Coffee House

George Osborne vs eurocrats

3 June 2014

7:57 AM

3 June 2014

7:57 AM

Improving the supply of new housing, adjusting the Help to Buy scheme if necessary, revaluing council tax bands and accepting that universal credit won’t solve all of Britain’ welfare ills: all ideas batted around in domestic political debate in this country by politicians and commentators who manage to secure a reasonable hearing each time they suggest them. But the problem with this latest list is that it comes from the European Commission: poorly supported by last week’s European elections and not preaching from a position of runaway economic success.

The EC has published recommendations for each EU member state which are ‘designed to strengthen their growth potential, increase competitiveness and create jobs’. The specific recommendations for the UK, which you can read here, can be summarised thus:

[Alt-Text]


– Cut the deficit in a sustainable manner.
– Prioritise capital expenditure.
– Broaden the tax base.
– Improve access to finance for SMEs, and address ‘structural bottlenecks’ for infrastructure and skills mismatches.
– Make the regulation of the housing sector by the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee more transparent.
– Adjust the Help to Buy scheme to deal with rapid rises in house prices.
– Revalue council tax bands.
– Increase the supply of housing.
– ‘Maintain commitment to the Youth Contract’ and ‘reduce the number of young people with low basic skills’.
– Ensure Universal Credit delivers adequate benefits and clear work incentives.
– Improve the affordability of childcare.
– Ensure the National Infrastructure Plan is working.

How seriously the government will take these recommendations is made clear rather neatly in this fabulously pithy Treasury response:

‘As one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, we always listen to the Commission’s recommendations with interest.’

The government has faced down scarier critics than this, such as the IMF, which now supports the UK’s economic plan. But that the Treasury can so effectively dismiss the Commission and that the story emerging from these recommendations is not ‘Osborne in trouble again’ but ‘arrogant eurocrats lecture UK’ shows how far ministers have travelled over the past few years.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • Smithersjones2013

    But that the Treasury can so effectively dismiss the Commission and that
    the story emerging from these recommendations is not ‘Osborne in
    trouble again’ but ‘arrogant eurocrats lecture UK’ shows how far
    ministers have travelled over the past few years.

    The establishment parties would not dare kow-tow to such unwanted and unnecessary interference from Brussels these days for one simple reason they fear the positive impact it would have for UKIP. The government has been pushed into this position……

  • Denis_Cooper

    Well, in the original 1957 Treaty of Rome to which the Tory Heath signed us up I find in Article 6:

    “Member States shall, in close co-operation with the institutions of the Community, co-ordinate their respective economic policies to the extent necessary to attain the objectives of this Treaty.”

    And I find that the substance of Article 121 TFEU, the first legal base cited by the EU Commission, was introduced by the MaastrichtTreaty to which the Tory Major signed us up.

    So I don’t see why any present day Tories should be jumping up and down when the EU Commission does what their predecessors said they wanted it to do.

    Except of course that the Tories want to maintain the long running pretence that they resist the encroachments of the EU, when in fact their party previously agreed to and may even have encouraged those encroachments.

    • Mynydd

      I would add Mrs Thatcher, darling of the tory extreme right wing, signing up to the single market

  • Mynydd

    This is exactly what Mr Cameron has been saying, EU should strengthen their growth potential, increase competitive competitiveness and create jobs, so what’s the problem apart from upsetting Mr Osborne.

    • DWWolds

      The problem is that the EU does not practice what it preaches. Far from increasing competition it stifles it.

  • Mynydd

    With reference to the EU point “Revalue council tax bands” it is interesting to compare the bands in England with those in Wales.
    The English bands range between; band A up to £40,000 and band H above £320,001. Each house as a band based on its 1st April 1991 capital value. A revaluation is scheduled for after the next general election.
    The Welsh bands range between; band A up to £44,000 and band I above £424,001 with house valuation as of 1st April 2003. This revaluation in 2003 saw one third of house move to a higher band, some even moved up three or four bands and the introduction of a higher I band.
    It seems to me that the EU have a serious point.
    To have a tax based on a house 1991 capital value is not realistic and just a joke, It’s like saying you pay your income tax based on your 1991 wage.
    Given that the massive increase property values during the (at least) 15 years between valuations it is no wonder Mr Cameron/Osborne took a hard decision and kicked the English revaluation into the long grass.
    Wales have added an extra band for high value properties, without upsetting the market. Therefore Labour and Lib Dem are justified in advocating additional bands, I would say, band I for over £I,000,001, and band J for over £2,000,001

  • Denis_Cooper

    I think you may find that this is not the EU Commission unilaterally deciding to poke its nose into the affairs of a member state but rather the EU Commission performing one of the tasks assigned to it by the member states through their treaties.

    The questions then being a) when this task for the EU Commission was introduced into the EU treaties and b) which British Prime Minister agreed to it.

    • Reconstruct

      Still bloody stupid, though.

      • Denis_Cooper

        It certainly is, and as far as I can tell it was Major who agreed to that bloody stupidity being put into the treaties. But I’m still checking that out to be completely sure.

