1) A specific case of EU law infringing on engineering sensibilities – the ban on lead-based solders. (my university thesis was related to this topic) Some background: solders are critical in all electronics, because they form the physical and electrical connection between components. Traditional solders are based on lead and tin, and are perfect for the job because they have relatively low melting point, flows and adheres to small metal components readily, have a proven track record of reliability and durability. But the EU have banned this substance because of the toxicity of lead. This means that future solders are now based on silver and copper, far more expensive materials. They also have a much higher melting point, requiring far more energy in manufacturing electronics. They are also weaker and more brittle, contributing to modern electronics getting less reliable despite being more expensive to manufacture. But most importantly for me, is that they are now susceptible to a phenomenon called tin-whiskers. All lead-free solders exhibit this spontaneous growth, where microscopic strands of crystalline tin spontaneously grows out of the solder, eventually short-circuiting the system, with potentially dangerous consequences. This means that ALL electronics manufactured since 2002 have a limited working life. This problem is widely recognised in engineering, so exemptions to this ban are given for critical electronics, namely in medical technology and in military applications. When you buy your next £600 mobile phone or £1200 laptop, don’t expect it to last longer than 3 years. So it even contributes to the consumerist attitude. Even your car, which you’d hope would last longer than a few years, will need now need its CPU replacing regularly. The problem goes further to include your household boiler, your tv, your stereo system, traffic lights systems, musical instruments, list goes on… It seems evident to me that the proper way to have dealt with the usage of lead was to implement policies and guidelines for the proper disposal of lead, rather than restrict the usage of it.
2) Common agricultural policy – the CAP imposes an artificial price for agricultural produce, an attempt to stabilise the agricultural market, and introduces subsidies to the agricultural industry to encourage local production of specific products. Because the price is artificially set, it is not reactive to the market, so that as agricultural practices and technologies improve, farmers are now actually way overproducing. Normally, in supply and demand economics, when supply exceeds demand, price drops to compensate and increase demand. And as price drops, suppliers are discouraged from producing, thus reducing supply. This natural economic mechanism has been blocked by the artificial price, and futhermore the subsidies to the agricultural industry, once put in place, cannot be removed without devastating the industry. The result is that the EU is overproducing, and this overproduce is being offloaded onto poorer 3rd world countries, destroying their local agricultural industry. And 3rd world economies generally subsist on an agriculture, so this policy has further retarded the growth of developing countries.
3) Common fisheries policy – the CFP sets quotas for how much of a particular species is allowed to be caught, in order to maintain natural fish stocks. Sound good in principle? In practice, fishing isn’t species-specific as we would like. Fishermen often catch fish of various different species as by-catch even when attempting to target specific species. Fishermen end up throwing dead fish overboard to avoid exceeding the quota. The result is that supply of fish is reduced, but fish stocks are still being damaged. In hindsight, a better policy might have been to demarcate certain areas of the ocean as being free from fishing, to provide safe areas for marine life to reproduce.
4) Free movement of people – have you noticed how young career-minded people often migrate to cities in order to find work? Many young people despite having grown up in rural areas, will uproot themselves and go to where jobs and industry are. The UK already has the problem where smaller towns are suffering economically because they don’t have any local industry. And the local industry will not develop if the young people keep leaving the area and reducing the population. Now scale this up to the continental level, and you have the EU and its free movement of people policy. Of course people looking for work are going to go to the countries which are economically successful. Good on these individuals, but it certainly doesn’t do the countries where they are departing from any good! Many developing countries have recognised this problem as the ‘brain drain’, and that’s WITH normal restrictions in place. When you remove these restrictions, the problem is exacerbated many times. Under-populated areas will keep losing their young workforce, and already dense population centres become even denser.
Granted, points (1)-(3) are simply mistakes in policy-making that can and should be rectified. But do you see that because the EU legislation and policies work on such a large scale, the adverse effects are on an unprecedented scale? If these mistakes were made within one country, the damage would be bad, but it would still at least be limited to that country. Now any mistakes EU makes in policy-making, affects an entire continent, and arguably the most powerful continent in the world. I haven’t even touched on problems arising from monetary policy and foreign policy, and that’s only the issues I have heard of.