Europe After Brexit

 

EU dominoesThe British vote to leave the European Union has triggered a debate — or as Spiegel puts it, a raging power struggle — in the rest of Europe about the proper way to respond. The leaders of Europe are divided, first, about how uncompromising the EU should be in negotiating the terms of the British exit:

For those in favor of a strong and powerful EU, for those who always saw the UK as a bothersome obstacle in their path, the British withdrawal process can’t proceed fast enough. Plus, French President Hollande and others want to use Britain as an example to show the rest of Europe how bleak and uncomfortable life can be when one leaves the house of Europe. Hollande, of course, has good reason for his approach: The right-wing populist party Front National has threatened to follow Cameron’s example should party leader Marine Le Pen emerge victorious in next year’s presidential elections. European Commission President Juncker wants deeper EU integration. German Chancellor Merkel does not.

The even more important question is what the European Union is to become. Is the lesson of Brexit that the remaining states must pursue a closer union, or is it that they must return powers from Brussels to national governments? Both answers make sense. It’s clear that the EU as presently constituted isn’t strong enough to deal with crises of the kind Europe has faced in the past decade. It’s also clear that it’s strong enough to alienate a significant portion of Europe’s population.

For Germany, handling this deftly is a matter of national survival. Germany exports nearly half of its GDP to the rest of Europe. It must at all costs preserve the free trade area. If Britain leaves without consequences, other countries might follow suit. This will not be a disaster for Germany if the free trade area is preserved. But if tariff barriers go up — as Marine Le Pen advocates, for example — and a trade war ensues, it would be a grave threat to Germany’s prosperous and stable postwar existence.

And from this follows the big question: Without the EU as a mechanism for peacefully channeling German energy and ambition, would the postwar peace of Europe at risk? Anyone who says, “Don’t be silly, of course it wouldn’t be” should not be so confident. To say that is to confuse the state of Europe as we’ve mostly known it in our lifetimes with Europe’s natural state. As far back as we have records, Europe has been, mostly, at war. To argue that this could never again happen on the Continent is to ascribe to the theory that humanity learns from experience. Perhaps it does. Or perhaps it only learns for a few generations, and then forgets.

The psychological impact of this vote shouldn’t be underestimated. Many Ricochet members, I’ve noticed, see Brexit as a cause for celebration. For many in Europe, however, it marks the end to what they have long understood to be a project for European peace. Accounts such as this are common:

It was only as I stepped onto Bonn’s underground that I realized I hadn’t gone by bike – my thumb going into overdrive as I frantically scrolled through the latest news. Sardined into the early morning tube, I suddenly heard a little “Scheiße” over my shoulder. Turning round, a burly German in his 50s nodded at my phone. “Sorry,” he said, with an awkward smile. My eyes began to well up – not for the first time that morning, and most certainly not the last.

Working in an international newsroom comes, naturally, with its fair share of devastating news: bombings, terrorist attacks, plane crashes, natural disasters. But never have I experienced such a somber mood as on Friday. “It’s not as if someone’s died,” I later saw someone tweet. The heavy weight in the newsroom said different.

There is a good deal of sadness and fear in Europe right now. This continent doesn’t trust itself, and for good reason.

Good intentions, at least, preside on both sides of the power struggle. The goal is somehow to put a stable, peaceful, tolerant, and prosperous Europe back together again; the debate is about how to achieve this. Both camps see Brexit as a deeply disturbing warning that the EU must change; both see it as an opportunity to change it. But on one side are the protagonists of “more Europe.” They include European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Parliament President Martin Schulz. On the other are the majority of Europe’s heads of state and government, led by Angela Merkel. Drearily but predictably, Europe’s bureaucrats believe — probably earnestly — that the solution lies in giving them more power. Europe’s individual heads of state and governments think the solution lies in giving them more power.

“The next weeks will be decisive,” said French President François Hollande. “Europe must show its solidity, its solidarity, its capacity to propose initiatives for and with Europeans.”

