We must make a passionate case for staying in the EU!

Last week I wrote an email to an actively pro-Remain party colleague. Events had led me to believe that a referendum on the Brexit deal might indeed be possible, so what I wrote was: if we do manage to secure a second referendum, are there any plans afoot for the Remain camp to fight a vastly better campaign than it did in 2016? To lose one referendum might be considered a misfortune; to lose two would be the height of carelessness.

The key to winning a referendum on the Brexit deal lies in inspiring people that the EU is worth supporting in a way that we never did in 2016. It was almost as if we countered the emotional draw of ‘Let’s take back control of our borders’ with the drab ‘Brexit will be bad for our GDP’. Even now, when the consequences of leaving are much clearer than they were in 2016, we’re in danger of losing a second referendum because the idea of staying in the EU has so little traction that many still see leaving as no greater risk than trusting the status quo.

I have no blueprint for success in a second referendum, but I do suggest we find some way of making the point that the EU has been an astonishing success. That may seem like Double Dutch to someone who has spent the last 20 years reading the Daily Mail or the Daily Express, but I mean it. In fact it has been such a success we don’t notice it and take it for granted.

I happen to feel this particularly acutely this weekend, because I’ve just had a double dose of exposure to human beings’ ability to inflict the most appalling suffering on other human beings. On Friday, I visited Sachsenhausen, the former Nazi concentration camp just north of Berlin, and yesterday I visited Hohenschönhausen, the Stasi interrogation centre of the former East Germany, which to all intents and purposes was a communist concentration camp. Taken together, they show that ideologies of the extreme right and the extreme left are equally capable of generating brutality.

Every time I visit a place of intense human suffering, my instinct is to ask: what can we do to ensure this never happens again? We know humans are capable of the greatest kindness but also of immense brutality, so what is the key to keeping the brutality urge at bay?

In the immediate aftermath of the second world war, a group of visionaries headed by Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman felt the best way of doing this was to create a community of nations who’d become economically so interdependent that they would never go to war against each other again. Their creation was the forerunner of today’s EU. One can argue how close that community should be (in economic, monetary, social and political terms), but the idea that any self-respecting European country might want to be outside that community ought to be absurd.

Interestingly the only war there has been on European soil since 1945 was in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and of the six states that made up Yugoslavia, two are now EU members and the others are queuing up to join. And the states where government brutality suppressed the will of the people are all, in their different forms, part of the EU (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany). So the places where the Nazi and communist concentration camps were situated are now part of the EU, and the scenes of the worst atrocities of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s are likely soon to be.

There is therefore something inspiring about being a member of a community of nations that, for all its faults (and it has many), has guaranteed basic levels of democracy, human rights and general civility. I repeat: the EU has been an astonishing success. And it surely can’t be beyond our powers of creativity to turn that success into a slogan or narrative that can inspire people to support Britain’s continuing membership of one of the most successful alliances of nations in human history.

If it is beyond our powers of creativity to do that, then we might as well stop campaigning for a second referendum right now.

* Chris Bowers, a former director of the Environmental Transport Association and communications consultant to the European NGO umbrella Transport & Environment, oversaw the development and writing of the transport chapter of the 2019 review of the Liberal Democrats’ climate change policy. He is standing as a target seat candidate in the East Sussex County Council elections.

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  • I worry though, having been on the “right side” of recent European wars, that the narrative of peace doesn’t hit home here as it does on the continent.
    We never had communist and nazi concentration camps here.

    For the patriot it was the British Bulldog against the Berlin Barbarians- so *they* might need the EU for peace, but what do *we* need it for?

    I absolutely agree that we need a positive message – examples of pan-european endeavours in science, engineering, medicine, arts, and even trade. Examples of inward investment in Liverpool and other neglected regions.

    Let’s crow about our decision-making role in these achievements too.

    And let’s truly push hard on the message to the 18-30s – that for each an every young person, rich or poor, the EU widens their horizons – and they need to vote to secure it.

  • William Fowler 9th Apr '18 - 9:32am

    David Cameron used to go on about the good sense of the British public, until he lost the referendum, and I fear that that good sense has not returned; indeed that people are getting used to the idea of leaving the EU and seeing that economically at least things are not going to be so bad with free trade Britain etc.

    The EU is doing a very good job on consumer rights, the rights of the individual and offering fantastical benefits of life in 27 different countries but does need to reformat itself to reflect these things in a way that can’t be easily ridiculed by our press and leading Brexiteers. Bit late for that probably but how to persuade Brits that the EU actually stands for peace, prosperity and freedom?

  • John Barrett 9th Apr '18 - 10:11am

    I am afraid that linking our membership to the EU to the end of Nazi concentration camps or an end to war Europe, or in selected places, is not an argument that will win the day with many who are less enthusiastic about membership of the EU.

    I do agree that the argument to remain during the referendum campaign was very weak and in the event of any second referendum something better will be required to change minds, but if we simply link the atrocities of those Nazi concentration camps and the following peace in Europe, or to participation in wars, to our membership of the EU there are many flaws in that argument.

    The first is that we were not members of the EU for quite some time after world war two and does anyone actually believe that had we remained outside the EU, any similar repeat of that event would have happened. I think not. If this is the case, the fear of such events being repeated will convince nobody to change their views. In fact it could weaken the argument if people doubt that there is any truth in the claim.

    The EU has no army or common defence policy to justify such claims, but our membership of NATO probably has more to do with such future possible events in Eastern Europe..

    Our participation in the war in Iraq, with an estimate of over 100,000 civilian deaths plus many others, while being a member of the EU, shows how we have in fact participated in a disastrous war while being a member of the EU.

    Many people stated clearly during the referendum campaign that leaving would be bad for the economy, yet many people still voted to leave. Saying that leaving will be bad for the economy (as appears to be the main thrust of the party’s Exit from Brexit plan) will also not have any impact on those voters either. Claiming our membership of the EU has delivered peace in Europe is not even something I believe and I have been a party member for over 35 years.

    If this was a message that resonated with the general public we would not be stuck on around 7% in the polls.

  • PS – as my comment is open to misinterpretation the views expressed in the 2nd paragraph of my earlier comment are NOT my own, but that of a hypothetical “man on the street”.

  • Peter Martin 9th Apr '18 - 1:03pm

    “We must make a passionate case for staying in the EU!

    Well, yes. I said exactly this to a remain canvasser just a few days before the referendum. Except I’m not part of the “we”.

    But what we got was an argument which I’d paraphrase as “If you think things are bad now just wait and see what happens if we leave the EU”.

    That was never going to be a winning argument. But I doubt there is a winning argument. The “Ode to Joy” doesn’t stir many passions.There’s not been much joy in the EU for a long time due to the application of neoliberal/ordoliberal inspired austerity economics throughout the eurozone and in all countries lining up their currencies for conversion to the euro.

