What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the economy

Given how little coverage there has been in the British media of the work of the European Parliament, it comes as no surprise that few voters know what it does. Luckily, the ALDE Group in the Parliament have produced a guide to their achievements since the last European election in 2014, and I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight some of them today.

More stable financial markets

Scandals around the manipulation of the LIBOR and foreign exchange benchmarks, as well as the alleged manipulation of other indices, has highlighted the importance of benchmarks and their vulnerabilities. ALDE led negotiations to put EU legislation in place to ensure that benchmarks, indicators used to measure the performance of investment funds, are now regulated at the EU level and this strongly improves financial stability. With such regulation in force, scandals as the one related to EURIBOR should be a thing of the past.

Fighting youth unemployment

As part of its campaign to promote youth employment and entrepreneur skills, ALDE successfully launched a European pilot project to set up co-operatives for young people and graduates, establishing best practice in the area for the whole of Europe. By working in cooperatives, the young people and graduates not only create jobs, but also learn entrepreneurship while having guidance and support in the form of labour market training. ALDE will ensure that appropriate EU policy, legislation or a programme will follow up this initiative.

As part of the revision of the “EURES regulation” (a pan-European job search network to improve employee mobility), ALDE campaigned successfully to get private employment agencies included in the network and traineeships and apprenticeships included under the job search portal. These outcomes will provide access to wider job market and give more chances for young people. ALDE is concerned that labour mobility in the EU is only 3.1% of the total labour force. At the same time, there is a shortage of skilled labour in regions and industries across the EU.

More transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU for workers

ALDE led negotiations in the shaping of legislation on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU. We improved the mandatory information which workers must receive when starting a new job and which will now be provided in a more reasonable period. The laws also establishes new minimum rights for workers to address changes to the world of work particularly those resulting from digitalisation and technological advances while also ensuring labour market adaptability and improving living and working conditions.

Tackling money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion

ALDE co-led the European Parliament’s inquiry into money laundering and tax evasion in the EU following the Panama Papers Scandal and we have developed bold recommendations on how to tackle money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion. We will continue to call for reforms including accessible beneficial ownership registers of companies, foundations, trusts and similar legal arrangements; new rules to regulate intermediaries, such as lawyers and accountants, who aid aggressive tax planning, plus incentives to refrain from engaging in tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as a common international definition of what constitutes an offshore financial centre. ALDE played a key role chairing the subsequent Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (TAX3).

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28 Comments

  • Peter Martin 13th May '19 - 9:06am

    ALDE also say:

    “We will work for better control mechanism and more automatic sanctions
    on countries when the stability and growth pact is broken”

    What they are saying is that if, for example, Italy doesn’t stick to a budget deficit limit of 1.8% that the EU will automatically fine the Italian Government and therefore worsen the malaise that has gripped Italian economy for two decades. Presumably we aren’t talking about nominal fines but significant sums of money. Tens of billions, Hundreds of billions?

    This measure is simply an attempt to criminalise sensible Keynesianism.

    This latest manifestation of austerity economics makes sense neither on a practical nor a theoretical level. It’s just a continuation of what hasn’t worked in the past. So why expect it to work in the future? This stupidity is tearing the EU apart.

    The British Liberal Democrats, as the party of Keynes, should speak out, and reconsider their affiliation if this suggestion remains in the manifesto.

    See page 11

    https://www.aldeparty.eu/sites/alde/files/40-Resolutions/2019_freedom_opportunity_prosperity_the_liberal_vision_for_the_future_of_europe_0.pdf

  • Bill le Breton 13th May '19 - 9:46am

    Mark, Peter, above, is quite right to raise these concerns. The Eurozone has been and continues to be a deflation/disinflation machine – which also works to provide large surpluses for Germany and a few other countries. The impact on other European economies including that of the UK is stifling.

    This is not a free trade zone when currencies are manipulated in this way. There need to be penalties ( both to discourage imbalances and to finance transfers) as advocated by Robert Skidelsky and Dani Rodrik.

  • The thing I find interesting is that the method of tackling youth unemployment seems to be to improve mobility when freedom of movement causes political friction, notably in the UK.

  • There will always be policies/approaches of umbrella movements like ALDE with which individual national parties strongly disagree.

    The Growth and Stability pact produces neither.

    In the event that the Lib Dems get some Euro MEPs, they’d should do their best to argue against this poster child for ortho-liberalism.

    (It looks likely that there will be some Lib Dem MEPs in view of the latest 15% in a You Gov Euro poll.)