Continental Europe’s center-left, unlike Britain, had a plan for the Brexit contingency: It drew up blueprints for a more federalist Europe with a common budget and much deeper political integration. Before the polls, Germany’s SPD wrote a position paper, called “Re-Founding Europe,” which it published immediately upon receiving news of the British vote. It’s a direct challenge to Merkel’s policies. Europe, says the paper, needs the courage to “risk something grander.” Schulz, though, like Juncker, wants to transform the Commission into a “true European government.”

Now, before you say, “Who asked Schulz?” — he and Juncker were elected, following months of campaigning on this very platform.

The Democratic Deficit: A Quick Detour

Let’s take a quick detour here. I’ve noticed that many members of Ricochet believe that the European Union is essentially undemocratic and unaccountable, and indeed, many in Europe feel the same way. It’s worth asking why so many feel this.

This charge is often made in bad faith. The EU is at least as democratic than its member states, and in the case of Britain more democratic; after all, Britain still maintains an unelected and hereditary peerage. Any basic constitutional change in the EU requires unanimous consent from all 27 member states, followed by domestic ratification in accordance with that state’s constitution. This is a more exigent threshold for constitutional change than in any other modern democracy.

Before it can be placed on the agenda, legislation in Brussels has to secure — seriatum — consensual support from national leaders in the European Council; a formal proposal from a majority of the Commission; a two-thirds majority of weighted member state votes in the Council of Ministers (in practice, a consensus); absolute majorities in the European Parliament (which is directly elected); and transposition into national law by national bureaucrats or parliament, all of whom are elected or appointed in keeping with national customs and laws. It’s in fact impossible for Brussels to legislate secretly, quickly, or in the interests of a single narrow group, which can be said of no other extant Western democracy. It makes much more sense to criticize the EU for being ineffectual than for being undemocratic. It is ineffectual because it is too democratic. The threshold of consent required for achieving anything of significance is too exigent.

Nearly every critical EU decision-maker – national leaders, national ministers, European parliamentarians, national parliamentarians – is directly elected. Any European citizen can vote his or her representative out of the European parliament. European law is then translated into domestic law by parliamentarians who, in turn, can be voted out. The only actors in the legislative process who aren’t directly elected, or directly responsible to someone who is, are the European Commissioners and their officials — and the Commission’s power has steadily declined in recent decades; except in a few regulatory areas, such as competition policy, its authority is weak, and its ex ante agenda control has been overtaken by the European Council, which is directly elected. Control over amendments and compromises has been assumed by (directly-elected) European Parliamentarians.

1956-tanks-budapest_56_06 Hungary, 1956. The difference between the Soviet Union and the European Union should be obvious.

It is true that some decision-making bodies are insulated from direct democratic control: the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice, competition authorities, trade negotiators, and fraud investigators. But this is true of every Western democracy. National governments customarily insulate these functions from popular pressure, too. That’s what’s meant by an “independent” judiciary and an “independent” central bank. The independence of both is vital to their legitimacy.

To liken the EU to the USSR or other totalitarian regimes is grotesque. Every member of the EU willingly signed on to the project, with many states voluntarily undertaking huge democratizing reforms to meet the accession criteria, reduce their state sectors, and strengthen their democratic institutions. Those who liken the EU to the Soviet Union either know nothing about the EU or are engaged in a denial of the Soviet Union’s crimes. The photo to the right, above, shows what happened to Hungary when students there declared they no longer wanted to be in the Soviet Union. By contrast, Hungary held a referendum on joining the EU on April 12, 2003; 83.8 percent voted in favor. Hungary’s admission was celebrated with fireworks, street parties, and the Ode to Joy. See the photo below. Even as Britain voted to leave, the Western Balkan nations were impatiently pounding on the door, eager to be let in.

515e0601a8d7da386ebfef32cf1915c2 Hungary joined the EU after an overwhelming majority of Hungarians voted to do so.

But if this is so, why do so many people feel it’s undemocratic? Uncharitably, one could say that people think this because they’re too lazy to look up how it works. It is also because national politicians tend to blame the EU for their policy failures, so better to avoid suffering the electoral consequences. The Leave campaign, for example, blamed Britain’s housing crisis and the NHS shortfall on the EU. But these problems devolved from national policy, not from the EU, and neither problem will be rectified by withdrawing from it. Indeed, the NHS will have a critical staffing shortage without EU employees.