    If different economic policies, more enlightened and progressive policies, had been applied by the EU PTB, you’d have won easily.

  • Arnold Kiel 9th Apr '18 - 1:14pm

    The EU’s role in preserving peace continues to be true, but this reasoning has been tried and has failed before. I am going further now: maybe only the EU can preserve democracy.

    By going it alone, the UK would enter into rule-less power play with the world’s big bullies, where only raw power and money counts. The American, Chinese, Russian way of doing business would necessarily further permeate a UK that needs the money and cannot choose its friends anymore. Democratic decision-making, anyhow compromised by a press and parties bankrolled by special interests and distorted representation, would further degenerate. Of course, also the EU is not immune to these forces; indeed, it is under serious attack on its margins (Hungary, Greece). But it has a chance to withstand. This chance would be greatly enhanced by continued UK membership.

  • “The idea of a second EU referendum, suggested by Farage earlier this week, is not only a pathetic attempt at a comeback by a failing “Leave” campaign, it also ignores the history of these sort of referendums.
    “Successive independence referendums for the state of Quebec in Canada popularised the phrase “neverendum,” and eventually the independence movement collapsed. Farage and those supporting Brexit should take note: undermining the validity of a referendum and ignoring the democratic choice of British people will not make you more popular (something other nationalist parties in the country should also understand). Nor will it encourage more people to support your cause in the first instance.
    “The UKIP leader regularly accuses the EU of not listening to the democratic will of countries. So maybe, just maybe, he should live up to his own words for once and listen to the choice of the British people.”
    Tim Farron, “Prospect” Magazine May 19th, 2016

    “I will forgive no-one who does not respect the sovereign voice of the British people once it has spoken. Whether it is a majority of 1% or 20%, when the British people have spoken, you do what they command. Either you believe in democracy or you don’t”.
    Paddy Ashdown, TV interview 2.00am 24th June 2016

    “The Remain campaign as a whole failed to grasp the strength of the opposing coalition…
    “That is why we have to approach the result with some humility. There is nothing to be gained by denial: crying foul. We wuz robbed, ref. I see petitions demanding a re-run, legal challenges and appeals to parliament to ‘do something’. Dream on… But the public was clearly told by both sides that the result would be final. And there was a big turnout. That is it…
    The other unhelpful response is to try to rerun the debate, ‘make the case for Europe”, again, better, in the hope that somehow we can prevent the inevitable happening by pretending last Thursday never happened. Sorry. Let’s get real.
    “Some argue that there should be a commitment to a second referendum to ratify the results of the renegotiations and then, somehow, get back to where we were. Again, this is hiding reality behind procedural dodges”
    Vince Cable, Lib Dem Voice, 30th June 2016

  • Phil Wainewright 9th Apr '18 - 3:02pm

    The passionate case to be made for EU membership is an economic one, there’s no need to invoke the unlikely threat of the continent descending into war. It’s absolutely clear, now that we’re all so much better informed as a result of Brexit, that the price of EU membership is amply repaid by the trading prosperity it brings, in addition to sharing the cost of essential regulatory bodies such as Euratom and all the rest.

    The problem for the remain side is that its leaders were complacent and incompetent, and failed to make this case properly first time around. Their case was further muted by of the history of UK governments consistently taking the credit for every good thing the EU did at the same time as blaming the EU for their own bad decisions.

    Now their legacy is that we’ll leave the EU only to end up reapplying to join with cap in hand sometime in the next decade. Ironically the strongest argument for slamming on the brakes now is one that may well appeal to leavers – that withdrawing our Article 50 notice is the only way to have the benefits of EU membership while remaining outside the Eurozone and Schengen and preserving all the opt-outs we’ve currently negotiated.

  • William Fowler 9th Apr '18 - 3:48pm

    An equal case can be made for the benefits of a free-trade UK with a good Brexit deal (which looks more possible than not) and staying in the EU, so the economic argument will not win a new referendum. Nor will blaming good economic EU sense that has forced several EU countries to reset their spending (and the worst case Greece, the people neither want to leave the EU nor the Euro). With threats like Russia and Syria close at hand, neither will the security argument win out as it is in everyone’s interest to work closely together.

    With Tony Blair lurking in the background I’m sure some fantastical sound bites will readily emerge, which hopefully have a bit more substance than his past utterances…

  • @Mike Jay

    People are allowed to change their minds. Even politicians.

    Vince referenced his change of heart in the spring conference speech, due to the demographics of the vote.

  • Laurence Cox 9th Apr '18 - 4:17pm

    There is no point in holding a second referendum (I would argue that it would be the third, counting 1975) unless we know how to win it. Passion is one part, but not sufficient on its own; we also need to understand why people voted for Brexit in the first place and work out what will change their minds. We don’t want a narrow victory; 52:48 in favour of Remain would do nothing to lance the abscess and take the poison out of our political system.

    Recently the New Statesman held a panel discussion on the topic “Are we entering a post-liberal era”; https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/04/watch-new-statesman-s-new-times-event-are-we-entering-post-liberal-era here Ros Wynne-Jones’ comments on her experiences in talking to Brexit voters are particularly apposite. I was reminded of some of the articles that John Harris has written for The Guardian, like https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/29/trump-brexit-society-complex-people-populists

  • @AM
    Vince was aware of the demographics when he made the remarks quoted. YouGov published their demographic analysis on 27th June 2016. He even referred to the fact that the” Remain campaign as a whole failed to grasp the strength of the opposing coalition: not just conservative pensioners who want the past back but the’ left behind ‘who have suffered declining living standards and public services etc”

    Yes, even politicians are entitled to change their minds; but, if they have any claim to be principled, they’re not entitled to call for one set of rules and just one referendum when they think they’re winning and then perform a volte face when they lose.

  • John Marriott 9th Apr '18 - 5:15pm

    Chris Bowers,
    Perhaps a bit more passion the first time round might have been better. The referendum happened. We know what might happen if we pull out; but we can’t tell with absolute certainty. It’s up to us all to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. It probably won’t be easy; but, hey, let’s give it a try. Unless, of course, we’re a load of wimps!

  • Campaigning for a second referendum isn’t where it’s at, especially when a clear majority think we should respect the democratic choice. I suggest instead a two-pronged strategy.

    Firstly, offer an alternative to the status quo. On Europe the party has always supported the status quo to the hilt even when it’s explicitly heading for thoroughly illiberal centralisation. Get real, get, err, Liberal and argue for decentralisation. Specifically, argue for repatriation of powers (competences in EU-speak) that would be better exercised at national level – like fishing. The fishing community is seriously hacked off with the way the negotiations have gone. The mere hint of an alternative on the agenda will likely influence a lot of people.

    Secondly, point out the fantasy of May & Co’s promised sun-lit uplands compounded by their incompetent negotiations which have veered 100% off-piste. Rub it in by asking difficult questions they can’t answer. Is what is now on offer really what people voted for?

