Bursting the Bubble

Vote on Fact NOT Spin

22 June 2016 | by

Be an Informed Voter: For your children and your children’s children

As a European happily living and working in London, the EU Referendum debate has been rife with controversies, grotesque lies to the public and a stirring up of hate filled sentiments that have already claimed the life of one member of UK parliament fulfilling her democratic responsibility to constituents.

Jo Cox stressed in her Yorkshire Post article, days before her death, not to fall for the spin present in the campaigns.

Like many practitioners writing at European Public Affairs, I am thoroughly acquainted with the art of spin in politics, but the current campaigns for UK’s EU referendum have taken it too far, with the number of retracted media pieces skyrocketing – though the damage is done for members of the public who have seen the initial incorrect articles, with their decisions influenced, and choices unsubstantiated by fact.

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Britain and ‘the Continent’

16 June 2016 | by

With the referendum on the UK’s membership to the EU just around the corner and polls indicating a neck and neck race, campaigners on both sides are understandably desperate to score points. Winston Churchill has been resurrected in both Europhile and Eurosceptic forms. “If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea”. This quote sings to the tune of the Leave campaigners’ favourite economic
argument which proclaims a Britain out of the EU will be able to tie itself with the vibrant economies of the Commonwealth and the rest of the world and rid itself from the dictates of a sclerotic EU. Churchill made this statement in a heated exchange with Charles de Gaulle during the Normandy landings in 1944, long before the Schumann declaration. The Remain campaigners like to remind us of Churchill’s vision of a “United States of Europe”. How involved Churchill would have liked Britain to be in a federal union remains heavily debated. In 1961, Churchill wrote, “I think the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community”. The application was subsequently vetoed by De Gaulle in 1963 as he saw Britain as too different in its geography, history, economy and trade relations to genuinely integrate with ‘the Continentals’.  The Leave campaigners argue that Churchill would never have agreed to Britain in the EU in its current form and this is where the Churchill debate become purely speculative. To understand Brexit, it is best to look at how it became a possibility in the first place.

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Brexit: Revolutions are won on ideals

14 June 2016 | by

What I tell my friends when they ask about Brexit

As we draw closer to what promises to be a momentous vote for both the future of the UK and Europe – the British referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union – I have observed a peculiar phenomenon. My friends, profoundly concerned about the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU, have gone into a state of mind ranging from a self-inflicted semi-trepidation to downright hysteria.

I must confess: as it happens, most of my friends and Facebook acquaintances are no fence-sitters on the issue of Brexit. They want the UK to stay in the EU and they fear the worst: that Britain will pull up its draw bridge and return to its 19th century ‘splendid isolation’ policy. Their worries stem from the same epiphany that serves as a cause for exaltation for the Leave campaign: the opinion polls.

A sceptic by nature, I take these polls with a pinch of salt. Pollsters do not always get it right (if at all). But my sentiments about the validity of the opinion polls do little to simmer down the fear. And so I try other tactics; I use reason. I tell my friends two things:

First, do not despair. If you are fed up with the withering remarks, disdainful snorts, misinformation and downright lies, there are only so many days left in the campaign until people cast their votes and decide.

Second, I recite the list of reasons why I believe Britain will ultimately make the decision to remain in the EU:

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Greece: Eurozone and IMF clash over debt relief

7 June 2016 | by

On one level, the recurring Greek crises fits the idea from Karl Marx of history repeating itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Greece came close to a eurozone exit last summer. While it will probably come close again this year, it is unlikely to leave. The eurozone, Greece and International Monetary Fund (IMF) stood at a stand-off and reached an agreement implanting some proposals from the IMF, but the group around Germany, swept along by Alternative fur Deutschland, won the stand-off. The IMF published a new document right before the summit. In that document they has concluded that Greek public debt, at 180 per cent of gross domestic product, is unsustainable; as is the agreed annual primary budget surplus, before interest payments, of 3.5 per cent of GDP. The fund insists on debt relief, but Germany continues to resist. Continue reading

Contrary to popular opinion, business lobbyists are less effective than NGOs

1 June 2016 | by

This title summarises an important study carried out in 2015-16 by three professors at the London School of Economics (LSE) with a specific focus on consumer protection and the environment. The statement might appear shocking, but in fact I arrived at the same conclusion 10 years ago in my book “European Lobbying”.

Why?

My analysis at the time, and that of LSE, converge to give reasons for this lack of performance among business lobbyists. The first reason lies in the fact – indisputable in my view – that the EU agenda is in practice inspired by NGOs. GMOs, pesticides, nuclear, endocrine disruptors – on all these issues and others, industry is on the defensive. However, in lobbying, defensive strategies are destined to lose in the long term.

The second reason is directly linked to the first. According to the three LSE professors, systems moving towards more regulation – certainly the case in the European Union – give more of an advantage to NGOs than to industry. This is another common point of our analyses.

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