Likewise, many of the charges of “absurd EU over-regulation” are fantasy. Some poor bureaucrat in Brussels compiled a table of Euromyths; the list is extensive. No, it isn’t true that the EU funds African acrobats and trapeze artists. No, it’s not true that the EU has banned bendy bananas. But clearly something has given rise to the widespread sense that EU law is alien and suffocating.

The answer to the question, “Is there a democracy deficit?” is a matter of definition and fact. But no matter the definition or fact, it matters that people believe it to be so, even if it isn’t factually accurate. Politicians must attend to what people believe.

The deeper problem, I suspect, is not a democratic deficit but an insufficiency of power. The European Parliament doesn’t represent an EU State, because that state doesn’t exist. It doesn’t represent individual EU members; they have their own parliaments. So who does the EU Parliament represent? Europeans generally. Everyone and no one. Like almost everything else in the EU, the Parliament is neither national nor truly supernational, the first because its national affiliations are so diluted, the second because there is no European state to which it owes allegiance and for which it acts.

Nor does the EU Parliament have the proper powers of a democratic parliament. The Council of the European Union, which sits in the EU Parliament, is not elected by the Parliament but by member states. It’s the transitivity of voting (Citizen X votes for Hollande who votes for Schultz therefore X has effectively voted for Schultz) that results in the widespread sense that there is insufficient accountability. Parliament and the Council in turn appoint the enormous cadre of unelected civil servants and elect the members of the EU Council, which can’t on its own initiate legislation. That must be undertaken by the EU Commission, whose president is in turn selected by the EU Council and whose members are approved (not selected) by Parliament. Parliament has no true right to dismiss or even to review members of the EU executive branch.

Still more significant: Real power in the EU is held by its permanent cadre of civil servants, who make the laws and the regulations, and by shifting alliances among EU heads of state. It’s France, Germany, and Italy for the moment; but during the pile-up on Greece it was France and Germany with an assist from Spain. This is not a problem that will be solved by any nation’s withdrawal from the European Union, however. Europe has always been characterized by balance-of-power coalitions, from the Grand Alliance in the wars against Louis XIV and Louis XV and the stately quadrille to the Concert of Europe to the Triple Alliance.

How Can They Fix It?

This detour, I hope, makes the nature of the problem clearer and suggests avenues for rectifying it. Some form of pooled or shared sovereignty seems to me a necessity for Europe. No single European state can cope with such severe and transnational threats to European security on its own. Agreements for collective defense are bound to be signed anyway, whether under the EU aegis or by means of separate treaties. It makes perfect sense for Europe to have a common foreign, defense, and trade policy. The United States is overstretched and greatly resentful of the European defense burden. Leading politicians of both major American parties charge Europe with freeloading. Any responsible European defense planner must see that this has long-term implications.

What remains of the EU needs to secure its borders, maintain internal and external security, undertake a rational shared strategy to cope with inward migration, and either complete the EMU or abandon the Euro. Absent a common policy, Europe can’t possibly hope to cope with these challenges and security threats. All of this is long overdue; and it’s true that without Britain to hold it back, it’s easier to imagine solutions.

All of this is ultimately for Europe to decide, not us. But the United States has a massive interest in European stability and security, and we should be involved, diplomatically, in representing this interest. That’s why it vexes me that for some reason, American conservatives seem eager to see the EU dissolved. This is not at all obviously in our interest, although it’s in our interest to see the EU reformed so that it doesn’t dissolve, or to see it replaced by another mechanism for European economic and security cooperation. Doug Sanders makes this point in the Globe and Mail:

You might think [from the rise of isolationism in US and Brexit] that barrier building and isolationism are naturally, and perhaps rationally, conservative responses – a rejection of a liberal elite’s international cosmopolitanism and an embrace of national self-security. Yet there is nothing ideologically inevitable or politically rational: It is an artifice of electoral politics, created by opportunistic politicians who could just as reasonably make the opposite case.

That was apparent in the runup to Britain’s vote on its European membership, which was triggered by a devastated economy, an angry population and a deeply divided governing party. After an ugly campaign in which the tabloid press denounced the Leave campaign as “doctrinaire Marxist socialism” and all major parties supported Remain, almost 70 per cent of British voters voted to stay in Europe. Yes, we’re talking about the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should stay in the political and trade bloc that would become the European Union. It was virtually the same referendum as last week’s, with the same arguments – except left and right were precisely reversed.