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th May '19 - 11:13am

    @ Glenn,
    The interesting thing for me, is the question of why young people in the country have failed to take he opportunities of freedom of movement that those in other EU countries have embraced. ( I support free movement of Labour not free movement of people by the way).

    What is it that has held them back?

  • @ Jayne,

    There is a cultural factor at play. Overall, there is a defeatist attitude to language learning in Britain. Expectations from schools (and government) of foreign language attainment are very low. it’s not an educational priority at all.

    A large majority of British youngsters are functional mono-glots and are not in a position to take advantage of work opportunities abroad.

  • Very few British youngsters would also believe that they could learn a language on the job.

  • Chris Moore. It us surprising how little disagreement there is across ALDE parties, given the relatively large span of the political spectrum that is included.
    As to the growth and stability pact. It is an aim and is not set in stone. What’s not to like about stability across European economies? Growth is more controversial given the clash with environmental priorities, but that’s not exclusive to Liberal parties.
    Policies always need scrutiny and Libdem MEPs (unlike some party leaders) have always argued for change when they see its necessity.
    You should come to an ALDE congress and meet some of our colleagues from across Europe. There is an amazing camaraderie and similarity of outlook. The next one is in Athens from 24th to 26th October. Any party member can attend and any party member can apply to be a voting delegate.

  • Dear me, Chris Moore, such low levels of expectation on the language front. My granddaughter is currently learning Spanish in school with good success. I managed to pick up enough Spanish to get by when I was in South America for 2 months – and I was 68 then. I already speak French and German and have picked up a smattering of Italian and Greek on the way.
    I simply don’t accept that UK youngsters could not pick up a new language on the job. There’s ample evidence that they do. The problem is the disdain that many UK educators have for learning languages that they pass on to children.

  • @ Mick Taylor. Thank you for your invitation, Mick. Much appreciated.

    The Growth and Stability pact sets a common targetfor national debt and national annual budgetary deficits. But budgetary deficits (and by extensión national debt) beyond the target are not infrequently desirable. The very notion of such rigid targets is wrong and has led to unnecessary austerity in some EU countries placed under EU tutelage.

    I regard such tutelage and, even more so, apenalties as an unwarranted intrusión and often incorrect sanction for a correct national government response to troubled economic circumstances. Think of the UK in 2010 with an 11% budget déficit, well beyond the 3% target.

  • @ Mick Taylor
    “I simply don’t accept that UK youngsters could not pick up a new language on the job. ”

    Hello, Mick, you may have misread my post. Of course, British youngsters can pick up new languages on the job, as youngsters from other countries do.

    It’s the cultural and governmental attitude to language learning that is at fault. Foreign languages need to be given higher priority at school.

  • Peter Martin 13th May '19 - 12:51pm

    “As to the growth and stability pact. It is an aim and is not set in stone.”

    That might be literally true but if ALDE are proposing big fines then we may as well get our chisels out. It is true that there has been some modification to the SGP. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’ve made it worse! It’s called the European Fiscal Compact if you want to Google the details.

    All economies fall into a hole from time to time and need a fiscal stimulus to help them get out. However, the rules of both the SGP and EFC make it impossible for countries to escape. There is simply no way that Italy get out and stay within the rules.

    It’s a stupid system. The EU can’t say they weren’t warned. The late Prof Wynne Godley wrote this prescient piece as long ago as 1992.

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v14/n19/wynne-godley/maastricht-and-all-that

  • Jayne
    People don’t come to work in Britain because of the climate or because the people
    are especially welcoming. Immigration outside of the higher earning bracket is driven by desperation more than by freedom. It’s a sign of economic and social problems not progress.

  • Peter Watson 13th May '19 - 1:57pm

    @chris moore “Overall, there is a defeatist attitude to language learning in Britain.”
    i think there is much much more to it than that.

    With regards to language learning, largely because of this country’s history and thanks to our cousins across the Atlantic, English is an easy choice of second language around the world, and from a very young age children can become immersed in English-language popular culture. But in this country school children might be exposed to a bit of French or Spanish or German or Italian or Mandarin, and when moving between schools, they might have to start again with a different language. How hard must it be to become proficient or able to converse in a foreign language with such a piecemeal approach? Perhaps we should pick one and mandate that it is taught to all school age children, but even that does not address the problem that picking an arbitrary language, whether nationally or school by school, does not provide much motivation to learn it well.

