What has the EU ever done for us?

© Octavus.

WITH the various Brexit supporting factions being caricatured as an unintentional homage to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the modern day empire of their classic question ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ is certainly the controversial European Union project. 

Whether it’s the pint-sinking man of the people cum commodity broker Nigel Farage leading a dwindling onslaught against the union, the tax loathing moderates of Vote Leave, Kettering euro-sceptic front Grassroots Out, or veteran campaign Better Off Out, the freedom fighters who advocated English cricket tours of apartheid South Africa, there’s certainly no lack of players in an increasingly fragmented offensive. 

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With, however, the Romans already having left bronze-age Britain with irrigation, public baths and a collection of ruins worthy of Feder Fund protection, what exactly has the EU ever done for us?

Somewhat ironically, given the typical charges levied against the union, the greatest benefits have been offering some modicum of protection against the unelected invisible monolith that is international capitalism. Basic benefits such as cheaper wine (due to a 1980’s ECJ ruling), cheap flights (due to the 1992 liberalisation of the airline market), and a cap on mobile roaming charges (since 2007 regulation took effect), make an unseen daily difference to our modern lives.

More substantive benefits include the right to state healthcare and social security abroad, and consumer rights when making purchases from EU countries. Cross-border trade for small businesses has become an indispensible tool for local economies, while structural funding has helped areas hit by terminal decline following Thatcher’s de-industrialisation schemes. 

Other regulations with measurable impact can be easily rattled off. Cleaner air, lead-free petrol, recycling, food labelling, hormone bans, price transparency, holiday entitlement, labour rights, equal pay, collaborative scientific research, diplomatic strength, counter terrorism, police and military intelligence cooperation, human rights legislation, and straight bananas. 

Of course Norway is a prime example of a nation, not officially in the EU, but closely affiliated, and undeniably enjoying many of the above benefits. It would be ridiculous to suggest that, by leaving the EU, Britain would by definition sell off all its assets to big finance, enable 70 hour working weeks, pollute the rivers and decapitate political antagonists at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

The question revolves around political philosophies. Many who are happy to remain in the EU radiate a certain mistrust of the direction Britain would take without the harness of collective regulations. They might look at the legacy of Thatcherism, the tight knit relationship between hedge fund management, government bureaucracy, media barons, the military industrial complex, all the small things which many in Scotland sought to escape, and consider a superior arbitrator in the people’s best interests. 

Others, of course, might see the EU as an encroaching Trojan horse which essentially embraces a neo-liberal agenda yet cloaks motives in the inspiring rhetoric of freedom and progress. While others simply believe Britain should be entirely sovereign and have full control over border policies and financial policies, giving far too much credence to the power of their government with or without the EU. 

The question isn’t so much what has the EU done for us? The real question is what kind of Britain would emerge without it?


  1. A truly magnificent piece of writing Mathew!

    Without doubt, as I have been trying to argue “FOR ALL ITS FAULTS” the ongoing EU project is an extremely worthwhile ambition. Quite simply we need it in order to retain and push forward the undoubted progress that has been made since the end of the Second World War. Just remind yourselves of the make-and-mend lifestyle your parents endured and compare it with yours. We’re the luckiest generation that’s ever lived! And we didn’t do it on our own!

    Britain was impoverished and exhausted by years of war after 1945 and had to be rescued by America’s Marshall Plan (which only served to increase our debt to record levels!) We were still in deep economic doo-doo right up to the Seventies. Remember the three-day-week, the strikes, the lights going out in the middle of your favourite telly, and the devalued “pound in your pocket”? You may not like this, but joining the EU eventually helped to bring a measure of stability and prosperity to the UK that simply wasn’t there when it was on its own.

    If we leave and let the Union collapse then we’d better prepare to leave our comfort zone too as our money shrivels, our economy shrinks, we expose ourselves to Putin’s warlike intentions and basically we withdraw, cowering, into our little rabbit hole while Cameron’s successors continue to soak the poor and feed the rich. Oh, and say goodbye to Scotland too. For the sake of your children and their children vote to stay IN!

    And yes. My name is Brian! 😉

  2. Aw Mike. I love the bit about the silly old German lady up the street!

    Pity we’ve got an even sillier young Englishman living next door in 10 Drowning Street! And Boris, his son and heir carping in Wastemonster at PMQs! (grin)

    Cue signature tune, “Neighbours… Everybody needs good neighbours… With a little understanding… You can find the perfect way…”

  3. Curious that a publication called Euroweekly you do not mention that we are ENTITLED to live in Spain (and elsewhere in the European Union) because we are European Union citizens. Without it all Brits are aliens (a technical term but extremely important) and so would not have the automatic right to live here. So 2.2 million of us would need to get on our bikes back to the UK.