Europe’s insurgent parties, from hard left to far right, are now poised to challenge the basic tenets of the European consensus. They are broadly sceptical about the EU, resent the United States, and prefer Putin’s Russia. They want borders closed, migration low, and trade protected. Sinn Fein has called for a vote on reunifying Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Scottish National Party is poised to demand a second independence referendum. The National Front in France, the PVV in the Netherlands, the AFD in Germany, Lega Nord in Italy, and the FPO in Austria have all called for referendums in their countries. But no one would be well-served by the fracturing of Europe into mini-states run by nationalists or communists who would quickly wreck Europe’s economies.

The coming months will be critical. The relationship between the European Union and its member states can — and must — be reconsidered. Whatever the causes of the perception of a democratic deficit, it must be fixed. And the US should help. This is one of the rare times and places where skillful American diplomacy could make all the difference. Sadly, I’m not sure whether we’re apt to see this clearly.

Anyway, please contribute, and I’ll keep writing about it.

There are 105 comments.

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  1. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    You are kidding that you don’t understand why the EU is considered anti-democratic? It’s because people kept voting not to approve the constitution and were thrown into it anyway. France rejected it. Holland rejected it. Ireland was going to vote on it, but it got cancelled. That’s some kind of democratic institution.

    The EU is a horrible, horrible idea that will lead to war by trying to make very different people one. Free trade is one thing. A single currency is a bad idea because you don’t have a common budget. And having a common budget means you’re one country. So having a single currency was the beginning of the end for the EU. And the benefit of the Germans and the cost to the French and especially Italians and Spanish (to say nothing of Greece) of a single currency is enormous.

    If the US would use its clout, it should do so to end the entire idea of political integration. No more closer union. No open borders. It was one thing for the EU to impose on Switzerland and Norway a requirement to have free movement of people. They could not resist. It is quite another to try to impose it upon the UK. If the UK is smart, it will go to Switzerland and Norway and demand no more free movement of people.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    They are getting ready to ban toasters by Fiat regulations and you don’t think there is a democracy deficit?

    Liberty is always good. even if it is messy.

    • #2
  3. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    It’s a matter of equilibrium.

    Just to show an example, in America, we have at least three levels of government: local, state, and federal. In our country, we try to restrict the functions to the appropriate level – and that’s why we get upset when a decree about bathroom policy is imposed from Washington on everyone.

    Now suppose we add one more level atop those three. It doesn’t matter whether the fourth level is internally “democratic” … the mere fact that we’ve added a new level inherently disrupts the functions of the way power and responsibilities are shared. If the new fourth level did nothing to affect the others, that might be one thing, but this new European level affects nearly everything local.

    The greater the group, the less each individual matters. Once you reach a certain size, individuals no longer feel they matter as individuals – and that’s a recipe for revolution.

    • #3
  4. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I think much of the above misses the point.  It is whether the EU was to be a spectacular species of cooperation among distinct nations/nationalities or a vehicle by which a new class could steadily exterminate those national identities.  The open invitation to a horde of Euro-hating Muslims was a clear signal that the choice of those now in charge was the latter.

    It is about culture, not legal superstructure. The mandated and arrogant green aesthetic was an economic dagger at people who did not work at desks. The new class sees family, nationality, church and moral tradition as the one true enemy and makes no secret of it.

    It is lovely to list various features of the EU and to debate comparative structural advantages but if those structures are firmly in the hands of people with a cultural (anti-cultural?) agenda that is quite hostiles to the source of the values and beliefs that gave rise to the EU, then that agenda becomes the more significant issue.

    The EU was never about a new loyalty to a united Europe so much as dissolving the nationalist ties of the old Europe.  Common subjugation to technocratic rule neither establishes an identity nor cultivates the virtues normally associated with patriotism.

    Maybe this is an opportunity for the entire West to re-learn that a society that fails to inculcate certain virtues and dispositions (and which fails to make babies) cannot be saved by structural or ideological novelties.

    • #4
  5. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    KC Mulville:It’s a matter of equilibrium.