    1. “We hold the whip hand in negotiations because of our huge trade deficit”. So why did they surrender every significant point in negotiations so far?

    2. “We will take back control”. They’ve surrendered control completely. The UK will be a “vassal state” during the transition that will be obligated by treaty to obey every rule made in Brussels with no say whatsoever. That could be used to asset-strip the UK economy.

    3. They’ve decided to leave the Customs Union so why have they made no preparations whatsoever to recruit and train more customs officers and to build huge truck parks in Kent and elsewhere? Do they assume the French will play ball – or might they drag their feet and insist we pay for their added customs costs?

    4. Further to (3) and given that much of UK industry is now thoroughly integrated with the EU27, what do they estimate the GDP and jobs cost of getting this even a tiny bit wrong.

  • 5. Which countries specifically are we going to export to replace the part of 60% of our exports now made to the EU or via EU trade treaties? Not Russia obviously. Not China (highly mercantilist and with massive low-cost overproduction). Not Japan (also mercantilist although they pretend not).

    6. Which big companies will lead the export charge bearing in mind that nearly all the big ones have been sold off and are now foreign owned and small ones don’t have the muscle?

    7. What will replace our services and City earnings given that services, with the single exception of the EU, are not included in Free Trade treaties except marginally?
    8. What about Ireland? There is no workable plan (however much they pretend otherwise) that doesn’t involve either breaking the Good Friday agreement with a hard border in Ireland OR one in the Irish Sea.

  • William Fowler 10th Apr '18 - 9:23am

    The problem with having a long list of questions is that there is nothing to rally around, you need to get the reason to stay down to an irrefutable slogan that people can get their minds around, I would veer towards the prospects of the young and tie that in with the benefits of not having indulged in mass slaughter in Europe for the past seven decades…

  • I am going further now: maybe only the EU can preserve democracy.

    … ‘to preserve democracy, it became necessary to destroy it’ …

  • William Ross 10th Apr '18 - 11:54am

    Dear Guys

    I am not a Liberal and I am not a Remainer, but very occasionally I will post a comment here. I have to honestly ask what fantasy-land the author inhabits? There is no chance of there being a second referendum. Even if there were, there is no way that any successful Remain campaign could ever be based on a passionate Pro EU basis. Why? Because as George Osborne in a rare flash of lucidity admitted to Andrew Marr, the British people are solidly anti-EU. No-one but you has any interest in or affection for the EU. The only possible winning Remain message was ” it is a horrible anti-democratic morass but getting out is more difficult”. As Anthony Barnett observes in ” The Lure of Greatness” some 8o% of Remain voters marked the box because of economics. They were told a pack of lies, but none the less. that is why they voted as they did. Most of them don`t like Juncker and Selmayr any more than me.

    Why on earth do you think that the EU has stopped war in Europe? The Nazi death camps stopped when they were overrun by the Allies and Russians. Anglo-American power underwrote European freedom since from 1945. The EU is merely a dissolute consequence of the peace bought with the blood of heroes. Why is Putin not in Vilnius today? Answer: NATO, and nothing else.

    Sorry, I couldn`t resist.


  • Get real, get, err, Liberal and argue for decentralisation. Specifically, argue for repatriation of powers (competences in EU-speak) that would be better exercised at national level – like fishing

    But we know for a fact, from Cameron’s failed attempt at repatriating powers, where he asked for almost nothing and got even less, that there is no way the EU will ever agree to repatriate any powers whatsoever.

    So why would anyone believe this argument?

  • Gordon: “when a clear majority think we should respect the democratic choice”: I respect the democratic choice made at the last election. I also oppose the policies of the government that was formed as a result of it, and therefore seek to achieve a different result at the next election. In exactly the same way, I respect the referendum result, but oppose the resulting policy, and therefore am campaigning to change public opinion so that they can vote for an alternative policy. “Respecting the result” does not mean slavish obedience to and support for the decisions that flow from it. That’s not how democracy works. For some reason, while people intuitively understand this when it comes to elections, but not referendums. Perhaps this is why referendums are so popular with dictators.

  • Yeovil Yokel 10th Apr '18 - 12:18pm

    William Ross: “Dear Guys” – guys? What about the other 51 per cent of the population? “I am not a Liberal….” – clearly!

    “The British people are solidly anti-EU.” If George Osborne did say that on Andrew Marr then he is wrong – apart from a several pockets in England & Wales where’s the evidence for this?

  • William Ross 10th Apr '18 - 12:35pm

    Quick out of the box Yeovil!

    Come on ” Guys” is widely used to refer to males and females.

    The anti-EU feeling? Evidence? How about Lord Ashcroft`s polling? The great majority of Remainers voted for economics and the safe status quo. A few people are passionate about the EU it is true. Even in supposedly pro-EU Scotland, you almost never see the EU flag flying except of government buildings. Nobody wants it.

  • Tony Greaves 10th Apr '18 - 3:24pm

    If only the Liberal Democrats had the desire and the will (and the commitment and campaigning drive) to lead a campaign to scrap Brexit. Instead we are just trailing along behind all the pussyfooting soft-Brexiteers…Norway? customs union? Canada? single market? more transition? free trade? selective membership of things like Euratom? bespoke deal? Irish border fudge? single market but not for people? and so on and so on…

    Why on earth are we not standing up bold and proud and saying – No! We are not leaving! Come and join our fight to Stay!

  • Peter Hirst 10th Apr '18 - 3:39pm

    The truth is we won’t obtain another referendum unless we are fairly certain to win it. Such is politics. So we need to start acting as if we are going to get and win it. Fear is a tempting argument and would put us in direct conflict with the leave campaign. Negative campaigning is always controversial and sometimes works. I think the fairness of last June’s referendum if argued coherently could be a winner. Fair play is a British value.

  • @ William Fowler. “The problem with a long list of questions is that there is nothing to rally around…”

    I agree – which is why I said “Firstly, offer an alternative to the status quo.” For a slogan something based around ‘EU Reform’ works for me. I am constantly astonished that the LIB Dems, a nominally reformist party, have never admitted the possibility of reform of the EU (which is not to say it would be easy). Worse, the party has actively worked to support the status quo – for example in pushing the centralising Lisbon Treaty through.

    Also, don’t dismiss “a long list of questions” too quickly. Opposition campaigning 101 is to question the incumbents’ plans and policies to highlight their flaws. In this case that’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel but for some reason no-one is doing that in an organised way.

    @ William Ross. “the British people are solidly anti-EU.”

    People always dislike remote and unaccountable bureaucracies because they suspect, usually correctly, that they are taking jolly good care of themselves first and foremost and the people only a distant second. So, dislike of the EU is the result of the total failure by our politicians to control the bureaucracy – or even to admit the possibility of doing so. But there is a baby in this bathwater and failure to distinguish the two will prove disastrous.

