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European Union

One of them things

The first challenge they will bequeath to Labour, should it win, involves untying the tangled knot around imports and exports. The confused introduction of hyper-bureaucratic and horrendously expensive border checks is the result of hardcore Brexit ideology.

It’s the EU that demands the hyperbureaucracy.

We can do whatever we want – and we should. One useful idea is that if we were in the EU then we’d accept German, French, Italian, inspection as being valid. So, why not do so when we’re out of the EU?

But then of course we’ve got cretins like Jay Rayner.

But that would have stopped us doing terrible deals with other countries of the sort the EU would not allow. It’s why many UK products are now marked “Not for EU”. It isn’t that they don’t currently comply with EU standards; it’s that theoretically they may not. If an incoming Labour government negotiated alignment on food standards, huge costs and bureaucracy would be stripped out of food production. Imports could flow. With our self-sufficiency at just 60% and falling, that would be a very good thing. We need them.

Who so desperately confuse the EU’s rules on our exports with our rules on imports. They really, really, do not have to be the same.

One possible answer

The European election results both confirmed and invalidated a widely expected rightwing surge. But what does this mean for Europe’s place in the world at a time when Putin has the upper hand in Ukraine, war in the Middle East shows no sign of ending, Trump is a threat on the US electoral horizon and China is throwing its weight around?

Who gives a toss?

Democracy, eh?

Green parties have shed seats in the European elections, provisional results suggest, raising fears that the continent may be on the verge of weakening its climate ambitions. Projections for the new European parliament showed the Green faction pushed from fourth into sixth place, with 53 seats, amid a broader shift to the right.

Oh, what fun!

The way the system was supposed to work was simple enough: the EU would set an annual cap on its overall emissions, then issue various emitters a certain number of EU allowances (EUAs). Each EUA would entitle its holder to emit one tonne of carbon. If a company had extra EUAs at the end of the year, meaning that it hadn’t emitted all the carbon it was allowed, it could put them up for sale, and companies that had too few EUAs could buy them. Companies could also purchase carbon offsets, which basically meant investing in sustainability measures in other countries. The plan was for Europe to issue fewer EUAs year over year, so it would become progressively more expensive to emit carbon.

What made the market interesting to scammers was the potential for VAT fraud. To understand the scheme they cooked up, it’s important to know two things: because economic policies in Europe are aimed at facilitating trade across borders, VAT is waived on sales between EU member states. Also, since governments only want to tax the value added at each stage of the economic process, they credit or reimburse the buyers of certain products for the VAT paid to suppliers.

They lifted billions by running a VAT Carousel operation on carbon credits.

And yes, largely the people who had been doing mobile phones. Using much the same system. Well after everyone had grasped what was happening with hte phones too. Yet the EU still instituted the system that allowed – hell, a great gaping hole where it could be done – it to be cdone.

How’s that for people supposedly planning an entire continent to our benefit?

Cretins.

How odd

MEPs’ lack of racial diversity has caused EU identity crisis, campaigners say
Parliament’s failure to reflect the bloc’s diverse population could worsen with European elections

Apparently Europe being ruled by Europeans is a problem now.

Really, really, missing the point

But only on the left has there been clear reference to tackling systemic racism. What about also committing to making EU institutions more racially diverse and inclusive, and decolonising inward-looking and Eurocentric trade, aid and foreign policies? By ignoring such questions, many of these parliamentarians perpetuate the damaging disconnect between the predominantly white EU institutions and the reality of a vibrant, diverse and multicultural Europe.

The entire point of the European Union is to set up a system whereby Europe – or that vision of it – can be protected from the vibrancy of that outside world. They’re not going to try to stop Eruocentric trade, protecting expensive European businesses from more lively competition elsewhere is the entire point of the game.

Weird, just weird

As 400 million EU citizens prepare to cast their votes in June’s European elections, a new poll shows that it is Ursula von der Leyen who has caught voters’ attention like no EU chief before her.

Our survey suggests that a large majority of Europeans today are aware that she is the European Commission president, considered to be the most powerful political office in the EU. Previous EU chief executives have been largely unknown to the public. But almost 75% are able to correctly identify von der Leyen’s name and recognise her face. Five years ago, her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, scored only 40% recognition.

Pressure for EU reform is becoming urgent. With war raging in Ukraine and Gaza, and the relationship between China and the US cooling, the EU needs deeper defence integration to meet the growing geopolitical challenges. Economic and monetary union might not be sustainable without closer fiscal integration and a stronger single market. New technologies need to be harnessed to generate prosperity for the next generation and the the 27-nation EU is committed to expanding to become a union of 30 or more member states.