    Just to show an example, in America, we have at least three levels of government: local, state, and federal. In our country, we try to restrict the functions to the appropriate level – and that’s why we get upset when a decree about bathroom policy is imposed from Washington on everyone.

    Now suppose we add one more level atop those three. It doesn’t matter whether the fourth level is internally “democratic” … the mere fact that we’ve added a new level inherently disrupts the functions of the way power and responsibilities are shared. If the new fourth level did nothing to affect the others, that might be one thing, but this new European level affects nearly everything local.

    The greater the group, the less each individual matters. Once you reach a certain size, individuals no longer feel they matter as individuals – and that’s a recipe for revolution.

    To be accurate America has only two actual levels of government. County and municipal governments are functions of state constitutions. I agree though that there is a tendency to centralize as the size increases. That however, is rarely the optimal solution.

    • #5
  6. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Claire, the free trade zone isn’t the key component Germany needs. It is helpful, but not the lynchpin. The key component is the common currency.

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Hang On: You are kidding that you don’t understand why the EU is considered anti-democratic? It’s because people kept voting not to approve the constitution and were thrown into it anyway. France rejected it. Holland rejected it. Ireland was going to vote on it, but it got cancelled. That’s some kind of democratic institution.

    You’ve misunderstood this story. The Treaty was signed in 2004 by the elected representatives of the then 25 member states. Most member states ratify EU treaties following parliamentary votes. But because the treaty was seen as novel, advocates and opponents of the Constitution argued that it should be subjected to referendums across the European Union. Which it was. It was subsequently approved and ratified by 18 states. France and Holland did not approve, however, and therefore, because unanimity is required (a more exigent standard than in any other democracy), the EU has no constitution. It was renegotiated, and subsequently elements of it came into force in the Lisbon Treaty, also signed by every country’s elected representatives.

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Old Bathos: The new class sees family, nationality, church and moral tradition as the one true enemy and makes no secret of it.

    Could you offer some evidence of this?

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Bryan G. Stephens: ban toasters by Fiat regulations

    Evidence?

    • #9
  10. Could Be Anyone Member
    Could Be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    To the point of the OP could you please cite the sources, if you have the time, about how these EU officials are elected, approved, and/or selected. As it stands it would appear that the EU is imperfectly democratic. Just because you may have voted in Hollande doesn’t mean you back his choice for the head of the EU and this is doubly so for those who did not vote in Hollande or other national leaders.

    You yourself at one point argued that regulators were actually lacking in power and then several paragraphs later typed that the permanent bureaucrats in the EU are the greatest wielders of power. If that is so then by definition the EU is actually quite undemocratic since unelected officials (that is what a bureaucrat is) are deciding the bulk of policy and that contradicts what you typed prior.

    But as to the question of the EU it started out as a trade agreement between European Nations and has expanded to far beyond that. Nation states that have free markets and are democracies do not declare war on one another in the modern age. As a matter of fact I cannot think of an example. Such a peace exists because trade by itself bonds people together, it enriches people materially and by its very nature demands a degree of intimacy or fraternity between the two undertaking it. It is against democratic nations with free markets to go to war because it impoverishes them materially.

    So when the EU begins to centralize against or without express consent of those under its power then it is forcing something that should not occur to begin with. Such expansions in its power alone show that the EU (which has a large and horrendous constitution) is trying to do what it ought not do.

    As to the concerns of collective defense I would also disagree. Why would European nations be incentivized to care for their security with the EU when they have been given the same chance with NATO? The fact is that such European nations still predict America picking up the slack and if they sincerely desired collective security they would have expanded their defense spending long before.

    These critiques of the EU do not meant it cannot be reformed. It can and perhaps should, but it will require drastic changes. Hopefully the concern caused by Brexit will move other member nations to seek reform which will lighten the proposed functions of the EU towards more free trade while leaving nation states of Europe to formulate their own policies.

    Brexit’s success will hopefully also lead to more free trade and responsive government. Those are goals which conservatives should get behind and did in the case of Brexit.