  • @ Dav. “we know for a fact, from Cameron’s failed attempt at repatriating powers… // there is no way the EU will ever agree”

    Cameron didn’t bother to understand how the EU works; he was just looking for a special-pleading opt-out for the UK that struck at the heart of the rule-based system that enables the EU to function. That’s a very different animal. Repatriation is where all member countries agree that some defined power(s) should be returned to them. That shouldn’t depend on the EU ‘agreeing’ – but only on the ‘shareholders’ agreeing between themselves that certain things should no longer be run from Brussels. There is a pan- European debate on this with which the UK in general, and Lib Dems in particular, are not engaged. Macron wants more centralisation; many others want less. So why aren’t w engaged?

    @ Alex Macfie. I agree with you but a minor party coming straight out of the gate to call for a second referendum when public opinion hasn’t changed comes across as petulant – not a good look.

    What has changed since the referendum is that many of the claims made in the campaign (e.g. that the UK has a very strong hand) have now been tested and found to be 100% wrong. So, exposing that along with the sheer incompetence of the Tories should be the focus in the short run.

    We should point out the incredible stupidity of signing up to be a ‘vassal state’, the immense cost of inevitable delays at Dover, the impossibility of the UK remaining part of pan-European integrated supply chains if we leave and the jobs implications of that, the cost to small business of exporting in the Maybot’s brave new world etc. etc.

    It’s what the military call a ‘target-rich environment’ but Lib Dem Towers is missing in action. We could and should make the Tories terrified of what they have wrought and make it clear that they OWN the outcome.

  • Laurence Cox 10th Apr '18 - 6:03pm

    Science and Engineering jobs will be vital for our future, but this survey shows that Brexit will be disastrous for keeping the best scientists and engineers in this country:


  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 6:04pm

    Offer an alternative to the status quo which involves feasible EU reform. Gordon is right, I think, in this and in his proposed two-pronged anti-Brexit strategy outlined yesterday. You are probably aware, Gordon, that EU reform has been extensively discussed on LDV in various threads over the past year or two, including lately, and I too am dismayed that we have no official policy on it. The kind of arguments you are putting here we now need to put to the public. Tony Greaves’s passion plus your arguments back up Chris’s most welcome authorial lead.

  • Peter Watson 10th Apr '18 - 6:45pm

    @Laurence Cox “but this survey shows …”
    Any such survey needs to be interpreted carefully.
    In this case, there appears to be little change between the opinions of the respondents in 2016 and then in 2017. Furthermore, those respondents are likely to be and have been supporters of Remain so it is not an unbiased or disinterested group (that is not to say they aren’t correct though!). You might also be guilty of overstating the point that the article is making when you write, “Brexit will be disastrous for keeping the best scientists and engineers in this country”, not least because it is only referring to the best from Europe (ironically it smacks of Brexiter-style xenophobia not to consider that some of the best science and engineering talent in the world might be outside Europe!).

  • Arnold Kiel 10th Apr '18 - 8:26pm

    EU-reform? Demanded by a marginal party in a leaving country run by two major parties who have disengaged from their respective EP-groups? A county that has sent MEPs to Brussels who openly never intended anything else than destruction, at least leaving? Ahead of European parliament elections which will only happen overseas? Proposed by a country that has proven its total lack of understanding of the EU’s functioning? Led by a cabinet that is equally clueless, but whose main protagonists have spent their careers misrepresenting the EU at home? Represented by politicians who wear Euro-scepticism as a badge of honour? To sway a misinformed, systematically misled, and profoundly Eurosceptic population? Against a well-oiled lying-machine? 12 months before exit? To win a referendum before that? You must be joking.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Apr '18 - 11:12pm

    Arnold, that’s a wonderful piece of rhetoric, one of your best, which has made me laugh! Amusement tempered by deep sympathy, though, for all Anglophiles who have been betrayed by the Brexit decision. But as with most rhetoric, I suspect, this doesn’t stand up to close examination. The people who have been discussing and proposing EU reforms over many months are your friends, the Liberal Democrat Europhiles, who have done so in the sure hope of remaining in the EU and contributing to its natural development, and meantime have sought reasonable proposals to show sceptics who write off this great enterprise. Long live the EU and our country within it!

  • Arnold
    Norway beckons.

  • Arnold Kiel 11th Apr '18 - 8:01am

    Peter Watson,

    unfortunately, even the best scientists from the ROW are turned off by a year-long visa-nightmare, at the end of which they bump into senseless quotas. As non-EU immigration alone exceeds 100k, this will not change under TM. Europeans have 26 other easy-access destinations with stable prospects available. Apart from the problems with entry, why research in a place with diminishing chances of application because of European industrial and commercial disintegration.

    Katharine Pindar,

    none of the UK-originated “reform”-ideas, also on LDV, make any sense. In essence they want an ever looser union, i.e. a little bit of Brexit for all, leading to something like the Commonwealth. Outdated little-nation-state romanticism in a world dominated by unmitigated, value-free power play is the exact opposite of what is needed.


    the Norway-arrangement could be a pragmatic answer which I find quite tempting: an open, compliant, paying, and, most importantly, silent UK; that is exactly why your political class will not adopt it. If your politicians decided to destroy the superior membership-concept (Norway + customs union + veto) for no good reasons, how could they defend a vassal-state status without any practical advantage?

  • William Ross 11th Apr '18 - 4:26pm

    I find Arnold Kiel`s comment of 8.26 yesterday immensely amusing. At least Arnold and I agree that a Second Referendum is a fantasy. Arnold has real talent. ( “.. open, compliant ,paying, and, most importantly silent UK..”) Could he be a Dominic Cummings plant????


  • @ Arnold Kiel. “Demanded by a marginal party…” // “To win a referendum before that? You must be joking.”

    You have misunderstood my earlier comments. If you reread them, you will see I downplayed a second referendum as envisaged in the original article.

    It’s up to us to make the case that Brexit is just snake oil, unicorns and six impossible things before breakfast. How things will pan out is impossible to say but it’s becoming increasingly obvious what a bad deal May & Co are heading for and, even with help from their friends in the press, it will become increasingly difficult to keep the lid on that reality.

    One fascinating dynamic is what happens as smaller businesses begin to understand what it will mean for them. Quite a few will, I imagine, have some choice things to say to their long-standing friends and MPs in Conservative Associations up and down the country. We’ve already had Farage very upset over fishing – not to mention the fishermen themselves. Let’s make sure the Tories OWN this.

    Another interesting dynamic is what will those for whom “taking back control” was a powerful motivator (a lot in my experience) think when it becomes clear that May & Co are surrendering control. In a world of economic superpowers and regional groupings to be an outsider is to be, of necessity, a rule-taker and not a rule-maker.