    However, if it really is the case that “young people in the country have failed to take the opportunities of freedom of movement that those in other EU countries have embraced” as Jayne Mansfield suggests, then I am not convinced that language learning is the root cause given that our native language is so widely understood. For years daytime TV seems to have been awash with programs about older British people buying property and moving abroad, so perhaps young people’s opportunities are restricted economically rather than linguistically or culturally.

  • David Evans 13th May '19 - 2:08pm

    Mick Taylor. “I simply don’t accept that UK youngsters could not pick up a new language on the job. There’s ample evidence that they do.” I’m sure there is plenty of evidence *some* do. However, I would suggest the better educated will do it more easily than others, and that only a very understanding employer abroad would accept it as an option unless there was a substantial dearth of locals to do the work. Also English is easier to learn than many other languages, simply because many more watch films, listen to music etc in English, than UK citizens watch films etc in other languages.

    Having the most widely spoken and broadcast foreign language in the world is not an advantage for everyone.

  • Peter Watson
    look at wages and unemployment rates. Older people are selling up and retiring rather than trying to earn a crust. Doing low skilled and semi-skilled jobs in countries with high youth unemployment rates and low wages is not a road to any kind of better life. Immigration is driven by economic disparity within Europe and mostly by desperation from outside of Europe. We’re living with the results of the reduction of empowered unionised labour and mass movements caused by wars as well as other political problems. It has about as much to do with liberal freedoms and language lessons as the potato famine did.

  • chris moore 13th May '19 - 3:28pm

    @ Peter Watson, Peter, you say, “However, if it really is the case that “young people in the country have failed to take the opportunities of freedom of movement that those in other EU countries have embraced” as Jayne Mansfield suggests, then I am not convinced that language learning is the root cause given that our native language is so widely understood.”

    Most Jobs in European countries do require you to have knowledge of the local language, irriational as this may seem to monoglot Anglo speakers.

    The line that it’s much more difficult for Anglo speakers to learn languages because English is so dominant, therefore which second language are we going to choose is part of the defeatist – (or triumphalist, if you prefer) – Anglo attitude to language learning.

  • chris moore 13th May '19 - 3:34pm

    @Glenn/Gleen

    I would have thought everybody is well aware of the hard facts of economic migration.

    We are not having a general discussion on migration.

    We are asking why is it that British youngsters move much less to those European jobs that are available than vice versa?

    There are, of course, several answers. One is that unemployment has been relatively low in recent years in the UK compared to some other European countries; another is that the vast majority of youngsters aren’t equipped linguistically both in fact and attitude to live and work in another European country.

  • marcstevens 13th May '19 - 4:16pm

    Lib Dems doing well on 16% in the latest YouGov poll of Westminster voting intention.

    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/05/13/voting-intention-conservatives-24-labour-24-8-9-ma

  • Yes atthe moment we seem to be well on target for second place in the Euros. If that is the position next weekend, then what………………

  • I’m pointing out it’s because British youngsters don’t need to move so much. Also I’d say it’s because Europe is les attractive to British youngsters than Australia and the US. Beyond as a holiday destination, Britain is not actually very European. I’d also suggest that it isn’t just British youngster. It’s English speaking peoples generally.

  • Peter Watson 13th May '19 - 9:17pm

    @chris moore “which second language are we going to choose is part of the defeatist – (or triumphalist, if you prefer) – Anglo attitude to language learning.”
    Not at all.
    If a foreign child is taught English consistently throughout school from a very young age and exposed to English-language popular culture then they are very likely to become proficient at it. An ability to speak English well gives them a lingua franca which will benefit them whichever country they wish to live and work in.
    If an English child learns French in one primary school, moves to another which teaches Italian and then goes to a high school which teaches German, then they will probably not get very far in any of those languages. Even if they’ve learnt Spanish from the ages of 5 to 16 it won’t benefit them much if looking for employment in Germany if, as you say, “most Jobs in European countries do require you to have knowledge of the local language”.
    If the aim is to encourage British people to be more confident, if not fluent, in the language of one or more of our European neighbours, then the solution needs to address these practical problems rather than dismiss them as a “defeatist – (or triumphalist, if you prefer) – Anglo attitude to language learning” (which frankly risks sounding like the sort of horribly condescending phrase that Remainers and Lib Dems should avoid at all costs!).

