conceal it. But while our media is as lamentable as it is, they have no possible cause to.