    It probably is too late to stop Brexit, but you never know. There are many banana skins ahead, so we should stake out political territory. And in that respect don’t downplay the importance of offering an alternative, however sketchy. One of Thatcher’s most effective arguments was TINA – “There is No Alternative”. Let’s not let the Tories get away with that again.

    Also, it’s mistaken to downplay the potential impact of a “marginal party”. UKIP, with one MP and a few councillors, was always far more marginal then the Lib Dems yet look what they have wrought. The difference is that UKIP had in Farage (no-one else as far as I can see) a talented campaigner. In contrast, the Lib Dems have never worked out how to campaign nationally. That needs to change.

  • Arnold Kiel 11th Apr '18 - 9:23pm


    I am afraid, fudge-time will be over at some point. The EU’s approach is very legalistic, a fact not always understood in a UK without written constitution. Actual cross-border transactions must have a legal basis to rely upon. If the EU cuts the UK some slack, the WTO MFN-clause requires universality of this more lenient approach, not something that could be done informally. Norway (SM but no CU) implies payments and freedom of movement; it would be better than what the Government plans currently, but impossible to do unnoticed. I totally agree with your assessment of EU-“reform”.


    sorry, I was in a bit of a rage, and should have added that, apart from the reform-bit, I agree with everything you wrote. I resolutely reject the idea that this Brexit-madness is a done deal, and will argue for its abortion until the last minute. I contrast to most, I like the EU as it is, and feel totally comfortable to make a passionate case for this current model: legislative initiatives by consensus, democratically enacted by a European parliament, fixed in binding contracts, and enforced by an independent European judiciary. It is unique in the world. This EU-construct stems from more civilised times, and is much better than the one that could be agreed-upon today. Its inbuilt inertia is a blessing in these times of irresponsibility, incompetence, superficiality, and populism. It will serve us well, until we, hopefully, come back to our senses. I don’t want the current cast of characters, not only British ones, to touch it.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Apr '18 - 11:01pm

    That’s me swatted, then, Arnold! (At 8 am – sorry, I’ve been a bit busy elsewhere.) I’ll wrap up my sympathy and keep it for a less articulate and forceful pair of European friends, stranded doubtfully in this country that they thought their children were considered part of. But I don’t recognise ‘outdated little-state romanticism’ as applying to myself, a citizen of the world and a lover of Europe, nor indeed of Nick Clegg, who whatever his faults has what seems to me a perfectly sensible and feasible idea of Britain in an outer ring of EU states, as it is now, which will always have more appeal to British people than Ever-Closer Union. Were you in a rage about Victor Orban? Maybe Hungary is tending to ‘unmitigated value-free power play’ WITHIN the EU, and with the other Visegrad states seems to threaten its ideals, n’est-ce pas?

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '18 - 4:41am

    @Katharine @Arnold

    Much as I hate to say it, Arnold does have a point. The UK population is eurosceptic. You’re eurosceptic, just to a slightly lesser degree than my own, if you want a peripheral status for the UK rather than the full membership ‘enjoyed’ (for want of a better word) by Germany and France.

    To want to sit on an outer tier of the EU and at the same time demand fundamental reforms doesn’t strike me as being at all sensible or realistic.

  • Arnold Kiel 12th Apr '18 - 8:21am


    You are absolutely right: no final settlement wiĺl be possible by Dec 2020, which defeats the purpose of “transition”. I am just afraid that things will get very problematic at that point. Reentry will become almost impossible, the WTO prohibits lengthy non-contractual preferences, and there will be the “problems” of freedom of movement, contributions, and the European elections. Much better to turn the corner in the next 11 months.


    the UK enjoys the best available outer-circle existence right now. It requires no “reform” whatsoever. I believe, however, that Nick Clegg, whom I fully respect and support, made this statement for tactical reasons. He correctly believes in ever closer union, but will have to wait for time and events to bring that necessity firmly home to Britain’s deluded voters.

  • “… The UK population is eurosceptic. …
    To want to sit on an outer tier of the EU and at the same time demand fundamental reforms doesn’t strike me as being at all sensible or realistic.

    I think a fundamental problem with the EU has been the failure of those leading the project (both in the UK and in Brussels) to understand transformational change and its management and specifically why corporate transformation projects often fail to deliver. Thus to me, the UK’s Euroscepticism and both the total rejection and the desire to sit on an outer tier are simply reactions to badly communicated and managed change.

    Interestingly, you can view Brexit and the transition arrangement as a form of sitting on an outer tier (just a bit further out than that being discussed before the referendum), if an amicable settlement is to come to pass I suspect it will be because some reform will be accepted as being necessary…

  • Peter Martin 12th Apr '18 - 10:19pm

    @ Arnold,

    ‘It [the EU] requires no “reform” whatsoever.’

    ‘Britain’s deluded voters’ ???

    Then we have a large number of Italian ‘deluded voters’, ‘Greek deluded voters’, ‘Spanish deluded voters’ etc even German ‘deluded voters’ voting for populist parties who dare suggest to the EU’s great and the good that the EU isn’t doing what was promised and doesn’t meet specification.

    In other words you’re trying to sell a product which you claim is perfectly fine but you have lots of unhappy customers who don’t agree.

    Basil Fawlty had the same problem. Fawlty Towers would have been the perfect hotel- if only the customers hadn’t complained so much!

  • Arnold Kiel 13th Apr '18 - 1:02am

    Peter Martin,

    you are right: you find deluded voters everywhere. They don’t understand the root causes of their discontent, and vote for the dummest slogans instead of thoughtful policies (which, admittedly, also overpromise in this competition). They are unable to “specify” what they want, and certainly not helped by giving them what they believe they want: Trump, Brexit, the Lira/Peseta just promise an impossible reversal of history.

    Maybe intelligent supranational governance in a globalised world (unlike a hotel room) is too complex a “product” to sell to them. Power-hungry second-rate politicians (and populists and autocrats of all facets) offer the simple product that presents less of an intellectual challenge. Unfortunately, it is not available anymore, just a dishonest promise.

  • They are unable to “specify” what they want, and certainly not helped by giving them what they believe they want

    So why do we let them vote at all?

  • Dav,

    let them vote for representatives, but never for specific policies (e.g. in referenda), and control the money-flow into campaigns. After all, “democracy is a bad government model, but the best we have.” I forgot the source.

  • William Ross 13th Apr '18 - 11:10am

    ” There is no democracy against the EU Treaties” I forgot the source.

    But you can keep on electing powerless representatives. The Greeks know the drill.

    I`d prefer to be dum and independent Arnold. Imagine trying to mount a political campaign on arrogance of this sort? I think Remain are much better staying with Project Fear. At least that got 48%

  • let them vote for representatives, but never for specific policies (e.g. in referenda), and control the money-flow into campaigns

    So we should let them vote, but only choose from a pre-approved (by whom?) list of candidates?