That deeper integration, blah, blah, good job we’re out, eh?

The weirdness is that Europe hsa been asked three times now whether we’d like to be ruled by the German defence minister. Twice, in the face of vast armies trying to persuade us, we bloodily said no. Rather emphatically in fact. Third time around it’s the German defence minister who has four operational ‘planes and had the troops drilling with broomstocks. People are saying yes?

Weird.

Name one good thing from Brexit then, eh?

Yes, yes, I know it will strike as trivial and all that. But it is at least possible now to have a rational fisheries policy:

The European Union has launched legal action against the UK over a ban on catching sand eels in British waters in a fresh post-Brexit fishing dispute.

In January, Britain announced a ban on catching sand eels on Dogger Bank in the North Sea to protect the area’s populations of puffins and kittiwakes, which eat the fish.

The reason, well, you’ve got to claim it’s for environmental reasons to be allowed to do it. But banning sand eel fishing is a good idea. Alloow them to flourish to as to provide the food chain for cod etc out there – rather than being ground up for pig feed in Denmark.

Or even, you don;t think it’s a good idea. OK. But it is, at least, a possible idea because Brexit. Staying within the Common Fisheries Policy would have meant the decision is impossible.

Erm, Dave?

The UK has lost influence since Brexit to become just one of many “middle powers” in the world, former foreign secretary David Miliband has said.

Writing for the Observer, Miliband, now president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said that in order to reverse the decline, the UK needed to enter new “structures and commitments” with the EU on foreign policy.

The 7th, 10th, whatever it is, largest economy, and one of what, 5 nuclear (admitted at least) powers, loses influence by being independent instead of 1/27th of a collective?

Oh, right.

Aww, how cute

Last week the six biggest operators – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and ByteDance – were forced to toe the line on competition, advertising, interoperability and more. It was a gamechanger

Apparently passing a bit of regulation solves global problems.

The act imposes serious obligations: companies will have to allow third-party apps and app stores on their platforms; provide transparent advertising data; allow users to easily uninstall pre-installed software or apps; enable interoperability between different messaging services, social networks, and other services, allowing users to communicate seamlessly across platforms; and be more transparent about how their algorithms rank and recommend content, products and services.

It also prohibits certain practices by gatekeepers: favouring their own services over third-party ones, for example; engaging in self-preferential activities; and using private data from business users to compete against them. In other words, an end to tech business as usual.

The major effect so far – for me at least – is that Google Maps is no longer clickable from the Google search page. That’s improved my life no end.

Twattery.

This is, umm, weird

Sachets of sauce and small bottles of shampoo will be banned from European restaurants and hotels after a deal was struck to ban single-use plastics in the EU.

Belgium, negotiating on behalf of EU member states, reached provisional agreement with the European Parliament on the law to cut packaging waste late on Monday.

Because I’m reasonably certain that they passed another law, a decade back, which insisted – on food safety grounds – that little refillable bottles of oil and so on were not to be allowed in restaurants and sachets had to be used.

I’d need to make sure that was true before making much of a fuss about it but that is the recollection….

What’s really wrong with the EU

Among the Brussels regulations was rule EN1176, which defines safety requirements for children’s playground equipment. It sets out how much space there has to be between swings and how high they have to be off the ground, and limits the number of swings per bay to two.

Local councillors mulling the park revamp realised that they would not have the space for both swings and the new pirate attraction if they wanted to abide by standards that could help protect them from injury claims.

Under the rules, introduced in 1999, any repair or refurbishment of the park would mean the swings would have to be demolished because there is not enough room.

Sure, don’t want the kiddies to be damaged by swings that are not far enough apart.

#But there’s a human type who thinks that such – the gap between the swings – is properly the business of the continental government of 500 million people. That life should be regulated in such detail that all such decisions should be subject to exactly such regulation – even law.

There are others who think that government is what is done to fill in the gaps. Only things that cannot rub along nicely without the tender ministrating, centralised, hand need government applied to them.

It’s not what the gap is between those swings which is the point here. It’s who, where, decides what it is? And upon all the other myriad such trivia in life?

The problem with the European Union is that those who think the centralised bureaucracy should write all these rules are in charge of it.

Entirely possible to have a different system. A general idea that those who own something are responsible for it. If an accident happens then have a little confab about whether it was idiot users or the design of the thing at fault. As those cases mount up over time we get a body of law on what’s a good design, what’s a bad one. Good spreads.

