...I have had to help Consumers not only navigate the array of Consumer & Product Regulations, but also help some deal with difficult issues, particularly in relation to their Human Rights both in the UK and abroad.
In that time, I have been privileged to be part of the European story, bringing to life the very needs and concerns of ordinary Consumers, right into the heart of the European Single Market. I have submitted reports, addressed member States, met with senior Civil Servants of the European Union, taken part in impact assessments, attended Stakeholder meetings, and met many fellow Campaigners.
The difference between being part of a real inclusive process in Europe and that of Westminster is stark; I can point to no real Westminster initiative to protect Consumers, Victims and Survivors other than what has already been agreed by the UK, along with other member States, for the implementation of Directives and Regulations to protect and promote the Single Market.
That is the fact; it is the reality.
It is this reality, that has gotten lost within the Schmitt-like message, where charisma defines the ‘will of the people’, based on half-truths, lies and a dose of criminality.
The airwaves and social networks are clogged with mantra-after-mantra, revealing a class of supporter, both passionate and resolute, relative to their positions. Evidence-based-politcs has been replaced by a single binary position, starting with the EU Referendum in 2016. That binary message requires no explanation, no vision, just a pliant audience.
Whilst I don’t doubt each persons position or resolve to a particular EU cause, I do question if whether a ‘Leaver’ or a ‘Remainer’, you understand the political intricacies of Europe or Westminster? For example, do we really understand how laws are made in Europe and how that circle is squared against globalism and ‘local’ politics; do we understand just how pure sovereignty really is and how do we set that against threats or obligations placed upon us?
It is great to see so many people willing to march in support of their political leaning; I too have been on several of the massive marches, delivering an outpouring of EU love. I have wondered, just how many of my fellow marchers have gone beyond the flags and banners and the oft over-stated ‘hero-worship’ of those leading the way (here I’m thinking of the recent expressions of disappointed sentiment toward Andrew Adonis’s recent statement)?
Amongst all of this debate, there is of course the name-calling, trolling and threats; a disgraceful display whichever side of the argument you are on.
Whilst considering evidence-based-politics, to determine the best outcome for Consumers, I have been mindful that Brexit may well go ahead and have felt compelled to consider life-after-brexit and how best to protect the Consumer position. I have done so by drafting and publishing 2 Acts of Parliament: The Consumer Rights (Amendment) Act 2019 & The Cabin Air Quality in Civil Aircraft Act 2019. Given that I am relying on dialogue from Westminster to advance these proposals, it will not surprise readers to note that I am still waiting for ‘first contact’!
You will have read by now the argument that if we are to stay in the European Union, then it must reform.
Having worked between the institutions of the European Union, I would agree that they could do better, but I have not yet read from anyone, politician, campaigner or otherwise, what reform actually means.
I have considered the issue of ‘Reform’ and reflected that it is not just about Europe, it is also about the United Kingdom. Therefore, my plan for ‘Reform’ would include:
- A radical shift-away from the first-past-the-post method of voting in the UK, toward a system of Proportional Representation in the UK. Despite the contrary argument that it would produce less strong government, it would deliver a true reflection and balance of the views of the country and not the dramatic swings between absolute opinion (the either ‘you are with us or against us’ variety);
- I would require all State and Private schools to deliver through the National Curriculum, from the age of 9 onwards, the following topics:
- History of Europe from 1900 to 1944;
- History of Europe from 1945;
- UK Constitutional Methodology (I was taught about the UK Parliament and how it worked from that age of 10), and
- EU Constitutional Methodology;
- With regards to the European Union, whilst the EU has increased the status of the Citizen, there is a firm need to ensure that the Citizen is placed at the heart of its strategic thinking:
- The EU should create a Directorate General (DG) (equivalent to a Ministry) for Citizens & Campaigners;
- Having a Commissioner championing the voice and rights of Consumers and Campaigners would address any imbalance created by commercial lobbying;
- The new Commissioner should create a portal to actively and dynamically extract Citizens views/ideas, thereby refreshing the way in which Directives, Regulations and Standards are formulated and designed (achieved through EU Citizenship verification);
- The new Commissioner should create not just a portal but regular pan-European meetings, bringing together not just the ‘establishment’ Consumer Organisations, but the many other ‘non-’establishment’ Campaigners based around Europe - Europe should celebrate and help such Campaigners to network with each other more easily and extract their valuable input into new Directives, Regulations and Standards-making (again achieved through EU Citizenship & EU organisation verification);
- The EU should create a specific DG for Standards-Making, bringing together not only Standards professionals and Industry but opening the door to participation by ordinary Citizens along with financial support to do so;
- To improve any perceived or actual democratic deficit, the European Parliament should be tasked to create a Citizens Assembly in each EU Member State, to meet twice a year and attended by MEP’s. Membership of such an Assembly must reflect an 80% membership that consists of ordinary Citizens (through verification), not connected to any lobby group or Consumer ‘establishment’ bodies. Membership should be for 2 years and financially supported. The purpose of the Assembly should be to review legislation and extract opinion about what is important to the general Citizenship. This would end this dash-for-the-ballot-box and introduce a greater understanding and scrutiny of the work of the European Union;
- Without question, the Eurozone should be reformed, ensuring its stability and that of the stability of non-Euro countries;
- As Climate, Toxins and Artificial Intelligence factor highly within our future lives, I would expect to see a reform that not only incorporates a greater inclusivity and consultation with Citizens, but that a greater emphasis is placed on Education initiatives;
- In order to create a more balanced European Society, I would want to see the European Union create a pan-European Museum/Cultural and Education Centre that not only displays the extremes of past European history and its failures, but to produce programmes that keep those terrible events and injustices in sharp focus.
As you can see, Reform is not just about Industry or Trade but has a wider canvas that reveals the depth and richness of our European Society; I suspect that there are many more ideas for reform! Technology is changing the way we think and interact with each other and we must move beyond the quaint but important ‘cross-in-the-box’ method of democracy; it is a lesson indeed for all sovereign nations and trans-sovereign bodies!
The challenge now rests with the Remainers and Leavers, wouldn’t you say?