    Which countries was it had that system, again?

  • Peter Martin 13th Apr '18 - 11:38am

    @ Arnold,

    “………let them vote for representatives” …… ” They don’t understand the root causes of their discontent” ……”They are unable to ‘specify’ what they want”

    I notice you’re fond of saying “they” and “them” rather than “we” and “us”! I’d say that “we” should be able to vote on whatever “we” like. If enough people prefer a more direct Swiss Style democratic system then that’s what “we” should have.

    But, even so, we’d still rely on our elected representatives to make most decisions. In which case the following questions should be asked of them:

    “What power have you got?”

    “Where did you get it from?”

    “In whose interests do you use it?”

    “To whom are you accountable?”

    “How do we get rid of you?”

  • To whom or what is Brexit accountable?

    To the electorate, obviously, who will decide at the next general election whether they think the government did a good job of it and re-elect them, or whether they think they made a hash of it and boot them out.

    How do we get rid of Brexit?

    I don’t understand. Brexit isn’t a ‘thing’ you can get rid of, it’s an instruction that the electorate gave the government in June 2016. Once the government has carried out the instruction then it’s ‘got rid of’ and we can judge how well they did it.

  • Peter Martin 13th Apr '18 - 11:58am

    @ Martin,

    These are questions for our representatives.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Apr '18 - 3:43pm

    Dav: In this country we have a representative democracy. The electorate cannot give government “instructions”, they elect representatives to do the job. In June 2016 there was an *advisory* referendum, the result of which was a narrow victory for Leave. Our elected representatives may act on this advice as they see fit, the same as they can on
    any political event. And the electorate can decide whether the representatives have done a good job of this, taking into account all factors. And this includes the possibility that voters might have changed their minds over the advice given in June 2016.

  • Our elected representatives may act on this advice as they see fit

    Well, except if they don’t act on it then they have to explain why they asked the question. Or why they sent out loads of leaflets saying things like ‘the government will implement whatever you decide’.

    I mean, obviously legally, you’re right, Parliament can do whatever it likes. But morally, why ask the question if you’re going to ignore the answer?

  • Peter Martin 13th Apr '18 - 6:54pm

    @ Martin,

    “Does this mean that when Brexit goes wrong it is the electorate who should be held to account?”

    Our elected representatives are always held to account. If they considered there wasn’t a rational case to be made for Brexit they should never have voted for the referendum to be held.

    Tell me again just which Lib Dem MPs voted against having the 2016 EU referendum? Were there any? Even just one?

  • Arnold Kiel 14th Apr '18 - 6:27am

    You describe the problem very well: an instructed Parliament acts irresponsibly. If the instruction is bad, unspecific, profound, and irreversible, it motivates just a few unqualified radical MPs. They enact their version of this instruction. The majotity of responsible MPs cannot even mitigate the damage, and sit petrified. For a few years, Britain is run by the worst 5% of its MPs, who do not worry about responsibility and don’t make tradeoffs, while Parliament provides no quality control. Not because they were instructed, but because that is what they want. The electorate will fire them all in due course, but this will not rectify the instruction. An unpleasant byproduct is that all communication between MPs and voters becomes dishonest. The radicals insist the instruction was beneficial, and all others pledge their “respect” for it, thus stifling all debate and advancement in the instructor’s thinking.

  • Peter Martin 14th Apr '18 - 9:36am


    Instead of berating our “unqualified radical MPs” and no-doubt others too in different countries, who aren’t totally happy about the concept of “ever closer union” in the EU, might I suggest you do something more constructive with your time and learn some macroeconomics? Have a try with this!


    Once the penny drops on how economies have to function it’s hard to go along with the EU’s current unworkable structure. It either does have to move towards a USE or move back to an EEC. So reforms are certainly needed. Just in which direction has to be a matter of opinion. If we were going back to an EEC then I’d be in favour of the UK staying a part of all that.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '18 - 6:43pm

    I heard on the morning BBC radio 4 brief news that there is now a new drive for a referendum, headed by Anna Soubrey from the Tories and Chukka Ummuna (possibly wrong spelling) from Labour. Does anyone know if we are strongly represented in this? I certainly hope so.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Apr '18 - 9:37pm

    I see my query above has been answered – thanks, Caron – by the post about the People’s Vote launch. It’s good to know that Layla Moran was involved. Let’s hope the new initiative influences many more people.

  • The normal precaution in democracies worldwide of requiring a ‘constitutional majority’ (i.e. around two-thirds) for constitutional change was ignored.

    This is not at all normal, in fact it is the exception rather than the rule. Ireland, for example, has no such two-thirds rule; a simple majority is all that is required (if a two-thirds majority were required, then Ireland would not have ratified the Treaty of Nice! Or legalised same-sex marriage). Australia has very odd rules regarding needing a majority and also a majority of state majorities, but again, in both cases, only a simple majority is required. In states of the USA which have provisions for constitutional change by referendum, eg California, in general only a simple majority is required.

    Could you provide details of some countries where two-thirds majorities are required, to back up your claim?

    Before the referendum took place, it was characterised as “legally advisory”, but immediately afterwards the result became “politically binding”.

    These two things of course are not at all in conflict. They both apply, for example, to every single manifesto commitment ever made in any general election.

    The referendum posed an imbalanced choice between the known status quo and the unknown.

    Yes, which is why normally in such a referendum the ‘known status quo’ has a massive advantage: see, for example, the referendum on Scottish independence. So how can the fact that the ‘Leave’ campaign managed to overcome this massive disadvantage and still win be a point against it?

    David Cameron’s review of the workings of the EU showed that its competences were soundly chosen and that there were therefore no grounds for repatriating them

    And the majority of the electorate disagreed.

    Statements that the UK would stop making big payments to the EU budget are now corrected by the recognition that the UK has obligations to make a financial settlement with the EU

    Again, these are perfectly consistent: a one-off financial settlement is not at all the same as continuing big payments.

    Quitting the single market will mean bringing back roaming charges for mobile phones

    My heart bleeds for all those globetrotters who will have to pay a little more on their bills to subsidise those who hardly ever leave the country.

  • That is factually incorrect

    Okay; ‘The majority of the electorate disagreed, or indicated by their abstention that they had no strong opinions either way’.

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '18 - 3:36pm

    @ John Littler,

    ” The normal precaution in democracies worldwide of requiring a ‘constitutional majority’ (i.e. around two-thirds) for constitutional change was ignored.”

    So you’re saying that it was OK for the UK to join the old EEC without any referendum in 1973. But then, if the subsequent popular vote in 1975, had been to leave it would have required a 2/3 majority?

    The UK could sign the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties without any popular vote at all, but, if there had been a vote, we could have only signed up if the majority had been 2/3rd? Or doesn’t your 2/3 rule apply that way around?

