How will the EU change?  Let me count the ways…TM

It will change steadily, sometimes after a huge public political bust up at a summit in Brussels, sometimes stealthily, under the radar, but change it will via a hundred rule changes. Most of those will not be in the direction of travel of ‘Ever Closer Union’ – in fact quite the opposite.

One potential change came this week. The German Cabinet has approved a bill which, if passed by Parliament, will deny welfare benefits to unemployed citizens of other EU nations resident in Germany for five years.

That is hardly in the spirit of the free movement of peoples as envisaged in the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht. The treaty introduced the concept of EU citizenship after which citizens could move anywhere in the Union and enjoy the welfare benefits of the state in which they settled.  In fact, it is more of an echo of what preceded the EU – the European Economic Union. It is a move towards the return to the idea of the free movement of EU workers but not necessarily of all citizens.

Under the new German proposal EU citizens can come and live in Germany – but they won’t get benefits for five years. This would strike Germany from the list of countries where people go ‘welfare shopping’.

Already the EU rules have been tightened – people from a member state country resident in another member state must wait three months, and then prove they are genuinely seeking work, before being eligible for benefits.

Germany’s national employment agency estimates that about 12% of non-German EU citizens residing in Germany are on some sort of state benefits– that is more than 400,000 people.

These are new times in Germany with the mainstream political class under immense pressure from growing nationalism manifested in parties such as the ADF. To draw the nationalist sting, Mrs. Merkel looks minded to tack to the right in 2017 in what will be an election year.

In the event of the bill being passed, it will impact on how Germany views the conditions under which the UK exits the Union.

Other nations may be tempted to follow the German example. If so it will become harder for them to argue for completely freezing the UK out of the Single Market if the UK stands firm on the idea that it will not allow the free movement of labour to the UK from EU countries.

The British debate about hard or soft Brexit concentrates on domestic UK politics and the rhetoric of the EU’s main players. The debate should also be including the domestic polices of each EU country.

For the times they are a changin…

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3 Comments on "The EU And The Free Movement Of Ideas…"

  1. You couldn’t make it up!. David Cameron spends a year engaged in shuttle diplomacy to try to enable the same thing in the UK only to be told to sod off by our EU partners. Who is going to tell the Germans they can’t do this?. The answer of course is nobody. The bloc is now so utterly in the thrall of Europe’s most powerful nation that they can effectively do as they please. That could be laying down the law on how their central European neighbours police their borders or behave towards their media. How about treading on Greek sovereignty by sending your civil servants to run the place after threatening their government into submission. Sometimes they work via their satellite in Austria such as the interference in the UK’s energy procurement. Most damagingly of all of course they ensure the ECB pursues policies that enrich Germany at the expense of virtually every other nation in the bloc. The old adage that he who pays the piper calls the tune really does seem to apply. The increasing German dominance of the EU is one of the main reasons I turned from being broadly pro EU ten years ago to vehemently anti EU today. The hypocritical finger wagging of their politicians at a Southern Europe whose weak economies have enabled the Euro to trade at a level which gives German business false competitiveness is the icing on the cake.

  2. so is Europe dying? is “the left” killing it? or is there something to be done?

  3. That would appear to be it for the EU-Canada trade deal then. Seven years of negotiations torpedoed by the self interest of a few thousand Wallonian farmers. I suppose it doesn’t matter for a bloc with such high economic growth and low unemployment though. (I am being sarcastic for those in any doubt). Little wonder that the EU’s share of global trade continues to diminish and it finds itself with the lowest economic growth rate in the world.
    Almost every time the EU has the opportunity to make the correct decision it would seem to do exactly the opposite which I genuinely think is a great shame for both Europe and the world.

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