Scots Independence and UK Leaving EU – Both a Mistake

As Published in the Daily Mail, June 29 2014

Scottish Independence a MistakeIn less than three months the Scots will be voting whether to leave the Union.

They may decide to head out on their own, or they may choose to stay within the United Kingdom and be given as yet unspecified further powers to determine their own affairs.

Although the difference between those two choices might not be that great in the end, a separation following a majority Yes vote would be a significant set-back for the Union, Europe and the Scots themselves.

However, the debate could bring about some good.

As the nation states of the European Union head towards closer economic and political integration, its citizens are feeling that they are losing too much of their national identity and are therefore rebelling.

In some cases this manifests itself in protests against immigration, in others through the resurgence of regional and tribal issues, and in others again, in anger against Brussels ‘red-tape’ and the desire to win back powers for national governments.

The recent European elections gave an increasing share of the vote to the parties on the right arguing against immigration, citing the threat to jobs and criticising EU meddling in home affairs – as UKIP did in the UK.

In my view the real underlying fear is what in Germany we call Ueberfremdung, which translates as ‘foreignisation’.

That is linked not only to immigration, but also to overseas ownership of huge chunks of British industry, including ports, airports and utilities.

This is of course not just a British phenomenon. The same feelings are at the heart of the rise of populist right-wing parties in France, Austria, Greece and Spain.

The only countries that have reacted differently so far are Germany – my native country – and Italy.

Perhaps citizens in these two nations are not as easily reeled in by demagogues with simple messages because they have been there before.

Although the EU has talked much about the rule of subsidiarity – the principle by which decisions must be taken at the appropriate local level – Brussels has failed its member states by not delivering on it and by not making it clear enough.

The rising support for the ‘Yes’ campaign and ‘Scotland for the Scots’ is, I believe, an expression of similar concerns and must be taken seriously.

It is not good policy to try to scare the Scots about losing the pound and being economically worse off, or even by raising doubts about whether an independent Scotland could secure membership of the European Union, as Alex Salmond wishes.

This is much more an emotional issue and should be treated as such by the ‘No’ campaigners.

Far better, then, to concentrate of the positive aspects of the Union. There are not only economies of scale in business but also in politics. Size matters, as every business knows, when it tries to sell in global markets.

Paddling your own canoe economically and politically in a more and more globalised world is difficult, to say the least. The threat of Britain leaving the European Union is similarly counterproductive in my opinion.

Most importantly, the men in Brussels and Angela Merkel in Berlin must have a close look at the results of their actions so far. In the long run they can’t ignore the deep seated fears and mistrust of the peoples of Europe.

Britain may appear isolated following the row over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, but should continue to lead a push for change.

As for Scotland and the UK, the West Lothian Question – whether Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs should be able to vote on matters involving only England – is unresolved, and the relationship between Scotland and the other countries that make up the Union is not very efficiently structured.

It might be an idea to take a look at the constitution that the Allies gave Germany after the last World War, which has a clear separation of national, state and local powers. It could serve as a model for the men in Brussels.

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Foreign Takeovers and Nationalism – BBC World Service

With takeovers like the AstraZeneca – Pfizer bid much in the news, Bob Bischof joins a panel of industry experts for the BBC World Service programme ‘In the Balance’ to discuss foreign takeovers and the national interest.

Bob Bischof on 'In the Balance'With takeovers like the AstraZeneca – Pfizer bid much in the news, Bob Bischof joins a panel of other business experts for the BBC World Service programme  ‘In the Balance‘ to discuss foreign takeovers and the national interest.

You can listen to the half-hour programme here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01y0sb9

 

Interview: European Trade Protectionism

Bob Bischof, vice president of the German British Chamber of Industry & Commerce, talks with Charles Powell, member of the U.K. House of Lords, about European trade protectionism, U.K. inward investment and growth, in an interview with Francine Lacqua and Guy Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Watch the interview here

Bob Bischof discusses European protectionism on Bloomberg TV
Bob Bischof discusses European protectionism on Bloomberg TV

Corrosive Pay-Day Loans Should Stop

This letter appeared in the Financial Times Monday 26 November 2012

With his assertion (Letters, November 22), that APR calculations are meaningless and that banks charge even more on occasions, Errol Damelin, chief executive of Wonga, is trying once again to defend the indefensible. May I remind your readers why Wonga and the other 50 pay-day loan companies are not operating on the continent – very simple, Mr Damelin and his peers would likely be in prison under usury laws, if they plied their trade in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands or the Nordic countries. Contracts that bear exploitative interest rates, generally above 15-20 per cent cannot be enforced in law. Repeat offenders, who try it, get a prison sentence. Maybe it is no coincidence that the above countries are the so-called creditor nations in Europe.

Usury laws protect the socially weak, uneducated, desolate and weak-willed from predators. There seem plenty of those around in the UK to feed this market. It is high time that the government acts against them, and at least they are prevented from advertising – their products are more socially corrosive than cigarettes or alcohol.

Letter in the Financial Times regarding payday loans by Bob Bischof

Steve Mann's reply in the Financial Times
Steve Mann’s reply in the Financial Times

Ordnungs- politik: the real third way

This letter appeared in the Financial Times Saturday 7 April 2012

Bob Bischof Letter in the FT April 2012

Sir, Michael Portillo hits the nail on the head with his suggestion of funding political parties out of tax revenues. Britain is the nation of common sense and everybody knows instinctively that “Who pays, says!” . Neither the union barons nor the rich donors should do either and it is pure logic that the voting, taxpaying public should do it. The Allies introduced this system in Germany after the last war and it works well – as do so many of the checks and balances, which govern modern Germany’s public life. There appears to be a growing murkiness in Britain in the relationship between business, unions, politicians, the media and police, which eats at the fabric of this free, open and liberal society. David Cameron would be well advised to forget about the “Big Society” with less regulation and rather re-establish a more “Orderly Society” with a dose of “Ordnungspolitik” to save it.
Yours sincerely
Bob Bischof