  • Sean Hyland 16th Apr '18 - 5:19pm

    John Littler can i pleased respond to 2 of your points
    5) re the report from the RCN about EU nurses. It is unfortunate that this has occurred but the dependence of the NHS on foreign nurses and staff is not new and will be overcome as it has in the past. Hopefully this will force the government to finally properly fund training for doctors,nurses, and other healthcare professionals/specialist staff. I worked as a senior clinician/ team leader in the NHS between 1984 and 2003. In my post and as an RCN union rep i sat in many meetings ‘re staff shortages. We fixed it in the past by raiding other countries,initially the commonwealth,then the Philippines etc. Don’t blame staff shortages just on Brexit it is a long standing issue that governments of all colours have failed to address.
    14) trucks. I have family in the business and have driven hgvs myself. The vast majority of vehicles undertaking journeys to the EU are European registered. The last figures i saw from DoT showed of 21.4 million goods vehicles leaving UK ferry ports only 0.3 million were UK registered. UK hauliers cannot complete with locost EU hauliers. Also we import more than we export. There is also a separate issue of EU hauliers undertaking cabotage within the UK and the none payment of fines by EU hauliers. UK hauliers previously operated under international T.I.R regulations and could do so again. The only holdups from that time were strikes in French ferry ports. Something that the people of Kent still have to deal with during Operation Stack.

  • Sean Hyland 16th Apr '18 - 5:29pm

    Further about Jaguar. I understood the layoffs to be because of a drop in worldwide, including EU, sales of 19%. i understand that these are temporary contract staff who are always the most vulnerable within any company unfortunately as their value is often reduced to an easy cost saving under present employment laws. I wish we could have better regulations to protect such staff.
    They have invested in new facilities and continue to actively recruit increasing numbers of apprentices. I would suggest that the main problem for Jaguar has been their dependence on diesel engines for 90% of their vehicles and the lateness of bringing hybrid of alternative fuelled vehicles to their range.

  • Dav; “My heart bleeds for all those globetrotters who will have to pay a little more on their bills to subsidise those who hardly ever leave the country.”
    The marginal cost of a domestic telephone call is little greater than that of a call half-way round the world. International and roaming call charges are artificially high due to the cartel-like arrangement of the market into siloed national telephone markets, resulting in little real competition. It is not a case of altruistic telephone companies “subsidising” supposedly loss-making domestic calls by ramping up the cost of international calls, and being prevented by the EU from doing so. Rather, they charge more for international calls because they can get away with it, but cannot get away with it in domestic markets where are more competitive. The ban on roaming charges is intended to dampen the effects of this uncompetitive market. You may sneer at so-called “globetrotters”, but then why should a call from Folkestone to Calais be more expensive than one from Folkestone to Shetland? And how is profiteering acceptable when these “globetrotters” are the victims?

  • The marginal cost of a domestic telephone call is little greater than that of a call half-way round the world

    Rather, they charge more for international calls because they can get away with it, but cannot get away with it in domestic markets where are more competitive

    If you put these two together you will see the issue. Yes, the marginal cost of a telephone call is tiny: that’s because the vast majority of a telecommunications company’s expenses are the fixed costs of maintaining the network, running the billing, etc etc.

    So, if they price-gouge the globetrotters, that means they can use the extra money thus generated to lower domestic prices. Which they will do, because, as you point out, the domestic market is so competitive, that reducing your prices below those of the other operators, even by a little, will get you lots of extra market share.

    Effectively, because the marginal costs on both types of call are so low as to be assumed to be zero, what you’ve got is the roamers paying proportionately more of the fixed costs of network maintenance than the stay-at-homers.

    Effectively, artificially high prices on globetrotters are subsidising artificially low prices for stay-at-homers.

    Which is a indubitably good thing for the stay-at-homers. And there are lots more of them than there are globetrotters.

    why should a call from Folkestone to Calais be more expensive than one from Folkestone to Shetland

    Because one’s an international call and one’s a domestic call, obviously.

    how is profiteering acceptable when these “globetrotters” are the victims?

    It’s not profiteering, because the money used doesn’t go into profits — profit margins in the telecommunications industry are razor-slim — it goes into reducing prices for customers who don’t globetrot. As a non-globetrotter, I’m all for that.

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '18 - 12:24pm

    Alex Macfie “The marginal cost of a domestic telephone call is little greater than that of a call half-way round the world. International and roaming call charges are artificially high due to the cartel-like arrangement of the market into siloed national telephone markets, resulting in little real competition.”
    Isn’t the extra charge for making international calls – even within the EU – quite different from roaming, and something that still exists?

  • Alex Macfie 17th Apr '18 - 1:25pm

    I meant of course “little less than” in my first sentence above!

  • Alex Macfie 18th Apr '18 - 1:16pm

    Dav: You are completely missing my point that telecoms companies want to price-gouge roaming customers not out of some altruistic desire to help customers who do not use roaming services, they do it because they can. The market pressure to reduce prices of domestic calls would be there whether or not the phone companies could charge high roaming rates. Your defence of cross-national monopolistic behaviour as some kind of benefit for people who supposedly would not be able to get cheap domestic calls is just rubbish. What brings down the cost of domestic calls is competition, simple as that. The infrastructure is there anyway. Logically, you ought to be against the introduction of cross-national competition in telecommunications as it would only benefit so-called “globetrotters” and prevent domestic users from getting cheap calls, as if there has to be some group that it’s OK to fleece or would have to be fleeced.
    Your second-last comment, “Because one’s an international call and one’s a domestic call, obviously.” is circular. My point was how artificial the distinction is, because the “domestic” call is actually a much longer distance than the “international” one. It’s only the siloed markets that lead to the distinction, and leading to artificially high “international” call charges. Perhaps I should have given an example that’s easier to grasp, say, Newry to Dundalk?

  • The market pressure to reduce prices of domestic calls would be there whether or not the phone companies could charge high roaming rates.

    Yes, but without price-gouging roamers, there would be a floor beneath which they could not cut the cost of domestic calls without going out of business, because they have to pay out expenses of billions per year to maintain their network (no, it is not just ‘there anyway’ as you seem to think).

    By price-gouging roamers, they enable themselves to cut the costs of domestic calls to the point where they are not just breaking even but actually loss-making.

    Imagine them as supermarkets, selling certain staple items at a loss in order to get people through the door, in the hope that they can make up the loss on higher-margin luxury items. In this case domestic calls are the loss-leader and roaming charges are the higher-margin luxury items.

    And if you only buy the staples, and never buy the luxury items, then you are effectively getting your shop for below-cost-price, subsidised by the people who buy the expensive luxury items and pay the higher margins.

    So how is that not a great deal for those who never roam?

    My point was how artificial the distinction is, because the “domestic” call is actually a much longer distance than the “international” one

    It’s only an artificial distinction if you think national borders are artificial. Which, you know, most people don’t.