    There is definitely a strong case to be made for the benefits of learning a modern foreign language or even one of the classic/dead languages, but if there is a problem and a need to encourage more young British people to move to work within Europe or elsewhere then there is obviously much more to it than learning the language. After all, British people already speak a language with which they can converse with people all over the world and they readily travel abroad for a variety of reasons. And as Glenn points out, economic migration is driven by economics!

  • Peter Martin 14th May '19 - 9:53am

    It’s really no surprise that youngsters in the English speaking world aren’t so good at foreign languages. It’s not just a UK failing. Travel anywhere in the world and English will be the lingua franca. Esperanto was a good idea but it hasn’t really caught on. There probably more interest in learning Klingon!

    The announcements at airports, for example, will be in a mixture of the local language and English. The songs on the radio will be the same. Sometimes they are nearly all in English with just the odd Spanish song to be heard like ‘Despacito’. I’ve heard English kids singing this. I’m not sure if they know what it means but it’s a start!

    But, as previously has been said, migration is largely an economic question. We’ve had times when there has been significant movement of UK workers to Germany. Like in the early 80s. But usually the migration is from the depressed regions to London and the SE of England.

  • @ Péter Watson “If the aim is to encourage British people to be more confident, if not fluent, in the language of one or more of our European neighbours, then the solution needs to address these practical problems rather than dismiss them as a “defeatist – (or triumphalist, if you prefer) – Anglo attitude to language learning” (which frankly risks sounding like the sort of horribly condescending phrase that Remainers and Lib Dems should avoid at all costs!).”

    Well, I’m afraid a defeatist attitude is found widely in the Anglo world. (Yes, not only the UK). English is the world’s lingua franca: therefore we don’t need to bother. And in any case, languages are so very difficult. It’s such a waste of time. And, in any case, at primary it was French, now it’s German.

    All pretty feeble in my view. Though I do accept life was easier when French was the default option.

    There’s a strong cultural component to all this. I can compare attitudes in the various European countries I’m acquainted with. The attitutde in the Basque Country, where I live, is one of endeavour and optimism. There are ample facilities – language schools – for adults to improve their language skills: English and German are the two most commonly learnt foreign languages. But French and Mandarin are learnt too.

    France and Italy : far less facilities and less emphasis on language learning.

    It really does differ from country to country. We don’t have to be meely-mouthed about criticsing Anglo complacency – perhaps, it’s up to government ot take a lead in changing attitudes by giving higher priority to foreign language learning in schools.

    BTW What on earth has Remain got to do with it? Nearly all my Remain friends, who aren’t of immigrant background and who live in the UK are hopeless functional monoglots. Ditto the Leavers.

    There, Leavers and Remainers do have something in common.

  • Peter Watson 14th May '19 - 12:14pm

    @chris moore “BTW What on earth has Remain got to do with it?”
    Sorry about that: it’s a separate bugbear of mine that the “defeatist attitude” phrase reminded me of!
    I despair at the way that all too often in Brexit arguments the impression is given by Remain campaigners that they believe Britain and the British (by which they presumably mean those British people less enlightened than themselves) are useless and will perish outside the EU. It’s counter-productive, handing the “patriot” position to Brexiters, when a slight change in emphasis to a message that Britain and the British are great but within the EU we’re even better might have made a big difference to the tone of the debate and perhaps the result of the referendum.

    As a post script, I agree with the value of learning foreign languages, but Jayne Mansfield originally raised “the question of why young people in the country have failed to take the opportunities of freedom of movement that those in other EU countries have embraced”, and if such a problem does exist, I think it is unfair to pin the blame on “a defeatist attitude to language learning in Britain” when there are many other reasons why they might not be proficient in foreign languages and many other barriers to moving to other EU countries.

  • @ Peter Watson

    I very much agree that we should be making the positive case for the EU empowering Britian – and indeed British individuals to make the most of their lives.

    The UK will certainly survive outside the EU; there will be many disadvantages, but we’ll have to get on with it.

  • Peter Hirst 14th May '19 - 2:03pm

    My question is what being in the eu has done over the last 5 years to combat the economic scourges of this country, namely inequality, in work poverty and the sense of regional and local imbalances?

  • Peter Hirst 14th May ’19 – 2:03pm…………………..My question is what being in the eu has done over the last 5 years to combat the economic scourges of this country, namely inequality, in work poverty and the sense of regional and local imbalances?……………

    Make up your mind. It seems from a similar question, asked by a Brexit MP, that the EU, simultaneously, interferes too much and not enough.
    Rather like the Daily Mail take on EU citizens who are both idlers on welfare and taking ‘our’ jobs.

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