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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 September 2017
It may seem odd to review this book now - I read it first long before the referendum and found it to be an even-handed non-hysterical analysis of the pro- and anti-Brexit cases. I have been re-eading it partly as I remembered that it had some useful comments on the various post-Brexit arrangements that might be put in place - the Norway & Swiss models, the WTO set-up - with comments on the advantages and disadvantages of these. Of course, the book was written before the referendum, and is a little dated but in these areas the comments are still valid as the UK and EU negotiate the divorce settlement.

As a somewhat reluctant Brexiteer (I would have preferred to stay in a reformed EU where the direction of travel was not inexorably to a federal europe where being outside the Eurozone would have had implications for the UK), I was also surprised that I foound myself more postive about Brexit as the book brought back into focus the clear intentions of the European elite with regard to Euro federalism. I also found the comments about the use and mis-use of EU structural funds particularly apposite - I re-read the book on holiday on the Portuguese island of Madeira where I marvelled at the billlions of euros spent on grand engineering projects which seemed disproportionate to the tiny population of less than 300,000. Not all of this was funded by the EU but much of it simply would not have happened had EU structural funds not been available and now Madeira has enormous debts but there is scant evidence that all these projects have improved its economic competitiveness.

Although parts of the book are out of date, I think it also provides a good analysis of how the EU became such a toxic issue - the drift away from the EU started years ago, and our politicians were economical with the truth about the loss of soveriegnty right from the beginning. No-one could have foreseen in 1973 the huge explansion of membership, with mainly poor under-developed nations joining the queue, so the finances changed significantly over the years. It is a pretty good explanation of how the UK got to where it is. The book seems very even-handed to me, and highlights some of the wilder claims of the referendum campaign, such as the loss of 3m jobs or the additional cost to UK families from leaving the EU, as the propaganda tactics which they clearly were. I recently read a dry but detailed analysis of the survey results leading up to the referendum which showed that some of this scare-mongering back-fired on the Remain campaign.
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on 26 May 2014
I read this book, as I was anxious to learn about the pros and cons of belonging to or leaving the EU. This is particularly relevant at the present time, bearing in mind the major gains of Ukip in the recent European election and also those of other right wing parties throughout Europe. I confess I started as a europhile, but have certainly become less so since reading the book. The author clearly illustrated the astonishing cost of operating the EU, with its bloated and largely unaccountable bureaucracy. However, to balance this, the author was at pains to point out that many people have lost sight of the fact that Europe has avoided major conflict since the formation of the EU.

I found the chapter on the imagined scenario of Britain after a vote to exit the EU, following the intended referendum in 2017, particularly interesting and the possible serious adverse impact on the prosperity of Britain, in the short term, at least, was very sobering. I truly wonder how many of those people who stridently advocate Britain's withdrawal have ever considered this issue. Certainly, I see little evidence from the media that it has ever been given a detailed and balanced airing.

Well worth reading!
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on 12 July 2014
Since the publication of this book by David Charter, Brussels has been bruised by the result of the 2014 European elections which saw a huge swing to the Eurosceptic lobby, not just in the UK, but France as well. So it is a timely reminder to consider what being in or out of the EU actually means and if the UK can extricate itself from the tangled web that many see as the unstoppable Brussels machine.

Cameron's 26:2 defeat in the vote he demanded shows where the cards lie. With increasing membership numbers, the UK's influence will inevitably be diluted by the Brussels voting structure. And with QMV (Qualified Majority Voting) the chances of making a real democratic influence are severely restricted as well.

Chater has opened my eyes to both sides of the argument and he pools comments from a raft of UK and EU politicians, and importantly reveals within the modern Brussels machinery a significant discontent among EU member States with a recalcitrant UK whom they've seen as scuppering a lot of what they wished to do. Thus we find that to get around this, the goalposts are constantly being changed to sideline the UK.

But these actions must be viewed from the position of all those EU member States who want to continue to go down the Federalist route and can't allow one member State, the UK, to prevent this. It is clear that many States are happy to exchange Sovereignty for what they see as the advantages in being a member of the EU, problems and all.

And it is at this point that the UK and Brussels diverge significantly. But my anger at this is not so much directed towards Brussels, but a succession of UK governments of any persuasion who have consistently lied to the British electorate, and even more damaging from a domestic perspective, that PM's have told the electorate one thing, when privately they knew, and have expressed, counter views, which acknowledge that they knew the direction the EU was going in.

And one mustn't overlook a rabid British press which has done so much for the anti-vote that unless something should drastically change in 2017, there is likely to be a "No" vote based on ignorance.

Another reviewer has, very usefully, quoted at some length from various comments in the book, and these are simply the tip of the iceberg.