    • #10
  11. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: It’s the transitivity of voting (Citizen X votes for Hollande who votes for Schultz therefore X has effectively voted for Schultz) that results in the widespread sense that there is insufficient accountability. Parliament and the Council in turn appoint the enormous cadre of unelected civil servants…

    This is a good part of it, yes. (Of course, as you have pointed out elsewhere, nowhere are civil servants elected.)

    Another factor is that so many of the players on the European scene are B-listers, those who never quite made it at home or who are yesterday’s men and women. The average European Commissioner, for example, is given to the sort of wild flights of fancy expected of a connected, if unloved and intellectually limited, councillor from a safe ward in a medium-sized city.

    • #11
  12. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    We can say many of the same things and ask similar questions about Washington and the states.  Is Washington so unpopular and corrupt and dysfuctional because it has too much power or not enough?  Is there a democratic deficit?   Well yes, yes and yes.  Is Germany more of a threat as an independant nation, or at the helm of an increasingly powerful and centralizing EU even if checked by the French civil service some democratic processes?   Some US states are corrupt and dysfunctional as well  and much of Washington works better than many states.  The BLM, Forest Service and Park Service for instance, the Foreign Service used to, parts of DOD, the Public Health Service in the old days, NASA when it was young.   But institutions stagnate and corrupt and don’t have mechanism for self correction.  The private sector self corrects, not because any one institution self reforms or just because they have bottom line information and are part of the price system that provides constant feed back.  They self reform because they constaly die and are replaced, and new things emerge in spite of any one company’s skills, strength or power.    And this all works becasue they are totally decentralized, the information they operate on is dispersed and specialized and they have to scramble to survive.  Goverments have no such source of information even though we give it power assuming  it does and their scramble is usually unrelated to stated institutional objectives.

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Could Be Anyone: To the point of the OP could you please cite the sources, if you have the time, about how these EU officials are elected, approved, and/or selected

    Do you mean me?

    • #13
  14. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Old Bathos: The new class sees family, nationality, church and moral tradition as the one true enemy and makes no secret of it.

    Could you offer some evidence of this?

    The family unit is all but destroyed in Europe. The Christian Church has gone from being the foundation that all the European Cultures had in common to being a very small minority among all the populations of the EU and an unwelcome voice at the table of the elite. The EU and its policies are the very definition of what it is to destroy the very idea of national identity.

    All this is so ironic to me. Families, Christianity and national identity did not cause the wars that Europeans have become so obsessed with avoiding. It was the modernist, secular, statist, elites…..you know, the EU-types. No, they aren’t stupid enough to employ the same tactics today that failed in the 20th century. They have….evolved?

    Claire, I greatly appreciate all the info you bring forth and your interesting perspective. You just haven’t convinced me yet.

    • #14
  15. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Does the elected EU parliament have the sole power to write legislation? Is the Executive of the EU elected either by direct vote of 500 million people or elected as the EU parliamentary leader of a majority?

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #15
  16. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I didn’t think democracy was supposed to be an answer to onerous government power.  In fact, democracy is the antithesis of freedom.

    The EU’s constitution is a masterpiece of committee work. Everything is a fundamental right. It is too long, too detailed, and favors government authority over the people to protect “rights” that are impossible

    Our own nation is an example of what happens to freedom when “rights” are created by judicial whim.  In the EU they have a lot more “rights” that are used to crush innovation and freedom.

    I’m all for ending it. I’m all for destroying the whimsical judiciary as well. Just as Britain is taking back sovereignty, so must our governors begin to enforce the tenth amendment. We are doomed unless they do so.

    • #16
  17. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: No, it’s not true that the EU has banned bendy bananas.

    Well, let’s have some facts, shall we?

    European Commission regulation 2257/94 states that the fruit must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature”. Class 1 bananas can have “slight defects of shape” and Class 2 bananas can have “defects of shape”.

