Arguments for and against the EU

FOR the European Union

AGAINST the European Union


War is Europe’s default setting. Millennia of conflict peaked with the bloodletting that gripped the continent over the first half of the 20th Century. Conservative estimates put the death toll of wars fought or started by European nations at around 110 million from 1900 to 1950. Since then, nobody has died in fighting between countries in the European Union. The EU is the world’s best example of former enemies working together to solve their problems through discussion and compromise. The prospect of EU membership helped ensure peaceful transition across eastern Europe – except where nationalism took hold in the Balkans. No wonder the EU is destination of choice for refugees fleeing war.


The national state is sovereign. Attempts to force diverse peoples together in artificial super-states don’t work. Britain, France, Germany and the rest are proud nations with their own history and traditions. They cannot be subservient to rule from outsiders. The people of Europe are just too different: Poles have nothing in common with Portuguese; Finns and Greeks are world’s apart. It’s time to face up to this reality and organize an orderly dissolution of the EU. If not, the bloc’s internal tensions risk triggering an unruly, even violent breakup. Just look at the collapse of other supra-national entities like the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia. Nation states need to protect their own borders – the refugee crisis shows how the EU’s frontier-free experiment doesn’t work, just as the euro-zone debt crisis underscored the absurdity of the single currency.


Despite recent problems, the European Union is a huge economic success story. The creation of a single market uniting over 500 million people has forged the world’s biggest trading zone. Trade among EU nations has tripled since the launch of single market – to almost €2.5 trillion a year. Nowhere on the planet do so many people live so well. Firms benefit from tariff-free access, consumers get great choice and good prices, workers can circulate freely. The euro has enhanced these benefits, creating a pole of monetary stability and making life easier and cheaper for businesses and travellers. EU funding helps develop the economies of poorer members and creates lucrative new markets for the better off. Common standards protect workers’ rights, prevent monopoly abuse and ensure safer goods. Open markets create jobs, closing borders destroys them.


Europe’s economy may have outpaced the United States during the “glorious” years that followed the end of World War II, but since then it’s become sclerotic, left behind by other more dynamic powers, buried under bureaucratic regulations imposed from Brussels. Set free from the restrains of the EU, countries could follow economic policies that suit their national interest. Britain would no longer have to accept cheap workers from eastern Europe; France could protect firms from foreign competition; Greece and Italy could devalue national currencies to boost growth. The economies of the EU are just too diverse to be squeezed together in one-size-fits all straightjacket.


Our multipolar world is dominated by big powers – the United States, China, Russia, India.  Soon regional power blocs could be joining from South America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Even the bigger European powers like Britain, France or Germany would struggle to make their voice heard in world affairs. Smaller countries would be marginalised. Together the EU makes a powerful player – the world’s biggest provider of development aid; a leader in environment protection; a united force fighting terrorism and cross-border criminal gangs.  As a bloc, the EU can get better deals for its members in international trade talks. All of them would be weaker without it.


The European Union is fundamentally undemocratic. Elected national parliaments are overruled by faceless, faraway bureaucrats detached from the diverse realities of life around the continent. The European Parliament doesn’t work because there is no European “demos.” Citizens don’t feel European, they feel Irish, Slovak or Spanish and they don’t want their democracies, traditions and freedoms subverted to foreign rule. Europe’s old nations would be stronger cooperating as independent powers, allied perhaps, but not bound together in an undemocratic empire. Look at the recent attempts by the EU to bully Hungary and Greece when their democratically elected governments have sought to divert from the Brussels line. The big powers – especially an increasingly hegemonic Germany – have too much control.


Europe is full of diverse cultures, rich in ideas, but the nations of the EU share common values. They are among the forefront in defending human rights, democracy and the rule of law; they stand for market economies with a strong social safety net; they support just, pluralist, secular societies. Despite their diversity, European nations are each other’s  closest friends and allies. The often-maligned rules and regulations of the EU help cement and protect those common values. In these troubled times, citizens need it more than ever.


European countries could work together in a loose, free-trading group of independent countries without having to handover €115 billion every year to be misused by a bunch of unelected, overpaid pen pushers in Brussels. The EU is just a big waste of money. Richer EU countries disperse taxpayers’ hard-earned cash to be frittered away through corruption, handed over to inefficient farmers, or wasted in white-elephant projects like the infamous Réunion island motorway – a planned Indian Ocean environmental atrocity with an estimated cost of €133,000 per metre. Governments would be better off keeping their money at home.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Bob