    You could equally say that ‘the majority of the electorate agreed, or indicated by their abstention that they had no strong opinions either way’.

    You could, but that would be rather disingenuous. If people want to abstain we should respect that and not put opinions in their mouths.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Apr '18 - 9:50am

    Dav: Your analogy is totally flawed because luxury goods are intrinsically more expensive than staple goods, which is why they cost more. In contrast, long-distance, international or roaming calls are not intrinsically much more expensive than domestic calls, certainly not enough to justify the large markup that is placed on them. The main reason for this, incidentally, is that there is a lot of spare capacity on telecommunication networks.
    And shops do sell discretionary, even luxury, goods at discount, sometimes even at a loss, to get people through their doors, the same as they sometimes do for staple goods as well. But they don’t do this all the time for the same goods, whatever they type, as to do so would be unsustainable. You just completely misunderstand the economics of retail business. Once again, businesses do NOT sell staple goods at a loss out of the goodness of their hearts, recouping their losses from more expensive items. If they sell something at a loss, then there is some other business reason for doing so. If they could only sell something at a loss, then they wouldn’t sell it at all, whether or not they recouped their loss from somewhere else. And discretionary items, especially expensive ones, sell fewer units than staples (obviously), so the profit margins on the staples are more important than those on luxuries for shops that deal with both.
    And international travel is no longer a luxury for the privileged few; it has not been for more than 2 generations. Therefore, the idea of a small separate class of “globetrotters” who are the only ones who benefit from lower roaming charges is just more bunkum.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Apr '18 - 9:54am


    ” Or why they sent out loads of leaflets saying things like ‘the government will implement whatever you decide’.‘the government will implement whatever you decide’.”

    The government did that, not elected representatives. MPs, especially those not of the governing party, are not bound by government pledges.

  • In contrast, long-distance, international or roaming calls are not intrinsically much more expensive than domestic calls

    Yes, I know. That is the point. As I have to keep repeated, the major expenditure of a telecommunications company is fixed costs. The incidental cost of each call, whether domestic or international, is negligible compared to that fixed cost.

    But the fixed cost is large and has to be paid. Therefore prices have to be set so that, added together, the income from all the customers is large enough to cover the fixed cost.

    You seem not to understand that: you keep going on about the marginal costs of each telephone call, as if those were at all relevant. They aren’t. You seem not to understand that pretty much the only costs which are relevant in the telecommunications business are the fixed costs, which have to be paid, and would have to be paid even if none of the customers ever made a call.

    But that doesn’t mean that the costs have to be equally distributed among the customers. By simple maths, if you can charge one group more than its share of the costs, you can charge another group commensurately less. And this is sustainable, provided the increased burden borne by the price-gouged group doesn’t cause them to change their behaviours and either spend less, or change suppliers.

    It’s been found by experience that EU-trotter can’t or won’t change their behaviour, so it is sustainable for telecommunications companies to gouge them for way beyond their fair share of the fixed costs, in order to drop the headline domestic prices so they are more competitive.

    This is obviously a good thing for those who take the domestic prices deal and travel abroad rarely or never.

    And international travel is no longer a luxury for the privileged few; it has not been for more than 2 generations

    Most Britons don’t travel much throughout the EU. I don’t, myself. A week in the alps in winter and maybe another in the summer (or maybe in the summer I’ll go somewhere outside the EU, so that) and that’s about my fill of Europe.

    So I’m perfectly happy for those who do go gallivanting constantly around the EU to be gouged in order to subsidise those like me, the majority, who spend most of our time in Britain.

  • Dav: So basically, you accept that the marginal costs aren’t much different, but you basically think that roaming calls *ought* to be more expensive than domestic calls based on an outdated stereotype of people who use the service, so it’s OK to “price-gouge” them. And so yet again, you cling to the idea that telcos are keeping roaming prices artificially high for the altruistic purpose of subsidising domestic callers.
    And once again, it’s just utter rubbish. The reason for the price difference is that one market is competitive, and the other isn’t. Simple as that. International calls from landlines used to be artificially expensive as well, for the same sort of reason as roaming calls are now, in the days when telcos were mostly state-run national monopolies. In the past 20 years or so, they have become a lot cheaper due to market liberalisation and competition. It’s not perfect, as international calls still cost more than they should, with the main factors determining the price being business and politics rather than distance (calls to countries with more open markets being cheaper than calls to countries still having a national telecoms monopoly). But charges are a lot more reasonable than previously.
    So when BT was forced to sell its excess capacity at cost to help generate the more competitive international call market in this country, presumably you would have been complaining about how expensive international calls could no longer be used to subsidise domestic calls. People were saying this sort of thing at the time. Well, guess what? Since domestic-origin markets were liberated, the costs of BOTH domestic and international-destination calls have fallen. This is due to competition, as well as advances in technology. So how exactly would it be different for roaming calls? The thing is that it’s not zero-sum: making calls cheaper for one group does not mean another group has to lose out, because in a properly functioning open market, companies have to compete on price for all services. And infrastructure is something that can be added (or removed) any time, and increased demand caused by competitive pressure will force companies to add more. A monopoly situation, like you have with roaming, allows telcos to avoid investing because they’ll get the profits whatever they do.

  • And so yet again, you cling to the idea that telcos are keeping roaming prices artificially high for the altruistic purpose of subsidising domestic callers

    Yes, except for the word ‘altruistic’. They are keeping roaming prices artificially high for the totally selfish purpose of subsidising domestic callers so that they can undercut their competition in the domestic market.

    It’s got nothing to do with altruism, absolutely everthing to do with grabbing every possible advantage they can in a highly competitive market with razor-thin margins: something which can only benefit the consumer.

    And infrastructure is something that can be added (or removed) any time

    No, it can’t. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about here. the maintenance costs of a telecommunications network are huge. You can’t just switch it on and then it costs nothing extra until you switch it off again.

    A monopoly situation, like you have with roaming, allows telcos to avoid investing because they’ll get the profits whatever they do.

    Again, you don’t understand. No telecommunications company ‘invests’ in ‘roaming’ because a roaming mobile telephone uses the infrastructure of one of the domestic carriers in the country it’s roaming to.

    It’s simple maths: a telecommunications company has to take in £X billion every year simply to not go bust maintaining their network, and how many calls are made or where they are to or from makes very little difference to that number. So if all customers are charged the same, then they all have to pay their fair share of that £X billion. But if you gouge some, then you can drop others’ prices. the price drops will obviously happen where they can give a competitive advantage: not out of altruism, but out of selfish competition. That competitive market is the domestic market.

    Hence, gouge the roamers and you can use the spare money thus generated to make your prices more appealing to domestic customers. Like me. So, I say, carry on gouging the roamers. Gouge them more!

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