Roughly the difference between Roman and Common law.

The EU is run by those who think that Roman Law should determine all of life. That’s what’s wrong with the EU.

There is no strategic solution here

As both Germany and Poland have found out over the centuries:

As Putin and Trump threaten from east and west, Europe must stand up for itself
Timothy Garton Ash

If you’re threatened on both sides then you’ve got to be able to fight a two front war. Which nobody ever does actually manage. You’ve got to ally with one so as to be able to confront the other.

Knowing the EU they’d pick Russia of course. Can’t be having with those Americans, right?

Gonna be a bit difficult

In those languages where everything is gendered:

The EU has urged legislators and policymakers to abandon ‘gendered language’ including “no man’s land”.

Bureaucrats say the WWI phrase should be replaced with “unclaimed territory”, while “Joe Public” should instead be “average citizen”.

But then that’s what you get when you give society’s tossers control over a continent.

The shrieking would be so much fun

Britain was “dead right” to leave the European Union and Germany should hold its own “Dexit” vote, the leader of the hard-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has said.

Alice Weidel, of the poll-topping AfD, said she would push for a referendum on EU membership if her party came to power.

Ms Weidel said the vote would be held if an AfD government could not secure reforms to curb overreach by the “unelected” European Commission.

“If a reform isn’t possible, if we fail to rebuild the sovereignty of the EU member states, we should let the people decide, just as Britain did,” she told the Financial Times.

“And we could have a referendum on ‘Dexit’ – a German exit from the EU.”

Not that I think an exit vote would be won. But the squealing that you can;t even think of having such a vote would be fun to hear. Because that would be that evidence that the project isn’t in fact democratic at all. Because even to give the people a say would be the wrong thing to do.

Same old problem

It also one that’s not likely to get resolved soon:

It is possibly also true that the euro has made it marginally easier to conduct business between eurozone states. Companies and individuals no longer have to worry about exchange rate risk, and can plan for the future accordingly. Yet the major efficiency gains anticipated by European industry from pricing policies and financial strategies have failed to materialise.

Nor do the exaggerated claims around price stability bear much scrutiny. The eurozone’s aggregated inflation rate disguises big variations on the ground. A year ago, for instance, the inflation rate ranged from 6.7pc in Spain through 11.3pc in Germany to 21.7pc in Latvia.

Even today, with the generalised price surge now receding, the differences are extreme, ranging from minus 0.7pc in Belgium to 6.9pc in Slovakia.

Despite 25 years of monetary integration, inflationary experience across the eurozone remains very different. In terms of interest rates, it is very much still the case that what may be appropriate for one country is likely to be inappropriate for another.

It’s absolutrely true that there are benefits to having the same curreny. Also that there are costs. Ths more different the component parts of the currency area the greater those costs. This is why the theory in this area is about optimal currency areas. What’s the right size where those costs and benefits match off against each other?

The answer is that Europe’s far, far, too large. But then everyone sensible’s known that since the 1990s.

Tough luck, Honey

The change in Sweden’s copyright law that triggered the dispute was the result of a 2019 EU directive designed to allow artistic creators to seek retrospective compensation for works that have become unexpected bestsellers.
#….#
As the snowball gained momentum as a bestseller, Wolff earned 2% in royalties for each sale of the glass lantern, allowing her to expand her practice and eventually resign from the company to set up her own studio. But in June 1984, Kosta Boda informed her in a two-sentence letter that her copyright for the snowball had expired after 10 years, as used to be common for works of applied art in Sweden.

Retroactive changing of standard contracts?

How is this even legal? Ah, yes, that’s right, it’s the EU.

Laughable

The European Union AI laws – which leaders finally announced had been agreed at nearly midnight on Saturday – are on track to entirely overshadow Britain’s six-week-old Bletchley declaration on artificial intelligence. The text of the agreement on a suite of comprehensive laws to regulate AI is not finalised, and many devils will be found in the details, but its impending arrival signals a sea change in how democracy can steer AI towards the public interest.

It’s a category error, isn’t it. Describing the EU as a democracy? Therefore we can reject everything else being said.

Which we should of course. We don;t know what AI will be used for, we don’t even know what it will be good at. We’re also entirely ignorant of how far it’s going to go in this iteration. But apparently the bureaucracy knows how it’s going to manage it?

All they’re really doing is making sure it doesn’t happen in Europe.