    And the law, as originally stated, did INDEED ban such bananas:

    The regulation applies to unripened green bananas, and thus to growers and wholesalers rather than retailers.[3] The main provisions of the regulation were that bananas sold as unripened, green bananas should be green and unripened, firm and intact, fit for human consumption, not “affected by rotting”, clean, free of pests and damage from pests, free from deformation or abnormal curvature, free from bruising, free of any foreign smell or taste.[1] The minimum size (with tolerances and exceptions) is a length of 14 cm and a thickness (grade) of 2.7 cm. It specifies minimum standards for specific quality classifications of bananas (Extra, Class I, Class II).[1] Only Extra class bananas have to comply fully with the shape specifications. Class II bananas, for instance are permitted to have “defects of shape”; Class I bananas are permitted only “slight defects of shape”.[1][4] This is not true, however, of the size specifications; sale of bananas below the minimum size is almost always prohibited (with exceptions only for bananas from a few regions where bananas are traditionally smaller).[1]

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_Regulation_(EC)_No._2257/94

    • #17
  18. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I am delighted that the UK is now seriously talking about instituting unilateral free trade with the world.

    And a flat 15% corporate tax rate.

    Europe cannot compete with an unleashed UK economy.

    • #18
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    On Sunday in the New York Times, Sylvie Kauffmann wrote:

    In the collective soul-searching that has begun within the European Union after the Brexit earthquake, a strong emphasis has rightly been put on the bloc’s austerity policies and on Brussels’ encroachments. Now comes the naked truth: For the past 10 years, the European Union has failed to deliver on the main objective it was set up to achieve: shielding its citizens from insecurity. Over the past few days, European leaders, in a state of shock, have hastily identified three priorities on which to focus if they want to save their union: security, migration and economic growth.

    Giving them credit for only having fallen off the pony ten years ago is a little generous. But now they are going to focus on security, migration and economic growth? Whatever were they focused on before now? And what kind of melon-head is shocked that people want those things? And why did it take the departure of 64 million people to bring about this change in focus?

    It doesn’t much matter how difficult it is to amend a constitution that one can’t get ratified by its constituents in the first place. It isn’t the laws either. It’s the sniggling little bureaucrats whom if they didn’t have government jobs would have no jobs at all micromanaging the lives of those constituents from a government office in Brussels.

    Leave the toasters alone, Jean-Claude, and deal with the important stuff first.

    • #19
  20. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    As for banning… ”

    “From next year, the EU will impose a limit of 900 watts on vacuum cleaners, down from 1,600 at the moment.”

    And whose business is it of the government to tell me how powerful my appliances can be? Do I not pay the bill for electricity consumed?

    • #20
  21. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    More on bananas, from Forbes.

    So, the standards do indeed say that excessively bendy bananas may not be sold for human consumption, but can be for industrial processing. So something is banned under the regulation: excessively bendy bananas being sold for direct human consumption.

    However, that’s not actually what the problem with this is. The problem is that this regulation has the force of law. It is, in theory, possible that someone could be prosecuted for selling bendy (OK, too bendy) bananas for human consumption. And who in heck wants to live in a legal system that would allow that sort of nonsense? Well, obviously, the people who write the laws for the European Union, that’s who, and there is our problem.

    • #21
  22. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Bryan G. Stephens: ban toasters by Fiat regulations

    Evidence?

    Here. And Here. To be fair, only high powered toaster (i.e. those that make lots of heat and actually toast) will be banned.

    • #22
  23. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Old Bathos: The new class sees family, nationality, church and moral tradition as the one true enemy and makes no secret of it.

    Could you offer some evidence of this?

    European churches fought unsuccessfully to include some mention of God in EU’s lengthy constitution when it was created, some acknowledgement of the actual spiritual heritage of Europe.   Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) decried rejection of appointees who openly hold un-PC (i.e., Catholic) values and stated that believers were being driven underground.  That perception is widespread and well-founded.

    In the new Orwellian world, the class which owns the word “tolerance” define it to mean that anyone who does not openly endorse every single element of the moral, political and aesthetic vision of that class is “intolerant.”  That the elite don’t think of this as a form of intolerance is both diagnostic and a major part of the problem.

    Whether intentional or not, the economic and regulatory climate in the EU (and here) seems to be designed to reward the knowledge class and put everyone else on welfare.  That has been utterly destructive of marriage, which change has been met with neither great regret nor cries for social reform by the elite.

    Again, this is not a function of the structure of the EU but a reason why there should not be such a structure if it is going to be ruled by this kind of elite.