    • HookesLaw

      So is anyone obliged to act on these reports? No.
      Can people read them and form a judgement if they chose? Yes
      So what? Is the advice given to say Greece sound? You tell me… go and read it and tell me. Is it advisable for us that Greece listens to good advice? I imagine so.
      So what’s your problem… don’t you want to see a better world economy … is that not better for us?

      • Adam Carter

        It doesn’t matter whether or not the advice to Greece is sound as much as it matters that those in power in Greece can be removed by the voters in Greece.
        So, what’s your problem… don’t you want to see people with that power over their governments… is that not better for us?

      • Denis_Cooper

        I see, so what you’re saying is that although the article is headlined

        “George Osborne vs eurocrats”

        as if this is a big battle that the brave Tories are fighting on our behalf against an overly intrusive EU, in fact it not just a report that the Tories previously agreed should be issued by the Commission but also a report that the Tories can just ignore, so basically it is the Tories making a load of fuss about nothing to dupe the long-suffering public into thinking that the Tories are somehow opposed to the EU when that is not the case at all.

        Thanks for clearing that up.

  • colliemum

    Ah well – enjoy being able to only listen with interest to the recommendations form the EU Commission, it’ll only last until November 1st 2014, then westminster will have no choice but to do as they’re told:

    http://pjcjournal.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/uk-parliament-comes-to-an-effective-end/

    Read it and ask yourselves why our politicians and MSM are so coy about telling us about this …

    • Denis_Cooper

      That is incorrect.

      We are not being told about it because it is not going to happen, there is simply no such provision in the EU treaties; a hare has been set running on the basis of a misunderstanding of the treaties and it runs and runs.

      I’ve written about it in comments here:

      http://my.telegraph.co.uk/plum_tart/plum-tart/16233422/november-2014-eu-totalitarian-control/

      the last being:

      “To reiterate: I only bother to point out that this is not correct to try to save people from ending up with egg on their faces.”

      • colliemum

        I’ve read your comments there with interest, and am grateful for all the points you raise – but please help me out: the link I gave names 43 new points on which there is now QMV, is that substantially different from what you describe? Or is it the headline of that blog which is wrong?

        (I don’t like egg on my face ….)

        • Denis_Cooper

          Yes, because all the vetoes abolished by the Lisbon Treaty have already gone, they went when the Treaty of Lisbon came into force on December 1st 2009; there is no delayed action clause for more vetoes to be abolished on November 1st.

          • colliemum

            Thanks!

            • Denis_Cooper

              Somebody produced a summary of the number of vetoes abolished by each successive treaty, it’s at the end of the first page here:

              http://en.euabc.com/upload/Final_Tables_by_Klaus_Heeger_pdf.pdf

              I can’t vouch for its complete accuracy on the numbers, but the point is that the 68 vetoes abolished by the Lisbon Treaty have already gone and the decisions in all those areas have already moved to majority voting, normally the QMV system which is due to change on November 1st, generally to our disadvantage, but without any extension of QMV to new areas.

              At the end of the table, the number abolished when the Lisbon Treaty came into force was the same as the number which would have been abolished by the EU Constitution if it had come into force.

              “NUMBER OF QUALIFIED MAJORITY VOTING (QMV) ARTICLES INTRODUCED OR EXTENDED, OR OF
              UNANIMITY ARTICLES MOVED TO QMV, BY THE DIFFERENT EUROPEAN TREATIES”

              “Treaty of Rome (plus extensions) 38

              Single European Act 12

              Maastricht (Treaty on European Union) 30

              Treaty of Amsterdam 24

              Treaty of Nice 46

              EU Constitution 68

              Treaty of Lisbon 68”

              • colliemum

                Again, thanks – link duly bookmarked for further reference.

    • global city

      What has become clear over recent months is just how ignorant the vast bulk of the commentariat are about the EU.

      Some of the Americans who took part in D Day are visiting the beaches where so many gave their lives to free Europe from dictatorship. We are constantly reminded that not only do the Euro elite not appreciate this, they see the US of today as the competition, no doubt for some they are the enemy.

      Do we really want to cede foreign policy and military strategy to those sort?

      The UK’s relationship with America shows how you an have very close links without political union, but again, the MSM never calculate these issues when questioning eurofanatics.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        It’s a good point, but there are two sides to that coin as well, mind.

      • HookesLaw

        Where do this euro elite not appreciate this?
        What close links do we have with america? They are a NATO ally and we have a long standing intelligence sharing arrangement with them. Where beyond this do we have close links?

        • global city

          Cultural, familial, business ties, approach to many aspects of democracy and the instruments of law. Our ties with the US are deep and intimate. It is only idiots who look at our ties to America through the eyes of Washington and the current government there.

          and then we speak the same language….. for some unknown reason. I wonder what those bonds are?

        • global city

          Cultural, familial, business ties, approach to many aspects of democracy and the instruments of law. Our ties with the US are deep and intimate. It is only idiots who look at our ties to America through the eyes of Washington and the current government there.

          and then we speak the same language….. for some unknown reason. I wonder what those bonds are?