  4. No we wouldn’t!

    Don’t spurt rubbish like this, you have no idea that would happen, I never understand why people just spurt out this sort of rubbish, well I do but I won’t say here!

    Yes, we are entitled to reside here in Spain as easily as we currently do because we are in the EU which allows us to doso in the manner we do now… but, I don’t know how much attention you pay to the demographic environment around you, if you did you would notice there are a hell of a lot of Chinese living in this country as there are people from many other countries outside the EU, most of them live here with as much ease or nearly as much ease as the British do at the moment.
    The British are a major contributor to the Spanish Economy, probably one of the biggest if not the largest contributor through tourism and British investment in property… do you really think there would not be some arrangement made to accommodate that massive economic market that the British bring to Spain?

    If the EU lasts much longer than the British leaving then an agreement will be put in place to cover many things, one would most likely be a continued co-operation on fiscal data, neither the EU or UK would want to create a loophole where people can hide within. It would probably be agreed that citizens data would continue to be exchanged for UK and EU reasons. Trade deals would be make and take effect instantly probably without anyone really noticing, the EU has more to loose if they put any concrete blocks up to the UK.

  5. I notice many expats have made various comments on some of the articles related to the EU and a Brexit that are put up by the Euro weekly, things like: I will vote to stay because I * might * loose my pension, or I * might * have to sell my property or the first comment regarding this article * 2.2 million of us would need to get on our bikes back to the UK * I make the assumption these comments are made mostly by retired or elderly because that would probably be the majority of British here, I work here myself and I am nearing 60 so in the same agegroup, anyway… I have to say I find the people that make these remarks must be utterly selfish! Our lives are nearing there end ‘although hopefully not too soon for most of us’ 😉 but there are millions of people that will will live in the UK after us, family and their off spring that are in the UK now and hopefully more to come for them… what importance it most hold to some people that they would ignore the future life and prospects for all those people and family because they * think * they would not be able to spend a few more years here in the sun, human nature, it never ceases to amaze me.

  6. If we leave the EU our money will not shrivel, our economy will not shrink, on the contrary it will thrive! Russia will not be any more a threat to us than they are now and I doubt Scotland will leave the UK and if they do that is their choice.

    Now as much as I want the UK to come out of the EU… actually I think it would prefer the EU to be something else, similar to what the British people voted for… an EEC but Brussels will never go back to that because that was not what they ever wanted when they conned us and our parents into voting to join the EEC. As I was saying, as much as I want the UK to come out of the EU I very much doubt it will happen, so the scaremongers along with the selfish people out there can relax about the thought they might loose a couple of years in the sun “which they wouldn’t” while their families and rest of the British pay for that for the rest of time. David Cameron and Brussels will not let it happen, as I have mentioned before the EU is not a democratic union and they will not let the UK get out that easily. Once DC comes back with his decision today I think you will see the referendum come up very quickly as they jump of the chance of getting a Yes vote now on the strength of nothing painted as a victory & before things on the migration front get worse, The British people will be conned again, but as I mentioned folks, it is the British people and your off springs future.

  7. It’s nice to know you’re young enough to be still working Mike, but you “make the assumption these comments are made mostly by retired or elderly.” Ok. why should that matter then? Your dismissive comments are an insult to pensioners who have spent their working lives toiling away every bit as hard as you have and some probably more – and who are genuinely worried about their future!

    There are all sorts of reasons for this and the uncertainty over Europe was the LAST thing we needed on top of all the others. Tell me, WHY do you think we’re having this unnecessary referendum Mike? I’ll tell you. It is solely because the most weak-willed PM in the history of the UK was so afraid of his own Eurosceptic back benchers that he called a referendum purely so he could stay in power and save his own political skin! How despicable is that? It’s not as if he has some grandiose plan for the UK – or even for Europe itself. His feeble ideas for trying to keep us in are simply laughable. I don’t think he even cares about the trouble and worry and strife he is stirring up. If he did, he wouldn’t have created it by calling the referendum in the first place! The man’s a menace!

    As for your most recent comments at the top – well you would say that, wouldn’t you? Although it’s nice to see that you’re coming round to some alternative ideas to just quitting Europe.

  8. I enjoy working Brian and will probably do so as long as I can. I mentioned the age factor simply because I would guess most people who live here tend to be around my age or older.