    • #23
  24. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    “Plus, French President Hollande and others want to use Britain as an example to show the rest of Europe how bleak and uncomfortable life can be when one leaves the house of Europe. ”

    That attitude in itself is reason why the EU needs to go. Instead of asking the question “How can we manage the UK’s exit for the prosperity and good of all?”, the question is “How should we punish the British for their temerity and as a warning to others not to defy their betters?”

    The EU is disgusting.

    • #24
  25. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Old Bathos: It is about culture, not legal superstructure.

    I think this is an important point, Claire.

    It’s not that the incoming ”  horde of Euro-hating” immigrants can’t be supported materially or institutionally, it’s that there seems to be a persistent, guilty self-loathing that underlies not just the acceptance of refugees, but the unwillingness to restrain or even criticize their culturally-specific misbehavior (e.g. sexual assaults on young women, support for jihaad, etc.).

    Yes, the beliefs and behaviors of ISIS are appalling, the Euroguilt whispers…but within (barely) living memory, Germans did appalling things too, and the French, Dutch, Belgian and various Eastern Europeans participated more, and with more enthusiasm,  than they  would prefer to acknowledge.

    It seems to my extremely amateur and only anecdotally-informed mind that  WW2 looms over all of this: the Holocaust puts a dark asterisk beside any European claim to the moral or cultural high ground and undoubtedly makes it difficult for them to be other than culturally relativist.  And it is very, very difficult to create a Union —anthem, currency and all—without a pretty solid sense of national goodness, worthiness, even superiority.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that it was Britain pulled the plug, or that the Scandinavian countries are the ones who might go next and not, say, the Dutch: these are the countries with the cleanest records—the clearest national conscience, as it were— when it comes to the murder of the Jews.

    • #25
  26. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Or perhaps it only learns for a few generations, and then forgets.

    This.  It’ll forget in one generation whatever’s not passed on to that generation.

    • #26
  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    RyanFalcone: The family unit is all but destroyed in Europe.

    How so? It’s true that some European countries have low birthrates, but it makes no sense to blame the EU for this. The EU isn’t involved in the kinds of policies that would affect this at all. It doesn’t set marriage or divorce policy; it’s true that divorce has risen in the past half-century in Europe, but this has nothing to do with the EU. Part of this increase is due to the fact that in several Member States divorce was only legalised during the period (for example, in Italy, Spain, Ireland and Malta). Births out of wedlock have risen, but this is also true in the US, which obviously isn’t part of the EU. In the sense that there seems to be a connection between economic recession and “baby recessions,” it makes sense to blame the incompetent handling of the Eurozone crisis for a recent decline in birth rates in some countries, but clearly this wasn’t the intention of the policy.

    • #27
  28. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Gawron:Does the elected EU parliament have the sole power to write legislation? Is the Executive of the EU elected either by direct vote of 500 million people or elected as the EU parliamentary leader of a majority?

    No, but that’s not the definition of democracy.

    • #28
  29. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    iWe:As for banning… ”

    “From next year, the EU will impose a limit of 900 watts on vacuum cleaners, down from 1,600 at the moment.”

    And whose business is it of the government to tell me how powerful my appliances can be? Do I not pay the bill for electricity consumed?

    iWE, didn’t you get the memo? Your extra watts will make the oceans rise, allegedly.

    • #29
  30. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    RyanFalcone: The family unit is all but destroyed in Europe.

    How so? It’s true that some European countries have low birthrates, but it makes no sense to blame the EU for this. The EU isn’t involved in the kinds of policies that would affect this at all

    I believe this is a misunderstanding of cultural impacts.

    Europe has long strived for stasis, for a kind of suspended animation. I recall a “0%” cover on the Economist back in the 1980s that talked of this perfect kind of amber encasement for the continent.

    Stasis directly affects birthrates. Getting married and having children is an investment in the future, a bet that the future is going to be better than the present. It is a vote of confidence in a dynamic world.

    The EU is the embodiment of sclerosis, the elevation of bureaucratic hedonistic nihilism above all else. Which is why vacation in Europe is the single highest goal: a continent-wide experientially-focused waste of time. It is also why young muslims radicalize: lacking other opportunities, and any reason to be enthusiastic about their host cultures/nations, they might as well get involved with something that truly stirs the blood.

    • #30

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