Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Timeline of the European Union

Wikipedia - A good starting  point to browse the EU History

I have been browsing here to see what might help me, as I recognise my knowledge of the EU is certainly not the best. And I wanted to understand the causes behind welfare benefits being apparently so attractive for EU migrant workers.

Wiki - I am unsure whether it is regarded as biased or unbiased. The cynic in me wonders if the content is different if you are browsing it in different languages?

I soon navigated to the Maastricht Treaty, as in my mind, this seemed to be the start of why the UK electorate on balance chose  a government offering a EU Referendum, in 2015

This treaty marked the birth of the European Union as it is today, with the "Three Pillars of  European Union" being:-

The European Economic Community

Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters

Common Foreign & Security Policy

And from these pillars, the European Union was only completely formed at the very end of 2007. Amazing, the EU is only 8 years old! It is younger than the Euro! (2002)

My last blog was about the freedom of movement of peoples, and my personal experiences that were admittedly prior to the formation of the EU, and even before the Maastricht Treaty existed, but Maastricht really was the start of it.

Above is the definition of that freedom, one of four fundamental freedoms that the EU offers.

It talks only of workers, which is fine, but not people out of work. So, which bit of which agreement is the cause for David Cameron wanting to restrict the ability of migrants to claim benefits. Is it a law which is controlled by the UK government or the EU?

For Maastricht, the Conservatives kept us out of the Social Charter, which was one of the elements of the treaty.

In 1999, the New Labour government brought us into it.

So what is the Social Charter

I cannot see anything that defines the level of welfare benefits for a member state, beyond what is decided by the member's National Government. Merely just that migrant workers cannot be discriminated against; so as-per Maastricht, then.  I suspect the main issue in the EU Social Charter was the European Court on Human Rights.

The above link is useful for providing a history of how the UK welfare system developed. I suspect the other nations of Europe have similar histories. I think welfare is probably an integral part of modern Europe; who we all are, and reflects a type of society we want to live-in. I certainly wouldn't advocate a return to the 19th Century, but whatever we have has to be affordable.

And the below table shows the size of the Budget.

I suppose the huge size of  State Pension element is the problem, and the influx of migrant workers makes the future UK tax payers liable for higher payments. There is no fund being built up to pay for future liabilities, with today's tax payments. Huh! How can there be when we run a deficit?

So the route cause of the problem must surely be the benefits system in the UK, not just the EU Treaties.

And the above table just begs another question. There are so many areas of the budget that David Cameron has defined as no-go areas for cuts like the NHS,  the state pension, and International Development Budget, just how will he bring it all under control?

David Cameron's efforts on renegotiating; i.e. trying to allow a 4 year lag on benefits for migrant workers seems a little misguided to me. Is it a sop to a section of the UK electorate? Or is it a cover and Press distraction for other aspects of his renegotiations? Or both!

So on this issue, and really as my last blog concluded, I think:-

  • The UK Government has got to address the level  benefits (the Pull Factors), but only as part of a wider issue of bringing UK spending down for a sustainable affordable future.

  • The EU has actually got to do something to address the problems in the Eurozone (the Push factors) that are driving an influx of migrant EU workers. But equally importantly, it has to be seen to be doing something about it. What does it actually do?
But I would add a third point.
  • Allowing the enlargement the European Union with additional member states must have exacerbated the problems we are currently experiencing. The migrant controls were allowed for 2 years at the time, and these could be extended for a further three years. Was this issue really well managed by the EU government? I know at the time a great many people expressed these concerns and criticisms. That isn't just "ever closer union" it is ever larger union, as well. Just who is driving the agenda and why?

Not easy this, being an undecided voter wanting to find out more.

Back soon ..... Undecided Voter.

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