The subject is so complicated with the better quality arguments for both sides seeming to be quite persuasive, but perhaps if I were to take one thing away with me after reading the book, is the real difficulty the UK could face in trying to remain in the EU but with renegotiation of our Membership terms.

I can't help but feel what damage De Gaulle did in refusing entry of the UK into the original Common Market for 12 years. Had it been 7 founders and not 6, how much different would be the UK's modern day attitude towards the EU?
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on 11 April 2015
The UK joined the Common Market in 1973. Now, April 2015, there is a General Election. UKIP calls for withdrawal , SNP wishes Scotland to stay in, the Conservatives and the Greens are pledged to a referendum, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are committed to renegotiate our terms of membership. The author spent six years as Times Correspondent in Brussels. He presents a well written guide for the interested voter, to help her to decide -"Should we bid Europe au revoir?".

There are caveats. The book is three years old. Many leading post holders in Brussels have changed. More than that, the Greek crisis has assumed critical dimensions. Populist nationalist parties have arisen elsewhere - Podemos in Spain and, of course, Marine le Pen's Front National. Nonetheless, this book is a good foundation to assess these changes. Not everything has changed so much.

It is not a quick read. I took a chapter at a time every day or so. Trying to read it carefully and seriously.

We get a concise history of "the Market" from its emergence in the early 1950s, its growth and metamorphosis thereafter, taking in the accession of new members. He shows how its reach has expanded in scope and depth. He shows examples of good and bad practice in the citadels of Europower. Attitudes of British politicians and the British media are described down the years - a picture of increasing discomfort with the Brussels project, a deep feeling that London and Londoners do not want to be part of a United States of Europe or a continental constitution modelled on the Bundesrepublik.

Throughout he weighs up the pros and cons of UK membership. A detailed closing chapter looks at ten key areas - from peace to fish. I would not attempt to summarize this in any detail. He does make clear how difficult it is to show the effect since 1973 on the specific if not narrow trends of economic growth and trade in precise terms of pounds or indeed euros. If we cannot assess the past, how can we predict future patterns in an uncertain global economy?
One theme comes over loud and clear - that even if the UK leaves the EU, Europe and the EU will still be there. Au revoir will not be adieu. In LBJ's phrase - are we better in the tent?

Charter provides a clever epilogue, set in 2023. What if? Labour won the 2015 election narrowly and ED is PM. However - and this shows the problem with crystal balls - he says the party had committed itself to a referendum in its manifesto. Well it didn't so the referendum of 2017 [a close victory for the au revoiristes!] would not have happened.

Still a big recommend.
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on 6 May 2016
Charter, a heavyweight journalist, does his best to present all sides of the argument as to whether the UK should stay in the EU or leave. He tackles a series of political and economic arguments, presenting evidence supporting both sides of the debate, which is a welcome break from the usual 'we're all going to die' screeds which both sides usually produce. There are some things in this book which genuinely shocked me and helped me make my decision.

Thoroughly recommended, especially if you read it before the Referendum vote.
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on 20 February 2017
A good balanced book that I feel reflects how the referendum should have been conducted instead of the accusations of this, that and the other that we got. A very complicated subject that it is very hard to see eye to eye on and I suspect it will remain that way for many people.
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on 1 August 2013
This begins by listing the many ills of the EU almost like a UKIP manifesto. Then it starts to unpick the options and problems of Britain leaving the EU in considerable detail. Overall a pretty balanced and well researched view. It certainly provides voters with the crucial questions to ask of both sides in any referendum. This is such a big subject that no single work can be comprehensive but this focuses well on important issues.
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on 14 March 2016
Unbalanced, poorly written, News International jounalism from an author who seems to think that the interests of the south east of England are the interests of the United Kingdom, with a Mail-like twist of discussing effects on housing prices in London. Also contains a rather grandiose dismissal of science and technology. Author seems to think that employment protection an unnecessary cost on companies, rather than a benefit for both employees and employers. Ends with a rather curious chapter, looking back on an imagined 'Brexit' from the early 2020's so he can used the tired old trick of mixing fact and fiction in the past tense, so one has to be careful to distinguish between them.
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on 8 November 2013
A very good book and well written but assumes a lot of background knowledge of the European Union. The EU is a vast subject and to enjoy this book you need quite a lot of background knowledge. It gives however a very good idea of the internal politics which drive the EU and the reader gets a good appreciation of the values which the EU likes to promote. Read this book when you have already read a few other books on the topic.
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on 29 June 2013
If we really get a referendum I want to know the facts' not just power hungry politician's version of them. Not only immensly informative this book is also very readable, Now at the half way point I'm really enjoying it even though it is clear any decision on how to vote will be exceedingly difficult.
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