  • @PhilKean1

    .
    I was one of many BRITISH NATIONALS who criticised Osborne’s irresponsible Help-to-Buy initiative. But it was my business to criticise it, NOT the EU’s

    Detestation of the Socialist EU is on course to surpass that of even Soviet Communism.
    .

    • @PhilKean1

      .
      And, please, let us not create any phoney battles to make out there is any resistance to EU interference by Cameron’s bunch.
      .

      • Mynydd

        It serves you right, but you mustn’t say it, it only upsets Mr Cameron.

    • Adam Carter

      Absolutely correct.
      It is possible to argue for different types of tax policy, but tax should be decided by UK

      • @PhilKean1

        Yes.

        Or democracy, as we used to understand it.
        .

    • HookesLaw

      Help to buy is not a problem. As the man from nationwide said today, its overwhelmingly used for low priced purchases. Its the high end which is showing the increases.
      Furthermore numbers of mortgages issued has gone down, there is no bubble. And also new stress test rules are already coming in. The govt and authorities are not mindless about the issue. Unlike you.
      The only thing you or anybody knows about the EU report is what our press choose to tell you. The ignorant bums of the press? I would not rely on them.

      • Adam Carter

        How much input do you think the EU Commission should have into UK taxation policy?
        My answer: None.
        What’s yours?
        You are one of the leading EUphiles on this site.
        I am not even an EUsceptic; I’ve made up my mind, we should get out.
        My primary reason for that, as I’ve said before, is that UK policy should be made by politicians who can be removed from office by UK voters.

  • Tony_E

    Well after the EU elections, in which Eurosceptic parties made significant progress, it seems like the commission has a tin ear.

    A period of silence from the EU Commission on all subjects except how it will reduce its own power and deal with its own corruption, would be much appreciated.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      No, they are taking the extreme position, as expected, at least as expected by those who understand what’s actually happening here.

  • Grey Wolf

    Osborne looks like a weirdo in that pic.
    Very unflattering pic, I must say.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      He’s postured to be Mr. Tough Guy, sneering towards Brussels, and standing between them and the “horrible, carbon-emitting smokestacks” that put bread on the table and light in the dwelling for so many.

      In reality, Boy George’s yellow coat is the symbol for him and the rest of the Camerluvvies, who are socialist mates of the envirowhackos in Brussels, and seek to destroy those smokestacks, and build windmills, and impoverish the many.

      • Grey Wolf

        Correct.
        I too was wondering about that yellow monstrosity he has on.

  • lgrundy

    The EC has published recommendations for each EU member state which are ‘designed to strengthen their growth potential, increase competitiveness and create jobs’.
    Of course, the one thing which would goat least part way to achieving all of those things – abolishing the euro – doesn’t get a look in.

    • Andy

      Indeed, what a surprise.

  • Reconstruct

    Absolutely remarkable that the European Commission has the brass neck to offer economic advice to anyone – these are, after all, the architects of the biggest foreseen and avoidable economic disaster of the last, what, 200 years?

    • Kitty MLB

      Absolutely astounded by these remarks from the European
      Commission.Who on earth are they to give us advice.
      We are now one of the largest growing economies and
      thats despite being linked to that utterly incompetent,
      untrustworthy succubus , that dying elephant the EU.
      George, named after the patron saint of England, our
      very own deficit slayer, take no advice from them.Slay
      the miscreans instead, dear fellow.

      • Reconstruct

        Yes, it’s a very good opportunity for GO to ‘rip them a new one’.

        • Kitty MLB

          I wish he would. Its so tiresome constantly
          having to have their advice.Build new houses,
          what we have is a poplation issues.When we
          run out of land. I suppose they’d want us to
          build on water.

          • Makroon

            Unfortunately, we signed up to the treaties which oblige the Commission to issue advice to ALL countries.
            It appears that their tone could have been more modest, but we only have the word of journos looking for a story and “treasury insiders”, on that.
            There is evidently a big group of Eurocrats who want to see us gone, and delight in petty provocations, but in the greater scheme of things, they have no power and little importance.

            • Mynydd

              Stop using the we signed up, it was; the Conservative Prime Minister Mr Heath, the Conservative Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher, the Conservative Prime Minister Mr Major all these without a referendum. At least the Labour Prime Minister Mr Wilson held an In / Out referendum.

      • telemachus

        What is wrong with telling Osborne that he is letting the housing market overheat
        It is what Carney told him last week
        And he took no notice

    • Kitty MLB

      Oh, I do apologise.That wasn’t meant to be a reply to you.
      But a separate post..

    • you_kid

      Sorry, luv – my home is triple glazed to Scandinavian standards, sports a heat recovery unit from Germany and well insulated French doors. And an unblocked fire place in your home makes you feel the draught at +7°C?

      I believe it is time for to employ a professional. How about stopping all this Hollywood accounting first and keeping proper books? Oh yes, I believe you have already *been made* to employ a professional.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …can any other of you socialist nutters translate this nutter’s gibberish?

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here