    I agree DC is weak, he is a disgrace to British politics but then we are starting to get used to politicians being a disgrace, seems to have been the norm the last 15 years or so ‘without counting’. I also agree his feeble ideas for keeping us in the EU are laughable as I am sure most people who take any interest in what is going on must also think… but * I think * he knows that! My take is that he wants to stay in but he needs to give the country what he said he would. Because he wants to stay in he has to play it like this to be sure and get the ‘Yes’ vote. He will take on board many of the ‘No’ voters because he will come back with what he will disclose a great victory, in reality it will probably mean nothing, in fact it will actually be a great victory for the EU, DC & those that want to stay in the EU. He will put it out that he gave the British people the referendum they asked for and will hope to put the cap on the EU issue. I think the OUT side is growing and growing very quickly, that is why I mentioned I think he will go for a referendum ASAP, also taking advantage of the OUT groups problems.

    As for coming round, I promise you I am not coming round to anything! I have seen how the EU monster works and have always doubted they will ever let us leave!.

  9. Let me declare a personal interest in all of this. My wife suffers from an incurable illness which forces her to use a wheelchair among other things. She is in constant pain and on high levels of medication up to and including Morphine. We came to live in Spain mainly because the warmer, drier climate helps her condition compared with the weather in Scotland, where we come from. The climate here also helps my own aches and pains caused by the ageing process.

    We enjoy the reciprocal health care arrangements here in Spain, paid for by the UK (where we still pay our exorbitant taxes from our small pensions btw.) If the UK quits Europe or even worse if the EU collapses, we will have to find the money for my wife’s health care (and mine) from elsewhere. It is unlikely that we would be able to afford private health care or even be granted private health insurance in the first place because of my wife’s pre-existing condition. Ergo, if we quit the EU my wife and I will be forced to return to Britain. Her condition will become worse in the poorer climate and I will be suffering more aches and pains. And don’t tell us to go and live in Eastbourne instead! Heheh. We’ve been there before and it’s not any better. Believe me!

    Personal interest duly declared.

  10. The vast majority of the “things done for us” you quote were achieved as a member of the “Common Market” of which we voted to be a member.

    The benefits of free trade & liberalisation, spurred by the UK & Margaret Thatcher were more significant throughout the Common Market than in the UK & the Commonwealth as they were to a greater extent already operative.

    In the past 25 years we have seen a “federalisation” process something which electorates have never voted for nor been asked to vote for.

    Where this has been opposed in Referenda, e.g. France, Holland, Ireland it has been ignored in Brussels & treated with contempt.

    Morphing into the EU, the Brussels institutions have become ever more undemocratic, corrupt & unaccountable. UK policy of free markets & further international trade liberalisation, strict financial & democratic accountability, strict budgeting have repeatedly been voted down overwhelmingly.

    The EU members have a substantial trade surplus with the UK for which privilege we pay them some €19 billion gross per annum. Meanwhile we suffer to a lesser extent than other members from the utter disasters of the external border & €uro policies, the solutions to which is always “more EU”.

    There is nothing the UK can achieve in the EU which it cant achieve alone.

  11. The whole world has changed since the Common Market Drew. Even the UK has changed dramatically and is no longer the power it once was in the days of Empire and the Raj. There is no going back to some sort of “Halcyon Days”. Time goes forward – not backward.

    Better to be inside a faulty body fixing it than outside examining your navel.

  12. I will keep your body theme going 😉 Look at it as being a birth where the UK is separate from this faulty body then we would be apart of it, kept separate and looking at it from outside of it, then we could be a part of the family but not actually be as affected by its health problems, we would run our own bank account, could control what we work at and ‘hopefully’ not have the same mental and physical health issues the bigger body has.

  13. Nice one Mike. I like it! 🙂
    Still on the same body theme though, it’s nice to know you care about the baby but are you not the least bit concerned about mum’s health after the birth?

    Here in Spain you do live under mum’s roof don’t you? Spain’s not talking about leaving… unless mum collapses of course in which case she’ll end up in intensive care. Be prepared to be poked and prodded by Spanish doctors and nurses 😉 heheh.

    Hmm – I’m stretching the analogy a but far now… Sorry.

  14. Hummm.. I do care about mum, I know she is a big girl with her overweight problems but she is getting to be so cumbersome that she is holding us back, I worry about her actually and I fear she may have lost the plot making all these silly rules up. It is difficult as she seems to have no idea in remembering what she spends the money on ‘nor do we’, she keeps asking for more and inviting all these people round for parties which also costs such a lot, unfortunately it doesn’t leave a lot for anything else, at least the police don’t kick off because of the racket as they have staff shortages so thats a godsend. Maybe when she faces up to the fact she has to have treatment and stop trying to control everyone then things will be a lot better for her, I wish we could cut her down to size but she can be so arrogant and greedy, in all honesty she just doesn’t listen to anyone except that silly old German lady up the street! 😉

    No point on going on 😉 My point is and always has been that it is fairly possible to have the benefits out of the EU as we have in it, it is just a case of negotiation.


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